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Jeza
Feb 13, 2011

The cries of the dead are terrible indeed; you should try not to hear them.


Obeah posted:

Rebel Yell

“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”
- T.S. Eliot

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
- Winston Churchill

“The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.”
- Charles Darwin


CHAPTER 0
PRELUDE TO AN END

My name is Morgan Stone. At least, that’s the name I was born with. I was also a naked infant when I was born, but as you can see, I am one no longer. I carried that name like a stone for twenty-five years. Do you know what stones were made to do?

Hold you down.

When did I cast the stone into the sea? When was I reborn - not as a fleshy, mewling child but as a grown man with sophisticated taste and the loftiest of aspirations? Ah… sometimes I can scarcely remember. Perhaps it was on the docks of the Amnok, where I saw the sputtering smoke of a dying nation. Perhaps it was in the fields of Portsmouth, Ohio. There I saw Lion and Cub - the symbol of my bright future and the shadow of my dark past. Perhaps it was in Japan, where perhaps my story will finally end. If I truly remembered, would it even matter? Perhaps.

I introduce myself to a lot of people, as you may have noticed. It’s part of the job. Peanuts for pleasantries, and this dusty ol’ Earth just keeps on spinnin’. My dreams carry me over the questionable nature of my job. Dreams… dreams can take even the most befuddling of questions and turn them into answers. Even as I stand on a balcony, looking over the neon city of Tokyo and listening to the polite business banter of the Yamaguchi-gumi associates that surround me, I can only think of dreams. This all, simply put, is too real for me. Too tangible. If my mind had a tongue, it could taste this scene - sour and no sweet.

The Canadian will be here tonight. This little tidbit I have on good authority, or at least, trustworthy authority. He is tall, white, and speaks fluently only in his native tongue. Perhaps he’s decent with French. But Japanese?

Not a chance.

He will have an interpreter. The advantage is already mine. When I finally smoke him, when I finally obliterate his tangibility, when I have cast him into nothingness… then I will truly know peace. I will sleep the dreamless sleep once more. Well, for a time being at least. That’s the thing about sleeping giants - they’re not dead. And unless they die in their sleep, they will awake. I hope I will sleep for a millennia, like the dragons of old. I hope my sleep is a sound and deep one. I hope.

There is a chatter of laughter. The veil of inscrutability lifted for the briefest of moments. I turn from the cityscape and look into the penthouse. Mounted playfully upon The Bull, he rides into a circle of Gokudo. The Bull sweats and grunts. The Canadian’s eyes roll back into his head, and he shrieks into the face of a bowing and blushing Geisha. He has not brought an interpreter. Some things are best left unsaid, I suppose. I flick my clove into the streets below, hoping it doesn’t result in a chain reaction. Hoping it doesn’t create a beautiful and rippling butterfly of death and fire. Only one man deserves to die tonight.

I reach into my coat pocket. The grenade’s still there.

I am Rebel Yell.

CHAPTER 1
THE CUB, LIVING

Soft and pink, I was truly the clitoris of men - minus the pleasure. Morgan Stone was awkward. Morgan Stone was quiet. Morgan Stone didn’t get respect or results. Morgan Stone was, simply put, Morgan Stone. Fortunately, he didn’t die the way he lived.

I guess you’d be familiar with the basic concept. A white collar schlub plodding through a life of mind-numbing drudgery? Looks like fate got lazy and gave me a rerun. I guess I could stand to be a bit more specific - I was IT director for my town’s middle school. On paper, I’m sure it doesn’t sound all that difficult, but keeping that stable of old mares runnin’ was nothing short of a Herculean effort.

Disclaimer: You seem completely literate and able to competently string together sentences. Good for you. I don't have any problems with your English save a few fiddly bits and I can't help but think ellipses look dumb nearly 100% of the time.

But you didn't post this for boring stuff, so from my perspective, here is what worked and what didn't:

Good

- You mostly imitate a neo-noirish narrator effectively.

- The punchy end to Chapter 0 works well. In fact I think it is the best part of the piece by a long way.

- There are some rather cute turns of phrase, 'peanuts for pleasantries' etc.

Bad

- The weakest point of this is the effete, grandiloquent tone. What might have cut it as semi-rambling but still incisive noir prose flops because of ridiculous dreck over and over, thanks to constant narrator qualification to statements (at least, I hope, I guess, I suppose, perhaps - there is that one paragraph where you have 'perhaps' five goddamn times in quick succession) and thanks also to eye-gougingly pretentious musings interspersed throughout. 'I was truly the clitoris of men' - OK, I burst out laughing. But after the completely deadpan and serious tone set up so far, especially after the oh-so-cool 'I am Rebel Yell', this was the worst thing in the world. And it doesn't stop there, every time you could just be pithy and dry you paddle so far up poo poo creek you go back up to the poo poo springs and down into the making GBS threads source. Everything stone related about Morgan Stone, everything about the animal symbolism, everything about motherfucking dreams and everything about sleep - it is all affected cliché trash. I'm sorry, but that is what it is. You shoot for dark mysterious guy who is so blasé and sardonic and in control but you end up with megalomanic buffoon, like some villain explaining his plans all along while he has the hero at his feet only to get shot mid exposition.


- Really, everything else after that seems a little minor - but you are setting yourself up for a fall with two antagonists called 'The...' something. It is incredibly overused. Try and innovate. The nationality one is especially common.

- Try and avoid fantasy-lite things like 'I am one no longer', 'like the dragons of old', 'cast him into nothingness' etc.

- I really can't stress enough how jarring the narration is to me, so I'll say it again. You aim for something crass and amusing, and a wiseacre jimmie (jimmie?) but in reality you seem to have got shafted with a pretentious weirdo. Instead of the route you go down, if I wanted to achieve what you set out for, I would make my character dismissive and cocksure and then have lots of exposition about seemingly irrelevant small details - essentially boasting about how much he knows.

- Oh yeah, just remembered. Starting a story with a quote is personal preference and sometimes objectionable. Starting with two is pretty unusual and almost certainly has good reason. Starting with three, well, that just means make your loving mind up and choose which one fits best. Don't just browse google for 'cool quotes about beginnings' and stick the coolest top three in because you can't choose.




For me this was a strange critique, almost entirely bound to personal taste rather than 'objective' error. I don't know how far people will agree with me, but if anybody goes and gives you a line-edit, I can only imagine them finding the places to cut being the long meanders into pseudo-philosophy.

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SpiderHyphenMan
Mar 31, 2010

by Fluffdaddy


Obeah posted:

While I think the short and halting lines do a fantastic job of conveying the urgency and intensity of the situation, I feel like this story would work best if you lengthened it a bit. In that way, you could flesh out the progression from "relatively (and I stress the qualifier here) calm assessment" to "absolutely panicked monologue" and make the process a little more gradual - generating a deeper level of pathos for the reader. I'm not sure if that's what you want to do with this particular work, but a story with such a psychologically wrenched premise could only benefit from something like that. Trust me, there are far worse things people can say about a story other than "it needs to be longer".
Something like this?
A Good Guy With A Gun
I’m crouched behind a sign advertising a dating website. It’s not ideal, but I think it’s covering me well enough. I have to filter out the screams, and focus on the gunfire. It’s getting slightly fainter, which means he’s getting farther away. He didn’t notice me.
That gun is semi-automatic. I don’t know how much he’s got left in that clip, but those belts attached to him means that that doesn’t matter unless somebody stops him. In some sick way, a part of me wanted this to happen. I’m going to prove those drat liberals wrong, once and for all.
I have to keep hidden. Stay low on the ground. This mall is filled with waist-high furniture and kiosks. He’s about 60 feet away. I need to cut that distance in half if I want a clear shot.
He’s going into that store. Does he have a grudge against the company? Someone who works there? It doesn’t matter; I’m not going to ask him.
Hide behind the display shelf. Security cameras can see me, but he can’t. Have to keep it that way until the last possible moment.
I hear clicks. He’s out. I have between 10 and 20 seconds, depending on how good he is. It’s now or never. Gotta get him in my sights. Can’t shoot what I don’t see.
He’s looking at a woman. She’s holding a bag. I can't make out what's in it.
She’s frozen in fear. I’m going to save her.
I pull it out in a motion I practice constantly. I keep the permit in my glove box.
I’m going to be a hero.
He’s fumbling. His adrenaline is working against him. I’ve got him.
Aim. Go for the head. He could be wearing Kevlar under that shirt.
Pull.
The woman screams. I got him. I got
No.
That. On the floor
He’s turned around. He’s looking at me.
On the floor. The bag. Bleeding. Blood.
The woman. On her knees. Holding the bag.
The blood. The bag. Cradling the blood.
Cradling the baby.
No
No god oh no god please
The baby
No no no this isn’t this can’t god no
What did I
I don’t
I never
99 times out of 100 I
Oh god
The gun. This gun. I can’t hold
The man
the killer
the bad guy
He’s walking. To me.
Vomit. On the floor.
Hear no screams.
Just footsteps and sobs.
I want to wake up I want to wake up I want to die
I killed
Picks up the gun. My gun. The gun I
Why isn’t he pointing it at me?
Isn't he going to?
Do it.
Please.

quote:

I have been working on this "mini-novel" for a while now. I'm not sure if I'd classify it as neo-noir or post-modern or whatever. I like to think of it as just a story. Anyway, the plot is essentially about the collective unconscious, and the slow but inherent melding of the two realities of modern society (physical life/the internet and its various components) into something I call The Othernet. Basically, my main character (Morgan Stone) finds himself slowly becoming a sort of pioneer figure within The Othernet known as Rebell Yell.

Of course, being in such a position makes him vulnerable to all sorts of extra-normal agencies, including an unsentimental, chaotic figure known as The Canadian and an overly-emotional, luddite cult led by The Abbott. I've got a little bit written but am steadfastly working on Stone's backstory. I have a vague sense of what I want to do with it, but so far, connecting the dots to make it work isn't happening. What I do know about Stone is he's just enough a pop-culture oriented, wiseacre jimmie to make for either a sometimes crass, sometimes amusing narrator.


And so there you have it.
I suppose I should give this a critique. I'm a lot better with a red pen, but yeah I'll give it a shot.

First off: I like the tone that you have. It's fun when you do it well, which is about 90 to 95% of the time. The setting is fun, and you set a good atmosphere in the penthouse.

As said, the three quotes are too many. Pick one. Go for the Darwin one if you want to bring faith/doubt into the story somewhere down the line, if not then go with Elliot. The Churchill one has a historical context that makes feel limited in some unquantifiable way, while Elliot's is universal.

The narration talking to the audience is fine, but phrases like "as you can see" and "as you may have noticed" come off as silly, not wry.

I feel that it's less that he can "scarcely remember" when he became a new person and more that there are multiple answers to that question, as it was a process rather than a singular event.

"This all, simply put, is too real for me." feels like awkward phrasing. "This is all, simply put, too real for me." flows better, but you might want to excise "simply put" and try something else like "just" or some other adverb that doesn't end in -ly.

"The Canadian" is a ridiculous name for someone to choose if they want to inspire fear.

I suppose you could do a lot worse than "like the dragons of old" when it comes to a simile for a noire protagonist going to sleep, but it feels over the top, and not in a good way.

I actually kind of like the clitoris minus the pleasure metaphor. It gives of this impression of him feeling completely unable to fulfill his function. I think it's clever in that respect. I think it would work a lot better if it was "a clitoris of a man, minus the pleasure" instead of "the clitoris of men" because goddamn, that just sounds ridiculous. Maybe I'm crazy, but I think there's a lot of difference there.


