Embarrassingly bad writing

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

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Buried in the bad writing you are about see is a story kernel I plan to go back to eventually, after some extensive worldbuilding. I thought I'd share it since many of my writer friends this week have been displaying embarrassing bits of their own early writing. This story got criticized for all the wrong things by classmates in my college creative writing class, and the actual problems ignored. Here is the first scene of Chapter One: The Rescue.

Garath thought he was going to die. The midday desert sun was searing his battered body. He was bruised all over from the beatings they had given him last night and again this morning before being disposed of out here in the desert. They expected that the sun and animals would finish him off quickly, but he had managed to hold out this long. He had to, or else he'd never find out why this had happened to him. He tried to think back to it. No! Too painful! Can't deal with it! I must find a way to survive first.

But how? They had given him just the thread-bare clothes on his back, a broken piece of mirror, and a pair of worn-out leather shoes. They had jeered at him as they hung that jagged fragment on his chest, telling him it was so he could see how much he had fallen. The mirror scratched his chest and kept flashing the sun in his eyes every time he looked down. The thong was too short for him to slip it over his head and his fingers too sore and tired to untie it. He had no shelter, no food, no water. He knew he had to find these things soon or her would die. The sun had stolen much of his moisture already. There was so little vegetation out here, no available water, and he felt like a parched weed rooted to the ground. He tried to slow his breathing to conserve moisture. He saw the Ajanta Mountains to the north. If only he could reach the mountains. He could find water and maybe even people to help. If only. What am I thinking? The mountain range might as well be the moon. I'll never make it that far in like this. But I've got to keep moving.

His thoughts spiraled back to the painful reason he was out here. Betrayed! Who did it? Who turned them against me? And why? All he could remember of last night was that whirl of hateful faces. He couldn't think straight; he was too tired, too thirsty, in too much pain. He couldn't understand; it made no sense. People who had been his trusting friends all his life had turned against him violently. From the whirl, only one face stood out. His fiancee, a large bruise darkening on one cheekbone, looked at him with fear and left him, forsaken. That was when the beatings began and despair enveloped him like quicksand.

He forced himself past the heartbreak and back into the present. In getting up, his body shrilled with pain. He couldn't tell exactly how badly he had been beaten but knew that he was in poor shape. His ankle had twisted under him when he fell from the morning's rough treatment, and his arm hung awkwardly at his side. The pain from the attacks blended in with the pain from the fierce sunburn. Looking around again, he saw the Ajanta Mountains still beckoning him with the promise of safety but still out of reach. Just to the east of the range he noticed what appeared to be an oasis. It was probably a mirage or a trick of his suncrazed mind. But since he had no better choice of direction, he staggered toward it--hoping.

That's all I'm going to make you suffer through. I'm sure you noticed a vast number of rookie mistakes. Passive sentences galore, redundancy (egads, the amount of redundancy here), distant narration, bland and telling phrases, and more. The funny part is that my classmates loved this part. It was the next scene, of only slightly better writing, that threw them off. "There's this guy out in the desert! And he thinks he's going to die!...And then there's an elf." Much excitement-->letdown. Of course, there's an elf; it's a basic fantasy story.

Just goes to show why you should make sure your crit group accepts your story's genre. Then they are more likely to help improve your writing rather than complaining about the title or the mountain lion (in scene 2) being referred to as a panther. ("Panthers have to be black." No, no they don't; panther is a generic term. Sorry, I did my research. Rawr.)


Jai Joshi said...

The thing about critique groups is that you have to be open to all thoughts but still trust you're own instincts.

Bravo for sharing your own past writing!


Jai Joshi said...

I emailed you my dragon poem!


Jaleh D said...

I didn't change any of the things I knew I was right about, only improved the phrasings. (And it's still this bad.) After being told that it didn't read like a short story (when it's not) followed by "Why would you call a short story 'Chapter One'?" (*facepalm* Because it's not a short story!) I knew right there that I would have to take all suggestions with a boulder of salt.

And hooray for a contest entry!

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