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Small town crime, big town pie.
I struggled with this one. For all intents and purposes, the first 90% of the story is filler, with characters who don't matter to the story doing things that have no effect on it. It really shouldn't work at all, but you very nearly pull it off.
What finally tipped me into the negative column is that the first chunk of the story is at once confusing and not all that compelling. The steps read like any given TV police procedural transferred to a small town. I also had a hell of a time recognizing who was speaking to whom at any given time, and I didn't particularly care to decipher it. I think the problem is that the stakes are next to nonexistent. Nobody in the story seems to particularly care about the story as it unfolds, and most of the time the reader isn't getting any vital information, and wouldn't know it if they did. There's color here but not a lot of character, plus some vagueness that would be annoying (mentioning "his condition" without elaborating, for example) if we cared more.
Again, that scene at the end DAMN NEAR pulled this out for you. It was tight and well written, though I still can't figure out why she shot the guy at the end (that's what happened, right?) I kinda get the effect you were trying for, and I think it's worth investigating. My suggestion would be to create little stories within the story for the "main" characters we spend most of our time with, stories they care about and are invested in, even if they aren't directly related to the killings.
I really appreciate the feedback! I will explain that the filler "feel" is mostly due to the fact that I had to cut this story slightly to fit the parameters of the contest. So, I suppose where the reader isn't invested or things aren't explained, they are in the larger work. I also had a hard time trying to draw this away from the "Fargo" feel, because it wasn't my intention. I've struggled with this story for a couple years in terms of making it more cohesive so it's nice to have fresh eyes.
I too had a tough time with this one, there are a few grammer errors to look into and adjust on a re-read. But those are simple to fix in comparison to the larger issue here, why do we spend all this time with the Sheriff if at the end, the important person is Claire? I think this could make for a far more dynamic story if Claire was the central character and she interacted with the Sheriff and Clay and others. You would establish the great sense of place you do here with your dialogue (which I enjoyed. Nothing wrong witha good "hoss" thrown in a few times!) but also have the reader care what happens at the end (which was great, if a little confusing, I mean, why did she do it?).
I think making the focal Claire would work to both tidy this up a lot AND make it a lot less confusing for the reader.
All in all, it's a good story and I love the setting, but it needs more detail and it needs to make us care about the characters and what happens to them, right now, it feels like they don't even really care about anything so that makes the reader feel detached from the action.
Good luck to you!
As I stated above, I did have to cut a portion of this. I appreciate the feedback though and I think, in revisiting, I'll try it another time with more of a focus on Claire and less on the technicalities. Or giving the readers more to invest into. Thanks for reading!
I had no trouble with this one at all. It was an engaging read, full of well-crafted characters, each with their own voice. Clay is my pick of the bunch. In just a few short passages he came across really well. Nobody here is just an archetype. They all have fully formed personalities. That for me is a real strength of this story.
I do have a few quibbles. Changes of scene should be a little more obvious. I was thrown a little bit by Jed and Wyatt eating blueberry cobbler at the crime scene. Then you have Clay saying he’s not going to run, and he’s suddenly at the other end of the table, in presumably the interrogation room. I’d consider putting a break where there is a change of scene. You only need a # in between.
The ending is very abrupt, and I struggled to follow it. They are just talking, then he gets shot, and it all comes from nowhere. I take your point that this is from a longer story, but as it is the ending (for me at least) just doesn’t work. Part of that should be taken as a compliment – I just wanted to carry on reading. I want to know why Jed didn’t look into Avery more after he told the girl’s mother he’d eaten parts of her. I want to know who killed Avery. Most of all, I just want to spend a little more time in the company of these characters.
Definite thumbs up.
As others have said, there's a lot of good and a few things to work on. The bumbling cops were great, and Clay is an excellent character. The ending is very abrupt, and as I was approaching it I was wondering how you were going to wrap it all up. It felt too rushed and open ended, and made everything before it feel meandering (although it didn't at the time). I think if you added more to the story, particularly the end, it will work a lot better. As you have previously said it is a cut-down version of a larger work I would expect and hope the full version to work very well.