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voodoo_em's picture

A Burning Girl

By voodoo_em in Teleport Us

How It Rates

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Once you have read this story, please make sure you rate it by clicking the thumbs above. Then take a few minutes to give the author a helpful critique! We're all here for fun but let's try to help each other too.


As the strange dust begins to fall Thomas has some bad news for Bethany.


dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep February 20, 2013 - 1:38pm

Em - 

I really enjoyed this story. Great concept, and beautiful prose.  Really good characterization and dialogue too.  There were some grammar issues (things like "waters" instead of "water's", etc), but a careful proofread can take care of them. But the biggest thing I'd focus on is making sure the action is clear.  I had a hard time following what was happening, sometimes - who was where and what they were doing, that sort of thing.

Otherwise, it was great.  :)


voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin February 21, 2013 - 2:11am

Thanks Christa.

ender.che.13's picture
ender.che.13 from Northwestern U.S. living in the southeast peach. is reading Ken Follett February 20, 2013 - 5:42pm

Excellent. The prose and the depth of the story were a little overwhelming at times, but it was really well written. The pace was extremely good, and though the overall story was a little overwhelming here and there, you did an amazing job of packing it into the word count, and giving the story a rather dazzling texture at the same time. The grammar needs a few fixes. They're minor, but essential, as the complexity of the language absolutely requires the syntax to flow smoothly.

Also. I get the same criticism (as above) about my action and descriptions, much of which -perhaps all- is justified, but I found that I really enjoyed that aspect of your story. There was something very rich about the language, and I found the quality of transience to be mystifying, rather than confusing. I felt that the uncertainty added to the story, not subtracted. It's very much a matter of personal tastes, though, I fear.

Great job. My favorite I've read.

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin February 21, 2013 - 2:13am

Wow, thanks :)

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 21, 2013 - 9:48am

One of the most grown-up stories I've read so far, and i mean that in a good way. Somehow it feels like you have true, original talent, yet at the same time your story is one of the sloppiest in grammar and formatting i've come across so far. That doesent even put a dent in this shiny lambourghini of a story, though, and you get a very well-deserved thumbs up from me. 

If were you I'd go over it and chisel out some of the irregularities, and you'll have a real gem of a story here. 

Way to go! 

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin February 21, 2013 - 10:10am

Why thank you Sir :)

Grammar, ahh yeah my downfall it seams, will definitely be going over this again. Out of curiosity what are the formatting issues that you mentioned?


Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) February 21, 2013 - 9:49am

I think what I really liked about this was the tone – a little bitter, a little cynical, but always honest.  The language was superb, and while it’s flowery in places, it never feels too much, or that you are trying to show off your vocabulary.  It did lose me a bit in places, and it’s one of those rare stories here where I wish the word limit had been a little more, as I don’t think this would have been an issue had you a little more room to play.  I think just a touch more depth on the Elementis section would have given a better glimpse into the back story.  The interplay between Bethany and Darwin is good, though if my Dog (if I had one) started talking to me I’d run a mile.  While Thomas is a dick of a character, he’s a believable one, seduced into seeking something more desirable rather than seeing the value in what he already has.  My only (very very small gripe) is the use of the phrase “truth is” which is repeated throughout.  Possibly this because I do the same with “in truth” and I’m trying to train myself not to do this, so I’m a little more sensitive to repeated phrases like this.  That certainly takes nothing away from the story itself though, which really is very good.

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin February 22, 2013 - 2:09am

Thanks :)

The repetition of "Truth is" was deliberate as a kind of mini chorus to the character-dialogue of the narrator, it also relates to the issues of honesty and allows the reader to believe Bethany is a reliable narrator (which she is).


Laura Keating's picture
Laura Keating from Canada is reading The Aleph and Other Stories February 22, 2013 - 8:00am

Loved the natural flow of the dialogue and characterization; by the end you really do want to give Thomas a kick in the pants. I would have like more information about the Elementis - the back story was a little lost in there - but I do think that this was just an issue of not having enough word-space to play in. 

