Critique Group – A Light in the Dark

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A Light in the Dark – by Jess

Aaron arrived in the aircraft hanger fully geared up in his black uniform. His shaggy blonde hair was pulled back into a small pony tail with a couple of strands falling to the sides of his face. As he approached the small jet a short figure emerged from it. Rick was wearing his usual navy blue suit with a with a tie. Today’s colour was red.

“Imran’s already on board,” Rick said. Aaron gave him a small nod and strode past the shorter man and into the jet. “There’s something you should know before you…” Rick started, the words stumbling quickly out of his mouth but Aaron had already seen the slender figure sitting in his plane.

“Who’s she, Ricky?” Aaron asked, pointing at the young woman with his finger. Imran snickered from somewhere inside the aircraft.

“For the last time, don’t call me Ricky,” Rick said, wedging himself though the door and past Aaron. “And I was getting to that, this is Moira, she’s the newest edition to our team -”

“We don’t need a new member.”

“The last job we had tells a different story, Aaron.” The blonde man suddenly bristled, his shoulders pulling back and his chest sticking out boldly. Aaron glared into his boss’ eyes. “You know what I mean. Look, a little back up can’t be a bad thing. She’s just here to keep a birds eye view on the scene and take out any hidden threats. Give her a chance.” Aaron set his jaw and gritted his teeth together. He turned his back to Rick and sat in the seat furthest from everyone else.

“Now that the introductions are over,” Rick said, closing the door of the jet. “There have been three deaths reported in the Dandenong Ranges. The victims have been brutally mutilated and eaten. Considering the largest predator in Australia is the dingo and they don’t live in the area, we were contacted.”

“We dealing with a werewolf?” Aaron asked, his voice tight.

“No,” Rick pulled out his phone and pressed a few buttons, sending documents to his team. “The teeth marks are not deep or thick enough to be canine. And a vampire would have no interest in consumption of human flesh, just blood. This was done by something else.”

The team flipped through the photo evidence and skimmed the reports. The photo’s were difficult to look at, as most of the crimes they dealt with were, it was something they just had to do. Great chunks of each victims flesh had been torn from the bone until what was left was scarcely recognisable as human. The report stated that the victims didn’t have defensive wounds and were still alive when the creature began to eat.

“A creature that kills like this hasn’t been recorded in Australia before so we have no information. But our researchers are looking into it.”

Aaron flicked to the last page of the report. There was a fuzzy picture of a monster. To explain what it looks like correctly would be to say it was a cross between a zombie and a werewolf. A hunched over deathly thin human covered in sort coarse grey fur. It had teeth longer and sharper than a humans but shorter and thinner than a werewolf. It’s eyes were a frightening, glowing red in hollow sockets.

“We are treating this creature like a vampire and a werewolf. Don’t let it scratch or bite you because we don’t know what effect it’ll have. Apart from that, there’s nothing I can tell you.” Rick turned to Imran. “Lets go.”

“Can do,” Imran said from the front of the plane. The jet whirred to life and then surged out of the hanger and into the sky.

Aaron pulled his black sword from the sheath on his back and checked it for signs of wear or bluntness. It was his favourite weapon, one that had been given to him for doing a great deed. It had saved his life countless times. He slid his hand over the blade slowly and almost lovingly.

“That’s a beautiful blade,” a woman’s voice commented. Aaron ignored her and aggressively slid it back into the sheath. “Although I prefer to put a larger distance between myself and the bad guys. But then I don’t have the skill for hand to hand combat, unlike some.” The bad tempered man was about to fix the woman with a glare but when he looked at her, the distain he felt melted away.

Staring right back at him were warm brown eyes on a heart shaped face. She had a short nose, almost completely black hair and brown skin. There was a nasty scar on her right cheek that had healed over years ago. Moira wasn’t highly attractive so Aaron didn’t understand her allure at first. But then she smiled. She smiled and every ounce of negativity he held in his body vanished.

