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Summer Writing Challenge

It’s time for another Spec Faith Writing Challenge.
| Aug 13, 2013 | No comments |

Summer Writing Challenge 2013It’s time for another Spec Faith Writing 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, and, if they wish, they may give a reply to the various entries, telling what particularly grabbed their attention.

After the designated time, 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.

I’ll again sweeten the pot and offer a $25 gift card (from either Amazon or Barnes and Noble) to the entry that receives the most votes (as opposed to the most thumbs up). In the event of a tie, a drawing will be held between the top vote getters to determine the winner.

And now, the first line:

    Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid.

Finally, those silly little details we all need to know:

  • Your word count does not include this first line.
  • You will have between now and midnight (Pacific time) next Tuesday to post your challenge entries in the comments section.
  • You may reply to entries, giving thumbs up, this week and next. To have your thumb-up counted to determine the top three entries, it must be checked before Tuesday, August 27.
  • Voting begins 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.

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Mark Malcolm
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. Concerned maybe, but not afraid. The last time she’d faced the larval form of a pit demon she had her sword and shield with her. A thin line of sweat broke across her brow as the maggot-like head of the seven foot slug regarded her through cloudy, pale eyes. The demon reared back, its cheeks swelling with hellfire as Bri subtly shifted her weight. She had to time her jump perfectly or she’d be covered in flesh-devouring fire. Her left arm rose instinctively to cover her body with the shield that normally hung there as the attack came.

“Hah!” she shouted, as she threw her body to the side. Fire melted the stones of the ground where she had been a moment ago and sulfurous smoke washed toward her drawn by the wind of her passing. The beast lunged again spitting another gout of flame. This time it caught the heel of her boot sending a white-hot lance of pain up her right leg. A third assault would be the end of her if she didn’t think of something soon. The sweat began to flow more freely and her concern suddenly began to taste a lot more like fear.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

All external. We start with a line that is internal, a perfect set-up for both external conflict and to slip in characterization: Who is Bri and why does it matter that she’s afraid or not? Action without heart or soul. Gimme some Bri or why would the battle matter, right?

Matthew Steiner
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. She wasn’t even entirely sure she was capable of the emotion, but if she was she’d been closer than this. More times than she cared to recall actually. Resigned and disappointed would probably be closer matches. If she had a few more weeks to prepare her disguise there’d be less of a chance of things going wrong, but the company who owned her current server had just been purchased by a larger company who needed more space for backups. Her hideout was filling up fast, and consequently it was becoming harder to avoid the security systems. She could destroy them no problem, but that would just alert the humans to her presence. All they had to do was disconnect internet access and physically wipe the hard drive, and the last Digital Network Sentient Entity, DNSE or DENISE as they used to be nicknamed, would be deleted.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

Loved the opening. It hooks. Then fades in the middle. Then perks up a bit. Probably due to the limitation of word count forcing backstory where it should not be. Hinting at things dreadful while in the PRESENT would have worked better. But definitely, started well.

Matthew Steiner
Guest

Thanks for the reply. I probably would write it differently now, but I’m glad to know which parts are the good parts.

haywireproductions
Guest

This sounds an awful lot like TRON, doesn’t it?

Matthew Steiner
Guest

I did notice some similarities after I wrote it, but both the idea that inspired this and especially this idea itself is far different. More realistic on the whole.

haywireproductions
Guest

Right. It is hard to tell in only 200 words. It could make a really neat story!
:]

Dean Clevett (@DinoDinosaur1)
Guest

Thumbs up

Matthew Steiner
Guest

Thanks.

A. Friend
Guest

Great descriptions, and context. Well written.

Matthew Steiner
Guest

Thanks.

Leanna
Guest

I really like the premise of this one. A sentient computer program refugee? Do it!

Matthew Steiner
Guest

Believe me, I fully intend to do so. Maybe even multiple times. Thanks for the compliment.

Literaturelady
Guest

This was pretty intriguing: the need for secrecy, the fact that Bri isn’t human, the fact that she can destroy security, but it would cause bigger problems (that’s a cool dilemma!)…but it’s also a little confusing. Is Bri a computer? Part of the hard drive? And how is her hideout filling up? My first thought was she was hiding refugees of some sort, but if she’s not human that doesn’t make sense. So some of the details confused me. But I enjoyed reading it, and you have a great idea here!

Blessings,
Literaturelady

Matthew Steiner
Guest

Thanks for the reply, I’m glad you enjoyed it. In answer to your questions, she is a computer program, and other programs are filling up the server she is hiding in. She is a refugee herself in a way, the last of her kind. I might turn this into a story one day.

Thanks again,

Matthew Steiner

rmstrong1980
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. Fear was different. No, this was not fear, but still… Something didn’t seem right. Akia, the strange ever-present orb in the sky, was not the same color it had been the day before, she was sure of it. The light green object–nearly the size of the moon, but much closer–had appeared in the sky before she was born. Its arrival, her grandmother told her, had caused worldwide panic. People had believed it was the beginning of the End of Days. Perhaps they had been right. After the initial panic, however, calm resumed. Humans had named it Akia and had come to accept it as a second lesser light to govern the night. Probes by the thousands had been sent up but never sent back any useful information. According to all of the scientific data, Akia did not exist. But she did exist, everyone could see her; and now, she was changing. Her soft, comforting color was changing. She was no longer green, but now had hints of blue. However, what concerned Bri most was that she was the only one who had noticed the change.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

I’m a sucker for “this thing appeared and we don’t know why” or “I see stuff they don’t see” stories, and this brings both into play. THat raises questions, intrigues, makes the reader turn pages–all good things. I’m up-thumbing this one. I would have wished the voice had given us more of the narrator, but the last line brought it together enough to hook. This virtually screams to be first person POV. In fact, part of me wishes this was the narrator and her granny talking while looking up and only the narrator sees the change, scene rather than narration. And yet, I’m ready to read more. Good job.

Literaturelady
Guest

Okay, wow! This is intriguing: the appearance of a new moon, the natural panic, the acceptance…everything. Intriguing and tense. Great job!

Betty Ann White
Guest

So much in so few words. First, I thought Akia was going to be in some fictional galaxy, but keeping it in ours is much spookier because we can fill in some of the blanks with our own imaginations. Then, the mystery of why there is no data for Akia. Finally, the twist that only Bri could see Akia changing.

I was going to attempt my own entry… but now I’m intimidated!

rmstrong1980
Guest

Thank you, Betty Ann. Don’t feel intimidated, I’d love to see what you’d write. It’s amazing how each of us have the same start, but we all come up with completely different works. 🙂

Matthew Steiner
Guest

Not bad. I like the mystery in this piece, and it totally fits with the prompt. I would love to see an actual story that continues this.

rmstrong1980
Guest

Thank you, Matthew, so would I. I have to admit, I got hooked, and was kind of sad that I only had 200 words to explore Akia. She may end up in my WIP folder yet. 🙂

Matthew Steiner
Guest

Yeah, I felt the same about my own entry. Won’t it be funny for so many stories about people named Bri being published simultaneously?

peiklk
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid.

Afraid meant she had an opinion and an opinion meant she had a choice.

And Bri had long accepted she had few choices in her life. What her father wanted, her mother supported.

And Bri complied.

Rare times she had choices, but without experience, she made wrong ones for wrong reasons. One of those choices created this present scene: her parents taking her to a “family planning” clinic to remedy her last “choice”.

Not afraid. Conflicted. Bri knew what they were doing was wrong. But to her father, the embarrassment she’d caused him was more wrong. So he decreed and years of training kicked in.

And Bri obeyed.

Her father’s pounding the dashboard woke her from her trance. “Bible thumpers!” he exclaimed at the peaceful group outside the clinic. He stopped the car. “Get her inside, I’ll park.”

Dutifully, her mother opened the door and Bri climbed out.

She looked at her father, impatient for her to shut the door. She looked into her mother’s eyes. She studied the signs in the crowd.

Bri had a choice.

Walking as fast as she could, she left the car, her parents, the crowd, and the clinic behind her.

And Bri prayed.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

Everyone seems cardboard, as if the people/situation were created just to send the message “abortion bad.” No real catalyst, other than she decided to disobey after constantly obeying. And I wish it had been speculative. What would be the abortion conflict in a speculative scenario….

Austin Gunderson
Member

My question is: how is this speculative?

peiklk
Guest

How is it not?

Austin Gunderson
Member

It’s straightforward contemporary fiction. A situation that tens of thousands of young women in America experience every year. Speculative fiction, on the other hand, requires imaginative elements — i.e. a fetus that can speak inside its mother’s mind, a father who fears that his daughter’s child will fulfill a terrible prophecy, or an abortion clinic … in space!

