Thunderdome Week CLXXIII Results: Pilgrim's Progress
The prompt post told you not to drop your plots off cliffs. Thank you for proving again that reading comprehension isn't Thunderdome's strong suit. So many stories didn't resolve a diddly dang thing or stopped right before events really got interesting. Someone escaped a DM on the strength of having an ending! That's so sad, TD. I'm crying almost as much as your protagonists.
It wasn't a bad week, traditional grousing aside, and it could have been much, much worse. Thanks for sharing your travels with me, guys. Have some results for the road!
THE WINNER: Fumblemouse! Your satisfying conclusion and sound story structure made your entry stand out, but it shone in its exploration of the relative worth of truth and love in the eyes of a man. You paired physical and mental journeys without reducing the former to window dressing. This is one of my favorite entries of yours, and I'm glad to crown you for it.
HONORABLE MENTION: BoldFrankensteinMir, you pleased all the judges to some degree with your traditional pilgrimage as penance. I like to think that the open desert and the vault of the sky were the westmost temple. Either way, this is a sweet story of a man coming to the point where he can absolve himself.
THE LOSER: Your entry was a mess, Lazy Beggar. We speculated that you came up with the last line first and then tried to force your story to lead up to it. Karen's dead child and the town of overtly emotional people had no natural connection. You seemed to be aiming at a moral, but the only one I could see was "Some things are sadder than others," which, while true, is a bit like writing a story to tell us that water is wet.
DISHONORABLE MENTION: Killer-of-Lawyers. We didn't like your story: out of context, John's reasons for being in that desert and his motivations for crossing it to reach an AI were opaque. That word context is the real reason you're here. I had the oddest feeling I'd seen this story before, and it turned out I nearly had. You've written about these characters previously. More than once. The iterations are too similar, the themes are the same, and neither this part of the sequence nor the last stands alone. Lazy Beggar's story may have been bad, but at least it was original.
DISHONORABLE MENTION: C7ty1, your story didn't seem to know what it was trying to do or be. Was it a comedy? Was it in earnest? Was it set on Earth? Did Miriam lose faith or gain it? You had something to say, but that something got lost in the muddle.
DISHONORABLE MENTION: jon joe, your story didn't accomplish whatever it was going for either, and the fact that some of the judges could only guess what that even was did you in.
Fumblemouse, you have the gavel. May your time on the throne reach a satisfying conclusion.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at Dec 7, 2015 around 16:57
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ThunderDome Week CLXXIV Ladles and Jellyspoons
When I was but a pink, hairless and blind wee mouse, I used to revel in the nonsense of Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll and the like, as read to me by my mother (because blind) after she finished a fine meal of my siblings. My first pathetic attempts at narrative were in that poetic format, and from that experience I can assure you, Nonsense is Serious Business.
When I grew older, I realised that nonsense is a spectrum, from those simple little poems about dismembered Pobbles and creeper Yonghy-Bonghy-Bos through to the glorious wankery of magical realism. Your challenge this week is to write a nonsense story of some description. Reality is suspended, whimsy and charm are the order of the day. It must, however, still have a narrative arc and all that good story stuff.
"But Fumbles" I hear you cry. "I are serious writer! I write fabuloso tales of gritty urban decay and the sadness of the peeples. How will I ape the Literary Giants of Your Childmouseness?"
"It is so." I reply. "You are terrible and this task is too hard for you. So, if you must, you may steal a plot from the Magical Realism Twitterbot, https://twitter.com/MagicRealismBot who will give you a nonsense plot summary in 140 characters (or less!)". You don't have to admit your failings, but if you are incredi-super-lame you can ask a judge to assign you one.
Special bonus: I have a feeling I may live to regret this, but in honour of our illustrious, Victorian, nonsensical forebears, you may use rhyme to tell your narrative.
Sign-ups: Friday 11:59 EST
Shut-down: Sunday 11:59 EST
Judges: Fumblemouse, sebmojo, TBA (PM me if keen)
Trying to make sense of the unsensible
spectres of autism
Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at Dec 5, 2015 around 18:30
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oh my god yes in
|# ? Dec 1, 2015 04:11|
A Somali sheik decrees that everyone must be a sculptor.
|# ? Dec 1, 2015 04:22|
i dont have charm but uhhh yeah im in
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Late for pilgrimdome, my TD virginity wasted on bad writing
Word Count 1011
My eyes were swollen and a tear managed to penetrate my own bloated veil. Even through this sand hellstorm my tear’s trajectory was casually accurate, it fell upon my wife’s puffed face. With my best effort I leaned over and put my lips to her face. I said goodbye with a kiss, I kissed where my tear fell; it was salty. Fitting, I thought, my wife is dead and my goodbye to her lets the salt of my tear sting me.
The saltiness on my mouth quickly subsided to sand. Sand is the only thing in abundance on this wretched planet. We have been trekking weeks, in seemingly, the direction that takes us nowhere. My wife, all our vehicles, even our animals have been lost “to the wind” (I chucked). I digress but I can barely maintain, I make jokes about everything, even now, I am thinking about joking about my dead wife. Why would I ever joke about my wife’s death? Why do I care? Why did I go on this god-forsaken trip? I shake my head in my desperate agreement, I know I’ll die.
During the landing of our spacecraft we suffered irreparable damage to the ship, enough so that our greenhouse and the life support, gave us two months to live. Our captain, gave us options about our death. The captain blessed us brave enough, the go ahead to venture to a supposed “green zone” spotted on our descent. I somehow managed to convince my wife that we were strong enough to make this and that it had to be better than waiting for death to come to us. Hindsight proved me gravely wrong.
The dwindling supplies and steady loss of our animals does have its perks. The last of our fallen animals was Bob. Bob was a great packhorse who managed to trudge through this bleak journey better than the most of us. Bob was delicious! I enjoyed those moments of feeling full, sickening so. My belly felt three times its size, however that near-sublime feeling gave way to the bleak on-going-ness that is our doomed caravan.
We walk, tirelessly on end. End, I think, yes… how fitting (I digress again, but I think you know the drill). Sand fills each step, the constant drag of motion in the direction that will allow us to survive? gently caress, even my salvation is proposed as a question. My thoughts feel hazy, hazy as man can be who lost his wife and feels the tick tock of death. I believe death has a pocket watch that has a consistent tick tock to it and I have begun to hear it.
THUNK, “What the hell?!”, I exclaim, as my foot manages to part enough sand to find an unexpected object. UFO, Unidentified Foot Object I like to think (again another chuckle). I shake my head and shake it another time to hopefully shake the sense into me. I have no idea what it is that I have connected my foot with. I drift mentally, Space Football; I’ve just scored, I hear cheers in my head. The slowness in my brain, (I blame fatigue), registers a spark, I must notify the others.
Before I get around to communicating with the other, my brain in its blissful nonsensical wisdom, kicks the “ball” again. THUNK, it registers, though sonically it felt deeper this time around. I ponder for a moment about that auditory difference, perhaps I dislodged some space weed during the big game. I begin to sink.
“I am sinking,” said out loud in a sympathetic oratory slowness. I see sand up to my knee. “I seem to be stuck in an awful lot of sand,” I say to myself as I believe myself to be the biggest idiot in this region. I meagerly struggle with vortex of sand that tugs me steadily. I managed to bring myself to scream for help, however I drifted too far from the pack for anyone to hear me. I curse myself, time to join my wife down below.
Nature pulls me deeper and deeper and before my head drops into the sand I take my last breaths. I dare not open my eyes as I sink so I focus on feeling, I felt a coolness, “Death, is that you?” I think to myself. Death feels great, wait, this can’t possibly be right. “How am I not dead?” I ponder, how am I still thinking at all?
I feel my lower half gain freedom as I shoot further downward. I propel downward, freeing from the sand and gaining flight. I rotate as I tumble and crash soundly on the sand pilled below, I make my own THUNK. (It hurt too.)
As my body recoils from impact, I curse for the pain. Wincing, I bring myself afoot. “Where the hell am I?” I proceed. The last of my words echo slightly as I gain sense of my surroundings. I feel something wonderful, a cool breeze that has glanced my face.
I take a deep breath as I come to terms with my subterranean surroundings, my senses inaugurate with this environment. “UURRAAAGGHH,” I hear from afar, if I was hydrated enough, I would of soiled myself. At best I dusted my own pants as I freaked out; I have no idea where the sound came from and what death dealing monster it came from. I suspect I’ll that monster’s sound again, before it writes the last chapter in my story.
I, shaken with fear and a tingling of hope, push on. I stumble over this rocky solid floor that is dusted with sand and move forward. The cave begins to open up and I come to it, I come to my salvation. GREEN is all I see, a dense lush foliage ridden food bearing wonderful happy place. As my excitement builds I shed my pack and gain speed. I forget about whatever that sound was, I will have to manage and make it bearable as I found it, the Green Zone. I can make peace here. I can live.
