Friday Fictioneers: A walk in the woods

It’s Friday again! And here’s the photo prompt for Friday Fictioneers

(Actually, I have two stories this week – which surprises me, because my first reaction to the photo was “Oh, that’s pretty, I wish I was there, but what is there to say about it??”)

A Walk in the Woods #1

I’ve always liked walking in the woods. Once, I came out of thick bushes to find strangers lounging on rocks and logs, singing a song I didn’t know in a language I didn’t know. They were friendly, and next thing I was squeezed onto the end of a log and la-la-ing along.

Then they got ready to leave, beckoning me down a pretty little trail I’d never seen before. I almost went. But their faces looked wrong all of a sudden – maybe just from the flickering leaf shadows. When I backed away shaking my head, their laughter was cold and musical. I ran.

I used to like walking in the woods.

* * *

(The second story is a lot more than 100 words long. The kids just wouldn’t shut up.)

A Walk in the Woods #2

“Mom! Why are we doing this? Mom?”

“I just know we’re never going to get home.”

“Look, that’s poison ivy. They told us in school.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s poison ivy. If you touch it you get big red and purple and green spots all over you because it’s poison.”

“I bet there’s bears in these woods.”

“And then you spin around in a circle and you fall down all dead. Because it’s poison.”

“Dad? Is that right? Dad?”

“Well, you’ll get a rash and itch a lot.”

“And fall down dead.”

“No, you’ll just wish you were dead.”


“Well, it’s true.”

“But will you fall down dead?”

“No. After a while you’ll get better.”

“If a bear eats you up you’ll be all dead.”

“Look, I caught a mosquito. He’s giving me a mosquito bite.”

Ah, a walk in the peaceful woods.

50 responses to “Friday Fictioneers: A walk in the woods

  1. both great stories! the second was very warm and the first turned cold 🙂

  2. Love them both, particularly the first one. It felt like it was heading towards the Smurfs then a nice sinister change of tone. Great stuff.

  3. I’m glad you chose to give us both stories. I enjoyed the second one more – the first felt like it wanted a litle more telling to really make it clear what happened – did the strangers just let her go? I liked the druggy 60’s feel to it though.
    I’m over here:

    • Thank you! I agree that the first one is probably a bit too short – I find it interesting that it struck you as a female narrator and a druggy 60’s situation; I thought they were elves trying to entice the male narrator. (Outside of a druggy 60’s vibe, I don’t think a woman would feel that relaxed alone in the woods with a group of strangers, however harmless.) Good feedback, anyhow.

      Yours is clever – I think you’ve touched on a universal wish.

    • Oh, and yes, they did let him go, laughing as he ran. But who knows what might happen if he met them a second time?

  4. Yes, different takes on the prompt, but I love the farmiliar ring to the second one. Fun filled and educative family walk through the forest. Great! Mine is li and here too:

    • Thank you! The second one just bubbled up as I finished the first and insisted on being included. These kids, so demanding!

      I really liked yours – so tragic and vivid, and so economically told.

  5. Nice ones, both of them. I preferred the first. It was almost poetic and the lounging strangers sounded very very spooky. Well done. Two hey? One was as much as I could manage.

    • Thank you! Yes, the strangers are meant to be spooky. It’s just as well the narrator didn’t go with them.

      I didn’t expect to come up with two – the second was one of those stories that seem to write themselves.

      I love the twist at the end of yours!

  6. Awesome stories! I could so hear my children in that second one. Very well done! Here’s mine:

  7. Nicely written. I like that the second story is all dialogue! Here’s mine:

  8. HAHAHA! The known and unknown terrors of the wild. NICE!

    Thanks for visiting earlier!

  9. I don’t know which is scarier – strangers in the woods or a hike with the kids!

  10. Hi newpillowbook, First of all thank you so much for your constructive criticism of my piece! I have taken what you said on board, and revised it here: Hopefully it is improved! (Please can you let me know what you think?)

    Now I shall try to give as good feedback on yours!

    The first story – It is short but I really like it. It makes me think of fairies or pixies. I love the way you end it with a simple sentence mirroring the way the story started, but it is short and leaves an impression – as in THAT’S why you don’t like going to the woods now. It works very well!

    The second story – Again, I love the way you ended this, with a sentence that sums up the story, this time leaving you with humour. A completely different story in tone and style, and I liked it. My only criticism, is that I wish it had some dialogue tags, especially for the first couple, as I did find it s struggle to work out who was talking, and how many kids there were. It took me a little bit to grasp that there was both a Mum (or ‘Mom’) and Dad there. But I also like the feel of a quick conversation without the tags, as you do get the feeling the children never shut up, and it’s a constant barrage of questions from the inquisitive children that the poor parents have to put up with. Definitely not a peaceful walk in the woods!

    • Wow, you really improved your story! I like it a lot.

      Now to respond to your comments – The first story: You got it! I was thinking of elves, and the old ballads about them enticing mortals to go away with them. And the parallel between the first and last sentences was very deliberate.