Basically, hold every little "quip" in the narration to a certain standard. If you feel it doesn't work or falls below it, rewrite it. Your highs are very good, keep them going for as long as you can. I've always found good noire narration extremely difficult (unless I want to go for a Tracer Bullet style over the top thing,) but you hit more than you miss, so you definitely have a lot of potential here.

squeegee
Jul 22, 2001

Bright as the sun.

SpiderHyphenMan posted:

*in my defense, to write the internal monologue of someone who has had a bullet go through their head is pretty silly. Were this traditional prose, I'd likely commit either way.

"Bullet in the Brain" by Tobias Wolff would like to disagree!

SpiderHyphenMan
Mar 31, 2010

by Fluffdaddy


squeegee posted:

"Bullet in the Brain" by Tobias Wolff would like to disagree!
I said internal monologue, not 3rd person description of what they felt/saw over those few milliseconds.

squeegee
Jul 22, 2001

Bright as the sun.

SpiderHyphenMan posted:

I said internal monologue, not 3rd person description of what they felt/saw over those few milliseconds.

I don't know that there's much of a difference in this context-- it's still slowing down time and exploring what the person is thinking/experiencing in those last moments. I just wanted to point out that it can certainly be done, and done well, so you shouldn't shy away from it if it's something you want to do.

Down With People
Oct 31, 2012

The child delights in violence.


Aquatic (1069 words)

I am a sea creature.

I felt giddy as I approached the sea, hearing the numb roar of the water breaking against the shore. The wind blew my hair into my face, but I could still see the beach, blue on blue on yellow as the sky, surf and sand blended into each other. I stepped onto the sand, digging into its warm grains with my toes.

The thin line where the water met the shore stretched as far as I could see. There were little motley clusters of parents with their children, all of them fascinated by the yard-wide jellyfish that washed up every morning. They didn't surprise me; many creatures stranded themselves on these shores. The jellyfish just happened to do it more than the others. They have one desire, and that is to grow legs and lungs and join us as land creatures.

They can have the land. I only want the sea.

The beach had always been dangerous to creatures of both worlds. Storms were frequent and sudden, often shocking in the scope of their destruction. People were washed away, never to be seen again, claimed by the sea in the same way jellyfish were claimed by the land. And as monstrous waves dragged people away, they would spit out all varieties of fish and crustacean onto the shore. One memorable day, the carcass of a sperm whale found its way onto the shore, its skin dark grey and covered with ring-shaped scars. It grew, and grew, until eventually it exploded, showering everything around it in rotting guts and blubber.

But people are quick to forgive the sea, and I know why. Its draw is irresistible. A day did not go by when I didn't make my way to the beach, barefoot and quiet as a monk. I would nimbly step between mats of seaweed and jagged shell. I would let the water wash around my ankles, then my knees, then my hips, enjoying the feel of the cool green water. I would keep walking, forwards and forwards, until the water washed over my head entirely, and the sunlight was mottled with the pattern of foam from the waves.

I held my breath. I can hold it for a long time.

There are great, soaring vistas that most never see for the sole reason that they lie beneath the water. I was as familiar with these places as I was with the back of my hand. I could sense north by the feel of the current. I picked my way through mazes of coral, little fish darting away. I saw sharks glide above the coral, furtive and hungry, no empathy reflected in their dull eyes. I marvelled at hermit crabs who affixed anemones to their shells, little shrines dedicated to hearth and home. And far above, I could see the clumsy alien shapes of snorkellers, as foreign in the water as jellyfish lying dead on a beach.

I would emerge much later, unnoticed by the other beach-goers. Already, I would be missing the sea. I have no friends or family down there, but that doesn't bother me. There are entire lifetimes of experience in the solitude of the briny water that cannot be found on land. My time outside of the sea is only half-remembered, something that happened in a dream.

This was my life as a sea creature, and it was beautiful. I could have stayed that way forever. But one day, something had changed.

As I left the water, I saw the new lifeguard post. Concerned for the well-being of the beach's patrons, a whitewashed wooden platform was erected for the lifeguards to stand on. One of them was watching me, a small woman with sandy blonde hair, staring down through her cumbersome binoculars.

“You should swim between the flags,” she stated plainly. After thinking about this, I asked her to explain what she meant.

“We have flags over there and there,” she explained, pointing out two red and gold flags set apart from each other. I noticed that most swimmers milled around in the gap between them.

“That's our field of vision, where it's easiest to see. If you swim outside of that, we can't see you as well. I know you spend a lot of time out there, but you could still get pulled under by the tide. You're not a fish, you know.”

I sensed that this was a joke, but her innocent observation filled me with doubt. Could I really claim any superiority to the jellyfish and their failed attempts at evolution if I was forced to constantly returned to land? It was clear to me that I had a choice to make: either seek true apotheosis with the ocean, or leave it forever and strand myself in the half-dreams of land.

And that was no choice at all.

The day after, I ventured deeper into the water. I abandoned the simple pleasures of coral and sand for the exhilaration of the continental shelf. The sea floor vanished from sight completely, and I was left with only my keen sense of direction to guide me further away from land. In this cyan heaven, other life was rare. I would see a sun fish with its exotic array of fins lumber past me, and then nothing else for hours. Or I would see a school of herring traveling in phalanx, and marvel at their sense of purpose.

I styled myself after the sperm whale, and taught myself to dive, dive, go down into the darker waters where sunlight was a myth. Down here, the water became thick and cold as ice, but I managed to acclimatise. I became a predator, living off of the bizarre organisms that had evolved in these crushing depths. I swam deeper still, surpassing the whale, until I found myself on the floor of the abyssal plain.

I warmed myself by the streams of boiling bubbles from a volcanic vent, and meditated on what I had achieved. I had not left the water in what felt like months. There were no longer any secrets it hid from me. There was only one thing that separated me from the creatures of the sea, and that was my reliance on air from the surface. Surely I had mastered myself enough to be able to take my oxygen from the liquid around me?

I breathed in...

DrVenkman
Dec 27, 2005

I think he can hear you, Ray.


Ok so here's something in the last hour. I wanted to just write something just to write it. It isn't part of a longer story or anything like that, it's just something I wanted to knock out quick. I did initially have it about about 1,300 words but I cut it down to fit. I keep giving writing to friends to read and they mostly say nice things but I'm sure they're just trying not to hurt my feelings so lets do this thing.

Weeping Willow - 1,089 Words

Christian told them it was the oldest tree in the world, which was certainly not true, and that it was haunted by either a witch or a man who was wrongfully accused of murder. What he did know for sure was that one of them was tied to it and killed and in their dying breath they cursed the town and anyone who came near. Then, the story went, when the townspeople came after a few days to take the witch or the innocent man down the body had disappeared, only to be replaced by a gaping hole where the body once was.

He had overheard them planning their trip. Hardy had been telling the others that he knew where it was, the old willow tree. His brother heard from a friend who went there at least every weekend and had drawn them a map. They were planning their route, Hux even brought a compass, when Christian had appeared and told them everything he knew, or thought he knew, about the old tree.

“How do you know all this?” Hardy asked. Christian replied in a way that suggested that it should be obvious that the history of the tree was in all the old books, even if the old books couldn't agree on what story they were telling. Nevertheless, he continued, he wanted to see it for himself.

Every town had an old willow tree, just like every town had that house where bad things happened. Parents would shush their kids and shake their heads whenever they were asked about it, telling them that they shouldn’t go that far out of town. The tree was a monster, a bogeyman, the thing under the bed, and every kid wanted to see it for themselves.

The boys had made a deal to leave early that Saturday, meeting up outside Billy Powell’s house before taking the road down to Berryhill Farm. From there they would take the lanes for a few miles and then cross at the field with the broken wrought-iron gate. If they were on the right track they would soon pass where a stone bridge crossed a stream (Which they did) and hopefully wouldn’t have to deal with stray dogs that mysteriously liked to congregate in the area (Which they didn’t). They had assumed the dog part was just something to add flavour to the tale, the same way they were told that Devil Worshipers visited the tree every Saturday night to perform what was vaguely defined as, a ‘ritual’.

Christian didn’t say much and was happy to listen to the others. They would occasionally acknowledge him with a well timed joke about Mary Donnell, whom it had been rumored Christian had a crush on. They didn’t think to ask if it was true. Christian took it all in his stride and thought that between all the jokes they seemed nice enough, different from his usual crowd at least.

The tree stood out in front of all the others. Hardy swore blind that he had seen the tree from his house, but didn't realise it was that tree. It sat just on the crest of a hill with the forest back another hundred feet or so. Christian thought it was funny that it looked like all the other trees were scared of it.
When they reached it they didn’t know what to do. They looked at it, then walked around the back and looked at it some more. At the front was a gaping hole, just like the legend had said. It had the appearance of a crooked doorway and had a spiderweb that lurched from one side to the other. The boys all shared a knowing glance, all except Christian.

“Say Chris, why don’t you go touch it.” Billy said.
“The hole?” Christian said. “No way.”
“Come on. Don’t be a baby about it,” Hardy said. “Your not afraid of the spiders are you?”
“Of course not.”
“So don’t be a baby.”
Christian thought about it, then declined again.
“Listen,” Hux said. “Do this for us, I’ll make sure Mary talks to you in school.”
He thought while the others goaded him some more. Christian figured that a moment with Mary Donnell was worth putting his hand inside a tree. Even a haunted one.
Christian dropped his rucksack to the floor and slowly approached the tree. It towered over him and swayed gently back and forth, the wind whistling through its branches. The hole glared out at him, a void with no end, daring him, inviting him, to come closer.

Christian reached out, his hand swatting the cobweb to one side. Slowly his hand disappeared to the dark, then his wrist and forearm. He felt excited and scared at the same time. He felt the urge to pull out but he pushed on, wanting to see what happened. Then he felt something shove him from behind and quickly he could see nothing except black. He wasn’t even sure if had his eyes closed or not. Then came the unmistakable sound of laughter.

Faint, then louder. When Christian started crying the others laughed louder. He tried to back up and leave the way he came in but something blocked his path. When he cried for the others to help him they laughed harder. It sounded like one of them, Hardy maybe, tried to say something but it wasn't long until his laughter took over instead.

Then, Christian felt the tree start to creak. It was a subtle sound, but unmistakable. It groaned like a giant waking up. Christian, now with something else to focus on, had stopped crying. The laughter had stopped too, only to be replaced by confusion, and then screaming. Christian had his eyes closed this time and tried to put his fingers to his ears. He tried to drown out the sound as the boys screamed and the tree twisted and groaned all around him. First three boys were screaming, then two, and then there was nothing.

As quickly as Christian had found himself inside the tree he found himself out of it again, as if it had spat him out like a bad taste. He didn't feel scared anymore, or panic. He was in awe. He wanted to tell the others he was right but well…the others had gone.

He grabbed his rucksack and pulled out his sandwiches and his diary. He sat on a hill and surveyed the scene, then he began to write under the shadow of the old willow tree.

Zack_Gochuck
Jan 3, 2007

Stupid Wrestling People


You guys should totally critique each other's work.

Down With People
Oct 31, 2012

The child delights in violence.


Zack_Gochuck posted:

You guys should totally critique each other's work.

I like the way you think, Gochuck.

It's mostly okay, but there's some awkward phrasing in there. A couple of examples:

quote:

Then, the story went, when the townspeople came after a few days to take the witch or the innocent man down the body had disappeared, only to be replaced by a gaping hole where the body once was.

You should just say 'the body had been replaced by a gaping hole'.

quote:

If they were on the right track they would soon pass where a stone bridge crossed a stream (Which they did) and hopefully wouldn’t have to deal with stray dogs that mysteriously liked to congregate in the area (Which they didn’t).

Just tell us that there's stray dogs. Or not, as the case may be. Whether or not stray dogs mysteriously like congregating is irrelevant. When you proof-read, try reading your sentences aloud. If they sound awkward, change them.

