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  • Feedback Friday, 250 words – Wintermask

    Posted by Veronika Groke on 10 November 2023 at 11:58

    Title: Wintermask

    About the book: It’s a YA fantasy novel with folk horror overtones, based on Austrian Myth and folklore, in which a boy and his friend have to go in search of another boy who’s been carried off to a kind of spirit Otherworld by a Krampus.

    About the scene: MCs Andy and Karina, in search of their missing friend in the Otherworld, have been unmasked as human intruders and are put on trial by the Otherworld creatures.

    250 words:

    No longer tied together, but with their hands still fettered behind their backs, Andy and Karina were pushed into a larger thatched building that seemed to stand right at the centre of the little settlement. Raucous noise enveloped them as soon as they entered. All along the rounded walls, staggered rows of benches held a whole host of creatures of all shapes and sizes. Horned creatures roared, little woody creatures rasped, haystack and straw creatures rustled. The loudest, however, were a group of beaked and aproned creatures, whose excited ‘Ga ga ga!’ was accompanied by the screeching and scratching of large scissors and shears, which they were snapping opened and closed in a menacing fashion. The sound they produced made Andy clench his teeth.

    ‘Silence!’ squawked a voice, backed by some vigorous hammering.

    Andy and Karina turned around.

    To the side of the entrance, another beaked creature was sitting behind a sturdy wooden desk, on which it was banging animatedly with a weathered gavel. Its beak, though no less long and pointy than those of the others, seemed to be made of leather rather than metal, and instead of a kerchief, a pair of thick, round goggles hid its eyes. On its head sat an almost preposterously flat hat with a round rim that would have looked comical had the rest of its appearance not been so sinister.

    The leather beak kept hammering until, somewhat reluctantly, the noise in the audience died down.

    James Rohan replied 1 week, 5 days ago 8 Members · 12 Replies
  • 12 Replies
  • Ashley Schoonover

    10 November 2023 at 13:08

    Hi Veronika,

    I’m so happy to have found another person using folklore and myth! I love your descriptions of the different kinds of creatures that you’ve passed over as they sit waiting for the trial. Enough detail, but not too long so as to slow it down, like the eye is glancing over them while trying to take in everything all at once. I’m curious if they were inspired by actual mythological/folklore-based creatures, especially the sinister-comical authority bird.


    • Veronika Groke

      10 November 2023 at 13:37

      Hi Ashley, how cool, what are you writing atm? The creatures are mostly inspired by ‘real’ folkloric characters, whereby I’ve taken a few liberties, e.g., the leather beak’s look was actually inspired by that of the iconic plague doctor (but there are very sinister beaked characters in Austrian folklore, like the ones in the audience, so it seemed to fit). What kind of folklore/myth is it you’re using?

      • Ashley Schoonover

        10 November 2023 at 14:49

        Oh, I love the plague doctor inspiration. It made me think of those cute little plush plague doctors you can order online, and makes the odd round goggles make so much more sense! He seems to fit in so well with the other creatures that I don’t think it matters you’ve taken liberties.

        I mainly use Egyptian and Norse myths in combination, but I’ve pulled in Ba’al for a cameo and some Greco-Roman elements. I like playing with the idea that mythologies aren’t mutually exclusive and interact with one another the way their human populations do.

  • Alex Money

    10 November 2023 at 15:31

    This is a vivid, brilliantly imagined piece, Veronika. The reader gets a great sense of the other-ness of the setting and its array of different creatures, all exuding menace. The only thing I’d add to this would be the smell of being in this enclosed space with them all – although I’m guessing that might be indescribable! The other small thing I spotted was at the end where you’re referring to the noise dying down – the ‘somewhat reluctantly’ relates to the noise in the sentence, as if it’s the noise itself which is reluctant, rather than the audience. Overall, though, a lovely piece of writing.

  • Heather Huitt

    10 November 2023 at 22:28

    Hi Veronika,

    This is so lively and vivid! What a wonderful array of creatures; you’ve given us a great impression of their noise and wildness.

    I can only think of tiny changes to suggest, which is perhaps a bit too pernickety but here goes.

    1) ‘…which they were snapping opened and closed in a menacing fashion. The sound they produced made Andy clench his teeth.’

    could be shortened a bit, I felt:

    ‘…which they were snapping opened and closed in a menacing fashion – causing Andy to clench his teeth.’

    2) ‘…backed by some vigorous hammering.’

    ‘Accompanied’ instead of ‘backed’?

    3) As Alex mentioned the ‘noise’ in the final sentence. The following came to mind instead:

    ‘…somewhat reluctantly, the audience settled.’

    So use or discard as you wish. I look forward to reading more of this.

  • Veronika Groke

    14 November 2023 at 14:04

    Thank you both for the comments, pernickety and otherwise! I certainly agree about the noise. As for smell, I have descriptions about the creatures’ smell at various points in the story, but I’ll have a think about it here as well. 🙂

  • Marcus Brewster

    14 November 2023 at 14:44

    Hi Veronika – you’ve risen to the genre challenge admirably with a fantastical scene that feels very visualisable without any sacrifice of pace for world-building. That’s quite some feat.

    The only tiny hiccup I could find comes near the end: To the side of the entrance, another beaked creature was sitting behind a sturdy wooden desk, on which it was banging animatedly with a weathered gavel.

    There could be some confusion as to whether the ‘it’ doesn’t refer to the desk. A minor quibble but a proper editor might call your bluff on that!

  • Joanna Neville

    14 November 2023 at 15:19

    Hi Veronika

    What great, vivid writing – so easy to read – not easily done!

    Loved the world you’ve created – the scissor creatures sound truly terrifying!

    Only suggestion, don’t think this line – Raucous noise enveloped them as soon as they entered – needs the ‘as soon’ part.

    Great writing 🙂

    Best wishes


  • richard Flamank

    14 November 2023 at 16:14


    Definitely a Grimm -like scene and atmosphere with the thatched collage but then the array of amazing creatures with the judge dressed in the slightly comical hat. Great description. Creates threat but also a touch of humour and I want to find out what type of courtroom this is.

  • James Rohan

    16 November 2023 at 06:23

    Hi, Veronika,

    This was fun to read!

    Which is it that is hammering, the gavel or the leather beak? If it’s the beak, the creature must be a woodpecker!

  • Veronika Groke

    16 November 2023 at 11:45

    Thanks so much for the comments all! Very useful. I see it’s causing confusion that I’m referring to the creatures as ‘its’, I might have to change that. It’s definitely the gavel that’s hammering, the ‘leather beak’ was meant to refer to the creature, not just its beak! Maybe it should be one word instead (leatherbeak)…

    • James Rohan

      17 November 2023 at 02:59

      “Leatherbeak” is a good solution. As a descriptive title, it makes perfect sense.

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