To read this story or to participate in this writing event, you only need a free account.
You can Login with Facebook or create regular account
To find out what this event is about click here

Joe P's picture

Your Return Policy

By Joe P in Arrest Us

How It Rates

Voting for this event has ended
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.

Description

How much would you pay for your online persona? How much would you pay to take back your digital personality? How well have you protected your passwords? How much does it really matter who the internet thinks you are? For a guy named Mark, it meant everything.

Remember folks: When creating a password, always use at least two upper case, two lower case, two numbers and two symbols.

Comments

madsmaddox's picture
madsmaddox from Berkshire is reading Fated June 4, 2014 - 3:32am

Joe,

Solid tale and I love the pace (blasted through it and in a good way), it doesn’t let up but you use the breaks well. I think the crescendo could be worked on, it does provide closure to the piece, but the build up felt better than Mark’s finale (the finale works but felt lazy compared to the rest of it) and the additional afterwards felt more satisfying than Mark’s possible (alluded to) ending.

Also, do you have cyber crimes units where you're from?

The premise really reminded me of some movies I’ve seen (Hackers springs instantly to mind when they’re harassing the FBI agent) but you handled identity theft with wit and it was a pleasure to read.

Thumbs up!

All the best and happy writing!

Mads

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary June 4, 2014 - 4:03am

Thanks man. Glad you enjoyed it. I'll have to take a look at the ending and see how I can give it more punch. Thanks again.

TheKyleBTM's picture
TheKyleBTM June 4, 2014 - 3:33pm

I am going to agree with madsmaddox, the pacing worked well and the buildup kept me wanting to continue. the levels of Marks breaking mind leading to the climax were interesting to say the least. i do wish the climax had been a little bigger, and the afterwards was a great addition to the idea of the unnamed and unknown attacker(s?) overall it was very enjoyable.

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary June 4, 2014 - 7:41pm

A bigger bang at the ending huh? Okay. Didn't anticipate that but I'll put my mind to providing a good KO punch. Thanks for the review!

Geert Mostrey's picture
Geert Mostrey from Belgium is reading Gone Girl June 5, 2014 - 12:52am

Hi Joe,

I agree with the above comments. Your story is well written, you maintain the narrator voice throughout the story, which I know from my own experience is no small feat and gradually up the ante for your main character nicely as such keeping your reader captivated and wanting to read on.

I would change 2 things if you allow me a subjective input. First the cops : cyberfraude is actually something the police have special departments for, so I would have him file his complaint and than have it drowned in the usual burocracy. So nothing is really done. And the ending needs something more of a surprise bang. Something so horrible it would drive him to kill himself.

The final with the mails sent to his collueges is great though !

A definite thumbs up from me.

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary June 5, 2014 - 4:15am

Thanks for the feedback! I'll be making some tweaks to both the spots you mentioned. Glad you liked it!

Geert Mostrey's picture
Geert Mostrey from Belgium is reading Gone Girl June 5, 2014 - 6:58am

Ur welcome :-)

Feel free to comment my story to if you like.

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday June 6, 2014 - 9:18am

I dug this story.  I enjoyed the conversations as well as the internal dialogue.  As stated above, the pacing was good.  For me, the ending worked quite well.  Not much to add that hasn't already been covered, so good job and good luck.

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary June 6, 2014 - 9:21am

Thanks! I did some tweaks since the previous readers which I think gave the ending more impact and clarity. Sounds like the tweaks did the job. Glad you liked it.

Matt A.'s picture
Matt A. June 7, 2014 - 10:02am

Bro-seph,

I've attached notes I made while reading. here's some things to sum them up that may help.

The biggest thing I noticed were places you skipped that you could have delved into to show off your chops. I'll use the attack on Rory as an example.

He bled. A lot.

The other day I was out running and went though some vines and scratched my leg. When I got home, my daughter said my leg was bleeding a lot. It was just a tiny stream of blood. Compare that to, say, Marcus Lutrell's definition of bledding a lot (the Navy SEAL form "Lone Survivor"). Polar opposites, right? My point is, places like this are your golden opportunity to show off your style and voice. Instead of "He bled. A lot" you could dig into it more with something like "HIs forehead spewed like a shower onto the tile floor." Not too good, but the reader then may be closer to your definition of bleeding a lot. Take a look at other places where you can zoom in and give some definition to.

