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Echo Cian
Jun 16, 2011

:siren: FLASH RULES :siren:

I'll be nice and do this early. I used a random generator for emotions and threw them at everyone. These should inform your stories in some way, but do keep "Show, don't tell" in mind. ctrl+f your names or something.

-Entenzahn -- petrified
-Sitting Here -- defeated
-Screaming Idiot -- enthusiastic
-Obliterati -- despairing
-Fuschia tude -- grateful
-Quidnose -- inspired
-SadisTech -- timid
-Capntastic -- indignant
-Grizzled Patriarch -- insecure
-kurona_bright -- provoked
-Benny Profane -- accepting
-leekster -- understanding
-A Classy Ghost -- stubborn
-Sebmojo -- dependent
-Jeep -- suspicious
-bukkits -- brave
-LOU BEGAS MUSTACHE -- apprehensive
-hotsoupdinner -- ecstatic
-contagionist -- independent
-Tayacan -- hesitant
-tenniseveryone -- irate
-Arm_Fruit -- earnest
-ZeBourgeoisie -- honest
-Savagely_Random -- humiliated

:siren: SPECIAL FLASH RULE :siren:

Sitting Here and Sebmojo, I saw all that ponytail-pulling and digging bones out of the dumpster to throw at each other (seb your aim is terrible and SH you should clean them first if you want them to stop slipping out of your hand), so in addition to your respective assigned emotions, your stories will involve a vicious rivalry.


Jun 26, 2013


Echo Cian posted:

:siren: FLASH RULES :siren:

I'll be nice and do this early. I used a random generator for emotions and threw them at everyone. These should inform your stories in some way, but do keep "Show, don't tell" in mind. ctrl+f your names or something.

-SadisTech -- timid

Not early enough! I already have a full structure I'm fleshing out ffs. Not cool.

Echo Cian
Jun 16, 2011

SadisTech posted:

Not early enough! I already have a full structure I'm fleshing out ffs. Not cool.

deal w/ it

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Echo Cian posted:

deal w/ it

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.

Echo Cian posted:

Thunderdome CXXXI: At the Crossroads

I'll be handing out flash rules if I feel like it.

She felt like it. Sorry bro.

Jan 13, 2006
gently caress it, I'm in. Hit me with a feels.

Echo Cian
Jun 16, 2011

Megazver posted:

gently caress it, I'm in. Hit me with a feels.


May 5, 2014

by FactsAreUseless
I'm in.

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's DIE!"
In it so I can't possibly be talked into judging it.

Echo Cian
Jun 16, 2011

starr posted:

I'm in.


Dr. Kloctopussy posted:

In it so I can't possibly be talked into judging it.


Benny the Snake
Apr 10, 2012

I'm in :toxx:

Aug 2, 2002





Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's DIE!"

Echo Cian posted:



it should have been regret

Echo Cian
Jun 16, 2011

Dr. Kloctopussy posted:

it should have been regret

That's my own theme for the week having to read all this.


Oct 30, 2003
In. Hit me.

Mar 21, 2010

Benny the Snake posted:

I'll be good

Muffin, you mind if I crit one of your stories, though? I do need the practice, after all.

Echo Cian
Jun 16, 2011


Oct 30, 2003
Spaceship Week Judgeburps part the second

Nethilia - Among The Stars
This immediately stood out as the kind of thing I like to read, as it was by far the most down to earth of the stories this week. The plot felt very inevitable right from the start, which I would normally say is a bad thing, but here the story hit me hard because of this, not in spite of it. I think there were sections that could have been cut down that wouldn't have hurt the plot, but I think that the story had the right pace to make me feel happy when the reunion finally happened. I originally wrote down that I would have liked to see some ambiguity as to whether the spaceship was real or not, but after having a while to think it over that was a terrible idea. The quality of the prose was excellent. A very deserving winner.

Tyrannosaurus - The Close Enounter
You have written many things that I have found funny, including your winner from surrealism week and your bus story from crisis week. This, however, cracked me up irl. I think that humour is very difficult, and I was very big on your story for that reason. I think it is hard to crit a story like this that is essentially a joke. It is easy to point out stereotyping and stupid plot holes and stuff, but I think that the central joke was so strong that to get hung up on those details is beside the point. I loved it, for me it only failed to HM based on missing some of crabrocks prompt and direction.

LOU BEGAS MUSTACHE - The Bureaucratic Minefield that is Spaceship Insurance Claims
Maybe this suffered a little from coming after such a strong funny piece, but nevertheless I liked your story. I liked the setting, and the naive sort of George Saundersy feel to the characters, shown in the dumb nicknames which I hated at first but then loved when I understood how they fit in. The major issue I had was that I think you had too much going on. I was really interested in one aspect of the character- that he was essentially reinventing crime in this new society. However the story I got was a lot less interesting- a guy who likes blowing stuff up. This is why I didn't like the ending at all, but well done. If I ever own a personal spaceship I will definitely call it 'Weird Taco'.

Sitting Here - The Threads Behind Everything
This story was the poster-child for one of the main story categories this week: High-concept stuff where I had no idea what was going on. I think a lot of the concepts you were trying needed more space to breathe, though I must qualify this by saying the actual visual description of the time travel was clear and good. Also spaceships were sort of an afterthought, not a necessary part of the story. The love connection didn't work for me either- the guy just seemed like a creepy time-stalker. I thought she made the wrong decision- wasn;t she supposed to stay with old chand? Definitely not one of my favourites.

Fumblemouse - The Sun and the Mirror
I thought that having sentient spacecraft was a very risky choice. I was expecting a story where that happened, and I was expecting to hate it. In this case the risk paid off because of excellent use of voice to convincingly portray these ships as just the right combination of naive and epic.
I liked the shift in perspective from the journalistic start to the spaceships' point of view. The prologue didn't feel expositiony as it was basically a bunch of plot. I understand that the mystery of heliod was important, but there was so much crazy poo poo going on that at times this strayed into the "high concept but I have no loving idea what's happening' group, though probably not enough to ruin it. I also had a problem with some tone issues- there were parts at the start eg "subsoap" where I thought this would have comic elements. I thought your use of visual language to describe the ships was a highlight that cut through the complexity a bit, and made it more palatable- there were certainly some striking images. Overall this had very strong strengths but also very glaring weaknesses for me.

Djeser - Space Isn’t So Scary
You did the honourable thing in sticking to your (essentially self imposed) flash rule. I think the most I can say about this is that it is definitely a story, and it is only 250 words long. I found it mildly diverting, and was somewhat impressed by the amount of story you managed to fit in. I think this was a good effort for what it was.

Your Sledgehammer - The Magic Screen
I liked the writing style of this, and I really loved the concept, but as a story it was dismal and boring and nothing happens. The 'reunion' with Pee Wee Herman was a highlight for me, it made sense with the rest of what you wrote. Having a story that is mainly about a man contemplating suicide needs to have a lot more than what you offered to bring it out of the middle of the pack, though. Characterization was decent, but needed to be outstanding to carry the rest.

