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Rachel Osborne's picture

Nurturing Nature and the Pitfalls of Paint

By Rachel Osborne 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.


A story about a lost little boy trying to decide how to handle the biggest puzzle in his life, his struggle for control, and the agony of success.





Damon Lytton's picture
Damon Lytton from Augusta, Kansas is reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow July 6, 2014 - 9:03pm

Hi Rachel,

This story wasn't bad at all; there's definitely some potential here.  I like your use of color and you've got some good descriptions.  First and foremost, there are some grammatical issues but those are easy fixes.  The one thing that I'm not sure I like is how you set up the narrator in the beginning as having a darker nature than everyone else believes he has.  From some of the descriptions, it seems as if you're setting him up to be the antagonist.  When you reach the climax of the piece, that's obviously not the case.  I would have liked to see a little less of that setup and more foreshadowing regarding the father's true nature.

Other than that, I thought this was a decent story and it gets a thumbs up from me.

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 12, 2014 - 4:56am

Hi rachel -- as above I felt you set the scene for a dark main character doing horrific things, so when the father becomes the antagonist it becomes unexpected: more foreshadowing and backstory for the father would definitely have helped here. And the narrator seems morbidly fascinated with clowns but when they go to the circus they seem to lose that mixture of fear and fascination and just find them funny. 

Another thingn I think this story could benefit from is a bit of cutting in the descriptions to keep the tension. Sentences like, for example: 

"Out of the blue the strangest thing happened, the second clown purposely tipped. ".

could be 

"the second clown purposely tipped" with better tension. over description can sometimes kill the tautness of moments. 

apartfrom this the descriptions were very vivide and the story was horrific in the pay off, neither thumbs nor thumbs down from me, I think the story needs tighetening up in the descriptions and for the faher being the villain to be better explained for it to be a thumbs up. 

thanks for the read


Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 13, 2014 - 7:24am

I think you have a good story in here, but at the moment I just don’t find the way it is told to be engaging. This one seems to be over written, and rather than concentrating on telling the story, you are taking us into deep into a character almost as a simple misdirect. If your protagonist was the antagonist, this would make more sense. The father’s actions come from leftfield, with a complete lack of foreshadowing.

My advice would be to decide what this story is about. I think the conflict here is the family, and what happens between them, and that’s what I’d build the story around. It’s a really good central concept – kid witnesses father kill the mother, paints himself up as a clown, avenges mother. At the moment I think you are missing a trick by failing to explore the conflict points within the family. Seeing behind the façade at the madness that hides within the family, that’s the story right there. It’s almost the opposite of a clown… calm on the surface, chaos lying beneath.

When the boy is trapped in that bathroom, I want to feel his shock and fear. I want to feel afraid for him, and that choice to embrace the monster within in order to beat the monster. Right now you are giving me glimpses into his psyche, but it’s not making me feel anything for him as a character. There should be huge depths of emotion running through this. Best of luck whichever way you decide to take this.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 15, 2014 - 8:14am

There are some really interesting ideas here. There were a few spelling/grammar errors, the occasional misplaced comma or extra space, but nothing major. The opening was interesting, I thought you were setting up a flashback and the story would continue with your narrator as an adult. I had a horrible fan-fiction-fear moment when I wondered if you were describing the Joker's childhood, and I'm very glad you didn't go in that direction. The fear of clowns thing is a nice touch. The bathroom scene, as Adam said, wasn't tense enough though. If you haven't already, read The Shining by Stephen King - the bathroom scene is very similar, but King's version is horrifically tense and terrifying. Then switch to the kid in make-up holding a cut-throat razor (I presume?) and you'll have a great scene. It just needs a bit more work.

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Wheel of Time July 17, 2014 - 9:24pm

Hi Rachael,

I'm hooked in by your first paragraph. This is an ambitious start to sum up a whole life in one short story. I like the color theme. Simple symbolize and something that's visually familiar and universal.

Some of the wording is a little clunky. Consider eliminating extra worlds whenever possible. i.e. change "I long to feel my veins filled with the power..." to "I long to fill my veins with the power..." or "Why I became what I did was for one reason;" to "I became what I did for one reason:" Read. Re-read. Read it out loud. Then re-read it backwards. When it rolls out in a smooth steady flow, then you got it.

Watch the passive voice. Always put the do-er of the action in charge. "The car door slammed shut as we finally arrived home." Who slammed the door? Try "I slammed the door..." "My father was sent crashing down..." What sent him crashing? Instead of "Blood was sent everywhere..." tell us who or what sent the blood everywhere. This will make for much clearer action sequences and direct story telling. As a reader, I know the main narrator's hands go for the jugular but I can only guess at where the blood is coming from. Did he claw open his dad's throat? Did he choke him and the dad coughed up blood? I can make guesses, but if you eradicate the passive voice I don't have to. It will improve your writing. Guaranteed.

There are some grammar and formatting issues. Some simple stuff. Capitalizations. Indentation. I mentioned reading backwards earlier. It sounds silly but I've taken to reading my stuff backwards, one sentence at a time from the end to the beginning. It helps to take the excitement out of reading. I know when I get to the favorite parts of my own work, my spelling goes to shit. By reading it backwards I take the fun out of the action and I can look at my work critically and analytically. It also helps to have at least one beta reader with a red pen. I'm regularly badgering my wife to read through my stuff. Poor lady. Still, she helps me out quite a bit. Also, I recommend looking into proper uses of : ; and , and when to end sentences. There's several times when you use a , to combine to sentences instead or using ; or "and,". My recommendation is to usually just go with a . and start a new sentence. It's a style opinion. I'm just a fan of short, direct and to the point.

I like your premise a lot. I love the idea of a kid becoming his nightmare and using that to try to save his mother. All the while, we see him becoming that monster not just temporarily, but long term. We can imagine him becoming John Wayne Gacy or Captain Spaulding. That's a fun horror/crime case of giving the people what they what.

So, to some up, I think you have some work to do, but some potential at the same time. Keep working and keep writing!

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday July 30, 2014 - 9:56am

This was a good piece and gets a thumbs up from me.  You do use color well and I was cringing during the sewing scene, so well done.  There are a few issues, such as foreshadowing with the father and a few typos that I feel could be addressed, but overall solid work.

Thanks for sharing and good luck.