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Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


I'm in with Bittersweet Shimmer.

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Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


Color: Bittersweet Shimmer
Word Count: 1085

September

One day in September, Sam's brother caught her sneaking a bottle of Miller Lite into her room and said, “That's no good.” Jim snatched the bottle from her hand and scowled. “Warm, too? Come on.” She hadn't followed him anywhere since she'd been six and he sixteen. Then, he'd told her to leave him the gently caress alone. Ten years later she followed because he might be rear end in a top hat enough to turn her in otherwise.

He pulled a six-pack from the back of the fridge on the way to the back door. “I was savin' this to drink alone, but I think you need some educating.” Jim had been home for two years now, and this was the longest interaction they'd had without yelling. Come to think of it, they hadn't talked at all for almost a year. Sam, thoroughly confused, followed him across the back yard as he urged, “This way. Don't tell me you haven't found it yet?”

“Found what?” Her voice sounded high and sharp to her own ears, and more scared than she'd have liked. Resentful.

“What've you been doing all this time?”

“Taking care of the poo poo you left behind!” Now she was snapping at him, voice climbing up the register with each word. She winced. He didn't say anything, just pushed his way between two of the dense hemlocks bordering the yard. She followed, feeling the snag of branches in her hair.

Twenty feet into the woods, they stumbled onto an old logging road that led them to the top of the small mountain behind the house. “poo poo,” Jim said as he settled down on the rocky peak. “I haven't been up here in ten years.”

Sam perched on the edge of a rock and looked westward. Fall foliage, orange and yellow and red, spilled across the hills. There was a pop and a hiss behind her, and Same turned quickly, out of her depth. He smiled winningly, holding out a bottle. Moisture beaded and sparkled, dripping down across the label, slippery against her palm as she grabbed it.

“Careful,” he said, opening a second. “It's strong and bitter. Good stuff, actual flavor. Friend of mine brewed it. Not like the diet piss you've been drinking.”

“I haven't, actually. I was going to, but you threw it out.” She knew she sounded sulky. She just couldn't help it.

“Ah.” The teasing she expected never came. Eventually she took a sip, barely letting the liquid touch her lips. It was bitter and strange, but it couldn't hurt to sit a bit longer. He could still turn her in if she annoyed him. And she hadn't sat in such easy silence with anyone in a long time.

She took another sip, bigger. It was still bitter, but it was cool against the back of her tongue as she swallowed. Not so unpleasant. Maybe she hadn't sat like this, ever. Another sip, because the setting sun was hot and intense.

A thin film of clouds slid up the horizon towards the lowering sun. They drank in silence while the clouds covered the sun in a thin haze of orange and pink. High-up, above the wispy high clouds, the sun caught passing airplanes and turned them into glowing specs. Eventually she heard him open another bottle. She looked at her own, surprised to see it mostly gone.

The light and heat leached out of the air until only the thin, glowing clouds lit the world like a great, distant fire. She was relaxed in a new and interesting way. Her tongue must have been looser than normal, too, because she asked, “Why?” Another sip. “Why bring me up here?”

“I don't figure Mom's gonna teach you how to drink like an adult.” She tipped her head back flat against the rock and watched upside down as he turned the bottle in his hands. “I'm not dumb, ya'know?”

“Since when?” Sam kinda wished she could take it back, but mostly didn't. Hurt bubbled up like bitter amber liquid.

“Since I grew up.” She could hear the soft glug-glug of the bottle. “I used to hate you because they loved you. I was just the castoff, the mistake. Mom resented me because she never wanted me, and Frank resented me 'cause I wasn't his, right? But you were theirs.”

“Lot of good that's done me.” Sam looked away, feeling the sting in her eyes and throat.

“I know,” he said. “I came back, and yeah, I was a mess. The army ain't a breeze. But I wasn't so hosed up I couldn't see how she treated you. And then I'm thinking, did it start as soon as I left? Or was it the first time she didn't get her pills? And then I think, maybe it doesn't matter so much when, because I remember what it was like. But I was used to it, you know? You were their pampered little girl until you weren't any more.”

Sam closed her eyes, trying to ignore him. She hugged her knees to her chest, but it did nothing to stop the chill or the memories. She wanted to shout at him. She wanted to tell him it was all his fault. But those words had always been Mom's, and the little part of her that was bitter and angry and mean, the part she hid away, knew exactly how Mom talked about her.

“It's not all the time.” Sam felt guilt rising through her, and adrenaline. She'd never, ever talked about this. She'd never told anyone, because Sam wasn't dumb, either. She had some idea what would happen if anyone found out how many pills Mom took. “Just when she doesn't get her...medicine.”

“Yeah. Medicine.” Glug, glug. “You drive now. Does she send you out to buy it off the street when the prescriptions dry up?” Sam felt herself starting to shake. It had only been a few months since she'd got her license She'd known when she found herself meeting a strange man in a parking lot, alone, that she'd lost her mother.

It seemed she'd found her brother. Silently, she reached back towards him. There was a pop and a hiss and another cold bottle slid into her hand. The beer flowed over her tongue, still bitter. But there was someone behind her now, drinking with her. Being nice to her. Overhead, the first bright stars twinkled through the pale orange veil of clouds.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


Wow. I was just desperately hoping not to lose! Thanks!

I'm new around here...how do I go about choosing prompts/judges? I have some prompt ideas, but no idea what to do about judges. How do judges communicate? (I'm guessing everyone's hoping to get their prompts soonish, so I want to get on that.)

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


Week Fifty-One: We Told You So

Your prompt is: Pick a thread on SA. Write a story that addresses issues being discussed in the thread. (If it's the biking thread, your story will focus around bikes in some important way. If it's an Ask/Tell thread, your story will address whatever is being asked or told about. If it's an E/N thread, your story will look at a character in a similar situation, etc. Don't write the OP or the posters into the story, just use the topic as a prompt.) I will assign threads if I really must.

The twist is: Sometimes we can all tell from the OP how a thread is going to go. Reality is like that. In in Thunderdome, though, we seem to like surprise endings. Write a story where the ending is the natural progression of the story. Don't include a twist. Focus on characters, plot, and setting so that your ending is the inevitable outcome of the situation. This is a writing process prompt. I want to see you all looking hard at your story structure, plotting, and pacing. I want to be amazed by the basics of your story and not by flashy plot twists or adverb-laden description.

Get out there and get plotting!

Word Count: 1000

Sign-up Deadline: Midnight EST, Friday July 26th.

Judges: Anathema Device, Sitting Here, Erogenous Beef.

Submission Deadline: Midnight EST, Sunday July 28th.

Signed Up:
Sebmojo: GiP Drunk Thread (Assigned by Martello)
Besesoth: All my friends are dead: Paleontology is a thing
crabrock: Two Enormous Men gently caress An Amputee pics inside
Whalley: Do you like roller coasters?
Nubile Hillock: Bitcoin Thread
Capntastic: GARGANTIA ON THE VERDEROUS PLANET (Assigned by Sebmojo)
Auraboks: Florida Bans Mermaids (Assigned by Besesoth)
Jagermonster: The Triathlon Megathread
higgz: The InfoSec Megathread
M. Propagandalf: Stuff you did as a kid that you're ashamed of
Umbilical Lotus: Weed Megathread
Nikaer Drekin: Political Cartoons 2013
Kaishai: Let me tell you about my boat

Anathema Device fucked around with this message at 03:36 on Jul 28, 2013

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


This is clearly going to be an interesting week. I'll update the prompt post with a list of people who signed up and which threads were picked.

