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Shane Berryhill's picture


By Shane Berryhill in Teleport Us

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In a society where owning books makes you an outlaw, literature is kept alive by "burners," those who wage war for books by reciting their pages in rap-style battles called "burns." BURN by Shane Berryhill features "Reader" on the night of the biggest burn in his life. Reader must face off against "Shakespeare" for the title of "Librarian" while the Tolstoys, the Austens, the Wells, the Vernes, and all the other burner gangs look on. BURN is a tribute to the work of Ray Bradbury and a love letter to the written word.,, @shaneberryhill,



jhoeschen's picture
jhoeschen February 18, 2013 - 2:02am

I'm impressed with the way you created so much character development in so few words.  The fact that you used other well known writers as "characters" made the experience that much better- I love Muller, Chandler, Gaiman and Westlake/Stark.  The characters you've created chose those names for themselves and that speaks more to me than any description limited to 4000 words could. Thanks for leaving the actual diolouge of the Burn out too, it let my imagination do some stretching.  Awesome job.  I've benifited from and enjoyed your story.  

Shane Berryhill's picture
Shane Berryhill February 18, 2013 - 6:50am

Thanks for the read & review, jhoeschen. Please continue to help spread the word about BURN (I'll be reading your story (and more) soon and doing the same).


Shane Berryhill


Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) February 18, 2013 - 9:21am

I’m not entirely sure what to make of your story.  Instinctively I like it, and you do a good job of making it accessible enough to keep interest, while still keeping a lot of it a mystery.  There is no neat finish here that ties the strands together, but I do think that works in the context of your story.  I’m none the wiser as to what a Librarian is (in the story at least), what a burn is or how you win one, or why a Hound helps him escape, or even what a Hound is.  I’m not sure I need to know any of that though.  The story seems to me to be more about tone and place, and you nail both completely.  I may not be sure what is going on, but I can picture the where and the who pretty well.  I wonder if Reader will ever get a name like the others though.

Shane Berryhill's picture
Shane Berryhill February 18, 2013 - 10:30am

Adam, many thanks on taking time to read and review BURN (I'll definitely return the favor). In regard to the question(s) you raised, the best response I can give is to quote one of my favorite authors, ol' Stevie King: “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” 

Please continue to help spread the word on BURN--I'm definitely going to do my best to read and review everyone's entry (And a rate/review of BURN gets a guaranteed review by yours truly ;)

Keep reading, writing, and burning!


mattymillard's picture
mattymillard from Wolverhampton, England is reading Curse of the Wolf Girl - Martin Millar February 18, 2013 - 2:32pm

Hi Shane,

A good story with lots of atmosphere and attitude. I would have liked a bit more information about what a burn was, how you win it and also who the various people involved were. Until the last couple of pages I thought they were human, but I could tell from the last couple they werent - but I never really felt I knew what they were! I like to be given license to imagine situations in my fiction but I did want a few more clues here.

I thought that the characters based on authors was simplistic but very clever. There is an intriguing and original world here which you could definitely build on, and I think there is the potential to have a really satisfying ending if there was a clear message there. Even without that though, it gets a big thumbs up from me :-)


Shane Berryhill's picture
Shane Berryhill February 18, 2013 - 3:41pm

Thanks for taking time to read BURN, Matty. I'm glad you seemed to like it overall. I hope you'll continue to spread the word on the story. I'll look you up here and return the favor.

As I alluded in an earlier comment here, I'm definitely of the 'writing school' where the writer supplies the "dots" of a story, but it's up to the reader to connect them (at least in certain instances (BURN being one of those instances)). I like stories that make people sit down and discuss them/their themes/the author's intentions, etc., after having read them. I hope BURN will provide you and the rest of the Litreactor community with that experience.

Now, I would be remiss if I failed to play devil's advocate against myself of my favorite writers--who did write what's considered science fiction--Kurt Vonnegut...said something to the effect that, "If the world ended today while you were writing, then the reader should be able to finish the story on their own."

But I guess that's why it's an art and not a science, per se.

Thanks again for your time and feedback!


klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 19, 2013 - 6:49am

You know, you really do paint a cool picture with this story. And I really like the premise of dueling readers. The final rap battle of 8 Mile comes to mind. 

