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Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


I will also do three in-depth crits for stories this week, just link your story.


painted bird
Oct 18, 2013

by Lowtax

Anathema Device: I'd really appreciate your crit on The Tram!

blue squares
Sep 28, 2007

Anathema Device posted:


I will also do three in-depth crits for stories this week, just link your story.

Would love mine done. I wasn't happy with it for reasons I can't articulate to myself.

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again


Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




I'm In because I still have a quota to hit this year :getin:

also woo getting an HM for writing an okay story with no emotional impact and vague goings-on i guess! I'll do better this week.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Sitting Here posted:

I'm In because I still have a quota to hit this year :getin:

also woo getting an HM for writing an okay story with no emotional impact and vague goings-on i guess! I'll do better this week.

Stop whining you degenerate sluberdegullion.


Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




sebmojo posted:

Stop whining you degenerate sluberdegullion.


hm. well.

*shreds mojo's invitation to my pity party.*

Jan 29, 2009

I'm in.

Baby Babbeh
Aug 2, 2005

It's hard to soar with the eagles when you work with Turkeys!!


Aug 2, 2002

Hit me with a proverb you poohead

Apr 9, 2005

"I'm thirty," I said. "I'm five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor."


Your Sledgehammer
May 10, 2010

Don`t fall asleep, you gotta write for THUNDERDOME

Anathema Device posted:


I will also do three in-depth crits for stories this week, just link your story.

I'll take one for this story. Thanks muchly :)

Dec 19, 2007

In, with :toxx:

Apr 12, 2006

As of right now, prompt post should be updated

Mar 21, 2013


Grimey Drawer

In. Got a brawl as well, but as well double down, because of all the sunk cost and stuff.

Aug 8, 2013


Gimme a proverb, because this week I am in.

Dec 17, 2003

Stand down, men! It's only smooching!

I forgot about Thunderdome. My shame. My shame.

I would sign up for this one but I'm going to Disneyland this weekend so gently caress writing :hellsyeah:

Sep 27, 2013

am I the only one drinking?


Jan 27, 2006

Threw out my back by being fat and goony. But my loss is your gain! Since I'm immobile, I've got nothing better to do then to offer everyone "crippled crits." Enjoy!

Crippled Crits Part I: Merc, chthonic bell, Cache Cab, thehomemaster, Cacto, Entenzahn, bluesquares.

1. Mercedes - Wraith For Me

-Hmm. I like the idea of bureaucracy as the reason people remain in limbo for so long.

-Okay nice! A little action, a little violence, I understand Nadia's motivations and I want to see what's beyond the black mirror. At this point in the story, I'm hoping it's something negative because it doesn't seem conceivable that getting into heaven from limbo should work this way.

-I wish you had a bit more description of the post-mirror setting, but the word count doesn't seem to allow for it. I don't fault you for this; I had the same issue.

-I liked this when it was a cute quest to try to sneak into heaven, but now it's coming across as a setup to reintroduce Black Satan from your previous work.

-Wait? Nadia bites an imp's face off, sneaks out of limbo, makes a deal with Satan, helps him steal souls, and now presumably she gets her freedom? Sorry, Merc. I don't dig it.

Overall I liked it, even with the backdoor inclusion of Black Satan, but that ending doesn't work for me at all.

Where you hooked me:"She’d been in limbo for 790 years."
Where you lost me completely: "His smile widened, revealing gilded teeth. 'Can you dig it?'"

2.chthonic bell - The Tram

-Present tense jarred me a little at first but I quickly got used to it.

-Isak is laughing, but everyone else thinks he's nuts. It makes me want to see just *how* disconnected from reality he is. The problem is, you've already told us what happened to the tram. I think the story might work better if readers knew nothing up front about what actually happened. Your audience might be motivated to keep reading due to the mystery.

-The dramatic structure is wanting. It's like, 'there's a guy, he's hurt but he doesn't get it. Oh, now he gets it. Nah, never mind he's still kinda deluding himself.'

Where you hooked me: "I'm lying on someone's head, Isak thinks and starts laughing,the sound small and surreal in the stricken tram."
Where you lost me completely: "He's got time to walk to the Bolshoi."

3. Cache Cab - I'm Dreaming of a Moons over My Hammy

-"I breathed a sigh of relief after I rolled the incendiary bomb through the slightly-ajar door, having never been a competent bowlerPERIOD,and I had been experiencing incredible amounts of pre-rolling anxiety, but everything went as planned." Sorry to cramp your "style," but run on sentences don't work.

-Also, "incendiary" is redundant. We know what bombs do.

-"...picked a spider leg out of my teeth." Wait, what?

-"The explosion begged to differ." Ugh. First off, "begged to differ" is cliche. What's worse, an explosion cannot "beg to differ." Metaphor, schmetaphor, this line is just dumb. It's the equivalent of "the explosion stuck its tongue out at me" or "the explosion yelled 'I told you so.'"

-"Flaming spider carcasses landed in the yard around us, giving me the worst case of "tight-butthole syndrome" I'd ever had" Stopped reading here because this story is just a troll.

Where you hooked me: You didn't.
Where you lost me completely: flaming spider carcasses and tight buttholes.

4. thehomemaster - Time to Fly

-As I start to read this, I'm worried about the potential for this apocalypse to be a really cliche all-encompassing kind of calamity.

-Why are newspapers even coming out? I could see journalists still working, but try convincing the low level grunts at the printing facility to keep working while they face imminent death.

-You know, I want to hate this but I just can't. I like how the end of the world comes from plants turning on humans, with humans reacting in the most counterproductive way possible. That at least avoided the more cliche apocalypse stories like nuclear winter, zombie virus, or alien attack. I've read way too many apocalypse stories in my time, spent countless hours contemplating how I would live differently if I knew the world were about to end. So I'm nervous about stories that fit too snugly into that mold.

-Aww. It's a shame that I'm so easily won over, but for whatever reason when people introduce gay love (even unrequited) into a story, I just go :3. This is patronizing on my part to actual gay people; they don't exist just for me to think they're adorable. Thank you for showing me this personality flaw of mine.

-"He meant to ignore it..." This line is also telly. You're already showing me that Dave is dismissing Chris's feelings. Don't tell me it too.

-Chris walking out on Dave after such a brief conversation feels really abrupt. I'd recommend fleshing out their conversation a bit more, maybe have Dave provoke Chris a little more before Chris just up and leaves.

-Noooo! The paragraph that starts with the word "Peace" is a big misstep, IMO. Earlier, when you said the plants were attacking, I already took the opportunity to ponder "eating, planting, cultivating and smelling creatures that could turn off your life support at will." Your piece was ALREADY thought provoking in that regard. But instead of letting me chew on these thoughts, you spoon fed them back to me later in the story. Trust the reader to think about these implications; don't shove it all in the reader's face. Also in the paragraph you point out that no one knows how this all happened (the plants turning on humans). So...why tell us that? If you aren't going to give us an explanation, and least keep the mystery alive. Instead you've just given us one big explicit shrug. I don't need to know the specific causal mechanism for why the plants turned on the humans, but it hurts your story to be so upfront about shrugging it off as 'whelp, can't nobody reckon how.' I'd cut this whole paragraph.

