Workroom > Review My Writing - Getting Started

For review. Adult. No sex though, so don't get your hopes up. ~1000 words

(1/3) > >>

Mark Hoffmann:
This piece started as a scene in my book, but I cut it as it was not needed. With a few tweaks, I changed it to a stand-alone short.

I thought it would be useful to get some feedback on the writing in general. All views are very welcome.  :)

Alligators 2 : Students Nil

It was a glorious summer day, the perfect day for a road trip. Postgraduate philosophy students, Judy and Craig, had just reached the village of Oxwold, a picture-postcard spot with a village green, a duck pond, and cottages with thatched rooves and traditional black and white frontages.

"Shall we stop here and see if we can find a quaint, old country pub that has ploughman's lunch on the menu?" Judy said.

Craig didn't care how old or quaint the pub was so long as it had cider. "What a great idea," he said and turned their tatty VW camper into a car park adjacent to the village pond. There were no other vehicles around, but Craig diligently parked between the white lines. He switched off the engine, and they were about to get out and explore, when Judy spotted the alligator, seemingly asleep on the village green.

"Not our problem," Craig had said and turned the key to restart the van's engine. There was a click, then another click, but no rumble of German engineering. He stopped turning the key and looked at the alligator. It was huge; almost as long as the van.

"Why don't you call the police," Judy said.

Craig glared at his phone with irritation. "Typical. No signal." He shook it as if that might help. Then he opened the side window just enough to get his arm out and held the phone aloft. He squinted up at it.

Judy let out a squeak. "Craig! It moved its tail."

Craig snatched his arm back into the van and pressed the button to close the window. He stared at the creature. It still had its eyes closed, but its tail was indeed twitching. "I think it's dreaming; chasing wildebeest."

"You know this is all your fault," Judy said in a measured tone.

Craig turned on her. "My fault? Fuck off. If you weren't so obsessed with trying to find that mythical, and let's be honest, highly improbable quaint, old, country pub that serves half-decent food, we wouldn't be here. We could have stopped in a town and got a couple of pasties from Greggs – no doubt, an alligator free zone – then got the van repaired at Kwik Fit."

"Don't you shout at me you useless twat. I told you to get the starting motor fixed before we left London."

Craig let out a humourless laugh. "It's a starter motor, not a starting motor. Why would I trust the opinion of a gormless bint who doesn't even know what the part's called."

Judy jabbed her finger at Craig's face. "Well for a start, if you had listened to me, we wouldn't be stuck here, in the middle of nowhere, with no phone signal, in a van that won't start, with a fucking-great, alligator waiting to eat us."

Craig exhaled. "Listen, this is getting us nowhere." He pressed the button to lower his side window again and stuck out his head just enough to get a closer look at the beast. It appeared to be fast asleep. "You stay here. I'm going make a run for it; get us some help from the village."

He opened the van door. "Here goes." He got out and stood for a moment beside the van, watching the alligator for any signs of movement.

"Wait," Judy shouted as she made the worst decision of her young life. She got out of the van and gently pushed her door shut. "Let's face it together.".

The alligator awoke; first one eye opened then the other. It looked at Judy and licked its lips with a leathery tongue the size of a tennis racket. Judy screamed. "CRAIG. CRAIG. Do something."

"Quick, get on the roof of the van," Craig said and began clambering.

Judy put her hands on her hips. "What? Why can't we just get back inside the van?"

In the seconds it took Judy to proffer that alternative strategy the alligator had darted across the few feet separating them and was on her. It sank its jaws into her guts and shook her like a rag doll.

"Poke it in the eye," Craig shouted from the safety of the van roof, though whether Judy heard him over the sound of snarling and her own screams was debatable.

For a second Craig stood on the van roof, paralysed with fear, then he began shouting for help and looking around in disbelief at that lack of passers-by.  He realised no one was coming; he was on his own. If he were to save Judy, he'd have to act decisively. He took a long breath, held it, then threw his phone at the alligator's head. He missed. He closed his eyes, screwed up his face and tried to think his way out of the problem. He was, after all, almost a philosopher.

