Peer Review by seaomelette (United Arab Emirates)

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The Witch Doctor's Children

By: The Dreamer


Sunlight crept down through the leaves until it mingled with the moonlight on the forest floor. The crickets had stopped chirping a few moments ago and Estelle was making her way home. She hadn't meant to be out this long but then she didn't mean to do many things. No matter how much she planned, she was begining to see that things rarely went according to plan. She tip-toed around mushrooms, making sure to step right into any rings and make a wish. Her little red, velevt pouch jangled on her belt and she adjusted it so it couldn't punch her in the stomach as she skipped through the forest.

She hadn't gone too deep this time, just circled round and round with her head tilted back, watching the stars.It had been a cloudless night and her spirits sank a little as the moon paled to the sun, the sun reaching out its tentacles and, like a thick oil spill, putting out the stars. She had reached the edge of the forest now and looked back into its sheltering canopy where the night was temporarily taking refuge, and blinked hard, trying to ink the image into her head. Estelle sighed and turned round, yawning as she walked onto the cliff.

Now here was someone who was good at inking, she thought. A golden-haired girl was sitting sideways on a rock, hugging her knees to her and staring out into the sunrise. Yvette. Estelle smiled, Yvettte hated waking up early but she loved the colours of the early morning. She seemed perfectly immersed in the picture that she was no doubt trying to paint in her mind. A cliff, meeting the ever lightening sky - a drop of golden ichor streaming into it from the east, sloping hills below - still in darkness - and a blob of a town in the centre of the valley-a river running right through it, the sun shining like a lantern directly down on it. Hearing a crunching of leaves, she turned her head and saw Estelle coming towards her, then swung her legs down gracefully and patted the grey rock beside her, smiling.
"What did you find this time?" she asked as Estelle sat. 
"A rusted key, a few young pebbles, a piece of worn thread and a crumbling heart-shaped leaf" Estelle announced as she pulled each item out of her pouch and placed them in Yvette's open palm.

She loved sharing her lost things with people who appreciated them. Except Yvette didn't see them as old worn objects with history or new ones, recently crafted by Mother Nature and just begining to learn the world, like Estelle did. She saw them as shapes and hues, scents and feelings. A cold, heavy key; smooth, cool pebbles; plum-coloured thread and a brittle, rosy leaf. She weighed each in her hand taking it in then handed them back to Estelle "They're precious," she said gently, touching the tip of Estelle's nose with her finger, "just like you!" and handed the items back.
Estelle rubbed her nose, out of reflex, she normally hated people touching her nose but she doubted even the grumpiest person could hate it coming from Yvette. She hugged her, Yvette was like everyone's mother.

"Hey, can I have a pebble?" Yvette asked as she pulled back, a childish sparkle in her eyes.

Estelle sighed and gave her the roundest pebble. Yvette loved pebbles. She always had one in her pocket, rubbing them whenever she thought. Yvette kissed Estelle on the cheek and cradled her pebble smiling, then slipped it in her jacket pocket. She sighed, placing her elbows on her knees and cupping her face between her hands.
"Isn't it beautiful?" she asked staring out at the valley and the now pale yellow sky, barely expecting an answer.

A door from the clustered woodcutter's village behind them creaked open. An old lady with curly, short, silver hair - hastily tied up - stepped out. She wore a baggy brown dress - the sleeves already rolled up - dark stockings and even darker boots. A black cape was draped around her shoulders, secured at the nape of her neck with a silver safety pin, making her look almost pretty. 
"Mama Sylvie!" the two girls sang, springing up from the rock and running to her (almost tripping over each other).
"Shh! You don't want to wake the whole village,now do you?" whispered Mama Sylvie as the girls hugged her tightly.
Then they stepped back, hands clutched behind their backs, both looking like little girls awaiting approval. Yvette was only a bit older than Estelle but already taller than her - and even Mama Sylvie.

"I'm going out," Mama Sylvie declared, hauling up her basket, "to make some deliveries".
Estelle's shoulders fell. Yvette's shoulders drooped too, then she quickly straightened herself.
"Can I come?" Estelle asked, but Yvette knew better and so should she.
"No. I've left a list of chores on the table." she turned towards the forest, "Bye, my darlings" she waved.
Yvette and Estelle waved back and walked into the house.Yvette didn't need to bend, unlike her twin Peder, she wasn't that tall.

"We should change," Yvette said to Estelle.
Estelle blinked, Yvette was wearing her patched-up nightgown. She made evn that look romantic.

The bell started ringing as Yvette and Estelle entered the kitchen. A short, man circled the houses, clambering his large cowbell. Yvette's heart tightened at the sound. 

The village awoke, throwing open doors and windows. Several children rushed into the kitchen,
"Yvette, what's for breakfast?" they cried.
"Bread and jam" she smiled.
"Again...." they grumbled shuffling back to the room to change.

Estelle was staring out the window as the kettle boiled. Then there was a movement from the forest at the far end of the village. A group of leather and fur-clad men stepped out.
"The Hunters!" the bell-man announced, then disappered.
Utter silence. A crow squaked. Doors and windows shut. Estelle was pushed away from the window as it too was shut - and bolted.

She turned to the table and started setting out plates "I'm so glad I'm vegetarian!" she thought, her first certain thought all week.
 


Message to Readers

I could really use title suggestions....
Also is there too much tell and not enough show?
Please let me know.


Peer Review

Your descriptions were gorgeously vivid, and I absolutely loved the way you introduced your characters and panned your verbal camera over the scene.


You do a fantastic job introducing characters, and fleshing out their unique personalities in the text. I really love how you give readers a look into Estelle's thoughts and worries, and your prose is lovely and descriptive.


The general structure of this excerpt was smooth and compelling, and the progression of events was interesting and realistic. You use a lot of detail to describe Estelle's and Yvette's encounter, and I'd love to see you extend a similar focus to the two girls' encounter with Mama Sylvie. I understand the word limit, but at some points, I found the transition between scenes a bit abrupt, and I was a little lost in some scenes. I've highlighted a few paragraphs to give you a better idea of what I mean. The main idea to take away from this is to ensure a balance of detail throughout your excerpt.

I've also noticed a few minor typos and grammatical throughout this excerpt, and I've highlighted a few sentences that can be improved on. Other than that, this excerpt was just about flawless. Something I've found really helpful is to read your piece aloud once you've finished writing your first draft. While writing, don't bother with pesky grammar, and just get all your amazing ideas out. Then, once you've finished, read your piece aloud, slowly and naturally. That way, you can spot any grammatical errors or any awkward-sounding sentences that can be revised. As I've said, I've pointed out a few of these, but I've leaving the rest for you to discover!


Oh yes, the setting was just magical. As I've said, your descriptions are just jam-packed with beautiful metaphors and imagery that seemed to explode out of the text and blast my retinas with all their glory. Unless you'd like to add more details, your descriptions are the furthest thing from "tell", and the very incarnation of "show".


This novel excerpt was stunning, and I'd love to read on! I swear novels are like these furious beasts that refused to be wrangled and lassoed (to date, I myself have never finished one), but I'm sure you can do way better than me and make it all the way to the end! Keep writing, and remember to stay refreshed and excited by taking plenty of breaks.


Reviewer Comments

This novel excerpt was superbly written, and I loved your descriptions! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me and I'll be happy to help. :D