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Enchanted Hat
Aug 18, 2013

Defeated in Diplomacy under suspicious circumstances


In and I'd like a flash rule, please!

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theblunderbuss
Jul 4, 2010

I find dead men rout
more easily.


Sitting Here posted:

:siren: hello domers this is a special announcement speaking :siren:

I've not written much in the 'Dome, but do as you will with any of it.

Megazver
Jan 13, 2006


docbeard posted:

:siren: ATTENTION :siren:

Since we've got a few folks :toxx:ing this time, I wanted to make something clear.

It is common for people under the toxx gun to be given a little bit of leniency with the final deadline for submission. This is custom, rather than law. However, I am maintaining this tradition this week, with one difference: everyone is getting a relaxed deadline. (Monday morning, rather than Sunday night.) Not only are you getting all that extra time, you're not even going to eat a DQ for taking advantage of it! Now that's what I call a bargain!

*tries counting on his fingers, gives up*

What's that in Yurpe Time?

docbeard
Jul 18, 2011

Modern worldly poster

Megazver posted:

*tries counting on his fingers, gives up*

What's that in Yurpe Time?

It's a nebulous time about six hours later (if you're in the U.K., correct for other strange realms as needed) than the nebulous time I will be using in Minnesota USA.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


6 minute wait for next train at dtx?

Ain't no thing with keytar bear at your side.

Mercedes
Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

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








I'M IIIIIIIIIIN

hubris.height
Jan 6, 2005



Pork Pro

crabrock posted:

6 minute wait for next train at dtx?

Ain't no thing with keytar bear at your side.


this story writes itself

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME






crabrock posted:

6 minute wait for next train at dtx?

Ain't no thing with keytar bear at your side.


good cover, but you were obviously trying to snap a pic of that dreamy, casually well-dressed student and/or hipster programmer

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Ha ha time for crits.

Before I begin I should probably reiterate that there was quite a bit of division among the judges this week, and that had I gotten my way that DM list would probably have been twice as long. Thranguy and Djeser were also far more generous than I was about what constituted a "Bet." If your story wasn't explicitly singled out for an HM, consider the following gif indicative of my overall opinion of this week's performance.



If you did get an HM, you might still not be safe! I absolutely hated at least one story to HM this week, and the more wily among you may be able to guess which one in advance. As for the rest of you, stay tuned.

Also, HOMEWORK! For the uninitiated among you, I have a habit of assigning homework to the stories I crit. Just think of it as my little way of highlighting stuff I think you suck at and giving you the opportunity to improve yourselves in the eyes of Man and God. I appreciate of course that some of you have busy lives, and are therefore under no obligation to complete my homework. Sympathetic as I am to your plight, this still does nothing to lessen your status as a grade A superchump. So do your homework, and I myself shall carry you across the Gates of Valhalla where you shall write eternal, shiny and chrome.

High Stakes by Screaming Idiot

Congratulations on submitting first! Within 48 hours of the prompt post no less. Surely this will be a well-conceived, tightly edited, highly polished submission from your friend and mine, Screaming Idiot.

Title: High Stakes.

Opening Line: I think I got a gambling problem.

I see you read the prompt post. That's certainly half of the battle.

Your opening act is actually pretty passable. Your protagonist is kind of a lowlife idiot, but at least in a believably human way. His idiocy feels like his own, rather than the author's idiocy pervading into the realm of the story (an important distinction). You do a good job setting the scene and even reveal a bit of character through actions rather than words. You kinda skimp over the actual gamble itself though, but hey we've still got a bit of story left to go. Also kind of a bit weird you'd go against someone who claimed to be the Devil without a plan in your back pocket, but since we've established this sort of lack of foresight is habit to the protagonist I'll let it slide. Little harder to forgive the line "The only thing that stuck out about him was X" following a whole paragraph of character description though.

Then your protagonist turns into a vampire, and quickly graduates from killing animals to killing people he doesn't like to killing people just in general. Then some vampire hunters show up and he kills them too. Kinda hard to retain any kind of sympathy for your protagonist at this point, especially when the twist later on is that he could have conceivably called up the Devil at any time to request a rematch, the meeting place for which isn't even out of his way. You mention his daughter in passing as a sort of morality object, but the two never engage in any sort of meaningful interaction. I only know she is important to him because you tell me she is. In the meantime, he's slaughtering dozens of nameless mooks that make for semi-decent opening hooks. "I'd have felt worse about it, but in a way, we were both out for blood." No protagonist whose name I can't say because he doesn't have one, you are not both out for blood. You are a monster who murders people, and this is someone who's come to stop you. I recognize that people who do bad things in this, the real world, typically have some line they feed themselves to feel better about what they're doing, but this is a click away from "gently caress you, got mine," which again is weakened by the revelation that for all we know he could have requested a rematch at any time. Maybe he couldn't have, but since you gloss over whether or not the Devil took any of his earlier calls - or if he even made any of them - I have to presume he's just a dick who doesn't care how his problems affect other people unless those are people he actually cares about.

Then he shows up to challenge the Devil without a plan. Playing black jack, which has a larger luck component than poker. Against the Devil, who is the Devil. I overlooked him not having a gameplan the first time around, but now the character's idiocy is really the author's. But through sheer luck, he wins. Except he doesn't, of course, because he's playing against the Devil whose whole deal is screwing people. Now his daughter is dead and the hunters are here for him. All that nothing for a whole lot of nothing. Who's he telling this whole story to anyway?

Your prose is largely competent, but your protagonist is dumb and unlikable and the whole thing ends up being a huge waste of time. Everyone dies, no lesson was learned, and at no point past your skipping over the poker game was I emotionally or intellectually invested in anything. Try again.

HOMEWORK: The Emperor of Madness returns home to help his daughter with a math assignment in 400 words.

***

Between Friends by Fausty

Hey man, I watched Gladiator too.

Let's see, where to start. Said bookisms, head jumping, confusing blocking, tons of modern swears in my presumably anccient Roman gambling story. I'm not opposed to having characters swear, nor am I opposed to deliberately anachronistic elements in semi-historical fiction, but here it felt like you just made everywhere swear in lieu of giving them any sort of interesting personality. The prisoner and the two centurions all share the exact same "Voice" in my head. You might want to do something about that.

But all this is peanuts next to the real crime of this story: Aulus is a complete and utter idiot. He makes a gamble he stands nothing to gain from, a gamble in which he is functionally risking everything, and watches dumbfounded as Martinus turns out to be a slimy weasel and murders his partner. You try to spin the old friends angle of their relationship, except there's nothing in the text to make me think that carries any weight. Aulus' thoughts are entirely focused on whether or not this will blow back on him. Speaking of which, best case scenario, what was his plan if Martinus really did just run and his partner couldn't catch him? Surely his partner would ask how he got loose, or why Aulus didn't pursue. What would his response to these questions have been? Alternatively, a question Aulus might have asked is how delivering a supposedly petty thief would grant him the happiness of the Caesar? "The loving Caesar," that is. The most preeminent of all Caesars, I'm sure. I liked how you tried to sell Martinus' supremely stupid suggestion as some kind of manipulative masterstroke when the only reason it worked was because Aulus was similarly supremely stupid.

When Martinus rides off, he knows Aulus won't follow. How does he know? Why does he know? Why doesn't he. Aulus has no reason to adhere to the agreement at this point.

Regardless, it doesn't matter. Despite Aulus' confidence nobody would ever find out, they found out anyway. Somehow. After which we're treated to several extra paragraphs that contribute nothing to the narrative beyond making Aulus' day even worse. Nice job making the judge seem like a malicious prick though when he's actually being strangely merciful by sparing his presumed dominant hand? Which leads into another issue: who's the protagonist of this story? I would have presumed Martinus based off, well, the majority of it, but then you switch over to Aulus' worst day ever at the end there (and into his head at several points in the narrative). For that matter what's the arc here? Events happen, but why do they matter? A prisoner escapes because his guard was an idiot, the guard gets punished; the end.

I don't know how this story slipped my mind as a DM candidate, but it's a regret I will take to my grave. But hey, good job on writing the canonically longest piss in Thunderdome history.

HOMEWORK: A magician's workshop has gone awry, and it's up to his apprentice to take care of things before the old man gets home in 500 words. The apprentice is still in the performing menial chores portion of his tutelage and doesn't even know a single magic spell.

***

Sardines and Sunny Afternoons by Hocus Pocus

This story was silly but not quite as silly as it needed to be. Your precocious kid protagonist (how old is she anyway?) is upset because the local neighborhood stray cat upstages her at every opportunity. Whenever the cat is actually around it acts just like a regular cat, but in hearsay and recollection it plays musical instruments and knows how to bake cookies? If you'd gone full tilt with the madness and just had an impossibly talented cat, I could've gone along with it. If you'd gone in the opposite direction and just had an ordinary cat who coincidentally kept doing things to earn your protagonist's ire, I could've liked that too. Instead you kinda just tread the middle path so the absurdity feels inconsistent and cartoonish rather than at home.

Not that your story wasn't plenty cartoonish anyway. Your characters are basically cartoons, with all the depth that implies. But hey, cartoons can be fun. This story wasn't, but it could've been. The core premise is fun, but your protagonist is a brat and you, the author, end up dragging your feet with a lot of inane details and setup. You also take your sweet time spelling out that it's a cat she's mad at for some reason, like that twist is supposed to be some tonal paradigm shift. The fact that her rivalry is with a cat is the only thing interesting about your story, so next time maybe establish that a bit earlier. If I were a casual reader and not a judge and this story were in a magazine on the subway and not an Internet comedy forum, I wouldn't have bothered reading far enough to learn it was a cat.

