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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Writing Challenges » Ready for Market Challenge July

   
Author Topic: Ready for Market Challenge July
Nick T
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Hi everyone,
Here goes my fourth market challenge as chief slave-driver.

Please post your first thirteen in this thread by July 11th, using the following format:
Title:
Word count:
Genre:

First thirteen:

Please do not post anything else in this thread.

I’ll post instructions in this thread as and when necessary.
For reference here’s the overall monthly cycle:

By the 11th day of the month everyone is invited to post first 13s. The earlier the better, so that people have more time to choose which stories tickle their fancy for full crits.

This week is not time for writing since the stories should be ready for market, but just recognizing that we can't all get to things immediately.

During the week after entries close, we
- grade first 13s
- request at least one manuscript (via an e-mail to the writer) of the story we'd like to read and grade (probably one whose first 13 we scored highly). The more, the better.

By the last day of the month we
- grade at least one manuscript
- grade more stories if we want to (e.g. those that have great first 13s in addition to our favourites)

The "end of the day" is the end of the day in your local time. There's no need to be more precise than that.

Cheers,

Nick

[This message has been edited by Nick T (edited July 02, 2009).]


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Merlion-Emrys
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Isle of Storms

High Fantasy

4,800 words

Authors Note: I realize that this story doesn't include a huge amount of tension in the form of danger to the MC. I think I am ok with that, but if you read it and really feel it detracts let me know why.


Stromael, the Stormcaller crested a rise and there before him lay the port city of Arajahal, sprawled along the glimmering edge of the ocean.
As he approached the gates a breeze wafted the odors of the city to his nostrils. Sweat, waste, cooking smoke and spices and under it all the briny tang of the sea. He didn’t really care much for cities on the whole, but Arajahal he liked better than most. Its walls and buildings were low, so you could see the sky and always smell the wind and the sea.
He’d been called here by a message from a Captain Jorose, requesting his aid and promising tempests the likes of which even the Stormcaller had never seen. The prospect excited him, but he was a little annoyed given that the weather here was


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Dogmatic
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The Landing
3200 words
Sci-Fi


DIRECTIVE: ERROR
GEN319 crossed out of the time field only three meters off course but it was enough to put him directly into the path of oncoming satellite debris. Entering the final layers of the atmosphere wasn’t the problem; the landing rods would not deploy and the Mother was approaching fast. And although survival is not a priority, it is preferred.


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Owasm
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The Procession of Poses
1900 words
Fantasy

As Afgon crept along in the still darkness of the new moon, he avoided the pools of light cast by the night lanterns. Reaching his destination, he climbed up the vine-covered wall and lifted open the window he’d previously left unlocked, slithering into the blackness of the second story of the old temple. His sixteen-year-old mind held firmly to the dark path taking him to his vantage point. It meant his death to be caught watching his parents and the others performing the Ritual.

Up he climbed, making sure there was no creaking in the old ladders and walkways. He had prepared weeks for this foray into the forbidden. He looked down at the ritual platform. Few knew of the Ritual and fewer had seen it performed.

[This message has been edited by Owasm (edited July 04, 2009).]


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alliedfive
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The Man Who Took the Fall
3700 Words
Urban/Contemporary Fantasy?


By the time Garner Flint reached the little park by the post office, he was wheezing and gasping. He bent over, hands on knees, and caught his breath.

Jackson Green, eight years old and afraid of nothing but his daddy’s belt, dangled one-armed from the ancient sycamore that towered over the jungle gyms and swingsets. Flint wondered again why he hadn’t chopped down the old tree while it was still a sapling. He should've known better.

Flint started moving again, leaning on his cane and trying to slow his breathing. He had always healed a good bit faster than lesser men, but he knew he was starting to slow down. Suppose old age can’t be healed, he thought. Maybe he was senile; maybe that’s why he didn’t notice the new guy, O’Malley,

[This message has been edited by alliedfive (edited July 05, 2009).]


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AWSullivan
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Hey guys, I hope I'm posting in the right place. I want in on this. Here is my 13.

Title: Normal
Word Count: 4700
Genre: Horror

“She’s a troubled child...unhappy...since the accident...”

Eleven year old Tatyana tried to tune out the hurtful words as she played with a plain little doll that she had found in the doctor’s waiting room. Her twin sister, Sofia, sat reading in the chair opposite.

“Talks to herself...disturbed...crazy?”

Tatyana hated the sympathetic smile Sofia offered as Mother’s voice peaked again, high enough for them to hear. The only thing wrong with her was that she wasn’t perfect little Sofia.

