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  1. #1
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    Short story for fun

    This is just something I wrote to try to get my creative juices flowing again. It definitely isn't perfect, but let me know what you think. Thanks in advance for your critique!

    Well, no one would call her Constantine anytime soon. It wasn’t that sort of business she was in—repentance, renewal, all that bull****. But she liked to think of herself as useful in a crisis. That’s why she was here now, with a strung-out kid hanging from the ceiling, reading Latin out of a book that smelled its age.

    She liked Latin, with its twisty word order and dead ends.

    Most people didn’t believe her when she said she was in the business of exorcisms. Few enough believed in God, even fewer in demons. Maybe they were right; maybe they weren’t demons. She wasn’t an expert, but she did know these bastards weren’t exactly fans of her Book of Common Prayer.

    The possessed kid scuttled around the chandelier in dizzy circles while she read. His eyes were red, but that could have been from all the cocaine. And of course, he was struggling with pea soup syndrome; not quite at the projectile phase, sludgy green vomit dribbled from his lips to the floor. Speaking frankly, she’d told his parents if it weren’t for the whole crawling-on-the-ceiling bit, she’d think this was just withdrawal. They needed to get their loser kid into rehab, stat.

    “Don’t we have bigger problems right now?” the mother had screamed, pointing at the little rascal, who had recently manifested a forked tongue and was using it to disturb his mother.

    Right, the demon. I cast thee out, and all that.

    Contrary to popular belief (formed largely due to the popular 1973 film The Exorcist), it wasn’t very difficult to vanquish a demon. They were pretty good-natured creatures, when you got down to it. Yeah, they liked to raise a little hell, but what self-respecting inhabitant of the infernal regions didn’t? And yes, their persistent desire to raise their Lord and Master Lucifer, Destroyer of Light, got a little old. But that was just a product of their loyalty, and other than the odd pet mutilation or ritual sacrifice, they were pleasant enough. Most people didn’t even realize their loved ones were possessed until the demon had languished in the body for several weeks. Usually, the scent of rotting flesh was the tip-off. Or it had been, until the demon community found out about Febreeze.

    In this particular case, the demon had lacked the street contacts necessary to continue the kid’s nasty little drug habit, and was now suffering the consequences.
    Once she started the exorcism, the demon wasted no time making telepathic contact with her.

    It is I, Belial, Sword of Lucifer, Bringer of Darkness, Agent of Evil, Master of—

    She cut him off (these introductions could go on forever). Ok, Belial. Nice to meet you.
    Here’s the deal—I’m getting paid to exorcise you, and I need the check, believe me. I’ve been eating Bagel Bites for the last week. I need a burger.


    Hesitation resonated from Belial’s consciousness, and back on the ceiling, the kid cocked his head 180 degrees to the right. It was kind of endearing. Meat. I understand the craving for meat, human. I feast on the souls and meat of men in hell, where—

    So this one liked to monologue. Not a problem—she was used to this. Right, you’re a baddie in hell. So let’s say we get you back there, huh?

    The kid blinked. This mortal’s body… it grows tiresome. I feel weakened by its impurity.

    She snorted. Cocaine is a hell of a drug, huh.

    I do not know this drug of which you speak.

    Despite their proclivity for incomprehensible evil, demons were often naïve creatures.
    However, Belial continued, I have tired of this human. Therefore, I will leave his body willingly, if you vow to offer the flesh of 66 virgins at my altar in reciprocation.

    Well, she’d been offered worse deals in the past. Currently, her virgin tab was up to 153, and she didn’t even want to think about how many vats of pig blood she owed to various spirits and fiends.

    Done, she emoted. You get your virgins, I get my hamburger. It’s a win-win.

    The kid dropped from the ceiling, landing on his back with an ungraceful crash. The parents shrieked from their post in the back corner of the room, where they hovered with twin expressions of terror. While the demon struggled to right itself, kind of like a cockroach stuck on its back, she finished reading the exorcism. As the spirit expelled itself from the kid’s body (not without expelling an impressive amount of green vomit in the process), she felt its mind brush against hers with a hint of gratitude.

    No one liked being stuck in a junkie’s body.