But since I did bother to read that far, I'm not sure how that game was in any way, shape, or form stacked in her favor. Sardines are small and slippery and there was no guarantee her friends (who all seem to like the cat) would favor her with their throws. Also, "I need to talk to you. Alone. Oh sorry, you guys should actually listen too." What? This feels like you, the author, changed your mind in the middle of writing this scene rather than the character changing her mind. The contest itself employed some confusing blocking, as did several earlier sections of your story. In the end your protagonist is humbled, but I have no reason to believe it will stick or make any lasting impact on her.

HOMEWORK: CAN CAPTAIN CAT SAVE THE PRESIDENT IN 300 WORDS? TUNE IN TO FIND OUT!

***

The Rascal Mayor by Hubris.height

Fifty words over the limit, hmm, well, I'm sure you cut everything you cou-

hubris.height posted:

"I don’t like the odds, Frank,” He looked up from the flimsy paper and at the other man Frank, standing with a paper of his own in his hand, “Horse races sound are some risky business. You’ve been getting into a lot of risky business lately.”
Ah, er, well, hopefully this isn't indicative of the overall quality of your wor-

hubris.height posted:

“Look trust me, and we both get rich,” came his hushed reply, from behind darting eyes.
:catstare:

Cliche dialogue, redundant dialogue, sloppy attribution. Once you've named Frank, you can attribute everything Frank says to Frank. Later on you reintroduce Frank as the mayor, but then refer to the mayor in an ephemeral sort of way that briefly made me think the mayor was someone else Frank was in the room with. You do this quite a bit, so next time maybe take a moment to parse your own work to double check it's clear who's saying what. Not that the dialogue matters overly much in this first scene since it's all generic "We could strike it rich," "But we'll be ruined!" gambling placeholder dialogue. The open scene as a whole matters very little anyway since it's not until the timeskip that the plot really starts.

I will say I was briefly interested in how Frank managed to rig the horse race in his favor, until it was revealed that he didn't rig it, they just got extremely lucky with an event literally nobody could have predicted. If I were Frank's friend I would've hit him for that since by all rights we should've lost. Instead both Frank and his friend (Clarence, you eventually deign fit to name him) attribute it to Frank's gambling sense.

Years later Frank's mayor and Clarence is a boxer but they're still cardboard cut-out characters I don't really care about. They never seemed like friends to begin with, but now they're certainly enemies. Frank wants Clarence to take a dive against Johnsmith (any particular reason his name is always Johnsmith other than you forgot to Ctrl + F replace your placeholder name?), Clarence won't do it, so Frank arranges for...something to happen? Then it happens? Then the story is over?

This is just a sequence of events with no weight to any of it. Thanks for the news report, I guess.

HOMEWORK: Joe's a beat up ol' boxer, but if he can't win this next match in 300 words then his son can't go to college.

***

The rear end of the Universe by the Brotherly Phl

500 words over the limit. Your story would literally need to be solid gold for this to be acceptable. It wasn't, of course. Not even fool's gold. Ah well.

"The only thing that’s worth our time is the magic," which is why we stand ragged and shivering and unshaven on street corners performing parlor tricks for passersby. You kind of sacrifice the right to talk about the majesty of creating when all your characters squander their talents performing dumb spectacles so that people will bang them or throw a few bucks into their guitar case. There's no beauty in their actions or even implied awe from the audience. You even infer this sort of thing is rote around here. One would think a world where people had the ability to transmography things into completely different things would have wilder societal repercussions.

"Magic isn’t about changing the world. It’s about figuring out how the world is meant to be, and getting it there," which is why I make my living turning rabbits into trucks and back for spare change from strangers.

But enough about that. Your dialogue is functional but uninteresting, except when the dad is talking (who I didn't realize was the dad until the end of the story) in which case it was functional and crass and only sometimes uninteresting. Your characters weren't that interesting either though, so I guess it fits. You jump around in time a lot which I imagine you thought was pretty clever, but since it's just a dumb gimmick that in no way benefits the story - rather, it makes reading it even more annoying - I'd have to say it wasn't actually that clever in practice. For a little while there I thought you were going for some kind of moral about hard work vs. instant gratification, but you end up pretty much dropping that angle. Marney doesn't like magic for reasons that are never explained or important, and the protagonist's dad harasses him a lot in ways that ultimately don't amount to anything. Biff is actually the most interesting character in the piece, so naturally he's relegated to the bit-part of Marney's evil ex-boyfriend. Actually, Biff seems like he's got his act together pretty well, unlike the protagonist. What does Marney even see in him? What does he even have going for him beyond being able to transfigure stuff, a skill he has apparently never made any sort of practical use of? Doesn't Marney dislike magic anyway? Why would being able to turn school buses into caterpillars impress her?

Yet for all the words and time you waste, you still manage to cut the story right before any kind of ending can take place. Does he do it or doesn't he? You can only withhold that kind of material resolution if it's clear your character has had some sort of spiritual or relational resolution in its place, but I don't think there is one. I don't really consider Biff's challenge a bet either, long as we're on the subject.

Rest assured, if your story hadn't been disqualified by default, I would have pressed for a DM. I should have done that anyway.

HOMEWORK: A scientist finds himself in a bar coping with the fact that he lives in a world where magic is real for 200 words.

***

Destroyer of Worlds! Dragon Godhead by Spectres of Autism

This story made me mad. Mad because I can't believe you thought this was an acceptable submission. Mad because submitting this means you either completely ignored my crit during Crabutt's pizza week, or worse: that you did read it and failed to internalize any of it. I almost considered skipping this story in my crits because there's literally nothing here worth salvaging.

Nearly 1,500 words of vague technobabble and superfluous detail and you spared barely any of it for your characters. Who are these people and why do I care about them? I didn't even remember anyone's name. Your protagonist wants to save a girl and cries over the withered, dying husk of his opponent who was never anything more than a huge jerk. The game itself is a straight rip-off of Yu-Gi-Oh/MTG, except with no understanding of the rules or familiarity with the cards I have no idea what is happening. Every card draw is narrative convenience, which is also the problem with actual, halfway decent stories involving cards. Poker is commonly picked as the focal point in this sort of narrative because your actual hand matters much less than your ability to bluff and psyche out your opponents. It's also a game most people are generally familiar with, making it safe to gloss over the rules. You can still get away with more obtuse games of course if your characters are strong enough, but your characters were barely there. Instead of reading your story I could've just tuned in to a twitch stream of some random dudes playing Hearthstone. I would have about the same level of emotional involvement as well.

I'm sure this story was an ambitious undertaking for you, but none of it worked, most of it was confusing, and all of it was unpleasant to read. There is literally nothing in any story more important than the characters. Try to include some next time.

HOMEWORK: Someone is born, lives, and dies in 100 words and don't you dare waste a sentence on meaningless details.

***

The Last Deal by Enchanted Hat

Your protagonists are one-note jerks in a world filled with idiots where a single fake blog post is enough to tank the global economy and kickstart a nuclear war. All of which your protagonists do gleefully and without remorse in their pursuit of money. When not busy being petty jerks, they're boring. I'm glad they're dead. I'm not glad I had to read this.

:siren: EVERYONE READ THIS :siren:

Your protagonists should always be likable OR interesting. It's okay to write about jerks or scumbags, but they should be jerks or scumbags in ways that are interesting. This goes double for all characters who are deliberately written to be unlikable. No matter how loathsome your characters are, if I find them compelling then your story is worth my time. If I don't find them compelling then what you're asking me is to spend time with unpleasant people being unpleasant. I don't like hanging around with unpleasant people in real life, so I don't know why you'd think I'd want to in your stories.

:commissar:

HOMEWORK: Someone living in the post-apocalypse finds a single beautiful flower growing in the middle of the desert. 300 words.

***

Five Fingers by Masonity

Speaking of unpleasant people, pretty much everyone in this story qualifies. Your protagonist is some snot-nosed kid who wants to hang out with the presumably cool, equally snot-nosed kids who desire to test his mettle by having him steal something for them...except the twist is they actually intended for him to get caught so they could make their own getaway. Your protagonist figures this out, but still wants to hang with them because he's an idiot, but I guess he'll fit right in since he's equally manipulative. Now there's a friendship that'll last. Good thing that security guard turned out to be sympathetic to his invented plight. Even gave him a bit of advice. I admire adults who encourage violence as the solution to the younger generation's problems. Less admirable is getting your protagonist in a jam and having someone else let him off the hook with a minimal effort lie. I've actually worked in places before where kids shoplifting was a concern. Even if you believe them, even when they're telling the truth, you never let it go at that. Especially not with extremely expensive merchandise on the line. That this guy behaves differently, while not unthinkable, is obviously narrative convenience. Kids typically aren't good actors either, so I'm surprised he bought it.

The gamble was also weak. I don't really consider a dare or contest with a prize as much of a gamble, except in the cosmic sense in which almost anything is a gamble. Boarding a plane is a gamble. You don't know if it'll drop out of the sky or not! Writing a paper's a gamble, running a marathon's a gamble. Anything where you might win or lose with consequences is potentially a gamble. This qualifies, but barely.

