Tundara: Walking the Path (Story)




Hi gang! A year ago, give or take a couple weeks, I started writing a short story under the guise of getting comments, feedback, and critiques on my writing style. The story I had in mind was a little long for a single post and so I decided to do a short series. The short series grew and grew as did the stories scope until I finally decided that with some love, elbow grease, and time it could become something of an 'Epic'. There is still a lot of work and weaving to do as well as juggling and such. I did a rough guess last night and I think when complete the story will be anywhere from 700 to 1000 pages in manuscript format.

So, what I need is a lot of advice and critiquing. Hit me hard, cause I need it! *braces*. I'll post the story in a reply following this OP. While this is/was the first part of the stories I posted down in the Virtue section, it's current location in the finished work may end up a couple chapters in with Prelude and some other neccessary foreshadowing information before.

This story also DOES NOT take place in the City of Heroes/Villains universe. This at first was done because I was not confident with being truthful to the Devs universe and vision. It is a modern day earth that at first is no different from our own.

If people want, I could re-post the entire story. There are some contradictions in it as it was written as pure 'rough draft, no edits'. Obviously, this particular piece I want feedback on has been edited at least once. So, if the whole story of Walking the Path (as it currently is, as mentioned it is far from complete) is posted, understand that the contradictions will be smoothed out and fixed.

Thank you in advance for your time and any advice given.

=. .=



Part One:
Atlanta, September 6th, 2006.

The reporters face was ashen on the grainy television screen. Behind her police lights flashed. Uniformed officers and crime lab technicians moved around like robots tagging bodies and shell casings. Camera's captured the network blood sprayed across the pavement as if made by a drunken spider. A detective used a small piece of cloth to wipe his brow. Rain began to fall; the police cursed their luck and worked harder.

Words came from reporter's mouth in jagged connections and speculations. She didn't know anything yet. The police said it was just another of many gang related shootings. A gun battle in a back alley. They were almost becoming an everyday event in the rotting core of the city. She went on to the eyewitness accounts.

An old woman flashed onto the screen, her eyes wide and voice barely containing her anger. A couple young punks from the Red Devils shooting at a bunch of Snakes, she said, had started it off. The Snakes were the gang that ran that particular neighbourhood. They were a vicious group of murderers, crack-heads, and desperate kids looking for a family. The old woman quickly went on how the neighbourhood had once been a nice safe place. A middle-aged man with his small daughter was next. He claimed that the Snakes had been the cause of the gunfight. Another spoke in fast slang that the fight had started in a nearby warehouse and had overflowed into the streets.

The reporter came back on, the rain growing thicker behind her. She smiled and said that another man had claimed to see a blonde woman in a blue gymnastics suit chase after the Snakes and Red Devils fleeing the scene. A nervous laugh and the anchorman came onto screen. A parting joke about the last witness and the news moved onto a fire that had claimed the lives of an elderly couple.

Stacey flicked off the television.

"It gets worse every day," she muttered to herself.

Moving into the small bathroom she stripped pulling a bottle of iodine from the cabinet. Her shoulder burned and had developed a thick crust where she had been cut. Gritting her teeth Stacy showered scrubbing away all the blood and dirt. For a moment the room spun, the red water swirling around her feet reaching up for her even as it fell down the drain. The nausea passed after a minute leaving a sensation of weakness in her knees. Stepping out of the shower Stacey gave the cut a quick inspection before she bandaged her shoulder.

"Hey, Stacey, you see the news yet?"

A red head poked through the door, a hand covering its eyes.

"Patty! Do you mind?" Stacey spun grabbing a towel from the shelf and pushing the red head back out the door. Completing the spin she hooked her foot on the doors edge slamming it shut.

"Well, close the door next time. How was I to know you were changing or something?" Patricia huffed through the door.

Towel wrapped around her Stacey stepped out and swatted her sister on the back the head.

Yelping Patricia leapt into the air. "What was that for?"

"Being a snoop."

Patricia snorted tossing a long pigtail back.

Standing together it was obvious that they were sisters their differences being slight. Of the two, Patricia was just a little shorter then Stacey though still tall by women’s standards both being just shy of six foot tall. They shared soft blue eyes, though Patricia's had a green tinge under the right lighting. Patricia also was rounder in the face, and had a smaller nose. A product of years of dancing lessons and private tutoring each had a smooth grace when they moved.