Suddenly he realised that the screaming had stopped. He looked down to see that the alligator had disappeared; it must have sloped off without him noticing. He jumped off the van roof with a thud.

All that remained of Judy was a pool of sticky blood, a heap of random body parts, and a pristine students' union card. He sniffed; the air had an unpleasant shitty aroma. He prodded Judy's carcass with his toe and wondered what he should do next. In many ways, it would have been easier if the alligator had eaten her entirely, but oh no, life was never that simple.

He was about to head off to the village to get help when he spotted a chunk of intestine stuck to the sole of his left shoe. He went to the van, grabbed Judy's favourite scarf, and wiped his shoe clean.

At first, the sharp pain in his leg didn't seem that bad. Then he looked down and saw an alligator attached at the calf, and it suddenly kicked in. He began thrashing the reptile on the head with his beanie. "Get off me you green bastard."

Judy's essence hovered by the pond and watched with a degree of schadenfreude as Craig performed his last few terminal thrashings.

After a brief pause, Craig's essence appeared beside Judy's. "Hi," he said.

Judy scowled at him. "That was my favourite scarf."

He shrugged. "Exactly. It was your favourite. You no longer need a scarf. You no longer have a neck."

There was something hurtful about Craig's comment; something Judy could not quite put her finger on. Not that she had a finger.

"What happens now?" Craig asked.

"No idea," Judy said.

Then their essences began to shimmer and fade until a light breeze came and scattered their remaining electrons to the corners of the Earth.


If this was a chapter in a larger piece, it makes me curious about the novel—so there’s that.

A bit on the micro and then to the macro. The opening with weather, as you know, is clearly cliched. That with the stylized dialogue Judy had me a little off. If not an intentional choice, I would suggest losing the telling in the first paragraph and just show the day. The other smaller issue I had was similar in that I felt the alligator was not done justice. He’s the third character, the antagonist, and I feel more time could be spent on him, or her. More depth in the physical description. More meat to the characters reactions.

The macro issue I had, I think, was it was too far into the gray for me to categorize. It felt allegorical and then I searched for what the gator represented—a statement against gentrification, the minor issues in relationships that tear them apart, a piece to show the importance of awareness? If this isn’t meant to be there, then the attack was too farcical. In fact, the entire gig was too farcical. Personally, if the farce is your aim, I’d spend more time on the wit of the dialogue and develop a bit a of depth of the two characters.

Hope this helps!


Mark Hoffmann:
Hi Emery

Thanks for reading and for your feedback.

There's no deeper meaning and it is meant to be farcical - though I prefer the term absurd. I spent a long time on this and in the end dropped it from the novel because I could just not make it funny enough. I guess the same is true in this short form.

Thanks again for your input.



Having been exposed via The Station/Village to your farces, (I checked to make sure spellchecker hadn't sneakily swapped it for faeces), I wasn't looking for allegory or a deeper social message.

Entertaining, and I quite liked the thought of the two ghosts still squabbling.  The 'you don't need a scarf because you don't have a neck anymore' sounded very much like Asperger's logic.  Perfectly correct, but socially inappropriate.

I found it hard to imagine a VW engine rumbling, even if it had started for them.

Spelling issue.  The plural of roof is roofs.    I agree that rooves sounds right, because I used to spell it that way until it was pointed out.  If you look at roofs and rooves long enough they both start to look wrong ;-)  Hoof becomes hooves  doesn't it, not hoofs, although apparently it used to be hoofs in older english.


I am definitely no expert in humor, so take this all with a heavy grain of salt, but I think you’re landing too middle. I do think it’s a funny story, but the humor isn’t just the situation but your characters. My opinion is on the revision you free yourself. Go all in on the farce, especially with the banter. The situation in the car is an organic way to have a witty back and forth with your characters. I think setting that mood of bite and wit will help the climax land.

Again, almost everything I write is tragic, so maybe not the best source.


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version