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Tim Hennessy's picture

The Thaw

By Tim Hennessy in Arrest Us

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Description

Grappling with his failures, Randy gets caught up in a road-rage fueled game of chicken while picking up dinner for his pregnant girlfriend.

Comments

Brandon D Christopher's picture
Brandon D Chris... June 20, 2014 - 4:49pm

Hi Tim,

I enjoyed your story, and you have a knack for writing very descriptive dialogue. And I loved the way you spliced the protagonist's baseball past into the story's present-tense through little things that pop up on the TV. As a reader, my only complaints would be that you continued to splice in memories of your protagonist's past during the road-rage car chase, and that removed me from the tension happening. When a car with bald tires is speeding down an icy road playing cat-and-mouse with another car, I wanted to stay focused on that--it was exciting as hell. Other than that, your story was awesome...and the idea of the story is just as awesome.

Tim Hennessy's picture
Tim Hennessy June 20, 2014 - 9:54pm

Brandon, 

Thanks for reading it. I appriecate you taking the time. I've been working on this one awhile and have been trying to figure out how much of the past to integrate with Randy's current problems. Also this story is the most action I've ever written -- a chase scene and fight sequence -- and trying to figure out the balance between character and action was tough.

Were there any specific places you might be able to point out where scaling back on the backstory within the car chase stuff might improve things? 

Thanks again, 

Tim 

_JohnUtah's picture
_JohnUtah from Texas is reading True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa June 21, 2014 - 10:14am

Tim,

Great word picture! I do agree with Brandon that the flash backs during the car chase kind of seal away from all the tension. Overall I did enjoy the story, very relatable characters. The bar scene with the napkin although small was one of my favorites. Good work.   

Scott MacDonald's picture
Scott MacDonald from UK is reading Perfidia June 23, 2014 - 11:22pm

Great story.  The characters, even the minor ones (the old guy, for example), have really been given some life by the little details and the interplay they have with Randy.  Randy himself is an incredibly well-drawn bag of flaws and missed opportunities, but a character you can sympathise with nonetheless.  There are some great throw-away descriptions that really give some layers to the story, "Medicated talcum powder and the faded scent of lumber hung in the air of his brandy bubble" was a particular favourite - "faded scent of lumber" had me thinking of the type of town it was set in and I'm not sure what a brandy bubble is, but I can't imagine that it was designed to be drunk in a such a joyless way, which again gives a more layers to what the town and it's people are about.  This makes Randy being ostracised all the more believable.

Negatives? Not many.  There are a couple of grammatical errors that are easily rectified, and there was one particular sentence I didn't quite follow (remember, I'm from the UK, so this might just be about regional differences in language usage), which was "No acknowledgement of me hung up".  I had to read that one three times and that took me out of the story a little.

These are very minor quibbles.  Overall, an excellent story.

Scott

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 24, 2014 - 10:06am

I liked this, it was interesting and different. By only issue is it felt a little meandering, as there's no conclusion to the opening. He remembers playing baseball, talks about his swing with his coach, so why doesn't he swing the tyre iron at the guy and break his arm? Anyway, nice story.

Tim Hennessy's picture
Tim Hennessy July 6, 2014 - 7:38am

Seb, 

Thanks for taking the time to check out my story. 

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch June 27, 2014 - 5:31am

Tim,

I agree with Seb that the story does feel a bit meandering. The first part of the story, when he's a home really didn't do much for me, and I'm not sure I would have continued reading if I wasn't trying to do a critique. The story does pick up once he's at the bar, but I personally found the car chase to go for too long. The confrontration once he's out of the car, as well as the talk with the cop is really good

I can sort of see how everything is meant to be tied together, but you spend the majority of the first part of the story talking about his old baseball life, the guy that's made it big, etc, and that doesn't really come back into play. It feels like wasted potential.

Writing wise, I again felt that the opening scenes were the weakest. The characters didn't really feel all real to me, and there were several awkward lines. Your opening paragraph for example:

The night it happened I was losing another game of Uno, against my girl’s daughter, when a familiar face appeared on the news.

It' a passive line, and I'm not sure you need as many commas as you have in it. 'Girl's daughter' also made me pause and try to figure out what exactly you meant. Maybe just start with her name?

I really do like the idea you have of a guy that wants to win a little bit too much, and what happens because of it. Witht that in mind, I would make a slight change to

I added slight pressure to Elise’s hand, a dick move I know, but she had to learn and, of course, she screamed for her mom.

It's a small thing, but I don't think Randy would see what he's doing as a dick move. Just more llike what he ways right after--teaching her a lesson. I think for Randy to work as a character, you have to go all in how broken and douchebag he can be. Let the reader figure out that the things he's doing 'to win' are overboard and dickish, rather than just tell us about it.

Like I said before, I'm not sure the ending comes together as well as it could be. I think you were trying to draw parallels between the driver in the car and Randy, but I'm not sure it completely worked.