POV--this reads like a past tense journal style narrative, which is cool. But I had a hard time, toward the end, seeing that it was implied that he was about to jump 30 stories. Was he sitting writing this stuff down, and then jumped? I'm not sure. It may seem nit-picky, but when I sit and let a story absorb, if there's something in the structure like that that I can't reconcile, it makes me want to shrug the piece off a little. If you do want to make it a journal type story, it would only take a little reworking to change the voice and make it apparent that every night, he's writing down these strange events and we get to see through this method his "arc."

The last thing is character. Your narrator doesn't hold our empathy very well. I've seen people give up on stories because they don't "like" a character. The way I see it, you don't have to "like" them as much as empathize with them. This guy needs some TLC in making him not quite as jerky. Human is okay--we all do bad things here and there. Nobodies perfect. The trick is to make us give a shit that his life is falling apart.

With the end, I was left with a feeling of unresolved drama. I don't need for these guys to get caught, per se, I just need to understand why we were hearing about this guy in particular and his dilemma. Was there some clue embedded in the narrative to at least let us know why he was targeted so ruthlessly? And why all the people he knows are targeted next? I'm guessing the reason I may have missed this was because it was more of a commentary on the digital age and the problems it can cause for us careless computer users. But be careful, in the crime genre I think readers may be looking for a little more of the flesh and blood badguy and why they did what they did to this particular person, compared to everyone else in the world they could have picked.

Okay, enough. Don' be discouraged at the length of this feedback. It kept me reading, and that's something not every story is able to do.

Let me know if I need to clarify any of the above.

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary June 8, 2014 - 8:41am

Hey Doug,

I always appreciate honest feedback. That's why I come here! I think you hit on some important aspects. I was getting the impression this story wasn't having the impact that I wanted. Now I have some direction. Like they say: Writing is rewriting!

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) June 10, 2014 - 8:07am

It looks like I’m seeing an updated version from the one others have commented on, because I had no issues with the ending.

In my job I deal with a bit of fraud and identity theft, and I know what a complete nightmare it is to deal with. It’s on the increase, and it is a very real fear. You take that idea, and turn it up to eleven, which I loved.

The story does fly by, with a frenetic flow to it. I thought you could take the odd step back a couple of times, just to let us breathe, before plunging us headlong into the next horror. Bookending the story with the emails was a good idea, and I do like the idea that this is never going to stop. It’s like those email viruses… first someone you know gets it, and before you know it you’ve been hit and have to change passwords.

Having read some of the other comments I do find myself nodding at what Doug said. The POV didn’t bother me on the initial read, but I can see how it would trip some people up a little. I thought it would make a good suicide note, but then you’d miss out on the emails at the end. I do like his final line – “I fucking hate tacos”.

I don’t mind having a faceless and implacable “big bad”, though a glimpse or so into motive would be useful. The one thing that bugs me most though, is that these people can access every part of his life. They control his personal email, his work email, his work computer, his paypal account, all social media etc. Why not just access his bank account and drain the money themselves? You present them as near omnipotent, yet this is the one thing they can’t access?

Overall though this is enjoyable and a fun read. Nicely done!

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary June 10, 2014 - 12:07pm

Thanks for the review Adam! This is indeed a new draft. Glad to see the changes seemed to address the concerns. I'll have to give some thought to your point on just stealing straight from his account.

But glad you liked it. Thanks again.

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine June 16, 2014 - 5:50pm

Hi Joe,

Fantastic story. I can't say that I have any criticism of the story at all. I found it refreshingly original and a bit scary. The imagery was powerful and brought me easily into the story.

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary June 16, 2014 - 7:57pm

Cool! Thanks man. Glad you enjoyed it. Good luck in the contest.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 17, 2014 - 1:27am

Cool idea, nice story, the only suggestions I'd make have already been mentioned. Enjoyable and intriguing, and I really like the coda at the end. Just needs a few tweaks, as others have said.

