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sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


Lord Windy posted:

Hey Seb, can you give me a story to crit as well please.

Sure!

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CancerCakes
Jan 10, 2006


and in.

Can I have something by someone who has entered this week?

Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)


Sitting Here posted:

Schneider Heim
To Graduation

Nothing terribly riveting here. A day in the life of a game programmer. Sue hasn't undergone any sort of change (beyond sorting her emails) by the end. And her chit-chat with Karen wouldn't really be convincing as a pivotal, life-changing moment anyway. The dialog between Sue and Karen reads in a way that reminds of a transcript of the English dub of an anime. I don't know how to describe it better than that. It's like 2 degrees removed from how actual college students talk. It borders on cheesy. Like

Karen made a thumbs-up sign. "Hoped I helped, because I need to be going now. Tell everyone I said hi!" "You're the best, Professor Karen." "Don't jinx it!"

is some straight up Magic School Bus feel-goodery.

Also I have no idea who David is or why they talk about him.

You are correct in describing my characters' voices. I never noticed it but when I think about it, I can hear them talking in sugary-sweet, high-pitched voices.

Not surprisingly, anime is the prime medium of fiction I consume, and even though I watch it in Japanese with subtitles, I know that most fansubs don't have a good grasp of the English language. (It lends to weird phrases like "As expected of <character name>"). So yes, I am guilty as charged.

I had a feeling that I wasn't getting that college voice down, but I didn't think it was that bad. My country's educational system is a bit different from the US, I graduated college at the age of 20 (which seems young by Western standards?), in a fairly well-off university and we were mostly pampered kids who were sheltered from the harshness of the world. So I guess my story's tone was a bit too naive or optimistic. And it's been 5 years, so I guess I am out of touch with my subject matter.

Boring details of my life notwithstanding, I'll be taking this to the Farm because it's a problem if my characters start talking like an anime, even when I'm not making a conscious effort. Thanks for the critique, I appreciate it.

Zack_Gochuck
Jan 3, 2007

Stupid Wrestling People


I'm in. Someone can assign something to me or something.

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Ughhhh, I was handed 4,000 words for revision today which means I'm almost certainly not going to have time to finish the thunderbrawl entry, or even the rest of the crits by tomorrow. I'll do my best, but it isn't looking good.

Here's what I've got so far for the critiques:



M. Propagandalf posted:

Early bird for the worm? Or underdeveloped embryo?

In with:

Looking Glass Self and Company
(992 words)

Stephen stares at her the way he does with every other woman: through her reflection. effective opening line, sets tone as well as mood Behind the window of the subway car, periodic lampposts streak the otherwise pitch darkness of the tunnel. this image was confusing to me. Would there be lampposts inside a tunnel? It is a small inconvenience against his safety to gaze without notice. Without offence.

The train approaches the terminal station. Darkness surrenders to lit billboards that mar the reflection. Stephen waits as everyone exits. In general I’m not a fan of personification--ie “darkness surrenders”. You’re putting the emphasis, the action, on a thing that isn’t real. Through the window, his eyes trail the woman he saw but once, and never will would again. this whole sentence is awkwardly phrased and I’m not sure what its significance is. When she disappears up the station stairs, he steps out, crosses the platform, and steps into the train departing the other way. Ok that’s kind of creepy. So he’s just taking the train to follow women around, staring at them in the glass?

The This train is sparsely seated. Stephen glances at the passengers as he walks down the train aisle and sees a woman reading. He studies her, but for too long. She looks up from her book. He averts his eyes, anticipates her worst suspicions against him, and hurries on.

Stephen reaches the last train car. A woman catches his attention. Why? Give me specific details about what it is that makes him notice her. She sits by herself on the side seats, next to the train doors, focused on her tablet. No one is blocking the window across from her. Smiling, Stephen walks past her to take the seat at the far left end of the row, and looks into the window.

He admires her. She remains focused on her tablet, preventing him from appreciating her eyes. Stephen sighs, tapping his fingers over his knees. He blinks once, then in rapid succession when he sees her looking at the window. She’s smiling too.

“Hello.” this needed an attribution. It’s easy enough to figure out who was talking in the next few lines, sure; but if you want to surprise your reader that she’s speaking to him, then it needs to be clear that the first line was said by her.

Stephen stops smiling.

“You realize I can tell you’re staring at me, right?”

Stephen you’re fatiguing my ears by repeating his name so much. Since he’s the only man in focus during this scene, it’s perfectly fine to just say him and he. draws a sharp breath as he spins towards the woman, only to find that she’s still on her tablet. His eyes dart back to the glass as two eyes stare intently back at his. When he realizes it is no longer a reflection, the woman in the window walks over and takes the seat right beside his reflection. Watching the window, Stephen slowly stretches his hand out and sees it pass through her. He feels nothing.

“Please don’t do that.”

Stephen He snaps his whole body back. I don’t feel like ”snaps” is a very convincing verb for this purpose.

“Relax! I don’t bite! Not like you would feel it if I did.” good line

He glances to the other passengers. No one notices what’s happening. This is too sparsely and plainly described. It’d be better to show one or two other people just doing their thing, rather than flatly telling me that no one noticed. The woman in the window waits for a reply, her smile waning in the silence.

“You don’t talk much, do you?”

“What are you?”

“Well that’s rude. But it’s a start.”

“A ghost?”

She sighs. “Sure. Why not. Can we talk about something else?”

“What do you want?”

“I’m curious to know what you’re up to.”





“What do you mean?”

“You know, looking at girls all the time.”

Stephen’s eyes widen.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” put this line with the previous line about his eyes widening.

Oh please. I’ve watched you for a long time now. Don’t tell me you’re just looking at the lights.”

“I look at the lights.”

“Haha. Seriously though, what’s your deal?” This exchange has already gone on too long with no character or relevant information revealed. We already know he doesn’t want to admit to looking at girls. This line in particular is very bland, and has no voice at all.

Stephen says nothing.

“Is it like a voyeurism thing? If it is, it has to be the softest core of voyeurism ever.”

Stephen gets up.

“Hey! Don’t be like that! I’m not trying to make you feel bad.” More bland dialogue.

“Yeah? Well this is humiliating.”

“If it makes you feel better, you have more class than a lot of guys I’ve seen.” How is it remotely possible that she’d see him that way? He’s a terribly creepy guy staring at women on the subway…

“Leave me alone.”

“Hey come back!”

He walks out of view of the window. He looks for a spot where his reflection isn’t picked up by any glass and stands there. A voice comes after him from the walls.

“Just because you don’t see me, doesn’t mean I’m not here.”

He refuses to respond.

“I prefer being able to see the people I am talking to. Would you come back to the window?”

“No.”

“At least until the next station? I’ll leave you alone after that.”

Stephen hesitates.

“Please?”

He plods back. The woman in the window remains seated where she was, looking back at him. Watching himself from the window, Stephen flops back to his seat next to her. He crosses his arms.

“I’m not talking about why I look.”

“That’s fine. I have an idea as to why.” Why not let us in on what that is?

Stephen glares. Stephen hesitates. Stephen glares. Stephen wept. I usually like short sentences but these are bland and vague.

“Do you… talk with anyone?”

“I’m talking with you.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I despise small talk.”

“It doesn’t always need to be small.”

“It doesn’t get further than that. Not for me.”

“So you’ve tried before. Unsuccessfully?”

Stephen looks down at the floor.

“I don’t need to try. I already know.”

“Know what?”

“What’s on their minds when they look at me.”

“And that is?”

“Contempt.”

It’s only half-clear who is talking during this exchange, mostly because they have the exact same voice; which is to say, no voice at all.

When Stephen looks back to the window, he no longer sees her looking at him, but beside her, at his reflection.

“Why do you think that?”

Stephen flashes the empty air beside him with an excruciating grimace. I’m at a loss as to what an excruciating grimace is meant to look like. When he turns back to the window, the woman is neither look at him, or his reflection.

The train dings and announces the next station.

“We’re done here.”

“I know I said until the next station, but can we still keep talking?”

“To satisfy your curiosity?”

“No. I just want to—”

“You’ve pried enough. Think whatever the hell you want of me, but at least I’m not hurting anyone.”

“You are hurting.”

“I DON’T CARE. DON’T EVER loving TALK TO ME AGAIN.” You really could have just used an exclamation mark here. No reason to go with ALL CAPS.

Stephen becomes aware that he’s standing with his finger quivering at the window. He looks around the train. All eyes are on him.

“Oh God. I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to frighten anyone. Please… please don’t call security.”

“Are you okay?”

Stephen turns to the voice. The woman with the tablet looks at him with concern. He glances at the window and sees what he thinks is her reflection.

“No. I mean yes! Yes, I’m fine.”

“Did something happen?”

“It was nothing. Just a bad daydream. I didn’t mean to cause trouble. I’m getting off here anyway.”

The train door opens. Stephen walks out, feeling everyone looking at him.

He flees from their eyes. From their judgment.


Overall I found the premise/idea engaging, but the execution flat and dull. I never got a sense for either characters’ motivations beyond creepy guy and nutty ghost-girl. The dialogue was flat and displayed no character other than exactly what you’d expect to see; there were no surprises, no reveals, nothing to engage my interest or make me think.

I’m honestly not sure of the meaning here. That it sucks to be a creepy guy who stares at girls on the subway? I’m sure it does suck, but that by itself in no way compelled me to sympathy for Stephen. A creepy staring guy is a common trope and you didn’t play with it at all in any ways that would bring new meaning to the table.

_____________________________________________



Dida Redo posted:

Portraits (525 words)

"I have to draw your face or I'll forget it,” said Geoff, for the fourth time. Tom wondered if he realised he was doing it. Hmm. I didn’t like this opening the first time I read the story. But upon re-reading, this line becomes a little more effectively strange.

He glanced at the clock. Twenty minutes. It felt longer. The stool was uncushioned. Icy prickles crawled up his cheeks.

"I have to draw your face. I'll forget it if I don't."

"I know."

The pencil froze.

"Don't talk," said Geoff. "Don't move your face. Stop smiling. You're not smiling in the picture."

Tom pushed his grin down. How did Geoff know he was smiling anyway? He’d positioned the drawing board directly between them. He couldn’t have seen him without leaning over.

Half an hour later, the ache in Tom’s back grew too much, and he winced. Geoff, saying nothing, stood up.

Tom slid forward, waiting to be shown, but Geoff was busy putting his pencils away, one by one, softest to hardest. Effectively creepy. He sounds like some kind of OCD maniac. So he looked for himself.

A charcoal mirror lay on the board.

"Hey, that's really good."

Geoff interposed i feel like the odd word choice here removes the intensity of him trying to hide what he’s drawn. himself, unclipping the page and holding it to his chest.

"Really good,” said Tom, craning his neck. “You could make a living off this."

"I only do faces."

Tom shrugged. "Those street guys only do faces. They still make money. I’d get a more comfortable seat, though."

"I don't mind the stool."

"For your clients, I mean."


Geoff did not slam the door when Tom left, because Geoff was in control of himself. Another well-voiced line that creeps me the gently caress out.

Stupid man, barging in every week in that same sweaty, short-sleeve shirt with his book and his platitudes, thinking he can help. Can’t turn him away, though. She wouldn’t want that. Nor would He. Who is “He” and why is his name capitalized? I’m more freaked out by the minute!

He took Tom to his bedroom and locked himself in. It’s really interesting that you refer to the drawing as Tom. Interesting, and loving weird. As the door closed, the wallpaper of sketches fluttered in the draught. Awesome, vivid detail. Only slivers of peeling, blue paint showed through the white.

Not enough space.

The top of the page had creased in his grip, so he slid it into his guillotine and sheared it off. Still not enough. I really liked the imagery of the guillotine and the verb ‘sheared.

He picked out a corner and began pointing at the faces in turn. Benjamin, Moira, Anne…who’s that? Roman nose. Curly hair. Charles. Cousin. Out of state. Probably wouldn’t see him again until Christmas. He could go in the drawer. I’m literally getting more uncomfortable by the minute, and I can’t even fully explain why.

As he replaced Charles with Tom, the front door clicked open. That’d be Stacy, home from school. Stacy. He scanned the walls. Stacy. Where was she?

He slid into bed, sat upright and stared straight ahead at a girl that could have been his, and the man next to her. Rubbed his eyes. Squinted, hands on his temples. Then he took the girl and the man, laid one over the other and held them up to the lightbulb. None of the lines matched. Why do they need to match?

When had he last drawn her? Weeks ago? Months? He must have got better. He was terrible back then, but he’d got better. Probably just made some mistakes.

“Sweetie?” he called, crumpling her. gently caress everything “Sweetie, I need to draw you again.”


Ok, holy crap. It’s rare that I see so much being done with so few words. You have a good command of prose and voice which are make or break things for me (and, I suspect, most other readers as well.) Obviously I was effectively creeped out by Geoff, but there are few things that bug me the more that I think about the story: First, why/how do Geoff and Tom know each other? Tom seems to talk to and treat Geoff like a normal person; doesn’t he know how creepy he is? Second, who is Stacy and why does he call her sweetie if she’s a girl that “could have been his.” Tell me it’s not his daughter. TELL ME IT’S NOT.

Anyway, excellent job; this one is an early favorite of mine. I got the vibe this guy was some kind of weirdo serial killer, but I like that it's open to interpretation.


___________________________________

Lord Windy posted:



The Centre
Words: 967

“The Customer isn’t angry at you,” Simon recited the words on his screen. “The Customer is angry at the situation.” He looked at the queue on the machine next to him - fifth in line. The queue bit makes it sound like he’s waiting on hold to talk to someone in a call center. Threw me off a bit. He leaned back into his office chair and let out a sigh of relief. Maybe he could make it until his next break before a call would come in.

A ding came from computer. The company instant messenger popped up with a message from Amy. “How is your first day back?” She wrote in the same purple comic sans she used three months ago. mother of good; purple comic sans, eh? Am I supposed to like Amy?[/b] “No problem customers I hope!”

“No, it has been a fairly easy day so far. Just waiting for the next call actually,” he wrote back.

“That’s great, I’ve got a real bitch. Isn’t listening to me at all.” Simon’s name crept up the queue. Third in line. the dialogue is already dragging, but I do like the progression of his name creeping up the queue, I can sense his dread.

“Don’t let her get to you,” Only one person in front now. Simon leaned back into his chair when the ding from the computer went off again.

“Won’t. Going to escalate instead.” Simon felt his chest tighten; he was next in line.

“Australia. English,” the friendly female voice-over signalled the start of the call. “Thank you for calling Senior Technical Support,” Simon greeted automatically, hoping that the little cracks in his voice would go unnoticed. “You’re speaking with Simon, how can I help you?”

“Hi, this is Amy from Technical Support.” Her voice was rich and cheerful, almost as if a huge smile was coming through the other end. Simon knew that didn’t necessarily mean she was. It was easy to obscure the faces you were making with a sickly sweet tone. I already understood what you meant, no reason for a flat ‘telling’ line like this.

“Fancy getting you.” The notes of the case sprung up on the screen. Amy had been right, the customer was not an easy one. Twenty calls in the past week, with every call noting her difficulty.

“Yeah…” There was no hint of the tone she had before. “Look you can see the notes and you know this woman is difficult. But you, the narrator, already showed us that! Why is she repeating it in dialogue? It’s your first day back after… would you like me to hang up and try again?” A sad emoticon showed up on the IM.

The blood in Simon’s ears pounded. “No, I think I will be ok. Bring her through.”

“Thank you for holding Mrs Smith.” The sickly cheerful tone was back. Oozing with that ‘smile’ all phone agents reserved for the worst customers. “I leave you in the capable of hands of Simon, one of our Senior Support Specialists.”

“Good!” The woman’s voice made Simon hunch his shoulders. “It is about time I’m shown respect around here.” Ugh, I hate this line; it’s so flat and cliche. Wouldn’t it be more interesting to give her a real voice? It conjured an image of an old crone with a perpetual snarl.

“Good afternoon Mrs Smith,” Simon replied, trying to force a smile he didn’t feel down the line. “What can I do for you?”

“You mean she didn’t even tell you what I was calling about?” Simon flinched from the verbal slap. “She didn’t even have the decency to tell you why I was calling? What kind of clowns work here?

“Amy expressed to me a desire to get with you as soon as possible to smooth over any difficulties.” Anything he could do to keep control of the call.

“Well my phone doesn’t work!” Mrs Smith bellowed. If she got any louder they wouldn’t need the phone anymore. Simon could feel his heartbeat in his ears. But...aren’t they on the phone now?

