Beta-readers enter here
March 17, 2020 at 12:13 pm #108973
Hello all who have entered this topic! I have a horror (or something in that vein) short story that is in need of beta readers. Any kind of constructive criticism is welcome.
I’m not sure who to tag, so I think I will just throw this post to the winds and hope someone in this group catches it. Thank you!March 17, 2020 at 12:15 pm #108974
Alright, I have very little experience in providing links, but hopefully this one will go better than my last attempt. Theoretically, this is the short story.
https://dl-mail.ymail.com/ws/download/mailboxes/@.id==VjN-5ddQNCZJVGeCmJqzRi7RTPYFN0Ct03fcSHneDBeV_w3y-2QqdJ6rv83o8jDt6UkYOstHGQ2SvOzuBlPC52QM-g/messages/@.id==AEjNDcdz5Y6iXnAougymSH941jw/content/parts/@.id==2/raw?appid=YMailNodin&ymreqid=e0659ccd-63ec-97cb-1ccb-f8000001a600&token=zitEzqOML3j84e6ealFTT5U7-km5qEQF52lp7AcCuBYwtMyO26yH0Bbh4y5OqUbN0Wq0-a9MIsA2iNkeT85U5XDmxyJI3ojOFJ2h_kWBS0dRaGMi_a4dULZHRa_xD1WBMarch 17, 2020 at 12:36 pm #108977
@vivian-grant That link doesn’t work. It looks like a download link from an email inbox, which isn’t going to work for anyone not logged into your account. Most people around here host on Google Docs and then use the link sharing function in it.
"...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and MargaritaMarch 17, 2020 at 12:43 pm #108978
Thank you. Are there alternatives for people who don’t have a Google account?March 17, 2020 at 12:57 pm #108979
@vivian-grant As far as I’m aware, not in the same exact functionality with editing and commenting and decent privacy settings built into a tolerantly responsive editor.
There’s always pastebin for simple sharing, though other people can’t comment on the page. There’s the online version of MS Word, which probably functions similarly to Google Docs. There’s Dropbox, which if you use Dropbox Paper has pretty similar Google Docs commenting and publishing functionality.
If you don’t specifically have an aversion to Google I strongly recommend you just make an account for Google Drive. So many people use it as a doc host, and it has great functionality for things that aren’t as long as novels.
"...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and MargaritaMarch 17, 2020 at 1:05 pm #108980
@taylorclogston Thank you for the alternatives, and for pointing out that the link didn’t work.March 17, 2020 at 1:42 pm #108986
Attempt number two! Again, available for anyone to beta-read.
March 17, 2020 at 2:00 pm #108989Anonymous
- This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by Vivian Grant.
I’ll read it. What sort of criticism are you after—do you want to know what you did right, what you did wrong, a little bit of both?March 17, 2020 at 3:09 pm #108993
Good job on not showing the “friend” for a while. The suspense is good. Mentioning the snake made me wonder if it was tied to the monster, and then the ugliness and the burning had me wondering what sort of monster we were dealing with. I like the gradual pace of introducing characters, and that you attach them to a genre archetype so the reader hopefully doesn’t confuse people despite them only being briefly on page at first.
I think you could keep the functionality of the scene introducing the artist and build on the “letting him know she’s single” while making it less cheesy like this:
HER: Wendy Tempest
HIM: *Eyebrows raise* Tempest? That’s a unique name. Where’s it from?
HER: It was my ex-husband’s, actually. His family was from…
HIM: *Eyebrows raise* Tempest? How dynamic.
HER: Yeah, I hated leaving it behind when I married my ex-husband…
Wendy seems waaay too chill about the scene with the hair ties. I think most people in that situation would think “there’s a child abductor hiding in the woods, watching the children and somehow got my daughter over here, trusting him, letting him put his filthy hands all over her hair.”
Which, structurally, would probably put the very next scene in the police station, with Wendy anxiously asking the cops to get to the bottom of this. I don’t at all believe that Wendy would be wondering whether her daughter is just making up stories or hanging out with an adult.
Okay… Reading the next scene, it seems that Wendy didn’t see anyone, so she doesn’t really believe there was a person there? You should definitely focus in on the fact that there should have been no way for Wendy to miss someone if they were there, like it was in a clearing with very thin trees beyond it or something like that. So, the emotional part of her knows something’s very wrong while the rational part of her is like “yeah better call the cops,” and then when whichever officer they do send in response sees not a single sign that an adult besides Wendy was there.
