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Rebecca

by BrokenSword


Prologue

A young woman ran along a damp dirt road between the dripping hickories, hard legs pumping evenly, her breath coming in small frosty clouds.

Racing the sunrise.

One slim hand grasped her calico skirt tightly and lifted it above her feet while her other hand was buried in the soft folds of a white threadbare shawl that was wrapped around her shoulders.

The sun was chasing her.

She was a skinny, sprightly girl of nineteen, with smooth, sun-bronzed sienna skin and long chocolate hair tied back in a messy knot against her head.

The light was creeping over the horizon.

She'd been wearing the same thing for weeks now; a faded purple cotton dress with white bodice lining and blue calico buttons, some of which had popped off days ago. On her feet she wore scuffed black leather gusset shoes, the soles nearly worn thin from her almost constant running.

The April sun finally peeked its forehead over the horizon. It spread its golden beams across the ground, but not before the young woman had sprinted into the woods, laughing out loud as she slowed and placed her hands on her waist.

Rebecca Williams had always loved to run. Even as a little girl, living as a slave child on the Shropshire Plantation in Georgia, she could always be seen dashing through the cotton fields, her sun-bleached bonnet flying behind her head and her hair whipping about in the wind. Many times during these runs she would accidentally spill the cotton she was carrying in her apron, and as a result her big master would beat her with his large and frightening bullwhip.

However, life was good now. She’d left those memories behind when she’d run away from the plantation about two weeks ago. There had been nothing left for her there; her father had died from bronchitis and her siblings had all been sold off. Her mother had passed on after giving birth to her youngest brother.

Alone.

The day was proving to be beautiful. The gray, overcast sky was beginning to burn away as the waking sun rose higher. The soil, wet with recent rains, began to steam a little from the warmth, and with it came the earthy fragrance of wet stones and soggy, rotting leaves.

The path Rebecca was walking down wound smoothly through hickories and oaks that towered over her like the giants in the tall tales her father used to tell her.

A small smile spread across the girl’s lips as she remembered lying on her tiny cornhusk mattress late at night while her father sat beside her on a stool. He would hold her tiny, soft hand in his callused fingers, his dark face smiling down at her and his brown eyes full of love for his little girl. She adored the stories he used to tell her as he spoke softly in that slow, rhythmic voice that reminded her of honey.

“…and so I ran and I ran, s’fast as my legs could carry me, but the giant reached down an’ scooped me up in his big hand of his…and as I was sittin’ there, scared like a jackrabbit cornered by a nasty old hound dog…wouldn’t you believe it, Becca, he smiled at me, a great big, giant smile! And then you know what happen next? Why, he propped me righ’ up on his big giant shoulder and walked off down the road, whistling to hisself!”

Becca laughed out loud, kicking up the wet layer of leaves that covered the ground like a large, soggy coat. A clump flew up into the air, broke apart, then fell back to earth like a flock of dead birds.

When she rounded a bend, she lifted her cocoa eyes from the ground. To her surprise, there stood a squat little building beneath a large oak, right before her very eyes. She hadn’t known anyone lived in this desolate area.

Becca stopped walking, caution replacing her childlike joy. Who was in that house? Better not be the white man, she thought, remembering her master’s coal-black eyes and the way they’d stared down at her from inside his pale face.

She took a few tentative steps forward, squinting at the strange building. It seemed to be a little log house with only one door and no windows. It was only when her eyes rose up above the door that she realized this wasn’t a house at all.

At the very peak of the roof stood a tiny cross, the mark of the Lord’s House. A smile spread across Becca’s lips and she started walking again, breathing a soft sigh of relief. There was no danger in the House of the Lord.

She came to the tiny open doorway and peered inside. It was quite dark; the only source of light in the church was coming through the gaps between the large heavy beams that made up the walls. It smelled like old wet lumber and dampened dust.

There were three roughly crafted pews facing the back wall, on which another wooden cross was nailed. Becca moved forward carefully, the wooden floor creaking under her slight weight. She took a seat in the first pew, remembering to fold her hands and sit up straight. “Be a humble sinner,” her father had always said.

