WRiTE CLUB - Skirmish #3

Here I am again to offer a chance in the ring for the writers who submitted an anonymous sample of their work to WRiTE CLUB 2012, but weren’t lucky enough to be chosen to compete.  There are no prizes to be won, or further advancement beyond this one bout, but as all of the other contestants have discovered before them -- there is still plenty to be gained…and learned. I will post one of these skirmishes each week until I run out of contestants.

In the near corner…weighing in at 495 words…I give you…Little Dragon.



Lightning flashed, illuminating the flat wet stones that marked the path, grass grown long between them. Kaida stepped lightly, pulling her hood up before she stepped into the dark of the wood, letting it swallow her. The ground slanted down sharply, the smooth flat stones turning into heavy into blocks that angled down to the river and a stone wharf. It was one of many the royal family maintained. This one, however, had been forgotten.

Or so she’d been told.

It didn’t look forgotten, she thought, catching bright glimpses of it each time the lightning flashed. No mold, no leaves skittering about, no debris at all. Everything neat as a pin. Wooden stairs descended to the river and the long stone wharf where a single boat rocked lightly at the dock.

Kaida paused and sniffed the air, scanned the shadowy tangle of wood and bramble ten times at least before the smallest of movements caught her eye. 

Her hands went to her knives. “Show yourself,” she said, pitching her voice low.

A moment later a light flared, and she let go an inaudible sigh and relaxed her hands, dropping to one knee.

“Master,” she said.

“I am glad to see you have not grown soft and forgetful…” he said, “Court life can dull the senses, I’m told.”

He stepped out from the trees and the dark, coming to meet her at the top of the stairs. He reached out and took her hand.

At once the rain ceased above them. It still fell hard and fast, splattering against stone, filling cracks, hitting leaf and branch. But not a drop touched their heads.

Kaida didn’t ask how, only envied the trick and wondered how long until she learned it.

“Soon,” he said with a small smile, sensing her thoughts, “But first, the matter at hand, the reason you were sent here.”

She looked up at him, hope fluttering in her chest. Had the time come at last?

“Are you ready?”

Kaida stood up straight, shoulders back. “I am ready, Master.”

He nodded and withdrew something from his robes: a small wooden box.

“It’s a puzzle box,” he said, handing it to her. “Inside you will find two scrolls and a few ingredients I know you will find useful. Remember your training.”

Kaida went to kneel again but he stopped her. “Complete this task and you will be an Adept, Kaida; you will bow to no one.”

She swallowed hard.

This was what she’d been hoping for, working toward. All she had to do now was succeed.

“Thank-you, my Master,” she said, taking the box and folding her shawl over it.

“Go then, and be careful,” he said, adding, “And if you run you might not get wet!”

He let go her hand and passed his hand over her head. Immediately she felt it, the invisible umbrella, shielding her.

She ran, hearing his laugh follow, a taunt to test her.
 
It was time to kill the King.
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And in the far corner, boasting 421 words, let me introduce to you…Caffeine Queen




I was prepared for the flashbacks of my life, but watching the experiences of my children…I just don’t know how I could have prepared for that. I watched as Jack arrived at a door, made sure the box holding the diamond ring was tucked deep in his coat pocket, tapped on the door twice and opened it.  “Megan?” 

His entrance startled a kissing couple. 

“Jack!” The girl was surprised to see Jack. And nervous. Not the good kind. “Hey…I didn’t know you were coming.”  Jack was silent, staring at the girl in front of him.

“Hey hun, who’s this?”  The man wrapped his arm around her shoulders. 

“This is Jack.” She bit her lip and took a deep breath, “Jack, this is my…” Oh no.

The man took his arms from across her shoulders and extended his hand. “Fiancé – Paul. She probably just hadn’t thought about saying it before. We’ve only been engaged for a few hours. Funny how the holidays bring out the romance, you know?”  Oh, my Jack.

