Author Topic: March 2017 Contest Results and Voting  (Read 1141 times)

Airan

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March 2017 Contest Results and Voting
« on: March 19, 2017, 12:01:32 AM »
Hello, everyone. I've finished reading all of the submissions that were sent to me- special thanks to everyone who did. I enjoyed all of them- and I've now decided on three nominees for the story all deserving of the crown of the winner of the very first ever Mini Contest. These are just my personal favorites, of course, and it wouldn't quite be fair for only me to decide the winner- so which one ultimately wins will be up to you: the readers. If you didn't quite make the cut, don't worry, when voting ends I'll be posting all of the other stories that I received so that you can also receive feedback. So, without further ado, let's go over quickly how voting will work for this particular contest.

Voting will follow a traditional method for this first contest. You will read all three and simply vote for which one is your favorite and that you think should be crowned the victor. Like with your submissions, you will send me a private message containing the title of the story that you are voting for to win. Voting will close on Sunday, March 26th at 11:59 PM EST, so be sure to get your votes in before then if you want them to be counted.

Here are some quick rules.

•   If you are one of the nominees, you cannot vote for yourself. You can still choose between one of the other two, however.

•   All reviews and discussion should remain in this thread. Please don't create your own threads, just so in the future the board doesn't contain one hundred review threads for each new prompt. I'm still overall experimenting with this rule just to see if it's actually necessary or not, but we'll see how it goes for this first contest before perhaps trying other alternatives.

•   All discussion will follow the typical review guidelines- that is to say: keep criticism constructive and don't be pointlessly rude. The purpose of these contests is to help improve our writing and storytelling craft, so reviews should be focused around this.

•   Remember the anonymity rule. Even if your submission didn't make the nominees, it would be better to not reveal that information until after voting ends. Don't worry, after voting is over, you'll be free to reveal yourselves, talk about your stories and why you wrote what you did and other such fun stuff.

Right, so with all that out of the way, let's get to the nominees, in no particular order:

Mini Contest Prompt March 2017:
A Redwaller discovers something long forgotten.

The First Nominee
Spoiler: show
New Recipes

Burl nudged a bowl of Hotroot Soup against Calla’s temple and woke her from her third morning nap.

“Oh, sorry, muffin. Morning caught the best of me.” Calla rubbed the salt and sleep from her unpatched eye. “Never seen a recipe with strawberries before. Did you learn this from Friar Samson?”

Five strawberries floated along the soup. Knobs of uncleaned vegetables rested like stones at the bowl’s bottom, and pine resin and cinnamon wafted from the brackish, thin broth. The Great Hall filled with the stench, but Burl, a dibbun drowning in a stained apron, ignored his mother’s scrunched expression.

“No,” said Burl. “I thought you liked them. You eat them every day.”

“That I do, dearheart,” said Calla. “But would you mind fetchin’ a new bowl?”

“Is it bad? Friar Samson said it’s bad.”

“Well, Friar Samson doesn’t know Hotroot Soup from a door stop.”

“Friar Samson said I should quit kitchen duty.”

“Or manners, but I’ll teach him some later.” Calla took a swig of the soup. Her coughs and gags echoed off the tapestries and empty tables, but she managed a smile all the while. “Y-yes, this is wonderful. Bring me his portion too.”

Burl gathered up his apron hem and toddled towards the kitchen hallway. He turned around at the archway and found Calla already settling on the bench for the fourth nap of the morning.

“Ma?” said Burl.

“Yes, sweetness?” said Calla.

“Am I as good as da?”

Calla immediately stood up and crossed the Great Hall. The dibbun stared at the flagstones though his mother knelt for hug.

“Oh, sugar, you don’t have to be.” Calla cupped her son’s puffy cheeks with a scarred paw and brought them nose tip to tip. “Kellen got us to Redwall so we’d have a choice. Do you still want to cook like him?”

Burl nodded without hesitation.

“Then that’s what’s important.” Calla kissed Burl’s forehead, spun him around, and patted him on the rudder towards the exit. “Fetch me another bowl, cookie. Extra strawberries.”

Back in the kitchen, Burl found his first soup attempt missing, and the pot scoured clean, though the ingredients remained. Friar Samson locked away all the knives for safe keeping, so the young otter grabbed a tenderizing mallet, lined up his vegetables, and got to work.

The kitchen turned into a vegetable battlefield after round two of Hotroot Soup. Crushed potatoes filled the cracks of the ancient, wooden preparation tables. Piles of carrot and turnip tops, like small, overgrown meadows, littered the cobbled floor. And the second soup pot frothed in overboil, flooding the hearth and floor beneath.

Burl nodded at his good work, but huffed on finding only vegetables in his ingredient pile. He retreated to the pantry and spotted a pint of strawberries on the highest rung of the tallest shelf. The otter stacked boxes until he made a tower which rose up and to the ceiling.

So high up he found a collection of dust-covered jars on top of the shelf, back far enough so not even a badger on tip toes could see.

The first jar he grabbed contained nothing. The second held a little tag which read “Skip’s spice. Paws off.” Burl at once recognized the sharp cut of the crosses on the Fs - like a beast forever in a hurry - and popped open the top.

A myriad of scents rose from the spice jar and enfolded Burl like a blanket. Midwinter licorice cookies and mulled cider on a snowy night within the holt. Fire peppers in the holds of vulpine traders from the deserts across the Great Sea. The blood and salt of Skipper Kellen sprinting home from a coastal patrol, a broken spear in paw and an arrow in his shoulder.

No time for tears, me berries. Follow the river to the bend and East through the forest. The abbey beasts will take you in, they owe me. G’won now, I’ll meet you there. I promise.

Burl filled another bowl from his small pot, stirred a pinch of Skip’s spice, and topped the bowl with strawberries.

Friar Samson and Calla stopped their argument the moment Burl returned to the Great Hall, a new bowl of soup in his paws. Both the dormouse and otter adopted a smile as they received the little one’s offering.

“We were just talking about you. You’re a very, ah, helpful assistant.” Friar Samson’s hollowed cheeks and thin limbs rattled with each word, like a reed wind chime caught in a storm. “But tell me, young Burl, are you happy in the kitchens? Would you like to try something new?”

Burl said nothing, and placed a paw over the spice jar in his apron pocket.

“How about the apiary?” Calla offered her son a quick ‘I don’t know’ shrug, and Samson rescued them both. “I know, bees are pretty scary, but Sister Winifred needs help harvesting honey before fall. Would you like to give it a try?”

Burl said nothing.

“Pudding, the friar is talking to you,” said Calla.

“Oh, I understand,” said Friar Samson. “This is all very new for the both of you, and there’s no need to rush into a role. You have our sympathy and understanding, trust me.”

“Da said ‘don’t trust a thin cook,’” said Burl.

“E-excuse me!?”

“Ma said you’re rude. Ma said she’s gonna teach you some manners.”

The scars along the Calla’s jaw and arms glowed pink, and she took a long drink from the new soup bowl for cover. Then she took another sip, and another, her lithe body wriggling with delight. Calla thrust the bowl into Friar Samson’s paws faster than the old dormouse could dodge. The friar’s protests died at the soup’s scent. He drank the dregs with relish, and stopped himself from licking the bowl clean.

“Burl.” Friar Samson said the dibbun’s name like a test, or an evening prayer. “Did you make this? All by yourself?”

Burl nodded and Friar Samson rushed from the Great Hall. Through the tulip trough window both otters watched Samson bound across the lawns. First he found a cloud of free-range dibbuns, then Sister Winifred with flowers and bees in her quills. In time many a Redwaller came forth, even the abbess from her study. All gathered about Friar Samson as he preached the gospel of Burl, the second culinary coming of Skipper Kellen.

Calla chuckled at the madness. She chuckled softer as her son held up the spice jar. With practiced rhythm she popped the top, breathed in the spice, and showed Burl the lid’s underside. A crude strawberry was etched into the metal.

“He made this blend before we were married.” Calla wiped a sleeve across her eye. “Said he carved the berry so I was always with him. At the time I thought he loved his spice more than me.”

Calla scooped her son up and let the fluff of an otter ride on her shoulders.

“C’mon, let’s tackle the kitchen together,” said Calla. “We’ll whip up a true holt feast and teach them all how real otters eat.”

“Okay.” Burl buried his face into his mother’s headfur in as much of a hug as his small frame allowed. “Extra strawberries?”

“Extra strawberries.”


The Second Nominee
Spoiler: show
The Forgotten Language

Olvan watched as his father and a mouse bent over a large apiary in a corner of Redwall Abbey's orchard. They both held smoldering bundles of dried grasses, which produced a hazy cloud of smoke around where they worked. Olvan's ears, longer than an average hedgehog's, twitched as he sketching the hive in his small bark-bound book.

"And I just can't figure it out," the mouse said. "First time in five seasons I haven't had an abundance of honey."

Olvan's father, Garenn, examined one of the boards that they had pulled from the hive, barely filled with waxy combs. While his father studied it, Olvan doodled a quick sketch of the board.

"Well, I'll see what I can do," the older hedgehog replied. "Won't be no trouble now, since Olvan and I are moving to Redwall."

"You've decided then?"

Garenn's voice dropped to a whisper. "My wife were the only reason we made our home out in Mossflower Woods. She liked the peace and quiet. Just us and our bees. But I can't be mum and dad to a young hog."

In spite of the whispering, Olvan heard it all. He'd inherited his big ears from his mother, who had come from the far east. With his big ears came a sharper sense of hearing that his father always forgot about.

Memory of his mother brought tightness to Olvan's throat. He closed his book and trundled off, leaving his father to discuss bees with the abbey brother.

Through the shadowy orchards he went, the smell of ripening fruit heavy in the air. Bees buzzed about the trees, their peculiar noises standing out in the summer stillness. His father never noticed the differences in the buzzing, but Olvan had always thought there was a certain rhythm to it, like speech in another room behind a closed door. Audible, but indiscernible.

He found a shady spot by a door near the gate and he settled there with his piece of charcoal and his book. A couple pages away from the apiary drawing, he began sketching the Abbey orchards, complete with little specks for bees.

Olvan couldn't sleep on his first night in the Abbey dormitory, with snores and snuffles of the creatures around him too loud for his sensitive ears. He tossed and turned for a while, then dislodged the blanket from his prickles, grabbed his book and charcoal, and crept through the moonlit halls of the Abbey, in search of some quiet.

He spied a line of light under a door down one passage. He tip-pawed closer to the door, curious as to who would still be up this late. When he put one ear near the lock and listened, he thought he heard a faint scratching noise within.

He tried to peer through the same keyhole, pressing his snout against the stout wood. The door, not latched, creaked forward as he leaned on it and he gave an eep of surprise as he stumbled forward. His book fell to the floor with a thud.

A graying squirrel sat at a table with quill in paw and her head popped up at Olvan's entry. "All well, young one?"

"Yes, ma'am," Olvan muttered, scrambling to his feet, face hot under his quills. "I'm sorry."

"For what?"

Olvan scuffed a footpaw on the floor, not raising his eyes.

"Can't sleep?" the squirrel asked.

Olvan shook his head.