We still need a third judge! Who's going to volunteer?

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


Nubile Hillock posted:

What's the turd limit for this week?

No turds.

1000 words.

Sign ups close tonight at midnight.

Seriously folks, who is going to volunteer as the third judge? Don't make me put a random person on the spot.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


Erogenous Beef posted:

I got your back. PMs and IRC are the easiest ways to find me.

Thanks!


sebmojo posted:

You have much to learn about being a judge.

Clearly.

Sign ups closed. Submissions due in 48 hours.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


Sitting Here posted:

Hey E-Beef, I'm still gonna take ya down, but I won't be able to post til tomorrow. Stuff and things came up this past week, and my piece isn't quite done. Hope that doesn't besmirch my Thunderdome honor too much.

The rest of y'all better be using these last hours to impress the gently caress out of me.

Yep, submissions close in four hours. I only see three. Ya'all better be typing away frantically right now.

Side note: if anyone needs to contact me, email me at: anathemadevice.sa@gmail.com

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


One Hour Left

Sebmojo, Capntastic, higgz where are you?

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


Week Fifty-One Submissions closed.

Sebmojo and higgz have failed to rise to the challenge.

I was pretty impressed with a lot of the stories this week. Good job, everyone.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


Erogenous Beef posted:

Anathema Device, last I heard, had no electricity and Sitting Here has been disappeared into the hospitality-industrial complex. There's still some debate over the winner, but we should have a verdict later today.

Sorry, I just now got power back. There were a few awesome stories, a few awful stories, and some stories which followed the prompt really well.

Winner: Umbilical Lotus. This was a really awesome piece of writing and was in all of our top three. You did a very nice take on the thread you used.

Runners Up:

M. Propagandalf. You followed the prompt very well and had a very nice, character-driven story.

Crabrock. Nice work with a difficult thread.

Loser: Capntastic. Your writing needs some work, and while your ending was somewhat logical, it lacked any real interest. "Dialogue ends with a comma if followed by a tag," Anathema typed.

Coherent crits from me after I sleep.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


Crits. If anyone wants a more detailed crit or wants to discuss their crits more or whatever, email me at anathemadevice.sa@gmail.com

Your prompt was: Write a story where the ending is the natural progression of the story. Don't include a twist. Focus on characters, plot, and setting so that your ending is the inevitable outcome of the situation.

Nubile Hillock: The Grapes of Math

Beginning: Kid waves a Katana around while thinking about how awesome the internet is. Ending: Kid kills his brother in order to steal his bitcoins and girlfriend.

Unfortunately, your characterizations didn't support your drastic and sudden shift towards violence. The Katana shows up a few times, but no suggestion is made that your narrator views it as a weapon rather than a fashion accessory until the end. Also, comma splices, lack of scene breaks, and continuity issues.

Besesoth Voyagers

Begining: A paleontologist answers her phone. Ending: Fourteen years later she digs up a fossilized human scull.

The dialogue between the friends was really good. You definitely used the thread title (My Friends Are All Dead) as inspiration. Unfortunately, you didn't have enough space to handle time travel, emotions, and fossilization in one story. Pick a smaller focus for flash fiction. Personally, I would have either ended the story when her friends left to see the dinosaurs without her, or started the story at the second dig site. I really like the line, “It's the discovery that's important, not who's there for it.” That really shows your main character as a true scientist with a generous heart.

Nikaer Drekin: Garry Malloy Stands His Ground

Beginning: A couple fights about posting private info on facebook. Ending: A dramatic guy doesn't shoot anyone.

You had a caricature of a conservative as a narrator. I'm willing to believe this was referencing the thread you drew inspiration from. A more fleshed-out and believable wife would have made this seem more deliberate. The bizarre dream sequence could have been avoided, giving you more words for other things. Your ending was very realistic but surprising me with a realistic ending to a cartoonish story is still surprising me.

M. Propagandalf: Small Game

Beginning: A child shoots small animals with a Super-Soaker. Ending: A small animal gets hurt and the child feels bad.

You followed the prompt very well. The ending was predictable but the character's emotional involvement kept things interesting. The scope of your story fit well in a flash fiction format. This was one of my favorites because it did exactly what the prompt asked for, and you chose your thread very well. Think about the things you did right here going forward: you took a simple story and told the emotional details in a way that made me care.

Whalley: Ramonacoaster

Beginning: Someone is very excited about rollercoasters. Ending: They are involved in a rollercoaster accident.

This is the opposite of Nikaer Drekin's story. You point out the improbability of there being an accident several times, but in a fictional world it is the natural conclusion. I really like the tone of your writing and the descriptions you included. It read like a nervous woman trying to distract herself with all the things she knew. Having “Ironic” playing when they boarded was foreshadowing overkill. Many things were. Think about this story from the point of view of the nephews; I bet there would be more emotions and that we'd care about the ending more.

crabrock: Two Enormous Fat Men gently caress Me

Beginning: Someone was bullied in highschool and people avoid looking at them now. They are disabled. Ending: They receive money for sex.

This was actually very well written and an interesting character study. You didn't go for humor or porn, both of which I was dreading when you signed up. This was either a story about a disabled woman who has internalized a lot of abuse throughout her life, or a story that is very, very prejudiced against people with disabilities. I wish it was clearer which. There was a bit of jumping around in time and a lot of self-pity. I'm very creeped out by the dad who thought this was a good thing to do for his son's birthday.

Umbilical Lotus: Know Better

Beginning: An earnest nurse wheels an old lady outside to see her friends. Ending: Someone (not sure who) is arrested for using weed.

I loved this story. I wish it followed the prompt better. I also wish the narration was more chronologically clear. It deals with the difficulty of taking care of aging people. It deals with the morality of medical marijuana. The characters are beautiful. I'd love to read an edited and expanded version of this, because it's a great piece of writing. I am, however, confused. I'm unclear whether the narrator called the cops himself, or whether he got in trouble for what was happening there, or whether he just feels guilty because he didn't stop it before they got in trouble.

Jagermonster: The Finish Line

Beginning: Guy gets overconfident during his first triathlon. Ending: Guy gets hurt, has adrenaline/pain/frustration induced ragequit moment.

I like this. It's straightforward. It definitely uses the source material and it definitely follows the prompt. It uses the protagonist vs. himself model of story conflict with reasonable effectiveness. The writing is straightforward and clear. The protagonist faces a lot of difficulty but doesn't seem to overcome much of it. His self-defeating thoughts at the end make me hurt for him and also want to slap him, simultaneously. I wish there was a bit more conflict in the story. Not bad stuff happening, there's plenty of that, but a bit more fighting back against it or overcoming it or accepting it or...something.

Auraboks: It's persecution, that's what it is.

Beginning: A miserable security guard hates his job but needs the money. Ending: He kicks a mermaid out of a pool for bullshit reasons.

Your story follows your source material. However, as a complete story without knowledge of the thread you chose, the ending doesn't flow from the beginning. There's a lot of whiny security guard before there's any mermaid. I'm pretty sure the uniform is the antagonist and the mermaid, the guard, and the reader are all victims of it.

Kaishia: Sounds and Silences

Beginning: A boy spends years and lots of effort building a boat. Ending: He sinks it and kisses a water-woman.