Jack nodded his head once, shaking the hand but looking beyond the owner. “Seems to be the case.  Nice to meet you Paul.”  Jack was quiet, his gaze locked. “I…just…” He cleared his throat, looked at the floor and continued, “stopped by to let you know that I got accepted to the University of Washington’s Medical school.  I…was thinking about taking the summer off, but…” He looked at the girl in front of him.  “I just wanted to tell you in person.”

I wanted to jump into the past, tell little Megan dearest that girls don’t do this to great guys like Jack when Granny spoke.

“Nora, you can’t change it. Your only option is to watch and understand. Stay focused.” I nodded.  Looking on the replica of Jack, the hurt he was trying to hide, I had to put my hand over my mouth to hear the rest of the conversation

Paul was still all smiles.“That’s great news, man,” He looked at Megan. “Isn’t that great hun?”  Megan stood silent.  Paul looked between Jack and Megan, clearly confused.  I wondered if he ever found out the truth.

“Congrats on the engagement you two,” Jack turned to the door. “I hope you are happy.” Jack’s departure was the start of his life filled with what had been uncharacteristic silence. In silence, he pulled the door closed. In silence, he walked down the stairs. His silence even became an act of dismissal when he refused to turn as Megan called his name.

**********************************************************************
Now it’s time for you to tell us the one that resonates with you the most in the comments, along with a brief critique if you have time.

Thank you for taking the time to help these writers out.  See you again next week. :)


26 comments

  1. I'm going to go with Little Dragon.

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  2. Good writing, both of you! I do have some suggestions...
    Little Dragon: I love the world you created. I can visualize the environment, and the mc has some interesting secrets that I'd like to know more about. I think sometimes you use more words than you need to--trust your descriptions because they're good without the extraneous words! For example:
    "Lightning flashed, illuminating the flat wet stones that marked the path, grass grown long between them. Kaida stepped lightly, pulling her hood up before she stepped into the dark of the wood, letting it swallow her. The ground slanted down sharply, the smooth flat stones turning into heavy into blocks that angled down to the river and a stone wharf. It was one of many the royal family maintained. This one, however, had been forgotten."
    There are a lot of adjectives here. In the first sentence, you could cut "flat" because if the stones mark a path we'll presume that. Similarly, I'm not sure we need to know she stepped "lightly" in the second sentence, as the entire feel of the paragraph conveys stealth. In the third sentence, we already know what the original stones look like, so you could just convey how they changed. Finally, as you mention here that the wharf is stone, you don't need to repeat that a couple paragraphs later.
    I know this sounds nitpicky, but I think your writing has a lot of strength that would come out even more if we got down to the bones of it, as it were!
    Caffeine Queen, your premise is fascinating and my heart is breaking for both your protagonist and her poor son! I'm not sure that I can pinpoint this, but a lot of the transitions between thoughts and between paragraphs seemed awkward. Also I'd like to know a bit more about the environment here: where your mc is watching from, and how.
    I'll vote for #2, for the originality.

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  3. I have to go with Little Dragon...though I always hate picking a favorite!

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  4. If I were to vote, Little Dragon would be my choice.

    Little Dragon: I only have some nitpicky things. You could add sound and scent and really enhance this scene, especially since it's dark and the character can't see that well. Just mentioning how the rain sounds will give a feel of what kind of area she's in (not to mention showing how hard it's raining). I'm not sure of the genre, but it seemed interesting and I'd probably read on.

    Caffeine Queen: Okay, I'm going to be blunt here (so wear a hard hat!). I was confused from the beginning. If someone is experiencing flashbacks, I would assume they come from ONE POV. This seemed to play out as if a 3rd party was standing by with a camera and filming it. And if that's the case, then you need to state that up front (you also wouldn't know what were in things that were hidden or that things were even hidden). Details showing where all this is taking place (an apartment? a closet?) are missing. I think if you get that all straight, you might have something interesting.

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  5. I can't really choose either... unfortunately neither of these really grabbed me :/

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  6. “Nora, you can’t change it. Your only option is to watch and understand. Stay focused.”

    Love this.

    Caffeine Queen, I encourage you to keep going with this if you haven't already. Intrigued.

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  7. These were both actually really good. Slight edge to Little Dragon as the fantasy element caught my attention.

