Critique Group – Dream Man

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“Son, I advise you to delete that horrible story that you began as a first-grader and start something new.”

“But it’s five thousand pages long. It’s my life’s work.”

“It’s not a wonderful life. Trash it.”

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Dream Man – by Nichole

After fumbling with the lock, I was finally able to enter the room. The wall was outlined with bullet holes as if it were connect the dots and read: We Had a Deal

My heart froze as I reeled backwards. “Not yet!” I shouted, but it was too late.

Gravity was no more. I felt like I was floating but being crushed at the same time; a perfect dream state.

As hard as I fought it, my eyelids closed. There was nothingness for a few seconds until I awoke to a strange ticking noise. I blinked in the dim yellow light and found myself tied to a chair. The ticking sound came from a large clock on a peeling blue wall.

“Mr. Bailey,”

A gritted my teeth. “I had a few more hours.”

“Pity.”

He entered from the shadows into the light, something Nightmare never did. He was still a little blurry, but scary all the same. His shady human form was always changing, like molten shadow mixed with fire.

“I suppose you didn’t think it would come this soon?”

I didn’t reply. He meant my death sentence. Five years ago I made a deal with Nightmare to haunt people’s dreams or cause them to have bad ones. It seemed pretty pointless now, but back then it was the only hope I had. I could never wake up from my nightmares and was now an agent of them.

I hadn’t collected enough dreams in the 1,825 days I had.

I’m not dead, if that’s what you’re thinking. I’m still alive, but wish I wasn’t. I’m free to do whatever I want as long as I collect thirty two dreams, specifically nightmares, a day.

As you can imagine, that chore takes up all of my time. I used to have a family. Two kids and a wife. But I’d lost it all to this demon Nightmare.

“Just kill me.” I muttered.

“Without a second chance? No, no, I am a fair man, Harrick.” His voice was like a volcano; starting out as a low rumble until it exploded.

“What do you mean?” I eyed him skeptically.

“I mean, you get another stab in the dark,” he chuckled. “I need you to create three Lifetimes for me.”

I grimaced. Lifetimes happened when I caused trauma in someone’s life that would give them nightmares for, well, a lifetime. I much preferred collecting random nightmares while people slept. But if that would free me…

“What kind of Lifetimes?”

Nightmare smiled, which pretty much looked like a black sliver in the middle of his faceless head. He leaned close enough to where I could feel the emptiness emanating from his dark soul.

“Yours.” He whispered.

My eyes flew open.

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6 replies

  1. Nichole, wow!! How is it done already?? I loved it and was drawn in from the beginning! Some things though, try to describe a little more. I couldn’t really picture Nightmare until the end. But you did an awesome job! Hope I can read more someday!! 🙂

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  2. Wow! I found myself really wishing for more! I think it’s a good idea, add a bit more description and smooth out the rough edges, and it would be a GREAT idea!

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  3. Nichole,

    This is a cool idea. I think it can work.

    As another commenter mentioned, I would like to see more descriptions of the main character’s surroundings, but I would also like a much longer setup scene. Make the opening dream longer.

    Give us an opportunity to learn about this character’s motivations and goals before the meeting with Nightmare. Why was this person trying to enter the room? Why was it important? I need a reason to care about the character. Have him or her think about the family. Show the consequences of failure while the initial events are occurring. Give some expectation that such a message might appear on the wall so readers will immediately understand the ramifications of seeing it.

    As it stands, I don’t care enough about this character, so the meeting with Nightmare had no tension. Give me time to invest in the protagonist so I can emotionally connect.

    A few details:

    “I didn’t reply.”

    When possible, try to avoid telling what a character doesn’t do. Tell what he or she does do.

    “I’m not dead, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

    Are you talking to the readers? I would avoid doing this. It jerked me out of the story. Let the story explain these things you’re explaining as the narrator.

    Overall, you wrote this well. If you provide more to connect with the character earlier without narrator intrusion, I think it can be great.

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  4. Wow, thank you so much! I really appreciate your advice 🙂

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