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kevymetal's picture

Keys in the Ignition

By kevymetal in Arrest Us

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Description

A reporter tries to piece together the events leading to a cop's murder, finding the disparate threads interwoven with his own life.

Comments

David Gillette's picture
David Gillette from Tustin, CA is reading Transmetropolitan July 1, 2014 - 6:20pm

What worked for me: You develop a pace that flows.

What didn't work: I didn't find the characters compelling and the narrative felt repetitive with the constant use of "What happened was..." You need to freshen up the narrative and form.

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 2, 2014 - 10:18am

Thanks for the feedback - any tips on how to freshen it up?

David Gillette's picture
David Gillette from Tustin, CA is reading Transmetropolitan July 2, 2014 - 10:57am

I would try to find different ways of expressing your main character instead of the repetition because I think that will allow you to explore his personality. There are a million ways to tell a story, but which way would work for him that also makes him interesting and relatable even if you don't want him to be likeable, which wouldn't hurt. Think about what motivates him and why it should matter to the reader. Everybody should always want something in a story. Make us care.

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 2, 2014 - 12:28pm

Solid. 

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 2, 2014 - 4:51pm

I just realized what you meant - he's motivated by the death of his friend (the police chief) and wants to get to the bottom of what happened, thus he sets out to piece together how all these people and all these things led to her death; in most cases, things that are completely random and/or started out small. I was going for subtlety. Maybe too subtle? 

David Gillette's picture
David Gillette from Tustin, CA is reading Transmetropolitan July 2, 2014 - 4:55pm

I think so. Don't go overboard, but pull at the reader's heartstrings. Allow him to think about why it matters so much in terms of how it makes him feel in as honest of a way possible. Maybe it's a selfish reason ultimately. Maybe it's because of something in his life experience. Don't be afraid to tell the truth.

Aud Fontaine's picture
Aud Fontaine from the mountains is reading Catch-22. Since like, always. July 2, 2014 - 6:04pm

Kevymetal,

I actually really liked this. Maybe it's because I don't have the best attention span but the narrative form really worked for me. I've always enjoyed non-linear story telling and I really loved how you make the reader work to piece it together. You really do capture how I feel a person in the throes of a tragedy would think. They would form that repetition, something steadfast to rely on, as they tried to make sense of the events that took their loved one away. I also liked how you learn next to nothing about the actual narrator himself; this isn't his story, this is about his friend, what he lost. You might want to put more about his relationship with the dead officer though, just to make it more painful for the reader. This was really disconcerting in the best possible way. It actually kind of reminded me of Magnolia, which I mean as a huge compliment. That movie is phenomenal. One thing I might try is changing up the pacing a little. You already have it where most of the longer passages are in the beginning but I think if you made it even more rapid fire towards the end, fragmenting the narratives more, it would pack an even stronger punch. Overall though, this was a really cool piece and a fast, refreshing read. I liked it a lot. I think I'm gonna go watch Magnolia now. Great job.

Aud.

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 4, 2014 - 1:27pm

Thanks for the compliment, Aud (and what a compliment - I really dig Magnolia). You're right about the pacing at the end, I thought about that too but I couldn't figure out a way to make it work. Maybe a bunch of one-sentence paragraphs alternating between Eddie, the dead cop (pre-death) and Cherry, in a ticking-clock/approaching-dread sort of way at the motel at the end. Have you read House of Leaves? Mark Z. Danielewski does some pretty amazing things with layout/structure in that book. 

Aud Fontaine's picture
Aud Fontaine from the mountains is reading Catch-22. Since like, always. July 4, 2014 - 1:31pm

I fucking love House of Leaves. This actually reminded me a lot of the S.O.S chapter. Do you remember that? Maybe you could co-opt a little of the pattern he used in the short passages to amp up the tension at the end. Just something to kind of make the reader panic a little, you know?

Devon Robbins's picture
Devon Robbins from Utah is reading The Least Of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones July 2, 2014 - 8:22pm

Hey kevymetal,

This is really good. I've never read anything like this, and that's probably why I liked it so much. Bravo for trying something new.

Whatever you do to the story, keep the, What happened was. That was my favorite part of it and I kept waiting for the next one. The opening line was perfect. It sets up the tone for the entire piece. I got a little confused toward the end, with how many characters there were, but the pace of the story had me hooked.

Your descriptions are stripped down and done really well.

He left her nothing because he had nothing, so she gave him nothing in return, may he rest in peace.

That is just good writing. 

Good job with the story and good luck in the competition. This is probably my favorite so far.

