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Scott MacDonald's picture

A Need to be Bold

By Scott MacDonald 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.


The night is hot, humid, airless.  The motive is anger and greed.  Not the best conditions for three amateurs to try and pull off a kidnapping.


Helen Ash's picture
Helen Ash June 24, 2014 - 12:26pm

Fab!!!! :-) What happen's next?????

Scott MacDonald's picture
Scott MacDonald from UK is reading Perfidia June 24, 2014 - 1:01pm

Thanks for the comment, Helen.  No idea what happens next. It kind of reached a natural conclusion for me here.  Maybe it could be the opening chapter to a much longer piece. I'll have a think about it.

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 24, 2014 - 1:28pm


Really loved this one man. The characters are good. I could easily tell them all a part. I loved the dialouge as well. It all felt natural. The scene setting and the plotting all flowed as well. The slippery crime gone wrong was great. Kind of had a bit of a Guy Richie flair to it.

I like the open ending but could also had kept reading for pages. I do love that Horse is going to give himself up. Or atleast that's what I think he's doing. Not sure what his plans for Johnny were. But if this were a longer peice, it be a good setup for Johnny's revenge plot later down the road.

I've made a few marks in an attachment. Nothing big. Mostly subjective, and a couple grammar marks.

Great job on this one. Good Luck,



Scott MacDonald's picture
Scott MacDonald from UK is reading Perfidia June 24, 2014 - 1:47pm

Hi Jonathan,

Many thanks for the comments.  Really glad you enjoyed.  I've read through you notations and I agree with all of them.  I'll see if I can get a re-edit up before the comp closes.

I think that Horse was a little sketchy about his plans for Johnny, but wanted to make amends with this kid following the death of the other one.  And yeah, Horse is giving himself up.

While re-reading against you notes, I started to think about maybe expanding it, but down the line of who the other kid was.  Who his father was.  And what kind of revenge he'd be looking at getting.  Whether Horse would keep quiet in prison or not, etc. etc.

Maybe there is more mileage in this one.

Thanks again,


Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 24, 2014 - 2:02pm

Oh yeah, all really good options!!!

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch June 25, 2014 - 4:55pm


I really enjoyed this. The writing and dialogue are both strong and keeps the story moving at a quick pace, and I thought that the story worked and came to a natural conclusion.

When Horse met Houseman, it was originally confusing, mainly because I don't believe that you use the name Patrick before that, so I wasn't 100% sure who Houseman was talking to at the beginning. The other thing, and this is a nitpick, is that Houseman's monologue feels too pat, I didn't quite believe that he would be telling Patrick everything--or most everything--about the kid and why he had him.

Other than that, I thought it was a great story with a pitch perfect ending. Well done!

Scott MacDonald's picture
Scott MacDonald from UK is reading Perfidia June 26, 2014 - 6:26am

Hi Hector

Many thanks for reading my story and giving a critique.  Glad you enjoyed.

You're correct, the name Patrick wasn't used previously.  However, I couldn't really imagine Houseman using Horse's nickname, but on the other hand I was finding it a little difficult to crowbar in Horse's real name without it feeling too heavy-handed.  In the end I just left it as it was in the hope that it would explain itself after a few lines.

Looking back, I think you're probably right about Houseman's dialogue.  I was going for the idea that Horse had killed two guys, was carrying a gun and dead kid, and this would result in Houseman explaining himself.  Horse is barely audible to Tanner and Tremayne, but his lack of compehension at what they'd done and the resulting death of the kid is what he had become fixated on.  Perhaps a bit more fleshing out on this wouldn't go amiss.

Glad you liked the ending.  At the time of writing it felt right, but I've since looked back and wondered if there's more story to be told.  The fact that you thought this is a natural conclusion is encouraging.

Many thanks again,



Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 30, 2014 - 9:44am

I really liked this, it's interesting and the characters are well formed. The start felt a bit thick, I'm not sure what you could do but somehow I think it could ease in better, and the names were initially mildly confusing (two T's, two H's), but once it got going it grew into a fast moving and excellent story. The only thing that bothered me was the car crash - it seemed less abrupt and sudden than it probably should. Those things aside I loved it.

Scott MacDonald's picture
Scott MacDonald from UK is reading Perfidia June 30, 2014 - 11:49am

Cheers Seb,

Glad you liked the story.  I'll have another look at the start.  I've never been particularly good at openings - so much so that for longer pieces of work I've taken to writing prologues that I'll never use, just so I can get the "feel" of the piece.  I then tend to delete the prologue so that any reader can start the book kind of mid stride.  I find it a little difficult to do that with short fiction as the brevity of the piece is sort of the point and prologues make it feel drawn out.

