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Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

I'm in! This will be interesting, as I never, ever write in first-person.

quote:

Michael Malloy, a homeless man, was murdered by five men in a plot to collect on life insurance policies they had purchased. After surviving multiple poisonings, intentional exposure, and being struck by a car, Malloy succumbed to gassing.

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Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Countless Different Ways

Word count: 1551



New York, 1933


I’d never cared for hard work, or for Michael Malloy’s face.

Every day for ten years, a dark coal mine and a stiff back. Every evening for ten years, a noisy tavern and that face, gazing at me from across the bar. Smiling. Waiting. Smiling and waiting. I would stand in my spot behind the bar, in the corner, pouring drinks as far away from it—away from that face—as could be, watching how the paint on the walls, with so much passing of time, would stain from white to grey and peel and peel and peel. Sometimes, when it had become all but stripped away, I would arrive for the evening and find a new coat of white paint over the old. Fresh. Less grey. But not white like the teeth in that face. Time passed and the new paint would peel and become grey also. Less white. Better.

A day came in the coal mine when I had to work even harder under the weight of dusty black rocks; on this particular day’s end, the twisty nails that customarily coursed through my spine felt as if they’d grown to twice the gauge, and I moved with a feeble limp. At my evening job in the tavern, the pain of standing for so long a time overwhelmed me for a moment, and as I poured Michael Malloy’s eighth drink of the evening I forgot to look at the paint.

I looked up and his face smiled at me. White teeth. My ears burned and my chest burned. The tavern became an oven and I broiled in it. When I saw that face, that smile, the very gut of me tried to flee. It smiled at no one else but me.

Because of that, I knew it should not ever smile again.

Every day and evening afterward, I began to think of ways to rid myself of both the hard work which had ruined my back and of Michael Malloy’s face which had ruined my eyes. I had heard once that there were countless methods to kill a man, and most easy enough to do. But how to be rid of hard work?

The fool himself soon provided a solution to both my problems. In his drunken stupor on this particular night’s end, he had paid his bill with not only one dollar but also a slip of paper, a certificate, that betrayed a most interesting fact: his life—worthless to me, understand—was valued with insurance. $1,800 dollars. So many dollars, in fact, for a lifetime—mine—of easy living.

With a secret swipe and lash of my pen, I arranged myself as the party soon-bereaved—and in most dire need of recompense. How clever. How glad!

But how to do the thing? It must be appear as an accident. Must! Accidents, insidious demons all, happen frequently, do they not? By a week’s worth of nights, the whole of it was beginning to sound most reasonable. Not so much like hard work at all.

Unknown to me at that time, was the fact that I hadn’t ever before—and would never again—work as hard as I did on the day I killed Michael Malloy.

***

If truly there were countless different ways to kill a man, I couldn’t give up hope; I’d only tried three so far, and the fourth had just begun its work.

In the dim lamplight of the small storeroom, I watched and I waited and I tried to ignore the lightning bolts in my back. Michael Malloy was sprawled out on the straw cot and his face was still breathing. Snoring, really, and loud enough to wake the dead. Or, God’s mercy, the police. His breath—gasps and snorts through obscene flapping lips—filled the cramped space around me, smothering my nose with the scent of whiskey and arsenic. Or maybe whiskey and arsenic was merely the usual scent of his breath, smelling it as I did from across the bar, over the worst and longest decade ever known to a man.

The cup I’d given him fell from his hand and rolled to my feet, sending a half-dozen curious rats scattering. For that I was thankful; I imagine murder prefers an audience of no kind. Not that I’d found success to that end as yet, but I knew, just knew there’d be no surviving that vile combination of drink and so much poison.
I paced to one side of the room and then the other. The floorboards creaked and popped beneath my feet as I gazed impatiently at his face, flush and maddeningly pink.

Almost rosy. Still healthy.

Grotesque.

I pried away my eyes, only to have them fall on the cast, that loving cast on his rightmost leg. Wrapped around his stumpy, stupid, broken leg, the thick gauze was the first of three such reminders of my failings. Reading the newspapers, one might think the horseless carriage to be the most dangerous invention since mustard gas—every day came news of a woman or child or some old codger getting knocked down by the rolling steel on wheels, splitting their heads. To have it happen to you? Or me? Why, it’d be death most certain.

For all, apparently, but Michael Malloy.

His snoring grew louder, surrounding my head as I paced, taunting at me. At least hearing his breath meant I did not have to look at his face, nor its jagged, fresh wound—another reminder of my failings—creasing from his forehead to the side of his cheek. Customarily, no one “fell” out of a third story window and survived with merely an impolite scar.

But Michael Malloy, I had learned, did.

I was fast becoming certain that I had chosen death himself as my target when suddenly it was quiet!

He had let out an agonal wheeze. And then he did nothing.

I rushed to the cot and kneeled down. I pried open an eyelid. Only white. Now the other. White!

I dug my fingers into the soft, clammy flesh of his neck, looking for the bounce of a pulsing heart. Left side of the neck: nothing. His clothes were cold and wet against my arm as I did my work (how embarrassing that leaving him for hours drunk on the street in the freezing rain this morning hadn’t done this job for me).

Right side of the neck: nothing! I held my breath like a young maiden awaiting a marriage proposal.

Could it really be that I’d never have to see the face again? That smile? That I’d never again be subject to the burning gaze and the blazing fire in my chest?

It could not be; he grunted and coughed phlegm onto my face and snored again.

gently caress you, ever so, Mike Malloy.

After three hours the lamp’s oil waned and I began to wish I’d brought a chair.

One hour after that I had nearly brought myself to hysterics at his persistent and tortuous existence. But there, the pipe in the corner had caught my eye. Now both eyes! The hissing copper carried gas to the lights of the tavern and could be disconnected in just such a way as to feed into his gaping face. Quickly I did it, cursing myself for not having tried it before.

Within five minutes there was no more breath and the thing was done. Fully done!

I eagerly paced the room again, wondering what to do with the output of my last, greatest, hard work. Leave it here? Notify the alderman? No, none of these. I did not want to be associated any more than collecting payment for my sorrow. More importantly, I did not want to wait to begin my new life! At the thought of it my back had calmed and soothed, overjoyed at no more days in the mines. I stood proudly and snapped my fingers. I had it. I would drag the body to the doorway of the tavern. He’d be found by some passerby!

I turned him—face down—and grabbed his ankles. You may think it difficult, but this was no corpse I dragged! This was to my mind’s eye, a train ticket, a bag of gold, a new pair of polished black boots. In all the world, could there be a lighter load than these? It should not surprise to hear me say I was enjoying the thing, though perhaps growing restless with the morning hour.

As I pulled and dragged, his fat posterior wedged in the storeroom doorway, abruptly impeding my progress. I hadn’t considered this to happen, and thus had not been braced for the sudden stop which seized upon my back as though a railroad spike had been driven through the whole of me.

Gasping in a painful and twisted state like I'd never felt before, I fell. Laying together on the floor, Michael Malloy’s face—that face—stared through vacant eyes at me. The familiar fire in my chest began to well, and to my horror I found that not only could I not stand up, I could not roll over nor much bend my neck. There was nothing else to do now, I supposed, other than await the police.

So we lay there together, me and Michael Malloy.

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Is it ok to give feedback/crits before the deadline?

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

disclaimer: i was often called a harsh critiquer, though I do try to keep my own frustrations as a writer away from my criticisms. i also try to avoid strictly stylistic suggestions/revisions.


Phil Moscowitz posted:

Thirst and Justice


The Feast of the Assumption began with bells tolling and ended with the hiss of bubbling flesh. This is a catchy opening line; i like it so much, in fact, that i really wanted it to be a paragraph by itself. I go to the guillotine tomorrow, and much of what I tell you now has been said before. This, on the other hand, deflated the great opening that you'd set up; why tell us anything if it's been said before? This sentence also deflates the very big issue of our narrator being sent to the guillotine tomorrow. Feel that should be its own sentence, maybe. But until today, nobody has asked why we did what we did. Including me.

I won’t bore you with the details of the war, or the drought that year that clotted the soil of my garden. But you should know that less than one week before we killed Monéys, they found a Prussian spy trying to mine the railroads near Châtellerault. I find myself a bit confused as I thought Moneys was a singular person, but you said 'they' found a prussian spy... or else it's unclear who 'they' is. Or 'we' for that matter. Remember: there are traitors all around us, in our abbeys and our fields, in the hilltop mansions that surround Hautefaye. this was a great sentence to set up the world. it gave me a clear image of the setting.

That morning, what morning? I woke to the sheep in Mainzac clanging their church bells in the distance. The sacristans had been busy all night, dutifully ringing in the Assumption. Soon the church in Aujeau would follow suit, and Fayemarteau and Ferdinas, until our very own fat priest of Hautefaye joined in the cacophony. And let me say this, for the record—gently caress the priests, the republicans, and the rich bastards who own them all. good line that shows me quite a bit about our narrator

My hogs were dead, my turnips nothing more than brown stalks sprouting from the ruined earth like whiskers on the cheek of a leper. My wife was gone almost a year by then. I had nothing to do. this fell flat for me. I was expecting him to blame the priests, republicans, etc. for the woes mentioned. now it just sounds like he's bored. but how could he be bored if he hates those people so much?

So I drank until the sun came up.

When my wine jug was empty, I went out into the heat and found Silloux at the edge of the fairgrounds, leaning against the post of a cattle pen with a wineskin in one hand and his pipe in the other.

I snatched at his skin. i had to read this twice to figure out you meant he'd snatched at the guy's wineskin and not his actual skin. consider revising.“What have you got in there?”

“Ask nice before you grab, Chambord,” he said, but he let me taste. This was real wine; the warm, sour-sweet juice of a rich man’s trellis.

“And where did you steal this?”

Silloux put the tip of his finger against his nose. “My secret. Saved it for today, this most holy day. And what are you drinking? Empty-handed, eh? Don’t worry. I saw the barrels being brought in by the dozen. A few francs will fill you good.”

I scanned the fairground, looking for casks but taking in the rest. are we in a new setting? i found the transition abrupt. btw the dialogue in the previous part, along with the description of the wine, were both very well done. I recognized none of the merchants setting up their stands, herding sheep and hanging ducks and piling potatoes into rough pyramids. None were from Hautefaye, I knew that much. Between the paysans milling and a few artisans hawking their wares, here and again I made out the bright threads of the well-heeled.

“I see the aristocrats have come down from their hilltops to mix with the rabble,” I said. “Maybe we’ll get some news about the war.”

“If we do, it won’t be good,” said Silloux. “Over there, behind the boars.”

I followed his pointing finger stylistic preference of mine, but I'd put the pointing finger before or after the dialogue itself; makes the image less disjointed and easier to see in my head and saw a herd of wild pigs being led by the rings in their snouts, and behind them a cart loaded high with barrels of wine. I left him to his pipe and dug in my pockets for a few centimes, enough to buy a cup of sour red.

And so I spent the morning with Silloux, a cup of wine always in my hand, until the sun sat high in the sky. The fairground filled with revelers from cantons all around Hautefaye, filled with cows and sheep and pigs of the four-this should be an em-dash, not a hypen and two-footed--varieties. Sweat stung my eyes and itched my scalp, but for all the wine there was no water to be had. this is awesome description--well-written and further developed the narrator's voice.

My tongue grew heavy in my mouth as the day dragged. Again my cup was empty, so again I left Silloux with his pipe and sought out the wine cart.

The crowds had grown and it was a fight to reach the spigots. A boy sat astridestraddled the topmost cask, shouting down at us that we should thank the great families of Beaussac, whose grace alone brought this nectar to us all on the day of Mary’s assumption. At the head of the line, I saw the fat priest of the village engaged in conversation with one of the hilltop gentry. Do you know the curate Saint-Pasteur? Always well-fed and rosy-cheeked and far up some landowner’s rear end.i liked what i was reading until i got to 'landowner's rear end'. those words threw me out of the narrator's voice and didn't feel like a genuine colloquialism for this time-period. The priest’s left hand rubbed his plump cheeks like a girl in love, while his right felt its way around the aristocrat’s arm.

I listened to them as I pushed my way forward.

The aristocrat spoke of a battle somewhere called Wörth, where ten thousand Frenchmen were slaughtered in defeat.

“Surely Bonaparte will prevail,” said the priest. “By the grace of God.”

“It seems our Emperor has run out of shells,” replied the aristocrat.

This was the first sign of treason. I leaned toward them in disbelief, and Saint-Pasteur laid his hand on me to keep me at bay.

“Touch me not.” I slapped at the priest’s fat fingers. “You soil me. But tell me, sir—you seem happy for the King of Prussia. Why do you smile when you bring bad news?”

“Down with Bonaparte,” he said. Then, “Long live the Republic!”

At my trial they lied and said I made it up, but others that day agreed they heard it, too. Down with Bonaparte, he'd said. Long live the Republic.

I confronted the aristocrat for this treason but he ran awayi really wanted a more vivid description here. you've done such a good job thus far of being specific when describing action, but 'ran away' tells me absolutely nothing. i honestly pictured them scrambling off like scooby-doo characters which i'm sure is not the image you wanted. just use some stronger language here. , and the priest along with him. We were glad to be rid of them, the parasites. The wine kept flowing, and Silloux and me and others gathered to share stories of the spies and traitors around us. We were strangers to one another but the stories we told were the same.

Then someone said the aristocrat was back. this, i think, would be more effective if done in dialogue and then showing us our narrator's internal response to that kind of news. just a personal suggestion. I followed the mob and looked at the man they had surrounded—he might have been different, but he might also have been the same. It made no difference. why not?

I turned and saw dozens of darkened faces behind me, gnashing teeth and hollow cheeks. “Why is my lord here, and not fighting on the front like a patriot?” I said. “Why does he drink our wine and question our Emperor? Why does he not deny that he is a traitor?”

The crowd followed the aristocrat as he withdrew, i don't know what 'withdrew' means either. do you mean he's running away again? moving like ants that have set upon a caterpillar. I grabbed his vest and threw him back. He felt frail under my hands, like a child, or a cripple. Maybe this is why he is not on the front, I thought, but only for a second.

“I am on your side,” he pleaded. “Vive l’Empereur!”

The first blow struck him across the face and I can say in all honesty that I did not deliver it. this is a really, really well-voiced line. I admit that I kicked him then, after he fell to the ground, but much of the rest is a blur.I'm cutting this because your next sentence says the exact same thing and is the much stronger sentence. Only flashes of violence remain. I remember dozens of hands groping, pulling and punching. I remember the railroad spike that caved in his skull. I remember his tongue lolling between his purple lips when we hanged him. we're gonna need a new paragraph, stat! When the crowd’s enthusiasm waned, I told them I was on the municipal council and ordered them to continue. Nobody knew who was or wasn’t from Hautefaye, and Silloux vouched for me, so they obeyed. I remember the way his head looked like a bowlful of blood and made a sound like horse-hooves as it bounced on the cobblestones when we dragged him to the stocks. Someone suggested we burn the Prussian, that we cook and eat such a fine pig, and I will admit that I lit the fire under his broken body. But the stories told about me in my trial were false—when the fat dripped from his roasting corpse, and others caught the grease on loaves of bread, I refused to eat it.

And that’s it. I’ve told all I can recall. Bring the guillotine.

What’s that you say? Why did we do it?

Have you not been listening?
I fully understand why he did what he did, but was less clear on why that warranted a beheading. I'm assuming because he impersonated a government official?

Overall I was impressed with the efficiency and cleanness of the prose and mostly the voice of the narrator. There were a few tics here and there that threw me out of it, and I would have much preferred a more clear sense of why our narrator's actions made him to be executed.

I also think just splitting up that last leviathan of a paragraph would go a long way towards some of that being clear; the reveal that the narrator told them (falsely?) that he was on the municipal council gets absolutely buried under all that other stuff.

Also you have a clear command of believable dialogue which is incredibly difficult for most writers to do, so well-done on that.

I'll try to do a few more of these before the day's out!

Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Jun 2, 2013 around 16:31

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

PotatoManJack posted:

Got inspired, and put this together pretty quickly. Here's to a first time in Thunderdome.

Not Man-Made
1,065 Words

loving Spiders. loving spiders everywhere. First they’re just in the corner, but then, before you know itavoid cliches like this. revise to stronger language like 'within seconds, they're over by the' etc they’re over by the chair. How’d they get across the room so fast? I could’ve sworn I’ve been watching them this whole time, and they never moved. Well, as long as they stay in the corner or over by the chair I’m ok with that. Actually, they’re starting to get to me a little. All those eyes, all those legs or arms or whatever they’re calledalready in one paragraph i can see that you have a very serious problem with writing exactly the same way, I'm assuming, that you talk. this is not a good thing. . And those pincers… or mandibles I think they’re called.

I just need to get out of here for a little while; I’ll go for a walk around the lake. if our guy here can just go for a walk, why in the hell wouldn't he just walk away from all the spiders? That will clear my head, and by the time I get back, the spiders will be gone. They’ve got better things to do then hang around my place. Spiders have places to be, webs to spin, flies to catch, and all that jazz. decent sentence until the jazz cliche. trust me on this, readers absolutely hate reading cliches. just don't do it, and feel confident as you cut them that you're doing the right thing. I’ll just go for a walk. It’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining. A walk will do me a world of good.cliche

See, there are tons i don't know what a ton of people look like. be specific. don't say 'car' when you could say 'jeep'. don't say 'tons' when you could say 'dozens, hundreds etc. or otherwise come up with a stronger way of saying it of people walking in the park. There are even a few people throwing the footy around. It’s a great day to be alive. cliche I kind of stop writing like you talk wish this lake wasn’t man-made though. There’s something not quite right about man-made lakes. I know that it’s just a man-made lake for a man-made city like Canberra, but still. you've fatigued my ears with the word 'man-made'. i think you're cusping on an interesting point here, but it gets lost in garbled prose. revise for clarity. cut. be efficient. All those contours are just that--a little bit too perfect. You’d never see a real lake with perfect crescent edges. I bet the bottom of the lake is perfectly sloped as well, and right in the middle is where the lake is the deepest. you, the author, either care way too much about lakes, or have forced your poor narrator to care way too much about lakes. what purpose does this description serve either the narrative, or the character?


That’s the way I’d do it if I was designing a lake. It’s because we humans have no imagination. We think lake, and we think round, upside down snow globe. It’s kind of pathetic really. Not like those spiders, I bet you they create the most amazing webs. They don’t have this notion about what a web should look like; they just build it and let the web come into being organically. I am completely lost as to what you're doing or where you're going with this.

They’re probably gone by now from the house. Why would they even still be there, it’s not like there’s anything specifically spidery in the house to keep their attention. I’m glad my house is so close to the park, it lets me go for walks and see the lake, even if it is lacking in creativity. you really need to let the lake stuff go A lake is still a pretty thing to look at, oh my god especially when it’s surrounded by nature. nature? again, never say 'car' when you can say 'jeep'. I mean, you can still call it nature even when it’s well-manicured, and the trees are placed perfectly, and there’s a loving sidewalk running right through the middle of it all right? With picnic tables over there and a swing-set with screaming monkeys all over it and all that poo poo to make this little bit of nature as non-god-drat loving natural as possible. ok there is clearly something going on in your head that compelled you, angrily, to sit down and write this story. you need to sort out those emotions in your head before you actually do the writing though, or else revise all of these angry little tics out. right now, this thing is a complete mess as a result.

OK, just calm down now. It’s not that big a deal. It’s just people having fun. Just pick up the pace a little bit, get around this all-too-perfect lake, get home, see that the spiders are gone, have a drink or three and settle down for the night. It’s when you get angry like this that things go wrong.

That’s why Jenny left you know.ah. perhaps "jenny" is the muse for this very-angrily written story? i also notice you, I assume inadvertently, switch to the second-person point-of-view. this began to feel more and more like you writing to yourself.

You can tell yourself it was because of the spiders, but you know that she actually left this morning because of the shouting. She just couldn’t take the shouting anymore. You’re always so loving mad about everything. So what if she didn’t cook so well. So what if she had put on a little weight. You’re hardly perfect, mate. You just couldn’t hold it in when she brought you tea in the wrong mug; you had to let her know didn’t you? That was the last straw. She picked up her purse and she walked out. You know she’s not coming back either, and you know she’s the only reason the spiders stayed away. They showed up not 5 minutes after she left. Crawling around in the corner, and then over by the chair. Something went wrong the moment she walked out the door, and it let all the spiders in. Now you’ve got to live with them. They’re going to be crawling around the house forever now. this paragraph is full of the errors previously discussed. i get that you feel very passionately about the content here, but you simply can't write prose that sounds exactly like your own inner thoughts. it makes sense in your mind, perhaps, but it does not translate to the page at all.

You’re dreaming if you think they’re just going to get up and leave on their own.

Look, you’re coming up on the house now. The park is behind you now. Gone is the luxury of contemplating the creativity of the human race. Now it’s just you and the spiders. You and the spiders forever and ever.

It looks like they’ve been busy. There are a heck of a lot more of them now, and webs everywhere. They’re not just in the corner, or by the chair, they’re on the table, on the walls, and even on the roof. Well, you’ve made your bed, and now it’s time to lay in it. An eternity of the spiders, crawling everywhere.

