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First person view of Frank Lee Morris attempting the most famous prison escape in history.
The first paragraph is incredibly long and bounces all over the place. I think I know what this sentence means, but the word choice does not make it clear: "I was already a convict a couple of years of me living with my first foster home." Same with this section of the first paragraph: "No, it never stopped there. I continued to be an outcast and a thief for many years in my life which led me to my first penitentiary in November 1945. Going from penitentiary to penitentiary, I was eventually going to wind up here. With my past of attempted escapes from all prisons I was ever sent to, they determined my past was worthy enough to ship me here." After getting through the first paragraph, my mind was made up that I was not going to enjoy the story.
In my opinion the story was hard to read due to the long disjointed paragraphs. Maybe instead of first person narration, narration in the third person would be better? Also this is a fiction story, which means you don't have to stick to the "historical" details of the escape. If I was escaping from prison, I would not ditch one of my conspirators so that he could tell the COs the details of the escape. I would kill him, and this would have added a nice twist to your story.
Very hard to get through the long and complex sentences/paragraphs you're trying to weave. I agree with jorjon21 that a change in narration could help, but I think most importantly you need a critical edit to simplify the language to let the plot and characterization come through.
Kind of a strange story really. I'm not sure first person past tense was the best POV here. It seems to rob the story of immediacy. Having visited Alcatraz I'm very intrigued by the subject and while you're told in the first few sentences that the main character intends to escape, the rest of the opening page is essentially a massive info dump. Hard to get into.
This reads like an autobiography, not a story. The ending is nicely ambiguous, and you've obviously done your homework, but you didn't really offer much more than I got from a quick glance at a few websites about this guy. Using history in your stories can be brilliant, but this perhaps would have been better if you created a fictional account of what happened after he escaped, rather than recapping the facts and a few conjectured conversations of the escape itself. I didn't feel like you got inside this guy's head. He was a genius, but it didn't read like that. Nice idea, but try to find your own angle. Your attention to detail is excellent but you told us instead of showing us. Keep working on it.
This is a well-covered topic. There are movies, books, documentaries, Mythbuster episodes... all on this one night. That doesn't mean you can't write about it. Hell, it proves there is a demand for it. However, if you are going to tackle something as well documented as the Alcatraz escape, you better bring something new to the table. A unique spin. An alternate ending. A new perspective. A new genre (a steampunk version of Escape from Alcatraz? Sure, why not?). But you need an angle to make this story your own.
I think your basic writing chops are solid and have potential. You're articulate and clear on your subject matter. I never got lost or confused. You have a certain voice, but I don't know if you've adapted it well to these sort of rough and guff men we assume these guys were. There's something too clean and educated here. Overall, it's too factual and not enough attitude and style.
Be bold. Take chances. Take these characters and go nuts.
Sure, it sucks getting down votes, but don't get discouraged. You have the basics down. Now have some fun and throw some paint of the canvas and even if it doesn't look like anything at first, keep having fun with it until it's art.
One of my favourite comments on writing and editing is comparing the writing process to building a sandcastle. The first draft is the equivalent of pouring the sand into the sandbox, and then over your next few drafts, slowly the castle takes shape. What this story feels like to me, is that there is enough sand to make an elaborate sandcastle, but the foundations are still being built.
There are a number of issues here, all of which can be worked on easily enough. The first thing I’d say is that your opening is very dense with information, and it makes it very hard to get through. The first paragraph should give us the hook, and make us want to read on. It should maybe hint at the backstory, but any exposition should really be drip-fed through the story, instead of info dumped. At times, your first page-long paragraph reads like a first person wiki entry. It also gives us information we just don’t need in a short story.
What is the crux of the story? A group of men try and escape from prison. All other detail you introduce is garnish on that main course. The issue with basing this on a real life story is that you are filling it with touches designed to show you have done your research. It makes the voice of your protagonist very stilted. Take for instance – “On November thirteenth, 1940, I was convicted of theft and sentenced to the National Training School for Boys.” When writing in the first person, basically everything becomes dialogue, and it’s hard to imagine Morris talking like this. Also, this information adds nothing to the story. We don’t need the biographical details. We want to be inside his head, not his wiki entry. Give us his thoughts and feelings. Keep us in the now.
“John, thirty two and standing five feet and ten inches” – Again, these details add nothing to the story. We don’t need ages or heights of the men involved. It doesn’t aid the story. Concentrate instead on giving each of these men their own unique voice. At times later in the story, during the dialogue heavy segments, the men come off as generic and interchangeable. I can keep Morris separate, but the others are pretty much fellow crim 1, fellow crim 2 and fellow crim 3.
This story makes me wish there was a third option for voting. It has real potential, but you just need to keep working at it. Strip all the backstory and concentrate on the immediacy. Build the tension. Are these guys going to get caught? Will West get out of the cell, or will he blab to the guards? There is gold here, you just need to dig a bit deeper for it. Best of luck with it though. Keep on building that castle.
I'm giving this a thumbs up, because there is something here. I know it's based off of real events, but I'm not very familiar with the detail, so I was intrigued. I imagine that someone who already knows how it turns out might not be as interested. It seems I'm almost always right behind Adam on the reviews, and I very much agree with him. There needs to be less fact and a bit more tension. You're not far off. Good luck.
The first thing I noticed about this piece is that, even early on there is a lot of information that doesn't necessarily add to the story. The exact dimensions of the cells, the height and age of the friends. These are details that you could sum up by saying small cell etc or just let the reader imagine how things are.I don't think that robbing a bank would give a guy thirty-five years and definitely not time in Alcatraz.
Maybe I missed something but what is A1? I'm also confused about the tobacco boxes. Did they remove vents and replace them with wooden slats that looked identical to vents when painted? Were they hired to install new vents? It doesn't seem believable to me that the inmates would have enough alone time to dig, make dummies or paint vents in a maximum security prison. Where does he keep the dummy head without the guards seeing it?
I'm sorry, to be so negative, but it just feels to me that there are a lot of holes in the story as it is. I would suggest doing specific research on Alcatraz or dropping the name.