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Jonathan Riley's picture

Foxtrot

By Jonathan Riley in Arrest Us

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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.

Description

Trent and Patrick have the perfect plan to loot from the elderly in an older community. They may have bitten off more than they can chew, when they encounter Miss Petunia Butterhole.

Most of the spelling and grammar errors have been addressed. And I deleted some of the weirder wordings. None of the structural issues have changed yet. If anyone spots any misspelled words in this draft and doesn't mind pointing them out that would be great. 6/29/14

Comments

Devon Robbins's picture
Devon Robbins from Utah is reading The Least Of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones June 18, 2014 - 3:08pm

Hey Jonathan,

Sorry for the brief review.

Decent story you've got here. The comedy element isn't usually my thing but the characters were developed nicely. Plotwise I didn't have any problems. The trap door/ wake up in a basement thing is kind of old, but it worked for you, I think because of the humor.

Really all I found were typos. I highlighted all of them that I caught in the attached file.

Good job and good luck.

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 18, 2014 - 7:54pm

Thanks for your time Devon. Still trying to figure out what type/genre of writer I am. Haven't read much in the crime genre but I like writing criminals. I think I try humor when I'm not sure where else to go and I'm still not sure if I'm good at that. Hopefully some comedy fans can help me there.

Thanks so much for the LBL. I've already fixxed all the typos you noticed. 

Piece,

--JR--

Devon Robbins's picture
Devon Robbins from Utah is reading The Least Of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones June 18, 2014 - 8:09pm

Humor is something I've never been able to pull off, so here's me giving you a high five. The LBL wasn't much, but I didn't really see anything else that stood out to me.

big_old_dave's picture
big_old_dave from Watford, about 20 miles outside London, Uk June 19, 2014 - 6:57am

Hi Jonathan, 

I liked the banter between the two characters here at the start and the role reserval, it kinda reminded me in a way of from dusk till dawn. Started off crime with really good dark humuor and then fillped over into a horror.

Even through I saw the title of your story it was still a clever twist that forshadowed the basement section. Not too sure if the parts detailing the experiments are true or made up but either way really well done.

Giving this one a thumbs up, good stuff

Dave 

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 23, 2014 - 7:15am

Dave,

Thanks for the read. Glad you enjoyed it. High praise comparing it to "From Dusk till Dawn" I'll take it. Yeah, I wante the title to be just close enough to keep the readers guessing.

Thanks,

--JR--

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep June 19, 2014 - 9:29pm

Ok, first let me admit, there are two types of stories it's hard for me to be objective about: any story where robots run amuck, and stories filled with comeuppance. I love Tales from the Crypt; that sort of story was their bread and butter. But seriously, your story could easily have been an episode on that series.

This was sooo much fun to read! I was reading funny parts out loud to my brother. I was so happy you wrote a story with so much humor in it. Even when all the really bad stuff is happening, there are ways to make your reader smile. And that's what you did.

- I love your dumb, lovable, doomed criminals.

- The levity really served to contrast with the darkness when the horror kicks in.

- I can't say I can remember foxes being used as instruments of torture before, so kudos there.

- For a few seconds there, I thought Trent was going to make it out of there. You happily dashed that line of thinking to pieces. Thanks.

- Crazy Fox Lady. Good stuff. Miss Petunia Butterhole. Brilliant.

- At this moment, I don't have anything super-constructive to say, so this review is apparently purely ego-boosting. You made me laugh at the end of a long day, so thank you very much for that!

You get a bravo from me! Please keep writing!

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 23, 2014 - 7:17am

Ethan,

Glad you liked it. I always love your stories in these contests as well. Read yours over the weekend, but just got back to the land with internet. (Literally, I was out on a boat all weekend) I'll have you a review up later today.

Thanks for the praise. You are giving me a big head. Glad you liked the character name. I was skeptical about it being too goofy at first.

Thanks again,

--JR--

Geert Mostrey's picture
Geert Mostrey from Belgium is reading Gone Girl June 20, 2014 - 9:27am

Hi Jonathan,

I enjoyed your story very much, especially the first part is written very well and with a kind of humor I very much appreciate. Personally I found the switch from humor to horror a bit more dificult as it changes the rythm and the flow of the story substantially and I found your "humor" voice a lot stronger than your "horror" voice. Maybe that is because you  mix humor into the horror part, which tends to take away the element of tension. This being said, this story is full of creativity. 

Some points (very subjective so feel free to brush it all aside) that I think might be worth rethinking a bit : she is old, can hardly walk and has very little strenght. Even if she managed to get both men into the basement with her elaborate system. How did she manage afterwards to get them up on chairs and tied up ? Also, she was in the 12th generation of her experiment. Wouldn't that make for a hell of a lot of dead people ? Baxter apparently being their first meal (and he had died almost 50 years ago).

All in all it's a thumbs up from me. The first part is perfect as it is and with a little bit of work the second part will be just as well.

Good stuff.

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 23, 2014 - 7:25am

Thanks Geert,

I still need to decide how I want to handle the horror/humour hybrid. Alot have suggested sticking with Trent/Patrick''s pov's, and I think I might try that out. We'll have to see where that takes us.

I wondered how many people would wonder how she got them in the chairs. She is old, and has a bum leg. I tried to allude to her "hay hauling" days to show that she is or atleast was capable of lifting. Maybe, I should show her size as well. She also lifts foxes alot, so I figured she was fit, but honestly, most women would have a hell of a time propping grown men into chairs. So I assumed she had some apparatus down there to help. I'll either explain that better or just have them tied to something on the ground. It will probably work better that way.

As far as dead people go I don't think this is something she makes a habbit of. And as others suggested I'm going to readress her motives. But yeah, the foxes Will eat other things, mice, chipmunks, squirlles, snakes. Some of them just really love the taste of human so since the opportunity presented itself she took advantage. Just a treat to reward them for being good pets. I'll work out the kinks.

Thanks so much for the input.

--JR--

 

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep June 24, 2014 - 5:06am

I'll go ahead and throw my hat in the ring of sticking with our "heroes" the whole time. I like Miss Butterhole tons, but your two mains burn much brighter and are a lot more fun to watch. Their interactions and reactions are where the heart (I was rooting for them. Ridiculous, I know.) of the story was for me.

memtigers's picture
memtigers June 20, 2014 - 10:06am

This was a great story, with an even better twist. I enjoyed the comedy and the way your characters come to life. Keep up the good work and look forward to reading more.

sean of the dead's picture
sean of the dead from Madisonville, KY is reading Peckerwood, by Jed Ayres June 20, 2014 - 5:03pm

NOTES:

* There's a handful of grammar errors, missing commas, etc, but that shit happens, right? I will say, my favorite is on page 6, when #1 asks, "Why the heck’d you step in Patrick?" Needs a comma, OR Patrick needs to stop laying on the ground.

