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Andrew Scorah's picture

Shadows and Light-A Ballard Tale

By Andrew Scorah in Arrest Us

How It Rates

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PI, Frank Ballard has been bulldozed into protecting a Federal Witness. When two thugs come bursting into their hotel room with guns blazing, killing his partner and snatching the witness, Frank has to hit the mean streets of San Francisco and  try and find the witness before its too late.


jorjon21's picture
jorjon21 from Wisconsin is reading Shotgun Lovesongs June 14, 2014 - 7:48am

Starting the story off with a run-on sentence immediately reduced the story in my opinion.  There were also a lot of cliches (PI, Vietnam Vet with PTSD, '68 Mustang) throughout the story which took away from the story.  Jumping back and forth from the present to the past was also confusing.  The general story idea is good, but the story is very rough. Did you have anyone read the story before you submitted it?  Sorry this comment is so negative.  I think the story has potential, but not in its current form.

Damon Lytton's picture
Damon Lytton from Augusta, Kansas is reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow June 17, 2014 - 2:51pm

There are some ideas here, but I'm not sure it's all in service of the story.   Almost half a page is used to describe Frank Ballard's career as a cop that I feel like could have been put to better use in the climactic scene (which felt a bit rushed and unearned in my opinion).

Overall, there are some great moments in this story, but another pass or two is needed to iron out the kinks.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 20, 2014 - 3:35am

I found this to be too much exposition and too much cliché, plus the whole Italian mafia thing breaches the rules. There's something in here, but it's buried and will take some work to get it out. Maybe take a scene, like the guys guarding the witness, and just write about that. Drop all the action and focus on the risk of people trying to kill the witness, have the anticipation as the tension. Write dialogue. Simplify. You've got a knack for a certain type of pulp writing, like Lee Child, you just need to slow it all down and start at the beginning. Show, don't tell. Keep writing, I reckon you're dangerously close to something excellent in your next few stories.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) June 25, 2014 - 7:28am

I gave this one a thumbs up. I think the comments you have received so far are perfectly valid ones, but I still don’t think it deserves to be sitting at 0%.

This falls outside contest criteria due to subject matter (the mafia) and the word limit. That’s fine; it’s not for us to police. Personally though I think this is an effective take on this type of story. While it never strays from well-worn tropes, it comes across to me like an affectionate homage to classic pulp thrillers.

The issue for me with doing that kind of homage is the style. Those classic pulp novels were paid for by the word, and so they are over-written. Why use a simple word, when you can write a whole paragraph instead for more cash? As such your story is overwritten, and I think if you simplified even 15-20% of the language, you’d get something punchier and easier to read.

Simplifying the story would give you more time on character development as well. My feeling on reading this is that I’d like to see Briony introduced earlier. It would mean spending less time in Ballard’s head, and enable a lot of the backstory to flow out without the narration style. If you are using noir films as an inspiration, give them some Hawksian dialogue. Briony has fantastic character potential.

I can see from simple research that this one is being published anyway for Women’s Aid, so best of luck with that. That means you can pretty much take or leave all comments, and I do think you have achieved a nice little tale here anyway. Looks like you have a lot planned for Ballard. I hope it goes well.

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday July 9, 2014 - 11:47am

Rules aside, I thought it was a good story.  I would agree that it's full of cliches, but at some point I just gave up noting them, understanding that it was just part of the piece.  There were a few typos, but not enough to distract from the tale.  Some of the language (as Adam pointed out) could have been a bit simpler.  To be honest, the only bit I had a problem with was the paragraph about his ex wife and him caring too much.  It was jarring and felt inconsistent with the main character's 'fuck all' tone.  Overall solid work though.