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Damon Lytton's picture


By Damon Lytton in Arrest Us

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Just bailed out of jail, a fixer for an inner-city dope ring must find out who is talking to the cops without surrending his notions about right and wrong.


Devon Robbins's picture
Devon Robbins from Utah is reading The Least Of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones June 18, 2014 - 7:38am

Hey Damon,

This was a fun story. Paced well, and you've got some good lines in there. The things that got me were that the protagonist was out on bail, from prison. You can't bail out of prison. The other thing is that you start off making a big point of the half a million dollars for bail, then wait till we're halfway through the story to tell us what he did. 

I think the protagonist needs some more meat on his bones. You set the story in a pretty dangerous setting, one that I could't really believe because of the way the protagonist was handling things. None of these people knew him, and I don't see a guy walking onto enemy turf and getting away with demanding answers. He needs to be a dangerous guy to pull that off, and assisted suicide didn't convince me.

With a little revision you will have a solid story. When you're writing, you're essentially stealing a chunk of time from a persons life. Don't give them a chance to want to turn away. Reward them.

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On June 19, 2014 - 10:22am

There’s much here to like, though another pass or two will do it wonders.

The first line reads a bit awkwardly. Consider changing it to, Half-a-million dollars bail, cash.

It’s difficult to tell where we are at the start. The first paragraph implies he’s in prison, but the following paragraph, he’s being spoken to by his boss. While all the moments in and of themselves are entertaining and written quite well, early on the piece is quite dense with characters and dialogue, to the point that it becomes difficult to differentiate the MC from the others. A little more distinction to him would go a long way to making him stand out; his dialogue already does a fine job of character, but I’m thinking of mannerisms/quirks—something that makes him more unique.

Also, in some cases I would consider using your dialogue tags before the dialogue instead of the action to describe it, and sticking with he/she said to end it. For example, instead of "Our lawman say the task force know what happened to Big Chain," the molasses spread, go with: The molasses spread. "Our lawman say the task force know what happened to Big Chain," he said. It gives us a character trait (irony/sarcasm) right off the bat. Also by doing this, most times you may not even need the dialogue tag in the end.

You have some good stuff throughout. “In this world, you see your future so often you can't wait for it to begin,” is a great noir line. You’re not far here from something really solid. If you can streamline and clarify the plot elements some while giving your MC a clearer motive and distinction, you’ll have yourself a riveting little noir piece.

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep June 19, 2014 - 9:40pm

It took me a bit to get into this one, but I think that was mostly a function of the number of characters you introduce in the beginning, and that they all have street names. No problems with that though, since I enjoyed your story, and it ends up at a satisfying place.


- I loved a lot of your language and description. For example:

So we bathed in the tension, that kind of tension that sticks in your teeth like pulpy orange juice.

Great stuff there. :)

- Need a copy editing pass. Some missing question marks, capitalization, etc. That sort of thing. Nothing too major.

- I really don't have a ton of comments on this story, because I'm really amazed that you fit as much investigation in as you did. It really felt like a very rich story for as short as it is. This is a testament to your story.

- I enjoyed your dialogue.

- The one area I'd suggest considering for improvement is the protagonist's change of heart seems to come as a shock. I really think this is something he needs to be wrestling with the entire time. It can still be a surprise that he shoots Love, but it would help you bring more cohesion to your the story as a whole.

Thanks for writing, and keep up the excellent work.


Geert Mostrey's picture
Geert Mostrey from Belgium is reading Gone Girl June 19, 2014 - 11:22pm

Hi Damon,

Cool piece of writing. I really enjoyed it. I'm not normally a great fan of gang stuff but you managed to keep my interest going, mainly through well paced writing and good dialogue.

If I were to make one small suggestion it would be to your opening paragraph. Add a few lines that make it clear that somehow the bail was posted and the question that raises for your main character : who and why ? It wouldn't take anything away from the reveal of the story but it would make for a better hook with your following paragraph where he is in fact out and back in his bosses' office. It took me a while to figure out that that wasn't a flashback but that someone actually had paid his bail.

Other than that, it's all thumbs up from me.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 21, 2014 - 12:57pm

There are elements of brilliance here. The scope and ambition combined with the dialogue was reminiscent of the Wire, but the criminals all seemed too foolish to actually manage an operation of that scale. A colour-coded map in the office of the boss? Dealers shouting their wares in front of obviously undercover cops? A corrupt cop being shaken down for information with only their word that he tried to shake them down previously as ammunition? Plus, as others have mentioned, your protaganist walking onto corners and not getting threatened, at least. These technical details kept pulling me out of the story as I wondered how, if they work like that, can they throw away half a million to fund a quick search, especially as the culprit is the murdered guy's brother. Didn't anyone think of that beforehand? And if Yellow Eyes is so powerful, won't he still be able to get your protaganist in prison? Your prose was good, there are a lot of good things about this story, and I was compelled to keep reading, I just couldn't quite suspend my disbelief enough. I could be completely wrong, though!