"Snoop? I was worried, what with all the stuff on the radio and all."

Patricia noticed the bandage and gave another snort.

"Looks like I was right to be worried. How did you get that?"

Stepping into the small kitchenette Stacey said, "it's nothing. Just caught a piece of a pipe jumping a fence."

The television flicked back to life.

"A pipe, huh? That's a first." Patty laughed surfing through the televisions small number of channels. “You sure you weren’t bashing a few gang-bangers heads in?”

"Knock around some gangsters? That’s not my cup of tea," Stacey said a few minutes later carrying a turkey sandwich. “Besides, that would be hardly trying to stay low profile.”

Patricia lay on the small couch watching an old cartoon. From beneath the couch appeared a bag of chips. Patricia took a couple out, sniffed them, and shrugging popped them in her mouth. "You feeling alright? Normally you would be cursing up a storm over something like that," Patricia said pointing at Stacey’s bandage with a half stale potato chip.

“Goddess above, I’m telling you I just caught it on a pipe leaping a fence!” Stacey snapped shooting her sister a livid look.

Patricia held up her hands in a semblance of surrender. “Okay, sheesh, I was just asking.”

Stacey knew that Patricia was right. She had pushed herself for years to be ever better. When in school Stacey had been on the Gymnastics team. She had also been on the swim in addition to the track and field teams. On all of them she had been in the top in the province. Every loss only spurred her to try harder. It was not in Stacey’s nature to make an error and not be upset.

The exact opposite was true of Patricia. She never tried at anything. Lying about on the couch with the phone in hand or shopping was normal for her. In almost every respect she was what people considered to be an average girl. She was easy going, a gossip, and fretted about her looks when in public. Stacey was the only person who knew that it was all an act.

Sitting up Patricia asked, "Say, want to go out for a bit? Get out of this dump?"

"To do what exactly?"

Stacey flopped down into a chair and inspected her shoulder. It was seeping a bit and the bandage would have to be changed.

"You need to get out more."

"Going out is what caused this." Stacey gave a slight gesture towards her shoulder.

Patricia scrunched up her face and swore. "So you’re going to hide behind a hurt shoulder now? My god Stacey, just listen to you. You have gone out all of what, three times, since Sam dumped you. Forget the jerk already. Besides, you were too good for him."

"I know what you are trying to do Patty and it will not work."

"Come on, will it kill you to step out of the apartment for a little girl time?"

Rolling her eyes Stacey gave Patricia a long look before again gesturing to her shoulder.

"It nearly did once today."

"So what are the odds of it happening again?" Patricia jumped to her feet and dragged Stacey up. "It will be fun."

Something in Patricia's tone was infectious and Stacey found herself a short time later walking into Lady May's Clothing behind a visibly excited Patricia. For a moment Stacey wondered just why they were there instead of one of the stores that catered to their age. There was little in the store that was to Patricia’s normal tastes. The styles it carried were a little too formal or old for her, though Stacey did appreciate some of the blouses. There was a woman pushing a baby carriage and an elderly couple browsing through a stack of cardigans. Patricia headed strait for the back of the store where there was a hat section. A young male clerk stepped over to ask them if they needed any help answering Stacey's unasked question.

He was cute, in a wannabe boy band singer sort of way. Stacey couldn't help comparing him to Sam and finding the former lacking. Sam had a stronger set to his features and a better smile. The way his eyes shone sent flutters through Stacey's heart. He also had been far more athletic looking and taller.

Patricia began to fawn and flirt, making Stacey's stomach clench uncomfortably. Excusing herself Stacey told her sister that she was going to hit up the burger shack for a couple of shakes and not to be long. Her intentions had been good Stacey knew, but Patricia could be a little thick at times. How Patricia could have thought that going to check out boys was something she was remotely interested in so soon after being dumped escaped Stacey. At the same time Stacey berated herself for thinking that going to the mall had ever been about anything other than boy hunting.

Fishing in her pockets Stacey realised she was short of cash. Deciding to stop in the small bank and make a quick withdrawal she turned around heading for the other side of the mall. She hated charging to her debit and credit cards. Patricia called Stacey paranoid and silly. It wasn't that she was afraid to use a card; it was that Stacey preferred the safety of cash. With cash she knew exactly how much she had and couldn't be caught at a till with no way to pay. Several times to Patricia had found herself in that exact situation. Stacey was determined not to have it happen to her.