The story works okay, but Christian's reaction is a bit off; three kids just got eaten by a tree monster and all he thinks is, "Wow, what a scoop!" If we're meant to empathise with him, he should have more human reactions to poo poo like that.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME






Down With People posted:

Aquatic (1069 words)

I had some thoughts while reading this. One was that I'm not sure how I feel about the narrator addressing the reader in present tense the few times you do it ("I am a Sea Creature," "They can have the land. I only want the sea," "I held my breath. I can hold it for a long time")given that the story ends with the narrator's fate ambiguous. It's weird to have the narrator narrate in present tense in an otherwise past tense story if that narrator is no longer in a position to be telling the story by the end.

Second thought was: Adjectives! So many of them. I cocked an eyebrow at the "numb roar" of the water. Oceans are always roaring in fiction. But I'm not sure how the sound of it would be numb. Elsewise, you do a lot of telling us how wonderful and exhilarating and shocking and etc everything is. I think the story seeks to be poetic or sublime, but I got a little weary of the narrator telling me over and over how great and beautiful and wonderful the ocean is (at least without tension to balance it out, see below).

The biggest thing was, well, the plot. Namely, the narrator's motivation for suddenly forsaking the land and going out to the ocean forever. For one thing, you describe the shore as stretching as far as the eye could see...why wouldn't the narrator just shrug and swim somewhere else when the lifeguard asks them to swim between the flags? But ok he/she had some epiphany that they were no better than the jellyfish, how she(in my head it's a she, no idea if that's the case) had to prove to herself that she was really a sea creature. The whole "needs air" caveat is weird considering she is able to survive down in intense cold and lethal pressure. The ending left me thinking "well, she has all these other super powers, why not this?"

But yeah, there isn't a whole lot to drive this piece along, except that the narrator doesn't like the land much and won't just swim elsewhere, so she leaves. No sense of what she's leaving behind, no sense of who she is, other than someone who can inexplicably swim to the bottom of the ocean. I don't even mind that her abilities aren't explained, but if she disliked the land so much and could apparently go places no other human can go, why didn't she just do that in the first place? What was keeping her at that particular beach?

Watch out for stuff like this:

quote:

Concerned for the well-being of the beach's patrons, a whitewashed wooden platform was erected for the lifeguards to stand on

This reads like the wooden platform is the one who is concerned about the beach patrons' well-being. You could say something like Concerned for the well-being of the beach's patrons, the city had erected a whitewashed wooden platform for the lifeguards to stand on or something.

I would like this better with more conflict and less unresolved questions. And a few less adjectives.

...

Here is a thing I wrote a while ago for Thunderdome. I kinda l...l...like it a little, but the first draft was a lot more words and I can't really recall what they were. I'm revising some of my old stuff for fun and practice, so any input on parts that are lumpy, awkward, or unclear would be appreciated.

The Magician's Apprentice
989 words

Raspiro took the center ring, and the crowd went wild. Julian flung another shovelful of dung into the bin. Fragments of the performance drifted out to the elephant pens, where he labored ankle deep in straw and manure.

"Ladies and gentleman, tonight is your night. When you leave this tent, your world will have changed beyond your wildest reckoning. Your very self will be a stranger to you..."

Julian knew the monologue by heart. Everyone who travelled with the circus did. His shovel bit through the heaps of offal like a blade, with such force that his old calluses were torn open to weep puss.

"...but ours is not a voyage into the mystical, and any perception of the paranormal is simply a product of your imagination. When you are in this tent, you are scientists. The phenomena you are about to witness will test your grip on reality, but rest assured: It is all just an illusion."

There came a prickle, the feeling of an invisible hand just barely touching the little hairs at the nape of his neck.

"Celest," Julian said without turning. "Shouldn't you be inside taking notes?"

"You and I both know the show well enough to perform it ourselves now, I think," she said, and Julian felt the warmth of her against his arm. He shrugged her off and stalked to the far side of the enclosure. The murmur of the crowd rose and fell like waves inside the big tent, every man, woman and child cooing in daft rapture of The Great Raspiro.

"Julian." The simple sound of his name, innocent and breathy.

"No." He grunted the word through gritted teeth. "I know what you're doing here."

"What am I doing?" Her voice was closer, almost at his ear.

"You come here, you wait until I'm rear end-deep in poo poo. And then you try to use your goddamn soothsayer voice tricks on me, tricks that he taught you."

"You've been avoiding me. I had no choice."

Julian laughed despairingly and turned around then, regretting it as soon as he saw her. Even in the mud, her boots and the hem of her gown were pristine white. When he met her eyes, though, there was no glamour that could conceal the tarnish of the circus on her soul.

"I don't usually keep company with people that look at me like I'm a trained monkey. And I know how folks look at trained monkeys, believe me."

"Julian," she said plaintively. "You could outthink anyone in that audience. You could go be a scientist, or a politician, or--"

"I'm not going to cheat by inventing the television thirty years ahead of schedule. You knew drat well what could happen when you let me follow you here, and you know I'm going to be mucking pens and stables until I die."

"You now imagine that you are of one mind and one soul, each and every one of you transcending your physical form to become one. Deep in this meditative state, imagine that self, that whole, flowing into the ring, filling it with your essence..." The magician's voice boomed.

Celest shivered and looked toward the big tent. "I don't like this part, you know. He makes me practice it on the smaller crowds, and it just feels wrong. I'm not a total monster yet."

Even Julian could feel it, like a fishhook in the center of his forehead. Raspiro reeled in the audience, and took from them whatever it was that the circus needed to carry on for another week or month or day. Souls. Dreams. Julian didn't like to speculate.

"You're not a monster yet," he said. "But you're not the woman I married, either. Here--I want you to look at something." Julian reached into his shirt and produced a small velvet bag, ornately embroidered, that hung from the chain around his neck. It appeared large enough to hold little more than a pocket watch or perfume bottle. The bag was Julian's one concession to magic; like a rabbit from a hat, he pulled a cellphone from an apparently impossible place.

"You brought a phone back with you?" Celest's serene air of composure flickered. "Raspiro forbade us anything like that. Emphatically."

"'Forbade,'" Julian spat. "You don't even talk like you anymore. Look." He shoved the device into her hands. "If you can remember how to use it. I've pulled up a photo, maybe you'll recall being in it." Celest stared down at the picture on the screen, her face cast in pale, unnatural blue light.

Two people smiled back at her, a man and a woman. Julian looked ten years younger, and Celest....

"You were Amanda Meyers. You loved cats and sketch comedy. You wore skinny jeans and band T-shirts. You were my beautiful, funny wife. No charms. No glamours. Just you." Julian was shaking. "And now you're his. And we can't go back. We'll never go to another rock show. There were so many things. So many things."

What Celest would have said, Julian never knew. From the big tent came a thunderous applause, and the audience began to file out into the night. Some went to waiting carriages, others in dreamy-eyed throngs on foot. They murmured to each other in reverent tones, and why not? Raspiro was an exceptional man, capable of exceptional things.

"I should go," Celest said quietly.

Julian snatched the phone back. "No doubt," he said. "I'm sure your presence is required elsewhere."

"Yes," she whispered. "He's sorted out that I wasn't watching tonight, I think." Goosebumps stood out on her skin.

"Well go, then. I've got a lot of poo poo to muck through, if you hadn't noticed."

She turned and went, not fast enough to conceal how her face crumpled as she left him.

It was only later, when he fell exhausted onto his cot, that Julian remembered the mud that had spattered her gown as she fled to Raspiro.

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Sitting Here posted:

The Magician's Apprentice
989 words

I remember this story! It was one of my favorites in its Thunderdome round despite the things I wasn't sure I understood. Away from TD, the prompt ('A smaller story within a bigger story,' without any exposition) hurts it, I think. I'm distracted from Julian and Celest's breaking love because I'm wondering why and how Raspiro came back in time, what he needs souls for, what his relationship is to Celest, etc. Some of those things could probably be kept vague and told through implication, but I stall every time on 'Why and how did these people time travel? What was Raspiro in the modern world?' The second question might be the important one.

Otherwise, all that stands out to me is that in the phrase 'his old calluses were torn open to weep puss,' the word you want is 'pus.' I can't help you find lumpy or awkward bits since I didn't notice any. Julian's conversation with Celest does read as though you're trying to avoid explaining Raspiro; I don't think 'awkward' is the word for that, but it's something my attention snagged on a little.

DrVenkman
Dec 27, 2005

I think he can hear you, Ray.


Down With People posted:

I like the way you think, Gochuck.

It's mostly okay, but there's some awkward phrasing in there. A couple of examples:


You should just say 'the body had been replaced by a gaping hole'.


Just tell us that there's stray dogs. Or not, as the case may be. Whether or not stray dogs mysteriously like congregating is irrelevant. When you proof-read, try reading your sentences aloud. If they sound awkward, change them.

The story works okay, but Christian's reaction is a bit off; three kids just got eaten by a tree monster and all he thinks is, "Wow, what a scoop!" If we're meant to empathise with him, he should have more human reactions to poo poo like that.

You're right about the ending, I'm not a big fan of it either, even though I like the imagery. To be honest it was probably a victim of getting it down short enough to post here, when it was a bit longer the idea was that he was sort of obsessed with the idea and story behind the tree and didn't care much for the others but that ends up getting expunged when I cut it down.

Thanks for the feedback though, I can work with 'mostly okay'.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Sitting Here posted:

The Magician's Apprentice
989 words

Raspiro took the center ring, and the crowd went wild. Julian flung another shovelful of dung into the bin. Fragments of the performance drifted out to the elephant pens, where he labored ankle deep in straw and manure.

I like the juxtapostion, but I'm not wild about the crowd going wild. It seems clumsy to open with such a cliche.

Julian knew the monologue by heart. Everyone who travelled with the circus did. His shovel bit through the heaps of offal like a blade, with such force that his old calluses were torn open to weep puss.

offal is the internal organs and entrails of a butchered animals. Not sure that's what you're going for here. Also pus.


"...but ours is not a voyage into the mystical, and any perception of the paranormal is simply a product of your imagination. When you are in this tent, you are scientists. The phenomena you are about to witness will test your grip on reality, but rest assured: It is all just an illusion."

Generally, I enjoy the Carnival patter - a nice touch well executed


There came a prickle, the feeling of an invisible hand just barely touching the little hairs at the nape of his neck.

"Celest," Julian said without turning. "Shouldn't you be inside taking notes?"

"You and I both know the show well enough to perform it ourselves now, I think,"

There's a little bit of disconnect here and later. Should she be taking notes or actually being part of the show - doing something with the day's catch. Not quite clear

she said, and Julian felt the warmth of her against his arm. He shrugged her off and stalked to the far side of the enclosure. The murmur of the crowd rose and fell like waves inside the big tent, every man, woman and child cooing in daft rapture of The Great Raspiro.

daft is a funny word to use here, seems almost out of place. Also 'in rapture of' is maybe ungrammatical, enraptured by is bit more 'proper'.

"Julian." The simple sound of his name, innocent and breathy.

"No." He grunted the word through gritted teeth. "I know what you're doing here."

"What am I doing?" Her voice was closer, almost at his ear.

"You come here, you wait until I'm rear end-deep in poo poo. And then you try to use your goddamn soothsayer voice tricks on me, tricks that he taught you."

It's a little hard to get into this because we don't know what kind of voice tricks these are. She doesn't appear to be coercing him, and just getting him to talk doesn't seem terribly soothsayery.


"I'm not going to cheat by inventing the television thirty years ahead of schedule. You knew drat well what could happen when you let me follow you here, and you know I'm going to be mucking pens and stables until I die."

so they're time travellers, but magical ones. I think I'd prefer one or the other. Both seems unfocussed - as it's harder to empathise with their plight.