“I am very sorry to hear that Mrs Smith, it is not fair that a one…”

“Of course it’s not fair, what are you slow?” Simon’s mental image of Mrs Smith now included her having bulging veins on a beetroot face. “One thousand dollars, one thousand dollars for this brick. If I knew what I was getting…”

Simon’s heart race covered the sound of her bellowing. He hit the hold button and threw his head between his legs. In through the nose Simon, he thought miserably. Hold for 5 seconds, and then out through the mouth.

Moments passed, and Simon was there. Sitting on one of the thick spindly tree branches of the cottonwood trees by the beaches of his youth. A safe place his psychiatrist had said. The breeze and crashing waves upon shore. The customer is not angry at you, he thought once more. The customer is angry at the situation. It sounds super unhealthy for this guy to work in a call center. I mean I have to imagine this to be a fairly typical call.

The dinging of his computer brought Simon back to reality. “Are you ok?” Amy wrote. “Do you want me to call a manager to help you out?” Simon pulled up the keyboard and replied. “No, it is ok. I can handle this.” bland, unvoiced dialogue. Spice it up a bit. Use the occasion of dialogue to tell me something interesting, rather than these typical, exactly-as-expected interactions.

“I am sorry Mrs Smith,” Simon took the ugly woman off hold. There was a pregnant pause, Simon couldn’t hear anyone else on the other end of the line.

“Well, come out with it. What is your excuse for this travesty of customer service.”

“There isn’t one,” There was no attempt to force the smile down the line this time. Instead, with a heavy relenting sigh he continued. “It’s just I have been in hospital for the past couple of months and I felt a little overwhelmed. I had to take a short break.”

“Oh,” Mrs Smith quickly replied. She sounded very awkward, as if she had made a mistake. “Did you want to get a drink of water?”

“I am much better now. Thank you for your concern Mrs. Smith.” Simon found breathing easier. “I am very sorry for the delay.”

“Well, that is ok dear.” Her tone was much softer now. “I was in hospital not so long ago myself.”

“Would it be ok if we started again?” Simon asked.

“Yes.”

“Thank you for calling Senior Technical Support, my name is Simon.” There was no need to force a smile this time. “What can I help you with today?”

This honestly just read like a transcript of someone’s day at a boring, soul-crushing job--but without the voice to make it interesting enough to sit through. I had to really push myself to finish it. Amy is a wasted character as there’s no real progression or sense of how he feels about her or her about him. Why was he in the hospital? Mental breakdown? I’m assuming so, because he had/has a therapist, but you don’t make it clear enough to be compelling in any way.


Econosaurus posted:


Saturday Night (854 Words)

McDoule's brimmed with activity the mass of testosterone and sexual tension that one expects at a college bar. No reason for “with activity” because that’s just you telling me what you’re about to show me in the very next half of the sentence. The air reeked of sweat and cologne, a musky humidity great description that surrounded and hugged Chris' body as he struggled to work through the crowd. Hugged is the much more vivid, powerful verb, and in context here it obviates ‘surrounded’. The floor was drenched in a mixture of melting snow and beer that somehow managed to be slippery and sticky at the same time.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a frantically waving hand. Right between the bar and a young looking girl puking next to a trash can. Sarah screamed something unintelligible; Chris had to get right up to her face to hear anything. She smelled of vodka and cheap fruit syrup. I’m a bit confused; is Sarah the young girl puking next to a trash can?

"Hey! How are you?" Sarah yelled, right into his ear. He could still barely hear her over the pulsating rhythm of the music.

"I'm good! Thanks for inviting me out.” Chris yelled back. “Is this your cousin?"

"Yeah, she had a little too much to drink" said Sarah, as she pulled the slightly green faced girl's hair back. The girl smiled and waved, putting on a strong face - until her eyes bulged and she bent over, vomiting a dark mix of bile and tequila that coalesced on the table. Sarah tried to stem the tide with napkins, a futile endeavor. Where the hell was the bar staff? Or, you know, why the hell isn’t her friend taking her to the bathroom? That’s in the girl code!

"Let's go dance" Sarah screamed in his ear, interrupting his thought process. The faint smell of her cousin's vomit got stronger.

"What about her?"

"She'll be fine" Sarah screamed. WHY ISN’T SHE TAKING HER TO THE BATHROOM? She seems kind of lovely.Sarah was turning blue, hopefully the result of her yelling and not a sign she would be joining her cousin at the table. Ha, that’s a great line.

They walked to the dance floor, Sarah dragging him by his hand. You have this habit of writing a sentence in two parts, where one half is good and detailed, and the other half is bland. This sentence really ought to just read “Sarah dragged him by his hand to the dance floor.” or something that. “Walked to the dance floor” is bland and doesn’t give me an image, while her dragging him does. So rather than have both, just stick with the stronger part of the sentence with the better verb. They had only met in class a few days ago; all Chris knew was that she studied linguistics, had a baby faced cousin who couldn't hold her liquor, and wanted to dance with him. love this line

They started swaying to the music, a few feet of unoccupied space serving as their dance floor. Chris hadn't done this in years. Not since dropping out of college, not since the AA meetings, not since re-registering with a determination to graduate. He would learn to have fun sober. Why did he come to this of all places if he wants to stay sober? Chris forced a smile, pretending the cloying smell of old spice and beer wasn't driving him crazy. Pretending he wanted anything but a beer, a gin and tonic, something to loosen his inhibitions.

"You're acting weird" Sarah screamed in his ear, her face fading into an even brighter shade of purple. A sickening feeling moved from his gut to his face. He could almost see physical waves of embarrassment flowing out of his head, a feeling of weakness that everybody around him had to be able to sense.

"I haven't been to a bar in a while."

Sarah smiled, the red disco lights shining off her flawless white teeth. "You're not drunk enough" she mouthed, dragging him back towards the bar.

At least her cousin had stopped puking.

As Sarah frantically waved a bartender over, Chris grabbed a pen and grabbed a napkin. "PLEASE REPLACE ONE SHOT WITH WATER" he scribbled as Sarah used a combination of yelling and hand motions to ask for two vodka shots. Chris handed $20 and the napkin to the bartender, then turned to Sarah. "I got it" he said, forcing a smile.

Chris' hands shook as he picked up his fake shot. this bugged me a little bit because the bartender would have no idea whom to give the fake shot to. You might, for instance, be a concerned friend not wanting your companion to get more drunk than she already is. He felt ridiculous. Sarah swayed there smiling, her left eye half closed in a drunken haze. How old was she? At least a couple of years younger than he was. The music had gotten more intense, turning the dance floor into an impenetrable mass of bodies. It was becoming harder to breathe.

"Cheers" Chris said, taking the fake shot. Sarah took hers and fell forward. Only Chris’ arms stopped her from hitting the floor.

"Hey, we need to take my cousin home" giggled Sarah, as if she wasn't on the verge of collapsing. "I’ll call a cab, you should come."

Chris looked at her cousin, sitting at the bar with a glass of water. Her shirt was marred with brown specks, her blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail. Was this what college was like his first time around? He wasn’t sure. He had never felt so old.

"I can't tonight" Chris said, trying to laugh it off. "But get home safe, ok?"

Sarah looked disappointed, then smiled. Her white teeth shone even in the dark light.

"Yeah no worries, I'll see you in class!" Well that de-escalated quickly.

Chris sat at the bar for a long time, thinking about Sarah. About how white her teeth were. About how old he felt, how alien the bar around him seemed. You did it again! The second half of that sentence was much more specific than just ‘he felt old.’ He wasn't one of them anymore. New paragraph here. The room started to clear out. Cool air filtered into the bar from the doorway. The air grounded him. It reminded Chris of old winter days, the kind he had always loved during his first freshman year. The beginning of the years wasted, the beginning of the years he thought he could do over. This sentence also verges on your Big Problem, but not quite as badly as the others.

He waved the bartender over.

"I'll take a whisky.Wait, what? Why?

As a story this left me fairly unsatisfied. Why was he in the bar by himself in the first place if he doesn’t drink? Why would he just start drinking again at the end when he went to so much trouble to sober up in the first place and also had the bartender pour a fake shot? You didn’t give me any information on why he was here in the first place or very much about the condition his life was in; this gives me very little to reference when thinking about what he wants or is doing. You have issues, as outlined in the piece, with writing half-good sentences, one of which has a nice, strong verb and good description, while the other half is boring filler. Cut away the redundant chaff and see how much stronger your sentences become.

You did, at least, infuse an understanding of people, and the idea of feeling old/alien in a place where you once felt perfectly fine.


__________________________________________


Anathema Device posted:

Hank's Used Books
Words: 989

“...and Aunt May – you know, my stepmother's sister – wore this...” Alvin cradled the phone against his shoulder. His fingertips were sticky with glue. A paperback lay open on his desk, loose pages lined up carefully. “...scandalous on a woman her age. But you know Sarah, she's too polite to say anything. Needs a backbone, that one. Don't you think?” I’ve read this five times and still cannot figure out if Alvin is speaking or if the dialogue is coming from the person on the phone.

“Umm.” still don’t know who is talking. It wouldn't be worth selling, but you didn't throw a book away. Someone might want to read it. People here where? didn't have money for books, but the free ones passed quietly from hand to hand.

“Of course you do, you're a smart lad. Always were. Except for that store. Still losing money, I expect?” There was a tinkle of ice and a slurp.

“Yes mom.” The margins were filled with familiar, cramped handwriting. Why is it familiar? Whose handwriting is it? He'd gotten the book in trade from a customer, but they'd clearly bought it here. He stroked his pinky, the only glue-free finger, down the spine.

“Such a lovely storefront you have, too. You could sell the place, make a fortune. It would make such a nice coffee shop, or a restaurant...” Another slurp. Slurp is already an odd verb choice for this, and you’ve used it twice. A crunch of ice. The last pages settled into place. “Are you even listening to me, Alvin?”

“I'm not going to sell the bookstore.” His chair clunked as the wheels passed over the uneven floorboards. I liked this; it helped me quickly visualize the store. The desk-lamp was on, casting a pool of yellow across the high wooden desk, the scattering of bills and paper, the pile of books. Beyond it the store was dark.

“You've never made a cent off it.” Clink. Crunch. He picked the dried glue off his fingers as he walked. “What you should do is raise the prices. I mean, I know most of those books are junk, but some have got to be worth something. Sell them on e-bay, if you insist on staying in that stupid little town.”

“You raised me here.” He kept his voice mild, affable. Junk. Books weren't junk. Especially old books, with accumulated years of scribbles, broken in to open to the best parts. You didn't just read an old book, you read all the people who had read before you. “I don't want to sell on e-bay. I like meeting people.” The pipes clanked when he turned the sink on. Another great detail. Water sprayed over his hands.

“Meeting people! Nobody interesting ever comes into your crappy shop.” Might just be me, but I don’t think i’ve ever met a mom who uses the word ‘crappy’. She was swearing, which meant; she was on her third drink. At least. Of course she wouldn't find his customers interesting. They were usually shy, quiet people, adrift in a town rife with anti-intellectualism. Useless people, she'd call them. People like him.

“I think they're interesting.” The faucet squealed as he turned it off. On the other end of the line there was a clink of glass on glass and a splash. He should ask her about the drinking, but in the end, it was never worth it. Why? What happens? There’s a missed opportunity here for some character building.

“Have you been to a psychiatrist? About your book hoarding? Just like your uncle. I knew we shouldn't have let you spend so much time with him when you were a kid-” The hyphen at the end of the sentence should be an em dash.

“You left me here because he'd babysit for free-” same here.

“Your dad was sick, and I was busy. And now you're crazy! Pouring all your resources into that, that shop and ignoring your family. You know, the gardener hasn't been by in three weeks. I thought you were going to take care of it. But you probably just bought a new book instead. Useless boy.”

Alvin found himself staring at his own dark reflection. reflection from what? The lights were still off in the shop – he knew his away around too well to need them – but his face was a twisted shadow. Angry. You’re already showing us this--no reason to tell. His hands were shaking. He took a deep breath.

“Are you even listening?”

And then all the words he'd never said came up, hot and angry. “I'm not paying for your damned gardener, mom. If you want to brag about your roses, grow them yourself. I've paid for your house, and for you booze, and for your fancy dresses out of the money that 'crazy' Uncle Hank left me. And yeah, the bookstore loses money, but I have enough to keep it going until I die.”

“You spoiled little brat! No respect for the woman that raised you. Fine. Have fun with your books. Enjoy them, because you won't have your family anymore! I've had enough! Don't you even think of calling until you apologize! ”

“You didn't raise me. You dumped me with Hank and had your fun. But I learned here, mom. I learned things you don't even know you're ignorant of.” Oof. That line just seems oddly phrased and melodramatic. The line went dead. He braced one arm against the sink as he watched himself lower the phone and press the button. He'd wanted to say that for years.

He felt sick. He'd never talked back to his mother. Maybe that was the key – maybe she'd just leave him alone now. Maybe he'd be lonely. I like how it almost sounds like he’s longing to be lonely. Intentional?

The phone rang. “Hello?”

“And you will too pay the gardener you ungrateful snot!”

He pressed the “end” button and set the phone down. When it rang again, he left it in the bathroom and walked back through the darkened bookshelves to his desk. He pulled open the top drawer and lifted out a battered old novel. Inside it was dedicated in neat, cramped handwriting:

To Alvin,

The only person worth anything in this whole misbegotten family. This is my favorite book. Treasure it. The money and the store are yours. Take in the strays and the lost souls. There's love in the books, boy. Don't forget it.

And I love you like a son. Don't forget that, either.

-Hank.


Alvin held the book carefully so the tears wouldn't smudge the ink. He let it fall open to the best part and began to read. Good ending lines.

My biggest gripe with this is that there are no real surprises. Yes his mom’s an rear end in a top hat and doesn’t get him and treats him like crap, but it just came off as unremarkable because it’s such a common idea/concept. The mother’s lines were almost all fairly underwhelming and expected. It would have been more effective to me if she’d said things that actually unnerved Alvin or at least let him be blase about it in an interesting way. I also feel like you could have done more with the book and bookstore theme, but as it is it felt just a tad underdeveloped. It was good that we got to see where Alvin’s love of books comes from, but it didn’t feel as infused into the rest of the story as I was hoping it’d be.

I guess the meaning is that family is lovely sometimes? Be grateful for the good people who help raise us? Books are awesome? I’m not entirely sure what the deeper meaning of this was.


____________________________

crabrock posted:

Nice Old Lady
(750 words)

The truck has a new coat of paint, but no AC. Whose truck? The narrator’s? Everybody underestimates how much water weighs; it feels even heavier than forty two pounds in this heat. I lug a five-gallon bottle up the steps of another suburban hellscape, ignoring my herniated disc. Love this sentence; good amount of detail packed into just a few words. I roll my eyes at the custom doorbell chime that drones on for too long. Would it still be so annoying to him since, as you reveal later, he’s already been here before?

She opens the door and scowls. “I called a week ago.”

“Sorry ma’am. I just got the order from dispatch.”

“Well, come in. Excuse the mess, we’re remodeling.” Plastic sheets cover thousands of gaudy figurines.

“This is nothing, you should see my place.”

My apartment is immaculate. Every Sunday we wake the kids and sort and scrub. love this line It’s our own version of church. But she chuckles at my self-deprecation.

I spot algae in the bottom of her bubbler. Nasty things will grow if you let them sit empty for too long. She squirts a dollop of Purell and works it into her dry hands, and smiles. he’s looking at her while he puts the bottle in? how does he know he doesn’t spill a drop? I fantasize how her face would contort if I told her. good line I let the bottle drop in; I don’t spill a drop.

“Want a glass of water?”

A little algae doesn’t bother me. In Grenada we had to clear the film from our cantines before drinking. This is inconsistent with this character. I understand the Grenada thing, but his apartment is immaculate and you made him sound nearly OCD about the cleanliness of his children. Would he really be ok with drinking algae water? “Please, thank you.”

She walks to the sink and fills up a glass from the tap. “It’s a little warm.” From the tap? drat that’s cold.

I take a sip. “It’s perfect.” It tastes like lizards live in her pipes. I like how funny this line is, but it didn’t give me a good feel for just how bad the water must taste.

She continues to rub her hands together even though the Purell is gone. “My old service was absolutely horrendous. You’d think those people had never heard of a shower. You appear to have some basic hygiene at least. You’re one of the good ones.”

