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Seb's picture

Donation

By Seb in Arrest Us

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Description

Is it a crime to accept a gift? Is it wrong to allow others to donate, if you are the sole beneficiary?

You may be wondering why I am asking you this, or even who I am. Have patience my friend, everything will be revealed in due course. It’s not important what you think, just that you listen.

Knock knock.

Comments

Liam Sweeny's picture
Liam Sweeny from Albany, NY is reading Country Hardball June 12, 2014 - 8:50am

Seb, this is a great story! Love the cons, man. I like the POV, the repetition of the knock knock, the whole build-up. Good job!

 

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 12, 2014 - 8:53am

Thanks Liam, much appreciated.

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary June 13, 2014 - 5:09am

Hey Seb. I really liked this story.  Very intriguing and engaging. I enjoyed your set ups and then constant build-on. Nicely crafted and well executed. Good job!

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 13, 2014 - 5:15am

Thanks for the feedback Joe, nice one.

Amy Taylor's picture
Amy Taylor June 13, 2014 - 11:08am

Great story! i found it really exciting and interesting. 

Well done

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 13, 2014 - 11:15am

Thank you

Matt A.'s picture
Matt A. June 14, 2014 - 7:56pm

Great hook. It really pulled me into the story.

The first conversation where he's posing as an animal rights guy flowed well.

I wave my hand in the air like a lasso to emphasise the point.

--I'm not sure what this gesture was supposed to emphasize. I tried to picture it, but it didn't connect for me.

The paragraph where you explain the holes in the sides of the cars was a bit longwinded. I think the point he was trying to make could be summarized quicker.

I had a hard time really believing someone would give out bank information when cash or check donations are the norm (at least in my experience). It was here I'm starting to have trouble suspending disbelief.

The scene where he's posing as the distraught father was tough. I found myself skimming knowing where you were going with it--another con. Maybe there's a way to condence the two schemes into one con? With these two scenarios it was hard to keep reading because there's no sympathy or interest in what the story's leading to. I guess it's that the two scenes weren't connecting and it was more a montage of bad people doing bad things.

With the third act, was this supposed to be the reveal that the narrator is one of those narcissistic cult leaders (Koresh, Jim Jones, etc) who start with bullying people into signing away their things for the good of the cult? It was hard to tie all this together. If I'm correct in my assumption about the cults, it's a compelling premise, but I couldn't help but wonder what made this different and unique.

I don't mean for this to sound harsh or discouraging. The premise is sound. The issue in my reading was the utter lack of sympathy I had for what this guy was explaining to me. Maybe the missing ingredient is just a little bit of a look into his head as to why he's doing what he's doing. It doesn't need to be a mound of backstory, just some bits and pieces of what's driving his messiah complex.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 15, 2014 - 4:04am

Thanks for the feedback Doug. The charity con is based on a job I used to do years ago, and the pitch is identical to the one I used, which got people's bank details. I did it for real charities, but often ones that people had never heard of, which got me thinking what if the charity was a fake? But I appreciate your point of view. Incidentally, the lasso gesture is to emphasise 'everyone in the neighbourhood'..The idea of the second con is to delve into the narrator and show what he is really capable of, then the third to explain what he is actually doing. I didn't really want you to sympathise with him, I wanted you to hate him, and to question the next person that knocks on your door. The thing with stories is they're subjective. Thank you for taking the time to read and review, I appreciate it.

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine June 16, 2014 - 1:19pm

Excellent characterization. I'd like to maybe see more about the preparation of the book con. Was he a convincing religious leader by knowing how to deceive others and pull at their heart stings, as in the other cons, or was there work involved to understand and mimic  other church heads? With the detail you put into the set up, the character becomes more complex. He's not just a petty conman; he's a brilliant conman.

The two smaller scams are important in understanding what kind of person this guy is, only I'd like to know a little more about him personally. As I said I find that he's an intelligent complex man, but I don't know much about him other than the fact that he is good at getting money from people. It would be interesting to see how the character developed in a longer story with more time. Overall I'd say this was a great, well thought out story. The style is simple and I read through it quickly with anticipation.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 16, 2014 - 1:45pm

Thanks, much appreciated. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I left out a lot of the book con as the methods are hinted in the other scams, and then included the hypnosis section to show the power of suggestion and control. The true secret of the religious con is in the content of the book, which is left hidden intentionally. Thank you for your feedback.