She sat there in the silence, her large brown eyes resting on the little wooden cross. She wasn’t really praying. She was just sitting with God, right there on that old splintery pew. They were listening to the birds chirping outside together. They were breathing the wetness of the earth and the musty wood floor together. They seemed to understand each other, Becca and God, and strangely enough, they didn’t have to say a word.


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Tue Aug 07, 2007 1:37 am
MadHatter says...



I liked the story, though it was a bit over descriptive in some parts. I was hoping you would go a little bit deeper into her slave life but otherswise I think you did a good, creative job.




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Mon Jun 25, 2007 4:45 pm
Wiggy says...



I'll be doing a full critique of this soon.

Stay posted!




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Mon Jun 11, 2007 3:40 am
rainerfreak2005 wrote a review...



I like the story so far, the only issue is that it appears that both the girl's parents were slaves in which case,how is it possible for her to have long chocolate brown hair as opposed to short wooly black hair?Also, and I supposed this is nit-picking, but my whole history course was centered around slavery and I have read many books of the era and traditionally as very young child she would have been watched with other slave children by an old slave woman with a switch and as she got older she would have been doing odd jobs until she got around 10-11 when she would start field work.It is unlikely however with her pretty skin and hair that she would have been a field slave, it is more likely she would have worked in the great house.




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Wed Jun 06, 2007 4:43 pm
DragonWriter says...



It is pretty good, however it sounds like a girl in blue. WHich is about a girl who sneaks off to the war , trying to escsape a marrige. Then she is cought in the war as being A GIRL AND IS TRAINED HOW TO BE A SPY1




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Sun Jun 03, 2007 10:29 pm
BrokenSword says...



Part 1

They’d been marching for three days.

Exhausted, sweating and stinking, fifty thousand rebels trudged across the soaked landscape, struggling to remain upright and trying their best to ignore the throbbing pain in their blistered feet. The sun, however, was fading fast, providing the men with cool, long shadows from the trees.

Charles was in bad shape, beginning to slump over like a bent old man. His face was covered in a steadily thickening growth of beard and his bloodshot eyes were focused on the feet of the man in front of him. The haversack strapped to his shoulder, stuffed with meager rations and other necessities, seemed heavier than ever today, and his Springfield felt like a dead weight in his arms.

“You all right?”

Charles turned his head a little to look at his partner, Johnny, who was leaning forward a little, his wide green eyes staring intently at his face.
Johnny was a new soldier and just a boy at fifteen years of age, with wild yellow hair and a toothy grin that made the other soldiers laugh. He had a good heart, but, after watching him waste his ammunition on ground hogs and the occasional pigeon, Charles had concluded that Johnny was one of the poorest shots he’d ever seen.

“I’m fine,” Charles replied, straightening himself up a little. His tortured back screamed in pain. “Just tired, that’s all.”

“Me too,” Johnny said, pulling a plug of chewing tobacco from his pocket and offered it to Charles. “Want one?”

Charles reached out and took a plug for himself, nodding his thanks and putting it into his mouth.

“Are you ready for tomorrow morning?” Johnny asked, sucking a little on the tobacco.

Charles didn’t answer right away. His empty stomach churned slightly as he relayed General Johnston’s plan of attack for the following morning.
Grant’s men, at the moment, were unaware of the impending charge, camping in Shiloh near Owl Creek. Charles had heard from a comrade, who happened to be close to one of the general’s officers, that Johnston planned to attack the Union’s left flank. The element of surprise was critical, he’d added, so it was of the utmost importance that the men tread softly and speak little when they reached Shiloh. There, Johnston planned to stay the night and attack at daybreak. It was a risky procedure.

“I suppose,” Charles finally answered Johnny, whose mouth spread in a ridiculous grin.

“Just wait till I get them bastard Yankees in my sights,” the boy growled, stopping for a moment, a crazy gleam in his eye. He raised his Enfield to his shoulder as if he made to fire the weapon. “Bang!” he cried, bursting into peals of squeaking laughter.