Why not just become one of them? It’s not like there’s any point of a human living in a family of spiders. Yeah, that’s a great idea! If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Isn’t that what they say? Besides, they’re much more creative than humans. They go with the flow, not make perfect like parks for perfect little lives.

You are missing a couple of limbs though. Better make some room for them. By my count, you’ve got four, but you need eight, and you’ll also need a couple of mandibles. So, time to make some room for those new limbs. new paragraph here, as what happens next needs to have more attention drawn to it. Let’s see, just point the shotgun here, and pull the trigger. I have to admit that "you're missing a couple of limbs, better make room for them" was actually a very effective, chilling line. do you see why? it was understated. it doesn't sound angry and unreasonable and ridiculous, it sounds cold and calculating. think about that line and how you might be able to apply that kind of mindset to the rest of your work. it'd be much more effective i promise you.

There, that’s perfect. A new space opened up for a new pair of arms. Probably should have made space for the mandibles first though. How are you going to cut the web-silk without mandibles, and how are you going to attach new limbs without well cut webbing. Let’s just load up again, and create space for the mandibles up here.

Just one step left now. Time for the last pair of legs, and just one shell left. I think becoming a spider was the right choice. I’ll leave all the boring, lonely, uncreativeness of humanity behind. Bye-bye Jenny, bye-bye man-made lake. Just pull the trigger one more time.

I think, I think I may understand what you were going for here, but you did not make it easy on me. The number one, bottom-line suggestion I have for you is to read more of your favorite books and observe the rhythm and structure of prose. You write exactly like you talk; it's very obvious and also very difficult for your reader to digest and tolerate. Clean up your usage of cliches and cut back on your conversational tics and you could produce some pretty decent stuff in a hurry.

Last comment: changes in POV mid-story are confusing and best never done. Unless of course you're going for a specific effect. But my impression from reading this was that you became more emotional/angry as it progressed and so you began talking/writing to yourself. It happens, it's not a huge deal, but you ought to be able to catch and remove that stuff on revision.

Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Jun 2, 2013 around 17:04

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Ceighk posted:

Hey, do you mind doing mine? I'm curious what people thought of it and you critiqued that last one pretty well. It's at the bottom of page 75.

Sure.

Ceighk posted:


The Liar's Paradox
1223 Words


Hunger has become a constant. wonderful, excellent opening line. clear, concise, and instantly put me in the mood i imagine you wanted me to feel.Having spread outwards from my stomach like a jot of wine blooms in water, it permeates my body.great imagery, clumsy sentence. i think you could fix it by literally just swapping places at the comma. My toes as much as much as my tongue pine for the flatbread that lies beside me in a wicker basket. It was brought for me to eat, but I shall not eat it. very well-done. i'm instantly curious as to why this person wouldn't (couldn't?) eat what's right there if they were really that hungry.

Balanced on the brink of the dirt cliff by the river, leant out just slightly over the water, stands an old plane tree. be very, very careful when putting your subject that deep in a sentence. when reading the sentence i originally thought the narrator was the one balanced on the cliff. When I need to think, I lie under its limbs with my back to its bark. I am nestled in its shade. Its leaves whisper to the wind. Below, the glistening waterway murmurs deeply.good description, but i'm already getting antsy that you haven't even hinted at what may be keeping our narrator from eating or what makes him/her so hungry.

To my right stretches my garden; at the foot of it stands my house. Beyond its white geometry, swollen hills dotted with sheep and criss-crossed with drystone walls rise lazily into the pinch of blue mountains, their sides spattered with snow, their every crinkle accentuated by the low orange light of the sun. The river is shallow and clear. Small brown fish hover above its rocky bottom. Above the surface, C-shaped swallows swoop at the hanging clouds of flies. more antsy now. really not sure you need all of this (well-written, at least) description.

Think about this: if a man says 'I am lying', is he telling the truth? Is that an impossible question? It seems that way. It's a paradox.

There are swallows over the garden, too. One dives past me so close that if I was quick enough I could have grabbed it. either cut this or move it to your earlier description. it really killed the flow, here

Hermesianax is over by the house again. He picks his way through the grass with his distinctive care. also, i'm not sure what 'picks his way through the grass with distinctive care' means or looks like. revise to use stronger language.

“Hello, Philitas,” he says. “You haven't eaten the bread I brought you.”

“I haven't. Again, I'm afraid, I've been much too busy.” super-boring dialogue there.

“Busy with what?”

“Well, thinking. Naturally.”

He sighs and sinks into the shade.

“What have you been thinking about today?”

“Philitas, if a man says to you, 'I am lying', can he be telling telling the truth?” this line should really only be in either dialogue or in prose. having it in both made me cringe a little.

Hermesianax steeples his fingers good descriptionand gazes out over the water. His fingers are dark, solid, and strong; they are quite unlike mine. even better. this kind of description says a lot about these characters.

“It's just a paradox,” he says. “He can't be telling the truth or he'd be lying, and he can't be lying or he'd be telling he truth.”

“Well, yes. That's what I thought too - this should be an em dash, not a hypen. no spaces around it, either! at first.”

“What do you mean 'at first'? There's nothing more to it. It's a paradox. You can't be telling whenever possible, avoid excessive -ing verbs. for instance in this example it's a far stronger sentence to say "you can't tell me you've skipped" than is "you can't be telling me you've skipped" me you've skipped food for so long to think about something so trivial!”

“My boy, my boy, my boy!” I say. “Open your mind! There's more to it than that!”

“Is there?”

“Of course.”

“What is it?”
gah. too much dialogue that sounds like real-life interaction. boring, unneeded. cut it away and enjoy the more engaging dialogue that results.

He's got me there. If there is anything more to it, I don't know what it is. He's probably right but I can't let him know that.

“Look, it's complicated.oh, no no no. let me guess, you agonized over this line for awhile and ended up just settling on this? this is entirely out of this character's voice. suddenly i hear a petulant little kid instead of some wise person intentionally starving himself Leave me in peace and I'll explain later.”

“No,” he says. “I'm not leaving you in peace Not until you eat some of that bread.”

I was hoping he wouldn't say that.

“Then you'll be waiting a long time,” I tell him. “I told you, I'm much too busy.”

“That makes no sense!”


“It makes perfect sense. It's a fact of life that comes to you with age. One day, my boy, you'll understand.”

“I pray to Zeus that I don't,” he says. “Look, Philitas, when did you last eat?


"In this past week have you eaten anything? Anything at all?”

I watch the swallows on the river to avoid his gaze.

The answer is no. It's been longer than a week.cut for redundancy The morning after the last full moon he came to me here with a flatbread in a basket and some water. I didn't see him approach, so intensely was I re-evaluating the subtleties of a long-passed argument. I told him I was too busy thinking to eat, and he told me that was impossible.i'm confused now as to whether this narration is describing events that occurred in the present or past-tense.

“It's perfectly possible,” I said, “and if you give me some quiet I'll show you how it's done.”

Hermesianax chuckled and set the basket down at the base of the tree. new paragraphs should begin with new thoughts or events.When he came back that evening, it hadn't moved.

“How can you have been too busy thinking to eat for an entire day?”

“Fairly easily, actually,” I said. “You know, it happens all the time.”

He shook his head. “There are times when I don't believe you.”
this is awful dialogue that isn't going anywhere. they're saying the same things over and over and over again which is wearing me out and no longer revealing anything interesting about them or their situation. yes i do realize people talk this way in real-life but you don't want to duplicate that in any way.

Since that day I have eaten nothing. Now, where the colour has run from the eastern sky a silver disk looms over the mountains. The full moon is back. It has been twenty-nine days since I last touched food. In that time, the flesh has melted from my shoulders and chest. Starvation has whittled my legs and arms into broom handles. excellent description. i was beginning to wonder where that skill of yours had gone!

It hurts. perfect sentence. it's difficult to do effectively, but two-word sentences can be the most powerful ever written.

“Philitas!”

“What?”

“I said, when did you last eat?”

“That's nothing to do with you?”

“Yes it is!”

“How is it?”

“Because you're my friend.”

“Hermesianax,” I say, “a good friend respects his friends' wishes.”
as above re: dialogue

Hermesianax stands and looks down at me, his dark eyes shimmering wetly. “A great friend stops you when you're being retarded.” i...what? aren't we in like ancient greece or something? or did i miss some ironic meta humor type of thing? He takes a couple of steps away then turns back. “But maybe I'm just not that great a friend.”

“If you're leaving,” I tell him, “take that loving bread with you.” same complaint about this that i just made.

He ignores me. I throw it at him. It's heavy in my palm. It bounces weakly off his back and lands in the grass.
Maybe I could eat the bread when no one would see and say I chucked it in the river. Maybe I could sneak into the house and get something from the cellar without the servants noticing.

When I'm sure he's gone, I attempt to stand. I can't. My heels press into the dirt, but the muscles in my legs no longer have the strength to get me upright. The bread landed too far away for me to reach. heh, i like this detail; his stubbornness really does him in. I don't have the energy to crawl for it. I collapse backwards into the tree's embrace and let the night engulf my body and then my mind. i really thought the story should have ended here.

When I awake, Hermesianax is again standing over me. The morning sunlight slips through his blonde hair. He is holding a skin of water and another flat bread.

“Look who came back,” I say. My voice is weak and unfamiliar, barely audible. again, is this really supposed to be dialogue used in this time and place?

“Are you going to eat now?”

“Still thinking.”

“You were asleep!”

“Concentrating.”


“Do you want me to tear the bread for you? I can help you eat it.”

He sits down beside me and tears off a chunk. He holds it out to me. I look at it, and then at him.

“When I'm done I can eat it myself. Let me be. This is important.”

His face looks like I punched it. good idea but clumsy execution

“I get it, you know,” he says, standing up again, dropping the bread. “I do. It's completely stupid, but I get it. I get what you're doing.”

“Don't know what you're on about. Leave me alone.”

He paws at his cheek with the back of his hand. He grits his teeth. He takes a step away and a step back. He punches the tree so hard its trunk shifts against my spine and blood falls from his fingers to the grass.

He looks me in the eyes. His face is quivering and red. “You stubborn old gently caress,” he says. Now he leaves me, cradling his right hand in his left.

I don't know the original myth of this story, and maybe that would've helped, but i was really let down by how this progressed. It felt to me as though you spent a lot of time on the first few paragraphs and then got into a big ol' hurry to finish.

Nothing happens. The story doesn't go anywhere. At the end pretty much everything is the same as it was at the beginning. That's my single biggest complaint other than the dialogue. And speaking of which:

Oh, man. This dialogue. It's really bad, my friend. You write excellent prose so I know there's hope for you, but you really need to rethink your approach to writing effective dialogue, if indeed you even have a deliberate approach at all. Right now it seems that you just throw some stuff out there--maybe the first thing in your head--and then don't bother to revise later. Read your favorite books, watch your favorite movies and TV shows, and pay careful attention as to how dialogue is used. Dialogue should always reveal character and/or plot. There's literally no other reason on earth for it to ever do anything else.

Because using it for anything else is just wasting your reader's time. Work on that, and work on ensuring that your stories mean something. Things should be different at the end than they were from the beginning. And if you want to break that rule, you're of course always able to do that, but it should be for a very deliberate, specific reason.

Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Jun 2, 2013 around 17:43

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Guess I should tackle this one as well, given the shitstorm I started.


magnificent7 posted:

A Fool’s Grin. 718 words
Before you cut off my leg, let me tell you what happened. another great opening line. you're promising me, right up front, that something interesting will happen. i'm intrigued.

When the sun came up yesterday morning, my soldiers and I were about to battle a fool’s army of exiled bandits and thieves. good sentence, but tell me why it's a fool's army. so far i have no indication as to what makes them so.

“Mael the Bucktooth is a motherless bastard!” unique insult; i like it. I shouted. “We’ll rip his men apart! I’ll have his head spiked on my castle wall!”

My men roared and hoisted their weapons in the air.

We charged his army of bandits through the rain, and attacked without mercy. This wasn’t a battle, it was a slaughter. this is verging on a cliche; just try to find a new way to express thisMy soldiers dragged Mael to his knees while the carnage continued. As each of his soldiers was cut down, we beheaded them, throwing bodies into one pile, and heads in another. i love the last line, but give me some more details! how were they beheaded?


When we finished taking apart his army I turned to Mael and said, “Bucktooth, your head will be a warning to all others on this island! I’m going to cut it off and strap it to my saddle. When we ride inland everyone will see your gaping maw and cry out in fear.”

I told him to stop weeping like a child. I wiped my bloody axe with a rag, and threw it at him, telling him to wipe away his tears. He tried, but instead smeared the blood across his face. ha. i love the image this produces

Spitting at my feet he said, “You think this is the end of me? You’re wrong.stronger dialogue without this line I’ll come back and drag you with me to hell. Your men won’t help you, you’ll be dead before you make it home.”

I laughed, raised my axe and took off his head with one swing. As it what, his head? be more clear spun in the air, I grabbed it and raised it to the sky. My men roared in victory. you've used 'roared' as a verb twice. go for something stronger this time, something that indicates the escalating situation I tied his filthy head to my saddle, and I told my men do the same with the other heads.

We mounted up and rode inland, stopping at every settlement. Mael’s head would bounced around on his tether. His teeth scratched my leg like tree branches. I thought nothing of it; a fool’s grin couldn’t harm me!

When we arrived in a town I’d shouted, “Behold! Your hideous leader is dead! This land belongs to the vikings now!” Children ran in fear, women hid their faces, and men trembled. do some more lifting with this description. it's so sparse that i'm having a bit of a hard time seeing the scene

By nightfall we set up camp. When I laid down, I couldn’t stop scratching at the place where Mael had marked me. It felt like I’d ridden through a forest of thorns.


I awoke this morning to find my leg oozing pus, and hot to the touch. I limped to my horse, and looked at Mael’s head. His twisted grin was a mess of crooked teeth and blood. great descriptionHis face was covered with dried bloody streaks, except for around his mouth. That moist blood was mine.

We mounted up and rode fast for my ship. That bastard’s teeth continued scratching my leg until I cut loose his head, letting it roll away into the bushes.

When we arrived back at the ship, I fell into my bed exhausted. In my dreams Mael’s head chased me, laughing. i actually wanted an adjective/adverb here. how was he laughing? No matter how fast I ran, he was always there. One of my men shook me awake, saying I was screaming in my sleep.

Looking around the room I saw Mael’s head on the table across from my bed! He’d followed me! I couldn’t look away from him as I laid there, shivering.

Pulling back my covers revealed the smell from the rancid meat of my wound. i cringed at this description. that's a good thing.The sheets were soaked with pus and sweat. There were black lines on my leg, running from the mark towards my heart. I shouted to get rid of the head! I told them to find you and bring you here immediately. i find myself confused as to who 'you' is.

It was that fool’s grin. Don’t you see? His spirit pierced my leg and now he’s in me, killing me.

I told my men to get you because you’re the cook. ah. this is actually a good reveal but it comes too late. i think it might be interesting/cool if you reveal at the beginning that he's summoned the cook to his bedside. i'd be wondering why for the whole story and this would make it a cool payoff.Your delicate skill with a blade would allow you to take the leg without making a mess.

Did I fall asleep just now? My head is swimming with fever and I can’t tell what’s real and what’s not.

But, now that I’ve told you my tale, I’m afraid it’s too late to save me. I’m already dead, I know it!

His grin is the death of me.

My overall impression is that you've almost over polished it. By that I mean it's very cleanly written and easy to follow, but the description and action is almost too sparsely written. Granted, this is just a stylistic preference of mine, but I just found it a little hard to 'see' some of the events, in particular the action you described.

There was definitely a clear progression of events which is good. Since you've got the pacing and sequence down, work more on elaborating on your description. Use strong, specific verbs and adjectives.

Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Jun 3, 2013 around 01:22

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Martello posted:

Not everyone needs full line-edits. For them I'll pick out specific lines that stood out to me one way or the other, and then give an overall critique.


Appreciate the feedback. For whatever it's worth, I legitimately had not seen the word limit. Obviously it was right there and dumb of me not to notice, but well. drat thing was already cut down from 2k words so I'd chopped absolutely everything out of it that I thought I could.

quote:

Some more emotional attachment and reason for the hatred would have made this story better.

Last comment: the narrator is a closeted homosexual, and hates Mr. Malloy so much because he thinks he knows this secret and is also gay and wants to, well, you know. More of that subtext was available in the earlier draft but i cut it for economy and because I thought it worked a little more strongly when left more ambiguous. Your point is certainly well-taken, though.

Moving on!



magnificent7 posted:

Thanks Chillmatic for the crits. I appreciate your input.


I completely forgot to mention: what you wrote was a massive improvement over your previous writing. The best thing any of us can hope for is to continuously improve our craft; your latest output shows you're doing that. Keep at it, and don't let anyone crush your love of your own ideas. What's most important is to learn how to tell, before anyone else is subject to them, which ones are good and which ones are poo poo. Hard to do but always worth the effort.


A critique:

Sitting Here posted:

This is terrible and I am terrible. I shouldn't pick deathprompts when I'm in a deeply terrible mood. Do not read

Based on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharon_Lopatka I'm intentionally not reading the wiki link. I'd like to go in surprised. And also, for what it's worth, I've read over this once already and if you really think this is terrible writing, I'd be curious to see what you consider your best stuff. You've got decent chops; don't self-deprecate.



Mr. Slowhands
866 words

It's my last morning alive, and the first thing I see is Bobby, jerking off on the bed next to me. welp this definitely sets a pitch-perfectly disgusting tone. well-done. He holds his big hairy belly so that it doesn't droop onto his you-know-what, didn't like 'you-know-what.' felt childish and ill-suited to the mood already established. i feel like she'd use a more adult word and his whole body shakes with the effort of keeping the thing hard.

I can't blame him. I'm stuck to the bed with nylon cords, have been for more than two days. If I were gonna live through this, I'd worry about the horrible itching and burning under my bottom and thighs. i wanted more detail here as to why she was itching. it's already starting to gross me out but i wanted you to go even harder for the kill As it is, I want to tell him that I don't think the rubber mattress cover will be enough to save the bed, but I can't do that cause of the gag.

I'm in pain. i love sentences like these. less is nearly always more and it really shows here. I'm a horrible, bad, awful girl getting off in this trash-filled trailer somewhere in North Carolina. again those adjectives just beg to be more adult, given the scenario you're describing. I squirm against the ropes, and give a little whimper in hopes of getting Bobby's spirits up. heh, 'up'. love the subtlety there.

"I'm gonna give you what you deserve today, you big disgusting bitch." The words are all right, but he sounds like someone reading lines. great description. i heard his voice in my head. His emails had been so confident, so sure. But in real life now his voice is reedy and he stumbles over some of the dirtier stuff.

He cleans off my privates with a baby wipe and then starts rutting at me with his half-hearted little thing. I struggle and cry, trying to get him to do like he talked about online. god i am really uncomfortable right now. but i'm not bored, so you're still winning He scratches at me a little, leaves red welts but no broken skin. And he won't put his hands around my throat. she sounds almost disappointed. very subtle and effective. Not yet, he keeps saying. I'm gonna die of the drat sepsis before this man chokes me to death.

This thought triggers panic, and I thrash around for real for a while which gets Bobby a little more riled. But his heart's not in it, I can tell. So I do the only thing I can. I pee on him.

It takes him a second or two to notice. He sits back on his heels, sees the puddle growing between us, then looks at me. I smile allinnocently around the gag. i cut the 'all' here because it's a conversational tic that rarely works in prose.

Next thing I know I'm under a storm of fists and fingernails and teeth, i love, LOVED this part so much that i think it ought to be its own sentence and his little doodle is big-as-you-please. I guess even the most stoic guy doesn't much like getting peed on.

He's in me, above me, all around me. doing a lot with very little here. good. And stupidly, all I can think of is that Sesame Street song my neice would always sing, Over, Under, Around, and Through. Something about knowing the distance between near and far or--

Smack

Loose teeth, blood behind the gag. I come back to reality, realize that I accidentally took myself away from the violence. And jJust when things were getting good...

Bobby pulls out and waddles naked out into the trailer's trash-filled front room. tell me what kind of trash(it will reveal a lot about his character, won't it?). don't say car when you could say jeep. don't say dog when you could say pug, don't say trash when you could say empty beer bottles and crusty porno mags etc. I moan in protest, thinking I've killed the mood. But nowhe's rustling around, looking for something. I hope it's the rope, then I hate myself for hoping it's the rope,this next part of the sentence is really important, so make it its own sentence! tThen I feel the deep-hot-sticky-dirty-dark feeling, the feeling people mean when they say gently caress with the ugly 'f' sound and the hard K at the end and I want the rope.

I take in the tiny bedroom, the bare walls and the one bookshelf stacked with hundreds of floppy disks with labels like Real Amateur Neighbors - Pics and Dirtyslut.txt. The room is a more intimate partner than Bobby in some ways, since it's the last place I'll ever see. And even when I'm gone, it'll always be that room. Ok, this is what i mean; great description! but why is it here, in this part of the story? why not earlier?

The empty walls makes me think of movie credits scrolling on an empty black background. There's no song playing to tell me this is the end of my life, just the quiet and the grey and the smell of me n' Bobby in the air.

