Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Open topics on the Contest itself, to include results-watch threads and other items of note.
Wulf Moon
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Wed Jun 12, 2019 11:12 am

Well done, Chuck! My devious master plan is working! Muahahahahahahaha. Best of success on your Q3!

The other day, one of you was talking to me privately about hitting a wall in a story and having to restart a scene over and over. I told her that never happens to me. Ever. Would you like to know why? I read the posts in various topics on the Forum, and I know some of you also have a problem with this. While this is not meant to tell you THIS IS THE ONLY WAY, it's worth reflecting on.

We won't make a Super Secret out of this, because it won't work for everyone. But it is funny I was just explaining my process the other day, and lo and behold, Analog recently spelled the same process out verbatim in an interview with writer, editor, and publisher Alex Shvartsman. Read his process. Then please tell me what the benefits are, whether or not you wish to implement them.

And don't forget to post your 500's! If you took on the exercise, we need to see your Phase 2 by Friday!

Here's the excerpt from Analog:

"AE: What is your process?

AS: An idea has to take root in my brain. I don’t start writing a story I thought of right away; instead I let it linger. If I forget the idea quickly, the readers probably would too. If it stays with me, it eventually gets written.

Before I sit down to write the first line I must know how the story begins, and how it ends. I virtually never begin writing a story without knowing the ending. This way, every scene I write must drive the story toward its conclusion in some way."

Okay, so what's the plus side with this method? Why might some of you be throwing out entire scenes you wrote?

Cheers!

Beastmaster Moon
Wulf Moon http://driftweave.com
Q4 Vol 35 "Super-Duper Moongirl..."
Critters Readers Award: #1, "War Dog," Best SF&F Short Story of 2018
NEW! "Weep No More..." DEEP MAGIC Fall 2019 http://amazon.com/author/wulfmoon

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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby AjZach » Wed Jun 12, 2019 1:28 pm

Green Dreams 497 Words

The witch house was a curiosity of the neighbourhood children. Julia felt a special affinity to the burnt crumbling walls. The children would go in the evenings and climb through the hole cut in the fence. They would wade their way through the yard overgrown with fern and gooseberry.

The house had been struck in a lightning storm. Julia was ten, and the house had always been burnt. The witch had disappeared with the house. The legend said she had buried treasure somewhere, but none had been found.

The children had long given up on finding the treasure. They had invented a new game. They passed by the remains of the house, and touch the oak tree in the backyard. The tree had also been struck, and was charred and black. Jim Evans, an older boy, had taken a piece of the tree. He said it would protect against lightning strikes.

Julia sought no blackened chip of bark, and when the other children would disappear along the side of the house to cheer on the day’s champion, Julia would sink down into the ferns. She dreamed. Sometimes she dreamed of the witch, or she dreamed of a man, in many forms, who cast the witch down with his shard of light.

All her dreams in her bed of ferns ended the same, with gold. Sometimes it shimmered on the ferns she lay beneath, but she knew it was the oak tree. She lay every evening dreaming, while her fellows approached it, to know more.

Another day, another strip of bark handed around the school yard.

“Will you come to the tree today Julia? Or are you too scared?”

They often taunted her. They feared the witch house, and they could not understand how Julia could stand be alone in the overgrown garden. She had been afraid at first, that is why she had stayed among the ferns, but her fears had dissolved. She had made the mistake of telling some of the children about her dreams. She thought they would want to know where to find the gold. They had teased her worse then and called her a witch.

The evening came, they slipped through the fence and along the side of the house. Julia came with the others, this time she brought a shovel. She looked at the waving leaves of the ferns where she would rather sit, but she had dreamed everything that would happen.

Timmy was already working his way towards the tree. Julia ran past him, spade in tow. The children shouted at her, this was Timmy’s turn. He lingered back. She pushed her spade down into the earth between the tree’s roots. The split made by the lightning pointed right to the spots her dreams had shown her.

The others watched. Julia kept shovelling until she felt the clunk. Soon she had her prize, a heavy trunk. Inside was gold. The children gasped, the stories Julia told had been true.

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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby RSchibler » Wed Jun 12, 2019 3:56 pm

Hey AjZach, nice editing. I really like the bit about the lightning pointing to the spot in her dreams. Your prose is solid, no issues there (except for "touch" should be "touched" I think). I wonder, if you could give Julia a stronger internal conflict and arc, if the story might be more potent. Something about why she feels an affinity for the burned wood, and why she's dreaming about the gold. I'm sure the answer is in your head somewhere. Childhood teasing is a good start, but we don't *really* see her freed from their teasing. Kids can be awful, we know. Maybe even just a line at the end from Timmy or Jim that shows she's part of the club now. It would be your own approach, of course, but I felt like there was a depth here that could have been deeper.

When I used to critique weekly for critters, I used a critique template that covered every possible aspect of a story (seriously it was like 3 pages long without notes inserted). One of the most common pieces of feedback I would have would be exactly what I'm saying to you - great adventure, fun setting, but what's the impact on our character? Why does this adventure Matter? I know, with Wulf's word count and all that's really hard, and other people might have a completely different take. But that's what I came away thinking. Thanks for sharing! Good luck with this!
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Wulf Moon
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Thu Jun 13, 2019 9:06 am

AjZach,

I have two others to comment on before yours, but I'm mixing things up today. First, you cut your words in half, and improved this story by at least five times. Proof that less is more. Remember this and use it on your larger works as well. Well done on getting this point on my Economy of Words excercise!