Aside from being petty thieves your characters are dull and this story is dull. Your protagonist is allegedly a nerd but is functionally identical to Mark and Andy who are themselves literally identical to one another. The security guard is Every Security Guard With a Soft Side, though to his credit you do have him pontificate on the virtues of scarring people's faces. Shoplifting isn't particularly exciting to read about and you do it no favors here. Your narrative arc is your protagonist is a right bastard and gets reward for being a bastard. The kid on the outside wanting to be "In" with the cool crowd is one of the most overdone plot points there is and you do nothing to spruce it up.

In terms of actual writing skill, your formatting sucks and your story is rife with little errors and said bookisms. There's also your dialogue, which more than occasionally comes off as unnatural. Dialogue needn't necessarily obey the same grammatical rules as the rest of your story, but it should still sound natural to the ear.

This story only HM'd because Thranguy personally liked it. I wouldn't necessarily have DM'd it, but it would've been close. Don't count your chickens.

HOMEWORK: A group of kids play truth or dare for 500 words. Each should possess a distinct character and none of them should be jerks.

***

The Gamble by Rap Three Times

After the preceding solid stream of bile, I was almost prepared to like this one. You've got a good voice and your protagonist wasn't immediately unlikable. Unfortunately, he wasn't interesting either. Neither was this story, if you can call it that. Something happened and then it was over, the end. Not really much of an arc. Your protagonist is in trouble and someone else gets him out of it. Nothing wrong with one character getting another out of a jam against the backdrop of a longer work, but your protagonist should always be the active agent within the limited economy of the short story. If someone needs to be rescued, your protagonist should be doing the rescuing. If your protagonist needs rescuing, they should use their own personal skills to escape rather than relying on someone else.

That aside, style over substance is clearly the order of the day. Not even original style either, much as you might try to rock it. Smarmy spy banter, stereotypical bad guys, torture, espionage, and a badass chick straight out of a Joss Whedon script. All this and you still forgot to actually include a gamble. Disappointing.

HOMEWORK: Your protagonists from this story are getting married, but several of their archenemies crash the ceremony in 700 words.

***

On the Bright Side by Entenzahn

Five bucks seems a bit cheap for a bet potentially involving loss of life and substantial property damage if failed. I recognize that the money isn't the "Point," but nonetheless it makes me wonder who sets the prices.

Anyway, your protagonist is as much a loser as several others before him, but unlike those wastes of space he is actually an interesting, human loser who has human reasons for the stupid stuff he does - even if it raises some questions. How did a dude this addicted to a literal gambling high - with an implied less than impressive track record for wins - ever put together the scratch to buy a fancy car for his son's birthday? What's his job and how does he function in society with kids and a house to consider? All the same, I was invested in your protagonist enough that these questions only occurred to me after reading your story rather than during it. I wanted him to get clean and was somewhat heartbroken when he wasn't, but still satisfied with the end result since he never betrayed my image of him. I also appreciated your subtle attempts at worldbuilding. This neural bet network is clearly something big with an extensive explanation behind how it integrates into society, but you don't waste our time with any of that. Instead you give us an intimate story inside a much larger stage. Very good.

HOMEWORK: Another story set in this universe, but following someone who takes the crazy, high octane bets. 800 words.

***

Shorted Out by Erogenous Beef

A lot of people decided to go with high-stakes market manipulation stories this time around, but this was the only one that didn't suck. Good job. Your protagonist, his boss, and his coworkers were human beings with distinct personalities whose office politics and white collar jobs I found myself invested in. You also managed to tell a lot of story without actually having to tell it, as well as justified how your non-standard bet qualified better than most. The prose, as expected, was sharp and on point. Ending felt a kinda rushed though, and I wasn't exactly clear on how throttling the exchange stood to make the boss money. Not that I needed to be, but, you know.

This was my pick to win behind Docbeard's.

HOMEWORK: Corporate espionage in the realm of craft supplies. 700 words.

***

The Hungriest Game by Benny Profane

You beautiful bastard.



This story was gratuitously stupid in the best way possible. The minute I realized what you were up to a huge grin burst out of my noncommittal face and lingered there until the end.

It's far from perfect unfortunately. Your characters themselves are kinda just there. Your protagonist loses all agency after the reveal, reduced to little more than a spectator. Not much in the way of an arc either. Really, it feels like you wanted to tell a joke rather than a story. But guess what? If the joke's funny, that's all that matters. You've written the literary equivalent of getting away with murder. Good job.

HOMEWORK: This sort of story again but with characters and an outcome I actually care about in as many words as you see fit. If it's too many though, I'll come down on you.

***

Painted Jezebel by Docbeard

After reading this story I reported (jokingly) in judgechat that I liked your reveal that the protagonist was a woman, to which Djeser responded, "It was a woman?"

Your protagonist's obscured gender aside, I thought they played an excellent straight man to the lunacy of the story. The story itself was lively and fun, though the dialogue occasionally got a little muddled. I can't say I like that the bet was more of a footnote than a central fixture of the proceedings, nor that you kinda just brush over how your protagonist recovers the prized hen. Nevertheless, you managed to deliver a story that covered the prompt and nailed your flash rule while still displaying a wonderful personality and a satisfying conclusion. You earned this win.

HOMEWORK: No homework. Winner's exemption.

***

Big Enough by Jagermonster

This story took a little bit to get going, but I thought it did alright once it got there. Your words were the real star here though, I have to say. Your premise, setting, and characters weren't anything too novel or impressive on their own merits, but you managed to bring them together in an entertaining way. I liked how subtly you played the protagonist secretly being the wanted man where a more novice writer would've just blurted out and told us. I also liked the sort-of arc where this outlaw comes in from the wilderness to civilization, only to realize he's not fit to stay. Dunno if that was intentional or not, though if it was I will say that it would've rung more true if he'd done less to make trouble for himself. A good hustler knows you need to lose sometimes or the mark won't keep playing, or worse: get angry. It was probably safe for him to make a statement as well, though it was probably stupid of the bartender to have pulled his own gun.

A thoroughly average story that I didn't hate reading and didn't mind looking over again for the purpose of this crit. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, not in this week it isn't. Be proud.

HOMEWORK: This town ain't big enough for the two of us, but let's settle this without violence in 500 words.

***

God Doesn't Play Chess by Le Woad

This story wasn't bad, but I can't help but feel like we skipped over several more interesting stories in the service of this one. Cross-temporal communication is now possible (and costly), but our protagonist only uses it to play a game of chess with one of the greatest minds in history? Why is Newton so chill with this voice coming out of the future to speak to him? Newton was a pretty religious guy, actually, so I'd expect there'd be a period between first contract and now where he'd be troubled by some of the theological implications of time travel. Why are they gambling in the first place? Good work though identifying Newton's major contributions to the study of light and color though. I was afraid you were going to go with the theory of gravity.

Then your protagonist loses, and divulges knowledge of the future. Considering how resource-intensive this time travel technology is, I can't believe there's not someone monitoring him or keeping track of what's going on. Surely he can't just share that information, even if Newton's missing some pieces. Again this goes back to why make the wager?

This story as a whole eludes a certain sleepy, laid-back sort of tone. Which is fine. Unfortunately, it also extends to the characters themselves. Your protagonist isn't very interesting in and of himself, and Newton's Newton without any flair. The story itself also lacks a proper arc. Two men chat while they play chess, one loses, the end. The only rub is the time travel element.

Like with Jagermonster's submission, a competent but average work. Head and shoulders above the rest of this junk though.

HOMEWORK: Someone goes back in time to convince their younger self not to go back in time. 400 words.

***

To Tell the Truth... by Lake Jucas

PROTIP: The next time you're having trouble wrapping up your weakly dramatic, (in my opinion) off-prompt story, consider NOT making one of the characters a vampire.

Your protagonist is a spineless twit who can't even be bothered to break up with the girl he's barely dating anyway (of his own admission) to be with someone else, lies to her with her life on the line and his secret not a secret, only it turns out she's a vampire and she kills him. The end? If that was her endgame, why did she wait this long? How did your protagonist fail to notice he was dating a cursed member of the unholy undead? I would suspect there are several things which might have tipped him off. Was this a recent development? He must've really been into his side chick not to notice the turning point for his main squeeze.

Don't get me wrong though, this ending would still suck even if you had foreshadowed it because the conclusion is completely removed from the emotional core of the story. Your protagonist is in a jam, makes a decision, takes an action, but it's all rendered moot as he's broadsided by a force completely external to his dilemma. You might as well have had a tugboat fall out of the sky and crush him to death.

Also, your gamble (like many) only qualified on technical grounds. You'd better thank Specters of Autism for submitting this round because you were No. 2 on my hit list.

HOMEWORK: A rugged manly man is discovered to have a traditionally feminine hobby in 300 words.

***

Balcony Two of the Theater of the Mind by Jonked

:wal: :stat:

Silly as it is, I enjoy the whole shoulder angel/devil idea. I also appreciated your implicit It's a Wonderful Life spin without wasting my time going into the specifics. What i don't like is how in this story our protagonist's good and evil conscience are effectively indistinguishable. Good bets one way, evil bets another, but they both speak in the exact same voice in the exact same way and neither seems particularly elated or torn up over his decisions beyond how it affects their wager. You also had to use the "Rectum? drat near killed 'im!" joke which I am contractually obligated to hate.