Tim Hennessy's picture
Tim Hennessy July 6, 2014 - 7:52am

Hector,

Thanks for taking the time to check out my story. I appriecate your comments and will take a look how to ingrate them in future revisions.

I tried opening the story without the opening scene and closer to the car stuff but without giving him something to lose -- his family. The audience has no reason to be invested in Randy unless they see what he has at stake and his girlfriend is just annoying voice on the phone telling him to pick up more cole slaw.

Randy's a guy who has slowly developed a little self-awareness that he's a douchebag and this story takes place one of his worst days when it becomes evident that he's gotta make some changes. 

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 3, 2014 - 6:54am

I really liked the sadness that hung over this one, and that idea of untapped potential. Randy is a guy who just keeps self-destructing, and that came across really well. I can picture him really well as the guy who just can’t stop losing his temper, and can’t hold back once it’s gone. He’s a great character.

I didn’t have too many issues here. I did wonder why Jen didn’t know about his past, even though she clearly knew about his previous sporting prowess. That would make sense in the past, because it takes a lot to track down details of someone’s past. In today’s Google age, it seems almost inconceivable that she wouldn’t look him up if she knew he used to be something of a sports star over in his neck of the woods. Details of the accident would presumably be easy to come by.

You do a good job of maintaining clarity through the road section, though it may perhaps go on a tad too long. I did get lost in the conversation that followed. There seemed little reason for the kid to fire on Randy, and having emptied the shotgun, he just drives off when he loses it. I was surprised by the cop as well. Considering it was snowing, you’d have thought that the van would have left tracks heading down to the lake. Randy is claiming attempted murder with him as the victim, and the cop doesn’t seem fussed to try and check it out.

These are pretty minor quibbles though. I enjoyed your story, so it’s a solid thumbs up from me.

Tim Hennessy's picture
Tim Hennessy July 16, 2014 - 1:32pm

Adam, 

Thanks for taking a look at my story. 

Tim 

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 12, 2014 - 8:08am


I liked this, though there were quite a few little problems of description or narrative confusion whcih took me out of the story: of course every story has a few of these but they kept piling up and I kept having to re-read parts to understand what was happening. I'll go through these first before saying what I liked (and I did like a lot too):

 I was a little confused wiht the opening action. started with the  'where'd you get these?' -- was unsure that 'these' were cards until later on.

--Similarly when Elise pulls out cards and dives for them, is she diving for the ones she pulled out, or the ones on the table?  

--In the bar with the phone, I would have liked to have known this was the bar's phone straight away rather than only realising when the protagonist tells us he's forgotten his.

--When you say 'the server took back my order' it's unclear whether he's left Jen's food in the bag.

Once you get into the bulk of the action there's a marked improvement; you don't linger with details in scenes and it all feels action packed.

--However again there were parts like 'he kept grabbing at his passenger, showing off' --grabbed at his passenger in what way?;

--'the idiot and his passenger were arguing so they didn't notice me creep up' -- you give the impression here that they're stationary and at the bar and grill you mention before. 

--When the 'shitbird' and his passenger are talking outside of the car, "there somebody I can call for you" I was unsure who was speaking. Just a he/she said on a few of them would sort this out. 

I know this all might seem like little stuff, and it may be me being dense but it made the story quite hard to follow in that details were left confused or fuzzy for me. 

In terms of what I liked, Randy is a well drawn character and I think the interspersed narrative between his backstory and the action was well structured: while the action was hard to follow I enjoyed reading these backstory bits and they gave a good development of randy as time went on.  But yeah, Randy is a good, well developed self-saboteur, sadly sympathetic despite being an asshole; the descriptions when the details weren't confusing were vivid and the action was nicely tense and packed.

Sorry if the critiques too harsh; there's just little stuff that still needs tweaking like clarity of details and description & establishing characters other than Randy. 

Tom

(EDIT: after re reading ive decided to give this a thumbs up, I liked the characterisation and plot, the little details bugged me but overall I think its well told as a cohesive story, apologies if I were too harsh) 

Tim Hennessy's picture
Tim Hennessy July 16, 2014 - 1:31pm

Tom, 

Thanks for taking multiple looks at the story, I appriecate the time you took. I didn't think your comments were harsh at all. I've spent a number of years on this story and gone through a lot of drafts and want to find out where the weaks spots are now so that I'm not wasting my time when I  attempt to submit it. 

Thanks again, 

Tim 

Zack McCormack's picture
Zack McCormack from Indianapolis, IN is reading Empire of the Sun July 14, 2014 - 7:43am

Good story man. The thing I was most impressed by was your ability to develop Randy as a character. Despite being an asshole, he is easy to empathize with and makes for an excellent protagonist. I superficially read some of the other comments but a trend seemed to be some level of dissatisfaction with the beginning of the story. To me, I thought this part was done well and besides maybe just some restructuring for clarity’s sake of what exactly was happening in the uno game, isn’t something I would change. I felt like this served an important role of introducing Randy’s competitive character while also setting the stage for future events. In my opinion, the story would have suffered if you hadn’t included the picture nor would there have been amble justification for Randy’s actions at the end of the story without his teammate being on TV and reinvigorating some of his competitive drive.

