I got too tired of waiting for Bethesda to release modding tools so we could have stable mods. Behold. I have no shame.
I finally got around to sample #3.
There had to be hundreds of crows squatted motionless on that fence, only visible as shadows in the deep, dark night. A murder of crows, they’re called when they get in such a large group. I’d thought at first that they were creepy gothic finials, because one topped each and every fence post. But after the night before, with the scarecrow references and dead bodies, something about all those crows just didn’t look right to me. “Are those real?” I pointed. The guys regarded the fence thoughtfully.
“No,” said Otto, shaking his head decisively.
Just as Vince said, “Yeah, I think they are…” but with less conviction. He turned to Otto and squinted. “Are you sure?”
Otto considered the birds again and nodded. “No way could real crows be that motionless and quiet. Not for this long.”
Vince nodded thoughtfully but still wasn’t convinced. “Shoot one of ‘em,” he said, pointing at the crows.
“That’ll prove if they’re real or not.”
“You want me to shoot a bird?” He stared incredulously up at Vince.
“Why, is that against some sort of veterinarian code of ethics or something?” Vince snorted. “Besides, you said they weren’t real.” Otto tried his incredulous face on me. I shrugged. Vince prodded, “do it quick before Roger gets back!”
Looking like he was trying to conceal a smile, Otto pulled the hand-cannon out of his jacket (seriously, I don’t even know how it fit in any of his pockets), aimed carefully, and shot. One of the crows let out a strangely human scream and fell so fast that it seemed to vanish. Immediately, all the other birds took flight and riotous shrieks shredded the silence of the dark street.
Otto was so surprised he didn’t even look smug at making the nearly impossible shot. Between the crows and the shot, my ears rang and I stumbled to my knees. Vince went completely still, his mouth agape, before staggering backwards and sprawling on the lawn. I think Otto was swearing as he grabbed my elbow, but I was too disoriented to read lips. Roger came pounding around the side of the house, back towards us, murder in his eyes. He was the least of my worries.
The crows swarmed and swooped left, then right, then straight up, streaming high above the roof of the two-story Victorian house. Suddenly, they plunged down so fast that I thought they were going to dash themselves against the lawn like lemmings. Instead of a suicidal massacre, they formed a whirlwind of jet black shapes against the velvety darkness. I sat on my butt on the sidewalk and stared; Otto froze as well, his hand still on my elbow. The shapes began to coalesce, splitting first into two columns, then into four, like an X, and then shooting a fifth column up out of the middle to look like a grotesque imitation of a star.
I tried to say something to Otto and Vince, to see if they were seeing what I was seeing, but I would have had better luck having an intimate conversation in the mosh pit of a punk rock concert. Gradually, the rotten-eggs smell of sulfur rolled over us. The upper “column” became a sphere, the middle columns bent and extended into finger-like appendages, and suddenly, all the individual crows merged into one being: a giant, 10-foot tall scarecrow.
I thought I was at the absolute bottom of the well of terror, until it spoke.
The three of us formed a frozen tableau: me sitting on the chilly sidewalk, Otto standing with slack-jawed horror, and Vince laid flat-out on the lawn of the house next to us. Roger had been half-way across the street when the thing spoke. He skidded to a stop, eyes dinner-plate wide, revolver held uselessly at his side. So he was the first to bear the brunt of the attack as the birds broke apart, and dived towards us in a truly murderous mass.
Okay, so without sugar coating things: you’re a good writer, and when you stop trying too hard, the flow is excellent. There is a marked difference between page one and page two. Page two is almost ready for publication. Page one reads as if you spent some time trying to find just the right word. The dialogue reads stilted, partially because of the use of elaborate dialogue tags. You don’t need them. One or two in a dialogue is perfectly fine. We all do it. Curran snarls occasionally, for example. Or people mutter things, whisper things, etc. But try to avoid reaching for adverbs to qualify the dialogue. It’s a play. The actors are speaking. Dialogue tags are only there to let us know who says what.
The imagery was excellent. The creepy factor was high. I enjoyed it.
One more thing to keep in mind. Your protagonist in this scene is a passive observer. You could remove her from the scene and the scene would be just fine as is. Protagonist must protag <—not a word. She must be the driving force behind the scene or, at the very least, an influential presence. She doesn’t offer any opinion on shooting the birds. Which does seem kind of dumb. Hey, we don’t know what it is, let’s shoot it. It makes them look incompetent and because she doesn’t opine on this in any way, she is in the same dummy boat. It perfectly fine for them to shoot the birds, but this is a missed opportunity to distinguish your protagonist from the crowd.
