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  • Locked thread
Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Erogenous Beef posted:

After five months dormant, I'm resurrecting this brawl with SittingHere.

Sebmojo has agreed to judge.

Mountains shall tremble, stars/weep blood, &c. &c.

(deadline sometime next week please)

:siren:“the conspiracy does not provide an answer so much as it provides an interminable narrative stretching towards an answer that never arrives.” :siren:

1000 words, give or take. And make them fuckin' good ones. Due Friday week 22 Nov, midnight PST.


autism ZX spectrum
Feb 8, 2007

by Lowtax
Fun Shoe
sure I'm in

Nov 12, 2013

We're all a little more strange than we care to admit

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007

sebmojo posted:

:siren:“the conspiracy does not provide an answer so much as it provides an interminable narrative stretching towards an answer that never arrives.” :siren:

1000 words, give or take. And make them fuckin' good ones. Due Friday week 22 Nov, midnight PST.


Jan 4, 2007

Stupid Wrestling People

Apr 12, 2006
I'm in.

May 7, 2005

Locking myself in the Thunderdome cage like that insane guy who just wanted to pet the tigers

Bitchtits McGee
Jul 1, 2011
I'd like to get in this week, but the prompt alone isn't prompting anything with me. Somebody flash me a rule so I've got something to throw at my brain to wake it up.

Never mind. Erogenous Beef tossed me a bone over IRC, now all I've got to do is gnaw it down to under a thousand words. In.

Bitchtits McGee fucked around with this message at 19:36 on Nov 12, 2013

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart
:siren: CRIT AMBUSH :siren:

So I decided late last week that I’d give full, line-by-line crits to three randomly-selected entries from the ‘dome, in an effort to try to weed out some common mistakes that we seem to receive every. god. damned. week.

My randomizer selected (in order of posting) #1, #4 and #15, so Sweet_Joke_Nectar, ElphabaGreen and ThirdEmperor, congratulations, you get to shine before the Eye of Sauron Argon! Step forth and receive your education.

Before I even start, I’ve got a general message. Jesus Hubert Humphrey Christ Nailed To A Chocolate Cross, people, learn to write better openings, especially for flash fiction. You’ve got one, maybe two sentences to draw me in before I get bored and drift on to the next pile of pusillanimous bullshit someone’s excreted into the dome.

A good, strong opening will buy you a lot of attention and goodwill from your reader. Things you should categorically avoid:

* Telling me what the weather or time is, naked of any other information. These things can be relevant if and only if they are accompanied by some other, non-scene-setting information.

* A character performs a mundane action. A man takes a bite of cereal. Someone picks up the phone. A woman opens a door. A classic bad-opening: someone wakes up.

* Banal dialogue. “Excuse me, are you Someguy MyCharacter?” “I’m hungry.” etc.

A good intro sets up both familiarity and curiosity. A good formula is to include at least one unusual or interesting fact in your first line. Here’s some classic examples.


It was a bright cold morning in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.


As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.


It was the day my grandmother exploded.

That’s Orwell, Kafka and Banks, none of whom I expect you to match. They should, however, be illustrative: each includes one interesting or unsettling fact immediately. Try to do that.

If you’re going to whine at me, saying “Oh, Beef, but you need all this context to understand the interesting part of my story,” I’m going to skip your tripe, because no, I don’t, you’re just a very boring writer.



From a ten-thousand foot view, this is execrable for a number of reasons.

First, drop the cute ALLCAPS routine. That may be done when posting on the internet for emphasis, but if you’re going to honestly try to write, you’ll need to learn to express vehement emotion with other tools.

Generally, all you’ll need is an exclamation point - one, never more. And never do this: “A thing being shouted!” shouted Character.

If you absolutely, positively need to emphasize a single word in the middle of a sentence, consider using italics. Use this very sparingly.

Your formatting is all over the place. In some places, you’ve got a clear line of whitespace to break paragraphs (see: after your first line) and in other places there’s clearly a linebreak, but there’s no whitespace, so several should-be-paragraphs ram together into a grammatical highway pile-up.

At a larger scale, you have some issues with characterization. Kyle is a two-dimensional nerd stereotype. Mark and the girlfriend aren’t even given that much courtesy - neither has discernable personality traits, with the exception of Mark being pissed off at his brother. There’s no real character development either.

Kyle being a simple stereotype hurts this - it’s clearly done to poke fun at gamers, but you don’t say anything original. Repeating a bunch of tired stereotypes and jokes doesn’t make for good humor.

Technically, you have a plot, but it’s nonsensical. Things follow a vague thread of logic up until the fight scene. The fight scene erupts abruptly - it seems rather out of what small shreds of character that these cardboard-cutouts have to suddenly get very violent. And then Kyle’s doom dungeon comes out of absolutely nowhere.

Next time, ask yourself what your primary character wants and what prevents your primary character from getting it immediately. That defines your main conflict, which will be the entirety of your story since this is flash fiction. Reread your story and compare every action against those two items and make sure they relate, which will help you cut out irrelevancies.

Enough generalities. Let’s dive into this cesspit.



You know, this is actually not the worst opener I’ve seen. It passes.

God, what time was it? (a) Mark looked at the clock: 6:47 am. “Yo Lyle, shut the gently caress up already!” (b)
“No, you’re Lyle the punk bitch.” (d)

(a) This device is called Free Indirect Speech and it only works if we know which character is speaking. We just had naked dialogue, so, for all I know, the Blood of God is chronodeficient. You could eliminate the following direct reference to time and move this after Mark’s first line of dialogue.

(b) The time on the clock is irrelevant; the relevant detail is that it’s ungodly early, which “God, what time is it?” implies already. Line of dialogue is boring patter, but it does establish character. I’d prefer if it helped establish the setting or tension more.

Also, paragraph break here, as you’re about to present another character’s speech.

(c) We’re on (what should be) paragraph 3 and there’s no tension yet, just two guys arguing over one guy being noisy. I’m actually going to keep reading because MR. ALLCAPS’ voice is interesting so far. I still think this is a bit over-the-top. I’d say cut this to just the first sentence in the line of dialogue.

Also, you’re looking to end this line of dialogue with an em-dash (— ), which you can also represent in manuscript style as two regular dashes.

Double-also, see note about ALLCAPS and exclamation points. If you really need to emphasize that the guy is super-duper loud, show it to us somehow. ‘The windows rattled.’ or something.

(d) Shows character, but again, can you make this more interesting? Maybe you could drop a hint as to why these two guys are always fighting?

A petulant scream rang out from the gaming room, then the slam of the door, then nothing but the muffled sound of nerd rap. (a) His little brother might have quieted down, but the damage was done. (b) Mark was awake. (c) He rolled out of bed and made his way (d) to the kitchen, head pounding from the night before. He was in no shape to perform any task requiring more than the most rudimentary of motor functions. (e) He went to the fridge, thankful he had thought (f) to make a BLT before heading to the bar last night. There was the tomato and lettuce for vitamins, bacon to feed the brain, and bread to soak up the toxins – a heavenly trifecta of a sandwich. (g)

(a)”A <loud sound> rang out” is a horrific cliche. All three clauses in this sentence are passive-voice, which makes your prose slow and uninteresting. Rephrase all three of them in active terms of someone or something doing something else.

Example: “Down in the gaming room, his brother shrieked. A door slammed and nerd rap whispered through the floorboards.”

(b) NO NO NO. Don’t use a sentence to both recap what happened in the previous sentence and then to tell us the effects, which you will then belabor in the next sentence. This is Newbie Writer Mistake #1. Cut the first clause, consider cutting the entire sentence. See next note.

(c) Short and effective. In this case, you want to emphasize that he can’t back to sleep, so I’d consider rewriting this sentence OR if you’re really attached to a snide, cynical voice, you could tack on the final clause from your previous (now-cut) sentence: “Mark was awake; the damage was done.” Could reverse the clauses.

(d) “Made his way” is a stupid, three-word method of saying “went”. Just use “went” if you don’t need characterization. I’d suggest using a stronger verb to start showing us Mark’s hangover, such as “staggered” or “lurched”.

(e) Beep boop I am a robot. Mark is a hungover teenager/twentysomething. He’s not going to be thinking with the dry vocabulary of a bored engineer. Cut this entire sentence and show us how bad his hangover is some other way. Hell, just cut this entire sentence.

(f) “thankful he had thought to make” is passive and wordy. “thankful he’d made”.

(g) Cute, could be tightened. I’ve added strikeouts to eliminate unnecessary words. Perfect place for free indirect speech, by the way. Personally, I’d replace “soak up” with “sop up” or “slurp up”, as Mark feels more like a colloqual-English kinda guy. Style preference.

Mark sauntered towards the fridge and opened the door. You could have heard the scream from halfway down the block.

gently caress. This is a terrible paragraph. First sentence is full of mundane details. Mark has walked to the kitchen by now, so just cut to him opening the fridge. “Mark opened the fridge and screamed.”

The second sentence is a writing sin. “You could have heard” means you’ve just slipped into second-person narration, or are breaking the fourth wall. Never do this without a god-damned good reason. Just cut the entire sentence and show us that Mark’s screaming really loud in some other way. The dishes rattle. Hell, just give us the line of dialogue, we’ll hear it loud enough in our head.

“Where the gently caress is my sandwich!” (a) The door to the game room (b)slammed open, revealing (c) a fat, pimple faced fifteen-year-old boy wearing an MC Chris hoodie. (d) The floor was strewn with empty bottles of Mountain Dew Code Red, chips, and discarded packets of pop rocks. (e) Also Lyle’s lovely little girlfriend. She barely looked up from her Nintendo DS, and seeing nothing remarkable, turned her acne scarred face back to the Gameboy. (f)


(b) “The game-room door”. Hyphen necessary to bind “game” to “room”. “to the” is unnecessary.

(c) Passive voice. Break the sentence after “slammed open”, new sentence with the character introduction.

(d) Good details: pimples, MC Chris hoodie. Bad details: the kid’s exact age. Rewrite. “A fat, pimply boy in an MC Chris hoodie <did something>.” The pimples and noun ‘boy’ show us that he’s a teen.

(e) Passive phrase. “<Object 1>, <object 2> and <object 3> littered the floor.” or something similar.

(f) Unnecessary detail. This character never shows up again. Cut.

“Gamer fuel, bro”, (a) said Lysander the Mighty Axe. (b) “Gotta keep these noobs in line, ya know?” (c) He smiled, revealing teeth stained an artificial red. God, how he loved his precious pop rocks. (d) He swiveled back to his screen and resumed his Clan chat. (e)

(a) Comma goes inside the dialogue attribution in American English. “Blah,” said Guy.

(b)We’re seeing this through Mark’s eyes, so I think this should be “Kyle”. Mark doesn’t think of Kyle as his gaming character, as you showed us in paragraph 2.

(c) Unnecessary. Not funny, doesn’t reveal anything new. Cut.

(d) The pop rocks are important, but this is very clumsily phrased. “artificial” is a poor word-choice, and you can condense Pop Rocks bit into the teeth bit. I’d also move the character’s action into a different sentence from the visual description of his teeth, which lets you cut “revealing”. Here’s a suggested rephrasing:

“He smiled. Pop Rocks speckled his neon-red teeth.”

(e) Reality Whiplash. A moment ago, the door opened, implying that Kyle opened the door. But now he’s sitting at this desk. This is actually a decent character detail - he’s too lazy to get out of his chair. You need to make it clearer that Kyle is still sitting in his chair when he opens the door in the previous paragraph.

“Ok, Bartleby the Wise, now all we have to do is wait for a white mage to –“ (a) Lyle was interrupted by a smack to the back of the head. (b)

(a)Passable, but can you use this dialogue to show us something about Kyle? Here’s an opportunity to show us how he is to gamer friends (polite? still an rear end in a top hat?) and compare/contrast that with how he is to his brother.

Also, em-dash.

(b) PARAGRAPH BREAK. Also, “was interrupted” is passive phrasing. Just cut this sentence, the em-dash makes it clear he was interrupted. We can show him being interrupted in the next para.

Start the next para with “Mark smacked Kyle’s head.” or something similar.

“You little poo poo!” Mark screamed. (a) “You always do this! I am sick and tired of your freeloading bullshit! I swear to god I’m going to wring your –“ (b)

(a) GAH. You almost never need to use any other dialogue attributions other than “said” and “asked”. You’ve already put an exclamation point, so we know the character is screaming. Cut the dialogue attribution or replace with an action. This is a good place for Mark to smack Kyle on the head.

(b) First and second sentences are fine and tell us things about their relationship. Third sentence could be cut.

Mark gasped, feeling a sharp pain in his side. (a) “GET OFF OF HIM!” He turned to see a flurry of poorly dyed hair and Invader Zim paraphernalia stabbing him with a Jhonen Vasquez themed hairpin. (b) Mark had forgotten about the she-beast lurking in the corner. What was her name again? Beth? It didn’t matter. (c) He hurled her across the room, and pulled the pin out of his ribs. (d) The little bitch had drawn blood. (e)

(a) “feeling” is a sensing verb (see also: “saw/seeing”, “smelled/smelling”, etc.) and these can almost always be cut. Show us whatever the character is sensing directly:

“Something punctured Mark’s side. He gasped.”

Also note that I reversed the clauses. A good general formula is to put reactions after actions, as it makes the action easier to follow.

That said, having read further, you should just cut this sentence and go straight to the action.


(b) I think this is the girlfriend, so I was wrong about her not showing up. Oops.

The excessive description is unnecessary and obscures the actual character taking action here. Also, “poorly-dyed” and “Jhonen-Vasquez-themed” must be hyphenated.

A bigger issue here is “He turned to see”, which makes it feel like he’s taking his god-damned sweet time while some girl stabs him in the side with a hairpin. (I think that’s what’s happening here.) Use stronger verbs.

Cut this down to: “Get off of him!” Kyle’s girlfriend jammed her hairpin into Mark’s ribs.

(c) The preceding four sentences tell us absolutely nothing. Cut.

(d) You don’t need a comma here. Otherwise fine.

(e) Unnecessary, we can assume this. Cut.

