Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Distilled Prose: Postcard Narrative Assignment

Okay, here's another assigment that I did for my Distilled Prose class. It has three parts to it: 1) a 500 word narrative, 2) a 250 word revision, and 3) a 250 word rationale. I received a mark of 90% on this assignment. (Woo hoo!)

Dungeons and Dragons fans might recognize the name of the priest. Ruphus Laro is a background character from the Shackled City Adventure Path that was published in a series of DRAGON Magazines for 3rd Edition. The character's personality and flaws didn't fit my world so I changed them to suit the game, which, of course, is normal a part of gaming.

I guess you could call this "fan fiction," but gamers prefer to refer to such writings as "story hours." A story hour is fictional writing based on actual game play. However, this scene wasn't played out. It's fiction based on what happened in the game. Ruphus went on a journey "in-game" but it was never detailed. I knew what happened but I hadn't written it down in stone before now.

Still, it's more like fan fiction since I did not create this character. (Not that Ruphus is a primary D&D character beyond the pages of DUNGEON Magazine but it's still important to say.) Anyway, I'll stop rambling now. . .

A Priest Contemplates His Journey
500 Word Version
The doors opened and a young soldier entered the room from the vestibule.

“Master Ruphus, they are ready to leave.”

The young priest of the Protector did not move a muscle as he knelt before the statue of his goddess.

“I will be there shortly,” Ruphus replied.

The young soldier left the priest to finish his prayers closing the door quietly behind him.

Ruphus of Cauldron went over the events of the past few months in his mind. The journey from his homeland had been arduous and long. He had been relieved to see the looming gates of the city of Tallawan appear over the horizon. The relief soon turned into sorrow as he passed through the gates of the city and saw the conditions in the city.

The citizens of the city were a beaten down people living in abject fear of a race of creatures that were more like beasts then men. The people shirked from the streets as he and his escorts walked through the city towards the temple dedicated to the Protector. The city was on the verge of collapse. Hundreds of buildings laid in ruins from a dozen assaults by the beast men.

It had taken Ruphus over three weeks to gain any sort of trust from the city's populace. Hours of ministering to the sick and wounded had helped but his skirmish with the beast men outside the city had been the real turning point. He had been asked to help treat an outbreak in one of the nearby villages.

The beast men had come out of nowhere.

The battle had been quick and brutal. The beasts wore savage headdresses and wielded wicked weapons with jagged edges. They showed no mercy attacking both soldiers and villagers alike. Ruphus had balked when he first saw their true forms. The beasts were catlike creatures with long, sharp claws and teeth.

Ruphus had looked into their faces and couldn't help but see the face of the Protector but twisted into a horrid form. One of the beasts had jumped him and only the instinct to protect his life had saved him. He had skewed the beast with his sword but not before it had clawed away half his face including his left eye.

Ruphus let out a breath of sorrow as he opened his good eye and looked up into the catlike visage of Bast the Protector. The attack on the village had occurred over two weeks ago. He still wore the scars of the cat-man's claws across his face. He had underestimated the creature's ferocity. It was a mistake he would not make again.

“Now I understand why you chose me to make this journey, goddess. I have always doubted my own ferocity. I have always felt out of place at home. Here, I have found my purpose. I'm Ruphus Laro, battle priest of Bast.”

Ruphus stood donning his helmet. He walked from the temple to join the soldiers going to war.

250 Word Version
“Master Ruphus, they are ready to leave.”

“I will be there shortly,” Ruphus replied kneeling before the statue of the Protector.

The soldier left him to finish his prayers.

Ruphus mentally went over the events of the past few months. The journey from his homeland had been arduous. He'd been relieved to see the gates of Tallawan. His relief had turned to sorrow as he'd passed through the city's gates.

Its citizens were living in fear of nearby beast-men. They'd shirked from Ruphus as he'd walked through the city. Hundreds of buildings laid in ruins. While hours of attending to the downtrodden had eventually helped Ruphus gain their trust, it was his skirmish against the beast-men that had mattered most to them.

He'd been asked to help treat a sickness in a nearby village. The beast-men had appeared out of nowhere. They'd worn savage headdresses and wielded wicked weapons. They'd shown no mercy.

He'd balked when he'd seen their catlike forms. He'd seen the Protector in their forms. Then a beast-man had jumped Ruphus. Only his instincts had saved him. He'd killed it but not before it clawed his face.

Ruphus opened his good eye and looked at the catlike visage of the Protector. The attack had occurred several weeks ago. His face still wore the scars. He'd underestimated it. He would not make that mistake again.

Ruphus stood donning his helmet. He walked from the temple to go to war.

For this assignment, I decided to write something fictional based on a fantasy world that I designed for the Dungeons and Dragons game. Ruphus is a background character from a series of adventures that I ran. Therefore, I felt comfortable using him as the basis for a short narrative.

I began by visualizing how he would view the city of Tallawan as he first came upon it. I knew I wanted the city to be beleaguered, so it was easy for me to understand how the character would react. The encounter he had with the cat-men greatly changed him.

Ruphus' goddess is the Egyptian deity known as Bast. This mythic figure is usually depicted in the form a cat-headed woman. Therefore, it was important to connect the savage imagery of the cat-men to the priest's divine patron. This savagery is also reflected in Ruphus' physical and emotional scars.

While the initial writing was easy for me, it was a lot harder to cut the narrative down to 250 words. Compressing down narrative writing irks me as it always feels like I'm cutting away part of a character's personality. Removing his dialogue at the end of the narrative was very difficult for me.

The character's point of view is the key component of how I wrote this narrative. He is looking back on his journey remembering the important details. It is important to note that this journey is a much spiritual as it is physical.

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