This is an interesting premise, well written. Given the prompt, I'd have liked to see an ending where the guy has a boat and is satisfied or unsatisfied (following through on the beginning) or a beginning that introduced the water-woman. Adding a supernatural element partway through definitely counts as a plot twist. More time spent discussing why this guy built a boat, and why he was willing to sink it, would have added something to the story.

Capntastic: The New Stuff

Beginning: A guy types about architecture. Later we find out it's in a TV show. Ending: A different guy suggests a different show.

This was a story about two dudes arguing over what to watch on TV. It's possible that someone could make that interesting if they were really, really good and the characters were really compelling. Instead most of the action is a blow-by-blow of physical acts of typing and linking things, and the main emotional involvement is a guy planning his argument. You were handed a tough thread, but someone wrote a better story about two fat men loving an amputee. Go away and come back with a story about the harmful effects of awful costuming, or the show playing in the background while someone commits suicide from boredom or....anything, really.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


I'm in.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


I will meddle with things best left unknown. (I'm in with a toxx because I failed to submit last week.)

I wasn't going to participate this week. I've had the worst week. But the prompt is so completely awesome, drat you.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


Ghost Moose
1192 Words

Ashland, Maine
Fall, 1895

“You chose the wrong time of year to come here, son.” The old man hailed me from where he leaned against the general store, soaking up the last hour of sun. He lit a pipe with an unsteady hand, squinting at me with yellowing eyes. “Streams'll freeze up in a couple months, mills'll shut down. And there you'll be with no work and no food.”

I stepped out of the muddy street to stand beside him. “Is that so?” I asked. It had been a longer trip than I'd planned when I'd left my parents' farm outside Boston that spring. I'd used most of my funds getting this far. “I heard it was easy to make it in lumber up here. Enough trees for everyone.”

“Well, sure,” he said, waving his pipe across town to where the old water wheel creaked and turned. “But when the streams freeze over the wheel can't go, and the mill shuts down. Come spring, there'll be plenty of work for you. But until then?” he shrugged and spat into the mud. “Unless...you ever hunted? Real money's in hunting, this time of year.”

I shrugged. “Coons and stuff, back home. Some deer.”

He flashed his yellow teeth and held out a hand. “Name's Hill. You want a job? Pay'll be good enough to last the winter.”

- - -

Hill put me up in the Ashland House, where the gentlemen hunters gathered. Most were from out of state, wealthy men who drank and told tall tales while they waited for moose season to open. Their local guides were quiet, watchful men.

One of them pulled me aside the second night, while Hill dozed drunkenly by the fire. “Son, I don't want to speak ill of no-one, but that man you're working for is crazy. You ever think why he might hire you, who don't know the area at all?” It was suspicious, that was for sure, but the money he'd offered had been drat good.

“I imagine he's doing a boy a good turn,” I said.

The guide grunted. “He hired you 'cause we all know better. He's gone out with a new party every year for five years now. Only two men have come back, and they won't say what they saw. But it scared them. You don't want to get mixed up in this, boy.”

I squared my shoulders. “Thank you for your concern, sir, but I've taken his money and I'll do the job.”

The old guide frowned. “You've been warned. If you go and die now, it won't be on our hands.”

- - -

We left town two days before the season opened. “Them back there,” Hill gestured to the Ashland house, “they'll leave the day season opens and rush the woods around here. We'll be well out of it by then. Heading inland.”

“Why're they staying here, if the moose are inland?” I asked, following him. These woods had been heavily cut for lumber, and we walked through old stumps and blackberries. Mill followed the open scar and scanned the forest with quick, nervous glances. His hand stayed on his gun.

“Plenty of little moose here, but we're looking for something bigger.” He increased the pace, forcing me to scramble to keep up. I'd seen the moose heads decorating Ashland House, their horns stretching wider than I could reach. They hadn't been, I thought, little moose.

“Something bigger?” I asked. Hill waved a hand dismissively, eyes on the deep woods to either side of us. Fear tightened my chest as I remembered the old guide's words, but it was too late to back out now.

- - -

Dawn on the first day of moose season found us deep in the woods. There were no sounds of lumbering here, so we whirled at the crackle of breaking branches, a sharp report against the background of the endless sighing of wind through leaves, the singing of birds, and the high, alarmed chirping of the squirrels we passed. Hill's knuckles were white on the rifle stock; his liquor-yellowed eyes wide. The muzzle of the gun wavered as he shook. Quickly, I stepped aside, raising my own gun and following his line of fire.

Something white moved between the trees. Hill fired; the bullet scored a long, pale scar on a tall pine. Flashes of white showed for a moment between the trees, and then there was just the ringing in our ears and the still forest.

“Why didn't you shoot at it?” Hill demanded, voice low and mean. He held the rifle pointed at me, and I couldn't tell if he'd forgotten it was there, or was deliberately threatening me.

“What am I supposed to be shooting at?” I asked, voice climbing with frustration.

“That!”

- - -

We tracked it through the day. Early in the evening it came up behind us. We heard a snort and whirled, raising our rifles. It stood between two great pines, pale and gaunt, shoulders higher than my head and antlers farther across than the two of us could teach with our fingertips touching. It was white, except at the throat, where where a matted black flow made no sense until I understood the impossible: its throat was slit, gaping, and crawling with maggots.

Fresh bullet marks oozed bright blood onto its pale shoulders. Old scars, laid open to the elements, swarmed with mosquitoes and maggots. I raised my gun, but Hill fired first. His bullet struck dead between the eyes, rocking the thing. It looked at him with great, brown, sorrowful eyes, and walked forward slowly.

“Shoot it!” Hill shouted, backing away. The moose was close enough to touch, a bloody hole between its eyes. I stepped aside as the animal passed, useless gun at my side. I felt the heat rising off its skin, smelled rotting flesh. From this angle I could see the scars across the whole of it's body. Some were older, healed, and some still gaped.

“How many years have you come out here and shot this thing?” I asked Hill, gun still in my hands. Those massive horns were between us now; I could only see Hill's legs, backing away slowly.

“Shoot it!” It's attention was focused entirely on him now. Shooting would bring it around to face me.

“How many times have you come out here, knowing it couldn't die, and caused it more pain? How many hunters have you ordered to shoot it, knowing you can run while it turns on them?” I could see the last five years' worth of scars on the beast's hide, left by hunters that had never returned.

The great white moose charged. Hill screamed, thrashing on the ground under the creature's massive weight. Something snapped and his legs went still.

I cradled the gun in my arms until the moose finished its work, and watched it walk into the forest. Hill lay panting on the ground, whimpering, dying slowly. I raised my gun and sighted, and for the first time in his employ, I fired.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


I'm in.

God, you have a point about the shouty exposition at the end of my entry last week. Thanks for pointing it out.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


Noah posted:

AnathemaDevice:Pick any two previous flash rules.

Any from this week, or any ever?

Thanks for the awesome crit, seb. Yes, my title sucks. I was hoping to help you guys check my research: there is a mythical "ghost moose" in Maine, which was reported during the time period my story was set in. A man named Sandy Hill shot it, slit its throat, and hung it overnight before butchering it, but it was gone in the morning. Someone near Ashland, ME reported seeing it soon after. The Ashland house was real, and really had moose heads hanging on the walls. I also know a lot about the history of moose hunting in Maine now.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


This story contains graphic and potentially disturbing descriptions of mental illness and self-injury.

