Monday, January 2, 2012

Spookymilk Survivor X: Payoffs

A couple weeks ago, you'll remember we had to write cliffhangers. I wrote a pretty decent one (which apparently intimidated everyone, because no one paid it off, though I have no idea how I'd pay it off myself, so it's something like a season finale of a TV series in that way, since almost none of those end up paying off in a particularly fulfilling way).

This week, we had to pay off those cliffhangers. The only rule was that you couldn't choose your own (fine by me... I wouldn't have, anyway). I chose Matt Novak's, and never even considered another.

Here's my entry.

The battle raged on, but it quickly became apparent that it was a battle that the crew couldn’t hope to win. They fought valiantly, but were eventually boarded. Pirates poured onto the main deck and began to round up the survivors. Edward and James O’Leary were prodded below deck to show the pirates what the ship had to offer. One of the pirates was getting much too close to a door that Edward needed to keep him away from at all costs.

The marauder lingered for a moment near the door to Rashmi’s cabin. Another couple of seconds, and he would surely find her – Edward’s imagination recoiled at what would happen then. Edward had to act quickly. Bravery was going to have to come in an unorthodox manner.

“We’re carrying a supplies for the new colony!”

“Edward, no…” moaned First Mate O’Leary, but it was too late. The pirate moved away from the cabin door. Edward needed to keep him moving further. He shot O’Leary an apologizing glance.

“There’s plenty of food and fresh water to supply a ship like yours for at least three months.”

The man started toward him cautiously. “Why would ye be assisting us?” he motioned his sword toward Edward “what be in it for ye?”

Suddenly a booming voice came from the top of the stairs. “What, indeed?” as the pirate captain smirked down at them all, captives and pirates alike. “Still, if the boy be telling the truth…”

Edward led the pirates to the supplies. The pirate captain nodded approvingly. “It took minerals to give up yer cargo like that to save yer crew, especially when they’ll hate ye for it,” he said, “I’ve a proposition for ye.”

“Go on.” Edward said, eying him warily.

“I’ll turn a blind eye to whatever or whomever else might be aboard yer vessel on one condition. You come aboard my ship and live the life of a buccaneer.”

Edward startled – God, no… “And if I refuse?”

“My crew are quite thorough about tearing a ship and her crew apart to find what might be hidden.”

Edward thought of Rashmi’s kiss. Then he thought of her final words to him.

“…be waiting… you are the one to be brave”.

He made his choice, Edward the deck hand was gone. He would begin his life anew as a pirate. For Rashmi.

...and here are the judge's comments...

K: The ending lines felt a little hammy to me, and the dialogue is a little…obvious, but this story does have the excitement and scope of the lead-in. Once again, I want to see what happens beyond this installment. 4

DK: A logical direction for this story to end up going in, although the way it gets there (i.e. the content of dialogue of the pirates) feels a little perfunctory and (sorry Colin) on-the-nose. 3

Okay, some things were conspiring against me here...

a) It was late, late New Year's Eve Night (or early, early New Year's Day. take your pick), and I had been drinking beer, wine, and champagne since about 6. My sobriety wasn't gone, but it was compromised.

b) Matt's original piece (readable here)  had a great serial-like quality to it (it's why I chose his to payoff in the first place), and I didn't realize how difficult it was going to be to recreate that while still having that semi-unrealistic sheen that all of those old serials had. I came up short on that front.

c) My dialog writing skills, which have been pretty decent so far this season utterly failed me. Everything here was super on the nose. "And if I refuse?" come on, man... that exact line has been used no fewer than nine billion times.

I still mostly like where I took this, I just should have given myself the time to polish it a bit, since the dialog is rough, and it gets to the point too quickly. What I won't apologize for is the sappy, hammy feel that the whole thing has - that was the point. Matt's wasn't super hammy, but it had that cheesy "boy on the high seas" vibe of the old pirate serials or Treasure Island (which was a partial inspiration when I was writing this). Again, that's not a slam at all, that's why I picked it.

The unfortunate part about this whole thing is that if I would've cleaned it up even a little, I might've gotten a 4 from DK, which would have given us just enough to beat out Spoiler Alert. As it stands, we were in last place by a fraction of a point. It stands to reason that the dream team would have to evict a player on the first week that we actually got full submissions.

Vogons ain't vogonning this week.


  1. I know a lot of season finales don't even have endings written yet when the season comes to a close. Sometimes, the writer doesn't even care, because he's not scheduled to write the finale in three months.

  2. Not scheduled to write the payoff/premiere in three months, Beau means. But, yes, 'tis true.

  3. Matt's wasn't super hammy, but it had that cheesy "boy on the high seas" vibe of the old pirate serials or Treasure Island.

    Aww... that's exactly what I was going for! I often walk that hammy line, but got lucky this time (if you ever have a chance to read a romance by me, turn it down.). I really thought yours was pretty consistent with mine. I think the added challenge here was that the serial nature of the story lends itself to doing entire chapters, and you only had 400 words to work with. I had more in the original, and was able to kind of pick up wherever I needed to so that I could reach the end of a chapter. You didn't have that luxury.