We’ll be Back!

Hi!

As you guys know, we – Elm and Tara – have GCSEs underway, and the stress is mounting. Unfortunately, this means we have to put this blog onto a hiatus until our exams are finished, in the middle of June.

It goes without saying that you can still submit in that time; we personally won’t be writing anything, but if you want to, contact us on our blogging email – emmaletters2@gmail.com – and you can submit anything you’d like.

That can be short stories, a new chapter to Beyond The Woods, or a poem. We still have time to showcase your amazing work.

See you then, and always keep writing!

The Roots

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Beyond The Woods – Chapter Five

Hello readers of The Writing Treehouse!

In case you didn’t know, I’m Jags from JagsOnline and I’m going to be writing Chapter 5 of Beyond The Woods today (obviously). The end of the last chapter was so intense so I’m really excited to continue this amazing story!

I hope you all enjoy!

Instantly I rushed forward to stand in front of Teak.

“Step aside Alice! This boy is dangerous.” My grandfather said as he brandished his sword in front of me.

“But he’s not, grandfather! Teak was all alone, he knows nothing. He doesn’t even know his own name. Please grandfather, don’t harm him.”

“You’ve given him a name, have you?” he said in dismay, “I can’t believe you, Alice. I’ve told you time after time to not go near the south mountains, yet you disobey me, after all I’ve done to protect you!” he shook his head, looking deep into my eyes. 

“Listen, Alice.” he said in a softer tone, “You don’t understand the dangers of this boy. His people . . . they aren’t right. They aren’t like us.”

I looked at Teak behind me. He was standing now, his face filled with confusion and his eyes trained on the blade that my grandfather still held in his hand.

I turned back to my grandfather. “What do you mean?” I asked. 

He sighed, lowering his blade slightly.

“I will tell you all tomorrow, my dear. But for now we must hide this boy. We must not let anyone see him, for if they do then we may never see our beautiful home again.” he said as he looked up at the night sky.

“Take him out the back, to the shed.” he said nodding at Teak, “He should be safe there until morning.”

I led Teak out the back of our house to the old, rotting wooden shed that sat in the garden. I pushed open the door which creaked and shuddered, letting in the luminescent light from the moon. He sat down in the middle of the floor casually and stared up at me.

“I’ll bring you some food and water.” I said as I turned to go back to the house.

I came back with a plate of bread and cold stew, a cup of water held in my hand.

“Here.” I said as I placed the items on the floor in front of Teak, he hadn’t moved an inch since I’d left, “Eat. I’ll be back in the morning.”

“Morning?” he asked in that confused manner again.

I shook my head, “Just go to sleep, I will see you later.”
I was woken with my grandfather’s face in front of me.
“Alice,” he said quietly, “get ready. I’m taking you somewhere.”

I got out of bed and pulled on my clothes, quickly brushed through my hair to untangle any knots. I went out to the living room where my grandfather was stood, cane in hand and a strange look in his eyes.

“Go get the boy.” He said, “And meet me at the river.”

I went to the shed where Teak was hidden away. When I opened the door he was still sitting in the same spot, lying down on his back and his eyes closed. The plate next to him was empty, at least he knows how to eat.

“Teak.” I whispered, shaking him softly. His eyes snapped open as I said his name and he sat up, looking at me. 

“Come,” I told him, “grandfather is taking us somewhere.”

We ventured back to the river where we had passed just the day before, when I was so intent on keeping this boy safe. My grandfather was stood on the other side of the river, looking up at the clear crystal blue sky. When we reached him he suddenly took off into the forest. We followed after him. He led us to the waterfall, the vapour from the water creating a small rainbow out in the middle of the lake.

“Look around you.” Grandfather said, “Everything and everyone in the forest is united, lives in an unspoken peace. The trees give shelter for the birds, the birds eat the bugs that try to destroy our plants, we give help to the plants, the plants provide us with food and then we replant them. Everything goes in a circle.”

He sat down on the edge of the water, his cane lying next to him.

“But it wasn’t always like this.” He said, “There was once a time when the birds would flee from the mere smell of a human, the trees were dead and blackened and there were no people here to grow crops.”

“But why, grandfather?” I asked.

“There was – and still is – a city. That city is filled with people. Blank people. Blank people like blank canvases. They have no memory, no feelings and no understanding of the world we live in.”

I looked over at Teak who was staring up into the canopy of trees above us, watching the birds fly from tree to tree.

“And . . . that is where he’s from?” I asked. 

Grandfather nodded, still looking out onto the water.

“That city is a strange place, Alice.”

His eyes were fixed on the ground in front of him. “No one knows why it’s there, what it’s doing or who is in charge, but it’s not a place to be tampered with. That’s why the boy must be ridden of.”

“But grandfather . . . surely we can help him. I’ve given him a name, he has some knowledge of the world now, so why could we not help him?”

Grandfather stood, motioning for me to follow him. We walked in silence through the forest, Teak stumbled and crashed through the undergrowth behind us. We came into a small clearing, the grass green and lush, a ring of rocks creating a circle around us. He leant down in front of a single small tree in the middle of the circle. He ran his hands over the rippled wood then combed his fingers through the soft grass. He motioned for me to come forward. He took my hand, guiding it onto the wood where I now saw an engraving. I crouched down closer to read what it says.

