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isaiah
April 15th, 2013, 03:44 PM
Hi again :). I'd like feedback on a draft of this short story. Once I get a final edit of it, I'm submitting it to a magazine, so I figured I'd give it a pass here first. All opinions are welcomed. Thank you.

*Formatting fixed, thanks to the help of others.

Since the first version is needed to compare the two, the original is below:

His dark brown skin glistened in the sun, like wet rocks on the shore. The hair was tied up behind a black band, and beneath it were yellow-tinted goggles which reflected the marvelous glow of the bright evening sun. Each step of his tread was fluid as he glided over the desert dust. He kept close the rope which leashed the animal to his side. Around its snout was a muzzle of chained metal. The creature cantered like a dog, but its body was too large to be canine. Its coat was white like ashes, speckled with char-colored circles. Along its neck was a ridge of long disheveled hair. The man snapped the rope to realign the straying beast.

Who was this strange hyena-man from the desert?

She first spotted him through a window about ten minutes ago. He was close to the tavern now, only about a hundred feet away. He stopped next to a post outside the yard and tied the hyena in place. When the doors opened, his strong silhouette shook her from a daydream. He lifted the eyepieces which covered half his face.

Behind the goggles were kind eyes which had aged from the sun. A rough face laid underneath. The mouth appeared cruel, but the eyes betrayed it with their warm life. In those eyes were years of stories to be told, countless memories from afar, and experience that could not be shaken. His stare crushed her soul. Within her heart, a fire ignited like she had never felt. The presence of him was powerful, but inviting, in a way that made her feel vulnerable and entrusting. He was in every way a god.

His rucksack dropped to the counter. The clamor of it raised the question of its contents and aroused her curiosity. She shifted her eyes to the bag’s opening but its subjects still remained secret. Her gut told her she was safe regardless of the mysterious pack. There was not a threatening nature about him, only a powerful poise which testified to his background.

“Water, please,” he said. The voice was deep and dry. He held out a one liter canteen and tipped its spout down.

The girl took the canteen to the faucet behind the counter and filled it. “Ninety-five kobo,” she said.

“Will you accept other payment?” he asked.

“What do you have?”

The man reached into his rucksack to reveal a miniature silver box. It was dingy with dirt crusting its edges. Parts of it had been scratched and rust had settled in the scrapes.

“What is that?” she asked.

He placed it on the counter in front of her. “Something given to me when I was much younger,” he said.

She picked up the box and tried to open it, but couldn’t. “What’s inside?” she asked. It felt light to her, like a compass or something.

“Have you ever dreamed of going somewhere else? Somewhere beyond this rock?” he asked.

“I can’t accept this. That was one liter of water I gave you, and it’s ninety-five kobo for one liter. If you have something else to trade then maybe—”

“I think you need this more than you realize. Take it and you can leave this place forever.”

She looked at the box again. It reminded her of her father’s old compass. A barking noise outside startled her. The man turned to the window.

“What kind of meat do you have? My pet is hungry,” he said. The barking outside became more ravenous.

“You haven’t even paid for your water. Please just give me something I can trade for it. I wish you to be on your way, but I can’t take this item in exchange,” she said.

The man wheezed a breath, then faced her. “It’s really simple. Take it and I’ll be on my way. We’ll both be happy,” he said. His eyes smiled.

“I don’t wish to rush you. Only it’s that if my boss finds out I didn’t make you pay, well, I’ll be fired,” she said.

“If you take it, you’ll never have to work here again. The stars would be yours. You get the better end of the deal,” he said.

The girl fetched a pound of meat wrapped in paper from a small freezer and a can of peaches from a cupboard. She placed the items close to him and took the silver box under the counter. His worn, blistered hands brought the items into the rucksack. He smiled again to thank her.

“It’ll be worth your while,” he said. “You can go anywhere you’d like.”

The girl didn’t say anything. She just stared down at the counter. The man hoisted the rucksack over his shoulder and exited the tavern. The high pitched barking ended. She watched him fade away back into the desert until he disappeared. Her hand was still clenching the box under the counter. She dropped it on top. The device sprung open and casted a holographic projection above a glowing blue center. The image rotated and flickered. It was the star system she remembered from her father’s old books and maps. She recognized the sparkling dots and their connecting lines. This was the same star map that her father had dedicated his whole life to. Tears began to slide down her cheeks. The map was beautiful just like her father’s.

