?

Cast your vote for the best story HERE!

Poll closed Aug 16, 2019.
  1. Music City Murder

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  2. What Must Have Happened

    2 vote(s)
    11.1%
  3. Festooned

    4 vote(s)
    22.2%
  4. Lockdown

    1 vote(s)
    5.6%
  5. Cruel and Unusual

    3 vote(s)
    16.7%
  6. Call This Number

    4 vote(s)
    22.2%
  7. Yellow Streamers

    3 vote(s)
    16.7%
  8. Books of Betwith

    1 vote(s)
    5.6%
  1. Writing Forums Staff

    Writing Forums Staff Moderator Staff

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    Past Contest July Short Story Contest Voting is OPEN!

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest' started by Writing Forums Staff, Aug 1, 2019.

    1. Read the entries here:
    https://www.writingforums.org/threads/july-short-story-contest-is-open.162930/



    2. Vote. Authors, please do not vote for your own story. If you don't want to vote for another but still want to know the poll results, don't worry - they will be visible to all once voting closes.

    Get your votes in by 15 August. Voting will close early (GMT) on 16 August.

    You can use whatever criteria you like to choose a winner. If you want some guidance, the criteria we used for the 10th anniversary contest were:
    • Technical ability (spelling, grammar, etc)
    • Entertainment
    • Originality
    • Use of the prompt
    Beware: Replies may contain spoilers!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 2, 2019
  2. Aaron Smith

    Aaron Smith Contributor Contributor

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    Quite a few entries this time around! It's going to take some time to get through it. :)
     
  3. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Contributor Contributor

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    A remarkably high body count in the stories this time, again. I really didn't like any of the stories this month, unlike last month where I thought they were all good, so I voted for the one I liked least just so I could keep up with the voting.
    Music City Murders: Using real murders, especially recent ones as a basis for a fictional story is a little tasteless IMHO. This was very much two stories rather than one. Stringbean and later the kids and the treasure hunt.

    What Must have Happened
    I had figured out the ending long before I came to it, so no twist for me and without a twist this story doesn't work.

    Festooned:
    Well, at least nobody died. The adventures of a guy sitting in a hallway? It just didn't do much for me.

    Lockdown:
    This is the old complaint, I didn't really care about any of the characters. Maybe if it was longer but if I don't care about the characters so I don't care if they get away with the jewels. Nice bit about cutting them up on site and walking out under the noses of security though.

    Cruel and Unusual:
    Torture? I want to read about torture why?

    Call this Number:
    Good set up about how the guy became a compulsive liar. But, I don't know why they trapped him and I don't know why they killed him ; and what's with the robes....

    Yellow Streamers:
    Kids on bicycles going to a tree fort means that they're 11 or 12. The idea of a pre-pubescent female serial killer who has the where-with-all to extemporize something like this stretched even my warped imagination beyond the breaking point. Pretty good writing though, the story just didn't make it.

    Books of Betwith:
    Too many adjectives, too much set description, weird names that are supposed to add to the plot somehow. After reading it twice I still have no idea what this story is about.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2019
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  4. davidm

    davidm Poodle of Guernica

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    Well, but consider the prompt. :)

    To quote from an article in The New York Times from almost 30 years ago, about the great Cormac McCarthy:

    I wrote a story for this, but did not post it because I decided to turn it into a novel instead. It's already almost 25,000 words long. I'll try to find time to critique the entries under a spoiler tag.
     
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  5. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    My thoughts were mainly with two particular stories:

    - First off Music City Murder caught my attention straight away. Very much in line with the prompt (10/10 for that!), but the ending kind of left me wanting ... meaning I felt a little robbed of depth of meaning; of having something to take away. On the plus side everything was very nicely written - seemed to fade a tad toward the end but I reckon it is technically better than the other entries.

    - My vote was for Festooned. This little story expressed a nice flavour of messages for my to mull over. The setting and general story, although mundane, gave me a lot of space to think in. Nice message about politeness, subjugation and contemporary politics seeping through.