In loving memory of Vivien and Angus, caring parents to Alice and loved family and friends to many. You will always be remembered for the courageous things you did and the risks you took to save another’s life. May you forever rest in peace.

I looked at my grandfather, tears forming in his eyes.

“This is their . . .” I started but cut myself off as Grandfather nodded and placed his hand on top of mine.

They did this.” He said, “His people did this.”

 

How To Writing: Part 2 – Protagonist Creation

Hi guys! So it has been exactly two weeks since I posted the first instalment in this series, so I thought I’d make it a fortnightly thing!

So, you’ve got your idea. You’re suitably inspired and you are so ready to begin that story that you are sure will be the best thing you have ever written.

There is just one thing standing in your way.

Who’s the story about, again?

Oh yes, you don’t have a main character. That’s what this post is about: creating that perfect character that will provide the best possible starting point to writing an incredible story.

That really is the starting point. Although you may start to have some vague ideas about plot and you might really really want to start writing the first chapter, the most important thing that you have to do is create your most important character. Really. Trust me.

It will be so much easier to start (and maybe even finish) your story if you already know your main character as well as you know yourself. Maybe even better.

Friend or Foe Gif

First things first: in essence, is your character good or evil? Most of the time, the story is written from the point of view of the good character, or the protagonist. 

Sometimes, though, the story is written from the point of view of the evil character, which can be a lot of fun.

But the character creation is essentially the same. And the main thing that you need to understand is that you have to know your character inside and out. The more detail you put into creating their character, the more real they will be.

And you want your characters to be real. Think about your favourite fictional characters. Don’t they feel like real people?

That’s probably why we get so attached to them…

MOVING ON SWIFTLY

There are so many questions on the Internet that you can use to give yourself some prompts and inspiration about your character and their life.

And no, I don’t mean name, age, gender, hair colour, eye colour and all of that stuff. Yes, it is important, but readers will automatically know that from you being a good writer and describing what your characters look like. 

What I want to know is what happened on that vacation to Toronto when they were six that left them with a scar on their ankle and a deep-rooted fear of rocks shaped like Eagles. I want to know what keeps them up at night, what makes them happy. What’s their favourite song? 

Think of it as having a new best friend or romantic interest. You want to know everything about them, get to know them, who they really are.

Otherwise your story will fall flat. You might have the most incredible plot, but if your readers couldn’t care less about your character, you may as well have written your book about a brick. 

 

 

 

Beyond the Woods – Chapter Four

Hi guys! Me again, with Chapter Four of this story that is actually getting to be so amazing right now. I am in love with it and it’s characters already.

So, it should be JagsOnline who is doing the next chapter, and if you’re reading this, please contact us so we can sort out permissions and schedules and all that 🙂

Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

I decided that no matter what happened, I would try to make sure that this strange boy was well cared for. He would obviously be no use to me in the woods with his bumbling movements and endless barrage of questions, but I vowed I would not stop until someone in the village had taken him in.

We had reached the edge of the wood. Suddenly I realised that we would have to jump the stream, a feat I had accomplished daily for as long as I could remember, but to this stranger who couldn’t even walk across a flat dirt path without stumbling, this would be a serious challenge. I knew there was a more easily accessible path of stones across the stream, but that was a good quarter of a league further to the east, and I wanted to get home before sundown. Even now as I lifted my head to look through the leafy canopy, the light levels were fading towards the west and the typical azure blue of the sky being replaced by gloriously vibrant hues of orange, pink and purple.

“Come on,” I said, “we have to jump the stream.”

Sadly, none of those words seemed to strike a chord in Teak. He kicked a mound of dirt with his feet, eyes firmly fixed on the ground. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what you mean.”

An apology. The most basic sign that there was some kind of emotion in this boy. That alone was motivation enough for me to flash him what I hoped was a genuine smile. “Look, I’ll do it first, and then you follow. Okay?”

He gave a meek nod, and I turned my back on him, praying that he would understand and imitate what I did.

I hopped across the stream with ease and whirled around to watch him. His brow furrowed for a second or two, but he copied my movements and joined me on the other side of the stream, albeit with less grace.

“That was good,” I smiled at him, and I almost thought that he would return the simple gesture of human kindness.

Instead he said, “Is this the path?”

I sighed and nodded. “Come on, we’re nearly there.”

I started down the dirt path, checking over my shoulder every now and then to make sure my somewhat dimwitted companion was ambling behind me.

I wasn’t really sure what to do with him. Making a decision myself seemed foolish, but at that point I didn’t have a choice. Merienda would take him in, I mused. And she’s a healer, so maybe she can figure out what’s wrong with him.

No, that probably wouldn’t be best. Especially because I didn’t actually know if there actually was anything wrong with him.

I’ll take him straight to grandfather, I decided. He’ll know what to do. The sooner I can be rid of this infuriating nuisance of a boy, the better.

Suddenly, I felt a small tug at my sleeve.

“Where are we going?” He asked, falling into step beside me.

“This is my home,” I replied simply, and continued walking through the farms on the outskirts of the village.

“Home?” For what seemed like the thousandth time that day, I turned around, except this time I saw Teak look up at me with a faint glimmer in his eyes that I didn’t recognise.

“What’s a home?”

