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November 1, 2012
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Prologue: A picture is worth a thousand words...

Just off the Gulf of Mexico Mrs. Waverly was peeling the skin from a boiled shrimp she had bought at the market that morning. The steam had begun to rise in her quaint kitchen and she had raised all of her windows to thin the air. The smells of the sea rushed into her house, mixing with the hydrangeas and lavender she had planted outside.

She inhaled deeply and strolled into the living room, wiping her hands on a damp rag. Mrs. Waverly stopped just in front of the bay window facing the ocean basin. Off in the distance she could see the docks and a few fishing boats barely returning from their day's work. She pressed her fingertips against the glass and smiled warmly as the small heads of her children bobbed across a hill of murky white sand.

Mrs. Waverly waved to them generously as they held up their toy buckets in triumph. The face of her eight year-old son was smug and confident while her four-year old daughter's was flushed and giddy. They lifted their bare feat heavily until they reached the soft earth just in front of their house. Mrs. Waverly unlocked the front door and held it open while her children skipped inside. The sand from their feet scattered across the wooden floors as they haphazardly tossed their buckets of loot onto a large coffee table in the center of the living room.

Mrs. Waverly's son, who learned how to operate the television remote when he was five, turned on the T.V. just as Mickey Mouse Clubhouse began to play. As the cartoon's high-pitched voice blared from the speakers, Mrs. Waverly jerked the remote from her son's hand and turned the sound down to a reasonable level. When their mutually stubborn expressions met and her daughter began to cry because her favorite song was not at the loudest possible volume, Mrs. Waverly decided to show interest in their buckets loaded with treasure.

"What has the sea brought us today, Max?"

Max shrugged, casually feigning apathy. "It's an ocean, not a sea."

Sensing her husband's sarcastic influence, Mrs. Waverly sat on the sofa between them and patted the blonde curls that sprouted from her daughter's head. "How about you, Amelia? Is there any gold in there?"

Amelia nodded happily, her small teeth visible through the stretched smile across her lips. She took the bottom of her small, appropriately sized, pink bucket in both of her hands and dumped its contents onto the table. Her small, chubby fingers rummaged through clam shells and colorful rocks until she found a dirty penny that had lost most of its shine.

Mrs. Waverly laughed merrily as she plucked the coin from her daughter's hand and held it to the light between her thumb and index finger. "A pirate must have dropped this!" Mrs. Waverly smiled at Amelia affectionately as her face lit up at the thought. However; Max was assuredly there to shatter it.

"Pirates aren't real." Amelia's expression became a stubborn pout. Mrs. Waverly glared at her son disapprovingly. Noticing the hidden sadness in his eyes, however, she stilled her punishment and instead provided attention he pretended not to crave.

"May I see what you found today, Max?" He huffed as if it were a great deal of effort to show her his discoveries. Eventually he nodded his agreement and pushed the larger, green bucket towards her. Mrs. Waverly smiled excitedly at Amelia who clapped her hands as if cheering her mother on.

Mrs. Waverly's long fingers drifted through the larger shells and old bottles that Max had an eye for. Eventually she came across the bent corner of a small piece of parchment protruding from the center of the bucket. She cocked her head curiously and pried it from it's nook secured by packed rocks. Upon closer inspection it was the water damaged picture of a woman. She was laying down atop the black/blue feathers of her boa, smiling sensually for her glamor shot. Her hair was styled and blonde, and her face was smudged by the running ink.

Mrs. Waverly's eyes glittered and she motioned towards Max, genuinely interested. "Where did you find this?"

Max was spinning his sister's toppled shells around the table, letting them scratch along the surface. He responded indifferently, "The man on the beach."

Mrs. Waverly's heart skipped a beat and she unconsciously hugged her daughter to her chest. She stared at the stranger in the photo and slowly asked, "What man?"

"The man on the beach." Max stated impatiently. "He was holding it."