I take another sip and move to set the glass down, but she frowns and I bring it up to my lips instead. “We’re always happy for your business.” She is still frowning. I’ve learned some people just can’t be pleased; my sixth-grade teacher told me I’d never amount to anything. I have a habit of turning out exactly as they expect. possible personal preference incoming--please disregard I think you’re adhering a little too rigidly to the rules of present-tense. There’s really nothing wrong with switching tenses when writing in a kind of reflective-stream of consciousness style which this piece drifts in and out of. It would have been much less awkward to just write “I had a habit of turning out..” Also I’m not really sure what he’s saying there. That he usually does turn out as a failure? It doesn’t sound, from the rest of the story, like he sees himself that way.

“I think one of them took something. I can’t quite figure out what it is, but do you ever get that feeling that something is missing?” I think her hair may be a wig. Another funny line but it might have been a bit more vivid if you’d described what her hair looked line with a quick line, and then said the wig thing.

I shrug. I’m halfway done with the water. “I feel like I’ve forgotten something all the time.” If I chug it I can leave. I take a gulp and try not to vomit.

“That’s not what I’m talking about. This man was making me nervous with his looks, so I went to my room to hide the necklace I was wearing. When I came back out I got the feeling something wasn’t right. I demanded to know what he took, but he just walked out the door without saying bye. Nobody has manners these days.” Why is she being so nice to him?

I know that someday I will be parched, and look back on this moment with envy. “Did you call the police?”

“And tell them to stop and frisk every Mexican in a five mile radius?” She blushes. “No offense.”

“I’m from Ecuador.” ha, owned

“Well, you know.” She sighs and relaxes her shoulders when she thinks I’m not upset at her comments. ”Upset at her comments” doesn’t really relay to me how mad he is. Is there a more effective way to get that across.

I choke down the last sip of water. “I better get back to work.”

“I’m going to call your company and let them know what a wonderful job you’re doing. It’s a nice change to have such a polite man.”

“Well, thank you ma’am. The boss loves to hear good things.”

She digs in her purse while I wait by the door. “For your troubles.”

It’d take more than two dollars. great line. “Oh, thank you ma’am, but we’re not allowed to accept tips.”

She stuffs it into my coveralls. “It’ll be our little secret.”

I thank her yet again and walk slowly to my truck, wincing from the pain in my lower back. I pull a Coke out of the styrofoam cooler I keep on the seat next to me, and down the entire bottle to erase the taste of stale tap water. I put the small silver cat I stole off her foyer table up on my dashboard, next to my tiny Mexican flag.

My boss owns three water delivery businesses. When a customer quits they get transferred to a different day with a different truck. Wearing a different uniform, it was me who delivered her water last week.

This is the first time I’ve stolen anything.

So he stole something and thus proved her bigotry correct? I’m a little confused as to why he would do something like that. Won’t she realize something is missing and further reinforce her stereotypical/racist views of brown people? Also I felt like it’s a bit unrealistic that she wouldn’t recognize him from only a week ago. I do get that she’s doing the “all colored people look alike” thing, but why does she think he’s well-showered this week but didn’t last week? Why did he look suspicious last week but not this week? It seems like the guy’s characterization is a bit off because on the one hand he sounds incredibly OCD, but on the other hand he’s willing to drink dirty water and takes the woman’s lumps quite well even though he’s apparently brimming with rage on the inside. Also, how offended/surprised could he really be at her behavior if he’s already been there several times and she’d already accused him of stealing? The woman came off a bit flat as well, as we all know the racist, nutty old woman who accuses every poor liveried bastard who walks through her door of stealing all her poo poo. It would have been cool to see her tweaked a bit, even within the small space you had to work in. In any case you wrote something lucid enough that it invoked strong opinions from me, so that’s a step up from a lot of the other entries.

________________________________________________


Nikaer Drekin posted:

Well Handled
(998 Words)

On Wednesday night, Mr. Handler stopped at the Devil's Lair bar in upstate New York. this is a pretty meh opening line. From the name of the place he expected it to be full of surly bikers with ratty beards, but he saw only one customer, a bald man with reading glasses. The man sat, scotch in hand, flipping through an article on his tablet. Mr. Handler sat next to him and called for the bartender. bland detail, and who the hell’s head are we in, anyway?

"A Vampire, please," he said. "Don't be shy with the raspberry liqueur." The bartender grunted and turned to his rack of bottles. Mr. Handler leaned over to the bald man. "Whatcha reading?"

"News. Can you believe this poo poo? Some crazy idiot cleaned out Myerson Holdings." He lifted his head and saw Mr. Handler in his gray three-piece suit. "What are you all dressed up for?" Are these guys friends? They’re asking each other questions that make them sound like they know each other

Handler smiled and tugged at his cuffs. "Nothing much. I'm on my way back home and I want to look presentable when I get there."

The bartender slapped the beet-red drink down on the bar. "Vampire," he said. "Six-fifty." Mr. Handler tugged a ten out of his wallet and told him to keep it. this didn’t need to be in here. Just say the bartender brought the drink and he paid, if you really and truly feel it was such an important detail.
"So, what's your name, friend?" Mr. Handler asked.

"Brutus. I go by Bruce, though." Mr. Handler shot him an inquisitive look, i really hate stuff like this. How do you “shoot” someone a look? Just my own personal taste, but ugh, it just reads so awkwardly. and Bruce threw up his hands. throwing up his hands sounds like a hilariously over-reactive gesture to someone giving them a weird look. "Hey, my parents were Shakespeare nuts. What do you go by?"

"Jimmie," Mr. Handler said. "Jimmie Fauntleroy. What's that about the news?"

"poo poo, right, some head-case knocked over Myerson. All electronic, too. Money transfer got intercepted, rerouted to another account."

"They've got insurance, right?"

"The bank says they won't cover it. I don't know, some loophole mumbo-jumbo, the account Myerson wanted to send the money to was some weird offshore thing. They're up a loving creek, man."

"They have any idea who did it?"

"All the police said is that they're 'looking into various promising leads.'"

Mr. Handler snorted. "Which is the polite way of saying they don't know jack poo poo."

"Yeah," Bruce said. He put down his tablet and finished the rest of the glass of scotch. "That's how it goes. I mean, the Myerson guys might be a bunch of ivory-tower fucks whose daddies handed them ready-made fortunes, sure, but this hacker punk thinks he can just steal whatever he wants from anyone he pleases? I hope they find him and take back every cent."

Mr. Handler sat with his hands folded on the bar. It was only when Bruce stopped talking that he noticed himself clutching his left wrist in his right hand. whose head are we in? He pulled his hands apart and spread them flat on the bar. "Bruce," he said, "do you mind if I tell you a story?"

"What about?"

"Okay, so a friend of mine ran a shipping company back around the time of the revolution in Nicaragua. He got hired to ship weapons down there, using the old rail system to bring them right to the revolutionaries. He didn't think anything of it at first; the pay was right. He was a good businessman.

"Well, that's what he told himself at first, but this prickling nag started to tug at the back of his mind. Going into a situation like that, even in a purely economic way, can make your moral compass a bit loopy. He decided to pull one of his normal guys off the shipment and go down there himself."

"What'd he find?"

"Pain, everywhere. that’s a really great line. short sentences can be a gut punch, and this one was Pain and ashes, cities bombed and jungles razed, people fleeing in every direction. The government had its hands full keeping a grip on power, it didn't have time to cater to the families whose homes got firebombed in the process. So my good friend, who thought himself Mr. Mercenary, started to grow a heart."

"That's a dangerous thing," Bruce said with a smile. "Especially for a businessman."

"No kidding. It only took one look at the chaos for him to know he had to do something. Eventually, he decided to play Schindler. His employers wanted to leave no traces, so the revolutionaries only took the weapons, not the shipping containers they came in. So the businessman started loading up the empty containers with refugees the night before the trains left. When they crossed the border into Honduras he let them off."

"How many of them did he save?"

"Thousands, maybe. I don't know, I never asked him for specifics. He tried to keep the operation as quiet as he could but one of his employees finally ratted him out. The revolutionaries captured him one night and hung him from the ceiling of their camp by his wrists. For days they beat him, broke his fingers and the bones in his feet. They weren't interrogating him; they had nothing to find out. I guess they thought it was fun.

"After twenty days, the old government stormed the camp and slaughtered the revolutionaries. After days of squabbling over what to do with my friend, they decided to send him back out the way he came, out on the rails. One of the more loyal employees agreed to take him aboard the shipping train; he rode back, half-conscious, until they made it to the US and got him to a hospital," Mr. Handler said.

"Geez. I guess that taught him to stick his neck out, huh?"

"Hell no; by then he'd gotten a taste for rebellion. Even more dangerous, he realized he liked to do the right thing. Looking into his employer's history, he found none other than Myerson Holdings at the end of the trail."

"So... was this whole mess him? This big heist was all just a revenge ploy?"

"I can't say for sure, but he says he found a laundry list of human rights abuses under Myerson's name. Whenever we talk, he tells me he's not a businessman anymore, he's a handler. He finds problems, and he handles them the way he knows is right. If he's the one who ripped off Myerson, I don't plan to shed any tears."

Uh, ok? What the heck was this...three-piece suit batman? It was decently written but it stops abruptly and was filled with a bunch of description of meaningless action and throwaway lines. Most of the dialogue, or him telling the story, wasn’t believable, to me; just find it hard to believe a couple of dudes would really sit down and have this conversation and that the other guy would actually listen as rapt as he was.

Ultimately, I have no idea what you were trying to say with this story.

Chillmatic fucked around with this message at 22:03 on Sep 5, 2013

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Previous post was too long to make, so here's the second part:

jagermonster posted:


Discretion

Ben checked the time on his cell phone again. That’s not an effective opening line at all. It sets no mood, reveals no character whatsoever, and does absolutely no work. Another two hours to go. At least. until what? why do I care? His thumb brushed his work Blackberry as he pocketed the phone. He considered checking his email, but resisted the impulse. Ben scanned a headline on the unread New York Times in his lap. His right eye twitched with strain and exhaustion.

Ben’s father sat next to Ben in the DeBakey Heart Center waiting room. He stared at the floor, his expression unreadable. “You got in so late. You must be tired, Ben.” yeah, this, right here, are your opening lines. That other crap in the first paragraph could have easily gone after this.

Fatigue and frustration tempted Ben to vent. He wanted to tell his father how incompetent, demanding, and insensitive his bosses were. who cares about ben? i don’t! you’re giving me no reason to.Three nights ago he was up all night revising PowerPoints for the partners arguing a summary judgment motion. He spent the next night revising them further and making copies for the Court. All he said was, “Work’s been killer, barely got any sleep the last few nights.”

“Well thank you for coming, Ben. I know it’s not easy for you to get away.”

“Of course. I should have come sooner.” none of this dialogue means anything or reveals anything or does any work. these lines that you wrote, right here, are exactly the lines that every single person in the world would be saying in this situation. only the names would be different. that’s not interesting or engaging at all. Ben still couldn’t believe his rear end in a top hat bosses had made him stay to help during the argument He caught himself, reflected that no one had physically coerced him to do anything. His roiling anger inverted, evaporated into shame. “I should have visited more.”

“It’s rough for young associates. More so than when I started out.” this is a bit better, you used dialogue to tell me something about his dad’s past.

A throng of people crowded around the television on the other side of the room, snacking on cookies and shoveling ice cream from gallon cartons as their loved ones underwent, or recovered from, heart surgery. Muffled cheers and applause emanated from the television as a reality show star and dance partner finished their routine on Dancing with the Stars. Ben had no idea who was who. what does any of this have to do with, well...anything?

Ben resolved he would exercise more. Come hell or high water he’d find a way to the gym. He backpedaled. He’d walk more, take the stairs. He bargained with himself, knowing he didn’t have the time. He’d eat healthier. why?

The compulsion to check his Blackberry tugged at Ben again. Not here, not now, he told himself. He felt like a junkie, only unsure of what the addiction was to – work, or being pissed off about work. There was only the pull of the fix. addicted to his blackberry? more like crackberry! c’mon man, you’ve got to be more original than this.

Ben’s father stood. “I’m going for a walk. Please call me if there’s any news regarding your mother.” bland throwaway line

Ben gave in. His Blackberry’s blinking red light beckoned him to check his unread emails. Routine junk cluttered his inbox. One email stood out, adorned with a red exclamation mark impressing its high importance.

Ben clenched his jaw when he saw he was the lone recipient. An indignant rage started boiling as he read the string of inane garbage. A senior partner on the case forwarded an expert witness’s invoice to a junior partner and asked, “23k? Can’t be right.” The junior partner kicked it to a senior associate. The senior associate dumped the chain on her junior associate Ben and demanded he review the invoice ASAP to figure out what was going on.

Ben tossed his Blackberry aside as it struggled to load the pdf file. He tore his laptop from his backpack. His bosses knew where he was. They knew what he was doing. As he remotely logged into his work email he fantasized telling each and every one of them to gently caress off, that he knew they would harass him during his mother’s heart surgery and they had all lived up to their legendary shitheadedess.

Ben’s mouth dropped open. They had topped themselves. The bill wasn’t for $23k, it was only 11k and change, a reasonable price considering all the deposition preparation and two days of grueling questioning. Earl must have shot off a typo. Kevin and Bianca hadn’t even opened the invoice, just sent it down the line.

His astonishment drained, leaving the bar at an all-time low. Rage once again swelled. Ben mused how much the client would pay for these jackasses to kick around erroneous figures of an already overpriced expert. He rationalized his own anger as being on behalf of the client. Only for lawyers were gently caress-ups so profitable.

Ben imagined his imbecilic bosses seated Indian-style on the floor, playing telephone in their pinstripe and pant suits, charging the client upwards of $600 an hour. Now the egg toss. Ben had to answer them, reveal their blunder without calling it a blunder, without damaging their delicate egos, or suffer their wrath. He felt dizzy from the cycle. He came down from his fix. His anger dissipated, leaving him hollow. He shut his laptop.

“Doing some work?”

“No. I should have never checked my email. That was a short walk.”

“I wanted to stay close in case we heard something.”

Ben’s father sighed, deflated into his chair.

Ben told his father about the email.

“Your bosses sound like assholes.”

His father’s disapproval of his enemies soothed him.

“I was very fortunate to have good bosses. I am very fortunate now not to have to work with assholes.”

“I should quit.” It was a plea. Pull me back from the ledge, dad.

“Do you regret going to law school?”

Not the rebuke he expected. “I don’t know what else I would have done.” Ben waited for the usual jab at his liberal arts degree.

“Do you resent that we pressured you to become a lawyer?”

Ben had been bracing for the usual talk of perseverance and dedication and making partner. He fiddled with his blackberry turning it over in his hands. He glared at the blinking red light.

“Put it away, Ben.”

Ben found he could. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep.

This was so bad that I had to quit reading. It’s clearly something that you were inspired to write for some personal reasons, and was little more than you taking out your workplace frustrations via fictional proxy. That sucks for a reader to have to sit through, and I couldn’t make it, sorry. This was very nearly the worst story, if for no other reason than how inoffensively bland it is.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


Chillmatic posted:

Ughhhh, I was handed 4,000 words for revision today which means I'm almost certainly not going to have time to finish the thunderbrawl entry, or even the rest of the crits by tomorrow. I'll do my best, but it isn't looking good.

Thanks for das crits (ever since sitting here said you were on a critzkrieg a while back, I imagine you critting with a german accent).

If it's ok with the judges I'm willing to postpone the deadline. I have my story written, but more time away from it to come back for edits never hurts. Plus, my PhD program is already kicking it, torture style. "Oh you're done reviewing that paper? here's another."

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


crabrock posted:

Thanks for das crits (ever since sitting here said you were on a critzkrieg a while back, I imagine you critting with a german accent).

If it's ok with the judges I'm willing to postpone the deadline. I have my story written, but more time away from it to come back for edits never hurts. Plus, my PhD program is already kicking it, torture style. "Oh you're done reviewing that paper? here's another."

I'm fine with that. Let's move it to ... Tuesday night. 10 September. My expectations of quality have been elevated accordingly.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


CancerCakes posted:

and in.

Can I have something by someone who has entered this week?

Biensur.

Didja Redo
Jan 24, 2010

Wanna try my freedom meat BBQ meat?

Updated prompt with new deadline. Also want to think everyone for the crits. Even crabrock. You gently caress.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Eye - by Can'tDecideOnAName. Critted by Fumblemouse as entrance requirements for this week.

(892 words)

quote:


Above all else, I am a man of culture and poetry, a collector and self-taught historian, and so I cannot imagine why this ragtag assortment of so-called scientists asked me to accompany them on their little excursion. Perhaps it was because they knew that I own three of Janove’s journals, and that I have actually read them.

