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EdVaughn's picture

Buried Treasure

By EdVaughn in Arrest Us

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Description

When Ben and his friend, and mentor, Mac are sent to retrieve owed money from Jason Carr, they discover they're not the only ones Carr owes. Now, the other crew's boss, Little Mickey, wants Ben to dig up his buried treasure.

Comments

Neil Krolicki's picture
Neil Krolicki from Denver is reading What Suzy & Chuck Tell Him To June 29, 2014 - 8:31am

Hey Ed,

Really enjoyed the whimsical tone to your story, how it wasn’t always a teeth-gritting/tough guy crime tale.

I feel like the dialog could use another pass to make it a touch more organic. There are some good lines, but then some stuff comes off more ‘writerly’ - reading it aloud always helps me in this regard. Just as an example “Put that thing in the ashtray and get out” might sound more like this in real life “Cash that thing and let’s book” (or something more slangy like that).

You might revisit your hit man and try to bring your own spin to his look - the ‘black ski mask’ has really been done a bunch. You could get creative and just say his features are all gnarled up and reveal later that he’s got nylons on his face. Or even just a doo-rag over his mouth, leaving only his eyes. It’s an opportunity to subvert a cliche. What doesn’t make complete sense to me is why the hit man that materializes and instantly assassinates Mac, but decides to ask Ben a couple questions - I realize it’d make for a real short story to have your narrator popped in the third paragraph, but just going by the rules of the character you’ve set up (this man doesn’t hesitate to kill a stranger) it bucks me from the story when he doesn’t do so with Ben.  It turns out later that Ben’s boss is an ally of the midget crime boss, yes - and it turns out to be a good thing Shooter DIDN’T kill him. But Shooter doesn’t know that when Ben first shows up, so if he kills Mac it’d only make sense he’d kill Ben too, in my view. You could potentially make this work if Shooter somehow realizes Ben works for Mickey (maybe a distinct tattoo or something).

And this is just my two-cents, but ‘Ben’ makes me picture a nice suburban kid, especially when you paint him as a stoner right off - you might revisit that name or consider swapping it for a nickname.

You might consider ditching the entire exchange after Ben’s line “You boss is a midget with a mohawk” in the interest of condensing a little, because the reader already knows what happened and we’re being subjected to it being explained again - think you could go from Ben’s line straight to “You get the info I wanted outta Carr?” and not lose anything.   It also doesn’t entirely jibe that Ben takes a beating then suddenly realizes there’s no point to him withholding his purpose for being at the house from the crime boss.  Honestly, Ben’s entire level of sarcasm throughout the story, given his life-or-death circumstance, doesn’t ring true for me.  I dig that you’re trying to inject humor whenever you can and I’d never tell you to pull back on the humor, but your narrator doesn’t seem to have any regard for his own safety so it makes it hard for me as the reader to worry about his fate.

“..it didn’t take Ben long to make a hole five foot around and three foot deep.” Even with super soft ground, that’s a pretty big hole to dig, it’d actually take quite a while. You might consider showing the time pass instead of telling: “Ben heaved shovels of dirt while Shooter smoked a cigarette that turned into three. Into five. Sweating and moving earth until Shooter was crumpling the empty pack and throwing it into the three foot hole Ben had made.”

I appreciate you trying to keep a tight pace and move things along, but Shooter launching into a detailed explanation about the ‘buried treasure’ actually being the boss’s favorite girl when they find the hooker seems really expository and inorganic. Again, I think reading your dialog aloud (the whole story really) will help you hear where thing’s just don’t sound quite the way someone would really talk.  Everyone’s clearly explaining their motives which makes the exchanges very ‘on-the-nose’ , a term screenwriters use and is something they try to avoid at all costs.

The final conflict where Ben is able to subdue three hit men lightning fast with a shovel didn’t work for me, personally - at best he could get a shovel hit in on Shooter and a quick swing on another guy who was casually sitting by, but a third guy is one too many. I think you could cut the third guy (who really doesn’t serve the narrative) and make that climax more believable.

