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Thread: Edit me?

  1. #1
    A.J. Fisk

    Edit me?

    Hello everyone. Below is a short story that I wrote a little less than a week ago. It was based off of a dream that turned into a "night terror". I let it simmer in the back of my mind for a day then penned it. I haven't edited it yet and, to tell you the truth, that is one reason why I'm here. I am horrible at editing my own work. By that I mean, I suck at life when it comes to it.

    Does anyone have any tips on how I might go about editing this piece? Are there any glaring spots that make it unbearable to read? Y'know, that sort of thing. Any feedback will be appreciated. (Also, there was some minimal formatting issues with posting it on this forum. Italicized words are now plain! ...but marked with so that you get the point.)



    Some things best left forgotten
    by A.J. Fisk

    The house was a little too still. Too silent and dark for the bright afternoon shine outside. After a number of calls left unanswered and repeat visits greeted with only the dull sound of my knocking and a soft shuffling on the other side of the door, I thought it time to force my hand and enter. After all, it is what friends are for.
    I stood in the entryway, watching his outline drift from room to room; the only sound a low commingling of his footsteps and my breathing. All of the lights were turned off and all the shades pulled over the windows, black on black with the bare minimum of sunshine escaping around the edges of the curtains. My first attempt to bring some light into the house was met with a shriek and him throwing his body against mine, my hand inches away from the light switch.
    ‘What are you doing?’ His voice screeched around my mind, leaving a trail of disturbing notions, the foremost of which: the acid must have eaten away his sanity. His quiet giggling followed the outburst and I knew this must be true. He had been absent from every other part of his life for the past week; no phone call, no note, only the dead silence of his abrupt turn towards this hermitage.
    ‘He comes with the light. And after he comes, he leaves with the light.’
    His giggling continued unabated and I could only stare at him as he continued to drift from room to room for no apparent reason.
    ‘Who comes with the light?’ I asked, cringing back towards the wall behind me at the sound of my voice in this too quiet place. His giggling stopped.
    ‘The man with the lantern eyes.’
    ‘What? What are you talking about?’
    He drifted closer to me and even in the dark I could see that his eyes were wide open as if holding a look of eternal shock or suspension.
    ‘Come, I will show you.’
    He took my hand and for the first time I had tangible proof of his fall; his fingers that were healthy—if not strong—were now nothing short of frail claws. Still, I followed.
    He drew me further into the recesses of his house, the small shack contained no more than four rooms on a single floor but in the dark it seemed so much larger than that. Wide oceans of nothing greeted our passage through an open living area where couches, television and laughter should have been. He pulled me through and past what was surely an estuary of desolation, an absent effigy dedicated to something lost and best left forgotten.
    In the next room I was greeted with very similar surroundings except now I was staring at a blank white wall and he was giggling again. I was beginning to become bored with this whole thing. If he had gone off the deep end then it would be best if it was over quick; a short call to the men in white coats and he would be off and gone, a lost trouble amidst a sea of woe.
    ‘With the light comes the sound and with the sound he comes.’ His voice was something of a whisper and a final squeak at the end.
    ‘I’ve almost got him, you see, almost got him. With the light comes the sound but if there is no light then there is no sound and if there is no sound there is no—‘
    ‘There is no him. I get it, I really do.’ I turned towards what was left of one of my oldest friends and shook my head. He really wasn’t in there anymore. With a sigh I flicked the light switch. The lights came on and I almost vomited.
    ‘What the hell did you do?’
    His face was nothing short of emaciated, his long hair now little more than scraggly clumps grouped at odd intervals on his head. The way his cheeks sank in reminded me of pictures I had seen of Holocaust survivors. However, it was not his cheeks or even his remaining hair that made me want to vomit. It was the eyes. Goddamn him, he stapled them open. What looked like tape had curled back underneath the staples and a couple short lines of dried blood framed his eyes which were now nothing more than hollowed, darkened tributes to eldritch things and B-movies.
    ‘What the hell did you do?’ His retort was quickly followed by the light switch being flicked in the opposite direction, the room returning to its previous slumber. At almost the same time I heard him sobbing and I didn’t even have to see it to know that there would be no tears. God only knew how long he had his eyes that way, the tear ducts dried and caked with the salts of his skin.
    I felt like screaming at him, I felt like grabbing him and throwing him around the room, knocking him into the walls for lack of furniture to vent my fury on. How could he do this to himself? How could he do this to all of us? I felt like crying. Then, I felt nothing; my body stilled and I stood gaping at his silhouette.
    ‘Do you hear it?’ He said, his voice still a whisper.
    ‘God help me, I hear it.’
    God has nothing to do with it.
    Something else was here and there was nothing that I could do. The noise, that noise drew closer to the wall in front of us, the blank white wall that he had presented to me seeming so much more important now was the only thing I could keep my eyes on. There was a very tangible feeling of wrong when I heard that voice in my head. It was something similar to an echo of death, if an echo could carry feelings of morbidity within the sound.
    One breath. Two breaths. Then I felt cold fingers drift over the back of my neck. I ran.
    I took the opposite entrance that we had used to enter the room and continued to run, passing through the remaining two rooms in just a few short steps and then I was back at the foyer. My heart was pounding so loud I couldn’t even hear my feet slamming down on the hardwood floor; I could almost taste my freedom and feel the warmth of it on my face. I hit the front door at a full charge and burst through—right back into the room with the white wall and my friend still there too, huddled in the corner with his hands over his head.
    I screamed and ran back through the previous room, rounding the corner and running—right into him. The man with the lantern eyes. My scream and his laugh commingling together with a strange sense of déjà vu. And that is all that I remember. I haven’t seen my friend since and God go with any man that enters that house. Step lightly and ‘ware the lights, else you will go with him.

