Open Pen

Out of Darkness: An Open Pen Critique

This week for Open Pen we have a great short story from Maddie Cait. This piece takes place in Nazi Germany, and while Maddie did not mention this specifically, her story definitely seeks to bring glory to God 🙂

As for critiques, Maddie would love feedback on her title and mentioned that she was also considering “Revealed by Light.” She also would like to hear feedback and get tips about showing and not telling, though I think most critiques would be welcome. As always, even short, simple comments help, and I know that Maddie really appreciates you taking the time to read her story and comment.

God bless,


Open Pen is a critique opportunity  on this blog. It is specifically meant for teenage writers who want feedback from their peers, but anyone is welcome to submit. If you are interested in submitting or learning more about Open Pen, you can on the Open Pen page.


Out of Darkness by Madelyn MacBoyd

Eva leaned her head back trying to ignore the screaming pain of hunger in her stomach. The unseen dust in the secret closet accentuated her thirst. Two days with no room to move, no food, and not knowing if she was safe seemed torturous. The Gestapo had taken Anni, the young woman who had been hiding Eva, when they raided her home. They found the four other Jews she was also hiding. Eva didn’t make it to the attic in time, so Anni had stuffed her into a secret little room in the library wall.

Eva’s eyes scanned the compact hiding place. In some ways, it was like her heart – dark, dirty, lonely. Eva longed for her life to be full of happiness and peace, but it always felt empty. She tried to ignore her feelings by paying attention to sounds outside the hidden door. She heard nothing.

I must get out, Eva thought, I will get some water and be right back.

The door creaked as Eva opened it. Moonlight streamed through the window as Eva snuck down the stairs to the kitchen. After gulping some water, she opened the cabinet and stuffed a piece of bread into her mouth. Swallowing the last mouthful she heard a noise behind her. Eva jumped and spun around. There in front of her stood a tall, bearded man.

“Are you Eva?” the man’s voice was deep and kind.

Eva stood speechless. Her heart pounded and her thoughts raced.

He looks familiar. I’ve seen him before.

“Anni sent me to find you,” he explained.

“Anni? Is she safe?” Eva blurted, forgetting her fear at the mention of her friend.

Nodding his head, he continued, “We must get out of here. The house is being watched.”

“Who are you?”

“There is no to time to expl –“

The rattling of the door knob and creak of hinges interrupted his sentence. Grabbing Eva’s arm, the man headed to the side door as the front door banged open. “Quick! This way!” He hissed, almost dragging her outside.

Eva and the man ran through the dark ally, weaving through streets Eva did not recognize. They heard yelling in the distance as a Nazi solder fired a gun. Turning the corner, Eva’s rescuer threw open what looked like a sewage circle and dived inside. Eva followed without stopping to think. A damp, musty smell flooded their nostrils.  To Eva’s surprise, a hole, dug out in the sewage tunnel, created a small but excellent hiding place.

“We’ll have to sneak out when they’ve lost our trail,” he whispered, crouching in the corner trying to keep his head from bumping the ceiling. Eva sat against the other wall.

“Who – are – you?” she gasped, out of breath.

“Call me Nik. No need to worry about me. My mission is to help get persecuted people to safety. I usually work with groups of Jews, but Anni did not want to leave you behind.”

Suspicious, Eva stared at him. Then, the realization of where she had seen him hit her like a slap on the cheek. The photograph of Anni’s brother in a scrapbook back at the safe house flashed in her memory.  “Are you Anni’s brother?” she asked, more in disbelief than with curiosity.

Nik looked at the ground a minute before he answered with a somber, “That’s me. We’re not supposed to reveal too much about who we are. It creates unneeded danger, but I guess you need to know that much.”

“But, I thought you enlisted in the German Air Force after Hitler came to power?” Eva accused, growing uneasy. “Anni was so upset when she heard.”

Nik sighed, “Yes, I was bomber pilot. A decision I regret. I used to be infatuated with Hitler’s promises to help the German economy and rebuild national pride . . . until I realized his true motives. God shone His light through my darkness and revealed to me the evil I was supporting. I still love my country, and it hurts deeply to see her generate so much evil. When you see the light, it’s a wonderful and terrible thing that happens.”