Here he is now, Bobby with the rope in his hands and dark things in his eyes. describe the dark things. give me something to work with. The little nubbin peaking out from under his big bear belly is dark too, the darkest purple I ever saw it. He's going to kill me. He's going to kill me. I moan and shake my head and strain against the nylon cords. He's going to kill me.

I don't want to die. But I want Bobby to kill me.

He gets back into position, gut resting on my abdomen, skin stuck together by sweat. He holds the rope taught in from of him as he ruts at me, letting me see it before it goes around my neck

oh god.

The room is clear, crystal clear. I can see everything, smell everything, feel everything.

Oh god I'm

Yes

No

My life in front of me, just moments of it left now

The rope

Bobby

The rope

Tighter and tighter

Not yet

not yet

I'm not there yet, but he's emptying himself out, and his balls are as empty as his eyes but I'm not there yet

and now black spots are swirling in from the corners of my eyes and my face feels like it's swelling up, but I'm not there yet, I'm not gonna get off

Not yet Bobby

not yet

I didn't get


Goddrat. At first I was all like


and then I was all like


You have a clear knack for setting tone, which, really, is the entire point of stories like this, isn't it?

My biggest gripe was the narrator's insistence on using some oddly cutesy words for genitalia and other stuff. In keeping with her character (she wanted this guy to strangle her), I figured she'd use far more 'adult' words and phrases. I couldn't figure out if that was some deliberate decision to make her more removed/distant from the action, but it felt like an affectation to me.

Other than that I'll reiterate that you'll always want to be specific with description. I know I beat that drum a lot but this makes the difference between engaging the reader vs. leaving them cold or feeling like they're 'outside' the scene rather than right in the disgusting, musty thick of it.

Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Jun 3, 2013 around 16:08

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Uno mas.



Nubile Hillock posted:

Feathers 453 words

The Erinyes rode in on trumpet blasts and Gods applause. I found the imagery here a little confusing, maybe because it isn't grammatically clear what "Gods applause" means. did you mean multiple gods' applause? or singular God's applause? The Olympiad had begun. Claps turned into dusty thunder-strikes: hooves on stone. I shifted the pebbles on the floor – this should be an em dash, not a hyphen. and no spaces around it either! first a line, then an angle, now round as the seal on my fate. The couriers would be here soon, bearing laurel. My mind’s eye saw the oracled words lit like torches. what words?

I took my skin and drank the lees, sweet wine dripping over the pebbles. I didn't know what this meant; I thought he was drinking wine from the ground or something (pebbles)

“Sealed with the blood of another,” the infernal messenger once spoke to me, and again now – her voice woven across time’s tapestry.

Outside there was only silence. The King was speaking. A knock at my door; quiet, urgent. I cast the stones across the room, restored them to their natural order: chaotic, lawless, bloodstained. The men crossed the threshold. I stood. hmm. i like the way these sentences sound, but the imagery felt a bit mixed to me. there's silence, but someone talking. a knock at the door, but quiet again. vague men coming at our narrator who just threw some rocks. what's happening here?

“Draco, God-favoured sage! It is time!” Agathon said. even one line telling us who Agathon is would go a long way towards helping clear up the mess here.

I embraced them as brothers; knelt when they crowned me with laurel. Outside, the cart was already waiting. The oil-blessed tablets shone in the midday sun; my words burned into their faces.what words? And they were mine, not passed down through quiet coughing of dying men or handed down from vengeful Gods.

I got onto the cart, as did Agathon. The other man walked beside us, arms heavy with wreaths. The trumpets blared, applause erupted once more. The wagon pulled us ahead – em dash a sum of working parts. An axle, a wheel, leather and nails. Each proscribed and measured and crafted from an ideal – em dash! though honestly I'd go with a semicolon here rather than that. should not such be the actions of men? I like where I think you're going with this metaphor, but on its own it's a little unclear. elaboration would be welcome.

The crowd was all around us now, the aether filling with sounds. don't say 'sounds' when you could say 'the roar of a mighty people' or whatever you choose. strong description would really bring this alive. right now i don't know if they're booing or cheering or screaming in agony. Over this I could hear the Erinyes speak, their infernal tongue there and gone all at once. Anger; but I’d broken no pact. i don't know who the Erinyes are and i feel like you should cut the reader a bit of slack and let them in on some back story here!

“Men!” I bellowed, raising my arms, “I give you Law!who the hell is our narrator? what is he doing here? why is he giving them law?

The crowd cheered, euphoric. All went dark. Sounds like flapping of enormous wings, my body weighed down by shades. The Erinyes had come to claim their dues. But it was too late, the deed was done. No longer would a God barter with the soul of man. I collapsed under their weight, yet more still came. I could barely hear the crowd. hear the crowd doing what?

I saw myself in Hades, but I’d known it all before. My eternity was to be a single moment. That night what night? they’d come from Athens, to steal my father’s swine. Scared, I ran from the attackers. I heard my brother’s cries. I’d paid the Gods then, in my brother’s blood, asked for mercy and for vengeance. vengeance i get, but why mercy? The Gods had named their price, but I vowed to never let another follow in my path.

I could feel the heat of Hades across the cold darkness of the Styx, it wouldn’t be long now.

Argh. This one is frustrating because I felt like the prose itself was--except for a few grammatical quirks--very well-written and, more importantly, felt genuine. I really felt like I was reading the words of some ancient Greek or Roman guy.

But oh man. I've read it three times and I still cannot get a sense of progression or actual story. So he gets killed for some reason? Before a crowd of people? Why? Do they want him to die? Is he a martyr? Demon? Saint? What's the theme, here?

I get the feeling that two things happened here:

1. you focused very hard on reproducing an authentic-sounding story to this period(and succeeded very, very well), but focused so much on doing so that you failed to tell an actual, logical narrative.

and

2. You were trying to do a vignette/slice-of-life type thing. And it fell flat because the setting was so foreign and you didn't give me anything to go off of, to help get me up to necessary speed. (or maybe you assumed the reader knew the story already?)

Again, I really enjoyed reading the actual prose (barring some description which could've been done with stronger/more effective language) so you're really good to go there, for sure.

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

sebmojo posted:

I'd be interested in your thoughts on mine if you're not critted out.

Go crit yourself.


sebmojo posted:

Rules of Combustion
1079 words


The concrete apron is crawling with technicians. I plant my feet, glance at Rostropov. He snaps to attention. Not entirely sure why but this opening line just didn't grab me. It did a good job of setting the scene but felt a little generic to me. I think I’m also inherently a little biased against first-person present-tense, but that’s just a stylistic quirk of mine.

“Air Marshall! Shall I obtain seating for you! I will do so!” Off he goes. I dismiss him from my attention and devote it instead to the delightful protrusion that is my rocket. delightful protrusion? is there supposed to be a sexual connotation here? The R-16 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. Skin of metal, payload of righteous retribution. awesome description Bedevilled by delays, enshrouded by failure, but rising above it all. And soon to rise above even that, on a pillar of glory.

I HAVE THERAPISED MYSELF INTO NARCOSIS

The words fly into my head and I dismiss them with the ease of habit. I have received these regular communiqués since I had my accident when I was seven years old at my grandmother's dacha. They take the form of stentorian pronouncements, as though from a rich-bearded Patriarch, and are generally nonsensical. interesting. You’re doing a bit of handwaving here but it was well-written enough that I can’t dismiss it outright.

Rostropov arrives with a chair in his hands. At his side is Yangel. My lip curls, unbidden. We have worked closely before but I am coming to doubt his commitment.

"Comrade Air Marshal I entreat you to - argh, em dash! Not a hyphen; ditch the spaces around it also. " the engineer begins. I hold up my hand.

"No," I say. I sit down on my chair. Foolish and brave, he continues. “But Comrade the Devil’s Venom is profoundly – ditch the spaces around the dash

I favour him with my most heavy-lidded use a better description than ‘heavy lidded. I have no idea what that means of glances. “Unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine. Hypergolic. Vivaciously reactive. I am familiar with its properties, but perhaps you have new information for me?” He stares, a rabbit hypnotized by its predator. clever disguise of exposition there; nicely done.

COWARDS DIE A THOUSAND DEATHS

I allow myself a smile at this one, sometimes my interior interlocutor ugh, interlocutor just made it sound like you were reaching for the thesaurus on this one. Choose simple, clean language over complicated whenever possible. can display wit. I wave my hand at him. “Comrade Kruschev has been given my personal assurances. The launch will proceed, Technician. On time.”

He scuttles off, insectlike like an insect—or even better, tell us what kind of insect. Or, EVEN BETTER, skip the insect part for now and just hint at what you'll later talk about with 'scuttled'. You later set up a really interesting motif with that, and I think you should ease into it more; don’t force it here and I dismiss him from my mind. new paragraph here.Although the passage of years has erased much, I can remember the garden shed at the dacha with total clarity. I remember the crawling mass of termites I found by moving an old pot of weedkiller, the rich chemical smell. tell me what chemical smell. Be specific! Also, you’re starting a very interesting motif/connection here, but it begins abruptly. Try to link it a little more smoothly.

Rostropov leans down, mutters in my ear. “There may be some risk, sir. Comrade Yangel has been recommending delay, perhaps you should withdraw to the observation post?”

I say nothing. The rocket is surrounded by tenders of webbed steel that are being winched back to give it space to fly. It is a lumberingly balletic process. I kind of like this paragraph. Not sure I like turning lumbering into an adverb, though. I feel an ache in my heart that is unsuitable to be turned into words.

CORRECTION REQUIRES ERROR

I shake my head. “My presence will encourage the men. Look how they scurry Rostropov. Anyway, the launch is not scheduled for two hours yet.”

The insects tell me what kind of insects. There are literally countless species so I want a more specific visual! I uncovered beneath the rotten wood in the garden shed had scurried, busy doing the bidding of the hive. I had gazed, fascinated, groped for a bottle of DDT. To find out what would happen. The cap was stiff and took both hands to open. I had taken my steadying hand off the tower of old pots and bottles to do it.

The tenders have retracted fully. I imagine the nitric acid that saturates the valves of my rocket, love that he calls it HIS rocket imagine its roiling ire. It seeks the spark that will transform it into fire. I want the rocket to launch now. Impatient, semicolon or em dash would be better than a comma here I have always been impatient.

“Mitrofan,” Kruschev had grumbled down the crackling line. “This needs to work. The Americans are getting cocky. Cockier. Cocks of the yard.” He was probably drunk, it was late. I had assured him that the rocket would launch. There was a fervency to my tone as I did so which surprised me. you’ve sort of shifted into the past-perfect (or whatever that’s called) tense by saying he HAD this and I HAD that. It’s throwing me off. Of course things had gone wrong, the engine had been flooded early, but things always went wrong. Caution is just the slower route to failure. that’s a really great line--reveals a lot of character Courage is the rocket’s path. To light a fire and rise upon it to the sky, that is the way. Another great bit. Very strong imagery.

“Rostropov,” I say, “tell me again of the fuel error.” I have settled my eyes on Yangel, who is having animated conversation with one of the other engineers by one of the remote consoles fifty meters away. His voice is raised, though I cannot hear what he is saying.

WE FALL THROUGH LIGHT INTO SHADOW

“Sir. The pyrotechnic membranes were ruptured. The combustion chamber has been filled with the Devil’s – with the fuel. Pitting and corrosion will render the rocket inoperable by tomorrow. Aborting the launch was considered, and rejected.” I can tell he is at attention behind me. Striving towards perfect erectness, like my rocket. more intentional phallic imagery? Yangel has stomped off, back towards the command bunker. Probably to have a smoke; I have chosen to allow this breach of regulations. Men need their outlets.

My last memory of the shed was the splash of acrid liquid falling upon the termites. I like this better if you don’t specifically call this a memory. Just pick up this thread where you left off without calling attention to the fact that it’s a memory; it’s been very effective doing it that way so far.The insects curling up in death. Then, a flash of light as the heavy pots fell from the table onto my head. I had been discovered some hours later, still unconscious. The poison gave me a cough that lasted for months, the blow gifted me with an internal onlooker, a kibitzer as a Jew might say. put the last half of that sentence in its own paragraph. That’s a big piece of information that explains his inner monologue and right now you’ve buried it at the end of a paragraph.

“Rostropov,” I say. “I will inspect the rocket more closely.” I stand, stride towards it over the fuel-stained concrete. My medals jingle. The sun is hot above. A hiss of vapour is issuing from a port halfway up the rocket. One of the men on the apron is shouting, pointing. Rostropov is behind me, keeping pace.

We are insects, all of us. Scurrying at the bidding of the hive. But we aspire, we rise. We craft our pillars of flame and ride them to the sky. I know this, Comrade Kruschev knows this, even poor cowardly Yangel knows this.

WE BRING THE SUN AMONGST US TO BETTER PRAISE IT I really like this line.

I nod, laugh. The jet vapor has become a cloud and there is a whine coming from the rocket, this pillar, this sculpture of metal and willpower. It is splendid. We are splendid. very very great sentences. Vivid. I turn to Rostropov to note this, and see him catch fire. GAHH. THIS LINE IS SO GREAT. WHY DID YOU BURY IT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PARAGRAPH?? I cannot hear anything. I raise my hand to him; it is on fire. I can hear nothing. We are on fire, a cloud of flame all around. My legs fail me and I fall.

My eyes are flame. The ground is fire. I curl up, weeping tears of fire. The sky is obscured with smoke, and flame. The concrete is black. The world is black.

WE CAN DO NO OTHER

This is a solid ending. You wrapped it up fast and actually creeped me out a little.

I’m actually going to show how much better I think that last paragraph looks edited the way I suggested.

quote:

I nod, laugh. The jet vapor has become a cloud and there is a whine coming from the rocket, this pillar, this sculpture of metal and willpower. It is splendid. We are splendid.

I turn to Rostropov to note this, and see him catch fire.

I cannot hear anything. I raise my hand to him; it is on fire. I can hear nothing. We are on fire, a cloud of flame all around. My legs fail me and I fall.

See how, this way, so much more attention is called to that awesome loving line?

I didn’t comment specifically on my next gripe because it’s hard for me to put into words, but: the dialogue felt, in a few places, a bit stilted. Not enough to really kill it for me, but I almost got the sense that you were going for a Russian-accent type of feel. If so, I think you succeeded more than you failed, but sometimes it just distracted me a bit.

So far I think I’ve enjoyed your story the most. You did a lot with very little, and I really, really liked the motif of the childhood flashback juxtaposed onto the current action. I would have preferred more vivid description of that, but that’s honestly my biggest complaint. I felt like yours was one of the few stories that had some sort of subtext going on, which is a must for me to really enjoy reading anything. Good work.

Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Jun 4, 2013 around 03:37

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Phil Moscowitz posted:

Also, re: the em dash suggestion for the "one- and two-footed varieties," those are two phrasal adjectives, each taking a hyphen.

I had to stare at that paragraph for nearly three minutes until I figured out why I'd written that. I think it's because the break came at one of the hyphens and the way it read made me think you were trying to do a dash-break (like a parenthetical) and then go for the phrasal--hence why I didn't "correct" the second hyphen.

Best I can figure out, anyway, as to what I was thinking. Thanks for pointing that out!

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Got a couple messages asking for crits, which I'm happy to do when available. I'll start with sebmojo. But to the other person who messaged me: I'm afraid that, like an idiot, I deleted your PM in a crazed attempt to clean up my inbox. Send it again and I'll get to it.

Seb, dialogue is an area of particular interest to me; since your piece has a lot, I'm going to dig into it and see what I might be able to help with.



sebmojo posted:

Hothouse
892 words

Jack was rolling a cigarette in the vivarium when the telephone rang. I feel kind of stupid but i had to look up what a vivarium was. He tucked the durrie behind his ear and elbowed the screen door open. A Morpho Peleides was clinging to the inside of the mesh just below the thermometer, which he checked by reflex as he closed the door: 27 degrees, good. I didn't know what some of the words in this paragraph were. maybe i'm dumb but it's something to think about!

The phone was an old red touchtone, hanging on the kitchen wall. Jack picked it off the cradle and rested it on his shoulder as he patted his pockets for his lighter.

"Yeah, gidday, Ronson," he said.

"Dad. It's me."

Jack found the lighter and flicked the wheel. The cigarette caught and he took a draw before replying.

"You got the message then," he said. already i'm concerned about this dialogue. this line in particular is empty. you could eliminate it by having the previous line say 'dad, it's me. I got your message.' or something similar.

"Are you at the same place?" 'place' is an empty descriptor. if he means the vivarium, have him say so--or better yet, have him use another description that involves strong adjectives and vivid images.

"Same place as ever," said Jack. same complaint as above re: 'place' There was a click at the other end of the line.

It was a cold day outside. or 'it was cold outside' Watery sunlight I liked the idea of watery sunlight but i had a hard time seeing the image lapped at a peeling sign that used to say RONSON BUTTERFLY HOUSE. good detail here Jack sat on the step, smoking. A white car rounded the corner, pulled up where? into the driveway? the front yard? Jack's son Sam got out. you didn't need to say 'jack's son' because in the very next line you have him saying 'hi dad' He was wearing a heavy coat what kind of coat? what color? and had put on weight.

"Hi Dad." said Sam. Jack nodded, flicked his cigarette on to the road. I really dislike greetings and formalities in fictional dialogue. Rather than saying "hi dad" (an empty phrase that serves to drive neither characterization nor plot) why not have him say "Been awhile, dad" or "Sorry I haven't called" or something like that. Use dialogue to reveal interesting things about these characters and their situation.

"Come on in."

Sam took off his coat when they were inside, standing shoulder to shoulder in the cluttered hallwaycluttered with what?. He had a fine sheen of sweat on his forehead.

"Give me that," said Jack. "Better keep your fancy coat clean." He laid it on a stack of magazines. what kind of magazines? porno? national geographic? popular mechanic? just think of all the opportunities you missed to tell me something about jack "Drink?"

Sam hesitated for a moment then nodded. "Yeah, alright." redundant due to the action

They sat on either side of the cigarette scarred melamine table. good detail Jack poured whiskey into two tumblers and set them down. They sipped. The house was quiet apart from the wavering hum of the fan heaters. i'm starting to get some idea of their environment, but a few more solid, strong details would really fill the setting out for me.

"So, is your mum --" Jack began. no spaces around em dashes

"She's not coming back," said Sam.

Jack inclined his head. "Is she well. Is what I was asking." i liked the voice here. i could really hear this line in my head

"She's..." Sam hesitated. "She's fine. Her leg's been playing up. She's on the list for an op."

"That's good." blah. more formalities and niceties here. give me some richer information. tell me something interesting!

There was another silence. Sam cleared his throat.

"How's business with the," Sam pointed further into the house. "The butterflies? Many people coming by?"

Jack shrugged. "Nope. Had a nice fella a few days back, he stayed for an hour. But since the plant closed people don't come by. Ghost town, they call it."

Sam smiled. "I saw that headline."

Sam took another sip of the whiskey, shuddered as it went down. "I was thinking about your message. I don't want to take this over." there are so many better lines than 'i don't want to take this over.' what about 'butterflies aren't my thing' or 'a ghost town doesn't seem too appealing to me' or anything other than what you've got there.

"Huh," said Jack. He flipped open his tobacco, pulled out a paper, began filling it with tobacco. no emotional reaction at all? some inner monologue to help me figure out how he feels? does he care at all? i'm what i would call 'emotionally lost' at this point. "How about the other thing then?"

"The money?"

"Bigshot lawyer like you, must have a few bucks lying around for your old dad. Keep him quiet, sort of thing. In his twilight years," said Jack.

"Dad."

"I won't beg. It's a transaction. You get a chunk of the house, I do the work to fix it up. The roof needs some--"

"The answer's no, Dad. We think you should sell up," said Sam. He drained his glass, a quick slug to the back of his throat.

"We?"

"Me and Julie. who's julie? Mum. It's over, Dad."

Jack rolled the tobacco into a tube and licked it, sealed it. He looked at the cigarette for a moment, weighed it in his hand, then laid it on the table. is this detail really important? you're describing it well enough, but i feel like if you're going to draw attention to it, there should be some sort of payoff for the reader.

"I've got a lot more since last time you were here. rather than 'the last time' say 'i've got a lot more in the last two years' or something that gives me an idea of just how long it's been since they've seen each other. the way it's written now it could have been two weeks or two decades. Even found that one you used to like, in the book," Jack said.

"The Peleides?"

"Yeah. Surprised you remember."

Sam's face relaxed. "They were the most beautiful blue. Periwinkle blue. I used to read the book while you were working in there." the tone changes abruptly here, which i'm sure you intended, but i felt like the voice was a bit inconsistent.

"It was a long time past. You were younger. And thinner." Jack poured some more into their glasses.

"You were ... less annoying. Cheers."

They drank. Jack put down his empty glass beside the cigarette.

"Maybe you're right. I'll give that fella who? a ring, maybe he'll take this place off me," said Jack.

Sam blinked. "Take... Really? You'd sell up?"

"Why not? Got to keep my family happy, hey?"

"I thought you'd laugh at me," said Sam. "Actually."

Jack chuckled. "Finish your drink and come with me. Something to show you."

Jack led Sam to the back of the house. He opened the labelled door, pushed through the chain curtain. "Roll up your sleeves, it's warm." he said.

"I remember. I used to love it in winter." Sam was unbuttoning his cuffs as he stepped through the door behind Jack.

