Welcome to the second running of the Challenge with Character(s) writing contest.
The object of this challenge is to write a scene where the characters (which I have selected from a collection submitted by your peers) interact with one another. The contestants may use any setting, timeframe, plot, etc. they desire, just as long as the focus is on character interaction. Other primary characters can be added, but the selected characters must be involved.
To remain loyal to the Hatrack Board's focus on a story's First 13, the scene should be written as if it were the opening scene of the story.
I've received a few requests to increase the challenge's word count. I can be an accommodating host, so I am bumping word count for this round up to 1,500.
Submit your entries to me via email: steve at 46thcyber dot com
The last day for submissions is Saturday, February 6.
At some point on the 7th (and, no, I'm not expecting another delay due to emergency dental surgery this time), I will post the first 13 lines of all the entries on this thread. All contestants will remain anonymous during the challenge. If the voters like what they read, they can follow a link to a third party web site so they can read the full 1,500 word version. Keep this in mind: a voter not following the link to the full version is equivalent to an editor not turning to page two of your manuscript, so pay close attention to your 13 line hook.
Votes and comments can be posted on this thread for all to see. Suffice it to say, all contestants are expected vote. Non-contestants are highly encouraged to vote as well.
Last time, several people voted for both the First 13 version and the full 1K version. While that was never the intent of the contest, it was interesting to me that the two versions of the votes yielded a different winner. Because of that, we will vote on both versions of the entries again this time.
First place votes for both categories get three points, second place votes get two, and third place votes get one.
I will announce the winners when all contestants have cast their votes and made their comments.
Now, itís time to meet the characters you will be writing about. Please welcome Valeriah and Grraxthma.
quote: Valeriah In Chimeria, all of the magical races can take human form. Itís our lingua franca, the way we can all talk to each other. Of course, once we take human form, thereís more we can do than just talk. Occasionally, interesting hybrids of the races are produced.
I am one such cross. My name is Valeriah. My mother was a werewolf. Now werewolves arenít what you think over here. Your movies make me laugh. A werewolf isnít forced to change by the moon. They take wolf form when they choose. Of course, as a hybrid, I have never been able to change at all. But I am still driven by the moon. Itís not a ravening madness, though. Itís more like a manic energy and, of course, a craving for raw meat. Every werewolf has to find a way to deal with the energy the moon brings out in us, the wild blood. Now, Iím not denying that some werewolves get violent at the full moon, especially young males. But most find other ways to cope. Myself, I run. A tired werewolf is a good werewolf, even at the full moon.
But Iím more than just half werewolf. My father was a hybrid, too. His father was the wizard Azander and his mother was a unicorn, Elsibel. Now, werewolves and unicorns are about as far apart as you can get in Chimeria. And this does cause me some problems. At the new moon, when my unicorn nature is strongest, Iím a vegetarian. But at the full moon, I prefer very rare red meat.
Other than the compromises I have to make to balance my nature, I know very little about werewolves or unicorns, so donít ask me. Grandmother Elsibel was disowned by the unicorns when she married my grandfather. And mother never had a chance to introduce me to the werewolves. Both my parents and my two brothers were murdered when I was five. I was only spared because my father fell on me and the killers didnít find me. They seemed to be in a hurry and didnít look too hard. I know they used a portal, because I saw them step out of thin air. But the portal had been closed by the time Grandfather found me.
That portal is the only clue I have to find those who murdered my family. My werewolf blood wonít let me forget. I have to avenge them. But, after twenty years, the trail has gone cold, even for a werewolf to follow. Grandfather refused to tell me about the portals, so I left to find out for myself as soon as I came of age.
I found work as a member of the Portal Watch. We protect Chimeria by preventing people from the ordinary, non-magical world, from blundering in and finding out about us. Sometimes, we also act as bodyguards for the members of the Council of Magical Races when they cross over to your world. I get that duty a lot because of the strength, agility, and instincts I inherited from my werewolf mother.