Tatyana started when a shout from outside stole the quiet from the room. Alexei, an irritating orphan who had attached himself to the twins a few months ago stood just outside the door. He pointed to Tatyana and then twirled a finger near the side of...

[This message has been edited by AWSullivan (edited July 09, 2009).]


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Dogmatic
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Hey Evan,
I've been trying to email you your story notes but I can't get through. Do you have another email I can try?
Steve

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alliedfive
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That's strange. Try alliedfive AT gmail.com
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Merlion-Emrys
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Ok, thoughts on the openings

The Landing: 6

I find theres a little bit much to take in, and I'm not sure why the landing rods won't deploy.


The Procession of Poses: 6

The sixteen-year-old mind line is, I think, to info-dumpy, and I also personally dislike the (maybe unintentionally) implied difference between a sixteen year old, and any other, mind. He probably wouldn't be thinking this way. Also the reference to the vantage point is a bit vague. Pretty decent overall though.

The Man who Took the Fall: 7


I like this a lot. Some would say the line begining with Jackson Green breaks POV. I'm not sure if it does or not, but i really don't care. The voice here is engaging enough for the rest not to matter.


Normal: 7

Can't find a whole lot to criticise here. We have twins, we have one being apparently unusual in some ways. The writing is good, and one wants to continue reading basically to find out what the twins deal is.

[This message has been edited by Merlion-Emrys (edited July 13, 2009).]


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Merlion-Emrys
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The Landing

Story Overall-6

Its good, but still needs a few tweaks


Character Development-7


This would be even higher, but I think Father's motivations, at the end, wind up being a bit unclear.


Plot-6


Linked to the above, I think the plot is basically good except for the issue of Father's motivation.


Milieu-7


I'm giving this a good score because even though setting isn't big in the direct narrative, the information given about the world and its history sets, I think, a good stage.


Disbelief-8

No problems here as such.


Unique-7

I know things like this have been done somewhat, but I've personally not ever read a story quite like this in plot and execution.


Writing Style-7


Smooth, nicely done and I apreciated the use of some words beyond the most basic vocabulary.


Dialogue and Action- I'm not going to give these specific ratings because there really wasn't any of either as such. This was a character/idea story in my view.


Understandable-7

Overall no trouble understanding what was happening, although I'm not sure if the begining is such a great indication of what is to come. Also the "Mother" at the begining I thought was maybe talking about a Mothership.


Ending-6

Fitting and basically worked, except that 1) I didn't understand why or get the feeling that Father would want to do that and 2) we don't really know exactly what happened, or to what extent, but thats probably ok.


Nice piece, well written. Great emotion, and I really loved having an "artificial" lifeform portrayed in such a spiritual way (in light of this, I'd maybe cut down on the mention of his not understanding this or that emotion, or make it clearer that its more because he hasn't encountered them than because he is an AI.)

I found no real problems with it aside from the lack of clarity about Father's motivations for what happens at the end.


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Owasm
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Isle of Storms - 7
This would be an eight if I knew what a stormcaller was. The tableau is good. The last paragraph seemed a little info-dumpy, but it just about sets the hook for me.

The Landing - 6
I understood the beginning well enough. The hook is that the landing rods wouldn't deploy. The survival statement defuses the tension. The opening is undersized and the AI is understandably bereft of emotion.

The Man Who Took the Fall - 6
There is no indication of genre other than a possible "lesser man" hint. That took a full point off my rating. Everything was written well enough. I don't see the need for the 'senile' sentence... slowing down is good enough. The hook is out of the opening so there is no tension, other than Jackson and his daddy's belt (I liked that the best.)

Normal - 5
I had a problem with this... too many holes. Why would a mother taking her daughter to a doctor actually call her daughter crazy? I don't think that would happen... the mother would be talking about symptoms unless her daughter's behavior was driving her crazy. I am assuming that Alexei is only seen by Tatyana. Why is he shouting? Why is the outburst from him, when you would expect an outburst from Tatyana?

I think this needs to be tweaked. Personally, I think this might not be the best place for your opening. Showing an event that shows Tatyana's 'craziness' might be a better spot.


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alliedfive
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The Landing


Story Overall-7
I like it a lot, and you won’t need to change much to make it saleable (it’s probably saleable as is).

