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Motor-Psycho's picture

Curtis is Crazy

By Motor-Psycho in Arrest Us

How It Rates

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Description

Curtis is an asshole

Comments

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 30, 2014 - 9:10pm

****Spoiler Alert**** Please read story before reading my comments. Thanks.

The start is pretty good. I like the way the details unfold. Why is the old lady getting beer? Why should the narator help? Oh she's stealing it, oh it's his grandmother, oh and he's a cop. At first I did think he was a security guard. I wondred if you held on to the fact he was a cop for too long but I don't think you did. 

The character was not likable at all. But you did work in some ways to make him a little sympathetic. It reminded me of Matt Dillon's character in Crash. Ultimately he was a racist dick, but they showed  enough home life to maybe relate why he's so angry all the time, and then they showed that it just might take that kind of fucked up person to be willing to pull someone out of a burning car. The job makes the person and the person makes the job sort of thing. 

I think you might want to try to make the narator a little less hatable, because by the time it's over there really isn't anything redeaming left. He squashed what little sympathy I had for him when he killed his grandmother. At the very least make it apparent that that's what she wanted. I assume that's why they went to the bank, but you wrote the end like she wasn't expecting to die today. I assumed all along that is what they were up to. I didn't figure Cheesman would play into it. IF he was a sicko I'm kind of glad he did. All we have is your unreliable narator's word for it and I'm not sure that's enough. If you really showed us through dialouge or action that granny wanted to die I'd be able to accept what he does at the end. And maybe also more clues that Cheseman deserved his fate, or atleast in your protag's mind. 

I liked the Granny's character pretty good. I liked the idea of Ashley though she wasn't present until the end. 

There is a lot of info dumping in here. I think you may find better ways to unload some of it and find that the story could be stronger without some of it.

 

For example:

My grandmother was born in Germany, an orphan of the War. My grandfather brought her back to the US where she was suspected to have given birth to another soldier’s baby. They eventually had five more kids together resulting from my grandfather’s drunken late night returns home. My father was 18 when he enrolled in the Army and went to Vietnam. My grandmother said it was to get away from my alcoholic, perpetually unemployed and abusive grandfather, and also to support the family. His youngest sisters was retarded. In ‘Nam my Dad lost 80% of his hearing in both ears and returned to my mom and older brother a junkie. Then my mother became pregnant with me. My brother and I were born six years apart with vastly different opinions on growing up in our family. I guess by the time I could remember my father had become less angry and just more stoned. He never hit me like he hit my brother, or so my brother says. My dad finally killed himself when I was 18. I guess even the dope wasn’t enough to keep him around.

 

This all comes at you at once. It's alot to process and it disrupts the flow of the story. None of it is relevant to anything else that happens. I think you did it to develope the granny's character more, but you do a good job of that in the rest of the story. You could cut this whole scene and not miss a beat. 

The writing in this one is pretty good. The story could be great if I could sympathize with the narator more. I almost think this story would work better in third person. All the I's make me think he's justifying his behavior which makes me hate him more. Maybe that was your plan. Actually, first person works. The voice is good. Got a real hard boiled feel. And I quite liked the closing scene. 

I hope none of this comes off as harsh and most of it is subjective so please take what helps and leave the rest. Good luck in the contest. 

Regards, 

--JR--

Motor-Psycho's picture
Motor-Psycho from Montreal is reading Everything By Willeford July 1, 2014 - 6:00am

Thanks JR, you're right, and I've killed that paragraph.

 

Thanks.

Jay Parekh's picture
Jay Parekh is reading Fight Club July 1, 2014 - 9:58am

Hi,

i agree with everything JR mentioned in his critique.  Some random thoughts,

I really enjoyed your writing style - its very entertaining and suspenseful in on itself.  

On the other hand, the overarching plot, and purpose of each character and what they were doing didnt really kick in till the 3rd half of the story. I feel bringing (spoiler) grandmas assisted suicide (/spoiler) into the plot earlier would have added more tension  and made curtis's emotional dilemma more apparent.

Some more time hovering around the moral ambiguity of his decision to go through with it would have been nice. It seems hes already made up his mind by the time the story starts and well i would have liked to hear Curtis arguing with himself on whether he should help gran or not.

Overall i felt this was a part of a larger story, like Curtis's story isnt over.  Theres so many interesting places the story can go and i would really like to read it if you ever decide to write it. 

 

Cheers! 