What I think would move this story from a good to a great one, is the actual Burn. Right now, you only describe it happening. The reader want's to hear it. I don't know if you've seen 8 Mile, but the final battle is very similar in tone to the battle in your story. 

As to the Hounds - They could use some clarifying. They're some sort of enforcers in trench coats, and they're robots? It would help me if their motivation would be made more clear. Especially when one of them turns out to be on the protagonists side in the end. 

Nice read. Would love to hear what a burn could sound like. 

Shane Berryhill's picture
Shane Berryhill February 19, 2013 - 5:51pm

Very kind of you to read and review BURN, klahol. You've definitely picked up on one of my inspiration(s) for BURN. Another is Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. BURN is a tribute to that novella, in large part.

In regard to the motivation of the 'Hounds,' I've given you another clue in my above statement. But I'd also ask, what do you personally feel  their motivation is (based on the context of the story)?

In regard to what the BURN actually sounded like, what book Reader was 'burning' from...well, what you suggest is definitely a valid way to go. But ill again quote (or at least paraphrase) one of my favorite authors, Ol' Stevie King, and say, 'The monster behind the door is always more frightening than the monster standing within full view.' ie, An author can never compete with a reader's imagination (paint enough of the picture, then let the reader complete it with their imagination--said picture will always be better (for that reader) than what the author spoonfeeds them. Tarantino also did this in Pulp Fiction. The audience never knows what's in 'the box.' And Tarantino knows whatever he placed in there, it would be somewhat of a let down to the audience if it were to be revealed (as it can't compete with what the audience might imagine is in there).

That said/to play devil's advocate against myself, King has also said he's of a mind that eventually, the author should 'throw the door open and reveal the monster.'

Keep reading and writing!

-Shane Berryhill

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 19, 2013 - 9:32pm

Hi Shane,

I love the concept, definitely wildly original, and you have a strong flair for drama and language. I felt the concept was almost "too big" for its length, which is where I started to feel lost...there's a lot crammed into this story, so many characters, and a lot going on. I almost wanted it to slow down so I could take a breath and follow it better. Admittedly I found myself reading and rereading trying to grasp the events without relying on your synopsis. Without your synopsis above, the events are hard to follow. I bet if you tightened the focus, slowed down, and simplified, your story would be even more powerful. 

Keep writing, you are immensely talented.


Shane Berryhill's picture
Shane Berryhill February 20, 2013 - 5:52pm

Thanks for the feedback, CG. Best of luck to you!




adrenokrome's picture
adrenokrome from United Kingdom is reading Altered Carbon February 20, 2013 - 6:48am

Great tongue in cheek nod to classic pulp sci fi done with a noir edge, I really enjoyed reading and the references gave me a chuckle (in a good way). It also conjured imagery of classic sci fi shows such as the Twilight Zone / Outer Limits and even the surreal nature of the Prisoner. Thanks for the nostalgia and your writing style flows really well. 

Shane Berryhill's picture
Shane Berryhill February 20, 2013 - 5:54pm

Glad you enjoyed BURN, my friend. I hope you'll help spread the word on the story. I'll check your story out as well.




IrishMak's picture
IrishMak from NH February 20, 2013 - 10:53am

Fascinating story. Nice take on a familiar theme. I found it a little sparse, however, and that made it harder to connect with the characters and the storyline. I would have liked some things a bit more fleashed out, although I did think leaving out what Reader burned at the end was a nice touch. It left a lot of stuff jumping through my mind, especially given Shakespeare's comment after the first round. 

Shane Berryhill's picture
Shane Berryhill February 20, 2013 - 5:57pm

IrishMak, glad this story got the ol' wheels in your noggin turning. Personally, the stories that make me think rather than spoonfeed me are my favorites, so I'm glad BURN could do the same for you in some small way.

Cheers, my friend!



Shane Berryhill's picture
Shane Berryhill February 21, 2013 - 6:36am

Considering the tech I chose for my story, BURN,  I thought you might enjoy this article on drones from Yahoo! News (published and posted just yesterday):

"Most of the drones that have begun to appear in the skies above the U.S. homeland don't resemble the Predators or Reapers flown by the U.S. military and CIA above Afghanistan and Pakistan. Instead, these smaller versions of flying, unmanned vehicles almost rival the animal kingdom in their diversity." -Yahoo! News

Here's hoping you enjoy BURN!

