Monday, February 25

And the Winner of the World Building Contest Is....

Last Monday I talked about grounding your reader in your world, with a challenge to come up with 250 words or less describing a character and word that showed an exotic setting, a character who had recently suffered heartbreak, and a world in decline.

It seems like the world in decline was the tricky detail in this exercise.The exotic settings were all well done, and there were plenty of good heartbreaks.

Here are the snippets that stood out (in no particular order):

From Evan Bugmann

Ailera and Hanlon were supposed to meet by the oasis for a stroll. It was a perfect night for it, too: both moons full and bright, reflecting in the waters. But "perfect" would not be how Ailera remembered it.

Did he forget? As Ailera traipsed the sandy market streets she heard Hanlon's laugh drifting out a tavern window. She crept to the doorway and peeked through the beaded curtains.

There he was in his finest velvet coat, lounging on plush cushions, surrounded by foreign girls in their frilly frocks. Their disgusting pale hands and red-painted lips were all over him. Ailera clenched her fists. No, she thought, This calls for something special. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and pressed her palms together. As she pulled her palms apart a long icicle materialized.

She stormed in brandishing the icy spike. "Hanlon!"

"Ailera!" Hanlon jumped up from his horde of admirers. "It's not what you—"

"The rumors were true! You filthy spewk!"

"H-hey, think about this. You need me. Your family needs me. So before you do anything rash—"

That's exactly when she did something rash. Ailera plunged the sharp icicle into his shoulder and left it there. A chorus of shrieks rang out. "I don't need you or your damn dirty money!" She shoved him into the flock of floozies. "You trader tramps can have him!"

"Rach!" Hanlon cursed, writhing around. "Ahlma-wielding freak!"

Tears stained her cheeks as she fled. She needed to get away. From Hanlon, this ramshackle town, and this whole dying country.

----

From Rubianna Masa

Her graying chicken nest hair stuck out at odd angles. Deep wrinkles lined her dark skin, but the way her milky, unseeing eyes stared straight into me, bothered me the most. I wiped the grime and sweat off my peeling, sunburned cheeks.

“He be cursed, child. Nottin’ gonna save him.” She cackled and tapped her crooked walking stick into the white sand.

“Please. Bring him back.” I grabbed for her bony arm, but she slapped me before I touched her. “I agree,” I swallowed hard, “to your terms.”

The turquoise waves of what used to be paradise lapped the beach behind this voodoo queen’s skirt, swaying with the balmy breeze or the devil’s fingers, I didn’t know which.

She stirred a pot strung above a fire, waiting…maybe considering. “There be no goin’ back.”

I rubbed at the chafed skin beneath my tattered sundress and nodded. “I understand.” I eyed the black pot. My stomach growled like a lion.

“You be starving, but you still be youself. He not be worth dis.” She scooped up a bowl and placed it in my shaking hands. I sank down and positioned the remnants of my dress beneath me.

The stringy meat sank in the thin broth. It could be rat. I guzzled it down and scooped the last of the gristly meat up with my grubby fingers.

Her shadow fell over me. A smile twisted her cracked bleeding lips. She cupped her skeleton hands and blew white powder into my eyes. Her face morphed and blurred.

-----

From Jill Spiceland

NOTE: This entry I liked a lot, but I didn't get a sense of a world in decline. But it deserved a mention for the world building and the heartbreak.

Shain took another step forward and sank into the cool, clear pool. He took a deep gulp of water, sucking all he could into his parched and raw throat. Then he coughed, suddenly filled with a thousand tiny hooked blades like farmers’ scythes.

There was no water. There was only more sand.

***

“Pretty silks for a pretty lady, yes?”

A figure wearing linen robes stood talking to a merchant hocking a small stack of silks. The tiny market was nearly empty, with most of the residents keeping indoors by the blinding heat of day. Another man tended to the raptors, working the squealing-dry pump to bring up weak gurgles of hot water.

The robed woman laughed. “A proper Bargainer never goes without her robes, Cael. And no one would call these” she reached out to touch the frayed edge of the nearest silk, “pretty.”

Cael smiled, revealing two black holes instead of canines. “Someday you will have a new husband, no? Buy pretty silks now, show him later on.”

The woman shook her head and drew her hand back into the folds of her robes as her eyes filled with precious tears.

