Welcome to our very first episode of #Pyro! The rules are short and easy: your job is to read this story and critique it! Please remember our purpose is to HELP the writer, so (1) focus your comments on the story, not the writer; (2) try to address story elements specifically (WHAT works/doesn’t work, and WHY/HOW); (3) be honest but kind (imagine someone is giving you this feedback). Ad hominem or mean-spirited comments will be deleted. And now, here’s our very first story, with my effusive thanks to all of you who courageously volunteered!
Written by One of You 🙂
The invitation was not unexpected. Whipple Parsons had been putting out signals for quite a while that something peculiarly unusual was in the wind. Weeks earlier, we had walked down to the sea at midnight, sauntering out on the public dock that stretched two hundred yards into the bay; the moon was full, the sky sparkled with an explosion of sprinkled stars.
The night, as usual, was mightily abuzz. Sea lions, slipping and sliding on rocks across the bay, were testing their choral range, grouching and gargling a saltwater serenade.
“Look Sam. There!” Whip pointed to a distant light. “Do you ever wonder what’s out there?”
Whip knew I had little interest in space. I am a reporter. I deal in the real world; crime, politics, love, hate; the peccadilloes of mankind. That is what anchors me. His mind, his heart, on the other hand, are afloat in the heavens.
“You know I am spellbound by extraterrestrials, Whip,” I tweaked him gently. “Space visitors, turnip recipes, all grist for my mill, buddy.”
“You are such a know-nothing, Sam. Open your mind! Soon, don’t know when, but soon, I’m going to call you and insist you come to my place lickety split. I expect your compliance.”
I reassured him that when he called, I would get off my high horse and gallop to his door. That seemed to placate him.
Late one afternoon, he made THE promised call. “Come,” he ordered. “Bring Kate.”
Kate resisted. We had been over to Whip and Arlene‘s a few weeks earlier for an excruciating Canasta party. Cards and Singapore Slings. It all got a bit much. She wanted nothing more than a night in front of the tube.
“Do we have to attend another Canasta party, Samuel?”
“Whip didn’t mention Canasta. I think he has something else up his sleeve.”
We seesawed back and forth. Finally she agreed to tag along.
We arrived just after 7:00. Whip came out on the veranda and greeted us.
“This is so great. You are going to have to brace yourself, guys.”
“I think we are prepared for anything,” Kate advised our excited friend.
“Good. Okay, come on in….”
I’m not sure what I expected. Kate was probably anticipating a couple of card tables and 2 other couples.
There was only one other…couple. Or whatever they were.
My family had never produced any arachnologists but I immediately saw two humongous spiders.
“Great, eh?” Whip effused. “I know, I know just how you feel. Arlene feels the same way…except she’s locked herself in the john.”
As I too had been considering flight, or the locked security of the bathroom, I could well appreciate Arlene’s choice of sanctuary.
“I looked them up,” continued Whip. “Peacock spiders! From space! And do these two garish fellows love the ladies!”
With that, Whip’s multi-coloured 8-legged guests did a bit of a jig and pounced on Kate.
The last thing I heard was Whip gleefully hollering, “Isn’t this incredible?”
QUESTIONS you may wish to address:
- Does the first line catch your interest?
- How is pacing — does the story move smoothly from beginning to end?
- Does the dialogue sound realistic/natural? (If not, which lines?)
- Are the characters developed effectively within the confines of this piece? Are they realistic? Sympathetic/resonant?
- Is point-of-view clear and consistent? Is the voice unique, interesting, compelling?
- Is the story mostly free of grammatical/punctuation errors?
- Is the plot clear and believable? Are there any plot holes that need to be addressed?
- Does the story follow the rules of its genre? If not, were the rules broken well?
- Is language used well: does the story rely on cliches and too-common devices, or does the story contain striking imagery, colorful and vibrant descriptions, powerful metaphors?
- Does the last line effectively conclude the story?