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 4, 2014 - 1:17pm

Thanks, Devon. Your comment made my day. Also, I've written up an extensive run-through in one of the comments below should you want all the mystery shattered. - Kevin

Jay Parekh's picture
Jay Parekh is reading Fight Club July 3, 2014 - 10:30am

Hi Kev,

I've refrained from giving your story a thumbs up or down for the moment because I dont think I completely understand it. Maybe I am just too tired at the moment so I ll give it another read tomorrow. 

These were the things that confused me:

(Spoiler) "What happened to the Female police chief in the end?

Why was Eddie beating someone to death?

Why was Sam the John freaking out at Cherry?

The narrative sounded like it jumped from third person to first person to the third person POV without any kind of tell or purpose. Atleast it seemed that way to me.(/Spoiler)

Plus Points:

Your writing style seemed very much like Kurt Vonnegut's, who is one of my favorite authors. 

Negative Points:

Way way way too much telling. There was hardly any actual interaction between the characters that we get to see, its all told. I little more show would have helped build the relationship between characters.

 

PS. I am looking for more reads and comments on my story - http://litreactor.com/events/arrest-us/que-sera-sera

I would really appreciate it if you could give it a look. 

Cheers mate!

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 4, 2014 - 1:06pm

Hi, Jay.

Here's a linear rundown of the plot:

- The narrator, a reporter, meets the police chief while on assignment and fails to impress her with his sense of humor. In subsequent meetings, he continues to make jokes that he knows will fall flat because he gets a kick out of her humorlessness (he's a bit of a jerk). Eventually he has a run-in with her where she actually laughs at something he says...but he wasn't trying to be funny. And develops a weird sort of respect for her.

- Sometime later, a car salesman is trying to get rid of evidence and dirty money, and stashes it in a car he sells to the hapless Eddie, who sees nothing suspicious in the SUV's $500 price tag and doesn't question the story about the ex-wife. Eddie, who grew up poor and unlucky, makes the discovery of a lifetime and goes to a bar to get drunk and brag about it, to a bartender who wants to politely warn him away from boasting too loudly, lest the wrong person overhear and make it their personal mission to separate Eddie and his newfound cash (or inform the money's rightful owner where they can find it).

- Just as the bartender predicted, someone tries to free Eddie of his new burden, and Eddie beats the man to death. While he's doing this, a neighbour's daughter, an off-duty cop, is visiting her father and hears the ruckus next door. When she goes over to investigate, Eddie either assumes she's out for the money too, or he doesn't want any witnesses to his crime, and takes her out as well.

- Eddie holes up in an out-of-the-way motel while trying to figure out his next move, but the double murder he just committed has him feeling a bit paranoid and defensive. Meanwhile, a few doors down from him, a man who plays a giant banana pepper on television is getting furiously angry at a prostitute (maybe he's overly religious and full of shame and hate, perhaps he's just having a bad day) and since he's blocking her exit, she locks herself in the bathroom and calls the police, lest she end up a corpse under the mattress.

- The 911 operator/dispatcher (herself not having a wonderful day) mishears the room number and sends an officer to Eddie's room instead. Eddie, having just murdered two people, thinks he's been busted and kills the cop. Eddie gets arrested, and the banana pepper guy's tryst with a prostitute gets exposed as a result of his proximity to, and peripheral involvement in, the cop's death.

- Sometime after that, the narrator sets out to write a story on the events that led to the police chief's death (and Eddie's subsequent crimes). He talks to Eddie's mom (as Eddie's either in jail or been shot to death by the cops), the prostitute (whom he recognizes) and her john (who wants to clear his name), the cop's grieving widow, the police chief's more resigned father, and the bartender who tried to help Eddie, and what they tell him is the story he relates to you (the reader) along with a few of his own recollections of the police chief.

And here's my intentions with form/narrative style/etc:

The whole point of the story is to tell rather than show. The narrator is relating the stories he's been told by the people he's interviewed in the aftermath of Eddie's crime spree. They're all looking back on things while he listens. He's not getting to know them as people; he's finding out what their role was in the story, what led to them playing a part in the first place.

I wanted the whole concept of "leading" to be spread throughout the tale. How the narrator came to know Cherry as a kid, for example, rather than just stating that he knew her as a kid. And I wanted the interview subjects' words to be reflected in the narration: most of the paragraphs are just them speaking to the narrator (the "may he rest in peace" from the section about Eddie's mom, for example, is her words, not the narrator's).

I wanted the story to be a puzzle because the narrator is trying to figure out a puzzle himself. He's assembling the pieces and the reader is (ideally) doing that along with him, and I jumped back and forth in time because that's how memories work (random stuff hits you at random times) and because that's how learning works (gathering bits and pieces until a coherent whole begins to form).

