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Experimenting with Exercises from Wulf's Super Secrets

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Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2337

@scribblesatdusk You did try, and that's what really matters. Smile

You're welcome. Happy to help, I just don't have time to help everyone individually. Thus, the public workshop in here, so anyone can read through it and learn.

I can usually pinpoint a writer's main issue off these 250s. They are mirrors of what the writer is doing in their larger works. If you agree this is an issue, focus on it and solve it. You will level up. Proof will be in the certificates you receive here, and in the personals and requests to send more that you'll start getting from editors.

Smart practice will help you advance.

I hope you'll keep doing the KYDs with the Monday prompts in the Super Secrets thread. They have helped many advance quickly. 

All the beast!

Wulf Moon

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Posted : August 4, 2021 2:08 pm
fox
 fox
(@foxed)
Active Member
Posts: 24

@wulfmoon Hi Wulf, thanks for sharing. Gives me a lot to think about.

"Before you do the 250, you should search for the beating heart of the piece. What element within the 500 has the emotional punch? Craft a 250 word vignette on that moment, using potent words, images, and symbols to say more with less. "

This is important and perhaps I wasn't doing the exercise as intended (or, as most effective). Normally I will write 1k-ish words, cut down to 500, revamp/remove cruft, etc. However I think trying to reverse-engineer (as you seem to describe) might be smarter. Have the heart first and rework around that. Maybe less cutting and more...distilling. Something for me to think on and practice more, for sure. 

"I challenged Brittany Rainsdon to do five KYDs in one month because of issues I kept seeing in her writing. She listened and did the work."

That's awesome, good on her. I might try to do something similar. Maybe not five but three a month. I don't want to bite off more than I can chew but I can't see how it would hurt me. Shoot for the moon and you'll land among the stars, or something. Plus there's a whole backlog of awesome prompts in that SS thread... Smile

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Posted : August 4, 2021 2:47 pm
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2337

@foxed Good on ya for challenging yourself. Those Monday prompts are specifically designed for speculative fiction writers, so they should serve you well. Smart to go back through them and see what sparks! I'm going to publish a bunch of them in a numbered list in the Super Secrets' books. You'll be able to roll a dice or use a random number generator to come up with writing prompts for your genre.

You are also discerning the correct way to do the KYD exercises. It takes a bit for writers to get it. Even when I explain it, they just think it's an editing exercise to cut words because that's been their habit. I have to get the concepts through the grey matter permafrost, and that takes a bit of work. You won't fully benefit if that's all you do. I'm teaching a KYD workshop at the end of the month. A bunch of people have been asking, because they see all those that have been practicing with it have had phenomenal results. It works if you do it right, and do it regularly.

Best of success to your writing!

Cheers!

Click here to JOIN THE WULF PACK!
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You know WotF Workshop's 24-hour story exercise? Want to see what I wrote? It's about to be released in the pro-pay anthology THINGS WITH FEATHERS. Order HERE!
I've been invited back to Fyrecon Online to teach my Zoom master workshops Nov. 18th—21st. Four to chose from! Which one will help you level up? Explore HERE ... but you better hurry. They always sell out and are already half full!

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Posted : August 4, 2021 3:00 pm
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Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2337

@foxed Oh, go read Candice's (clisle) in the Super Secrets' thread. She just did a beautiful one, employing many of the techniques I teach. It's a great example of a KYD 250.

Click here to JOIN THE WULF PACK!
"Muzik Man" wins Best SFF Story of 2020! Read it in Best of Deep Magic Anthology Two! Includes stories by Super Secrets' alumni KD Julicher and Brittany Rainsdon!
You know WotF Workshop's 24-hour story exercise? Want to see what I wrote? It's about to be released in the pro-pay anthology THINGS WITH FEATHERS. Order HERE!
I've been invited back to Fyrecon Online to teach my Zoom master workshops Nov. 18th—21st. Four to chose from! Which one will help you level up? Explore HERE ... but you better hurry. They always sell out and are already half full!

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Posted : August 4, 2021 3:02 pm
David Hankins
(@lost_bard)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 164
Posted by: @foxed

Hey! Just found this cool thread. Would love to get feedback on my first KYD, which was based on the prompt Ricochet in Ruins. I wrote another for Sent you to Hell but it might be the seed of a new story so I'll hang onto that for now Smile And honestly, I kind of like some of the ideas I came up with in this piece below so maybe I'll rework it too — in short, what I'm saying is, KYD rules! I definitely prefer my 500 word versions but I think that's normal. 

 

Echoes in Stone

Was that a mirage, or the ruined city he sought?

Marc crossed the dunes and came to an archway. He palmed the pitted stone.

A town-crier had stood here reading from a scroll. People flitted about the market. Creatures made of sand bore cargo across their backs, like crates floating atop ocean swells. 

The man kept the thread of the past alive as he walked. 

He came to the ramparts. Slatted windows served as footholds as he climbed to the top.

The guards could’ve seen for miles. Marc frowned as he gripped the wall, probing. He could see no obvious catalyst, no offensive launched.

He walked the length of the wall, studying the thoroughfare below.

The amorphous sandbeasts were never still, always bearing goods, sometimes ferrying the nobles themselves on scorching summer days. 

One of the sandbeasts had cast its crates aside. Its guide rounded on it, shouting. The sandbeast encircled him and he was swallowed in an instant. Market-goers began to run. Everyone was screaming. Guards uselessly fired their crossbows into the rebelling creatures, the bravest swinging down on ropes, and all vanished in a roiling tide of white. 

The sandbeasts lingered after the city’s death, spread thin across the stone, until a strong wind blew and sent them back into the desert.

Everything gone, save for echoes of times past.

Again Marc looked out beyond the walls. He thought he could see ripples beyond, like water rounding over rocks.

Or perhaps it was a mirage.

Hey Fox! Welcome to the thread! Glad you found it. I agree: KYDs are hard! But the skills are worth it.

I liked the imagery of this piece and once I figured out what was going on, it made sense. An early statement about Marc's ability to see the past/divine the history of the sands would have gone a long way to providing clarity. The great thing about speculative fiction is that you can make outrageous statements and we just accept them as fact. 'Marc delved the sand's soul, searching the truth of the past.' - or something similar would set your scene for his capabilities and let the imagery of ghostly images flow with a sense of wonder.

I did like how you came full circle on your story. You started and ended with the question: was it a mirage? You introduced the question, explored it, then closed with the question only answered in the reader's mind (i.e. some might think it was a mirage, others not). I know you struggle with laying it out vice laying bread crumbs, and I think this one almost hit that balance. I think laying out a few more key details (like identifying Marc's ability) would make it clearer. Otherwise, good job! 

V38 Q2: HM
V38 Q3: Submitted
V38 Q4: Submitted

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Posted : August 12, 2021 2:03 pm
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David Hankins
(@lost_bard)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 164

Well, here goes my next KYD. I started with one of Wulf's original KYD prompts from 2019 'A Tough Choice' and ended up with a disgruntled Marine. As with my last, I liked this one around 350 words, but cut it to 250. Some of the final descriptions are better, but I do wish just a few background details could have made it into the final.

Semper Fidelis

Private Jenkins hated three things: the Marines, Miesau Colony’s endless tunnels, and the spider-like Arach. Losing an extinction-level war sucked. He wanted to go home.

“Semper Fi!” Private Wynn called enthusiastically as they ran through rough tunnels toward the front.

“Do or die!” Jenkins finished mockingly. Bustling activity in a side cavern stopped them.

“Holy hand-grenades,” Wynn whispered. “That’s a BRACC.”

“A what?” Jenkins frowned.

“Dude, read your intel reports.”

“Too boring.”