- Jay

Devon Robbins's picture
Devon Robbins from Utah is reading The Least Of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones July 2, 2014 - 6:59pm

Hey,

This is a good story you've got here. Kind of wish you would have posted it earlier because there are a few things you could change to make it that much better. Mostly just cutting things. Starting the story with a 33 word sentence isn't always the best opener.

The prose is pretty tight and the backstory parts have a distinct style that is very mature in the delivery. You did really well with those. 

I liked how the assisted suicide came out of nowhere at the end. I was starting to wonder if this was a crime story or not. 

Overall, this is good writing. It could use a once over with the red pen, but good job.

Motor-Psycho's picture
Motor-Psycho from Montreal is reading Everything By Willeford July 2, 2014 - 8:15pm

Fuck my life for taking the time!

 

Matt

Devon Robbins's picture
Devon Robbins from Utah is reading The Least Of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones July 3, 2014 - 4:46am

Still, good job with it.

Motor-Psycho's picture
Motor-Psycho from Montreal is reading Everything By Willeford July 3, 2014 - 5:21am

Hahah! I have no idea why the comment above reads fuck my life! Do you see that or am I crazy?!

 

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch July 2, 2014 - 7:19pm

I think there's some good moments in the story--starting with a great opening segment--but unfortunately the story didn't click with me.

For me, the story was just so overbearingly dark and ugly that it became hard for me to get through it. I think there's a way to make dark and ugly work (some woul argue that's what makes noir noir), but the way the story is currently written, there's no rest to the ugliness. It just piles on and on, and I hate to be blunt, but after a while it just becomes boring and forced. Curtis right now doesn't feel fully developed, because for the most part the only thing we see of him is his hate towards people and racism. The grandma helps a bit with this, but even then she's also tinted with darkness, so instead of their relationship standing out and being different from everything else in the story, it becomes just another blemish in an already ugly world. I think it would be more interesting if she was a contrast to Curtis. This would possibly give Curtis some internal tension as he is faced with someone that he doesn't completely hate.

I do agree with JR that there's a bit too much telling and backstory through out the story. For example, early on you have a paragraph where Curtis talks about the neighborhood. It's not a bad moment, but because it's placed so quickly after the story begins, when you switched back to "I follow her around the corner", it took me a second to remember what was happening.

The story as it is right now doesn't seem to really get started until the last few pages. Before then, there is a lot of back story and scene setting, but unfortunately there isn't a lot of tension or reason for someone to continue. It you want to keep the same tone as you have right now, I feel like you need to get the main crux of the story started earlier on. You do hint at the grandman being okay with the way she goes out, but I think it needs to be mentioned outright early on. There needs to be some sort of tension added to the story.

As alwys, this is just my opinion. Take anything you might find useful and disregard the rest.


.

Motor-Psycho's picture
Motor-Psycho from Montreal is reading Everything By Willeford July 2, 2014 - 8:20pm

I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. 

That 'I follow her around the corner' pisses me off too! Bit jarring. 

I live for the last page tho, the rest be damned.

Best,

Matt

Aud Fontaine's picture
Aud Fontaine from the mountains is reading Catch-22. Since like, always. July 2, 2014 - 9:10pm

Matt,

(Spoilers, obviously)

Maybe I'm just a sucker for twisted characters killing each other but I really enjoyed this. I don't know if you fixed it up but I definitely disagree with your other commentors; I saw the assisted suicide coming. I think you did a really graceful job of peppering in just enough hints without telling us right out. The "I was the only one who knew grandma was dying" line was perfect. It tells us just enough about his relationship with her while also foreshadowing her fate. I also really liked the twist with Cheeseman. I felt that gave the character just the right amount of depth without fully justifying his actions This story kind of reminded me of a mix of Marabou Stork Nightmares and Do The Right Thing. The thing I do agree with the others on is the tension. There was a lot of just straight character stuff. It might have been more tense if you emphasized the heat fucking him up mentally a la The Stranger. You could give him a few heat induced mini meltdowns that might help put the reader on edge and plant the idea that he could go completely off the rails at any moment. Or you could leave it as is. It's really an interesting and sick read. If you don't mind, I'd actually kind of like to hear your thoughts on mine. Our stories have a few similarities and I'd love to hear what you think works and what doesn't. http://litreactor.com/events/arrest-us/for-all-we-know If you have the time, I'd really appreciate it.

Good job, again.

Aud.

