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The Shepherd's Trials (Working Title) Chapter 1 - 800 words

RoninJedi84

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 16, 2010
Messages
149
Hello, all. I spoke with the Judge about posting this about a month ago and was told I should wait a week or so, but life in general and sick kids (curse that flu!) slowed me down, so I'm assuming I'm good by now. :)

Anyway, the scene popped into my head one day and I liked it a lot, and felt I had to write it out. Originally, I thought to use it as a Prologue, but not being a fan of them, I thought I could shoe-horn it in as Chapter 1. It's only the first draft, and needs a little refining, but I'm wanting feedback as to whether or not it does what I want it to (and what will ultimately decide where I put it or if I scrap it altogether), which is:

1.) Reveal the antagonist and his power.
2.) Give the reader a sense of unearthly threat.
3.) Most importantly, pull the reader in.

Without giving away too much, we find out later on we're dealing with a demon, and my thought is that the fun for the reader will be in watching the protagonist and an ally figure it out for themselves. Maybe I'm wrong. You be the judge!

So, now that I got way more long-winded than I wanted to, here we go.




ONE


She sat quietly, sipping at her coffee and staring absently at the television screen. She rocked slowly in her chair, sighing as she waited for the sun to set. Julie had brought the grandchildren earlier today, and after nearly seven hours of yelling, screaming, and sword fighting with broom handles, she could not deny that she was grateful for the peace.​


A small movement along the wall to her right caught her attention and she started, nearly spilling her coffee. She shrieked as the critter came into focus, a large spider making its way toward the ceiling. She sat her coffee on the table next to her and moved quickly to her closet, retrieving a shoe.​


“Oh, I hate these things!” Her whisper was harsh and shaky. Ever since she had been bitten by a Brown Recluse when she was seven, she had been deathly afraid of these eight-legged fiends.​


The spider stood motionless just above the window, and she inched up to the wall slowly, her hand shaking as she tried to reach the intruder while staying as far from it as possible. It scurried suddenly and she yelped, immediately drawing back. Mustering her courage, she raised the shoe and slammed it into the wall, her stomach turning as she heard the creature's body give way to the onslaught. Holding the shoe far in front of her with two fingers, she tip-toed to the front door and threw it onto the porch. Sighing as she tried to calm herself, she shut the door.​


She picked up her coffee and stepped into the kitchen, pouring the contents into the sink and rinsing out the cup. She shut off the water and turned back toward the den, but stopped. She had heard something. Or had she? She stood there in silence, her senses strained as she tried to hear it again. There! A creaking floorboard?​


Her mind screamed at her to get out of the house and call the police, but she quickly shut it out. It was an old house, and old houses creak and groan all the time. Still, perhaps she should be sure. She grabbed her cell phone and with 911 just one button press away, she made her way down the hall, turning on lights and peeking into doors. Finding nothing, she returned to the living room with a chuckle. She really must stop letting her imagination run so far. She leaned over the chair to shut off the lamp, ready to get some sleep.​


Wait!


She had heard it again, she knew she had. It had come from upstairs. She moved slowly over to the stairway, leaning hear head around the banister and staring up to the top of the stairs. Something was wrong. She climbed the first few steps and stopped, listening hard in the darkness. She could feel her heart beginning to beat faster, the hairs on the back of her neck standing. A voice somewhere inside her shouted to get out, but she ignored it, reaching over and turning on the light.​


She screamed and staggered back, tripping on the step and falling to the floor. She heard a loud crack and a stinging pain shot from her lower back down through her right leg. She turned and crawled away from the stairs, grabbing onto a small table and trying to pull herself up. The pain intensified and she cried out as she fell to the floor. She looked back and fear flooded through as thousands of small scurrying bodies poured from the stairs onto the floor. Her mind barely registered the bristly hairs covering the fat bodies and scurrying legs and she began to crawl frantically, trying to get to the bathroom to barricade herself, but she didn't have the strength. Within seconds, the hideous creatures were upon her, crawling over her flesh and biting, her screams echoing through the empty house as ever inch of her skin was pierced again and again by the tiny fangs. She reached out to no one, tears streaming down her cheeks, and screamed once more for help. Then she went limp, unable to move any further, she lay there helplessly as she waited for the pain to cease.​


As the light began to leave her eyes, she watched in horror as the creatures retreated from her body, swirling in amongst themselves and rising into the air, taking on the shape of something human. She tried to scream, but could not, her body already shutting down. Her vision became a swirling black curtain, and she felt as if she was falling. The distinct sound of laughter filled her ears, and her mind cried out in silence for help that would not come. Then the darkness overcame her, and she thought no more.​
 

ctg

weaver of the unseen
Supporter
Joined
Aug 21, 2007
Messages
7,017
ONE


She sat quietly, sipping at her coffee and staring absently at the television screen. She rocked slowly in her chair, sighing as she waited for the sun to set. Julie had brought the grandchildren earlier today, and after nearly seven hours of yelling, screaming, and sword fighting with broom handles, she could not deny that she was grateful for the peace.​

A small movement along the wall to her right caught her attention and she started, nearly spilling her coffee. She shrieked as the critter came into focus, a large spider making its way toward the ceiling. She sat her coffee on the table next to her and moved quickly to her closet, retrieving a shoe.​


Good start at the first paragraph, but at the moment you move to second you disturb the reader. Something isn't right. Even though you are showing, I believe that a closer perspective would be better than moving out from her thoughts. So could you be kind and rewrite/reword the second para to convey the sudden interruption by the spider.

