AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was intended to be a Halloween piece, but I got severely held up in finishing it. Be warned, this post contains a few scary pictures from shock sites, so if you are sensitive to that kind of thing, please proceed with caution.
Greetings. It's that time of the year again. That time of the year when we put on the scary movies, dress up in costumes, hand out candies, carve up pumpkins, and tell old folktales in honor of All Hallow's Eve. For as long as I have been a member of ScrewAttack, I have made it a tradition to post something horror-related at this time of the year. I've talked about literature, horror games, and even shared some of my own fiction. It's a tradition that I enjoy, and hopefully my past and present readers have been able to as well.
Two years ago, I celebrated the season by talking about one of the internet's scariest babies: Creepy Pasta. That particular blog was (and remains) one my most well received blogs since V4 of ScrewAttack. Creepy Pastas are those gritty, spooky stories that pop up around the internet. Stories like Slender Man, Ben Drowned, Squidward's Suicide, and Zalgo. They are the internet's answer to the folktales or yore, and I have come to enjoy them every bit as much.
What I love about Creepy Pastas is their guerilla nature. They are so informal; they are not published novels, they are simple tales free from the pomp and circumstance of mass media, which in turn creates a layer of mystique that can really make you wonder. The fact that this new lore is often presented in such a down-to-earth fashion means that well written and presented ones can actually blur the line between reality and fiction. They make you want to believe. That is an incredible effect that very few other mediums have managed to replicate. Some of the writings that have come out of this budding genre are nothing short of genius.
I'm really quite enamored by it all. I frequently find myself passing the time by heading over to the creepy pasta and wiki and taking in a good ghost story. I've read most of the famous ones and have amassed quite a love for a few of my personal favorites. In all this time, though, there is one particular Creepy Pasta that keeps popping up everywhere. Jeff the Killer, a.k.a. Go to Sleep, is one of the most well known and well loved Pastas out there. The pasta and its main character have a massive fan following, making Jeff possibly the second-most-popular character in all of Pasta-dom (the first being, of course, Slender Man.)
Despite its massive popularity, I have never really taken the time to acknowledge or comment on Jeff the Killer. There is actually a very good reason for that:
Because it sucks.
The exact history of the pasta is a little skewed; no details are set in stone. After doing some research, I've put together what I think is the most basic history of the pasta. It all started with that face. Around 2008, the infamous Go To Sleep/Jeff the Killer face started popping up around the internet. Screamer pranks, shock sites, scary image pages, the works. It spread around due to its creepy composition and ability to startle unsuspecting viewers. Indeed, if you're not used to it, it can be pretty nerve racking. Despite looking like somebody pulled an Ecce Homo job on Ronald McDonald, it falls in the middle of the uncanny valley. There is something inherently not right about it, and it does a fine job of wrenching your guts the first time you lay eyes on it.
In my research, the most commonly accepted explanation is that started as the face of a young woman. She posted a selfie on 4chan, where she was then viciously cyberbullied to the point of suicide. If that is true (and I hope it isn't) then that is absolutely horrible. Bullying is awful, and for it to get that bad is deplorable. My heart goes out her and her family. When you interact with somebody, online or otherwise, please keep in mind that they are people with thoughts and feelings and lives. They don't deserve to be treated that way. On the flip side, if you or somebody you know are a victim of bullying or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please seek help. This website has good information and helpful links, including a link to the national suicide hotline.
Anyway, the infamous face is supposedly an ill-conceived Photoshop of that poor lady's selfie. It went viral online because, let's face it, as mean-spirited as the whole episode is, that picture is pretty freaky. Soon after making its rounds, a few independent pastas based on the image started popping up. Being little more than glorified fanfiction, most of these went largely unnoticed. There is one, however, that the masses took notice of. A short story about a young teenager whose trouble with local bullies drove him insane.
