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Jane Wiseman's picture

Hatch (revised version)

By Jane Wiseman in Scare Us

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Description

I'm not very techhie, and I couldn't figure out how to upload a revised version into the same space as the old version, so apologies, I had to make a whole new post.

Thanks especially to Asshole American, Andrew Kelly, and Joshua Blair for your very helpful suggestions, and Joshua for your great LbL. I didn't take every suggestion when I revised this, but I did take a bunch. By the way, Joshua, insects like this don't just exude their eggs, they really do EXTRUDE them, yuck. Thanks to ArianeEnarla for the liquid/liquefaction suggestion, but I stayed with liquefaction. I wanted that process of liquifying to be at the forefront, not just the outcome of the process. Don't know if it works. Similarly, even though I know that literally the bug is sucking Mrs. W, the feeling I wanted was the flesh as it sucks against the pane of glass, I guess from the sucking action of the bug, but I don't think it would feel like that so much from the perspective of the suckee, so I kept my own suckage there. The main thing I fixed was the terrible pov problem, for which I have only myself to blame when I decided on a show-offy Moby Dick reference for the ending. It is gone! (but not the other literary allusion *sly laugh*). I played with a couple of pov options and just went back to the original omniscient pov, which works a lot better. Thanks again, guys! This contest was a whole lot of fun. My story sucks!

By the way, speaking of suckage, please everyone go read AssholeAmerican's great story. Not enough people look like they've read it, and a WHOLE lot of suckin goin on there.

Comments

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers July 10, 2012 - 10:48am

I really liked this story. Lots of description tied in with some really good exposition. The first scene is executed perfectly. Generally good writing overall, but, and this is a big but, after the first scene, the omniscient pov derails the story. You show me so much in that first scene, yet after that, the viewpoint you chose only allows you to tell me what happens next. To be honest, though I liked it a lot, the rest of the story felt like a series of expositions to set up a novel. This is far from a bad thing, but for a short story, it can kill it. I think you could expand the part after the CDC shows up, slip into one of their workers stories, and go into a scene where the newly hatched bugs attack him/her, really blow it up like you did with the first scene. That's just one suggestion of what you could do, but you really need to bring the end up close and personal in a scene where you can show me what happened, not tell me. 

Of course, you could expand this whole thing into a novel, and say this story is chapter one, then it would be perfectly acceptable to go into chapter two with a new scene with a different POV. Just another suggestion. 

Like I said, this was a great effort, and you nailed the rules of the story perfectly. Just work on those scenes because you've got exposition down to an art form, and that's a good thing. 

 

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia--now living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler July 10, 2012 - 10:51am

Thanks, Bob--coming from a master of showing not telling, this is a suggestion I'll need to take seriously, although I'm thinking I'm after something pretty different from what you were after in your absolutely wonderful story, which I just had to re-read.

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Naked Lunch July 11, 2012 - 3:23pm

Hi Jane! I love the story -- especially since you start with a character I think is going to be around for a while, then she's just sucked dry... What a scene! And that connects very well to the last scene when the president sees a shiny object. I loved that too. I agree with Bob that some paragraphs sound a little like summary of events, but I'm not sure that you need to expand or lengthen them, but rather, maybe, have more visual and immediate immages, like armies spreading around town with what kind of weapons, the chaos, things like that, so you suggest that actions are taken but don't spell out all that is being done. Just my suggestion. By the way, are we allowed to revise our stories?

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia--now living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler July 11, 2012 - 6:07pm

Hey, thanks, Liana! yes, you can revise them, as I discovered, but tech-savvy people understand how to upload the story and replace the old version--at least I think they do--and I couldn't figure out how. Anyway, thanks for the suggestions. You and some of the other people are probably seeing something important I'm too close to the thing now to see, so I will definitely revisit it and try to think of what I could do to flesh it out a bit. Maybe that's an unfortunate metaphor for this contest. . .

Max Crozier's picture
Max Crozier from Palm Springs is reading Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice July 11, 2012 - 3:39pm

Love it! You're creature was really interesting and I love the amount of detail you went into with it. From the hatching to their state of mind to what they do to the victims. It was all really good. I like that you ended it similarly to how you started it. I love when things come full circle.

