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BridgidC's picture

Brat

By BridgidC in Scare Us

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Description

A murder, an accidental death – in a small town, in such a short span of time, how did no one else realize that these weren’t just coincidences?

Comments

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia--now living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler July 30, 2012 - 2:10pm

SPOILERS AHEAD! So, a Bad Seed story. It was an interesting twist, but I didn't really buy it. Since we hear the narrator's voice, we think we know him, and although he is a bit bratty (no empathy at all for his mother and her sorrow; wants to play his video games rather than go to the funeral of his fellow student--BUT a student he doesn't particularly like or even know very well), he doesn't come across as brattier or more self-absorbed than the average 13-yr-old. The turn in our perception of him comes too abruptly. That's only my opinion, of course.  I know you want the ending to be a surprise, but it's also got to ring true. Nevertheless, it's a clever concept and you write well.

BridgidC's picture
BridgidC from Ohio is reading The Seduction and Other Stories by Joyce Carol Oates July 30, 2012 - 3:42pm

How do you think I could change it to make it more believable? I considered shifting the point of view from first person to third person but then I wouldn't have made the deadline! Is it perhaps too short?

Also, can I ask why you thought the narrator was a boy?

P.S. I'm new to this site, please let me know if I'm out of line at all.

Jane Wiseman's picture
Jane Wiseman from Danville Virginia--now living outside of Albuquerque/in Minneapolis is reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler July 30, 2012 - 4:20pm

oh, wow, I totally missed that this child was not a boy! so. . .take any "insights" I give with the proverbial grain of salt! I don't know about the point of view issue--I had a lot of trouble with point of view in my own entry, and I did experiment with doing it different ways, so maybe changing it to third person would work. If you keep it first person, maybe put in something kind of horrifying that she does early in the story and justifies to herself and us. This is tricky, though. If it's too horrifying, you give the end away, and if it's not horrifying enough, we remain clueless. I know it's a cliche to use animal torture as a precursor to later sociopathy, so maybe not that. However, there's a great Alice Munro story, "Runaway," where a troubling but fairly benign detail along those lines turns out to have hugely sinister implications at the end. How does she do that? Too bad I'm not her.

Also, a third-person narrator would be more likely to have to notice that such an act is horrifying, and tell us that, whereas if we remain in the bratty child's consciousness via first person, she can make it sound perfectly reasonable to herself (and thereby us), while sucking us into her skewed perspective. I think you do that with the small things--they just weren't enough to persuade me this child isn't pretty normal--having a normal reaction to divorce (to a child, it's often "all about me"), having a normal amount of self-absorption and pique that she doesn't know how to keep herself at the center of attention. I get that she doesn't really have anything much against the first two victims--they're just practice, as she says. So that part didn't bother me at all. Could she maybe have a very violent tantrum early in the story and have everyone look at her like whaaaa??? and then it sort of disappears?  

Hmm, suppose the third person narrator were the father? Couldn't be the mother, of course. And he wakes up to the horrible fact when it's one beat too late. Maybe go out and rent that Patty McCormick movie, "The Bad Seed," from the 50s. It was based on a Maxwell Anderson play, and he got it from a novel, so it has had a long history. I think it was actually remade in the last few decades, maybe changing the sex to a boy and starring MacCauley Culkin? Can't remember, but since movies are almost never first person, watching it might be a good brainstorming activity if you really did decide to change the pov. 

Well, I hate people who can't stop themselves at helpful advice but want to re-write your whole story, and also, I really did enjoy the child narrator. So I guess I'll have to say I'm just not sure, but I'd enjoy reading another version if you end up revising it.

M.E.Prince's picture
M.E.Prince from Georgia is reading A Stir of Echoes August 6, 2012 - 2:35am

I found your story to be well-written, and I did like the twist. I like that the main character is a girl. Evil boy child psychopath is kind of overdone and expected. I agree with Jane up there about having more clues that she's abnormal.