The vivarium was bathed in luminous gold and purple from the intricately-painted skylights high how high? above, liana and wide-brimmed tropical plants hanging and sprouting and blossoming from every surface. i was going to gripe at you for too many -ing verbs, but the rhythm and feel of 'hanging and sprouting and blossoming' is too good to change.

And everywhere Sam looked there were butterflies, perching, gliding, fluttering, swirling around him in a vortex of delicate life and every one was the same colour, the same iridescent, perfect, endless, periwinkle blue.

E: periwinkle, wings, loved thing escaping control


I feel that you missed some opportunities to play around with a theme of color fading, like the relationship between a father and son. The last description of the vivarium and the blue was really great, and it would have been a nice emotional payoff if you'd described the setting while they were drinking as drab and grey and blah, only to have it end with that beautiful color as he and his father reconnect amongst the butterflies. I also felt that there was so much attention paid to the act of rolling cigarettes, smoking, and cigarettes themselves that there would have been some kind of connection there, and there really wasn't.

The dialogue was voiced well-enough, but fell far short of being engaging--mostly because neither character really says anything of much consequence. Surely there would be more there between father and son that you could show and engage the reader with. Use specific, character-revealing dialogue that actually tells me something.

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Far be it from me to crit a crit, but:

CancerCakes posted:

you either need a comma after scanner, or an attribution for the speech

Ack. No, he didn't! In fact, he employed one of the more clever ways of avoiding the Sophie's Choice of either unmarked dialogue or endless, repetitive tags.


So, just to be clear, this:


quote:

Florice checked her scanner. “They’re on the roof.”


...is a perfectly acceptable way to convey dialogue and action; I'd go as far as to say it's a device that should be used more often. When you include an action immediately before an unattributed piece of dialogue, the reader will naturally assume the person doing the action was the one who spoke.





We now return you to your regularly scheduled *~ironicfartzone~*

Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Aug 7, 2013 around 14:34

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

I feel bad for speaking ill of Thunderdome in the fiction writing thread, so I've come to seek penance by way of submitting a story. Or because, you know, I just started work on a new book using a very different voice than I've done before and want to be sure as possible that I've ironed out all the kinks! Also it's in first person, which I've always hated using but which this particular story requires. So I'm forcing myself to write whatever I can in that particular style/voice.

And thus I humbly submit:


Madam Charlotte's School For Aberrant Girls


...in which a violent young girl learns to be a violent young lady.





edit: oh, and I'll also do another critzkrieg! The last one was fun.

Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Aug 21, 2013 around 12:42

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Aberrant, in this context, is a period-appropriate and polite way of saying insane/deviant. The "trade" of the place is learning to reintegrate into society. Hopefully that's clear enough!

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Madam Charlotte’s School For Aberrant Girls
1,497 words


Auburn, Illinois--1937

Though the stiff grey cots in our dorms weren’t by any means fit for whoring, I’d been here long enough to be accused of it.

Knowing smirks, snide comments, fake dollar bills left on my pillow--suggestions of loose legs bandied about by loose lips. How typical. But more to the matter, how simple the slander. How lazy! They say, and they are right, that the girls of Madam Charlotte’s compete for high-reaching marks every bit as feverishly as they do for low-hanging fruit.

So in my defense I’ll say that I have never in my life charged any lover a nickel. And not only that, but I make far too much ruckus to favor a tryst in any so public a spot, though I could perhaps be compelled to test walls of the the fifth floor maintenance closet. It would be best, if you were wondering and in need of it, to wait until the clattering water boiler in that closet fires up in the early afternoon, just before Society Classes. But be sure to check first for a knot of chewing gum--strawberry flavored--pressed against the doorknob before you enter, lest you and I make a most awkwardly-intimate acquaintance.

The morning announcements began to crackle over the intercom as I favored my face with a brush of powder, blindly, as I owned no mirror. In just two weeks’ time I’d learned the contents of the days’ insufferable recorded greeting, as well as the cadence in which it was read. I began to work my hair into a single, thick braid while mouthing along with the dreadful words--a fierce, if mute, mockery:

To all girls good morning. Remember why you are here. Remember why no one comes to visit you. Remember why you have failed to achieve marks high enough to earn your place outside these walls. Remember that you entered as deviants but shall leave only as debutantes…

And so on.

I wasn’t sure why I was here, whether it was the mansion I’d burned down, the Oldsmobile Convertable I’d stolen, the bank safe I’d helped get unstuck, or the third of any such incident. Inquire, if you must, with the district attorney of Chicago for the particulars as to my holding.

There was another girl, boyish and quite pretty, sitting two beds over from mine, also in the middle of beating her face with a brush. She must have noticed my re-enactment of the morning announcements. “Don’t let ‘em catch you doing that,” she said, clipping back sandy blonde hair with bent, mismatched barrettes. “Or anything else, for that matter.”

At least she hadn’t thought to call me a ha'penny harlot. “Getting caught is an exception for me,” I replied, frowning with concentration and cursing the fact that I didn’t own a compact with a mirror.

She laughed. “Everyone in here says that. Need a mirror? I’ll loan you mine. For a cigarette.”

“I don’t smoke.”

“I know, but I saw you steal a pack right out from under Millie, yesterday.”

She seemed to note the concern lining my face and said, “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. I can hardly stand the sight of her.”

Begrudgingly I grabbed my lilly-white pillow and felt around in it before finding the rumpled pack of Lucky’s and tossing them to her.

When I held her mirror up to my face, I couldn’t believe how tired I looked.

***

The Role Of Good, Honest, and Strong WOMEN In A Very Foul, Indecent World / Or, Roots And Consaquenses Of This Our Modern Gender Confusion


Understand that I would much sooner part my own veins than I would sit through a speech with a title so hideously edited. But because this was a mandatory symposium, and because Madam Charlotte herself was due to tour the grounds sometime today, I found myself sitting in the Great Hall amongst two hundred other badly-behaved girls, doing all I could do to stay awake.

After five excruciating minutes of machine-gun adverbs mixed with unsettled disagreements between moody subjects and hapless verbs, I excused myself under the guise of a most-convenient arrival of the Lady’s Calendar.

Besides, I was an expert on the subject being discussed: I knew enough of Goodness and Honesty and Strength to know that a proper lady was only allowed to demonstrate two of the three at any one time.

I had taken a small handful of steps out into the hall when none other than Madam Charlotte, a giantess if ever there were, appeared behind me, latching hold of my thick, raven-braid and pulling my wiry frame--kicking but not screaming--back inside.

***

Her office would have made a dentist quite uncomfortable.

Sitting behind a substantial brown desk, The Madam, an aged woman in an impossibly conservative black jumper dress, was quietly thumbing through the numerous court orders, character statements, police reports, and mug shots that had accompanied me here. For my part, I was slouching in a chair twice my size, chewing gum defiantly and sucking my tongue, all to look as disinterested as could be.

“Such a resume for a girl of sixteen, and from such a wealthy--if not happy--family, too!” was Madam Charlotte’s appraisal. “It just won’t do.”

I shrugged. “It’s rather the only resume I’ve got. And as for family, the dead are most often unhappy,” I said, quite helpfully.

“It was only three months ago that your parents took their own lives, so I’ll not allow you to blame the lot on that!”

‘Took their own lives’. A more sanitary description, than, say, the actual way of the thing. I’ll spare your nerve and say only that my parents had set out on a cool Thursday morning to repaint our summer veranda, my favored reading spot, to a lovely chestnut brown; when came the heat of the afternoon they had traded their good intentions for arguments, then their brushes for a 12-gauge scattergun, and then, finally, lovely chestnut brown for slimy splattered grey and red.

Mutual suicide; their final, desperate attempt to one-up each other. Congratulations.

“You attended the finest parochials,” Madam Charlotte continued, “studied the classics, earned the highest marks amongst your peers, and stood perennially for commendation. Such a fall you’ve had: Crime, vagrancy, deviancy! Do you wonder why this is?”

I didn’t, really.

“You’ve clearly, from this report, developed an addiction to relations. Sexual!”

Oh, that. Indeed!

She continued, “...to boys, men...”

Huh?

“...of all ages, and, if these ghastly reports are to be believed, of all descriptions, too.”

I smacked my gum, started smiling. I had to wonder if the true extent of my proclivities was either absent from the file, or if in a fit of squeamishness she’d skimmed too quickly, only saw “SEX”, and thus had overlooked. Also: official reports dealing with a girl of my preference sometimes left out details too embarrassing for their author to bear the thought of writing.

She studied my face, her worn-out eyes narrowing. “No doubt, you’ve been led by men to delinquency. And what’s more I think you enjoy it,” she muttered. “Being caught delinquent, I mean.”

I blew and popped a bubble, the scent of stale strawberry filling the dusty room. She was right--about being caught anyway. So I said, “No. You’re wrong.”

“I’m sure I’m not,” she said, sitting back in her chair, as pleased with herself as if she’d just cracked the electrical telegraph. “So,” she continued, triumphantly, “I can assure you that our security here is top-notch, and given that my formal diagnoses of your hysteria includes an unhealthy appetite for the company of men, I am glad to say that none are allowed inside my walls. And since you cannot leave, we are quite sure to cure you, eventually and fully, of your carnality.”

***

Whether a life in thrall would have otherwise cured or wounded me, I cannot say; over the next six months, Heather--my sandy-haired confederate with the mirror and smoking habit--would prove a balm to my restlessness. With time we’d grown quite close, talking every waking minute--and as the chill of winter began to creep through the walls, we started squeezing ourselves onto a single grey cot each night, laughing together under a blanket at such a brazen possibility as Us.

Now it was a late afternoon, Heather and I had dutifully volunteered for trash pickup on the fifth floor. As we chatted and lazily scooped up scraps of paper and sanitary wrappers, I heard, from down at the far end of the hall and inside the maintenance closet, the water-heater start to hiss and rattle.

I dropped my bag. Grinning at Heather, I reached for her hand and said, “Let’s go!”

Without a soul around, we moved gracefully and quietly, two eager wraiths sashaying down an endless hallway. At the closet I jimmied open the door with a wayward bobby pin, and when I took her arm and pulled her inside, she asked me, the both of us laughing, “You sure? We were almost caught last time!”

Before I kissed her, I pulled the wad of gum from my mouth and mashed it against the doorknob--then pushed the door shut behind us.

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Because gently caress sleep, that's why.



Nikaer Drekin posted:


Detective Dick DeForest's Private Eye Hard-Boiling School
(1,337 Words)

John Magnum's mooks tied Ted Lilith's hands behind his back and plunked him down in front of the toilet. decent opening line. I liked "plunk" as the verb, here.

"So, Teddy Boy," John said, "what's this I hear about you hanging around my dame?"

"Johnny, please, whatever you heard was a lie, I swear to you!"

"Dunk him, boys."

They plunged his head down, into the bowl of grimy, cracked porcelain, great, disgusting detail. also lol at "plunged" Ted caught off guard and gulping the water down when he gasped for breath. but the second half of this sentence is incredibly awkward. had to read it three of four times to parse what you were trying to say. also, why would he be caught off guard if the guy said "dunk him boys"? After twenty seconds they let go and he sprang upright, coughing out the tepid water.

"I hope you're ready to sing now, Teddy. We can give you another drink if you're throat's still a bit dry."

"You're a psycho! I talked with her, that's all, at the drugstore checkout. I don't even know her name, Johnny, honest to God."

John smirked and bent down to face Ted. "So it's you who was lying, huh? When you said you'd never seen her. I don't like people who lie to me, Teddy. I'll be in touch."

He signaled to his thugs, and they shuffled out of the men's room, all cackling like loons in between cigarette puffs. John left last, whipping out a butterfly knife to slice the rope binding Ted's wrists. Ted stayed kneeling, hair and shirt drenched in piss water, forcing himself not to cry. He figured he was already plenty washed up. Well that ended...suddenly.

*******

Dean Thornton sighed and stubbed out his Pall Mall. "Ted, I sympathize, but the administration confronting these punks? Well, it's just not done here."

Ted stared at him. The Dean's voice was rough, like the croaking of a toad mafe made? of sandpaper, and he could feel it try not to tell me how something feels to a character when you could just show me. grinding away at his nerves. "What do you do around here, then? I mean, come on now, verbal tic, doesn't belong in dialogue this is harassment. Assault, even! I'm prepared to take legal action against the school if you don't at least try to make this right." this is very bland "says exactly what he means" type of dialogue. why not spruce it up a bit and use it to reveal more character?

Thornton paused, leaned back in his chair. Darkness swamped his office, the only light coming from a sharp desk lamp and the dying embers of the Dean's cigarette. not a big fan of epithets used this way. I couldn't immediately tell that Thornton and Dean were the same person, because you started off with "his" office, and then said "the dean's" cigarette in the very same sentence, even though you're referring to the same person Thornton swiveled to the side in his chair, his rugged face sinking into the shadows. good description Ted watched him tug another Pall Mall from the pack in his breast pocket, then strike a match on the desk to light it. After a calming lungful of smoke,which character's perspective are we in right now? he turned back to Ted, who wrinkled his nose as the tobacco haze spread.

"Apologies," Thornton said, waving away the smoke. "Your, uh... disinclination for the habit slipped my mind. that was a whole lot of words spent on describing the dean and his smoking habit, plus ted's dislike of it. does it mean anything to the story? Anyway, what I was going to say is that the administration doesn't step in to resolve spats between students. The students have to deal with each other. Man to man."

"That can't possibly be legal."

"Look, Ted, you're a fine student; you have a sharp mind and you've done good work here. But are you sure this place is the right fit for you?" again, this is bland, placeholder dialogue. I get nothing about how these characters feel about each other, based on this alone. find more specifically-voiced things for your characters to say to each other.

"Goddamn it, sir, I'm not going back to Encyclopedia Brown Academy. I want to be a private eye working the city streets, not some small-town hick investigating whether little Billy Olson stole from the till at his mom and dad's store!" this line is a little better; it does a lot of work in giving me backstory

"I understand that, Ted," Dean Thornton said. "But this is a school for detectives with grit, ones who want to immerse themselves in the hard-boiled way of life. You, on the other hand, don't smoke, I guess this is the payoff for the paragraph of detail about smoking? you don't slap mouthy dames around, and I've hardly ever seen you at the shooting range. As far as hard-boiling goes, you've barely dipped your toe in the water. now that is a great line. Here, I have just the thing for you."

Thornton pulled out a desk drawer and rummaged through it. A moment later he lifted up a .38 snub-nosed revolver and slapped it down on the table.

"You see, Ted, hard-boiled detectives handle things for themselves. That gun is loaded and the serial number has been filed off." Ted started to protest, but Thornton cut him off. "Don't say anything to me. Take care of what you have to take care of. Be discreet. Now go."

*******

Ted sat motionless on the bed in the dark room until he heard the doorknob rattle and the door creak open, a burst of light striking the back wall. John Magnum shut the door and flicked on the light switch. The bulb hanging from the ceiling emanated this is a thesaurus word, and I'm not sure it did more work than just saying 'glowed', or 'gave' or 'shined' or whatever. a dim amber glow. He turned around and saw Ted in the corner of his eye, but it didn't register until a second later. again, whose head are we in? His head jerked back to face him.

"The gently caress are you doing in my room, Teddy?" John asked.

"Hello, John. We've got business we need to settle." bland, placeholder dialogue.

John snorted. "Uh huh. I'm thinking you should get out of here if you don't want to go diving in the latrines again. Go on, I'm feeling like a very forgiving individual right now."

Ted pointed the revolver at John's chest and pulled the hammer back. "Sit down in that chair by the desk." Shrugging, John lifted his hands and complied.

"So how about it, Sam Spade? You're going to gun me down in cold blood,cliche right now? I don't think you could. Not in your wildest fantasies, cliche. kid" bland dialogue.

"Don't be so sure," Ted said. "I might not be as much of a hard-rear end as you and your subordinates, but none of you have any right to tell me I don't belong here. I'll do what's necessary to get the message across." very, very bland.

John sat frozen for a moment, but then fell apart into a giggling fit. He doubled over, face creased with mirth. awkward, thesaurus-y word Stifling his laughter, he sat back up and noticed the gun wobbling like pudding in Ted's hand.

"And what's that?" John asked. "What message are you going to tell the world, Teddy Boy? I'm dying to hear it."

Ted took a slow, deep breath and squeezed the pistol grip. "They're all going to know," he said, "that Theodore Lillith takes crap from no man." He pulled the trigger. i really wanted a more powerful bon mot here. wouldn't he have enough built-up rage to say something original, and, more importantly, more personal?

There was a click. The smile on John Magnum's face dissolved. "You son of a bitch," he said. "You were really going to do it."

Ted didn't say anything. He sat and stared over John's shoulder. that seems to be a very flat affect in response to what just happened

"Hey, Ted," John said coolly, "you look at me. You were really going to kill me over a couple swirlies? That's... pretty cold, man."

Ted gulped. He wished more than anything to be tracking down a wayward pet pig right about now, solving some suburban dilemma far away from John Magnum, his butterfly knife, and the cold, wretched pistol. now this is what i'm talking about. this is a much, much better paragraph. strong, vivid language, and it has specifically to do with our hero. much better.

John kept his voice soft and steady. "I was wrong about you. You're plenty hard-boiled, and I didn't have any cause to say differently. We're square, okay? I think you should leave now, though. My nerves are pretty strung-out, and I bet yours are too, huh?"

Ted nodded once, slowly.

"All right then," John said. "You go on back to your room. The two of us are cool now, I swear it." He lifted a hand, the sly grin coming back to his face. "Honest Injun, okay?" this was weird because it felt like you were setting up for something else to happen, but it never did

Ted nodded again, then stood up and sidled to the door. He kept the gun trained on John, but as soon as he was out in the hall he flung it away and bolted to the stairwell. Once he reached the steps, he took a breath and started up toward his dorm, but decided to go for a walk instead. He needed to think about his future.

Pushing past the double doors in the main hall, Ted breathed a lungful of the sweet, damp night air. He looked back up at the building and saw John Magnum's dorm room, his head silhouetted against the window shade. Ted shivered, even though the night was warm. He thought of how easily his finger squeezed the trigger, trying to convince himself it was just some freak twitch, but knowing that was a lie. good line

"I bet you a million bucks," he mumbled, "Encyclopedia Brown never had to do anything like that." good, specific closing line




Overall this wasn't bad. My biggest complaint is that it looks as though you struggled with the dialogue in certain places and so left cliches and filler sprinkled throughout the entire piece. This kills any attempt you have at voice or drama, as the lines being said could have been said by anyone at any given time or place. That's what makes for good voice and for good dialogue--a given line that could have only ever been said by that particular character in that particular situation.

Every story has a few lines of filler, but when your writing has a lot of lines like this: "you've done good work here. But are you sure this place is the right fit for you?" and "We've got business we need to settle" and "Not in your wildest fantasies" and "I was wrong about you" are all lines that could come from literally countless different pieces of writing. I think it's important to try and add voice to everything you do--otherwise it will come off as flat and forgettable.

re: thesaurus words--every editor I've ever spoken to hates these with a passion, and I've learned to hate them too. Sometimes you really need to reach for a fancy word because you're going for a specific effect or because no other word, flat out, will do. Most often though, writers use these to spruce up otherwise bland language, so it just looks badly out of place and lazy.

Also: watch the head-hopping.

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

gently caress Sleep--Redux



Sitting Here posted:


The Flow Fascile

did you mean Facile? either way I dig the title


"How come you never told anyone about it?"

"It was like, at first--you know how easy it is to get little kids to keep secrets--they just told me my parents would be mad if they knew I wasn't going to regular classes. Then I started to understand what the Institute was about, and I didn't want to tell anyone."

Tessia rolls over check the time on her phone, and to Seamus the dent of her absence on the pillow smells like fresh rain, even though they've been laying in this bed for the better part of three days, under-showered and undisturbed. i didn't much care for the dialogue that opened this piece, but this is a really great paragraph that has me intrigued as to what the hell is going on.

He says, "how much longer?"

"Long enough."

"For what?"

"To tell you the truth about everything. I'm tired. Of it. i like how you broke those two sentences up I don't know don't know if I'm the Flow or just the Shape that the Flow moves through anymore," she says. Seamus doesn't follow. "You know how like musicians can't listen to music and writers can't read books and magicians can't fall for an illusion? With the Institute--it's like that, but bigger. It's like they shove your face close to the mosaic until you see that it's all bits of glass and stone."

"So they took you out of school and made you look at a mosaic?" I hope this line was supposed to be funny, because i really laughed. i know a lot of people who regularly miss the point like this

Tessia lights a cigarette. "I was never out of school, just didn't go to normal classes. The Institute, they're like an underground railroad for making more Facilitators. The people who run the whole thing, they can do poo poo that make it seem sometimes like the world is just a fancy marionette."

Seamus dusts hot ash off Tessia's thigh that she doesn't notice has fallen there.

"The first thing they teach is Shape and Flow. Not all events are equal. Lets say you hold the door open for someone. You, the door-holder, in that situation become the Shape, and the door-holdee is the Flow. You're the bed to their river, the stadium to their concert." i still have no idea what's going on, but this is good dialogue with good, original imagery. so even though i'm confused, the voice is good enough for me to want to keep going

"What you're saying is that they taught you--and I'm picturing this in like a smoky janitor's closet with some guy who hacks on his cigar and says smooth in a surly plumber's voice--is that they taught you to be a doormat."

