Workshop scene assignment


Okay, one of the assignments we were given last week in this Short Stories workshop was to write a scene that would get critiqued by everybody, and we’re doing the critiques tomorrow. I thought I’d share it with you guys, and I’d love it if you let me know what you thought!

First, here’s the notes I took for the assignment:

Write a scene.
Do a number of these things:

  • Introduce change
  • build action
  • complicate the plot
  • increase tension and drama
  • move the story along
  • build conflict
  • introduce characters
  • create suspense
  • Provide information
  • use at least three senses
  • create atmosphere. (weather, structures.)
  • Develop theme.
  • Movement in relationships (emotional)

Include at least three senses.
Conflict and resolutions
max of 1000 words, but the tighter the better.
Open it with a sentence that you could only use in spec fiction, or that means something different in spec fiction than mainstream.
each sentence should do something new, to progress the scene, and pull the reader along.
Include a hook.
Possibly an opening scene.

And here’s the scene I came up with. Let me know what you think:

Amelia was getting tired of looking for the dogs of Hell coming up behind her. The corners of her mouth turned down slightly as she peered through the dark storefront windows. “Are you sure that this man can help us?”
“No,” Charlie admitted, nodding briskly. “But he’s the only person in town who might know something about the Vault. Since we’re skipping town, I figured it was worth asking him.”
“And can we trust him?” Amelia pressed.
“As much as we can trust anybody, with the prophecy getting out,” Charlie said, and opened the door. Amelia flipped her hair over her shoulder and proceeded inside. There were no people in the store-room; it smelled dusty and looked half abandoned, though there were still books, papers, and unidentifiable nicknacks on the shelves. Charlie led the way to a doorway in the back room.
There were four waxy candles, one in each corner of the room, which flickered as the breeze was disturbed, and a short man who sat at the table in front of a gigantic open book, but he looked up as they entered and candlelight glinted off his eyes. “Charles! How’s it going? Who’s your perfectly lovely friend?”
“Bart, this is Amy,” Charlie said, gesturing to her and making a stiff half-bow. “She’s in a tight spot, and I’m doing what I can to help her out. I wondered if you might be able to tell us a little about what we’re dealing with.”
“For you, anything, Charles,” Bart insisted, getting up and hurrying around the table. The chairs in the back room other than Bart’s own were filled with piles of parchment or short wooden wands. “Sit down, sit down. What do you need to know? Vampire fighting, a good cache of silver weapons? Don’t tell me that Amy needs to learn to cast magic spells in a few hours.”
“No, that isn’t it,” Charlie settled in one of the wooden chairs as Bart cleared off its contents and took Amelia’s hand. She squeezed his fingers and waited for the other chair to become free, trying to keep her knees from shaking. “How’s business?”
Bart shot Charlie a look as he hurried around to his side of the table. “This must be bad. But if you want small talk, then – business is lousy. Did it look like I was really open for customers? The Council Warder gave me a second warning. I’m trying to lie low until somebody else claws up his most wanted list. Mint, honey?”
Amelia took a moment to recognize that Bart had asked that question to her. “Um, yes, please.” Bart produced a small bowl of red and white candies, and once she had picked one, the bowl went back into a desk drawer on Bart’s side. She glanced over at Charlie to make sure he thought it was okay, and popped the mint into her mouth, and felt saliva flooding down her cheeks and freeing the sweet and strong flavors.
“Okay, I guess I’ll get right to it,” Charlie muttered. “How much do you know about the Pandrica Vault?”
“Huh?” Bart shook his head in confusion. A burst of cold air rushed in through the doorway, making Amelia shudder. One of the candles went out, and the others started to produce an inordinate amount of smoke, making her eyes water and throat itch in just a few seconds.
“Cut out the theatrical effects,” Charlie growled, and the candles began to burn brighter and cleaner again, though the temperature stayed on the chilly side.
“The problem with you, Charles my boy, is that you’ve never understood a wizard’s connection to magic. I don’t do wizardry, wizardry works through me, and when I have an emotional reaction, things like that just happen.” Bart shook his head. “But the Vault? What do you need to know about that for?”
“It’s a prophecy,” Charlie said, nodding over at Amelia. “Verified as legitimate and everything; that she’ll either die or kill a King for the sake of the Vault ”
“Hmm… that’s nicely enigmatic,” Bart muttered. He closed the big book with considerable effort, then pulled out a ballpoint pen and a spiral-ring notebook and started to doodle on it – either that, or he was writing in some alphabet that Amelia didn’t understand. “I can think of a few Kings who’d want to make sure that she dies first.”
“Where is the Vault?” Amelia blurted out
“I don’t know,” Bart told her flatly. “Based on the legendary sources, I’d guess somewhere in the new world – the Americas. It wasn’t mentioned in European sources until at least the 1680s. I can do a bit more research if you’ve got time, but don’t expect a street address.”
“Any idea who could help us further with that?” Charlie asked sharply.
“You know Griffin’s in the Bronx?”
“I’ve heard of it, don’t really know where to find it myself.”
“East 169th,” Bart muttered sourly. Charlie glared at him. “That’s as much as I can give you, really.”
Charlie leaned across the table. “There’s one more thing. What’s important about the Vault, in legend?”
“Well, it’s a very old legend, and the secret of the vault was that it held a way of fashioning the lightest, strongest, sharpest metals ever.”
Amelia blinked. “That’s it?”
“Back in 1300, somebody with that secret could probably conquer the world,” Charlie muttered. “But with the development of titanium and aluminum alloys, it’s not that important. I don’t see how it fits.”
Amelia didn’t see either, and she felt a chill that had nothing to do with cold air blowing into the back room, making her shudder violently. If the legend of the Pandrica vault had no relevance to the modern world, then would her plans for using it to fight her way out of the prophecy come to nothing? Was she doomed to die, simply from self-fufillment?

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