The Cathedral Killer feedback

Phil: OK, you’ve now read our short story, The Cathedral Killer (Part 1 and Part 2) we entered it into the Writers Forum short story competition and also paid for some feedback. Here’s what we received:

Presentation: Manuscript layout needs some attention. You might find this post useful: and also this one: for dialogue punctuation. When a sentence starts with a number it has to be written out in words. Salaciously isn’t the right word in context. Typos: over hang/overhang, though/thought, brothers/brother’s, see/seen, back packing/backpacking, no-where/nowhere

Title: Good – apt for the story and intriguing.

Opening: This introduces the main character, but it doesn’t contain a compelling reason to read on. A strong hook is needed to grab the reader’s attention.

Dialogue: The dialogue helps to drive the story but doesn’t do as much as it could to aid characterisation.

Characterisation: Brad didn’t come to life as a real person. I think you could have used his dialogue to flesh him out more – particularly as you want the readers to believe he is the killer.

Overall: I realised a bit too early that she was the killer – it had to be her because it obviously wasn’t Brad. I think you need to give us another red herring so that readers will believe it is Brad. In other words, make another character suspicious, the readers will discount him and look for someone else, so Brad needs to be the next logical person but appear to be above suspicion (which then makes him suspicious).

Needs some work but has potential


OK, it’s not the ringing endorsement we were hoping for but I think I can see where most of it comes from. We’re still at the stage of trying to balance writing enough story to make it interesting with keeping the short story, well, short. If another character was added to make Brad more suspicious, would we need to increase the length of the thing by a third to give this person some dialogue ? Does this matter ?

To be fair, I’d had the same “I guessed the killer too early” point made by a friend who read the story. Throwing red herrings in is much harder than you would think. Agatha Christie was brilliant at this yet she’s often accused of writing pot-boilers. On the other hand we want people to be able to guess the outcome. I hate it when a deus ex machina gets the writer out of a hole. I want to solve the crime, or at least realise I could have solved it.

Still, at least we have potential. Maybe we will re-work the story and re-publish it at a later date in some sort of anthology. Mind you, we’ve also had ideas along the lines of turning it into a play where the audience take the part of the tourists following the tour. Potential indeed.


Filed under Phil, Writing

3 responses to “The Cathedral Killer feedback

  1. How short does a short story have to be to qualify?

  2. Gosh. 1000-3000 words is really short to make decent plot, red herrings AND believable characters! I think in this instance you have to use very broad strokes to put a picture in the reader’s mind. I was doing an exercise recently, on a train journey, where I pictured various acquaintances who are larger than life characters and tried to describe them in 1 to 3 sentences. Or think about how you distinguish between your friends: “Remember Dave? Always wore that manky tartan hat, but totally loved his chihuahuas. Didn’t he stink of wotsits until he met Sharon and started going to the gym?”

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