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  1. #1
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    Prologue (first part)

    Hi everyone. This is a prologue to a horror novel (some profanity). Tear it apart. I had to split it into two parts (2000 words total), but it's not as if we're swamped for things to do on here, right? lol Thanks in advance!



    “Missing? How can he be missing?” Danny asked her. “We weren’t even gone half an hour.”

    The three of them had just returned from a trip to town for videos and Danny was already settled into his spot on the couch, comfortably watching his movie. He liked watching movies in the dark, so the livingroom was pitch black. From her perch, standing in the hallway, all Rachel could see of him were flashes of tv reflecting off his glasses, like a disappearing Cheshire Cat, only instead of a disembodied grin all that remained were his glasses.

    Rachel shrugged. “Lacey said his chain broke. I went out and looked for him, but he’s nowhere to be found.”

    Strictly speaking, she knew that was a lie. It was dark outside, and she was afraid of the dark, so she’d only gone out as far as the edge of the deck and called his name. But Smokey wasn’t in his dog house or on the end of his chain and he had always come when called.

    “Give him a little while,” Danny advised, “he’ll come back. He’s probably off following a scent trail somewhere.”

    Rachel didn’t think so. Not this time. It wasn’t an accident Smokey had disappeared after dark. “What am I supposed to tell Lacey? She had her heart set on sleeping with him tonight. And she’s afraid to sleep alone.”

    “Well she can’t sleep with us. Seven’s too old to be crawling into bed with Mommy and Daddy.”

    Rachel stood in the doorway, waiting for an offer to search for Smokey that never came. She couldn’t see the tv from where she stood, but judging from all the screams, Danny was watching some horrible slasher thing that was more blood than plot – Danny loved his horror movies. She just couldn’t understand how anybody in Silvermines could watch that crap after what the Tinman had done.

    “You should go look for him,” Rachel finally suggested. “Maybe you can find him.”

    But Danny was having none of it.

    “Dammit, Rachel, I’m trying to watch the movie. Smokey will come back when he’s hungry.”

    The movie . . . of course. That took precedent over their dog. He wouldn’t get up to check on Smokey until his movie was over.

    “Come on, Danny, pause it . . . it just came on. You know I don’t like to go out in the dark by myself.”

    Ever since the Tinman killings, seven years ago, she’d been afraid of the dark, and truth be told no matter how many fights they’d had over the dog she’d been glad Smokey was outside protecting them.

    “Danny, please.”

    And that was where the discussion would have ended, with him ignoring her and her finally giving up.

    Except for the noise.

    Lacey’s bedroom shared a wall with the livingroom and when a quiet part in the movie occurred, Rachel and Danny both heard it.

    Weeping. Coming from Lacey’s bedroom. Tears over Smokey, no doubt.

    As a husband, Danny wasn’t the most considerate, responsive man Rachel had ever known, but as a father he was top-notch. Lacey was a Daddy’s Girl. She lacked for nothing, including Danny’s time and attention.

    Danny paused the movie and rose up off the couch defeated. “That damn dog is more trouble than he’s worth. We should have never gotten him.”

    You were the one who wanted him, Rachel thought, but she didn’t say it. Another fight wouldn’t solve anything – none of the others had, anyway – and in fairness, only a few had been over Smokey. Smokey Joe, so named because of a gray tinge to his black and brown fur, ostensibly had been a gift for Lacy two years ago. Ostensibly, because if Lacey herself had been allowed to choose a pet it would have been a cat. Danny hated cats.

    She followed Danny into the kitchen and he began rummaging through the drawers for a flashlight.

    “According to people on Facebook a lot of animals have disappeared lately,” she mentioned casually.

    “Yeah, the guys at work say there’s supposed to be a dog-fighting ring in the area. They’ve been snatching dogs for bait.”

    “It’s more than dogs though,” she argued. “A couple of weeks ago it was some woman’s chickens. Then it was cats. Now it’s dogs.”

    “Might be one of those big snakes. People keep ‘em as pets, and when they get too big they turn ‘em loose in the woods. Or could be a cougar.

    “Sounds like its meals are getting bigger, though.”

    Its meals are getting bigger. She hadn’t thought of that, but he was right and it made her vaguely uneasy. “You think a snake got Smokey?”

    He laughed. “No, one of those snakes couldn’t take down a German Shepherd, but it’d have no problem eating a little dog. Smokey probably just spotted a deer or a rabbit and took off after it.” He located the flashlight, then turned it on and off to test the batteries. It worked.

    “Danny, one of the dogs was a Great Dane.”

    That got his attention. He turned and looked at her. “A Great Dane puppy, you mean?”

    She shook her head.

    “Has to be a cougar then,” he replied. “They’re making a comeback. A few months ago, someone in Reynolds County hit one crossing the highway.”