Ironic Twist - Arithmetic
On first read I LOVED your story and my very strong gut reaction was to give it the win. In retrospect I glossed over some plot holes that lessened the impact of everything I loved about it. While your prose is clearly a highlight of everything you write, in this case I thought your plot (in macro) was incredibly smart. A sort of reverse alien colonial love story, with shades of captain kirk but also of pocahontas, really struck a chord with me. I've always though of the process of colonization as a literal alien invasion, but you put a great spin on it.
I was in two minds over the handling of the love affair. I feel with a piece as serious as this it would have been better to make it platonic and avoid raising difficult and yucky questions of anatomy. On the other hand for me it worked, and the reason it worked was because you gave us clear, believable characterization of the 33. Characterization was also good for Royal (love the name).
This brings me to the ending. The combination of the above made 33's 'cannibalism' seem not only understandable, but necessary. I felt little sympathy for Royal, and all the sympathy in the world for 33. I hope this was what was intended. Given my colonial reading of the story I did wince slightly at the cannibalism, but due to the sensitivity with which it was handled I think it holds up even if given a reading paying great attention to matters of race.
I still love this story, though I agreed in the end with crabrock's assessment of it's flaws. A very strong HM, and the story I connected with most this week.

Docbeard - land of the dead
This was one of the expositiony arc ship stories. The bit in the middle with the grandad talking was just a brutal piece of exposition. The action was pretty cool, but it was abandoned too soon for a very fuzzy bit where she somehow ejected them in some way that I didn't understand.
Characterization was good, prose was competent, and it ticked the boxes for the prompt. Just should have taken half as many words.

El Diabolico - untitled
Honestly why would you even bother submitting this? Was it just designed to troll people for writing science fiction? Giving this an HM or Loss would only take away from someone who would actually care.
I mean even if this were worthy of consideration for some low word count family drama vignette dialogue prompt this is just trite bollocks. Congratulations for wasting your time and all the judges time. I hope you feel happy. Actually I hope you spent hours and hours slaving over something that actually attempted the prompt that you abandoned in a fit of pique before submitting this poo poo. That way you would have wasted more time than the judges, and also suffered from more emotional distress.
(just cut and pasted from judge doc can't be hosed wasting any more time on it)

Oh jesus this was a lot of stories. I will post a part the third by the end of the weekend.

Apr 25, 2011

I'm a suave detective with a heart of gold in hot pursuit of the malevolent, manipulative
and the deranged degenerates who only want their

Sure. I'll go in. Why not? Feel free to flashrule me too. Also :toxx:. I didn't forget this time.


Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

newtestleper posted:

Spaceship Week Judgeburps part the second

Ironic Twist - Arithmetic
On first read I LOVED your story and my very strong gut reaction was to give it the win. In retrospect I glossed over some plot holes that lessened the impact of everything I loved about it.


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.

Just wanna throw this out. Dr. Kloctopussy, HopperUK, Crabrock, Entenzahn and Echo Cian, you have books and videos games you can have if you want since you either won or achieved honorable mention. You know where to find me.

Echo Cian
Jun 16, 2011

Phobia posted:

Sure. I'll go in. Why not? Feel free to flashrule me too. Also :toxx:. I didn't forget this time.


Jul 21, 2014

You shouldn't be doing anything with fluorine.

Echo Cian posted:



Aug 2, 2002




give me a thing

Echo Cian
Jun 16, 2011

Not my fault you mistyped when you made the account.

crabrock posted:

give me a thing


:siren: ~10 hours until signups close. If you're still on the fence, make up your mind.

Oct 17, 2012

Hullabalooza '96
Easily Depressed
Teenagers Edition

Yes, yes, week 122, crits for that later, for now you get off my rear end. I don't like my lack of 100% Crit rate any more than you do. Fairies first.


Echo Cian
The Deathless

Tale: Koschei the Deathless.
Path: Circle. Very clear in the first read.
Quality: High. A retold fairy tale that uses the elements and turns them around.

I started liking this story from the very first words and opening, and it just got better and better. Koschei doesn’t show malice to Marya at any point, and she shows none to him. As soon as Marya is taken by Koschei, they immediately start to puzzle each other out over the course of their time together. One of the little details that I just melted for was the part with her knitting him a scarf—needle symbolism--and the contrast of the scarf against his pale skin. It’s the little flickers of details of description that make a story very nice. (I got a crit once that said that I only described a character by the nails and it was the kind of good way to describe in flash fic, and that’s stuck with me. Much like the scarf did.)

“He didn't pull away, but returned it only hesitantly, a hare poised on the edge of flight.” Oooo, yes give me those awesome metaphors, that’s the good poo poo. I had to pick this line because it was just so drat good.

“Koschei kept her hand in his as though for the warmth he lacked as he led her inside and up stairs, and into his lightless bedchamber.” This sentence seems unusually long to me and took a few reads to get. I think it might have just been me. But again, the little details and flickers.

There’s a slow, natural rise of the affection they start to feel for each other in the shortness of the story. By the end they both have significantly changed and Marya not only shows Koschei mercy, but love, and the ending flows great. I remember in chat you said you wanted to be the first person to break the first entry winning barrier and while that in no way influenced my judgment, you were the one that got closest to what I wanted from this week. Brava.

You are: The Golden Ball in the Princess’s hand, precious and dear and kept well.


December Octopodes
Scarlet Dance of Death

Tale: The Red Shoes.
Path: It doesn’t look like it did either the circle or the path. Le Sigh.
Quality: low.

So you went with the film noir. Here’s the thing, homeslice. If you are going to attempt a film noir detective style, you had better do the drat thing right or it comes off as a trite, terrible cliché. And you went straight for the cliché from the first sentence. Things like women with leg descriptions and “trouble danced” and detective character alcoholism? Bartenders named Sam? Clichéd. So loving clichéd.

“I walked out and the funky smell of the French Quarter assaulted me. I took a few turns and then headed for an alley that's only seen if it wants to be. At the end of the alley I opened up the plain door and stepped into Gomorrah, the best little den of scum and villainy in town. I walked up to the bar and ordered a Bloody Mary. , (comma) Then I headed for a corner table comma and sat straight down.” The original is a bunch of "Blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah." Wordsplang, we call it here: A lot of words wasted. In this case, to get the reader from one place to another. Flash fiction requires a lot of quick, punchy details. Also, did you really do the Scum and villainy thing? Oh my gods, you did. I am so not impressed.

The original story had an angel motif, yes. But yah dun goofed, son. The way it came off here was much like “oh, yeah, should have something other than the shoes.” A Darkness verses Heaven war brewing, yawn, boring as poo poo. And the shoes getting chopped off—again, in the original they fit but here you seemed to have slapped that on as a last minute out of nowhere answer.

“I like the cliches.” YOU DON’T loving SAY. I’m not pleased.

You are: Didn’t the fox tell you not to go into that inn? Going in that inn leads to no good. But you did so anyway.

Benny Profane
A Man In Uniform

Tale: The Steadfast Tin Soldier.
Path: same as the original, a circle.
Quality: Middlish.

