Category Archives: NYC Short Fiction

Contests for screenwriting and short stories- a small entry fee, but a fun writing contest.

The Lost Mission

This is the entry for the second round of the NYC midnight short story challenge. I didn’t get passed on to the round three. I posted the feedback on my previous post. 

 

The Lost Mission

A man hears voices in his head, and one night in a Swiss Village they come for him.

When he awoke there were still no signs of human life. He felt at moments that there were people around him, like small flashes of life, but there was no one. There was no time, no past, no future. He was alone. They had taken them all, he thought. They came from the sky and took everyone. He wandered from kitchen to kitchen looking for food. He had been trapped in the hotel since the The Visitors had arrived. He sometimes tried to leave, but no matter which door to the outside he opened, it turned into another part of the hotel. It didn’t start this way, but he always knew they would try to come for him.

He had come to Montreaux on assignment to write a lifestyles article about the Jazz festival. The hotel was hard to miss. It was bright yellow with the name written in art nouveaux  lettering “Hotel Montreaux Palac”. It had been a five star hotel that catered to the rich and famous. The hotel had stood out to him, but it was the pretty Swiss woman standing outside who had really interested him. He had wanted to find a way to talk to her, and had asked her to take his picture in front of it. Her name was Maria. It seemed years’ ago that he had spoken with her, and tried to flirt with her to get a peak inside the Montreaux Palac. Now he was the sole inhabitant.

Life had felt relatively normal before his trip, and it was his first assignment in Europe. He had some troubles in his past, but his mind felt clear for the first time. Maria had worked in one of the kitchens and he had asked her to meet him for a drink after she got off work. He waited for her in one of the expensive bars. It was then as he was waiting that the voices returned. It was a buzzing insect chatter in his brain. “Come home. Your time is over.” He looked at the bartender wondering if he could hear the sounds in his head, but the bartender wasn’t looking at him. He was looking beyond the massive glass windows toward the water and the mountains. There were lights, round full brilliant lights, and many of them moving quickly toward the hotel.

He had always felt somewhat different in a way that he could never explain. When he was sixteen his parents had put him in a hospital for a year, because he believed he had come from the stars. They had said he was depressed and suicidal, but after some years of therapy and some medication he wandered through his life fairly stable and somewhat successful. Still, at times he would get this lingering feeling of being watched, and he felt like he could hear distant voices calling him. He never spoke of it because he had worried about being put away again.

 

He followed a small crowed of people outside. He forgot about Maria, and the bartender, and everything else.  The stars had appeared to grow brighter, closer, and stronger while the darkness began to pull away. It was the The Visitors. They had come before when he was young. They spoke to him, whispered they missed him that his assignment was over that he could come home now. He looked around to see the people staring into the lights. He screamed for everyone to run, but no one seemed to hear him. He covered his ears and closed his eyes. He ran back into the hotel and hid. He didn’t see them leave. He didn’t watch the darkness return and the stars fade back in the universe. He turned away from them.

He did not know how long he had been in the hotel he only knew that food was becoming difficult to find. Occasionally, he felt as if he would see the figure of a human passing through the halls of the hotel, sometimes he thought he saw Maria, but it was nothing just a whisper of a memory.

“He’s grown so thin.” The voice was genderless yet motherly.

The man spun around at the sound. He had not heard them speak, not since the first night they came from the stars. It frightened him that they were still here. Watching him. They were coming to get him. The last man! He ran through the halls looking for a place to hide. He ran from the reception to the luxury suites, until he hid in the grand pantry that once stored exotic and rare foods like fresh Beluga caviar and white truffle oil. He held his breath. His hunger replaced by fear. He waited.

“Come home son” it was like a faint whisper in his brain. Come home. He could hear the voice again, calling him to go home. There was crying, and he felt a great deep sadness.

“We send them here and then we can’t get them back.” It said. “Trapped between dimensions” it had said. “We have to leave him,” it had said. The Visitors were leaving.

Yes. He thought, yes, leave me. There were no humans left. Yet, he knew he was wrong. “Son,” it had whispered one last time, “You cannot stay here. You are nowhere.” He pressed himself even deeper into the pantry with the hope that the darkness and the corners would protect him. The door opened and a bright light washed over him he covered his eyes and began to scream.

**************

Maria, paused a moment. She thought she had heard something. A faint sound coming from the corner of the pantry. It unsettled her nerves. She thought about the man who had asked her out for a drink. The man who disappeared the night the lights came from the sky. He had called out to them. Take me home, he had said, and he disappeared, but for some reason, Maria felt as if he had never left.

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NYC Short Story Feedback

I didn’t make it past the second round of the NYC Midnight Short Story writing challenge. It is not too unexpected. I had a hard time getting into the theme. I knew it was disjointed and even though I sent it off I didn’t really like it. So, although it was a slight disappointment I wasn’t surprised.

A great thing about doing the NYC Writing challenge is that even if you do not get passed on to the next rounds they still will give you feedback on your writing. I find that the feedback is very helpful. Some of the stuff I am aware of other notes are new- it is all helpful.