Keep writing,



Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures February 21, 2013 - 10:48am

This one touched me deeply. I loved the world you created, the way you left more up to the readers imagination than less (I really dig it when authors dont feel the need to beat a subject to death. Instead allowing and expecting their readers to be smart and figure it out on their own). I love that you didnt give us the dialogue of the BURN, we got to make that up and damn if mine wasnt a fabulous experience.

I cannot say enough good things about this story. It was inventive and original and from what I can tell fit all the parameters of the challenge beautifully. Nice job and a BIG THUMBS UP.

As your fave and mine "Ole Stevie King" says, "“Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”

I feel enriched after reading this and it made me happy my unknown friend. Very happy.

Shane Berryhill's picture
Shane Berryhill February 21, 2013 - 2:09pm

Wow, Juice. You honor me, my friend. That may very well be the best compliment my writing's ever had. Thank you so much.

You "got it." Which I'm happy about, because it lets me know I did my job as writer.

BTW, no need for us to stay unknown to each other. Come visit me at

Thanks for taking time to read BURN. I hope you'll spread the word. I'll look up your story here, if you have one, and do the same.



Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures February 22, 2013 - 8:49am

I honestly think yours is in the top 5 of my fave stories I've read on here. I unfortunately havent posted a story in this challenge, Im hoping to do so when the next challenge comes around. Im still new to this site.

I'll check out your FB for sure. Good luck in the contest and again, I loved your story, I might re-read it today actually it was so much fun for me.

Shane Berryhill's picture
Shane Berryhill February 22, 2013 - 2:49pm


Laura Keating's picture
Laura Keating from Canada is reading The Aleph and Other Stories February 22, 2013 - 7:22am

I really liked the concept, the meat of the story really had my attention and idea of gangs formed under the banner of a particular author was wonderful but the ending left me with a lot of questions (about the title of Librarian, about the Hounds, why that one Hound helped him and why she had the manuscript).
I also would have actually liked to hear/see the burns taking place (I imagine they would have been like the Epic Rap Battles of History). But given the word-count limitations I think you did very well in describing what we couldn't hear.
Well done.

Shane Berryhill's picture
Shane Berryhill February 22, 2013 - 2:49pm

Laura, very kind of your to read BURN and provide feedback. I'm glad you enjoyed it overall, and I hope you'll spread the word on the story.

Khalol (sp?) had queries re: the story similiar to your own, and I responded to him on 2/19 if you care to take a look.

But in short, I'm glad BURN left you asking questions / got your brain churning after the story was over. Those are the kind of stories I like to read...and write from time to time ;)

Ill look for your story here and take a look. Again, thanks for reading BURN.



ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. February 26, 2013 - 12:45pm

Nice read!  As much as I liked reading through this story, as much as I could see the amphitheater in my head, I still have no idea what the two sounded opponents sounded like.  Of course, I have no idea how you could convey that in this form.  You had me hooked almost immediately.  I would have liked to see more about the Hounds though. 

One minor editing thing I noticed, page 14: "But it the end ..." That should probably be "in"

Excellent Work!

Shane Berryhill's picture
Shane Berryhill February 26, 2013 - 1:16pm


Thanks for taking time to read BURN...and for your kind words!

Great catch on the typo. It has been corrected! Many thanks.

I purposely left the actual words of the 'burns' blank...whatever I came up with would fail to compete with your imagination (So I'd ask you, 'What do you think the Burn sounded like?' And whatever answer you gave would be correct). Anywho, I tried to add just enough description to stoke said imagination. Regardless, trying to describe such verbatim would've been like trying to describe music without can't do it. Not literally. Instead, I used metaphor to try to communicate with words on a page/screen an action that's grounded in sound (and the resultant experience/emotion of said action).

A great example of this in literature is the Thomas Cobb novel that's the basis for the Jeff Bridges film, 'Crazy Heart.' Music is described throughout the book, yet by definition/form/function, the book utters not one sound.


-Shane Berryhill

PS - I'll look up your story if you've submitted and give it a read. Thanks again!




Tina Holyoake's picture
Tina Holyoake from California December 11, 2013 - 12:16pm

I love the fact that you don't give away all the details of the burn.  I like seeing things inside my head, conjuring up what I think it to your tale!