That's the good news. Now for the bad. You didn't apply my suggestions for raising the stakes. You barely tweaked it up, even though I told you the tension would only meet a young child's interest at best. It's okay if you only want this to be a story about not being respected by peers, and then worked your heroine's courage up to do something courageous that earns her the respect of her peers. But the pain of her torment needs to be so much higher, and her need to earn their respect so much greater for this story to work even on that theme.

Margaret Attwood, author of The Handmaiden's Tale, said the number one rule in writing is HOLD MY ATTENTION. How do we do that? We give our protagonists BIG problems, both external and internal. The writing itself is clean and competent now. But the story has very little tension, because there is no true opposing force. That is a Fail. We have no real villian. Some kids tease her, but that's true in everyday life. We have a puzzle, but it's not fighting her. You have the ultimate source of tension--powerful magic and a witch destroyed by someone more powerful than her--but you don't turn that power on your heroine. There is no true pressure on her, no great opposing force, and no reason for readers to sit on the edge of their seats and keep reading, wondering what in the world will happen to their dear heroine. They could be fearful the wizardly looking being is going to show up and strike her with lightning for persuing the treasure or even the witch's power; or if she herself is becoming a witch and the power troubles her; or even if the gold is tainted by the witch and it's calling to her because the witch cast her soul into that gold and she wants out from under that tree to inhabit the girl (now that would be an intense story!). There's any number of ways to raise the stakes here, but we have the same story of a girl wanting something that might raise her street cred one notch (although she doesn't really seem to care even about that) with the other kids. She doesn't have incredible longing for a thing desired. And nothing really stands up to fight her for the thing desired. It's all passive. And the solution, to just dream in the ferns and the answer shall appear, is all too easy.

In conclusion, you got the main point of the ongoing lesson--less is more. But you have to give your readers a real adventure as you do that. Otherwise, they'll move on to someone else's story, one that has suspense. In this contest, and in professional writing, tepid will not win the gold.

I suggest you go back, really rewrite this, and RAISE. THE. STAKES. It will be good for you to focus on this. It is a requirement in professional storytelling.

Thank you for being bold and sharing in the exercise, AjZach!

For the rest, Friday is almost upon us! There should be more 500s here. : ) And each of us should offer comments on the works presented. Oh, and Becky? Well done. Your words showed excellent understanding of what AjZach's story did right, and what it needed to improve in. Good critique.

All the beast!

Beastmaster Moon
Wulf Moon http://driftweave.com
Q4 Vol 35 "Super-Duper Moongirl..."
Critters Readers Award: #1, "War Dog," Best SF&F Short Story of 2018
NEW! "Weep No More..." DEEP MAGIC Fall 2019 http://amazon.com/author/wulfmoon

Corbin Maxwell
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Corbin Maxwell » Thu Jun 13, 2019 9:16 am

They had invented a new game.

That right there is where you put in the bad thing the children are doing, the thing that might keep some people up night. That sentence sent a chill up my spine, and had it been followed by something homicidal, I would've been thinking about it for a long time.

They had invented a new game. Skin the witch, a homeless guy being the witch.
For there is death in the sound of it, and a glamorous fatality, like silver pennons downrushing at sunset, or a dying fall of horns along the road to Ronceveaux.

The only easy day was yesterday.




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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby JVAshley » Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:30 am

Corbin Maxwell wrote:They had invented a new game.

That right there is where you put in the bad thing the children are doing, the thing that might keep some people up night. That sentence sent a chill up my spine, and had it been followed by something homicidal, I would've been thinking about it for a long time.

They had invented a new game. Skin the witch, a homeless guy being the witch.

Corbin, you are harsh. I am disturbed just by your suggestion. I mean, you are right, that sort of thing hits a reader hard giving serious emotional impact. But YIKES!
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Corbin Maxwell » Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:51 am

JVAshley wrote:
Corbin Maxwell wrote:They had invented a new game.

That right there is where you put in the bad thing the children are doing, the thing that might keep some people up night. That sentence sent a chill up my spine, and had it been followed by something homicidal, I would've been thinking about it for a long time.

They had invented a new game. Skin the witch, a homeless guy being the witch.

Corbin, you are harsh. I am disturbed just by your suggestion. I mean, you are right, that sort of thing hits a reader hard giving serious emotional impact. But YIKES!


Maybe I’ve read too much Stephen King.
For there is death in the sound of it, and a glamorous fatality, like silver pennons downrushing at sunset, or a dying fall of horns along the road to Ronceveaux.

The only easy day was yesterday.




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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby JVAshley » Fri Jun 14, 2019 9:44 am

Corbin Maxwell wrote:Maybe I’ve read too much Stephen King.

Or just the right amount! wotf011
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Corbin Maxwell » Fri Jun 14, 2019 11:29 am

JVAshley wrote:
Corbin Maxwell wrote:Maybe I’ve read too much Stephen King.

Or just the right amount! wotf011



In my opinion, the first book the Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger, was the closest he came to perfection. Maybe because he was only 19 when he wrote it and had as yet to injure his craft with drugs and alcohol. When you read those first dozen or so pages, you'd think Faulkner and McCarthy had some sort of writer-love baby. The first sentence alone is the probably the best ever written.
For there is death in the sound of it, and a glamorous fatality, like silver pennons downrushing at sunset, or a dying fall of horns along the road to Ronceveaux.

The only easy day was yesterday.




