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    O.W.L. - Behind The Lines - A Topical Writing Wrap Up - Season 1, Episode 1 - Vlad


    READING

    Bright white lights; curtains closed for comfort,
    Tonight's the night; it's certainly the number;
    November 11th, as fitting as snug blankets,
    Remembrance of blessings; splitting the smug banquet.

    This was the last time, he opened his eyes, "Come closer, please hear me"
    Oh how it's all flashed by, broken in cries, I took hold of his hand dearly
    “Do tell, Stanley, you know how much I love your stories”
    “Even when they're boring?” His humor roared 'till the last torrent.

    Though, his look began changing in an instant; serious contemplation,
    Mysterious, locked in patience, emotion ranging with insistence,
    Voice drained and gaining distance, I knelt close, “Please go on, I'm listening,”
    The sweat on his forehead glistened, his words meeting with resistance,

    “I'll start at the beginning...”

    “William was...ambitious, we knew he was corporal quality,
    First to arrive, last to leave, to us his regimen was a horrible oddity,
    At first we poked and prodded, never gaining any reaction,
    Till the day he saved our lives, it's been ingrained inside my actions...

    He paused for a sip of water...

    We became pinned in a church tower, surrounded beyond relief,
    Beams were crashing around us, pounding down to the streets,
    The enemy entering the stairway, we had minutes, maybe seconds,
    He smiled before he left us, “You know, I always enjoyed your jokes,”
    And with those words, he broke, through the hall he began sprinting,
    Yelled, “Go now and take the window,” that's when we heard the click of a pin,
    The explosion that followed is something, I can still feel it within,
    Knowing he sacrificed himself, so that we could make it back to our kin.

    “Oh Stanley...I'm so sorry, dear...”

    “Charles was a joker, Christ, he'd make knees go weak with laughter,
    He pulled the biggest pranks, never minding what happened after,
    Took his punishment in stride, he'd say “A smile is all that matters,”
    Washing dishes, cleaning crappers, to him, the fun came with his pride.

    On a typical Tuesday, we'd been tasked with tending to patrol,
    We started taking fire, from where? I'll never know,
    I was struck in the shoulder, swung violently to the ground,
    Gunfire kept erupting - somehow I was protected, but I'll never forget the sound,
    When our team eliminated the enemy, I crawled backwards, looking down,
    Charles had given up his body, for me, and in his blood I was now drowned.

    "Stanley... I... I don't know what to say..."

    "These men, I called them brothers, loved them all as so,
    They were the keys to my survival, and I've continued to let them know,
    Every Sunday evening, I took flowers to their graves,
    Without them, I'd be dead, my road is one they've paved,

    Please keep up the trend, memorialize their flawless deeds in bliss,”

    And with that, his last words were “I love you”, then he made me promise to honor his wish.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    BREAKDOWN

    **Bright white lights; curtains closed for comfort,
    Tonight's the night; it's certainly the number;
    November 11th, as fitting as snug blankets,
    Remembrance of blessings; splitting the smug banquet.**

    First line immediately sets the scene of a room. Bright white lights could be referring to a hospital, or really anywhere that wants a focus on a person or object. Curtains closed for comfort is a nice addition, gives a sense of intimacy or privacy, also limits the scene to the room we're in.

    So, the second line is a bit of a set up line, it's not overly mentionable otherwise in it's own right, however, when we go back and look at the rhythmic pattern that's being used, this line is a full follow through of the scheme that started in the first line.

    Bright white lights/[To]nights the night. The 'to' adds an extra syllable, but the FEEL of that rhyme, while simple, is mentionable.

    Curtains closed for comfort/certainly the number. Same thing. This is the more pronounced rhyme scheme of the first two lines being that it's the end rhyme, and the wording here in the scheme is a bit more complex than the previous so it stands out further.

    November 11th, as fitting as snug blankets. - Again, the comfort, the intimacy and privacy being portrayed allows a reader to envision the scene that's being written about, WHILE being metaphoric, referring to a date being fitting, and, November 11th, remembrance day, which is the first hint at the subject matter or story plot/setting.

    Remembrance of blessings; splitting the smug banquet. Another touch on Remembrance day, also a reflective touch. Splitting the smug banquet is...an interest choice of wording. The imagery of that piece alone, I get the vision of a dinner party, perhaps populated by rich and/or important guests. In this sense, it's another metaphor, this one for an interruption of thought.