The story plot and the way it runs along the original is good. I love the opening a whole lot, especially the foreshadowing that comes with the line about someone burning the Box down. Don’t start a story “as usual” though. I don’t know these people or what they usually do.

There’s clunky sentence structure and it distracts. Learn to flow sentences and elements together. Example: “When he finally reached The Box, Jack stood outside the door once again. He recognized Stan, but now his expression was sad and a little bit sheepish, not angry. Jack did not ask Stan for ID and stepped aside so that Stan could enter.” Clunky and chunky. How to flow this? Example: “He reached the Box to find Jack outside the door once again; Jack gave a sad, sheepish look of recognition as he stepped aside to let him enter without asking for ID.” Much shorter, much more flowing, much better for this writing structure. Don’t wordsplang.

There’s a lot of tell in here that could have been shown. “Stan's injury was very bad, and the surgeons at the field hospital had to amputate his leg.” “Stan could not remember ever having been so happy.” “He knew that he might not escape, but Stan was not afraid.” You could have shown this and a lot of other parts a lot brighter.

It’s a semi-faithful retelling of the original story, but therein lies its issue as well—it’s a little too close to the original tale. The elements are lifted up and shifted only a little. There are so many ways it could have been mixed up a little more. As it is, it’s okay, but there’s a lot more that could have been done. If you do a lot less telling and a lot more showing, and don’t hold so tight to the structure, then you can work yourself up higher in the ranks.

You are: You didn’t stray far from the path, like Mother said. Alas, you missed the flowers on the side that would have added color.


Finding Marlene

Tale: The Juniper Tree. You already had it slightly hard ‘cause this is one of my faves. (I like fairy tales that end in karmic justice, what d’ya want.)
Path: Might be a line? It’s a very poorly drawn one.
Quality: eehhhh

A vampire pop star’s life as a singer seeking his “Marlene”, a woman he has missed over eternity, is a very interesting take on the original. The weaving in of the past details was nice--but you didn't give me much of it. There's a lot of babble about the life of music, but not enough into Sam at all. The story starts all right, but then drifts aimlessly like the MC seems to, like it’s not sure how it wants to go or how to get there. The best parts are the parts where there’s insight into Sam’s mind, his interactions with people that are shown. But you give very little of it and instead do a lot of showing.

“Sam sang a song of love and loss, of longing and desire. He sang of a beautiful woman who was unbearably sad. The song made anyone who heard it sad in the most exquisite way. It flew to the top of every chart.” Tell, tell, do tell but don’t show. That’s most of what this story is, a whole lotta telling with very little showing.

I was intrigued about him drifting away from the glitz and glamour, and towards the smaller venues. But then you drop that he sees Marlene in the back of a bar and then it ends. I got really annoyed at that. You wasted all those words before when we could have had more than a dropped ending. The elements are woven in okay, but the actual story is pretty weak, especially the way it goes on and on with a lot of incidental bits that could have been glossed over and then hits a wall and goes “that’s it, have your ending.” You could have offered more insight on Marlene at the middle, at the end, anywhere. More flickers of his past. A lot less babble. But babble you did, and it feels like you got to word 1525 and then realized there needed to be an ending and flumped over and it busted everything up.

You are: But the coal fell into the water and fizzled and died.


Black Projects

Tale: The Emperor's New Clothes.
Path: *eyes roll so hard they fall out her head*
Quality: *glares with the powers of Hell*

Oh lord, military, I hate military poo poo, will you do this right—nope, not a hope in the Nightmare of that. Nope, you just hosed that one up all over. Science! Budget! Gruffness! Crafty science! Gods drat it, this thing has more clichés than mud on a pig and white on rice.

“Hoffman chortled with glee[.]” I AM GOING TO DROWN YOU IN A BATHTUB AND LEAVE YOUR BODY FOR THE RATS. Hoffman too. He’s laughing and snorting and giggling all over everything like a jerk as if every action wants to give his trick away. He’s the embodiment of period cramps which I was suffering through right as I was reading this dreck. I am so angry at this story I can’t see straight and had to go do something else for an hour.

And of course, it’s a tank that only shows to the true people on the side of AMURRICA and the room is actually empty to keep his budget and it was all a trick but of course the military head honchos bluster lie their way through the whole thing “lol of course we can see it cause if we say no we’re liars” I should NAIL YOU INTO A BARREL AND DRAG YOU BEHIND HORSES. This this was predictable and terribad and annoying. This was a waste of keystrokes from start to finish. I saw the ending coming before I even got to the middle or halfway down the start. Everything in here is seen from a mile and a half away, like an atomic explosion gone wrong. Your military people are walking two dimensional blowhards, your scientist is a hateful stupid jerk who needs to be slapped in the teeth, the assistant is a two line shithead, and the whole thing reeks like unwashed bath towels on the floor. AND you picked your story too. So you did this to yourself so you can’t even blame anyone for the story path but YOU. Your story is bad and you should feel bad.

You are: going to be made to dance in red-hot iron shoes until you fall down and writhe in pain. Then you may feel half the rage I do.


A Classy Ghost
The Bre Men

Tale: The Bremen Town Musicians. Loosely.
Path: A drunken line.
Quality: *slams head on wall until she sees stars*

Oh gods you’re writing about a band. Oh god I’m going to die if you do this like I think you are. Oh gods above and below please don’t….

OH GODS YOU DID. I’m going to DIE WITH ANGER. The Bre Men (*long suffering sigh that lasts for a solid thirty seconds*) lose their drummer for plot reasons because why not. And then surprise! The old guy who’s been listening to them practice knows their set and can drum because of course he can. They take a road trip to the battle of the bands because of course they do. They run into a competing band that’s better known than them and they’re jerks because of course they are. They pull a bunch of shenanigans that no one ever calls them on, because of course they do, and the switch up works because of course it does. The old guy looks incompetent until the very last second because why not, and they play well because they do, and everyone is going to be impressed because of course they are. Nothing in this story happens except because of course it has to.

You write all this stuff leading up to them performing and it’s just dull and dragging and ehhhhhh. And the Throbbers, oh wow they’re super rude jerks, how very predictable, and there’s shenanigans. I read this one and saw very little to enjoy in it. Almost nothing happens and I can’t be assed (hah) to read it again. This is the opposite of what I wanted in a story.

You are: You threw the comb in your getaway, expecting a forest to spring up behind you and stop the ogre, but all you got was a comb so the ogre is going to eat you.


What I Do for Love

Tale: Little Red Riding Hood. This is one of my faves.
Path: semi line? Eh.
Quality: Originally, *hand waggle* Now that I know where this came from :argh:

Merc, Merc, Merc. You write for humor, and as a comedy piece this works lightly, because I know the humor style you go for. But at the same time this is one of my favorite tales so you were up against that, and I wanted to see what you could do and you half let me down. That being said, you more went for the humor of using the motifs for your comedy story than buckling down and doing an intriguing story with the story given. The cloak was less part of the story and more a toss-off line, which is exactly what I was hoping to not see in entries if I could help it. Every element felt was half assed. And that was why I’m making the =/ face. I know you can write non-humor pieces, you can write deeper works, and I kinda wanted one from you. My own disappointment in part. Also, dude, remember to italicize thoughts and brainspace. It makes it hard to read otherwise.