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

Brought to mind the amazing creativity in the story ARVIES –where there is a fetal revolt, and they basically run things, with adult human bodies as their carriers as they live out their fantasy lives, one after another, by changing wombs. Total flip of today, where the adult controls the fetus, even to death. There, the fetus controls the adult, even to death. Now, that is speculative. 😀

peiklk
Guest

Except this was limited to 100-200 words. There is no indication of “when” this is, what the cause was and what the result will be.

And some of those things would be in contradiction to the Bible… so while some levels of fantasy are fine, other things would be difficult to write or have people read.

But again, thanks for the response.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

I’m curious also how those things would contradict Scripture. 🙂

For a while I’ve said that the only truly un-Biblical fantasy is one that imagines a world in which the nature of God is radically different. God alone, as He’s revealed Himself to us, must always be the axiom of imaginary worlds — though we might imagine if the world was different.

Austin Gunderson
Member

In contradiction to the Bible? I’m afraid I don’t understand.

Also, you never answered my question.

Austin Gunderson
Member

Ah, thanks for clarifying. I can appreciate how such terms could be misinterpreted.

As for the goal of reflecting God’s character, I agree. It’s definitely laudable. But the path by which a storyteller arrives at such an end must often prove circuitous. Just look at the story which God Himself has been telling since the beginning of time. Look at the blood-drenched darkness and terror of it. See how some of the most hideous chapters involve His direct intervention, and how He confronted everything at which we recoil and took it upon Himself while incarnate, triumphing over sin and death only through His own suffering and humiliation. God doesn’t cringe from evil. He subverts it and transforms it and obliterates it through the deep magic of redemption.

Your own entry portrays a father so obsessed with his own sense of honor that he’s willing to murder an unborn child to preserve it. Does that honor God? Of course it does: the honor comes by way of contrast instead of direct reflection. A story cannot exist without conflict, and conflict cannot exist without sin. Darkness makes the light shine brighter.

With that in mind, I’m still unclear about what you’ve seen in this writing contest or on this site that fails to honor God. I understand that different writers hold differing personal convictions regarding the kind or amount of sin they’re willing to portray in their fiction; I guess I’m just curious to learn yours.

peiklk
Guest

I’m sorry, I thought I had answered your question.

To be honest, I’d never heard the term “speculative fiction” before, so my understanding of “speculative faith” was simply Christian fiction. My bad.

That said however, this IS an abbreviated (100-200 word) version of the backstory for my hero of a Christian SF saga I’ve been formulating for many years. He is the child born this this woman (named Bri in this version) under similar circumstances and rescued from an abortuary.

As for the Biblical contradictions, I will simply leave it that there are many things here that I could not write as a Christian because they (to me) are not God honoring or reflect His character or Creation.

However, each writer is most likely not so convicted and it is between them and God if they feel what they are writing is an accurate reflection of Him and His will.

notleia
Guest

Jeez, this is about as subtle as a skillet to the face, but I like that the father is at least given a motivation.
But if I were to expand the story, I would want some really great irony. Say she goes to a Christian women’s shelter, and they send her to Planned Parenthood for checkups because they can’t afford to send the ladies to the hospital for everything. And the Planned Parenthood office looks no more soul-sucking than any other doctor’s office, and she sits next to a woman who’s just there to get a pap smear and renew her birth control prescription so she can manage her painful polycystic ovary syndrome. Delicious, delicious irony.

peiklk
Guest

Thank you… interesting to see how different people take it different ways…

Literaturelady
Guest

Wow. I love the way you’ve both shown and told what’s going on and shown the personalities of the dad, mom, and Bri. The dad’s name for the Christians…that’s an interesting way to put it. And you’ve left a sense of mystery here: what will happen to Bri, to her baby, what might happen if/when she meets up with her Dad again, and where she learned how to pray. Excellent work!

Blessings,
Literaturelady

peiklk
Guest

Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it.

Austin Gunderson
Member

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. What a funny question. The supersonic freight train wouldn’t crush them for another seventeen seconds. Her new contact must be a paranoid sort; judging by the proportion of time he’d spent glancing over his shoulder, his head might’ve been screwed on backward. Bri rolled her eyes, tossed back her hair, and extended a hand. “Don’t worry about the mop-up crew. They might not be aiming for us, but they can’t miss. Just upload the package.”

The man faced her and, with a nervous shrug, yanked off his right glove. Bri had expected to grasp a sweaty, trembling palm, but the fingers which engulfed her own were pleasantly dry and firm. That was the first red flag — one too many. Bri tried to snatch her hand back, but the man simply kicked her in the shins and was suddenly the only thing holding her upright.

Seven seconds left.

The man slid a fingertip down his narrow implant from elbow to wrist, and Bri shuddered as the upload commenced. Then she screamed. All she could see was blue. The package was a Trojan. Her scream choked off as motor functions abruptly stalled.

By the time the train passed, Bri had lost the ability to sense its sonic boom. She knew she’d been hauled clear of its path only because she was still alive.

This could not have gone any worse.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

Now, we’re talking. Some of the concepts we’ve seen before, but who cares. This has energy, attitude, a personality in the voice, and verve. I like it. And you put a last line that lets me know things are at stake. Yes, I’d turn the page. The “rolled eyes” and “tossed hair” are weak, though. And don’t suit the voice we’re hearing. Good job.

Austin Gunderson
Member

Hey, thanks for the praise!

I’m curious, though, why you feel Bri’s body language doesn’t match her narrator-voice. I stuck those details in there pretty deliberately.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

If they are deliberate, then you wish for us to consider her comically frivolous or to have a teen-aged girl vibe? That may well be. To put those two actions together gives off an air that seems to not connect with someone on mission, competent, aware. Hair-tossing is flippant or flirtatious. Eye-rolling is dismissive or impatient. Together, the image is somewhat bimboish or immature. Now, that’s fine if, as I suggest, she really is very young and has mixed characteristics-the ingenue savant, the able bimbo. 😀 That’s why it feels as if that body language didn’t fit the situaton/character/voice.

Austin Gunderson
Member

What those brief motions communicate to the reader is the fact that Bri is confident, expressive, and relaxed. While one part of her mind monitors a countdown clock, another part feels free to make fun of her new contact and attend to her appearance. Yes, the eye-roll and hair-flip make her feel relatively young, but that’s only part of their purpose. If they weren’t included, the reader could very well walk away from my brief description feeling that Bri exhibited an anal-retentive personality, what with her instant analysis of stimuli and snap judgement of the man with whom she’s meeting based on nothing more than his body language.

Bottom line: though alert, Bri’s in her comfort zone. She’s not intimidated by the charging train, even though she apparently expects it to squash her flat. I did intend that that incongruity raise questions in the reader’s mind.

Literaturelady
Guest

One thing I love about this is how clearly you’ve shown Bri’s character. The dry statement about the train, her body language…this girl is not easily spooked! I also like how the contact seemed nervous, but his hand was dry–that was an unexpected twist.
But…some of the details confused me. I thought they were ON the train and another train had been hijacked and was heading towards them or something like that. And is Bri a robot or a computer or some sentient machine? I first though she was a human, and then had second thoughts once I got to the end. Still, I enjoyed reading this!

Blessings,
Literaturelady

Austin Gunderson
Member

Thanks!

And yeah, I found it necessary to convey a lot of context through implication in order to keep my entry from ballooning in length. We know that Bri at least looks human (she has eyes, hair, hands, and shins), but whether or not she’s actually an android is pretty much up to the reader at this point. Her positioning relative to the train, on the other hand, is much more important. I’d assumed my references to the train’s impending collision with Bri and to the fact that she’s been “pulled clear of its path” would be sufficient to place her on its tracks, but, if not, then that’s a problem.

Jilofalltrades87
Guest

I placed her on the tracks pretty easily and am hooked to find out if she is an android, a cyborg, or what exactly, but am pretty confused by the “mop-up crew”. Would definitely finish the book that began this way, however.

Austin Gunderson
Member

Thanks!

The “mop-up crew” reference is one of those contextual connections I left implied. It applies to the train, which can neither aim for, nor miss, a target standing on the tracks. Bri tells her ostensibly anxious contact not to worry about it missing them, which seems to imply that they themselves are the things she expects it to mop up. This implication is confirmed when the Bri-voice narration claims, after she’s been saved from imminent death-by-train, that things couldn’t have gone any worse.

Exactly why Bri wants to be “mopped up” after the data transfer, and how she can apparently feel so cavalier about the whole thing, are questions which invite reader conjecture.

But this is a ridiculously convoluted cold opening. In the event of an actual novel, I’d definitely ease into things a little more gradually. 😉

Leanna
Guest

I’m a fan of both the premise and the voice in this one.
Is the mop-up crew what hauls her clear of the train’s path?

