|# ? Mar 30, 2015 17:58|
|# ? Feb 1, 2023 18:59|
Hey GP, I was stuck sick in bed for most of the week. I'll try to finish my entry and post it later this week.
What kind of God gets sick?
|# ? Mar 30, 2015 18:20|
|# ? Mar 30, 2015 18:32|
I would like to offer my scarred and mottled judging gavel to your cause, Broenheim.
|# ? Mar 30, 2015 19:46|
I would like to offer my scarred and mottled judging gavel to your cause, Broenheim.
Either your very brave or very stupid, but I accept your help.
|# ? Mar 30, 2015 19:49|
|# ? Mar 30, 2015 20:09|
|# ? Mar 30, 2015 20:13|
|# ? Mar 30, 2015 20:43|
Crits - Week #138 - Aaahh!!! Real Monsters - Part 1
Some decent action, some decent forward movement, a couple stories with emotional impact, all-in-all this week was alright to judge. However, there were significant proofreading issues throughout the stories, including the good stories. Way to set an example for our five first-timers.
1. Nutrient Solution - ZeBourgeoisie
-The contrast between the cold researchers and the trusting, loving hatchling adds an emotional resonance to the piece, and that is welcome.
-Some of the piece has a creepy vibe and I encourage you to develop this unsettling, not-quite-human aspect throughout your writing. I think your strengths as a writer lie here.
-Hiding the hatchling in the toilet tank was a good idea, and it showed a nice degree of agency and creativity on Max’s part.
-The ending seems like it’s meant to be funny or tongue-in-cheek, but it doesn’t quite pay off. I’d recommend a more serious resolution. Maybe Max whips up a nutrient solution at home that they can both eat, and he and the hatchling bond further over their shared enjoyment of it. The peanut butter is a touch hamfisted, and I wanted Max and the hatchling to have a more sentimental moment at the end to punctuate their mutual affection.
-Congrats on showing us a monstrosity who doesn’t act like the cliché monster.
2. Scrawl – SadisTech
-Where’s the word count?
-The first person narration works. I had no trouble believing that this was being narrated by a grizzled, tired woman.
-You’ve only really developed the protagonist, and even she herself isn’t THAT developed. I don’t see her grow or change in any appreciable way. Other than resulting in her death, the events in the story don’t seem to impact her very much. Character death isn’t the same as character development.
-The biggest downside to this story is that I’ve read it a thousand times. Granted, with all the zombie saturation in popular media today, it’s hard to whip up a fresh take.
Your story had a strong sense of voice and a mood befitting the horror genre. Though I didn’t advocate for you to HM, I can appreciate why you’ve earned it. Good job.
3. A Funny Story – Benny Profane
-This was the first story this week.
-It’s not clear what the yellow-eyed creature is, nor the significance of his funny stories.
-The story lacks emotional resonance. It’s bizarre in a detrimental way. It also feels cursory—no component of the story is explored in depth.
-*INHALES* “Wait man, I get it now. It’s like, the monster…represents DISAPPOINTMENT and that’s *INHALES* why it grows and why it says it will consume Mary and why she kills herself. Nah, nevermind. I think the story is just broken.
My vote: DM candidate
4. Don’t Touch That Dial – Franco Potente
-Throughout the first two-thirds of the story, your style drifts dangerously close to purple prose, thesaurus mining, and clause heaviness.
-You’ve got some sentences that appear alright until closer inspection:
“His days…were combatted by his application of words.” So you have ‘application’ fighting against ‘days’. Is that really sensible?
“…the night-light…didn’t ameliorate things anything:” Needs more proofreading.
“Night operates on a different logic, one that is exploded in the light of day.” Passive verb aside, “exploded” doesn’t seem to fit well with “logic.”
“The boy’s fingers pulled themselves toward the nightstand.” The boy? James is grown. He goes about his adult business and lives by himself.
-James is odd, but the story provides little insight into why that is. Nor does the story hook the reader into caring about James.
-Your monster is a lump of darkness that happens to be friendly. Doesn’t interest me, I’m afraid.
My vote: DM candidate
5. Hyacinth – G-d Was Missing Us
-The prompt cautions against worldbuilding, and you drift dangerously close to it.
-The dialogue was smooth enough to work.
-The story is entertaining, but it would be more gripping if it had more conflict. As it stands, the conflict is that Layla needs to kill/pluck Ka, but is concerned it might be difficult. That’s about it; the tension all stems from that.
-The twist ending was a genuine surprise, but you didn’t set it up with adequate presaging of Roc intelligence, so the twist feels too out-of-left-field. The twist also leaves nagging questions. Why is Layla the Roc goddess? Have they merely identified her by her leg? What’s with the statue being part Roc, part human, and how does that relate to the presumably all-human Layla?
6.Tangly – A Classy Ghost
-The plot is satisfying; the dysfunction of Lydia’s family gives the story a bit of emotional resonance.
-Lydia and Tangly demonstrate agency and even a little growth. Well done.
-There was judgechat about your ending feeling kind of shoehorned into too tight a narrative space. One the one hand, I expected that there was something like another dimension under the bed from the start, because how would Tangly have fit under there if it didn’t lead somewhere else? On the other hand, the judges had a point: the arctic dimension needed more breathing room than a few quick concluding sentences.
-Out of the “nice” monster stories, this was among the better written ones.
My vote: HM candidate.
7. Howling – hotsoupdinner
-This story works well overall. You’ve got an actual monster, who is actually terrifying. You build up the suspense well.
-Your protagonist has agency. That’s a plus. He doesn’t develop much, but the story seems to carry the protag through well enough despite his lack of growth.
-Your story has a tense, almost desperate mood. Well done.
My vote: HM candidate.
8.Monster in your head – CancerCakes
-This story had potential. You had an interesting premise, enhanced semi-sentient body parts as monsters. But then you threw it all away on shock value.
-It’s not clear how you thought readers would react to your story, but my reaction is one of confusion. There are ways to make the eye vulgar without lazily grasping at the lowest common denominator. And the joke at the end? Not only is it not funny, but it underscores the weakness in your piece. I’m not sure what you were trying to accomplish.
-You’ve got no character growth, nothing likable about your characters, no real reason for a reader to respect this piece.
My vote: Loss/DM
9. The Cauldron – Thyrork
-You’ve got several proofreading errors.
-You’ve got some sentence structure issues. Consider, for example: “He came into the room at her side, tall, stocky and tired looking,
-The story is overloaded with dialogue, and it’s fairly stilted at that.
-Sorry to say, but it reads like a hastily thrown together D&D campaign. The characterization is cursory, the plot is childish, you haven’t given readers enough reason to care about these people or their battle with the Necromancer.
I recommend sticking with TD, but working on creating interesting characters that develop in response to plots that have some kind of intrigue/emotional resonance/compelling drama.
My vote: Loss/DM
10. Silk – spectres of autism
-The story starts out all over the place. The combination of Caster, jetpacks, and raptors was jarring.
-When Eric concludes that he’s in an anime, that “meta” aspect actually starts to make things interesting for me. It adds mystery; it made me wonder if he really was just a self-aware anime drawing.
-I assume that Eric really is in an anime, because that’s the only way I can make sense of your story. I was hoping for a more concrete resolution to that question though.
11. Close Your Eyes If You Want To Keep Them – Something Else
-The story opens up with some nice mystery. I’m motivated to keep reading so I can figure out who these mercs are and what’s going to happen with this jelly monster.
-How did the protag know he was in the van for five hours? Didn’t seem like he was in a position to keep track of the time.
-You’ve got some proofreading errors.
-The action holds the reader’s attention well.
-Please give your characters names.
-It’s unclear to me how certain parts of the story are actually functioning to serve the story. For example, you mention that the woman is wearing vat-grown gator skin because gators are rare in the wild. Why mention that? What impact does it have on the story to know that gators are rare? It doesn’t tell us much about the woman other than that she has vat technology. But we already knew the story was futuristic, and we already saw other examples of high-tech capabilities. So, why include the commentary about gator skin?
-The ending is satisfying. Good job overall.
|# ? Mar 31, 2015 01:01|
Here's my first batch of crits for Zeb, Sadistech, Benny Profane, Franco Potente, and Hyacinth.. I read through them at a brisk pace last night, so my crits are going to reflect that--less on analysis, more on impressions.
ZeBourgeoisie - Nutrient Solution
I would have filed this one under Man Is The Real Monster but apparently having an actual monster was enough to placate GP, though even so, cute little marshmallow puffs are kind of stretching it when it comes to monsters. The story definitely wasn't bad, and it felt like the resolution was earned. I didn't feel the motivations very well though--might have been pacing (revealing that the critters were being tormented might have worked better if we knew that sooner?) but at first it felt like he just took that one home for the hell of it.
SadisTech - Scrawl
It felt like you were trying to do something a little different from a zombie story, but in the end, you kind of did do a zombie story. Which isn't bad, but there are a lot of them. You might not have even intended to do that, but that's what all the judges came away with. That said, the voice here was far and away one of the best this week, up there with only Muffin's, and he's a poet. Having that strong voice helped the emotions feel strong and resonant, even if the plot itself was a bit cut-and-dry.
