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Grigori Black's picture

Stripped - 2000 words

By Grigori Black in Scare Us

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A priest tends to his congregation.

Burying himself in the Lord's work, Reverend Thomas Morgan subjugates the demons of his past as he comes to term with the death of a loved one. When a member of his congregation goes missing, will his faith be strong enough when the truth is dragged into the light?


Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch July 3, 2012 - 4:29am

I unfortunately have to say that the story didn't really work for me.

For me, the strongest part of the story was the opening. It showed that you had a good handle on the Reverend, and the dialogue and actions between him and his flock felt realistic, and flowed smoothly down the page.  I also like how you set up the rest of the story up early on with mentions of Mary and Ellen.

My biggest concern was how the affair between Robert and Ellen was handled. It's such a BIG thing, and I actually didn't see it coming, that I think putting it in the middle of the story, and msot of it just being a recap does it a disservice. The addition of Thomas's other event in Ecuador also sort of ends up dimming the power of Robert/Ellen, and I found it unecessary. I recommend focusing in one or the other and building the story around that-you kind of already do this in the first draft, but the way you have constructed right now, I didn't much care about the revelation that Thomas was holding Mary captive and was still more interested in the ramifications of the affair.

I was also a bit confused by the apparition that Thomas sees. In a way, it's really good that I couldn't figure out whether he was imagining things or was real, but I didn't feel that the confrontation between them was strong enough to carry me to the last revelation. Worse of all, it's unfortunately nothing we haven't seen before in movies like the Exorcist and a couple of serial killer movies-there needs to be something new to keep the reader's interest up.

Another part that slightly confused me was Ellen's bones. The imagery is powerful, and if I had to pick, I think this should be your big reveal(one that isn't brought down by several other previous ones). The only bit that confused me was the line saying that out of grief Thomas didn't report the bones stolen from the graveyard, and in the next line saying that he took them himself so that they could be together.

Finally, Mary. I didn't feel she really added much to the story. She felt more like a prop, or (and I'm sorry I keep hampering about this) another revelation stacked on a full story.  Maybe from her point of view, the story would be more interesting, if you still want to keep her on it...or instead of the conversation with the 'fake' Thomas, have her and the Reverend interact. I think THAT would be more interesting to read.  A final thing about her scene-you briefly change to her POV when you tell us about the last thing she remembers. Be careful about that.

The opening scene and dialogue shows that you can make this story better. I didn't really catch many errors, and writing wise, the only advise I can say is that you might want to rework a few lines to make them POP, as right now some of the writing is nice, but also sort of just sits on the page. You have enough imagery here that whichever way you go, there are a lot of opportunities to show off if you will

.'s picture
. July 3, 2012 - 6:15pm


You need a stronger hook. It is one of the most important parts of the stories. 

"Stricken with guilt and shame Robert had fled from Thomas's home and promptly hung himself." I had to read this line a couple times before I realized that Robert hung himself out of guilt of Ellen's death. Maybe it's just me.

It takes a while to get to the action, long enough that you risk losing the readers' attention. 

I couldn't really gauge what time period the story was set in. The Red Cross gave me a bit of a broad time line but I need more information. Throw in little details to hint at the time period. When he burns Robert's suicide note, is it with a candle that is lighting the house or is with a lighter? What are people wearing? 

Try to touch base on more senses. Taste, touch, smell, etc. 

I like the villain in this story though. And the writing is competent overall. But the protagonist is the only character that feels real to me. There isn't enough here for me to care about Ellen or anybody else that dies. 

Hang on to this story for re-writes in the future, you do have something here.


Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks July 7, 2012 - 12:52am

The minister or priest or whatever he is changes from good to really, really evil too fast for me in this one. I think if we had a few more hints that he's not what he seems, it might have worked. Maybe if we got more of a hint of what happened to him in Ecuador?

EdVaughn's picture
EdVaughn from Louisville, Ky is reading a whole bunch of different stuff July 11, 2012 - 7:08pm

Hey Grigori. I dig the story. I'm a sucker for some religious horror. My concern for the story is in the rules for this contest. I think your suppose to make up your own monster, but here, if what the reverend is seeing is real, the monster seems to be the devil. That's how I take it anyway. Not exactly an original creature. Also, it is never clear where this takes place unless I just missed it. Otherwise I like what you've got going here.

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. August 6, 2012 - 7:31am

This story, though well written and reasonably clean grammatically (at least I didn't notice anything off hand), just didn't feel right too me.  While the pastor is either nuts or possessed, he doesn't seem far enough gone or dark enough to make this reasonable.  It might be that I really don't like religious horror that much . . . .

It was well written though.  Good job on that!

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland August 9, 2012 - 10:34am

I'm unable to download this on my mobile I'll try again later on my p.c.

Christa Faust's picture
Christa Faust from New York is reading The Brat, by Gil Brewer September 11, 2012 - 8:52am


My overall impression is that while the writing is strong and the characters intriguing, this story feels rushed. Too much happens too fast and details that feel significant are not given the weight they deserve.


In particular, the escape from torture which leads to the Reverend’s terrible survivor guilt feels truncated and needs work. I want to know more about why he feels so guilty? Did he deliberately allow others to die so he could live? Did he have a moment where he knew that if he helped someone, he couldn’t get away and so he left that person behind in order to save himself? As written, the Reverend’s need for forgiveness and/or self inflicted punishment seems out of proportion to his actions.

Also, since this is such a significant event in your protagonist’s life, I’d like to see it as a vivid, real-time scene, not just referred to in a few throwaway lines.

Same with the revelation of the affair. Really, so much of this story is telling rather than showing. It’s like a novel worth of events are being related to the reader in Cliff Notes form in order to explain the final scene. The end result makes the whole thing feel like backstory for something else.

My advice would be to take all these dark, emotionally powerful moments and give them some breathing room. Instead of this rush of breathless exposition, show us your protagonist’s slow decent into madness, punctuated by moments where he questions himself and what may or may not be real. I also agree with Dakota that the story needs to be grounded in the senses. Show us what the characters sees, feels and smells. Put us inside his skin.

Good luck and keep writing.

- Christa Faust