It was very well received and is now considered to be a classic creepy pasta. It gets lumped along with Candle Cove and Squidward's Suicide as one of the best out there. It is now considered canon, as the "official" origin story of the guy from the picture. It is now linked with the image in most of the internet's collective conscious. It has a huge fan following, inspiring fanart and more stories. It is as definitive to the Jeff the Killer mythos as Marble Hornets is to Slender Man.
However, just because something is popular does not mean it is good. To put it bluntly, the story is terrible. Not in the same sense the picture is, which is effective but born from a real life horror. The story that has become so famous is a prime example of bad writing. It is filled to the brim with mechanical errors. The characters are either horribly wooden or straight-up Mary Sues. It's filled with cliches, everyone acts completely unrealistically, and it has no semblance of the realism and fear-of-the-unknown that actually make creepy pastas so potent. The entire thing has a flavor that ironically reflects its very content: it reads like teenage emo kid venting his frustration with his parents and the other kids in his seventh grade class.
It is an awful mess of a story. This isn't a controversial topic, either: even the things it gets right are amateurish at best. That is what perplexes me about its popularity. With the internet's known cynicism, most stories written like this would either fall into obscurity or reach so-bad-its-good territory in the same vein as My Immortal or Sonichu. Jeff's fans are completely sincere. Creepy pasta readers have actually turned this thing into a modern classic despite its dreadfulness. If Slender Man and The Rake are the internet's Frankenstein and Dracula, Jeff the Killer is its Twilight.
Speaking of Twilight, a couple years ago I found a tumblr blog called Reasoning with Vampires. It is no longer updated but the basic gist is that the author takes scans of text from the Twilight books and juxtaposes them with snarky commentary. It is a brilliant concept and leads to both comedy gold and some deep insight into good writing. I works quite well, so instead of blindly ranting for the rest of this blog, I'm going to celebrate Halloween by doing a full commentary on Jeff the Killer.
Below is the full text of the infamous creepy pasta interspersed with my own thoughts. What you will find is the original story in normal typeface. My thoughts, in bold, are placed between paragraphs. I might also throw in some underlining during the main text to draw attention to things. The intention here is to illustrate exactly why I don't like this story, and hopefully entertain along the way.
One more thing before we get started. Just to keep this fun, I've made up a little drinking game to play as we read along. I'm kind of a teetotaler, so grab yourself some water or soda pop and see how far you can get without peeing your pants. Now, take a drink whenever...
-You spot a spelling or grammar mistake
-Jeff or Liu does something unrealistically badass and/or courageous
-One of the child characters uses unrealistically articulate diction
-An adult says something not articulate enough
-The narration changes tense at complete random
-The bullies say/do/attempt something so vicious it would put street gangs to shame
-An adult does absolutely nothing to help the above situation
-The narrator describes something in a ridiculously conversational tone
Okay, ready? Now, come with me as we dive into the dark realm of Jeff the Killer...
Excerpt from a local Newspaper:
OMINOUS UNKNOWN KILLER IS STILL AT LARGE.
After weeks of unexplained murders, the ominous unknown killer is still on the rise. After little evidence has been found, a young boy states that he survived one of the killer’s attacks and bravely tells his story.
“I had a bad dream and I woke up in the middle of the night,” says the boy, “I saw that for some reason the window was open, even though I remember it being closed before I went to bed. I got up and shut it once more. Afterwards, I simply crawled under my covers and tried to get back to sleep. That’s when I had a strange feeling, like someone was watching me. I looked up, and nearly jumped out of my bed. There, in the little ray of light, illuminating from between my curtains, were a pair of two eyes. These weren’t regular eyes; they were dark, ominous eyes. They were bordered in black and… just plain out terrified me. That’s when I saw his mouth. A long, horrendous smile that made every hair on my body stand up. The figure stood there, watching me. Finally, after what seemed like forever, he said it. A simple phrase, but said in a way only a mad man could speak.
“He said, ‘Go To Sleep.’ I let out a scream, that’s what sent him at me. He pulled up a knife; aiming at my heart. He jumped on top of my bed. I fought him back; I kicked, I punched, I rolled around, trying to knock him off me. That’s when my dad busted in. The man threw the knife, it went into my dad’s shoulder. The man probably would’ve finished him off, if one of the neighbors hadn’t alerted the police.
