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Anthony McArthur's picture

Skin & Bones

By Anthony McArthur in Scare Us

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Description

What was supposed to be a fun family hunting trip quickly turns into a horrifying encounter in the woods with a creature of terrifying proportions.

Comments

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia--now living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler July 15, 2012 - 10:10am

This story is well-written, although the point of view shifts around in a disconcerting way. I didn't really believe in the monster, though. There was something about its attack that I didn't find very convincing. Of course, the premise is horrifying: that people you love & who clearly love you might turn into monsters seeking to do you harm. I don't know, though-- the beginning is so realistic and the characters are so realistic that I have a hard time when the story suddenly sacrifices all that for its horror premise. I wonder if it would work better if you put the whole thing into the little boy's point of view, or if you used an omniscient narrator that distances us from the characters so that we see their horrifying fate from a more dispassionate point of view. That solution would remove the sympathy we've built up for the four characters, and you handle doing it so well that I'd hate to see it sacrificed. But if you really do want our overwhelming reaction to be fear and horror, maybe? I'm not a big horror fan, though, so I may be completely off base here.

Anthony McArthur's picture
Anthony McArthur from Georgia is reading The Talisman July 17, 2012 - 5:45am

Thanks Jane, for the comments and suggestions! I'll mull them over and see if I can do anything with the story to make it stronger. I really appreciate it!  

cmcarthur's picture
cmcarthur July 15, 2012 - 8:31pm

I liked it,the story drags you in and you want to know more.

I don't no anything about writing but it was good,Iwould like to read how

it ends when its finished.

Scott Martin Walker's picture
Scott Martin Walker July 16, 2012 - 9:02pm

Names were throwing me off. I could not keep Josh and John separate. I liked the monster though being described kind of like a puppet.

dfresh52x's picture
dfresh52x from New York is reading The Weird July 24, 2012 - 9:58am

I enjoyed the story. Its a nice twist on the scariness in the woods with a realistic style premise with a folk legend element to it. structure and concept were good.He characters' banter was entertaining.

Although I dont think you need the character background paragraphs telling wherre they work or that they were soldiers - just focus on the events that unfold. Knowing their information serves no purpose to the story or enlighten any skills they might have (since they are already hunters)

when they find the dead creature, the smell of a cut gutbag should stink up the place. when the creature moves I think the bones should "clack" rather than "tap"

 

Cody John Beckius's picture
Cody John Beckius from Colorado is reading a lot of American Modernist literature July 24, 2012 - 10:23pm

Overall, this is a fucking great story.  Scary, believable, engrossing, and fun.  And this is the first story I’ve read from this challenge that genuinely creeped me out a bit.

 
Here are a few things I noticed, mostly little stuff.

 
The two long paragraphs about the town and the occupants of the car suck all the energy you managed to build with the conversation.  I think some of the info could be slid around to other parts of the story – while they are driving mention one of the two gas stations, or something like that.  And the family stuff isn’t really necessary.  We know before that section that Josh and Nora are married and that Josh and Bear are brothers.  Unless it’s absolutely essential to the story I think it’s safe to leave it out.


There are some weird spaces between paragraphs that don’t need to be there.  Usually two or three spaces denotes a shift forward or backward in time, or a change in perspective.   Maybe this was just a document formatting issue.


The description of the dead “husk” read a little strangely.  I liked the description of what was left of whatever it was, but it went on (for my tastes) a little long, and the conversation felt forced.  They both see how messed up it is and they both see what is messed up about it so it seems unnecessary for them to talk about it as they stand over the top of it.  For two chatty characters it might be more interesting for them to be stricken silent by what they saw.

Thanks for sharing with us!

Brad's picture
Brad from Australia is reading Speculative Fiction Quarterlies August 15, 2012 - 6:37pm

This is a vivid/graphic "Nightmare" vignette more than a story. Well, it should be, by definition the scene in the car means it doesn't qualify as a vignette but it's my opinion you should turf that scene anyway.

Your monster was gruesome and original and scary, great job.

The whole car scene, lose it. All you do is dump info to give us a picture of their personality. What I would do is take all the characterisation you want to keep OUT of the car scene and put it into the dialogue on the hill. Start the story from arriving at the hunting ground. There's way too much information before there's any action.

Regarding tension, there's a bit too much LOGIC shown by your characters. Oh shit, a horrific corpse, I think we all agree we should leave.... Why not make one person want to leave, the other wants to stay. Here's where their personalities can show up.

Army Guy - Leave? Are you crazy! I'm here to hunt, and I'll back myself against any wild cat. Remember that time I killed a bear?
IT Guy - No, we have to go. my family's here and I'm scared of the outdoors.

And then they can bicker while the Jaws theme plays and the creature strikes.

Of course using this framework means the Army guy has to die last, forced to witness the death of his brother due to his foolhardiness. You've already written it that way, so easy!

Here's the other notes I jotted down but didn't structure:

Barry "Bear" Williams - the fact that he responds, plus the alliteration, means I would drop the "Bear" from the first sentence. Just because it's the first paragraph and you want it to start moving into the story as fast as possible.
+ Bear nickname is explained shortly after

IBM/Jobs stuff info dump. Town stuff? - relevant to later story? If not, chop.

I had trouble picturing the kid. First he's too young to hear the word "damn", but he's old enough to shoot a deer? That just seems out of order to me. Might be a cultural thing, so disregard this if you think it's right. I'm Australian, where we swear from birth but never shoot anything.

A few typos and grammar issues. Distracting, but I'm sure you'll find them all if you seriously edit it. One particularly jarring one was the extra line break after they spot the carcass, after:
we probably need to know if there's a big cat out here before we decide to stay the night.
That made me think time had jumped forward.

Characters with similar names - josh and john - confusing!!

Corpse description - nice, could picture it well. The balled up sock similie was very nice.