I recently started a middle-grade novel that switches between the point of views of three animals, a cow, a fawn, and a robin. I’m still figuring out the plotline, but I have a basic idea. Here’s the prologue, which I could use some feedback on. I don’t have a title yet, but I have a few ideas. Your suggestions are welcome, too!
It wasn’t the first time Mabel caught herself staring beyond the fence, but it still came as a surprise. Every time she was sure that she was happy where she was, she found herself gazing out onto the sloping hill that lead down to the forest; so quiet and inviting. She could imagine walking down there, lingering in the shadows cast by the canopy of leaves overhead. No one would expect anything of her.
While freedom was something Mabel yearned for, she knew that it was unfounded. Here on the farm, she was safe. She could live without worrying about finding her own food and water. Her family was here, too. Her older sister Gracie, her mother, Aunt Winnie and all of the other animals.
Mabel sighed and forced her gaze away from the outside. This was where she belonged. This was her home, where she’d been raised and cared for since she was born a whole year ago.
Gracie was grazing on the other side of the pasture, her head low to the ground as she chewed the tall grass. Her mud-brown eyes flitted up at Mabel’s approach and she lifted her head.
Mabel wasn’t sure what to say, but she wanted to talk about something. She hoped that a conversation with her wise sister would help her to overcome the strange thought that there was a life for her beyond the fence.
“Where are mother and Aunt Winnie?” she asked slowly.
Gracie stepped closer and licked Mabel’s ear playfully. “You know where they are, silly. They’re brought to the stable to be milked every day at this time.” She grinned, her eyes sparkling. “Are you avoiding saying something? You ask questions like that when you want to talk about something but don’t know how to start.”
Gracie had always been intuitive.
Mabel lowered her head, her eyes trailing to the grass. She kicked the dirt beneath her hoof, trying to figure out what to say.
“What is it, Bel?” Gracie coaxed. “You can tell me.”
“It isn’t important,” Mabel scoffed.
Realization passed over Gracie’s features. “It’s the forest, isn’t it?” Mabel looked up in surprise, so Gracie added, “I’ve seen you looking down there. Honestly, I think everyone’s noticed. It’s like you’re always somewhere else. Lost in thought, I suppose.”
Mabel wasn’t sure what to say. Gracie definitely didn’t seem angry with her, but almost sympathetic.
“This is where you’re meant to be,” Gracie said lightly, her long brown eyelashes fluttering as she blinked. “Every one of us has wondered what our purpose is, trust me. The wonderful thing about living on the farm is that your purpose is laid before you. You already know who you’re meant to be.”
“But…” Mabel hesitated. She wasn’t sure if she liked the idea of her purpose being decided for her.
“They don’t choose who you’re meant to be,” a voice countered.
Mabel turned to see the speaker, and met the kind, dark eyes of Rosie, a roan mare who lived in the neighboring pasture.
Rosie continued. “They might choose what you’re meant to do, but no one can ever choose who you’re meant to be.”
“What you do makes your who you are,” Gracie said calmly.
Rosie forced a pleasant tone. “That isn’t necessarily true. For instance, look at Sprint and I,” she said, tilting her head toward the young stallion. He ran in circles around the pen at full trot, laughing and shouting for Rosie to look at him. “We’re both used for the same thing, human riding shows. Despite having the same purpose to the humans, it doesn’t make us the same horse. It also doesn’t change our values and ideas.”
Sprint trotted over to stand beside Rosie, shaking out his long black mane and grinning. “Did you see how fast I went?”
“Yes, Sprint,” Rosie said with a weary smile.
Sprint turned to look at the cows and cocked his head to the side. “What are you all talking about?”
“Mabel is trying to find her purpose,” Rosie murmured.
“Oh. Well, that’s easy,” Sprint said matter-of-factly. “She’s a cow. The humans use her for milk. Everyone knows that.”Rosie glared at him, and he flinched. “Was that… not the right answer?”
Rosie rolled her eyes. “Like I said before. No one can tell you who you’re meant to be. Your job or use to others doesn’t define you. Remember that.” She trotted to the other side of the pasture to meet a human at the fence, and Mabel felt even more puzzled than before.
Why were the answers never easy? Problems never had one, simple solution. Life was complicated, and Mabel wasn’t sure if she could sort through all of her thoughts.
She let out a sigh and turned to look down at the forest once more. Her eyes caught movement among the clusters of small bushes along the perimeter of the woods. She peered closer, and recognized the animal as a deer.
A young doe who’s white speckles hadn’t fully disappeared from her back stepped from the trees, her wide brown eyes timid as she scanned the surrounding area. She looked up at Mabel, and their eyes locked.
In this one glance, Mabel felt a hundred different emotions. She envied the deer her freedom. She could roam the forest as she pleased, and no one told her who she was supposed to be. Nothing was expected of her except to live.
For the first time, Mabel was sure that she didn’t belong on the farm. She wanted to be a deer, running through a meadow far from any prying eyes of human or animal.
Maybe I can find a way out, Mabel thought, nervous excitement rushing through her. No, that’s a crazy idea, her practical side countered, I’m a calf. I can’t be running through the woods like some wild animal. What about Gracie and mother and Aunt Winnie?
She let out a sigh, but still watched the deer enviously. Maybe Gracie was right. Maybe her purpose did make her who she was.