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Misadventure with a Limb

“ Lirli, wait—“ Rainbow tried to remember what she’d said that set her friend tearing through the trees like that. They’d been talking about so many things, like they always did. She couldn’t remember which was last. “Lirli, what did I say?”

Rainbow flew through the trees, trying to catch up with her friend. Lirli, being woodborn, could stay pretty high in the trees, leaping from one to the next and catching herself with her claws. But she couldn’t soar above them. Besides, Rainbow didn’t want to be spotted by either of her parents, and called to do chores.

Lirli leapt neatly from tree to tree, her long, clawed hands and feet grabbing them as securely as Rainbow’s would have. But she had arms, not wings, and the best path for her was sometimes quite hazardous for Rainbow. Normally, they kept track of each other using the whistle-language, but with the parents looking for them, neither one of them was about to do that.

Rainbow dared to call a bit louder. “Lirli?”

Lirli just kept on, climbing, running along branches, and leaping from tree to tree.

“Lirli!” Rainbow put on an extra burst of speed, and her foot smacked against a branch, hard, spinning her out of control. She curled into a ball and tried to grab a branch with her foot as she plummeted downward. She let out a sharp cry—the pain was intense. Eyes leaking, she managed to grab at the too-thin branches near her with her hands, risking tearing a wing.

Her hands connected, but the thin branches tore off the tree. It did slow her a bit; she let go of those and reached for more, grabbing with both hands and the foot that didn’t hurt.

Under the last of the branches, she spread her wings and grabbed some air. It was enough, barely, that she could guide her crash a bit, land in some bushes instead of on the rocky ground. She rested there for a few minutes. Then she stretched each arm, checking the wings. Scratches—she was scratched all over—but no tears. And her shoulders, elbows and hands were only a bit sore. She wiggled her tail—that moved normally.

Then, reluctantly, Rainbow looked at her feet. The one she’d smacked on the branch was swelling already, mostly in the instep. Well, that was better than the palm of the foot, wasn’t it? The opposeable toe worked just fine; she began to hope she could get herself out of this bush and back up into the air. After all, the other foot was fine, right? She flexed it. It wasn’t happy, the branches she’d grabbed with it were pretty spiky, but it wasn’t bad enough to stop her walking or running or climbing.

Carefully, she put that foot on the ground, more or less inside the bushes, and moved to a vertical position. There really wasn’t enough room here to leap into the air, the trees were dense only a couple of feet above her head. And standing, the knee on her good side felt wobbly. She doubted she could leap into the air one-footed with that knee.

Well, first get out of the bush. If she could get to a clear enough area, and if her shoulders weren’t too stiff, she could just go from sitting to hovering. Gingerly she put the other foot down, and fell back into the bush, gasping in pain. She rocked there for a while, trying to think how to move without setting her foot down.

Then a head popped down through the pine needles. “Rainbow? Are you all right?”

“Do I look all right?”

Lirli climbed down the tree face first. “Um, no. You look dreadful. You’re all scratched up and that foot is all swollen. Can you even stand on it?”

“No.”

“Oh, dear. This is my fault, isn’t it?”

“I’m the one who flew into a branch!”

“Well, let’s see if we can get you out of that bush.” Lirli walked over and helped Rainbow to stand on her one good foot again. They tried several things, but Lirli was much taller than Rainbow, and the efforts just served to get them both scratched.

Finally, Lirli wiped tears from Rainbow’s face with the back of her hand. She looked apologetic. “There’s nothing for it but I lift you.”

Rainbow nodded. There was a time she’d been embarrassed that the younger, taller girl could lift her, but right now, she didn’t care. She gripped Lirli’s shoulders carefully, and Lirli gripped her waist, and lifted her, cradling her much as mothers cradled their children.

Whatever they had argued about was forgotten. Lirli carried Rainbow to a nice, broad tree and helped her climb into the branches. Then, after resting they traveled home.

And they couldn’t disagree with Rainbow’s mother, when she pointed out that doing chores might have been more fun.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
darlinleo
Oct. 11th, 2009 10:45 pm (UTC)
Hello! Welcome to the Flame!
That's quite a lovely childhood friendship story, have you written about these characters before?
wyld_dandelyon
Oct. 11th, 2009 11:05 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the welcome!
No, though I have other stories in this universe, including the novel I'm serializing in my LJ.