I hope I haven't seemed too harsh here. Overall, I liked this story. Mainly, it avoids the pitfalls of the cookie-cutter apocalypse tale. With major revision, this story really could be good.

Where you hooked me:"‘I love you.’ Chris sat opposite Dave..."
Where you lost me completely:The paragraph starting with the word,"Peace."

5.Cacto - The perfect life

-Good opening line.

-It would be better to show me that Trevor is sensible and a mechanic rather than to tell me those things.

-By any chance have you read "Player Piano" by Vonnegut? Your story is similar in so many respects, I'm wondering if it was a source of inspiration for you. That's not a bad thing btw.

-Message seems to be that dignity, agency, accomplishment, and pride are human needs that are too easily dismissed in our society (and therefore by AIs in your story). Yep, you illustrate the point well. Again, it reminds me strongly of Player Piano, but getting compared to Vonnegut is a complement.

I liked this overall, the only downside is I've seen this basic story before in other sci-fi. That said, it hasn't become cliche yet, IMO.

Where you hooked me: "When the machines took over, the market responded with great enthusiasm."
Where you lost me completely: You didn't.

6. Entenzahn - Clamity

-Clever use of the prompt.

-The phrase "villainy-related data" feels awkward. Maybe just "villains' profiles" instead?

-I failed the maturity test and laughed at the vagina joke(s).

Yep, you hit the right notes here. It was campy, morbid, funny, and awkward all at once. It parodies comic book heroes pretty well. Had I been judging, I wouldn't have voted for an HM, just because the story is a bit too fluff for that. Still, for me it's in the top third this week.

Where you hooked me: From the opening line.
Where you lost me completely: You didn't.

7. blue squares - Too Late

-"aching reflection" Say what?

-Gee, I hope this story isn't almost entirely dialogue (scans the rest of the story) *sigh*.

-Hmm. We've got fire and freezing water. I'm not sure what the calamity actually was.

-It doesn't seem like you've done anything really to make your characters interesting. It's sad that I'm rooting for them to commit suicide but can you blame me? These people are cardboard cut outs. By all means, take the yellow pills.

-Hahahaha, I like the ending. The problem is, it's supposed to be tragic, but since you've given me no reason to care about the characters, I'm amused at their woe. That's a bad sign.

You were so kind to give me a line-by-line crit that I feel badly having to give you a harsh review, but I gotta call 'em like I see 'em.

Where you hooked me: Didn't really.
Where you lost me completely: The moment I saw that the story was nearly all dialogue.

Armack fucked around with this message at 07:39 on Nov 18, 2014

Benny the Snake
Apr 10, 2012


Your Sledgehammer posted:

I'll take a Bennycrit of this story if you don't mind. Thanks so much! I'll gladly trade a crit in return, just pick one of your stories.

:siren:Bennycrit-Your Sledgehammer:siren:

By the way Sledge, mind if I take a rain check on your crit? I have a feeling I'll need it soon. And sorry it took so long.

Word Count: 900

Lights in the Vault of the Sky, and a Blueberry Muffin

In the beginning, there was Nothing. The Divine felt very lonely, and wept twinkling, crystalline tears that she collected into her hands. She held her hands tightly and breathed life into the droplets, and when the moment was full, she opened her hands. Fireflies came pouring out, their wings beating out a joyful hum that a discerning ear can still hear today as they fled into the inky void.

Pleased, the Divine set out to create things for the fireflies to illuminate with their cheery, chartreuse glow. One firefly lit over a formless, cold world. Bitter, gray dust choked out the angry, life-giving magma at its core and billowed across its surface, pushed by the insatiable winds that danced through the atmosphere. This sentence ought to be separated. The firefly was delighted by the formless sphere and shown its light all the more brightly. What the cold rock lacked in character, it made up for in potential. It was a block of marble awaiting a hammer that would inevitably come. The cruel winds would calm into liquid and the rock would slowly take on a temperament.

Another firefly lit over a blossoming verdant globe teeming with life. Furry shapes bounced through trees and winged things gathered in such numbers that the firefly’s glow was blotted out. Creatures scrabbled across the ground and through the muck. They played and killed and loved and ate and sang, driven ever onwards by the uncomplicated joy of being. The firefly was pleased. The creatures would never possess the wherewithal to reach for the spiritual plane, but their lack of shame allowed them a kind of freedom that the firefly would never grow tired of.

A third firefly hummed over a wistful blue marble. This orb too had life, and one particular creature had an intellect so formidable that it had crowned itself king and gone about ordering the world after its whims. The structure and logic it imposed on itself caused it to think it was fundamentally different than its animal brethren, and the firefly was satisfied to let it continue thinking so. After all, it was special.

One day, the firefly peeked through the window of a crooked, tiny A-frame on a hill, where a woman sat waiting for her lover to return from the depressing toil of the overnight shift at the nearby factory. A little too much tell. I would cut it off at "overnight shift".

She’d only been up for an hour and was still in her nightgown, a silky little slip that barely covered her, when Brian burst through the front door and flashed her that lopsided, boyish grin of his. His face and hands were dull with factory grime and his eyes drooped with exhaustion, but he was glad to see her.

Ruthie desperately wanted Brian to think of her home as his home, too, and had done everything in her power to cultivate a domestic atmosphere. Cooking breakfast for him was out, though. She’d baked a chicken for him last week knowing full well that she could barely boil water. One bite of the gray, rubbery mess told her she had failed, and Brian spent the remainder of the meal telling her how good it was while he coughed and his eyes watered. Cooking breakfast was certainly out.

She’d settled for some store-bought blueberry muffins instead. There’s just something about baked goods, and Ruthie knew it was one of the most powerful symbols she could send at a man. After they kissed, she got them off the counter and placed them on the table as eagerly as if she had made them herself.

“That’s sweet of you, baby, but the dayshift supervisor brought donuts this morning,” Brian said. “Oh! Ok then,” Ruthie said with a pinched smile. She got him coffee and moved the conversation right along, but she was more than a little crestfallen.

She decided she’d eat one of the muffins herself, and popped open the box. An overwhelming berry miasma filled the room, and one bite revealed the muffin to be cloyingly sweet, with a blueberry flavor so intense that coffee could barely knock it down. The fact that the muffins were terrible only made Ruthie feel worse, and by the time Brian ambled over to the couch to catch a quick nap, Ruthie found herself fighting back tears.

The relationship would only last another couple of months. Ruthie and Brian would both be left wondering what happened, and that process of digging through the memories for clues would lead Brian to realize how badly he’d misread that morning with the muffins. She’d been so thoughtful and it had gone completely over his head. It was one of those weirdly sentimental things that would morph into a regret so profound that it would even bubble up among his last waking thoughts seventy years hence.

