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jay777's picture

A Man

By jay777 in Arrest Us

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Once you have read this story, please make sure you rate it by clicking the thumbs above. Then take a few minutes to give the author a helpful critique! We're all here for fun but let's try to help each other too.


A story of a man trapped, looking back at his life of crime and ultimately finding meaning to, and happiness in, his life.


Joseph Huckobey's picture
Joseph Huckobey July 8, 2014 - 10:55pm

So, I've read your story. There are a few things I can say about it. 


First, I like the frame up you have for the story. You start in the present, move backward into remembering his past, then come back into the present. It's good. I think the story itself is good too. 

I also liked the way you construct a character's voice as you write their dialog. I can really get a feeling of what kind of person the character is by reading that.

You do have some fundamental things to iron out, but they are nothing that a little practice or a good editor can't help. 

It seems like this story could have done with another draft. There are times when you write in digits instead of writing the number out. 

At one point, you say Jacob's sisters had moved away from the time when he was eight, then the next sentence says his other sister moved away that year. It confuses me.

There's a spot where you want to say Jacob closes his eyes and reflects on how he got there, or something to that effect. But, you say he reflects on how he there.


It's really just a second or third pass when you're revising would help. You have some strengths in there that will really shine if you hone your revising abilities. Awkward phrases or little technical snags will hamper the reader's ability to become immersed in your story.

jay777's picture
jay777 from Brooklyn, NY is reading Snuff July 9, 2014 - 6:09pm

Thank you. Your comment was helpful and I will use your critisims to help improve my work.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 17, 2014 - 4:23am

The start really didn't work for me, the impending doom then the flashback to childhood. Once you got to Jacob as a teenager, though, your story came into its own. For me the story didn't start until he meets Jose, after all the background stuff. You can mention his mother, how he can't eat during the summer, and the shopkeeper, but you don't need all the rest. Once the story got going, though, it improved drastically. The ending was a nice redemption as well.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 18, 2014 - 12:16am

There is promise here, but I do think it needs more work. There’s a few issues here which are fixable.

“Jacob Lopez was a tough guy. Toughest guy in a neighborhood of tough guys.” Is he though? There’s not much evidence of this in the story. He robs at gunpoint, and the only fight he gets into is with his partner in crime.

The relationship with Jose is problematic. Jose brings Jacob into this life, but then Jacob continues to escalate things. Jose is apprehensive about robbing the bodega, and pretty much comes across as a little reluctant, and then for no reason he decides to beat up a woman who has already been robbed. If Jose has any motivation for this, it’s not down on the page. There has been no hints to this side of his personality at all. Then the two of them fight getting all frustration out that again has not even been hinted at, and is covered with the flimsiest of reasons – “Jacob hated that Jose was a stupid braggart. Jose hated that Jacob bullied him.”

Having gone through all that, when Jacob is on the outside and hears about Jose, he then decides to finish what Jose started. Why? Because she’s walking “so confident and happily”?  If he was disgusted with Jose’s actions back then, why is he so set on repeating them now? Then you have him admit that what Jose wanted to do was crazy. Talking of motivation, the lady’s motivations are very fuzzy too. She gets Jacob a lighter sentence, and then when he tries to attack her, she and her husband just talk and then let him go. All because of his eyes.

You also do a lot of showing over telling – “As bad as it got, and it got pretty bad, there was still a lingering goodness deep within Jacob. It was that goodness that attracted girls that didn’t want to get involved with gang members, but still wanted a bad boy.” You are trying to present Jacob as ultimately good, but you tell, rather than show us. His “good” actions in stopping Jose are completely countered by the fact that he goes after her again years later.

All your characters have to have believable motivations for what they do. They can’t simply be driven by plot. If Jose has that darkness in him, show it before the incident, otherwise it seems out of character. If Jacob is a good guy, show it more. Give the lady some reason to do what she does, because, “yo eyes. I could see you were real” is not a reason.

There is potential here, and once you’ve sorted out some of the bigger issues, it’s going to read well. Best of luck with it.

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 18, 2014 - 4:07pm

I think that a lot has already been said about your story, I also think it needs more work. Your intro has no setting, not that you should say where he is, just what it is like where he is. Is it dark,small,are there smells or things out of place? This helps the reader to visualize the character and the overall situation.

In a few spots you repeat information and it slows down the reading significantly.

"Jacob was struck by a stroke-like mix of shock and fear, but he followed. Seeing his friend’s fear but also seeing his ability to follow, Jose took over the entire operation." These two sentences are saying the same thing and both are a bit wordy. You might try something like " A mix of shock and fear hit Jacob but he followed, anyway. Seeing his friends compliance, Jose took the lead.

I was wondering about Jacob's sisters and would have liked to have seen more development into them. It sounds as if at least one of them took care of him like a parent. How old were his sisters? Where they taking care of him out of love or did they just feel obligated?

I think that the part about the Bodega clerk should have been a central point early in the story. Instead of referencing some incident that happened eight years before, tell us the actual story. It will make the beating and robbery feel a lot more personal.

I know that most of this is negative, but I hope that it encourages you rather than discourages you. You have the outline of a good main Character here. Some advice in moving forward, I would start by reading your piece out loud to see if anything sounds awkward or out or place. Break it down by paragraph and ask yourself what that piece adds to your story or to your characters. With some more work I think you could have a really solid piece I hope that some of this helps.

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday July 25, 2014 - 12:59pm

Overall I liked this story.  There were a few spots that felt clunky or unnecesary, but for the most part it read well, so you get a thumbs up.  I'd say the biggest edit would be to remove the following paragraph:

As bad as it got, and it got pretty bad, there was still a lingering goodness deep within Jacob. It was that goodness that attracted girls that didn’t want to get involved with gang members, but still wanted a bad boy. And it was that goodness that eventually destroyed his and Jose’s friendship.

You don't ahve to tell us that bit, because you're about to show us.  At the end, I felt like you were in a bit of a rush, but at the same time in the beginning you covered a ton of ground really well in a short span.  Not sure if that's just your style or a byproduct of having a hard ceilng on word count.  Best of luck.