Amelia's small hands cupped the side of Mrs. Waverly's ear as she whispered with a lisp, "He was naked, Mommy."

Mrs. Waverly instinctively jumped from the couch and began to close all of her windows. Her hands were shaking and her mind was reeling at a hundred miles an hour. While she imagined awful scenarios that included the man and her children, her son scoffed irritably.

"I didn't steal it." Mrs. Waverly ignored her son's comment as she finally managed to shove the bay window closed. She ran to her daughter's side and gripped her shoulders worriedly. "This man, did he say anything to you, sweetie?"

Amelia shook her head eagerly and then cringed her nose in playful disgust. "No, he was all wet and smelled stinky. He went swimming, Mommy. He's not supposed to go in the water."

Horrifying images flew through Mrs. Waverly's mind as she resumed her frantic efforts and ran to the kitchen, locked the back door, and pulled closed the drapes on the window above her sink. Through her cloud of worry and panic, she questioned her startled son. "Did the man give you the picture?"

Amelia chuckled and shook her head back and forth as if the interrogation were a game. Max scratched his scalp and avoided his mother's demanding eyes.

"What's so funny!?" She screeched, her voice finally cracking from the buildup of nausea. Mrs. Waverly almost tripped over her welcome rug as she gripped the knob on her front door and slammed it shut. Her knuckles began to turn white as she ordered Max to respond. "Max, tell me."

Max shifted uncomfortably in his seat on the floor. He scratched his index finger nervously and glanced at his sister's bewildered expression. "I didn't want to say anything in front of Amelia…"

"Tell me, Max!"

Both of the children shuddered at the sound of their mother's strained scream. Without even turning to look at them, Mrs. Waverly raised her hand to the top bolt of her door and began to lock it. Max's lips formed a tight line and his eyes began to widen as he stammered his response,

"H-he was dead."

Mrs. Waverly's hand hesitated. She allowed her fingers to rest on the bolt as she considered her son's admission. Her previous fears washed away, a wave of new scenarios began to stream in and plague her mind. Shortly after she confidently twisted the dead bolt and released a strenuous sigh as the sound of a resounding click echoed through the unsettled house.
:squee: :happybounce:

My NaNoWriMo Prologue!

This is the prologue for my NaNoWriMo '12 project, Drowning Sirens. Complete at 1,187 words.

I'll be posting chapters as I complete them and will keep an up-to-date word count in my journal.

Visit my NaNoWriMo '12 Gallery to view future chapters & a short summary of the project in the gallery description.

Thanks for reading! :tighthug:

:heart: *OfOneSoul

, , &


Credit for my lovely preview image goes to the amazing ^SylwiaTelari. You may check out the original, unedited masterpiece here at her blog.
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My beginning impression of this piece was indifference--it's a typical day, common in so many stories. But gradually, as it progressed, the tension mounted, and finally, the last line caught me quite off guard. The shift from peace to horror is nicely delivered. Wonderful impact (albeit only happening in the end). :thumbsup:

I also liked the air of mystery with the dead man and the stubborn portrayal of Max--here, he seems like the most rounded character.

On the other hand, I think Mrs. Waverly has some inconsistencies. She seems to be extremely considerate of her children, the epitome of a maternal figure. Yet, when she hears the news of the mysterious man, she immediately starts bolting the windows. Wouldn't this frighten her children? I get the impression that she should try to assure them first and attempt to hide her panic, especially with the gullible Amelia watching.

As for Amelia, she should note something about the man sleeping or lying on the sand--it's generally uncommon, so children are almost always bound to comment on it...theoretically. Her reactions seem stifled--because you focus mainly on Mrs. Waverly's reaction, Amelia vanishes. Consider adding more description toward the end to include her.