The firefly hummed joyously. The humans thought they were falconers when they were in fact falcons, carrying out the purpose that the Divine had decided before she’d even lit up the night sky. But for all their delusions of grandeur, they were special. They were the only things in the universe capable of that kind of intense, occasionally misbegotten empathy. Only a person could imbue a blueberry muffin with meaning.

The firefly glowed with glee. He’d chosen the right world to illuminate, and he loved the people that lived there. Above him, the Divine smiled, lonely no more.

This is a really melancholic story. I like how this is a creation myth, down to how it reads like a re-telling of the spoken word myth itself. You also combined it with a brief scene of domestic drama which was heartfelt and a little sobering too. Just watch for run-ons and fix your telling.

Benny the Snake fucked around with this message at 06:14 on Nov 19, 2014

Benny the Snake
Apr 10, 2012


Oh and I'm doubling-down as well-in for this week.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.

systran is probated, but would like a proverb.

edit: nvm Merc's got it.

Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at 19:30 on Nov 18, 2014

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.

Grizzled Patriarch posted:

systran is probated, but would like a proverb.

A lie travels round the world while truth is putting her boots on.

Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.

Jitzu_the_Monk posted:

A whole bunch of crits

That reminds me:

Whistleblowing posted:

When I regained consciousness, I found myself bound to a gurney. Naked. The air was thick with body odor and excrement. Willow was there.

“Well, well, well, the big traitor isn’t really so big after all, is he?” She pointed to my junk.
I said nothing.

“I could smell that you had poo poo yourself before I even opened the door. What’s the matter, can’t hold it in?”

I remained silent as she unstrapped me. As she led me to the far wall, I looked around. This room was new. Grey concrete, lit by an orange lamp in the corner.

“Assume the position.”Your guy is tied up, right?

Legs apart, hips back, hands above my head, nose pressed against the wall, balancing on the balls of my feet. A military stress position. Touchless torture, but I complied. Didn’t want the waterboarding.You introduce the waterboarding pretty much right after this anyhow, and that section is stronger

“Who helped you?” she asked after maybe fifteen minutes.

I tried to think about anything other than my aching feet and hips. “Emeril loving Lagasse.”

“Snide remarks are not in your best interests, Joseph. You should know that by now. We know you couldn’t have acted alone. Who helped you leak the documents?”

Stress positions gently caress with your body, but it’s the mental impact that gets to you. Since you’re the one holding yourself that way, the mind starts playing tricks, telling you it’s your fault that you’re suffering. Breaks you down mentally, but it beats waterboarding. I like the idea you're running with here of psychological torture

Willow repeated her question.

I wouldn’t let her see me buckle. She was trying hard to break my spirit and after this many days, she’d almost succeeded. I had to keep remembering that this wasn’t just about me. This was about Edgar, hiding abroad since he first reported the story. And Andrew, still on the inside, still embarrassing these bastards, I hoped. I owed it to them to stay strong, to honor their trust.

Hard to say how much longer she kept me there, but it was getting to be time for her to switch to the good cop routine. She used the sympathetic voice.

“HeyyyIf you want this drawl effect, use ellipses, are you hungry? It’s been a while since you’ve eaten hasn’t it?”

I loving hated the sympathetic voice. Nothing screws with your head worse than your captors acting nice to youTo whom is implied. After all the torment, even faux kindness builds attachment. They were trying to induce a kind of Stockholm Syndrome Wasted words: Stockholm Syndrome on its own is enough, the audience will know it and make this interpretation anyway. I shuddered at the prospect that it might someday work.

Willow eased me out of the stress position. She buzzed her colleagues. They came in, placed a robe around me, and led me to the Feeding Room.

She was still sweet talking. “We’ve put you through a lot lately, huh? You deserve something nice. I went out and bought you Chinese! Do you like beef and broccoli?”

“Shove it up your rear end, Willow.”

“Oh! But Joseph, we can’t let you go this long without eating. You don’t want us to feed you the hard way again, do you?”I'd be tempted to switch this to something mock-misunderstanding like “But that's not where the tube goes!” but I am crass

Imagine the exact space point/spot – it's a solid object, not a lack of one where the nerves in your nose connect to your brain. Now imagine a scalding hot cheese grater scraping that space from the inside. That’s what it feels like to be force fed through nasal intubation. I ate the beef and broccoli, trying not to enjoy it too much.

“Who helped you, Joseph?”

“Your sister’s oval office. I hid the documents there for weeks.”I see what you're trying to do here but technically this is a 'what', not a 'who'

SMACK. I made a mental note: Willow has a sister. I liked this line, it's the best at conveying your man is actually fighting rather than merely enduring

“Take him to the hole.”

It was so dark in the hole, I couldn’t tell the color of the walls. No light and no sleep. Every half hour or so, guards would pound on the door and scream, “TRAITOR!”

It must’ve been a day or two before they fed me again. They opened the door and threw me something. I couldn’t make it out in the darkness, but it felt round. And hard.

“We thought you might enjoy trying to gnaw your way through a pumpkin. Bon appetit, scumbag.” So yeah the prompt needs a pumpkin but still this is way out of left field


It was Willow who brought me out. Sat me down in the interrogation room.

“Who helped you, Joseph?”

I said nothing.

“Not talking today? Maybe you’re up for some reading instead.” She slid a newspaper toward me.

Front page: Controversial Journalist Found Dead. Nitpicky, but political assassinations by governments aren't front page. This would be buried below an advertisement on page 19

“I expect this would hit you pretty hard, huh Joseph? I know you and Edgar were close.”

Oh God, they got Edgar. Jesus loving Christ, these people were silencing everybodyYour tense is off – they 'are' silencing people right goddamn now – and I'd cut the whole line for a repetition of 'oh God'. I wanted to scream but she’d seize upon it if she saw a hint of vulnerability. Had to change the subject.

“Does your sister know what you do for a living?”

“She knows I’m a patriot.”

“Does she know you torture people?”

“She can rest easy knowing that I help toThis lady is not modest keep this country safe from people like you.”

“And do you rest easy, Willow?”

“Assume the position, Joseph.”

“I asked you a question.”

“I said assume the position.”

“gently caress your position! Answer my loving question.”

Without another word, Willow stood up and left the roomShe leaves the room and no more dialogue is written down – you don't need the first bit. I sat there for a few minutes, thinking about Edgar, the price he paid for publishing the truth. I tried not to cry, but I had gotten him involved in all this. One of the bravest men I ever knew died because of me. I started sobbing right before the guards burst in. They hooded me. I knew what was next.


Oh God, the music. They always started with the music. This time it was “Dirty” by Christina Aguilera, the volume turned way up. I liedlay on the board, still hooded, as I felt the bass thump through my body.

They placed the cloth over my nose and mouth. First came a spray, then a torrent. I struggled through shallow breaths.

“Who helped you, Joseph?”

The water soaked into my nose, dripped down to my lungs. I gagged.