"You now imagine that you are of one mind and one soul, each and every one of you transcending your physical form to become one. Deep in this meditative state, imagine that self, that whole, flowing into the ring, filling it with your essence..." The magician's voice boomed.

Celest shivered and looked toward the big tent. "I don't like this part, you know. He makes me practice it on the smaller crowds, and it just feels wrong. I'm not a total monster yet."

this was the bit - is she taking notes, or is she an active participant. I think we need a slightly better idea of the cost of her participation or lack of it.


Even Julian could feel it, like a fishhook in the center of his forehead. Raspiro reeled in the audience, and took from them whatever it was that the circus needed to carry on for another week or month or day. Souls. Dreams. Julian didn't like to speculate.

So he doesn't know what's going on even though he's from the future? Hmmm

"You were Amanda Meyers. You loved cats and sketch comedy. You wore skinny jeans and band T-shirts. You were my beautiful, funny wife. No charms. No glamours. Just you." Julian was shaking. "And now you're his. And we can't go back. We'll never go to another rock show. There were so many things. So many things."

I really liked this bit - we get to The Moment and you carry it off. If the clues in the rest of the story matched up with this I think the piece would be stronger. I don't know if people actually repeat things in sorry tones as he does at the end here.

What Celest would have said, Julian never knew. From the big tent came a thunderous applause, and the audience began to file out into the night. Some went to waiting carriages, others in dreamy-eyed throngs on foot. They murmured to each other in reverent tones, and why not? Raspiro was an exceptional man, capable of exceptional things.

No mention here of what Raspiro was using them for. Seems an odd element to not mention



I get from the above crit that this was a TD piece purposefully left with only hints of a wider context, but I think you might have left a few too many elements hanging for the piece to work completely, because some of those (future tech vs magic for example) are in contrast and cloud the reader with questions.

dk2m
May 6, 2009


I am not a writer. I have never written anything outside of mandatory school assignments. But lately, I've been more...inspired. I've decided to undertake a regimen I've seen mentioned here and elsewhere to begin writing down something - anything - for atleast 20 minutes a day. I wrote this little guy a few days ago and I was hoping I could get some feedback, anything from tone, to sentence structure or what have you.

Untitled
310 words

The last thing Mr. Patton expected to see on his driveway was a pristine 1969 Dodge Charger. As he rubbed his sleepy eyelids for the fifth time, the car simply refused to disappear. There it was, gleaming in the bright morning sunshine, a dazzling metallic red reflecting in all which ways. He removed his trebling hands from the blinds and determined to venture outside to touch the drat thing; maybe that would finally put his doubts to rest.

The floors gave several protesting groans as he carefully maneuvered his wheelchair across the small living room where precarious stacks of newspapers and junk were arranged haphazardly, many articles older than the gray hairs of the man himself. Normally, the sight of the rubbish strewn about would elicit a hardening of his heart as he tried in vain to stave off depression but today was not a normal day. He caught himself breathing heavily and almost braced himself for another heart attack – but it was only a symptom of his excitement. Reaching the door in frenzied anticipation, he yanked it open and the sunlight seared into his eyes, involuntarily shutting it tight.

Opening his eyes slowly and squinting as hard as he could, the man placed one hand on his forehead and the other on the metallic rim of his wheelchair. Mustering all his strength, he gave it a weedy push. Through the haze and blinding light, he could barely make out the smooth curves of the trunk, could scarcely see the black racing stripes that divided the car neatly in half, but heard clearly in his mind the rumblings of the exhaust, the angelic hymn of eight galloping pistons rumbling, gurgling, low and menacing. Even though he knew his lame feet would never know the feeling of 400 poised horses, an unfamiliar sensation rippled in waves throughout his body – happiness.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

dk2m posted:

I was hoping I could get some feedback, anything from tone, to sentence structure or what have you.

Yay writing. Yay discipline. Boo sucking. Yay constructive criticism!

If there's a word that I'd use to describe this, it's overwritten. You know how when you see a kid's drawing, and they don't draw eyes, they draw the universal symbol for eyes, a circle with a circle in it? Well, this would be the the literary equivalent of that. You're familiar with the patterns, but you're using them rather than writing about what's really there.



Untitled Give it a title. Own the work
310 words

The last thing Mr. Patton expected to see on his driveway was a pristine 1969 Dodge Charger. As he rubbed his sleepy eyelids for the fifth time,

Think about this. You wake up and start going about your day. By the time you've got to a point where you can see your driveway you're already a bit awake - but then you see a new car in your driveway. So you rub your eyes five times? Five? Way too many. Doing it once is a cliche, because people rarely ever do that just because they can't believe their eyes, but five times is just cliche abuse.


the car simply refused to disappear. There it was, gleaming in the bright morning sunshine, a dazzling metallic red reflecting in all which ways.

reflecting as a verb here should really be reflecting someTHING. If you want it to be the sunshine then work the two in together rather than have separate clauses.

He removed his trebling hands from the blinds and determined to venture outside to touch the drat thing; maybe that would finally put his doubts to rest.

Trembling. Spellcheck can't fix words which are actually other words, so don't forget to do it by hand also. Again, overwriting rears its head. It's a 'drat' thing and he needs to 'finally' put his doubts to rest. The problem is, you haven't earned those words - we haven't seen his frustration or heard his persistent doubts - all we've had is five eyerubbings worth of disbelief.

The floors gave several protesting groans as he carefully maneuvered his wheelchair across the small living room where precarious stacks of newspapers and junk were arranged haphazardly, many articles older than the gray hairs of the man himself.

generally a room only has one floor. The articles detail is just odd. I get that you want to convey his age, but why articles - why not the newspapers themselves? Maybe he's clipped out articles on a particular subject that tells us about him? Is he a hoarder, or can he just not be arsed - if the latter, that might be a lead in to his depression, rather than telling us about it later. And grey hairs, while a sign of age, don't have to be particularly old themselves - you're mistaking the symbol for the specific detail there


Normally, the sight of the rubbish strewn about would elicit a hardening of his heart as he tried in vain to stave off depression but today was not a normal day.

This is the very definition of telling rather than showing. Don't do this - you can convey the uniqueness of the experience perfectly well through his reactions so this is unnecessary

He caught himself breathing heavily and almost braced himself for another heart attack – but it was only a symptom of his excitement. Reaching the door in frenzied anticipation, he yanked it open and the sunlight seared into his eyes, involuntarily shutting it tight.

I doubt he almost braced himself. That's like falling over and almost bleeding. Let him prepare and then realise he's wrong e.g. He caught himself breathing heavily and paused for a moment, looking for signs of another heart attack but it was only the unfamiliar shock of excitement.

Seared into isn't really a good word choice as it suggests permanence. Her name might be seared into my heart, but light would sear my eyes. IF it was a laser light. You can use sear as a verb, but it's a powerful one and I'd keep it for something that was indelible.

also presumably shutting 'them' tight, unless he's a pervy winker. Also - he's in frenzied anticipation, but earlier he was carefully maneuvering. You're overqualifying his state in each case, and your qualifications aren't matching.



Opening his eyes slowly and squinting as hard as he could, the man placed one hand on his forehead and the other on the metallic rim of his wheelchair. Mustering all his strength, he gave it a weedy push.

It took me a while to figure out that he was shading his eyes, so perhaps you could actually say that's what he did, rather than placing one hand on his forehead like a crap Romantic poet. Also - I'm not much one for wheelchair physics, but I assume that if you push with one hand on the WHEEL rim, you'll go round in a circle. Could be wrong. Also, people in wheelchairs tend to not be that weedy in the upper body, but there could be mitigating circumstances I suppose.

You don't really need to work 'hard as you can' to squint. Hmm, it's arguable, but everything else is frenzied and heart attack material so this just comes across as more upping the effort level of everything to make it seem more interesting, which is usually a mistake.


Through the haze and blinding light,

again, blinding is overplaying your hand here - dial it down

he could barely make out the smooth curves of the trunk, could scarcely see the black racing stripes that divided the car neatly in half, but heard clearly in his mind the rumblings of the exhaust, the angelic hymn of eight galloping pistons rumbling, gurgling, low and menacing.

Credit where it's due, this doesn't suck and is actually somewhat effective. I think it would be more effective if the rest of the piece wasn't so littered with hyperbole. This is the story's moment so it needs to count. Also you said rumbling twice. Don't do that, the second one always sticks out like a sore thumb.

Even though he knew his lame feet would never know the feeling of 400 poised horses, an unfamiliar sensation rippled in waves throughout his body – happiness.

This doesn't quite work. I think it's lame feet. Lame feet never know anything and you've used the know verb twice in a sentence which is awkward. Plus, happiness as an ending...you're going for the big meaningful ending, but haven't quite nailed it. Why is he happy - because he's near a nice car he'll never drive? Is he grateful for that moment of imagination? Have a think about what exactly you're trying to express.



So - there's all that. Finally do all the traditional things. Delete every adjective and adverb and then only add back the ones that the sentences don't make sense without. Next, read it aloud to yourself, to see how it sounds to your ear rather than your eye. You will pick up a lot of problems that way.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at 22:09 on May 20, 2013

dk2m
May 6, 2009


Fumblemouse posted:

So - there's all that. Finally do all the traditional things. Delete every adjective and adverb and then only add back the ones that the sentences don't make sense without. Next, read it aloud to yourself, to see how it sounds to your ear rather than your eye. You will pick up a lot of problems that way.

I appreciate the criticism, thank you!

I guess I'm having a hard time understanding when to use descriptive words. But I will be more aware of them now, I tend to wrongly equate LOTS OF WORDS = GOOD PROSE.

I definitely see where you're coming from as far as the hyperbole comment. Subtlety is hard for me to really control at this point, I get so excited about what I'm trying to convey that I go overboard with it. Hopefully, as I write more, I'll get better.

As far as the logical gaps you pointed out, it just shows the points where I failed as a writer. In my mind, I know exactly what I'm trying to express but that's a hell of a lot different than putting it in words. I'll keep rewriting this until it's unambiguous. Thanks bud

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

dk2m posted:

I get so excited about what I'm trying to convey that I go overboard with it. Hopefully, as I write more, I'll get better.

As far as the logical gaps you pointed out, it just shows the points where I failed as a writer.

Excitement is good, but delayed gratification can be a much stronger experience. The only way to fail as a writer is not to write. There's lots of ways, however, to learn to do better as a writer, and loving up is one of the best, so give yourself permission to do that as much as it takes to not do that any more. You want to put your best foot forward, though, so make sure you've polished as much as you know how before subbing again.

Also, writing crits yourself is the price you must pay here in the farm in exchange for receiving them (you should really do one before submitting, but I felt a desperate urge to procrastinate this morning, so you lucked out), and is a great way to understand what's really going on in others' writing and how it comes across to the reader (which is why I'm here - I need the practice to apply to my own work where I can be a bit sloppy). So find a submission and go for it.

You'll find a lot of good general advice here and in other threads (like the ThunderDome prompts, which you can enter if you feel like getting broken on a wheel and reconstructed slightly stronger every week ). Take advantage, and next sub you can blow us away with how far you've come. So there's that to look forward to. Just don't forget your crit! or something incredibly horrible will definitely happen to you or your fingers.

Thoren
May 28, 2008


dk2m posted:

I am not a writer. I have never written anything outside of mandatory school assignments. But lately, I've been more...inspired. I've decided to undertake a regimen I've seen mentioned here and elsewhere to begin writing down something - anything - for atleast 20 minutes a day. I wrote this little guy a few days ago and I was hoping I could get some feedback, anything from tone, to sentence structure or what have you.