Also confusing prose. Stream-of-consciousness is hard.

Pitbull
Words: 1076
Flash Rule: Pick any two previous flash rules.
1.)The main character experiences a moment of horrific surrealism that no one else acknowledges.
2.)You HAVE to write in a stream of consciousness.
With a bonus of: Consequences involved in your story COULD mean death for a character.

“Were the girls all asleep?” Don asks. Sleep, sleep. Eight sleep two to a room and me alone in a closet-room in the dark with the voices.

Newguy answers. “Yep. Even Joan. Surprised me after the poo poo she pulled today.” I am Joan, and I am not asleep. Just mouse-quiet in the dark.

“I heard it's down to me or Jesse for shift manager.” Down, down. Downstairs in the office where they talk all night. Down in the light where they think I don't understand.

“It's you for sure, Don. Jesse's a prick.” Jesse-the-prick makes you sit up here in the dark, watching me. Watching me. Always. That's why I'm here: blood in the dark and torn veins and mother screaming. “The boss was asking around. I told him you'd be the better choice.”

Not watching me. Down there, talking. I could do it now. Now, now. Ow. The floorboards are stronger than my nails. Scratch, scratch, bend, snap. Another broken. Warm mouth around my finger, sharp taste of blood. Blood. Keep trying.

Creak and the floorboard giving. Quiet, quiet. I'm a mouse. Don't hear me, don't see me, just me and the dark. Still like a statue, listen close. Don says, “Thanks man. Fifty cents an hour isn't much, but I need it with the baby coming.” They didn't hear. Crack crack like popcorn. Long, jagged broken wood. Splinters in my palm. Ow, ow. Not enough blood. Too dark to see. Put the point against my wrist. Tender, thin skin. To press or not to press?

Don't press. I want to live. I want to go home. “God, Don. I can't believe that bitch bit me. Is she always like that?” Bitch, bitch. I'm a bitch that bites, a pitbull bitch with a deathwish. Press the splinter in. Skin tearing, pain, pain. Blood and splinters and dark.

“Joan? Yeah. It's just for attention. Thanks for grabbing her. If she'd wound up at the hospital on my shift, I'd have been screwed.” Attention and sirens, hospitals and group homes and voices all night. My life is worth a fifty cent raise.

Pain in my chest, in my gut, in my brain. The wrist is numb and far away, but the voices are close and mean and loud in my head and I'm sobbing. Bright lights rush in; someone screams. I've woken the others and they've opened the door. Red blood and screaming: I'm caught again.

- - -

Soft tight cotton on sore scabbed wrists. White bracelets of shame to cover the blood. Thin soup like slime in my throat. Cotton snagging fingernails. A warm hand on mine, gentle and firm, stopping me. Jesse's beside me but he's not looking, just grabbing my hands until the itching passes. He's looking at Don and Don's looking at him and they're smiling, smiling, a crocodile smile just waiting for the snap.

“How's the wife?” Jesse asks. Wife, wife, in your normal life. “Due any day now, isn't she?”

“She was due two days ago. I'm expecting the phone call any minute.” Slimy cold soup and a plastic spoon. Bend the spoon like a telekinetic, sharp plastic shards. Itch, itch, itch the wrists. Hands on mine, warm, firm. “What about you? Been out in the boat?”

Noodles float in soup, float like a boat. Cold and small in a big bowl-lake. Don't want the soup. Hunger sharp and angry, sharp and angry like me. I'm small and sharp and angry and I don't have a boat or a wife or a life.

- - -

Bright light, fluorescent light. Together in the light in the office where the paperwork piles, falls, and scatters like snow. Scratch, scratch, pen on paper. Jesse writes neat and small. He thinks I can't read. They all do, cause I don't talk. If I don't I can't because they can and they do. Logic and egos all tied in knots.

. . .other clients indicate that Joan was alone in her room without staff when the injuries occurred, in violation of her protocol which indicates twenty-four hour one on one supervision. . .

A creaky door, old door, office door. Newguy comes in. Tight lips, tight eyes, nervous guy. Said I was asleep last night when I was mouse-quiet in the dark. “Hello,” he says,

“Hi.” Papers rattle, shuffle, slide away in a drawer. “Have a seat.” Jesse has his angry voice on, all quiet and calm. Newguy's butt hits a chair with a thump. Thump, lump, newguy down on his luck. “I see that you were working last night when Joan was hurt. Were you aware that she requires supervision at all times?” All time, night time, end time. Alone time is no more, gone out the door with the sirens and the blood.

“Don told me that once she was asleep it was safe to leave her,” newguy says. Don wants a fifty-cent raise and a tag that says “manager.” Wants money for a baby. Will he leave her alone in the dark, too?

“You will not leave her alone again, understood?” Jesse asks. Newguy nods. Nods, nods, wants to keep his job. “I've sat with her all afternoon. She's reasonably calm, but she is not to be trusted alone. She's sneaky. Keeps trying to pull the bandages off. Just grab her hands.”

“I'm not sure I'm comfortable...”

“Listen, kid. I've sat with her all afternoon and I need a goddamned break. We all have to do things we don't like. You'll do your part or leave, got it?” Jesse's not so calm now. Sneaky, sneaky. Things we don't like. Need a break. He liked me, liked me, held my hands. All a lie. Lie, die. Nobody likes me and I will die.

Fingernails on cotton, pressure on wrists. Stretch, snap, breaking gauze. Scabs and blood. Hands on my arms, hands on my hands. Turn, bite. Salty sweat and soap and hand sanitizer. Jesse's voice, angry and quick: “Bitch bit me. Grab her!”

Bitch, bitch, pitbull bitch. Put her down. It's down to you for manager, Jesse, and you're a prick.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


In.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


Bad Seafood posted:

Thunderdome homework may also be posted in the dome, except during submission weekends.

Additionally, there is never a due date for the homework I assign. You may complete it at your earliest convenience and are to do so for your own edification. The only reason you have to post is to determine how edifying it was for the rest of us (i.e. "Me"). You are, of course, free to blow me off, but that presumes you are content with being a horrible person.

You give the best homework. Can I request homework?

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


Hank's Used Books
Words: 989

“...and Aunt May – you know, my stepmother's sister – wore this...” Alvin cradled the phone against his shoulder. His fingertips were sticky with glue. A paperback lay open on his desk, loose pages lined up carefully. “...scandalous on a woman her age. But you know Sarah, she's too polite to say anything. Needs a backbone, that one. Don't you think?”

“Umm.” It wouldn't be worth selling, but you didn't throw a book away. Someone might want to read it. People here didn't have money for books, but the free ones passed quietly from hand to hand.

“Of course you do, you're a smart lad. Always were. Except for that store. Still losing money, I expect?” There was a tinkle of ice and a slurp.

“Yes mom.” The margins were filled with familiar, cramped handwriting. He'd gotten the book in trade from a customer, but they'd clearly bought it here. He stroked his pinky, the only glue-free finger, down the spine.

“Such a lovely storefront you have, too. You could sell the place, make a fortune. It would make such a nice coffee shop, or a restaurant...” Another slurp. A crunch of ice. The last pages settled into place. “Are you even listening to me, Alvin?”

“I'm not going to sell the bookstore.” His chair clunked as the wheels passed over the uneven floorboards. The desk-lamp was on, casting a pool of yellow across the high wooden desk, the scattering of bills and paper, the pile of books. Beyond it the store was dark.

