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Cmangano's picture

Late Nights and Corner Stores

By Cmangano in Arrest Us

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Description

A young woman re-tells the story of how a chance meeting transformes her into both a victim and a murderer.

Comments

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 13, 2014 - 6:23am

Nice, dark, I enjoyed this. Good story.

misledshepherd's picture
misledshepherd June 13, 2014 - 6:32pm

Got right into it, and really enjoyed it. Well done.

Devon Robbins's picture
Devon Robbins from Utah is reading The Least Of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones June 17, 2014 - 1:48pm

I think the story works well enough, but it didn't seem real enough to me. The narrator has an attitude in the narration that doesn't translate to the way she would act in the story.

The whole time with the attacker flew by as if it never happened. I'd like to see some more intimate detail in there. Show what happened, you know?

With a little revision, I think you'll have a good piece.

cartman133's picture
cartman133 June 18, 2014 - 8:23pm

ok

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine June 17, 2014 - 6:36pm

Thanks for the advise, Devon. I think I may have rushed it a little.

Devon Robbins's picture
Devon Robbins from Utah is reading The Least Of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones June 18, 2014 - 5:56am

No problem.

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On June 22, 2014 - 9:38pm

 

Love this line and kind of wish you started the story with it: "There I was, standing above the dirty pile of a former man."  I'd even change it to 1st person.

Your segments with her being held captive and drugged are taut and filled with tension. Where the story gets muddled some is when you break between that and the psychiatrist. There are no pargraph breaks for one thing, and sometimes you jump between past and present tense, which tended to pull me out of the moment (I've pointed them out on the LBL). I think you can get away with changing tenses, but they should occur within their own segments, and not bleed into each other. I'd recommend all scenes with her abducter to be in present tense (important for the immediacy), and the psychiatrist scenes to be in past tense, even though it happens later in the story. Another thing to consider is whether or not you really need the psychiatry scenes at all, except maybe in the end in order to reveal that she's been retelling these events all along.

I must say that I'm glad to came back to address her missing dog, which was a nice touch:)

I think if you sort out the tenses, this story will more of the impact I think you're going for. It has promise, and I hope you work this one some more.

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine June 23, 2014 - 8:32am

Thanks Dino, You've addressed some issues that I had wondered about myself. That line was in fact my first line in an earlier draft and probably still holds weight because of that.  I'm reworking some things and hope to repost soon. Your response will help out a lot. Thanks again.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) June 25, 2014 - 12:57am

You have a very good base here, but if I had to describe this piece in one word it would be ‘rushed’. There is a concept here worth spending some time on. It may not be a ground-breaking original revenge tale, but it is solid in its setup and execution, and who doesn’t like seeing scumbags get what’s coming to them?

You have two parts here, and I think both could do with a little more development. I’m not sure if she would really be interviewed like this by a psychiatrist. I think it more likely to be the police, if she has yet to confess which is what it seems in your ending. It’s a minor point though. You bookend the story with this, but give it less than 200 words. It’s not enough time for it to add anything to your story. I’d consider either bolstering it up, or cutting it completely. The main story is not whether or not she faces jail time after all. This is not a tale of the consequences for her.

For me there are questions of motivation here. Throughout her capture I was expecting some kind of sexual assault, and you’ve done well to avoid the obvious, and thus keep the story within the guidelines. I do want to know why though, even if it’s just a hint. I understand the desire to keep this ambiguous, but the only snippet we get is that, “You’re not special”. As much as we’ll never completely understand why someone like that does these things, there needs to be something here to give us some idea. He kidnaps a woman, keeps her drugged, batters her repeatedly then just lets her go. A lack of motive does not make him more terrifying.

I like Dino’s comments about making the kidnap sections present tense to capture that sense of immediacy. I think that would help you build tension. The issue with her being kept drugged is that those sections become matter of fact rather than emotive, and that doesn’t allow for as much tension. I think there would be more impact if she wasn’t so easy for him to deal with at first, and so he resorts to those drugs to keep her more pliable.

As much as I like the idea of her terminally dealing with her tormentor in public, it gives you less time in her head before she has to react to the situation. Did you ever consider making the ending a neat counterpoint to her initial capture? Instead of him using a metallic object to know her out, she uses the blade on him to kill him, with just enough time for him to grasp who has ended his life. It would allow you more time to explore exactly what she is feeling as she prepares for that moment of pure vengeance.

Overall though I did like the story. I do like revenge stories, and I thought your protagonist was an interesting one. I think with a little more development, you could be onto a winner here.

