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michaelcthompson
October 16th, 2010, 05:19 PM
DISCLAIMER: This story involves demonic interactions and may not align with certain religious views.

This excerpt is taken from Act II, Chapter 10. Richard is the protagonist of the novel, a gay writer who is a paranoid schizophrenic. At this point in the novel, Richard has been having dreams of a strange dream-world known as "Arcadia." He is in that world now, and he is visited by the main antagonist of the novel - a demon named Yesodoth. You don't need to know much back-story to follow this conversation, which is why I decided to use it as an excerpt. If you are interested, the first three chapters of the novel are in my Worthy of Publishing portfolio in the link in my signature.

The demon in particular talks about writing and writers, since Richard is a writer himself. So perhaps in some ways the demon is speaking to you. ;)


"The Breaker of Foundations" excerpt
__________
COPYRIGHT 2010 MICHAEL C. THOMPSON.

He wakes without waking, and knows it immediately. Things do not feel right. He is still dreaming. He opens his eyes, but there is only darkness.

“Hello?” he calls out, expecting no reply. There is no vocal answer, but as the stillness surrounds him he hears a faint buzzing sound, like the hum of a power line. He sits up, feeling the cold, rocky ground beneath him. It feels solid, but at the same time immaterial. A strange voice speaks out to him, a voice that sounds human neither in it’s affectation nor the wisdom which rings through it.

“Hello, Richard,” it says slyly. “We have not yet parted.”

“Who is that?” he asks the strange questioner, not even knowing in which direction to speak.

“I am the one you called so long ago. Yesodoth, as we decided…”

“I never called you,” Richard responds. “This is another dream.”

“We’ve become quite good at recognizing dreams, haven’t we?” Richard feels a strange revulsion at being grouped in as a “we” with this creature.

“We are not alike,” he says. “There is no we, in fact.”

“There is, there is,” says the voice. Two orange lights begin to burn like the ends of cigarettes in the darkness. “You called me, I called you… it’s the same thing. One responds to the other. That is the law of attraction, you know.”

“I know better than to start having conversations with strange dream voices,” Richard says, more to himself than to the creature. It laughs, a strange and otherworldly sound which sends chills running up Richard’s (dream) body.

“You’re a writer,’ the voice says. “You’re all alike. All you really want to do is talk to the voices in your head, but you do it publicly so you can pretend you know it’s just a figment of your imagination. So you can tell yourself none of it’s real. Writing is deception. You are very practiced at the art of deception.” Richard ignores the demon.

“Where am I?” he asks it.

“This is your nightmare,” the creature says, sounding surprised at even being asked such a silly question. “Surely you recognize it?”

“I don’t recognize anything. I’m assuming those lights are your eyes and that’s all I can see. Other than that, it’s pure darkness.”

“That’s all you want to see,” it responds. The orange lights grow brighter and burn like torches after about thirty seconds of increasing in brilliance. The lights reveal the body holding the eyes and Richard jumps back in shock. It is the creature that he just saw earlier in the dream, the thing summoned through the “auger” of the boy that so much looked like Jeremy.

It is the “cloud man” who follows him in his dreams, and who he saw in the mirror a few weeks ago. The thing that pounded on his door in that first dream so long ago, barking mad, demon laughter. Yesodoth.

“You frighten so easily,” the creature says.

“You’re a demon!” Richard shouts back, still repulsed. He feels his back against cold stone and moves his hands along it. Wet moss rubs across his palms.

“I am a demon to you, and others would call me an angel. Or a djinn. Or a spirit. It’s all the same thing. Regardless, this is just a dream, is it not? What harm can a dream bring to one as powerful as you, mortal?”

Richard sees it’s grin in the darkness, faintly illuminated by the hellish torch lights burning in it’s eye sockets. The two halves of his brain are arguing again, one telling him that the creature is right and that it is just a dream and the other telling him there is more here than he should presume. He decides which half to listen to and consequently, continues to speak with the dream demon.

“Right, well - a demon would say that.” The thing looks at him still grinning, perhaps larger now at this challenge.

“Yes, I suppose a demon would.”

“Why am I here?”

“I already told you, it’s your nightmare. You’re the one dreaming it.”

“Then why am I dreaming you? You said you were an angel or a djinn. Whatever. Now you’re saying you’re a dream. Which is it?”

“Perhaps there is no difference,” the mysterious stranger responds casually. “As for why you’re dreaming this, do I look like a psychologist?” Yesodoth asks him, sounding honestly (and infuriatingly) curious. Richard closes his eyes and focuses for a second, managing to ignore the creature’s subtle belligerence. He steps out of the shadows.

“You don’t seem quite as cryptic as I thought a demon would be. A lot more talkative, in fact.”

“Well, you’re the one creating me,” it says.

“I am not. I would never create something like you. I created Andelbar, and he summoned a demon in the book I wrote about him. But it certainly wasn’t you. I’ve never imagined anything like you.”

“Perhaps not consciously.”

“I must have a brain tumor. That has to be what’s going on.”

“You should get that looked at,” the demon remarks.

“I’ve never heard the name Yesodoth either, why would I call you that?”

“You might have made it up, or perhaps you read it in one of your silly mystical paperbacks and forgot about it.”