The squirrel said, "You're that newcomer, aren't you? Just moved here with your father?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"I saw you at dinner. Wanted to make introductions, but got sidetracked by my young nephew. He likes pilfering my writing quills. Sister Elma, by the way. I'm the Abbey Recorder." Sister Elma bent to pick up the book Olvan had dropped. It had fallen open to Olvan's sketch of the hives.

"I'm Olvan," he said as the sister handed him the book.

She nodded at it. "You've a good eye. Where'd you learn to draw like that?"

"My mum. She taught me writing, reading, and figuring, too. Said they were important for a young hog to know."

Sister Elma smiled. "Oh, I agree completely."

"What's a recorder do?" he asked, finally raising his head to look up at her.

"It's my job to keep a record of the day by day of the Abbey. For countless season, the Abbey Recorders have kept account of the weather and the seasons, the comings and goings, the good and bad of lives." She waved at the room. "You can learn so much from the records of the past, you know. So much knowledge is stored here, amid these dusty tomes."

Olvan's jaw dropped as his eyes drifted from Sister Elma to the room before him. Shelf upon shelf of books, scrolls, and stacks of parchments filled the room.

"Have you read all these?" Olvan asked.

Sister Elma laughed. "Goodness, no! Not even a quarter of them, I'm sure. There are records here going all the way back to the founding of Redwall. I'm not sure even a lifetime spent reading would be enough time to go through all the knowledge here."

He nodded in awed agreement.

"However, it is late and young ones ought to be in their beds. The books won't go anywhere. You're welcome to visit any time you wish, Olvan."

Olvan spent the next few days in Redwall becoming accustomed to the routine of the Abbey. The tolling of the bells roused him every morning and the early morning hours were spent helping his father with the problematic bees. After lunch and during the heat of the day, Olvan often slipped off to Sister Elma's room of books, where the squirrel worked at her recording duties. Olvan roamed the countless shelves, pulling off dusty volumes to read. Names of Redwallers, seasons gone, swam before his eyes as he read about days of peace intermingled of times of war. Great heroes filled his mind with their deeds.

One rainy afternoon, Olvan lay on his belly next to Sister Elma's table as she worked away. He had picked up a dusty record from the days of Matthias the Warrior, as written by John Churchmouse.

It is the Summer of the Talking Squirrel! he read, his eyes skimming over the text. Then he gasped. The Guerrilla Shrews are out collecting honey from the bee folk; they have struck up a great friendship with the bees, even learning their language so that they can argue with them.

"Elma!" he said, bouncing up from the floor with his book. "Have you ever heard of this?" He pointed to the faded writing on the page. "The bees have a language and somebeast knew how to speak it!"

Sister Elma adjusted her spectacles and peered at the words. "Hmm, I do seem to recall reading this once many seasons ago."

Olvan looked around him, at the shelves of books. "Is there any record of the language in here?"

"Dear me, I suppose there could be. Who knows where it would be though?"

"I have to find it!" Olvan's extra-large ears quivered with excitement. "My da's been trying to figure out what's wrong with the bees, why they're not making honey and why the swarms are so small. If I could learn how to talk to the bees, then maybe I could help!"

The youngster's enthusiasm proved contagious for the squirrel recorder. She popped out of her chair like a beast half her age. "Well, then, my young friend, let's find proof of this bee language. Keep reading and see if John Churchmouse says any more about it. I'll see if I can find more."
 
They spent the remainder of the day pouring over thirteen seasons of John Churchmouse's writings, looking for any reference to the bees' language. Nothing more seemed to be mentioned anywhere and as the room around them grew steadily darker, Olvan's hope of finding a way to help his father and the bees faded.

He pulled another book from the stack and, before he even opened it, he noticed that a thin bunch of papers had been shoved in between the books front cover and it's own pages. He pulled them out and blinked blearily.

Notes by Guin and Frim, Guosim Shrews, as compiled by John Churchmouse, concerning the language of Mossflower honeybees.

He stared, rubbed his eyes with a paw, then looked again.

"I found it! I found it! The lost language of the bees!"

Next summer, dubbed the Summer of the Fat Honeybee, Olvan lay on his belly in the orchard, his long ears listening to a swarm of honeybees' gentle buzzing conversation and replying to their concerns with his own soft buzzing.


The Third Nominee
Spoiler: show
Striking Out

The sky above Redwall Abbey was dismal, cloudy and gray, tainting everything below with its gloom. Nearer the earth, vaporous ghosts swirled thickly in hopeless effort to drown the living. Tall stalks of persistent woodrush crowded along the edges of the water-stained wine brick walls, thorny tops threatening even more noxious germs.

Barnabas scowled as a cold droplet wetted the back of his neck through thin fur. He thrust the hood of his shabby cloak over age-spotted ears, hastening through the sparsely populated courtyard. A sharp intake of breath escaped the elderly mouse as his foot skidded across a rain-slicked flagstone. In a flash a spry young squirrel was at his side, steadying his arm with a chortle.

“Whoops! Careful there, father!”

Barnabas showed his own teeth in return, jerking his elbow away from the chipper youth. “Leave off, you lint-brained buffoon! I don’t need your help.” He stalked away in a huff, scattering four puddle-jumping dibbuns with a snarl.

A molemaid tutted as he pushed past. “Burr, ‘im were noicer when Cloe were still around.”

The old vole beside her extended his umbrella. “Aye, but you weren’t around when he and his shrew friend, Edgar, terrorized the grounds as lads. They were an unruly pair. . . ” The trailing voice of the vole was drowned out by the patter of rainfall, but Barnabas did not need to hear to know his character was being further disparaged. 

The old mouse shuffled along the familiar damp path to the library, where he hoped to gain some privacy and rest under the guise of study. He stamped his soggy foot paws just inside the threshold and shivered, making a beeline for the crackling fireplace and his favorite chair only to find someone already sitting there. It was the Abbott.

“Quilton.”

“You’ll have to excuse the intrusion, Brother Barnaby, but this is the one place I knew I could find you.” The venerated hedgehog noted Barnabas’s troubled posture. “Fear not. I don’t intend to stay. You’ll have your chair back.” He steepled his own gnarled paws, matching the mouse’s stern gaze. “I need to speak with you regarding your. . . isolation.”

Barnabas frowned openly, but the Father continued.

“When Cloe passed away, we had sound reason to allow you your space. You needed to mourn. We all turned a blind eye to your absence at the feasts, community games, and varied celebrations.” The elderhog leaned forward, locking his fingers together, elbows resting across his knees. “But it’s been eight seasons, Barnaby. You must endeavor to rejoin the community.”

“You say that like I don’t live under the same roof as everyone else,” the mouse scoffed.

“For as much time as you spend alone, you might as well be an outcast. In mind if not in body.” The Abbott gestured at his headspikes.

Barnabas felt his calves begin to cramp with cold. His lip twitched with annoyance. “Who in this entire abbey gives a friar’s frock whether I participateor not?”

“I do. It is my somber duty to oversee the well-being of every beast in Redwall, and you are not well, my friend.”

“Kind of you to care, but I am perfectly content leaving the frivolities and gossip to others, Father.” Barnabas stressed the last word, as he and Abbott Quilton were roughly the same age.

The hedgehog sighed, eyes vanishing under the furrowed shadow of his deep brow. “All I ask, is for you to make an effort. Nobeast is happy to be alone.” He stood, gesturing amiably at the chair.

Barnabas sat with a grumbling mutter. “They are when the only other option is enduring the prattle of ninnies and windbags. . . ” He snatched a book from the stack beside him and promptly stuck his nose between the pages.

Minutes passed, but he waited until the door banged shut to peep over the binding. Quilton was gone, as he had hoped. He slumped down into the soft upholstery with a groan and waited for the heat of the fire to lull him to sleep, but now his mind churned with thought.

Much as he hated to admit it, the Abbott was right. Barnabas did not want to be alone. The ache of loss echoed daily in his breast, affronted by the laughter and gaiety of cheerful abbey dwellers.

He missed his wife. Her life was not the only one that stopped eight seasons ago.

Cloe had always been more comfortable than he in the cozy, peaceful grounds of Redwall. Having experienced enough turmoil and violence as a child, she had been happy to live out the rest of her life in an environment where the worst surprise might be opening a spoiled jar of strawberry jam. For her sake, he had rooted himself in place, adapting to a quiet, ordinary reality.

Barnabas stood and lit a lamp with a smoldering stick, carrying it over to the long shelves of baskets and boxes at the back of the room. This was another reason he sought refuge in the library so often. Every Abbeybeast had a cubbyhole that housed a collection of personal items. Barnabas slid a small brown chest out of his cubby and set it on a nearby table. putting the lamp to one side, he carefully unbuckled the straps and lifted the lid, revealing a dense collection of letters, poems, journals, and drawings. His paws found the familiar favorites, every crease and smudge memorized as the slanted, feminine writing. He inhaled deeply, nose touching the parchment, though her scent was long gone.

Other keepsakes and notes had been squashed at the bottom, rubbish by comparison. He lifted them now, sorting through the mess: the title to a small plot of land Cloe’s family had owned before they were attacked, a collection of his grandmother’s recipes tied together with a thin, waxed thread, a certificate of military service he had kept from his father’s possessions, and, oddly enough in the middle – a letter from Edgar.

He had forgotten the message, as it had come at a busy time in his life, yet he had intentionally held onto it for some reason. Upon reading the note, he recognized why. The shrew had struck off to seek his fortune elsewhere shortly after Barnabas and Cloe were engaged. Years later he’d purchased a house boat, which he intended to use to explore all of Mossflower and beyond.

“If you ever get tired of abbey life and decide to throw in the towel, there’s always room for you on Delilah,” it finished, and listed the port address where he could be contacted. Barnabas stared at the letter. It was easily twenty seasons old. He wondered if Edgar was still alive, let alone still paddling his watery course. There was one way to find out, and it brought an unexpected shiver of joy to the mouse’s gray-furred skin.

The next day was still damp, yet sunshine prevailed by midmorning. Barnabas pulled a tiny cart behind him as he aimed for the gate. His possessions were few, as abbey life meant most objects, from dishes to combs, were shared. It felt strange to claim anything as his own outside of the clothing and the chest of letters, yet for as many community tools as he had constructed in his lifetime, he figured he had earned a few supplies.

Upon reaching the gatehouse, he called to be let out and was happy to see the same squirrel who had tried to help him the night before. Barnabas didn’t remember his name, but he did remember the beast was one of those silly, friendly types who let insults bounce off him for the most part.

“Going out for a stroll, father?” The young guard slid the heavy bolt back.

“Off to visit an old friend, as a matter of fact.” Barnabas replied, which cheered the squirrel to twitching.

“See you in a couple days then!” He waved as Barnabas strolled out.

“Nope!” the mouse called over his shoulder.

“Oh – when are you coming back?” The squirrel had a list before him now and stood poised with a small stub of charcoal.

“When your head stops whistling every time the wind blows!” Barnabas answered gaily, as the gate swung shut behind him.