“They drove into the parking lot, and ran towards the door. The man turned and ran down the hallway. I heard a smash, like glass breaking. As I came out of my room, I saw the window that was pointing towards the back of my house was broken. I looked out it to see him vanish into the distance. I can tell you one thing, I will never forget that face. Those cold, evil eyes, and that psychotic smile. They will never leave my head.”
Police are still on the look for this man. If you see anyone that fits the description in this story, please contact your local police department.
Here we have the first indications of suckage. It isn't that bad, but it's far from good. The first thing you might notice is how poorly the writing is executed for being a newspaper article. I'll give the author credit in that introducing the story with a flash-forward prolog of this type is a decent way to go about it. Everything about the newspaper article, though, is completely wrong.
For starters, a real news article would stick mostly to the facts. The embellishments and long, drawn out details are way out of place. The story leads us to believe that this is in the middle of an ongoing string of murders, so the newspaper might run an op-ed piece down the line, at which point this kind of writing might be better suited (though still not of this caliber.) This particular article is presented as straight news, so its style is way out of place. It also doesn't follow the inverted pyramid, which is when a journalist places all of the most important information right at the beginning and fills in the gaps as she goes on. If you look at pretty much any news article (again, not op-eds or features) you will find that the entire story is summed up in the first one-to-three sentences. The most basic details, all of the essential information that you need to now, is right there at the beginning. A real newspaper article for this event would probably look something more like this:
MAN INJURED IN STRUGGLE WITH INTRUDER
A Whereverville man was hospitalized last night with stab wounds after being attacked by a home intruder.
Police say John Doe, 34, was awoken shortly after midnight by the sound of screaming from his son's bedroom. Doe investigated to discover a man in the house threatening the son with a knife. Doe attempted to subdue the intruder, and was stabbed in the shoulder during the ensuing struggle.
Police say the attacker jumped out a window and ran when they arrived on the scene after a neighbor called 911. They were unable to locate the intruder and an investigation is still ongoing.
This incident is the third such case in recent weeks. Police say blah blah blah, so on and so forth. You get the idea.
I can understand why somebody who is not familiar with formal newswriting would not stick to proper form. What I can not forgive is the child's description of the event. It is far too detailed and artistic. This is supposed to be child recounting a bad experience. What we get instead is first-person narrative. His story is written exactly the way a narrator in book would speak, full of imagery and metaphors and even has some poetic language. There is no way that anybody would speak like that in dialog (which is what that is, being a newspaper article), but especially not a terrified little kid who just survived a homicide.
By the way, this is the point where the story shifts from the article to the main story with Jeff. In the original text (without my commentary) there is nothing to distinguish this transition within the formatting. No heading, no line break, no picture, just BAM! New scene. You probably won't notice it since I have essentially created that divide here with my own writing, but when you are just reading it, it's a very abrupt change that really takes you out of the story.
Jeff and his family had just moved into a new neighborhood. His dad had gotten a promotion at work, and they thought it would be best to live in one of those “fancy” neighborhoods. Jeff and his brother Liu couldn’t complain though. A new, better house. What was not to love? As they were getting unpacked, one of their neighbors came by.
“Hello,” she said, “I’m Barbara; I live across the street from you. Well, I just wanted to introduce my self and to introduce my son.” She turns around and calls her son over. “Billy, these are our new neighbors.” Billy said hi and ran back to play in his yard.
Yes, you read that right. The middle sentence in the above paragraph is suddenly in the present tense for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Get used to that, because it's about to happen a lot. Other than that, these paragraphs are rushed, as though the author wants to show the scene but doesn't want to spend too much time on it.
“Well,” said Jeff’s mom, “I’m Margaret, and this is my husband Peter, and my two sons, Jeff and Liu.” They each introduced themselves, and then Barbara invited them to her son’s birthday. Jeff and his brother were about to object, when their mother said that they would love to. When Jeff and his family are done packing, Jeff went up to his mom.
