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  #1  
Old 02-24-2012, 12:04 AM
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Default Short-Story Academy

Concurring with Evening Star and others that writers ought to start with short works, I am offering a free-for-all "practice" thread. My recommendation is that anyone using this thread make their story NO LONGER THAN three installments. Thus, three or more stories would be able to fit on any numbered site-page.

Stories can be totally original; but I'm going to begin with an unusual fan fiction. It will be a JOHN WAYNE fan fiction, based on one of his best Westerns, "Rio Lobo." I'll start where the film leaves off. For those who never saw that, Mr. Wayne was in something like his late forties when he made it. His character, Cord McNally, is a Union veteran of the Civil War who settles in Texas afterward. Not as an evil carpetbagger, of course; in fact, he's quick to make Southern friends as he combats the villains. The movie has THREE beautiful heroines in it, so that each of the two main YOUNG male good guys can get a girl of his own, yet the Duke still have someone at the end also. "Rio Lobo" probably was one of the LAST Wayne films in which he DID get to have a love interest.

As for how they made it seem plausible for Cord McNally to be able to cross an age gap-- my fanfic story will build upon that. (Just because I'm engaged to a woman MY OWN age, doesn't mean I can't write something about a man winning the love of a younger woman!)

I'll write this tale sometime in the next twenty-four hours, God willing.
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Old 02-24-2012, 02:39 AM
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Default "Rio Lobo Epilogue"

The smoke of gunfire, and the smell of blood, were barely starting to blow away from the streets of the Texan town of Rio Lobo; but already, the ordinary citizens of the town were beginning to grasp what a marvellous thing had happened this morning. Most of the former Confederacy was suffering, and would continue for years to suffer, from the distresses of the Reconstruction; but here, a former YANKEE cavalry colonel had become the leader of a band of REBEL veterans, in a successful battle to get rid of a crooked sheriff. Here, the reconciliation that Abraham Lincoln had hoped for was already taking shape.

Colonel Cord McNally, the man who more than any other individual had made it happen, would have time later to share in the large-scale rejoicing. Right now, however, his attention was much more narrowly focussed. He was chiefly aware of two things: the pain in his left leg, where he had stopped a bullet in the gunfight with Blue Tom's gunmen... and the beautiful Mexican woman who was helping him walk to the local doctor's office.

Tuscarora and Pierre, who had been with McNally in the campaign to free Rio Lobo from a petty but murderous tyranny, both had sweethearts of their own to celebrate with: Maria and Shasta. Those two women, like those two men, were young, making for a natural matchup. Cord McNally, though still durable and vigorous, was undeniably of an older generation than those ladies....

...and the same thing applied to Amalita, possibly the loveliest of the three. A strong girl in her own right, Amalita had finished off Blue Tom, the crooked sheriff, with a rifle. As vengeful as she had been against the outlaw leader for his having sadistically gashed her face with a knife the day before, now she seemed still more wholehearted in showing a new tenderness toward the rugged Northerner who had set in motion the liberation of her hometown.

Cord had been mostly solitary since the Civil War had ended--and for much of the time before it began. Duty had taken the place of marriage and family; but right now, as Amalita unabashedly crowded close against him while supporting him on the injured side, he knew that he had never completely lost the desire for those normal, comforting relationships. The seven-inch-long wound from Blue Tom's knifepoint was on that side of Amalita's face which was toward the Union veteran. There was no way she could hide it in any case; but horrified though she herself had been to realize that she would be scarred for life, she clearly sensed already that Cord did not find her ANY less attractive for being disfigured to that extent.

It was just every OTHER man whom Amalita expected to consider her ugly now.

Still, Cord felt himself LESS, not more, of a prize for marriage than the senorita was. Any man with sense could easily block out of his mind the really not so severe effect of the knife-rip on the beauty of Amalita's face; but the brutal reality of Cord's being easily twice her age would not go away by being ignored. For sure, he owned a good ranch over near Blackthorn, which gave him the attraction of being able to offer material security to a wife; but a woman would rather have a man who wasn't SO much older than herself...

They reached Doctor Stoddard's office, to find that Tuscarora's foster-father had already told the sawbones to expect a patient. Being acquainted with Amalita (who worked at the dry-goods store), Stoddard said to her, "Danged if you ain't hurt yourself, Amalita!"

"Blue Tom's work," rumbled Cord McNally; "but she paid him back with interest this morning. Only, having to lie low till now, she didn't have a chance to get treated for the cut. So, Doc, I'd be much obliged if you'd see to the senorita FIRST."

