This is topic The Dream Thief in forum Fragments and Feedback for Short Works at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by JackValentine (Member # 9798) on :
Here is a new short Im working on. Its about a man who has taken lucid dreaming to the next level and discovered how to enter other peoples dreams. He uses this ability to indulge himself and has begun to murder others in their dreams causing them to slip into a coma. I would appreciate any critique. I would be down to exchange too if anybody wants to. Its not finished but I do have the first 15 pages done.

The Little Stone Church sat nestled at the back of dead end street and it was the Dream Thief’s hunting grounds. Oak trees lined its perimeter and Spanish moss hung from its branches like benevolent snakes. Ivy climbed the little church’s walls, reaching into the cracks of the stones like the hands of a baby. Cars were parked outside, mostly station wagons and SUV’s; they were family cars. A single parking spot was away from the others where a black Ford Taurus sat. In front of the car was a metal sign, faded and rusted that said Rev. J. Connely.
Inside the people dressed in their Sunday clothes, modestly concealed. The men wore dress shirts and slacks, while the woman wore concealing dresses with ribbons in their hair. The pews were made of dark stained wood with no cushions. God didn’t want

[ April 11, 2012, 04:20 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]
Posted by JackValentine (Member # 9798) on :
PS I'm new here so I dont exactly know how all this works. Bare with me. [Smile]
Posted by JackValentine (Member # 9798) on :
PPS Oh, and this is pure rough draft. No editing has been done and its strait from my head to the paper. Sorry for the mistakes.
Posted by C@R3Y (Member # 9669) on :
Hello Jack,

It's good to have you.

We have a thirteen line rule here on Hatrack. The way it works is that you paste your lines into the box, and if it fits perfectly, from top to bottom, you have 13 lines.

Part of this will be cut soon from KDW. Just a heads up. Now, on that, you can send me part of your story if you'd like. I'm happy to help. You can send me up to the first scene break if you'd like to. How long do you think your story will be? How many words?
Posted by JackValentine (Member # 9798) on :
The story is gonna be around 6-8000 words.
Posted by JackValentine (Member # 9798) on :
By the way sent you that first part
Posted by Josephine Kait (Member # 8157) on :
Okay, before I dive into the crit, let me say both welcome to Hatrack, and you still have some background work to do. [Wink]

First things first go to Please Read Here First and at least skim the rules for the site, including the rules and reasons for the 13 lines. The rule is not arbitrary, and it is for your benefit and protection as an author. Next go to Next, Please Introduce Yourself and say hi. We Hatrackers love to welcome newcomers and this is our opportunity to do so. I would say to then jump right into F&F, but you’ve already done that. [Razz]

Enough of that, now on to the crit…

First let me say that I simply love the title, very evocative.

Then I want to ask if you ever watched the TV show “Charmed”? I will assume not, because while the show did have some male viewers, they were the minority. The reason that I mention it, is that your premise immediately reminded me of one of their early episodes, so I looked it up. Season 1, Episode 5 was called Dream Sorcerer and the villain was a man who could enter other people’s dreams and kill them. Because of the similarity in premise, it might be worth watching the one episode so that you are aware of any overlap, and know what you need to do to make your story as distinct as possible.

On to your actual words, a lot of this will be nitpicking, but that is what we are here for, to pick your nits. [Wink]

Once this has been cropped only the following will remain, so I will respond first to that:
The Little Stone Church(is this the name of the church? If not then it shouldn’t be capitalized) sat nestled at the back of dead end street (is this a dead end street, or is that its name? hard to tell) and it was the Dream Thief’s hunting grounds.(try to combine the two descriptions, rather than use an “and” statement here) Oak trees lined its perimeter (good image) and Spanish moss hung from its branches like benevolent snakes. (contradictory images, snakes not usually seen as benevolent) Ivy climbed the little church’s walls, reaching into the cracks of the stones like the hands of a baby. (I like the simile, but it is a bit awkward, consider rephrasing) Cars were parked outside, mostly station wagons and SUV’s; they were family cars. (this sentence can be tighter) A single parking spot was away from the others where a black Ford Taurus sat.(this might not be quite significant enough to make it into the prime real estate of your first 13, then again it might)
Other questions and comments:

-Does your Dream Thief have a name? - If he is your POV character, we should be close enough to him to know his name.
-repeated descriptors - If the word “little” is in the title of the church, don’t use it as a descriptor, either use a synonym or a describe a different attribute of the church. Take another look at any other repeated words as well: cars/cars/car, concealed/concealing, hair/hair. Conversely using “today was a day…” then “today was the day” works as a deliberate reinforcement.
-beware contradictory descriptors – Saying that the oaks are covered in Spanish moss, gives both a region and a very distinctive feel to the setting, adding one more descriptor either benevolent or snakes alters that subtly but using both is distracting because it is contradictory. Describing the man’s arms as mantis-like gives a nicely distinct image, but mantises don’t coil in any way, so you rob your impact with contradiction.
-?? – “Ordained along the walls…” I’m not even sure what you are trying to say here.
-the horrifying given as mundane - the fact that your MC is about to kill an eight year old girl currently sitting in a church, might be mundane to him, but it will not be to your readers so your word choices should not treat it as such
-random - I think you are wanting to say that the Rev is concluding his sermon, not his seminar [Wink]

Please remember that all advice is given with the intention of helping you to more clearly communicate the story that you are trying to tell, and forgive if any of it seems abrupt. We have all started somewhere and are often likely to catch the very mistakes that we used to make. This community works for precisely that reason.

Once more, welcome to Hatrack. Can’t wait to see your intro.

--Lady Tiger
Posted by JackValentine (Member # 9798) on :
Hey Josephine, I really appreciate the "nit picking". In fact that is why I am here, to have my nits picked ;-) But, uh yeah, the name of the church is the Little Stone Church. And the Dream Thief, is only the Dream Thief. He doesn't have a name. Maybe put it in some back story that he was once called, Allen or Jackson or Matthew or something? And thank you for pointing out all the contradictions as they are hidden to my eye. In fact, thank you for the whole thing. When I am done with it I'll post a revised introduction or something.
Posted by JackValentine (Member # 9798) on :
Oh, and uh yeah. Never saw that episode. But I don't think a person who enters others dreams is a very original concept. In fact, tghe whole Nightmare On Elm Street is based on that concept. But I liked it and thought it would be fun to toy arounf with the idea.
Posted by Brendan (Member # 6044) on :

Just remember, everyone's discussion of your story is just opinion - especially mine. Don't take any single point to heart - look for trends that several people say or agree with. I have only gotten to read the first 13 as edited by kdw so I can't comment on what came after that - that is as it should be for this forum.

The opening line has a small hook - the phrase " it was the Dream Thief’s hunting grounds". The fact that the hunting grounds was the church (not the cemetry behind it, for example) was a nice edge. I wanted to know more about the dream thief, and why it was his hunting ground. And I want to know it a bit more quickly than was offered (which was no more in the first 13).

What was offered in the first 13 was description. Description is fine for creating an understanding of location, and if this story is primarily about location then fine. But to me, apart from the first line, the description didn't develop any meaning for me to grasp what the story itself would be about. Description is fine later in the story, for filling out the millieu, but at the start, I am looking for clues that will tell me where the story is headed.

Even with this description, consider making it more active. The use of the terms "was" and "were" give a very passive feel to a story, especially when several passages are strung together all using these terms. While not a hard and fast rule, the less use of such terms, the better a story will be. (Of course, one cannot, and should not try, to avoid them completely.)

So, welcome to the world of Hatrack and its opinions.

[ April 19, 2012, 08:17 PM: Message edited by: Brendan ]
Posted by JackValentine (Member # 9798) on :
@Brendan: Thank you man. I appreciate the fact that you took the time to read my 13. Also, thank you for your comments. I agree with you on the description. As I have almost finished the story, you are correct in assuming that the location is a key to the story. It is. And thank you for letting me know about the usage of those past-tense words. As I see my story different from the reader, I need feedback like this.
Posted by Eliza C (Member # 9805) on :
Hi Jack,
I thought I'd give my 2cents here. I don't tend to read other comments first as I like to read a piece fresh, so may repeat others.
There are some lovely word choices here - "moss like benevolent snakes" and "reaching into the cracks of the stones like the hands of a baby" (I especially liked this - very original metaphor). Unfortunately, description without attaching it to action or direct observation or thought by a character is 'telling' rather than 'showing' and I think there is too much of that here. Cut what we don't need to know right away and feather it in later, showing where the car is parked when someone walks to it, or how the people are dressed when someone looks at them, or whatever.

The first line is great with the contrast between the quaint church and the hunting grounds of a Dream Thief, but I think it is weakened by the telling phrasing. Rewording the bold (I hope I get the formatting right - I'm also new to this forum) would help keep the mood of the piece. The Little Stone Church sat nestled at the back of dead end street and it was the Dream Thief’s hunting grounds. As one suggestion, you could get me in the Dream Thief's head here and say what he thinks of his hunting grounds or how he moves through it. Obviously, just reading the first few lines, I don't know where the story goes from here, but I hope my suggestions make sense.

I would suggest you stop describing at "hands of a baby" and get the plot underway at that point, so the reader gets an idea of who the protagonist is or where the story is going.

Take only from this what feels right to you as the author, but I hope something here is helpful.

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