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin February 22, 2013 - 10:07am

Thanks :)


lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles February 22, 2013 - 1:13pm

the first paragraph was freaking phenomenal. you also have an ear for dialogue :)

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin February 23, 2013 - 2:17am

Thanks Lauren :)

Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures February 22, 2013 - 1:38pm

What a gem of a story. One of my faves so far for sure. And as stated above, its a bit sloppy in grammer and use of commons in the right places but that doesnt harm the story at all. This just needs a good editing eye to really clean it up and make it something truly beautiful. I'll tell you, I teared up a little at the end, well done.

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin February 23, 2013 - 2:19am

Thanks, I'm glad it created emotion in you, that's always an aim of mine when I write :)

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. March 4, 2013 - 1:42pm

Ultimately, I decided to up vote this story even though I'm not really sure I liked it.  I didn't come across any significant editing/grammatical issues while reading, which is a plus.  The writing itself was also reasonably well done.  There were just a few things that bugged me:

  • The first three paragraphs feel like a blurb about the story more than part of it.  If you cut them completely, and add some of those ideas into the argument with Thomas the story would flow much better.  As it is, the opening prevents me from settling into the flow of the story until the second page.
  • The start of Bethany's "illness" feels awkward.  I had to re-read that first sentence about pickled eyeballs a couple of times before I understood it.  You might be better off cutting that sentence and starting the next paragraph with "Pickled. Boiled in salted water and sealed in a screw top jar sitting on a shelf collecting dust.  That's how my eye's felt ..."  Or something like that. (I'm not quite sure)
  • The ending is also off a though. I think that last paragraph needs to be expanded on.  As a reader, I found myself confused about what had just happened.  The flow of events seemed to break down for me.  I'm not sure if it needs more detail or simplification to clean it up.

Still, you've shown a lot of talent!  Good Work and Keep at it!  

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin March 5, 2013 - 2:23am

Thanks for your comments :)

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland March 7, 2013 - 7:04pm


There isn't much bad I can say about this story. The grammar issues have been mentioned. Are you going to put this in the workshop. If you do I'll do an lbl for you and point out the ones I noticed. Little stuff really that would take no time to fix.

The narrative was great. I always love your characters. Your "on the body" sensations were superb and helped you really nail that "heart authority"

Your dialogue was nearly flawless and this story read like it was five pages instead of fifteen. Which means it was really really good and paced perfectly and honestly I'd had read another 2500 words no problem.

That said, I agree maybe a little more about the Eleminitis could be helpful. I get the jist of it.

I had a little trouble following what the dust was, I think it might be an oversight on my part.

I think the story is a lot more complicated that it feels. I guess what I mean is that so much is grounded in reality and feels like the everyday high school saga, in an honest and real way, a very relatable one, and you have alternate universes and burried themes, that hide under the radar and I'm aren't really sure I'm supposed to be looking for them because everything seems like it should be easy. I guess so it is with some things in life.

I think I'd benefit from reading this again because I think you presented the information to answer my questions and I didn't catch it all on the first read because I wasn't looking for them. Hope all of this makes sense. If I do get a chance to look at it again before the contest is over or if you do put it in the workshop or want to send me a copy after it is over, I'd love to read it again and see if my confusion was rooted in oversight on my part or if I could offer advice to help you with clarity. (I'm under the oppinion right now that it is all me.) LOL

Loved this story. Definitely a thumbs up from me.


voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin March 8, 2013 - 2:34am

Thanks JR,

The subtlety of the Sci-Fi elements is probably because this is the first sci-fi thing I've ever tried to write, so I guess I kind of wrote the way I always do, but put a sci-fi spin on it ~ story and emotions coming first, technology second in a more natural way.

If you're willing to read it again then yes, advice on grammar and other issues is always welcome :)

And yeah, this is a pretty big complexed story squeezed in to a small space, so I always kinda knew people would want things expanding.

