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Lawrence's picture

Gumdrop

By Lawrence in Arrest Us

How It Rates

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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

A 12 year old learns a couple hard lessons.

Comments

Joshido's picture
Joshido from Northwestern America is reading Rant June 24, 2014 - 1:32pm

I enjoyed it. You create a tangible sense of place. Overall, some of the sentences could use some editing so that descriptions and dialog come off a bit more clean. Keep up the good work. You get a thumbs up from me, but perhaps another pass on structure would give the polish this story needs to stand out.

Feel free to read and rate my submission if you have the time.

http://litreactor.com/events/arrest-us/blue-creek-cutoff

 

Lawrence's picture
Lawrence from Dallas, Texas is reading Mr. Mercedes - Stephen King June 24, 2014 - 3:58pm

Thanks, Joshido. I couldn't help but read your critique in the voice of Tobias. I do need to clean up some dialogue and sentences before the cut off. 

I'll be reading your story tonight. Thanks again. 

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 25, 2014 - 9:33am

Lawrence,

I like this story. I was wondering if Leo is black. I thought all the characters were at first. But then when he said the bully's went after a black kid then I thought maybe he was white. Plus they called him "Q-tip" when he shaved his head. It doesn't really matter and it won't really change the story, I just figured you'd want to know if the audience wasn't sure.

The story's a good one. i like that Leo got to go live with his Grandparents in the end. It's almost wrapped up too nice and neat with that and the reflection and becoming a great man and all, but I'm a sucker for the occasional Hollywood ending .

I could sense that the other boy's mother would press charges against Leo, I wondered can Leo or will Leo press charges against them and the boys that put him in the hospital. Or does he just do his time and let all that go.

Anway, this is a nice little slice of life story, not what I'd expect to find in a crime writing contest but really good nonetheless. Keep it up.

I've attached a file with a few notes I made while reading. Good Luck,

--JR--

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch June 25, 2014 - 10:29am

Lawrence, 


I enjoyed this. I think it's a good story that can be made even stronger with some tightening up. 

Personally, my biggest complaint would be that I wished you'd gone for a more immediate feel. The style you choose-with the narrator reflecting back on his younger days didn't work for me, and I felt it sometimes dragged the story down. 

For example, I thought the opening segment, where Leo is waiting for his grandfather is the weakest, partly because it feels like a lot of info dump. I know you have to set this up for the ending to make sense, but I think it could be streamlined a bit. 

Also, be careful about overusing metaphors. I really liked the 'like a dog to a tree' one you have early on, but it sort of gets lost because you have quite a few others around it. 

I also liked the ending scene with the grandfather, and wish it was stretched out a bit here. It's a small thing, but I would drop the news about the home- it feels to need of an ending for me. 

Otherwise, good job!

Lawrence's picture
Lawrence from Dallas, Texas is reading Mr. Mercedes - Stephen King June 25, 2014 - 11:14am

Jonathan, thank you so much for the notes, very appreciated. Leo is a Mexican kid in my mind (because it's slightly biographical) but there never was a good place to point that out. 

Hector, I'm still trying to clean up the intro. You're right, I had to add a lot to make the events later count. I still need to work to find a way to do it without the info dump.  

I also never really thought I was over using metaphors as I was trying to cut everything I could and over the top prose I normally prune first. So thank you for pointing that out because it gives me a whole new thing to look at for my next edit attempt. 

Thank you. 

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 25, 2014 - 11:17am

Okay, you know that was my second guess. Maybe you can drop a last name. Or maybe you did and I forgot or didn't make the connection. 

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 27, 2014 - 7:54am

This is a well written piece that grabs you and keeps you reading. There were a few spelling and grammar errors throughout, but nothing that made me cringe. The ending seems far too neat, which is a shame as the story up to that point was great. Perhaps ending it in the hospital with the grandfather would be better? Also, the start lacked tension. If you could bring in the rapid pace you used later the flow may benefit, but I'm not sure so I'll just offer it as a thought. The grandfather is a good character, he suits the story well and brings a nice conclusion to it all. The main issue is the language, I think. This is written as an adult reflecting on their childhood, from the words and phrasing, but in the story this is not clear until the last paragraphs. Perhaps writing more in the voice of the protaganist and using present tense would create more drama and bring immediacy to the tension. Also, the motivations of some of the other kids are unclear. Still, this is definitely a bold and dark effort and I think it will do well.

madsmaddox's picture
madsmaddox from Berkshire is reading Fated July 3, 2014 - 5:27am

Lawrence,

Saw that you’d entered the contest so had to read as courtesy since you read mine. Glad I did, enjoyed your tale and thumbs up! Pacing is mostly good, some sentences could be reworked (more on that shortly) but I did like your MC, he feels very real.

