Reactions to "A Conversation on a Thursday, with Beer"

Almost two weeks ago now, I threw my latest short story, "A Conversation on a Thursday, with Beer," out into the wild through LitReactor's Arrest Us contest.

The story, set in a local brewery I imagined as my own but could really be any with large windows, concerns two men absently opting to plan a heist, and originally (at the time of posting) ended with the two simply agreeing to get the check. No one harmed, no foul completed, no item stolen.

There were some mixed reviews.

The voices rang true and it sounded very much like a couple guys hanging out. Well written, but was hoping for more action; some cause and effect. I didn't dislike the story, but the litmus test for me is whether I want to know more about these guys or their plans and I don't.


I enjoyed this. The dialogue felt very natural for the most part, and the premise came together very nicely. I really liked the escalating and increasingly outlandish ideas - but I felt like they never quite took off as they had potential to. Maybe because Bennett is a pretty relentless straight man, it sometimes felt like Khai's flights of fancy were dragged back down sooner than they could have been.

The writing was for the most part excellent - like I said, the dialogue really works (as it has to in this format). The one thing that did bug me was the huge variety of synonyms for "said", along with a lot of adverbs surrounding the dialogue. I think most of the speech is strong enough to convey a lot of this on its own, with just a "says", or even no verb at all.

My only other niggle was the barman. While he clearly has his own character and thoughts, I was never quite clear what was going on with him. This was compounded by a few dangling participles around these bits - I was often not quite sure if Khai/Bennett were doing something or the barman. But that should be pretty easy to fix.


I see this story as, mostly, a Marmite one: you either really enjoy it or do not.

I really enjoyed it.

The dialogue is fantastic. It's very realistic and it flows perfectly, so great job on that. The lack of action or any real conflict is what's going to deter some readers, but I see it as a fun story.
In terms of the conversations held, I've had many that are similar, being a comic buff myself. I think I would have liked to have seen them attempt some form of amateur and pathetic attempt of burglary and have it botch up on them, that, I think, would have drawn in the more action-oriented readers. But regardless, I see you wanted this as a piece that focused on dialogue and dialogue alone, and it's great for that. The point of it isn't the crime, but the discussing of it between two friends.

It's a good little piece, and I'd like to see more from you, as dialogue-driven tales are amongst my favourite. I wouldn't mind you messaging me with any others you have.

Good luck with it.

I hadn't planned to adjust this iteration of the story in any way, given the contest was meant to end on July 1. But, when LitReactor decided to extend the deadline another day to allow writers another chance to submit, I figured it wouldn't hurt to tweak a few items (especially as I noticed a single typo that would have driven me mad).

What I didn't do was add any action (what I referred to as "Michael Bay-ness"), as that simply wasn't my point with this particular narrative. However, I did extend the end slightly, bringing the tale to a somewhat different, less ambivalent end. Thinking on it now, I wish I had adjusted the final line slightly, as this reviewer expressed as well:

I really like this - good bar dialog, a "what if" crime rather than an actual one, nicely put together.

Because it's so dialog heavy, you have a tough job setting the scene. The first paragraph is wordy, describing the market, and maybe break it up - maybe Khai knows the market Bennett is talking about. That way, you can get away with a little more of the description - or just slim it down, we don't need to know it's sinking into the mud...

The way you end it, is a better closer IF Bennett had enough money for the comic, but spent it on something else. As it is, he never did have enough, did he? Not when he was a kid.

Also, minor rephrase of the barman's last comment - "if you do it" might work better?

All in all, good fun and a good read.

Still, the adjustments weren't enough for some who, though offering high praise for the writing, again fail to grasp what I was going for:

This was a fantastic read. It felt like I was watching a Tarantino film.

You have a way with dialog that's very natural and the tiny mannerisms of each character that you add here and there make the story very visual. You also did a good job of not adding too much detail, and letting the reader fill in the blanks. For me Bennet was clean cut with black hair, Khai had a 5 o'clock shadow, shaggy hair and chubby, and the bartender was a thin bald dude. I don't know how this imagery materialised in my mind, because I am pretty sure you didnt write that in there. But I guess, its the personalities of these ppl that you fleshed out so well that they became real people to me. Pretty awesome!

Where you lose some points is that the story is anticlimatic. Theres no payoff. So, you overall have a good time reading it, but in the end there is no resolution, hell there isnt even an attempt at one. You get to know these 2 characters like you just met them at a bar and had a drink with them. Unfortunately they stay acquaintances, you dont really get to see what makes them tick, what kind of people they are, what they've lost, and far they are actually willing to go to get why they want (in terms of actions). There was zero conflict. Its all just talk, and talk is cheap.

You need to put your characters in a bad situation - Have the bartender rip them off! have the girl in the red pants pick pocket them! Have the bouncers rough them up and throw them out because they cant pay!

Basically do something with the characters you've worked so hard to build!!

That being said, I really did enjoy your story and it was a pleasure to read. Thumbs up!

You see, the lack of action was exactly what I wanted, because I wanted this to be true to life. It was never meant to be a Michael Bay film or a Quentin Taratino shock fest. I already filled much of that need through Sanity's Flaw and The Nobodies (though I'm certain it's not completely satiated). For this, I wanted to capture those time I simply fantasize with my mates, the quiet moments in which we come up with outlandish excursions we could explore at some distant point in the future we never quite reach.

You know, talking the talk, never walking the walk.

To end with action, to me, would take away from what this truly is: a conversation. In a bar. With beer.

If you haven't read the story already, give it a look and let me know what you think. Am I wrong here? I'd love to know.