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Author Topic: "Permit to Murder" by KE

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This thread for the discussion and critique of "Permit to Murder" a short story by KE.

[ June 19, 2005, 11:02 PM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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Shane Roe
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Hi JL,

You have a great story going here, and the part where Sarya gets chased then attacked is absolutely riveting. I’m going to critique this just like I do for members of my regular online critique group (museitupclub.com), which means pretty thoroughly. I don’t think I’m going to have time to do this for all pieces, but right now I have a little time. Remember anything I say is my opinion and should be taken as such and not as gospel.


Plot: It seems that in the earth’s future, we’ve been invaded by aliens who trade technological secrets for the ability to hunt humans. Even the police don’t care too much about this arrangement, since those hunted are low-life criminals and drug addicts, but when the daughter of a cop gets killed, he takes it personally, vowing to himself to make the alien pay. In this segment, he tracks down the address of the alien, then cruises by to figure out how he’s going to kill the being that killed his daughter for sport.

POV: The story begins in first person, then changes to third person. Consider rewriting it all in first person. This will add more immediacy–and the monologue within Dozier’s head adds a lot of emotion to the piece.

Characters: Fairly strongly written. I think in subsequent drafts you can flesh them out a bit more.

Setting: Old New York. Could use a few more details here, woven into the fabric of the story itself.

Overall: I think the plot is very strong and you only need a little improvement to have a great story here. It’s a great premise–one I wish I’d have thought of. One thing I will caution you on: you have a tendency to mix tenses–for example, using “was” where you should use “is” and “had” where you should use “have”. I’ll point some of this and other things out to you within the body of the text surrounded by @@@

"Permit to Murder"


JL Myers IV

Words: 1,820

Six days out of rehab and there was my daughter, Sarya, standing in a dirty alley bellow @@@below@@@
the Smog-Line in Old New York seeking Heat with three other pleasure poppers.@@@Consider changing this so that it doesn’t begin with “six days out of rehab”. I thought at first reading that the person thinking this thought was the one who was just out of rehab. Perhaps reword it so that it says something like “ There she was, six days our of rehab. My skin crawled as I watched her in the dirty alley seeking Heat with three more pleasure poppers”. I think you can bring in Old New York a little later–don’t try to add too many details in one sentence.@@@

Watching her from my police cruiser, so far away that I had to use the zoom to surveil her and her three low-life friends, it was hard to believe that just three years ago she was one of the top orthopedic surgeons in the world. The Xians, with there @@@their@@@ growth tanks and nanotechnology, had rendered her profession, as they had so many others, utterly superfluous. When I think of all the extra-jobs and overtime I put-in to send my precious little girl through Med-school it makes me sick.

I swallowed an anti-nausea pill.

Not that I blame Sarya. The world has changed so much since the Xians arrived that it is barely distinguishable as the same place as Before Arrival in 2050 C.E.

The Xians have not only rendered Sarya's profession unnecessary, but they had virtually wiped out employment on a global scale. Of course, their supporters would point out that they'd also virtually wiped out hunger and poverty, too.

It is a fact that people have more food, housing, and free-time than every before in the history of man, but that was the problem. People have so much free time they don't know what to do with it all. In fact, in the opinion of many people smarter than I, the Xians had made human existence virtually meaningless. Not surprisingly, in the face of a meaningless existence, many, many people turned to mind altering drugs to combat the boredom and hopelessness. And even that wasn't as bad for people as it had been BA! The damn Xians had introduced drugs like "Heat" and "Bliss" that were as effective as Speed and Heroin with no physical side-effects. Yeah, no physical side-effects but they were turning my little girl into an entirely different person, leaving her in a drug induced haze that no amount of love could break through.

I'm not sure who I blame more, the aliens for coming here, or the goddamn government for selling us out to them? @@@Should be a period, not a question mark@@@

****'em both. Fortunately for me congress hasn't gotten off its lazy ass long enough to make the new drugs legal, so buying them from anyone but a doctor with a prescription was

@@@The “was” in the prior sentence should be changed to is. This is why: in the sentence before, you’re talking about congress who “hasn’t gotten...”. Has not–present tense–“was” past tense. Match up these tense issues and you’ll dramatically improve this piece@@@

still a crime. And selling them was @@@is@@@

still a felony. And after tonight their @@@there@@@

will be one Heat dealer that will be very sorry he ever sold to my daughter. I figure maybe if I make it hard enough on her to get the drugs she'll get straight long enough to see she is wasting her life.

I couldn't put my finger on it but suddenly the group started moving around strangely.
@@@Consider changing this. Maybe change it to something like: “Something was wrong. The group looked agitated.” Just a suggestion. You can probably come up with a better line.@@@

Shifting from foot-to-foot and generally looking nervous.@@@If you’re going to keep this sentence, it should be combined with the first one, as it’s a fragment. I’d change it. Maybe drop the “generally looking nervous” part and just use “They shifted from foot to foot.”@@@

Maybe the doctor was finally going to make his house call. I hit the zoom button and focused on Sarya's face. @@@Consider “I zoomed in on Sarya’s face.@@@

Not nervous, she looked scared.

I scanned the immediate area and couldn't see anything out of the ordinary. Given the general lawless state of affairs below the Smog-Line that didn't mean it was safe by a long shot, but I couldn't see anything @@@ Instead of “couldn’t see anything, how about “saw nothing”?@@@

that would account for the obvious distress of the group. All three of Sarya's friends were male and though not warriors by any stretch of the imagination they all looked street tough. So what was scaring them?