Few things to ponder (or not):

“The isolation of my reading alone was a perfect juxtaposition against the other kids playing, and yelling in the concourse that ran through the center of our complex.” – read that aloud and tell me that it has a good rhythm, I know what you’re saying, but judging by the rest of your storytelling, I think you can definitely say it better.

There are a few other sections where similar things happen, easily rectified by you of course.

The only other element that I thought detracted was the nature of the story told in flashback, this really gave it a Wonder Years feel (and then I started thinking this felt a bit like a modern revamp for an origin tale for the Fresh Prince of Bel Air) and took away some of the drama as we know he’s going to live regardless of what happens to him. Ruins the tension you create with the assault as you already know the outcome, the assault was written well.

The upbeat ending was refreshing (having read so many downbeat one’s in this contest so far lol), good to have hope and it brings a pleasant closure to the story. It did remind me of the movie Friday, but that’s not a bad thing.

Take my comments with a pinch of salt. This is a good story and few tweaks here and there and it’ll go up another level. 

All the best and good luck with the contest

Mads

tooth's picture
tooth from Dallas is reading City of Thieves July 3, 2014 - 3:48pm

Hey Lawrence. Greetings from Dallas.

I enjoyed the story. You have a good setting, tension, and a breaking point that fits.

I was confused about what race Leo would be and was thrown a couple times by the descriptions. I also did not have a clear view of the mom... perhaps you could describe her with more detail to solve both at once. I realize her biggest contribution is being absent, but I guess I'd like to see how she acts when she brings home a dude or have some dialogue exchange with Leo. I was also confused by the lead firetruck... are there toys made of lead?

I like the grandfather a lot. His dialogue tells a lot about the character. The ending left me a bit empty. I think it's OK, but since it's all past tense I felt like we should hear how things resolve. That said... I'm not sure what more I would have done more with it. Perhaps you could reflect back as an adult what Leo got out of it or where it leads.

The title is solid.

I'm not sure if this one fits in a crime genre or if it's just a good fiction piece. I think probably the latter.

cheers

Kevin

 

 

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 7, 2014 - 5:33am

I enjoyed this. I had no idea what an efficiency was in the context, so I had to Google that. I honestly thought you’d made an error, but clearly not. I’m guessing I’m reading an updated version of the story as the paragraph Mads pointed out no longer seems to be here. It flowed well, the language was good, and there are some good ideas and turns of phrase here.

The weakest part is probably the start. The opening is a little slow to get going, but I think that’s because you try and introduce both character and place almost at once. You are far more successful on the latter than the former. The comment from the boyfriend is excellent. That tells us immediately what kind of place he’s in far more successfully than having him read horror novels to escape from what scares him. I love that line on dreams and ambitions as well. The information on the grandparents is important, but I think you could dribble that in more successfully and with more subtlety.

From the moment there is a knock at the door, the whole story moves on a pace, and I think it flows really well from there. I’d be tempted to start it at that point, with any pertinent information from before being dripped through. For example, there’s a knock at the door, and he thinks it may be his grandparents who didn’t show to pick him up as usual.

I like his desire for revenge, and that he goes too far in his rage. There is satisfaction in Mike and the fat kid getting what’s coming to them. Sure, the ending is a little too neat, but I don’t think that particularly detracts from the story. It’s a nice sucks-to-be-you moment where he realises that he could have been out of that place, but now has to face the possibility of ending up in a juvenile facility. They got what was coming to them, but there are consequences for acts of revenge, and the cost is not always pleasant.

Best of luck with the contest.

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 9, 2014 - 2:41am

Really liked this story, thumbs up. I thought the introduction with the stephen king novel reference was a little clunky but apart from that I can't think of much in terms of criticism. The main character and his grand-dad were both very well characterised--the mother too, which is effective because she doesn't have any direct presence in the interactions. Was really rooting for Leo when he smashed that fire-truck into them, was a very visceral moment and it connected with that tribalism and revenge you feel when subjected to violence as a schoolkid. Very nicely done. I do wonder if the last bit about Leo being offered a place a way wasn't very convenient--just as he's about to get tried for juvy--but I'm unsure on it; you definitely set the conditions up for such a situation well in the story and my inclination is to say it works and gives a nice level of poetic jutice.

Either way, thanks for a good read, hooked me from the start

Tom

Lawrence's picture
Lawrence from Dallas, Texas is reading Mr. Mercedes - Stephen King July 9, 2014 - 8:23am

Thank you everyone for all of the recent reviews. I did some pretty hefty edits before the deadline based on your critques and I think the story is a lot stronger for it. 

