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Fall Writer Challenge

By way of reminder, here’s the way this particular challenge works: I’ll give a first line, and those who wish to accept the challenge will write what comes next–in 100 to 200 words, putting those in the comments section of this post. Readers will give thumbs up to the ones they like the most
| Sep 17, 2012 | No comments |

Our summer writing challenge was a big success, so I want to follow up with another similar opportunity for writers to exercise their writing muscles and for readers to practice their ability to give gracious feedback. Both parts are equally important for a writer challenge to work.

A couple observations from last time. Writers that posted early seemed to receive the most feedback. Writers that posted later had more time to polish their entry. Which is better? Does one garner more recognition than the other? Only you can decide.

By way of reminder, here’s the way this particular challenge works:

I’ll give a first line, and those who wish to accept the challenge will write what comes next–in 100 to 200 words, putting those in the comments section of this post.

Readers will give thumbs up to the ones they like the most, and, if they wish, they may give a reply to the various entries, telling what particularly grabbed their attention.

We’ll take this challenge one step further than the last one, too. I’ll re-post the top three (based on the number of thumbs up they receive) and visitors will have a chance to vote on which they believe is the best.

And now, the first line:

If dragon hopping was safe, then I wouldn’t have any interest in it, but of course it’s not, so guess where I’m heading.

Your word count does not include this first line.

Once again you’ll have between now and next Monday to post your challenge entries in the comments section. You may reply to entries this week and next. Voting will take place in two weeks.

Feel free to invite any of your friends to participate, either as writers or readers. The more entries and the more feedback, the better the challenge.

Best known for her aspirations as an epic fantasy author, Becky is the sole remaining founding member of Speculative Faith. Besides contributing weekly articles here, she blogs Monday through Friday at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. She works as a freelance writer and editor and posts writing tips as well as information about her editing services at Rewrite, Reword, Rework.

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Lori Stanley Roeleveld
Guest

If dragon hopping was safe, then I wouldn’t have any interest in it, but of course it’s not, so guess where I’m heading.
My grandson will certainly follow through with his petition for guardianship if he catches me, so I have to be very cautious.  Last night, at Tuesday dinner, I smiled like the sweet old granny he longs for, and mentioned that I was going to visit old friends, leaving this afternoon. I left out the fact that the way to my friends requires traveling the Great Gauntlet and also that I would be carrying a message from the Cloud of Witnesses to a besieged warrior on the other side.
Instead, I let Bryce imagine me sipping tea with other docile, white-haired scarf knitters so he wouldn’t bother to check in on me again until the week-end. Three days is not entirely sufficient for the journey but I love a challenge. How I miss my brave Howard and the adventures we shared!  To his credit, just before he died, he passed the Vessel on to me, tipping each of my shoulders with his very own sword to designate me his replacement before the High Council.
Where did I put the dagger that fits inside my green galoshes? I hope I didn’t drop it in the swamp during my last clash with Bedivere.

Peggy Wilmeth Carr
Guest
Peggy Wilmeth Carr

I enjoyed the clandestine nature of the granny versus young person situation.  Nice, clever, reversal!

Marcia Moston
Guest

What fun! Was totally surprised by the very first line. A grandma with a dagger stuffed in green galoshes. Love it.

Dale Hickey
Guest

If dragon hopping was safe, then I wouldn’t have any interest in it, but of course it’s not, so guess where I’m heading.  Danger is my middle name so off I go to the Protect Zone.  You think dragon hopping can’t be done?  Wait until you hear the mountains ring out the news.  I know the secret.  The secret is in the Protect Zone.  The secret in the Protect Zone will produce my victory and grant me the honor of the beautiful maiden’s hand.  I face this danger with the joy of the majestic reward. Yes, I am heading back to the dragon.  With my distinctive surge and outburst of strength, I will land upon that dragon and receive the pleasure of success.  Alas, only I know the Protect Zone.  Only I know the secret.  Only I will succeed.  If you want to know whereabouts of the Protect Zone, I will whisper it.  Listen!  Are you listening?

Peggy Wilmeth Carr
Guest
Peggy Wilmeth Carr

The Protect Zone must be an analogy to Ephesians 6.  Loved the interactive whisper, and the inference to God’s singular ability to inform us.