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A schoolmaster realises that he does not exist. The only thing that exists is a huge ice moon.
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When the Drillbit broke Amelia was piloting, because of course she was. I was in the engine room, because of course I was. So I drop everything and make for the nose. My feet thud in silence. For a second, I reach out and touch the metal walls. In the stillness they feel like the rock outside: cold, dead and infinite. I move on.
Not one of them has thought to put the fire out. The controls - her controls - are going up in flames. They watch in grim silence. We were so close. She had got us so close. But the last of the pilots is dead.
She used to tell me about the surface. The scriptures say we come from there, but she had other ideas. “What if,” she asked me once, running a finger along my backbone, “this is where we belong? What if we were never cast out? What if this is it?”
We lay there in my bunk, and I showed her my grandfather’s old pickaxe. When we began, all we had were tools, but we dug. We drilled. And the time came to launch the Drillbit.
“But what if I fail?”
I laughed it off. I told her she was going to redeem us. That one day soon, the Drillbit would bring us back. That she was the heir to generations of pilots, each and every one of them crawling us forward, inching through the stone, back to the green grass of home.
But then, I was an engine stoker. What did I know? I reach down to her with a coal-stained hand, and as I run my fingers through hers, I cannot tell who is burned and who is blackened.
I turn to the captain. “What now?”
He shrugs. All he’s ever done is shrug. “It’s over, Caliban.”
“But we’re so close.”
“Close, but no cigar.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“I don’t know,” he says. “But do you see any cigars down here?”
The tunnel rises ahead of me. There are no lights below the Earth. I navigate by sound. The water drips like a metronome, spattering me as I walk. As I approach the front, I switch on the torch. The Drillbit is broken. Her massive corkscrew lies shattered. The rock above sits pristine, taunting me, taunting her. We were so close. I climb.
I heft the pickaxe. It is strangely light in my man’s hands. Once, as a child, my father let me try and lift it. I remember his laughter, and I remember thinking about my grandfather, hammering his way home with a heavy stick, and I remember being glad for the Drillbit.
But the Drillbit is broken. I swing the pick. It glances off the slick stone, and I reposition.
We move to emergency power. We are out of raw materials, out of energy. The gardens have one more harvest, but nobody harvests. There is just the routine. Rise early. Stand around the engine room, going through the motions. Then, in the absence of purpose, take up the pickaxe.
Stone has shapes, has lines within it. The Drillbit tore through everything, but I am a man with a stick. I have to pay attention. Strike it just right and whole formations cleave off, crumbling. I am almost done. In the old books, our ancestors buried their dead. They committed them to the earth, to rest there. The chamber I carve grows each day. Metal chips on stone.
As I dig, I sing. Grandfather was a singer, I was told. So I try, but my voice cracks from dryness. I skim the water off of the stone to slake my thirst, but it is never enough. On the surface, they say, the water lies on the ground in sheets, in deep fixed layers. But I will never know, so I dig. It feels like the right tribute. She brought us all this way.
As my little tunnel grows, it grows unstable. The Drillbit left its problems behind - it dug fast and deep. But I am a man with a heavy stick, and I need to build supports. The remains of the Drillbit do the job: I prop up my endeavour with fragments of the nose. I think I’ll cut out a little place for myself. I suppose I am a miner now.
As I work with the stone in silence, I learn to listen to it. It guides me through. Each strike yields new echoes, a new interpretation, of what lies ahead. As I listen, the echoes grow richer, lighter. There is a new hollowness in it, and I cannot give that up.
I swing again, and the rock crumbles. Water crashes into me and I reel from the spray. I take a breath, and look up.
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my next post in this thread will be those goddamn crits I owe
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i dont have charm but uhhh yeah im in
same, also same
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Sister Apartment Blues (1146 words)
"I can't believe you, Charlie." Lily was fuming. Instead of responding to her younger sister, Charlie began rooting around in her bag for the book she'd borrowed from her earlier. "Have you forgotten everything Mother and Father taught us about basic decency? Mrs. Honet's going to think all we care about is money!"
"I consider our wages and our rent important information, and she didn't seem to mind." Having retrieved the desired tome, Charlie looked around for a place to sit down. One of the rickety-looking chairs by their 'new' shabby dining table would have to do. She walked over to it, and gingerly tested the seat. It creaked, but held. She sat.
"She was just being polite! Anyone could see that!" Lily jabbed a finger at Charlie from where she stood. "I've been wondering something."
Charlie flipped to the page she'd dog-eared last night, when they had still been out at sea. Lily had handed it to her, starry-eyed and gushing. She didn't quite see the appeal, though. The author's depiction of city nightlife seized the imagination, but every character introduced so far seemed incredibly shallow. "What?"
"Why did you even bother coming? You've hated every step of the journey."
"I don't hate it -" Charlie began, looking up from the book. Lily cut her off.
"You do! You've complained about the boat, the sea, the streets, our carriage - and why else would you act so ungrateful towards the Honets -"
"Why should I be grateful," said Charlie loudly, silencing Lily. Her words were phrased like a question, but not spoken as one. "Why should I pretend to appreciate those whose only reason for bringing us over the sea was to hire cheaper workers? Those wages? They're barely more than what the butcher's assistant earned. Even with the both of us, we'll barely be able to do anything other than feed ourselves and make rent."
She looked over at Lily again. Her sister's mouth was scrunched up, and her hands balled into fists - just like the first time they'd first argued over the Honets' offer, all the way back in their former house. Back then, Charlie had given in, fearful of waking up to find only a scrawled note to explain her sister's sudden disappearance. Now an overwhelming wave of anger washed over her instead.
She slammed her book flat onto the table and stood, glaring. "You know why I came along with you?"
Lily looked reproachfully at her, and stayed mute. Charlie's anger built, until finally it turned into something sickly sweet and venomous.
"It's because you don't ask those 'crass' questions!" Charlie pitched her voice higher, doing her best to add a demented trill to her sentences. "Oh, Mrs. Monet wants the best for me! That's why I'm going to be working from sunrise till evening for an absolute embarrasment of a wage! That's why I'm living in the tiniest, filthiest apartment I've ever seen in my life! This really is the American Dre-"
A sob interrupted her tirade. Surprised, Charlie looked up at Lily's red-eyed, snotty face and froze. Her sister's throat worked, but a couple sobs managed to escape anyways. Eventually, she just dashed out of their apartment, slamming the door behind her.
The ensuing echo finally broke Charlie from her paralysis. She burst out onto the stairwell of their apartment. "Wait, Lily! I didn't -"
She couldn't see her Charlie briefly entertained the notion that Lily had run out onto the city streets, just when it was turning dark, and decided to check up top first.
It took Charlie three flights of stairs to make it to the rooftop door, left ajar. A quick moment to take a breather - just to rest and definitely not because she could hear broken hiccuping - and then she hesitantly stepped onto the rooftop.
It was very windy. And cold.
"Lily?" Charlie called out, wrapping her arms around herself.
"Just go away." Lily just sounded tired, drained of all the vitality she had shown earlier. She was curled up against the waist-high barrier of the roof, head buried in her arms.
Charlie hesitated for a moment as the wind chilled her right through her clothes, but then made her way over in front of Lily and squatted. "Lily... I'm sorry. For saying that to you. I shouldn't have."
Lily didn't move, didn't acknowledge her presence. The only thing Charlie could hear were wet sniffles.
Charlie's legs began to ache. Eventually she gave up squatting and just sat, folding her legs underneath her. She could feel the chill of the rooftop below.
"Lily... I'll admit that I didn't exactly want to come here. To give up the home they left us." Charlie smiled, but it wasn't happy. "I don't understand why you don't care about never swimming in Maple Lake again, or decorating our secret stump in the woods."
Charlie's sister lifted her head and looked at her. By this point, it was too dark to see her expression.
"So why did you come?" Lily asked. She sounded hoarse.
"If you left, I might never see you again. You're -" you're all I have left, Charlie wanted to confess, but her throat closed up. She tucked her hands into her armpits.
"I would send letters."
"That's not good enough!" Charlie burst out. She broke eye contact. "There's so much I'd miss, so many things you couldn't possibly fit into an envelope - and what if they stopped coming? What if you got sick, were robbed, or killed?" That last word came out on a whisper.
Charlie continued, "I'd miss home. I knew that from the start. But I'd go mad from not knowing." She ran a sleeve over her eyes, and shivered. "Please t-tell me you understand."
"Charlie." From the way Lily spoke, she seemed unaffected by the cold.
"Yes?" Charlie looked up, right before her sister yanked her forward and pulled her into a hug. "Oof."