“You can end this if you want.”

They pressed the cloth harder, smothering my coughs. I fought the restraints, my chest exploding in pain. Tried to turn my head to breathe, but it was useless.

“Who helped you?”

There’s no reasoning when you’re drowning; you feel like you’d do anything to make it stop. I needed to stay strong for Andrew’s sake, but I was weak that day. Maybe it was Edgar’s death, but by this point they’d broken me. I couldn’t hold out any longer. I’m sorry, Andrew.

SLAM. “Shut it down. Now!”

The music stopped. I took shallow breaths in between coughs.

I didn’t know the voice that gave the order, but I did recognize Willow’s.

“Just a little more time.”

“It’s over! The whole project. The old man signed off on it himself Who? Why? How?. Willow, you get this guy out of here.”

She unstrapped me, removed my hood and led me through a part of the complex I hadn’t been to before. Her face was stone.

“You never answered my question. Do you rest easy?”

She said nothing.

“The next time you lie in bed, Willow, I want you to listen hard. Listen for a screech far off in the distance. It will be the sound of a whistle blowing. See if you can rest through that.” I don't really like this image – it's not really all that threatening given that he just tried this and got tortured for God knows how long. Even if he is suddenly in the clear. I'd put this 'standing up to the captors' scene just as he's actually being untied etc. - this itself doesn't feel like a proper ending


In my original summary I said that what's important in a whistleblowing story is what is actually being whistleblowed (?) on, and we don't have this here. All in all I think you have a similar issue to me which is underexplaining things: we don't know why this newspaper story matters, we don't know who's torturing him and we don't know why they suddenly back off at the end. If you'd been able to tie these threads together – say, if this were a Watergate-equivalent that actually brought down the agency torturing him – it could have been an interesting story of resistance. All we get though is the torture.

Style-wise, I feel like you use too many words in a lot of places, and it messes up the rhythm of the piece. I am a sucker for snappy dialogue though. Don't necessarily look at the cuts I made as specific suggestions; it's more to show that you can boil down your sentences and keep the meaning.

There are bits of this that do work though. Your protag has a few good moments of active resistance but his 'do I break' moment is averted by the eleventh-hour reprieve. As a character you want him to pass through this himself rather than have the plot snatch him away. I'd have liked to see more of that sort of development in this story.

Reading recommendation:

Oh boy do I have high-brow literature for you, befitting the taste of the kinda guy who does reading recommendations. Here's Cory Doctorow's “Huxleyed Into the Full Orwell”.

The problem with making your character the victim of torture is that sooner or later something's got to break and it won't be pretty. You've done a Picard and have him break but get pulled out at the last minute: this is probably the best solution but it can't help but seem sudden. This story averts the problem by telling the story from a companion's perspective and allowing the final fate of the victim to be quietly unsaid.

Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx

I suppose I should do something with my life. I'm in.

Apr 12, 2006


Your Sledgehammer
May 10, 2010

Don`t fall asleep, you gotta write for THUNDERDOME

Benny the Snake posted:

:siren:Bennycrit-Your Sledgehammer:siren

By the way Sledge, mind if I take a rain check on your crit? I have a feeling I'll need it soon. And sorry it took so long.

No worries! Thanks for the crit. And a rain check is fine, feel free to cash it in whenever :)

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Your Sledgehammer posted:

No worries! Thanks for the crit. And a rain check is fine, feel free to cash it in whenever :)

Crits, psh, who ever promises to do those oh wait I do. :toxx: to do my outstanding three by this time tomorrow.

Oct 17, 2012

Hullabalooza '96
Easily Depressed
Teenagers Edition

In. Come at me.

Morning Bell
Feb 23, 2006

Illegal Hen

Belated, but thank you for the crit!

Would you mind terribly editing the story portion out of your crit post ((, please? I'm doing a bunch of revision and then sending it to a couple of places, and the story not being accessible on the web is usually in submission guidelines.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.

Morning Bell posted:

Belated, but thank you for the crit!

Would you mind terribly editing the story portion out of your crit post ((, please? I'm doing a bunch of revision and then sending it to a couple of places, and the story not being accessible on the web is usually in submission guidelines.

No problem!

Jan 27, 2006

Your line-by-line was incredibly helpful, Obliterati! You pointed out a number of things that would not have otherwise occurred to me. Thanks!

Jan 27, 2006

Crippled Crits Part II: Baby Babbeh, Gau, Beef Steakwell, Tyrannosaurus, Clandestine!, Anathema Device, Kaishai, JcDent

8.Baby Babbeh - The Left Behind

-"The first they noticed, of course, was the seemingly impossible amount of Mississippi river mud."

-Your narrator's voice feels old-timey, but then we get "boombox."

-The way you first describe Rose, when Tom first sees her, made me wonder if she was undead. Even though she's not, I still liked this description of her, and of Tom's shock upon seeing her. It's appropriately chilling. And in a sense, Rose was "dead" to Tom.

-I like that you're subtle about Tom and Rose's history, but I wish you had given us just a tiny bit more information so that we could more easily imagine what the details might have been.

This is just a straight-up good story. Good conflict, a little mystery, distinctive characters, generally good prose, solid description. Yep. Good job. If I had been judging, I would've voted HM.

Where you hooked me:"'She’s gone,' Lisa said."
Where you lost me completely: You didn't.

9. Gau - jan Sewi telo Poli

-You write convincingly in the folk-tale style.

-It's creative that in the context of the story, the tale of the fire and the ship isn't some age-old passed down piece of lore. It's something that happened recently and the current fires warrant explanation. It's refreshing to read a folk-tale that supposedly happened right before its telling.

-Your style is more appealing than your structure. In terms of plot, I would've liked to have seen more compelling conflict.

-My biggest criticism is this: You could improve this story with better characterization. Right now, the holy women in the story aren't really distinctive characters. It's not enough to single out one and just label her "the great Woman," whatever that really means. Characters should have their own distinctive and interesting identities. In your story I don't really know much of anything about anybody. Some characters blend together, others are given cursory distinctiveness: "high Woman," "boatman."

This story has potential but is unsatisfying in its current form. With revision, you could really make these characters come to life. With smalll adjustments to plot, you could also ramp up the urgency and make the action more compelling.

Where you hooked me: I will give you the story of sewi telo Poli, the skyboat.
Where you lost me completely: Didn't really lose me with any particular line.

10. Beef Steakwell - The Morning After

-Your title is trite.

-"The darkness had been...palpable" For real? What did it feel like?

-Your prose is a touch purple. I'd say pare it down.

-Watch your verb tenses.

I can't really add to what others have already told you. It's bible fanfic, and mediocre even by fanfic's low standards.

Where you hooked me: You didn't.
Where you lost me completely: The darkness had been thick and palpable, more like drowning in black waters than simply the passing of night.

11. Tyrannosaurus - Ding

-I really got sucked into this story shortly after the reveal. Who would've thought that a D&D scenario and its aftermath would be *more interesting* than an actual bomb?