D. M. Dutcher
Member

If dragon hopping was safe, I wouldn’t have any interest in it. But of course it’s not, so guess where I’m heading?

You guessed it, church. I don’t know why dragons seemed to flock to it like angels, but ever since the Change every single church in the country had their very own scaly doorstop. Not that people actually went to church much these days. Why would you when there was too much fun to be had by dancing to elf music and chasing pixies around with butterfly nets?

But I needed more. I know, I know, dragons are mean critters. And staring at one in front of me remind me of it. Big, scaly, sharp teeth. But I wanted the rush of risking my life, so I barreled towards it at full speed. It roused, and blinked its eyes at me as I hurdled over the thick part of its tail. As I dashed into the church, slamming the door shut behind me, I could hear its furious roars. But at least I was safe.

“So, boy, you want to live forever?” A voice echoed inside the sanctuary. I looked up, and in the dusty altar before me a jeweled sword was stuck point first. On its hilt were a pair of eyes, and they regarded me with bored amusement…

(Sorry for the initial sentence editing. Thanks for considering this!)

Lori Stanley Roeleveld
Guest

This concept is compelling – dragons on every church doorstep. I could read about that but some of the phrasing you use “dragons are mean critters,” “big, scaly, sharp teeth” made the dragon seem more predictable and cartoonish than intimidating. Plus, he/she got past it too easily. LOVE what happens when you get inside the church. This is a fascinating idea you might want to develop!

D. M. Dutcher
Member

Yeah, the first line was to the point. I was trying to get across the sense of a jaded thrill-seeker nodding his head to someone’s often repeated warnings.  I think the rest of your points are correct, and I’d probably redress that if I did expand it-the word limit was pretty tight, and I couldn’t put across the sense  of it I wanted: of dragon hopping as a risky form of cow-tipping. 

Thanks for the feedback. 

Lori Stanley Roeleveld
Guest

I come from cow-tipping country so that is a great analogy for what you were trying to communicate. You should work with this idea. It’s cool.

Peggy Wilmeth Carr
Guest
Peggy Wilmeth Carr

I love the reference to the Fall as the Change, and I am interested in the idea of dragons guarding the church–all too reminiscent of gargoyles.  I would like to see the protagonist wanting inside the church building because of a strong relationship with God and not just bravado, but I’m tantalized by your ending . . .

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Eugene Black
Member

Adri’s note was stuck on the front door, impaled by her hunting knife. As usual her almost perfect handwriting announced her confidence, but spoke little of her impetuousness, or the argument from the night before. Foolish woman! Sometimes I wondered why I even tried.

There was little time to lose. I pushed the door open and grabbed my sword. I was out the door at a sprint when I stopped to reconsider. This was no time for heroics. I returned for my bow and arrows. Better to kill a dragon from a distance.

“Where are you going?” Father John asked as I turned a corner and almost ran him over.

“Where do you think?” I shouted over my shoulder, barely slowing down. The desperation in my voice must have said it all.

“She didn’t!” he shouted back. My silence was his only answer.

“Wait!” His shout faded in the distance. I shook my head as I ran. There was no time.

I pushed on, my lungs burning as I left the village behind me. Up ahead, at the top of the gorge, beside the waterfall, the gigantic stone ring continued its centuries-old vigil across the secluded valley we called home. It was ancient and broken, covered in vines. Who knew it could still work? Least of all, who could suspect they’d send a dragon? Why here? Why now?

A shiver ran down my spine, cold as the river water I now splashed through, and suddenly I knew. Because Adri was here. Because they knew this was something she’d do, and they weren’t finished with her yet.

Cristy
Guest

I’m intrigued and want to read more!

Lori Stanley Roeleveld
Guest

I like this character and Adri already. I want more! Nice work.

Karin
Guest
Karin

Good Job! I want to read more!

Lauren
Guest

Wow! Just wow. I need to know what happens next!

Michelle
Guest

I’m a little confused, and while I like the pace of it, there are too many details left out to make me want to continue reading.

I would say slow the pace down some and let me care about the characters.

The best piece of advice I ever received was from Bryan Davis who said you start the story just before the point of the character’s life being interrupted.

 I really don’t have a moment to care either about Adri or the one rushing to rescue her, or Father John. 

