In honor of the triumphant return of PD Blake, is a challenge dedicated to his favorite topic.
Feel free to write about the mythical creatures that turn to stone in sunlight. Or those internet folks who stalk and spread bad news. Or a fisherman in a boat - trolling... Or of course the 1986 classic film: Troll.
Please create a title. (Titles can be difficult, thus, a challenge.)
Number your entries (ex: #1) below. You may enter 1 - 3 times. Creating story openings is encouraged.
(I am still selling my Hatrack story openings, some professionally.)
Contest starts today, Nov/18/2015 and runs 'till Nov 30th at 11:59pm PST.
Be sure to click the "full reply form" box below before measuring your 13 line entry. That box is 14 lines long. Keep em at 13, folks. If you see a scroll bar pop up in your window, you may have gone too far.
Frank flicked open the Craggy Heights Journal at the job pages and looked at the ad for the umpteenth time that morning. Must be able multitask, it said. The pay was good, the hours just right, all night work, no need for the heavy sun block and thick jacket. Things to smash, club provided. Midnight snack thrown in.
It was the multitasking that he couldn't quite get his head around. Did it mean he had to think about two things at once or break heads two at a time? He wasn't sure. He could fart and belch at the same time. That must count, surely? Yeah, he'd mulled it over enough. He could multitask and, just to prove a point to himself, he sat down on the toilet and read the ad again.
A squeeze and a wipe and a flush later and Frank was looking for his boots, his mind made up.
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There was nothing in the woods, nothing at all. Everyone heard the sounds at night and everyone saw the blood on the ground. The screams came and went and another kid was gone, but no one anyone knew, so there was nothing at all in the woods.
On cold winter mornings, when all the deer had fled to lower pastures and the smaller creatures were hibernating, more signs than usual could be seen in the undergrowth. Drag marks mostly, and scraps of cloth and bits of hair that no one recognised. More sounds were heard, closer to the houses, snuffling and snorting, hungry growls. But no one took any notice, because there was nothing in the woods. Nothing at all.
Then one day the loggers came, with chainsaws and axes and trucks and no one bothered to tell them there was nothing in the wood.
Pappy told us about them. He'd seen them, so he'd said. Not that any one believed him. Who'd believe that? Especially with Pappy's liking for liquor.
They'd been as big as a tree, he'd said, all grey and leathery, like a naked sasquatch, all warts and pot belly and an awful stink. So Pappy had said.
Well Pappy ain't saying anything now, Pappy was found in the woods, up near the abandoned mine and no one, not even old Pete who's hunted up here all his life, could say what killed him. Something big. Something hungry.
Old Pete went looking for it with that big old gun of his and that serious looking dog. The dog came back a few days ago, shaking and whining, but no one's seen Pete for days.
#4 - extrinsic #1 - Nervton Deputy's Last Notice
He knocked at the door hard. She ignored him. The law hound's papers could wait the day into night. He duct-taped them to her door. She waited long until midnight dark. No use risk daylight -- the sunblock and big straw hat, overcoat and such on a hot sharp day not ward enough from turning into petrified mineral.
The papers said overdue rent, pay and quit; junk stacked high in and out her rooms, correct and quit; and a court order: Helga Etinna is hereby subject to immediate eviction. Forced removal commences no later than the Monday a.m. after this Friday order, per Judge Nimby Woode. She wondered if she obsessed about junk.
She was angry, low, about to throw a fit. Her kind did rampage if a town jostled them. She wanted a ley seam's recharge, none she'd found this sandhill plain far from mountain rock and cave.
All of Pebble's world was reduced to this single moment in time where the only thing that mattered was the end of a tiny plastic eye dropper and its proximity to a small pink mouth. Pebble squeezed the bulb of the flimsy thing as gently as he could.
“Thunder and rubble!”
His smouldering embers of frustration burst into roaring flame and Pebble ground his teeth, stopped, looked at the tiny creature in the palm of his hand, then sighed. Just at that moment his father's words, full of mockery and venom, came back to eat away at him like the storm-tossed seas that consumed the nearby sandstone cliffs, “You pelican! You'll always be a cloth-eared, low-browed, thick-fingered troll no one will ever love!”
Maybe so, but he had made a promise and guaranteed the truth of it. . .