    All of the other pieces lacked life in the opening (my own included). These were the only two I cared to read right through to the end. A couple I gave up on after the first few lines and merely scanned to try and see of the story grabbed me at some point. I did like something about Call this Number, but - as with my own attempt - became quite disinterested when the back story protruded from the page (something that most stories here struggled with imo).

    Hope there is something useful here. If any of you want more please PM :)
     
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  6. davidm

    davidm Poodle of Guernica

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    I’ll critique the stories in the order in which they were posted, starting with the first one, below:

    Music City Murder was, for the most part, well-written, but I do have some nits to pick, which I’ll list below. First, though, the story itself:

    The character of Stringbean immediately grabbed my attention, and I was a bit disappointed that he died off halfway through the story, though I hoped that his death would prefigure some kind of literary payoff in the story’s climax. It did not.

    Basically, the climax is … anti-climactic. It seems there is an attempt at irony here; the kid finds the hidden treasure, but discovers that it is worthless because the rats have chewed the money up. The problem is, there is no irony, because the kids were not expecting to find any money in the first place. And of course, the baby sitting grandmother and the two brats have no personal or emotional connection whatever to Stringbean. They are just arbitrary characters.

    What would have been ironic is if the story described the great trouble the robbers went to find the money after invading Stringbean’s home; maybe they torture him, and force him to reveal where the money is, and then they kill him and his wife. They then discover that the money is worthless, because a nest of rats had eaten the stash. This would have been doubly ironic because it would have made all their homicidal efforts futile, while also exploring the theme of how a Depression-damaged person like Stringbean, remembering how banks failed in that era, hid his fortune in the walls, only to have it rendered worthless anyway — not by bank failures, but by marauding rats. As I think of it, maybe Stringbean could have been kept alive long enough to learn that the fortune he hid was worthless; only then would the enraged robbers, discovering that their enterprise had been in vain, kill Stringbean.

    In fact, Stringbean’s robbers could have been good friends of his, who had heard him talking about hiding money in his house. Maybe one of them could have even been Roy Clark. That would have been a nice touch, especially after he invited Stringbean out for a beer, but learned that he was returning to his farm house instead. That would have been the info that Clark was pumping Stringbean for.

    Nits:

    “Roy's silhouette was aglow as the bright white strobe lights haloed around him.”

    This is oddly constructed; the silhouette itself cannot be aglow, it can only be a deeper, more vivid black because of the lights that haloed around it.

    “We are so blessed to bring smiles to the good folk all over this country.”

    I find the above a bit stilted and artificial-sounding; it just doesn’t quite sound like something that someone would say in this context. Maybe something like: “Man, you know, we make a lot of people happy and make a lot of money doin’ it. I guess we been blessed.”

    “Stringbean noticed an older gentleman wearing a faded plaid suit jacket with dark-rimmed glasses smoking a corncob pipe in the third row. The man reminded Stringbean of his father.”

    I took the above to be foreshadowing, but … it did not seem to foreshadow anything, unless this was supposed to be one of the robbers. But that is not at all clear. So it just hangs there.

    “It was early Sunday morning when the police dispatcher received a 911 call about a double murder at Stringbean's farmhouse.”

    The story seems to be set in the 80s or even earlier. Did 911 even exist back then? I have no idea, but it is something to check.

    “Droplets of morning dew bleated on Estelle's jacket. Her eyes seemed frozen in shock as if her soul was unable to accept what happened to her. Insects crawled in and out of her exposed orifices, feasting on the dying tissue. The surrounding grass was wet and soaked with blood. Tommy felt a great sadness at how her body was left to die—cold and alone.”

    I’m not sure how dew “bleats.” Do you mean “beaded”? The passage also seems a little pointlessly gory. Do we really need to know that insects are crawling in and out of her exposed orifices? Can’t we let the reader use her imagination to envision a fresh corpse? And, if she was lying chest down, presumably her face was also down, which means they would not be able to see that here eyes were frozen in shock. “As if her soul was unable to accept what happened to her” does not seem to add much.

