Results 1 to 4 of 4

Thread: "First Blood" (August Writing Contest Entry)

  1. #1
    Written Into A Corner... Cool Trainer
    Cool Trainer
    mattbcl's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Posts
    565

    Default "First Blood" (August Writing Contest Entry)

    I started thinking about what I wanted to write for this the moment I read the parameters of the contest. I felt, too, that anything I write for it and post in the "Fanfiction" forum should still fall under the category of "Fanfiction" - that is to say, borrowing from established materials to offer up some ideas of my own. Take from it what you will... and enjoy!

    --------------------------------------------------

    First Blood

    --------------------------------------------------

    Do I regret it?

    That question has haunted me all of my life. And if it suits Him, it will continue haunting me beyond my death.

    If you were to ask me... and I notice you have not... but I will tell you anyway, I think it began innocently enough. It was a task my brother and I were given in earnest. It was supposed to be a great honor and privilege to bring before Him the greatest we had to offer - that was what my mother told me. When she spoke of Him, in her eyes I could see the twin lights of respect and fear. He frightened her, as none of this earth could be capable of frightening another.

    I tilled the ground with pride in my work, no less than my brother possessed for the sheep he tended. It was honest work, the most honest a man could hope to have. And it was both my pride in my own work and my reverence for Him that I brought forth the offering I was meant to bear: the healthiest, ripest fruits and vegetables our farm could present. Plants they were, but I challenge the man who could have brought forth any better.

    And yet... I need not. For that man, the man who brought forward His true bounty... was my brother.

    I could almost sense his smug satisfaction as we approached the altar. It was little more than a stone slab on a mound of earth. To the left, I set down the bushels of fruits, and knelt down in respect, head bowed. But he? He stepped forward with his chest heaved, and he roped the sheep - half a dozen of the fattest ones of his flock - to a tree just to the right. It was enough rope to allow them upon the slab, not that they were interested in staying there... they wandered about, as the stupid animals they were, and minded nothing but the patches of grass beneath their feet.

    So why did He select these creatures over the bounty I gave to Him?

    Even now, I cannot conceive the reason. It frustrates me now as it always has, from the very moment He looked upon my brother with favor. He was not merely a man, not merely a presence to be sensed standing over you like Father watching you as a child... He was all around us, in the sky, in the trees, in the sun, parting the clouds to let the sunlight shine fully upon my brother in joyful acceptance and delight at his offering.

    His!

    I could feel my own conscience fight me as I realized my offering had been ignored. He had not only chosen my brother's offering over mine, he had chosen my brother over me. I had never felt such shame and humiliation in my life. My conscience did battle with my pride... my avarice... it shouted into the back of my head, "Why are you so miserable? You will have another chance to prove yourself worthy. You can still be accepted, pay no mind to the jealousy within you. You are not the least favorite of His creations!"

    But something broke within me that day. I could not evade the despair, the anger and the frustration bearing down upon me. I had let Him down. I needed only the twilight to come for my own darkness to descend upon me, as well.

    I invited my brother out to the field, out of the view of Mother and Father and the sheep and the fruit. I meant him no harm when I extended my invitation... I simply meant to congratulate him on the reward of His favor, I swear to you!

    ...But the hand that I raised to him was not delivered into his grasp. It was instead delivered to his face. Again, and again, and again. My hands grasped branches, rocks, even fistfuls of his hair. I could hear my own voice crying out over his as I did this terrible deed.

    Why did I believe I could hide such a monstrous act from anyone, never mind the One Who Knows All?

    Scarcely had the sun risen when the consequences were clear to me. Mother and Father sought my brother out, though without success... they asked me where he was, and I scorned the inquiry. "Am I to be his keeper, now?"

    But dark clouds grew on the horizon, and it was only then that I, in my selfish foolishness, realized His full fury was upon me. He knew what I had done, from the moment the sun had seen the blood of my brother on the ground. I had spilled the blood of my brother over a silly, silly thing...

    The thunder conveyed His words to me. I cried out to Him, begging Him for forgiveness... but no. He wanted me to leave this place, as Mother and Father had been forced to leave Paradise before... He wanted me to leave His very sight!

    Desperate, I asked Him, "But what is to stop any other from what I have already done?"

    Lightning came down from the sky, and etched a mark upon my chest, written in His own language and clear to any who stared upon them... cursed was I for harming my brother, but seven times cursed would be the man that brought the same punishment upon me. Irony of ironies, I was condemned from that moment on to live to the end of my natural life - and beyond His eyes, where I could no longer prove to Him my worthiness.

    My death draws near. Tell my tale to all you can, that they may avoid my tragic mistake. My pride gave way to envy... my envy gave way to wrath... and my wrath destroyed me, forevermore.

    Yes... I regret it. But the mark must be mine, and mine alone.