And those are the nominees. It was ultimately a tough choice and became a close cutoff between some of the submissions, so if you didn't quite make the cut, don't fret. I liked every submission I received and it was a tough choice. Happy reading :)
« Last Edit: April 24, 2017, 04:22:24 PM by Airan »

Tooley Bostay

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Re: March 2017 Contest Results and Voting
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2017, 06:18:54 PM »
Aaand with that, we're off! Huzzah! Celebrations all around for the first mini contest! I say we throw a feast. Heck, Redwallers need no excuse to throw feasts, so hey, it's feasting time. But, darn it, can't eat food over yonder internet. So, we'll have to make do with a different type of feast! A digital banquet of reviews for hungry authors to sample on! Hopefully, th' rest o' ye folk join in as well--it's a lame feast if only a handful o' beasts show up, after all!

So, before I begin, a hearty congratulations to everyone who made it in, and to those who didn't as well. Three is a very tight number to pick from, and - honestly - the fact that you took the time to write something up and submit it earns you some well-deserved pride. I really can't wait to read the ones that didn't get it, since I'm sure they really are all splendid.

But, alas, only three are on the menu right now, so let's hop right in to this three-course meal. My focus here is simply to look at what the author did, what tricks they used, what I liked about it, what I didn't like, and how the piece impacted me. So I'm not really here to evaluate which of the three is the best, more just offer my perspective of each.


New Recipes

Otter dibbun - and relative newcomer to Redwall - discovers a memento of his father, shares a moment with his mother.

What a super sweet story--I really enjoyed reading this! There's a childish simplicity to the whole thing, which works excellently given how Burl is our POV character. Seriously, who hasn't ever dug around in some drawer or cabinet as a kid and found a trinket or cool thing that belonged to your parents? Elements like that lend a real tangibility to the short, as well as things like him throwing strawberries into hotroot soup, because of course it'll taste good--they're Mom's favorite! Touches like that really help bring these characters to life and endear them to the reader.

Tons of tasty little description work here. You can tell the author knows their stuff. Like how Kellen being the Skipper is something naturally revealed through the world and character interaction, rather than a "Burl was sad. Just last week, his father, the Skipper, had fought against a group of..." And let's talk for a moment about that spice scene, and just how fantastic the sensory description is. You get a clear sense of each of the smells, but I particularly like how each of the three are varied in the presentation: cookies, merchant hold, Skipper himself. That tie-in at the end is a wonderful segway, as it tells us everything about Burl's love for his father, contrasted against that final memory. Great stuff. I'll admit that I'm not quite sure how Magic Spice can work for cookies and hotroot soup all the same, but it works well given the nostalgic quality being expressed here.

I like all the characters here. You get a real sense of their personality. Seriously, I got a feel for Kellen's personality just from "Skip's spice. Paws off." That alone showcases a nice bit of contrast. He's enterprising and sharp enough to make his own spice and care quite a bit about it, yet his handwriting and way of speaking is blunt and to the point. Also, I like how his fate is left uncertain. Calla and Burl appear to be recent newcomers to Redwall, probably there for maybe a week or so, so this is still in that tenuous time of "too late to be sure of anything, but not too late to completely give up hope." I may be reading that wrong, but I liked that.
I'm talking too much about Kellen, though. The piece throughout showcases some wonderful word play: "like a reed wind chime caught in a storm," "frothed in overboil," "Knobs of uncleaned vegetables rested like stones," all very solid and the aforementioned spice smells being the king of it all here. The most important part, though, is that this excellent wordplay all helps to establish the characters and sell their relationships, and the final bit at the end earned an "aww" from me after I read it. Even if strawberries in soup is kinda gross.
Kudos as well for taking the "something lost" thing in a slightly different direction. Not a slam against the other two, but finding lost papers and information was my first thought when I saw the prompt, so having a forgotten jar of spice is really quite unique.

I do think things get a little wonky in the final quarter, though. For being a very down-to-earth piece, the sudden fervor that takes over Friar Samson shifts the tone perhaps a tad jarringly. Not that it's bad - you earned an honest chuckle for the "Gospel of Burl/second culinary coming" bit - but the change in tone is present. Related to this, I didn't quite believe the wonders of the spice. He only puts a "pinch" of it in, but it's enough to turn gag-inducing soup into Chateau Burl? Coming from someone who does do a lot of cooking, I know what a different spice can make, but a tiny pinch in a huge pot ain't gonna make that big a difference.
Calla's spot of infodump also sticks out to me. "This jar is meaningful to me because of this, here's a bit of history about it, and I thought this about it at the time." Like the Samson bit, it's not bad, more that the rhythm of the moment doesn't flow as smoothly as it could. Also, I'm not quite sure what the point of her constant napping is. Is she sick or healing from wounds (uncertain if the eyepatch is new or old)?

Those are small nitpicks. You did a whole lot more good than bad. The bond between mother and son as well as the theme of cherishing the good in spite of difficult circumstances work really well here, and I enjoyed reading it a good deal. Solid showing, Burl's author.


The Forgotten Language

Displaced hedgehog lad struggles to fit into his new surroundings, and uses his unique gifts to help his father solve a problem.

This story had a very tender, sweet tone to it all. While perhaps the most straight-forward of the three, there really is a genuine heart to this short. I don't just mean "the characters act sweet and kind," I mean how the narrative itself is written. Sketching in a notebook in lazy summer days, chance encounters that lead to subdued but true friendships, the utter lack of melodrama to adjusting to Abbey life. It's all very... "restful," is the word that comes to mind. I'm uncertain if that was directly the author's intent, but it came across as very genuine, so kudos.

In particular, I like the various details scattered throughout that help to give us a feel for the characters. Just look at Olvan: his larger ears, his enjoyment of sketching, his reaction to his mother's memory. He's not reclusive, but these all help us get a grasp on his introverted, quiet nature. For further evidence of this, check out his first conversation with Elma. He barely speaks at all, and when he does, it's in two-word replies of a strictly polite variety. It's not until Elma begins opening up about herself that he lets his guard down, begins to get curious, and even ends up gaping slack-jawed. This sort of natural, patient method of writing really helps to unveil the character, rather than simply slapping down their traits and mental state through "he felt this" or "he thought this."
The "lost knowledge" in this one is also the most distant of the three. Instead of being deeply rooted in moment of the character's past or an emotional experience, this is simply forgotten knowledge being used to help someone unrelated in the now. I liked the different approach, and am glad it was the direction Olvan's author went for--some trinket belonging to his mother/ancestors would have soiled the tone of the piece.
Also:
Quote
"...even learning their language so that they can argue with them."
I'm not sure if this was the intent, but I love the idea of the GOUSIM going out of their way to learn a language just to argue with others. Those shrews love them some verbal conflict.

There are some weak points to the piece, however. The lack of scene breaks, for one. One moment Olvan's in an orchard, then he's in the Abbey dorms. I did a triple take when I first read it to make sure I didn't miss something, and it was extremely jarring. It's also not distinctly clear they're in the Abbey at first, either. Garenn says they "are moving to the Abbey," implying a future event, then suddenly boom, Abbey orchards and dorms.
Related to this, there are things scattered throughout the short that stop me in my tracks and have me asking "wait, why?" Why does Garenn forget about Olvan's hearing, when he inherited it from his mother and this is likely something that Garenn grew used to with her, much less with Olvan himself? How does Olvan creep through the moonlit halls of the Abbey when there can't possibly be enough windows to guide him, and he's a newcomer with no reference of the layout of the building? If the mouse Abbey Brother was the one who had trouble with the bees, and Olvan's father said it'd "be no trouble now," given how they were moving to the Abbey and he's an expert on bees, why is Garenn having such trouble with the bees?
It's not that there are no answers to these questions, it's just that any answers there are not clear. If, say, Garenn had scratched at his chin and noted that, yes, the bees were acting super peculiar and he'd never even seen something like this before, then that would establish the mystery of the situation that perplexes even Master Beehog Garenn.
They're not crippling problems, but they lead to a bumpy reading experience.

Coming off from a second read, I still really quite enjoy the feel of this story, and the gentle simplicity it has. Makes me want to go outside on a sunny day and read for hours, with a cup of tea nearby and a cat for cuddling. The narrative hiccups do give me pause, however, and they stop me from fully getting sucked into the story. Still, very enjoyable piece, Olvan's author.


Striking Out

Elderly mouse, embittered by the perceived vapidity of Abbey life now that his wife is deceased, rolls a d20 and heads out to find a better, more fulfilling life.

Barnabas is a jerk, and I kinda like that. With the other two entries focused on young, bright-eyed dibbuns, it's neat to have something from an older perspective--someone who's gone through a lot, and hasn't come out on the other end for the better. Barnabas' dialogue is well done, with snappy barbs ever at the ready. The "give a friar's frock" in particular gave me a chuckle. Props to the final exchange especially. The banter is snappy and character-focused, and tells us all we need to know: Barnabas is still a jerk, but he's at least a jerk on a mission now, and that warms the cockles of his sourpuss heart.

This entry is a very dour read. That's not meant to be a criticism, in fact, it pairs rather well with our standoffish character and the themes in play--falling idle in the wake of a terrible loss, unsure where exactly to go. A depressive, bitter quality runs through the whole story, and as far as enhancing the feel of the story goes, it works well. You even see this reflected in the following morning: it's still damp, since Barnabas hasn't suddenly stumbled on some miracle, but the sun is out. There's hope, and that chronic depression of the piece lifts a bit.

What the story lacks, however, is context. I'm left with more questions than answers, despite a lot of telling going on in the prose, particularly after the Abbott leaves. I don't get a good feel for Barnabas' history, beyond simply knowing that he justifies his ire because of his wife's death. We learn why Cloe loved Redwall so much, but not why Barnabas didn't. On my first read, I misread the military certificate as belonging to him, which would have made his problems with a "quiet, ordinary life" understandable, but they're his father's. Without the context of his situation, it's hard for me to root for the guy when he does decide to act.
I also think that the first paragraph should be cut entirely. I do appreciate the wordplay, but the picture it paints of the scene is rather confusing, and a tad overly oppressive. Vaporous ghosts drowning the living? Threatening noxious germs? It's fog and overgrowth, I get that, but the poetic language sets it up like some plague-ridden wasteland. Even with Barnabas' cynical mind, I think this is too far, and actually hindered me from forming a picture of the scene.
On the flipside, the second paragraph is rather excellent, and really should have been the one to start off the story. It's all here. It's drippy and muggy, our character is disgruntled, and his frustrations lead him to slip on the ground. Just those three things - scene, attitude, and result - paint a clear picture in my head. And it's not that the author doesn't know how to use wordplay. Check out this line: "...scattering four puddle-jumping dibbuns with a snarl." What an excellent, sharp line that just brings the moment to life! We're in a wet, rainy environment, and Barnabas is scattering puddle-jumpers like raindrops. This has a rhythm, consistency, and tangibility for the reader.

This is the most daring of the three submissions. I like that it's not just a "I found something and X problem is fixed and all is happy." This is an aged, tired beast leaving behind that which he knows, rather than fixing or mending it. And we don't know what happens. That's a super cool idea, and I give serious props to Barnabas' author for attempting it. Further props for tackling the difficulty that is writing an unlikable main character, I just wish that I knew more about him so that I could empathize with what's going on in his life and where he's going.



