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SConley's picture

Making History

By SConley in Arrest Us

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A story about the men who shape history from the background.




Devon Robbins's picture
Devon Robbins from Utah is reading The Least Of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones June 18, 2014 - 6:50am

Hey Sconley,

I think this story works pretty well. There are a few things in there that that I'll list below that I think you could rework to make the piece longer, or cut them altogether to make it shorter. The only thing that I would have liked to see more of was description. I didn't feel like anything was really shown other than the men, and felt like the scene might be more gripping with a few more intimate details. All in all, good job.

Here's my issues.

The beginning of this one had a few awkward spots, like — A whole channel was created for this case, this three-ring circus of a case. You're using the same object twice in a sentence, and it slowed me down. You do it again with the car chase. I would use one or the other. Something like — A whole channel was created for this three-ring circus of a case. Most people reading will know exactly what you're talking about two sentences later. 

Also, I didn't like all the rhetorical questions thoughout. I felt like had to make a decision. The answers were obvious, Sure someone could be breaking in to the house, so I don't really see the point of having them there.

Finally, the ending. I thought that these guys were a one time, get out of jail free card. And it's fine if they're not, but right at the end you throw in the whole OKC bombing and it threw me for a loop.

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations June 18, 2014 - 8:08am

Hey there,

For all this is a short, it could actually do with a careful trim, a few words, clauses, could be cut just to tighten it up a little. But it still has a punch, is a nice conceit, and gets a strong thumbs up. Plus, Kudos for taking the contest "rules" and including them as things these two aren't / aren't willing to do...

Couple of tweaks - since you name the men early on, don't keep using "The man with Penny" etc - do use the names. And use those names for some of the speeches - the "I haven’t. I’m not much for TV" one in particular.

I think you can (strongly) link the being on hard play / not testifying - if she's on hard play, then she is no longer available to testify as her evidence is out there - it's not a "do this and then don't do that" it's a "do this and you won't have to do that".

"Who we are isn’t impertinent though" - important? or pertinent? surely not impertinent!

And too many rights. Right?

Good fun stuff, and I think you could give us a little more on who really these two work for. (Media? Betting syndicates? Freelance?)


SConley's picture
SConley from Texas is reading Coin Locker Babies June 18, 2014 - 8:24am

Very interesting points, guys. I hadn't even thought of those things so thanks. I added words to try and make the word-count and the story suffered i guess. I'll just get rid of them again, which should fix any akward syntax or anything. The men didn't have names at first and they weren't going to have names but i changed my mind and didn't edit my story properly. I'd rather the men work for a mysterious organization than have a defined role. This story was based on a show i'd just watched about the OJ trial and this one lady was supposed to testify as a witness but she changed her mind at the last second and sold her story to the press instead. It just seemed so orchestrated to me.

tooth's picture
tooth from Dallas is reading City of Thieves June 18, 2014 - 8:40pm

Hey Stephen. I think you've got potential here. I like the tension and the scene itself   The story itself is timely with the 20 year anniversary upon us. I liked the personification of the bat.

the narrative style is interesting, it's third person but seems to be in her voice. I didn't car for so many "right?" occurrences. But maybe if we spent more time with Elizabeth we'd pick this up in her own speech patterns (not sure if that's your intent). 

i wasn't sure why the men introduce themselves. I would think they'd be more intimidating to her if they seem more anonymous and untraceable.

There''s one line that threw me. When the man tells Elizabeth that Penny will be taken care of, I thought he was going to take her daughter. I realized after the next paragraph that I misinterpreted,

The OKC tie-in didn't quite work for me. I like what you're trying to do, associating these guys elsewhere, but I didn't care for this example. But that's just me.

The story flows well and the style works. I'd like to see you flesh it out a bit more or add some background or depth. It feels a bit short. I did find it interesting. I'd like to read another draft of this.



Aud Fontaine's picture
Aud Fontaine from the mountains is reading Catch-22. Since like, always. June 23, 2014 - 7:16am


I really liked your story especially how it didn't exactly focus on a crime but the aftermath for a witness. I thought that having the whole thing play out from a victim's perspective was a cool take on the whole premise of the contest. That said, I would probably have liked it more if it weren't for the very very end just because it didn't feel necessary and this could probably work really well as a first person, stream of consciousness sort of thing. Describing her panic and fear more closely might help build tension and could give you the opportunity to flesh things out a little more. It also might help integrate the plethora of questions and "rights" better. Even as is, it's still a great story.


Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 23, 2014 - 8:54am

I agree with the previous comments, except I actually liked the end. A few sentences don't quite work, and although the self-aware 'rules' thing is amusing I found it distracting and made me aware I was definitely reading fiction, which when tied to a true story spoilt the illusion slightly for me. It seems to need more, as others have said what is there could be trimmed, and it felt like it was lacking compared to other stories I have read. Still, good story.

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On June 24, 2014 - 9:16pm

I like the concept of these guys who've "arranged" the outcome of all these crimes. I do agree with Tooth in that I doubt these guys would introduce themselves to a living witness. The mystery would work better in fact if we never knew their names, but simple, albeit very defining physical traits. Then you have the problem of length. Truth is, this particular story doesn't feel like it can get a whole lot longer--certainly not twice the length so that it meets the contest minimums. That may require a different approach. As it is, it's an intriguing start. 

mattymillard's picture
mattymillard from Wolverhampton, England is reading Curse of the Wolf Girl - Martin Millar June 30, 2014 - 1:24am

Hey Stephen,

I really enjoyed this - a nice concept and put across very simply and easily. The prose had a nice flow to it, and I liked the ending. Using the rules of the contest made me smile, and added a bit of humour. It'd be interesting to see if that worked outside of the competition - I think it would in a different way as it gave them some more humanity, thrre being certain jobs they won't do. The tell thing I found weird were that the baseball bat was kept so far away from her room, and also thst the men told her their names. Overall, a great job. Can't believe you didn't sell her story to thuglit though!!


Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 3, 2014 - 2:53am

There is a good idea at the heart of this one, and I’m just glad you avoided mentioning JFK which seems to be the go-to for tales that cover the conspiracy theories behind true life events. Grounding it in the OJ Simpson trial is clever, especially picking at one detail. I’m presuming this is based on Jill Shively selling her story to Hard Copy, and if so, her testimony was hardly going to be the swinger on whether or not OJ went down. It’s kind of hard to work out why these men would fix a witness unless her testimony was going to make all the difference. Did they also shrink the gloves?

I’d echo the opinion of others on the rhetorical questions, and use of ‘right?”. Also - “The noise again. That time it restarted her heart.” When did her heart stop? I do wonder why it took Elizabeth so long to twig what the invasion was all about. It takes her a thousand words. She is a witness in a case that has attracted huge publicity that starts the very next day, so that should pretty much be the first conclusion she jumps to. The reader is so far ahead of her, that her slowness just becomes a little annoying. We should fear for her, not be irritated by her.

The faux ideology of the two men grated a little as well. They draw the line at serial killers, but think nothing of facilitating acts of terrorism. I can see the twist you are going for, and it’s a good one. I just think you need to be a little more consistent. Their actions in the house are inconsistent, but that works, because you tread the line well between making the threat very real while asserting that there will be no violence there and then.

I think this is an idea worth exploring, I just don’t think you are quite there yet. Best of luck with it though.

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Wheel of Time July 3, 2014 - 7:26pm

This was pretty clever. I enjoyed your up front check-off of the "don'ts" of the contest. A nice inside joke for your known audience.
I have to wonder how many others thought of OJ as soon as you mentioned the white Ford Bronco. I picked up on it right away and you hooked me with the curiosity of it.
Your characters are fairly simple and without a lot of depth. It's a short short story so it didn't bother me too much, but it didn't really seduce me into truly caring either. This is one area you could maybe beef up. Although I'm not sure who you'd focus on. I think Bonde and Durant are more of the main character than Elizabeth. I think by the gloves you're implying that these two killed Nicole Simpson instead of the juice. I like that angle. Again I wonder how many here are old enough to remember the case to catch that hint. Anyway, I like the idea that more is going on than just what is on the page. That's interesting.
Which brings us to the nice reveal at the end that these two or orchestrating and manipulating high-visibility criminal cases all across the country. I liked that, but was a little unclear on their motives. Was someone paying them? Some huge Illuminati type conspiracy? They call it a "job" but also have some decision making ability as to what they choose next. I don't need to know everything. Just a hint that they're just gears in a bigger machine or that they have some personal motive.
Overall, this was a fun tight story. I enjoyed it. Keep up the good work!

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch July 8, 2014 - 7:21am

Hey Stephen,

I think the ideas you have at the core at the story are worth persuing, but I can't really fully get into the story itself. I'm in the minority here, but I wasn't a big fan of tying the OJ Simpsons case and the Oklahoma Bombing into the story. Unfortunately, when you start to bring up real events into a story, it can make the reader scrutinize it more than they would than if it was all fiction, and in this case that's what happened with me. I couldn't quite believe everything that was happening here. I'm probably looking into this thing too hard, but when you both accuse a person of being the killer, and also insinuate that another real life terrorist was frame, I'm going to end up scrutinizing the story a bit harder than I normally would

Part of it is that I didn't figure out what exactly the two guy's end goal was. They seem to help get OJ Simpson off (though I do agree with Adam that her testominy doesn't seem like it would have made the case), but then put the blame on McVeigh? Why?

When you shift to the two men at the end, I thought that the story would reveal that they worked for Hard Copy, and they were just interest in getting ratings gold. I thought that would have been a neat idea and tied in with the scene of Elizabeth watching her television. That's clearly not what you had in mind, so I would advise you maybe work out what exactly the men's goals are and maybe make it clearer on the page. You certainly have the room.

Writing wise, some people have already pointed out that there seems to be a bit of repetition in the story, especially early on:

Tomorrow is the big day. “The big, big day,” the reporter kept saying on TV. A whole channel was created for this case. This “three-ring circus” of a case, the reporter kept saying

. It was the only light in her room, it was the only light she needed sometimes.

A noise interrupted the darkness. A noise in the other room.

She peered in the direction of the living room. Only fear peered back from the darkness

Franklin was down the hall from Penny’s room. Franklin was an aluminum bat

While this seems intentional on your part, I'm not sure it works for the story. To me, the writing seems to give the story a light hearted touch, where I feel like it needs to be fully grounded. The last one "Frankling was down the hall.." was the one I thought worked best, but because we've had similar ones prior to it, its effect is lost someone.

I wasn't a fan of the winking thing about hitman, mafia, and serial killers because it felt like just that, winking at the audience. Like someone else already pointed out, it's weird that they would draw the line at Serial Killers, but not Terrorist acts, and it also felt weird that Elizabeth's mind would immediately jump to Mafia- it's not like OJ had any known mafia connections. If you want to leave them in, then they have to be reworked so that they make sense internally.

Anyways, this are just my feelings on this story. If there's anything above that you find useful, take it, and otherwise disregard the rest.