Author Topic: Running -- 486 words  (Read 845 times)

Offline bailish

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Running -- 486 words
« on: November 28, 2017, 11:25:23 AM »
I wrote this earlier this year and then abandoned it. Do you think it's worth reviving? Thanks.

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I silently ran across the part of the marsh I'd scoped out, knowing that one false step could be my last. The full moon provided some vision, but the fog stole it back, and the fetid odor of the swamp left only my hearing to protect me. This was my third night testing their defenses, and it would be my greatest incursion to date, meaning the riskiest. I had managed to avoid confrontation so far, but I doubted my luck would hold out.

The cove was up ahead. Only scraps remained of the rowboat I had used to cross it, and I had been searching for an alternate path back, but the water was vast and the banks treacherous. My supplies were running out and swimming across the foul waters was the only way back to the ship and off this island.

A deep guttural yell, somewhere between animal and demon, rang out against the bleak landscape, not out of pain or fear, but announcing an intruder – me. The cry came from far behind, so I kept going.

As I entered the part of the marsh near the cove, I heard the soft quick clomps of a four-footed beast in pursuit, the rhythmic snorts warning me it was almost upon my right flank. I made an evasive turn, but carelessly tumbled over a tuft of grass growing on the edge of the watery bog, landing with a splash. Teeth snapped the air behind me, nipping at my long blonde hair. I quickly rolled away and pounded my slippers against the muddy bottom, thankful for my waterproof outfit. I splashed through the shallows and swung my sword behind me, a yelp telling me I was nearly in its grasp. I searched for a point where I could turn and fight with some advantage, but the haze shrouded any helpful terrain. The growling getting closer, I knew a battle quickly approached, and I feared I would have to fight the beast in the open where it would have the advantage.

Trying for surprise, I made a quick turn and swung with all my might, but the demon, fangs snapping at me, effectively parried with its talons and slashed at my exposed waist. Any laceration translating to a slow and agonizing death, I chose to continue running instead, the beast close behind.

I was tiring when a fortunate opportunity appeared to one side. An old trunk of a tree twisted and tangled by the harsh environment came into view, and I aligned on it, leaping out on the bank and swinging on a low branch to make an immediate one-handed turn into the demon, the momentum of my sword across the neck sending the head in a different direction from the body.

The demon fell in the swamp writhing and shriveling, but I watched only long enough to catch my breath before swimming across the cove to my ship.


Jo Bannister

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Re: Running -- 486 words
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2017, 02:32:59 PM »
It's not really working for me, Bailish, I'm afraid.

Everything about it says it should be tense and full of fear, except the piece itself.  It's as if this character is watching herself from a safe distance through a very large telescope.

And then, there are some odd word choices.  Only her hearing to protect her?  Scraps remaining of a rowboat?  Soft quick clomps of pursuit?  The fortunate opportunity which led her to align on a treetrunk?  It's hard to explain why these don't work, but they don't.

There are some real pull-you-up-short moments, but not the ones you want.  I mean, slippers...with a wetsuit?  Really?

Finally, there are the cliches.  One false step could be her last...luck would hold out...a slow and agonising death...

I don't know from this if the story is worth telling.  It may well be.  But if you're going to write it, you'll need to write it better.

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Running -- 486 words
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2017, 02:55:47 PM »
I'm with Jo on this.  Sorry.  It's all a bit too overwritten, to its own detriment.

Example.  Slippers simply don't pound, not matter what they're striking, and definitely not on mud.  But they might slap or make sucking noises.

I splashed through the shallows and swung my sword behind me, a yelp telling me I was nearly in its grasp.

Two problems here...

1)  This could be read as if you were nearly in the grasp of your own sword.  Most would read it as intended, but why give anyone a chance to stop reading?

2)  Technically this would be bloody difficult, unless you were unbelievably double- jointed.  Even then a sword, except a lighweight fencing foil, has mass and serious momentum.  Swinging it behind you in the hope of hitting your pursuer will slow your stride and the momentum will torque your body weight  to one side or the other, neither of which will help your running.   In fact you'd probably stand a good chance of slashing your own leg.

Try it whilst running with a sword length stick.  Just don't let the neighbours see you ;-)  Unless they already know you're a writer, in which case nothing will faze them.

I like the concept of running a pre-planned route through the swamp in the darkness, but it does feel a little too intellectual and hands off.  This is more a situation for gut-level responses during your flight.

Offline Simple Things

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Re: Running -- 486 words
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2017, 03:51:26 PM »
Is it worth reviving? Well, has your writing changed since the time this first was written? Has it improved? If so, then revive away. :)

Here's what I noticed:

1. You rely on the narrator too heavily. This makes the choice of pov seem an odd choice.

2. The ending isn't really an ending. Bam, the mc kills the beast and then boom he swims across the bay(which was vast I think). So it felt like you didn't finish the story and just went for a quick wrap-up instead.