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine June 16, 2014 - 1:19pm

Excellent characterization. I'd like to maybe see more about the preparation of the book con. Was he a convincing religious leader by knowing how to deceive others and pull at their heart stings, as in the other cons, or was there work involved to understand and mimic  other church heads? With the detail you put into the set up, the character becomes more complex. He's not just a petty conman; he's a brilliant conman.

The two smaller scams are important in understanding what kind of person this guy is, only I'd like to know a little more about him personally. As I said I find that he's an intelligent complex man, but I don't know much about him other than the fact that he is good at getting money from people. It would be interesting to see how the character developed in a longer story with more time. Overall I'd say this was a great, well thought out story. The style is simple and I read through it quickly with anticipation.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 16, 2014 - 1:48pm

Thanks again...

Ryan Clay_2's picture
Ryan Clay_2 June 17, 2014 - 4:37pm

I really enjoyed this, very good read top marks.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 17, 2014 - 11:33pm

Thanks, I appreciate the feedback.

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 18, 2014 - 8:21pm

Okay so I wasn't able to mark in your document. The way it uploaded wouldn't let me do line edits. Only a few typos. Here is one I pulled out. 

No thinks to check whether it is actually a charity. 

No one thinks to check whether it is actually a charity. 

 

The hook and the flow were great. No extraneous adverbs or unnecesary fluff. The cons were well thought out. I really enjoyed the money laundering on the roulette wheel. Very cool.

I know alot of people don't tend to like 2nd person point of view but I tend to favor it alot. When used correctly it's very affective. I know this is more like a first/second hybrid but by the stories end all the you's were pretty intrusive. You've created a dispicable character, one I can really hate and one I kept reading because the short paragraphs and quick breaths really shot it along quite nicely. But all they "You's" just had me the whole time thinking. No I wouldn't. Absolutely not. uh, uh, Not me. But I do feel like many of these scams would fool alot of people.

I guess I'm conflicted. If you change the pov you might lose some of the pacing in the flow, but if you don't you might lose the reader. I kept reading because, like an awful car wreck you can't look away. And I don't mean this is awful. Not by any means. It was very well thought out and well crafted, if anything, I just didn't believe any of it could happen to me which you try to hammer down. I think that's okay though. I don't think I'll likely forget this one, so you've done your job. I'll definitely be even more weary than I already am. (I've already been a victim of identy theft) and it wasn't even by information I gave to someone I  wasn't supposed to. In a general sense it is very hard to believe that people would fall for these types of scams but your narator is convincing enough. Just not when he's trying to tell me he did/can do it to me. 

But yeah, all that said, I enjoyed the read and voted up on this one. Curioius to know if you've considered removing the second person element at all? I think I actually would have been able to remove myself and just enjoy the ride alot better. 

Thanks for submitting, Good Luck. 

--JR--

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 19, 2014 - 1:46am

Thanks for your feedback Jonathan. I hadn't spotted that, I'll correct it later. I appreciate your comments and suggestions, and will bear them in mind.

The piece was written as a stand-alone short story specifically for Arrest Us, and I used second person as I've not done it before and wanted to give it a try. I see what you mean about the 'you' becoming dominant as it goes on, though. The idea was to put the reader in a passive position, with the first two cons being theoretical situations (you'll say, etc.). The third con hinges entirely on the content of the book (which remains hidden), and the initial conversation you actually had is recounted to show the only thing you, as the reader, actually did that the narrator did not directly control was to take, and then read, the book. The rest is you bending entirely to his will.

If I was using this idea to build a novel I would definitely change the persective, but I wanted to use second person and create a monologue.

Thank you for reading and for your comments.

Eddie McNamara's picture
Eddie McNamara from NYC is reading High as the Horse's Bridles June 19, 2014 - 5:55pm

Loved the second person. It really worked for this story by adding a cinematic element. I feel that this could be worked into a screenplay with a voice over narrator explaining the con to the viewer/reader as if it's happeneing to them. 