“Briggs-Reilly Atomic Core-Cracker.”

“More interesting. Wait…” Jenkins grabbed a passing tech. “You’re blowing Miesau?!”

The tech nodded. “Kill the Arach queen, end the war, but the Core-Cracker won’t initiate.”

“What about us?!”

Wynn frowned. “You expected to leave Miesau alive?”

A truncated scream interrupted them. Arach skittered into the cavern as carbine fire echoed. Errant bullets slammed the tech into Jenkins, dropping them beside the BRACC.

The tech wheezed, dying. “Destroy the Core-Cracker. Blue button, by the red one. The Arach can’t...Earth...”

Wynn snorted. “Screw that. Let’s blow the planet. End this.”

“Not...working.”

A spider crashed into Wynn, sliding him under the machine while another knocked Jenkins’ carbine away. He spun, swore.

Multifaceted Arach eyes glittered. An enormous eight-legged nightmare stood behind the first rank.

The queen.

Wynn laughed painfully below him. “Idiots plugged it in backwards.” The Briggs-Reilly Atomic Core-Cracker hummed to life. Jenkins eyed the buttons, the Arach.

The queen clicked her jaws, forming rough English words.

“Surrender. Go home.”

Home.

“Semper Fi!” Wynn yelled. Jenkins smirked.

“Do or die!”

He pushed the big red button.

V38 Q2: HM
V38 Q3: Submitted
V38 Q4: Submitted

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Posted : August 12, 2021 2:23 pm
fox
 fox
(@foxed)
Active Member
Posts: 24

@lost_bard Hey David, thanks so much for the thoughtful feedback. Some helpful pointers in here. And thanks for the kind words as well. I think it's interesting that things I struggle with in my longer work are also apparent in shorter/flash pieces. It's a cool way to quickly expose your weak points and figure out what you need to work on.

Hoping to return the favor with your flash later today, am a bit rushed at the moment but know it's on my to-do list Smile

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Posted : August 15, 2021 7:57 am
fox
 fox
(@foxed)
Active Member
Posts: 24
Posted by: @lost_bard

Well, here goes my next KYD. I started with one of Wulf's original KYD prompts from 2019 'A Tough Choice' and ended up with a disgruntled Marine. As with my last, I liked this one around 350 words, but cut it to 250. Some of the final descriptions are better, but I do wish just a few background details could have made it into the final.

Semper Fidelis

Private Jenkins hated three things: the Marines, Miesau Colony’s endless tunnels, and the spider-like Arach. Losing an extinction-level war sucked. He wanted to go home.

“Semper Fi!” Private Wynn called enthusiastically as they ran through rough tunnels toward the front.

“Do or die!” Jenkins finished mockingly. Bustling activity in a side cavern stopped them.

“Holy hand-grenades,” Wynn whispered. “That’s a BRACC.”

“A what?” Jenkins frowned.

“Dude, read your intel reports.”

“Too boring.”

“Briggs-Reilly Atomic Core-Cracker.”

“More interesting. Wait…” Jenkins grabbed a passing tech. “You’re blowing Miesau?!”

The tech nodded. “Kill the Arach queen, end the war, but the Core-Cracker won’t initiate.”

“What about us?!”

Wynn frowned. “You expected to leave Miesau alive?”

A truncated scream interrupted them. Arach skittered into the cavern as carbine fire echoed. Errant bullets slammed the tech into Jenkins, dropping them beside the BRACC.

The tech wheezed, dying. “Destroy the Core-Cracker. Blue button, by the red one. The Arach can’t...Earth...”

Wynn snorted. “Screw that. Let’s blow the planet. End this.”

“Not...working.”

A spider crashed into Wynn, sliding him under the machine while another knocked Jenkins’ carbine away. He spun, swore.

Multifaceted Arach eyes glittered. An enormous eight-legged nightmare stood behind the first rank.

The queen.

Wynn laughed painfully below him. “Idiots plugged it in backwards.” The Briggs-Reilly Atomic Core-Cracker hummed to life. Jenkins eyed the buttons, the Arach.

The queen clicked her jaws, forming rough English words.

“Surrender. Go home.”

Home.

“Semper Fi!” Wynn yelled. Jenkins smirked.

“Do or die!”

He pushed the big red button.

I find these hard to critique because I know it's so hard to get all that you need into a 250 word piece. So hopefully some of this is useful and not annoying nitpicks. I can be long-winded so apologies.

Something that immediately stands out to me "Losing an extinction-level war sucked". That’s an awesome and engaging hook, and it contrasts with the second line, "he wanted to go home". Character in setting with problem achieved, and by the end he is ready to die and pulls the trigger himself. A great character arc, to be sure, though part of me wonders.. if he knows it's an extinction-level war, wouldn't there potentially not be a home to return to, before all is said and done? Though I suppose that doesn't mean he can’t still want/yearn for it. 

I think some of your dialogue comes off as stilted. Not sure if this is due to word removal so you can fit more things in. It could also be a deliberate choice in since this stuff is happening so quickly, I’m not sure.

For example: "More interesting"

Maybe "That’s more interesting." Or "Ah, more interesting." or even "Interesting"? I dunno, maybe this is just a preference thing?

"Kill the Arach queen, end the war, but the Core-Cracker won’t initiate." Doesn’t sound organic.  Not sure how best to remedy this one as I understand it’s delivering some vital information.  Perhaps "Kill the Arach queen, end the war" could be information that Jenkins is already aware of and it needn’t be explained (though you'd need to convey to a reader at some point, ofc). However this means you'd need to edit the beginning where Jenkins is unaware of the C-C, which might go against his character. IDK, remember, these are just suggestions.

"An enormous eight-legged nightmare stood behind the first rank.

The queen."

So I pretty much was already picturing this for the Arachs. Is the queen any different? Is she larger than the rest? Maybe point this out. 

Some other things:

So the tech initially explains the Core-Cracker is there to blow up the Colony, thereby putting an end to the war and Arachs. But it's broken / not functioning properly. Then the Arach comes in and the tech is asking Jenkins and Wynn to destroy the Core-Cracker because if it gets into the Arach's hands it could destroy Earth. What confuses me here is if the thing isn’t functioning properly (it’s not plugged in correctly), would the blue button work to destroy it? All of this would be a moot point 'til the CC gets fixed, no? And if it is fixed, they can go with the initial plan to just blow up the planet.  anyway. This part confused me. I guess the button could work independent from the rest of the system but that’s not obvious. Maybe some fail-safe lever instead, but it would still need to be explained that it works independently of the machine itself. Again, might be too complex to get into for 250 words. 

"Surrender. Go home." Previously you've stated this is an extinction-level war. Not sure the Arach would offer any surrender, or the choice to return home. While I understand this is sort of the catalyst for the choice Jenkins ends up making, it doesn’t track with where the are stakes currently raised, at least, not as I understand them. Plus, the tech did say (or, imply) that if the Arach gets its hands on the machine it will destroy Earth.

Other notes

'Arach skittered' should be "The Arach" since its name isn’t Arach, or is it multiple "Arachs" ? I'm assuming the latter because further down, a "spider" crashes into Wynn — which, for simplicity's sake, I believe you should also call an Arach, since that's what it is, yes?

Overall, I think this is a good effort. I can see how it probably works better at a longer word count. And while I think some of the dialogue in the beginning is perhaps playful, I see how it informs the character of Jenkins, which is hard to do in so few words, so good job with that. It’s also a cool concept, self-sacrifice for the greater good, and a Marine basically doing Marine-level shite, which is cool.

