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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Writing Challenges » 2012 Halloween challenge - Flash - Entries

   
Author Topic: 2012 Halloween challenge - Flash - Entries
axeminister
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This is a trigger challenge.
Stories are up to and including 1000 words.
Entries were mailed to me at halloween@pdachb.com and will be anonymous.

Discussions and questions regarding the contest go HERE.

Dates and times and rules.
First round judging will be from Oct 19th - midnight Oct 25th.
Stories were distributed, names removed, to the other contestants.
I ask that you at least vote your top 3, but also that you critique - in a constructive way - on the stories you read.
I will post critiques for all to read.
Please wait to read others' critiques until you yourself have critiqued.

Voting
Please vote for your top 3 favorite stories.
Points will be awarded 5 for 1st, 4 for 2nd, 3 for 3rd.

Triggers
Please choose one of these triggers.
If you are snazzy and work more than one into your story, that's awesome, that may or may not garner you brownie points with your fellow voters. Do so at your own risk, but one should be the minimum.

1. This actually happened on Halloween.
Tell a "true" story from a character's perspective of an "actual" event or events that happens/happened on Oct 31st.

2. Fear.
This is an expansion from last year's 13 line FEAR challenge. Now's your chance to write a story about fear.
There was some confusion during that challenge of whether or not my intention was to have the reader or the character experience fear.
To clarify -- the character.
Your job is to make the reader believe the character is experiencing genuine fear. (And if you successfully put the reader in the character's shoes...)

3. End your story with: and then I woke up. (or he/she woke up)
The purpose of this trigger is to allow you to go nuts. Write whatever you want. Get whacky. Get funny. Get gross.
While Halloween isn't specifically mentioned in the trigger, I recommend staying in-theme for votes - but what you write is up to you.

The reward
And now for the juicy part of the challenge.
The reward this year is...
A 1st edition hardcover of OSC's, Lost Boys.
Signed by OSC
Personalized to the winner by OSC. [Eek!]

That's right. Through the kind and helpful Kathleen, I've worked out a deal where I will ship a copy of Lost Boys to Scott and he will sign and personalize for the winner.

Axe

[ October 20, 2012, 06:41 AM: Message edited by: axeminister ]

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axeminister
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Entry 1

Changer


Don't hang up. This sounds crazy but I need you to listen.

That last Halloween with mom, I saw something -- alien, angel, ghost? I don't know. I told myself it was only a bad dream, a hallucination.

But I was wrong.

You wanted to trick or treat a second lap. I said my stomach hurt and bailed. Back to the house, all the lights were on, TV blaring. Mom was passed out on the sofa like usual, empty bottle of Scotch under her arm and mascara down her face. I put a blanket over her, turned down the TV, and took my candy upstairs.

I closed myself in the bathroom, hoping to hide the best candy from you -- I hated sharing everything equally just because we were twins. But the light wouldn't turn on so I gave up.
_________________________
CRITS:

Nice scary story, well done. Maintained the tension well and kept up the interest. I did have a little problem with the part where the thing was "consuming" the mother or whatever it was doing. Other than that well done.

***

I like the beginning. It grabbed my attention.

During the phone conversation, it starts to grow a bit unnatural because the speaker goes on for SO long without a response from the twin on the other end. It’s not a deal-breaker, but perhaps there’s a way to show the listener’s response OR say something like, “Don’t interrupt. I want to share this whole story with you now because time is of the essence.” Something like that.

Maybe, have Ben say something at the end? I’m not sure. The piece is compelling as it is. But if I reflect upon the technicalities, I can’t see what needs to be “changed” the second time around. The first one is obvious. The second – not so clear.

Hope this helps. I really loved this piece. Good luck!

***

Written well, and with great imagery.
At the end of the story, I'm left not knowing what a changer is, or how Samuel could have helped his mother, or what really happened to her. The creature had no motivation from what I could tell, which makes them 2-D. Even in a flash, we need a sentence or two of explanation for why the bad guy does what he/she does.

***

This one went from straight horror to a much more meaningful story with the interaction between the creature and the protagonist at the end. It actually hit quite close to home (I had a friend, a single parent, that died of an asthma attack). Guilt, especially within a person as powerless and ignorant as a child, can be a real monster. With that (hopefully intended) interpretation, this to me was a standout.

***

Trying a little too hard and definitely not the flow of a real conversation. Second person choice too distant and unrealistic. In the midst of someone about to die, you'd never stop to explain and describe so much, so tension was lost. The close action did draw me into the charactre and I liked that. And partway in I did become curious and the ending satisfied that, even if it was predictable.

***

This is really well-written, with taut prose that conveys the fear felt by the narrator. I loved scritchety-scritch. You gave us a complete story here, including a nicely eerie ending. Well done. My only suggestion would be that, in my humble opinion, the creature might be over-designed. Undulating neck, bulbous head, and hundreds of spidery legs reads more bizarre to me than terrifying. I actually had trouble picturing it in my mind, and that took me out of the story somewhat. Other than that, good job!