And then Mark was on the floor. (a) His vision hazy, he saw his little brother holding an expensive replica of Gimli’s axe from the Lord of the Rings films, the hilt of which was slick with Mark’s blood. (b) “I wonder if that’s where he got his name,” thought Mark, before descending into darkness. (c)

(a) Slow and boring. We should know why Mark is falling onto the floor, as he’s not senseless yet. I’m assuming his brother hits him with something?

(b) This is a god-damned awful sentence. From now on, search all your drafts for “saw” and cut every time it’s used as the past tense of “to see”.

What you’re trying to convey here is that Mark is dazed and Kyle hit him with a big nerd-axe. I’m going to suspend disbelief and believe that it’s not plastic or cheap balsa wood. Kyle doesn’t really strike me as physical enough to swing a big axe around, but, well, we’ll run with it.

I’d go with something like:

“A rod smashed Mark’s head and he crashed to the floor. Kyle stood over him, grinning. He held an axe - a replica from the Lord of the Rings. Kyle raised the blood-slicked handle overhead.”

This is still inelegant, but it’s more functional and ends with an abrupt cliffhanger.

(c) Not particularly funny, tells us nothing new. Cut this and see (b) for a better way to show us that he passes out.

Mark awoke on the floor of a cold white room. It was barren and clinical in aesthetic. He looked around, and saw a dim light overhead, a locked door to his left. (a) A waste bucket with a lid on it lay in the corner of the room. (b) From somewhere, a loudspeaker boomed. (c)

(a)Sensing verbs. Cut. “There was a dim light overhead, a locked door to his left.” would be serviceable. How does he know the door is locked, though?

(b) “Lay” implies that it’s tipped over. Just use “was”. Also, you could condense “with a lid on it” to the adjective “lidded” - “a lidded waste bucket”. I’d cut “waste”, as he doesn’t know it’s a shitbucket yet, and “waste” makes me think of trash, not poop.

(c)Unnecessary. Cut this sentence, see next point.


Allcaps. Use an interrobang if you must (“?!”) or retain your “boomed” as attribution. Two options:

There was a loudspeaker on the wall. ”Do you want to play a game?” it boomed.

A wall-mounted loudspeaker crackled. “Do you want to play a game?!”

I don’t like either of these. Also, this is a lovely WarGames reference. Rewrite recommended.

Mark shivered. “Lyle, this isn’t loving funny! I think I have a concussion, I need to go to the hospital!”

Paragraph break. Entirely unbelievable dialogue. He wakes up in a dungeon and he’s worried about a concussion?

“Do I have a choice?”

This section is pretty useless. Cut the second, third and fourth sentences. Go with “No one strikes…” and “Behold the altar!”

A pedestal rose from the ground a few feet in front of Mark. On it were two items Mark recognized well: Mountain Dew Code Red and Pop Rocks, two of the staples of Lyle’s diet. Mark felt his stomach grumble.

Just lots of cruft in this para. Cut cut cut. Also, typo. Lyle -> Kyle.


Allcaps. I’m getting a headache. Otherwise, well. You went with pop rocks and soda as a plot device. I don’t have much to say. It’s not particularly original or funny. Sorry.

Mark had heard tales of ruptured stomachs, kids rushed to the hospital from trying to impress their peers with a mentos/pepsi cocktail. But Pop Rocks were a completely different animal. A pressure buildup of such proportions would surely result in a gastrointestinal explosion. There had to be another way. He surveyed his surroundings. “Of course! The bucket! I can blast my way out of here!” He had no idea what the magnitude of such an explosion would be, only that it was especially dangerous in such a small enclosed room. Seeing no other option, Mark realized it was a risk he’d have to take.

Yeah, no. Not particularly funny. I’m not even going to try hacking through that word salad, but basic points: you don’t need to spell out the consequences here, they’re pretty obvious to anyone who knows pop rocks. Also, blowing up a poo poo bucket.

Head swirling, Mark dragged the poo poo bucket over to the door and removed the lid. The stench was overwhelming. “He’s done this before!” Mark realized. “Actually, come to think of it, that explains a lot.” Grabbing the volatile candy from the pedestal, Mark readied the Dew. He’d have one shot at this. It was now or never. He ripped the top of the packet off, took a deep breath, and poured the entire packet in.

Uh huh. Cut the “Mark realized” bits. The poo poo-bucket being full already shows us this. Not commenting on the rest, it’s clearly absurd.

A look of desperation spread across his face. (a) The candy was already reacting to the septic acids present in the bucket! He quickly emptied the soda into the bucket, slammed on the lid, propped it by the door and scrambled to the other side of the room. He waited, terrified.

(a) Useless, cut it. Show us desperation some other way.

This is just lovely writing. Cut adverbs, use stronger verbs. Don’t use exclamation points in exposition - strengthen the action. Show us dramatic things instead of relying on the punctuation to make us excited.

Nothing. A minute passed, and still there was nothing. Mark began to cry. The most important gamble of his life had panned out to nothing. (a) “Maybe if I shake it”, he thought. (b) Mark approached the bucket, and knelt down to jostle the contents. No sooner had he touched the sides of the receptacle then his entire vision became a sea of red and brown. (c) The bucket erupted in his face, (d) the lid spinning off and slicing the main artery in Mark’s neck, the contents of the bucket Pollock’ing the walls. The smell of saccharine (e) and poo poo filled Mark’s nose as he bled out on the cold floor. The loud speaker crackled on to emanate the final words Mark would ever hear.

(a)”had panned out to nothing” is boring and weak. Try “fizzled” if you have to use this sentence. This really just exists to yell at the judges “I HIT THE PROMPT OKAY.” Better to cut it.

(b) Use free indirect speech here. “Maybe if he shook it.”

(c) Boring, passive. Use short, choppy sentences to convey swift action. “He touched the bucket. It exploded.” Done.

(d) Belaboring the point. Cut this clause.

(e) “Saccharin” is a sweetener. “Saccharine” is an adjective indicating oversweetness or over-cuteness.

“YOUR PRINCESS IS IN ANOTHER CASTLE, NOOB.” And then, there was nothing.

Still not funny.

Right, glad that’s over. NEXT.

ElphabaGreen - The Heart of the Matter

This needs less a line-by-line and more a full page-one rewrite. Your core problem is that you have absolutely no conflict, no tension. A man waits in line and thinks - that’s it.

See my advice above. What does your character want? What prevents him from getting it? Unlike the previous writer, you have answers to these questions, but your story does not actively deal with the conflict between what the character wants (a lung) and what prevents him from getting it (not 100% clear, but I think it’s the chance aspect of the lottery plus an internal reluctance to give up needed body parts).

You’d be better off if the character were actively trying to change his fate, as that gives us a struggle, and struggles are interesting.

As is, the old man mostly exists for two reasons:

(a) To act as a camera, watching the boy wait in line.

(b) To bash us in the face with backstory about the lottery.

Second problem, you love overwriting and it’s boiled all the flavor out of your prose. You’re trying to sound “literary,” where “literary” means “pretentious.” The latter is achieved.

The problem stems from overusing adjectives, the passive voice and sensing verbs. Adjectives and sensing verbs have their place, but they’re best used sparingly. The passive voice should, almost invariably, be cut.

In some places, you simply need to cut a word. I’ll put those in strikethrough if I’ve explained a similar reason behind the cut nearby.


I need a lung.

Interesting opening. Tells us right off what the main character needs. Now let’s see about the other bits of the conflict.

I need a lung.

Unnecessary. Cut.

As long as I kept repeating it, I didn't have to think about where I was.

Bloated bloviation. Cut.

Were it so easy.

Were it so easy as what? We’re on paragraph four now. On my first read through the dome, I stopped reading here, because it was clear this wasn’t going anywhere. By now, I should know who the main character is (total knowledge: a blank ‘I’), what s/he wants (a lung), and why s/he can’t get it (no loving clue).

I sighed quietly, but (a) the sound echoed in the near-silent chamber. (b) No one paid me any attention, though. It's for the best not to think about other people when you're in the lottery. (c)

(a) Two major problems. “Sighed quietly” is redundant - you do this a lot, pairing an adverb with a verb that already expresses the adverb’s meaning. Sighs are quiet, we’ll assume that without the adverb.

Second, ‘but’ is unnecessary here. I get that you’re trying to contrast, but you could simply cut ‘but’ and split this into two sentences, which gives us a nice action-reaction cadence. Alternately, use ‘and’. The surprising contrast will get attention.

(b) “Near-silent” is clumsy. Find a better adjective.

(c) Directly addressing the reader with “you’re” is a nasty habit. Try to avoid it, even in first-person prose.

Overall, this paragraph is just scene-setting and should probably be cut entirely. I’m still waiting to find my conflict.

The long, somber line I waited in slowly shuffled forward, taking nearly an hour to move ten feet. (a) Everyone was in formal attire, cheap jewels glinting in the bright fluorescence. (b) The guy in front of me looked about fifteen, maybe sixteen. (c) He had light brown hair and his skin was covered with freckles. (d) His jacket was a size too big and his shiny black shoes were obviously brand new. (e) It had to be his first time.

(a) This is a really clumsy way of bashing us over the head with exposition, and all it says is “I’m standing in a slow line.” Which, by the way, also tells us that this is going to be a horrifically boring story. Which is accurate.

Cut this entire sentence down. Make it relate directly to the main character. “I’d been in line for hours.” Done.

(b) Boring, overwritten, telling. Show us their formal attire. What is the point of the cheap jewelry - to show us they’re poor? If so, then set up an interesting contrast. And never write the phrase “the bright flourescence” again. I’m assuming you’re trying to dance around the idea that they’re standing under overhead lights to be “writerly”. Don’t be obtuse. It’s a writing sin. If the flourescent light is relevant, you can use that to contrast with the formal attire.

(c) “Boy” would be more appropriate from a jealous old man. Cut “looked about” down to “was” - “maybe sixteen” shows us the uncertainty in the observation.

(d) Irrelevant, cut.

(e) Too much telling. Show us that his jacket is too big and that his shoes are new by mentioning interesting details - example: “his jacket hung down to his thighs and his shoes were stiff and shiny.”

I might've pitied him if I weren't envious. At least he still had enough organs to withstand a loss. Two hundred and twenty-seven years had lost me nearly every unnecessary body part you could think of.

Hyphenate “two-hundred.”

This is all clumsily phrased, especially the last sentence. Why go for the bizarre “had lost me” construction instead of “I’d lost every spare organ over the last two-hundred twenty-seven years.” or “After two-hundred twenty-seven years, I had no more spares.”

The boy- the child- (a) in front of me was afraid. (b) It would've been so easy to reassure him, tell him that all he had to bet was a kidney or something that he didn't really need, so there was nothing to worry about even if he did lose. (c)

(a) Boy implies child. Cut the interjection

(b) You’re flat-out telling us this. It’s preferable to show details, especially if it helps us understand why the boy is afraid.

(c) This is a really clumsy way of telling us about the lottery’s mechanics.

I said nothing.

Is this because the protagonist is just spiteful and old? We already know that. Don’t tell us about the absence of action unless it’s absolutely necessary to emphasize that nothing is happening. In this case, since nothing has happened AT ALL SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE STORY, cut this line.

I thought back to my first loss. It was when I was thirty-two, and the doctor said I'd need a new heart. (a) Nothing terribly unusual for my age. (b) I was lucky in a lot of ways, (c) honestly, and I had gotten what I needed out of it. (d) It didn't take more than a month or two to mostly forget it ever happened. (e)

(a) Bloated. Condense: “I lost my first organ, my heart, at thirty-two.” Everything else in these two lines is filler. You could even cut “first organ” from my revision, but I included it to emphasize that this was the first time and imply further losses later.

(b) HUH?! This is an unusual detail and you let it just slip by like it’s a fact. This better get revisited later. Why do organs fail so swiftly in a future where people somehow live to 200+?

(For those following along at home: This doesn’t get revisited, so it’s just sloppy writing.)

(c) This makes no sense. We don’t know why he’s lucky. Either cut this phrase or explain. “I was lucky. Most people <something>.”

(d) What did you get out of it? We don’t know. Cut this line or explain.

(e) This also makes no sense whatsoever. Why was it so easy to forget? The last three sentences are paragons of sloppy, intentionally-obscure writing. Never do this again.

I'd lost a dozen times since then, period, new sentence though the only things I only missed were my legs. Of course, my daughter insisted that I would've used the chair just as much even if I could walk. Probably true.

Character building. I’m going to let it pass with cuts for brevity. One nonsensical point: If this guy’s survived with a bum lung for 240 years, why does he so desperately need one?

Regardless, this time was different. (a) This time, I had nothing to offer that I wouldn't miss. (b) My hands and my eyes were all I had that were on the same tier as a lung; at least, the only things I could actually live without. (c) If one could call that living. (d)

(a) Stop repeating yourself. The next sentence tells us everything in this sentence, with more details.

(b) Redundant due to the following sentence. Cut.

(c) Clumsy, wordy, questionable word choices. “Tier” seems out of place, too clinical/engineer. “My hands and eyes were all I could bet for a lung, if I wished to survive a loss.” or something.

(d) Cliched platitude, rewrite.

Shaking such dismal thoughts from my mind, I watched (a) the boy in front of me trembled slightly as period, new sentence we finally reached the front of the line, period, new sentence where an unassuming brown door stood out from the blank white walls and a single security guard stood still. (b) The guard might've appeared vigilant at a distance, but I could see the cords dangling from his ears. (c) The boy in front of me (d) was pale, staring at the door as if it might suddenly unhinge itself and attack him. (e)

(a) Unnecessary. An action will occur in the next clause (SOMEONE IS DOING SOMETHING IN THIS STORY! AND WE’RE ONLY HALFWAY THROUGH! RIVETING!), and that provides a fine interruption without you sticking your face in and telling us we’re about to be interrupted by an action.

Also, cut “I watched”. Unnecessary sensing verb. You’re in first person. If you describe a physical action, we assume the protagonist is watching it.

(b) gently caress me sideways, that’s a bad sentence. Let’s start from the top. The boy trembling shows us his fear, good. Preserve that. Next interesting point: we’re at the front of the line. Finally, describe what’s here.