Benny Profane - A Funny Story
My feelings toward this are colored by the fact that I saw you saying in IRC (after judgement) that you just kind of started writing and didn't know where you'd end up, and that kind of makes sense. The monster feels more metaphorical here than literal, and while I got a good sense of her as a character, and enjoyed the feeling of her moving through her life like that, the ending is kind of flat. A girl has a rough life so she commits suicide to get away from a potentially non-literal monster.
Franco Potente - Don't Touch That Dial
Welcome to Thunderdome! To jump right in, the worst part about this was the purple prose you got into in the beginning. The language gets pretty heavy and you use phrases like 'poetic echolalia' and long sentences that just layer up on each other. Being able to write eloquently is good, but you definitely could have toned it down while still keeping a sophisticated sort of tone. The plot is a little light here, it's mostly a guy talking to and/or being scared by a monster, and he doesn't do a whole lot about it, but for a feeling of creeping dread it's all right. The problem is really that you end right about when things get interesting--he's got a shadow monster that taught itself to speak, now what happens? There's a lot of nothing happening in the beginning of your story, too, which made the thick prose harder to get through. I might have started when things started to get weird, and then work in the backstory about him listening to things to feel comfortable around that.
Hyacinth - G-d Was Missing Us
Welcome to Thunderdome! This was a pretty nice piece to read, and the main things that stuck out to me as I read through were mostly just trying to get a grasp on who these two women were exactly--I'm not entirely sure what their friendship added to the story, though it felt pretty real. I liked the choice of monster, and the descriptions were quite good. While I did 'get' the ending, basically, I'm not entirely sure what it was trying to say. Not that stories need morals or anything like that, but her struggle to hunt the Roc ends with her learning that she's a god to birds. So why is that? Has she earned that in some way? Even more than Franco Potente's story, this made me want to know what was next, because it seemed like something really interesting was just about to happen, and then the story ended.
|# ? Mar 31, 2015 03:20|
so this is all very well but it's not going to get the ~novel~ written now is it. Sign up to the Long Walk over here http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3710042 and bet that you won't gently caress up on squeezing out 4000 words worth of goony drivel this month. Threads will be monthly, me and muffin and fumblemouse are in it for a year thanks to drunken promises come join us come
|# ? Mar 31, 2015 03:49|
Crits - Week #138 - Aaahh!!! Real Monsters - Part 2
12. A Common Enemy - LOU BEGAS MUSTACHE
-You’ve got a couple proofreading errors but then again so did most people this week.
-The prose feels a touch clunky to me.
-“Cerneau guessed that he got lucky and caught the monster off guard…” Given that the monster got the jump on Cerneau and stole the torch from him, I’d think not.
-Is it just because of the gun that Funghead was defeated? Did the other would-be Funghead-slayers just not carry guns?
It’s hard to pinpoint, but this story has kind of a glossed-over, uninspired feel to it.
13. The Mind Killer – Jagermonster
-Hmm, the old “Wrath of Khan” brain-eating, face-orifice-crawling pincer monster. Okay, you’ve got a pretty decent opening here.
-The prose flows nicely. Also Roman’s talking and Jimmy’s silent reactions in the beginning build tension well.
-I LOVE Jimmy’s initial defiance. You’ve got interesting characters and there is good contrast between them.
-He’s trying to
-There’s something cheap about Jimmy’s confession. At first he appears to be a reasonably strong character, but then he issues a whimpering confession because he’s afraid of The Mind Killer. Jimmy’s weakness here makes him less interesting, and in any case his capitulation makes more emotional sense than logical sense. Logically, if either way Jimmy is going to spill the information and then die, he might as well resist. That way, he can at the very least force Roman to waste a valuable Mind Killer on him. I get that a person might prefer a gunshot death to a brain damage death, but Jimmy is at his best when he is a strong character, and a strong character would resist to the end.
14. Lakeshore Lure - kurona_bright
-I’ve got one major gripe here. I don’t really buy that the grandpa would let these kids play unsupervised in an area known to have dangerous monsters. It seems like “don’t go near any animals” isn’t enough. The grandpa obviously cares about these kids, so it’s strange that he allowed even for the possibility of something like this happening.
15. The Dog in the Sewer – Screaming Idiot
-This has been a rough week for proofreading, e.g., “Proud men are often see their flaws in other men.”; “In the back of came a quiet gurgle…”
-Most of your prose flows nicely.
-The plot structure is okay, but I saw the Eric betrayal coming a mile away. These things are tough because you don’t want things to come out of left field, but you also don’t want to foreshadow so much that the story’s ending is predictable. I think you erred in making the foreshadowing too obvious.
16. Reaping – Wangless Wonder
-I’m afraid I have no idea what’s going on in your story. I wish I had more feedback for you, but it’s hard to detail ways your story could be better when the whole thing is just so vague. I get that the characters are thieves but I have hard time telling exactly who/what else they are. And then…something goes wrong during the heist, not clear exactly what’s happening there. And then, your characters are walking around town. How you got from point A to B and what happened in between is fuzzy at best. Maybe you were trying to avoid being too telly? Next time, work on clarity instead.
My vote: DM
17. Til Chicago – docbeard
-Good opening line.
-I like that the witch occupies a moral grey area. She admits that’s she a horrible monster, but is enough of a three-dimensional character also to have the capacity for good. Well done with that bit of characterization!
-This was a decent contribution. There isn’t anything glaringly wrong with the story, but didn’t blow us away either. Judgechat regarding this story was minimal.
18. Don’t Want It Anymore – Broenheim
-The children’s-book quality of your writing here is refreshing.
-You've got some proofreading issues, e.g. “Charlie stared into the creature’s eyes. It threw its hand off of his head as its eyes widen.”; “Charlie set out…but couldn’t find a trail. As he searched for it, a branch snapped behind me [< shifts narration].” In a usual week, I feel like proofreading errors like this could have wrested the win away from you. Lucky for you, most of your competition had similar problems.
-“The money went dry and he would be shipped back home the next day.” Woah, what money? I’m guessing Charlie is some kind of field researcher, even though he has a childlike quality. But this sudden financial issue is coming out of nowhere.
-The piece manages to pack a significant emotional punch. And it touches upon some interesting ideas. When you become highly attached to just one person, is it ever fair to that person? What constitutes being “alone,” and how important is the physical presence of a loved one in combating loneliness?
Thank you for writing this; it’s a beautiful children’s story. It's emotional resonance and strong thematic quality are still with me as I write this. This is the type of story that is not only valuable as art, but could also have a practical value, like to help kids cope when their best friends move away.
My vote: Win
19. The Circumstances of Love and Danger During Sophomore Year – Tyrannosaurus
-The dialogue feels natural.
-Tanner’s role at the end seemed a little cliché. Misaki’s escape = wait for a knight in shining armor, then point and shoot. I was hoping that your set up of Misaki as the damsel in distress was going to be a red herring—a way to throw off the reader before you pulled a more original conflict resolution out of your sleeve.
-Still, the characterization worked. The story was entertaining, but didn't really stand out this week.
20. Shadow of a doubt – SurreptitiousMuffin
-Was there a single story this week that didn’t have proofreading issues here and there? “The looming bulk of Mount Victoria could not even covers its lower body.”
-The prose is great; the imagery stands out. I especially like this image: “…crushed so flat that his toenails broke themselves against his teeth.”
-“A retired army mechanic who loved nothing about his son, his wife and his car.” I’m guessing this is a typo? Jan seems awfully attached to a guy who loved nothing about him, if indeed that’s what you meant to write.
-The plot feels hobbled together, messy, lacking in sharpness. There are also some loose ends. It’s not clear to me how every member of the crowd comes to believe that the monster is their father. I’m also not clear on what the monster is or what his motives are for lumbering around and crushing things. There is something to be said for keeping things mysterious, but at least give me something to hang my hat on. The plot is the weakest aspect of the story, and the fact that you got a well-deserved HM despite that weakness is a testament to your skillful use of theme, mood, and imagery.
-You explore compelling themes here: when you’re young your father is invincible, gargantuan, seems to have dominion over the whole world, etc. You know a story is really good when it stays with you and makes you ponder its themes. This story reminded me of Freud’s thoughts on religion—that to many young children, their fathers seem godlike, so when they grow up they’re drawn to lives of faith to satisfy their still-present need for a “god-dad.” Maybe that’s what the crowd is doing in this story. They’re longing for the security and love that comes from an all-powerful paternal force, and they’ve projected that need onto this monster that’s stomping over everything.
-Every time I went back and looked at this story, I liked it a little more.
My vote: HM
21. The Real Homuncuwives of Atlantis – Doctor Idle
-Real housewives fanfic?
-The Antonio and Tina middle section stuff is tedious.
-Well, the story is a mess but it held my attention and had enough “attitude” to it to keep it out of the bottom few stories this week, imo.
22. Acetone – Capntastic
Congrats, you win a random linecrit.