Amalita's reaction to this was remarkably vehement: "No!! Mister McNally, my cut is ugly, but YOUR wound is dangerous! Doctor Stoddard, help HIM first!"

"Infection's what's dangerous," the Colonel replied. "I can tell that the bullet I caught hasn't opened any major blood vessels, or I'd be passed out from bleeding by now. You need to have that wound cleaned. I lost as many men to gangrene in the war as to bullets; I sure don't want to lose YOU now."
He was allowing himself to toss her a hint about warmer feelings, because her anxiety for him had seemed like a hint of her own feelings.

Doctor Stoddard looked at Cord, and at Amalita, before saying with a smile: "Colonel, I'll do as you say-- because this may be the ONLY time you ever get to decide things where Amalita's concerned."

Amalita's embarrassed look when she heard this was another hint for Cord: a mighty encouraging hint, in fact. The physician went to work.
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Old 02-24-2012, 03:35 AM
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While Amalita's gashed face was cleansed with whiskey and stitched up, Cord remained quiet, but was not aloof. The senorita tightly gripped his hand to keep herself from screeching with the fresh pain. When it was over, Stoddard smiled again. "Now comes your reward for being a good patient," he told her. "You get to tug off the Colonel's trousers."

"If you're gonna do that," said Cord, "you might as well hold my ankles down once the pants are off." And she did.

Cord had endured enough pain in the war, and in earlier adventures, that even while his leg was being probed in case of an embedded bullet, with no more anaesthetic than some of the whiskey, he was able to set this pain aside enough to look at Amalita. She was using all her strength to help keep Cord motionless on the table... and her eyes increasingly declared that she felt more than just compassion for a wounded man.

"You're lucky," Stoddard said at last. "The slug didn't break up inside you, and it came out the back of your leg. Amalita, thanks; now could you go see if someone can round up a new pair of trousers to replace the Colonel's blood-soaked ones?"

While the young woman was out on this errand, the physician-cum-surgeon spoke seriously to the gunman: "I hear only good about you, Colonel, and I hear it from people I know and respect. So I feel sure of hearing a good answer when I ask you a question. You've come to the South doubtless knowing that with so many war deaths, women here have less choice of men than they'd have had otherwise. Men like that Ketcham coyote have come to Texas reckoning they could help themselves to the spare girls. As for you, you've shown only honorable character so far; are your intentions toward Amalita equally honorable?"

Cord was glad enough to talk, as a distraction from pain. "Well, Doc, if it's honorable for a man who's done enough of shooting and getting shot, to want to see if he can find a wife who's tough and brave and able to build a good life with him, then I guess my intentions are honorable. And since you seem to know her, tell me something. That cut she was given makes HER feel as if she's ruined in the eyes of most men. Do you think she could be so desperate to latch on to the ONLY man who she knows likes her anyway, that she'll ACT attracted to me when otherwise she wouldn't give me the time of day?"

"Because you're older, you mean. Colonel, I suspect you're exaggerating the harm that age does to your cause, as much as Amalita's exaggerating the harm her scar does to HER cause. A little shyness in each of you may not hurt, for it's been said that the best marriage is one in which the man and the woman BOTH feel as if they're amazingly lucky to have landed the other; but you and she had better not hogtie yourselves with worry before you even start."

"Does all this mean you figure I should go ahead and court her? She got family I should speak to?"

"Amalita's got no surviving relatives this side of the border. She's free and of age, so she'll answer for herself. I do think you should court her--because I feel in my guts that you'll do her no wrong, and equally that she WON'T regret it if she marries you."

When Amalita returned, it was with Pierre and Shasta, both of whom had been with Cord in the outlaw-hunt which had seen its violent conclusion this morning. "I got you some trousers," announced the Louisiana-born Confederate veteran, holding them up.

"And if Amalita will keep on helping you walk," added Shasta, "you can wear the trousers at the celebration tomorrow night."

"What celebration is that?"

"A celebration for three things at once, Colonel," explained Pierre. "For the town being set free from the outlaws without any more citizens dying; for Tuscarora setting a wedding date with Maria; and for ME setting one with Shasta."

Shasta playfully shoved Pierre. "Braggart! We haven't set a date yet!"

"But by the time the party starts, we will have."

Amalita looked at Doctor Stoddard. "Please, can you lend a walking stick to Mister McNally? It would be terrible if he couldn't move around at his own party."

"I can do that," Stoddard replied. "But I bet he'd rather keep leaning on you."

"I confess I did enjoy having the lovely senorita propping me up on the way here," said Cord. "But I wouldn't want to take advantage of her."