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HM x 10

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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby RSchibler » Fri Jun 14, 2019 11:39 am

I'm reading 11.22.63 right now and am loving it. I love his characterizations and the way he grows setting without breaking the tension. He really is a master. The only other thing of his I've read is The Regulators and I did not like it. I think I'm learning almost as much from King's novel as I am from Wulf's challenge! I'm also reading Memoirs of a Geisha, and that one has beautiful prose and a quiet kind of storytelling I am fascinated by.

Looking forward to the other 500 word stories! It was such a challenge getting mine down, but I'm editing my novel right now and can see how the exercise has informed my thinking about what can be cut.
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby chuckt » Fri Jun 14, 2019 12:11 pm

Oh what the heck. I did it and here it is. I figure it's not really the same story at 500. I'll post the title separately.



Dr. Mann Chiu Lee felt it before he understood. The warp bubble had ceased its warbling hum. He moved to the nearest port. The stars should be blurry streaks. Instead, they twinkled back.

The nearest comms station barked to life. “Lee! What the hell happened?”

“Allison . . . We’ve dropped out. Where are you?”

“I’m at the Nomura tank. You better come down here.”

When he arrived, he saw Allison, the only other crew member, keying commands into a panel. A screen inside the tank responded by flashing shapes and colors. The animal wasn’t listening. Black swaths of color swirled about its body.

“What is that? Anger? Confusion?” Lee asked.

“Both I would guess.”

Lee recognized one of the patterns. Herd, the Nomura’s own family group or, in this particular Nomura’s case, a pod of fellow training animals. When his people first colonized New Ceres, they were astounded when they discovered the Nomura created their own hydrogen and used it to rise into the upper atmosphere. However, that was nothing compared to their shock upon learning the Nomura then manipulated spacetime to travel to breeding grounds on the second planet in the system. It took many years of research and development to harness the Nomuras’ abilities.

Lee touched her on the shoulder. “Perhaps let’s give it some time?”

“You know as well as I do we’re dead meat if we don’t get this Nomura working again. Why the hell would it stop!”

* * *

“Lee, it’s been three weeks. We’ve gotten nowhere with it. We must try something else.”

“You mean punishment. It’s never worked with them.”

“Lee, I am not going to die here. I am not!”

* * *

He wasn’t hungry anymore. The food had been gone for what? Months? The Nomura, in stasis, was a grey tight ball.
Allison died. It hadn’t been pretty. He felt a guilty relief when she went silent. Lee wasn’t going to go like that. A deliberate engine feedback would do it. Lee floated over to the command station on the bridge and pulled himself into the chair. Navs were still set for their destination: the Cashus system. Well, he decided, that wasn’t right and he changed the destination to home. New Ceres. A symbolic act without the Nomura.

Lee froze. He put his hand flat on the surface of the console. Lee pushed over to a port and saw it. The stars were streaks again. Tears welled and flowed down.

Did the Nomura know he programmed a return home? They didn’t have anywhere near that level of perception or intelligence. Did they? We were so wrong about you, Lee thought.

* * *

“Gods, that’s the Odyssey!” the controller yelled. “Odyssey, we’re dispatching rescue. Please respond.”

Lee was too weak to answer. He floated in the tank room as he gazed outside. Dusk had almost given way to night and the distant stars brightened and twinkled around his home.

THE END
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby chuckt » Fri Jun 14, 2019 12:13 pm

So the title I have so far is "Shall we Sleep in the Cold, Dark Deep"
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby RSchibler » Fri Jun 14, 2019 12:30 pm

Chuck, I like it! I like the determination and the dread, and the twist. Humans can be so myopic. I got "it" just before I read the reveal, which is perfect pacing. Surprising but inevitable.

I still wonder if that block of exposition couldn't be smoothed out somehow.

"When his people first colonized New Ceres, they were astounded when they discovered the Nomura created their own hydrogen and used it to rise into the upper atmosphere. However, that was nothing compared to their shock upon learning the Nomura then manipulated spacetime to travel to breeding grounds on the second planet in the system. It took many years of research and development to harness the Nomuras’ abilities."

I am not sure the first sentence is needed information, for the 500 word version at any rate. The second sentence's info would be easy to meld into another part of the story. Eg. "Lee had been part of the original team studying how the Nomura manipulated spacetime to travel to their breeding grounds on another planet, but even now decades later he scarcely understood the simple creatures." Or some such, but in a way that relates it to the character and the story.

But I'm really nitpicking because that's what we're doing here. I really enjoyed it! Thanks for sharing. Best of luck with this!
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V36: R, HM, HM, SHM

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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby chuckt » Fri Jun 14, 2019 1:48 pm

Good suggestion Becky. I like it. Thanks.
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Fri Jun 14, 2019 3:30 pm

chuckt wrote:So the title I have so far is "Shall we Sleep in the Cold, Dark Deep"


Good title, Chuck. It's a curious question, and makes this reader want to find out more. I do think it should have a question mark at the end. Otherwise, it looks like an error, and you don't want a judge, editor, or reader wondering before they even begin to read your story, "Did the author forget the question mark, or is it supposed to be that way?"