It was warm. And shortly, slightly moist.
"I'm sorry, too," Lily murmured, patting Charlie's shoulders. "I wasn't thinking again."
This close, Charlie could feel the way Lily tensed up as she asked, "Can you forgive me?"
"O-of course!" Charlie immediately choked out, then sneezed.
Lily laughed. "We'd better get back inside before we catch cold. And work starts early tomorrow, too."
They made their way over to the stairwell, and then something bright caught Charlie's eye. "Wait, what's that over there?"
"Hm?" Lily went along with Charlie as she pulled her to the edge of the roof.
Off in the distance were the bright lights of downtown. Charlie laughed, still a bit messily. "Just like that book of yours." If she closed her eyes, she swore she could hear faint strains of brassy music.
"Mrs. Honet said that we get Sundays off, right? We could go there then."
Charlie smiled. "I'd like that."
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I Shouldn't Have Eaten That Souvlaki - Crits for Week #164
A bunch of hamfisted entries mutilated this promising prompt. I was disappointed in you, chefs. Please enjoy the half-melted, lukewarm ambrosia of spite I have set before you.
Objector in Red
This got the frustration vote -- Froglight, you had something intriguing here, but you fumbled your frying pan during a flip and threw food all over the kitchen.
Ivan is a fraud, his wife is dissatisfied, their food is poo poo, and their nation is at war: you have a great deal to work with! And yet instead of Ivan being punished for faking his disability, the conflict is resolved by him stepping on a landmine. The landmines have nothing to do with this story. The ending is a "rocks fall, everyone dies" moment and has little to do with the problems set up at the beginning of the story. It's like you became bored with your sandcastle and decided to trample it down yourself before anyone else could. What a terrible ending!
Moreover, the dialogue tags are a mess. You slung adverbs around in defiance of good style; this habit only clutters your story up with redundant drivel. The tone of a piece of dialogue should be obvious enough from the dialogue itself to not require a second explanation of the delivery. Save your words so you can deploy them appropriately. Worse, you also used said-bookisms. You can't really over-use "said." It's an invisible term, symbolizing only that a specific character spoke aloud. You also don't need to use "holler" when you end a bit of dialogue with an exclamation point!
One thing you did well with the dialogue, though, was usefully anchor it in a physical space: Ivan rising from his wheelchair, Dragana hurling the flour to the cabin floor; these are good notes.
I ended up defending this story from a DM vote on technical strength -- you had a beginning, middle, and end, a clear conflict (if only because we all know what happens to Lucifer), and some characterization (on the strength of exegetical and apocryphal texts). As usual, that's better than many of any given week's entries.
The problem was that the materials of the story are insufficiently original. You in particular have an obsession with pastiche. You can make it work if you combine conventions into something fresh, but that didn't happen in this story. Lucifer as the trickster, the meddler in creation, the misunderstood sympathizer is already well-explored in fiction. One might even say excruciatingly well-explored. What I have to ask myself is how is a Lucifer tale different from apocryphal fanfic?
The inclusion of the Metatron here threw me off mainly because my understanding is that Enoch is Metatron, which requires that Metatron exist after the fall of man, but I looked it up later and decided Enoch-as-Metatron is still more sacred fanfic. Jesus.
A true Christmas tale.
This mostly got my nod for the novelty; as one of two American judges for Food Week, I was intrigued! You made food crucial to the tale. It was a lovely feast. The weakness came from some choppy, stuttering prose; another pass to edit for flow would have benefited this entry tremendously.
The voice and tone of this story struck me as awkward and forced. The Harry Potter reference didn't help. Whose perspective was this even from? And why do I care about anyone? Where the hell did his mom come from? Did this entry get lost between Wizard Week and now?
General Badass was the only amusing character in the whole piece, and that's only because there was, blessedly, only one stupid joke about him. I don't care if Larry's mother dies -- where did she come from all of a sudden? Why did you introduce a new and useless character to drop a flat-footed joke in the middle of this story? The real problem here is that if this humor and voice don't work for the reader, the story is just excruciating to read and doesn't hold up. Whatever charms Morning Bell saw here didn't surface for me. The only good bit, I felt, was the ending -- Larry's little magical reset surprisingly does not read as forced.
Perhaps you would have ended up with a classic on your hands if this madness didn't feel so forced. Of the entries, this one is the fish anus foam presented as a palate cleanser: it fails at every level.
Duck Blood Soup
A great food and interesting conflict wasted on a mediocre execution.
How old was Minh supposed to be here? He attends a charter school, so he's not yet college aged. Despite the voice ("And I was guilty of the same heinous acts by proxy"), I don't get the sense that Minh was even a teenager, or he should have been able to answer his own question about what went into that soup.
My essential criticism is the same as Morning Bell's. The story just stops abruptly. The interesting part about what happens to Minh's family after he sabotages the farm is much too short. You wasted words on a duck attack! Why?
Knowing your work, I was shocked when this didn't end with the protagonist massacring his whole family. And why is the only meat Minh gave up duck? Does his empathy for livestock only cover creatures he sees slaughtered by his father?
Good execution of the prompt, but this suffered from being only the first of many probably-post-apocalyptic pieces in Food Week. You pulled through on story structure and delivery. I enjoyed reading this one; it landed on my high pile. Good imagery, clear conflict, decent characterization. What didn't make sense was that the brothers closed in on the Seeker and his cronies before they went to sleep. Why try to sneak so close when they're all clearly awake? It was a stupid decision seemingly made only to force an action scene. Ultimately, the story suffered for that decision and didn't nab a mention.
The Secret Menu
I'd normally be the perfect audience for a goofy spy piece, but this one fell flat. The descriptions of movement and action suffered from movie-itis. Who cares that he used the crosswalk to reach the fish n chips shop? Who cares about the mix of currencies? Why is any of this stuff important enough to spend your piddly allotment of 1200 words on? You have no characterization of Anne or Jay Protagonist before the party van shows up and disgorges the clowns in black. We never get a real sense of Jay as a person. He takes everything that happens in stride and is incredibly passive besides one brief scene where he flings his food at the goons and runs away. Is he angry about being used? Does he feel like he's been made a fool of? Is he afraid for his life? I don't know. A gender role reversal is just not enough to carry this tale.
The Singing Falafel
Another story that didn't do it for me. The framing device was awkward and unnecessary. You wasted space telling the grandfather's story through the grandson, who didn't have a conflict of his own; there's no need to spend your time there. Nothing about the grandson is illustrated, no problems of his are resolved, through the telling of a story where he was not even a character. The prose quality was uneven and purple. The love story was like ABC gum, with no flavor left to recommend it. That said, you wrote a story and ended it without invoking "rocks fall everyone dies," and you avoided the rushed feeling that other stories had.
This course didn't know what it wanted to be or when it should have been served. You came out of the gates with a bold idea: dudes turned into oysters! A shuffling, weeping apocalypse devoid of cannibalism! Sadly, the idea arrived without much of a story.
Ivan (the second Ivan, oddly enough) "scampered" at the start, which briefly disoriented me about the character's age. The story opens up with an almost tense stealth sequence, though that tension is squandered when Ivan acknowledges that the oystermen are harmless. Then there's a boring flashback and a paragraph on a virus that somehow managed to hop whole species in record time. C'mon, man. Leaving the mechanics unexplained would have served plausibility better.
Despite the sneaking around in the beginning, Ivan waltzes out the front door -- is this just a way for him to observe motorcycle character randomly slaughtering the oysterbros? This feels like forced bad decision-making because you needed it to be so. Except it wasn't necessary! Ivan discovers that the oysterbros are still probably sapient, but he doesn't help out his new buddy -- he abandons the oysterbro to be slaughtered. And we never really have a reason for why the motorcycle gunman exists. Ivan doesn't confront him, because Ivan just randomly commits suicide at the end! What the hell? Right here you violate the expectations you set up in the narrative. That's an unpardonable sin.
And so the bivalves inherit the Earth.
A Cake Rising in the Oven
Is this title a "bun in the oven" joke? Well, it's another post-apocalyptic food story, though with a notable dearth of wandering cakebros. Why did the peacemakers execute the narrator's father? It's unclear if the father was stealing food, or if there was some other reason he was killed. It also seems to have to do with cookbooks, but I can't make a connection as to why something as innocuous as a cookbook would result in an execution. The peacemaker refers to "taking a fleck of flour" as a crime, but did the father steal the flour or not? Why did the peacekeeper waste good food? In fact, why did the father waste good soup? The real crime here is all the food abuse. The father's death just feels like a forced tragedy inserted to provide a weepy backstory for the protagonist. And why wasn't the protagonist punished for the heinous crime of baking cake (and then throwing it on the ground goddammit WHY)?
