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Joshido's picture

Blue Creek Cutoff

By Joshido 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.

Description

Two criminals rip through a small mountain town attempting a sequence of calculated robberies. Along the way, motives and light-hearted friendships are revealed.  

Comments

Joshido's picture
Joshido from Northwestern America is reading Rant June 24, 2014 - 12:06pm

I stumbled across this contest while lurking, as I always do, on litreactor. I decided it was perhaps time to make an account and see what you all think. I often spend too much time reading, and not enough time writing. Please rate and review and I will be happy to do the same for you.

Aud Fontaine's picture
Aud Fontaine from the mountains is reading Catch-22. Since like, always. June 24, 2014 - 2:51pm

Joshido,

I liked your story, I feel like it really has a lot of potential. You're clearly a very talented and capable writer. That said, there were a few parts that didn't quite work for me. For one, you might want to proof read this since you have a fair amount of typos and the way you break up dialogue sometimes makes it hard to tell who's talking. There were also three lines that stood out to me as awkward and weird. The first one while Ben's finishing fishing and he describes his destination as what "locals called a dock". Doesn't everyone call it a dock? There was also one where the driver "took a good laugh at himself". Maybe this phrase is common elsewhere but I've never heard it and it sounded odd. The final one was during the driver's rant at the cashier when  he mentioned how dangerous he'd be if he had a "benign mental condition". Benign is harmless. Maybe "malicious" would be a better fit? The only other thing that kind of bugged me was how Ben sounded completely colloquial and normal right up until the paragraph after we found out he was Native and he suddenly dropped all contractions and took on this wiser, more formal tone. I felt that was a strange choice.

All of that aside though, this was a really good story. The beginning was particularly strong with lots of vivid and beautiful descriptions. I especially liked the line "Gentle lapping waves and popping sap from well-dried fire wood, were without question, Ben’s favorite song." That was wonderful. I also really liked how you threw in Ben's little crush on the coffee girl. It was really cool how you managed to make him holding her at gunpoint and forcing her to make coffee for him and his cohort a kind of sweet moment. Overall it was a really fun story and I think if you just take another pass at it, smooth out the typos and awkward phrasings you'll have something really great. Good job.

Aud.

Oh and thank you for not making this a Tobias fan fic. All I first saw of your title was "Blue Cutoff" and I panicked there for a second.

Joshido's picture
Joshido from Northwestern America is reading Rant June 24, 2014 - 4:17pm

Wow thank you! I didn't pick up on the change of contractions with Ben, and I suppose I ought to signal who is talking more often. I thought malign was what I used instead of benign. I guess it is the benefit of having others read your stuff. Time to make another pass. Not sure how to resubmit on this thing...

 

PS Good to see another Arrested fan. 

Aud Fontaine's picture
Aud Fontaine from the mountains is reading Catch-22. Since like, always. June 24, 2014 - 4:25pm

You go to Edit at the top of the page and click remove down by where you originally submitted your story and pretty much just submit it all over again. It's really easy but you need to do it before July 1st. 

Oh man, that show's great. But I've always been a bigger fan of GOB, personally. 

Lawrence's picture
Lawrence from Dallas, Texas is reading Mr. Mercedes - Stephen King June 24, 2014 - 5:56pm

Hey, I really dug the story. I always enjoy it when the "bad guys" are relatable and you can cheer for them. As mentioned above the coffee scene was really well done. These crime stories can be hard to wrap up and this one had a solid ending, so points there too.

My main critique is quite different than the other one. You write very well, and the opening scene had some great descriptors but I'd kill some of those beautiful sentences in favor of pacing. As well done as it is, on page two or three I was ready to get on with it. 

All in all a good story and certainly deserves a thumbs up in my opinion. 

Joshido's picture
Joshido from Northwestern America is reading Rant June 25, 2014 - 7:57am

Thank you very much Lawrence. I agree, pacing is important, especially in a short I would assume. Thanks again for reading. I will apply the feedback given and take another pass at this before July 1st.

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch June 25, 2014 - 11:44am

Joshido, 

I really enjoyed this story. Specifically, I think that you were able to flesh out Ben into a really interesting character the short span of pages that you had. The back and forth dialogue he has with his friends flows well and keeps me interested in what is basically the same motion repeated three times. 

 

I don't really have much in the way for critiques. Personally, I wasn't a fan of the beginning (basically the first page) as not much happens and it devotes a lot of time to description, where I'm waiting to get the story going, but that's just me. 

I would also have liked to have seen an ending with more of an ooomph. Not saying that his friend has to be captured or killed, but the current ending felt a bit too neat. Though maybe that's what you were going for. 

Either way, I enjoyed it, thanks for sharing. 

Joshido's picture
Joshido from Northwestern America is reading Rant June 25, 2014 - 1:54pm

Thanks Hector,

You know, I fought with the driver either getting caught or shot for a long time. You're right, it's almost farcical in its neatness. But I decided to have the happy ending because so many other submissions on here are rather grim. Is this a preference of the lit mag that people are writing for? Is Thug lit a mag that likes to publish the dark grim stuff? No problems with that, just a curiosity many stories I have read seem to take very dark turns.

