Posted in fabo story, The Winner

FABO Story Judge’s Report From Melinda Szymanik

Wow. A lot of you were inspired by the scary story starter and we received around one hundred and twenty entries. There were some wild and crazy ideas and some very inventive thinking and writing. There was a lot to enjoy and I giggled and gasped at the things you came up with, so thank you!

There were a few common mistakes that I saw coming up again and again. One was changing from third person (speaking about Isabelle) to first person (writing as if you were Isabelle, using “I”). The best idea is to follow on from how the story is started (third person in this case). Another problem was not putting your story into paragraphs. If something changes (the person speaking, the action, a new scene, etc…), start a new paragraph. It makes your story so much easier to read and understand.

A lot of you also had Isabelle waking up to discover it was all a dream. Most of the time this is not a very satisfying way to finish a story as it means you don’t have to work out a resolution for your plot and it takes all the excitement out of the story. However a couple of you did find a way to make a dream a good resolution to your story, so it can be done (compliments to Lucy Kennedy at Balmoral Intermediate and Jason Figgitt at Epsom Normal for achieving this). And lastly some of you had wonderful ideas which you set up beautifully and then the story stopped. I wanted to know how things worked out but you left me dangling. Resolving your story will always win you extra points.

So in no particular order the following writers get an honourable mention for some pretty smart/cool ideas and/or clever twists – Fleur Pedersen from Matamata Intermediate (a talking dog!), Samuel Anderton at Marina View School (the horror!!), Grace Howard from Beckenham Te Kura O Puroto, Zara S. (Vampires!), Hector T. (Skeletons!) and Matheus Z. (creepy doll!!) all from Remarkables Primary, Libby Namana at Whangarei Intermediate, Niamh Murray from Churton Park School, Arshiya Tuli at Queen Margaret College, Heidi from Fairlie Primary School (Go Mrs McGreevy!), Sharon Jones at Te Mata Primary in Havelock North (future Isabelle!), Julia Moffitt from Hauraki Primary, Aleisha Skinner at Saint Kentigern College (the phone calls!), Salina at Carmel College, Tash Dellabarca from Moanataiari School (it’s a stick with attitude!), Margot Wilson at Maungawhau School (a sand witch!), and Eliza Carter from Moanataiari School who turned Mrs McGreevy into Mrs McGreedy.

And some of you blew me away with your lovely lyrical or funny use of words. Honourable mentions go to Nadia from Saint Kentigern College, who included one of the truest lines, “Through the darkness she saw the shadow of a person with a hunchback. Something just out of the horror film that every young person feared to watch, and when they did they regretted it.” Nadia, I’ve regretted every horror movie I’ve ever watched!

Alantis James at Westport South School wrote “the sky stopped dropping its forks of lightning and clapping the clouds together” which is a wonderful image.

And a very special mention for Niketa Fernando at Carmel College for sentences like “Her breath broke the silence, like dawn breaking darkness. Isabelle was a small fly, in the midst of a spider, searching for its prey.” “Even though a tiny whisper floated out of her mouth, it danced its way through the house until it reached the ears of the intruder.” And “Thunder crashed, like band, who had not rehearsed its music.” Niketa that is some beautiful writing. Keep up the great work.

I ended up with three favourites, all good stories with original ideas and good writing, and it was a tough job to pick a winner. Maia O’Callaghan from Carmel College, and Sarah Aitken at Broadfield School, I really enjoyed your stories and I hope you keep writing (and entering Fabostory).

And my winner for this challenge is Chloe Morrison-Clarke from Casebrook Intermediate. I loved the simple, elegance of the idea and the writing. It was well constructed and felt fresh and satisfying.

Melinda’s Story Starter: Once, on a Dark and Stormy Night

Every light in the house was on, but the darkness outside still forced its way in through the windows, and past the curtains. Except when lightening blazed jaggedly through the sky, momentarily lighting everything up with a shocking whiteness, like a camera flash.

Sitting in the lounge downstairs, Isabelle counted the seconds between the flare of light and the crash of thunder. Only two. Two measly seconds. The storm was almost right overhead.