This reads as post-apoc, but there's a timer that beeps partway through -- what's going on there? It seems like this society is suffering from scarcity, but then you've got batteries here in frivolous applications.
And why does the protagonist decide to defy the peacekeepers ten years after his father is killed?
One thing I did like here was how you worked in actual cookery over the course of the tale. More sensory imagery would have been welcome. Eating isn't just sight and taste; it's also texture and scent and even sound. Have you ever heard bread sing when you take it from the oven?
With some revision, I think this story could really shine.
Taking Your Order
Though the premise here falls apart the more you think about it, I really enjoyed this and I wasn't alone. The dialogue-only story is kind of a tough sell, I think, but you executed it well. I like to see more daring formats attempted in TD. I pushed for this one to get an HM, but alas the other judges didn't buy your chicken sandwich. They were confused about the scenario but simultaneously repulsed by expository dialogue: that's the weakness of an all-talk story.
The prose here was strong. I only wish it didn't look like fanfic.
Breaking the rules
If this story hadn't included a character vomiting, I would've. Thankfully the physical humor lampshaded the "fish out of water" white dudes in Japan trying to pick up women thing.
This entry also suffered from action at the expense of characterization or even motives. Why would Ara and Afran risk not only their lives' but Johnson's in pursuit of goat tongue? I'm not sold on it being a miraculous experience worth everyone being murdered, imprisoned, tortured, or any combination of these outcomes. Why did you hop perspective to Ara, put that one chunk of dialogue as its own first person scene, and then jump back to the third person? The ending didn't really resolve anything. The tongue is okay and all of these idiots are stranded. Everyone in this story suffers from a total lack of reasonable decision-making, including driver-Johnson turning to scream at his passengers while performing high-speed defensive driving maneuvers in unknown terrain.
This is the only story that I like more the longer it's been since I last read it. You got a nice jaunty voice here with some good characterization and action. At the time of our original reading, I didn't feel much affection towards it -- I was probably just fatigued. Dystopian Hawaii is rather interesting. I wish the banh mi angle didn't feel so tacked on. The problem is that the banh mi just feel like an element you tacked on so you could enter the story you really wanted to write into TD during that week. That's just how it feels. Maybe using more of the word budget you were given would have helped that element feel more natural.
In Porco Veritas
I was actually rather moved by this story, which surprised me given how far I'd gotten into a week wherein I found precious little to like. You worked with Gin's pain but avoided relying on a tortured woman trope. The pig's head had a Lord of the Flies feeling and I wonder if it was a deliberate reference. I supported this for a win.
A non-story vignette laden with verbiage. In the end it squanders its tension on a deus ex machina style resolution. Ray doesn't resolve her own conflict - the weird monstrous vibe you assign to the unnamed woman is just cast off - and the food isn't even all that important because Ray strutting around would have probably been caught anyway.
Interview of Marja Grimsdottir, Tape One, Side B
I wish this had been a proper entry. As it was, I kinda enjoyed this story. It's not exactly my jam, but just like Twist's chicken burger, it served up something a bit less conventional in a week full of post-apocalyptic landscapes and pointless action set pieces. You manage to justify yarfing up exposition by the whole thing being an interrogation. To me the only issue was some of Marja's tone; she's awfully glib for someone being interviewed about maybe causing a miscarriage. The mix of the somewhat humorous voice and the subject matter is off-putting, and I'm not sure if that was intentional.
|# ? Dec 1, 2015 21:13|
What is Thunderdome Law on illustrations? A poetry embargo of some kind appears to be lifted due to the nature of this week's challenge, and pictures lend themselves similarly to whimsical fantasy.
|# ? Dec 1, 2015 21:22|
If you wish to garnish your word-pictures with actual pictures, I'm not going to stop you. However, I'll be judging via judgemode on writocracy and so won't include it in any assessment of your work. Also, bear in mind that is time you could be polishing your proseoetry.
There have been poetry prompts before (I recall a narrative sonnet one) but they are rightfully rare.
|# ? Dec 1, 2015 21:31|
I Shouldn't Have Eaten That Souvlaki - Crits for Week #164
Thanks for the crit!
|# ? Dec 1, 2015 23:58|
|# ? Dec 2, 2015 01:09|
What is Thunderdome Law?
Act as you see fit, and face the consequences.
|# ? Dec 2, 2015 06:30|
Act as you see fit, and face the consequences.
|# ? Dec 2, 2015 07:17|
Thanks for the crits.
|# ? Dec 2, 2015 14:16|
In the Unknown Brawl Results
Ehhhhh, both of you gave me kind of middling stories, but middling in two very different ways. Ent's was more refined, but a lot more cliche and boring, although it got into its stride near the end and I was actually feel a little tension(!). Obliterati, while yours was kind of hard to understand at first and felt really short and could've been expanded in the beginning, middle, and end, there's some creativity to it and some character and heart(!). So then this is a race to the middle, and who's more slightly higher in the middle. Generic vs unrefined? Tension vs. Heart? El Dorado vs. the underground? The winner is...
Entenzahn because his story felt the most complete and refined, and even though Obliterati's story can BE a better story with a little more effort and expansion, it's not in its current state. Close race.
Onto the crits!
Entenzahn, I was kind of laughing the first time I read this because you made them go to El Dorado, and then you had their translator be freaking out and then you had the narrator "oh he's just a crazy guy, he just doesn't get it" and then a horrible disease happens and he's like "ok I hosed up," because that's been done a million times. However, this story felt complete, and it also felt like you knew where you wanted to go and what you were doing with it. There's a conflict, but the character is incredibly generic, which is the biggest fault. This could be super cool if you put in a realistic and interesting character, but this guy, he's not really anything, just the generic conquistador that I've read about a million times (also, this was the biggest fault of your story and where I had the hardest time choosing you over Obliterati). Still, once you got towards the disease, I was actually a bit spooked. How the narrator reacted to it felt right, and it tended itself well to making the tension feel organic. Maybe the build-up could've been shortened a hair, or made a bit more unique than the generic poo poo you gave me, but the build-up is definitely necessary in order for this story to work, because without the tension, this story wouldn't have anything going for it. But, your prose was solid, your story comprehensible, and I actually had a kind of feeling when reading it other than meh. This story, while being a dime a dozen and not anything special, is refined, with a plot that moves, a resolution that works, and tension. Not a story I'll remember once I'm done today, but a competent story nonetheless.
Obliterati, I want to like your story. I wanted to give it the win because it had the idea there, and it had a lot more heart in it, but a story isn't an idea, it's a story. And just because you have heart doesn't mean that makes your story good. You start with a character dying, which makes me think, why? If this character dying is supposed to be impactful, then why not start before that happens? This doesn't happen often where I say "give me more backstory" but I think that would've been better, because I don't know who this girl is, why she matters as much as she does, or anything about her, so her death just feels, not cheap, but bland. Meaningless. You could've explored the relationship and you could've made me care about the narrator more, give us more character there, and then made the conflict more meaningful, by making it not just about trying to get to the surface, but achieving a shared goal with someone you care about., even if that someone is dead. That's a well trodden conflict, but it's well trodden for a reason - it's good. Especially if you make it feel organic, because then we don't even notice that your doing tired poo poo because we don't care because it feels natural. Then, your narrator has a clear defined goal, and he does things, and your ending makes me feel like this could be so much stronger. There's good themes in here, maybe even a good character, but there aren't enough words to flesh them out. I liked how he became reclusive and it just kind of happened, that was cool But still, I don't know who they are really. I know what they want, but I don't really know WHY. There needs to be more character, more emotions, more words. There's something in here that I want to see more of, but it's cloudy and hard to see, and I just kind of vaguely feel it.
|# ? Dec 2, 2015 18:04|
|# ? Dec 3, 2015 09:01|
Hello goons. Me and my stalwart recappers (Kaishai, Djeser, Ironic Twist) are joined by special guest Beyonce (Saddest Rhino) for a special two-part recap. This week we took a special look at not one but TWO rewrite weeks. TD has a spirited history of playing with its own special sort of poo. Special!!
Part one is a review of week 36, back in the misty dawn of Thunderdome time when we were still basically drawing pictograms on the walls with our own bodily effluent.
Part two is a review of week 162. We compare and contrast two very different eras of bad writing, and in the end determine that everything is terrible always.
We've split the episodes into two segments for your listening convenience. As always, there are bumps and thumps and crackles and other audio eccentricities. Normally, this is where I'd summarize who we talked about, but honestly we covered a lot of ground, so listen for yourself and find out!!!!