Once again, a hearty congratulations to the nominees! You each offered something truly distinct with your entries, and I really had a blast reading through them. Seeing such creativity in play is a joy. =)

And don't worry if you didn't make it in and are feeling left out. I'll be dropping reviews for the entries that didn't make it in once they go up!
« Last Edit: March 24, 2017, 11:00:05 PM by Tooley Bostay »

Vizon

Re: March 2017 Contest Results and Voting
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2017, 10:32:20 PM »
I prefer to review based on story and personal reaction rather than the technical side of writing, so I'll leave that to Matra and Tooley. I'm sorry my reviews always seem to lean more towards criticism than praise, so let me say right off that I enjoyed reading every one of these, and read them more than once because it was fun (on a busy day, no less). I also can't wait to read the other entries afterward. Good writing, everyone!

New Recipes:

I definitely agree with Tooley on the wonderful descriptive quality of "New Recipes," and that more than makes up for any other faults the piece might have. I can't agree more on his examples as well, and since he's already quoted them, I won't quote them again. Beautiful, exceptional work.

I do have to wonder though - what's gonna happen once the magic spice of wonders runs out? I expect Burl will return to being a shoddy cook again, and then his dreams will be shattered.
It's kind of what happens when you lie. Eventually it's uncovered and the ugly truth is revealed. Eventually his mother's lying about how great his cooking is will be revealed. Eventually when the spice runs out, everyone will see that he's not a master chef prodigy. So it's a sweet story, but the lies woven through the moments of perceived success kind of add a bitterness to it, imo.

Though I suppose he could improve before the spice runs out. It's possible. But improbable based on what we see so far. A chef's intuition he has not. And he doesn't respect the only cook who he might otherwise learn from.

Also, Tooley - I don't think his mom sleeps because she's sick or wounded. I think she's just lazy. Or tired (Lord knows I understand that, having children of my own). If it's because she's sick and wounded, I'd expect more of an indication - a small grunt of pain as she sits up or something.


The Forgotten Language:

This one was cute. I liked the young character, and Elma was fun as well.
The grammatical error third sentence in continues to bug me. The editor in me keeps wanting to fix it. Fix it, I say! (Especially since it's the only one).

I love that Olvan is an artist (of course), and can totally see him becoming future Redwall Recorder (fully illustrated!). The description about his ears and the little details (scuffing his footpaw on the floor, listening to the rhythm of the buzzing, etc...) are very well written and enjoyable to drink in as a reader.

I feel like this story was a little rushed at the end, however. I like that he finds this long lost manuscript suggesting the bees have a language after the earlier hint, but I didn't really like the unrealistic convenience of his finding exactly what he was looking for (the Rosetta stone of beespeak) the same day (amidst writings that "even a lifetime spent reading" would not be able to get through, no less). Also, learning a language that nobody else knows takes years and years - even being fully immersed, so the fact that he was able to apply it so quickly as to have results as soon as the next summer - and from something written... I don't know (how does one write out the different types of buzzings?). It would have been so much cooler if the discovery in the records was simply a catalyst to set him on his own path to figuring out beespeak. After all, he seemed on the verge of discovering the bees had a language on his own with his wonderful ears. I think all he needed was the clue that it was possible, and then he could really focus and start listening and studying the bees himself and slowly over time make connections that would clue him in on what might be bothering the bees. Perhaps he even knows more than he realizes. Like maybe he could remember the way the bees sounded when it got too hot in the summer or too cold in winter, and then realize they're too hot/cold and that's the problem. Or too wet - whatever the problem is.

But maybe that would have taken too many more words to write. If so, I'd have cut down other areas so as to give the ending a better weight and length at the least. So much potential! I don't want it to be so truncated!


Striking Out:

I like the double meaning of the title. Barnabus is so mean to everybody. He has reasons I guess - he doesn't want to be there and his wife died. But ultimately he's just a senile curmudgeon who I'm sure everyone is glad to see go. "Ya'll are too happy for me!" Okay, old man mouse! Go ahead and march off into the big bad world where you may or may not find your friend and may or may not live the rest of your life as a spiteful beggar.

Okay maybe that's too presumptuous. Maybe if he can't find his friend, he can still find a job since he evidently knows how to make tools. Maybe he can get a loan or something and start a business.

I admit, I do find it at least a little amusing the way he insults everybody. What does that say about me?

One thing that really bothers me though is "Cloe." Isn't it supposed to be spelled "Chloe?" or maybe her name really is "Cloe" and rhymes with "slow."

The story is set well. I like that it's not about an innocent, wide-eyed dibbun (yay for variety) or the bliss of abbey life (not everyone's cup o' tea, I suppose). I also like that the forgotten thing is more like a forgotten past than some ancient object. Personal rather than a "sword of Martin" - kind of like the spice in "New Recipes."





« Last Edit: March 19, 2017, 10:52:48 PM by Vizon »

Airan

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Re: March 2017 Contest Results and Voting
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2017, 09:17:01 PM »
Great discussion so far everyone. Hopefully you all can understand my reasoning now when I said it was a hard choice.

Seeing I'm the coordinator, I don't want to put all my thoughts in here just yet. But I'll likely do a quick cliff-notes of what I thought on every story once the final results are in and I've put up the other stories. I'll go ahead and write those up in the next day or so so that you interested writers will have them the moment results go live.

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Re: March 2017 Contest Results and Voting
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2017, 11:11:14 PM »
Apologies for the double post, but this is in reply to Tooley's edits:

Quote
I'm not sure if this was the intent, but I love the idea of the GOUSIM going out of their way to learn a language just to argue with others. Those shrews love them some verbal conflict.

The Guosim arguing with the bees is actually canon, and the passage in the records that the author uses from John Churchmouse as the 'discovery' is taken directly from Redwall's epilogue. This creative use of the canon is one of the things I really enjoyed about this work- along with all the details you mentioned about it being relaxing. It feels like the 'peaceful' days that Redwallers seem to crave, and like it could have been taken straight from the books.

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Re: March 2017 Contest Results and Voting
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2017, 09:15:56 AM »
Love is in the air. The kind of love where you sit around and stare at the "Users Online" bar and keep refreshing the "most recent posts" page. The mini-contest brought on the magic anticipation of the real contests. So, here, let me help you satisfy your addiction with a new swath of reviews.

Flipped a coin between the triple header (sum, positive, negative - subjective) format or the sparse, character perspective format (pitch, what do we know, what do they want - semi-objective.) Sticking with the character perspective format for now since we've a good feed of helpful/subjective reviews already. Also, I think focusing on how the characters are presented is more important in short works, since it's a game of "get my attention quick and make it count." A scene can do so too, but the characters are what we connect with and remember. I still might write out the triple header reviews if patience and time allows.

As a note: I will provide reviews for anyone who applied. Please wait until after the results and then let me know if you're game or not. Especially if you've specific questions.


New Recipes

Pitch
An otterling refugee discovers a family artifact and rouses his layabout mother.

What Do We Know About Burl?

Burl and his mother (Calla) are recent Redwall arrivals who're on the run from some unnamed danger at their home holt.
Burl is the son of a respected (assumption) Skipper who may or may not be dead.
Burl is a direct, quiet, and painfully sincere little otter (strawberries in the soup, "threatens" Friar Samson.)
Burl is not a very good cook, and willfully ignorant (considers his mess "good work," ignores Calla's feigning of "no this is great")

What Does Burl Want? Need?

Burl wants to cook like his father - says so with a nod.
Burl wants to make his mother feel better - strawberries in soup, scene starts with him nudging her awake with the soup he made.
Burl needs to see outside his own concerns - respect Samson/redwallers, not make a hideous mess wherever he goes?
Burl needs assurance and direction in his life - which he gets from stirring his mother to action?

What Are Some Tools The Author Uses?

Author relies on heavy description to relay character traits, tone, pacing...pretty much everything.
Author's employs contrast (against the descriptions) by keeping the dialog sparse.
Callbacks are liberally used for managing pacing - "good work," manners joke, "extra strawberries."
Humor is used (Calla's reactions to the soup, Burl's "good work," and Friar Samson) to balance out the heavy themes.

Matra's Thoughts

Appreciated: Careful Narration - 3rd-person close yet still omniscient (knows Calla's nap number, knows the beasts out the tulip window, etc.) This type of stark narration fits extremely well with the stunted, childish character, and doubles down to make the keystone descriptions pop when they do arrive. Reads a lot like an older cowboy fondly recalling a scene from his youth.

Improvement: Thematic Obscurity - There are a lot of bullets in the story gun that're never fired, and it makes discerning the true theme difficult. Why is Calla always so sleepy? What did they run from? Is Kellen dead, why are they alone if Kellen was a well-known beast, etc. You can glean some answers and assume away the others, but a lot of the scene's swinging points are grounded in needless mystery.


The Forgotten Language

Pitch
A hedgeling out of place in the world discovers a new life through some lost knowledge.

What Do We Know About Olvan?

Olvan is the son of a widowed forest hedgehog (Garenn) who comes to Redwall for a new start.
Olvan is a quiet, introverted pig who revels in observing and recording the world.
Olvan is skilled with sketching and observing the fine details around him, but not so much with social interaction.
Olvan is rather sensitive - in the literal with his ears, in the emotional/physical with not sleeping well, how he reacts to his father's whispers, etc.

What Does Olvan Want? Need?

Olvan wants peace and quiet where he can sketch and study without distraction.
Olvan wants knowledge - readily eats Sister Elma's books, employs the tools of observance his mother taught him.
Olvan wants to help his father/be of use - says so at the line "I have to find it!" and beyond.
Olvan needs an outlet for his unique and gentle talents - which he somewhat gets in helping Garenn with the beespeech.

What Are Some Tools The Author Uses?

Author employs a languid writing style that purposefully misuses commas for the sake of tone.
Author contrasts the above with rapid scene changes, giving the piece a storybook quality.
Author displays a great deal of Redwall knowledge by building the scene through bits of lore - John Churchmouse, GUOSIM bit, etc.
Author matched dialog to the character for developmental purposes - long, ponderous lines for the sister, bumblish, backwoods jargon for the father, etc.

Matra's Thoughts

Appreciated: Unique Premise - Of the three entries this is the most interesting premise. "Boy with wonder ears learns the language of bees" sounds like the start of a super hero story. In the future I can see Olvan becoming an ambassador between Redwall and the bees once the hives become too large. The bees want the abbey for themselves, and Olvan must choose between his bee loyalties and his family! See? Goofy what-if questions spawn from great ideas, and keep the reader interested.

Improvement: Lacking Payoff - The story swings around the forgotten language of the bees, right? So, why don't we see Olvan using the forgotten language of bees? The closing line is not enough. It's a callback to the earlier lines of him hearing nuance in the bee buzzing, sure, but such a cool concept isn't shown in full. The counter argument is "well, it's about Olvan" but I'm not sure how he changed either beyond "quiet pig becomes quiet pig who can talk to bees."


Striking Out

Pitch
A cantankerous mouse eases the pain of loss by answering the call to adventure 20 seasons too late.

What Do We Know About Barny?