    “Stringbean and his wife. They were coming home from a music concert when robbers butchered them with a meat cleaver.”

    But they were shot, and not butchered with a meat cleaver. Is the grandmother exaggerating for effect, or simply repeating something she heard? If so, this needs to be indicated, so it does not seem as if the writer forgot how he/she had his/her characters die. Something like: "Stringbean and his wife. They were coming home from a music concert when robbers butchered them with a meat cleaver — or so some people say. How they really died, I don’t know. Sometimes stories get exaggerated.”

    Also, would the two little kids even have known who Stringbean was, without an explanation?

    “They say if you get near his treasure, you can hear Stringbean playing his banjo, right before he strangles you with the banjo wire!”

    This, again, seems to be foreshadowing, but it leads nowhere. I expected Stringbean’s ghost to appear at some point, but that never happens, and I was disappointed by that.

    And finally, the last paragraph:

    "You found junk," Angela started laughing, "The rats ate your treasure! This money is too ripped and broken to be worth anything. No easy-street for you," —she ruffled Mark's hair—"Welcome to a lifetime of being broke losers!”

    Does this make sense? It seems the grandmother never really believed that hidden money was stashed in the house, that this was just a tall tale. Now she discovers that money was indeed hidden, but it has been mutilated and is unusable. Rather than laughing and mocking her grandkids, she ought to be horrified — she would have realized that she herself could have been wealthy, except for the depredations of rats.

    It should finally be noted that mutilated money, unless it is completely disintegrated beyond recognition, remains legal tender.

    Basically, the story, both literally and figuratively, has no payoff.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2019
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  7. talltale

    talltale Member

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    Thanks for the critique.

    I just want to say that I tried to stay true to the details of the actual events. Stringbean and his wife were murdered, the robbers were eventually caught, and the hidden money was found much later in a completely worthless state (eaten by rodents).

    Also, the first part (the "pearly gates" reference, ascension up the latter towards an angel-like figure, stringbean seeing his deceased father) was meant as a foreshadowing of Stringbean going up to Heaven, as he strongly believed.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2019
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  8. davidm

    davidm Poodle of Guernica

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    The first 911 call was made in Haleyville, Ala., on Feb. 16, 1968, so the use of 911 in the story is plausible.

    A related question is: when was yellow police crime-scene tape first used? This is proving maddeningly elusive to establish, but one source I found, quoting a 1988 news article, claims it was first used in the early 60s.
     
  9. davidm

    davidm Poodle of Guernica

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    I see, this is a retelling of actual events. That is perfectly OK (see Truman Capote) BUT I think it still would have been a better story if you had fictionalized actual events: made them different to accentuate irony, for example. In that vein, the story would have been based on a real event, but not a retelling of it. The Pearly Gates reference is obscure; I did not make this connection at all. I think you should find a way to make this foreshadowing clearer.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2019
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  10. Stephen Barnard

    Stephen Barnard Active Member

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    Blimey, @davidm - are you going to give every story in the selection that level of critique? You should charge a fee!
     
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  11. talltale

    talltale Member

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    You (and @badgerjelly) are 100% correct about the ending. The thematic connection between the two children and the two robbers left for an unsatisfactory resolution.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
  12. davidm

    davidm Poodle of Guernica

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    Next story:

    What Must Have Happened is clean and well written, and flows nicely. A few minor nits (“Hell" should be “hell”) are really not worth laboring.

    A lawyer covertly kills his secretary’s abusive husband to save her from his abuse, but then throws the blame on her, but spares her, to some extent, by plea-bargaining her down to a reduced sentence. Is she grateful? Well, apparently not. In the jarring last line of the story, she turns her back on him and says, “Enjoy your life.”

