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The summer of 1987 changes the way Katherine sees herself and the world around her.
Nice coming of (criminal) age story. Bittersweet. Up voted.
I'd suggest trimming the opening - "start as close to the action as possible" - in this case, when Mickey arrives. And you're giving a little too much with things like "When Mickey first arrived he was polite and cheerful enough and helped whenever my mom asked." - the next phrase about the parents confusion conveys this and more. Then you also give us the switch "when his boredom really started to set in" whereas you can actually do this by the actions that follow, and doing that keeps the suspense and mystery.
I have to ask (through ignorance) - is "book it" a modern term, or was it really around in '87?
Your "Leia" joke confuses UNLESS you mention they've seen Star Wars. (I think.) Or have him hum the theme tune...
The brother is at dinner, but isn't mentioned as being around before that. (Only mentioned as being out) Which is a bit weird. You say later he has a summer job- maybe get that reference in earlier, to explain perhaps his absence.
"slimly" - slimey?
If Kat has been going to see R-Rated movies, she's going to be influenced by them more than just the swearing at billy. Have her drop a catch phrase into the dinner conversation, and maybe get away with it because no-one else has seen it. What about nightmares?
I quite like the idea (maybe) of a shaken up can being given to Billy, that then sprays him. Some sort of minor payback for being a jerk/bully, but this can also lead to Billy pointing the cop in their direction.
Ultimately, you speed over the consequences at the end - things happen to Kat as a result, but you don't go big on how this kid feels being arrested, seeing her "brother" get punished so harshly. I think you can take a little longer on the ending to get more out of it.
But a nicely realised story,
Hi Liam. Thanks for the thumbs up and the comments. I agree about the ending. I wanted to do more but was working against the clock (I posted right at midnight and felt relieved to just get it in). I'm trying to rework the ending so that it fits in the word count restraints. I think you're right about the beginning. If I trim some off from there, I can elaborate more on the end.
Slimly should be slimy. Thanks for catching that!
I used to say "book it" all the time as a kid. Before using it, I did a bit of research and did find it was used a lot in the 80s. I tried to make sure that any of the references to movies or games were all around in '87 and not after. (I actually made a few adjustments due to movie release dates from that summer).
As far as nightmares go, I was kind of hoping the lack of them illustrated how she's grown. I remember watching The Evil Dead 2 when I was around 10 and it really stuck with me. (So much so that Dead By Dawn remains one of my all-time favorite movies). I put the original Evil Dead reference in there because she watched something horrifying when she was younger, but as a ten year old, she's watching R rated movies and handling them, so she's grown in terms of maturity even if her parents can't see it.
Anyhow, thanks again! I appreciate you reading and the feedback.
Also, for the curious, The United Theater was a real theater where I grew up. I saw my first movie, E.T., at The United. The park, the theater and the five-and-dime were all inspired by my childhood hometown...
I think this is my favorite story yet. The most unique interpretation of "crime fiction" out of all the stories I've read. The development of the characters was perfect IMO. Kat being portrayed as an innocent ten year old from a well to do family. Mickey, a wandering orphan with a taste for mischief-making. The contrast in their characters created a beautiful tension and you built on it in really well.
I think I felt more tense when Kat's parents were asking about what they were doing this summer than in most other stories I've read thus far, and it's funny because you would think amid stories featuring psychopathy, murder, drug trafficking and the like, that somehow that content would build tension better. You've proven that you don't need to get all gory to create tension like that.
Nothing I would change. Super impressed.
And here's the link to my story, if ya would be so kind as to check it out! (It's a little gory): http://litreactor.com/events/arrest-us/born-again-packaging
Wow. Thanks so much, Max! I really appreciate the feedback. I admit I wasn't sure how my story would stack up against the crime stories I've read so far. Everything is much more gritty and I was going for more of a Stand By Me/coming of age story. I've never attempted crime fiction before, so your praise is appreciated. Thanks again.