And I would have gone deeper into the crit, but I can’t. Any problems I have with the story and what happened don’t apply to you, because you didn’t write the plot. Rhino pointed out how this is pretty much another comic’s plot lifted wholesale. You have no idea how loving pissed I was—and not just pissed, but hurt. You grabbed one of my faves and my hopes rose because when you write well, you write WELL. Even for humor or amusement, you can do well and make things I like. But you didn’t write this plot. Instead of giving me something original you ripped off someone else’s work. It doesn’t matter if it’s a week, a month, a year, or a decade—plagiarism is plagiarism. You dishonor me and you dishonor yourself with that poo poo. Hell no, Merc. You can do better than ripping off someone else’s work for yours, and you know that and I know that. Sorry, not sorry one bit at how upset I am that you did that.

You are: Don’t dress up your one-eyed daughter and pretend she’s the queen. That’s a good way to get executed.


The Shepherd's Daughter

Tale: Sleeping Beauty
Path: A circle.
Quality: Pretty good.

“Once upon a time” Hee, you entry broke the pattern and was the only one (I think) to do the once upon a time start. That being said, that wasn’t a bad thing at all, and I liked how it worked. I wish that Agnes’s name had come up earlier in the opening before all the detail of her family; having it come up so close to the end of the first paragraph is a little jarring.

Rather than royalty searching, it’s a shepherd girl who more stumbles on the becharmed boy. Hey, fairies that are dicks! One of my favorite things to have in a fairylike tale.

It’s a reverse on the original story, which hella works for this. Rather than someone seeking a sleeping princess, no one is seeking the lost sleeping boy, who is more woken up by chance than by action. I love how Agnes finds him by chance, how she explores this abandoned hut, and even how Peter’s family doesn’t stay with him and it’s just him in the hut and what appear to be some incidental others—the candle, the mouse, etc.

My main displeasure with this story and what kept it from the win is how much is spent on the set up to get me into the house with every little bitty detail and Agnes observing so much of the still stuff, because it means very little is spent on Peter’s half of how he was cursed. His side felt infodumped more than anything, and I feel like it could have been more of a story told back to Agnes than how it went. A huge part of getting in could have been cut to give more to when Peter tells him how he got to where he was. That’s my main quibble. The ending is the perfect style like fairy tales do. Very pleased with this.

You are: A slipper left on the stairs to be picked up by the prince.


El Toro Delgado

Tale: The Bronze Ring.
Path: A line, but not a very good one.
Quality: *headdesk*

Okay, y’all, I know I gave you fairy tales but did I really ask for all these storyline clichés? Drag me under. You went with the “two guys are on a search for Spanish gold” recycled plot. And then made the whole story is about the trip there told in the most bland, piecemeal terrible action way possible. Why do I care why they’re searching for this boat? Why is there so much babble about nothing? The action is dull and trite—ooo, alligator fight, dull doubts in self, slog slog slog. Why does it take so long to get anywhere and then when we get there, it’s an unpleasant climax? Why shug, why?

“Are those gallon ships kinda like sail boats” no they’re like four quarts put together. There’s this thing called proofreading to avoid terrible grammar mistakes, you should really get in on that racket.

The original story is really intriguing—I hadn’t read it before, and I like new things. Then you took it and gave me this bull plap about people seeking a lost gold treasure and all this buildup to an “oh, so they got to what they were looking for” ending. I didn’t care about their journey so I don’t care about their success.

You are: You assumed the house was made of gingerbread and sweets, but nope, that’s cardboard and soggy tissues.


More Crits coming as I work on them. I'm actually care-critting for you guys, appreciate my work.

Nethilia fucked around with this message at 23:57 on Feb 6, 2015

Apr 29, 2007

Why would an ambulance be leaving the hospital?

Thanks very much!

Jul 21, 2014

You shouldn't be doing anything with fluorine.

Echo Cian posted:

Not my fault you mistyped when you made the account.


contagonist fucked around with this message at 03:57 on Feb 7, 2015

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




:toot: Surprise Line Crit from week #130 for Savagely Random :toot:

Hello friend! You had a very rough first week in the dome and I'll bet you're probably feeling a bit :smith:. I am going to go through and point out some specific stuff I think you can work on in future stories. But congrats, you've been through the very worst Thunderdome has to offer and you're not dead!

My comments are in bold.


“Ah! General! You’ve arrived!” Dr. Hoffman approached his guests with open arms, his Germanic-accented voice You've basically made 'German-accented' an adjective here, and it doesn't work very well. echoing across the cavernous aircraft hanger as he called out to them It's pretty obvious he's calling out to them . “I was beginning to worry!”

“Sorry about the delay Doctor.” General Barksdale’s gruff, impatient tone didn’t make his apology seem all that convincing. “We’d gone to your laboratory first, but they told us you were on the other side of the base.” On my first read, I could already tell by this point that the dialog was going to be serviceable but not groundbreaking. It's always important to ask yourself if you're really thinking about each and every word, or if you're falling back on filler talk that you've seen on TV/in movies a millions times The humorless four-star general was obviously not very keen on having to play hide and seek with scientists in his employ. I actually like this line, the very slight, dry sense of humor to this piece could've saved it if the plot had been a bit stronger and the dialog more original

None of this fazed Dr. Hoffman, who acted the gracious host, beckoninged them further inside the darkened, empty chamber. “Please General, it’s no problem at all! I’m thrilled you were able to make the time to come out here in the first place! After all, it’s such an honor to have-“ More filler dialog. You're not writing a TV drama, you're writing flash fiction, so every single word should be doing the most interesting thing you can possibly make it do

“Doctor, let’s ditch the pleasantries, shall we?” <<< This is actually you, the author, talking to yourself. It's not a "rule", but I've found that when my characters are telling each other to move along with things, it's because I need to pick up the pace in the story Barksdale removed his peaked cap, handing it off to a young lieutenant as he ran a hand over his closely cropped silver hair. “The oversight committee has three other facilities on the chopping block for budget cuts- with yours at the top of the list” A wild conflict appears!

Hoffman shrugged lackadaisically. “A regrettable misunderstanding by our elected officials. However, I can’t hold it against them. After all, they’re not privy to some of our more sensitive projects.” You're getting warmer here, but this dialog is still kind of made-for-TV and you are using it to tell us the whole plot, basically

“From what I’ve been reading in these reports, Doctor, you haven’t had many projects going on here to begin with.” Right on cue, yet another man in uniform handed the General an open file folder. I'm sensing a recurring Thing here. Your descriptions are very crisp, but what are they doing? What are you really, actually trying to convey by telling us that the random man in the uniform had those folders at the ready? I guess we're supposed to glean something about the general and his attache, but what does it have to do with the story? “According to the statistics I have, your productivity is at an all time low. You haven’t seen a project through to completion in years.” More dialog that's just for the reader's benefit

“General, please! That apparent dip in productivity can be explained!” Hoffman was gearing up for his big pitch Whose perspective is this story from, anyway? It's almost omniscient, but I think you meant for the Doctor to be the POV character , appearing more like a salesman in a lab coat than an actual scientist The way you've anchored this sentence around the word 'appearing' is really weak. Since the story is kind of from the doctor's perspective, telling the reader how he 'appears' only casts unnecessary doubt. But he is, essentially, a salesman in a lab coat at this point. . “It’s simply a matter of quality over quantity! As chief of research, I haven’t had the resources to delegate to other, more frivolous pursuits. Not with the highly sensitive, highly advanced project we have underway now…” I could do with fewer exclamation points. It seems like nitpicking, but I think if you beefed up your dialog and made it more unique/specific to your story, you wouldn't need to indicate excitement with punctuation as much.

