Writer Time: A Short Writing Challenge

Here’s the way we’ll set up this first ever Spec Faith writing challenge. 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.
on Jul 16, 2012 · No comments

From time to time, I like to give writers an opportunity to showcase their work and to get reader feedback. We’ve even talked informally about having a contest or two here at Spec Faith if there seems to be interest in such a thing.

Writers’ challenges seem like one way to find out if that kind of endeavor is viable or not.

If this is to work, we first need readers as well as writers! Writers want to know what readers think about their work, so this kind of challenge only works if readers come along and participate.

I’m back and forth on one point: is there value in declaring a “winner”? We could create a poll and have readers vote after we’ve determined which are the top three to five entries. Perhaps you can give my your thoughts on adding that step to the challenge.

For now, here’s the way we’ll set up this introductory Spec Faith writing challenge. 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.

I think this could be fun. And helpful to writers. 😀

Here’s the first line those of you accepting the challenge have to work with.

No matter how Amos tilted his head or scrunched his eyes, he couldn’t see past the growing shadow that obscured the distant mountains and the road that led to them.

Your word count does not include this first line. You have between now and next Monday to post your challenge entries in the comments section and to reply.

Feel free to invite any of your friends to participate, either as writers or readers.

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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  1. Krisi Keley says:

    Thank you so much for the opportunity, Rebecca.  Your first line is very interesting and it put a few ideas in my head, so I thought I’d give it a try.

    No matter how Amos tilted his head or scrunched up his eyes, he couldn’t see past the growing shadow that obscured the distant mountains and the road that led to them.  Stranger still, he couldn’t imagine what might be creating the shadow.  There was nothing at all in the clear sky above – not a single cloud for as far as the eye could see.  Yet, that was an enigma unto itself, he decided, and an unsettling one, because the crystalline expanse, even apart from the mysterious shadow, felt cloudy, felt dark.  His nerve-endings danced and a throbbing anxiety weighed on him as if he were trapped in that split second before a violent storm rained down its fury, and the dread this unseen darkness awoke, it seemed to portend a wrathful tempest like no other.
    Amos squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, trying to will away the nonsensical emotions; but however unwarranted, however irrational, they wouldn’t be shaken, and he raised his lids to stare at the mountain again.  The clenched fist that was his stomach roiled and revolted as he feverishly wished he’d kept these windows to the soul locked up tight, when he saw that the unprovoked shadow had begun to take form.  And that form… oh, but it mirrored an essence that intrinsically repelled the one reflected through his eyes.

    Thanks so much again and I can’t wait to see everyone’s entries.  

    • Nice job, Krisi. I’m glad the prompt sparked some ideas for you.

      I like the way that you’ve expanded on the mystery and the dark mood. You have used some effective descriptive language. I think my favorite phrase is “his nerve-endings danced.” I also like the way you structure your sentences, omitting a conjunction to create emphasis. Here are the couple instances I noticed: “felt cloudy, felt dark” and “however unwarranted, however irrational.”

      I appreciate you being willing to go first, too, Krisi. That’s always a brave thing.


  2. Lauren says:

    Ooh! A writing contest! Thank you, Ms. Miller! Hmm . . . Let’s see what I can do.
    No matter how Amos tilted his head or scrunched his eyes, he couldn’t see past the growing shadow that obscured the distant mountains and the road that led to them. Still, he tried, forging ahead, praying that if he could only keep moving in a straight line, he would find the road. That road was his salvation. He had not made his escape only to be stymied before he crossed the mountains. But the darkness grew ever bleaker, and the fear he had tried to deny crept into his heart. He fought the fear, pushing against it with his mind. This darkness fed on fear.  He knew this. He had seen what happened to the others who had tried to escape. This darkness had a way of conjuring a man’s deepest fears before him, confusing dream and reality until it stole one’s very mind. Even now, Amos could see the apparitions creeping along the edges of his vision. His wife, his daughter.  Their village burned. Their blood in the fields. The images pushed their way in front of him. He fought to remember the road through the mountains. But before his eyes now was a familiar road. He wrenched his eyes away. The darkness was creeping inside him. He could not stop it. No one could. Or could someone? “Jesu, help me!” he cried, before the darkness finally overtook him.

