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Josh S's picture

Financial Aid

By Josh S in Arrest Us

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Description

A father and his family's former babysitter hatch a hare-brained scheme to provide for his daughters' future. The would-be criminal may not get to see them matriculate when things go very, very wrong.

Comments

Hooper Triplett's picture
Hooper Triplett from Tucson, AZ is reading Fever Pitch June 14, 2014 - 5:21pm

Had some difficulty getting into the story at first.  For example, "He wasn't surrounded by rainbows and cupcakes, though he had crawled into a kind of half-there consciousness in which he knew where he was, he most certainly knew what had happened to him, but he was drifting away, the awfulness of his predicament not lost on him, but also not his main concern."  It's three or four conflicting descriptions that could have benefitted from an edit.  I'm trying to get a sense of the character, the setting, and the what's happening, but I'm hung up dissecting the fourth sentence.

Once I got a handle of what's happening, the story picks up the pace after the first page and I enjoyed it.

 

jorjon21's picture
jorjon21 from Wisconsin is reading Shotgun Lovesongs June 16, 2014 - 4:57am

I understand what you were trying to do with the story, but it seemed too confusing and disjointed and didn't flow together well.  

Matt A.'s picture
Matt A. June 16, 2014 - 5:04am

Josh,

What I have below are just suggestions for improvement. Use what you see fit:

-By "golden ring" did you mean "brass ring?"

-About the first 1K words moved a bit slow. I know you're wanting to build up the pain and despair the guy's feeling, wondering if he's gonna make it back to his family, but we're talking almost a quarter of the story. Maybe you can just cut down on the extraneous a little bit. "It was working" was where it felt like things were picking up for me.

-The "five steps" that are mentioned I don't think are brought up again. It might be cool to bring them up again later, to illustrate their flaws in the plan, but if you're not going to I'd cut it.

-Is the discussion on Deus Ex Machina supposed to foreshadow the end twist? I couldn't fiure out why else it was in here. If so, you may have some angry readers on your hands. I don't think mention of DEM is a good substitute for proper foreshadowing of what happens at the end.

-The paragraph starting "His wife tolerated the friendship" is a bit choppy. I had to go back and verify that the protag was Craig. And I didn't really get the significance of mention of someone's retirement castle--the fiancee? And who's internship? Rachel's?

-These two are close enough that she would consider asking him to help her rip a million dollars off somebody?

-Maybe you should mention some of the creepier things Mr K could be in to. By about half way through it's har fo rme to justify Craig (who's life is not much different than mine) ripping off someone who just seems like a pervert. Give us something that would make me consider whether or not I would do the same--and the trick is to make me not too sure what the answer would be.

-The comversation leading with "But killing" was hard to follow. Maybe lead with just one or two tags so we can get grounded in who wants what. If it's Craig that's considering murder, it's even harder to have any sympathy for the guy.

-Confusion set in for me with the POV shift (after Craig bursts in the room):

Nothing these two had told Stephanie about what they were going to do Craig in preparation for his “accident” had really prepared her.

--Who are "these two?"

She was over it.

--Over what? It's hard to connect the dots as to why she's taking such drastic measures.

Craig remembered the chat they'd had about that very gun, how she'd told him that the proper handling of it was one of the last things her father had taught her before he'd left.

--This reveal is a bit late.

Fuck you, Craig.”

--This is a bit hard to swallow, too. What did he do?

And the nosebleeds. Necessary?

The big friction points are the character motivations and sentence structures. Try reading your story out loud--it helps to isolate words combos that don't work well together and ambiguities.

As far as their motivations, remember--we don't have to LIKE these people, but we need to empathize with somebody, anybody. We need to question whether or not we would make the same choices they are making.

Good luck.

Josh S's picture
Josh S June 16, 2014 - 3:24pm

Thanks for reading...and thanks for the tips!

 

Evangeline Jennings's picture
Evangeline Jennings from UK | TX is reading Trinities by Nick Tosches June 16, 2014 - 5:08pm

Josh

Although you have a solid plot here, your execution made it difficult for me to engage with. Here are some notes and ideas I hope may help. Please make use of any that strike a chord and ignore the rest.

Before I get into the detail, I have two pieces of obvious advice. First, read your story out loud to yourself. I'm sure you'll find phrases you regret. Second, make every word you use justify itself. There are far too many cheap words in this for me right now. They add nothing to the story and cloud the plot.