I really like Max. He loves attention but is too prideful to clamor for it, and though outwardly he tries to be cool, he truly cares about Amelia and has a sense of maturity not to admit that the man is dead. He's layered. <3

Overall, the sentence structure is pretty repetitive. The piece could take a little more variation. The description in the beginning, "Just off the Gulf of Mexico" is too broad; it doesn't offer any accurate picture, and it simply makes me think of a map. Instead, try describing the beach or her surroundings. Is her house alone? Does she live in a city? That sort of thing.

Lastly, I'd like to point out some descriptions:

"stretched smile" -- this implies the smile is strained. The connotation (I find) is generally negative, as if she's trying to smile, not out of true happiness. A better alternative would be broad smile, wide smile, or proud smile. "Grin" would also work well.

"laughed merrily" -- I don't feel like this suits the situation. "Merrily" is too strongly positive for this sort of situation, like when someone is overwhelmingly happy.

"glared (at her son)" -- "glared" is super intense. I don't think a mother would do that to her son. This connotes hatred, not just sternness.

Hope you find this helpful. :)
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
2 out of 2 deviants thought this was fair.

I know I promised you a critique on your one piece, but that was before I noticed it was poetry. I'm horrible at critiquing poetry since I don't know much about how to exactly "edit" it, and I feel that it is a genre that is more open to its own formatting, voice, etc. So, instead, I took a look through your gallery and decided to leave something over here instead!

As always, you have a beautiful writing style that flows well and keeps the reader interested and engaged in the story. There's hardly ever anywhere where I have to stop and re-read a sentence or paragraph because it didn't make sense and I believe that overall, you really get the reader into the story right away, and keep their interest throughout the entirety of the piece. For that, very well done!

I think the first thing I'm going to be nitpicky about is adverbs. There were quite a few of them throughout this Prologue that can easily be taken out with another edit through. (Needless words pop up all the time in our early drafts, anyway!) If you give your work a read aloud, you'll be more apt to catch these words and be able to eliminate them. I think the ones that I'm stressing the most in this piece, however, are those pesky adverbs. They're alright every once in a while, but too many can start to bog the writing down and overburden the reader.

Here's just an example of some of them (trust me, when they're made aware of, they stand out and eventually, you'll want to strike them all):

"She inhaled deeply and strolled into the living room, wiping her hands on a damp rag. Mrs. Waverly stopped just in front of the bay window facing the ocean basin. Off in the distance she could see the docks and a few fishing boats barely returning from their day's work. She pressed her fingertips against the glass and smiled warmly as the small heads of her children bobbed across a hill of murky white sand.

Mrs. Waverly waved to them generously as they held up their toy buckets in triumph. The face of her eight year-old son was smug and confident while her four-year old daughter's was flushed and giddy. They lifted their bare feat heavily until they reached the soft earth just in front of their house. Mrs. Waverly unlocked the front door and held it open while her children skipped inside. The sand from their feet scattered across the wooden floors as they haphazardly tossed their buckets of loot onto a large coffee table in the center of the living room..."

Try reading these sentences with and without the adverbs. You may find that in some places, the meaning remains the same and the writing is smoother without them. (Personally, if any, I'd suggest leaving the "boats barely..." one to keep the alliteration, but the others very well may be able to go).

There were a few small things with punctuation here and there (and "format" things), but again, very small that could be cleaned up with another run through. Just as an example here's one that I came across: "However; Max was assuredly there to shatter it." The ";" should just be a "," in this instance, since the however isn't attached to the sentence before it. For the "formatting" things, the only suggestion I would make is that the words that are bold just be switch to italics for emphasis. There were some places where this was done and others it wasn't, so just be sure to keep it consistent!

Now, on to plot stuff!

It sounds and looks like you have a seriously interesting story unfolding. The reader is left with so many questions at the end of this chapter that they want answered. It's definitely a great way to open a story, though I may say that it works well as a first chapter instead of a "prologue" (but I've yet to see the first chapter to see if that's truly the case or not).