Eugene Black
Member

To an extent I would agree with you, if this was a novel, but in just over 200 words what you have here is a short-story that needs to pack a punch and just give enough to make someone sit up and take interest. I am a fan of dropping characters right into the fray though 😉  had I been given a bigger word count I would definitely explore characters and details a little more!

Peggy Wilmeth Carr
Guest
Peggy Wilmeth Carr

This is breath-takingly gripping–with only one snag, for me; ” ‘She didn’t!’  he shouted”, left me wondering whether he is talking about the protagonist, or someone else.  I had other questions, too, but they moved the story forward, without breaking the flow.

Eugene Black
Member

I agree. After writing it I felt it was too vague.  Maybe something like this:

 “She didn’t!” he shouted back, shock and disbelief evident in his voice. My silence was his only answer.
“Wait!” His shout faded in the distance. ” There’s something you should know. Adri…” I shook my head as I ran. There was no time for more surprises. Adri’s life was seconds away from coming to a horrible, abrupt end.  Anything else could be dealt with later.

Kristen Stieffel
Guest

Great dramatization! Good job of incorporating action and exposition.

Eugene Black
Member

My apologies, left the starting sentence out!

Lauren
Guest

If dragon hopping was safe, then I wouldn’t have any interest in it, but of course it’s not, so guess where I’m heading. Yeah, to the arena. The dragon-hopping trials start today.

My mother believes a girl who was jilted at the altar two months ago ought to stay at home and sulk. My brother, Captain of the Dragon Guard, was only slightly more understanding when I told him my plan. “Mathilde,” he’d said, “Philippe is not worth it. Don’t risk your life. I almost lost you once. I don’t want to lose you again.”

A year ago, I had been a member of the Dragon Guard myself, and had a daredevil streak even wider than the one I have now. That attempt at dragon-hopping hadn’t ended well. It left me with a permanent limp and a left ankle that would give out unexpectedly. But this was about more than just proving myself.

I knew Philippe would be participating. I had not seen him since the day before our wedding. I’d had no inkling anything was wrong then. He simply didn’t show up the next day. Nor had he tried to offer any explanation since. I would find him and force him to tell me what was wrong, even if I had to attempt a midair leap from my dragon’s back to his.

Michelle
Guest

Oh! What an unusual way to set some romance. 

Lauren
Guest

Thanks, Michelle! This was one of those ideas that just came to me out of nowhere.

Peggy Wilmeth Carr
Guest
Peggy Wilmeth Carr

Delicious start–I want to know his secret, too!

Lauren
Guest

Thanks, Peggy!

Estelwen
Guest
Estelwen

If dragon hopping was safe, then I wouldn’t have any interest in it, but of course it’s not, so guess where I’m heading.  Jaz swears she has found the best kind of entertainment.  I agree with her when I see the narrow metal beam we will be walking on.  Spreading my arms out for balance I follow Jaz out onto the shaft.  It is a remnant of the old city, another piece of torn and scorched metal. The only thing special about this particular beam is that it happens to stretch next to a dragon’s nest and at seven every morning the dragons will leave and fly underneath this beam.  All I have to do is jump down from this perch and land on the back of a dragon.  If I time it correctly I get to fly on a dragon, if I don’t, well there’s a lot of twisted metal below.
I hear the rhythmic beating of wings and tense. Jaz turns and grins at me, her eyes alive with adventure.  The dragons are almost beneath us.  I target one.  He’s a little slower than the rest.  As his head passes below I launch myself into the air.  I am falling!  Why aren’t I hitting that dragon?  Suddenly, I am tumbling across a dragon’s back.  I did it!

Peggy Wilmeth Carr
Guest
Peggy Wilmeth Carr

You really know how to build suspense!  I loved that moment of second-guessing, mid-air.  Great falling action, you might say.

Michelle
Guest

If dragon hopping was safe, then I wouldn’t have any interest in it, but of course it’s not, so guess where I’m heading. I check my safety gear; helmet, bracers, gauntlets, though it’s rather redundant to put a gauntlet over a mechanical fist. I continue the check as I trot past the others to the gap in the wood. I’m a ghost, making foot-falls on the dusty path beside them. Shouldering past a Rescue Jumper in full armor, I hear a mutter through his speakers. My cheeks burn as I step out onto the high flat plateau of rock. I’m not a bot, I’m still me.
 
I’m also a shining example as to why this particular past time is idiotic.
 
