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For this month's writing prompt write a scene using the following sentence to start;

The streets were deserted. Where was everyone? Where had they all gone?

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Our monthly writing tips are written by our very own TerishD. You can read more in Terish's Blog located in "The Abstractions" area of the forum.

Look Back

When not able to write ahead, it helps to look back. In my case I had written a paragraph ahead of the story. What I needed to do was add a section of exposition (talking) presenting some facts. In going back, I realized that I could insert a section where a 'tour' of the surroundings could be done. This allowed for character interaction, story development, and other things that enabled me to present the facts in an entertaining manner.

One should not face a writer's block with the mentality of bursting through it. I have found in my own experience that a writer's block is usually due to my mind indicating that it has a problem in 'channeling' the story. One reason might be a re-imagining of certain story points. Another reason however is that there is a problem in where you are at in the story, so you need to look back and find out the problem with the 'journey' that prevents the tale from advancing.

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 Chapter 1: Shadow Patch

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deathbypen


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PostSubject: Chapter 1: Shadow Patch   December 28th 2008, 6:51 pm

Shadow Patch: Chapter 1 Part 1

Tucked into the corner of the examination room, the black leather chair was cracked, and in some places, held together with tattered duct tape.

“That looks like some sort of torture device,” I said in an attempt to stir up conversation with the optometrist. He smirked, I didn’t; I was serious. The torture device in question was a chair squatting in the corner of the room small, cramped room. Extending outwards like a row of interchangeable ribs, metal swing-arms connected to the grated steel wall behind the chair reached forward, outstretched, like an unwelcome hug.

How homey.

“Come on now, lets get started,” Dr. Kiddling said as he reached around me and closed the door. Unfortunately for me, that wasn’t the only thing he did. “A precaution,” he reassured when he caught me watching him latch the locks. There were three, one of which he had to stand on the tips of his toes to reach, well beyond my height.

He motioned for me to take a seat, but I hesitated as the large rusted vents lining the ceiling took a moment to leak out a stream of piss-warm air. It was followed by the soft scurrying of what I assumed to be mice. I had almost expected the air to be toxic, but given the inhabitants of the airducts, it couldn’t have been too bad. I sat down. A small bar beneath the chair provided an adequate rest for my feet, though it was obviously designed for someone a few inches taller. Inching forward, the bottom of my sneakers barely touched.

When I looked up, he was sitting at a desk at the opposite side of the room. His bald head almost looked greasy as the flickering desk lamp reflected off his shiny scalp.

“So Gracie, have you had any troubles with your glasses before?” he asked, looking up from his desk, rolling slightly in his chair to look in my direction.

“Not really, until last week when I started seeing double. I think it’s the left
lense.”

He wrote something down on the paper before sliding his chair across the room, and after settling himself uncomfortably close, he squinted at the glasses on my face. His knees brushed against mine and nervously, I scooted back on the leather cushion. He pulled one of the swing arms forward and adjusted it so that the bulky fist of the machine was leveled before my face.

His voice lowered, carrying a husky ring. “You’re a unique case. I can’t say I’ve seen anyone who’s shared the…severity of your condition. Isn’t it amazing how technology can make a person whole again?”

I nodded. I was afraid the butterflies in my stomach would fly out of my mouth.

“Yet, technology is such a fragile thing for all its powerful properties. People are dependent on it, and helpless without it…” he paused, “but I’m sure you’re aware of that.”

One of his hands snaked around the machine to the back of my head. “Just rest your chin on the chinrest in front of you,” he instructed.

The chinrest was stained with a pus-yellow ring and a few speckles of brown. It felt as if those butterflies in my stomach had dropped eggs-slimy, white, sticky eggs.

My throat constricted, but I forced myself to move my head forward onto the rest.

“Good girl, now give me your glasses.” He held out his other hand. The creases of his hand were shinny with sweat, and on the skin between his thumb and forefinger there was an undeniable set of teeth marks. The bubbling scabs looked a few days old.

I hoped to God his face wouldn’t be the last thing I got to see. I slid them up and the hinges slipped out of the metal holders on my temples.

Averting my gaze, I quickly slipped my glasses off over my head and held them out at arms length. He was close enough and I didn’t want to give him another excuse to touch me. As soon as the lenses were out of the short range of my optical sensors, everything went black.

My hands tightened on the armrests as I tried to soothe the panic clenching my insides. It was easy to play the helpless victim part assigned to me, but I didn’t have to pretend to be scared.

A voice filled my left ear through a device designed to mimic the latest hearing-aid implant, the T-HIIC. The overwhelming radio traffic that had made walkie-talkies, cell phones, and radio stations virtually obsolete and forced the expansion of landlines in the early twenty-second century was now the reason I was hearing voices. Rike’s specifically.

He finished yelling at what I assumed was the closest person, and then said, “This is your conscious speaking. You will warship Rike.”

I once thought it was an honor to have such a powerful implant in my head.