Thank you for reading and for your feedback sir!

 

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 25, 2014 - 2:40pm

Josh, 

Great story man. I'm really happy the driver got away. I love the themes of the story. Normally the deer might have been a Deux Ex Machina but I didn't feel cheated at all because you all ready incorporated underlying man vs. nature themes into  the story. Before I got to the end I was thinking you should had started the story with the driver pulling up, but now I'm really glad you didn't. All the actions in the first scene tie together well with what the two's dialouge say about the world and nature of things, which tie together extremely well with your denoument. 

I wasn't able to do line edits on a PDF so here's my best effort. 

He flipped the trout and smelt the fresh pink meat mix with the butter

I can't tell if you meant he "smelled the" meat mix with butter, or if you mean he smelt like he heated up or melted the meat mix in with the butter. So address that, because it confused me. 

Ben hoped out...

Ben hopped out...

 

You start a lot of sentences with “He…, especially in the fourth paragraph where over half the sentences start with “He…” substitute an occasional Ben for variety and so we don’t forget his name. Also, try starting with other nouns, have the fish doing something instead of Ben. Like maybe in the last sentence of paragraph four,

“He stared right into the trout’s eye as he plucked out its insides, careful to avoid the thin and sharp bones.” 

Could be “The trout’s eyes stared back as he plucked out its insides, careful…”

Good timing on the arrival of the car. The worst thing for a story sometimes can be to have a character by themselves for too long, right before I almost got tired of watching Ben catch his food and eat it you drive the story ahead with the arrival of a new character. Good job.

So there are some nitpicks, but barely. This story is so good! Good luck with it. 

--JR--

 

Joshido's picture
Joshido from Northwestern America is reading Rant June 26, 2014 - 7:31am

Yikes! I will get those edits in. Nice catch. Drafting is indeed a process. Good point on the "hes". Great ideas on how to mix it up. Really, this is truly a supportive community. Thanks for all of y our great feedback, JR.

jorjon21's picture
jorjon21 from Wisconsin is reading Shotgun Lovesongs June 26, 2014 - 6:43am

I enjoyed the story, and I liked that you made the "villians/heros" into modern day Dillingers.  I can't add anything that hasn't been said previously as far as critiquing your writing or the flow of the story. 

Joshido's picture
Joshido from Northwestern America is reading Rant June 26, 2014 - 7:31am

Thank you jonjon, very kind of you to say.

Devin Heilman's picture
Devin Heilman June 26, 2014 - 12:06pm

Nice work.

_JohnUtah's picture
_JohnUtah from Texas is reading True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa June 29, 2014 - 6:19pm

Josh,

Great story. It was fast paced and straight to the point. You gave us just enough detail about the characters still to make them enjoyable, which was fantastic! As people have stated the dinner scene was especially enjoyable and written perfectly in my opinion. And yes a quick once over edit might help polish things up a bit more. All in all, I really enjoyed reading your work. Thanks for writing it.

 

Utah

Thomas Sixbey's picture
Thomas Sixbey June 30, 2014 - 9:12pm

Great story, Josh. I was hooked from the very beginning. Also, I could relate with the charcters, and that really influeced my interest. Nicley detailed. Lots of great imagery. I noticed only a few mistakes--probably just typos. A quick sweep will help. You should write more storeis like this.

Thomas

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 1, 2014 - 3:29am

Interesting story, with a great opening. The simplicity of the fishing trip was a nice touch. From there, as the story picked up pace, I didn't feel like there was much tension. They do it every year, they always get away with it, why should they get caught this time? Also, why do they do it at all? The dialogue was good, some was excellent, but I found your prose to be a little clunky at times. There were a lot of repetitions, for example:

The grill’s front cage heaved the animal right into the windshield. Bone and sinew snapped, the animal nearly busted at the seams. The creature crashed through the patrol car’s window. Blood erupted from crushed creature splattering the car and what remained of the windshield.

Anyway, it was an interesting take and the coffee scene, as previously mentioned, was very good. I felt that the ending was a bit of an anticlimax, unfortunately, but there's great potential here.

Joshido's picture
Joshido from Northwestern America is reading Rant July 2, 2014 - 2:03pm

Thanks guys, I wish I wasn't away from the computer for the last few days. I too think the the tension could use some work. I glad you all enjoyed it!

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 8, 2014 - 11:48am

There is good stuff here – you have an interesting premise, and two good characters. The relationship between Ben and the driver is a good one, and you really do get a sense of the years of friendship they share.

There are a couple of places where I do think you can improve, the most obvious being the start. I can see where you are going with it, a simple misdirect. Let us think one thing about the character, and then show us who he really is. Those first 600 words (before you mention the gun) are important. You show us a man fishing and then cooking (and eating) a fish. I’ll be the first to admit that I know nothing of fishing, but this was a section I endured rather than enjoyed. It lacks punch, and didn’t hook me. As soon as the driver appeared, I was in.