One of these things is not like the other: Jeff, Margaret, Peter, and Liu. As in Liu Kang. This all-American white suburbanite family gave their child a Chinese name. I could accept that if the parents were developed to be cultured, but Maggy and Pete here both have the personality of a door. I don't think this is actually the author's fault; according to Know Your Meme, the "Liu" character comes from a different "origin story" from YouTube video. It is likely that this author just lifted it from there.
“Mom, why would you invite us to some kid’s party? If you haven’t noticed, I’m not some dumb kid.”
I actually like this line. It is a good show of Jeff's personality. Of course, there is the problem that a.) It was the neighbor who did the inviting, not the mom and b.) Jeff is a dumb kid. Still, it shows us that Jeff can be selfish and stuck-up. Which I'm not sure the author was going for -- judging by the tone of the story, I think we might be supposed to take it at face value and agree with Jeff.
“Jeff,” said his mother, “We just moved here; we should show that we want to spend time with our neighbors. Now, we’re going to that party, and that’s final.” Jeff started to talk, but stopped himself, knowing that he couldn’t do anything. Whenever his mom said something, it was final. He walked up to his room and plopped down on his bed. He sat there looking at his ceiling when suddenly, he got a weird feeling. Not so much a pain, but… a weird feeling. He dismissed it as just some random feeling. He heard his mother call him down to get his stuff, and he walked down to get it.
Yup, that's definitely what she said all right. It's also what a million other mother's might say when their author's only write in cliches.
This paragraph has a ton of a flaws that I could analyze all day, but I'm going to focus on one big one right now. Every once in a while, the author will dumb down the narration. He will describe something very conversationally when it doesn't really fit that tone. Notice the sentence I underlined. Even ignoring the incorrect use of the ellipsis, that description is extremely awkward. The only time that wording would work is when I person was trying to describe something to another person, not a third-person narrator with a reasonably distant voice describing a major event. It's almost like the author didn't know how to describe something, so he shifted tone for only one single sentence in order to make it spooky.
That is not only awkward to read, it's also cheating.
The next day, Jeff walked down stairs to get breakfast and got ready for school. As he sat there, eating his breakfast, he once again got that feeling. This time it was stronger. It gave him a slight tugging pain, but he once again dismissed it. As he and Liu finished breakfast, they walked down to the bus stop. They sat there waiting for the bus, and then, all of a sudden, some kid on a skateboard jumped over them, only inches above their laps. They both jumped back in surprise. “Hey, what the hell?”
The kid landed and turned back to them. He kicked his skate board up and caught it with his hands. The kid seems to be about twelve; one year younger than Jeff. He wears a Aeropostale shirt and ripped blue jeans.
He's younger than Jeff, because little kids are stupid. Jeff is much smarter and cooler because he is older. Also, this kid shops at Aeropostale, which is where all stupid shallow preppy popular kids go. Not like us cool kids, we only shop at Hot Topic.
“Well, well, well. It looks like we got some new meat.” Suddenly, two other kids appeared. One was super skinny and the other was huge. “Well, since you’re new here, I’d like to introduce ourselves, over there is Keith.” Jeff and Liu looked over to the skinny kid. He had a dopey face that you would expect a sidekick to have. “And he’s Troy.” They looked over at the fat kid. Talk about a tub of lard. This kid looked like he hadn’t exercised since he was crawling.
Ah yes, our antagonists. What? You didn't think the villain in the horror story would be the serial killer, did you? That's just silly!
A lot of things in this universe happen very suddenly, don't they? That's a word that's been tossed around a lot so far, but right there are some of the worst examples. How the fuck do two human beings just suddenly appear? Either Jeff possesses the observational skills of Helen Keller, or everything in this universe can teleport.
Notice how we've known these characters for one paragraph so far and they are already the most stereotypical sidekicks you can imagine?