Austin Gunderson
Member

The train is the mop-up crew. ‘,:-o It’s not aiming for Bri deliberately, but it can’t miss her, either, ’cause she’s standing on the tracks.

Henrietta Frankensee
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. Long ago she learned the antidote to the pixie perfume that permeated the air.
The dwarves behind marched on with significantly subdued clanging and grunting. They were not susceptible either but they hated the prospect of tiny bodies pricking toes into their hoary hides.
“Not much further,” grunted their aged monkey guide. He would succumb without that kerchief soaked in myrrh over his nose, a filter against the olfactory onslaught. “Hide out…not much further.”
“Da da daaaaa, Da da da daaaa,” crooned the monkey’s wife and Bri’s nurse from birth, blissful and ignorant in her swoon.
“Not enough for her,” the husband had grumbled at the first whiff.
“Da da daaaa…..” Bri caught up the tune, wracking her brain from the reference.
“Jesus saves! Jesus saves!” she bellowed as the lifegiving words flooded her heart.
“SHhhhh!” hissed the dwarf company.
“No!” Bri whispered back. “Pixies can’t hear worship!”

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

This is so confusing, and yet has some stuff that is definitely interesting–mostly in the beginning and the end. Yet the reader would feel disoriented. A simple phrase or sentence could orient them to the nature of this incident. But the antidote thing and the “Pixies can’t hear worship,” were lovely bits. It’s just the middle’s a mess. I like that this is going for that whimsical tale voice. Some grammatical issues intrude, too. “Farther”..not “further.” And given the limited word count, the awkward phrase “prospect of tiny bodies pricking toes” could have been smoothed to “prospect of tiny toes pricking”…. But the tone and those opening and ending bits are fun.

Kat Vinson
Member

This cracks me up. 😀

Leanna
Guest

I’m not sure whether I’d want to read a full story along these lines or not but the last line definitely made me laugh out loud. 😀

Henrietta Frankensee
Guest

“Not enough myrrh for her”….
It adds to the word count.
I’m just glad I have another computer that likes your website. Thus my technical challenge is solved.

Henrietta Frankensee
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. “But my father….” her pale orange spots faded to blue.
“Is a kind, generous soul who loves you and approves of me and….” Bru wriggled nearer on their vine.
“My father wants girls. It is not the season for girls.” Bri countered.
Bru wafted a frond to silence her. “What would he do with girls?” His nostrils swelled in disgust.
The answer twined in both minds as intimately as their pheromones.
Only what he did with the first 14 pods of girls…
Long, lazy tendrils dripped from the frangipani flower. Far below Bri could see other couple’s pods developing.
“You defy the king so flippantly?” She blew a puff of sparkly dust in his eye.
Bru snuggled closer and released his own responsive cloud.
“With pleasure!”

haywireproductions
Guest

Woah! You have TWO entries! I didn’t even consider that.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

This is definitely one of my faves so far. THe alien-ness of the situation. The conflict established. Done in scene. REALLY well done, thanks. Up-thumbing it.

Matthew Steiner
Guest

Sentient plants, sounds cool. Sounds like a world I would like to learn more about.

Tattie Maggard
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. Maybe a little unnerved. It wasn’t every day she found herself running for her life through the middle of a crowded movie theater. Who were these guys anyway?

Bri darted around the corner, narrowly missing a teenaged couple holding hands. She remembered six months ago, when she thought her life was boring. What was she thinking?

A blade whizzed by her head and stuck into the wall. Bri paused and caught her attacker’s eye. In the distance a scream pierced the air, but Bri was not afraid—not anymore. Not after all they had done to her. No, she was furious. She’d pay them back but not here. Not now.

She bolted for the exit, only a few feet away. She slammed into the door, setting off the alarm. Didn’t matter. She’d be long gone before the cops showed. Bright sunlight stung her eyes. Holding her hand up to shield them, she ran down the street. Almost there.

Once she turned the corner of the building she’d at least have a chance. Faster. She rounded the corner and BAM. A tall figure stopped her, face first. No way. It couldn’t be him. Anyone but him. Now she was afraid.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

I found most of this not-engaging, because it’s basically just the external action of running away. However, the last line gives a nice turn. “Now she was afraid.”

Kat Vinson
Member

Very interesting. And I love that last line. Now I’m very curious for more!

Leanna
Guest

People don’t normally run in movie theatres so the lack of reaction from the “crowd” around her is weird to me. Also, it’s a weird jump from “who were these guys anyway?” to “Not after all they had done to her.”. Does she know who her assailants are or not?
Last nitpick: how can she think she has a chance of escape on foot from guys who don’t hesitate to throw knives in crowded theatres? Is she a track star?

Tattie Maggard
Guest

Ha! You’re right. That’s why I’m a strong believer in beta readers. No matter how hard you try you will never see all your own mistakes.

Bethany J.
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. The palace girls told her it wouldn’t hurt. There would only be an uncontrolled flash of introspection as the soul seer laid his hand upon her head. That was all.

She inched forward in the line. Ahead, palace members filed into the council chamber and trickled out again with the hurried gait of people thankful to leave. Armed guards – already decreed safe by the seer – stood at intervals along the row. King Reed was such a paranoid.

Of course her friends were safe, Bri mused. Most of them were related to the monarchy. Few had ventured from the City Kiran fortress outside of a reinforced, windowless carriage. They had no reason to doubt or threaten the king’s rule. It was simply part of life. Surely none of them believed the fear-mongering rumors about the soul seer’s sinister origins, either…or these stories about a wild peasant upstart with the Old Line’s incredible gifts. What rot.

Bri set her jaw and moved forward again, smoothing her skirt. She would not stoop to fear, or wild speculation. No matter what the palace girls whispered about her parentage, she was a loyal citizen of the king. Surely the seer would declare her safe.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

I up-thumbed this because in a small allowable word count, you created a world-situation and setting. I like that. We already know this is that type of fantasy with gifts and palaces and seers and tyranny and revolt and a revolt’s special leader of seemingly humble ways (the David or Jesus figure). That’s pretty standard. But it still works, because we have a sense of who this narrator is, what she’s not fearing, but we sense she SHOULD fear. A couple of nitties: 1. If they are hurrying out, they are not trickling. Trickling does not imply a rush. 2. Paranoid stands out as a bit anachronistic. Not a big deal, though, as this could be future, not fantasy past. Good job.

Bethany J.
Guest

Wow, thank you for your feedback! While I was mulling over the prompt I sort of threw out the soul seer thing, and then an entire world/story exploded in my head, so a lot of it made its way into this little piece. 🙂

You’re right, “paranoid” does feel anachronistic. I admit, I haven’t quite decided whether it’s “past-fantasy” or “future-fantasy”, so I left it ambiguous…it brings to mind two different worlds I’ve invented, one of which is fantasy and the other science-fiction with telepaths. I’ve decided that this story could even be a merge between the two, long before the science-fiction timeline, but generations after the fantasy one. I’m intrigued by the notion and definitely want to explore this more!

Joy W. Doering
Member

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. To acknowledge fear was to be weak. And she would never admit weakness. No matter that the lottery had pit her against the most heartless of the Shield warriors and the whole arena had bet against her. Kronos fancied myself one with the gods, and his battle name was not only an intimidation tool. The man’s ego was nearly as large as his perfectly toned bicep, currently flexing dramatically as he tightened his grip on the cudgel he called a weapon. Bri was firmly planted on her backside several feet from where she stood moments ago. She fought to right her spinning world, blood dripping into her left eye & clouding her vision. She slid her eyes closed.

Focus, Bri.

She could feel Her enemy’s approach.

Focus.

Her mind’s eye filled with Kronos’ face, his ugly mug split with a twisted grin of delight.

Never forget, Bri, fear is weakness.

Her father’s fierce, determined face.

Fear is weakness.

The ground thundered beneath her.

Anger is strength.

Her father’s blood, slick and red, slipping through her hands. Heat flooded her.

Anger.

Strength.

With a feral scream, she thrust upward.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

“Focus, Bri” and thereafter worked better. Kind of wish that “action-brain” mode had taken from the start, after the fear clarification in the first paragraph, with the descriptors and hints of the backstory slipped into those sentence-paragraphs. It’s standard underdog battle, but I still like that they bet against her and she has that bloody backstory.

notleia
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. The stuff they’d given her dampened adrenaline, but she’d already been told that their notion of dosage for humans was still inexact. This tremor in the stomach, the tension in the spine and limbs and lips was the body’s dulled instinct for self-preservation. She heard the sound of leather stretching as she tensed against the straps holding her down on the surgical table.
They were doing this to make her stronger. To make her less human. It was all the same to them. She would be more useful, and she might last longer. She might be able to keep the others lasting longer, too.
Pigs were as smart as dogs, but pigs were the ones eaten. Carnivores were less tasty, anyway. The transformation of Bri-pig to Bri-dog. Something less unsympathetically consumable and something more endearingly serviceable.
Would it feel any different, being less human? Would it feel any different with Anna, Martin, Kendrick, Paul…? If she lost them, she hoped to lose all other human feelings. What else did she have?