The teller called Stacey over right away. It was still early morning and the bank was nearly empty. That was when the men came charging in with pistols drawn. Somebody screamed causing Stacey to turn around and look strait at a masked man holding a shotgun. Slow so as not to seem a threat Stacey raised her hands. A tight not of anxiety twisted itself deep in her gut as the shotgun was pointed in her direction. The single security guard dropped his gun raised his hands his face a pasty white and was struck on the back of the head knocking him out. The robbers herded everyone together quickly while the manager was ushered towards the back rooms. It struck Stacey as odd, she couldn’t imagine a small mall bank would have a vault.

To have the bank robbed while she was in it was just her luck. Stacey pressed her face into her hands giving out a small defeated sigh. What was she going to do? There was going to be police and interviews and reporters. Maybe one of them would want o interview her. What if CNN splashed her face and the faces of the other hostages across television? Stifling a moan Stacey raised her head looking around the bank.

"Stay calm people, no body needs to get hurt," one of the men, said as he closed the door leading into the mall.

The bank had been built in the spot where an old tanning salon used to be and had only a small door into the mall and another leading to the parking lot. Instant cash machines had been placed in a corner and the tellers faced the door that led to the parking lot. Only two of the robbers stayed to watch over the hostages while the others went into the backrooms. Stacey couldn't tell how many of them there were, but she guessed at least five.

Leaning forward Stacey tried to catch what the robbers were saying. But the paintball and ski masks they wore muffled their voices. They were also speaking in short clipped phrases that didn't make any sense. Probably a specific set of cant and phrases so the hostages wouldn’t know what was going to happen. A small voice in Stacey's head told her that these people were not taking chances and she was going to have to do something fast.

Licking her lips Stacey looked out of the corner of her eye towards the security cameras. If the robbers were being smart then they would take the tape and dispose of it, assuming it was kept in the bank and wasn't at some remote site. Looking over at the other huddled hostages she knew that when she acted she would have to be careful. Hesitating Stacey wondered if what she was about to do was the wisest course of action. Perhaps it would be better to just sit meek with the other hostages and then run after the robbers left. No, that wasn’t how Stacey thought of herself. She knew that it would kill her to have had the ability and opportunity to act and not to follow through.

"Excuse me," Stacey said in a timid voice raising her hand.

One of the robbers looked over at her and levelled his shotgun at Stacey stepping towards her.

"Be quiet."

The response was typical. They felt they were in control, but were also worried and treading a very thin line between their goal and total disaster. Such situations tended to make people gruff, short tempered, and twitchy. With a gun in the mix the situation could turn deadly at the drop of a pin.

"I have to go to the bathroom," Stacey said filling her voice with as much fear and emotion as she could.

"Do you think I am an idiot? Hold it or piss yourself, but your not moving, sugar."

He gestured with the gun for her to sit. Stacey needed the man closer before she could do anything.

"What? I have to go to the bathroom." Ire filled her voice now along with a large measure of disbelief.

Behind his masks the man's eyes filled with a dark rage.

"Listen, I don't care..." As he spoke the man stepped closer raising a fist.

Leaping forward Stacey threw a punch into the stomach of the man brushing the shotgun up and away from the other hostages with her other hand. She had tried to carefully measure the strength of the punch but the man still flew back several feet. His partner tried to raise his pistol, but Stacey was faster, striking him in the side with a quick kick. He spun like a wheel before colliding with the wall and falling into a still and silent heap. The hostages stared at Stacey with wide eyes.

"What's all the noise?"

Turning Stacey had enough time to see the robber enter the room, an assault rifle in his hands. There was nowhere for her to run and she knew that it was imposable to dodge such a gun. Besides, if she did there was a very good possibility of the people behind her catching a bullet. For a very brief moment Stacey again questioned the wisdom of her actions. The moment passed and Stacey braced herself.

The gun gave a quick series of bangs recoil making it climb after the first few shots. Angry hot metal slammed into Stacey knocking her down. Pieces of mortar and wood skipped across the room created by the few bullets that flew past Stacey. A woman started to shriek and the voices of the other robbers came shouting from the back rooms along with the stamp of heavy booted feet. Lying on her back holding her breath Stacey could not believe how much getting shot hurt. It was like her body had been used as one of the training bags boxers used. She would probably get bruises from the bullets that hit her.