Itís not easy being a female in the Watch. There are precious few of us. It took a couple of years for me to convince the male members of the Watch that I wasnít available for the taking. Every now and again, I still have to show a new recruit how I got my reputation. I can take any one of them in a fair fight--and have, often enough to make them respect me. I stay in the Watch because itís the only way I know to find out more about the portals, and track down whoever killed my family.
quote:Grraxthma Grraxthma was the first female in her species' astral navy to rise to what humans would think of as a full admiral. While leading a fleet to investigate a newly discovered medium-nuclear civilization on a class G star's third planet, word came that a doomsday cult among their people had gotten hold of their civilization's most terrible weapon of mass destruction and reduced their home system's star to a white dwarf. The news came at a particularly bad time for the fleet: Grraxthma had boldly decided to join a covert landing party on the semi-primitive planet, and contact was soon lost with her flagship's captain, followed quickly by the entire fleet.
Assuming a chaos-fueled mutiny must have taken place, the team of five (including Grraxthma) followed protocol and destroyed all of the technology and weapons they had on their persons. Less than an hour later, they were set upon by a pack of coyotes that prowled the unsettled area they had been surveying. Grraxthma escaped at the urging of the others, seconds before they were ripped apart by the indigenous predators.
Grraxthma's species didn't need to eat often, and she was able to make her way to a populated area: The suburbs of Boise, Idaho. There she discovered a startling coincidence: There was a species of extremely limited sentience on this planet that looked just like her own, one breed of it anyway. The ape-like masters of this world called them poodles. Forcing herself to walk on all fours, Grraxthma soon noticed a fossil fuel-powered surface vehicle (a Mercedes SL600, she would learn) stopping nearby with a middle-aged human woman disembarking and cuddling Grraxthma like a pet.
Like a pet...
Grraxthma reproved herself for thinking the expletive.
Grraxthma picked up the local language, English, teaching herself to speak it when no humans were around. She's learned a lot about this world, knows that astronomers here won't see her home star suddenly turn into a white dwarf for a long time yet, and has even halfway come to grips with being a pet poodle. The veterinarians know that something isn't right about her, that her bloodwork is COMPLETELY wrong, but they've swept the matter under the rug. She's now been on earth for fifteen years, though. She's an elderly purse dog, except she's really an alien that will live for another five hundred Earth years at a minimum. Her owner Susan is now sixty-five and married to an investment banker twenty-five years her senior, but very healthy for a ninety year old man. Grraxthma will have to leave them soon and, well, it's been a miracle she hasn't slipped so far and said or done something no dog could do in the presence of humans. That poor sixteen year old schizophrenic boy doesn't count, she tells herself.
And then there's the whole getting home thing, if there is still a home to get to...
Any questions? Feel free to post them here or email me at the address above.
I'm fine with a delay as long as it doesn't run into the same time frame as the critiques for the February Trigger Challenge. I'd rather not be doing both sets of crits at the same time.
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Jacob Morningkill was late. Had Valeriah been human she would have checked her watch, but hailing from Chimeria she had no doubt as to exactly what time it was. Either her unicorn or werewolf nature would have been good for that on its own. It had been ten minutes since Sir Jacob was due back, and Valeriah found herself constantly reevaluating the situation as she stood several feet off of the path in the Oregon forest preserve, guarding the Portal as she was sworn to do. Val looked like any other hiker, in boots, jeans, tank top, sweat shirt tied around her waist. Looking through the tree tops, the moon was still visible in the late morning, waning from the recent full moon, and Valeriah had been feeling her burning werewolf rage waning with it. That she'd gotten from her mother.
There it was again. That same odor Grraxthma smelled her first night on this alien planet. The last odor her loyal crew ever smelled. Pungent furiousness. Whiffs of hunger intermixed. And there was definitely aggression. All of it barely noticeable above her own fear. The creature moved from around the bush line and took up position between her and the porch steps. Damned Doberman was the name she heard it called. Larger than its coyote relatives that took her crew's lives. Sleek. Muscular. The angriest shade of black she'd ever seen. Its appearance matched its odor. Grraxthma looked back, and caught her own reflection in the glass doorway that blocked her only escape.