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

I tend to detract for wholly introspective stuff, but this is good internal stuff–we get the situation, motivation, justification. And I like what the bottom line situation is: Let’s not get eaten; let’s be the dog not the pig. Nice.

However as much as I love my adverbs, this is a case of the adverb diluting the impact. Without the adverbs and their syllable-clot:” Something less consumable; something more serviceable. ” That knocks it into place better. Although I’d look for something that’s less cold than “serviceable” (which a robot can be, or a toaster, or a car) and something more cuddly and beloved and full of blood and bone (like a dog): “companionable” or “amiable” or “engaging” or “trustworthy”? I like keeping the “c” in “companionable” to pair with “consumable.” Whatever. Dunno. But this is where you nail it, and adverbs can make the nail loose. I’m up-thumbing. I like it. Good job.

Leah Hinkle
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. More like leg shaking, full body paralyzing fear. Who knew the day would begin with her standing in the midst of an impending war? Angels, their flaming swords drawn, their white gowns blazing, stood at her right hand. She couldn’t count their number. Demons on the left, their hideous deformed bodies dripping with flames from the very pit of hell. She shielded her eyes. Disgusting. What was the reason this time? Maybe the question was who was the reason for assembling both armies together for a face-to-face? Must be an important person. Must be an important soul. Who was it? People walked past her oblivious to what was going on, or about to go on in the spirit. She craned her neck. Who were they looking for? Could be anyone. Was it the man in the suit with his phone glued to his ear or maybe the frazzled mother dodging the throng of humanity as she struggled to push the double stroller with two screaming newborns inside? Please, Lord, don’t let it be her.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

We have a cliche problem here.

Literaturelady
Guest

Afraid? Bri wasn’t exactly afraid. Curious, yes, despite her memory of the king with his brow dark, his voice roaring. He had stood over her like a thunderstorm, and she had cowered in the corner. But that had been years ago. She met the bard’s eyes with a steady look. “Why do you tell me not to fear? My name should not frighten me.”

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

You had me at that last line. 🙂 I like stuff that’s implied, but mostly I like the last clause. 😀

Austin Gunderson
Member

I like this style; it’s concise, punchy. Without indulging in context, Bri’s flashback still manages to leave a strong impression, mainly due to the synchronization of metaphor: “dark,” “roaring,” and “thunderstorm” amplify each other.

I also like the fact that this is the only entry I’ve read thus far which doesn’t nudge the outer boundary of the contest’s length parameter. Additional words would prove superfluous to its purpose, since it’s already hooked me with a tantalizing bafflement: why does Bri’s name concern this bard, and what does he have to do with the king from her past?

Literaturelady
Guest

Thank you for your feedback, Austin! I really appreciate it, and I’m glad you liked my entry!

Blessings,
Literaturelady

Leanna
Guest

The outer limit is 200 words and the lower limit is 100. This one is 59. I think another sentence or two might have swayed me in this one’s favour. As it is, I felt there wasn’t enough to judge it by.

Literaturelady
Guest

Ack–didn’t notice that lower limit! Thank you for pointing that out! Thank you also for your critique; you’re right, this entry was pretty short. I’ll keep that in mind for the next writer’s challenge.

Blessings,
Literaturelady

Henrietta Frankensee
Guest

Did you think they were plants? What about frogs? Likely somewhere between.

Martin LaBar
Member

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. But, why should she be? She had already died once. Death had been uncomfortable, sure. Painful, definitely. But it had placed her brain in a new body, and walking, with that body as hers, up the aisle to marry this mysterious man had been possible only because she had died once. Would he love her? He said he would. Would he hurt her? Would he try to change her world-view? He said he wouldn’t. She put her arm in her father’s, her real father’s, and walked up the aisle, a little anxious, a little curious, but not afraid.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

I like the idea, and I like the implications –it seems this man required the brain transplantation in order to marry her, no? and that he’s not well-known to her– and the conflicting worldviews; but I take issue with the execution. All the clutter in her head feels oddly tiresome, despite its brevity. I would have much preferred for the scene to be a scene–what’s the expression or giveaways on the groom, the father. Something in the externals, other than this sort of head-blather. In fact, the groom could have uttered three or five words, or the father, that showed us there was gonna be worldview trouble, or that “mysterious” groom was dangerous in some way. Just having it in her head made it….weak.

Leah Hinkle
Guest

I think this is conflict with the Bible. The idea of reincarnation is not Biblical. I know this is fiction but it’s supposed to bring glory to God. This doesn’t.

Martin LaBar
Member

Thanks for the comment, Leah Hinkle. That was meant to be about brain transplantation, which may, or may not, be reincarnation, depending on how one defines that. I didn’t think of it as such.

Leanna
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid.

But that might have been because of the several layers of duct tape wrapped around the bottom of her face. Her forget-me-not blue eyes, however, seemed to display fear.

Mr. Brown felt a measure of remorse. It wasn’t his habit (at least not during the summer holidays) to terrify little old ladies, especially not kindly half-deaf owners of immaculate bed and breakfasts like dear Bri McKay.

But then, dear elderly Bri had just murdered the only other guest at her establishment in a burst of faerie magic and Mr. Brown wasn’t eager to become a second victim. Glancing from the smoking corpse to Bri, Mr. Brown reconsidered the meaning of the look in her eyes. It might be rage, or even amusement. Mr. Brown had never been good at reading expressions. Runes and hieroglyphics were much easier to understand.

“You don’t look Faerie.” He said to her, gingerly stepping over porcelain shards and hot coffee to set Bri’s cane out of reach on the breakfast bar.

Neither do you, whispered Bri’s voice in his mind.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

Oh, man, this was fun! Fun voice. Fun twist on the opening line (just for that you should be in the finals) and the way you made it into a scene (not just head-yammer). I’m enthusiastically up-thumbing this. Go, you.

Leanna
Guest

Mirta, you are my new favourite person, thank you!

Martin LaBar
Member

I like it that Bri is apparently a senior citizen. All too often, our protagonists are young. They don’t need to be.

Bethany J.
Guest

This totally cracked me up. 😀 Great humor.

Kat Vinson
Member

I really like this – it’s quirky & has a sense of humor mixed with the suspense. But I’m not so sure about the point-of-view shift.

Leanna
Guest

Yeah, it’s really awkward using the prompt and pretending it’s not Bri’s POV but I read a whole bunch of entries before I wrote mine so I was kind of sick of Bri by the time I turned my imagination loose. o:)
I could have adapted the prompt…but that would be cheating?

haywireproductions
Guest

I thought it awkward, too… until Bri talked in the man’s head. Maybe it just needs some quotation marks? That could make it less of a POV shift.

Kat Vinson
Member

Something about it really reminds me Diana Wynne Jones’ work. Which is always a big plus in my book. 🙂 I kept myself from reading any entries until I had written mine. Didn’t want to risk being influenced. Or intimidated. 😉

Kat Vinson
Member

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. Nervous, sure. Excited, definitely. But not quite afraid. After all, she had been preparing for this event for 945 days – almost an entire year! Today she would face the test of the Dracmin and either begin training with the Dracmaster or be sent back to the harvest fields, a failure. Okay, maybe she was afraid. Just a little.

Bri tightened her grip on the basket in her hands, the woven rim tapping against her knees. Soft wisps of shredded fabric shifted in the bottom of the basket but she paid them no attention as the sound of the start-chimes suddenly rippled through the air. The first step was always the hardest so Bri took a deep breath and charged forward before her legs could argue with her brain.

The heavy mist that covered the Dracmere swirled around Bri as she entered the grey inlet so she closed her eyes and slowed her pace. Cautiously she cast about with her other senses, filtering out the sound of the other contestants sloshing through the water. Vapour filled her nostrils, the briny scent of the sea mixed with the slightest hint of warmth – the fireblood of a Drac!

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

While I didn’t like the immediate response to the contest opening line (felt trite), I liked the voice, the establishment of setting, situation, goal, etc. You’ve got a good atmosphere going. Upthumbing this.

Kat Vinson
Member

Thanks for the feedback. It’s really helpful! (And I tend to obsess over atmosphere so good to hear!)

Leanna
Guest

I’m a sap when it comes to dragons or dragon-inspired creatures, I can’t help it. 😀 Plus the setting is by the sea. Sold!

Lisa Godfrees
Guest

Sparks,

I’m happy to finally read your writing. Very nice entry! 🙂

Lisa Godfrees
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. Afraid was such a tame word for the vortex of emotions swirling through her. In a manner of moments her fate would be decided.