“And I,” said the first kid, “am Randy. Now, for all the kids in this neighborhood there is a small price for bus fare, if you catch my drift.” Liu stood up, ready to punch the lights out of the kid’s eyes when one of his friends pulled a knife on him. “Tsk, tsk, tsk, I had hoped you would be more cooperative, but it seems we must do this the hard way.” The kid walked up to Liu and took his wallet out of his pocket. Jeff got that feeling again. Now, it was truly strong; a burning sensation. He stood up, but Liu gestured him to sit down. Jeff ignored him and walked up to the kid.
I love the beginning of this paragraph. The author begins the introduction, breaks the quotation for a speaker attribution, then finishes the sentence. This has the effect of making the reader drag out the beginning of the sentence in their head. When I read this, I picture Randy introducing himself like a movie villain:
"And IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII! Am RRRRAAAAANDYYYYYYY!"
Not only that, but the rest of Randy's dialog is so over the top and cliche that I can't help but hear that same tone of voice in every word he says. In my mind, Randy now has the voice of Lord Zedd.
That is not the only bad writing here, either. There is way too much going on. Consider what just happened:
-The leader introduces himself
-He threatens the brothers to give them money
-Liu gets angry
-One of the other kids pulls out a knife
-The other kid steals Liu's wallet
-Jeff gets that weird feeling again, and it's stronger this time
-Liu tries to get Jeff to calm down
-Jeff ignored him and walked up to the kid
There are at least eight major action beats in the course of five line paragraph. They are thrown at us so rapidly that none of them have time to register, so that when we are done reading the paragraph, we have no idea what just happened.
Also, don't even get me started on the fact that the bullies are carrying around weapons and robbing people at knife point. There will be plenty of time for that later. For now, I'm imagining their knives are just boy scout-issue pocket knives with tweezers and nail files and stuff, and that the kids are just picturing it like that episode of South Park with the ninja weapons.
“Listen here you little punk, give back my bro’s wallet or else.” Randy put the wallet in his pocket and pulled out his own knife.
“Oh? And what will you do?” Just as he finished the sentence, Jeff popped the kid in the nose. As Randy reached for his face, Jeff grabbed the kid’s wrist and broke it. Randy screamed and Jeff grabbed the knife from his hand. Troy and Keith rushed Jeff, but Jeff was too quick. He threw Randy to the ground. Keith lashed out at him, but Jeff ducked and stabbed him in the arm. Keith dropped his knife and fell to the ground screaming. Troy rushd him too, but Jeff didn’t even need the knife. He just punched Troy straight in the stomach and Troy went down. As he fell, he puked all over. Liu could do nothing but look in amazement at Jeff.
Oh by the way, Jeff is also Bruce Lee. Here we see him disarm three attackers at once, including the humorously understated breaking of limbs. And in case you didn't catch how impressive that is, the story has to draw attention to it. "Troy rushed--" er, no, I'm sorry, "rushd"-- "Troy rushd hiim too, but Jeff didn't even need the knife, because he's so badass ain't no mufuckas gon' put him down! He was all like hiiiiyaaa bitch! Yeah!" When Jeff does a pull-up, he's not pulling himself up, he's moving the wall down.
“Jeff how’d you?” that was all he said. They saw the bus coming and knew they’d be blamed for the whole thing. So they started running as fast as they could. As they ran, they looked back and saw the bus driver rushing over to Randy and the others. As Jeff and Liu made it to school, they didn’t dare tell what happened. All they did was sit and listen. Liu just thought of that as his brother beating up a few kids, but Jeff knew it was more. It was something, scary. As he got that feeling he felt how powerful it was, the urge to just, hurt someone. He didn’t like how it sounded, but he couldn’t help feeling happy. He felt that strange feeling go away, and stay away for the entire day of school. Even as he walked home due to the whole thing near the bus stop, and how now he probably wouldn’t be taking the bus anymore, he felt happy. When he got home his parents asked him how his day was, and he said, in a somewhat ominous voice, “It was a wonderful day.” Next morning, he heard a knock at his front door. He walked down to find two police officers at the door, his mother looking back at him with an angry look.