Most people just keep them in Mylar plastic covers, unread, but I think that's just wrong.

I suspected that this trip of theirs was in fact a search for one of the strange things mentioned in that famed explorer’s diary.

Or perhaps it was to round out their character classes, so as not to miss any Spot checks. As an opening, I don't really hate this - it's setting a mood and a period through language, which isn't easy to do well, but so far the author has managed to avoid obnoxiously run-on sentences or overly pseudo-latinate verbiage. On the other hand, you're loading some guns here, with culture and poetry 'above all else', and yet they never get fired, so that sucks. I'm not immediately grabbed but I'll go along for now.


There were five of us. Myself; a man of science named Eugene Vemberly; a woman botanist, Constance Hart, and her brother Reginald; and a tracker they simply called David.

So it's a rag-tag assortment of 'so-called' scientists (so called because one of them actually does science it seems, while another merely fucks around with the pseudo-science of botany and the third is just there for the nepotism) and someone else they 'simply called' David. Because that was his name.


I found David immensely fascinating, as his appearance pointed to having some Northerner blood in his lineage, and I wondered if he adhered to the same beliefs as his possible brethren.

What beliefs? Also it's a bit of a stretch to say, well, he might be a northerner so I wonder if he believes what northerners do. Perhaps we could ask him?

Janove had briefly touched upon the Northerners fear of the valley,

Or maybe we won't ask David, local expert, anything ever

and how they called it a cursed place and would not set foot within it despite all the bribes and reassurances he gave them. Foolish they had been, he said in later entries, foolish that they would even attempt to gain a native guide to this region when upon reflection it was clear they had no more knowledge of the area than he had himself.

Oh, those beliefs. Let's avoid dialogue and refer back to those journals. Guess they must be pretty important to to the rest of the story if the IMMENSELY fascinating David is ignored in their favour.


But that had been in late fall, when the sky madness would threaten with great storms of snow and blowing wind. This was high summer, with close on to twenty hours of light in the day, and no winter storms would blow up unexpectedly in this.


No Winter storms in Summer, check. So what is this sky madness? That sounds interesting....but is never mentioned again.


Upon leaving the city,


Oh - we were in a city, were we?

we walked for some time in the taiga.

the Taiga is a vast boreal forest covering the northern reaches of the Americas and Eurasia

I admired the trees with their rich evergreen needles, and listened to the songs of birds within their boughs. The man Vemberly consulted maps and did cartography notes of his own, and the Hart siblings found a flower they had never seen before. David was silent and watchful.


David is just the coolest. All the others are science-nerding around and he's chilling like Aragorn


The sun was low in the sky and the trees cast long shadows, leaving the five of us in a dark forest,

the Taiga is a vast boreal forest covering the northern reaches of the Americas and Eurasia. At night, it is dark.

before David spotted our treasure; a blue glow to the west of us, mercifully close.

Kick arse work, there, David. David, I feel, is the real hero of this story. Immensely fascinating man.


Janove, in his journals, had said that the mature tree was roughly fifteen to twenty-five feet tall with a diameter between three and five feet. The bark is rough and very dark, almost black, and there are no limbs or branches to speak of.

So it's really a pole. It's an interesting stylistic choice to have the narrator refer to the description found in the journals when there's an actual tree here to be described.

If there are needles or leaves on the tree, they are not immediately obvious. The trunk is pliable, bending as easily as one might crook an arm, and at the crown of the tree is inset a large blue globe, called an “eye”, which is the same diameter as the trunk at its base.

A pole with a knob on. And it's only really called an eye because that's what Janove called it. David probably called it 'vision master of the ancient forest'. David is knowledgeable about these things, because he;s watchful and picks up a lot.

The immature tree that we found was a mere six feet tall, and no wider than a foot. The eye was of a middling sky blue color, and glowed with a gentle, steady light. It turned to look at us as we approached it.

Much later we do actually get a description of the tree. But with the journal description that's an awful lot of words used up to no great effect. Perhaps something will happen soon...

Janove had mentioned this as well.

...Nope

These trees, although rooted with a system similar to any oak or pine, above ground moved with such deliberation as to be animal-like. He noted that they would track a man as he walked across the clearing in which it stood, such as a dog might watch a stranger in front of its yard. They would turn and crane their necks, so to speak, when one would approach them, and could intensify the light emitted from the eye for a short time. They seemed to have some crude animal intelligence, and would examine the explorers with as much curiosity as they examined it.

I am starting to think that much of the story could be replaced by simply quoting Janove and then saying "Yeah we found one of these." There is simply too much referring back to his journals and not enough of anything actually happening.



This one was no exception. The Harts moved around it, taking measurements and drawing sketches, and it watched them as they did. Their easy demeanors implied that they had seen such creatures before; they did not gasp or grow pale at the sight of it, as Vemberly did.

Oooh - mysterious knowledge! It's a bit late for something exciting to happen, but could this be something exciting happening? (Hint... no.)


I myself felt some small shock at its appearance, for reading about something and experiencing it for myself were two very different phenomena indeed.

In flash fiction, your protagonist really wants to be doing the latter


David had averted his face, and would not look at it.

Perhaps the tree is naked without its leaves and branches. David is a sensitive savage

At one point Constance pulled out a small knife and knelt by the tree, which curved to look at her and brightened the glow as if to illuminate what she was doing. She lowered the knife to rest against the bark of the tree and it grew even brighter. There was a pause, then she pressed the blade in and down, slicing off a piece of the bark.

Aboreal violence - what hasn't Janove been telling us? What will happen when the knife cuts - will the source of the light explode? Will the phantasmal creature within erupt? Will David coolly and calmly save the day with his tribal, sacred, visionary secrets that he has been keeping close to his rugged yet smooth, leather be-clad chest?


The tree did not react, but how could it?

Oh, right. It's just a pole with a knob on the end.

It wasn’t as if it could feel pain.

OR WAS IT? Oh, it wasn't. Sorry.

It watched her put the piece in her jacket pocket, then looked over at me.

I could not say why it did this. I had only gone near it once, to touch the bark and feel the rough texture of it for myself, and after had retreated and begun to write my own journal, and had not left the rock that I sat down upon. But often I would watch it, and as the sliver of wood was put away it watched me.

Perhaps the journals themselves were made of pulped Knobpole tree?


I do not think I will join the Harts, Vemberly, and David again, for I am sure that they are exploring the region for these trees. Once was quite enough.

I are underwhelmed. I choose to believe that David swung off into the trees at this point and had some fantastic adventures of his own.


So, this didn't really work for me. At all. There were a couple of elements that were OK. The language wasn't as painful as it could be, nothing seethingly irritating grammatically, but ultimately it failed because it preferred to live in the pages of the journals rather than the present, yet the journals themselves brought forth little that wasn't already there. Had the journals proved important, or importantly wrong that would be one thing, but they were just a means to needlessly exposit background while the five characters did gently caress all. If you have five named characters you should have drat good reasons for them to be there.

Finally, and perhaps most fatally...Nothing happened. Some dude finds a sentient tree referred to in a book he obviously values quite highly and then decides to to look no further into it, because he suspects his companions were actually looking for it (a huge shock after they'd brought him along as resident expert on the subject) but he got mildly squicked. Well, thanks for wasting my time.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at 23:59 on Sep 5, 2013

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


Didja Redo posted:

Updated prompt with new deadline. Also want to think everyone for the crits. Even crabrock. You gently caress.

While crabrock is indeed a gently caress, that deadline change was just for his brawl with chillmatic. The thunderdome group round is normally due midnight on Sunday, either PST or EST US time at your pleasure. Let's keep it at Sunday night as otherwise the next round gets messed up.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


Didja Redo posted:

Updated prompt with new deadline. Also want to think everyone for the crits. Even crabrock. You gently caress.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


Crits from last week part one. Part two will be along as soon as I'm supposed to be doing homework.

M. Propagandalf

I like your title. I expect to see a protagonist whose self-image is heavily shaped by those around him.

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. You have lots of dialogue, but a lot of it is just words. The only person your protagonist talks to is a moving reflection who may or may not be a hallucination. Most of the dialogue happens in a void, so while some significant things are said, we don't get to see how they effect the protagonist.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. This is the big problem with this story. You use a lot of words tell us a lot about the train station. You tell us in great detail what the characters do – where they walk, where they sit, what their facial expressions are. What you don't tell us is why any of that stuff matters.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. Again. The whole story tells us what Stephen is doing, but you don't ever tell us why. What does he look for in women he watches? What does he notice about them? Is watching them sexual for him, or is he lonely, or is he incredibly awkward and waiting to be brave enough to start a conversation? You do tell us that he doesn't successfully talk to people, that he assumes people will think the worst of him, and that he gets pretty defensive when someone calls him out. You don't tell us why.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. I don't understand your character. Sorry. I just don't get it.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. I feel like you might have been reaching for something here, possibly about loneliness and self-hatred. A rewrite with less “he did this, she did that” and more emotions might bring this story somewhere.

I didn't get what I expected from this story. I really felt like I missed something, because I could tell there was something there. I just couldn't tell what.


Didja Redo

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. Good job! Your dialog showed us a man who is obsessed with his own needs. (“I don't mind the stool.” “I'll forget it.” “I need to paint you again.”) It's creepy and he's creepy.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. Overall, this was pretty good. There were bits that seemed significant that I never understood the significance of. (“She wouldn't want that.” The part with Charles. The lines matching at the end.) I feel like your portrait of the creepy artist would be more meaningful if you dropped those bits and just stuck with his creepy drawing, or alternately dropped the bit with Tom and explained who 'she' was.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. I liked it. I feel a bit bad for the guy while also being really afraid he's going to snap and kill/maim/kidnap someone.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. Some of the bits I didn't understand seemed heavy-handed, like you were trying to imply something really clearly, but the implication didn't come across. To me, anyway.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. Yes and no. The creepy artist who is compelled to obsessively draw faces is definitely compelling. His relationships are just confusing.

I liked your character and at least some of your premise, but I'm confused.

Econosaurus

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. Yes and no. The last line definitely is, but most of the important character stuff is internal. Sarah is pretty shallow and she does most of the talking, so it's meaningful in that sense. I don't think the dialog is the strongest part of this story.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. I'm not convinced. You describe the bar in great detail and give us some of the reasons it matters to your character, but I could have done with less puke. And I really want to know if Sarah washed her hands between wiping up the puke with napkins and touching the protagonist, and if not, whether this bothered him. It bothered me! Yuck.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. I'm liking this element the best so far. We clearly see a guy who did too much partying in college, developed an alcohol addiction, ditched the addiction, and went back to college. The party scene doesn't appeal to him anymore; he feels out of place. But being out of place and being in a bar are triggers for him, and he buys a drink. Okay, this is believable and strong. If he did AA, they would have suggested he avoid bars, and avoid people who party and drink hard. Does he wonder if he's doing the right thing, going here? Does he think he can handle it? Does he feel guilty for failing? Actually, this calls back to the economy of words. I want less puke and more talk about recovery.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. I like this one. It's pretty subtle. You don't beleaguer the point, and we find out a lot about your character. Good job!
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. Again, I think you did a really good job here.

Lord Windy

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. Your dialogue was pretty canned. I don't mean the customer service spiels, which were actually the strongest bit. The conversations between Simon and Amy could have just read [placeholder talk.] Luckily, they were the weakest part of the story.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. This was...okay. I think dropping a bit of the details of picking up phones, pressing buttons, and typing for more words about emotions and reactions might have helped.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. You didn't even borrow Amy from stock casting – you just put a voice on a cardboard cutout. Mrs. Smith seemed to be going the same way until she softened up. I know others complained, but I thought her personality change was really good. A lot of people treat service reps like they aren't really people, but having a human connection with one (even if it's just “we were both in a hospital”) can change that. Simon was okay, not too boring, just doing a boring job.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. This was your strongest point. You hinted very nicely – not obscurely or confusingly, but nicely – at what had happened. That said, we still don't know why Simon was in the hospital. I'm assuming it was psychiatric issues or something related to trauma.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. I think you did a decent job with this, given the limitations your dialogue placed on the piece.

Overall, I liked this one really well. I liked the simple setting and the simple story. It just needed better characters.

crabrock

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. Good job. The dialogue shows the characters really well, and structures how the whole story goes.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. Pretty much spot on here, too. One quibble at the beginning. “Ignoring my herniated disc” is telling us; how does it feel, or how does the character react?
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. You did this really well.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. This too.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. And this. I like the way your character reacts by becoming what's expected of them. You mention it with the teacher, and it shows up again with the ending. I saw someone else complaining about this, but I think it's a nice reflection of reality.

Of the ones I've read so far, this is definitely the best.

Helsing

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. There wasn't a lot of dialogue. What was there was pretty good. It felt natural. Did you leave the conversation with the client in the narration instead of as dialogue on purpose?
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. So. All of your sentences were really good. The story of Claire-the-roommate was interesting, and the story of The Client was interesting. For a piece this short, I'd have preferred one or the other (though I think you were working to a flash rule?) You tell us a lot about Claire, set up Claire's friendship with the narrator, and have Claire pressure the narrator into something. But you don't show us the consequences of the narrator's decision on her relationship with Claire: instead, you introduce a love interest. There would have been more symmetry – and more meaning to the beginning half of the story – if you'd showed a change in their friendship based off of this experience.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. Really strong here.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. Also pretty strong.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. I like it.

I really liked this, but with a few complaints. The first is structural: there's so much attention to the friendship with Claire right up until the narrator decides to try the escort thing out. Then you pretty much drop her. If she's not going to play into the story except as a catalyst, don't give her so much attention. If she's important, include her in the consequences. The first line suggests that this might cause tension between them.

The second is tense-related. You aren't anchored in time. You open with her looking back, mention that she “was still living” somewhere instead of just living there, etc. She “had imagined” and “had worried” about things she could just imagine or worry about, and out of order with other events. Keep it simple, tense-wise.

Also, I don't think someone's first time acting as an escort is “mundane” enough for the prompt. But still, the story was pretty drat good.

Lord Windy
Mar 26, 2010


quote:

Michael tapped his foot in anticipation. He was getting out today. Three years in the joint because of a bad luck. This isn't necessary to the story, and doesn't add anything

He thought back on how They had staked out the shop for an hour before going in. They had barely seen anyone go in or out. It should have been an easy job. In and out in under 5 minutes. No one hurt, and then they’d have a couple hundred in cash for the weekend. I like this bit, but I don't need to be told that he is remembering it, you've made that clear by him getting out of jail today.

They had gone in hot, with their blades out. It was always best to go in with weapons out he reminisced. Again, I know he is thinking about what happened It kept everyone on their back foot. They’d never actually hurt anyone, it was about intimidation. Clerk had given up the register no questions asked. It was a chain store after all, not some mom and pop shop where the guy behind the counter cared about the money. Too much padding, just combine this paragraph with the last one.

Then it had all gone wrong. What were the chances that an off-duty cop that carried a piece would walk through the door right at that moment? If Nathan had been collecting the cash instead, he would have been the one to get busted. Nathan had been able to run past the cop before he could get his gun out. Michael had been the one behind the counter grabbing the cash out of the register. He’d had no chance to make a getaway.

Michael tapped his foot a little faster. Nathan wouldn’t be the one to pick him up today; he was doing a stint up state for drugs. Billy had said he was free though. He had just finished probation, so he was allowed to spend time with ex-cons now. I never meet Billy, so you don't need this at all. Story works just fine with David telling Nathan he would be picking him up

Hearing the guard’s voice call “Michael Stillwell?” stopped his foot tapping, and pulled him into the present. I don't like all this foot tapping. It doesn't add anything to the story except for padding

He stood automatically and confirmed his presence. Three years had ingrained this reaction in him. The gate to his cell opened, and Michael followed the guard down the corridor past the row of other cells. A fanfare of hoots and hollers that accompanied any prisoner being released echoed around him as he followed the guard down the catwalk. After the cell block it was through to a different holding cell, signing of paperwork, picking up what few belongings he had in storage, and then out to reception where Billy was waiting. This is just padding.

Instead of his friend Billy Nathan, Michael found his brother David waiting.

Right, pretty much everything above is just padding and I don't think it adds anything to the story. I get what you were trying to do with Wilde's quote, but the story you are trying for is a story of redemption. I would know just as much as I did if you kept the story at 'he got out after 3 years, oh look his brother is there!