I say the following in the most respectful way possible & knowing that I fall into it myself, but there’s a lot of cliches getting thrown around in here that you could root out for more creative alternatives.  I think you accomplished this with the midget crime boss character, turning a classic stereotype on it’s head - but you might think about expanding unique elements like that into the story overall.  

The twist of the buried girl at the end is a unique surprise and her nipple getting lobbed off is hilarious - always enjoy a writer who laces in some humor and a sense of craziness, so please hang on to those traits. I hope the opinions I’ve given here might be helpful to you in the re-write.

Best,
NK

Turtlethumbs's picture
Turtlethumbs July 1, 2014 - 5:23pm

"Blood splashed Ben’s face as he watched his friend and mentor, father figure really, fall in a heap at his feet." -- The "father figure really" bit seems unnecessary, especially since you tell us later in the story the same exact thing.

"Stop shooting my car, asshole," -- Although it seems part of Ben's character to act super badass in scary situations, he's unarmed and being shot at, and his best friend was just killed. I find it a little hard to believe he would say this.

Not sure if Glock should be capitalized.

Using the word "goons" to describe Ben's captors seems out of place. Seems like a loaded term a cop might use to refer to certain criminals, but Ben is a criminal of his own kind and probably wouldn't use the term. Not that it's his thoughts, but the narration seems constructed at least partially based off of vocabulary he would be comfortable using.

"if it was the last thing he'd ever do" strikes me as cliche, and I've been advised from better writers than me to avoid cliches...

"Ben saw stars" also strikes me as cliche. You might want to say he got dizzy, or describe how everything temporarily went dark or light, or that he saw spot of light in his field of vision. Something other than "saw stars."

"His breath smelled like cigarettes and ass-crack." -- It's confusing to mix in an actual smell I understand (cigarettes) and a figurative smell (ass-crack). Unless you mean literally, that the guy's breath smells like ass-crack, but I don't really know what that smells like. I know you're going for "smells bad," but in that case maybe something like "smells like he hadn't brushed his teeth in weeks" or even adding depth by pointing out his yellow and/or crooked teeth - or something.

"They drove through the sticks, nothing around but fields and cows and big houses set far away from the road." -- The word "sticks" is telling whereas the "nothing around but..." is telling. I'd remove the telling and keep the showing. That goes for all of writing... again, from what I've been told. I'm definitey not a great writer. (Oh, by the way please read my story! I'm taking quite a bit of time to critique yours! Mine's here: http://litreactor.com/events/arrest-us/born-again-packaging)

"His armpits and ass crack dripped sweat while the three amigos sat around smoking cigarettes and telling lame jokes. " -- Were the three guys Latinos or something? If not, it's an awkward use of the phrase. If so, it's also awkward for other reasons.

Late introduction of Chuck and Aaron seems unnecessary, since the story is about to end. May as well just have them remain as unnamed "goons."

--

I love the ending, and I'm giving you a thumbs up because it was fun and the action pulled me through to the end. But I think the characterization was overall kind of corny and one-dimensional. With some work the characters could be stronger, and by tightening up the language and getting rid of the cliches and bouts of telling-not-showing, it could be really awesome.

Mojopin12's picture
Mojopin12 from SA is reading Wheel of Time Book 7 July 1, 2014 - 6:55pm

Hi Ed.

I enjoyed your story. The action drew me in immediately, and kept my attention throughout. I liked that you had a dwarf as a crime boss, that's definately not something seen everyday.

I thought it strange that your hitman had a mask when Mac and Ben walk in on him. I think it would've been more believable if he didn't have a mask. The hitman wouldn't have cared having his face revealed to Jason Carr because he was eventually going to kill him.

Also (this could be me being nitpicky) I found it odd that three to four men were waiting outside in the van while the hitman, alone, was with Jason Carr. If they were the lookouts, why didn't they warn the hitman that two men were on their way inside the house? Or why did none of them get out of the van to help with the two on one situation? Why have back up if they are all going to sit in the van and wait for Ben to come to them?

The dialogue between Mickey and Ben didn't flow well to me. I think dialogue is supposed to move the story foward, and this exchange was a bit stagnant.