“You've never made a cent off it.” Clink. Crunch. He picked the dried glue off his fingers as he walked. “What you should do is raise the prices. I mean, I know most of those books are junk, but some have got to be worth something. Sell them on e-bay, if you insist on staying in that stupid little town.”

“You raised me here.” He kept his voice mild, affable. Junk. Books weren't junk. Especially old books, with accumulated years of scribbles, broken in to open to the best parts. You didn't just read an old book, you read all the people who had read before you. “I don't want to sell on e-bay. I like meeting people.” The pipes clanked when he turned the sink on. Water sprayed over his hands.

“Meeting people! Nobody interesting ever comes into your crappy shop.” She was swearing, which meant she was on her third drink. At least. Of course she wouldn't find his customers interesting. They were usually shy, quiet people, adrift in a town rife with anti-intellectualism. Useless people, she'd call them. People like him.

“I think they're interesting.” The faucet squealed as he turned it off. On the other end of the line there was a clink of glass on glass and a splash. He should ask her about the drinking, but in the end, it was never worth it.

“Have you been to a psychiatrist? About your book hoarding? Just like your uncle. I knew we shouldn't have let you spend so much time with him when you were a kid-”

“You left me here because he'd babysit for free-”

“Your dad was sick, and I was busy. And now you're crazy! Pouring all your resources into that, that shop and ignoring your family. You know, the gardener hasn't been by in three weeks. I thought you were going to take care of it. But you probably just bought a new book instead. Useless boy.”

Alvin found himself staring at his own dark reflection. The lights were still off in the shop – he knew his away around too well to need them – but his face was a twisted shadow. Angry. His hands were shaking. He took a deep breath.

“Are you even listening?”

And then all the words he'd never said came up, hot and angry. “I'm not paying for your damned gardener, mom. If you want to brag about your roses, grow them yourself. I've paid for your house, and for you booze, and for your fancy dresses out of the money that 'crazy' Uncle Hank left me. And yeah, the bookstore loses money, but I have enough to keep it going until I die.”

“You spoiled little brat! No respect for the woman that raised you. Fine. Have fun with your books. Enjoy them, because you won't have your family anymore! I've had enough! Don't you even think of calling until you apologize! ”

“You didn't raise me. You dumped me with Hank and had your fun. But I learned here, mom. I learned things you don't even know you're ignorant of.” The line went dead. He braced one arm against the sink as he watched himself lower the phone and press the button. He'd wanted to say that for years.

He felt sick. He'd never talked back to his mother. Maybe that was the key – maybe she'd just leave him alone now. Maybe he'd be lonely.

The phone rang. “Hello?”

“And you will too pay the gardener you ungrateful snot!”

He pressed the “end” button and set the phone down. When it rang again, he left it in the bathroom and walked back through the darkened bookshelves to his desk. He pulled open the top drawer and lifted out a battered old novel. Inside it was dedicated in neat, cramped handwriting:

To Alvin,

The only person worth anything in this whole misbegotten family. This is my favorite book. Treasure it. The money and the store are yours. Take in the strays and the lost souls. There's love in the books, boy. Don't forget it.

And I love you like a son. Don't forget that, either.

-Hank.


Alvin held the book carefully so the tears wouldn't smudge the ink. He let it fall open to the best part and began to read.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


Awesome, challenging prompt. I'm in. (Unless nobody steps up to judge by say, Friday. In that case, I'll volunteer.)

Also, I started writing crits for everyone this week, but ended up unexpectedly traveling for an emergency medical appointment. Crits on my computer at home, will post later this week.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


Crits from last week part one. Part two will be along as soon as I'm supposed to be doing homework.

M. Propagandalf

I like your title. I expect to see a protagonist whose self-image is heavily shaped by those around him.

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. You have lots of dialogue, but a lot of it is just words. The only person your protagonist talks to is a moving reflection who may or may not be a hallucination. Most of the dialogue happens in a void, so while some significant things are said, we don't get to see how they effect the protagonist.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. This is the big problem with this story. You use a lot of words tell us a lot about the train station. You tell us in great detail what the characters do – where they walk, where they sit, what their facial expressions are. What you don't tell us is why any of that stuff matters.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. Again. The whole story tells us what Stephen is doing, but you don't ever tell us why. What does he look for in women he watches? What does he notice about them? Is watching them sexual for him, or is he lonely, or is he incredibly awkward and waiting to be brave enough to start a conversation? You do tell us that he doesn't successfully talk to people, that he assumes people will think the worst of him, and that he gets pretty defensive when someone calls him out. You don't tell us why.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. I don't understand your character. Sorry. I just don't get it.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. I feel like you might have been reaching for something here, possibly about loneliness and self-hatred. A rewrite with less “he did this, she did that” and more emotions might bring this story somewhere.

I didn't get what I expected from this story. I really felt like I missed something, because I could tell there was something there. I just couldn't tell what.


Didja Redo

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. Good job! Your dialog showed us a man who is obsessed with his own needs. (“I don't mind the stool.” “I'll forget it.” “I need to paint you again.”) It's creepy and he's creepy.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. Overall, this was pretty good. There were bits that seemed significant that I never understood the significance of. (“She wouldn't want that.” The part with Charles. The lines matching at the end.) I feel like your portrait of the creepy artist would be more meaningful if you dropped those bits and just stuck with his creepy drawing, or alternately dropped the bit with Tom and explained who 'she' was.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. I liked it. I feel a bit bad for the guy while also being really afraid he's going to snap and kill/maim/kidnap someone.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. Some of the bits I didn't understand seemed heavy-handed, like you were trying to imply something really clearly, but the implication didn't come across. To me, anyway.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. Yes and no. The creepy artist who is compelled to obsessively draw faces is definitely compelling. His relationships are just confusing.

I liked your character and at least some of your premise, but I'm confused.

Econosaurus

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. Yes and no. The last line definitely is, but most of the important character stuff is internal. Sarah is pretty shallow and she does most of the talking, so it's meaningful in that sense. I don't think the dialog is the strongest part of this story.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. I'm not convinced. You describe the bar in great detail and give us some of the reasons it matters to your character, but I could have done with less puke. And I really want to know if Sarah washed her hands between wiping up the puke with napkins and touching the protagonist, and if not, whether this bothered him. It bothered me! Yuck.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. I'm liking this element the best so far. We clearly see a guy who did too much partying in college, developed an alcohol addiction, ditched the addiction, and went back to college. The party scene doesn't appeal to him anymore; he feels out of place. But being out of place and being in a bar are triggers for him, and he buys a drink. Okay, this is believable and strong. If he did AA, they would have suggested he avoid bars, and avoid people who party and drink hard. Does he wonder if he's doing the right thing, going here? Does he think he can handle it? Does he feel guilty for failing? Actually, this calls back to the economy of words. I want less puke and more talk about recovery.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. I like this one. It's pretty subtle. You don't beleaguer the point, and we find out a lot about your character. Good job!
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. Again, I think you did a really good job here.