Charles smirked and chuckled at Johnny’s face flushed with childish glee. He continued on walking and spat tobacco juice on the ground. “You’re really full of it, aren’t you?”

Johnny sucked on his tobacco and spat as well. “Might be, just a little,” he replied cheekily, walking absentmindedly in Charles’ large footprints.




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Tue May 29, 2007 3:43 am
BrokenSword says...



Thanks so much!! I knew a lot was missing from this piece or needed to be fixed, I just didn't know what. Thanks again, I really needed those suggestions.




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Tue May 29, 2007 2:40 am
Writersdomain wrote a review...



Hey there! So I got around to this sooner than expected. :P Whenever I get a request for a crit, I always print the piece out and make comments there, so I'm just going to go straight through the story making comments, all right? I'll summarize at the end. :D

Prologue


A young woman ran along a damp dirt road between the dripping hickories, hard legs pumping evenly, her breath coming in small frosty clouds. (good description, but more description of how this makes Becca feel would be nice. I she sweating? Cold? Anxious? Suck us into your character early on.)

Racing the sunrise.

[s]One[/s] Her (saying one slim hand makes me think someone else is grabbing her skirt. :shock: slim hand grasped the folds (to avoid close repetition of her) of her calico skirt tightly and lifted it above her feet while her other hand was buried in the soft folds (if you take suggestion of folds above, might want to change this word.) of a white threadbare shawl that was wrapped around her shoulders. (the sentence structure here seemed rather simply, and that's not necessarily bad, but I think it would be cool if you made some of those little sentences clauses or phrases to make your sentences flow more nicely)

The sun was chasing her. (Good brevity)

She was a skinny, sprightly girl of nineteen, with smooth, sun-bronzed sienna skin and long chocolate hair tied back in a messy knot against her head. (this works here, but please be careful about describing character appearance so soon - it bugs me)

The light was creeping over the horizon.

She'd been wearing the same thing for weeks now; a faded purple cotton dress with white bodice lining and blue calico buttons, some of which had popped off days ago. (wait, I thought she was wearing a calico skirt.) On her feet she wore scuffed black leather gusset shoes, the soles nearly worn thin from her almost constant running. (this sentence seemed a bit awkward because of the 'on her feet' phrase. I would suggest rewording it as "Her scuffed black, leather shoes's soles were nearly worn thin from her running." 'Almost constant' seemed a bit strange.)

The April sun finally peeked its forehead (cool!) over the horizon. It spread its golden beams across the ground, but not before the young woman had sprinted into the woods, laughing out loud as she slowed and placed her hands on her waist. (she was just running - wouldn't she be panting? Catching her breath? Sweating? Describing more of her personal body language would help this bit.)

Rebecca Williams had always loved to run. Even as a little girl, living as a slave child on the Shropshire Plantation in Georgia, she could always be seen dashing through the cotton fields, her sun-bleached bonnet flying behind her head and her hair whipping about in the wind. Many times during these runs she would accidentally spill the cotton she was carrying in her apron, and as a result her big master would beat her with his large and frightening bullwhip.

However, life was good now. She’d left those memories behind when she’d run away from the plantation about two weeks ago. There had been nothing left for her there; her father had died from bronchitis and her siblings had all been sold off. Her mother had passed on after giving birth to her youngest brother. (Agh, the last two paragraphs had a lot of telling. I don't mind that you give me this information, even though I do think that you could mention it somewhere other than the prologue, but it sticks out from the rest of the story because suddenly we lose all awareness of Becca's emotion. It's just a massive information dump - we don't know what Becca is doing, how she feels about this or anything. Work on including more emotion in these two paragraphs and keeping us aware of Becca.)

Alone. (Neat!)