So Jeff beats up the bullies and takes off. The first time I read this, I thought it was pretty stupid that they wouldn't go to the police or at least tell their parents. I mean, you would think that they would want to get some help after being assaulted at knife point, and I'm pretty sure that is grounds for self-defense. At the same time, they were probably emotional and not thinking clearly, and it would look suspicious that they ran off and left a pile of bloody kids. So it's understandable. What is not understandable is what happens next.
There's that feeling again, bringing bad writing with it. The phrasing is clumsy, and there is once again way too much stuff crammed into a single paragraph. It's all capped off by Jeff's interaction with his parents the next day. Notice how subtly the author hints at Jeff's state of mind?
“Jeff, these officers tell me that you attacked three kids. That it wasn’t regular fighting, and that they were stabbed. Stabbed, son!” Jeff’s gaze fell to the floor, showing his mother that it was true.
“Mom, they were the ones who pulled the knives on me and Liu.”
Wait, what? So Jeff and Liu did tell their parents? But the parents did nothing. They did not call the police, they did not get a lawyer, nothing? Until the next day when the cops show up, at which point Margaret reacts like the neighbor just told them her kids broke a window or something.
“Son,” said one of the cops,” We found three kids, two stabbed, one having a bruise on his stomach, and we have witnesses proving that you fled the scene. Now, what does that tell us?” Jeff knew it was no use. He could say him and Liu had been attacked, but then there was no proof it was not them who attacked first. They couldn’t say that they weren’t fleeing, because truth be told they were. So Jeff couldn’t defend himself or Liu.
“Son, call down your brother.” Jeff couldn’t do it, since it was him who beat up all the kids.
“Sir, it…it was me. I was the one who beat up the kids. Liu tried to hold me back, but he couldn’t stop me.” The cop looked at his partner and they both nod.
“Well kid, looks like a year in Juvy…”
“Wait!” says Liu. They all looked up to see him holding a knife. The officers pulled their guns and locked them on Liu.
“It was me, I beat up those little punks. Have the marks to prove it.” He lifted up his sleeves to reveal cuts and bruises, as if he was in a struggle.
“Son, just put the knife down,” said the officer. Liu held up the knife and dropped it to the ground. He put his hands up and walked over to the cops.
“No Liu, it was me! I did it!” Jeff had tears running down his face.
“Huh, poor bro. Trying to take the blame for what I did. Well, take me away.” The police led Liu out to the patrol car.
“Liu, tell them it was me! Tell them! I was the one who beat up those kids!” Jeff’s mother put her hands on his shoulders.
If the poor writing, one dimensional characters, wooden dialog, third grade mechanics, and ridiculous plot twists weren't enough to convince you of this pasta's awfulness, we get this scene. Ladies and gentlemen, we are slurpin' turds now. I didn't comment through this whole because I wanted you to get the full experience. There is so much suck in the above paragraphs that I could write an entire separate blog post on this scene alone.
This author has no clue how the justice system works.
In this situation, the police would show up and maybe even take somebody down to the station for questioning. Liu would be given a lawyer and probably let out on bail. There would be an investigation that would span weeks or even months, social services would get involved at some point, and it would all lead up to a trial or hearing when a judge, not the police, would decide if and how long he would go to juvenile hall. In this case, Liu would probably not be convicted anyway, since everything that happened was in self defense during an armed robbery.
Furthermore, it isn't like there wouldn't be people to testify. The bullies are known trouble makers. They even said it themselves: "Now, for all the kids in this neighborhood there is a small price for bus fare, if you catch my drift." These kids' activities should be common knowledge in the community. Which actually begs the question of how they were ever able to go after Jeff and Liu to begin with. If these pint-sized extortionists were really as active and violent as we are led to believe, why have the police not done anything about it? Are you trying to tell me that these kids rob people at knife point on a regular basis and nobody in the entire community has done a single fucking thing to stop it?