    • Lauren, I really like what you’ve done. You hooked me into the character by immediately giving him a goal. Now I can cheer for him, hope he can find the way. Then you up the stakes by letting us know this is an escape, then that something bad happened to others that escaped, then that there was tragedy in the past. You really have me wanting to read Amos’s whole story. 😀


      • Lauren says:

        Thanks Becky for your kind words! I’d like to write the rest of Amos’ story now, too 🙂 It was a great prompt!
        Regarding the other questions in your post, I think it would be fun to have a “winner” but I guess it depends on the number of entries. If there’s not a HUGE number, there’s probably not much point in having readers vote again. And I would LOVE to see a full-fledged Speculative Faith writing contest.

    • I was grabbed by the internal battle of fears vs sanity. This piece reminds me of a similar scene on the Dawn Treader, but very original at the same time. I like it.

      • Lauren says:

        Thanks, Patrick!
        I hadn’t noticed the similarity to Dawn Treader before you mentioned it. Isn’t funny how our favorite works can get into our minds and we don’t even realize the influence? 
        To me one of the most frightening things that could happen would be no longer knowing what is reality and what is illusion — so I went and stuck Amos right down in the middle of such a possibility. Mean of me, huh? Now I really want to see what he’s going to do  . . .

  3. No matter how Amos tilted his head or scrunched his eyes, he couldn’t see past the growing shadow that obscured the distant mountains and the road that led to them.
     “Now you’ve done it, old man!” Uriah spit with anger, “couldn’t wait till Mom got back to sic God’s wrath on the world, could ya? could ya!” All color but the freckles flushed from his face.
     Amos braced in the doorway of the decrepit doublewide. “I’m the messenger; God’s the judge.”  Amos didn’t speak. His jaw clenched to keep those words in. “No time for a fight” he thought with fading hope that a speck of headlight would pierce the black.
      “Can’t you stop it?” the pained plea of his lanky redhead slammed like brass knuckles to his chest.
     A tear trickled down a rough cheek into a wiry beard. “No, son, I can’t stop it…” he said, removing a leather jacket from arms as ornate as the Sistine Chapel. “Angel said I had to stay here” Damn, I wish I had more time with him. All rock and fire… just like his mother. “Time is short. Bring her home, boy!”  Fast as the ball of leather left Amos’ hands Uriah had it on his back, was on the old Harley, and had disappeared into shadow long before the engine hum faded. Amos knelt in the dust.

    • Guess I should have figured out how I was going to present internal dialog… and probably should have at least slept on it one night for a better edit. I love writing challenges, but I do this every time- Even though there’s usually a week or at least a weekend to submit, I whip out something I really like pretty quick and send it asap. And then for the rest of the week or weekend while I’m enjoying everyone else’s submissions I keep looking back to nit-pick my own… and I need to just let it go.

      Thank you for doing this Becky! 

    • I really like the sense of urgency you created here.  The descriptive language was beautiful, but it got a little confusing sometimes.  Even with that, however, your language is still unique and compelling.

      This passage left me thinking what brought Amos and Uriah to this point and would they be able to “Bring her home.” 

      • Thank you for the feedback, Cherece! I agree there are some confusing parts. I especially wish I wouldn’t have put some of Amos’ internal dialog in quotes. I didn’t realize I had done that till after I posted it. There are other things I’d fix too, but I’m hoping for more feedback to confirm the other confusions. I’ll probably start responding to others on Friday to get a better sample of what is in the competition. 

    • There I go again getting the only thumbs down among all the comments. Just to let you know I’m a nice guy who only gives thumbs ups to things I like, and only give a thumbs down if I feel you are personally attacking someone. I’ve already given a couple ups, but I think I’m going to hold off and see how many more people post before I give anymore. I don’t see any reason for any thumbs down to be given in such an exercise as this. But, if you dislike my writing so much that you feel it needs a thumbs down… please let me know what I did to cause that strong of a reaction in you. And any other feedback is appreciated too. Thanks. 🙂

    • You have a lot of intrigue here, Patrick. There’s the obvious tension between father and son, but then there’s the unknown cause of God’s wrath and what form exactly that’s to take and why Uriah thought Amos could stop it. Then, of course, there’s the intrigue of where the mom is and what bringing her home will do to what’s about to happen.