I think my last piece of advice is: simplicity is king. Saying the Core-Cracker is for one thing but then in the next few sentences stating that the CC should be destroyed adds a needless level of complexity to such a short piece. Also, having the tech explain things that Jenkins could already know feels like a waste of words (though this knowledge would still need to be conveyed to a reader, so, maybe not).

I feel like you could start the story with Jenkins' face-off with the Arach Queen. He's in a cave of dead Marines, techs, his buddy is under the C-C trying to fix it. That's the climax and where his character-shift comes in. Would allow you (and the reader) to get a bit closer to Jenkins, to understand the huge choice before him, and to feel more emotional impact when he hits the button. Just a thought.

Again I'm as new to this as you are so take this all with a massive heap of salt.

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Posted : August 15, 2021 6:00 pm
scribblesatdusk
(@scribblesatdusk)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 111
Posted by: @lost_bard

Well, here goes my next KYD. I started with one of Wulf's original KYD prompts from 2019 'A Tough Choice' and ended up with a disgruntled Marine. As with my last, I liked this one around 350 words, but cut it to 250. Some of the final descriptions are better, but I do wish just a few background details could have made it into the final.

Semper Fidelis

Private Jenkins hated three things: the Marines, Miesau Colony’s endless tunnels, and the spider-like Arach. Losing an extinction-level war sucked. He wanted to go home.

“Semper Fi!” Private Wynn called enthusiastically as they ran through rough tunnels toward the front.

“Do or die!” Jenkins finished mockingly. Bustling activity in a side cavern stopped them.

“Holy hand-grenades,” Wynn whispered. “That’s a BRACC.”

“A what?” Jenkins frowned.

“Dude, read your intel reports.”

“Too boring.”

“Briggs-Reilly Atomic Core-Cracker.”

“More interesting. Wait…” Jenkins grabbed a passing tech. “You’re blowing Miesau?!”

The tech nodded. “Kill the Arach queen, end the war, but the Core-Cracker won’t initiate.”

“What about us?!”

Wynn frowned. “You expected to leave Miesau alive?”

A truncated scream interrupted them. Arach skittered into the cavern as carbine fire echoed. Errant bullets slammed the tech into Jenkins, dropping them beside the BRACC.

The tech wheezed, dying. “Destroy the Core-Cracker. Blue button, by the red one. The Arach can’t...Earth...”

Wynn snorted. “Screw that. Let’s blow the planet. End this.”

“Not...working.”

A spider crashed into Wynn, sliding him under the machine while another knocked Jenkins’ carbine away. He spun, swore.

Multifaceted Arach eyes glittered. An enormous eight-legged nightmare stood behind the first rank.

The queen.

Wynn laughed painfully below him. “Idiots plugged it in backwards.” The Briggs-Reilly Atomic Core-Cracker hummed to life. Jenkins eyed the buttons, the Arach.

The queen clicked her jaws, forming rough English words.

“Surrender. Go home.”

Home.

“Semper Fi!” Wynn yelled. Jenkins smirked.

“Do or die!”

He pushed the big red button.

Your first sen is doing a lot of work and doing it well.

 

Why is  do or die the mocking response to semper fi (always faithful)? I was surprised the marines weren't trying to be more quiet in the tunnels so as to avoid detection and think that's a missed opportunity for tension, though it may require you to have fewer characters.

How is Arach different from the other spiders they faced? Just bigger?

I didn't get much of any sensory information from this aside visuals. How did the tunnels smell? Were they gritty? Were the uniforms stiff with grit too? Did the spiders have a stink to them? 

I don't want to intrude my vision on your story but I think the heart of this is really with MC facing off with Arach and think it could have been shortened to heighten that interaction. Him trying to work the bomb. The spider trying to convince him not to or offer him some other choice. And then he chooses the red button.

As is, I don't see that Jenkin's had much of a choice or that he had a hard time choosing. His win (despite loss of his life) almost seemed too easy. Why did Arach just stand there and wait for the bomb to go off? Yor version also fits the damned if you do, damned if you don't, so you choose damned if you do KYD Wulf posted recently.

 

Anyway these are all just my thoughts so as always feel free to ignore. You can also return the favor by picking apart my horrid KYD next 😛

V36:Q3 HM
V37: Q3 R, Q4 SHM
V38: R,HM, ?

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Posted : August 15, 2021 6:03 pm
scribblesatdusk
(@scribblesatdusk)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 111

Since @lost_bard did a KYD on tough choices I decided to join him. Mine is light spec with a dystopian backdrop but I worry it doesn't come across well enough or if taken literally comes across too fantastical vs literary not to mention that the choice aspect may be too subtle. Eesh now that I've reread this I realize pot calling the kettle black given how little sensory details I have. 

 

To the Bottom of the Bowl

Eliza stirred and poured weak broth into the bowls, trying her best not to look at the hands holding them. Hands gave a lot away, even thin ones that had been worked to the bone. Ben had a dark freckle on his ring finger that this one didn’t. Don’t look. It wouldn't be fair.

Most places no longer had lines, people willing to wait a turn. She and Ben escaped while they still had their souls. The best didn’t make it. They shared too much to survive this world. Here there was still peace. A hungry peace that growled and stank and promised violence. 

Ben’s feet gave him away in the end. Eliza knew his shoes better than him, so little was there left between sinew and flesh. She couldn’t watch him starve. She dipped the ladle in and let the soup settle to scoop from the bottom. Any scrap of meat would be there. Behind the counter, Eliza had life and death in her ladle. Not using it, ignoring its power, was no different than using it selectively.

“Save Ben,” she told the ladle with a swish down and slow float up.

“Love,” he rested his hard fingers on hers-- curling them around the handle, “I’m not so hungry as all that.”

Eliza blinked at the soup and stirred, seeing Ben thin in the swirls. 

She served as if every bowl was Ben’s until the pot ran empty.

V36:Q3 HM
V37: Q3 R, Q4 SHM
V38: R,HM, ?

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Posted : August 15, 2021 6:28 pm
David Hankins
(@lost_bard)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 164

@foxed and @scribblesatdusk, thanks for the critique! I really did have a hard time cutting this one down, and I probably cut too much sensory detail to keep unnecessary complexity. I went back and forth on what the final choice would be at the end and realize now that I ended up muddling it by having three choices (surrender and go home, use the self-destruct, or blow the planet). Perhaps this was more of a 'damned if you do' story.

I really liked that first couple of lines too. That came purely out of the need to cut down and wasn't in the original or the 500.

The mockingly saying 'do or die' at the beginning is more a statement about his opinion of Marine life than anything else, playing off a military axiom that a Soldier (or Marine in this case) is only happy when they're complaining. The words themselves are not mocking and are a legit phrase Marines use, but the tone speaks to his mental state.

A couple of other phrases that added clarity (like him cocking an eyebrow before saying: more interesting) got cut and on re-reading I can see where we lost something with that. I had some great dialogue that really explained things more clearly even down to the 500, but those darlings had to die and the ending dialogue did end up stilted.

I don't think I'm going to rework this one, but for my next I'll focus on Accuracy, Clarity, and Brevity as I work it.

Thanks again!

@scribblesatdusk, I'll critique yours tomorrow when my brain is fresh. I probably should have waited to read these critiques until then too, but when that little notification bell pops up I just can't help myself!

V38 Q2: HM
V38 Q3: Submitted
V38 Q4: Submitted

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Posted : August 15, 2021 7:29 pm
fox liked
David Hankins
(@lost_bard)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 164
Posted by: @scribblesatdusk

Since @lost_bard did a KYD on tough choices I decided to join him. Mine is light spec with a dystopian backdrop but I worry it doesn't come across well enough or if taken literally comes across too fantastical vs literary not to mention that the choice aspect may be too subtle. Eesh now that I've reread this I realize pot calling the kettle black given how little sensory details I have. 