For the first time in his life Aaron didn’t want to use his gift. He didn’t want to violate her, to know her greatest weakness’. Unfortunately, as Aaron knew very well, it wasn’t something he had control over.

She has a deep fear of letting anyone getting close, whether physical or emotional. A desire to be close to others, despite the fear of being hurt. To be loved and also the breathtaking despair of knowing that’ll never happen because of what happened. The scar on her face is the key to these weakness’. To strike it would cause her so much psychological pain that it would be your best chance to take her down.

STOP!

Aaron turned away from her and pretended like he had never looked in the first place. Moira gazed at him curiously and then, with care etched on her face, she opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted. “This is where the most recent murder was,” Rick called back to them. “We’ll land here and scout the area, then it’s hunting time.”

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10 replies

  1. I’m really intrigued. This sounds really interesting right off the bat, and I enjoyed how you worked in the detail about Aaron’s mysterious ability. I definitely want to read more, find out what happened on the last mission, and more about this creature they’re hunting. (Also hurray for swords I love swords 🙂 ).

    The way you describe Aaron and Ricky interacting gives me the feeling that Aaron has a defiant streak. And perhaps there is a friendship between the two as well? Aaron addressing Rick as “Ricky” and the way he isn’t afraid to conflict with his boss makes me think the two are close, or perhaps even friends as well as boss/coworker. If you were going for that, good job!

    Describing Aaron as ‘the blond man’ or ‘tempered man’ can probably be avoided. We can see clues that Aaron has a bad temper, and we already know the characters name and description, so it is not necessary to call him blond. Also, don’t forget that its blond without an ‘e’ when referring to males.

    Also, in my opinion ‘To explain what it looks like correctly would be to say it was a cross between a zombie and a werewolf.’ You could move this sentence after the description. This gives the reader a chance to imagine something before simply saying ‘zombie and werewolf’.

    Same thing with ‘The photo’s were difficult to look at, as most of the crimes they dealt with were, it was something they just had to do.’ By describing the photos first, then saying they were difficult to look at, we see why they are difficult to look at. Perhaps something such as
    ‘Aaron skimmed the photos. Great chunks of each victims flesh had been torn from the bone until what was left was scarcely recognisable as human. The report stated that the victims didn’t have defensive wounds and were still alive when the creature began to eat. He grimaced and looked away, ignoring the familiar queasy feeling in his stomach.’
    This shows us that they are difficult to look at. Optionally, if you wanted to portray Aaron as so used to it, you could show him noticing Moira gagging when she sees them, while he remains unfazed. It depends on how you want Aaron to appear.

    One final note- “As he approached the small jet a short figure emerged from it.”
    Saying ‘the jet’ usually applies to an object previously a described. You could rephrase as ” A short figure emerged from a sleek black jet.” Although the mention of an aircraft hangar may make this unnecessary.

    Otherwise, you have done a great job! You worked in some good clues and hints so readers can see some of your MC’s traits. If this were a book at the store, I would definitely pick it up and keep reading!

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  2. Love the premise, love the setting, love the characters. Monster stories are my favorite, and the introduction of a new kind of monster is exciting! Is it something from Aboriginine mythology?

    Quick thing about descriptions: I liked how you imagined your characters. However, TELLING us what they looked like feels a little inorganic, almost like the characters are too self aware. Try having Aaron pull his hair into a ponytail at the beginning to sneak in a description. Also, watch out for run on sentences. Readung it out loud should help with that.

    Overall, I hope I get to find out what happens next!!

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  3. I don’t have too much time to critique today, but you did a really good job!! I don’t usually like this genre, but I’m really interested in this and want to read more. 🙂 I like how you slipped in at the end that Aaron had a gift. I also like how you had the Aaron/Rick thing. As said above, they had a friendish relationship.

    All the main things seemed to be said above, but I did notice that you did ‘with a’ twice in the first paragraph.

