GWJ Writer's Throwdown: January 2013 - To Boldly Go -

A new year of writing stretches before us. The pages; white, empty, anticipating your words. The vistas; blank and awaiting your brush. The words; tumbling to the front of your brain, eager to escape into the world. It is a new dawn, a new day, some might even say...a new frontier.

This month's challenge; to boldly go. Tell us a story about going somewhere new, or doing something new. What is it that your character has secretly always wanted, and has now resolved To Do? Where is your frontier? Is it space, is it the depths of the unexplored seas, is it the top of the world, or the top of the corporate food chain? Is it leading a rebellion? Is it the first day at a new school? Is it finding the courage to be alone...or with someone else? Is it a new pet, or a new car, or standing up to your mother about her fruitcake? Does your character have a secret desire to become a stand-up comedian, or give up their career to fly kites with their true love on the beaches of a secret island? Only you can show us your frontier.

Rules: We don't need no stinking rules. People on their way to a new frontier are very rarely rule-followers. I wouldn't expect anything less from y'all.

(Ok, one rule; post your story on your own hosting site, and link it in this thread.)

Alright, let's see what I can conjure up...

Since Duotrope.com went pay, I thought I'd link to this post I found on the /fantasywriters subreddit on markets: Where to Send Your Stories.

McFinn wrote:

Since Duotrope.com went pay, I thought I'd link to this post I found on the /fantasywriters subreddit on markets: Where to Send Your Stories.

Hey, that rocks, thanks!

So; this is the story I started to write:

Isabella slunk in to the room and leaned against the door jam. “I’m leaving.” she announced.

“K. Have fun.” her husband replied, without lifting his eyes from his computer.

“How do I look?” she asked.

He sighed as he looked up. “You look nice.” he said, retuning his gaze to his computer.

“Nice?” She glanced at her reflection in the glass of the french doors and bent over to straighten the ankle strap of her spike heels. She smoothed her seamed silk stocking up to the garter belt hidden just under the hem of her tight black leather skirt. “Nice isn’t at all what I was shooting for.”

“Mmmm.” He replied, not looking up.

Isabella rolled her eyes as she walked across the room, her heels ticking like a time bomb on the parquet floor. She kissed him on the top of his head as she passed by on the way to the garage. “See you later, then.”

It was supposed to be this sort of o'henry-esque story, where the reader would think the wife is having an affair; but it turns out to be her husband the whole time, sort of thing...only, that's not at all where my characters wanted to go, thank you very much.

Now, it's a buddy story, apparently; with time cookies, an antique Bentley, Miles Davis, Manhattan in the 50s, and gods only knows what they'll get in to next. I don't even know...

At the risk of incurring Certis' mighty mod wrath, I want to ping this thread to to remind everyone that we're still doing the throwdown, if there's still interest. If everyone would rather take a hiatus until a less busy time of year or something, let me know.

Totally missed this thread. Hopefully I can get something!

I'm almost done with my story, so I'll be posting the link either today or tomorrow

Sorry, my headspace isn't in a great place... or should that be I'm not in a great place in my headspace.

*taps out*

Well, here's my contribution this month.

Between Places.

It's intended to serve as the introduction to something bigger; a sequel to a novella I recently wrote and am editing - ye gods, I hate editing - and hope to find a home for in the near future.

Enjoy!

I like where I think you're going with this one. I'm interested in hearing the story of how the character got to where he is; and the universe that allows him to do things he's doing. I think the naming of the Susurrus was well played. The one thing I might keep an eye out for is using a ten dollar word when a 2 dollar word might work better. Example; caliginous is a fantastic word, but I think using it in the first sentence arrests the reader...and you want to draw the reader in before you stop them. Think about China Mieville. Some of his vocabulary choices have made me grab a dictionary, but he usually waits until I'm already vested in the character or the story before that.

But then, I could be wrong. Caliginous sets the mood really well.

All that said; I'd like to read more about this character and this universe, so get to typing!

duckideva wrote:

I like where I think you're going with this one. I'm interested in hearing the story of how the character got to where he is; and the universe that allows him to do things he's doing. I think the naming of the Susurrus was well played. The one thing I might keep an eye out for is using a ten dollar word when a 2 dollar word might work better. Example; caliginous is a fantastic word, but I think using it in the first sentence arrests the reader...and you want to draw the reader in before you stop them. Think about China Mieville. Some of his vocabulary choices have made me grab a dictionary, but he usually waits until I'm already vested in the character or the story before that.

But then, I could be wrong. Caliginous sets the mood really well.

All that said; I'd like to read more about this character and this universe, so get to typing!

Glad you liked it! Yeah, the choice of words is intended to convey a certain degree of strangeness. The novel that precedes this, and many of the parts of the story which would go with this, has more accessible vocabulary. I might take your advice on changing the words up a bit, though.

BTW, I liked the little excerpt of what you're writing. You have got to give us something this month!

Here's mine. The Collector's Tale. It sort of only loosely fits the challenge, the way it turned out...as rewrites so often do. I've got it at the google docs for the nonce, because I can't remember the admin password for wordpress on my server. Sigh.