A great rumbling noise thickened overhead. Glasses and bottles fell off of shelves. The room trembled as if there were an earthquake. Outside she could see the ground being shadowed from above. The rumbling neared deafening levels. She ran outside and gazed above, awestruck from the size of what she saw. It was spectacular, and for the first time since she’d seen it, she took a breath. Finally, she thought. Finally, I can go home.

UPDATED WITH THE LATEST EDIT:

The Hyena-Man

His dark brown skin glistened in the sun, like wet rocks on the shore. His hair was tied up behind a black band, and beneath it were yellow-tinted goggles which reflected the marvelous glow of the bright evening sun. Each of his steps were fluid as he moved over the desert dust. He kept close the rope which leashed the animal to his side. Around its snout was a muzzle of chained metal. The creature cantered like a dog, but its body was too large to be canine. Its coat was white like ashes, speckled with char-colored circles. Along its neck was a ridge of long disheveled hair. The man snapped the rope to realign the straying beast. It was a hyena, she realized.

She first spotted him through a window about ten minutes ago. He was close to the tavern now, only about a hundred feet away. The glare of the setting sun behind him made it difficult to look. He stopped next to a post outside the yard and tied the hyena in place. When the doors opened, his strong silhouette stepped in. He lifted the eyepieces which covered half his face.

Behind the goggles were kind eyes which had aged from the sun. Underneath, the face was rough and coarse. The mouth appeared cruel, but the eyes countered it with their warm life. In those eyes were years of stories to be told, countless memories from afar, and experience that could not be shaken. His stare crushed her soul. Within her heart, a fire ignited like she had never felt. The presence of him was powerful, but inviting, in a way that made her feel vulnerable yet safe. He was in every way beyond human.

His rucksack dropped to the counter. The clamor of it raised the question of its contents and aroused her curiosity. She shifted her eyes to the bag’s opening but its subjects still remained secret. Her gut told her she was safe regardless of the mysterious pack. He had not a threatening nature about him, only a powerful poise which testified of his background.

“Water, please,” he said. The voice was deep and dry. He held out a one liter canteen and tipped its spout down.

The girl took the canteen to the faucet behind the counter and filled it. “Ninety-five kobo,” she said.

“Will you accept other payment?” he asked.

“What do you have?”

The man reached into his rucksack to reveal a miniature silver box. It was dingy with dirt crusting its edges. Parts of it had been scratched and rust had settled in the scrapes.

“What is that?” she asked.

He placed it on the counter in front of her. “Something given to me when I was much younger,” he said.

She picked up the box and tried to open it, but couldn’t. “What’s inside?” she asked. It felt light to her, like a compass or something.

“I can’t accept this. That was one liter of water I gave you, and it’s ninety-five kobo for one liter. If you have something else to trade then maybe--”

“I think you need this more than you realize.” His hand disappeared into his shirt. It then occurred to her that they were alone.

She looked at the box again. It reminded her of her father’s old compass. A barking noise outside startled her. The man turned to the window.

“What kind of meat do you have? My pet is hungry,” he said. The barking outside became more ravenous.

“You haven’t even paid for your water. Please just give me something I can trade for it. I wish you to be on your way, but I can’t take this item in exchange,” she said.

The man wheezed a breath, then faced her. “It’s really simple. Take it, and I’ll be on my way,” he said. His eyes smiled. The one hand was still missing behind the dirty shirt.

“I don’t wish to rush you,” she said. Her eyes couldn’t help but hunt for his missing hand. “Only it’s that if my boss finds out I didn’t make you pay, well, he’ll punish me,” she said.

Seconds passed, and a frown had made creases in his jowls. His eyes flicked to each side, revealing jaundiced membranes. In one swift motion he wrenched her hair over the counter while his other hand sprung a cutter to her throat.