Tessia and Seamus are in Seamus's downtown apartment on the morning of what is supposed to be the largest national day of anti-surveillance demonstrations in history. Seamus can tell that Tessia is pretty shook up about the whole thing, even if it is all just pebbles and glass and smoke and mirrors. But she's having none of his blasé attitude. i would have preferred a more specific description than "blasé attitude". Also this paragraph might have been a bit better as the opener; it would have grounded me a bit better as to the situation during those opening lines

"What's wrong with being a doormat? We're always denigrating the stuff we need most. We should all be so lucky to be as decent of people as your standard doormat."

"But so anyway, the Institute," says Seamus as he takes the now mostly spent stub of a cigarette from Tessia's hand where she seems to have forgotten it. There are little stiff-edged holes in the sheet from before he figured out how to shape himself around her chaos. maaan that's a really good sentence. i wasn't a big fan of the first one in this paragraph but the second one made that setup worth it

She says, "the closet isn't far off, though. When I first started going, back at Garfield Elementary, the Institute had us meet in the boiler room behind the kitchen. It always worked out that none of the staff happened to pop into the boiler room while we were in there. It's always like that, whatever the Institute is doing, wherever they are, it all slips beneath people's attention. Because they control everything. We control everything.

"Shay, they start us so young. They make you think it's a good thing, what we do. What Facilitators do. First it's all holding doors open, replacing the paper in public toilets, taking bags of dog poo poo off of people's porches. You know. Random acts of kindness. Those moments when all you can do is look up at the sky and say, give me a break. Well, we do, when we can. Give you a break, I mean. i think i know who's talking but some attributions would help a bit.

"When I talk about Shape and Flow, I'm talking about sort of a like-a-bridge-over-troubled-water-I-will-lay-me-down thing. We are the 'path' part of the path of least resistance." same thing here, or else put in some more basic action to break things up a bit

This whole time Seamus has been stretching and swinging his legs over the side of the bed and looking around for pants and shoes and generally indicating with his body language that they should probably get up and get going if they want a good spot at the civil uprising. vivid description, felt like i could see him

"I don't know if I can do this, is what I'm telling you, Seamus."

"Mmm, yeah. You are definitely some sort of sleeper cell set to trigger in a Thriller-dance flash mob."

Seamus pulls on his hoody and when he turns around Tessia is standing there naked but her body is closed, folded in on itself under the protective nest of her crossed arms. great loving description, original. "The Institute," she presses on, "likes order. But they'll take advantage of chaos to get it. They don't--they're not who you think. The NSA, FBI, CIA, those are all broken tools set to a job they can't hope to understand or accomplish." She's shivering now. "I can't--I can't--"

Seamus watches himself watch her hyperventilate. Growing up on a sterile California cul-de-sac and having tested positive, his parents claimed, for allergies to every sort pet he could think of, he has never seen an animal in true physiological distress before. nothing to say other than another great line

"What do I--Should I--" Then he's kneeling beside her, alternating between awkwardly rubbing her shoulder and awkwardly patting her back. He is momentarily ashamed of finding the sheen of sweat on the ridge of her spine sensual in the room's low lamp light.

"Air," she says. "Outside. Now. I shouldn't've--shouldn't've said."

Seamus helps her put on a big sweatshirt and a pair of his pajama pants and her faded canvas sneakers and helps her close her fingers around another cigarette. just loved this a lot



Tessia breathes easier in the open, where the air is, even in the heart of the city, crisp enough to thin out the fat and grease smell of the burger place over which Seamus lives. She fumbles with the lighter until Shay flicks it for her, and the heat on her face reminds her to unclench her teeth, a little. thank you for clearly establishing that we're in her head at this point, rather than seamus'

Down the block protesters are already gathering in the public plaza outside of city hall, even though the Mayor has given his blessing to the demonstrations (privately, he understands that he is at a juncture where he must needs play both the face of comma here and an advocate against an increasingly martial regime, though he doesn't like that his mind jumps to that word when thinking of the current administration).

The crowd is substantial, even in the early morning. Tessia has confirmed what she's pretty sure she already knew: She physically cannot tell anyone the extent of the Institute for Anonymous Public Facilitator's control, nor its goals, nor anything, it seemed, that would be damaging to the Facilitators' goals. didn't like the use of the word 'goals' twice in one sentence. Which means that anything she'd been capable of telling, say, Seamus was in all likelihood meant to be told, and so whatever choice she makes forthwith is in all likelihood a choice she has been long conditioned for, which means stay or go, she is probably already so deep inside the Shape that the Institute is trying to get the world to Flow around that there is no choosing her way out of their machinations. i've trusted your voice enough thus far that i've read this sentence several times to try and parse it, and i think i have, but it could still stand with just a bit of editing/trimming. i think i get the frenetic feel that you were going for, though

"Are you sure?" Seamus asks as Tessia drifts in the direction of the protest.

"Go with the Flow," she murmurs, and lets him take her arm and lead her, lamb-like, into the crowd.

Tessia wonders at slogans on signs, high-end smart phones, and at faces covered by black bandannas. She wonders at all the kids drinking Mexican Coca Cola out of those tell-tale glass bottles, wonders who planted the idea that the cane sugar is markedly, quantifiably better-tasting.

She wonders, when the crowd parts for a moment, at the apologetic look on the face of a police officer several feet away on the opposite side of one of those temporary fences that the cops use to kettle rioters. He raises his arms, which come together to punctuate in something black, and Tessia at first thinks to move, thinks that he is shooting someone behind her, for her protection.

To Seamus it begins and ends with a pop, and then Tessia is on the ground and people are both backing away and pushing closer to get photos and in some cases to livestream the day of action's first blood live to the protest's online counterparts, who are momentarily ashamed to admit that they are glad it was the cops that dunnit and not one of their own.

Roughly-outfitted, self-appointed "field medics" shove through the crowd, demanding space, demanding air.

The last thing Tessia sees is Seamus, caught in the inevitable tide-shift toward violence and retribution, ripping one of those touted glass Cola bottles out of another protester's hand and surging forward with the rest toward the police line, he and all the others certain that they are the ones Shaping history today.

gently caress, man. I had to re-read the last couple of paragraphs a few times to really understand what was happening--but not because it was confusing, or bad, or anything like that. It was just...drat thought-provoking. And really so. Originally I thought it was bullshit that she just randomly gets shot at the end, and then I thought about what she'd been saying, and it was just... (part of what tipped me off was the fuckin awesome usage of capital S there in your last sentence)

This piece is at the point where I can't really think of anything I could say about it because it's so well-polished and, while a bit dense, it's rewardingly so--to where I'd easily read this were it a longer short-story or even a whole book. Great fuckin' job, seriously.

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Sleep joke goes here:



M. Propagandalf posted:



Trackers
1429 words


The lights are dimmed as the projection screen shows the grainy image of a man in military regalia. His right arm crosses his chest as his chin juts at the sky. As his picture flickers up front of the class theater, the blare of brass and percussive instruments courses through the public address system of Starkhall Training Academy for Truancy Investigations and Corrections. Candidate 15 of Division 2, stands chanting with her fellow candidates as Starkhall’s anthem closes with its final lines: this opening is a bit bland. I didn't much get a sense of time or place

Children are Resources
Children are Future

Preserve our Resources
Preserve our Future

Preserve Yourselves


The music fades out and the projection screen rolls up. Cold light refills the room. i really liked that description The D2 instructor walks to the front of the classroom. Dressed in the traditional Starkhall cassock and cap, only the small antennae behind his left ear distinguishes him from instructors of generations prior. He crosses his arms behind him before facing the class.

“Sit.”

The candidates take their seats by their gunmetal desks. i liked when Mccarthy used gunmetal to describe a color and i liked it here as well Before the instructor can speak again, something what 'something'? try not to play coy with the reader like this causes him to turn aside. He cranes his neck and reaches behind his left ear, before turning back to the class.

“We will be reviewing the errors on Examination K3. However, Candidates 9 and 15.” that's not a complete sentence. if he gestured or something for them to stand up, say so.

15 stands up, speaking in exact unison with a voice behind her.

"Instructor."

"Both of you are to see the headmaster at his office immediately."

"Yes instructor."

15 pivots and moves towards the door. The other candidates keep their eyes straight forward. From her peripheral vision however, 15 sees the edge of a smirk from Candidate 32. She waits by the door until 9 joins her, before they march side-by-side down the hall.

***

15 feels herself pale. only now? not when her name was originally called to the headmaster's? This is the first time she has been called before the Headmaster. Three months ago, 22 was called. A different 22 returned to take her place. interesting Nothing more was said. As she marches alongside 9, she feels an overwhelming urge to talk to him. It is 9 who breaks the silence first.

"I can feel my heart beating."

"We should not talk."

“It does not matter. We have every reason to be proud today.”

“What makes you say that?”

“We are being accelerated, of course.”

15 nearly breaks her march.

“H-How do you know?”

“The examinations are complete. Do you doubt your scores?”

“I do not presume to know my results.”

9 let out a sigh.

“Sometimes, you can be too cautious, 15. There is no question that I am second ranked in our division. There is no question that you outrank me. Now there may be questions as to whether you outrank the entire academy. But I do not presume when I tell you that your examinations were flawless.” I was surprised that any of these students know anything about each other at all, given the way you've set this thing up

15’s face begins to fill with blood. what emotion is that supposed to convey? She suddenly recalls the smirk from Candidate 32.

“I observed 32 as we were being called.”

“And?”

“He… presented a manner that suggested our meeting with the headmaster would not be as auspicious as you believe it to be.”

“32 is an idiot. He will be reallocated, assuming there is a school that can accommodate his worthlessness.” good line

15 purses her lips to fight off a smile.

“So 22… the previous one. She was also…?”

9 stops in his tracks. 15 turns to see 9, his shoulders slunk.

“That was different… Her performance was… inadequate.”

The remainder of the march passes without a word.

***

They reach the marble door of the Headmaster’s office. It is the only door in the academy that has no buzzer or card reader. The figure of an iron falcon gripping a ring in its talons forms the door knocker. Above it, a segmented circle encased in metal covers the eyehole. 15 takes the ring and bangs it against the door. The circle shutters open, emitting a green light.

“Candidates 9 and 15 reporting.”

The shutter snaps shut. There is no immediate response. 9 turns to 15

“We may be assigned to separate districts,” 9 extends his right hand, “should we not see each other again, I wish you the best.”

15 takes 9’s hand.

“I hope that will not be the case, but yes, the best to you as well.”

The door swings open. They pull their hands apart. A man in a red cassock steps out, scrutinizing them. He turns to 9.

“Get in.”

15 marches alongside 9, but the man in red holds up a hand.

“Candidate 9 only. Candidate 15 to wait.”

15 sees a look of uncertainty pass over 9’s face. She steps back as 9 follows the man inside. The door swings closed. new paragraph here for the next line 15 waits.

***

15 is ready how is she ready? what's she thinking about? when the door swings again. The previous man in red points to her.

“Now you.”

15 follows the man through a short corridor, before arriving at the headmaster’s office. no detail, so to me they're in a formless room. why not give me a little bit of visual help, here? The headmaster wears a cassock, but his cap carries a skirt running along the back and sides, reaching past his shoulders. His elbows are propped against his desk, the palms of his hands together, his finger trilling against one another. Behind the headmaster is a television screen, currently off, that makes up the entire back wall. 9 is nowhere to be seen.

The man in red walks in with 15 behind him, and halts.

“Headmaster. Candidate 15.”

The headmaster nods. The man wheels around and marches out. 15 stands uncomfortably as the headmaster continues to trill his fingers while inspecting her. Eventually, he motions at the chair in front of her.

“Sit.”

As 15 takes her seat, the headmaster reaches to pull open a drawer.

“Roll up your left sleeve.”

As 15 does so, the headmaster brings out a machine that looks like a sphygmomanometer, a miniature telescope, and a typewriter haphazardly connected together by various cables. The headmaster wraps a cuff around 15’s wrist, before aiming the telescope gadget at her face. 15 blinks rapidly as green light temporarily why temporarily? fills her eyes. A robotic voice chirps from the typewriter, followed by the rapid chatter of print against paper.”

CALIBRATION COMPLETE. SUBJECT READY FOR TESTING.

The headmaster stands up.

“The screen will come on. Do as it tells you. I will be watching.”

The headmaster exits the room. A minute later, the room lights turn off, and the television turns on.

Administering STATIC Final Examination, Serial 2B.

Part One: A video will play depicting a public venue with individuals. Maintain uninterrupted eye contact of ten seconds on all suspected truants. Image displays in 3… 2… 1…

* * *

The screen turns off with the end of the examination, and the lights return. 15 is exhausted. The headmaster walks in carrying a glass of water.

“Drink?”

“Yes, please, Headmaster.”

As 15 takes the glass, the headmaster continues.

“Effective today, you are no longer Candidate 15 of Division 2.”

She pauses midway in her drink.

“You are hereby accelerated to begin field training.”

She accidentally breathes bubbles into her glass. The headmaster is not amused. good description, but try for something better than telling me how a character doesn't feel.

“The training begins once you are finished your water. You have but one task before you are dismissed for the day. We will be heading outside to the academy training grounds.”

Finishing her glass, she joins the headmaster as they leave the office, escorted by two men in red cassocks. They walk out of the building to the grass field of Starkhall’s academy training grounds. From a distance, she notices a group of three individuals already on the training grounds. As she draws closer, she makes out two of the men in red cassocks. The other is 9. His hands are tied to his back as he stares at the ground. She forces herself to march to steadily. At her approach, 9 looks up. The look of surprise is followed by a wistful smile.

“So, you were accelerated.”

With her eyes averted, she nods. The headmaster points at 9.

“This boy is no longer Candidate 9. He should not have been a candidate. He is utterly corrupted by Heretic Joysing’s falsehood. He is an abetter to the truants. Depriver of Starkhall’s resources.”

She barely registers the sensation of her right hand being opened as the headmaster places a piece of heavy cold metal in her hand.

“He is an enemy. Correct him!”

She weakly lifts the pistol and aims at the boy she once knew as 9. He looks at her and sighs.

“My name was Vaughn. What is yours?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Find out.”

She pulls the trigger. He slumps to the ground. A moment passes before she feels the hand of the headmaster on her shoulder.

“Congratulations, Tracker 15B. You will do Starkhall proud.”


I'm not really sure what to make of this. Has a bit of a Brave New World kind of feel, but without the commentary. There was a lot of sterile detail (which perhaps you were going for) that kept me from really relating to the characters or their situation. I feel like a lot of the robotic dialogue could have been reworked to provide at least a somewhat more human connection to the characters. I know you were going for a certain effect, but you still want the reader to relate to your characters, at least on some level.

I'll say this, though: the bit about her aiming the gun at him and him telling her his name and him saying "find out", was really great. That tiny bit was enough to make me at least a little disappointed that the story ended when it did.

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Will try and do a few more of these through the evening.

sebmojo posted:

Colin Agonistes


Colin "The Crusher" McPherson sat zazen on the dented steel table. i was this close to dinging you for the thesaurus word, but this is one of those times where it fit thematically and added something to the story His eyes were closed and his hands were composed in the mudra of absorption. Overhead a fluorescent light flickered in fitful counterpoint to his breathing. i liked the contrast of harsh light with the calm image of him

The door to the changing room crashed open. Colin's manager Henry stood in the doorway, stubby arms flung wide. "Go time, mate! Monster Mike got'em warmed up for you, they're all yours big fella!"

Colin exhaled then opened his eyes. "I am sorry, friend Henry. There will be no fight today," he said.

Macrae squinted. "Come again?"

Colin smiled gently. "I will not," he said, "fight." i really dig the way you broke this up--gave it more voice and had me picture it as though he was peacefully breathing and then exhaling as he said it

Henry gave Colin a dubious not a huge fan of 'dubious' here, but that's just a stylistic thing on my part look, checked the corridor behind him then let the door swing shut. He pulled over a folding chair with a scrape.

"Is this about the money, because there's maybe a little I could—"

Colin shook his head. "Violence." He pronounced the word as if it were a slug he was spitting from his mouth. great description, felt like i could hear him say it "Violence is no more a part of the life I must lead, friend Henry."

Macrae's face crumpled up like week-old chip wrapper for a few moments then smoothed itself back out as comprehension dawned.

"This is about that Jappo sheila you picked up at the Waverley Arms last week," he said. "Isn't it?"

Colin inclined his huge head. "Kumiko-san has helped me in my journey to enlightenment. She explained to me how the wheel of samsara can only be escaped by the sevenfold path. But I chose to walk that path off my own… uh… bat.” He unfolded his legs with a grunt, and slid off the table. “Hell Henry, it’s no life whacking fellas in the chops. We’re not getting any younger.” i like the transition of his voice from eastern-y stuff to what i'm guessing is his usual

“Sure, sure. Colin,” Henry said, “I’m sympathetic to yer sevenfold whatsit and the Samsung wheels lol or whatever that was all about, but mate there’s a hundred and fifteen punters baying for blood out there. What are ya gonna do, meditate at them?”

Colin stretched massively, cracked his knuckles and let his silk robe fall to the ground. His purple and green spandex glistened as he flexed. “Don't worry, mate. She’ll be right.”

Inside the Waverley Tavern it was hot with beer fumes and bloodlust. nice description/alliteration A baying cry went up as Colin vaulted into the ring. The lights dipped, then raised on his opponent Charlie ‘Chiseller’ Wallace. Charlie was dressed in black and red, his mask a bestial rictus.your voice is strong enough here that I'm not sure you needed to use this word when 'grimmace' or whatever would work as well.

With a roar, Chiseller charged. Colin waited until the last moment, then stepped aside, smiling. Again and again he dodged his opponent. At each pass the yelps of the crowd grew louder, the frenzy on Charlie’s face more intense. At last it was too much, Charlie bounded up the ropes and launched himself feet first at Colin with an ululatingbattle cry. also unsure about this one

Colin waited, his expression inscrutable, then bowed just in time for Chiseller to sail over his head, over the ropes and knock himself out on the bar.

Later that evening Colin and Henry sat around the same table. In the middle of the table was a mound of crumpled bills. In the corner of the changing room Kumiko hummed to herself as she made the tea. i like this detail a lot

Henry cleared his throat. “So that’s your sevenfold path then? Just wait for the other fella to knock himself out?”

“Feeling my way, mate. Professional wrestling and total non-violence is a treacherous row to hoe, but— ta love,“ he said as he took the tea cup from Kumiko, “with the right spiritual stance all things are possible. Tea, Henry?” this line felt a bit flat/generic compared to the rest of the dialect-rich dialogue you had going

Overall I liked this piece and wished it was longer. (I know you had a low-ish word limit) We only get to see the results of Colin's enlightenment but no glimpse of his getting there, which I think I'd have liked. I especially liked the dialogue and thought it clipped along nicely until that line there at the end I already pointed out. Definitely a solid job, though.

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Skyrim fanfic or Game of Thrones tribute? One way to find out:



Schneider Heim posted:

School: St. George's School For Monster-slaying and People-saving

Nobody's Princess
1480 words

Sabrina stepped inside the ring. this opening line fell a bit flat for me. were there people cheering? booing? was she nervous or excited? confident? i think it's a good idea to try and set some kind of tone with an opening line, whenever possible Her leather armor felt like a second skin, after months of inseparability. Her wooden sword and shield felt like extensions of her limbs. hmm, these descriptions are also a bit cliche. i've heard armor feeling like second skin and weapons as extensions of limbs a whole bunch of times. is there a more original/engaging way to get this across?

Everyone was perspiring in the midday sun. She particularly baked in her armor. it seems like it'd be more important, to me anyway, to start with how she is feeling about the heat, rather than the crowd. Brave Harold, their arms teacher, did not, even despite his shirt of mail. how do you know? are we in his head? how do we know he's not sweating or baking under there? Or probably because of it. Not even a drop of moisture on his golden beard.

Sabrina assumed a stance that offered no opening. i don't know what that looks like. try and be more specific when it comes to action Alwyn's sword traced circles in the air, eager for contact. who is alwyn? this is a third character out of nowhere

They did not speak. Taunts had become meaningless on Sabrina. i try not to simplify everything to 'show, don't tell' but this is a pretty solid example of when that principle should be applied. show me how taunts are meaningless to her. don't bother telling me. Sometimes Brave Harold would pit her against older students. Sometimes she would win. Nobody ever celebrated. not sure what you want me to feel in response to those sentences.

"Begin!" Brave Harold's hand slashed the air.good description

Sabrina let Alwyn charge. She deflected the lunging stab with a flick of her sword. The boy was different. Hungry for valor, to exchange for the family he had lost. how do we know that? are we in his head? do these two have a history, where he told her this? Sabrina envied him for it. more telling when showing would be better. Envied the near-suicidal drive that drove him to the top of the class.

This match would decide which one of them would carry that title.

Sabrina beat back Alwyn's attacks with increasing effort. Her movements were precise, but Alwyn's strength threatened to shatter the balance. Her preferred tactic of wearing her opponent down would not work. This fight meant so much to her opponent. you already established that, and this was a really flat way of repeating it

She slashed Alwyn's exposed leg. Alwyn didn't yelp in pain. well...what did he do, then? it's usually better language to tell us what happened rather than solely what didn't. He tried to smash his shield at Sabrina's face. Sabrina blocked with her own. They pushed against each other, eyes unyielding as their efforts.