***

Chilling story. The use of second-person POV with first was effective. Needs polishing to smooth out some awkward lines.

***

I loved the voice in this one and the tempo was good.
You did lose me because I didn’t know enough about the creature. I needed to know its appearance sooner, rather than it being an ‘it’ and I needed to know more about what it wanted and why.

I think this story is a tweak away from being great.

***

This story is the most imaginative of the three *Finalists*. I like the idea of a monster/creature giving a person a (limited) power over death, and I like the twist at the end. Nitpick: It's not clear why, if the viewpoint character has a unique power to change things, the monster goes so long between appearances.

***

Pro – Consistent, creepy, well-written. Some great imagery – liked the surreal and grotesque description of the death creature.

Con – It failed to move me.

Please do not take this wrong because the story is a fine one. It is just the type of piece that would get comments from an editor saying it was close. It had all the pieces in place to make it a scary story but it wasn’t scary at all. There was no ominous feel to it, no dark shadow of dread hovering over the reader a good horror story needs. I never felt scared for the protagonist. It felt false.

There are a few things I could point to on why that is. The biggest reason why is because the complete lack of desperation the protagonist should be conveying. He is trying to warn his brother that death is stalking one of them. For the story arc to work, the desperation of your protag has to be shining like a neon sign.

The story is one person tale when there is a second person who should be interacting with him (his twin). Get him involved. I suggest you make this a 3rd person narration; a little back and forth between the twins might help. Have them talk over lunch (a diner setting sounds great to me). Build up the backstory a bit. We just see an irresponsible parent lying on the couch; she’s just a prop for us. (btw, have her hooked on tequila instead. Scotch is too refined, drinking yourself to death with straight tequila is so much more tragic, IMO). Her death is expected. In fact, her being awake and putting all her faults on display might amp up the tension for this story.

***

[ October 28, 2012, 07:19 AM: Message edited by: axeminister ]

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axeminister
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Entry 2

Brick Road


I am running, but don’t know why. I swear these trees have arms instead of branches. As I run down the road I brush against the trees, and I can feel their extended fingers grasping for a hold. I won’t, no I can’t stop running until I get away. Get away from what? I don’t know, but I know I must! I look ahead and the trees widen and I see a space opening. I have to get there and quickly. I speed up, I can't run any faster and can’t hold this speed long. I am going to make it! As I clear the treeline, I stop quickly and look around the area. Disappointment, confusion and fear begin to overwhelm me. What will I do now?

I am standing on a brick platform surrounded by thick trees. The platform is circle shaped and there are identical paths that uniformly extend from the platform into the trees.
_________________________
CRITS:

I found the writing a little flat in this one. I think the author could have used simile and metaphor to better effect in the opening dream sequence. I think a little better pacing would also help, the way this story is constructed it's almost like the author is just pouring out the information, takes from the suspense you can build in a story.

***

Cool stream of consciousness story. Very fast paced. I feel it suffers somewhat from needless showing, such as "I quickly bend over, pick up the basket and collect the spilled candy." Which could be a lot shorter. I believe Dave Wolverton has a recent kick in the pants that deals with this.
I thought for sure this would end with him waking up. I was surprised, and not unpleasantly so, when it didn't.

***

The pace is nice. It didn’t feel draggy at all. I love the line, “Then I guess it will be our treat!”

***

Some excellent description in this one. It sounds like the main character ate spicy food before falling asleep – talk about wild dreams! So, it all ended up being a dream, right? Or, a dream within a dream within a dream? Except for the Wizard of Oz playing in the background. I was a little bit disappointed to find that none of it really happened, but not a bad story.

***

It’s strange how two people had exactly the same idea (see Unintended Halloween Adventure). I would have liked a few clues as to why the person thought they were where they were. The dual waking up is a horror movie classic – what do they say – an oldie but a goody. While this hit the wake up nuts intention, this didn’t really hit the mark to compel me to keep reading.

***

I couldn’t quite get into this one because I needed more reason to care about the MC. That would make me more concerned about his fear. There are some good images in this. A tidy up to cut out unnecessary words will make this even better.

***

Formatting is an issue. Where are the tabs are line spaces at the beginning?

This didn't interest me until the trick-or-treat monsters are introduced. They are creepy. Unfortunately, they are disregarded in favor of the sudden appearance of Oz characters.

***

[ October 23, 2012, 07:30 AM: Message edited by: axeminister ]

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axeminister
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Entry 3

Unintended Halloween Adventure


The creepy new neighbors up the street, the ones who never talked to anyone, decided to have a Halloween haunted house in their garage. It must be a pretty good one, too, because people seemed to be staying for an unusually long time.