  2. #2
    Belinda Pepper

    Re: Edit me?

    This is good- I read it right through with little trouble. I like some of the things you show us- the stapled eyes, for example. I thought I only dreamed of creepy stuff like that.

    "the only sound a low commingling of his footsteps and my breathing"
    "My scream and his laugh commingling together with a strange sense of déjà vu"

    I don't think 'commingling' is not a good word to use in these sentences (or in any sentence, I suspect). Replace it with something clear and less difficult to roll off the mental tongue.

    You mention a couple times that the crazy fellow 'drifts from room to room'. Maybe it's just me, but when I read this, I couldn't help but imagine the walls being transparent. How else could the protagonist track his progress while supposedly standing still?

    I like the voice you've used in the narration. I think your descriptions are poetic (for lack of a better word). Some of the descriptions are vague though, like the one I mentioned above. I had to reread sentences to ensure I was grasping your meaning.

    I think the most important thing you need to do in revision is look at the story structure itself. At the moment, this reads like it has no beginning and end- it's just middle. This reads like a dream. If you want it to be a short story, it needs more purpose. Find that purpose and weave it in.

    I reckon the best thing you can do with this is put it aside for another week or two, then return to it with fresh eyes. You clearly possess some writing skill, so I'm fairly confident you can handle the issues once you've freshened up a bit.

    I hope that helps a little!

  3. #3
    Belinda Pepper

    Re: Edit me?

    P.S. Feel free to educate me if I'm just being daft and totally missed the purpose of the story. I do that sometimes.

  4. #4
    Claire Wells

    Re: Edit me?

    Good story. I agree with ******* in terms of the editing advise.

  5. #5
    Busy Lizzy

    Re: Edit me?

    This is very creepy and gruesome. Wow!

    *******'s comment about the "fresh eyes" sent another shiver down my back. ;-)

    I have problems with the actual ending. You don't explain how the protagonist actually managed to flee from the accursed house.

    If he keeps returning to the man with the stapled eyes and the white wall, he can't really have.

    On the other hand, he couldn't be warning people off, if he didn't.

  6. #6
    John Oberon

    Re: Edit me?

    I had the same problem as Lizzy, and I agree that it's all middle and no beginning or end.

    This reads like a dream; dreams often don't make much sense. Lots of language problems. You seem to use words for sound rather than meaning. Here's a few:

    He pulled me through and past what was surely an estuary of desolation, an absent effigy dedicated to something lost and best left forgotten.

    Anyone care to suggest a meaning for that sentence?

    What "recesses" exist in a 4-room single-floor house where two men can stand? How does a house that size hold "wide oceans of nothing"? What exactly is a look of "suspension"? How do fingers become "frail claws"? How does freedom provide "warmth" on your face?

    "Eldritch" is a pretty left-field literary word and clashes badly with "B-movies". Get rid of "commingling". Use "mingling" if you must, and use it only once. The word usually implies mixing two or more similar things in a way that makes differentiation or separation difficult. In both instances, you apply it to sounds that would not mingle.

    Step lightly and ‘ware the lights, else you will go with him...with who? And what happened to Lantern Eyes? Why did the narrator scream and Lantern Eyes laugh?

    Also, some of the emotions presented seem false to me. The narrator gets pulled into this dark, desolate place by an animal-like lunatic, and he is so scared that he even cringes at his own voice. Yet just a few moments later, he's beginning to get bored. Then, the lights come on and he sees the horror of his friend. You tell us he feels anger and fury, then nothing, and then just stands there gaping. Does any of that strike you as the least bit likely? In my opinion, no...only in nightmares, I guess.

    But hey, creepy eye thing.

  7. #7
    A.J. Fisk

    Re: Edit me?

    ....I just filled out a long response to this and then my login time apparently timed out so I lost it. When I come back tonight I'll see what I can do about rewriting that. Thanks for the feedback, everyone (even the punch in the gut of that last one).


  8. #8
    A.J. Fisk

    Re: Edit me?

    Alright, first off, thanks for the feedback, I really do appreciate it. Now on to dissecting it.