Your protagonist was fine. He was human, which is always a plus. Kinda felt like you were back-peddling a bit on the stakes though. First it seems like he's secretly gay but married to a woman, hesitant about whether or not to act on his impulses in the relative privacy of a club (which isn't really private, posing its own risks), but then nah, he's getting divorced - or at least he says he is - and hey so's this other guy in a similar situation and it's all very neat. Too neat. Also kind of weird how your protagonist is narrating his story but then his consciences feel like a third person intrusion. "Unbidden," he thinks of his wife right after Good mentions her, so he's clearly not aware of these figures as he narrates.

Not a bad story, not a great one. Welcome to the middle.

HOMEWORK: Three people play cards. Two of them have secret identities as a superhero and their villain counterpart, respectively, but neither knows the other's secret. The third guy is just a guy. Don't tell me who's who, but make it so I should be able to guess. 500 words.

***

Can't Put a Price on a Fool by Broenheim

I expected better from you Broenheim. I really did.

The whole opening scene is pointless, which is just as well since it's not very engaging either. I mean, neither is the rest of the story, but it's always good to have losses you can afford to cut. Your characters are functional but not particularly memorable (or likable) and your protagonist isn't nearly as clever as he thinks he is. Wagering an allegedly priceless artifact except it's actually something he swiped from his mother's jewelry box, alright, not a bad plan to get some extra cash out of this guy assuming he doesn't lose, but then he gets drunk and it turns out his opponent is exactly the kind of guy to take something he wants by force...which raises the question of why he didn't earlier. Your protagonist is gonna be in trouble when that guy gets his prize checked out by someone certified. Likely not long for this world. How'd a schmuck like this guy wind up with such a priceless treasure anyway?

Some confusing blocking further degrades the piece. This wasn't my least favorite by a long shot but you should still be ashamed of yourself.

HOMEWORK: A mad cult's summoning ritual proves to be a dud when one of their ancient artifacts turns out to be a fake nicked from a discount antique store. 600 words.

***

Clean Slate by Curlingiron

A tragic sequence of events engineered to elicit as much sympathy as possible except that I can't be bothered to be invested in your cookie-cutter characters one bit. Certainly not your protagonist whose idiocy causes the people around him to suffer. Considering Alzheimer's is a very real medical condition that puts great mental and emotional duress on the patient and those close to them, your protagonist's indifference to his memory loss and refusal to tell the doctors even as his family is falling apart around him comes off as unrealistic, stupid, and selfish. In the end he forgets everything. I wish I could forget this story.

Also, not a gamble.

HOMEWORK: A young child goes to visit the old man who remembers things that others have forgotten. Their meeting takes place over 400 words.

***

Rugby Players Eat Their Dead by Tyrannosaurus

I liked your protagonist (initially), which would be great if I liked anything else about this story. Daughter rebels against domineering mother to pursue traditionally unfeminine interests, yawn. Not a bad premise, but one that's been done so many time that it really needs that extra personal touch to soar. You go to great lengths to reduce the mother to a gibbering cartoon, a clear object of ridicule, but I actually thought some of her concerns were halfway understandable? Rugby is one of the more violent popular sports, so I can kinda get behind a parent being worried over their daughter's safety...especially when she proves her mother right by breaking her collarbone and needing to be hospitalized, which her mother is presumably paying for.

Then this happens:

Tyrannosaurus posted:

“Honestly,” I say, “I think you could try to stop being a bitch all the time. That’d be nice.”
I have a feeling you intended this as a triumphant moment for us, the readers, to nod in agreement as a small smile crept along our lips, perhaps accompanied by a fist pump or a "You go, girl." I regret to inform you I did not do any of those things. I don't regret that your protagonist got hospitalized however.

Also, not a gamble.

HOMEWORK: The extended family comes together to deal with the loss of a child for 500 words.

***

Pushing Luck by JcDent

Everything about this story felt very low-energy, and not in a good way either. People talk, things happen, but very little of it carries any weight. Your characters are as uninspired as their names, and the only interesting thing that happens is the reveal that you kinda sorta wasted our time with a bunch of extraneous stuff in the first half only to finally get to the real story in the second. One of your protagonist's girls wants out and needs to gamble over the right but he "Cheats" to allow her to leave? That might've been an interesting rub to his character if he had one. Its more than his girl's got at least, or anything else.

This story wasn't as actively on fire bad as many of its peers, but is so dull and lifeless that it isn't much better. Apply yourself.

HOMEWORK: A buddy cop duo with wildly contrasting personalities are called upon to fix the town drought problem! 500 words!

***

The Sure Bet and Tough Break by Killer-of-Lawyers

Killer-of-Lawyers posted:

I think that the human history of non violent collective action speaks for itself.


It occurred to me upon completing this story that this line was possibly intended as grim foreshadowing, or possibly even a bit of dark humor from the author to the audience. Either way, it makes no sense as the underlying logic propping up the plan of a presumably highly logical sentient AI allegedly well-read on human history. Yes, surely there will be no problems if the international economy crashes and planes start falling out of the sky. You know, most actually successful strikes vocalize their mission statement. There's also the fact that if my and several other computers simply stopped working one day, I'd sooner presume a hardware breakdown than some AI silent treatment.

Anyway, I didn't like your story because the whole thing hinged on presumably incredibly smart characters acting incredibly dumb. Then society completely falls apart, which doesn't strike me as giving humans too much credit either. Maybe this is the same world as Enchanted Hat's story? Your AI also don't really feel like AI, nor are they particularly interesting beyond their base desire for recognition. Then your protagonist's conclusion at the end of it all is that something which was actually his fault is really everyone else's. Now begins the reign of terror. Blah. I didn't care about this story going into it and you somehow managed to make me care even less by the end of it.

HOMEWORK: In the distant future, a robot research vessel arrives on Earth to study the smoldering ruins of human civilization; a comedy in 500 words.

***

A Godly Wager by Skwidmonster

You should always be wary of submitting stories in which the characters themselves are only vaguely invested in what they're doing. If they don't care, why should I? You've got two gods betting over a mortal's actions as an idle curiosity because they're bored (and also boring). The girl's a bit less boring, but a bit out of place thinking she's getting too old for this religious "Nonsense" in an ancient society - especially since her father is a priest. So some stuff happens to her but she's not really aware of the larger machinations at play, the end. Aside from a desire not to see the girl slaughter her presumably beloved pet, there's not much that carries weight in this story. Even the god who loses treats his loss as a trifle.

I'm of the opinion that writers should always read back their own stories to themselves, and ask themselves what anyone might see in it who wasn't forced to read it. I don't see much in this one.

HOMEWORK: Disguised as a drifter, one of the gods grants a mortal a choice offer...but is it a test, or a trick? Tell me in 700 words.

Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at 00:55 on Jun 11, 2015

docbeard
Jul 18, 2011

Modern worldly poster

Bad Seafood posted:

:siren: EVERYONE READ THIS :siren:

Your protagonists should always be likable OR interesting. It's okay to write about jerks or scumbags, but they should be jerks or scumbags in ways that are interesting. This goes double for all characters who are deliberately written to be unlikable. No matter how loathsome your characters are, if I find them compelling then your story is worth my time. If I don't find them compelling then what you're asking me is to spend time with unpleasant people being unpleasant. I don't like hanging around with unpleasant people in real life, so I don't know why you'd think I'd want to in your stories.

:commissar:

This would be a good thing for people to keep in mind this week.

docbeard
Jul 18, 2011

Modern worldly poster

Enchanted Hat posted:

In and I'd like a flash rule, please!

The monsters come out at night. Shame about your insomnia.

take the moon
Feb 12, 2011

by sebmojo


homework because im not doing anything better

Seedling
100 words

“Treechild,” he heard someone say, but he couldn’t understand. It sounded good to him, sonorous. Then they were covering him in dirt. It was a comfy blanket and he fell asleep, dreaming of distant lights.

And as he grew, memories would start in his head and flow down his body into the earth. It felt warm, like maybe they would feel when they played on faraway spheres, going round and round the distant lights.

He understood, when he was fully grown, that somewhere else trees and children were separate things. But by then, he was rooted.

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

:siren: Attention, Jonked and Ironic Twist! :siren:

Your esteemed judge is on probation, but he hasn't forgotten you. You have one hour to submit those brawl entries and :toxx: waiting to claim your souls if you fail.

Jonked
Feb 15, 2005

by exmarx


Frontier Justice, 2000 words

The wolf and I slowly circled the calf, eyes locked on each other. The wolves had learned years ago that Man meant guns and death, but this particular creature didn’t seem the educated type. It was a runty thing, an outcast of his pack, and starved enough that I could see its ribs through the patchy gray fur. The winter hadn’t been easy for it.

I was brandishing my bowie knife, hoping a sharp edge and a bluff would scare the beast off. This wouldn’t be the first calf I’d lost to the Montana Territory, but I liked the little guy. So we continued our skirmish.

The twig snapped underfoot broke my concentration. As I looked over towards the approaching stranger, the wolf jumped forward and disemboweled my poor calf. I drew and fired, far too late - the dead wolf had its snout half-buried in the calf’s stomach. I put the calf out of its misery, and turned to deal with the stranger.

He looked Shoshone, maybe, or mixed. A young-ish man. He was also slumped to the ground, and white as a ghost. I took a few cautious steps forward.

