Set in the Cthulhu mythos

StilLearning

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Hey all, I'm working on the skill of keeping a conversation between two characters going, from one characters point of view, including unspoken thoughts. It's struck me this is something even my favourite authors confuse me with sometimes, so it seems like something to start work on early.

I've taken the beginning of a short story that I abandoned because, being set in a very popular mythos, I figured it would have been done to death already. But as a chance to have others with an objective eye tell me where I'm going wrong, I think it might have some value, after all. It's about 1200 words long.


Feel free to point out anything else that isn't working, and I hope I haven't made it hard to follow for someone who's not familiar with Lovecrafts Cthulhu mythos. My thanks, in advance.


[FONT=&quot]>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
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"You lied! You lied for years!" Danforth blustered.

Professor Keel contained a groan - the girl was smart enough to bypass Miskatonic Universities supposedly unbeatable firewalls. Smart enough to know this was now a lot bigger than showing off to her hacker mates, down the student bar.

But, for all that, barely more than girl, and very ignorant of just what she’d stumbled onto.

"Miss... Miss Danforth..." Keel hesitated. But who would believe a wild tale from a student? "Yes, all right. We've lied. The ‘Bill Dyer’ space probe made it to the comet’s surface. It sent back images, of what it found there.”

A look of triumph flashed over Stephanie Danforths features.

'
Very ignorant' thought Keel, and continued out loud: “I need to know, for your safety... how much did you see, other than what you downloaded?"

Stephanie grinned. "Hey Prof, why don't we talk about money instead?"

Keel caught the eye of 'Roberts', stood by the door: To her relief the fake security guard shrugged, and quietly closed the door behind him. He'd arrived from the FBI that morning, and Keel had barely contained her anger: Homeland security had already agreed to let her deal with the matter unofficially – after putting a bug in her elderly laptop. Alex from IT had found the tiny device when she’d cracked the screen late yesterday, and 'hey presto' the FBI had shown up.

Keel motioned Stephanie for silence, and switched on her desk fan – which was Alex’s masterpiece: It jammed almost every commonly used microwave and radio frequency, as well as being audibly loud enough to ensure some privacy from a listener at the door. It had cost quite a bit. "And what do you think you have, hmm?” She said. “Images, of a statue - that looks like a human squid, for Christ sake - on the surface of a comet, from a spaceprobe the world believes failed. Good luck convincing the president. And I should say had,” Keel continued, “because every scrap of electronic memory you own has been wiped."

Danforth coloured. "I've still got copies!" She hissed.

Keel winced: That was a clumsy lie – homeland security, and her own private detective, had been over the students apartment and belongings with a fine tooth comb.

"Anyway,” the girl ploughed on, apparently oblivious, “people will -"

"Have to listen, because you've got truth on your side?" Keel snapped. She leaned across the desk, then continued more quietly: "Listen carefully, Miss computer student: Those statues have been found on Earth. They predate the human race. Representations of something called ‘Cthulhu’. And it has attracted cults. People who wouldn’t hesitate to harm you, to get at what we found. You get it?"

“That’s….. that’s…ridiculous.”

“As ridiculous as finding a statue of a hideous alien on a comet?” Keel felt her temper going. “Do you really think that we’d hide something that momentous, if there weren’t more to it? You need to grow up fast missy, you’re a long bloody way down the rabbit hole to be naïve.” She stopped herself, feeling light-headed. 'Blasted arrhythmia', she thought, 'I daren't even get angry with an arrogant girl'.

Stephanie seemed stunned by the outburst. Then, so quietly Keel had to lean in to hear,
she said: " That.. thing…buried in comet ice. Does it give you nightmares? Because I’ve seen it every night, every night, ever since…. ”

Keel ignored the question, and kept her hands out of sight, so Stephanie couldn’t see them trembling. “The deal is this,” she said quickly, “You'll tell me what else you saw, and how you got past our security. In return the university will protect you. And not torch your damn career before it's even got going.”