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  8. What fun! I can't choose- I'm not good at picking between two great and personal stories.

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  9. I like Little Dragon's story better but the writing tripped me up in a couple places. Caffeine Queen's story was a bit awkward but the writing pulled me in. I'll going with CQ.

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  10. Both are great, but I liked Little Dragon's story better.

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  11. I hate to be such a follower, lol, but I am slightly partial to the Little Dragon story. It was a close call, because I was intrigued by the Caffeine Queen's story. You are amazing. You do so much for bloggers and you always mange to keep the perfect balance with your other projects. This is something I have to finally conquer in 2013. I hope you are having a happy and productive new year.

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  12. I thought they were both good, but for some reason I like the first one, Little Dragon. :)

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  13. The ending of Little Dragon totally took me by surprise. I don't know what it was about Caffeine Queen's but I couldn't get a handle on the POV and was confused. So I'm going with Little Dragon.

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  14. I liked Little Dragon's a little better.

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  15. I really enjoyed both of these - nicely written! My only suggestion for #2 would be to let me know earlier if the MC is male or female. Other than that I thought they were both very enjoyable!

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  16. I liked Little Dragon more. The beginning grabbed me immediately.

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  17. Caffeine that was an unusually original idea. Good for you.

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  18. Aw, the second is heartbreaking, but it wasn't made clear why she was having to watch bits of her life, why she had to understand, or what she had to understand. I know it's a quick snippet, but there were too many questions for me. A scene with heart, though.

    The first had more grammatical errors. I had to read the scene about the rain stopping twice to see that it was just over them, so maybe a restructuring of the sentence a bit? I liked the setting of the scene in this one, vivid.

    Over all, I would go with #1. Both were really good, but I had fewer questions at the end of the first than of the second. I did find both intriguing, and would certainly be interested in either; I just need more information for the second, sooner.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

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  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    Replies
    1. I actually enjoyed the premise of both entries. Fantasy is usually what grabs my attention and I especially liked L.Dragon's last line, but Caffeine Q's entry did pull at my heartstrings with their entry. I don't think I can add anything new to what has already been suggested by other commenters, but I will say good job to both writers. (:

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  20. Tough decision, but is go with Caffeine Queen.

    The first needs to correct a few typos in there, and it was dragging a little until the end. Great ending about time to kill the king.

    The second was well written and held my attention through the sad scene.

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  21. Wow, two very good entries. I especially liked Caffeine Queen's situation--how it told us so much about Jack's personality simply by showing us how he deals with it. I think the ending would have been better told in dialogue between Granny and Nora, but I understand in a five hundred word entry some changes need to be made to fit the word count.

    Little Dragon's entry I liked as well, but like others have said, it felt a little slow. Reading it over again, there really isn't anything obviously wrong that would make the piece feel slow, other than perhaps that this entry doesn't show either of the two characters in a three dimensional way. If their dialogue or actions and reactions to each other were more unique and showed their personalities a little more, it might have more pull. That said, if this was a passage in the middle of a book and their characters were already developed, I would read through this without a second thought, but as a competition entry, it needs a little more pull from the characters to stand out.
    The only other critique I would make would be perhaps look at the descriptions in the beginning and see if you could make any of them a little more active--maybe personify some of the things being described? Sometimes strictly describing something can make passages feel slow too.

    I would vote for Caffeine Queen though it was very close.

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  22. This is a tough one, because, as others have pointed out, there are flaws in both pieces, but both also intrigued me. I think if I had to vote (if this were truly Write Club), I'd probably go with Little Dragon. But Faith Hough did an excellent job of pointing out what could be improved, so I won't add to that (the typo of the extra "into" drives me nuts, though).

    I have to admit, I found Caffeine Queen's piece confusing from the beginning and had to re-read it several times. Honestly, at first I thought the narrator was Megan herself, being forced to look at flashbacks of her mistakes in life. Realizing the narrator is Jack's MOTHER removes it too much for me to be thoroughly involved. Though CQ gets kudos for originality!

    Nice job, both of you. And thanks as always to DL, for doing this.

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