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Andrew Kelly's picture

Cynthia's House - A Dreamer Short

By Andrew Kelly in Scare Us

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What happens when a group of friends camping in the park come across a paranormal presence from their past? Did they really stumble upon it, or is there more to the story? Find out in this tale that makes visiting 112 Ocean Avenue look like, well, ... a walk in the park.


Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer July 7, 2012 - 4:50pm

I think there is an issue with docx files.

Andrew Kelly's picture
Andrew Kelly from Florida is reading Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton July 8, 2012 - 2:06pm

I think you're right. I've found that they don't open in Firefox, but if I copy the URL that shows up on the page of gibberish and 'paste-and-go' in Chrome, they open.

edit: post to paste

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks July 8, 2012 - 8:38am

I liked this, especially the dialogue. I would have liked to have known more, earlier, about Anders's "Dreamer" abilities, though, and I thought some of the panicked people's reactions weren't very realistic. I wonder if you shouldn't start this story in the middle of the action, though, and only then loop back to the exposition--just a thought.

Andrew Kelly's picture
Andrew Kelly from Florida is reading Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton July 8, 2012 - 2:38pm

Thanks, Jane. You've hit on one of the primary detractors of my writing style. I like linear writing and am not a big fan of the in medias res style. I like set-up and yes, gasp, info-dumps (to an extent). I know I'll probababy have to get over this at some point if I want to be 'successful', but I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way.

With respect to the reactions, you might have a point there. Expressing panic (and a couple other strong emotions) isn't my strength. I'm just too analytical. It's something I'm working on.

As far as the Dreamer abilities go, I was trying to avoid a major info-dump. Anders is the protagonist/author in a couple novels I'm working on. What I've included is all that's relevant to this story. Their brief description was a compromise between the challenge's length restrictions and leaving the audience completely clueless.

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks July 8, 2012 - 5:02pm

Gotcha-- that explains the mysterious title, too. I wonder whether the issues I was noticing might really be the result of only being able to see a compressed version of the total picture.

Andrew Kelly's picture
Andrew Kelly from Florida is reading Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton July 8, 2012 - 10:59pm

Some of them, I'm sure. However, your issue with the characters probably isn't; that's probably my writing's fault.

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch July 8, 2012 - 6:06pm


I think I ended up liking the concept a bit more than the overall current execution. It felt a bit weird that one of the bigger part of the story-Ander's gift or ability as a Dreamer is only mentioned in one paragraph.

I like the idea of a house being part of the monster, and I think that you do build up the tension of the house quite well. I don't think you necessarily have to start in media res, but I do think that there's a little bit too much set up and not enough pay off. If we break up the story in terms of pages, it takes almost six full pages for us to get to the house, and then we only see four pages of the 'confrontation' with the house/cynthia. I also didn't really like how easy the ones left alive were able to run away-why didn't Cynthia follow them? I'm not sure if we even found out why he attacks them in the first place.

The characters were a bit of a issue with me, as no one, including Anders felt real or very interesting. There were also bits were they felt a bit cartoony-like when one of the is grabbing his hair and dancing, and a little bit cliche-calling the cops 'poppo'. Maybe cut down on a couple of the characters, so that the ones you have left really stand out?

Andrew Kelly's picture
Andrew Kelly from Florida is reading Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton July 8, 2012 - 10:54pm

Points taken. My response follows:

Anders's ability is secondary, possibly tertiary, to the story. I mentioned it so as to explain how he knew who Cynthia was. If you really think a multi-paragraph explanation/description of them would be better, I'll take that into consideration. If it were to be included, where within the narrative do you think it would fit best? You've already expressed a distaste for the set-up's length. Where would taking the time out to explain it have less of a detrimental effect on the flow? Focusing on his abilities makes the story more about his abilities and less about the scenario/antagonist.

6:4...hmm. I'll take your word for it that this is bad. I don't read a lot of horror, but what I have read tends to have less than 10% interaction with the main bad guy/s. Most of the rest of it is about setting the tone. The idea of horror, in my opinion, is to cause the reader tension wondering when the next bad thing will happen. Did I do that? Maybe/maybe not. However, I think I did. If you feel horror should be a straight-up gore-fest, then, yeah, I failed miserably.

I can understand the feeling of being let down, though. I had a drawn out build-up and a climax, but it was short and left you wanting...but, it was there, if only for that fleeting second.

You must've missed the line implying they were being followed. Regardless, being supernatural doesn't necessarily imply superhuman speed - otherwise healthy teenagers can move pretty quickly. And, geographically, the police really are less than 5 min. away. I'd already used some supernatural mumbo-jumbo to block cell signals closer to the house. I felt it was a cop-out to extend the range. Besides, I only had 4k words to work with.

You're correct, I did not explain why they were attacked. But, you're one to call the kettle black...or, maybe that's your point :-)

With regards to the characters, It is your right to feel the way about the characters you did. I can't force you to find them interesting, and maybe they're not. They seemed fine to me, I did write them. The point of having so many of them is that it's a party - larger groups of people attend parties. I agree that in a short story format this many characters is really hard to pull off. I hear that you believe I didn't do them justice.

As to the specific instances you mentioned, well, this is where I get even more defensive. Methinks you've just never spent time around white, suburban teenagers. I think this is where your lack of knowledge regarding middle-class American teenage culture shows (especially in the 90's - and, yes, there were several clues indicating this is the story's timeframe).

Thx for the one compliment, though...and, for taking the time to read and post a comment.

Caleb Aaron Dobbs's picture
Caleb Aaron Dobbs from Sallisaw, Oklahoma is reading A Game of Thrones July 9, 2012 - 2:06pm

I think your challenge is making it feel slightly less rushed. There is SO much going on here with the story and your style.


When you write, with the commas, and more commas, was mildly, confusing to me. <Does that make sense? It's just coming across a bit hard.


The story was rushed to me, but the beginning was perhaps moving too gave so much information and I'd rather you jump right into the action with the short story format. Previewing is dangerous. Interest is lost.


REALLY COOL CONCEPT, REALLY COOL dialogue (though cursing always sounds good to write and then never seems to translate to the page totally smooth-style).



Andrew Kelly's picture
Andrew Kelly from Florida is reading Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton July 9, 2012 - 7:08pm

Sadly, no, it wasn't rushed, it's just my style. See what I did there? Gave you even more commas. ;-)

I used four test readers and put it through 3 revisions, taking it from 7k+ words to just under 4k. If you thought there was set-up before... :-)

Sorry you didin't like it. Thx for reading and commenting.