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The Road Home

The Road Home

One man battles his demons on his way back home amidst the backdrop of the American Civil War.

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Action / Adventure


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Bobby W Lee (United States)


THE ROAD HOME


We are not so different. You might have been raised differently, taught differently, born in a different location; but when he puts his finger on you, you leave this world the same as anyone.

He does not discriminate. He does not negotiate. He takes this life from you no matter what your plans and intentions. His will is undeniable.

You can fight, but invariably, you lose. He has shadowed me now for days, waiting for that moment he chooses. I can see him from the corners of my eyes, letting me know he is there, and that my time is coming. My name is Slade, and Death rides with me.

Chapter 1:
The sun was rising over the Missouri ridges. The pungent smell of meat roasting on hickory fed flames made his mouth flood with saliva. The sweet scent of dogwood blossoms mixed with the acrid smoke by random puffs of breeze. His hungry gut twisted and growled.

Slade had been up making his fixings by moonlight. He had to make it back to Illinois to let his folks know that he was still alive after the brutal battle in Paducah. The bay whickered, and Slade immediately jerked the pistol from his holster and rolled away from the campfire.

A hollow-eyed Yankee soldier stumbled from the cover of the dogwoods. Slade could tell at one quick glance that this man was through fighting. He was pale, gaunt as worn leather, and carried no weapon.

"That's far enough Yank. Keep them hands where I can see 'em if you want to live out the morning." Slade cocked the pistol and scanned the brush for others.

"Whoa there. That's close enough." The man came on, his back to the yet soft orange glow of the rising sun, oblivious to Slade's warning. Slade aimed, then held his shot. Something was off about the Yank, bad off. The light breeze suddenly became a lot cooler and Slade's skin prickled all over.

The smell of putrid flesh hit Slade's nose even though the Yank was still yards away. One sleeve flapped in the morning breeze. "Cannon ball took his arm," flashed through Slade's mind. He watched as the dirty blood-encrusted man stumbled past him, eyes glazed, unseeing. Just the man's will propelling him along.

No telling how long the man had been walking Or which skirmish he had come from. Killing him would probably have been a blessing but Slade was tired of killing, unless it was a matter of no choice. His choice here was to let the Yank stumble on, to whatever fate awaited him.

The man disappeared into the morning mists as though he had never been there. Slade listened and watched until he was sure this was no ambush. Then he squatted to finish his meager meal and coffee. The war had pushed on farther South, but there were still squads roaming the woods here.

He finished up the squirrel and sucked the marrow from the bones. No telling when he might get to eat again, and his coffee supply was getting low. His tobacco ran out days earlier, which meant he was on a sharp edge.

Scuffing out the small fire he'd risked for hot food, Slade saddled the bay and mounted up. He let the animal walk. He had a long ways to go.


Competition: The Pen Factor 2016, Round 1

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Read Reviews

Review 1:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • There needs to be more balance between narration and dialogue. Avoid overdoing the narrative and remember that dialogue can diffuse long claustrophobic text.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing!
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals, conflicts and purpose were clearly introduced and I wanted to find out more about them.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. The first page should introduce some intrigue, something that causes the reader to turn the page. Think about the conflict and tension in your story. How effectively has it been introduced?
Technique and tight writing
  • When writing is tight, economical and each word has purpose, it enables the plot to unravel clearly. Try and make each individual word count.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose is tricky. As writers, we face the daunting task of making sure we are not being predictable. Can you find a way to give the content and characters more of a unique edge? Perhaps say something boldly, something fresh or show an unorthodox approach to a topic?
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
Opening line and hook
  • Your strong opening and compelling hook was a promise of wonderful things to come!
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
I have enjoyed reading your submission. I found the story moved along well and the descriptive writing blended well with the dialogue. I would have liked a little more dialogue. The soldier was alone and presumably had been for some time. Along comes another man, oblivious to his presence. Had I been that soldier I would have tried to engage the other man. To no avail considering his condition but some maybe amusing comments could have lightened the story. Having said that I found it very readable. Well done.

Review 2:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • There needs to be more balance between narration and dialogue. Avoid overdoing the narrative and remember that dialogue can diffuse long claustrophobic text.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • The protagonist didn’t always respond believably against the backdrop of the story. Ask yourself if people would really answer to a situation in that way. Think about whether the characters’ voices could be more convincing for their age, background, gender, time period, genre, gender and ethnicity. Dialogue should be natural and consistent throughout the story.
General comments from your fellow writer 2:
Kind of back then don't you think. I feel like this could be a zombie story which would be boring but its good for a historical fiction person. The needs to be more feeling in the story but it was okay

Review 3:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing!
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals, conflicts and purpose were clearly introduced and I wanted to find out more about them.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. Your story makes compelling reading.
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice.
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Opening line and hook
  • Your strong opening and compelling hook was a promise of wonderful things to come!
General comments from your fellow writer 3:
Enjoyable read, quite gripping. I like other-worldly atmosphere, almost sounding like a cowpoke sci-fi. Was the man who entered the camp-site dead? It was an excellent hook, very well written, economical and tight. Not a word wasted, just like a good western should be. Full marks from me.