“Oh, I hate these things!” Her whisper was harsh and shaky. Ever since she had been bitten by a Brown Recluse when she was seven, she had been deathly afraid of these eight-legged fiends.​


Not good. There's a case of info-dumping and you moving out from close third to omniscient narrator. Therefore I advice for you to stick in the character perspective. Make her to swat the spider, make cups and things fly as you create the havoc. Please show us that its the character that's in the charge and not the narrator.

The spider stood motionless just above the window, and she inched up to the wall slowly, her hand shaking as she tried to reach the intruder while staying as far from it as possible. It scurried suddenly and she yelped, immediately drawing back. Mustering her courage, she raised the shoe and slammed it into the wall, her stomach turning as she heard the creature's body give way to the onslaught. Holding the shoe far in front of her with two fingers, she tip-toed to the front door and threw it onto the porch. Sighing as she tried to calm herself, she shut the door.​

She picked up her coffee and stepped into the kitchen, pouring the contents into the sink and rinsing out the cup. She shut off the water and turned back toward the den, but stopped. She had heard something. Or had she? She stood there in silence, her senses strained as she tried to hear it again. There! A creaking floorboard?​


Good. Tense.

Her mind screamed at her to get out of the house and call the police, but she quickly shut it out. It was an old house, and old houses creak and groan all the time. Still, perhaps she should be sure. She grabbed her cell phone and with 911 just one button press away, she made her way down the hall, turning on lights and peeking into doors. Finding nothing, she returned to the living room with a chuckle. She really must stop letting her imagination run so far. She leaned over the chair to shut off the lamp, ready to get some sleep.​

Wait!
What an odd thought. Wouldn't she say, What was that?

She had heard it again, she knew she had. It had come from upstairs. She moved slowly over to the stairway, leaning hear head around the banister and staring up to the top of the stairs. Something was wrong. She climbed the first few steps and stopped, listening hard in the darkness. She could feel her heart beginning to beat faster, the hairs on the back of her neck standing. A voice somewhere inside her shouted to get out, but she ignored it, reaching over and turning on the light.​


This is again written from omniscient perspective. Stick to the close 3rd please. So watch out how you use the genre word and instead try to use direct sentencing as if it would coming from her instead of you using the genre indicator and slipping out from the close third.

For example you could write:

What was that?


There. She heard it again. There was something at the top of stairs. She was sure about it. There was no doubt when the floor board creaked again. What was it, she couldn't know, not even guess. Something was moving slowly at the top of the stairs. That something sounded like a man, but was it?

Julia's heart started bounding at her chest as she touched the staircase and said, "Hello..."

There was no answer. Just silence.

"Hello," she called again, this time louder. "Is someone there?"

A voice inside her demanded her to get out. Get out now and worry about the details later on. ...



So maintain the tension, the mystery and only drip in the info when you need.

She screamed and staggered back, tripping on the step and falling to the floor. She heard a loud crack and a stinging pain shot from her lower back down through her right leg. She turned and crawled away from the stairs, grabbing onto a small table and trying to pull herself up. The pain intensified and she cried out as she fell to the floor. She looked back and fear flooded through as thousands of small scurrying bodies poured from the stairs onto the floor. Her mind barely registered the bristly hairs covering the fat bodies and scurrying legs and she began to crawl frantically, trying to get to the bathroom to barricade herself, but she didn't have the strength. Within seconds, the hideous creatures were upon her, crawling over her flesh and biting, her screams echoing through the empty house as ever inch of her skin was pierced again and again by the tiny fangs. She reached out to no one, tears streaming down her cheeks, and screamed once more for help. Then she went limp, unable to move any further, she lay there helplessly as she waited for the pain to cease.
As the light began to leave her eyes, she watched in horror as the creatures retreated from her body, swirling in amongst themselves and rising into the air, taking on the shape of something human. She tried to scream, but could not, her body already shutting down. Her vision became a swirling black curtain, and she felt as if she was falling. The distinct sound of laughter filled her ears, and her mind cried out in silence for help that would not come. Then the darkness overcame her, and she thought no more.​
Now I would like better if you would involve some nightmarish wording when the imps crawl all over her, whisper in her ears, mock her, play with her clothes...

It's a good start but it could be so much better.
 

Arkose

Waiting for tea time
Joined
Mar 3, 2011
Messages
264
She sat quietly, sipping at her coffee and staring absently at the television screen. She rocked slowly in her chair, sighing as she waited for the sun to set. Julie had brought the grandchildren earlier today, and after nearly seven hours of yelling, screaming, and sword fighting with broom handles, she could not deny that she was grateful for the peace.


A small movement along the wall to her right caught her attention and she started, nearly spilling her coffee. She shrieked as the critter came into focus, a large spider making its way toward the ceiling. She sat her coffee on the table next to her and moved quickly to her closet, retrieving a shoe.​

I agree with ctg. The first paragraph opens well, but the second caused some problems for me. The part "to her right" throws the flow off. I think you meant 'startled' and not started. She shrieks as a large spider came towards her but than calmly sets her coffee down? I would expect more rush in the situation.

“Oh, I hate these things!” Her whisper was harsh and shaky. Ever since she had been bitten by a Brown Recluse when she was seven, she had been deathly afraid of these eight-legged fiends.​

She is slightly scared and hates spiders? Wouldn't she be more likely to slam her coffee cup down while she stumbled for something to crush him from the previous paragraph?