Thanks for responding and hopefully that clears some of it up for you. I'd be happy to check out your story.

Thanks,
Kevin

Damon Lytton's picture
Damon Lytton from Augusta, Kansas is reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow July 3, 2014 - 3:47pm

Kevymetal,

I really like what you did with this composition.  It has a very postmodern feel to it without feeling too alienating (for me anyway).  The opening vignette was jarring to me at first.  I just thought, "Damn, he's moving on.  No I wanna see what happens to the cop."  As jarring as that first moment was for me, I wouldn't change it for the world because it quickly became apparent that this story was comprised of quick glimpses into these people's lives.  It reminds me of Infinite Jest in that you've given us some, but not all, of the puzzle pieces and it's up to us to figure out what happened from there.  That's the great thing about first-person perspective; if it's done well enough it puts us right where the narrator is.

I honestly don't have much in the way of suggestions (I don't have enough knowledge of what goes into this kind of structural experimentation to offer you too much).  From your comments above, the narrator was a friend of the cop and he's trying to cope with what happened.  Subtle is right because it didn't come through for me.  That being said, I don't think you should over-compensate and make it too obvious.  Maybe one or two more little flourishes would help implant that idea in the reader.

Again, Kev, good job.  I think this one might be with me for awhile.

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 4, 2014 - 1:14pm

Thanks, Damon. I'm glad you liked it (and got it). The narrator's a reporter and the first thing they teach you in journalism school is the "inverted pyramid," which is to get all the pertinent facts in the opening paragraph/sentence so that they edit/shorten the article at will (space being a concern in the bygone days of print media) so I figured I should start the story by putting the ending at the beginning (also start it with a literal bang). 

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 6, 2014 - 2:57am

Odd, intriguing, very nice. My only criticism is the amount of characters - the first half felt like more and more people were being introduced, yet I think you could cut out a few of the peripheral characters to ease the flow. I liked the repetition, and the stripped back prose really worked well. Great story, like it.

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 7, 2014 - 3:46pm

Thanks Seb. 

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 12, 2014 - 2:44am

I found this one very difficult to get into at first, and then it hit me what you were doing. This is the story equivalent of one of those mosaic posters, right? The ones where the big picture is made up of tiny pictures? So these little segments don’t necessarily have a lot of meaning until you put them all together. It’s a ballsy move, trusting the reader to stick with it, but I think you pull it off. I would perhaps consider taking out the “What happened was” line out of every individual section, and just putting “What happened was…” once, at the start of the story.

I’ve said this a few times on stories in this contest, but I think you’ve written the story you wanted to write in the way you wanted to write it. That story works. I can give you comments on how I think it could be improved, but they would change the story structure, and that works well. Instead I’ll say that the characters didn’t stick with me because there were quite a few, and so it was a bit difficult to keep up at times.

This certainly gets a thumbs up from me. It’s imaginative, the structure is completely different to most in the contest (in a good way), and it is enjoyable. Best of luck with it.

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 12, 2014 - 8:33am

Thanks, Adam. It's meant to be pieced together, yes. I didn't want the protagonist to go from point A to point B to point C simply collecting information, but to give, at each instance, a tiny glimpse of not just that info being given, but how it came to be, what led up to it. Though she's got nothing to do with crime fiction, Margaret Cho once did a bit about how you can't just buy drugs from someone; you have to feign a relationship with your dealer. You have to pretend to be into their music and listen to their philosophy on life and then eventually you get your drugs. Each section of the story is a bit like that - the protagonist just wants to find out what happened, but each person he encounters wants him to listen to their story as well. 

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 14, 2014 - 4:32pm

This story really came together in the the end. the breaks at points were effective in keeping pace, but towards the beginning were you introducing different characters it became confusing for me. There was so little about each person at first that I had a hard time keeping track of who everyone was initially. I was hoping that it would make sense if I kept reading and it did. Great job bringing all the disjoined chaos together.

I may have missed something, but how does the narrator know about the personal lives of each character. You make it clear that he is an actual character in the story and not just an omniscient presence. Is it just supposed to be conjecture?

I think you had some great lines,the part about the barbeque sauce, comes to mind. The ending was very well executed and left me feeling heavy with ideas of fate and life and death. The intricacy of this story is impressive for how few words you used and I'm actually surprised to see that it was under 3,500 with all that happens. I, like other reviewers, also enjoyed your  unique writing style. Nicely done.

