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Ben Court's picture

Heat Wave or Two For Joy

By Ben Court in Scare Us

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After recently moving to a new house the narrator described his experiences in his solitude. An exploration of how the human brain can slip so easily off track. 


Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Consider Phlebas, by Iain Banks July 29, 2012 - 6:09am

I liked how the story began, but then it completely lost me. I couldn't see the connections among the groaning, the bad dreams, the corpse (  I must be dense, but why was the narrator questioned so thoroughly by the police, when their first encounter with him suggests they just see him as an innocent bystander? Are we to think they actually consider him a suspect? Are we to suspect he might have actually done it himself, that he's the monster?), the magpie, the suggestion that he is so disturbed he's suicidal? I was left with too many unanswered questions. Again, this might just mean I'm not reading carefully enough or am a bit thick-witted.

Ben Court's picture
Ben Court from Brighton, England is reading House of the Spirits July 29, 2012 - 7:44am

Thank you for reading! I think you may have some good points here, I probably tried too hard to make it confusing and over did it. It was supposed to represent an oppresive heat, and how lack of comunication, for some, can lead to extreem views. There was nothing to tie these things in, it was just a set of experiances that led to a breakdown. Prehaps it was not my best idea to try a new style of horror for a competition haha!

drmshade's picture
drmshade from Currently living in Scotland is reading A Dance of Dragons August 4, 2012 - 4:34pm

You have some excellent visual phrases ("barrage of vocal garbage") and details which I really liked and when he talks about his missing journal, I felt that whole frantic search and emotional response. I could easily picture some of the scenes in your story. I found, however, that I had a bit of a hard time getting drawn in to the story and that I missed the underlying concept as I couldn't understand why suddenly at the end the narrator felt the need to commit suicide. None of the experiences he had gone through seemed to unhinge him enough in his daily life to lead to this. His moments of instability are as he is trying to sleep but nothing carries over to the daytime. Perhaps a bit more connecting the events would help.

One other suggestion is to vary your sentence structure a bit to help the narrative flow and pull the reader into the narrator a bit more for this kind of story. For this take on a breakdown, I found that all the simple sentences kept me from feeling the confusion, isolation and exhaustion the narrator was feeling as I felt he was telling me facts to be believed rather than events that were tinged by his perception of the world going on around him in his reduced state.


ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. August 4, 2012 - 11:24pm

I ran into several tense issues in this story.  You have quite a few places where you put things in the present tense (I let out a contented sigh and take a sip of water ...) when it should probably have been written in the past tense to match the rest of the story.  This kept tripping me up, pulling me out of the flow of the story.

This story seemed to be very disjointed.  I could visualize most of the events described by the narrator but could not really build an emotional picture of their state of mind.  Throughout the whole thing, the narrator felt emotionally flat, as though he really didn't feel any emotions to speak of.  I have a feeling that you meant to convey a sense of despair or oppression but it didn't come through.

The sequence with the psych ward really didn't make much sense to me either.  I get the feeling that it was meant to be a significant and formative experience for the narrator  but, I couldn't understand what impact it had.

Having the narrator die doesn't bother me, normally.  In this case, though, there was nothing that I could tie that death to.  There wasn't enough of the narrator's emotional character to help me understand their reasoning and the narrator was not really conveyed as unstable enough for their choice to make sense.

Don't give up though!  You could probably do something more with this by pulling in more about how the narrator felt or thought of their experiences and how those thoughts lead them to their end.  Give it another shot!

Selaine Henriksen's picture
Selaine Henriksen August 5, 2012 - 6:27am

This story reminded me of stories by H.G. Wells or Poe even, with its journalistic, florid style where it is hard to discern if the protagonist is mad or if something supernatural is occurring. I really liked it. It could use some editing in that there was a lot of repetition of certain words (eg  "I decided. . . ). 

Ben Court's picture
Ben Court from Brighton, England is reading House of the Spirits August 6, 2012 - 4:21am

I'm glad someone got what I was going for. I very stupidly did this with only 5 days to do so and in a style I'm not used too. Prehaps I should have stuck to what I know haha!

Suzy Vitello's picture
Suzy Vitello September 11, 2012 - 10:08am

Hello Ben,

Your strengths as a writer lie in your ability to set a particular mood. There is a visceral, palpable and imagistic quality to your prose. And in that way, what you have offered in this piece settles like a prose-poem.

As has been noted, your plot here is hard to follow. The sequence of events, in this draft, is muddled and a bit incidental. As you admitted to have rushed this into a story, I have two suggestions for you:

1. Embrace the prose-poetry form and start with this line: The  building  was  an  old  one,  the  single  glazed  windows  had  still  not  been  replaced,  and  they  were brittle. And then build the piece with the imagery and cadence, culminating in the suicide.


2. Outline a plot for this as a story. Avoid the inclusion of a dream. Dreams in horror are cheap. Have some outside force and tension operating on the narrator in order to deliver the story to its ultimate conclusion.

Remember, the reader is "scared" when something seemingly unexpected happens, but the groundwork is breadcrumbed through careful use of objects and withheld information.

Good luck with this. It's got nice flesh--just needs some bones.