[ December 02, 2015, 06:55 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]
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Night had come at last, and the field was set. The 24th Great Trolympics had finally arrived. Beneath a bright, full moon, hundreds of male and female trolls (not that you could tell them apart) stretched, burped, and farted their eagerness to begin.
Merv sat huddled beneath a giant pine tree, fearful of the piercing beams of moonlight, certain the mere reflection of the sun would turn him to stone. A myth, he knew, but he rarely emerged from deep within the earth, so he had no tangible proof - until now.
A foul stench seeped from the recesses of his armpits, angry and foreboding. Which would be great for the fifth event: the great stink-off, but not so great for his already frayed nerves.
A fierce whistle sounded, and Merv scrabbled from beneath his tree, ready for the first event: The elf eating contest.
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It was half past midnight when Devdan, Brock, Harper and Ira descended beneath the George Washington Memorial Bridge to share their first tastes of beer atop the Fremont Troll. It loomed large in the darkness, eighteen feet of wire, steel rebar and concrete. One of its hands clutched a Volkswagen Beetle, dirt-caked but all too real. The statue always gave Devdan the creeps, but he had to admit it was damned impressive. Brock opened up his backpack and pulled out the twelve-pack of canned brew he had swiped from his parents' basement cooler. He passed a can to each of his fellows, then cracked one open for himself. “Drink up, boys. Tonight we become men.” Devdan took a tentative sip, then grimaced and held the can out at arms' length. “Oh god, it tastes like piss.”
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Each entry, save mine about which I make no comment herein, in some way and degree varies from conventional dramatic openings. They are anecdotes, vignettes, and sketches, respectively. Any one of which could be part of a drama, per se, though not exclusively, either, per se.
#1 Frank's New Job is character sketch #2 Nothing But Trees is setting vignette #3 Pappy's Revenge is event anecdote #5 A Troll's Troth melds sketch and anecdote #6 The 24th Trolympiad melds sketch and vignette #7 Under the Bridge melds sketch and vignette
Shortfalls of each, to me, are overall complication and conflict introduction lacks and personal, private character likewise complication and conflict lacks.
Frank wants a job why? Self-interested, yes, what, though antagonally causes him to want a job and change his circumstances?
"Nothing But Woods" evokes a community fear of the wilderness and the unknown, apropos of Germanic fable and folk tale, a peculiar plural third-person voice that contrarily distances and closes and both, though is complete micro fiction in and of itself. It's done and unequivocally and irrevocably ended though open ended. The narrative has nowhere else to continue. A small thing and artful though as ephemeral as it is concise. The fragment is a fast-food snack flash, here and gone in an instant.
"Pappy's Revenge" self-contradicts itself, Pappy is gone, how can he exact revenge? Some mystery he might have left a legacy though no clue what.
"A Troll's Troth" confuses truth and faithful loyalty, though evokes a new mystical character trait seen in the film Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. The troll Edward provides aid and comfort to witches, good or wicked. Pebble here, provides aid and comfort, apparently to some fey creature, fairy or pixie maybe. If a human child, instead of a tiny eyedropper, the aid would come from, say, a turkey baster Pebble perceives as an eyedropper. He has a goal, and personal, though no clue of its cause or antagonism.
Merv's Trolympiad is likewise personal though trivial due to only the contest implied and no bearing whether Merv has a particular adversary and no clue what the reward sought is and how that's personally complicated, caused, or antagonized.
The merry delinquents at the Fremont Troll under the bride engage in a coming of age ritual though the mystique is defused by the contemporary reality of the sculpture. A vague creepy feeling is the only clue the routine ritual is about to be broken apart. What, the troll comes alive? Part of adulthood rituals is testing courage, emotional control, and adjustments of responsible adult behavioral enforcement when illicit activities take place.
In all, the strengths are more or less the same, faithful portraits of trolls going about customary, routine activities of human behavior. Not of trolls enacting their ruin and mayhem, though, save somewhat "Nothing But Trees." Maybe "The Fremont Troll." Maybe "The 24th Trolympiad." Ruin unintended perhaps in "A Troll's Troth." They vie for place to me according to how comprehensibly they express their creators' creative visions and appeal to me personally.