I really enjoyed the long prose but i would have loved some more dialogue. The dialogue you did include was great and made me smile but i wish there was more.

I can see what you mean about the POV. You do switch freely between views which I've heard both ups and downs about. It's easy to follow but it does throw you for a second. It seems, as you're telling it, that it feels like someone is telling a scary story. Almost like a campfire story. But then we are switched views and its taking place in real time.

Somewhere in between there is a happy medium. But i say awesome and well done. Look forward to reading more from you!

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia--now living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler July 11, 2012 - 6:09pm

Thanks! Because you're posting your comments here, you must have read the revised version. To see a real pov mess, take a look at the first version. I had a lot of fun with this. More dialogue, more visualizing the scene--I should work on these.

Emma C's picture
Class Facilitator
Emma C from Los Angeles is reading Black Spire by Delilah Dawson July 13, 2012 - 9:20am

Richly told, somehow both cheerful and frightening. Bravo.

 
Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia--now living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler July 14, 2012 - 2:52am

Thanks! You guys are all too kind. I just had a friend read this thing out loud to me, though (great exercise btw) and it has too many adjectives/adverbs. That descriptive quality needs to get thrown into the nouns & verbs. I think it needs (at least!) one more revision. I think I'm going to circle every one of the pesky little things, count em, and see what happens if I make myself cut a third of them.

Brad's picture
Brad from Australia is reading Speculative Fiction Quarterlies July 15, 2012 - 11:19pm

Hi Jane,

 

It was enjoyable reading a story that reads like it has been polished and proofread. Reading this story was easy. Your voice and flow were consistent. I liked your descriptions.

 

To improve this story, as I see some others have mentioned, you probably need to slow down some parts. The first scene we get a real "fly on the wall" view of the events. The rest comes like a news report. This unfortunately impacts the way the characters come across - they're shallow and predictable. For example, the nation's response is full of dithering and delays, but we don't see it happening you just tell us that they waited too long. I don't think you need to turn it into a novel to acheive this. Just try breaking a few of the paragraphs into longer scenes from a more personal POV.

 

I have attached a LBL with some more feedback on the story and structure, hope it helps.

Ian's picture
Ian from Texas is reading Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne July 20, 2012 - 11:25am

Hey Jane,

This is really good. You've done such a good job with your descriptions of the creatures. A perfect balance between keeping the creatures vague (I see some Lovecraft leaking in there and that's a good thing) and still telling us enough about them to maintain real curiousity. While reading this, I kept being drawn to the creatures, because of your balanced approach, even though I know what's happening - lots and lots of murder. That's truly horrifying and really hard to pull off.

Like others have mentioned the story sort of hiccups in the middle with the shift in tone and POV, but smoothing that out shouldn't be too difficult. Plus, you have plenty of space (in terms of word count) to play with.

You mention above that there are too many adjectives/adverbs in the story. For what it's worth, I didn't find them distracting in the slightest.

Loved it.

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia--now living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler July 20, 2012 - 11:33am

Hey, thanks, Ian! How's the novel coming along?

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep July 20, 2012 - 12:28pm

First time posting. I like the plot of your story. The infection spreading out of control is truly frightening. The image of the woman's carcass stuck to the window is actually going to stick with me for a while.

I really like the creature. You describe it well and left the rest up to my imagination.

I do think the scope of your story is pretty epic and cannot be contained to a mere 4k words. For this short story, I'm far more interested (personally) in the woman's story. This whole thing could be just about her, and it would be really engaging. Give me that personal touch (mentioning the woman's dead husband was a good hook), and I'm with you all the way.

On a technical side, there were some tense changes without clear transitions, some past, some present. I'd recommend picking one and sticking with it throughout.

Fun story. I hope this is constructive. :)

Shawn LaSota's picture
Shawn LaSota from Franklin, KS is reading Needful Things- Stephen King July 20, 2012 - 2:05pm

This is the first story I've read since joining this site and seeing the Scare Us challenge. I am not the wisest of literary critics, but I'll give it a shot and hopefully impart something useful.