Barksdale resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Oh, so this is from an omniscient perspective. I think it's better to establish that early on, because up until now it's been a little ambiguous “I don’t have a lot of time doctor. If you have a last ditch plan to save your lab, get on with it, pronto.” A bit cheesy, this guy's dialog is basically like every general/police chief captain/newspaper chief editor who's ever been surly in a TV show

Hoffman chortled with glee, taking a few steps back to address all of his ‘guests,’ smoothing over his lab coat and clearing his throat before launching into his meticulously practiced speech. Ok how is no one picking up on the fact that this dude is putting them on? These are presumably all people who deal with top secret intelligence stuff

“General, gentlemen, you are all very much knowledgeable on the topic of deterrence: the concept of dissuading your enemy from any attempt at attacking you. While this can be accomplished in many ways, fear is the most common method. Terrifying your enemy into holding fire for fear of what might happen next.” This is vaguely intriguing. It should've been way closer to the start.

The professor paused for dramatic effect,nah adjusting his glasses. “And what weapon is more terrifying, more fear instilling, than one that the enemy can’t even see? Not simply invisible to their radar, like one of our stealth bombers. But invisible to their naked eye!” When writing dialog, ask yourself: Who is this character? Why are they wording things this way? Is there anything that might distinguish them from other, similar characters?

A combination of skeptical and incredulous expression swept over the assembled military men Why are these guys even here? They don't do anything except take up words , the General in particular letting out an impatient sigh. “Invisible? Really?” really?

“I know it’s hard to believe General, but that’s not even the most amazing part!” Hoffman was gearing up for the hook of his speech now You're telling us too much about this guy's attitude directly. It reads as very on-the-nose . “This vehicle isn’t simply invisible to everyone. After all, an invisible weapon can be a dangerous hazard to friendly troops on the battlefield. And it doesn’t exactly make for an exciting recruiting video now does it?”

Barksdale was tempted to make a comment about Hoffman’s patronizing examples Wha? , but he stowed it away for now. “You’re telling me that, not only have you made this thing invisible, but ‘selectively’ invisible? How is that even possible?” So, as I was reading through this, it dawned on me that the whole point of this story is "what is the thing Dr. Hoffman is working on?" Take that as you will.

“A multitude of factors my dear General!” As Hoffman spoke, he was already pullingpulled a small remote control from within his lab coat. “By monitoring body language, voice patterns- even brain waves! This machine is packed with enough sensors to scan any target it encounters on the battlefield, checking the results against our databases, and determining if the subject in question is an enemy of the United States. It then adjusts its optical camouflage accordingly, rendering itself invisible to the target, revealing itself only to friends and allies!” IT SLICES! IT DICES! I get that he's lying to the General's face, but I don't think it's terribly believable that he'd do it like he was pitching a 1950s kitchen gimmick

Sighing again, Barksdale was growing rapidly impatient with Hoffman’s theatricsBarksdale sighed. “I don’t suppose you have a working prototype of this ‘stealth machine’, professor?”

“On the contrary General, that is why I had you meet me here in the test hanger, rather than my lab! I wanted you, and your staff, to be the first ones outside of my team to feast their eyes on the future of warfare!” Hoffman aimed his remote at the center of the hanger, where all of the overhead lights had been conspicuously turned off, leaving a pitch black void in the middle of the room. Again, we approach something resembling a plot, but it happens too late in the story. The reveal that the whole thing is a ruse isn't satisfying enough for the number of words it took you to get there

“Gentlemen! I give you, the XM-1837!”

With a tap of a button, the lights all turned on at once.

To reveal, that like the rest of the hanger, the now illuminated section was completely empty.

“Now I know it’s perfectly visible to you and I, but that’s because it all perceives us as friendly,” See, this is kind of clever Hoffman explained in a casual manner, replacing the remote in his pocket. “If it were to detect us as threats to the American way of life, why, it’d be no more visible to our eyes than a dust mite.”

The officers all kept their faces impassive, but it was with that line he spoke that the doctor noticed a cacophony of emotions play out in their eyes; realizations of both confusion and horror. A few stole glances at one another, wondering if they were- or weren’t –seeing what they were. Even the General’s default icy expression seemed to be hiding a sudden and profound look of anxiousness. Banish flimsy phrases like "seemed to" from your vocab.

Hoffman was positively giddy. But he still had to seal the deal. “So, what do you think General?”

“Well.” Barksdale seemed to havehad deflated a great deal since when he came in the door. “I think, that it uh…” The other officers looked to their leader, hanging off his every word. It was obvious none of them wanted to say anything about what was (supposedly) in front of them before the General spoke. The onus was on him to decide what the ‘truth’ would be for the rest of them.

“…that it’s some drat fine work there doctor! I obviously underestimated you- a mistake on my part!” The formerly gruff face had a toothy grin on it now. “But, you can’t blame me! Not when I had no idea you were working on something as amazing as this- which I see, right here, in front of me, of course! Boy, I’d hate to be considered a threat to freedom and democracy by that thing, I’ll tell ya!” aaaaand here is where your dialog falls off the serious train just outside of Bad Parody-ville. I get what your going for, but could you have done this in a way that didn't read so much like Team America: World Police? I know you sort of subvert it at the end, but it's too little, too late

The flag officer punctuated his praise with a nervous laugh, looking back to his entourage for support. “Luckily, us true blue Americans patriots can see it just fine. Right men?” nooooooo

The other officers launched into their best sycophantic agreements, a chorus of support for their superior’s views as they all sang the praises of the amazing machine- which they all agreed, was completely visible in the middle of the room. These dudes are so generic yet you write so many words about them. They need to either be ONE character--ie the general's assistant or something--or they need to not be in the story. Or something. But they're a little bit like, i dunno, a greek chorus here

“Yes Doctor, I think I can report back to the subcommittee that your lab should be top of the list for continued funding. WAY too easy We can’t have something like this-“ the General proclaimed, gesturing proudly towards the empty center of the hanger “-losing our support. I can see it now: every terrorist from here to Hyderabad will be cowering in their caves! The Chinese will spend billions trying to make their own, and the Russians will devote half their spy network to trying to get information on it!”