Michael hadn’t seen or even spoken to David in over 5 years. David had gone off to college to study business, and Michael, whose grades had never been great, had hung around town. David had always been the rising star of the family to Michael’s black sheep act. As Michael spiralled downward, David’s fortune seemed to do the exact opposite. Before long, Michael wasn’t even bothering to go to family events anymore where all he’d hear was how David was doing so well. Stop telling me things. You wasted all this time on the unimportant information above and now you're forced to tell me rather than show any of this. This stuff is important

At that point, David looked up from his chair and saw Michael. The two locked eyes for a long awkward moment, neither knowing what to say. David was the first to break the silence “Hi Michael, long time no see.”

“What are you doing here? Where’s Billy?”

“I bumped into Billy the other day, and he said he was coming to pick you up today. I asked him if he’d mind if I came to get you. He didn’t, and so here I am.”

“Sure, whatever” Michael responded “Good to see you.” There are only two people here. Respond or replied is redundant.

“Ready to go?” David asked, and with a nod of agreement, Michael and David headed out to the parking lot and got into his car.

David lead Michael to his car. To Michael it looked like some generic over-priced import, but the engine started with a meaty purr that met his approval.

After a few minutes silence, Michael cut straight to what was on his mind “So what’s the deal? Why’d you pick me up today?”

David took a deep breath before responding “I’ve got cancer, Michael. It’s the inoperable kind. Doctor says I’ve got between three and six months.”

“I’m sorry, David, I didn’t know. That’s a bum deal.” Love this line. Exactly how I would imagine a chav would speak

David chuckled although there was no humour in it. “Yeah, a bum deal” David answered with an edge to his voice. Redundant

“Well, what do you want me to do about it? What’s this got to do with me?” Redundant

David shot back at him without missing a beat “I’m loving dying, and that’s all you can say? How about you pull your loving head out of your rear end and grow the gently caress up. Did you know that Mom and Dad are both in a home now?”

He was met with a blank stare from Michael that confirmed his assumption. “Of course you don’t. They don’t even know who I am half the time when I visit. Do you know how much it costs to keep both of them in there? Of course not, you’re too busy getting into trouble with your jerk-off friends.”

Michael sat stunned for a moment. He couldn’t recall having heard David ever speak that way before.

After a few moments of quiet, David continued in a more level voice. “I’ve done ok for myself, but work always got in the way of personal relationships. I never had much time for family and friends, and was never much of a brother to you. Sure I was home for holidays, but that was as far as I was willing to go. Looking back now, I can see my priorities were pretty skewed.” This is good, this explains why David is picking up his poo poo-head of a brother. He is dying and has realized family is important and not his success.

Ok, this is where the glimmer of a good story comes in amongst this. The problem you have is you're telling way to much and trying to add in more tragedy than necessary. Lets get rid of the parents, and make it entirely about David and Michael. David is the successful brother, but dying and full of regrets. Michael is the bad brother, somebody who David is trying to reconnect with.


Again, there was a pause, but this time it was Michael that broke the silence “Hey, I really am sorry about the cancer, and what’s been going on with mum and dad. I wish I’d known.” Again, no parents in this.

“I know you are Michael, and I know you do. This is ok Even if you did some dumb things, I truly think you always had a good heart. I’m kind of banking on it.” No you don't. Michael is a criminal and spent 3 years in prison after an armed robbery.

“What do you mean?”

“Someone’s going to have to look after mum and dad, Michael. I’m not going to be around, and that leaves you. I’ve tried talking to cousin Patrick, but he’s got his own problems. Mom was an only child, and Dad’s brother Luke died two years ago. Michael, if you can’t step up to look after mum and dad, I don’t know what’s going to happen to them. I know they weren’t perfect parents, but they did their best.”

“Yeah, they were always ok. Even when I was getting into trouble, they never gave up on me. They even visited me in jail when I first went in. I wondered why they stopped coming. I always thought it’s because they’d had enough.”

David sighed before answering “I should have come to see you myself, but with work and mum and dad going downhill, I just couldn’t find the time. It’s a lousy excuse, and I’m sorry I was a lousy brother. I need you to step up now, Michael. Mum and dad deserve better than some government housing or the street.”

Michael paused before answering. He considered David’s statement, and everything he’d learned that morning. Finally, with a quick nod and a hint of determination in his eyes, he answered.

“Yeah, they do.”
My problem with this bit, and the reason why I wiped it out is because it doesn't work at all. I care about David, not Mum and Dad who aren't in the story. Furthermore, it doesn't show him improving himself, or becoming the 'saint' in the Wilde quote.

I had a lot of trouble with this edit. The story has fundamental issues and requires a serious rewrite to fix it.

Your quote was: "Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future"

With how you are going in this story, you are showing that a sinner with a future. The problem is, instead of showing you are telling. What is worse, you've wasted a considerable amount of words on useless padding. What is good? You have the rudiments of a good idea and two characters that could be better.

Here is what I would do to fix this.

1. Cut out every other character except for David, Michael. The story should be between David, the brother who is dying and has the regret of choosing work over family (quite possibly with the hope that one day he could enjoy family if he worked hard enough) and Michael, the brother who might not realise it now but is regretting his choice of crime over family (you could say his parents died offscreen and he just didn't realise and isn't feeling anything).

2. Get a feel for 'scene' and 'sequel' when you write your scenes. I would pay attention to all of that article. I may not agree with it entirely, but the MRU (motivation-reaction) section would go far in making your scenes far more punchy and the Scene-Sequel will help give you direction.

3. Give us a crisis, the cancer is a good one. Both characters are full of regret, Michael's path to sainthood will be built on a foundation of working on David's regret. The sequel can be Michael cooking David dinner while they discuss the trip they are taking to Paris or the Grand Canyon. You'll be showing far more than telling us in that case. Sweet and simple.

CancerCakes
Jan 10, 2006


This is from one of the best prompts, the pictures and books round.

sebmojo posted:

At Torneträsk
900 words

From "A strange day in July"

There was a hush on the lake that day, a silence that stilled even the gentle clatter of the willows. I sat inon my favourite tree and dangled my feet over the edge of its trunk, stirring the mist that lay on the water like a quilt. Beside me was a that book that was, bound in green leather.

In suggests that the tree is still upright and the character is in the foliage, and is jarring against dangling feet over the edge of the trunk. You could have made the book more interesting, and foreshadowed some of the magical qualities by saying more than just "a book". Perhaps another "that", like the day, to show that it was special. Stirring the mist is nice, but you are slightly mixing metaphors since you cannot stir a quilt.

I had found the book yesterday. Lacking a quiet space to ponder its revelations at the ramshackle house my family had reclaimed for our yearly sojourn to the North, I had elected to repair to the lakeside and sit a while. To wallow in “uffish thought”, as the -

At the start of this paragraph I was thinking "eugh, this voice is not right at all", and you do go over the top, but it serves the purpose of introducing a precocious young person, and also an impatient "want to be like you" type sibling. Two birds with one stone, nice. But it is a bit much, maybe drop one or two of the thesaurus words.

"Per!" The voice came from the direction of the house. "the voice" is a little detached, it is clear from the rest of the story that the character has a fondness for the sibling. "Her call might fit better".

Ulli. I considered staying silent, but I decided against it. the clipped tone here does not fit with the character. This isn't a snap decision, so much as a considered resignation, so you can me more lyrical. While the poetic lines have been shattered by the siblings calling you can still keep the character's main qualities intact She'd find me anyway.

"I am here," I called back. good

The branches parted atop the steep cliff that led back to the house. a bit passive. The girl parts the branches, they did not part themselves for her. Ulli's sunburnt face peered out. She grinned, then scrambled down the path. Pebbles skittered before her and plipped into the water. Ulli bounced onto the trunk, windmilling her arms to stay upright.

While you have reestablished the more erudite tone of the character with "I am here" you have returned again to shorter, clipped sentences. I like that this better reflects the impulsive nature of the girl, but that means that in each sentence, particularly the first, you should show that the girl is the cause of the sudden chaos

"Lunch," she announced sitting down on the trunk with a bump, setting the branches swaying, "will be late. Mor was cooking the fish and Far came in and knocked the vase over on the table and Mor was telling him off but then the fish got burnt and then - what's that?"
TYPO ALERT!! also children often sit down and lean close to you when saying something that they feel might be slightly scandalous, so i prefer the image of her sitting now, rather than later

I'd put my hand over the book to stop it slipping into the water when my sister had jumped onto the willow beside me. At her exclamation I covered it with my hand again.

Not really a needed paragraph, you don't need to explain why the book didn't fall off the trunk.

“Nothing, Ulli. Tell them I will be up presently,” I said.

Tell them I will be up presently,” she said, nodding her head from side to side in imitation of me. “Don’t be a dumskalle.” She sat down on the trunk with a bump, setting the branches swaying. “Show me. Is it from Farfar’s study?”

I couldn’t think of anything that would deflect her so I nodded, held it up.

“Discerning the Min… Mins…”

“Meniscus,” I explained. eurgh, people have gone on about tagging in here and the farm, but I would say that this is unneccesary, you can clean this up by removing the it is, by pronouncing the definition.It is - the curve in the upper surface of a liquid caused by surface tension.” She held out her hand for the book and I gave it to her, after a brief internal debate. “Don’t drop it, please” I said.

She kicked her legs as she flicked through it. “Is that Farfar’s writing?” I nodded. The spidery penwork was all through the book, coiling around the dry nineteenth century typography. I spent a moment hoping she’d get bored before she found the –

“Pictures!” Ulli grinned at me, held up the book. It was a beautful watercolour picture of the lake, perhaps from high up on Ripasjaure. There was a half sphere of bright purple that covered half the lake. Flying things could barely be seen within.

“It is very pretty,” I said, and hesitated. Then the excitement that had led me out here combined with the thrill of conspiracy. “Ulli, can you keep a secret,” I held up my hand as she nodded instantly, “I mean a really big secret? The biggest?”

Ulli thought for a moment. “I never told Far about the fire at the school shed. Is it that big?”

I took the book back, started turning the pages. “It is bigger even than that.” I found the inserted page I was looking for. “Here.”

Ulli gasped. The page was a panorama, from lake level, with still water stretching out in all directions. A purple wash was over the sky. And over the lake, with its shreds of mist still remaining, flew iridescent winged creatures, fantastical beyond belief. There was a dragonfly with the face of a child, a snake that had hundreds of glittering wings, a towering ant thing that seemed to walk on the water with saucer-like feet. all fine, but you can be more poetic with the descriptions, throw in a simile or something

Ulli reached out, touched her finger to the page. “So pretty. How did he make it shine so?” I shrugged. “Perhaps a special ink? But that is not the secret Ulli. The secret - ” Ulli leaned forward, eyes gleaming. “We can go there. There is a, a technique. A set of things we can do. Will you… shall we?”

Ulli’s mouth dropped open. Then she put her head back and frowned at me. Overhead the sun was starting to burn the mist away, glimmers of light were glancing off the water. “Are you tricking me? Because that would be mean.” nice, it is clear that he might have played tricks on her before

I stood up. A high giddy excitement had taken me over. “I don’t know! There is only way to find out. Come down here.”

A minute later we were standing by the water. I had in my hand I held the candle I had pilfered from the study, lit with my trusty lighter. Its flame burned weirdly straight, a bright purple colour.can be more expressive here, the comma and tone is jarring With shaking hand I performed the actions outlined in my grandfather’s book. Once, twice, three times. Then we waited.

Ulli snorted. “I knew it. Nice try brother. We should head back for-” she should be more derisive than this, she has been tricked and would be a little angry. Also she would not say "should head back", more likely "i'm hungry, let's go"

There was a sound, like a heavy blanket landing over us. The sunlight was suddenly infused with indigo. Ulli turned to me with wide eyes eyes wide. “Duck!” I cried as a feathered serpent flapped towards her, then away.

There was a purple barrier a few metres away, curving out and around the lake, encompassing miles of newly fantastical terrain. I picked up a stone, tossed it against the barrier. It bounced back at me.

“Ulli,” I said, looking around carefully, “I think we may be very late for lunch”.

Nice. Only one typo that I could see, not that that really matters because it was all extremely competent. The voice of the character wanders in places, and there isn't enough foreshadowing at the beginning. While it is clear that the character likes being alone in their own little world, often from book, you could be more explicit. The Ulli character is quite consistent, and the brother as the protector at the end could have been highlighted even more by creating some contrast earlier in the story.

While the piece is well put together there is still more you can do with it, and more depth to be wrung out of the situation. The best part is definitely Ulli's interjection and arrival.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


Good crit, cheers. I will fight you over the 'explained' tag, though, it's deliberate and conveys character. In his head he explains stuff to the dumbass world a lot.

docbeard
Jul 18, 2011

Modern worldly poster

I was thinking of sitting out this week, for reasons, but then I got hit with an idea. So I'm in.

Hit me with a story to crit.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


docbeard posted:

I was thinking of sitting out this week, for reasons, but then I got hit with an idea. So I'm in.

Hit me with a story to crit.

D'accord!

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 21:10 on Sep 6, 2013

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


Zack_Gochuck posted:

I'm in. Someone can assign something to me or something.

Suck on this. Report upon its flavour.

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 21:14 on Sep 6, 2013

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


Crap links fixed. gently caress Betamax in the ear.

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 21:15 on Sep 6, 2013

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


And crits part two. If these are incomprehensible, I apologize. If anyone wants clarification, go ahead and PM me or email me at anathemadevice.sa[at]gmail.com

Also, I volunteered to judge if we were short this week – am I needed, or should I get writing?

Nikaer Drekin

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. All of the actual story was told through dialogue, and yet the characters had no voice. Mr. Handler told the story like someone writing narration. It was...bland.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. The entire intro with the bar, the drinks, the exchange of names, was wasted space. Yep, you did set up a mundane framework for the story – but it felt like you'd done that to squeeze a story that didn't fit into the prompt.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. I don't. I want to, because here's a good guy who's gone vigilante and stuff, but he's...boring.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. Okay. You did well here. Congrats.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. I think you tried, but the limitations of your dialogue, characters, and setting got in the way.

I know you said you weren't happy with this, and it's good that you submitted it anyway. There's a decent base story here – maybe something that needs to be longer than flash fiction. But the character needs a personality and a voice, you need to ditch the “mundane” setting and just tell the story, and there needs to be some more...life in the thing.

Jagermonster

I'm three paragraphs in and if I read the name Ben one more time, I'm going to throw something. Five times. Five times in three paragraphs. Once in dialogue when there's only two characters.

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. Ben-Ben-Ben's father had some good lines, and those were the strongest part of the story.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. This really needs some work. There's a lot of repetitive phrasing, unhelpful details, and clunky sentences.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. Ben's father was good. He came across as an actual father – a role model, an understanding person. Some development is implied; he feels he forced his son into law, and he's possibly become more sensitive/accepting as he's aged. Ben...doesn't really do it for me. And his mother is just a prop who's barely mentioned at all DESPITE BEING THE REASON THEY'RE THERE.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. With Ben and his relationship with his job, you're pretty heavy-handed. His relationship with his father, and his father's whole character, is much more subtle and very nicely done.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. There was meaning here to reach for, but some of it was really missed.

You used Ben's name 25 times throughout this story. It annoyed the everliving hell out of me. Otherwise – I think there's something here that's good. Some more editing – particularly cleaning up details and cutting down unnecessary words to leave space for more character development – could go a long way. I'd like to see more about Ben's relationship with his mother – does he care that she's getting surgery, or is he just guilty that he's working while he's waiting? Why doesn't he care about her beyond feeling guilty? How does he feel about the changes in his father's attitude?

Schneider Heim

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. I know you've been working on this in the fiction farm thread, so I'm not going to tell you how bad it was. Here are some thoughts: It'll be easier to write good dialog if the characters have something interesting to say. What are the characters' goals in the conversation? This reads like small-talk, but it effects a major decision that one character makes. Karen interrupts Sue and Sue seems annoyed to begin with, but then opens up and has a serious conversation. What made that shift happen? Karen comes over to talk to Sue – why? Because Sue looked upset? Because Karen needed support about her Master's thing? You don't need to tell us every motivation the characters have, but knowing what they want out of the conversation helps.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. There's lots of empty dialog and clear descriptions of email-checking and browser-window-closing that are kinda pointless. There's so much we could find out about – why Sue's in the program when she doesn't want to work for a gaming company, why she stopped admiring some of the companies on the list, what she'd do if she did go out on her own instead of taking one of the jobs, what she likes about programing...you hint at this stuff, which is awesome, but there's more to give us here.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. You're not quite there. Karen is flat and boring. Sue has potential (more about that above.)
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. You hint at a lot of good stuff and heavy-handedly give us a lot of bad stuff.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. There might have been something here about art, integrity, and the battle between staying true to your art and selling out, but if it was there, it was buried deep.