A pang of shame and sadness for this poor child hit me in the chest. Until now his ignorance had been frustrating, irritating and at times hilariously amusing, but now it was just miserable. My cheeks burned and I stared down at the earth. I realised I was blinking back tears, and looked up at Teak, that same blank face registering no emotion.

“Come on Teak,” I said, voice cracking. “You can stay here as long as you need to. I promise.”

“Wait here.” I told him, pushing open the wooden door to our cabin. “I’ll be back.”

He nodded, but his eyes were focused on a pair of starlings darting over the treetops.

I hoped he would stay put, but then I couldn’t really think of anywhere else for him to go.
“Grandfather!” I called, walking through our tiny kitchen into the living room. I found him sat in his favourite rocking chair by the fire, reading. He was always reading, when he wasn’t carving something. Honestly I didn’t understand why he didn’t spend more time outside. “I’ve found something.”

He didn’t even glance up from his book. “Alice, if it’s another rabbit, I’ve told you you can’t keep it.”

“It’s not a rabbit,” I said excitedly. “It’s a boy.”

His hand froze on the page he was turning. He looked at me through his thick-rimmed glasses, the only piece of metal other than my knife I had ever seen. “What did you say?”

“I found a boy in the forest. I’ve brought him back with me.”

His eyes widened. “Where did you find him?”

“I found him…” Suddenly I realised that I had wandered a little too close to the forbidden south mountains. But it was too late to lie now.

“I found him in the forest just before the south mountains.”

“What does he look like?”

I was surprised that he didn’t say anything about me almost crossing the borders, but I wasn’t going to dispute that. “Well, he’s dressed all in black with a white shirt and black boots, and-”

He instantly rose from his chair, knocking the book onto the floor. “Where is he?” He took three long strides towards me and stared deep into my eyes. It was a hard, searching look that I had never seen in him before, and I was almost afraid.

“Alice, take me to him this instance.”

“Okay,” I said warily. “Do you want your cane?”

He suddenly stopped, was silent for a few seconds and nodded with the same warmth I had grown accustomed to seeing. “Thank you.”

I quickly ran to the coat stand and took his ornate wooden cane. Once he had it he hobbled faster than I had ever seen towards the back door.

The sun had long set over the western woods, and Teak was sat on the bottom step of the porch, gazing up at the crescent moon as if he had never seen it before. Come to think of it…

“Grandfather,” I murmured as he closed the door, the boy on the porch still completely transfixed by the moon and unaware of our presence. “This boy isn’t like anyone I’ve ever seen. I think there’s something wrong with him.”

He ignored me, and advanced down the porch towards the boy. I watched him visibly shudder as he studied Teak from head to toe.

“Alice my dear, I’m afraid you’re right. There is something wrong with him.”
And then my grandfather, the calmest, kindest and most rational man I had ever known, pulled a thin metal sword from inside his cane and pointed the blade at the back of Teak’s neck.

OOH IT IS GETTING EXCITING! Hope you enjoyed 🙂

Tara

Beyond the Woods- Chapter Three

Hey guys, it’s 3liittlebirds! It was an honour getting to write Chapter Three as well as introducing a new character! I hope you all enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing this.

My village is a while away so the journey back would be a fair one, the silence I was so used to started to feel unnerving with this boy following me. I tried not to concentrate on him and went back to appreciating the world that surrounded me. It only took me a few more steps when my mind went back to him. Where had he come from? Did he really not know what a name was? My mind was suddenly overwhelmed with curiosity and I swerved around. I obviously caught him off guard because he just walked straight into me head-on.

The dark-haired boy took a step back. It was only now I realised I hadn’t quite had a proper look at the stranger. I started analysing him from bottom to top. He had worn-out black boots that seemed to blend seamlessly into black trousers. My eyes drifted up to his waistline and were greeted with a dramatic change in tone, he wore a white shirt under a dark, weathered, old jacket. The only bit of colour on him was his tanned skin and brown hair. Even with that, it wasn’t very vibrant.

The boy’s lips had thinned out as he patted his jacket down after the brief encounter.

“Why did you stop?” He spoke with no hint of annoyance or anger in his voice.

I ignored his question and posed one for myself. “So, you really don’t have a name?” I asked again, curiosity getting the best of me. 

He maintained that look of confusion he’d managed to keep glued to his face since we first met about ten minutes ago. He just tilted his head slightly like a puppy does when it’s hungry.

I looked away from him and to the green hue of trees around me. I hoped he would respond to my question.

He did not.

“Alright, well you call me Alice and I guess we will have to give you a name. What do you want me to call you?”

The nameless boy looked up, like he had suddenly gone into deep thought. After moments of silence he finally came to his conclusion. “I don’t know.”

It was a very unhelpful conclusion for the matter. I sighed slowly, puffing out my cheeks as I did so. “Well I can’t just call you ‘boy’,” I joked half-heartedly.

He did not laugh at my attempt of humour. Come to think of it, this boy hadn’t shown any hint of emotion since he found me heaped in a pile of leaves. If he didn’t know what to call himself I would just have to make a name up for him.

“Fine, I’ll just call you…” I looked him up and down again as my mind dashed through possible nicknames. One name in particular struck a chord in me. “Teak. Your temporary name is Teak now.” I couldn’t depict from his face if he liked it or not, I still couldn’t by his question either.