There are a few sentences that tripped me:

“A burning red dot in the middle of the road lonesomely penetrated a pitch black.” Is it just me or is there a word missing here? ‘The’ pitch black? A pitch black something?

“Ben grins and the driver could not help but laugh at his own statement.” First off this features a change of tense – ‘grins’ and then ‘could not’. I think it should be ‘grinned’. I’d take out ‘at his own statement’.

“Doesn’t matter, we’re ditching this piece-of-shit outside the junkyard to switch cars.” This reads like it’s information he’s telling the reader, not what he’s telling to Ben (who already knows).

The dialogue is almost there – some of it is good and really shows the kind of banter you’d expect these two to show. Some of it feels a little unnatural. Their conversation while smoking outside the gas station feels quite staged. “Want to smoke another cigarette first? The driver asked. (You missed a quote mark out). It would be more natural to have said something like, “Another smoke first?” Ben just blurts out that the sister is ill, and again this feels like it’s there for the reader rather than for the story. You want to instill some sympathy for the character, but you need to drop that in a little more naturally. This section reads as exposition. It’s there simply to give backstory to driver, and show that Ben is a Native American.

One thing was bugging me here… how come the driver doesn’t get a name? Is he played by Ryan Gosling? Actually, I just realised you also call him ‘the gunman’ at one point.

If this all sounds a bit negative, I’d point out that I think there are some really strong parts too. I do like the relationship between the men, and I like how human you make them. The bit in the coffee shop is great, and I like the running joke of everybody having gone to high school with the driver. The ending for me is perfect.

Thumbs up from me, and best of luck with the story.

Joshido's picture
Joshido from Northwestern America is reading Rant July 10, 2014 - 10:48am

Adam thank you! This is all great feedback, and it seems that we both like the same parts of the story. Unfortunately, I got pretty busy at the end of June and was unable to submit a final draft for the contest. There was some light grammatical stuff (like you mentioned) that needed fixing and I did want to tighten up the dialog as well, some this felt pushed as you mentioned. I also wanted to name the driver.

To be honest, this is the only short story I have written and submitted to any kind of community/contest. I will say, that the support and feedback provided by Litreactor has been huge! What a great group of folks you all have been.

If you have a story out there that needs a read Adam, let me know I will be happy to read and submit feedback as well. This contest really is a process that helps us look introspectively into our own writing.

 

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 11, 2014 - 2:36am

I was in the same position last year with Teleport Us. That contest did wonders for me in terms of my writing, not just from the comments I received on my entry, but in reading other stories and getting a feel for what worked and what didn't. If you want to read mine, I'm never going to say no, but don't feel like you have to do so. I don't ever expect people to read and comment just because I've read theirs.

http://litreactor.com/events/arrest-us/north-of-the-river?page=1

 

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 20, 2014 - 5:51am

Hi Joshido,

Slow start to this one. The exhaustive details of the catching of a fish. His only catch for the day, presumably? Plus, a choice of words that isn't entirely necessary - certainly not in narration, it comes across a little like a school kid using rude words to get a rise. "ass cheeks" being the obvious one.

That said, it's a fairly solid story, the robberies themselves are well told, and the escape adds to the feel, so it's a thumbs up. Reckon you could trim 500 words easy, though...

You could start with : As Ben walked to the road he lit his cigarette - Ben's friend asks about the fish, so job done. And you are on the word count limit, so I'll assume you could use those words elsewhere.

Watch for repetition : they shot onto a main arterial—the tires screamed and screeched out of ear shot. These can usually be caught by reading your piece out aloud to yourself. Also helps with any clumsy sentences or missing words.

I like the idea of the Clerk offering his wallet, and the gunman refusing. Ditto the tip to the barrista.

POV issue - we start with Ben, but then we get the driver/gunman in the store. Never wise if it can be avoided. Not sure why it couldn't be Ben anyway in the Gas station?

"molested" the car? Weird word choice.

Always start speech from different people on different paragraphs :

“Why did you do that?” The driver asked the clerk—the bigger one who tripped the alarm. He swallowed and replied, “Did what?”

This is lovely :

“Who the fuck are these cops?” The driver cried out to his speedometer.
“Maybe you used to go to high school with them?” Ben said folded up in his seat.

Though I'd lose the "to his speedometer"

Like the appearance of the buck. Might be even more interesting if you made use of Ben's heritage, maybe it reminds him of the animals his grandfather used to talk about...

The driver, with arms wide apart chuckles, "Are you saying ‘we're not outta the woods yet?’" After a short silence the two laughed. - no. Don't. You're a better writer than that.

You go into excess detail again in Ben's return to his camp, and the morning after. For the latter you could pretty much skip from the cop leaving him to his friend arriving. It's not that I find fishing boring, it's the level of detail isn't actually necessary in this story.

You never explain why Ben's friend has no name.