“Scared” is a very short story by Kaydence Sweitzer, age 9. In it, the narrator is sitting in a fort they made, reading a book at night when suddenly, they hear a frightening noise through the window. Horrified, they hide under the covers (we begin to realize the fort is perhaps in the narrator’s bed). Some time passes, and the narrator doesn’t notice any other scary noises. Thinking it might be safe to come out, they start to read again. But then, whatever the narrator heard comes close to them. The narrator starts to cry, and their tears wash away the words from the pages of their library book. The narrator finally pulls back the covers to reveal . . . nothing. They conclude it must have been the wind, and go to sleep.
How does this writer choose words thoughtfully?
This story is only a paragraph long, but the writer makes sure every single word counts. The result is a story rife with gripping suspense and detailed images. We start on an incredibly unique description of night:
The moon was strangling the sun and winning for the next eight hours until he was finally defeated at dawn.
This description offers a fresh, and kind of spooky, new way to think about nighttime: a violent battle between the sun and the moon. It helps set the scene for the story that’s about to unfold—one where the narrator feels threatened by the forces of the night, forces that perhaps have just as much frightful power as the moon does.
Throughout the story, the writer makes their language come to life:
A frightening sound whispered through the window.
First of all—there’s a wonderful alliteration between “whisper” and “window.” The whisper itself really fits the general image-landscape of the story. Whispering connotes concealment, secrets—forces that want to go undetected. It also can be associated with nighttime. It’s interesting how specific the idea of something whispering through a window feels compared to how abstract “a frightening sound” is. In a way, it makes it even more frightening—we know where it is, but we don’t know what it is. The writer continues to pair abstract images with very concrete ones:
Slow as a sloth, I unfolded my covers, accidentally leaving my bravery behind.
The sentence starts out with “slow as a sloth”—another great example of alliteration, and also a simile. The simile evokes a specific, but also outlandish image: a sloth. To bring us back to reality, the next part of the sentence is pretty direct: “I unfold my covers.” Finally, we land on a metaphor (and yet another alliteration!)—when the narrator accidentally leaves their bravery behind.
- Can you find any more examples of alliteration in this story?
- Do you think the story is resolved at the ending, or does it feel like kind of a cliffhanger? Why?
My eyes were wandering around the page of my book as I was sitting in the fort I made. The moon was strangling the sun and winning for the next eight hours until he was finally defeated at dawn. A frightening sound whispered through the window. Horrified as a person could be, I abruptly hid under the covers. The time went by and I didn’t notice a thing, so I quietly read so I could hear if anything came close. As I heard something come close, tears rolled down my face and dripped on the page, slowly washing away the words. “Man, that was my library book!” I exclaimed, quickly covering my mouth just in case. Slow as a sloth, I unfolded my covers, accidentally leaving my bravery behind. I got closer and closer to finding out what was making that noise. The covers were finally letting me see what was around my room. My eyes scanned the room: nothing was there. “I guess it was just the wind,” I mumbled to myself as the wind whistled, and I went to sleep.