* Judging by their earlier stupidity (as well as the humor that is in play here), I feel like I want one of them to think the foxes are some other animal. Maybe dogs. Or coyotes. Or even just not otters. Not something that makes me dismiss the story, because I'm not a jerk, but maybe something for future edits. If you want.

* As far as the dialogue, I think you hit your peak with the dudes talking to each other early, but I feel like with the old lady there are some problems. If she's super paranoid, as it seems she might be, thinking the dudes are trying to steal her foxes, maybe make her sound more paranoid. And make her home seem more that of a paranoid person, too, because I don't get that from her otherwise.

* I also kind of want more of the two dudes before they get to this woman's house. It's entertaining, in that perfect heist gone perfectly wrong kind of way. 

* Overall, I like this. I like that it goes somewhere that I don't expect from the start. It's like that move The Collector, a horror movie you probably haven't seen since you're not a big fan. But that has a break in go in a totally different direction than you think it might. As does this. I don't know how much of the science is accurate in this, but I also don't care because it's fun. Thumbs up from me, Mr. Riley. Good work!

 

 

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 23, 2014 - 7:30am

Thanks Sean,

The science is pretty accurate, and most people think it's delivery is still a little too one-sided and expository so I'm not sure how much of it will make the final cut. Would like to keep as much as I can, but I also want the dialouge to flow more naturally like in the first section which every seems to favor. We'll see where it goes but I think I can find a balance based on the comments of you and others.

Also, I do need to amp up the paranoia, originally that was supposed to be Petunia's driving force then I got lost in the action and explaining and forgot what I was doing. Made her more just evil bitch than paranoid mother.

Thanks again,

--JR--

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) June 21, 2014 - 5:07am

I’ve been pretty set this contest on working through the submissions from oldest to most recent, but when I saw your story appear I just had to leap straight to it.

The story works. I have no hesitation in saying that. I saw from a previous comment that you weren’t sure on your comedy, but this is pitched perfectly. The banter between your doltish robbers is damn near perfect, and there were plenty of lines that made me chuckle. I did not see the twist coming. I figured the sweet old lady would keep foiling the robbers without that being her aim, but this was much better.

I’ve actually tried by hand at an LBL, which is something I almost never do, so feel free to take a read. I’m not used to doing these, so I hope it does help.

Again, that story did work well, so while I have some comments on how I think it could be improved on, these are purely subjective.

I am a little torn on the change of perspective. I can see why you do it, and I think the story does need to end from her perspective. That second section does cover how she gets them down to the cellar too. You know full well if you don’t cover that off, you’d get a fair few comments asking how she managed it.

Having said that though, I’m going to suggest keeping the perspective on Trent and Patrick until the end. It’s your own fault though - you set the bar high in section one, and the second section just doesn’t quite live up to it. I want to see that part through the guy’s eyes. The sense of annoyance at having to go inside, their experience of the smell (rather than just overheard). I’d happily sacrifice the pulleys and the trolley etc. I’d rather be wondering how she did it myself, and coming up with ludicrous methods than have it spelled out. It also means you don’t have to call them Mormon #1 and Mormon #2 in that entire section. You could have them spot her name on a letter and chuckle about it, so you won’t have to call her Crazy Fox Lady when they are in the cellar.

Speaking of being in the cellar, you basically have Petunia monologuing, or at the very least giving us an info dump which stilts the story at a crucial moment. Clearly you have researched Belyaev and his experiments on foxes, but you have to decide whether or not the fact that this is grounded in reality strengthens the story or not. If you decide it does, drop a couple of details in rather than give us the whole thing. Have them see files with Belyaev on, or even have Petunia talking to her foxes rather than to the criminals. That would fit with her crazy fox lady persona, and you’d still be able to drop in some juicy morsels of backstory.

The action sequence feels underplayed to me. It works, but I think it could be more dynamic and you could really up the tension levels. I think the issue here is that the action is described, and it comes in one chunky paragraph. Take us into Trent’s head. How much is that heart pounding as the bullets ping off the walls around him? Write quickly. In short bursts. That keeps the reader’s eyes moving speedily on to the next sentence. I’m not great at writing action myself. I do find myself analysing action sequences from writes I love to see what makes them so good.

I’ll confess that what I really wanted to see was Butterhole break her hip from a fall, after shooting Trent and having him gobbled by the foxes. Unable to move, the end would be her trying to convince her beloved foxes not to turn on her. That probably says way more about me than I would care to admit. Your ending works well as it is though. I like that image of her in my head as a Bond villain, watching TV and stroking her pet, albeit a fox instead of a cat.

I really enjoyed reading this. It made me laugh, it surprised me, and it had me rooting for the protagonists. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 23, 2014 - 8:23am

Adam,

Thanks for all the notes. Your ending is one I highly considered when rewriting this. I added that action scene and yeah, I agree it feels rushed. Before she killed Trent quickly. I can get that out better for sure. I guess ultimately I wanted to end with a punchline to stick with the lighthearted nature of the story's majority, but I really did think about ending with her about to be the foxe's last meal. Waving that can about in their faces while she lie helplessly on the floor. I'll still have to think about that.

Yeah, that's exactly why I switched pov's. As Geert earlier was wondering how she got them in chairs. I knew people would wonder how she got them in a basement. I do think I want to take a shot at it staying in their pov. Or at the very least. I'll abondon the third close and just do a more omnicient p.o.v. And then just come arround to her at the end if I do keep her alive in the final scene.

I'll work on the monolouge as well. I personally like that she tells them all this. She's an old lady who never gets to talk to anyone but her foxes. She loves the opportunity to tell anyone she can about the experiments. But I'll try to make it less breathy.

Oh, just read the lbl as well. Great job on that. It helps alot.