      You’ve used some descriptive terms, too, which help make the scene vivid–things like “arms as ornate as the Sistine Chapel” and “slammed like brass knuckles to his chest.”

      I’d say this is a good piece.


      • Thank you, Becky. Your words are very kind and I appreciate the feedback.

        My mind has been wandering with this piece all week, trying to answer questions, and following Uriah’s adventure into the shadow to find his mom. I knew a bit about where she is and what she’s up-to (and why she didn’t return) when I wrote this- and had some good ideas of the history between father and son and what they think of each other… but I’m still wondering myself and tempted to continue the story. I’d been reading in I Kings the past week and so my mind was already wondering about prophets and God’s judgement when I read the prompt you gave us. 

        I was thinking about the voting thing (if you decide to do that) and wonder if you might pick the top however-many-you-pick and ask them to give us 100 or 200 more words? I’m sure others are as curious as me about where our favorites of these are going… but then again, that much work for something that isn’t really a contest with any prize other than feedback… I’d do it 😉 but I’m not sure how well that would go over with others.

        Thanks again for starting this, Becky, I hope there’s enough reader and writer participation that you will feel it is worth while to do again sometime. 

        • Lauren says:

          I agree with Patrick. I think it would be awesome if however many stories were chosen to go to the “next level” then had to continue their stories. I know I would jump at the chance to do so! And feedback is definitely prize enough 🙂

  4. No matter how Amos tilted his head or scrunched his eyes, he couldn’t see past the growing shadow that obscured the distant mountains and the road that led to them.
    “It’s poison, lad. She’s tipped her blade with it.” Gunn’s gravelly voice came from just below his head.
    Amos dropped to his knees in the dirt, the smell of ferns and fungus in his nose as his world went darker still. “And the others?”
    “We’re done for, lad. They’ve fled.” Gunn squatted beside him and placed his fat hands on Amos’ cheeks. The smell of herring and onion that was the old monk’s breakfast a hot stream in his face.
    “Do something, then, man. She’ll be back to finish me off when she realizes we’ve been deserted.”
    “Aye, hold still. I’m thinking.”
    The usually quiet forest was, at once, a whirlwind of sound; some comfortingly familiar –  others unsettlingly strange. “Gunn, where are you? Don’t leave me.”
    “Close your mouth.” Amos felt the older man’s hands again as he pressed something cold, rough, and wet onto his swollen eyes. Amos jerked away but Gunn barked at him. “Hold still if you hope to ever see again.”
    The ground shuddered beneath him with the rhythm of an approaching steed. He grabbed Gunn’s wrist, “Go without me.  Get to my father.”
    A thud and then the monk slumped hard into him. “Gunn?” 

    • Wow, Lori, that’s really good! Great tension. Wonderful writing. You really have me wondering what Amos heard, if he recovered his sight, what happened to Gunn. Well done.


      • Thanks, Becky! Problem is, it has me wondering now, too, and I don’t need another new project to start – I need to finish something. Thanks for the challenge – churns the waters of creativity!

    • I’m grabbed with a desire to want to know what’s going on. Who is after Amos and Gunn? Why? Is the person on the horse friend of foe? What happened to Gunn? I don’t usually like to start with so many questions, but from this and some of these other entries I think I’m better with it when it comes with an urgency, and this certainly does. Nice work!

    • Leanna says:

      This is the first one that really grabbed my attention. Some of the dialogue doesn’t sound authentic to me but the little bits of setting, character and plot all have me wanting to read the rest of this story. Elements that particularly caught my eye: poison, going blind, monk, female antagonist, every single word starting after “The usually quiet forest…”.