All in all, I liked this story. It had good atmosphere and your monster was among the most unique this week. But, I wasn’t thrilled at the idea that acetone-based nail polish would still be sold in grocery stores if it attracted monsters who could “tear into [your] back in less than an instant.”
23. Spear – Killer-of-Lawyers
-I don’t think a spider quite fits the prompt of “monster.” It might be terrifying to a tiny creature like Verna, but it’s just too mundane for monster week. I don’t think that Verna really counts as a monster either, if that’s what you had in mind.
-You describe this small-scale world well. The action is also well written. For a first entry into the ‘dome, this was a good effort.
|# ? Mar 31, 2015 06:24|
You drop the n bomb you're going to get at least a mention.
It is unlikely to be favourable.
|# ? Mar 31, 2015 08:12|
I'm in and also brand new, so your day's guaranteed to be extra lovely.
|# ? Mar 31, 2015 14:51|
You drop the n bomb you're going to get at least a mention.
If. You. Say. So.
|# ? Mar 31, 2015 14:55|
|# ? Mar 31, 2015 15:51|
|# ? Mar 31, 2015 16:17|
Honorable Mentions 1
Dishonorable Mentions 1
Total Stories with the word friend of the family: 8
|# ? Mar 31, 2015 20:19|
Please post how many are written by Mercedes
|# ? Mar 31, 2015 22:20|
If variants are included I wrote two of them
|# ? Mar 31, 2015 22:20|
I almost wrote friend of the family in one of my stories that won, but i changed it to negro cause crabrock told me to
|# ? Mar 31, 2015 22:33|
Crabrock which racial slur has the best win rate? This is important work
|# ? Mar 31, 2015 23:54|
Crabrock which racial slur has the best win rate? This is important work
|# ? Apr 1, 2015 00:05|
|# ? Apr 1, 2015 02:37|
Crabrock which racial slur has the best win rate? This is important work
I did not verify if these were used in a derogatory way:
wetback: 1 win
kraut: 2 wins
honky: 1 win
whitey: 1 win
colored: 10 wins
fag: 1 win (not a race, i think)
|# ? Apr 1, 2015 04:33|
Famous Last Words Crits P. 2
Bompacho - Forever
You've got some nice bits of prose here, but the main issue is that you are kind of skirting around the interesting parts of the story. The bulk of your story is establishing the premise, to the point that the story pretty much ends where it should be beginning. That he's looking for immortality is less important than exploring his motivations; is he afraid of death? Power hungry? Seeking knowledge? We don't get enough time in the character's headspace to really care about him. Mercury poisoning is pretty nuts, and that could have been used as an anchor for your conflict - what effect is it having on his court, his subjects, his mind? As it stands, you've got the skeleton of a story here, but all of the meat is chilling out on the periphery.
Benny Profane - The Flying Tailor
This was really nice. You did a good job of painting the protagonist as a sort of tragically noble figure, which is impressive given how bizarre his death was and how easily the story could have edged into parody. The dialogue is mostly fine, though it does feel kind of expository, and the use of exclamation points feels excessive. The way you sandwiched the actual death worked to build tension, and it felt like the story ended at the perfect time - a nice, poignant moment that cuts away before the audience ends up rubbernecking.
Ancient Blades - The Petalsong
I appreciate the tone you were aiming for here. Sometimes the prose feels poetic, but other times it comes across as too deliberate - the opening paragraph is a good example, where the language is trying too hard to evoke a mood that it hasn't earned yet. The dialogue tends to feel artificial - it sounds like these characters have prepared speeches and are just standing there delivering them to one another. The motivation of his attackers is also left unclear for too long, and then it ends up being delivered through an info-dump monologue. That said, you did a nice job of characterizing Jubei, and painting an evocative scene.
crabrock - I Don't Feel All Turned On and Starry Eyed
This story had probably the most consistently strong prose throughout, which isn't much of a surprise from you. You did a great job of characterizing Mama Cass, but Ian feels very bolted-on, which ends up dragging the piece down a bit since he's such a major component of it. I just don't really feel like you gave me any motivations for him that I could buy, so he ends up being kind of the shadow of a character. The dialogue was also a little weak in places - it's got a nice rhythm to it, but the content feels platitudinal. I do like how you worked historical details into it, and I think that your decision to avoid ending it with her death - literal or implied - was the right choice, because it gave your piece a strong emotional hook without coming across as overly sentimental.
Pete Zah - Touching the Heavens
I'm not sure if there's enough driving action here to justify the present tense, and as a result the first half of your story ends up reading like a list of events instead of a narrative. You do a good job of establishing a conflict and setting the stakes, but we don't really get any sense of what Tesla is thinking beyond what is immediately obvious. Your prose is clear, but it's hampered by a plot that walks such a well-trodden path that all of the tension is sucked out of it. Tesla and Morgan were both such interesting figures with bizarre personalities, but you didn't really capitalize on them, which makes them feel like stock characters. I wasn't bored by this story, but it didn't stick with me after reading it.
newtestleper - The Death of Marat
Your prose does a great job of setting the scene and contributing to characterization. There are lots of nice, genuinely human moments here - the fart, the pride he has in his first warrant, the bit about knife shopping - that all come together to make the characters feel fleshed out, so that I'm invested in what happens. The pacing is pretty brisk, especially toward the end, and the ending comes across as a bit rushed. I think a little more time spent in Charlotte's head would have helped. I'm still not entirely sure, but I think his death should have been left implied rather than dealt with in a single line at the very end. Still, despite these nitpicks, this story did a lot right.
contagonist - Todesengel
The biggest issue here is that you spend so much time on details that don't matter. Take the first few paragraphs; everyone knows what a bar looks like, so your goal should be to paint the scene in broad strokes, injecting details only when they are relevant to the tone, atmosphere, characterization, or plot. You spend almost a third of the story at the bar just to have the characters meet, and then they leave, and the story actually starts. It's especially noticeable when the action takes up just a relatively small narrative space. The reveal is kind of a "gotcha" since you don't really give us any hints beforehand, and the final line just doesn't work. Interesting premise, flawed execution.
sebmojo - Hunter S Thompson needed a poo poo like you wouldn't believe.
This piece has a great voice that fits it perfectly. Your prose has this bizarre quality where some of the word choice feels simultaneously "wrong" and inspired - "vegetable slowness" jumps out, off the top of my head. The ending nails that cavalier Thompson vibe, and making his death such an understated and intentionally downplayed element of the story, especially in contrast with how dramatic his battle with the fly is, works for me. I do wish there was a bit more meat to the story though - it feels like a very short scene out of a larger piece, and it suffers a little bit from lack of context to ground it.
Capntastic - HeLa
You've got a really cool premise here, but the entire story is an example of telling instead of showing. It reads almost like a wikipedia article, and while it's interesting stuff, it doesn't make for a story. You actually get a plot cooking about halfway through, but then it kind of sputters at the finish line. There are some issues with the rhythm of your prose, mostly relating to lines that need to be broken up a bit, but otherwise it gets the job done. Ultimately this is another story with a strong idea behind it that never quite digs past the surface.
|# ? Apr 2, 2015 04:41|
TY for the crit, GP.
|# ? Apr 3, 2015 03:01|
Happy Easter TD!
|# ? Apr 3, 2015 03:49|
anime was right fucked around with this message at 05:52 on Oct 27, 2015
|# ? Apr 3, 2015 03:57|
Thanks for the crits Jitzu and GP
|# ? Apr 3, 2015 04:08|
BENNOSAURUS BRAWL RESULTS
So you guys both wrote stories that were resoundingly “almost-okay”, which made this a much closer race than I expected. Which you can take as either a definitive accomplishment or a crushing setback, I dunno. Weird how you both went for the “stealing pictures of boobs” angle—didn’t know you guys had that much in common as writers. You could probably learn a thing or two from each other.
Benny the Snake, you submitted your story early, which I feel might have been a mistake, because there weren’t just proofreading errors you could’ve caught, but also a frame narrative that really added nothing of substance to the story. Nathan isn’t much of a character, and his interaction with Grandpa Joe doesn’t exactly leap off the page. Actually, to be honest, there’s not a lot of character depth here in general. Nevertheless, you were the one who submitted a more complete plot this week, and there was action here that moved the story forward. And although it wasn’t a requirement to use both under-10 and over-80 characters for this brawl, you were the only one who did. Dialogue is also not-terrible, but not exactly striking or resonant.
Tyrannosaurus, I liked the way your story started as a sort of fakeout until I got to the words “nursing home.” I like the characters a lot, and even though the dialogue was this close to being too campy, it worked. The story’s well plotted, at least up until they escape, at which point it felt like you ran out of words—even though you didn’t. The robbing of the store stretched my belief too far, and the ending felt sloppy and tacked on. I really do like the idea of old men plotting to smuggle contraband into a nursing home, but it was almost like you got bored with it two-thirds of the way through.
You both succeeded and failed in different ways, which made this a difficult decision. In the end, I have to give it to the story that did something more innovative with the prompt, and was the only one to make me laugh.