Lord Windy

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. Your dialogue was pretty canned. I don't mean the customer service spiels, which were actually the strongest bit. The conversations between Simon and Amy could have just read [placeholder talk.] Luckily, they were the weakest part of the story.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. This was...okay. I think dropping a bit of the details of picking up phones, pressing buttons, and typing for more words about emotions and reactions might have helped.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. You didn't even borrow Amy from stock casting – you just put a voice on a cardboard cutout. Mrs. Smith seemed to be going the same way until she softened up. I know others complained, but I thought her personality change was really good. A lot of people treat service reps like they aren't really people, but having a human connection with one (even if it's just “we were both in a hospital”) can change that. Simon was okay, not too boring, just doing a boring job.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. This was your strongest point. You hinted very nicely – not obscurely or confusingly, but nicely – at what had happened. That said, we still don't know why Simon was in the hospital. I'm assuming it was psychiatric issues or something related to trauma.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. I think you did a decent job with this, given the limitations your dialogue placed on the piece.

Overall, I liked this one really well. I liked the simple setting and the simple story. It just needed better characters.

crabrock

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. Good job. The dialogue shows the characters really well, and structures how the whole story goes.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. Pretty much spot on here, too. One quibble at the beginning. “Ignoring my herniated disc” is telling us; how does it feel, or how does the character react?
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. You did this really well.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. This too.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. And this. I like the way your character reacts by becoming what's expected of them. You mention it with the teacher, and it shows up again with the ending. I saw someone else complaining about this, but I think it's a nice reflection of reality.

Of the ones I've read so far, this is definitely the best.

Helsing

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. There wasn't a lot of dialogue. What was there was pretty good. It felt natural. Did you leave the conversation with the client in the narration instead of as dialogue on purpose?
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. So. All of your sentences were really good. The story of Claire-the-roommate was interesting, and the story of The Client was interesting. For a piece this short, I'd have preferred one or the other (though I think you were working to a flash rule?) You tell us a lot about Claire, set up Claire's friendship with the narrator, and have Claire pressure the narrator into something. But you don't show us the consequences of the narrator's decision on her relationship with Claire: instead, you introduce a love interest. There would have been more symmetry – and more meaning to the beginning half of the story – if you'd showed a change in their friendship based off of this experience.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. Really strong here.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. Also pretty strong.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. I like it.

I really liked this, but with a few complaints. The first is structural: there's so much attention to the friendship with Claire right up until the narrator decides to try the escort thing out. Then you pretty much drop her. If she's not going to play into the story except as a catalyst, don't give her so much attention. If she's important, include her in the consequences. The first line suggests that this might cause tension between them.

The second is tense-related. You aren't anchored in time. You open with her looking back, mention that she “was still living” somewhere instead of just living there, etc. She “had imagined” and “had worried” about things she could just imagine or worry about, and out of order with other events. Keep it simple, tense-wise.

Also, I don't think someone's first time acting as an escort is “mundane” enough for the prompt. But still, the story was pretty drat good.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


And crits part two. If these are incomprehensible, I apologize. If anyone wants clarification, go ahead and PM me or email me at anathemadevice.sa[at]gmail.com

Also, I volunteered to judge if we were short this week – am I needed, or should I get writing?

Nikaer Drekin

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. All of the actual story was told through dialogue, and yet the characters had no voice. Mr. Handler told the story like someone writing narration. It was...bland.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. The entire intro with the bar, the drinks, the exchange of names, was wasted space. Yep, you did set up a mundane framework for the story – but it felt like you'd done that to squeeze a story that didn't fit into the prompt.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. I don't. I want to, because here's a good guy who's gone vigilante and stuff, but he's...boring.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. Okay. You did well here. Congrats.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. I think you tried, but the limitations of your dialogue, characters, and setting got in the way.

I know you said you weren't happy with this, and it's good that you submitted it anyway. There's a decent base story here – maybe something that needs to be longer than flash fiction. But the character needs a personality and a voice, you need to ditch the “mundane” setting and just tell the story, and there needs to be some more...life in the thing.

Jagermonster

I'm three paragraphs in and if I read the name Ben one more time, I'm going to throw something. Five times. Five times in three paragraphs. Once in dialogue when there's only two characters.

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. Ben-Ben-Ben's father had some good lines, and those were the strongest part of the story.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. This really needs some work. There's a lot of repetitive phrasing, unhelpful details, and clunky sentences.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. Ben's father was good. He came across as an actual father – a role model, an understanding person. Some development is implied; he feels he forced his son into law, and he's possibly become more sensitive/accepting as he's aged. Ben...doesn't really do it for me. And his mother is just a prop who's barely mentioned at all DESPITE BEING THE REASON THEY'RE THERE.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. With Ben and his relationship with his job, you're pretty heavy-handed. His relationship with his father, and his father's whole character, is much more subtle and very nicely done.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. There was meaning here to reach for, but some of it was really missed.

You used Ben's name 25 times throughout this story. It annoyed the everliving hell out of me. Otherwise – I think there's something here that's good. Some more editing – particularly cleaning up details and cutting down unnecessary words to leave space for more character development – could go a long way. I'd like to see more about Ben's relationship with his mother – does he care that she's getting surgery, or is he just guilty that he's working while he's waiting? Why doesn't he care about her beyond feeling guilty? How does he feel about the changes in his father's attitude?

Schneider Heim

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. I know you've been working on this in the fiction farm thread, so I'm not going to tell you how bad it was. Here are some thoughts: It'll be easier to write good dialog if the characters have something interesting to say. What are the characters' goals in the conversation? This reads like small-talk, but it effects a major decision that one character makes. Karen interrupts Sue and Sue seems annoyed to begin with, but then opens up and has a serious conversation. What made that shift happen? Karen comes over to talk to Sue – why? Because Sue looked upset? Because Karen needed support about her Master's thing? You don't need to tell us every motivation the characters have, but knowing what they want out of the conversation helps.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. There's lots of empty dialog and clear descriptions of email-checking and browser-window-closing that are kinda pointless. There's so much we could find out about – why Sue's in the program when she doesn't want to work for a gaming company, why she stopped admiring some of the companies on the list, what she'd do if she did go out on her own instead of taking one of the jobs, what she likes about programing...you hint at this stuff, which is awesome, but there's more to give us here.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. You're not quite there. Karen is flat and boring. Sue has potential (more about that above.)
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. You hint at a lot of good stuff and heavy-handedly give us a lot of bad stuff.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. There might have been something here about art, integrity, and the battle between staying true to your art and selling out, but if it was there, it was buried deep.

There was definitely something here to work with. If you do edits on this, think really hard about what the conflict facing Sue really is, and how to get that across. There was potential there, but it got hidden by other stuff.

docbeard

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. In the context of this story, most of the dialog was meaningful. It either laid out what was happening, or gave us insight into the characters.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. Again, in the context of the story, this was all alright.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. Yep. The guy was kinda funny and very strange, the girl seemed pretty sweet. A bit boring, but not terrible.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. Well, your character explains the entirety of what's been happening to him outright in the dialog, so it wasn't terribly subtle, and there wasn't much else going on.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. Nope. Sorry.

So. This was strange. Was it supposed to be supernatural? Is the guy hallucinating? Does he actually have a wife and kids, and just not care about them? In contrast to the last few stories, most of the technical stuff was alright. What was lacking was a plot, or even a hint of a plot.

Mercedes

I'm going to crit the first half, because you sort of had a story going there. The second half...I'm not touching.