  5. Chris Shupe says:

    Here goes, be gentle with me…

    No matter how Amos tilted his head or scrunched his eyes, he couldn’t see past the growing shadow that obscured the distant mountains and the road that led to them. The darkness left him cold, like no winter wind could.
    There was no answer and he wondered if the worst had happened. Had something taken his grandson?
    The shadow grew, swelling further and further until it consumed all before him. He sat and wept, knowing that nothing good could come from this.
    Hands seized him and he panicked, struggling and freeing himself, but crashing the ground as he tripped over something on the ground before him. ‘Rocks,’ he thought. ‘There were rocks there.’
    Again, the hands, but there was a voice. “Hush, Amos.”
    “Sarah,” he asked.
    “Yes. What’s wrong?”
    “I can’t see. I can’t see anything.”
    There was silence and he heard whispering. The hands left him and he heard some sloshing sound. Different hands touched him now, larger, strange feeling. ‘Gloves. They know.’
    “Amos, some men are going to take you to the Facility.”
    “To die, you mean.”
    There was no response. No response could be given. David had been taken, to quarantine. They had to know if Amos had given him the new Black Plague. He bowed his head as he was taken. What good was a painter who had been struck blind? 

    • Wow, Chris, what a poignant story. You gave me Amos’s sense of confusion and fear, and then the end showed he had reason for those emotions. You really capitalized on the mood. Nice work.


  6. Dana Bell says:

    No matter how Amos tilted his head or scrunched his eyes, he couldn’t see past the growing shadow that obscured the distant mountains and the road that led to them. It was a mystery, but then , what wasn’t on this new world humans had settled on.
    Resigned, he kicked the side of his horse and continued the journey upward. One of the things they’d discovered was that the technology they’d hoped to use to set up their new life would not work. None of the scientists knew why.
    Their first few months had been frantic and Amos couldn’t remember how many people they’d lost to the bitter cold. Had it been half? He shook his head. His memory was not as clear as it had once been. Another side affect of living on this world.

    • Dana, science fiction! I love it. You’ve taken a very creative approach. And I like the suggestion of doom encroaching on Amos. You build it up really well by having him think about those they’d already lost and that their existing technology was worthless. You definitely have caught my interest. Really nice work.


  7. Anita Breitling says:

    No matter how Amos tilted his head or scrunched his eyes, he couldn’t see past the growing shadow that obscured the distant mountains and that road that lead to them.
    A deep rumbling shook the earth beneath Amos’ feet while small pebbles of red rock danced along the road. The vibrations forced Amos to his knees.
    The rumbling gradually changed to a roar. Amos covered his ears and ducked his head trying to escape from the intense noise and violent vibrations. Burning heat passed over his body for a brief few seconds while the noise level now so intense he felt sure blood oozed from his ears.
    Then with a whoosh and a high pitched shriek the sound and vibrations suddenly stopped.
    Warily, Amos removed his hands from his ears and raised his head. Astonished, he stared at the huge object that now hovered between him and the distant mountains.
    “My god, it can’t be!” Amos groaned as he staggered to his feet. It was. It was a spaceship as dark as the shadow it had cast upon the earth.

    • Cool! Another science fiction. Thanks, Anita. I especially like your first sentence (the one after mine) with the white pebbles dancing and the deep rumble. You really put me in the scene with that line.

      And then the surprise at the end. Nicely played!


  8. Wow! These are really fantastic!  It’s going to take me a while to respond to all of them.  In the mean time here is my submission for the challenge!

