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Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

said I'm never lackin'
always pistol packin'
with them automatics
we gon' send 'em to Heaven
In. Would you give me a song please?


Club Sandwich
May 25, 2012
In with Venice.

Club Sandwich fucked around with this message at 22:15 on Jun 23, 2015

Mar 31, 2015

In with Epilogue.

Also would love a flash rule.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

skwidmonster posted:

In with Epilogue.

Also would love a flash rule.

Part or all of your story must take place in a restaurant.

Feb 25, 2014
:frogsiren: Offering two line by line crits for any previous week as well as three line by line crits for this week only. This offer will still stand after judgment so even if you don't want it now, you can ask for it later. Please specify which story you want critiqued. :frogsiren:

Jan 13, 2006
That's mighty kind of you. Here's an oldie, but an... well, it's an oldie, anyway.

Lazy Beggar
Dec 9, 2011


Broenheim posted:

:frogsiren: Offering two line by line crits for any previous week as well as three line by line crits for this week only. This offer will still stand after judgment so even if you don't want it now, you can ask for it later. Please specify which story you want critiqued. :frogsiren:

If you don't mind doing my last story, Clap Happy, I'd appreciate it a lot.

Jul 4, 2010

I find dead men rout
more easily.
Week 150 critlets, part the first

So before I start on specific comments, here is one general suggestion that I think many of you could benefit from:

Before you hit submit, proofread your drat story. Then do it again. If you're feeling really enthusiastic, you can even run it through a spell checker as well. The judges will love you for this, or at least not hate you as much.

Also, I noticed several people seem a bit unsure about exactly how to punctuate dialogue; I noticed a bunch of rogue capital letters and commas where there should have been full stops. If you're one of them, go read up on it. Fussy readers (like me) will judge you for these simple mistakes. Broenheim went into some detail on this in his crit for Some Old Hood poo poo.


I described this story in my results post as "incomprehensible," and I stand by that. I honestly have no idea why anything happened in this. It seems like you tried to fit too many ideas into too few words (the circles thing, advertising, this perfect manufactured community, a strained marriage, whatever the gently caress was going on with Chloe in the middle there…) and as a result it just reads like a mess.

I mean, I think the core of your story is Chloe finally deciding to leave Peter, but I don't have a clue why, or what lead up to this, or anything about it. Your characters don't even interact with one another at any point!

On a mechanical note, please pick a tense and stick with it. Past or present. You can't have both. That's not how this works.

An Old Friend

In retrospect, given the prompt, I should have seen stories like this coming - that is, "some people sit around and discuss more interesting things which happened in the past, and which frankly I'd rather see first-hand." That said, 'interesting' is stretching things a bit here. The conversation is long and wordy and yet, somehow, lacking in any kind of detail. At the end of it I'm left with no real idea what Laurence has done with his life other than, "go to war and have a son at some point." It's all very generic war-is-hell stuff.

Similarly, the ending (pretty much everything after Dylan opens the door, at the very least) is entirely unnecessary - we already know at this point exactly what's going to happen.

This wasn't offensive, but it was dull.

They Say Fish Have No Word For Water

I admit that this good-natured, rather nonsensical world you've constructed did kind of grow on me over the course of the story, though some of it - the Zones, say - seemed just weird for weird's sake.

The ending, as others have already said, is a bit apropos-of-nothing and just comes out of nowhere. You've not spent any time before this developing your characters or the relationships between them, so I just didn't care about this shocking revelation? If it was actually intended to be a revelation. I'm not sure. In any case it seemed entirely irrelevant.

Clap Happy

Your protagonist was the biggest problem for me here - he has minimal personality, but what he does have is completely unsympathetic. Obviously that was the goal, but it's a really bad idea if you want the reader to care about what happens to them. Which I didn't. He's also your only actual character in the whole thing.

The hands turning up again towards the end was kind of intriguing, but then the whole supernatural reveal came out of nowhere in the last few paragraphs. Despite that, the worst part of the ending is that Frank just comes full circle. At the end he's now doing the exact same thing he was at the start, having learned nothing from the whole experience.

Also, don't put dialogue from multiple characters in a single paragraph.

All That He Was

This is the sort of story I hate to have to crit - not offensively bad, not spectacularly good (in fact that's pretty much the entirety of my notes from reading it). John has a motivation, at least, and he acts towards that, so I can't complain too much.

Incidentally, it did seem a bit odd to me that, in this society where everyone is expected to specialise to a ludicrous extent, musicians are supposed to play multiple instruments.

This was competently written, but in the end, nothing really stuck with me. Aren't I helpful.

Up Back Medium Punch Down Forward Heavy Punch

Possibly my expectations of Thunderdome are unfairly low (is that possible?), but after your first line I was terrified that you might actually have been planning to have video game characters come to life. Thankfully I stopped caring about this pretty quickly because I completely lost interest during the lengthy description of the game and characters and whatnot.

"And no one knows what happened after that" - Please don't do this.

The ending here was weak. The overall arc is okay (revisiting and finally putting to rest old unfinished business from childhood) but the ending being just, "and then he got really good at video games," deflates the whole thing.


This starts off quite slow - I spent a lot of it wondering what was so good about this satellite they'd found. It definitely picks up once they get into the satellite and start receiving messages, but this doesn't last long and then the story ends in short order afterwards. Gerard's reaction to Sarah bringing the satellite down seemed a bit too muted, to me; it felt like you were about to bring in some conflict but then had to back down because you ran out of words.

That said, both your characters do have understandable, reasonable motivations by the end, which is a good and rare thing. This was by no means a bad story, but not quite enough to climb above the rest of the pack.

A Shiny Red Apple

I think this story was a bit too simple and straightforward to ever really be in the running for winner this week, but it was definitely the one I enjoyed reading the most. Your narrator has a decent put-upon sort of voice, and I honestly like the tree as a character - her childlike enthusiasm is rather endearing.

Not much happens here, but your character interaction is fun. This was a pleasant palate cleanser in the middle of the rest.

Some Old Hood poo poo

And here's another story where some characters sit around and discuss things that happened in the past. This is not a good idea; told like this, it just robs the events of any kind of urgency, and I spent the entire story having great difficulty caring. You can keep the framing story if you want, but show us the interesting stuff. If it turns out it doesn't fit under the word count like that, well, maybe you were trying to cram too much stuff in.

Meeple mentioned this in his notes above, but Dante's voice doesn't come off as authentic; it feels like someone (the author, perhaps) putting on a dialect rather than anything natural. TBH, it also got in the way of following what he was talking about (not a huge amount, but enough that when I came to write this crit I'd already forgotten the details).

Also, pay attention to Broenheim's comments about dialogue, and to punctuation in general, for that matter. It matters.

Maybe Being Crazy Ain't Such a Bad Thing

It would definitely have been nice to get more of a dialogue going in this story. As it is, it consists mostly of the voice talking at Dylan, who interrupts occasionally with, "shan't," or something similarly erudite. By the end I'd quite like a happy ending for the voice, but I don't really give much of a poo poo about Dylan himself.

It's also - though to a lesser extent than other entries - a conversation about past events. On the other hand, it's not just that. In the end it does at least have an arc of sorts, albeit a very simple one. So that's better than many.


So I actually liked this one. You have a lot of characters, but I think you do a good job of implying enough about their past relationships without needing to state it explicitly. Though I will admit to being incredibly confused at the start until I realised that the relationship between Scott and Simon was, in fact, that they were the same person. Proofreading, people. It's worth it.

I thought you did a good job of getting across the atmosphere at the funeral - subdued and awkward. Ultimately, nothing really significant happens, but I was okay with that. I was happy with the brief glimpse at the characters here.

There was some disagreement among the judges over this one. In a different week, or with a different set of judges, I think this could have HMed. Keep your head up. You're doing some things right here.


I can sum a lot of my problems with this story up pretty succinctly: Why should I care about anything that happens? You spend a lot of time going on about how run-down everything is, and about fascists or whatever, but Latoya has no discernible personality or motivation here. By the time something actually happens (by my count, SEVEN PARAGRAPHS in), I still don't know what she's fighting or why (other than "fascists bad"?), which means I've lost interest.

This problem runs all the way through. Even by the end, when she's face to face with her downed foe, I still don't know or care any more than I did at the start. There was a fascist (I guess?). It's dead now. That's probably a good thing?

Really, what this story needed was a character.

Second batch coming later in the week.

