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EXTRACT (600 words): Adventures of Everton Drake: Edge of Extinction

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Old 02-16-2016, 09:44 PM
risk10 (Offline)
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Default EXTRACT (600 words): Adventures of Everton Drake: Edge of Extinction


For some of you oldies, you may remember that I posted some 500 words of this story a while back. I thought I might just post up some more and see how people feel about this.

Critique away!

************************************************** ************************************************** **

Stephen was eleven years old when he witnessed his parents’ execution. While seeking shelter from a storm, they had trespassed in the Reverent Temple. As a minor, Stephen was spared execution, instead sent to work on a farm just outside Old Bristol. He called it Old Bristol, because that’s what his parents had called it. The city’s new name was a mash of vowels and consonants he could not pronounce.

Though sent to school, Stephen had difficulties learning things. It wasn’t that he was dull, far from it. Mechanically, he may have been considered a genius. Anything that broke down on the farm he was able to fix and soon became known as “Kid fix it” (the phrase uttered by the farm owners when machinery failed to work to specifications). But Stephen had trouble learning languages. Since The Arrival, every aspect of life changed to suit the conquerors of Earth, including customs, laws, culture and language. He often missed great swaths of his schooling, and when he did attend, spent most of his time in the detention room for fighting with other students or mouthing off at a purifier.

At eighteen, Stephen’s life changed: he met Louise. She arrived on the farm during a winter blizzard, her hands frost-bitten and her face a pale blue. She had been released from service and cast out of her master’s home – for what reason she never explained. Stephen was first to greet her, as he was securing the fences on the perimeter when he spotted her staggering through the three feet deep snow. Her muffled cries barely carried to his ears through the whistling wind. She collapsed in his arms, shivering. Her eyes fluttered, shedding the icicles that clung to her lashes.

Stephen had a fire roaring in the shelter of the old, disused barn when she awoke. At first she was skittish, a cat that had just been rescued, but did not understand its situation and found nothing familiar in its surroundings. Stephen offered a bowl of soup he had kept warm for her. She hugged the blanket Stephen had draped over her tightly to her body and drew her knees up to her chest. Her wide eyes continued to dart around the barn. Stephen placed the bowl three feet from her and retreated back to the fire, poking at it randomly.

The young girl reached over to the bowl, never taking her eyes off Stephen, then quickly snatched it and placed the lip of the bowl to her mouth. Stephen smiled as he heard her slurping, but didn’t remove his gaze from the fire until he heard the empty bowl clink on the floor.

“Feel better?” Stephen turned to her and smiled. She remained huddled, with unblinking eyes transfixed on him. As he reached to take the bowl she recoiled. Stephen remembered being like that once, but it had been beaten out of him many years ago.

Fists of wind pounded at the door, its shrill echoing from the rafters. Stephen pulled a blanket over himself and lay down. It had been a long day, longer than most, and his body felt the ache of it. He closed his eyes, the wind’s shrill becoming almost musical in his sleepy malaise.

When he awoke, he was surprised to see the young girl asleep next to him. He shuffled toward the fire and prodded it from its own slumber. He placed a couple of piece of tinder on the dying embers, and watched it erupt into life. The wind had died down, but the cold was still biting at any exposed flesh. The girl’s fingers were still a deep blue. He carefully took her hands and wrapped his own gently around them. She remained unmoved, unconscious from exhaustion.

“Who knows how many miles you travelled to get here,” he whispered to himself.

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Last edited by risk10; 02-16-2016 at 09:47 PM..
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Old 02-17-2016, 04:43 AM
Llaama (Offline)
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the ending was trying to be artsy, but it didn't really work for me.
otherwise pretty good!
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Old 02-18-2016, 05:26 AM
Binx B
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Hi risk.

Feels like you may want to start this with Stephen's encounter with Louise. I'm imagining this mysterious figure appearing over the horizon etc. and and now it's a bit of dull backstory. The first 2 or 3 paragraphs read like a prologue, and not the good kind. (If there is such a thing.)

Rather than front-load your backstory, I'd work it in as needed, especially things like his mechanical aptitude. Who cares at this point?

Fists of wind pounded at the door, its shrill echoing from the rafters.
I love poetic description, but it seems like you're trying a bit too hard in places. This takes me out of it. Maybe it's the personification. It almost seems cartoonish.

...but didn’t remove his gaze from the fire until he heard the empty bowl clink on the floor.
Gaze can be used as a noun, but it always seem stilted to me when it's used like this. Why not just, "He looked away from the fire..."

a cat that had just been rescued, but did not understand its situation and found nothing familiar in its surroundings.
If you have to explain metaphor, it's probably not working.

She remained unmoved, unconscious from exhaustion.
I think unmoved generally refers to emotion. You want to say she's still or immobile.

Overall, keep it more simple. Try to work in the poetic description and metaphor in a less obtrusive way. It's like your trying too hard.

Cheers.
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Old 02-18-2016, 10:10 AM
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There's a rapid tone switch when you go from the backstory of the character to the meeting with Louise. The real problem is less with your writing and how it becomes artsier there and more with the fact you start out from a place of more exposition.

It seems almost like you envisioned this man meeting this woman during a blizzard (which is an awesome image, by the way), but felt that you had to justify it with all of this stuff about his parents and the conquering of Earth.

I think this would stand better if you started with them meeting and then dropped in the rest over time. One of the things you're doing a lot in the first paragraphs is telling us something outright.

Though sent to school, Stephen had difficulties learning things. It wasn’t that he was dull, far from it. Mechanically, he may have been considered a genius.
And then going on to spend a few sentences showing us. You don't have to say Stephen was a genius mechanically, you can show that by explaining that he fixed stuff and that it earned him the nick name kid fix it.

It's a hard habit to break out of because we all kind of fear that the reader won't get what we're trying to tell them, but once you free yourself from it just a bit it makes a huge difference.
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