Something that bothers me here is the same thing that bothers me in a lot of psychopath stories. People don't just become psychopathic for no reason. Did she witness the death her mother was whispering on the phone about? Did she have some other trauma in early childhood? Some hint to a cause would do a lot to make things more plausible, in my opinion, and could be done with as little as a few extra words in her mother's secret conversation on the phone.

All in all, though, a really good story, and one of the more polished ones I've read in the contest so far.

BridgidC's picture
BridgidC from Ohio is reading The Seduction and Other Stories by Joyce Carol Oates August 17, 2012 - 5:28am

Reading it again myself it's not really clear whether the narrator is male or female. The downside of first-person, I guess!

I don't know any actual psychology so it wouldn't surprise me if my creative license goes against what actually happens in the case of pyschopathy/sociopathy but I don't know if those are details I want to include. Although I guess I could sneak some references in there without having to go into great detail.

Thanks for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

sean of the dead's picture
sean of the dead from Madisonville, KY is reading Peckerwood, by Jed Ayres August 15, 2012 - 4:05pm

***TONS OF SPOILERS, READ THE STORY FIRST***

Ok, i read the other reviews after I read the story, and I guess I read your story differently.  I don't want an explanation.  I don't want to know why he/she did the things they did.  When I got to the end, I suddenly envisioned this person, the narrator, sitting in a dark room, smoking a cigarette, and smiling as they told me their story.  To me, this is a sociopath who is just itching to tell their story.  And I like it a lot just like that.

I like that the main character is gender neutral.  I didn't assume boy based on the evil, I didn't assume girl based on the idea that the author's name is Bridgid.  I see a little kid who feels slighted.  They weren't given attention, the parents divorced, and they were in their own world.  Hence the reason for opting to play Nintendo instead of going to a funeral.  Mom didn't pay attention, mom dies.  Dad seemed like he was going to, then failed again, so dad dies.

I like this.  Like I said, I felt like it was a personal conversation I was having with the narrator, sitting face to face.  At first, as I was reading, it seemed too much like the narrator was telling a story, not showing me a whole lot.  But by the end, that was forgiven.

Actually, re-checking the "profile" of a sociopath, you pretty much hit the nail on the head.  Well done!

BridgidC's picture
BridgidC from Ohio is reading The Seduction and Other Stories by Joyce Carol Oates August 17, 2012 - 5:32am

Thanks for reading! I'm glad you liked it. I think you understood the story much more as a reader than I do as a writer, actually. Do you think revising the beginning to make it less like a story and more like a conversation would be worth it?

sjwatson's picture
sjwatson from Houston, Texas is reading How It All Began by Penelople Lively August 16, 2012 - 5:07pm

Hi Brigid:

The stuff I liked: very smooth, easy to read, some great turns of phrase, e.g., "misinformation spread like infection,"  good creep quotient.

A quibble: would a sociopath be so shy as to be embarassed about getting attention at school? I thought they essentially don't give a hoot what others think and are actually very smooth liars/operators. So I think there may be some inconsistencies in the narrator's character there.

I like the first person unreliable narrator. My humble thought is that the realization that our narrator is the murderer maybe should dawn on the reader slowly rather than be revealed fairly abruptly. As Jane notes above, maybe a few slightly off details in the early part of the story might prime the reader to wonder what's up and if all the details can be trusted...maybe the narrator can tell us she lied like crazy to her classmates instead of being so boringly truthful--work in that note of pride in her weird work she reviews at the end...

Thank you for sharing your work!

 

BridgidC's picture
BridgidC from Ohio is reading The Seduction and Other Stories by Joyce Carol Oates August 17, 2012 - 5:35am

I don't actually know any sociopaths (or if I do, they're good at blending in) so I don't know the answer to your quibble. I think it was just that the narrator was unaccustomed to the attention, which led to the embarrassment. I don't know that it has anything to do with sociopathy, but I'll look into it more.

Thanks for reading!