Thousands of damned souls shuffled before him in a chained off queue. Every four meters, a sign flashed the estimated time remaining until one reached the torture devices. Anticipation fed the terror. So did bats. One swooped down to gouge a cheek. The Damned recoiled with yelps. What did they expect? Hell was hell. Satan used to love that line. Now, well...
He flicked a talon at the next soul in line, which bore the curved form of a human female. She cowered, head darting in search of escape. A first timer.
Satan inhaled her salty, warm aura. “If you can spell ‘Mephistopheles,’ I’ll give you a pass this round.” Tough luck if the language she’d spoken on outer-Earth had been character-based.
Hope flashed in her eyes. She straightened up. “M E P H I S T O P H E L E S.”
Satan summoned an oily assistant demon. “Escort her to the elbow-wrencher.”
Her knees faltered. “But I spelled it correctly.”
Satan rolled his head, working out a neck kink. He pointed to a small sign that hadn’t been there a moment earlier,
NO EXCEPTIONS, NO EXCUSES
(AND NO ONE LYKES A GOOD SPELLER.)
Right. No one likes a good speller. Damn, she should have got that one. Cursing herself for her mistake -- as though being cursed could make things any worse -- she followed the demon into a waiting room. With a sigh, she squeezed herself into an open space between Rod Blagojevich and Bernie Madoff.
As she scanned the room, she saw another demon off in the distance arguing with Simon Cowell. She shivered. When she'd filled out the application form, she'd never guessed that the auditions for Fox's America's Gone to Hell would be so tough.
Opening: Jeanne Ryan.....Continuation: Anon.
Would definitely read on! Fun.
The reference to character-based language caused more of a problem than it solved. And after all, Satan doesn't care! I'd remove it :).
This is one I definitely wouldn't read...the devil here doesn't seem convincing, frightening, sympathetic or funny. Part of this may be my general uck-response to torture as joke...
I would trim a bit like so:
Go from: He flicked a talon at the next soul in line, which bore the curved form of a human female. She cowered, head darting in search of escape. A first timer.
to: He flicked a talon at the next soul. The head of a human female cowered, searching for escape. A first timer.
Look to where you can condense like that and still maintain a style or voice.
This has potential. I'd read on. But you have to be careful with humor. If there's too much of it, it's like having way too much salt in the chili.
A head does not cower or search for escape. A person does.
I'd read on. This is good. The writing is good. The humor is good. I didn't get the character based joke but that doesn't mean no one will and the writing has earned enough reader credit that I just moved on. Loved the torture joke. Yes, I'm sadistic like that and I want more torture jokes. Lots of them.
Have you finished this? If not, my suggestion is to follow Steven King's suggestion and keep this for your eyes only until after it's finished and you've done the first edit.
No matter what you do, because of the nature of this story, you are going to get differing opinions. You'll probably get that too as you shop it around.
Expect crap like this: "A head does not cower or search for escape. A person does."
Does the devil shit fire? This chili I just ate is shooting flames out of my ass. I know asses don't shoot flames, neither do people, but it accurately describes my current state of being.
I understood exactly what you meant. Pick up any good book you'll discover ( insert the list 101 bobby parts.)doing all kinds of things body parts don't do. Nit picking comments like that should be reserved for mother-in-laws.
I won't proclaim to know what motivates anyone, but I doubt helpful was the first thing on the mind. (I know you can't have things on your mind. Things go on a table, wall, door, floor- okay I've beaten the horse dead.)
Finish it, do an edit, find some objective "helpful readers" for the second edit and third edit. Then shop it.
This has got potential. And I don't mean this in the "I don't have anything else good to say about it, so I'll tell it what I tell retarded children."
Potential- as in, not only is the plot new and good, but the writer has the skill to take potential out of Nevergonnagetpublished Ville to the not so retarded bookstore bookshelf.
Yeah, it needs work and revisions, maybe an expert editors red pen, but it's great. Write On!
The "first timer" reference confused me. Overall, a nice light-hearted sarcasm, but it feels a bit same-old for works in that vein. Definite potential for a humorous read, though.
I'd have read on, most likely, though.
Also, I forgot: Cowering head? Awkward.
Holy f**kin' Christmas, was that an anonymous Snark???
Write On, indeed, author and don't forget the beezlebub.
It should be pointed out that the comment "A head does not cower or search for escape. A person does." was referring to a previous comment by Dave F., not to the actual opening.
Thanks everyone for a lot of thought-provoking feedback! The input here will help me polish this first page as well as examine the rest with a critical eye. (I love the details pointed out by BuffySquirrel and Dave F., cause those are the sorts of things I need to clean up.)
And thanks for the pep talk, Anonymous! I've got a complete draft and am revising. Then it'll go to a few critique partners.
If nit-picking comments should be reserved for mother-in-laws, should comments about "retards" be reserved for inbred eight year olds?
People come here to get nit-picked. Isn't that the PURPOSE of the site? Can someone take Anonymous' hand and lead him to the FAQs?
Satan pouting makes me think of the South Park Satan who is dating Saddam Hussein. Would you consider something like "scowled" instead?
The use of "one" in the second sentence tripped me up. Did you mean "one" in the general sense of anyone, or "one" in the sense of, "estimated time remaining until the next victim reached the torture devices"?
Sorry, but I have to agree about the "character-based" line.
I like this a lot. And that first timer ought to have known that Satan is the Prince of Lies. :)
Those shooting flames are a metaphor; the cowering head is just sloppy writing.
As for the suggestion that I find the subject matter somehow controversial, or perhaps edgy, or offensive? what a joke.
I forgot to mention how much I enjoyed the continuation-- a fun avenue this story could take if the current one doesn't pan out.
I'd substitute "ideogram" or "pictogram" for "character-based." And I assume "first-timer" alludes to some sort of reincarnation setup, where people die, go to Hell or Heaven, and after a certain amount of punishment or reward are reborn in new lives. If I'm right, I don't think anyone actually HAS a theology like this--it's either life after life, or the Afterlife.
I think first timer just means it's her first time being tortured, not her first time in hell.
Of course, standing in line is torturous in its own way.
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