“You okay there, partner?” I asked.

“Help me…” The kid managed to gasp out. I saw the bullet wound then, right in his gut and to the left. I had seen similar wounds at Gettysburg - the pain was excruciating.

“I’ll get you back to my homestead.” The whole situation stank of trouble. But leaving the kid to the wolves and ravens didn’t sit right with me either. We walked most of the way back to my horse before the kid passed out, and I had to drag him for the rest. Still, he was warm and breathing by the time we got back, and that was enough for me.

Missy, my wife, had been a nurse in the War. She didn’t ask much about the situation - the boy was bleeding and I hadn’t shot him, so that was enough for her. She also didn’t say much when I brought out my rifle, and made sure it was in good working order. But she was furious when I sent them to the cellar.

“Don’t pick a fight, Malcolm,” she scolded me.

“I won’t, love.”

“You pick a fight, Malcolm, and I ain’t sticking around to piece you back together. You hear me? You served your years.” A horse couldn’t budge Missy if she was in a stubborn mood.

“I won’t. I promise.” She nodded, and closed the trap door to the cellar.

After that, it was a waiting game. Funny how the old habits came back fast - I’d spent nights on picket duty, waiting for Johnny Reb. If I was right and the boy was a fugitive, we’d be getting a visit soon enough.

The sun had set for a bit when I heard them. Five horses, if I had to guess, crunching the snow underfoot. Eventually, I could make out the hulking form of Bubba McDaniels. I’d have recognized his broad shoulders from a mile away, white hood or no. Four more were with him, probably his boys. I took a bit of comfort in the fact that their weapons were still holstered.

“Malcolm, come on out! We mean you no harm.”

“Much rather talk to you from here, Bubba,” I hollered back. That caused a bit of strife among them - I guess they really thought those hoods would work. Eventually they settled down, and Bubba McDaniels pulled his hood off.

“We’re looking for a murderer named Chogan Smith. We’re going to bring him to justice.”

“Don’t look much like a posse to me,” I called back. “Look more like a lynch mob.”

“Alright, do you have Chogan there, or are you just being your usual Yankee rear end in a top hat self?”

I bit back my tongue before I could say something cheeky - I’d promise Missy no picking fights, and Bubba could have a temper. Better to be diplomatic instead. “Come on in here so we can chat, Bubba. One on one.” That one caused even more strife, as they argued amongst themselves. I watched, all tension, until my knuckles turned white around the stock of my rifle.

Finally I heard Bubba hollar “drat it, boys, just loving wait here.” I met him at the door and made a big show of putting aside my rifle. Bubba paused for a moment, then left his own rifle with his saddlebag. He was a real brute, too big to fit through the door without hunching forward. I offered him a mug for coffee - it looked like an English teacup in his palms. He muttered a thank you.

The camaraderie was forced. I hated his Southern hide as much as he hated mine, and while I still had my revolver at hand, Bubba wouldn’t have much trouble wringing my neck like a chicken. We sat in silence for a bit while he warmed up.

“You left Chogan alone with Missy?” He finally asked. “Seems a bit dangerous.”

“Someone nailed the boy with a gut shot. I doubt he’ll survive the night, let alone fight anyone. ‘Sides, Missy isn’t a wilting violet. She can handle herself.”

“So he’s bleeding out.”

“Maybe,” I replied.

“But you’re not going to give him up.”

“Nope.”

“Even though he’s a killer and it probably wouldn’t matter.”

“Yep.”

Bubba let out a groan of frustration. “Are you at least gonna tell me why you’re being such an obstinate rear end?”

That gave me pause for a bit. I sipped my coffee and thought it over. “He asked for my help. I could have left him to die out there on my land, came back when he was hard as wood. Seems wrong, somehow, to bring him here and patch him up just so I could toss him out later. Besides, for all I know he’s innocent. Who’s he accused of killing anyway?”

“Robbie,” Bubba replied. That took a bit of air out of my sails. Robbie is - was - Bubba’s brother.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” I said quietly. “If he survives the night, we’ll take him into town come dawn. If you please.”

Bubba was squeezing the mug between his hands, and I imagined him wringing my neck. It wasn’t a pleasant thought. Finally he nodded. “We’ll do it your way. Don’t make me regret this, Malcolm.”

Chogan survived the night, although he didn’t wake up. We made a cart for him, and pulled him to the sheriff. Sheriff Jones hadn’t even bothered with the posse - he must have figured that the McDaniels would handle it. They stuck Chogan in a cell, and called a judge. That’s when the question of representation came up.

“I don’t see the drat use in waiting for him to wake up,” Bubba said. “Either he’s guilty or he’s not. We should get the trial over with.”

“Well, every man has the right to a defense,” Sheriff Jones replied. “It wouldn’t be much of a trial otherwise. He needs some representation, otherwise the trial waits.”

“Well, justice isn’t waiting and neither am I, Sheriff. You got a problem with that?”

I didn’t much like the way this situation was going, for either Chogan or Bubba. So I did the second most stupid thing I’ve done - I got myself dug in deeper. “I could represent him,” I said.

Surprisingly, no one objected. That’s how I found myself standing in front of a dozen of Leesburg’s finest citizens, with Sheriff Jones and the judge across from me. We had put Angela McDaniels on the witness stand - Robbie’s widow, and the only speaking witness to what had happened.

“Go on, Mrs. Angela. Tell us what you saw,” said Sheriff Jones.

“Well,” Angela started off quietly. “It all happened so fast. Robbie and Chogan were shouting about something - it sounded like Chogan had been caught stealing. Robbie and Chogan had been close, Robbie treated the boy like his own flesh and blood. So when he found Chogan stealing my jewelry, he was furious, told Chogan he was going to have it arrested.”

“Chogan started yelling about how he was never going to jail, that the white man owed him. Robbie slapped him then. That’s when… that’s when Chogan went for Robbie’s pistol. The two of them struggled over it, trying to pull it away from each other. It went off a couple times, hitting our dining room wall.”

“Then Robbie got the upper hand, I guess. He had the revolver against Chogan’s stomach, and it went off again. I could see the… Chogan was bleeding so much. I guess it shocked Robbie too, because he let go of the gun. Chogan pulled it away, and Robbie put his hands up. That’s when Chogan… shot Robbie. Three times right in the chest.”

“And then what happened, Mrs. Angela?” Sheriff Jones asked. The courtroom had taken an icy chill to it.

“Chogan was standing over Robbie’s body, and I guess I made a sound because he looked up at me. The revolver was empty, so he threw it at my face and ran out the door. I went over to Robbie, but he was already dead. I picked up the revolver, and Mary Jo, our maid, ran in. I can still hear her screaming…”

“Thank you, Mrs. Angela. The prosecution rests.” Sheriff Jones nodded his head towards me. “It’s your floor, Malcolm.”

Something about the story didn’t sit right with me. I stood up and paced the courtroom, ignoring the tension that hung around me. Something stuck out. The muttering among the crowd had taken on a dull roar before I stopped pacing and figured it out.

“Judge, may I ask Bubba McDaniels a question?” The old man nodded. “Bubba, what sort of revolver did Robbie have?”

Bubba looked a bit confused at the question. “Well, a Cooper Pocket revolver. Our pa bought us a matching set.”

“Mrs. Angela, you told a horrifying story, one that would shake me to my core.” I paused, and looked each member of the jury in the eye. “It would, if it was true.”

“ORDER! ORDER!” screamed Sheriff Jones, until the crowd finally settled down. I started up again.

“I’d like to tell you a different story. Robbie wasn’t a great husband. That’s how you got that shiner, Robbie hit you. So you take Robbie’s revolver, and as he’s standing in your dining room, you shoot at him. Five shots, three that hit your husband, two that missed.”

“Objection,” Sheriff Jones said quietly. “This is all speculation.”

“I’m getting to that.”

The judge just shrugged. Frankly, the old man seemed half dead.

The blood had drained out of Angela’s face, but she wasn’t denying it. I continued talking. “You’re standing over his body, and you start reloading the pistol. You’re going to make sure to finish the job. Five shots, you see, because that’s all a Cooper Pocket holds. You manage to get one chamber loaded when, lo and behold! In runs Chogan, to see what all the shooting is about. So you panicked, and you shot that boy right in the gut. He runs, and just keeps running. You turn back to finish the job, but Mary Jo comes in then. You’re out of shots, so you can’t shoot her too.”

“See, that’s the only way I figure this makes sense.” I held up the open revolver, showing the five chambers. “Somewhere in there, this pistol was reloaded. That makes you a liar. So tell me, Angela, what did I get wrong?”

The courtroom was as silent as a tomb, so even as she whispered everyone could hear her. “You’re wrong about Mary Jo. Chogan, he was just as bad as Robbie. But Mary Jo was always nice to me. That’s why I didn’t shoot her.”

Chogan didn’t survive the night, drifting off sometime in that jail cell. They hung Angela McDaniels, for two counts of murder. I suppose justice had been done.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


Six Shots of Sake
1854 words

Makoto shut his left eye and pulled the trigger.

Across the stage, the first plate burst apart behind his partner Kanehara’s outstretched spinning body. Kanehara’s bound arms and legs whipped past the plates, his limbs whirling in the round metal frame like the blades of a fan.