If anything, my critique here would be that this starts off as a typical day for the family and suddenly becomes this strange and frightening experience. This can work, but I feel like in this situation, it needs to slow down a little. Really build up Mrs. Waverly's emotions when she realizes that her children may have been in danger. It just felt a little quick and rushed more towards the end when these issues were being brought up, and I feel like if they were slowed down a tad, it would help tie the peace of the beginning with this unsettled feeling at the end.

Also, I feel that personally, the last paragraph can be cut. I like where this piece ends with Max saying "H-he was dead." It's a much harder note for the reader to end on and invokes a feeling that we lose when the next paragraph comes, ending more on that "peaceful" note in the way it was written again. I'd say to cut the last paragraph and end it with Max's response-- but that's just my opinion!

Aside from those small issues, I think that this is a good start. If the pace slows down a little and the adverbs are cleaned up, I think you'll have a stronger piece to work with here. Characterization at this point seems to work, so no complaints there. You also do a great job with showing the area instead of telling, so that's another plus! We are quickly grounded in this environment.

I wish you luck with this project and you revisions! I love the title, by the way, and I'll definitely be reading on when I get some free time. Good job and best of luck!
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
4 out of 4 deviants thought this was fair.

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dparparita Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Dear *OfOneSoul,

The other day I ran into a bearded transvestite in a red suit, wearing an arm band with the letters SS on it, which "he" swears stand for Secret Santa, and I thought it safest not to disagree. "He" entrusted me with a message for you, to be delivered on Christmas day or thereabouts, and, as I do not argue with people in uniform, I'm delivering it in full, but bear in mind it's only the opinion of one bearded lady in red and hardly representative of the public at large. For what it's worth, here's what your Secret Santa has to say:

"Ho, ho, ho, does Santa have a critique for you! You've created a wonderful picture of a happy family that slowly slips into a much deeper, darker mystery. While this is the very embodiment of a mermaid who attracts the sailors with her beautiful voice before she drags them into the dark depths of the ocean, this type of beginning might not attract the hurried reader browsing for something new to read. The first impression one gets, before we reach the photograph that the prologue is actually about, is that this is a story about an average woman living an average life in a charming little town. Furthermore, it feels like this is a story about a mother of two, which would make it hard for teenage readers to get interested in the story if they haven't read the synopsis beforehand. The very readers who are looking for a young adult story about a dangerous creature of the sea, will be put off by the first few paragraphs, while someone who enjoys the description of a peaceful family life might be looking for a story about a mother of two living a normal life, whose secrets are of a less supernatural nature.

I think it would help if you either began the story at a more dramatic point, or if you added elements that foreshadow the darker, supernatural part of the story. The scene you are describing is peaceful but average, yet someone who can so easily be frightened might cherish her peace and tranquillity a bit more than the average person, enough for the reader to become suspicious, to sense there's something more, some danger lurking beneath the calm surface. I remember the first Harry Potter book begins with a description of the Dursleys as "proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much." Emphasising their normality and how proud they were of it is exactly what makes the reader expect a story that is entirely out of the ordinary. And I think that a Mrs. Waverly who's enjoying her normal life a bit too much would hint to darker things without ruining the peaceful mood of the beginning.

There is one more thing that doesn't feel quite right about the prologue: it ends too abruptly. It raises questions that it doesn't answer, and the first chapter doesn't seem to pick up from where the prologue left off, thus leaving the questions unanswered and with little indication that the reader might start getting answers, or at least hints, any time soon.

Here are my questions after reading the prologue:
Is Mrs. Waverly the woman in the photo? Or does she know the woman in the photo?
Does she know the dead man? Or does she think she knows who he might be? And how is he connected to her?
Why did she panic so much when she was told about the man?
What are the other scenarios that plagued her mind?

