Sunday, October 19, 2014

First Five Pages Workshop Clement - Rev 2

Name: Benjamin Clement
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Adventure
Title: The Fearsome Lumberwoods

The sun went down through a spray of red like a man shot. Its last panting breaths fell heavily on the back of Douglas’s neck. Pushing his hat back on his sweat-slick, cornsilk hair, he weaved further into the trees. When he figured there was enough forest between him and his parents’ picnic to grant him some privacy, he undid his britches to relieve himself into a dry creek-bed.
Not a leaf stirred nor did a branch creak. The more Douglas glanced over his shoulder, the surer he became something was hiding in the solitude. He didn't enjoying being out-of-doors, but his father insisted he come along on the picnic to hear the big news. News which had left Douglas with a full load of dread. Every morning of his fifteen years, he had woken up in the finest home in Hazelwood, and now they were setting out to live like settlers in some frontier town on the other side of the continent named Seattle.
The creep of someone watching him, crawled over Douglas as he buttoned his britches. The beady black eyes of a crow stared down at him with keen interest as it sidestepped along a branch.
"What are you looking at, you old crow?"  Douglas whispered.
The crow cawed, cutting through the silent forest like axe chops. Douglas flinched, and then felt foolish for it. Spinning around, he found a man leaning against a tree, staring at him with yellow eyes underneath a low derby. Leaping back, Douglas slipped and fell into the mud he had just made.
The man chuckled. "Sorry to sneak up on you. Would've announced myself but didn't want you dribbling on your slacks." Unbuttoning the coat of his hairy wool suit, he stepped down into the creek-bed.  His sharp fingernails pinched into his chest. “Lousy ticks,” he said digging one out and popping it into his mouth as he took a step nearer.
“Cripes,” Douglas yelped in shock. Rising, he backed away until his heel struck the opposite embankment and fell again. 
The man pointed his blood tipped finger at Douglas, waving it around. “Crow says you’ll ruin things. All her planning. You’ll just come along and…” He slapped his hands together with a crack. “Can’t have that.” He took a step nearer. “So she asked me to do something about you.”
“S-sir, I think you are mistaken,“ Douglas stammered, as he got back to his feet. If this man thought he could talk to birds, he must've had more hay in his head than a scarecrow and kept the same company. “And if you try to harm me, my father is scant yards away with a rifle.”
Laughing in little yips, he took a step nearer. “Ain’t gonna lay a finger on you, boy,”  the man said, wiping a little bit of drool from his lip. “Personally, I have nothing against you.”
Something shuffled among the bushes behind Douglas, and he turned to look. Something big bumped against a thin tree causing it to lean to the side with a groan.
"But, I can never help raising a bit a mischief," the stranger whispered.
The man’s breath brushed over his ear and Douglas smelled its copper tinge. He jerked back, surprised the man had crept so near, more surprised that he was gone. Turning back to the bushes, Douglas watched as something roughly akin to a bear, but rounder, emerged. Its fur seemed to be missing. Only brown-black, rubbery skin stretched tight over its rotund frame. The only hair it had were two bushy eyebrows and a tuft hanging from its chin, dripping with spit below a mouth full of teeth that would surely tear Douglas into forty-two pieces with one and a half bites.
Breaking from the trees, Douglas tried to scream, but fear dragged the air from his throat on every ragged breath. The beast crashed through the woods, gaining quickly. Its rubbery skin gleamed slightly in the feeble light of the early evening, so tight that it scarcely quivered as it ran. The meadow between him and his parents seemed to stretch out at every step. The beast grunted, and Mr. Webb raised his eyes to see what was salivating at his son's heels. Mrs. Webb yelped in surprise as her husband jumped to his feet and bolted to the rifle on his mount. Ichabod, Douglas’s horse, spooked by all the sudden action, took off at a gallop.
"Douglas, to the side!" Mr. Webb shouted. 
When Douglas turned from his aim, Mr. Webb didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. The bullet ricocheted off the creature’s rubbery skin and slammed back into the stomach of Mr. Webb.  
Mrs. Webb’s screams flooded the grassy meadow, on into the dark trees shaking their branches and twisting their leaves. She took a burning stick from the fire and, gathering up her skirts, sprinted across the grass. 
At the sight of his father writhing, holding his stomach as blood seeped between his fingers, Douglas felt a punch in his own gut. He ran to his father, as his mother ran past him.  Douglas whipped around, trying to call her back. Ignoring him, she hurled the flaming stick at the animal. Its skin ignited as if it were drenched in kerosene and erupted in a fireball that consumed his mother in a rush of flames.
A powerful gust of air lifted Douglas. The world roared and tumbled beneath him, then rose up to strike him and disappear with his senses.
Douglas awoke to Ichabod snorting in his ear. He pulled himself up coughing and held his aching head as he watched the small flames crawl over the grass.  He Limped to the blackened crater. There was nothing but black ash. Unable to breathe past his cries, Unable to cry past his breath, Douglas opened his mouth, gagging and heaving; his mother was gone and the loss was too much to hold inside, but too big to let out.
When he heard his name he realized his father had called him several times. Ichabod walked with Douglas stumbling against his flank, leading him to his father. Laying in the grass at his feet, was a man Douglas did not know. This man who was swallowing too much, breathing too shallow and soaked through with blood, could not be his father, because his father couldn’t be hurt and had never been helpless— his father was incapable of dying.
"Douglas, take me home," his father demanded in a weak voice. 
Douglas became unstopped, and his despair gushed out in a torrent. He screamed and wailed, refusing what the world had become on the other side of his closed eyes. His father kept a calm voice and told Douglas again to take him home. He tried to do as his father instructed, but however much he pushed and pulled his father, he failed to get him into Ichabod’s saddle.
“I can’t. I just cant,” Douglas sobbed, curled over his father. “I’m not strong enough.”
“That doesn’t matter. You will do it because it must be done.” Mr. Webb insisted.
And done it was. Douglas’s arms and legs were shaking with fatigue by the end, but his father was mounted on Ichabod. At every hoof fall of the long ride home, Douglas hoped the ground would swallow them, then damned it for refusing.


