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descantily.clad's picture

The Devil's Breath

By descantily.clad in Arrest Us

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A beautiful woman uses a powerful drug to relieve men of their free will.  And anything else that she wants from them.


Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep June 16, 2014 - 3:40pm

Thanks for writing and sharing.

To encourage you, I think you have a good opening section--it really caught my attention right away, and left me with curious to know who your main character was. Your story is an easy read, and I was never confused as to what was going on. Well done there.


- In the end, your story doesn't necessarily go anywhere. It's basically all introduction of your character. You do explain how she does what she does, but you don't really have any conflict. There's no danger, no obstacle she has to overcome. So basically, you have the beginning, but you're missing a conflict and a resolution. If she's trying to retire, then you need to having something preventing her from retiring. I'd like to see this story rise above the body count. The good news is that you have almost 3k more words to play with (for the purposes of this challenge) to finish out your twisted little tale. You need at least 1,000 more words to meet the minimums of the challenge anyway.

- It felt like you were in "overview" mode most of the time. You summarized events quite a bit, never letting us get too close to your main character. I'd suggest getting in her head a little more. Let us see her personality through conversation.

tobygibbons87's picture
tobygibbons87 from Liverpool/London is reading Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman June 17, 2014 - 4:50am

This has a very abrupt ending and I feel it can be expanded on. I agree with the comments from Ethan that it feels very summarised, almost as if you're outlining the story rather than telling it in its potential entirity.

That being said, I liked how it started out and continues (mostly) in second person. It gives it a disassociated quality that can allow empathy from the reader for an otherwise shady protagonist.

Damon Lytton's picture
Damon Lytton from Augusta, Kansas is reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow June 17, 2014 - 4:33pm

I tend to agree about the lack of a story arc, but I think it's mostly that I just want to read more.  I want to see this character challenged.  I want to see her go up against someone or something that shows what she's really made of.  There is too much to this character to not put her up in a tree and throw stones at her; see if she can get down again.

There was something offputting about the opening vignette when I first read the story.  After finishing, I realized what it was.  It was so terse.  It was so steeped in bullet points of the night.  It was absolutely perfect.  I feel as if that opening is showing the reader what that victim sees and hears.  He has no thought outside of that moment, outside of her and what she wants him to do.  There's almost a crudeness to those first two paragraphs, but it is absolutely how this story should start.

SConley's picture
SConley from Texas is reading Coin Locker Babies June 18, 2014 - 6:07am

I really liked this story and your style. It has a very post modern, stream-of-consciousness feel to it and it flowed really well. I can see Lydia and her drug going so much farther and bigger though. Fleecing rich guys for money is fun but imagine what else she could do with that drug. I'd like to see her go after big targets and everything gets out of hand. Or maybe the feds are following her and they can't figure out how she's doing what she's doing, kind of like Deathnote, you know? Like a cat and mouse type of thing. I liked your story and i don't think it needs any kind of story arc. It's unorthodox, which works.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 20, 2014 - 3:48pm

Nice idea, although it did remind me of elements of Upstream Colour. The introduction was great, but as others have said there's no tension or stakes. She does what she does, and that's that. A brilliant idea does not a story make. Keep working at it, there's something great hidden in here.

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Wheel of Time June 23, 2014 - 9:27pm

I liked the premise of this story a lot. Your writing is smooth and clear. The MC is cool and neat, but psychotic at the same time.
I would like to see more as far as plot and character development. Once we have the premise we sort of have the whole story as it sits right now. We get to see how Lydia got to where she's at, but not where she's going or how this experiences had effected her.
So thumbs up for solid prose and a hell of an idea, but I'd really like to see this pan out into a tale with an arch and consequences for the characters. Know what I mean?
Keep up the good work. Good luck in the contest!

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 2, 2014 - 12:40am

This is interesting; crime tinged with a little fantasy. I like a good genre mash up, and this is an easy and well flowing read. I liked the premise very much, it feels like a morality play though one with no eventual comeuppance which is a real shame. You have lots of room in word count to really explore this, and instead we barely get beneath the surface.

Your protagonist has been using the Devil’s Breath for years, and it’s good to see the first and last uses. The story though seems to build towards a different climax, and then it just doesn’t give it to us. I was half expecting the man at the end to have spiked her drink as well, but instead the end is just a rehash of what she has done previously. I have to admit I found that a little disappointing. I think you can build something full of tension, but as Ethan says, there is no conflict here, and so there is no tension.

Think about your concept, and think about the ways in which it could be taken. Stealing a bit of cash and killing off randoms is the least of what she would do. After that long doing it, surely she would have moved on to bigger and better targets? If you want to keep her actions relatively quiet, then perhaps consider giving her a comeuppance. If you live by the sword, you die by the sword. This has killer potential, so thumbs up, and best of luck developing it.

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 2, 2014 - 5:47pm


A nice idea, and it starts very much like something from a movie where you then want to know why things are happening like this ("Upstream colour" springs to mind), but as it continues, the issues emerge. You've built intrigue, and then proceed to describe EVERYTHING... the things that lead up to the discovery of the drug, the first experience (which, with the empty your wallet command is echoingly similar), and how it progresses from there. So the intrigue and the tension is alas gone!

As for practicalities, the last killing is not significantly different from the first, so there isn't a sense of progress. I'd skip the "describing herself" in the mirror part, it's a bit cliche, and in any case, we don't need to know what she looks like. We'd prefer to get a bit of an insight into her head, which doesn't happen as much as we'd like. There are definitely some good ideas in here, and I like the "the taste of whiskey on her lips" final line, but ultimately this isn't a satisfying story.

As others have pointed out, this is a short-short story, around 2000 words. Which I don't mind, as I like short stories, but it's never wise to ignore the word count in a contest! Also, as she has decided to kill all the men, this certainly makes her a serial killer. It also isn't particularly necessary, or interesting. (You don't shoot a cow after milking it...).

To salvage it, either have her have a genuine good reason for killing the men, and get her comeuppance (accidentally takes the drug herself?) or have her meet someone investigating the murders, or someone she actually falls in love with, but for some reason then has to use her drug on. In other words, have a conflict and have an ending.

Good luck!