Thank you, as always, for listening, and thank you recappers.
|# ? Dec 4, 2015 08:15|
|# ? Dec 4, 2015 14:03|
|# ? Dec 5, 2015 05:31|
Signups are now closed. You have about 46 hours to finish and post.
|# ? Dec 5, 2015 06:42|
Into the Mineshaft
The entrance to the mine was a black maw ready to swallow any passerby, and I stood before it with only a tiny sabina. Their insults replayed in my mind, bringing me the strength I so desperately needed. With my sword hugged close to my chest, I charged that hungry maw.
The darkness left me surrounded by only the damp, earthy smell of the cavern itself. Occasionally, a bat would squeak and drive my nerves to the edge. I took a deep breath and managed to almost relax. When my nerves calmed down, the soft patter of footsteps echoed from behind.
I broke into a dead sprint down the mineshaft. Something caught my boot, however, and I landed face first in the gravel.
“Sir! Are you alright?”
I spat out a few pebbles that’d found their way into my mouth.
“Depends. Are you the Goblin of the Mine?”
I staggered to my feet with my sword tight in my grip and forced a smile.
“Then I’m just fine.”
I charged towards the goblin, my sword trained for his heart. When I thrusted the blade at him, however, he simply sidestepped me. I barreled at nothing for a few moments before digging my heels into the gravel and slowing to a stop.
“You look quite tired, my friend,” said the goblin.
“What of it?” I asked.
“Would you care for a cup of tea?”
I bent over heaving. Tea sounded delightful. I lifted my head up and stared at the faint silhouette standing over me.
I followed behind the goblin, the tip of my sword pressed against his back. He promised that, if I had tea with him, he’d come back to the village peacefully as a captive. He hummed a jaunty melody as we approached a door tucked into the mineshaft wall. He fiddled with a ring of keys, muttering to himself while he did so.
“No, not those. Hmm, perhaps on Wednesday. Oh goodness no…”
“Hurry up,” I said, giving him a slight poke with my sword.
“You must accept my apologies, sir. I have quite a few keys and it can become difficult keeping track of them.”
The sound of a lock clicking rang through the cavern.
“There we are,” said the goblin.
The door opened with a heavy creak. When it opened, a blinding light flooded the area. My eyes burned at the sudden illumination, and I fell into a slight daze.
“Is, is that the sun?” I asked.
“Close enough,” said the goblin.
When we stepped through the doorway, my jaw nearly fell from its hinges. A floral pasture sprawled out before us. I stepped inside, the goblin still ahead of me. He walked towards a fountain that spewed brown water and scoped some into a small teacup.
“It’s sweet tea,” he said as he handed me the cup.
I sniffed it and took a sip. The tea tasted heavenly. When I finished, a flower shot from the ground and opened its petals flat and wide.
“Go ahead, place your teacup there. The flowers don’t mind.”
The goblin walked ahead of me into the meadow. In the light I could see that he wore a red velvet suit with a matching bowler hat. It contrasted well with his muddy green skin.
“So, you wish to take me captive and bring me back to your village. I assume, then, that you’re a knight.”
I cleared my throat, unsure if I should lie or just fess up.
“No. Not yet, at least. I’m still a knave.”
Everything I kept locked in my heart gushed forth.
“I’ve never slain or captured a monster, or done anything else heroic. I’m the only knave left in the village. The knights all call me Knavel the Knave.”
“I take it your name is-”
The goblin clapped his hands, and a large bush walked over to him before settling back down. He then took a seat in what had to have been the coziest looking shrub I’ve ever seen.
“My poor, weary boy. Please take a seat.”
A smaller bush walked up to me before settling down just as the other bush had done for the goblin. I eased into it, surprised by how feathery soft it felt.
“Don’t call me sir just yet.”
“Mister Knavel, when I come back into town with you and see to it that you’re knighted, what would happen if, by any chance, I escaped?”
“You wouldn’t escape.”
The goblin chuckled.
“Oh, my dear boy, I would indeed escape. Listen, allow me to suggest a better plan for securing your knighthood.”
I narrowed my eyes at him.
“What, exactly, would you suggest?”
I sprinted from the mine, flailing my arms into the air and howling my head off.
“The Goblin of the Mine’s attacking!” I screamed.
When I reached the village, I burst into the pub. I stammered my warning again.
“The Goblin of the Mine! He’s attacking us!”
The knights brushed past me. I could tell from the banter they shared that they were drunk, yet battle hungry. They gathered near the entrance to the mine, but saw nothing. I sensed their anger. However, it vanished when the tendril sprouted.
It was a green, vine-like abomination. It erupted from the ground and swiped at least seven knights away like flies. I gripped my sabina and charged forward, unable to contain my grin. When I reached the vine, however, a dozen or so smaller tendrils snatched my arms and ensnared me.
“Hey! This wasn’t part of the deal!” I yelled.
The goblin appeared atop the main vine. He smiled at me. It wasn’t a mean spirited smirk, but an encouraging, almost fatherly grin.
“You didn’t really think victory would come so easily now, did you?”
I summoned all the strength in my right arm and slashed through the smaller vines. I hurled my blade at the goblin. He sidestepped it, but he wasn’t my target.
The sabina landed deep into the mouth of the mineshaft. It echoed for a moment, and then an army of bats flew forth. The bats swooped over the vine, and by extension the goblin. I yelled to one of my fellow knights.
“He’s distracted, now!”
The knight drew his bow and let an arrow fly. It found its mark. The goblin gave me a grin, even though he had an arrow lodged in his shoulder. The vines sank back into the earth, along with the goblin.
My fellow knights grabbed and lifted the archer and I.
“Let’s hear it for these two! Schinder the Archer, and Knavel the Knight!”
|# ? Dec 6, 2015 03:53|
THUNDERDOME WEEK CLXXI - BREVITY IS THE SOUL OF CRIT
i was ready to kill myself at the halfway mark but luckily gp wrote a story this week
Lazy Beggar – A Sealed Fate
Well. You did it. You wrote an entry based on an alternate interpretation of the term “clubbing incident”. You had to make a lot of sacrifices to achieve this. You had to write a poo poo story. But you did it. So congrats. If you ever submit this anywhere I hope you also supply the prompt, so the poor soul reading this at least gets a chuckle out it before they toss your paper in the trash and drown their memories of “that fateful night” in gin.
A lot went wrong here, and most of it because you shoehorned arctic seal clubbing and urban vandalism into the same story. What starts out as a decent shot at survival horror (not without its problems, but I’ll get to that in a second) ends abruptly, a flaccid disappointment, kinda like when you score a hot chick but you had too much to drink to, eherm, perform, and then it’s super embarrassing and you just want it to end, but it doesn’t, it drags on, and on, her waiting for an opportunity to leave, you sitting on the bed like a deflated whoopee cushion, alternating between excuses and agreeing with her that, “Yeah it happens to everyone, he he,” until eventually the sun comes up and you find yourself talking to an empty bed and the fragrant leftovers of Chanel Allure. It’s a freakshow of an ending, a malignant tumor that refuses to die and I don’t understand why until I scroll back up and realize that you were trying to get cute with the prompt.
Everything before that, it still isn’t good. Your beginning is a rambling mess. There’s jargon (“breaker”, “un-molted coats”), but none of the context necessary to understand it. Stuff happens, but it bores me. I understand that you want the horror to build up slowly, but then something else needs to be interesting in the meantime, imagery, conflict, action, anything, and I just don’t see it. The way the build-up is told also doesn’t work. Like he sees those figures on the horizon and thinks they’re human. But then those aren’t his humans. But then there are his humans, but there are seal skins everywhere. But then wait, the other humans are actually seals! Oh wait, they’re actually zombie seals!! Your description should mirror the impressions of your protagonist in that situation. I don’t believe anyone can mistake a seal for a human. I don’t believe anyone would first notice the fact that there’s seals, and THEN notice that they’ve got no skin. So then you feed those pictures to my head, in that order, and it refuses to accept them because they make no sense.
Now. Here’s the silver lining: I glimpsed a neat idea somewhere down there, winking out at me like a speck of gold from the bottom of a Klondike outhouse. The zombie seals idea is pretty cool. The idea of having a seal clubber be haunted by his victims is also pretty cool. Just toss the dumb poo poo with the Canadian suburbs. Write your seal clubbing story, and then add the extras if you still need them.