    Great job, Jess!! 😀

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  4. A creature in Australia hungering after flesh, eh? Alright then.
    You’ve got an interesting concept, which is No. 1 on the list to keep a reader interested.

    There’s a couple of little logistical issues, though. Jets usually take off from a runway, not directly from a hangar. Also, you may want to consider the difficulties of using a back-sheath for a sword. It’s common in movies, but unless the blade is under about three feet long, it is virtually impossible to draw quickly unless you have arms like a gorilla. Sitting in a seat with a back-sheath could also generate some problems worth thinking about.

    While these aren’t very extreme errors and are probably easily fixed, they create some mental imagery that resists reader immersion. Readers notice little details that writers don’t necessarily.

    Regarding Aaron’s gift, it seems a little odd to me that it would only appear when he encountered someone new. Wouldn’t he also have had to block out Rick’s weaknesses as well? And if he had no control over it, how is he able to shut it off at the end?

    Keep up the good work, and always remember to ask yourself if what you’ve written makes sense. I’ve found that to be the best way to keep all the logistics straight.

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  5. I like the first line. The next one might need some work.

    “His shaggy blonde hair was pulled back into a small pony tail with a couple of strands falling to the sides of his face.”

    If this is the point of view character, I doubt he’s thinking about his hair right now. From what I know, blonde with the e is only used to describe women. A guy has blond hair, without the e. His long hair kind of threw me for a loop since I’d at first assumed this was a military unit and those have strict rules about hair, but since it’s some sort of group that doesn’t exist in the real world, you can probably get away with it.

    “Rick was wearing his usual navy blue suit with a with a tie. Today’s colour was red.”

    Change “Was wearing” to “wore.” You might want to hunt down uses of “was” and replace them with stronger verbs.

    I really like the idea. I’m quite interested in werewolves, and setting it in Australia is unique.

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  6. Jess, this is a really intriguing submission. Both the premise and the characters are interesting, especially Aaron and Moira. You have the beginnings of a fascinating story.

    The paragraph where you describe Moira is a little bit confusing. First you mention that Aaron’s disdain melted away and begin to describe Moira. Then, you say that she wasn’t attractive and Aaron didn’t see her allure until she smiled. This looks to me like events happening out of order. Most likely, he would first see her as unattractive, then she would smile and change his opinion. Also, he probably wouldn’t think of “not seeing her allure”, he would just think of her as unattractive. Not seeing allure implies that somebody described her as alluring to begin with (I don’t think any of the other characters did). You’ll be inside Aaron’s head more if you just describe her as unattractive.

    I think pretty much everything else was covered by other people. Overall, you’re doing a great job!

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  7. thanks everyone! all of your comments are really helpful and I’ll start making some changes 🙂
    considering most of you said you enjoyed it I’ll post the rest of it on my site. Feel free to keep on critiquing if you wish, it really does help me!

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  8. This piece has a lot of interesting elements. Aaron’s power to see a person’s weakness is neat . ^ ^ I like that it’s set in Australia and the supernatural element is really cool. On that note, I’d like to know they’re in Australia sooner so I can picture their accents. I’m also confused about the point of view since you mentioned Aaron’s hairstyle. I’m assuming it’s in Aaron’s or are you going for omniscient? Also because you mesh different character’s actions and dialogue into one paragraph I’ve gotten confused as to who is speaking. Make sure each character’s actions are on their own line especially around dialogue. Also the young woman seemed to pop out of nowhere. I am not sure where she came from or who she is. It doesn’t make much sense for Aaron to address her as a young woman if she knows her name all ready. I’d also take care of description. I see the characters, but not much of the setting. This is an intriguing piece though. With some tweaking this could be really cool! If you have any questions, let me know!

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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  9. Jess,

    This is an intriguing story idea. Let’s see if we can make it shine.