The spider stood motionless just above the window, and she inched up to the wall slowly, her hand shaking as she tried to reach the intruder while staying as far from it as possible. It scurried suddenly and she yelped, immediately drawing back. Mustering her courage, she raised the shoe and slammed it into the wall, her stomach turning as she heard the creature's body give way to the onslaught. Holding the shoe far in front of her with two fingers, she tip-toed to the front door and threw it onto the porch. Sighing as she tried to calm herself, she shut the door.​

Good paragraph. I like that you didn't go over the top with description, we all have killed a spider before and you keep enough open so that I can put my own experience into it.

I'm trying to remove 'and' from my short stories, I thought it could be removed.


She picked up her coffee and stepped into the kitchen, pouring the contents into the sink and rinsing out the cup. She shut off the water and turned back toward the den, but stopped. She had heard something. Or had she? She stood there in silence, her senses strained as she tried to hear it again. There! A creaking floorboard?​


Her mind screamed at her to get out of the house and call the police, but she quickly shut it out. It was an old house, and old houses creak and groan all the time. Still, perhaps she should be sure. She grabbed her cell phone and with 911 just one button press away, she made her way down the hall, turning on lights and peeking into doors. Finding nothing, she returned to the living room with a chuckle. She really must stop letting her imagination run so far. She leaned over the chair to shut off the lamp, ready to get some sleep.​

I agree with ctg, my first thought might be something is there, and maybe after a minute I might freak myself out.


Wait!


She had heard it again, she knew she had. It had come from upstairs. She moved slowly over to the stairway, leaning her head around the banister and staring up to the top of the stairs. Something was wrong. She climbed the first few steps and stopped, listening hard in the darkness. She could feel her heart beginning to beat faster, the hairs on the back of her neck standing. A voice somewhere inside her shouted to get out, but she ignored it, reaching over and turning on the light.​


She screamed and staggered back, tripping on a step and falling to the floor. She heard a loud crack and a stinging pain shot from her lower back down through her right leg. She turned and crawled away from the stairs, grabbing onto a small table and trying to pull herself up. The pain intensified and she cried out as she fell to the floor. She looked back and fear flooded through as thousands of small scurrying bodies poured from the stairs onto the floor. Her mind barely registered the bristly hairs covering the fat bodies and scurrying legs and she began to crawl frantically, trying to get to the bathroom to barricade herself, but she didn't have the strength. Within seconds, the hideous creatures were upon her, crawling over her flesh and biting, her screams echoing through the empty house as ever inch of her skin was pierced again and again by the tiny fangs. She reached out to no one, tears streaming down her cheeks, and screamed once more for help. Then she went limp, unable to move any further, she lay there helplessly as she waited for the pain to cease.​


As the light began to leave her eyes, she watched in horror as the creatures retreated from her body, swirling in amongst themselves and rising into the air, taking on the shape of something human. She tried to scream, but could not, her body already shutting down. Her vision became a swirling black curtain, and she felt as if she was falling. The distinct sound of laughter filled her ears, and her mind cried out in silence for help that would not come. Then the darkness overcame her, and she thought no more.​
Personally I think 'and' disrupts alot of the flow.
I enjoyed what you are tying to get across, but I do think that ctg advice would make it better. I can't really use technical words yet, my critique is more from just an average reader. Good luck, and thanks for posting your story.
 

Teresa Edgerton

Goblin Princess
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Messages
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One thing that I wondered about as I was reading (and it was definitely a distraction) is why you didn't name the character -- since I assume that Julie is the mother of the grandchildren, not the woman in the scene. If I am wrong about this, you need to clarify.

Giving her a name would accomplish two things:

1) Naming a character establishes a relationship between the reader and that character. It creates a sense of familiarity; it makes the character seem more like a real person. So readers will identify with her terror, and feel concerned about what will happen to her. That creates more tension.

2) You could avoid the repetition of the word "she" in just about every sentence, and at the beginning of so many of them. When too many sentences begin with the same word, the writing can become a little monotonous.

So unless you have a very good reason for withholding her name, I think you should name her at the beginning and use the name occasionally throughout.

Another thing that I noticed was that the level of tension starts high. Yes, she is afraid of spiders, but with all the shaking and shrieking and stomach turning at the beginning, it is hard to escalate the tension as the story progresses. And it should be building steadily. I suggest that you dial it back at the beginning.

Her mind screamed at her to get out of the house and call the police, but she quickly shut it out.
The way this is phrased bothered me. "Her mind screamed" seems a bit awkward, and I wondered why, if she is internally screaming that she ought to get out, she doesn't listen to herself. Then, because "her mind screamed" had already jarred me, when you do something similar, "her mind cried out in silence," it caught my attention at once; so that was another distraction.

Too many words ending in "ing" can weaken your writing. You do use a lot of them.

At the end, where the spiders rise into the air and take on the shape of a human body, I definitely wanted to read on to find out what that was about. If that is the antagonist you want to reveal, you have certainly contrived a dramatic introduction.
 

RoninJedi84

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 16, 2010
Messages
149
Whew! That wasn't as painful as I thought it would be. Excellent points from each of you, and they're greatly appreciated. As I said, it needs refinement, but now I know where I should start. Hopefully I can fix the issues and post more (and different) passages in the future. Thanks again for your help!
 

RoninJedi84

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 16, 2010
Messages
149
Before moving on with my current chapter, I thought I'd address this one and take the advice to heart. I think it's an improvement from where it was, though I think it still needs some more fine tuning, but that can wait until later when I'm either finished or farther into the story and the earlier chapters crawl into my mind, screaming "Look at me! Look at me! There's something better!" You know how they are. :)

So here is the rewritten-ish Prologue/1st Chapter of "The Shepherd's Trials". I hope you enjoy it, and thank you once more to ctg, Akrose, and Teresa for your words of advice, criticism, and encouragement!

