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Robert VanCleave's picture

Venus Virga

By Robert VanCleave in Arrest Us

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Once you have read this story, please make sure you rate it by clicking the thumbs above. Then take a few minutes to give the author a helpful critique! We're all here for fun but let's try to help each other too.


When Venus Robert's livelihood is on the line, she has to figure out just what it takes to stay afloat. 


TheKyleBTM's picture
TheKyleBTM June 4, 2014 - 10:40pm

The story was well written, but unfortunately I could not really understand the motivations of Venus, her sex life being publicized can drive her to assault the neighbor, but i dont see how her making another (coworker?) take the fall for the death of a child at her job seems like an unrelated event, her sex life is still on the internet and her livelihood being her job at a daycare center is at even more risk than before should anyone find out that not only did a child die there but the person on duty failed to act. Her anger that simmers beneath the surface is vivid and clear, her distain for her neighbors and want for release could have motivated her to do any number of things, but she seems to regret her one action against those that may be attempting to ruin her in exchange for letting someone else suffer, an innocent child at that.

Robert VanCleave's picture
Robert VanCleave from The Land of Ice And Snow is reading "Sex Lives of Siamese Twins" by Irving Welsh June 5, 2014 - 6:24am

Thanks for the feedback Kyle.  I was trying to imply alot as opposed to spelling things out.  But I guess it left alot of things too vague.  Her motivations are about keeping herself out of trouble at all costs.  Not to "lose" everything once again.  Hopefully I cleared that up in the newer version I just uploaded. 

TheKyleBTM's picture
TheKyleBTM June 5, 2014 - 12:00pm

I reread the revised version and I think it flows a lot smoother, her motivation for her actions at the end is clearer and I felt it was overall more real, the revision is great.

I changed my thumbs down to a thumbs up in accordance to your revisions, keep it up!

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday June 5, 2014 - 6:15am

Wow that was some dark stuff.  Well written dark stuff, so kudos.  It took me a minute to get into the character because she isn't likeable, but if you spend enough time even with the worst of people you can't help but attach to them in some manner.  Through the end I found myself looking for hope, but had to come to terms with the fact that there was none to be found.  Good job.

Robert VanCleave's picture
Robert VanCleave from The Land of Ice And Snow is reading "Sex Lives of Siamese Twins" by Irving Welsh June 5, 2014 - 5:46pm

Thanks for the feedback and the read.  I was trying to go with a purposefully despicable anti-hero, hopefully presenting an eloquent argument for her perspective, to drive a story that escalates into greater and greater hell. 

W.a. Warner's picture
W.a. Warner June 5, 2014 - 9:16am

I really enjoyed the narrative voice. Interesting character with great insights into her way of thinking. Well written and fun to read. Thanks for sharing!

Robert VanCleave's picture
Robert VanCleave from The Land of Ice And Snow is reading "Sex Lives of Siamese Twins" by Irving Welsh June 5, 2014 - 5:46pm

Thanks for the feedback and read. 

Dan J. Fiore's picture
Dan J. Fiore from Pittsburgh is reading too many things at once June 5, 2014 - 1:18pm

Good stuff. Great prose. Certainly not a likable narrator, but you get inside her head well and keep it interesting. I'd argue that you could tighten the narration up a lot more than where it's at now by cutting at least some‚Äč of the less concrete "asides," but overall I thought it was a good story. Well done.

Robert VanCleave's picture
Robert VanCleave from The Land of Ice And Snow is reading "Sex Lives of Siamese Twins" by Irving Welsh June 5, 2014 - 5:09pm

Thank you for the feedback.  About the asides, I've been looking at the same way and have been looking at a few of the more expendable examples. 

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) June 11, 2014 - 10:42am

I do like a nice despicable protagonist, and I enjoyed the way you presented Venus. She’s like a car wreck in that you can’t quite help but gawp at her. You also tap into the idea of these stars being public property, and how off the rails they can go. I’m sure I’m not the only reader making comparisons to certain ‘real life’ celebs whose predilection for partying has harmed their careers. Venus’s voice is pretty good in my opinion. I’m fascinated to see her world through her eyes; what life is like following her downfall.

I must admit though that I could do with more clarity in places. I found the narrative hard to follow at times, and it made working out what was going on quite difficult. I kept on having to re-read sections to understand what was happening. From your replies to comments I note that you want to imply rather than spelling things out and that is the right approach in this kind of first person. We should almost learn more about Venus than she either knows or would admit to herself. My personal feeling is you keep your cards a little too close to your chest at times, though of course I didn’t read your first submission so don’t know how much it has changed.