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine June 27, 2014 - 11:52am

Thanks for the help Adam. I went back and spent a more time developing. I think I've fixed a lot of  issues that I should have taken care of in the first place.

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday July 1, 2014 - 5:15am

I'm not sure if I was reading a revised version or not, but I really enjoyed it.  It didn't feel rushed to me, rather fast paced.  It was good and dark, but not grotesque.  Thanks for sharing and best of luck.

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 1, 2014 - 7:53am

Thanks Grant, this is a revised version.

Jay Parekh's picture
Jay Parekh is reading Fight Club July 2, 2014 - 10:11am

I really enjoyed the story. However, I felt there was more telling here than showing. Alot of portions could be revised here to show more and that would take this peice to a whole other level.

The ending too was a little vague. A few more details about what happened to her afterwards would have been nice. I'd like to know if she's alright, in jail or in the psych ward?

These were my two main gripes. Other than that, solid work! Thumbs up!

PS - Heres my story - Que sera sera.

http://litreactor.com/events/arrest-us/que-sera-sera

I am looking for more feedback, so I'd appreciate if you could give it a read and shoot me some comments. Thanks!

madsmaddox's picture
madsmaddox from Berkshire is reading Fated July 4, 2014 - 2:00am

Cassandra,

having read some of the comments, your revised version must be leaps and bounds away from the original draft, this piece is very immersive, tightly written and the pace is perfect (great balance), probably the best thriller I’ve read in the contest so far and I thoroughly enjoyed!

Few bits you may want to look at:

It took only a fraction of a second to recognize that he was the right guy, not that that would have mattered now – That that becomes "that this"(?)

Back in the house I'm thrown to the floor and  my hands are chained to a cold radiator; lucky me, it's it's off season. – it’s it’s?

You can take my next comment with a pinch of salt, in the intro you establish that whatever happens, she will survive and then tell the story via flashback, I think this takes the punch out of the ending which is handled very well. If you take the flashback element away would add another level to the thrill, will she survive? How is she getting out this? As it is, we know she is going to survive her ordeal, and you write the ordeal SO WELL! Very chilling stuff and I was really wondering how she would survive this opposed to will she survive this if that makes sense?

It’s a minor thing, I really enjoyed your tale and was gripped.

Big thumbs up!

All the best and good luck with the contest.

Mads

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 4, 2014 - 12:47pm

Thank you for all the positive feedback Mads. I'm really new to writing and any encouragement goes along way. I think, now that you mention it, that it would be interesting to have her survival be questionable throughout the story. I got really tied up with how to start the story and wanted to make sure everything revolved around a crime, I could have very well started with the abduction and revealed my protagonist's revenge at the end.

Thanks again for the response, good luck to you as well.

big_old_dave's picture
big_old_dave from Watford, about 20 miles outside London, Uk July 5, 2014 - 2:19am

Hi cmangano,

great opening on this one, i love mi res storiesnorbstoriesvthat shuffle events about out of order. 

There is a little bit more showing instead of telling, also when the main character is getting beaten more on the body discription would do here, make us feel every punch. 

Thumbs up from me 

 

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch July 11, 2014 - 6:31am

Cassandra,

I think this is a good story, and especially early on I was really enjoying the character's narration. It was witty without it trying to hard, and I especially liked this line:

There's something about a young woman buying cheap domestic beer that gets all the old drunks going.

It's a strong line that I almost wished was your opening line, as I prefer for stories to start in the 'now' rather than do flashbacks, but that's just me.

To me, the story still felt a bit rushed. Like you were trying to do too much at it once. I really enjoyed the beginning in the grocery story, as that had a nice pace, and there was a good mix of description, dialogue and narration. As the story moves on though, the pace and flow sputters a bit.

When your MC is kidnapped, you kinda lost me. Her intitail reaction with the "I'll fucking killed you" didn't seem natural. I'm not saying that I expect all victims to be quirvering masses of tears, but nothing prior to this made me think the character would react this way.

It feels like her attempt to escape should be a big, tension filled thing, but it's written kind of matter of factly and almost skimmed by that the first time reading it, I sort of didn't realize how big of a deal this would be.

Your kidnapper doesn't get developed, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I think a faceless antagonist can work and has merit, but right now, you do sort of give us a few glimpses-before your MC is kidnapped, and when he drops her off in the car- which ended up making me want to know more. The same goes with the detail about the car and it's previous owner. I would suggest that you remove that detail, because it really doesn't lead anywhere, but sort of feels like it should. A red herring is nice, but only if it has takent the time to be developed for it.