“How so?”

“Light reveals the evil things that the darkness hid. When you see them, you feel you must do something about them,” Nik stared up at the ceiling.

Eva could relate, but yet she couldn’t. She had a similar pain in her heart because her country, the country that she loved, had betrayed and despised her. But the light Nik was talking about confused her.

Nik looked up at the circle where they had entered.

“We should try to go now,” he whispered.

Nik opened the circle a crack to see if it was all clear. They snuck out and crept along the dark road. Eva followed Nik into the woods.

They ran quietly through the maze of trees. Without warning, Nik slowed to almost a stop.

“What is it?” Eva whispered.

“Sshhhh,” Nik thrust his hand toward Eva, signaling, don’t move.

“I think we are being followed,” he whispered quickly. Nik raised his head high, his ears searching for sounds from their stalker.

Eva’s heart began to race, and she could hear her pulse drumming in her ears. Nik shoved her and himself behind the thickest tree around.

The crunch, crunch of the stalkers boots grew louder. The stalker, a man in the Gestapo, walked past Nik and Eva, without seeing them. Nik drew his pistol noiselessly from his pocket taking aim at the Nazi. BANG! – The Nazi fell dead to the ground.

“We have to make it to the closest farm. I know the man who owns it, his name is Leo, and he will hide you. You will be safe there for now,” Nik whispered.

Nik stepped out from behind the tree before Eva. Eva was about to follow, when she heard BANG! Nik collapsed, groaning and holding his shoulder. Another Nazi soldier had followed them. He took another step closer to Nik, aiming his gun at Nik’s head. Another shot rang out from the opposite direction, and the Nazi fell limp on the ground. Nik and Eva looked.

There stood Leo, gun in hand.

“I heard the first gunshot, and I knew you were in trouble,” Leo exclaimed, rushing over to Nik’s side.

Leo and Eva applied pressure to Nik’s chest wound, trying to stop the bleeding.

“Eva – look,” Nik said, panting from the pain.

The first morning sunbeams streamed through the tree branches, revealing the dust dancing in the air.

“Does that mean we can’t travel because it is day?” she asked disappointed.

“No, look at the sunlight. It’s revealing the dust. That’s just what I was talking about. God’s love shines through showing us the dust – sin. At first, I wanted the light to go away. I didn’t want to see the filth, but it was for my own good. The light showed me the truth, and the truth set my soul free.”

He grew more breathless with each word. Nik winced with pain, as his eyes closed and he breathed for the last time.

Eva’s tears stung her eyes. Dear God, she prayed, shine your light on me. Fill my life with light, even if it hurts. I want to be free.

Open Pen

Myra Jaynes: An Open Pen Critique

I am sorry for the late Open Pen post (I had a research paper due today at noon), but here is an except from Bethia Lark’s novel, Myra Jaynes. The backstory of this excerpt is that the four boys have been guarding a pile of high quality wood outside an old house in the wood. One of the boys, David, and his family have been trying to renovate the old house– the old haunted house– and his three friends have joined him for the night patrol.

Bethia would love to hear critiques on how her dialogue flows and what we think about each of the four boys. If you can take the time out of your busy day to comment on this piece, I know she would appreciate it! Even short, simple comments are very helpful. So please do not feel obliged to address all of her questions.

God bless,


Open Pen is a critique opportunity  on this blog. It is specifically meant for teenage writers who want feedback from their peers, but anyone is welcome to submit. If you are interested in submitting or learning more about Open Pen, you can on the Open Pen page.