-Clever use of the prompt. CC made it clear that "calamity" could be loosely interpreted and entirely personal.

-This is the perfect example of a story being great, yet I can't articulate quite why. You somehow make Jamie relatable. Why do readers relate to him, instead of being repelled by his social ineptitude? Maybe it's because he takes a chance and demonstrates personal growth. Well done in any case.

-The D&D reveal was magnificently done. As soon as I realized what had actually happened, I went back and noticed all the little clues that you had already placed. Like how "He rolled the dice" could come off as figurative until you realize the role-playing element.

Congrats on the win! You deserve it!

Where you hooked me: "I’m sick of everything changing every time the DM sees a new movie."
Where you lost me completely: You didn't.

12. Clandestine! - Harpy

-A lot of the crits for this piece have suggested that the reader doesn't really know why Iris wanted to marry Henry. I disagree with that. In hindsight, she probably wanted to marry him because he could accept her being a harpy (even if he wasn't thrilled about that). That's also why the twist matters. It shows how desperate Iris was for love. Not everyone is going to marry a harpy, so Iris is willing to put up with a lot of poo poo from her romantic partner, so long as he makes her feel desirable.

-Forget Iris's motivation for marrying. What was Henry's motivation for proposing? He obviously doesn't like Iris's harpy side. Did he propose to her just because she's willing to put up with abuse? That's a good way to get clawed to death. I understood his cold feet, but the proposal (from Henry's perspective) didn't make sense to me. What did he see in Iris?

-Since Henry proposed at the opera, you might consider specifying which opera they were attending. Bonus points if the opera adds meaning to the story.

Overall, this story was mid-tier in a strong week. Not bad at all.

Where you hooked me: "Most of her valued friends..." Although this sentence was run-on, it did make me curious to know the circumstances of Iris getting stood up at her own wedding.
Where you lost me completely: "You never liked to remember who I am, did you?"

13. Anathema Device - Problem

-A decent piece.

-My only real criticisms are 1) that the pacing is jarring, almost enough to be ADHD inducing, and 2) the piece is almost too easy. Nothing bold or brave about the writing. Not bad, but a little bit cookie cutter.

Where you hooked me: From the first line.
Where you lost me completely: Somewhere around the third scene change.

14. Kaishai - Winter's Tokens

I feel weird critting the winningest TD combatant. There's no particular reason why you should value my input on your story, but I'll offer it just the same.

-You have a special talent for creating atmosphere without sliding into pretension.

-"frozen world," "jags of broken wood sheathed in winter's glass," "sculpture, not life." Well done! I'm not even through the first paragraph, and already I'm rapt in poetic prose. Someday I hope to write like this.

-Atmosphere, images, description and then...meh.

-I realize the word count was low this week, but I needed a little something more to maintain my full interest/attention.

Did you ever have an English teacher who taught imagery by handing out a vignette and having everyone circle all the images? The images were great, weren't they? But there wasn't much mystery, action, compelling characterization, or pepped-up plot. Nobody in the class really finished the story. We just kinda copied off each other and circled a few pretty images.

Where you hooked me: "The boy stood still on the other side of the panes, staring through the fog of his breath at a frozen world."
Where you lost me completely: You never lost me completely, but my interest waned from "Many more feathered bodies huddled in the orchard trees" onward.

15. JcDent - Not Much

-What does it mean to "be a nice ship, in space and in historical recordings"?

-I would rewrite the second sentence as: It's a lot less nice when it's leaking hypercore liquid, having crashed in the middle of a shantytown. Then you can bring up the hole.

-The story is heavy on tell and light on show.

See, this story hasn't passed the "why should we care" threshold. Every story needs to give readers some reason to care. Maybe it's a relatable character that they're rooting for, maybe there is some kind of mystery that piques their curiosity, maybe you've created a unique environment that the reader wants to explore through your narration. Whatever it is, we need to be made to care about it. It's not enough just that there is a setting and characters are there. It's gotta be compelling or unique in some way.

Where you hooked me: You didn't.
Where you lost me completely: Somewhere between the first and second paragraphs.

Armack fucked around with this message at 07:22 on Nov 19, 2014

Beef Steakwell
Jul 30, 2012

Thank you for the crit Jitzu_The_Monk. I recognise that I have a lot of areas to make improvements in, but in order to make improving more manageable; what do you think is think is the most important thing for me to focus on first?

Beef Steakwell fucked around with this message at 10:50 on Nov 19, 2014

Nov 15, 2012

What will you say when
your child asks:
why did you fail Thunderdome?

Free precrits this week for the first three people who ask since the shitlist from #117 didn't take theirs. We can also discuss your plot outlines or w/e.

(If you take one make sure you send me something by Saturday at the latest.)

Your Sledgehammer
May 10, 2010

Don`t fall asleep, you gotta write for THUNDERDOME

I'll take one, thanks Entenzahn!

Jan 27, 2006

Beef Steakwell posted:

Thank you for the crit Jitzu_The_Monk. I recognise that I have a lot of areas to make improvements in, but in order to make improving more manageable; what do you think is think is the most important thing for me to focus on first?

I'm just starting out myself, so be sure to talk to the more experienced people too. But my advice is to concentrate on tighter prose, developing interesting characters, and building compelling conflicts. Possibly in that order.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Entenzahn posted:

Free precrits this week for the first three people who ask since the shitlist from #117 didn't take theirs. We can also discuss your plot outlines or w/e.

(If you take one make sure you send me something by Saturday at the latest.)

I'll take one, because I didn't take advantage of mine last week.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet

chthonic bell posted:

Anathema Device: I'd really appreciate your crit on The Tram!


The tram has been knocked right off the rails by the blast. It now lies on its side amid the snowdrifts, like a dying animal. I’m put off by the “has been/is now.” Present tense is all about immediacy, so why start with something that has already happened? Snow settles on Isak's face through the shattered windows. He opens one eye and stares up, unseeing. He can taste blood. There's something hard and round under his back. He reaches down and feels someone's fur hat, wet and sticky and then the unmistakable texture of hair.

I'm lying on someone's head, Isak thinks and starts laughing, the sound small and surreal in the stricken tram. To his right, someone swears at him, calls him a lunatic. Isaac turns his head, but he can't see the speaker. He tries to open the other eye and finds it's swelling shut.

The winter wind plays with his hair, whistles into his ears, chills the tip of his nose. He shivers under his shuba, but nothing drives him to move. Not crazy about “nothing drives him to move.” A curious sort of tranquillity has settled over him, a dream-state that makes everything feel like he's watching his life from behind a thick plane of glass. He hears screaming that barely registers, swearing that passes right over his head and the gentle crunch of fresh snow under feet.

There's a centimetre of snow on his face and the head below him is moving, bumping against his back. In the distance, the Stukas wail as they dive. Another blast makes the tram rock, blows the snow from Isak's face. The head beneath his back jerks up and down, nudging him. Isak sits up, his movements slow and deliberate, like he's moving underwater, and turns to look at the man he landed on.