“You will love, adore, and give all your worldly possessions to Rike.”

Wrong again.

I cleared my throat.

“I know, I know…I’m going to hear it later,” he said before getting serious. “Just keep doing what you’re doing. Once he gets close, you know what to do.”
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter 1: Shadow Patch   December 28th 2008, 6:52 pm

Shadow Patch: Chapter 1 Part 2

Dr. Kiddling’s legs brushed against mine and instinctively, I jumped back in my seat.

Rike voice echoed in my ear. “Kid, you okay? I don’t like what I’m reading here.” My heart rate must have jumped considerably for him to call me kid. Covering up my mouth I coughed, giving him the A-OK signal.

“Good, remember if things start getting too much for you, just say The Word and we will come in. Don’t play hero; it’s not worth it.”

Sure, they would come if the mission went to hell, but then I wouldn’t get the satisfaction of kicking the doctor in his happy-sacks. After I did that, then the mission could go to hell.

“You’re a pretty girl, Gracie.” He said. “Too bad about your eyes.”

“Uh, yeah,” I said.

“Now, keep your head still. You may feel some pressure, but I want to check your Orbit implant.”

I felt a slight pinch within my face.

“Hmm, blue, green, and brown. I’m surprised you don’t have any wild colors.”

Even blind, I knew he was talking about my implant. The newer implants have a select color feature. Depending on someone’s mood, they would be able to select from three colors.

“I don’t upgrade that often so I wanted to stay with the normal ones.” I explained, though in reality, they were simply spares. Why risk my new ones when my mission involved removing them?

“Now, that’s a shame. A pretty girl like you should pick whatever color she wants. I tell you what, I’ll give you an upgrade for free.”

“Really? Cool!” I said, forcing the excitement.

“I have to replace some of the equipment, and it may hurt so I’ll have to put you under.”

Rike cursed through my ear implant. “Oh, so the fucker thinks he’s getting smart now. You need to stall. Do not let him put you under.”

As if Rike needed to tell me that.

“I can stay awake,” and then quickly added, “I’m not a big fan of needles.”

I felt him pat my leg, and settled for a little too long. I fought the urge to wipe my leg, as if the lingering warmth was a spider.

He laughed, “You’re such a brave little thing. It will be over before you know it.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” I mumbled.

“What?”

“That doesn’t change what I’m afraid of,” I quickly corrected. “I really, really don’t like needles. Maybe I should just stay with the old implant, I mean, it’s not that old.”

I could feel his presence draw back from me. The metallic sound of equipment being gathered across the room made my blood run cold. There was a sharp clang followed by an apologetic “Oopsie-daisy.”

“I don’t have time for a full update anyways. Thanks anyways. Maybe next time.”

Although a sat back in the chair away from the chinrest, the helpless feeling was becoming a bit overwhelming. I had volunteered for the assignment thinking it would be easy, especially with a whole unit located right outside of the building. Suddenly, the thought wasn’t as comforting as it used to be. A few seconds in his probing hands, I was sure was enough to do damage.

Standing up, I tried to emphasize my point. “I really need to go.”

He sighed and walked my way again. I could still hear the metallic sound of objects clinking together. Probably on a tray. “I’ll put your old Orbits back in. Have a seat.”

Instead of backing up into the chair, I moved to my left away from it. I didn’t need a tray of equipment to push my Orbits back in. Time was up. Hopefully they would have enough evidence.

“Ave Maria,” I whispered. I wanted to put my arms out like any person would in the dark, but forced myself to keep them at my sides. With them out, he’d have an easier time getting a hold of me.

“What was that?” he asked. “What are you doing? Sit down Gracie.” He gripped my upper left arm roughly, pushing me towards the chair. “It will just take a second, dear.”

Maybe I didn’t say it loud enough. Where was Rike? I listened but there was no sound of backup. My heart pounded in my chest and sweat rolled down the middle of my back.

As my right leg bumped into the foot rest, a sharp prick went into my left arm. I only had a moment to feel it before my arm went numb.

“Avemarrria,” I said louder but the words slurred together. I couldn’t feel anything or hear anything, and I didn't care.
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PostSubject: Reply   December 28th 2008, 7:18 pm

Jumped into the action, okay. The problem is, there was no action. I also agree with the adage, "Start as close to the end as possible." The problem is, what and why?

This story needed some development. It could also have used more internal commentary from our point-of-view. It does stand as you have it, but as I reader I felt the shakes of your construction lacking support. The ending does not have the drama that it should, because there never was support from my perspective (I never saw them and the lady really does not 'make them real').

It was still a good attempt. Don't be afraid. Keep writing.

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Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter 1: Shadow Patch   December 28th 2008, 7:21 pm

This is good, I liked the feel of it.

If you want a full Critique, let me know.
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter 1: Shadow Patch   December 28th 2008, 11:21 pm

Hello TerishD,

Thanks for the critique. I will consider adding more internal commentary. I'm actually surprised you mentioned that because I thought it was too much at first. A large chunk of the story is internal dialogue, but I assume you had something specific in mind. More background? Environmental description? Sarcastic tidbits?

