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tobygibbons87's picture

Incinerate After Use

By tobygibbons87 in Scare Us

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A priest must confront his own failings in the wake of tragedy.


Word Count: 3328.


Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks July 19, 2012 - 6:30pm

This is a really powerful, surreal piece of work. I can't say I understand it, but I was really taken with it as a sort of impressionistic prose poem.

tobygibbons87's picture
tobygibbons87 from Liverpool/London is reading Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman July 20, 2012 - 9:28am

Thank you. Which part didn't you understand and are the characters believable?

Cody John Beckius's picture
Cody John Beckius from Colorado is reading a lot of American Modernist literature July 21, 2012 - 11:23pm

There were some really unsettling moments in this piece – the priest’s dream, and the moments in the chapel.  In those spots I felt the language sparking and breathing.  However, for most of the story there was an overall lack of variety in the sentence structure and rhythm.  Almost entire paragraphs start with “I” and end with a simple action, followed by another sentence with the same structure and flow.  When I read anything like that I find my brain falling into a sing-song rhythm and by the time I finish a page I have no idea what happened.  When I do that in my writing I usually end up going back into the story and finding all of those short sentences and seeing what can be combined, or thrown out.  For example, on page one of your story: “I lowered my head and finished my own drink.  I got my phone out and dialed the number for a taxi.”  This could become something like “After dialing for a taxi I lowered my head and finished my drink.”  Not only did it cut out eight words it also keeps the reader from having to stop between actions.

I also feel like the story doesn’t give us enough in the way of a believable “monster” or series of events.  Is the monster the snake-faced nurse or capital-E Evil or is it Nico?  Ambiguity can work if the writer has left enough signposts to allow for conclusions to be drawn, even if they are intentionally misleading, but this felt a little too unfocused.  I liked the apocalyptic imagery that crept into parts of the narrative but I don’t feel like it went anywhere, especially at the end with the dead babies.  If the apocalypse is that small and personal it should have been presented that way through the rest of the story, or have some of the earlier imagery play more directly off of the final scene in the chapel.

Please forgive me if this came across as rude or overreaching - I get into workshop mode and there's no stopping me, haha.  But I do think there’s something in this story waiting to burst out but it’s not quite there.  And thanks a bunch for sharing with everyone!

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles July 23, 2012 - 9:30am

This story left me with a lot of questions: who is this priest? who are the people in the hospital and what are they doing? what is the logic of this world? I think this story needs a lot more space to breath, b/c right now it feels like a scene in the middle of a book (especially the conversations with the nurse).

I agree with Cody about the sentence structure -- its pretty repetitive. However, like Jane, I thought this story had a sureal feel, and I think the repetitiveness of the sentence structure may have added to that. You could probably switch it up a little bit though, especially in the dialogue (the characters sound too similar to me). 

I was also unclear as to the significance of the "incarcerate after use" line -- sure, its about burning the bodies, but is it also referencing hell? It hangs a little slack at the end.

tobygibbons87's picture
tobygibbons87 from Liverpool/London is reading Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman July 24, 2012 - 7:41am

Thank you for your comments. Don't worry about putting your thoughts across, its exactly what I need.

I'm currently re-writing/editing so I'll hopefully have a second draft up soon with some of the suggestions taken on board. I agree the sentence structure can be repetitive but, as Jane pointed out, I was attempting an almost verse/prose poetry thing but if it hasn't worked, then it hasn't worked.

Personally, I'm all for stories/novels that may not have a definitive ending and that can be a problem, because obviously everyone's not the same as me - thankfully.

I also thought that I had signposted enough to indicate that this was a sort've personal apocalypse and not a general/worldly one, but if you all have suggestions to make this clearer then I'd be happy to take them on.

And the monster is more of a generalised idea of monstrosity, a combination of all the characters involved and the circumstances surrounding them. I've got a tendency to be a bit a vague sometimes.

Thanks again to all three of you, for your time and words, you've been very helpful.


Warren Byrd's picture
Warren Byrd from Houston, TX is reading Wheel of Time saga by Robert Jordan July 24, 2012 - 8:05am


A neat idea that was well executed.  There are some minor inconsistencies in the prose that I think could be taken care of with some re-writes (like you mentioned).  Overall, I didn't have any trouble getting through it and I was quite pleased to find a vague ending that left much to the imagination.  Keep at it man.

Daniel W Broallt's picture
Daniel W Broallt from Texas is reading The Emerald Mile July 26, 2012 - 5:58am

Hey Toby,

I liked how you introduced us to the priest and Nico before any evil occurred; I've heard that's a technique often employed by Stephen King so the reader care about the characters before they're put through hell; it raises the stakes. So good job. In the rewrite, maybe add even more backstory or familiarity to them, some "remember when..." moments or dialogue that the other finishes, inside jokes kind of thing.

your dream sequences were very vivid and appropriately apocalyptic, I don't think you need to work on those at all. However, in contrast, I wish the ending was clearer - I couldn't figure out what was in the box. Was it the baby hands? We're they to be incinerated by he took the box out of the machinery? If that is what you meant, then a simple sentence explanation would make it more clear. Also, the priest's faith that the nurse is some sort of monster seems at odds with his lack of religious belief. 

You got a line about God not listening anymore. Consider mentioning what it looked like when God did listen (did he always find a parking space near the entrance?) And it seems like everyone recognizes him as a priest - is he in priest clothes? If yes, Why? Do actual priests really waok around in priest outfits? My suggestion is that folks don't recognize he is a priest (except the nurse) - he could think to himself that the cab driver would treat him nicer if the cab driver knew he was a priest. So then later at the bar when he thinks back to his interaction with the nurse he realizes that there is no reason for him to know that he was a priest and that is what causes his freak out.

Also the description of the hospital seemed appropriately like a war zone, good job

Thanks for writing,