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AgentZero
February 12th, 2014, 05:14 AM
Hello all! As some of you know I've been writing a zombie novel, and it's finally in it's final stages. I have my editor going through it now, and as I eagerly wait his opinion, I decided to start one of my short stories that I got completely off of a dream about a year ago.

Anyway, I've nicknamed the title "Suicidal Thoughts" And I have for you, a very brief Into to the short story. I have just started it, and imagine it to be no more than 10,000 words.


SUICIDAL THOUGHTS

As I write this I can feel my hand trembling. The anxiety that I've been running from for so long has finally caught up with me. This may, very well . . . be my last entry.
I find myself alone in this house. The guys . . . They're all dead. Finally it's my turn . . . And there is no chance of rescue. I'm condemned. And I'm sorry.
If anyone should find this note, please, read it. You have too know the truth . . . Before He tells you.

My name is Pete Wilson. I awoke in chains in an abandoned house. The house is old. 19th century maybe? In any case, it obviously hasn't been restored in a long a time. When I woke, there were two other guys beside me, Brian and Sam.
The first thing I saw when I glanced up was a tall man. He wore dirty clothes. Gloves, Boots, the whole shot. But most importantly, the gas mask. It gives me the creeps. My point is however, is that if you're seeing the same guy, which I'm willing to bet you are, you can't see his skin. None at all. There's a reason, but I'll get to that. I'll reveal all at the end, because if I told you know you wouldn't believe me.

Now you know a little bit and I don't want to bore you, as this information in this pad of paper is vital. So now, I will cut to the chase. This is my story, along with Sam's and Brian's . . . Unfortunately it's already too late for them . . .

thepancreas11
February 13th, 2014, 04:00 AM
Interesting idea to lead with the note. I can't recall a single book I've ever read that started that way, and it certainly gets us off to a desperate start.

Unfortunately, you lost that desperation with the first sentence. "My name is Pete Wilson." This is terrifying! You wake up in the woods with shackles on with two guys who you either know or don't know, and there's some dude with a gas mask administering tromping around? Why don't you play that up? Why do I feel like I'm watching the Murder She Wrote version of this? "It gives me the creeps" isn't going to cut it. Make his spine rattle, make his skin crawl, make him pull against his chains! Exposition can rip the heart right out of your suspense. If you piled up all the information you gave us here, that would make a pretty steep hill to try and climb.

Honestly, your best bet is to take the antagonist out of the first "shot" so to speak. Sometimes a full-length gown is sexier than a hoochie mini-skirt, if you catch my drift. Not only do we know the end of poor Brian and Sam, but we know who's going to end them. It's too revealing. There's no mystery, no sense of wonder. We're not curious if we can see it. To go with the analogy, you want to show the right amount of leg. Give us details about the place that make it clear the narrator is in for the fight of his life, but be subtle about it. You're not flashing us, you're teasing us, and that's going to reel us in a hell of a lot faster.

To be honest with you, horror is beyond my scope as a writer, at least at the moment. It's a very difficult genre to write, and I commend you for giving it a go. Instill in your characters some real fear, though, and I know you'll put the fear into us.

Toodles,
Thepancreas

stormageddon
February 20th, 2014, 11:49 AM
The main criticism I have to make is of the use of "...", which to me seems fairly out of keeping with the story. Their use implies that Pete is attempting to build suspense for the reader, which he simply would not be doing under the circumstances- he is desperately recording a tale of horror and death, and appears to be running out of time to do so. He says that the information he is writing down is important- he is not simply inventing a frightening tale for a friend to read, so using such obvious writing techniques to build a sense of drama just doesn't work here. If he was not writing the narrative they might have a place, but in smaller number, or your writing would begin to sound very hamfisted.
My intention there was not to sound harsh but to explain what I mean clearly, hence going on a bit :p
Secondly, I agree with thepancreas11 that, rather than force feeding the reader information, you ought to frighten us. When beginning a story, your focus should be on drawing the reader in rather than simply setting up the story- while it sounds an interesting one, the reader is reading to be scared, not to read of another person being scared. We need to feel what the character feels, while they are feeling it. That is why horror is so difficult a genre to write in, and so popular a genre when done well, for it involves more empathy than perhaps any other.
It is an interesting, original way to start a story, one that I have rarely seen implemented outside of Skyrim, but I would suggest (particularly since this is a short story) that you aim for a more complex writing style- most people read short stories for quality over quantity, and so will expect a higher standard of writing than they would from a novel. That is not to say that your writing is poor quality, only that if you have a good story to tell, and if it isn't going to go beyond 10 000 words, then you should really go for the jugular with it- a 10 000 word story can feasibly be edited to near perfection in a way that a 100 000 word novel cannot, so think of The Short Story as an opportunity to show off. And you clearly have a lot to show off ;)

