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Amy Taylor's picture

The Heist

By Amy Taylor in Arrest Us

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Description

This is a story about the build-up and execution of a daring heist by a young criminal mastermind.

"My name is Zoe and I am seven and a half years old and today I robbed the bank."

Comments

Devon Robbins's picture
Devon Robbins from Utah is reading The Least Of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones June 21, 2014 - 10:32am

Hey Amy,

You said in the Arrest Us thread that this was your first attempt, and I read the piece with that in mind.

You did a good job showing the naivity and perspective of a young person. The simple misunderstanding of words really adds to the voice. I like how you showed bits of the mother's materialism imprinted into the girl's developing personality.

There are a few awkward sentences, but overall, the piece is written well. Writing from the perspective of a child can be tricky but you pulled it off.

The ending was sort of anticlimactic. There weren't really any stakes or tension. I realize that this is a little girl, but wanted something more. know that she won't go to prison for stealing a pen. Maybe have the teller call them back for something. Something to make the girl's little heart drop. 

For a first attempt, you did really well. Good luck with it.

Amy Taylor's picture
Amy Taylor June 21, 2014 - 11:28am

Hi Devon, Thanks so much for reading my story and for your positive feedback. I completely appreciate the point you raised about the ending. I did find that section the most challenging. It was quite entertaining writing from a child's perspective but extremely limiting in terms of language. Once again, thank you. It's much appreciated. 

_JohnUtah's picture
_JohnUtah from Texas is reading True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa June 23, 2014 - 11:19am

Amy,

Great story it was well written and I did enjoy your approach to the material. It must have been challenging to write with that mind set, deciding which words to pronounce and stay locked in the character. You did a fantastic job with it by the way. The only thing was the plot of the story was so short. There was no tension build up and the whole heist so to speak took only a couple pages to describe then it was over. It would have been interesting to see how a seven year old would go about planning a robbery; if she knew her and her mom were going to the bank before hand. Then play out if she could have put it into action. Over all great job, it was a great read. Thanks for writing it!

Utah

Amy Taylor's picture
Amy Taylor June 23, 2014 - 12:26pm

Thank you. I'm so pleased you liked it. 

I'm not used to writing so maybe next time I need to think about the layout of my story before laying down the foundations, so to speak. I found the beginning much more entertaining than the ending. I think if I had concentrated on the ending and the build-up, it would have flowed more smoothly.

again, thank you. 

Amy 

Aud Fontaine's picture
Aud Fontaine from the mountains is reading Catch-22. Since like, always. June 23, 2014 - 4:27pm

Amy,

You definitely have the most adorable criminal out of any of the stories I've read so far. I really loved how unique this was and how you managed to pull off writing this in Zoe's voice. She came out really well. You could've just made her sound like any generic seven year old but instead she had her own well-developed personality. The fact that you tried and succeeded at the first person narrative is really impressive. It would be nice if it had more tension which is what I think the main consensus is in your other comments. My suggestion would be to maybe focus a little bit more on her thoughts and feelings during the heist (sweaty palms, etc.) or to maybe give her a few flights of fancy or something throughout the story. She is a kid after all so you could easily take advantage of her imagination in some way to make the story a little more intense and involving. It was still really fun though and, like I said, adorable.

Aud.

Amy Taylor's picture
Amy Taylor June 24, 2014 - 1:12pm

Thank you so much Aud. I'm really grateful for your comments and to hear you understood the character. 

Your feedback on improving the story makes so much sense to me. It's really useful and I'll remember to do that in the future. 

Can't wait to read yours. Just need more time on my hands! Amy 

Aud Fontaine's picture
Aud Fontaine from the mountains is reading Catch-22. Since like, always. June 24, 2014 - 1:31pm

No problem, I'm glad you found them useful.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 25, 2014 - 3:36pm

Subversive and ingenious. I see what others are saying about inserting more tension but I can't think of a way of doing it without diluting the voice of your protagonist, which is consistent, likeable, and most of all believable. I think this works as it is, as it does hint towards the closing act throughout. It's funny and a great little crime story, in its own way. Nice.

Amy Taylor's picture
Amy Taylor June 26, 2014 - 12:04pm

Thank you, Seb. I'm pleased you liked it. 