I assume these questions will be answered by the end of the novel, but because the first chapter doesn't mention any of the characters from the prologue, I found that I couldn't concentrate on getting to know the characters in chapter 1 because I was too eager to find out more about Mrs. Waverly instead. While this means the prologue was successful in getting the reader interested in the book as a whole, it did rob the heroine of a successful entrance. As I said before, based on the Prologue, one would not expect the novel to be about a teenager. By the time I got to chapter one, my head was full of Mrs.Waverly and the dead man on the beach so I skipped through most of chapter 1, my eyes searching the text for key words related to the prologue instead."

The SS in red uniform ended "his" critique with a "Merry Christmas!" and ran off mumbling something about an oven and a fruitcake, but I, having made sure nothing is burning in my kitchen, must add that perhaps the greatest flaw of this prologue, the most disturbing to me, is that it is the beginning of a novel that I cannot read. All I can find of it is chapter 1 and a synopsis that doesn't mention Mrs. Waverly at all, and I'd very much like to read all of it so I can find the answers to my questions.

I hope SS hasn't been too harsh and I wish you happy holidays.
OfOneSoul Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Hello there, my friendly neighborhood Secret Santa! :wave: :giggle:

Thank you so much for the thorough, honest critique. As far as reading more of this story - I've actually decided to not post any more to DA... so that if I ever want to seek publication - I don't have to put previously published. ^^;

And Mrs. Waverly & her children actually... never appear again. :lmao:

Their main purpose was to introduce the community of Cameron, Louisiana as well as the sinister plot that is going to unfold. After reading your critique, however - I am second guessing including this prologue at all. After all - you do not necessarily need a prologue. It may be wise to cut it out all together. :shrug:

Thanks again, darling! You are too kind. :huggle:

:heart: *OfOneSoul
Blacksand459 Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Very interesting!!

I loved when Amelia was describing the man on the beach...""No, he was all wet and smelled stinky. He went swimming, Mommy. He's not supposed to go in the water."

Honestly I was not thinking that the person was dead...or at least in the normal sense. Thoughts ran through my head that perhaps the story was going to take a Stephen King-esque turn there, and the man would be some sort of ghost, or malevolent supernatural being.

Would really enjoy reading the book. Good job!
OfOneSoul Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you so much, darling! :huggle:

I wanted there to be some sort of surprise. For each chapter I want to capture a sort of thriller-esque style that leaves you thinking, "I wasn't expecting that." :faint:

Thank you for the lovely compliment, dear. :heart:
Delrymple121 Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I'll definitely be reading the chapters as they come! However, I seem to have only one thing that I could constructively criticize about the piece. I'd like to see more descriptions of the characters. I never really have been good with prologues, so maybe those sort of things don't go inside a prologue. The writing is very well written, I just feel as if it might be lacking in description.

The scenery is very well set up, even the inside of the house is visual :) The characters are definitely believable and have distinctive personalities, which I really like. And, the mother's reaction is definitely believable. lol that poor woman.. I feel for her. I'm interested in finding more out about this dead man on the beach <3 Can't wait to dig into the first chapter.
OfOneSoul Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you so much for another lovely comment, sweetie! :tighthug:

In the prologue I chose to not describe the characters because... well, you'll never be seeing them again throughout the novel. :shrug: I didn't want to get too attached to them when I was never going to use them again. :giggle:

And I'm glad you're looking forward to more! That's always my goal in everything I write. :la:

:heart: *OfOneSoul
Delrymple121 Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Oh my gosh lol Another surprise! I was sure that woman was gonna some how be a main character. Now, I'm gonna have to indulge into the first chapter after I put my son to bed <3
OfOneSoul Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
:squee: I can't wait to hear what you thought! :dance:
bluevelvetwings Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
I... would read the rest of this. I would probably buy it if I had money <3 The plot seems excellent, and the disturbing element of it comes on gradually enough that I wouldn't have guessed immediately the truth about the man. Keep up the good work!
OfOneSoul Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you for such a lovely comment! :love: It's truly the nicest thing anyone has said to me on DA. :blush: After all, my only wish is to be a published writer, so the fact that you would buy my work really uplifts me. Thanks so much sweetie! :tighthug:
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