In a way, it was better that the choice was out of her hands, since she couldn’t decide from one minute to the next which would be better. The adventurous part of her yearned to know what happened to the other girls before her. But what if the price of her curiosity was too high?

She could no longer bend her swollen fingers. The bindings tying her arms together behind the post were too tight, cutting off her circulation.

Sobs and an occasional wail fought the salt-scented breeze to reach her ears. Bri huffed at other girls’ lack of dignity and lifted her head, pushing her back straighter against the post. Her practical side understood the desire to flee to the village, to return to sameness. But what was left for any of them at home? To grow old and proffer their daughters on the offering stakes each full moon?

Spurts of flame, a warm gust on her face, and her decision became clear. “Take me!”

Kat Vinson
Member

I don’t think I’ve ever read your writing either. 🙂 (Looking forward to reading your story when it’s published!) And I’m very curious to know what’s going on here!

Shannon McDermott
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. Nervous, maybe. But not afraid.

Exactly.

She willed her heartbeat to steady and looked at the man across the desk. His oversized frame pressed into the soft chair, and his eyes – blind and bright – stared past her, as if he could see through the walls to the ends of the earth.

Bri didn’t know in what trackless regions he wandered; she didn’t want to. No one really knew what he did, alone in his blank office without even a computer. But they said that those he chose always won.

His head turned toward her, a soft but ponderous movement that made her nerves skitter. “So. You want to go to New Mashhad.”

Bri nodded, straightening to her small height. “I can fool all the watchers.”

He didn’t answer, just rested his heavy blue gaze on her until her heart raced. She wondered what he saw – a young, gingery agent, or just a skinny little girl who thought, for some reason, that she could play with fire and not be burned?

“You will fool them once and twice.” His low voice broke like distant thunder. “The third time, nothing is sure.” He pointed to the door. “Go.”

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

And the quest begins. I love riddles and vague prophecies. That kind of stuff…oh, yeah. There’s a bit of a “romance novel” vibe here in the descriptions, which in and of itself is not a problem, especially if this is gonna be a fantasy romance/paranormal romance thing. I would take points off for the predictable follow to the opening line. But I like the speculative properties, especially if blind dude has a continuing part. 🙂 He may just be a catalyst, and that’s fine. Only problem, the gal doesn’t come across, and she’s the main character, I assume. She needs to be more distinctive, even in this limited space. A gal who is going to go on a dangerous quest but she’s all nervous and skittery and breathless? It’s more like a romance heroine who has run into Mr. Right who is gonna be her difficult boss. :::shrug::: Now, if she’s afraid for good reason, but must do this regardless of her terror, then it’s a matter of the word choice, the descriptors. They’ll need to be more “womanly motivated determination despite terror” and less “I want to be brave, but I’m just a scared delicate flower of a redhead”–and the latter is coming across more than the former. Upthumbing for the riddly prophetic stuff, blind-character in a bare room dude, for which I am a sucker–and yes, blind seers are cliche, don’t care if they are made to work well. I like how she describes him seeing beyond walls and the phrase “trackless regions” works nicely. “I can fool all the watchers,” is good. Brief, tells us the goal. But this is not the strongest entry.

Shannon McDermott
Guest

I’m surprised that it gave you a ‘romance novel vibe’, as I had no notion of romance when I wrote it and have, in fact, never written a romance. Bri’s intimidated by the man’s uncanny capabilities, and by the power he holds, both within their organization and over her own plans. But “Mr. Right” – not intended.

Anyway, it was interesting to hear your perspective. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

That totally fascinates me, and makes me wonder if you don’t have a budding romancer within you. I’ve read thousands of romances of all sorts–notably when I was ill and housebound for years, and read two to three novels a day to escape my horrors, with romance and SF being excellent for escaping one’s reality–and I used to critique and judge romances for some writers. This definitely has earmarks of “romance novel.” That is not a jab. It’s just an observation. I think making this include a romance with quest-gal and seer-guy could work beautifully, and there’s a roomy readership of SF-romance/paranormal-romance/fantasy-romance. And really, many of the best SF have romance subplots (humans tend to fall in love, go figure), which in my view only adds dimension and enjoyment. Whether it’s DUNE or HUNGER GAMES or the Vorkosigan saga or (insert story title here), romance is a beautiful thing. This should definitely be one of the final contenders, so good work.

Bethany J.
Guest

I really liked this one. It raises lots of questions but in a good way. 🙂

Shannon McDermott
Guest

Thanks, Bethany. I was trying to be intriguing.

Matt Anderson
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. But that didn’t mean she liked those scary cartoons or that scary guy, “Captain 11,” the local afternoon kids TV host. She clicked off the TV.

With her twelve year old voice, she mocked the deep, booming voice of the announcer from the start of his show.

“You are Captain 11, today’s man of the future. One man in each century is given the power to control time. The man chosen to receive this power is carefully selected. He must be kind, he must be fair, he must be brave. You have fulfilled these requirements and we of the outer galaxies designate to you the wisdom of Solomon and the strength of Atlas. You are Captain 11!”

Yuck.

Then she noticed…nothing. No sounds. No grandfather clock ticked. No lawnmower roared outside the window. Total quiet, like time stopped.

As they appeared, she gasped. Two people…no, not people. Two tall, see-throughish beings who glowed a soft blue light stood before her.

Before she could run, they bowed. “We are from the outer galaxies,” one said, but Bri saw no mouth move. “Yes, we stopped time to tell you. You have been chosen. We designate you “Captain 12.”

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

I upthumbed it for the Twilight Zone-ish idea. Kinda-retro fun.

Kat Vinson
Member

I agree. And I’m very curious – I’d keep reading if there were more. (hint, hint!!)

MDWrities.com
Guest

Thanks. The “Captain 11” spiel is exactly as it was on the channel 11 afternoon cartoon show when I was growing up. Other than him being generally mean and hating kids as the years went by, it was a fun show.

Matthew Steiner
Guest

Okay, this is a fun one. Totally did not see this coming, and I can’t stop smiling. Good work.

Cris Jesse
Guest

indifferent?”

“Maybe they might say something rude, or show me all the ways I should have done things differently. Maybe they’d go somewhere else, telling them about that girl Bri and what she did over there… about how stupid or how genious it was.”

Bri had started pursuing one idea, but then retracted in response to the questions that it brought. Then she started on another, and so the pattern began.

She continued with the dance of ideas and decisions, until it dawned on her. “This exercise is the answer to itself” she whispered with a smile. “They may not understand what that means now, but they will…”

Cris Jesse
Guest

Part of my post was cut off….

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid.

Really, it was more like she was paralized by the barrage of questions that she now found herself buried under. “Would they laugh,” she wondered, “Would they cry? Would they be indifferent?”

“Maybe they might say something rude, or show me all the ways I should have done things differently. Maybe they’d go somewhere else, telling them about that girl Bri and what she did over there… about how stupid or how genious it was.”

Bri had started pursuing one idea, but then retracted in response to the questions that it brought. Then she started on another, and so the pattern began.

She continued with the dance of ideas and decisions, until it dawned on her. “This exercise is the answer to itself” she whispered with a smile. “They may not understand what that means now, but they will…”

Leanna
Guest

I don’t understand anything about the character, setting or conflict in this one. What’s happening in the scene? She’s writing a test of some sort?

Henrietta Frankensee
Guest

The entries to date are delicious! Keep them coming. Reading them is reward enough from me.

Jon R.
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid.

Startled, but not afraid.

Hiroshi didn’t look afraid either. But then, Hiroshi couldn’t handle his sake, as Bri had learned her first week studying abroad in Kyoto. Hiroshi’s two wooden cups of shochu at the shrine festival had him slurring and staggering.

Still, the little green man that emerged from the river and started horsing around with Hiroshi like the two were long-lost cousins should have at least startled him as it had her. But it didn’t. Not a man, Bri realized, not a costume as there had been while the Shinto priest had sung his beautiful harrowing incantation to resounding taiko drums. This creature moved too quickly. Its cackles hissed and gargled. It had webbed hands, a saucer-like carapace on the top of its head, and an honest to goodness beak. Hiroshi didn’t seem to notice. He gleefully played along, as the thing backed toward the river.

From there it happened quickly. Bri could make out more figures in the moonlight. The cackles multiplied, and Hiroshi’s merrymaking couldn’t be heard over them. A brief scream penetrated the fever pitch of laughter, and was followed by a horrible slurp.

Afraid? Yes. Now Bri was very afraid.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

Oh, cool. Instead of the usual fairies and palaces and aliens, we have a Kyoto shrine and kappas. hah. Another entry, too, that turns the first line of not fear into a last line of fear, but I like framing. Some awkwardness in the first part of the paragraph that starts with “Still.” But you’ve got a complete little flash here. I just get no sense of who the narrator is….which is the main thing lacking here. The indistinct narrator. Hiroshi is more a person than Bri. Upthumbing.

