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The Battles We Wage 1.1

by Tuckster


A/N: This is a revamp of an idea that's been at various stages of the writing process for the past 4-ish years. In some ways, this is a first draft (since I haven't received feedback or seriously edited these exact words), but in other ways it's a 4th-5th draft because I've been refining this idea for so long. That being said, I would particularly appreciate comments about the characterization, pacing, writing style, and plot. TYIA!

A low rumbling shook the foundations of Skylar's home. Skylar stirred awake and squinted out her window. A roving searchlight peeked through her window, which was all Skylar needed to see to crawl out of bed and stumble into a sweatshirt and some slippers. She slipped downstairs towards the wide window that overlooked the street.

Her father was already standing there, arms crossed over his chest. “Did you see what was happening?” Skylar whispered to him.

He shook his head. “I woke up when the searchlight first started roaming, about five minutes ago. Since then, there's been no action.”

The next moment, four black SUVs pulled onto the street. Two dozen foot soldiers approached from either side and descended on the house directly across from them. Two officers lifted a battering ram and slammed it into the front door. The sound of wood splintering reverberated through the cool, calm night, and Skylar sucked in a breath. The battering ram smashed into the door again, and this time punched a hole in the wooden door. An officer kicked the rest of the door in and charged inside, followed by several others. The small white beams of their flashlights carefully searched the first floor, room by room, before moving upstairs.

Faintly, the sound of glass shattering and the scuffle of feet could be heard. Footsteps slammed against the staircase, and a few moments later a cluster of officers emerged. A pit welled in Skylar's stomach as she watched her next-door neighbor and mentor fight back against several officers, who were dragging him by the neck of his sleepshirt.

“Why are they taking Moore, Dad?” she asked, her voice uncharacteristically soft.

“I don't know, sweetheart.” Skylar's dad stepped closer to her and wrapped one arm around her shoulders, squeezing her tight. “It's probably nothing,” he said, voice wavering slightly.

If it's nothing, why are there so many officers? Skylar wondered, watching as Moore was slammed against an SUV and handcuffed.

“Let me go!” Moore yelled, his voice faint as it trickled through the thick windows. “I've done nothing wrong! This is tyranny! You'll pay for what you've done, to me and to all the other innocent freethinkers out there!”

The black SUV pulled away, and Moore's pleas faded into nothingness. Skylar watched as the SUV sped away, the sole vehicle on the abandoned street, and then turned her attention back to the few foot officers who remained. One was pouring the contents of a red container around the wooden porch area, and another stood supervising, holding a small box in one hand. Once the red container was completely empty, the officer gently deposited it in a nearby waste receptacle and nodded to his partner. Four more officers flanked them, standing at the ready, gold badges glinting in the moonlight.

The foremost officer pulled something indistinguishably small from the small box. He slid it across the box, and the scene was suddenly illuminated by the small but unmistakable glow of fire. The match tumbled out of his hand and landed directly in a freshly-made puddle. Immediately, the fire exploded upwards in a blaze of glory.

“No! They can't do that!” Skylar broke free from her father's hold and sprinted towards the door. She quickly unbolted the front door and sprinted down the steps and across the street until she was face-to-face with an officer. “You can't do this! It's blatantly unconstitutional. You're destroying evidence,” she sputtered, face turning a shade of crimson that matched the tones of the fire roaring behind her.

The officer laughed, revealing a gold tooth where his left canine should be. “And who might you be, young lady, that makes you qualified to tell me how to do my job?” He chuckled and drew a cigarette from one of his pockets, lighting it and tossing the match into the fire.

Skylar fought the urge to grab him by the collar and slam him against the remaining SUV. “Do you understand who that was? Randolph Moore. He was one of the best men I've ever known.” She fought to keep her voice from cracking, but it felt as if a tidal wave was rising up in her throat. “He stood up for what was right, and just, and fair, no matter the cost. The world needs more men like him, not men who extinguish who he is and everything he stands for.” She hurled the words like weapons, but they landed in shards at his feet.

The officer chortled. “You're cute, kid, but we have orders that go higher up than you can possibly know.” His tone was smug, complacent, and reeked of superiority. Skylar shoved her balled-up fists into her pant pockets.

“You'll pay for this. Every single one of you.” She forced as much malice into her voice as she could stomach. “I'll make sure of it.”