    If Aaron is the point-of-view character, you should write about only what he notices. I think it’s unlikely that he would be thinking about his hair with such detail, especially since he can’t even see his ponytail. Also, blond is usually spelled without an e on the end for a male. For a female, use blonde.

    Next: “As he approached the small jet a short figure emerged from it. Rick was wearing his usual navy blue suit with a with a tie. Today’s colour was red.”

    Was Rick the short figure emerging from the jet? You didn’t actually say so. Would Aaron be thinking about Rick’s stature at this moment? How did he “emerge”? Did he hop out of a cockpit? Descend stairs in a passenger compartment? I think you need more precise visuals. Also, you repeated “with a.”

    Next: “Imran’s already on board,” Rick said. Aaron gave him a small nod and strode past the shorter man and into the jet.

    There is no need for “the shorter man.” It sounds almost like a third man is there. Just write something like, “Aaron nodded, strode past him, and leaped into the jet.” (Again, it would help with visualization if you could provide the means of boarding.”

    Next: “There’s something you should know before you…” Rick started, the words stumbling quickly out of his mouth but Aaron had already seen the slender figure sitting in his plane.

    This confused me. How did Aaron know that Rick was going to mention the slender figure in the plane? Also, more visuals would help. Was she in a passenger’s seat? A co-pilot’s seat? Why just “the slender figure”? Why not say she’s a woman right away?

    Next: “Who’s she, Ricky?” Aaron asked, pointing at the young woman with his finger. Imran snickered from somewhere inside the aircraft.

    This seems odd. Why doesn’t he ask her who she is? It seems rude to point at her and ask someone else. Also, you don’t need “with his finger.”

    Next: “The last job we had tells a different story, Aaron.” The blonde man suddenly bristled, his shoulders pulling back and his chest sticking out boldly. Aaron glared into his boss’ eyes. “You know what I mean. Look, a little back up can’t be a bad thing. She’s just here to keep a birds eye view on the scene and take out any hidden threats. Give her a chance.” Aaron set his jaw and gritted his teeth together. He turned his back to Rick and sat in the seat furthest from everyone else.

    Was Rick speaking the entire time? When you wrote “Aaron glared into his boss’ eyes” it seemed like he would speak, but then the words that followed sounded like Rick’s.

    Try to separate the actions of one character from the words of a different character, and make sure the speaker is clear, like so:


    “The last job we had tells a different story, Aaron.”

    The blonde man suddenly bristled, his shoulders pulling back and his chest sticking out boldly. Aaron glared into his boss’ eyes.

    “You know what I mean,” Rick continued. “Look, a little back up can’t be a bad thing. She’s just here to keep a birds eye view on the scene and take out any hidden threats. Give her a chance.”

    Aaron set his jaw and gritted his teeth together. He turned his back to Rick and sat in the seat furthest from everyone else.


    It is better to avoid referencing a character in multiple ways. I would drop “The blonde man.” Just call him Aaron. Also, if this is Aaron’s point of view, you would alter how you describe the actions by showing him doing them rather than showing them happening on their own, like so: “Pulling his shoulders back and sticking his chest out boldly, Aaron glared into his boss’s eyes.”

    Also, when referring to spatial distance, use “farthest” instead of “furthest.”

    Next: “Now that the introductions are over,” Rick said, closing the door of the jet. “There have been three deaths reported in the Dandenong Ranges. The victims have been brutally mutilated and eaten. Considering the largest predator in Australia is the dingo and they don’t live in the area, we were contacted.”

    Introductions were not over. No one told Moira who Aaron is. So far, she seems like a featureless mannequin. Give us some visuals. Also, regarding Australia’s predators, isn’t a crocodile larger than a dingo?

    Next: “No,” Rick pulled out his phone and pressed a few buttons, sending documents to his team.

    This seems like it’s from Rick’s point of view. Are you trying for omniscient point of view? How did the documents arrive? To their phones? You don’t show them looking at phones or any other devices.