“What is Teak?” he inquired.

“You, now let’s go.” I turned on my heels and started to make my way through the trees.

Teak didn’t speak to me for a while after I’d given him a name. I guess he was just as confused as I was. I decided to take the longer, scenic way back to the village so I could show him more of the forest and what lies within it.

I led Teak through endless trees, all different shapes, colours and sizes. All equally beautiful. I concentrated hard on the nature surrounding me but it was pretty difficult with the monochrome boy asking questions every five seconds.

“What was that?” (which seemed to be a favourite question of his to ask) was asked again.

I rolled my eyes for about the 500th time in the last ten minutes. “It was a squirrel. I already told you what they are, now come on.” My hand brushed over the wooden bird at my hip and it centred me. I let out a breath I didn’t notice I was holding as my fingers danced over the details etched into the wood. After I could feel all sense of irritation vanish I let my hand drop from the bird.

We were about to walk into territory which housed baby birds and a rather vicious mother bird, whom I had had the unfortunate experience of meeting before. I put out an arm to stop Teak before slowly lifting my finger to my mouth as a signal of silence. Then I proceeded to tiptoe cautiously through the trees, this is when playing sleeping trees really comes in handy. I kept my arm out, in the hope Teak would understand not to make a sound before we left silent territory.

He did not get the message as soon enough enough he bundled up behind me and all but shouted, “What are you doing?”

As if it was a trigger, a flurry of brightly coloured birds erupted from the trees like a volcano. One bird with metallic blue and green feathers started to soar straight for us. I grabbed the brown haired boy’s wrist and ran: there was no point in trying to be silent anymore when we were basically at the mercy of an entire flock of birds. Our feet pounded against the ground, snapping twigs and crushing fallen leaves, until we were out of the birds’ way. I could feel my face burning up and not just from that sudden burst of exercise.

I pushed his wrist away and turned to face him.

“Alright. This, I put my left arm out and raised the index finger of my right hand to my lips. “This means, be quiet and stay behind me!”

Teak looked unaffected by the flash of chaos.“Oh…ok.”

I concealed my fury, he didn’t know anything – not even his name- so I decided to let him off this time.

I guided us both down to the stream, it led onto a grand, flowing river, thankfully the rushing of water was loud enough to drown out the Teak’s repetitive stream of questions. If this is what all boys my age are like, thank goodness I’ve never had to put up with one.

I could just about see the village from this side of the river. Stopping to take in the view, I could see the children running about, getting under people’s feet as they dashed here and there. I caught a glimpse of my own home. As I looked up to Teak my mind clouded. Even though he was taller than me, and maybe even older than me, I couldn’t help but feel he was a child in his mind. The boy was annoying but gosh, he reminded me of how dangerous childlike ignorance was. His soft face showed nothing but innocence.  As we stood side by side at the river I couldn’t help but feel a wave of protectiveness over the stranger I had known for not even an hour. What if the villagers shunned him? What if he had to leave? He had nowhere to go.
All I could think of was what Grandpa would think of him.

How to Writing: Part 1 – Inspiration

Hi everyone!

So as well as all of the amazing creative writing pieces that we’ll be posting on this blog, I thought that it would be a good idea to add in some helpful tips and advice that I have come across from various sources, and I thought I’d do some of my own research as well to try and help you guys with your writing as much as possible.

Because we want to help. If this is going to be a community I’d love it if every person learnt something about writing that helps them become the best writers they can be.

And so this series was born. I’ve decided to call it How to Writing, although I am not completely confident with the name, so if it suddenly changes then that will be why. Also I just wanted to say, in this series I am not claiming to know everything there is to know about writing because I obviously do not. I’m pretty sure that this series is going to help me as much as it will (hopefully) help you.

I thought that the series should have some kind of logical order in terms of how you would write a story, and where do all great stories begin?

With an amazing idea.

Now, that question is easy enough to answer, but a lot harder to actually achieve. Because what happens when you want to write is usually something like this.

giphy.gif

Side note: I love that film.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been really motivated to write something, and then sat down and had a complete mind blank. There have also been other times where I’ve had amazing story ideas but no time to write them, so by the time I am able to write them, I’ve completely forgotten what they were.

But let’s say you want to write a story. Where do you start?

Honestly, my first and best tip is to take inspiration from everywhere. Maybe you had a particularly traumatic dream in an alternate universe last night, or something happened at school that made you think, Ooh, I could write about this. Everything that happens in your life can be writing inspiration if you think about it hard enough.

Even things that happen to other people can be as inspirational. I think that the best writers are often the best listeners. When your friend is telling you a particularly interesting story, you have to think, Ooh, I could write about this. 

That’s the phrase you have to repeat to yourself. If you catch yourself having that thought, consider the idea. If it’s good, record it. It doesn’t matter where, basically just the nearest available space. Your phone, a notebook, even a spare scrap of paper. As long as it’s in a place you can come back to later 😉

I also think that people watching is an amazing idea too. Look at the first person you see, imagine them an interesting backstory and boom, a story is born.

Also, I think that writing prompts from various places on the internet are incredible resources. If you think that they’re plagiarism, then that’s fair enough, but I can guarantee I will have finished writing my story from a brilliant prompt before you have even thought of a good enough idea. Besides, give me one successful writer who hadn’t taken an idea from somewhere. 

