Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Places Where the Birds Don't Cry

Another SCP, but this time as a short story. I also will change up the format by only including post commentary as it's really short and I don't feel like I have much to add.

Original Document (Please be nice)

I think the biggest issue this piece faces is the fact that nothing happens... or at least it feels like nothing happens. This is a tough thing to get right, but it's definitely easier to realize why it went wrong.

The first paragraph is mostly filler to set up the framing device of the journal. It's hard to cut, and while I don't mind it being there, the reader's brain is likely to skim this and forget it almost immediately. The transition to the new paragraph brings the reader back into focus and one of the first things that they notice, the thing that will get imprinted on their memory is the description of the last person who had the papers. This tells the reader exactly what the plot is. After reading that, you can extrapolate the story to it's end and exactly nothing will surprise you.

I get that it's supposed to be foreshadowing, but it doesn't set the tone and there's zero subtlety to it. In fact, that is more severe to anything that happens to the other characters. What happened to the patient is the more interesting story since somehow their obsession lead to them acting out and killing people. They somehow imagine a plot in which the world is in danger from the number 18 and he alone can stop it. The narrator just... writes the same thing over and over. The plot progression is like a ball gently rolling down... a hill... until... it comes to a stop... all by itself.

The other issue is the SCP itself. These papers aren't interesting in either power or delivery. They cause the person effected to become obsessed with some innocuous idea (which isn't pareidolia, just so you know) until they eventually find a reason to kill themselves. It's not 'unoriginal' but it lacks something to make it interesting, something that makes it stick out. Then the way it gets you is by paper cut? Or at least ingesting the strange dust on the paper.

Again, I think this is supposed to be a set up. Something that gets the reader to feel like there's something wrong before it kicks off, but it's so obvious that it's the hook for the rest of the plot that there's no mystery or wonder.

Essentially, this story is able to be told in one sentence. The author manages to stretch this into three sentences that occur in the first quarter of the story.

"A guy called Raul Sounder, went crazy and killed a bunch of people. Said he was on some kind of 'quest for meaning', whatever that is."

"It's the oddest thing, those papers had this… stuff on them, not like dust exactly, but some kinda powder, like they'd been stored in a room full of the stuff. I got a pretty nasty papercut on one, too. It's swollen, looks infected."

Okay, so it ended up being four, but I feel like I proved my point.

Until next time, remember to keep some of the details to yourself. The reader can do a little leg work of their own to connect at least a couple dots and they'll like you better for it.
-Cheshire

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