Wednesday, October 29, 2008

28 Drop The Needle TENSION

TITLE: Between the Shadows
GENRE: Science Fiction

John Spencer has just Fallen and is on the run, escaping into an abandoned building. Searching through the darkness, he comes upon a slouching shape, barely augmented bythe light pouring from the windows.

Its long, jagged nails were beyond saving – inhumanly thick and twisted into obscene shapes. From what he could distinguish, diseased oily skin covered its entire body, obscured at points by large brown spots that were anything but normal. John took a step back in disgust.

He realized what the monstrosity before him was. It was a Wretch. He’d never seen one on camera before, just brief glances that seemed like a figment of his imagination more than real entities, much less up close. He understood in that moment why they were so feared. While they resembled humans, in form at least, they were so distorted that it was something from someone’s most depraved nightmares. It unfurled itself and stretched out to an obscene length, completely losing its human-like visage.

It slunk toward him, breathing heavier than before, using its arms and legs to propel its body forward. He caught brief glimpses of it as the creature went from light, but never fully in it. Its eyes were a sick yellow, much the same as its hair, reminiscent of aged, rotten paper. And they were trained directly on him.

At the sight of those sickly eyes, John realized it was time to move. Taking another step back, he prepared to bolt. Running was obviously a better choice than standing there, even though the Wretch’s speed was a mystery to him. He barely mustered the strength to pull his eyes away. The Wretch’s muscles tensed up as it prepared to pounce.


  1. I loved all of this except the second paragraph ("He realized..."). It was more telling than showing, while I thought the rest of the piece did a fabulous job of showing. It's almost better if we don't have most of the information in the second paragraph. The less we know about the Wretch, the creepier it is.

  2. I agree with the previous reviewer - the telling paragraph cuts the tension a bit. Also, maybe some physiological stuff would up the tension, if John's heart rate increases when he sees the sickly eyes, something like that. I loved the idea of the Wretch.

  3. Hmm...although the Wretch sounds fearsome, the majority of this piece was spent describing the creature. I didn't get a real sense of tension or fear from your POV character, what he was feeling, or what he was doing until the one sentence in the last para. Even then it retreated back to internal ponderings about how fast the Wretch was.

  4. Love the name 'Wretch' and the description was creepy. Great tension.

    The only bit I didn't like was the second to last paragraph. It read awcward.

  5. I thought there was a bit too much description for this to be very tense, except in the last graf. The writer provides a good, disgusting description of the Wretch, but maybe the tension could be increased by parceling out the description of the creature's hideousness between hints to John's psychological or physiological state? As this stands, it's almost an academic description of something that seems like it should be terrifying John but isn't quite accomplishing its goal. Does that make sense?

  6. I love the description.

    I'm not as much in love with the poetic style. You're writing is more lyrical and less edgy than a lot of the sci-fi currently on my shelf. Which isn't bad, the genre could use some new voices, but it wasn't what I was expecting when I saw the title and description.

  7. This is great, but I kept getting distracted by little things like -

    Obscene shapes: Were they spelling bad words? Giving him the middle finger... or? :)

    Never seen one one on camera before: Why the camera reference? This is in person, not camera. There's no connection.

    Wretch: I must work with my dad too much, but I kept seeing 'wrench', as in the tool.

    The other thing is the last paragraph is a slight tension killer. He's thinking too much with these two lines:

    "Running was obviously a better choice than standing there, even though the Wretch’s speed was a mystery to him. He barely mustered the strength to pull his eyes away."

    These two lines relate a sort of calm, I think. The first line sounds like he's being methodic about this instead of panicked. (a more panicked line would be a short - "He had to run. Now. Move legs!").

    The second line would be fine, actually, if phrased a little differently. "He barely mustered the strength..." <- So what, is he tired? I can imagine not being able to tear his eyes away from the creature, because he didn't know how fast it could move, and because he was worried that the moment he turned his back and made a sudden move - the THING would pounce on his back and eat his head. <- More tense thoughtwork from him would add to the tension splendidly. :)

    That said - this is great. I have a mental image of those things from "Silent Hill". Being confronted by one of those things and not knowing anything about what it can do to you... yes. That's frightening.

  8. It’s good, but I’d like to see more of a visceral reaction on John’s part, rather than all this back story about what the creature is and why it’s so scary. I also want to get into the action quicker at the end.

  9. I really liked this. Although there were a few things I didn't understand. Maybe reading the prior passages would clear this up. First, I'm assuming he's looking at this through a camera, right? If so, at some point, wouldn't he move the camera away and look at it normally? If I saw something like that in my camera lens, the camera would be broken. Next, I didn't get the part about "the creature went from light". Do you mean the creature went from light to dark, or that he shied away from the light? Lastly I got hung up on the description of the creature's hair compared to aged, rotten paper. Hair is a stringy substance and I can't think of paper in that context. Otherwise, it was awesome and I'd love to see more.