Untitled
310 words
:words:

You need to think about your sentence structure and verb usage more. Also, nothing really happens in this story. I think flash fiction works best with a neat 3-act structure.

Something, and then something new happens followed by the bulk of the story, and then the climax happens. Your story promise is pretty much "A mystery car appears" and it never pays off because you don't tell us why.

Thoren fucked around with this message at 03:16 on May 21, 2013

Blarg Blargety
Nov 3, 2004

Children love Totoro
and he loves them.


dk2m posted:

I am not a writer. I have never written anything outside of mandatory school assignments. But lately, I've been more...inspired. I've decided to undertake a regimen I've seen mentioned here and elsewhere to begin writing down something - anything - for atleast 20 minutes a day. I wrote this little guy a few days ago and I was hoping I could get some feedback, anything from tone, to sentence structure or what have you.

Untitled
310 words

Okay, I can't add much that others here haven't, but I want to give you another way to look at this. You have a protagonist and a setting, sure. What's the main conflict though? This old man's surprise at seeing the car?

What is the main obstacle in overcoming the conflict?

Here's what I get:

Main Conflict - He sees a car suddenly there in his driveway, he can't believe it. He wants to get to it and see if it's real.

Complications - His house is messy, he's in a wheelchair, and he has various health issues

Climax - He finally gets to the car and then ... he's happy, even though he can't drive it.

Good:

- His health issues serve as a source of conflict, and help set up the "twist" that he can't drive it, but he's still happy.

- His initial excitement is justified by the final happiness, so there's a bit of payoff.

Bad:

- The messy house and the old magazines are interesting touches, but these details don't connect to the story of "Oh my God there's a freaking awesome car in my driveway". You would either have to tie them in (magazines featuring his bygone racing days, perhaps?) or remove them.

- The reader has to know (or have some hints about) why he's happy at the end. You tell us he can't drive now, so is it nostalgia? He's a collector?

- Some hint of where the car came from is also needed. Is it magic? A devoted fan bought a car for him? An old lover?


As others have said, grammar is also an issue. Reading aloud is always a good idea before you submit, as is printing a hard copy and going over it with a red pen.

Symptomless Coma
Mar 30, 2007
for shock value

I can't see anything fresh to crit here but I really want something, so the next person to put something up will get close reading from me.

In pre-emptive exchange (I'm taking out a crit-loan. A cloan.) here's something. I'm planning to submit to this competition (sub-500w, everyone have at it), but I worry that I've been led astray by discovering Borges. If you read this, would you go "nice idea but I don't give a poo poo"? If so, is there a way I can fix that? Ta.

That Eggshell.

Hidden due to submission, erk.

Symptomless Coma fucked around with this message at 21:04 on Nov 26, 2013

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







Symptomless Coma posted:

I can't see anything fresh to crit here but I really want something, so the next person to put something up will get close reading from me.

In pre-emptive exchange (I'm taking out a crit-loan. A cloan.) here's something. I'm planning to submit to this competition (sub-500w, everyone have at it), but I worry that I've been led astray by discovering Borges. If you read this, would you go "nice idea but I don't give a poo poo"? If so, is there a way I can fix that? Ta.

That Eggshell. (200w)

In that epoch the people were born not only along different imagined lines of latitude and longitude but at different heights, so that a baby girl might wink into being miles into the ionosphere, into her own starlit darkness to which she was adapted. Just as many children were born into earth itself, womb swapped for a chamber of liquid mantle.

A minority walked on the surface of the Earth itself. To the sky people it was a green carpet covered in specks, to the ground people it was a brown ceiling that buried them. To the people who could touch it, it was as delicate and unlikely as an eggshell.

As they grew older, those few people grew bored of that land’s flatness. They used their tools to dig into the earth, and they piled that stolen earth into towers that reached the sky, so that they could experience the two parts of the world denied to them.

But the holes rent the ground, and the towers abutted the sky, and the people found they were unwanted in these worlds. And when they climbed back to where they’d come from, they found that mottled eggshell no longer worth walking on.

This reads exactly like one of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities. Which is a fantastic thing, since that's basically the Best Book in the World.

I think there are a couple of better word choices you could make - 'experience' is weak, as is 'the people found'. 'Used their tools', ditto - why not 'dug'? But those are minor.

Martello
Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW


sebmojo posted:

Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities is basically the Best Book in the World.

Symptomless Coma
Mar 30, 2007
for shock value

Yeah, guess what I just one-clicked. I'm not even mad that it's already been done, that sounds amazing.

Thanks for the advice - I've tweaked a couple of pressure points and it already feels a lot better. Gonna sleep on it though.

Martello
Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW


Real talk that little vignette owned. It's not my favorite type of thing but obviously I love Calvino and that piece starts to capture his magic. Keep it up.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







Martello posted:

Real talk that little vignette owned. It's not my favorite type of thing but obviously I love Calvino and that piece starts to capture his magic. Keep it up.

quote:

Cities & The Dead

What makes Argia different from other cities is that it has earth instead of air. The streets are completely filled with dirt, clay packs the rooms to the ceiling, on every stair another stairway is set in negative, over the roofs of the houses hang layers of rocky terrain like skies with clouds. We do not know if the inhabitants can move about the city, widening the worm tunnels and the crevices where roots twist: the dampness destroys people's bodies, and they have scant strength; everyone is better off remaining still, prone; anyway, it is dark.

From up here, nothing of Argia can be seen; some say "It's down below there," and we can only believe them. The place is deserted. At night, putting your ear to the ground, you can sometimes hear a door slam.

Cities & Desire 5

From there, after six days and seven nights, you arrive at Zobeide, the white city, well exposed to the moon, with streets wound about themselves as in a skein. They tell this tale of its foundation: men of various nations had an identical dream. They saw a woman running at night through an unknown city; she was seen from behind, with long hair, and she was naked. They dreamed of pursuing her. As they twisted and turned, each of them lost her. After the dream, they set out in search of that city; they never found it, but they found one another; they decided to build a city like the one in the dream. In laying out the streets, each followed the course of his pursuit; at the spot where they had lost the fugitive's trail, they arranged spaces and walls differently from the dream, so she would be unable to escape again.

This was the city of Zobeide, where they settled, waiting for that scene to be repeated one night. None of them, asleep or awake, ever saw the woman again. The city's streets were streets where they went to work every day, with no link any more to the dreamed chase. Which, for that matter, had long been forgotten.

New men arrived from other lands, having had a dream like theirs, and in the city of Zobeide, they recognized something from the streets of the dream, and they changed the positions of arcades and stairways to resemble more closely the path of the pursued woman and so, at the spot where she had vanished, there would remain no avenue of escape.

The first to arrive could not understand what drew these people to Zobeide, this ugly city, this trap.



Trading Cities 4

In Ersilia, to establish the relationships that sustain the city's life, the inhabitants stretch strings from the corners of the houses, white or black or gray or black-and-white according to whether they mark a relationship of blood, of trade, authority, agency. When the strings become so numerous that you can no longer pass among them, the inhabitants leave: the houses are dismantled; only the strings and their supports remain.
From a mountainside, camping with their household goods, Ersilia's refugees look at the labyrinth of taut strings and poles that rise in the plain. That is the city of Ersilia still, and they are nothing.

They rebuild Ersilia elsewhere. They weave a similar pattern of strings which they would like to be more complex and at the same time more regular than the other. Then they abandon it and take themselves and their houses still farther away.

Thus, when traveling in the territory of Ersilia, you come upon the ruins of abandoned cities, without the walls which do not last, without the bones of the dead which the wind rolls away.

Martello
Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW


Cities and Sound

In the city of Piana, all communication is through song and music. The sound of music is ubiquitous in the city, floating from the windows of taverns and houses, rising from work pits in the warehouse district.

The people of Piana carry small musical instruments such as mandolins and dulcimers, which they play to accompany their songs of conversation. A merchant sits at his booth, strumming a lyre, singing his price in the key of G. The buyer responds with a lower price in a modulated E Phrygian, striking a syncopated beat on his skin drum.

Two lovers sing softly to one another as they sit on the soft grass in a nearby park, the young man playing a violin, while his lady turns the crank of a vielle a roué.

An ox-driver cracks his whip in time to a two-part song he sings with his partner, discussing the rising grain prices. His wagon creaks past a small house, where the sounds of a family argument can be heard. The father finger picks a down-tuned guitar while he sings a harsh song of correction, the two daughters lifting clear voices in protest, the younger singing harmony while her older sister sings the melody. The mother does not sing, but plays an organ to accompany her daughters.

When heard from up close, each song of conversation is individually interesting, but when the sounds of the city are taken in as a whole, it is a roaring cacophony that hurts the ears of any traveler.

Symptomless Coma
Mar 30, 2007
for shock value

sebmartello posted:



Hello, Thunderdome prompt.

I know of one other modern book in the genre of literary thought experiment: Sum by David Eagleman. 40 different visions of what happens when you die, each making a point. It's good.

Edit: Crits are coming for you two, who aped it so well I assumed you were quoting. Bastards.

Symptomless Coma fucked around with this message at 16:11 on Jun 17, 2013

Symptomless Coma
Mar 30, 2007
for shock value

sebmojo posted:

Cities & The Dead

I've just realised this was a real Calvino. gently caress it, everyone can get better.

sebmojo posted:

What makes Argia different from other cities is that it has earth instead of air. Bold opening gambit.The streets are completely filled with dirt, clay packs the rooms to the ceiling, on every stair another stairway is set in negative, over the roofs of the houses hang layers of rocky terrain like skies with clouds. These are all fine; four ways of expanding on the earlier point. However, did it have to be a list? I'm sure these four things could have been linked into a single elegant idea - a sense of flying through the city, rather than being told to look at pockets of it.We do not know But there's a problem here, Calvino. You've made strong assertions about what the city is like, and now you're introducing doubt. Do we know or not? To hold it together, I'd recommend the use of a careful "it is said," or similar.if the inhabitants can move about the city, widening the worm tunnels and the crevices where roots twist: the dampness destroys people's bodies, and they have scant strength; everyone is better off remaining still, prone; anyway, it is dark. Ace.

From up here, nothing of Argia can be seen; some say "It's down below there," and we can only believe them. The place is deserted.This doesn't make much sense. At night, putting your ear to the ground, you can sometimes hear a door slam. Ending the whole thing with a slamming door is linguistically inspired (as close as you can get to saying 'the end'), and sensorially interesting - it's a sound all of us sometimes think we hear.

8/10, Calvino. Good job.

Symptomless Coma
Mar 30, 2007
for shock value

Martello posted:

Cities and Sound
You did this one yourself, right? I hope so. I'd hate to spend all night critting dead Italians. Anyway, I love it, and I think there some some cunning edits that could make it great.

Martello posted:

In the city of Piana, all communication is through song and music. A really bold start, I'm starting to love this style. As an aside, this has made me realise how circuitous my Thunderdome stuff can be, like I'm abashed of saying where we are, what's going on, what the high concept is. And why not?The sound of music is ubiquitous in the city, floating I have a thing about 'ing'. To me, 'ing' is the language of reportage, and you could be more direct. Just me, but isn't "music floats" more direct and involving that the are-form, "music is floating"? from the windows of taverns and houses, risingditto from work pits in the warehouse district.

The people of Piana carry small musical instruments such as mandolins and dulcimers, which they play to accompany their songs of conversation. I suspect this whole sentence is unnecessary - you list plenty of fun instruments later, and the following sentences show your point, rather than tell. A merchant sits at his booth, strumming a lyre, singing his price in the key of G. The buyer responds with a lower price in a modulated E Phrygian, striking a syncopated beat on his skin drum. I suspect restricting the use of musical terms to this example is deliberate, and I like it - it compares music with maths, maths with commerce.