As far as the car crash goes, I got that feel that it was maybe paced a little slowly when I was writing it and made the mental note to go back and rewrite.  Then on a reread I thought that it was okay due to the fact that the car was rolling at the time (but maybe I was making excuses so I didn't have to rewrite).  However, as you've picked up on it too, I'll go and have another look.

Thanks again for reading my work,


YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom June 30, 2014 - 12:37pm

Thumbs up for this. The story develops especially well into a nice flow following the flat tyre. Strongest parts were the tension of the plot, I felt the characters were distinguished enough for their differences to develop a nice undercurrent of conflict. Also the description was a strong point; epecially of Houseman's house.  

There were a few specific points where I was 'taken out' of the story a little by a few minor bits of writing: 

"Tremayne had been against it.  Police and public had little sympathy for child-abductors.  Tremayne had been outvoted.  Horse had agreed with Tanner.  Horse always agreed with Tanner." -- Might be a personal peeve but there were too many 'hads' for me in that paragraph and they jumped out.

"Not sure who had spoke or why," -- This just confused me, I thought it was the kid speaking, or someone just outside the car -- not Tanner or Horse.

A final point on your dialogue -- I felt at times you had characters say things to drive the plot where it wasn't fully necessary:

“This is all messed up. How does Horse know where he’s going?”
“Houseman clearly has a parlour up here.  We saw it when we were looking for the kid’s room.” -- I felt this was more for the reader than an exchange between Tanner and Tremayne; in such a situation I wouldn't expect them to be bothered with details -- and for what its worth I don't think I or a general reader woulda been confused without that explanation.

"Horse has found him.” -- Similar point to above.

“Fuck, they’ve shot Horse.” -- I saw the 'twist' of what actually happens to Horse coming because you added this bit of dialogue; had you left it with two shots ringing out it would have been more ambiguous. But that might just be me. 

Regarding dialogue is the only 'general' critique I can think of, and sorry if the critiques so long just wanted to give examples. I enjoyed the story and was completely hooked by the halfway point, invested in the characters -- what happens is very heavy but the motivations of the protagonists are sympathetic enough to make me care. Overall strong piece, and nicely poignant ending. 


Scott MacDonald's picture
Scott MacDonald from UK is reading Perfidia June 30, 2014 - 1:18pm

Hi Tom

Many thanks for reading the story and the critique.  Regarding your points:

- I hadn't noticed but there probably are too many 'hads' in that part.  Either that or I've broken it into too many sentences and therefore the rhythm is slightly off.  I'll have another look at it.

- The sentence about Tremayne not knowing who had spoken or why, was purely to indicate that he wasn't sure who or why had said "Careful", which then caused him to start to break - the darkness being so impenetrable as not to be able to at all without the headlights, thus causing a reaction without knowing to whom or what he is reacting.  However, perhaps it's not working as well as it should and something to replace it needs to be put in.

- The "How does Horse know where he's going?" exhange was not intentionally done to inform the audience (although now you've pointed it out I can see why it comes across that way).  It came as part of the natural narrative so I went with it.  Maybe it can be excised though as it is fairly redundant.

- "Horse has found him" was absolutely an audience informer and obviously not subtle enough.  Generally I wanted Horse to speak so as to be inaudible to Tremayne and Tanner, basically because I tried to put dialogue to Horse and none of it came across as fitting with his mindset at that point.  I decided that the general gist of what he'd said could simply be conveyed by Houseman's responses and that the reader could fill in exactly how he might have said it depending on their reading of Horse's minor breakdown.  The sentence was dropped in to give rational to the muffled mumblings.  Maybe I could just take it out of dialogue and add it as prose.

- The "they've shot Horse" line was not intentionally there to mislead the audience.  Without Horse obviously having a gun I did think that this might be an accurate reaction to the noise.  However, again, maybe the place for this is not in dialogue, as perhaps the most realistic reaction would have been an internal panic and a speeding up of pace to get to Horse.

Thanks again for reading and for the very useful commentary.  It will be certainly used to inform a rewrite when I get round to it.


Dan J. Fiore's picture
Dan J. Fiore from Pittsburgh is reading too many things at once July 1, 2014 - 4:25am


Great story, man. Very thrilling and filled with fantastic characters. I love that you weren't afraid to go full dark and you really ended up with an uncompromising story that's really interesting and kept me engaged on each read. 

I would maybe challenge you to take another look at the dialogue during the last few pages. The moment where we only hear Houseman and Horse's conversation maybe lasts a little too long and contains a little too much unsolicitated info on Houseman's part. That was really the only part where the spell the story had cast on me tended to break a bit.