Turtlethumbs's picture
Turtlethumbs July 3, 2014 - 5:35pm

I liked everything SO MUCH up until a certain point. Your writing style, the development of settings, characters, and the unraveling of the plot were all incredible. You're very talented. But the first huge turnoff for me was the racial slurs, which I was first rationalizing as "well that's just the character." Then it got more intense with the anti-Asian stuff. Then the sexist stuff, then it's like hell breaks loose and the guy loses it. And that was clearly your intention, but I guess it became too much for me. I want to love the badguy in a lot of situations, but in this one he was so ugly in so many ways at a certain point that I no longer wanted to hear what he had to say, and I stopped reading. Haha, it's almost like the impact you were going for was too good. At least for me.

I'd love to read stuff you write in the future though because like I said, you're obviously a very talented writer.

Motor-Psycho's picture
Motor-Psycho from Montreal is reading Everything By Willeford July 5, 2014 - 9:53am

Thanks Max. Did u give a thumbs up or down?

Matt

Turtlethumbs's picture
Turtlethumbs July 6, 2014 - 10:34am

whoops - down. just changed it though.

Motor-Psycho's picture
Motor-Psycho from Montreal is reading Everything By Willeford July 6, 2014 - 11:39am

Hahaha. Thanks!

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary July 3, 2014 - 5:59pm

Boy, talk about conflicted characters. Your characters make this story work. They each have unexpected qualities that make them unique. They both have some real flaws but you were able to make them sympathetic and maybe even likeable.
Contrary to your title, Curtis never really seemed that crazy. Racist, sure. Angry, yup.    Psychotic and anti-social, probably. But never straitjacket and poop-finger-painting crazy. But he had a set of internal standards he kept and never seems to loose his chosen plan of action. He's methodical even. So I guess I don't get the crazy angle, aside from being motivated not to go back to an institution.
I guess Ashley could use a little more exposure. She seems to be the pure spirit that conflicts with the other two characters, but we don't really learn much about her. It's hard to fit in three well rounded and realized characters inside the word count. Maybe if we could hear her speak before the end scene she'd feel more balanced in the story.
Overall, this was a solid story with some enjoyable yet cringe-inducing characters. I liked it. Keep up the good work.

Motor-Psycho's picture
Motor-Psycho from Montreal is reading Everything By Willeford July 3, 2014 - 8:04pm

Thanks u two, I cant understand why In getting thumbs-fucking down?!

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 17, 2014 - 2:23am

I liked it. I think everything I'd mention has already been covered. Nice one.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 17, 2014 - 7:15am

This isn’t my usual thing, but for what it’s worth, I really did kind of like this. While Curtis comes very close to being an archetypal angry man/cop, I think what elevates here is the assisted suicide angle. It’s interesting to see this kind of character interact in this way with the grandmother. Amongst the ugliness there is a little heart to be found, and I dug that. If anything, I think you could build just a little bit more on it.

I would have liked to have seen something here to make Curtis more unique. He’s a type of character that you tend to see a lot of at the moment. You call him crazy Curtis, but I tend to agree with Joe in that he doesn’t really come across as crazy, certainly not enough for a couple of trips to the loony bin (which likely would have ruled him out of being both a soldier and a cop over this side of the pond). He’s angry, fucked up, and on the edge of exploding… which of course, inevitably he does.

The ending is strong, but the lead to it could be stronger. Curtis loses it due to, “the scent of Stan Cheeseman’s pedophilia”. This feels instinctively like a weak reason to suddenly remember his grandfather and to set him off vomiting all over the hallway. I’m guessing that this is where his madness comes in, hence the flashback to the loony bin. If that is the case, it’s fine, but you need to build Curtis up as being more on the edge. References to the trips to the loony bin don’t cut it on their own. We need to see him beginning to fray at the edges throughout the story. Incidentally, the cut away to cover him as an 8 year old just kills the tension you’ve created by killing Cheeseman. I’d suggest either culling it completely, or sticking it earlier in the tale.

While the end is strong, it’s over in a heartbeat. Partly that’s because the flow of the story by that stage is very quick (as it should be), but I would have liked to have seen a little more. Once Cheeseman is gone, and Grandma has kicked the bucket, it could do with just a bit of slowing down, to let the action sink in. I love that you have Ashley coming in at the end, that’s brilliant, but that paragraph that starts “I took her cash…” could be expanded upon. It’s very quick and neat, and a little more of the mechanics of what he’s thinking could come across, especially if he’s batshit crazy.