 

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 25, 2014 - 8:20pm

Amy,

Great character. Love how she mixes up the movie stars’ names. Also love how she mixes up everyday words like fools for fuels and smelt for smelled. Great stuff coming from a kid. The voice and personality are really well thought out and great.


There are a couple places where I feel you may have gone a tad overboard trying to dumb-down, or shall I say child-up, your narrator. My nephew is 7 and a half and he knows what an elevator is and would call it one. He is quite smart but so is your narrator. My niece is 5 and she is much more imaginative. Just like your narrator. She also calls an elevator an elevator, and I believe your narrator would too. Well maybe not, she is super imaginative and wants to be a spy so using her creativity she may call it a spaceship, or time machine, or some sort of spy gadget, but something more creative than a moving  grey box with buttons. I feel like that's out of voice for her. 


I was about to question her belief in unicorns as well when I remembered my nephew telling me a couple days ago that bigfoot is real. Apparently he watches a show on the discovery channel about it with his dad who also believes. So I totally buy the unicorn thing, especially if her mother is telling her it’s so. (or is she? more about this later)


One of the most exciting parts of your story was when she was in the elevator waiting for it to move and her face got hotter and hotter. I’d like you to add more of these on-the-body sensations to amp up the tension. I agree that you have this great build up, especially with the hook of the opening line in the story. Then it just kind of fizzles out in the end. It’s not a bad ending and I totally like that she feels like a stolen pen equals a heist so I want her to be more excited/frightened/boastful.


Also, she’s getting a new dress and going to Disneyland. Sounds too good to be true. I have a feeling her dad is in prison and they are going to visit him or better yet pick him up for he’s been released? Then maybe a trip to Disney Land or some place they can pass off as it. Or not at all. I could be totally wrong, but that’s where the story lead me. Which is cool, that’s why he let her watch heist movies and why she’s so into it all. She may even think her dad is gone so much because he’s a spy. Plus, she’s excited about giving her daddy the pen, so perhaps she thinks he’ll write to her with it. Plus Disney sounds a little like Prison. And unicorn/uniform. Am I reaching or getting closer?


Oh, I also love how perceptive she is. Most children her age maybe wouldn’t be quite as such, but it really works here and makes her unique. And thus a successful heister.


I do love that she wants to ‘free’ the cats and as I type this now I’m certain her dad is in prison. Why else would she keep equating the cats to be locked up with the lady next door. So yeah, really good job peppering in just enough details to keep me wondering. I feel like I solved the puzzle. Yay. Go me.

I like how it ends with her planning the next heist to take the kittens, we just need a little bit more action/suspense before that final scene.

Anyway, had so much fun with this. Super cool story. Best of luck.

--JR--

Amy Taylor's picture
Amy Taylor June 26, 2014 - 11:37am

Thank you Jonathan for your kind comment. I think you really understood where I was coming from and really glad you enjoyed it. 

One of the things we all have in common is that we were all a child. We all know what it feels like to be young and even if some of my ideas in the story won't relate to some people, the others will perceive the points differently, like children. 

unfortunately, I don't have much interaction with small people. I was worried about giving my character an age as language is an issue. I really am grateful for your comment about the elevator and suspect there's probably a few other words I used that some children would or wouldn't say but I tried to use my imagination. 

 

I was limited in the amount of background to my story for a reason. As I said, I wanted people to use their own imagination and think outside the box. I had my own ideas on the family dynamics and circumstances but I won't say as it might give it away! 

Once again, thank you. You clearly took a lot of time to read my story and your comment proves extremely useful. 

i cannot wait to read more and I look forward to reading some more. Work is quite busy at the moment and my free time is rather limited but I'm going to do as many as I can.

Amy 

 

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 26, 2014 - 11:46am

With my experience, the way it's written now she seems closer to four or five than seven but if she were that young I don't know if the opening hook would be as strong because her concept of robbery would be even less and the readers ability to believe she could be involved in something like that would go down. So yeah, keep the same age but  maybe think of some of her phrasing being slightly more sophisticated. Hope that helps and doesn't confuse.

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary June 25, 2014 - 9:28pm

Amy,

I love your opening sentence. It's a great hook and intrigues me right off the bank. Now, all I want to know is how is this going to happen.

You nailed the voice earlier and kept on track through the whole story. I could hear your MC's voice in my head and that's always a good thing. Nice job sticking with it and adding all the confused idiosyncrasies of a seven year old. That was fun.

