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Mr Kill

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Mr Kill was first published on the Brighton COW (Brighton Community of Writers) website, where it made it into the final 10 stories of the quarterly short story competition. Sadly, the Brighton COW website was taken down early in 2012, so their competition is no longer running.

Prior to this, Mr Kill was shortlisted in issue 114 of Writers' Forum (you can see the Writer’s Forum critique at the bottom of this page), the May 2011 edition (but not selected as a winner) and also entered in the Bristol Prize (I can’t really tell you much about this competition as I had no correspondence with them – all I know is that in 2011 there were in excess of 2,000 entries from all over the world, so competition is high), where it failed to be shortlisted. Below is the story, the comments I have received from the judges, followed by my comments based on the experiences I’ve had with the competition.

Brighton COW short story competition logo

Mr Kill was published again by Katha Kshetre's Temple of Short Stories in March 2016.

It was then published again in December 2016 by Dark Lane Books in the Dark Lane Anthology Volume 4. You can learn about the book here.

Dark Lane Books logo

Mr Kill by Christopher Fielden

1

Mrs Ida Wadworth is looking at me sceptically. I’ve explained that I can’t resuscitate the dead worm she’s produced from her pocket. She seems to be having trouble accepting my prognosis.

'But you’re a vet,’ she says.

‘No I’m not.’

‘It says so on your door.’

‘No it doesn’t.’

She surveys me with unmasked contempt. ‘Are you going to save my worm?’

‘It’s been cut in half.’

‘I know that, you fool. I did it with my trowel.’

‘Even if I were a vet, there is no way to reanimate a decapitated worm.’

‘So you are a vet.’

‘No. I’m a doctor.’

Ida scrutinises me with rheumy eyes, her purple hair rinse glowing with alien phosphorescence. ‘You look like a vet to me.’

I’ve run out of different ways to say the same thing. Thankfully, Ida moves towards the door. As she leaves, I receive a scowl 80 years in the making, but I discern a hint of disappointment in her glare, as though she had expected more from me. The door clicks shut behind her.

I sit for a minute and consider the patient I’ve just seen. Could she be a potential candidate for The Programme? No. She might be senile, but I enjoy Ida’s visits. She isn’t a bad person and, although rude, she often delivers the unexpected into an otherwise predictable day. With her walking its streets, the village of Dingle Green is a more interesting place to live.

As I turn back to my computer, I feel an intense pain in my head. It arrives from nowhere. I reach up to rub my scalp. As quickly as it materialised, the pain vanishes, as though it were never present. I investigate with my fingertips, half expecting to see blood, but there is nothing. Feeling slightly disorientated, I reach out and press the buzzer to summon my next patient. The room shifts slightly, taking on a hazy quality. I wipe my forehead, but my skin is dry.

Looking back at my computer screen, I see most of the details for my next patient are missing. I click refresh. Now there’s even less information.

I jump with surprise as I notice a man in the room, sitting on the chair Ida vacated. He’s watching me intently. I didn’t hear him enter the room, or notice any movement. I feel myself redden as though caught in the middle of some nefarious act.

The man is dressed in black, his leather coat long and worn. He has mutton chops on his cheeks, but manages to wear them more like Wolverine than John McCririck. His hair is dark and streaked with grey. Pallid skin is clamped tightly to his skull, making him look ill. In contrast, his stare burns with life. I find it unnerving.

‘I’m afraid we’re having some computer problems,’ I say. ‘Can I take your name?’

‘Kill.’

‘I’m sorry?’

‘Kill.’ The man’s eyes are a piercing grey, the colour of stormy sky.

‘Mr Kill... OK. Forename?’

‘Slash.’

Marvellous. A joker. Or a fruitcake. I hope he’s the latter. It might mean he’s eligible for The Programme.

‘Middle names?’

‘Hack, Maim.’

‘You expect me to believe your name is Slash Hack Maim Kill?’ I look up and wish I hadn’t. Mr Kill’s expression indicates two things. One: He is indeed Mr Slash Hack Maim Kill. Two: If he’s asked his name again, I might come out of this encounter one testicle down. ‘Your parents must have had a sense of humour.’

He smiles thinly. ‘My old man likes Frank Zappa.’