Barnabas (Barny from here on out because I keep misspelling the name) is a career Redwall brother who lost his wife eight seasons ago.
Barny is not one for accepting reality - buries himself in the study, won't endure the kindness of others, etc.
Barny adventured a bit in his youth with his wife (Cloe) and their shrew friend (Edgar) - evidence in the trunk and his memories.
Many hints of Cloe's rough past - violence in her youth, mention of an attack - which ties into Barny's bitter and begrudged nature.

What Does Barny Want? Need?

Barny wants his old life back. Simple, but the swing of the whole piece.
Barny wants an escape from the niceties around him - feels as though they're flippant and unwarranted.
Barny needs to get outside of himself - which he attempts with a new adventure/new surroundings.
Barny needs to learn the golden rule.

What Are Some Tools The Author Uses?

Author employs literary-styled narration - long, scene-setting paragraphs, information delivered in block memories, etc.
Author uses blocking (how a character moves) to convey tone - Quilton's paw folding, showing of teeth, etc.
Author organized piece with a traditional outline: introduction (dark and stormy intro,) plot point (I'm angry because my wife died,) attack (Quilton tells Barny his anger is unhealthy,) resolution (Barny digs for treasure and decides to go be angry elsewhere,) etc.
Author writes passive in the extreme: "Upon reaching the gatehouse, he called to be let out and was happy to see the same squirrel who had tried to help him the night before."

Matra's Thoughts

Appreciated: Character Completion - of the three entries this main character feels the most complete to me. All information about Barny and his family is dealt with a heavy paw, yet these info dumps help us know a good deal about who he is and where he stands. Also, this is a character on one of his worst days, and seeing him lash out - seeing open conflict - defines him so much more than anything else.

Improvement: Problematic Pace - the heavy narration coupled with the aggressive, self-defeating character makes for a tiring read. Even at the end when he's set for a new adventure, the parting shot at the innocent squirrel does not instill confidence in me as a reader. I've very little reason to root for him because 7/8ths of the tale is him wallowing, even though I've a very clear picture of what Barny is and how he moves.

Airan

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Re: March 2017 Contest Results and Voting
« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2017, 09:08:37 PM »
Voting is now closed. Thanks to everyone who voted and discussed the applicants. The winner will be announced in the morning, and the other submissions will be posted along with it. Thanks for your patience.

Airan

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Re: March 2017 Contest Results and Voting
« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2017, 02:11:33 PM »
Apologies for the delay. My next quarter at school just started today so I've been getting some things straightened out with my class and schedule. Anyways, it's finally time for the results for the first Mini-Contest. Before we get to that though, I did promise to write some quick initial thoughts on why I chose each story to be one of the nominees, so let's of course start with:

New Recipes by Matra Hammer
- The main thing that drew me to this story was the emotional weight and conflict. The character's problems and motivations all felt realistic and inspired, and, while I thought the missing spice wasn't the most interesting or unique thing that could have been discovered, the familial connection to it helped to alleviate any problems I may have had with that. I asked for something potentially compelling, and I certainly got it.

- I thought the characters were all well written, though I did wonder how long they were at Redwall and what Kellen's plan was. It sounded as if Burl and Calla had already decided to stay at Redwall and were finding roles for themselves, even though Kellen's fate was unclear- though I can only assume he died by what was said. If he did survive though, wouldn't they just go back to holt? This was just a nitpick though, and nothing I really took off for.

- The writing was great of course, though maybe became a little rushed at the end once Burl finds the spice.

The Forgotten Language by Vera Silvertooth

- First off, I appreciated the unique discovery and the ties it had with the established canon. I thought it particularly clever and interesting. The only real complaint I had with it was that I wish we could have learned what was wrong with the bees. At the present, Olvan figures out how to talk to them and then suddenly everything is fixed, but that may have been attributed to the word count.

- Speaking of canon, the writing and atmosphere- whether it was just for exposition and introspection, or character dialogue- all felt distinct and peaceful. While Redwall novels like to have grand battles, this felt like those first few early chapters where everything is calm- the peace that Redwallers fight to maintain.

- I got a good sense of the characters, and found Olvan easy to relate to for several obvious reasons.

Striking Out by Vizon

- Barnabas isn't very likable, but that's fine, I didn't ask him to be. What I really like here is how his character is handled. While it would have been predictable for the Abbot to simply convince him to rejoin society again and to stop alienating himself, instead you went the opposite direction and had him discover that he just wanted some excitement again. You don't necessarily need to be part of groups to be happy.

- I noticed a couple of writing issues and weirdness, but nothing dealbreaking. Barnabas is Barnaby at one point, and I think the first paragraph of description is a little strange- though fitting for Barnabas' POV. Your dialogue is always on point though and felt natural.


Okay, that's all done. Now on to the actual part you all were waiting for. The results.

The votes are in, and the winner of the first Mini-Contest issssss:
New Recipes by Matra Hammer

Congratulations to you, Matra, and a job well done. As the winner you will be given a special permanent badge on your forum profile, as well as the title of Mini-Contest Champion- which will be shown also with a special badge. If you manage to retain your title and win consecutively for a total of three contests, you may just be rewarded :P

Anyways, it's been fun everyone, and thanks for participating. I hope you all can apply to the next one :)


Airan

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Re: March 2017 Contest Results and Voting
« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2017, 02:14:03 PM »
And as promised, here are the other entries. Thanks again for trying your hand and I certainly hope you can try again :)

Buried Treasure
By: Tooley Bostay
Spoiler: show


The door wavered open with a wince-inducing squeal, revealing the featureless dark of the room beyond. Brother Ademar made a mental note to have Foremole’s apprentice fix the hinges on the door, then held his candle out and stepped into the room.

Before the candle even swept aside the dark, Ademar frowned. He wrinkled his nose at the tinge of must, and furrowed his brow deeper upon hearing the crunch of parchment underneath his sandals. Hundreds of papers lay strewn about the floor like some novice craftsbeast’s miserable first attempt at wallpaper. And they hadn’t even gotten the “wall” part right. The few furnishings of the room fared no better, with articles and dissertations – drafts and redrafts of all – hanging over edges like ivy. The bed was the cleanest thing in the room: a clotted mess of quilts that hadn’t been properly made since at least last Nameday.

This would take far longer than he had imagined.

With a sigh, Brother Ademar turned back to the entrance and cleared his throat. A pair of eyes poked out from around the doorframe, followed by the rest of the young otter’s head. The dibbun sniffed at the room, face twisting with apprehension.

“Come along, Chiff,” Ademar said, directing the dibbun with a wave.

Chiff clung to the doorframe and chewed at his lip. “Do I ‘aff to, Bruvva Adurmar? I already said I was sorry. Promise!” He followed the statement with a set of pleading eyes.

Ademar’s stern gaze remained unshaken. “Your father and I agreed this is a suitable punishment. You should be thankful Sister Moira had no say in the matter—she suggested you plant twenty seeds in her garden for every hole you dug.”

“I was jus’ playin’!”

When this failed to produce a reaction from Ademar, Chiff shuffled in over the threshold, posture flaccid like that of some condemned criminal. The two burlap sacks in his paws only completed the picture, looking like chains dragged behind him.

Chiff stopped in the middle of the room, a trail marked behind him from where his rudder-like tail had parted the waves of paper. “Why’re we ‘ere anyway?” he muttered sourly.

“We’ll be clearing out Sister Rosalind’s room.”

“Why?”

“Because there are others who will be needing it.”

“Why?”

“Because Sister Rosalind has left us.”

“Oh.” Chiff scratched at his armpit. “Where’d she go?”

“She…” Ademar stopped. As the dibbun’s tutor, he had no qualms with exposing Chiff to the reality of death, but the image in his mind of a quite furious Skipper shouting at him gave him pause. After brief consideration, he settled on the suitable, “She went far away.”

“She left a lotta stuff,” Chiff mused, scanning the room. “Is she comin’ back?”

“No,” Ademar said, then pointed to the foot of the bed where - half submerged by blankets, half-drowned in papers - an old plum-wood trunk lay. “Now, if you would please start with that chest. Put everything inside into those bags, and then I’ll see what else you can do.”

As Chiff waddled his way over towards the trunk, Ademar focused his attention upon a parchment-smothered desk, stacked high enough to be called a “mound” without any form of exaggeration. Unsure where exactly to start, he picked up a page at random and adjusted the spectacles atop his narrow snout. A quick scan found it to be an early version of last spring’s seasonal summation, the finished copy now resting deep inside the Gatehouse’s vault. Ademar set the paper to the side to be discarded, then picked up another.

He continued this for some time, a stack to his right quickly growing, while only a couple of pages lay by his left to be reviewed later. During his search, he found a bag of chestnuts more crystallized than candied, an untouched cup of tea, and a scone molded-over and hard as any rock. The whole process reminded him of the dirt-stained otter found in Sister Moira’s garden just that day, thoroughly taken by a game of “find the buried treasure.”

Pinching at already-tired eyes, Ademar glanced over his shoulder to see how the dibbun’s work was coming.

He frowned. The young otter knelt by the trunk, a stack of papers in his grip, no doubt a convenient distraction procured from the floor. Even in the dim light, it was clear that the trunk was nowhere close to empty, with only one of the bags barely half-full. Sighing at the dibbun’s familiar lack of focus, Ademar stepped forward. The crackle underfoot caused Chiff to jump and look back towards Ademar.

“I-I wasn’t—!”

“Hand it over,” Ademar said, lowering a paw.

Ears folding down, Chiff held the papers up.

“You must keep yourself focused when someone entrusts you with a job,” Ademar said, taking the stack. “It isn’t fit for a beast to be distracted by every little thing he—”

Ademar froze, his eyes for the first time shifting down to look at the papers. They were altogether unimpressive, truly. Dust and webs clung to frayed edges discolored with age. Atrocious hand-writing marred the page, poor enough to duck the heads of even the most benighted of beasts. What made him pause, however, was that he remembered this hand-writing. Remembered the awkward feel of a quill gripped in all the wrong ways. Remembered the furious passion that had preceded every scrawled letter.

Brother Ademar swept a paw over the top of the page and brushed the dust away. He blinked at the big, garish words, inked thrice over in a foolish attempt to bold the script: The Defenders of Mossflower.

“Where did you find this?” Ademar asked.

Ears still tucked down, Chiff pointed down into the trunk. “Was in th’ bottom. Thought it was a story.”

“I haven’t seen this in ages,” Ademar said. His voice sounded distant to his ears, like the whole event was out of a dream. It felt like a dream. “I’d forgotten it completely.”

“What is it?” Chiff ventured hesitantly.

“Something I wrote a long time ago. A very, very long time ago. Stories where my friends and I could be heroes—the ‘Defenders of Mossflower.’” A smile crept across his face, and he carefully flicked through the stack of papers. “We went on such adventures—rescuing Abbess Benedine from Urgeye the Fearsome, storming the Keep of Stonebark to find Martin’s lost shield, hiding from the cannibal lizards of Sampetra...” His smile grew and he laughed. “Oh! The utter outlandishness of those adventures! I was half-convinced I truly was the Abbey Champion, at one point.”

His smile faltered as further memories came to mind. Memories of growing up, of diving further into his studies, of becoming more and more distant from those stories, and the dear friends that helped bring them to life. At some point, he’d simply stopped caring.