Until then, this is just a losing story. Yes, your prompt joke made me smile. Ha. Ha. Very clever. I hope it was worth it.
docbeard – Church Wedding
I’m reading this and my thoughts constantly revolve around the words “trite garbage” the same way a swarm of starving flies revolves around a pile of cow dung. It’s the kind of story we’ve all seen before, the tvtropes.com/space-shootout pastejob, a low-hanging fruit salad of bland sci-fi action scenes. The kind of thing I’d expect a newbie to write when they’re too insecure about their story, so they try to “spice it up” with laser guns and space mercenaries. I turn off judgemode. docbeard. What in the blazing gently caress--
I know you can do SciFi. gently caress, two of your wins came from me. But this, this is a story that starts with the protagonist “checking her weapons” (Oorah! I’M GOING IN HOT TEN HUT!!!). There are two flashbacks, and the second is a text-message out of nowhere that explains the conflict of the story. There are shootouts, but they are about as exciting as a documentary about ISO paper formats. There’s nothing original about them, or the way you describe them. They are also confusing because they drop a lot of names and factions at me, and almost none of them actually matter. And if you really think about it, why is this in a futuristic setting? Couldn’t this just as well take place amongst rival gangster factions in 1950 New York City? Of course it could. It works just as well and THAT’S BAD! If you want to write Romeo in Space then by all means knock yourself out but actually make the setting matter instead of just slapping PEW PEW PEW onto your love drama.
Alright so we’ve got a flat story and a stale setting. I still caught myself thinking, like, man, if this would have at least been better written, maybe dropped the non-linear storytelling gimmick, you know, you could get some mileage out of this. Just give me something interesting. Setting, voice, prose, images, anything. Because the conflict is there. It’s solid. But the implementation feels like the kind of stuff you sneeze out when it’s Sunday night and you’re desperate.
It would have been cool to see Angela and Corren work on a way to get him out of his debt. You know, some of that gritty dystopian crime drama that really carves the skin off your soul. Instead you wrote her going in guns blazing and everything dies and then it ends. And that thing with his laughter? Nice try. You didn’t come up with any original ways of describing it, but I’m sure it’s a totally relevant element of the story and not just a way for you to cut away halfway through.
Yes. You stopped in the middle of the rescue mission. We noticed.
What can I say. I wanted to DM this, but it didn’t happen. Fair enough but screw this story anyway.
jon joe – The Title
Your opener had me bob my head and go “Yes finally, here comes the entertain-train.” And then the entertain-train left the station and crashed because someone had torn out the tracks from underneath it. That was you. You crashed the entertain-train.
I find myself going through this as your protagonist explains the backstory to his predicament, and that’s all it is, just background filler, and as you ramble on and on about the title and that woman I really just want you to get back to the devil. Because the devil is cool. When the devil makes a deal, fun stuff happens. Someone always gets tricked. I love it when that happens. Well. Turns out I’m the one getting tricked. Because we do get back, and then nothing actually happens with the devil. So you’ve got an interesting setup for a frame story, but you only use it so you can tell a less interesting story as flashback. These are bad decisions. Please do not make them again.
I also want you to get back to the devil for another reason: it’s the main timeline. Because when you start at a certain point in the story, and then rewind to the past, you’re essentially stopping the perceived flow of action. You’re writing a flashback. Of course, there’s more to it than that. In media res beginnings start in the future, and then rewind to the present. Good frame stories jump between timelines, but make sure that all the timelines are interesting and relevant, and often there’s some kind of interaction between the layers. Some flashbacks can even be entertaining! But you, you made a flashback, and it was boring, and what a boring flashback does, it explains the background to us, and in our head, the car salesman and the devil just stand there making awkward conversation while they wait for us to come back.
So I stopped caring real quick. I should have been tipped off when you started talking of scotch, and “the boring life of a car salesman”, two indicators of a writer who really doesn’t know how to do interesting. I appreciate that you tried to add some flavorful details to the story, but boredom isn’t flavor and whisky is the McDonalds of drinking habits.
But mostly I just don’t know why you organized your story like that. The devil setup was promising, but nothing happened in it. The actual story, the fight for the title, was solid, but it was explained in hindsight, and that’s no fun. At least I expected the janitor to be satan, you know, to give us some kind of punchline, something that connects the two layers of the story other than “he happened to die so that’s why he’s dead”. But even that was a dud. In the end, stuff happened.
I still liked it more than the previous two stories, which once again shows how an interesting opener can generate a shitton of goodwill, even if it evaporates into a thin, rancid cloud of what-could-have-been.
brotherly – Mister Rogers
This was the first story I considered decent. It has some subtlety to it, specifically to the kind of people your main characters are. He’s the spiteful ex. She’s the apathetic protagonist. There’s a conflict I can follow. There’s action I understand. It’s not the greatest story in the book, but this is Thunderdome.
So what did you do wrong? Still a lot, actually. The story itself is a bit flat. The action is there, but the characters don’t learn much, and we don’t learn much about them either. It’s all just about getting the loving bird back and that’s nice and all but take your story and compare it to crabrock’s and really just look at the characters and you’ll probably notice that you end up knowing a lot more about his than about the ones you wrote yourself. This is a personal drama, so we really need a bit more insight into these guys and gals, be it through voice or plot, just something that tells me what the gently caress is going on in her head and why it matters. Or you could go with the dark comedy angle but then you need to push that a lot more.
The ending is really dumb. Why would the cops arrest someone when clearly people are breaking into his house. Why is everyone okay with that too? I know he’s the jerk but it still feels a bit crass, and it makes me think that your girl protagonists are the same kind of petty and spiteful people as the boyfriend whom I’m supposed to hate. Why do you refuse to name the boyfriend anyway? Like, when you write: “Roger ate grapes. He didn’t notice the cops taking him away.” Can you see how that might not come off as intended? name your characters dullard you aren’t being fancy *slaps the dumb gimmick out of ur hand*
The break-in scene was pretty weird anyway. It reads as if they pushed past the boyfriend deeper into the apartment to trap themselves. I don’t see how else the words you wrote would work, and then I think, what the gently caress. Are these people… dumb???
This is a story, even okay-ish, kinda, but it’s undercooked. It needs a proper concept, a theme, something that gives it a reason to exist other than “well i had to write a story this week”. I had this down for a potential HM, if everything else was garbage and we wouldn’t have a winner this week. It’s not much, but you deserve it.
BoldFrankensteinMir – Sleepover and Out
I knew this was a newbie story because SAID-BOOKISMS. “But Entenzahn, what are said-bookisms?” he questioned. “A crime against humanity”, Entenzahn said, “right up there with adverbs. Use Google, bitch.”
So. This was a bad story. It’s okay, it happens, welcome to Thunderdome, you’ll be writing those for a while. What was bad about it though? Pretty much everything. Allow me to elaborate:
It’s about a fight between two children. In theory. In practice, it’s about a sleepover. Did you ever read a book that’s just about a sleepover? You didn’t, because nobody writes them, because that’s boring. “But Entenzahn,” you say. “It is not a normal sleepover. It’s in SPACE!!” Well, here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter if the kid goes to his neighbor’s house by foot or drop pod, it’s still just a loving sleepover. You can definitely make it interesting, but that takes some writing chops, or a good twist, and you have neither. So basically I watch this guy walking his son over to the neighbors, and then the neighbor’s son is being a nerd, and then they talk about videogames and it’s just euughhhhh oh my god will you look at the time
I do actually like your setting. The image of an American space suburb above a ravaged earth is pretty cool. But your story is boring, and it doesn’t make any use of the setting anyway. So it’s a noble effort, but pointless, like most noble deeds actually.
The supposed highlight is the video game scene, but it’s just dumb, because the boy takes too long to realize that he’s in a virtual reality, and his friend is a fucker for not explaining it, and I don’t really know what’s going on other than weird poo poo flies in Zen’s face. Symptomatic for your story as a whole, the actual fight between the two boys is just glanced over. Also you stop naming your protagonist at this point, which is weird because the story is still from his perspective, so it’s like he forgets who he is, or he’s watching some other knight, or we changed protagonist. But then I’m still not 100% sure what’s going on in that scene. Which brings me to the next problem: the prose.
Sometimes it lacks clarity, like at the start when there’s a lot of space lingo without context. “Zen's cargo cube was packed with essentials.” This sentence throws me off. What’s a cargo cube? What is Zen? I thought this was some ship’s cargo hold at first.
Sometimes the descriptions are awkward, and cumbersome. Take this sentence: “It emitted triumphant sounds of accomplishment.” Purrrrrrrrrple: Too many big, fancy words. Write natural. ‘Triumphant’ and ‘accomplishment’ say the same thing. And what does it sound like? “Zebulon leveled up. The trumpets almost blew Zen off his horse.” <- maybe not what you had in mind but a bit more punchy don’t you think?
The dialogue is awkward and not interesting. In real life when a kid tells me about “that awesome video game” and makes laser noises I just tune out, and that’s kinda the same thing that will happen to anyone who reads this story. The kid dialogue isn’t very believable anyway. It’s too much on the nose with how hyperactive Zebulon is. He’s an annoying caricature.
That may sound like I didn’t like your story, but honestly, I just really didn’t like your story. Well. Now you know, and you even know why. The answer to all these problems, young padawan, is to read more, write more, and edit your stories. I know it sucks. But it’s like eating broccoli. There’s a reason the grown-ups do it.