There were maybe a few misspellings or typos, too. But those are easy to fix.

Otherwise, I loved it. Great job. 


Scott MacDonald's picture
Scott MacDonald from UK is reading Perfidia July 1, 2014 - 11:31am

Hey Dan,

Many thanks for reading my story. Very glad you enjoyed it. I did worry the dead kid thing would be a little much to pull off, so I'm pleased you feel the darker elements paid off. I've had a couple of comments and the Houseman/Horse dialogue so I do need to go and revisit that bit. 

Thanks again


Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 8, 2014 - 10:59am

Ooh, I liked this one. This might just be one of my favourites. It’s nicely dark, is clear and easy to read, yet you don’t ever coddle the reader. It’s hard to come up with areas that could be improved on, or at least none that have not already been touched upon by others.

I loved your opening. It hooked me completely, and gave a great sense of tension which you carried through the entire story. The characters are well formed, and all have individual voices which is a hard trick to pull off. I loved Horse. What a great character. I was completely with him as he started losing himself to rage. I also loved the ambiguity of the ending. I wanted to read more, and yet I really did not want to read more, if that makes sense.

To cover some of the comments, I agree that some of the dialogue could use a little sharpening. The Horse/Houseman dialogue is perhaps just a tad confused, but it shouldn’t take much to correct that. The car crash was pitched perfectly I thought. I don’t think it’s the type of accident that would be that sudden. It struck me that it was type of accident that happens almost in slow motion but with a sickening inevitability.

Big thumbs up from me. Best of luck with it.

Scott MacDonald's picture
Scott MacDonald from UK is reading Perfidia July 8, 2014 - 1:20pm

Hi Adam

Thanks for the awesome review.  I'm very pleased you liked it.  Absolutely agree after further readings that the Horse/Houseman bit is somewhat clumsy and looking back at the writing process I don't think I gave that the attention it needed.  Will certainly go over it again.

I'm glad the car crash worked for you.  I was unsure - I wanted a kind of silent free-fall lead-in that feels it's almost controllable, until, figuratively and literally, the wheels came off.

As said in a previous response, I'm very pleased that the dark elements worked and didn't become overblown.  I was conscious of trying not to overuse the ragdoll/plaything analogy of the body and the dead kid was something I nearly wrote out of the story as I wasn't sure I was getting it right - I wanted it to be more tragic (for Horse and the dead kid) rather than gratuitous.  I've reread and I don't think I quite pulled off the tragedy off of the anonymous corpse. A lonely death of some unknown kid, slipping from unconsciousness to death.  But maybe on a rewrite I'll get it pitched a bit better.

Many thanks again,


Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 20, 2014 - 3:55am

Hi Scott

Starts brightly, not too much infodumping, some nice descriptions ("fangs" as columns of the house). Keeps going at a good pace, the shock of seeing the intended target drive by, the piecing it together. Very well executed. Not much to say improvement wise.

that gained ingress - seems slightly at odds with rest of "voice"

You're missing some speech indicators, that with three characters, makes it tricky to follow some of the conversation. If it was a simple back and forth, it would be okay, but with 3, even if only two are speaking - well, we don't know the third hasn;t chipped in...

"At least a quarter of a million". That "at least "is a bit odd. More specific, or "a quarter of a million, for starters".

Not sure what position a boy's body over someone shoulder would be in, for the eyes to stare back? Also, not sure what Horse does with the boys body when he kills the first guard. 

I think, for a rounded piece, we need to get a feel about what these three actually do for Houseman. And, and this is tricky - if Houseman is a big shot, I don't get the empty house other than the kidnapped kid - someone would be there.

Horse is the simple one, right? He does what Tanner says. Which makes the repercussions more instinctual. Maybe a little more of the impending trauma could leak out in his voice?

Finally, consider Houseman offering up the dead kids name. Horse feels terrible for having killed him, and might want that, before he takes justice.

Very good stuff. Well done!


Scott MacDonald's picture
Scott MacDonald from UK is reading Perfidia July 21, 2014 - 11:59am

Hi Liam,

Many thanks for the read and the comments.

