June 01, 2020, 09:18:50 AM

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Messages - Liselle

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I'm in! Found this one more challenging than last month's theme but I'm satisfied with how it turned out. And welcome to the newest writers. :)

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Nice Meal for a Pike Fish (1488 words)

Spoiler for Hiden:
It wasn't every day that Sanya made an exciting discovery -- the canvas bag in her hand was dripping with river water and squirming like a netful of eels. The woman was striding down the woodland trail to her home and soon glimpsed a familiar hut through the trees. Eager to share what was inside the bag, she yelled to her husband as she rushed across the yard, scattering chickens in a flurry of feathers.

"Edgan!"

The woman reached the door of the hut and pushed it open to walk inside.

"Edgan? Where ya at?"

Sanya was answered by a muffled pop, a fit of coughing and a bloom of purple smoke. It billowed out from the opposite side of the bookcase like the breath of some great beast. "Here," Edgan croaked.

Sanya followed the sound of her husband's voice to the scene of his latest mishap. He was tucked away in his reading nook with a spell book open on the table, fanning away the smoke from a bowl of bubbling liquid. Sanya wasn't young but Edgan was ten years her senior. Despite his balding head and the deep lines in his skin from his early years spent working in the fields, the grin he flashed her was a youthful one. Her husband was enlivened by spell casting. He wasn't a very good wizard by many people's standards (his accident-prone nature when it came to magic hadn't won him many friends in their small community) but Sanya had always respected him as a man with a kind heart and reasonably good intentions. That was enough for her.

"What happened?" Sanya asked him, eyeing the bowl. "Did I distract you?"

"Oh not at all. Nevermind the smoke, my sweet. I think I've almost cracked this spell. What have you got in that sack there?"

"Well!" Sanya said with a bright smile at the change of topic. "I was walking along the water and I saw someone throwing this sack off the bridge. They were wearing a hooded cloak so I couldn't see their face. It was all very mysterious. I could tell there was something alive inside the bag so I pulled it out of the river and peeked into it. I've never seen anything like it."

The bag was twitching and snarling in Sanya's hand as she held it out to Edgan. He frowned and rose from his chair to take it. "Is it. Eh. Safe?"

His wife chuckled and folded her arms across her chest. "About as safe as you are. Why don't ya go and drop it into the crate over there so we can get a good look at it."

The man crossed the room to a wooden crate in the corner and dragged an old dust cloth off it so he could lift the lid. He untied the leather chord and dropped the bag inside. Some kind of white lizard about the size of a house cat wriggled out of the bag. It shuffled back into a corner of the crate and hissed at them. A pair of tiny limbs like wings grew from its shoulders and it flicked them out now in a puny show of aggression, trying to appear larger than it was. The wings were far too small and membranous to have any hope of lifting it off the ground. Beady, bright green eyes stared up at the humans in defiance of just about anything they might plan to do. Edgan smiled, charmed by the little creature's fierce display.

"Well, look at that! It's a winged lizard. Some might even say a dragon. Or ah... Something like it. No one's seen a dragon in this part of the world for a hundred years. How fascinating."

Edgan leaned down for a closer look and the little dragon spit at him. The man jerked back as a gob of green slime smacked into the opposite wall of the crate, just shy of his nose. Sanya placed a hand over her mouth in disgust. "Uugh," she said through her fingers. "What is that? It's glowing!"

"Hmm. I don't know. Maybe this is her best attempt at breathing fire, eh?"

"But what if it's poisonous? Can you test it?"

Edgan rubbed the back of his neck. "Ah, yes... Well. Perhaps I could try a discovery spell..."

Sanya's lips twitched in a nervous smile as she recalled the bubbling bowl that he'd left on the table. "Or what about the alchemists?" She rushed on before her husband could answer. "Yes. I'm sure that Lord Whats-His-Name... Garson from The Alchemists' Guild. He's bound to have some interest in her. He might offer to buy her. We do need the money, Ed."

Edgan scratched his chin. "Aah. I don't know, my sweet. Those alchemists are a pompous lot. No respect for life or the mysteries of nature. This little critter wouldn't survive long in their keeping."

Sanya glanced down at the crate. The dragon was scrambling around, nosing into the corners, searching for an escape route. "You're probably right," she sighed. "But I think we must try to make the best of fortune's gift, my dear. We do have bills to pay."

Edgan gave her a troubled nod. "Garson. Well... Leave it to me then. I'll see if he's willing to do a trade."