Valeriah stared in shock at the tiny creature that stepped out of the portal. It had a human form, but was much smaller - a fully grown woman no taller than her knee. Its eyes, though, so very familiar... "Grrax!?" Valerie stared in disbelief. How had she transformed? No creature of Earth could do that. She remembered Grrax's kind resembled dogs, that somehow they were not of Earth, but she had not understood what that meant. She thought back to Grrax explaining space travel. It still sounded like a foal's tale. Stars so large they were beyond any normal measure. Ships that sailed to other Earths in a dark void. There were many deep mysteries to the nature of Earth's strange magic. Grrax looked down at her new body.
Entry Four: "Chance Meetings at Disneyland"
Valeriah kept her eyes and ears open. It was her duty, after all. Fortunate that her werewolf senses could sort through the background noise in a crowd like this. Normally, she liked being requested for bodyguard duty. It was a sign that her abilities were recognized and appreciated. But she suspected that wasnít why Tirella had asked for her this time. The assumption that because she was female sheíd have some sort of maternal reaction to Tirellaís precious, bratty grandchild rankled. Did she really look or act like the motherly type? Come on now, really? It was the fourth day of torment. Graciara wanted to see all the attractions Southern California had to offer. And Tirella seemed to have forgotten how to use the word ďnoĒ. Naturally, Tirella had a full complement of four bodyguards to protect her and the child.
It was that time of the month again, and Valeriah was starving. She wanted meat, a bloody freaking cow, cut up and served on a porcelain plate. This was bad, she thought. Control yourself, Valeriah. She clutched the plastic armrests. Rolf sat next to her, not scanning the audience for the killer as he was a moment before, but staring at her like she was a stranger. He had never seen her like this before. Whatever, who cares. It doesn't matter what he thought of her. She repeated this in her mind, over and over, but still he wouldn't look away from her. An older woman at the center of the arena walked a small white poodle around a wide circle. There was polite applause from the people behind her, but Valeriah didn't dare move her hands. The dog stood up on hind legs, and the old woman pulled out a dog treat.
Not sure about this...but I thought we weren't supposed to post the stories online anywhere or we lose some publishing rights. I'm not concerned for myself - but the other writers might want to submit it later on...
Might want to check with KDW or snapper on this, dont know much about it myself.
Also, it might be better to read them in the original manuscript format. The italics seemed to have been lost on mine. I don't mind, but others might...
[This message has been edited by billawaboy (edited February 11, 2010).]
Since they're not our characters (or at least, no one of us came up with both characters), I'm not sure how publishable any of these would be in any case.
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yeah...i don't know much about copyright. Are these characters from another novel? I thought they were just made up for this challenge...writing up an alien poodle character was quite a challenge...
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I won't speak for anyone else, but any of my characters that appear in this contest were created for the sole purpose of being used in this contest. In other words...I have no intention of using them ever again.
Which has created a somewhat profitable problem for me. I've written two character bios for this contest so far, but in doing so I began filling out more of their back story than I originally planned, to the point where I came up with some entertaining storylines for them, storylines that screamed at me to convert them into full fledged short stories or novels. Because of that, I disqualified those characters from being in my challenge.
But I'm looking forward to working on those new story ideas.
Let the voting begin... edited for story votes
My favorite first thirteen was "Chance meeting at Disneyland"
Crits on the first thirteen.
Entry One: "Parallels" this starts with a character I didn't recognize, so it took me a moment to get pulled into the story. My real issue is that the story hasn't really started yet. It feels too much like an info dump for my taste.
Entry Two: "Worst of Both Worlds." I liked this one, though it took me two reads to understand what was going on.
Entry Three: "Two full moons in Twilight" Great title. I'm intrigued.