For originality, maybe "A Troll's Troth." For clearest completeness of start customs and accessibility, maybe "Nothing But Trees." For general wicked fun and potential for farce, maybe "The 24th Trolympiad." For dramatic potentials, perhaps horror's customs, maybe "The Fremont Troll."
A tough decision between comparable, great if incomplete development, entries. The four above for me tie. Their contextual locale, though, breaks the tie, if seen as productive thirteen-lines springboards for further and full realization. Therefore:
#5 first place for "A Troll's Troth" because unintended consequences appear central to the action. Unintended consequences allows for dramatic reversal and personal transformation.
#7 second place to "Under the Bridge" for a routine ritual implied about to break loose into more than was bargained for. A routine interrupted, gathering, and visitation merged with personal maturation tableau potential.
#2 third place "Nothing But Trees" for a fully realized if snack flash story in thirteen lines, for a lively use of plural third person, and for evoking a primordial and present-day-relevant human fear.
Title winner, "The 24th Trolympiad" for an evocation of a lively, vivid, and ribald contest. The visual, or any sensory stimulation, is to me strongest of the titles. Though about the same genericness each title says its story is about, #6's is more tangibly specific and a degree more memorable for that. Though each title expresses some of each's tangible action, none implies what they are really about intangibly, moral human condition-wise, a necessity, I feel, for a productive title.
I might now, after some thought, include for my entry that Etinna's junk collection is trolls turned to stone and her ley seam interest collecting a cure for her brethren in anticipation of her move and for mayhem and ruin exacting revenge for Nervton's rejection. Now that I have a clearer idea of what the story is really about.
1st #5 "A Troll's Troth" 2nd #7 "Under the Bridge" 3rd #2 "Nothing But Trees" Title #6 "The 24th Trolympiad"
First Place: Entry #5, A Troll's Troth. Pebble and his conflict drew me in, and the opening has a good pace. I would read the hell out of this story.
Second Place: Entry #2, Nothing But Trees. I find myself wondering what will happen to the loggers (and also who the protagonist of the story is, but I have the feeling that would be revealed in the paragraphs that follow shortly thereafter).
Third Place: #6, The 24th Trolympiad. I was tickled by the humor of the piece and intrigued to see where the story would go.
As for the others...
#1, Frank's New Job: I was amused, but this one didn't grab me as much as either of pdblake's other entries. It might simply be due to the low-key nature of the conflict (not that finding a job is actually low-key in any way shape or form, but there's a lack of urgency to the opening as it currently stands).
#3, Pappy's Revenge: I really had a hell of a time deciding between this and The 24th Trolympiad for my personal third place. I went back and forth on it for quite awhile. The narrative style caught my attention, but it didn't grab me as much as Nothing But Trees.
#6, Nervton Deputy's Last Notice: While the prose itself was a little weighty for my personal taste, the title definitely caught my eye.
quote:Originally posted by extrinsic: The merry delinquents at the Fremont Troll under the bride engage in a coming of age ritual though the mystique is defused by the contemporary reality of the sculpture. A vague creepy feeling is the only clue the routine ritual is about to be broken apart. What, the troll comes alive? Part of adulthood rituals is testing courage, emotional control, and adjustments of responsible adult behavioral enforcement when illicit activities take place.
I will admit that I haven't decided on exactly what is going to transpire under the bridge yet, but I do intend to continue exploring this and turn it into a full-fledged story.
Critiques to follow: I am 'editing' another writer's short story at the moment.
1st: The 24th Trolympiad 2nd: Under the Bridge 3rd: Pappy's Revenge (Even though it is uncontaminated by any mention of a Troll)
That was the most obvious thing about the entries by pdblake and extrinsic--no mention that the stories were about Trolls; either in the 13 lines or the title. And Disgruntled Peony only managed to include a Troll in her opening by default.
I like #1, Frank's New Job the best. It has a strong voice and seems to be going somewhere. Might be a fish out of water story, and promises some laughs. (But Grumpy Old Guy is right, if this weren't a troll contest, I wouldn't know Frank is a troll.)
Next is A Troll's Troth. I like the immediate tension in this, although I'd like to know what Pebble is trying to do, and what's up with the tiny creature.
3rd is Under the Bridge, for its potential. Although teens sneaking off for a beer isn't new, the idea of that real-life setting gives me a creepy feeling that things are about to get weird for those kids.
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