The Otherside

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Envy, Jan 21, 2013.

  1. As I came into a small room they were there, The Others. One by one they bowed their heads in recognition and mumbled words that were either too terrifying to remember or so incomprehensible that the mind forgot them on purpose. My guide to this dark world motioned for me to sit in the circle as the others, who I had not recognized in my bewilderment, were sitting. They each wore the same black cowl, like that of the Dark Man who wanders the desert, so that none except my guide knew who they were. I tried to speak to my guide in Coptic and he held his fingers.

    Behind the largest of them was a large shelf, notched into the walls, which contained several cloudy urns with names written on them. In the center of the circle an earthen statue resembling a variation of the Sphinx sat. I could faintly smell embalming fluids and realized that in the next room was a preparation room where bodies of long forgotten corpses were reduced to their base salts. I thought to myself that must be what was in the urns I saw. As I approached the circle I could hear the small group of worshipers, if you could call them that, murmuring still. I felt their unseen eyes roaming over me and their eagerness to begin their work grows. The face of the Sphinx stared at me in a terrifying way that made me want to forget, but the more the priests murmured their blasphemy the more the statue burned its terrible gaze into my soul.
    As my terror mounted my vision grew dimmer so that it resembled that of a foggy looking glass. I looked around, confused, and felt the searing pain of irons burning my skin. It cracked and sizzled under a hot iron blade and I struggled to get away. I stood to leave but what seemed to be a large man with talons grabbed my shoulders and held me down. I heard the smooth voice of my guide talking in a strange language to the fearsome circle and they all laughed. Then he spoke to me.
    “What do you know of Arcane magic?”

    I did not know anything and my mind was racing from both the pain of being scalded and the disorientation of being aroused from sleep. I babbled something in my language but it must not have been what they wanted as I was treated to a second series of scalding on the other side of my cheek. The priest folded his arms in a frustrated manner and he asked me again.
    “What do you know of Arcane magic?”
    I shook my head in a horrified manner and tried to show my hands in a pleading way as I told him I knew nothing in my language. To my surprise my attention was suddenly drawn to the restrictions upon me. When I moved my hands I heard the rattle of the chains that bound me. Then they were unexpectedly jerked back. My guide shook his head to the other priests and then asked me a second question.
    “Where can treasure be found?”

    I knew not of any treasure and I shook my head feebly as I had before. The large clawed man behind me chuckled in a threatening way. Just as he was about to scald my thigh; my guide held up his hand and made a motion with it that I did not recognize. My entire body filled with the most ghastly pain I had ever experienced and then my vision faded to nothing more than the dimness of a speck. And like that I was removed from a world which frightened me so.
  2. My initial thought, upon reading this, is that it's very Lovecraftian... or rather, it wants very much to be Lovecraftian. You obviously love his style, but it comes across like you're trying too hard to imitate him. It's forced, heavy-handed, and would likely read much more naturally in your own style. There's nothing wrong with mimicking a particular author, but I feel like you're overdoing it here.

    One thing you may want to remember, nonetheless, for future attempts at striving for Lovecraft's flair: As purposefully vague as he is about the exact horrors seen by his protagonists, Lovecraft is very good at vivid imagery. Imagery and description is something that is lacking in this piece. The only bit of visuals you really conveyed with any impact were the urns, and that leads me into another point... How does the protagonist know what embalming fluid smells like, and even then, why would they immediately leap to an understanding that the next room was such a room? It implies some sort of experience, but when we know absolutely nothing about the protagonist- who they are, why they are here, etc.- this becomes a sticking point. We need more background to properly appreciate what is happening to this man. We can presume it is happening in Egypt (from the Coptic, the mentions of the Sphinx and the desert, and the burial methods- not that those are unique to Egypt, but within this context it fits); other than that, we know zilch. There's no setup, no slow build (another hallmark trait of Lovecraft's), and no time to get drawn in or invested in the tale. You rushed right to the climax and in doing so took away all the impact.

    Your language also gets repetitive. In several instances, you use "in a ____ manner/way". You often tell rather than show the emotion in the scene. Again, this is robbing us of impact, and the exact opposite of what Lovecraft is known for.

    Remember, too, that the start of dialogue is supposed to be indicated with a new paragraph. I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt that this one is a formatting error, though.

    This one particular line gave me pause. Should it be "held up his fingers"? (If so, this is another phrase you repeat later, and you may want to reword it entirely.)

    In summation: Don't imitate another author's style to the point that your own becomes contrived. Expand on your descriptions, keep an eye out for repetitive phrasing, and work on conveying emotion through contextual clues instead of saying it straight out. Build up slowly to your climax, teasing your reader with glimpses of the horrors to come and feeding them the framework that forms the foundation of your tale. Even if you diverge from Lovecraft stylistically along the way, you'll be getting much closer to achieving the same effect for the audience. ;]
  3. Alright, some constructive criticism. Im very appreciative of your offering.
    This specific piece was written about two or three years ago, around the time I started reading Lovecraft. Ive read more since then, but I wasn't sure what to do with this one. I've also noticed that lately I fall into a slump of "listings". He did this, and then he did this, and then he said...

    Any suggestions on how to avoid this?
  4. It's all in how you phrase it. The more specific and descriptive you are, the less you will find yourself using "then" or "next". Mixing up your syntax is another option. Instead of linking your actions in a sequence, let them stand on their own; these stand-alone lines should hold up the dramatic impact that is lost in listing. Remember that some actions are taking place at the same time, as well.
  5. What's better:
    I turned my head ever so jerkily as my captor and guide led me on.


    I craned my head to the left as my captor shoved me in the should, provoking me to move
  6. The second flows better and packs more punch, although I believe "should" ought to be "shoulder", and one cannot crane their head... only their neck. ;]