“If you don’t give me the water and something to eat, you won’t be leaving here today,” he said. His ruthless grip had in all stunned her. Her cheek felt broken against the counter, like scorching coals were between her flesh and the wooden top. She ached to speak, to beg for her miserable life, but found it somehow impossible. There was no wind in her lungs, only water in her eyes which started to run across the bridge of her nose onto the countertop. She felt the tip of the cutter leave from under her jawline, although its sting still lingered. The man released his clutch of her hair with a thrust.

“Now, I’m going to do you a favor and leave this here,” he said. His thin finger tapped the metal cube twice. “The water, please. And meal.”

The girl then fetched a pound of meat wrapped in paper from a small freezer and a can of peaches from a cupboard. She placed the items close to him and took the silver box under the counter. His worn, blistered hands brought the items into the rucksack. He smiled again to thank her.

The girl didn’t say anything. She just stared down at the counter. The man hoisted the rucksack over his shoulder and left the tavern. The high pitched barking ended. She watched him fade away back into the desert until he disappeared. Her hand was still clenching the box under the counter. She dropped it on top. The device popped open and cast a holographic projection above a glowing blue center. The image rotated and flickered. It was the star system she remembered from her father’s old books and maps. She recognized the sparkling dots and their connecting lines. This was the same star map that her father had dedicated his whole life to. Tears began to slide down her cheeks. The map was beautiful just like her father’s.

A great rumbling noise thickened overhead. Glasses and bottles fell off of shelves. The room trembled as if there were an earthquake. Outside she could see the ground being shadowed from above. The rumbling neared deafening levels. She ran outside and gazed up, awestruck by the size of what she saw above. It was spectacular, and for the first time since she’d seen it, she took a breath. Finally, she thought. Finally, I can go home.

NathanBrazil
April 15th, 2013, 06:22 PM
I've added line breaks. Really the only additional formatting you need.

All of these comments are IMHO.


Hi again :). I'd like feedback on a draft of this short story. Once I get a final edit of it, I'm submitting it to a magazine, so I figured I'd give it a pass here first. All opinions are welcomed. Thank you.

*I apologize if the formatting makes it difficult to read. I couldn't get the formatting to meet my needs.

The Hyena-Man

His dark brown skin glistened in the sun, like wet rocks on the shore. The hair was tied up behind a black band, and beneath it were yellow-tinted goggles which reflected the marvelous glow of the bright evening sun. Each step of his tread was fluid as he glided over the desert dust. He kept close the rope which leashed the animal to his side. Around its snout was a muzzle of chained metal. The creature cantered like a dog, but its body was too large to be canine. Its coat was white like ashes, speckled with char-colored circles. Along its neck was a ridge of long disheveled hair. The man snapped the rope to realign the straying beast.
This is an intriguing start. I like these descriptions, not over-burdened with flowery prose.

Who was this strange hyena-man from the desert?
I question the value of this line. I think this is implied.


She first spotted him through a window about ten minutes ago. He was close to the tavern now, only about a hundred feet away. He stopped next to a post outside the yard and tied the hyena in place. When the doors opened, his strong silhouette shook her from a daydream. He lifted the eyepieces which covered half his face.

Behind the goggles were kind eyes which had aged from the sun. A rough face laid underneath. The mouth appeared cruel, but the eyes betrayed it with their warm life. In those eyes were years of stories to be told, countless memories from afar, and experience that could not be shaken. His stare crushed her soul. Within her heart, a fire ignited like she had never felt. The presence of him was powerful, but inviting, in a way that made her feel vulnerable and entrusting. He was in every way a god.
This paragraph seems too strong. I think the next paragraph says the same thing, but with more subtlety.


His rucksack dropped to the counter. The clamor of it raised the question of its contents and aroused her curiosity. She shifted her eyes to the bag’s opening but its subjects still remained secret. Her gut told her she was safe regardless of the mysterious pack. There was not a threatening nature about him, only a powerful poise which testified to his background.
This is a nice paragraph. Says a lot about the character in very few words.

“Water, please,” he said. The voice was deep and dry. He held out a one liter canteen and tipped its spout down.
The girl took the canteen to the faucet behind the counter and filled it. “Ninety-five kobo,” she said.

“Will you accept other payment?” he asked.

“What do you have?”