Apr 22, 2008

I decided to take Read Eat Sleep as my song for this week and edited my post accordingly.

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards
I will be writing on the topic of 'A Cold Freezin' Night', which is the only song by this band that I'd ever heard before and coincidentally a pretty good song.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Sitting Here posted:

In. Gimme a song.
If Not Now, Whenever

Thranguy posted:

in, and I'll take a song.
Enjoy Your Worries, You May Never Have Them Again

Hocus Pocus posted:

in with a song, please.
Getting The Done Job

Fausty posted:


Song please.
Twelve Fold Chain

JcDent posted:

In. Give song, please.
Thirty Incoming

Doctor Idle posted:

In. Would you give me a song please?
I Am Who I Am

If you non-US-ers need help finding the song, just ask.

Still plenty of options left for people waiting!

Feb 25, 2014
Lazy Beggar, here's your line-by-line

And Megazver here is yours

Jan 13, 2006
Thank you.

Lazy Beggar
Dec 9, 2011


Thanks a lot. I very much appreciate the advice.

Dec 28, 2009
There was a lot of mediocre crap this week, I’ll be honest, and the winners and HM entries all had flaws aplenty. Still, some of you sucked a lot less, and for that I am truly grateful because others of you sucked so, so much more. Length of crit and/or level of swearing inversely correlates with quality because, frankly, I’ve got less to say about the good stories and less of it is “gently caress you”.

A lot of you chose to write your stories in first-person this week. The results were… mixed, to say the least. Those of you who hosed it up (you’ll know, trust me), read the ones that didn’t and see how it can be done better. If you’re too goddamn lazy to read every last story/crit, that means They Say Fish Have No Word for Water, A Shiny Red Apple, I.O.U and Trigger.

A not-entirely-distinct group of you also hosed up tenses a lot this week, so I’ll call that out now. If you’re going to write in present tense, realise that you’re probably more likely to gently caress up and slip in past tense if you don’t pay attention so proofread your goddamn stories. It’s not going to save an otherwise lovely story, so don’t pretend like you’re being some super edgy and novel author by using it if you can’t tell a good story in the first place.

Did I mention a lot of you need to proofread your stories? You should do that.

You know something else about circles? They’re very boring. Much like the opening to your story, which grabs me about as effectively as a sausage-fingered arcade claw (that was a circle reference, see). Congratulations, you’ve managed to flag “this story is boring and/or crazy” in the first sentence. At least you warned me.

Peter reminisced on the times when his name meant as little as his did.
If you gave this sentence to someone to parse in isolation, they would look at it for a bit, then stab you with a hanging pronoun. Note that pronouns aren’t circles, so they hurt more.

Peter is an ad man.
You got bored of past tense pretty quickly, I see But it’s okay, past tense! You’re not forgotten! In fact, you’ll be welcomed back with open arms not two sentences later.

Pick a tense and stick with it, for crying out loud.

I’d say that in 10 years time, a 51” LCD screen will be considered delightfully quaint and outdated, and thus the entire point of that line will be lost, but if anyone is reading this story in 10 years then it will surely be a sign of the end times come upon us, so you’re probably safe.

The ad opened with a fade-in of a dirty and carpet-bombed urban street where a bag exits stage left and then tumbles hypnotically across.
Because you don’t specify, my mind conflated “carpet” and “bag” in this sentence and assumed it was, if not an actual carpet-bag, at least a duffel or something quite substantial. The resultant imagery was far more entertaining than anything your story produced.

Also, your bag exits the scene and then continues to tumble. I’d assume that you left out any loving noun for it to tumble across as some pointless metaphor to try and imply it was floating across a blank white screen, but I suspect the actual reason is you have no loving idea what you’re doing. Stop throwing in random cliches that sort-of match what you’re going for and actually think about what you’re writing.

If I wasn’t busy despairing at everything else you’re writing, I’d also bother picking up on the “where” in that sentence, and suggesting you could cut it and split into two sentences because I dislike pointless glue phrases like that, but honestly the whole thing is a lost cause so don’t sweat the details.

Please tell me you’re actually implying that the dreamy voiceover lady is pronouncing “™”.

And then your story, already somewhat pointless (PS that sounds like the most generic, dreary lovely advert), takes a nose-dive into poo poo creek via the pointless-exposition canyon. Two paragraphs on Chloe’s backstory, which I imagine in your head in some way relate to the upcoming events, but the actual connection is a complete mystery to me, your reader. Instead I get to hear about completely unrelated bits of her life and how she met your equally crazy, uninteresting protagonist.

I assume she hates this advert, without ever being told why (I will give you credit though, you didn’t explicitly tell me she hated it and actually showed it! Good job!). Also she hallucinates the dishes talking to her. I have no idea why. I have no idea why most of the things in this story happen.

Dude just walked out with the water running? I hope his house floods. Also they’re both terrible parents.

So now, some random tense changing later, Chloe’s stormed off but it’s okay because Peter never needed her anyway. Which is good, because at least one person escaped this story alive, and it wasn’t me.

In conclusion, I have absolutely no idea what you’re trying to do with this story, what you’re trying to tell me, or why you can’t make up your loving mind what tense to tell it in (but here’s a hint, the present-tense bits were even more unmitigated poo poo than the past-tense ones).

gently caress you.

An Old Friend
Metaphor good; overused cliched metaphor, less so. You pile a lot of cliche into your description - it’s not awful, but you could go further and come up with something fresh from time-to-time. Also not everything needs to be told in metaphor and simile; sometimes people just do things.

I presume the “guest” is supposed to be either death, an angel, or some other supernatural thing. You give it away far too early (with the hosed-up “a seemingly man”) and then the rest of the story becomes obvious and bland. The fact that you refuse to give him a name and have to spend the rest of the story coming up with increasingly clunky, awkward dialogue tags for him just hammers it home with all the subtlety of a case of trench-foot. There are authors who can sneak this sort of reveal up on you, and when it’s done well it’s very good. You are not one of those authors. If you want to try that kind of trick again, you need to be re-reading with a very self-critical eye to make sure it’s not loving obvious from the beginning. Find ways to avoid giving your surprise away, don’t just drape a huge loving pink sheet over it and pretend it's camouflaged.

The main problem with this is the premise, cliched though it is, has plenty of potential but you completely squander it on an old man waffling away for 90% of your words. Your story is about as exciting as sitting around in an uncomfortable armchair watching crappy old re-runs on afternoon TV. Nothing happens. No interesting anecdotes are told, just meaningless platitudes about how war is hell and soldiers do bad things, but at least they’re not bad at heart so they’ll probably get into heaven on a technicality. You had plenty of opportunity to put something interesting in Laurence’s reminiscences, or his strained relationship with his son, but instead we just get told “bad stuff happened in the war” and “you’re an rear end in a top hat to your ungrateful sod of a son” without seeing either of them.

The ending, I’m sure, is intended to be moving and sad, but given a) I saw it coming from about two paragraphs in and b) I don’t give the slightest gently caress about your cardboard cutout of a character, it just whistles by.

They Say Fish Have No Word for Water
This gets off to a cute, surrealist sci-fi theme that I really like, but ultimately the lack of any real significance to the plot lets it down. When you boil it down to a summary, it’s “Protagonist learns about a new word, so she wanders around asking people what it means until finally an old guy tells her” which frankly sounds like the kind of depth you’d expect in a book printed in bright colours on cardboard pages, starring Spot the Implausibly Cheerful Talking Puppy.

Also you throw in the whole romance-subplot at the absolute last minute, possibly so you could pretend you had some character development that was otherwise sorely lacking, but it’s so half-assed and poorly explained I couldn’t even really tell you what it actually meant. Either act like you actually intended for this to be a part of your story in the first place and have some kind of loving foreshadowing, or at least explain things properly at the end. As it is, I can’t tell if this is supposed to be a childish crush, unrequited teenage love or “omg I thought we were going to be on the soccer team together, how could you!”

I like the theme, the setting, the implication of the title, and a lot of the little moments in your story, but those can’t quite carry the unexciting plot. Not every story needs to be about people saving the world or star-crossed lovers, but you just fell a bit short here.

On the other hand, amidst a sea of loving awful first-person narrations, yours was really well done. Other people: this is how you are supposed to do it.

Clap Happy
gently caress ton of backstory exposition before we get to the actual meat of the story, told in awful first-person-past-tense narration that leaves me so utterly detached that even if the protagonist wasn't an unrelatable, irredeemable, cartoonish villain I wouldn’t care about him.