-Matt




Kelsey Jones sat quietly, sipping at her coffee and staring absently at the television screen. Her chair rocked slowly as she pushed it along with her toes, staring out the window with a sigh as she waited for the sun to set. Julie had brought the grandchildren earlier today, and after nearly seven hours of yelling, screaming, and sword fighting with broom handles, she couldn't deny that she was grateful for the peace. She loved those boys dearly, but wasn't as young as she used to be.​


Kelsey leaned her head back and closed her eyes, taking in the still quiet of the coming night and the warmth of the cup in her hands. At this point in her life, things just didn't get much better. She opened her eyes and raised the cup to her lips, but started as a small movement along the wall caught her attention, and coffee found its way to her faded blouse as she jumped slightly. A gasp escaped her lips when she realized what had caught her eye, a large spider making its way toward the ceiling. Her hands began to jitter and a chill crawled up her spine as she tried to keep herself calm and set down her coffee cup.​


The clank of the cup against the tabletop startled her and Kelsey jumped out of her seat, knocking the cup to the floor in a chorus of broken glass and spilled liquid, cursing silently as she hurried to the hall closet to retrieve a shoe. The mess could wait a moment. She didn't want to chance letting this thing crawl around the house.​


The spider stood motionless just above the window, and Kelsey inched up to the wall slowly, her hand shaking as she tried to reach the intruder while staying as far from it as possible. It scurried suddenly and she yelped, immediately drawing back. With a deep breath she mustered her courage, then raised the shoe and slammed it into the wall, her stomach turning as she heard the creature's body give way to the onslaught. She held the shoe far in front of her with two fingers as she tip-toed to the front door and threw it onto the porch. Sighing with a forced smile as she tried to calm herself, Mrs. Jones shut the door.​


She surveyed the spill on the floor and stepped into the kitchen, opening a narrow closet to grab a broom and dust pan. The closet door closed and she turned back toward the den, but stopped. She had heard something. Or had she? Kelsey Jones stood there in silence, her senses strained as she tried to hear it again. There! A creaking floorboard?​


Her mind whispered to get out of the house and call the police, but she quickly shut it out. It was an old house, after all. Old houses creak and groan all the time. Still, it wouldn't hurt to be sure. Better safe than sorry, right? She grabbed her cell phone and, with 911 just one button press away, made her way down the hall, turning on lights as she peeked into doors. Finding nothing, she returned to the den with a chuckle. She really must keep her imagination from running so far. She leaned over the chair to shut of the lamp, ready to get some sleep.​


What was that?


There. She heard it again. There was something at the top of the stairs. She was sure of it. When the floorboard creaked again, there was no doubt in Kelsey's mind. What it was, she couldn't know, but something was moving around upstairs. A stray cat, perhaps? A person?​


Her heart pounded in her chest as she touched the staircase and called softly, “Hello?”​


Only silence replied.​


“Hello?” She called louder this time. “Is someone there?”​


Still there was no answer, but something was wrong. The hairs on the back of her neck were standing, and a voice inside her urged her to leave. Don't ask questions, just get out.​


Oh, God!


Kelsey screamed and staggered back, tripping on a step and falling to the floor. She heard a loud crack as unbearable pain shot from her lower back down through her right leg. Desperately, she turned and crawled away from the stairs, grabbing onto a small table as she tried to pull herself up. The pain intensified and a mingled shout of agony and despair escaped her lungs. Fear flooded through her as she chanced a look back, faced with thousands of small scurrying bodies that poured from the stairs onto the floor. Within seconds, the hideous creatures were upon her, crawling over her flesh. Kelsey writhed wildly to get them off her, pain washing through her with every move. There were so many!​


Her screams echoed through the empty house as every inch of her skin was pierced repeatedly by tiny fangs, and the bristled legs crawled across her face and neck, into her clothes where they continued the assault. Kelsey threw her arms out, reaching desperately to no one, screaming for help that wouldn't come. Then she went limp, unable to move any further, helpless as she lay there, praying silently that an end would come.​


Then suddenly everything went still. She strained to lift her head, horrified to see the spiders retreating from her body, aware now of a chorus of ominous whispers ringing through the air as the creatures swirled amongst themselves, their mingled bodies beginning to shimmer and fade away, replaced by the shape of something human. Kelsey remained silent, her horrified scream frozen in her throat as the figure stepped toward her, the heavy footsteps growing closer as she let her head fall to the floor, closing her eyes and praying loudly for God to rescue her. A chilling sound reached her then, a deep bellowing that reverberated back upon itself, a sound like many voices at once. They whispered of death.​


“Stop wasting your voice, woman.”​


She felt hot breath on her ear, and the unmistakable smell of sulfur surrounded her.​


“God is not here today. There is only me.”​


The light began to leave her eyes, and her vision became a swirling black curtain as her heartbeat pounded loudly in her ears, drowned out by the echoes of laughter that taunted her.​


No, she thought to herself. I guess He's not.​


Then the darkness overcame her, and she thought no more.​
 

Jake Reynolds

Wordslinger
Joined
Sep 24, 2010
Messages
638
Much better dude, good fine tuning. My only crit might be on the 'No, I guess he's not'. It's not really necessary. Instead, maybe end at '...laughter that taunted her, following her into darkness.' Or some such. Otherwise though, very impressive improvement.
 

ctg

weaver of the unseen
Supporter
Joined
Aug 21, 2007
Messages
7,017
Kelsey Jones sat quietly, sipping at her coffee and staring absently at the television screen. Her chair rocked slowly as she pushed it along with her toes, staring out the window with a sigh as she waited for the sun to set. Julie had brought the grandchildren earlier today, and after nearly seven hours of yelling, screaming, and sword fighting with broom handles, she couldn't deny that she was grateful for the peace. She loved those boys dearly, but wasn't as young as she used to be.