Victory to the T-Rex.
|# ? Apr 3, 2015 04:50|
Aaahh! Real Monsters Crits. Part 1
ZeBourgeoisie - Nutrient Solution
Interesting set up that held my attention and left me wanting to see what happened next. You do a good job of giving your protagonist agency, which drives the plot and creates tension pretty effectively. There was a bit of debate among the judges as to how "monstrous" your monster was, but at the end of the day I think it worked, and it's nice having something to contrast with all of the creepy shambling horrors. This story stumbles a bit at the finish line, though. There's all this build-up, but there's not any catharsis for the reader; I was expecting some kind of twist or at least a further development of the themes you've established, but instead it feels a bit like a cliffhanger without a big payoff.
SadisTech - Scrawl
I enjoyed the way you use a unique narrative voice to immediately establish a mood for this story. It's tough to pull it off, and it's easy to make it feel like a gimmick, but you avoided those pitfalls here. One the one hand, the way that you keep the creatures in the shadows for the entire story creates that sense of lingering dread, but on the other it ended up being a little unclear what exactly we are dealing with, which makes it difficult to paint a mental picture. A few more details, even if they are abstract ones, would go a long ways, I think. The other issue is that the plot beats are kind of trite - it has that kind of generic Fallout-esque post-apocalyptic plot that a lot of short fiction in that genre falls into. At the end of the day, the strong voice and the nice prose were enough to earn an HM, even if the style outweighs the substance a bit.
Benny Profane - A Funny Story
This was probably the most divisive story of the week - I think all three judges had it in a different tier. I enjoyed it quite a bit, even if the monster feels more metaphorical than literal. You've got some strong, evocative prose throughout, and some genuinely creepy moments, but the result is a story that feels a little disjointed. I think you did a good job of breathing some life into your protagonist, but it almost feels like the reader is looking through the wrong window, if that makes sense. The suicide feels a little sudden, and as a resolution to the story it rang a bit hollow; I think her motivation for such a drastic action needs to be explored a little further. Still, you've got a nice style and your stuff is always enjoyable to read.
Franco Potente - Don't Touch That Dial
The biggest issue here is that the overwrought style muddles the clarity of your story. You want to grab the reader with a strong hook right out of the gate, but your story is so dense that I kept feeling the urge to skim. Aside from that, we don't really get enough time with either the protagonist or the monster to develop a strong opinion of either. There isn't enough of a central conflict to create a strong dramatic effect, and as a result the story ends up in a kind of limbo. Reign in the prose and focus on ensuring that each line A) says exactly what you mean in the clearest way possible and B) needs to be there in the first place.
Hyacinth - G-d Was Missing Us
You've got some pretty good prose here, but there are a few places where clarity could be improved. Your characters feel real, and you give them a goal / conflict, but the "why" of it it is a little muddled. I like that you primarily stick to broad strokes for the setting, which saves it from coming across as a generic fantasy piece. There are two issues that I had with this piece at the end of the day. First, the Rocs are your monsters here, but they feel kind of alien to the story, so that I was never quite sure what I, or the characters, were supposed to be feeling about them. They are cruel, but also intelligent, and capable of veneration. Secondly, while your ending has some strong imagery, it feels like the story is ending at a turning point. We are left to imagine the implications, but the fact that the Rocs are such an opaque element makes it difficult to figure out the ending's trajectory. Not a bad first entry by any means, so keep it up!
A Classy Ghost - Tangly
All of the judges enjoyed this piece. You've got nice pacing, and your prose does a good job of painting a picture. I think you incorporated the flash rule well. Your protagonist was fleshed out well enough, but the father felt very much like a stock "alcoholic dad" figure - he pretty much exists only as a plot catalyst. This is tricky to balance in such a short piece, so it isn't a major issue, but it's one worth noting. The ending felt a little rushed, although I really liked the idea of it and what you were going for. It just feels like the resolution arrives and passes in single line that is disconnected from everything that came before it, which makes it slightly less satisfying. One of the stronger "friendly monster" stories this week.
hotsoupdinner - Howling
Cool setting, nice atmosphere, and you do a strong job of ramping up the dread and tension. I get kind of a "The Thing" vibe from it. You've got a strong central conflict, and just enough peripheral detail about the monster to make it feel like a threat. However, I am left wondering why they have to do this - why is the monster worth sacrificing human lives for? What happens if it breaks out? It's obvious strong and hungry, but a group of people deciding to feed themselves to it instead of just leaving feels like an unnatural response. The protagonist gets a little development, but its kind of backloaded - a bit more human interaction or time in the protagonists head early on could make the sense of desperation and isolation even stronger.
CancerCakes - Monster in your head
You had a really cool premise here, but you end up torpedoing it for a bad joke. The characters feel underdeveloped and perfunctory, so it's hard to empathize when things start going wrong with his eye. Even after you pull out the twist, there was room for an interesting story, but it quickly becomes clear that everything is leading up to a punchline of some kind. Unfortunately, that punchline kind of faceplants. Nothing about it makes sense. Not much else to say here, really - joke stories either land or they don't. The prose wasn't bad, honestly, but there's no substance to back it up.
Thyrork - The Cauldron
You've got some noticeable clarity issues here, on top of a setup that feels fresh out of a D&D campaign and a few grammatical / proofreading errors. "Heroes fight a Necromancer" needs some serious characterization to make it fresh and interesting, but this kind of hews to the common tropes. There is a lot of dialogue here, which is usually the sign of deeper structural issues; some stories can get away with, or even benefit from, being dialogue-heavy, but this is not that kind of story. Show us actions and reactions instead of talking heads. The idea is to use dialogue as a tool for building characterization, rather than a way to explain what is happening. Your writing isn't unsalvagable or anything, you've just got to focus on characters first instead of letting a cool idea drive the whole story.
spectres of autism
You've incorporated a lot of disparate elements here, but they kind of work in an over-the-top sort of way. You do a good job with the flow of action - I can see it all in my head without getting tripped up by extraneous detail or poor attribution, which is always tricky when there's so much going on. The "anime" line was really jarring - this felt like a weird alternate universe setting, so that kind of messed with my immersion. Judgechat toyed with the idea that maybe he is really is in an anime, which I guess would make sense, but if that was your intention you probably need to drop some more clues so that it's less open-ended. Characterization is decent, and gives some justification for their motivations. The ending is kind of abrupt, which was sort of a trend this week. Thematically it works, but in the context of the story it just feels a little too neat.
Rest of the crits will be up soon-ish.
|# ? Apr 3, 2015 05:25|
Little more then 24 hours to sign up!
|# ? Apr 3, 2015 05:54|
I concede defeat. Good work, T-Rex.
Victory to the T-Rex.
|# ? Apr 3, 2015 06:28|
Got 6 hours until signups close!
also need one more judge if someone wants in, pm or post in thread
not actually a skull joke
|# ? Apr 4, 2015 01:23|
Thanks for the crits GP and Tyrannosaurus.
|# ? Apr 4, 2015 01:51|
Signups are now closed!
|# ? Apr 4, 2015 07:00|
Critiques for Week CXXVI: Screaming Idiot, Cacto, Schneider Heim, Nethilia, Your Sledgehammer, Fumblemouse, Sitting Here, LOU BEGAS MUSTACHE, and Walamor
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? I wish.
Apologies: these crits are late. Exceedingly so. I'm grateful to both my co-judges for delivering more timely feedback.
I didn't think the week would be especially challenging, but the evidence suggests that most of you found it so. In retrospect, I understand why. The need for backstory coupled to a flash-fiction word count defeated many who didn't manage to deliver character history in an engaging way, or didn't flesh out the old acquaintance at all, or spent so much time on the characters' shared past that almost nothing happened in the present. Here's hoping the exercise was useful, whatever the result. At least you're all in
Screaming Idiot, "Like Old Times"
For a story that begins with a naked man bleeding from a bullet wound, this is dull, and that first line shows why. It tries too hard and too obviously to hook. It's cliche on top of that. Most of this piece is rife with cliches, and you were too heavy handed with the swearing, as though the measure of toughness were how many times a minute a guy could say gently caress. Everybody is too busy swearing to do anything interesting. All the physical action and a good bit of the emotional action in the piece happen in the past; a lot of what you put on the table is exposition, delivered in dialogue. Bad choices all around. It's more exciting to see something happen than to hear the after-action report.
Markie's betrayal by Andy is an afterthought rather than the main thrust, and Andy isn't a character so much as a prop; he isn't established much at all before he appears at the end to wrap everything up in a tidy package of gently caress you. Ortiz, Chuck, and even Duane get more characterization. If you cut Andy out altogether and had Duane hand Markie over to Eddy himself, would the story be significantly different? Nope. It's not about Markie and Andy. It's about Markie and Julie, if anything. So this reads as though you shoehorned the prompt in as hard as you could rather than writing a response to it, and the story suffered.
I liked your merman piece in the previous week a whole lot better--but on the plus side, your mechanics are good, your dialogue's decent when it isn't awkwardly delivering information intended for the reader more than for the characters, you've got some interesting visuals, and I didn't want to punch you when I finished it. Sometimes that's all a judge can ask.
