I like your voice. It’s distinctive. Authentic. I like how breathless it gets. Fantasy isn’t my jam, either, so... I have no idea how this would play for the contest, but if it’s still all lord of the rings and game of thrones, then making a poor girl with an unrequited crush the protagonist is an awesome choice.

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And maybe slow down a bit when the ground opens up? Like give the gap some of the same kind of great description you give other stuff in the story? The grounded way the beginning is and your use of very detailed imagination scenes (flying away on the dragon and spray paint) I wasn’t sure if the ground opening up was really happening or also fantasy (pun intended). But it’s an easy fix. Describe the gap more. Have Margot say “what the hell?” So it’s verified by two characters

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I was unclear why she was searching for bleach

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Titles are hard. How about “Tallie’s Mark”? A bit of word play that references the T + S/Z + S.

As for the story, Tallie’s voice is perfect. Her personality comes through bright and clear. I really like the bit about them ridding on the purple dragon near the beginning. It illustrates all of Tallie’s thoughts and wishes without info dumping them on the reader.

I think I agree with Wil about the ground opening up. I almost missed when it happened. What he suggested about Margot would work well. I also want to see more description of the wind during this point. The “tornadoed” bit is great, but as the scene goes on I forget that it’s windy. I think describing how it starts to get more and more violent as Tallie search’s the valley would create more tension before the ground opens up.

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I think this is absolutely fantasy. Maybe not epic fantasy, but a kind of Labyrinth fantasy (if that makes sense?). It sounds ridiculous, but I imagined the world to be in the same colour pallette as the film.

I love the voice. I wasn't sure initially about the long paragraphs, but I think they really give a brilliant sense of character. All the little nods to the knife were good, I kind of wanted more of a payoff, but if this was an opening chapter it doesn't need to lead anywhere yet. I was unsure if it was going to get darker in tone, it felt like it could've gone Pan's Labyrinth (another Labyrinth film?) levels of dark. Again, I could be misinterpreting things.

I loved the sentence:

'the meat was tender in the same way the arch of a foot was tender from having never touched anything but the inside of a sock or Sid’s hands or the crimson dragon'

I love the symbolism of the crimson dragon (although I could be reading this wrong).

I might also be being thick, but is the Z initial a character, or just that the letter shifts though welling up eyes?

Really liked it though, I'd seen the same writing prompt and just haven't had the time to finish anything, so good luck with the competition. I'll have a think about a title.

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Some general thoughts, definitely in the FWIW category. First, I like the prose style. Some of those really long sentences just flow and create an imagery. Maybe be careful about too many of them, or having two or more in a row.

The story itself is vague -- intentionally so -- more about creating imagery and emotion than laying out a narrative. I enjoy stuff like that, and do some of that myself. The story is there, but it's submerged under the prose. I think this can work well in a short story. I'm not sure I'd want to read an entire novel in that style and voice though.

If this is the first chapter of a novel, then that would be my immediate concern. I'm not sure this sets up a story question about a longer narrative arc that would hook me in to continue. It feels almost complete as is.

Some points that might be too vague (at least for me, but I can be dense):

Tallie's age. At first, I was picturing a younger child, then Sid is cracking open a beer and giving her tongue swirlies and playing with her knee. I wasn't sure then -- older, teenager, or is Sid a pedo or is he an 8-year-old playing with dinosaurs who swiped a beer? I'm just not sure. Later, we learn she was old enough to get her learner's permit (and a year late), so she might be 15 or 16 maybe. Felt like her general age bracket needed to be established a little more firmly in the opening paragraph or two. Maybe it was the Tonka trucks and GI Joes that established the image of small children in my head.

I wasn't quite sure when Sid went poof! that he actually disappeared, or just left or what. That eventually becomes clear. And when the ground opened up and swallowed her and Sid was there on a dragon, again I was unsure what was really happening. Since there had been this imagined scene where Sid came with his dragon to rescue her from her suck-ball parents, I immediately assumed this scene was also just in her mind. But as it wraps up, it feels like maybe it was real. I'm unsure.

The bleach line confused me. Not sure what that was referring to, but it seems important to know.

The Z confused me. Who is Z? The two-tongued woman on the dragon with Sid? And the red curls at the end -- is this Margot?

Some little things like that might need to be nailed down a bit more.

But that's all my niggling little things that I didn't get (or at least not the first time I read it, and most readers aren't going to read it three times like we do here). The overall prose voice and the imagination/creativity behind this are really stellar. I've written some of those long, flighty single-sentence paragraphs in my day and I love them and then I wonder if any readers are going to love them like I do and then I say I don't care I'm going to write them anyway just like this comment and I can feel James Joyce looking down and nodding in approval or maybe he's looking up I don't know. ;)

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On this sentence:

Tallie daydreamed that it was night and Sid was outside her window throwing pebbles at the pane, and when she’d flung open the screen, he’d commanded, “Extend thy purple tail as though...

I had to read it a couple of times to figure out that Sid commanded the dragon. I read it as, when Tallie opened the window, Sid commanded Tallie to extend her purple tail. That confused me a bit. As I read on, I figured out he was talking to his dragon, but it was a bit of a stumble.

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YOU GUYS!!! THANK YOU soooo much for the helpful feedback. Steve Conway, you too! You guys rock big time. Best writing group ever. I'm so lucky.

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Hey Maegan,

First of all, very tidy writing as always. The sentences are like butter. Smooth all over.

I was confused in places, but most of the time the confusion was resolved a bit later in the text.

It took me a while to work out who Sid was, it finally clicked when the parents turned up in sunglasses. But what's with Fiji?

And I'm sure this is because my imagination doesn't usually work on a fantasy level, but did she actually jump and this is where she woke up? Or is she dreaming or fantasising? I'm a little bit confused still.

But would I read more? Yes!

One possible typo (although I'm not sure), I think in the line "it’s affecting your mother and my relationship,” it should be mother's. But I may be wrong!

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This is skillfully written. You’re balancing the inner thoughts of the narrator and Tallie and some of it gets mixed up and maybe could be tinkered with but it’s simply exciting and satisfying to read. A good blend of the narrator and Tallie was “Tallie would ask Sid could he please fly back so she could add (not you Margot!!) whom she loved infinity plus infinity more...” a bumpy one for me was “then hellooooo hell!” Not because the writing is “poor” it’s just hard to tell whose voice is who’s.

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