"Are you simple?" the man growls and Isak slowly shakes his head, though he can't quite understand the question. Nice No, comrade, he's quite complex, thank you very much. The man under him shoves him forward and Isak flops over like a marionette, hitting one of the seats with his knee. The pain jolts him, makes him whine. He stumbles up, finding his footing on another fallen citizen. This one doesn't move. Isak climbs out of the window, the shards of glass nicking his mittens enough to cut the skin of his hands. His boots slip and he lands on his arse, right between the tram-tracks.

Another howl of the Stukas sounds in the distance, but fainter, further away. Isak barely feels the next blast. He climbs to his feet, slowly, slips a little but clears the rails before he collapses again, panting.

I'm not going to make it, he thinks and shivers, again. His ears, exposed to the Leningrad winter, are growing numb. He wonders what they'll look like, if frostbite sets in.

The sirens wail again, giving the all-clear. Isak puts his hands over his ears until the sound dies away. He tries to get to his feet, but his legs fold under him and he flops, face-forward, into a drift of snow. Powder fills his nose, makes him panic, makes adrenaline surge. He sits up, wrenching his face clear and pants.

Around him, Leningraders hurry about their lives. Survivors climb out of the stricken tram. He sits back and reaches into an inner pocket of his shuba and pulls out his ticket and stares at it. Eighteen hundred hours, it says. He glances up at the darkening sky and grins.

He's got time to walk to the Bolshoi. Hmm. I don’t really get the ending.

On a line level, this (especially the last half) is pretty good. The strength of present-tense is immediacy, so you need to think especially hard about phrases that pull attention away from the moment. I don’t want to be reminded that someone is writing this; I want to experience it as it unfolds. There are some lines with unnecessary words, but there’s also a few times when you use “like..,” as in “like a dying animal, like he’s moving underwater, like a marionette.” These don’t feel like Isak’s thoughts, and remind me that this is being written.

I normally wouldn’t advocate for anything that makes it harder to understand what’s going on, but the first line reads a bit like the camera is zooming in across the tram, to Isak. Everything else follows really tightly from Isak’s perspective. A bit of confusion at the beginning would make sense, given Isak’s confused state.

The ending doesn’t really follow from the beginning or middle. His need to get to Bolshoi isn’t mentioned until the last line, so having time to get there (if he doesn’t freeze to death) doesn’t have a lot of impact. For the rest of the story, I’m wondering is Isak will survive, and the ending doesn’t really clear that up (can he really walk overnight in the state he’s in in that weather?)

Overall this has a nice, floaty tone that makes sense with someone in shock, and decent description, but not a lot of plot.

blue squares posted:

musical flash rule:
relevant lyrics:
Ocean bursts its banks and all the waters goin my way
Even though you're poison babe I wouldn't even hesitate
This lie inside your head inside your little heart now
Lightin up the fire and the citys painted blood red

Too Late 752 words
Jill saw in the hotel window the aching reflection of Mark’s face, half aglow in the yellow lamplight. The half he always self-consciously joked was his bad side. It’s possibly deliberately unclear whether it’s the bad side of his face or his personality showing here. Beyond his reflection, high-rise condos across the street burned. It looked as if he were on fire himself. She began to smell the stink of the blaze above their own heads.

“We have to try.” Jill’s breath fogged the window. Mark’s second face disappeared into the cloud of her breath like a ghost.

“It’s too late,” Mark whispered into her ear in a shuddering voice. H, his hot breath like fire. “I’m sorry. I could have gotten us out sooner. But I didn’t. I’m so sorry.” Interesting opening. The description is on the edge of overdone, but I’m intrigued.

Jill turned and kissed him. Their tears ran together. “Let’s go down. I don’t know. We could swim out. Come on. Don’t give up.” I get that she doesn’t want him to give up without you actually saying “Come on. Don’t give up.”

“The water’s freezing. And too fast. And full of jagged metal, cars, who knows what. Where would we go? Everything’s on fire or drowned. Everything. Just look at it.” This guy is pretty whiny.

“There could be rescue,” Jill’s pitch getting higher. “There could be rescue.” Jill’s pitch got higher.

“They left a long time ago.” He held out a shaking hand. Two glittering yellow capsules. The power went out and the lamp with it. The hotel room glowed orange from the light of the fires outside. It looked to Jill like the light of a hundred candles. Like the day Mark proposed to her in this very room years ago.

“I don’t want to see you in any pain,” Mark said. “We can go to sleep together. I’m sorry.” So he just happens to have suicide capsules on him?

Jill considered the pills. The easy way out. “I’m scared. I can’t do it.” If it’s the easy way out, is she lying about being scared?

She put her arms around his neck as if to dance but wept into his chest. Mark held her tight.

“I’m scared, too. I wish there was something I could do. I let you down.”

“No you didn’t,” Jill’s words muffled and insincere. Nice

The floor shook. If the fire didn’t reach them first, the flood below would bring the hotel down. They’d already seen fiery towers in the distance slip away into the water like torpedoed ships.

“Don’t make me do it alone, Jill. I’m not going to drown or burn. I can’t go out like that. I can’t think of you going out like that. Please.” I’ve pinpointed my problem with this character. He starts out nihilistic and whiny, and he ends nihilistic and whiny. He doesn’t seem to really grow throughout the story. We never see him when he isn’t giving up, so seeing him give up doesn’t have a lot of power.

Jill pushed away from him and wiped tears from her face, though more followed. “Stop it! I don’t want to go out any way! I want to live. Please help me live. I need you to tell me what to do, Mark. I’m so scared. Help me.” She paused. “Don’t make me die.” I’m not entirely sold on Jill’s character, either, but I like her better.

Mark pulled her back against him. “Jill, I love you. This is the only way I know how to help you. We’ll be together again.”

“Do you really believe that?”
“I do.”

“Okay,” after a long time. “Okay. I’ll do it.” Jill’s transition from “I don’t want to die” to “well, okay then” seems too easy. I’m not feeling the love between them very strongly, so “we’ll be together in the afterlife” isn’t a strong motivator.

She opened her mouth and let Mark put the pill there as if he were a pediatrician and she a little girl. He guided a glass of water to her lips. The water rushed down her throat with the pills.

Jill collapsed to her knees and sobbed. She pulled down Mark with her. The rest of the water spilled and his pill bounced away on the carpet.
“I’m dead,” Jill wailed. “I’m dead and I just killed myself. Oh my god.” She lay on her side curled in a ball.

“I’m coming, honey!” Mark shouted as he scrambled around, feeling in the dim light for the lost pill. “It’s okay! Wait for me. I’m here! We’re still together!”

The door splintered open at the end of a bright red battering ram. Ringing alarms blared through the opening. Firefighters with red helmets and axes clambered over the pieces of the door.

“Sir! Ma’am!” their heavy shouts came. “We’re here to get you out. We have to go now.” The emergency lights in the hall shone in and turned the room red.