    As usual, the aftermath was more trouble than the exorcism itself. Suddenly, the parents seemed to think the amount owed was a bit excessive—look what happened to the Persian rug! How were they supposed to get all the green vomit out? And what would they say to the neighbors about the dead squirrels Belial kept leaving in everyone’s fireplaces?
    She tried to explain that this particular quirk could be looked upon as a sign of affection, similar to the way cats leave trophies on their owner’s porches, but somehow the Smiths didn’t accept this explanation. So she left with $300 less than promised, and the dad’s business card, which he assured her “could come in handy if you ever get into a car accident.”

    Such was the life of an exorcist with a liberal arts degree and no real-world skills. At least she was using the minor in Latin these days.

    (it continues, but I figured more would be too long)

  2. #2
    Rogue Mutt
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    That’s why she was here now, with a strung-out kid hanging from the ceiling, reading Latin out of a book that smelled its age.

    You should reword this as it sounds like the strung-out kid is reading the book.

    That was pretty fun. Reminded me of John Dies at the End. There's also a show on Hulu called Deadbeat that's kind of like this only with ghosts instead of demons.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    Very clever. I got a bit tangled up with antecedents in paragraph 3, but overall, nicely done. Quite original.

  4. #4
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    This reads as if it's not the beginning of the story, and that a reader is supposed to have context for what's being talked about.

    One of the most important skills a writer needs is to read the work as a reader would, to ask if a reader, one who has no knowledge of the story but what has been provided by their perception of what the words mean, based on their background. will have the same understanding, and context as you do as you read. With that in mind look at the questions raised by the opening:
    Well, no one would call her Constantine anytime soon. It wasn’t that sort of business she was in—repentance, renewal, all that bull****. But she liked to think of herself as useful in a crisis. That’s why she was here now, with a strung-out kid hanging from the ceiling, reading Latin out of a book that smelled its age.
    • Who is she and why would someone want to call her Constantine?
    • What changed the situation so they won't?
    • What "wasn't the business she was in...and what business is she in? "Repentance and renewal" don't sound like a business.
    • Why does it matter that she thinks herself useful in a crisis—and what kind of crisis?
    • And since she feels that what's happening is a crisis, what is it? A kid with a Latin book doesn't sound like one.
    • How does one "hang from the ceiling and read?

    Six questions raised in the first paragraph and the next paragraph, instead of talking about what's happening talks about her reading language preferences. Why not address the issues you raised?

    One of the problems with presenting the story from the storyteller's viewpoint is that we tend to assume that the reader knows the things that are obvious to us. But that reader arrives not knowing whose skin they're wearing, where they are in time and space, or what's going on—things you know as you begin reading. So it's always helpful to ease the answer to those questions, and the scene goal, into the opening, so the reader is as knowledgeable as the protagonist.

    It might help to have your computer read it to you, so you "hear" what a reader does.

    Hang in there, and keep on writing.

  5. #5
    Rogue Mutt
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    • Who is she and why would someone want to call her Constantine?
    Constantine is a Vertigo/DC Comics character first featured in Hellblazer. There was a crappy Keanu Reeves movie and an NBC series both called Constantine.

  6. #6
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    Hey Jay! You raise a fair point– I didn't think about how this could be a confusing opening. Constantine is a reference to the popular comic series and movie of the same name, about a demon hunter named Constantine. I guess this would be a very confusing opening line if you'd never heard of Constantine, but if you have heard of it, the reference answers several of your questions. That's the problem with references; they can clarify a lot if they're understood, but make things way more complicated if they're obscure or misunderstood. I will think about removing this reference, as it seems to have caused confusion.
    If anyone else has ideas about how to handle a reference like this, I'd love to hear it.
    Thanks to everyone who has commented so far! Everything has been really helpful and encouraging.

  7. #7
    Rogue Mutt
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    If anyone else has ideas about how to handle a reference like this, I'd love to hear it.
    I wouldn't worry about it. 76-year-old guys aren't your target audience.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue Mutt View Post
    I wouldn't worry about it. 76-year-old guys aren't your target audience.
    Good point Thanks

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