The man reached into his rucksack to reveal a miniature silver box. It was dingy with dirt crusting its edges. Parts of it had been scratched and rust had settled in the scrapes.
These lines are much more believable without the paragraph comparing him to a god.

“What is that?” she asked.

He placed it on the counter in front of her. “Something given to me when I was much younger,” he said.

She picked up the box and tried to open it, but couldn’t. “What’s inside?” she asked. It felt light to her, like a compass or something.

“Have you ever dreamed of going somewhere else? Somewhere beyond this rock?” he asked.

“I can’t accept this. That was one liter of water I gave you, and it’s ninety-five kobo for one liter. If you have something else to trade then maybe—”

“I think you need this more than you realize. Take it and you can leave this place forever.”

She looked at the box again. It reminded her of her father’s old compass. A barking noise outside startled her. The man turned to the window.

“What kind of meat do you have? My pet is hungry,” he said. The barking outside became more ravenous.

“You haven’t even paid for your water. Please just give me something I can trade for it. I wish you to be on your way, but I can’t take this item in exchange,” she said.

The man wheezed a breath, then faced her. “It’s really simple. Take it and I’ll be on my way. We’ll both be happy,” he said. His eyes smiled.

“I don’t wish to rush you. Only it’s that if my boss finds out I didn’t make you pay, well, I’ll be fired,” she said.

“If you take it, you’ll never have to work here again. The stars would be yours. You get the better end of the deal,” he said.

The girl fetched a pound of meat wrapped in paper from a small freezer and a can of peaches from a cupboard. She placed the items close to him and took the silver box under the counter. His worn, blistered hands brought the items into the rucksack. He smiled again to thank her.

“It’ll be worth your while,” he said. “You can go anywhere you’d like.”

The girl didn’t say anything. She just stared down at the counter. The man hoisted the rucksack over his shoulder and exited the tavern. The high pitched barking ended. She watched him fade away back into the desert until he disappeared. Her hand was still clenching the box under the counter. She dropped it on top. The device sprung open and casted a holographic projection above a glowing blue center. The image rotated and flickered. It was the star system she remembered from her father’s old books and maps. She recognized the sparkling dots and their connecting lines. This was the same star map that her father had dedicated his whole life to. Tears began to slide down her cheeks. The map was beautiful just like her father’s.

A great rumbling noise thickened overhead. Glasses and bottles fell off of shelves. The room trembled as if there were an earthquake. Outside she could see the ground being shadowed from above. The rumbling neared deafening levels. She ran outside and gazed above, completely in awe from the size of what she saw. It was spectacular, and for the first time since she’d seen it, she took a breath. Finally, she thought. Finally, I can go home.

It's difficult to balance this god-like quality with this need for the mundane things of life. There is a hint of cruel yet kind in the Hyena Man's character. I'm not buying into her acquiescence. If he forcefully took the meat, but left the gift behind, maybe? Also I didn't want him to describe what it was. I liked the mystery of it. Let her find out later.

Again these are only suggestions. Please feel free to ignore.

Overall this was a good read. Thanks for sharing.

isaiah
April 15th, 2013, 09:12 PM
How did you add the line breaks with such perfection? I'm amazed. It would help to modify it as such, that way it is easier on the eyes for others as well.

I appreciate your feedback, NathanBrazil. Could you clarify what you mean when you say, "It's difficult to balance this god-like quality with this need for the mundane things of life,"? Do you think the paragraph you mentioned to be too strong should be omitted entirely? It was a bit decorated, I must admit.

Also, did I make the Hyena-Man give away too much about the mystery object? That is, did you become aware of what it signified before the girl even discovered it? If so, that was not the goal. Clues were fine, but I didn't intend it to be an outright giveaway. And your suggestions are good. I would say I probably agree with 99% of it. I sincerely thank you for your comments and feedback.

NathanBrazil
April 15th, 2013, 10:55 PM
When you initially copy your story, it jams all the text together. Basically once you've pasted the story, you should click the Go Advanced button. You'll want to remove formatting. Highlight all the text, and click the double A with the red x through them. Then go to the end of each paragraph, and hit enter to add your line breaks. Once you've done that, go ahead and submit reply.