Rolling onto her side Stacey placed her hand palm down on the floor, splayed fingers pointing at the robber. He stared at her incredulously amazed that she was still alive. With a wink at the robber Stacey pressed her hand hard into the floor and let out a long controlled breath.

Only three times before had Stacey been able to willingly do what she was trying. Inside her she could feel something like a coiled serpent awaken with her silent pleas. The coiled serpent as Stacey imagined it was like an empty space, a hungry mouth that craved sustenance but never could be sated. Where it came from and what it was Stacey didn’t know or understand. The truth was, she was afraid to learn the truth of the serpent. Eyes closed she imagined it slithering through her arm and biting the floor. Hungry the empty serpent obeyed and sucked at the point of contact.

Ice shot across the banks tiled floor towards the robber like lattice across a cathedral roof. In the time it took him to raise his weapon the ice passed under his feet. Loosing his footing he fell cursing a long stream of fire exploding from his gun. Bullets buried themselves in the walls and ceiling sending down a shower of debris. The hostages all screamed and ducked, covering their heads as if it would protect them from the wild gunfire.

Adrenaline pumping Stacey leaped up and charged before the robber could regain his wits. Grabbing his collar she very carefully punched him in the face. Blood and a couple teeth splattered across the quickly melting ice. The man gave a groan going limp. Reaching back Stacey hit the man a second time to make sure he was truly out of the fight.

An angry roar drew Stacey's attention up in time to see a massive man charging her. Standing at least seven feet tall and with a chest that looked like an oil drum the man was the biggest person Stacey had ever seen in her life. With a right hook to her hurt shoulder he sent Stacey flying across the bank. Smirking he strode across the room cracking his knuckles but halted when Stacey stood back up. Her shoulder stung and she could feel her shirt sticking to her skin. The punch must have re-opened the cut. Roaring again the huge man charged like a bull.

He smashed Stacey in the chest. The sound of bone snapping could be heard by the frightened hostages and one of them groaned in sympathy for Stacey. She staggered back a step, but otherwise was unhurt. The man yelled clutching a broken hand. Smiling now Stacey grabbed his shirt yanking him forward while reaching back in preparation of a devastating punch.

"Hit him and they die."

Stacey stopped before she had even started to throw the punch.

The last robber stood beside the inert form of the robber that had shot her gun pointed at the hostages. In his other hand was a large satchel filled with presumably money. From the same woman who kept shrieking and screaming came a low desperate moan. Sirens could be heard in the distance.

"Back up and don't think of doing anything funny. I don't know what in Hell you are, but I know you don't want these poor people to get hurt, now do ya?"

The cold glare in the man's eyes left no doubt in Stacey that he would kill the hostages without remorse or hesitation if she didn't listen. Gritting her teeth Stacey carefully released the huge man and stepped back. The first two robbers groaned and started to get up.

"We got what we were after, let's go." The last one said never taking his eyes off Stacey. "Five grab Two and let's go. The police will be here any minute."

The huge man snarled something slinging the unconscious form of the last robber over his shoulder. Keeping a close eye on Stacey the robbers fled the bank. Stacey waited for a few seconds before chasing after them. She got out of the bank in time to see an armoured truck speeding away. Stacey glared after the truck, but decided not to chase it. She had to get away herself before the Police and reporters arrived. The last thing she needed was her face plastered across national television. Checking to make she wasn't followed Stacey ran.

Across the street hidden high in the shadows watched a tall figure, the tip of a cigarette flaring as Stacey disappeared.



This is awesome.

Post part two soon... Plez?

Global - @El D

Servers - Protector



What kind of critique are you looking for? Style? Grammar? Content? All of the above?

I would be happy to offer my opinions on whatever you want



What kind of critique are you looking for? Style? Grammar? Content? All of the above?

I would be happy to offer my opinions on whatever you want

[/ QUOTE ]

Anything and everything. Some people might be able to point out Grammar while others may have a good ear for pacing or stuff. I'm not picky, I'm really looking to improve my craft as much as I can right now.