Kelsey leaned her head back and closed her eyes, taking in the still quiet of the coming night and the warmth of the cup in her hands. At this point in her life, things just didn't get much better. She opened her eyes and raised the cup to her lips, but started as a small movement along the wall caught her attention, and coffee found its way to her faded blouse as she jumped slightly. A gasp escaped her lips when she realized what had caught her eye, a large spider making its way toward the ceiling. Her hands began to jitter and a chill crawled up her spine as she tried to keep herself calm and set down her coffee cup.​


Better but not as good as it should be. The second paragraph needs a lot of editing to get it in the shape as in there you are dropping back into the narrative voice. The reason why I highlighted the last sentence in the first para is because you can cut it away and let the reader to assume that is the case.

Here is how I would rewrite it:

Kelsey Jones sat quietly in darkening room. She sipped her coffee and listened absently the television chatter at the background. It was this moment of peace that she'd been longing for whole day. The grandchildren were great but she preferred chilling in the near quietness opposite to the yells, screams and sword fighting with broom handles.

She leaned her head back and closed her eyes as she let the rocking chair took her slowly away from those memories. The cup warmed her old bones as the golden glimmer faded in her mind.

God bless those little weasels, she thought at the moment she opened her eyes to take a sip from the cup. But at that moment she caught movement in the shadows.

"Dear Lord," escaped from her lips as she saw a tea plate sized spider making its way towards the ceiling. Her hands began to jitter as a chill crawled up her spine.


Now, I know this isn't your style, and I don't if get Kelsey's voice right. But I wrote it to you to illustrate much personalised style that incorporate the close 3rd person perspective. I also try to illustrate here that you can bridge the paragraphs together by linking them with action.

The clank of the cup against the tabletop startled her and Kelsey jumped out of her seat, knocking the cup to the floor in a chorus of broken glass and spilled liquid, cursing silently as she hurried to the hall closet to retrieve a shoe. The mess could wait a moment. She didn't want to chance letting this thing crawl around the house.
You can get away by removing the last two lines. The reason that you don't need them as the reader has already assumed these things at the moment she moves out to fetch a shoe. Although in her shoes I would have preferred a broom.

The spider stood motionless just above the window, and Kelsey inched up to the wall slowly, her hand shaking as she tried to reach the intruder while staying as far from it as possible. It scurried suddenly and she yelped, immediately drawing back.​


I would have expected her to throw the shoe. Also in here try to keep as close to her person as you can. Use her thoughts and what she sees in your advance.

Also note that I'm breaking your long para to smaller pieces. This is the reason that you are now in action and you need to keep the pace up for the reader as they flash read through these bits.

With a deep breath she mustered her courage, then raised the shoe and slammed it into the wall, her stomach turning as she heard the creature's body give way to the onslaught.
Too much information. Please, try to shorten this sentence. Keep on small paras.

She held the shoe far in front of her with two fingers as she tip-toed to the front door and threw it onto the porch. Sighing with a forced smile as she tried to calm herself, Mrs. Jones shut the door.
You are moving here in and out from the narrator to the character. Try to keep your focus only in the character. Rewrite the first sentence.

Note that when you use Mrs. Jones you are using narrator voice, not the character voice. This means that when you write a character you say and use words that she would use, and I don't believe for a second that she would call herself - in her head - as Mrs. Jones.

She surveyed the spill on the floor and stepped into the kitchen, opening a narrow closet to grab a broom and dust pan. The closet door closed and she turned back toward the den, but stopped. She had heard something. Or had she? Kelsey Jones stood there in silence, her senses strained as she tried to hear it again. There! A creaking floorboard?
In here you are in her head, so use a gender word or Kelsey only.

Her mind whispered to get out of the house and call the police, but she quickly shut it out. It was an old house, after all. Old houses creak and groan all the time. Still, it wouldn't hurt to be sure.

It's better to be safe than sorry, she thought as grabbed her cell phone and, with 911 just one button press away, made her way down the hall, turning on lights as she peeked into doors. Finding nothing, she returned to the den with a chuckle. She really must keep her imagination from running so far. She leaned over the chair to shut of the lamp, ready to get some sleep.​


I again broke your large paragraph to two smaller and made the thought indicator to bridge the two paras together. Rewrite the second last sentence to be as one her thoughts.

What was that?

There. She heard it again. There was something at the top of the stairs. She was sure of it. When the floorboard creaked again, there was no doubt in Kelsey's mind. What it was, she couldn't know, but something was moving around upstairs. A stray cat, perhaps?

No, it'd sounded bigger than a cat.

A person?​


I try to illustrate here that you can keep those thoughts flying as you dive in the character.

Her heart pounded in her chest as she touched the staircase and called softly, “Hello?”​

Only silence replied.​

“Hello?” She called louder this time. “Is someone there?”​

Still there was no answer, but something was wrong. The hairs on the back of her neck were standing, and a voice inside her urged her to leave. Don't ask questions, just get out.​

Oh, God!