Why did they have to live at the end of a long, long driveway? On the very furthest edge of town? Why did both her parents have to go with Jojo? They didn’t want to wait for an ambulance when her little brother fell out of the biggest tree in the backyard. That tree was evil. Isabelle and Jojo both knew it. They never clambered up through its branches, or lay beneath it, even when the shade beckoned them during the hottest summer months. And they both refused to sleep in the middle upstairs bedroom where the branches clawed at the windows, even when there was no breath of wind. Isabelle didn’t even know why Jojo had climbed the tree that afternoon. Or if he even had.

He’d looked so pale lying in the grass, his eyes closed, his body limp.

Dad said, “I’ll drive,” and Mum said, “I’ll sit with him in the back and make sure he’s okay.”

“Don’t worry Isabelle,” Dad said. “I’ll ring Mrs McGreevy and get her to mind you.”

And Isabelle said the words she now deeply regretted and would never forget. “I’m fourteen now. I can mind myself. But call me as soon as you get to the hospital.” She’d smiled bravely then, and waved as the car pulled away, throwing up dust as Dad put his foot down.

Now she was alone in the house at night, with a storm raging all around.

BOOM! An almighty clap of thunder shook the house.

All at once, every single light went off. Everything went dead quiet.

And in the dark Isabelle heard a determined tapping sound coming from upstairs. And then she heard a new sound. A voice. Rasping, and low.

“Let me in.”

The winning story by Chloe…

Her body seized up, every muscle was under the control of some unknown enemy. Isabelle felt glued to the chair, her only conscious thought being, ‘ I’ll never complain about having Mrs McGreevy mind me ever again…’

“Let me in!” the voice sounded higher than before.

Isabelle suddenly felt a burst of courage. She thought she heard a note of desperation- or was it sadness – mingling with the anger in the strange voice. Could it be a creature in need? (Isabelle was passionate about saving animals in need.)

Her soft steps echoed up the landing as she tiptoed to the source of the sound. Her mind overflowed with horror scenes as she crept, thinking of the tree out in the garden, it’s bare, pointy branches slamming her brothers body to the cold Winter ground, of the spots of blood on the lawn.

Her skin seemed electrified, any small noise and she would jump and shake uncontrollably, fighting the urge to run, hearing the rain beat on the window like a drum band. Lightning flashed, but Isabelle had given up counting the seconds.

Finally, the velvety curtains concealing the window hung in front of her.
“Please, please, Let there be nothing there…” she begged the universe. It was in the moment of hesitation she noticed her surroundings. Her feet were firmly planted on the dusty, unused surface of carpet in the middle upstairs bedroom.

“Oh no.”
Silence reigned. Dust settled. The room held its breath. The tense knot in Isabelle’s stomach grew.
Her shaking hand swiped at the heavy curtain and it sprung aside.

“AHHHHHHH!!!” she screamed.

The most beautiful face she had ever seen stared back at her.
Long locks of hair hung in curved tendrils of her head. Her curving figure was covered only by wisps of leaves and branches; the ballgown of a tree.

Her full lips turned down at the corners, in her wide brown eyes tears welled and slowly fell back to earth.

Isabelle fumbled with the latch and opened the window. She leapt back as the beautiful woman glided into the room.

She spoke. Her voice sounded like music, rushing rivers, leaves rustling in the wind.

“I am the Dryad of the tree you despise. What have I ever done to hurt you? Your brother struggled as I tried to lower him, he broke of my branch. I couldn’t catch him. He was distrustful of me.”

A minute elapsed.

“I long to be a welcome beauty in your garden, to be climbed, for you to lay beneath me and appreciate the gloss of my leaves in all seasons.”

The Dryad waited for Isabelle’s shaky nod before smiling, and fading back to the tree she belonged to.

Each time Isabelle went out to the garden after that, she (and Jojo, who fully recovered) would sit underneath the tree she now recognised for its beauty, and stared into the branches. Once or twice, she even thought she saw a beautiful face with full, glossy lips gazing back. Smiling.

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