I'd just had a fight with Janet, so I wasn't going to her annual costume party for the first time in three years. Then I'd had a fight with Rick about that. So he went stag and I was home with no plans for Halloween. I didn't care for staying home and watching old movies alone, so I headed down to the neighbors'.

Their oldest boy, Eamon, was manning the gate wearing a lion costume. He sized me up and took his time opening the gate for me. "Whatever you do, don't go out back."

Some welcome. There didn't seem to be anyone else in the garage,
_________________________
CRITS:

This one was a little flat at the start, more telling than showing. I think the author could have punched it up by putting us in the main character as he watches the people show up for the party. Then there is the logic disconnect, if everybody is there, but not around and we are never told where they went, what happened to them? I think part of the problem is that the start of the story doesn't properly set up the expectations for the rest of the story. Finally, not sure where Eamon is found in the Wizard of Oz.

***

The last three sentences made this story for me. I'm left pleasantly confused and that's a rarity. I thought the opening could have done without the backstory and cut directly to the plot, which may have the effect of upping my feeling of confusion/displacement even more.

Though I wish the MC did more in this other world. Felt a little passive to me. This might be fixed with an internal dialog sentence or two. Needs more sens-o-wunda.

***

I think the tenses in the first paragraph threw me off a little: “decided” then “be” then “seemed.” Not a big deal, but I had to read it a couple times because it felt odd to me.

I like the rest of the story. It reads well, smooth and clear. The story is new. The penultimate line is a great one. The only thing I think you could add would be more “fear” related details.

I know the “and then I woke up” was allowed. In this case, I think you’re better without it.

***

The continuity was great in this; the scenes flowed into each other seamlessly. Instead of scary, this was fun, and frequently funny. I loved Eamon’s last line. The first couple of paragraphs did confuse me a bit. I wondered how the main character knew that people were staying a long time at a haunted house up the street. The second paragraph gave me information that the story didn’t really need – I think you could cut the part about Janet and Rick without harming the storyline at all. Murderous miniature unicorns . That’s something you don’t see every day. I enjoyed reading this.

***

I liked how this started out as if it were trigger 1, then headed into a trigger 2 situation. Trigger 3 wasn’t necessary, but it is amusing in the light of above. I didn’t pick up enough clues earlier for it to trigger a “hey this really is Oz” moment, despite the judgment made by the protagonist early in the story. Perhaps a roar or a clank would have helped.

***

The second paragraph is mostly information that doesn't serve a strong purpose; it could be pared down to two lines. Janet and Rick don't matter, and it's not unusual for people to check on what their neighbors are doing.

I like the boy's name, Eamon. What is his age, or what does the MC think is his age? I imagine a ten-year-old (at most) because of his choice of costume, but by his actions, he could be a teenager.

I don't understand the unicorn-Oz connection. Also, I have trouble believing the MC would think a temporary forest could fit into a suburban backyard. When I see "suburban", I think of lot sizes that are a fraction of an acre.

A lesser issue is how the MC's thoughts jar against surrounding lines. Different formatting might help.

***

A tense issue in the first sentence threw me on this one. I liked the voice and pace. More reaction to events would have been good.

***

[ October 23, 2012, 07:32 AM: Message edited by: axeminister ]

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axeminister
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Entry 4

One-Sided Conversation


I went to your funeral today. You weren’t there. Oh, your body was in attendance, all dressed up in a brand new suit. Everyone somber, stunned looking, the sounds of anguish floating through the church. But I knew that the corpse in the box wasn’t really you, not anymore. We both know you’re at old man Reuben’s rock shop with the other statues. I left you there on Halloween night.

“Come on, Billy,” I said that evening. “Let’s just go to Julie’s party.” That’s not what happened, though. You’d been itching to break into the rock shop for years, hadn’t you?

I guess I wanted to go inside too. Who wouldn’t? The whole building was packed with cool stuff. All kinds of rocks. Glittering amethyst geodes and big slabs of marble, soapstone obelisks and glass jars full of polished agate. Weird old machinery, and Native American
_________________________
CRITS:

The voice in this really didn't work for me. I think the story started out well, but it was a little uneven as the scene proceeded into the shop. Part of that may be the choice to tell this as a retrospective rather than strictly laying it out in real time. Also space is your friend. Double spacing will open up the manuscript and make it easier to read. Then also you can add some suspense by varying the paragraph length. Break this up and it will read a lot easier.

***

This is a cool story. Reminded me of the Autons in Dr. Who. As a horror movie frequenter, I've seen a few like this, so I'd suggest adding something new to make it more unique. Also, I was hoping for a more solid ending. But that may go hand in hand with my desire for something unique.
I also suggest deleting these words: cool stuff. All kinds of rocks. Just go stright into what's cool, instead of telling us it's cool, then telling us what it is.