The dreamlike haze lifted, and Ademar looked up from the papers to the disorderly room. His last conversation with Rosalind had been about some grammatical mistake he’d found in her Nameday speech. He remembered shouting. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d spoken to her as a friend, or the last time he’d even thought of her as a friend. A chill rattled through his old bones, forming a hollow pit within his chest as a single question came to his mind: what else had he lost over the years?

“So what ‘appens?”

Ademar turned to Chiff, finding the dibbun staring up expectantly at him. “I’m sorry?”

“In yer story.”

Ademar hesitated. “I’ve… forgotten.”

“Oh.” Chiff chewed at his lip. “Could… yew read ‘em to me, then? That way, we both know what happens.”

The dibbun’s face lit up with interest and excitement. On reflex, Ademar drew in a breath to shoo Chiff’s interest away—these stories, for whatever nostalgic value they possessed, were terribly old and weren’t of any concern to the dibbun. Furthermore, there was work to be done.

And yet, he said nothing. Once more, that question in his mind, “What have I lost?

He rubbed a thumb along the frayed edges, then drew in a breath. “I… don’t suppose one story would hurt much.”

Chiff beamed up at him, all his teeth exposed. Ademar found himself smiling as well.

He plucked up his candle, walked over to Chiff, and with the slow care of any aged beast, lowered himself down to the floor. He shimmied in place until his joints settled comfortably, then set the candle atop the trunk, adjusted his glasses, and cleared his throat in the proper manner of a tutor ready to address his class.

And then he read his story.


The Lost Journal
By: Kingsdotr
Spoiler: show

Milbee slowly swept across the floor, her gaze focused on the boards beneath her paws. She pressed down on the handle, carefully inching each bristle along. Sister Hortentia’s words rang in the young shrew’s ears, “An infirmary is the epicenter of cleanliness and peace. ANY dirt endangers the patient’s rest and recovery. Clean it all!”

Milbee’s strokes quickened. She must earn her place here, and the infirmary was a sanctuary of sorts. The other spaces in Redwall Abbey were far too busy. At least here, sweeping every corner, she had an excuse to keep her eyes down, and wouldn’t be scolded for failing to join in whatever activity.

Abbess Song had approached her yesterday, paws clasped and looking wise. Milbee couldn’t even look up and catch the warm smile coloring the old squirrel’s voice. “Are you doing well, young one? After so long alone, it must be overwhelming to have so much company!”

Milbee muttered something inane, and when the abbess tried to continue the conversation, babbled about needing to finish something, and fled here.

“Useless,” she mumbled to the rustling straws. “It’s just make-work. ANY beast could sweep floors better.” She slowed, then with a tail-shake and a nose-twitch, she briskly continued, reprimanding herself. “Just because your job isn’t important, doesn’t mean you won’t earn one!” A drop slid down her muzzle. She hastily wiped it away, trying to banish her mother’s words. Each insult found its mark, and they all meant the same thing: not good enough. She wondered if that was why she had been left behind.

“Stop it,” she snarled, stabbing with the broom. “You are not worthless! You can earn your way!”

“Ah,” said a deep rumbling voice behind her. “So you are a shrew, after all. I thought we had gained another mouse!”

Milbee squeaked, dropped her broom, and turned to see Cregga Badgermum, looming in the doorway. “I…” she gasped, wringing her dress anxiously. At Cregga’s smile, her ears flattened, and she dropped her gaze. “I was only sweeping up, marm, I wasn’t being impertinent, if you need…something…” With each word her volume dropped, and she shrank within herself. Why was she always like this around other beasts? She knew the kind abbey creatures meant no harm, would never raise a paw to her for getting in their way.

She didn’t see the alarm flood Cregga’s face, but she did see the shadows of two massive paws move forward. She cringed away, and tripped over the broom. It clattered, and the shadow froze. “Oh, youngling,” came a low voice, and the sorrow and pain it held brought Milbee’s head up. She was astonished to see tears running from the blind eyes, the heavily scarred paws hanging limp.

Gasping, Milbee forgot her fear, and ran to the badger. Words wouldn’t come, but she grasped the bottom of Cregga’s apron, and tried to wipe the massive face. She was too short, and the nearness of the old Guardian caused her to tremble. Before she could back away, the large figure stooped, and gently touched her snout to the cloth.

Milbee couldn’t help her chuckle, and Cregga smiled again. “There you are,” she crooned. “Not so scary, eh?”

Milbee shook her head slightly, then realized that the blind badger couldn’t see it. She carefully wiped the striped muzzle, then dropped the apron into place. The badgermum smiled again, and slowly extended one paw, as if not to startle her again. “Will you help me to a bed?” she asked.

Startled, Milbee inched closer, and took it. She glanced quickly towards the only bed big enough for the massive beast, then tugged slightly on the paw. Cregga lumbered in the indicated direction. Pausing, Milbee cleared her throat, then asked hesitantly, “Marm, is your room not…” She trailed off, unsure how to continue.

The badgermum smiled disarmingly, and sat gingerly on the bed. “My room does well enough, but there is something here that does an old badger’s heart good. Besides,” she mumbled confidingly, “my room hasn’t been cleaned in ages. It’s rather hard to rest when there’s dust about.” She straightened, then inched into a prone position, her head resting on a pillow. “The infirmary is always so clean, it eases the soul.”

Milbee perked at the praise, and she rubbed the bristly fur on top of her head in embarrassed pleasure. She offered, “I’m… ‘most done here, marm. Might I… straighten…” She broke off, astonished at her audacity.

Cregga’s smile burst out wider than ever, and she growled, “That would put me at ease! Other beasts in the abbey are so busy, I hate to take them away from their tasks. But if you…”

“I’ll do it now!” Milbee interrupted, brightening. She snatched her broom and scurried from the room.

If anybeast had seen the shrewmaid in the badgermum’s room for the next hour, they would have thought her some other creature entirely. What little dust there was danced frantically away from her cloth, and no invading pests stood against the onslaught of broom and mop.

Pausing in her industry, Milbee was surprised to find herself humming some long-forgotten tune. Why was it so much easier to clean for Cregga than Sister Hortentia?

Spying a high shelf that looked neglected, Milbee fetched a stool, then stood on tip-paw, straining to flick her cloth over the surface she would not see. Her paw stubbed against something, and she cried out, pulling it back and shaking it. Carefully reaching again, she pulled out a dusty, ragged, ancient book.

Looking furtively over her shoulder, she examined the book, finally opening it. The name Brother Hollyberry was scribed on the first page, and Milbee read the next pages furiously, soon lost in the tale it told.

She was snapped out of it by a commotion outside, and she started guiltily, trying to hide the book in her skirts, before she realized that the figures dashing by were not interested in her.

Curious, and slightly ashamed of having gotten lost in the book, she followed them back to the infirmary.

The Badgermum was still on her bed, but now she seemed troubled. Her fur was damp, the muscles in her muzzle drawn in discomfort. Abbey-beasts in earth-toned habits surrounded her, murmuring anxiously.

“She’s taken fever!”

“It must have been those traveling players, that mole seemed off!”

“I’ve heard of these symptoms, but they haven’t been seen in seasons! They called it Dryditch Fever.”

Gasps were heard all around, Milbee’s included.

“Dryditch Fever! Why, it’s incurable!”

“No, it’s not, there’s an old wives’ remedy, I’ve heard. Something to do with flowers…”

“Yes, that was it! Icy flowers, carried by golden eagle, after being blessed by the sun!”

“Don’t be daft! Where will we find an eagle to carry anything, let alone flowers made of ice?”

“It’s not flowers of ice, it’s flowers from Icetor!” Milbee blurted out, unable to keep quiet. “And you don’t need the eagle, that’s only superstition.”

All eyes turned to her, and she nearly turned herself inside-out at the scrutiny.

Abbess Song, unnoticed until now, stepped forward. “How do you know this?” she asked gravely.

Trembling, Milbee slowly raised the book.

The abbess took it from her, studying it. “Do you know the remedy?” she asked after several minutes, her words punctuated by moans from the afflicted badger. Milbee nodded dumbly.

Smiling gently, Abbess Song gave her back the book. “Then you may assemble it. Sister Hortentia will help you, but I want you to do the work. Who knows,” she intoned, her mild eyes twinkling. “You may make a fine infirmary sister someday.”

Milbee clutched the book to her in agitation. “Yes, Marm!”

Dazedly she turned to the herbs and tinctures lined up against the wall, barely noticing the abbess shepherding out onlookers. Searching amongst the bottles, she found one which had only the picture of a flower. The sketch looked like the flower in the book was described, so she took it and began gathering ingredients on a side table.

She turned to find Sister Hortentia studying the bottle thoughtfully. Milbee froze, afraid that the infirmary sister would be offended at Milbee’s sudden promotion.

“You know,” the sister opined, “I always wondered why we would occasionally receive these little blue flowers. There was never an explanation, only that it was an old arrangement with the falcons.” She looked at Milbee standing frozen, then huffed, “Well? What next?”

Milbee forced frozen limbs to move, and while consulting the volume, upended everything in a pot over the hearth.

A day later, the venerable guardian was awake, and though a few others had fallen ill, they had been quickly dosed, and Milbee was sure there would be no deaths. She breathed a sigh of relief.

Sister Hortentia offered her a wintry smile. “Well,” she allowed, “I suppose you will do as my apprentice. It isn’t easy, but,” she glanced at the patient, “certainly rewarding.”

Milbee never smiled so brightly. 


Dibbun's Dishes
By: Rose
Spoiler: show
“I’m bored!” The squirrelbabe Gavin complained to the dibbuns surrounding him.

   “We could play ‘Hide the Acorn’,” Myrtle the mousebabe suggested sweetly.

   “We’m played that six toimes a’ready!” answered Willem in his young molespeech.

   “Better den sittin’ here doing nothin’,” Dunia said fiddling with her hedgehog spines.

   “Good afternoon, dibbuns!” Father Chanza had been enjoying his afternoon stroll when he overheard the dibbun’s dilemma. “I believe Miss Slippa could use some help in the kitchen today. Would you young ones like to have a cooking lesson?”

   Willem was instantly on his feet. “Anythin’ is better den ‘Hide the Acorn’ again!” The others agreed. With their minds made up, the dibbuns dashed across the front lawn to the Abbey kitchen.

   “Wait for me!” Father Chanza called after them.

   Slippa the badgercook was just pulling a fresh loaf of bread out of the oven when four dibbuns and a worn out Father Abbot burst into her peaceful kitchen.

   “Farver H’Abbot said we could have a cooking lesson!” Gavin shouted out.

   “Oi want ta make a zoop!” Willem announced as he grabbed a ladle and began chasing Dunia around.

   Father Chanza looked helplessly at Slippa. “Sorry, I should’ve asked you first. I’m afraid I have all their hopes up now.”

  “Nonsense, Father! This is a great idea. Come over here, dibbuns, to my recipe cabinet. Each of you may choose a recipe and Father Chanza and I will help you make it. We can have a competition t’see whose dish will be served at dinner.”