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary June 17, 2014 - 4:25am

Thanks man. I am thinking about the motivation of the bad guy and the issues of "Why don't they just drain his bank account?" issue. It seems like they're actively working to destroy his life more than rob him, which suggests a non-monetary motive. But I also like the anonymity of the attackers that leaves everyone a possible victim. 

I'll need to think and tweak and tweak some more.

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 24, 2014 - 12:41pm

Joe, 

Yeah when I read it, it seemed more personal. These people didn't care about the money. Why else would they spend it all on music. They just wanted to fuck with him and ruin his life. Like the ultimate Catfishers. 

I didn't completely buy the ending. Sure, alot of bad shit is going on, but eventually this stuff works itself out. I mean, he must have a really shitty girlfriend not to believe him when he said he was hacked. I guess, he's kind of a shitty dude. But I was rooting for him. Didn't have a problem there. I loved the pace. Loved the whole idea of it. But yeah, I need some irreversible damage to be done to believe he'd really end it all. Like if all the stuff he was posting resulted in his mom dying of a heart attack or something. Otherwise, I just don't think he would do that. Maybe I just don't know enough about him. He could already be suicidal and the person doing this knows him enough to know what would push him over the edge. The problem with that is we find out that all the people closest to him become targets as well after he's gone. I don't have to know why, but this does tell me that maybe it's just some sicko set on ruin multiple people's lives. Or perhaps a disgruntled x-employee of the company, though that wouldn't explain the letter to Ashley. 

So ultimately I had a lot of fun with this. I loved the pace. I didn't want to come up for a breath of air in a peice like this. I liked the steady free fall. It had me 1000 percent up until the last page or so, when I didn't buy that he'd kill himself and I never got to find out who/ or at the very least why this all happened. I do like contemplating though, but a few hints would had been nice. 

 I did really enjoy this one. Keep up the good work. You got my vote. 

Thanks

--JR--

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary June 25, 2014 - 4:50am

Thanks for the review JR. I think you found a crux I've been fighting with. My MC has to be a shitty enough dude for his friends and family to believe he actually is as shitty as the hackers are making him look. At the same time, I have to make him sympathetic enough for the readers to actually stick with him and care. It's been a hard balance to find.

I'll keep working on it. Thanks for the vote!

Chacron's picture
Chacron from England, South Coast is reading Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb June 27, 2014 - 5:41am

Hi Joe,

First time through, I really didn't get on with this story. I can't stand the guy telling it, the believability of it stretched my suspension of disbelief almost to snapping point and in general I was rooting for the anonymous identity thief in the background to hurry up and destroy this guy.

That said, your writing is pretty solid - regardless of whether or not I liked what I read, you tell the story in an effective way for the material you chose. There are a few moments where I wondered if you're merging a diary style with a more direct reader-to-narrator-address style (examples in the LBL) but by and large you've at least created a fast past effect and kept things consistent. 

The reason I gave this a thumbs up was your ending. I didn't quite buy the suicide thing, and I don't think making a character drunk makes it any more convincing (trust someone who a few years ago spent a LOT of time drinking when things were rough but even under influence could not have gone through with jumping off a building!) but what I loved about the ending were the repeated emails - so now this is going to happen to all the people who didn't listen when Mark said there was an identity theft thing going on. I did think at least one of his friends might have believed him (more details on this in the LBL) but then when you deliver this ending, it makes sense that they didn't, and now they're going to get their comeuppance in very much the same way Mark got his (to me he's never a character anyone should have sympathy for!)

Conclusion: I'm probably not your reader, but there's enough I respect here for a thumbs up.

LBL attached, hope this helps in some way. -C.

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary June 27, 2014 - 10:41am

I appreciate the feedback and the up vote. Thanks!

I do have some decisions to make with this. I'm thinking one more revision before we hit July. Here's what I'm struggling with. If I make the guy too much of a jerk (which I did in my first draft) we can believe that his "friends" would believe his online behavior is genuine which would then propell him to his untimely demise. It's necessary that everyone he knows can believe he really is a pedaphila and everything else for him to kill himself. However, readers don't like to read about jerks and will put down the story if they can't sympathize.