Edgan carried the crate with the dragon inside to the point in the woods where he had arranged to meet Garson. A burly man with small black eyes and a bearded face stood waiting, his hands folded neatly across the front of his tunic.

"Lord Garson." Edgan set down the crate and bowed.

"Edgan the infamous wizard," Garson boomed with more than a hint of mockery. "I must warn you that I don't have long to indulge your attempts to win me over as a patron today. I'm expected at the guild hall in the city. So what do you have to show me?"

"Oh you'll be glad you agreed to this meeting lord." Edgan made a show of glancing around in case someone might overhear them. Then he whispered, "I've brought you a dragon." Garson arched his eyebrows and Edgan beckoned him down to the ground. The two men crouched and lifted the lid of the crate so the lord could peer inside. The little creature stared back, green eyes glinting like jewels, hissing at the faces of the two giants looking in at her.

"Ooh. A dragon, is it?" Garson snickered.

"Sure is. She has those little wings along her back there, see? But be careful not to get too close. She's been coughing up this strange mucus that I don't--"

Edgan jumped as Garson burst into a fit of laughter and clapped him on the shoulder. "Oh Edgan, you've outdone yourself this time. You don't honestly believe that this is a dragon, do you? Dragons are powerful and imposing creatures! They cough up fire my good man, not mucus! Look at that thing, it's ridiculous. It's just some kind of lizard with a birth defect. It's no more a dragon than you are a wizard." Garson chuckled and pulled a handkerchief from his pocket to dab at his eyes. "I'd toss it back into the river if I were you. It would make a nice meal for a pike fish and that's about all that it's good for." Garson stood, waved a dismissive hand, then turned and ambled off into the trees.


Edgan slumped down onto a bench outside the hut, muttering to himself as he took out his pipe. Sanya sat down beside him.

"Well? What did Garson say?"

"He laughed. He's got no interest in her, my sweet. She'd be wasted on him."

"So what are you going to do?"

Edgan puffed on his pipe for a moment. "I think I will try that discovery spell after all, see if I can find out where she came from. There's something special about her."

"Well... If you insist. But no more spells in the house today, please. One explosion per day is quite enough!"

The couple continued to talk outside, while inside the hut, the dragon was dozing in her crate. The humans had been brave enough to feed her. Her belly was full of rabbit, she was safe and warm, and she had a blanket to rest on. This was the most relaxed she'd felt for as long as she could remember. She closed her eyes as she started to fall asleep but something felt wrong... A moment later she was coughing another mouthful of green slime onto the floor of the crate. Nestled in the middle of the mess was a shining green stone, precious to humans when polished and worn as a show of wealth, or traded for other things of value. But this was of no interest to the little dragon. She yawned, curled herself up in her blanket, and drifted off to sleep.

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[APR 2020] Imprisoned / Re: [APR 2020] - Imprisoned - Voting Thread
« on: May 08, 2020, 04:18:31 PM »
Voted now. :) Thanks for all the stories guys, some great entries.

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Hi everyone, lovely to be back here and writing again! I just sent in my entry. I thought this was a great idea for a theme. Simple and definitely on trend. ;) Looking forward to reading all the other stories too when they come in.

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Finally Snapped
(1493 words)

Spoiler for Hiden:
Finally Snapped

"OK! This is OK. I'm going to get through this. I know I am."

The prisoner slumped back against the wall as she continued to argue with herself.

"Right. Now you're losing it Astora. On what planet could all of this be considered OK? You're bolted to the floor of a pit that's about to be flooded with several hundred gallons of sea water. Panic would be a more reasonable reaction right now."

Astora stared up at the disc of sky above her. It was painted with a brushstroke of stars and planets, a wide open window to a world of freedom, impossibly out of her reach. The rush and hiss of the sea above was relentless too. The tide was drawing closer. Water trickled down the stone walls and dripped into the gap between her neck and jacket collar. She shivered. Leaning forward, she gave the shackle around her ankle a useless tug. It was welded to a chain that bound her to the earth. Bastard pirates! Determined to drown her.

But panicking wouldn't help. She needed to think. Too bad her inner voice wasn't on board with that idea. All it wanted to do was berate her. This is what you get for stealing a free ride with a bunch of cold-blooded criminals.

"Yeah, well. Personally I think this punishment was a bit excessive." Astora groped around her in the dim light and grabbed a loose rock from the ground. She smashed it down on the rusty chain attached to the shackle -- once, twice, three times. Not even a crack. "Ugh!" She scowled at it. "This isn't fair. I mean it's not like I killed anyone."