Could you clarify what you mean when you say, "It's difficult to balance this god-like quality with this need for the mundane things of life,"?
You've made him larger than life. I like the mystery of the character, but I don't want to think of him as a god. I just can't see a god asking for food and water. This might be a god in its earthly form but that would not be my preference.

This is just one possible edit.
You could combine the top of this paragraph with the following paragraph.


Behind the goggles were kind eyes which had aged from the sun. A rough face laid underneath. The mouth appeared cruel, but the eyes betrayed it with their warm life. In those eyes were years of stories to be told, countless memories from afar, and experience that could not be shaken. His stare crushed her soul. Within her heart, a fire ignited like she had never felt. The presence of him was powerful, but inviting, in a way that made her feel vulnerable and entrusting. He was in every way a god.

Also, did I make the Hyena-Man give away too much about the mystery object?

You gave away too much for me. This by itself is enough.
“Have you ever dreamed of going somewhere else? Somewhere beyond this rock?”

There's quite a bit of back and forth, as he's trying to convince her. Again, I'd really like some physicality to spice up the dialog.

Hope this helps and remember, I'm looking at the story from a specific angle. Any suggestions are geared to that end. This may not be what you are after.

isaiah
April 15th, 2013, 11:30 PM
You are probably right about that paragraph. It might be best to reduce the wordy banter from her eyes about his composure. On the subject of mystery; I could try limiting his references to 'stars' and such. It might prove to be more interesting that way. The problem with making him forcibly take the water/food, though, was I didn't want him to be bad. But if you don't buy it as is, no one else probably will either. Your suggestions are still good.

NathanBrazil
April 15th, 2013, 11:43 PM
Yep, the key for me when building characters is that they are neither. Thinking of someone as only bad or good, tends to flatten the character.

I had an image in my head, after he's annoyed by one question too many.
He grabs a fistful of her hair and holds a knife to her throat. "Maybe I'll just take it then."

After feeding his hyena, almost as an after thought, he leaves the silver box, saying something like "You're gonna need this more than I will."

There's quite a few threads that discuss character building.

Personally, I like to think each character as an actor and talk about motivation. What motivates my characters to act in a certain way, rather than think of them in shades of white and black. After I've built my character with all of it's foibles, I want the character's actions to be naturally motivated from within.

moderan
April 16th, 2013, 12:00 AM
Intriguing...if only because I have a story-cycle dealing with hyena-men. This isn't yet a short story-it's a vignette. Nothing actually happens, no characters grow. Decent for what it is, a first draft with some ideas, but there's a long road ahead.

isaiah
April 16th, 2013, 12:38 AM
NathanBrazil, I didn't think of him as solely good or bad, but I didn't want him to come across as particularly violent. That's why I chose not make him do anything violent, but maybe it would be better if he shows a potentially violent side. Actually, I think that's a very good suggestion, and I might build off that. I'll certainly consider it. Hope you don't mind.

And I like your tips about character creation and motivation. Good stuff to think about. I'll be pondering how a character can be motivated from within.


moderan, pardon my ignorance, but what do you mean, you have a short-cycle dealing with hyena-men?

I see what you mean about it not being a short story. I thought of it more as flash fiction partially. How would you suggest proceeding?

moderan
April 16th, 2013, 12:56 AM
I mean that I have a series of stories that deal with hyena men. They are carrion eaters and part of an underworld society that lives in my work.
In order for this to be a short story, it needs a plot and a resolution. It currently has neither. You have a star map and some rumbly earthquake thing resulting in a large object, but there's no setup. That event creates closure only in the mind of one character.
You can always use the enter key to do paragraph separation, if all else fails.

NathanBrazil
April 16th, 2013, 02:02 AM
Actually, I think that's a very good suggestion, and I might build off that. I'll certainly consider it. Hope you don't mind.

You're welcome to it as long you feel it fits into the story the way you have it laid out.

isaiah
April 16th, 2013, 10:57 PM
NathanBrazil, I think it might be a positive change for the character, and it would add more depth to him. I might not exactly make him so brutal, or may even make him more brutal, but I'm going to experiment with it. Thank you again for that.

Olly Buckle
April 16th, 2013, 11:40 PM
The device sprung open and casted a holographic projection make that 'cast'.