Cacto, "The will"
You, now, I would like to punch straight to the moon for submitting a bunch of build-up to conflict that never happened because you blew everybody up in a methane explosion or something, I don't even know. I assume it was a gas leak, maybe set up by Harvey, though there was no goddamn reason for Harvey to kill the family. Maybe it was a horrible coincidence! Emphasis on horrible! Goddrat that ending was stupid. It made the whole story pointless, which admittedly wasn't a challenge when so much of it was bickering and random ogling of a gardener who wasn't a character in his own right. Then you've got the question of when exactly this was set since it had the tone of a period piece but the air conditioning of something modern. What the heck was with that?
Beth was a prop, not a character--you were the second person to use the acquaintance that way in two entries, which caused me some concern--and her personal relationship with Sam wasn't explored at all. Did they get along? Did she love him? He didn't seem to give a drat about her being dead. Their blood tie did drive the story, so you hit the letter of the prompt while missing the spirit wholesale. Hitting the letter was enough, but you may have missed an opportunity to make me care at all about any of these people by giving the dead woman no personality and her nephew no feeling.
All of that is pretty much moot when stacked against the conclusion. One of the other judges thought it was funny and forgave some of the dumbness on that account. It didn't tickle my funny bone even slightly, and I couldn't overlook the lack of point or sense or anything else.
Schneider Heim, "New Habits"
I'm not much of a superhero fan, and I grimaced when I hit the Guild of Heroes, Doc Merlin, Marvel Marlowe, and other names and titles that struck me as bad pulp. Fortunately for me if not you, I don't have to worry my lack of affection for this piece is due to that bias: my co-judges didn't like it either. One even had it as an early loss contender, but I wouldn't go that far. Even though the comic-style jargon does it no favors, the background is left entirely too vague, words and concepts are flung around to no purpose, and the science is ridiculous, there's a hint of a cool character in Robert. The moral dilemma he faces is interesting too.
Your backstory of a superhero war against some megavillain for the fate of the world is probably too complex for a story of this size. Who was the Demagogue and what did he want? Why was Robert a villain, and why did he change? What exactly were Solveig's powers? This stuff is either vague or, in the Demagogue's case, just flat not there. Namedropping such things and moving on doesn't work. Your setting feels as hollow as a blown egg. Subspace gateways, miniature black-hole cages, time-machine jammers... what's the point? You don't do anything with that stuff. The idea was probably to strengthen the comic-book atmosphere. I can't say the gizmos don't do that, but I can't say the comic feel improves the work, either. Mileage may vary.
Mileage shouldn't vary on whether "Such titles did little justice once you've seen his eyes" is a crime against literature. Past tense and present in the same sentence? You know better than that!
While Solveig is more of a character than Screaming Idiot's Andy or Cacto's Beth, that isn't saying much, and there isn't much to him beyond his overwhelming, flat, and somewhat cliche goodness. He's dull. Robert is rather better, but the most intriguing thing about him is glossed over: he can perform a miraculous act of healing, but he was a villain. I can't think of many evil healers in fiction, and I want to know more. However, I'm not convinced there's reasoning behind Robert's healing ability other than that the plot needed him to have it.
Nethilia, "Out of My Life"
I don't recall noticing the tense gaffes on my initial read, but they're glaring now. "She hasn’t been ‘Ginger Kennedy’ since she’d married"; "She wasn’t a teenager anymore." Yikes. There are a lot of small errors here, actually, more than I'd expect from you. "It feels like minutes for Ginger to breathe again" doesn't work as a sentence. "His steady rugged arms" needs a comma after "steady." In the first paragraph of the second section, Ginger looks up to look at her daughter; Joyce is in the backseat with fries scattered across the backseat. The repetitive phrasing appears unpolished. I'm pretty sure "when Gabriel’s grandma died" should be in past perfect since it follows "She'd been told." The phrase "who she hasn't seen" should be "whom she hasn't seen." There are two periods after the first sentence of the fourth section. You get the idea--another editing pass wouldn't hurt the work at all.
The strength of the story largely makes up for the questionable proofing. Ginger is drawn well. Sensory descriptions like the taste of bad beer and the shift in a mattress do a great job of building the scenes, and Ginger's tic of touching her tongue to where her tooth used to be is a really nice character detail. For a story about old, lost love; death; and mourning, this piece has little regret in it, and I find I like that. Ginger made her choices and doesn't doubt the results. It's refreshing. The end beat is just on the right side of overly sweet.
The significant weakness here is the lack of characterization for everyone other than Ginger. Who is Gabriel beyond an almost-too-good-to-be-true stepdad? Who was Noah beyond a careless teenager? I don't know why why Noah would have been a worse father than Ginger is a mother based on what you show of him; she and he were guilty of the same things. Who is Joyce beyond a little girl? There are seven significant characters in play: Ginger, Gabriel, Joyce, Noah, Shaun, Laura, Dad, and Minnie. That's a lot to keep track of in such a short piece, especially with only one of them having a distinct personality. If you revise this, Gabriel and Noah above all could use fleshing out, because Gabriel's too much of a saint and Noah too much of a shadow.
Your Sledgehammer, "Two Bullets"
First scene, Then: So terrible that I braced myself to hate the story. The second paragraph is especially at fault, containing as it does the tired phrase "as I closed my eyes for what I was sure would be the final time" and a random mention of Fourth of July that sucks at implying a gunshot. One moment Rich is smelling grass, and in the next his partner has soundlessly killed a man. It's muddled.
Second scene, still Then: Things pick up. I'm not 100% clear on who Sandra is, but the friendship of Larry and Rich is coming through. I don't have a problem with Larry giving Rich the casings, maybe because I see them as a souvenir of having survived a terrible moment. The casings can remind Rich how close he came to death, how he was saved, and what the price was; it works for me.
Third scene, Now: Those casings immediately pay off by allowing a tidy shift in scene. It's a bit too convenient that Rich and Ramirez are talking about breaking up a domestic disturbance before the radio squawks.
Fourth scene, Then: The drunken dialect's a miss. You use his speech tag to say he slurred anyway, so there was no need to gild that lily, especially since "kin" sounds more Southern than drunk. No idea where or when anyone says "tha."
I'm not keen on Larry hitting his wife. You haven't shown me anything in his personality at this point that makes sense of that, and you never will. Not all alcoholics beat their spouses.
Fifth scene, Now: Good stuff here, especially in the dynamic between Rich and Ramirez. I like the contrast of Ramirez and Larry. You've put two different people in the same position in Rich's life at different times, and the different ways Rich treats them build his character and show how the years have changed him.
You should have written "whomever he'd charmed lately," if only to keep at least one pedantic judge from twitching.
Sixth scene, Then: Why does Larry drink? Even if the reason's something cliche like to numb the pain of shooting people, I wish you'd mentioned it. This is otherwise an okay escalation.
Seventh scene, still Then: More cliches, and Entenzahn's right: this is Rich's repayment for his life? To dump all the booze once and then get out of Dodge? Have the years of being an alcoholic's friend taught him nothing? Never mind how crappy it is to walk out on a friend and not see him for fifteen years despite still living in the same town and everything.
I can imagine that being Larry's friend for so long had taken its toll on Rich and that he couldn't handle it anymore. I can imagine that their bond had long since been strained. I shouldn't have to imagine any of it. The only reason this isn't the weakest scene in the piece is that the first one blows chunks.
Eighth scene, Now: Ugh, we're back to unfortunate prose with "the bile that rushed up through the dawning horror that enveloped me." It's a naturally dramatic scene. Awkward purple prose will not make it more so. Why did Larry shoot Sandra? Himself, sure! But why her, and why is she afraid, and why is she blaming Rich? Hell, why was Sandra still with Larry if she'd started leaving him at least fifteen years before?
Sandra's death is a weak point. It's unnecessary. A neighbor could call the police to tell them he or she had heard a gun shot from Larry's house, and Ramirez and Rich could be in the area and check it out, and you'd have the horror and guilt of Rich discovering his dead friend without the additional murder that tips the situation away from tragic and toward overdone.
Overall: The Then and Now structure worked; the scene breaks within scene breaks didn't. The start and finish were bad in different ways. As an answer to the prompt, though, it's strong. You did a great job of showing the present in conflict with the past. It's a somewhat cliche cop story, but I cared enough about the characters to only mind a little.
Fumblemouse, "Football and Fireworks"
Yakkity yak, yakkity yak. Jeremy and Emily spent the entire story talking at each other about their respective pasts, and it was both awkward and kind of hard to believe on Jeremy's end. It appeared contrived that he would bring up his imaginary friend, whom he somehow didn't ever realize was imaginary, with so little lead-in. For a viewpoint character, Jeremy was on the opaque side; the story spent barely any time inside his head. That's a problem. I wanted to know how Jeremy felt about the increasingly weird situation he was in. Had he never suspected there was anything off about Emily? Did he take this kid who didn't talk like a kid when she was telling him about dreams and hearts completely in stride?
