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Experimenting with Exercises from Wulf's Super Secrets

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David Hankins
(@lost_bard)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 162
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 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.

I liked the concept on this one! I agree that it took a bit to figure out what was going on, but once I did it certainly provided that sense of wonder at the world you're exploring. Vivid writing and clear action.

Realizing that you'd have to cut other words to make it fit, starting with a hook that sets the problem and setting would really help. (The game was rigged, but The Hand forced Gerry to play - as an example.).

It was unclear what the impact of losing was. Did they die? Was this an eternal game that continually reset and they're trying to find a way out? The continual losing is clear, but what is the impact of that? The fact that the King wanted to 'join Olly' made me think that losing was not a fatal problem, and even something to be desired, robbing the scene of some tension.

Good take on 'War Zone'. I keep telling myself that I'm going to work one this week too, but haven't gotten past the first paragraph. Life needs to stop getting in the way of writing.

Thanks for sharing!

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

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Posted : August 25, 2021 2:35 pm
scribblesatdusk
(@scribblesatdusk)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 111

 The continual losing is clear, but what is the impact of that? The fact that the King wanted to 'join Olly' made me think that losing was not a fatal problem, and even something to be desired, robbing the scene of some tension.

@lost_bard It's explored more in the 500 and original 1000 version but the opposing King wasn't desiring to join Olly in the sense of it being a happy desire (she was resigned to her fate). The knight/Olly was her husband and she was sick of playing and witnessing all those she lost on her side as the pieces were beaten. 

 

Thank you, David for all the feedback! I realize I did a bad job setting up the stakes/motivations. I had hoped the ending, that he couldn't open his mouth, would help establish them and that they were playing for keeps. 

I didn't want Garry (easter egg, one of the most famous grandmaster chess players btw) to know the game was rigged to begin with and that the hand was the same and playing both sides. I wanted him to realize it as he played/when the dumb move was made by the hand. I do think exploring the hand and its motivations would be cool but a very different vignette. Amazing all the directions these 250's can go and sometimes we (ahem, I) make the wrong choice. I'm actually going to try to make this change for the 250 and see how it goes. Or at least make a different change that shows MC's motivation more. I worry if he knows the jig is up from the beginning it changes his reasons for playing but this piece doesn't show why he is playing. 

 

It's hard for me to know when there is or isn't enough information for the reader to fill in some of the blanks themselves. Set the stage better, scribbles!

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

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Posted : August 25, 2021 3:01 pm
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2335

@scribblesatdusk 

You're welcome. It's never a fail when you try, it's only a fail when you don't. Smile

It is quite likely your 500-word version will be clearer, and after doing your 250, it's a good idea to go back to it as you expand upward. The KYD250 has less words, so it's tough to make it as clear. But if you go over to the main Super Secrets' thread, watch how the current workshop members are accomplishing clear settings, characters, and conflict with minimal words. It can be done, and it's a highly beneficial skill to learn. Even doing one full KYD exercise a month like current workshop members are doing will help. The more you do something, the better you get at it. The skills you will learn from the challenge will become ingrained and second nature in time. 

When that happens, you will be dangerous. 

I commend you once again for your good efforts here. I see the diamond, just needs the facets and polish.

All the beast!

Wulf Moon

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 4:02 pm
David Hankins
(@lost_bard)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 162

@scribblesatdusk Don’t beat yourself up too much. Like Wulf said, you’re doing the work and putting it out there. That’s hard! You think Garry Kasparov learned chess overnight? No. He tried, failed, learned, and improved. I think this one definitely has potential and just some polish and precise prose will do the trick.

The concept you have here is awesome, just identify what that beating heart of the story is for the vignette and go with it. The rest is detail that you can add back in later  

For my last one I had to cut 50% of my cast to make it down to 250. That was hard. Did the story suffer from losing witty dialogue? Absolutely. But the point wasn’t to make a well rounded tale with all of the elements that flesh it out. I could never sell that 250 and wouldn’t try to. The point was to make a powerful vignette that focused on the beating heart of the story and then build it up to a fully rounded story. My full flash (which you’ve read) is so much better for going through the process and I have high hopes for it.