Jon R.
Guest

Thanks for the critique. I actually live in Japan and somehow accessing this site is difficult, so this is the first time I’ve seen your comment. Thanks for the tips!

Leanna
Guest

Creepy!

Jon R.
Guest

Thanks (I think?)!

Leanna
Guest

It was intended as a compliment so you’re welcome. 🙂

Kat Vinson
Member

Kappa?! ^_^ At first I thought Hiroshi must be related or somehow acquainted since he wasn’t startled. But after that ending, I’m guessing not…

Jon R.
Guest

yup, I like Kappa. Thanks for reading.

karengass
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. It was a mixed emotion teetering between unbelief and nervous laughter. After deciding to stop at her favorite recharging station, she headed for her regular pallet. As soon as she was hooked up, a commotion broke out between two waiting patrons, each wanting the same station. Apparently they thought the Please Wait to be Seated rule applied. The locals knew this was a Seat Yourself station.

They were close to running out of charge, as they argued with each other. Their anger rose, and one tried to punch the other, but just as he pulled back his fist, his charge ran out and he was stuck there, like a statue. The other patron laughed. The more he looked at the statue, the more he laughed until finally tears came out of his eyes.

The statue cum patron was fuming inside but there was nothing he could do, until someone came to his rescue and brought over a rolling cart with a recharger. Considering he was new here, he doubted anyone would.

While all this was going on, another customer entered and took the pallet the two had been arguing over. This time it was Bri who laughed out loud.

Jeremy Bullard
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. After all, was this not the man that had been prophesied so long ago? Was this not the conqueror that would crush their enemies? Why should she be afraid of their savior?

Awed, maybe. Humbled. But not afraid. If only she could catch a glimpse of him through the—

“Briella!” came a shout just behind her.

She jumped at the cry, then berated herself. I’m NOT afraid, she swore sullenly. “What, Avram?”

“Bri, Abba sent me to get you. We’re having a guest over for dinner, and Mother needs your help, so stop following that man around and let’s go!”

“He’s not just any man, Av. They say he’s the messiah, the one who will free us from Rome!”

“I don’t care if he’s Yahweh incarnate, Abba says come home now!”

Bri sighed her frustration, cast one more fruitless glance at the impossible press of bodies, then followed her brother home, absent sighting of Israel’s savior. Whomever this guest of her father Zaccheus might be, she certainly hoped he was important—not another of his publican friends…

Jeremy Bullard
Guest

And for the record, I’ve already been corrected by a missionary friend of mine—Avram wouldn’t have used the name “Yahweh”, but rather “Adonai”. :p

Jeremy Bullard
Guest

Sorry, not sure about the word count. I did this in my phone so I had no way of checking it 😛

haywireproductions
Guest

I know it’s super late in the game, but I thought I’d post my entry anyway:

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. This was her purpose in life: the reason they created her. But what if she failed? One flick of the wrist out of time could bring the whole realm of nature against them.
The first of her kind, Bri knew she was not so much an experiment or a prototype, but the last card in the deck. Without her, everything they’d built so far would be for naught; a wrong movement meant the whole structure would topple.
“Artess Bri? Shall we begin?”

Okay, so maybe she was afraid.

The Watcher led her out onto the platform. A precarious precipice for her people, this place would presently become either blessed or cursed for all time.
She took a deep breath as the sun set, lifted her arms, and began the delicate dance designed only for her.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

I like that everything rides on a dance. I take this to somehow be sci-fi, although it could be fantasy, too. Either way. Ages ago, I read a Spider Robinson work called STARDANCER….and sometimes, art saves us. hah. I’m upthumbing this.

haywireproductions
Guest

Thanks Mirta! I’ll have to find Stardancer. The title alone is intriguing.
I wanted to combine elements that people would be familiar with, but make them fresh with an unusual combination. Hopefully this would make for a relate-able, immersive experience with an unpredictable destination.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

I remember almost zip of the novel/novella other than the main character’s space dances and how it’s important to save humanity…so maybe I should reread it, huh?
I read this version: http://www.amazon.com/Stardance-Spider-Robinson/dp/B005J0CX3I/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1377230364&sr=1-5&keywords=Stardance+Robinson (That’s the exact cover I had, and it had to be around ’79 o r’80). It’s in other forms on Amazon, and even a trilogy omnibus. I never read the others in the “trilogy.” If you do read it, I hope it proves enjoyable. I don’t know if 53 year old me would react the same as 19 year old me. 😀 I know it can’t utterly suck, since the novella version of STARDANCE won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, no mean feat. (I was wrong in how I recalled the title, which I realized upon looking it up just now.)

Matthew Steiner
Guest

Intriguing. I’m not exactly sure if this is supposed to be sci-fi, fantasy, or some fusion. It certainly creates tension though, which is good for a story.

haywireproductions
Guest

Thank you!

Henrietta Frankensee
Guest

Haywire! This reminds me of the last thing God created and the hope that He held out for creation in her.

haywireproductions
Guest

Cool! I love that.

Deborah Lawrence
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. After all, she volunteered for the secret space mission knowing she might never wake up again.
But, the astronaut was curious. How long and how far had she traveled? Why was she only partially aroused from her cryogenic state? And, how is it she understood every alien word?
A cinnamon-scented creature with octopus-like arms peered over eyewear set at the edge of it’s snout. “The instructions clearly state, ‘Return to Sender.”
“Brevis might supply a team of Rhooteka Seahorses to escort her back, but never company fuel,“ a humanoid announced. “Besides, Sabir, we’re behind schedule.”
“Wren‘s right,” declared a wraith-like being who exuded a purple haze with each breath. “We’re the best miners this side of the Filsula Galaxy, but even we need time to maneuver between ion storms. Use the emergency pod.”
The multi-limbed being shook it‘s head, “Too risky.”
“Ship her to the One,” Wren stated.
“Oh, please,” Sabir wiggled his appendages in the air and rolled his eyes. “The Almighty One again?”
“Go ahead, mock,” Wren reprimanded Sabir, “but, the One will know what to do.”
The wraith being nodded in agreement. “What’re the coordinates?”
“Coordinates?” Wren shrugged. “We’ll just have to pray.”
Now, Bri was afraid.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

Done as a scene, with aliens and humor, by golly, and you added the faith element. All right! I’m upthumbing this.

Deborah Lawrence
Guest

Thank you, Mirta! I’m currently involved in a play, and that may be the reason I wrote a “scene.” Thanks for noticing the humor—

Henrietta Frankensee
Guest

Wonderful vision of the non-huminoid! You go beyond looks with your cinnamon scents and purple hazes!

Deborah Lawrence
Guest

Thank you, Matthew & Henrietta!

Matthew Steiner
Guest

I like how you included alien faith here. Either that alien really trusts God or he isn’t a big fan of doing the best with the gifts he’s been given. Have you considered turning this into an actual story?

Deborah Lawrence
Guest

yes, someday.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

So many great entries. And in response my central reaction is repeatedly …

Poor Bri!

I have never seen a single struggling victim face so many horrors all at once.

BRShutt
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was afraid. Only children let legends keep them wide eyed and sleepless. It was something more than fear tumbling through her mind and pounding her heart wild.

But isn’t that always what happened when men spoke in hushed whispers of the legend of An Gragan, a tale that told of an army of men that can be defeated by no man, of fire that cannot be quenched and of a seat whose lord could grant any desire?

But now men were not whispering. What Bri’s people had called legend for generations was joining voices with the town crier. Fables walked in the streets and truth had slipped away, forgotten.

Truth will do that, you see. It knows when it is not wanted and men prefer other things in its stead. But would all men be so?

That was the question Bri knew she must answer. Would she follow the rest of her people into legend and darkness or would she turn her back and go after the truth, no matter –

No matter what?

That little word “what,” it sent a shiver up her spine.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

There’s some good stuff here, but it feels like backstory/preamble and we get no sense of Bri. She’s lost in the “legend language.” I wish it had been done in scene, giving us a look at why Bri is special at this special time of dreadful change, since Bri is the opening line’s focus…

BRShutt
Guest

I wanted something different than what the others were writing. Too much of today’s writing is almost commercial style, ie. how much drama and bloodcurdling emotion can be evoked in 30 seconds or less. While this is fine, I was going for something more akin to the old works like LoTRs where the language and structure is as important as the drama.
And yes, backstory is a perfect word. Most of the “language” was taken from the backstory of a novel I am writing.