***

I really liked the idea behind this story. It was new and compelling.

The last paragraph throws me a little. The narrator seems conniving or evil, plotting to “kill” someone else. Is that what you intended?

I really really like this piece! Lots of personality in the narrator’s voice. It’s suitably creepy. Thanks! And good luck!

***

While I liked the twist in the final line, there was probably insufficient foreshadowing to make a true “ahah” moment. I wasn’t fond of the opening paragraph, and I would have liked more information about the statue forming process (and particularly why the protagonist wasn’t changed). But this was an enjoyable story, nonetheless, of an occasionally visited idea.

***

Another effective use of second-person with first-person POV. I like that the narrator comes across as untrustworthy. More frightening than possessed statues is that the MC might be killing his friends.

***

Second person doesn't serve this story well, too distant. Also, there's no real tension. If it were significantly shorter then the creepy ending might work better. As it is, I never got involved with the characters. I also never got a strong sense of how the characters felt about each other so the sense of loss was diminished. Also, the friend's death was too out of the blue. Better if there was a lead in and a little more info. 'Suspense comes from what you do know, not what you don't know.'-OSC. Nothing here left me curious.

***

The voice worked for me. I briefly wondered at some of the grammar, but the voice sped me through it. I liked the idea of the story and enjoyed the imagery. The only thing which tripped me up was the role of the MC, and why doesn’t he get trapped? Who is the bad guy? Otherwise, very nice.

***

[ October 23, 2012, 07:34 AM: Message edited by: axeminister ]

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axeminister
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Entry 5

The Only Thing to Fear


A girl smashed onto the grit path, her limbs contorting into sickening angles and her skull disintegrating. Blood and brains stained the gravel crimson.

Jackson poked her shoe with his dart pistol, making sure not to touch her skin. Runners didn’t bother him. They were easy to track and usually did his job for him. Fighters were the ball breakers. He stared at the warehouse, wondering how many infected people were left inside. Fear virus victims could be dangerous, and he only had two darts left.

Stuttering gunfire and the smell of gasoline made him pause. ‘There’s nothing to fear but fear itself,’ his mother had told him, so he never ran from anything. Still, the virus made him cautious.

He swiped a cobweb from the dangling door and peered into the
___________________________
CRITS:

I loved the twist – you did a great job of getting me to accept that Jackson was acting in an official capacity as he went about destroying zombies. Can I call them zombies? They were very zombie-like. You hit the trigger right on the head when the MC came to the horrifying realization that he was himself infected. The action scene was well done, and I personally think that writing fight scenes is really, really hard. The first sentence bothered me – don’t know whether it was the way it was worded or that it was so graphic, but when I finished the story it still bothered me. Why would her skull disintegrate? If he just shot a dart at her, her head imploding seems like an unrealistic consequence. Overall, though, nice job.

***

Very cool idea with the fear virus! I didn’t see the twist coming so kudos on that. Did a good job setting up the rules of the fear virus but didn’t see those rules applied to the MC. If we’re supposed to believe that he really is a victim of the fear virus, then it would be nice to be able to re-read the story and put together the tiny clues that shows the MC really is operating from a sense of fear. I felt anger... but not fear from him.

A tiny bit of backstory on the MC - who he was as a person - would go a long way to making me care about him. Then I could really feel a sense of unease when he’s grap-pling for his life. Maybe a picture of his kid crumpled in his wallet. A significant tattoo. Remembering how he lost his dad to the virus and had to take him down. Something to let me relate to him as a likeable guy.

***

This one had plenty of tension and a nice twist. I can even picture the setting. I just would have liked a little more definitive ending. It feels almost like the beginning of a bigger story. (And I've certainly gotten that comment often enough myself.)

***

This story has some quality to it. I loved how it turned, so sweetly, by the observation of a badge, but the realization was masterfully delayed until the MC tried to recall when he last worked. In the middle, he seemed more paranoid than fearful, which could be improved. Great story.

***

This story has some quality to it. I loved how it turned, so sweetly, by the observation of a badge, but the realization was masterfully delayed until the MC tried to recall when he last worked. In the middle, he seemed more paranoid than fearful, which could be improved. Great story.

***

[ October 28, 2012, 07:19 AM: Message edited by: axeminister ]

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axeminister
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Entry 6

Bonfires


It had been a dry autumn. Dead leaves piled in crisp, colorful drifts along the edge of the deck. I was only twelve, and my brother, Connor, swelled with all the arrogance of a sixteen-year old newly licensed to drive.

"There won't be any more kids tonight," he said, glancing at the tall clock by the front door. Ten o'clock, and our foster parents wouldn't be home until after the midnight Samhain celebration. I didn't want them back sooner. Not and have anyone see them. Everyone thought we were strange enough already, without rumors of witchcraft.