Take a close look, see what really matters to Garry and focus on it. You’ve got this. And if this one doesn’t come out as perfect as you wanted, that’s okay too. The next one will be a little bit better for the work you’ve put in now. 

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

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Posted : August 25, 2021 5:17 pm
fox and Wulf Moon liked
Physa/ Guthington/ Amy
(@physa)
Bronze Member
Posts: 50

The prompts are from Moon's KYD class yesterday (Sat. Aug. 28): The clock is ticking. Boom! And she didn’t know if she could reverse the spell, but she did know she would die trying.

It's right at 250 words without the title. I did a few edits since yesterday. I thought I'd see what comments or suggestions the folks here have for it. And Moon... I apologize, but my zoom connection was very weak and I didn't quite catch everything you said. Plus, I'm unsure how much of my reading aloud was actually heard. I'm still learning how to do these exercises... 😉

Title: Calamitous Chronos: why no one should ever reverse time

250:

Jix’s singsong voice buzzed in Kefi’s ear. “You know what you have to do, but you won’t dare.”

The hell I won’t! All Kefi wanted was to go home. See her parents again. Kefi’s shuttle landed on the highest hill overlooking her hometown of Dale. The asteroid’s impact could be felt in the vibrations, heard in the panicked voices of humans and animals alike, smelt in the burnt ash that burned her eyes, tasted in the back part of her throat. The Tyger river had left its banks and covered most of the buildings. Kefi tried hard not to think of her parents and sister drowned under meters of water.

All my fault! She would make it right or die trying. She didn’t care about the consequences.

She searched through the catacombs of her mind for that book she’d run across in Arkadia’s Library. Something about reversing time: ah yes. The title was Calamitous Chronos: why no one should ever reverse time.

She uttered the words. The river receded. The fires reversed past that first spark. The black sky returned to its natural aquamarine. The asteroid zipped up into space. Kefi recited the correct spell to place it back on its original journey. She shrunk and her clothes grew large. She held her breath and sighed when her age reversing stopped.

Reduced to an infant, Kefi sobbed. All she had wanted was to return home. Mom lifted her up and held her close, Dad cooed from behind. “You made it.”

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Posted : August 29, 2021 7:49 am
crlisle
(@crlisle)
Silver Member
Posts: 252

@physa Excellent sensory detail!!

I don't think you need the sentences with Jix. This character is never explained and does not add to the plot. This would give you more words so you can write the words to the incantation. I was disappointed that you didn't include them.

Do you think it would be better to move the "All my fault" paragraph to the beginning as a hook?

Then state her heart's desire to go home?

Just some thoughts. 


smiley

2020 Quarters: 1st -- R, 2nd -- HM, 3rd -- HM, 4th -- SHM
2021 Quarters: 1st -- HM, 2nd -- HM, 3rd -- Pending, 4th -- Pending
"Invasion" to be published in Daily Science Fiction
"The Last Dance" to be published Feb. 2022 in the LTUE Anthology, Parliament of Wizards
"My Ten Cents" published in Sci Fi Lampoon, vol. 2, Dec. 2020
"Never give up. Never surrender." - Galaxy Quest

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Posted : August 29, 2021 8:52 pm
Physa/ Guthington/ Amy
(@physa)
Bronze Member
Posts: 50
Posted by: @crlisle

@physa Excellent sensory detail!!

I don't think you need the sentences with Jix. This character is never explained and does not add to the plot. This would give you more words so you can write the words to the incantation. I was disappointed that you didn't include them.

Do you think it would be better to move the "All my fault" paragraph to the beginning as a hook?

Then state her heart's desire to go home?

Just some thoughts. 


smiley

Thanks for your comments and insights, @crlisle! I appreciate your time and you've given me things to think about. All the best, Amy

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Posted : August 30, 2021 7:04 am
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Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2335

@physa This is the strongest work I’ve seen from you to date, Amy. I think it’s amazing all of you in my KYD master class on Saturday were able to pull these rabbits out of a hat from my prompts, having no time to mull the ideas over. That in itself is a tremendous accomplishment! And all twenty of you did it, doing every phase of this challenging exercise! Well done!