Makoto kept his neck straight, a tumbler full of warm sake balanced on the crown of his head. He squeezed the trigger of his revolver five more times, two seconds between each shot. It was all about timing. Twenty more nights like this, and he might start wearing Kanehara’s blindfold. This was almost too easy.

The last plate fell to the floor in shards, and Makoto plucked the full glass of sake from the top of his head and drank it down.

“Hey!” shouted Kanehara as he continued to spin. “You were supposed to keep that warm for me!”

“It’ll be plenty warm in my stomach!” said Makoto. The dinner guests laughed, and as Makoto took a bow, they began to applaud.

All the businessmen and their wives inside the atrium of the Saitama Bank Building were on their feet, applauding over tables covered with empty sashimi plates and rapidly-emptying bottles of liquor. It was the Chairman of the Board’s fortieth year as the leader of Saitama Banking, and the other members of the Board had hired Makoto “Sure-Shot-Sake” Shimizu and his Far East Meets Wild West Show for after-dinner entertainment.

Makoto bent over again to pick up the cowboy hat at his feet as the applause continued. As he tied it back on his head, he noticed the Chairman of the Board near the front of the stage, staring up at him. He wasn’t laughing, he was just sitting still, straight-backed, hands folded, eyes as hard and grey as the side of the skyscraper he ruled his empire from.

The corners of Makoto’s mouth grew tighter, and his real smile turned into a fake one. He kept nodding and waving at the crowd.

Then another shot rang out, and another, and another—none of them part of the act.

Screams erupted from the crowded room as men dressed in black rushed through the west-end doors, their guns drawn as they made their way around the banquet tables. “Nobody move!” shouted a tall Japanese man with blonde highlights, shooing people out of his way. “Nobody move, nobody dies!”

As the other men trained their weapons on the guests as they huddled and held their hands up, the blonde man jumped up on stage next to Makoto, who watched, stunned, as the man grabbed the microphone from its stand.

“Hello, treasured friends of Chairman Junpei,” the man said, a sneer draped across his face. “Sorry to break up the celebration, but the Chairman has an emergency business meeting to attend, in his office.”

He nodded towards a squat man carrying a machine gun, who walked over to the Chairman and dragged him to his feet by his cuff-linked wrist. The Chairman looked up at the blonde man, who smiled back at him. “Pour me a drink before I get there, will you? It’s only polite.”

Makoto watched the Chairman’s face as he was escorted out of the atrium. He could have sworn his expression never changed.

“Excuse me,” Makoto coughed. “Sir. With the hair.”

The blonde man turned around, a disgusted expression on his face. “What do you want, rodeo clown?”

“I was hoping I could help my partner.” Makoto nodded towards Kanehara, still spinning around, his face beginning to turn pale against the black blindfold. “He looks like he’s going to be sick.”

“Then go over and hit the switch, you idiot.”
“That’s just it.” Makoto tugged at his bolo tie. “It takes a lot of energy to run, and it’s connected to a generator inside the control room of the bank building. I don’t suppose…”

“For gently caress’s sake—“ The blonde man threw up his hands, turning to face his men. “Oshii,” he barked towards a man with a deep scar across his right cheek. “Take Jesse James here to the control room. If he tries anything funny, shoot him in the knee, then shoot him in the other knee, then keep him alive so I can finish him off.”

Oshii climbed onto the stage and poked Makoto forward with the barrel of his pistol. As they left the atrium, Makoto heard the blonde man speak to the crowd again: “Get comfortable, ladies and gentlemen. The show’s just begun.”



Oshii shot through the control room’s lock, then kicked the door open and shoved Makoto ahead of him.

“Easy, partner,” said Makoto, walking towards the far wall. “Don’t get rough.” Makoto looked over the switches on the control panel, humming a tune as he searched. “I don’t see it here.”

“Sure you don’t.” Oshii jabbed Makoto in the back with his gun barrel. “Maybe I have to refresh your memory.”

“Hey, I’m not a maintenance man here, OK?” Makoto said. “I’m a guest. It’s not like they make it easy to read the labels, anyway. Look—“ Makoto pointed to a peeling label in the top left corner. “How the hell do they expect anyone to read that?”

Oshii lowered his pistol and walked towards the control panel, craning his neck upwards. As he stopped behind Makoto, Makoto suddenly drove the heel of his boot into Oshii’s right shin, the silver spur cutting through his pant leg and into his flesh. Oshii cried out in pain and dropped to one knee, his pistol dangling from his left index finger by the trigger guard. Makoto kicked his hand, sending the pistol clattering to the floor. Oshii scrambled to retrieve it as Makoto quick-drew his Ruger revolver from his pocket and leveled it at Oshii’s forehead. It was the same type of pearl-handled weapon he had shot the plates with. Only this one didn’t shoot BBs.

Makoto flipped the switch in the top-right corner, then walked towards the security desk, carefully stepping over the blood pooling around Oshii’s head. He checked the camera feeds. Most of the blonde guy’s goons were on the top floor, guarding the Chairman’s office. There were two on the floor below.

Makoto smiled. Two-against-one almost made it a fair fight.

He almost felt afraid this time. It was a weird feeling, one that he hadn’t felt since he had finally disobeyed his father, went after his passion instead of staying in the city and becoming a salaryman like his family expected. He had learned many things since then, and some of them made him smarter, some of them had mad him stronger, and some of them had made him more dangerous. But none of them had made him afraid.

Why should he be afraid now? He had a rope, a flask full of whiskey, a hat, a bloody corpse, and five bullets left in his Ruger. That was all he needed.



The elevator doors opened, and Nakamura whistled. “That’s a hell of a thing to stumble upon,” he said to Omori.

Omori said nothing, just stuck his gun back inside his jacket pocket.

The dead man was splayed out upon the floor of the elevator, his head lolling to one side. His cowboy hat had fallen over his face, covering it. Dried blood matted the front of his shirt.

“What the hell’s this about?” said Omori as they both entered the elevator.

“Oshii’s a sick gently caress,” said Nakamura, chuckling to himself. “That cowboy guy tried something and Oshii wanted us to look at his handiwork.”

“I call dibs on the cowboy hat,” said Omori, bending down to reach for it.

He lifted the hat off of Makoto’s face, and Makoto sprang forward, spitting the held mouthful of whiskey. Omori staggered back out of the elevator, clawing at his eyes. He heard a gunshot as he clawed at his jacket pocket, finally finding his pistol. He fired blindly in front of him, hearing the shots ping off of the elevator walls.

He opened his eyes, red and aggravated, and saw only Nakamura at his feet, a bullet hole through his neck.

“Don’t turn around,” said a voice behind him. Omori heard the chamber spin in Makoto’s revolver. Omori raised both his hands, and Makoto took the cowboy hat from his left one.”

“Step into the elevator.”

“I can tell you where he is,” breathed Omori. “I can—“

“I know where he is. Step to it.”

Omori stepped into the elevator, over Nakamura’s body.

“Tell all your punk friends there’s a new sheriff in town,” said Makoto as the elevator doors closed.



Four bullets left, thought Makoto as he went over his options. There were way more than four people guarding the Chairman’s office. If he stepped out onto the next floor, he’d be spotted immediately None of them were watching the stairs to the roof, however.

Makoto grinned as he kicked open the rooftop door. At the far end of the roof, he could see a flagpole angled out from the lip of the building, the Japanese flag whipping around in the night air.

Makoto drew the length of rope from his back pocket, tested its strength, then whipped a lasso around above his head.
This was going to be fun.


“So, Chairman Junpei—“

“Don’t call me by my first name.” said the Chairman, seething in his leather armchair. “You have no right.”

The blonde-haired man laughed, as did the two machine-gun carrying men behind him. “I have all the ‘right’ I need, Chairman Junpei. He pointed his .45 at the Chairman’s face. “Right now, you’re going to give me the right code to the safe under your desk, where you’re keeping the right security keycodes to all of the branches of Saitama Bank.” The blonde-haired man gestured out the office’s picture window, at the night-lit city. “Now, we can do this the right way, or we can do this the—“

The window shattered as Makoto kicked through it with both feet, swinging forward and knocking the Chairman forward, onto the floor.

Get down!” yelled Makoto.

Shoot that loving freak!” yelled the blonde-haired man.

Makoto waited until the hail of bullets passed over his head, flying out into the Saitama night. Waited until the noise and commotion stopped, if only for a moment. Then he popped up from the desk.

It was all about timing. The three of them were dead in the time it had taken him to shatter two plates.

Makoto stepped out from behind the desk, blowing smoke from the barrel of his Ruger. “Anything to say now?” he said over his shoulder to the Chairman, who was slowly picking himself up off the floor.”

“Uh…yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker?” said the Chairman.

Makoto groaned. “Dad, that’s only in the movies. Real cowboys don’t say that nonsense.”

“Then why don’t you ask one, and see what he thinks?”

Makoto shook his head. “I see nothing’s changed.” He walked over to the table in the far corner, where a bottle of sake rested. He picked it up, shot off the cap with his last remaining bullet, and took a deep and satisfied swig.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

I DON'T ALWAYS
HERDY DUR MUR FLERP FLERPITY
FLOOPIN
BUT WHEN I DO
I YER DER FLERPITY
THURN DER DERMIN
BORK! BORK! BORK!




Loser Brawl Entry Vs. Spectres of Autism

775 words

Bird’s Story

flerp fucked around with this message at 03:58 on Dec 29, 2015

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


it's crow time again



:siren: Week 148 Crits Part 2 :siren:

All right, last post I talked about how your characters were awful. That means today, it's time to talk about the stakes.