Titles are important. One of my weekly winners in that year long ultra flash contest? I titled it, "La Sirena." It means "The Mermaid" of course, a little boring, but it was about a Spanish captain, so the title at least alluded to the Spanish nature of the story. When I expanded the story (after doing Phase 3 of this exercise which you will find out about tonight) it became a novelette with the title, "Through The Cold and Glistening Blue." I got the idea for the title from a bit of prose from one of Zelazny's works that I liked and twisted. That story earned me a semifinalist in WotF, and Dave's critique which said it was likely better in worldbuilding than all the other Finalists put together, had beautiful prose, but that was also the problem--I needed to "kill my darlings." Ooops, I expanded up from the original micro flash WAAAAY too much! I took his critique seriously and cut HALF the words out of my story (16K to 8K), just like you're doing in this exercise, but I had to do it with a vastly larger work. WHEW! I WAS MERCILESS! Just like you guys have to be here to go from a thousand words to 500. Oh, I changed the story's title because, while evocative, any ocean going ship story could be described in such a way. So I narrowed in on the internal conflict of my protagonist within the story and retitled it, "Weep No More for the Willow." Would you like to see how it turned out after applying this Economy of Words exercise to it? Read it in the upcoming Fall issue of DEEP MAGIC magazine.

It KILLED to cut my story in half and toss the bleeding chunks to the gulls (I believe Becky felt the same--she said she had to cut some beautiful prose from her piece in here). There was prose within mine that made me sigh with delight. The vision on the page was identical to the vision within my mind! But Dave told me it wasn't going to sell like that. I had to kill my darlings.

Kill your darlings. Heh, I shall retitle this exercise! KILL YOUR DARLINGS: The Economy of Words Exercise. What it teaches is very important. Properly applied, it can take you from a continual stream of nice personal rejection letters from pro editors, into suddenly receiving multiple pro contracts.

More to come! Phase 3 is about to begin. But first, I owe you some critiques on Phase 2: The 500s.

Cheers!

Beastmaster Moon
Wulf Moon http://driftweave.com
Q4 Vol 35 "Super-Duper Moongirl..."
Critters Readers Award: #1, "War Dog," Best SF&F Short Story of 2018
NEW! "Weep No More..." DEEP MAGIC Fall 2019 http://amazon.com/author/wulfmoon

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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Fri Jun 14, 2019 3:34 pm

Anyone want to venture a guess as to what Phase 3 of the exercise will be? Muahahahahahaaa!
Wulf Moon http://driftweave.com
Q4 Vol 35 "Super-Duper Moongirl..."
Critters Readers Award: #1, "War Dog," Best SF&F Short Story of 2018
NEW! "Weep No More..." DEEP MAGIC Fall 2019 http://amazon.com/author/wulfmoon

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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby RSchibler » Fri Jun 14, 2019 4:28 pm

If it's another 50% cut I'm gonna cry. I will give it my best shot, but I'll cry the whole time. Ugly cry. If that's what you want to do to me, Wulf, well, that's on you. ;)
V34: R, HM, R
V35: HM, R, R, HM
V36: R, HM, HM, SHM

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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby chuckt » Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:00 pm

I thought you already gave it away. Double the length. To 2000?

And I look forward to reading your story in the Fall.
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:41 pm

RSchibler wrote:If it's another 50% cut I'm gonna cry. I will give it my best shot, but I'll cry the whole time. Ugly cry. If that's what you want to do to me, Wulf, well, that's on you. ;)


Ugly cry it is! But you'll get a lollipop at the end, 'kay?

I'll explain it and the reasoning behind it in a bit. Good news! After Phase 3, we turn them into haikus! Or Kaijus, your choice! wotf001

But for now, it's time to critique! Let's see what cutting your Flash by 50% has done for your stories....
Wulf Moon http://driftweave.com
Q4 Vol 35 "Super-Duper Moongirl..."
Critters Readers Award: #1, "War Dog," Best SF&F Short Story of 2018
NEW! "Weep No More..." DEEP MAGIC Fall 2019 http://amazon.com/author/wulfmoon

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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Fri Jun 14, 2019 6:40 pm

storysinger wrote:Oh, my mistake. I thought we had the option of sending it to you for a private viewing.
Regardless of how it works out I wrote a story that stayed within your guidelines (except for posting on a public forum) which I choose not to do.

I thank you for helping me learn and grow into the writer I will be. If you would like to read it then let me know.


I did send you a message, Storysinger. And in Messenger. I hope you got it.
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Q4 Vol 35 "Super-Duper Moongirl..."
Critters Readers Award: #1, "War Dog," Best SF&F Short Story of 2018
NEW! "Weep No More..." DEEP MAGIC Fall 2019 http://amazon.com/author/wulfmoon

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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Fri Jun 14, 2019 6:42 pm

Dying of the Light by RSchibler 498 words Moon's comments below.

It was not a grand death.

Almost mundane, in fact. Movement slowed, light faded. Mass once vibrant seeped into thin wisps before vaporizing into nothingness.

The old man stared from Sol Invictus Station toward the distant sphere of fading solar brilliance. "Well, that just won't do."

He used his cane to step over prone figures, almost catching the toe of his blue slipper on an outstretched hand. Both slippers and cane bore a scarlet splatter. They should not have tried to stop him. Their ignorance didn't make him wrong, after all. For something so grand, a quiet death would be a universal injustice. They'd called the star a dwarf, him a maniac. He settled onto the stiff work stool, exhaling stale station air with habit's groan. He'd make it right.

"Grampa Sal," said a small voice behind him. "Is it time?"

He turned to smile at Dorah. Six years old, and she alone understood. From the beginning, three years ago when she came to him, she'd listened. Before she'd understood the dream, she understood him. As her father never had. "Would you like to push the button?"