Alwyn's strength won out. Just as Sabrina let him. awkward sentence. 'just as sabrina wanted it to' or something would have worked better She turned the blow, unbalancing Alwyn. She kicked his legs out and fell on top of him, pointing her sword at his back.

"Sabrina wins," Brave Harold said, over the din. man for as hopped up and badass as you've tried to make this guy out to be, you really blew this line. it sounds like he's glancing up from his iphone to announce the results of a round of video trivia

Sabrina got up from Alwyn. She offered no hand. She had learned not to. good line.

Alwyn glared at her, which quickly lost venom as the gravity of his loss sunk in.

"You wanted to win a test of strength, so I let you," Sabrina said. "It cost you the match."

Alwyn opened his mouth, and closed it. Anything he would have said would only be an excuse. super anticlimactic

Sabrina avoided the sullen stares of her classmates. Why did they come to hate me like this?

What could she have done?

* * *

Sabrina climbed up the Stalwart Tower, heading towards the Headmaster's office. She was wearing her uniform, the crisp white starting to look brown despite multiple washings. She was fine as long as it didn't stink. great line

She found him at his desk, flanked between towering stacks of papers.

"Headmaster," Sabrina said. "When you said your door was always open, I didn't think you meant it literally."

"It's a gesture to encourage my approachability, but the very state of my room is a hindrance," Headmaster Marius said. "How can I help you, Sabrina? Please, don't mind the papers."

Sabrina smile faded as she stated her purpose. "I don't believe this is a secret to you, but my classmates hate me. They think I don't belong here." this is more plainspoken dialogue that doesn't do any work; it reveals no character or plot information and could have been said by literally anyone, anywhere, anytime. that shows a lack of voice which is a killer to any story.

The Headmaster steepled his fingers on the table. "I have heard rumors, and read the teacher's reports. But I would like to hear the details from you, child."

"When we introduced ourselves to each other, part of it was telling our story. You know, the story of why we're here. I didn't have anything worth telling. It's the truth. What should I have done, lie to them? Even my very clothes marked me apart from them! ...but your reader doesn't have this information. cut us some slack and let us in on what you're talking about!

"I never lost anything. My family is alive and safe. We're rich. I could be anyone I want to be. And I choose to be a Brave. Is that wrong?"

"No," the Headmaster said.

Sabrina continued. "Do I have to endure great suffering to help others? Do I have to feel pain, in order to prevent others from experiencing the same? I just want to do good! emphasizing again what i said above re: dialogue. If you copied and pasted this stuff into google you'd find thousands of results from other things written with exactly the same lines of dialogue.

"I want to be their friend. But my status makes it difficult. They think I'm pitying them."

"And yet you are at the top of your class."

"It only makes my life harder. They want to wrest my standing from me. The more I try to prove that I can be a Brave as much as any of them, the more they resent me. It's as if I'm not supposed to be this good. Not to brag, of course."

The Headmaster smiled. "Our school was built on the belief that anyone can be a hero. Anyone can be a Brave. I want to say that being a noble or a commoner has no part in it, but I am aware of our school's demographic. And I cannot blame it. Yours is a difficult road, Sabrina, but you need to overcome this challenge if you truly want to become a Brave." really flat, bland dialogue

Sabrina hung her head and said nothing.

"All this talk, and I cannot help you," Headmaster Marius said. "But I can give advice: sometimes you just have to win them one heart at a time." i'm pretty sure those are the lyrics to an actual country song

Sabrina gave her most dignified bow. "Thank you, Headmaster."

* * *

The mock dragon was the ugliest thing Sabrina had ever seen. It was made from goblin technology, and used for their Basic Dragon-slaying class. ...and you didn't describe it to me at all, so for all i know it looks like something out of Skyrim

"...since this is Basic Dragon-slaying, Grath'mak's snout will only produce a stream of ash. You will still gain failing marks if you get hit by it," Harold said, giving basic instructions.

The iron sword's weight was unfamiliar in Sabrina's grip. She couldn't sleep last night, thinking of her conversation with the Headmaster.

"Any more questions? Good. Sabrina, Alwyn, and Rue, step up. You're Team One."

Alwyn groaned.

"I'm sorry," Rue said, flanked by the two achievers of the class. She kept her eyes on the ground.

"Just don't get hit," Alwyn said.

"Rue, you have the spear. We'll draw Grath'mak's attention and clear a path for you," Sabrina said. "Don't attack until I--we say so."

Rue nodded, not meeting Sabrina's eyes.

"Begin!"

Grath'mak sprang to life, gears whirring inside his mechanical body. His mismatched red-and-gold eyes dilated at the sight of Team One. this is decent description that should have come earlier He drew back his head.

"Disperse!" who said that? Grath'mak sprayed ash in a wide fan.

"Stay back, Rue!" Sabrina said. She held her breath, trying not to inhale the ash, and closed the distance. Alwyn flanked Grath'mak from the left.

The mock dragon whipped its tail. Sabrina and Alwyn threw themselves to the ash-stricken ground. A shrill yelp pierced their ears.

Rue hung on to Grath'mak's tail with her spear.

Alwyn ran towards Grath'mak. It reared up, exposing its vulnerable underside. There was a red circle painted on its left breast, where a dragon's heart would be. He threw his shield away, wielding his sword with two hands. He plunged it into the mock dragon's heart and missed.

Sabrina yanked Rue away. "Stay back," she said, retrieving the spear.

Rue nodded, looking forlorn. forlorn is an incredibly bizarre adjective to use during an "intense" action scene.

Sabrina ran to Alwyn, who tried to pull out his sword in vain. didn't he already have it out? Grath'mak's tail went after her. She raised her shield as the tail smashed at her, forcing her to her knees.

Rue choked up in protest, stumbling forward.

"Go!" Sabrina passed the spear to Rue. Rue hurled it towards Alwyn. Alwyn let go of his sword, diving for the new weapon. The mock dragon stared at him with eyes of artificial hate.

He hurled it at the dragon's chest. One half went in, and Grath'mak roared.

"Get back!" Alwyn called, already running away with his remaining dignity.

The tail lifted over Sabrina's head, and she ran to get Rue away. The mock dragon reared up one last time, aiming at the two of them.

Sabrina shoved Rue away, turning to face the ash with a smile.

* * *

Harold walked to them. Rue was already up, dabbing the ash away from Sabrina's face with a handkerchief.

"Failed!" He pointed at Sabrina, laughing. "What a pathetic effort, coming from you."

"I'm sorry, Sabrina," Rue said, looking down on her ash-streaked boots.

Sabrina smiled. "At least you won't need to spend hours cleaning up."

Harold pointed at Alwyn, who had already dusted off. "And failed!"

"What?"

Harold faced them. "You are studying and training to become Braves. To slay the monster, or to save people? There is no 'or' in our school's name. You must do both. At the very least, each one of you must survive! And that is why you pass or fail as a team!" He walked to Grath'mak's "corpse", chuckling as he began the long process of reviving the mock dragon.

"I guess he's right," Alwyn said. He glowered at Sabrina. "I still don't like you, Ash Princess."

Sabrina smiled at him. "Ash Princess? That's cute. I like it." It was her first comeback in months.

Alwyn walked away, fuming.

"Sabrina?" Rue said, her eyes concerned.

"I'm all right, Rue. What is it?"

"Thank you."

I'm trying to stay positive but this story was a bit tough to get through. It doesn't seem to go anywhere or have much of a theme. I understand it's these (teenagers?) going through dragon-slaying school or whatever, but it really felt like it wasn't a real place and the characters weren't real characters--mostly because of the flat dialogue and filler action sequences. It might help to visualize not only the scene in your mind before you try to write it, but also to think about your characters more and find out what they, and only they, would say at any given time. This will hopefully help you avoid that kind of placeholder dialogue in the future.

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Mimes are people too. no, they really aren't.

docbeard posted:

The International Academy Of Practical Mime


Flash Rule (Self-Inflicted) - No Dialogue


Marc stood on the sidewalk. aw man, this is another opening line that really doesn't say anything and is without voice. the best approach is usually to try and immediately hook the reader and engage some/all of their senses, and this line just has some guy I neither know nor care about just hanging out. It wasn’t too late. He could call another cab, go back home, apologize to his parents and enroll at the community college. He could take the money he’d saved for tuition and go rent an apartment and look for work. He could...stand out here all day and eventually die of heatstroke. He didn’t have to go through with this. you already showed me the content of this line through the previous sentences. no need to tell me here

The heat made his decision for him. that surprised me a bit, considering how serious a decision you're setting this up to be. He started dragging his suitcase through the gates, up the path, past the twin fountains, and toward the stairs leading up to the double doors to the administration building of the International Academy of Practical Mime, Southern Campus. At the very least, he could go through his crisis of indecision in an air-conditioned building. but didn't the heat already make his decision for him?

When he was at the foot of the steps, the rightmost door opened, and a tall, gaunt man stumbled outside as if pushed. He was dressed all in black, hair slicked as close to his scalp as possible, and his face was covered in white greasepaint, with three thin smears on his right cheek. He stood up straight, turned toward the door, and held up both hands, palms out, fingers outstretched.

A middle-aged woman, about half the man’s height, stood in the doorway, a severe expression on her face. She wore no makeup that Marc could see, certainly not the white clown-face stuff the man was wearing, and she was dressed in a dark gray business suit with a floral print blouse.

The man started to move his hands from side to side around him, giving the impression that he was trapped in an invisible box. The woman just shook her head and pointed to the street. He put his hands together, looking up. She drew one finger across her throat, and then resumed pointing.

The man drooped, and turned around, not acknowledging Marc in the least. He reached down, fingers closing around the handle of an unseen suitcase, lol, that's a great detail and started trudging down the path. The woman turned to face Marc, tilted her head to the side, and motioned him forward. Marc, still completely unsure of himself, gah, you already showed us he's unsure of himself. show, or tell, whichever is more appropriate. but never do both! began walking, sidestepping to let the apparently-banished mime you've already done a good enough job of showing us he was banished; have faith in your descriptions and don't hedge like this. pass him by. Once he was at the top of the stairs, he opened his mouth, but the woman lifted a single finger to her lips, and gestured to a sign hanging just inside the door.

Nothing was written on the sign, then you don't need to tell us! just explain the pictures, no need to clutter the sentence with what isn't there. but there were two pictures, both with a red circle and a slash through them. The first was of a pair of lips, the second was of a stylized clown. The woman held up one finger, pointed to the sign, pointed to her lips, and made the motion of a key in a lock. She then held up two fingers, and raised both hands to her face, rubbing them across as if applying makeup, before mimicking the invisible-box routine that the man she’d sent packing had been doing. She shook her head slowly, and then looked at him.

Marc started to nod, and then he frowned. He didn’t quite understand. And didn’t know how to ask the many questions he now had. Maybe that was the point. He raised his hand. The woman smiled, and gestured for him to follow.

Marc did not hear a single word spoken for the next four months, and the words he saw written down were few and far between, all part of the total immersion ideal that went into the Academy’s curriculum. The first day of his first class, Introduction To Nonverbal Communication, Marc was called to the front, as were all the other students. The professor, Doctor Alden, a balding black man with horn-rimmed spectacles, pointed to Marc, and to the ground, and then held his hands up in an exaggerated shrug. Why are you here?

Marc couldn’t answer, he had no way to explain without speaking, and speech was, he knew, an expulsion offense. He stared at Doctor Alden, and tentatively raised his hands. Doctor Alden shook his head slightly and pointed to Marc’s seat, as he had with every other student, before gesturing to the next one.

The first weeks were a hell of incomprehensible gestures and utter frustration, mitigated only by the fact that his fellow students were just as frustrated as he was. Some of them couldn’t handle the frustration, and one memorable day, Jim Perkins, from Abilene, Texas, was heard to shout obscenities in his Gesture Studies class. He was gone the next day, and Marc, like the rest of the students, quietly resolved that this would not be their fate. you did it again--you told us that some of them couldn't handle the frustration, and then proceeded to show us this fact. this can work sometimes, but your telling was so flat and bland that it could have easily been cut and the paragraph would have been much stronger for it.

He couldn’t, later, point to a specific moment when everything became clear to him, not to any grand epiphany. But, as weeks turned to months, Marc found himself understanding more and more out of every gesture, every head-tilt, every brow-narrowing, every shift in stance. His classes became less about struggling to understand his professors, and more about struggling to understand the theory behind the material. and what theory is that? He’d had no idea that mime had its origins in the martial traditions of Tang Dynasty China, and, though he wouldn’t have dared say so, even had he dared speak at all, he strongly suspected this wasn’t the case at all. awkward sentence, repetition of the "at all", and confusing in general. But it didn’t matter. He was learning practical communication skills he had no idea even existed a few months ago. He was learning that the invisible box was a conceptual cage, a prison from which he could break free, not a petty sideshow. He was learning that a completely ridiculous school that everyone knew had been set up as a tax dodge in the seventies could nonetheless teach him things. what things? be specific! you said a little bit, but now you're alluding to much more which you don't let your reader in on.

He was also learning that fellow classmate Elaine Ferris, from Vermont, enjoyed Thai food, silent (of course) films, heh, nice detail. could make surprisingly direct suggestions without using any muscles below her cheekbones, great detail, well-voiced also and believed in aliens. And that Will Fallon, from somewhere that comma apparently comma really was called Lost City, West Virginia, had enrolled here because his parents believed it was a school of Practical Mining, and he hadn’t yet bothered to correct them. yeah, i laughed. And that Philip Jensen, who had signed up for every single class on understanding nonverbal cues, and as few others as possible, worked for the Federal government in some capacity which he was unwilling to share.

And that Marc Markov, while he still had no idea what he ultimately wanted to do with his life, was, for now, in the right place. I feel like there's a much better line to go for, here. "In the right place" doesn't tell me anything interesting.

Winter break approached, and with it his first batch of final. finals? Intro to Nonverbal Communication required what Marc was thinking of as a nonverbal oral exam. very awkwardly parsed sentence. try and find a more clear way to phrase this. Five minutes in front of the class, answering a question posed by Doctor Alden. Always the same question, the question he’d opened class with. Why are you here?

Elaine pointed to the stars, and then to herself, and then pantomimed an elaborate conversation with something completely incomprehensible, using only her left hand. Marc was, by this point, wild about her, why won't you show me how he's wild about her? why tell me in this flat, cliche way? but he had to admit that sometimes she was a bit of a show-off. Will swung his hands over his head and brought an imaginary pickaxe down on Doctor Alden’s desk, over and over, before drawing his hand across his throat. Phil just shook his head and folded his arms, radiating silence for five minutes.

Marc’s turn came. He strode with confidence to the front of the class, and when the professor pointed to him, and then to the ground, he was ready. He pointed, not to anyone present, but to someone he imagined standing before him, slightly taller. And then he held up that same hand, opening and closing his fingers and thumb rapidly, before putting both hands over his ears. He pointed again, this time to someone slightly shorter, in another direction. Once again, he opened and closed his fingers and thumb, once more put his hands over his ears. And again, pointing to someone half his height. Over and over. people around him, people who wouldn’t shut up.

At last, he pointed to the ground. gestured around him, raised a hand to his ear, and smiled at the silence.

Will coughed, slightly ruining the moment in Marc’s estimation, but it didn’t matter.

I'll admit that I have no idea what is happening there at the end. Marc prefers silence? He joined mime school to get away from people who talk too much? I don't know! What about his love interest? That didn't go anywhere. Did the teacher approve? Did he pass? You ended the story at a very awkward point, leaving no questions answered at all, which more or less makes this a sort of 'slice of life' exercise.

Something like that is hard enough to pull off without dialogue, and so I think excluding it altogether might have handicapped you significantly. I think it's a cool idea to try something like this, and a mime school has a lot of interesting potential, but I feel like you tried to cover a little bit too much ground with too little space. That's a temptation I fully relate to and am often guilty of, but in something like this, I never even had a chance to attach myself or even know one single compelling character.

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Schneider Heim posted:

You know, I wasn't able to catch those problems with voice. Thanks for pointing that out.

Believe me, I feel your pain. Voice is one of the most difficult things in all of writing to get 'right' (not that there's much objective truth to it--another reason it's so tricky). Every writer I know is constantly tweaking his/hers as they go, and especially as they progress to different stories. I know that I couldn't even imagine what it would feel like to think I'd gotten it exactly as I wanted it, forever.

It bears repeating that the only thing I've found to be consistently true when talking about voice is that it absolutely must belong solely to those characters and to that story. Generic filler-phrases are story killers. And I've found that when I just can't get engaged in what I'm reading, this is often the reason why. A solid voice gives the reader a tangible reason to read your writing, specifically.

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Psh, there was nary a mention of chuff. Rest assured, 'Domers, I may be a pompous rear end, but I wouldn't ever let a personal opinion as to the author's character get in the way of critiquing the actual words on the actual page.

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

I'm up for it, assuming the topic isn't an ironic wacky one. (cyberblaxploitation et al) I'll understand completely if that disqualifies me. I'm not dissing those kinds of prompts at all, and certainly enjoy reading the stories that result from them--it's just that I can't justify devoting that kind of time for the sake of producing something that I can't use outside of the internet.


Speaking of topics, this week's is loving awesome and while I'm going to zero in on the stuff Sitting Here talked about, I'm particularly interested in these:

quote:

*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.

quote:

*Dialog. Make it meaningful.

I feel like those are two of the most persistent areas of opportunity for all writers, so I think it'd be great for folks to step it up a bit in that regard. No detached wackiness; say some poo poo that's meaningful to you, and say it interestingly.

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

sebmojo posted:

THUNDERBRAWL

Crabrock vs Chillmatic

750 excellent words on this Italo Calvino quote:


Due Friday week, midnight PST

gently caress yeah that strangely-worded quote owns, I'm in. Is that this Friday or next?

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Ughhhh, I was handed 4,000 words for revision today which means I'm almost certainly not going to have time to finish the thunderbrawl entry, or even the rest of the crits by tomorrow. I'll do my best, but it isn't looking good.

Here's what I've got so far for the critiques:



M. Propagandalf posted:

Early bird for the worm? Or underdeveloped embryo?

In with:

Looking Glass Self and Company
(992 words)

Stephen stares at her the way he does with every other woman: through her reflection. effective opening line, sets tone as well as mood Behind the window of the subway car, periodic lampposts streak the otherwise pitch darkness of the tunnel. this image was confusing to me. Would there be lampposts inside a tunnel? It is a small inconvenience against his safety to gaze without notice. Without offence.

The train approaches the terminal station. Darkness surrenders to lit billboards that mar the reflection. Stephen waits as everyone exits. In general I’m not a fan of personification--ie “darkness surrenders”. You’re putting the emphasis, the action, on a thing that isn’t real. Through the window, his eyes trail the woman he saw but once, and never will would again. this whole sentence is awkwardly phrased and I’m not sure what its significance is. When she disappears up the station stairs, he steps out, crosses the platform, and steps into the train departing the other way. Ok that’s kind of creepy. So he’s just taking the train to follow women around, staring at them in the glass?

The This train is sparsely seated. Stephen glances at the passengers as he walks down the train aisle and sees a woman reading. He studies her, but for too long. She looks up from her book. He averts his eyes, anticipates her worst suspicions against him, and hurries on.

Stephen reaches the last train car. A woman catches his attention. Why? Give me specific details about what it is that makes him notice her. She sits by herself on the side seats, next to the train doors, focused on her tablet. No one is blocking the window across from her. Smiling, Stephen walks past her to take the seat at the far left end of the row, and looks into the window.

He admires her. She remains focused on her tablet, preventing him from appreciating her eyes. Stephen sighs, tapping his fingers over his knees. He blinks once, then in rapid succession when he sees her looking at the window. She’s smiling too.

“Hello.” this needed an attribution. It’s easy enough to figure out who was talking in the next few lines, sure; but if you want to surprise your reader that she’s speaking to him, then it needs to be clear that the first line was said by her.

Stephen stops smiling.

“You realize I can tell you’re staring at me, right?”

Stephen you’re fatiguing my ears by repeating his name so much. Since he’s the only man in focus during this scene, it’s perfectly fine to just say him and he. draws a sharp breath as he spins towards the woman, only to find that she’s still on her tablet. His eyes dart back to the glass as two eyes stare intently back at his. When he realizes it is no longer a reflection, the woman in the window walks over and takes the seat right beside his reflection. Watching the window, Stephen slowly stretches his hand out and sees it pass through her. He feels nothing.

“Please don’t do that.”

Stephen He snaps his whole body back. I don’t feel like ”snaps” is a very convincing verb for this purpose.

“Relax! I don’t bite! Not like you would feel it if I did.” good line

He glances to the other passengers. No one notices what’s happening. This is too sparsely and plainly described. It’d be better to show one or two other people just doing their thing, rather than flatly telling me that no one noticed. The woman in the window waits for a reply, her smile waning in the silence.

“You don’t talk much, do you?”

“What are you?”

“Well that’s rude. But it’s a start.”

“A ghost?”

She sighs. “Sure. Why not. Can we talk about something else?”