Myra Jaynes (Chapter 5) by Bethia Lark

“Hey, David,” Charlie asked as he whittled a stick into a point, “why do you really want this old lumber anyways? I mean, it seems to be giving you a lot of trouble.”
“I just want to keep the history of the place, that’s all.”
“Well, the history here is a scary, haunted history, so I would want to clear out the old place, if you know what I mean.” Said Thomas as he looked back at the old house.
The boys were in the back yard of the house and facing the woods. There was an open clearing right in front of them, with a lone oak tree in the middle of it. An old swing hung from one of the branches and was swaying in the breeze, the ropes creaking, which only added to the boys’ nervous energy. There was no thought of sleeping just then.
“I don’t think the thief wants the lumber exactly,” Gerald said thoughtfully. “I think they would have taken any lumber piled up in front of the place. Nobody here really wants you to renovate the place. They think it is too dangerous. Nobody wants to see you get hurt.”
“I know, Gerald, but we don’t have much choice. These townsfolk don’t understand my dad. McKinleys don’t just give up because of ghost stories.”
“Then your dad is mighty foolish.” Said Thomas.
“That’s only if the ghost stories are true. I mean, whose ghost is supposed to be haunting this place anyways.”
The three boys looked at each other. They had no idea. No one had actually seen the ghost up close; they were too busy running. Charlie shrugged.
David sighed. “Well, until you guys know, then you are not going to even come close to convincing either my dad or me. My dad hasn’t seen any sign of the ghost. If you don’t give him proof, he is not going to listen. Trust me. I know.”
Charlie suddenly piped up and said, “David, do you have any nicknames I can call you? Maybe like Dave?”
“No. I really do not like the name Dave. It brings back too many bad memories.”
“Like what?” asked Thomas.
“Well, on my first day at school, I was attacked by bullies. They were so big and fierce I couldn’t fight back, so I just gave in to them. That’s when they started calling me Dave the Slave. When I grew up, I started to love history and knew almost everything I could learn about it. I corrected some of my fellow history students one day about the use of the word knave in literature, so they started calling me Dave the Knave. I tried several times to shake those names off, but they have stayed with me almost all my life. My family sometimes calls me Giant Killer, but I’d rather that not be used by everybody.”
“Why Giant Killer?” Thomas asked looking quite confused.
Gerald just looked at his brother. “Does David and Goliath ring any bells?”
Thomas looked sheepish. “Oh, yeah. I forgot about that. Sorry, silly question.”
David faced his companions, his face grim and fierce. “If any of you tell another soul about my nicknames, I…” He stopped, confusion sweeping over his face. He didn’t really know what he would do.
Gerald laid a hand on his shoulder and said with an honest face, “We won’t tell anyone. We promise, and we don’t break promises to friends, do we boys?” The others shook their heads.
David smiled. “Thanks, guys. I’ve never had friends like you before.”
“Here, let me introduce you to a handy word called y’all. It means multiple yous. Southern people say it.” Charlie grinned.
David gave a half smile and repeated obediently, “I’ve never had friends like y’all before.” The word felt weird on his tongue, almost like it was wrong.
Charlie clapped him on the back and laughed. “There, you got it.” He stretched out on the wood and gave a contented sigh. “We’ll have to teach you real English. You ain’t been exposed to it before now, I reckon.” His grin stretched from ear-to-ear as David grimaced. Then he let out a huge yawn.
By this time, the night had completely fallen, and the woods were pitch black. The clearing, however, was dappled with moonlight. The boys decided it was probably best if they tried to get some sleep. They then decided they should set a watch. None of the local boys wanted to be watching at midnight, which was a couple hours away, so David took first watch. The boys settled down in their sleeping bags and tried to sleep. About thirty minutes later, David heard three distinct snores.
Charlie snorted, then wheezed as he inhaled. Thomas had an almost constant whine, and would occasionally mumble in his sleep. Gerald’s was the quietest snore, and was more like heavy breathing. David watched as his companions slept, and smiled at each snort. Their snores kind of told about their personalities.
At midnight, David saw a white form coming from the direction of the woods. He shook his companions awake, putting his hands over their mouths so that they would be quiet. Thomas still let out a squeak. David looked quickly at the form, but it had stopped. The boys stared anxiously at the form, but it still did not advance, as though it were listening for something. It had stopped by the swing, which was a good 75 yards away, and seemed to glow in the moonlight. Each stared at each other, waiting for the other to move or act, for several minutes. Finally, the form began to advance, though more slowly than before.
Charlie was the first to speak, but he did so in a very low whisper, his eyes glued to the white form. “Guys, I think we should get out of here.”