“A new husband is a Contract even I couldn’t negotiate.”

“Vayda!” A shout broke the heavy afternoon stillness. The woman turned, her robes sweeping the sandy cobblestones. A young boy ran towards her, dirty and panting.

“Tem! What’s wrong?” Vayda knelt down to meet the boy’s eyes.

“Hurry!” The child was frantic, “There’s a man – he’s dying – bring water!”

And the winner is...

Rubianna Masa!

What pushed this one to the top was the subtly of it. The details flowed well with the story itself, and all the elements of the challenge felt interconnected. They also felt fairly balanced. The entire scene is about the heartbreak, the woman is down on her luck (her world in decline) and the setting is a topical island where curses and voodoo exist. Nicely done. Since this is specifically about grounding details, I'll mark up what caught my eye:

Her graying chicken nest hair stuck out at odd angles. Deep wrinkles lined her dark skin, but the way her milky, unseeing eyes stared straight into me, bothered me the most. I wiped the [grime and sweat off my peeling, sunburned cheeks.] I got the sense here that she didn't have access to shelter

[“He be cursed, child. Nottin’ gonna save him.”] The reason for the heartbreak, and a little setting with the mention of the magic  She cackled and tapped her crooked walking stick into the [white sand. ] Tropical setting

[“Please. Bring him back.”] Her desperation, which touches on the heartbreak I grabbed for her bony arm, but she slapped me before I touched her. [“I agree,” I swallowed hard, “to your terms.”] More desperation

[The turquoise waves of what used to be paradise lapped the beach behind this voodoo queen’s skirt, swaying with the balmy breeze or the devil’s fingers,] Exotic setting in decline, and I like the devil's fingers, which gives it an ominous feel I didn’t know which.

She stirred a pot strung above a fire, waiting…maybe considering. “There be no goin’ back.”

I rubbed at the [chafed skin beneath my tattered sundress] More details that things aren't good for her or where she lives. The entire world might not be in decline, but her world is and nodded. “I understand.” I eyed the black pot. [My stomach growled like a lion.] Another detail or her falling on hard times

“You be starving, but you still be youself. He not be worth dis.” She scooped up a bowl and placed it in my shaking hands. I sank down and positioned the [remnants of my dress] More decline  beneath me.

The [stringy meat sank in the thin broth. It could be rat.] Food is scarce, hinting at decline I guzzled it down and scooped the last of the [gristly meat]  up with my [grubby fingers. ] She's not clean, maybe has no access to bathing

Her shadow fell over me. A smile twisted her cracked bleeding lips. She cupped her skeleton hands and blew white powder into my eyes. Her face morphed and blurred.

Rubianna, just contact me at janice (@) janicehardy (dot) com for your critique.  

Great job everyone! I'll come up with something fun to do next Monday. (Had a conference this past weekend, so I skipped this week.)

10 comments:

  1. Congrats Rubianna! and all those whose entries stood out as well :)

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  2. You picked my three favorites as well :) Congratulations, Rubianna!

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  3. Cool, an honorable mention! That's awesome!!

    Congrats to Rubianna :) That was my favorite entry as well.

    Lookin' forward to the next contest!

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  4. Yay! What an honor, thanks. :)

    When I saw Rubianna's entry I was pretty sure it would win. The subtlety, the strong POV, the imagery, it was a great entry all-around.

    I'm really glad I entered. It was an exercise in how to convey a lot with only a few words. After doing this I went back and wrote a new intro for my WIP. And what a difference! Thanks, Janice. :D

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  5. Congrats everyone! So much talent here.

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  6. I'll have to come up with something fun for next week :)

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  7. Loved the winning piece! All were great entries though. Congrats!

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  8. I was so surprised to find my name! The week has been beyond crazy. I am so excited. I really had a blast writing this snippet.

    I used the advice from Pamela Fagan-Hutchins on dialect. I'd been wanting to play with the voodoo and without magic, what kind of story would it be!

    Thanks Janice!

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  9. Rubianna, that's so cool you used advice from a guest post :) It was a fun snippet. Just email me your 1000 words when you're ready. (and apologies for leaving out an "a" in your name there. Just noticed that. Fixing it now)

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  10. Really great pieces here, loved them all!

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