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joeymonroy's picture

Raised by the Ceiba

By joeymonroy in Arrest Us

How It Rates

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A man in a rural Guatemalan town has an ugly job to do as he goes through a day of initiation for the local gang.


Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life July 3, 2014 - 3:47pm

I like how you set this story within a world of crime, but it is not necessarily about crime. It is more of a thoughtful, character piece, one that has a nice little arc and weaves in multiple themes about family and fate. Your main character is well drawn and had a distinct voice that pulled me in. I also enjoyed the physical setting and the cultural touches. It felt real, even though some of it felt unfamiliar. It felt like something different.

What I feel needs the most work is the mechanics of your writing. You have a simple style, which I appreciate, and I think works well. The directness of it worked for this story in particular. Your ideas and themes are fleshed out and come across clearly. But I think your sentence structure meanders a bit, and can be a little loose. It can also be redundant at times, repeating the same word or idea multiple time. Here's a good example:

My wife, Paciencia, is quiet about my modesty when gossiping with her friends. I fear it’s not an attribute I have for her to brag to her friends about.

I also think some well placed commas would bring your sentences more clarity. For example:

The last things my father told me before he was shot mutilated then delivered to me in various bloodied pieces was to never close my eyes during the initiation day.

You also have some long paragraphs that feel like they could be broken up. You'll hop from one idea to another and it feels like there should be some separation there. Like in the paragraph where the narrator is telling a joke and he gets interrupted.

This is a strange review for me. Because I feel like you got a lot of the hard stuff right, the actual story stuff, the arc and the themes and the character nuance. It just needs to read smoother. Does that make sense?

Anyway, hope some of this is helpful. Good luck with it.


joeymonroy's picture
joeymonroy July 3, 2014 - 3:58pm

I completely understand. I was a little nervous about my writing in particular. Haven't written a short story since high school.

Thanks so much for the comments though they're really helpful. Glad you enjoyed the story!

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life July 3, 2014 - 4:20pm

Well, keep at it and work the kinks out. Because that's the stuff that practice helps.

Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures July 9, 2014 - 11:21am

This story drew me in right away. I really love it. The character is sympathetic and tortured by what he is and what he does. I agree with Joshua that the stuff that tripped me were the mechanics of your writing, you have a great, simple style. It needs some polishing is all.

I really liked the end of the story and how he knew exactly what he needed to show who he was and I can FEEL how conflicted he is about his life choices.

A really good story, work on the structure and your style stuff and it can be a great story. Well done and good luck!

joeymonroy's picture
joeymonroy July 12, 2014 - 2:36pm

Thanks so much for the comments!

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 13, 2014 - 7:51am

This is a good one, and I like that the horror of what is going on is underplayed. As initiations go, this is a particularly gruesome one, yet your protagonist is nicely pragmatic and just concentrating on survival. I was wondering all through whether he would rise up in some way, but I dug the understated way you took the ending. This isn’t about crime as such; it’s about survival, and being able to keep your loved ones safe.

I think your prose could be tightened up just a fraction. I like that your writing is simple and effective, but just sometimes it lacks clarity. It is tricky to ensure each line is clear, while still maintaining your voice. For the most part you walk this line very well. You might also want to build more tension between Efrain and Pepe. Make us fear for Efrain, especially after Pedro is killed.

Solid thumbs up – best of luck with this one.

joeymonroy's picture
joeymonroy July 21, 2014 - 10:06am

Thanks a lot really appreciate the comments!

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 15, 2014 - 8:39am

Like it. Consistent, dark, immersive. No need for subtitles. Nice work.

joeymonroy's picture
joeymonroy July 21, 2014 - 10:07am

Thanks! I'm glad the Spanish wasn't a problem for anyone.