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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Shadow Grove

   
Author Topic: Shadow Grove
mayflower988
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Here is a plot summary that I'd like some feedback on. My main questions for you all are: Does this plot work as is? Has this plot been done before to the point of being overused? (I know truly original plots are extremely hard to come by these days, but I'm hoping my plot is somewhat original.) Without further ado, here it is (Apologies in advance for an extremely long post):

A teenage girl is discovered wandering on the outskirts of a rural small town called Shadow Grove. The local police begin asking her who she is, where she lives, etc., but she can't remember anything that gives them an idea of who to contact or helps them find out who she is. One of the senior policemen, Hal, a married father in his forties, decides to take her in temporarily until the girl's guardian(s) can be contacted. She doesn't seem to have a name, so the family gives her the name Annie. Annie really takes to Hal's little boy, Henry.

One day, his wife, Cheryl, observes Annie and Henry painting together and notices that Annie has a talent for painting nearly life-like pictures. Annie starts painting unusual things like, for example, a movie projector. She also paints lifelike faces, but the same three over and over: an old woman and two middle-aged men.

As Annie adjusts to life with Hal’s family, she begins having night terrors that wake everyone up in the middle of the night. When she’s woken up, she can’t recall any part of the dreams, just the feeling of fear that they caused her.

One night, Hal and Cheryl catch Annie trying to take Henry and run away. Hal has to arrest Annie for attempting to kidnap a minor. He takes her to jail. Annie is terrified, but doesn't seem to realize she's done anything wrong. Later, Hal tries to get Annie's side of the story, but she won't talk to him at all. Meanwhile, Henry seems withdrawn and unwilling to trust his parents, although he refuses to leave their side. School starts and Cheryl tries to take him to pre-k, but Henry becomes hysterical and refuses to get in the van. As Henry's sobbing in her arms, Cheryl manages to get him to talk to her, and he begs her not to leave him. Henry says that Annie told him his parents were going to leave him somewhere and not come back for him. Realization hits Cheryl, and she and Hal go talk to Annie. They're able to convince her that they have no intention of ever leaving Henry, and they reassure her that they will never abandon her, either, if they're unable to find her parent/guardian. Annie tells them that the night she tried to run away with Henry, some of her memory had come back and she remembered being abandoned by her parents at an orphanage. She remembers several different homes where she was mistreated and so she worried that Cheryl and Hal were going to abandon her and Henry.

Due to Annie's difficult past, Hal convinces the rest of the police force to give her an easier sentence, and Annie is allowed to be put on house arrest at the home of another officer who doesn't have any children. She's given her paints back, and when Hal comes to visit her, he sees that she's painted several pictures, all variations on the same scene: a dark room with a small window high on the wall that lets in just enough light to see faint outlines of different faces. Hal asks her about it, and Annie begs him to help "the others". She knows that somewhere there are other children who need help, but she can't remember where. All she knows is that they're in danger. Annie keeps painting to try to jog her memory, while the police investigate possible locations where a group of children could be hiding. Hal discovers that the unusual scenes Annie paints are things she’s experienced. Annie reveals to him as she remembers it that she was on the run before she was found. She hid in different places, like a theater (thus the movie projector). She remembers being on the run from someone, but she can’t remember who.

Finally, Annie paints a picture that leads the police to an old bomb shelter. They arrive just after the villains of the story, an old woman and her two sons. The three are roughly loading kids into a van. They had been selling them as slaves or hiring them out for money. Most of the time, the people who hired the kids didn’t realize that the kids were being used for profit. The police arrest the woman and her sons and are able to find homes for the kids, or at least a children’s home that is able to care for them.

The police discover that the three are the Colburn family. They’ve been running a child slave trade throughout the region for several years, unbeknownst to the authorities. The Colburns had been using Shadow Grove as their headquarters without any detection. As the police turn the Colburns over to the federal authorities, one of the Colburn sons lets slip a comment insinuating that there more traffickers who will be able to carry on the business without losing any significant profit.

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mayflower988
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Also, would this plot work better as a short story?
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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by mayflower988:
Also, would this plot work better as a short story?

I'm no expert, but I think you've outlined both too much story and too many characters to cram into a short story. I've heard more than one person say that each character doubles the length of the piece.
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Corky
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Police forces don't give sentences (that's what courts do, after someone has been convicted of a crime in a trial). So the first sentence in paragraph five is wrong.

You could say the police force gives Annie a lesser charge (kidnapping is a federal offense, by the way, so a charged kidnapper would be turned over to federal authorities), though I'm not sure what it would be.

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mayflower988
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Yeah, something along that line occurred to me as I was writing this, but at the time I was trying to get it out of my head and onto the computer quickly. Plus, I guess I was thinking of something along the lines of a Mayberry, Andy Taylor law enforcement system, where the town is so small, the sheriff is also the justice of the peace.

Thanks for your comment. I'm not sure what the lesser charge could be, either. I know that there's a difference between murder/manslaughter/involuntary manslaughter or whatever, but I have not heard anything of the kind when it comes to kidnapping. Maybe the court/lawyer could take into account Annie's mental imbalance, sort of like a temporary insanity thing.

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JSchuler
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I'm primarily concerned that, how this is described, your main plot is passively driven. The characters can't really do much until you decide that it's time for Annie to draw a certain picture. Might be difficult to make that kind of tension exciting or interesting.
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mayflower988
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Yeah, you're absolutely right. That's exactly what's missing. I suppose I could either have her draw the picture earlier, and the meaning of it could just be lost on everyone until they figure it out, or I could add tension by having one of the Colburns pursuing Annie. Maybe stalking her, sending her threatening notes, etc. If they didn't know that she'd lost her memory from the trauma, then they would want to make sure she didn't tell anyone about them.
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