“I can’t.” David whispered back. “I promised my dad that I would guard the pile. I have my shot gun.” He said as he slowly lifted the weapon from where it lay.
“Like that will stop a ghost.”
The form stopped again at the sight of the gun, and even seemed to retreat, but then it stopped again and began to advance once more at an agonizingly slow pace when it saw that David was not preparing to fire.
After it had advanced another few yards, Thomas couldn’t take it any longer and leaped off the pile and into the woods, his flashlight jumping wildly as he tore through the trees down the driveway.
Gerald watched him go, but did not follow his brother.
The boys turned their attention back to the ghost, for by now the two local boys were convinced it was the ghost.
Charlie spoke again, this time with a very noticeable tremor in his voice. “I really think we ought to get out of here, guys. I know I am.” And he leaped off the pile and ran after Thomas, yelling and gesticulating at the older boys still on the pile as he did so, “Come on! You have to run!” His voice could be heard fading into the darkness, and then all was silent.
David looked at his remaining companion. Gerald didn’t look too confident either, but he had a resolution in his face that said he was not going to run, at least not right then.
Gerald saw David staring at him and said in a shaky whisper, “I promised I would watch by you here tonight. True friends don’t break their promises, and they definitely don’t leave their friends in a dangerous situation all by themselves.” David smiled and whispered a thank you, but Gerald wasn’t finished. “True friends also don’t do foolish things and expect their friends to follow them into danger either. Come with me.”
Now David understood. Gerald really did not want to stay, but he also wasn’t going to just leave David alone with the ‘ghost’ when he had made a promise to stay with his friend. “You can go Gerald. I understand.”
“No. I am not leaving you.” But his voice showed signs of weakening. He was struggling within himself, his fear trying to get sway over his loyalty and integrity.
“Well, I am not leaving. I promised my dad I would guard the pile, and I will. I’ll admit, I am starting to get really scared, but I am sticking to my post. I am not leaving. You can go if you want to. I really do understand and am very glad you have stuck with me this far, but I cannot go with you. I am staying.”
“David, I can’t just leave you.”
“Go or stay. It’s your choice.”
Gerald’s fear began to take over. David was giving him a way out of his promise. What could Gerald do to help his friend. Nothing. Or was there something he could do? He suddenly leaped up and told his friend hurriedly, “I’ll be back, David. I just got to get reinforcements.” And away he sped down the driveway after the others.
David wasn’t sure if he would come back, but it made him feel better knowing that Gerald was at least trying to think of him. He turned his attention back to the ghost, but it had disappeared. He called out into the darkness, “Who are you? What do you want? Why are you here?” Each question got quieter and quieter, his voice sounding strange and loud in the still night. Not even the crickets chirped.
A couple of hours later, he started awake from his doze to find Gerald calling his name, and his dad flashing a light into his eyes. He blocked the bright light with his arm, trying to remember what had happened as they pelted him with questions. The last thing he recalled was not receiving an answer from the ghost. After a little bit, the normal noises of the night had returned, but he had dared not yell out loud again, and eventually fell into a doze, from which he was awakened by Gerald’s concerned voice asking if he was hurt. He looked down, and on the lumber pile was an old Bible.

Guest Posts, Writing Tips

Guest Post at Kingdom Pen

While I was not able to write a post this weekend, since I was in Chicago on a school trip, one of my articles was recently published on Kingdom Pen, and I thought I would share it with my readers here as well.

Kingdom Pen is a wonderful place for Christian teenagers to find a supportive writing community. As their website says, “Kingdom Pen exists to encourage teens to write well, write purposefully, and to always write for Christ.” Not only does this website offer great articles on writing and publish stories and poems written by teenagers, but they also have an amazing forum with a supportive community. I’d highly recommend that you check out their website if you have not already 🙂

Article: Why It’s Okay to Have Clichés in Your Fantasy Novel

I have posted about cliches frequently on this blog and even one of my most popular posts is on this subject. But since one of my professors remarked that Christianity can be summed up as “kill the dragon; get the girl” and I posted some of Tolkien’s thoughts on faeries stories, I have been thinking more and more about how truth relates to fiction, especially as truth relates to cliches. I know a lot of you are fantasy writers and are working hard to twist cliches, so you might be interested in this article.

I hope your Monday is going well, and I promise we will have a normal, writing post next week 🙂

God bless,