PDA

View Full Version : Boy Scout Caught on A Cold Mountain at Night



Don V Standeford
December 11th, 2012, 06:00 AM
Billy crawled up the hill, sweat from his brow cold upon his face. He gritted his teeth and aimed for the butte, which was really only a place in his mind. The trail seemed to be a thin piece of string that kept disappearing and then reappearing till it finally ended an almost invisible wisp. Billy stopped, searching the ground for some sign of where the others had climbed. The truck would be somewhere near, probably up. He shivered as he headed up alone, without the trail.

Piles of unburned slash above Billy's head blocked his progress. Old rotten stumps; their roots felt slippery as he crawled up past them. Wet tufts of green grass-covered over the dead trail as if following it themselves. Billy suddenly realized, as far as seeing anything above him, he was lost. He could follow the creek back down, but it would only get him further from the truck, though he might be found tomorrow.

Billy looked up at the steep hill, frightened. 'I'm not staying here the night,' he thought. Courage came. He started forward again. His strong toes dug into the thick dirt of the mountain. 'I'm going to make it up this time,' he thought. But all he managed to do was slip and slide. And after five or ten minutes he crashed to the twig covered ground.

Billy lay panting, tied up in slash. 'Yeah, I'm lost.' The sticks directly above his head looked like the interwoven branches of trees. He was scared, more scared than he'd ever been in his life in the quiet streets of the city. His hands trembled as he tried to decide what to do. He decided to find the trail again. Several attempts at scaling the mountain led to an all-consuming rock-face, a patch of wood too thick to see, He buried himself in a valley next to a strong-looking tree and sighed. He hadn't wanted it, hadn't picked it, but this was his spot for the night.

Billy looked downward. He could scramble to the right and descend into the canyon where the ridges and creek supposedly met. It seemed quiet down there. He couldn't believe he'd just climbed from there. His pants were freezing. 'I'm lost,' he thought. 'Before I didn't know the meaning of the word 'lost,' but now the word is a hammer in my head.'

Billy pictured all the other scouts standing shivering on the landing somewhere way above him. They'd be talking about where to go to find him, if they even missed him at all. Wasn't there some kind of roll call last year after that hike? He hadn't paid attention. That's what his problem had been this time; he was in this jam because he hadn't paid attention. A song he'd heard somewhere, probably on his father's radio on the way to fishing. 'If you don't give me shelter, oh, I'm going to fade away.' Billy almost started crying as he thought of his father. He looked at his watch, straining to read the time. 'I'm going to survive,' he thought, 'even if it kills me.'

Billy heard a lot of noises that night as he shivered, but the worst was that of the cruel freezing wind. He battled against it as if he were at war with nature. But he didn't move from that tree. That's where he'd decided to make his stand. All night long he clutched the tree and the log next to him, curling up into a ball. 'Is there anything,' he thought, 'that dad would've told me I should have done?' But of course, his father would've told him not to get disconnected from the group. Billy shivered. 'I've underestimated the cold,' he thought. 'If morning doesn't come soon then I'm going to die.'

He tried not to think about the negatives. Still he wondered if it would be painful to freeze to death.' How cold was it anyway? It was certainly close to freezing outside his little fort. The ground was cold and wet around him. 'Perhaps if I pull some of this dried slash over me I can shut out the cold wind.'

Billy tried to pull the slash down, but it seemed to clump together so it weighed too much to pull. 'O.k.,' he thought, 'if I can't get the slash to come to me, then I'll go to it.' He pulled himself deeper into the pile and hugged tight to the dirt.

Billy vowed to cling to the frozen wood as if it were a life raft. It seemed his body would shiver itself to death. But dawn brought the sun, first on the hump that ran up the mountain to his left, then into the shadows of the crevice. The great divide; he'd survived a wet miserable night. Morning, to Billy, had never felt so warm, the sun shining down on him in its brightest smile. After a night like that, he was glad just to be alive. But that gratitude to a higher power soon settled down to gratitude to his self for thinking his way through the situation.