Almost the entirety of the description of the front of the line is unnecessary. “Unassuming” is a vague, boring descriptor that doesn’t tell us what the door actually looks like, and the door’s appearance is irrelevant.

Two facts we care about : There is a door, and there is a security guard blocking it. Everything else is cruft.

(c) Mostly unnecessary. Just mention headphone cords dangling from his ears. ‘Cord’ can also mean rope, so this could be read as some kind of hippie earrings, so clarify that they’re headphones.

(d) You haven’t mentioned any other boys yet, so cut the specifier.

(e) On second thought, cut this sentence and move the trembling action down here to show the kid’s afraid. “The boy stared at the door and trembled.” Done. The rest is florid overwriting.

I didn't know a thing about the kid; not his name, where he was from, what had led him to this place, or if maybe he was planning to bet exactly what I wanted. All I knew was that I hated him.

Entirely unnecessary. You’ve shown us all of this already. Cut the whole para.

You shouldn't be here, I thought. You shouldn't be taking anything from the rest of us, not when you still have everything.

Use free indirect speech here, cut “I thought.” Also, nonsensical plot point: Isn’t the kid betting things? Doesn’t that contribute to the pool? This doesn’t make any sense at all.

I said nothing, glaring at his back as he disappeared through the door.

Cut “said nothing”. “I glared (etc.)”.

I knew what would happen to him in there. He would stumble uncertainly to the empty chair in the center of the room, sitting before a line of shadowed faces. He would answer every question posed to him with a shaking voice, explaining what he was there for, what he was willing to sacrifice, and why he deserved to be whole.

Yeah, so? Why do we care? How does this relate to THIS GUY GETTING HIS LUNG, GOD drat IT.

(The answer to the last has never mattered, will never matter, but everyone is convinced of their own worth.)

I’m going to go crush some caffeine tablets and snort them to stay awake. This is irrelevant pablum.

The boy will be registered with two serial numbers, one for what he wants, and one for his... donation. He will thank the shadows, and be shown out the back door.


He will go home to hope and pray and fear for the outcome.


Ultimately, he will lose nothing but sleep.

Irrelevant. Also nonsensical, since he loses an organ. Unless this old guy somehow can predict the future and knows the kid won’t lose.

I've never hated anyone more in all my life.


Right, so that was a tedious pile of Nothing Interesting Happens. No moral, no character growth, no plot arc. Next time, write a story where something actually happens. See my notes prior to the quoteblock.


(continued in next post, I'm way over the character limit)

Erogenous Beef fucked around with this message at 23:00 on Nov 12, 2013

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart
:siren: CRIT AMBUSH PART DEUX :siren:

ThirdEmperor - Render Unto Caesar

Hoo, that wordcount typo gave me a heart attack.

Same problem as Elphaba, you overwrite like a motherfucker. This isn’t purple prose, it’s ultraviolet. Next story you write, you get one adjective per fifty words and no adverbs whatsoever, capice?

Your plot, and the story’s action, are buried beneath piles of irrelevant details. Read through your story and ask yourself after every line whether it (a) moves the plot along, (b) establishes character/shows character development or (c) should be cut.

Other major problem, the protagonist’s stake in the story isn’t revealed until the very end, so there’s no tension and no struggle. It’s just another day at work. You need to put the firing-threat at the very top. At that point, the rest of your story needs a complete rewrite, because a manager setting someone up to be fired is an entirely different plot to what you wrote.

Same advice as previous entries. Identify what the protagonist wants and what keeps him/her from getting it, and then show us both these things as fast as possible - ideally in the first paragraph.

Read the general advice I gave to both previous entries - it applies here. Onwards.


In the still hour of 6 A.M. David shuffled down his driveway and crawled into the embrace of his car, with it's heated seats and pleather upholstery. David loved that car. He loved the purr of the engine and the shiny red finish, loved driving it, loved zipping past the overcrowded busses on the way to work. It was getting to work he didn't love so much. There were eight more payments due on the car though, and he counted the dollars every day as he pulled on his white jacket and brewed a fresh cup of coffee.

Man gets up for work. Irrelevant, cut this entire paragraph. When I first got to this story, I stopped reading before finishing this paragraph - that’s how bad it is.

He pulled into employee parking and slurped down the last few drops of coffee, checking his hair in the mirror, adjusting his outfit. By the time he stepped out there wasn't a trace of the lurching, grumbling mess that had fell out of bed. In it's place was a young man, reasonably handsome when well presented, with the brittle smile of a true professional in the service industry. (a) David met the last real smile he'd see that day (b) as he relieved his unlucky counterpart on the night shift. (c) As their paths crossed, she nodded her head towards one of the players and leaned in to whisper, "Watch him, the boss thinks he's a cheater." (d)

This entire paragraph is irrelevant, aside from the “might be a cheater” bit. Slip that part in after introducing the old man. Cut this para.

The man had to be in his seventies at the least, (a) ruddy skin collapsed into folds around his mouth like a doberman. (b) He wore a small straw hat, the kind David thought only hipsters could stand, (c) and a cheap suit that couldn't quite contain him. The other players barely mattered. (d) None of them were sitting on a pile of chips worth thousands of dollars.. (e) Sure enough, the floor manager wasn't far away, (f) looking on from the comfort of the bar.

(a) Condense: “The old man’s”

(b) Good detail, needs a comma after “mouth” for clarity. Otehrwise, he old man might have a mouth which looks like a doberman’s.

(c) Struck-out section is flippant and irrelevant, cut it.

(d) Neither does this sentence. Cut it.

(e) You’re weakening your prose by telling us what others don’t have and missing an opportunity to draw interest by showing us that the old man has an exceptionally-large pile of winnings. Fix.

(f) Same problem as previous. Cut phrase, merge with “looked on from the bar”.

David smiled to his audience and picked up the cards, fingers working on automatic. "Hi, I'm David, I'll be your dealer today." The deck flickered between his hands, splitting and merging, and David watched the old man for any reaction. The old man only had eyes for (a) his own winnings. David dealt out two cards to himself and two to each player, waiting for the mark to look up, to try and count the cards. (b) Nothing. He barely even looked (c) at his own hand, a seventeen (d), before signaling for a hit. (e) A four of spades came up. (f) Blackjack. The mountain of blue chips David pushed across the felt would have paid for his car and then some. (g)

Paragraph four, no idea why I should give a gently caress yet.

(a) Condense. “Stared at” or something similar.

(b) Improper usage of “mark”. The old man is not the target of a swindle or con. Change to “the old man” or something similar. Also, a few words are cuttable.

(c) “barely even looked” -> “glanced” or similar. Remove adverbs, use strong, descriptive verbs.

(d) This threw me, as I’m familiar with blackjack (which is what I assume is being played from the description) hands dealt face-down. Checked online, they can be dealt face-up. Carry on.

(e) “before signaling” -> “and signaled”. Swifter, lighter.

(f) Passive voice. You can just cut “came up”. He signaled for a hit, so if you just state “The four of spades”, we’ll assume he received it. Alternately, “He got the four of spades.”

(g) Passive voice. Move the action to the front, keep the details to the rear: “David pushed a mountain of blue chips across the felt. They would’ve paid for his car, and then some.”

On the next hand, the old man got a twenty right off the bat and kept. (a) David drew a sixteen and went over with the next card. (b) The early birds were flooding into the casino now as the all-nighters finally ran short and slouched away, but nobody at the table moved. The other players were all watching the fellow with the incredible luck (c) as the mountain of money grew, and grew, and grew. (d) He could feel the floor boss' eyes on the table. (e) Not just on the lucky bastard, but on him. 'Bad luck' was enough of a reason to be fired. (f)

(a) I swear this action is called “stand” or “stay”. So, “and stood” would be better.

(b) Show us his bust. “David drew a sixteen and hit. <Some big card>.” We can do the math if you keep it simple, such as 16 + 9, which is clearly over 21.

(c) Break sentence here. “incredible luck. The mountain…”

(d) Twice is enough to show that you’re eliding a long sequence of repeated actions.

(e) Eww, sensing verb. There has to be some other way to say this. Maybe show the floor boss whispering to the head of security and pointing at the table - that’ll set up the security bits later.

(f) FINALLY we know what’s at stake: his job. This could be rephrased to be less of an exposition-brick and increase the menace. “This week alone, three dealers had been fired for ‘bad luck.’” This plot point strains credibility, but I’m going to suspend disbelief.

The casino was full now. Full of people, swarming across the marble floors and dragging their hands over the shiny fixtures, and full of the noise they brought. Roulette balls rattled along the wheels and a chorus of slots tumbled out of tune. The machines sounded the winners with bright chirps and the losers were marked by the sound of another token being fed in. The noise echoed until it was a jackhammer pounding into David's temples. He struggled to maintain a smile as he counted out the winnings.

Irrelevant, cut entire paragraph.

The casino security were there now, watching with all the non-challance that six foot bouncers could manage. (a) The old man saw them too. He shuffled his chips around, stacking them up by tens, counting. (b) Then again, counting by groups of ten tens. (c) ”Sir, please leave the table if you're not going to place a bet." David said, (d) keeping his words polite by careful effort. (e) What he wanted was to curse in frustration. (f) The old man wasn't counting cards, so how was he doing it? How was he making thousands a hand, without fail, while David was being paid minimum wage to stand by and watch? (g)

(a) Clumsy and flippant. Stop smirking at your own story. “Nonchalance” is one word. Rephrase as an action. Security arrived, something similar.

(b) I presume you’re trying to show us that the old man doesn’t care about the bouncers. Condense: “The old man glanced at them, then shuffled and re-stacked his chips.” or something similar.

(c) Paragraph break. As is, it feels like the old man is about to be the speaker.

(d) “Dialogue” David said.

(e) Don’t tell us what your dialogue should sound like. If you have to do this, you’ve written lovely dialogue and need to edit it.

(f) Telling, possibly irrelevant. Rephrase or cut.

(g) Second sentence is redundant, cut it. Also, WE NEVER FIND OUT THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION.

"Give me a minute."

Nobody else made a move to bet moved as the old man counted, arranging and rearranging the stacks until, (a) finally, he leaned back in his chair. "Four hundred and seventy thousand dollars." He said, and let out a deep sigh. (b) "That's quite a lot."

(a)Period, new sentence.

(b) “and sighed”.

"Your bet, Sir?"

”Sir” shouldn’t be capitalized.

The old man looked at the security officers slowly circling the table. (a) No doubt he'd be cut off soon. If there wasn't a crowd (b) it would've happened earlier. "Wait, please, I need a moment.." (c) For the first time David noticed the sweat trickling down the old man's face, the whiteness of his knuckles where he gripped the tables edge. (d) It wasn't the sort of nervousness he'd expect from a cheater. Just the kind he normally saw, the fear of losing everything fighting with the terror of losing out on what might be won. (e)

(a)Passable, but I’d prefer to cut the adverb somehow. “officer encircling the table” or “officers surrounding the table” are close enough and tells us that they’re surrounded. Alternately, just “looked at the officers”.

(b)BZZT. SUBJUNCTIVE MOOD ERROR. “If there weren’t” for a hypothetical, and put a comma after “crowd” to set the hypothetical situation off from the hypothetical result.

(c) Three periods for an ellipsis.

(d) Unnecessary sensing verb, rewrite in active voice. “Sweat trickled down the old man’s face. He gripped the table’s edge, white-knuckled.” This also means you don’t need a paragraph break - if you were switching from the old man’s speech to an action by David, you’d need to break paragraphs.

(e) Clumsy but important for clarity. See if you can rephrase this somehow.

With a sigh, the old man shoved his entire mountain of winnings into the betting square. "All in."

One by one, the others at the table followed suit, and a few of the watching crowd reached out to pat the old man on the back, either to wish him luck or hope that some of it would rub off. Everyone wanted the impossible to happen. (a) And they all wanted David to lose. (b) His smile felt like it was tearing his face in half as he cut the cards. (c) David thought, for a moment, that he could see the king of hearts and the ace of clubs flash by as he shuffled, imagining throwing the miracle hand in all their faces. (d)

(a)Violation of POV. You’re jumping out from close-third to omniscient-third.

(b) Same issue. You have to show this stuff as actions seen from David’s perspective, or cut.

(c) Clumsy. Rewrite without “felt”.

(d) loving hell, stop using sensing verbs. “The king of hearts and ace of clubs flashed by as he shuffled. The miracle hand! Imagine throwing that in their faces.” or something. Not my best edit, but I’m getting tired.

He dealt himself the ace he'd wished for along with and the six of diamonds. Not a miracle, but not a bad hand, maybe a good enough one. His opponent only got a jack and a four. (a) Slowly, the old man gestured for another card. This time it was the two of clubs. (b) Sixteen. Still not enough. But also too much, too dangerous to draw on. (c) The man hesitated, then turned to the crowd, "Should I?"

(a) You may want to use “the old man” here - in the preceding para, you described everyone at the table going all-in, so he has multiple opponents.

(b) Could replace the period with a colon. Stylistic choice.

(c) Clumsy, redundant. Cut preceding two sentences.

For once there was no happy buzz of conversation, nobody cheered him on. . Nobody dared to be the one to call it, to decide one way or the other. The old man turned back and leaned against the table, opening his mouth, then closing it again. (a) The greatest con man alive couldn't have imitated the look of genuine misery on his face.

(a) These are sequential actions. Your use the imperfect tense indicates that they occur simultaneously, which is nonsensical. Fix: “… the table, opened his mouth and closed it again.”



”Stand” or “stay” would be the right terminology, but this could slide.

Now the crowd looked to David, waiting for the big reveal. David looked to the floor manager, and caught a look that promised no mercy. (a) One mistake and his job was gone. For nothing more than having bad luck. And they paid him peanuts in the first place. (b)

(a) Bad usage of verbs. “Looked to” indicates that he’s checking with the floor manager for directions, you want “looked at” or something similar. Alternately, just show us the floor manager giving him a death stare. “a look that promised no mercy” is telling. You could go with “The floor manager was glaring daggers at David.”