Thanks so much Adam,

--JR--

David James Keaton's picture
David James Keaton from "the water" is reading Kill Kill Faster Faster by Joel Rose June 21, 2014 - 11:16am

Hi Jonathan,
First off, really liked this story. Lot of fun. The most enjoyable read I've come across in the contest so far. It had a very interesting double-conceit going, and the characters and dialogue were snappy and well-wrought. The one thing I wasn't as crazy about [spoiler!], and this might be just me, was the idea that the old woman would have perhaps killed the young men either way, whether or not she thought they were lying about being Mormons and therefore agents of the government or some such. At first I thought she was attacking them because of her suspicions, simply wanting to protect her hilarious fox-training operations, and I found that aspect satisfying. But then we find that she has perhaps killed others as well, right? Bit of a coincidence, and that idea can work, too (Hitchcock's Psycho was an early high-profile version of that. and I was also reminded of the classic 50's movie, The Ladykillers (Coen Brother remade it, too)), so as I'm writing this, I'm actually less convinced of my own criticism after all. I do kinda like the idea that the criminals were punished by stumbling on a criminal better than themselves, in the form of an ol' biddy. I suppose my uncertainty then might be that the old lady's motivations were less clear, therefore making her less compelling than the two young men. Psycho is amazing and will always endure because the surprise second criminal, Norman Bates, is infinitely more interesting than the throwaway crime that begins the movie. Here it's reversed, and it makes the ending more gag than satisfying revelation, and the ending gets smaller rather than bigger. Does that make any sense? Maybe revisiting some her dialogue to make her less "villainy" could help flesh her out? She has a lot of dialogue but some of it is more expository than the reader might need. Not to say there isn't still satisfaction in her table turning, of course.

A few surface error issues throughout - the spelling of "ma'am," italicization, etc. - that can be cleaned up easily (you might have already done so anyway, as I downloaded this a couple days back). Overall, though, I think this was a pretty sweet story, a fun twist and an enjoyable read that doesn't take the overly-serious route that can bog down a lot of crime stories. Easily gets my vote.

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 23, 2014 - 8:15am

David,

Thanks so much for the read. I agree, and I got lost in the fun somewhere along the way. I mentioned to Sean above. I think her motivation is more about protecting her "babies" than feeding them. So the paranoia as a driving force will work much better in the long run.

I do like that they fell into her "trap" but I agree I need to stick with one motivation for sure. Rather it be the Paranoia, or if she infact is some type of super villian who leurs folks to her cellar to feed her foxes. I'm thinking the coincidence thing suits the comic tone of the peice better and am inclined to lean that way.

Thanks for the nice words. Always great to see a fellow writers enjoying the things I do.

Piece,

--JR--

madsmaddox's picture
madsmaddox from Berkshire is reading Fated June 23, 2014 - 2:34am

Jonathan,

Enjoyed this tale, very entertaining and reminded me of Roald Dahl’s short stories in Kiss, Kiss. In particular, the Landlady, if you haven’t read it, I think you would definitely appreciate it. I read another tale the other day and I mentioned it reminded me of the League of Gentlemen, this tale reminded me even more of the series, in a good way.

Just a few nitpicks / suggestions, the change in POV ruins the pace set up in the first act. Personally I would’ve kept it from the anti-hero POV and run with that all the way through. By changing POV in the second part, you lose a lot of momentum. I know why you did it (set up the ending) but you could have achieved this in another way.

I would also drop granny psychofox’s exposition in favour of the heroes piecing it together themselves and perhaps letting their / our imaginations run riot as they ponder their fate.  Less is more with her, you go from nice granny to utterly sinister, but to keep the sinister, she needs to be observed more and let our imaginations do the work. 

Obviously if you changed the POV to reflect just the anti-hero action, the ending would have to change. After reading I thought the ending could’ve been ambiguous – have the survivor hear someone at the door, turns out it’s a policeman investigating the car out front which is linked to burglaries. Fox cries sound like baby cries, the sound of crying babies could be her way of blowing off the copper (baby grandchildren crying). The hero’s fate is sealed (or is it?). No help and they’re fox fodder.

And as cute as the title is, it gives the big reveal away. Less is more with this one, you’re a good story teller but I think you’re desperate to reveal everything when you could really benefit by showing less.

As it stands, it’s a good story that could do with a little ironing out, but I did enjoy and it’s a definite thumbs up!

All the best and happy writing!

Mads

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 25, 2014 - 8:46pm

Thanks so much for reading Mads.

I'm definitely toying with the idea of changing the pov as well as the ending. And you makes some good points and give good ideas on which directions I might go. Thanks for that too.

I kind of like having the old lady explain things because she never gets to talk to anyone. But I'll definitely iron out that dialouge and make it less James Bond Villiany, I still need to work out her motives better.

I am curious to know when the title gave things away for you. The title is the name of a dance and the foxes aren't introduced until the 3 beat of the story. And by then I'm not sure how the title gives away what the foxes will do. So yeah if you could explain better how it gave away the reveal I'd love to hear it so I can think of a more ambiguous title.

Thanks for the great advie.

--JR--

madsmaddox's picture
madsmaddox from Berkshire is reading Fated June 27, 2014 - 2:03am

Jonathan,

The title is a name of a dance (or a military phonetic), and you don’t introduce the foxes until the third part (I blasted through this cos the pace is spot on so didn’t realise it was the third part), my choice of words were unfair, I didn’t mean the title gives it away, what I actually meant is the title hints towards the twist. From my POV, the title reads Foxtrot, and as such, I was expecting either a dance or a play on the word. As soon as the fox is introduced, I know that they’re going to be the twist (if that makes sense) just because of the way you built suspense in parts 1 and 2 – two dodgy chaps ripping people off, they meet a nice old lady (so it seems), then they are drugged, they wake up, a fox is licking the guys foot, I’m expecting bad things from the foxes at this point. So its really about expectation, I love these style of tales, I’ve been enjoying them for a long time now, be it short stories or Tales of the Unexpected / The Outer Limits / Twilight Zone (you get the idea), so the nice old lady trope automatically has me on edge (in a good way). So its really about expectation, many probably wont give the title a second thought but the way you write, I was waiting for a big twist as you were building very well towards it in parts 1 and 2. That twist did involve foxes.

It’s a minor thing and go with your gut instinct on this one.

If I’d written this story, I probably would’ve worked the antagonists name into the title somehow, Petunia Butterhole is a fn great character name.

All the best and let me know when / if you sort a second draft as I'm definitely interested in reading the update version.

Mads

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 23, 2014 - 12:26pm

Liked this a lot, and when you shifted perspective I thought you would want me to expect a crazy lady as a bluff, so I figured you were going for victim sympathy instead. The double bluff worked nicely, and the fox experiment thing is mental. I could picture that basement just from your brief description, until you said bio-dome. Then Patrick became Pauly Shore for a moment. Other than that subjective point, the only thing was the winches and pulleys, which seemed to be glossed over a little too quickly, more tell and less show. Anyway, I really enjoyed it and it's a great story. Nice one.