 

To the Bottom of the Bowl

Eliza stirred and poured weak broth into the bowls, trying her best not to look at the hands holding them. Hands gave a lot away, even thin ones that had been worked to the bone. Ben had a dark freckle on his ring finger that this one didn’t. Don’t look. It wouldn't be fair.

Most places no longer had lines, people willing to wait a turn. She and Ben escaped while they still had their souls. The best didn’t make it. They shared too much to survive this world. Here there was still peace. A hungry peace that growled and stank and promised violence. 

Ben’s feet gave him away in the end. Eliza knew his shoes better than him, so little was there left between sinew and flesh. She couldn’t watch him starve. She dipped the ladle in and let the soup settle to scoop from the bottom. Any scrap of meat would be there. Behind the counter, Eliza had life and death in her ladle. Not using it, ignoring its power, was no different than using it selectively.

“Save Ben,” she told the ladle with a swish down and slow float up.

“Love,” he rested his hard fingers on hers-- curling them around the handle, “I’m not so hungry as all that.”

Eliza blinked at the soup and stirred, seeing Ben thin in the swirls. 

She served as if every bowl was Ben’s until the pot ran empty.

You provided a very nice focused piece here, showing how small problems can be the biggest problems in our world. I have a bad habit of looking too big in my stories (challenging the devil, blowing up the planet, etc.) and it’s nice to see reminders of how to look small to find big problems.

Outside of the dystopian backdrop, which is clear, I didn’t catch any other speculative aspects-unless Ben was dead and she was merely remembering his touch and voice? If so, or if there was something else, it was pretty subtle.

I did like your choice at the end. Who does she choose to feed the greater portion to? That came across clearly and with a desperation that I could feel.

I also liked your line ‘a hungry peace that growled and stank and promised violence.’ It really added to the despair. They were surviving, but not much longer. You did have one confusing phrase when you talk about Ben’s shoes, followed by the phrase ’so little was there left between sinew and flesh’. It sounds like you’re describing his feet, not his shoes, and the description made me stop and re-read to ensure I got it right.

As you pointed out, not a lot of sensory details. You could probably add some simple words like the ladle clanking as she poured, the heavy broth as she lifted, the scuff of Ben’s shoes. I clearly have the same problem.

Thanks for sharing and critiquing! I’m enjoying the exercise in tight writing and it makes a huge difference seeing what others see.

Write on!

V38 Q2: HM
V38 Q3: Submitted
V38 Q4: Submitted

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Posted : August 16, 2021 5:11 am
scribblesatdusk
(@scribblesatdusk)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 111
Posted by: @lost_bard

You provided a very nice focused piece here, showing how small problems can be the biggest problems in our world. I have a bad habit of looking too big in my stories (challenging the devil, blowing up the planet, etc.) and it’s nice to see reminders of how to look small to find big problems.

Outside of the dystopian backdrop, which is clear, I didn’t catch any other speculative aspects-unless Ben was dead and she was merely remembering his touch and voice? If so, or if there was something else, it was pretty subtle.

I did like your choice at the end. Who does she choose to feed the greater portion to? That came across clearly and with a desperation that I could feel.

I also liked your line ‘a hungry peace that growled and stank and promised violence.’ It really added to the despair. They were surviving, but not much longer. You did have one confusing phrase when you talk about Ben’s shoes, followed by the phrase ’so little was there left between sinew and flesh’. It sounds like you’re describing his feet, not his shoes, and the description made me stop and re-read to ensure I got it right.

As you pointed out, not a lot of sensory details. You could probably add some simple words like the ladle clanking as she poured, the heavy broth as she lifted, the scuff of Ben’s shoes. I clearly have the same problem.

Thanks for sharing and critiquing! I’m enjoying the exercise in tight writing and it makes a huge difference seeing what others see.

Write on!

Thank you for the commentary! To clarify the dystopian background is the spec element. It is too literary but in my mind I think it's ridiculous that dystopian fiction gets co-opted by mainstream lit. 

 Ooo great advice about the spoon clanking. 

The choice she made at the end was to feed everyone an equal portion even if that meant she was starving Ben (him thinning in the swirls) at least she was being just in her distribution (unlike those other places she mentions that have no more lines or people waiting). She almost made the opposite choice when she saw Ben but he had a choice to make too (he could have accepted the bigger portion) and he helped her choose to keep stirring (not to take from the settled bottom where the meat scraps would be).

 

The point about her recognizing him by the shoes was because he was so skin and bones it would be hard to recognize him (or anyone) by his face and she was trying hard not to look so wouldn't have noticed the freckle on his ring finger but all that didn't matter. Even his shoes gave him away. 

 

Odd how things so clear in our (my) own heads don't come clear across the page. What can ya do but keep on typing, right? It really helps to see what others missed though! My husband is too kind and easy with praise. 

As with all my pieces I leave too much to subtext too and/or just haven't learned the art of how to do it properly. Practice practice practice. Something I'll try to work on for the next one.

V36:Q3 HM
V37: Q3 R, Q4 SHM
V38: R,HM, ?

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Posted : August 16, 2021 5:49 am
fox
 fox
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Posts: 24
Posted by: @scribblesatdusk

Since @lost_bard did a KYD on tough choices I decided to join him. Mine is light spec with a dystopian backdrop but I worry it doesn't come across well enough or if taken literally comes across too fantastical vs literary not to mention that the choice aspect may be too subtle. Eesh now that I've reread this I realize pot calling the kettle black given how little sensory details I have. 

 

To the Bottom of the Bowl

Eliza stirred and poured weak broth into the bowls, trying her best not to look at the hands holding them. Hands gave a lot away, even thin ones that had been worked to the bone. Ben had a dark freckle on his ring finger that this one didn’t. Don’t look. It wouldn't be fair.

Most places no longer had lines, people willing to wait a turn. She and Ben escaped while they still had their souls. The best didn’t make it. They shared too much to survive this world. Here there was still peace. A hungry peace that growled and stank and promised violence. 

Ben’s feet gave him away in the end. Eliza knew his shoes better than him, so little was there left between sinew and flesh. She couldn’t watch him starve. She dipped the ladle in and let the soup settle to scoop from the bottom. Any scrap of meat would be there. Behind the counter, Eliza had life and death in her ladle. Not using it, ignoring its power, was no different than using it selectively.

“Save Ben,” she told the ladle with a swish down and slow float up.

“Love,” he rested his hard fingers on hers-- curling them around the handle, “I’m not so hungry as all that.”

Eliza blinked at the soup and stirred, seeing Ben thin in the swirls. 

She served as if every bowl was Ben’s until the pot ran empty.

Hope this doesn’t come off as harsh, my intent is to be constructive. 

One thing I take issue with in this piece is that you don't set the scene that much, and I don't see any real indicators of speculative fiction. Starvation, natural disasters happen around the world daily, so nothing in your piece currently stands out as being sci-fi/spec fic, other than possibly "escaped while they still had their souls", but am still unsure if this was meant metaphorically or not. 

At first I thought Ben died, as she is commenting on the hands that are taking the bowls of broth, and how it's not fair to seek out that freckle. (A visual that I really enjoyed/tugged the heart strings, btw, so awesome job).

 

However, now that I've read this a couple times, I understand that her dilemma is she wants to feed all the food to Ben. But Ben isn’t hungry. That's a really cool concept, and explains why she is struggling so much, seeking out his fingers, saving the meat at the bottom for Ben — and the moral dilemma that brings: "Behind the counter, Eliza had life and death in her ladle. Not using it, ignoring its power, was no different than using it selectively." Intriguing. Personally, I think you need to spell this out a bit more initially. Again, I thought Ben had died, and by the end was a bit confused. Also, the piece doesn’t make as much sense without understanding her dilemma up front.