You lost me completely once he turned from weirdly hosed-up serial killer into maniacal nouveau-riche parody who laughs at the pathetic poors whilst grinding them under his heel. Also you/he used the word ‘paupers’. Take a good, hard look at yourself and never do it again. It’s possible to write villains who are relatable, or at least interesting enough that we want to keep reading just to find out what happens next. This is not one of them. He’s just so unbelievably over-the-top that I can’t even be bothered to dislike him.

What I see (and hate) a lot in first-person narration like yours is when the narrator is clearly trying to impress the reader with how funny he, the character (and by extension you, the author) is. Stuff like “But I had a joke to tell: after another successful set, I killed him.” and “I bet this would have baffled the forensic psychologists something rotten.” come across as so try-hard-teenager that it’s almost painful to read. It’s only missing “and then they all stood up and clapped” for it to be pure stdh.txt levels of awkward. First-person stories can be fine (see, for example, the one posted before yours), but you have to treat it like any other third-person narration and stop trying to use it as a platform to show off to the reader.

Then, suddenly, three-quarters of the way through the story, action! Holy poo poo, this was almost worth wading through all the dreary crap to get to. Only no, it really wasn’t, because you make so little of it it’s more of an afterthought than an actual plot. You didn’t even bother to resolve it in any way, you just had your protagonist go “welp, guess my past’s caught up with me, better move to Texas and go back to killing people”.

“Dear Diary, today I turned three people down for mortgages, foreclosed on a disabled veteran with three children to feed, emotionally abused my wife and child, and the severed hands of my victims came back to haunt me, so I left home. Love and kisses, Bob”

It’s a nice idea, on paper, but you hosed it up by wasting so much time on your narrator hammering home what a clever, witty, horrible person he is that you didn’t have any space to explore it, so instead you (and he) just ignored it and ran away, probably cackling maniacally in the process.

On prose and formatting:
  • Proofread your loving stories
  • The phrase is “continued in this vein
  • Proofread your loving stories
  • “The truth was I liked to force the them...“
  • Proofread your loving stories
  • New speaker = new paragraph
  • “Said” is a perfectly good word and you should use it more. Stop throwing “chipped in” and “inquired” and all that poo poo out there, just use “said”, it’s not going to bite you.
  • Did I mention proofread your poo poo? Seriously, try reading your paragraph with all the dialogue near the end out loud, it’s nigh-unmanageable.

All That He Was
Another surreal-dystopian future, apparently this was the week for them. Not as humorously weird as They Say Fish… so you get less of a pass from me on it.

Killing off your protagonist in a short story is a bit tricky as you risk the reader not really caring enough for it to have any impact, which happens a bit here. I’m not completely apathetic, and I think you did a reasonable job of making John relatable even in his weird future dystopia, but even so your story really feels like it radio fades out over someone going “doo doo doo” rather than ending on a satisfying crescendo. The fact that you’ve turned a death into something so flat is, in itself, quite impressive.

I think because you already have the high of him finally performing in public followed by the low of him getting booed, fumbling and screwing up, so the follow-up of a further down loses its impact. It would’ve been more cliched, but perhaps a lot stronger, for him to be doing well and succeeding in wowing the crowd right up until the police arrive and drag him away from the confused and slightly angry public who might start questioning their weird society.

You could also have thrown out the entire final scene and your story would have been better for it. It adds nothing beyond “John died” and detracts from the already weak ending.

“ retardedly difficult…”
Using unnecessarily colloquialisms in exposition feels really jarring. I get that the paragraph it’s part of is trying to be quite informal (with the “...more years to come to a level of feigning understanding that approximated that of his coworkers.”) but it’s a very hard style to do right and often comes across as poor tone.

How can you silently tune a guitar, exactly? >:(

Up Back Medium Punch Down Forward Heavy Punch
If you’d just presented the concept for this story, I probably would’ve nominated you for a DM on the spot, it’s such a bad idea and could’ve been done absolutely awfully (see, for example, What a Shame for shameful use of video games in storytelling) but you didn’t completely gently caress it up. So, that’s something good, you managed to come up with a really bad idea but at least went some way to redeeming it in implementation.

Despite that, it’s still a pretty poor story. You dump a fuckton of exposition on us right at the beginning, when you’re trying to hook the reader in, and it’s all boring-nerd-poo poo about a fictional video game from the 90s (and boy does it show, some of your writing could’ve been straight out of cringeworthy 90s ad copy written by a balding 40-something trying to sound like a 12-year-old).

The underlying plot is okay, a bit ropey in places, but the ending was a real let-down. Yes, you can leave the ending of a story ambiguous or open to interpretation if you do it well, and it’s not by itself a bad thing. But it has to be subtle, you can’t just literally write “MAYBE IT HAPPENED, MAYBE IT DIDN’T, GUESS WE’LL NEVER KNOW EH” which is pretty much what you did. Again, a nice idea, spoiled by the implementation and details. If you wanted to do follow through this idea properly, a PoV shift in the final scene to some anonymous kid of the next generation observing things at the arcade might’ve worked better.

There’s a lot of generally weak style in your story that it’s hard to pick up on individual things to improve; read more, and read widely, and see what you like in other people’s styles is the best general advice I can give there.

That said, one thing I can pick up is that I’m seeing a tendency to write as if you were telling a story out loud and just transcribed that into writing. It’s not an uncommon thing to see, but generally bad - there are very clear differences between spoken and written English style, and it often feels weird to be reading. It’s not far from someone starting to put “um” or “like” or mispronunciations/pauses/wrong words in a story.

A few examples:
  • Pick a narrator’s perspective and stick with it. It feels like we should be following Tom, especially in a short story, but “Being trapped in that game compounded my P.T.S.D.,” Wilson had said, tossing off a perfect salute. comes across as if we’re witnessing it, not hearing it recounted by Jack.
  • Starting a paragraph, let alone a sentence, with “And…” Yes, people talk like that, but they don’t make a habit of writing like it because it’s poor writing style. Avoid it except for emphasis, and use it sparingly at that.
  • The paragraph that begins “Once you entered in the combo…” which is pure “how you’d tell this story to your friend in the playground” but not written story style. Put it in the context of the story - relate it to Tom, show it to us through his eyes and experience, don’t just present it in pure isolation to the reader.
  • “general hobo aura“ Don’t use vague, non-specific descriptions like “general” or “somewhat” or “sort of”. You’ve got time to pick the right adjectives to describe the situation, so don’t lean on verbal crutches.
  • The ending couple of paragraphs, which again just give up and directly address the reader in a very weak “Maybe the ghost is still there ooooOOOOoooo <shines torch under chin>” way.

Still, this wasn’t as awful as it could’ve been, so take some reassurance in that.

Nice concept and world, but you start with what amounts to addressing-the-reader exposition which isn’t a good hook. Dude’s just staring at the wall and then you starting telling us, the reader, about how going out without a mask will kill you. As a rule of thumb I just made up from an informal survey of tabbing through this week’s entries at random, putting “you” outside of dialogue implies crappy exposition is happening which probably explains why it always unconsciously annoys me when I read it. There, you have furthered the cause of science with your story, I hope you’re loving happy (because I’m not).

Weak opening paragraph aside, you build your world fairly quickly through info-dump exposition you lazy fucker but at least it’s over and done with and then you get on with actually telling me a story rather than describing exactly how someone’s post-apocalyptic hobbit hole was made. About the only relevant part of all this crap is “oh it’s the post-nuclear-war kind of future dystopia” and “solar panels are useful”, the rest is all just fluff trying to set the tone.

So, coherent world, moderately nice story hook in the satellite, but then your arc just goes “...and then Sarah was a greedy rear end in a top hat and crashed the satellite. Welp, guess that happened.” The important parts of your story don’t get the words they deserve - the moment when Gerard notices the satellite, the moment when he confronts Sarah at the end, both are just told with about the same gravity as “Gerard went to the shops to get some milk”.

The problem I have with reading relatively hard sci-fi (by which I mean, the near-future supposed-to-be-realistic stuff) is that I will start nit-picking your story for plausibility. Mostly, returning probes are going to be dumping into the ocean under a parachute; I can’t really see why you’d waste carrying enough fuel for controlled braking and landing on dry land (and with enough useful parts that didn’t burn up in re-entry) so that bit struck me as unlikely. Otherwise, though, the rest of it held together so I’m not actually going to get angry and shouty at you about it. Good job.