I figured out who Emily was as soon as Jeremy started talking about his old friend. (Sort of. At first I thought she was a ghost. At the very first, I thought she'd turn out to be Erin's ghost; I didn't realize Erin was going to be more or less irrelevant despite the bench.) But that was only halfway through the story, and Jeremy took a lot longer to catch on. He seemed almost willfully dense. If you'd let me into his head, maybe he wouldn't have, or maybe his thoughts would at least have kept me interested. The second half of this was pretty dull, since the twist wasn't a twist and it was still all dialogue.
Two more things stood out: Jeremy fetching and throwing the football read like padding, kind of like you'd realized just how much talking there was and wanted to balance it out with some action, but it was pointless action that didn't move the story forward. I didn't like Emily's speech about gates and wars and men at all. It was as out of place as a high-bounce ball in a bowl of Cheerios, a nugget of cutesy high fantasy in a story not otherwise belonging to that category. There was also something mildly off-putting about a girl who looked ten talking about the men she'd loved to an adult who didn't bat an eye.
I'm more critical of this piece now than I was at the time. It looks good when compared to a lot of the field. The flaws are more obvious when I consider it on its own, although it's still a nice idea, a creative approach to the prompt, and an okay read that ends on a pleasant note.
Sitting Here, "Touch and Go and Touch Again"
From what I could tell, Dasra and Nasatya were a pair of souls reincarnated again and again through time to rediscover one another. This was a lovely interpretation of the prompt. The mythic tone, though, didn't succeed. It felt heavy, too ornate, and full of effort, as though you'd tried hard and that was exactly the problem. I could see the work rather than being carried along by the phrases. This time it was you who reminded me of Catherynne Valente's In the Night Garden, in the sense that the entry read like you had attempted to capture that style but hadn't managed.
Something else that reminded me of Valente was the nested story structure. Which was something else I didn't care for, unfortunately. My interpretation: Paris and Helena were incarnations of Dasra and Nasatya, and Helena read to Paris from a journal she'd written about their previous lives in 1967. The characters' names in that lifetime, "Susie Sometimes" especially, were another flourish I found Too Much. Then Natasha and David were the incarnations, and the sequence by Baganga Tank was a shared vision inside a futuristic Dream Tank. It took me several readings to understand that, assuming it's right. On my first pass and my second I was bemused that Dasra and Nasatya had their "real" names in only one of the sub-stories you told. Maybe I should have twigged to the fact that it was all a dream when suddenly a whirlpool appeared and Nasatya dove in, but enough dreamy and unreal things had happened that I thought it was just one more. Realizing that a significant section of the story was a dream sequence didn't increase my affection for the whole.
What did it matter? There's a question. Why do I care about the dreams of these two? Why do I care about them, at all? The nesting that worked for Valente failed you, because you only had 1,300 words to work with and each section was too short to build an attachment to the characters within it. I didn't see much depth in them, nor was there any plot. The entire piece was a premise. I know from what you've since said in IRC that it was a message, too. But--I think perhaps you got caught up in saying something and forgot to tell a story. The message didn't land because I wasn't invested in the mythic relationship, because the characters changed their shapes and their lives again and again without ever giving me time to get to know them, and because nothing they did was interesting enough to make up for that.
So I didn't much like it, in the end, despite the moments of beauty when the prose didn't feel too strained: the garden metaphor was a pretty and effective one, though my favorite part was probably the view of the beloved as a map home. You reached for something and didn't connect; you'll have to keep trying in order to master the effect you desire.
LOU BEGAS MUSTACHE, "Penny Puncher"
Why did you screw up your dialogue punctuation? You're better than that.
In contrast to some of the other entries in the round, this one had plenty of physical action. It was handled reasonably well when you didn't let your prose get too choppy. Choppy prose could have worked in the fighting scenes: abrupt, short, sharp sentences suit descriptions of boxing. But you used so many sentence fragments that it all became awkward. "Three months since he started taking classes." That isn't a sentence, isn't in a fight scene, and doesn't use the right verb tense ("he" should be "he'd"). "Three punches into a fight against Andreas Rodriguez." Nope. "This was Alvin’s first fight big league." That isn't a fragment, but it's either out of order or missing some words. "The octagon felt different for once, dread loomed within it." Comma splices should die in a fire.
"[...] until now Alvin was his own agent." Wrong tense. It should be "Alvin had been his own agent." "Alvin got a pair of short"--do I have to say anything?
Still--stuff happened! The relationship between Alvin and Sayid could have been interesting! Could have been. That's a bigger issue than the sentence mechanics, because those two were the heart of the story, but Sayid disappeared after his encouraging words to Alvin. When he popped back up, any personality or character he had were gone. He was an obstacle that Alvin failed to overcome. The end. That conclusion baffled me. I thought as I read that the Win voice in Alvin's head might have come either from the real Sayid somehow--the older, injured boxer willing him to victory from afar--or from the Sayid of Alvin's imagination, which was probably more on target. I don't know why Alvin would hear the Win when fighting Sayid in either case. I keep thinking it would be a stronger story if the Win voice first went silent in that bout, but perhaps I'm missing the point.
Maybe the idea is that sometimes, no matter how you work, there will still be someone better than you. Or maybe I'm meant to see that Alvin became too reliant on the Win chant and psyched himself out when he didn't hear it. It made him feel invincible until Sayid brought him back to earth, an interesting reversal of Sayid's initial role as mentor. But whatever you were going for didn't completely gel. There's a story under the surface, but I can't quite make it out, and the surface material flops to the mat at the end.
Bleah. Soap-opera melodrama between gay secret agents that was 80% dialogue and 0% anything happening. I didn't care about the characters or their shouts of BETRAYAL! Why would I? They were props filling roles, not people. Worse, they were props expositing at each other. It was incredibly tedious to read these guys telling each other and me about their love and their pain and ughhhhhh. Maybe a scene like this would have been effective if it had taken place halfway through a novel and I'd been invested in the feelings being flung around, but it didn't, and I wasn't, and the longer I look at it now the more I agree with Entenzahn: you were lucky that the worst stories of the round were so very bad, else you'd be rocking a DM.
It does look like you tried to make the infodumps work. Ari and Duran never quite fell into "As you know, Bob" territory. You trusted the reader to connect the dots and fill in most of the backstory based on things two estranged lovers might reasonably say to each other, if they were secret agents moonlighting as drama queens. That part of your approach was good, but dear lord did the story ever need to be more than endless chatter. You came in far under the word limit! You could have leavened the dialogue loaf with thought or action!
I remember this as a problem with your Season/Element entry, too. Expository dialogues are not fascinating and should not constitute most of a story. Maybe you should try writing a story with no dialogue at all sometime, not necessarily for TD, but as a personal challenge.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 09:41 on May 10, 2015
|# ? Apr 4, 2015 07:53|
Critiques for Week CXXVI: Anomalous Blowout, docbeard, Ironic Twist, leekster, Jonked, kurona_bright, crabrock, Benny the Snake, Tyrannosaurus, and Bad Ideas Good
Anomalous Blowout, "When You Need It Most"
The more-or-less unanimous choice for the win. Huzzah! True, the story is thin on plot. Alice meets a strange and magical man and finds uses for his three gifts, that's it, and she doesn't show a lot of growth or change or agency. Mr. Hanrahan is more a device than a character. Here's why those things didn't matter terribly much: Mr. Hanrahan is an interesting device, the premise is good, the writing is good, and the whole thing is fun to read. Its flaws are mostly balanced by the things it does well. That might not have been enough to take the crown in a stronger week, but yours was the only entry to make every judge's top three in this one.
The opening sequence worked as a hook for me. Why was the narrator lying out in the wilderness with a broken tibia, and who was Mr. Hanrahan? Although you never answered either question in full, I didn't mind that Mr. Hanrahan was inexplicably magical. One could argue that he represented faith in miracles beyond understanding, and that by keeping faith (and the lizard whistle), Alice had something to turn to in extremis. Or maybe he was just a cool magic guy who saved Alice's life because there's nothing that says a cool magic guy can't be kind. I liked that he and Alice never had a falling out. I liked that the happy ending didn't feel forced.
I didn't altogether like it that Hanrahan only gave Alice the three gifts and that there was little other interaction shown between them. A few fewer words on the dog and its treats or Maggie and her inhaler might have left you with some to spend on a longer conversation between Alice and her marvelous neighbor. Faith is all well and good, but she was so accepting of the coincidences in his gifts that the situation lost some of its natural wonder. I didn't like how tenses were handled in the first section, either. I see what you were going for with "I’d say ‘soaked to the bone,’ but then I glance at the shattered splinters," but the wording is unpleasant to my inner ear. Maybe "Soaked to the bone, I think, but then I glance" etc. would work. As for "will anyone raise the alarm? And even if they did" etc., oof. Since she was asking whether anyone would raise the alarm, the conditional phrase should have been "even if they do."