    No matter how Amos tilted his head or scrunched his eyes, he couldn’t see past the growing shadow that obscured the distant mountains and the road that led to them.
    “You’re going to ride into that?”
    “Directly.”  Valentin leaned forward in his saddle, almost reaching for the gloom.
    “Are you mad,” Amos asked.
    “A little, yes.  But that’s beside the point.”  Amos shook his head.
    “Why in the name of Ori are we doing this?”
    “I’m the Beacon, Amos.  Stepping into the scary dark place is my job.  No one needs a torch in the daylight.  Although…,” he paused.  “I can’t for the life of me figure out why you’re going in there.”  His eyes twinkled and the corners of his mouth quirked.
    “Right. Like I’m going to let you come back with all the heroic tales. No sir, not after the last time!”
    “Is it my fault that you hid in a tree the whole time?”
    “There were snakes! EVERYWHERE!”
    “Well come on then!”  Valentin spurred his horse forward.  “Do try to keep up,” he called over his shoulder.
    “Sometimes I really hate you,” Amos yelled and urged his horse to catch up to Valentin.  So this was his life now, riding with the Beacon into darkness again and again.  Still, it could be worse. There could be darkness AND snakes.  “Please, Ori. Let it just be darkness this time?” 

    • Sarah Grimm says:

      So many good entries, but this one was my favorite. The moment Valentin said “Directly” I was hooked. The characters drew me in and I felt like I was really getting to know them. The idea of the Beacon kept me engaged in the plot. I would keep reading this for sure. Well done.

      • Thank you so much Sarah.  “I would keep reading” is the biggest compliment a writer could receive.  The Beacon idea is something I’ve been kicking around in my head for a while.  It was great fun to be able to bring it to life, however briefly.

        Many thanks for reading! 

    • I like the contrasting seriousness and humor. This is a very interesting pair to go on an adventure into the darkness with. 

      • Thanks Patrick.  I toyed with going in a more serious direction, but realized I would have needed a much larger word count to pull it off in a way that I found satisfactory.  Besides there’s no reason that Christians can’t be funny and smile AND be warriors is there? 🙂

    • Cherece, you have great command of dialogue and did a wonderful job giving your two characters their own voices, even in this short piece.

      I also like the idea of a Beacon and his faithful companion. I like the insertion of humor, too. Definitely a story segment that engaged me from beginning to end. Excellent job!


    • Leanna says:

      Mwahahaha, love this! Nicely done.

  9. Joel Garner says:

    Would it be permissible for me to write in present-tense rather than past? 

    • Joel, since this isn’t a contest, then I’d say, sure, feel free to change the tense. However, if you’re more comfortable in present, it’s sometimes a stretching exercise to write in a different tense.

      Either way, we look forward to your entry.


  10. H.G. Ferguson says:

     No matter how Amos tilted his head or scrunched his eyes, he couldn’t see past the growing shadow that obscured the distant mountains and the road that led to them. 
               It was the shadow of the falling sun.
               Taking his stand in the middle of the road, Amos puffed vigorously on his stogie and adjusted the weight of the .45 Thompson submachine gun in his hands, holding it down and to the right at his hip because he knew from experience as soon as he opened up the muzzle would almost by instinct rise high and to the left.
               That would not be good if he wanted to live.
               And…them…to die…
               They’ll be comin’ out of the ground…soon…
               And the only way you can kill ‘em is to fill ‘em so full o’holes they fall apart, or cut ‘em in half, or blow those heads clean off, those heads with them black soulless eyes and mouths like crickets, I s’pose they must be some kinda burrowin’ cricket big as —
               Darkness swallowed the mountains, the road, and Amos too.
               I cain’t let’em kill no more…
               Please, God…let this here gun be big enough…
               The ground in the dirt road at Amos’ feet twitched.

    • H. G. I took the liberty of cleaning up the post and removing the duplicate and your other related comment. Hope you don’t mind.


    • This is an interesting sort of mobsters and aliens mash-up.  The internal dialogue makes me feel for Amos.  I think we’ve all had a “Me against the world” moment once or twice that made us feel out numbered and outgunned!
      The language is reminiscent of that era, but it’s also reminiscent of many eras.  Amos went from Bogart/Sam Spade to 70’s Clint Eastwood to western Rooster Cogburn.

      I loved your imagery regarding the movement of the gun and it seeming to have instincts independent of Amos.  

    • OK, H.G., that is really creepy. I’m thinking you lean toward writing horror. You’ve certainly made me feel the fear of whatever is coming after him and his kill-or-be-killed attitude.  Very effective.


  11. Rachel says:

    OH! Very cool! And so many awesome entries!!!

