The Writer’s Voice Competition

Plot Summary

HUNTER GREEN is a completed 75,000 word thriller with supernatural and slow burn horror elements. It’s told from the dual perspective of a husband and a wife.

When Professor Philip Reeves dreams, he vanishes. Instead of waking up in his safe, suburban home, he’s sent all over the globe. Helplessness overwhelms him as the almost weekly night-time disappearances threaten his marriage, finances, and career.

Phil’s wife Becky digs deep into his family history and unearths a fairy curse that haunted his ancestors. But the motives of the fairy people can be misleading. Becky suspects the fairies are sending a message through an emerging, unusual destination pattern. While the Reeves try to untangle the fairy’s riddle, their six-year-old daughter Janie develops a deadly imaginary friendship with the Pied Piper. The ghost is stalking the final descendant of the Hamelin children.

Phil and Becky must unravel the fairy curse, find Janie, and stop the Piper from fulfilling his legacy.

I began my writing career as a music journalist for the Flint Journal in 1995. I moved on to write for the National Institutes of Health in 2005. I’m now the social media strategist for one of the Institutes. I received my Bachelor’s in English from the University of Michigan-Flint, where I focused on medieval literature and technical writing.

Like Philip, I’m a father with a young son. When I’m not writing, I’m learning jiu-jitsu, playing board games, hiking- I do this a lot and it helps me with outdoor scenes.

First 250

Philip sat up sharply. His temple slammed into the slat of an upper bunk.

“God-” He stopped short of blasphemy. He immediately grabbed at his head, trying to mute the pain.

Wooden slats shouldn’t have been there. He felt panic bubbling in his chest and fought to stamp it down. The bed didn’t feel right, he thought, as his head ached. He struggled to shake off a night’s worth of grogginess and sour dreams. His hand hadn’t been resting on his wife’s hip or the dip in her side as it should be. Becky should be there. As he lay back down, he realized the mattress was too thin to be his own, and the unfamiliar pillow weakly cradling his head housed a reminder of someone else’s cigarettes. In the pale, morning light, he saw that a threadbare bed sheet had gotten tangled up in his legs.

Inhaling slowly, exhaling with forced control, Phil set his mind to analyzing the problem. For starters, he was fully dressed. That much was good. In most situations, waking up fully clothed would be even more alarming. For most people, it would mean they’d blacked out the night before, leaving a wake of destruction behind drug or drink-fueled adventures. That didn’t describe Phil. He’d gone to his very sensible suburban bed dressed for this night’s potential event. It was the third time this had happened to him in two weeks, and he was officially over it.


About Shawn D. Humphrey

Writer, social media-type worker, bass player, gamer, activist. I read too much about Africa.
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55 Responses to The Writer’s Voice Competition

  1. Mia Lansford says:

    Hi Shawn,

    Nice opening 250 words. Good luck in the contest.


  2. Awesome premise. I love the creepy vibe. Good luck 🙂

  3. kathleea says:

    Hi Shawn, I do like the creepy vibe of it too. And yay, fairies! Good luck!

  4. Really cool premise! Good luck!

  5. Fascinating concept! I love the idea of a fairy curse, and the beginning really pulled me into the heart of Philip’s situation. Nice job– best of luck in the contest!

  6. storywrtr says:

    Like this twisty take on the Pied Piper. Very cool! Good Luck!

  7. I love this mix of folk tale and contemporary issues. I’m rooting for this ms.

  8. This seems like an awesome read. Really well grounded with a touch of magic and issues that can relate to people not even into magic. Great story 😀

  9. Rena says:

    There’s a great feel to your query and first 250.
    Good luck in the contest!
    I offer everyone a query crit, and if you’re daring, how I would have voted if I were a judge. Just give me a holler at with your email (you can use the name (at) server dot com method if you like), and I’ll email you a crit with some specifics. if you don’t like having your email on the interwebs, just say so in the comment, and I’ll delete that before the bots can get it!

    • I appreciate that, Rena! How interesting- I did the same thing, but only for my own interest. I’m not going to share my individual results, but that’s just my preference; I think what you’re doing is great! I’m not sharing mine because I definitely can’t critique people’s work in an in-depth fashion this weekend (I’m on a freelance assignment deadline). A cursory “this is how I rated your query and 250” would be disrespectful of people’s work without offering the helpful critique you’re providing, which is why I’m keeping my individual ratings private! But I have some great stats on how many entries of each genre have been submitted, which may be interesting.

      But sure- I’ll take you up on your offer. One thing I would have liked to have added to the query was my motivation for why I wanted to write this. I’ve had recurring, vivid travel dreams all my life, a la the map concept in Indiana Jones movies. I also find the origin sources of fairies and fairy tales to be much darker than they’re portrayed. But- the query section already felt in danger of getting too long, so I axed all that. 🙂

      I’d also like to note the atmosphere for the tale is heavily influenced by my favorite horror movie, Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining”. I listened to “Dies Irae” quite a bit for the scary parts!

  10. Kurt says:

    great concept. hope we get a chance to see more of the opening chapter!

  11. Julia Blake says:

    Intriguing and unique concept! Fingers crossed you get to move to the next stage!

