The Herscher Project was well represented in the contest. Along with my own entry, Lydia and Joe also judged entries by Patricia M. D'Angelo, Jamie A. Hughes, Neil Foster, Cecily Webster, and Louise Hughes . For those first 500ish words of a retooled version of her tHP#19 work, Louise earned a Sharp Angle Honorable Mention. (Congratulations, Louise!!!)
My entry for Lydia's "The Awesome" contest consisted of the first 11 paragraphs of Something Less, a piece I co-authored with another tHP member for tHP#14. Since this was a segment of the story that I wrote, and is representative of my own words and style, Lydia allowed its inclusion in the competition. The following is Lydia's critique of my entry. Her comments are shown in red.
First Chapter Critique Contest, Entry #54
Author: Jim Bowers
Title: SOMETHING LESS
Thanks so much for entering the contest!
Gull — Spring 2633
The old man lay in the sun surrounded by a small gathering of soulchanters. His time was near, he knew, and their soft song was a comfort. Here, where he’d begged to be taken, the warmth of the sun was a gentle embrace and the breeze a light, loving caress.
Gull counted twenty-eight summers since his birth. Not many lived to his venerable age and he was famous for being the oldest warrior to have lived in his small town for many decades. The scourge of the ancients, the pain at times unbearable, ravaged his body. The disease was incurable, and this final battle he would lose. Fate would deny him the swift and honorable death of a true warrior. He would die in agony, succumbing at last to this cancer, this slayer of the weak that gnawed at him from within.
Tara, his only daughter, stood by in silence. The Passing of Elders was a common rite, and even though she was barely ten years into her life, Tara had come to know and understand death. She accepted it as a natural and undeniable fact. Life was unkind and its greatest cruelties, she knew, would come in the deaths of those she loved.
“Come to me, Tara,” demanded her father, and she obeyed. Gesturing with a hand made weak by his battle with the disease, the old warrior said, “Sit here in the grass beside me and recite the histories. In return, I shall tell you of life.”
She knelt in the grass and tenderly took his hand. He rewarded her obedience with a weak smile. “If you wish to become one of The Wise, you must learn, and quickly. There is much to know and so little time to learn. Now, tell me…”
The soulchanters’ song became quieter still, and Tara began her recitation. She repeated the ancient histories as she had learned them. She told of the Age of Sin, the Day of the Great Burning, the Cold Years. Gull listened, refusing to allow his pain to mar these last few hours with his daughter. Tara had learned many of the histories that she would need to know. She would, in a few short years, be expected to teach these histories and more to her own apprentice so that the mistakes of the ancients would never be repeated.
"Water. Just a few swallows,” he said after she had finished the tellings.
"I cannot, Father. You know the law… water is too precious for the dying."
"Yes. That is true. But the day my father died he had water. I did without my ration.” Tara bowed her head and felt the flush of embarrassment warming her cheeks. “Today I have no son to give me water."
It was law that the dying would no longer receive a water ration, but no laws prevented a person from doing what they wished with their own ration. She fumbled for her small canteen as she staggered through a clumsy apology. She unscrewed the aluminum cap and offered the canteen to him.
I honestly don't have any suggestions here. Your writing is clean, fluid, and easy to digest. I'm not a huge fan of the omniscient point of view (it's too distant for my taste), but I think it works for your story. In just a few hundred words you've piqued my interest with some intriguing story elements. Very nicely done.
Thanks again, and good luck with this!