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Jason Van Horn's picture


By Jason Van Horn in Arrest Us

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Blake needed to get away for a little. A time away to clear his mind and help him think. Little did he realize a chance encounter with a stranger would set his course of fate for him.


Aud Fontaine's picture
Aud Fontaine from the mountains is reading Catch-22. Since like, always. June 25, 2014 - 11:50am


I really really wanted to like this as I'm a huge fan of the Narcissus and Echo myth but it just didn't work for me. Maybe it's just because my expectations were so high going in but something didn't click. I'm sorry. You have a really solid idea but I feel like the story never really lived up to its potential. Your dialogue was also pretty problematic. There was something kind of unnatural about the way they talked. I think if you took another run at it, took some of the exposition out of the dialogue and put it into the narrative and gave the characters a little more depth it could work much better. Also maybe use the narrative to flesh out the backstory a little more. It was a little jarring to get it all when they're talking to each other and I think doing it the other way might give the story more fluidity. I was also kind of disappointed by what little we hear about Kelly. Why would she leave the good brother for the bad one? You can't literally steal a woman so she must have had some reason and then why would she stay once he started treating her like dirt? Also, how did Brandon fake his death? I really hope this doesn't come off as too harsh because I genuinely believe this story can work I just think you need to give it another go. Best of luck.


Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch June 25, 2014 - 1:15pm

Hey Blake,

Unfortunately I wasn't able to get into this story either. For me, it ended up veering a bit too much into soap opera mode with the ultimate reveal. Not saying that outlandish plots can't work, but I wasn't able to buy it this time. 

A lot of the writing in it's current form feels forced. It's as if the only reason the lines of dialogue or description are there are to move the story along. And yeah, that's what all the words on a page are there for ultimately, but here it's a bit too obvious. For example:

"I didn't make you turn to drugs and crime and whatever else you got yourself into! I lost count of all the shit you caused for yourself. That shit isn't on my head. That shit is on yours! You should have..."

It feels like this is only here to sort of explain Kevin's madness/plan. The same can be said for when Blake starts talking to Kevin and reveals all his past. I'm not a fan of the line:

Why am I revealing so much to this stranger?

Because it hangs a lantern on a good question. Why is Blake revealing everything? Personally, I would just plow ahead without reminding the reader of this. 

I also think that the story would be a stronger if you tighten the focus solely on Blake's POV. Paragraphs like :

The stranger's hand moved toward their pocket, causing Blake a momentary sense of unease. The stranger sensed his flinch and stopped, flexing his hand and spreading it wide to show he meant no harm, and then slid it down into their coat pocket and brought out what looked like a flashlight. Instead of turning it on, they brought it up to their throat, wedged it between a slit in the scarf, and let out a robotic laugh that was chilling in how emotionless it was.

Lose tension and can be confusiong for someone when you quickly switch POV. Better to keep it in Blake's pov and have the reader riding the same unease your character is feeling. 

I hope this helps. Keep what you thing is useful, disregad the rest. 

KathrynE's picture
KathrynE from Australia is reading The Surgeon by Tess Gerritson June 27, 2014 - 12:12am

Hi Jason

I liked this story because I believe a short story should leave you with a message and yours was unequivocal: There are always consequences for our actions, even if we think we have gotten away with it...

I did wonder if the final thought that went through Blake's mind could have been a bit more spiritual and reflective rather than carnal but, given the sort of person he was, maybe not.

Thank you for an entertaining read.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 2, 2014 - 12:17am

There is something good in here, but it will need a little work to bring out, I think. The title gave away a lot of the plot, and as others have said it all went a bit soap opera. The dialogue didn't fit the characters, they sounded like guys in their late teens or early twenties, ten years too young. The best part of the story was, in my mind, the closing line. It was dark and funny, and revealed more about the protaganist than anything previously. I also liked the reflection watching the watcher, who is in fact a reflection of the original, creating a great moment in the closing act as the mirror of water separates them. You need to rework this a bit, but it has real potential for something very clever and very good.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 8, 2014 - 1:48pm

I'm afraid to say that this didn't work for me either. My biggest issue was one you noticed yourself, because you put the line in - "Why am I revealing so much to this stranger?" Two men meet, one confesses every dirty secret and lies with very little prompting. There is no motivation for him to share this. The only reason he does, is plot. You need him to spill his guts. That he does so, does not effect the outcome at all. The brother clearly was going to carry out his plan no matter what, so the only reason for him to spill his guts is so that the reader has some explanation of why, and sympathy with the brother.

To be honest, my sympathy is still not with Brandon. What he does is so creepy - he kills his brother and steals his identity. This is the story for me. I'd want to concentrate on that, to get more into his head. Blake gets his comeuppance, but the fact that he's such an irredeemable character takes any tension out of his situation.

This reads to me like an early draft. You feed in the Narcissus myth well, and you have a basic story here, but it feels to me like it needs more shaping. It has potential, but as it is, it doesn't work. Of course this is all purely subjective, and this is just my opinion. Best of luck with it though.