A Shiny Red Apple
Gets off to a really nice start, you pull out strong descriptions without dropping into cliche, and really nail the first-person narration without a lot of the fuckups that others have perpetrated this week. Your protagonist has a definite, human voice without it overwhelming the story and turning it into some smug rear end in a top hat showing off to me.

The opening hook is really catching, but I did feel it was a bit weird that you just completely dropped the confused wife with no further explanation.

Otherwise, honestly, I rather struggle to find much to say about this. It’s not a strong story, nothing earth-shattering happens, which probably kept it from winning this week, but otherwise it’s cute and fun and inoffensively pleasant to read. Thank you, it was a breath of fresh air compared to some of the stories this week.

Some Old Hood poo poo
So there’s two problems I have with this story. One, it’s really loving boring, told as first person past-tense narration with a bonus extra framing to make sure the reader is completely and utterly uninvested in your character and what happens to him. Describing action sequences in first-person-past-tense is a great way to drain any tension out of them, because we already know the broad outcome (narrator survives) and often, as in your case, we get a lot of spoilers for the details anyway (in this case, explicitly - really, the whole shootout thing doesn’t tell us anything new that we didn’t get from “...for killing a nigga that pulled a gun on my brother over some pussy”).

Two, Dante’s voice (as I alluded to in my brief comment) sounds like you just threw random cursing into some really dry, stilted dialogue and called it a day. Not using contractions, really long run-on sentences without enough room to breathe, really out-of-place phrases interleaved with cursing up a storm. I’m not going to open the whole accurately-portraying-AAVE can-of-worms because I’m just not in any place to comment, but it’s just bad regardless of what dialect you’re trying to ape (unless your dialect is actually “dystopian far future robot overlord with a case of tourettes”). Writing dialects outside of your comfort zone is a good and noble goal, but if you gently caress it up it sounds even worse, and from reading this I don’t have much confidence in your ability to write two guys discussing the weather without making me want to gouge my own eyes out. So, get the basics right first, then try for bonus points.

Beyond those two huge flaws, it’s also just a poorly written. The redemption at the end, which is nice (cliche, but not too bad) on paper just doesn’t hit because I’ve spent so long not giving a poo poo about Dante’s fall from grace in the first place. You’ve got the bones of an okay story there, and it’s one worth telling, but the meat you put on those bones is stinky roadkill, not oh gently caress it this metaphor is really falling apart now so I’m going to stop trying to force it. Anyway, the point I was trying to make is you could’ve taken the elements of this story and done something much better with it. Split your time better - more words on the pre-fall period where he’d got a good job, a good girl (presumably this itself is also in contrast to a previous, worse time) so we actually give a gently caress about him losing them again, less words on a drawn out lovely recount of an action scene, and then drop the loving framing so you’ve got more words to play with and you might get some emotional impact out of it.

Also, you randomly break into present tense right at the last minute, it’s pretty jarring, especially as you immediately drop back into past tense.

Maybe Being Crazy Ain't Such a Bad Thing
The story’s actually quite sweet, but the telling is really loving atrocious. I mean, seriously, what’s going on here: Then she passes by as she left, say a few kind words, then Dylan waves bye, and start typing away again. Either your narrator is switching dialects every sentence, or you really, really need to learn to proofread your loving work because that’s just awful. Your whole opening paragraph is in a really weird, awkward, sort-of-present sort-of-present-perfect tense that I found genuinely hard to follow, above fuckup of a sentence notwithstanding.

It gets a bit better after you’re done trying to do scene-setting in present-tense-first-person, but not much.

Story wise, it’s not awful. The protagonist is really the imaginary friend, as (s)he’s the one who gets what they want in the end, so it’s kinda empty-feeling that despite getting the narration from them we don’t learn much about how they feel about the changes. Sure, the friend goes off a huge, wall-of-loving-text monologue in the middle about how much of a shithead Dylan is and how the imaginary friend has suffered for him, but splitting your PoV and emotional reactions between the friend (PoV) and Dylan (happy) at the end left both feeling a bit emptier for it.

I don’t like those monologues, if you hadn’t guessed, because you’re really expecting me to read a huge-rear end pile of dialogue in one go. I get what you’re trying to do, but it’s just such a massive expository dump that it interrupts the flow of the story.

I’d have a scene cut after Dylan runs to the bathroom.

You gently caress up present-perfect again right at the end with “...his smile still as wide since he talked to Elizabeth.” Honestly that’s not a salvageable sentence; there’s better ways to word what you’re trying to do.

I didn’t start off liking this one, as the opening sentence is weird (it implies the story is either about Isobel, or made me think that she was coming to a home she shared with Simon, whereas really it’s ‘hometown’ rather than ‘house’) and the opening paragraph is a confusing jump between past regrets and present loneliness that didn’t really make any sense until I’d already read the rest of your story (also repeated ‘lonely’ in one sentence).

The rest of it, random change of names aside, gets much better. The interactions are pretty real, though the bit where Beth’s putting her foot in it is probably the worst. Same with the bit where he sticks Rammstein on, could’ve used another editing pass for flow and clarity. Otherwise the characters are likeable and believable.

The ending is sweet, though I think too short - cut a few words elsewhere to make room here and it could’ve been better. As it is, it feels rather abrupt which is a shame.

I liked this one a lot, and had it down for a possible HM; as it is, it fell just a bit short of that.

Doom! Drama! The horrors of war! These are all things I’m sure you’re trying to make me feel with your story, but I just fail to give a single gently caress about your character or world because you give me nothing to hook my feelings on. Your protagonist spends a bit of time musing about man, war’s pretty poo poo, you run out of ammo and oh god the enemy are so generically evil and whoa, it’s so ironic that now my home planet’s turned into a warzone it’s full of fascists, and then there’s an uninspiring fight scene, and it’s all over. Nowhere in this does she feel like anything more than a vehicle for you to infodump a bunch of lovely exposition. Does she have feelings? Desires? Does she remember this place before it got turned into a war zone? Has she lost friends, family, favorite bowling alleys? Nobody knows, because she’s just a two-dimensional cardboard cutout with a gun.

Stop telling me how bad war is and how evil the unspecified-robo-fascists are and actually find a way to show it. Do they brainwash prisoners of war to make them join their serried ranks of identical, obedient soldiers? Are their armies actually horrific chimerae of flesh and machine, fighting against their own will? Did they raze half the planet to the ground with nanotech bombardments just to make a point? Nope, all we get is “fascist” (which is not, by the way, just a synonym for ‘evil’. It has a very specific meaning which, for all I know, you might well be aware of but you sure as gently caress don’t give any indication of it in this story. Of course, given your descriptions are so bland, you don’t give any indication of much depth anywhere.), “some kind of cyborg” (thus utterly failing to distinguish it from the protagonist, who has various laboriously described cool cyborg implants) and “four legs”. What other horrors from the past would return? Well, gently caress knows, because I don’t even know what horrors have returned already because you never loving told me.

I mean, if I squint very hard, I could imagine that your story is supposed to be about a fight between Ian Banks’ Culture and the Borg, but it could also be about a fight between a bunch of space-hippies all blissed out on synthetic weed and the robo-animal minions of Dr Robotnik, for all the detail you give me. Specifics!

In terms of actual writing, it’s awful. Typos all over the loving place (you need a line-by-line to catch them all, I just give up at this point), awful flow and rhythm, missing hyphens in compound phrases, the enemy is alternatively “it” and “she” with pretty much no rhyme or reason, etc etc. It’s also littered with repeated words that sound poo poo. “Scrambled/scrambling” and “here she was” twice in the third para. “Cracked” in the fourth. “...into the rubble strewn street as Latoya came down from the rubble.” “Leaping/leapt” in the tenth para. “Adrenaline coursed through Latoya as her adrenal pump kicked in.” These and others just sound dull, repetitive and uninspiring. Find some loving synonyms, seriously. Bonus points for some utterly nonsensical similes too, I’m not sure what barren moonscapes you’ve been looking at but it’s not a phrase that brings to mind “rubble of bombed-out buildings” to me.

Re-reading this to give you a full crit made me even angrier than when I first judged it, so be thankful it doesn’t matter anymore and I can’t retroactively change my vote to DM.