She clambered over bodies to reach him. "What will happen first?"

He chuckled and pulled her onto his lap. "First, a long streak of light, whoosh. Then a long silence. Then," he leaned down and whispered, "boom!"
She giggled and bounced. Yes, he could see she understood. Something so beautiful should not fade. It should rage, expand, transform. He typed the final command. Dorah's tiny fist curled and slammed onto the shiny red button.

Whoosh.

Silence.

BOOM.

The station shuddered as waves of protest screamed into emptiness. Dorah cheered and clapped. Sal grinned, triumphal tears weaving down wrinkles to drip into her hair. The white blossom burst outward, absorbing planets one by one.

"So fast," Dorah whispered. "Will it reach us?"

"No," he patted her hand. "We're far away." But as the nova spread, he wondered. Had he miscalculated? No, he couldn't have. Dorah cringed away from the stunning brilliance, light obscuring all else. Her insubstantial frame shivered and he drew her closer. In this of all moments, he had not wanted her to be afraid.

They began to sweat, the inexorable press of matter and light raging toward them. He set Dorah aside--though she cried now--and pulled up his calculations. Had he missed a step? Slipped a decimal somewhere?

No, the shields had failed. A weakness beyond his control. They should have been far enough away, but there was no one left to pilot the station. He had seen to that.

Dorah whimpered. The temperature climbed past tolerance. He turned, tears of a different sort boiling away before they could drop. He'd chosen wrong. Grandness and fury befit a star, but she shouldn't have died this way.
[It was not a grand death.]

He sank to his knees, held his arms out. She toppled into them and together they fell to the floor.

Whoosh.

He whispered, holding her close. "Rage, rage, against the dying..."

Silence.

BOOM.

END
___________________________________

Becky,

How interesting! You lost half the words, and you've said so much more in this piece (exactly 500 words by MS Word!) than you did with all the extra in the other! How is that possible? Because you were forced to focus on word choice and theme, and had to discard anything that didn't contribute to the compelling destination of this story. Well done!

Here's what's going to happen if you continue doing these exercises. Because you've been practicing this in short form regularly, your long form is going to start doing this naturally. You'll be saying more...with less! And it will become natural to do so! Tighter stories, laser focused on your promise, and on the destination to the promise's ultimate fulfillment in the climax. Boom.

Here's some noteworthy things that changed in this piece.

I don't recall being so grounded that we were in a space station in the other. It took longer, as I recall, to grasp this in your 999. We swiftly have a name of the station and what it's observing.

Total clarity as to why there's dead bodies lying around. Grandpa did it.

Clarity as to why he did it: He had a vision as to how this star should go out, and he was going to send it off right. This was your promise. We understand this is very likely the story of a crazy man about to do something crazy.

Grampa Sal. You got in your protagonist's name in this one. It personalizes him. He's not Old Crazy Man, he's Grampa Sal.

You gave us some reason as to why his granddaughter goes along with all of this. It did reduce her creepiness in this one, which is a shame, but it made no sense in the other. Little girls don't like seeing their grandfather kill people, let alone in front of their eyes. If you expand this (more about the "Kaiju" extra credit at the conclusion of the final exercise), see if you can keep the explanation here, but still give her that complicit creepiness. She should be as off as her grandfather. Makes her interesting.

Significant problem solved: how the temp could slowly rise and how a supernova could not simply wipe them out in the blink of an eye. There are shields. They are failing. Because Grampa Sal screwed up on proximity to the event. This works. It didn't in the other.

I did one other thing. I inserted your opening into the ending lines. It's important. It brings the story full circle. And it shows change. The opening line is the same, but it means something entirely different now. I LOVE doing this. It's a boon to any story when you can pull this off. And you have the perfect line to do it with! So look how I placed that. Remember that trick. It's such a huge secret, it was a hidden secret I shared only with challenge members. Well, the cat's out of the bag now! Run with it before somebody else reading here figures out how to employ it. Its potency is lethal.

Well done, Becky! You could look at a few of those darlings you killed due to size restriction, decide if they added to the theme, and carefully work them back in if they do. But beware! You could easily dilute this with too many additions. Well done! If this had been a private critique, instead of publicly posted, you could have sent it off to Daily Science Fiction. So do another!

All the beast!

Beastmaster Moon
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Fri Jun 14, 2019 7:26 pm

Cousin Coyote Meets Mother Torment, Take II by disgruntledpeony 500 words
Moon's comments internal and below.

Coyote slipped into Sheriff Mallory’s skin as the man traversed Devil’s Creek. Boots squelched through russet-red clay accumulated in the arroyo from recent rains. Wind sang through tangled catclaw bushes, carrying the honeyed scent of acacia blossoms.

Coyote missed having a body. This was the perfect night for a run. [Everyone reading this should hear thunder here. This is the problem. It's also his great need, what this story is going to be about. You've made a promise to the reader. We buy in, and hope you will deliver.]

Mallory shivered. “You’re supposed to ask before entering.”

And you’re supposed to invite me on every hunt. What are we after?

Add-->“[Not sure.] Tracks like a bear, but bigger. It's been eating Harmon Ellis's cattle. Damn near ate him when he tried to chase it off.”

They caught up with the beast at sunrise. It stood twenty hands tall, with shoulders broad as a carriage. Patches of fur clung to cancerous knots of flesh; spurs of bone jutted from every joint. One hind leg ended in a ruined stump.