  1. Benjamin! What a great revision! I love this. You've trimmed down some of the descriptive passages, but not too much. I loved the addition of the tic. Totally gross but cool. The way you introduced the man is much better. There's foreboding before he even speaks. You've also added more emotion with the parents, which is definitely a step in the right direction.

    Just a small housekeeping note: delete one of these "Unable to breathe past his cries, Unable to cry past his breath,"

    Overall a very good start to what seems like an exciting story. Well done!

  2. Hey Ben!

    Some great edits here! I like that you've toned down the figurative language, save for the best parts. It really works well, the writing is much smoother while still retaining that William Faulkner tone. I think we get a much clearer picture of Douglas this time around - the cornsilk hair and the "my father will hear about this" comment gives off a serious Draco Malfoy vibe. The addition of the tick was brilliant, really gives the scene that much more of a sense of visceral horror. I think the writing could be tightened up a little bit more around the bear's entry, to really amp up the sense of urgency in the scene, but other than that, it's fantastic.

    Well done! Best of luck with this!

  3. I don't want to beat this with a stick - but I will anyway. "Slammed back into the stomach of Mr. Webb" - would be much stronger as "slammed back into Mr. Webb's stomach" - and if Mr. Webb was his father more than Mr. Webb, it would just make it all more personal/closer to home, so to speak. I know I said this last time, but . . . honestly, I really really like this and am very interested in finding out what in the Sam Hill is going on. Why are the Webbs are target? Who is Crow? And what about that creature? I'm looking forward to reading the whole beast and hope you let us know when it's available.

  4. Hi Ben--

    I'm unfortunately behind on a deadline this week and am unable to comment in detail, but I just wanted to thank you for sharing your work and wish you the best of luck :)

  5. Overall, I think you have a strong start here. After reading, I'm definitely left wondering what happens.

    I had a little bit of trouble getting grounded in the pages, for instance, I wasn't quite sure of the time period and there is a lot that happens in these pages, lots of action (we really get into the story about 3 paragraphs in), so perhaps maybe a tad more intro.

  6. I love it when the creepy man eats a tick. Great job cleaning this up. The line that didn't seem right: "Douglas became unstopped, and his despair gushed out in a torrent." The word, "unstopped" threw me. I would love to know where this is going...creepy man seems cool.