It can be seen as someone else doing all of the work for you, which is both true and untrue. All they’ve done is take the stress and hard work out of starting a story, leaving you to do the easy and fun part of creating a brilliant piece of writing!

They’re amazing. They spark the imagination and creativity, especially because they give you the freedom to make it your own. I get so excited every time I see one that I love. In fact, the only downside is that I don’t have enough time to write them all.

To wrap up (because this post has been incredibly long) I just want to share with you one important message, a message that I pretty much live by. The world is full of ideas. There is no point in sitting at a desk staring at the same wall until you create a 100% original idea, otherwise you will drive yourself crazy. Get up, look around, live a little, because there is inspiration all around us.

Even inspiration for fantasy worlds. You can look at the blossoms falling from a cherry tree, close your eyes and picture them swirling at the feet of an elemental wizard. You can look at shards of ice hanging from the boughs of trees, close your eyes and see the hands of an ice witch slowly drop to the ground.

Yes, inspiration from existing writing counts, of course it does. If you’re stuck for ideas, the best thing to do is read, in my opinion. There are more story ideas branching off from one book than the entire world could think of. Because the best thing about writing is that every person will look at an object, a person, an event, and interpret it in a different way.

The best writers look at the world and don’t see it as it is, but they see it as what it could be. They see it as what they want it to be. Because when we put pen to paper, the universe is limitless.

Well, only as limitless as our imaginations.

Tara

Beyond the Woods – Chapter Two

Hi guys! This is Chapter Two of Beyond the Woods, and you can read Chapter One here.

Also – 3liittlebirds is going to be writing Chapter Three!

On a day when the sun rose high in the sky, the trees seemed to whisper a melody to me as I silently crept among them. It was a game, one I had created after my grandfather had let me explore by myself: the trees were all sleeping people, and I couldn’t disturb them. My footfalls were light because of it; only a few twigs snapped as I meandered my slow way through the forest.

Barely noticeable, a white blur that streaked past signaled the arrival of a little rabbit. I had always enjoyed watching the animals, with fur as soft as snow and feathers that caught droplets of light. Even when I was eight, as my grandfather combed my hair, I would gaze at the birds wheeling overhead whilst they squawked their music. Nature made me happy, with its layers and layers of secrets. Protrusions of rock broke the darkness in caves; burbling waterfalls carved furrows in the hillsides; a hidden glade of grass blew in the wind.

As I got lost in my thoughts, my feet slowed – not their usual brisk pace, but rather to just a walk. Sweeping a stray curl of black hair away from my brow, I let my eyes adjust to the suddenly darkened area. Obscuring the light, the trees entwined themselves around each other in a familiar embrace, branches swaying in the soft breeze. I loved these places; they seemed as if they were all mine and undiscovered by any animal, or even by the people in my village. Adjusting my belt, with my knife pressed snugly against my hip, I brought a foot up to rest on the bark of a promising looking oak tree, not yet withered with age.

Memories flooded back to me as I trailed my hand along the trunk. A groove here, a small letter A in the bark, and my mind reeled. This was the tree where my wooden eagle rested, which I had made not too long ago and which, hopefully, lay in the hollow halfway up.

I heard a rustle, somewhere far to my left. Animals were always making curious sounds in the forest – I wasn’t so arrogant as to assume that they had become used to me, but I certainly knew their habits by now. Wild foxes, birds, even the insects that flittered around my hair didn’t cause my heart to skip a beat. Instead, my hands gripped a branch above my head and I boosted myself up, not noticing the roughness of my hands that had gathered after years of scaling the tallest trees I could find.

Strangely, the sounds I was hearing weren’t branches snapping. They were the soft crunch of leaves as something crushed them into the ground. Those were relatively average sounds in the forest, but what was not average was that they seemed to be drawing ever nearer with a slow, hesitant speed.

My hand groped forward, eyes spying the little hole that a squirrel, or woodpecker, had so conveniently gouged into the tree. Reaching in, I felt the moss tickle my fingers as the little bird reunited with my palm once more. Triumphantly, I pulled it out, gently stroking the wooden wings as I tucked it into a pocket I had fashioned on my belt. I rolled my shoulders; the little aches that always came from climbing were almost comforting to feel as I made my way down once more.

Feeling slightly bothered as the rustling became louder, I stopped my descent with one foot braced against the wood of the tree. Was it a bear? No – the last and only bear I had come across had made far too much sound to be the same as this… Whatever it was. If I wasn’t mistaken, it sounded a little like the tread of footsteps, but my grandfather was in the village, gathering of food had been finished that morning and none of the children were old enough to be allowed to roam beyond the stream at the edge of the treeline. Just as I thought this, the rustling stopped. Too close. Far too close. I glanced down.

Though I had not gone far up the tree, the sight that greeted me was only slightly obscured by branches. A figure – only a little taller, I guessed, than myself – stood a little way away, eyes fixated on my shoes. I blinked, thinking the wind or earth had irritated my eyes. Inhaling sharply, I reached to rub at them, letting go of the trunk. With a soft yelp, I fell; my foot slipped and I tumble to land in an unhurt, but rumpled, heap on the ground. Frantically, I patted my pocket, feeling the nearly smooth curve of a little talon. Oh, thank the gods.