The ending is one area that just isn’t clear. I want to know more of what her plan is. The vague impression I get is that she is going to kill Allison and Jordan, though I was confused to that last nod to Gregory as well. Surely the kids there would say that she’s been there the whole time?

One of my other issues is that the narrative is a lot smarter than Venus would appear to be. Virga is not exactly a word that is used a lot in conversation. She also says things like, “there was a certain eminence on our faces” and “since my fame’s repose”. Nobody I know talks like that (maybe I hang with the wrong crowd), and it suggests an eloquence that doesn’t fit with the character.

I did love – “Unconditional love is never truly unconditional”. A moment of clarity in a narrator who has a good line in self-deception.

Overall though, a solid thumbs up from me.

Robert VanCleave's picture
Robert VanCleave from The Land of Ice And Snow is reading "Sex Lives of Siamese Twins" by Irving Welsh June 11, 2014 - 6:09pm

Thanks alot for the feedback.  I've been re-reading the piece with alot of what you've said in mind. 

I do agree that I need to be more descriptive of the action going on.  I feel if I organize my asides better it may smooth alot of that out.  You're also right about the narrator's choice of words.  I was making a choice to avoid word repetition over maintaining a realistic voice. 

As for the ending I was trying to convey the narrator's own uncertainty about her course of action in the fight-or-flight heat of the moment.  In hindsight I think i have a better way of achieving uncertainty without losing clarity. 

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations June 15, 2014 - 2:38pm

Hi Robert,

I have issues with the POV here. 2nd person start, switching to first person, back to 2nd, then to a collective We - it's difficult to do well, and kind of makes a rod for you / my / our back...

But then, this is one confusion of many. The language might be bold, but it doesn't exactly make the setting clear. Like: "In the back of my mind Miss Morning Person falls through a lose board on my front porch.  A lose nail or screw scours the heel of her leg.  In her rush of pain and excitement, she reaches for the closest thing to her." . I have close to no idea what this means. I get our narrator is hungover. But.. what else?

The story only truly starts 4 pages in, with the receipt of an email. Even then, it's slightly tricky to recognise that this email is describing our narrator, as this is the first time we get a name. (Even though we know, a page plus back, who she dined with last night)

It's tricky, because there is definitely a powerful voice here, but it's muddled, overwritten. The Venus thing is interesting, but distances us from the rage she apppears to have constantly on the boil. So, my advice, is try telling this story less obliquely. Certainly drop the "you" part, tell the guts of the story clearly, and if you can incorporate the narrators thoughts as a distinct thing you might have a strong winner. As it is it seems more work to read than it should, which doesn't seem right. Not even if this was a hallucinogenic bender would it be quite this amount of work!


Robert VanCleave's picture
Robert VanCleave from The Land of Ice And Snow is reading "Sex Lives of Siamese Twins" by Irving Welsh June 16, 2014 - 11:19am

I added clarity to "daydreaming" moments to make it much simpler to discern real action from thoughts in the narrator's head. 

I also reduced the number of "asides" and consolidated much of them together to keep from the clustered trains of thought colliding at the same time. 

I really tried to go over my story with a fine-toothed comb with your input in mind.  In my updated revision I did remove a few conjugations of "I, my, you, your, them, etc" and simplified them into generic sentences neutral of POV.  But I could not bring myself to remove all such conversational elements altogether as you seemed to suggest. 

Maybe you can help educate me on what exactly keeps the conjugations from working for you so I can edit them a little more effectively?  I can't help but feel a rigorous first-person POV would destroy much, if not all, the character of the narrator's tone.  When I tried it, the story ended up a "This happened.  Then this happened.  Then this happened.  Then this happened." kind of story:  the exact thing I was trying so desperately to avoid. 

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations June 16, 2014 - 4:33pm

Sometimes its a lot easier to say something doesn't work than to say what does! The point of POV is that it should be naturalistic, particularly for a short story. Changing a POV isn't usually done to make the story better, but because you're trying to give information that doesn't work in the other POV (If first person, usually something that person can't know.) Normally that means you have to just work harder in the chosen POV to relay that info. In your case, the "you" might seem like your POV telling someone else their woes, (sort of "you wouldn't believe the things I have to put up with") - even though no definite person is in mind in the you. This CAN work, but it needs to be wrapped up better in the first person POV you use to feel natural. The best advice I can give, then, is to look at each POV, and work out a) is it truly necessary b) is there another way of doing it. I predict that with a little effort, they're not needed, and replacing them won't lose you any of your narrative strength. (But it may indeed take a little effort!)