Now, I wish I could go back and chop up those first two paragraphs. 

Either way, thank you so much for the reads! I'm still making my way through as many stories as I can. 

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 20, 2014 - 2:38am

Hi Lawrence,

This isn't bad at all. Feels a little rushed, there seems to be a lot that you ought to tell the reader but you don't, and the ending isn't great (abrupt), but it's a decent read. The two actions scenes are handled well. Thumbs up. Hope some advice helps make it even stronger.

Slightly better start if you let the first two sentences flow into one :

I sat on an empty concrete patio, hidden from the sun by the shade of a third story balcony above me, my head buried in a Stephen King novel.

five hundred square foot efficiency - this isn't a very 12 year old phrase? It's difficult to write for a different age bracket, you've just got to second think every sentence - particularly those with descriptions or complex inner thoughts. Not that 12 years don't do either of those, but they ought to sound like a (bookish) 12 year old.

The owners of the complex had shut down the apartment pool years ago, but those kids never knew any better. They never thought to dream of personal pools, European vacations, or summer camps. Your dreams and ambition stayed tied down, like a dog to a tree. You could run to the end of your leash and bark, but life trained you to lay in the shade and accept it. - this is again, not very 12 year old. perhaps try :

The owners of the complex had shut down the apartment pool years ago, but those kids never thought to go anywhere else. You could run to the end of your leash and bark, but life trained you to lay in the shade and accept it.

The dreams of europe aren't exactly the first thing that springs to mind for a reader of stephen king! :) And anywhere that doesn't quite work, the solution is remarkably often to simplify! And the leashed dog is the best image in there, so let it breath.

Got some odd punctuation going on - "named, mike" and "called, Southern Recipe". Might sound nitpicking, but anything that throws a reader out of the piece, and you ought to catch most of these on a self edit.

Is a dallas cowboy hat a baseball cap? Because if it is, use cap or baseball cap, as we poor readers don't know what it is if you haven't described it!

You know Fat Albert's name after he comes through the door, but not on the doorstep? And then you go back to calling him "fat kid"? Introduce names the first time you meet, or have Mike introduce them for you, or keep the name of all but Mike out of it. (Though if he;s plotting revenge, you'd expect him to try and find out the names!)

Someone curled up in a bathtub is not a perfect target - certainly not for kicking. Thumping, sure, but you want someone on the ground for a good kicking...

You start getting beat up, the crappy haircut you've been given isn't much of a concern. The shears, sure, you'd be worried about them, especially with a S.King inspired imagination... (Each time I got hit, I wondered if this time they'd used the shears).

The RIP T-shirt motif is a good one.

I think you want to - cliche though it is - have a moment of seeing what that hair"style" really looks like after the beating. If you don't want to do the mirror, then have the pitying boyfriend with the clippers describe it. ("Shit man, you look like..." whatever it is he looks like.) In any case, describing this, and maybe even the process of getting his close crop, might make for good passages, that don't have to be done as now in summary.

led, fire truck - lead?

Who does the Hyena grab? Other 16 year olds?

I think we'd like to know what sort of revenge Leo thinks up, while he's recuoperating. Can be pipe dreams, sure. I'd quite like to see him doing physical exercise - beefing himself up a little. And the lead fire truck - bought for him not by his mother, but his grandparents. These sort of things make it all feel more real, so don't miss the chances.

The ending : The grand parents come as a deus ex machina, the fairy godmothers. Even though there is trouble ahead still for Leo, this is a bit sugar coated. Then you discuss the fact Mike won't press charges, then he presses charges. Kind of abrupt and inelegant. I like the idea that it's Mike's mum, not mike who wants to press charges, maybe? Also, Leo only gets one shot at both Mike and Fat Albert, how much damage would be really do. (Looking as bad as you - after a beating?) Make it more specific. Dental work, broken nose, fractured jaw, something a single blow might do, that is serious.

Other things I think you might have missed a trick on - does Mike  & co steal the drugs from the coffee table? Does Leo catch hell from his mum, despite being already a beaten wreck, for that?

Leo lets Mike in a little too easy. If Leo is used to selling on behalf of his mum (nothing big, nothing hard) then okay, he might be used to all sorts in the flat. But someone who tends to avoid the local kids needs a stronger reason to open that door. Plus, when he sees there's 3, does he get qualms?

Right, that's enough I think! Hope SOMETHING In here is useful, and if not, at least you got yourself an upvote.

Liam