W. Dallas
February 20th, 2014, 10:39 PM
I like the idea a lot. But I think having Pete more scattered and unsure of himself would suit the tone better. His description seem to coherent even with the elipses. Short punchy sentence, giving just enough information to let the reader know things aren't good here. Knowing that he is trapped, two guys lay dead beside him, and he has seen a very freaking character moving about it is scary. But have the villain be shadowy, not fully known yet. Build the anticipation.

Plasticweld
March 17th, 2014, 12:00 AM
I would take a little different approach. I awoke with a shudder, on a cold floor. The rats must have wanted some warm meat. My nemesis jumped only a few feet away and stared at me, sizing me up. My two friends or what was left of them lay on the stone floor beside me. Every bone in my body ached, the cold floor sucked the life out of me; I can not believe I pissed myself or how I ended up this way...... Just a guess but this guy has no idea if the house had not been restored or not We are scared more by what we feel and smell than what we see. Just my two cents worth. Love the opening

connerm96
April 4th, 2014, 03:01 AM
I love it but I agree with what's been said, I'm not terrified while I read it. It has the potential to be terrifying though. I'm a huge fan of reading creepypastas and this could be of that caliber with some reworking. Well done.

30Drummer30
April 6th, 2014, 08:56 PM
I enjoyed what i read. I agree that how the first sentence was the mans name was a turn off. As well as the fact that he mentioned the house had not been restored.
I do have one question: How old is the main character? The way he calls the others "guys" makes me feels like he is a younger character. (Maybe in his late teens early twenties) I only ask because if he is an older character maybe then that might be something you would want to change.

mohawksavage
April 21st, 2014, 08:56 PM
I agree with the other critics about the house description. Needs to be left out or more detail that pertains to the story. I am looking forward to the story though.

AgentZero
June 29th, 2014, 05:26 AM
I enjoyed what i read. I agree that how the first sentence was the mans name was a turn off. As well as the fact that he mentioned the house had not been restored.
I do have one question: How old is the main character? The way he calls the others "guys" makes me feels like he is a younger character. (Maybe in his late teens early twenties) I only ask because if he is an older character maybe then that might be something you would want to change. I'm not exactly sure how old he is, but late teens-early twenties is about right. I need that for that plot twist at the end.

Deafmute
June 29th, 2014, 05:05 PM
I disagree with what the others are saying. Use of ellipsis here is fine, what we are reading now and how we are reading it now, isn't necessarily how it was written. Those pauses are how it is suppose to be construed perhaps what he did when he actually wrote it down, he wrote and then hesitated he stopped afraid to put into words what he knew he had to say. Its fine to use that here. Also starting with his name is fine. If I were writing my last words I sure as hell would put who I was down first. All that aside some of the rest of their concerns are valid.

Talking about the house not being renovated recently isn't scary or depressing, its just blank description, you were trying to show that the house was decrepit, old and filthy perhaps. Its all fine and good for you to describe the house but make sure that description properly horrifies us. Speak of roaches, dust and cobwebs, strange sticky liquids, the sickeningly sweet smell of putrefaction that gags you, etc...

I also agree that you jump to the description of the killer to soon, and reveal that the others were killed by him. When people use this sort of opener most of the time they give a brief description of the horrifying situation they are in and that their end is coming and that they are alone now hinting at others having been there. And then they drop the big bomb. You did this amazingly in the first paragraph.