Holding What is Left
Honestly, I can’t find much to add to my initial judge notes on this. It’s beautifully written, some of your descriptions are inspired (I especially liked “yellow eyes, like two pinches of turmeric” for being both very arresting and adding yet more to the cultural feel of the piece), but ultimately it’s just a vignette, an epilogue or a prequel to something bigger.

10/10 for writing, probably the best prose this week, but there’s no story there. I guessed what was going on pretty much as soon as you wrote “Will you let me in?” and after that, there wasn’t really any surprise or interest, just “this is nice to read. Oh, it’s over.”

Oh, if it were me I’d probably either quote or italicise the speech in “Will you let me in, he would say.“ at the end.

The world building, the mystery and that you didn’t take a cheap exit by explaining things at the end are the strong points in this story. That said, and despite the fact that you won, it’s still got its share of flaws.

The biggest problem I have is the scene changes. You double-space a couple of them, but others just flow from paragraph to paragraph (the first line to second line is a break, and though you’re recounting a lot of discrete events at the time, I think you need a scene break before “When Sylvia came back…” as its signalling the start of a separate bit of the story). Using a “----” to separate them would help, though might make it obvious quite how often you cut between scenes in that story; it’s a lot, perhaps a bit too much.

The opening line is a good hook, but that you cut to “I woke up” immediately afterwards robs it of something, to me, and turns it into a slightly confusing opening couple of paragraphs.

The cut from opening scene to him staring at the envelope took me a while to work out - it feels like a flashback (receive IOU > crash truck into tower in rage), rather than what we’re actually seeing which is (crash truck > go back home and stare at envelope some more). Maybe you need to make it clearer that he’d received the letter prior to the start of the story; as it stands, because you never said where it came from, my initial assumption was he’d picked it up on the way home or something. Just a quick “The letter was still sitting on the table…” or something.

Other minor nitpicking:

“The four-thousand-and-twenty-three dollars they gave me for Sylvia”. I’d use “they’d given” instead; your story is already told in past tense, you need to push this event further back in time.

You language describing him trying to work out what’s niggling about Sylvia bugs me; it’s not very clear and I dislike some of the phrasing. Probably would rework those two paras if it was me, but it’s as much a personal style thing as anything so make what you will.

I had to google succotash, because I’m British, and it’s apparently food with corn and beans in. Why is that stuck to his forehead? I am confused.

Beneath what amount to problems with flow rather than anything deeper, it’s a good story - another editing pass and it would’ve been excellent.

The Once and Future King
So your protagonist comes across as, basically, a prick. I’m not sure if this was intentional, but he seems really up himself in the opening couple of paragraphs. Not a particularly good start for getting me to care about him, as I’m really rooting for someone to take him down a peg by the time he’s done declaring what a manly war-man he is.

Then he goes on to be smugly over-British for a while before the actually interesting bit of the story starts. Honestly, the whole scene setting bit is really loving weak compared to the end. This line:

Percy leapt across the table and tackled me to the ground. I have him a punch to the ear and a knee to the gut for his troubles. We wrestled for a bit before Arthur gave a disapproving cough.

Is probably the worst of it all. It’s just so… vague. Like “well, it’s like, er, some poo poo happened, I gave him a bit of a what-for, y’know”. For what’s supposed to be a brief fight, it’s utterly unexciting and flat. Either go all the way to complete understatement or actually bother to describe things in detail, don’t just give me weak poo poo like that.

So, unlike a whole bunch of other idiots, you actually managed to do some worldbuilding without burying it in pointless narrator-led exposition. That’s good. Once you get going, the rest of the story rattles along quite nicely. I think you could’ve cut a lot of the setup crap at the beginning and focussed more there, maybe found room for some actual in-the-action scenes rather than a big summary of “we fought the French a lot, it sucked” but it’s still pretty good.

“I was wondering why you showed up here. And then I realized.” I stepped the rest of the way into the office. “We survived just fine the last time you died. And we’ll survive again.”
So I don’t actually follow this - “we survived the last time you died” doesn’t explain, to me, why he showed up in the first place. Was it just to die again? You don’t say that and “surviving” his death isn’t really a particularly strong outcome. “poo poo son, he showed up and then died again, all our problems are solved!” He’s King Arthur, not loving Jesus.

Did he show up just to be wrong and get overthrown and killed so the British and French could do the right thing afterwards? I don’t get that from what you’re writing either, so basically your dramatic one-liner falls flat and I’m left wondering what the gently caress was the overarching message.

Also did you intentionally name two of your characters Percy(ival) and Lance(lot) and then assign them to be reincarnations of other knights (you never name Percy’s reincarnation, but Percival and Balin don’t show up at the same time in the original stories so I assume it can’t be him) as some kind of “gently caress you I’m not going for the obvious ones!”? It’s really weird.

Anyway, mostly this was just middle-of-the-road, I’m afraid. Premise could’ve been loving appalling, but you did a reasonable job at it, but the rest of it - the characters, the storytelling - were just mediocre. Still, at least you didn’t suck.
What a Shame
I have nothing further to add than my initial reaction, because seriously, what the gently caress was that poo poo. Try telling a story rather than writing some teenage-nerd, masturbatory wank-fest next time. I don’t even know what you were thinking.

So, the very strong voice of the narrator took me a while to get used to, and I was kinda confused at whether the Lictor’s gun was supposed to actually be some massive two-ton artillery piece or if it was just gratuitous exaggeration. That aside, you did a good job with first-person narration, something a whole bunch of people hosed up quite royally this week. Good on you, may you serve as an example to others.

Honestly, I can’t find much to pick at on this because it came very close to winning - you tell a comfortable, easy story very well, but it’s the ‘easy’ that lost you the win. In another week, or with other judges, you could easily have got it.

That said, a couple of nit-picks:

“Gallio Barrius Venustinia,” he said, and nodded politely.

Daddy spit on the street. “I made it pretty clear, last time we spoke,” he growled.

Made what clear, exactly? Sounds like you cut a line of dialogue from the middle.

...and I knew I was watchin’ my father fight.
This feels like a very light way of doing what should be a big reveal. I think it’s maybe too light, especially as she seems to have worked it out for herself at this point but barely seems to give a poo poo - I mean seriously, “maybe that rear end in a top hat isn’t actually my Daddy” seems worth more than a passing mention. Basically I almost missed it the first time through, and didn’t catch the significance of Jacobus paying close attention to her age until second or third read-through. Honestly, it’s a well written little revelation, and I don’t think you necessarily need to change it - other readers may have picked it up faster than me.

Otherwise? Good job, HM well earned.

This is possible the biggest bait-and-switch bullshit I’ve had to judge for TD. Helena, the girl who would become the hero, doesn’t show up for 90% of your story. And even when she does it’s basically an afterthought of “oh, by the way, the person we mentioned at the beginning? Yeah, she goes off to do foment rebellion, overthrow the king and kill a bunch of people. I’m not going to show you that, thought, because it might be too interesting.”

I mean, maybe she was meant to be appearing somewhere in the intervening 1000 words and you just forgot to actually mention this? I dunno. Was she there? Did she come back to all this and that’s why she would become the hero? You don’t say, it’s just vaguely implied. How is this even relevant to the prompt, given it’s not something from the past returning (except, perhaps, my breakfast) - it’s just backstory for some lovely novel you summarise in the last paragraph. Please tell me this isn’t actually the prequel for your magnum opus 15-book-series fantasy epic you’re totally going to write any day now, because if it is I may have to kill you for the good of mankind.

So, complete and utter failure to follow the prompt or tell the story you actually started in your first paragraph aside, let’s look at the rest.


That’s some completely forgettable, predictable, cliched fantasy then. Totally worth it. The dialogue sounds like people reading lines from a play, it’s all “He is a mere boy” and “spare him his life from this monstrosity” (no, wait, that would’ve been better than your dialogue).

The way you’ve framed this makes 90% of the story redundant, because you already tell us in the first two paragraphs that the end result is the village being razed to the ground. Pretty much as soon as the soldiers are mentioned it becomes obvious how this happens, and at that point there’s basically no reason for me to even bother reading the rest of it because I already know what’s going to happen. The fact that the middle bit is so loving predictably cliche (because I haven’t read “hot-blooded teenager starts a fight with the soldiers, whole village is slaughtered in petty retribution as a ‘lesson’” enough times already, christ) doesn’t do anything to disprove my point. You can tell that story and have it be interesting, but you have to leave at least some reason for me, the reader, to want to keep going. Drama! Interest! Will a character I care about (hint: none of those present here, don’t worry) die?