While the story as a whole was terrifying, the idea of something so small causing so much damage so fast is a real-world threat, it seemed as if the scope of the story was rather large. It seemed as if the story was an entire novel plot condensed down into four thousand words. The beginning was very poetic, beautiful, and a stunning use of adjectives. But it seemed that after the first paragraph things happened faster and faster, one after the other. I agree with some of the earlier comments about narrowing your scope in the story and developing perhaps just one or two characters. It might even be good not to explain everything, sort of leave a mystery in the air and just discuss how it is effecting this one town and the horror felt by the people living in it.

Just a few thoughts, I hope they were helpful. Enjoyed the story and look forward to reading more.

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia--now living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler July 29, 2012 - 5:42pm

Thanks for the feedback. I'll have to think about that. I keep fooling around with different ways the story can work, so yes, I find your thoughts very helpful.

Pushpaw's picture
Pushpaw from Canada is reading Building Stories by Chris Ware July 29, 2012 - 8:15am

Hi Jane - appears that you fixed the POV stuff from the first draft by taking out the first person narrator. Somehow, I liked that it was first person in the original--I had this idea that maybe you could keep the split POV (you get a sort of first person insight into the spore's experience, and later we find we have a first-person human narrator) if you could combine them at the end. So...when your first person human gets eaten by the spore, at that point it can be revealed that the person becomes one with the spore, somehow, and knows all that it knows. Or, rather, the spore ends up knowing all that the person knows, eating her mind/soul as well. That way, the spore can basically be telling its own storing.

I know this idea sounds really wacky, but somehow there was a charm in the first version that is missing in the second.

Just an idea! Probably not a great one, either, as it's pretty out there.

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia--now living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler July 29, 2012 - 5:39pm

That's actually a really interesting idea. I like trying out different povs and seeing which way works best. I may actually try that.

Daniel W Broallt's picture
Daniel W Broallt from Texas is reading The Emerald Mile July 31, 2012 - 7:59am

Good morning Jane!

I really like the concept you have here of how politics interact with a small town quickly besieged by an outside force. Katrina comes to mind. Or across the sea, Chernobyl. Your writing is clear and after the first victim, it speeds along, paralleling the swiftness of the attack and the urgency of a response. The scope is huge and you do a good job of showing all the different actors (pundits, churches, townsfolk, etc.) reacting, while keeping up the pace and terror of the attack.

Here are my suggestions to raise the stakes and make the story stronger:

Give us someone to root for or sympathsize with. 

Show us that this need not happen, that it could be stopped.

You could probably do both at the same time. Maybe someone figures out what is going on, figures out a way to stop it, but because they are only a civilian, perhaps an unemployed one, or maybe even an illegal immigrant (whoever lacks power in Mirchville) they lack the ability to get the message to someone who does have power... (if that's a theme you want to explore). As a reader, I'd like to think that this force could be stopped, and the horror is that political reality prevents the force from being halted (maybe this invasion challenger is active in the minority party or a hippie or a Tea Partier). Whatever. That was just an idea based on the themes I picked up from your story. 

With the first victim, Mrs. Waterstone, all we know is that she is attracted to flicker outside. If she was preparing for her daughter's visit, or stitching a patch for an AIDS quilt, or whatever, we'd get a better sense of the life that was just snuffed out. As it is, with your POV so close to the creature's perspective, we're almost seeing the victims as food as well, and I think the story would be more terrifying if we saw the victims as neighbors, family members, etc. 

Love the 'nukes are expensive,' bit and how it implies that certain towns are more valuable to be protected than others. 

You got a lot of wonderful themes here and I think it's a very original take on 'the mysterious force wipes out a town' story.

Hope this helps! Thanks for writing!

Wil

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia--now living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler July 31, 2012 - 8:14am

Thanks, Wil--great suggestions. In version three, I will have to follow up on them. I don't read much horror for the very reason that in too many of them, the characters often seem indispensible plot points or merely there in the service of the ingenious concept. So. . . I don't HAVE to do it that way!