    Also, note again, the rhyme scheme and the switches, much like the first two lines. To point them out:

    November 11th/Remembrance of blessings — This isn't as complete as the previous ones, being a bit more slanted towards the end, however, it is a whole lot more complex in terms of the wording trying to be rhymed. Then we finish the section:

    As fitting as snug blankets; splitting the smug banquet.

    This is a bit tighter, and again, as the end rhyme will be a bit more pronounced and focused upon, which is also why the previous (November 11th scheme) was able to be a bit slanted, because it took a backseat to this end rhyme.

    Overall, this section coupled the introduction and setting of a scene with intricacies of a well developed rhyme scheme. The wording was tight and smooth and allowed for a decent pace.

    Moving on....

    **This was the last time, he opened his eyes, "Come closer, please hear me" **

    The way this is broken down, specifically with the commas, creates a sense of slowing down the pace a touch, illustrating an important moment which either defines or will set up an event that will occur in the future of the piece.

    The dialogue is short, simple, the scene is easy to see, especially with description pulled from the last section -

    This is a man, opening his eyes for the last night, in a room with a bright white light, curtains closed, the metaphor of 'as fitting as snug blankets' can apply as well, seeing this man perhaps in a bed wrapped tightly for warmth.

    The dialogue seems meant to be whispered, a man on his death bed, opening his eyes for the last time will be weak, perhaps timid, and the dialogue itself, “Come closer, please hear me”, the man recognizes this weakness and wants to make sure that he is heard.

    **Oh how it's all flashed by; broken in cries, I took hold of his hand dearly**

    This line begins with the slight reflective state, a short reminisce of the journey to this point. A bit of emotion makes itself known to the story and is, again, easily to visualize, someone that's been with the man for at least a time, choked up and crying, moving closer to hear him, taking hold of his hand.

    Now, in terms of the technical standpoint of the writing, this follows a similar pattern to the first section. This is a technical prowess being shown.

    **This was the last time/how it's all flashed by. Opened his eyes/broken in cries. Come closer, please hear me/Took hold of his hand dearly. **

    Three separate schemes, matching between lines in order, broken slightly by the commas to accentuate the scheme, but while not taking anything away from the content and the part of the story that's being told. The pace, even with the commas, is smooth due to this continuous cycle of rhyming and allows us to read through the section the way it was meant to be written.

    **“Do tell, Stanley, you know how much I love your stories”**

    Ah, a name, this for the man in the story, while giving a feel for the other character as well. “You know how much I love your stories” is very indicative that these two have known each other for a while, perhaps husband and wife, close friends, life partners. This line is massive because it's human, the feel of it is real, and this, after the scene setting and emotion from 'Broken in cries, I took hold of his hand dearly' adds tremendously to the entire story.


    **“Even when they're boring?” His humor roared 'till the last torrent.**

    This line carries the rhyme from 'how much I love your stories' to 'even when they're boring' which allows a speedy and flawless transition between lines. This line adds another touch of humanity and gives a ton of character to the man. The slight emotion change is like the sharp first turn of a roller coaster in that it immediately switches the vibe of the piece and gives it a sense of lightness to it. The use of 'humor roared' might seem slightly out of place, given that we know this man is weak, opening his eyes for the last time, but it is also used to be a comparison between the weakness and a positive quality from his life. This doesn't necessarily imply that he's roaring now, but that his humor and laughter was loud and contagious.

    This section capitalizes well on the scene that was set, and it provides a wealth of character development to both characters in the story. The technical writing and rhyme schemes used, again, provided a very steady pace and enhanced the content and this part of the story.

    **Though, his look began changing in an instant; serious contemplation,**

    Another dramatic shift in momentum and feel to begin this section. Another sharp turn of the roller coaster of emotion that's being displayed and portrayed in this piece so far.
    **
    Mysterious, locked in patience, emotion ranging with insistence,**

    Accentuating the feel of this stanza and story as it's progressing, adds a bit of mystery to the piece, and taking from previous progression, specifically 'Come closer, please hear me', the dramatic of what this man is going to say or tell is a cliffhanger in it's own right.

    'Emotion ranging with insistence' - Another piece of writing that isn't something that seems common, but the way it's done gives further emphasis on the man's look, the man's words and the almost necessity of what needing to know he's going to say.

    The scheme work with these two lines is a bit unorthodox, without a clear matching end rhyme, however, this follows an ABBA pattern. 'Changing in an instant/ranging with insistence' and 'serious contemplation/mys-terious, locked in patience.

    This was a choice to switch the style up slightly to add a bit of depth to the scheme work, as well as a slight edge of showing off, this is saying, “there's no limits”.