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. You do convey the characters and the situation clearly through the dialog. It's pretty canned, though.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. I think you actually need more details in the first half. It's pretty sparse.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. I feel a bit bad for both of them – she's relying on this dufus to make money, and he's...trying, but he's pretty hopeless.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. This is really heavy-handed.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. There's something in here about relationship dynamics. It does show spousal abuse with the man as the victim, which is a topic in fiction that's rarely covered.

Alright. The first half of the story is salvageable with heavy editing and a bit more focus. I think rewriting this might be an interesting exercise for you, because there's a clear plot (man gets laid off, puts his life savings into a scam, and has to tell his wife) and conflict (between the spouses, and between the man's expectations and what happens) and two characters who both have sympathetic and terrible traits. The second half of the story seemed to be you giving up and throwing some action in to distract us from the fact that you're not addressing the relationship issues, lack of finances, or spousal abuse.

Fumblemouse

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. This was good. The dialog seemed natural and gave us a lot of information we needed. The swearing at the end was very...extensive, though you clearly explained that in the story.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. Very well done here. I liked the details you included.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. I really liked both your characters here.
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. The “full aspie” thing seemed a bit heavy-handed; I think we could have figured out what was going on with just the more subtle clues, and it seemed sort of...rude for Amanda to announce that to the room, whereas before she was pretty supportive.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. People on the autism spectrum are people, too? Finally somebody yells at a creepy dude who invades girls' personal space and swears at them? I liked the story, regardless of being confused about the meaning.

Why does Amanda keep calling Charlotte “child?” What is the relationship between them? Amanda seems to be some sort of a friend/mentor to Charlotte, but she can also be a bit condescending at times. I'd like to know what their relative ages are, as well.

Chairchucker

*Dialog. Make it meaningful. I really like the pacing and tone of your dialog, and it all carries a lot of information about the characters.
*Economy of words. No fluff. Every sentence should do something. You did pretty great here, too.
*Depth of characterization. Don't just tell me about your dude, put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. I really liked Gary, but I'm not sure what his deal is. I couldn't tell if he was a pedophile (as seb suggested) or had some sort of an anger/anxiety/mood disorder, or something else, but clearly he didn't feel comfortable watching a child, and nobody except Paul felt comfortable with it. On the other hand, the mom didn't seem too worried that something had happened while she was driving over, so...
*Heavy-handedness (or lack thereof). It's ok to tell us they're a clown or a lawyer or whatever, but the point of this prompt is to make me understand them through their actions and reactions throughout your story. You had a very light touch here, which was awesome. I think you might have gone too subtle, but that depends on how much you wanted us to figure out about Gary.
*Meaning. This is flash fiction so we can only be so poignant, but try to infuse at least some modicum of understanding of the human condition into your story. I think your characterizations and dialog really pulled this off without me entirely understanding Gary's history, so that was really good.

I don't have a lot to say about this except that I really enjoyed it.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


I'm editing and critting and stuff. I'm just not writing. I have no ideas. >.<

monkeyboydc posted:

Two Kinds of Spurs

1,000 Words


Aiden woke up worried, but excited. His mind was made up - had been made up since he broke the taboo and began sleeping full nights. Every morning for the past two weeks, he awoke feeling alive, his brain a writhing nest of glowing-neon snakes. Since, he’d known he couldn’t go back to the way he'd lived before the last two weeks. living the way he had been; he didn’t know how anyone could follow the Government Suggested Sleep Schedule. You've got a good, interesting premise here. Stop mucking around with tense and show us.

Aiden checked for his keys a second time – of all days, this would be the worst to get locked out of the apartment. He walked to thepressed the button and waited for the Caffeine Machine perched on his countertop, pressed the plastic power button, lighting it red from within and setting the machine grinding and hissing before spitting out a to spit clear liquid into the shot glass waiting below. He drained half and dumped the rest into the sink – still weaning himself off. What's he thinking while he waits for the machine? How does the caffeine thing taste? Is he experiencing withdrawal symptoms as he weans off, or is he going slowly enough to avoid it? I like that you include the presumably government-mandated caffeine addiction, but I think it's a bigger deal than the specific shape/color/noise of the machine. He walked to the laundry room, but lingered at the shrine. Why's he going to the laundry room? The shrine is the important thing here.

Posters made up the bulk of the spectacle, showing showed leather-clad men on horseback smoking rolled cigarettes. There were a few Cowboy and Indian play sets on a wood table and, in the center, a pair of old cowboy boots complete with spurs Clint Eastwood’s character wore in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Right, some description would be good here. How do these old cowboy posters/items contrast to the apartment? Are the open spaces, horses, dirt, and weapons foreign to this city-dweller? Has he ever seen a living horse? Are the boots broken in, or new? Do they smell like leather? Have they been cared for (cleaned, oiled, etc.) or are they dry, cracking, and inflexible? His dad couldn’t believe his good fortune when he bought them at a pawn shop (along with certificate of authenticity). Aiden’s dad had been the only person who cared that stuff still existed. Good. I wondered why they'd been at the pawn shop, and then got sad when I read the second sentence.

One morning they’d sat together at the kitchen table, drinking their caffeine mixed with cold glasses of orange juice. Aiden’s Dad spotted him glancing towards the collection and, as usual, seized his chance to quote his favorite western. “You know, there are two kinds of spurs... “ Good details.

His dad died of heart failure a few years ago, from caffiene abuse and lack of sleep, I imagine. Nice detail. just after Aiden turned 18.
He dared to look out the window for the first time since waking up. Why does this take daring? It looked out on the six lane freeway that ran in front of his apartment, then row upon row of businesses stretching back in ranks like a shark’s teeth, then the Earth curved and structures tall enough to wink over the edge were hidden in smog and atmosphere. Having trouble picturing this. In the smog, with all the tall buildings, and the mountains, can he really see to the curve of the horizon? Towering over everything else, were the mountains, stretching from one end of the horizon do horizons have ends? to the other. For the first time in Aiden’s life,it's been quiet before, presumably, just not when he's awake. This made me think an apocalyptic event had happened, but it seems to be that everyone sleeps on Sundays? the city was as quiet, empty and lonely as the mountains were. He was the only person in the world city, unless the Sleep Schedule effects everyone elsewhere, too, in which case his escape is pretty pointless who was awake.

Aiden had been cheating. He’d starting going off schedule about two weeks ago. You told us this already. Drop it from either here or earlier In theory, working all day every day without context, “all day every day” could just mean eight hours. I assume it's more, and night time is “leisure time”, so the Sleep Schedule is to get more work from people? allowed him to fill his nights with anything he wanted, this sentence is starting to lose me. End is here and start a new one. but after even one full day again, is a day a regular day, or 24 hours? of staying awake, alternating exhaustion with doses of pure energy caffeine? Other drugs? to make your brain hum and keep your heavy eyelids up and your body moving one half hour at a time, you arrive home with a mind burning dimly, like a sad lantern, and can’t find the focus to do much of anything. That's one hell of a run-on sentence. Deliberate, to imitate the rushing nature of staying up all the time? It's still confusing. Also, you drop into descriptions using “you.” Just tell us how it effects Aiden, rather than how it effects a nebulous “you.” Aiden usually drank as little caffeine as he could get away with Why? Here's a chance to tie into the government-mandated drug abuse earlier, and possible his father's death. and, One night while watching a western, he dozed off.