(b) Struck-through bits slow down the action and defuse tension. Cut.

"Dealer will draw." David said, and dealt himself another card. It still wasn't the king, no miracle for him, but it was a seven.


Your story is muddled. We find out that David’s job is at stake about halfway through, and we never solve the mystery of the old man. What are you trying to tell us? Neither David’s character nor the old man’s character change over the course of the story. This is basically “A guy goes into work one day and loses his job because of bad luck.”

That’s a pretty boring story. Come up with a better premise next time.


Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.
Critiques for Week LXVI: The Real Loser Is the House

This is a week to remember for just how bad the lower entries were. If the best had been as extreme in quality, publishers would be falling over themselves right now to offer Quidnose seven-figure advances. Still, there were seven or eight stories I actively enjoyed, and I loathed only a few. In a round that began with a poo poo geyser, that's about as much as I could have hoped for.


This story hurts me to read in oh, so many ways. Which is worst: the incredibly tired nerd cliches, the passive phrasing, the bad grammar, the muddled dialogue, screwing up the prompt, screwing up your flash rule, or making me read about a fecal explosion? LOLZ, I CAN'T DECIDE! SQUEE! RUSSIAN ROULETTE ISN'T MUCH OF A GAMBLE WHEN ALL THE CHAMBERS ARE LOADED!

Let's turn off the caps lock for a minute and break down the ways this failed.

Your flash rule was to make precious stones key to your plot. Pop Rocks are neither stones nor precious in any sane estimation, but this element came closest to working for you; it could have come off as clever or at least smartassed if the story didn't have its head buried in the crap bucket otherwise. The prompt was to write about a life-changing gamble. Mixing Mountain Dew and Pop Rocks in a bucket is not a gamble, with or without feces. They don't explode when mixed, and if they're staples of Lyle's diet, both brothers should know it; either way the poo poo geyser that kills Mark is nonsense on every level.

Also, the main character is killed by a poo poo geyser. I really don't have to say anything else, do I?

I'm guessing you were going for humor, but this is pure Grade F- monkeycheese instead: a bunch of creaky stereotypes and wacky antics (lolz!) strung together on a frame with all the stability of nitroglycerin. Comedy is difficult, granted. Humor is very subjective. Maybe you had satire or irony in mind, though the aforementioned poo poo geyser casts some doubt. But even if I found exaggerated gamerz or feces inherently funny (nope and nope), I'd want a character I cared about at least a tiny bit, a procession of events that had some logic to it, and a finale that wasn't cataclysmically stupid.

Technical errors riddle the piece. In terms of format, putting a blank space between every paragraph would have made for easier on-screen reading; fewer CAPS OF RAGE would have had a similar beneficial effect. It isn't always easy to tell who's speaking. For example, right after “Where the gently caress is my sandwich!” you've got Lyle throwing open the door of his room. That reads as though Lyle is the one screaming about sandwiches. The sentence 'Lyle was interrupted by a smack to the back of the head' is passive and outright bizarre considering Mark is the viewpoint character. You have multiple characters speaking within the same paragraph. '“Gamer fuel, bro”,' is a travesty. Axes don't have hilts. 'Mentos' and 'Pepsi' should be capitalized as proper nouns. 'Saccharine' is not a noun and shouldn't be used as one. Etcetera. Etcetera. Et-bloody-cetera. Reading over past crits in TD or the Farm could help if you want to get better at the grammatical aspect, or you could submit a different piece to the Farm yourself.

You've likely realized by now that I haaaate this story. Write something less charmlessly WACKADOO next time if you want a prayer of redemption.


TenaCrane, "En Route Mortality"

A story from the perspective of a salmon? You have my interest. I would like your salmon protagonist better if he were less similar to a human--you mention salmon 'words' as sounds, you have him feeling satisfaction at outwitting a bear, you have him metaphorically thumbing his nose at said bear, and the other salmon react to his feat as if they know about it and understand it as people would. That contrasts with what I'd call the stronger moments, when Hookjaw's compulsion is described as physical pain and when his body reacts to a change in salinity: I buy him as a fish in these moments. When he squints to see something, less so. Did you write in a screaming salmon or did I hallucinate that?

Hookjaw encounters bears twice, and it's hard to see what the first encounter adds to the story besides words. The second encounter is repetitive. A few snips of information don't belong in the story, IMO, such as 'a perfect breeding ground for deadly parasites'--why would a fish know that? Why would he care? Why do I care since that has nothing to do with what's going on? Hookjaw also sees and realizes a lot about the alpha (why would a fish call him that?) grizzly's behavior in a few seconds. It's too much. Limiting details to what he could reasonably notice would make his perspective more solid.

Your paragraphs run long. I'd like to see them broken more often. You could break the last paragraph into two after 'take his rage,' for instance, and the new paragraph would begin with Hookjaw past the bears and in his new setting of the spawning grounds. I'd also suggest breaking the sixth paragraph after 'parasites.' Your punctuation and sentence structure are a bit shaky, though it's nothing drastic: 'His tired body no longer feels the absence of sleep, replaced with an unknown excitement' reads as though his body is replaced with excitement; the semicolon in 'the river’s mouth is a deafening torrent; a great beast swallowing any salmon' should be a colon; 'freshwater' is one word as an adjective (such as 'freshwater fish') but two as an adjective-noun combination, as in 'Fresh water is poison.'

The good news: this is an entry worth bothering to revise. It needs more work, but it's not so bad. Hookjaw's ploy to outwit the grizzly fulfills the prompt in a creative way that I appreciate.


Quidnose, "Hold 'Em"

I had some trouble figuring out when this was set, and I'm still not sure: Allan Pinkerton lived from 1819-1884, which I would think is a long time ago to only be a great-grandfather to a man in modern day, but your protagonist (who needs a name!) has a cell phone. The phrase 'Chinese Underground' and presence of a painting had me imagining the 1930s or so. Aside from the cell phone, everything feels a few decades old at least.

Thanks to the magical realism touch to the piece, it's hard to say whether a famous person or merely a famous person's image plays a role in your story, but the latter is close enough to fit the bill. Flash rule: fulfilled. Texas Hold 'Em meets the prompt, natch, with the stakes suitably high. I like it that your protagonist is enough of a dick (or in sufficient shock, to be charitable) to calculate the odds of his wife's survival when he sees her wound, and the poker terminology, including the last line, fell on just the right side of too much. What would be an uninspired take on gambling without Mr. Pinkerton is given a lift by his presence.

I dig it overall. But watch your proofing. Your errors look like typos (except perhaps for 'ok,' which ought to be 'okay' or maybe 'OK' in that context), so another once-over might have knocked them out entirely. One line I didn't care for: 'My hand shifted from his forehead to his pupil.' Ow! 'My aim' would be less evocative of fingers jabbed in eyes.

Good work; your gamble paid off, and you get to do this next week, you lucky thing!


ElphabaGreen, "The Heart of the Matter"

Too vague. I don't understand how your lottery works. Your protagonist--who's somehow two hundred and twenty-seven years old; is it the replacement of organs that makes it possible? Not clear--has lost organs again and again in this strange ritual, which sounds rather more like an exchange, yet he thinks to himself that the boy will lose nothing but sleep. Until I got to that line I thought the gamble would be what organ/part was taken away in exchange for what was desired, like the would-be recipients had to spin a macabre Wheel of Fortune in that back room. Maybe it is; maybe there's a 'Free Limb' slot on that wheel. I don't really know. It bugs.

No one and nothing changes here, there's no plot, nothing is resolved: you've submitted a vignette rather than the full story the prompt specified. The ending kills you, since I never find out whether the old man receives his lung or what he loses. Instead he's telling the story of the younger man... but he doesn't know anything about the young man or his life or what exactly goes on for him behind the door. He can only conjecture. There's really nothing to this but the lottery idea, and that's so thinly drawn that it's barely present either.

Your sentence-level writing is decent, if lilac, so I want to see you bring more meat to the table in a future round.


Erogenous Beef, "Missed Connections"

God, but James is an rear end. For him and Kris to end up drinking together would be a happier ending if I didn't suspect she'd be better off running, running so far away. "We're both better off, right?" Yeesh! There's no doubt in my mind that his horribleness is intentional on your part. But his moment of redemption is too abrupt--what changes his mind? He knew he'd made her unhappy when he decided to tail her, didn't he? Now he's willing to give up 1,800 pounds?--and comes too late in the story for me to develop any fondness for him. You needed more space or at least a touch less assholery on his part.

James' choice to max out those credit cards on the chance of getting his scoop is a gamble, and he quits his job and reconnects however briefly with Kristina as a result of the decision to follow her, so you've met the prompt, albeit without capturing the feeling of high stakes. James folds too readily for it to feel like a difficult decision.

A higher word count might have given you room to make James less of a towering dickhead. As is, the story is complete, technically sound aside from a couple of minor snafus, satisfies the rules you set for yourself, and reaches a satisfactory conclusion, but it's too thin. No emotional impact. It's not the first time your idea has been too big for the word count. Everything in this story makes sense, though, and that's always good.


Lazy Beggar, "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité"

It's aces for you that Mr. Nectar submitted what he did this week, because your writing is incredibly rough. You've made so many technical mistakes that your entry is unpleasant to read--but the story isn't horrid, and that's why you'll live to fight another day. You should work on your mechanics, however. Gifts like that one don't come along twice.

(Who am I kidding? It's Thunderdome; if it's not poo poo geysers, it's piss guitars. Or reluctant gay janitors. Still.)

Your main character's name changes from paragraph to paragraph, first Jurek, now Jarek. You shouldn't capitalize 'Autumn' or 'Sun' as you do. Multiple people speak within the same paragraph several times in the piece; this should never happen. In the phrase 'The way he whistled when saying monsieur,' 'monsieur' should probably be either italicized or in quotes (single quotes for American English, double quotes for British), and 'he' should definitely be 'Del Mulino' or some other epithet for the professor; as is it looks like you're still referring to Jurek/Jarek. The comma after 'recognised him at once' should be a period. '`Certo, certo! Very eloquent, I must say.' Jurek twice had to suppress a wince' could also be clearer in terms of who is talking. The period after 'cancer of friendship' should be a comma, and 'whipped sardonically' may or may not be a valid manner of practicing sadism, but it's definitely not a valid manner of speaking. Etcetera; it would take a full line edit to find all the problems and hours to explain them.

The prose generally feels limp--you have a couple of nice bits, such as 'headless thanks to time,' but you rely on adjectives and adverbs to describe things too often. Some of your phrasings are quite passive, such as 'Jurek found his nostrils filled with a stench.'

I pick on technical mistakes with everyone, but sometimes they're small gaffes that don't do much damage to the reading experience. In this case, the lack of good grammar is lethal. I can barely parse the last paragraphs at all. If all this is new to you, then hey, you're in good company. Nobody starts with perfect grammatical knowledge, but get thee to the Farm and ask for help there, or pick up a copy of Strunk and White's Elements of Style.

The core of the story isn't that bad! Both Jurek/Jarek and Del Mulino arguably gamble on something. You took a fair shot at sebmojo's flash rule for you. The setting is credible to me, although my lack of expertise on the French Revolution means that's not saying a ton. Someone else will eat the loss this round. Now go forth and polish your skill.


V for Vegas, "Midnight in Tangiers"

Not loving the trick of using your title as part of your opening sentence without repeating it. Your grammar has slipped some since the last time I saw you, enough to be noticeable and mildly grating, not enough to ruin the story. You took an interesting path in that your protagonist is an entirely passive figure, initially without choice in the matter of the gamble. Afterward his choices matter a lot to the monkeys and not at all to whether he wins or loses. He's never in control of himself. But you make it work. Half the horror is that he sits by and watches this bloodsport without doing anything. He gains by it through no action of his own. Is it the fighting or himself that makes him so ill in the end?

Whether the gamble is life-changing is a bit arguable since it's not clear how Gregor's life will change. I'm willing to take on faith that his experience will alter him, but thinking about this has made me realize that I know very little about Gregor besides that he's easily led when he's high; the story could have more power if he had a vestige of personality, passive or no.

Still good work. Don't let your technical abilities get rusty, though--you're a better writer than the errors here would suggest.


Roguelike, "The Terrorist with the Tell-Tale Ticker"

You start off heavy-handed with the sci-fi trappings. Intergalactic councils and octopus aliens had me imagining the likes of Mass Effect--you never really break free from cliche here, including the ruthless councilor who puts the needs of Earth above everything else except her own. (Also, what's with that acronym? Why leave B out and put W in? It doesn't even spell anything cute!) The better news is that within the familiar environment, you tell an okay story of a truly high-stakes gamble.

One thing I don't get no matter how many times I read is why Ana's willingness to let the universe burn if they don't fix her is an acceptable trait in a councilor, much less a prerequisite. I'm not that clear on what's wrong with her to begin with: what's a 'magnetic replacement heart' and what's its relationship to the bomb? I expect it's part of the test, but what does Ana think it is before she knows the truth? Everything about the heart throws a wrench into the story's works.

This one doesn't wear well on rereading. When I think about the entire conceit of the bomb, it falls apart. I can't believe the ploy would work; I can't believe everyone involved spent a year acting this out for Ana--for once it might make more sense as a dream sequence, and that would be more forgiving to the lack of logic in the concept, maybe. The way it stands, Ana comes off not only as amoral but as rather thick.


Nikaer Drekin, "I Told You So"

A great choice of gamble, and I enjoyed all the action on Amelia's cyclone journey more than I did many of the other entries. Your description of her trip let me picture everything and ride along with considerably less chance of death. But although Amelia is a character and I wish her success on her ride, she doesn't develop any depth beyond her risk-taking, storm-loving ways; more importantly, the gamble doesn't change her one iota. When the blood drains from her face and she's staring at her own death, you imply an epiphany to come. Her flight and her rescue by the water are moments that could--ought to--engrave themselves on her very being. It's all implicit, but it's there--until the last line comes, Amelia promises herself to hit Joey upside the head if he talks about safety, and I realize she's the exact same woman who went into that buggy. Facing death had no effect on her. So why should I care about it?