“Maybe. I must say, you do have the qualities of a demon that I would expect. For instance, you’re a belligerent smart-ass, you seem somewhat arrogant, you’re hideously ugly and you ask more questions than you answer.”

“If this were not a dream, you would not be speaking to me as such. But if you think really hard about what you just said to me, it should be obvious that I’m your creation because all of those qualities are your qualities and I’m reflecting all of them back at you.” Richard doesn’t know how to respond to this and tries to think about it for a moment.

“I’m not hideously ugly,” is all he can manage to say, and it comes out sounding weak and defensive.

“Clearly a part of you is.” His thoughts come up against a brick wall. Perhaps the creature is right? There’s really no way to test this theory, and he does know demons are supposed to lie, so for now he decides he’ll simply have to not trust the thing.

The dream demon.

Although the creature isn’t really answering any of his questions, perhaps in listening to it’s rhetorical answers he can answer his questions for himself. He decides to keep talking to it.

“How do I wake up?”

“You’re not asking the right questions,” Yesodoth says.

“I’m not in the mood to play games.” The demon grins and turns it’s head, looking away from Richard and pulling the illumination of the light away from him as well. It now illuminates a dark stairwell with steps leading down into a darkness that Richard is not so sure he wants to explore.

“A game is a game,” says Yesodoth. “This is no game.”

“Then what is it?” Richard is losing patience. It seems an awful lot like a game to him.

“It is what you said it is. It’s a dream. You’re only playing games with yourself,” says Yesodoth. “Call me a demon if you will. I know how your mind works. You think I am deceiving you, all humans think they are being deceived when it comes to dreams. But I’m telling you the truth quite plainly. It is your mind that refuses to see it’s simplicity. It is your mind that must assign me a role, call me a villain. I’m just a figment of your imagination, Richard. I’m just a character. You know the nature of characters, you’ve created many of them. You write them as heroes or villains, but that’s not what they really are. They are simply actors. Roles. They exist only to perform functions.

“My function is to be a part of your experience, that is the function of all characters. So if you want to make me a demon and make things more complex than they really need to be, then continue to uselessly consume your energy doing so. But this is your dream. Your nightmare. You are here to discover why it is.”

For a long while, Richard says nothing, and the creature says nothing either. It’s lights only illuminate the stairwell. Finally, he speaks, and it turns it’s head to look at him as he does so.

“So you’re not good at answering questions. What are you good at?”

“I’m very good at asking them.”

“That makes you pretty worthless, doesn’t it?”

“That depends on your definition of worth, mortal. In my experience, humans are not very good at recognizing value.”

“I’m figuring you out pretty quickly. Not a lot of depth to your character.” The demon smiles.

“There is only as much depth as need be,” it responds coyly. Richard walks past it, feeling much less afraid of this being than he could have imagined. For something so ugly, it seems to be in remarkably good spirits.


END EXCERPT

namesake
October 16th, 2010, 05:33 PM
I think you need more conflict in the dialogue. It seems to be a peaceful talk between a demon and someone else.

Longer works are trickier to critique to me since I lack experience in that area but anyways I am going to offer a light critique of your character.

Think of it this way? Does you hero have a noble cause, is he sympathetic, does he have positive qualities, contradictions with others?

I think your main character needs this. Make him into someone who has those qualties.

I see here someone I cannot identify with easily. I think even if you do accept someone with problems, that it should be the case in a story that he does not have those qualities.

I smell a rewrite here.

If I see more, I'll be sure to let you know what I think.

michaelcthompson
October 16th, 2010, 05:34 PM
Well, since this is a novel excerpt, there are plenty of scenes where these two characters have conflict. It's essentially a horror novel, the book is 2/3 over by the time the demon says a word to him (which is the chapter before this one). The cause of the main character and his personality are all heavily mapped out in the rest of the novel, which is 117,000 words. It might help if I point out that at this point, Richard is sick of these dreams and wants them to end. He's learned that they are ultimately harmless to him and thus he is taking them less seriously than he did in the first half of the book.

namesake
October 16th, 2010, 05:40 PM
Remember that protagonist should be likeable such as heroes are. Mainstream plots are also key to selling novels. I dont have a plot list but see it this way, 80% of writers are female, romance sells such as it does to include romance as a convention in stories.

I remember once the bio of a famous writer that died, he liked to put heroes in situations where they were noble. He died famous, in other words it is hard to the heart to hear of a unlucky man who is schizophrenic. I see it hard to do. And many people are sexists.

It's a tall order but please be sure to make him likeable.

michaelcthompson
October 16th, 2010, 09:45 PM
Remember that protagonist should be likeable such as heroes are. Mainstream plots are also key to selling novels. I dont have a plot list but see it this way, 80% of writers are female, romance sells such as it does to include romance as a convention in stories.

I remember once the bio of a famous writer that died, he liked to put heroes in situations where they were noble. He died famous, in other words it is hard to the heart to hear of a unlucky man who is schizophrenic. I see it hard to do. And many people are sexists.

It's a tall order but please be sure to make him likeable.

It sounds like you just want me to craft the story to be marketable, which is hardly the reason I write. The main character is what he is... that's just how the story came to me. And frankly, I think a lot of people are interested in mental illness since it's a worldwide problem.