Thursday, May 2, 2013

First 250 Words Smash! #14

Most Wonderful Author: Kelly Hearn
Most Evil Critique Master: Sarah
Working Title: N/A

-feet scraping on the clay bricks, sliding over the moss in between the cracks-

There are sounds behind him, inhuman, horrific, unreal, can't be real, shouldn't be real, moans and groans, shrieks of terror and murder and death.

They're advancing, their claws digging into the ground, ripping it apart, their heavy breaths laced with the smell of blood and human meat.  They're catching up to you, slowly, your doom inevitable, but you just keep running, leaping over the tree roots, dodging boulders, doing whatever you can to put off the horrific end to your miserable life.  You turn to look over your shoulder, just for a second, to look at them -

-pure evil, fur black as night, eyes glowing red, teeth as long as you are wide, and hunger in their eyes, hunger for your flesh, your blood, your life-

- and when you snap your neck back around there's nothing but air beneath your feet and you're falling and you hit the river with a smack that knocks the breath out of your lungs and you're being smothered in the icy water and you're sinking and it all fades to-

The phone's screen blinked in red and black: 

Game over.
Would you like to play again?

Strong Points –
I like second person. I didn’t always, not until I read a book that convinced me second person could be used effectively, so I’m always eager to see more writers experiment with it and see what else can be done. It’s totally underrated.

Also, you’ve got some good moments of descriptive detail, like hitting the water and the breath leaving the lungs. You’ve also got some strong adverbs that really command the action of the scene and reinforce the pacing and the atmosphere.

Some Tips –
This is an odd one for me, but I gave it some time to stew in my brain before I realized why this intro didn’t really work for me: it doesn’t tell me anything about the story. Instantly I think it’s supposed to be a “choose your own adventure” web type series, but something like that would give readers context before they start the story. I think the formatting is also what confuses me, why there are specific paragraphs separated by dashes and why there aren’t, why the separated paragraphs aren’t capitalized, so forth. I definitely don’t mind atypical formatting, but I have to understand why the formatting is this way and what it adds to the story. The opening doesn’t tell me enough about the why.

But, back to what I was trying to less-than-coherently say. The first scene of a story should give the reader an idea of what they’re getting into. This tells me very little. I don’t know any characters, I’m not even sure if I’m the main character, I don’t know the setting or the place and time, I’m not quite sure if this is intended to be serialized fiction or a web series – and I think this is an inherent problem when beginning with something that I tend to call a “gimmick”, which is a plot device that doesn’t further the plot and exists purely to create drama.

Some gimmicks are cool. Some gimmicks work. But in this case, I think it’s hindering your story.

My advice is to begin with the story, whatever it might be, wherever it truly begins. Start as close to the inciting incident (or the beginning of the rising action) as you can. Immerse your readers in your story as quickly as you can, don’t dangle it above their heads. Give them something to hold onto.

Would I Keep Reading?

Not yet, but I’m actually curious now to see what this story is actually intended to be, and I saw some glimpses of good writing, so if you do resubmit to us (and I’m sorry this took so long!) I’ll probably open that sucker right away.

♥ ♥ ♥

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