Let me know the area, and I'll scout it out.

As for the ending, I wasn't going for all out drama, just more of a "What happens next?"

At this point, I'm not trying to shock or mystify the reader, merely to draw them in.
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter 1: Shadow Patch   December 28th 2008, 11:32 pm

Hello Urs,

I've read several of your critiques and would appreciate any words of advice that you have. I know that long chapters can be time consuming but even a critique on the most problematic elements would be helpful.

Writing this first chapter, I was worried about three distinct things: dialogue confusion, consistent pace, and description. I'm wordy so I spend a lot of time describing and then deleting or downsizing that description. If you can address these issues, or any other ones, I'd appreciate it.
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter 1: Shadow Patch   December 29th 2008, 11:23 am

For the most part, this is a good story. It has that bit of terror/horror feeling to it.

I could check though the grammar and spelling and the like. Giving you examples:

Quote :
“That looks like some sort of torture device,” I said in an attempt to stir up conversation with the optometrist. He smirked, I didn’t; (Semicolon is not needed here, use a ",") in place of it I was serious. The torture device in question was a chair squatting in the corner of the room small, cramped room (The repetive use of the word room breaks the flow, Consider: in the corner of the small cramped room). Extending outwards like a row of interchangeable ribs, metal swing-arms connected to the grated steel wall behind the chair reached forward, outstretched, like an unwelcome hug.

But those are VERY minor issues when it comes to spelling, punctuation and Grammar. They for the most part get breezed past as the reader goes though the work and the story carries them along.

The good part here, is that the story carries you along past these issues, the bad part is that because the story is fast paced it is hard to spot these issues. Take time and read each sentence fully and check for these minor things.

Beyond that, there is a massive amount of vagueness of what is going on, and that works both for you and against you. I get the "feeling" of the situation but I have a hard time grasping the actual situation. Why is she there? What is wrong with her, what does this man do to people?

One thing that truly warped me a bit was the medical equipment being dirty. If it had stains, which left questions, it might be a good idea to answer those questions like.

"The chinrest was stained with a pus-yellow ring and a few speckles of brown" I have no idea why the chin rest (Which is nominally non-porous medical grade plastic or surgical steel) would be stained. It threw me a bit. Not to say remove it, or change it, but consider that. maybe tell me why it would be like this and then bring up that it reminded her of her butterfly's having laid eggs.

It has been my experience that every doctor keeps their equipment clean. Even if it is old it is still cleaned if not fully disinfected.

This made me feel a bit out of place when you did that, like broke the illusion of she was in this back alley medical office or something, or at least destroyed that this was a doctors office in any sense of the word.

Quote :
I nodded. I was afraid the butterflies in my stomach would fly out of my mouth.

Good, solid, imagery of the situation. We can feel this fear in her. Well done in this regard.

In the end, it had a good flow, pace, imagery and feeling, it left me wondering what is going to happen next.

Quote :
Time was up. Hopefully they would have enough evidence.

This left me wondering "For what" what was her mission. The problem I have is I feel fear in this girl but it is an unknown fear. I have no idea what she is afraid of, I first suspected sexual abuse, but when you dropped this, I was left dumbfounded as to what was going on here with this.

All things said and done, a little editing for the grammar and things like that and you have quite the start to what could be a great sci-fi thriller.
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PostSubject: Reply   December 29th 2008, 11:46 am

deathbypen wrote:
Hello TerishD,

Thanks for the critique. I will consider adding more internal commentary. I'm actually surprised you mentioned that because I thought it was too much at first. A large chunk of the story is internal dialogue, but I assume you had something specific in mind. More background? Environmental description? Sarcastic tidbits?

Let me know the area, and I'll scout it out.

As for the ending, I wasn't going for all out drama, just more of a "What happens next?"

At this point, I'm not trying to shock or mystify the reader, merely to draw them in.
Well, you will find that I am not going to mention specifics. The reason is that it is YOUR piece. Thus, my intent is get YOU to read YOUR stuff and determine what it needs. Let me remind you again of one of my often stated phrases, "If you have not read your work, then why should I read it."

In the end, your manuscript should please you. I write what I want to read, and I support others doing the same. Levels of quality are also self-imposed, as we all have our own reasons for writing. There is a plateau of 'professional writing', but most of the time what gets posted on the internet is intentionally not at that level. Sometimes I am writing just to get a story out of my head. Sometimes I am testing a different style. Sometimes I working on seeing if I can handle a certain type of story. I grant you the same authority over the level of perfection that you are seeking. Thus, again, I desire for YOU to read YOUR writing, and work to make it something that satisfies you.

I am honored that choose to share your efforts. I will return the honor by letting you know what I think. However, in the end, it is your work and I will let you gain all the credit or blame for it.

_________________
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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