    He led her outside to the backyard. While she stayed on the deck, he checked the doghouse, then played the light out over the length of Smokey’s chain. She thought she’d feel better with him out here, but she didn’t, not really. It didn’t help that their yard backed up to the woods, but it was more than that. Something was going on in Silvermines. Something bad.

    Its meals are getting bigger.

    “Son of a bitch!” Danny cried. “I thought he might’ve slipped his collar, but he snapped the damn chain.”

    “Maybe it was rusted,” Rachel suggested.

    But that isn’t what she thought. She’d noticed something important that had escaped Danny’s attention: Smokey’s chain was leading toward their backdoor, not the woods, so unless the deer or rabbit Danny had spoken of had been on their deck, Smokey hadn’t been trying to chase something, he’d been trying to escape something.

    “I pulled a truck loaded with firewood out of a ditch with that chain once,” Danny added. “How could Smokey have broken it?”

    “I don’t think he did,” she replied.

    For the past few days, after dark, Smokey had been acting strange – growling at nothing, pacing back and forth, urinating on himself. Yet, he didn’t appear sick. Last Friday night she’d peeked through the bedroom window (the last night Lacey had slept alone, now that she thought of it) and she’d seen him staring off into the distance, his attention focused on something in the woods.

    Its meals are getting bigger.

    Something was out there. She knew it, Smokey knew it, even Lacey knew it.
    Last edited by The Tinman; 08-31-2016 at 03:55 PM.

  2. #2
    Rogue Mutt
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    It's mostly clean but there was one little problem:
    “Might be one of those big snakes. People keep ‘em as pets, and when they get too big they turn ‘em loose in the woods. Or could be a cougar.

    “Sounds like its meals are getting bigger, though.”
    This sounds like the same speaker, so they should be combined. That or you're missing a line between them, in which case the first line needs a quote at the end.

    Also ostensibly had been a gift for Lacy two years ago
    Lacey is how it's spelled elsewhere.

    Otherwise it's dialog heavy but sets up the tension. I'm sure if you read Dwight Swain you could do it better.

  3. #3
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    Very cool start, but I did notice a few things:
    Rachel stood in the doorway, waiting for an offer to search for Smokey that never came. She couldn’t see the tv from where she stood...
    I think her position was covered by the "glasses/Cheshire cat" image.
    ***
    But Danny was having none of it.

    “Dammit, Rachel, I’m trying to watch the movie. Smokey will come back when he’s hungry.”
    Danny's response said the same thing better. I think the explanation preceding it could go.
    ***
    Its meals are getting bigger. She hadn’t thought of that, but he was right and it made her vaguely uneasy. “You think a snake got Smokey?”

    He laughed. “No, one of those snakes couldn’t take down a German Shepherd, but it’d have no problem eating a little dog. Smokey probably just spotted a deer or a rabbit and took off after it.” He located the flashlight, then turned it on and off to test the batteries. It worked.

    “Danny, one of the dogs was a Great Dane.”

    That got his attention. He turned and looked at her. “A Great Dane puppy, you mean?”

    She shook her head.

    “Has to be a cougar then,” he replied. “They’re making a comeback. A few months ago, someone in Reynolds County hit one crossing the highway.”
    By now I would think there'd be more concern for Danny than the dog.
    Also, I think "vaguely" weakened instead of qualifying.

    Same here as far as concern for Danny:

    Its meals are getting bigger.

    Something was out there. She knew it, Smokey knew it, even Lacey knew it.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by leedix View Post
    Same here as far as concern for Danny:
    Yes, that thought had occurred to me, too. Definitely a problem. I was hoping most people wouldn't notice, lol.

    Thanks for the read and comments!!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue Mutt View Post
    I'm sure if you read Dwight Swain you could do it better.
    Lol.

    Thanks, Mutt!!

  6. #6
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    “Missing? How can he be missing?” Danny asked her. “We weren’t even gone half an hour.”
    At this point, the reader doesn't know who "we" are, where they are in time or space, or what's going on. When you read this it makes sense because you know those three things. To a reader, though, someone we know nothing about is responding to a statement made by someone we've not met, regarding an unknown "he."

    When you say "Danny asked her," you do so after a question mark, so we already know it's a question. Why tell the reader what they already know? And since you follow that with the generic "her," the line gives no clue as to who she is to the speaker. So you missed a chance to place the reader. Without that the line has no context, and can only be saved till it (hopefully) has meaning.
    “We weren’t even gone half an hour.”
    Without context there's no way of telling who the "we" are so far as number, and their relation to the unknown "her." So again, no context.
    The three of them had just returned from a trip to town for videos and Danny was already settled into his spot on the couch, comfortably watching his movie.
    Were this a film, or a graphic novel, we would have some idea of what's happening. But does "the three of them include the unknown "she?" And if it does, why is she the one to notice the missing "he?" Without context, no way to tell.