The porch light shone through the harvest-themed stained glass around the door, making the swirls on the clock's cherry-wood case look disturbingly like dripping blood. I shivered.
_________________________
CRITS:

This was pretty intense. You created real tension in this piece, and I loved the premise – foster kids whose guardians were probably Wiccans, since they were off celebrating Samhain. Nice. I would have to give extra points here for tagging two of the triggers – fear in a character and events that happened on Halloween. Some of the phrasing seemed odd, like the bit about Connor “swelled with all the arrogance of a …” - it didn’t seem relevant to the story. The line about the clock threw me too, because you described swirls, but then said it reminded the MC of dripping blood. Gave me competing mental images. Storywise, I wondered where Connor was during Shannon’s ordeal – a bit curious that he just showed up at the end – and the overall piece read more like a scene than a complete story. Complete story arcs are so hard to do in flash. Nicely written, though. Well done.

***

I like the MC in this story. She’s got gumption.. and even though she was afraid, she took control of the situation and saved herself. Well done!

Some confusion about who the Jack-smasher was. Brother? Brother possessed by shade? Shade of some sort? What happens to this creature/person? Wanted resolu-tion there.

Whose cold hand grabbed her ankle and how did she get free of it?

Good job elevating the tension over the course of the story. Hard to do but you hit emo-tional and physical notes all the way through. Would have liked to know more about the MC -- make her less of a stereotypical little sister and more of a real person -- but I know its flash.

Overall, nice job. [Smile]

***

A real scary, spooky Halloween (or Samhain) story! I like it. The setting and characters were clear. I only wish I knew if the big brother was calling him from safety outside the fire or as another shade. It felt just a little bit left up in the air.

***

This one has its moments. I liked the beginning, and once I began to understand the ending, it worked. But I was a bit mystified by the middle. I would have liked a bit of foreshadowing of the shades – their appearance and the consequential method to overcome them seemed to arrive just when the story turned to them them (almost deus ex machina) and therefore they felt they were initially without deep enough meaning to the story. Also, the arrival of the shades came just after the fire was lit, so I though the initial scenes with them were more about her recoiling from a burning house.

***

Pro – Nice set up. A superstitious girl of an occult practicing family.

Con – Can’t buy the premise. The story is too rushed as well.

Difficult to get grounded in this piece. The story sprang into action so quickly I didn’t have time to get my bearings in the story.

The biggest problem for me was the premise. Leaves on the ground, even dried ones, don’t catch on fire and spread that easily. Not without an accelerant they don’t.

***

This one has its moments. I liked the beginning, and once I began to understand the ending, it worked. But I was a bit mystified by the middle. I would have liked a bit of foreshadowing of the shades – their appearance and the consequential method to overcome them seemed to arrive just when the story turned to them them (almost deus ex machina) and therefore they felt they were initially without deep enough meaning to the story. Also, the arrival of the shades came just after the fire was lit, so I though the initial scenes with them were more about her recoiling from a burning house.

***

A good concept and good use of imagery. I was bothered by Connor's unexplained motivation for smashing the Jack-o-Lantern. Him doing so is the catalyst for the story, and therefore it should be clearly explained why he does it. Also, the shades that turn out to be so important in the climax come out of nowhere, so to speak. They should have been referenced before they actually showed up.

***

[ October 28, 2012, 07:20 AM: Message edited by: axeminister ]

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axeminister
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Entry 7

Serendipity


Serendipity?

Is that what the geezer said? Alex had barely glimpsed the seated old man, an emaciated thing, liver-spotted pate, thin white hair, rheumy eyes. Then Alex slammed the door and the Gollum-like thing collapsed like a stack of playing cards, skull crumpling in on itself like a dry fungus ball, filmy eyes retracting like a periwinkle into its shell, flesh and bones crumbling until only a powdery pyramid remained spilling off the chair like hourglass sand. A cloud of motes spouted to coat the bulb hanging from its electrical cord before settling and becoming still.

No. Not still.

The pyramid of powdered flesh and bone shuddered. A small black pearl wriggled free, a string of pearls, with a phalanx of
_________________________
CRITS:

I kept waiting for the end, where I was sure it was going to say …and then I woke up. Kind of wish it had. The switching back and forth from the MC’s past reality to his present hell worked for me, and that’s not an easy thing to do, so congrats there. This story is not badly written, but I hated the MC, so I couldn’t love the story. He’s a murderous sociopath, after all, without the lovable qualities of a Dexter. Was the plan to create a loathsome character so I would rejoice in his end? I just felt a little bit sick when it was over. Not sure about the trigger on this one. I guess you were going for fear, but Alex never really seemed afraid, only arrogant and angry.

***

**Watch the similes and metaphors - they’re fun to use but think of them as salt. A pinch brightens the whole pot but a cupful makes it inedible.