I had planned to do the whole series this month about them, but I know where my first thoughts for "navel" go in this world, and it isn't little kids. I'm still thinking about what to do about that!
freyjasgrace
Oct. 12th, 2009 04:37 am (UTC)

Your species is fascinating. :-)
(Anonymous)
Oct. 12th, 2009 05:10 am (UTC)
Thanks. Their mythology states that humans were changed so they have different forms, adapted to different ecosystems, deliberately, in ways that were intended to ensure that no matter the differences, people couldn't deny that they were all one people, all human.
wyld_dandelyon
Oct. 12th, 2009 06:05 am (UTC)
I thought I was logged in, there!
why_shmoopy
Oct. 13th, 2009 04:54 am (UTC)
Howdy! I'm one of your brigits_flame editors this week. I've done a few read-throughs and taken notes. I should have something coherent for you by late tomorrow night (Eastern Time).

Figured I'd give you a heads-up on when to expect it, since the community's got such a huge workload this week!
wyld_dandelyon
Oct. 13th, 2009 05:20 am (UTC)
Thanks!
why_shmoopy
Oct. 14th, 2009 05:50 am (UTC)
EDIT: 1 of 3
You definitely have a very clear idea in your mind what these characters look like, but the image hasn't quite reached the paper. I know the feeling of not wanting to bust out with lengthy exposition and description right from go (oh, believe me I know), but for the sake of clarity, a little more description (either state outright or subtly mentioned) would make the piece easier to read.

Most importantly, the anatomy & physiology of the characters is confusing. Admittedly, much of this may be because I don't read much fantasy. So something is either, oh, a dragon, and you know basically what it looks like and it doesn't need much description apart from color and temperament, or it's a Xibleflaster (very rare in this plane) and requires explanation.
At the same time, though, there are points where the anatomy is unclear or outright contradictory. For example, "But she had arms, not wings, and the best path for her was sometimes quite hazardous for Rainbow" implies that Rainbow does not have arms of any kind, but we find out later that she does, attached to her wings.
Later, after we find out how her wings are attached, we discover "If she could get to a clear enough area, and if her shoulders weren’t too stiff, she could just go from sitting to hovering." Fantasy creatures typically have features similar to known animals. The initial understanding that she had wings may invoke a bird; when we find out she has arms attached, that changes to bat; now our image changes again, because neither birds nor bats can go from sitting to hovering (and there are only a few birds that can hover), and we think "dragonfly". But it is distracting to the reader to have to change gears like that, and takes away from the story. It may be worthwhile at the beginning to give a little bit of description to the wings she's using to zip through the forest, since what they look like and how they move still isn't clear by the end of the piece.
Going back a little bit, "Lirli leapt neatly from tree to tree, her long, clawed hands and feet grabbing them as securely as Rainbow’s would have." That sounds like it needs an "if" after it, but what follows the "if" is not clear. As securely as Rainbow's would have if she had clawed hands? If she had hands at all? If she had the same kind of hands Lirli does?
"'Well, let’s see if we can get you out of that bush.' Lirli walked over and helped Rainbow to stand on her one good foot again. They tried several things, but Lirli was much taller than Rainbow, and the efforts just served to get them both scratched. "
This image is not particularly clear. How does being taller prevent Lirli from helping her friend out of a bush? Or even from standing and having someone to lean on, when presumably Lirli can crouch to her friend's height? What could they have tried that led to scratches? How does the way Lirli ultimately removes Rainbow from the bush not result in scratches, when they're surrounded by branches?
why_shmoopy
Oct. 14th, 2009 05:50 am (UTC)
EDIT: 2 of 3
There are a couple of places where the action isn't entirely clear.

"She curled into a ball and tried to grab a branch with her foot as she plummeted downward. She let out a sharp cry—the pain was intense."
We later find out that this isn't the same foot that she thwacked into the tree. So, why did grabbing the branch hurt? Did she not realize it was a spiny tree? Did she really grab a well-camoflaged forest crab? A quick bit of information there would not affect the pacing of the scene, but would provide necessary information to a reader in an unfamiliar world. "...and tried to grab a branch with her foot as she plummeted downward, but did not see it was covered in tiny quills."