Oh, my. Our friend is being consumed by a pain spirit.

Mallory grimaced. "[Seems to be.] How do we stop it?"

Exorcism, most likely.

"You want me... to exorcise... a bear the size of a Clydesdale."

Just incapacitate it--

"How?!"

Don't worry. You'll think of something. Coyote poured himself into every crack and crevice of Mallory’s being. In that moment, he felt fully alive.

Perhaps too alive.

He searched Mallory’s mind. It was silent. He'd pushed too hard, too quickly. Mallory was unconscious. [<--great, this was unclear before. Short, sweet, and clear now.]

Coyote's mouth stretched into a face-splitting grin. "Whoops! New plan.” He approached the beast, arms spread wide. “Noble spirit! Call me Cousin Coyote.”

The bear nodded respectfully. “I am Mother Torment.”

“Why have you claimed this sorry creature? I sincerely doubt it deserves such torture.”

“It gave itself over to escape a hunter's trap.”

“You've run your host ragged, mother.[I think this should be capitalized. Mother. It's a title.] Already burned it half away.”

Mother Torment tilted her head. “How do you keep yours so pristine?”

“What, this old thing?” Coyote tipped his hat and took a bow. “I take a gentler approach. Shared consciousness with a touch of light possession.”

Mother Torment growled. “Not the same. This body, it feels things. Reminds me of when I was human.”

Coyote shuddered. His own memories of humanity were ancient and weather-worn. All that remained was the thrill of the hunt, the word games that taught him how to lie, the first time he’d seen the world through an animal’s eyes... [potent here. Less is more here. VERY good.]

Gods, he wanted to live again.

Mother Torment circled him, eyes blazing. “You miss it too. I feel your pain. Join me. We can burn together. A short life, but a powerful one.”

Coyote shook his head. “It’s an addiction. You’ll want another body, and another, until you lose so much of yourself that your soul burns away. You deserve better. Return home.”

Mother Torment sighed. “This one has cubs. If you see them safe, I can let her go.”

“Show me the den.”

That evening, surrounded by mewling cubs, Coyote yearned to claim Mallory’s body for his own. It would be so easy. All it would take was one… simple… push.

But, no. There would be other hunts. [ Cut this---->]Coyote released his hold.

[Add this on its own line--->]Coyote howled as he let go. OR Coyote howled as he released his hold.

_________________________________________

Liz,

Congrats! There's some tightly condensed prose in here that really sings! I marked one. Beautiful. Additionally, everyone should look at how you opened with a character in a setting, grounding the reader deftly in your world with minimal scene setting, maximum potency. Few new writers know how important this is, and either do massive opening descriptions, killing all tension, or do little scene setting at all, leaving readers confused and lost. The way you opened is how it is done. Study it, folks. Practice it. It's pro.

This Flash is about as lean as it could be while still telling a competent story. Truth is, it probably needs some of those darlings you cut out. Remember this if you "Kaiju" this later on. I'll explain at the very end of Phase 3. But that's not this exercise. This exercise was to figure out how you could tell the same story with half the words. And you did a great job with the canvas you were given. I tied an arm behind your back, and you still painted a masterful tale. Well done.

I added a few lines it absolutely needs for clarity. Yeah, it puts it over 500, but the story needs it to be clear. And the ending lost some punch somehow. In Flash, your last line must be the coup de grace--a powerful blow that drives the blade through the heart of the story and makes the reader gasp as it ends with finality. I gave you one idea. The howl reveals how painful it is for Coyote to let go. And that's your theme. Nail it in the ending. Nailing it is the difference between a sale and a rejection letter. In Flash, and in your WotF entries.

Good story. Thank you for taking the challenge! Phase 3 beckons. Do you dare?

Beastmaster Moon
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Fri Jun 14, 2019 7:34 pm

Okay, I have Chuck's last minute surprise. I did say Friday, so you made it, no worries, Chuck. But I had an...interesting request...I had to immediately respond to when I got home today that took more time than I expected. So I beg the forgiveness of all, it's 8:30 pm my time, and I need to make dinner. I promise to finish the final 500 story submitted, and give you Phase 3 of the KILL YOUR DARLINGS: Economy of Words exercise, tomorrow.

All the beast!

Beastmaster Moon
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Q4 Vol 35 "Super-Duper Moongirl..."
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Fri Jun 14, 2019 11:29 pm

"Shall We Sleep in the Cold Dark Deep" by chuckt. about 491 words
Moon's comments internally and at the end. This is Phase 2 of this exercise: taking a story from 999 words to 500 words.


Dr. Mann Chiu Lee felt it before he understood. The warp bubble had ceased its warbling hum. He moved to the nearest port. The stars should be blurry streaks. Instead, they twinkled back.

The nearest comms station barked to life. “Lee! What the hell happened?”

“Allison . . . We’ve dropped out. Where are you?”

“I’m at the Nomura tank. You better come down here.”

When he arrived, he saw Allison, the only other crew member, keying commands into a panel. A screen inside the tank responded by flashing shapes and colors. The animal wasn’t listening. Black swaths of color swirled about its body.

“What is that? Anger? Confusion?” Lee asked.

“Both I would guess.”

Lee recognized one of the patterns. [This line is very confusing-->]Herd, the Nomura’s own family group or, in this particular Nomura’s case, a pod of fellow training animals. When his people first colonized New Ceres, they were astounded when they discovered the Nomura created their own hydrogen and used it to rise into the upper atmosphere. However, that was nothing compared to their shock upon learning the Nomura then manipulated spacetime to travel to breeding grounds on the second planet in the system. It took many years of research and development to harness the Nomuras’ abilities. [<--I don't recall this before. Now I understand what's going on in this story. Good!]