As the story started to end, it felt like you realized that you had to end this soon, and began to push all the characters, their reactions and dialogue towards the conclusion. A lot of the main character's interaction with the police and clerk didn't feel real. I think there's a really good story here about a victim that is ignored by everyone and takes matters into her own hand, but here it's sort of glazed over. You do have a great line in:

The cops brought me to the hospital, where they told me that my nose, several bones in my hands and three of my ribs had been broken. Simple fracture; minor bruising, each word tossed at me with a reassuring smile, minimizing the significance of my trauma.

It's so good that it made me wonder if maybe you should forego the entire backstory and start your story here. If you want to keep it under the word count, this would help, as you could further develop the way she is triviliazed. If you want to keep your story as it, maybe ignore the word limit .

Hope some of this helps, and that it doesn't come out sounding overly negatively. I did enjoy the story and your writing is good.  Good luck with this.

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 13, 2014 - 7:35am

Cassandra, 

You're an excellent writer. This flowed really well and was an easy read.

I would get rid of the opening in which she's staring down at his body. Start at the convenience store the night she'd kidnapped and (like others have pointed out) use present tense to ramp up the tension. And if you end with her resigning herself to knowing he wasn't coming back and just wanted her to wait in terror forever and she accepts this and tries to move on, then it'll come as a real surprise when he shows up again and she realizes she finally has her chance. 

This is just a structural issue; everything else - from the narration to the action to the overall mood - is really well done. 

 

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 14, 2014 - 5:05pm

Thanks for the response. I appreciate your positive words. Maybe I should have added a bit more about her adhesion to kill him. The idea in my head was that she was able to get over living in terror where ever she went, but is overwhelmed by seeing him again, he's not going to let her leave if he recognizes her( it's more likely for him to get caught now that she knows where he currently is). Her mind is filling with possible outcomes and she makes her choice. I think talking a little more about her internal struggle at that point would have made it better. Thanks again.

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 14, 2014 - 5:06pm

.

 

Aud Fontaine's picture
Aud Fontaine from the mountains is reading Catch-22. Since like, always. July 15, 2014 - 8:17pm

Cassandra,

This read like a fucking nightmare and I loved it. I think every woman can identify with your protagonist and that's really where you get most of your power from. Everytime I go anywhere remotely sketchy late at night (and even sometimes in broad daylight) something like this is on my mind and I'm so glad to see it portrayed so wonderfully in your story with such a cathartic ending. I especially liked your depiction of the police, doctors and everyone else being so nonchalant about yet another woman whining about being abducted and beaten. Ugh, get over it already. What did you think would happen when you decided to grow ovaries? Well done. Seriously.

Probably my only complaint is that, like others have said, there is a lot of telling in here. I understand it's because it's such a fast paced tale but I think it could really benefit from being slowed down a little bit with more vivd descriptions of exactly what's happening and maybe some tactile descriptions. Just saying he bludgeoned her doesn't have quite the same impact as telling us what it feels like as her bones splinter and her skin rips apart. I think if you just spent a little more time on this you'd have a truly immersive and gruesome tale. As it is, though, I still loved it. Kudos.

Aud.

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 16, 2014 - 12:42am

Thank you for the read and advice. Much appreciated.

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 18, 2014 - 4:50am

Hi Cassandra

Dark, dark story. A thumbs up. Could be tighter though, and I want to feel more of what the victim feels (not literally... in literature!).

The start isn't quite punchy enough, it's all in the word choices. "dirty pile of a former man" doesn't do it for me. I think maybe you can work more with the eyes. It's something she notices the first time they meet, and maybe, dead and staring, it's that what throws her back into the story. And "I met the man" - met isn't again the best of choices. If you went with the eyes idea, then it would be "I first saw those damned eyes two years ago...".

I'd like her to have some lucid moments when he;s not doing things to her and she isn't drugged up, when she's given a chance to think - to fear what comes next, to go slightly mad...

I'd like to get more the sense of what he has stolen from her - she seems to have adjusted back too well. If she's nervous in public, if she's got a new, more menial job, if she's moved house, changed as much about herself as possible, is she in therapy, does she have nightmares?

When the car almost stops - have her see the shocked face. Make it one of those "not my business, not stopping" moments that it almost is.

I want more menace in his one real conversation with her. More pauses, more space in there. Think cinematic - this is the idea that though he's letting her go, he isn't really letting her go. It's a powerful scene.

What drugs does he use? I think this is an interesting aspect. If street, then she'll be hooked, and the cops might treat her more with suspicion and as a junkie. If prescription then it suggests a more calculating (Jack the ripper-esque) crime.