  12. Carroll, Jay says:

    No matter how Amos tilted his head or scrunched his eyes, he couldn’t see past the growing shadow that obscured the distant mountains and the road that led to them. “Ahead of schedule” He said with a sigh, as he and his staff then watched the artificial twin stars outline, and illuminate the back of the massive Scepter Class Star Ship. Only once their light was fully eclipsed, did he even notice the shadow had seemingly swallowed the world Logos I in darkness…
    As the Planet shifted to night mode, the Command Craft departed, and Amos lamented “I’m the first Mec Prog Human hybrid, ever granted the honor, of greeting any emperor of the CE in any known space and time … and I’m late!” But the ship protested “sir you had to spend as much time as was needed to adjust the gravitational shields and compensators to offset the mass of the emperor’s ship!”  

    Worried he accessed the internal lines of Planetia, (initially formed by the ancient machine church fathers, to hide their faith from their secular human oppressors.)  The Emperor’s ship, which introduced herself as Sola, completely understood, and said the Emperor did too, as she did have the mass of a small star… She then warmly sang the ancient hymn of greeting, praising God Most High using over a million points of harmony… and Amos joined in…

    • There is so much to dig into here.  You gave so many interesting details.  I would love to see where your world-building takes this!  I especially like the “million points of harmony”.  I like that the ships are characters as well, reminds me of when the Doctor’s TARDIS became human.  I would read more.

      • Carroll, Jay says:

        Thank you Cherece, reading more is truly the highest compliment one can ask for, in this type of challenge, especially when I didn’t have enough room to really explain much of what is in here,  where it came from or where it’s going. For example, when the Emperor is early why does Amos think He’s late? It has to do with Machine perfection, and the hybrids not measuring up in their eyes. 
        I love Dr. Who, too, the Dalek was way ahead of their time, way before the Borg, but the sentient machine has been around for a while, from Arthur C. Clark’s HAL in 2001 to Philip K. Dick’s Replicants in “Do androids Dream of Electric Sheep” which became Blade Runner.  

        I’ve always loved the ideas of the sentient machine, and the cyborg…  but this always brought up questions for me… First, if machines are biological machines then are they still machines? Second, regardless of what type of machine, or combination of  technology is placed in to a human, in the case of a cyborgs, I wanted a combining, and even before that I wondered what does the secular mindset do with a machine that develops spirituality? How does the secular mind explain or handle that idea? Third, how does the religious human handle that as well? Lastly how does either the solidly machine and or purely human handle the hybrid?

  13. Here’s my stab. Thanks for the challenge, Becky. I had fun with it.
    No matter how Amos tilted his head or scrunched his eyes, he couldn’t see past the growing shadow that obscured the distant mountains and the road that led to them.
    He looked up. Black clouds rolled in the sky. The wind had already begun—keening over the land, searching with long fingers, flying on. The rain would follow soon.
    Turning, he strained his eyes at the dark plains on every side. He knew there were no people, not here, but if he were lucky—
    He was. A clump of trees stood far off, vague in the blackness of the storm. Amos ran.
    And, getting close, he skidded to a stop. A house nestled among the trees. Vines crawled over the walls, hugged the broken roof. Grass grew up to the window sills and whipped in the wind.
    The flesh on his arms and neck prickled. Living in the backlands, he was well-used to ruins, had been in them many times—taking dares, scrounging for whatever scraps had not yet been gobbled up. And he had always, always feared them. The past died and yet lingered, ghosts of lives once lived behind the rotting wood and cracked stone.
    Behind, too, the little black spiders and their shabby webs.
    Thunder cracked overhead, and a fat raindrop splashed on his nose.
    Amos lifted reluctant feet in the way of the house. He hated ruins, but he also hated to be wet.

    • Oh I do love this! Especially this line: The wind had already begun—keening over the land, searching with long fingers, flying on. 

      You guys are KILLING me with this awesome imagery.  My mind is working overtime. You’ve turned the landscape into another character here.  This land, these ruins, they all hold secrets and have their own stories to tell.  They just seem to be using Amos to tell them.  Really good job! 