Entry four. "Chance meetings at Disneyland." I liked this one best, because it established the story, the character, a fair amount of dread, along with a good helping of attitude.
Entry Five: "Best in Breed." Good title. The attitude to me feels a bit overwritten, but I did wonder what happens next. And the first line is a bit off putting for me as a woman.
Stories; First place, Entry four Second place, Entry three Third, Entry two ~Sheena
[This message has been edited by shimiqua (edited February 15, 2010).]
i'll get this done now, or it wont happen lol.
Entry 1 first 13 - third line felt like a second opening line. But overall it works.
The part about her dying father laying on top of her - taken out of context - seemed indicative of rape/molestation - so i dunno... The dialogue can be improved - as of now it doesn't sound right. They become chummy too quickly and are explaining too much of themselves through their dialogue. Not normal for a couple of strangers - especially when one is on guard duty. I can see where the story is heading, and it sounds promising, but I'm afraid the isn't much chemistry between the characters.
Entry 2 first 13 - effective opening scene, but got kind of whiny at the end.
It's mostly reads well, though there are time I wish it would move a bit faster. I really liked the turn in plot near the end, suddenly all the conflicts came through and the story feels suspenseful and charged.
Entry 3 first 13 - opening confused me. Had to read it several times. felt like the middle of the book, tbh. It's okay, but can be improved.
Too introspective and brooding for my tastes. The writing's okay but there were times when the grammar confused me - like the part about the Portal Watch. To be honest there seems to be a lot of thinking and not a lot happening. Nothing happened in 1500 words... The ending kinda was out of the blue and felt a bit fake - i think there needs to be something in the beginning so we know how she knows. Good try though.
Entry 4 first 13 - good opening, the "come on noe, really?" rankled me, but the rest was good. Interestingly, I think starting off with the second paragraph would have been stronger.
The prose reads well - in the beginning there are times when the narrator cant make up its mind whether to tell the story or talk to the reader, but it straightens out quickly into a good read.
Entry 5 first 13 - loved the opening! the words "bloody freaking cow" sold me. Maybe because I'm hungry right now, and want a piece of cow, but sometimes it's just the tone that set the story apart and makes it quirky and interesting.
The story read really well, and fluidly, it was funny without being too absurd. At the end we got the reason for their visit and hint that the li'l dog wasn't so ordinary. Pretty good.
========= First 13: #1 - Best in Breed #2 - Chance meeting at disneyland #3 - Worst of Both worlds
Story: #1 - Best in Breed #2 - Chance meeting at disneyland #3 - Worst of Both worlds
[This message has been edited by billawaboy (edited February 12, 2010).]
It's interesting what different stories can come out of the same two characters.
Entry #1, Parallels: Interesting use of the portals. I loved the imagery and the wonder of opening the portal. The MIB or whoever they were felt like they came out of nowhere, though. It would have worked better if Valeriah had been a little concerned about them while she was guarding the portal. Valeriah also seemed a touch too eager to show off the portal she was guarding to a complete stranger.
Entry #2, Worst of Both Worlds: It got confusing when the dobie attacked the wolf. I felt like I was missing all the action. I'm still not quite sure why Valeriah shrieked; it's not very like her.
Entry #3, Two Full Moons in Twilight: This was an interesting fusion of the two characters--needing each other but still suspicious of each other, too. Valeriah's thoughts about her larger plans felt like withholding, though.
Entry #4, Chance Meetings at Disneyland: I think this did a good job of bringing out both characters. It's still perhaps a little rushed. I wish it could have shown the trouble Valeriah caused at the zoo.
Entry #5, Best in Breed: A very different and interesting take on Valeriah, but it had very little of Grraxthma in it. I liked the humor. Points for having read the query and knowing about Rolf and the attempts to kill Vallie's cousin.
First 13: First--Entry #2 This plunged me right into the action Second--Entry #5 Lots of tension right from the start Third--Entry #1 Setting and tension
FIRST 13 Entry 1: Parallels Interesting way to introduce the fact that Valeriah was not of this world. The problem, however, as it relates to this particular contest, is that the co-primary character, Grraxthma, isn't mentioned yet.