Thranguy – Current Playlist: All The Worst Songs, Ever
At this point I’m convinced that either you’re an open browser tab on a public library computer, or that you’re just really, really, really loving drunk sometimes because how else can a former TD winner crank out such a loving mess of a story. Serious question.
There is very little that’s worse than a storytelling gimmick poorly executed, and I don’t just mean in writing but in general, and the baseline gimmick quality of timeline jumps is pretty low to begin with so lol. It’s like, you weren’t just happy with the non-linear narrative. You had to make a puzzle out of it, dissect it, tear it up into bleak little pieces of confetti, and then you ate the confetti and spat it back out into my face and said “Go figure it out yourself.” I’m harping a lot on this but the non-linear narrative is actively bad to a point where even though on some level I knew what story I was reading, because I recognized the theme within the individual scenes, your weird time-jumps still threw me off all the time. The scenes themselves don’t bother establishing what time it is, and you reuse so many locations and assets and ideas, the only way to even have a chance at making sense of this is to write down the inbetween-headlines and keep track of events on a notepad. There is no rhyme or reason to it. It’s the dark ambience of plotting techniques.
You are a writer who knows his characters, and how to transfer that knowledge into your readers’ heads, and sadly you decided that everyone in your story should be a loving rear end in a top hat. So that’s all I take from this story, a sorry celebration of one-upmanship, a clown fiesta full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Am I supposed to be happy that the protagonist gets away? Should I be disgusted? Should I feel nothing, just lay down and wait for it to be over, my soul a barren landscape of readerly nonresistance where I once was a person? What did I learn from this? What’s your message here? “Maybe don’t crash weddings. Unless you’re sure.” thank you senpai
Like, the whole part where he learns that there is no baby, and then his first realization is “uh oh maybe now my baby recording will be inappropriate.” i just man that sure throws a wrench in his plans to… ???????????????????
But that realization only comes halfway through so until then I know even less of what’s going on. That’s a common problem in this story. Like when he screws around with the sound system while the Reverend speaks but I have no idea what he’s doing because you still have to jump back in time to explain the rigged sound system to me, and what it does and why, to make sense of all the poo poo that came before. Then there’s very little in the way of tension here, because I don’t care about anyone, and I have no idea what’s at stake, or what’s going on in general, and also the sneaky action is so effortless. It’s like he’s rattling off a checklist of mind-numbingly easy chores, break into church, CHECK, set up complicated sound trigger system, CHECK, sabotage DJ booth, CHECK. He even goes out of his way to state how trivial and easy all of it is, which, as you know, is a great way to build suspense. Then he goes back and undoes everything and it’s even more effortless, except for the playlist, but not because something prevents him from fixing it, he just forgets, you lazy bastard and goddamnit gently caress gently caress damnit I hate this story so much why couldn’t this lose FUC
C7ty1 – K9: Genuine Canine
I feel like you wrote two different stories, and then you propelled one into the other at supersonic speed so they collided into some kind of bizarre wreck, a trash heap warped at odd angles, impossible to parse for the human mind. Because I have no idea how we logically get from scene 1 to scene 2. I just don’t see the connection. You start with Andy, and the setting is kinda nebulous but I gather that he’s a nerd who builds robots in his bedroom, and it is heavily implied that he builds a dogbot. The next scene is him running around the airport yelling “WHERE’S MAH DOG”.
But then he already knows that his sister has it, and that’s where we get to the second big problem: I have no clue what the story is about, or what anyone wants, or knows, or what anyone’s agenda is. Something something Daphne has the dog, but whether or not Andy was informed about it I can’t tell, or how it got to that point, or why, or what exactly Andy’s problem is, or if there is any problem at all, or what Daphne’s problem may or may not be, or why they are meeting at this point, or whatever the gently caress is going on. Because you say many things, but none of them are important. The words you throw at me just plonk off me like rain off a comically heavily waterproofed window. The focus switches from the mecha-dog to the sibling relationship, but I’m not sure what kind of relationship the siblings have because the narration doesn’t give me the attitude I need to figure it out, and there isn’t much going on other than their nebulous proxy fight about the dog. I just wanna take your story and shake it by the ankles until the information falls out but it’s all over the place so I even can’t pin it down.
It’s like this whole thing just exists because you want to show me that Andy cares more about his mecha-dog than about his family, but I’m not sure why I’m supposed to care, and you didn’t actually bother writing a proper story about that anyway. There have to be concrete events that illustrate these problems, and you have to make me feel their consequences. Instead you just toss your two protagonists into a vacuum and then make them vaguely point out their differences through dialogue.
Which brings me back to the first scene: you probably wrote that to show us that Andy feels a deep connection to his dog, make us understand why it matters. But here’s the problem: you didn’t actually show us that Andy feels a deep connection to his dog. In fact, all we see of Andy and the dog in the first scene is one sentence that implies its existence. You explain why he builds it, and you briefly show the process of building it, and that goes a little way, but not far. Which is a shame because this is probably the first SciFi story this week that could have actually made use of its SciFi assets, but instead you demoted your dogbot to a soulless McGuffin for the siblings to fight over.
Your prose is a bit spotty in places but honestly I think if you edit your future stories that problem will start to disappear, as the beginning seems pretty competent (I assume you rewrote it a few times). If you need a pointer, most of the bits where the siblings interact or argue with each other are hamfisted, and most of the bits where Andy does stuff with the dog is more well written.
Grizzled Patriarch – A Little Bird the Ants Have Gotten To
When I judge entries, I don’t rate them based on some arbitrary checklist. I read them, and then either I enjoy them, or I don’t. And then I analyze why. And objectively, I look at what you tried to do, and whether you succeeded at it. So those are my key points: did I like it, and was it well done. Now. Maybe I’m just a simple city boy, from simple Vienna, where the church bells still ring in the morning and we eat bread and butter for breakfast instead of McGriddles. But when one of the other judges even admits that they loved your piece and I still have to fight tooth and nails to at least get an HM, I don’t know what the gently caress.
I often give you poo poo for not writing stories, because you have a habit of coming up with good ideas and not following through on them. Like, you don’t come to a pottery contest and slam a blob of clay and a sketch on the table. You need to make a whole thing. You need to know what you’re writing about, and you need to finish the work, or else I’m unsatisfied.
This was a complete thing. It came full circle. It was understandable. And it was good. It was a story about revenge. You breezed through the middle bit, but I think that worked well for the kind of confessional format you were going for.
I really enjoyed this. I enjoyed it because the prose was baller, and tight as gently caress. Yeah that’s your usual thing but in a shocking turn of events I don’t hold that against you. I enjoyed it because the beginning sucker-punched me in a way that made me ask for more, and because the story was full of those sweet subtleties, those little moments where you realize things on your own without having them spelt out for you. The POV shift is one good example. The slow, creeping realization of who the protagonist is talking to is another one. These moments work, because you use the right images, and play off the right tropes, at the right moment. It’s smart and elegant, and as a man of class I can appreciate smart and elegant.
To be honest, there’s just nothing that really bothers me about this. There are some things that go against the usual “rules” for storytelling: during the course of the story’s present timeline, the protagonist is not challenged; and there’s a lot of background exposition. But these problems kinda solve each other. The beginning invokes so much sympathy in me that I really care about the protagonist’s backstory, and that story is so sad that I feel like this guy has overcome many challenges. It’s just so well incorporated into the rest of this piece, and then I don’t give a poo poo that it’s “just” a backstory. And sure, a major part of that success is also your prose, but what works, loving works.
Basically, this is the kind of thing I’d like to see you write more often. Something that comes full circle. This blows everything out of the water that came before it, and I still think it’s the best piece overall because it’s just so drat enjoyable and satisfying.
Broenheim – When God Sings for You, You Lose Your Voice
We couldn’t actually agree on what this piece was trying to say. Not having a voice is better than using someone else’s? People don’t always like you for who you are? Sometimes God just fucks you? In the same way, we had different ideas for what the core element of the story was supposed to be. The mother-daughter relationship? God’s scheme? The daughter’s struggle with her voice? It is a mystery. In the end, your story is about none of these things. They all just kinda happen at the same time.
Of course, this kind of analysis happens in hindsight. What that means in practice, at my time of reading, is that I get bored. You weren’t fully on-board with yourself about what story you were going to write, so you didn’t pick any one facet to develop or escalate. You just tell me the it’s all there over a series of equally placid scenes, and it gets stale. Much like the problem I had with your winning monster story back in the day, the conflict exists, and it’s fine, and it’s a neat idea, but you don’t go anywhere with it. You don’t show me enough of what effect the daughter’s voice condition has on her, or what she does about it, or how it changes her view on life, or how it changes anyone around her. She always dislikes her voice, and she still dislikes her voice by the end, and the only thing that changes is that she finally decides to get rid of it for *reasons* so she goes “I don’t actually want this” and God is like “Oh. Okay.”, the end.