    Should she be grateful? That is up to the reader to decide, as it should be. Because she would not leave her husband despite his years of abuse, the lawyer, who clearly cares for his secretary, decides to take matters into his own hands — thereby potentially saving her life, because if he had not intervened, the woman’s husband likely, ultimately, would have killed her.

    On the other hand, he sets it up so that she has to go to jail instead of him. So he both saves her and sacrifices her at the same time, setting up an interesting philosophical conundrum, to say nothing of good story-telling.

    I’m still trying to decide what I think about the ethical and philosophical issues that underpin this excellent story. What makes it so good is that the lawyer is both a hero, and a villain, at the same time. Such is the stuff that literature and philosophy are made on.

    I think that he should have owned up to the murder, and pleaded extenuating circumstances — that in a sense, he was killing the victim on behalf of his client’s self-defense, a self-defense that she irrationally refused to exercise. But again, this is the stuff that great literature is made on — examining a character who is looking out for someone else, but at the same time, is looking out for No. 1, and the cognitive dissonance such a state of affairs can set up.

    I also like how the lawyer has a certain self-awareness about the implicit snobbery of the white-collar class toward the blue-collar class, embodied in this line:

    Very nice.

    So in the end, this gets a thumbs up :agreed: from me and is in the running for my vote. I have yet to read the other tales.

    The only other tiny nit I have is that the writer uses the theme only in the most generic sense — this could have been police crime tape anywhere; Nashville is irrelevant to the story. The first story, Music City Murder, had a definite Nashville connection. I’m not sure how much that should matter, though. I’m inclined to think not too much.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2019
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  13. dbesim

    dbesim Contributor Contributor

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    Uh oh.. @talltale :eek: don’t forget it’s anonymous & we’re not supposed to know who wrote what until the names are revealed. It’s probably hard to hold back sometimes because you’re being critiqued.. but somehow you’re still supposed to hold on until the end :bigwink:
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2019
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  14. davidm

    davidm Poodle of Guernica

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    Going back to Music City Murder for a sec, I just noted that the very first line located the story in 1973. In my critique I had expressed uncertainty about when the story took place. Doh! :bigoops: Probably the title should be "Murders" not "Murder", because two people were killed.
     
  15. davidm

    davidm Poodle of Guernica

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    Next story:
    Ha, ha, Festooned is a riot. :supergrin:It is like a cross between Kafka and Gogol.

    The poor guy is in a Kafkaesque nightmare of surveillance, indifference, implied guilt (his), threats to his life, and basically a purgatory of incomprehensibility. The Gogol part is the sheer absurdity of his plight, coupled with the surprise and excellent ending.

    I somehow feel that it should have a better title, but I am not sure what that should be.

    I have a few language nits not really worth getting into — any copy editor would catch them. I do wish writers would make sure there are spaces between each paragraph. Some graphs here lack such spaces, compromising readability.

    This story greatly entertained me. :) All three stories I’ve read so far for this contest have great merit. I don’t always have time to read all the stories posted in the contests, but I do today, and I am grateful for that.
     
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  16. davidm

    davidm Poodle of Guernica

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    dbeism:

    dbesim, put your reply here being a spoiler to preserve anonymity, as we have. See above. ;)
     
  17. dbesim

    dbesim Contributor Contributor

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    Alright-ee.
     
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  18. GrahamLewis

    GrahamLewis Let me chew on your criticism a bit. Contributor

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    Voted.
     
  19. davidm

    davidm Poodle of Guernica

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    A couple of more reviews:

    Lockdown is generally well-written, nicely paced and suspenseful. The female robbers are somehow engaging, though they are hardly individuated, except by having different names. I really didn’t know who to root for — I couldn’t really root for robbers to escape, but the rich people and the cops left me cold, as rich people and cops are wont to do to me. :)

    What I wanted, and did not get, was some kind of twist, a surprise or even a shock ending, something subverting expectations, to lift this story above a simple cops-and-robbers chase tale. I’m not sure what that could have been, but it definitely did not happen.