“hi. I was just walking by, but I couldn’t help but notice that your keys are still in your car.”
Is-is that a thing people make a habit of, looking into their neighbors’ cars?
“This was so much slower and nicer than how she and Aaron first got together, and she was taking this as a good sign.”
I’m a little terrified of what happened with Aaron if “asking someone out in the second conversation you ever have with someone” is slow. Though he does seem like a nice lad. Which is probably sinister red herring-ing.
“Maybe a movie?”
Maaaybe consider giving a specific movie name (fake or real) to give a bit more characterization to the two of them? It could range from “do you like historical stuff?” to “there’s a tiny indie theater an hour away” to “half price tickets at midnight, that too late?” to “they’re doing a Lord of the Rings marathon in the little mom and pop theater downtown,” etc.
Wendy mentioning “this is the second mystery injury” aloud seems kind of on the nose.
If Ralph lives next door, why is Olivia only now seeing he drives a Mustang? Also, you could do a cute little bit where Ralph makes a tremendous show about driving all of twenty feet or whatever into her driveway and opening the door, saying something about how the traffic was terrible on the drive over.
“I told my friend we live in the orange house,”
“So, where’s Daphne?”
Asking if she went to bed okay works better.
Good job having escalation at the 50% mark. Now he’s inside the house!
And I really like the detail about her usually having the door open and it now being shut.
‘She seized the doorknob, commanding, “Alright, mister, get out now!”’
That was pretty corny though >.>
“head over heels. She flipped over the foot of the bed,”
Again, that’s more comical than anything. You had great tension and you dropped it with silliness. If you wanted to keep the tone, you could have her reach her hand reach toward the knob, not trying to alert whoever is inside, planning on just letting loose and stabbing with the element of surprise, only to have the door slam her in the face and knock her down, cracking her head on the bed as she goes down, so she gets some head trauma that flashes her vision, preventing her from seeing who she can hear is running away… And now she’s hurt and at a further disadvantage, so the tension ramps higher.
Again, for the sake of believability, knowing there’s a home invader in the house, would it make more sense for Wendy to try to lock them into the room and then try to open the bedroom window so Daphne can run to the neighbor’s house and call 911? You could even lead that into Wendy fumbling with the latch and then freezing as Daphne says “Don’t be scared…” to turn and see the friend in the locked room with them.
‘“What did you mean by monster?” he asked as Wendy conversed with the person on the 911 call. “I’m looking at your kitchen, and I don’t see anything.”’
Wouldn’t the logical conclusion be “whatever home invader she’s talking about either ran away or is in another room” than “I have no idea what you’re talking about?”
‘One of the officers said, “Alright, sir, did you see where he went?”’
First, I wouldn’t expect to see police any sooner than 6 or so minutes, and that could be pretty low depending on the area. Second, this seems a little nonchalant. You’re not describing it as focused calm, like emergency responders making sure protocol is focused despite the panic, nor as a frantic “Where? What did he look like? Was he on foot or in a car?”
‘“What are you doing?” Wendy retorted, “I’m going after him.”’
Pretty sure the cops would be taking someone in to make a formal statement and get all the information they could at this point… And Ralph, too.
“Well, let’s talk about something else. Who’s your daughter’s father?”
Wrooooooooooooooooooooong time, bud.
‘He defended, “Sorry, I just meant to distract you. Is it working?”’
This guy just saw a literal horror monster kidnap his neighbor. How is he not soiling himself right now?
So, in the end, this was kind of an ET? I like the concept. Structurally I feel like Olivia just kind of vanished from the story. Wendy should probably call Olivia and ask her to meet them at the school, but then they see the monster and chase after it before she gets there, and in the end it’s Olivia who shoots the creature after they catch up with it.
In general, as I kept obnoxiously mentioning, Wendy’s response to all this as well as the police’s and the hospital’s seems unbelievable. You could get around the police just letting them go from a crime scene by having Wendy realize the monster must be at the park after calling, and have her and Ralph leave before the cops show up.
Though there definitely needs to be more of a presence of police procedure after the fact. Maybe the monster could turn into a dude before the paramedics get there, and then they end up stationing a guard outside his hospital room, planning on taking him to jail after he can be released, and Wendy wonders what she’s going to do about it while sitting on a bench outside the hospital, only to see the monster in his human form walk out, maybe take her hand in an awkward imitation of a handshake, and then leave?