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 2, 2014 - 4:31am

This has a good deal of potential. You pack a whole heap of story into the word count, and for the most part it’s easy to follow with no trip points. There is a nice flow to this, so at no point does it seem too easy for your protagonist to get to the snitch (though it relies on shocking coincidence), but neither does it drag on. There are some great lines dropped throughout, and I do like the sense of honour your protagonist has.

There are issues as well. There are certain contrivances throughout that probably wouldn’t be there if it was not for the word limit. While the case isn’t too easy to crack, he certainly has an easy ride of it considering he’s in a neighbourhood where the people don’t know him. There should be a good deal of tension involved, and he doesn’t really have a plan other than walking up to these people and talking. That the snitch was the brother of the victim is not a contrivance, as I thought you did well at the beginning to show that Yellow Eyes etc did not know the crew at all.

The biggest one for me though is him discovering the neighbour who knows all about everything. Co-incidence is one thing, outrageous good fortune is another entirely. I get why she’s there – to get to the climax you need someone who is going to tell your protag what he needs to know – but this information needs to come out a lot smoother. If anything I’d consider not having her know about the sibling relationship, and is just there to point out Vandale. You can have the relationship revealed in that end fight.

I did find the language at times hard to penetrate. It’s a tricky one, because you want to give your characters a realistic voice, but it’s a fine line between doing that, and leaving your dialogue hard to read. There are parts that work really well (the chat with Jessop), and parts that don’t work well (the chat with Keith). Another run at it might help loosen the flow a little. There are a couple of places which feature duplication as well, for instance, “Yellow Eyes, as we called him, stared at me with jaundiced eyes”. You could turn that into, “We called him Yellow Eyes on account of the jaundice”. My only other suggestion is to pick a different name for the other gang leader. Randy Love is a name that belongs in a whole other story/genre.

Overall it’s a thumbs up from me, and a solid one at that. Keep at it, because this one has a great deal of potential, even if you have to stretch the word count a bit post-contest.

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 5, 2014 - 5:07am

I dug it. I definitely enjoyed. It made me think of The Wire without making me think you were ripping off The Wire, which is good (and not easy to do). 

I loved, loved, loved the lines "That's new. Loyalty running downhill." and "Or maybe I'm just dumb to worry about morality with someone standing behind me." Aces. 

I think the biggest problem here is the contest's word limit - more backstory for the protagonist, more backstory for everyone, really, and maybe something, a smaller moment with Randy Love before the final scene to make his death slightly more meaningful - would add so much to it, but it's already stellar in many respects. I didn't know a junkie getting two free vials of drugs could be so heartwarming. 

Jay Parekh's picture
Jay Parekh is reading Fight Club July 6, 2014 - 2:55am

Hey Damon, finally got around to reading Snitch and loved it! It reminded me of the Wire and I love that show.

Just one thing:

When the narrator takes Jessup's gun and backhands him, I was expecting a reaction, either fear or anger, and we didnt get neither. That seemed strange and out of place to me. 

Apart from that, there were a few lines and parts of the narative that could use a small do over, but nothing major.

This is one of my favorite stories in the competition!

madsmaddox's picture
madsmaddox from Berkshire is reading Fated July 10, 2014 - 6:31am


as first drafts go, this is a sweet start and a few more drafts, this could be a very fine tale indeed. My fave aspect of this tale was the dialogue, it is certainly the strongest point for me and there are some very cool lines (the main one was noted by Dino above, that's a line I would love to have thought of).

Just a few things, the action needs a bit more drama / thrill, there's not enough tension in sequences that demand it, he's dealing with hostile people yet there isnt a lot of hostility, with the craft on display I'm certain this is easily fixed. The ending wasn't as satisfying as I had hoped, I don't understand how he can be safe in prison if the guards only look out for him on occasion and Yellow Eyes has all that power, but then perhaps I just missed the tone of the finale?

This is a strong start to something that could be very good indeed, so its a thumbs up.

All the best and good luck in the contest.




YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 11, 2014 - 8:09am

Really enjoyed reading this. Hooked right from the opening; you set the scenes excellently and its very immersive writing. Definite thumbs up.

In terms of critique I can't really think of much that hasn't been said before.I liked that the main character shot Love at the end, but as above the only thing that jarred was the main character saying he'd be safe in jail. It would have worked fine if you'd just shown the action to be an impulsive act of revenge/outburst against Yellow Eyes where the consequences weren't fully considered, rather than trying to post-rationalize it as something the character wanted to do sensibly. 

Oh- and the only other minor gripe I had was Newt showing up to resolve the conflict with Ol' Keith. It felt a bit Deus Ex Machina, like 'oh the guy I happen to live with's uncle was mates with you, let's all calm down'. But then, these kinds of coincidences do happen, it didn't jar with me too much. 

