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James LeVan's picture

The Sinister Streets of Briston

By James LeVan in Arrest Us

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Description

Resubmission from earlier entry. It may not still be up to stuff. But I think it I have improved it.

A man must venture through a city of pure evil to find what happened to his old army buddy.

Comments

James LeVan's picture
James LeVan June 29, 2014 - 5:31pm

*I think it has improved.

Turtlethumbs's picture
Turtlethumbs July 2, 2014 - 9:30pm

Hi James,

What did work for me: the dream part! Cool stuff.

But the story mostly didn't work for me because the writing seems to be almost all telling and no showing. It feels as if the protagonist is thinking outloud his way from beginning to end or something. 

Examples of telling: Briston was famous for danger. -- what does danger look like? you could show that by describing a violent scene or something.

Awkward uses of parenthesese: Driving through Briston was depressing (no other way to really put it). In most cases I think the parentheses are unnecessary, and just add an element of awkwardness.

The sort of twist ending also felt awkward, since technically

(SPOILERS) 

the entire story was told from the perspective of a dead person. In some cases that would be interesting, but it doesn't seem like that makes up an important element of the narrative.

 

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 5, 2014 - 4:29pm

This was an interesting one. I'm going to go through the story in order with my thoughts, so sorry if this is a bit lengthly.

The first thing that struck me was your mentioning of the setting. There were five uses of the word Briston in the first paragraph, three in the second. We know where we are from the title, and personally I'd prefer to discover the place through your story, rather than a scene-setting introduction. There were three long paragraphs before the story started, yet the first two could have been summed up by opening with:

"Briston, PA, can only be inhabited by the most sinister people in the world. None can really compare to Briston in regards to number of crimes and the level of viciousness to them." - The Centurion's Torch, Briston Local Newspaper

The third paragraph could be dropped into the story bit by bit, slowly revealing your protagonist's history throughout the first act.

There are points in your prose that could be refined, for example:

She was like a robot the way she asked questions with a cool calmness, it made me uncomfortable.

At this point you had just shown us a load of questions, so why not show how she made you uncomfortable? Show us the conversation, don't just tell us about it.

We had to do some research to find out who he was talking about, in the end we learned he was talking about you in the end.

Was the repetition intentional?

Friends, enemies, women, children, the elderly, death had become a woman I knew too well.

I like this line, just thought I'd pick it out as your voice is coming into its own here. There should, however, be a semi-colon between elderly and death. I think you need to get someone to proof-read for you, in order to check for things like that. I always do!

Even though his family was from Briston his parents refused to have him grow up there (they start teaching how to deal drugs in the third grade in Briston)

Nice, but the best bit of that sentence is hidden in brackets. Try something like:

Even though his family were born and bred locals his parents refused to have him grow up where they did. In Briston they start teaching how to deal drugs in the third grade

The dream sequence was good, very surreal. I'd suggest jumping to a new paragraph when your protagonist wakes up.

Briston is a strange creature. It consumes people, makes them disappear, almost as if that town eats people up.

Another excellent line. You then have brackets again, in speech. Personally I'd drop the brackets altogether. I never use them. I don't like them in normal prose, let alone speech.

And with hundreds of people living in a small city, having no income coming in, crime was inevitable.

Income obviously comes in, trim this, or better yet lose it altogether. A lot of the exposition at this point has already been covered, or is obvious, and we're two thirds into the story.

She spat on the bar floor and replied “Yeah he was in here. He was putting up posters for some church group he was creating for youths to go to."

She pointed to a poster on a bulletin board to the right of me. It was for some sort of youth church group.

Again, you're stating the obvious. Drop that last sentence about the church youth group, she told us that two lines previously.

Your fight scene in the bar has potential to be excellent, a real Jack Reacher moment, but you tell instead of show. Let us experience it, don't just give us a quick recap.

By this point in the evening, I no longer thought Briston was trying to kill me, I knew it was. This evil concrete jungle truly desired to see me dead.

Nice. I like the ending, the idea that the people are white blood cells and your protagonist is an invading virus. It's a very symbolic, philosophical conclusion, and you could do with perhaps suggesting this theme at the start of the story.

All in all it's still a work in progress, and there are plenty of spelling and grammatical errors, plus a few typos and random punctuations, but the ending is a stroke of genius. Present tense might work better for you, as would more show and less tell. You just need to revise, review, and rewrite until the rest of the story lives up to the final theme.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 12, 2014 - 2:06am

I think there’s a good idea at play here, but I’m sorry to say I think it needs a lot of work. At the very least it needs a grammar sweep, because there are an awful lot of errors throughout the story. There are numerous instances where the spacing is wrong within sentences so you  double  space  between  words.

“This placed me in quite a dangerous situations” – situation does not need to be in the plural.

“However, do to the high cost of living there” – due, not do.

“What phones Calls?” – presume this should be “What about phone calls?”

“No your not. The reason why  were asking you is because he was not found dead. He was alive when he was found by two kids daring each other to  see who could get closer to Briston without getting closer.” – You’re, not your. We’re, not were. Not sure how you can get closer to a place without getting closer.

I agree with previous comments that this is a very passive story, and you tell most of it rather than show. “The waitress told me that Lamar was being foolish for trying to mess with things here in Briston. Which is why he got green lit. What happened next was me asking who green lit him. I demanded it from her.” Don’t tell us this, show us this. “However, my military training had allowed me disarm the one man…” again, show us.

You could do with cutting to the chase quicker – it is eight pages until we even get into Briston, and there is very little story before that, and the Briston section feels rushed. You need to make the story more dynamic. At the moment your protagonist is telling us a story that should be filled with excitement, but the way he is telling it is too uninvolving. Take the story off him. Let us follow him as events unfold, not have him narrate in a monotone from beyond the grave.

I would urge you to get reading some of the other stories in the contest. You will learn so much about how others craft their tales, and give you good examples of more active writing. You have the imagination, and that cannot be taught. I’ve seen stories on here that are all craft and no imagination. At the moment, this is the opposite. That side of things can be worked on and developed though, and when your craft is of the same quality as your creativity, this will shine.

Stick with it, read loads, you will get there!