Well done.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 19, 2014 - 11:30pm

Thanks

Todd Morr's picture
Todd Morr from Colorado Springs CO is reading Notes From the Internet Apocalypse June 19, 2014 - 7:37pm

Nicely done, at first it read like a 'how to' for pulling off scams, which was kind of interesting,  I liked how it ramped up into something different that kept me guessing until the end.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 19, 2014 - 11:31pm

Thanks for reading.

Chipped Gears's picture
Chipped Gears from New Jersey is reading the charges against them June 20, 2014 - 11:11am

Cool story Seb. Very Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil, " ... Pleased to meet you.
Hope you guessed myyy naaaaaaame ..."

As in the song, I think we know who the narrator is. If he is inhabiting the same body in each scam is irrelavent.

But he's out there and he'll knock again.

Nice job.

 

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 20, 2014 - 12:12pm

Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Great song reference!

Devon Robbins's picture
Devon Robbins from Utah is reading The Least Of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones June 21, 2014 - 10:37pm

Hey Seb,

You've got the makings of a solid piece here. As stated above, some of the breakdowns of what the people will do are a bit long. 

For the most part, I agree with Jonathan's comments on the second person POV. The story had me wanting to keep reading but the whole time I felt that as much as the narrator wanted to be smarter than me, he wasn't. 

I, as the stand in character in the three acts, was not convinced. The third act especially. You laid down some pretty heavy worship and tribute that I wasn't buying. I kinda felt like it was a cop out on what you had going in the story, which was really promising.

That said, the style and flow of the prose was great. I think if you took about half of the you scenario in the third act and replaced it with action from the narrator to weave a more convincing transition, you'll have a solid brick of gold.

Hopefully this isn't discouraging. You did well with the piece. 

Good luck.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 22, 2014 - 6:38am

Thanks for your thoughts Devon. I would have incorporated a lot more action if it wasn't a monologue, but the trouble with someone speaking is they don't explain what they are doing, they just do it. In fairness to you, the first scam would only work on about ten per cent of people, the second would possibly be less, and the third even more so, hence the hints that the targets are chosen and not random. Also, by explaining the methods you are brought into the narrators world, and therefore wouldn't fall for the cons as you can see them being played out. As for the third act, I wanted something so much bigger and more unexpected than the other two. I do see what you mean, but I wanted to challenge myself by limiting the piece to a second person speech where the reader is the listener. Thank you for your suggestions and I appreciate your review.

Devon Robbins's picture
Devon Robbins from Utah is reading The Least Of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones June 22, 2014 - 6:53am

The monologue worked really well, especially because of that opening line. My review sounded more harsh than I wanted it to. You've got a solid piece. I think you just need to approach some of the second person stuff with a more delicate hand.

Hope it helps.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 22, 2014 - 7:32am

It does indeed. Thanks, much appreciated.

Luke Edwards's picture
Luke Edwards June 23, 2014 - 1:51pm

Thoroughly enjoyed this, Seb. Such a really captivating concept - loved the underlying themes of con artIstry overlapping with charity/religion etc. Killing with kindness, as it were - far more sinister than things we usually associate with the crime fiction genre. Well done, mate.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 23, 2014 - 3:02pm

Thanks Luke, much appreciated.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) June 24, 2014 - 4:48am

There is a lot to like about this one. I’m not the biggest fan of second person perspectives, but I think you’ve used it to create something very engaging. It kept my interest to the end, and I wanted to see how these plots were going to escalate.

For the charity con, I’ve had plenty of those visitors at my door. I figured you’d probably been door to door yourself (tough job), because that is exactly how the conversation goes. I’m one of those people that stops the conversation before it gets to that point. I also can’t imagine ever falling for one of the other two cons. You make setting up a cult seem very easy though, and I do have some time off coming up… maybe I’ll give that one a try.

My only issue (and this is purely subjective) is that it’s not really what I would class as a story. It is very clever, and the hook is superb. It works as it is, and it looks to be as if you have nailed it the way you set out to write it. I can’t help but feel that personally I’d have liked to have been taken along for the ride. I want to see this man work, not just here him describe how he works. I want to see his seduction technique, especially when it comes to closing the deal on the cult con. How does he appeal to those people? He takes a year off, writes a book, and then people are putty in his hands. I just want to know a little less how, and a little more why.