"You have too know the truth . . . Before He tells you." that is perfect. stop there. we now know there is a "He" we don't want to know anything else yet. you say that we must know the full story but we wont believe if unless you start from the beginning. That is the hook. you have scared us now jump back and start, start from a time when things began and the threat of death was not looming. Go back and tell us the story, we know it will get bad, but we don't know how or why that is the draw of horror. We sit at the edge of our seat waiting for the reveal, we know its coming soon but we dont know when and most importantly we don't know what.

Anyways hope that helps. I like the way you open with that first paragraph and I would enjoy this short story just by what you have offered so far. Good luck with it.

ShadowEyes
July 1st, 2014, 04:02 AM
Gas mask! Like Zero from the Zero Escape series! ... ::wipes a tear::

Ahem, your story, yes. If I may.

I like these kind of openings. My first impression was that you wrote the beginning like a cold opening from a TV series. You start with some dramatic scenes, and then you risk a flashback. In this case, a very, very long flashback, like in One Hundred Years of Solitude. In which case, I like that genre of Magical Realism, where everything is normal except for slight flaws in reality. Oh sure, it's magic, but so understated by which to be taken as reality by the reader, mundane, slightly eerie.

Either that or LOST (cold openings). Your pick. (:

One criticism with the first few lines: everything kind of unpacks itself from one central idea. This guy is about to die. So, instead of unpacking that reality like a Russian egg-doll, so as to diminish it, just state the beginning. "Yo, I'm trapped. You read me?" xD
Otherwise, you would just ruin the fun by explaining the joke. Case in point: I don't really mean for you to state that, but simply to write how you want.

If I was dying, time's a wasting, no? That's what you want to convey, a sense of tension? Alternatively, it may make me wonder how the character ended up having so much time.

"Before He tells you" -- He in capital, as in God? Otherwise, it's confusing, and a bit disorienting. Maybe indent it instead?

What do 19th century houses look like? What was the first thing that he saw that derived a 19th century house feel? For instance, in the aforementioned Zero Escape series, you see the Titanic's grand staircase as a set piece.
And yeah, wow the "whole shot," "seeing the same guy," and "None at all" really convey a sense of depth to your character. Both to the villain (?) and to the victim. We get the sense that the victim and his two friends are robbed of their clothing or whatnot.

I still feel like our hero is beating around the bush with a sledgehammer.
"Already too late for them" -- redundant.

Qetris
July 7th, 2014, 03:38 AM
I really like the concept behind this, because I find the idea that the protagonist would be feeling suicidal knowing others have died in his situation intriguing. I could also feel the tension while reading because of some of the language you chose, such as "I awoke in chains" and "you can't see his skin". It's interesting you came up with this from a dream. I guess it can be bittersweet having nightmares, because they can be an inspiration, but also just plain horrifying!

Canjul
July 10th, 2014, 04:09 AM
Well, as this is my first critique on the site and I'm a little rusty, I'm going to start by stating my overall opinion before breaking it down point-by-point. That opinion is that this piece shows brief snatches of interesting ideas that are somewhat let down by a very Spartan presentation.


As I write this I can feel my hand trembling. The anxiety that I've been running from for so long has finally caught up with me. This may, very well . . . be my last entry.
I find myself alone in this house. The guys . . . They're all dead. Finally it's my turn . . . And there is no chance of rescue. I'm condemned. And I'm sorry.
If anyone should find this note, please, read it. You have too know the truth . . . Before He tells you.

The "desperate last journal entry" is an absolutely stalwart horror trope and is always a little difficult to critique. Its nature as something that was supposedly written in a panicked, exhausted state of mind does protect it from standard criticisms such as flat descriptions or stilted dialogue. Still, I feel that it may have been improved somewhat by weaving exposition in a little more naturally. Rather than having the protagonist flatly state the names of his companions in the following paragraph...