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 28, 2014 - 9:24pm

Thanks Seb, 

So glad you enjoyed it. Note: Scratch bio-dome. No Pauly Shore here. I'll work on that other scene as well. Thanks for the input. 

--JR--

Aud Fontaine's picture
Aud Fontaine from the mountains is reading Catch-22. Since like, always. June 23, 2014 - 8:54pm

Jonathon,

I'm sorry but I could not get over the name Butterhole. That was just somehow too funny to me. As wonderful as your story was everything kind of paled in comparison. Maybe I'm just a sucker for a good name but holy damn. Petunia Butterhole. What a masterpiece.

With that out of the way I'd like to say how much I liked the rest of your story. It was hilarious, fascinating and horrifying simultaneously. A hard mix to pull off but you did it with gusto. Well done. There were a few slip ups that I noticed such as her calling them "faux Mormons" in her pov. I understand how that could've been foreshadowing but since the audience doesn't know yet that she knows and are still under the impression she's a lonely old lady it just feels out of place and weird to me. There were also a few typos that jumped out at me that I'm not sure if you've fixed yet. I don't know what an LBL is or how you do one but you just used the wrong "their" a couple of times, "ring" instead of "wring" and "rather" instead of "whether". No big deal, just thought I'd say something in case no one else had yet. The only other thing that seemed a little awkward to me that I know at least one other person mentioned was the exposition. For a fast paced, fun romp of a story there's a lot of just explaining. The mention of the infertile husband was one that I found.... strange but more importantly was the experiment bit. I felt like that could have played much weirder. Something you might think about is making it maybe more of a playful type of soliloquey thing maybe? Just her sort of going a little senial and rambling to herself, her captives, her foxes, just sort of lost in her surreal world of obsession and making a big Shakespearean thing out of it. Just one random suggestion. I just feel like you could have had a lot more fun with that.

Overall though I really did love this. It was so bizarre and silly that I really just sort of got lost in it and didn't even try to figure out where it was going. It was the kind of John Dies at the End level of weird where you sort of give up and trust the author which is exactly what I decided to do and you absolutely delivered. Kudos.

Aud.

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 28, 2014 - 9:32pm

Aud, 

Thanks for the read. I'm so glad you liked it. Glad you liked the name too! I wasn't sure if it was funny or silly in a stupid way. Good call on the faux Mormon pov blooper. Got that straightened out. I need to find those theres lol. The rather was intentional. It's a common gramatical error that people make in speech and in my mind, Petunia is one of those people. But so many people seem to be bothered by it that I changed it back to whether, for now. 

I'm still going to work on the basement scene too and I'll keep your suggestions in mind on the rewrites. 

Thanks so much for your time. 

--JR--

Dan J. Fiore's picture
Dan J. Fiore from Pittsburgh is reading too many things at once June 24, 2014 - 10:44am

JR,

Very funny. Good story. Interesting premise with fun characters. This almost felt like a non-supernatural episode of X-Files. There's a lot to like in here, and I could go on and on about what I loved about it, but that wouldn't really help you make it better so let's get to what I think could use some work or at least a little more thought...

THE LEAD

That first paragraph should really hook the reader, and I think you can do a much better job creating a question in the mind of the reader that engages them and keeps them going right off the bat. 

You start off with some great dialogue that's well written and funny in an almost Tarantino-esque way. However, I feel like none of it is useful to the reader. I feel like it offers too much telling when you could very easily rewrite it to instead show us what the two thieves' plan is. Rather than depending on dialogue to introduce us to the story, think about ways in which you could throw us into the middle of it all in an intriguing way. You have the bones there already...

Men well-dressed going door to door: who are they?

Someone opens a door, says no thanks when they hold up their books. Oh, they're Mormons.

Someone just shakes their head through the window.

Someone says fuck off and slams the door in their faces and maybe the one guy does something nasty in the yard: what's that all about?

One has a gun hidden in his belt: wait, are these guys really Mormons? 

They get to a house where no one is home and they break in through the door or window: Ah, now I get it. They're actually thieves.

Think about how you can show with action what's going on. You can still use funny, well-written dialogue for flavor, but I'd suggest you don't rely too heavily on it to carry your story.

POV

I'd challenge you really focus on the choices you are making regarding shifts in POV. Don't get me wrong, I love stories that jump between POVs... But ask yourself why you're doing it. What's the purpose? How is it driving or adding something to the story for the reader? 

If you take my rough example of the lead above, you could easily stick with Petuna's POV throughout the whole story. She could be watching from her window these two guys going from door to door and we'd be watching through her eyes. Of course, that's just one of many, many directions you could go in.

If you want to stick with your back and forth, consider the pacing as well. How does one POV lead into the next? How do they clash or create tension? What information are you giving us through one character's POV ends up affecting action told from another down the line? 

One specific note regarding shifting POVs:

Think about a more interesting (and humorous) way to differenciate the two thieves from Petuna's POV than #1 and #2. You have the writing chops to do something brilliant there and using numbers is a waste of a good opportunity to inject some more humor.

MOTIVATION

There's really only one big "plot point" I'd argue was hard for me to swallow here and that was when the two thieves entered her house when they would probably know a) they'd be caught in their lie and b) the longer they stuck around, the more easily their faces would be recognized in the future (a big criminal no-no). That's not to say this couldn't easily be remedied with a quick line or a rewrite of a paragraph or two, but it will take some careful thought on your part. Put yourself in those thieves' shoes. Why would they go in the house? We know they're stupid, but they obviously have done this before. They can't be THAT stupid. So what else about them would make them go in? Maybe they're just really, really greedy and spot something SUPER valuable inside that house. Again, think carefully about how POV can help you here if you allow us inside their heads instead of Petuna's in this particular moment.

On a MUCH smaller scale, however, there are a few points throughout that I feel you could be more critical of character motivation. Most of those points deal with dialogue. The biggest example of this that I can find is when the two men wake up. The one thief says to the other something like "There are cages down here with foxes in them." I would challenge you to go through your dialogue and be honest with yourself about whether someone would say what they are saying. If not, no big deal. Just write it in the narration instead. In fact, the fox cage reveal would probably have even more impact on the reader if it was described through narration rather than dialogue. Again, keep in mind first and foremost the reader and how you want them to react to each word.