Below is the feedback they sent.

 

”The Lost Mission” by Adrienna Ogin – WHAT THE JUDGE(S) LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – ……Interesting ideas. I was most interested in the main character’s history, including his teenage belief that he had come to the stars…….The mystery is presented up front, which pulls the reader in.//The tone has a distance to it which helps the reader identify with the protagonist’s predicament……………………………….I really like the inter-dimensional aspect to this story – it brings a real sci-fi flavor, but it feels fresh. The story has a nice arc and feels complete by the time we reach the end. The shift in perspective for the final paragraph is handled well, giving us just enough information to leave a ghostly after-image, without over-explaining……………………….   WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – ……The scenes of this story feel structurally disconnected, and I wasn’t able to put it all together at the end…….There’s a switch of POV at the end — and those last lines are chilling and leave a strong impression. However, those lines would work much more seamlessly if there were some anchor at the beginning so that it’s an echo, rather than an out-of-the-blue POV switch.//When a story is rendered in the past tense, it’s important that anything which happened before the time of the story is rendered in the pluperfect…………………………….…Some of the descriptions were a little bland or too general. For example, “Life had felt relatively normal before his trip…” Normal by whose standard? Why “relatively”? And: “He had always felt somewhat different…” You can cut “somewhat” and double the strength of the statement. But even then, it might be better just to lean on the examples of his feeling different (hearing voices, needing therapy & medication) and trust the reader to know this means he felt different from other people. And: “…after some years and some medication…” How  many years? What medication? Getting more specific will help lift this story to the next level…………………….

Feedback from the Judges

I received some feedback on my first flash fiction from the NYC Flash Fiction contest. This is a pretty nice thing since you don’t always get the judges feedback on contests.

My story placed in the top 15. I had originally thought I had placed in the top five which was really exciting to me, but looking closer at their judging and scores I realized that it wasn’t 5 as in fifth place, but it was 5 as in 5 points. So if you got 14th “place,” well… you know.

I have to wait another month before finding if I made the next round. I’m going to guess that I probably will not make the cut on the next one. The second challenge just didn’t come to me and I just never felt that good about the story. And, now that I know my last story didn’t do as well as I had originally thought, I’m pretty certain my most recent entry is going to probably bomb. Hell, at least I’m writing. It’s hilarious that the only way I can now get myself to write is to pay someone else to challenge me to write. Seems to work. I grow broke, but I grow broke anyway.

So here’s the positive:

WHAT THE JUDGE(S) LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – ………………I enjoyed the fact you included action from the opening sentence, instead of building up to it. I think it created a stronger sense of suspense and engagement. This was an excellent premise, too!…Good suspense in this story — great pacing. The first person narrative works well, and I like the writing. ……………This is a very interesting take on biological warfare and some of the various things that could happen. There is a real sense of suspense. I like how you drop the reader into the action after it has already started. I always knew where I was and what was going on, which is a real achievement.

I think that’s some nice positives. I have to say the whole including the action from the opening sentence is proof that those writing classes I took in college paid off. So many times teachers told me I took to much time to get to the meat of the story. I really thought about that when writing this piece.

Now the negative or better put- the “still needs” work.

WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – ………………I would have liked to know more about “the Doctor”, and how he had formed a relationship with Max, Steve and Clair – just a little bit of background here could really round out the narrative….Watch some of your descriptions and try to make them carry more weight. Here, for example: where they left Clair’s stiff, but living body… Why is it stiff, but still living? Be more specific with your descriptions. ……………This story needs another edit for spelling and grammar. In some cases you have used the wrong word, e.g., effect instead of affect. Pay attention to these details and it will make your writing stronger. ………………………………

Oh my god, so much of this is the bane of my writing existence. The reasons I often don’t bother sharing my work.
I’ll begin with the non bane part. I’d like to know more about the doctor too. In all honesty the story wasn’t fleshed out at all. I was in China at the time I wrote it and got completely confused about the time difference and at how much time I actually had. I ended up writing the story and sending it in within eight hours of getting the assignment. There wasn’t any real editing or back story- na-da. It wasn’t until after I hit the submit button that I realized I had a whole 24 hours left to work on it. I was bummed, but I still got some points so I’m doing something half right.
The descriptions carry more weight comment is so important. I know this. I get this. But, I have trouble with this. I’ve always dreamt of being a poet and poets are the masters of using the less words to have the most impact. Hemingway was amazing at this. It’s because I am not a master of my own language. I’m not even an apprentice. I’m behind. And speaking of behind, let me get to the bane part.
Oh my spelling and grammar. Will I ever improve? I’m not lazy about it I’m really not. I try to improve, but obviously something is wrong with me. The affect vs effect- I’ve seen the aardvark example so many times- but the skull is thick with this one. I could say, in my defense I wrote and sent the story in with only eight hours worth of work time, but why bother. I’m not a strong writer. If I had done at least one slow edit maybe it would have been a little better, but I’m not sure.

Anyway, I’m glad to get the feedback. I think it’s helpful. Unfortunately, I sent in my second story before seeing my weaknesses so I’m sure I repeated some of them.