    I actually wrote the sentence with a different word (possibly “mingling” but I can’t remember) and chose to go with commingling for both sentences after I wrote the last one. When it came out a little light came on in my head that I probably should’ve turned off but it made me want to change the original wording to “commingling”… and yeah, I agreed then and I agree now that it wasn’t the best choice. (Also, I’m retyping this reply at 3 a.m. so I apologize if it is oddly worded—I’m not all here at the moment.)

    As for the room setup and description I did drop the ball on that one. When I saw it in my head I imagined the house was shaped more of a rectangle than a square and the foyer had a fine view of two of the closest rooms. The “friend” character was mostly moving from those two rooms and the foyer. I’ll redress that once I begin editing.

    I’ll definitely take your advice on letting it sit for a week or so and then revisiting it. For the whole “only middle” thing, you’re right. I’ve done it before but with this story in particular it drops you right into the story without the benefit of much back story. When I wrote it, it was simply penning the dream and adding some kind of context to it that would make the story have some kind of sense to it. I ran through writing it in about an hour (which is pretty good for me) and then just dropped it. I’ll come back to it once it has collected some dust and see what I can salvage.

    Also, thank you again for the feedback.


    I think I have found a solution to that quandary—however, it isn’t the most original. I’ll include it in the edited copy then post it here and see how it comes out. Thanks for pointing that out.


    In my writing (not just in this story) I use terms/words loosely, not strictly by definition and I understand that may drive some people nuts. However, I don’t do it to be pretentious. When the word comes to me, I write it... I don’t sit there agonizing over the paper hoping for some kind of polished “prose” to drop out of my head. With that said, it may be sh*t but I’ll still try to defend/explain it:

    “He pulled me through and past what was surely an estuary of desolation, an absent effigy dedicated to something lost and best left forgotten.”

    What I meant by this sentence was the lack of furnishings of any kind; tables, chairs, sofas or even pictures on the walls (that the narrator could see). The room itself could have been a kitchen or living room area but it was never described as either because the narrator did not know—however, he did know that it was missing something and that was a lasting mark of any kind of the current occupant. I’ll do what I can to make it a bit more clear in the next draft.

    And if you have ever been in a strange house in the dark it can seem much larger than it actually is. Being a “wide ocean of nothing” was the narrator’s way of saying that outside of the walls and the roof, there wasn’t anything else to take note of.

    What "recesses" exist in a 4-room single-floor house where two men can stand?
    The way that I saw it in my head while writing it wasn’t just a square, as I said above but I will revisit that and see if I can clear it up.

    What exactly is a look of "suspension"?
    I think I originally meant to type “suspense” but that is a garbage word that I prefer not to use. The reasoning for this was that, even in the dark, he could see that his friend’s eyes were wide open.

    How do fingers become "frail claws"?
    Well, with zero upkeep and the deterioration of everything else (his hair either fallen out or pulled out, his cheeks sunk in) his muscles would also start to go. Without the necessary supplements he was wasting away—this was also something that I didn’t dive into because the friend was intended as a sideline character and what he was saying was to be the focus… if that makes sense. I’ll see if I can make this clearer.

    How does freedom provide "warmth" on your face?
    When he entered the house it was in the afternoon. Afternoon = Sun = Warmth (most of the time).

    And the attitude… again, true. It was odd that his first reaction would have been anger but damn near everything about what was happening had been odd and anger is, much of the time, the easiest thing to grasp onto and to run with. However, it might not make sense for everyone. Then again, this was based off of a nightmare and I kept it to about 60% truth. The way I saw it when I was finished was something in the ballpark of much older horror stories (ones that start towards the middle and ended without benefit of a real climax).

    “The narrator gets pulled into this dark, desolate place by an animal-like lunatic, and he is so scared that he even cringes at his own voice.”

    Well, not scared, just creeped out—as, I suspect, most people would be in that situation.

    Anyways, to cut this thing off before I continue to ramble on… thanks again for the feedback and for taking the time to read my story. I really appreciate it.


  9. #9
    John Oberon

    Re: Edit me?

    Okay...so all that verbiage to say the house was empty? You've got a little problem with hyperbole. Tone down the house description and ratchet up the supernatural and sensory aspects. It takes some seriously bad mojo to turn a healthy man into a demented, frail animal in a week, and I don't see much besides Lantern Eyes who appears and disappears in one sentence. The narrator needs to sense something palpable the moment he opens the door of the house. Maybe there's a weird odor. Maybe the house appears normal outside, but the interior walls, floor, doors, and windows are askew and out of square. Maybe entering the house is like entering a vacuum that sucks all sound in the interior and blocks all sound from the exterior. I don't know...SOMETHING to tell the narrator immediately that his friend is not simply insane.

    I think you should make the narrator a Spock, someone who doesn't believe in the supernatural at all.

    Fingernails might become claws, but not fingers. You might say his fingers were bent and twisted and looked like claws.

    We can agree that the sun has warmth and freedom does not.

    As for the emotion...the way the story stands now, I think just about anyone's initial reaction upon seeing the lunatic would be fright, then concern tinged with fear, then a desire to help the fellow, maybe get him out of there and into a hospital. Of course, that would change with the injection of more supernatural fear.

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