'Surely, when Mr. Jergins sees I've managed to survive all night in the forest, he'll think I'm the brightest in the pack.' This truth brought a smile to his face, and he stretched out his arms, looking down at the base of the mountain where the crevice and the creek and the broad hump of the mountain met to jump in several courageous leaps to the valley. 'Been to the valley, didn't die,' he sang to himself. 'Been to the valley, didn't die. Still don't know the reason why. Been a long day and one mighty long night. I've been to the valley and here is I.' He was hungry.

Down where the shadows met, deep down in the basin, if you followed the creeks, surely you'd find a pond or even a lake. Billy took his knife out and started sharpening a stick. He'd survived one night in the elements; now he'd make himself a spear, catch himself a fish to eat. Boy Scouts did have fun after all.

BWFoster78
December 11th, 2012, 04:23 PM
Billy crawled up the hill

Good opening. You give us a character and an intriguing action.


sweat from his brow cold upon his face.

To me, the rest of the sentence weakens the beginning. I'd let your first 5 words stand as a sentence, maybe even a paragraph, on their own. This could be become a new sentence.


which was really only a place in his mind.

This is not good. Billy is the POV character. Everything you write should be filtered through him. Why is he thinking about the place being only in his mind? This seems like author intrusion.


The trail seemed to be a thin piece of string that kept disappearing and then reappearing till it finally ended an almost invisible wisp.

This is a good thought but is weakened by "seemed." Be more aggressive here. The trail turned to a piece of string that disappeared and came back frequently until it finally... "Then" is usually an unnecessary word. In this case, it adds nothing.


Billy stopped, searching the ground for some sign of where the others had climbed.

Consider "and searched" instead of ", searching." The way you've written it removes the reader from the action.


The truck would be somewhere near, probably up. He shivered as he headed up alone, without the trail.



Avoid overusing words. You use "up" in both these sentences.

Overall, not bad at all.

Hope this helps!

Brian

patskywriter
December 11th, 2012, 09:22 PM
Good story. You might want to put yourself in your character's shoes and explore more of what he's feeling. Here are a few things I think he would have felt:

• I would think that right before giving in to the fact that he's going to spend the night at that spot, he'd call out to his troop just in case they're within earshot.
• After lying on the cold, wet ground, he should be pretty wet. His shaking should be pronounced right before the sun comes up because that's when the air is at it's wettest. When he stands up, that wind should cut right through his torso even while the sun warms his face.
• You wrote that he was clinging to a piece of frozen wood all night. His hands should be supercold and hard to move the next morning. He should probably have to clench and unclench his hands and rub them together. In fact, earlier in the story, it seems that he would have been blowing on his hands and stuffing them under his arms, in his pockets, and in his pants in efforts to warm them. So the next morning, it doesn't seem realistic for him to be able to take his knife out effortlessly. Is it a switchblade-type or knife in a sheath? Because if it's a switchblade-type pocket knife, it should hurt his cold fingers when he tries to grasp that little indentation to pry it open.

Sorry if I seem nitpicky, but that's what happens when you're an editor, LOL. By the way, how old is your character? He comes across as an intellectual (which is not a criticism by any means).

Don V Standeford
December 11th, 2012, 10:45 PM
Thanks for all the comments. i pictured him being about ten years old.

ZDavid
December 20th, 2012, 01:58 PM
What age group do you consider your target audience to be?

I think maybe I'm getting a little thrown at the moment because you said you imagined your character to be around ten, but this doesn't really strike me as a story for ten year olds. OF COURSE your MC doesn't have to be the same age as your target audience; I'm just explaining maybe why I'm feeling that way. If you could clarify your intended target, that would be very helpful for me.

In general, I like this. I think the style is rather simple, but fitting. You have some really nice moments... I am particularly a fan of the last paragraph.