Two lovers sing softly to one another as they sit on the softcut, the state of the grass is irrelevant to me grass in a nearby park, the young man playing a violin, while his lady turns the crank of a vielle a roué. I really wanna put the word duet in here, since here you're talking about communal language, why not talk about communal music? Also, thank you for introducing me to loving awesome instrument.

An ox-driver cracks his whip in time to a two-part song he sings with his partner, discussing the rising grain prices. All this stuff round here is excellent. You take us on a journey, leading us through the town like a tour guide without having to say that. His wagon creaks past a small house, where the sounds of a family argument can be heard. The father finger picks a down-tuned guitar while he sings a harsh song of correction, the two daughters lifting clear voices in protest, the younger singing harmony while her older sister sings the melody. The mother does not sing, but plays an organ to accompany her daughters. "She believes they are right, though she will not openly contradict her husband." If might dare to make an addition.

When heard from up close, each song of conversation is individually interesting, but when the sounds of the city are taken in as a whole, it is a roaring cacophony that hurts the ears of any traveler.
This last sentence is the real "what it's all about" money-shot, and I think it zooms out too abruptly, dropping the sense of intimacy you've created. I think we could remain in-scene and still get the realisation of discord. Something like, "The family fuge clashes against the barter outside, which fights with all the songs of the city, leaving all travellers to run through the streets, hands over ears, heads ringing from the cacophony."

Love it.

Martello
Apr 29, 2012

by XyloJW


Symptomless Coma posted:

You did this one yourself, right? I hope so. I'd hate to spend all night critting dead Italians. Anyway, I love it, and I think there some some cunning edits that could make it great.


Love it.

Those are great crits, thanks. I actually wrote that poo poo when I was 17 or something and going to Broome Community College in 2002. I haven't looked at it in years, but seb's Calvinochat reminded me. We should definitely do a Calvino Thunderdome.

Blarg Blargety
Nov 3, 2004

Children love Totoro
and he loves them.


Everything seems to be critiqued, and I did try a critique earlier. Kosher to post something I wrote?

Only recently rediscovered writing, so I fully expect this to get eviscerated strongly critiqued:

Audition (474 words)

She opened the basement door just as I was shaping the dartboard. Her feet creaked the stairs rhythmically as she came into the gloom just outside the rec room. Her sandals clacked on cement at the landing, and I ducked behind the folding sofa. She can’t be here. It’s not finished!

Her pajamas swished as she surveyed the room. She examined the dusty TV and its wired remote control, tracing over its antique buttons. I again picked up the small bag, sprinkling its contents over the wall behind me. A door solidified from my will, and I was out just as she turned toward me. Frantically, my mind shaped the corridor into the sterile hospital hall I had planned to use later that night. She chased, and I only barely kept out of sight.

Casting the bag’s contents around me, I twisted the corridor sharply as my mind raced. I could feel other eyes on me now – other Shapers attracted by the sudden discord in the Dreamscape. Will they all see this half-finished mess? I shaped another door, bursting through it before it had even fully formed. The bag of sand caught the frame as I passed, flying from my hand as I stumbled into the center of a darkened forest. Frantically, I turned back to the door floating just above the leafy ground.

She appeared, suspended in the impossible frame in the forest. I was transfixed as she reached down, coming up with the bag of sand. She joined me in the forest, closing the floating door behind her. Around us, other forms began to materialize. The other Shapers, all veteran dream-sculptors, drawn in to present their judgment.

“Improvisation, quick thinking, shaping on-the-fly,” her voice softly echoed through the still forest air, “The basement was nice – you used my memories well.”

The other Shapers came into focus as they gathered near her. All faces reflected her pride, and several heads around me nodded.

“You caught me, though,” I said evenly.

“I caught you,” she agreed, “We gave you a worst-case run tonight.”

Shaking slightly, I said, “You’re not letting me join.”

“Not yet. You’ll hear from us again. Promise.”

The faces and the forest faded, and I was a Shaper no longer. I was in my bed, with the first light of dawn creeping through the one small window of the basement apartment. Just another Dreamer, but one given a taste of the dream-sculptors’ art.

Reaching to the stand next to my bed, my hand clasped the bag of sand she had given me in the waking world, when we met at the quaint coffee shop. I smiled as I remembered my laughter at the offer, and was glad I had accepted.

Perhaps I would shape more dreams in the nights to come.

SpudCat
Mar 12, 2012



So, uh, I liked this week's Thunderdome prompt but I was too late to join in, which is probably a good thing as despite occasionally desiring to do otherwise i almost never write.

But I did something anyway, and I guess this is the thread to post it in? Please tell me what you think and how I can improve, I really do want to work on writing more.

Untitled (574 words)

“Do you know, it takes just three people to form a society?”

Kal paused with the cigarette raised halfway to his lips; they tightened into a hard line as he looked over at Shay. “gently caress, you’re not backing out now are you?”

Shay tried to meet his gaze, but found it easier to look into the horizon that was swollen with the red of early morning. “No, I’m not,” she said through a dry mouth. She reached for her bottle and lifted it to her lips before again remembering that it was empty. Shay stared down at the empty container as if it was the mouth of an oracle, one that would just tell her what she needed to do to make everything right again.

Her partner shifted his pose on the hood of the wrecked car, leaning further back as he expelled a lungful of smoke. “Then don’t start with the philosophy poo poo,” he growled. “We’ve been over this enough- and after all your bitching you still didn’t have a better idea.”

“I know,” Shay said, her eyes still fixed on the mouth of the bottle. “It just makes me sick to think about it.”

Kal ground the cigarette butt to a pulp between his teeth and balled his hands into fists. “What the gently caress do you think I feel about it?!” he snapped. “It sure as hell makes me sick, this whole loving mess makes me sick!” He glared off into the distance, past the rooftop garage and the frozen highway and the silent buildings as if someone was there that he could fight, could blame.

The two of them both knew no one was coming, though. They’d been in this area for months, at first out of belief that rescue was coming, and then out of understanding that nowhere else was any better. Their stockpile of supplies had seemed so big after those first few days of looting, their resources inexhaustible. More than three people could hope to use up, anyway.

Shay watched in silence as Kal’s furious gaze broke. His hands began to shake and the cigarette butt dropped from his fingers; he cursed even as the tears began to form in his eyes. Shay moved closer and held him close; he wrapped his arms around her as if she was a buoy in a stormy sea. For a moment they simply sat there, as the sun’s light split open the red boil on the horizon.

Then Kal stopped shaking and put his hands on Shay’s shoulders. He looked at her with dry eyes and said, “God, I don’t want to do this anymore than you, Shay. But I’m not ready to die yet. I’m not ready to see you die yet.” Shay nodded, and put her cracked lips to his; for a moment, the ruins and their unbearable silence were gone.

Then a call came from below, and Kal pulled away. Shay couldn’t meet his gaze as he went over to the edge of the roof where they’d rigged a crude rope and pulley system. He heaved the rope and soon up came a young man sweating with the weight of several large containers of water he had slung across his shoulders. He still managed a grin as he saw Shay, and as he turned to put the water down he said brightly, “Beautiful morning, huh?”

“Yeah,” said Kal as he took the gun from its holster. “loving beautiful.”


---

Blarg Blargety, I know I don't exactly have the qualifications to critique anyone else's work, but I noticed it's been a few days since you posted your thing and nobody's commented on it yet, so I hope you won't mind if I give my thoughts on this:

It feels weird that this is in first person and yet you kinda switch to her perspective for a couple lines in paragraph two. I know it's not technically a perspective switch but it still jarred me when I read it.

Some lines feel a bit melodramatic and not really in tone with the rest- see "Just another Dreamer, but one given a taste of the dream-sculptors’ art." I dunno, that just didn't work for me.

What also didn't work were the italicized thoughts. I've seen them done well before, but it felt like you could have conveyed the info in them in a way that didn't feel so... tell-y? Or worked them more into the narrative.

Sorry, again I'm not exactly an experienced writer myself, so please forgive me if my "critique" makes no sense.

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

EgoEgress posted:

So, uh, I liked this week's Thunderdome prompt but I was too late to join in, which is probably a good thing as despite occasionally desiring to do otherwise i almost never write.

But I did something anyway, and I guess this is the thread to post it in? Please tell me what you think and how I can improve, I really do want to work on writing more.

Untitled (574 words)

Your writing is solid. Not a lot of errors, some good descriptive phrases--I dig 'swollen with the red of early morning,' and I can imagine grinding up a cigarette butt in frustration. It's evocative and gets his mood across without any adjectives. There's not much exposition, and what exists is handled decently. So I think you can feel good about it on the sentence level.

Your piece didn't make a lot of sense to me on my first read through; it's structured in such a way that it can't make sense until the ending, when you reveal there's a third person involved. It ultimately works, but I'd like the young man Kal is about to kill to have a name. And even though it could weaken the reveal, I'd like for him to be a person rather than a talking obstruction for Kal to remove, which might require a mention of his existence before he arrives with the water. What is this guy to them? Friend? Random stranger? Do they like him, do they hate him? The story would have more emotional weight if this guy were developed at least a little.

I can't guess how you would have done in the Thunderdome until I see the rest of the week's stories, but I strongly doubt you would have lost. You should write more often!

While I'm in the neighborhood....

Blarg Blargety posted:

Only recently rediscovered writing, so I fully expect this to get eviscerated strongly critiqued:

Audition (474 words)

Good premise. The story would be stronger if you opened at the coffee shop and showed that conversation. Doing so would eliminate all the confusion in your early paragraphs, which are a big old ball of 'just what is going on here?' An ambiguous opening isn't necessarily a flaw, but this one doesn't work for me: it feels muddled and leads to that bad exposition in the second-to-last paragraph. The end of a piece is an awful place for exposition, IMO; if the story didn't need the information before that point, it's probably extraneous, and if it did, you probably should have introduced it sooner.

Your early paragraphs have some odd phrasings and details. 'Her feet creaked the stairs'--I don't think 'creaked' works this way. Her clacking sandals and the cement on the landing don't add much, and with this being your first paragraph, my first impression is that the story could be full of needless description. 'Her pajamas swished as she surveyed the room'--'surveyed' suggests standing in one place to me; maybe 'wandered' would be better if she's moving around? The phrase 'I again picked up the bag' is odd given that you haven't mentioned this bag before. I had to wonder how small bags are used in the craft of dartboard-making.

Once you hit the chase scene, your prose smooths out. You could make something of this, I think. Just reconsider your starting point.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Pardon the mess, but I wanted to offer a cheatsheet to my Thunderdome entry this week, which was more an Eleventh Hour/Where's Waldo puzzle than a story. Behind it all is the idea of a conspiracy that leaves tracks by dropping threes everywhere. I wanted to give the reader an experience similar to a character within a conspiracy novel, where the first read is intentionally puzzling, but there's hints of patterns beneath the surface text. Further careful reads allow the dedicated reader to puzzle out references and clues.

(Where it failed was to build the clues into something more than a bunch of references. For that, I'd need to change the framing device from a letter directly read by you, the reader, to something received piecemeal by an investigatory character, with each successively recovered passage providing clues as to where more might be found.)

When Kaishai posted her prompt that it be about "the Tripartite Integer", my mind went immediately to the Tripartite Pact and it unrolled from there. And yes, you can check all the dates, it lines up with history. :smug:

The recurring pattern is not just multiples of three, but often powers of three, that is, threes multiplied together. The most significant, of course, being 27, which is three to the third power (3 * 3 * 3). In the Illuminatus! trilogy, there's a lot of numerological disassembling, and that was my most direct inspiration.