There was definitely something here to work with. If you do edits on this, think really hard about what the conflict facing Sue really is, and how to get that across. There was potential there, but it got hidden by other stuff.

docbeard

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. In the context of this story, most of the dialog was meaningful. It either laid out what was happening, or gave us insight into the characters.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. Again, in the context of the story, this was all alright.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. Yep. The guy was kinda funny and very strange, the girl seemed pretty sweet. A bit boring, but not terrible.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. Well, your character explains the entirety of what's been happening to him outright in the dialog, so it wasn't terribly subtle, and there wasn't much else going on.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. Nope. Sorry.

So. This was strange. Was it supposed to be supernatural? Is the guy hallucinating? Does he actually have a wife and kids, and just not care about them? In contrast to the last few stories, most of the technical stuff was alright. What was lacking was a plot, or even a hint of a plot.

Mercedes

I'm going to crit the first half, because you sort of had a story going there. The second half...I'm not touching.

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. You do convey the characters and the situation clearly through the dialog. It's pretty canned, though.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. I think you actually need more details in the first half. It's pretty sparse.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. I feel a bit bad for both of them – she's relying on this dufus to make money, and he's...trying, but he's pretty hopeless.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. This is really heavy-handed.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. There's something in here about relationship dynamics. It does show spousal abuse with the man as the victim, which is a topic in fiction that's rarely covered.

Alright. The first half of the story is salvageable with heavy editing and a bit more focus. I think rewriting this might be an interesting exercise for you, because there's a clear plot (man gets laid off, puts his life savings into a scam, and has to tell his wife) and conflict (between the spouses, and between the man's expectations and what happens) and two characters who both have sympathetic and terrible traits. The second half of the story seemed to be you giving up and throwing some action in to distract us from the fact that you're not addressing the relationship issues, lack of finances, or spousal abuse.

Fumblemouse

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. This was good. The dialog seemed natural and gave us a lot of information we needed. The swearing at the end was very...extensive, though you clearly explained that in the story.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. Very well done here. I liked the details you included.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. I really liked both your characters here.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. The “full aspie” thing seemed a bit heavy-handed; I think we could have figured out what was going on with just the more subtle clues, and it seemed sort of...rude for Amanda to announce that to the room, whereas before she was pretty supportive.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. People on the autism spectrum are people, too? Finally somebody yells at a creepy dude who invades girls' personal space and swears at them? I liked the story, regardless of being confused about the meaning.

Why does Amanda keep calling Charlotte “child?” What is the relationship between them? Amanda seems to be some sort of a friend/mentor to Charlotte, but she can also be a bit condescending at times. I'd like to know what their relative ages are, as well.

Chairchucker

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. I really like the pacing and tone of your dialog, and it all carries a lot of information about the characters.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. You did pretty great here, too.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. I really liked Gary, but I'm not sure what his deal is. I couldn't tell if he was a pedophile (as seb suggested) or had some sort of an anger/anxiety/mood disorder, or something else, but clearly he didn't feel comfortable watching a child, and nobody except Paul felt comfortable with it. On the other hand, the mom didn't seem too worried that something had happened while she was driving over, so...
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. You had a very light touch here, which was awesome. I think you might have gone too subtle, but that depends on how much you wanted us to figure out about Gary.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. I think your characterizations and dialog really pulled this off without me entirely understanding Gary's history, so that was really good.

I don't have a lot to say about this except that I really enjoyed it.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


Anathema Device posted:

Also, I volunteered to judge if we were short this week – am I needed, or should I get writing?

I think we're good, write away.

Mercedes
Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.






Thanks Anathema. You're correct in your assertion that the second half is where the wheels came off. I plan on completing it once I figure out how to actually finish it.

Thanks for the crit.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


Entry closes in 3 hours. You will then have 24 hours to submit.

Nikaer Drekin
Oct 11, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

DoubleDonut posted:

The Gentleman and the Lady
864 Words

It had been three weeks since I'd had real food when I got the message. The request, once decoded, was simple: highly dangerous, substantial pay. No witnesses. I didn't normally take such vague jobs, but a few days of rice gruel and recycled water can make you do crazy things.

This to me seems less a gripping opening than an info-dump with a couple okay details.
-

That night, I met the client outside of my complex. Barely spotting him in the dim glow of the street lamps, I extended my hand and began to introduce myself.

“Now, now, there's no need for introductions. Your reputation precedes you, my lady,” he said, shaking my hand. "My name is Cliche, Mr. Walking Cliche." “This is no place to discuss our business.”

As he drew closer, I realized that he was wearing a formal men's suit and tie. Oh good, I was wondering if he was wearing women's clothing. He was also carrying a patched, black umbrella – a useful item, if one considers the grimy muck that passes for rainwater these days, but the next rainfall was not scheduled for three more days.

“Fine,” I said, releasing his hand. “Take me away.”

He again took my hand and led me through the dark alleyways, ignoring every question I asked, rapidly turning Could easily substitute those two words with a more vivid verb. between the buildings until even I had lost my way.

-

After an almost endless hike through what must have been every side-street and alleyway in the city – cold and barren, as usual – we finally reached his car. Oh cool, all that walking was a lot of fun, but maybe he can actually tell us what the hell is going on once we get in the car! He held the passenger door open for me, and I clambered into the sedan, as black and clean as his suit.

My client sat in the driver's seat and pressed his thumb into the ignition plate. “What do you think? It's old, but I had the body fixed up recently.”

I snorted. *sneeeeeeeeerrrkk* “Just tell me what we're doing.”

“Of course. You're a busy woman,” he said. “We'll be heading to the climate control center, to commit sabotage. I will handle the security, and your role will be the sabotage itself.”

“And why, exactly, do you want to destroy the climate control?”

“A gentleman must have his secrets, my lady. But I assure you, the importance of this cannot be exaggerated.”

“And the pay you promised me? Was that exaggerated?”

“You wound me, my lady. You will receive your compensation. After all, a gentleman never lies.”

This dude's dialogue seems annoyingly refined.

-

Even at this hour, a number of armed guards waited for us outside our target. The curfew had been abolished years ago, but even still, to be found lurking outside a government agency at this hour would mean certain death. The client and I watched the entrance from around a corner.

“Wait here,” he said, stepping forward into the darkness. “This shan't ahahaha nobody actually says that take long.”

I pressed myself against the wall and waited for his return. Mere seconds later, he approached me, ("returned" might be better) wiping off his umbrella with a white cloth. I turned and looked back at the entrance. The guards had been replaced by corpses, face down on the concrete. This description is pretty awkward/clinical.

“How?” I said, unable to contain my confusion.

The client simply smiled as he finished cleaning his umbrella. “A gentleman does not keep a lady waiting for long.”

Man I'm so glad we got to hear that he maybe killed some dudes in a cool way, that's way more cool than getting to witness some action.

-

An hour and several more dead guards later, we arrived at the center of the complex, where the control center itself resided. Whew, it's a good thing this despotic future government didn't think to install security cameras! The main console stood in a pit in the center of the room, with various tubes carrying rainwater and electricity leading out of it to the rest of the building. I don't think you move electricity in "tubes," but whatever. A lift, powered down for the night, was the main point of access.

“After you, my lady,” said my client. He then removed a rope from his jacket and dropped one end into the pit, gesturing for me to climb down.

Sabotaging a system like the climate control center would be impossible from my own terminal. It was a different story with physical access to the console – within seconds, the entire network had opened up to me like a flower. Very gradually, and it was super pretty inside? A few minutes more, and the job was done. The console would later burst open, flooding the entire complex, and disrupting the control system; natural weather patterns would resume until a new control system could be built. This is a very blah way to explain it. "Show, don't tell" applies very much here.

Satisfied with a job well done, I reached over for the rope – and grasped only air. I looked up at my client, and saw that the rope had vanished, and he wore the same smile that he had earlier. I have no idea what smile this is- I feel like if you're just going to allude to it, it needs to be more distinctive in the first place.

“So this is it, huh? This is how you're gonna do this?”

“Of course, my lady! I did tell you that a gentleman never lies.”

Of course. No witnesses. He had, at least, not lied about that.

“There is the matter of your fee,” he said, removing a bundle of dollar bills from his jacket and tossing it into the pit. “I trust that this will suffice. I like the idea of a criminal paying his lackey anyway when he knows he/she is going to die, but it deserves to be in a better story. You've been so helpful, in fact, that I'd like to give you a bonus,” he said, throwing something else down there with me. “Good night, my lady.”

I watched him leave, then picked up the umbrella he had left behind for me. I opened it up, sat down, and waited for the rain to start. Ho hum. Looks like rain today, huh?


Yeah, I didn't like this very much. The language is just there, competent but basically devoid of life. It feels like the woman was just dragged all that way to flip a couple switches, so the whole thing lacks consequence. The gentleman is a dude she only just met, so his betrayal doesn't sting at all. In fact, she was rather dumb to fall for it. Isn't she some master hacker? Couldn't she just stop the process and get out of there? One thing I've noticed is that few things are more boring in a story then a plan going absolutely right. Sure, the lady gets tricked, but the whole thing is a straight line for the gentleman. There's no challenge for either of them to overcome, at least not before the last couple paragraphs, and it ends before we see her try to resolve it.

So in summation the main character has all the toughness of a hired grunt crossed with the blandness of a rice cake, and the gentleman is a walking stereotype. I didn't get a great feel for the setting, but it seems to me that it's some generic dystopia where everyone is super bored all the time and nobody cares about anything. Or maybe that was just me.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

At the risk of a second loss with a half-baked idea, I'm in. I don't want to break my writing streak yet.

Critiquing scares me more than writing, so please haul me out of my comfort zone and yoke me with a story.

Econosaurus
Sep 22, 2008

Successfully predicted nine of the last five recessions



CantDecideOnAName posted:

Color: Granny Smith Apple
352 words

Lightning

Jenny had green lightning.

Nothing big, but she would break it out during parties and get-togethers, drawing shapes in the air with her fingertips and leaving shimmering half-second sparks behind. She liked to draw apples, because the sparks were the same color as a granny smith, but she would try and draw whatever people requested.

Derek was shy.

Nothing big, but his heart would race during parties and get-togethers. It would skip a beat whenever Jenny entered the room, too. He liked that his eyes were green like her sparks, but he wasn’t sure if she even noticed him. She was lightning, all energy and sound. He was a mole, underground, where she would never strike him. I get what you're going for with the strike him imagery, but I did initially think it was about hitting him. The next sentence clarifies, but it could be a little smoother

He wanted to be struck by lightning.

One night he was helping clean up after the party, and stumbled across Jenny sitting behind the couch where no one would see her. this could be a little more vivid - i'm having trouble imagining how she is placed in the room

“H-hey,” he stammered. “What are you doing back there?”

She rearranged the skirt of her lemon yellow dress. “Hiding. I’m tired.”

“I thought you left. Everyone did. Have you been back there the whole time?”

She nodded. “I’m starting to get sick of going to parties. Do you have any idea how many dicks I draw every time? I drew five today.” She sighed. “I want to try something different, you know?” this isn't a super smooth transition into them talking. Wouldn't she want him to go away?

His heart was pounding in his chest. “L-like what?”

She shrugged. “Like maybe a little film or something. Tell a story in light. That would be cool.”

Derek smiled. “Yeah, it would be. I, um, I could help if you want.”

“Could you?” Her eyes were bright. “That would be amazing. None of my friends can seem to figure out how to hold a camera steady.”

“Yeah!” His heart leapt. Amateur film was one of his hobbies. “I’ve got my own camera and everything.”

“Awesome!” She thought for a moment, then said, “You’re really cool. I don’t think I’ve ever met you before. What’s your name?”

“Derek.”

“Nice to meet you, Derek. I’m the infamous Jenny.” She extended her hand.

He took it, and she pulled herself upright, and lightning struck.

Overall I really like this story. You get a lot done in very few words, and the story is concise in a good way. All my criticisms are really nitpicky, and fixing them might detract from the elegant simplicity of the story. I really like it, in other words.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


M. Propagandalf posted:

At the risk of a second loss with a half-baked idea, I'm in. I don't want to break my writing streak yet.

Critiquing scares me more than writing, so please haul me out of my comfort zone and yoke me with a story.

Didja Redo
Jan 24, 2010

Wanna try my freedom meat BBQ meat?

Signup time is over.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


I'm editing and critting and stuff. I'm just not writing. I have no ideas. >.<

monkeyboydc posted:

Two Kinds of Spurs

1,000 Words


Aiden woke up worried, but excited. His mind was made up - had been made up since he broke the taboo and began sleeping full nights. Every morning for the past two weeks, he awoke feeling alive, his brain a writhing nest of glowing-neon snakes. Since, he’d known he couldn’t go back to the way he'd lived before the last two weeks. living the way he had been; he didn’t know how anyone could follow the Government Suggested Sleep Schedule. You've got a good, interesting premise here. Stop mucking around with tense and show us.

Aiden checked for his keys a second time – of all days, this would be the worst to get locked out of the apartment. He walked to thepressed the button and waited for the Caffeine Machine perched on his countertop, pressed the plastic power button, lighting it red from within and setting the machine grinding and hissing before spitting out a to spit clear liquid into the shot glass waiting below. He drained half and dumped the rest into the sink – still weaning himself off. What's he thinking while he waits for the machine? How does the caffeine thing taste? Is he experiencing withdrawal symptoms as he weans off, or is he going slowly enough to avoid it? I like that you include the presumably government-mandated caffeine addiction, but I think it's a bigger deal than the specific shape/color/noise of the machine. He walked to the laundry room, but lingered at the shrine. Why's he going to the laundry room? The shrine is the important thing here.

Posters made up the bulk of the spectacle, showing showed leather-clad men on horseback smoking rolled cigarettes. There were a few Cowboy and Indian play sets on a wood table and, in the center, a pair of old cowboy boots complete with spurs Clint Eastwood’s character wore in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Right, some description would be good here. How do these old cowboy posters/items contrast to the apartment? Are the open spaces, horses, dirt, and weapons foreign to this city-dweller? Has he ever seen a living horse? Are the boots broken in, or new? Do they smell like leather? Have they been cared for (cleaned, oiled, etc.) or are they dry, cracking, and inflexible? His dad couldn’t believe his good fortune when he bought them at a pawn shop (along with certificate of authenticity). Aiden’s dad had been the only person who cared that stuff still existed. Good. I wondered why they'd been at the pawn shop, and then got sad when I read the second sentence.

One morning they’d sat together at the kitchen table, drinking their caffeine mixed with cold glasses of orange juice. Aiden’s Dad spotted him glancing towards the collection and, as usual, seized his chance to quote his favorite western. “You know, there are two kinds of spurs... “ Good details.

His dad died of heart failure a few years ago, from caffiene abuse and lack of sleep, I imagine. Nice detail. just after Aiden turned 18.
He dared to look out the window for the first time since waking up. Why does this take daring? It looked out on the six lane freeway that ran in front of his apartment, then row upon row of businesses stretching back in ranks like a shark’s teeth, then the Earth curved and structures tall enough to wink over the edge were hidden in smog and atmosphere. Having trouble picturing this. In the smog, with all the tall buildings, and the mountains, can he really see to the curve of the horizon? Towering over everything else, were the mountains, stretching from one end of the horizon do horizons have ends? to the other. For the first time in Aiden’s life,it's been quiet before, presumably, just not when he's awake. This made me think an apocalyptic event had happened, but it seems to be that everyone sleeps on Sundays? the city was as quiet, empty and lonely as the mountains were. He was the only person in the world city, unless the Sleep Schedule effects everyone elsewhere, too, in which case his escape is pretty pointless who was awake.

Aiden had been cheating. He’d starting going off schedule about two weeks ago. You told us this already. Drop it from either here or earlier In theory, working all day every day without context, “all day every day” could just mean eight hours. I assume it's more, and night time is “leisure time”, so the Sleep Schedule is to get more work from people? allowed him to fill his nights with anything he wanted, this sentence is starting to lose me. End is here and start a new one. but after even one full day again, is a day a regular day, or 24 hours? of staying awake, alternating exhaustion with doses of pure energy caffeine? Other drugs? to make your brain hum and keep your heavy eyelids up and your body moving one half hour at a time, you arrive home with a mind burning dimly, like a sad lantern, and can’t find the focus to do much of anything. That's one hell of a run-on sentence. Deliberate, to imitate the rushing nature of staying up all the time? It's still confusing. Also, you drop into descriptions using “you.” Just tell us how it effects Aiden, rather than how it effects a nebulous “you.” Aiden usually drank as little caffeine as he could get away with Why? Here's a chance to tie into the government-mandated drug abuse earlier, and possible his father's death. and, One night while watching a western, he dozed off.