Character Development-6
You’ve done something difficult, I think, in having the MC handle all the character development of the other characters through flashbacks. Also, 2 of your 3 characters aren’t even people, so that makes it even harder. That said, I think you could improve both the clarity of the ending, and the development of Father with a little more explanation of his motives (as Merlion says).

Plot-8
Plot is clean and straightforward (with a few additions for clarity that I noted I the manuscript.

Milieu-7
This is fine. Your descriptions of earth are vivid and poetic, but the milieu of the story isn’t really important.

Disbelief-8
Good, no issues.

Unique-8
It was to me, but I don’t read much scifi.

Writing Style-8
Really pretty. Really poetic without mucking up readability. Nice job.

Dialogue and Action- N/A

Understandable-5
After a second read I was a lot more clear. I think this is where you can take your story to the next level: Making the Father’s intent clearer and the MCs realization of it more obvious.

Ending-8
Made perfect sense once I was sure what had happened.

I will echo Merlion’s assessment on the story overall. I would expand the “reveal” at the end, and strengthen it further by foreshadowing what Father had planned earlier (making it real clear his justifications for it).


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alliedfive
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Whoops, forgot to rate the 1st thirteens. Here we go:

Isle of Storms - 7 - I agree with your assessment about the lack of tension. But, I think the Stormcaller himself, and the promise of magic and a cool city with lots of storms is enough to get fantasy genre fans to read on. I know I would.

The Landing - 8 - This does everything it needs to. Lets you know it’s a story about a robot or ship or something, creates some tension, and establishes setting. I would read on.

The Procession of Poses - 6 - There’s a hook here, and a creepy-cool setting described. “His sixteen-year-old mind” felt like it was thrown in there solely to tell us his age. “Reaching his destination” felt clunky.

Normal - 5 - There’s always something creepy and effective about disturbed children. The blocking, placement, “who is talking to who” stuff was a little hard to follow. I think you’d be better suited sticking to either:

A)The mother’s conversation with the doctor
B)Tatyana’s interaction with Sofia
C)The interaction with Alexei.

As it stands, there are three separate things going on simultaneously, and it makes all of them weaker and harder to follow.


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AWSullivan
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Isle of Storms by Merlion Emrys - Score: 7
Overall I like the voice here. Like you said, I don't get the feeling of a problem to solve here but if this is a milieu story that isn't neccesarily a killer. It needs a few commas.

The Landing by Dogmatic - Score: 5
I don't think this is a full '13'. Seems entirely too short but I will grade what I see. I think because we aren't getting much information here this feels disconnected. Seeing a full '13' would probably clear this up. GEN319 is clearly facing a rough landing at best but beyond that I don't see a problem to solve. Writing is fine.

The Procession of Poses by Owasm - Score: 4
I tried several times to write what I don't like about this but I can't pin point it. I know that doesn't help but I think it has to do with the opening paragraph. IT just seems a little too disconnected from the POV. I like to be drawn into the character from the start and I'm not getting it.

The Man Who Took the Fall by AlliedFive - Score: 6
I like where this is going but I got confused who is who by the end of the '13' and had to read it again. I'm aware my own story does this too so take that with a grain of salt.

Everyone please send me your stories.

~Anthony


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Dogmatic
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THE ISLE OF STORM - 7
The first 13 are good. Not much of a hook to pull me in but nothing that would stop me reading a bit further.

THE MAN WHO TOOK THE FALL - 6
Although I really liked the story. Looking back at the first 13 again there's not a lot in it that would make me read further which is a shame because I would have lost out on a good tale.

NORMAL - 6
It didn't pull me in and I think this is because the next few sentences were cut off. I'll read the whole story but I'm not sure I would read on with just this.

PROCESSION OF POSES - 7
I'm not sure if I would keep reading this right off the bat but since I've already read it I would say by the next couple of lines you pulled me in. I'm not sure it's important to change anything unless a slush reader only gave you exactly 13 lines instead of 14 or 15 that you need.


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AWSullivan
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Procession of Poses by Owasm

1. Story Overall: 5
This is really not a story by any formula I'm familiar with. The MC has a goal but never really faces any problems implementing it.

2. Character Development:: 5
We have an MC who is young and doesn't want to be put into 'Stasis'. We can make assumptions based on that but I'd really like to know more about his motivations. He is betraying his folks here and I have no idea what that relationship is like.

3. Plot: 3
As I mentioned before, there is no plat perse. Just a guy doing what he does.

4. Milieu: 5
There wasn't much here to date or place this story. They had mansions so they must be architecturally advanced. They had safes or vaults so that says that metallurgy exists but then there is this magic too. I'd like to see more about this world.