The girl was staring into space. “Who knows,” Keel continued, more gently, “you prove we can trust you, and you might even get a PhD position out of this."


**

Professor Keel listened as Stephanie Danforth explained how she’d stolen a tutors archive pass card, and scanned the original hard copies using the library photocopier. At the same time a friend had carried out an on-line attack, apparently aimed at the electronic archives, but actually covering Stephanie's tracks through security. Keel could barely believe the effort they'd gone to.

Then, it was Keels turn to have her jaw dropped: After a moment of nail examining, the girl produced a thumbnail sized flash drive out of her tight bob of hair.

She had one hell of a career ahead, the professor concluded.

Stephanie voice was barely above a whisper. “I didn’t have time to look around much. I grabbed the first thing that looked cool. That’s my last copy – it’s all on there, the landing on the comet, the.. the obelisk, the markings. The…statue. “

Still shaken, Keel fingered the scratched grey pen drive. She ought to ask how the girl had hidden it. But she wasn't sure she could trust the answer.

“Can.. can I go?” Stephanie asked.

Keel made her decision. “Yes. Go back to your classes. And, as long as this is the last copy, I think I can convince everyone this was just a prank gone bad. Go back to your course, say nothing – to anyone – and you shouldn’t need to worry. But one word and you’ll find yourself being moved to Alaska. That's not a joke” She ran her fingers over the drive again. The scratches felt a little like letters:

C – T – U – L – U.

Keels pulse barely had time to jump, before the girl leaned over and jabbed a tiny needle into her upper arm. The professor's world turned by ninety degrees, and the beige carpet was suddenly pressed against her face. Her chair tumbled into view. Her arms and legs felt like lead. A pounding pain began to building her temples, and chest. She managed to get the arm folded beneath her into her pocket, and squeezed the emergency medical alarm.

The office turned grey and narrowed to a receding circle. Dimly she was aware of Stephanie – Stephanie with such promise – leaning over her.

“Shhhh…” the girl whispered in her ear. “You’re luckier than those…nice people ... out there will be, when he rises.”

Another voice came dimly to Keel: “Did we get what we needed?” 'Roberts,' she thought sluggishly.

“Yes – they think they’ve got all the copies. You should’ve seen the old sows face when I produced this.” There was smile in Stephanie's voice.

“She's got a jammer in here, your mike got nada.”

“Hmmm. I think it's in the fan. Nice trick. Come back later and grab it, get Martin to make up a co-”

Keel thought she heard a sudden burst of shouting from outside. But it was all fading. Someone was turning her over …why? Couldn’t remember. What was she was doing on the floor? She just needed to sleep, to get away from the throbbing heada-
 

Brian G Turner

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It's a nice piece and interesting to see the Cthulhu Mythos written for the digital age. :)

A couple of basic pointers, though:

- Italicise or underline thoughts* - without any kind of apostrophe.
- Break up dialogue so only one person is speaking in any given paragraph, otherwise it quickly becomes confusing as to who exactly is speaking.


* Original MS convention had it that text intended for italics should be underlined - however, this may be editor/agent/publisher dependent these days, but something to be aware of.
 

StilLearning

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Thanks for the pointers! :) I'll have to look at it again in the morning, for where I've put Keel and Stephanies dialogue together in paragraphs - I know I shouldn't, but have developed a habit of missing paragraphs breaks, then nor being able to see it until someone points it out to me. Plus I've just looked at the clock and it's 12.17!
 

chrispenycate

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Possessive apostrophes. As in:-
the girl was smart enough to bypass Miskatonic Universities supposedly unbeatable firewalls.
University's

A look of triumph flashed over Stephanie Danforths features.
Danforth's

had been over the students apartment and belongings
student's

how she’d stolen a tutors archive pass card,
tutor's

Then, it was Keels turn to have her jaw dropped:
Keel's

Keels pulse barely had time to jump, before the girl leaned over and jabbed a tiny needle into her upper arm.
Keel's; and do you actually pause at that comma?

