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EscherTO's picture

Silent Entry

By EscherTO in Arrest Us

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Description

Hackers. Cowboys. Torture. Profit?

Comments

Damon Lytton's picture
Damon Lytton from Augusta, Kansas is reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow July 8, 2014 - 2:19pm

Hey Graeme,

I'm not gonna beat around the bush.  I didn't love your story.  One description explaining story structure goes something like this: 

  • Act One: Put a man up a tree.
  • Act Two: Throw stones at him.
  • Act Three: The man gets himself down.

My problem with the story is that you don't have an act two.  After Hoke wakes up in the squash court, nothing really happens until the floor collapses in the end.  No headway is made for the main character.  No setbacks.  He doesn't almost escape only to be captured again.  You didn't throw any stones.

And then you cut away to backstory (which is decent enough).  The problem I have is that the backstory doesn't push the narrative forward.  It tells the reader how Hoke came to be in this situation, but it doesn't help him in any way.  It just takes up real estate where I'd rather see Hoke dealing with the situation at hand.

And finally, there's the ending.  I could feel you get the character down from the tree.  He didn't do anything.  He just got incredibly lucky.  The audience is fickle.  They want the hero to win, but they also want him to earn it.  They want to see the hero fight to get what he deserves.  And this ending feels unearned.

This all sounds really harsh (I'm sorry for that), but I do like some of the concepts in this story.  And I like Hoke.  I found him funny.  When he was smart-talking the cowboy while tied-up, that got me on his side - although that idea might be considered cliche by some.

On a scale of one to ten.  This would be a four for me.  With a little work it could be a six or seven.  With a lot it could be an eight or nine.  Unfortunately, this contest doesn't work on a scale.  It breaks my heart, but it's a thumbs down for me.

Don't be discouraged, though.  This is just one opinion - by a guy who's not that great a writer himself.  Keep working.

EscherTO's picture
EscherTO from Toronto is reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen July 14, 2014 - 5:16am

Hey there Damon,

Thanks very much for the reply. Don't worry about sounding harsh, I agree with you. It was not earned...

If I am to add my excuses, it would be that I spent far too long building up a situation/back story and didn't think of the resolution until too late (i.e. I was w

I had different ideas in mind for the 'easy resolutions', but I found it hard to try and include it all without going over word count. I definitely agree that Hoke really didn't have too much of a challenge...he got caught, the danger mounted up...but it was dissipated instantly.

As I haven't had too much experience writing short stories, I think it was detrimental, as I am used to writing larger narratives where 'real estate' as you put it isn't an issue...hence the challenge here!

You would have been happier with less of that, and more of the stand off? It makes sense given that's where the tension and action lies.

Thanks again for your comments, I would like to take this story and work on it some more for sure. Pity I can't edit it in place while the competition is on!

Cheers,
Graeme

Casey Hicks's picture
Casey Hicks from Brooklyn, NY is reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman July 11, 2014 - 6:56pm

Hi Graeme, your description of the story had me excited, but it didn't quite deliver on that premise. You summed it up in four punchy words, but there were parts where this just managed to drag on. I think that breaking up the paragraphs would really liven up your pace. Also if you addressed the hacker history first rather than trying to establish a frame story of sorts, the reader would have more reason to care about Hoke being captured. I like Hoke, but when you tell me someone has a cowboy hat, that kind of plays to the trope of a hero.

Speaking of tropes, I know you were trying to play against cliches by introducing and subverting them, but unfortunately, you just used too many. I think you could have spent less time snarking about those standard plot devices and done your own thing. It's not every day that you have a hacker against a cowboy. I'd like to see an exploration of new vs. old, wits vs. instinct, things of that nature.

Just opening this in Word, there are a lot of green lines for grammar issues. A quick proofread or a friend giving it an edit would have really polished this up. It was a little distracting for me as a reader.

I think you've set down the foundation for something nice. You know what your story doesn't want to be, but you haven't quite distanced yourself from the traditional just yet. It's getting there though, so just tighten up the writing.

EscherTO's picture
EscherTO from Toronto is reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen July 14, 2014 - 5:24am

Hi Casey,

Thanks for the reply -- and yes I agree with you, the structure was something I thought about for a while, I wanted it to be an intro with some air of intrigue (i.e. why is he being tailed? he's been stalked and captured...now here is why). I was going for punchy and fast paced...and then as I progressed into the back story I think I took it too far/spent too much time explaining details that don't add much in the foreground.

You're right, I think that perhaps it felt like I had gripes with standard plot devices, it wasn't meant to be that I am against them, but more I was trying to diffuse the situation abruptly/making a joke. I will try to call less attention to those/not spell it out in plain english and focus on the 'unique' situation I was trying to put down.

Thanks, I will also have a look at the grammar and tighten it up.

Cheers,
Graeme

PS Are stories editable during the competition?

Alec Cizak's picture
Alec Cizak July 15, 2014 - 2:17am

I wonder if you might not consider some day working this into a longer piece.  I think there may be too much going on for a short story.

EscherTO's picture
EscherTO from Toronto is reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen July 15, 2014 - 10:07am

Hi Alec,

Thanks for the comment. Agreed, I think that may have been where I stumbled on the challenge, trying to condense a massive story idea I had into short format. Then when I realized I would far exceed the word count I tried to resolve all the loose ends too fast.

From the feedback I've been given I think I should just have focused on the main action, worried less about a grandiose backstory and just wrapped it up nicely with a genuine struggle.

Cheers,

Graeme

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday July 18, 2014 - 10:18am

I'm giving this a thumbs up for a few reasons.  I like the idea, I like the characters, and I like about 70% of the execution.  The first quarter of the story rolls well, in my opinion, then grinds down for a while, then it picks back up.  I do agree with a lot of what Damon said above, he pretty much nailed what the story is missing.  After the contest, I'd suggest trimming some of the fat in the middle, then maybe give Hoke a way to get the upper hand on his captors.  The floor can give him the luck, but afterwards would be a good place to have him earn it (as Damon suggested).  Just a thought.

Best of luck.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 20, 2014 - 8:24am

I found this a bit dense to get through, and as others have said there isn't really a second act. I think streamlining the story and working in a second act would do this story wonders. There's some good writing here, good characters, although your dialogue felt a bit clunky at times. The email in the middle was an interesting idea that I liked. Best of luck.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 23, 2014 - 1:14am

Short stories are tough, especially for a contest. You want a killer idea, but one that works within the word count guidelines. It’s having that complete arc that is quite hard to do. I’m hardly an expert, but what I try to do is hone it down to its basic premise. What’s the story ultimately about? What is the key part? Once you have that, everything else should be leading to that moment. I can see from your comments that this is a condensed story. We’ve all been there. Sometimes you have to face the facts that you can’t do your story justice in 5,000 words.

It has potential, and I think if you let it breathe fully, it would be a lot stronger for it. That it doesn’t quite work as a short story is no big deal, but do keep plugging away.

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 29, 2014 - 12:58pm

I like the idea you had for this story. I was, however, very distracted by heavy information drops. Personally I had a hard time with the language in places. It seemed like your narrator would drop a word or phrase here and there that didn't exactly fit with the rest of his voice. You create a couple of strong points of tension. i think that the beginning is done very nicely, along with the email from Hoke's dad, but you lead away from them in order to get out main details ( mostly characterization and back story) and the action sort of gets lost. The ending seems a little neat to me, his father sums everything up very quickly and makes way for a new adventure without telling us ( the readers) very much. There is some really good stuff in here. I would suggest trying to cut some of the back story down to the bare min. and adding those extra words to the development of the end. Thanks for the read.