Critique Group – Gray Suit

Maybe. Maybe not.

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Gray Suit – by Tyler

Carson licked his lips, staring at a platter of sizzling pork ribs.  His senses tingled, immersed in the heavenly smell of barbecue sauce and greasy steam.  The fork quivered in his fingers, itching to stab into the sumptuous meal.

A bell gonged in the distance, snapping Carson from his daydream.  Sighing in forlorn, he glanced down at a slimy bowl of brown sludge… something the Chef had “cooked up,” no doubt.

Resolving himself to his fate, Carson drove his spoon into the muck, excavating a dripping mulch filled with tiny, unidentifiable chunks.  Grimacing, he lifted it to his lips, downing the murky substance in one fell swoop.  It slid down his throat, gelatinous and clingy, leaving behind a sickly sweet aftertaste.

He looked up at Joel, who sat across from him.  Carson’s childhood friend currently found himself in a similar, revolting predicament.

“Have you seen the schedule yet?”  Joel asked through a mouthful of glop.

Carson shook his head.  “No… but I hear we have an assessment today.”

“Really?  I wonder what that’s about.”

Shrugging, Carson leaned back in his seat, staring up at the gleaming, blue sky.  Not a cloud was in sight.  It was a picture of perfection, contrasting with the wretched taste in the backs of their throats.

The bell gonged twice, its dull tone vibrating the ground.  A thousand teenagers rose to their feet as one, responding to the sinister toll.  Their gray suits blended in with the stone courtyard in which they stood.

The voice of the head Thrall, whom they knew as Tinsel, boomed throughout the valley.

“GOOD MORNING, CADETS.  PLEASE PROCEED TO THE EAST PLAZA FOR YOUR ASSESSMENT IN SINGLE FILE.”

Carson hid his disappointment as he marched with the others along a wide, stone pathway.  His squadron’s home, South Plaza, was rarely chosen for important gatherings.  They were the least popular, consisting of a diverse mixture ranging from high-ranking cadets to the least of the least.

Carson felt someone pinch his arm.  He turned slightly, seeing Joel’s shaggy mop of red hair.

“You’re supposed to be with Ernest!”  He rasped through his teeth.  “What are you doing?!”

Joel peered up at his friend, his mouth a solemn line across his face.  “We need to go, Carson.  We need to go now.”

Carson scrunched his eyebrows together.  “What do you mean?!  We can’t go!  We have the assessment!”  He stared straight ahead, marching in time with the other gray suits.  A jagged building loomed to their right, signaling their rapid approach to the East Plaza.

“I… I’ve seen something,” Joel muttered, his eyes flicking back and forth.

“What?!  Stop being so enigmatic!”

“I can’t tell you here,” Joel whispered, tugging on Carson’s sleeve.  “You have to come with me.”

“But how?  They’ll see us!”

Joel tilted his head, a glimmer in his eye.  “No… they won’t.”

“What do you mean?”

“You see that window on the Felix Building?  The one with no panes?”

“Yeah… what about it?”

“If we move at just the right time, we can make it in.  They won’t see us… I promise!”

Carson shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut.  What am I doing?  He thought angrily.  Why am I actually considering this?!

The realization hit him like jab to the throat… it was the Thralls.  Deep in the back of his mind, he’d always known something was wrong with his life.  There was something eerily strange about the methodical patterns the cadets followed, under the supervision of the mysterious Thrall named Tinsel.  There were others too… whole hordes of them, he had heard.  No one knew exactly who… or what… they were… just that they were in control.

Carson tightened his fists, sweat soaking into the fabric of his gray suit.  He took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

“Alright…” he murmured.  “When do we have to go?”

A hint of a grin appeared on Joel’s face, and he grabbed Carson’s arm, yanking him through the mass of marching cadets.

Carson’s heart pounded in his chest as he and Joel raced toward the gloomy window.  Tucking in his head, he threw his body forward.  His hands slapped against moist concrete, burning from the impact.  He yelped when a stray stone stabbed through his trousers.

Rubbing his knee, Carson rose, peering into the darkness of this new room.  He turned around, watching the steady stream of gray cadets march past in unison.

The confused youth flinched as a black shield slammed across the window’s opening, cutting off the dim source of light.

Shivering in these new surroundings, Carson tried to see something… anything… that would give him direction.

“Joel?”  He called out.  “Are you in here?”

He strained his eyes, trying to see into the pitch black.  Hugging his arms across his chest, Carson turned around.

Mere inches from his face, two malicious, silver eyes glinted with glee.

 

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6 replies

  1. Great job!

    I was pulled in rather quickly with this and it held my attention the whole time through. Your description is good, and though the intensity is turned up quickly, I still got a look at the regular, slightly dull life of Carson 🙂

    Keep writing, I can’t wait to read more!!

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  2. I hope to post my critique soon. I apologize for the delay.

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  3. Tyler,

    This looks like it’s going to be a fun thriller. Good stuff.

    We need to work on varying your sentence structure. Note the first sentence:

    Carson licked his lips, staring at a platter of sizzling pork ribs.

    The first part has the main subject and verb, and the second part adds a participle phrase, that is, an “ing” verb phrase. You use this structure many times, almost exclusively in the narrative portions. I counted 21 uses of this structure. I also counted 35 participles.

    Using participles is fine, just not so often. They are helping verbs, weaker than indicative verbs. I would try to cut their use in this excerpt.

    For the structure that you use 21 times, I would try to reduce it to fewer than 10. I would try to reduce the participles from 35 to fewer than 20.

    Regarding the story itself, I think you build good intrigue, but it feels like you’re hurrying too much. You have the boys leaping into action before readers really get to know the setting.

    For example: “The realization hit him like jab to the throat… it was the Thralls.” That came out of the blue. As a reader, I was thinking, “What? Where did that come from?”

    I think you need more normal-world construction. Give the boys a goal within the realm of their ordinary world. Add mystery and intrigue. Introduce the Thralls and Tinsel in a way that drops sinister hints about them so that readers will wonder what they’re up to and draw their own conclusions. Don’t jump right to the crisis. Let it come as a lurking shadow. In other words, have patience.

    Since you need to rewrite this with more varied structure, I won’t go over the details, except the following:

    He yelped when a stray stone stabbed through his trousers.

    The yelping is the reaction to the stabbing. The stabbing comes first, so report it first.

    It’s a good story idea. With a bit of polishing, you can make it shine.

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  4. Thanks! I’ll put those ideas to use.

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  5. Ooh, this is really well written! Bravo! Besides that I agree with everything that Bryan Davis said, I would suggest two things:
    1. Explain how the boys get in the window, otherwise the reader will be wondering about that (at least I did!)
    2. Take a long time before Carson agrees to be suspicious of the master he’s obeyed his entire life. Make Joel have a really good explanation for why he’s suspicious of the Thralls. Or even make Carson be the one who becomes suspicious for some reason, and then Joel be the one who doesn’t believe him. Either way. Otherwise the reader will be wondering about that as well, if you know what I mean. This world is all Carson knows. He has no reason to be suspicious… and less there’s a really really good reason that hopefully you can come up with your creative writer’s mind. 😉
    Anyway, I hope that helps! And by the way, I absolutely love how you incorporated the sense of taste in the beginning. 🙂
    Overall, this was a delightful read, and definitely held my interest. Keep writing!

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