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Laura Keating's picture

Food for the Crow

By Laura Keating in Arrest Us

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Description

When Anuniaq was two weeks old her father’s murderer came to her home. When she was fourteen she set off to find them, and kill them.

Not neo-noir, this is neolithic noir.

Comments

Wonder Woman's picture
Wonder Woman from RI is reading 20th Century Ghosts July 1, 2014 - 12:07pm

Very interesting take on the challenge. I thought Anuniaq's backstory and quest made for an enjoyable read and the conclusion was satifying. Their way of life, spent being in pairs, made it all the more interesting to read about their clan, especially if they became single. Nice work!  

Laura Keating's picture
Laura Keating from Canada is reading The Aleph and Other Stories July 2, 2014 - 12:35am

Thanks for the read, and I'm so glad you liked it!

Casey Hicks's picture
Casey Hicks from Brooklyn, NY is reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman July 12, 2014 - 12:45pm

First of all, I have to say that I love the repetition and symmetry in your writing. It gives your writing a poetic beauty. Your approach to the prompt is also refreshing. I like that you begin with enough information to introduce the crime, then pull back to describe life with the Makkan. I also liked that the ending started to feel a bit hallucinatory. Blurring the lines between the natural and the supernatural really works for a piece about a forgotten tribe. Very well done.

Laura Keating's picture
Laura Keating from Canada is reading The Aleph and Other Stories July 16, 2014 - 6:13am

Thanks Casey, I'm so glad that you liked it. I'm glad you thought that the ending works, I was uncertain if the feeling I was trying for would come through. Looks like it did!
Thanks for reading, and commenting.
Cheers!

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch July 13, 2014 - 10:25am

This was a really great read. Aside from the fact that it's a very different setting than most of the other Arrest Us submissions, I thought it was just a very strong, wonderfully written story.

The voice was strong, and there was just the right mix of telling and showing through out the entire story that I never became bored or felt like I was missing anything. One of the best things about the story is how full and lived in the world feels in such a short time.

I only have a couple of nitpicks:

Singleton- I didn't really like this term. Everything time it got brought up it made me stop somewhat. It feels a bit too modern and stands apart from almost everything else. Though maybe that's why such that wording?

She grins. It is a lovely smile, and it lights her coal black eyes. Her skin begins to glow with a warm, inner light as her hair begins to curl and smoke.

I had the same thought about 'lovely smile'. It feels too modern of a phrase too use, especially compared to some of the great lines you have elsewhere, such as "fish-belly white"(which I loved).

Finally, the beginning- I can see why you started it the way you did, and I like a lot of it. At the same time, the two paragraphs hammer on a single point. There's also a lot of "I's early on which are really repetitive.  This doesn't happen anywhere else in the piece.  I would probably cut away the second paragraph and maybe rework the first paragraph slightly so that the use of "I" doesn't become so repetive.

All in all though, those are all small nitpicks. One of my favorite stories I've read. Great job.

Laura Keating's picture
Laura Keating from Canada is reading The Aleph and Other Stories July 16, 2014 - 6:15am

Hello Hector, thanks for the excellent feedback. I actually love constructive criticism like this. Looking at it again I think that you are right about the modern phrasing, and I'll go back and take a look again at the opening paragraphs just to see what I might have done differently.
Really glad you liked the story otherwise. Thank you for reading and commenting!

- LVK

_JohnUtah's picture
_JohnUtah from Texas is reading True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa July 18, 2014 - 8:30am

Lore,

Very impressive story, as others have stated it is quite refreshing to read something new and different. The story to me read almost like a journal of some sorts, like I was reading a life written down. The character was fantastic, you gave enough back story and history into her way of life without relying heavily on blinding he world around her which was great. Over all I thought it was a fantastic read and I really enjoyed your take on the material. Thanks for writing it!

 

Utah

Laura Keating's picture
Laura Keating from Canada is reading The Aleph and Other Stories July 18, 2014 - 10:15am

Hey Utah, thanks for reading and commenting! Honestly, I was a little hesitant submitting it because I knew it was going to be such a deviation from usual crime lit, but I was having so much fun dropping typical noir tropes (town with a secret, loner "detective", getting information at the local watering hole *literally*) into an unusual setting that I sort of closed my eyes and hit send. Very glad I did now.
Cheers!
- LVK

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 20, 2014 - 5:45am

Like it, very unique. Personally I'd drop the opening paragraph and start at:

We are a forgotten people.

The ending, the dream, is a nice element, however more about the Crow would be good. All in all a good story.

Laura Keating's picture
Laura Keating from Canada is reading The Aleph and Other Stories July 21, 2014 - 12:23pm

Thanks so much for the read and commenting! I'll probably go back over the whole thing again when the comp is all done and see what lines jump up and scream, "delete me!" There's always a few. 
Cheers!