Mark and Jill froze. “Oh!” Jill exclaimed. “No! I didn’t want to. Oh god. Help me.” She tried to push her fingers into her throat to vomit, but already her limbs were too weak. She flopped onto her back and began to shake.

“You killed me,” she managed to say.

“Jill! No, please, please don’t go. I’m sorry!”

“I didn’t want to do it,” she whispered and was gone.

“We have to go now, sir!” The firefighters grabbed Mark and pulled him to the door.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” he called to her endlessly as he was taken to safety, alone.

Your characters aren’t strong enough to carry off such an emotionally based story, and it ends up being pretty melodramatic. In general seeing a character at their weakest moment only carries power if you’ve seen them strong, and seeing them strong only carries power if you’ve seen them weak. A good character arc contrasts a starting point with an ending point, and there’s change in the middle.

Here we have a character who starts out not wanting to die, and ends up not wanting to die. We have another character who starts out wanting to die, and ends up wanting to die. There’s no change or movement, and so there’s no power.

Otherwise, your writing is pretty good. The pacing works, and there’s some nice imagery.

Your Sledgehammer posted:

Whenever This World is Cruel to Me
713 words

When Jake woke up from his nap, everyone’s gender but his was flip-flopped. Maybe “everyone else’s gender was” He didn’t notice at first. Wiping the sleep from his eyes, cliche he strolled out of his bedroom on the way to class. He made it to the door of the common room and turned back towards the couch to say goodbye, and that’s when he realized that he didn’t know the person sitting there.

He lived with his best friend since middle school, Terry. This sentence is a bit confusing. Sitting on the couch was a girl he’d never seen before. He frowned, shook his head, and laughed. “Pretty rude of me to stroll out of here without introducing myself, my name’s Jake,” he said. Strangers were not an uncommon occurrence in the Chateau of Mayhem, as they called it.

The girl started laughing so hard that she had trouble getting out any words. “Jake, what’s wrong with you?” she said.

Jake pinched his eyebrows together and mustered up a half-grin. “I just don’t know you and was trying to be polite, is all,” he said. Not crazy about this dialog.

“Well let me refresh your memory. Sam Houston Intermediate, first day of class, you gave me half your sandwich after some rear end in a top hat kid stepped on my lunchbox,” she said. Nice details, but this might be telling the reader information rather than natural dialog.

It started as a tiny feeling of cold at the top of his head. Then the cold swept downward through Jake, goosebumps following as it traveled across his skin. What in the blue gently caress, he thought. It was her eyes, chocolate brown and a little droopy at the corners. The same eyes of the dude he’d been playing Playstation with just a few hours earlier. “Terry?” he said, his voice almost a whisper. Halfway through the story, the character catches up to what the narrative told us in the first line.

“Finally coming out of dreamland, I see,” Terri said, a warm grin spreading across her face.

Jake’s hand unclenched and his backpack fell to the ground. He leaned against the wall, his back sliding down until he was sitting with his head in his hands. The stranger on the couch looked concerned. This has to be a dream, Jake thought. Is Terry the only one? He tried to sound calm but nothing could cover the shaking in his voice.

“Our quarterback is Sean Harris, right?” Jake asked.

“Did you bang your head or something? It’s Blake Hutchins,” Terri replied.

poo poo. I’m pretty sure there was a girl on the cheerleading squad named Blakely Hutchins. “Is there anyone on the cheerleading squad named Harris?” Jake asked.

“I think there’s a Susan Harris, yeah,” Terri said.

A burning pit settled at the bottom of Jake’s stomach. Campus life is already a social minefield, he thought. I’m going to have to get to know literally everyone all over again. I wonder what happened to Mom and Dad? With that thought, the tears began to dredge up to the surface. Jake buried his face in his arm.

“Are you OK?” Terri asked. Jake glanced up at that new but familiar face through the watery film. Her bemused grin had given way to creases of concern. Jake could feel a thought bubbling up through the cloud of confusion and panic. He actually found himself a little bit was curious to see the way femininity would affect his best friend’s personality; what sort of new and fascinating layers would he discover in the coming days? That little ray of light faded, though, and Jake settled back into the gloom of his predicament. I’m having trouble having empathy for his predicament.

“No, I’m not OK. Not at all,” Jake said, the pitch of his voice shifting as the dam finally burst.

He bolted out the door and threw himself down on the porch. Terri wasn’t far behind him, but Jake’s face was already a damp mess. “Hey you,” she said. “I’m not sure what’s wrong, but you can tell me.”

“You wouldn’t understand,” he said.

A small hand wrapped around his upper arm, gentle but firm. “Try me,” she said, as she wiped a tear off his cheek.

Jake took a deep breath. Those chocolate eyes stared back at him, their edges lined with sympathy. There’s a person here that I know deeply and yet don’t know at all, he thought. He took her hand and felt a gentle squeeze as she smiled at him. And in that moment, Jake knew that everything happened for a reason.

On a line level, you had a few little rough spots that more reading and practice writing will help you avoid. You did a good job keeping your descriptions relevant to the story and the characters, but they could be a bit more vivid.

On a story level, this reads almost like an essay with an introduction “Everyone’s gender was swapped” and a conclusion “everything happens for a reason” with the middle bits either expanding on the introduction “yes, everyone’s gender is really swapped” or the conclusion “Terri makes an interesting girl.”

It’s okay for the reader to be confused when the viewpoint character is (within limits.) If you state your premise in the first sentence, you don’t need to show us that it’s true with the conversation about the football team.

I have a hard time connecting to this story. I guess I don’t really see what the big deal is. So what, everyone’s a different gender/sex (these aren’t the same thing.) They don’t seem to have trouble with it; it’s been like that all along for them, so you’re not exploring trans* themes really. The only person it really changes anything for is your protagonist, and mostly it seems to change how he views people. I’d connect more strongly to this piece if it explored questions like “what does gender/sex have to do with personality” but it doesn’t go very deeply into that.

It’s possible this was a humor story and I just missed the funny. Overall, your writing isn’t bad but I encourage you to dig deeper for the emotional consequences of your story premise.


Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Fear not, Anathema Device, the crits are still trickling in. First, from memory. It's been a while now, but I remember the broad strokes. You had an abused female protagonist, which I recall being especially common that week, but she was trying to move on with her life. To grow personally, combined with the metaphor of her growing things physically. I remember it being touching and inspiring -- an unremarkable setting but a character one couldn't help but root for (apologies).

After a reread, most of what I remember still stands. You do an excellent job of conveying a character who's emotionally wounded. I think the concept I relate with, or at least the main part that makes it feel inspiring, is that the character is attempting to take control of her destiny. To no longer be a victim of circumstances, and to earn happiness via effort. Everyone has felt like life is getting them down at some point (externalizing their problems), and the notion that we can control our fate is a powerful one. I'm not sure that there is much more I'd like to see from this piece: the background was hinted at expertly, and explicitly revealed in a fashion that didn't feel like it was beating me over the head. The budding romance (ack, I must be tired this morning) felt wholesome and honest and delightfully innocent for people their age.