An outburst of cars honking on the freeway outside had woke Aiden up twenty minutes before he normally left needed to leave for work. Add some urgency to leaving to set up the next sentence. While he should have been worried about getting to work on time, he fixated on how incredible he felt, how his body and head didn’t slowly pulse and ache, how quickly his mind moved from one thought to the next, I love these descriptions. and how simple the decision to sleep every night, instead of just Sunday, came to him was.

Until today, he’d been too afraid to venture outside on a Sunday. Now we finally find out why he was excited at the beginning, after we've forgotten he was. Aiden opened the window and was amazed at the way the world smelled, like grass and wind, all normally covered up by car exhaust. Where is the grass? Does the smell of smog really dissipate in just one day? He could hear birds and see a rabbit hopping around near the roadside Where do the rabbits live in this huge, smog-filled city? Maybe a raccoon or some other scavenger that lives off human garbage? He had a new idea. You're introducing the entire climax of the story here. Make it more interesting.

What if Aiden left, but didn’t return at sundown? What if he left and never came back? These questions seem really childish and simplistic compared to the rest of the story. There's not enough conflict within the character. He's going to leave his entire life, the house he shared with his dad, and go off into the unknown...just like that? He began collecting non-perishable food from the cupboards. What if Aiden went out the front door and started walking towards the mountains? He went into his bedroom and stuffed a few changes of clothes into the hiking backpack his dad had bought him. WHY? They live in the middle of a city and get one day off a week, during which they sleep. What is he going to do with a hiking pack? He's never seen the outdoors before from other details in this story! Aiden now knew what the world looked like when it wasn’t crammed into a too-small suit, and he didn’t want to go back. Nice. He grabbed his toothbrush, a book from the shelf in the entryway, tested the weight of the bag how heavy is it? and dropped it by the door. Aiden threw his keys into his bedroom from the kitchen and walked to the door, locking the knob from the inside. He put a pair of brown Converse hi-tops on and grabbed a jacket. Poor kid is going to have the worst blisters ever. There was more he needed to undo,?? there was more Aiden needed to live than just sleeping every night, and it was away from the city and its rules. As he was about to open the door and step outside, never to come back – Aiden stopped. He’d forgotten something. I'm not sure “forgotten” is a good choice here. He needs to have had some conflict about leaving this house he shared with his father. This could be his compromise on that.

Walking back towards the kitchen, Aiden stopped at the shrine and removed the spurs from the cowboy boots. Dropping to one knee, and then the other, Aiden strapped the spurs onto his hi tops, tightening them as much as he could on each shoe. “There we go.” He stood up and walked a few steps enjoying the ring of the spurs in their metal frame. “There are two kinds of spurs, the kind that sit on the shelf, and the kind that walk through the door.” Nice use of the quote. Nice, hilarious image of a kid in converse and a hiking pack wearing completely superfluous spurs. Do they trip him up? Walking in big spurs isn't easy. I like how naive he is here, and how hopeful he is. I think he's gonna die, though.
Aiden grabbed his bag and walked through the door, outside into the warm sunshine and the empty world. His sneakers sank into the drifts of cottonwood that built up against his front step. What? Doesn't he go to work every day? Aiden set off, walking in a straight line towards the mountains, across the road, between businesses and through people’s yards and neighborhoods accompanied by the soft clink, clink, clink of his dad’s cowboy spurs. Nice ending.

You have a really cool idea here. I especially like: the government mandated sleep schedule, the government encouraged stimulant addiction, and the fact that these things seem to be to get more work out of people. The contrast between their understanding of the old Westerns and their lack of connection to what life during that time was actually like. The kid's complete lack of understanding that he's going to die out there without some way of supporting himself.

I don't like: the way some things seem rushed. The way he doesn't seem to doubt his actions or feel bad about leaving his home. The lack of conflict.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


sebmojo posted:

Tsh like that's ever stopped me.

:siren:Flash Rule:siren:

Use any two of:

A nest that rats have made in a ripped up high-fashion magazine.
Three apples in a bowl, one is rotten.
The smell of fresh bread.
A ball of multicoloured rubberbands.
A pile of clean laundry on an unmade bed.
A bridge over a stream, a tree has fallen on it smashing it.

I also gave myself a flash rule: Don't write about addiction, abuse, or mental illness (for once.)


Expecting
583 words

At the end of an unassuming street, in an area too rural to be a suburb but not too far from civilization, a house nestles among a tangle of willows. It's a modest house: three bedrooms, one bath, and it sits on a few acres of lightly wooded land. The paint on the old wooden siding is fresh, and the windows are the new sort that don't let in drafts.

The front door is locked, but the back door isn't. There's a pickup in the two car driveway and a basketball hoop attached to the shed. Twilight is falling, and the house is dark except for a single lamp by the back door and the faint glow of the digital clocks, blinking modem lights, and pervasive LEDs that seed any modern home.

There's the hum of the refrigerator, the low purr of the water heater, the incessant, treble throbbing of the frogs in the pond out back. There are no footsteps, no voices, no snores. The house smells of fresh bread, and heat still radiates from the oven. The loaf sits on a cooling rack on the counter, uncut.

The house is clean, but not neat. Two gaming controllers lie on the living room floor. A paperback is open on a small table next to a leather recliner. Children's books with pictures of dinosaurs and spaceships and bugs lay here and there. The print is large and the edges frayed from clumsy fingers.

There is a ball of multicolored rubber-bands on the stairs. A stuffed bear lies in the hall. The bedroom doors are open. One has a queen-size bed, unmade. Piles of laundry sit on it, folded but rumpled. Men's blue-jeans, a t-shirt, a maternity dress. A few pieces are rolled as if for packing. The closet is open, and a suitcase has been half-dragged from under the hanging uniforms on one side. There's space for another bag on top of it, but the bag is missing.

There is a bedroom painted blue, and a rumpled bedspread with a spaceship on it. One shelf is filled with books, the others with toy trucks and plastic dinosaurs and bits and pieces of science kits and beat-up old teddy-bears, all in a jumble. There are brightly colored drawings that may be dogs, or cats, or dinosaurs if one squints just right.

The third bedroom is yellow and smells of fresh paint and expectant readiness. The carpet is soft. A crib sits against one wall, a mobile over it. There are neatly folded blankets, onesies, and newborn-sized diapers. There's an empty trashcan with a tightly-closing lid. None of the packages have been opened. None of the blankets have been used. They are waiting.

There's still steam on the bathroom windows, and a man's razor next to the sink. There's a toothbrush holder that has just a bit of damp in three of the spaces, but no brushes. There's a towel discarded on the floor, and a dirty police uniform beside the shower. The water hasn't been turned off all the way. There was no time.

In the big bedroom a pager buzzes on the desk next to a police badge. There's a safe set into the wall, locked tight. There's a note with the number of the local hospital's maternity ward, and a notepad with the faint indentations that might be left behind when someone writes down directions fast.

The pager buzzes again and then goes quiet. The policeman isn't answering calls from work tonight.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


Econosaurus posted:

I thought the deadline was moved to Tuesday?!

This was for a duel, I believe. Can't gently caress with the weekly deadlines or the next week will be screwed up.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


What's the attitude towards reusing characters for different prompts if all the stories stand on their own? I have a couple characters/situations I'd like to revisit with more tact at some point, but I don't know if that's cool.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


I'm in for this week.

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Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet


Yeah, so I didn't even realize it was Sunday, nevermind time zones. No story, sorry.

That website thing is amazing, though. Thank you guys for putting that together.

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