    --------------------------------------------------

    (Word Count: including title, 992)

  2. #2
    Super Moderator
    Super Moderator

    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    Location
    Western Australia
    Posts
    5,741

    Default Re: "First Blood" (August Writing Contest Entry)

    Haven't read through this (yet) but just wanted to add (based on your opening comment) that it is perfectly acceptable to post original fiction and content in the Fanfiction Forum, including for this contest, so don't let the word "fanfiction" hold you back, man.
    ...Quest for the Truth of the Legend ...

    Lisa the Legend

    Winner of 12 Silver Pencil Awards 2011 - Including Best Plot, Best Character in a Leading Role, Best Moment and Best Fic of the Forum for Lisa the Legend!

    Quote Originally Posted by mr_pikachu
    Feel free to withdraw at any time, Gavin.

    Quote Originally Posted by DragoKnight View Post
    ...Far too many references!! You're like the Swiss army knife of discussion.

  3. #3
    Veteran Trainer
    Veteran Trainer

    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    The Fanfiction Forum
    Posts
    19,536

    Default Re: "First Blood" (August Writing Contest Entry)

    Review of “First Blood”

    Plot (17/20 points): This was certainly a solid plotline. Granted, it’s not exactly your own, either (see below comments), but the Bible is often hailed as the greatest tale of all time, whether or not you believe it to be a true story. That did detract a little from the surprise factor for anyone familiar with the Book of Genesis, but it was still engaging. The plot did drag a little in the last few paragraphs (again, this may be a result of the reader already knowing the story), but still, it was certainly well-constructed, including the details that you added yourself.

    Plot Originality (5/10 points): Well… no. Let’s face it, this was a Bible story, and there wasn’t much you could do to get around that. With that said, the way in which it was told – in particular, the perspective used – was a bit more unique, so you’ll get a bit of credit for that. It wasn’t quite as significant of a rewrite as, say, The Chronicles of Narnia, but there was still some originality there.

    Writing Style (18/20 points): Very nice. This was probably your greatest strength. In a very short space you managed to draw us into the characters’ world. I also liked the touch of never using any names. (Granted, that made me believe that God was actually Hitler until the fourth paragraph, but the discovery of what was actually being conveyed made the story even more charming… as charming as a murder can be, anyway.) It was a well-executed technique.

    Aside from a particularly awkward sentence beginning paragraph three, the first half of your piece was exceedingly strong. The writing style did grow a little strained toward the end; it seemed like you were trying to figure out how to make the ending climactic, but it didn’t quite work here. Perhaps it had something to do with the space within which you were working, but I didn’t get how Cain’s banishment was really a huge problem, especially since none of the consequences were explained in his retrospective remarks.

    Spelling and Grammar (9.5/10 points): One particular sentence in the third paragraph was especially odd in this regard. Aside from that, there was the issue of conjunctions beginning a number of sentences. Technically this is fine in terms of grammar (despite what many school teachers may say), but it may be enough to throw off those who think they know a grammar rule that doesn’t actually exist. It’s worth being aware of that, if nothing else.

    Characters (12/15 points): Aside from the anti-hero, the other characters didn’t take a particularly active role – even God was rather passively portrayed, as we could argue that Cain essentially did it to himself in a karmic manner. (Not to cross religions, but you see my philosophical point.) With that in mind, Cain was pretty well portrayed overall, and particularly so in the first half of the story. Any issues with his characterization only came about in the second half, when you were trying to simultaneously wrap up the story and show Cain’s character shift at once. Both were somewhat neglected, which was unfortunate given how easy it was to take on his mindset in the first half of the story. It’s a shame, too, because that shift was ultimately the most important part of his character, as the “after” version of Cain was the one telling the story.

    The biggest issue, though, was that I never found myself particularly caring about anyone’s fate. I never really saw that Cain actually regretted his actions – the first sentence alluded to him still being unsure of any regret, even after being shunned by God Himself. He seemed more concerned with the fact that he got caught (omniscience will do that), which detracted a bit from any connection to his character. Since none of the other characters were developed at all, they felt more like faceless entities than beings worthy of pity, affection, adoration, or anything else. Maybe that was the goal, but it made the narrative feel just a little flatter than I would have liked. Someone unfamiliar with the underlying story would have found this even more troubling, as Cain’s actions would have seemed like utter nonsense.

    Settings (12.5/15 points): You did what you could here in a short space, but while it was easy to immerse oneself in Cain’s mind, it wasn’t so easy to get into his world. In particular, it would have been helpful to see just a little more setting description shortly after the murder, during and following the search for Abel. There wasn’t quite enough of that, leaving me wondering whether the thunder came from a cloudless or suddenly overcast sky, and such.

    Overall Appreciation (10/10 points): Despite its flaws, this was a captivating read most of the way through. There’s nothing more to say.