"even thin ones that had been worked to the bone." I don’t think you need the 'even' qualifier here, as this is doing exactly what the preceding statement says.

"Most places no longer had lines, people willing to wait a turn. She and Ben escaped while they still had their souls. The best didn't make it. They shared too much to survive this world. Here there was still peace. A hungry peace that growled and stank and promised violence." Okay, this gets into the speculative aspect a bit, but it's still vague. I'm guessing whatever apocalyptic force commandeered the souls of people? Or is that just a word choice. But again, this relates to the dilemma she is facing— sharing too much vs. dog-eat-dog. 

 "A hungry peace that growled and stank and promised violence." Interesting. So it’s not really a peace, or, it's a tentative peace. I like the visual, and it tells us that this sanctuary, or wherever they are, is fleeting, and Eliza understands this and is trying to prep for the future.

"Eliza knew his shoes better than him, so little was there left between sinew and flesh." Confused by this line. "Eliza knew his feet better than him", maybe, so she comments on the thin flesh? Shoes aren’t made of sinew and flesh, so I think you could rework the latter part of the sentence. 

"Love," he rested his hard fingers on hers-- curling them around the handle, "I’m not so hungry as all that."

Pretty sad, puts the story in perspective.

I see what you're trying to do, I think it's intriguing/sad/a good distillation of the human experience as it might be during/after an apocalyptic scenario. That said you need to be a little more clear about what Eliza’s problem is. You allude to it slightly with the “It wouldn’t be fair” line in the first paragraph, but, that could also be misinterpreted as it’s not fair to dwell on Ben after his death (as I initially read it).  I think once you clarify her problem, the rest of the piece comes together nicely, and the end is a soft punch in the gut, so good job. And you need more speculative/sci-fi/fantasy components up front, set the setting.

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Posted : August 16, 2021 6:34 am
scribblesatdusk
(@scribblesatdusk)
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Posts: 111
Posted by: @foxed

Hope this doesn’t come off as harsh, my intent is to be constructive. 

One thing I take issue with in this piece is that you don't set the scene that much, and I don't see any real indicators of speculative fiction. Starvation, natural disasters happen around the world daily, so nothing in your piece currently stands out as being sci-fi/spec fic, other than possibly "escaped while they still had their souls", but am still unsure if this was meant metaphorically or not. 

At first I thought Ben died, as she is commenting on the hands that are taking the bowls of broth, and how it's not fair to seek out that freckle. (A visual that I really enjoyed/tugged the heart strings, btw, so awesome job).

 

However, now that I've read this a couple times, I understand that her dilemma is she wants to feed all the food to Ben. But Ben isn’t hungry. That's a really cool concept, and explains why she is struggling so much, seeking out his fingers, saving the meat at the bottom for Ben — and the moral dilemma that brings: "Behind the counter, Eliza had life and death in her ladle. Not using it, ignoring its power, was no different than using it selectively." Intriguing. Personally, I think you need to spell this out a bit more initially. Again, I thought Ben had died, and by the end was a bit confused. Also, the piece doesn’t make as much sense without understanding her dilemma up front.

"even thin ones that had been worked to the bone." I don’t think you need the 'even' qualifier here, as this is doing exactly what the preceding statement says.

"Most places no longer had lines, people willing to wait a turn. She and Ben escaped while they still had their souls. The best didn't make it. They shared too much to survive this world. Here there was still peace. A hungry peace that growled and stank and promised violence." Okay, this gets into the speculative aspect a bit, but it's still vague. I'm guessing whatever apocalyptic force commandeered the souls of people? Or is that just a word choice. But again, this relates to the dilemma she is facing— sharing too much vs. dog-eat-dog. 

 "A hungry peace that growled and stank and promised violence." Interesting. So it’s not really a peace, or, it's a tentative peace. I like the visual, and it tells us that this sanctuary, or wherever they are, is fleeting, and Eliza understands this and is trying to prep for the future.

"Eliza knew his shoes better than him, so little was there left between sinew and flesh." Confused by this line. "Eliza knew his feet better than him", maybe, so she comments on the thin flesh? Shoes aren’t made of sinew and flesh, so I think you could rework the latter part of the sentence. 

"Love," he rested his hard fingers on hers-- curling them around the handle, "I’m not so hungry as all that."

Pretty sad, puts the story in perspective.

I see what you're trying to do, I think it's intriguing/sad/a good distillation of the human experience as it might be during/after an apocalyptic scenario. That said you need to be a little more clear about what Eliza’s problem is. You allude to it slightly with the “It wouldn’t be fair” line in the first paragraph, but, that could also be misinterpreted as it’s not fair to dwell on Ben after his death (as I initially read it).  I think once you clarify her problem, the rest of the piece comes together nicely, and the end is a soft punch in the gut, so good job. And you need more speculative/sci-fi/fantasy components up front, set the setting.

Not harsh at all! Some people can't do with line edits or just honest criticism but that's not me. I find no better way to learn so I really appreciate it. Feel free to be even harsher in the future 😛

 

Ben is not dead. He is hungry (they all are), just not hungry enough for Eliza to make the choice between being unjust and feeding him better than the others. That's what the line about escaping with their souls refers to and others dying because they shared too much (dog eat dog as you mentioned). 

 

You're right about the speculative element being light. This isn't something for WotF so I thought keeping it just with a dystopian setting would be enough but I know lost_bard had the same comment. Escaping with souls was meant metaphorically. And your criticism about the setting not being upfront is spot on. I was too tied to it starting with her ladling the soup, not sure why I got so stuck on that image.

Thanks also about mentioning the shoe line. I know lost_bard pointed it out as well. The sinew and flesh refers to Ben and how thin he is, not to the shoes. I'll think about how to make the subject more clear there.

 

Thank you very much for commenting and criticizing! 

V36:Q3 HM
V37: Q3 R, Q4 SHM
V38: R,HM, ?

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Posted : August 16, 2021 7:33 am
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 fox
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Alright gang, I've written another KYD. No worries if you can't critique, I'm mostly posting this to stay accountable, and to force me to start working on another (as opposed to trying to perfect what I have). Based off the prompt "Message in a Bottle".

To Kill the Beast

For days Vlad had tracked the beast the locals called Upyr, for they said it fed on blood and naught else. Its trail led Vlad to a cavern nestled in the high desert mountains, red as sunset. A bottle was propped suspiciously at its entrance, a bit of scrolled parchment visible through the dingy glass. Vlad snaked the scroll free from the bottle.

"V, Don't go in the cave. --Otho."

Seeing the scrawl of his dead friend caused Vlad's breath to hitch. The parchment grew sweaty in his hands. Carefully, he pocketed the note and lit his oil-lamp. 

He went on. The tunnel widened into a chamber with rows of towering stalagmites like the ribs of some alien thing. Vlad's heart pounded as he crept around these columns of stone. Dried splatters of blood looked black in the lamplight. 

Otho was huddled against the far chamber wall. His skin was sallow and eyes raw, his cheeks sunken, with black stains around his mouth.

"Why, Otho?" Vlad asked, his voice strained. 

"For the love you bore me, V... turn back. Please."

Vlad's hand shook as he drew his pistol.

"Don't--" Otho started, eyes wild. The sharp report of gunfire echoed through the cavern. The sudden look of fear in Otho's eyes stilled.

Vlad dropped his gun with a gasp. His flesh shuddered, the veins in his arms suddenly rigid and maze-like, and then a restless seething took hold within his bones.

He was very, very hungry.