 

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 14, 2014 - 5:33pm

Hey Cassandra - thanks for the response. The main character is a reporter and each individual story is related to him by someone left behind in the wake of the crime - the police chief's dad, the dead cop's wife, the bartender, the 911 operator, and so on. I realize that's not really spelled out except for mention of an editor and him doing a story, but I wanted it to be something people would have to notice/figure out for themselves. Glad you liked it and thanks again for the comments.

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 14, 2014 - 7:43pm

No problem, I do remember the editor piece now but I sort of tossed that fact away. I appreciate a story staying a mystery so I'm glad you didn't force feed or hold my hand throughout the story. If I re-read the story maybe I would have made more sense of it.

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 14, 2014 - 4:33pm

double posted, sorry

 

big_old_dave's picture
big_old_dave from Watford, about 20 miles outside London, Uk July 15, 2014 - 4:35am

Hi Kev, 

As a few people have noted already so far I found this a little differcult to get into but as I got into it I realised how you'd put this togther. Starting each section What happened was let me know that we had moved on to another character so I wasn't too bothered about it's repetition. Saying that there is a lot of repetition when it comes to the words used in telling the story. There are loads of passive verbs being used here over and over through out the story. I know this can be tricky when it comes to telling a story after the event but try to cut some of them down. Try a making as many passive sentences active and you'll see the change.

The other thing is the only real way I knew it was a reporter was your description at the start of the story, other than the section about his childhood. I would have like to seen what his actual take on the events where instead of just telling me how it went down. How does it make him feel, change his worldview or confirm his fears?

As Hunter S Thompson said, start the story about what the reader whats to read about but in the end turn it towards yourself and what your thinking.

I really did like the structure on this one and the plot, the cop being sent to the wrong address is a really great idea. A thumbs up. 

Hope this helps

Dave

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 15, 2014 - 5:11am

Hi Dave,

Thanks for the comments - I must be the master of understating things to the point where they're undetectable. The arrangment of the sections, particularly the last two paragraphs, and the title of the story, is meant to reflect the narrator's state of mind about things - the woman talking about locking the keys in the car comes right before the girl finding her bike: there's both good and bad in the world, expected and unexpected. He's upset by what's happened but there are moments that shine through for him - the returned bike, the unapologetic prostitute, the refreshing scrappiness of Eddie's mom and the police chief's dad. But he's also distant because there's a distance - these are stories told to him that he's telling to other people.

The passive voice stuff is good advice and I'll try to pay more attention to it in the future.

Kevin

 

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch July 15, 2014 - 6:20am

Kev,

I really, really enjoyed this. I got what you were doing early on, and I thought it really worked. I'm probably guilty of adhering and throwing around the whole "show, don't tell" motto, but this worked wonderfully to show how that doesn't always have to be this way.

I thought that the writing was strong overall, there's not a lot of things I can say about that. I do have a couple of thoughts:

"What happened was"- I read the comments above me and this feels like it's going to come down to personal taste. I didn't really care for it, and I thought that having to put that phrase at the start of every scene sometimes made the continuing sentence weaker than it should be. Also, around the middle of the story I really started to get annoyed with it- I think it was at the point where the reporter is with his friend that I cared the least about the story, and the only thing driving me forward was your writing. Things picked up right afterwards, but that might be something to consider.

I wasn't a fan of the reporter angle. I'm not sure it ever was really clear that he was the one that was retelling the story, and I'm also not sure how much he adds to it. It feels like you could either take him out, or change his POV to match the others without really altering too much. In a way, I sort of like that idea because it makes the entire thing more of an omnipresent POV.

I understood most of the story points, and thought the dispatcher was a nice character, as well as how 207 is confused for 211. However, until I read your outline, I didn't get that there were two dead police officers. If I understand correctly, the first one to go is the chief (who was visiting her father) and the second one is the one from the Italian restaurant, correct?

The other thing that I wasn't clear was why Eddie was beating a man. From your comment, I see why it happened, but even after a second readthrough, I'm not sure if I could have made that logic leap. It was perhaps a bit too subtle. Also, how did the bartender know about the contents of the Eddie's trunk?

There are all stuff that I think if you do a second pass through to the story to clarify a bit more will erase a lot of the confusion some people feel. That said, I thought this was a great, different read. Kudos.

 

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 15, 2014 - 7:52am

Hi Hector,

Fair assessments and things for me to be wary of.

Dead Cop was the boring family man who left a wife behind and Police Chief was the smoking lesbian visitng her dad. I wanted it to be about a crime that happened (Dead Cop getting shot) and then finding out this whole mess of other stuff also happened in the lead-up to that crime.