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 20, 2014 - 6:28am

Awesome story. You create a rich setting and construct a believable culture, with norms, deviants, rituals etc. The pairing mythology is excellent, the social exclusion of the main character well drawn, and the descriptions are vivid and original. Tension is built well, each scene makes sense and unfolds logically but unpredictably, and you never break character. Really loved this piece, and especially in the context of a crime writing competition it stuck out as super original. I really can't think of much else to say that would be anything but re-iterating how much I enjoyed the story. Could picture every scene. Definite thumbs up, and thanks for such an entertaining read.

Tom

Laura Keating's picture
Laura Keating from Canada is reading The Aleph and Other Stories July 21, 2014 - 12:26pm

Hi Tom, thanks so much for the read and the comments. With this piece I was a little concerned because it was so different; am very happy that I went with it. Loved your piece as well, all the best!
- LVK

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 21, 2014 - 10:50am

Hi Lore,

Ahah, something a bit different. Though I don't think anyone is going to get arrested... While I like the epic, mythical nature, I'm not sure this quite works as a crime piece.

Killers, singular or plural? (my father’s murderer , kill them)

The voice that you have is simplistic, but slightly skewed. Not entirely sure I like it. It's a little awkard to read - "My upbringing is charity" rather than "My upbringing is a charity". Likewise, some word choices are a bit bumpy -The boy who would have been my couple is reassociated.

solemnity appropriate when acknowledging death, and that is all. - Plus a sense of relief in the village that the balance is once again restored?

So mixed pair twins pair off with other mixed pair twins. And single sex the same, despite their rarity? Intriguing. Of course, if two singletons happen to exist at the same time, do they both go north together? :)

You do the invisibility of an outcast well. Seems they're just awaiting the day she takes herself into the northern tundra.

I slowly the jerky chew - Yoda?

When she finds the girl,  : It will be dark soon and I turn to leave, but stop when I see the girl. - is this a different girl?

So she meets her twin - real or imagined? Or is she dead at this point, frozen stiff? And he has the story she doesn't know. But if a mother dies in childbirth, which of the twins gets the blame? And by the way these people work, why kill the father if he is destined to go North? Because he wouldn't, not while he has twins to look after? I'm still murky on the exact nature of the events and crime, which is why I struggle, even though a crime has probably been done (though not perhaps, under the justice rules of her people?) to consider this a crime story.

We never find out the name she was given by the mother, nor why or if this was important?

She has hunted, and as a loner, has seen perhaps more than others - surely by 14 she knows what a crow eats... (The Crow, though... I'd still assume eyes... and as we never really get an answer...)

Liam

Laura Keating's picture
Laura Keating from Canada is reading The Aleph and Other Stories July 21, 2014 - 12:14pm

Hi Liam, thanks for the constructive break down, and I'll see if I can address some of the questions/concerns!
I can see what you're saying about some of the phrasing (and in the case of the eating jerky bit that is a typo straight up, dont' know how it slipped by me!) For "turn to go/see the girl" yes, it is the same girl. I suppose I could have said look at the girl again, or consider the girl, or just an "again" at the end. Would that have made it more clear?

In terms of the rules of the village I imagined that they were complicated and ultimately unsustainable, but the members of the village were rigid and unwilling to change, and so therefore the tribe was shrinking. They would have rules about a mother dying in childbirth just like they would about if a partner died any other way: the partner would have to go north eventually. The problem with Anuniaq was that she was born alone (a bad sign to a very superstitious group) and then the mother died (double plus bad sign, Batman!) and they didn't really know how to handle it. It is a complicated system not entirely based on logic, and illogical things are prehaps the hardest to convey in writing. It's like trying to draw something ugly, somehow you keep wanting to smooth out the lines. So you're right to say, "That system is odd" because yes! Yes it is!

I love to world build, but if I can get the reader to understand without having to spell it out I find it has a greater response. So with things like "the solemnity of death, and that is all" you are right that there would be a sense of relief, but I sort of thought that would come through to the reader without saying (although, I think it is said at some point later in a different context). And for the narrator at that moment of telling the relief following her death isn't something she is greatly concerned with; it's not in her character to care how they would feel (no one, after all has ever cared for how she has felt).

In terms of the ambiguous aspects (The Crow, names, what exactly happens to her at the end) I wanted those all open ended, just like in myth. I grew up on the east coast of Canada, I there I heard my fair share of myth, many times blends of Celtic tales that had been brought over and local Micmac legends. They often dealt with the supernatural in a natural way, and many details were just taken in without saying (why of course that bird is going to give the protagonist advice on where to go, sure that shadow is also someone's brother). I think this has had a huge influence on my writing because to this day I love tales with tiny threads left uncut/unsewn (I think I am one of the few people around who was like, "Yeah, the end of 'Prometheus' I liked it!" haha). There are a lot of things in old myths and legends that are in some ways just left to be understood - or interpreted just as the reader likes. I know that's icy ground, and I try to be careful on it because it can look like you missed something or didn't think something through, but I sort of painstakingly exclude certain details and certain answers to highlight what *is* there. Like a shadow, or negative space on a wall. Sometimes it works for folks, something it doesn't.