“What do you want?”

“I’m curious to know what you’re up to.”





“What do you mean?”

“You know, looking at girls all the time.”

Stephen’s eyes widen.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” put this line with the previous line about his eyes widening.

Oh please. I’ve watched you for a long time now. Don’t tell me you’re just looking at the lights.”

“I look at the lights.”

“Haha. Seriously though, what’s your deal?” This exchange has already gone on too long with no character or relevant information revealed. We already know he doesn’t want to admit to looking at girls. This line in particular is very bland, and has no voice at all.

Stephen says nothing.

“Is it like a voyeurism thing? If it is, it has to be the softest core of voyeurism ever.”

Stephen gets up.

“Hey! Don’t be like that! I’m not trying to make you feel bad.” More bland dialogue.

“Yeah? Well this is humiliating.”

“If it makes you feel better, you have more class than a lot of guys I’ve seen.” How is it remotely possible that she’d see him that way? He’s a terribly creepy guy staring at women on the subway…

“Leave me alone.”

“Hey come back!”

He walks out of view of the window. He looks for a spot where his reflection isn’t picked up by any glass and stands there. A voice comes after him from the walls.

“Just because you don’t see me, doesn’t mean I’m not here.”

He refuses to respond.

“I prefer being able to see the people I am talking to. Would you come back to the window?”

“No.”

“At least until the next station? I’ll leave you alone after that.”

Stephen hesitates.

“Please?”

He plods back. The woman in the window remains seated where she was, looking back at him. Watching himself from the window, Stephen flops back to his seat next to her. He crosses his arms.

“I’m not talking about why I look.”

“That’s fine. I have an idea as to why.” Why not let us in on what that is?

Stephen glares. Stephen hesitates. Stephen glares. Stephen wept. I usually like short sentences but these are bland and vague.

“Do you… talk with anyone?”

“I’m talking with you.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I despise small talk.”

“It doesn’t always need to be small.”

“It doesn’t get further than that. Not for me.”

“So you’ve tried before. Unsuccessfully?”

Stephen looks down at the floor.

“I don’t need to try. I already know.”

“Know what?”

“What’s on their minds when they look at me.”

“And that is?”

“Contempt.”

It’s only half-clear who is talking during this exchange, mostly because they have the exact same voice; which is to say, no voice at all.

When Stephen looks back to the window, he no longer sees her looking at him, but beside her, at his reflection.

“Why do you think that?”

Stephen flashes the empty air beside him with an excruciating grimace. I’m at a loss as to what an excruciating grimace is meant to look like. When he turns back to the window, the woman is neither look at him, or his reflection.

The train dings and announces the next station.

“We’re done here.”

“I know I said until the next station, but can we still keep talking?”

“To satisfy your curiosity?”

“No. I just want to—”

“You’ve pried enough. Think whatever the hell you want of me, but at least I’m not hurting anyone.”

“You are hurting.”

“I DON’T CARE. DON’T EVER loving TALK TO ME AGAIN.” You really could have just used an exclamation mark here. No reason to go with ALL CAPS.

Stephen becomes aware that he’s standing with his finger quivering at the window. He looks around the train. All eyes are on him.

“Oh God. I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to frighten anyone. Please… please don’t call security.”

“Are you okay?”

Stephen turns to the voice. The woman with the tablet looks at him with concern. He glances at the window and sees what he thinks is her reflection.

“No. I mean yes! Yes, I’m fine.”

“Did something happen?”

“It was nothing. Just a bad daydream. I didn’t mean to cause trouble. I’m getting off here anyway.”

The train door opens. Stephen walks out, feeling everyone looking at him.

He flees from their eyes. From their judgment.


Overall I found the premise/idea engaging, but the execution flat and dull. I never got a sense for either characters’ motivations beyond creepy guy and nutty ghost-girl. The dialogue was flat and displayed no character other than exactly what you’d expect to see; there were no surprises, no reveals, nothing to engage my interest or make me think.

I’m honestly not sure of the meaning here. That it sucks to be a creepy guy who stares at girls on the subway? I’m sure it does suck, but that by itself in no way compelled me to sympathy for Stephen. A creepy staring guy is a common trope and you didn’t play with it at all in any ways that would bring new meaning to the table.

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Dida Redo posted:

Portraits (525 words)

"I have to draw your face or I'll forget it,” said Geoff, for the fourth time. Tom wondered if he realised he was doing it. Hmm. I didn’t like this opening the first time I read the story. But upon re-reading, this line becomes a little more effectively strange.

He glanced at the clock. Twenty minutes. It felt longer. The stool was uncushioned. Icy prickles crawled up his cheeks.

"I have to draw your face. I'll forget it if I don't."

"I know."

The pencil froze.

"Don't talk," said Geoff. "Don't move your face. Stop smiling. You're not smiling in the picture."

Tom pushed his grin down. How did Geoff know he was smiling anyway? He’d positioned the drawing board directly between them. He couldn’t have seen him without leaning over.

Half an hour later, the ache in Tom’s back grew too much, and he winced. Geoff, saying nothing, stood up.

Tom slid forward, waiting to be shown, but Geoff was busy putting his pencils away, one by one, softest to hardest. Effectively creepy. He sounds like some kind of OCD maniac. So he looked for himself.

A charcoal mirror lay on the board.

"Hey, that's really good."

Geoff interposed i feel like the odd word choice here removes the intensity of him trying to hide what he’s drawn. himself, unclipping the page and holding it to his chest.

"Really good,” said Tom, craning his neck. “You could make a living off this."

"I only do faces."

Tom shrugged. "Those street guys only do faces. They still make money. I’d get a more comfortable seat, though."

"I don't mind the stool."

"For your clients, I mean."


Geoff did not slam the door when Tom left, because Geoff was in control of himself. Another well-voiced line that creeps me the gently caress out.

Stupid man, barging in every week in that same sweaty, short-sleeve shirt with his book and his platitudes, thinking he can help. Can’t turn him away, though. She wouldn’t want that. Nor would He. Who is “He” and why is his name capitalized? I’m more freaked out by the minute!

He took Tom to his bedroom and locked himself in. It’s really interesting that you refer to the drawing as Tom. Interesting, and loving weird. As the door closed, the wallpaper of sketches fluttered in the draught. Awesome, vivid detail. Only slivers of peeling, blue paint showed through the white.

Not enough space.

The top of the page had creased in his grip, so he slid it into his guillotine and sheared it off. Still not enough. I really liked the imagery of the guillotine and the verb ‘sheared.

He picked out a corner and began pointing at the faces in turn. Benjamin, Moira, Anne…who’s that? Roman nose. Curly hair. Charles. Cousin. Out of state. Probably wouldn’t see him again until Christmas. He could go in the drawer. I’m literally getting more uncomfortable by the minute, and I can’t even fully explain why.

As he replaced Charles with Tom, the front door clicked open. That’d be Stacy, home from school. Stacy. He scanned the walls. Stacy. Where was she?

He slid into bed, sat upright and stared straight ahead at a girl that could have been his, and the man next to her. Rubbed his eyes. Squinted, hands on his temples. Then he took the girl and the man, laid one over the other and held them up to the lightbulb. None of the lines matched. Why do they need to match?

When had he last drawn her? Weeks ago? Months? He must have got better. He was terrible back then, but he’d got better. Probably just made some mistakes.

“Sweetie?” he called, crumpling her. gently caress everything “Sweetie, I need to draw you again.”


Ok, holy crap. It’s rare that I see so much being done with so few words. You have a good command of prose and voice which are make or break things for me (and, I suspect, most other readers as well.) Obviously I was effectively creeped out by Geoff, but there are few things that bug me the more that I think about the story: First, why/how do Geoff and Tom know each other? Tom seems to talk to and treat Geoff like a normal person; doesn’t he know how creepy he is? Second, who is Stacy and why does he call her sweetie if she’s a girl that “could have been his.” Tell me it’s not his daughter. TELL ME IT’S NOT.

Anyway, excellent job; this one is an early favorite of mine. I got the vibe this guy was some kind of weirdo serial killer, but I like that it's open to interpretation.


___________________________________

Lord Windy posted:



The Centre
Words: 967

“The Customer isn’t angry at you,” Simon recited the words on his screen. “The Customer is angry at the situation.” He looked at the queue on the machine next to him - fifth in line. The queue bit makes it sound like he’s waiting on hold to talk to someone in a call center. Threw me off a bit. He leaned back into his office chair and let out a sigh of relief. Maybe he could make it until his next break before a call would come in.

A ding came from computer. The company instant messenger popped up with a message from Amy. “How is your first day back?” She wrote in the same purple comic sans she used three months ago. mother of good; purple comic sans, eh? Am I supposed to like Amy?[/b] “No problem customers I hope!”

“No, it has been a fairly easy day so far. Just waiting for the next call actually,” he wrote back.

“That’s great, I’ve got a real bitch. Isn’t listening to me at all.” Simon’s name crept up the queue. Third in line. the dialogue is already dragging, but I do like the progression of his name creeping up the queue, I can sense his dread.

“Don’t let her get to you,” Only one person in front now. Simon leaned back into his chair when the ding from the computer went off again.

“Won’t. Going to escalate instead.” Simon felt his chest tighten; he was next in line.

“Australia. English,” the friendly female voice-over signalled the start of the call. “Thank you for calling Senior Technical Support,” Simon greeted automatically, hoping that the little cracks in his voice would go unnoticed. “You’re speaking with Simon, how can I help you?”

“Hi, this is Amy from Technical Support.” Her voice was rich and cheerful, almost as if a huge smile was coming through the other end. Simon knew that didn’t necessarily mean she was. It was easy to obscure the faces you were making with a sickly sweet tone. I already understood what you meant, no reason for a flat ‘telling’ line like this.

“Fancy getting you.” The notes of the case sprung up on the screen. Amy had been right, the customer was not an easy one. Twenty calls in the past week, with every call noting her difficulty.

“Yeah…” There was no hint of the tone she had before. “Look you can see the notes and you know this woman is difficult. But you, the narrator, already showed us that! Why is she repeating it in dialogue? It’s your first day back after… would you like me to hang up and try again?” A sad emoticon showed up on the IM.

The blood in Simon’s ears pounded. “No, I think I will be ok. Bring her through.”

“Thank you for holding Mrs Smith.” The sickly cheerful tone was back. Oozing with that ‘smile’ all phone agents reserved for the worst customers. “I leave you in the capable of hands of Simon, one of our Senior Support Specialists.”

“Good!” The woman’s voice made Simon hunch his shoulders. “It is about time I’m shown respect around here.” Ugh, I hate this line; it’s so flat and cliche. Wouldn’t it be more interesting to give her a real voice? It conjured an image of an old crone with a perpetual snarl.

“Good afternoon Mrs Smith,” Simon replied, trying to force a smile he didn’t feel down the line. “What can I do for you?”

“You mean she didn’t even tell you what I was calling about?” Simon flinched from the verbal slap. “She didn’t even have the decency to tell you why I was calling? What kind of clowns work here?

“Amy expressed to me a desire to get with you as soon as possible to smooth over any difficulties.” Anything he could do to keep control of the call.

“Well my phone doesn’t work!” Mrs Smith bellowed. If she got any louder they wouldn’t need the phone anymore. Simon could feel his heartbeat in his ears. But...aren’t they on the phone now?

“I am very sorry to hear that Mrs Smith, it is not fair that a one…”

“Of course it’s not fair, what are you slow?” Simon’s mental image of Mrs Smith now included her having bulging veins on a beetroot face. “One thousand dollars, one thousand dollars for this brick. If I knew what I was getting…”

Simon’s heart race covered the sound of her bellowing. He hit the hold button and threw his head between his legs. In through the nose Simon, he thought miserably. Hold for 5 seconds, and then out through the mouth.

Moments passed, and Simon was there. Sitting on one of the thick spindly tree branches of the cottonwood trees by the beaches of his youth. A safe place his psychiatrist had said. The breeze and crashing waves upon shore. The customer is not angry at you, he thought once more. The customer is angry at the situation. It sounds super unhealthy for this guy to work in a call center. I mean I have to imagine this to be a fairly typical call.

The dinging of his computer brought Simon back to reality. “Are you ok?” Amy wrote. “Do you want me to call a manager to help you out?” Simon pulled up the keyboard and replied. “No, it is ok. I can handle this.” bland, unvoiced dialogue. Spice it up a bit. Use the occasion of dialogue to tell me something interesting, rather than these typical, exactly-as-expected interactions.

“I am sorry Mrs Smith,” Simon took the ugly woman off hold. There was a pregnant pause, Simon couldn’t hear anyone else on the other end of the line.

“Well, come out with it. What is your excuse for this travesty of customer service.”

“There isn’t one,” There was no attempt to force the smile down the line this time. Instead, with a heavy relenting sigh he continued. “It’s just I have been in hospital for the past couple of months and I felt a little overwhelmed. I had to take a short break.”

“Oh,” Mrs Smith quickly replied. She sounded very awkward, as if she had made a mistake. “Did you want to get a drink of water?”

“I am much better now. Thank you for your concern Mrs. Smith.” Simon found breathing easier. “I am very sorry for the delay.”

“Well, that is ok dear.” Her tone was much softer now. “I was in hospital not so long ago myself.”

“Would it be ok if we started again?” Simon asked.

“Yes.”

“Thank you for calling Senior Technical Support, my name is Simon.” There was no need to force a smile this time. “What can I help you with today?”

This honestly just read like a transcript of someone’s day at a boring, soul-crushing job--but without the voice to make it interesting enough to sit through. I had to really push myself to finish it. Amy is a wasted character as there’s no real progression or sense of how he feels about her or her about him. Why was he in the hospital? Mental breakdown? I’m assuming so, because he had/has a therapist, but you don’t make it clear enough to be compelling in any way.


Econosaurus posted:


Saturday Night (854 Words)

McDoule's brimmed with activity the mass of testosterone and sexual tension that one expects at a college bar. No reason for “with activity” because that’s just you telling me what you’re about to show me in the very next half of the sentence. The air reeked of sweat and cologne, a musky humidity great description that surrounded and hugged Chris' body as he struggled to work through the crowd. Hugged is the much more vivid, powerful verb, and in context here it obviates ‘surrounded’. The floor was drenched in a mixture of melting snow and beer that somehow managed to be slippery and sticky at the same time.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a frantically waving hand. Right between the bar and a young looking girl puking next to a trash can. Sarah screamed something unintelligible; Chris had to get right up to her face to hear anything. She smelled of vodka and cheap fruit syrup. I’m a bit confused; is Sarah the young girl puking next to a trash can?

"Hey! How are you?" Sarah yelled, right into his ear. He could still barely hear her over the pulsating rhythm of the music.

"I'm good! Thanks for inviting me out.” Chris yelled back. “Is this your cousin?"

"Yeah, she had a little too much to drink" said Sarah, as she pulled the slightly green faced girl's hair back. The girl smiled and waved, putting on a strong face - until her eyes bulged and she bent over, vomiting a dark mix of bile and tequila that coalesced on the table. Sarah tried to stem the tide with napkins, a futile endeavor. Where the hell was the bar staff? Or, you know, why the hell isn’t her friend taking her to the bathroom? That’s in the girl code!

"Let's go dance" Sarah screamed in his ear, interrupting his thought process. The faint smell of her cousin's vomit got stronger.

"What about her?"

"She'll be fine" Sarah screamed. WHY ISN’T SHE TAKING HER TO THE BATHROOM? She seems kind of lovely.Sarah was turning blue, hopefully the result of her yelling and not a sign she would be joining her cousin at the table. Ha, that’s a great line.

They walked to the dance floor, Sarah dragging him by his hand. You have this habit of writing a sentence in two parts, where one half is good and detailed, and the other half is bland. This sentence really ought to just read “Sarah dragged him by his hand to the dance floor.” or something that. “Walked to the dance floor” is bland and doesn’t give me an image, while her dragging him does. So rather than have both, just stick with the stronger part of the sentence with the better verb. They had only met in class a few days ago; all Chris knew was that she studied linguistics, had a baby faced cousin who couldn't hold her liquor, and wanted to dance with him. love this line

They started swaying to the music, a few feet of unoccupied space serving as their dance floor. Chris hadn't done this in years. Not since dropping out of college, not since the AA meetings, not since re-registering with a determination to graduate. He would learn to have fun sober. Why did he come to this of all places if he wants to stay sober? Chris forced a smile, pretending the cloying smell of old spice and beer wasn't driving him crazy. Pretending he wanted anything but a beer, a gin and tonic, something to loosen his inhibitions.

"You're acting weird" Sarah screamed in his ear, her face fading into an even brighter shade of purple. A sickening feeling moved from his gut to his face. He could almost see physical waves of embarrassment flowing out of his head, a feeling of weakness that everybody around him had to be able to sense.

"I haven't been to a bar in a while."

Sarah smiled, the red disco lights shining off her flawless white teeth. "You're not drunk enough" she mouthed, dragging him back towards the bar.

At least her cousin had stopped puking.

As Sarah frantically waved a bartender over, Chris grabbed a pen and grabbed a napkin. "PLEASE REPLACE ONE SHOT WITH WATER" he scribbled as Sarah used a combination of yelling and hand motions to ask for two vodka shots. Chris handed $20 and the napkin to the bartender, then turned to Sarah. "I got it" he said, forcing a smile.

Chris' hands shook as he picked up his fake shot. this bugged me a little bit because the bartender would have no idea whom to give the fake shot to. You might, for instance, be a concerned friend not wanting your companion to get more drunk than she already is. He felt ridiculous. Sarah swayed there smiling, her left eye half closed in a drunken haze. How old was she? At least a couple of years younger than he was. The music had gotten more intense, turning the dance floor into an impenetrable mass of bodies. It was becoming harder to breathe.

"Cheers" Chris said, taking the fake shot. Sarah took hers and fell forward. Only Chris’ arms stopped her from hitting the floor.

"Hey, we need to take my cousin home" giggled Sarah, as if she wasn't on the verge of collapsing. "I’ll call a cab, you should come."

Chris looked at her cousin, sitting at the bar with a glass of water. Her shirt was marred with brown specks, her blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail. Was this what college was like his first time around? He wasn’t sure. He had never felt so old.

"I can't tonight" Chris said, trying to laugh it off. "But get home safe, ok?"

Sarah looked disappointed, then smiled. Her white teeth shone even in the dark light.

"Yeah no worries, I'll see you in class!" Well that de-escalated quickly.

Chris sat at the bar for a long time, thinking about Sarah. About how white her teeth were. About how old he felt, how alien the bar around him seemed. You did it again! The second half of that sentence was much more specific than just ‘he felt old.’ He wasn't one of them anymore. New paragraph here. The room started to clear out. Cool air filtered into the bar from the doorway. The air grounded him. It reminded Chris of old winter days, the kind he had always loved during his first freshman year. The beginning of the years wasted, the beginning of the years he thought he could do over. This sentence also verges on your Big Problem, but not quite as badly as the others.

He waved the bartender over.

"I'll take a whisky.Wait, what? Why?

As a story this left me fairly unsatisfied. Why was he in the bar by himself in the first place if he doesn’t drink? Why would he just start drinking again at the end when he went to so much trouble to sober up in the first place and also had the bartender pour a fake shot? You didn’t give me any information on why he was here in the first place or very much about the condition his life was in; this gives me very little to reference when thinking about what he wants or is doing. You have issues, as outlined in the piece, with writing half-good sentences, one of which has a nice, strong verb and good description, while the other half is boring filler. Cut away the redundant chaff and see how much stronger your sentences become.

You did, at least, infuse an understanding of people, and the idea of feeling old/alien in a place where you once felt perfectly fine.


__________________________________________


Anathema Device posted:

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?” I’ve read this five times and still cannot figure out if Alvin is speaking or if the dialogue is coming from the person on the phone.

“Umm.” still don’t know who is talking. It wouldn't be worth selling, but you didn't throw a book away. Someone might want to read it. People here where? 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. Why is it familiar? Whose handwriting is it? 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. Slurp is already an odd verb choice for this, and you’ve used it twice. 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. I liked this; it helped me quickly visualize the store. 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. Another great detail. Water sprayed over his hands.

“Meeting people! Nobody interesting ever comes into your crappy shop.” Might just be me, but I don’t think i’ve ever met a mom who uses the word ‘crappy’. 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. Why? What happens? There’s a missed opportunity here for some character building.

“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-” The hyphen at the end of the sentence should be an em dash.

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

“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. reflection from what? 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. You’re already showing us this--no reason to tell. 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.” Oof. That line just seems oddly phrased and melodramatic. 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. I like how it almost sounds like he’s longing to be lonely. Intentional?

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. Good ending lines.

My biggest gripe with this is that there are no real surprises. Yes his mom’s an rear end in a top hat and doesn’t get him and treats him like crap, but it just came off as unremarkable because it’s such a common idea/concept. The mother’s lines were almost all fairly underwhelming and expected. It would have been more effective to me if she’d said things that actually unnerved Alvin or at least let him be blase about it in an interesting way. I also feel like you could have done more with the book and bookstore theme, but as it is it felt just a tad underdeveloped. It was good that we got to see where Alvin’s love of books comes from, but it didn’t feel as infused into the rest of the story as I was hoping it’d be.