Lee touched her on the shoulder. “Perhaps let’s give it some time?”

“You know as well as I do we’re dead meat if we don’t get this Nomura working again. Why the hell would it stop!”

* * *

“Lee, it’s been three weeks. We’ve gotten nowhere with it. We must try something else.”

“You mean punishment. [It's wrong. And i]t’s never worked with them.”[<--I did this change to increase empathy for Lee. "Save the cat" principle.]

“Lee, I am not going to die here. I am not!”[<--change to: I will not! Repetitive words are bad echoes, especially next to one another in sentences.]

* * *

He wasn’t hungry anymore. The food had been gone for what? Months? The Nomura, in stasis, was a grey tight ball.

Allison [had] died. It hadn’t been pretty. He felt a guilty relief when she went silent. Lee wasn’t going to go like that. A deliberate engine feedback would do it. Lee floated over to the command station on the bridge and pulled himself into the chair. Navs were still set for their destination: the Cashus system. Well, he decided, that wasn’t right and he changed the destination to home. New Ceres. A symbolic act without the Nomura.

Lee froze. He put his hand flat on the surface of the console. Lee pushed over to a port and saw it. The stars were streaks again. Tears welled and flowed down.

Did the Nomura know he programmed a return home? They didn’t have anywhere near that level of perception or intelligence. Did they? We were so wrong about you, Lee thought.

* * *

“Gods, that’s the Odyssey!” the controller yelled. “Odyssey, we’re dispatching rescue. Please respond.”

Lee was too weak to answer. He floated in the tank room as he gazed outside. Dusk had almost given way to night and the distant stars brightened and twinkled around his home.

THE END
_______________________________

Chuck,

The problem is clear now, vividly so. It was not clear before. With half the words, you did a superior job of telling us your world, your problem, and your solution. Really, this is so much stronger. Bravo!

Loved your use of scene breaks in a Flash to cover a great deal of ground. That's a good trick, and creates a much bigger story in the confined space of 500 words. Nicely done.

Another great thing: all those awkward dialogue tags? Gone. This is much cleaner and reads the way good dialogue should. Except for: "the controller yelled." The exclamation mark at the end of the dialogue tells us he yelled. So saying he yelled is redundant. Why not use the same space to add depth? A little more detail, like this:
____________________
“Gods, that’s the Odyssey!” The entire control room at Minotaur Space Station cheered. The test ship had successfully returned. “Odyssey, we’re dispatching the pilot ship to guide you in. Please respond.”
__________________

I wrote another ending that got in your title in the last line. And then realized I shouldn't rewrite your story, even though I'm just trying to teach lessons.

So, I will say this, and I say it to all. Nail your ending. Readers hope and pray they'll get a strong one. Don't disappoint them...or the judge of this contest.

I want you to win.

Thanks for sharing in this exercise. One more phase to this Kill Your Darlings challenge!

All the beast!

Wulf Moon
Last edited by Wulf Moon on Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:22 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Fri Jun 14, 2019 11:43 pm

As to Q3...Two week mark, challenge beasties! The clock is ticking. Something is always better than nothing. You can do this!

But be sure to use your Super Secrets to ensure you're submitting your very best!

As to my 500, and Phase 3 of the Kill Your Darlings: An Economy of Words exercise, stay tuned tomorrow! And do comment on the stories posted for your examination. The writers went to a lot of effort to share them with you.

All the beast!

Wulf Moon
Wulf Moon http://driftweave.com
Q4 Vol 35 "Super-Duper Moongirl..."
Critters Readers Award: #1, "War Dog," Best SF&F Short Story of 2018
NEW! "Weep No More..." DEEP MAGIC Fall 2019 http://amazon.com/author/wulfmoon

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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby chuckt » Sat Jun 15, 2019 3:35 am

Thanks again Wulf. Can't believe I still left one of this awful tags in there. Maybe the title should have something to do with stars since that is what I use to open and close the story. "Twinkling Stars: Death and Life"

Becky: Wow! Cutting your tale in half really made a difference! I like your story so much this way. You toned down the characters' indifference to death which really helped. Good job.

Liz--Yes! You can make prose sing. No wonder you've been doing well. I need more of that in my writing, but it doesn't come naturally. This is a great story. I think you should submit it somewhere. I'd like a little more where Mother decides to give the bear to Coyote. Just a bit.

AJ-Your'e another solid wordsmith. I still want a clearer conflict in your story. Something for the character to struggle with and solve.
Last edited by chuckt on Sat Jun 15, 2019 4:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:39 am

chuckt wrote:Thanks again Wulf. Can't believe I still left one of this awful tags in there. Maybe the title should have something to do with start since that is what I use to open and close the story. "Twinkling Stars: Death and Life"

Becky: Wow! Cutting your tale in half really made a difference! I like your tale so much this way. You toned down the characters indifference to death which really helped. Good job.

Liz--Yes! You can make prose sing. No wonder you've been doing well. I need more of that in my writing but it doesn't come naturally. This is a great story. I think you should submit it somewhere. I think I'd like a little more where Mother decides to give the bear to Coyote. Just a bit.

AJ-Your'e another solid wordsmith. I still want a clearer conflict in your story. Something for the character to struggle with and solve.


