This is topic 1st Person Characterisation Challenge--Entries in forum Writing Challenges at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
This thread is for submitting your 13 line entries for the challenge and for voting, when that commences.

Posted by pdblake (Member # 9218) on :
1# The Lord of Deep Mountain

I was a child when it started. Nowadays they call me Carrick the Grey and, while all my muscle is still there, age adds a little fat to all of us. There are streaks in my beard and my hair is mostly gone but I still stand five feet tall, a head above most other Mountain Dwarves. I'm hard and scarred but I still have a twinkle in my blue eyes to make the womenfolk blush.

When folk think of dwarves they see strength and fury but our mothers don't spit us out of the womb rippling muscle and ready to drop into a suit of armour.

Back then I was a child with hardly any muscle and less fat. It started, in the dead of night, with pounding on my father's door. They thumped the timbers so hard that dust filtered out of the thatch and hazel rods to cloud the hayloft where I slept.
Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
#2: Cognitive Dissonance

As I ground my augmented eye into the carpet, Dad said the words I dreaded most: “It’s time for an attitude adjustment, young lady.”
My brow knitted as I instinctively went on the attack. “You need an attitude adjustment!” Dad just shook his head, turned away and returned to his work. I wanted to press further, but there was no point. I didn't have long before my therapy session began.
I stalked up to my bedroom and fought to stay conscious as long as possible, but eventually the sleep hormones proved too strong. My eyes fluttered. My head dipped forward. When I snapped back to attention my poster-riddled bedroom walls were gone, overtaken by the purposefully soothing blues of Cognitive Therapy.

[ February 07, 2016, 09:30 AM: Message edited by: Disgruntled Peony ]
Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
#3: The Made Man

Age-grayed floorboards groaned under my weight as I ducked and pivoted through the doorframe of Urd’s Tavern. Silence enveloped the room. The bartender’s eyes narrowed; his jaw tightened. The waitresses cast side-long glances in my direction. Some patrons stared, wide-eyed. Others looked anywhere but toward the door.
Left unchecked, the environment was sure to grow hostile. In an effort to relieve the tension, I straightened to my full height. My head smacked against the ceiling. I let out a grunt of feigned surprise, then ducked down and rubbed the point of impact. Better to be mistaken for a clumsy oaf than to be feared as a monster.
The majority of the crowd seemed mollified by the implication of human error, but I still felt eyes on me as I approached Elochai's table. Elochai grinned at me, a vicious display of
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
#4: Haze Gordon: Consulting Detective

Mater had insisted, and Mater always got what she wanted. I stepped out of the elevator and was immediately confronted with the root of all my misery from my earliest childhood until now painted on the glass insert of my office door; my full name, in all its repugnance.

C'est la vie, Mater had decreed it. I would have to live with it. But there are other ways to skin a canary: business cards, for one. The thought of how scandalised Mater would be if she knew about them put a smile on my lips and a bounce in my step as I approached the door to my new offices. My keys rattled in the lock, the door swung open with a small squeak, and I walked on through--to be greeted with a hit in the head, a blinding flash of light, a sudden inky darkness, and a falling feeling. Some
Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
I would have gotten around to this sooner, but I was embroiled in a car trip/vacation centered around a cousin's wedding. This is the first time I've actually sat in front of a computer in eight or nine days.

In any case! My votes are as such:

First place: #5, Endzone. This does a good job of explaining the character in the context of the story to me. I did note that the reader doesn't yet have a name (not always necessary, but good to have in mind) or exact specifics on gender (I'm guessing female, but the POV character could also be a male with a slight build). On the other hand, that lets the reader project bits of themselves on the POV character, which could be a good thing if that's what you intended. Either way, my interest is piqued and I would definitely continue reading.

Technical note: Opening the fourth sentence of paragraph one with 'Which' is grammatically incorrect. It's entirely possible that was done on purpose, though.

Second place: #4, Haze Gordon: Consulting Detective. The opening does do a good job of indicating the style of story (it's got a strong noir vibe). The heavy use of 'Mater' threw me off a bit, though. I get why it's done, but on the other hand that's a lot of repetition (four times in thirteen lines) combined with the heaviness of the capital M and italics (which I do believe are technically appropriate, but lowered my immersion because it made my reader's brain stutter-step).