I stared up again. He – as I now realised – had not disappeared, only ambled a little closer with another crack of twigs and leaves. From above, he peered down, the limited sunlight causing his skin to glow. Sitting up quickly, I removed some of the offending items from my hair and brushed them off my shoulders, confused.

“Um…” Way to go, Alice, I thought. The only boys I had really seen were below the age of eight. There were, of course, Tay and Ander, who had disappeared when they were thirteen, and I was ten, but I refused to think about that.

“Who are you? What is this?” His words were hesitant, as if he had never asked a question before; with a curious voice and expression, he pointed at me. Windswept, his brown hair fell forward over his forehead as mine often did: his clothes also seemed unkempt.

“Well, I have no idea who you are, but my name’s Alice,” I muttered as I clambered to my feet. Grandfather, as well as Melienda and the other adults in our village, had always told me to be as polite as possible. ‘You might need it some day,’ they had said. With this thought racing around my head, I glanced at him. “Do you come from another village?” I had heard that those existed, or I at least assumed so: there must be something beyond the foothills, after all.

His face clouded in confusion. “Village?” he questioned, his mouth shaping the word as it rolled off his tongue. “No… The Pathway broke, and I’ve been walking through this place with these strange trees, and…” Gesturing around helplessly, his eyes darted to me. “What is an Alice?”

Choking, I held back my laughter, feeling it build in my chest. “It’s a name. Why, don’t you have one?” I laughed quietly, because the very idea was ludicrous.

“A what?”

Blinking, I shook my head. “Oh, never mind. Look, I don’t know who you are or what a Pathway is, but I better take you to our village. The forest can occasionally be dangerous, and I’ve never seen someone like you before, so…” Trailing off, I shrugged. “Come on.”

It was easy to tell, by his eyes and the way he tilted his head, that he information was bombarding him too fast for him to process. Trying not to care, or to wonder why exactly I was letting somebody I had met 5 minutes prior follow me, I took a step towards where the sun glimmered on the ground.

Blowing past my cheeks, the wind carried the scent of something new, and a story within a story that I didn’t know.

Burnt Out Ends

So, we have our first submission…exciting! It’s by a friend of mine called Lizzie and I think it’s really good 🙂 so here it is! 

Tendai Omolara was leant against the north facing wall of her bedroom. To the left hand side, her bed was unmade and two band posters were taped to the wall. Towards the back of the room stood a large oak wardrobe containing items of clothing in varying shades of grey. On top of the wardrobe there were two books which she deemed to be the best novels of all time.

She hadn’t opened a book for two or more years. Her stubborn nature suppressed her from believing that any books could compare to these. The first book was a battered copy of Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes and on top of that lay The Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith. Also on top of the wardrobe was a rusty biscuit tin containing six packets of Benson and Hedges cigarettes. A silver coloured lighter engraved with the initials T.O. was situation behind tin, not visible.

Tendai used one hand to peel away the flaking floral wallpaper. The other hand she used to apply a thick layer of coal-black mascara to her already spider-like lashes. Tendai had already applied the rest of her makeup. Despite her African roots her skin was the lightest in the family. Her high cheekbones protruded, her full pink lips were desirable. As her own personal protection she liked to wear as much makeup as possible. A thick mask of foundation coated every inch of her face and was just beginning to crack around her mouth when she spoke or sung to herself. Her hair was curly, small tight curls which fell framing her face. Most people regarded her hair as her best feature. She herself agreed that it was what the eye was drawn to however Chas always told her it was her stick-thin legs.

Her grandma Chikelu had moved with Tendai’s ancestors from West Africa fifty years ago. As she entered the room she flung open the curtains and shook Tendai by the shoulders with vigour. 

With her deep accent she shrieked,  ‘You stupid girl eh, you been smoking, you haven’t been working hard, what can you mama do wit’ you eh?’

Chi’s round, dark face had contorted in fury. She so wished for her granddaughter to make the most of the opportunities handed to her on a plate; she wanted her to be successful. However, seeing the girl’s startled reaction, Grandma Chi’s face softened a little. She took Tendai’s small hand into her large rough one and kept it there.

Tendai didn’t speak a word. In truth she was terrified of Grandma Chi. Chi often released a torrent violent words onto Tendai and they hurt her, in the same that the white boys who lobbed pebbles at her when she first moved, hurt.

‘My darlin’ why don’ you listen to me or you mama eh?’

Tendai was shaken; she couldn’t formulate the words to create a suitable response. She resorted to ‘I don’t know Grandma Chi, I’m sorry’.  

‘You’ve gotta work ‘ard my darlin’.

Remaining unresponsive and distant, Tendai climbed onto her bed, rested her head against the wall and willed Grandma Chi to give up the fight and leave her alone. Chikelu left the room. Tendai listened to her mother and Chikelu’s conversation. She heard Chas’ name mentioned more than once. ‘Don’t worry, she won’t be meeting him today’, her mother said with defiance.

Slipping out of the window Tendai thought ‘fuck you’ to her mother. She never listened to Lavina. She didn’t plan on starting now. Her knee grazed against the rough brickwork and she swore to herself quietly. Only a couple of metres from the ground she let go of the drain pipe and her feet hit the floor, hard. She headed down the path and out of the gate quickly so she could inspect her knee without fear of her mother seeing. The skin’s surface had been broken and blood was beginning to clot around the wound. It stung like hell, she had never had a high pain threshold and her eyes were already beginning to water. She spat into her palm, wincing slightly, she rubbed it into the cut to remove the dried blood.