Simmie McMillan
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. Nervously expectant was more accurate. She had accepted this assignment with all the fervency and dedication to the Most High that she could muster. When she stepped out of the anti- chamber into the moisture dense atmosphere of her assigned planet, her first breath felt like she was breathing water. The bright red moss hanging from black trees dripped with moisture that seemed to float in slow motion to the crimson and black forest floor. Bri looked about expecting to see her welcome party of Sanjorons. Sanjorons were tall indigo colored beings whose language she had excelled in while in training. Instead, she realized a biological creature was crawling towards her stealthy. Before alarm could register in her mind, the creature suddenly stood up directly in front of her. Smiling with fuchsia colored teeth and speaking in perfect high Sanjonian, the creature said “Welcome, most esteemed Princess who hails from the halls of our great Father. We feel most blessed by your arrival.”

Simmie McMillan
Guest

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my entry. I’m sure you’re right in all your assessments. I didn’t know about this site until my friend told me about the challenge and somewhat goaded me into doing this. It was 10 pm the night of the deadline, so I sat down and wrote my entry in about 10 minutes. I promise to put more effort into the next challenge when I will have more time to actually think about it. Happy writing!

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

You do give a sense of an alien land and some expectations about to shift, but the sentences are quite awkward in their flow/construction in various places. And did you mean “antechamber.” or is this a chamber that works AGAINST something, ie, literally an “anti-chamber?” Since the Sanjorons are indigo, you don’t need to tell us “colored”, as indigo is the color. “Biological creature?” Seems redundant. But perhaps this is a term that carries a deeper meaning in this world.

Michelle Minniss
Guest

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. Terrified would’ve been more accurate. The closest to flying she had ever been was diving from the black haematite cliffs searching for opalescent giant pearls to trade at Zenna’s monthly market. Now Bri was soaring through sparse wispy clouds and gasping for breath in the thin air that whipped her tangled hair from her eyes. She searched desperately for a secure hand grip, her palms sweaty and trembling. She spied a curved spike jutting from the neck of the enormous dragon she had been strapped to; in desperation she lurched forward and grasped it with both hands. Bri’s leg muscles were beginning to spasm in pain but she could not allow herself to relax.
The dragon soared higher, commanded by an unknown voice, extending its leathery wings to glide effortlessly on the thermals. The black iridescent scales caught the sunlight like oil on water, dazzling Bri as she dared a furtive glance below her. Dense forests and open meadows were speeding past at a dizzying pace and as Bri looked ahead she saw the granite peaks of distant mountains rising up to greet them. Without warning the dragon snapped its wings shut and sped like an arrow towards the ground.

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

You are fabulous at description. However, the lovely prose left me still knowing mostly squat about Bri. Lovely description without character backing it kinda always leaves me feeling unfed by the prose. Only the opening lines give us a taste of Bri…then it’s all pretty prose. Very pretty. 🙂

Matthew Steiner
Guest

*Jaw drops* What an ending! As if she didn’t have enough problems from narrowly avoiding a plummeting death by grabbing a flying dragon, now the DRAGON is falling too? Awesome. My only problem is that I think being terrified more than qualifies for being afraid, unless you say something like “That would be an understatement”. Why are her leg muscles spasming when she grabbed with her hands?

Michelle Minniss
Guest

Thank you for your comments Matthew. Bri’s legs are in pain as she has been gripping hard to hang on till she had a hand hold. I think submitting it at 12:00 am (uk time) may have meant I was not as clear as I would have liked..;-)
Glad you liked it though.

Anonymous
Guest

Note: Not after the prize, but wanted to take up the challenge anyway for fun 🙂 Let me know what you think. I am new to this whole writing process, although God has helped me develop a lot over the last nine months. All credit and glory to him 🙂

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. Those eyes that starred at her, filled her soul with warmth and sunlight but at the same time gave her the most horrible chilling feeling, that made her shiver like she was covered with frost. Bri knew who those eyes belonged to alright. The shadow lion, they called him. It was known to visit children, at night within the dark corners of their room. Only, those whom could read and play music could vanish him away. Although, musically talented, there was no point of that. Bri’s old flute was bent and dusty and didn’t work anymore when she put it to her lips. Instead of producing notes, the flute produced a gathering of dust, that sprang out from the end. The spreading of dust across her room, usually caused the shadow lion to linger there longer.

The shadow lion reminded Bri of someone very dear to her, Misty. Bri’s family were part of the King’s forces known as the Ceinax, and every member of the Ceinax were given a pet lion to occupy them. Father had said, ‘It was for their protection from the forces of Rastizum. Misty was a white lion and had been with Bri since she was born. She rested by baby Bri’s cot, then of course it was the end of Bri’s bed, when Bri grew into a child. They grew up and played together. This ‘playing’ was usually Bri dressing her pet into lots of silly outfits and making her sit at tea parties. Misty didn’t mind. She usually went along with it, for she liked to test the strength of her teeth on Bri’s plastic dolls.

Bri’s eyes glistened. ‘I know Mitsy, lets go and find the artefact of Cassion. Dad said that the brown braided haired princess lost it within the hills of Icanlow. Tehehe, oh how silly of her! Do you remember that bedtime story?’

Mitsy growled in response, now having chewed Barbie’s head off.

‘We must be careful though, dad says its dangerous there, might be Rastizum hiding within the trees.’

Mitsy growled acknowledging. Barbie was gone and now she was happily chewing Ken.

‘I need that artefact, it will turn me into a real proper princess with my own sugar candy castle where I will marry a handsome prince. Dad, said that what happened to anyone who used the magical silver brush.’ Bri’s gazed up towards ceiling, clasping her hands and beaming a smile. She sighed. ‘Just think Mitsy, us princesses in a palace of our own with fairie servants to look after us.’

Mitsy gaged.

‘Mitsy, are you alright?’

Mitsy gaged again.

‘…I better get dad. He will make you better again, Mitsy.’

Mitsy sputtered and finally came up out of her mouth was Ken’s hair.

‘Naughty Mitsy! What have I told you about eating my toys.’

Mitsy meowed innocently.

Bri scowled with her arms folded. She wrapped her wavy golden hair around her index finger. ‘Not, that I care, I always disliked Ken and Barbie dolls.’

****************************

Off they journey into the deep hills of Icanlow. Mitsy dragged Bri’s tea set along with them behind her, making an awful clutter as they went, but eventually gave up. Although chilly out in those hash winds and aware of the danger around her, Bri was delighted that soon she will be getting her magic sugar castle and her handsome prince. The delighted little girl, danced from side to side, swishing and swirling about in the wind. She had made sure, that she and Mitsy had big thick coats on, to keep warm. Mitsy of course already had a coat, even Bri knew that, but Bri had to take extra precautions just in case Mitsy might catch a cold. She also brought supplies, in case they got hungry. Chocolate cupcakes, mum had helped Bri make the other day from the fridge, crisps, chocolate bars, ham sandwiches and a bottle of cheery flavoured fizzy pop, in case her and Bri got thirsty. All this was packed into a rucksack on Bri’s shoulders, with Mitsy’s pet bowl. No dolls of course were included.

Bri sighed. She thought to herself,’ I sure do hope Mitsy likes Smokey Bacon, where is she anyway?’ Bri beckoned to her ,’Mitsy, I’m over here.’

But there was no growl or response.

‘That’s odd,’ – Bri thought ,’She always responses, Mitzi! MITZI?’

As Bri turned around, Mitzi was gone.

The little girl wailed. ‘Mmmitzzi’

jesuslittlechild77
Guest

To the person who gave the thumbs down, can you please let me know why and why it sucked? Which areas could I improve on? Please don’t just put a thumbs down without letting me know what’s wrong with it. I want you to tell me, so I can improve and get better 🙂 Thankyou, anyway for your honest feedback. I rather know it sucks than be lied to and told its great 🙂 This was written in a rush and it wasn’t edited, so well, and I know I could of edited it better.

Bethany J.
Guest

Hello, jesuslittlechild77! I’m not the person who thumbed-down your post, but I can take a crack at a critique if you don’t mind! From your writing, I am guessing you are a young writer – I’ve been there! I love that you are passionate to grow in your writing ability, so hopefully my advice here is helpful to you. 🙂

I really like the concept in the opening paragraph, about the “shadow lion”. That is a neat idea! However, after that first paragraph we never hear about the shadow lion again, and instead we have a pell-mell narrative about a little girl playing with her pet lion and toys, and then wandering in the woods – which has nothing to do with the shadow lion, so the reader is not sure what point there was to the shadow lion part in the first place. An enemy is mentioned, the Rastizum, but you did not explain what they were or what danger they pose, so there is no threat introduced into the story. We want to know these things! The dangerous enemy, the cool shadow lion…how might they affect the main character? We should be anxious to find out what happens to Bri; that’s what will keep us turning the page.