I guess the meaning is that family is lovely sometimes? Be grateful for the good people who help raise us? Books are awesome? I’m not entirely sure what the deeper meaning of this was.


____________________________

crabrock posted:

Nice Old Lady
(750 words)

The truck has a new coat of paint, but no AC. Whose truck? The narrator’s? Everybody underestimates how much water weighs; it feels even heavier than forty two pounds in this heat. I lug a five-gallon bottle up the steps of another suburban hellscape, ignoring my herniated disc. Love this sentence; good amount of detail packed into just a few words. I roll my eyes at the custom doorbell chime that drones on for too long. Would it still be so annoying to him since, as you reveal later, he’s already been here before?

She opens the door and scowls. “I called a week ago.”

“Sorry ma’am. I just got the order from dispatch.”

“Well, come in. Excuse the mess, we’re remodeling.” Plastic sheets cover thousands of gaudy figurines.

“This is nothing, you should see my place.”

My apartment is immaculate. Every Sunday we wake the kids and sort and scrub. love this line It’s our own version of church. But she chuckles at my self-deprecation.

I spot algae in the bottom of her bubbler. Nasty things will grow if you let them sit empty for too long. She squirts a dollop of Purell and works it into her dry hands, and smiles. he’s looking at her while he puts the bottle in? how does he know he doesn’t spill a drop? I fantasize how her face would contort if I told her. good line I let the bottle drop in; I don’t spill a drop.

“Want a glass of water?”

A little algae doesn’t bother me. In Grenada we had to clear the film from our cantines before drinking. This is inconsistent with this character. I understand the Grenada thing, but his apartment is immaculate and you made him sound nearly OCD about the cleanliness of his children. Would he really be ok with drinking algae water? “Please, thank you.”

She walks to the sink and fills up a glass from the tap. “It’s a little warm.” From the tap? drat that’s cold.

I take a sip. “It’s perfect.” It tastes like lizards live in her pipes. I like how funny this line is, but it didn’t give me a good feel for just how bad the water must taste.

She continues to rub her hands together even though the Purell is gone. “My old service was absolutely horrendous. You’d think those people had never heard of a shower. You appear to have some basic hygiene at least. You’re one of the good ones.”

I take another sip and move to set the glass down, but she frowns and I bring it up to my lips instead. “We’re always happy for your business.” She is still frowning. I’ve learned some people just can’t be pleased; my sixth-grade teacher told me I’d never amount to anything. I have a habit of turning out exactly as they expect. possible personal preference incoming--please disregard I think you’re adhering a little too rigidly to the rules of present-tense. There’s really nothing wrong with switching tenses when writing in a kind of reflective-stream of consciousness style which this piece drifts in and out of. It would have been much less awkward to just write “I had a habit of turning out..” Also I’m not really sure what he’s saying there. That he usually does turn out as a failure? It doesn’t sound, from the rest of the story, like he sees himself that way.

“I think one of them took something. I can’t quite figure out what it is, but do you ever get that feeling that something is missing?” I think her hair may be a wig. Another funny line but it might have been a bit more vivid if you’d described what her hair looked line with a quick line, and then said the wig thing.

I shrug. I’m halfway done with the water. “I feel like I’ve forgotten something all the time.” If I chug it I can leave. I take a gulp and try not to vomit.

“That’s not what I’m talking about. This man was making me nervous with his looks, so I went to my room to hide the necklace I was wearing. When I came back out I got the feeling something wasn’t right. I demanded to know what he took, but he just walked out the door without saying bye. Nobody has manners these days.” Why is she being so nice to him?

I know that someday I will be parched, and look back on this moment with envy. “Did you call the police?”

“And tell them to stop and frisk every Mexican in a five mile radius?” She blushes. “No offense.”

“I’m from Ecuador.” ha, owned

“Well, you know.” She sighs and relaxes her shoulders when she thinks I’m not upset at her comments. ”Upset at her comments” doesn’t really relay to me how mad he is. Is there a more effective way to get that across.

I choke down the last sip of water. “I better get back to work.”

“I’m going to call your company and let them know what a wonderful job you’re doing. It’s a nice change to have such a polite man.”

“Well, thank you ma’am. The boss loves to hear good things.”

She digs in her purse while I wait by the door. “For your troubles.”

It’d take more than two dollars. great line. “Oh, thank you ma’am, but we’re not allowed to accept tips.”

She stuffs it into my coveralls. “It’ll be our little secret.”

I thank her yet again and walk slowly to my truck, wincing from the pain in my lower back. I pull a Coke out of the styrofoam cooler I keep on the seat next to me, and down the entire bottle to erase the taste of stale tap water. I put the small silver cat I stole off her foyer table up on my dashboard, next to my tiny Mexican flag.

My boss owns three water delivery businesses. When a customer quits they get transferred to a different day with a different truck. Wearing a different uniform, it was me who delivered her water last week.

This is the first time I’ve stolen anything.

So he stole something and thus proved her bigotry correct? I’m a little confused as to why he would do something like that. Won’t she realize something is missing and further reinforce her stereotypical/racist views of brown people? Also I felt like it’s a bit unrealistic that she wouldn’t recognize him from only a week ago. I do get that she’s doing the “all colored people look alike” thing, but why does she think he’s well-showered this week but didn’t last week? Why did he look suspicious last week but not this week? It seems like the guy’s characterization is a bit off because on the one hand he sounds incredibly OCD, but on the other hand he’s willing to drink dirty water and takes the woman’s lumps quite well even though he’s apparently brimming with rage on the inside. Also, how offended/surprised could he really be at her behavior if he’s already been there several times and she’d already accused him of stealing? The woman came off a bit flat as well, as we all know the racist, nutty old woman who accuses every poor liveried bastard who walks through her door of stealing all her poo poo. It would have been cool to see her tweaked a bit, even within the small space you had to work in. In any case you wrote something lucid enough that it invoked strong opinions from me, so that’s a step up from a lot of the other entries.

________________________________________________


Nikaer Drekin posted:

Well Handled
(998 Words)

On Wednesday night, Mr. Handler stopped at the Devil's Lair bar in upstate New York. this is a pretty meh opening line. From the name of the place he expected it to be full of surly bikers with ratty beards, but he saw only one customer, a bald man with reading glasses. The man sat, scotch in hand, flipping through an article on his tablet. Mr. Handler sat next to him and called for the bartender. bland detail, and who the hell’s head are we in, anyway?

"A Vampire, please," he said. "Don't be shy with the raspberry liqueur." The bartender grunted and turned to his rack of bottles. Mr. Handler leaned over to the bald man. "Whatcha reading?"

"News. Can you believe this poo poo? Some crazy idiot cleaned out Myerson Holdings." He lifted his head and saw Mr. Handler in his gray three-piece suit. "What are you all dressed up for?" Are these guys friends? They’re asking each other questions that make them sound like they know each other

Handler smiled and tugged at his cuffs. "Nothing much. I'm on my way back home and I want to look presentable when I get there."

The bartender slapped the beet-red drink down on the bar. "Vampire," he said. "Six-fifty." Mr. Handler tugged a ten out of his wallet and told him to keep it. this didn’t need to be in here. Just say the bartender brought the drink and he paid, if you really and truly feel it was such an important detail.
"So, what's your name, friend?" Mr. Handler asked.

"Brutus. I go by Bruce, though." Mr. Handler shot him an inquisitive look, i really hate stuff like this. How do you “shoot” someone a look? Just my own personal taste, but ugh, it just reads so awkwardly. and Bruce threw up his hands. throwing up his hands sounds like a hilariously over-reactive gesture to someone giving them a weird look. "Hey, my parents were Shakespeare nuts. What do you go by?"

"Jimmie," Mr. Handler said. "Jimmie Fauntleroy. What's that about the news?"

"poo poo, right, some head-case knocked over Myerson. All electronic, too. Money transfer got intercepted, rerouted to another account."

"They've got insurance, right?"

"The bank says they won't cover it. I don't know, some loophole mumbo-jumbo, the account Myerson wanted to send the money to was some weird offshore thing. They're up a loving creek, man."

"They have any idea who did it?"

"All the police said is that they're 'looking into various promising leads.'"

Mr. Handler snorted. "Which is the polite way of saying they don't know jack poo poo."

"Yeah," Bruce said. He put down his tablet and finished the rest of the glass of scotch. "That's how it goes. I mean, the Myerson guys might be a bunch of ivory-tower fucks whose daddies handed them ready-made fortunes, sure, but this hacker punk thinks he can just steal whatever he wants from anyone he pleases? I hope they find him and take back every cent."

Mr. Handler sat with his hands folded on the bar. It was only when Bruce stopped talking that he noticed himself clutching his left wrist in his right hand. whose head are we in? He pulled his hands apart and spread them flat on the bar. "Bruce," he said, "do you mind if I tell you a story?"

"What about?"

"Okay, so a friend of mine ran a shipping company back around the time of the revolution in Nicaragua. He got hired to ship weapons down there, using the old rail system to bring them right to the revolutionaries. He didn't think anything of it at first; the pay was right. He was a good businessman.

"Well, that's what he told himself at first, but this prickling nag started to tug at the back of his mind. Going into a situation like that, even in a purely economic way, can make your moral compass a bit loopy. He decided to pull one of his normal guys off the shipment and go down there himself."

"What'd he find?"

"Pain, everywhere. that’s a really great line. short sentences can be a gut punch, and this one was Pain and ashes, cities bombed and jungles razed, people fleeing in every direction. The government had its hands full keeping a grip on power, it didn't have time to cater to the families whose homes got firebombed in the process. So my good friend, who thought himself Mr. Mercenary, started to grow a heart."

"That's a dangerous thing," Bruce said with a smile. "Especially for a businessman."

"No kidding. It only took one look at the chaos for him to know he had to do something. Eventually, he decided to play Schindler. His employers wanted to leave no traces, so the revolutionaries only took the weapons, not the shipping containers they came in. So the businessman started loading up the empty containers with refugees the night before the trains left. When they crossed the border into Honduras he let them off."

"How many of them did he save?"

"Thousands, maybe. I don't know, I never asked him for specifics. He tried to keep the operation as quiet as he could but one of his employees finally ratted him out. The revolutionaries captured him one night and hung him from the ceiling of their camp by his wrists. For days they beat him, broke his fingers and the bones in his feet. They weren't interrogating him; they had nothing to find out. I guess they thought it was fun.

"After twenty days, the old government stormed the camp and slaughtered the revolutionaries. After days of squabbling over what to do with my friend, they decided to send him back out the way he came, out on the rails. One of the more loyal employees agreed to take him aboard the shipping train; he rode back, half-conscious, until they made it to the US and got him to a hospital," Mr. Handler said.

"Geez. I guess that taught him to stick his neck out, huh?"

"Hell no; by then he'd gotten a taste for rebellion. Even more dangerous, he realized he liked to do the right thing. Looking into his employer's history, he found none other than Myerson Holdings at the end of the trail."

"So... was this whole mess him? This big heist was all just a revenge ploy?"

"I can't say for sure, but he says he found a laundry list of human rights abuses under Myerson's name. Whenever we talk, he tells me he's not a businessman anymore, he's a handler. He finds problems, and he handles them the way he knows is right. If he's the one who ripped off Myerson, I don't plan to shed any tears."

Uh, ok? What the heck was this...three-piece suit batman? It was decently written but it stops abruptly and was filled with a bunch of description of meaningless action and throwaway lines. Most of the dialogue, or him telling the story, wasn’t believable, to me; just find it hard to believe a couple of dudes would really sit down and have this conversation and that the other guy would actually listen as rapt as he was.

Ultimately, I have no idea what you were trying to say with this story.

Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Sep 5, 2013 around 22:03

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Previous post was too long to make, so here's the second part:

jagermonster posted:


Discretion

Ben checked the time on his cell phone again. That’s not an effective opening line at all. It sets no mood, reveals no character whatsoever, and does absolutely no work. Another two hours to go. At least. until what? why do I care? His thumb brushed his work Blackberry as he pocketed the phone. He considered checking his email, but resisted the impulse. Ben scanned a headline on the unread New York Times in his lap. His right eye twitched with strain and exhaustion.

Ben’s father sat next to Ben in the DeBakey Heart Center waiting room. He stared at the floor, his expression unreadable. “You got in so late. You must be tired, Ben.” yeah, this, right here, are your opening lines. That other crap in the first paragraph could have easily gone after this.

Fatigue and frustration tempted Ben to vent. He wanted to tell his father how incompetent, demanding, and insensitive his bosses were. who cares about ben? i don’t! you’re giving me no reason to.Three nights ago he was up all night revising PowerPoints for the partners arguing a summary judgment motion. He spent the next night revising them further and making copies for the Court. All he said was, “Work’s been killer, barely got any sleep the last few nights.”

“Well thank you for coming, Ben. I know it’s not easy for you to get away.”

“Of course. I should have come sooner.” none of this dialogue means anything or reveals anything or does any work. these lines that you wrote, right here, are exactly the lines that every single person in the world would be saying in this situation. only the names would be different. that’s not interesting or engaging at all. Ben still couldn’t believe his rear end in a top hat bosses had made him stay to help during the argument He caught himself, reflected that no one had physically coerced him to do anything. His roiling anger inverted, evaporated into shame. “I should have visited more.”

“It’s rough for young associates. More so than when I started out.” this is a bit better, you used dialogue to tell me something about his dad’s past.

A throng of people crowded around the television on the other side of the room, snacking on cookies and shoveling ice cream from gallon cartons as their loved ones underwent, or recovered from, heart surgery. Muffled cheers and applause emanated from the television as a reality show star and dance partner finished their routine on Dancing with the Stars. Ben had no idea who was who. what does any of this have to do with, well...anything?

Ben resolved he would exercise more. Come hell or high water he’d find a way to the gym. He backpedaled. He’d walk more, take the stairs. He bargained with himself, knowing he didn’t have the time. He’d eat healthier. why?

The compulsion to check his Blackberry tugged at Ben again. Not here, not now, he told himself. He felt like a junkie, only unsure of what the addiction was to – work, or being pissed off about work. There was only the pull of the fix. addicted to his blackberry? more like crackberry! c’mon man, you’ve got to be more original than this.

Ben’s father stood. “I’m going for a walk. Please call me if there’s any news regarding your mother.” bland throwaway line

Ben gave in. His Blackberry’s blinking red light beckoned him to check his unread emails. Routine junk cluttered his inbox. One email stood out, adorned with a red exclamation mark impressing its high importance.

Ben clenched his jaw when he saw he was the lone recipient. An indignant rage started boiling as he read the string of inane garbage. A senior partner on the case forwarded an expert witness’s invoice to a junior partner and asked, “23k? Can’t be right.” The junior partner kicked it to a senior associate. The senior associate dumped the chain on her junior associate Ben and demanded he review the invoice ASAP to figure out what was going on.

Ben tossed his Blackberry aside as it struggled to load the pdf file. He tore his laptop from his backpack. His bosses knew where he was. They knew what he was doing. As he remotely logged into his work email he fantasized telling each and every one of them to gently caress off, that he knew they would harass him during his mother’s heart surgery and they had all lived up to their legendary shitheadedess.

Ben’s mouth dropped open. They had topped themselves. The bill wasn’t for $23k, it was only 11k and change, a reasonable price considering all the deposition preparation and two days of grueling questioning. Earl must have shot off a typo. Kevin and Bianca hadn’t even opened the invoice, just sent it down the line.

His astonishment drained, leaving the bar at an all-time low. Rage once again swelled. Ben mused how much the client would pay for these jackasses to kick around erroneous figures of an already overpriced expert. He rationalized his own anger as being on behalf of the client. Only for lawyers were gently caress-ups so profitable.

Ben imagined his imbecilic bosses seated Indian-style on the floor, playing telephone in their pinstripe and pant suits, charging the client upwards of $600 an hour. Now the egg toss. Ben had to answer them, reveal their blunder without calling it a blunder, without damaging their delicate egos, or suffer their wrath. He felt dizzy from the cycle. He came down from his fix. His anger dissipated, leaving him hollow. He shut his laptop.

“Doing some work?”

“No. I should have never checked my email. That was a short walk.”

“I wanted to stay close in case we heard something.”

Ben’s father sighed, deflated into his chair.

Ben told his father about the email.

“Your bosses sound like assholes.”

His father’s disapproval of his enemies soothed him.

“I was very fortunate to have good bosses. I am very fortunate now not to have to work with assholes.”

“I should quit.” It was a plea. Pull me back from the ledge, dad.

“Do you regret going to law school?”

Not the rebuke he expected. “I don’t know what else I would have done.” Ben waited for the usual jab at his liberal arts degree.

“Do you resent that we pressured you to become a lawyer?”

Ben had been bracing for the usual talk of perseverance and dedication and making partner. He fiddled with his blackberry turning it over in his hands. He glared at the blinking red light.

“Put it away, Ben.”

Ben found he could. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep.

This was so bad that I had to quit reading. It’s clearly something that you were inspired to write for some personal reasons, and was little more than you taking out your workplace frustrations via fictional proxy. That sucks for a reader to have to sit through, and I couldn’t make it, sorry. This was very nearly the worst story, if for no other reason than how inoffensively bland it is.

Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

Thunderbawls Chillmatic vs. Crabrock or Ike Vs. Tina or some poo poo.




Worthy--748 words.

Follow me around for ten minutes, and I’d be lost for nine. My friends say that, and, in fairness, that had been true until a year ago--the day I met Evelyn.

I had taken a new job in Chicago, and even as I stepped off the train, I was hopelessly disoriented and fumbling in my backpack for the paper map I’d packed. The first time I saw her was in front of the train depot; she was in her car, rolling slowly past me as I stood fighting the wind to keep the map from blowing out of my hands. I heard a laugh and looked up.

She was brushing aside her dark bangs and taking off a large pair of sunglasses. She looked at me, and right then I learned that it was impossible to appear sophisticated while wrangling a flimsy paper map in front of a beautiful woman.

She called out, “You look lost.”

“I am!” I said, having to shout over a departing train.

She smiled, put on her hazard lights, and summoned me over.

She asked why didn’t I carry a smartphone. I told her, three seconds before the map blew out of my hands and onto the roof of the train depot, that cellphones weren’t always reliable and that I could, at least, count on this.

Then it was gone and we both laughed.

And for the next 359 days, we would laugh together--for 359 days, she tolerated my wandering indecisions. With her to guide me, I didn't get lost. Not even once.

***

On the 360th day, our apartment had once again become her apartment. Our things had divided, becoming either hers, or mine. Mostly hers.

What little there was of mine was packed into a small U-Haul sitting in the potholed parking lot of a downtown diner.

What little there was of us was packed into a small booth, sitting on opposite sides, neither of us touching our food. I’d arrived late. We’d been here dozens of times before, but she had always driven; I could have sworn it was on the other side of the highway.

Last night I dreamed of a man on a ship, lost at sea in a storm.

“The mail key,” she mumbled, twisting the paper wrapping of her straw into a rumpled spine. Last week, sitting in that same seat, she’d grinned and blown the wrapper at my cheek.

“The what?”

“The mail key,” she gestured to the envelope on the table. “Did you remember to leave it? With the key to the front door?”

I hadn’t. I pulled out my keys, and she watched me fumble unsuccessfully with the ring. After a minute I said, "I don't think I can get it. Can I mail it to you?”

“This was the only copy,” she said, flatly.

“Oh. Right.”

The god Poseidon took pity on the man, and gifted him his most beautiful, detailed nautical map.

Our voices were tired. Yesterday morning we would have laughed, together, at the irony of one’s only mail key sitting inside a locked mailbox.

I wanted to go home. To our home.

But, so the man could prove himself worthy of a god’s intervention, Poseidon sent also a tremendous wave to crash against the man’s ship.

I’d experienced Chicago like I’d experienced Evelyn: I had failed to learn the shape of the city as well as the shape of her mind, never quite knowing which dark alleys, which arguments, to avoid. But even still she’d helped guide me as I’d fumbled through my choices and my life, and she’d done it with grace.

I'd lost it all in nine minutes. One decision. One wrong turn.

The man’s grip was weak, his spirit unworthy.

Finally I removed the key and put it in the envelope, and Evelyn said, “I guess that’s everything.” She started to stand.

“Eve, wait--please.”

The roaring, blistering water tore the map from the man’s hands.

Her sigh was a mother’s frustration at a toddler with a full diaper. “You can’t ask me to be there, Alex, to take care of you anymore. Not after yesterday. I need to do this while I’m still angry enough to go through with it.”

She grabbed the envelope and turned to leave and I never heard her voice again.

Soon after, the man sailed off the far edge of the earth.

Outside the diner I unfolded and stared at the new map I had bought.

It began to rain.

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Chillmatic
Jul 25, 2003

always seeking to survive and flourish

*sharts jorts*

*pounds fists*

Fair trial, town, can't get, etc.


Nah but really, good game, crabrock. I had a blast both writing mine and reading yours. I really liked the voice in your story (big sticking point with me) and thought it matched nicely with that of the prompt.

sebmojo posted:

should have started the mythic stuff earlier

Yuuuup. About two minutes after I posted it I looked at it again and said 'poo poo, I really should have put the first italicized bit at the beginning of the scene break.'

Live and learn! And much thanks to you and Rhino for the crits/feedback.

Chillmatic fucked around with this message at Sep 12, 2013 around 02:23

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