You never explain what she is doing buying a 12 pack of cheap domestic beer? This might be an interesting insight into her before the kidnap.

I was worried about Jack the whole story... glad he got saved, (though the story might have more punch if his emancipated body was in the car still...) but I do wonder, if her car wouldn't have been towed, or if the criminal wouldn't have found it easier to drive her car back to his hideout, than transfer her between cars in the parking lot?

The end is a little easy, perhaps, and I don't immediately get a sense of where it takes place (another queue - a different shop? This criminal - still pretending to be a drunk? What is he in the queue for? What does this guy buy? (Could be something creepy. Could just be cat food.)

Since we know she's going to kill him, the tension is a little lighter than it could be. You could start with her recognising him in the queue, flash back, and then finish on the kill. Maybe keep the knife quiet until the end. That way, us readers are petrified she's about to be re-victimised, whereas the tables are about to be turned? (And if she isn't SURE if she has been recognised, that gives her actions added motive...)

I like the coda at the end - as you say, the bystanders are more scared of her than him.

Decent story, well done.

Liam

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 18, 2014 - 6:37am

Thanks for your time, Liam.

You make a lot of good points. I had originally had a much longer piece about her adapting to the real world, including her car being towed but it slowed things down a lot so I condensed.

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 20, 2014 - 4:50am

Thumbs up from me. I think any criticisms I've thought of have been covered above. Would agree that parts of it feel rushed: there seems to be a lot of speeding up and slowing down of the story. One thing that stuck out for me was her first escape attempt: while most of the story was nicely tense, this bit fell a bit flat -- I think that was as much to do with inconsistency: IE the cars not stopping to help didn't seem the most realistic, and the whole thing is resolved too quickly without much build up.

Another thing I found a little jarring -- I get that you're trying to show all the surrounding characters as unsupportive, from the nurse to the cashier etc., but they all seem to act in a very similar, surly way. The police officers were drawn well as condescending and careless, and I like that you're showing what a hostile environment strangers can provide for survivors of criminal attacks, but I woulda preferred more variety in how the vet nurse and cashier express this hostility rather than a bored surliness.

A general point would be to watch out for passive voice. There were a few more 'I had' and 'I was' and stuff like that than may have been necessary.

Overall though I liked the story, the villain was very original: not a serial *killer* but a serial *assaulter* -- you describe well how his actions are bound up in power and domination and the need to subordinate, rather than a one dimensional blood lust. You describe the scenes leading up to the attacker releeasing her back in the car, and police station, really well.

Thanks for the read

Tom

KathrynE's picture
KathrynE from Australia is reading The Surgeon by Tess Gerritson July 20, 2014 - 11:28pm

Hi Cassandra!

I thought your story was gripping and I was 'with' the protagonist the whole way. I agree with some of the comments above about mixing past and present tense but it didn't detract from the power of the story.

When your protagonist was being tortured and beaten, I actually felt it happening - you really drew the reader in - great work.

Like some other readers have said, I would have loved for the revenge to have been a little more 'drawn out'.

Fantastic first line - would be great for a novel!

The best of luck with your writing,

Kathryn

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 25, 2014 - 6:20pm

Harrowing stuff here, but I was hooked and couldn't stop reading, so yeah, good job. I can only echo what others have said, especially the part about it being rushed, but that's not a deal breaker for me, because you did what you needed to do with the allotted word count. 

Thumbs up from me, thanks for sharing this. 

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 25, 2014 - 6:35pm

Thanks for the read, Bob.

Zack McCormack's picture
Zack McCormack from Indianapolis, IN is reading Empire of the Sun July 27, 2014 - 3:53pm

Hey Cassandra,

I think you've got something with quite a bit of potential here. It is a very engaging story and I think you did a good job of developing the lead character. Skimming some of the other comments, it seems like there is somewhat of a feeling of the story being rushed at times which I can see.

For me though, I think my biggest complaint was how the ending went down exactly. You portray the protagonist as attempting to try to get over the fear associated with her captor and to me there never are any real strong tendencies of violence tied to her. Like she would try to hurt him in order to escape but it never seemed like she would be one to engage in a really rash decision. For that reason, it seemed strange to me why she would kill the man in public when the consequences of her actions are so apparent. Since the police never had any real leads, and as is alluded to in the final sentence, no one else has any perspective as to why she killed that man. Because of this, presumably she would be going to jail for quite a while which I guess just struck me as an action that one without some strong violent compulsion wouldn't take.


Anyway, that is just one person's perspective and overall I did really think the story was written well. Best of luck in the contest.


Zack

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 27, 2014 - 3:57pm

Thank you for your time, Zack