Murders Anonymous by Aaron Bass


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Post August 09, 2007, 02:08:31 AM

Murders Anonymous by Aaron Bass

The only problem--not really a problem but rather more of a preference--I had with this otherwise-entertaining read was, if I were writing the ending (and that's just me, of course), I'd opt for an alternative one, sans the bombing, particularly since it involves police officers. Despite the interesting mix of humor and suspense, somehow in post-911 it doesn't seem to work (at least not for me). I also feel the story would be enhanced by introducing some backstory on the main character, to perhaps give some motivation (if there is any, and of course, there are some murderers who don't seem to have any) for his personality. He could be a loser of some sort, or maybe he was abused as a child, etc.

All in all, though, a strong literary effort by a young writer. (And thanks for the line ". . . you can't spell slaughter without laughter." I nearly spilled my coffee over that).
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Post August 11, 2007, 05:24:23 PM

Re: Murders Anonymous by Aaron Bass

I was suspicious of the coffee right away, but the second story I wrote in college concerned a sociopath poisoning a room full of psychologists, so I was over-sensitized to said possibility.

This is a personal thing to gauge, but for my tastes, I think a pacing 'gear change' might have enhanced the story. That is, the pace needs to change at the climax. I see the poison reveal as one of those 'stop-time' moments, where every little thing happens in slow motion. That kind of thing takes, as I see it, one of two techniques. First, you can slow down the story before by using more detail when Derek is meeting everyone, then go at normal speed for the killing, or second, go at normal pace and then hyper-detail the effects of the poison. Both ways accentuate the climax and set it apart.

The POV changes in the story without clear demarcation, and that is not a good thing in my book. Everything follows Derek (third person limited) up until the last couple of paragraphs, where things suddenly go omniscient. When I read, I want to become lost in what's called a Reader's Trance, which is where readers become so glued to your storyline that they tune out the rest of the world. Changes in POV can destroy said trance. The most generally accepted way around that is to break the story with a set of asterisks or something like that. Readers have learned to accept this as an indicator that there's been a change in either POV or time.

I offer advice from a rejection email by Eric Flint, author and editor:
EVERY change in viewpoint needs to be preceded by either a chapter break or a line break. There are occasional exceptions to that rule, but not many -- and if you follow it religiously, you won't go wrong. Furthermore, it's almost always very easy to fix. In most cases, it's quite easy to rewrite an episode or a few paragraphs (one, certainly) to keep it in a coherent viewpoint.


(I'm often criticized for using the opinions of successful authors and editors in support of my arguments, but I figure there's a reason they're at the top of the game and we're not yet. So, I'm willing to take it on faith. You can judge for yourself.)


So, I felt the need for a change of pace and disliked the sudden POV shift. On the plus side, there's a delightful sense of carefree maliciousness that permeates this story, and that may be enough for many readers.

Nate
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Post August 21, 2007, 01:06:53 PM

Re: Murders Anonymous by Aaron Bass

I agree about the clumsy shift in viewpoint - and Nate, I think you're absolutely right to quote successful writers and editors, especially over matters of basic craft.

This piece has a good concept - Murderers Anonymous - but the plot lets the story down. The group have obviously been meeting for some time, yet they slurp down their coffee or climb into their trucks without a care in the world. How did they survive so long?

The premise is clever and original; the story is not. I'd suggest spending more time on this, trying  to create a plot worthy of the original concept.

If you ask the question "what do murderers do when they get together," the obvious answer is "try to kill each other".  What other answers are there?

John
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Post August 22, 2007, 08:33:44 PM

Re: Murders Anonymous by Aaron Bass

Maybe it should have been Murderer's Workshop, where you can go to learn new techniques and keep current on law enforcement impediments. :)

You never know when it that fillet knife will come in handy, or that sewing machine... :-X

Nate
Last edited by kailhofer on August 22, 2007, 08:37:53 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post August 25, 2007, 12:09:28 PM

Re: Murders Anonymous by Aaron Bass

Hey Aaron,

Great story, in my humble opinion. I really liked your casual writing style, and the way in which you bring the reader into it. For the first 75% of the story I was hooked, right up until the time that the poisoning started, and then I think the pace should have changed a bit. I would think that the main character should have had a slight twist also, as it was wrtten initaillly from his first point of view. (First thought off is he could be an undercover cop or something and the SWAT is on it's way, but that is probably a bit too predictable, and would be a variation on a theme.)

Overall, I REALLY REALLY REALLY like this idea. Personally, I think the premise and setting is really good and catchy. I can in my mind's eye see a series of book covers on the shelves in the fantasy bookstore with that as the main title of a series - It sticks. I feel that you could get over a few items by calling them out early on, and setup the story as a basis for going forward. What I mean is, (would a bunch of murders try kill each other? - A: Sure, but assume it happened a few years ago and then they got a workaround, the 'Greg S' character could call it out first thing for new members. Would the new member just drop in? - how he hear about it? Think maybe 'Fight Club', so it would be invitation only.) I feel that this scenario would only happen early on, but then, assuming a character survived, it could take place later, better, and set you up with a good, entertaining fiction vehicle.

Just my two cents. On style, pace, viewpoint etc, I echo the earlier posts and think it would help with the readers enjoyment. Great stuff sir! I truly found this enjoyable and will be keeping an eye out for your work on this in future.

Joe.

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