This is what kept you out of my top three even though I tagged you as a contender on my first read. The story's missing something in the essentials. It's a jaunt. There's no significant impact for either character or reader. Now, I kind of think those implicit epiphanies are where you meant the story to go, else why would they be there; and if you had wrapped it up differently... it's so close to being strong. It just doesn't make that final step. It falls on its arse, and here we are.

You've come a long way since writing otherwise-intense stories that danced sideways into Hokeyland. Here you only set one foot over the line, which should make it comparatively simple to fix. Your grammar is good, your writing polished smooth on the sentence level; I looked for errors and found almost none.


Ronnie_Long, "The White"

Seeing Peter Frampton as a main character had me 1.) braced to not like the story, and 2.) confused, as I'd never heard that Mr. Frampton was any more bugscrew bonkers than your average rock star. It took me quite a while to catch on to the fact that the protagonist is not who he believes himself to be. 'Til the last paragraph, in fact. That's a tad slow of me, but you never do know what celebrities could get up to. I immediately warmed to your entry once I knew it wasn't Real Person Fanfiction, which left me looking for two things: did you meet your flash rule? Yes. Probably. I suspect your depiction of madness is more true to White Wolf than the DSM-IV. Did you meet the prompt? No.

Peter Frampton (as I'll call Mr. Jersted) isn't going to any particular risk. He expects to be caught; the question is when. He's not chancing anything by ducking out to chug some toothpaste, at least as far as we know, and that makes his noon on the town nothing at all like a gamble. That right there kneecapped you. Of everyone who flirted with prompt failure, you're the only one who embraced it and took it on a spin around the dance floor, a sad tango that landed you a few rungs closer to the loss than you otherwise would have been. Since your story is coherent and sane (more or less), you still weren't in much danger.

Technicalities: your sometimes-missing commas give the piece a more stream-of-consciousness feeling without being nearly as obnoxious as the full thing. They get a pass. Your first sentence tells me Peter Frampton is sipping the sophisticates' tea; the repetitions of 'box' and 'the boxes' in the third-from-final paragraph turn into an irritating drone. On the whole, your grammar is either sound or flawed in ways that suit your purpose.

I think this one could grow on me with time. If anything, I'd advise looking hard at the Malkavian insanity and asking yourself whether there's any place you could tone it down: it never becomes too much for me--quite--but it rides the edge.


Fumblemouse, "The Quiet Soul"

Expository dialogue ahoy. The conversation Sarah and James have before he takes himself off the mortal coil is one they surely should have had long before this, yet it doesn't read like an old argument with the edges worn off. I can tell it's a means of delivering information to me; I notice this too strongly. The emotions of the scene are lost. James' dialogue in particular pontificates, and I wonder whether I'm meant to read him as an arrogant man who is about to receive a postmortem comeuppance.

It happens again when Sarah first addresses the AI: she's telling the computer something it should surely know when she explains about James' personality being uploaded to the 'Net. I would rather have gotten this info through other means, including straight exposition. If you'd just set aside the line 'James’ was the only personality that they managed to copy and sustain,' it would have improved that section, IMO, as everything else sets up her question regarding James' soul in a more believable way.

Unfortunately, that crippled the whole piece for me. The prose is otherwise good, as one would expect. Your protagonist isn't the one who gambled, but her life is still changed by it, a fine twist on the prompt. I further appreciate the fact that he lost. AIs gaining sentience is a worn story. AIs remaining AIs? Now that's novel.

But I couldn't get over the shouty dialogue in the end, leaving this piece below several others in my ranking.


docbeard, "Went Down To The Crossroads"

'This was so completely ridiculous.' That line from your protagonist sums up the reason your story ended up in the middle of my list. The idea of mortal police arresting the Devil is ridiculous. The tone you set until the point when the cops show up is too serious to support the absurdity: a silly premise needs to be in a slightly silly story, else the dissonance can be too much to take. The law = game concept is clever in theory, but you don't sell me on it. That the Devil plays along strips the menace from him, makes him little more than a con artist in a snazzy suit.

And what about that game of blackjack? I wish they'd finished it before the police showed up--or after, maybe, but I want to see the results. If Detective Philips' soul is forfeit, let him know it before he brings the Devil in.

Aside from the last line, which is cute, your final paragraph is anticlimactic and drains much point from the rest of the story: what did any of it matter, then?

It's still not a bad piece so much as flawed. I loved the "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" reference. The writing itself is solid. The stages of Philips' personal bargain with the Devil are, if not fresh, still sinister--talky, but I see how that's for the benefit of the wire--and I had a sense of the peril he was in as a man who didn't fully believe in the desperately dangerous thing he was doing. Maybe there was a way to pull off the whole 'cops arrest the Devil' thing without losing that sense of the ominous, but it needed something... more of a struggle, more of a risk, more consequences for individuals instead of a vague reference to the police force going to poo poo.


sebmojo, "Mateship"

In terms of technical merit and pure writing, you're probably on the top of this batch despite the errant 'thumbrint'; you did something interesting with the prompt in that the story has a card game that isn't the real gamble. You've got the trappings of gambling, you've got high stakes, and these things are separate from each other. The stakes you chose are more personal and emotional than what most people went with. It works. Your take on the flash rule is straightforward, and that's fine. All the necessary points are met with competence and style.

Thing is, it doesn't have enough feeling to it despite the nature of the stakes. There's a bit: when Jock trails off, teary-eyed, and he repeats 'mate' in a way that could mean friend or could mean love or could mean both, that's actually a sound dose of emotion in just a few words, but it's not enough to keep the twist from reading like a Brokeback Van gimmick. Surprise for the sake of surprise, done because we wouldn't expect it. And without emotional power, the story is a sterile example of how well you can write. It made my top four and was second overall with the judges; good writing was at a premium this round. I just couldn't work up any enthusiasm for it.


Tyrannosaurus, "Buzzards"

'The coffee was cold and it reminded him of his marriage. He had forgotten about them both on his drive to work.' This is an excellent opening. The story that follows it is rather good, too, one of my favorites of the week and a massive step up from that much-abused guitar. Flash rule: check! Prompt: check! Sort of. Maybe? We'll get back to that.

This is the story of James' relationship to his wife; her struggle to save the Panther site is only the surface narrative. He stops forgetting his wife as he looks into her work and (re)learns respect for her. I assume he helps her with her final, desperate gambit--and then he's left alone to study their wedding picture as he did in the beginning, a repeated scene that evokes the same emotion, regret, with a much-changed shading. I do like a cyclical story, I like a layered story, I like complexity in relationships, and you deliver it all.

I wish that Ester's solution made more sense. Or that you had explored it. A faked terrorist explosion is too complicated to hand-wave as you do. What exactly did she attempt? Her death, but did she blow up part of the site with it? What was James' role? How did she frame religious extremists for the crime? What were the consequences of that? There had to be some--is it Ester and James who didn't consider that, or you? It's too empty to have the dramatic weight it ought to. You were two hundred words under the limit, so you had more space to use.

You were in contention for my winning vote for a while, but the ending flat didn't work, and this is what I meant when I said 'sort of' re: meeting the prompt. Ester's staking her life in order to save the Panther site. It's a gamble because it may not accomplish her goal. Okay, that's good, but what she does is so vague it almost doesn't register.


ThirdEmperor, "Render Unto Caesar"

Ouch, inappropriate 'it's' in the first sentence. You're keeping my expectations low, I'll give you that. The doubled periods in the third paragraph and the sixth from last are probably typos, other small errors likewise, but I see the 'it's' thing in at least two places. Bad Emperor! No laurels for you! If there's one rule to learn to keep grammar sticklers off your back, its/it's is probably it.

That and proper tense use. 'Had fell'? Yikes. Try 'had fallen.'

On to the actual story. You met your flash rule, although you didn't do anything special with it. I can't tell your Caesar's Palace from any other casino, and in fact I'm taking it on faith that this is Caesar's Palace at all. You met the prompt: the old man's gambling probably changes his life, and it certainly changes David's. Oops, though! Jeza reminded me that in blackjack, an ace can be either high (eleven) or low (one), and a six, an ace, and a seven would be fourteen. That breaks your conclusion badly. It's easy to fix: make that ace a king, queen, jack, or ten, and you're set.

The old man is a character; I want to know more about him, how he has such luck and what makes him so sad, why he'd go all in on one hand. David's just okay. He's got a clear arc. He's a material young man who sees misery in an old man's face and gives up his job to give happiness to a stranger. Maybe it's a little cliche, but I like it--I'd forgotten about his car by the time I got to the end, though; his need for money didn't stick with me. The first paragraph seems extraneous on the first read, more meaningful on the second, necessary on the third since without it David wouldn't have any personality at all. If David were more of a presence in the narrative, the conclusion would be stronger. Right now this actually reads more like the old man's story.

Condense the stretch where the old man builds up chips (you've got some good details in there, but it runs long), do something to make David as interesting as the guy he deals for, and you could raise this story from 'decent' to 'good.'


Nubile Hillock, "A story about dogs."

Steampunk. Not my favorite fad. Never got the obsession with gears and water in its gaseous form, personally. I wonder whether you get it either, because you dive cheerfully into the business of slapping cogs on everything and spout Victorian technobabble 'til I feel like I'm reading Steam Trek fanfic, and when I get the point when Cornelius makes a dagger jet steam for absolutely no reason before slamming it into some dude's trachea, I know you have to be taking the piss. Have to be. God bless, Hillock. Your story may be nonsense spackled over a cheesy and by-the-numbers plot, but reading it was fun.

The crazy bits--time travel via aetheric generator? Okay, Scotty, if you say so, but steam hash?--obscure things that are at least slightly clever, such as Delilah's line, 'You can’t second guess yourself after casting the dice.' This points helpfully toward your use of the prompt in case we might have missed it. Moreover, it foreshadows Delilah's actions in a manner that's clearer on the second read-through. Nice. This would be more impressive if Delilah's treachery weren't predictable without help, I admit.

Grammar pointers: Cassiacus should be italicized as the name of a vessel. You miss a comma in '“It’s time” she said.' You needed another proofing pass, I suspect. There are no serious technical problems aside from the promise of dogs in the title that you failed to fulfill.

'[...] as the world turned to black' is a horrid closing clause, and you should be ashamed.


stoutfish, "Dead Bear"

Where do I start. This is incredibly rough. Literally all that saved you was the existence of a poo poo geyser, although I would have fought for Lazy Beggar's loss over yours if it had come to that, since your entry, though poorly written, is much easier to read. You took on a flash rule and you did technically address it, though I've a hunch Jeza wanted more from an Eastern European setting than rusty Russian stereotypes.

The plot here is thin and cliche, as are the characters. Nesti, the Hunter, the bartender--they're flat as paper. Nesti at least has some scribbles on him. His gun is an interesting detail, and I wonder what exactly it means to him, why it's been in his family so long without being fired (assuming that's what 'virgin' means in this context). Other than that, however, he has no traits beyond 'doesn't want to die'--that's about as thin as a character gets! The Hunter is a smug bully out for money, a.k.a. a stock stereotype. The bartender barely exists.

As for the plot--oy, random Russian dudes being held up for nuclear secrets makes me cringe. Note: if Nesti's more than a random dude, you failed to establish that. You didn't have to interpret 'post-Soviet' so literally, but even if you did, there were many more ways to go than nuclear espionage.

But you do have a clear gamble, and even if it's a bit obvious given your setting, I'm glad someone used Russian roulette. What slaughters you above and beyond anything else is your writing. The grammar, the word choices, the terse paragraphs, the lack of meaningful description, the dialogue, it's all bad. The good news is that mechanics can be learned, and reading fiction as well as writing it will teach you. The bad news is that if you don't already know drat well these problems are here and what they are, you've got a lot of learning ahead.

For starters: in your first sentence, the comma after 'Europe' should be a period as the clause that follows is a complete sentence, but it isn't related enough to the 'unusually warm day' for a semicolon to be appropriate. I don't know what a 'dusky, dim light bar' is. Do you mean 'dimly lit bar'? The comma after the next 'bar' should be either a period or a colon. 'Another, an even older man working as a bartender continually wiping a glass' is a badly structured fragment; try 'An even older man working as a bartender continually wiped a glass.' (You may want to set 'working as a bartender' apart from the rest with commas. It depends on whether this information is essential or not. I think it is, but it's up to you.) The Russian life expectancy line is odd, particularly considering people can go grey at any age.

The comma after 'bar' at the start of the next paragraph should be a period or semicolon. There should be a comma after 'proclaiming,' but 'proclaiming' is a bad choice of words here. These things are called 'saidisms' by some: words authors use when 'said' or 'saying' would do just as well or better. In this case, 'saying' would be an improvement; 'proclaiming' is too melodramatic to suit the context.

'Nesti the burly drinker, slowly rotated with weary eyes to face whoever interrupter his drinking time.' Oh, lord. Try this: 'Nesti, the burly drinker, slowly rotated to face whoever had interrupted his drinking time.' Mention his weary eyes in a separate sentence if you feel the need.

'Nesti Opened his arms wide'--this rampant capitalization happens again with 'The Suited man.' Stop that. 'Self-satisfied' needs a hyphen. 'Black gloves began adjusting each other'--so they're enchanted gloves, then, capable of independent movement? Probably not. 'He adjusted his black gloves' would be better. 'Hunter' should be capitalized as it seems to be a proper noun. Nesti doesn't speak broken English for the most part, so 'What business you have with me' is likely missing a word.

'Hunter walked over to the bar, he slid his fingers across the counter repeatedly. “I've come to take you, and your secrets or leave you as a corpse.” He said somewhat in a sing-song manner.' The comma after 'bar' should be a period or semicolon again. There should be no comma after 'you.' A comma after 'secrets' is optional. The period after 'corpse' should be a comma, and 'he' should not be capitalized; 'somewhat' makes no sense where it is. I'd cut it, but at the very least it belongs before 'sing-song.'

