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RhysWare's picture

Circus Crime

By RhysWare in Arrest Us

How It Rates

Voting for this event has ended
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 freaks want blood, and two intoxicated yobs want money.

Note: this story has been revised, clearing up some passages and fixing the minor continuity error. 

Hope you all enjoy.


Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading a lot more during the quarantine June 25, 2014 - 9:37am

You had me at: The Lobster Man was the racist.

Seriously, though, good opening. I like how you introduce the characters through the crime they are about to commit, why they want to do it.

I loved the setting. Something different for a crime story, although when you think about it, the traveling circus is like the Wild West.

A couple character things: We don't really get much about Jamie himself. Does he treat the freaks well? Is he a tyrant? The only impression we get is a very subjective one from the Freaks. Maybe you feel that isn't important to your story. But giving us a little bit more about him would add another layer to the relationships you are writing about. Speaking of relationships, I liked the one between David and Eli a lot. I like how that played out.

Another thing: I like the Sloth girl and her intentions to eat, but in the end she doesn't get to play much of a role. I'd love to see a little more done with her ending. Something creepy.

I also thought you could utilize the fear of the two "yobs" to add to the tension a little more. They hide out in the Ghost Train, maybe you could use the childhood fear of the one to ratchet things up? Or send them into the mirror house and have the one guy freak out. Just a thought.

Anyway, hope some of this is helpful. I really enjoyed this story over all. Good luck with it.

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch June 25, 2014 - 12:19pm

Really enjoyed this. Like Joshua said, it's a different, and great take on a standard crime story. It  walks the line between horror and crime really well, and I commend you for it. 

I though that the writing really matched the overall feel of the story, which is not an easy fit. I agree with Joshua in that I would have liked to have seen more interaction with the Sloth girl. 

To be honest, I felt the section with the two regular guys were the most boring parts, and I found myself skimming through them. That's a testatment to what you were able to build with the freaks. I wouldn't have minded seeing a story solely from their point of view, as that could also help to flesh out the Sloth Girl and Jaime, who I agree with Joshua, wasn't fully there yet. 

RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors June 25, 2014 - 1:38pm


I greatly appreciate that, friend. Thanks very much for your opinions and compliments, and thanks for taking your time to read it.

I do agree with you on your points here. In terms of Jamie, I thought about having a little more on him, but then quickly decided to abandon it. I find myself almost never explaining a character in my prose, and I much rather have the characters do that themselves with their actions and their dialogue. I could look into having the freaks explain a little more about him, but, as you said, I quite liked it being subjective only on one side.

I was worried about David and Eli, so it's great to know they were liked.

In all honesty, I wanted some dramatic irony with Sloth, but I just wrote what I felt. I think I'm going to go back through it and add a little something extra to her story before the closing date.

The original plan was to have the yobs enter both the ghost train and house of mirrors, but I dropped that idea quick once the word count started to rack up. I do like to keep in between minumum and maximum. But I think you have a good idea there, having some childhood fear ignite whilst within the ghost train. That's something I'm definitely going to consider in the re-write.

Again, thanks for your time, mate, and the points were invaluable. Appreciated.

RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors June 25, 2014 - 1:45pm


I really appreciate your time, too, so thanks very much for it. And especially thanks for the comments.

What you say about the writing style fills me with joy, as its something I've been developing for a while, and until recently, thought fairly off the mark. It's good to know someone likes it as I've reached the stage where I like it myself.

Again, I'm going to consider more on Sloth, and try to give her a little more of a fitting ending.

It's obvioulsy both good and bad, knowing that you prefered reading about the Freaks. I found myself a little more towards the yobs as I was writing, but I think that's because it's a personal thing, and the Freaks themselves are a little more original than your average characters in Crime, so I understand your preference. I'm going to have a revise with your comments in mind!

Appreciated greatly, and again, thanks for your time.

Kari Stafford's picture
Kari Stafford from earth is reading les miserables June 25, 2014 - 2:39pm

Ok so I'm not the best reviewer on the planet so totes bare with me.

Ho.Ly. Moses. Can I just say I loved this?? I had no idea you were so talented at writing! The dialogue felt natural, the storytelling was excellent, the characters were fascinating and Gods would I love to read more.

I think the only thing that threw me off for a moment was that you used 'said' about three times in a row at the end of page three and onto page four? It's just a little thing but it did pull me from the story for a moment. Apart from that I can find absolutely no fault with it. I loved the short sentences, I loved the descriptions, I loved all of it.

Definitely keep writing! You have a definite talent and I'd love to read any book you write.

RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors June 25, 2014 - 2:51pm

Wow, Kari, thank you very much for the kind words!

Thanks for the heads up, I'll definitely sort that out. It always distracts me when I notice it in other's work!

Again, thank you so much for your time, it's appreciated!

AnthonyDailey13's picture
AnthonyDailey13 from Arkansas is reading A stack of books that I always restock. June 29, 2014 - 10:10am

This story was very interesting. The opening line or hooker if you prefer, "The lobster man was racist." Is simple yet rings in your head all day and keeps you going. It reminds me of a modern day version of Freaks only the story stands on its own. I have a story called "Havoc" on here if you want to read it. I'm not conserned with winning. I just wanted to give you a story you might enjoy

RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors June 30, 2014 - 1:09am


Thanks very much for the kind words. I'll certainly take a look at it!

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 1, 2014 - 6:13am

Love it. The only slight confusion was from David and Eli, at times it felt their names had been interchanged, but that's it. Excellent.

RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors July 1, 2014 - 12:57pm


Thank you very much for the comment, it means a lot to me, truly. Very glad you enjoyed it!

Aud Fontaine's picture
Aud Fontaine from the mountains is reading Catch-22. Since like, always. July 1, 2014 - 3:02pm


The only thing that I don't like about this is that it's too short. Way too fucking short. This is basically everything I wanted Geek Love to be and that's saying something because I liked Geek Love quite a lot. This was creepy, weird, disturbing, vicious and fucking brilliant. I loved it. Seriously, if you make this into a book, I fucking want that book. I'm going to try to stop cussing now but I'm just really psyched about this story. Honestly, sweet damn. This is especially refreshing because I've been getting pretty burnt out reading about cops and robbers and what not. I love how unique this is. The only thing that I would suggest is a little bit more description. The characters are so strange and fascinating that I would've loved to hear more about them; their relationships, their deformities, their pasts, etc. You seem to be a big believer in the whole showing instead of telling type of storytelling (kudos on that by the way, I find it nearly impossible to pull off) but I don't think you need to sacrifice that style in order to give a little more about the characters. I think if you just approached everyone with a little bit more of the finesse you gave David and Eli (unsurprisingly, I loved them by the way) then this story would be fleshed out to absolute phenomenon status. Although, ideally, I'd like for it to be a book. That you send to me. So I can read it. Because it's so fucking weird.


RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors July 1, 2014 - 3:59pm

Hi Aud,

Firstly, thanks very much for your comments. Wow! It's put a smile on my face knowing that you've enjoyed it so much, so again, thanks.

I'd never heard of Geek Love and just decided to do some research. It sounds very interesting indeed, and I think tomorrow I'll try and pick it up!

In terms of your cussing, it seems Andy and Liam got through to you a little, which is fine! The two characters, in all honesty, are loosely based on two 'friends' of the family that used to hang around when I was a kid. Shows how much they altered my little mental state, doesn't it?

I always follow the personal philosophy of 'show don't tell, unless your character's telling, then tell all you want.'

One thing I'll say to you is this: if anything even remotely book related came of this, you'd be getting it for free! Haha

Thanks again, mate, it's appreciated.

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 1, 2014 - 3:24pm


I like the setting, and the idea of the characters, but I think this piece is overwritten, and the choices your characters make are almost all unrealistic, which does rather weaken it!

The start is stylized, but not in a way that fully serves the story. Even the choice of "the racist" rather than just "racist" is suspect - that seems to indicate that any circus - or any circus killing - requires one racist. And style shouldn't overwhelm meaning - you say "None were as exotic as even the most common dog" and yet most people would claim siamese twins as exotic. My advice? Go easy! I like the fact you're listing the reasons for each character (and that this doubles as an introduction), I like the bizarreness of one twin wanting in and the other out, but tone it down and it will actually be more effective.

I don't think Liam and Andy are plausible. The circus is obviously not open, and they want to go on rides and THEN commit a crime? These two are comically cack handed robbers, but too much so to suspend disbelief. As a bare minimum you might expect one of them to crack the sleeping head before they start rummaging through the trunks. And yes, as a "funny" you can perhaps have them this inept, and this is obviously what you intend, but it doesn't work (I'm afraid!) for this reader.

They floundered to the caravan - floundered?

we’re trying to steal the prick. - rob?

coiled tent - coiled?

There are lots (WAY too many) of these rather odd, ugly little sentences. "Liam was short of saying fuck." "they were close to eating them to ensure their accumulation" etc. These just don't work for me.