General prose is pedestrian, but not actually full of errors. Good job. Give yourself a gold star.

The Black Cat Cafe
Personally I actually had this for HM nomination, but it didn’t quite make it.

It’s short, and cute, but I guess in the end there’s more vignette than story here. The actual protagonist doesn’t really do much of anything, just rocks up, watches things happen, and doesn’t stab his daughter with a poisoned hairpin. Jolly good. The only person who has a goal is Sasha, and she’s almost already achieved it. There’s no real tension there, nobody to root for, and I’m just watching a few things happen rather than feeling attached to the characters.

Honestly, I don’t think more words would fix that - it’s complete in itself, and trying to force more of a traditional story arc would only ruin that - but it’s probably not going to win a Thunderdome.

Which is a shame, in some ways, because I rather liked it.

So I told myself I’d crit this even though it was late in, because it brings the number of crits to an even 20. I now deeply regret this decision, because Jesus Christ that is crap.

Your concept is actually really neat - sometimes people don’t have a soul, but it can suddenly catch up with them - but you just flub the execution so badly it’s completely lost on me. I mean, I get Klimmer’s supposed to be an unsympathetic rear end in a top hat who has redemption forced upon him, but he’s just so loving blank I don’t give a single poo poo. Your narration is detached, clinical observation - not once do I get to actually understand what he feels or thinks about any of this poo poo.

“The subject performed his duties as normal for 6 hours, 23 minutes. The subject appeared mildly disturbed at intervals throughout the day. At 18:34, the subject was observed to interact with a hysterical, hispanic mother.” That’s basically how your story reads to me. You don’t even end it properly, there’s no action on behalf of Klimmer - he just asks around a bit and cancels dinner to stare at cars. Why the gently caress can’t he at least do something meaningful with his newfound humanity - try and help the mother/child, give all his money away to charity, do something remotely loving meaningful instead of staring into the distance like he rediscovered his missing emo teenage years. You want him to start listening to The Cure while he’s at it, maybe?

You fall into the same “friendly dude telling a tale” narration bullshit that so many people do. Stop trying to have your omniscient narrator get all buddy-buddy and clever with me. Stuff like “So saying that he found his soul is an overstatement.” and “Understandable, really.” are what I’m talking about. It’s not clever, it’s not funny, it just detracts from the story because now I’m not paying attention to what’s happening, I’m paying attention to the narration trying to crack jokes and they’re poo poo jokes. Either get funny or get the gently caress out the way and tell a story, and frankly you’re not showing much hope of either of those right now.

Probably a good thing you missed the deadline as this was almost poo poo enough to deserve a DM.

Meeple fucked around with this message at 15:34 on Jun 25, 2015

Apr 25, 2011

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


Meeple posted:

Probably a good thing you missed the deadline as this was almost poo poo enough to deserve a DM.
Really I should be glad I didn't get toxxed but I see your point. Thank you for the crit Meeps.

May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!
hey, writer of I.O.U., I just wanted to know: did you imagine an explanation for what the tower is and what is does, or is it a mystery to you as it is to us? I wonder how writing something that mysterious works.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

JcDent posted:

hey, writer of I.O.U., I just wanted to know: did you imagine an explanation for what the tower is and what is does, or is it a mystery to you as it is to us? I wonder how writing something that mysterious works.

Yes, I did imagine an explanation, for the most part.


...I will say that it only got there through a whole lot of tweaking and rearranging of things, because it started out as "Small town with Vietnam War-style draft, but for alien abduction". So my advice is to not marry yourself off to the first idea you have.

Aug 2, 2002




Ironic Twist posted:

my advice is to not marry yourself

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

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

crabrock posted:

my advice is to not marry yourself

Well nobody else is gonna do it.

Lazy Beggar
Dec 9, 2011

In with Contempt.

And I'll have the other crits I promised up sometime soon.

Also, thanks to all those who critiqued my last story.

May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!

Ironic Twist posted:

Yes, I did imagine an explanation, for the most part.


...I will say that it only got there through a whole lot of tweaking and rearranging of things, because it started out as "Small town with Vietnam War-style draft, but for alien abduction". So my advice is to not marry yourself off to the first idea you have.

Thank you!

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
No problem.

Also, less than 12 hours until signups end. Plenty of spots left!

Radical and BADical!
Jun 27, 2010

by Lowtax
Fun Shoe
Goddamn this sounds like a fun one. Curse ye, gigantic workload!

Aug 2, 2002




I bought a banner and we haven't had any new people yet. what the gently caress, non-existent new people :mad:

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

crabrock posted:

I bought a banner and we haven't had any new people yet. what the gently caress, non-existent new people :mad:

wizards were a pretty major enticement, at least in my case

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.!joust/c19mu

Hey guys, I mentioned this in IRC and Djeser linked it in FA, but I figured I'd drop a link here, too. One Throne, a really neat journal, is doing a 24-hour short story contest, where a guest author supplies you with a first and last line and you fill in the rest. Signups are totally free and everything is handled through Submittable. You have to enter by midnight PST (so three hours from now).

I figure everyone here has a lot of experience writing prompted stories in a single day, so give it a whirl!

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
Signups are closed.

Please devote all your time to this contest, and devote no time to the contest with a prize of 400 dollars, so that I may win the 400 dollars. Namaste.

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007


Fun Shoe
Everyone knows the coveted title of Grand Poobah of Thunderdome is far greater than any amount of muggle money.

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




Will vouch for this as a quality listen


Nov 15, 2012

What will you say when
your child asks:
why did you fail Thunderdome?
this was actually a pretty tepid story but i still think i can salvage it, because i am entenzahn, best writer ever

Entenzahn fucked around with this message at 02:28 on Jan 1, 2016

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
The King of the Crows Makes an Offer

1296 Words

The first time Georgia Quinn 'coincidentally' ran into the man who had been her husband, she barely recognized him. By now she could spot him far enough off that she had time to retrieve a nitroglycerine pill and put it under her tongue, transforming the looming interaction from life-threatening to merely annoying.

“I don't even have a name, you know,” he said. She did know.

“Why don't you just, I don't know, make something up and call yourself that?”

“I tried that a couple of times. Didn't take. Nobody else used it, and after a while I forgot it myself.”

As usual, it took a cash offering to end the conversation, money that would probably go to pay phones, calls to her and her family. As far as Georgia knew he didn't need to eat, drink, or sleep anymore. She wasn't sure how he kept his clothes and body clean, but he did, somehow.

Georgia's husband was a problem gambler, which quickly made him a problem debtor. He turned to loan sharks to get out from under the credit card companies. Then he turned...elsewhere to get out from under the loan sharks. When he couldn't make payments those creditors demanded, he made a deal with them. He traded away everything: his name, his life, his worries and cares, in exchange for settling his debts and a bit of extra money. The money didn't last long.

When Georgia got home, her husband, the new Frank Quinn, was already there. They didn't interact very much. He paid the mortgage and kept the refrigerator and pantry stocked, although he never ate at home. He had no romantic interest in Georgia, which was for the best, considering her angina. Georgia went up to the office, to tell him about the latest run-in. The window was open, and as Georgia opened the door, he turned into a small flock of crows and flew out, clothes collapsing in a heap where he stood. This was the first time Georgia had seen it clearly, but she had come close three times and had strong suspicions that were now confirmed.

He came back after ten, visiting the master bedroom briefly to change into his pajamas. He did this wordlessly and without modesty, as usual, and left. Georgia barely looked up from her novel. The phone rang. Georgia knew who it had to be, but answered anyway.


“It's...” said the man who used to be her husband. “It's me.”

“What do you want now?”

“What?” he said. “No, it's nothing like that.”

“Then what is it this time? If you just called to complain again, I swear to god-”

“No, not that. I had a question.”

There was a long silence on the line. “Go ahead,” Georgia said.

“Well, I was wondering if you, well, if you were interested in the same kind of deal that I got.”

Georgia shuddered at the thought. “What?”

“I hear the Corvex isn't as pleased as he thought he'd be, living as a human. That he wants to bring one of his queens into it, be less lonely or something.”

“I don't even...” said Georgia. “Tell me something. Are you happy?”

“Not really,” he said. “Not unhappy, either. I think the Buddhists say that giving up the relentless pursuit of happiness is the first step on the road to enlightenment.”

“You don't seem all that enlightened.”

“I guess it's a really long road.”