AGENCY

Who should we care about in this story and why? At some points, I was kind of rooting for the thieves. At other times, I kind of really liked Ole Miss Butterhole. Which is fine. I don't really have any particular issues on this front. But I would challenge you to think about how you could make us care MORE. About whom is in your hands. Could be both, just one of the characters, or it could be none (in this case, maybe make us actively hate everyone more so that we want to see them punished--you don't have to like a character to care what happens to them).

CONCLUSION

I think that's about all I got. I'd maybe argue you don't need the last section. I kind of like ending it where 3/4 ends, but that's up to you. Just make sure you have a clear reason for keeping it. And I guess that's my biggest overarching suggestion--be honest with yourself. Line by line, section by section, ask yourself if you need what you've written or if there's a more effect way to rewrite it. Because you've got one hell of a story packed with both potential and great things already. I just know you've got the talent to take the whole thing a step or two further. You can tell just from what's already there.

In any case, like I said, I loved it. It was a super fun read. Thumbs up all the way, JR. Hope this helps at least a little and sorry for the delay.

Cheers!

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 29, 2014 - 11:51am

Dan,

Thanks so much for taking the time to read and review my story. You put a lot of time and thought into your response and I couldn't appreciate it more.

While I tend to think that good dialouge is actually a great way to Show rather than Tell the reader what's happening, I see what you are getting at in that section. They are telling each other what the plan is which essentially tells the reader. I was kind of going for two birds with one stone there. In my mind the criminals have to have the plan discussion at some point(which could had been before the story starts, I get that) and I thought it would be a fun way for the audience to get to know them, while they discuss the half ass shceme. So yeah, it's mainly to show their incompetence and ingnorance in a fun and engaging way.

The way you laid out your introduction, would be a little more imersive and probably set up great motivators to move the reader along. I'm seriously considering reworking it that way, but probably not at the expense of the dialouge. Or I may write some new dialouge. But yeah, it'd be a great start.

I recognize the plot problems especially when it relates to Petunia's motivations, and a little with Patrick and Trent. Nice idea to have them notice something expensive. I really just had Patrick go in because he's dumb and thirsty, Trent didn't want to but had to follow the lead. Maybe Patrick sees something he wants to steal. They normally just go for jewels because they are easy to conceal and they no someone who can unload them so anything bulky they usually avoid. I'll work on that.

But anyway, I have considred all of your advice and it will definitely help on the next draft. Thanks again.

--JR--

Scott MacDonald's picture
Scott MacDonald from UK is reading Perfidia June 24, 2014 - 2:58pm

Hi Jonathan,

Great fun.  Enjoyed reading this.  The crooks were well drawn and their banter humorous whilst not detracting from the story.  Not realising that they had been trapped by Crazy Fox Lady (which is a great name) did remind me a little of something from Creepshow, but that's no bad thing.

There are some typos in there and some slightly off-kilter word uses. For example, you use "rather or not" and maybe this is just regional colloquialisms, but I would always go for "whether or not". Also the "plump nest of his extroverted underarm" didn't really manage to conjure any visual for me, but again, maybe that is just me.

I liked the way the story unfolded and the foxtrot 1|4 - 4|4 time signature mini-chapter headings were a clever touch, that made me feel a beat to the story as you swung between characters.

Excellent submission, really enjoyed.

Thumbs up from me and best of luck with the competition.

Scott

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 29, 2014 - 11:56am

Scott,

Thanks so much for your time. Plump nest of extroverted underarm has been nixed. What was I thinking lol. Trying to be too writerly. I think I just went with plump underarm instead. Good call.

addressing whether vs. rather. Yeah, usually other authors allow more leniancy with dialouge for dialect and coloquillisms but this has been a tough crowd. I think this is just a grammar mistake Petunia would make "rather or not" I personally know a lot of people(myself occasionally) who make that mistake in there speech regularly. Thought it would add to the character but most people think it's an error and I don't want that either. For now I've changed it back to whether. I'm still debating that one.

Thanks again,

--JR--

 

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary June 26, 2014 - 10:08pm

You have quite a few reveiws already and I'm not sure if I'd have much to add to what has already been said. So I'll just say great story, great characters, hell of a lot of fun. Nice work!

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 29, 2014 - 11:57am

Thanks Joe,

So glad you enjoyed it!

Chacron's picture
Chacron from England, South Coast is reading Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb June 27, 2014 - 3:43am

Hi JR,

I haven't read any of the other reviews but I think it's inevitable I'll repeat what some of them say thanks to getting to this late...

This is good stuff, and I'm writing one of those reviews where I'm not going to suggest major changes but perhaps slightly different angles in places...

(SPOILER ALERT even though I don't think it's needed)

The best surprise in this is that you have a woman who appears to be a sweet old lady and seems to invite the two men in because she's probably lonely, and then a couple of pages later it's hello twisted old bitch. You pulled this off beautifully, but there are moments after this where I think her speech is a little bit too textbook and the past you've set up for her needs drawing out a little more. There are great hooks in the back story about how this woman came to be the way she is, and I'd advise using them more.

The closest thing to a hole you have in the story is the question of why she let these two guys into her house when she's already (so she believes) had people come in trying to sabotage her experiment. I think she's too clever to really believe they were Mormons from the word go. Perhaps this whole scene is her acting, but at the moment I feel uncertain of when her behaviour is genuine and when it isn't. Not quite sure how to deal with this small issue - by the end of the story I found myself re-interpreting the first scene with her, where she appears to be nice, so on reflection perhaps this is fine. My advice then is perhaps have her talk to them some more and flesh out more details before she invites him in - make her give them more of a test. 

If you did this, it would mean that your characters would have to do their research more on Mormonism to be a bit more convincing to her. I like the dumb criminals act, and there are some beautiful one-liners in the first three pages that bring this out, but here's how you could perhaps improve it: make one of the two men slightly smarter and have a 'Let me do the talking' moment when they're outside the door. Perhaps then after they get invited in, the not so clever one can blow everything by accepting the cup of coffee (and I loved how this worked as a giveaway - perhaps be even more blatent and have him decline the coffee so Petunia can say 'How about a drink then?' and then the clever one can shit his pants when the partner cracks open a beer from Petunia!)

One general thing I really do like is actually something you didn't do: it would have been easy with a story like this to set up with a rumour in the neighbourhood about the crazy lady who lives down the street, then have the guys try their act on her as a last resort having failed it with everyone else. This is a horror movie kind of thing - I'm thinking Wes Craven's The People Under the Stairs sort of set up, with the house everyone avoids. You didn't go for this idea but rather introduced Petunia and her fox house out of the blue. I think it's better this way, but if you wanted to make this more crime-horror in future drafts, then there's a genre trope you might think about bringing in.