Suddenly, as one, @@@I think you could safely delete “as one” with no harm done to the meaning of the sentence.@@@

they bolted down the alley. A blur darker than the night pursued them down the alley. @@@Delete this second reference to “down the alley”. We already know the addicts are going down there, and if the thing is pursuing them, well, it’s implied that it’s going down the alley too. You don’t need to say it again@@@

I accelerated the cruiser and covered the 200 yards in a heartbeat, skidding to a stop at the alley entrance before they were halfway down the alley.

Jumping out of my cruiser, I gave chase. The three guys were out pacing Sarya and swiftly leaving her behind in the dark alley. So much for honor among addicts. Apparently chivalry and hard-drugs don't mix. @@@of the preceding two sentences, I’d drop one of them. Probably the first. Reason? Chivalry implies the “honor” that’s mentioned in the preceding sentence/@@@

Sarya looked back as she ran, our eyes locked, I could see @@@saw instead of “could see”@@@

in her eyes. My hand instinctively went to my waist. No gun. Goddamn government!

I was gaining @@@gained instead of “was gaining”@@@
on them but not as fast as the thing,

whatever it was was closing the distance between it and Sarya. @@@you can probably drop this part of the sentence altogether@@@

I tried to will @@@Consider “willed” instead of “tried to will” my legs to pump faster but I was going flat out. I wasn't going to make it.

"Run, Sarya!"

"Help me, daddy!" she screamed in reply. @@@Consider dropping “in reply”@@@

But I was still forty yards away and it was nearly on her. For a heartbeat it matched its stride to hers as if prolonging the moment, or toying with her. I had a brief flash of hope. If it kept that up for just a little bit longer I could get to her. But in a flash it was on her. @@@Consider dropping the word “flash” from one previous sentences–you’ve used it twice within three sentences.@@@

The two hit the ground in a rolling ball of thrashing limbs.

As they skidded to a halt I saw the Xian cleanly quickly @@@Consider dropping either “cleanly” or “quickly”@@@

snap her neck and sink his teeth into her neck @@@Perhaps replace the second use of “neck” with “it” or “throat”@@@

. I'd alway heard they killed mercifully. I continued to run @@@Instead of “continued to run” just use “ran”.@@@

towards them even though I knew it was too late. Sarya was dead.

"No!" I screamed as I slammed into the Xian as it set @@@sat@@@

atop the dead body of my little girl. It rolled and threw me off it.@@@delete “it@@@

It was on its feet and facing me by the time I rolled to my feet. @@@Consider changing around this sentence: “By the time I rolled to my feet, it was facing me” or something similar. I don’t know if that’s quite it—I like to get rid of as many uses of “was” as possible.@@@

I started back at it, when suddenly @@@delete “suddenly”@@@

every muscle in my body spasmed and screamed in agony. I'd been hit with a stun-tazer before and immediately knew that that was what had hit me.

As I lay paralyzed on the gritty stinking concrete floor of the alley the APA agent that had shot me came running up with his partner.

"Sir," he said. "You are interfering with a lawful kill by a ranking diplomat of the Xian people. The Xian turned, walked over to Sarya and affixed a permit tag to her forehead. Bastard . Without looking back it walked away into the night.@@@Consider dropping “into the night” in this sentence, as you use it again below. I think it works better in the second sentence@@@

The agents exchanged looks. "Apparently the ambassador doesn't want to proffer charges. You're lucky."

He and his partner turned and followed their charge into the night. It was another five full minutes before the effect of the tazer eased off enough for me to crawl over to the broken body of my little girl. I cradled her in my arms just as I'd done when she was a baby. I tore the "permit tag" off her forehead and through @@@threw@@@

it into the refuse of the alley. Talk about adding insult to injury. Not only had the damn thing killed my daughter, but it had done it legally, with the blessing of the US government. As a cop I couldn't do a damn thing. But as a father, I would find a way to make that goddamn alien pay! @@@Get rid of the exclamation point. Exclamation points are almost like telling the reader “I’m not sure if you’re going to get the emphasis on this, so I’m going to include a mark to tell you how serious this is.” With the surrounding action and dialogue, we know how serious he is. You can use a period.@@@

Okay, I ran out of time. I hope this crit was helpful.


Posts: 565 | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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Thanks Shane,

You're absolutely right, I started out in first person and slipped into third person (which I am more comfortable with) and told myself I would go back and change the begining, then forgot. Thanks for reminding me. I very much appreciate your critique and am going to work on the story with it in mind and I'll let you know how it goes. Thanks again.


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pickled shuttlecock
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Sure it's wise to call the evil aliens Christians? What's your audience? Do you care if you alienate a bunch of them?

I'm still trying to figure whether you knew "Xian" is an abbreviation of "Christian" and whether I ought to be offended if you did.

Just a thought. My experience. Remember, the reader can't be wrong in his reactions! [Big Grin]

Posts: 1392 | Registered: Jun 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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No, I didn't. X is just the letter I use for a person, or in this case people, that I haven't decided on a name for. I changed it to Zians in my most updated drafts, but I'm not sure that is going to be their final name. Names are always tough for me.


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pickled shuttlecock
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Okay, just checking. [Smile]

Yeah, names are a pain. I wish I had some advice, but they throw me as well. One thing I do find is that I can't use placeholders except for really trivial stuff. By the time I've used a placeholder for a while, changing it just feels weird, and I lose my handle on the character for a while.

So...actually, I'm a bit envious.

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