Her threats were met with chuckles and laughter from the group of men assembled. Taunts followed her back across the street to her own home, and Skylar wiped away a burning tear that had found its way out of her eye and onto her cheek.

Her father was waiting in the doorway for her and simply collected her in his arms. “You've done good, kid. You can't save everybody,” he whispered, stroking her hair.

Skylar's chest heaved, and her entire body shuddered as she collected herself long enough to step backwards and look up at her father. “What do we do from here?”

“We sleep,” her father answered, piercing sincerity in his eyes. “Then tomorrow morning, we make a plan for how we move forward. Right now, the only thing we can do is rest. What did I always tell you about courage?”

Skylar sniffled and wiped snot from her nose with the back of her hand. “Courage isn't always the roar of a lion,” she recited. “Sometimes it's a little whisper that says, 'We'll try again tomorrow'.”


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Thu Jan 07, 2021 10:08 am
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Zoom wrote a review...



Hello Tuck ^_^

A low rumbling rumble shook the foundations of Skylar's home. Skylar She stirred awake and squinted out her window. A roving searchlight peeked through her window, which was all Skylar needed to see to crawl out of bed and stumble into a sweatshirt and some slippers. She slipped downstairs towards the wide window that overlooked the street.


I'm going to nitpick this paragraph in particular just because it's the first one and a few small things ruined the flow and stopped me from immersing. First of all, if a paragraph only features one character, you pretty much only need to name them once and then use their preferred pronouns. Names are something in particular you want to avoid repeating. We also have the triple repetition of the word "window" so similarly you want to avoid this.

Line editing aside, I think this opening is lacking visual details. We're moving from one thing to the next a little too quickly. In one sentence she's waking up, in the next sentence there's a searchlight and she's getting dressed, and in the next she's going downstairs. So I agree with Honora, I'm having to shake the imagination tree a little too hard. A useful tip when considering pacing at a line level: the time it takes you to read a sentence or paragraph is how much time passes in the story, too. It's crazy but it makes sense.

In a similar vein, we're also lacking some emotional cues, as well. Obviously, nobody wants to wake up to the foundations of their home shaking. That's usually always a bad thing. But here I'd want to see Skylar's particular reaction to what is happening. Her quick, automatic reactions suggest that she isn't perturbed by what is happening, and maybe even that this is something that happens a lot. Which is fine, but I couldn't really tell if that was the case or not.

Her father was already standing there, arms crossed over his chest. “Did you see what was happening?” Skylar whispered to him.


Usually if you front dialogue with body language, it means that person is the speaker. Perhaps this was supposed to be a standalone sentence, with the dialogue starting on a new line.

Two officers lifted a battering ram and slammed it into the front door. The sound of wood splintering reverberated through the cool, calm night, and Skylar sucked in a breath.


Ooh here we go. This is a good balance of description and Skylar being reactive.

“I don't know, sweetheart.” Skylar's dad stepped closer to her and wrapped one arm around her shoulders, squeezing her tight. “It's probably nothing,” he said, voice wavering slightly.

If it's nothing, why are there so many officers? Skylar wondered, watching as Moore was slammed against an SUV and handcuffed.


FYI this exchange suggests that Skylar is quite young. Like, at least younger than ten. I don't know how old she is yet, but just FYI.

Also, there's a slight logic problem here. If Skylar's dad is willing to lie this obviously to protect her, why not just make her stop watching, too? Like, it's odd to just flat out lie to this extent but then let her continue observing that clearly not nothing is happening.

“No! They can't do that!” Skylar broke free from her father's hold and sprinted towards the door. She quickly unbolted the front door and sprinted down the steps and across the street until she was face-to-face with an officer. “You can't do this! It's blatantly unconstitutional. You're destroying evidence,” she sputtered, face turning a shade of crimson that matched the tones of the fire roaring behind her.


"blatantly unconstitutional" isn't very realistic dialogue. I just don't see someone bursting outside in the dead of night after watching dozens of officers cart their neighbour away before burning down his house. Also now I'm even more confused by her age.

I also think this is missing a clue as to how the father reacted - like he didn't call after her or stop her in the time it took for her to unbolt the door? Nothing?