I'm assuming the story takes place in the United States. I don't know the inner workings of the justice systems of other modern western nations, but I assume there is generally more to them than "the cops show up and take you straight to prison without trial based entirely on hearsay."
So the cops show up looking for Jeff, but Liu steps in and takes the blame. Jeff insists it was him, but Liu picks up a knife. Now keep in mind, the text doesn't say he did anything with the knife. It doesn't say he threatened anybody or used it in any way to inflict or imply harm. He is just holding it. Well, I guess the cops really don't like knives because they draw their guns on him.
Yes. The police draw their fucking guns on a ten year old kid who is doing nothing but holding a kitchen knife. I am not making this up. You read the text, didn't you? That really happened. The author actually wrote that happening in the story.
Liu isn't even very insistent about the crime. He's just like, "yup, it was me, see here's a knife." Meanwhile, Jeff is begging and pleading and putting every ounce of his being in the confession and all of the adults are just brushing it off. Liu's knife has such an intimidating presence that it trumps every other aspect of this interaction. It's a good thing he wasn't slicing bread or something when the police arrived. They probably would have taken straight to the electric chair.
Everything about this is so absurd that I barely even noticed all the other flaws here. The blatant grammatical errors, the poor sentence structure, the constant switching between past and present tense, the dialog that makes me want to puke. Yes, the constant bombardment of horrible writing has reached a point where I'm actually having trouble properly analyzing it, and I'm resorting to toilet metaphors to get my point across.
“Jeff please, you don’t have to lie. We know it’s Liu, you can stop.” Jeff watched helplessly as the cop car speeds off with Liu inside. A few minutes later Jeff’s dad pulled into the driveway, seeing Jeff’s face and knowing something was wrong.
“Son, son what is it?” Jeff couldn’t answer. His vocal cords were strained from crying. Instead, Jeff’s mother walked his father inside to break the bad news to him as Jeff wept in the driveway. After an hour or so Jeff walked back in to the house, seeing that his parents were both shocked, sad, and disappointed. He couldn’t look at them. He couldn’t see how they thought of Liu when it was his fault. He just went to sleep, trying to get the whole thing off his mind. Two days went by, with no word from Liu at JDC. No friends to hang out with. Nothing but sadness and guilt. That is until Saturday, when Jeff is woke up by his mother, with a happy, sunshiny face.
Jeff's parents are idiots. Of course, I can't blame them. The writer clearly doesn't understand how people think. Look at how casually Jeff's parents react. Are they outraged? Getting an attorney, bursting in the police station, calling the local news and throwing a fit? No. Heck, Jeff's mom apparently didn't even think this incident was important enough to warrant calling the father at work. Instead, she waits for him to get home and then "breaks the news" to him. This is how I picture that conversation going down:
"Hi, hunny, I'm home. Did anything interesting happen today?"
"Well, our son was arrested at gunpoint for attempted murder and was immediately jailed without trial, but that's about it."
"Gee, that's unfortunate. So what's for dinner?"
Okay, so the text does say they were "shocked, sad, and disappointed." The problem is that it isn't shown to us in their demeanor, it is told to us after the fact. This is another problem with story, the concept of show vs tell. What that means is that most of a story, but especially the most important parts, should be written so that the reader experiences it in real time, like we are there. On a more specific scale, the author should describe the things happening so that the readers can observe it and draw conclusions for themselves instead being blatantly told what the characters (or even the readers themselves) are supposed to be thinking.
On the other end of the spectrum, some things should be glossed over. Maybe some long-past exposition, or the actions of a minor character, a really slow event, or one that moves the story along but the minute details aren't especially exciting or important.
This story just jumps all over the place. On top of that, the only character who is given enough attention to "show" anything is Jeff himself. The story is written in a third-person-limited POV, but even first-person POV stories at least describe other characters. Anything that any other character does that doesn't directly involved Jeff is some way is glossed over. Jeff is such a Mary Sue that the narration itself doesn't care about anything besides him.
Well, I think that's about enough for now. Check out Part 2 for the exciting conclusion!