I think you get the idea in terms of how many errors there are. This level of roughness makes the content of a piece almost irrelevant. Picking up a few rules would get you past this point and to an area where you may still make mistakes, but those mistakes won't necessarily ruin the prose. Here is a decent quick-and-dirty guide to joining sentences with commas, semicolons, or colons, for example. You could also do as I advised Lazy Beggar earlier: check out books such as Strunk and White's Elements of Style or ask for help at the Fiction Farm. If all else fails (or in addition to the rest), reading TD crits of the past may be of use; believe you me, you're not alone in getting shredded over grammar.

You tried to tell a story instead of throwing a bunch of poo poo and Pop Rocks on the thread, so I hope you can sand the jagged-as-hell edges from your prose as you continue to shed blood on the Thunderdome sands.


crabrock, "Storm"

If I had kept your flash rule at the forefront of my mind, maybe I wouldn't have pictured Harriet as a birthday-party fairy princess at the outset and carried that image through so much of the story. This is mostly my fault, though I also blame the bouncy castle. You mention the top hat; it should have been a dead giveaway.

I won't take as much blame for being thrown off by the interwoven flashbacks. You jump around chronologically without any visual cue beyond a change in tense. Each jump interrupts the main narrative.

Harriet's day also feels divided. The goings-on at the party are distinct from her time at home with her boyfriend and the question of her scars. Too distinct, perhaps, because on the first read the narrative seems to change course entirely. Maybe it's a pacing thing? The bus ride is longer than it would strictly have to be; cut the whole 'strategies' line (please, please--no ending a sentence in a colon, no, ugh), trim or cut the paragraph where she watches the wipers, and you've lost some decent description that nevertheless does little for the story. You want the lightning and the storm, but you don't need to describe them to such an extent.

Here's the thing, though: this entry improved so much once I reached the end that it was almost as though lightning struck, bringing new energy into everything and fusing the disparate pieces. Once I could see the whole, I really liked the core of it. Now I understand Harriet's racing heart, her edginess, and what exactly happened when the sheet collapsed in the first line. That moment of epiphany is strong. I think with some finessing this could be a powerful and elegant work.

The prompt is addressed in a subdued, understated way by Harriet's gamble on acceptance when she joins her boyfriend in the bathroom. This is good, but it feels slight, which goes back to the problem of the story's halves not fully cohering: her risk here comes off as an afterthought.

If it were me, I'd make it clearer that Harriet is a magician, italicize the flashbacks, and streamline the sequence before she reaches the house in some way. You should hang onto this one, whatever else. You've caught electricity in a bottle.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 16:59 on Nov 13, 2013

May 12, 2010

Pro is an amazing name!

Jeza posted:

My crits are in the offing. Inthesto, if you're out there you gotta post your brawl entry or make some kinda noise or else you'll just default lose.

Sorry, real life has been jerking me around a ton lately. I'll have my entry posted within the next eight hours, as of this post.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk




sebmojo fucked around with this message at 04:33 on Nov 13, 2013

Feb 13, 2011

The cries of the dead are terrible indeed; you should try not to hear them.
Probably means less people will read them but I think there's enough wall o' texts in here for the time being.

:siren: MY CRITS ARE IN HERE :siren:


inthesto posted:

Sorry, real life has been jerking me around a ton lately. I'll have my entry posted within the next eight hours, as of this post.

No problem. Not much honour in a default win.

Echo Cian
Jun 16, 2011

Oh by the way, look what I just got.

sebmojo posted:

Submit your story now, and post a screencap of the acceptance.


(I never got the standard acceptance note. :mad: )

May 12, 2010

Pro is an amazing name!
It's time to brawl because I ain't give a gently caress

Sunlight (718 words)

Henrietta wanted up. Some of the sunlight shone down to the floor, but the windowsill was far more comfortable. She meowed. Whining always got the big guy’s attention. She swished her tail. Each pass under the sun’s glow warmed her briefly, a taste of her near future. It invited her to lie down and nap there, but the tabby never settled for less. She waited until her patience ran out. Wherever the big guy was, he was not there, carrying her up to her preferred destination.

Fine, Henrietta thought. He only would have made things easier. She did not need him, strictly speaking. Pacing in a circle, she surveyed her environment. A sofa, a coffee table, an ottoman - they were all platforms to carry her to her goal. Another day, she would have been in the mood to make it a game, but the feline wanted her nap now. The stool, the drawing board, and then the windowsill. That was her quickest path.

The leap always strained Henrietta’s legs. Not that they were short, but the stool’s seat stood far off the floor. Hopping first onto the nightstand would have been all together easier, but the cat was already next to the stool. She hesitated a few moments, ensuring she had the right distance and trajectory. Her front paws stretched towards the goal a few times in a warm-up exercise. Confident her estimates were good enough, she took the jump.

Only her front legs made it over the seat’s edge, but her claws dug in for a good grip. She continued to pull herself up until her rear legs made it to solid ground. Henrietta struggled to yank her claws free from the quilted fabric. Maybe this path would prove more hassle than she had thought, but it was too late now. If she could hop onto the drawing board, then the windowsill was mere moments away. With her heart already excited, she took no precautions. The stool to the drawing board was an effortless jump, executed dozens of times without trouble. The trick was the soft cork, perfect material for a clawhold in spite of the face’s sharp angle.

In her haste, Henrietta never noticed the stool was a few inches further from the drawing board than usual. Neither did she notice her target zone being covered with drafting paper. Not until she botched the landing.

Instead of sinking into cork with a firm grip, Henrietta’s claws tore right through the paper. Her hind paws, already unstable on the edge, skittered as they lost their footing and dangled in the air. Scraps of paper littered the air as she scrabbled for her life, paws shredding the false surface. The windowsill was getting farther and farther away while Henrietta was sliding closer and closer to the floor. The paper was endless. No matter how much the cat ripped apart, there was another sheet ready to refuse a good grip.

When the only parts of her body still on the board where her chin and her paws, Henrietta made one last grab. Stretching her with her left foreleg, she reached as far as she could and sunk her claws as deep as they would go.

They sunk into cork. Henrietta stopped falling.

She tried again with her other front paw. The first try was no good, scratching up another strip of paper. One more time and she found cork again. Now it was just like the stool. All she had to do was pull until she got her hind legs back onto the drawing board.

When she was on all fours again, Henrietta looked behind her. Good, the big guy was there. He would have been furious if he had seen the mess she’d made. But he didn’t, and she was innocent now. All that stood before her was a short hop over the high edge of the desk, and she had the sunny windowsill all to herself.

Curled into a crescent, Henrietta enjoyed the sun’s glow on her orange and black coat. Frightening as it was, the fight made the goal all the more rewarding. With a purr loud enough to fill the entire room, Henrietta let the sunlight stroke her to sleep, until the big guy would wake her up with a scratch behind her ears.

Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

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



Word Count: 793

“I can’t hear anything!” Joanna said, pawing at her ears.

My sister’s voice overwhelmed me -- it felt like she was yelling while in my head. I dropped the orb and clamped my hands over my ears.

Later that night, I laid in bed and studied the orb, curious as to how it stole Joanna’s hearing and made mine better. When we discovered it in the mines, it was completely black, but now there’s a fleck of light floating in there. I wondered what that light was, until I heard soldiers outside.

I shouted at Joanna to wake up and hide as I ran out of the room. After I lifted the floorboards, I looked behind myself expecting to see her there ready to drop in. The stark realization that she didn’t hear me and I left her asleep, felt like I swallowed rotten meat.

It was too late to go back for her. The soldiers were at the door, so I hid. With my super hearing I heard her crying for me. I wanted to run up and save my sister, but I was too scared to move.

A gunshot rang through the house and I trembled, my tears leaving trails of clean skin as they splashed on my hands.


Cruelty looked alien on Johansen's handsome face. He, like everyone else, was a vision of perfection -- engineered at birth to be genetically flawless. In the instance when the upgrade failed, like the woman who sobbed and knelt before us, they are hunted down and killed. I was thankful this was the only house we will visit today in our cleansing crusade, I could only stomach so much violence.

Johansen pressed his pistol to the back of the woman's head, ignoring her offers of sex in exchange for freedom. With a bang, the nanomachines entered her with a hiss of burning flesh and she convulsed as they turned her insides into a boiling soup. Johansen turned to me, smiled, and wiped the tip of his pistol with a rag. "If you would be so kind burn this place down," he said and walked past me, steering clear of the uprooted floorboards, leaving me alone with a dead family strewn about like broken dolls.

When Johansen left the room, I crouched in front of the woman; the acrid smell of cooked flesh forced me to blink back tears of irritation. “My apologies,” I whispered. I rolled her body aside until I was able to access the floorboards I hid underneath all those years ago.

I scooped dirt aside hoping that the orb was still where I left it. At last, my fingers brushed up against it's smooth surface, and I pulled it out from the ground and examined it -- that same white speck of light floated the orb’s darkness, a reminder that I stole Joanna’s hearing when we were children.

The floorboards creaked. For anyone else, it would have been difficult to hear over their own breathing, but it was a gunshot to my ears.

“What is taking you so long sold-” Johansen stopped as his eyes were drawn to the orb in my hands. “What is that?” he said, pulling his pistol from his holster, greed plain on his face.

I couldn’t let him stand in my way. The orb flashed in my hand and I stole his eyesight -- he froze, dumbfounded, trying to make sense of the complete darkness he found himself in.

The power of the orb snaked its way up my arm. I pulled my own pistol and placed a sizzling nano-round into his chest.

A bright fleck of light emerged from the orb's darkness and joined my sister’s star. I inhaled sharply as the artifact's power reached my eyes and augmented my vision. The inordinate amount of sunlight seared my retinas and I fell to the ground, hiding my face in the crook of my arm.


I stepped in the assembly hall, most of the men and women as my country’s lawmakers. I trembled. If I followed through with my plan, stealing a random sense from each politician, I would force a change in this country born from self preservation.

I can’t do this. Something worse than death waits for me. I stopped, hyperventilating. To those watching me, they must have thought it was simply nerves, so they cheered me on. I heard them.

“Our soldiers would be able to track and kill so much more effectively with this technology.”

No. No more.

“No one will be able to stand up to us.”

I pulled the orb from my pocket.

“With this new breed of super soldier, we can finally cleanse the world of imperfects.”

I shut my eyes and filled the globe with stars.

Bring it BadSeafood. Cause I broughten it already son.
Woops, forgot to add music video that inspired story.

Mercedes fucked around with this message at 03:37 on Nov 13, 2013

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
You brought in the trash, now take it out again.

Goodboy (635 words)

Maxwell Harrison stepped in from the cold, brushing the snow from his cap and uniform. Officer Harrison: his badge, his uniform. It was the only thing he had now.

The cantina had no name that he was aware of. Filed away perhaps, listed in some deed lost in a landfill. The bar had no sign, no beautiful girls to welcome you as you walked in the door. Only a single asterisk, a lone star, dotted the napkins and stationary. Whenever people said they were going to The Bar, they meant here.

The cantina was run by two old hound dogs, Toto and the Duke. First names, last names, nicknames, who knew. Toto was a tall glass of water with a meticulously maintained Frank Zappa mustache. The Duke was a dwarf who smiled but never spoke. Their relationship was complicated.

Toto turned from the bar, but Harrison waved him off. He didn’t feel like talking. He took his usual stool and stared at the military formation of glass bottles that littered the northern wall. The Duke brought him whisky. He pushed it away. The Duke brought him coffee. He didn’t touch it. The place was empty save for them and old Alexei Sayle asleep in the corner booth.

The bottles entranced Harrison, amber and emerald, a memory reflected in each. In the amber bottles he saw his wife. In the emeralds between them, he only saw Her.

Harrison’s wife was a wonderful woman, if a bit clinical. She’d been a nurse, so Harrison understood. He worked days and she worked nights, and they were together in the mornings and the evenings. It was a practical relationship. They’d never had kids, though not for lack of trying. They wouldn’t adopt. They wanted one of their own. She’d quit when they had kids, and he’d work harder to make up the difference.

Then he’d met Her. Her. She was different, a free spirit. She scratched him behind the ears and called him a good boy. She liked to dance in the rain without an umbrella, collect insects, and dye her hair outrageous colors. When they’d first met, it was blue. When they last met, it was blue again. A real strange beast she was.

When Harrison’s wife found out she said nothing. She didn’t get angry, so Harrison got angry. She didn’t cry, so Harrison cried. She stood there quietly, waiting for him to subside. His own words still rang in his ears, a lingering chorus to the dimly-lit evening.

“You need to know where I’m coming from!”

In retrospect, he didn’t know why he’d said that. What was there to know? He cheated on her.

He pleaded with her as she left. She turned at the door and looked him in the eyes.

“I don’t even know who you are.”

She was gone. Forever? For now at least. He retreated to his lover’s embrace, but when he explained she tore into him. So that was the story behind the ring in his pocket. She kicked him and hit him and locked him out of her apartment. He realized then he’d never asked her name.

After awhile the memories faded, and Harrison saw only himself reflected against the display of bottles, his long, tired features exaggerated. A basset hound. He scratched behind his ear. He didn’t say good boy.

There was movement to his left. A woman with short, curly hair and a cigarette holder now occupied the stool. He took one look at her and knew everything he needed to know.

“You an officer?” she asked him.

“No ma’am. I’m just a dog.”

“All men are dogs,” she said. “But some are good dogs. Are you?” She winked.

He drifted for a moment before answering. “No.” He paid for his coffee and returned to the cold.

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.
:siren: :siren: :siren: Thunderbrawl Results for Mercedes vs. Bad Seafood: Let the Music Play :siren: :siren: :siren:

THE PROMPT: Write a story of regret that incorporates elements of a self-chosen music video.

THE WINNER: Bad Seafood, due in part to cleaner prose, in part to better use of his song and video, and in part to infusing his story more thoroughly with regret. That's not to say his piece was perfect or Mercedes' didn't have good points; full crits lurk below.

Mercedes, "Perfect"

Summary: A boy's magical device leads to the murder of his sister at the hands of soldiers. Years later, a soldier himself, he returns to his old house and retrieves this device. By using its powers, he first saves a woman from execution, then tries to save his society by handicapping all its lawmakers when he is brought before them.