Everyone shared a hearty, forced, laugh at the idea, with much talk of glory and victory by way of the magnificent new weapon. Handshakes and goodbye pleasantries were exchanged, and the General and his followers were on their way, heading out to break the bad news to the other facilities that all of their funding would now be going to project XM-1837 once Barksdale made his recommendation to the appropriations subcommittee. WAY WAY too easy

After the last of the military group had left the hanger, Hoffman’s assistant emerged from the shadows, where he had watched the entire spectacle from start to finish. The look on his face was one of both relief and astonishment, as he shook his head in disbelief. Why even introduce this guy? Just to have someone for Hoffman to gloat to?

“I can’t believe that actually worked. I mean, they have to figure out its all fake sooner or later, right?”

Hoffman simply shrugged, looking perfectly content with way things had played out. “Probably. But who knows when that will be? And by then, will they want the entire world to know that they spent millions, maybe billions, on an imaginary weapon?” He scoffed. “I think not.”

The assistant shook his head again, sighing heavily. “Man, I gotta get out of government work. Maybe get in the private sector where they have half a brain.”

Hoffman allowed himself a chuckle at his assistant’s comment, and at a funny thought of his own: there had been a shred of truth in his presentation.

Fear definitely was a potent weapon. So, this was trying to be a commentary on the military-industrial complex and federal budgeting, I guess, but you didn't tread any new ground because your plot shows up too late, your characters are As Seen On TV, and you're relying on tropes that we all know to make a point that most of us have heard made before. There's absolutely nothing wrong with writing a story about something that's been said a million times, but make sure you're crafting unique characters and not stock people. THAT is what will make your readers keep reading. Overall, this wasn't the weakest losing piece I've ever seen--you definitely have the ability to make some good, clear turns of phrase--but your plotting and characterization need work.

Please feel free to come chat in IRC if you have anymore questions!

Welcome to Thunderdome.

Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 05:47 on Feb 7, 2015

Echo Cian
Jun 16, 2011


Two days to finish writing.

oh hush :(

Jun 20, 2013
Thanks for the crit Neth. The gallon bit was an on purpose mistake, though I know it's hard to tell with me haha. I really appreciate the crit filled with effort!

Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW

Mercedes posted:

I remember I punchline I read from a webcomic a year ago, build a story around said punchline and I'm crucified for it. I don't have enough middle fingers.

Your story was still better than half the other poo poo written in the dome so

Jan 28, 2015

Thanks for the detailed line crit Sitting Here. My first attempt at participating in this thread truly crashed and burned, and I really want to do better this week. I'll make sure to keep all your feedback in mind as I work on my next entry. Thanks again!

Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face

Oh hey look it's another linecrit for Black Metal Week! (Sorry for the slow pace of these, life and stuff, you know how it is)

Hammer Bro. posted:

The Screaming of Goats (942 words) Since you only half hit this prompt, I wasn't a fan of you using it as the title, particularly as it's a complete spoiler, as we will find out shortly.

Jimbob Okay so it's a redneck story. As a British gent I know gently caress all about rednecks beyond the standard jokes. The culture is entirely alien to me and maybe that's part of the reason I disliked this story far more than my fellow judges. glared at the lifeless doorway. 'Doorway' is the opening through which you pass; 'door' is the thing that blocks it. Power must've given. He pried it open with his hands and lumbered inside. First the whiskey, then the canned food. The produce was probably rotten, but Jimbob plodded in that direction.

He almost stepped on a corpse.You can't call it a corpse straight out and then prove it isn't in the very next sentence - that poo poo just confuses the reader. Calling it a 'body' would be ok though as it leaves things slightly ambiguous.

"P-Please... water."

Still alive, then. "Ain't no more water here. Barely any whiskey."


The man's pallid skin was marred by festering sores, and his legs were gnarled and misshapen. No wonder he hadn't evacuated. Not that the treatment worked. What?


Jimbob spat his tobacco and dug out a can of peaches. He laid it sideways on the ground, drew his hatchet, and chopped it in half. Not convinced this would work, but at least you don't say he does it in one blow... Then he scooped up the oozing fragments and swallowed the peaches whole.

He wiped his mouth, pointed to the runoff on the floor, and chuckled. "Help yourself."

In this scene you've done a decent job of establishing that it's some kind of post-apocalyptic survival story and that Jimbob is a massive dick. So far so good.


Jimbob shouldered his cabin door open. "Belle! You in there?" Hey, I bet Belle is a goat like in the title. Sounds like a goat sort of name.

Belle coughed and turned toward him.

"Got us some dinner from the market."

Her eyes lit up.

"You want to eat now or later?"

She came closer and began licking Jimbob's fingers, nibbling suggestively at the tips. Yup, licking and nibbling fingers, that's a goat all right.

"Oh-ho-ho. You're right. Later."

He drew her lips to his and kissed her. Oh god he's kissing a goat. I don't think I'm supposed to realise she's a goat yet. Give your story a different title if you want to achieve this.

Ignoring the unfortunate giveaway of your main twist, the writing in this scene is a bit staccato. You could improve the flow (and make it less starkly obvious that Belle isn't actually saying anything) by reordering it a little and combining dialogue and descriptions.


Clack. Clack.

Belle must have been be combing through the garbage again, salvaging the scraps that were still edible. She had been looking a mite pale. Well yeah, she's a goat. This bit of misdirection did amuse me a bit. But Jimbob felt fine this morning; he always did. It'd take more than a plague to keep Jimbob down.

Clack clack clack.

Was that... the door?

Jimbob pulled on his britches and went to the window. "We ain't got none!"

"What?" a muffled voice responded. "No, I don't need help. I'd just like to talk."

Jimbob groaned but opened the door. The man outside wore clean clothes and looked reasonably healthy. Must be the respirator.

"I'm Alexander Svartebok," the main man said as he extended his hand, "from the CDC."

Jimbob scowled.

"We thought this area was completely abandoned until a drone spotted you wandering the city three nights ago."

"What's yer point?"

"You clearly have a natural immunity to the Shriveling. If you'd let us run some tests at our lab in Tallahassee, we might be able to develop a cure for this blight."

"Don't need me no cure; ain't got me no sickness. This is a pretty decent line 'sides, your kind cooked this up in the first place."

"That's not--"

"That is. Now you get off my property 'fore I pry that fancy mask from your pretty face."

Alexander's eyebrows arched then furrowed, but he retreated without another word. Belle poked her head out from under the table.

In this scene you do a decent job of sating my curiosity about the disease, although a dozen post-apocalyptic movies and games have established the trope well enough that I hardly needed to be told. There's nothing especially different or interesting going on in this version. Shame as I generally love post-apoc stuff.


Two days later, Belle was dead. Jimbob stared at her motionless body, then quietly turned away. He retrieved his shovel, went to the yard, and began digging.

Slowly, methodically, mechanically, Jimbob dug a grave for his departed lover. With that slightly odd phrasing, it's pretty obvious you're trying to hide something even if you hadn't spoilt the goat thing in the title. He fetched her carcass, laid her to rest, and stood in solemn silence for an hour.

When returned to his cabin, he leaned the shovel against a wall. Jimbob looked around the room, at the table and chairs and bundles of hay. He drew a slow breath.