5. Disbelief: 7
It's a fantasy story. Pretty easy to suspend.

6. Unique: 8
Seems pretty original to me.

7. Writing Style: 6
Writing was okay. One typo I think. I'd so a search for passive voice to make sure there weren't any places I could dress it up a bit.

8. Dialogue and Action: N/A

9. Understandable: 7
There wasn't much to not understand. Pretty straightforward.

10. Ending: 6
The ending was okay. I wasn't sure why he had to leave. I mean, yeah he betrayed his folks but no one knew he did it. I guess maybe it could be traced to him, I dunno.


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alliedfive
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THE ISLE OF STORM by Merlion

1. Story Overall: 4 - It feels like pretty standard traveling wizard fare, and it is in need of something more unique in addition to the plot points I will mention below.

2. Character Development: 4 - Not much here, characters are basically "types". It makes it difficult to care about them when the MC is basically invincible and never acts like he has anything at stake. The island people are introduced so late that we don't have time to care about them. Also, the men on the ship (even the captain) aren't presented as evil, or even unlikeable until the very end, so I wasn't even really rooting for anyone. Some foreshadowing, or the introduction of one of the island people earlier would help greatly. As would some personal stake for the MC. As it stands, he is unchanged, unmoved, unendangered, basically static from beginning to end. In fact, all the characters are basically static.


3. Plot: 5 - It makes sense, and has no major holes really. But it does rely on one of your characters (the captain) being really stupid and failing to plan. If you have him institute some plan to deal with the wizard once they reach the island, it would come off much more believably.

4. Milieu: 6 - This was fine. You had some nice descriptions, and nothing seemed out of place.

5. Disbelief: 7 - I was good here, with the exception of the captains poorly planned mission.

6. Unique: 4 - This is fairly familiar territory (and probably purposely so).

7. Writing Style: 7 - Seemed fine. Only minor nits.

8. Dialogue and Action: 6 - Good enough. Clear action. Dialogue was fine.

9. Understandable: 8 - Yep, no issues here. Good job with blocking, clarity, etc.

10. Ending: 8 - Ending was exactly what needed to happen.


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Merlion-Emrys
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The Man Who Took the Fall

Story Overall-6

Good story, nice idea, well done. Just needs a little enhancement in a couple areas.


Character Development-6

Its unusual for me to say this, but I think for this type of story you need to get a little deeper into the mind and feelings of your main character. We know how much he cares about the kids, but I think a bit more depth and texture of emotion and personality would make the end a lot more effective.


Plot-8

Quite solid


Milieu- Not really that important for this story, though I did get a nice sense of small towness so I'd say a 7


Disbelief-6

Only one issue here. I don't really believe the MC would not know how old he was.


Unique-
I don't really care for this catagory. Most stories have been done before. Certainly I've seen the idea of someone taking over a supernatural position before, but this particular one was, for me, new.


Writing Style-6

Mostly pretty good, but the addition of a little more depth would be even better. A few missed commas and the like also.


Dialogue-6

Same as above

Action-7

Not much of it, but done pretty well.


Understandable-8

No problems


Ending-6

The ending itself was fine concept wise but I think it lacked depth and strength because of a slight flatness in the characters and dialogue.

I'm not usually one of those who requires a lot of super deep character immersion but for a story like this I think a bit more is needed to really make the ending work. Overall I liked it and the idea, some will probably call it a bit cliche but thats not an issue for me.


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Owasm
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The Landing

1. Story Overall: 6 - I had a few issues with this story, but liked the concept

2. Character Development: 5 - The AI assumed a personality as the mission ended.


3. Plot: 5 - The plot was OK. I would have graded this higher if the role of the Father was a little clearer. As written he was too murky to get a sense of what the cargo really held.

4. Milieu: 8 - Best part. All the AI's sent out, this one heading for earth, just damaged by re-entry. I thought this was the strongest part of the story.

5. Disbelief: 5 - I wasn't convinced a mad scientist would do this.

6. Unique: 7 - This was unique... not the vengeance mission, but seeing through the eyes of the AI

7. Writing Style: 6 - Serviceable. I thought the backstory was a bit vague.

8. Dialogue and Action: 5 - This piece is mostly backstory as the AI pilots the craft down to earth.

9. Understandable: 6 - I understood what was going on with the AI, but the backstory was vague the way it was presented.

10. Ending: 7 - Predictable, but a touch of redemption as the AI's sentience raises a level as it...


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