Terrouge E-zine Archives
Guest Article: Cairn, QBII 3rd Place Finisher
I cannot remember in which novel I read the following passage: "Where shall I start my tale? Well sir, I hear it best you start at the beginning." Perhaps that would be the best place for me to begin, at the beginning. As a Redwall reader, I have enjoyed this web site because it provided me a chance to enjoy a little creativity on a topic that interests me.
When the Questors Bold II contest was announced, I eagerly read the prologue. Seeing the list of possible characters partaking in the adventure, my mind went into overdrive. The timing was even perfect. A blizzard closed everything down where I live giving me all day to develop my character. I allowed my imagination free reign.
Over sixteen hours and more then 4,000 words later, Mallard, my ten-year old mouse was born. For the next two weekends, I wrote revisions that eventually trimmed the story down to the maximum 500 word limit, a task that would later prove to have eviscerated my little mouse. Monday morning, I sent him on his way certain he would win the slot.
Three days later, Mother Nature again dumped a second load of snow on our city. In an office of forty, I alone arrived at work. Naturally, the Agency closed for the day. Once back home, I decided to put together another character submission. After all, the rules allowed two entries. In a fifteen minute blitz of typing and no editing, I created a second entry of 500 words for a hedgehog named Cairn Destop.
Imagine my surprise at finding out that one of my characters would be offered to the readers as a Questor. Now imagine my shock when the character selected was not the well-developed mouse, but the forgotten hedgehog. Until that very moment, everything I had done was in preparation for that mouse. This bartending guy was such a quickly developed character, I never really considered him as a serious contender.
For the next month as readers discussed the thirty characters, I intensely studied the audience reaction to Cairn. Most readers thought a secondary character in my application, the arrogant mouse that entered the tavern, was far more interesting then the bartender. Several even called Cairn dull and not too well developed. It appeared my hedgehog was destined not to make the final cut. I accepted my probable defeat but still felt I had given a valiant effort to get into my first ever writing competition.
Recount the vote! Somehow, my character did get into the contest. There are no words to describe just how shocked and thrilled I was to see that e-mail message telling me I was now part of the team. Cairn Destop was about to go where two other hedgehogs hoped to go.
Cairn was in the game, meaning he needed to be made ready for the story. So, over the next few days, I worked up a simple development scheme for my character. Here was the great stoic who would watch the action and give insight into the story as an interested observer. Cairn would be the wise one, able to analyze every situation and offer expert advice to his fellow captives. At least, that was my initial intention.
Cruel Fate stepped into the game even before it began and the computer system crashed. Imagine my distress at not being able to post because the players before me had not yet done so because of this problem. Even worse, when the game finally did start, we were not going to be given the lost week back, meaning whatever character development I had planned, was no longer possible. So with no hope of showing my hedgehog's personality in the short time remaining before the first vote, I fully expected to be the first voted out.
Lucky me, I won a reprieve by the slimmest of margins when the voting came in for the first week. So, with the other characters at the slave compound, I tried to work stories incorporating those characters. It was my hope that having Cairn interact with as many of the other contestants as possible, the readers would see him as interesting.
Deckerd was nice enough to provide dialogue that threw an interesting curve into the chapter I wrote. His proposed belligerent retorts and his readiness to fight me were an interesting twist to my original "lets be friends" approach. I am most grateful to him for his help.
Our second week of competition involved more action on our private discussion board then the actual story postings. Everybody wanted to plan the remaining weeks of the contest. Brookmere developed and organized a general storyboard flexible enough to allow each character to follow their individual development without sacrificing the continuity of the actual adventure. It was his inspiration that kept all of us focused throughout the contest right up to the final week.
Each week was a struggle for me. There was both excitement and apprehension each time I did a post, trying to keep my character growing and trying to interact with the other players. I concentrated on those players who were like me, near the bottom facing elimination. By offering possible story lines and attempting to form a three-way alliance with a top player, I sought the chance to maintain my presence through numerous postings that enhanced the story and continued to develop Cairn.
As each week's results were announced, my heart went from dread, to elation. Knowing what the critics from last week's review disliked and incorporating those suggestions into my writing for the current week, I hoped to improve my status. It was the only thing I could control. The reaction from the readers I could not control and so every Wednesday morning became a time of dread.