    **Voice drained and gaining distance, I knelt close, “Please go on, I'm listening,”**

    Still more description of the events happening, the second character getting closer to hear the man due to his weak voice beginning to falter for the moment. The recognition of that and the dialogue is a form of permission, between the characters but also to the story itself to begin to take shape in the meat and flesh of the story.

    **The sweat on his forehead glistened, his words meeting with resistance, **

    More descriptive of the main character, the man, his energy waning as he attempts to speak again. Which leads into the end of the first section of the piece:

    **“I'll start at the beginning...”**


    A huge cliffhanger before the break, similar to the end of a thriller/mystery novel in that the reader is left wondering what is about to happen, what is about to be told, and it gives the reader the need and want to read and continue to find out.

    The rhyme scheme that started with 'changing in an instant' became the centerpiece of the rhythmic basis to this section, we had the slight switch to open the stanza, then the continuation of the A scheme through the rest. That lack of switch allows the pace to be quickened, not having to pick up on a brand new syntax, it hurries the piece to the break with a sense of almost urgency which coupled with the cliffhanger gives that suspenseful feel.

    -----------

    **“William was...ambitious, we knew he was corporal quality,**

    So we pick the story back up as it's now being told first person from the perspective of the man, also we know from 'I'll start at the beginning' that this is a recollection of events seen or experienced by the man in the past.

    A new character is introduced, William, and immediately there is a lot being told about this character. This answers a possible question of 'What is the main thing noticed about this character'. We, signifies that the man, and William, are part of some sort of group, since the we isn't referring to just the man and William because of the grammatical/English used.

    Corporal quality gives us the insight that this is part of an army, or war, with 'ambitious' and corporal quality giving hints to a ranking or promotion or at the simplest, again, a characterization.
    **
    First to arrive, last to leave, to us his regimen was a horrible oddity,**

    More character building in this line, and the standout comparison describing William's ambition and motivation.

    The rhyme scheme has switched to end rhymes only here, which allows a steady pace, not broken up by any switches, it signifies the desire for the reader to be able to read continuously and progress. That said, the rhyme used, 'corporal quality/horrible oddity' is quite unique and complex in itself that the technical prowess is still on display.

    **At first we poked and prodded, never gaining any reaction,**

    A bit different characterization here, in that it's more telling about the man (Stanley) and his group or unit rather than the new character William, but at the same time, shows once again the ambition and seriousness of William. This sheds light on the entire surrounding cast, not just a single character.
    **
    Till the day he saved our lives, it's been ingrained inside my actions...**

    Here's another small cliffhanger. The piece reading as if stanzas are chapters in a book, willing the reader to continue and giving the desire to do so as well.

    Again, just the end rhyme, and we can see/tell that the focus is a bit more centered upon the story and the characters at this point rather than a poetic or rhythm based piece, though, it still provides the smoothness that's been seen and heard throughout and, I'll mention again, the pace, which is ever important in a story based piece like this.

    **
    He paused for a sip of water...
    **

    Ah, a slight break and shift back to the different perspective. This furthers that cliffhanger, preparing the reader for something important to be described and occur.

    This section was focused on building an additional character, as well as furthering the development of the main character and those around him, while setting the scene immensely for something that is about to occur.


    **We became pinned in a church tower, surrounded beyond relief,**

    Starting with action, brief mention of the environment and a sense of worry, urgency, and/or desperation from being surrounded.
    **
    Beams were crashing around us, pounding down to the streets,**

    Further descriptive of the environment, 'crashing around us' places the character in the midst of all of this. The pace has quickened to provide extra dramatics and suspense to the action scene.
    **
    The enemy entering the stairway, we had minutes, maybe seconds,**

    More emotion, in the form of desperation. Also highlighting the events that are happening around the characters.
    **
    He smiled before he left us, “You know, I always enjoyed your jokes,” **

    Wait...Wiliam...Where is he going? Telling of the events, further characterization of William and a huge human element with 'You know, I always enjoyed your jokes', tells so much about William to further the amount of emotion resting upon his character.
    **
    And with those words, he broke, through the hall he began sprinting,**

    Descriptive telling of the events occurring, the use of 'he broke' and 'began sprinting' causes the reader to speed up with the story, again, furthering the emotion, desperation, and suspense.

    Also note, there was a slight switch up in schemes, 'Always enjoyed your jokes/and with those words, he broke'. This keeps the scheme work fresh and massively helping the transition and pace of the story.

    **Yelled, “Go now and take the window,” that's when we heard the click of a pin,**

    Events and action. Then, a pause and more suspense with 'thats when we heard the click of a pin', leads the reader into an assumption as if they already know what's going to happen and provides the chance for them to form a thought regarding that, likely along the lines of 'Oh no...'