You should’ve seen the old sows face when I produced this
sow's

A pounding pain began to building her temples, and chest.
"began building in", or "began to build in"

“The deal is this,” she said quickly, “You'll tell me what else you saw
Second comma should be a full stop.
 

Bowler1

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Professor Keel contained a groan
Then, it was Keels turn to have her jaw dropped

These two actions for emotion etc. attracted my attention, pulled me out of the action a bit.

Keels pulse barely had time to jump, before the girl leaned over and jabbed a tiny needle into her upper arm. The professor's world turned by ninety degrees, and the beige carpet was suddenly pressed against her face. Her chair tumbled into view. Her arms and legs felt like lead. A pounding pain began to building her temples, and chest. She managed to get the arm folded beneath her into her pocket, and squeezed the emergency medical alarm.
Just the two words in red. The first, the line could work without ‘pulse’ in there. The ninety degrees was un-emotional for me, you could have provided more feelings of the character losing control to better affect I think.
As per I Brian on thoughts. The office was not described at the start which I would have liked for setting, but the section worked fine without this. I liked it and you have your own style going on here which kept my interest.
 

JoanDrake

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I'm sorry I missed this, it is very interesting with a nice twist, and I had no trouble with who was talking, paras or not, but then it was only two people.

The only improvement I could think of would be to invisi-tape the rigged needle to the hard drive itself. She feels a pinprick and....
 

StilLearning

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Ooooh, that's a good idea. Thanks for the comment JoanDrake! Paragraphs is something of a discipline issue with me - my default method of writing is to finish the thing, then go back and put praragraph breaks in. Which has been fine for the 75 and 300 word challenges here, but is tripping me up with anything longer.

I'm going to try writing a four person conversation, as a way of making myself slow down and do it right. Hopefully that should short circuit my blind spot when it comes to spotting missing breaks.
 

EricWard

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"The crux of the biscuit is: If it entertains you,

A look of triumph flashed over Stephanie Danforths features.
Maybe the actual features of triumph? A wry smile or something like that?
'Very ignorant' thought Keel, and continued out loud: “I need to know, for your safety... how much did you see, other than what you downloaded?"

[...]

Keel motioned Stephanie for silence, and switched on her desk fan – which was Alex’s masterpiece: It jammed almost every commonly used microwave and radio frequency, as well as being audibly loud enough to ensure some privacy from a listener at the door. It had cost quite a bit. "And what do you think you have, hmm?” She said. “Images, of a statue - that looks like a human squid, for Christ sake - on the surface of a comet, from a spaceprobe the world believes failed. Good luck convincing the president. And I should say had,” Keel continued, “because every scrap of electronic memory you own has been wiped." I like that little bit of espionage stuff. A nice touch.

[...]

“As ridiculous as finding a statue of a hideous alien on a comet?” Keel felt her temper going. “Do you really think that we’d hide something that momentous, if there weren’t more to it? You need to grow up fast missy, you’re a long bloody way down the rabbit hole to be naïve.” She stopped herself, feeling light-headed. 'Blasted arrhythmia', she thought, 'I daren't even get angry with an arrogant girl'.

[...]

Keel ignored the question, and kept her hands out of sight, so Stephanie couldn’t see them trembling. “The deal is this,” she said quickly, “You'll tell me what else you saw, and how you got past our security. In return the university will protect you. And not torch your damn career before it's even got going.” Ah, I was going to say how in the previous paragraph about Keel that I was wondering how she physically looked when she was angry, but this paragraph answered it. Maybe move her trembling to earlier?
Overall, I like where it's going. The combination of Cthulhu and cyberspace just seems a natural fit. I can think of a few things off the top of my head like Cthulhu's image or whatnot streaming in through a computer. Very cool.
 

StilLearning

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Cheers for the advice EricWard! I love the picture by the way......

Hmmm. I'm surprised by how well people have responded to this so far. I'll have to go back to the idea of the story as a whole.
 

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