A circus is not run by one man and a load a freaks. A freak show might be, but that wouldn't have a big tent. And neither make enough money really to hope to live off the owner's accumulated wealth.

"Why the fuck’d they kill that guy?" - Andy and Liam have left the caravan before the killing. So how do they know? (Continuity error?)

Ultimately, having done the work, you end by describing the escape from the fire as a step by step thing, which feels rushed and at odds with the rest of the piece. Then you have them burnt to a frazzle sitting in their flat? What, as they say, da fuck?

So its a down vote for me. But, if you feel you can knock it into shape, there IS a genre called "Circuspunk" that you might try sending it to.


RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors July 1, 2014 - 4:15pm

Hi Liam,


Thanks for the critique, it's appreciated.

To quickly clarify, the reason I used 'the racist' instead of just 'racist' was because I was referring to the group and their individual intentions, certainly not alluring that every freakshow must have the obligatory racist. In terms of their exoticness, that's a little hint to their backgrounds. Jamie paints them as coming from distant lands, as most circus entertainers did, whereas they actually originate from, mostly, fairly 'mundane' locations. Perhaps I should have made this clearer, and if I do rewrite this then that will definitely be taken into account.

Liam and Andy are inept, idiots and drunk. I can understand your disbelief, however.

Floundered, as in stumbled.

'steal the prick' I follow the belief that if it's in dialogue, it's meant to be said. It's colloquial.

In terms of the running of the circus and its placing in a tent, that's of course stylized and elaborated.

Their sitting in the flat is years after, as noted by the description of one of their toes now replacing thumbs.

I will say that you've picked up on a continuity error there that I did miss, and it's a damn shame you couldn't have critiqued this before the closing date! But it's something I'll certainly edit regardless. It's safe to say that's what they assumed, but I'll admit, that's clutching at straws.

Thanks for the link to Circuspunk, I'll be checking it out!

Overall, thanks for critiquing it, it really is appreciated!

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 1, 2014 - 4:53pm

Today is the closing date - still seeing new entries come in. But yeah, kind of last minute to fire out an edit!

Beckylamb's picture
Beckylamb July 8, 2014 - 3:39am

Awesome story !!! I really enjoyed reading it, can't wait for your next story!!! You're so talented :D 

RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors July 8, 2014 - 3:50am

Thank you very much, Becky!

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 8, 2014 - 12:34pm

What. The fuck. Was that?

That was my honest-to-God first reaction.

It kind of left me speechless. It is a twisted and darkly funny tale. I can give you some criticisms, but I get the feeling this is the story you meant to write. It is this way, because you wanted it to be this way. As such, you can feel free to take or leave my comments.

Motivations are a little fuzzy. I kind of want to know why they want Jamie dead, especially as the slight inference is that they cannot get away while he is alive. I take your point about not wanting to explain him in prose, but it is does hurt the motivation. It all depends on if you want us to feel any sympathy with the freaks at all. If you do, make Jamie nasty.

We barely get into any of these characters. There is no development for any of them, and by having a cast of freaks, we don’t get enough time with any of them to develop much of an attachment. As has been pointed out, Sloth gets very little to do, and I’d say similar of Cat and Frog. The nearest we get is Eli.

But ironically, all this plot is just a sideshow. The main event is having ALL THE FREAKS BURN. Well… most of them at least. I just find it impossible to dislike this one. It is gloriously grotesque and completely over the top. There is no way I cannot give this one anything other than a thumbs up.

Best of luck with this.

RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors July 10, 2014 - 11:06am

Hi Adam,

Been looking forward to you reviewing this one!

Your first line put a smile on my face, I like that.

I really appreciate your criticisms, and you’re right, this was the story I intended it to be and I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Sharing a little truth about myself, when I first started writing I always focused on motivations, characters and point. There always had to be a major point, a ‘moral’, and it just made my writing stale.

I wrote this with nothing more than story in mind. I wanted it fun, and from what you’ve told me it seems you found it a lot of fun! Fucked-up fun, and that’s sometimes the best kind of fun.

I think some of us writers can get caught up with plot and with point, and sometimes disregard work because it lacks what we’re told it shouldn’t. Again, as long as even one reader enjoys it I feel accomplished.

Thanks again, Adam. Really great to have your thoughts on this; thanks for your time.


Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 11, 2014 - 2:43am

I was chatting to a friend about this one, and was saying that really I wanted to dislike it. It goes against the vast majority of comments I leave. But damn it, it's just so much fun to read. There's more imagination in here than in the majority of stories I've seen put together.

RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors July 12, 2014 - 7:56am

That's a great compliment, Adam, I really appreciate it.

If he's read it I hope he liked it also.


YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 9, 2014 - 2:57am

Wow, nightmarish stuff. Really enjoyed the set up and variety of characters; I think David and Eli were both very well characterised, as well as Sloth -- although as said above I would have liked to have seen more of her, she was super interesting.

In terms ofcritique I felt like Andy and Liam generally were un-necessary. Their dialogue was the most stilted, and they make so many references to money that I feel it's exposition. Also stuff like this was a little clunky:

‘You ugly cunt. Only person’ll fall in love with your face is a person with no face.’


‘I don’t know. I want to go into the house of mirrors.’

"Turn them into rabbits and pull them from hats from this day forward until some trick went wrong and they fell dead to the ground before an audience of crying children. "

I couldn't really tell them apart as characters and I think i'd've preferred if you'd cut them out completely, developed Jamie a bit more, given Sloth more 'screen time'. Maybe it would have been worse cuz of a lack of 'audience stand in' but I think the story is strong and twisted enough to just be about the freaks--especially when the dialogue and interactions between them are so much sharper and wittier.

Overall a nice story, but I would have liked more focus on the more interesting characters; liam and andy didnt really do it for me. Hope the critique isn't too harsh, enjoyed reading it!

RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors July 10, 2014 - 11:12am

Hi, buddy, it’s good to have someone living so close comment on a story!

As always, I appreciate the time taken to review it and comment, it means a great deal to me.

The critique’s certainly not too harsh! Personally, I’m seeing your comments on wanting the characters expanded as a compliment. I think the fact that you want to see more of the characters themselves says something of their originality and allure, which is great.

Glad you enjoyed it!


madsmaddox's picture
madsmaddox from Berkshire is reading Fated July 10, 2014 - 4:24am


such an imagination! I can't help but feel this would be best served as a longer piece just for fleshing out the characters, as it is, its quite the darkly comic ride and a thumbs up!

Good luck with the contest!

All the best


RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors July 10, 2014 - 11:15am

Hi Maddox,

Thanks very much! 

That's a great compliment, it's appreciated.

I'm very glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the vote up!


Sandy Macpherson's picture
Sandy Macpherson July 11, 2014 - 7:32am

Great story. Great Characters. Great atmosphere!

Dark and twisted and really leaves you feeling disturbed to the point of disgusted at times (in a good way if thats possible!!)

I would love to see a longer edit in the future as the characters deffinately deserve one.


RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors July 12, 2014 - 7:57am


thanks very much for the compliment! Glad it disgusted you in a good way!


AaronMartin64's picture
AaronMartin64 July 23, 2014 - 1:28pm

Oh hai Rhys

Great story, I like the words you use.

I hope one day this gets released as a pop up book as I like pictures and I like colours.

All the best.


RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors July 23, 2014 - 1:56pm

Oh Jesus Christ....

Zack McCormack's picture
Zack McCormack from Indianapolis, IN is reading Empire of the Sun July 23, 2014 - 4:12pm

Hey cool story man! Very unique to say the least. Had me interested in it until the end and there was nothing major that I would change. That said, reading it I did have a few thoughts on it. I'm sure some of this has already been said but I felt Andy, Liam, and Jamie could have been built up more. You do an excellent job of developing the "freaks" so by comparison these other characters' descriptions seemed lacking.  Why do Andy and Liam want to steal the money specifically? Are they just somewhat rebellious youth? I feel like a motive isn't well established. Also, I feel ambivalent about Jamie as you really know very little about him. I'm not sure if I should sympathize with him or not.

A final thing that kind of threw me off was the following: "Jamie had collected the freaks from across the world. None were as exotic as even the most common dog , but he painted them iridescently." I feel throughout the story you actively portray such characters as freaks through narration and in the eyes of Liam and Andy. Because of this I was confused as to exactly how grotesque they are. Perhaps if we are introduced to them through some circus poster written by Jamie this would seem appropriate but otherwise it just struck me as inappropriate.

Anyway, I really did dig the story. Hopefully some of the feedback helped. If you get some free time, I would appreciate any critique you could give me regarding my short, A Christmas Story. (

Thanks for the read,

RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors July 24, 2014 - 11:29am

Hi Zack

Thanks very much for reading and reviewing, it's greatly appreciated!

A couple of interesting points here, so thanks for them.
In terms of Andy and Liam, I was hoping their actions gave off motive enough: they're drunks, they're idiots, and they might even be homeless (at this point in time). They want money. I tend to dislike telling; if someone tells a little too much I tend to want to skip. Hardly ever do, but the temptation's there.