I’d also like to know a little more on how he picks his marks. These have to be people with a certain level of gullibility. On the second con, it’s a lot of effort to make without being reasonably confident of a decent success rate. My slight reservation on the third con is that it feels a little high profile, but that’s not such a concern that it knocks my enjoyment at all.

The easiest way to say it is that I want more, and that can surely only be a good thing. Whether you could fit that in with the second person perspective is debatable. Obviously take what you will from the comments, because I do think it works as it is.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 24, 2014 - 5:50am

Hi Adam, thanks for your feedback. I think you're spot on with almost all, and normally I don't limit myself like this so you get all the why and see the seduction. The challenge for me was writing in constraints, and creating a story that leaves you wanting more, so in that sense your comments affirm I have achieved that. Thanks for taking the time to read and review, I greatly appreciate it.

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday June 24, 2014 - 12:47pm

There's been a lot of talk about the second person perspective in the comments above and I must say that I works for me in this instance.  I think it is acceptable for short stories like this one.  I like how the cons escalated, building to something truly dark.  Thanks for sharing and best of luck.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 24, 2014 - 1:17pm

Thanks for reading and commenting, nice one.

Aud Fontaine's picture
Aud Fontaine from the mountains is reading Catch-22. Since like, always. June 24, 2014 - 2:31pm

Seb,

This was really fantastic. Honestly. I usually hate stories about con artists but this one was so well done that I thorougly enjoyed it despite my bias. I think a lot of that had to do with your unique narrative style. That was a really nice touch. I'm also a huge fan of Shane Carruth and the ending of this, with the hypnotism and the "now you're going to sign your stuff over to me" thing, tasted strongly of Upstream Color. I can't even really think of anything you could fix. It was dark, mysterious, strange, stylistic and reminded me of one of my all time favorite movies. I also used to be a Greenpeace canvasser so the charity exchange really made me smile. I have absolutely nothing to complain about. Sorry this review wasn't useful but that's what happens when you write a really great story.

Aud.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 24, 2014 - 3:24pm

Thanks Aud, I wasn't even thinking Shane Carruth when I wrote it but will take the comparison as high praise indeed - thank you! I'm glad you liked it.

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep June 26, 2014 - 11:37am

Thanks for sharing your writing with us. It was a creepy read for sure, especially at the end. I have no problems with 2nd person, and it works well here. For me, it preys well on the fear that any person might have of accidentally falling for a con of this nature.

Suggestions/Comments:

- I was confused as to whether there were multiple "you"s. As I read it, each "you" appeared to be a different person. If they're the same, then it was unclear to me. This is where it stumbles in its attempt to be a cohesive "story." Instead, it ends as three short illustrations.

- Of the cons, the last one is the most interesting and most important (and really, the only one that matters in a story that has to be this short). I think it would feel more like a complete story if you'd stuck with this one and built toward it. You should still be able to hide the true con.

- Your story ends with "Knock knock." Cut the first two paragraphs and start with Paragraph 3: "Knock knock." The reader is smart enough to figure out all that info you provide in paragraphs 1 and 2 on their own. Ties the end right back to the beginning.

- Consider not having the narrator tells us so much what he's going to do. (i.e. "Then I can move on to the next disciple.") Let our imaginations tell us what he's going to do next. Really concentrate on what the "you" is doing and what the narrator tells them to do. Keep us inside the fear.

I think what works in this story works really well. Good job. Would love to read more of your stuff.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 26, 2014 - 11:53am

Thanks for your thoughts and feedback, a lot of them were preying on my mind while writing this. The first two cons are theoretical, in that they are not happening to the reader, and I wanted you to feel that they are not you but might be. They are based on actual characters representing the 'you', rather than you yourself. I agree that the third is the most interesting, it's something I am considering expanding upon in a different story. The idea was to hide it and let your imagination fill in the blanks, after seeing what the narrator is capable of in the first two cons. The story also originally started where you suggested with 'knock knock', but it didn't feel right to me without the opening hook and didn't identify that the first two scams were hypothetical. The final 'disciple' line was to show the true scale of the operation and what the next phase was, but is to a degree superfluous. I do see all of your points and think they are all valid, and all things I considered when writing, but for me I felt it needed to go the way it did. I'm glad you liked it and am grateful for your detailed notes. Nice one.