    Next: The team flipped through the photo evidence and skimmed the reports.

    Using phones? Were Moira and Imran looking as well? You need to get them involved, show them, have them say something. Right now they are invisible.

    Next: “The photo’s were difficult to look at” – Delete the apostrophe.

    Next: Great chunks of each victims flesh had been torn” – Insert apostrophe to make “victim’s”

    Next: “A creature that kills like this hasn’t been recorded in Australia before so we have no information. But our researchers are looking into it.”

    Who says this?

    Next: Aaron flicked to the last page of the report. There was a fuzzy picture of a monster. To explain what it looks like correctly would be to say it was a cross between a zombie and a werewolf. A hunched over deathly thin human covered in sort coarse grey fur. It had teeth longer and sharper than a humans but shorter and thinner than a werewolf. It’s eyes were a frightening, glowing red in hollow sockets.

    How did he flick? With a thumb on a screen? You have not shown what kind of device he is using. Also, try to avoid “There was” when you can, and the description was overly wordy. See the following for punctuation corrections.

    Aaron flicked to the last page of the report—a fuzzy picture of a monster. It looked like a cross between a zombie and a werewolf, a hunched-over deathly thin human covered in short, coarse grey fur. It had teeth longer and sharper than a human’s but shorter and thinner than a werewolf’s. Its eyes were a frightening, glowing red set in hollow sockets.

    Next: Rick turned to Imran. “Lets go.” – Insert apostrophe to make “Let’s”

    Next: “Can do,” Imran said from the front of the plane.

    This is the first time you told us where Imran is. You need to set positioning earlier. Also, readers still have no idea what he looks like.

    Next: Aaron pulled his black sword from the sheath on his back and checked it for signs of wear or bluntness.

    This is a critical description. I would mention the sword on his back earlier.

    Next: “for doing a great deed.” I think it would help to give some idea of what the great deed was.

    Next: “That’s a beautiful blade,” a woman’s voice commented.

    Just write, “That’s a beautiful blade,” Moira said.

    She’s the only woman on board, right?

    Break up the paragraph. Put Aaron’s action in its own paragraph, then make a new paragraph when Moira speaks again, and try to avoid the adverb when you can use a more vivid verb. Also, don’t give Aaron another name (the bad tempered man). It sounds like a new character walked in. Show his bad temper.


    “That’s a beautiful blade,” Moira said.

    Aaron shoved the sword back into its sheath.

    “Although I prefer to put a larger distance between myself and the bad guys. But then I don’t have the skill for hand-to-hand combat, unlike some.”

    Aaron turned to shoot her a hot glare, but when her face came into view, her warm brown eyes and heart-shaped face seemed to melt the anger away.


    It seems odd that Aaron would not notice her features until now, especially since they were apparently in the same area in the jet.

    Next:


    Staring right back at him were warm brown eyes on a heart shaped face. She had a short nose, almost completely black hair and brown skin. There was a nasty scar on her right cheek that had healed over years ago. Moira wasn’t highly attractive so Aaron didn’t understand her allure at first. But then she smiled. She smiled and every ounce of negativity he held in his body vanished.

    For the first time in his life Aaron didn’t want to use his gift. He didn’t want to violate her, to know her greatest weakness’. Unfortunately, as Aaron knew very well, it wasn’t something he had control over.


    These two paragraphs feel too much like narration rather then a character’s intimate point of view. Also, you use “There was” unnecessarily, and weaknesses has no apostrophe.

    Next: Aaron turned away from her and pretended like he had never looked in the first place. Moira gazed at him curiously and then, with care etched on her face, she opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted.

    If Aaron turned away, how could he see that care etched her face or that she opened her mouth?
    I get the impression that you are trying for an omniscient point of view, but I think it would be far better to show everything from Aaron’s perspective. Review my blog’s writing tips on point of view. If you need the links, let me know.

    Keep up the writing!

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