In terms of Jamie, I wanted it to be (fairly) ambiguous. Lobster and David want him dead for their own reasons, and so they've almost convinced the others to join. The only one completely against it is Eli, and he raises some points on Jamie being a decent man. The fact that he's offered them the chance to earn their own living, for one. Now, whether you see it as a good thing, or simple advantage-taking is up to you, the reader.

The idea of having a poster explain a little more on the characters is a very interesting one, and very creative! If I'd thought of it, it probably would have went in there! I almost never describe features of my characters, but describing them a little through a prop is a good idea, and one I'll probably utilize at some point in the future. Truth is, I wanted their names to be enough. Wanted you to make up their looks from their names alone, that way you could have the most grotesque, or the most ridiculous things your mind could conjure.

Thanks a lot for the review, mate, it's a good one!
And of course, your story is next to be read. I'm going to get right on it, so expect the review soon.


Damon Lytton's picture
Damon Lytton from Augusta, Kansas is reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow July 23, 2014 - 6:16pm

Hey Rhys,

Loved this.  There's a graphic novel written by Grant Morrison called Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth that this story very much reminded me of.  Just replace Batman with more bumbling thieves.  And beyond that it kinda reminded of comics in that every moment is kinda presented as a vignette in stark prose.  You show this moment; and then you move on to the next.  Character motivations are left to be inferred, but sometimes that adds to the fun.  I like to work a little when it comes to understanding characters.

Then the flame climbed up the door and asked to come in."

I loved that line.  Very stylized and very much worked for me because it was set-up by everything preceding it.

If there's is thing I would advise - and this is purely how I would have done it had it been me writing, so take it with a grain of salt - it's that I think epilogue should take place closer to the events of the story.  In the comments you said it takes place years later.  What I'd like to see is them still wrapped in bandages.  Maybe one of them is welcoming the other back home from the hospital after toe-to-thumb surgery.  And I'd like to see a little more triumph from them.  They got burned to hell but they got out with the money.  I feel like these dumb-dumbs would be happy with themselves, and I'd like to see that.


RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors July 24, 2014 - 11:40am

Hi Damon

Thanks for reading it, mate.

Firstly, wow. Thanks very much for referring it to Serious House on Serious Earth. One of my favourite comics of all time, so that's a compliment out of this world.
It's funny you say that, Damon, because I originally started writing for comics. Great to know that it's helped with my writing overall.
I love your comment here, referring to working a little. Like I've written in other comments, I didn't want to bore you with certain things a writer feels like he must put in for sake of some background on a character. I wanted it fun, and I wanted you to read it with no interruptions, to just go all out and enjoy the fucked-up ride. Really great to see you saw it that way.

Glad you liked that line. Another friend of mine said the same thing.

And that's an interesting idea! After I'd submitted it I did want to add just a tiny bit extra, something I felt I missed upon. Also, it would have made it a little more obvious that it was years later. I had the idea of having a small number of sightings of big cats and exotic animals around the area (possibly circus animals as well as Cat Lady), and this would have been presented as exposition through the television.
As for Andy and Liam, did they really make it off with that much money? They were burnt badly, and the coins went round Frog's head. I think they would have stayed drunk and dumb regardless.

Again, Damon, thanks very much for this review. It was a great one to chat about, and so feel free to message me if you want to talk comics, books or whatever else!


Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 31, 2014 - 8:10pm

Gripping read. Really fun. I think you handled the transitions very well without an sort of confusion. Your characters are obviously interesting, even the regular thieves. I greatly appreciate that each character meets with their own appropriate fate. I'm not sure if I'm missing context, but I didn't understand what the girl with her head in her hands like "Simba" meant. That obviously doesn't detract from the story, I was just confused about it. Great work all around. Good luck.

RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors August 1, 2014 - 9:52am

Hi there, Cmangano

Thank you very much for your words, and thanks very much for reading. I'm really glad you liked all characters, especially Liam and Andy. I think most people wanted more of the freaks, but I think that's a good thing because it shows they were interesting, and if I showed any more of them it could have been detrimental to that. So extremely glad you liked them all!

Haha, that reference is a childish one on my part, but I just couldn't leave it out, it worked for me. I'm still a child at heart (a messed-up one) and it's a reference to Simba in The Lion King. I'm sure if you type that into youtube you'll find the scene I was relating to!

Thank you again for reading, and for you taking your time to comment here. Appreciated greatly.