Neil Krolicki's picture
Neil Krolicki from Denver is reading What Suzy & Chuck Tell Him To June 29, 2014 - 8:58pm

Hi Seb,

You’re clearly not hurting for reviewers, but I saw this was a ‘con’ story and there was no way I was passing on reading this. Standard critique disclosure: I haven’t read any of your other reviewers so if I’m echoing feedback you’ve already received it’s not me piling it on you.

Outstanding opening - instantly makes me want to know just how you plan to fleece me. Great use of organic language, not overly ‘writerly’ - it’s really conversational and easy to get hooked into it’s rhythm.

You can tell this is written by someone really anxious to tell you how clever his deception/con is - and rightfully so, because it’s great! But I almost wanted the brakes pumped just a touch and some more characteristics about your narrator peppered in.  I absolutely want to know about the details of your con, you have my full attention, I think delaying my gratification just a little will make me read on that much quicker.  Nothing lengthy or exhaustive about his physicality, just some bits.  You’re talking about how they’re buying and trusting ‘Me’  - I think it’s totally appropriate to flesh out what they’re buying a little more.  Here’s my thought: 

“I give you an inviting smile, a perfectly straight and whitened smile, the kind that makes you think of your favorite grandson. Your loving nephew. My eyes are calm, locking onto yours.  Deeply attentive and gentle eyes without a hint of drug addled mania or psychotic tendency. You want to walk in the warm brown of my eyes all day, feel they’re healing touch. No criminal can have this angel face. No con man could create such an air of ease. This is my gift.” 

I personally need this part, the description of what makes him so convincing, because (taking the place of the person at the door) as soon as he asked for my bank account number I’d be like “this is a scam”.  So to help me suspend my disbelief I need a little more salesmanship about your narrator’s magic touch.

The progression to the next con (the kidnapped daughter) was, again, a really interesting deceit and money-maker.  It showed another, really calculated and sinister side to your narrator. Which I think you clearly did purposefully, because it’s a necessary evolution to get the reader to buy that he’s capable of the third, longer con.

It’s the third con that, for me, was an awkward fit for the character you built. Some of this is just my personal perception of what a ‘con-man’ is, which is an individual solely driven by financial gains, but lacks the fortitude to acquire it through violent methods.  So there’s a disconnect for me when he decides he’s willing to murder people (albeit, in the most gentle of ways).   I completely got what you were doing, escalating the stakes of each con - I just didn’t personally feel the shedding of conscience to the degree that killing was the next logical step.  If he’s open to the idea of murder, wouldn’t there be far quicker ways to make serious money? Whether the solution is adding in some bits about his growing callousness toward humans in general or revealing a violent streak that’s been there all along, I couldn’t say without writing through it to see - but you might consider it for folks like me with preconceived ideas about the limitations of a con-man’s immorality.

That said, it’s a brilliant surprise to learn who ‘you’ are as the reader and it’s a supremely creative plan your narrator’s concocted for his ‘finale’.  So your creativity with the reversal goes a long way in helping me make friends with suspending my disbelief for the sake of a good story. All your plotting work shines through and you definitely see your efforts to make this a tight piece. Hope you can find something useful in my comments.

Best,
NK

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 29, 2014 - 11:35pm

Hi Neil, thanks for your comments and I'm glad you enjoyed the story. The main point you've made us that con artists won't kill, which is generally a common misconception courtesy of film and TV. Real con artists will, and do, as to be able to con you need absolutely no morality combined with a sense of superiority over others, a true narcissist. Not only that, it's risk verses reward. For someone's entire life you justify their death, if you see what I mean. The first con works, as it's based on a job I used to do for real (and little known) charities. The second, as you pointed out, is an escalation, and the third is the ultimate deception. As for the physical description, I included as much as I could without giving away specifics. I wanted you to see this person for yourself, and how you see (and describe) the con artist is different to how I do, or other readers. Plus, as it's a monologue, there wouldn't be a description as you wrote, it would seem out of place. Anyway, I appreciate your thoughts and feedback.