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Posted : August 17, 2021 8:25 am
David Hankins
(@lost_bard)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 164
Posted by: @foxed

Alright gang, I've written another KYD. No worries if you can't critique, I'm mostly posting this to stay accountable, and to force me to start working on another (as opposed to trying to perfect what I have). Based off the prompt "Message in a Bottle".

To Kill the Beast

For days Vlad had tracked the beast the locals called Upyr, for they said it fed on blood and naught else. Its trail led Vlad to a cavern nestled in the high desert mountains, red as sunset. A bottle was propped suspiciously at its entrance, a bit of scrolled parchment visible through the dingy glass. Vlad snaked the scroll free from the bottle.

"V, Don't go in the cave. --Otho."

Seeing the scrawl of his dead friend caused Vlad's breath to hitch. The parchment grew sweaty in his hands. Carefully, he pocketed the note and lit his oil-lamp. 

He went on. The tunnel widened into a chamber with rows of towering stalagmites like the ribs of some alien thing. Vlad's heart pounded as he crept around these columns of stone. Dried splatters of blood looked black in the lamplight. 

Otho was huddled against the far chamber wall. His skin was sallow and eyes raw, his cheeks sunken, with black stains around his mouth.

"Why, Otho?" Vlad asked, his voice strained. 

"For the love you bore me, V... turn back. Please."

Vlad's hand shook as he drew his pistol.

"Don't--" Otho started, eyes wild. The sharp report of gunfire echoed through the cavern. The sudden look of fear in Otho's eyes stilled.

Vlad dropped his gun with a gasp. His flesh shuddered, the veins in his arms suddenly rigid and maze-like, and then a restless seething took hold within his bones.

He was very, very hungry.

I liked it! I should have seen it coming, but the twist at the end surprised me. Your title gave the hint, though it wasn't clear until the end. Well done. Unlike your last one, To Kill The Beast had a clear protagonist, problem, and setting. Well, almost clear setting. I'll get into that below. In short, I found this one much more engaging.

So, some constructive criticism. Your first two sentences have some unclear attributions. Was he tracking the beast because it fed on blood, or was it called Upyr because it fed on blood? This is a problem of your chosen sentence structure that rearranging can fix. Same with the second sentence. Was the cavern red as sunset, or were the mountains red as sunset? Either works, but your sentence structure doesn't make it clear which your descriptive phrase is describing.

For your setting, it's unclear what genre you chose. I initially thought fantasy/mythology with the beast in the cave and terrified locals. A classic tale. Then you referenced 'ribs like some alien thing' which threw me. Fantasy doesn't refer to aliens. I assumed it was just a poor word choice as the classic tale of kill-the-beast-in-its-cave continued. Then he drew a pistol and I was very confused. Yes, fantasy can have guns, but not often. If this is supposed to be a sci-fi world (colony or something), then you need to set that expectation early. If it's fantasy, adjust those couple of references for consistency (make it 'like dragon ribs' and perhaps he can draw a flintlock).

You have good vivid descriptions throughout, but you need to tighten your sentences. Find for places with 'to' and 'of' phrases and look for ways to rearrange the sentences to remove those. They are indicators of wordiness and in a KYD, every word counts. For example (and using my suggested change to 'dragon ribs'):

Original (18 words): The tunnel widened into a chamber with rows of towering stalagmites like the ribs of some alien thing.

Rewritten (13 words): The tunnel widened into a chamber lined with stalagmites towering like dragon ribs.

That's five more words you can use elsewhere, possibly with world-building or sensory details, and the reader flows through the sentence faster. There are quite a few places you can do this to gain word space ('spatters of blood' becomes 'blood spatters', etc.). Also, look for places you can cut repetitive description (I too struggle with this one). For example: Vlad drew his pistol. Next line, 'the sharp report of gunfire' can be cut to 'the sharp report' because you have already set up your description. The reader is just waiting for that report to sound in their ears. They know it's 'of gunfire'.

I know it's painful to make your writing tighter, and I can see that you have tightened a bit from some of your previous stories. Tightening more will only enrich the vibrancy of your descriptions, making them clearer and more accurate.

Again, I really liked this one. Good twist! 

Write on!

V38 Q2: HM
V38 Q3: Submitted
V38 Q4: Submitted

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Posted : August 17, 2021 12:13 pm
fox liked
scribblesatdusk
(@scribblesatdusk)
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Posted by: @foxed

Alright gang, I've written another KYD. No worries if you can't critique, I'm mostly posting this to stay accountable, and to force me to start working on another (as opposed to trying to perfect what I have). Based off the prompt "Message in a Bottle".

To Kill the Beast

For days Vlad had tracked the beast the locals called Upyr, for they said it fed on blood and naught else. Its trail led Vlad to a cavern nestled in the high desert mountains, red as sunset. A bottle was propped suspiciously at its entrance, a bit of scrolled parchment visible through the dingy glass. Vlad snaked the scroll free from the bottle.

"V, Don't go in the cave. --Otho."

Seeing the scrawl of his dead friend caused Vlad's breath to hitch. The parchment grew sweaty in his hands. Carefully, he pocketed the note and lit his oil-lamp. 

He went on. The tunnel widened into a chamber with rows of towering stalagmites like the ribs of some alien thing. Vlad's heart pounded as he crept around these columns of stone. Dried splatters of blood looked black in the lamplight. 

Otho was huddled against the far chamber wall. His skin was sallow and eyes raw, his cheeks sunken, with black stains around his mouth.

"Why, Otho?" Vlad asked, his voice strained. 

"For the love you bore me, V... turn back. Please."

Vlad's hand shook as he drew his pistol.

"Don't--" Otho started, eyes wild. The sharp report of gunfire echoed through the cavern. The sudden look of fear in Otho's eyes stilled.

Vlad dropped his gun with a gasp. His flesh shuddered, the veins in his arms suddenly rigid and maze-like, and then a restless seething took hold within his bones.

He was very, very hungry.

Cool to call them upyrs instead of vampires. It made me think this was happening in a more Slavic region. I liked the description of the stalagmites like ribs of some alien thing. I saw Dave's comment about sticking strictly to dragon if fantasy and alien if scifi. I like when the line between fantasy and scifi isn't so clear so it didn't throw me off but it may be something you want to avoid for WotF submissions. 

The message in the bottle seems somewhat unsatisfying. Presumably Otho knows/knew his friend Vlad pretty well, wouldn't he leave a more convincing message? What would even make him think that Vlad would find him before anyone else? It made it all seem too convenient and didn't really give me a sense of their relationship. Even their limited exchange didn't help to elaborate that which is where I think the crux of the story may be. Why is Vlad the one to be hunting him? Does he want to free Otho's soul or because he just happens to be a beast/upyr hunter?

The ending also somewhat confused me . Did Vlad become an upyr? I don't know how much you're borrowing from the Slavic tradition but his conversion seemed rather sudden since all we're shown is the gunshot and then Vlad is hungry. Did Vlad kill Otho? From my knowledge of upyrs he'd have to do more than just shoot him or maybe some description of his head being blown off would help with that. 

V36:Q3 HM
V37: Q3 R, Q4 SHM
V38: R,HM, ?

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Posted : August 17, 2021 12:56 pm
fox and David Hankins liked
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@lost_bard Hey thanks so much for your feedback, David. All excellent advice, I definitely favor wordiness, lol, which isn't the best for these exercises. Glad to know you enjoyed the vignette however! And glad to know you liked the title, I wanted it to hint but not be too obvious.

Alien was a deliberate choice meaning, said rib cage would look unlike anything Vlad has ever seen/has any familiarity with, but I can see how it's probably not good to utilize in a space where it could be misconstrued as meaning specifically "extraterrestrial" (esp since this is a sci-fi/fantasy genre'd space). So, that's a good point I hadn't really considered.