More on the line-by-line:

Anathema Device posted:

Freedom Garden
Spring, Earth
835 Words

“Get a hobby,” the lawyer said. “Volunteer or something.” I stared at her and saw only the walls and floor and ceiling, the tightly closed window. I paced. I didn't even realize it the first time around, but this does a great job of hinting at the narrator's emotional state. She feels trapped, so she sees everything like a prison; a confinement. Outside a chill rain washed away the last of the snowbanks. Also establishes the season, which is appropriate and important.

The thought was terrifying. The thought was thrilling. I also like this presentation. It speaks to me of the character's trepidation.

My soon-to-be ex’s subtle Don't know if I like the word "subtle" here. siege had kept me in the shelter for three weeks. He’d broken into my facebook and email, put pressure on my friends to tell him where I went. Believable as a real-world situation. Nothing was safe.

“The community garden is right next door.”


The smell of bergamot suffused the garden office. Bergamot and damp earth. A bell tinkled out in the greenhouse, summoning a young man through the back door. “Hello,” he said, holding out a hand. “I’m Sean.” I stared at the hand, clean except under the nails where dirt lingered in neat half crescents. Good detail. I knew how to shake hands, I reminded myself. Excellent demonstration of a wounded psyche.

“Jessica.” The word caught in my throat as his hand closed around mine. Gentle. Firm. I like that, here and elsewhere, you establish the narrator's feelings by showing the details she chooses to focus on. “I um...I was wondering if you needed volunteers.”

“Sure.” Crow’s feet bloomed around his eyes when he smiled. I thought of him as young, but he was probably my age. Younger than my husband or our friends. “You want anything to drink? Coffee? Tea?”

“Is that Earl Grey I smell?” I asked. He made us tea in silence, fragrant and hot and strong. My husband hated the smell of bergamot. When I raised the cup to my lips the steam smelled of freedom and the scalding tea left a warmth inside that felt like happiness. Might break into two sentences.

“What do you know about gardening?” he asked.

“Nothing much,” I admitted.

We lingered over the tea while he told me what would need doing. “You’d best come back tomorrow,” he said when the cups had gone empty twice. “You won’t want to get your pretty things dirty.” I assume you mean clothes, especially since later she does get her nice clothes dirty, but the phrase "pretty things" doesn't read well in this context.

I blushed like fire. I like the simile.


Dampness soaked my knees as I knelt in the empty ~"flower" bed, Although it's likely that the scene following the previous one will be about gardening, it's not a guarantee, and the first half of this sentence as written could allow a reader to think that she's damp while getting into her bed at home that night, which then becomes jarringly corrected by transplanting basil seedlings. The trowel felt awkward and heavy in my hand. Good line. I pressed it into the dirt but couldn’t break through the heavy mud.

“Like this,” Sean said, stabbing sharply downward with the shovel. The violent movement sent my heart skipping, made me pull back defensively, but he just repeated the motion, digging out a hole with a few deft flicks. I think I said a bit about this in my first crit but here's another excellent example of showing just how damaged she'd become by her previous relationship, as well as strongly implying that there was physical abuse.

I pulled the spade back and plunged it into the dirt. The blade crunched through the soil to the handle. Good line. Vicious pleasure surged through me, and I stabbed downward again and again, loosening the dirt and scooping it aside. I don't relate as much as with the other bits, but I can still feel her sense of freedom tinged with vengeance from this action.

My breath was fast and ragged through parted, chapped lips. I shrugged out of my jacket, set it aside. The weak spring sun touched my bare arms. Sweat coated my skin; the cool breeze turned it instantly chill, and the hairs on the backs of my arms stood up. Nice increase of tension via shorter, more abrupt sentences.

I glanced up to find Sean smiling at me, his eyes crinkling at the corners.

“Are you ready to sign the papers?” My lawyer asked me, as she had every couple days since I’d called her. I picked up the pen, feeling that same warming thrill, that same violent impulse I had so reveled in earlier.

I signed.


“Back again?” Sean asked with a smile. “For tea, or work?”

“Can we do both?”

We took our time over the tea. He broke a muffin in half and pushed one towards me. I hesitated to take his lunch, but he insisted. “Go on. I baked it myself with berries I grew here.”

The plump blueberries looked amazing. I broke it into dainty bites with my fingers. If I caught his eyes lingering when I licked my fingers clean, I didn’t mind. I know I talked about this some the first time around, but I don't like that it's worded conditionally. Break it into "I caught his eyes lingering as I licked my fingers clean[./, but] I didn't mind."

It was his turn to blush. Cute reversal. I think the two blushing interactions add a lot to the charming innocence of their relationship.

“You’ll still have to appear in court,” the lawyer warned me. “You’ll have to see him again.” You start to scene break too often here. I know you want to establish what happens so it's logical and unsurprising, but I pause at those pauses, and details that I think you're kind of breezing over for the sake of moving along are given undue weight and importance by their pagination.

My basil plants were growing new leaves. Metaphor! I smiled at them, gently ran a finger along the edge of one sun-warmed leaf before moving on with my weeding. "Weeding" is dangerously close to "wedding". Also, I didn't do a specific analysis, but I feel like sometimes you used connecting words (I smiled at them as I gently ran a finger...), whereas often enough you don't (what's actually on this line). They're not quite overplayed, but I'm starting to get tired of this slightly-abrupt format.


I gritted my teeth and put on my nicest white pantsuit. White for brides, white for innocence. It made me look pale, fragile. More grating comma-descriptors. I cleaned the dirt out from under my nails Clearly she's kept busy. and painted them bright red.

I walked into the courtroom with my head held high, and I looked the bastard in the eye while the lawyers showed the pictures of my bruises. Decent reveal. Also strongly implied character growth, since I feel she wouldn't've made eye contact at the beginning of this story. I looked him in the eye and thought of roots growing underground and leaves reaching for the sun and did not flinch or cry or look away. This line feels weak on the impact it should be delivering, and a little childish in the way it runs on.

Sean found me kneeling in the back of the lot, dirt under my red fingernails and covering my white blouse. My jacket was discarded on the ground, and my pants were ruined. Mascara streaked my cheeks, which were sore from the force of my smile. A lot of pleasant almost-symmetry. You repeatedly imply character growth by showing how the character reacts to a situation at first and how she reacts differently to a similar situation.

“So it went well then?” he asked, dropping to his knees beside me. His shoulder brushed mine and heat like sunlight raced over my skin. I leaned against him. Not sure what might be better, but this isn't impactful. It's warm, but it was strongly implied and expected, so it doesn't leave me with anything new or strong to ponder on. I actually think this would've had more punch if you ended the story at '"So it went well then?" he asked.' The previous paragraph is much more emotional, and the reader's imagination will cover the ideas you reiterate after that point.

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