You did start to lose me in the middle. As toy marriages led on to old ladies with cats, I started to wonder if I was ever going to get my promised bank robbery. I was looking for hints for more sinister events in the future. I was convinced for a little bit that "unicorns" were code for something else.

In the end I got my bank robberies, I guess. Felt a little duped, but I guess this is a more honest story than a 2nd grader jumped onto a counter with a MAC-10 screaming, "Ante up, pricks! Move! Or I'll execute every motherfucking last one of ya!" or something equally Tarantino-esque.

Seriously though, this was well written and I give you props for going off-type with your crime fiction. Keep up the good work.

Amy Taylor's picture
Amy Taylor June 26, 2014 - 11:42am

Thank you Joe. Your comments are truly appreciated. 

I completely take on board your points and think if I had planned a little better, i might have been able to build up the tension.

amy 

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary June 26, 2014 - 12:15pm

It's a fun story. Maybe just leave it as is.

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch June 26, 2014 - 7:08am

Hey Amy,

I think this is a really neat idea, but personally, I couldn't quite get into the story, as the narration ended up becoming a bit too much for me.I think the style is cute and really inventive, but it felt like it was too much of a good thing. After around the third page or so, I was forcing myself not to skim over.

Part of the reason for that is that there seems to be quite a bit of superflous material. It's well written material, don't get me wrong, but I'm not sure I got how a lot of it added to the story. You have a great opening line, but then the bank doesn't pop up again until page 7 of 9. And when it does, I felt sort of let down by the revelation of what she steals. The reveal can work, but after pushing through to get to the bank, I felt like I needed a bigger and better climax.

I think it's been mentioned before, but I think that the dad was in prison, is that correct? I'd like to see it made clearer one way or another. If he is, maybe have her mentioning vising her daddy in the big box or something. I also wasn't clear in what the mom was doing in the bank. Was she just withdrawing money, or was she actually robbing the bank? I think the latter option would be interesting, and would contrast Zoe's 'theft'.

One thing to watch out for is repetition in your writing. It's probably because of Zoe's narration, but there's often times words that get repeated relatively early. For example:

My name is Zoe and I am seven and a half years old and today I robbed the bank.
When Mummy said we were going to the shops today I got so excited.

Hope this helps. Take what you find useful and disregard the rest.

Amy Taylor's picture
Amy Taylor June 26, 2014 - 12:02pm

Thank you hector for taking the time to read and comment on my story.

i wanted to explore the imagination of a girl who believes she's a criminal but clearly she isn't. Kids have so many quirks andI wanted to use some of them within my story. I think I spent a while focusing on the back story and about who this child was, that I lost my focus on the build up. 

This girl is in no way a criminal mastermind but she wants to be. We've all been children and we all have those memories of being something or someone we're not. I still do! 

Your point on using the same words is helpful. I was trying to write how I feel a child would speak but I can imagine it might become irritating to some people.

once again, thank you. 

Amy 

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 1, 2014 - 5:08am

Hi Amy,

It's a great first line!

Writing as a young child is a difficult job to do, for two reasons, the first, is does it convince, the second is, by writing young do you lose the reader? (assuming no 7 year olds are reading Arrest Us stories). If anything, the first couple of pages read YOUNGER than 7 and a half. A 7 to 8 year old will come out with things that you kind of go - how do they know that? So, not knowing the name of binoculars, (even if she mispronounces them), or the lift/elevator. Or thinking that Sylvia is a guys name. A 7-8 year old is also on the cusp of distancing themselves from certain very young things- be it unicorns, fairies, or whatever. So you could go younger, or make sure that each "youngism" makes sense. As for recognising that mummy has a particular time of month when she is sad and needs chocolate, I don't know any children who would do that (track month time that closely, recognise the symptoms), so if you want it in there, maybe have mummy have a phrase for that time of month?

"we didn't have enough fools for the car" - not sure what this means.

Ultimately, this is a bit of a disappointment - and I mean that in a good way. You set up the innocent spectator, and then no crime happens, and Zoe's crime really doesn't count. I'd accept Zoe's crime if underneath there was a real crime that is described but not recognised as such. As it is, we spend a lot of time in different shops etc, which aren't that relevant to proceedings. So the pay off isn't there, though I keep getting hints of what could be. (Like parking along way from the shop... away from cameras, perhaps?)