I loved the ending. I loved the way Ben waited for his moment, and sacrificed himself for vengence was pretty cool. All in all, I was entertained until the end.

 

madsmaddox's picture
madsmaddox from Berkshire is reading Fated July 2, 2014 - 5:55am

Ed,

since you read mine I thought I would return the courtesy. There is definitely a very fun tale in here, I enjoyed it, there are some inconsistencies but that's what drafts are for. If you are planning on redrafting, I would focus on a few things (take my comments with a pinch of salt):

1. Action - at the moment, it reads like stage direction, there's no urgency to it. This is easily rectified, just shorten the sentences and remove any passive moments. Having said that, because it reads like stage direction I knew where you were coming from, the sequences work in terms of moving forwards and all its needs is a little more polish to bring it together.  

2. The relationship between Ben and Mac, this needs to be established earlier and in better detail, the reveal that Mac is his friend (a given), his mentor and a father figure is done in one single line. This should be built on, its ultimately his motivation for what happens in the final act. Especially the learning to shoot sequence which seems dropped in to explain the whole exhale when you pull the trigger.

3. Emotion - Take a look at Ben's emotional state throughout the story, its quite the rollercoaster and perhaps needs evening out. One scene in particular springs to mind, its when he's captured and has a gun to his head.

4. Narrator - The narrator seems passive during times which need statement.

Also the drug packing scene, why are some suited and booted and others are scantily clad?

I gave you a thumbs up, its almost there, I really liked the end sequence, I'm not going to spoil it for others but I thought it worked very well in bringing closure to this piece.

All the best and good luck with the contest Ed!

Mads

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch July 2, 2014 - 1:33pm

Ed,

I ended up enjoying this enough for me to give you a thumbs up, but I'm not sure if the story is all there yet. I think you have a good handle on Ben, but like others have pointed out, the piece could use a second pass to streghten the dialogue as well as maybe clean up a little bit of the writing.

Sometimes I think you overly describe things. For example:

The house was a nice, newly built home with attached garage. Mac opened the glass screen door and knocked on the expensive looking wood one behind. Ben turned his back and scanned the vicinity. A quiet street with a street light two doors down beamed a hole into the night, no cars drove by, no kids roamed around. A good suburban neighborhood, not like the one Ben grew up in.

There's technically nothing wrong with this paragraph (though watch out for repetition- 'street' in this case), but I'm not sure it really adds much to the story.

I would have liked to have seen more interaction between Ben and Mac to really drive home the point that he's Ben's father figure, rather than you telling us that later on. This would also help in getting the reader more invested in the story, as unfortunately you'll find that the idea of people breaking into someone's home is a bit played out.

The twist you have, with Jason already being dead is good, and that got my attention back up. I think the idea you have is solid, but I thought there were some plot holes in your story. First the men kill Mac, and are shooting at Ben (indicating they want to kill him too), and then they decide to take him to Little Mickey. Why? Why not just kill Ben and be done with it. It feels a little bit too forced.

The same goes when Mickey tells the boys to take Ben with him. Again, why? Wouldn't it be easier to just kill him or let him go?

I really like the reveal about Treasure. It's funny, but also says a lot about Mickey, Jason, and Shooter (I really liked his line about not being able to stand her). I thought a lot of the humor overall worked, but some it felt like a little bit too much. A sarcastic main character is a staple of the genre, but in this case the sarcasm Ben was showing--especially during the van, feels out of place. I would think he would be wondering what's happening/scared, etc. Instead he's just rambling one liners. You might be better off cutting some of the lines back, just so that when he does use them, they really pop.

Finally, I didn't think the ending jived with the rest of the piece. It's partly because even though you try to tell us about Mac and Ben's relationship, we don't see it for ourselves, so there's not a lot of urge for me to see Ben take revenge on Mac's killer. It's also, for me at least, because I expected a more humorous ending. Like he ends up killing or at least bringing down the guys with him and goes down to dig for the treasure Mickey was talking about, only to then find out it's actually a girl.

Sorry if this sounds overly negative. I think this has a lot of potential and just needs to be tweaked slightly.