The prisoner dropped the rock and stood up, cupping her hands around her mouth. "Hey! Can anyone hear me? I'm trapped down here! Help!"

She tilted her head to listen... And frowned. A clicking sound came from the darkness on the other side of the pit, crawling like a warm breath over her shoulder. Astora spun around. She couldn't see anything through the shadows.

"Hello?" She said with a surprising squeak in her voice. Annoyed, she coughed to clear her throat. "Um, hi. Can you help me get out of here? The tide is coming in and I'm chained to the floor."

She heard nothing but the steady drip of water, like the ticking of a clock that wasn't on her side. Astora wondered if she had imagined the noise. Was she talking to herself again?

"I'm not dangerous," she said, looking around for something dangerous to defend herself with. Where had she dropped that rock? "I'm not a pirate. I'm just trying to get across the channel and now I'm stuck on this island... In... In this pit and..."

The darkness rippled, parting like folds of cloth around a pale limb that emerged from the shadows: a giant pincer, followed by a confusion of articulated legs. Some kind of creature was clawing its way out into the moonlight that fell down the shaft of Astora's prison. Two eyes, black and bulbous as olives, gazed down at her from stalks on a wide head, hovering over a set of complicated mouthparts. The giant crustacean continued to stare as it flicked out a mandible to stroke one of its eyes. Astora stared back at it in dumbstruck horror. It felt like all of her insides had dissolved into mush. Forgetting she was tied to the floor, the prisoner turned to drag herself up the slick rocks, scrambling a few feet up the wall of the pit before the chain around her ankle snapped taut to pull her back. She lost her grip and fell off the wall to hit the ground hard. The crab scuttled away from where she had landed. Astora lay still with her eyes squeezed shut. Nothing felt broken... Not that it mattered. The crab would probably kill her either way.

"It's OK," she whispered to herself. "Everything is fiiiine. It doesn't want to eat you. Just pretend it's not there and it will go away."

Astora blinked her eyes open. A forest of hairy legs filled her vision as the creature came forward again. She sat up so fast that she almost blacked out. "No!" She shouted at the creature and grabbed another rock off the ground. "Bad crab! Get back!" She held the rock overhead, preparing to throw it, but the creature wasn't listening. It was looking at the chain, exploring the metal links with its delicate pincer tips. Its lack of eyebrows gave it an expression of harmless wonder that surely wasn't by design. It must be preparing to drag her away into the depths of the pit and start snipping her apart into tasty morsels.

"W-what are you doing?" Astora said. "Leave that alone."

The crab ignored her. It pinched a link in its claw and lifted the chain off the floor. It was impossible to tell what it might be thinking.

"Can... You break that?" She asked uncertainly. The crab didn't react. Astora lowered the rock to her side and mimed the action of a scissors with her other hand. "Break... It?"

The crab stood as still as the walls around it. Astora was doubting her attempt to communicate with the creature when its pincers bit down on the metal link. The chain snapped and rattled back to the ground in two pieces. One part was still attached to her ankle but the crab had cut her loose from her bind. She sat in stunned silence for a moment, and then --

"Hahahaha!" Astora jumped to her feet, throwing her arms over her head in celebration. She wasn't exactly free yet but it was a great start. "Yes!" She grinned at the crab. Yes, yes! Thank you!"

The crab waved a mandible at her. She had no time to puzzle out the meaning of this before a rush of water poured into the pit, drenching both of them. The tide receded but they only had seconds before it flowed forward again. Astora coughed and pushed a handful of wet hair off her face.

"I have to..." She stared at the place where the crab had been standing. It was gone. The shock of the water must have startled it back into its hole. Astora flattened herself against the wall, casting a wary glance up the rocks as more water rushed in. She could try to climb out now but the stone was wet, the handholds almost impossible to see in the dark. Even if she managed to climb close to the top, she didn't want to think of the bloody mess she could turn into if the water washed her back down again. Not to mention the stupid chain that was trailing like an anchor from her leg. She glanced into the deeper shadows of the pit. Where had the crab gone?

"Please tell me there's another way out of here," she muttered.