3. I can tell you are trying out new techniques in your writing. That is always good to see. And you have improved over time. Even with this piece written not too long ago. But it does take time to first learn and then learn how to use what you learn; for the benefit of your writing style. I see you write something and then add on because you maybe second guessed what you had. When this happens, a sharp focus turns blurry.

An example:

Quote
I had managed to avoid confrontation so far, but I doubted my luck would hold out.

I had managed to avoid confrontation, but doubted that luck.

(edit)
Lol I went on and on about focus, but will save you a read. :)

What is the focus point of your sentence? What do you want to show the reader quickly, because this part of the story should be moving faster than normal. You don't want the reader to stop for any reason outside of that moment.

4. Manage your pronouns. With a little time it becomes second nature.



Offline hillwalker3000

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Re: Running -- 486 words
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2017, 05:13:48 AM »

You're presumably aiming for tension and action in equal parts - hoping one or both will keep us reading. Unfortunately, your opening destroys your credibility. Have you ever tried to run across a marsh? In slippers? lol Or tried doing so 'silently'? It's physically unlikely so I'm losing faith in the writer even after reading one sentence.
Also, the phrase 'knowing that one false step could be my last' is extremely melodramatic.
Then we have the narrator's hearing - it's their only 'protection'. Not quite the right word. It's their only functioning sense maybe - but that's not the same thing. Again, why should I trust a writer who doesn’t seem to know what he's writing about?

'I had managed to avoid confrontation so far, but I doubted my luck would hold out.' More pointless melodrama - you're placing the action on hold and inviting us to view the entire scene from too great a distance to feel involved.

'The cove was up ahead. Only scraps remained of the rowboat ('scraps? Odd word choice) I had used to cross it (that's a given, so you don't need to tell us), and I had been searching for an alternate alternative 2 completely different words that are not interchangeable  path back, but the water was vast and the banks treacherous. My supplies were running out and swimming across the foul waters was the only way back to the ship and off this island.'
So the narrator is trying to head away from the target rather than get closer. . . and is looking for a path which involves crossing a stretch of water. Is 'path' the right word if he/she is going to have to swim it?

I'll admit I skimmed the rest.
What else stood out? A yell followed by 'the soft quick clomps of a four-footed beast in pursuit' - clunky at best - then 'carelessly tumbled over a tuft of grass growing on the edge of the watery bog, landing with a splash' this reads more slapstick than you intended. Then we have teeth snapped the air behind me, nipping at my long blonde hair really?.
Why do we need to know about their hair colour and length right this minute? Don't you think that totally destroys the mood?

I ended up wondering why your MC had gone to so much trouble in the first place. Why visit an island three times in order to run back to the ship? We need some context for the scene to make sense, unless you placed them there simply to inject some excitement into the story.

Action is notoriously difficult to get right and I'm afraid you didn’t get to grips with it at all.
Being attacked by a demon and escaping should be dramatic, but this was a plod because it reads long-winded when we expect sharp and incisive writing.  You over-draw the scene, and your word choices seem dubious at times.

Is it worth continuing? If you have a tale that has to be told, then of course. You can carry out an edit at a later date. For now, enjoy the escape into the world you have created.

H3K

Offline bailish

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Re: Running -- 486 words
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2017, 11:48:00 AM »
Thanks for your comments, all. You've given me a lot to think about.
I'll need to start over if I want to keep it.

Overwritten,yeah.
word choices, easy to fix, careless they are there
intrusion of narrator,not sure of this. It all sounds first person to me

Definitely needs a complete rewrite.

Thank, all.
« Last Edit: December 06, 2017, 01:06:20 PM by bailish »

Lin

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Re: Running -- 486 words
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2017, 03:36:18 PM »
For me this needs serious editing.  I will go with what the others have said.

I silently ran across the part of the marsh I'd scoped out, knowing that one false step could be my last. The full moon provided some vision, but the fog stole it back, and the fetid odor of the swamp left only my hearing to protect me. This was my third night testing their defenses, and it would be my greatest incursion to date, meaning the riskiest. I had managed to avoid confrontation so far, but I doubted my luck would hold out.

There is no punch in the above lines you are telling too much i.e. telling the story instead of getting the reader involved. 

Lin

Offline bailish

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Re: Running -- 486 words
« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2017, 04:38:02 PM »
Thanks, Lin. I see what you mean.

Offline DavisForman

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Re: Running -- 486 words
« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2018, 01:08:37 AM »
Late to the party perhaps, but my one critique would be that I'd like to see more. Not sure if you have a word count limit on this piece or not, but as a reader, I struggle mightily interpreting action sequences if the... "geography"... for lack of better word, isn't adequately explained. Specific to this story, I have a hard time understanding where your character is in relation to the cove, the marsh, and the beast. Even more confusing was when the tree suddenly appeared.

It reads to me as though it should be twice as long in order to tease out everything that deserves to be here. It might also provide enough wiggle room to enhance the fear and anxiety that others have mentioned above.