She walked quickly up the road, normally she would take the back way to Chas’ house but she felt the need to hurry. When she arrived she stood out of sight behind the garden wall, she never knocked, just waited for him to walk outside. She lit up a cigarette and took a long hard drag and stared at the door, eager for him to come out. Conscious of the dryness of her lips, she licked them in an attempt to provide some moisture. The cold air caused her saliva to evaporate in an instant so her lips remained chapped and sore. She heard the familiar sound of keys jangling as Chas struggled to open his front door. Whilst she waited Tendai imagined if he had changed at all. Perhaps he was taller or broader; maybe he had grown some thick, dark stubble. He stumbled out of the door and smiled a familiar half smile at Tendai. She panicked, when she stood outside she hadn’t planned out her choices of words. Chas looked more boyish somehow, his hair was shorter and he stood without a shirt shivering. As he came closer she noticed the hairs on his arms were standing on end. ‘Are you cold?’, she asked.

‘No’, Chas answered with a grin.

She dropped her cigarette and ground it into the pavement beneath her feet. She looked up at him, taking in every detail. Checking nothing had changed since he left her. Yes, he still had a deep ribbon like scar above his left eyebrow, circular birthmark on his collar bone, flecks of copper and gold in the iris of his eyes. She took his hands into her and felt the rough, calloused skin with her thumb. She noticed his eyes darting up and down her body, she tilted his head to face her, and she wanted him to look at her eyes, her nose, and her mouth. His expression was unreadable; almost always with Chas the emotion displayed on his face opposed what he was feeling inside. She put her soft, gentle hands around his neck and pulled him towards her, pressing her face against his. Chas wanted to say something but Tendai kissed him hard until she felt his words go back down his throat. When she pulled away his eyes were hungry for her but she needed answers.

Tendai took a deep breath. Panic, fear, guilt and hundreds of other emotions hit her like a car. She felt her body swaying slightly and Chas took her elbow to steady her. She wanted him to hold her; she didn’t want to use words she didn’t know how. ‘Chas’, she whispered, ‘Tennie’, he replied.  

‘Give me some fucking answers’, she said.

She wanted to pound his chest with her fists, to take him and smash him to pieces on the ground. But she knew she would repair whatever he had damaged, heal the wounds he had obtained.

– 

I don’t know about you guys, but I want to find out what happened next 😉 

What do you think? Also, if you want to submit something the link is here

Tara

Crystalline

Hi! This is just a small piece I wrote yesterday.

There’s a beauty in the wind blowing over an empty moor. Whispering, disturbing the grass as it rises up in waves, skimming sometimes tender fingers over the seemingly dead world. Not a sound can be heard, save for the hollow passage of time being echoed by the breeze; a promise of the past is broken by the chill of the present. Darkness swallows the hills. Bearly lightening the ground, the wind chases the elusive snatches of sunlight. With little effort, it sweeps up helpless pebbles, delicate in their size. They spin, in a cluster, before being gently lowered to the unyielding ground.

Sparkling, with a song unknown, the blue of the ocean makes a stand. At once violent, it crashes with a cry of desperation against shores that protest, shaking and shivering. The whites of the waves catch the light of day; the water turns as black as ink at night, painting letters across the sky. Ripples fan out, soothing as they try to knit together the devestation: was it worth it? The great expanse of sea, with it’s many stories, sends the mind into a flurry of confusion. Only the water knows itself. It’s glorious depths team with beauty never seen, never heard, except in the secrecy of worlds unexplored.

It is ever-changing. Boulders crash to Earth; land slides against land, breaking, in a rhythm as old as time itself. Fracturing and splintering, pavements shatter beneath feet: islands sink into the ground. Within the shelter of it’s brothers, a gnarled tree whispers goodbye, crying as it teeters sideways. Creaking ominously, branches snap beneath the weight of the wind and snow that rains down from the vengeful sky. A tiny shift in the landscape. A little stone which clatters down a cliff. Sand, white as snow, creates shapes of long ago battles in the air, carving lines into the ground that are swept away with a flick of the wrist.

All of it is linked. All of it is cracking, splintering, in a cycle that is unbreakable. Wind, earth and water unite in harmony, rising and swirling. Old tongues spout the myths of the Gods, calling to the elements to save, to mould, to wield. A delicate balance; it is crystalline.

Beyond the Woods – Chapter One

SO, this is it! The beginning of our first huge group project. We are both incredibly excited for this, and hopefully you guys will be as well!

I’m sure you probably want to know what it is that we’re doing. Basically, it is a huge group story, about as long as a regular book. Every week, there will be a new chapter. Some will be written by us, some will be written by you. The basic schedule will be us one week, one of you guys the next, then the other one of us, then another one of you guys, and so on. If you want to write more than one chapter then ask us, and keep in mind that you don’t have to have a blog or a WordPress account to submit something!

Remember that our submission email address is emmaletters2@gmail.com and we will get in touch about which chapter you’re writing and when it will be up!

This story is our idea, but obviously when you write chapters you have complete artistic license, and if you need our input, we’ll give it! We can answer questions about plot, the universe, characters, everything. If you need help, trust me we have many ideas.

