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Author Topic: Drought -- 800w
Jed Anderson
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Above me, I could hear the soft beats of wings as the vultures circled overhead, waiting for me to die. Greedy, anxious bastards. Won't even let a man go in peace. The damned birds could've at least shaded my eyes while they waited.

The thoughts of clean, cool water made me lick my lips again, only to feel the dried and blistered surfaces of them. I could taste the metallic tinge of the blood crusted on the cracked skin. My tongue felt like leather in my mouth. I couldn't even cry tears of self pity.

I'm sure that's why my thoughts went to the stories the old ones told as I laid there on my back, eyes closed to the bright sun and clear blue sky. I suppose it's because most of them were of the times before the War and the Drought. Stories of

[ May 25, 2015, 10:20 AM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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Denevius
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The writing isn't bad, but there's nothing exactly new or original in this opening. A person being circle by vultures as he/she lays dying is a cliched image. Scarcity of water in a future world has been done many, many times in other fictional worlds. And if this is 800 words, I think this opening is a bit too long. My suggestion would be to whittle all of this down to one sentence, which would make an interesting first line:

quote:
The damned birds could've at least shaded my eyes while they waited [for me to...].

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wetwilly
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As Denevius said, it is a somewhat cliche opening--the person crawling through the dessert with vultures circling. However, I found your description of the event vivid and pleasant to read. I would keep reading, but on a probationary basis; you need to give me something new and different pretty soon.

Here are a few line crits.

Above me, [cut above me...vultures could hardly circle anywhere else] I could hear the soft beats of wings as the vultures circled overhead, waiting for me to die [cut "waiting for me to die." We all know what circling vultures means]. Greedy, anxious bastards. Won't even let a man go in peace. The damned birds could've at least shaded my eyes while they waited. [I love the voice. A lot of personality coming through. I had to reread the last line about the shade a couple times, though, and I'm still just taking a shot in the dark about what you meant].

The thoughts of clean, cool water [What thoughts of clean, cool water? He hasn't had any] made me lick my lips again, only to feel the dried and blistered surfaces of them. [Grammatically, "The thoughts" are what is feeling the dried blistered surfaces here. Reword to make the grammar reflect your meaning. Vivid description, though. In my opinion, it would work better as a shorter, punchier sentence like "I licked my lips again..."] I could taste the metallic tinge of the blood crusted on the cracked skin [the description is a bit much for my taste, here. Dried, blistered, crusted, cracked. I get it. You're overdoing it]. My tongue felt like leather in my mouth. I couldn't even cry tears of self pity.

I'm sure that's why my thoughts went to the stories the old ones told as I laid there on my back, eyes closed to the bright sun and clear blue sky. I suppose it's because most of them were of the times before the War and the Drought. Stories of them swimming in clear lakes and fishing in clean rivers. When the water was plentiful and not yet poisoned. Before it'd become a commodity more precious than oil, or gold. [I don't totally buy the person thinking a history lesson as he dies. I mean, it's not terrible, and I guess I'm willing to let it slide if the rest of the story is good, because you have to shoehorn the info in somewhere, but if you could come up with a more graceful way to do it, I think it would be an improvement.]

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rabirch
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One thing that could punch up the immediacy of the piece is to be aware of places where you are using "could." This is, of course, a style issue, and no way is necessarily right, but for me, "could" tends to be a filtering word, which can get in the way of getting straight to the point.

It happens twice in these 13 lines. As an example of what I mean, consider, "Above me, I could hear the soft beats of wings as the vultures circled overhead, waiting for me to die," vs. "The vultures circled overhead, the soft beat of their wings a slow murmur," or "The vulture were waiting for me to die, circling overhead on quiet wings," or any number of possible different ways.

What you have isn't wrong, but to my eye, the "could" is almost always a signal that there's an opportunity to be more precise.

Just a thing to think about.

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T. Griffin
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There are many adjectives here that slow me down. "Greedy, anxious," "clean, cool," "dried and blistered," etc. See if you can't trim those away.

I also don't buy the mental jump in the 3rd paragraph. I'm going to butcher this, but Brent Weeks (Night Angel, Lightbringer Series) speaks often about the importance of making exposition/world building/character description relevant to the plot. For example, If you're meeting up with your best friend, you probably won't remark on his height and weight and the color of his hair, because that's not news to you, and it probably doesn't have much to do with your plans for the day.

So are these "stories of the old ones" directly responsible for why your narrator is where he is? If no, do we need the stories? If yes, can we make them more immediate? People get weird about flashbacks, but it feels like that's where your story is going anyway, so look for ways to make the transition more organic to the plot.

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