  12. Strong opening. Good luck! Please read mine #41.

  13. Shawn, one thing – I don’t see the genre in your query. You might add that 🙂

    • I know… and I’ve debated that. I think I’d better put it in though. The trouble is that it’s a supernatural thriller or horror. Being a bit cross genre is tough. I’m thinking though that I need to go with thriller. There is a horror element, but this is a slow burn kind of thing. In fact, I’ll put that in the query.

      Thanks so much Ellen.

  14. Cool idea and I love your title! Good luck in the contest.

  15. Good luck in the competition!

  16. smithrebeccaj says:

    This sounds like an interesting story…especially since the whole family seems to be pulled into the adventure! Best of luck in the contest!


  17. kellinewby says:

    Love the concept and how you pitch it in the query, and I love the way you twist around the waking up in a stranger’s bed motif. Good luck!!!

    • Thanks a lot! I have worried a lot about this opening, but what follows beyond the first 250 and into chapter 1 is important to setting the tone of the story. I appreciate your kind comments.

  18. Febe Moss says:

    Love the voice and the premise. Good luck!

  19. Connie MacElroy says:

    Hi, Shawn
    I love the concept here, and I especially like the way the characters are pushed to the limit. The forces against them are powerful, and I have immediate sympathy for the jeopardy that threatens to shatter a young family. Good luck!

    • Thank you so much, Connie! I was just saying that I was inspired, somewhat, by “The Shining.” Supernatural forces aligning against a family? Also, I’m a huge fan of the “Thin Man” series, which I felt worked because of the real partnership between Nick and Nora. I didn’t just want to tell this from Phil’s POV; I wanted more than one perspective.

  20. Your story reminded me of something you might see on an episode of ‘Once Upon A Time’. Good luck!

  21. Amanda Wade says:

    Hi Shawn,

    I like the plot twist involving Janie and the Pied Piper. The vanishing at night reminded me of Henry in “The Time Traveler’s Wife” (even though your premise is totally different.)

  22. Wow. LOVE the concept of a guy waking up all over the place and the mythology wrapping into horror.

    I’m wondering if there’s a way you can try and lead the different parts of the query into each other a little better. Right now it reads to me like — Philip vanishes. Becky finds a curse. Maybe it’s related? But then Janie makes a bad friend. Then a terrorist attack. It seems like that curse is the thread that connects everything, so try to tease that out and work the transitions so I can be lead through your query.

    Best of luck!

  23. Wow! This is definitely not my preferred genre, but I would ABSOLUTELY read it. I’m hooked by your query alone.

    Only one suggestion…your last line in your query about having a young son living with his mother. It reads weird and I had to read it several times. It sounds like you’re saying that you and your young son live with your mom. Maybe it’s just me, but I had to read it about three times to understand that your son lives with his mom and that you’re separated/divorced.

    Otherwise, I LOVE this entry and I can’t imagine that you’d be anything less than completely successful whether you win this contest or not. Good luck!!!!!

    • Hehe… seems there’s always some improvement folks are finding with the query. I appreciate it! By the time I’m through with this process, I’m hoping agents won’t be able to resist!

      Thanks so much for your suggestion and your kind words. I’ll consider that line now. Feel free to check back in 10 minutes, I may have come up with better wording by then.

      Simpler is better. Just simplified the line.

      • I know the feeling…I hope the comment didn’t offend you. I know the comments I’ve received from other #QueryKombat and #TheWVoice participants have identified some major flaws in my own and I’m deeply appreciate of it. I even had a typo in my first sentence of my 250! Yikes! How that happened, I don’t know, except that I changed that first sentence just before posting. Ugh. I felt like an idiot.

      • Absolutely no offense, very much the opposite! Hugely appreciate the help. Thank you!

      • Oh yeah! Makes more sense to me! 🙂 Besides…the fact that he lives with his mom is extraneous information. 🙂

  24. Oh wow, I love this concept! Best of luck to you! 🙂

    • Thanks Kristin! Didn’t get picked this first round, but who knows? Still one judge to go and perhaps I’m an alternate for one of the battling judges. I’ll stay hopeful. 🙂

  25. cassnewbould says:

    love the twist on the pied piper 🙂 very intriguing 250 as well. Plus gotta give props to a story set in Washington as I live in Seattle 🙂 Good luck

  26. Hi Shawn! I thought you had a really interesting concept here, but in this case it was more of a “not right for me” thing because I don’t really like anything involving fairies. Also, your opening starts with waking up, which is somewhat overused/cliche – I saw at least 20 entries in the WV that open with waking up. Is there somewhere else you can start the story – maybe a moment with the family, showing their problems and what’s at stake, so we get to know them before he has one of these traveling dreams? Hope this helps!

    • Hello! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this. Yep, waking up is a cliche, and I worried about that when I wrote the story. The issue is that Phil’s waking up in a different place is a central component of the plot and crisis. With “waking up in a new place” as part of the premise, I don’t think it’s something that can be easily shrugged off, in particular at the outset. The problem presented to the reader to start is, “why is this happening to him?” I don’t know that it has the same impact if discussed around the dinner table- a scene which does take place later, but without the same urgency as this scene.

      I realize it may be a problem for agents and publishers and if that’s the case, I’ll have no choice to be to try to find a new way to handle it. Thank you for the feedback. It’s not an unwarranted concern.

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