Now my computer screen is completely blank. ‘I’m sorry,’ I say as I pick up the phone. ‘Please bear with me.’ The phone’s dead, too, and I notice the second hand on my clock has stopped moving. Have we had a power cut?

‘I hear things,’ says Kill. I jump again, this time because his voice is so close. He’s pulled his chair towards me, but I didn’t see or hear a thing.

‘Voices?’

‘Kind of.’

‘Do they tell you things?’

Kill leans forward, as though to impart a dreadful secret...

2

Do you want to read the rest of 'Mr Kill' and find out what the dreadful secret is?

Then please check out my short story collection Book of the Bloodless Volume 1: Alternative Afterlives, published by Victorina Press.

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Comments from the Brighton COW Judges

Below are the comments I received from the Brighton COW judges, explaining why Mr Kill was short listed. Many thanks to Andrew Campbell-Kearsey for providing this information for me to use on the site.

Hi Chris 

We received over a hundred stories for our Spring 2011 Short Story Competition. The judges read every story at least once and always through to the end. We are , of course, looking for an engaging, interesting story. I know it sounds like a cliché but the writer must write in a way that makes the reader want to go on. We can easily forgive minor technical or grammatical errors. The story is what matters. Does it have anything to say and do we care enough? 

Your story was shortlisted for several reasons. It was cleverly constructed. There was a unity that meant the ending tied in beautifully with the beginning. It was a fascinating premise. The main characters embark on a discussion about the intrinsic value of human life. This is a huge issue to tackle in a short story. It was handled well. Some writers struggle with dialogue. You managed to convince and give greater insight into the characters through what they said. 

For the  judges to shortlist a story, it needs to stay with us for a few days. Some are good to read but essentially are disposable over time. Your story was shortlisted as it was a ‘stayer’ and gave the judges a great deal to talk/think about. 

Well Done

Andrew @ brightonCOW

Mr Kill Brighton COW Certificate C Fielden

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About the Brighton COW Competition

This was a quarterly short story competition, with a 3,000 word limit. It offered a £100 first prize, a £50 second prize and a £25 third prize. If a story was shortlisted into the final ten, you had the option to have your tale published on the website (the Brighton COW website no longer exists, so sadly you can no longer see Mr Kill there). You also had the option to have your story recorded and read out on Brighton Coastway Hospital Radio. You can hear the recording of Mr Kill below.

I really liked the humour offered on the Brighton COW website. By reading the winning stories on the site, you were also able to see that many of them were funny, which appealed to me and is what inspired me to enter this competition. Below are some other comments you may find useful:

  • The regularity of a quarterly competition means you don’t have to wait a year to re-enter the competition with new stories. Regularity also means there are fewer entrants in each round of the competition giving you a better chance of winning and / or being published. In the competition I entered there were 102 entries. The top ten stories were published on the Brighton COW site.
  • Entry was very reasonable at £4.
  • I loved the fact that if you were shortlisted into the final ten your story was published and recorded and broadcast on the local radio. What a fantastic prize to offer.
  • As ten winning stories were published each time a competition was run, it allowed a writer to research the styles of the winning stories and tailor their entry to suit.
  • The judges and other people who ran the competition offered good communication, corresponding with you to let you know they’d received your story etc. I also found them incredibly helpful in providing information for my website. These were real people who were interested in engaging with other writers. It's a real shame the competition no longer runs.
  • The guidelines were clear and fair, without any ridiculous rules. This competition, unlike many others, would accept previously published work and stories that had won other competitions. This offered an excellent opportunity to make a good story earn you more money by having it published twice.
  • In addition to their quarterly short story competition, Brighton COW ran a number of other writing competitions throughout the year, so it was a site worth visiting regularly!

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Mr Kill Critique

Below is the critique I received from Writers’ Forum, written by Lorraine Mace.