It's a marginal thumbs up, for a clear narration, but here's some ideas to beef it up:

Daddy is coming home, but Daddy is a prisoner.

Mummy is using a credit card that doesn't belong to her.

When store detective is looking for woman who looks like mummy, it's because she's slipped something into her bag (that Zoe sees, but somehow mummy explains is okay).

Liam

Amy Taylor's picture
Amy Taylor July 1, 2014 - 6:24am

Hi Liam,

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my story. 

Amy 

Ryan Clay_2's picture
Ryan Clay_2 July 3, 2014 - 2:43pm

Hi Amy, I enjoyed reading this but I will say that from my point of view the wording and content are from a child a bit younger then 7 and a half ie 5-6, but that is just my prospective. I found the story as a hole really good and I liked the ending, all the way through I was trying to figure out how a child could rob a bank and I found the ending to be very clever. Big thumbs up :-)

Amy Taylor's picture
Amy Taylor July 29, 2014 - 2:49am

Thank you!

Turtlethumbs's picture
Turtlethumbs July 5, 2014 - 1:49pm

Upvote!

You're one of very few writers who have a different take on criminality. There's another story featuring children called Kat the Mouse, which I highly recommend!

Loved it. Only problem was how long it took for us to get from the first sentence teaser to the "heist" on the last page. The writing style got a little irritating after a while, but there's nothing you can really do about that I guess, since it's a child and that's how she thinks.

Wanna read mine? http://litreactor.com/events/arrest-us/born-again-packaging

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 6, 2014 - 1:00am

All credit to you for picking a very difficult story to tell. Writing from a child's perspective is hard, especially if you don't have a lot of personal experience with them. My son is seven, and my daughter is four, so I can tell you that in my experience your protagonist sounds closer to four than seven. Have you ever read The Phantom Tollbooth? Milo is supposedly 8 or 9, so pretty close in age to your protagonist. In the book though his age is not stated, so it doesn't really matter how old he is. If you were to take out the age reference, your problem is solved, and you won't have anybody calling you on it.

The other issue here is the anticlimactic ending. That first line is great, but as others have pointed out, it promises more than it delivers, but also it takes a long time to get to the bank. You are very subtle in most of what you squeeze in here, and you tell the reader a lot without spelling it out. I think you have to think about what this story is about, at its most basic level. If it is about a bank robbery, that's the part to concentrate on. The stakes would feel higher if she stole something of value (someone puts down some money perhaps?). Perhaps keep that fact from the reader until the end, and just have the security guard trying to find who picked it up? Keep the first person narrative though. Perhaps consider changing the title as well to fit in better with your voice.

The voice is good. Near the start I honestly thought it would lose me part way through, but I caught the flow and just flew throught it. I really did appreciate the subtle touches, and building the picture in my head. I think you are almost there with this, and it wouldn't take much to make this a great little story.

Amy Taylor's picture
Amy Taylor July 29, 2014 - 2:49am

Thank you so much Adam. Your comments are really clear and I really appreciate that.

 

A

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 12, 2014 - 6:27pm

Your character's voice comes across very well. There is very little action that happens and most of the story, while adding to the personality of your character, doesn't add much to the plot. It's tough to critique this sort of style, because it's written intentionally simplistic, but there were a few parts where i wasn't sure if the statements Zoe makes are innocently random or if the lines were superfluous. I think that this is a well written story but doesn't have much to do with crime,

I actually think that having her steal the pen is a sort of fun take on the idea of a crime. Beautifully innocent. If you wanted to keep this about a petty theft you could maybe spend more time talking about how she felt about the theft, setting up tension so that we believe that this little girl somehow managed to actually rob a bank, and having the bank be a more important setting. I like the personal bits about her everyday life that really personify her. Maybe you could weed out some of the things that don't necessarily add to her character, but keep others, ( I think that the idea about stealing the cats is really good. Perhaps things like her not liking tuna could be left out.) As I've said you have a great character here some editing to tighten the plot could make this a really cool story. You might also think about using her character in a different story style.

These are all just suggestions. Good luck in the contest.

Amy Taylor's picture
Amy Taylor July 29, 2014 - 2:50am

Thanks for reading and commenting. Useful ideas. A