I dug it! I really liked the idea to go with kid-level crime. I wish I'd thought of that. I liked Kat and her amiable defiance.
• The constant movie references felt like wayyy too much winking, to me. I know they're kids in the 80s and they watch a lot of movies, but it felt like I was reading Geekomancy again.
• I could well be wrong, but I don't think anything-a-palooza was a thing until Lollapalooza in the 90s.
Thanks, Tom. You might be right, actually. I think "O-rama" (e.g. Chuck's Bike-O-Rama) is probably more 80s than "a-palooza." That's what I was grasping for, I think. I'm going to correct that in a bit because I don't want anything in there that sounds like it takes you out the time frame.
Not sure what Geekomancy is, but TV, movies and books were my closest friends growing up in the 80s and every funny line and reference was repeated like crazy with my brother and I, (guess that hasn't changed much into adulthood), so I feel like it's the right amount, personally. It really wasn't meant to be winking as much as it was supposed to help you feel immersed in that time period and their summer hijinx.
Nice work. Up voted.
I love that it's geek fiction which doesn't revel in mundane knowledge. I get a true sense that the voice speaks for the time and treats it the way kids would.
Plus, as a Rhode Islander, I dig Ocean State fiction.
Hey Wonder Woman,
To use my most used word from the 80's - this was ace! Really enjoyed it. I loved the vocab and style it was written in, it made the story very easy to read and really helped to portray the growing friendship. I thought that Kat's development throughout the story was realistic, although I did think she might be a little scared of the first scary film they saw, but harden to them quite quickly.
The only bit I can really give constructive feedback on was the ending. I wasn't quite sure why they would be dobbed in - they seem like likeable characters and must've been all these other kids main source of candy? Billy had been put out by them, but I felt there needed to be a bit more for someone to want to tell tales.
Anyway - overall this was an excellent story, and a nice little spin-off from the usual crime theme! Good work :-)
Great work. Engaging story with strong characters. I personally like the movie refrences. I think you use the right amount to set the scene and time period.
Liam mentioned some good places where you can skip the fortelling and launch straight into the action, I found another one.
but we were also making a killing on snacks we snatched from the local five-and-dime, MacCorey's.
but we were also making a killing on snacks we snatched from the local five-and-dime, MacCorey's.
This reads like a thesis statement. There is no need to tell me ahead of time what you are about to spend a couple paragraphs showing me anyway. It will read stronger if you just let this unfold until you get from the point where they are stealing until the point where they are selling it and making cash.
I was hardpressed to find anything that needed reworking. I feel like you've got a solid story here. Perhaps you could show a little bit about how that first horror movie affected Kat. Sure she's maturing quickly but I'd imagine a little bit of adjustment time. Or maybe even if it's her realizing it just wasn't all that scary at all. Some kids don't scare easily. Anyway, Great Work. Good Luck!
I fellow Rhode Islander! I smiled when I realized that was the setting of your story.
I enjoyed this story quite a bit, you deviated from the norm and used kids and made it a coming of age story that incorporated crime as well. My only wish (and I am pretty sure others before me have mentioned this) is that you had focused on the ending more, it felt very rushed to me and I wonder how Kat was really affected by Mickey and her escapades during the summer. For it be a true coming of age story, it would be nice if we heard from Kat a little on how she was changing as the summer progessed.
Otherwise I really enjoyed the story, it was well-paced and fun to read.
Good luck in the rest of the challenge!
Thumbs up for this, really enjoyed the story. Kat and Mickey are very well chracterised, I loved how the crime was very 'low key' and the use of films and general childhood activities created a great sense of place. Similarly as mentioned above there is a good tautness and tension running through it -- the stakes are high because the chracters are so good, not because of necessarily 'huge' stakes as is common in crime fiction. A very unusual take on the story parameters and it worked.
In terms of critique I can't think of much, except for in dialogue you overuse exclamation marks for my liking--it just makes some things said seem contrived from my POV. Similarly at the end I get why Mickey is incarcerated, but I'm unsure if Kat would get community service just for nicking some pop. But then I don't know much about American laws so this might just be me.