Astora pushed away from the wall. Another wash of salty water landed on her head, leaving a trail of seaweed clinging to her hair. She swatted it off and stretched out her hands, inching forward into the sheltered part of her prison, away from the tide's assault. She struggled to see even a foot ahead of her. The woman could hear the steady rush of water behind her now as it flowed into the pit without pause, swirling around her ankles in icy eddies, numbing her feet through her thin boots. But the ground was sloping up ahead of her and she hadn't encountered a solid wall yet. There was definitely a tunnel here.

Committed now, she started to climb the slope. The woman gritted her teeth as her feet slipped on loose pebbles. "Crab?" She called out, flailing her arms blindly ahead of her. "I'm coming up OK? Just don't..." She stopped to fumble her way around a boulder. "Don't... Snap me in half or anything."

The water was climbing the slope too, bubbling up around her thighs. Her inner voice started to question her again. What if there was no way out? What if she just drowned in here, all alone in the dark? What if she'd made a terrible mistake? What if...? But wait. Stop. Was that a glint of light ahead?

Astora blinked a few times, squinting as she waded up the tunnel, straining to see. There was a patch of blackness ahead of her that was speckled with points of light. The stars! A breath of fresh air chilled her wet skin and she gasped in relief.

Astora could feel the water around her legs draining away. The ground was shifting beneath her feet now as she climbed to the mouth of the tunnel, her boots sinking into wet sand. She paused to pull in some cleansing breaths of the night air. Then, dragging her chain with her, she climbed out the mouth of the tunnel and looked around.

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[NOV 2014] Joker Month / Re: [Nov 2014] - joker month - Submission Thread
« on: November 30, 2014, 09:43:52 PM »
Here we go! I went with the Abandoned Places theme from October, the Cavern City image.

This one's called The Ghost King's Choice and it's 1499 words.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Lestara inched through the doorway of the dim throne room and lifted her torch. Patches of light glowed on the stone floor, cast by the setting sun, taking on the shape of holes in the partially collapsed ceiling. Dripping water echoed all around her and the cries of exotic birds reminded her of life in the world outside.

"Hello?" She called. "Xanaden, are you here?"

Lestara stopped in a patch of light and waited. Despite the barrage of spirit waves that had assaulted her, she could sense where he was as soon as she'd arrived. The throne room had been her goal from that moment on. No other ghost would suffice.

A strong, cold force encircled her throat from behind and pulled her out of the light. A gasp lodged in her windpipe. She dropped her torch and it rolled into a puddle of rain water. Its light died with an irritable hiss.

"So you've finally come for us, ghost killer," he growled. "It offends me to see the crest of a purger. And yet, I knew you would come one day. What took you so long?"

Lestara dug her fingers into the ice-cold arm pressed to her neck. They met with little resistance and sank to the knuckles into something that wasn't flesh. She battled a sudden urge to vomit. What a great first impression that would make. "What can I say?" She answered with a reedy laugh. "I like to think I'm worth the wait." She tried turning her head to see who held her. The darkness revealed nothing. "The jungle is entombing you. There's a thick layer of moss over everything. Carasha Dae could have been hidden anywhere along the foothills of Zatun's Peak. I'm lucky to have found it at all."

The pressure left her throat and the the ghost king stood before her, the tip of a machete at her throat. The sight of him was disorienting; light from the ceiling shone through him, revealing a form that was semi-opaque. She could just about see the rest of the room through him, as if she was squinting through a pane of smoked glass. "Cavern City has always been difficult to find," he said. "Less so when it was thriving but even when I lived I valued our isolation. I thought it would protect from invasion. Then came the rumours of hidden gold in our caverns. That's when the Xenion filth marched out to destroy us."

The ghost king sneered, a proud curl of his lip that suited his station. He was younger than she'd imagined. Xanaden was a man just shy of his prime when he was murdered by the Xenions. His hair was clipped close to his scalp, in the fashion of the sunlands, his embroidered tunic a modest choice for his role. "And now you are here with your fire and spells to banish what's left of us. But you know what happened, don't you? That's why you've come."

Lestara ignored the blade, her green eyes fixed on his. "Yes. I've read all about the sad fate of Carasha Dae but that's nothing compared to being here. It's beautiful, even as it's falling apart. I can only imagine how stunning it was before."

The ghost king frowned. "So this is finally the end, is it? You've taken a liking to my city or someone else has paid you to. You'll cleanse Carasha Dae of its spirits then collect a fat purse while another foreign king marches his soliders through my gates. Well let me remind you of something first. There is no gold in the caverns of Zatun's Peak. That was proven by the Xenions fifty years ago when they abandoned this place empty handed. But not before they tore my city apart and slaughtered all of my people trying to find it."

