Chapter 2

Written by: Joe Labrum


I’m gripping the hand-hold running along the gunwale and thinking, Wild Sheep Rapids is every bit as rough as Bruce warned last evening in camp. Last evening around the campfire  everyone talked loud and fast about our first day on the river. Then Bruce gave us a preview of what happens next. He said we would encounter the two biggest rapids of the entire 79-mile trip.

I woke this morning filled with nervous anticipation wondering what to expect.  We pushed off into a quiet bend in the river with the peaks of the Seven Devils casting their shadow halfway up the rugged slope of the Wallowa Mountains to the west. I sat in the right front seat with Artie in the other front seat to my left. Behind us sat a middle-aged couple from Detroit. Bruce stood in the stern working the rudder.  Manipulating the long oars facing forward is an unfamiliar rowing position that feels awkward at first. But, by the second day, I was semi- comfortable with it. That first day of practice was a Godsend.

“Boulder ahead,” the shout from Bruce brought me back to the present.  We drop over a series of cataracts each several feet in height and headed straight for a chunk of granite lying not quite below the surface like a submerged island.

 “Pull to starboard”, the guide is screaming as loud as he can but I can hardly hear him. “Get to the right of the current. If we go over it we’ll flip”.

The bow of the raft catches in the eddy behind the boulder while the stern bounces out into the fast moving current and we started to spin. Artie’s side pulls hard on their oars and I’m pushing as hard as I can to stop it. We bounce down another flight of cataracts backward.  Spray off the stern sails over the heads of the back rowers drenching my backside. The roar is getting louder. I look over my shoulder. A wave of panic wash over me. A few hundred yards ahead the river funnels down to half its width and drops fifteen or twenty feet. If we don’t get this raft turned around, we are going over it backwards. 

“That’s the other one," yells Bruce, “Granite Rapids”. “We can turn the boat around here in the slow stretch. Pull on starboard, push on the port side”.

The river slows.  Forgetting about the danger ahead I concentrate on my oar. Without too much effort, we are once again going bow first. I see what reminds me of an open floodgate between mountainous boulders on either side of the river. The current compresses into a channel cascading down a series of large cataracts into a bowl at the bottom. The grip I have on my oar is making my hands go numb. I feel my heart stop as we pick up speed. The bow lurches down in a torrent of spray and I close my eyes.

Joe Labrum (USA)