    You say watching "his" movie. That seems to imply that he either owns it or is in it. But that's probably not what you meant. And there is also the question of why we're told this—what this person of unknown age and relationship to the unknown people watching an unknown movie has to do with the plot. And yes, you can say, "Read on and it will clarify, but readers aren't willing to do that. We have about three pages to hook the reader. As Sol Stein put it, “A novel is like a car—it won’t go anywhere until you turn on the engine. The “engine” of both fiction and nonfiction is the point at which the reader makes the decision not to put the book down. The engine should start in the first three pages, the closer to the top of page one the better.” In practical terms, it means we better not bore or confuse the reader for even a line in that time.

    My point is that you're mentally watching the film version, telling the reader what you see, and then explaining what you feel needs clarification. But talking about what happens in the scene isn't the same as showing it, and certainly not as effective as making the reader feel as if they're living it. In the film version we would see the actor, who has spent years perfecting their ability to convey emotion through voice, facial expression, body language, and more. You see that as you read, but the reader can't, so the all important emotional content doesn't make it to the page.

    Our medium is very different from others. Film, stage, and life are parallel mediums. In an eyeblink we know the characters, the setting, and what's going on. On the page it must be spelled out one item/action at a time, so we have to minimize what we say and limit it to what absolutely matters to the plot, to meaningfully setting the scene, and to what develops character..

    Were this a graphic novel, as we read the first line we would know who "he" and "she" are, and would know their mood by their expression and body language. For what I mean, read a few pages of this graphic novel and ask yourself how much the knowledge the pictures give, and how effective the words would be without them.

    It's not a matter of good or bad writing, it's one of working within the constraints of our medium, and making them work for, not against us. Check out this article. It's one I often recommend because it's a condensation of one of the best ways to place your reader into the protagonist's viewpoint. Get viewpoint working for you, and you can make your reader afraid to turn out the light.

    Hang in there, and keep on writing.

    Jay Greenstein

    Our goal isn't to make the reader know the character is frightened, it's to terrify the reader.

  7. #7
    Rogue Mutt
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    You say watching "his" movie. That seems to imply that he either owns it or is in it.
    Or that it's one he picked out from the video store. When you have multiple people in a house sometimes one person rents a movie they want and the other people rent movies they want. So he rents a horror movie and maybe she rents a tearjerker like The Notebook or something.
    At this point, the reader doesn't know who "we" are, where they are in time or space, or what's going on. When you read this it makes sense because you know those three things. To a reader, though, someone we know nothing about is responding to a statement made by someone we've not met, regarding an unknown "he."

    When you say "Danny asked her," you do so after a question mark, so we already know it's a question. Why tell the reader what they already know? And since you follow that with the generic "her," the line gives no clue as to who she is to the speaker. So you missed a chance to place the reader. Without that the line has no context, and can only be saved till it (hopefully) has meaning.
    Tin, check out this thread to see how the great Dwight Swain starts a story.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue Mutt View Post
    Or that it's one he picked out from the video store. When you have multiple people in a house sometimes one person rents a movie they want and the other people rent movies they want. So he rents a horror movie and maybe she rents a tearjerker like The Notebook or something.
    Mutt, yeah, kind of obvious, isn't it? lol

    Thanks for the link. I guess it proves taste is subjective.

  9. #9
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    Or that it's one he picked out from the video store. When you have multiple people in a house sometimes one person rents a movie they want and the other people rent movies they want. So he rents a horror movie and maybe she rents a tearjerker like The Notebook or something.
    You miss the point, of course. That he's watching a video of any kind is irrelevant to the plot. It doesn't develop character, and, is unnecessary to scene setting. So the words used to define it as "his" serve only to slow the narrative.
    So the situation is, the author hasn't given the reader context that will tell them who they are, where they are, or what's going, but is defining things that are irrelevant. As Sol Stein observed, “A novel is like a car—it won’t go anywhere until you turn on the engine. The “engine” of both fiction and nonfiction is the point at which the reader makes the decision not to put the book down. The engine should start in the first three pages, the closer to the top of page one the better.”

    But more to the point:

    “Don’t inflict the reader with irrelevant background material—get on with the story.”
    ~ James H. Schmitz

  10. #10
    Rogue Mutt
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greenstein View Post
    You miss the point, of course. That he's watching a video of any kind is irrelevant to the plot.
    Actually you're missing your own point. You're the one who said:
    You say watching "his" movie. That seems to imply that he either owns it or is in it.
    So I explained why that was wrong.

    Of course now that you realize you're wrong, you're trying to say, "Well it doesn't matter because it's irrelevant to the plot!"

    The Fonz had an easier time admitting mistakes than you do.

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