I liked this a lot Tundy once the action started going, it was very well paced. I only have a problem with 2 things, the opening is long and unexciting, and I think it would be better to describe two examples as short action vignettes, which we know you can do, then separate them with * * *

So that the reader has time to digest the point of view. Each of your opening examples of how much crime is in the city would work tighter as fleshed out paragraphs say 2-3 in length. Then breaks added with * * *, then straight to the main characters.

Otherwise your set up becomes a huge information dump about the same thing: crime is rampant. If this were a comic, we'd have to edit down to 3 examples to show over 1 or 2 pages, you shouldn't spend that long on getting to the main character, ya know what I mean?

And well the second part is the talking heads with the main characters. They don't really bond until they go shopping, so why not start them out there in the store, and throw in the same dialog from back in the apartment.

Otherwise I read pointless dialog meant to show their bond, but without action (and lying around on the couch is not action in my opinion...) without some movement or situation (even eating at a table would have been better, eating implies someone cooked or brought food, while the other waited, is enjoying it or not... all of this puts us closer to the character's movement in the world you create...) the dialog becomes nothing more than: a joke without a punchline. Just filler words till the good stuff...

Your action though is great, I was loving it when she got going. And I'd love to see the follow up... Do you belong to any writing sites? I think there's a Writer's Guild for COH, well an unofficial one. Well I hope that helps, just my opinion mind you... it was very good!

Btw, is Stacey an ice tank? Got a screenshot?




Thanks LJ! That was just what I was looking for, though not to say all that I was looking for, keep them coming! Cut me down and build me up!!

I agree, the begining is weak, but I didn't think the 'talking heads' was that bad. *Sigh* Dialogue always has been a weakness of mine.

Edit: Stacey is the Civilian name for Tundara. (actually, it's more complicated then that... but to explain would take some time...)



The talking heads was only because of the situation... they were just sitting around. It could have been on cell phones with you describing the people around them, and their environment and the dialog would take on new meaning.

Your dialog elsewhere serves a more instantaneous effect, it moves the plot a long, it focuses our attention. Two people talking about their relationship is painful, unless there's some point to it, or action, and there was neither in my opinion until they were shopping.

It wasn't bad dialog, just purpose less (k not a word, but you get what I mean)... I don't know, maybe I'm wrong, what were you going for with those lines before the store, maybe I missed your point? You tell me...



I was trying to introduce the characters and give the readers a feel for their personalities and relationship before moving onto the action. You're right, it could be done better. The idea of cell phones isn't bad. I tend to forget about the things since I have a phone-phobia and hate having the darn things in the same room as me, let alone use them. >_<;;; The gang activity that is spoken of in the first couple paragraphs is actually to set up that their is a crime problem as well as foreshadow events that happen much later in the story. Still, hardly critical and it is very rough and 'Not Good'.

Thanks for the comments LJ, I really appreciate them.

=. .=



*reserves a location so he too can critique <@,@> ... after some foodage*

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>.> My DA page, where I attempt to art.



Sorry for the delay, didn't have as much time in the last couple days as I thought. Anyway, on with the critique!

I like the story: a catchy start, how you introduce the main characters, the action bits...all good! I am a firm believer in getting to know the characters and I think that the bit at home transitioning to the mall does that pretty well. I already get the sense that Patricia is the playful and boisterous (but sometimes annoying!) sister. I also loved your description of the ice powers as a serpent, very creative!! And the bit of mystery at the end of the chapter(?) is great, too.

Suggestions: Use more commas. There are a lot of sentences that seem to run on too long, and that can be easily cured by a well placed comma. There seem to be some spelling errors, too, and the inevitable use of the wrong word. Those pesky homophones, the curse of writers everywhere! I am a big fan of descriptive writing (being a very visual person), adding more detailed physical descriptions of the main characters in particular (but also of the environment) could help people visualize them more. You do a good job of describing the ice powers "like lattice across a cathedral roof." I love to see stuff like that!!

Well that's all I got for now, hope that helps a bit. Hope to see more of the story soon, too!

Oh, and if you've never been to The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writiers of America , they have some good articles on writing. Some are more playful than others - my personal favorite is The Turkey City Lexicon .



Thanks for the critique Quickening! As for spelling errors, what you may be seeing is the difference between Canadian and American spellings of certain words. Canadian spelling uses 'ou' for honour for instance while in American spelling the 'u' is dropped. But those homophones are a right pain in the tushie.

Thanks for the links, I'll have to peruse them.