I should admit I don't know that your protagonist is a boy; he could well be a girl, but for the sake of moving this crit along I'll guess that he's a he.

Your song is Peaches' "New Heights," and the theme I see in its words is finding the strength to stand on your own, not necessarily alone, but no longer begging or kneeling to anyone. You drew more on the "Love Language" video, specifically on the deafness of the girl--her handicap appears in the protagonist's sister--and on the video's message that such an 'imperfection' doesn't take away from someone's beauty as a person. You echo one line of the song itself ('Daylight's coming, the sun is blazing') in the moment in which the protagonist nearly blinds himself with his augmented vision. Choice? Coincidence? It's a neat callback either way.

That's enough to meet half of the prompt, though it's a tad thin. I see regret very clearly in the first section, and I see a flicker of it in the second section, but the third section and so the climax aren't about regret at all. This isn't a story on the theme of regret so much as a story that has some regret in it.

I'm torn on what I think of your magical mystery orb. On one hand, it's cheap. It's an unexplained gimcrack the protagonist found 'in the mines,' off-camera, and it does amazing things because it just does. The protagonist never treats it as a wondrous, monstrous thing! Only a curiosity. I don't care for that--but then I think of how the protagonist uses the orb in different ways to cause or solve his problems, and that part I like; you explore modified senses with it, and I like that too. Without this device, you wouldn't have the same story at all. So, okay. I still want more explanation for it than 'uh, we found it in a hole.'

Prose: You use the wrong tense a few times. 'I laid' should be 'I lay' (lay is the past tense of lie, and if this were a present-tense story you would have written the phrase as 'I lie on the bed'); when the protagonist remembers finding the orb, those verbs ('stole,' 'made,' 'there's,' etc.) should be in past perfect ('had stolen,' 'had made,' 'there was,' etc.). Sentences early in the second section are a mess o' tenses: 'In the instance when the upgrade failed, like the woman who sobbed and knelt before us, they are hunted down and killed. I was thankful this was the only house we will visit today in our cleansing crusade, I could only stomach so much violence.' Oof. The first sentence mixes past and present; the second mingles past and future. Try this: 'In the instances when the upgrade failed, such as with the woman who sobbed and knelt before us, they were hunted down and killed. I was thankful this was the only house we would visit that day in our cleaning crusade; I could only stomach so much violence.' Tense use is a problem throughout the piece. It's disruptive enough to hurt you.

The writing is generally rough, I'm afraid. Lots of missing commas; you've got sentences like 'If you would be so kind burn this place down' where words seem to be missing too. '[...] it's smooth surface'--yagh! 'To those watching me, they must have thought it was simply nerves' doesn't make sense; go with either 'Those watching me must have thought it was simply nerves' or 'To those watching me, it must have seemed like simple nerves.' And so on. If you want a full line edit, yodel at me and I'll see what I can do, but for now it's probably enough to say the errors affected my reading experience more than either of us would prefer.

Here's what I like: your last line. I like that very much. I like your general plot and your interpretation of the 'You're still beautiful' message in the vid. This needs to be fleshed out a lot to become a strong story, but there's potential in the concepts.

Bad Seafood, "Goodboy"

Summary: Officer Maxwell Harrison steps into a bar to stare at bottles and reflect on the women in his past. He has not been a good boy at all.

Why is the title one word? You write the phrase as 'good boy' elsewhere. This bothers me inordinately.

Your song is "Dog Police," by Dog Police, and the theme I see in it is dog police. Getting any deeper than that is a difficult endeavor since it makes no sense. A half-woman, half-dog is pursued by half-man, half-canine popo, but that doesn't stop her from peeing on the singer's speakers. What a wonderful world. You've leaned heavily on the lyrics and video imagery rather than the meaning, which is wise of you. References to the song are absolutely everywhere in your story. Your protagonist is a figurative dog and a literal police officer. A lone star is the symbol of the Bar. Your bartenders are the video bartender and his waiter, given canine names. A special brand of dog police puts in an appearance in the person of Alexei Sayle. Harrison's mistress's hair is blue. Whether 'mistress' is an intentional pun or not, it amuses me. She's a real strange beast. 'Where are you coming from?' 'Nobody knows who you are.' The blind date of the song steps in at the end to ask Harrison his defining question.

One cannot doubt you've milked the ever-living bejayzus out of your source of inspiration. Somehow you've wrangled a true story of regret out of all those references. Plot-wise, this is nowhere near as ambitious as Mercedes' piece. Nothing happens in it but a man looking at bottles and answering the question of his life; the story is all flashback and memory, but when the theme is regret, memory has to be key. You've draped your narrative in the heavy gloom of could-have-been, should-have-been.

In most respects your nods to the song are just restrained enough to let the story be serious and real. One exception: calling a man 'Toto' is an excess egg in the pudding, to borrow and mangle a phrase from Fumblemouse. I can't help but think that the 'tall glass of water' bartender would have been a better Duke, anyway. I'm incredulous that Harrison never learned his lover's name. How does that happen?

As for prose, you're solid if not flawless. Harrison's still remembering the sequence of events that starts with 'He retreated to his lover’s embrace,' so those verbs should be in past perfect. (Except 'So that was the story behind the ring in his pocket,' which I believe is indirect discourse and fine as it stands.) The contractions in 'She’d quit when they had kids, and he’d work harder to make up the difference' are confusing; they read like 'she had' and 'he had' when you mean 'she would' and 'he would.' I'd spell them out if I were you. Many of your sentences are short, and the rhythm is terse. I think this is intentional. For my taste, you take it perhaps a shade too far.

Nailing both halves of the prompt in a well-written story would have been enough to take the win, and it's icing on the cake that you've done it with a video that didn't lend itself to any meaningful narrative. I do not, truthfully, like your song. I sure do admire what you've done with it.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 08:40 on Nov 13, 2013

Aug 2, 2002




SurreptitiousMuffin, if that is your real name... This is you after I finish brawling your rear end:

I will consume you.

Mar 21, 2010

crabrock posted:

SurreptitiousMuffin, if that is your real name... This is you after I finish brawling your rear end:

I will consume you.

Hey babe.

I'mma do things to you.

Mar 27, 2010



Mercedes posted:



Look at this arrogant rear end in a top hat.

Hey, rear end in a top hat. Fight me. Fight me now. I want to paint the Dome in your blood.

Let's brawl.

Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

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

Fraction posted:

Look at this arrogant rear end in a top hat.

Hey, rear end in a top hat. Fight me. Fight me now. I want to paint the Dome in your blood.

Let's brawl.

Mercedes fucked around with this message at 20:19 on Nov 13, 2013

Aug 2, 2002




reported for image leaching, and poorly at that

Mar 21, 2010

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart

Fraction posted:

Look at this arrogant rear end in a top hat.

Hey, rear end in a top hat. Fight me. Fight me now. I want to paint the Dome in your blood.

Let's brawl.

:siren: Mercedes/Fraction T-Dome T-Bone T-Dawg Brawlstravaganza :siren:

Make the following event interesting: Someone goes to buy groceries.

Still expecting a plot arc, character development, all that good poo poo. Write a drat good opening line, too.

FLASHPOOL - Include one or more of these at your own risk!
- Culture shock features prominently in the story.
- US President James A. Garfield
- A 1968 Chevrolet Camaro, sky blue with white racing stripes, 7L V8 plant, manual transmission. Your story may not be set in 1968 nor directly mention any of the preceding details, beyond that the car is a Camaro. Extra bonus if you somehow elide that it is a Camaro while still making it identifiable.
- Nude oil wrestling. No explicit scenes, this ain't selfpub.
- The Origin of Family, Property, and the State by Friedrich Engels

One thousand words. Due Friday the 22nd.


Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's DIE!"

crabrock posted:

SurreptitiousMuffin, if that is your real name... This is you after I finish brawling your rear end:

I will consume you.

:siren: Crabrock v. Muffin :siren:

Consumption and emptiness, a cycle we may experience daily or over the years. Write a story about someone who gets what they want (big or small), but is ultimately unsatisfied.

To further inspire you, I have assigned you each a scent from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, the latest beneficiary of my own empty consumerism.

crabrock: The Black Tower

Say that the men of the old black tower,
Though they but feed as the goatherd feeds,
Their money spent, their wine gone sour,
Lack nothing that a soldier needs,
That all are oath-bound men:
Those banners come not in.

There in the tomb stand the dead upright,
But winds come up from the shore:
They shake when the winds roar,
Old bones upon the mountain shake.

A sepulchral, desolate scent. Long-dead soldiers, oath-bound; the perfume of their armor, the chill wind that surges through their tower, white bone and blackened steel: white sandalwood, ambergris, wet ozone, galbanum and leather with ebony, teak, burnt grasses, English ivy and a hint of red wine.

Muffin: Ekhidna

This was the divine and haughty Ekhidna, and half of her is a Nymphe with a fair face and eyes glancing, but the other half is a monstrous ophis, terrible, enormous and squirming and voracious, there in earth's secret places. For there she has her cave on the underside of a hollow rock, far from the immortal gods, and far from all mortals.

There the gods ordained her a fabulous home to live in which she keeps underground among the Arimoi, grisly Ekhidna, a Nymphe who never dies, and all her days she is ageless.

Mother of Monsters, the Eel of Tartarus, Queen of the Dark Forest, Serpent Womb. Consort to Typhon, the Rotting Lamprey was born from the residual scum left behind after from the Great Deluge.

All the corruptions of the earth: mandrake, dark myrrh, seaweed, swampy moss, black pepper, pimento, opoponax, tobacco absolute, and tarry clove.

As always, inspirations may be interpreted loosely, but not totally ignored. Word count is 800. Deadline is next Wednesday at 9pm PST.

Dec 17, 2003

Stand down, men! It's only smooching!

Somebody brawl me, I am bored waiting for zoo entries and not writing any.

I'm sure somebody has decided they hate me by now, TURN YOUR BURNING HATRED INTO WRITINNNGGG.

Dec 21, 2011

i'm a huge idiot who can't follow instructions, durr durr durr

PHIZ KALIFA fucked around with this message at 22:42 on Nov 13, 2013

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Quidnose posted:

Somebody brawl me, I am bored waiting for zoo entries and not writing any.

I'm sure somebody has decided they hate me by now, TURN YOUR BURNING HATRED INTO WRITINNNGGG.


oh, wait

Quidnoes I will destroy you in 500 words or less.


sebmojo fucked around with this message at 22:43 on Nov 13, 2013

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

This is a brawl prompt for EB and SH - put in a story and I'll crit and rank it but it's not part of their fight.

Dec 21, 2011

That's what I get for letting this thread accumulate a thousand unread posts. My bad.

Dec 17, 2003

Stand down, men! It's only smooching!


Also I still need judges so people sign up to judge my zoo-fest.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

sebmojo posted:

Quidnoes I will destroy you in 500 words or less.

:siren: Tonight on Pro Thunderbawl: Sebastian Moran Johnson vs. Fifty Quid on the Nose :siren:

Alright you two, listen up. I want a nice clean fight and a story about revenge, which like all good medicine should convey something about revenge. Its poignancy, futility, longevity, whatever. You have 500 words and until 11:59 PM PST Wednesday, November 20th.

But why stop there?

Sebmojo: You are permitted to tell me everything about the reckoning except the reckoning itself. Beforehand, after, everything else is kosher.

Quidnose: Yours is an inherited hate. From father to son, tribe against tribe, your call. Whatever the reason, whatever the grudge, at least one of your players must not hail from the original parties involved. Interpret however you see fit.

Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at 00:32 on Nov 14, 2013

Dec 17, 2003

Stand down, men! It's only smooching!

Hosana In Excelsis

There was a resounding chord from a distant and unseen choir of angels, and suddenly Larry and Mick were standing in front of the gate. Larry was sporting a gaping hole in his midsection. Mick had a knife in his ribs, right above the still-smoking shotgun.

The angel at the podium sighed and lifted his wrist to his mouth. “Clean up needed at Omega Gate.”

Larry glared at Mick. “Look what you loving did.” He pulled on the knife, but it wouldn’t budge. “Stop pointing that drat thing at me!”

“I’ll stop pointing it at you when you get your loving knife out of me, pig thief!” He raised the shotgun again, ignoring that pushing it into Larry’s arm would further inhibit the removal process.

“I told you not to call me no pig thief!” Larry pushed the gun away from his body and put both hands on the knife, pulling. It didn’t budge. He put one foot up on Mick’s waist and attempted to give it another tug, but Mick quickly butted the shorter man away with the end of his gun. “rear end in a top hat!”

Mick swung the gun at him. “Fucker!”

“Gentlemen!” The angel’s voice rang out sharp, causing the two to finally look his way. “Please state your name and occupation so I can process you.” He looked at his docket; a bus from Tokyo would be arriving in about five minutes. “And swiftly. We’re having a particularly busy day.”

Larry pushed Mick aside and marched to the podium, puffing out what was left of his chest in a show of superiority. “Larry Hanson, Farmer.”

“Make sure you add ‘dirty loving stealer’ to that as well!” Mick moved behind him and shoved the man’s shoulder, hard. “Mick Jenson, sir. Sorry this rear end is troublin’ you.”
Larry turned on him. “No Hanson has not never stolen nothin’ and you know it, you damned liar! Gimmie my knife back!” He reached out toward Mick again.

“Who you calling a liar, you ham nabber!” Mick batted Larry’s hand away and raised the gun once more. “I’ll loving kill you again!”

“GENTLEMEN.” The angel raised his hand to his temple. “This is not how we do things around here.”

“Well, he started it!” Larry shoved Mick back and pouted at the ground.

“Oh, nice! Now who’s the liar?” Mick spat at him. “You know damned well we’re here because your granpappy stole my gram’s best sow!”

“That sow ran away and you know it! My pa wouldn’t say ‘tweren’t so if it ‘twerent!”

The angel sighed. “Reason for travel?”

Both men answered in unison. “Self-defense.”

The angel paused and looked up at them from his docket. The men stared back, unflinching. With a small shrug, the angel picked up a stamp and pressed a single word onto their files: “PRIDE.” The clouds opened beneath them and swallowed the two men like a hungry mouth.