Good.

At here you have cranked the tension to eleven. The moment of horror has arrived. Use it. Paint us a nightmare. Paint us a man standing in the darkness and then breaking up or even exploding in thousand little particles that turn out to be a fleet of spiders avalanching down the stairs.

Kelsey screamed and staggered back, tripping on a step and falling to the floor. She heard a loud crack as unbearable pain shot from her lower back down through her right leg. Desperately, she turned and crawled away from the stairs, grabbing onto a small table as she tried to pull herself up. The pain intensified and a mingled shout of agony and despair escaped her lungs. Fear flooded through her as she chanced a look back, faced with thousands of small scurrying bodies that poured from the stairs onto the floor. Within seconds, the hideous creatures were upon her, crawling over her flesh. Kelsey writhed wildly to get them off her, pain washing through her with every move. There were so many!​

Her screams echoed through the empty house as every inch of her skin was pierced repeatedly by tiny fangs, and the bristled legs crawled across her face and neck, into her clothes where they continued the assault. Kelsey threw her arms out, reaching desperately to no one, screaming for help that wouldn't come. Then she went limp, unable to move any further, helpless as she lay there, praying silently that an end would come.​


Watch repetition with the screams. Let the reader to imagine their own horrors and only tell us what we need to know. I mean that you shouldn't try to fill in too much information as some of this stuff can be taken as granted.

Then suddenly everything went still. She strained to lift her head, horrified to see the spiders retreating from her body, aware now of a chorus of ominous whispers ringing through the air as the creatures swirled amongst themselves, their mingled bodies beginning to shimmer and fade away, replaced by the shape of something human. Kelsey remained silent, her horrified scream frozen in her throat as the figure stepped toward her, the heavy footsteps growing closer as she let her head fall to the floor, closing her eyes and praying loudly for God to rescue her. A chilling sound reached her then, a deep bellowing that reverberated back upon itself, a sound like many voices at once. They whispered of death.​


When she prays, don't tell us, show us. Show us what happens in her mind when the man towers over her.

“Stop wasting your voice, woman.”​

She felt hot breath on her ear, and the unmistakable smell of sulfur surrounded her.​


Good use a smelling sense, but I don't like the breath in her ear. Let him tower over her, as you can use this psychological image to manipulate the audience mind. So just let her smell the sulfur and probably hear crackling of the brimstone when he steps closer and utters:

“God is not here today. There is only me.”​


Leave it here. Don't write anything else as this is a cliffhanger and the reader can imagine all sort of things happening to her. They also would be interested on turning the page.
 

Arkose

Waiting for tea time
Joined
Mar 3, 2011
Messages
264
I agree with everything ctg said, I can't really add anything else.

I enjoyed your rewrite alot more than the first. I think you set the tone better and I like the character a little bit more. I am very interested on whats going to happen next.

Keep at it!
 

alchemist

Be pure. Be vigilant. Beware.
Joined
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Messages
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Location
Ireland
Good stuff, RJ, and a good improvement. Just a couple of small thoughts to add to those already down...

Kelsey leaned her head back and closed her eyes, taking in the still quiet of the coming night and the warmth of the cup in her hands. At this point in her life, things just didn't get much better. She opened her eyes and raised the cup to her lips, but started as a small movement along the wall caught her attention, and coffee found its way to her faded blouse as she jumped slightly. A gasp escaped her lips a bit too passive for my liking here when she realized what had caught her eye, a large spider making its way toward the ceiling. Her hands began to jitter and a chill crawled up her spine as she tried to keep herself calm and set down her coffee cup.​


I know this was done as the result of a suggestion, but there's a little too much cup action for me. She put it down, so why would its clank startle her? The clank of the cup against the tabletop startled her and Kelsey jumped out of her seat, knocking the cup to the floor in a chorus of broken glass and spilled liquid, cursing silently as she hurried to the hall closet to retrieve a shoe. The mess could wait a moment. She didn't want to chance letting this thing crawl around the house.​


The spider stood do spiders stand? Who knows? motionless just above the window, and Kelsey inched up to the wall slowly, her hand shaking as she.....​

Her mind whispered to get out of the house and call the police, but she quickly shut it out. It was an old house, after all. Old houses creak and groan all the time. Still, it wouldn't hurt to be sure. Better safe than sorry, right? She grabbed her cell phone and, with 911 just one button press away, made her way down the hall, turning on lights as she peeked into doors. Finding nothing, she returned to the den with a chuckle. She really must keep her imagination from running so far. She leaned over the chair to shut of off, but would you use the term "shut off"? Turn off, perhaps the lamp, ready to get some sleep.​


What was that?


There. She heard it again. There was something at the top of the stairs. She was sure of it. When the floorboard creaked again, there was no doubt in Kelsey's mind. What it was, she couldn't know, but something Why bold? I'd stick to italics was moving around upstairs. A stray cat, perhaps? A person?​



...Still there was no answer, but something was wrong. The hairs on the back of her neck were standing, and a voice inside her urged her to leave. Don't ask questions, just get out.​


Oh, God!