The officer laughed, revealing a gold tooth where his left canine should be. “And who might you be, young lady, that makes you qualified to tell me how to do my job?” He chuckled and drew a cigarette from one of his pockets, lighting it and tossing the match into the fire.

Skylar fought the urge to grab him by the collar and slam him against the remaining SUV. “Do you understand who that was? Randolph Moore. He was one of the best men I've ever known.” She fought to keep her voice from cracking, but it felt as if a tidal wave was rising up in her throat. “He stood up for what was right, and just, and fair, no matter the cost. The world needs more men like him, not men who extinguish who he is and everything he stands for.” She hurled the words like weapons, but they landed in shards at his feet.

The officer chortled. “You're cute, kid, but we have orders that go higher up than you can possibly know.” His tone was smug, complacent, and reeked of superiority. Skylar shoved her balled-up fists into her pant pockets.


So, guessing these are mercenaries with no identity for them to so flagrantly stand around burning down someone's house.

I'm really not buying this exchange, however. I just don't see someone engaging with a witness like this, trying to justify what they're doing / explain how high their orders go.

Skylar's chest heaved, and her entire body shuddered as she collected herself long enough to step backwards and look up at her father. “What do we do from here?”

“We sleep,” her father answered, piercing sincerity in his eyes. “Then tomorrow morning, we make a plan for how we move forward. Right now, the only thing we can do is rest. What did I always tell you about courage?”

Skylar sniffled and wiped snot from her nose with the back of her hand. “Courage isn't always the roar of a lion,” she recited. “Sometimes it's a little whisper that says, 'We'll try again tomorrow'.”


Oh, that's interesting. So this father / daughter relationship is very unordinary, then.

Also nice closing line.

---

Overall, I'll focus on the areas you suggested:

Characterisation:

It was kind of inconsistent. When Skylar and her father met downstairs, their relationship suggested very young girl + overprotective father. But then Skylar rushed outside and was using sophisticated language and thinking about slamming a man into a SUV, which suggested upwards of YA. And then when she came back inside, the father is praising her for running outside and confronting mercenaries, which suggests he's extremely negligent, because honestly what good really came from her running outside. But his reaction at that point was more strange because of his really blatant "nothing is happening" lie.

With that said, there are strong signs of characterisation in that I can see right off the bat that Skylar is a brave, doesn't take no for an answer, will move heaven and earth to seek the truth kind of person. That came across really well, and it's because you gave her agency, you let her take complete control of this scene by rushing outside and trying to do something.

Pacing:

I think I already covered this at the beginning of my review - pacing needs work at a line level. Big events pass by in the blink of an eye so just need padding out with more description or reaction from Skylar. More words = more time passing in the story. That's one way to control pacing.

Otherwise, I like that we jump into this scene and get to business. You start with the inciting incident and don't bog down the story with exposition.


Writing style:

I'd like to see you use less LY adverbs and words ending with ING. The former can be fixed by using stronger verbs so as to not need a modification, and the latter can be avoided by playing around with sentence structure. ING words aren't a huge problem but I personally think they can disrupt flow and don't look very pretty on the page.

And then I also noticed a tendency to repeat words. Here's an example of all the above:

The foremost officer pulled something indistinguishably small from the small box. He slid it across the box, and the scene was suddenly illuminated by the small but unmistakable glow of fire.


Otherwise, I tend to favour styles like yours: simple and lets the story speak for itself. I don't want to keep noticing someone's magnificent flashy style, I want to immerse, and that's what your style allows. Also, it gives you the benefit of choosing when to use really punchy lines, like the last one to close this scene. If you were trying too hard all the time, that last line wouldn't have the same impact. So good job.

Plot:

I like that you're not revealing anything too high value, here. You're keeping cards close to your chest and letting the reader wonder: who are these mercenaries? Why does Skylar care this much? What is her relationship to this neighbour? Why is her father going to help her get to the bottom of this? I think you struck a good balance with giving enough context but protecting your mysteries and the reader's intrigue.

Logic wise, I think some of what happened is a little unrealistic. Perhaps it's too early for me to say that since I'm new to your world, but mercenaries burning down a house and then staying to chat with some random girl doesn't feel legit to me.

It's okay for unrealistic things to happen in a story, but it just means you need to work harder on execution.

That should about do it. I only skimmed through the other reviews so hopefully I added something helpful.