**Setting - we don’t get the setting or the reason for his flight until the last page. Could quite easily give this in the beginning instead of the end.. then we recognize it the sec-ond time and have our “ah-ha!” moment.

**Violence - feels gratuitous. Why does the MC behave like this? Why is he a sociopath? What does he feel? I don’t have a problem with gore if it furthers the plot but this piece is lacking that connection for me.

Very creative piece. Loved the circularity of it. Bit more motivation and grounding all around and could be much stronger. Best of luck with it!

***

Wow. Quite a little story (and morality play) crammed into a thousand words. The first flash back threw me a little, but I really don't think there's any other way you could tell this story. (In fact, I'm impressed that you could cram flashbacks into a story this short and make it work.)

***

I liked the backstory development in this – short but sharp. Some vivid descriptions and nice pacing to finish it at the 1000 word mark. My only misgivings are that I felt included the reason for the MC saying “Serendipity” at the end wasn’t sufficiently clear, and (possibly linked) the reason for entering into the house wasn’t sufficiently clear either. But nicely done.

***

I liked the backstory development in this – short but sharp. Some vivid descriptions and nice pacing to finish it at the 1000 word mark. My only misgivings are that I felt included the reason for the MC saying “Serendipity” at the end wasn’t sufficiently clear, and (possibly linked) the reason for entering into the house wasn’t sufficiently clear either. But nicely done.

***

[ October 28, 2012, 07:21 AM: Message edited by: axeminister ]

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Entry 8

Eumemics


And then I woke up.

Alarm sounds. Thump it off. Turn over.

Alarm again – different – phone alarm. Dial in PIN combo. Get up, shower, dress, brush teeth. Notice mold on tiles – needs bleaching. Or erasing.

Kettle bubbles to stop. Whistle long lost to frugality. Or efficient practicality. Breakfast – quick oats and coffee. Two pills, one for stomach acid, one for blood pressure. Out the door at 7:35 AM.

Into car. Turn on. Open garage door. Turn on radio – talking, news, not music. Drive. The first CTO of America says “The next wave of entrepreneurship is in healthcare and education.” Drones on about data and mining and job growth and ranking hospitals
_________________________
CRITS

While I read this, I kept thinking, “Gee, this seems long.” Seemed so long I checked it – only 1,015 words, but it felt much longer. Maybe that’s a good thing; maybe it means you packed a lot of story into a very few words. I liked how you made the trigger phrase a recurring statement in the story – each awakening another layer peeled away. Very avant-garde in style and structure. It was a little bit hard to follow at times. Did he go in for the procedure before learning about losing his job, or after? Is he Smith or Chang or Chandra? Or are those his possible selves? Gave me lots to think about.

***

Very creative idea. Love the memory retraining set in a corporate location. And defi-nitely a creative way of delivering the story.

Unfortunately, I had a difficult time staying engaged because there was so little person-ality in the voice to latch on to. We finish the story having no idea who our MC was. I don’t know whether to cheer or mourn their choice so I end up not caring.

Experimental doesn’t work for all readers. I apologize for being one of the one’s whose head it flew right over. Best of luck to you in finding a helpful reader for this piece.

***

Frankly, this one baffled me. I couldn't make it work out to a story. Characterization was minimal or confusing. The "MC" seemed to have several names/jobs.

***

[ October 23, 2012, 07:21 AM: Message edited by: axeminister ]

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Entry 9

One Night


The way I see life is, everything happens to everyone at least once. I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe there’s a great wheel of life and when it stops spinning, whatever the arrow is pointing towards, happens.

So when the creak of a floorboard in my living room woke me in the dead of night, I knew my wheel had stopped on, “Burglary”.

Having grown up fatherless, I’d always had a great fear of intruders. I was the man of the house and I had to protect my mother. When I was old enough, I began keeping a 9mm pistol hidden in my nightstand.

After the baby was born, Penny insisted that I remove the gun.
The faint sounds of breathing in the other room made me glad I hadn’t listened.
_________________________
CRITS:

I liked the philosophical opening, and the slow spiral via paranoia from willfulness to terror and then to horror. But the hard part about the “then I woke up” challenge is making a satisfying ending, which didn’t quite work for me here.

***

This story is a very easy read and I like it very much. It explores how a person’s real fears can invade their dreams, but subtle handling makes the truth hit you at the right time. Well done!

***

I really like this. Strong emotional core. Good tension. Character development. I pretty certain he'd shoot his wife, especially since there was no mention of her in the bed, even though Dory was brought up. Not sure why the wife was getting a bottle if the baby was still sleeping, but that's dreams for you. Good stuff.

***

I loved the voice in this story. The narrative style made me think of a classic detective tale, and I loved that the main character learned his lesson about keeping guns via a hideous nightmare. The bit about growing up fatherless , protecting mom, made me wonder a bit, though. The character said he started keeping a pistol “when he was old enough.” When was that? At nine? Nineteen? The other part that felt like a bump was the smoke detector bit. Was that really relevant to the story? Is it what made him fire? If so, why? And-then-I-woke-up-stories usually make me feel cheated, but this is one time that I’m glad it all turned out to be a dream. Well done!