    The connection to the prompt is tenuous at best. I’m not sure there even would be crime scene tape at an active chase; I think that comes later, when the crime, having already been committed, is being investigated. Nothing here is connected to Nashville, either; Music City Murder remains the only story I’ve read so far with a specific Nashville tie-in. And by a Nashville tie-in, I don’t means simply setting the story in Nashville, when it could be set anywhere; Music City Murder had to be set in Nashville.

    Cruel and Unusual needs help here and there with word mechanics and sentence structure: Eyes don’t, for example, show a “glimpse” of hope, but a “glimmer” of hope, though “glimmer of hope” is cliche and best avoided. Look for some other way to describe hope.

    I have no problem with violence in literature. My favorite contemporary writer is Cormac McCarthy, and his work is saturated with blood. Blood Meridian is perhaps the most violent novel ever written. Hardly a page goes by without some outrageous act of violence occurring.

    Still … this kind of violence and gore is not for me. It’s hard to say why, exactly. It has to do with context, I think. Blood Meridian was set in an authentically bloody era, 1840s Texas. McCarthy was telling the truth about the world at that time. This story just seems to revel in gore for its own sake, BUT, I find it has a gem at the heart of it, which I will explain in my conclusion.

    In this story, why does the young woman introduced in the opening have to have mutilated breasts and her fingers cut off? Isn’t it enough that she is murdered? I supposed the cutting off of her fingers is intended to presage the revenge scene later, when the alleged perpetrator’s fingers are cut off, but … I don’t know. Why write about stuff like this at all, unless it is embedded some broader context?

    Drax Tatum lives in a black slum. We know this because he’s called the “white man” and of course gunshot ring out, and cars are stripped. Does this stereotyping mean anything? Is it embedded in a wider context? Does it move the plot along? Does it contribute to the theme? No, no, no, and no, so far as I can tell. It just seems like gratuitous stereotyping.

    Then — sigh — we are subjected to the hoariest stereotype of all: “He drove through the neighborhood, drunk as an off-duty sailor, although the fear of being pulled over was non-existent. Any cop that came to this part of time [sic] had a death wish.”

    Really? Cops go to bad neighborhoods, even the worst, all the time; doing so is in their job descriptions. It might further be noted that some of the worst offenders in the worst neighborhoods turn out to be the cops themselves. This reminds me a lot of the lie perpetrated by some liar on Fox News, I believe it was, who claimed that parts of London were under “Shariah” law and were so scary that even the cops would not dare venture there. One must ask, further, why Tatum moved to such a bad part of town? Because he lost his job? Surely he could have come up with a better solution to his presumed poor financial plight.

    Here is a thought: Why not have Tatum move to a rural slum, where the residents, almost exclusively white, abuse opioids and live in trailer parks? Why must black people always be the object of gratuitous stereotyping? This is not to say that bad black neighborhoods cannot or should not be depicted in literature; it is just to say that there ought to be some literary reason to do so. In this story, the choice of neighborhood seems arbitrary, and therefore gratuitous.

    The torture scenes at the end were repulsive, of course, and reminded me of a certain movie, whose name I have mercifully forgotten, where the protagonist slowly tortures to death a man who killed his family but was plea bargained to a lesser sentence at trial. But in the movie, the torturer takes special care to medically treat his victim so he does not pass out or die before the torture is completed. In the torture described in this story, the victim would indeed very quickly pass out, go into shock, or die before the worst was done to him.

    Even the final paragraph strikes me as gratuitous. Is it necessary to know that Dullaham was “disemboweled”? How about this: How about describing a torture scene in which nothing specific is actually described, but left to the reader’s imagination? To me, that would be much more terrifying than describing actual gore; the way that many have noted that old-time radio drama, by not actually showing anything, acted as a stimulant to the listeners’ imagination, in ways that TV cannot, or at least, for the most part, does not.