If you want to read the draft you can read it here.

The Doctor’s Orders

(I’ve once again entered the NYC writing challenge. It is amusing that I write “once again” which implies I have done this many times, and that is simply not true. It is only my second time playing this game. Posted below is my first entry. I was given the genre of Action/Adventure, the setting; A Train Yard, and I had to use the word Peach in my story. I had 48 hours to write 1,000 words. I received five points which put me in the top ten in my heat. I think that’s pretty cool.)

The Doctor’s Order

The whistle from a train woke Steve with a jolt. He winced from the pain in his side caused by the bullet. It had gone clean through him, but missed his vital organs. He pressed his hand to the wound and leaned up against the trunk of a tree. Flood lights from the train yard poured between the shrubs and bushes where he had been hiding. The last thing he remembered before passing out was Max yelling, “I’ll get the shit! Stay awake!”

The air was filled with smoke from the fire and blotted out the stars. He sniffed the warm night air. Chemicals. They were burning. Who knew what kind of shit was frying in that institution of horror. It needed to burn, the papers, the experiments, the workers, and especially the doctor.

Steve felt dehydrated. He remembered the peach that he grabbed from the ground from one of the doctor’s orchards where they left Clair’s stiff, but living body. He pulled it from his coat pocket and took a desperate bite nearly choking on the sweet juice. It was overripe and slightly bruised leaving a rotten aftertaste. He didn’t care he was thirsty, and in need of something to satiate his thirst. He threw the pit into the darkness and wiped his fingers over his pants. They were sticky. Sticky from peach and blood. He ignored this like he ignored the bruised fruit.

He heard yells and frenzied footsteps. Where was Max, he wondered. Their time was running out. He dragged himself through the dirt and shrubs till he could get to a spot where he could see and remain hidden. Through a space in some prickly bushes he could see men running around the train yard and jumping the tracks. He scanned the cargo cars for something, anything, that gave him a clue to where Max could be. They were dying all three of them.

Steve could hardly acknowledge the last thirty-eight hours as being real. The night before last they were having dinner with the doctor. Having conversations with his overtly charming wife and and his towheaded twins. Clair had leaned into Steven’s ear and whispered, “Don’t the children seem a little Step-fordy to you?” Clair had instinct. She always had had instinct. For years’ the doctor’s strange behavior had been chalked up to quirkiness and eccentricity. Clair had always suspected that there was something a little off with the doctor, but Steve had brushed her suspicions aside as being hypersensitive and judgmental, and now because of him, the muscles in her body were slowly turning into a cemented state, an agonizing metamorphous, till the last muscle, her heart would freeze.

A wonderful experiment in biological warfare. That’s what the doctor called it. Top-secret and military bound if his viruses worked, but he needed to test on people. After, secretly injecting the three of them in various ways, through food, or wine, or even a drink of water, the doctor took them on a stroll through his garden. I have something very special to share with the three of you, he had said.

His backyard was an animal graveyard. Horrible sounds of pain from the creatures that were still alive filled the yard like an opera of death. Dying had to be slow and painful, the doctor had said, in case they want to get some information out of a prisoner. There are of course antidotes, he said, somewhere in the train yard.

Real Dean R. Koontz kind of shit, Max had said after the three of them had watched the hospital explode. That’s when Clair began screaming. Her virus was beginning to take effect. It had all been a game for the doctor.

There was a terrifying yell from the train yard. It was Max. Steve shifted his body to look in the direction the scream. On the top of a train car he could see the silhouette of a man bent forward and clawing at his stomach. It was the disease. What the doctor gave to Max. A virus that effected the brain like a kind of schizophrenia causing the person to tear open their own stomach and remove their guts with their bare hands.

It’s Here!” Max managed to screamed.

Steve’s mind quickly jumped to Clair. He wondered if she was still alive and would they be able to save her. Shots fired through the air. Max’s body shuddered violently then collapsed onto the train car.

“We got him!” Someone yelled.

“Max.” Steve whispered. What could he do? He was injured, shot and loosing blood. His virus hadn’t taken hold yet, and the doctor never told him what it was that would happen to him. It seemed lost. He had to move. Steve prepared to haul himself up and braced himself to absorb the pain, but as he rose to his feet he felt nothing. He stood there for a minute waiting to see if he would pass out again or if the pain would return, but it didn’t, in fact he felt stronger, even somewhat energized. He lifted the blood soaked shirt to look at his wound. Nothing. His skin was crusted with dried blood but there wasn’t a hole just a red blemish where the hole had been. Self healing. Biological warfare. Something for the soldiers, he thought. A rage surged inside him burning his lungs and overwhelming his muscles. He felt Hulkish. It wasn’t too late the mission had not yet been accomplished. There was still a chance to get the antidotes and save Clair. The fools in the train yard were nothing to him. He lunged in the direction of Max’s limp hanging body. The antidote was there. He felt giant like a tank. He stormed into the floodlights as the barrels of multiple guns swung toward him, but he wasn’t afraid he was the monster now. He would leave his antidote in the train yard. He didn’t need it.