Chuck, your other title is good, and poetic. I just wish such a poetic title had been utilized in the ending. It would have given us that "full circle" feel.

"Twinkling Stars: Death and Life"? Use that one, and I'm going to have to break some fingers so you never type again. wotf001

Thanks for commenting on the work of the others. Everyone likes knowing their labors weren't in vain.

Okay, my slate is cleared. I need to give all of you my 500, and then post Phase 3 of Moon's KILL YOUR DARLINGS exercise!

DRUMROLL!
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Q4 Vol 35 "Super-Duper Moongirl..."
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Sat Jun 15, 2019 4:23 pm

Here is my 500 in Phase 2 of Moon's KILL YOUR DARLINGS: Economy of Words exercise.
Feel free to comment.

Last Words copyright 1996 by Wulf Moon.
500 words EXACTLY, because in this tight space, you should utilize every square inch.


I sat in a hard plastic hospital chair, fingers touching the book inside my jacket while I watched my father die. Dad rested in bed, eyes closed, lips grayish-blue. The room’s window was rimed in frost, streetlights illuminating patterns like stained glass in a chapel.

I ran my fingers along the binding of the collection of my poems. My lifelong secret; last chance to let Dad know. Becoming a poet had always been his dream, and I didn’t know if I could tell him.

Dad had known success. He’d won Realtor of the Year in Century 21, had the view office overlooking the marina. Everyone in town knew him, but it wasn’t his career that gave him joy.

Just those damnable sing-songy poems.

When I'd visit Dad in his office, we'd talk about his listings, how I was feeling after the divorce, how the girls were doing in school. And every time before we'd head to lunch, he'd reach in a drawer and toss that folder to me.

"Penned some new ones, kid."

I'd lean back in my chair and read, sweating to find something good I could comment on. Then I'd smile, because, hey, they were from his heart.

I remembered Dad’s comments on my poems when I was a kid. I’d be lying in bed, words pouring into my mind like songs from seductive sirens. No way they’d grant me sleep. So I’d hunch over a typewriter in the basement into the wee hours, the striking type sounding like volleys of thunder. I’d set a pillow under the base, wrap a towel around the sides, hope Dad wouldn't hear.

It didn’t work. Inevitably, Dad would come lumbering down the stairs. I’d rise from the depths, float on the surface of the muse as Dad drew up alongside. He’d stand there in his sagging underwear in a silence as long as the sea. He didn’t have to speak--I knew what his verdict would be.

"It's good, kid. But you won't make money at it. You'd make a great Realtor--got my name to carry you in town. Get to bed now, you’ve got school in the morning."

Years later, many rejection slips later, I had my breakout moment. Published in The New Yorker. It snowballed from there. I never told him.

And here I was, sitting by his side, holding his blue-veined hand, oxygen hissing like serpents through pale green tubes at his nose.

"Michael, want you to do something for me."

"Easy Dad. Just rest."

"Hell with the doctors! Listen to me, kid."

I sat forward, hoping he'd ease back. He didn't.

"All my life, the only thing besides Mother and you kids that meant something to me were my poems."

"I know, Dad."

He coughed furiously.

"Take my stuff. Send them out for me."

I rubbed his weathered hand. "I will, Dad."

"They were good, weren't they?"

A hot tear wandered down my cheek. I shifted my coat, tugged the zipper higher.

"They were great, Dad."

finis
Last edited by Wulf Moon on Sat Jun 15, 2019 5:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby chuckt » Sat Jun 15, 2019 4:40 pm

Fabulous. It's just as good. If you had a gun to my head, I couldn't tell you what was cut.
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Sat Jun 15, 2019 4:55 pm

AND NOW

WHITHOUT FURTHER ADO

BEHOLD! THE GRAND FINALE! ALL SHALL BE REVEALED AT THE END!

Phase 3 of Moon's KILL YOUR DARLINGS: Economy of Words Writing Improvement Exercise!

Are you feeling deja vu? ARE YOU READY? ARE YOU REALLY READY? THEN DEPLOY YOUR SCALPELS!

For everyone that completed their 500 Flash, I want you to tell that same story in 250 words or less. STOP UGLY CRYING, BECKY! YOU HEARD ME! IT CAN BE DONE!

Well, not exactly. You'll have cut away the body, but you'll keep the head so we can all recognize your victim. So here's a hanky, Becky. There, there. I'm not really the BEASTMASTER. That's just my stomach growling, probably someone I ate.

What you can and will do is create a vignette--a short descriptive literary sketch. Or if it was a comedic piece this size, AJ Budrys would have called it a jape. You still have a character, in a setting, with a problem. You have laser-focused conflict. But you will likely have space for only one scene, and one mighty punchline that is often your climax.

How to do this? Again with the deja vu. I will give you a hint. The theme was A TOUGH CHOICE. If you focus on that theme (and if your story had the theme in it!) you'll find the very bones of your story.

Right now, I hear your screams. It gives me no pleasure in doing this to you. I see there is nothing left but cartilage and bones in your dissected frogs.

Cut away the cartilage.

You have until Friday.

Beastmaster Moon
Wulf Moon http://driftweave.com
Q4 Vol 35 "Super-Duper Moongirl..."
Critters Readers Award: #1, "War Dog," Best SF&F Short Story of 2018
NEW! "Weep No More..." DEEP MAGIC Fall 2019 http://amazon.com/author/wulfmoon


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