Lestara's eyes darted to the ghost's machete. Did it have enough substance to harm her? She'd rather not find out. "I am sorry for you and what happened here," she said. "But that's not why I've come. I don't care about the gold and no one has sent me. I have a proposition, if you'll hear it."

Xanaden wrestled with indecision then finally lowered his blade. "Walk with me, purger. There's something I want to show you first."


Mist had crept over the walls of Carasha Dae, reducing the light of sunset to a golden haze. Xanaden led Lestara down stone steps to the lower tiers of the city, aiming for the main thoroughfare that zig-zagged down the mountain slope. They crossed a rope bridge beside an aqueduct whose mighty flow had burst its walls, a cascade of water spilling through the breach. It flooded the lower streets with rivers that crashed over each other, rushing on to the city gates at the base of the mountain. Xanaden avoided the treacherous routes, keeping to streets more comfortable for a human to pass. Lestara was thankful for it.

A turn around a corner brought them onto the main street, a wide route pockmarked from horse's hooves. Here another river flowed, one that stole Lestara's breath. The dead of Carasha Dae were all around her. Traders shouted in ghostly echoes, laughing, gossiping and hawking their wares. Groups of citizens bustled down the street, jostling for room as if personal space was still a requirement. Dog spirits even wrestled in the gutter, fighting over scraps thrown by laughing children. Despite the smiling faces, the air was oppressive with the weight of their loss.

"Tell me this, purger," Xanaden whispered, sounding haunted by the sight. "Why don't my people know me?" The question pained him; she could hear that too. "Why can't they see and speak to me like you do?"

"Because they're not like you," she murmured back. "You're a special ghost. A very rare one." Lestara looked at him, speaking with hushed excitement. "I mean, just think of it. You remember everything. You can talk to purgers. You even have enough substance to touch us if you need to." She gestured to the crowd. "Most ghosts are like this, useless imprints invisible to all but the purgers, disrupting their surrounding energy. You think I'm here to sweep them all away but that doesn't matter to me as much as you think. I came here because I heard that you were something more. I thought if I could just find you..."

Xanaden shot Lestara a dark look. "What do you want?"

"I want you to come to Dharamez with me," Lestara shot back. "It's another city two week's journey from here. I'll be holding council with the other purgers. They're eager to meet you. They want to talk about an experiment that could bring you back to life."

"No," the ghost king snapped. "My place is here with my people."

"With ghosts that don't even know you exist? They're not people, Xanaden. They're only echoes of something that was once here. They'll never be here again, no matter how much you want it."

"They may not see me but I'm still their king. I have a duty to protect them. What if another purger finds the city and destroys them while I'm gone?"

Lestara reached into her travel pouch. "I thought that might be a sticking point so I'm going to do you a favour." The purger lifted her hand and showed him what was inside. "Purger fire is made with these sparks. If I ignite your city's torches with these, it will seem like a purger is at work. None of my kind will enter while they're shining. They can remain lit as long as you like." Lestara blew the sparks from her hand. They flared and rushed forward, splitting like atoms and racing to ignite every torch with their white radiance.

"What are you doing?" The ghost king drew his blade. "I won't let you purge them!"

Lestara held up her hands. "I'm not! I only want it to appear that way to other purgers. I promise you, this will protect them." She eyed the machete pointedly. "So long as I'm alive that is."

Xanaden frowned at Lestara as she lowered her hands. The ghost king clearly struggled with the notion of trusting her.

"Shall we go?"

Xanaden didn't answer. Lestara turned for the city gates.

"Purger!"

"Yes?"

Xanaden slid the machete back into its sheath, stalling as he considered his words. "I will make a trade with you," he finally said. "A promise for a promise. When all of this is done, whether I am left as man or ghost, if I find that you've lied to me about what happened here, I promise you I'll destroy you for it."

Lestara stared at Xanaden's face, the steely resolve in his eyes. His words felt like a cold finger running down her spine.

“Fair enough,” she answered with a daring smile she didn't feel.

The purger turned for the city gates, knowing that the ghost king would follow her.