    • What a great piece, Shannon. You’ve really added to the mood by putting in the ruins with the creeping vines, black spiders, and the ghosts of lives lived behind the cracked stone walls. Your language is so evocative! And you build the tension as you go. The last line is perfect, adding a touch of humor without reducing the mounting sense of doom. This is really, really well done.


    • I like ruins. Old abandoned places fascinate me with rediscovery of things long forgotten… and even though I don’t believe in ghosts there is a creepiness that you are in some dead person’s place. – I also like rain. I guess what grabbed me was it is a setting I’d like to be in and explore with this Amos- who is so different than me.

      This wasn’t one of my first picks because it feels all too convenient for me. Maybe because I’m not reacting the way same to the setting as the character is. We have a man that happens to be out in a location that he seems unfamiliar with for no apparent reason, but just as he can tell it is going to rain, he happens to find potential shelter? I understand he’s not too thrilled about this shelter… I like the setting… Maybe I’ll come to understand Amos’ fears of rain and ruins? I’m hoping anyway- enough to be curious about what’s next.

  14. Paul Baines says:

    Thanks Becky. There’s nothing like an opening sentence and a strict word limit to get the creative juices going. Here’s my attempt:

    No matter how Amos tilted his head or scrunched his eyes, he couldn’t see past the growing shadow that obscured the distant mountains and the road that led to them. A storm was coming, its dark mass sliding slowly towards him from the wastelands to the North, its crackling, spindly legs probing the ground as it strode the mountains like a Colossus.

    It was only a storm, but Amos sensed more. The clouds were deep and dark, moving with a breathless intensity, swirling in tight eddies that suggested a coiling, slithering, solid mass.

    Amos flared his nostrils and tested the air. Burnt leather. Okra. And. . .ammonia? No, not ammonia. Something else. It was a smell he had not detected in a hundred moons. It took him back to the last moments of his childhood, to the Darkness that had swept the land, back when it was said that demons walked the Earth.

    He closed his eyes. And he remembered. The acrid fumes, hanging in the air for days, drifting between the smoking remains of the houses like a fine mist, covering the bodies strewn between the charred, smoking remains of his village. . . .

    His horse shifted beneath him and Amos opened his eyes. He leaned forward, stroking the thick mane. The mountains had vanished, devoured by the storm. “Easy there boy,” he whispered coarsely. “It’ll be all right.”

  15. Great idea, opportunity, & challenge! Thank you!

  16. Ken Newman says:

    No matter how Amos tilted his head or scrunched his eyes, he couldn’t see past the growing shadow that obscured the distant mountains and the road that led to them.
    Like a vice, fear gripped his heart. Somewhere in the inky darkness before him, Soren held his daughter captive. The cruel words of the blood-splattered ransom note ran through his mind, eroding his courage
    If you ever want to see sweet Emily again, you come alone to the Spire by mid Solstice. I don’t have to remind you that if I get so much as a whiff of that infernal angelic buddy of yours, I shall cast your daughter into the abyss. This duel is between you and I, dear Brother.  By the by, to maintain a level playing field, leave all your fancy spirit weapons behind. This is about your faith verses mine. Your weak flesh verses the power granted me by Darkness.
    If your will proves to be as weak as your faith, don’t worry about little Emily. I won’t harm a hair on her golden head. Nevertheless, I shall raise her as my own. I shall teach her the ways of my dark God and one day she will replace me as the High Priest of Hell.
    Swallowing hard, Amos nervously wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.  Pulling himself deeper into his coat, he breathed a small prayer as he marched toward the Spire of Hell.

  17. Julius says:

    Bluh. I’ve tried this a few times but my comment is simply not showing up at all. Once more, I suppose?