The Collector's Tale was quite enjoyable. I really liked the details like the tattoo's and how the place is designed after Dante's vision. The little love-scene is very well done, I think. Nice little cliffhanger of an ending as well. I was hoping I would get answers about how a Seraph had slipped through the Recruitment office's surveillance and why Security was unable to pick it off sooner. I guess communication there is lax? hehehe I'd definitely like to read more.

The Collector's Tale.

Generally fascinating. The combination of the benign terminology and more traditional terminology was kind of weird. I don't think you really need it, unless there's a purpose I missed, and it seemed like it would be more consistent if they kept to harmless terminology instead of openly referring to things as demons, Hell, etc.

In terms of setup you did wonders. There's enough momentum to get things going, and so forth. Also, the questions of how all this stuff happened from Hell's perspective are good, and offer you solid room to expand. Are you going to go on with this, or drop it?

Between Places

Another setup, and also good. Your world(s) was a little thin while your character solid. Perhaps a few light, possibly throw-away details about the setting would flesh things out. Now what's interesting is while you talked about Gideon's Promenade, you don't really explain. I'm not really sure if that was intentional or not. Was it supposed to be exclusively viewed through the lens of the main character? Certainly reasonable, but then you physically describe the dog-ape-thing and the hissy people.

If you are confining things to the the view of the main character, could we have a few more concrete details to get a hand on him? Perhaps the specifics of the first or most recent of his dark dealings, or a bit more personalization of that which pursues him?

The strongest thing you've got going was the flow, and that incorporated the shifting between worlds, the casual deals, etc. It was great. If you went into details a bit more, trading a purple sky for a blue one, or a world where the three suns danced for a single static one, you could probably help set up the contrast. Again, not much, because you've got solid portrayals, but a shot bit here or there.

Miashara wrote:

The Collector's Tale.
Are you going to go on with this, or drop it?

Like so many of my universes; Pandemonium has been in my head for over a decade...if only I could just get it on to paper. I really wanted to take on Paradise Lost; and Dante's Inferno; but tell the stories from the other side; in an Office Space kinda way. Funny theology. Screwtape Letters for the modern age.

Whether or not I ever get it written...that I do not know.

That's why I've loved our writing group so much; it's been a prompt that "forced" me to write, because I didn't want to let down the other groupmates who were writing the lead out of their pencils.

Speaking of writing group; we seem to have fizzled out. I don't know if that's a factor of the time of year, and we're all still sort of exhausted by the universe, and we should just keep going, or if everyone wants a hiatus.

duckideva wrote:

Speaking of writing group; we seem to have fizzled out. I don't know if that's a factor of the time of year, and we're all still sort of exhausted by the universe, and we should just keep going, or if everyone wants a hiatus.

I'm up for next month onwards and I'll probably come back and read through these. Just wasn't in a great place over christmas and new year so didn't want that negative energy spilling out here, on you guys or in my writing.

Miashara wrote:

Between Places

Another setup, and also good. Your world(s) was a little thin while your character solid. Perhaps a few light, possibly throw-away details about the setting would flesh things out. Now what's interesting is while you talked about Gideon's Promenade, you don't really explain. I'm not really sure if that was intentional or not. Was it supposed to be exclusively viewed through the lens of the main character? Certainly reasonable, but then you physically describe the dog-ape-thing and the hissy people.

If you are confining things to the the view of the main character, could we have a few more concrete details to get a hand on him? Perhaps the specifics of the first or most recent of his dark dealings, or a bit more personalization of that which pursues him?

The strongest thing you've got going was the flow, and that incorporated the shifting between worlds, the casual deals, etc. It was great. If you went into details a bit more, trading a purple sky for a blue one, or a world where the three suns danced for a single static one, you could probably help set up the contrast. Again, not much, because you've got solid portrayals, but a shot bit here or there.

Point taken. I can see what you mean and see that the bit could definitely benefit from adding a little more detail to the setting itself. While the idea is for the piece to be an introduction - hopefully piquing the reader's interest by leaving a few ends loose - it can probably do a better job of conveying the oddness of the character's surroundings.

Thanks for the tip!

duckideva wrote:

Speaking of writing group; we seem to have fizzled out. I don't know if that's a factor of the time of year, and we're all still sort of exhausted by the universe, and we should just keep going, or if everyone wants a hiatus.

No way, no how! We must keep this ball rolling, even if January and December were relatively unproductive months for the group. I'm still in for the long haul.

Rock on then. I'll post a new thread tomorrow. It's gonna be a weird one, I think.

I know I'm late and it's not technically the next month yet but a bottle of wine got me going:

The Cypher

Very short!

[quote]

Duoae wrote:

I know I'm late and it's not technically the next month yet but a bottle of wine got me going:

The Cypher

Very short!

Reading this ASAP. Better late than never. Give you my honest opinion as usual as soon as I have a conclusion; give De and I yours when you can.