EdVaughn's picture
EdVaughn from Louisville, Ky is reading a whole bunch of different stuff July 2, 2014 - 6:17pm

Hey everybody,

Thanks for all the comments. I greatly appreciate it. Yeah, I figured it would need another draft or two. It took me awhile to get this written so I didn't get that "sit and forget" time that usuaully helps me out a lot. I'm taking down notes from all the comments and I'll get working on it some more after this thing ends. Might end up being a different beast. Thanks again!

Neil Krolicki's picture
Neil Krolicki from Denver is reading What Suzy & Chuck Tell Him To July 7, 2014 - 7:21am

Good luck, Ed - and please give my story 'Poachers' a read when you've got some free time: 

http://litreactor.com/events/arrest-us/poachers

Thnx,
NK

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 3, 2014 - 1:17pm

There's something in here but it will take another draft or two to bring it out, I think. Mads and Hector both made valid points which I think will improve your story, and although I would have suggested the same there's a couple of other issues I'll address instead. Please bear in mind that these are just my opinion, and feel free to completely ignore them if you want.

Firstly, your protaganist is introduced as a guy who gets anxious about the idea of killing someone, and doesn't seem to like changes in plans or surprises. Then he becomes your typical wisecracking smartass who only speaks in one-liners and sets out to avenge the death of his friend. The introduced character, the paranoid and naive stoner, has real potential. The second incantation, the smartass, felt two dimensional to me. Also, having created the character one way, the later dialogue and actions if the character seemed completely at odds with who I thought he was. This might be worth addressing by revising either the opening or the later dialogue.

Secondly, I found a lot of the story to be clichéd; settings, dialogue, characters, however the Treasure was a nice surprise, as was the dwarf with a Mohawk.

Thirdly, there were a few plot holes. Shooter kills Mac. Why doesn't he then shoot Ben? Or when Ben backs away, why not shoot him then? Why run after him and slip on blood? Digging a deep hole takes a while, the ground may start soft but that doesn't last, particularly around tree roots. And the whole explanation from Shooter felt very James Bond/Austin Powers. Why explain it?

Anyway, those are my thoughts. The prose is neat and the language is tight, and there is a lot of potential in this story. I hope you don't read this as being negative, I think you've done a good job, I just wanted to point out the things that didn't work for me. Best of luck.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 11, 2014 - 12:52am

There is some good stuff here. It flows well, it’s engaging, and it holds the attention right to the end. It does read to me like an earlyish draft though. The bones are there, some of them have muscle definition and some flesh, but in places the skeleton is still showing.

There are a couple of logic leaps that threw me, starting out with the two men going into Carr’s place. The guy shoots Mac immediately, without hesitation, but then asks Ben who he is rather than going for the immediate double. Then Ben runs, and instead of just raising his gun and shooting like he did to Mac, he tries to run after him and slips. Then the guys outside jump on Ben, and instead of shooting him, they take him to see the little fella.

Ben’s responses all the way through feel off, cracking off one-liners at inappropriate moments for no discernible reason other than that he seems to be auditioning for a role in a Shane Black movie. Then the little guy sends him off to dig for Treasure, again for no reason. You’d think at that point he’d either shoot the guy and apologise for two dead bodies, or let him go. The only reason to have Ben go to dig for Treasure at the moment is because of plot. I do agree with previous comments that Ben taking out three guys with a spade seems a stretch, especially as he’s not exactly given a Steven Seagal backstory.

I know exactly what you mean about “sit and forget” time. I find that process important as well, and my stories do tend to change a lot after that period. You have a great foundation here, and I think it’ll shine a lot more if and when you take another run at it. Best of luck with this one.

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 21, 2014 - 3:01am

Hi Ed,

A fairly simple set up, an interesting twist, some classic thuggery. All good, but you need to - even on a simple set up - put  lot more work into what and why things would actually happen, and you need the dialog to be more in tune with what is happening and what all the players are thinking. Overall, I'm tending towards a thumbs up, because the crime itself is understandable, and the "treasure" idea is a fun one.