Hello Chris,
Mr Kill
Thanks for entering the Writers’ Forum competition.
Presentation: Manuscript layout is generally very clean. I couldn’t spot any obvious errors.
Title: Very good. As soon as I saw the title I wanted to read the story.
Opening: Excellent introduction to our narrator. The humour in the opening lines sets the tone for the story to follow.
Dialogue: Very good – this works to drive the story onwards and also aids characterisation.
Characterisation: Mr Kill fairly leaps from the page – a wonderful creation. The other characters are also believable and well rounded.
Overall: If I had to find fault with this story, it would be that the ending was a touch predictable once we know that he is underground, but that is a very minor complaint. I loved the humour in this and found the totally unbelievable scenario to be credible – no mean feat!
You have a lovely style and I enjoyed reading your work very much indeed. I’m short-listing this story – congratulations! Should the story move forward to the top three, someone will be in touch to let you know.
Shortlisted
Best wishes, Lorraine Mace

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Your comments:

Mega Geoff
a catch 22, i love it mate.

Chris Fielden
ta Mega

Marc B
nice one topaz

Chris Fielden
Thanking you Mac Brazzle

Lynne S
Its a bit short... but very interesting! Is there more of it?

Jase of Spades
I read it. I liked it. I like the worm, reminds me of me. Good job kid..you get paid?

Julie H
Well done Topher! x

Chris Fielden
The nature of short stories is that they are short... Paid my arse. Thanks Julie :) And Jase of Spades :)

Janey E
YESSS! Good one Topher!

Chris Fielden
Ta Janey Jane

Janet G
I loved this, appealed to my dark sense of humour, with plenty of twists along the way as we anticipate what the 'programme' might be. Perfect ending I thought.

Pity about Brighton Cow, I entered once, then it ceased to exist before I got another chance!

Caimh
Excellent story, in my opinion it was even stronger that Devil's Crush, which I also really enjoyed. I've just bought your novel, really looking forward to reading it.

Thanks a million for the fantastic website as well, I've just got into writing short stories in the last few months and your breakdown of all the competitions has proven absolutely invaluable.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Janet :-) And yes, it's a real shame that Brighton COW disappeared.

And thanks, Caimh. Glad you like the stories and have found the site useful.

And thanks for buying my book. The style is a bit different from the short stories as I developed them after writing the novel, but hopefully you'll enjoy it!

Carol H
Hi Chris, thanks for sharing this wonderful story.  It caused me to laugh out loud in several places (something I have not done for a little while).  Brilliant characters - particularly the batty old woman and the fear-inducing Mr Kill! Perhaps I'm not as switched on as the Writers' Forum representative but the twist at the end I found delightful and unexpected.

I shall certainly use this story with its 2 competition feedback responses as a 'How to' template for myself, in order to try and craft my own short stories to a similar standard.  Well done!

I don't know if you respond to comments but if you do, would you mind telling me how long you have been writing short stories and how long before you reached this standard? Thanks in anticipation.

Chris Fielden
Carol, glad you liked the story :-)

I've been writing for about 20 years on and off, but only seriously for the last 7 years. I started concentrating on short stories about 4 years ago. Mr Kill was the second short story I wrote after finishing a writing course. I wrote a few stories while undertaking that (none of which were very good, to be honest) and then started concentrating solely on short stories after finishing my novel in 2010. Writing the novel helped me improve my writing skills a lot, so I learnt a lot from that. I then found short stories much easier to finish and found a lot more success with having them published, so have concentrated on that ever since.

I hope that's helpful and gives you some idea of time scales, but bear in mind I work full time in a demanding job, so have developed my writing around that. If you could concentrate solely on writing, you would probably see success more quickly.

Carol H
Hi Chris, thank you for responding to my questions.  I think you have done very well considering you work full-time and I'm impressed Mr Kill was only your 2nd short story! Well done. Regards, Carol

PS: I'm so impressed I don't know whether to be inspired or dejected but I think I'm learning from you that consistency and focus is the key. Thanks once again.

Chris Fielden
No problem Carol. Please be inspired! That's the idea behind the site, anyway :-) And bear in mind I did write a novel before writing that story, so there was a fair amount of practice in doing that!

Margaret E
Hello again Chris. I have just read 'Mr Kill' and thought it was brilliant. In fact it's so cleverly written I shall need some Strengthening Mixture before bothering to continue with my own writing. When I got to the last paragraph I was laughing out loud, and then hating myself for doing so. Such a sad, black, unexpected - to me - ending... but a humour I very much enjoy, so thank you for publishing it on your website. Best wishes and congratulations.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Margaret. I'm glad to hear you liked the story. I share the stories to inspire others, not stop them from writing. I hope you continue to write and wish you the best of luck with it all.