Those issues didn't prevent the story from being the most enjoyable thing on the table. While it isn't the best thing you've written, it is a deserving victor.
docbeard, "Good Night, Miss Mason"
What I like in this one--the only thing I especially like, unfortunately--is the location. West Virginia is a fitting setting for tales of secretive government agencies. Otherwise, this is messy work. Henry died, but he's not dead because "they resuscitated me somehow." Never mind specifics! Just handwave how the not-FBI managed to cure death and move on. The not-FBI is murdering long-retired agents because...? They didn't protect their own water supply because...? That phone number hasn't changed in twenty years and neither has mobile phone coverage because...? The story asks me to go along with too many things it doesn't explain or sell.
It offers little enjoyment in return, worse luck. Once Henry and Amanda meet again, the exposition flies. The finale wants to be sad, but Amanda's death is too abrupt and, well, dumb for that. Henry lacks personality. You appear to have spent your words on Amanda's relationship to the Agency and to have not had enough left to draw Henry and Amanda's relationship in anything but the broadest strokes. The first section, despite some proofreading errors, is interesting, but the rest doesn't live up to it. Not one of your better efforts, sir.
Ironic Twist, "Crush"
I don't know why multiple entrants decided to reacquaint me with Surrealism Week, but it's a reunion I could have done without. Nor was I thrilled by what felt like a bait and switch regarding Izzie's relationship to her mother. A beloved daughter keeping her troubled mother's secrets intrigued me: what happened to the mother and why? Who knows. Izzie's thoughts during the random magical attack put the lie to the idea that anything much could have changed four years before. Her mother was always a hoarder, always an abuser, and nuts enough before Izzie left to brand her child with a hot iron because... kicks, I suppose.
There's probably more logic to the random magical attack and its resolution than I first thought, at least. If the floor monster only represents Estefania and her hoarding, boooooo. Her ghost has no obvious reason for attacking Izzie this way. Or the living woman had no obvious reason for casting this spell before her death; whichever. The way Izzie "defeats" it by typing a nasty sentence into her cell phone is inane. On the other hand, the floor monster--containing the iron as it does--may represent a different sort of hoard: the buried family secrets. Some of the items therein make a lot more sense for this interpretation than others: albums, yes; coffee cans, no. If the idea is that a garbage pile of secrets threatens to consume Izzie even after her mother's death and she drives it back by telling her family the truth, the whole episode has more meaning and earns considerably more interest. If. But the garbage construct begins to back off when Izzie hits a random key by accident, not when she does anything by design. It still "dies" far too easily. I'm not sure what you intended in writing this scene. I can't quite trust that it isn't the more shallow spooky stuff happens because ABUSE reading.
No matter what the idea was, this is a vignette. It's not particularly horrifying: the monster fades out without doing anything besides looming for a minute. It works better than your Surrealism piece and would possibly have been in the upper tier of that week, but it occupied the unmemorable middle of this one.
leekster, "Injury Reserve"
Your issue with physical blocking rears its ugly head here, as do mechanical errors aplenty and the passive voice. The story trails off more than it ends. What is Lou's scholarship? What does Marcus have to do with it? I would hazard Marcus set up a baseball scholarship in his teammate's name after the accident, only I don't know why Marcus would give Lou the silent treatment if he asked about such a thing. The idea underlying the story is decent; the execution turns it to a snooze.
What I think you were going for is a story of two men, one of whom accidentally crippled the other, who can't move past that moment or renew their friendship despite regret. It doesn't matter that neither is a bad man or that Marcus didn't hurt Lou on purpose. Sometimes old bonds are too shattered for mending. This is a poignant concept.
However, everything that happens is difficult for me to picture in my mind's eye. I can't get a solid grip on anyone's actions. The prose, worse luck, is pretty drat bad. Some of the mistakes made have nothing to do with grammar. Did you proofread it beyond running a spelling check? Check these out: "in hops it was with the cumin and other spices"; "he bit someone hard with the cart"; "Lou said andquickend his pace"; "now hanging by wires from his care"; "It took a minutes." Oy. This kind of thing looks like you weren't trying, which is never impressive.
You mangled the punctuation of dialogue. You often used the wrong form of a word or a phrase, such as in the case of "The thought to say he didn't need help": The thought to say doesn't work, but The thought of saying would. So terribly many of your sentences are awkward. "An oomph came from the man," "A breath came hot and quick," "Eventually his lame leg found its way back under him"--why are you phrasing things like this?? Try using the actor as your subject, not the action or the result. The man let out an oomph. Lou huffed out a hot, quick breath. Eventually he got his lame leg back into place. Most of the time the person doing the oomphing is more interesting than the oomph, right?
Going back to the question of blocking, I'm all sorts of bothered that the shopping cart collision does not seem to follow the laws of physics. Marcus hits Lou with his cart. Oops! Groceries go flying! That makes sense if Lou was carrying them... but Marcus puts them in his cart. How in the name of Hades did he hit a man so hard that foodstuffs took a flying leap out of his cart? Do they live in a cartoon? Then the clerk comes by, and somehow he knows Marcus maimed his teammate. How? Neither man said that. Lou said, "I thought once was enough" in reference to hitting him with a shopping cart; that doesn't logically lead to the conclusion that Marcus crippled Lou.
How did Marcus cripple Lou? A car wreck? Something else? Was Marcus drunk or what? The circumstances of the accident would tell me more about both men, and the story feels incomplete without them.
I didn't enjoy this at all, but it's the only entry in the bottom four I consider worth salvaging. The writing would need to be much better for it to fly, but there's a worthwhile idea in the relationship of these characters.
Jonked, "The Pearl"
Before the pearl shows up: An unfolding portrait of a man whose marriage has failed. The opening description of how Joe spends an ordinary day drops hints that something isn't right in his household. Unlike many Thunderdome attempts to build suspense by keeping important information behind a veil, this one works and works well. The story treats the symptoms of Joe's marital estrangement in a matter-of-fact way that shows they are ordinary parts of his life. Something out of the ordinary must have happened at some point, though, and I want to know what.
During the baca ex machina: Contrived ridiculousness. The Lover's jewelry tradition is either unbelievable (from a sane man) or creepy (from an obsessed stalker). As for buying her a magical pearl that actually turns out to have powers, halfway through a story that had until that point been completely mundane? Holy regrettably subverted expectations, Batman.
After the disaster: Sarah still cheated on Joe in this alternate time line. How is her showing up in his life again supposed to be a good ending? The story appears to be blaming Joe for trying to stay married despite his wife's infidelity, which is bizarre to me, but no matter who was at fault for their misery, these two do not belong together. The thought of them being stuck with each other forever thanks to a magic pearl is nightmare fodder. Also kinda dumb.
Everything after the jewelry arrived was a misfire. You "fixed" a grim situation brought about by human failing with a magical artifact out of nowhere. You tried to play off a reunion between a man and the woman who cheated on him, left him, and apparently came out the better for it as romantic. Neither choice went over well. The first half was rather good, which sharpened my disappointment with the rest even as it saved you from dropping below the middle of the field.
kurona_bright, "Stump Talk"
One paragraph in, I witnessed a comma error (there shouldn't have been one after "sky," as the sentence had only one subject and was therefore a compound predicate) and a tense error (the sentence beginning with "Why'd Chris invite her" should have been in past perfect, as the invitation happened before the story began: "Why had Chris invited her," etc.). That boded well! The comma goof popped up several more times, so watch out for that. Correct: "The cloudy sky overhead gave off a soft grey light, and it brought back a memory" -- the clause after the comma has its own subject, namely "it." Incorrect: "She looked back, and saw Chris and Gavin" -- "She" is the subject of both "looked" and "saw," and separating the subject and one of its verbs with a comma as you did is inappropriate.
You punctuated several dialogue tags incorrectly, too. Take heart: you weren't remotely alone in having that problem.
Sorry to start off with grammar pedantry, but the errors distracted me--never a good thing unless a story is magnificently horrid. Moving on. Was there a point to the Gavin character? He didn't bring anything to the table that Chris didn't have covered on his own. The words spent on his relationship with Chris felt wasted because none of it had anything to do with Jane or her bond with Andrew. The story would be more focused and lean if you cut him. You can't cut the Pratchett quote entirely, but if I were you I'd find something to use that was less completely random. How was that line tied to a brother and sister building a snowman together, or hanging out together, or anything at all? Honestly, it read like you quoting Pratchett because you really like him, never mind whether it made sense in Jane's world. I disliked that. It threw me out of a story that was otherwise okay, definitely better than the two then-most-recent stories of yours that I'd judged.
I appreciated the gentle character arc that was present. Jane still missed Andrew at the end, naturally, but she was remembering him with a (weak) smile instead of only pain. By building the igloo that she and Andrew had once planned, she would move on. The backstory was handled much, much more gracefully than in your Eleventh Hour or Season/Element entries; there was a tidy enough resolution. I love to see improvement, and I see it clearly here.