Lively start. Watch out for repetition, the echoing back of "about killing the guy" sounds clumsy, and there are so many other ways to go - "about killing no-one" for a grammatically incorrect but "real" alternative. Also, does anyone call them "weed smoke"s? Joint suffices the first time, and smoke the 2nd (the weed by then is known). Plus, maybe make it more obvious what Mac thinks of his partner smoking before a job?

Much as I see this sort of thing, I always wonder why anyone cares that it was a 1995 Chevy Blazer. Does it help the story along? If you have to describe it, I'd be more interested in the condition than the age. (Don't really care about the Blazer part, either), which you give a little later anyway.

You use "nice" maybe too many times as regards the victims house and car and garden.

You get rid of mac pretty quick, which is a nice shock, but maybe put more into that passage. And maybe have Mac be the one who starts to say something, as that then selects him as the target? Plus - gun in confined space. Noise? Also, if you want us to feel Ben's grief, you need to put more into Mac - have Mac offer to do the final beating of Jason, to allow Ben to keep his "no killing" promise, say. Give us the fatherly figure Ben views Mac as.

Once Ben is in the minivan, he seems awfully calm and in control - back-talking the guys with guns. I'm not seeing much evidence of the much-discussed paranoia.

Never letting him take an ass beating alone. - Whatever you may think, adding the word "ass" weakens rather than strengthens this sentence. Makes it less, not more noir. Frequent use of "ass crack" as well does not improve the writing.

The counting house/drug house description is a bit of a tired image, and an unlikely place for him to be dragged. More likely, he might get a glimpse of it through a closing door, before the Little Mickey's attention is fully merited. Likewise, the dialogue is not realistic, and doesn't make best use either - I want the goon's threats to be more visceral, when Ben says which post three from the right, I want the goons to say - doesn't matter - you'll dig both if needs be, and when he's playing up, spell it out for him - you're here to work, if you're not digging, you're dying. (Not literally these words, but big it up.)

You're not going to recognise silicon at the bottom of a hole. Especially if it has been a while, but even if fresh. You're telling us it's silicon, when Ben has no way of knowing (though if you can work it in that he's surprised how well shaped this corpse's breasts are, and how they stand proud even in death, then we'll get the message.)

The Shooter explaining the gag HAS to be more natural. Do it in dialogue, perhaps. Break it up. Also, seems to have far too much info on the killing. Be more mysterious, Jason would lie, say how Treasure ran away, Little Mickey sent the goons to find out the truth. This Miss Marple wrapping up of the crime is weak.

The ending is fine, a bit lazy perhaps, the "it's going to end, probably with everyone dead, but I'm not going to describe that." I do suspect while he's busy exhaling the shooter's emptied his clip... (If you want to give us a "he might survived" plus humour, the shooter could do that - but the gun is already empty from everything else that's happened that night... Plus, maybe Ben can't feel his legs?)

Liam

 

 

 

EdVaughn's picture
EdVaughn from Louisville, Ky is reading a whole bunch of different stuff July 21, 2014 - 4:42pm

Thanks guys, already working on it.

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers July 29, 2014 - 12:16pm

There's some good stuff here, but it's inconsistent. You go from showing to telling, and you definitely need a little a both, but you're not showing me what I need to see. 

He shouldn't have smoked that joint. He was starting to feel paranoid and anxious.

A small thing, but that's telling. You don't necessarily need more words to say he was paranoid, but don't go proclaiming it. Something like:

He shouldn't have smoked that joint. Couldn't shake it. Someone was watching his every move. Maybe not.

or something like that. Don't use the word 'feel'...it tells me nothing. Show it. 

Little things like that, then the character goes from a pansy to a wisecracking smartass in about 1.5 seconds. That's already been addressed. You have the bare bones of a story, BUT it is a story, and with a little work, it could really rock. 

EdVaughn's picture
EdVaughn from Louisville, Ky is reading a whole bunch of different stuff August 1, 2014 - 8:04pm

Awesome. Thanks, Bob. Already re-wrote a lot of what everyone has pointed out. Hopefully, it's better.