***

I don't particularly like the "And then he woke up" ending, but I have to give it a pass because that was one of the trigger options. The dream strikes me as something that a father and husband, worried about the safety of his family and conflicted over his gun ownership, would dream about. And the 3-month-old sitting on the bed and "talking" creeped me out, which is a good thing.

***

Pro – effectively creepy.
Con – Predictable, at least until I got to the twist.

This one was a good one, although I hated that last line. Would have rather seen him wake up.

***

[ October 28, 2012, 07:22 AM: Message edited by: axeminister ]

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Entry 10

The Hunt


The light from the bonfire outside danced across the tent wall, the orange and yellow choreography conjuring up the spirits of ancient hunters who had hunted these same mountains. I snuggled deeper into the down-filled bag, my last defense against the cold autumn air, and listened to the voices of my uncles huddled around the fire. It was late October in the high Uintas, deer hunting time in Utah.

Every fall the men of my family rode horses into the primitive back country, hunting the big bucks that hid from the less adventurous; hunters bound to places they could reach with their trucks and motorcycles. It was my first hunt, a mile marker in my journey to manhood. I was not yet old enough to hunt on my own, so I would hunt with Uncle Joseph until my father arrived. He was delayed
_________________________
CRITS:

A camp fire story, and nicely told. Very visceral, close to the action. I loved the ending. Nicely done.

***

There is a lot of action in this, and the writing is easy to read. However, the descriptions are a little overdone for my tastes. Also, I need more reason to care about your main character. That could be me, as horror is not my usual reading preference. Others may find it suits them well. The end works, and that makes this a good story.

***

The nine instances of the word 'hunt' or a variant on it in the first three paragraphs felt a bit much and a distraction to me, especially in such a short story where words are at a premium. I had some difficulty following who was who. This felt like the beginning of something longer, and the opportunity to have more words to play with would allow for more reaction from the narrator when they find the dead bodies of his family.

***

A beautifully told story here. I could almost smell the campfire. It surprised me to find that the creature attacking the camp was a Sasquatch. I know that lore speaks of them as being fierce, but I definitely grew up with the image of a Harry and the Hendersons type of bigfoot. The horse running down the mountain at night without breaking a leg or throwing her riders seemed nothing short of miraculous, and I wondered why the narrator didn’t describe any reaction of sadness or grief at the discovery of his murdered family’s remains. Good writing here, though. Compelling.

***

[ October 23, 2012, 07:35 AM: Message edited by: axeminister ]

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Entry 11

Commit To Blood


Another opening night full of hellish creatures and morbid scenery. I stalk through the house ensuring that each performer is in place, ready. They smile or growl, in character, or watch me with nervous eyes, depending on their real personality. You get all types in a haunted house. I try to remember what I'd thought of opening nights when I was a performer.

"Good god, I've been doing this too long." Seven years. The first two while I was still in high school. Despite the low pay and lack of recognition, I've kept doing it. I've forgotten why.

"Huh?" said my co-lead, a thirty-year-old amateur film director.

I gesture to my headset and wave at him with my other hand. Everyone and everything look ready enough, and there is no point in both of us a standing at the official house exit. Anyway, his job
_________________________
CRITS:

Nice concept, and it had touches of intrigue, amid elements of grotesque. But I thought the ending lacked punch, perhaps because it went on a little long after the key threat had been resolved. Needs a better ending.

***

I like the idea of the haunted house, and the camaraderie which makes it a home. The setting is strong, but I think I would prefer the descriptions reduced a little to accommodate more ‘showing’. For example, the way we find out the identity of the intruder is very ‘told’ as if you need to get in quick before you run out of word space.
On the writing front, I find the style easy to read. However, I do have a couple of nits – I would prefer the opening line to be a complete sentence, so I’m not wondering about the writing instead of the story. Also, (Huh?" said my co-lead) appears to be a tense change.
On the whole, the story is an interesting concept, which can be really good with some work.

***

Good start. I liked the behind-the-scenes glimpse into haunted house workings. Feels a bit overwritten when things start to go wrong. Good danger in the fight scene. Felt like things resolved a little too quickly. Hard to avoid that with the word limit, but I wasn't sure about the quick wrap-up of who/why.

***

I was digging the story until the resolution/wrap up. I won't say it doesn't belong, per se, but it gave the story a sense of unfulfillment. (that's totally not a word.)

To be honest, I was hoping, after the resolution bit started, that I'd learn these folks were trapped there, doomed to perform once a year for eternity. Or something.

To borrow a line from trigger #3, go nuts! (Write BIG)

p.s. I absolutely loved(!) this line: My body moves without consulting reason.