Thanks again, point me in the direction of your own TU story and I'll return the favor.


Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 8, 2013 - 6:53pm

Hey Em, you know I'm a fan of your writing, but I'm not sure if I've actually explained why! This story, like the one we published in PP, is told with such a believable voice. There is something about your narrators that just makes my heart cling to them and hurt for them. And I loved the best friend/dog, Darwin, particularly his offer to take a shit in Thomas' shoes. Hehe. I also loved the dystopian elements of your story (including some very meta references to Brave New World, very cool); for me, the stories that are standing out are the ones that show a genuine comprehension of dystopian fiction. 

The only thing that jarred for me in this story was one descriptive paragraph. It had a few too many conflicting images in it, so maybe just pare back one or two here:

Boiled in salted water and pickled with malt vinegar in a screw top jar sat on a shelf collecting dust. For sure I’m running a fever because my bed sheets are cling film on my sweaty dead chicken skin. The gums around my molars are tender as though I’ve been gritting my teeth all night. Pale sunlight streams through the gap in the curtains catching the spirals of house dust in the stuffy bedroom air making them twinkle and dance.

If you get a chance to look over my story, I'd be very grateful for the feedback -


voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin March 11, 2013 - 2:36am


Thank you so much for you kind words :)

I'll be reading your story this afternoon so feedback on its way soon!


Nick's picture
Nick from Toronto is reading Adjustment Day March 12, 2013 - 6:20am

Hi em,


Thumbs up, see LBL...



voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin March 12, 2013 - 7:10am


Thank you so much for the awesome LBL :)

Great advice.


Nick's picture
Nick from Toronto is reading Adjustment Day March 12, 2013 - 10:29am

no worries. Here I thought I was being clever, using a talking dog as my non-human character. Not only are there at least two others in the challenge, but they are both freaking awesome (Winter House being the other)... we must all have the same dealer or something  :)

j/k... <looks around nervously>

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin March 13, 2013 - 2:32am

Ha, I know, forget vampires and zombies, talking dogs is like, the new trend ;)


Wonder Woman's picture
Wonder Woman from RI is reading 20th Century Ghosts March 16, 2013 - 10:18am

Em, this story feels bigger than it's word count, in that it feels very well thought out and certainly transported me elsewhere! I feel like you could expand it and tell us more about the backstory of being an elementis, but otherwise, the story feels complete to me. I enjoyed your descriptions and the banter between Bethany and Darwin. Nicely done! 

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin March 18, 2013 - 2:22am

Thank you

And yeah, there is much more of this story to unpack than there is words available :)

Wendy Hammer's picture
Wendy Hammer from Indiana is reading One Night in Sixes March 16, 2013 - 10:36am

I liked the story overall.  The beginning was very strong and was my favorite part.  You had so many gripping images, phrases, and ideas. Some favorites: "sci-artists", the "in utero" reference, "'Beautiful.' He says and I know he's not talking about me", the "twinkle in her Daddy's wallet", and the pain as opposite of embrace. They were all great for tone and to catch my interest. It was funny, sad, and felt true.

The Thomas/narrator sections continued to be the strongest, though the last part with Darwin was very good, very moving. 

I had a rougher time with the middle. Part of that comes with some perhaps slightly overwritten paragraphs (I think other comments point to those---the eyes pickling and the next paragraph or so).  It's like too much of a good thing, you know? 

I never quite hooked in to the Elementis or the parallel worlds.  I really wanted to. It is intriguing and is so important to the ending. Maybe with more room that will come through. 

So, develop those sections, smooth the transitions and edit, and you'll have something really special.  As it is, this was original, had a great voice, and was a good read! 

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin March 18, 2013 - 2:24am

Thanks you.