On the other hand, if he's less of a jerk (current draft) then his online behavior is obviously the work of identities theives and holds no wait and can all be cleared up with time, which makes for a pretty boring ending. So how do I make a jerk readers can sympathize with? But that's for me to figure out.

Appreciate the feedback and the LBL!

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch July 6, 2014 - 6:50pm

Joe,

I think you have a solid story here that with a bit of work and thought could be something really great. I ended up giving you a thumbs up because I did enjoy the story, and your writing is solid enough that it flew by.  The idea you have here is good, and maybe it just needs to be expanded a bit.

I did have a few of the same concerns as some of the other commenters have pointed out. For me, the POV worked half the time, but the other half it felt too passive, like you were skimming through important detail for the sake of getting to the interesting stuff faster. Someone mentioned turning this into some sort of journal entry kind of story, and I think that could really work. You could probably even make it like an online journal sort of thing, and if you wanted to play with the perception by having that hacked as well.

I personally didn't like the letter leading off the story. I didn't find it to be that great of a start, and the repetition of 'you' caused me to almost lose interest. I would start on the July 12th entry and just expand on it, showing the reader glimspes of the letter(including the leading line, as you obviously want to pay that back at the end).

I like how the hacking increases, but I was confused by the July 14th entry. Unless I missed it, I dont see why Mark put in 4k in Paypal as opposed to the originally asked for 1k. I was also confused by his reaction to losing Ashley, as originally he seemed pretty meh about their relationship and even had a standby with Shirley.

I do like how he starts to become paranoid, and you build some of it with Rory's initial interaction with him, but I would like to see more of it. You sort of do it already with Stu mentioning the memes and Shirley calling him Taco Boy, they don't feel fully connected to his paranoia.

Finally, I'll admit that the ending didn't work for me at all. It didn't feel like the hacking itself had gone up to the level where Mark couldn't see any other option. How about if you have Mark actually have some deep, shameful secret that the hackers reveal? I'm hesitant to say make him a child molester as that feels a bit cliche, but having that sort of thing outed would definitely make someone kill themselves, as well as provide the hackers a reason for the start of the hacking to begin with.

Hope some of this helps.

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary July 6, 2014 - 7:49pm

Thanks for the feedback Hector. All good stuff and very usefully. I like the idea of an online journal that also gets hacked at some point during the story.

I think you're right about the ending. My thoughts were needing to add that he had some troubles with porn or some kind of sexually inappropriate behavior in his past to make the idea of him being a pedophile believeable to his family and coworkers. But maybe just some other dark secret would be cleaner and less convoluted.

Thanks again!

 

Turtlethumbs's picture
Turtlethumbs July 8, 2014 - 12:12am

Joe,

Your beginning is awesome and hilarious.

I love your writing style.

The internet was slower than two turtles fucking. --favorite sentence so far.

Just finished: I like that there was no resolution. Also like how fun and easy it was to read. 

Not much else to say... one of my favorite Arrest Us submissions for sure. Great read.

Feel free to read mine, would love more reads and votes: http://litreactor.com/events/arrest-us/born-again-packaging

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary July 8, 2014 - 4:14am

Glad you liked it. I've give your piece a read sometime today and let you know what I think. Thanks for the review!

Josh Zancan's picture
Josh Zancan from Crofton, MD is reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck July 12, 2014 - 4:14pm

Joe,

I really enjoyed this.  The writing was crisp, with a quick pacing, and at times funny.  The narration gave me exactly what I needed, then moved on, which I think is exactly the right treatment this story deserved.  Even with little information, I felt like I had a comprehensive view of the characters - could see their faces, how they moved, how their voices sounded, who they were as a person.  And because of that clarity, was able to enjoy everything else that much more.  