Behind me, a silken rustle sounds, as of all the trees in the wood were suddenly covered in cloth. I flex my fingers, and hear the servoes in the left hand whine softly. My pulse hits hard in the right, pooling in the tips of the digits. Gritting, I think about my other prosthetics and slowly the pistons and gyros behind my shoulders wake up, come online and my own metal wings spread. Our Captain walks to the front of the squad, his great black wings throwing purple shade over us.

“Save as many as you can.”

Patrick J. Moore
Guest

This is my favorite so far. The first paragraph feels a bit slow and confusing though. For example- I’m now assuming being a ghost is a metaphor for passing by unnoticed, but since I didn’t know much yet  when I read that, it feels like a misleading piece of information after I become more confident that your character is not a ghost. Unless you made a ghost inside a machine 😉 Which could very well still be and I’m still confused. lol

But what grabs me is what sounds like a description of  a cyborg’s self-awareness, and for some reason, whatever these beings are, they have become that way through countless times of risking their lives to “save”… and again I’m assuming, but it sounds like they are saving dragons. I want to know why. I want to know why they are so heroic and yet feel idiotic. And I’d like a set of wings myself. I enjoyed this. Thank you, Michelle.

kmhagel
Member
kmhagel

If dragon hopping was safe, then I wouldn’t have any interest in it, but of course it’s not, so guess where I’m heading. But then again I have never been known for playing it safe. I had arrived at the arean early to scout out the dragon pack when I ran into Scully. I hadn’t seen her around much lately. Not since after that unfortunate incident at Cryer’s Barre. She looked like she had healed up well and didn’t hold a grudge. I nodded to her and she nodded back, I was relieved that she didn’t throw a punch or two. Not that she would have been out of line. I did cost her that dragon hopping match. It wasn’t intentional. I was trying to make a tricky double dragon hop and didn’t see her astride the mid dragon I was hopping. I kinda knocked her off but I did finish the hop which got me extra style points. Scully landed with a thud.  I heard she spent three weeks at the healers recovering. So this was her first match back since then and it was the last match of the season. Besides I needed the winnings from the Babalou Cup to pay off the debts I had acquired over the season along the circuit.

Peggy Wilmeth Carr
Guest
Peggy Wilmeth Carr

I was with you, ’til I got to “Babalou Cup,” and decided it was changing forms from serious Young adult to Disney.  I just think you need  a new name for it.

Michelle
Guest

Nice Kris! Makes me think of a tale set in a horse riding circuit. Really cool idea to swap the horse for the dragon, and definitely not something I’ve seen before. 

Patrick J. Moore
Guest

“If dragon hopping was safe, then I wouldn’t have any interest in it, but of course it’s not, so guess where I’m heading. I’m not like the noobs who go their first hop with the real dragons. I love an adrenaline rush, but you fall off a dragon and the game is over. I’m not ready to check out. I’ve been training for this all my life”-
 
“And how old are you, kid?” a reporter broke in.
 
“I know I’m the youngest to ever enter the contest, but I believe being smaller and lighter will be to my advantage.  Place your votes on me, Isaac Shepherd, and I won’t let you down.” He stood tall and proud, until he realized the half dozen folks who listened to his spiel were walking away. Soon they were absorbed into a larger crowd surrounding Barnie Stormrider, fourth generation competitor with two years of games to his name. Isaac let the air out of his chest and hung his head.
 
Grandpap put an arm around him, “We don’t need sponsors, Izzy. The winner is the winner regardless. Perks are just glitter. Glitter never won anything.”
 
A crackle and squeal went over the intercom followed by a bellowing voice “Competitors, make your way to the gorge. The 245th Septennial Dragon Hopping Contest begins in 30 minutes!”

Peggy Wilmeth Carr
Guest
Peggy Wilmeth Carr

I like “glitter never  won anything.”  In this, as well as the bionic (?) piece, I’m left to wonder about technology and time period, assuming there will be a satisfying explanation later on.

Michelle
Guest

Again, very nice feel with the established idea of “dragon hopping” being a sport. This  start sounds like it has more of a “bronco riding”feel to it then others. Absolutely love the inter-generational angle, and the line “Glitter never won anything.”  