Scott MacDonald's picture
Scott MacDonald from UK is reading Perfidia June 30, 2014 - 1:16pm

Hi Seb,

I'm a bit late to the game on your story and I don't think that there's much I can add to what has been said before.  Great opening line and the second person narrative used to excellent effect - and beyond that a great story.  All three cons were perfectly acceptable - and the charity collector at the door is one that I've always been suspect about when they turn up.  I had an inkling early on (page one or two) that it might go all a bit Jim Jones, but I've looked back over the story and I can't for the life of me pinpoint what had got me thinking that. 

I don't have many negatives - the only part I found a little unbelievable was the amount of money that was to be handed over to the guy who looked beaten up.  Maybe I'm a coldhearted cynical bastard, but I don't think I would have handed over £1,000 to anyone regardless of their story. 

Apart from this the writing was bang on and the story thoroughly enjoyable.

Many thanks for a great read and best of luck with the comp.

Scott

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 30, 2014 - 3:14pm

Thanks Scott, much appreciated. There are a few hints towards the religious nature of the third con, perhaps the mention of arms spread wide, Christ crucified? Anyway, thanks for reading.

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch July 2, 2014 - 7:33am

Hey Seb,

The story didn't really work for me, sad to say. You clearly have writing chops, and there's tons of good stuff- stuff that is so good that it kept me reading despite the fact that I'm not a fan of second person POV. But at the same time, there's some stuff I personally didn't dig. Obviously this are just my thoughts:

You have a damn great first opening line. Love the type of lines that are succint, and immediately make you want to keep reading, and this is one of those.

For me, the first part of the story is the most fun, gripping, and entertaining. As I said, I'm not a big fan of the POV you use, but I can definitely see it's use here. You built up to a nice little rhythm, especially when the narrator is having the conversation with the homeowner.  The con is a great idea, and the confidence and smooth way of talking the narrator has adds to this. I was so invested in this first part, that I was dissapointed to see it end as the narrator moves on to a different way to take money.

This is where you start to lose me. Partly is because I wanted more of the first con, but partly because there's a feeling of 'sameness' as the story progresses. Yes, the acts and conversation are altered, but I couldn't help but start to fall into a lull as I read, which is a dangerous position for a reader to be in.

Finally, the last twist in the story didn't work for me at all. I think it's partly because the previous to parts, you set up something sort of grounded, and to me the last bit, with him being the leader of a cult is so far out of left field (which I imagine is something that you intended) that it's almost like it belongs in another story all together.

This ended up striking me more as an exercise in writing (and don't get me wrong, it's really good writing with a great handle on the narrator) rather than a full story. I know this is a critique that gets thrown around a lot, but there wasn't much tension here, and for me, not a lot of drive to keep reading to the end.

There's really not much I can advise you to on 'fixing' this story, because I do think you had a very specific vision for it, and me telling you to change POV, or take out the cult angle would alter it too much. I will say that I would definitely read a more developed story about the first con, regardless of POV.

Hope this helps, and as always, take anything you find useful, disregard the rest.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 2, 2014 - 7:49am

Thanks for your thoughts and critique, Hector, and I'm sorry the story didn't work for you. I do see what you mean about a lull in the middle, the opening line was meant to create tension in order to keep you guessing what the narrator is actually going to do to you as a reader, but I understand how that may wane during the second con. The point of view element has been a point of discussion constantly with this piece, and as you have noticed it was an experiment to test the format. I am glad you enjoyed the first con, and thank you for reading.

madsmaddox's picture
madsmaddox from Berkshire is reading Fated July 3, 2014 - 6:22am

Seb,

saw your story had been posted and thought I would give a read to return the courtesy. I enjoyed this, very entertaining, its more tell than show, but then that’s what you get with second person POV. Very brave to try this POV and I think it works (ton of tips from other posters for the moments that need tweaking so I won’t dwell on those). 

Just one thing, take a look at your tenses, you mix up past, present and future tenses at times.