Yeah, even as I wrote it Iknew people would want more explaination of the elementis. That will have to come in a later draft :)

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 19, 2013 - 5:20pm

Hi Emily,

There are a few things that didn't quite work for me, which isn't to say they are wrong, but you need to make sure they do what you want them to do!

The whole story is from Bethany's POV except for the opening - an observational aside (someone can probably pigeon hole it better, but anyway, it's different) and on someone who is essentially a bit player in the piece. Does it need to be there? You could probably plunge straight into the meeting with Thomas, with a bit more about Jaynie being fake thrown into that in either speech or thought.

It's good advice to read the dialogue aloud to yourself - maybe even record and play back. I thought Thomas in particular doesn't sound credible, even if he's meant to be a pompous weak ass! Try to imagine someone actually saying the words, and make sure they sound natural.

You can also do the same trick - read aloud - for the whole piece. Lots of it is strong and clear, but a few bits made me stumble - "My arms fold into the international body language of resistance" as a prime example. Try just "My arms fold" perhaps, or put a spin on it that is more personal, more about Bethany "I can't help myself, my arms fold and I say..."

Ultimately, we (the reader) runs the risk of getting lost. There are plenty of pills about, there's a talking dog who might have been sent back to bring her out of a parallel world, there's dust, there's confusion about Darwin/Thomas, there's a talent - presumably for raising fire- that may or may not be suppressed in this world. (And how real is this world anyway?)

I think the writing is strong when you keep it in check, and elements of the story work - the dog and the whole idea of a place you send people to where their talents are buried - but it doesn't quite make a coherent whole for me, and Thomas misses the mark. If you can make him more plausible and convey the setup a little more clearly, I think you have something, so keep at it!


voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin March 20, 2013 - 2:43am

Thankyou for your feedback :)

With regards to the opening "Big Voice"/Aside section, it is written from Bethany's POV:

But no, she decides inspiration for her next masterpiece will come from slumming it with us “normal folk” in our boxy, shitty apartments like we’re some kind of social experiment. And as if this wasn’t enough reason to hate her she rounds off with a sneaky sucker punch to the face and goes after Thomas.


Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 20, 2013 - 2:54am

Yes, but it's observational, i.e. somewhat outside of all that follows, which is unlike the rest of the piece, which is very much in the moment. And - for all that it is Bethany's observations, it could be anyone's, when you (the reader) reads it for the first time. There is a distinctive difference between the sections, is all, and while changes of POV can and do work, it's worth asking if it is doing what you want it to do. It can be a little difficult imagining how someone who isn't the author is going to "click in" to the story you are telling, because you're so familiar with it - fortunately, that's what critique sessions like this are for!

(You may find - and this may be one of them - that you don't agree with the commentators reasons or suggested changes, but if there are comments, it suggests something isn't quite working, especially if more than one person comments - but you know all of this!)

Kind Regards,


CKevin's picture
CKevin from Charleston, SC is reading Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch March 28, 2013 - 8:46pm


Good evening and well met. I'm way behind on my reading/critiquing of submissions, couldn't decide on who to start with, so I went random. Ended up on yours. Haven't read your other comments, didn't spend much time pondering the piece. Jumped in and read it.

Glad I did. My favorite voice of the lot I've read so far. Reads quick and hot, moving quickly through emotion and action and impact.

At least in the beginning. Your struggle now and into the future, and know I recommend nurturing that voice and not suppressing it, is to learn to reign it in when necessary. The middle of your story gets far too chewy to maintain the pace you established and it just bogs. The ending suffers because of this, as I wasn't invested enough to attach to the heavy emotion you were looking to inject.

The work deserves a thumbs up and I hope you keep working at it. Or, I'd like to see what you can do with a different genre or theme. You've got a definite knack that could work in any number of scenarios.


voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin April 4, 2013 - 1:17am


Thank you for your kind words. Yeah theres too much story for this amount of words and it does get a little squashed.

As far as genre's go, sci-fi is not my forte, but I do love a challenge :)

Thanks again