"God DAMNIT!" he slammed his fist on the table, then shattered the plates with a sweep of his arm. He whipped around and stomped the trashcan flat. Fuming, he braced his hands against the wall and slammed his head into it.

His wail became a roar. Blood clouded his vision while rage colored it. The walls, the furniture, the stockpiles all transformed into colossal red demon. Jimbob jabbed at its knuckles; the demon cracked a smile. Jimbob bit into its palm; the demon throbbed with pleasure. Jimbob drew his head back and howled, flinging spit and fury to the corners of the globe. The demon cackled with delight. Whoaaa berserk rage out of nowhere. This is pretty overblown to the point that I assume it was shoehorned in to fulfil the "range of emotions" rule. But hey, at least you made it interesting to read.

At some point Jimbob collapsed.

He was awakened by knocking.

"I'm fetching my hatchet!" he bellowed. The response was unintelligible.

Jimbob burst out of his house, weapon in hand, and saw Alexander standing twenty feet away with his palms raised.

"I told you to leave!" Jimbob shouted.

"Hear me out," Alexander said. "We'll give you anything you want. Money, shelter, women. You'll be immortalized as a hero and hailed as a savior!"

"Don't want none of that. Have all I want except-- Except..."

With a deafening grunt Jimbob hurled his hatchet at Alexander and dropped into a sprint. But last night's exigencies still haunted him, and the other man quickly disappeared into the forest.

Jimbob returned to the ruin of his cabin and lay face-down atop the wreckage.


All that week Jimbob had unusual dreams. Harpies flew in unison, etching incomprehensible runes into the sky. The sun set across the ocean. As the sky faded to a swirling dark cocoa, the effervescent water glowed a radiant amber. Three naked pixies circled his head, each speaking to him in her own private language.

The first evoked thoughts of a wind, ancient and forgotten, dragging sand back and forth against an endless expanse of limestone.

The second sounded like the jingling of sleigh bells in a warm, precipitous cavern. How is a cavern precipitous? And what does the jingling of sleigh bells in one sound like? I guess it's a dream so logic hardly matters.

The third sound was that of shattering glass, followed by three staccato thumps.

Jimbob rubbed his bloodshot eyes and stumbled toward his window. Wait, is Jimbob still asleep here. I feel like you've missed out an important paragraph where he actually wakes up. Among the shards and debris was a stone with a crudely painted '5' followed by a 'V' with a line through the middle. I have no idea what the significance of this is

That was the last straw. Jimbob went to the closet, fetched his rifle, and loaded it. He crept up to the front door, took three measured breaths, and flung it open.

Standing in the clearing, Whoa we're in a clearing? I was imagining a wasteland/outskirts of a ghost town this whole time. Would have been better to establish the setting for Jimbob's home much earlier in the story. tethered to a stake, was a glossy, healthy, golden brown goat.

She was the most beautiful thing Jimbob had ever seen. Annnd realisation strikes! His lover was a goat all along! Except, yeah.

HIT PROMPT? Goats? Yes. Screaming? No.
RANGE OF EMOTIONS? Yes, although a bit hamfisted
Overall thoughts: Honestly, on the first reading I hated this story. The very first word (stereotypical redneck name) predisposed me to dislike it. It lacks any sympathetic characters, the setting is run-of-the-mill, the execution is pretty bad (the twist seemed so obvious to me I was left wondering if it was a twist, while the other judges didn't even notice it), and there isn't even a hint of epic/metal to help me forgive your other sins. It was the moderating influence of the other judges who saved you from a DM, and you were actually my pick for the loss until I got to leekster's offering. ON THE OTHER HAND you did actually tell a story, you hit (some of) the prompt and the range of emotions, and your sentences are punchy and readable, which I perhaps didn't give you enough credit for on my first run-through.

Maugrim fucked around with this message at 21:01 on Feb 7, 2015

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Maugrim posted:

The Harshness

Hah, that's delightful! The judges next time I write are really going to regret you calling out my writing as direct. Thanks!

Maugrim posted:

the twist seemed so obvious to me I was left wondering if it was a twist, while the other judges didn't even notice it

This is the kind of thing that fascinates me.

Echo Cian
Jun 16, 2011

Hammer Bro. posted:

Hah, that's delightful! The judges next time I write are really going to regret you calling out my writing as direct. Thanks!

Have you ever considered writing a basic story that doesn't try to be cute, convoluted or confuse people, or require research to understand, or tries to be much more clever than it actually is?

Try it, you might like it.

Aug 2, 2002




Hammer Bro. posted:

The judges next time I write are really going to regret you calling out my writing as direct. Thanks!

crit of this sentence: weird construction. they're not judges because you wrote. "The next time I write, the judges are really going to regret..." works much better. I literally had to read it twice to understand what you were trying to say. Also cut the adverbs and other superfluous phrases: "The next time I write, the judges will regret calling my writing 'direct.'"

Aug 8, 2013

Words: 906

He wanted the world, but had only a small shop in a dying town. Dust ravaged the landscape, throwing dried weeds about. Richard gazed out the window of his store, imagining himself escaping into the great yonder.

Someone knocked at the shop door, yanking Richard from his daydream. He pulled the door open and found himself face to face with a beaming youth. The boy flashed a sideways smile at him before introducing himself to the shopkeep.

“Howdy! Name’s Dan.”

“What can I do for you, Dan?”

“Oh, I’m just needing to stock up some supplies for my trip out west.”

“West huh? What you got planned out there?”

Dan leaned into Richard, his voice hushed.

“Been some rumors about a big ol’ vein of gold just a few towns over.”

Dan’s grin doubled in size as the words left his lips.

“But you didn’t hear it from me, partner.”


Dan hopped onto his horse, his sack a deadweight swinging over his shoulders. He judged that the rations would last him a few days, more than enough time to make it to the next town. With a kick of the heels, Dan and his steed sped down the road.

The sun crept under the hills, turning the sky into a brilliant display of orange and crimson. Dan dismounted his horse as the desert heat died down. The cool evening air kissed the young man’s cheeks as he stopped near a patch of prickly pears. After hopping from his horse and giving the area a quick survey, Dan began to pitch his tent.

Dan grabbed a piece of flint and steel and struck sparks onto a pile of dried wood and weeds. The kindling caught quickly, giving way to a roaring fire. The air turned from cool to cold, but the flames bathed Dan and his horse in a glow of warmth. After fixing himself a hearty stew, Dan crawled into his tent for the night.

The remains of the fire smoldered as Dan slept. His belly sloshed with stew as his mind wandered to thoughts of gold, girls, and booze.

From somewhere in the distance, a hiss emerged and echoed over the desert.

The fantasies in Dan’s mind shattered as the sharp sound pierced both his tent and mind. Images flashed in his brain of rattlers, vipers and other venomous beasts. He tore through his blankets in search of a serpent, but found nothing.

With apprehension, Dan crawled to the front of the tent, ready to confront whatever lurked in the darkness. He poked his head from the tent, only to see a dead campfire and little else.


The sun peaked over the horizon as Dan leapt back onto his horse. The two continued down the road, through the great American desert. Young Dan felt as though he had the world in his palm. The incident from the previous night faded into the back of his mind as he looked forward to a future of riches.

