How far do I take this makeover?

A healthy reminder.

I mentioned The Journal of Unlikely Entomology in a previous post, as well as the story I planned on revamping and submitting.

So after lunch today I lit a pumpkin spice candle (mmm) and dusted off the two pages of a would-be horror story, ready to go to work. I figured it would be a piece of cake to work on something that already has some sort of foundation to it. But, as I sit here staring at the tiny manuscript I’m becoming as overwhelmed as I would be starting from scratch.

And why is that? Because it sucks. It really does. It sat in a dark drawer for two years and with good reason. But, deep down, I do believe there is some potential here. A professor of mine referred to the piece as having a sort of pulp-fiction feel, which I didn’t realize it had at the time.

But it certainly needs a ton of work. There’s no real story here. My main character turns into a praying mantis and eats her lovers. Why? Sometimes, in my opinion, the reasoning can go left unsaid, and a great story can still be produced. But in my case, I feel as though it needs some sort of explanation. And maybe more dialogue? Dialogue never was an easy task for me.

The piece starts off a bit slow:

“A thin ray of light kissed the wall, displaying the outline that formed between the arch of her back and the curve of his stomach. Black hair swept his knees and she dug her nails into his fleshy thighs. He gasped, a puff of air escaping between thin lips as she drove him to heaven.”

That is the opening of two years ago. While I will say I appreciate the seediness I created, I think it feels too forced. A quick clean-up today gave me this:

“A ray of light scraped the wall and threw their outlines on display. Her black hair swept against his knees as she dug her nails into his fleshy thighs. He gasped then, as she drove him to heaven and a puff of air escaped between his thin lips.”

“Drove him to heaven” may seem a bit much, but it reminds me of a Quentin Tarantino film and works with the mood I’m trying to create.

However, a few paragraphs down digs right into the “good” stuff:

“She lifted herself from him, the suction-cup sound of parting flesh lost among groans and cries. The white walls were decorated in a contemporary splash of red as she raked at his face and chest.”

So, I was thinking, maybe diving head first into the action is a better idea. Draw the reader in from the beginning, so they don’t have time to wonder what the hell is going on. Catch ’em off guard! Eh? It’s something to consider. It won’t be her first victim, after all. There will plenty of other opportunities to explain.

It’s a welcomed break from banging my head against the wall whilst novel writing. So instead I’ll bang my head against the wall over this piece.

I’ll post something a bit lengthier once I feel confident enough to do so. This baby needs a lot of work! Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

Happy writing!

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “How far do I take this makeover?

  1. Sometimes I like being thrown into some action before I fully comprehend its meaning. I think that works best when I get more more physical details about the action I’ve been dropped into. That also dovetails with the richness of detail Tarantino brings to his best storytelling. (Not just details, but details that make the scene feel more tangible to us.) I think this could be accomplished with an economy of words in a short paragraph, maybe two.

    It would be interesting to let us in on anything her face may be saying to us, things his body is doing or isn’t, especially if it reinforces the fact that he has no idea what’s coming and she does. Of course these details won’t be fully understood by the reader until the change occurs, but I think it should heighten the trajectory of your story and the shock of what’s to come (in a good way) if we had clues, but read them as if the characters were more average sorts of people.

    I love this line, “She lifted herself from him, the suction-cup sound of parting flesh lost among groans and cries.” I do think you want to make it clear if the groans and cries are his and hers, or just his because he’s being attacked, but I still think it’s very decriptive, and in a way I haven’t heard before.

    Also, I’m curious as to whether she has an orgasm, too. Maybe I’m nosy, but seeing as how I’m already in their very private moment, I may as well know if the nature of her orgasm or lack of one, has anything to do with “why.” Not because you tell me it’s the “why,” but because (as I’ve found out the hard way) some of your readers are going to want reasons whether you want to put them there or not. Some of your readers will even be pissed that there aren’t any explanations, but you want that to be their only reason to be disappointed. You want to give them as much richness as you can to make them still feel that time with your story was time well spent, and that maybe they can figure out “the why” themselves, if they want to. (As a reader, I fit into that last category a lot. An author never has to tell me the mysterious “why”, but that won’t stop me searching for for it when the details thrill me.)

    One other thing: I like the “drove him” part of “drove him to heaven.” If the line gets back in, watch out for it standing out in relief against other prose that isn’t so arch. (It’s hard for me to tell if that tone is steady throughout your story.) You don’t want any readers to stop and roll their eyes, even if you’re sure it’s the line you want. I’m thinking it could be fun to play around with “drove him…” adding something just as playful or descriptive, but a little different, unexpected.

    I hope something I’ve said here helps. Often just hearing somebody else talk about my stories helps me stand in another part of the room, so to speak, and see the action from a slightly different angle. I’d love to read more of this one. 🙂

    • Re,

      Thank you for the critique – this really does help a lot! I’m glad you enjoyed the little bits and pieces I presented here. 🙂 And, I agree, while I do want to keep the Tarantino-like line of “she drove him to heaven”, I certainly don’t want anyone rolling their eyes after reading that line. So it either stays and the rest of the story remains on the level of that single line, or it gets cut out.

      I also think it’s a good idea to throw in some detail about the woman’s orgasm as well; you’re right, if I’m already inviting everyone into this intimate moment, I may as well take it all the way.

      Thank you again – I’ll be posting some revisions soon! 🙂

  2. If the story is primarily from the mantis-lady’s point of view, which is the impression I got from reading those snippets, then I definitely think you’re on the right track. I think you should start right at the gory action with the third snippet you posted. The one that ends with her raking his face and chest. Personally, I would want to finish reading any short story that started with that.

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