    The transition scheme is shown again here, 'he began sprinting/take the window', it is slightly slanted and is written that way so that it doesn't overpower the coming end rhyme or the story.
    **
    The explosion that followed is something, I can still feel it within,**

    And all that suspense and emotion comes to a massive heading with this line. The emotion of loss of a character, the emotion from Stanley's perspective losing a brother in arms, both prevalent and provide a huge moment of the story.
    **
    Knowing he sacrificed himself, so that we could make it back to our kin.
    **

    The focus on Stanley's emotion, provided since he is the main character of the overall story, and this is the way of bringing it back around to him.

    As mentioned, there were a few transition scheme switches, otherwise straight end rhymes, both factors coupling to provide the rolling momentum to this tragedy.

    **“Oh Stanley...I'm so sorry, dear...”**

    A perfect timed break up to the story. Allows the reader a moment to dwell on what occurred then regather their thoughts. This also provides further insight into the second character who's with and listening to Stanley throughout this story.

    This section was lined with character descriptive and action. A new character was introduced, then the reader was allowed to get insight into who he was, what he was about, and finally, what his role in the story was. The juggling of emotions in this section is almost cruel, but is providing a huge basis to the overall story and the main character, Stanley, and the story that he's telling.

    ----------

    **“Charles was a joker, Christ, he'd make knees go weak with laughter, **

    Interesting. Another new character to begin this section, and the same sort of descriptive approach upon introduction.

    This character seems to be the complete opposite of the previous character, William, in personality, and provides an interesting contrast in the story and grand feel of things.
    **
    He pulled the biggest pranks, never minding what happened after, **

    Same template as the previous character introduction, this is more descriptive for the character and, again, provides insight into the new character.
    **
    Took his punishment in stride, he'd say “A smile is all that matters,”**

    Even more descriptive, getting a bit more personal with the character Charles' with the touch of added dialogue here.

    As was with the last section, the scheme is fairly simple and straight forward, providing a basis to the pace of another potential build up.
    **
    Washing dishes, cleaning crappers, to him, the fun came with his pride. **

    Descriptive, digging deeper into the character, what's he's done, and his personality.

    The scheme switch, again, 'all that matters/cleaning crappers'. Perhaps a bit of a step backwards in terms of the wording that's been consistently used in putting in 'crappers', but this also provides a bit more humanity and grit.
    **
    On a typical Tuesday, we'd been tasked with tending to patrol,**

    Scene switches a bit, as was noticed in the previous section with William. The 'we' in this being either just Stanley & William or the two of them plus others, it's unclear in terms of that but it may not matter which route depending on the events and occurrences to come.

    Alliteration here, 'typical tuesday, tasked with tending to paTROL', a good literary device to add a bit more depth to the technicality of the writing.
    **
    We started taking fire, from where? I'll never know, **

    This is one way to begin an action scene, and this commences right in the thick of it. The reflective question posed provides a range of emotions, confusion likely being the most prevalent.
    **
    I was struck in the shoulder, swung violently to the ground, **

    Action continues, this time with Stanley finding himself in peril, already setting up the descriptive of events and the scene underway. Leaves some questions about the future to be answered.

    Simple rhyme scheme again to place the emphasis clearly on the events and actions taking place.
    **
    Gunfire kept erupting - somehow I was protected, but I'll never forget the sound, **

    This shows, and allows the reader to form the scene and sounds in their mind. Posing another, and different question while furthering what could have been asked in the previous line. What happens next? How is he protected?

    The slight addition of an inner rhyme here, almost unnoticeable to some, I imagine, but it acts as a way to speed and increase the intensity of the scene. 'Gunfire kept erupting/somehow I was protected', as seen before, a slant rhyme that doesn't take away any focus from the events.
    **
    When our team eliminated the enemy, I crawled backwards, looking down,**

    Telling and showing in this line and part of the event. The first part being the tell, very direct way of approaching the end of the gunfight. Then, easy to envision the scene of Stanley crawling backwards, eyes towards the ground. A slight cliffhanger in itself as we reach the climax of this part of the story.

    **Charles had given up his body, for me, and in his blood I was now drowned.
    **

    And there it is. As like before, a big bang of the section and story. Once again, providing a new character, getting to know him, then grasping him away from the reader. Cruel, again, in a way, but necessary for the greater good of the story of Stanley. Also provides great imagery with 'in his blood i was now drowned', very graphic addition there.