Very happy to see you opening with a NAMED character, in a vivid setting, with a problem. Nail Your Opening is a major Super Secret—so few aspiring writers are able to do so when they start out, and you did it with minimal words. Kudos to you! Lots of great sensory detail as well!

Constructive comments:

1. Hybrid stories are dangerous. You cue genre in the opening, then you deliver on that promise. You cued SF, then swapped out to fantasy. I highly recommend not doing that. Even if the story is successful, it will be a hard sell. 

2. Your ending is a bit of deus ex machina. It wouldn’t be if you had identified her as a magic priestess or similar in the open. Two words would have done it. That’s KYD skills. 😊

3. I get that she turned back time. But if she’s an infant, how did parents show up and know it was her? You can’t just do things to make plot walls become doors. They have to be logical, even in a KYD250. The reader must be able to discern that under the parameters and conditions you created, such results could occur. No cheats. Your readers—especially Dave—can always tell if there’s a logical basis for something critical to have occurred.

But this was written on the fly, a workshop timed exercise with no room for deep thought and careful planning. Considering the parameters you created this under, I am well pleased.

This is a jump ahead for you, Amy. Keep doing the full KYD exercise on a regular basis (Top Gun members are doing at least one per month), and you will continue to see growth like all the others have that stuck with it. The system works.

Thanks for being brave and sharing publicly! And for your support!

Cheers!

Wulf Moon

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 31, 2021 12:31 pm
David Hankins
(@lost_bard)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 162

@physa I liked your opening scene. Great descriptions and I could easily place myself there. The ‘All my fault’ note made curious: what did she do?? Alone, it added emotional impact to the scene, and in a bigger piece it would be interesting to see that detail fleshed out. Thanks for sharing!

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

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Posted : September 1, 2021 3:11 am
Physa/ Guthington/ Amy
(@physa)
Bronze Member
Posts: 50
Posted by: @wulfmoon

@physa This is the strongest work I’ve seen from you to date, Amy. I think it’s amazing all of you in my KYD master class on Saturday were able to pull these rabbits out of a hat from my prompts, having no time to mull the ideas over. That in itself is a tremendous accomplishment! And all twenty of you did it, doing every phase of this challenging exercise! Well done!

Very happy to see you opening with a NAMED character, in a vivid setting, with a problem. Nail Your Opening is a major Super Secret—so few aspiring writers are able to do so when they start out, and you did it with minimal words. Kudos to you! Lots of great sensory detail as well!

Constructive comments:

1. Hybrid stories are dangerous. You cue genre in the opening, then you deliver on that promise. You cued SF, then swapped out to fantasy. I highly recommend not doing that. Even if the story is successful, it will be a hard sell. 

2. Your ending is a bit of deus ex machina. It wouldn’t be if you had identified her as a magic priestess or similar in the open. Two words would have done it. That’s KYD skills. 😊

3. I get that she turned back time. But if she’s an infant, how did parents show up and know it was her? You can’t just do things to make plot walls become doors. They have to be logical, even in a KYD250. The reader must be able to discern that under the parameters and conditions you created, such results could occur. No cheats. Your readers—especially Dave—can always tell if there’s a logical basis for something critical to have occurred.

But this was written on the fly, a workshop timed exercise with no room for deep thought and careful planning. Considering the parameters you created this under, I am well pleased.

This is a jump ahead for you, Amy. Keep doing the full KYD exercise on a regular basis (Top Gun members are doing at least one per month), and you will continue to see growth like all the others have that stuck with it. The system works.

Thanks for being brave and sharing publicly! And for your support!

Cheers!