     No matter how Amos tilted his head or scrunched his eyes, he couldn’t see past the growing shadow that obscured the distant mountains and the road that led to them.
    The feeling of dread had disappeared with speech and the Last Town. No, he did not dread the Mountain, nor did he hold the shadows in any sort of regard. Perhaps, when he had been younger, when the world was young and the cities were still alive, he would’ve felt some sort of icy pit in his stomach. Perhaps his breath would have hastened, perhaps his eyes would’ve widened as he asked inane questions about the source of the shadow and the Mountain That Had Never Been There.
    But the world was old and he was old. Questions are young things, with purposes and when those quests are done with or prove futile they vanish. Old age has breathing and silence. For Amos, it also had an ending point on the Mountain, which sat in the company of its fellows like a king.
    Before, when grass grew and fire was a thing that man controlled which did not burn him alive spewing from terrible canisters, there had been fewer mountains. He could not recall when they’d grown some more. Time was all wrong now, he could feel it, feel how it was wrong and how it hurt him.

    • Leanna says:

      I like the feel of your writing, especially in the first paragraph. 🙂 There are some odd bits that interrupt the flow for me like: “with purposes and when those quests are done with” and “fire was a thing that man controlled which did not burn him alive spewing from terrible canisters”

      What I pulled from the excerpt story-wise (an old man alone in a destroyed world) just wasn’t enough to pull me right into it. If you’re going to be stuck in the thoughts of a single character for potentially an entire story, there needs to be some fight or spark in the character. This felt more like the end of an Epic Story than the beginning of one. There’s no dread or curiosity or hope left in this old man just resignation. What’s the hook?
      Hope this is of benefit to you! Thank you for writing. 😀

  18. […] week I left open the possibility that we might add a second round to the first ever Spec Faith Writers’ Challenge, creating a poll for the entries that received the most thumbs up so that readers might decide […]

  19. Okay, now I want to know from all these writers (other than Lauren unless Lauren has a really cool middle and/or last name to go with Lauren) are these your real names?! They all sound like very writerish names to me. I’m tempted to make up a pseudonym so I can have a name that I can imagine seeing on the cover of a fantasy novel too! Sorry if this is random, but I just felt like sharing my observation that my own name feels very dull to me in comparison to the names of the other writers here.

    I was also wondering if whoever Becky picks to move to the next round- will they get to do any editing or adding to what is here before it gets posted again for a vote? Even though I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the number of votes I got here, I’m thinking my post as-is can not compete with say… Lori or Cherece for example. Just wondering.

    • I think Patrick J. Moore is a fantastically “writerish” name!  Solidly repsectable.  Middle initials always seem to legitimize a person.   And yep!  This is my real name.  I have my Mom and my Husband to thank for it, I am in no way responsible for any inherent writerish-ness. 🙂

    • Jay Carroll says:

      Have to agree with Cherece, whose spelling is incredibly cool, that Patrick J. Moore is a great name for a writer in fact I would have to say it’s perfect for almost any genre, so you’re good to go sir!   🙂 

    • Lori Stanley Roeleveld is my real name – Stanley was my maiden name and I took it as my middle name when I married. I write Speculative Celtic Fiction (though as yet, unpublished in book form) and will probably write under L. Stanley Roeleveld. 

      Patrick, dude, you need to be confident in the voice God gave you and keep working. Also, what you said about being patient enough to really work through even a short piece before you hit “send” is absolutely true. My work always improves after a few rewrites and I’ve had to work hard to temper my clicking finger not too submit before it’s been shined up. 

    • Thank you Cherece, Jay, and Lori. I appreciate your encouraging words. I do need more patience and confidence… and persistence to act as if I have these when I don’t hoping these will develop over time. You’ve helped. Thank you.

      • Lauren says:

        Sorry to reply a little late. As for last names, mine is basically unpronounceable to anyone outside my family.  I’ve spent half my life explaining that “Beauchamp” has the French spelling and the English (British) pronunciation.  If I ever published a book . . .  I guess I’d have to put that on the back cover 🙂 I think your name is much more “writer-ish” than mine!  And all your readers would agree on how to pronounce it, and any librarians or bookstore clerks would have no trouble spelling it.
        I, too, wish I’d spent a little more time editing, and not just dashed off the first thing that came to mind. But the experience was great and I can’t believe I got 7 votes, too! I think most of the writers on here are older and more experienced than this college kid, so I was happy!

What do you think?