I like this story for reasons that have nothing much to do with the heavy-handed, unconvincing way the last paragraph tried to ram home the theme of human relationships as waveforms. That theme doesn't set my world on fire either. I've known too many friends that I'll never meet again to buy into inevitable reunions without some persuasion, but you only had Dr. Becky say that the lives that she'd seen as "a lines" were curves. No sale! Though--I wonder now whether she was speaking specifically of her life and Deadbeat Becky's. I read it as a general statement about humanity; a personal observation would be considerably less forced and cheesy.
Maybe not any more heartwarming, though. Dr. Becky sounded a lot better off without Deadbeat Becky, frankly. As described, the girls' friendship got young Dr. Becky to smoke and shoplift, cost her lunches and one of her Christmas gifts, and gave her nothing positive in return. Dr. Becky wasn't kind to sever their bond, but it's easy to argue that she was smart. The return of Deadbeat Becky to the doctor's life doesn't look like a good thing. Deadbeat Becky may end up better off, but what about Dr. Becky? How sure am I that Deadbeat Becky won't end up an albatross around her neck? Not very.
That can't be what you intended, and I think the problem is that Deadbeat Becky was only shown as a troublemaker and a taker in their relationship. None of their conversations as children made it onto the page. The word count had a lot to do with that, probably. Nothing made me feel or see the affection these two presumably had for each other back then. The plot was starved for some sense of a two-way friendship, of mutual liking.
That said? It was still a nice piece. The focused, driven, and somewhat ruthless Dr. Becky made a good protagonist. It was sweet that Deadbeat Becky still wore their friendship necklace. Deadbeat Becky didn't come off as a terrible person, either--she was concerned about her kid, and she'd gotten a raw deal when Dr. Becky went the E/N route and cut all contact, no question. The ultrasound scene was touching despite all my grousing above. I don't think it would take that much revising to make the story strong: the ideas are there. It almost works.
Benny the Snake, "The Christmas Truce"
I wondered for a while whether you thought we were unaware of the Christmas Truce of 1914 and would believe the concept of a Christmas truce was entirely your own. For the life of me, I still can't think why else you would make the decision to set this story in the modern day. War is never going to be fought the way it was in WW1 again, yet all you modernized were the speech patterns and which cartoons the soldiers had seen, and what would have been cloying and trite if you had set it in its proper time became mind-bogglingly idiotic. The real Christmas Truce was an inspiring, amazing thing. Your treatment of it was saccharine until events collapsed into violence for... hey, would you look at that: for no good reason. Why the hell would Tom react that way? Why would someone shoot? It's a lot more dumb than tragic. You crapped on one of the few moments on a World War battlefield that was something other than horrible. Why?
You also decided to crib the majority of your second section from the Bible! Benny, how can I put this to you? Your prose doesn't improve through contrast with Biblical text. Of course, you helped yourself a little bit by misquoting the text so as to make it more awkward; the line isn't "and to Earth peace." Lifting so much looked lazy besides. You aren't Charles Schultz.
As a side note, you shouldn't have capitalized "chaplain" any of the times you did so. The grammar was generally not so hot. Look at the ends of your first two paragraphs. Stare at them until you see how badly you botched basic punctuation. Duck down to the seventh paragraph to witness another missed period on top of badly punctuated dialogue. Maybe punch yourself in the kidneys after that, I dunno.
And to tie all of that up... a line from Guns N' Roses, presented as though it were profound. I don't argue with the people who hated this entry. I hated it too! However. You did have a story, even if the premise was not your own, even if many of the sentences weren't yours. Your effort wasn't as badly executed as leekster's nor quite as dumb as Cacto's, and it was basically coherent, so it managed to be the best of the worst. You can do better than that--yes, you can, because you have it in you to write a passable story, which this was not even remotely.
Tyrannosaurus, "Teeth and Time"
Have you ever read Patrick Rothfuss's The Wise Man's Fear? It features an immortal sex deity. She speaks in rhyme, and the meter is often straight out of Dr. Seuss. The unfortunate consequence of this is that she ends up sounding more like a six-year-old child than like an adult capable of reasoned consent. Kamohoali’i had the same problem here; you were going for inhuman with his confusion and simple speech, I figure, but for me at least you landed on childlike. That did not do good things for your ending.
Madi's choice to leave her life and her son for her erstwhile lover struck me as selfish and strange as well as kinda creepy. Selfish is obvious: what about John, who loved her so much? Strange: she gave up Kaleb awfully easily for a mother, much less a mother who'd stared at his picture for seven hours straight. Her choice was super abrupt. I think you hit the deadline and didn't have time to show the reasoning that would have made her decision more sympathetic. Maybe she would have come back to her family, but the story didn't say so. Maybe she sacrificed herself for her son's sake, but the line about her laughter implied she was happy; why did Kaleb need to be rescued in the first place if life in the sea was good? On a positive note, the characters and concept were interesting enough that I would read the story of how the younger Madi met Kamohoali’i and ended up with John, assuming Kamohoali’i would seem more adult with prolonged exposure.
In this story, though, the pacing was way off, John disappeared halfway through, Kaleb was only a name, you left too much off the page despite having hundreds of words remaining to use, and you made mechanical errors that shouldn't have survived a proofing pass given your usual competence. Either you ran out of time or you slacked off something wicked. I expect it was the former. No matter which, the work shows the damage.
Bad Ideas Good, "Charolette"
In this collection of words, a sentient cobra taunts his omelet-munching roommate about the return of a woman named Charlotte, then watches some TV. Charlotte arrives. She gives the roommate a box. He doesn't want it; she doesn't care; someone named Stephan is going to kill her. Cue a seven-year flashback to an occasion on which Charlotte and the roommate, after some inane banter, jump off a bus and plot to use the cobra (also known as Stephan) as a secret weapon in a raid on druids. Back in the present, the roommate shoves a box down Stephan's throat while 50 people watch because...? The box holds a ring. But the roommate just can't say two words, which may be I do or may be ersatz antidisestablishmentarianism, who knows.
This is your brain. This is your brain making bad choices. Any questions?
You could have lost even Surrealism Week with this: it has that little worthwhile story coupled to its random bullshit. Submitting it for a prompt that didn't provide an excuse for incoherence was Thunderdome suicide. The narrator is a nonentity, the cobra exists only to be weird, Charlotte is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma bound up in lovely formatting, and I have no idea what the hell. I'm mildly curious what Charlotte wanted to steal from druids and why she needed a cobra. I'm majorly curious why you misspelled your title. Otherwise, I don't know what any of it is about and I could not give less of a drat.
The prose is mechanically a mess and a half, and that doesn't help. You should start a new paragraph whenever a new person speaks. It's confusing and difficult to read when multiple characters talk within the same paragraph, especially when you maul dialogue punctuation. Check out this bit: "'Charlotte’s back in town,' he’s testing me." It doesn't work; "is" is not a verb that involves speaking in any way, so "he's testing me" doesn't function as a dialogue tag. Ditto "I’m not burning my omelet over this." In both cases you should have ended the dialogue with a period and treated what followed as a new sentence. This is wrong too: "'Are you going to see her?' He says as he squeezes the TV remote." "He says" is a dialogue tag. You shouldn't have capitalized it: with dialogue, it's okay to follow ?" with a lowercase letter. "Could this story be any more nonsensical?" asked Kaishai would be a valid construction as well as an excellent question. The sentence "'I don’t know,' I say knowingly" isn't technically incorrect, only terrible. The adverb clunks while the know/knowingly parallel wants so hard to be clever and fails so very badly.
Other errors: "noncommittal" is one word. You shift tenses in the sentence "I wouldn’t even need to kick, I just need to string his four-foot long neck" etc. ("I" should be "I'd" to stay in the conditional mood. If you want to read up on the tenses to use for hypothetical situations, this link is interesting.) Later on, "If I wasn’t used to this by now" has the same problem: "wasn't" should be "weren't." In the sentence containing "she says, and shoves a box" etc., you should either remove the comma or rewrite the clause to say "and she shoves a box" so it will be independent. You could use more paragraph breaks; I'd suggest one before "The bus is rolling down a curve," for example. Twice you show a scene break with four plus signs, but the third break is signaled with five. Consistency matters! There are more mistakes present than these, but you get the idea. You've got to stop with the multiple speakers in one paragraph thing above all. Some of your errors are minor enough that many readers wouldn't be distracted, but that problem screams that you don't know what you're doing.
What's Rocky's actual name? That's one more thing I'm curious about, I suppose. It bothers me when the protagonist doesn't get a name unless there's a good reason for that, and in this story, when even the cobra has a moniker, I'm not seeing one.
The content of the story, such as it is, is so broken I'd advise tossing it in a bin. Maybe you could turn the seven-years-ago adventures of Charlotte and not-Rocky into a decent story, especially if you made not-Rocky less of a bore. If you do make the attempt, then for goodness' sake remember what plot and logic and meaning are and consider incorporating at least some of those things.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 18:34 on Dec 9, 2015
|# ? Apr 4, 2015 07:54|
|# ? Feb 1, 2023 18:59|
i'm having my own series of worst days and have to bow out this week, sorry!
|# ? Apr 5, 2015 16:34|