And finally, can there be a crime without an arrest? If the laws are not written down? If the laws are not entirely based on logic? If a crime is ignored, does it go away? I guess I was sort of poking at these things from the start. Originally these were going to be the main themes of the story, and they still were, just not as pronounced as I had planned (and the ending was going to be waaaay different, I was thinking neo-noir, but set in a neolithic village. I think I got a little of that, but it did its own thing in the end too). So was this a crime story or a story with a crime? I don't know. Depends on how you define it, I guess. What tropes are necessary? Are tropes necessary? Abandon all tropes, ye who enter here? Now I'm workshopping myself, haha.

Sorry, this reply is turning into a saga! But you gave some excellent feedback and I love workshop conversations (even if it is on the online) and wanted to reply in a just way.
So thanks again for the read and the feedback! Cheers!
 LVK

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 21, 2014 - 1:27pm

Hi,

The thing to do with all the feedback, is to use that to see where the ambiguities rankle - if nobody mentions something, then they've probably accepted it. Coming from your background, there are things you would accept that others won't, and vice-versa, I guess. And one person saying "durhh" doesn't mean you have to change anything, but you get three or so feedbacks saying the same thing and it's wise to listen!

In terms of turning back to the girl, what is it that draws her back? What didn't she spot first time round? Write that, and problem solved. (Again clarifies that it's not a different girl, but imparts nothing...)

I do like the piece, and did upvote, (hurrah!) and I concur that sometimes (often!) there are crimes committed by judicial systems, or overlooked by them. And it certainly isn't my role to say that any piece doesn't meet contest spec, but when they do "Charm-Us" or "Bewitch-us" next year, (got to be, right? Done horror, sci-fi, crime, fantasy MUST be next?)  I'll be looking out for you!

Laura Keating's picture
Laura Keating from Canada is reading The Aleph and Other Stories July 21, 2014 - 4:09pm

Thanks Liam, and I really meant it that I did like your feedback and it really did make me ask all those questions again to myself. I really will be giving the story a look over again with those questions in mind and see if I can make the story stronger. :)

As soon as I posted my reply I sort of raised an eyebrow at myself and realised how much like a rant it looked like (especially with the questions all listed out! Sorry, I looked a little attacky, I think), but decided to leave it because I'm just a discussion oriented sort of person. It is the not-so-latent lit nerd in me that just wants to talk things out - which is notoriously difficult in online forums - but I really did like your critique.

Anyway, look forward to seeing more of your stuff in the future too. Cheers!

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday July 21, 2014 - 11:21am

This has to be in my top five of this challenge that I've read so far.  I was engaged from start to finish and I really liked how it went darker and more supernatural as it went on.  I wish I had something constructive to add, but I think it stands on its own well enough that any tweaking would just be for the sake of tweaking.  Thanks for sharing.

Laura Keating's picture
Laura Keating from Canada is reading The Aleph and Other Stories July 21, 2014 - 12:27pm

Hi Grant, thanks so much! Always happy to write something a little weird, always even happier to get to share it with folks.
All the best,
LVK

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 22, 2014 - 8:36am

Very well written. I love the line "Two is the number of the world." Your ending is haunting and unsettlingly beautiful. There were a few sentences that didn't make sense to me but I'm not sure if they were typos or part of the voice of the main character.

"If I fall ill, or to become injured" I'm wondering if this should either be 'were to become injured' or 'became injured'

". I slowly the jerky chew as I consider the girl."  slowly chew the jerky?

The back story of your MC is very intriguing and held my interest without having to throw in a lot of action. I agree with Liam on the "crime fiction" element of the story but it's very nicely done in any case.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 23, 2014 - 12:44am

Good story, and a really interesting way to run with the run with the guidelines. I’m surprised that others have cast doubt on whether or not it fits as crime. Even if you take out the murder of the father, and (though this may just be my reading of it) her implied actions against the tribe at the end, I still believe this is a great example of moral crime. She’s been neglected her entire life, by a bunch of people who feel nothing at all for her. That’s pretty horrific.

I would say that perhaps just a tiny bit more clarity at the end would be good, and perhaps you spend a little too long on world-building. Having said that, I love world-building, and I think you do it so well that I was happy to read. It’s so rich and full of legend, I half expected the Morrigan to turn up somewhere down the line.

I’d be happy to read more, so this is a very definite thumbs up from me.