Like a tiny stream trickling down the rugged mountainside, it’s pleasant to look at, but ultimately too thin to sustain any kind of life. The mother-daughter angle could have made this a lot stronger, but you did nowhere near enough work on it. It feels like an afterthought, something you slapped onto your story last-minute when you felt like it needed more sustenance. But then this is also kind of a dark story if you really think about it, and that darkness exists in an unexpected context, so you could have also pushed that aspect a lot more.
I think this could be a unique story if you dared to be a bit more out there, a bit more hosed-up, and, you know, kinda come to an agreement with yourself about what you’re really trying to say. As it is, I didn't support the HM. It’s got potential, but potential is cheap.
Propaganda Machine – Caveat Emptor
For full disclosure, I didn’t think this was that much worse than some other stories we didn’t DM. But you know how it is, you can’t DM all the loving stories, or you can, but not if your head judge is one of those rosy-cheeked lip-quivering babies that just wants for Thunderdome to see it as the gentle soul that it is, so DM slots are low in supply and the few lucky victims are chosen through a series of yelling with your ears closed and shady back-alley dealings. But, BUT, this was still bad so let’s not make any excuses. Oh yeah, it was so bad. There was a lot of bickering in judgechat that week, but this wasn’t a story, and that was basically the only thing we all agreed on.
Here’s your plot synopsis: a man drives home from work thinking about his life, and then his dog. He hates his dog. He arrives home and his dog is gone. The man leaves an angry voicemail to the woman who sold him the dog. She thinks about how she betrayed him. Imagine not being the author for a second and read through it again. Yup.
You will notice that the only observable actions in this synopsis are: a man drives home, a man thinks, a man makes a phone call, a woman thinks. Writing allows us to deal heavily with introspection, the inner workings of characters, but you still need to give the reader some images that they can latch on to. Show them something nice, something cool, something interesting or sad, make something happen, anything other than having people sit around and be boring, which of course is any Thunderdomer’s favorite Sunday activity but let’s push for something a bit more out there next time okay?
Also you need to figure out what story you’re writing, and then focus on that. You give me so many incidental details about this guy’s life, and you state so little of the important things directly, I don’t know what story I’m supposed to expect, what story I’m reading, what parts I’m supposed to focus on. I don’t get the core conflict, and that’s a huge problem. After a while I kinda take away that it’s about his dog, but then I don’t get what the problem is. But then I get it, but I don’t know why the dog is so problematic, or important, but then the story isn’t about the problematic dog anymore, it’s about the dog’s disappearance. But then it isn’t.
Basically, here’s what I think happened: you got your prompt, Man sues over ill-behaved dog. Then you thought to yourself, “Neat! I’ll write a story that explains my prompt.” But you weren’t supposed to describe the circumstance that led to the trial. You were supposed to write a story about the conflict. Here’s an alternative suggestion: man buys dog - man realizes his dog is fake - man takes revenge by having the dog poo poo on the woman’s yard, bonding with his pet in the process. Or something like that.
So for your next story, think about this: where is the conflict? If one of my characters were to do something about that conflict, what would they do? How would the other party react to that? Write, and start with the conflict as soon as possible. Think about what’s interesting about your story. Think about what’s boring about your story. Fix the boring parts and push the interesting parts.
But only do that after you’ve printed out this story, framed it, titled it “NEVER AGAIN” and hung it above your writing desk. Welcome to Thunderdome.
Sitting Here – Munchausen Siphon by Proxy
This was pretty loving weird and I don’t mean the good kind of weird, except I kinda do. It’s like that picture with the vase and the two faces, only at first I see a lovely MC Escher painting of a story but the more I look at it the more it changes to something decent and then I can accept both ways to look at it.
The esoteric language on this piece is so thick that you can cut it off and make a coat out of it that will last you through the Siberian winter. At first I’m not really sure what I’m reading. It’s a bit hard to accept the reality of the situation, like when she hugs her son butt-naked like it’s something totally normal to do and then I’m not sure if I’m understanding you or what world we’re in. It takes a while to settle in and really unfold like the beautiful hosed-up lotus flower that it is.
So there's all this imagery and some of it is really cool, but sometimes it intrudes on the action so that I’m not sure if you’re going for a figure of speech or if I’m supposed to take you literally, like when Nancy “siphons Carl’s pain”, or when she trades places with Carl and gets sick with his disease or whatever the gently caress happened in that part. It’s just sometimes so off the hook that it’s impossible to tell where the flowery language stops and the real world begins, and that makes it hard to follow the plot. It’s like you weren’t 100% sure if this was just going to be a pretty prose experiment or a proper story situated in something resembling the real world, and then you didn’t bother to redo some parts after you’d figured it out, or maybe your story just put on a bit too much makeup here and there. Either way, the delicate problem with telling a story from the POV of a crazy person is that crazy people sometimes don’t make sense and that’s something you have to watch out for.
Once I understood what story I was reading, I thought it was really cool. For all the moments where I’m not sure what you’re on about, there’s still a lot of stuff I enjoy, like the pretty prose (example: the way Carl hugs the toilet) or just the way you tell a very ordinary story of an overbearing mother through a fresh POV. There’s some clarity issues, but at least it’s interesting.
I liked this. We all did, but the thing is, we almost forgot about it, because everyone had a different win candidate, none of which was you, and that also says something. Your prose is pretty baller, just a bit too far off the edge sometimes. But at least it gets that totally hosed-up vibe down that I missed in some other stories. There's been a lot of writers this week that could have really benefitted from doing what you did here, and they should read your piece and learn from it, but they never will because they only read their own crits. Lol.
Anyway, I would have liked this better if you’d sorted it out, just a bit, at least in the beginning, so it’s a bit easier to tell what’s really going on and what’s in her head, you know, properly establish what kind of reality this story takes place in. But then some people like the adventure of the unknown, and who am I to judge their disgusting, unnatural habits
crabrock – Filling Up
This was a solid story, which is not necessarily the pinnacle of thunderdoming but I guess in dark times such as these, the lowest common denominator isn’t just Hollywood’s problem anymore.
So you are a writer who tends to edit his stories more often than not, and I respect that, and I also respect that kind of literary, character-centric approach that you often have to storytelling, but one thing I keep stumbling over is your pacing. Because you tend to write those meandering, aimless first halfs where I sit here and I’m like, I don’t think you understand what the “flash” part of “flash fiction” implies. You do pull through in the end, but it’s like, man, just go in there guns blazing. Your weird surgery sex thing for instance. That thing had panache. But this? This is the kind of thing you read to a kid to punish it for spilling grape juice on the sofa. I’ll forget it as soon as I’m done with this crit. It’s solid, but so is a concrete block house.
What I’m trying to say is, your story bored me. It starts out okay actually, but then the trailer park happens and admittedly, it’s a nice picture, but it isn’t going anywhere, and at the point where the protagonist asks himself, wait a second why the gently caress do I care about what my ex wife wants, the point where you tell me that this is what the story is actually about, at that point it’s almost over again. And the way you do it is so odd. Because in a way, he already made that choice in the beginning. And then having him say “I don’t know why that perfectly normal conversation just now changed me, but it did!!!” is super loving lazy.
I’m just not sure what the point of the long trailer park scene is. Because your story starts out interesting but then it loops back around on itself until we make the same choice again. And I feel Don’s bleak present, just from the voice in the narration, because this is decently written, I understand what kind of man he is and what kind of past he had, and you also show me some of that in the beginning, but for me personally the trailer park scene waters everything down because it doesn’t give Don anything to do, and the core conflict of the piece is put on hold for like 700 words. And then I don’t feel his deeply buried desire to free himself of his ex-wife as much, or any kind of intensity really.
Obviously the prose is still pretty good here and if you went for a slower, more thoughtful pace, well those are the vibes you got across. For me personally, it's too slack. You've got a bouncing castle and a bitch ex-wife to work with and those are fun things but you don’t use either very much and I think that’s a shame. That said, the beginning is nice and the ending is really good. It’s just that the inbetween never gets above the baseline decency of being a proofread piece of prose.
What can I say. It was nice, it was real, but I’ve seen you do some real original, fun poo poo and this isn’t anywhere close.
|# ? Dec 6, 2015 17:09|
Thanks for the crit, Entezahn.
|# ? Dec 6, 2015 18:13|
|# ? Nov 20, 2018 17:55|
thanks for the crits you beautiful dicklord
|# ? Dec 6, 2015 19:54|