Also excellent point with the gunfire line (and your general ideas of how to tighten the piece even more). Easy way to cut some words and gives it a much better flow as well. That'll be a focus of mine next time around. 

All in all, thanks a lot, appreciate you!

@scribblesatdusk Hey Scribbles, thanks much for your feedback as well! In regards to "Upyr", I borrowed the name and them feeding on blood, but I can see how maybe using the term would have people believe it behaved like a stereotypical Upyr/Vampire would (and therefore need to be killed a certain way). Good idea to include a more visceral description of the thing's death. And yes, Vlad becomes the Upyr at the end, whereas Otho was trying to warn him, in hopes of sparing his friend a miserable fate. Good points about the context of their relationship and I had the same thoughts (as I was writing) in regards to the convenient message in a bottle, but essentially, Otho knew his friend was tracking him, hence why he left the message. In my head they hunted strange beasts of the world together at one point, before Otho's death (disappearance). None of this is obvious (or even apparent) as the flash stands, though in a longer piece would probably be fleshed out more. 

Again, thanks a bunch for your helpful critique, will definitely keep this stuff in mind as I work on my next one. 

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Posted : August 17, 2021 3:06 pm
David Hankins
(@lost_bard)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 164

Okay, let's keep this going! I decided to take a crack a the prompt 'Message in a Bottle'. Surprisingly, or perhaps not considering others' comments on these exercises, I liked this one best at the full 1000w flash. I had to cut my second character and all of the dialogue to get down to 250. It's still kinda funny, but nowhere near as good as the original. I'm definitely working this one back up to 1000w to try and send to another market. I'm thinking Daily Science Fiction. Anyway, here it is:

Send Hepl

Desmond sat atop the tiny volcanic hill where he’d wrecked his new yacht and drank a beer. No signal, no food, just bare rock and open seas. He was screwed.

He threw the bottle, screaming in frustration. A blue-green ripple appeared like a vertical pond, swallowing it before disappearing.

“What the…?”

An interstellar portal? Here?! Hope surged, but quickly dimmed. Live organics never survived portals. No matter. Desmond scrambled to the wreckage. Retrieving pen, paper, and a cooler of beer, he hurried back up the hillside. He happily plopped down, cracked a beer, and wrote.

“Stranded at sea. Send help.” Desmond shot-gunned the beer, inserted the paper, and chucked the bottle. It vanished in blue-green ripples.

Grinning, he drank his way through the case and sent bottled messages for help. Hours later, Desmond woozily considered his last bottle and empty paper pad. No matter. He drew a fifty from his wallet. 

“Send HEPL!”

He chuckled drunkenly at his misspelling before the bottled message flew through the portal. 

The evening cooled as waves lulled him to sleep. A mechanical voice woke him at sunrise.

“Thumbprint required for verification.”

Desmond raised his head groggily. A delivery drone hovered, signature pad presented. He grabbed it to haul himself upright.

“Identity verified. Enjoy your purchase.”

The drone deposited a clinking box.

“Wait!” 

It ignored him, disappearing. Grumbling, Desmond opened the box, hoping for something useful. He withdrew a green bottle.

“Hepl Microbrew, Island Vacation Lager.”

He was still screwed, but he had more beer.

V38 Q2: HM
V38 Q3: Submitted
V38 Q4: Submitted

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Posted : August 21, 2021 6:33 am
storysinger and fox liked
fox
 fox
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Active Member
Posts: 24
Posted by: @lost_bard

Okay, let's keep this going! I decided to take a crack a the prompt 'Message in a Bottle'. Surprisingly, or perhaps not considering others' comments on these exercises, I liked this one best at the full 1000w flash. I had to cut my second character and all of the dialogue to get down to 250. It's still kinda funny, but nowhere near as good as the original. I'm definitely working this one back up to 1000w to try and send to another market. I'm thinking Daily Science Fiction. Anyway, here it is:

Send Hepl

Desmond sat atop the tiny volcanic hill where he’d wrecked his new yacht and drank a beer. No signal, no food, just bare rock and open seas. He was screwed.

He threw the bottle, screaming in frustration. A blue-green ripple appeared like a vertical pond, swallowing it before disappearing.

“What the…?”

An interstellar portal? Here?! Hope surged, but quickly dimmed. Live organics never survived portals. No matter. Desmond scrambled to the wreckage. Retrieving pen, paper, and a cooler of beer, he hurried back up the hillside. He happily plopped down, cracked a beer, and wrote.

“Stranded at sea. Send help.” Desmond shot-gunned the beer, inserted the paper, and chucked the bottle. It vanished in blue-green ripples.

Grinning, he drank his way through the case and sent bottled messages for help. Hours later, Desmond woozily considered his last bottle and empty paper pad. No matter. He drew a fifty from his wallet. 

“Send HEPL!”

He chuckled drunkenly at his misspelling before the bottled message flew through the portal. 

The evening cooled as waves lulled him to sleep. A mechanical voice woke him at sunrise.

“Thumbprint required for verification.”

Desmond raised his head groggily. A delivery drone hovered, signature pad presented. He grabbed it to haul himself upright.

“Identity verified. Enjoy your purchase.”

The drone deposited a clinking box.

“Wait!” 

It ignored him, disappearing. Grumbling, Desmond opened the box, hoping for something useful. He withdrew a green bottle.

“Hepl Microbrew, Island Vacation Lager.”

He was still screwed, but he had more beer.

Great job getting another KYD done!! I enjoyed this one very much.

 

Desmond sat atop the tiny volcanic hill where he’d wrecked his new yacht and drank a beer. No signal, no food, just bare rock and open seas. He was screwed.

- Well, except for beer, right? Maybe a line about the cooler miraculously surviving the wreck.

 

He threw the bottle, screaming in frustration. A blue-green ripple appeared like a vertical pond, swallowing it before disappearing.

- Where did this portal appear, in the water, or the air? I guess since it’s vertical it’s in the air but specify for clarity. Is there any evidence of the portal before the bottle is thrown, did he clench his butt realizing he could've accidentally strolled into it and died, unknowingly? (of course, perhaps this can't be finagled into 250 words, these are just thoughts I had when reading).

 

 Live organics never survived portals. No matter. 

- Actually on second read I’m not sure if the “No matter” was supposed to be a pun (as matter is not necessarily living, of course), but regardless, it made me smile. No (live) matter. 

 

It ignored him, disappearing.

- Disappeared back through the portal, yes? Make this clear

 

“Hepl Microbrew, Island Vacation Lager.”

- Amazing ending, very fun, I’m a fan

 

Very cute, fun short. Focused, easy to follow. Fun twist on a common concept (message in a bottle from folks stranded at sea). Simple with a fun ending. Sounds like you cut the right elements to make it to 250 words because the story still makes sense and ends satisfactorily. Well done. My gentle suggestions here are more clarity in regards to the portal, and in your longer piece, I think setting the scene a bit more would be ideal. Is it hot, is he baking in the sun, or huddled beneath some bits of wreckage for shade? I imagine the volcanic rocks aren't comfortable. Etc. All things that are definitely difficult to squeeze into 250 words. 

I can see how two people in this situation would make an even better dynamic, resulting in some good banter. Definitely agree with you in reworking this puppy back up to 1000 words and submitting it places. Best of luck!

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Posted : August 21, 2021 8:12 am
David Hankins
(@lost_bard)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 164

@foxed Thanks! Scene setting is one of the things I'm finding hardest to squeeze into a 250 as every adjective I add is another word I have to cut elsewhere. Not complaining, just noticing. I did cut a lot of description (warm Pacific winds, azure skies, rough loose rocks, portal in the air, etc.) from the original. There's more scene here than in Semper Fidelis, but that's mostly because I picked a setting that readers can easily fill in mental details with minimal word use.