The gatekeeper returned the stamp to the podium and leaned into the microphone in front of him. “Next!”

Dec 17, 2003

Stand down, men! It's only smooching!

Oh, I had a week to do that? Bahahaha, I thought it was due tonight. :v:

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
WOO FIRST (submission) POST :black101: :hellyeah:

A Portrait of the Endless Scatalogical Cycle of Life and Death
997 words

To look at my brother, you'd think he was out walking a dog. He parked me as close to the Plexiglas leopard cage as he could, what with the melee of children jostling each other for an unobscured view of the pacing animal, and thumbed absently at the touchscreen of his cell phone.

Parents noticed me, wrangled children out of the way with gentle tugs and hushed voices. Let the man in the wheelchair have your spot. How kind of me, to show up and offer this teachable moment.

My brother whose name is Kyle didn't look up to see that there was a spot for me. I have never touched a smart phone. They didn't exist when I was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis in 1995. By the time the kids were all sexting and streaming and photo blogging, I'd been reduced to a silent eating and pooping machine, wheelchair-bound with near-total paralysis, my neck constantly at a dystonic angle that I am well aware people find extremely unsettling.

The leopard had stopped pacing, was right up at the Plexiglas looking directly at me.

I'm in my mom's full time care, but she guilts Kyle into spending time with me. When people take people in wheelchairs out, it's always to feel-good places like zoos and museums. Especially when I can't tell Kyle or whoever, look, just park me in front of some porn.

I guessed Kyle was texting a girl by how he didn't even pretend to try to carry on the one sided sort of conversation that always sounds like he's talking to a baby instead of his adult older brother. Lookit this, Bud, they got a genuine Monet here. Man, that guy knew his colors. You see the colors, Bud? He says Monet like MO-nay.

The leopard's mouth was open slightly, like big cats do sometimes and housecats don't. He looked dead into my eyes, completely unphased by the U-bendish crook in my neck or the way my face is waxy and unemotive, or how even my eyes have a distant, unfocused look because the right one goes in and out and I never know what sort of day I'm going to have, depth perception-wise. The leopard knew what everyone else tried to ignore, that I was a botched experiment in food-to-crap alchemy. The leopard could look right at me without shame because it was comfortable with that knowledge.

Meanwhile, I was still hung up on porno-type thoughts. Being what amounted to a sentient piece of rolling furniture had the effect of making me hellishly, defiantly sexual; the inside of my head was like a fifteen year old boy's unwashed jizz sock.

Another wave of families trickled over to the leopard exhibit. The leopard started to pace along the viewing window, back and forth as the kids all shoved at each other to get their tiny, sausagey fingers right up on the print-stained Plexiglas. They were too young to see the animal was a thing that was experiencing their attention, rather than just a curiosity to pay attention to.

"You wanna go look at the monkeys, Bud?" It was a rhetorical question that Kyle asked, since he was already disengaging my brakes and starting to wheel me around back to the main zoo path.

But before we could go there was a swell of commotion from the leopard-viewers, one part parental objection, two parts squealing, happily grossed out children. No one said anything about giving up a spot so that the wheelchair guy this time, so I knew something really interesting was happening.

Some parents were pulling their kids away, saying placating type stuff.

"The mommy and the daddy leopard need some quiet time," said one mom to her uncooperative eight or nine year old, who was clearly at that moment more interested in whatever scandal happening in the cage than anything else in the entire zoo.

"Oh god, would you look at that," said Kyle, hands still on the handles of my chair. We weren't moving.

Reluctantly, but with gathering momentum, the kerfuffle of children peeled away with their parents, opening up once again an unobstructed view of the leopard. Or leopards.

One mounted the other with that taut, hunched posture of animal rutting. 'My' leopard flicked his little round ears and stared straight ahead, totally in the moment, doing the one thing in its nature that was permitted and encouraged inside the preservative compassion of the zoo cage.

It's not like I'm into animals. I can't explain to you how or why what happened there at the leopard exhibit happened. I can speculate that some combination of my own undersexed desperation and a basic empathy for anything caged had something to do with it.

"...the gently caress? Bud, do you realize what's going on in your crotch region right now?"

I can speculate that the cosmos was like working through me in that moment to give Kyle his own teachable moment, or maybe years of aggregated rage managed right then to bridge the neurological gap between me and the long-defunct boner centers in my brain. Whatever the reason, there I was, turgider than I'd been in more than a decade, staring at a couple of giant screwing cats.

"Lets get you out of here," Kyle said in the same voice as the placating parents. "Maybe the little guy'll go away on his own. It's probably just some MS thing, right? Nerves, and poo poo."

He started to wheel me back to the main path, all shamed and embarrassed on my behalf.

I felt it then, welling up in the back of my throat. Something in my neck flexed experimentally, like a baby bird spreading its wings for first flight. My dick was a defiant tent pole in my baggy sweatpants. A single syllable ejected itself up through the flapping meat of my vocal cords. My jaw felt unhinged around it. My brother looked at me in horror.

"OCK," I erupted. "Ock, ock, ock, OCK!"

Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 05:16 on Nov 14, 2013

Mar 27, 2010



The Eye of the Tiger (856 words)

Only Tia could make Lily forget that her world was breaking apart. Whenever her parents argued, Lily hugged her close and tried not to cry. Big girls don’t cry. If a tear ever fell, only golden-eyed, orange-furred Tia was there to see. Tia didn’t tell a soul.

Her parents divorced when she was seven years and two months old. Though their marriage had been full of arguments, their divorce was quick and almost friendly. Lily spent weekdays with her mother, weekends with her father. Both of them tried to cheer her up, but she could barely smile.

The stuffed tiger was privy to all her secrets. Each night, when the lights were off and they were nestled in bed together, Lily whispered her fears and her dreams into Tia’s ear. Sometimes, when her eyelids were almost too heavy to bear, she thought Tia’s ear flicked beneath her hand. Was that fur—real fur, soft as Mrs. Fletcher’s dog’s—beneath her hand? It was thick enough to curl her fingers through. When she forced her eyes open and fumbled for her light, nothing had changed. Tia regarded her as steadily as always, and soon she fell asleep.

She dreamed of meeting a tiger, a real tiger. It made her smile.

She began to keep Tia with her whenever she wasn’t at school. Tia made her strong. Tia kept her safe. With her tiger clutched in her hand, she could handle anything. Her mother didn’t understand. Whenever she saw them together, she frowned. Lily hadn’t carried toys around since she was five. Her mother’s frowns only made her scowl and clutch Tia tighter than ever.

She went downstairs one night for a glass of milk and heard her mother talking in the kitchen. She crouched on the bottom step.

“...not normal, Jeff,” her mother said. “She should see someone, talk to someone. Don’t you think? No. You haven’t seen her.”

Lily turned and crept back upstairs, her best friend tucked under her arm.

In the morning, both Lily and her mother had dark circles under their eyes. She ate her breakfast with Tia on her lap. Every time she looked up, her mother was watching her. Why was her face screwed up so funny?

“Dad will be here at nine. Are you all packed?”

She nodded.

“You aren’t taking that, are you?” Her mother nodded at Tia. “It’s dirty.”

Leave Tia behind? She bit her lip. She didn’t want her cereal anymore. She pushed the bowl away with one hand and held Tia close with the other.

Her mother tutted. “Really, Lil. It’ll just be for the weekend. I promise.” She smiled, but Lily saw through it. She scooted off of her chair, clutching Tia’s leg so tight she thought her hand would break. She couldn’t give her up. She wouldn’t.

Her mother was on her feet. She reached out to take Tia. Tia was beside her, huge and gold and snarling. Lily closed her eyes; her lip curled; she growled. Tia roared and she screamed. The tiger’s rumble echoed in her shriek. When she opened her eyes, her mother shrank back from her. Lily ran for the stairs. Her father found her hiding under her covers.

“Lil, you can’t treat your mum like that. You know better than that. What happened?”

She hugged Tia close and didn’t say anything.

“I know it’s hard, sweetheart. With Mum. But you know you’re not a tiger, don’t you?”

He looked at the tiger, then at her. She tensed, but he didn’t try to take Tia from her. He sighed.

“Would it help? If you saw one – a real one? Would it help?”

Lily nodded.

The zoo was strange. Her father hurried her past enclosures, so all she saw in the early morning light were teeth and eyes. She heard snatches of sound – high-pitched calls, hooting songs, laughter. And then they stopped in front of a wide expanse of glass and all the sounds just faded away.

It was asleep, lying on its side like a dog in sunlight. It was all that she could see. She pressed herself against the glass. Only force of habit kept her fingers curled around Tia’s leg; she forgot everything, even her own name, in that instant.


She couldn’t look away. Her fingers tightened convulsively around Tia’s leg. She imagined Tia beside her, within her. She imagined tipping back her head and roaring, loud enough to wake the tiger. She growled against the glass. She bared her teeth, she hissed, she snarled. She raked her fingers down the glass. Her fingers twitched again and she was just a girl staring through glass at an animal that was staring back.

The tiger stood up, slow as her grandmother. It didn’t look away from her. It bared its teeth. She wasn’t impressed and she wasn’t intimidated. It wasn’t anything special. It was an animal, just another animal, like Mrs. Fletcher’s dog.

She looked down. Tia laid on the ground, threadbare and dirty. When she picked her up she didn’t feel anything special. She turned to her father, handed him the toy, and asked to go home.

Lazy Beggar
Dec 9, 2011

In order to remember more easily, I went for a simpler name for my protagonist this week.

Week 67

Nim (526 words)

Nim jumped down from his tree. He sauntered towards the hard, shiny trees to see who was there today. Two stood before him. Initially, Nim believed that the tall one was the one who brings the same sensation he feels when he is alone under the shade of his tree, free from everything. He wanted to go to her, but he knew he could not enter. He had tried before. For a long time now, he had not attacked his tree with his thoughts when the emptiness came; he no longer continued to use the same path to reach the top of his tree if he fell repeatedly.

The other one was little and still dependent on the one she saw first. She clung on to the other one; the one who made Nim aware of his current hollowness. In the past, when he had finished before the others his things coloured like the light above the trees, he used to feel a bad heat; especially if the emptiness remained. He was growing hotter now.

He would not want to sit at the bottom of his tree while darkness replaced light over and over again; why would they waste the light by coming here? To show him they had what he did not? He jumped at the reliant one. She pointed at him and made a noise. To Nim, it sounded like she had just climbed her first tree. He tried to recall his first, but it was too long ago. He shared her joy and warmed to her.


Nim thought of himself looking at water and seeing his movements being repeated before him. He jumped and turned. The one who brings him warmth had returned. He rushed towards her. A good warmth, warmth different from what he feels when just close to any another. She took away his emptiness. He climbed her as if she had leaves. And then he remembered his first tree.

She made the noise which Nim found more pleasing than that which the leaves of the tree make when its arms dance, as they are pulled and pushed by the breath from above the trees. She gave him many of the sweet sticks, curved and of the same shade as her light hair. He climbed down from her and began to fill himself. The little one stuck behind the impassable trees made another noise. Nim understood what it meant. It was similar to what he would make when he forgets about the barren feeling inside himself; when he does not want to hide from the others. Nim thought she must still feel at the top of her tree.

He walked towards her and passed his hand through to her. He did not want her to feel as he had earlier. They would make noise together. The same noise. She took it from him, and he released the sound of his warmth. It resonated from her like when he would make noise and wait for it to return. Nim jumped and continued to create sound. She did the same as if Nim stood over the water.

Nim thought he would never be empty again.

Lazy Beggar fucked around with this message at 17:08 on Nov 14, 2013


Jan 4, 2007

Stupid Wrestling People
Flash Rule 1: The main character has to be caught between a a literal or metaphorical rock and hard place.

Flash Rule 2: The story has to have a father and son.

Polar Bear 510 Words

John leans over the rail of the pen, and watches as the polar bear hangs its rear over the edge of the ice and shits in the water. He laughs, but stops when he realizes Owen isn't laughing. His son just stares at the polar bear, face void of all emotion. John laughs again, “Did you see that?” He makes a fart noise and mimmicks the bear dung falling into the water.

Owen doesn't smile.

They stare at the polar bear and her cub for another few minutes, until both retreat into the fibreglass den. John watches until he can't see them anymore.

John takes Owen by the hand and walks back through the zoo toward the exit. Owen doesn't look at any of the animals, just his feet. John notices the little canteen off to the side, a food truck with a wooden polar bear facade. The words “Polar Bear Cafe” are painted over the order window in flaking red paint. The bears nose is cracked off, and its face is odd and unsettling. “Want something to eat, buddy?”

Owen shrugs.

They sit at a plastic table on a couple of folding chairs on the pavement in front of the food truck. Some bird droppings have dried onto the middle, so John covers them with a napkin before then eat. John eats a polar burger and fries. The fries are hard in the middle, not fully cooked. John eats them anyway.

Owen doesn't touch his cub meal. He slowly pushes the little plastic polar bear cub figure that came with his food around the table.

“Your fries are getting cold.”

“I don't care,” says Owen.

Owen doesn't speak on the way home. John turns on the classic rock station and sings along in a silly voice and he makes funny faces. Owen doesn't laugh. John stops when his vocal cords start to hurt. He turns left by the bent street sign, and stops in front of an apartment building. The sidewalk leading up the the building is cracked and uneven. The windows in an apartment on the third floor are boarded up, and the entire building is painted an outdated vomit green colour.

Owen gets out of the car. John's voice is hoarse, “I know it's hard now, buddy. It will get easier.” Owen closes the door without saying goodbye. “I promise,” John finishes. He watches Owen walk away.

John turns on his cab light. Owen left his little plastic bear on the seat. He carefully picks it up and puts it in the glove box. The reflection looking back at him in the windshield is broken-down and sad. Dark bags hang under his eyes, “It will get easier.”

He takes out his cell phone and types, “Having second thoughts. Talk it out?” His thumb hovers over the send button for a moment, but he hits backspace and deletes each letter one by one instead. He tosses his phone in the back seat, turns off the light and drives away.

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