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[…] Challenge I’m referring to is over at Spec Faith. And before those of you who are not writers or who do not favor speculative literature stop […]

Shannon McDermott
Guest

Props for a creative opening sentence, Becky. Here’s my attempt:
 
 
If dragon hopping was safe, then I wouldn’t have any interest in it, but of course it’s not, so guess where I’m heading.

  Yes, you know: Basilisk. The terraformers abandoned it a century ago, when they finally figured out that nobody is going to move to Basilisk while there is standing room on any other planet. Weather comes two different ways there: Too hot and too cold. There is very little water, and the only creatures that manage to live on that forsaken planet are mutant and hostile. Snips. Eye lizards. The Raz.

And, of course, dragons.

The terraformers built their skeleton settlement deep in a cave system, thinking it would be a refuge. You can imagine their horror when a flock of dragons came swooping in to settle at their doorstep. What are the odds they’d found their colony smack-dab in the middle of a hibernation nest?

A couple decades back the deserted colony was taken over by somebody with more con than morals. Now it’s a resort, and it runs Dragon Shows all year round. This season’s show is dragon hopping.

So I’m on my way back. It’s a crazy thing, I suppose, to hop from one hibernating dragon to another, but I’ll fill my pockets nicely. And, provided I don’t slip and land on some touchy dragon’s snout, I’ll enjoy it.
 

Peggy Wilmeth Carr
Guest
Peggy Wilmeth Carr

Fascinating!  I like the style, the Sci-fi angle and the believability.  The resort idea   is great fun.

Literaturelady
Guest
Literaturelady

Hi Shannon!
 
Just wanted to let you know how much I loved your piece!  The part that really set off my imagination was the bit about terraformers colonizing planets–it gave me an idea for a sci-fi novel set in deep space!   I’ve added my own bits to the idea, but your piece inspired the story.  So, thank you!
 
Blessings,
 
Literaturelady

Peggy Wilmeth Carr
Guest
Peggy Wilmeth Carr

   “You’re probably wrong!  I’m heading to the wet bushes in the marsh next to the dragon-hopping jamboree.  
 
   Here’s the way it works:  each crazy dragon hopper hops from one side of the dragon’s tail to the other, when it swishes its tail.  The most successful number of hops wins a dragon-hopper’s choice of 6 princesses in the palace and the Ultimate Challenge.
 
   The dragons are fed, simultaneously, so they’re fairly well occupied.  So far, we’ve only lost one unlucky boy, but it was partly his fault.  He just had to check out the vulnerable underbelly, with his “Dragon Slayer Sword!”  We called, but . . . he didn’t answer.
 
   Know what? Charred freckles no longer show up!  And I no longer go that close.  
   I’m at the clearing, now, and I think I’m going to climb up the tree by the bushes, but it’s hard, because I put on these tall, rubber boots, and they’re wet, so they’re not gripping–but I am!  Wha-a-a-a-t’s that?”

“Er-um, Siegfried, here, filling in for our previous announcer, Dorganbort, who, at that last precise moment, was whisked from the tree.  An errant curled tail has tossed him into the competition, where he has begun to hop.  I guess there’s a first time for everything!”

Cindy Koepp
Guest

 
If Dragon hopping was safe, then I wouldn’t have any interest in it, but of course it’s not, so guess where I’m heading. I stop in front of the mirror and pat myself down, counting off the things I know I’ll need: rope, carabiners, pitons, chalk bag, harnesses. I pick up my helmet and check out the colossal scratch that came from the last time I tried Dragon hopping. I’d missed my landing on the fourth spine and fallen to the end of my rope in Toallto’s point-seven G gravity. Wow, what a rush! If not for the inherent dangers, I’d take that jump again on purpose.

After plunking the helmet on my head and pulling the chin strap tight, I give myself an ecstatic grin in the mirror and race out the door with a spring in my step was only partly due to the light gravity. My old clunker, a fifteen-year-old gray and black hovercar with dents and creases that rivaled my helmet, waited on the landing pad. In the distance, the comb-like spires of the Dragon Spine Mountains pointed skyward.
 

John Richerson
Guest
John Richerson

Great opening!  I could actually see the character in the mirror!  Then I’m out the door and jumping in my own hovercar to follow her all the way up the mountain.  Left me wanting more. 

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[…] week I entered a writing challenge. It works this way: You are given an opening sentence, to which you are supposed to coherently […]