And now an annotated cheatsheet:

Erogenous Beef posted:

Find Them And You Can Resist 6 words (520 words) 19 * 27

A bloodied letter: 3 words
Artillery pounds my roof and I realize now how wrong I was: they trapped me, just as they’ve trapped you. If you’re reading this, they wanted you to read it. If it survives beyond the bullet I’ll put in my brain, when the Soviets swarm down into this concrete tomb they let me build, they wanted my words to survive. Whether it suits them or not, I will show you: they arrange everything, everything to amuse their whims. This is the first clue. "They arrange everything" in sets of three.

They may have cornered this animal, but they have not conquered him. There is one place even their omnipotent grasp cannot reach, and that is here, my sanctum, my soon-sepulcher.



My downfall began as I sat in a theater. Half-past midnight military clock, 00:30, thirty minutes into the day, as Orson Welles rode the Riesenrad, The Third Man, a movie released nine years after this scene takes place. The scene involves a speech chock full of threes and also describes how ruthless men in power accomplish things, apropos to Hitler; also, the Riesenrad had 30 gondolas at the time this scene takes place, but had 15 in the movie their anonymous man approached and introduced himself, the eponymous son of Herr Dreizig Junior. "Dreizig" is German for thirty. But the self-named son of Mr. Thirty, Jr.? That would be Mr. Thirty the Third

Men of power do not chatter. Beyond the theater, I commanded an unbreakable machine, and in nine hours 9! I would forge its strongest alliance. By what accident had they arranged our meeting today? There are 33 words in this paragraph. There's a lot of sentences whose lengths are multiples of three, but I sacrificed that device in places to keep the prose correct and clear.

“There is no chance nor fate,” This is their motto, it has 6 words. he said. “As we agreed, your end approaches. Join us in shadow, or fall.” Oh, and they generally speak in sentences whose lengths are multiples of 3. Sacrificed a few times for readability.

I chose to believe I alone had built an empire, with favors neither given nor received.

“We created you.” Lies. “We have always created men of your standing.” Lies. “And we have always destroyed you.” Lies. Three lies. Should've been lengths 3/9/6, but I sacrificed a word in the middle sentence.



Twenty-seven years prior Yes, 27, but also that means this is 1913, a year ending in 3, a Viennese cafe in Landstrasse Vienna's third district near Richard Lionheart’s folly. The end of the Third Crusade My name immortalized, my power unquestioned, and for this they asked trifles. The first two clauses, the things Hitler wants, are expressed in three-word fragments Who were these men who offered so much and needed so little?”

“We are power,” they had said. A three-word explanation again. “Men invent our names. They named us when we were Rome’s vox populi The Tribunes, who were neutered by: and its emperors which rose from the Triumvirates, the First involving Julius Caesar and the second Augustus Caesar; the Triumvirates ceased in 33BC, they named us when we preached in the desert Jesus, who was crucified on April 3rd, 33AD, they named us the people of the French uprising in the nomenclature of the time, the Third Estate. They name us even now for you the Third Reich and will again in sixty years for a Rockefeller. 1913+60 = 1973. The founding of the Trilateral Commission, and of course, 60 is a multiple of 3!

I had remarked on the providence that our interests coincided.

“There is no chance nor fate,” they had said. “Only we shepherds.” 6 words, 3 words, 3 words. Their motto repeated for a second time.



In the theater, I was blind to the evidence, believed myself free. I walked out and, that day of the twenty-seventh September (Year 1940) 27 and 9 we've covered, but the best part is if you put the date in European order it's 27/9, which also evaluates mathematically to 3, signed a pact and believed it my own. The Tripartite Pact, which was originally signed by 3 parties. 6 more parties signed over the next 3 years, bringing the final signatory count to 9.

I was wrong. They, of course, drafted and approved its six clauses. The Tripartite Pact has 6 clauses, another multiple of three. Now they have torn me down, but I will end this puppet farce. I have spent five long years pretending it was I who moved men as pawns, but I am the pawn. 5 years. This provides a bridge to let you calculate all the prior dates, but is also significant because it is the only number mentioned that is not a multiple of three and it's mentioned right before he exhorts you to resist.

A pawn should not know the mind of the hand moving it. 12 words But they are men, not gods: they leave tracks any with this knowledge can see, and those who see can defy them - you can defy them. This is a direct challenge to the reader. FIND THE THREES.

As can I. There is one path left to me—



I am broken.

Here in my drawer, beneath the paper I stashed to write this very note, they left their final message. They knew my mind, they have always known my mind. My pistol is a six-chambered revolver. More commonly called a six-shooter.

There is no chance nor fate. 6 words, and the third repetition of the motto

30 Apr 1945 And this gives you the date to calculate the earlier dates, plus it's the most explicit hint that the letter was written by Hitler, if you didn't catch it from the references to the Fuhrerbunker, Vienna and signing alliances

Erogenous Beef fucked around with this message at 12:37 on Jul 2, 2013

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME







Dang, I don't really have any significant critiques, but I kind of am sorry I won this week :catstare:

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Sitting Here posted:

Dang, I don't really have any significant critiques, but I kind of am sorry I won this week :catstare:

Nah, it's a fun puzzle, but yours was actually a human story. I have no problems taking second to something good. I didn't even expect to place, honestly.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


Is it okay to post crit without posting fiction? I don't have fiction right now, but I had some thoughts about a couple pieces.

EgoEgress posted:


Untitled (574 words)

“"Do you know, it takes just three people to form a society?"”

Kal paused with the cigarette raised halfway to his lips; they tightened into a hard line as he looked over at Shay. "“gently caress,[.] You'’re not backing out now[,] are you?"”

Shay tried to meet his gaze, but found it easier to look into the horizon[,] that was swollen with the red of early morning. “"No, I'’m not,"” she said through a dry mouth. It sounds as though her mouth is dry because of nerves; later we find out water is a major problem. Is it both? She reached for her bottle and lifted it to her lips before again remembering that it was empty. I might be biased, but I assumed this was a bottle of alcohol, making the next two sentences suggest alcohol abuse. I'd like to see the lack of drinking water made more plain in this paragraph to set up the ending. Shay stared down at the empty container as if it was the mouth of an oracle, one that would just tell her what she needed to do to make everything right again.

Her partner shifted his pose on the hood of the wrecked car, Why is it wrecked? I'm getting a post-apocalyptic feel, which is cool. What sort of apocalypse ruined a bunch of cars on the roof{?} of a parking garage(?) but left supplies intact? Or is the car just abandoned? leaning further back as he expelled a lungful of smoke. “"Then don’t start with the philosophy poo poo,"” he growled. "“We'’ve been over this enough- and after all your bitching you still didn’'t don't? have a better idea."”

“"I know,"” Shay said, her eyes still fixed on the mouth of the bottle. "“It just makes me sick to think about it.”"

Kal ground the cigarette butt to a pulp between his teeth and balled his hands into fists. "“What the gently caress do you think I feel about it?!”" he snapped. "It sure as hell makes me sick, this whole loving mess makes me sick!"” He glared off into the distance, past the rooftop garage I'm still confused about where they are. I think this means they're on the roof of a parking garage? and the frozen highway and the silent buildings as if someone was there that he could fight, could blame. I really like the emotion in this paragraph. It's good that the ruthless character is conflicted.

The two of them both knew no one was coming, though. They’'d been in this area for months, at first out of belief that rescue was coming, and then out of understanding that nowhere else was any better. Their stockpile of supplies had seemed so big after those first few days of looting, their resources inexhaustible. More than three people could hope to use up, anyway. I like that you show their original optimism here (that the supplies would last.) It implies character development. How come they can't go elsewhere for water, though? If there's no one around, why are they stuck?

Shay watched in silence as Kal’'s furious gaze broke. His hands began to shake and the cigarette butt dropped from his fingers; he cursed even as the tears began to form in his eyes. Shay moved closer and held him close; he wrapped his arms around her as if she was a buoy in a stormy sea. For a moment they simply sat there, as the sun’'s light split open the red boil on the horizon. Lots of semicolons all in a row.

Then Kal stopped shaking and put his hands on Shay'’s shoulders. He looked at her with dry eyes and said, “"God, I don'’t want to do this anymore than you, Shay. But I’'m not ready to die yet. I’m not ready to see you die yet."” Shay nodded, and put her cracked lips to his; This is really powerful and shows their relationship strongly. I don't think you need the rest of the sentence - it weakens the dialogue and actions. for a moment, the ruins and their unbearable silence were gone.

Then a call came from below, Passive. Somebody is calling from below. Give him a name? Certainly let him actively do things before he dies. and Kal pulled away. Shay could'n’t meet his gaze as he went over to the edge of the roof where they'’d rigged a crude rope and pulley system. He heaved the rope and soon up came a young man sweating with the weight of several large containers of water he had slung across his shoulders. I don't understand the rope-and-pully system. There's got to be another way up if there are cars there, right? I'm having trouble picturing this. HeName still managed a grin as he saw Shay, and as he turned to put the water down he said brightly, "“Beautiful morning, huh?"”

“"Yeah,"” said Kal as he took the gun from its holster. "“loving beautiful."”

I really like this story. You do a really good job giving a basic back story without long exposition. As others have said, the dead kid needs a bit more explanation. Overall I love the characterization, conflict, and plot. Also, for some reason the quotation marks are refusing to behave, so I'm sorry for all the double-quotes.

Blarg Blargety posted:


Audition (474 words)

She opened the basement door just as I was shaping the dartboard. Her feet creaked the stairs rhythmically as she came into the gloom just outside the rec room. Her sandals clacked on cement at the landing, and I ducked behind the folding sofa. She can’t be here. It’s not finished! I'm not sold on this opening. It's confusing. "Shaping" in this context could mean woodwork. I like that metaphor, but I'd prefer to know what's going on.

Her pajamas swished as she surveyed the room. Is she moving around the room? Can the narrator see her, or just hear her? She examined the dusty TV and its wired remote control, tracing over its antique buttons. I like the antique buttons. This is the first description that really excites me. It's surreal. I can see it as a dream scene. I again picked up the small bag, sprinkling its contents over the wall behind me. What small bag? What are its contents? How do the mechanics of this work? A door solidified from my will, and I was out just as she turned toward me. Frantically, my mind shaped the corridor into the sterile hospital hall I had planned to use later that night. Does he need to sprinkle the dream-sand to change things? Or can his mind do it alone? She chased, and I only barely kept out of sight.

Casting the bag’s contents around me, "Casting" is an interesting verb. Without knowing the bag's contents, it seems like he might be casting a spell contained in the bag. I'd like to see a clearer and more visual verb here. Sprinkling? Spreading? Scattering? Throwing? I twisted the corridor sharply as my mind raced. I could feel other eyes on me now – other Shapers attracted by the sudden discord in the Dreamscape. Hey, a solid clue about what's going on! Will they all see this half-finished mess? I shaped another door, bursting through it before it had even fully formed. The bag of sand Hey, we know what's in the bag! caught the frame as I passed, flying from my hand as I stumbled into the center of a darkened forest. Frantically, I turned back to the door floating just above the leafy ground. I really like the scene-shifts. It's very dream-like in the best possible way.

She appeared, suspended in the impossible frame is the "impossible frame" the doorway? in the forest. I was transfixed as she reached down, coming up with the bag of sand. She joined me in the forest, closing the floating door behind her. Around us, other forms began to materialize. The other Shapers, all veteran dream-sculptors, drawn in to present their judgment. The last two sentences are sort of passive. Maybe something like, "Around us, the veteran Shapers began to materialize, drawn in to present their judgement." If we know what's going on by this point, you won't need to explain what Shapers do.

“Improvisation, quick thinking, shaping on-the-fly,” her voice softly echoed through the still forest air, “The basement was nice – you used my memories well.” I love this. It makes her sound very professional and shows that this is a trial run.