The day was proving to be beautiful. The gray, overcast sky was beginning to burn away as the waking sun rose higher. (lots of passive voice in red - makes it sound awkward) The soil, wet with recent (more specific? recent sounds strange. perhaps last night's rains? yesterday's rains? this morning's rains?) rains, began to (more passive) steam a little from the warmth (you can make this sound more active by saying 'streamed from the warmth'), and with it came the earthy fragrance of wet stones and soggy (soggy is wet, no?), rotting leaves.

The path Rebecca was walking [s]down[/s] wound smoothly through hickories and oaks that towered over her like the giants in the tall tales her father used to tell her. (good)

A small smile spread across the girl’s lips as she remembered lying on her tiny cornhusk mattress late at night while her father sat beside her on a stool. He would hold her tiny, soft hand in his calloused fingers, his dark face smiling down at her and his brown eyes full of love for his little girl. She adored the stories he used to tell her as he spoke softly in that slow, rhythmic voice that reminded her of honey. (here is a good example of telling the reader something in a way that they are still aware of Becca.)

“…and so I ran and I ran, s’fast as my legs could carry me, but the giant reached down an’ scooped me up in his big hand of his…and as I was sittin’ there, scared like a jackrabbit cornered by a nasty old hound dog…wouldn’t you believe it, Becca, he smiled at me, a great big, giant smile! And then you know what happen next? Why, he propped me righ’ up on his big giant shoulder and walked off down the road, whistling to hisself!”

Becca laughed out loud, kicking up the wet layer of leaves that covered the ground like a large, soggy coat. A clump flew up into the air, broke apart, then fell back to earth like (second use of this word.) a flock of dead birds. (creepy simile - I'm not sure if I like it or not, tis a bit strange.)

When she rounded a bend, she lifted her cocoa (cocoa eyes? that reminds me chocolate - how about just brown?) eyes from the ground. To her surprise, there stood a squat little building beneath a large oak, right before her very eyes. She hadn’t known anyone lived in this desolate area.

Becca stopped walking, caution replacing her childlike joy (what does this look like? body language?). Who was in that house? Better not be the white man, she thought, remembering her master’s coal-black eyes and the way they’d stared down at her from inside his pale face.(this was a tad confusing - you hadn't mentioned a white man before this point, and it doesn't seem to add any to Becca's characterization)

She took a few tentative steps forward, squinting at the strange building. It [s]seemed to be[/s] was a little log house with only one door and no windows. [s]It was [/s]only when her eyes rose up above the door [s]that[/s] did she realize[s]d[/s] this wasn’t a house at all.

At the very peak of the roof stood a tiny cross, the mark of the Lord’s House. A smile spread across Becca’s lips and she started walking again, breathing a soft sigh of relief. There was no danger in the House of the Lord.

She came to the tiny [s]open[/s] doorway and peered inside. It was quite dark; the only source of light in the church was coming through the gaps between the large heavy beams that made up the walls (sounds a bit awkward, but I'm not sure how to rephrase it.). It smelled like old wet lumber and dampened dust. (Good!)

There were three roughly crafted pews facing the back wall, on which another wooden cross was nailed. Becca moved forward carefully, the wooden floor creaking under her slight weight. She took a seat in the first pew, remembering to fold her hands and sit up straight. “Be a humble sinner,” her father had always said.

She sat there in the silence, her large brown eyes resting on the little wooden cross. She wasn’t really praying. She was just sitting with God, right there on that old splintery pew. They were listening to the birds chirping outside together. They were breathing the wetness of the earth and the musty wood floor together. They seemed to understand each other, Becca and God, and strangely enough, they didn’t have to say a word.


If you can't tell, I was being extremely nitpicky. All of the above comments are simply suggestions so don't take them personally. This was really quite good- I liked the overall idea and lot of your description is very powerful. The main thing I noticed that you can work on is including body language and other such reactions in your main character in order to make the setting and description more alive - I think that is what is missing most from this piece.

In all, very good and I look forward to reading more of your stuff. Keep on writing! PM me if you have any questions.





Monster is a relative term. To a canary, a cat is a monster. We're just used to being the cat.
— Henry Wu, "Jurassic World"