I wrote a little summary that we’ll put at the beginning of each chapter just kinda explaining the outline of the plot, and here it is! It’s time for me to stop waffling and let you read the first chapter, so I’ll shut up.

It’s called Beyond the Woods, and the first chapter is here.

Summary: In a post-apocalyptic world, Alice lives in a small village in the mountains with her grandfather. For the most part, she is content with her boundless adventures, but she is forever wondering what lies beyond the edge of the forest. When Alice runs into a stranger in the woods, she realises that what’s going on is bigger than anything she could have ever imagined, and she has to choose between the reality that has been thrust upon her and the comfort of the home she has always known.

It was the year that the mayflowers didn’t bloom until late spring. I remember because I found my grandfather out by the lake a few hours before sunset, looking for them. He was leaning heavily on his cane but he turned around to look at me and beckoned me forward. Even though he was getting on in years, his hearing was unparalleled. I prided myself on moving swiftly and silently through the forest but he always heard me. Even though I don’t wear shoes and my ears are sensitive to the slightest crinkle of leaves beneath my feet. You have to be quiet in the forest, even if it’s for no reason other than disturbing the peace. There’s a kind of ethereal air to it, as you walk through the forest there’s no denying it. It had always been the reason that I just couldn’t stay away. Every morning I woke up at sunrise and slept well after sunset just to experience life in the wilderness.

“Alice, you have to help me find them.” He murmured. “It’s good luck to eat the first mayflower of the season.”

I laughed until I realised he was deadly serious, so I spent a few hours by the lakeside, helping him remove the weeds to try to get a glimpse of the golden blossoms underneath until the sun hung low over the mountains. I had learnt to never question my grandfather’s superstitions. If nothing they were the things that kept him sane, the things that gave him something to believe in, and in this life, I think he needed that. That was also the day I asked him what was beyond the forest at the foothills of the south mountains. My entire life, I had been given the freedom to do what I wanted, but the borders around the village are pretty strict.

He just sighed and stopped walking. “Alice, you are one of the few truly, truly free children in this world. I know you don’t understand, and I hope you never will, but you should feel privileged, my child. There’s nothing in that place that will interest you.”

And then he started hobbling up the trail towards the village and I learnt never to ask him again because I never got a straight answer. But I knew he was lying.

It normally didn’t bother me that much, because there were so many ways to occupy my time and so many places to explore within the borders that I didn’t have the capacity to be bored. My insatiable curiosity was more than satisfied by the roaring waterfalls, ancient cave systems and mountainous plains that surrounded my village. There were always places to explore, new plants to find, animals to observe and sometimes befriend, paths to create and territories to mark.

My adventures were usually alone, but I had gotten used to it. At sixteen I was the oldest child in the village, but also the youngest adult. For the most part, the people in my village were either over fifty years old or under eight. I never questioned it, it was just how the world seemed to be. Luckily, I didn’t have to chaperone the little ones too much: there were far too many doting grandmothers with freshly baked pies waiting for them in the village for me to have any reason to worry. So I walked the forests solo, and was pretty content with it. I only had to look out for me, and that was the way I liked it.

I had grown out of the village long ago. At the age of about nine, I realised that the wooden cabins and rushing streams that made up my simple village weren’t going to entertain me, so I ran to my grandfather and asked him if I could cross the stream into the forest. I had watched my grandfather and the other people in the village go to scavenge for materials to make clothes and other useful items. We had a well-functioning animal and crop farm in the village, but the success of our harvest was at the mercy of the weather.

I remember finding a little wolf cub in an alcove above a cave. It had a pretty sizable rock on its tail, and it was whimpering louder than I thought was possible from a dog so small. Discarding the fact that it was supposed to be a dangerous and wild creature, I knew it would be in danger of cougars, bears, eagles, anything with ears that could pick up those little whimpers, and I couldn’t have that death on my conscience. I approached it slowly, one step at a time, one hand twitching towards my belt, but there were no signals that it was going to be aggressive in any way. It just looked helpless, and my heart went out to the little fuzzball. I lifted the rock from its tail slowly, and it instantly bounded away into the forest without a second look at me.

I couldn’t help but feel a little sad that it didn’t stay, but I knew that it was out of my control, so I picked myself up and carried on through the trees.

My grandfather gave me my most prized possession for my twelfth birthday. He said he found it by the mountains, unintentionally increasing my interest in the place, but it was a beautiful knife. I spent hours and hours carving an intricately detailed wooden handle for it, which I carefully slipped over the ugly metal one. It was the first piece of metal I had ever owned. I had seen it in various places in the village, but I never had anything to call my own.

I couldn’t be separated from it. It was pretty much the only possession I had, and I valued it above anything else I had ever owned. I used it to whittle, to carve, to climb trees, and in some cases, to defend myself. There is always a chance that you run into something in the woods that you don’t want to encounter. But by this point, there was nothing in those forests that scared me anymore.

Well, almost nothing.

So that was the first chapter, what did you think? Do you want to write one? I hope so 🙂

Chapter 2, written by Elm, will be up a week today, which is very exciting. I must say that the prospects about what this story could be are very interesting and I’m already in love with the characters, so I’d love if as many of you guys joined us as possible!

Tara 🙂