To reiterate, you are almost there, which is why the critique is so nit-picky. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to buy a couple of Robert Parker’s books and pull apart the dialogue.
Standard disclaimer: please remember that it takes a lot of courage to offer your writing for critique. Please be mindful of your reactions in the comment and be kind, so we don’t kill the writer’s need to create. Personal attacks, cursing, and abusive comments will not be tolerated. Saying “the writing failed to hook me” is perfectly fine; saying “You are a bad writer” will get you a warning.
It is a windy day in Texas. Sunny but windy. The squirrels are out in force, raiding the bird feeder we hung for mocking birds. Tulip is fascinated. The squirrels have no shame and they sometimes jump on windowsills to derisively fluff their tails and yell squirrel obscenities at the cats. We’re probably going to have to move the bird feeder, because they have gone through a large bag of seeds in a few weeks.
I don’t really mind feeding squirrels, but I do want the mocking birds to get some feed. They sing by our bedroom window during spring and summer. And squirrels aren’t exactly suffering. We have a large oak on the side of the house that has dropped enough acorns on my head for me to make irrational threats and kick it.
The neighborhood is changing. When we moved in, it was very firmly suburbia. It’s still suburbia, but now small quirky shops are opening here and there. We have not one but two comic shops. And a small boutique just opened by Randall’s grocery store. The kids visited it by themselves and bought me this cup.
It made me really happy. Sadly, I totally don’t “got this,” but the mug is encouraging. I like the message.
Today I need to write. The deadline is looming and the narrative has gone into a tail spin, because we’re systematically ruining all positive things about Kate’s life. Kate has always been a good guy. Upsetting that axis is fun, but takes a lot of work.
Today is also the day when the girls planned a kid day. Kid 2 is under a ridiculous amount of stress because of her IB program. Kid 1 is under a ridiculous amount of stress because she failed to get her meningitis shot to her college and now has to take a break until summer. Well, she did get the records to them on the day they were due, but it took them 48 hours to process it and she got booted from the schedule and then couldn’t get back in because her classes were full. The self-flagellation about having to take a break was epic, but she already got a job, so I guess that’s the plan for the next three months. She is enrolling over the summer to try to catch up.
I had reminded her about the shot, but at some point you have to stop back and say things like, “You’re an adult. Handle your things.” For the most part, she always does. It’s very unusual for her to miss a deadline.
Their plan is to occupy the living room and watch a marathon of Game of Thrones. Kid 2 barely has time to watch TV so she is behind. My role in all of this is to provide mountains of homemade sushi rolls. I am cooking six cups of rice, I have bought a good cut of salmon, tuna, and veggies, and for some odd reason Kid 1 is determined to try Vienna sausages in her sushi roll, so I’ll be rolling that, too. I’m informed that they will be getting matching tattoos when Kid 2 hits eighteen. The tattoos will say, “Things I do for love.” ::pauses for collective groan from Game of Thrones’ fans:: They think it’s funny. They’re rooting for Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys, so as far as they are concerned, every one else is clear for dying. Well, except John Snow, because he’s handsome.
Gordon is playing Fallout. Fallout 4 has probably contributed greatly to his recovery, because he needs two hands to play. The incisions have healed and he is going to physical therapy. The doctor prescribed Mobic, but after reading the side effects, Gordon decided that ibuprofen will be fine.
Yesterday he spontaneously dragged me out of the house on a date. We went to Alamo and watched Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies, which I loved. It was campy, and hilarious, and managed to sneak in some social commentary, but mostly it was very self-aware. It didn’t try for subtlety, it just went straight for the zombie killing and snark. I saw one review that said, “Both pride and prejudice still play their parts, but now in service to one tediously repeated joke: the sight of a gentleman or a lady, together or alone, playing cards or ballroom dancing, fatally swarmed by devouring zombies.” I don’t think the reviewer understands what zombie movies are. There must be swarms of zombies. That is, in fact, the entire point.
So anyway, if you want to see a funny popcorn flick, go. Especially if you’re familiar with the original work. I laughed several times.
And now I have to go and write.
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Enjoy, we hope you like it. 😀