    This is a good spot to mention, if noticed, though there have been a string and majority of end rhymes throughout these last two stanzas, the end rhyme, while worded simply, is actually complex within itself due to the syllable counts that have been used throughout the piece. The example here: “Violently to the ground/Never forget the sound/crawled backwards, looking down/his blood I was now drowned”, this set is comprised of 6 syllables, that being, I believe, 5-7 count used in the end rhymes being the most consistent part of that. I hadn't mentioned it due to the consistency and for the most part taking a back seat to the story being told, but the ability to consistency use more than just a one or two word set as an end rhyme has done wonders for the flow, pace, and, again, technical writing aspect of this.

    **"Stanley... I... I don't know what to say..." **

    The small break up of the sections, again, allowing the reader to deal with the events that have happened, form their own emotions and opinions and be ready to continue with the ending of the story. This begins the falling action of the story.

    **"These men, I called them brothers, loved them all as so, **

    Major emotional moment here as the realization or assumption that Stanley is possibly the last one, these men that he, and we, had gotten to know, and were taken so cruelly and violently, one can't help but feel for this man in his last moments, especially being that this is the story that he chose to tell with those last moments that he's had left.

    **They were the keys to my survival, and I've continued to let them know,**

    More emotion, the touch of humanity and humility, appreciation and love for the men that were lost and so instrumental in Stanley's life.

    **Every Sunday evening, I took flowers to their graves, **

    Heart wrenching, human, just raw, natural emotion being displayed here as things wrap up.

    **Without them, I'd be dead, my road is one they've paved, **

    Continuation, just flowing in emotion and reflective. The appreciation that Stanley has is extremely easy to be understood and respected.

    The rhymes are there, 'loved them all as so/continued to let them know', 'took flowers to their graves/my road is one they've paved', and notice, 5/6 count, given, the word continued, I believe, needs to be split in half to fit into the 5 count, so this is one instance where that could have been slightly tightened to fit a bit more perfectly.

    **Please keep up the trend, memorialize their flawless deeds in bliss,”**

    Heartbreakingly genuine. And the wording is so smooth it allows for full feeling to be felt without distractions.

    **And with that, his last words were “I love you”, then he made me promise to honor his wish.**

    This is raw and real. The “I love you” to the secondary character, the act of the tribute, the whole fact of Stanley being on his literal death bed and the last thing he chooses to do is tell the story of these heroic men that lost their lives for his sake, out of their own goodness of heart, it's monumental and a beautiful and perfect way to close the story out.

    That last line being slightly longer could be seen as a bit stretched in terms of the wording, but at the same time it almost prolongs the ending of the story. If a reader has become attached to the characters and this story, the ending is the saddest part because it's over, so this was a way to give the reader the fullest closing to appreciate before the end.

    As a whole, this was an extremely beautiful story that was written. The many emotions caused and gained throughout kept this as a roller coaster of a ride, cliffhangers and foreshadowing brought such a great aura of suspense and tragedy in the perfect places and the visual descriptive made it easy to place oneself in the middle of the story in the act, that coupled with the flow and rhythm of this piece kept it steady and made for a smooth and almost flawless read.


    This has to be one of the pieces that I'm the most proud of writing. The way everything fit together and turned out was way better than I'd imagined when the concept came to me.

    The concept on which this was based was simple, I took the photo topic, the keys in the open field, I made that location a memorial graveyard, the keys acting as the tomb or headstones. The keys represented the fallen brothers that Stanley had lost along the way, and with his walking through in the picture it provided the idea for the reflective story; telling and honoring these men with his last breaths.

    Originally I had wanted to do 4 sections, each representing a fallen brother, but from about 8 lines in I knew I wouldn't have the space in the line limit I'd set myself to be able to approach, introduce, and fully flesh out the extra characters. The basis was always around the Key To Survival, again, the brothers being the keys, them providing his survival, hence the title.

    I've been super stoked about this story from the moment I finished it and am glad I could share this and the breakdown with anyone who's decided to listen. Please don't hesitate to comment, question, or otherwise approach me with any thoughts you may have regarding this story.

    I'd like to give a huge amount of thanks to everyone at Writing Leagues . com, these members are the inspiration and motivation to keep writing and striving to be better each and every time I write.

    Hope you all enjoyed this and please stay tuned for further episodes.

    Vlad signing off.

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  3. #2
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    just listened to both the intro and the breakdown, dope shit man. pretty cool listening to someone examine a body of work, and especially since its your own, i can compare what i got out of the verse from where your head was at writing each line. good work fam

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