Here's mine: Contact Protocol

I'm not sure there's really much of a story there, it was mostly just an attempt to evaluate humanity from an alien perspective without re-hashing the usual stuff about love or "the human spirit" or whatever else your average Hollywood sci-fi film relies on to set us apart from the aliens. Also, a couple things I've read recently left some ideas rattling around in my head about just how much our senses define us as a civilization. The genetic stuff just stems from the fact that I'm a programmer and tend to see everything as an optimization problem

Between Places
Fascinating. It definitely feels like it needs to fleshed out into something longer, but I really like the world you're building here. I'd definitely read more of this.

The Collector's Tale
I really like this too, but I've had a soft spot for any sort of Christian mythology-inspired modern fantasy ever since I first read Good Omens. I kind of agree with Miashara on the terminology issue, references to demons and seraphs and stuff kind of clashed a bit with the Home Office/Collector stuff. I love the world you've created, especially the Gnaw.

The Cypher
I liked it. The weird cyclical reality thing at the end was a nice little twist.

Duoae wrote:

I know I'm late and it's not technically the next month yet but a bottle of wine got me going:

The Cypher

Very short!

I think I get where you're going with this one, but I'm not absolutely positive. Are you shooting for a sort of Philip K. Dick thing {pdf of we can remember it for you wholesale}where the reader isn't sure what is true? I like the idea, but I think perhaps it could stand a little tweaking to sort of nail down what you want the reader to take away from the experience.

muttonchop wrote:

Here's mine: Contact Protocol

I like this story quite a lot. It reminds me somewhat of Terry Bisson's "They're Made Of Meat", but that's not a bad thing; as Terry's story has stuck with me ever since I read it. It tells a really good story, and unlike Bisson's story; it does it without revulsion and has a significantly more hopeful ending. I really like this one a lot. Good job.

Duoae wrote:

I know I'm late and it's not technically the next month yet but a bottle of wine got me going:

The Cypher

Very short!

I think I get where you're going with this one, but I'm not absolutely positive. Are you shooting for a sort of Philip K. Dick thing {pdf of we can remember it for you wholesale}where the reader isn't sure what is true? I like the idea, but I think perhaps it could stand a little tweaking to sort of nail down what you want the reader to take away from the experience.

muttonchop wrote:

Here's mine: Contact Protocol

I like this story quite a lot. It reminds me somewhat of Terry Bisson's "They're Made Of Meat", but that's not a bad thing; as Terry's story has stuck with me ever since I read it. It tells a really good story, and unlike Bisson's story; it does it without revulsion and has a significantly more hopeful ending. I really like this one a lot. Good job.

muttonchop wrote:

The Cypher
I liked it. The weird cyclical reality thing at the end was a nice little twist.

Thanks!

duckideva wrote:

I think I get where you're going with this one, but I'm not absolutely positive. Are you shooting for a sort of Philip K. Dick thing {pdf of we can remember it for you wholesale}where the reader isn't sure what is true? I like the idea, but I think perhaps it could stand a little tweaking to sort of nail down what you want the reader to take away from the experience.

I haven't read that particular PKD novel but I know the two films - and I wasn't going for those types of things. Actually, what my idea was that nothing is ever the end and that our perception of our experiences shape which side of the "fence" we're on: People trying to escape something or people living in the dreams of now. I admit it wasn't very clearly fleshed out in the piece as I wrote it in about 20 minutes whilst at the tail end of a bottle of wine. Just a sort of mental scribble than anything serious. The Cypher was just a sort of personified metaphor for how we decide to decode events in our lives.

I promise I'll read all yours over the weekend!

Oh, and Feb's challenge is up and ready.

duckideva wrote:

I like this story quite a lot. It reminds me somewhat of Terry Bisson's "They're Made Of Meat", but that's not a bad thing; as Terry's story has stuck with me ever since I read it. It tells a really good story, and unlike Bisson's story; it does it without revulsion and has a significantly more hopeful ending. I really like this one a lot. Good job.

Thanks! They're Made out of Meat was definitely an inspiration, it's one of my favourite short stories.

The Cypher:Nicely done. Short and to the point. I like it and have nothing to really criticize.

Contact Protocol: Not bad, I like the idea, but it seemed a little tame to me... like it could use a little more. I wouldn't presume to tell you what it would be, but all I can say is that I perceived an absence. I dig the end, about sending creative types rather than clinical ones... maybe you're onto something with this story that needs to be further explored.

Okay, I know I'm late but I have good reason!

Between places
It really brought about a fit of the Bartimaeus trilogy in me. Just something about the personification of the writing. Very good!

Contact Protocol
They should have sent a poet!!

I'll read the collector's tale over the weekend.

[edit]
The collector's tale:
Another interesting story. I liked it, though I felt the ending twist was a bit abrupt. Is it just a short story or is there more to it? It feels like the world would support a whole novel.

Duoae wrote:

The collector's tale:
Another interesting story. I liked it, though I felt the ending twist was a bit abrupt. Is it just a short story or is there more to it? It feels like the world would support a whole novel.

I think there's a world there waiting to be written...