Georgia hung up. It started ringing again, but she didn't answer. Eventually it stopped.

Frank began to change after that night. He became increasingly aggressive in his disregard. Rather than taking his meals of fruit and canned fish outside, he insisted on consuming them during her supper. He made no effort to conceal his transformations, even seemed pleased by her discomfort watching them. He began to talk, almost incessantly, but not to her. Instead he would discourse endlessly on politics, his day at work, or something even less interesting.

Mid-way through one of those rants that he first broached the subject. “Yesterday the red sports car went by three minutes before the blue station wagon, but today they went right after each other, only a few seconds apart. The red car was still ahead. Would you be interested in selling your life?”

Georgia was stunned. It had been a long time since he had addressed her directly. “No, I...No,” she said.

“It is no small thing, to be free from all of the pains that come with a life.

“I've seen it,” Georgia said. “And I don't want it.”

The next day, Frank came home with an unfamiliar briefcase. “What's that?” she asked.

He smiled, wider than his mouth should have been allowed to smile, and opened it up. Inside was a wide variety of eggs.

“Eggs?” she said.

“Lives,” he answered. “Surely there is something here that will please you. You could have the life of one of the world's great beauties. Or a monarch with unquestioned power over thousands. An adventurer, beating danger and the odds at every pass. A legendary lover, an artist, a thief. Or a quiet housewife, loving and well-loved. Any of these can be yours.”

“I don't,” said Georgia. “I mean, I don't know what to think. This is all so sudden, and-”

“I understand,” said her husband. “You may sleep on the matter, but I will need a decision in the morning.”

Georgia slept fitfully that night. Her life, she considered, had little to recommend it, when looked at objectively. Few friends, no living family apart from a brother she rarely even talked to, no job, not very much money. She couldn't even say she had her health. And some of those other lives sounded enticing. Many of them were men, and adjusting to all of that would be deeply odd. But most of that, Frank had explained, would be completely natural to her if she took the life. She still wasn't sure.

Georgia had troubled dreams in which she had long conversations in foreign languages. The her that was in the dream seemed to understand everything perfectly, but the her that was doing the dreaming barely knew the meaning of one word in ten.

When she woke up, she walked to Franks's room. “No,” she said.

“No?” he echoed.

“No. I don't want any other life. Mine may not be perfect, but it's mine.”

Frank smiled his too-wide smile again. “I wish,” he said, “That you were not quite so wise.”

Georgia's life went back to as normal as it had been, for a while. Then one morning Frank was gone. On the kitchen table was a single egg, and a note.

I have decided to return to my previous existence. This is the life your husband traded away. It must be eaten raw. Do with it what you will, but know that its potency will last but two days.

She saw the man that had been her husband that afternoon. She told him about the egg and tried to convince him to take it, to come back to his life. She didn't try too hard, and wasn't surprised when he declined. She was surprised by what he said next.

“I'm leaving town.”

“Where are you going?” asked Georgia.

“I don't know. Everywhere. Anywhere I haven't been, I guess.”

Georgia gave him money for busfare. She ended up throwing the egg out with the garbage, where it was eaten by a raccoon. Things didn't turn out well for him, but this isn't his story. Georgia got the house in the divorce.

Lazy Beggar
Dec 9, 2011

look against, fade together
839 words

Adam awoke sitting on the floor in front of a mirror. He stared at the reflection. He couldn't see his face. It was a blur, churning shades of dark gray. The rising light of the sun crept through a gap in the curtains and worked its way across the mirror. He saw the image of his blood-smeared waxen skin and the matted hairs on his body. He saw the reflections of the blood-soaked fibers of the bed sheet, the splinters of the broken closet, and the shards of the shattered bulb. But his face was a dark blur and he had no memory of what it should look like.

He felt for his face. His hand found his nose, mouth, eyes. It was all there but it felt different. His fingers fell into hardened trenches which spanned across his face. What was wrong with him? Where was this place? Adam's heart rushed blood through his body as his eyes scanned the room. Clothes spilled out from the closet behind the bed. He climbed onto it and placed his hand on someone else's ankle. It was cold and rigid. His hand recoiled from it, and he screamed. What about my ankles, do you like them? His body folded to the ground and he wept.

He sat for some time, lost in his head. He then took a deep breath, traversed the linen coffin and gathered some clothes. He pulled on a pair of jeans. And my thighs too? “What are these thoughts? Where am I?” His shouts echoed unheard throughout the apartment. “Who am I?”

He ran out of the bedroom and down the corridor into an open plan kitchen and living room. He saw many framed pictures of the dead man and another man who he guessed was himself because always the face was blurred. What did he have to do with this dead man? He must have known him. The sight of his face and his arm embracing his body soothed Adam. It evoked a warm belief in him. A hint of hope. But why couldn't he remember him? And why was his face blurred even in the photos? He gazed at a vase beside one of the pictures. It was filled with tulips. Do you think they're pretty?

He hurried out of the kitchen and found the exit. But the door was locked and no keys were in it. “gently caress! gently caress...” Adam kicked the door. He returned to the kitchen and slammed the drawers as he rummaged through them all. He found no keys. The windows maybe, he thought. He opened the blinds. Only the first floor and the window was ajar. Hope! But it would not open any further. Adam heaved until his veins revolted and the room pirouetted. He fell into a chair. A breeze came through the opening. It caressed his neck, and he rose from the chair and upturned the table. Used plates and cutlery rebounded off the floor and sunlight flickered across a stack of photos as they too fell. He collected them from the floor. The first photo was of two men embracing. Neither face was blurred out. One was the dead man. The sight of the second face made his teeth grind and his breath deepen. Do you like my face too? The stack of photos became more and more graphic in the sexual acts they portrayed. He gasped as memories harassed his mind. “Sorry, Jeff. I'm so sorry...” He then sobbed, but now with arid eyes.

He had lain on the bed, almost naked. "Do you like my face too?” Adam had screamed.
“Yes, I love your face.” Jeff searched for solace on the floor, his eyes avoiding the face he claimed to love.
“Then why did you gently caress him, Jeff? That ugly loving oval office.” Adam revealed a knife. He pushed it against his own face. "Will you love me if I am ugly too?”
“Please don't do anything stupid, Adam. I do love you!” Jeff raised his hands, urging Adam to drop the blade. “I don't know why I did it. I'm so sorry.”
“You've done it before, I know! And you'll do it again!”
He swept the blade across his face, causing deep gashes. Jeff launched across the room. He tried to grab the blade. They wrestled for the knife, destroying the closet and breaking the lampshade. During the struggle the knife had slipped and plunged into Jeff's stomach. Adam had sobbed while he died in his arms. Then he had taken the blade to his own wrists.

Adam stumbled back to the bedroom and gazed at the face of the man he had loved. He turned to the mirror and saw his own marred face. He fell to the ground and wailed until exhaustion arrested his awareness.

Much later, Adam awoke sitting on the floor in front of a mirror. Adam stared at the reflection. He couldn't see his face. It was a blur. And he had no memory of what it should look like.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012


Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at 19:25 on Dec 30, 2015

May 16, 2014

"Is there a
John Luck Pickerd
Just A Widow
1,297 words

“What if I were orphaned? What if I were widowed? What if I were made an only child?” Waylin asked, “What if I were made all of these things … in one day?” His words came softly and his jaw trembled as he sucked in a choked breath.

The man on the other end of the dining table, Mairtin Coelho, nodded with a somber smile. Mr. Coelho had white hair, but his face was devoid of any wrinkles. He wore a black suit with a purple tie.

They were seated in Coelho’s dining room, his preferred room for business arrangements. A large, veiled window was behind Coelho and shone brightly around him. Off in a corner behind Waylin, a bodyguard stood and glared at the back of his head.

“Mister Ruh,” Mr. Coelho said, “I’m going to show you six pictures—I already know why you’re here, no need to explain—and I want you to go over each one and tell me whom you think was the man or woman who wronged you.” One corner of his mouth pulled up slightly as he reached for something on floor. He stood up and walked along the table. “Mister Ruh,” he said, nodding to Waylin and holding up a small stack of photos.

He laid each one out, three-by-two, while Waylin looked back at the bodyguard. The wall of muscle still had his hands crossed over one another and he was still very clearly trying to burn holes into Waylin’s skull through those sunglasses.

Waylin felt two light taps on his shoulder and heard Mr. Coelho’s soft voice, “Mister Ruh, you can look. You don’t have to be afraid.”