There's some nice linking of themes going on in this story as well - more specifics on that in the LBL. I've done a fair amount of interpreting with some of your lines, and it was fun trying to work out whether or not what I thought of was what you intended - I think we share this kind of theme-linking in the way we both write; I did a lot of it in my own entry. The best example from yours was how certain lines made me think of Disney films and there was a kind of 'innocence destroyed' theme going on throughout this story.

LBL attached - you've probably edited the story since I downloaded it and changed the ending where you went into the wrong tense for the last few paragraphs, but I've edited that anyway. There's also on typing error that made me go back through my own work and check for the same thing, so thanks for that - you'll know the part I mean when I come to it.

Hope this helps, -C.

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 29, 2014 - 12:10pm

Hey Tommy,

Your review and your lbl were extremely helpful. Now I feel, I sort of gypped you on mine. But you know me, send it my way anytime if you want an lbl on later drafts.

As far as the themes go, I was working with an wild/domesticate animal scheme with the kola's parrot's cukoo clock and then foxes thing. Sort of a slow build up.

As far as the Disney thing goes that was sort of unintentional, but glad you made a conection. I am aware that there is a Disney movie called Pocohontas and that the dimwits are probaly getting there twisted knowlege from a mix of that and history. As far as Zorro being a disney character I wasn't aware. Makes sense though. Zorro is the spanish word for Fox, so they probably did it for the same reason I did.

You're not the only one questioning her motive for letting them in or theirs for entering. I'll have to work that out. Especially theirs. I can make that more apparent. For me, once she knew they were lying to her she wants to let them in to poisen them so she can find out why they are lying. The way it stands now is that she just found an opportunity to feed her foxes a treat. That's not strong enough. I think in the rewrite I'm going to have her overly paranoid and doing it under the impression that she thinks they want to take her foxes.

Anyway, as always your insight has proved very helpful and I've applied alot of your lbl to the story already. I haven't gotten to tweek structure, pov, or plot yet, but I've worked on the grammar issues.

Thanks,

--JR--

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch June 28, 2014 - 7:38pm

Hey Jonathan,

You've gotten some great reviews already, and some of the stuff I thought/caught have already been said, so I'll try to keep this to things I don't think anyone mentioned.

I'm in the minority in that unfortunately the story didn't click with me. Humor is subjective, so take anything that you find useful below, disregard the rest.

I do agree with most of the reviews that the POV shift didn't really work me. I didn't feel that seeing things from Mrs. Butterhole's perspective added much to the precedings, at least during the second section. I think that you can keep the last bit in her POV, as that's a nice little closer to the story, but everything else would work better from Trent and Patrick's perspective.

It also would give you a chance to ratchet up the creepyness, because while this story has humor, I feel it's missing a creepyness that a story about a lady that trains foxes to eat humans should have. Along those lines, something that I didn't really care for was the title of 'Crazy fox lady' that you assign her in the third section. I understand that Trent and Patrick wouldn't know her name, but the kinda made her character into a joke, which I don't think she should be.

The dialogue is good for the most part, there's some really great moments when they're trying to pass themselves off as mormons, but in the beginning section, I felt like it wasn't naturalistic enough. I'm not a fan of the "Tell me why we're doing this again..." bit because it feels like exactly what it is-the writer filling in backstory. Even the small change to "why we doing this again" sounds more natural to me. By the same token, "I have the feeling you're about to tell us" when they're talking to Mrs. Butterhole strikes me as the same thing. It calls attention to the fact that the villain (hero?) of the piece is going to start monologuing.  I think you wouldn't lose anything by just ommiting that line:

“Maybe so, but humor me for the time being. Ever heard of the Soviet Silver Fox Experiment?”
“No mam.”
“In 1959 Soviet scientist Dimitri Belyaev began

If you do want to keep Petunia' POV, I'd like to see you describe Trent and Patrick by something other than Mormom 1 and Mormon two. To me those monikers stuck out in a bad way, especially considering the strong description you have elsewhere in your story.

Honestly, I think the reason that the story didn't work all the way for me is that I couldn't make the connection between the section--thieves posing as mormons in order to break into houses, and the third section- Crazy , paranoid lady breeding foxes.

The creepiness I was talking about does show up, and shows up great after Patrick is killed. I loved when Mrs. Butterhole shows Trent the wound.

The action in the last bit could use a second pass to again, make it a bit more grizzly and detaailed. At the time, it moves really fast, and I couldn't quite picture the scene early on:

“Well go on then.” Trent snatches her cane and gives her a heavy whack just before the third pow of the gun. The bullet b-lines through his left shoulder while Crazy Fox Lady is knocked back to her ass. The looser leg bindings are easy to unstrap with a freehand.

Unless I'm misunderstanding the way you set up the scene, Trent grabbing her cane (which isn't pointing at him or anything) and hitting Mrs. Butterhole all in one sentence seems to be too much. He would have needed to have dived to get the cane, wouldn't he have? And where does he hit her once he has the cane?

A few other awkward sentences in that scene:

.Both combatants shuffle to their feet and raise their weapons

Combatants is awkward to me, to the point that I feel you're better off just using their names. The line is humorous and does bring forth the image of warriors facing off, but the rest of the action is played so straight that it stands out. If you intended it to be humorous, amp up the rest of the scene (which I realize sounds weird considering one of the combatants is an old lady with man eating foxes)

. The bullet connects with Trent’s intestines

I like that comes after this, and there's somethig to be said about short, punchy sentences, but the idea of a bullet connect with intestines doesn't work for me. It feels like it should cut through the intestines actually.

He pulls at its tail, and a whale of a yelp rings out, but before he can pull it in and ring its neck the tail slides loose through his bloody fingers.

The way the first sentence is constructed, it reads like Trent tries to pull the yelp.

The ending with Mrs. Butterhole works beautifully, and I wouldn't change anything about it. I'm sorry if this seems overly negative, but I think it has a lot of potential, and the humor is there. I would just do a second pass so at the very least you catch the mispelled words and tense changes that ocassionally pop up.