My biggest complaint, which I feel is relatively small, is I had a hard time completely following the car chase scene and the subsequent fight. I had to re-read certain portions of it a couple times to completely get a feel for the exact sequence of events / get a picture of what was happening in my head. Perhaps taking another look at that portion of the story and re-wording couple things could prove beneficial.

As a whole, I did very much enjoy the read and gave it a thumbs up. If you have any free time, I would appreciate any feedback you could give me on my story, “A Christmas Story”. (http://litreactor.com/events/arrest-us/a-christmas-story)

Zack

Tim Hennessy's picture
Tim Hennessy July 16, 2014 - 1:26pm

Zach, 


Thanks for taking a look at my story and I'll be sure to check out yours too. 

 

Tim 

Dan J. Fiore's picture
Dan J. Fiore from Pittsburgh is reading too many things at once July 16, 2014 - 8:23pm

Tim,

I thought this was fantastic. I saw some comments above considering it 'meandering' but I thought everything here powerfully explored a singular theme as it concerns your narrator. So I didn't find it meandering at all. There were a few moments, especially during heightened scenes where you broke away from the action to 'editorialize' a little too long. I don't necessarily mean back story, as how and when you reveal the details of his accident felt right, but when the narrator's telling us things we already know. There's one moment, for example, later in the narrative where the narrator starts reiterating that he has a rage and competitive streak, but you've already shown us that perfectly earlier in the story. I'd just suggest going back through and looking for moments like that and consider cutting them. That said, I'd find it hard to name any serious issues with the story. Your prose is great. The characters feel impactfully real. Good job all around. Thumbs up and best of luck!

 

-Dan

Tim Hennessy's picture
Tim Hennessy July 16, 2014 - 8:40pm

Dan-

Thanks for taking a look at the story. I really appriecate the suggestions with the latter half of the story. Getting the balance of action, motivation, backstory and moving the story forward has been something I've been trying to get right. 

Tim 

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 19, 2014 - 6:22am

Hi Tim,

This has the potential for a solid story, but still needs some work, IMO. You have a solid character, brimming with anger, a clash of heads. But it reads rough, isn't as tight as it could/should be. Hope some feedback helps push it along.

The card game and cheating is a nice touch, but a tad too long for me. See if you can trim it a little? Get him on the road sooner. (The anger - to a child - is revealing, but the game and the exposure of cheating can be shorter. As indeed can the punishment - it only takes him to step however lightly on her hand for the crying and for him to be sent out by his wife.)

I was waiting for the big accident with pregnant wife on chair with wheels... too ridiculous a thing to do?

I like the idea - made more explicit - that he's only buying his wife's fish dinner because he's spent the money that would have brought him his on drink. (Not even as a major drunkard, just, y'know, food, versus drink... it's a 50-50 most days...) You can even have him telling himself, that one drink isn't drinking, even when the cops ask if he's been drinking his answer might be no (and then a well yes, but only one evasion).

That word kept running through surgeries, funerals and everything else. - what word?

The crime in this is Drink driving / careless driving. (Mainly historic, but from this occurrence, maybe not uncommon either) Does his wife know he drink drives?

The road rage now is a little long winded. Too many catch up and passes and bends. Given he knows his tires, and knows there's ice, this recklessness is bordering on suicidal. Maybe simplify it some. Gets burnt at the lights, gets a bottle thrown (for no good reason), decides to give chase, spurs other driver into a crash.

If I've understood this right (and I may not have) the other driver frees himself from an icy ditch, waits until his enemy walks over, has a shotgun fueled discussion and then drives onto the ice with a girlfriend with facial injuries from the crash? After having his face bashed a couple of times with the butt of a gun as well? That about right? Seems implausible even if he's toasted. This is probably the most confused part of the tale, and doesn't hold up brilliantly. Sort this out, and you have a middle-american gem.

Maybe have the cop quip - and is the tire-iron not yours as well?

I like the idea of the coach giving him advice he doesn't get. But should he get it now, rather than the years inbetween? And the answer the coach wanted to hear - you don't tell us, which is a bit cruel... I think you can spell this section out a bit more. Maybe even use it to end with - allows you to wrap up with whatever internally thought punchline you want. As it is, the ending is a little abrupt. The cops will know there was another vehicle involved, and if it's on the ice, then sure, they may not follow. But there's got to be a bit more of a payoff for our man here.

Given the piece is called the thaw, I assume that the ice is weakening - your man may warn the other driver of that?

Liam