I'll take the issues one at a time:

  • "That gained ingress" - I didn't really spot this on the multiple rereads I did, and now you've mentioned it, it stands out like a sore thumb.  Will certainly do something about that one.
  • Missing speech indicators - I'll be perfectly honest, you're the first person to say this.  I've tried to concoct distinct voices that reduce the need for speech indicators (which I often find clumsy and overbearing), and where it could be ambiguous I was of the opinion that it didn't really matter who stated it as long as it was said.  However, point duly noted and I'll go and have a look at this again.
  • "At least a quarter of a million" - was kind of deliberate.  These are meant to be amateurs and the hope was that this sentence would have a ring of self-delusion, as if they suspect the amount but have no real evidence, and that the kidnap was more an act of desperation.
  • Boy's body over the shoulder - the image I had (which to be fair is probably erroneously described as "over the shoulder") was the head peering back over the shoulder, with the rest of the body clasped to the side of the body - kind of like someone cradling a baby to sleep.
  • What he does with the body - I'll be perfectly honest, it didn't seem to matter whilst I was writing it, but will go back and see how it reads with that in mind.
  • What they do for Houseman - again, this ended up being deliberately ambiguous.  Was he a legit trader (probably not) with simply a disgruntled workforce, or did they do more clandestine activity for him (thus leading them to a conclusion that kidnapping might be a good idea).  I did toy with a few ideas of what the employment was, but it kind of drew away from the here and now of the situation and in the end I junked that bit as being unnecessary.  I could certainly resurrect it.
  • Horse is the simple one, right? - I never pictured Horse as simple.  For me, he simply the one who couldn't deal with immorality of what they had done and hadn't really pictured a death as a consequence of this. There are a couple of low-level indicators I tried to work in to suggest an impending breakdown, but maybe they didn't really work.
  • Offering up the dead kid's name - This was a case of needs of the character vs needs of the story, and I realise that needs of the character should always win out.  However, I was taken with trying to give a sense of the tragedy of the nameless child, a pawn in some wider criminal activity that remains undisclosed.  I went for story over character - maybe it was a bad choice.

Thanks again for the well-considered comments.  It'll send me back to do a bit of further polishing of the text.


Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 21, 2014 - 1:32pm

Heck, don't let me tell you if you made a bad choice - all I can tell you is what worked for me and what didn't, and if that plus other feedback's helps make for a better story, than all well and good. But of course it is and has to remain YOUR story. And a damned fine one it is.

Tim Hennessy's picture
Tim Hennessy July 20, 2014 - 9:14pm



I think you've got a really intersting story. I like the atmosphere you've created and the duo who are struggling to pull off the kidnapping. Always giving them new obstacles certainly adds to the characterization and the tension.  The biggest issue I saw was the expositional dialogue really bogged down the narrative. Too often in the midst of the drama Tanner and Horse are dumping information at the reader be it their feelings or plot.

I think you've got a really great story here, and cutting dialogue will certainly help heighten the drama at hand.  


Scott MacDonald's picture
Scott MacDonald from UK is reading Perfidia July 21, 2014 - 12:08pm

Hi Tim

Thanks for reading the story.  Glad you enjoyed.

Multiple rereads has highlighted aspects that come across as info-dumping and you're right they really need to be excised from this.  There's a few real show-stoppers that really pull the dialogue out of the norm and make it sound like a movie set where they couldn't afford long-shots (a sort of "Look, they're coming over the hill" moment).

Will get onto the polishing up of this.

Many thanks again,


Josh Zancan's picture
Josh Zancan from Crofton, MD is reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck July 31, 2014 - 7:41pm


I really like the story - the whole thing is such a fucked up situation - but I feel like this was one scene out of a much larger story that I would like to read.  I think I would feel more tension with the characters if I knew them better.  

My only piece of criticism is that I don't think it's very relevant that we find out so much about the boy.  Even though we don't find out any details, Houseman sort gave an entire explanation for him.  I can see Houseman saying who he was, but I don't think the elaboration was necessary.  Specifically, the quote, "He was the son of a man....not enough dope to kill him." But oh man, your description when he shot Houseman.  Nailed it.  


Scott MacDonald's picture
Scott MacDonald from UK is reading Perfidia August 1, 2014 - 11:55am

Hi Josh

Many thanks for reading my story.  Glad you enjoyed.  A couple of people have commented that maybe it should be part of a longer piece, so I've started toying with it a bit.  I'll probably have to make a few changes, as the natural fleshing out of what already exists ends up sounding like the plot to the movie Blue Collar.  I'll keep playing about with it though and see where it goes.

As far as the Houseman dialogue goes, each time I read that bit the more problems I see with it.  Houseman's character seemed to be better developed before he spoke.  Once he speaks he becomes something of a cliche and the dialogue feels a bit stilted.  I agree that something needs to be done about that.

Thanks for comment on the shooting of Houseman.  I wasn't sure if it was a bit abrupt.  I wanted it to happen without too much build as Horse had headed up there for that express intention.  Your comment reassures me that the shooting of him works.

Thanks again