“Mister Ruh …”

Waylin looked back at the photos, whispering, “Sorry.” He hovered a finger over each picture as he studied them. The first wasn’t the guy, too short and the man he was looking for had black hair, not blond. The second was a woman. And the third—

Something extra of you to remember me by,” the memory replayed itself in his head, those words and the cold tinge of bolt cutters sitting around his little finger, then a crack and a crunch, then only his own screams.

He tapped his three fingers on the picture over and over like it was compulsive. “Him … it’s him, it’s him,” he repeated.

Mr. Coelho reached toward the picture and flipped it. “There’s an address and a phone number,” he said, “I know what you want and I won’t charge you a dime.” He fished through his suit jacket, and pulled a pistol out. He placed it on the table with a dull thud. “Sig Sauer P250. I think you’ll find it sufficient.”

Waylin stared at the pistol. His laid his shaky fingers on the grip and drew them down the textured siding. He looked up at Coelho who was grinning from ear to ear. “I … I don’t know how to thank you.”

“Ditch the gun when you are done,” Mr. Coelho said, “That’s all I ask.”


The Ruh family sat at their dinner table, enjoying Christmas dinner when three knocks on the door set in motion the destruction of all that Waylin knew and loved.

“I’ve got it,” Waylin said, wiping the corners of his mouth with the cloth napkin. He stood up, left the napkin in his seat, and maneuvered himself around the tight room. It was filled to the brim with Ruhs. His parents, Dianne and Ahmed Ruh, his little brother and older sister, Michael and Suzanne, and his newly-wedded spouse, Rebecca. He didn’t know it then, but their efforts had proved fruitful; she was four weeks pregnant.

He got to the front door and peered through the peephole. A tall man, balding but with black hair wherever it was spared, a thick goatee, and a well-fitted black suit and purple tie stood at the other end. He didn’t know why he felt compelled to open the door—maybe it was the suit, who could be at their door in a suit meaning harm?

He unlocked the door and tugged it open. “Evening,” he said.

The man spoke with a foreign accent, “It is good evening … Mister Waylin Ruh?”

“This is my father’s house,” Waylin said, “But yes, you have the right Ruh.” His mouth curled into a strange grin.

“Good.” The man’s hand dove into his jacket and revealed a pistol, but before Waylin could make anything out of the situation, the butt of the pistol was thrust into his nose and then into the side of his jaw.

Those were the last chunks of memory he had of the night until he awoke to a voice, “Something extra of you to remember me by.”


Waylin clenched his fist. It still felt strange, even after two months. He bounced steadily with each bump and hole in the road as the bus traveled from Richmond to Lynchburg. The roads were lined with tall trees. Surprisingly, most of them still had their thick foliages and they casted long, strobing shadows on the bus as it drove on.

He had the pistol strapped to his side and under his jacket, but he was still sure that the impression was visible. He rode the whole way with his arms at his sides.

At the bus-stop, he reviewed the address and number. He knew better than to call the number and set about punching the address into his phone’s navigation system. It was only two blocks away. That was right in the middle of the city.

It didn’t take long at all for him to get there and it was still somewhat light out. A red sedan was parked in the driveway and the lights inside of the house were on. He thought of different plans on how to get him alone and then settled on an obvious, but loud one.

He threw a stone from the front yard into the driver side window, shattering it. Shards of glass scattered all over as the car alarm rang. He ran to the side of the house and waited as he unholstered the pistol.

It felt strange in his hand, but he would just need to use two hands. The more accurate the better. The front door flew open and heavy footsteps rushed from the porch to the car.

What the gently caress?!” the familiar voice cried.

Waylin stepped from the side of the house and pointed the gun at the man. It was him. No suit, just a wife-beater and shorts, but definitely him. The man still hadn’t noticed Waylin.


The man looked up into Waylin’s eyes. Waylin fired.

The bullet struck the man in the chest and he fell back into the gravel. Blood trickled and pooled from his wife-beater, staining it.

Waylin walked to the body and looked over the dead corpse. The man who took everything from him was dead, but nothing felt different.

Another gunshot, much louder, cracked through the air and hit Waylin in the side. He fell against the car and slid to the gravel on his rear end. He looked up at the source of the sound. The man’s wife had shot him with a single-barrel shotgun and was now running at them.

He pointed the gun at her and fired. Missed. He fired again and he struck her in the stomach. Her momentum threw her forward and onto her husband’s corpse.

Waylin’s arms fell to his side and he lost grip on his pistol. He looked down at his wound. It was pouring an endless stream of his blood.

Then his phone rang. He managed to pull it out but it fell from his grip and eventually died.

[One missed call from: Mairtin Coelho.]

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

said I'm never lackin'
always pistol packin'
with them automatics
we gon' send 'em to Heaven
“I Am Who I Am”
753 Words

I see my reflection in they eyes of a man staring into a dirty mirror on the 2nd floor of a nameless motel on a mostly empty stretch of desert. Behind me is a woman whom he has paid for sex. A prostitute, a hooker, perhaps an escort if you were feeling kind. She is gaunt-faced with tired, impatient eyes. Eyes that convey her indifference, eyes that I also reside in. Our flesh aches regardless of monetary exchange, and maybe for a moment, if just for a second, we’ll feel alive.

Walking by the large tinted windows, I see myself in the waddling reflection of a man or woman, I can’t even tell. It doesn’t matter so long as we hunger. I have a crumpled up $20 dollar bill in my pocket. I approach the cashier. “Let me get two Double Cheeseburgers, A large Fry, A Value Sized strawberry milkshake with added M&M’s, two apple pies, and an extra value sized chicken dinner combo, no drink” I tell her. “Is that all?” she asks. It is, and I hate myself for it, but I’ll be complacent with the first bite.

He’s holding the phone at an angle over his head. I can see myself in the picture preview. Behind me is an expensive car. It doesn’t matter what type of car, because you can’t afford it. We bought it. I’m smiling, but it feels labore. I ordered a $10,000 dollar watch the other day. It won’t tell time any more accurately, but it’ll look nice on my wrist and it’s worth a lot, it has real value. It’s important. This purchased validation is destroying me, but it’s not enough. It will never be enough…

Slouched in a recliner looking back at herself through the lens of a webcam I see myself. Around me, my home has gone to ruin. There are curious stains on most surfaces. Clothes piled up in various corners. The trash is overflowing. The dishes are piled up. My bathroom is filthy. My desk is filthy. I am filthy. I can take care of it later. What I’m doing right now is much more important. I haven’t become completely listless, yet.

I see fragments of myself in a cracked mirror. We’re in a basement and not alone.. It’s dark. Behind me is a man lying face down in a pool of his own blood, the back of his skull a bit softer than it was before. My right eye is swollen shut. I can feel the blood streaming freely from my nostrils, pathing over the grooves of my chin. Pooling into droplets that eventually splash against the cold concrete beneath me. The man isn’t moving, but I’m not angry anymore, at least not right now. It won’t be long before I feel the rage again.

I am looking at his expensive car. He drives past me and I see myself in the blur. I assure myself that he’s just validating his own existence, but I just want what he has. Why can’t I have it? No matter how hard I work, I’ll never have it. I should take it. It’s not fair, I deserve to have what he has. Why can’t I have it?! I hate this. I’m going to take it. I’ll steal what I can’t earn, because I want it. Why should you have what I can’t? They can afford to get it again.

I am great. I am amazing. You and everyone like you are beneath me. I am always right, and I am guaranteed to know more than you. I am better than you. It is my birthright. I am correct. You’re correct too? I am more correct. Whatever gods there may be, I forbid you bruise my ego. My sense of self is all I have. It’s the only way to make this make sense. It has to make sense… Am I great?

You are strange meat drifting through a vacuum. A fixed set of parameters have predestined you to an existence you have no say in. Ancient orders are encoded in your DNA. You have an insatiable curiosity, a need for order. I am a gestalt of emotion and experience that is ineffable to you, the individual. I enjoy your suffering, I enjoy your self-validation, I enjoy your attempts to neatly arrange the universe into comfortable packets of information. I exist only because you allow me to and because of that I am who I am, and what I am I will be.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

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

Catch and Release
(780 words)
Song: "A Dead Fish Gains the Power of Observation"

snip. See archive.

Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at 20:28 on Jul 24, 2015

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




Milkweed in June
1293 words

Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 03:58 on Dec 1, 2015


Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh
Deadline has passed

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