      Second story: You have a point about identifying the speakers! Actually, while I was writing it, I wasn’t sure at first myself how many children there are; now I’d say there are two, One is seven years old – this is the one who learned about poison ivy (do you have that in the UK? It’s a real nuisance) – anyway, the older one learned about it in school. The younger child is four or five, at the age when they shout everything they say and never stop talking. And we don’t know there are two parents along on the walk till the children address them – I still don’t know what the mother’s name is, but the father is Steve, just because she needed a name to call him.

      As for tags – without repeating the whole story, it goes like this (and for clarity, I think I’ll call the older child Jake and the younger one Mike; I do think they’re both boys. Mom is going to be Jen, and Dad is Steve.) First line is Jake, #2 is Mike, then the two boys alternate lines all the way Mike asking his father if Jake’s story is true and then “you’ll get a rash and itch”, which is Steve / Dad. Then Jake, Steve, Jen / Mom, Steve, Mike, Steve (“You’ll get better”). Finally Jake pipes up again (bears) and we end with Mike (mosquito).

      But I’m really not sure how to explain all that in the story and still keep the nonstop chatter feel. Maybe I could slip in two or three dialog tags for just the children…

      • Thank you!

        Your first story is very reminiscent of many an old fairytale of elves/fairies/sprites luring people away into the woods. It gives you that magical feel. Loved it!

        We have ivy in the UK, but I don’t think poison ivy (unless we just don’t call it that?). Oooh, I just looked up your Poison Ivy on Wikipedia here: – I have never seen this in the UK! I have never been afraid to touch ivy, ours is harmless to touch. This Wikipedia image shows the kind of Ivy we have:
        Perhaps the closest thing we have to your poison ivy is nettles? You can get nettle rash from the leaves, but if you can find a Dock leaf (Dock leaves usually grow very close to nettles in the wild) and rub that into the sting, it clears up really quick, and the itching it completely gone! Here is our stinging nettle on Wikipedia –

        And now back to your second story! It is difficult to find a balance of dialogue tags as you don’t want them intruding on the story. I have seen examples before where the first few speakers have tags, then after that no tags, as the reader can then work out who is speaking. And sometimes adding descriptive dialogue tags works well, for example you could add: “Mike whined” or “Jake squealed” – it might convey the high-pitch of their voices and show their age, without you have to tell the reader. Food for thought, but the choice in the end is yours! Perhaps good to play around with and test on readers! 🙂

  11. I enjoyed both stories. The phrase “their laughter was cold and musical” really jumped out and created a sinister twist on what started out as a good time. On the second one, the dialogue worked well. I agree with Sketching Girl that it could have used a few more tags at the beginning, but tags can become a drag if overused.

    mine’s here

    • Thank you! That “cold and musical” phrase went through a number of versions before I settled on the final wording, and yes, it’s meant to show that these are definitely threatening creatures.

      I think I’ll play around with adding speech tags on the second story – not everywhere, but a few – and see how that reads. I probably won’t repost the new version, though. Thanks for the comments!

      And your story – well, what can I say except that I laughed?

  12. Funny that your first thought was “that looks nice” and then both of your stories turn out not so nice for the characters. Nice writing though, especially in the first with the description of their faces taking on an unfriendly cast, and their laughter cold and musical. Well done.

    Brian (

    • I’m glad you like the transition from light-hearted to terrified in the first story!

      It is a little odd that both stories turn out the way they do, though I think part of the reason (at least in version 2) is that I want some sort of conflict, as opposed to devoting the hundred words to a poetic description. For the second story, I started with the thought of a quiet walk, then thought of walking with a group – a group of children, maybe a scout troop – a walk with your own children – and here’s the result.

      Your story is very good – you fit so much so smoothly into only a few words, and end with some nice implied tension.

  13. Interesting dialogue in the second story. I know how that feels like, the kids with all those questions and stories about what they learned in school.

    My story:

    • Thank you! I surprised myself by getting such different stories out of one prompt – maybe because it’s a fairly neutral picture that doesn’t nudge you toward a specific mood. Yours is clever!

  14. It’s a toss up which story I liked best. I think maybe the first one. I loved the ending line.

  15. Yes…, I loved the first one. Fresh easy flowing story with a nice twist.

  16. Beautiful and well delivered…there is some kind of rhyme here which gladdens my soul
    i can be seen here:

  17. I enjoyed them both, the second being very innocent, the first a neatly disguised ruse posing as something innocent. Well done.

  18. Lora Mitchell

    Hi: I liked both stories. The first reminded me of the musical, Brigadoon. Lots of Scottish singing and dancing. The 2nd story reminded me not to go walking in the woods with kids. They ask too many questions and may come back full of ticks. lol. Here’s mine:

    • It’s a little like Brigadoon, but more sinister, I think. As for the second one – kids will act like that no matter where they are, so you might as well get to look at pretty scenery while they chatter! Good point about the ticks, though. Your story has an interesting twist.

  19. Lora Mitchell

    Hi..I left a comment but don’t see it…so I’m repeating it.

  20. both brilliant and i can remember similar crazy conversations when my children were little!

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