An outburst of cars honking on the freeway outside had woke Aiden up twenty minutes before he normally left needed to leave for work. Add some urgency to leaving to set up the next sentence. While he should have been worried about getting to work on time, he fixated on how incredible he felt, how his body and head didn’t slowly pulse and ache, how quickly his mind moved from one thought to the next, I love these descriptions. and how simple the decision to sleep every night, instead of just Sunday, came to him was.

Until today, he’d been too afraid to venture outside on a Sunday. Now we finally find out why he was excited at the beginning, after we've forgotten he was. Aiden opened the window and was amazed at the way the world smelled, like grass and wind, all normally covered up by car exhaust. Where is the grass? Does the smell of smog really dissipate in just one day? He could hear birds and see a rabbit hopping around near the roadside Where do the rabbits live in this huge, smog-filled city? Maybe a raccoon or some other scavenger that lives off human garbage? He had a new idea. You're introducing the entire climax of the story here. Make it more interesting.

What if Aiden left, but didn’t return at sundown? What if he left and never came back? These questions seem really childish and simplistic compared to the rest of the story. There's not enough conflict within the character. He's going to leave his entire life, the house he shared with his dad, and go off into the unknown...just like that? He began collecting non-perishable food from the cupboards. What if Aiden went out the front door and started walking towards the mountains? He went into his bedroom and stuffed a few changes of clothes into the hiking backpack his dad had bought him. WHY? They live in the middle of a city and get one day off a week, during which they sleep. What is he going to do with a hiking pack? He's never seen the outdoors before from other details in this story! Aiden now knew what the world looked like when it wasn’t crammed into a too-small suit, and he didn’t want to go back. Nice. He grabbed his toothbrush, a book from the shelf in the entryway, tested the weight of the bag how heavy is it? and dropped it by the door. Aiden threw his keys into his bedroom from the kitchen and walked to the door, locking the knob from the inside. He put a pair of brown Converse hi-tops on and grabbed a jacket. Poor kid is going to have the worst blisters ever. There was more he needed to undo,?? there was more Aiden needed to live than just sleeping every night, and it was away from the city and its rules. As he was about to open the door and step outside, never to come back – Aiden stopped. He’d forgotten something. I'm not sure “forgotten” is a good choice here. He needs to have had some conflict about leaving this house he shared with his father. This could be his compromise on that.

Walking back towards the kitchen, Aiden stopped at the shrine and removed the spurs from the cowboy boots. Dropping to one knee, and then the other, Aiden strapped the spurs onto his hi tops, tightening them as much as he could on each shoe. “There we go.” He stood up and walked a few steps enjoying the ring of the spurs in their metal frame. “There are two kinds of spurs, the kind that sit on the shelf, and the kind that walk through the door.” Nice use of the quote. Nice, hilarious image of a kid in converse and a hiking pack wearing completely superfluous spurs. Do they trip him up? Walking in big spurs isn't easy. I like how naive he is here, and how hopeful he is. I think he's gonna die, though.
Aiden grabbed his bag and walked through the door, outside into the warm sunshine and the empty world. His sneakers sank into the drifts of cottonwood that built up against his front step. What? Doesn't he go to work every day? Aiden set off, walking in a straight line towards the mountains, across the road, between businesses and through people’s yards and neighborhoods accompanied by the soft clink, clink, clink of his dad’s cowboy spurs. Nice ending.

You have a really cool idea here. I especially like: the government mandated sleep schedule, the government encouraged stimulant addiction, and the fact that these things seem to be to get more work out of people. The contrast between their understanding of the old Westerns and their lack of connection to what life during that time was actually like. The kid's complete lack of understanding that he's going to die out there without some way of supporting himself.

I don't like: the way some things seem rushed. The way he doesn't seem to doubt his actions or feel bad about leaving his home. The lack of conflict.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


Anathema Device posted:

I'm editing and critting and stuff. I'm just not writing. I have no ideas. >.<

Tsh like that's ever stopped me.

Flash Rule

Use any two of:

A nest that rats have made in a ripped up high-fashion magazine.
Three apples in a bowl, one is rotten.
The smell of fresh bread.
A ball of multicoloured rubberbands.
A pile of clean laundry on an unmade bed.
A bridge over a stream, a tree has fallen on it smashing it.

Econosaurus
Sep 22, 2008

Successfully predicted nine of the last five recessions



Explain flash rules to me. Do I have to follow all of them or only ones that quote me?

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


Econosaurus posted:

Explain flash rules to me. Do I have to follow all of them or only ones that quote me?

Just the ones that quote you, or that say 'everyone'.

E.g. the one above is just for Mr/Ms Device.

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

sebmojo posted:

[quote="Nikaer Drekin" post="414167744"]

Two weeks passed and it happened again.



The Lumps
900 Words

Charlie entered the apartment suite to find holes in the walls, holes punched all over, his cousin Milo peering deep into one of them. I get the sense you were trying for a rhythm of three here, but with holes punched all over, why waste time only starting with just "in the walls"? Maybe: "holes in the walls, holes in the floor, with his cousin peering into one of them"? Drywall was strewn around in chunks and fine powder, some of it resting on the pine-green carpet, some sunk in. The carpet was ripped up in certain spots. The floorboards showed through like raw layers of skin under a torn scab.

“What the hell’s been going on here?” Charlie asked.

“Finally, Charles! I didn’t think I could fend them off much longer on my own.”

“Wait… fend off what, exactly?”

“The Lumps, for Christ’s sake!” Milo said, his thick glasses nearly hanging off his nose, the only ring of hair he had left teased out in wild tufts. I know you're staying true to the picture, but this is an odd place to put this description. “They’ve popped up everywhere, it’s some sort of infestation.”

“Like rats? I’ve got the number of an exterminator who got rid of termites for me last August. I think he handles rodents, too.”

“No, goddamn it! I thought it might be an animal, but look at the walls. They bulged out and the only way I could stop it was to tear them up.”

“The walls… bulged.” I get the deadpan feel of this response, but I still think it works better with the question mark

“Yes, God, I thought that was the worst part, but then the lumps started moving, like when a snake swallows a mouse. You can see it writhing below the rubbery scales—still alive, still in such awful pain…” I went to YouTube to watch Python eats Rat Alive because I initially thought this was meant to be a cartoonish image Milo was bringing up, in which case "such awful pain" stuck out as odd. I still have my reservations that being stuck alive inside a snake is "awful pain" but maybe I'm underestimating the digestive acids of snakes.


Charlie stopped Milo there and led him to the plush recliner in the corner. Milo sunk into it and put his head in his hands. Shaking, he began to sob without tears.

Then his ears twitched. He sprang up from the armchair and rushed out of the room, knocking Charlie down in the process. Charlie followed verb feels weak him to his study where he saw Milo repeatedly bashing a wooden chair on against the rug.

Charlie tried to see the lump Milo was attacking, but the man’s frantic motions and the flailing furniture distracted his vision. The chair flew up and down, knocking the end table over and tumbling the clay lamp on top of it to the floor. There was a loud crack, and the chair fell apart until Milo was left holding two of its legs, whacking them on the floor like a giant’s drumsticks. this is a strange simile, or did you mean "giant drumsticks"?

“Charlie!” he yelled, “It slithered away! We need to call in an expert right now, or these things will never leave.” Charlie agreed, telling him to wait there, lie down for a bit, while he got a professional on the phone.

The professional turned out to be Dr. Campbell, a local psychiatrist. The two restrained Milo and carted him off to Campbell’s small mental institution. Milo swore to God that the lumps were real, that they’d overrun the apartment if they weren’t purged away. The evidence of Milo's work on the apartment speaks for itself already. Having him swear that they were real feels redundant Charlie and Dr. Campbell didn’t look back at him. - Not sure what this sentence accomplishes - unease in making eye contact with what they consider to be a crazy man? Or were you suggesting their dismissive attitude to Milo's ravings? Either way, the sentence feels out of place.

At the hospital, Dr. Campbell outlined to Charlie his proposed treatment. To elaborate, he brought out a thick book and titled Mental Abnormalities of the Common Man and slapped Slammed? The book has weight. Having it "slap" makes it feel light it down on his desk. Its title was Mental Abnormalities of the Common Man. A bright yellow sticker on the cover read “Now with graphic illustrations!” and the author was listed as Dr. Edwin Campbell. Unjustified inference, but I am picturing the cover and subsequent illustrations in the style of a Dr. Seuss book.

Charlie felt a wave of queasiness queasy.

“This book leads me to conclude that poor Milo’s deficiency is caused by an overactive amygdala,” Campbell said. “His intense, latent emotions are manifesting themselves as these phantom ‘lumps,’ as he puts it.”

Charlie nodded. His stomach turned.

“You didn’t see any such thing, did you?”

Charlie took a deep breath. “I wish I could say for sure, Doctor. He was standing in the way. I can’t entirely trust my own judgment on it.”

Campbell put a hand on his shoulder. “Trust mine, then. My recommendation would be an intense hypnosis treatment—with your go-ahead I can start right away.”

Charlie was no doctor, so he gave Campbell his approval.



Subsequent reads of this section baffle me the more I read it:

1. Unless Charlie is his only living relative, I find it weird that he has this authority over his cousin.
2. The book's pitch is supposed to be that it has "graphic illustrations!" How would a "overactive amygdala" come across graphically? Is it hideously inflamed? Discolored? Unless the brain is physically misshapen, how do mental abnormalities come across as graphically in the first place? I am more inclined to view the book with filled with cartoonish illustrations, in which case, the "graphic" adjective seems out of place.
3. Charlie's physical discomfort and doubts aren't clearly defined. At first, I felt his unease was based on his distrust of Dr. Campbell and his book with the bright yellow sticker, but he seems to concur with Campbell's judgment without any meaningful resistance. Then I thought maybe his dread was towards how his cousin would be treated, but he's feeling queasy and his stomach is turning before he even knows what the treatment will be about. I cannot make clear sense of his discomfort.

Over the next three weeks, for several hours a day, Milo was shut in a dark room and strapped to a chair that leaned back to point toward the ceiling. Campbell drugged him so that his muscles relaxed and his eyelids would not close. Projected spirals twisted on the ceiling and the chair spun Milo in the opposite direction. Loudspeakers mounted to the walls blasted incessantly:

THE LUMPS ARE IN YOUR MIND

YOU ARE THE SOURCE OF THE LUMPS

THE LUMPS ARE FROM INSIDE YOU

Repeating, without end, until it became Milo’s only reality.

Much later, Campbell called Charlie and informed him that Milo’s mind was clear, that he had been sent home and was ready to see visitors. Charlie left right away to check how he was doing. On the way over, he bought a “Congratulations” card and a box of gourmet chocolates. The pacing starting from "Over the next three weeks..." feels as though everything is run at fast-forward, which is jarring towards the pacing

He knocked on the door of the apartment. When nobody answered, he tried the knob and found it was unlocked. Quiet calm flowed across the suite. The only sound was the hum of the radiator. He called out for his cousin but received no reply.

He walked into the bedroom but stopped short. Milo sat propped up against the wall, a stain of glistening blood starting at his stomach, flowing through the white shirt and soaking into the carpet all around. His eyes were dim, his glasses resting on the floor. He had a long knife in his hand.

Milo’s eternal silence was broken only by the bold, red words on the wall, Mixing two sensations here: How does something auditory get interrupted by something visual-based? scrawled by a finger:

FROM INSIDE ME



------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


A number of sentences struck me as clunky, and I don't feel that my sentence corrections are adequate - a full rewording seems in order. The main issues that jump out at me are the "next three weeks" which brings an awkward pace shift, and Charlie's concurrence with Dr. Campbell feels hamfisted.

I am still adjusting myself to critique mode, and in this mode, this piece felt less enjoyable. I can thank this piece for leading me to be better acquainted with the feeding methods of snakes though.

M. Propagandalf fucked around with this message at 09:12 on Sep 8, 2013

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


Okay this has missed out on crits by being just under the wire so here goes.

Chairchucker posted:

Gary Don’t Mind 951 words according to Word and there was totally more info I hoped to convey but didn't but oh well here you go here is a story. Yeah don't care shut up.

“Man, that was a good match.” You should have tied this to someone, unless you really want to make a point, which I don't think you do. As it is I had to go back and work out who was talking, which is not a confusion you want especially for a story as curly as this one.

“Would’ve been better if that bloody zebra hadn’t swallowed his whistle.” Gary picked up his empty lemonade can and crushed it flat. Nice subtle mingling of images here, they should be drinking beer.“Rigatoni was getting mauled out there.”

“Come now,” said Paul. “Let’s not be bitter. Best to just accept that the better side won.”

Gary flicked the squashed can at him, and Paul laughed as it bounced off of his arm. Nice moment. “Whatever. I’ve gotta see a man about a dog.” He let himself into the smallest room in the house don't like this, just say toilet, you've got a double decker of euphemismand closed the door.

“Hey Gary,” said Paul. “I’ve just gotta nip down to the shops for a moment, you’re right to watch Lucy for me, right?”

“What? Absolutely not!”

“Come on man, I’ll only be a few minutes.”

“Then take her with you or something, I can’t babysit her for you!”

“Five minutes. Tops. Okay thanks, won’t be long.”

“Son of a… no, Paul. This is not Okay. Paul?” There were no further replies from Paul. Gary returned from the toilet and peered out the front window. Paul’s car was no longer parked out the front. “Bloody mongrel,” said Gary.

“What’s a mongrel?”

Gary turned around. “Oh hey sweetie,” he said. “Your dad’s asked me to mind you for just a few minutes. Aren’t you usually ADVERBS Shouldn't you be in bed by now?”

“Daddy usually always reads me a bed time story,” said Lucy.

“Hmmm, I guess I could do that.”

“And tucks me in.”

“Right. How about I let you stay up until your daddy gets home?”

Lucy smiled. “Can I watch TV?”

“Well, I’m not sure daddy would like you watching the kind of shows that are on this late. Don’t you have some DVDs we could put on?”

Lucy nodded and ran to grab one. Gary glimpsed the cover and groaned inwardly. there's a lot of subtle stuff going on in this story, but this might be a step too far. Say what it is. “Uh, can we watch a different one? How about The Wiggles, you like those guys, right?”

“OK,” said Lucy, and obligingly put the Skivvied Ones Nope in the player instead. After a couple of songs, Lucy asked “Can we have ice cream, too?”

Gary looked at his watch. ‘Five minutes tops’ had somehow become ten. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, we can definitely have ice cream.” Lucy followed him into the kitchen and he put three large scoops each into two bowls.

After they’d finished the ice cream, Gary looked at his watch again. Fifteen minutes was definitely stretching the friendship. He pulled out his mobile and dialled Paul’s number. Paul’s ringtone sounded from the next room. Fantastic.

“Listen, sweetie,” he said “Why don’t you phone your mummy to come over? I shouldn’t really be babysitting you alone, definitely not for this long.”

“Mummy doesn’t usually come and pick me up until Monday,” she said.

“Well,” said Gary, “just tell her that your daddy has left me in charge while he’s gone out. She may decide this is a special case.”

Lucy went to the hall where the home phone was kept, and Gary paused the Wiggles mid-potato. He really needed a beer, but Paul didn’t like having alcohol out on weekends that he had Lucy. And this is paying off the lemonade mention. Long game.

-

“Another one, thanks.” Simon obligingly ADVERBS pushed a new glass over the counter, and Paul passed him the exact change.

“Surprised to see you here,” said Simon. “Don’t you usually kill adverbs have your daughter every other week?”

Paul dismissed the matter with a wave of hand. “It’s all good, I got Gary to mind her for a couple minutes.”

Simon raised an eyebrow. “You’ve already been here for a little longer than most definitions of a couple minutes. Hang on. Gary? Our Gary?” Paul nodded.

Warwick raised his head from his beer. “Sure that’s a good idea, mate?”

“What?” Paul took a sip from his beer. “He’s a great mate, I can trust him.”

Simon shook his head. “No way, Paul. I mean, I trust Warwick, but I still wouldn’t go out and ask him to mind the bar.” And this is the nub of it, slipped blandly across (ew).