It also seems like there was a narrative opportunity which got rushed past in an effort to get to the action by line thirteen. What do Gordon's business cards look like and/or say that would leave Mater so scandalized? A simple little detail, but one I'm interested in. It seems to me that revelation would showcase interesting things about both characters.

Third place: #1, The Lord of Deep Mountain. I'll be honest, I'm not very fond of the opening sentence: “I was a child when it started.” What bothers me there is the 'it', out of context, which (combined with a similar use of the word in paragraph three, followed by a vague “they”) feels like withheld information. While I enjoyed the descriptions included in the opening, starting with a modern day description of Carrick and then jumping into a flashback from there left me uncertain why the initial description was necessary. The first paragraph was a bit too heavy for my liking as a result.

The second and third paragraphs did pick up a lot of slack for me as a reader and worked up some interest in the story again, but I'm not sure if I'd have kept reading it were I simply picking this up off a shelf. I do have to say, I enjoyed the overall rhythm of the character's voice and the prose, from a technical stand-point, struck me as well-polished and comfortable. While I feel like the opening could use refinement, I do think I'd be interested in reading a later draft of a story about this character/situation.
Posted by pdblake (Member # 9218) on :
Here's my thoughts, take 'em or leave as you will (and forgive all typos that were written quickly whilst supposedly working hard in the real world) [Big Grin]

1st - #3: The Made Man : This one gives a good sense of the character whilst leading into the story too. I'd read on as I'm intrigued as to who the character is.

2nd - #2: Cognitive Dissonance: Again, shows the character enough to enage with them without shoving description in your face. It appears to be leading to more than just the teenage stroppiness and angst that it portrays at first so I would lead on. The first sentence threw me a little though as I was unable to work out if the character was face down on the floor or not. I got the impression of an argument rather than a physical fight.

Joint third because I didn't really get either of them

#4: Haze Gordon: Consulting Detective: In this one there is no sense of description of the character. In fact the piece seems to be more about mater than narrator. That said, it's interesting enough until the point where the character gets knocked unconscious before I even know who they are. You lost me there. Well written prose though.

and #5: Endzone: I really don't like first person present, but that's not your fault. I just can't seem to read it. That said, there is no sense of character in this, save for a particular mindset. I don't get any description or feel for the character though, just actions. I do like the premise though and would likely read on if it was not in present tense.

And thanks for the crits on mine so far. I'm thinking of reworking this one for an idea rattling around in my head and the thoughts so far tally with what was niggling me about it.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
Just before I vote let me point out that, with the possible exception of The Made Man, all other submissions missed the best and easiest option at characterisation: The Title. In my own case, just four words told readers the name of the character and what he does, the rest is simply prep-work for further revelations in the near future. Anyway, on with the votes and crits.


1st The Made Man
2nd The Lord of Deep Mountain
3rd Cognitive Dissonance

Best opening line: Cognitive Dissonance


#1: The Lord of Deep Mountain: For me, this is the standard, cliché, self-description by the viewpoint character/narrator. There is little, if anything, in the prose that causes it to stand out among its peers.

#2: Cognitive Dissonance: The only characterisation I get from this submission is the fact that the character is defensive and argumentative (although I would rather see this than be told about it), that the character is female, and that the character has/had an artificially augmented eye. The rest is setting for milieu.

#3: The Made Man: For me, this is the best bit of characterisation of all the submissions. I am shown the abnormal size and weight of the creature entering the tavern. The characterisation through the reactions of the other patrons to his/her entrance makes the visualisation simpler and the reading all the more interesting.

#5: Endzone: There is, as far as I can tell, no characterisation here other than the 'idea' that the viewpoint character is chasing a fugitive. Why and in what capacity is unknown. This submission is more an introduction to setting and milieu rather than character.

Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
The results are in:

First Place goes to The Made Man by Disgruntled Peony with 9 points

Second is tied on 5 point each for The Lord of Deep Mountain by pdblake and Cognitive Dissonance by Disgruntled Peony.

Third Place goes to Endzone by IRWhite with 4 points.

Congratulations to all the lucky winners.

Posted by pdblake (Member # 9218) on :
Congrats all, and thanks Phil for running this. I learned a lot.
Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
Originally posted by pdblake:
Congrats all, and thanks Phil for running this. I learned a lot.

As did I. Thank you!

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