"She gripped Lirli’s shoulders carefully, and Lirli gripped her waist, and lifted her, cradling her much as mothers cradled their children."
The verb choice in the beginning of the sentence doesn't imply the cradling stated in the second half; it reads more like an awkward 8th-grade slow-dance. After reading it a few times it becomes more obvious, but all the "gripping" makes the process sound cold or tense.

However!
"Eyes leaking" - love it. Very reminiscent of the way embarrassed kids think: "I'm not *crying*! I'm not weak! My...my eyes are leaking! Yeah, that's it!"


A few quick grammar/spelling checks:

"but with the parents looking for them," - their

"The one she’d smacked on the branch was swelling already, mostly in the instep." - Should be "on the instep"

"'There’s nothing for it but I lift you.'" - I got nothin'. I'm not entirely sure what this is supposed to say.


I know it was probably a conscious decision not to tell what set off Lirli, but it's also somewhat confounding, given that it was enough to make her run away, but not enough to make her keep running. Her change of heart happens very quickly, considering the passion of her response to the initial slight. It's a little uncharacteristic of kids, who are for the most part bastards (I know someone who works in daycare; I know this to be true), and would probably sulk for at least a little while before going back to their friend, and would do their damnedest to make sure that whatever happened does not get pinned on them as being their fault. These are some alarmingly kind kids; is that part of their species, or part of what makes these characters unique?

Speaking of which, there isn't enough characterization of the two girls to differentiate between them. One has claws and can seriously haul ass through heavy tree cover, the other delicate wings and prehensile toes. That's about it. It's to the point where towards the end, one has to read back to the beginning to remember which name goes with which physiology. They even react the same when Lirli finds Rainbow in the bush: "It's my fault!" "No, it's my fault!" That's also when we find out Lirli has a larger build. It's a little like trying to remember which Hobbit is which when they spend most of the first book singing through the woods and not having much in the way of individual personalities. Kids start developing their own sense of self long before they can talk; don't be afraid to inject some personality into the girls!
why_shmoopy
Oct. 14th, 2009 05:51 am (UTC)
EDIT: 3 of 3
While the piece has a strong narrative structure and solid story, there isn't much of an obvious theme. In the comments, you mentioned that this is just a small glimpse into a larger story; nevertheless, if an excerpt is to stand alone it must have its own focus and meaning. What point did you want to get across here? What feelings or thoughts do you want people to walk away with? Start with questions like those, and once you have your answers, re-read the story to find where you might want to plant your evidence


All together, it is obvious that you know the story you want to tell, and most of the weak links within it can be solved with some pre-planning and organization. Even if it's to sketch a little picture of the different creatures to remind yourself what they look like and how much of that the reader knows (it doesn't even matter how well you doodle...well if it does, I'm in big trouble). Always keep in mind what it is you want the reader to think when they're done, and remember to plant evidence of it throughout. Don't worry that you're being too obvious - these people live in your head, and you know them as well as you know some of your best friends; that doesn't mean your aunt in Poughkeepsie would know who you meant if you said "Jen...Jen B? From work? The one who feeds anyone who looks even remotely hungry?" While it may seem painfully obvious to you, it merely keeps the readers informed (I know this plight as well). Most importantly, give the characters some character!


If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask, I'll be happy to field them! I'm also pretty conscious of the fact that something might make sense in my head, but lose something in translation by the time it gets to my laptop keys, so if I was unclear, let me know. I hope I've been helpful without being traumatic - it's been a while since anyone asked for an edit without using the words "blunt", "brutal honesty", or "I'll never learn unless you hit me on the head with it." If I was over-the-top (or not tough enough), please let me know, so I know whether to back off or bite more.

Thanks, and good luck!
wyld_dandelyon
Oct. 14th, 2009 07:39 am (UTC)
Re: edits
Thanks for the edits!

Most of this understandably seems to be confusion over the characters' forms; I knew it was a stretch to have both a windborn and a woodborn in the same bit of flash fiction, and I wanted to see if I could pull it off.

But then I ran out of time (I'm not used to deadlines at dinnertime, and life was crazy that week with a doc appt that wiped out most of my afternoon that day). So I was unable to do my usual final read-through(s) before the deadline, which allows me to clarify a lot of details. My bad for not noticing the deadline wasn't midnight.

But it was play or not play at that point, and I want to do nanowrimo next month, and am not at all sure I can do both, so I went with it.