Here's what could use some work:

I'd like to half reiterate and half expand upon BWFoster's point of overusing things, but mine has more to do with how you start your paragraphs. Of the 12 paragraphs (or at least, the 12 separate chunks) in this piece, 8 (!!) of them start with the name, "Billy," including five right in a row. That's not particularly interesting, style wise, and it really sticks out as a repetition. Consider trying to vary how you lead us in to different points of this piece.

There are certain parts that are quite abrupt and appear to be missing a transition between actions or emotions. For example:


Billy looked up at the steep hill, frightened. 'I'm not staying here the night,' he thought. Courage came.

Well, that was abrupt. Billy goes from being frightened to feeling some courage in a matter of seconds. I realize that in life, sometimes emotions can strike us rather quickly, but here it just doesn't work for me because it doesn't feel like you were necessarily trying to convey a sudden surge of courage. If you were, I'd prefer to see it made more clear. If you weren't, I'd like to see you explain where he found the courage. As it stands now, it seems sloppy to me. There are a few other instances like that throughout the piece, but that one stuck out to me the most.

Besides those two relatively small things, I don't really have much to add that hasn't been said. I think you have a really solid foundation here and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Don V Standeford
December 20th, 2012, 04:23 PM
He actually wasn't clinging to a piece of wood. He had crawled underneath a slash pile and was protected -- like being in a little cubby hole.

Koshka
March 17th, 2013, 04:09 PM
I cannot tell you how pleased I am to meet you. I too am working on an adventure novel for youth/young adults. Such books are rare these days.

Furthermore, I think your story is excellent. You explain the setting, make Billy a believable person reacting with ups and downs related to his circumstances. Best of all, as he sharpens a stick and decides to head down the reader can think --
"On we go" "His spirits are on the rebound" and "Just the beginning."

Therefore this chapter (as I assume it is) has a perfect cycle, beginning in difficulties and surviving to fight on. Perhaps you and I can start an Adventure shelf in our local bookstore.

One serious suggestion. I was Billy when I was 5 -- never after that. I hope Billy renames himself as he masters his wilderness environment. Bill is natural; I tried Will for a while. Whatever....

Thanks for the good read! I look forward to more of the book.

Koshka


Line 4 truck for track
par 3 should read "far from seeing anyone above him"
3rd par from end. "A wet miserable night" Why wet, I hadn't heard it was raining.
par 4: "tied up in slash" -- Hard to visualize. P.S. What is slash anyway?

Don V Standeford
March 19th, 2013, 10:14 AM
I cannot tell you how pleased I am to meet you. I too am working on an adventure novel for youth/young adults. Such books are rare these days.

Furthermore, I think your story is excellent. You explain the setting, make Billy a believable person reacting with ups and downs related to his circumstances. Best of all, as he sharpens a stick and decides to head down the reader can think --
"On we go" "His spirits are on the rebound" and "Just the beginning."

Therefore this chapter (as I assume it is) has a perfect cycle, beginning in difficulties and surviving to fight on. Perhaps you and I can start an Adventure shelf in our local bookstore.

One serious suggestion. I was Billy when I was 5 -- never after that. I hope Billy renames himself as he masters his wilderness environment. Bill is natural; I tried Will for a while. Whatever....

Thanks for the good read! I look forward to more of the book.

Koshka


Line 4 truck for track
par 3 should read "far from seeing anyone above him"
3rd par from end. "A wet miserable night" Why wet, I hadn't heard it was raining.
par 4: "tied up in slash" -- Hard to visualize. P.S. What is slash anyway?

thanks for your interest. In Oregon about any night spent in the mountains is wet unless it's summer. Slash is loose branches left over from logging. Slash is usually dry random pieces of word piled up in piles spread out across a unit or hillside. Here, the protagonist climbed into the midst of the slash pile to get out of the cold damp air.

Koshka
March 19th, 2013, 01:31 PM
The wood always has it's dangers. My northern Ontario neighbors live among muskeg bogs, wet areas over permafrost that can trap and drown you. The book makes much of muskeg and and what it is. Now that I know about slash I do not care for it either.
Koshka