View Full Version : Dark Skies (960 words)

June 25th, 2014, 05:34 AM
About 960 words or so... part of an older work I'm looking at resurrecting. Does it have the 'atmosphere' I was looking for, or any at all? Impressions appreciated.

The bar door hissed to a close before clicking shut to trap the cool air-conditioned air inside and keep the furnace heat and the ever present flies out.
The white haired bartender flicked a glance at the newcomer across the top of the racing pages, took a cold draught beer and slapped it on the counter,
all without getting off his stool or putting down the paper.
At the far end of the bar Tom sat, one boot resting on the foot rail, the other on the base of his stool, and stared at his glass.
Half full or half empty? he wondered. It didn’t matter either way. It would have to be the last until he got some work. The rusted ute out front still
needed gas and oil, the next town was a hot dusty 150km drive, and apart from the two twenties in his wallet and a handful of assorted coins on the
bar in front of him, he was busted.
Knocking back half his drink in one go, the stranger wiped his chin with the back of a bare forearm tanned the colour of almonds from years of hard work
outdoors in the northern sun, and placed the bottle back on the counter.
“Thanks Len, I’m lookin’ for a fella named Preston, supposed to be passing through these parts.”
“Don’t know anyone by that name, Reg,” drawled Len, raising one eyebrow and flicking his eyes in Tom’s direction. “What’s this fella like?”
“Never met him. Supposed to be a bit of a troublemaker though, been kicked out of half the places between Shepparton, down in Victoria, and here.”
Tom glanced up briefly, and began scooping coins into his pocket. Shepparton had been a nasty, near run thing. He hadn’t started the fight. Two local
farm boys had been a bit loose with the talk after getting a skin full and someone else had taken exception. In the ensuing melee Tom had been trying
to slide out quietly, when Gino and Angelo, fruit pickers he’d accused of short payments, had spotted him and decided to settle the score. Fists had
turned to bottles, and then someone had produced a knife. He’d been lucky to get away with a few minor cuts and a well-swollen black eye.
No one remembered him – or so he’d thought - and everyone had denied seeing who had buried the knife in the skinny Greek guys’ leg.
Unofficially though, it was a different story. No matter where he went, trouble seemed to follow no matter how he tried to avoid it. His reputation
for hard drinking and fighting was growing and spreading faster than he could drive from one place to the next. On occasion he’d had to defend himself
from half drunk idiots out to make a name for themselves, of course when they retold the story they made out he was bigger, tougher and meaner so as
to not seem so foolish themselves. He’d even heard rumours of fights he was supposed to have had, in towns he’d never visited. Worst of all was the way
it killed any chance of a flying job in each place he came to. Instead he had to resort to fruit picking or general-hand work just to get by. He felt
disappointed, he thought he’d come far enough to have left it all behind, shit, he’d even changed countries but the aviation community was a small one,
now it looked like it was time to move on again, maybe further into the outback he could lose himself completely.
“What would you want with a type like that?” asked Len, “you still hard put for hands?”
Tom slid the last of the cold beer down and quietly turned toward the door.
Reg Brinkwell pushed his hat back on his round bald head, “I heard tell the kid is a pilot, and I’ve been looking to get someone to fill the mustering slot since
Dwayne got that flying job in Cairns, and left us in the lurch. Thought if this kid isn’t too fussy about paperwork, and doesn’t mind living out the back of beyond,
then he might be interested in a job?” Picking up his stubby he drained the rest and waited.
Closing the door behind him, Tom walked out into the heat and crossed to the crapped out ute he’d picked up in the last town but one. Standing in the open
door letting the smells of stale sweat, hot baked leather and old oil escape to mingle with those of the eucalyptus and old dog shit outside, he looked around.
The two storied Tavern with its surrounding wide shady verandas and peeling ornate wrought iron railings on each level provided shade to two rough
corrugated tin shacks. In front of one sat an old aboriginal, white bearded and staring into the distance seemingly oblivious to the heat, the flies, and the
mangy dog trying to lick at his arm. On the other side of the Hotel a large gum tree shaded another small house and a caravan with a large boat on a trailer.
Across the road a weather beaten rail stop and a tin water tower competed to see which could look the most run down. Beyond, sitting on the red dirt
landing strip was a worn and patched white and mustard four seater Cessna 172 with the air above the hot engine cowling shimmering.
Apart from the dog and the flies, nothing moved. The only sounds were the rattling hum of the air conditioner, the occasional screech of a bird, and the
constant background chorus of cicadas. Shrugging, Tom reached in and retrieved his daypack, tossed the keys onto the drivers seat and leaving the door open,
he crossed to the aircraft and waited.

June 26th, 2014, 02:17 AM
There's something wrong with the formatting on this post. Some of the sentences are cut in half for what seems like to reason. That said, you write very long sentences. It makes it kind of hard to read when my internal voice is running out breath so often. Also, don't pack too many ideas in the same sentence.

The bar door hissed to a close before clicking shut to trap the cool air-conditioned air inside and keep the furnace heat and the ever present flies out.

This is redundant. I recommend rewriting it.

Half full or half empty? he wondered. It didn't matter either way.

It's kind of cliche. Try to avoid using cliches. I also can't identify much plot. This guy bought a beer, he's always down on his luck, and he needs to fix his car. It's a character study of a near archetypal drifter. What about this character is interesting? Exploit it! Why does he get into fights? Why does his life suck? How does the character think? Don't personify them with silly questions. It would almost be like them sitting there thinking, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

You're right! It doesn't matter! So why are you polluting this character portrait with this? If you're going to capture my attention in a flash fiction, or the first chapter of a book, include insightful questions, and meaningful dialogue. So much of who we are is in the meaningful questions we ask of ourselves, and of the world. Make them peculiar, more specific and interesting.

June 28th, 2014, 09:17 PM
Yes, the unexpected line breaks make it very difficult to read, like grammatical errors that distract the reader from the story itself. Imagine you and your friend are sitting in a theater watching a film and just as the hero is confronting a really bad dude you see a microphone dip into view at the top of the screen. Kind of ruins my willingness and ability to suspend disbelief. Try copying your story into Notepad before posting it. Even then you should preview it before you submit the story. I almost always find it necessary to add a few line feeds here and there to make it look OK on the forum.

You definitely have some kind of atmosphere going in this story but I have no idea if it is the atmosphere you are attempting to establish.

And I think the first paragraph is a better place for a clear, powerful introduction to your character and the problem he will face in the coming attractions. As it is, however, you've certainly given me reason to love him or hate him.

I look forward to more of this story. I know about resurrecting old stories that have been sitting in the in basket for months, even years. Takes courage to kill our darlings or bring them back to life.

June 29th, 2014, 12:33 AM
As mentioned above, it is hard to really grasp what direction you're taking the plot and characters. It seems to just be a reflection, just a description of what currently is. Nothing is progressing, nothing interesting is happening. Obviously it's not ridiculously long l so I don't expect huge plot developments but a little something to keep readers invested in what is happening would probably help.

June 29th, 2014, 06:22 PM
I can fix the formatting for you, if you'd like. This would make it far easier to read.