I think Ralph as an artist needs to have something of a payoff too. Maybe you could have an epilogue a year later with him teaching Daphne how to paint–not necessarily “oh they’re married” but showing they’re at least good friends.
Thanks for sharing with us. I hope some of this was helpful.
"...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and MargaritaMarch 17, 2020 at 6:12 pm #108997
Thank you for the feedback! It was extremely helpful, and I admit I laughed a couple of times at the way you phrased some of the flaws. I was not ever trying to be corny, but now I certainly see it. The alternate ending with Olivia sounds appealing, but it also sounds a bit convenient, not to mention a tad outside her character to own a firearm.
As to the origin of the monster, I was trying to write it so that the reader could make of it as they wanted, but leave it a mystery. Do you have thoughts on that?
March 17, 2020 at 8:44 pm #109001
- This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by Vivian Grant.
@vivian-grant I’m glad I could be useful! By ET, I meant the movie, not trying to imply the creature was an alien. Like, the “befriend a child, share wounds with it, looong fingers, adults don’t really know what’s going on, hospital tries to contain it, escape, happy ending for benevolent misunderstood creature.” Which is also very different from your story and I’m not implying you ripped it off or anything.
I’m actually pretty impressed you didn’t force an explanation when there was no need for one. The obvious parallel is a skinwalker, but a nice one. I don’t think you need to go any further.March 17, 2020 at 9:16 pm #109002
I haven’t seen ET, and naturally get a lot of fire for that. That being said, the story plot for ET sounds a LOT like my story. They even share wounds? I actually based the monster’s appearance more off of a thumbnail I had seen of Slenderman.
Well, in the early stages of writing the story, I had several directions I could go for the monster’s origin, and when I couldn’t pick I decided not to decide, and leave it up to the reader to take it from there. Like Cinderella on the stairs in Into the Woods, if I may make the analogy.March 17, 2020 at 9:18 pm #109003
Thank you! You may tell me what I did right (what writer doesn’t want to hear that?), but please don’t hold back if you see something problematic.March 20, 2020 at 2:35 pm #109185Sam M@sam-m
First off, I enjoyed your story -thanks for letting me read it. 🙂
I do have a few suggestions:
#1 I feel like your story could benefit from more showing and less telling. For example, when Wendy is in the woods, instead of saying she’s scared, you could do something like: “Wendy’s breath became strained as they rushed further into the woods. A frigid wind swept over them as sweat dripped down her forehead.” Daeus Lamb has a Show Don’t Tell Course that’s really helpful.
#2 I read a book about writing by Stephen King where argued that it’s better to have a very small amount (or no) adverbs in writing, and I’ve come to agree with him on that For example, instead of “Wendy inhaled deeply and sighed blissfully, ‘I love this café.,'” even something as simple as “Wendy inhaled and sighed, ‘I love this café,” gets the message across faster and smoother.
#3 The scene where Wendy is in the woods and hesitates to follow the creature as it runs towards her child, seems uncharacteristic. In the past, she willingly ran into danger to save her daughter? Why did she suddenly change?
#4 Like Taylor Clogston said, it kind of seemed like Olivia disappeared. Maybe you could mention that she visited the hospital. Or you could end the story with a brief conversation between her and Wendy, so that it mirrors the start of the story.
Things I liked include:
#1 The plot. It was intriguing and scary (but without making me feel paranoid after reading it). 🙂
# The characters were well-done. I especially like how you did the monster. I like how he seemed dangerous and creepy to begin with and then misunderstood and virtuous at the end. I also thought it was cool that he couldn’t hear adults or be understood by them, but he could communicated with children. Creepy and cool.
One last note: this totally isn’t necessary, but I was curious about how some of the supernatural stuff worked. Like, who was the monster? Was he a full-on shape shifter who was actually her father, Aaron? Is he from another dimension? Of course, if you want to leave it mysterious, I can see some value in that. I’m just one of those people who likes answers. 🙂March 20, 2020 at 6:23 pm #109207
@vivian-grant I really don’t think what seem like similarities to ET matter at all. You really only have a few surface level similarities. Even the “sharing wounds” is more like “when the alien gets sick, the main character gets sick” in the movie.
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