Entry 2: Worst of Both Worlds Bad timing of the first 13's end: we are told that Grraxthma sees her reflection in the glass, but we don't get to find out why that's important. This point, for some readers, might be something that tasks them to turn the page, but it struck me as off-center.
Entry 3: Two Full Moons in Twilight The immediate opening didn't grab me much, but I did become interested when Valeriah started matching up her version of the 'world' with what Grraxthma said about where she came from.
Entry 4: Chance Meetings at Disneyland A strong beginning, although I lost interest when I realized it seemed more like a babysitting job (made so by tying no importance to Tirella and/or Graciara). Although, it contained a nice recovery line that put a smile on my face: " It was the fourth day of torment."
Entry 5: Best of Breed The whole Rolf arc seemed thrown in randomly; probably seemed that way because I never got a clear idea what was going on with him. Of course, this entry wins my First 13 Line of the Contest award: " She wanted meat, a bloody freaking cow..."
First: 3 Second: 1 Third: 5
1,500 Entry 1: Parallels A fairly decent exchange between the two primary characters; we learned a few interesting tidbits about their two different worlds, albeit in a non-action way (until the very end).
Entry 2: Worst of Both Worlds Another example of good information between the two primary characters being shared, amongst a bit more action. Although, I felt as if much of the info and action was shoehorned into the text to fit under the word count limit.
Entry 3: Two Full Moons in Twilight An interesting play of friction between the two primary characters. And, Valeriah's thoughts and emotions are brought forth loud and clear.
Entry 4: Chance Meetings at Disneyland Despite there was no true conflict in this entry, this was simply a fun read.
Entry 5: Best of Breed A like a good manhunt, but Valeriah's 'food fight' with a talking poodle would have been what made me curious enough to turn a few more pages.
Wow, whoever still has to vote must be a real jerk. There's been plenty of time. Oh, wait... That "whoever" is me.
Entry one, Parallels: I'll echo shimiqua's criticism that it feels like an info dump. Valeriah seemed a little too trusting in showing the portal, but I suppose the author could tweak it a little to explain that. Pacing is decent, the opening of the portal was well described.
Entry two, Worst of Both Worlds: Very well paced, and disseminates Valeriah and Grraxthma's backgrounds in a smoother fashion than Parallels. The only criticism that jumps out at me is that I'm assuming some time passes between "Grraxthma growled, but remained concealed." and "'You can come out now.'", but the author isn't really clear on how long it is. Just a couple more lines here would help, I think.
Entry three, Two Full Moons in Twilight: I like how Valeriah and Grraxthma are at odds in this one. Valeriah is a far darker character here, but then Grraxthma could be too. Some explanation of Grraxthma's mind reading would be nice, but I don't necessarily expect that in the first 1500 words.
Entry four, Chance Meetings at Disneyland: I like how their first meeting is handled, here. There's no action or suspense, but this entry doesn't need it. This is a promising start to a full story.
Entry five, Best in Breed: Heh, this version of Valeriah is clearly one you can't take out in public, but Rolf has done just that. I have to wonder if she has problems transforming into a werewolf when the moon's full, classic lycanthropy and all that. This entry stands out as very different compared to the others, but could easily be the start of something promising.
First: #4 Second: #5 Third: #3
No snub to #1 and #2 intended; there isn't a weak entry here. Well done, folks.
The Characters Valeriah - Meredith Grraxthma - T.J. Swoboda
As much fun as I had participating in this challenge, and as much as the experience is compelling me to jump right into another, I am nevertheless taking a sabbatical from CwC(s) to concentrate on my own writing projects. In the meantime, I'm still collecting character bios for future challenges.
Thanks for doing this, and sorry I dragged my butt every step of the way. I'll try to come up with another character to send your way, and be more punctual next time you run a challenge.
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