-Zoom




Tuckster says...


Thank you so much Zoom! These comments are all very helpful and exactly what I was looking for :) I really appreciate the thoroughness of your review!



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Thu Jan 07, 2021 2:43 am
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Liebensteiner wrote a review...



Hello Tuck!

You've already gotten two wonderful reviews so I'll try my best not to be repetitive ^^ [also I'm pretty sure you already know this, but this review is one of the prizes for the checklist challenge! sorry for the delay >.>]

Let's dig right in :)

Since then, there's been no action.”

cue action :p

Two officers lifted a battering ram and slammed it into the front door.

ahem ahem aggressive much >.> Unless they have an actual reason to do so, like maybe Skylar (pretty name by the way!) and her father have a corpse in the basement o.o Or omg wait, maybe these people are the bad guys??? But if they were, I would assume that Skylar and her dad would do something, but they're just standing there at the moment so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The sound of wood splintering reverberated through the cool, calm night, and Skylar sucked in a breath.

Sentences like these give me happiness because I can almost see it and it's so nice ah <33

Footsteps slammed against the staircase,

This is super nitpicky and probably just a me-thing but feet slamming against the stairs doesn't really feel right, y'know what I mean? To me, slamming is more of like:
Spoiler! :
Image

Like I said, this could be just a me-thing and footsteps slamming is probably the right phrase :p

who were dragging him by the neck of his sleepshirt.

Is he bad or are the foot soldiers bad? - the question has arisen again >.>

“It's probably nothing,”

yeah no

If it's nothing, why are there so many officers? Skylar wondered,

Very good thing to wonder because parents have an obsession with saying everything's okay, when clearly *looks at the battering ram, all the officers, and the neighbor* nothing is okay. Love the realism here :p

You'll pay for what you've done, to me and to all the other innocent freethinkers out there!”

Ohhh so I'm pretty sure the soldiers are the bad guys.

Skylar watched as the SUV sped away, the sole vehicle on the abandoned street, and then turned her attention back to the few foot officers who remained.

Ahh another pretty sentence <3 I want to know more about the light/darkness though, it'll make it even nicer! Maybe spicen it up with something else if that's not your thing? :)

He slid it across the box, and the scene was suddenly illuminated by the small but unmistakable glow of fire.

omg rip I knew it

Ahh Skylar's outburst is very much understandable, but from the beginning of the chapter, she seemed a lot like a timid and quiet person, not really one to yell at an officer (please note that she's very close to fire as well, and could burn herself), ya get?

Skylar fought the urge to grab him by the collar and slam him against the remaining SUV.

fighting the urge to fight with an officer feels righter (that's not the word is it)!

“He stood up for what was right, and just, and fair, no matter the cost. The world needs more men like him, not men who extinguish who he is and everything he stands for.”
<3

She hurled the words like weapons, but they landed in shards at his feet.

:/ </3

“I'll make sure of it.”

please do ;-;

“You've done good, kid. You can't save everybody,” he whispered, stroking her hair.

Aw, I bet he's proud! <3

“Courage isn't always the roar of a lion,” she recited. “Sometimes it's a little whisper that says, 'We'll try again tomorrow'.”

Ahh help I love this so much oh my gosh <33

~

Okay!! The plot has me hooked (please tag me when the next segment is out, I am very intrigued), and I'm desperate to know what Skylar will do moving on, and what her father will decide tomorrow morning. I think this would make for a fantastic novel! I support you 100% with this <3

Like I said in the beginning, she seems like a timid person in the beginning after she woke up, but then again, who isn't tired/exhausted/disgruntled after they wake up xD So maybe being courageous and brave, and being able to stand up to officers is her thing! Or maybe she is a quiet person and seeing a loved one being dragged away like that hurt too much and she felt the need to do something :/

The pacing seemed pretty well done, in my opinion! Nothing else to say about that :) Honestly though, I'm not the best at pacing myself so feel free to ignore me, but I'm not kidding when I say this chapter didn't feel too fast or too slow. I say this as the reader ^^

That's it for my review! Hope this helped c: Lemme know if you have questions about this! Can't wait for the next chapter :D

Wishing you a singing, dancing good time <3

~Lib




Tuckster says...