Bartender knew the contents of Eddie's trunk because Eddie bragged loudly about said contents, which is what prompted the bartender's warning that he maybe keep his mouth shut about that kind of stuff in mixed company.

Glad you liked it and your suggestions were good ones. Thanks, Hector.

Kevin

 

 

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 20, 2014 - 5:37am

Wow, really impressed with this. Super original style, hooked me from the first page. It was one of those stories I just drank in really quick, excellently paced, a lot happens although it comes together nicely at the end. I can't think of much in terms of critique as it's such a unique style that I'm unsure what I could add as someone not familiar with the form.

One point where I was super confused, though, was the police chief: you seem to insinuate, that when she approaches the hosue where eddie is bludgeoning someone to death, that she also gets show by Eddie --"loaded up his shotgun" -- so does he shoot her as well? I was just confused about her role regarding the whole thing. Apart from that I found it easy to follow and a very refreshing style. Nice one, thumbs up from me!

Tom

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 21, 2014 - 3:53am

Hi Kevy,

A story told with an interesting structure, though not one that closes off even close to the majority of the narrative threads. I could be here a while if I start listing them all... Still, it reads pretty well, so a thumbs up before I dive into the feedback. 

What happened was, I thought this first line was stellar, until I realised every section was going to start that way, and then it became annoying.

chief of police gave a seminar - insert "public" seminar, and I don't get confused a few lines on on why so many cops are in wheelchairs.

I already knew her name - again, add "real" name, to make things clear?

in university the police chief - "future" police chief clearer again.

Mike has a sister, Eddie has two. There's a cop, a wisecracking reporter, and a police chief. I may need diagrams if you introduce any more characters.. Oh. There's more characters.

claiming to a stripper - claiming to BE

So, questions : What happens between the police chief seeing Eddie kill a man, (who was that man, why did Eddie kill him), and the fatal motel room mix up?

Where does the reporter come into it? Okay, he knows Cherry. But is that enough of a connection? Is it his job to report the crime? Is he the ones that pulls the strands together?

I don't really get Aastha's feeling of guilt - being late and the fact that she dispatched are not obviously connected. Unless you point out (say) that there are 20 dispatchers, and it's a lottery, and any change at all changes the lottery results... That she blames herself for the mishear, fine.

The scams for old people - is this linked? Is this the source of the money in the car? But wouldn't explain the gun.

The barman - how does he know what is in the car? Why does the car salesman sell it to Ed so cheap, and lie about why?

I think if you tied off some more of these pieces, and gave a reason for why the story is being told (again, presumably all the bits the reporter found out while investigating), plus a light polish, then you'd have a really good, interestingly structured tale of coincidence with fatal results. As it is, it's a wee bit frustrating, though still good enough to deserve the up vote.

Liam

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 21, 2014 - 4:04am

Realise you've answered some of these questions in an earlier reply (like to read and feedback my stories blind). Still, beating a man to death is pretty extreme, so Ed's motivation is still looking suspect, and having drawn the diagram I was asking for (thanks!) you now need to work out how to fill the gaps. It isn't clear for example that the Police Chief gets killed, and if she does, then the good cop's (who COULD be the good cop who originally saved CHerry for extra coincidence) death is a 2nd killing and probably not as newsworthy as the Chiefs!

Interestingly, with a "coincidence" story, you can keep going possibly forever. There's still the story of the 2nd hand car to be told...

Liam

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 22, 2014 - 9:43am

Hey Liam, 

Thanks for the review (and you're welcome on that diagram I knew you'd want!). I will work on filling in the gaps in the future...somewhat. I did think about the second-hand car and will expand on it if I ever do a longer version of this story, which seems likely. I was mostly thinking "mafia money," but rules being rules...

Kevin

 

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 23, 2014 - 8:45pm

Cool story. Loved the format, the way it was presented, the chorus for each section was short and sweet and signaled another faucet of the tale. Bravo for taking the chance with that, because when I started reading, I immediately cringed, but that went away when I saw that there was substance in the sections. It flowed well. Though a first person narrative, this was really about your other characters, and while there was quite a few, you managed to give them all enough life for their short time on the pages with specific details while still moving the story along. Sometimes the best 1st person narratives are when they are about the OTHER characters. 

Good job, man...thumbs up for me. 

 

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 24, 2014 - 7:25am

Bob - thanks for the feedback. I tried to give each section a little something, and each character their own little moment. I tried to make each section a tiny short story that would add up to a big giant story. Happy you cringed and then got won over - I feel like I did my job.