This year’s October fiction project is a short middle-grade horror novel. The working title is “Turning Leaves,” but that will probably change.
Here are the rules (which I am making up as I go along!):
- Write every day.
- Write about a thousand words every day.
- Write words the same day the characters would be writing them, for the most part (that is, Oct 1 words in the story = Oct 1 words in real life).
- Don’t plan ahead.
- Don’t quit.
I don’t have an outline or even a plan.
It’s been a while since I wrote middle-grade fiction. This should be fun.
2018 – Tales of the Normal – Twilight Zone-style surreal stories.
2019 – Crime du Jour – Short crime stories.
2023 – Turning Leaves – Middle-grade horror.
Turning Leaves (Working Title): October 24 - Feeling Lost
October 24 – Lola’s Journal
Not gonna lie, Mr. Henderson, sixth grade has not been my favorite year so far. Thinking about this year makes me feel like there is burning hair in the pit of my stomach. I don’t know who I am. Is that bad to say? I woke up this morning and didn’t feel as PINK and FABULOUS as I usually do.
I felt weight all over my body, my arms and legs, my eyes and ears, my hair pressed into the pillow like it was made of stone.
I miss my mom and dad.
I miss my little sister.
I’m glad I’m staying with Jayla, but I feel tired and sad anyway. I feel lost.
Our whole class this morning is quiet. Isaiah and Cooper aren’t arguing and the pop-u-lar girls have been quietly braiding each others’ hair and looking at the door of the classroom. During the active shooter drill in September after school started, everyone was joking and laughing. For the last few days, everyone holds their breath whenever footsteps echo dow the hallway. We all act scared whenever the door opens. Whenever someone turns a page, we are waiting for them to say “ow” and stick their finger in their mouth because they gave themselves a paper cut.
I don’t know what to write today, Mr. Henderson.
Are you even reading student journals anymore?
At the top of the last entries, you didn’t even write me a note about using pencil instead of dark pink ink. You haven’t had anything critical to say for days now.
I feel like it’s too late for you?
Mr. Henderson turned into a robot, piece by piece, first an arm, then a leg, then his torso, then his head! He has been replaced by a robot!
I remember when you used to argue with me, Mr. Henderson.
I wonder what happened?
Are you sick? Sometimes when people are sick, it can change their personalities.
Are you tired of being a teacher?
Are you bored?
Are you having problems at home?
Did you eat breakfast?
Do you need to see a counselor?
Could I write “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” for fifteen minutes during journaling time over and over again? Would you notice?
I just want someone to ask me if I’m okay.
I am not okay.
I need to go to the nurse’s office.
I need to lie down and see if I feel better.
I need the world to be less sucky right now. It feels like (joking not joking) the world is trying to find ways to be sucky specifically to me.
Like I’m the target.
I don’t think I am that important but it doesn’t change how bad I feel.
I want to go to sleep and not have to wake up again.
I want to cry until all the water leaves my body and I dry out and turn to dust.
I am so tired.
I want to be done with thinking and feeling. I just want someone else to do it for me.
October 24 – Jayla’s Journal (Real) - First Entry
Lola says that we have to find a way to stop Miss Emma from taking over the town and replacing everyone in it. She has a plan. She is going to start pretending to start letting Miss Emma to take over her mind and personality, so Miss Emma will not feel challenged about having so many witches in town.
I am supposed to talk to my mom and try to get her to do the same thing, to go back to being the sad person wrapped up in the blanket on the basement couch.
I don’t think this is going to work.
What will happen if Miss Emma thinks that Lola and my mom won’t fight her? How can we fight back, whether or not she’s distracted?
Miss Emma knows what she’s doing.
Stepdad Dave knows how to fight witches. Shouldn’t we ask him to teach us? Or my mom?
Lola says we don’t need them to teach us how to fight witches. She says that when the time comes, we will know how to fight witches.
I asked her why she would even say something like that? Was she crazy?
She stuck her bottom lip out, then chewed on her top lip with her teeth. “Can’t you just trust me?” she asked.
I shook my head. “We need a real plan,” I said.
She put her hand on her forehead. “But this is a real plan.”
I wanted to yell at her. I do trust her, but trusting someone isn’t a plan. How can I follow the plan if I don’t know the plan?
I feel like everything we do will be a failure, not because Lola has bad ideas but because I will let her down. When it’s time to just know what to do, I won’t know what to do and I will let everyone down.
If you want me to do something, you have to tell me what you want me to do.
I shouldn’t have to do something perfectly without practice and without knowing what to do.
I will talk to my mom and ask her if she will teach me how to be a witch, or at least if she will agree to Lola’s plan.
October 24 – Jayla’s Journal (Real) – Second Entry
Mom got very angry when I asked her to teach us how to be witches.
She tried to call Lola’s dad but he didn’t answer.
Mom said Lola has to leave our house because she has been feeding me with lies.
I don’t understand why Lola has to leave if Mom is mad at me.
It’s not Lola’s fault that I know about witches. I tried to explain about Ghost Cat but Mom was so mad that I couldn’t. She screamed at me until I cried and ran away. Then she went to her room and slammed the door.
Stepdad Dave just shook his head. “I told you not to make her mad,” was all he would say.