The other Shapers came into focus as they gathered near her. All faces reflected her pride, and several heads around me nodded.

“You caught me, though,” I said evenly.

“I caught you,” she agreed, “We gave you a worst-case run tonight.”

Shaking slightly, I said, “You’re not letting me join.”

“Not yet. You’ll hear from us again. Promise.”

The faces and the forest faded, and I was a Shaper no longer. I was in my bed, with the first light of dawn creeping through the one small window of the basement apartment. Just another Dreamer, but one given a taste of the dream-sculptors’ art.

Reaching to the stand next to my bed, my hand clasped the bag of sand she had given me in the waking world, when we met at the quaint coffee shop. I smiled as I remembered my laughter at the offer, and was glad I had accepted. As someone else said, move the meeting in the coffee shop earlier. Or leave it out.

Perhaps I would shape more dreams in the nights to come.

I really liked the concept of this. Your action scenes and quick shifts of setting were very good and dream-like. Once the story started moving your descriptions were really good - enough to show me what I needed to see, but not enough to bore me.

I do get the impression that you were deliberately keeping the reader in the dark about what was going on to create suspense. Your narrator knows what's happening all along, so the reader should know too. You have an exciting premise. You don't need to confuse us to make it interesting. Explain earlier on. Create suspense by showing the narrator's excitement about Shaping, the nerves that come with an audition, the adrenaline of running away and desperately Shaping a dream behind himself. Make us want what the character wants, instead of making us want to know what's going on.

tango alpha delta
Sep 9, 2011

Ask me about my wealthy lifestyle and passive income! I love bragging about my wealth to my lessers! My opinions are more valid because I have more money than you! Stealing the fruits of the labor of the working class is okay, so long as you don't do it using crypto. More money = better than!


Critique away. I've no real experience writing, but I want to improve.

I’m digging through the dumpster, throwing poo poo this way and that when something moves outside. I freeze, but I know it’s too late.

I’m expecting a male voice to start yelling at me, but there’s just silence.

I clamber out of the bin and brush off things that are stuck to me. Some of them crawl away when they hit the ground.

Standing in front of me is a girl with purple hair and black clothes. Not sure how old she is. I’m thankful for the sudden wind that hopefully pushes my stench away.

She stares at me, at my clothes and then smiles. At least I think it’s a smile. I’m not sure anymore.

“Are you hungry?”

Her voice is light and playful. It makes me feel good and ashamed at the same time.

I nod. I’m finding it hard to speak.

She yells out to someone else. “Bring some food over here.”

A young man climbs up onto the parking lot. He stands close to the girl and holds out a tall cup and a brown bag.

“Here you go. Take it.”

I slowly reach out for the food and, finally grasping it, shove it down as fast as possible.

The coffee tastes so good. I rip the bag open and inhale the sandwiches.

The young man and the girl walk away.

“Uh, thanks! Thanks a lot!” I manage to choke out.

“We’ll see you tomorrow.” They wave goodbye and walk down the hill. I watch until their heads disappear.

I wave and then finish my meal. Today has been a good day.

At least until I get really sick. I guess I ate too much, too fast.

It’s a long night and I’m hiding under the bridge, puking my guts out when the light blinds me.

tango alpha delta fucked around with this message at 05:54 on Jul 8, 2013

Jagermonster
May 7, 2005

Hey - NIZE HAT!


This is the first Thunderdome entry I liked enough to keep working on/revise (original http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3527428&userid=0&perpage=40&pagenumber=90#post417028215)

In honor of the fact that there's a whole section at Barnes and Noble called "Supernatural Teen Romance," I re-title this

El Supernatural Fiend Bromance

An adobe ranch house stood abandoned, a gutted carcass. Cartel enforcers had carved out its former inhabitants. “Sinola,” written in blood, warned others away.

A chupacabra licked and gnawed at the dried blood. Standing on his hind legs it could just reach the bottom of the ‘S.’ Weak with hunger it dropped, clawing and scraping on its way down. It coughed up flakes of clay.

The chupacabra lifted its nose to the night. The moon refracted on its scales, warping the monster’s shape as it craned its neck, twisting its head, sniffing. It could catch no scent of goat blood. Human blood everywhere, inaccessible, tormented it.

Everything had changed when the dangerous men with guns came. They guarded vast stretches of land. They patrolled trails that swelled with people and trucks all through the night. The surrounding towns were now full of the dangerous men, men who killed other men, women, and children.

The men with guns did not drink the blood. They burned or buried or did worse to the bodies. The chupacabra came across men in a truck, bodies piled high in their payload. They hung them from a power line outside of a town. The blood dripped down and dried on the concrete. Such a waste.

It knew it would die soon. The ranchers had all fled, taking their livestock with them. Or they were killed by the dangerous men, their goats and cows and pigs butchered as well. The chupacabra could not feed. It curled up in his burrow. It would die as it lived its life, alone in the dark.

A whistle. Seven notes. Rising, then falling. Slow. Close. The chupacabra picked itself up.

Delirious and feeble, it crawled from one of its tunnel entrances. Nothing but the hot desert air greeted it. The whistle beckoned it again. The chupacabra plodded off into the night.

The whistling stopped. Gunshots thundered. It followed the noise to a crumbling building. Two men lay on the ground, their stomachs torn open. Their guns rested harmlessly in limp hands.

A sack lay crumpled in the brush. It smelled of death. The chupacabra tugged at it. Bones spilled out.

The chupacabra turned back to the men. It inched up to them. It chupacabra had never drunk human blood. It slurped it up, still fresh, oozing from their abdomens.

“Does that taste good, chupito?” something said with a voice of scraping gravel. “I thought you a myth.”
It screeched.

A pale man loomed over him. Not a man. The chupacabra could catch no scent of blood. A walking corpse, with rotting grey skin. Bloody entrails dangled from his clenched fists. A black sombrero covered his face.

“Little one,” he said, “I am El Silbon.”

It bared its fangs and growled.

“Such efficient tools,” El Silbon said. “You can put them to use tonight. There are wicked men in there.” The thing’s lip quivered. It looked hungry. “Men like my father who prey on women. Devils, like my grandfather, who take pleasure in others’ suffering. Men I must collect.” He extended his hands to the chupacabra.

The chupacabra did not understand El Silbon’s words, but it licked his hands clean. It wagged its tail.

“Come, father.” El Silbon tossed the fallen bones back into his bag and hefted it over his slumped shoulder. “You will have company soon.”

The chupacrabra followed the shambling dead man.

The companions entered the hacienda. El Silbon pursed its cracked lips and whistled. Seven shorts notes. Rising then falling. He repeated it. And again.

A man poked his head out from behind thick double doors. He squinted at El Silbon in the dim light. “The gently caress are you?”

El Silbon dropped his bag and shuffled forward.

He raised his gun.

El Silbon grabbed the man’s head and twisted.

The man screamed and fired a shot before El Silbon silenced him.

Footsteps fell like sudden rain.

El Silbon passed through the threshold. His body shook as bullets flew through him. Small pieces of him fell to the floor. He showed no pain. El Silbon looked back at the cowering chupacabra.

The chupacabra rushed forth. It had never attacked a human before. It panicked, releasing sulfurous smoke that choked the attackers. The men stumbled and lost all sense of balance and direction after looking into its glowing red eyes. It bit at ankles, calves, anything its fangs could reach as it scrambled around the room. The men lurched and fired wildly.

El Silbon advanced. He tore a grizzly spiral around the room, snapping necks and dismembering those he passed. None escaped.

One man remained, his back against a table, pulling the trigger on an empty, useless gun. As El Silbon approached, the man said, “I have money! Drugs! Take anything you want!”

El Silbon paused. He squinted at the man, then grabbed the man’s wrist. El Silbon dug his jagged fingernails into the man’s arm. “This is the only thing I want.”

The man screamed. He eyed El Silbon’s bag. “gently caress you! This poo poo isn’t real!” He kicked at El Silbon. “This some Michoacana bullshit? Huh? Zeta assassins? I’ll see you in hell!”

El Silbon tore his arm off. “First, you will accompany me through the hell you created.”

The man fell to the floor thrashing and shrieking and cursing.

El Silbon stripped the flesh. He put it in the sack. Then he grabbed the man’s other arm.

The chupacabra sated its thirst.

El Silbon’s bag bulged with fresh bones.

El Silbon surveyed the room. “These groups,” he said to the Chupacabra, “they spread so much suffering.” He looked tired. “I am pulled in so many directions. They are everywhere.” He stroked a tuft of fur jutting from the chupacabra’s scaly head. “You are welcome to accompany me as long as you like. It will be dangerous for you.”

The chupacabra belched. It swelled with a fullness of stomach and heart.

The companions wandered back out into the night.

Monsters hunting monsters.

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Jagermonster
May 7, 2005

Hey - NIZE HAT!


I've no real experience editing fiction, but here're my impressions:

tango alpha delta posted:

Critique away. I've no real experience writing, but I want to improve.

I’m digging through the dumpster, throwing poo poo this way and that when something moves outside. I freeze, but I know it’s too late. Instead of painting a vivid picture, this beginning fills the reader with questions - is this a private eye looking for clues? is it someone looking for something lost? bum looking for food? Is he throwing "poo poo" because the narrator speaks coarsely, or is it bad vague writing?

I’m expecting a male voice to start yelling at me, but there’s just silence. how'd he know someone was there? why does he expect a male voice? if he's been caught doing this before by a particular person, name the person/describe the voice

I clamber out of the bin and brush off things that are stuck to me. Some of them crawl away when they hit the ground.

Standing in front of me is a girl with purple hair and black clothes. Not sure how old she is. I’m thankful for the sudden wind that hopefully pushes my stench away. too much telling rather than showing, like most of the piece, perhaps instead - "a breeze flutters through her purple air, hopefully banishing my stench down the alley"

She stares at me, at my clothes and then smiles. At least I think it’s a smile. I’m not sure anymore. is the narrator a broken robot? he can't tell what a smile is? are you trying to say he doesn't know what her smile means, i.e. pity, amusement, attraction?

“Are you hungry?”

Her voice is light and playful. It makes me feel good and ashamed at the same time.

I nod. I’m finding it hard to speak. clunky - its seldom necessary to use "I'm finding it," "It appears to be," etc."

She yells out to someone else. “Bring some food over here.”

A young man climbs up onto the parking lot. He stands close to the girl and holds out a tall cup and a brown bag. what kind of parking lot involves climbing? is his proximity to the girl what's important or how it makes the narrator feel what you're getting at?

“Here you go. Take it.”

I slowly reach out for the food and, finally grasping it, shove it down as fast as possible.

The coffee tastes so good. I rip the bag open and inhale the sandwiches. "shove it down" is awkward and "inhale" is cliche; exercise: scarf down your dinner tonight very quickly and then write what it feels like, your chewing, your breathing, etc.

The young man and the girl walk away.

“Uh, thanks! Thanks a lot!” I manage to choke out.

“We’ll see you tomorrow.” They wave goodbye and walk down the hill. I watch until their heads disappear. I know what you're trying to say with "watch their heads disappear," but it still strikes the reader as odd

I wave and then finish my meal. Today has been a good day. I thought he already choked down and inhaled the food?

At least until I get really sick. I guess I ate too much, too fast. describe it: "At least until I'm leaning over a park bench, dry heaving, the contents of my windfall a liquid mess on the pavement," etc. you get the idea

It’s a long night and I’m hiding under the bridge, puking my guts out when the light blinds me. What is going on in this piece? On a macro level its hard to evaluate this vignette based on what's here because it feels like a very small part of a much larger story. By itself, its a very mundane situation - charitable woman gives dumpster diving bum something to eat.

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