Good to see you're making some changes, hope that cleans it up and gives you more thumbs up!

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 16, 2014 - 8:44am

I love this. The only things are the slightly too frequent Blink. Breathe. in the middle, and 'scrapped knee' (should be scraped). Exactly my type of story. Love the Venus weather stuff. Brilliant.

Robert VanCleave's picture
Robert VanCleave from The Land of Ice And Snow is reading "Sex Lives of Siamese Twins" by Irving Welsh June 16, 2014 - 10:56am

Thanks for the read and feedback.  I got rid of several excessive "Blink. Breathe" moments, as well as a few other snags.  Hopefully its now a much cleaner read. 

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 16, 2014 - 11:17am

Killer. Love it.

Robert VanCleave's picture
Robert VanCleave from The Land of Ice And Snow is reading "Sex Lives of Siamese Twins" by Irving Welsh June 16, 2014 - 10:54am

I just uploaded an updated submission.  I clarified the ending significantly, organized many of the "asides" and "thought processes", to hopefully clarify moments of action and moments of thought.  I also, hopefully, humanized the language into something more realistic for such a character to speak. 

Aud Fontaine's picture
Aud Fontaine from the mountains is reading Catch-22. Since like, always. July 3, 2014 - 3:01pm


I liked this. It was really fucked up and interesting and I liked all the stuff about the planet Venus, it really helped set the mood for the rage. The one big problem that I had with it though was that I couldn't get the book Invisible Monsters out of my head. You have a very similar rhythm with the "Blink. Breathe." that echoes its chorus of "Gvie me blah blah. Flash." etc. as well as the whole model/freedom parallel and such. This isn't a bad thing, it just got a little distracting. This is well written, and it might just be because I read Invisible Monsters so recently, but for me it detracted from your work a little. I don't even know how you'd go about fixing it, maybe just play with the flow and language of it all a little bit? Sorry, I know it's a weird thing to get hung up on but I did. Other than that, it's a really enjoyable read. There are a few typos here and there but nothing major and the overall story is immersive and pleasantly gross. There's nothing quite like a good trailer park tale. Good job.


Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch July 7, 2014 - 12:36pm


I ended up liking this quite a bit by the end. I think you have an unlikable protagonist that while you don't like, you still end up wanting to read about, and it might have been the new draft that you uploaded, but I found that for the most part almost everything made sense withing the context of the story.

For me- and keep in mind that I'm not a fan of Second POV- I really didn't like the first three pages. They felt too rambly and never really let me get into your MC's head. A lot of it felt like you continously hitting the same point over and over again. While a lot of the second half felt natural and I bought into the character's thinking, the first half you almost lost me. I would suggest maybe going through and cutting the first three pages down into one page or so.

That would also give you more breathing room to fully create your characters. The MC comes off well developed, but everyone else less so. Sure, it might be because your MC is such a narcissist that she only cares about herself, but I still would have liked to have seen the other characters get more than a couple of lines each.

Still, I did enjoy the story, and the fact you got me to hang in there despite it not being my favorite POV style and with such an unlikable character shows you have something here.

Karin Hogan's picture
Karin Hogan July 17, 2014 - 5:52am

You could tell the same story much stronger (IMO) from a number of other jump off points, 

I used to be bombarded with cameras. 
Now it’s the wailing cries of discontented children.


Absinthe, Margarita kits, and an all-night orgasm. 
The thing that keeps you waking up each morning.
The thing that helps you grudge your way through a week

Both would improve things, and cut to the events quicker.

The glamour girl (Or preteen actress? Pick one?) you cover anyway in the blackmail emails etc, so why start with it? It isn't very "now", and the bad events that might make her nostalgic haven't strictly happened yet.

And there isn't actually any direct blackmail request, is there? So why was the email sent?

So how many deaths are we talking here? Allison, Gregory, Jordon, Jacob. What about the witness, the girl whose name she can't remember. This isn't very plausible, is it? To save a rather pitiful job anyway? She's making it up as she goes along, but as reader we don't get a big clue on the unreliable narrator, psychopath, or whatever. So the ending kind of leaves me going both "huh?" and "well that was easy for her".


Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 28, 2014 - 2:02pm

Great voice in this story. I really liked the idea behind it and thought the repetition of the Venus parts were handled well. I might have missed something, but how does she not come to suspect Jordan? He was there too right? I might have liked a little more setting after her blackout, even just a hint at something. Did she only yell or was this a physical thing? Solid story in any case.