When I woke, there were two other guys beside me, Brian and Sam

...trying placing a reference to them here, perhaps by changing "The guys...They're all dead" to something along the lines of "Sam's dead and Brian. Brian's just gone. Oh ****, he's gone!" Haha, I'm a little uncertain on whether I'm allowed to swear, but for the purposes of horror uncensored is usually better. Anyway, I feel that such a line change makes several important differences. The names of Brian and Sam are introduced to the reader without clunky expository sentences, the narrator's breakdown helps accentuate the terror or desperation he feels and (this is perhaps most important) it offers ambiguity as to the fate of one of them. Even better, by juxtaposing against death in a disbelieving and horrified way, it's implied that a far worse fate lies in store for our hero. Now this is, of course, the absolute number one horror critique that I must be careful not to dredge up a few times as I right. No matter how good of a writer you are, even if you're King, even if you're Lovecraft or even if you're the big EAP himself, your reader's imagination is scarier than you are. It's a fact horror writers have to deal with and the very best don't directly shock, but merely present one with the tools to shock oneself. They stoke the fires of imagination to cast leaping, twisting shadows on the walls of the reader's mind. These are what leave an impression. You actually show a good understanding of this principle in a later line, but in this crucial opening, tension is dispelled by a disregard for it.

Onto the second paragraph,



My name is Pete Wilson. I awoke in chains in an abandoned house. The house is old. 19th century maybe? In any case, it obviously hasn't been restored in a long a time. When I woke, there were two other guys beside me, Brian and Sam.
The first thing I saw when I glanced up was a tall man. He wore dirty clothes. Gloves, Boots, the whole shot. But most importantly, the gas mask. It gives me the creeps. My point is however, is that if you're seeing the same guy, which I'm willing to bet you are, you can't see his skin. None at all. There's a reason, but I'll get to that. I'll reveal all at the end, because if I told you know you wouldn't believe me.

Now, this may be a matter of personal taste but to me, horror always seemed to be a genre that's greatly aided by descriptive writing. It's traditionally a setup, payoff structure that can only be successfully deviated from by the very gifted indeed. This is not, to my mind, a weakness. If found the opening lines of this section to be far and away the weakest on display. The description, the setting of the scene, is near non-existent and is lacking in crucial details to make it feel real. These need not be paragraphs of sweeping purple prose either. I find a very effective way to generate realism (and thus immersion) in a scene like this is by utilizing the five senses, not just sight. Even casual mentions can build a verisimilitude that lends real weight to the scene. For example, smell and sound might be the first things to greet the narrator, before his bleary eyes open from unconsciousness.

"Somewhere in a dream, before it woke me, I heard the sound of creaking leather and clinking metal. My eyes were still adjusting to the darkness and my head felt split in two by...whatever had put me out in the first place. I felt a cold draught on the back of my head and realised it was wet. At this I panicked, and as I shot into wakefulness I inhaled sharply. The air was stale and thick with dust. I choked for a second on the musty air and instantly regretted it as I heard the leather creak from turning and heavy footsteps in the dark. I peered into the blackness of the room, flinching with confusion and fright. Slowly, my eyes came back to me. I saw that my hands were tightly bound, chained to an old radiator. A dirty bulb hung just overhead, its sickly forty-watt light just strong enough that my night vision was slow in coming. Still the footsteps came, heavy and slow. The footsteps of a confident predator. I shuddered at the thought and my chains rattled in reply."

But enough criticism, on to my favourite line. While it's true that the gas-masked killer is something of a cliche and that I feel the reveal is rather anti-climactic, I love the notion that,


"...you can't see his skin. None at all."

An excellent and unnerving point that shows an eye for detail and the "setup-payoff" mechanic. While horror setup benefits from detailed description, the horror payoff paradoxically benefits from short declarative statements and quick little details like this. The "None at all" drives home the inhuman nature of the figure, all leather and metal topped by a glassy stare. It solidifies very quickly and very firmly the uncanny nature of the captor and establishes a surreal disconnect with reality that I would argue can be very important to horror. Best of all, it does so in just a few short words.

Next up...


Now you know a little bit and I don't want to bore you, as this information in this pad of paper is vital. So now, I will cut to the chase. This is my story, along with Sam's and Brian's . . . Unfortunately it's already too late for them . . .

To unfortunately return to criticism, this transition is just...a little bit painful. Especially following on from the really rather intriguing description you gave previously, this killed my interested before it had even hit the ground. He doesn't want to bore me? He'll cut to the chase? The greatest problem here is that it's already underweight!

Now, if one is very literally-minded and assumes this is a verbatim transcript of a yellowed, presumably blood-streaked piece of paper written in the head of the moment, then everything I've just said essentially falls to the wayside. Of course he wouldn't describe things in detail, he might just say "Don't trust X" or "Y died here Z years ago...tonight!", but the fact that you're basing a short story off this requires some degree fictionalization to "bring it in line" with a narrative structure. Perhaps the intro and outro can work as disjointed, mad ramblings but the body of the work does need to adhere somewhat to an established forms of fiction.

I assume this was written quite quickly, just to test the waters of this concept and I say go for it. It's an interesting idea and I'd love to see what you come up with, given time to expand it. My advice in brief? Work descriptions, work the senses, work the setup-payoff structure.

Hope this has been helpful
Canjul

Greimour
July 10th, 2014, 06:21 AM
Haha, I'm a little uncertain on whether I'm allowed to swear, but for the purposes of horror uncensored is usually better.

Profanity is allowed so long as the title of the thread has a language warning disclaimer. This one does not so you were right not to use any. I agree though that horror and the like is better when uncensored and also not watered down for a wider age suitability.

Amo
July 18th, 2014, 08:08 AM
Hello,

I myself enjoy the horror genre and I felt this was a story with A LOT of potential. I think you should definitely adhere to the advice of the others comments. They provide what seems to me to be helpful tips that could improve the quality of the final work(I'm not implying this is low quality by any means!)
One of my favorite parts of this was the end, I'm not sure if its just me. But I really liked that way this ended and it made me want to read more!


This is my story, along with Sam's and Brian's . . . Unfortunately it's already too late for them . . .

And I would agree with the earlier comment that the "..." Is well placed, I think it is a good way to show the hesitation, anxiety and fear of the character. It shows that he is hesitant or maybe his hand is rattling to much to write and he needs to calm down for a second. You catch my drift.

I hope all goes well with this, I'm not sure if you intend to post the final product here, but if you do I would be very happy to read it!
Good luck on the rest if the story!

On an end note I thought I would say I really liked Canjul's comment! I liked his version of the opening, if you haven't read it I think you should it was very well done.

Somewhere in a dream, before it woke me, I heard the sound of creaking leather and clinking metal.
Loving it.

mstachowsky
July 18th, 2014, 02:15 PM
I think the mundane parts, like his name or house description, may actually be a window into something deeper here. What if the person writing the note is struggling to avoid thinking about what is happening to him? Wouldn't that cause you to keep writing without really thinking? The "...", I can take it or leave it. When I write longhand I tend to use ellipsis but that's just me. I'm a little concerned about the "you wouldn't believe me if I told you" part. In actual conversation, sure. But in writing it's like saying "the book was indescribable". That's fine, but it doesn't add anything - if it was indescribable, then don't waste words. In this case, if I won't believe you, then don't tell me. Just keep it a mystery - "You never see his skin..." and that's that. Personal opinion anyway.

Mike

DarkPunzel
July 19th, 2014, 03:17 PM
This is a very good beginning I believe! It is automatically intriguing and it definitely has a creepy feel. Not scary yet though. I'd definitely be interested in reading this in it's entirety. All in all very good in my opinion!

AMiller
July 20th, 2014, 04:36 PM
It seems good to start, but given the situation, I wouldn't be able to describe a house or use the word "creepy". It's a great tone, with the guy with no skin, but its missing a feel of urgency.

John Galt
August 9th, 2014, 12:11 AM
I like the idea. I'm curious as to what'll come of the note, but I get a sense of a lack of urgency. It's probably just me preferring something with a faster pace, but anyway I quite like it as is.