    Willem, knowing just what he wanted quickly found his favorite Vegetable Soup recipe. Slippa got him started washing vegetables while she started a pot of boiling water. The other dibbuns were taking a little longer to decide. When Dunia and Myrtle had completely emptied the recipe cabinet and begun discussing their favorite Redwall dishes, Gavin reached all the way to the back of the cabinet to see if they had missed anything. His paw fell on a piece of parchment in the back corner of the cabinet. He pulled it out and saw that it was a recipe, presumably a very old and well-loved one. The parchment was yellowed with age and stained with spills, so much so that he couldn’t read the name of the recipe. The ingredients included sweet fruits and cream which Gavin loved. With such an obviously well-loved recipe, how could he lose?

   By that time Dunia had settled on making a Crispy Cheese and Onion Hogbake and Myrtle had gone to the pantry to pick out mushrooms for Stuffed Springtide Mushrooms.

   Father Chanza and Slippa were going around helping each dibbun. They settled into a system of Slippa helping Myrtle and Willem, and Father Chanza helping Dunia and Gavin. Slippa was busy helping Myrtle cook her prepared mushrooms in butter when Willem’s soup started boiling over. “Miz Slippa!” Willem called in a panic,” Moi zoop is overflowing!” Willem’s shout startled Gavin who was trying to carry a big jar of cream over to the counter. He tried to steady himself, but it was too late. A bunch of cream sloshed over the top of the jar and splashed onto the floor.

   Slippa rushed over to stir Willem’s soup and calm him down while Father Chanza grabbed a linen cloth to wipe up the cream on the floor. Myrtle was continuing to stir her mushrooms, but they were starting to burn while Slippa was busy with Willem. Dunia’s hogbake was already in the oven and she was using all the distractions to wander off and sneak into Slippa’s candied chestnut stash. Slippa looked around in dismay; her peaceful kitchen had become chaotic. Dirty dishes lay strewn around, there was food spilled on every counter, and her cookbooks were scattered about in front of her cabinet.


   Two otters had slipped into the kitchen during the chaos. “Ahoy there, Ma’am,” the bigger one said, ”Skipper Trigg and my mate Nellie at y’service! We heard a bit of ruckus and wondered if we could help.”

   “Skipper Trigg,” Slippa cried out, “How long has it been since we’ve last seen you? A month?

   “Actually two, Ma’am, and we’re happy to be back in time fer dinner! Why don’t you let us and our crew finish up in here for you?’

“That would be most welcome Skipper!” Slippa exclaimed. She then proceeded to tell him about the dibbun’s contest.

   “Don’t worry about a thing Miss Slippa! My crew and I will have everything ready in a jiff! You just get y’self a cup’o’tea and relax fer a bit. You too, Father Abbot!”


   With that announcement Father Chanza and badgercook Slippa left the kitchen for a much needed rest. Trigg’s mate Nellie had left to retrieve the rest of their crew and now otters were pouring into the kitchen. As they came in Trigg assigned them to their tasks. “Scout and Briggle, get these dishes under control. Maisy, help Myrtle get a fresh batch of mushrooms cooking, and throw out the burned ones. Travers and Shelley, I want these counters to be spic’n’span!” Soon the kitchen was put back in order and delicious smells began wafting out of the kitchen alerting everybeast it was almost time for dinner.

   Father Chanza and Slippa were sitting at the table sipping cool mint tea and relaxing when the dibbuns filed out of the kitchen bearing their dishes. Slippa’s eyes widened as the vittles were placed before her, and Father Chanza stifled a gasp. The dishes were beautiful. Trigg and Nellie had proudly followed the dibbuns out and smiled at the reactions of Father Chanza and Slippa. All of the dishes were steaming hot except Gavin’s unnamed fruit and cream dish, “Wow, I’m impressed young ones! These vittles look delicious! Where shall we begin, Slippa?”

    “I second that! I’m very proud of you young ones! I think I’ll try this scrumptious looking Vegetable Soup first.” Slippa and Father Chanza made their way through each dish, with many compliments. They finally finished the last hot dish placed before them; now all that was left was Gavin’s unnamed dish. Father Chanza immediately started tasting it, but Slippa hesitated. Her smile was slowly disappearing. “Gavin, what recipe is this?”

   “I dunno Ma’am; the name was worn away. It looked pretty old,” Gavin replied nervously, unsettled by Slippa’s reaction.

   “Would you bring it t’me, please?”

   “Yes Ma’am!” Gavin ran back to the kitchen and grabbed it off the counter where he had left it. Slippa still had not touched his dish when he got back. She gingerly took the old recipe into her paws.

   “What’s wrong, Slippa?” Father Chanza asked, pausing his sampling.

   Tears suddenly began falling from the badgercook’s eyes. “This was my mom’s recipe,” Slippa said in a shaky voice, “She made it every year on my birthday. No one else has ever made this recipe before t’my knowledge. When she died I tucked the recipe away in the back of my cabinet and forgot about it. I haven’t seen it in many years.” Slippa was talking to no one in particular, but everybeast’s eyes were fixed on her. Nellie wiped away a tear herself, moved by Slippa’s story.

   Poor Gavin didn’t know what to do. “I’m so sorry Miss Slippa. I didn’t know. I just saw how old and stained it was as if it had been made many times b’fore, and I thought such a well-loved recipe would be sure to win our competition.”

   Slippa suddenly looked right at Gavin and a little smile began to peek through her tears. “You’re right young one. This recipe was loved by all who tasted it. I’ve a feeling my mom wouldn’t be pleased with me hiding away her special recipe.”

   Everyone began smiling again as Slippa gently picked up a spoon and scooped out a bit of fluffy cream mixed with sweet fruits. She placed it in her mouth and tears began to flow again. But this time they were tears of joy as the taste brought back sweet memories she had long fought against. Now she surrendered to them and a peace settled into her heart that she had been missing for a long time.

   “I propose a feast in honor of my mom with this dish as the centerpiece! And since we are having a feast, we’ll need all the food we can get, so we’ll serve all of the dibbun’s dishes!”

   “Yay!” Everyone shouted as they ran off to make preparations for the feast.


   It turned out to be a spectacular feast, and all the dibbun’s dishes were loved, but none more than Gavin’s dish, the centerpiece of the feast.


   Slippa was alone in her kitchen later, cleaning up some of the last spills on the counter when she heard Gavin’s small voice behind her. “Miss Slippa? What’s the name of the recipe?”

   Slippa smiled as she answered, “Fruit in a Cloud.”

   “Thank you!” Gavin replied.

   “No, Thank you Gavin,” Slippa whispered as he left the room.


Vizon

Re: March 2017 Contest Results and Voting
« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2017, 02:38:51 PM »
Congrats, Matra! Well-deserved.  :banana:

Can't wait to read these other stories also! I'll respond to each once I get them read.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2017, 03:48:24 PM by Vizon »

Matra Hammer

  • Matra Hammer
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    • Awards
Re: March 2017 Contest Results and Voting
« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2017, 10:18:39 PM »
Wonderful morning news. I humbly accept this award on behalf of all otters everywhere. Never would've gotten this far without exploiting their adorable children for my personal gain.

Thank yous all around for those who voted (for me or otherwise) and for those who entered. And for those who didn't do either? For those who just read? Thanks to you too. It's my hope you join in next round and give this fair contest environment a shake.

I'll drum up some reviews a la the style I used for the first three. Please let me know if you've any specific questions and/or requests.

Matra Hammer

  • Matra Hammer
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  • *
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Re: March 2017 Contest Results and Voting
« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2017, 01:39:59 AM »
Keeping good on my promises for a change. Here are some app-style reviews for the remaining three entries. Again, please let me know if you'd like anything else, or if you've any questions. Too shy for a forum post? My PM box is always open.

Let's dance.

Buried Treasure

Pitch
A Redwall veteran, disciplining an adventurous dibbun, realizes he's lost the spirit he's punishing.

What Do We Know About Ademar?

He is a rule-following, hard-lined brother of Redwall Abbey.
He is incredibly thorough and observant - all the details he notices about the room, the memories, etc.
He would rather lie to a dibbun than hurt one with reality - "(The Dead Sister Rosalind) went far away."
He is a story teller at heart - old books full of tales he once wrote.

What Does Ademar Want? Need?

Ademar wants the rules followed.
Ademar wants to clean up after a lost friend.
Ademar needs to pull himself outside of the Redwall routine.
Ademar needs to be honest with himself and those around him.

What Are Some Tools The Author Uses?

Author relies on an opinionated narrator - "And they hadn't even gotten the 'wall' part right" - for setting tone.
Author uses complete sensory descriptions for setting the scenes - smells, colors, textures, etc.
Author swings the tempo with contradictions - "It isn't fit for a beast to be distracted..." and Ademar is immediately distracted, the whole of the story where a stickler rediscovers his whimsical tale telling, etc.
Author sizes paragraphs to the pace of the story - stand-alone lines to set off important information, block paragraphs for ponderings and so on.

Matra's Thoughts

Appreciated: Thematic Clarity - Buried Treasure establishes and completes its story in full, without too many side bits clogging the works, better than all the entries. You know who Ademar is from the beginning, you know what's wrong with him (stickler,) and the challenges before him (facing the old for better or worse - Rosalind's room, old stories.) You could lobby a criticism that the characters are too straight, but I think this rendition of "kid teaches elder the original magic" is simple and perfect for a Redwall tale.

Improvement: Directive Overload - There are so many little spots of descriptive nothings throughout that're distracting and pace killing. All the instances where a character: turned, hesitated, looked, walked, stopped, froze, frowned, and so on. Most all of them you can remove without seriously sacrificing on clarity or tone, for the set pieces and dialog conveys all their emotions and more. An example: Ademar hesitated. “I’ve… forgotten.” Why tell us of the hesitation when it's in the dialog?


The Lost Journal

Pitch
A shrew looking for a new start finds a miracle cure as well as a new profession.

What Do We Know About Milbee?

She is a new, shrew arrival to Redwall who used to live alone - "after so long alone..."
She is a nervous beast - constantly dropping things, or freezing, or dashing off.
She is curious as a rule - pokes into book, follows commotion to the infirmary.
She is capable when compelled - cleans Cregga's place when asked, assembles cure when asked.

What Does Milbee Want? Need?

Milbee wants a new life - realizes she's better off than she was, but still wants more than sweeping floors.
Milbee wants to be useful - overthinks everything, giving herself pep talks, etc.
Milbee wants the best for those around her - natural caretaker vibes in everything she does.
Milbee needs acceptance/direction, which she finds at the end through Hortentia's deferment and the abbess' assignment.

What Are Some Tools The Author Uses?

Author uses a 3rd-person close narrator - we often hear Milbee's thoughts and reactions specifically, but it's not Milbee telling the tale.
Author riddles narration with adverbs - brightly, heavily, dumbly, gravely, etc with 40+ examples.
Author relies on affected and attributed dialog for blocking and pacing - many ellipses, and "character blanked" after/before dialog.
Author employs flashbacks and ingrained knowledge for setting up every conflict.

Matra's Thoughts

Appreciated: Well-Flawed Character - We love seeing heroes at our best and worst, and Milbee is certainly on the back end of some trouble. Watching her bumble around, trip over her own tongue, and wrestle with courage is wonderful and grounding in ways a lot of the other entries were not. Why? Because not all heroes have a destiny to fall into, or a special talent. Some grow through chance or rising to an occasion they didn't know existed...even if the Abbess is pushing her along. Everyone likes a little engine that could, and Milbee is that to a T.