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Thanks for your feedback Elfy! I found it a tough challenge to fit all the sins into the story while still making sure I had enough room for the story to actually happen. Lust was there alright, he was the older man that Gluttony puts her arm around, I just didn't get a chance to describe him much. I loved your theory about the setting being Hell. I just wrote it as a kooky band of trouble makers in generic fantasy land, though maybe I should pretend otherwise. ;) I think you're right about Greed too, at times I felt that Senwyn was a bit forced and I couldn't figure out why. I don't think she had enough to begin with to be greedy in the traditional way. I was trying to show her potential to fill the role more than anything else. Like a fledgling Greed. Or it could be that she's more fitting as Pride, hence Pride's concern at the end of the story!

I'm not sure what way you'd like me to approach your own critique, so since you mainly dealt with story for mine, that's what I'll look at here.

Firstly I must applaud you on the idea of demons wearing nothing but ties because they're evil and uncomfortable inventions. I loved that image. I think Gluttony was a great sin to write about, it's not as popular as some of the others so it made me curious to read about it. While I really enjoyed the whole idea of the sins needing to meet their performance goals, I'd have to agree with yourself and Meddler about Price's reaction to Gluttony. He was strangely quick to stray from his ideals so that took me out of the story a bit. If Greed was that good at changing people then I'd have to wonder why he wasn't meeting his targets? I think this could be improved by tweaking Price's personality, like maybe he's crazy successful but really bored and not making enough money for his liking. That would make it more believable and easier for Greed to get his way in the end. It was a funny story though, I enjoyed it. :)

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[NOV 2014] Joker Month / Re: [Nov 2014] - joker month - Discussion Thread
« on: November 02, 2014, 11:05:50 PM »
Haha! That's brilliant :) And just as I was feeling all frustrated about my story not coming together for last month. I don't know how many times I started it! Now I get a second chance to start a bit earlier instead of cramming it all into the last week. :P I also owe a critique or two, for the deadly sins, not forgetting those.

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Yay well done AlmightyZeal :D

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I would as always be delighted to have my piece critiqued and return the favour for anyone else's. Any takers? :)

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I'm liking the cavern city image too M. G. Boronha, I'll be curious to see what you do with it if you get the time. :)

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Brilliant! Love this theme and those pictures, now let's see if I can do it justice. :) Anybody have any ideas yet?

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Writers' Corner / Re: Little Point of View problem
« on: September 24, 2014, 09:37:49 PM »
Hmmm that's a tricky one! Maybe it would help to ask yourself these questions: what is the story that I want to tell and what's the best way to tell it? I have a sense that getting really fancy with view points just for the sake of it wouldn't be very helpful to a reader. Like if you're wondering whether you should narrate just the protagonist's movements or a gang of other characters as well, I say let the story tell you whether that's necessary or not. The other characters must have stuff significant to the plot happening as well that progresses the story from scene to scene. If they don't, is it really necessary to show what they're doing? Or would just narrating your protagonist's movements be a clearer way of telling your story? Not sure how helpful that was but it's an interesting topic to ponder!

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You're welcome AzWingsFan, hope you'll try another of the themes sometime :)

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I'll see if I can give you some feedback AzWingsFan :) Sorry it's coming so late, I'm just back from a couple weeks holiday. I think your piece of writing definitely stuck to the theme and that a torturer's apprentice is a great idea for a story. I felt that it read more like a character bio than a short story though, especially the first paragraph. This seemed like the kind of thing that would be written to allow a writer to get into a character in preparation to write about them, if that makes sense? In a finished story a reader will generally learn about a character through its actions and conversations with others, rather than the writer telling us all about them in the opening paragraph. This is usually called "info dumping" (if that's not too harsh a term) and it's opposite would be called "show don't tell" which I've learned is a better habit to get into. For example:

Quote
His parents although working long hours gave Zel whatever time they could.

Instead of making this statement (which calls attention to yourself, speaking as the writer, rather than the character Zel) you could maybe describe a memory of Zel's that educates the reader about his relationship with his family. This would paint a better picture and keep your reader engaged with the story. Something like:

Quote
Zel recalled the weary face of his mother as she smiled at him, returning from a day of hard but honest work. Zel hated that smile.

This might not fit with your vision but hopefully it explains what I'm suggesting? It shows that Zel's parents work hard and that he's loved but that he doesn't like his family, possibly because he thinks they're better than he is. Learning to write this way is really important, it's what will make your story come to life for you and your reader.

When it comes to the short story format, I'd also suggest focusing on one special challenge that your character has to face, whether they succeed or fail, and how that changes them in the end. I learned this lately too and I found it really helps me. Hopefully it'll be a useful pointer here as well :)

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