I looked up "instep" and learned that it is technically not the skin/arch at the bottom of the foot, but the part of the foot over the arch. Though, in reading these stories, it is clear that most people are referring to the arch, so there must be some variance of usage. However, that's part of why I used "in" not "on" for the instep. The other part is that the swelling is in the muscles (and possibly the joints), not just the skin. I wouldn't say swelling was "on" an ankle or even a forearm either, unless I was referring to a skin rash. So there I have to disagree with you.

The foot she tried to grab the branch with was, indeed, the one that had already been hurt, though she didn't realize how badly it had been hurt at that point. It was (moments) later that she carefully used the other foot to try to break her fall by grabbing branches. I'll look at how to make that more clear for the re-write.

Also, your thought processes while trying to figure out how they look (both the windborn and woodborn forms have long fingers and toes with claws, for instance, so there's no "if" needed) are very helpful to me in figuring out what I need to squeeze in, even in such a short story, for readers unfamiliar with this world.

Thanks again.

ETA: This borrowed computer saved my reply in mid-sentence. Edited to finish it. The owner must have some "smart key" thing happening that he didn't warn me about.

Edited at 2009-10-14 07:42 am (UTC)
cataterpillar
Oct. 17th, 2009 08:30 pm (UTC)
Hi, I'm your other editor from BF! Please feel free to ask me any questions if you have them.

First off, I'd have to say that the names of these two characters struck an odd chord with me. I don't have anything against rainbows as a thing, but as someone's name? It's loaded with connotations and would always make me think of children's shows--and the character, for me, would always be stuck in immaturity even as an adult.

I'm confused about the age of these characters in this piece, anyway. I was envisioning teenagers, because of the emphasis on what Rainbow SAYS to Lirli that sets her off ahead like that. Teenagers have in-depth conversations with each other where it's likely that they'll put their feet in their mouths every once in a while, but younger children would typically just be playing or play-acting rather than talking. If they are younger than teens, it would make sense for one to have broken some rule or another of their make-believe--that would be enough to send Lirli sulking away from her friend, but not necessarily so much that she wouldn't come back to her once she knew she was hurt.

Contrary to your first editor, I'd have to say that I don't really mind not knowing what precisely set Lirli off. I also would have to say that children are really not "for the most part, bastards;" I can say this because I've worked in daycare for almost six years now. xD I would say that the children in this story, if they are in fact as young as I am describing, would be atypical in their acceptance of blame for Rainbow's accident. (And also, for using the word "dreadful;" these things point to Victorian teenagers to me.) But they would not necessarily be arguing about whose fault it was. Maybe it would happen that they would bond over trying to hide the evidence of their mutual transgression, though.

I was thrown off same as shmoopy about the appearance and movement of your creatures. The wing-arm-foot things are confusing; if this is part of a larger story I can see why you wouldn't want to go into an exposition of how they're built, but for the piece to stand on its own I would suggest doing it anyway for comprehension's sake.

Your writing style is very loose and casual. I would be careful about that tipping over into bland:

"Carefully, she put [that] foot on the ground, more or less inside the bushes, and moved to a vertical position. [There really wasn’t] enough room here to leap into the air, the trees were dense only a couple of feet above her head. [And] standing, the knee on her good side felt wobbly. She doubted she could leap into the air one-footed with [that] knee."

This paragraph sort of highlights what I mean. You're showcasing the character getting up. It's just not the most interesting part of what could be happening: is she angry about Lirli zooming off and leaving her to get hurt? Is she worried that maybe Lirli won't come back for her? Does she miss her parents, or is she worried that they will be upset about her getting injured when she could have been safe at home doing her chores? The choice of words that you use are noncommittal and imprecise, which slows down the action and comes off as filler.

I'm going to echo shmoopy's confusion about why it was difficult for someone taller to help someone shorter out of a bush. Maybe this obstacle is not necessary, or could be replaced with something else?

It sounds like you have a very interesting concept built up around your world, and your characters belong there. Their personalities are evident of their upbringing in your universe, and they seem at home. :3 Are they a part of something else, where we see them as adults, or is this world exploration on your part?

Hope this helps you out, and happy writing! Let me know if you need clarification on anything, and since I'm fairly new as an editor, if I should change my approach . . . :3
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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