First time at present tense is like shaving against the grain but you really took the bull by the horns. Well done Joe. There were a couple of things I found with this piece. The first para had a slight tense issue. The second para had a spelling mistake, the third should read feet, not feed. The fifth - the word should be washes. It is easy to forget but there is a spell check that we should use when editing. These are minor things but overall my biggest beef was that I wanted to see the start of a plot, a fight or capsize or rock fall etc. The main thing is, you went for it and showed all the other first timers at present tense that we writers need to explore all avenues of our voice through the pen.
Please point out the tense issue and suggest a correction. I am new and can't seem to spot it. Also I ran it through spell check several times. The spelling errors are wrong words not typo's. Sorry for the sloppy work. And thanks for the instruction.
I do think you've set the stage well, with solid description and a feeling of movement. Maybe there's no actual plot yet, but it feels like things are about to happen. I'm also apprehensive about the present tense--it still just feels "wrong" to me. However, I'll give it a go.
...and you get a gold star for accuracy, Joe. I'd swear you are on that trip. I had a little trouble getting my head around how the end of Chapter 1, the first day, they were watching peaceful hang gliders and got interrupted  by a sudden rapid and then this chapter has her holding the line while dropping into a rapid while thinking about how they stopped somewhere for dinner. Otherwise, very well played. Without the confusion, that bit of day-dream just as they dropped into the rapids made me nervous. She obviously didn't believe Bruce's warnings to concentrate. I could feel my heart in my throat as we rode Wild Sheep with them. You didn't say, but I could almost hear Artie giggling like a lunatic through the worst of it. 
Maybe the hang glider was bait for the beginning of a plot to come. Unfortunately the pilot must have overshot the rapids before the raft. And who was shouting from the raft behind them? Maybe someone just about to collide and overturn. Maybe I should write - start plot here in brackets after clue.
I knew that daydream bit in the middle of rapids was a bit goofy but I wanted to get it into the second day and couldn't think of a good way. Any suggestions?
Well - there could have been a hang glider and it could have crashed and the pilot could have hit a raft and the raft could have overturned and Sue could have been swept away and Arnie could have swum after her and the other raft could have caught fire when they misfired a distress rocket or whatever -phew - and I don't know anything about rafting. I COME FROM THE EASTEND OF LONDON. I KNOW ABOUT GRAFT, NOT RAFT. I'm never going rafting again. 
So what would be wrong with simply writing this whole piece as an experience rather than an action story.  The way it is right now would fit nicely as a journal entry.  Let's just wait and see how each of us is able to experience and express this form of writing.  Good work Joe!  Good Luck to all who have never done this before, including me.  I need to do some research into just what is possible in this form.
@ Mrellan - yes, it is worth pointing out that most of the writers in this serial are first timers at this tense. I hope the chapters do reveal a good story, whether action or an experience, but most of all this will give those participating a chance to try their skills at something new. Surely this is what the Story Mint is all about.
I am more interested in form than technicalities(tense/spelling).  The details can be worked out at the end.  If it's a novel that's a load of material to get through and if sold to a non English speaking country a revision is needed for that stuff.  With form, as a reader if someone had a stroke, heart attack or epileptic fit before the boat reaches the rapids that is more drama/action. That is merely an example of my approach.  
I agree but we are not writing a script for TV where visual is there from the start. With a story, we have to build and color the background that the characters are performing in otherwise whatever action is taking place in bland land becomes boring, hence the need for a couple of chapters to put us in the mood and hint at what is to come through a gradual build up of action. With regard your comment on technicalities - please, we are trying to present our writing at the highest standard possible and that means proper editing, spelling, and form in a limited time frame. Perhaps I could suggest that you try booking a chapter and seeing how hard one has to work to achieve plot, characterization, background, action and form in 72 hours. In this particular serial, a pretty hard tense too for most writers. Kindle library is full of 90% unedited rubbish. We are here to write quality "Stuff" and help new writers become published. For that, they need to practice the technicalities as well as showing their artistic flair. 
@ KEN, I wonder if you really understand what the purpouse of this forum is.  Yes, getting reader feedback is very important to all of us who write chapters here but getting to the point where we will have a salable and consistant style is what we are learning, practicing and developing here. We appreciate your feedback to our writing but we also ask that you understand a couple things about us.  We have been given this space to also experiment with our writing voice to see what works and what does not.  Some of us have been previously published, many of us have not.  Everytime something either work or fails we learn a lesson that brings us one step closer to becoming a successful writer.  We ask that you remember that when you read our work.  Most of us are still "diamonds in the rough".  We know that, we also know that few people make it in this business--I think every darn one of us deserves a a lot of credit for simply having the guts to try.  Thank you  for taking the time to read our stuff and comment on it but please also keep in mind each of us is putting 100% on the line everytime we put out a piece and sign it.   The last time I wrote to you I invited you to take a turn and find out what it takes to write a chapter.  So far you have not done that.  Maybe you need to walk a mile in our shoes.                                                                     
He doesn’t have to wear our galoshes and we shouldn’t have to make excuses. Ray explained this forum asks all participants to write outside of their comfort zones. That said, like every other reader, Ken has his preconceived concepts and understandings of how stories should go together. Just because his opinion doesn’t build your ego doesn’t mean you can’t use it to broaden your own skills. Every time he comments, I look at the piece and try to understand it from his POV. Most of the time, I learn something. If I don’t agree, hey, he’s entitled to his opinion and shouldn’t have to duck an attack. I must confess I’ve tugged at his leg a few times, but not with malice. @ Ken, I have no idea your background, but keep your grenades coming. They only sting for a moment.
I agree that it's tough to put ourselves as writers on the line for public scrutiny - all on a short word count and short turn-around and in genres or tenses that we're not comfortable with. However, the forum as I understand it, is for the reader to give us an honest opinion of what s/he wants in a story. We need more Kens. More readers willing to tell us what they think from a non-writer's point of view. We can be as technically perfect as is possible and still not be salable so long as the reader doesn't engage. The most valuable thing we have here is the reader's input. And Ken has grown as a reader as we have grown as writers from these serials. Sometimes it's hard to see, but reader is the most precious tool we're given here. Let's not try to reshape it, but use it for what it is.
I agree that the reader's reaction a valuable tool for me as a writer wannabe. I can run my flag up the poll but I don't know whether I have a point to make or am way off base unless there is a reaction from an audience. Do they salute or walk away, or simply not notice. Thanks for noticing.
in this format, enables both sides (writers/readers) to communicate and sometimes take things personnaly.  Criticism needs to be accepted professionally but your work does not need to change because I have a particular view on it.  You will not get my first reaction because that is to quick.  I'll think about it for at least 6 hours before I put it out there with a very carefully constructed paragraph.  I do always think that writers are doing a courageous/demanding job by putting your work in a public place.  I know that not every reader with always like(or know) your work like you do but keep putting it out there and keep this professional dialogue in place.    
Thank you for understanding what I was saying.  There is no malicious intent in the things that I write.  Secondly, I have a strong belief in the philosophy of "take what you can use and discard the rest."  I take my writing very seriously--being a writer is not a job for sissy's.  I have to listen to criticism and use what applies but I also have to have enough belief in my own skills and talent to keep going against astronomical odds.  If all writers looked at the numbers and percentages before they wrote a story there would be no stories written.  The numerical odds against us are staggering.  I would do better to buy lotto tickets.  Historically, some of the very best writers never got published till after their death.  Emily Dickenson to name one.  Thank you for acknowledging the tightrope act we each walk when we sit down to write.
Joe, you know your stuff. Having never been near a river trip, I'm impressed. I felt like I was on the boat. You held the tense well enough - going into past tense when going over what has happened previously is acceptable. However, I'm still no closer to knowing who these people are or what is going to happen - and we're nearly 30 percent of the way through. As a reader, I'm coming close to my tipping point for a short story to stop and cut my losses. The next chapter is now a make or break for me in a real-life reading situation. The problem is that while no one's done anything "wrong" yet, I have nothing to hold my attention - not being a fan of river rafting for its own sake.