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Seb's picture


By Seb in Arrest Us

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Is it a crime to accept a gift? Is it wrong to allow others to donate, if you are the sole beneficiary?

You may be wondering why I am asking you this, or even who I am. Have patience my friend, everything will be revealed in due course. It’s not important what you think, just that you listen.

Knock knock.


kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 7, 2014 - 4:40pm

Hey Seb. I usually hate second-person narration, but this is one of the rare instances where it not only worked well, but I can't imagine the story working without it - he's conning me, the reader, in addition to whatever faceless victims exist in his fictitious world. The whole piece reminds me of Joe Mantegna's big speech to Lindsay Crouse in David Mamet's 'House of Games' (though the two stories couldn't be more different). I think I liked the animal con the most - it's more plausible, and more ingenious. Small enough that people wouldn't notice or question it. I think you could build an entire story around those barely-perceptible cons without needing to escalate it to the kidnapped-daughter or the cult bits, which, while not implausible, might require some leaps of logic to actually be believable. I think that's important considering the narrator is talking to me specifically, so I can't help but continually think about my own responses to these scenarios. But that's a minor gripe because the whole thing works well. Your style is really great and this was a delight to read. 

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 8, 2014 - 2:41am

Thanks for your feedback, I appreciate you taking the time to read and review. David Mamet? Thank you! I'm glad the story worked for you.

Dylan Mackey's picture
Dylan Mackey from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Wake Up Dead by Roger Smith July 15, 2014 - 10:07am


Really liked the story - it grabbed me from the start and all the way through the end. Every page had me wondering what was going to happen. It was well-paced and I loved the hynpotic story the narrator told.

I especially enjoyed the salesman tactics applied to a grifter. The language involved to turn a mark into a confidant. Really liked it.

And the cult angle at the end was terrific.

Great read - thumbs up.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 15, 2014 - 10:31am

Thanks Dylan, much appreciated and I'm glad you liked it.

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On July 17, 2014 - 9:32pm

Great opening hook, and I love the use of 2nd person. I also like that it built up to the reveal that he's addressing this to a captive--literally, when at first it seemed like he was addressing everyone in general. One thing I'd suggest is when he amasses the initial twelve people to his cult, that he mentions that many before them didn't show up. In fact, maybe have him explain how sometimes the scams don't work, and to have him retell some instances where it backfired. As it is, it feels like he "gets his man" every time, which strains credibility some. That said, I liked the voice of the character and the way to set up the order of scams. A top story in this contest for sure!

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 17, 2014 - 11:20pm

Thanks Dino. I think you've got a valid point there, showing the narrator's fallibility. Nice one.

Tim Hennessy's picture
Tim Hennessy July 18, 2014 - 7:25am


You have an ambitious set up for a con man story that for me didn’t really come together at all.

First, it didn’t seem to me that the point of view worked. Since it’s a con man story and you have a character who fancies himself a smooth talker I kept wondering throughout, who is this guy actually addressing? It felt like he was explaining himself to somebody but I never got a clear sense of to whom or why. With a con man story that’s huge.

The POV also waivered between first person POV told in the present tense with some moments that lapsed into second. If you were going for second person, there need no uses of the “I” pronoun to keep that POV consistent. The second person is like writing into the mirror and that may not be the strongest narrative choice for this story depending to whom your narrator is addressing and for what reason.

If you also want to stick with the second person narrator be careful of falling into the listing of action -- You do this and You do that. It’s a tough POV and like I mentioned might not be right for a con man story.

You have three situations of escalating cons and I didn’t get a clear sense of how they were related other than the narrator getting bolder. Depending on where you wanted to go with this story, they could be weaved into the narrative so that it all came together more than I think did.

I do think you have an interesting concept that with some further consideration and experimenting with narrative could be a really great story. Con men stories are a difficult because you are creating a character who is not being honest with the characters in the story but also with the reader. For that to pay off, you have to have the narrative and story structure tightly in place because it is all dramatic slight of hand in the end. 

I hope any of this helps. If you’re looking for a great con man story, where the POV really grabs you, check out Hell on Church Street.



Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 18, 2014 - 7:48am

Thanks for your feedback Tim. The reader is the victim of the third con, tied up and gagged. The first two are 'what if' scenarios where the narrator explains how he could take your money, then the third is him recalling the con on the reader to remind you of what happened, and explain it from his point of view. For me this was an exercise in second person perspective, and hiding things between the lines. The different tenses are intentional, based on whether the narrator is addressing the reader, explaining a hypothetical situation, or recounting a previous experience. I appreciate your thoughts, however. Perhaps I could have made it clearer why and how the story was being told, but as I said it was an experiment. Thanks.

Doug Allan's picture
Doug Allan from Fife, Scotland is reading Last Exit to Brooklyn July 19, 2014 - 7:20am

Hey Seb. Great story. I felt you captured the wiley manipulation of the victim's well. I would have liked a little more insight into what it was in the book that converted these people so easily into mindless disciples. At the moment it seems avoided because the storyline requires these people to submit. The story has a good flow and I was hooked to see where it went. My only real complaint is that I always groan when I read a cliche (skin and bones, a theif in the night).


Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 19, 2014 - 9:17am

Thanks for the thoughts, Doug. The thief in the night is a biblical reference, there were a few of those to hint at the third act, but I see how it can be a cliché. Thanks for reading and reviewing, much appreciated.

RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors July 22, 2014 - 12:12pm

Hi Seb

I enjoyed this a hell of a lot. This is the first second-person perspective story I've actually enjoyed. I came into it thinking, 'oh boy,' but by the second line I was hooked.

I've worked in hard-sales, and so I've been around literal con-men like this, and a lot of what you hit upon I've seen in real life. Definitely had a connection there. The second con was a little harder to grasp; I read the majority of it thinking I wouldn't fall for it, because I probably wouldn't have opened the door, but that's just me.

When I realised what we had going on in the third con, I was in love. I've always been fascinated by cults and how they start up, and this hit the spot. I would have suggested the con-man try to target 'weaker' people, such as former alcoholics, drug-addicts, gamblers and the likes, but this still works I think. I few months back I'd been reading about the cult Aum Shinrikyo, and it's not too far from what you've got here. Take a read of it if you haven't yet:

This is one of my favourites here because of the POV and originality. It's great to see something refreshing!
Good luck with it.


Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 22, 2014 - 1:09pm

Thanks Rhys, I appreciate your feedback. That's actually one of the cults I was reading about, along with Jonestown and a few others, when I had the idea for this story. I was researching for something else and it just stuck with me. Well spotted! Nice one, thank you.

CMBeckett's picture
CMBeckett from the heart of Maine is reading The Dark Beyond the Stars by Frank M. Robinson July 29, 2014 - 10:47am


Thank you for reading and commenting on my story - quite a while back, now.  I apologize for not getting to yours sooner.  Life's been getting in the way recently.

I must apologize too for having nothing to add with regard to "Donation" other than I really enjoyed it.  I  was engaged the whole time through and was curious how you would wrap it all up.  I think you pulled it off, in my opinion.  

Others have said they wished there had been more about the motivation of the narrator, and I admit that I was reading along hoping to find out something about that too, but the fact that I didn't get that did nothing to detract from my appreciation of your story.  Nice work.  Thanks for sharing,


Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 29, 2014 - 1:16pm

Thanks Chris, greatly appreciated.

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers July 29, 2014 - 12:43pm

Damn, I liked this. Kept my interest, and a very bold POV. Couple of grammatical errors, nothing that can't be fixed and fine tuned. 

Thumbs up, good job. 

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 29, 2014 - 1:18pm

Hi Bob, thanks for your feedback. I put in a few errors intentionally, as it's effectively an entire piece of dialogue, however I'd be interested to see what you specifically picked out. I'm glad you enjoyed it, nice one.

Josh Zancan's picture
Josh Zancan from Crofton, MD is reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck July 31, 2014 - 7:04pm


Great story, man.  Solid character voice, very enticing, just as his actions are meant to be.  You did a great job at selling his charisma.  By the end, I simultaneously hated him and was fascinated by him.  Thumbs up.


Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 31, 2014 - 11:50pm

Thanks Josh, I'm glad you liked it.