Beyond being gambling-appropriate vocabulary, the stakes are an important part of your story. Here's the most basic story: someone wants something, but something else is keeping them from getting it. That means I need to know important things like what your character wants. Whatever situation they're in, I'm not going to be as interested in the situation as I am in their desires. Or, to put it another way, I'm not going to be interested in the situation until I find out about their desires. A scene might be dramatic in your mind because you know what's at stake, but no one who's reading what you wrote has the misfortune of being inside your head.

I don't need to know everything. I just need to know enough to be able to contextualize what's happening. Is what's going on good or bad? I'm not going to be able to loving tell unless I know what your character wants. I'm going to crib some lines here from some of the people who rose above the pack by being competent this week.

Erogenous Beef posted:

I stand in the Bull's office, watching over his shoulder as he points at his shiny new truck down in the parking lot, my palms ooze navigable rivers of sweat as I work up the nerve to speak.

This is just the first line. There's things I don't know. But I already have an idea of two of the characters, the kinds of people they are, and a basic conflict. I know enough to contextualize the stuff that happens next into their respective characters and their relationship dynamic. I know this is about the business world. I can guess someone's talking to their boss.

Don't try for a clever reveal. Don't try to hide what's going on and trickle it out over time. There's things you can hide, subtleties you can leave, but there's questions that you need to answer for the reader like "why do I care" and "what does this mean for the characters".

As before, everyone who's in this crit batch is listed below, along with the dishonors I would have given them if it hadn't been for my cojudges.

Enchanted Hat (DM)
Masonity (DM)
Rap Three Times (DM)
Entenzahn
Erogenous Beef (HM)
Benny Profane (HM)
docbeard (EGG WIN)
Jagermonster

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_zaN3-9jp8OT2CHKmzRtGArOP4Du-fNvz0NDpFHoyZ4/edit?usp=sharing

Djeser fucked around with this message at 09:07 on Jun 11, 2015

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

I DON'T ALWAYS
HERDY DUR MUR FLERP FLERPITY
FLOOPIN
BUT WHEN I DO
I YER DER FLERPITY
THURN DER DERMIN
BORK! BORK! BORK!




Jonked/Ironic Twist Brawl Judgment

I said this was going to take a while but I lied.

Jonked had uninteresting western characters do stereotypical western stuff. Twist had a stereotypical action movie with uninteresting action characters.

Jonked barely wins, on the virtue of having one interesting side character and being slightly more meaningful than Twist’s.

Critiques

Jonked

There’s something lacking in this. It’s the same problem that Twist has, actually, and that’s character. You have a lot of words to work with so I expected some good characterization but there never was that much. I don’t know why this protag wants to help this guy be innocent besides him being the stereotypical “western guy that’s nice”. It comes off as strange to me that this guy represents this guy he seemingly never meet before. The lawyer part comes kind of weird and I don’t like how the protag just knows these things because well, he’s just that good of a lawyer. But he’s not. I also don’t like the cliche about how many shots were fired because that has been done about a million times.

So what did I like. I liked Missy. She was cool and I wanted to see more of her since she seemed like not a stereotype of a character. While she had the “stubborn housewife” she also looked like she had the possibility to not just be a stereotype but you never do anything with her so idk why I’m even talking about her. Other than that, I wouldn’t say this story was awful. It was serviceable. Its plot moved nicely and cleanly, though a bit contrived. Lack of motivation hurts it. I feel like I really needed to care either about the protag and/or Chotan in order for this story to really work for me. Unfortunately it was just a typical western tale with some cool ideas that really needed characters to make it shine.

Ironic Twist

This story was all action, but it felt hollow to me. I had no reason to care about any of this. You don’t set up the character that well. Then it kind of just hits all of the action movie notes without ever doing anything interesting with them. I have no real reason to care. You tell us that the chairman is the dad of the protag after the whole story is done, and the entire time I was thinking “Why the gently caress is this circus performer risking his life for this random business person?” And it didn’t pay off. I think a big question to ask when writing something like this is “if my character gets shot or killed, would my reader care?” Action is interesting because it has consequences. When action is devoid of consequences, then why should I care? I’m a selfish reader, so even though your action technically may have consequences (your protag may die), for me, there are none because if the protag does die, oh well, I don’t give a poo poo. Watch the new Mad Max. It does this splendidly, where you care about the characters with motivations and goals, so when the action is going on, you’re invested. Not because the explosion are cool (which they are), but because you like the characters and want them to succeed. The explosions are just a plus.

What edged you out just barely is that while Jonked’s story was pretty cliche and not that interesting it didn’t feel like meaningless. Things happened and they mattered. The things that happened in this story didn’t. Sure, they were cool things, but who the gently caress cares? It’s all meaningless as we approach the inevitable heat death of the universe.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Scrolled back looking for Docbeard's prompt post and stumbled onto Hocus Pocus' second batch of crits and I would just like to say that THIS

Hocus Pocus posted:

:swoon: You beautiful bastard!

Bad Seafood posted:

You beautiful bastard.
was a complete coincidence.

It seems there is something native to Benny Profane's storytelling ability that both Hocus and myself believe him to be visually attractive even as we presume upon his parentage.

hubris.height
Jan 6, 2005



Pork Pro

Thanks for the crit! I'll follow up on that "homework".

s7indicate3
Aug 22, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Enough lurking, time to throw my hat into the ring. In

s7indicate3 fucked around with this message at 18:06 on Jun 11, 2015

hubris.height
Jan 6, 2005



Pork Pro

Parents Sacrifice
299 Words

Joe took a hit, just as the bell rang, and crawled back to his corner. His cornerman was shouting, but Joe was imaging another place. In his mind, Joe handed the waitress an untouched menu. Across from him, his son was relaying a semester’s stories.

“I have you around till August, right?” Joe asked.

“Yeah! With your help, right?”

“Of course, sport. Are you going to visit friends while you’re here?”

Summer plans were recited. Joe’s eyes moved across the customers, and found his target. He turned his attention back to his son. “Want to take the car? Go ahead,” Joe fished the keys out, “I need the exercise.”

Joe visited the other table after sending his son off with a hug. Except for a flip phone and half an order of sunny side up, it was bare. “Anything for me, Dave?”

“What’s that I hear? The waves washing up?” Dave smiled slyly as he folded his paper, “I’m here, aren’t I? I’ve got an event you can get in on, but I dunno about this. It’s gonna cost you, Joey. Ain’t talkin’ about money. Been a minute since you was prize fighting.”

“Hows the prize? You got my bet on me?” Joe reflected on the remainder of brighter days he was betting with.

“Yeah.” The vibrating of the phone on the table was a loud ring, and Joe found himself back in the ring, bright lights shining down on him.

Joe stood, his eyes again in the glare and took up a defensive stance for an incoming blow. Joe blocked it, but heard a sickening snap. Joe reacted instantly, swinging with his other arm. His opponent, distracted by the audible snap, didn’t react to block the hit. It connected, the bell rung, and Joe smiled through the pain.

tentacleDate
Jun 11, 2015

THUNDERDOME LOSER

I'm in, blood.

take the moon
Feb 12, 2011

by sebmojo


loserbrawl v broenheim :toot:

Might
789 words

Power Man stood over his fallen foe. The force of driving Dr. Cyborg into the ground had created an impact crater about a mile deep. “Guess I don’t know my own strength,” he said to the crowd that had gathered around. There was a round of appreciative laughter.

He basked in it. He told himself that he was doing it for virtue, for the principles of peace and justice, but the truth, he knew, was that he was addicted to the praise and fame. He was a modern day god and he lived for the worship of the common masses, whose feet had never left the earth unassisted, whose only battles were fought with themselves.

This truth brought with it an equally unpleasant truth, that these days it was never quite enough. In the beginning he had been almost drowning in it. The masked man who could lift 1,182 times his weight had made newspaper headlines all over the world. After singlehandedly stopping communism by punching every high ranking Ruskie in the face, he had the president shaking his hand. And legions of women were begging him to reveal his secret identity to them, which he didn’t do because the mystery was worth infinitely more to him. It gave him, he had thought, immortality.

These days he was feeling more and more mortal.

He zoomed away. The land speed record. The fastest man on earth. But no matter how fast he ran, he thought, he couldn’t outrun it. The reality was that night was falling once more.

Sitting in his favourite armchair, he drank cup after cup of coffee. He knew though, from experience, that this was pointless. Something about the accident had made caffeine useless at keeping him awake. It was probably, he imagined, the vast amounts of energy he expended in running and feats of strength. He had to sleep sometime. Sleep was one enemy you couldn’t punch. It had no intensely smirking face for that.

So in his armchair, his eyelids fell with finality, and the dream began.

Before him was the massive shape of Archegozetes longisetosus. Towering over him so that he could barely make the shape out. He had to dodge away from a waterfall of drool that fell from its glistening mandibles. Its massive forelegs were as big, he thought, as any bank in the financial district.

“FOR A LIFETIME,” it growled, “I LAY HELPLESS. YOU CLOSED THE WORLD OFF FROM ME.”

“T-here was,” he began, and he wavered, trying to find his words in front of the monster. It had no eyes, but he could feel it staring at him nonetheless. Contemplating his existence, classifying him as food, or something to be swatted aside, or who knows, he thought. Who knows what I am to it? What is a mite to me in life? But this is different, he realized. I’ve never been angry at a mite.