Each step of his tread was fluid as he glided over the desert dust.nothing actually wrong with 'glided', it simply sounds wrong, like it should be 'glid'. 'Glided across' sounds better, but floated, or swept, over. Sorry probably just me.


She ran outside and gazed above, awestruck from the size of what she saw. I would say 'gazed up' and 'awestruck at', or 'by'; then tag the 'above' on the end of the sentence. 'She ran outside and gazed up, awestruck by the size of what she saw above.'

isaiah
April 16th, 2013, 11:57 PM
make that 'cast'.

Sorry, is casted incorrect usage/grammar? My word processor found no errors, so I didn't catch it. They are not to always be trusted.:distrust:




nothing actually wrong with 'glided', it simply sounds wrong, like it should be 'glid'. 'Glided across' sounds better, but floated, or swept, over. Sorry probably just me.

No you are completely right. I agree, glided does sound awkward. Floated/swept is much better. Thank you. Good catch.


I would say 'gazed up' and 'awestruck at', or 'by'; then tag the 'above' on the end of the sentence. 'She ran outside and gazed up, awestruck by the size of what she saw above.'

You have just reworded an otherwise possibly inelegant sentence. I actually like your edit a lot and will probably adopt it into the final draft. I thank you for that especially.

Rfurness
April 24th, 2013, 02:17 AM
I first want to say that I really like your word choices, they paint a picture very quickly. "A great rumbling noise thickened overhead."

One thing that didnt seem to click for me was "She first spotted him through a window about ten minutes ago." and then "When the doors opened, his strong silhouette shook her from a daydream." Did she notice him and then start day dreaming? Given the fact that it doesnt seem as though there is much happening at this post, she would be focused on watching the new comers arrive - especially if he was heading into the tavern.

The following paragraph seems to be a very heavy dump of description, and then we don't get a whole lot afterwards. Perhaps he doesn't immediately raise his goggles, and only does so after she resists his trade offer. Then she goes from not trusting this guy to maybe believing that that the item is what she needs. I also think you should just leave out the "god" description. I'm with Brazil, I'm not buying into her acquiescence.

Overall great story though.

isaiah
May 1st, 2013, 12:17 AM
If anyone is interested, I'm posting the latest edit here. I've updated the original post with the newest version.

In response to Rfurness, you were right about the daydreaming line. I remember sort of adding that as filler content when I wrote it. I had forgotten about it, and agree completely that it needed to go. Thanks for reminding me of it ;)

NathanBrazil
May 1st, 2013, 01:17 AM
Typically, a revision is submitted as a brand new post, so that you can compare with the original - just for future reference. My initial reply has your story in it's entirety, so I can use that. I'll take a look when I have a bit more time.

isaiah
May 1st, 2013, 01:28 AM
Darn, I should have known that. I have the older version on my computer. Should I put it back in the original post?

NathanBrazil
May 1st, 2013, 01:30 AM
Probably the best way, if it's not too much trouble.

lowprofile300
May 1st, 2013, 02:01 AM
Hi again :). I'd like feedback on a draft of this short story. Once I get a final edit of it, I'm submitting it to a magazine, so I figured I'd give it a pass here first. All opinions are welcomed. Thank you.

*Formatting fixed, thanks to the help of others.


A great rumbling noise thickened overhead. Glasses and bottles fell off of shelves. The room trembled as if there were an earthquake. Outside she could see the ground being shadowed from above. The rumbling neared deafening levels. She ran outside and gazed up, awestruck by the size of what she saw above. It was spectacular, and for the first time since she’d seen it, she took a breath. Finally, she thought. Finally, I can go home.

@Isaiah, I wasn't here for the before edit, but I just read your current edit and I thought that it was well written. There is suspense that builds, which is great. I want to agree with Moderan, that there is no story but, I suspect that the suspense leading to that final paragraph is the story. So I will leave it at that. I did enjoy reading it though. Cheers

isaiah
May 1st, 2013, 03:28 AM
@lowprofile300, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I know it is not the best in terms of plot and lacks elements of a true story, but I simply do not have any more energy to expend on further developing it. Thanks for your kind comments :)

The original post is now updated and contains the original version.