Amalita's eyes gleamed. None of the others in the room with her was giving any thought now to her scarred face; and for the moment, Amalita herself seemed to be forgetting it. "Use the cane, Mister McNally; but I promise to let you lean on me again for SOME of the time at the celebration. That is, if you want to."

"Amalita, I shall take you up on that kindly offer... because you and I may have some important things to say to each other at that celebration. Part of which will be for you to call me by my first name."

"All right.... Cord." Her smile said considerably more, as she drew closer to him. In fact, her smile was already saying "YES!" to the question he was going to ask her tomorrow night.

And Cord McNally no longer felt so awfully old.


>) THE END (<

Last edited by Copperfox; 02-24-2012 at 10:49 AM.
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Old 02-24-2012, 04:25 AM
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The reason why I ever thought of writing the above story was because the end of the movie was VERY, VERY understated. They gave us about forty-five seconds in which to see signs that Cord and Amalita WOULD be getting together romantically. They say less is more, but I didn't like it being SO MUCH LESS. Hence this little epilogue. As I went into it, I didn't know how far I would take the characters. I could, for instance, have depicted the town's victory celebration, and shown Cord maybe struggling to dance with Amalita. Even proposing to her.

But this is a thread for SHORT stories, not novels. What I did write was enough to give the reader DEFINITE assurance that there would be love and marriage in store for two sympathetic, likeable characters.
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Old 02-24-2012, 05:40 AM
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This is such a great idea! I can't bang the drum enough for shorter works of fiction.
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"There! You see!" said the Ape. "It's all arranged. And all for your own good. We'll be able, with the money you earn, to make Narnia a country worth living in. There'll be oranges and bananas pouring in -- and roads and big cities and schools and offices and whips and muzzles and saddles and cages and kennels and prisons -- oh, everything."
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Old 02-24-2012, 10:55 AM
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Thank you. And while we're waiting for YOUR contribution ---

Short-story writing will often resemble packing for a trip when you're only allowed one small suitcase: you HAVE TO decide what to leave behind. My process of deciding how far along to take Amalita and Cord before ending the story, was of this nature. But sometimes, short story though it be, you need to ADD one more thing. As I logged back onto the forum this morning, I realized that I'd forgotten to mention how the Civil War would have decimated the husband pool for single women in a Southern state (which was also true for the North, but to a much lesser degree). So I inserted that item just now.
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Old 02-24-2012, 11:55 AM
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Default God and Cosmic Evil

I'll take that as an invitation.

I'm cheating slightly and posting something I had already written.

This is a Doctor Who story. The reason I am posting it is to show the potential for the short story within fan fiction. With a show like Doctor Who, you have a vast amount of continuity, as well as a wide range of characters. How do you use that to advantage in a short story?

The piece below is part of a series of short stories that I wrote. Although it is part of a series, it is a self-contained incident (with reference to other stories) and I know some people enjoyed who had not read any of the other stories in the series.

It demonstrates how you can offer perspectives on the backstory within a fantasy/sci-fi perspective, as well as exploration of how a character reacts to them. It also offers the chance to explore something not so much seen in Doctor Who- the religious perspective of the characters.




God and Cosmic Evil


As they walked through the forest, Klein asked the Doctor what planet they were on.

"Knuhm," he replied.

"Knuhm? Is that not the name of the Egyptian deity whose temple we visited in ancient Egypt, in Elephantine?"

"Indeed, Klein. Having exhausted all the Roman gods, humans went on to name planets after Egyptian gods. The original inhabitants are all extinct, so what they called it, no one can say."

Klein's memory of ancient Egypt was a little foggy. "I remember entering the temple, but I can't remember anything after that."

"Yes, you were badly affected by race memories. An effect of encountering beings from your primordial past," said the Doctor.

The pair approached a ruined temple. There was something foreboding about it, a lingering sense of rancid evil.

"Shall we go and explore?" asked the Doctor.

"That is what we are here for, Herr Doctor," replied Klein, determined not to show any trepidation.

Though the temple was partially in ruins, it became apparent that much of it was very well preserved. It was decorated with many strange statues, some of them quite disturbing. There were winged serpents with many heads and masses of eyes, as well as monstrous bat-like creatures. There were also many carvings depicting vast armies engaged in bloody warfare, disemboweled corpses and hideous dog-like creatures tearing other beings apart.

Klein was not a superstitious person, but she was convinced that there was something absolutely evil about the place. Not just any evil, but a twisted, maddening horror. She thought she could hear a voice whispering through the air, saying 'Look out! We are coming back!' The place seemed to be playing tricks on her mind. Once or twice she even thought she could see fleeting images shifting before her.