I once read a piece of writing advice that said something to the effect of, guide your reader to an ending they don't expect, but is the only one that could have worked.  Advice like this is a little vague and arbitrary on a functional level, but regardless, I think this story is an example of doing just that.  The ending hit the spot and was well executed. (SPOILER ALERT AHEAD)  You followed the pattern you set for yourself of saying so much with so little.  In two lines you both introduced and concluded a heavy choice, and did so effectively without ever directly saying it: "My apartment is 30 floors up.  That ought to do the trick." Nailed it.  Also, "I fucking hate tacos" was perfect. (Have you ever heard "Frank's Wild Years" by Tom Waits?  It's sort of a song/poem thing...anyway, the "I fucking hate tacos" line reminds me of the ending of that song, also twisted and strangely funny.)  And I actually got a strange pleasure out of seeing the other characters get the same e-mail.  It provided closure without answering any questions--a tricky balance.

Despite the guy's life crumbling around him, I actually smiled a lot when reading this, even during the non-funny parts, because it was still such a good reading experience.

Thanks for the story.

Josh

P.S.  One big error I saw: you have Tuesday, July 13th, then Wednesday, July 13th.  I wondered at first if that was intentional for some reason, but couldn't find anything else in the story to support that.

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary July 12, 2014 - 8:53pm

Glad you liked it! Thanks for the positive reinforcement. The date mixed-up, while I would love to pretend I did on purpose for some elaborately hidden Easter-egg, is a mistake, but an easy one to fix. Thanks again!

SamaLamaWama's picture
SamaLamaWama from Dallas is reading Something Wicked This Way Comes July 14, 2014 - 10:11am

Hi Joe, Wow! That was one hella ride. Very original and dark. There were a few rough patches that you might have already addressed (I printed this a long time ago but my international film class is kicking my butt). Very good job with this story. ~Sam

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary July 15, 2014 - 5:07am

Hey SamaLama, thanks for the read and encouragement. Glad you enjoyed it. I didn't see a submission from you this go around. Am I missing it? Either way, don't let all those subtitles get you down!

SamaLamaWama's picture
SamaLamaWama from Dallas is reading Something Wicked This Way Comes July 15, 2014 - 8:12am

Hi Joe, no submission this time around, but I wanted to support you since you helped me so much with the last contest. Great job again, and the subtitles are a little distracting. ~Sam

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary July 15, 2014 - 3:39pm

Well it's appreciated. Good luck with the film class!

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 17, 2014 - 8:37am

Hi Joe,

Intriguing start. This is a nicely done crime, very modern, easily understood. Thumbs up. Now for the criticism! ;)

I'd ease up on his self deprecation - as you say, he's only two years out of college, some dreams must still exist... so - I like the "working a job that had nothing to do with my degree." - very astute, but the "just a jerk really" i don't buy.

His first reaction on getting the mail (well, mine would be...) was - computer virus? account hacked? And Stu talking about a cat video he didn't send - should fire more alarm bells at that moment. (Does he rush to his desk to check his out-box?)

ensembles than fit sing around her chest - snug rather than sing?

Is this his work email then? Or personal? Kind of important, IMO! (Append to email address "@companyname" or @gmail / hotmail whatever, perhaps?)

Nice interchange with the IT guy, right from the "we're cool, we hang" intro.

Does Mark like Taco's? And is "smirking" when Kristi gets him one the right reaction?

You know you've got two July 13th's in there, don't you? :)

Priorities - he's getting drunk when all that's happened to his accounts?

Also, are these things not connected? He's not getting FB alerts on his phone? (Why is it always someone else who tells him the next bit of bad news...)

Second blackmail email doesn't ring very snappy. (The idea behind it is great, it just doesn't have any snap)

"I'm reporting your ass." She turned and walked away, her ass - watch out for ugly repetition.

Rory knows Mark's account has been hacked, so he would echo this knowledge when Mark comes down to his cage, yes?

Mark had pounded my sperm into a million half-abortions. - Rory, surely?

Much as I like the fact that the scammers move on to all his contacts, I don't think you can do 4 email headers to end. Perhaps pick just one, to show the game continues?

Off to change my Litreactor password... Laters,

Liam

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary July 17, 2014 - 9:23am

Liam,

 

Thanks for for the great review! I'm taking down all these notes to save for the master copy. Wish I could still make changes here, but we're locked in now. Still, very helpful. Glad you liked it! Make sure you change that password regularly!