Then, another hiss rang out over the valley.

Dan nearly fell from his horse at the sound.

As he and the horse regained their senses, the noise had once more faded back into the aether. Dan looked over his surroundings, a sense of eeriness overcoming him. The inviting blue sky felt hollow, almost as if all the beauty of the desert was a facade, a disguise for some unknown horror. Not wanting to stay in one place any longer, Dan kicked his heels and continued down the road.

A shadow of a man leaned against a signpost up ahead. Dan slowed his horse as they approached the stranger. The man seemed to pay no mind to Dan’s arrival.

“Hey?” started Dan.

The man lifted his head. Wispy grey strands of hair poked out from underneath his hat. His dark, tanned skin suggested an Indian heritage. When his eyes met Dan’s, he spoke.

“Do you believe in ghosts?”

Dan didn’t respond. How could he respond? The stranger nodded his head at Dan’s silence and continued.

“If not, you better start.”

The stranger looked to the fork in the road past the signpost, and took the eastbound route. Dan took off down the westbound route without a second glance at the strange Indian.


It didn’t take much longer for Dan to reach the next town. Hopping off his horse, he walked through the settlement. The place had once been a coaltown, as testified by the fine layer of soot that seemed to dust every building.

After a few minutes of wandering, Dan spotted a store with a second story. In the window a sign advertised rooms for rent. Dan sighed at the thought of having a real bed to sleep in.

Dan stepped up to the storefront, the aged building possessing a sense of familiarity that didn’t settle right on Dan’s stomach. Shaking the feeling, Dan knocked on the door. As it opened, a familiar face stood before him: Richard.

“How?” asked Dan.

“How what?”

“How did you get here? I saw you in the last town over!”

A hiss rang through the building as the old man locked eyes with the youth. The noise seemed to rattle from the walls around them, echoing from every sundry and good in the shop.

Covering his ears, Dan screamed at the shopkeeper.

“What are you?”

“I’m just an old man who wanted the world.”

With that, Dan found himself alone in an empty coaltown.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




Uphill Rivers
999 words

I’m loitering in a highway-side diner. The sky outside is this suburban sort of grey, the kind that makes me think of powerlines and running errands with Mom after school.

I don’t look up when the woman sits down across from me. As long as I can keep her in my periphery, we’re not really engaging. Like rain flying off the windshield of a speeding car. No purchase. I drink my coffee and look out the window.

“Took you long enough to get here,” she says. She sounds like she’s smiling.

“I’m not feeling super chatty, so,” I say. Cars pass by with the rooster-tailed woosh of rainwater.


“So. I want to be alone.”

“You don’t want to be alone. You want to be around people who don’t challenge you.”

The coffee boils in my stomach. The same stupid sentiments keep following me around, no matter how far I go: Mom saying I quit violin because people stopped treating me like a precocious young prodigy when I hit my twenties. Kayla telling me, “it’s not that you’ve changed for the worse. It’s that you haven’t changed at all.” loving Luke told me he thinks I only love him when he’s happy. When it’s easy.

I drove out of Whitefish, Montana with two week’s pay in my pocket, no plan except some idea about riding the river of my own life all the way down to a placid, picturesque pool where everything would be just fine.

I say, “Everyone’s real interested in how drat challenged I am.”

I kind of feel her shrug in my periphery. “This is why, no matter where you go, I’m always ahead of you. I watched you slouch into this diner.”

At this point, it’s like, I haven’t been looking at her this whole time. So, to suddenly look up and meet her eyes would feel too huge. I should’ve said gently caress off to begin with. But now I’m stuck staring into my coffee, because to face her is to concede the mutuality of this conversation.

“If you go back home, everyone’ll say you’re doing the right thing. ‘Owning up,’ that’s what they’ll call it.” Her smile-voice is gone. She’s fidgeting with something next to her.

“Maybe I’m already going home.”

“Naw,” she says. “‘Cause I’m due in Denver tonight. Which means you’ll be there tomorrow. Our itinerary is what it is. But frankly, I don’t know what you plan on doing in Denver. Maybe you’ll freak out so bad Mom’ll have to fly down and come get you. Do you even have a plan for an apartment? What about friends? A career? A lover?”

I say, “I’m not going Denver.” I’m headed to my calm pool at the end of the river.

In the the corner of my vision, I see her pull something out of somewhere. Its shape is vaguely familiar. I try to inspect her reflection in the window, but the day outside is too brightly grey, the inside of the diner too moody.

“Where’re you going, then?” She has something long and slender in her hand. There’s a shick noise, then the sappy, schoolroom smell of rosin. “You don’t know where you’re going. So now you’re going to Denver.”

“Doesn’t sound like I stand much of a chance in Denver.”

“In my opinion.” She sits up real straight. My eyeballs hurt from the strain of trying to peer at her sideways. She rests the abstraction of her chin on the impression of a violin, plays a few listless chords with the bow. No one in the diner notices.

“Most people never really face their doubts,” she says over aimless notes. “Which is a shame, because doubt is like the ol’ carrot and stick. But you say, ‘ok, I can do without the carrot as long as I don’t have to deal with the stick.’”

“Don’t much see the point of carrots or sticks. What’s the problem with just...being? What’s everyone got against that?”

“Because. The basic advantage of being alive is we’re always becoming. What you call being is just treading water. You’re halfway across the English Channel and now you don’t know if you like what you see on either shore. So you float until you drown. Well, I’m on the far side already, and I can tell you that everything you’re afraid of is totally justified.”

I set my coffee mug down a little too hard. “So, whatever. I sink or swim, it doesn’t matter.”

The woman’s song tumbles into quick arpeggios that fall like the drizzle outside the window. “Doubt comes from fear. Fear comes from possibility. Fear is the well-meaning adversary who races ahead of you to that shore across the channel, sees all that uncomfortable becoming. And it shouts back: don’t bother. See, you hadn’t settled on Denver yet because you were afraid of committing yourself to a course of action. But now you have, and I’m here to tell you: It will be terrifying.”

Her song ends with a ragged yelp of the strings and, suddenly, I’m alone.

The diner buzzes pleasantly with quiet conversation. I pay for my coffee, then make a run for the car. The rain is really coming down, like everything in the world has reached its saturation point. Even the air.

The on-ramps are a quarter of a mile from the diner. There’re cars going north to Montana and cars going south to Colorado. Their turn signals are arrhythmic beacons in the soppy gloaming. I sit behind the wheel, hand on the ignition.

The woman made one basically wrong assumption. I don’t want to stop in the middle of the channel, out in rough waters. I want my lagoon, my still-quiet pond. At the beginning and end of becoming, there’s just being. That’s what I’ll tell her when I find her again in Denver.

I start the car and pull out onto the highway. The rain runs off my windshield in a hundred tiny rivers.


Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


I spend far to much time thinking on (and disagreeing with) the pseudonymous comments of others.

Who wants a free crit (limit three)? This week's story unless linked otherwise. To be posted during the next week or so, as I have time.

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