Arrival in Sharesh: An Ill Omen

In Writing on June 15, 2012 at 7:28 am

The road led them up a shallow incline toward the crest of the hill, where they were flanked by clusters of stones and scrub brush.  It was eerie the way the graves tilted in the soil, leaning toward the road as if the bodies below were eager to join them on their way into town.

In the last row, as they reached the top of the hill and the land spilled west in lumps of purple hills, the boys noticed that one mound of earth hadn’t yet been taken over with grass.  The dark soil had been freshly turned and a stout shovel stood in the dirt, its handle propped against a newly cut headstone.

No name had been carved on its face.


I did something a little different for my response to Madison Woods Friday Fictioneers prompt this time around.

This week’s photo immediately reminded me of an excerpt from my work-in-progress YA novel. I figured I’d put it out there to give you Fictioneers a taste of my longer-form writing (albeit without context) and see what feedback you might have for me (I love constructive criticism, so let me have it)!

Check out the other stories (including Madison’s) and submit your own on the story pageOr, check out the links here:

  1. This is well written, Brian, adventurous and mysterious. Mine is here:

  2. Love this excerpt, especially “It was eerie the way the graves tilted in the soil, leaning toward the road as if the bodies below were eager to join them on their way into town.” I was walking that path with your POV character. Very nice.


    • That seems to be a favorite line, and that makes me happy — thank you! You did a nice job with perspective in yours too; Mo was a really believable character.

  3. I real enjoyed this story. The graves tilting toward the path was a great image.

    Mine is here:

  4. Very well done, and nice imagery. I loved the part about the headstones seeming to tilt, and the fresh grave with the shovel… Ooh, goosebumps.

    Here’s mine:

    • Thank you, thank you — that was a popular line! This is on the other side of the woods, after my characters went through a moment not unlike the one in your story. Thanks again!

  5. Oh I think I can guess whose name is going to appear on that stone. I loved that image of the gravestones leaning towards the road… it stays with you.

    • Thanks Sandra. Now I only have to make the rest of the book sound a bit better haha. Glad you liked it! Yours was a good read — I always like the immediacy of present tense narratives.

    • Wow, you’re right we were very close! I have to say yours feels a lot more real, and the way the end forces a shift of pectierspve on the whole story was really nice. Thanks for your comment!

  6. I liked this very much. Makes me want more. The imagery was amazing: the leaning gravestones, the “lumps of purple hills.” Very well done!

    Here’s mine:

  7. I am very interested in your work in progress! And not for nothing, the way the stones tilted downwards was so spot on! I have a fascination with old graveyards so there was that enjoyment of the familiar to go with the curiosity.


    • Well thanks for that! Maybe I’ll post some more bits and pieces as time goes by (you never know when someone from Knopf might be looking, right? haha). Heading over to read yours right now

  8. The imagery you evoke in this piece is beautiful. I especially enjoyed the vision of ghostly bodies rising from the earth and following the travelers into town. You left me wanting more with the small image you painted. I want to know how they got there, why they are there, and what they are doing. Great writing here.

  9. Very pictorial and effective! I like – well, it gave me the shivers, but it’s well written – the image of the graves leaning toward the road wanting to join the boys on their journey. Then “the land spilled west in lumps of purple hills” is original and vivid and easy to imagine, and better yet you don’t let us linger on it. Instead you move directly to the fresh grave with the suggestion that someone will return soon to retrieve that shovel and maybe carve the inscription. And since there’s no inscription, you’ve given us a mystery: who is in the grave?

    That’s a lot to squeeze into such a short passage, and yet it doesn’t feel rushed or overloaded. Outstanding!

  10. I agree with SAM…. Brian, your story put vivid images in my head. I enjoyed it very much, especially the line; leaning toward the road as if the bodies below were eager to join them…. Excellent job.

  11. I love the imagery, especially “spilled west in lumps of purple hills.” It created a marvelous picture in my head.

    I had a small glitchy moment with “the graves tilted in the soil, leaning toward the road.” Since the graves are part of the ground, I’m guessing you meant the headstones leaned. Also, I had to think about “the bodies below” for a moment. My first impression was bodies on the road below instead of below the headstones.

    I do love the story and I got the glitches clear in my head on a second reading. It was probably just the way my mind works that caused the problem. I’d love to read more. I want to know who dug the grave, who it is for, and what the protagonists are doing there in the first place. Please give us more glimpses.

    • Oh you’re absolutely right; I’ve written and re-written the section so many times I didn’t even realize I’d been conflating the stones with the burials themselves. Thank you! Should absolutely be “the stones tilted in the soil” — even has a nicer sound with the alliteration there. (I wanted to say sibilance but wordpress underlines it and I’m not confident in that spelling haha)

      • Or I suppose it should be “gravestones” to distinguish from the stones of the more natural variety. Still, your comment is much appreciated!

  12. Quite different from the other Fictioneers’ stories. Good work.


  13. Very visual, not sure I want bodies joining me on a trek down the road however! I would be eager to see where the character is going and how it will end.

  14. I think your exerpt was a good fit for the picture. The entire piece flows nicely and is very eerie. My only critique is the first sentence of the second paragraph, – you use hills twice in the same sentence and even though they are ‘hills’ it sounds a bit too repetitious.

    • You’re definitely right about that, and I think I like Scott’s suggestion below to make the first “hill” a “ridge” instead. Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

  15. I loved the description, but now I need to know a whole lot of other things. It’s just a tiny sniff at something much bigger. A bit dissatisfying because I was really into the scene. Mine’s here:

  16. I’m a mystery fan and I can see this is going to be a good one. I agree with all the good things that have already been said–it would be redundant for me to add mine. I will just say that I loved it and would love to read more of it.


  17. Very ominous. I loved it. Thanks for the comments on mine.

  18. Nice flow to this spooky piece. Since it’s an excerpt, I would love to read more.

  19. Cleanly written. I especially liked “The dark soil had been freshly turned and a stout shovel stood in the dirt, its handle propped against a newly cut headstone.” 🙂

  20. Excellent images. Makes me wonder about this graveyard…it’s down this overgrown path yet it’s still in use, and was the freshly turned dirt from another resident being placed therein or was that evidence of one escaping?? Nice!

  21. fresh graves, no name carved on the headstone, shovel still in ground all coupled with a (fore?)warning that the bodies in the ground might want to follow them into town creates a powerful mood of foreboding and bad stuff about to happen … nicely done with so few words!

    I would add that I agree with whomever it was (above) who thought repetition of the word “hills” in the second paragraph could be avoided. How about “In the last row, as they crested the ridge and the land spilled west in lumps of purple hills …”?

    Thanks for reading and commenting on mine, which is over at

  22. Very spooky. Great descriptions. I’m left with the feeling I want to know more!

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