 

Matt A.'s picture
Matt A. June 30, 2014 - 4:56pm

JR,

Once again, you get a thumbs up just on the name "Petunia Butterhole." Funny as shit, man. Anyway, I know it's kinds late for my feedback to do you much good, but I wanted to at least get to it here because I like your stuff. Here's what I see:

The first paragraph wasn't much of a hook. I was curious, but not DYING to know what was going on. However, the banter between the two men was entertaining enough that if bridged the gap until the crime stuff entered the picture.

I'm not bg on the POV change for one simple reason: Trent and Patrick are the ones going through the surprise, pain, and terror, so I say keep it on them.

It gets a bog monolgue-ish when she's explaining the experiments and the fixes in detail, to the point where I was starting to skim. I'd just suggest combining and cutting down and stripping anything not essential.

On page 13, you have "b-line" where it should be "beeline" (according to Merriam-Webster.

Page 14, you have "forth" instead of "fourth" in regards to the pistol shots.

Good stuff, you've got a strong voice and having read several of your stories I can see that it's distinct.

Good luck!

Erik Carl Son's picture
Erik Carl Son from New England is reading Sunset and Sawdust by Joe Lansdale July 1, 2014 - 5:30am

You had me at corn nuts and Bad Religion (perfect irony of course). You held me with fake Mormons, but the twist? That is what sold me on the story.

The dialogue in this piece is great. The banter reminds me of Westlake’s Dortmunder stories. There is something humorous about watching people figure out stuff they know nothing about. The comedy is great and builds to the absurdity of the old lady. Well done. I even laughed out loud.

As for the Belyaev experiment. When I watched that NOVA dog documentary, I thought, “how can this be used in a story?” Well, forget it. You nailed it. Outside of no one in the neighborhood complaining of the odor or sound, you worked it in perfectly creating a killer and completely unexpected twist. Loved it.

Well done and good luck.

mattymillard's picture
mattymillard from Wolverhampton, England is reading Curse of the Wolf Girl - Martin Millar July 1, 2014 - 4:10pm

Hey JR,

I really liked the premise of this, and you know exactly who your characters were, which was great.

There were a couple of things in particular that I felt could help this story.

The first is that I wanted more of Trent and Patrick at the very beginning. They jump straight into being course - swearing at and insulting each other, and at this point I didn't find them quite as likeable / funny as I should have done if I knew more about their relationship / backstory first.

I did however begin to like them further on when I realised that they were the bumbling criminals that are actually being taken advantage of here.

I felt that the drugging happened a little quickly when they arrived in the house. I thought that maybe Petunia would give them a hard time, watch them squirm a bit more about their knowledge of Mormon - there is the potential for this scene to be quite amusing.

The final thing was that I wasn't sure what kind of crazy she was?!  I thought she did this kind of thing randomly to all / any visitors, but the last paragraph made me think that maybe she didn't set the foxes on people usually, but she knew they were robbers the whole time and she was punishing them (but how did she know this?)

Overall though, an amusing story. The concept of it is funny, and I think that the old lady is funny - I'd just like to see a bit more from the other two! The fox bit is completely random, and I like this obscurity a lot. What happened to the previous visitors from the government who tried to shut down her experiment?!

Good job - a very original piece!

Matty

Motor-Psycho's picture
Motor-Psycho from Montreal is reading Everything By Willeford July 2, 2014 - 6:46pm

I wrote a review for u a couple of days ago but lost it pressing a frikkin button on my phone....

I'll try and catch that magic again by stating in point form.

I think you need to distinguish Trent and Patrick a bit more from each other. Think Laurel & Hardy et al. When theyre addressed as #1 & #2, I still dont know which is which. And on that point, use their names - you've already intro'd them to us. Also watch that ur narrator doesn't sound like T&P too much.

Petunia is great. You nailed her right away. I pictured an older, creepier , and more dangerous Kathy Bates from Misery.

Unfortunately for me the idea of Foxes doesnt excite me. I like the idea of trapping two would-be thieves in the basement etc, but foxes is a hard fucking sell brother.

Having said that, ur piece reads super-fast (have stopped reading other writers' subs after 2-3-4 paragraphs), so thats a bonus!

Lastly, I'd be down to read anything else you read as long as it's not about gd'damn foxes! Ha!

Wendy Hammer's picture
Wendy Hammer from Indiana is reading One Night in Sixes July 3, 2014 - 3:37pm

Another latecomer here, but I wanted to be sure to read the story and vote. 

You've got lots of excellent critique here, so I'll just add a few things. 

I had a great time reading this story. Mixing humor and horror/action is one of my favorite things and you do it very well. I think that the combination of elements complement and heighten one another. 

Repetition is, of course, one very fine way of adding humor. Most of the time your use of it worked for me. The corn nuts in particular were good (especially the variation in the basement).

In contrast, I'm not sure if the earlier repeat of "Just like fuckin'" worked as well for me. I thought the first image was funny and I see what you were aiming for in the second, but it fell slightly flat. No big deal. The other one was the Foxtrot. I think the last joke/statement is a fine one, but it is undercut a little by it having been made previously. I'm not sure why it sticks out for me or how to finesse it. Maybe I don't trust the narrator to know about it? Again, not a big deal, just a thought. 

Other nitpicks and questions--some spelling/mechanical issues that may have been caught by others. Maybe I'm being daft, but a first edition King James? Like actually from the 1600s? Or is that just a common way of referring to it...like some sects use first edition, others second, or tenth or whatever? *Shrugs*. I'm a book nerd so my brain went there first. 

Loved some of the comparisons---like a parrot choking on a cracker was particularly fun. The initial exchange was amusing and made me think of Tarantino. 

Hmm. Guess I had a lot to say after all. 

Good one! Excellent start to my contest reading. 

Turtlethumbs's picture
Turtlethumbs July 5, 2014 - 1:34pm

Jonathan,

I enjoyed the story and upvoted! One thing I'm tiring from is a couple goons driving to the crimescene and talking about the plan on the ride over, then plans getting foiled. I've read a copule others like that in Arrest Us already. But it's a clever format and your use of Mormonism is clever so I was into it and wanted to see where it was going to go.

Sometimes the humor seemed like a suggestion of humor, like I knew it should be funny but it wasn't funny enough to make me laugh. Sometimes just kind of cute. Like "shouldn't have had that last corn nut" type cracks. I would want to see the humor stronger, but it's hard to write good humor. (My submission is an attempt at very funny, very dark humor, and it's had mixed responses.)

A swift crack of her cane connects with the right temple of Patrick. This is a passive voice sentence and from what I understand active voice is always preferable. Active voice version would be A swift crack of her cane connects with Patrick's right temple. 