Ah Lib this made me so happy you're the bestest <3 <3 <3
Footsteps slammed against the staircase,


This is super nitpicky and probably just a me-thing but feet slamming against the stairs doesn't really feel right, y'know what I mean? To me, slamming is more of like:

I was trying to emphasize the like heaviness and forcefulness of the scuffle going on there, but if you still think it doesn't quite fit I can rework it!

Ahh Skylar's outburst is very much understandable, but from the beginning of the chapter, she seemed a lot like a timid and quiet person, not really one to yell at an officer (please note that she's very close to fire as well, and could burn herself), ya get?
Oh dear I should rework my introduction to Skylar xD Her outburst is very in character for her; she is analytical but is also very passionate, so I really appreciate this comment ^^

Thanks again for the review!





Ah Lib this made me so happy you're the bestest <3 <3 <3

aw ;-; <3
I was trying to emphasize the like heaviness and forcefulness of the scuffle going on there, but if you still think it doesn't quite fit I can rework it!

Ah yes that makes sense! c:
Oh dear I should rework my introduction to Skylar xD Her outburst is very in character for her; she is analytical but is also very passionate, so I really appreciate this comment ^^

Ooh an analytical person :eyes:

And your welcome! <3



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Wed Jan 06, 2021 7:38 pm
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MissGangamash wrote a review...



Hey, saw this in the Green Room and I love reviewing first chapters so here it goes!

I like how you've jumped into the story and given the reader questions to seek answers to. Like, who is Moore? Who is he to Skyler? What did he do to get taken?

Nitpicks - you mentioned four SUVs but then said that the sole SUV sped away and then talked about the remaining SUV. Just needs some cleaning up.


We don't know who Skyler is exactly, but I think her running up to soldiers and screaming at them seems a little unrealistic? Even more so that her dad just stood at the door and watched her do it. Considering the way they treated Moore and then set fire to his home, seems like these soldiers aren't clean cut so why did her dad just let her run out and put herself in danger?

I feel like a more realistic scene would be her going to run out but her dad holding her back and she's trying to get free and her inner monologue is what she actually did say to them.

Overall, interesting first chapter, you definitely leave the reader wanting to know what's going on.

Hope this helps!




Tuckster says...


Thanks for the review!



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Honora wrote a review...



Hey Tuckster! I'm here for a review! I'm really glad you've decided to post this story again...it was definitely one I looked forward to in the past and was very sad to see you not post any more...but YAY! IT'S HERE! :D :D :D

Ok back to planet earth...I'll get onto the review.

So, regarding what you want to have feedback on the most, characterization, timing and pace you've got down pat. Other then a few small flow jams, I noticed that I couldn't clearly picture the image you're showing me in my imagination. I have a picture in my mind but it's a little far stretched with lack of description of the world around her. Of course, I wouldn't want you to add paragraphs and paragraphs of description but a sentence here and there would help I think.

One thing that I also noticed is that you tell me her feelings but don't really enforce them on me. I know in the moment but kinda forget how she's supposed to be feeling. So for example:

Your writing: “Why are they taking Moore, Dad?” she asked, her voice uncharacteristically soft.

Example: "Why are they taking Moore, Dad?" She asked, her voice uncharacteristically soft. The pit in her stomach tightened into a knot as her heart thudded against her ribs, threatening to burst with anger. (Fear? Sadness? I just threw anger in there :-P)

Other than that, you did an amazing job. I really like this take of your story; almost more then how you previously had it. Of course, I absolutely loved your other one but I can really feel her more. I feel really connected to her and unless I'm confusing you with another member, that was something you lacked earlier so it's awesome to see the improvement! And if it wasn't you, it still awesome to see because that's something I know is that when a reader can relate to your character, a lot of mistakes get overlooked...which is basically my only hope of ever publishing anything so yes, that is my trick :-P

Anyways, I'll leave it at that and I hope this helps you out!

Your friend,
Honora

P.S. I really love the end of your chapter. It really feels like you're promising me an amazing satisfaction in the future chapters! Love it!




Tuckster says...


Honora!! I've so missed getting your reviews <3 That's a fair point about the details; I'll try to include some more in there in future chapters. I'm glad that you felt connected to Skylar and enjoyed the ending!



Honora says...


An I missed reviewing! Glad I could be of some use :-P




Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.
— Captain James T. Kirk