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The Sinister Umbrella: a black umbrella with bat wings and face


The Sinister Umbrella

by Sandy Reay

An 18-year-old girl, recovering from a serious injury, tries to remake her life in this developing novella/novel.


See posts about inspiration for this story

If you want to read chapters as I write/rewrite them, and help shape the story, please sign up for my monthly email newsletter.

I wrote two versions of Chapter 1. The November and December newsletters gave my followers a chance to vote on which version of Chapter 1 they liked better. It was almost unanimous.

After writing in both voices for five chapters, I abandoned third person. First person snarky is fun to write.


Feedback on the first five chapters using the new voice

Work? Having read three chapters, so far definitely does work as YA humor. Horror not so much.
Chapter 3. This is when I remember it's supposed to be a horror story.
—Owen N

Wow! Very cool.
I am loving this new point of view! The overall story was fluid and kept my interest. Excellent structure. I love the new snarky voice of Zizanie and how you’ve created a new level of tension with this accident and trip to the hospital.
I am enjoying the story and appreciate the chance to read it! Looking forward to the next installment.
Keep on writing!
Marlene S

This piece has real heart.

Looks good so far

Dang.......A real page turner ... and you patiently fleshed it out with lots of details to make it seem real. Good work. Still waiting on why it's called "The Sinister Umbrella' and wondering if you yourself the author know how it's going to pan out.
—Tom C

Chapter 1 Version 1 vs. Version 2

You do a good job starting with the little girl’s dream world this little girl doesn’t want. I like the way you handled the tragedy better this time around. Enough to totally change her life and the tone of the story, but it doesn’t drag on this time, rolling right in to interaction with Terrence.

Pretty fine writing......I'm hooked so hopefully you'll send the series in attachments. Gotta see how this turns out.  Some of the subtle humor throughout cracks me up. I prefer the V2. The first person narrative (I think you call it) seems to be more intimate and compelling.  Keep up the good work
—Tom C

[Version 2] works for me. We can debate what pigeon-hole this goes in. Thus far, I don't think of it as horror "story type" as discussed in a recent webinar I attended. It looks to me more like black comedy for young adults. But it's fun. Go with it.
—Owen N

I liked different parts of both versions but I thought Sinister Umbrella V1 flowed better. 3rd person is easier and more interesting to me to read and I like the omnipotence of being able to fill in and intersperse action between dialogue. I can get the picture better. ... Anyway, I enjoyed reading both drafts. Thanks for including me.
—Dolora R


Jan 23 2023

Apparently a date with 3 in it triggers my urge to write. At first I thought I had nothing to say about the progress of this book, but I do. I had to cut 5 pages out of Chapter 5 for my critique group. When I prepped the next 8 pages (note: 8-5=3), I fixed what I thought were plot holes and before I knew it, I had a new Chapter 6, and I just kept writing.

The events in Chapter 6 led to a new character, a necessary character. But, not a throwaway character. No, someone who would help and complicate the Main Character's life. So, I kept writing. Two more chapters. And found minor ways to complicate the MCs life, while the new complicator appears to be the best ally the MC ever had.

And, maybe she is. But she's not perfect. Every character has to have their own wants and needs. And backstory. And this one's backstory is a doozy.

I feel like an evil character in a cartoon. I know what's going to go wrong and I'm rubbing my hands together and grinning. And, part of me wants to cry for the MC.

This is what I like about being a pantser for the first draft. I like to come up with a character and let it tell me it's story, bit by bit. It takes time, and that gives my imagination time to play with ideas. I'm not stuck with a choice between A and B. There are 24 more letters and an infinite number of numbers to choose from.

I'm taking online classes and watching how-to-write lectures. One lecture included advice to add layers into fiction. It isn't always sufficient to have one goal, one story line to follow, with it's ups and downs. More layers reveal more about the characters, with mini-plot arcs and minor ups and downs. Minor problems can be dealt with, giving the reader a chance to take a breath and relax before the next major disaster occurs.

An alpha reader wondered why it's called "The Sinister Umbrella." I'd been wondering if I waited too long to introduce the umbrella. I asked my critique group. They said, "No."

Jan 3 2023

I've written the first drafts of other novels/novellas. I usually start with the main character's name. That tells me about her likes and dislikes. This novel started with a story line. The main character's name was fluid until I read something on Facebook which led me to a French word. I liked the juxtaposition of characters in the word, and the meaning was an inside joke.

I had so much fun rewriting the first five chapters into snarky first person, I sent out a document with revisions to Chapters 1-5 to some alpha readers. Two readers responded almost immediately and liked it. I stopped writing in third-person. Chapters 6 and 7 have only one version: snarky first person.

The night after the 5-chapter doc went out, I realized I'd introduced plot holes. Argh! The next night, I figured out how to fix the plot holes, which led to more plot layers and complexities. The new name led to a new character and startling revelation for the main character.

I'm a pantser with my first drafts. I let the story tell itself to me. I can't wait to see where it goes. But, I know where it ends up, so I know I'm going in the right direction.

Dec 24, 2022

I started writing this story in the Spring. I'm using "story" to refer to the idea, not the specific literary form. This may turn out to be a novella or a full-length novel.

My goal: a coming of age story for a young woman whose life was ruined and the obstacles she has to overcome to create a new life. I knew how she got hurt and had a general idea of her family. It took me a while to realize I was writing a modern-day Rapunzel story. With a twist.

At that time, I was reading Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In it, he refers to a "sinister umbrella." I pictured it as a bat. Later I changed it to an old umbrella with holes, and lights shining through it at night. It becomes more than part of the scenery in her new home—it becomes a talisman that helps her discover her power.

At some point, I realized I was writing a horror story. I'm not a fan of horror stories. I am a fan of humor, and I have no clue how to write a humorous story. In October, I signed up for a comedy-horror writers workshop for the humor and discovered I was writing a horror story. I was, um, horrified. I couldn't see any way to make it funny.

The moderator of my critique group told me that humor would NOT work in my story. Of course I took that as a challenge and wrote version two of Chapter 1. The moderator changed his mind. He "like[d] the new version better."

Now, I have 3 chapters with 2 versions, and will do the same with Chapter 4 once I finish the revisions based on my critique group's comments. It seems to be easier to write the first draft to get the details, then come back and add the humor.