    Final Result: 84/100 = 84%

    Closing Comments: All in all, this piece exhibited many great qualities. You have a lot of writing skill, and the first half of this piece really showcased that ability. I do think we lost a bit of our connection with the character and with the world itself after the offering incident; if the latter parts of the narrative could have been condensed a bit, some greater emphasis on how Cain supposedly “broke” (emotionally/psychologically, beyond the explicitly described act of killing) would have been nice. Still, this was a quality piece, especially given the constraints you were given. It was a pleasure to review, and a greater pleasure to read.
    IT HAS RETURNED.
    THE TPM MAIN SITE.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gavin Luper View Post
    Holy crap ... I'VE become a grammar nazi, too.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator
    Super Moderator

    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    Location
    Western Australia
    Posts
    5,741

    Default Re: "First Blood" (August Writing Contest Entry)

    Review of “First Blood”

    Plot (16/20 points): Well, the plot was definitely very engaging. The request for an offering created an opportunity for reverence for the story’s God, but this opportunity was overlooked by the main character and instead degenerated into envy and eventually, wrath. He is transformed by his own envy, from being what seems like an eager, faithful servant of God to a murderous creature with a one-track mind. It was very interesting to see this story told from this intimate perspective, and to be honest, if we’d made a much higher word limit, you could have gone much further with this and it would have been a delight to see what else you added in. As the piece stands, it is sharp and shocking and concludes well.

    Plot Originality (4/10 points): I couldn’t give too many points for this, because this was essentially the story of Cain and Abel told from a different perspective and with more of an insight into the characters’ motives and thoughts. That made for a richer plot than the biblical story, but it still can’t be overly original as it’s essentially just an extrapolation of an existing story.

    Writing Style (18/20 points): I really liked the writing style in the piece. When I first skimmed it over I thought it felt perhaps a bit too contrived, but upon a closer, slower reading, it really did work well with what you were writing about. It sounded natural enough, which is important, because the last thing you want to do is sound affected and overblown. I’ve said it before elsewhere: you have a real talent for writing and that shines through here. The narrative voice is very strong, the description is detailed enough that we can envisage what’s happening without it being too unnecessarily detailed (we didn’t need to know what colour and types of fruits he offered, and you wisely didn’t include those details). All in all, this is probably your greatest strength, and your skill with narrative writing made the story a delight to read.

    Spelling and Grammar (9/10 points): The spelling and grammar were more or less perfect. The one thing that bothered me a tiny bit, though, and it was to the very slight detriment of the story, was the overuse of the ellipsis (…) in the story. To be fair, I usually quite enjoy the use of ellipses in a narrative as it creates a certain atmosphere and can make some paragraphs flow better than they otherwise would, and I’m the kind of writer who uses them to this effect myself. However, in the space of just 1000 words, they seemed to pop up every few sentences, and for me this ended up detracting from the flow a bit because I kept noticing them. There were probably a couple of instances where you could have used full stops or dashes instead and it still would have retained the required effect, I think. This is, ultimately, a subjective thing, and you might disregard it, but I think it’s good to be aware of stylistic issues that might jump out at a prospective reader. Other than this, flawless.

    Characters (12/15 points): I think you did well with the characterisation of Cain: he was still portrayed as being overcome with envy and becoming this murderous monster, but you made an excellent portrayal of his distress at not being the “best” one for God, and his subsequent unravelling. The fact that the other characters were not really named or given much attention worked for me: it reflected back on Cain’s character and how he was completely absorbed with himself and his adequacy – or inadequacy – in the eyes of God. It possibly could have gone a bit further into his mental processes and emotions to be truly stunning.

    Settings (10/15 points): There was perhaps not enough of this, although you did use the sky’s changes to good effect in terms of mirroring Cain’s plight. It probably would have been good to see a bit more description of exactly where some of these things were taking place – it would have made the entire piece a bit more concrete for me and more clearly imaginable – but I recognise also that the word limit would have meant that this kind of detail would be the first thing to be cut out. On the whole, you did a satisfactory job of utilising the setting.

    Overall Appreciation (9/10 points): This story meshed together really well, and it was difficult to find too many problems with it. It was pleasant to read, and even if I knew where it was inevitably heading, it was still awful when it got there.

    Final Result: 78/100 = 78%

    Closing Comments: A brilliantly-written piece of short fiction, despite the lack of originality in the subject matter. I think if it were extended a little further, in terms of settings and maybe delving a little deeper into Cain’s inner voice, it would be a real killer story. The only thing I would suggest dropping would be the last part of the second last paragraph: it seemed like it was only there to signpost to us which of the seven deadly sins had been explored in the submission, but that’s something we would have worked out for ourselves, and it felt a bit gratuitous and it stole from the strength of the conclusion. So, if you rework this further in future, I’d cut that part out altogether. All in all, though, as I said, this was a real pleasure to read and really puts your great writing style on display. Congratulations!
    ...Quest for the Truth of the Legend ...

    Lisa the Legend

    Winner of 12 Silver Pencil Awards 2011 - Including Best Plot, Best Character in a Leading Role, Best Moment and Best Fic of the Forum for Lisa the Legend!

    Quote Originally Posted by mr_pikachu
    Feel free to withdraw at any time, Gavin.

    Quote Originally Posted by DragoKnight View Post
    ...Far too many references!! You're like the Swiss army knife of discussion.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •