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keepyourheadup
July 25th, 2016, 04:57 PM
I've been working on this story for a long time now, and procrastinating it even longer!
I generally don't write horror, but I've wanted to get into it, with how much I love reading/watching it and all.
This is just part of a short horror story, I'm not sure how much longer it's going to get, but I wanted to post this part as it's the most fleshed out of what I have. I'd really love some feedback!
Hopefully you also enjoy it :)


- - -



At first I wondered if my eyes were even open; then I wondered if somehow i'd lost my vision to some terrible sickness overnight. I'd woken up to complete darkness. And I felt lighter than air.


I felt my feet on solid ground, but in the inky black around me I saw nothing. Taking a step forward, I noticed my movements were sluggish and slow, as though some force held me back. Trudging uncomfortably like I had found myself on some alien planet, I felt around in the dark. My fingertips felt nothing but the cool embrace of water.


I was... Underwater?


All at once the memories flooded back. The ocean, the boat, the accident, the waves. In a sudden panic I gasped to hold my breath and made a desperate attempt to push myself to the surface. I swam, further and further upwards in a blind haze of fear. The knowledge that any seconds could be my last weighed heavily on my mind, but the surface didn't come. Neither, however, did the pain I expected in my lungs, or the lightness of head. I swam for what seemed like hours, and what was certainly many more minutes that a man my age should have had in him, but my arms didn't tire. Eventually I stopped, and felt myself slowly sinking back down.
For too long I floated in complete darkness, fearing my mind would leave me. But the comforting touch of the ocean floor below me once I touched down chased away the demons that threatened to overwhelm me so soon. I breathed, almost willing the drowning to come and bring some sense to this madness, or a bright light to end the abyss surrounding me.


But nothing happened, I felt the uncomfortable sensation of water pushing and pulling through my lungs, but there was no pain, no change.
I sat in the sand, numb.
When I had mourned my situation for what felt like long enough, I determined that all I could do now was keep moving. Swimming upwards was clearly not an option, so I walked.



- - -


It started as a pinprick of blue light in the distance. I didn't know how long I had walked, but the sight of anything other than darkness was beyond a relief. I hurried as best I could against the pressure towards my saving grace.
As the world around me took on a dim blue, I began to notice something in the distance. I moved towards a strange branching form which grew from the ground, like a fat, rounded tree made of stone. I drew closer, curious but cautious. Even in the blue light the rocky formation had a colour of its own. A gross mottling of muted pinks and greens, like a rotted, fleshy coral...
It unsettled me, and I felt an underlying urge to distance myself from it. Surveying my choices, it seemed as though the ocean was littered with unfamiliar little lights dotting my way forward. I had no choice but to follow, or face the darkness again. Unfortunately, I could see already the shadowy forms of more of these strange corals along my path.

It was hard to avert my eyes as I passed. These tall lumps were porous and covered in holes, and strange pebbles and shells clung to their surfaces. Something about them was unnatural though, they stood almost statuesque and humanoid. With further reluctant inspection, I found they were warm to touch, and seemed to breath.


The more I walked, the more of these terrible things I saw. They seemed to lead up a steep slope nearby, marked by the curious blue lights that guided my way. I followed the motionless procession upwards despite my hesitance.
I... Don't know what I expected to see once i'd risen to the top, but I looked out over a seeminly endless field of them. So, so many.
Their arrangement no longer seemed random, they were filed away in lines like a stone faced army at attention and I was filled with both an unexplainable dread and a curiosity that was more like a hunger at once. I had no need to tread carefully down the slope to them, I was adjusting to the watery atmosphere and moved with a grace my beer-bellied body hadn't known since my college days.


As I perused the rows of silent, unnatural statues the silence was interrupted by a low, pained moaning. It was quiet and over so soon I wondered if I might have imagined it, until I caught a slight movement in my peripheral vision. I tried to spin quickly to catch its source, but my movement was slowed and by the time I faced the right direction I saw nothing save for the endless columns of muddled statues.
My fear returned and my chest tight, I decided I should leave. But where to go? So far following the lights had led me to nothing but more horror, and though I could see the lights continued a path away from this lonely crowd, I trusted their guidance no longer. I stepped backwards away from where i'd seen the movement instinctively, my back grazing against a nearby coral pillar. The mind I was struggling to settle threatened to break as another low moan came from directly behind me.


I turned and stared, slack-jawed as a slit in the surface of the pillar undulated and opened further, letting out an unmistakable groan. Could these things actually be alive? I knew the deep sea held many mysteries unseen by man, but the thought I could be witnessing one of these terrifying and alien creatures was much more frightening than exciting. In the time it took me to reflect on this, another slit opened with alarming speed, revealing a milky orb that rolled in my direction.
An eyeball. The pupil was pale and blind, but it was an eyeball all the same.


No bubbles escaped my gaping mouth as I screamed.


"Do not be afraid."


Though something as foreign down here as a voice should have wracked me with fear, I felt a sudden burst of relief that brought me back from madness, and I turned to seek out its source. At first I didn't notice the man, a tall but hunched figure. He was dressed in rags which were torn and lumpy, they blended in with the coral around them all too well. His eyes were fading and his skin looked rough, and blemished. I could see strange growths on his gnarled hands, and as he shifted closer to me, I saw a ghastly hole in the side of his cheek, as round and smooth as the pores in the coral around us.
I must have recoiled, because he raised his hands in a gesture of peace and repeated himself.


"Do not be afraid."

Bard_Daniel
July 25th, 2016, 07:55 PM
Hi there Billie!

First of all, congratulations on posting your first work up here. It seems I have the luxury of first commenting.

You know it's always difficult to get a handle on an excerpt of a story. Without seeing the beginning, middle and conclusion it's hard to judge-- as a whole, what to think of the piece. The same is true with here. I'm not quite sure what you're getting at here with the story. The focal point seems to be the inclusion of the man so I would say you need to focus on that. Before that, the narrative seems to be hazy. I would suggest shortening and editing that part to bring the introduction of the man to the forefront as that is the point that your story begins to gain traction.

It may help to post more, or the complete, story here. That would make it easier to give you a better critique of it.

Thanks for sharing!

keepyourheadup
July 25th, 2016, 10:21 PM
Thanks Daniel, I guess I should post more next time.
The story would start where I've started now, and reveal more about what happened on the boat later.
The main point of this excerpt was supposed to be introducing the gross corals, as they come up again and again later, but I suppose without knowing that it seems silly to describe them so much lol

I'll work on fleshing out more of it so I can share a bigger chunk next time! Thanks for your words!

Jay Greenstein
July 26th, 2016, 01:21 AM
Daniel made a good point. The opening of a story is the only place where a reader doesn't need to know what has gone before in order to have context. So this piece is hard to judge. But that being said:
At first I wondered if my eyes were even open; then I wondered if somehow i'd lost my vision to some terrible sickness overnight. I'd woken up to complete darkness. And I felt lighter than air.Look at this as a reader, not as someone who already knows the story. It's written not as if it's happening to the protagonist, but as a report, given by the protagonist at some time after the events. And because it is, it's inherently dispassionate. The reader can't hear the voice of the storyteller, so all emotion has been removed from the telling. And we're not in the mind of the one living the story so immediacy is missing.

To try to give that sense of immediacy you're doing what most of us do when we begin recording our stories, which is, first, to talk about the events as if you're there and reacting to them, without making the reader know the events as the protagonist does while living it. The second thing is that you're using first person to make it seem more personal. But is there really a difference in meaning between: "At first I wondered if my eyes were even open," and "At first he wondered if his eyes were even open." ? In both, the narrator is explaining as if they're with the reader, without the advantage of them hearing and seeing your performance.

But in reality, were it to happen to you, of course you would know your eyes are open. And because you don't make the reader know why the character had that impression it's a report, not life. But suppose you'd said:

As soon as I opened my eyes I knew I was in trouble. It felt like I was standing, but there was no trace of light. And as shifted position my movements were resisted as if I was under water, which made no sense. Rising on my toes and then dropping down again confirmed that while gravity felt normal, I was as buoyant as were I under water, which was impossible, given that I was breathing normally.

Not great writing or your story, just an example of another approach, that of presenting the protagonist's viewpoint in real-time. Notice that each response is natural, and related-to-the-previous-point, just as our actions are in life. That gives a feel of time passing in the story as we read.

Think about your own response. Were you to find yourself waking in an unknown place, in the dark, and apparently underwater would you come to the conclusion that you were on an alien planet and start walking, blindly, or would you call out, think about the situation, and perhaps squat and feel the ground under you, and the space around you? Would you stride off, or would you shuffle forward, with your foot in contact with the surface and a hand outstretched, to be certain you weren't walking off a cliff or into a wall?

To make a story real for the reader it must be real for the character, and he or she must behave as a reasonable person would in that situation—as the reader believes they would. Doing that isn't a matter of talent, it's knowing the tricks of the fiction writing trade, which are different from storytelling, stage, screen, and journalism.

Though no one tells us, in our school days we don't learn the skills of any of those profession, only to write reports, essays, and letters, which are nonfiction skills meant to inform, not entertain.
I began to notice something in the distance.Look at this. Have you ever, in you entire life, noticed "something?" No, because you always have an opinion of what you believe it to be, even if you're wrong. And since your character must be thought of as real, let the character do the same. Make him/her wonder and investigate, as you would were it you. Make them speculate and conclude, so we know why the character does things, and their objective. Make them live as we watch, so the reader comes to care.

You have the desire and a story. To frame that story and present it to best advantage, set some time aside to pick up a few tricks that make the job both easier and more effective. The local library system's fiction writing section is a great place to begin.

Hang in there, and keep on writing.

keepyourheadup
July 26th, 2016, 04:29 AM
WOW.
I had to get off the phone and onto my laptop Jay lol this was a lot to take in, I want to make sure I get a real understanding of what you mean...

I think it's pretty clear to me now that I haven't started this right. First of all, this actually was supposed to be written as a report, by the person who had lived out the story. I'm a little worried because you point this out as an obvious flaw, even though it was a choice... I suppose I wanted it to be a little more clinical, I'd been listening to some short audiobook readings of HP Lovecraft, I can't recall the titles, but I liked a few of them that sort of... reported on things that happened in the characters past? Memories of horrific events they experienced.

I can definitely see what you mean about it removing the audience though, and now i'm wondering if this would be better in third person instead... It's going to mean re-writing everything I have, but it could be worthwhile...


But in reality, were it to happen to you, of course you would know your eyes are open I'm not too sure about this, I was kind of basing this on a moment of panic i'd had after some pretty vivid nightmares when I woke up in the living room (which is absolute darkness at night) and I had no idea where I was, there was actually a brief, silly moment where I thought i'd forgotten to open my eyes haha, but I guess that's silly enough that it's not relatable?? I just wanted it to feel confusing, but I see what you mean again, i'll work on re-wording this and see if there's a better way to convey it!



Think about your own response. Were you to find yourself waking in an unknown place, in the dark, and apparently underwater would you come to the conclusion that you were on an alien planet and start walking, blindly, or would you call out, think about the situation, and perhaps squat and feel the ground under you, and the space around you? Would you stride off, or would you shuffle forward, with your foot in contact with the surface and a hand outstretched, to be certain you weren't walking off a cliff or into a wall?

I sort of get this, I think maybe some more hesitance, like an outstretched hand, would improve the story. I admit I hadn't really thought about this at all lol, I guess because I already knew he was surrounded by nothing to walk into, I didn't see it from his POV and think that he might be worried about it! Silly!




I began to notice something in the distance.
Look at this. Have you ever, in you entire life, noticed "something?" No, because you always have an opinion of what you believe it to be, even if you're wrong. And since your character must be thought of as real, let the character do the same. Make him/her wonder and investigate, as you would were it you. Make them speculate and conclude, so we know why the character does things, and their objective. Make them live as we watch, so the reader comes to care.

Hmm... Makes sense, but I guess I figured that

I moved towards a strange branching form which grew from the ground, like a fat, rounded tree made of stone
WAS sort of his investigation, as the "something" became obvious as he moved closer to go see it?
I suppose I could say something more like
"I noticed a shadowy form in the distance. Moving in to investigate, I saw it seemed to be a strange rock, which grew branching from the ground like a fat, rounded tree."
I mean, obviously that's a clunky "first thing that came to mind" version, but you get what I mean.
Again, this could be moot because i'm seriously considering re-writing from third person instead.



You have the desire and a story. To frame that story and present it to best advantage, set some time aside to pick up a few tricks that make the job both easier and more effective. The local library system's fiction writing section is a great place to begin.


Hang in there, and keep on writing.


Thank you! That you took so much time to help out means a lot, i'll definitely do some reading and see what I can come up with! I think this story has potential, but it's still very rough. Hopefully with some tweaking I can really polish it and make something enjoyable to read :)

Jay Greenstein
July 27th, 2016, 02:33 AM
this actually was supposed to be written as a report,That can't work, because a report is a series of facts, which might inform, and even interest, but in general, they don't entertain. And don't you read fiction to be entertained? Look at a simple statement: "You are really a bastard, Jack." How did you read it? As deadly insult? As high praise? It could be either—or anywhere between—depending on how it's spoken and the intent of the one speaking. It could also be a simply declaration of fact following a DNA report.

My point is that unless we can hear the one telling the story, or giving the report, we have no idea of how the author intended us to read it, and how you say something is every bit as meaningful as what was said. Think about sarcasm, as an example. So you cannot expect the reader to "hear" what you "say." They have only what the words seem to mean based on the way they use the words and their experience. And since they come from a different area, have different expectations, age, and perhaps gender...
i'm wondering if this would be better in third person instead...Person has nothing to do with it. That's an authorial preference. Yes, there are some differences, but you're not addressing that yet. There is a huge difference between person and viewpoint. If you can make me know what has the character's attention, how they view it, and what their needs and resources are, I will "want" my new friend to do exactly what they—using the same information in the same way—will decide to do do. And since we're in that slice of time the protagonist calls now, I'll know what they intend to do, but have no more idea of it it will work than the character will, so I have reason to want to read on.
I didn't see it from his POV and think that he might be worried about it! Silly!Not silly at all. You're writing precisely as you've been taught. And every writing technique you've been given is meant to inform, to make you useful to your future employer, So it's a nonfiction skill-set. And in nonfiction what happens is treated as being of more importance than what went into the decision making that caused it to happen. But from a reader's viewpoint, it's the character's reaction to the events—their struggle to control events—that matters most.

If someone came to you and said, "Somebody got hit by a car, down the street," you might be sympathetic, and curious as to what happened. But what about if they said, "Your mom got hit by a car, down the street."? Think about the difference in your reaction simply because it was someone you care about That's why your first job is to make the reader care about your character. Lacking that, it's a detailed history of a fictional character, and as interesting to read as any history book.
I noticed a shadowy form in the distance. Moving in to investigate, I saw it seemed to be a strange rock, which grew branching from the ground like a fat, rounded tree."That's better, but still a report. Instead of reporting that the character noticed, why not have them notice?

Ahead, at the limit of vision, I could make out a dim form protruding from the muck of the bottom. As I moved closer it resolved into a treelike rock formation, branching upward perhaps two body lengths, and bigger around than I could measure with my arms.

Why? This is what the character is perceiving. Instead of "like a tree, which is someone talking to the reader, I used "treelike," which is the character's analysis at the time. I mentioned much because the protagonist seems to be underwater. I also expressed the size in something the reader can easily relate to.

"Moving in to investigate," again, is a report. But "as I moved closer," informs us of the movement incidentally, while the focus is on what it is being seen. This article (http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/scene.php) talks about the approach I used, and how it works. It's not an easy concept to get, and it takes lots of practice before it becomes automatic, but it is one very powerful way of placing the reader into the character's viewpoint.

For why a strong viewpoint matters, you might want to read my article, "Inside out," on how to make a reader's perception of the scene the same as the protagonist's.
I liked a few of them that sort of... reported on things that happened in the characters past? Memories of horrific events they experienced.Several things apply. First, Lovecraft wrote in a style that doesn't sell today, so emulating that style would be a tough sell.

But of more importance, what you're talking about is called backstory. And it is necessary, of course. But you have to bear in mind that for the time that the reader is plowing through that history lesson the actors living the story are frozen in place. And how real can that seem? So the trick is to either make the information something the character is thinking about because they need to, or place it between live scenes.

There are techniques that will allow you a more informational approach, but that would take too much space here. To see it in action read Peter Beagle's, The Last Unicorn. The technique he used is one that parallels the one defined in the article I linked to.

Hope this clarifies.

keepyourheadup
July 28th, 2016, 03:03 PM
I really appreciate all the feedback and I don't want to sound like ungrateful but I have to say "that CANT work" doesn't sit right with me.
I do want people to enjoy my writing and of course I'm going to take all this to heart and see how I can improve, but my writing is primarily for me. It's certainly not intended to sell lol, I don't see myself being published and it's not really something i'm aiming for. Writing is a hobby for me, a hobby i'd like to share with others sure, but mostly friends and family and some online followers at most. The report style is something I enjoy reading and it's something i'd like to look into more and try to do effectively, maybe not with this story but eventually. I think that it has potential and it's something I really wanna experiment with! That's just a personal preference I guess, different strokes for different folks.

ANYWAY I do take what you've said seriously! I really hope I don't come off as, I don't know... stubborn? Snobbish? I have started a re-write of this based on the notes I've received so far and I think it's going well! I'll be sure to post it when I have a little more :)

bdcharles
July 28th, 2016, 07:02 PM
Okay, first thing is to decide what you want to do. I see you say it's the start of a short story but how long can we expect that to be? I ask because the answers to these questions will feed into the structure of the piece.

What style do you want it to have? When I post something up for critique I might add whether it is a sort of inner monologue, or third person limited omni, or whatever else, just so people know what I am aiming for and can respond accordingly. It's in first person, but what is it? A story, or a recounting of events? Other?

Anyway, with this extract, I think is that it is definitely an interesting concept; the moment of drowning, perhaps, or of being submerged in a breathable, amniotic sea is a good one and you start, in my view, in just the right place - the moment of apparent expiry, through to the perception of some otherworldly beings and hopefully on from there.

I do think you ought to think about your writing voice. It should borrow straight from your character and inform your writing. Who is the I? I ask because every perception will be coloured by his or her personality, which you would need to make come across in the writing. The voice is okay, your writing is perfectly good but ... I have to say I feel I have read it all before. The comma splicing, the "I did this, I did that. Struggling profusely, I managed to do the other.", the repetitions of words. I think that's what Jay means when he says it sounds like a report. I got a distinct police report vibe from it. This is why I asked you about style and what you want to do, because you say that it was meant to be a report. If that's so, then make it the best report ever. Think about who it's being reported to and why. The police? Format and add accordingly. To the reader? An abductor? Somebody else? What role does the reader or other person play? As I said earlier, the length and purpose of it may - and possibly should - dictate the way you write aswell.

If however you're just wanting a straight story, you have to storify it. Don't just write it - make it happen! :) Eg:

Instead of presenting everything as a thing-that-happens-to-the-I, present it as a thing-that-happens .We are already the I - we don't need excess reminding of that.

As I perused the rows of silent, unnatural statues the silence was interrupted by a low, pained moaning.

Try simply:

"From among the rows of silent, unnatural statues came a low, pained moaning."

Anyway hope this helps. I thought it was good. Reminds me of that film, The Abyss.

keepyourheadup
July 29th, 2016, 04:20 AM
Okay, first thing is to decide what you want to do. I see you say it's the start of a short story but how long can we expect that to be? I ask because the answers to these questions will feed into the structure of the piece.

What style do you want it to have? When I post something up for critique I might add whether it is a sort of inner monologue, or third person limited omni, or whatever else, just so people know what I am aiming for and can respond accordingly. It's in first person, but what is it? A story, or a recounting of events? Other?

I'm not too sure on the length yet, maybe three times this? Not much more than that for sure if i'm going by my rough drafts.

Originally it was supposed to be written as a recount, think of an older man at a desk recounting something that he's not sure was even real, but that he remembers vividly from his past. Jay's notes made me question if this is the right choice for this particularly piece though, so i've started re-writing as a third person "this is happening now" kinda thing. I'm toying around between both atm to see which I prefer personally, but I need to write more before I make a decision.


I have to say I feel I have read it all before.
I get what you're saying though, about tuning my writing voice. At the moment things are very confusing with the story with all the editing i'm doing lol, but it's definitely advice that's popped up about my writing before and something I need to work on.


As I perused the rows of silent, unnatural statues the silence was interrupted by a low, pained moaning.

Try simply:

"From among the rows of silent, unnatural statues came a low, pained moaning."
Ahh, the example is actually really helpful, it's kinda made something click? I think I could use this to make my original idea work, if I can get my head around it. I can definitely see how it's more effective.


Anyway hope this helps. I thought it was good. Reminds me of that film, The Abyss.

It does! Thank you :)