Wulf Moon

Thanks Moon! I appreciate your constructive comments. You've given me a lot to think about if I decide to develop this piece into a short story. I also appreciate the validation that I'm improving! That means a lot to know I'm on the right path. Regarding the ending comments... yes, this is my struggle for sure and I'm most interested in your promised workshop regarding endings. One day at a time! Still got a long way to go before I can be competitive in WOTF contest. All the best, Amy

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Posted : September 1, 2021 8:46 am
Physa/ Guthington/ Amy
(@physa)
Bronze Member
Posts: 50
Posted by: @lost_bard

@physa I liked your opening scene. Great descriptions and I could easily place myself there. The ‘All my fault’ note made curious: what did she do?? Alone, it added emotional impact to the scene, and in a bigger piece it would be interesting to see that detail fleshed out. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks David/lost bard. You have given me more to think about regarding this piece. All the best, Amy

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Posted : September 1, 2021 8:48 am
storysinger
(@storysinger)
Gold Member
Posts: 916

It's Thursday

 

Today's science fiction is tomorrow's reality-D.R.Sweeney
HM-V32/Q3
HM-V36/Q4
HM-V38/Q1

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Posted : September 1, 2021 12:23 pm
David Hankins
(@lost_bard)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 162
Posted by: @physa Still got a long way to go before I can be competitive in WOTF contest.

We all start somewhere and you’re doing the work. You’ll be there before you know it. I haven’t read your early work, but if Wulf says you’re leaping ahead, then keep doing what you’re doing!

Write on!

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

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Posted : September 1, 2021 3:46 pm
Physa/ Guthington/ Amy
(@physa)
Bronze Member
Posts: 50

In case you didn't see this challenge from Wulf Moon:

What am I challenging you to do for Volume 39? It would have to be your own personal commitment, and I'm not placing it upon current members--they've met their Top Gun Year requirements. But here it is for those of you that are up to a new challenge for Volume 39:

1. A fresh, original story (or novel chapter) written each month of 3,000 words or more.
     That's 12 new stories written in the Volume 39 year! 

2. One full KYD exercise per month, based off one of my Monday prompts.

3. A story submitted to Writers of the Future each quarter, revised or new, it's up to you.

4. Three stories submitted to RESPECTABLE MARKETS each quarter (see the Super Secret on the definition, but it's basically markets paying 5 cents a word and up that treat writers professionally and with respect). 

So there you have it, a decent challenge for any Forum writer seeking to up their game. And if you wish to level up faster, why not set a goal of 2 KYDs a month? Many workshop members have said doing this exercise every month has been a game changer. In fact, Zach Bright's grand prize winner in the Mike Resnick Memorial Award for New Writers? It was created from a KYD exercise! The system works. I encourage you to see for yourself. The proof is in the pudding, right here, and it's double chocolate with whipped cream and extra sprinkles.  Smile

Do let me know you're doing this challenge. You don't have to report in each quarter, it's on the honor system. But I have been known to help out those I see working hard . . .

And if you'd like some one-on-one instruction, I do teach at cons. Just sayin'. Check my signature line for the latest!

I salute each one in this year's Top Gun Workshop, and I wish all of you in the WotF Forum much success on your writer's journey!

All the beast!

Commander "Beastmaster" Moon

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Posted : October 7, 2021 7:18 am
Physa/ Guthington/ Amy
(@physa)
Bronze Member
Posts: 50

So.... I'm in. I look forward to stretching myself in this way and by the last month of Q1 things should calm down enough for me to really get cracking on writing seriously. Smile In the current now I'm taking David Farland's 318R class and look forward to getting feedback on my writing which will hopefully push me to a higher level. -Amy

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Posted : October 7, 2021 7:21 am
Joel C. Scoberg
(@joel-c-scoberg)
Bronze Member
Posts: 52

@physa 

Thank you for highlighting this. I unfortunately cannot currently commit the time to take part in the challenge group, at least not consistently, due to work and family commitments. Having this challenge set out means I can trudge through on my own with a goal in mind. Keep me motivated. If my circumstances change, I'll join Wulf's group one day.

I'd also be interested in how you fare with Dave's writing class. I was bought his MyStoryDoctor lessons, the ones where he doesn't provide feedback on your work but you get to view the lessons. And they are brilliant. I expect his 318R class to be well worth the time and investment and it will definitely raise you up another level, I feel improved having seen his classes without any feedback on my work. It's another class I'd love to complete in the future too.

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Posted : October 12, 2021 6:43 am
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