"We've seen enough," said the Doctor. He led the way out of the temple.

"Doctor, what is this place?" Klein asked.

"Billions of years ago, when the universe was still young, my people experimented with black holes in order to gain mastery over time. They unwittingly opened a gateway to another universe, allowing in creatures called the Yssgaroth."

"What kind of creatures were they, Doctor?"

"It's not clear whether they were real beings or simply a force of negative energy antithetical to this cosmos. They usually manifested themselves as monstrous winged serpents like some of the statues in that temple. They desired only to destroy and corrupt this universe."

"If these things came from another universe with different physical laws, they must have been an unstoppable force," said Klein.

"They had a weakness. As their nature was antithetical to this universe, they were unable to remain in it for long. They found a solution to that, however."

The Doctor's face snarled as he explained these things. Clearly it was a subject that troubled him deeply.

"The Yssgaroth absorbed some of the biomatter of this universe and fashioned for themselves bodies of flesh. They became terrible creatures; giant bat-like monsters that feasted on blood."

"Vampires," whispered Klein with a shiver.

"That is where the legends originally came from. Not only did the Yssgaroth create bodies for themselves, but they also transformed and corrupted the biodata of many lifeforms in this universe, turning them into vampires. My people, the Time Lords were assaulted by a vast army of monsters. The vampires had allies too."

Despite being disturbed by these tales, Klein was fascinated. There was an epic quality to these legends, like one of Wagner's operas.

"Before this universe was born, there was another universe, a very different one. Some of its inhabitants survived its destruction and made their way into the new universe. They were known as the Great Old Ones, beings with terrible power. Among them were Yog-Sothoth, known as the Great Intelligence and Hastur the Unspeakable, known as Fenric. Fenric was the first of the Old Ones to make common cause with the Yssgaroth. Those wolf-like creatures in the temple carvings were his beasts. The Time Lords were almost overthrown by such power that was assailed against them. The war they fought across space lasted so long that it was known as the Eternal War."

"The Time Lords won this war?" asked Klein.

"They did, and it changed them forever. After facing such powers they had become gods and they saw fit to shape the universe as they pleased."

"Where does the temple come in to this?"

The Doctor frowned. "The Yssgaroth spread so far across the cosmos that they came to be worshipped on many planets. The original inhabitants of Knuhm erected temples like one to the Yssgaroth. There are even hidden cults amongst humanity that seek the return of their kind. There are always foolish people who seek power from sources far beyond them. My big worry is that the new colonists on Knuhm may take too much interest in this temple. I suspect I may have to return here."


Klein dwelt upon the things the Doctor told her about the Eternal War and the Yssgaroth. The thought of such cosmic horrors had shaken her to the core. The things worshipped in that temple were pure evil. The universe now seemed a much darker place and from what the Doctor had told her, the host of Time Lords were almost as bleak as the monsters they had fought.

There had to be a God somewhere in this dark and treacherous universe. Klein had to believe that. She had never been a religious woman, but she was no atheist. Atheism was for Communists. In her timeline, Christianity had been in decline since the Third Reich's victory over Europe, though in the Sixties it had begun a resurgence.

Klein had never given the subject of God much thought before. Her parents' true religion had been National Socialism, but they had still counted themselves as good Protestants and had her baptized and had taken her to church on occasions. Perhaps with such evil things inhabiting the universe, she needed to give faith some more thought.

That night, after she had put on her nightgown, before climbing into bed, she knelt down and prayed.

"Dear God," Klein prayed. "I don't think I have prayed since I was a little girl, but I thought I had better start now. I have seen such evils in this universe. I have seen such chaos. The forces of good and right must triumph somehow. God in heaven, I believe you are real. Show your power and grant me the chance to restore the Third Reich to what it should be. Let me reclaim the destiny that should belong to my race and people."

Klein got into bed and drifted into sleep, confident that God would grant her prayer.
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"There! You see!" said the Ape. "It's all arranged. And all for your own good. We'll be able, with the money you earn, to make Narnia a country worth living in. There'll be oranges and bananas pouring in -- and roads and big cities and schools and offices and whips and muzzles and saddles and cages and kennels and prisons -- oh, everything."
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Old 02-24-2012, 12:29 PM
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I officially endorse this good and/or service.
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Old 03-04-2012, 11:29 AM
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Default Last of the Gardenborn

A short story based on the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series by Tad Williams.

Utuk'ku is queen of the Norns and the oldest of their kind. The Norns are basically the dark elves of Osten Ard. She also stands in the same wintery tradition of the Snow Queen and Jadis.