I'm confused. It takes another five sentences to tell us what caused her to scream
Kelsey screamed and staggered back, tripping on a step and falling to the floor. She heard a loud crack as unbearable pain shot from her lower back down through her right leg. Desperately, she turned and crawled away from the stairs, grabbing onto a small table as she tried to pull herself up. The pain intensified and a mingled shout of agony and despair escaped her lungs. Fear flooded through her as she chanced a look back, faced with thousands of small scurrying bodies that poured from the stairs onto the floor. Within seconds, the hideous creatures were upon her, crawling over her flesh. Kelsey writhed wildly to get them off her, pain washing through her with every move. There were so many!​




...The light began to leave her eyes, and her vision became a swirling black curtain as her heartbeat pounded loudly in her ears, drowned out by the echoes of laughter that taunted her.​


No, she thought to herself. I guess He's not. A very calm thought there



Then the darkness overcame her, and she thought no more.​
 

J Riff

The Ants are my friends..
Joined
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Messages
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Sleeping in Lab
This's a horror story. Can't resist.Two endings confused me, and this is what came out, sorry. ) Muahah.:rolleyes:

Kelsey rocked, quietly slurping inexpensive brandy as she stared myopically at the television. The grandchildren had arrived earlier than usual today, and after nearly seven hours of yelling, fisticuffs, and swordfighting with axe handles, they were gone, and she couldn't deny that she was grateful for the peace and quiet. She loved the little beasts dearly, but wasn't as spry as she had been when she was still wrestling professionally.​
She leaned back and closed her eyes, taking in the quiet of the swamp and the warmth of the flask in her hands. At this point in life, things just couldn't get much better. She opened her eyes and took a slug of the cheap booze, then twitched as a small movement caught her eye. A gasp escaped her lips - a large spider was making its way toward the ceiling.
She began to jitterbug, and a chill crawled along her spine like a snake up a fencepost. She stood up, dropping her flask to the floor. Cursing silently, she hurried to the hall closet to retrieve a shoe.
The spider lurked, motionless above a window. Kelsey inched toward the wall, her hand shaking as she attempted to reach the arachnid intruder, while staying as far away from it as possible. It scuttled sideways and she yelped, immediately drawing back. With a deep breath she mustered her courage, raised the shoe, and slammed it down on the creature. Her stomach heaved as she heard the spider's body squash hideously, like a bag of haggis hammered by a piledriver.She held the shoe out in front of herself with two fingers as she tiptoed to the door and threw the defiled footwear onto the porch.​
She surveyed the room. Brandy soaking into the floor. She hurried into the kitchen and grabbed a rag. She turned back to the den, then suddenly froze. She had heard something...
Or had she? She waited silently, her spider-senses straining. There it was again! A creaking floorboard... or something else?
Her mind whispered: get out of the house! -but she quickly turned her inner scaredycat voice off. It was an old house, after all. Old houses creak and groan all the time.
Still, it couldn't hurt to be sure. Better safe than sorry. She picked up a meat cleaver and made her way down the hallway, turning on lights as she peeked into rooms. Finding nothing, she returned to the den with a nervous chuckle. She shut off the lamp, ready to get some sleep.
What was that?
There. She heard it once again. There was something near the top of the stairs. She was sure of it this time. What it was, she couldn't guess, but something was moving around upstairs. A stray cat, perhaps. Yes, only this, and nothing more.
Her heart pounded as she grasped the bannister and softly called, “Hello?
... kitty, kitty?"
Something creaked in the darkness upstairs.
“Hello?” She called louder, “Is someone there?”
There was no answer.The hairs on her neck prickled, and the tiny voice urged her to leave immediately. Don't ask questions, just get out! Instead, she reached out and turned on the stairway lights.
Oh, God!
Kelsey belched stentoriously and staggered back, tripping on a step and falling awkwardly. She heard a loud crack, and pain shot through her lower back and down her right leg.
She scrabbled away from the staircase, reached a table and tried to pull herself erect. The pain intensified and a grunt of agony escaped her as she stood and turned to face the horror on the staircase.
Thousands of hairy, scurrying insect-bodies poured down the stairs onto the floor of the den. Within seconds the hideous creatures swarmed onto her - biting, stinging!
Kelsey writhed and twisted wildly, Elvis would have been very impressed. Screams echoed through the empty house as Kelsey was savaged by thousands of tiny claws and venomous fangs. Bristled legs ravaged her delicate skin as arachnids swarmed into her clothing, plunging down her neckline and pouring into her sleeves and pantlegs like rats up a drainpipe.
She flung out her arms, reaching desperately for something, anything, a flamethrower, a can of Raid, any weapon of self-defence... which did not materialize. She went limp, praying that the end would come swiftly.
Then everything went quiet. She lifted her head, to see the spiders retreating from her body. A chorus of ominous whispers then, as the creatures swirled amongst themselves, their bodies starting to shimmer and re-form, coalescing into - the shape of a human being!
Weakly, Kelsey screamed one last time as the dark figure stepped toward her. A chilling sound issued forth, a deep bellow that reverberated back upon itself, a sound like many voices at once. Then one voice, an evil, scratchy, screechy spider-voice filled the room.
"The death of ten thousand bites! It's too good for you, human scum! You have squashed Supreme Commander SyZzzthpathiax, without whom conquest of this planet is impossible. You have won this time, Earth-harlot, but we shall return, and, by the sacred mandibles of Zorthgogula, all life on this planet shall have legs numbering eight! Not seven, not nine- Eight!"
There was more ranting but a smiling Kelsey was already happily dead, having saved the boys, and the world, from extermination, at least temporarily.
 

J Riff

The Ants are my friends..
Joined
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Soorry Ronin, I was discombobulated and couldn't resist, because I liked your story a lot. I mean- a spider-swarm turning into Satan? Bring it on, has to be worth a rewrite or three. Or if you decide to avoid Beelzebub and go with a different ending, so be it. I just thought the byplay with the coffee was slowing it down a bit, otherwise it was great.
 

