Wednesday, December 16, 2009

44 Drop the Needle


Other is a Beauty and the Beast story with the genders reversed. Alain is a young man trapped in an magical estate, whose owner, a hideous creature, has reluctantly been teaching him how to navigate the treacherous realm of magic.

Alain woke violently, sitting up straight with a pounding heart. Had he merely dreamed it? No, there it was again, a chilling, rending scream. The creature? He didn’t know who else it could be. Hurriedly he threw on his dressing gown and ran out of his bedchamber. The corridors were thick with darkness; he willed a few lamps to light as he dashed down the hall from which the screams sounded. There, through that doorway. The same room where he had held the forest’s branch in his hands the day before. The screams had not abated. This close, they pierced his ears with unexplained agony.

He burst inside without knocking and found the creature on the ground, seized up in a terrible paroxysm. Alain fell to the floor beside her and scanned her from head to foot. He could discern nothing wrong with her, no evident injuries or wounds. Hesitantly he put a hand to her creased brow, then drew it back in shock. Her skin was burning.

In desperation he looked up to the rows of shelves and their contents, as if hoping to find a jar labeled For use in case of mysterious scream-inducing seizures. No such thing. He didn't dare use anything on her without knowing its purpose. But if he did nothing, she would surely perish from whatever pain engulfed her.


  1. I liked the fact the creature was a girl. I think you could tighten this up - you have a lot of 'had, have, which' ect. I think if you get rid of those, reword the sentences and make them tighter - it will have more of an impact.
    Good job!

  2. I am conflicted. Alain is trapped on the estate, but he is going to the aid of the creature who (presumably) is holding him against his will. There must be something preceding this passage to explain why he feels it necessary to help her.

  3. Love the idea of a reverse gender Beauty and the Beast. LOVE!

    I agree that the passage is really good, but has a lot of those pesky unneeded words like "had" and "that" and you can probably tighten. I actually have to ask my critique partner to look at things for me to see this, usually. It's easy to gloss over as the writer.

    Good luck with this!

  4. The language in this passage seems too formal for what it's describing. E.g., "from which the screams sounded," abated, paroxysm, "unexplained agony," and "she would surely perish from whatever pain engulfed her."

    It's not that the meanings are wrong, it's that the tone doesn't seem to fit. Consider how much more bluntly this comes across: "But if he did nothing, she would die."

  5. I would back off the adjectives, too many descriptions of the same scenes, too many ‘ly’s.

    The story itself is intriguing and I enjoyed the mystery. Tension was evident in this submission but not so much danger, but I enjoyed it.

    There are some aspects of ‘Telling’ instead of ‘Showing’. Don’t ‘tell’ me he woke violently. Show me; show me how violent his actions were when he woke up so abruptly, like he knocked over a glass or his feet hit the floor with a thump, something that doesn’t ‘tell’ me what he was feeling but describes the action (violent waking).

    Just a suggestion. I wish you the best of luck.

  6. This worked for me. I liked the formal voice, the gender reversal, and Stockholm syndrome. (It sounds cruel when I say that, but I actually love Beauty and the Beast. It's my favorite fairy tale.)

    The dry humor when he was searching for something to use on her -- the "For use in case of mysterious scream-inducing seizures" part -- dropped the tension for me, but it went right back up after.

    (Wordver: Anger)

  7. Ditto Jodi above. In fact, she even quoted the same line I copied to paste in, then we varied. I liked the humor, but she has a good point. Building the tension was blown by the humor line.

    Writer's call.

    Peel out those 'ly' words.

    It does sound like a world that I would like to visit.

  8. I like the idea of Beauty and the Beast with the genders reversed. And your voice really pops in this short.

    There were a few small things. The last two sentences in the first paragraph (The screams ...unexplained agony) could be combined (This close, the screams pierced ...).

    And the while I smiled a little bit at the desired jar label, it did bring me out of the tension.

  9. I liked this. A lot. The writing was pretty clean (I actually didn't notice too many extra words at all) and the scene tense and intriguing. I also didn't have a problem with the tone - it's a retelling of Beauty and the Beast (Handsome and the, er, Female Dog?), so the old-fashioned voice makes sense.

    Good luck with this. I'd love to read this one someday:)

  10. I LOVE the role reversal here. One question for me, by the tone of most of the passage it feels like fairy tale far away and long ago - but like Jodi mentioned, the phrase "For use in case of mysterious scream-inducing seizures" felt more modern to me.
    Also I agree with more tightening, and eliminating some of those 'telling' moments.
    Also had a "is this plausible" moment about him stuck in the castle. If the beast is training him to use magic, maybe that could be the his compelling reason to have to stay? Just a thought.
    Overall, I really like the idea.