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RK Musgrave's picture

Investigations into Nigel Knebworth

By RK Musgrave in Arrest Us

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Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 11, 2014 - 1:04pm

This is good, odd, unusual, and unexpected. It also kind of breaks the competition rules, in a way. That being said, I enjoyed it, despite the occasional misplaced comma.

Hooper Triplett's picture
Hooper Triplett from Tucson, AZ is reading Fever Pitch June 14, 2014 - 6:21pm

I was looking for more tension, and the pace left much to be desired.  And the grammatical inconsistencies added more disruptions to the flow of the story.  Not my cup of tea.

e.h.mcneely's picture
e.h.mcneely from American South June 17, 2014 - 11:38am

This story doesn't really satisfy the competition requirements, as it is not a crime-based story. However, that's not the story's biggest flaw. Your main trouble here is grammar. Phrasing and punctuation are so clumsy that it distracts from the story. You also occasionally try to throw in a few big words, most of which were not used appropriately.

That being said, I think it's a cool story. You could easily double the word count and spend more time on the supernatural elements. The world-building is terrific. I had a real feel for my surroundings, and the character of Nigel is described well.

My suggestion is to have this edited by someone who is good with grammar, flesh it out more, be more concerned with story and less concerned with sounding fancy, and finally, submit it to a publication that is more fantasy/sci-fi themed. Definite potential.

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep June 17, 2014 - 11:46am

Thank you for writing and letting me read your story.

You have an interesting tale here that really feels like the prologue to a longer novel. I recognize this primarily because my last story submission to this site fell into that category--the story was too big for the challenge.

Suggestions/Comments

- I kept expecting Nigel Knebworth to be an anagram of something.

- I think the story is mostly complete. I'd suggest a little more peril for your hero--something that drives the story a little more.

- I think your ending statement is very powerful:

...no matter how terrible the act or atrocity, if performed often enough, it will grow to be a loved and cherished activity."

Being so powerful, I'd introduce it at the beginning of the story instead of the end. I believe your story will feel more cohesive if you do this. Like it is, this thought does feel tacked on.

- Need a good editing pass. Really take a look at your grammar and punctuation. We can get away with a lot when it comes to run-on sentences, but they should never trip up the reader. I felt tripped up quite a bit. That said, overall, I enjoyed your use of language.

- I have to admit to being completely confused by the woman at the end. I guess it was somebody Nigel knew and had lured there?

- I do feel like the ending left too many questions in my mind (and in those of the protagonist). I definitely wanted to know more things for certain by the end. Your character did find the person behind the crimes, but your protagonist--and consequently, the reader--is left in a sort of limbo.

- The main character keeping the feet...I like this as a creepy element, but it did significantly change my perception of the protagonist. I'm confused as that what you want us to feel about that.

I did enjoy your story. I'd like to see it polished up, perhaps with some added clarity.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) June 21, 2014 - 1:42am

This is another interesting take on the contest guidelines. I think you can argue that this just about fulfils the criteria. The central premise if of missing persons, and there is an investigation, albeit one that consists of someone reading a book and then standing in a field. It’s loose, but as has been touched on by other comments, there are bigger flaws here.

My biggest issues with this are with the grammar, flow, and language. Others have tackled grammar, but I would say the best example is the second paragraph. Read it out loud, it’s exhausting.

Over-elaborate language is a pet hate of mine. There is a reason for this. When I started taking my writing seriously a couple of years ago, I wanted to show off my language skills, and my vocabulary. My stories were consistently torn apart. Eventually I had it drummed into me that language has to serve the story.

I just want to pick a couple of your sentences to highlight where it looks like you are showing off your vocabulary (or your access to a thesaurus).

“To this day, my suspicions are still rife with compunction about his order for that sour.”

“After much reluctance, my averseness to refute him my hand was overcome by an innate sense of duty – social conventions will be the death of me.”


Who talks like that? If your friends say stuff like “rife with compunction” or “averseness to refute him”, get new friends. If you are aping the style of 19th century or early 20th century writers, than I can kind of see why you want to do that, but it just doesn’t work. Keep it simple. You want to take the reader on a journey, and this kind of language provides too many barriers. It also seriously affects the flow of the piece. There should be a rhythm to this, and your use of language is occasionally like performing an emergency stop.

This has the potential to read like an M. R. James ghost story, but it is oddly devoid of any tension. Your narrator should be finding himself dragged into the mystery, uncovering layer after layer, and each time he does so, the tension should be ramped up. Take for example the section where Nigel sees the burning girl. There is no tension, because we are told instead of shown what happened. You add details that nobody would include in their telling of a story – “The night was quiet except for the occasional owl looking for breakfast, and the sporadic rattle of a passing vehicles wheel chains chipping tint shards of ice up into the air…” Not only would Nigel not say these things, but even if he had, would your protagonist remember them sixteen years later?

Simplify the language, keep ramping up the tension, and sweep those grammar issues, and you may be surprised at that improves the flow.

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday June 20, 2014 - 7:04am

With so many in depth reviews above, I don't have a lot to add.  I enjoyed reading this story, though I do agree with the other readers suggesting you simplify the language.  You've got a great idea, but at times your words get in the way of your story.  Overall solid effort.  Thanks for sharing.

RK Musgrave's picture
RK Musgrave from Australia is reading Roald Dahl Short Story Collection June 22, 2014 - 4:14pm

Hi All...

Thank you for taking the time to read and critique!

Given the above reviews, the grammar, word choices and syntax all seem to be the main points of contention.

I am going for a HP Lovecraft style and tone for the narrator. I want the narrator to be pompous, well-spoken and intelligent. The run-on sentences are a style choice given the narrator's voice. The critiques, however, indicate this is clearly not working and taking people out of the story rather than being a seamless component.

I also agree with the pacing and tension issues that need to be addressed during the next edit.

All comments have been taken on board for the next re-write/edit.

Thanks again!

RK.

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 20, 2014 - 6:30pm

I have not read any of the other reviews here, so forgive me if I sound repetitive. I really enjoyed your story. The re-telling of events reminded me of some Sherlock Holmes stories, I mean that in a good way. The second and third portions were very well written. The first part, however seemed to be a little slow.  Because of the passive tone it seemed like you were summarizing Nigel's experience seeing the woman in the park for the first time, rather than letting the reader experience it. I thought this was interesting and original once it picked up. Thumbs up, and good luck.