Either way thanks for such an enjoyable read, whizzed through it, excellent prose, style, setting, tension, all of it. Cool story


Aud Fontaine's picture
Aud Fontaine from the mountains is reading Catch-22. Since like, always. July 14, 2014 - 9:35pm


This was hella bleak and I liked it. The only thing that prevented me from really getting into it was the setting. I don't know if you've ever lived in a true ghetto but it's much more hardcore than this. From the way you tell it it sounds like this guy can pretty much mosey around, asking anybody he wants questions and just generally get his job done at a nice meandering pace. I spent a year in a rather notorious piece of ghetto and this almost comes off like a Disney version of where I lived. People don't call out their wares on the corner, they're yelling obscenities and harassing women. I don't mean this as criticism, I think you have some solid groundwork going on here I just think it would really benefit your story to draw focus to the hostile environment of this toxic neighborhood. I especially loved how you pointed out how people who go on about the troubles of the third world don't pay attention to the underworld ten blocks away. Also, the part about the nice city fading into the gnarly. Very astute observations. My housemates and I always liked to wait for the color change on the train; where the passengers switched from black to white and vice versa. I think if you focused more on this social commentary and the dangers of this area and line of work you'd have an extremely compelling, even scathing, piece with a little more texture and grit. And if you need any info on what it's like to live in a place like this, please PM me. I'd be more than happy to give you a rundown of a day in the life. Good job though, overall. I enjoyed it.


Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 19, 2014 - 3:43am

Wrote a whole feedback. Lost it. excuse me therefore if I'm shorter than is my want.

A brave attempt at a street noir, hard boiled, set in modern-ish times. Not sure how well they go together. Makes me wonder if it wouldn't have worked better set 40 or 50 years back. Or maybe was a tad less old-fashioned "gum shoe" formula?

You have a good start at establishing a laconic voice, but watch "writerly" input like "Yellow Eyes excreted between immobile lips." - that "excreted" for me loses the voice. On that matter, telling us yellow eyes has jaundiced eyes is unnecessary, and a little condescending, perhaps.

Since you introduce Love to the scene at the end, we need to feel his presence throughout - this is set on border territory, so should be doable. But I want to feel like I know him before we meet, since that meeting is right at the end and comes with such a retribution.

The shooting of Love isn't quite merited. It's hard boiled, but needs to be fully justified. Particularly as it is central to the conceit that this guy doesn't mind going (back) to prison, presumably - given bail - for a long time. (Even longer given he could be done for Love's murder...) We have to at least part agree with that decision, and right now I don't. And as that's the central crime of this crime contest piece, it's got to stand up to scrutiny.


RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors July 22, 2014 - 11:21am

Hi Damon

Right off the bat, I like the name Yellow Eyes. Name's good enough, I'd say cut the description after.
I like this a lot: 'I was getting brave in this limbo of mine.' Great little line into the character.
You've got some good little descriptions in here, I like your style.

In terms of critique, I'd agree with the majority of users here. It seems way too easy for the protagonist; he's simply wandering around the place with nearly no threat whatsoever. Change that and you've got something great.

I like the ending, and overall I like the piece. The story flows pretty smooth, and nothing really detracted me from it. I'd say it's easy going, and that's certainly not a bad thing.

Thumbs up from me.


Zack McCormack's picture
Zack McCormack from Indianapolis, IN is reading Empire of the Sun July 24, 2014 - 2:49pm

Hey Damon,

I thought the story was pretty good man. While it sounds like I certainly don't dislike the noire genre as much as you hate the movie, The Christmas Story, these types of narratives have never really hooked my interest. That said, I did enjoy your short. I think the dialogue was nicely done and you did a good job of demonstrating the setting's street nature without making it seem cliché.

Echoing some other people's comments, I felt like the ending seemed rather forced. I didn't feel the killing of Love was particularly warranted under the given circumstances and if anything I felt the protagonist should have been more angry at Yellow Eyes since he was the one who gave the ‘ok’ for all this to happen. Love was just trying to take out someone who was spying on him, like our lead character was doing. It’s like someone getting mad at the person who their girlfriend cheated on them with rather than their girlfriend herself. But I might be being overly critical.

I did enjoy the read though and hope some of the comments helped.


Damon Lytton's picture
Damon Lytton from Augusta, Kansas is reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow July 31, 2014 - 8:50pm

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to give a public thank you to all who have read and/or reviewed my story - a private and more detailed thanks has been sent to all reviewers.  All of the critiques have been very helpful and some pretty eye-opening.  In further drafts of the story, these notes will be incorporated to hopefully make a more satisfying read.  This was a very fun experience and I hope to take part in any future opportunities to be helped (and help in return if I can) by the other writers of this community.

Thanks again,

Damon Lytton