Seeing the results of the latest poll always proved disappointing to me because I continued to dwell in the cellar, always facing possible elimination. I was fortunate the public who disliked the hedgehog wrote comments that proved helpful in my next week's postings. Comments like the story needing "spice" and that the character was "boring" motivated me to expand Cairn's involvement in the story. I began to take an active role in the story as outlined by Brookmere.
When the results of the latest vote were revealed, I could not just drop down to the bottom of the posted announcement to see who "died" that week. I had to scroll down the list, player by player, to see if this was my last week in the contest. There are no words to express my feelings when I realized Cairn would continue the quest. Though the vote was often close, my player's survival was all that mattered.
Yet seeing the results of the polls became a real disappointment to me. When the third week began, I presented two stories that were, in my opinion, ones that ranked as some of my best efforts. "Road to Auria" was my most descriptive story to date and it involved all the characters still in the slaver compound. Even my attempt at poetry seemed inspirational. On an emotional level, "Real and Imaginary Foes" provided me the excuse to have my stoic become a bolder, active player.
However, the chapter I truly felt was my best story to date, "Let's Make a Deal" was such a powerful one for the hedgehog Cairn, coming right after the death of Brookmere. The story's conflict and the dialogue felt so appropriate for the characters involved. Even the last line to the story regarding Cairn's decision came off as what I considered the best ending I ever did in a post. So when the results of that week's poll were announced, I expected a change in my rating.
Again I managed to just miss elimination. With three of my best stories up for review and the public calling them unacceptable, I wanted to give up. Readers wanted descriptions, yet the scenic views were overlooked as unnecessary to the story. Readers wanted insight described, yet the readers said Cairn "spent too much time thinking" and several said he overanalyzed. I would have welcomed my death as it seemed I could convince nobody of the improvements and growth I believed Cairn had made since his application.
Then my savior came along. Ringet opened a poll asking everyone who they thought would win and why. Seeing her give a vote for the hedgehog was indeed a shock. To date, the polls appeared to show my character was destined for elimination. The number of other forum members that began to sing the praises of Cairn amazed me. Thanks to that topic, I realized I had a real chance in this game. With a renewed sense of determination, I concentrated on each upcoming chapter to produce the best material possible.
Now I did not care if Cairn was near the bottom. So long as he continued to miss the elimination, I was happy. As each character was eliminated, the pace of the story and the postings became faster. Such a fast pace was not always to my benefit as story or dialogue ideas that would work under one condition, failed under the new storyline. Not counting the death stories I prepared every week, there were at least four stories that never got to be published.
When the contest drew down to the final week of elimination, the pace was such that remaining offline for any amount of time could mean losing continuity with the story. Missing some remark from a fellow contestant regarding an upcoming story could mean the difference between looking foolish or fitting your next story post smoothly into the adventure. This was perhaps the one week where I spent more time editing my stories than drafting new ones.
As I write this article, the winner is known to everyone as Rystan. Am I disappointed that Cairn did not win? Of course I am disappointed. But the truth is that the better writer won this competition and I honestly am glad to see the audience agreed with me. Congratulations "daughter," it was indeed a well earned victory.
I take great comfort that I completed this event alive after so many thought Cairn should have been eliminated weeks ago. In a race where Cairn came so close to death, only to participate in the finale, is an accomplishment beyond my wildest expectations. Though I came in third, knowing the voting spread between first and third was only ten percentage points lets me know my efforts were recognized too.
Even the request from Rystan asking both Delaila and myself to participate in that grand finish gives me great joy. She did not have to do that for either of her two competitors. If nothing else, it shows how close a friendship we three finalist developed. Better friends I could not have.
So what happens now? Well, Cairn has achieved such personal success; he will continue to live on in this Forum as my permanent online identity. For those wondering what my online identity was prior to the contest, I gave everyone my name in the story regarding the interview with Duke Masnitooth after the poisoning. In that chapter, I identified another slave by the name of "Tarrel." That name is an anagram for my original online identity of Ratler.
To all the contestants, to the exceptional members of the Staff, and to all the loyal readers, I wish to extend my deepest thanks and appreciation.