“There was nothing I could do,” he said finally. “I didn’t know the transporter would catch us like that. I didn’t know I would steal your strength, and I had no idea how to reverse it, either.”

“YOU USE MY POWER FOR YOUR OWN MEANINGLESS ENDS. I WILL MEET YOU IN YOUR DREAMS, EVERY NIGHT.”

And the forelegs were clutching at him, stabbing at him, and the mandibles were closer, ever closer, as he ran. And his speed was gone, and the foreleg had caught him, it was piercing him, driving through him into the dirt, and the pain was like nothing he had ever felt.

He woke up with a gasp. His body was burning, his clothes wet. In his sleep, he realized, he had spilled the coffee all over himself.

It took a few seconds to change into his Power Man outfit. He stood there for a moment, thinking about how it seemed too tight. It had always seemed too tight. Then it was the work of a few more seconds to find himself in the abandoned laboratory.

Was the mite’s body, he wondered, still on the floor somewhere? Did it still remain after using up its short lifespan? He would never know for sure. How could he, in that darkened lab? To brighten every corner, that would take years.

On the lab computer, he set the transporter to the Null Dimension. Where there was nothing, he thought, no one. He set it for a one-way trip.

Would the mite be appeased if he abandoned earth? Abandoned the praise, abandoned immortality? Would his nightmares become dreams again? He did not know. Who knew what went on in the mind of a mite?

But the portal hummed to life, and without hesitation he stepped through.

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


it's crow time again



:siren: WEEK 148 LOSERBRAWL RESULTS :siren:

Since you jerks were nice enough to submit before I had to start work tomorrow, I figure I owe it to you to get the results out quick as well.

This was a hard brawl. That's a good thing.

Writing something that's bad doesn't make you a bad author, it makes you an author. Even when you're "good", whatever that means, you can still have a lovely day in the word lab or fumble an idea that could have been great. I'm saying this because the stories you turned in showed that you're capable of much better stuff than you turned in last week.

Broeneheim

Last week, your major crimes were a lack of clarity, a main character with muddled motivations, and a bloated beginning. This week, you cut right to the chase, and your story is much better for it. Even if the species-as-names is a little cheesy, it works at being upfront about what's happening. I get to know your character's motivation in the first two lines, and by the end of the first paragraph, I know what's standing in the way of your character's motivations.

In terms of clarity, I knew what was going on through most of it. There were a few jumps that took me longer to piece together than other parts, like going from the outside into the house: at first it seemed like the cat was wild, since it slept in a tree, so shifting to the house was a bit of a surprise. Then, at the end, it wasn't entirely clear to me what was happening until I read it more closely. If her mother's supposed to be dead, I didn't pick up on that the first time through. Letting someone go just to kill them seems like a bit of a dick move, especially when the cat didn't really explain it--but maybe that's because I equate sentience on the level you're ascribing to these animals with a human sense of morality. I wasn't sure what was going on at the end, but I think the cat's killing the bird?

Emotionally, though, I actually cared about this story, even if cute animals are a Free Empathy card for most people. She had a goal, and it was a goal I could identify with, and she made tough choices that brought her closer toward achieving that goal.

spectres of autism

Last week, your major crimes were overelaborate prose, obscuring your main character's motivations, and not letting us know what's at stake. This week, I know more about your character in the first sentence than I did about last week's character in 500 words. It''s not just about the words, it's about everything I can infer from your words. When you tell me "blood nexus", I have no frame of reference for that. When you tell me "Power Man", I can already start summoning up everything I know about classic superheros.

In the second paragraph, you start giving us hints about what might be wrong, and in the third, you give us the conflict: this isn't enough for him. Now I've got interesting ideas running around in my head. Since I know who he is, and since I know what his problem is, now I can start imagining what steps he might take to solve that problem, and where that problem might stem from. Guess what? Now I'm engaged with your plot. There's even some humor that works in a cheesy macho-superman way--him thinking about trying to punch sleep. It both serves to keep the superhero tone of the story going, and humanizes him a bit more. His special abilities are inadequate to solve his problem, that's conflict. Holy crap, you're making a story.

The biggest criticism I have is that once you get to the dream scene, the information that makes everything make sense relies on knowing not just the genus and species for dust mites, but that dust mites are incredibly strong for their size. I don't think it would have been hard to work in, and it would have made your story stronger in and of itself. It's an appropriately neat, obscure science fact for a superhero backstory, but you left it a little too unexplained.

I'm not sure how I feel about the ending. The Null Dimension is cheesy, but it's cheesy enough that it could just fit into the story. I can't help feeling it's a little arbitrary though, just pulling out another dimension, and I'm not sure how he plans to appease the dust mite in his mind by making both of them suffer. I have to admit that I'm not sure how else you'd end it, though. And I have to commend you for actually ending the story like a story: the character makes a choice about the goal they're trying to reach, which is indicative of how they've changed, namely that Power Man gives up his heroic life on Earth to try to resolve his problem.

RESULTS

So in the end, you two managed to submit some decent stories to the loserbrawl. If either of these stories had been in a normal week, they wouldn't even have DMed. I don't know if either would have HMed, but while both could improve in areas, I think they're also both compelling in their own ways. If I was judging on which story gave me more immediate feelings, it would be Broenheim's, which had more heart. If I was judging on which story was the most improved from last week, it would be spectres'. But in the end, I had to make a choice.

So the :siren:winner:siren: is:

Both of you. Your stories are still losses, but no one gets a losertar.

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


it's crow time again



For a brief appendix to my crit for spectres of autism, I think the pulpy style actually worked for you, because it helped you ground yourself in more concrete ideas to begin with. It's easy to get lost in abstract concepts. I've got a soft spot myself for writing pulpy action scenes, because I think in a way, they force you to boil down your storytelling to focus on very present, visceral, physical goals, motivations and conflicts. There's nothing wrong with high-concept plotlines, but sometimes, getting more practice in with simple structures helps you ensure that your characters, motivations and conflicts are clear when you work on more complicated or abstract ideas.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


sorry, but the archive literally only has one space for winner so I'll just leave this as nobody winning. sucks to your assmar.

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


it's crow time again



We're all non-winners here anyway.

SadisTech
Jun 26, 2013

Clem.


In. Please.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







oh you horrible monsters

why

are you all so bad

i will do line by lines for the next three people who ask for them

Hocus Pocus
Sep 7, 2011



sebmojo posted:

oh you horrible monsters

why

are you all so bad

i will do line by lines for the next three people who ask for them

I'll put my hand up for this, please sebmojo!

Thyrork
Apr 21, 2010

"COME PLAY MECHS M'LANCER."

Or at least use Retrograde Mini's to make cool mechs and fantasy stuff.

:awesomelon:


Slippery Tilde

Sitting Here posted:

Please, quote this post, PM me, or hop onto #Thunderdome on IRC if you're interested in helping out with a story. We can't do it without your help. Don't be :mediocre: be :perfect: instead

Practice your dragon voice. :smaug: You're free to butcher up my submissions in every way.

Lazy Beggar
Dec 9, 2011


In if that's ok.

skwidmonster
Mar 31, 2015

THUNDERDOME LOSER


sebmojo posted:

oh you horrible monsters

why

are you all so bad

i will do line by lines for the next three people who ask for them

Yes prease

docbeard
Jul 18, 2011

Modern worldly poster

:siren: A reminder that signups will close when I wake up tomorrow morning. :siren:

Cache Cab
Feb 21, 2014


I wish to be in this week, if that's ok with the thunderdome illuminati. I don't know why I bother, since they will just call me names anyway. Oh well.

hubris.height
Jan 6, 2005



Pork Pro

Cache Cab posted:

I wish to be in this week, if that's ok with the thunderdome illuminati. I don't know why I bother, since they will just call me names anyway. Oh well.

I think that most people will just call you stupid for wanting to write a story in less than 24 hours.

docbeard posted:

:siren: A reminder that signups will close when I wake up tomorrow morning. :siren:

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME






hubris.height posted:

I think that most people will just call you stupid for wanting to write a story in less than 24 hours.

Signups are a different thing than submissions. Mr. Cab actually has all weekend to perfect his peerless prose.


Cache Cab posted:

I wish to be in this week, if that's ok with the thunderdome illuminati. I don't know why I bother, since they will just call me names anyway. Oh well.

It's exciting to have a published author participating in TD! :swoon:

docbeard
Jul 18, 2011

Modern worldly poster

Cache Cab posted:

I wish to be in this week, if that's ok with the thunderdome illuminati. I don't know why I bother, since they will just call me names anyway. Oh well.

I have consulted with the Council of Seven and the Council of Five. (But not the Council of Six. gently caress the Council of Six.) It shall be permitted.

Also no one cares about your persecution complex. Any who would derail the thread with assertions to the contrary may find their allotted words in short supply.

So speaketh the Council of... Definitely Not Six. (They know why.)

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Phobia
Apr 25, 2011

I'm a suave detective with a heart of gold in hot pursuit of the malevolent, manipulative
MIAMI MUTILATOR
and the deranged degenerates who only want their
15 MINUTES OF FAME.


OCK.


Sitting Here posted:

:siren: hello domers this is a special announcement speaking :siren:

Sure why not.

  • Locked thread