    What redeems this story are the monologues of Drax Tatum as he speaks to his victim. They are good, very good, IMO, and indeed they are Dostoevskian in their anguish and complexity. This is a complex, conflicted and damaged man coming to self-awareness in the presence of his victim, and the very invocation of Russian literature in this context justified the story for me. (I am a big fan of the Russians, especially Dostoevsky.) Drax’s words are haunting, even somehow prophetic, and elevate the story to a high plane.

    I must note again the tenuousness of the story to the prompt, as with all the other stories except for Music City Murder.

    ETA:
    I should note that, in the penultimate paragraph the writer does what I suggest above: leave the coming torture to the reader's imagination, with this line: “Look at those eyes,” Drax said. “Those big, frightened eyes.” He took a step closer to Dullahan.

    Is he going to do something to the guy's eyes? Or something else? We don't know. We have no idea what he has in mind next. That is terrifying -- much more so than literal gore, IMO.

    I honestly think this story could be made into something great with some serious editing, which I could provide. It probably should be cut in length by a third, also.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2019
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  20. Aaron Smith

    Aaron Smith Contributor Contributor

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    Cruel and Unusual: Perhaps the author wanted to allude to the forgettable avalanche of dead-beat cop movies and crime books that all feature roughed up city cops who do things in their own maverick if not downright code-violating ways, while sporting a one dimensional alcohol addiction and having family and relationship troubles. Perhaps the author was making fun of an obscure existentialist piece. Perhaps the author just finished reading Crime & Punishment. I suppose you've caught on by now. The piece sought to parody these cliche crime movie/novel tropes that haunt the Danish book market. I was very close to making it even more extreme just to emphasise the satire, however that was lost on me. My entries are always a little rough around the edges. This one, I intended to really put effort into, but due to poor planning I ended up having to fix up a rough first draft so it was at least presentable. The names too, are a parody of an obscure existential piece by Peter Seeberg, who would often use names like Drax og Ringo; names, that are rough around the edges, for no apparent reason. I just thougt it fit the crime theme well. As for the torture, I agree that I could have been less gratuitous, but I really wanted to be gratuitous in this piece. The satire is probably not well refined. Tatum's dialouge is definitely heartfelt though. I put a lot of effort into that part, and in hindsight it is the most reedeming part of the piece, for sure.

    By the way, you're thinking of Law Abiding Citizen and/or Grotesque. Two movies that inspired the piece.

    I have some stuff in the works for the upcoming contests that is less exploitive and more emotional. So look forward to that, haha. Insightful critique, though!
     
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  21. davidm

    davidm Poodle of Guernica

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    Yeah, that is it. That may be the way to go. Even that is risky, though — if you go too much over the top, the parody may become too obvious. It’s a tricky line to walk. In the world we currently live in, parody and satire may have lost their force. In the United States, where I live, I feel as if I am actually living inside a parody or satire, a simulation envisioned by Philip K. Dick, in which every single day our toad of a president actually does something that previously would only have been imagined in an Onion satire. It’s why I don’t read Onion anymore: reality is weirder than their fictions.

    Also, yes: Law Abiding Citizen is the movie that I was thinking of.

    Please don’t get the impression that my critique means I disliked your story. On the contrary, it is in the top two or three stories I am weighing voting for. The rich monologues of Drax are more than worth any price of admission. If you just finished reading Crime and Punishment, next read The Brothers Karamazov, if you have not done so already. Also read The Possessed and Notes from Underground.
     
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  22. Aaron Smith

    Aaron Smith Contributor Contributor

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    Dostoevsky is left on the shelf until I've read some Tolstoy, but of the author The Brothers Karamazov is next.
     
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  23. dbesim

    dbesim Contributor Contributor

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    @davidm - three more critiques are pending! You’re doing really well so far!
     
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  24. dbesim

    dbesim Contributor Contributor

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    Music City Murder - I thought the connection in between the generations was a little vague but I enjoyed how you captured the two different worlds and how you made both of those worlds come alive. Good effort.