Grief and despair can make one into a monster!

A short story like this can allow one to look deeper into the motives of a character who is not in the foreground of another work.




Last of the Gardenborn




In a vast cavern below the ruins of Nakkiga, a woman sat upon a silver throne. Her face was concealed in a silver mask and she was clad in a silver gown. Her long white hair fell across her body. Her white feet were bare.

Utuk'ku, queen of the Norns, let the memories drift through her mind as she sat through her eternal vigil. So many centuries, so many events.

The memories of people came to her. So many that she had known had been lost. Her husband, her son, her daughter-in-law; all dead. All dead because of the humans and their cursed iron. Grief burned in her heart; a fire that had never faded since the first Norn died by human hands.

As Utuk'ku roamed through her sad memories, the choir of the Lightless Ones entered the cavern, moving silently on their bare feet. They were clad in pure white robes.

The Lightless Ones began to sing, waking Utuk'ku from her meditation. They sang of the Garden, the ancient home of the Hikeda'ya. They sang of its beauty, of its glory and the peaceful lives that the Hikeda'ya had once lived.

Utuk'ku remembered the garden. She alone. Even Amerasu Ship-Born had never dwelt in the Garden as she had.

Images found their way through Utuk'ku's mind. Trees; taller than any of the trees of this land. Flowers in so many colours, with exotic scents that she could almost smell in that very chamber. The Garden had been so different to the cold, dark caverns of Nakkiga.

Utuk'ku remembered the warm sun shining down in the Garden. It had been so much warmer then. She had known so many centuries in this frozen northern wilderness. She no longer felt the cold anymore.

She remembered the feel of soft grass beneath her bare feet. Not cold stone. How long since she had walked on gentle meadows?

None of the other Norns had known the Garden. Only she remembered. They would never return. The Garden was lost to the Hikeda'ya forever.


A child was presented before Utuk'ku, the daughter of one of her lords.

The girl padded nervously before the throne on her dainty bare feet. She was dressed in a violet gown. There was a seashell in her hair, a reminder of the days when her people had come from across the sea.

Beneath her silver mask, Utuk'ku smiled at the girl. Utuk'ku had been a child in the Garden. She remembered running and skipping and dancing for joy. She had been so happy, delighting in the radiance of it's goodness.

As she had been instructed, the girl began reciting the history of the Hikeda'ya people. She could be no more than six decades old. She knew nothing of the events she was reciting. She knew nothing of the weariness of centuries, of the lonely ravages of the years.

"And the humans drove us from our lands," recited the girl. "They burned our cities and slaughtered our people like animals."

"And do you hate them for that, my child?" asked Utuk'ku.

The girl frowned with anger.

"Yes, I hate all humans," replied the girl.

"It is well you do," said Utuk'ku. "You may return to your parents now."

The girl pattered out of the cavern. She moved so quickly, with so much energy. So unlike the rest of the Norns.

Seeing the girl lifted Utuk'ku's mood. A new generation of Norns. Was there hope for the future? Perhaps her people could continue on and reclaim the lands that had been taken from them. Was there room for joy and hope on her lonely pilgrimage through time?

Utuk'ku's heart began to warm. Then it cooled again.

The child reminded Utuk'ku of how old she was; she reminded her of the lingering centuries with which she had been saddled. The child had so much time before her. Time for joy, for love, for happiness; all of the things of which Utuk'ku had been robbed. Her frozen heart burned with envy at the thought.

Perhaps her people had a future. Perhaps the child would go on to live for a thousand years. But the Hikeda'ya had no future without her. Never would she allow a single Norn to outlive her.

No life in all the world would be permitted to outlast Utuk'ku. When the last flower had withered, when the last bird had silenced its song; Utuk'ku would be there. And when the last living thing crawled from a ruined earth, be it insect or rodent, Utuk'ku would stamp it out. She would survive all life on earth. All would perish before she allowed herself to pass away.
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"There! You see!" said the Ape. "It's all arranged. And all for your own good. We'll be able, with the money you earn, to make Narnia a country worth living in. There'll be oranges and bananas pouring in -- and roads and big cities and schools and offices and whips and muzzles and saddles and cages and kennels and prisons -- oh, everything."
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Old 03-11-2012, 06:49 AM
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Was the name Amerasu adapted from the mythical Japanese goddess Amaterasu?

While I'm thinking about it: some novels GROW FROM short stories. For instance, Anne McCaffrey's million billion Dragonrider novels all owe their existence to her novelette "Weyr Search," originally published in Analog Magazine in the neighborhood of 1964.
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