Your opening paragraph is the best place to start. This is where you should be slapping me in the face and telling me, Listen, this is a story you want to hear. You don't achieve that. To the contrary, you lose me. In that first paragraph, for example, you use the words "he" and "his" twenty-four times. Yes, it's a long para but all the same. The detailed inner voice didn't pull me into Craig's world as I assume you intended. Instead it pushed me away.

Little filter phrases like "Craig felt", "he imagined", "he reasoned" all drive barriers between reader and story. And don't even get me started on "seemed". Try deleting them and seeing if your prose is stronger or weaker. My money is always on stronger.

I recommend chucking most of that opening paragraph away and focusing on only one image to make your point. Perhaps the tooth. And then moving on immediately to Craig's dilemmas - his girls, his pain, and his very short, dark future. I understand you need to stress the extent of the beating because it's integral to the plot but you can establish that with more brevity and intersperse it with action. Something along these lines, maybe, but better:

Craig swallowed something solid.  It must have been a tooth. It went down with a mouthful of blood.

Would his girls ever find out what happened to him? Probably not.

He struggled for air and strained through swollen, red-stained eyes to count the steps up to the landing. Everything he'd done had been for them. His girls. The landing was five steps away. Maybe six. The stairs were cast of unforgiving concrete ...

And then you could use the steps to structure the story. As Craig makes the move up a step, you can describe another damaged part of his body and the pain he feels there as he moves, and introduce a piece of backstory so that by the time he reaches the door, we're ready for the revelations.

I hope these few notes help

All the best

Evangeline

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 20, 2014 - 9:15am

Personally I like the shifts in perspective, and the cutaways to dialogue. The structure is difficult to follow, yes, but that made me pay more attention. The reveal is nicely done, and the explanation is as much between the lines as it is spelled out. Another draft may be beneficial, but I can't say what I'd change. I like this.

Stacey Rewelz's picture
Stacey Rewelz from Knoxville June 21, 2014 - 6:56am

I agree with Seb. The way it jumped back and forth and from here to there kept me thinking, "okay, where's this going?"-  in a good way. When I looked at it again, it seemed weird that I felt like I knew a lot more than what you actually wrote! As far as the comments about your dialogue, I'm not sure if it's clear to everyone that there's not a lot of 'actual' dialogue even in this - at least the way I read it. I think the parts where you mean it to be a 'chat window' could possibly use some more clarification that that is what we're actually seeing. Because people do type awkward sh!t in there (especially some young people I know!). But I don't know what, exactly, you could do to make that clear. You're already using italics for his thoughts, so...your guess is as good as mine! Also,starting where you do (and here I agree with earlier comments- some work could be done there) gives it this sort of hopeless, noir-fatalism that almost always gets me on board.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 1, 2014 - 3:49am

At the heart of this is a very good idea. I like the swerve. It starts off as a ‘best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men’ tale, and then swerves into a straight double cross. That’s a nice move. My only comment on the twist is that Rachel needs a bit more edge to her earlier on. The sudden turn wasn’t wholly unexpected, but involving the wife and kids was. This is clearly a twisted character, and there needs to be just a hint of that thrown in earlier.

I have to agree with some of the other comments, particularly Doug’s. This is a story crying out for more clarity, particularly in the early sections. You take 1,000 words to tell us that he has been beaten to within an inch of his life, but is clinging on to that life because of his family. A lot of those words are unclear and bordering on rambling. In a contest like this when there are a lot of entries, and most people will only read a small proportion, you don’t want to risk losing people on the first page. Take a look at each sentence and ask yourself two questions – is this clear? Does it add anything to the story?

A story like this should be tighter, and filled with tension. At the moment the flow doesn’t kick in until he tries to climb the stairs, it just wallows and then shoots forward. You could easily condense that first part down to 200 words at the most. What is the story you want to tell? If it’s a man recovering from a beating, keep it in. If it’s about a man double crossed by everyone he cares about, then that is the bit you need to concentrate on. Everything else is fluff. You only have a small word count, so you need to make every word count.

I could see readers taking issue with the changes in perspective, but they didn’t really bother me. I don’t mind having to put some effort in to working out who is talking or what is going on, but again be careful because you might lose some people if you don’t transition smoothly. That first one transition is a bit rough. You go from “And then his wife screamed”, to immediately changing perspective. A page break there might help. Once we are through that first one, the subsequent change doesn’t grate at all.

Ultimately this one gets a thumbs up from me. I can see the potential here shining through, and it feels like an early draft, which is fine. There aren’t any major issues, and the story is a good one. It really won’t take a huge amount of effort to polish this one up and turn it into something very good. Just concentrate on telling the story you want to tell, and do so in simple way with more clarity, and you’ll have nailed it.