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Mike Knowles's picture

Alone With Lions

By Mike Knowles in Arrest Us

How It Rates

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Josh Zancan's picture
Josh Zancan from Crofton, MD is reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck July 2, 2014 - 7:24pm


I wrote a very long in-depth review of this, and then when I went to post, my internet had dropped and I lost it.  I’m going to try to recap my thoughts.  They aren't as flushed out as my initial write-up, so hopefully you can make use of them:

- Great dialogue that really captured 10 year old boys giving each other shit, and the dynamics of the leader, butt of the jokes, and the one stuck in the middle.  Very believable.  By the end, though, Wylie’s dialogue seemed to abandon his young tone and seemed too intelligent and grown up.
- I would have liked more narration and visual cues.  At times it felt like I was reading a screenplay that had enough to let me know that there was a lot of physical action—or physical pieces in place that were relevant—without enough information so that I could visualize it.  I had the gist of what was happening, but not a clear picture.  And with the rapid fire dialogue, stopping to fill in the pieces was distracting.  This was especially the case when the boys went to get the brick of drugs.  Where were they in relation to the cops so that they didn’t notice them getting the brick?  Also, how did they see a brick of drugs across the street, 50 feet away, on a curb where cars were parked (I assume, since it only took two cars to block in Vince), and the cops didn’t?
- The things that you chose to explicitly state in the narration I would have liked to work out for myself as a reader.  I was a little confused about the narrative choices, especially when Wylie was confronting Vince.  It was this tense moment, but the narration, that was meant to represent Wylie’s mindset in this insane situation where his friend was just killed with a single punch and he's taking on a very pissed off drug dealer (which I would expect to be panic and fear), was focused on how Evan would have mocked Wylie had he been there and then later, Wylie’s BMI.  In the end, the things that I had to figure out for myself as a reader would have worked better explained to me (visual stuff), and the things that were explained to me (emotional states) I would have liked to figure out for myself through the implication of action.
- Regarding the fight, none of it made sense to me.  Maybe you and I have known different sorts of drug dealers, but Vince is going to tell Peabo to “mess up” fifth/sixth graders for being mouthy?  Why did he care so much?  Besides, that escalated really quickly.  And even with cause to do so, why was it a pushing/shoving match?  A backhand would have had the kids on their back and running, but it went from pushing/shoving to one punch and a kid’s dead.  Also, I couldn’t visualize Devon’s torso being still but his legs were shaking.  That’s not how convulsions work.
- Peabo chose to explain his nickname to kids?  That would have been better suited for narration, if necessary at all.
- The scene getting ice cream could have been cut out completely, substituted with a brief expositional paragraph prior to going to Rita’s.  The scene seemed to break up the flow of Evan’s character.  He’s a kid of action.  He already had the plan once he got the brick.  So it was hard for me to buy the, “Get the brick.  Got the plan.  Get ice cream.  Execute on plan.” progression.

In the end I couldn’t tell if it a lot happened in the story that got rushed-through, or if not much happened and it got stretched out.  I know that’s counterintuitive, but I don’t know how else to put it.

Also, sorry if this was a little erratic.  Again, I had more thorough and organized thoughts written out, and expanded on my examples more, but lost it due to internet connection.

Josh Zancan's picture
Josh Zancan from Crofton, MD is reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck July 2, 2014 - 8:05pm

 One more did Vince get back to his apt. so fast?

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 20, 2014 - 4:43am

There's a little work needed here, a few moments of repetition that could be sorted out and a couple of sentences that don't flow, but you've got a good story. Try reading it aloud to help with the flow - naming one character Devon and another Evan could cause confusion to some. Overall an interesting tale that needs a little work and a revision, but I liked it. Nice.

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 20, 2014 - 3:22pm

I think you have a pretty good story here. I do think that you could tighten it up though. it seems like very little action takes place before the actual fight with Vince. the characters are well developed in the previous pages but I think you could take out quite a bit without losing their personalities. The paragraph where the boys fight Vince is very bulky and could be made into two. Everything happens so quickly and then seems to immediately die off, with all the characters leaving the room. I think that you have a nice ending where Wylie really shine. I'd recommend some minor editing, but other than that nice job.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 22, 2014 - 9:03am

Josh has covered most of my comments. Overall it flows well, reads well, and there is some decent tension. This may not be original, but I liked it. It’s very similar to another story in the contest, only that wasn’t drugs. I can’t quite recall which one though.

The one issue I have which was lightly touched on by Josh, is with the character of Wylie. He’s so downtrodden for most of this, that his sudden turn to outsmarting Vince feels well out of character. There is very little in the way of foreshadowing, to suggest he has this in him. He’s a clever kid, one might even say he’s wily, but forcing himself into this role of being ridiculed is very odd. Of all the characters, he’s the one I can’t reconcile.

I also don’t quite understand that when the situation at Vince’s place is going south, why not just give the brick back and hope they might get rewarded? At that stage, any cash is a bonus, even before Devon is killed with a straight punch. There is also little need for Vince to order his amusingly named henchman to rough them up. These are 10 year olds.

Solid thumbs up, but I think there’s plenty you can improve on here.

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday July 24, 2014 - 1:25pm

Good story.  It turned a lot darker than I expected in the end, but I really enjoyed it.  Nothing to nitpick.  Best of luck and thanks for sharing.