Page 9, uses of they're should be their.

I love the fox lady's twistedness. Awesome.

The line "forces his ass back to the grass" is too figurative and I'd prefer "knocked him to the basement floor" or something more literal. But I may just be being too picky and maybe it's okay. I'm definitely not the best writer or editor.

Very pleased with the ending. For a minute I thought you were going to let him get away, but you didn't! Thanks for that!

Good stuff.

(Hey wanna read my submission? http://litreactor.com/events/arrest-us/born-again-packaging)

 

Sound's picture
Sound from Azusa, CA is reading Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt July 5, 2014 - 9:35pm

Good story, JR. I've attached my crit with my notes. Let me know if you have any questions. 

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 7, 2014 - 6:16am

I reallyenjoyed the story, especiallythebanter betweenthe criminals and the character of petunia. My only gripe is that once they wake up in the basement she tells them everythi pretty quick, i feelthis may have seemed more natural if youd introduced her and zorro as a character at the beginning alongside the criminals, or allowed the criminals and the reader botu to spend more time with her before she revealed all, but i guessthose are the limitations of theshort story.aside from thatnicely paced, good role reversaland entertaining. 

although this bit i couldnt get my head around 'The first time I got attacked by a subject was in 1970. Nearly took my whole leg off. At the time I was still following Belyaev’s study closely and breeding the more hostile to confirm that it’s not exposure to humans that springs forth domestication, rather the more primitive “tamable” traits'

why is the breeding the hostile ones? just couldnt understand this bit, might be me though.

nice readthough, thanks for the enjoyable story!

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 10, 2014 - 11:37am

Wonderful story, dark and funny. It's nice to see a different spin on the classic idea of "crime fiction". Petunia's character is without any flaws.You were really successful at making her eerie and deranged while also maintaining a "sweet old lady" vibe.  I don't have a single problem I can think of with this. Thank you for an entertaining entry.

Linda's picture
Linda from Sweden is reading Fearful Symmetries July 11, 2014 - 1:00am

Lovely story, Jonathan, and a refreshing take on the genre. Like a bizarre mashup of Misery and Home Alone.  I don't read much crime either (which is probably why I'm forced to reference movies) but I like the combination of violence and humor in this, and the weirdness of Petunia Butterhole's (ha) little operation. What I miss is a little something to begin to explain how/why Petunia ended up with quite so many "toys in the attic." Presumably she didn't start out feeding the foxes human flesh. What happened to her husband, for example (sorry if I'm forgetting something, read the story a couple of days ago)? And another minor thing, I think a grown wolf can eat somewhere around 10 kgs in one go, so you might need a few more foxes to devour poor Patrick.

Great work, and thanks for sharing!

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Tana French! July 13, 2014 - 12:51pm

Hey JR, this is much later than I promised. I'm sorry. I suck.

Anyway, fun story! The humour works for you, I also enjoyed the additional stuff you added to this since I last read it.

So to the narrative debate, yes I agree that Trent and Patrick are your strongest narrators and you really shine at this in the first section (I'm still loving that LSD line) yet I also enjoy pertunia's POV too, and see the function it serves. Although I do think you missed a trick in section 2 were you refer to them as Mormon #1 and #2. Why not unpack them a little here? Show us what would stand out to the old woman. 

Section 3 I like a lot of what you've added here, especially the struggle, although I'm not sure an old woman would come through that unscathed! I expected her to break a hip or something. It still feel a little info dumpy (sorry) I'm not saying cut the info, I think you should keep it, but consider breaking with something, maybe gestures or by showing us pertunia more, or...? Finally I did wonder at the speed the foxes ate Patrick, seamed pretty quick, but then I don't know enough about fox behavior to assume either way. 

Otherwise awesome job :)

Great story, good luck with it!

 

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On July 13, 2014 - 8:30pm

Hey Jon, I really dug this--was nice to get something more in the comedy vain. I'm attaching an LBL with all my notes. Hope they help some.

Damon Lytton's picture
Damon Lytton from Augusta, Kansas is reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow July 17, 2014 - 4:42pm

Hi Jonathan,

I think everybody has given you pretty much all flaws and niggles in the story, so this will be kinda brief.  I tend to give comedy a lot of room.  I'm okay with stories being very flawed if they are also very funny.  Unfortunately, this one didn't really make me laugh.  I always saw where you were going for a laugh and I thought, "not bad."  But I never actually laughed out loud.  I have a very visual imagination and picture what I'm reading and I never got more than a smile from this.  The only joke that almost got me was the two references to "that last corn nut."  I don't know how to fix the comedy though.  I love it, but I can't deconstruct/reconstruct it as well as some can.

I will say I was fine with the POV switch - I think you need to see Butterhole's view of the situation - but you should distinguish Patrick and Trent just a bit more from each other.  I think you should keep the Mormon #1/Mormon #2 thing, but I wanna be able to know by behavior which is which.  Just a bit more characterization will get you there.

The Soviet Silver Fox Experiment mention made me gleeful because I had already heard of it.  Unfortunately I think that worked against me.  If I had been ignorant, the exposition might have been more interesting.  As it is, I was just waiting to learn something new or what happens next.  Maybe a bit of tightening up in that area would help.  Not that you have to worry too much about readers with pre-knowledge in Fox Experiment history.

As mean-spirited as this all sounds, I don't mean it that way.  I don't think this is a bad story.  It's just not for me.  It wasn't good enough as a story or with its comedy for me to truly enjoy it.  So I'm going to abstain from casting a vote.  Even though it doesn't work for me, it appears to have affected a lot of people well.  Good luck.

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers July 20, 2014 - 4:32pm

Well done, so a thumbs up from me. The banter between the two main characters works, especially when they communicated without speaking, nudging and elbowing, quick looks...the visuals were set up nicely and worked as I saw these two in my mind's eye, so good job!

I'm all for branding, but sometimes you poured it on a little thick. For example...Ranch corn nuts. Ranch is a generic flavor, but reading that sentence in the beginning, to me, would read smoother without knowing they were Ranch corn nuts. Adding a statement later about the odor, with a splash of Ranch, or something like that, would add to the olfacotry sense and take away the genenric Ranch visual. Maybe it's just me, but that whole first paragraph has a lot of branding, both specific or trademarked; Ranch corn nuts, Volvo, a named subdivision and Bad Religion. Whew, that's a lot in the first paragraph. Just something to think about, and really that was my only beef for the whole story. 

Good job, thanks for sharing this one.