Thanks again for a good read
Pretty much every criticism I had has been covered already, so I'll just say that I quite enjoyed this, nice work.
I liked this story, but if I'm being honest, I wasn't gripped by it. If I hadn't been reading it for the contest, I'm not sure I would have finished it.
One of the things that made it hard for me to getinto the story is that even though it's told from the perspective of a kid, I never really got the sense of feel that they were kids. The dialogue to me felt sort of blank for the most part unfortunately, and neither Kat nor Mickey really soundedfelt like kids. More like little adults.
Billy, a portly twelve year old bully who rode my bus, came rolling up on his Diamond Back that he kept in gleaming condition. He liked to point out how wicked his bike was, but never did any kind of tricks on it. Every time we encountered him, I thought of Francis Buxton and my urge to watch Pee Wee's Big Adventure was reborn.
There's good stuff here (like the use of wicked), but I'm not sure how many kids would have used the word 'portly' to describe someone. They would probably either be meaner about their descriptions, or simpler.
I think when Mickey makes fun of Billy was the closest that these people sounded like kids to me. The same when Billy replies, though the homeless punk/sheltered brat again, sounded too adult for me.
The ending felt too rushed for me- both them beig picked up by the cops, as well as the revelation about Mickey's past. I think especially with Mickey's past, this needs to come sooner, because it paints a fuller picture of Mickey than I had before. I think the idea and feel of children growing up and running into trouble is good, and I would like that to be a bigger focus, maybe get the feeling of melancholy that sort of happens in the last paragraph spread through the rest of the story.
Hope this helps.
Great story. It might not be as action packed or nerve racking as some of the other entries, but I love it because it feels so real. I was very close to my male cousin (who happened to be three years older than me) when I was growing up and this is almost exactly how our friendship was. Everything in the story is tight and well written. It's nice to see a crime story that doesn't have to be about blood, gore and drugs to be really good. Thanks for the entry.
I loved this story! It felt very real and being a RI girl myself, I enjoyed the setting! I could feel "the 80's" come through, without it being over the top. Great job!
This is good, and it’s so nice to read something different to the gritty, hardboiled tales that are dominating the contest (though there are some damn good gritty, hardboiled tales in the contest). What I like most about this is the feelings of nostalgia I had when reading. Kat’s descent into hard crime (well… maybe not hard) is pretty believable too.
The one area I thought under developed was the ending. I note you mention in one of your replies that you are re-working the ending still to fit the word count, but I don’t think there is any reason for that. The contest is effectively over in that regard. I’m a great believer that every story has a natural length, and I think yours might be a little over 5,000. There are areas you can make cuts, but I’d honestly just concentrate on expanding the ending a little, and then re-evaluate the whole story once you have that down.
I do think we need to see more of the impact of getting caught. Kat doesn’t seem to be the slightest bit contrite. The punishment for both of them seems harsh. I can kind of buy Mickey going to juvi, but any more than a warning for Kat would be heavy handed. Either way though, I’d like to know more about how she feels about this, and how the summer changes her outlook and personality.
Solid thumbs up from me.
This was a pleasure to read. I like that the crimes were all low level stuff. The whole time I kept having the feeling that something far more tragic was going to happen, and thankfully never did. I think this was in part to the way Kat kept saying she had a bad feeling or didn't think it was a good idea. It allowed you to have a low level background tension without having to get too dark for a payoff. Good luck and thanks for sharing.
Refreshing, as always, to see a slightly different cast of characters from the normal crime story. My only comments regard stylistic elements -- A lot of adverbs here. I'm not as adverb-phobic as a lot of writers these days, but I think it would be a good idea to go through and see where maybe the story itself says what your adverb is saying ( ...she said sullenly... Whatever she said, the situation she said it in, these things all tell us it's sullen). Also, watch for entire sentences where you tell the reader what the reader already knows (...It was simple!...).