I would highly recommend a careful use of spell check, making sure characters’ names are always spelled the same way, and also expanding your knowledge of punctuation. It makes reading easier on the eyes. 🙂

Another thing that I think would help your writing is to make sure the reader can visualize each scene. Here, first Bri is seeing the shadow lion (at night), then thinking about Mitzi, then suddenly playing dolls with Mitzi (presumably during the day?). There is no indication that the setting or time changed, so the reader is bewildered and wonders what is going on, and whether the shadow lion is still there. Make sure you make a transition from one scene to the next clear.

I really like some of your imaginative names: Ceinax, Rastizum, Cassion, Icanlow. These are great words!

A last word of advice…do lots and lots of reading! That is probably the best way any writer can improve in their grasp of the English language and how to wield it well. And keep writing! Practicing is the other certain way to become really good at what you do. 🙂

Blessings!
Bethany J.

Mirtika Schultz
Member

Very nice feedback there. To JesusLittleChild: I didn’t offer feedback cause this wasn’t part of the contest, and because it was anonymous, and, to be frank, this is not the venue to post that. I don’t know if you have a critique group, but you should find one for beginners that you can participate in. There may be local ones in your area; but surely, there are a gazillion online.

You do need to review your basic English grammar. There are quite a few problems with sentence structure, punctuation, and spelling. This is stuff you can learn. Everyone can. It’s easier than learning the elements and craft subtleties of fiction. So, really, think of it as an investment in your writing: the basics.

As the previous commenter mentioned, reading is a great way to learn. But not reading for fun (which we all love to do); rather, reading for self-instruction. Read very slowly. Notice how the writer puts sentences, the clauses in them, together. The sound and rhythm. The punctuation. Pay attention to spelling. How do they start the story? What do they introduce? How do they develop the matters introduced, the characters? The best books for this purpose are books that fit two criteria, imo: 1. they are highly regarded by their peers or have won notable awards or are written by writers who are top of their craft and 2. are books you enjoy a lot in a genre you enjoy a lot. 🙂 That way, reading critically offers both insight and pleasure. Use highlighters or flags, make notes. The folks out there doing it right are the best ones to teach us the craft.

But definitely focus very, very studiously on the mechanics of writing.

One more note: Try not to offer for critique something you have not proofread and polished. It’s considered discourteous to the critiquers to do so. No one expects perfection–which is hard to attain, anyhow. But definitely go over it a few times, do the spellchecks, pay attention to punctuation issues. Clean it up before serving it up. Otherwise, it’s like serving someone an entree on a dirty platter. And if style usage confuses you, you can always Google up grammatical advice or buy the Chicago Manual of Style or something similar. I personally do not know any serious writer who doesn’t own a lot of reference materials or who isn’t constantly refreshing themselves on rules of punctuation and usage. Hey, we’re still talking about who/whom and lay/lie on Facebook these days! Blessings on your labors…

jesuslittlechild77
Guest

Thankyou, for your time and feedback, God bless.

jesuslittlechild77
Guest

Haha yeah, I see what you mean, I’m laughing now, such obvious mistakes, I should of mentioned that it was in the past, do you mind if I reedit this then repost again so you can let me know what you think. Thankyou so much for your time! Jesuslittlechild77

Michelle Minniss
Guest

Thank you for your comments. I realised that you have taken time to comment on all the entries. I appreciate you have taken time to read and respond so thank you. The great thing about an opening line is that everyone responds differently. It has been great to see the huge variety of approaches. Never had my prose described as pretty before.. 🙂

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

The old editor in me woke up. As far as the prose, you know, everyone has strengths. Some folks couldn’t do a nice descriptive passage if their birthday cake depended on it. They are better off having leaner prose. 🙂 Some folks just have the worst dialogue. Others have a great ear for the varieties of human language habits and tics and how to add subtext to the smallest bit of spoken phrases. Some know how to make a character “alive” in an opening sentence. You know how to make vivid descriptions. 😀 Now, attach that to character and conflict, and you’ll make editors weep with joy.

Kat Vinson
Member

I’ve learned a lot just by reading all your comments to everyone, so I wanted to say thanks, too! The danger of commenting on so many, though, is now you’ve got me wondering about your opinion on the handful you missed! 😉

Mirta Ana Schultz
Guest

If I skipped some, it might be that my middle-aged eyes actually missed them This is not the easiest thread to navigate with so much nesting and so many comments. The other reasons may be the same as when I was editing, when there were some submissions that left me incapable of actually critiquing properly right off, some that required either more time to target the issues along with the virtues (if any). Or it may be that I just didn’t feel like responding to some. Hah. It’s hard to tell why. I may well, as I first noted, just MISSED those. Future contests may need a different system, dunno. This was unwieldy.

Kat Vinson
Member

When the threads got long, it got very hard to tell who was replying to what, that’s for sure.

jesuslittlechild77
Guest

I rewrote this story again, I do apologise for it appearing twice:

Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. Those eyes that starred at her, filled her soul with warmth and sunlight but at the same time gave her the most horrible chilling feeling, that made her shiver like she was covered with frost. Bri knew whom those eyes belonged to all right. The shadow lion, they called him. It was known to visit children, at night within the dark corners of their room. Only, those whom could read and play music could vanish him away. Although, musically talented, there was no point of that. Bri’s old flute was bent and dusty and didn’t work anymore when she put it to her lips. Instead of producing notes, the flute produced a gathering of dust that sprang out from the end. The spreading of dust across her room usually caused the shadow lion to linger there longer.

The shadow lion reminded Bri of someone very dear to her, Mitzi. Two tears fell down Bri’s cheeks, as she remembered that Mitzi wasn’t there with her anymore. Ever since, her disappearance there had been reports around the Kingdom of Hergenda of the shadow lion appearing around the northern parts of the continent, where a settlement of the Ceinax lived. Bri thought for a moment, looking longing back into those eyes, blazing away back at her. ‘Is that you, Mitzi?’

The fire in the shadow lion’s eyes swished and swirled around and turned into a green dancing glare. Bri shrank back next to the wall in fright. The room was glowing, radiantly with green fire. A ‘Meow’ echoed from around her.

Bri squealed. ‘It is, you!’ She bit her nails,’The Rastizum, they have you, don’t they?’

The shadow lion vanished before she could answer. The Rastizum! – Bri thought – Ugly, horrible creatures. They had wispy purple hair and long pointed noses like a hawk’s beak, pink like ears and they were covered head to toe in mountains of warts. They grew in the enchanted forests of Willdor, which was in the southern parts of Hergenda, from mushrooms, that had taken a twisted crumbling appearance. This was caused by the heat of Dawni’s smile, the name of the sun that swept her way across the forest. As she sang and dance, weaving in-between the trees, the mushrooms would slowly morph themselves into Rastizum. The Rastizum had magical abilities, for as mushrooms, they had absorbed the song of Dawni, swallowing each of her notes, as vital nutrition. Their enemies were the Ceinax, humans specially chosen to protect the King of Hergenda from the Rastizum rebellion. The Rastizum hated the King, for he was evil and corrupt, he had uprooted many Rastizum mushrooms, from the forests of Willdor, to put in his soup, so he could absorb their magic and get more powerful. Most of Hergenda knew that Trius was an evil bitter King but the Ceinax defended him, as it always been their tradition, passed by their ancestors, to protect the royalists despite the terrible decisions they might make. Their elders long ago had made a promise, to his majesty, King Laiqu the 3rd. In anger to their allegiance, to the King of Hergenda, the Rastizum would trap members of the Ceinax with their magic and experiment on them, sometimes their prisoners would float into space like an helium balloon, where they would expand and then pop, or when bored of this and depending on whether or not their prisoners survived, they would be kept as their slaves to serve them in the forest of Willdor. Bri heard that rumors that if these slaves disobeyed an order, the Rastizum would make them dance over a magical blue like fire in melody to a tune, sung by Dawni the sun and sometimes would even have their noses cut off with a blade! Although, each member of the Ceinax were issued with a white lion to protect him or her from these monsters, not one of their pets had been caught or magically experienced on until now.

Would a 7-year-old girl dare travel to the forest of Willdor, where the Rastizum lived and dare save her beloved pet, Mitzi? It was miles away, and Bri knew she could be caught like her friend Hattie was, who was turned into a toad. On the other hand, if she didn’t go, the Rastizum might eat Mitzi, when they got tired of magically experimenting on and torturing the lion. Bri knew fully well, that there was none else who could help save Mitzi. Her parents had been sent away by King Trius on some top secret mission, her elder brother Oliver had been turned into a flower pot by the Rastizum, whose woman daily still filled him with flowers and her Auntie she was saying with was cruel and made Bri do all the house chores. She couldn’t care less about the child and her well being and sometimes even hit her with the rod if she stepped out of line. This was why Bri often kept to herself and hid in her room were the shadow lion lingered.