***

This told a good story – fraught with danger and fear, yet believable. I liked that the main character was a heroic figure, willing to step up to danger. It had a nice story arc with an actual denouement. One thing that bothered me about this was the fact that it’s written first-person, present tense. It’s a personal bias of mine, but present tense is really hard for me to settle in to. You actually slip into past tense at the beginning, when the MC is explaining that he’s kept doing it despite having forgotten why, but that’s not a huge problem. Some bits of description were confusing to me – you described Sam’s plastic sickle as being faux marble, but wouldn’t it be faux metal? All in all, though, a very good read.

***

[ October 23, 2012, 07:36 AM: Message edited by: axeminister ]

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Entry 12

Monster


The air glittered around the three figures. Kinetic energy radiated off of the intruder. His eyes behind his Halloween monster mask were blank and dead as a shark’s.

Her husband was away and the last of the trick-or-treaters long gone; Miriam and her daughter were trapped. The five-year-old burrowed into to her mother’s neck, preferring the fantasy of safety to the reality of the Scary Man. Spasms shook Miriam: adrenalin borne of desperation to protect her child.

“Please,” she whispered. Her plea echoed in the small kitchen, shattered into a billion shiny shards of frantic fear.

“I am not here for you,” he pronounced with an unexpected philosophic serenity. “I only want the girl.” Miriam hurled herself at the monster threatening her child. The air glittered. And then there were two.
_________________________
CRITS:

Certainly loads of fear in this, and I think you captured the child’s POV very well. DW once talked about the balance between torturing the character to gain empathy and losing the audience because it is too much torture. This tipped over into the second a bit too early in the piece, partly due to the sudden immersion in the threat. It could do with a beginning that captured some empathy in the mother before the torture starts, so that I have a reason to keep reading when my repulsion starts to take control.

***

The telling of this from different points of view is very well done, but I think that makes satisfying the trigger harder. A lot of time is spent in the head of the ‘Monster’ so the fear of the victims is given less attention.
The ‘three, two, one, thing doesn’t work for me. I only picked it up on this during my second read through, so the end didn’t make sense on the first pass. I would also prefer that the victim’s name is in the first sentence. That’s just my taste. I like a character to follow.
With a bit of tidying, this has the makings of a great story.

***

This had a strong voice, particularly in Tara's sections. I wasn't quite clear on the air glittering bits, but overall, this was a solid real. Good stuff!

***

This was really well-written, but I thought it was terrible that the Scary Man won. I can read stories where grown-ups die horrible deaths without any qualms, but knowing that the monster got away with a five-year-old girl was completely disturbing. I wanted the mom to catch them, or the little girl to get away somehow, so the ending was pretty disappointing for me. I don’t understand about the air glittering, either. The antagonist did nothing that seemed supernatural – he used common weaponry and drove a van, so what was the glittering air about? Again, a well-written piece, but not my cup of tea.

***

[ October 23, 2012, 07:36 AM: Message edited by: axeminister ]

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*** FINALIST ANNOUNCEMENT ***

Group 1: Story 1 - Changer
Group 2: Story 6 - Bonfires
Group 3: Story 9 - One Night


Group 1 2nd place story was #4. Which equaled #1's votes, but fell to 2nd in the tiebreaker round.

Group 2 2nd place story was #5. Two points behind.

Group 3 2nd place story was #12. Two points behind.

The finalist stories have been sent to the judges.
Although I didn't give them a specific time frame, I believe we'll know who the winner is by Halloween.

Good luck to the finalists, and thank you to everyone else for participating and voting and critiquing!

(You're still welcome to read and crit any stories if you wish. I'll keep posting crits.)

Axe

P.S. Every story received at least one vote. Awesome.

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*** WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT ***

1st place: Story 1 - Changer
2nd place: Story 9 - One Night
3rd place: Story 6 - Bonfires

Changer, having tied in the first round, and moved on via a tiebreaker vote by our judge #4, has emerged victorious by the narrowest of margins - one point.

Congrats to Anna Yeatts!

Yesterday (Saturday, Oct 10/27) I mailed the hard cover of Lost Boys to OSC. He'll receive it as soon as Hurricane Sandy allows.

As for me and all my blustering - I came in 2nd, having written story 9, One Night.

I've posted the last of the crits, including the finalists and some more from group 2.

I hope you all enjoyed this year's Halloween flash fiction challenge, and I thank you for entering.

Some of you admitted to me this was your first attempt at a flash sized story.

Considering everyone received votes, I'd say you did pretty well! Hopefully you'll write more. There's a lot of flash fiction markets out there.

Duotrope has a handy list.

Keep writing - and we'll see you in the Publication thread. [Smile]

Axe

[ October 28, 2012, 07:26 AM: Message edited by: axeminister ]

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