Way back in my fanfiction era, I encountered a lot of darn good writing from really talented young writers. One scene from a particular story still sticks in my mind, because it’s so terrifying and so well written. This is from Project Mobitropolis, a Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic by S. Davis.
Watch the way he varies the sentence structure. Long sentences that get shorter and shorter. Finally even punctuation is missing, conveying the frantic panic of Sonic’s nightmare.
Sonic drifted through the water, semiconscious and delirious. He couldn’t see ahead in the darkness, but then he couldn’t see much of anything anymore. He knew nothing but the sound beating through the recesses of his mind. A countdown.
t minus eight
As it counted down, he pondered. Snakes lay eggs, don’t they? Perhaps that’s what the mother hen was. Not a hen at all but a snake. A gigantic coiled snake, slithering through the vastness of space, just waiting for its abominable child to incubate. A blue snake, or a red one. Perhaps two snakes, coiled together in that ladder-shape, just waiting to lay one giant egg, big enough to destroy Mobius. An egg represents new life, but this is no ordinary egg. It is a death egg. When the death egg hatches, only chaos spills forth. Chaos spills forth, just
t minus seven
like it did before, all those years ago. The red people, all decorated in gold and silver, running away from (the death egg?) from (snakes?) from some beast that hid out of sight, it changed shape somehow, it… it… wasn’t… possible, it defied possibility, it wasn’t a snake but something… it makes the mind hurt, it makes it ache
t minus six
It doesn’t matter. The beast is gone now. It’s in the emeralds. Chaos is in the emeralds now, it has saturated them, twisted them, they seek the evil, they seek it like they desire to be with it forever, because it’s a part of them. Why do the red people still run? No, no it isn’t them, they’re not running,
t minus five
it’s Sonic who’s running, he’s running, he’s running and the Master is standing next to him and commanding him to run and he must or he will be punished and it hurts where they poke him and he’s running but not moving he isn’t going anywhere he’s running in one place and it’s killing him
t minus four, sonic
and the Master is laughing is laughing at his pain and the Death Egg is launching and his friends are dying they’re dying the king is dying and the snakes are laughing the red people are dying the emeralds are laughing and Chaos is roaring and Sonic is running
t minus three, sonic, hurry
and he can’t make it in time because the Egg is hatching and he’s so fast he’s the fastest thing alive but oh God he’s not going anywhere he’s running on the spot and the red people are crying out to him
t minus two sonic hurry hurry up
and they are all dying every one the egg is hatching death the chaos the fury the death the machine the fate the death he’s not moving he’s not moving he’s not moving he’s not moving
t minus one sonic hurry hurry hurry just
Sonic realised that he was screaming and that screaming meant that he wasn’t under the water anymore.
You don’t have to understand what he’s talking about to pick up on the hysteria. It’s all in the style–full sentences, to run-on-sentences, to a bunch of fragments all chained together. Shorter and shorter paragraphs. And italics on almost all the nouns and verbs. You can almost hear the character’s voice screaming.
And the mystifying countdown. Countdowns are always terrifying, particularly in narrative. It’s like in a movie when the camera keeps cutting to that bomb’s timer.
I’m not sure if a professional editor would pass something like this. But to me, this scene is all art. The sort of experimental writing I’ve only ever seen when the unpublished writer is writing from the bottom of their heart, and just want to hear the words sing.