“Come on man, I’m right here,” said Warwick.

“You’re both worrying too much,” said Paul. “He reckons therapy’s going really well.--” I wonder if you could have him cut off her, since the next line works as an interjection.

Simon shook his head again. “That’s messed up, mate. You’ve gotta go home. In fact” – and he handed Paul his exact change back – “give me that one back. I’m not gonna make you pay for the sip you took, but you’re done with that one, and you’re done here for the rest of the weekend.” This is nice detail, places the characters in the community they're clearly in.

Paul grumbled, but he took his money back and handed back the glass. Both men stared at him disapprovingly ADVERBS as he walked out the door.

Once outside, Paul walked towards his car. He pulled out his keys, then but then spied the sign for the Lion’s Head. Not his favourite pub, but no one there knew his custody arrangements. He walked past his car. Just making it a bit more concrete.

-

It took twelve minutes after Lucy’s call for Harriet to arrive. Gary knew because he’d checked his watch at least once per minute. Harriet had taken Lucy upstairs right away and put her to bed, while Gary sat downstairs channel flipping and waiting for her to return. “I can’t believe that idiot would get you to look after her,” she said once she’d returned to the lounge room. “No offence, but… you know.”

“No, I’m with you,” said Gary. “I told him I couldn’t watch her, but he asked while I was on the can, and was gone by the time I got out.” Harriet shook her head. “Anyway,” said Gary, “I’m gonna head home.”

“Wait, you can’t just leave me to wait for him by myself,” said Harriet. “He’ll go ballistic. And there’s also the outside chance that I’ll murder him for being an idiot.”

“Fine,” said Gary. They sat down and switched the TV back on, and waited for Paul. Great ending.

I fuckin' love this story, though it's got a bunch of sloppy bits. Gary is clearly some kind of pedophile, but he's also a person and the conflict that creates is managed with breezy ease. It's actually black as pitch, while involving a full slate of believable and cleanly sketched characters. Really nice work.

Lord Windy
Mar 26, 2010


Metal Men
302 words

The back end of the ship had been blown open. The engines and storage were unsalvageable. Dozens of metal men had flooded into the cargo rooms. Lockers, cabinets and even the metal men had been shoved into every rend and breach. Others in yellow overalls with welders in their hands stood around sealed doors.

Life Support lay beyond the sealed doors. Metal men in yellow overalls, the same as before stood inside. Each had cables flowing directly into the large machines that lined the room. One of them, surrounded by bottles and open containers stood at an intake. In his hand was a canister labeled isoflurane.

Life support lead into a long hallway with three rooms on each side. Inside every room were two occupants. One, always radically different looking to the other, was a human strapped into their bed. The other was a metal man, hunched over their bodies.

An old woman with free flowing white hair lay in Room 4. Her eyes are open unlike the rest. She is frozen in place, with her hands on either side of the metal man’s head. The metal man had one hand gently on the side of her face. Fingers tangled in her hair. The other held a syringe in her neck.

Finally the bridge. A figure in a space suit is slumped at the helm, looking out to space. A syringe and an un-opened envelope lay next to the chair. Metal men were gathered at the figures side. They were looking at a blue screen.

The metal men, lightly covered in dust, who had gathered around it did nothing. They stood in silent vigil.

-------------------------------------------------

This prompt was really hard and it put me way out of my comfort zone. I think I'm going to get my story across with it, but after the crits come out I will be taking it to the fiction farm to fix anything broken with it. I like the story a lot and I had fun writing it, I just don't have the experience yet to know if I did it right.

Lord Windy fucked around with this message at 13:52 on Sep 8, 2013

The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

I could hear the roots of loneliness creeping through me when the world was hushed at four o'clock in the morning






Technicolour Saturday Morning Daydream (approx. 600 words)

The tiny bulk of the television is on a cabinet at the back of the room. Steel antennas poke out of its back, pinpointing at random directions. So awkward, and unbecoming, for an altar of rainy evenings of indulgence and lonesomeness. On the wall behind it are posters of Akira and Double Dragon, glossy uneven relics cut carelessly from entertainment magazines. The screen of the television flickers, chanting scratches and information.

AV cables of yellow and red trail out from a small panel behind, leading to the little gray device on the floor before the cabinet. A peeling sticker of Micro Genius is pasted on its side - a clone console of the Nintendo Famicom, common in third world countries, gracelessly parodying the rise of capitalism. Beside a well-thumbed control pad is a notebook, filled with scribbles of fighting moves and special attack combinations, and empty threats of beating the high scores of schoolmates.

The television cabinet door is ajar, and from within spills out open boxes of the console’s games, adorning colourful art of mascot animals and caped supermen. Instruction manuals and overheating warning pamphlets spread beneath the boxes, untouched. None of the boxes had cartridges inside.

A sole unmarked video game cartridge is in plugged in the console. Its label is the colour of want.

The television screen flickers. In between the bursts of static, it shifts to the only scene of the video game, the background colour identical to the cartridge label’s.

Vague monochrome shapes move across as a slow MIDI version of a familiar, yet unknown folksong plays. There are no characters, nor any text depicting the title of the game, nor any prompt to press a start button. There is a cushion pictured onscreen, facing diagonally against the corner of the television with tassels on the side. Its pixels are arranged perfectly safe a digit here and there, rendering the angles uneven yet correct, crooked yet real. Every few flicker, the cushion moves just slightly forward or backwards, yet it remains static.

A placard is set on the cushion.

In all its 8 bit simplicity, font size and clarity limited by technology, are two words:

Desire me.

As the words burn into its CRT lens, the television slowly loses power from the overheating. Its screens dark now, reflected on it a wastepaper basket sitting at the far corner of the room. It is filled with black, tiny objects haphazardly thrown together. Its wireframe is twisted by heat, the wall behind it and the carpet it sits on pitch black with soot. An overwhelming smell of burnt plastic fills the room, gradually being dissipated by the draft let inside. Embers of wasted lifetimes float to the ceiling and fall, forgotten.

Also reflected is the control pad, its cables completely severed by gnawing, split wires of gray and white scattered about. A blanket with a bootleg Calvin & Hobbes pattern is tossed aside, the apple juice stain on it drying. Beside the broken glass was a tuna mayo half eaten sandwich, flat with a foot imprint, the tuna and mayo inside squeezed out.

Tiny droplets of blood and glass shards form a line across the carpet leading out of the room, out into the hallway, out through the open front doors, out down the small steps, out through the lawn and to the pavements, out to quiet, uneventful suburbia.

The television is reflecting the scenery outside the house. A car is parked across the middle of the road, its engine running, skid marks still fresh under its wheels. There is hair and blood on the hood.

Somewhere, someone is screaming.

---

Alternate Ending:

Vague monochrome shapes move across as a slow MIDI version of a familiar jingle plays. Sanic the Hedgehog appears even though it’s not a Nintendo character (because this is a bootleg console you see. P.S. the console is not even plugged in because it’s running on vampire energy). His eyes are black and there’s no life in them, since video game characters are fictional constructs which are not alive and should not even be considered people, so please stop referring to pikachus as your “friends”.

Back to Sanic, he is holding a photo of a family of slendermen. It's a blast processing-powered super realistic photo like on a XBone console! Oh and they are of you and your family except, well, dead. Also your room is now bloody everywhere. And you are a slenderman. You were a ghost the whole time!

Maybe you shouldn’t have spent your afterlife playing video games. Do something productive instead, like studying for ghost accountancy and making a living out of it.

Or a dying out of it, I don’t know what’s the cute undead lingo but you know what I mean.

The Saddest Rhino fucked around with this message at 18:12 on Sep 8, 2013

M. Propagandalf
Aug 9, 2008

THUNDERDOME LOSER

No Respect
308 words

Something is wrong with Master. I counted sun going up and down. Once. Twice. After twice. Master not out. I am hungry too.

I whine and scrape door. Wait for Master to come out and yell “Shut up!” and hit me with stick. Stick scares me. But I am more scared of no Master. Hitting is not as painful as stomach. Master gives me food. Master is good.

But Whiskered Ones bad. One black, one gray. They watch when I get hit and tails go swish-swish. Whiskered Ones rub against Master and get rubbed back. I rub against Master and I get slapped. Why does Master keep them? I want to bite tails off Whiskered Ones. Where are they? Like Master, no show too.

Still no Master out. Did Master leave while I was asleep? I know Master will be very mad if I go inside house. I am not allowed. But food is inside, and hunger is very bad. Sorry Master, but I will enter house.

I find window open, but screen behind. Climb up, push screen, squeeze through, fall in. House has fuzzy floor. Feels nicer than grass. I pee.

House also has smell. Reminds me of dead Long-Eared One I found before. It was good food. This food too? I follow smell up stairs. Smell is stronger behind part opened door. I push it.

Found Master. Missing face. Found Whiskered Ones. Eating face.

Whiskered Ones see me. They try to get past. Neck of black one is in my teeth. I shake my head until no more noise from him. Gray one got away, but I will find her.

I drop Whiskered One and go to Master.

Master, I am sorry for thinking your smell was food. I am not Whiskered One. I am good.

Master.

I lick His hand. I pretend it is warm.

-----------------------------------------

I take it this is common knowledge, but if it needs an explanation:
http://www.straightdope.com/columns...at-their-owners

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Zack_Gochuck
Jan 3, 2007

Stupid Wrestling People


sebmojo posted:

Suck on this. Report upon its flavour.

Tastes like poo poo.

quote:

It was all a (Teenage) Dream

Violet was outrageously excited. Don't use adverbs She’d missed Maiden the last time they’d toured, as she’d been seven at the time and her mother had been reluctant to let him go on his own. You are adding extra verbs here. Why all the "'d"? Violet had tried to convince her to go as well, but it had been on the same night as the finals of her social netball match, and her commitment to the team had to come first.Again why had? It's also really weird for a mother to put netball over her daughter. I'm just going to start crossing out the extra verbs. This time though, she’d just turned seventeen, and after some reluctance her mother had agreed that she could go by herself,** as long as she agreed not to partake in any satanic rituals that her mother had heard might occur at such a gathering.This does not sound like the logic of a reasonable person. She’d managed to secure a spot only ten metres from the stage. She was being jostled somewhat roughly by the crowd, but she didn’t care, because she was about to see Maiden. See how many words I cut out there? It was gonna be so righteous. Is this violet's perspective or the narrator's? It's a really confusing break in voice.

A rather vigorous sway went through the crowd, and Violet fell over, scraping her knees slightly. She got up right away, though – she was helped to her feet by some young girls. Obviously their mothers didn’t mind them going out by themselves. Who is it obvious to? Why is it obvious? Even on a school night. Thanking them, she dusted herself off, then hearing the opening riff of a song – although not one she recognised – she quickly turned to the stage. Why don't we see this? Why is it summarized in the narration?

It took a moment before Violet realised she did in fact recognise the song after all.This is stupid. The sentence before this one should just tell us it's not a Maiden song. It just wasn’t a Maiden song. Some girl was singing about something tasting like a cherry chap stick. What is a chap stick anyway? I find it really hard to believe a 17-year-old gilr doesn't know what chapstick is. I have given up on crossing out extra words at this point. No metal singer ever wrote a song about a chap stick. She must’ve gone to the wrong venue!Gasp! She looked around desperately at the hordes of girls, and the occasional boy who was either clinging onto some girl’s waist or hoisting a girl up on his shoulders to show off how manly he was and possibly earn a bit of a pash later on their front porch as he nervously dropped her off. I feel like this is the point where you've lost the reader and they aren't coming back.

As everyone around her sang along passionately about a brief quasi-lesbian experience they’d once had, Violet turned to a guy nearby who didn’t appear to be trying to make out with any of the nearby girls and shouted “What the deuce is this nonsense? Where’s Maiden?”17-year old girls don't talk like this.

“Didn’t you hear?” he replied. “Maiden cancelled. Katy Perry, or K Po as I like to call her, graciously filled their spot in the schedule.”This is a huge hole in logic, and a huge stretch. Wouldn't they announce this? Iron Maiden and Katy Perry have two very different fan bases. Were all these people here to see Maiden? Did the tickets get returned and resold? You're really reaching.

“OK,” shouted Violet “firstly, that’s a dumb nickname and makes no sense. And secondly, this is totally bogus. I’ve gotta get out of here!”People don't talk this way

He shrugged. “It’s pretty packed, might be hard to move. You could always try to crowd surf out. Here, I’ll boost you.”People don't talk this way.

“OK, but watch the hands.”People don't talk this way. He boosted her up. He accidentally grabbed her butt on the way up, but then she accidentally elbowed him in the face quite hard, thus discouraging any further accidents.Again, very inconsistent voice Unfortunately, she seemed to be surfing the wrong way. On a raging sea of swaying people, she was carried in the rip up towards the front of the stage, and the sound of K Po warbling that she hoped her boyfriend wouldn’t mind too much grew increasingly louder.

As she reached the barrier separating the crowd from the stage, a large man with ‘Security’ written on his shirt pulled her down, pointing to a nearby sign with a picture of a surfer on a sea of hands with a red cross through it. Violet sensed an opportunity. “What’re you gonna do about it, kick me out?” she yelled.This is the only paragraph that didn't confound me in some way.

“Don’t tempt me.” Somehow, Security didn’t need to shout. He just opened up his mouth and his voice filled the air. “But no, no one goes out now that we’ve started. You’ll just have to stay here where I can keep an eye on you.”This is not what a security guard at a concert sounds like.

“No one goes out? That’s ridiculous!”I agree!

Security shrugged. “We’re making history here; K Po is going to perform the longest concert ever. The people from Guinness World Records are here and everything.”This did get a chuckle.

The colour drained from Violet’s face. “The longest concert ever? What’s the current record?”People don't talk like this.

“Some Canadian guy’s got it at twenty seven hours or so, and Canada have been lording it over us ever since. Thankfully K Po’s on hand to sort them Canucks out.”

“Does she even have twenty seven hours of material?”

Security shrugged. “I guess they’ll do slightly longer versions of some of the songs. Only twenty six hours and fifty eight minutes to go, and she still looks strong!”

Violet considered the prospect of a twenty seven hour K Po concert, and after this short deliberation, kicked Security in the testicles quite firmly and ran away.Ask me about kicking people quite firmly in the testicles. Security doubled over and clutched at his manhood, tears coming to his eyes.

Violet ran along the barrier, hoping to find some avenue of escape, but the barriers were quite high, and it slowly dawned on her that she was just running in a wide circle around the stage. Stop using quite! Furthermore, she was approaching some more Security.Stop using Furthermore! She tried to scramble over the barrier, but the crowd were quite mindful of the rules regarding barriers, and pushed her back.This would never happen, even in this universe As the Security with the bruised testicles slowly caught up, and the other Security closed in, she collapsed to the ground and started crying. Through her tears, she said “I just… don’t think I can possibly sit through even one more hour of K Po.”

“Well, look who’s back in the land of the living.” Violet opened her eyes and a concerned face looked down at her.what

“What happened?”

“You fell into the mosh pit and were quite violently trampled. You broke several ribs and one of them punctured your lung.”The it was all a dream bullshit is stupid.

“And this was at a Maiden concert?”

“Yes. By the way, you no longer have a spleen. It was irrevocably damaged and we had to remove it.”Is this a joke?

Violet was barely listening. “Thank you, sweet merciful baby Zeus.”People do not talk this way.

“Also, it’ll be about six months before you’re able to eat solids. There is good news, though!”Again, this is told like a joke, but it's not that funny.

“Oh?” Violet was not paying much attention. Her mind was on ice cream. That was something people got to eat in hospital, right?I dunno.

“You have a very special visitor! Iron Maiden wanted to be here in person to cheer you up, but due to the satanic rituals they are suspected of vaguely encouraging in unspecified ways, they weren’t welcome in the country for longer than it took to perform their tour. Fortunately, K Po decided to fill in for them!”Punchline!

Violet tried to scream, but passed out from the effort.




*She would’ve accompanied her, but she had a Tupperware party, and the host was one of those old friends who she didn’t really have anything in common with anymore, but she felt that she had to support her weird hobbies because that was what old friends do. *What the gently caress is this?

Pretty poorly written puch-line story overall. The idea of someone being trapped at a never-ending Katy Perry concert is funny, but not nearly as funny as you think it is here. If you really want to pursue this story, I think it would work better as a youtube sketch or something, and it needs a lot of work.

I'll post my piece in a bit.

Zack_Gochuck fucked around with this message at 22:54 on Sep 8, 2013

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