V38 Q2: HM
V38 Q3: Submitted
V38 Q4: Submitted

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Posted : August 21, 2021 8:42 am
fox and Wulf Moon liked
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
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Posted by: @lost_bard There's more scene here than in Semper Fidelis, but that's mostly because I picked a setting that readers can easily fill in mental details with minimal word use.

Congratulations! You have learned the story happens in the reader’s head, not on the page. Precise code can stir up major images in the reader’s mind utilizing minimal words. This is a powerful skill KYD teaches you. It will serve you well. See you next week in my master class where we’ll talk about this! Cheers!

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Posted : August 21, 2021 12:01 pm
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David Hankins
(@lost_bard)
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Posts: 164

@wulfmoon Looking forward to it! 

V38 Q2: HM
V38 Q3: Submitted
V38 Q4: Submitted

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Posted : August 21, 2021 12:07 pm
Wulf Moon liked
scribblesatdusk
(@scribblesatdusk)
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Posts: 111

I don't have much to add besides what foxed already said. Loved Send Hepl. It's your best one yet and I can't wait to see the 1000 word version rewrite when it gets published or if you're looking for someone to critique it before you send it off. 

V36:Q3 HM
V37: Q3 R, Q4 SHM
V38: R,HM, ?

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Posted : August 21, 2021 6:00 pm
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David Hankins
(@lost_bard)
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Posts: 164

@scribblesatdusk

Did a first draft bringing it back up to 1000 last night and I only had 750. The KYD process cut a full quarter of the words without affecting the content.

whoa
I went through and added 100 words of world building and sensory details. Any more and it will feel cumbersome. If I want to write it to a word count of 999, I’ll have to somehow add another T/F cycle, but I worry that would feel contrived. This may just be an 850w flash. 

V38 Q2: HM
V38 Q3: Submitted
V38 Q4: Submitted

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Posted : August 22, 2021 7:05 am
Wulf Moon and fox liked
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
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Posts: 2337

@lost_bard Plenty of places to sell flash and not hurt your WotF qualification even with pro rates!

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I've been invited back to Fyrecon Online to teach my Zoom master workshops Nov. 18th—21st. Four to chose from! Which one will help you level up? Explore HERE ... but you better hurry. They always sell out and are already half full!

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Posted : August 22, 2021 1:18 pm
scribblesatdusk
(@scribblesatdusk)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 111

I took an attempt at this week's prompt: War Zone.

 

King’s Gambit

Garry spat sawdust when he split the beams passing for his mouth. “Daria, F5.” Her wooden gaze remained impassive beneath the layers of bark.

A lowly pawn, he couldn’t move himself, but he could help others. If the hand didn’t interfere. Curls of birch fanned out where real curls used to be. Daria advanced to the square. 

“King to D5,” the voice above said. 

It was dumb to abandon a king in enemy territory. A king there meant to forfeit the game. It meant checkmate in four. 

“Please, make it fast. I want to join Olly,” the King said. She sounded resigned, like Daria had before he convinced her to make a play.  

The chessboard went cold under Garry. “The knight? I-I’m sorry.”

The hand came down again, dripping sweat. Except for its grand size, it looked human. Garry noted a mole distinguished from the cream skin. 

Uncle Wally, their rook, offered strategic advice but Garry wasn’t listening. He followed those lines and wrinkles, like dunes in the sand, to a dark mark moving the opponent’s piece from above. 

The same hand controlled both colors.

“Why?” he shouted, through splinters in his throat, echoing every pawn and foot soldier on every battlefield.

They lost any way they played.

“Checkmate.” The voice above laughed, blowing warm breath and the stench of rot across the board. 

Garry couldn’t force the wooden beams of his mouth apart to protest.

V36:Q3 HM
V37: Q3 R, Q4 SHM
V38: R,HM, ?

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Posted : August 25, 2021 6:43 am
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
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Posts: 2337
Posted by: @scribblesatdusk

I took an attempt at this week's prompt: War Zone.

 

King’s Gambit

Garry spat sawdust when he split the beams passing for his mouth. “Daria, F5.” Her wooden gaze remained impassive beneath layers of bark.

A lowly pawn, he couldn’t move himself but he could help others. If the hand didn’t interfere. Curls of birch fanned out where real curls used to be. Daria advanced to the square. 

“King to D5,” the voice above said. 

It was dumb to abandon a king in enemy territory. A king there meant to forfeit the game. It meant checkmate in four. 

“I’m Olly’s wife,” the King said. She sounded resigned, like Daria had before he convinced her to make a play.  

The chessboard went cold under him. “The knight’s? I-I’m sorry.”

The hand came down again, dripping sweat. Except for its grand size, it looked human. Garry noted a mole distinguished from the cream skin. 

Uncle Wally, their rook, offered strategic advice but Garry wasn’t listening. He followed those lines and wrinkles, like dunes in the sand, to a dark mark moving the opponent’s piece from above. 

The same hand controlled both colors.

“Why?” he shouted, through splinters in his throat. Garry had never served, but he could feel the weight of his question echoed on other battlefields by foot soldiers much like himself, fighting wars they didn’t start and wouldn’t end. 

“Checkmate.” The voice above laughed, blowing warm breath and the stench of rot across the board. 

Garry couldn’t force the wooden beams of his mouth apart to protest.

Vivid writing here, Scibblesatdusk! And the fantasy element is strong and unique—good things. My constructive comment is concerning in medias res openings, which this is—it begins in the middle of the action. Because of that, there’s no scene to drop the reader into, no indication of what is truly going on. Without clear details outlining what’s going on and who the players are from the very start, you leave your audience in confusion, and because of that, it’s never really clear why this fantastical game is being played, and who or what is truly at stake. I like your ending, but I don’t feel your protagonist’s anguish. These issues happen because the author knows their world and idea, but they neglect to include proper coding that would ensure the reader has enough to understand what is taking place. It must be crystal clear at the start. The readers can jack right in to your story when they clearly see the port they need to plug in to. 

That said, you have talent. Keep working on the craft aspects and you’ll do great! Best to your Q4!

Click here to JOIN THE WULF PACK!
"Muzik Man" wins Best SFF Story of 2020! Read it in Best of Deep Magic Anthology Two! Includes stories by Super Secrets' alumni KD Julicher and Brittany Rainsdon!
You know WotF Workshop's 24-hour story exercise? Want to see what I wrote? It's about to be released in the pro-pay anthology THINGS WITH FEATHERS. Order HERE!
I've been invited back to Fyrecon Online to teach my Zoom master workshops Nov. 18th—21st. Four to chose from! Which one will help you level up? Explore HERE ... but you better hurry. They always sell out and are already half full!

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Posted : August 25, 2021 11:22 am
scribblesatdusk
(@scribblesatdusk)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 111

@wulfmoon, thank you so much for your feedback. I tried to incorporate what you said before when I failed to Set The Stage in an earlier prompt. It was top thing in my mind when writing this. Alas, another fail (so only 1 more to go and then a win, right?). I tried to be less vague, have less subtext (all problems that plague my writing). I think my main issue is I try to explore themes that I simply don't have the writing skills for (yet!).  So much left to learn but I am excited to do it!

My favorite version of this was the 500 one that was able to explore the world and reasons for it more. I am looking forward to exploding it back to 1000 or more.

Thank you again for the criticism and encouragement. 

V36:Q3 HM
V37: Q3 R, Q4 SHM
V38: R,HM, ?

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Posted : August 25, 2021 1:45 pm
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