You wouldn’t see me coming; you wouldn’t understand what was really happening. You wouldn’t even know you had been robbed. – this really reminded me of the speech given by Ben Kingsley in Iron Man 3. I would change this to:
You won’t see me coming, you won’t understand what’s happening. You won’t even know when you’ve been robbed.
 

All in all, entertaining read! 
 

Thumbs up and good luck with the contest!


All the best
 

Mads

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 3, 2014 - 7:47am

Thanks for your feedback Mads. The mix of tense is on purpose, as it's all dialogue, but I suppose that can be confusing. The passage you pointed out is also written like that to show it is someone speaking. If I'd written this third person, though, I'd have written it how you suggest. Anyway, I appreciate the read and review, nice one.

Damon Lytton's picture
Damon Lytton from Augusta, Kansas is reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow July 3, 2014 - 7:21pm

Seb,

The second-person perspective seems to be getting some play in this discussion.  I won't go on about it other than to say that I think you make the flaws of the perspective work for you.  Nobody likes being told what they would do in a situation and get defensive because of it.  But I like that you've essentially used it to show that the victims had already been taken in.  Con men can incredibly convincing when they want to be.  Even if people want to believe they know better, sometimes a con doesn't look like one from the inside.

On the down side, I think maybe this piece goes on for just a bit too long.  You create a lot of good will in the beginning, but I'm afraid that you could lose some of it the more the story goes on.  I would say either streamline the first two cons or have each con build upon the one before (although I don't know how you'd do that).

You kept me engaged the whole time and I can't really ask for more.  Keep it up.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 3, 2014 - 11:22pm

Thanks for the feedback Damon, I appreciate it, and I think you make a valid point.

Tom Lydon's picture
Tom Lydon from Britain July 5, 2014 - 8:17am

Great story - I liked it a lot, including the POV.

The one big thing which jarred for me was, as others have said, the last section, particularly the initial snare of the book. It just didn't seem very believable for it to be so instantly engrossing. You hint that the victims of this final scam are carefully chosen - maybe make it clearer that the book is carefully constructed to hook a certain type of person? As a result of that, the whole cult thing feels a bit weak.

And thinking about it now, surely this final con is actually a failure, given the victim has rebelled and the con-artist has resorted to straight-forward threats to get what he wants.

That aside, I still enjoyed it, and the progression up the scams, with the tension building. Would read again!

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 5, 2014 - 9:12am

Cheers Tom, thanks for your review. The final con was meant to hinge entirely on the book, but as you noted it didn't fully work and the narrator has to threaten and force. That was kind of the point, to show the narrator is not infallible. I appreciate your thoughts and am glad you enjoyed it.

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 5, 2014 - 9:37am

Seb

This is really well written and engaging -- especially hard to do for 4,000 words in second person. I really enjoyed the first 2/3ds of the story, but I don't think the cult thing worked for me. One of the main things is it seemed to easy for the narrator to pull off -- he even says it took him 'nearly a year' to write this book that creates a solid congregation out of quite a few people. The creation of a cult just seemed a bit less 'slick' than the first two cons the narrator describes. 

I also was slightly confused about how cynically the narrator is intended to see the whole cult thing -- it seems to be a cynical ploy at first but then there are parts, such as in the warehouse and when referencing the 'collective' as himself where the narrator seems to be evangelically invested in the cult. This isn't a problem, and I quite like the way you portray the narrator as being both a conscious con artist and someone who is quite invested in the cult. My problem was that this arc isn't shown in the story itself. I would have liked to see the narrator move from a straightforward con artist to someone with a disturbed obsession with the cult-con operation; keeping it second person may have limited it in this way.

But this is all an issue of plotting and style -- in terms of writing this is an impressive story and was very engaging. The cons were well thought out -- and the charity one especially is one i've wondered about people doing -- and it builds tension and suspense well. I think with a re-working of the plot it could be even better though, and tie together more nicely in the third part.

Thanks for the story!

Tom

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 5, 2014 - 10:17am

Thanks Tom, you've got a fair point. That was what I was trying to portray, but as you said the point of view limited the arc I could literally explain, so I tried to hint at it between the lines. I appreciate your critique, thanks.