Improvement: Neat Little Packages - A lot of information about Milbee, the conflict, and the setting itself is deposited without much preamble - "She's taken fever!" ... "Dryditch Fever! Why, it's incurable!" This is curious because the author takes the time in building up Milbee, for most of the first half, but so much of the action happens in a "now this, now this, now this, and done" fashion. Take the walk. Make plot triggers like Dryditch Fever, the flowers, and so on, be important to the scene, or, more importantly, the main character.


Dibbun's Dishes

Pitch
A cloud of dibbuns have a cook off, and one squirrels up an old favorite.

What Do We Know About Gavin?

He is a squirrel youngster with a pack of youngster friends enacting youngster hijinks.
He enjoys sweets, and loves getting his paws into places that don't belong.
He is impetuous - spills cream, suggests cooking lesson, goes for a random recipe, etc.
He is a bit twitchy and a bit nervous - replies to adults by with apologies first, back peddles

What Does Gavin Want? Need?

Gavin wants to have fun! He's bored; the boy tells us he's bored.
Gavin wants to try new things - mystery recipe, cooking lessons, etc.
Gavin wants to do the right thing - quick to ask what's wrong, or follow the recipe.
Gavin needs, uh, he needs a need? This squirrel is simply a babe in Redwall and nothing more.

What Are Some Tools The Author Uses?

Author relies on Redwall knowledge - all of the dishes are straight out of the official Redwall cookbook
Author employs humorous dialog and slapstick to keep the pace clipping along.
Author uses a storyteller narrator, a beast in the know commenting on the chaos before them.
Author is careful with section breaks and formatted paragraphs - this might seem like a "duh" thing to point out, but it's extremely helpful and sorely missed when not provided.

Matra's Thoughts

Appreciated: Beautiful Authenticity - This is the most Redwall thing I've read in the longest time. Three full contests, years of fanfic work, and all sorts of reviews. The lovely molespeech, the charming little bundles of fur having genuine, innocent fun. Yes, innocence. In a contest full of tragic beasts with dead parents and plagues of bees, Dibbun's Dishes is wonderfully clean and heartwarming - even if there's no real turn or development. This piece is a poem or sword quest away from falling out the center of one of Jacques' books.

Improvement: Chaos - There are A LOT of characters. Right from the start of the piece we're told of four dibbuns, all with unique personalities and species, then the father shows up, then the cook, then the skipper and all the otters. On one paw it's wonderful seeing the glory of the source material in action (Redwall always has a pack of rowdy dibbuns, and action swirls about the kitchens) but on the other paw this is a short piece. All the space used for extra characters could've gone towards specific character development.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2017, 10:43:17 PM by Matra Hammer »

Tooley Bostay

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Re: March 2017 Contest Results and Voting
« Reply #12 on: April 01, 2017, 02:03:56 AM »
Big congratulations to Matra for the win! An excellent showing among an already creative selection. Also props for coming back around with reviews for the runner-ups. I know I appreciated hearing your thoughts on my entry (darn descriptive nothings. I'll work on that in the future), and I'm sure the sentiment is shared by my fellow runner-ups.

I said I'd review the rest of the entries, and by golly, I mean to keep my word. Don't have a whole lot of time on-hand right now, so I'm going to start with some fun-facts about my own entry, and then edit my reviews of the other two in tomorrow. Sorry for the wait--bear with th' weasel!


Buried Treasure

I knew that for my entry, I wanted to work in as much depth as I could. With only 1.5k words, every single one should matter, so the name of the game here was "layers." That was the challenge I laid out for myself, though the success of each attempt varies.

First, and what originally spawned the entire concept of this scene, was that I wanted to work in an ode to Survivor contests as a whole. This is where Ademar's old stories came into play: these adventures, fueled by collaborative passion, that are at once wildly imaginative and utterly ludicrous. With that in mind, I wanted to represent two different sides to Survivor contests: the veterans, in Ademar, and the newcomers, in Chiff. Life has carried Ademar away from these old stories, but despite definite flaws in the craft, they still hold this magic, filled with memories of good times. And meanwhile Chiff just thinks the idea in general is super cool, and wants to hear the story. I had no place to put it, but I even wanted an inspired Chiff to run out and start his own stories with his friends.

Second to the focus of layers was that I went for a lot of duality within the structure of the narrative. Matra pointed some of this out, like with Ademar reprimanding Chiff for being distracted before immediately being distracted himself. The biggest one, however, is that the "story" ends up being a dual metaphor for Ademar himself. Everything that follows the first instance of Ademar asking himself what else he'd lost is meant to be taken in both its literal context, but also in a more figurative one. Chiff asking Ademar what happens in "his story" (see: his life, in the present), and Ademar's hesitation representing his conflict with setting aside his hard-line ways. Finally, the solution presented by Chiff: read the story (open up), and you'll find out what happens in the story (you'll figure out the mess you've just realized you're in). Also leads directly into the final sentence. By opening up, he's reading his story/moving forward.

And finally, there are the various instances of the visual motif of digging for treasure, hence the very title. You have the obvious ones, of Chiff's playing "Find the Buried Treasure" in a garden, and Ademar digging through the papers on the desk, but there's also the fact that you have Chiff searching through an old chest, and he ends up finding what is, in quite a real sense, actual treasure. Plus the general visual of the room itself, with papers all about that need to be waded through, and Ademar searching them for important ones to keep.

So yeah, those were my general goals with the story. As for various fun facts, my initial draft swapped the roles quite a bit. Chiff was incredibly sullen with a father constantly berating him, while Ademar was a far more tender tutor, albeit one that wasn't sure what the answer for mending Chiff's attitude was. I liked it, but I found that the setpiece and the linchpin (finding the stories) didn't really seem to make sense. I played around with Ademar being the Recorder, then I added Rosalind, but the only way it seemed to work was if I swapped things up a bit and made Ademar the one who needed to change, instead of Chiff.

Also, Ademar is a dormouse. I did specify it in the draft, but it was a bit too telly, and I couldn't find a place to naturally slot it in. Looking back, I really should have had some identifier in there as to his species.

Really happy with how this came out, and even though it didn't make top 3, I really had a blast writing it and challenging myself. Thanks for the opportunity, Airan! =D

The Lost Journal

An intensely shy shrewmaid in desperate need of hope finds some through the Abbey badgermum, and puts to use forgotten knowledge to save her newfound friend.

Probably the first thing I noticed off of this entry was the emotions that run the course throughout the whole thing. There's this massive, depressive quality to Milbee in the beginning, shifting into tears being shed by both her and Cregga. In some cases, this works, as feeling that "weight" that's on Milbee's shoulders is necessary. It's clear that she suffered constant emotional abuse as a child, and seeing her nervous, twitchy manner is terribly awkward to read, which is great. It should be.

I appreciated the canon details and references scattered throughout. Seeing Abbess Song and Cregga again was surprisingly fun, and I think were a wise choice, rather than creating new characters entirely. With how extreme Milbee's situation is - emotionally - it's good to have a sort of "anchor" in characters the audience already knows.
Going off of that, I thought Cregga's tenderness was really sweet. Even if it was just a random badgermum, it was a good choice--contrasting this tiny, neurotic shrewmaid against a huge, warmhearted badger. Milbee needs someone like Cregga to break through the walls she's built.

While I love all of the above concepts, I do wish the execution was a little stronger. Throughout the whole piece, we're told so much about past events. Hortentia's words are remembered. Immediately after, so are Song's words. We don't really get to experience Milbee's awkwardness in the present--only her recollections of it.
This focus on describing things in the past also ends up leaving less time for things in the present. Take her initial meeting with Cregga. I really like the framework of the scene: Cregga finds a crying Redwaller, her heart goes out to them, and while Milbee is initially afraid, she softens to the badger because of Cregga's lack of harshness. That's awesome, a really lovely scene, but the execution goes by so quickly. I'm not exactly sure why Cregga begins crying, for example, which unfortunately weakens the impact of a really nice scene.
I was also expecting all the while that the whole sickness would have been some clever ruse on the part of Cregga. It just seemed so convenient that she drops the "my room is so dusty" line, is already on an Infirmary bed when she gets sick, and Milbee happens to find the book in her room.

Overall, I think this is a really wonderful scene, hampered by its execution. The emotional beats needed a bit more time, and the plot structure itself could have used some clarity to justify the coincidences, or perhaps been retooled to remove the coincidences entirely. I do feel for Milbee, though, and think the author's choice to showcase a character struggling with such emotional abuse is an admirable one. All the pieces are here - which is the hard part - just needs more polish on the execution.

Dibbun's Dishes

Four dibbuns of Redwall compete to bake the best dish for dinner, and one stumbles upon a precious - yet lost - recipe.

From the get-go, this one is clearly the most Redwall of all the entries. As Matra said, it feels like it could have been plucked right out of one of the books. There's hardly any conflict at all, and that's totally fine. The closest is that the kitchen gets into a little bit of a mess, but it's all taken in gentle stride. And that's the greatest strength of this entry: this feels like Redwall. Children bust into the kitchen without warning and say they've been promised a cooking lesson? The cook says it's a splendid idea and goes with it! Otters pop in? Well, they're back from a long trip, just in time for dinner, and are primed and ready to clean up all the mess and help out the dibbuns! There's just no guile in this piece. No cynicism whatsoever. Kudos to the author for nailing the feel of Redwall.

There's a large cast of characters in play here, which surprised me, given how few words each author had to work with. The characters' personalities are a bit simple and unsurprising (the otters are "go-getters" who always have a team at the ready. The dibbuns are mischievous and curious. The authority figures of Redwall are joyful and have ceaseless patience.), but I don't think that's a flaw. Many of Jacques own characters didn't rock the boat, and the "normalcy" of everything here fits the tone of the piece.
Also, that food genuinely made me hungry. I want me some Crispy Cheese Whatsit or whatever it was called. Nom nom.

While I don't think the characters' personalities were a flaw, I did have trouble spotting who the central character was supposed to be. At first, I thought it would be Willem. After the introduction of the four, Willem is the one who does the three next actions immediately following: (Willem was instantly on his feet.; ...make a zoop!” Willem announced; Willem, knowing just what he wanted...) But, as it turns out, Gavin is the main lead of the four dibbuns. This should have been established earlier, because it wasn't until about halfway through that I realized "okay, I guess this is primarily about Gavin."
Also of note are some SPAG errors spread about the piece, mostly in the double-spaced paragraphs. I wasn't sure if these were supposed to be scene breaks or not. The latter two appear to be scene breaks, while the first two don't.

As I understand, this is the first bit of prose that theauthor has ever finished, and it's a great showing. It's a little bit chaotic, and could use some sharper focus, but the most important part - the tone and feel of the story - is a straight homerun. Definitely encourage Rose to continue writing, and I'm eager to see what else she makes in the future. It's only up from here!

...also, I will say, as soon as I saw "Slippa," I just couldn't get this guy out of my head:

"Martin! Get these dibbuns off me!"
« Last Edit: April 14, 2017, 01:39:37 AM by Tooley Bostay »