    What Must Have Happened - I didn’t actually see the twist coming at the end but certainly it captures all sorts of complications. He did her a kindness but now she has to go to prison for it? I think this story has potential to go further.

    Festooned - I couldn’t actually see where the story was going what with the protagonist dialling the operator but everything made perfect sense by the time it reached the punchline at the end. This is one of those stories that makes the end worth the wait.

    Lockdown - I don’t know if the author’s ever seen Ocean’s 14 but the story-line reminded me of this movie - that was also about a heist on diamonds and a beautiful all-star cast. I found the story was well-written and this plot line captured my attention but I thought the ending was not complete enough (did they or did they not succeed?). The storyline was great but not the end - and I recommend that the author watch Ocean’s 14 if they haven’t done.. because it’s exactly what I pictured while reading this story!

    Cruel And Unusual - This had an interesting storyline although I don’t think that the protagonist was supposed to be in any way relatable. We wasn’t actually sure that the victim did kill Drax’s daughter and the murder seems to be more an act of vengeance than revenge. By the time we reach the end it’s revealed that the protagonist might have an urge to do it again. Interesting plot line, author and a somewhat votable story.

    Call This Number - this story grabbed my attention from the start because of how we related to Norman and his story. I was impressed by the story-line and found it very well developed. The story has my attention the whole way through. Suffice to say, the ending did not disappoint and it clinched my vote! Very suspenseful indeed. Good job, writer!

    Yellow Streamers - this had a very interesting and developed story-line but I somehow saw the punchline approaching at the end because of the crime inferred to at the beginning. I still think that the ending is a bit of a shocker however (particularly to people who haven’t seen it coming). The author’s done a great job of capturing the emotions of the children too. Good job.

    Books of Betwith - this story was somewhat mysterious and captures a somewhat sinister conspiracy and it’s monstrosity quite well. There were some paragraphs in the middle of the story that somewhat lost my attention along the way but it was regained again by the end and (all things considered) was an OK story. Good job.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2019
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  25. davidm

    davidm Poodle of Guernica

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    I’d like to edit your story. In addition to being a published fiction writer, I was a staff editor at the New York Times for eighteen years, so I have both the editing and writing bug, and the chops to do both.

    I’m an astute reader, but did not pick up on your parodistic intentions in this story. That may be my bad, or yours, or both, but I’m rather annoyed with myself that I failed to do so. But now that I understand this, then I think it is perfectly OK, for example, to write stereotypes about black neighborhoods, because you’re not actually propounding such stereotypes, but satirizing them. The trick is to do this in a way that walks a fine line: A reader might say, “Look, read in one way, this is racist, but then again, read in a different way, it looks like parody of racism.” That is indeed a fine line to walk, but it can be done. In her great novel The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand does this with the female protagonist Dominque Francon, a newspaper columnist who attacks in print the works of the novel’s architect hero, Howard Roark, but does so in a way that makes it ambiguous whether she actually dislikes his work, or rather dislikes the people who dislike it. (I am not a fan of Ayn Rand as a philosopher or as a political or social commentator, and I thought her novel Atlas Shrugged was awful, but I stick to my belief that The Fountainhead was a great work of literary art.) Of course, as it happens, Dominque adores Roark’s work, and despises its critics. She attacks his works in print because she does not want his great work to be erected for the jeers of the ignorant masses; does not want Roark to cast pearls before swine, as it were. She tries to destroy him in order, as it were, to save him.

    I was also going to comment on your interesting use of names of characters. They struck me as a little over the top but strangely compelling. Now I understand why.

    Something about Drax’s monologues made me think of a line from literature that I am maddeningly unable to pin down, and anyway, it is probably just a paraphrase. The line is something to the effect: “Everyone pays, even for things they didn’t do.”

    If you’re interested in a proposed edit, I can do it, and PM it to you. You can take it for what it’s worth; nothing I or anyone else says, of course, is holy writ. You must always follow your own path.
     

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