RoninJedi84

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 16, 2010
Messages
149
No worries, man. I spit coffee on myself halfway through reading it the first time. ;)
 

Tayfax

Member
Joined
Apr 17, 2011
Messages
8
Edit: I have much to learn, it didn't occur to me to read all the previous critiques, and as such I didn't see that you've already revised the piece and, in so doing, implemented many of my would-have-been suggestions.

Forgive the trespass into your quote box, I'm not well versed in the forum toolkit, and for now this method of commentary seems best. My words will remain underlined throughout.

She sat quietly, sipping at her coffee and staring absently at the television screen. She rocked slowly in her chair, sighing as she waited for the sun to set. Julie had brought the grandchildren earlier today, and after nearly seven hours of yelling, screaming, and sword fighting with broom handles, she could not deny that she was grateful for the peace.

No need to repeat "at," she can just sip "her coffee."

A small movement along the wall to her right caught her attention and she started, nearly spilling her coffee. She shrieked as the critter came into focus, a large spider making its way toward the ceiling. She sat her coffee on the table next to her and moved quickly to her closet, retrieving a shoe.

She could "set down her coffee and reach for a shoe" rather than "sat her coffee on the table next to her and moved quickly to her closet, retrieving a shoe." This is a matter of preference, but I, at least, as an reader could believe a shoe lay near at hand. As for the rest, the table, it's relation to her, and the fact that the shoe was in a closet have little bearing on the scene.

“Oh, I hate these things!” Her whisper was harsh and shaky. Ever since she had been bitten by a Brown Recluse when she was seven, she had been deathly afraid of these eight-legged fiends.

You might mention she still had a scar from this bite, or something like that, rather than ascending to omniscience.

The spider stood (Do spiders stand?) motionless just above the window, and she inched up to the wall slowly, her hand shaking as she tried to reach the intruder while staying as far from it as possible. It scurried suddenly and she yelped, immediately drawing back. Mustering her courage, she raised the shoe and slammed it into the wall, her stomach turning as she heard the creature's body give way to the onslaught. Holding the shoe far in front of her with two fingers, she tip-toed (Would she tiptoe or hurry here?) to the front door and threw it onto the porch. Sighing as she tried to calm herself, she shut the door.

She picked up her coffee and stepped into the kitchen, pouring the contents into the sink and rinsing out the cup. She shut off the water and turned back toward the den, but stopped. She had heard something. Or had she? She stood there in silence, her senses strained as she tried to hear it again. There! A creaking floorboard?​


Her mind screamed at her to get out of the house and call the police,

This feels over dramatic to me, unless this character is highly paranoid to begin with)


but she quickly shut it out.

Shut out what? Her mind? I know what you mean, but it could be clearer.

It was an old house, and old houses creak and groan all the time. Still, perhaps she should be sure. She grabbed her cell phone and with 911 just one button press away, she made her way down the hall, turning on lights and peeking into doors. Finding nothing, she returned to the living room with a chuckle. She really must stop letting her imagination run so far.

She must? Says who?

She leaned over the chair to shut off the lamp, ready to get some sleep.​


Wait!


She had heard it again, she knew she had. It had come from upstairs. She moved slowly over to the stairway, leaning hear head around the banister and staring up to the top of the stairs. Something was wrong. She climbed the first few steps and stopped, listening hard in the darkness. She could feel her heart beginning to beat faster, the hairs on the back of her neck standing. A voice somewhere inside her shouted to get out, but she ignored it, reaching over and turning on the light.

She's listening very intently, maybe she can here the rustling of the eight thousand plus legs in the darkness. Maybe this could prompt her to turn on the light, just an idea.

She screamed and staggered back, tripping on the step and falling to the floor. She heard a loud crack and a stinging

Perhaps you mean blinding, searing, white-hot, or something similar. Stinging is not what people associate with jarring impacts.

pain shot from her lower back down through her right leg. She turned and crawled away from the stairs, grabbing onto a small table and trying to pull herself up. The pain intensified and she cried out as she fell to the floor. She looked back and fear flooded through as thousands of small scurrying bodies poured from the stairs onto the floor.

Her mind barely registered the bristly hairs covering the fat bodies and scurrying legs and she began to crawl frantically, trying to get to the bathroom to barricade herself, but she didn't have the strength.

I feel this calls for two sentences. ^^^

Within seconds, the hideous creatures were upon her, crawling over her flesh and biting, her screams echoing through the empty house as ever inch of her skin was pierced again and again by the tiny fangs. She reached out to no one,

Spiders are crawling all over her, she hates them, but doesn't fight back? I think it would be more terrifying if she swatted them, rolled and crushed them, but more just kept coming.

tears streaming down her cheeks, and screamed once more for help. Then she went limp, unable to move any further, she lay there helplessly as she waited for the pain to cease.​

As the light began to leave her eyes, she watched in horror as the creatures retreated from her body, swirling in amongst themselves and rising into the air, taking on the shape of something human. She tried to scream, but could not, her body already shutting down. Her vision became a swirling black curtain, and she felt as if she was falling.

Did it? Perhaps it felt as though a curtain was obscuring her vision.

The distinct sound of laughter filled her ears, and her mind cried out in silence for help that would not come. Then the darkness overcame her, and she thought no more.​
I have no horror of spiders, so I had a bit of trouble relating the woman, but I did enjoy the spider-mass becoming human (demon).

One last thing, why is she waiting for the sunset?
 
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