Solid thumbs up from me, and good luck with the contest.

Motor-Psycho's picture
Motor-Psycho from Montreal is reading Everything By Willeford July 17, 2014 - 7:38am

Thanks for all that Adam, appreciate the editing assistance. All great points and Ill adapt my story to suit each one for sure.

 

Best

 

Matt

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 17, 2014 - 2:14pm

Heyo.

Don't take the racial epithets out. They were shocking and difficult to read, as well they should be, and as unpleasant as they are they're true to the character - he's a racist prick. Leave 'em in. 

I, too, got the impression early on that there was an assisted suicide angle to the story...but then you threw me off with the trip to the bank, at which point I thought he was going to be helping the old woman rob a bank...then back to the assisted suicide. It wasn't a "Sixth Sense" style pull-the-rug-out-from-under-me twist, but it threw me nonetheless. 

Curtis reminded me of one of GTA's less-admirable protagonists (Travis Grady, maybe, or Niko Bellic) and that made his rougher edges a bit more tolerable for me. I don't know if I could read a whole novel of Curtis' adventures through the hell of everyday life, but a short story worked just fine. 

Good job. 

 

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 20, 2014 - 9:39pm

I'm a little confused about Curtis. He is supposed to be someone who we want to hate. He also has redeeming characteristics. He is caring and compassionate at least with his grandmother. the problem is neither seem fully developed to me. I'm fine with a prejudice main character, but I feel that stereotypes were thrown in just to say that he's a racist. He seems hollow as a human being and his messed up childhood doesn't convince me of his apathy. I also wonder about the reality of a person with mental health issues being accepted by the police force, (knit-picky, I know.)

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 21, 2014 - 8:13am

Hi MP,

There's a interesting idea in here, (the suicide, the cop with the outrageous inner dialogue) with some good one liners, but it's skewed by Curtis being somewhat an over the top caricature. Tone him down, somewhat, and it might work. I'd make it obvious he's a cop from the moment of his response to the Jewish shopkeeper. Plus, do most city cops EVER work alone? Or is it always partnered up?

I'm bemused by the number of stories that make reference to "ass cracks". In keeping with Curtis's less than PC commentary, perhaps it's because they're all by fat americans? Whatever, it doesn't make these stories sound more gritty, or noir, quite the reverse. Gritty and noir are tight, not flaccid...

Not many 70 year olds shoot up. Mostly, they simply don't get to be 70 year olds that way. I like her petty larceny (the world OWES me attitude) though she'd be better off putting the beer in the fridge and the Canada Dry under her feet... But I wonder if with the shooting up and the prostitution is just too much. If you want to play with your readers, make that shooting up (eventually) Morphine, though that's normally take orally...

"Reality was I couldn’t give a shit what was supposed to happen today" - this is a bit too close and conflicts with the "I would talk to the landlord about it if today was just some other day, but it wasn’t". Also, you've already set up other "this is NOT a day like others" markers in conversation with the gran, even before the wonderful "“Ok, hun,” she said. “Gimme a second to go get my gun.”"

Things slow down immediately after for some back story. Keep this short would be my advice.

If Gran is using, EVERYBODY knows that Gran is dying. Just not from what.

His puke hits the low ceiling? Wow. Double wow. Obviously NOT got a weak stomach then.

Eight year old can lift a football sized rock? Above another kids head?

I guessed suicide (assisted...) as soon as the gun wasn't used at the bank. But the ending - with her moment taken away, and Curtis's "plan" (which wasn't one, really) coming to fruitition, disappointed. I can kind of see where you were going - he'll be in trouble for assisting suicide, so why not kill two birds with one stone, and if he gets away with it, well, a suspension perhaps at worst... but you don't sell this to the reader. If nothing else, the joint appearance of the two of them in the bank will lead to questions he can't deflect, it seems. Plus, from the evidence of this outing, he's probably got history (I'm amazed he's managed to stay a cop. I'm amazed with his mental history that either the Army or the police took him on!).

The final bit with Ashley - does it help the story along any? Seems a bit weak. I'd be loathe to push him that far, but if he has to shoot her as well for his cover story to work... then that'd be some serious thuggery.

Liam

 

Alec Cizak's picture
Alec Cizak August 10, 2014 - 7:54am

Love Curtis's voice.  Don't worry about "offending" people.  If someone's "offended," by admission, that's their problem, not yours.  Write on.