Shawn I.'s picture
Shawn I. from New York is reading Important Things That Don't Matter July 31, 2012 - 12:00pm

Fun read Jane. Took me a bit to find the revised version. Good pace to your story and love how you handle imminent human extinction with a light touch. You seemlessly pull the reader from humor to dread and back again. Not easy, especially with the limited length. I really liked the mirroring of the beginning to the end, with the same beautiful scene having a much different perspective. I thought the first person POV ending was more powerful though. I think it added a personal touch allwoing the reader to care more about what was happening, similar to Wil Dalton's suggestion of giving us someone to root for. Perhaps you could somehow extend Mrs. Waterstone's character to being connected/related to one of the political figures? Although that would probably prove difficult under the word constraints. I also like Pushpaw's idea of switching back and forth from the travelers POV to that of a human. Anyway, great job! I look forward to more.

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia--now living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler July 31, 2012 - 2:48pm

thanks for the comments--waffling about what exactly to do, so soon I'll start revising again.

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland July 31, 2012 - 6:55pm

I've read it twce now and i doubt i can find an original critique. The above readers have done an excelent job. Does it make.mw.weird to say that my favorite part was when the "traveler" had hermaphroditic sex with itself. Your descriptionand detail. Wow. I could see it happening. And the parody of a particul
lar president to remain unamed. I wonder were the travelers also a metaphor for a particular country ;)
one thing that won't change anything but might.make this.story a little creepier: you mention all the empty skin and it's smell. You mention the harvesting of the cases and eggs. Could all this skin somehow make for nests? Wnderful story. Thanks for writing it.
--Jonathan--

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia--now living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler July 31, 2012 - 7:08pm

Wow, nests--what a great idea! Maybe I can work that in somehow. I did a bit of research, by the way, and there are certain insects who do have sex with themselves. I think bugs are creepy anyway, and that made me realize they are even creepier than I had imagined.

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland July 31, 2012 - 7:05pm

In your research did you watch video of it. Lol cuz the way you wrote it i could see it happening lol. I knew bugs had sex with flowers. Thanks for doin the research. It really helped paint the picture.

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia--now living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler July 31, 2012 - 7:13pm

Ugh, I couldn't have watched a video of it! When I turn an encyclopedia page and merely see a picture of a spider, I slam the book closed and back away. Bugs aren't quite as frightening to me as spiders, but . . .UGH.

 

http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/07/scienceshot-sex-and-the-single-i.html

Scott MacDonald's picture
Scott MacDonald from UK is reading Perfidia August 1, 2012 - 12:06pm

Liked this version better.  The correction of the POV element works in its favour very much, and I'm glad to see that all the original elements from the first draft that made it so enjoyable were still kept intact.

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia--now living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler August 1, 2012 - 12:30pm

Thanks, Scott. I see you're reading Moby Dick. In this version, I also eliminated a pretentious Moby Dick reference that wasn't doing me any favors. I'm still thinking it needs a couple more rounds of revision, though. It still seems too heavy on the adjectives/ adverbs to me.

Scott MacDonald's picture
Scott MacDonald from UK is reading Perfidia August 1, 2012 - 12:55pm

Maybe a couple of tweaks, but I'm also a bit wary of too much tweaking.  We're always our own toughest critics and I've got stuck in rewrite cycles before now - never sure when I'll actually be finished with a piece.  My opinions on my own work change with my moods - something I quite liked one day will strike me as poorly paced, cliched, pretentious or what have you, the next.   I like your tale as it is, but if you do revise it further be sure to pm me, as I'd be very interested in reading it.

OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz August 8, 2012 - 12:45pm

Hi Jane,

I read the revised version and really, really enjoyed it. The first few paragraphs and first death - just well executed. Your language is beautiful, lyrical, whimsical - all the while hundreds upon thousands of people are dying. Well done. Your "gore" is descriptive, yet not really gore. It leaves this scene perfectly of these sacks of bodies, yet the reader is caught up in this enchanting tale of infestitation. 

So, in case you can't tell, I really loved it. Just a great approach to a horror story. It's almost like reading a cute children's book about the extinction of man. And the final scene with the president was comical.

Thanks for sharing! Made my Wednesday afternoon for sure.

Jason

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia--now living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler August 8, 2012 - 4:49pm

Wow, thanks! And you made my Wednesday, too.