New Fiction: “What His Sister Told Him”

Posted on Sun 27 January 2013 in Dispatches • 3 min read

I’ve added the short story that I wrote for the Kopoint Halloween Spooktacular to the fiction section of this site. I’ll continue to add stories and fiction projects that I release online to that area as the days go forward. You can read the text version of the story, or even listen to the embedded podcast at the end if you would prefer the audio format.

A Little Commentary

It’s often said that all writers hate their own work to some extent. I’m not sure if that’s really true, but I know that I start to grow unhappy with anything I’ve written within two weeks of finishing it. That being said, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I hate this story, because I am rather proud of it, but I’m also well acquainted with its flaws. I thought it might be a fun excercise to identify those flaws in a public forum as an educational tool to others.

Needless to say, you should read the story before continuing. Go ahead; I’ll wait.

The Good

In general, I’m happy with the language of this piece, and there are several alliterative sentences at key points designed to sound pleasant during an audio performance. I’m quite pleased with the overall creepiness level of the story, as that was something I was really striving for in a Halloween tale. I feel like the sense of dread from an uncaring, hungry beast of a world is a fun conceit on the spookiest of holidays, especially when I knew that much of our podcast episode was going to revolve around H.P. Lovecraft.

I’m also fond of the imagery in this piece, as it’s drawn from many a winter storm commute on Iowa highways.1

The Bad

There are two major flaws with this story that I see now, that weren’t apparent to me at the time I initally released this piece.

The Storm

Even though I go to great pains to have his sister tell him time and again that there’s nothing following them, and that “there’s nothing back there”, there is a lot of storm imagery. As a result, the reader is expecting that to be the big bad of the story. In fact, I have an image of the storm swallowing the car.

Of course, it’s really the world itself that’s stalking Eddie, which of course includes the storm, it’s quite misleading and can be pretty confusing for a reader.

I tried to address this at the end with Molly’s parting line, but in retrospect, I don’t think it does it’s job.

The Cashier

This is the most blatent problem in the piece.

I hadn’t sufficiently established that a erson can stand in for the malevolence of the world besides Molly. As a result, this is not only a surprise, it’s confusing. Even worse, it confuses the reader right before the reveal that it’s the world itself that’s been stalking him, not a beast. It raises all sorts of distracting questions about Molly and the cashier, and I didn’t have a good reason for it to be there. I had this image in my mind of the cashier’s frost-bitten corpse, and I put it on the page without regard to the story, which is a serious problem.

I was tempted to write the cashier thing out of it altogether before posting this, but since I had already released the whole thing in audio it seemed silly to make such a major revision now. Besides, I have other stories to write.

A Lesson

I’ve already taken these lessons and applied them to my current work in progress. I plan on regularly doing commentary like this on stories I release, whenever it appears to be justified. I think it’s instructive and helps me be more aware of bad habits that make their way into my work.

If this kind of analysis is interesting to you, let me know in the comments below. If you’d rather just get the stories without all this meta talk, let me know too.

And of course, if you enjoyed the story, I’d love to hear from you.


  1. Though I haven’t had any ghosts in my backseat yet.