God Doesn't Play Chess
Barton sipped his coffee and considered the chessboard. Above him, on a flickering video screen, Isaac Newton studied a mirror reflection of the same board.
"The standing wager, I assume," said Newton.
"I don't see why not," Barton said.
It was only the third time they had played, somehow Barton had managed to win both of their previous matches. He did, however, have the slight suspicion Newton had been toying with him.
"What time is it where you are," Newton said as he laid a finger on a pawn.
Barton glanced at his version of the board, "You know I can't tell you that."
That was rule number one, a Chinese Wall in place between past and present. Information could come forward, it couldn't go back. That was the one and only rule that governed every interaction with the past. It could not, under any circumstances, be broken.
Newton slid the pawn forward, his finger stayed on it, "You are such a follower of rules."
"Don't make me tell you how you die," Barton said.
Newton released the pawn, the move completed, "Are we rethinking our little bet?"
Interference scattered across the video connection, Barton groaned and began to fiddle with a few of the quantum stability dials. The main gauges wobbled back and forth before they steadied back into green and the interference disappeared. It cost billions of dollars, and used a measurable percentage of the British power grid, but maintaining a chromatic-quantum-transdimensional connection really was as easy as spinning the radio dial.
Barton moved quickly, "Queen to King's Rook Five," he said.
Newton on his end made the change to Barton's Queen. Voice went both ways, video was a one way affair.
"Aggressive," Newton said.
On the screen Isaac settled back into his large leather chair, outside the field of view a fire crackled and Barton could just barely make out the faint sound of bells. That would be St. Pauls, he thought. He was listening to the heart of London across two hundred years. The bells tolled one.
"Getting late in the evening for you," Barton said.
"I have an experiment I am waiting on," Newton said.
"Alchemy?" Barton asked.
"No, should I cast some of my attention in that direction?"
Barton laughed and disguised it poorly, "I wouldn't."
"Might I ask a question?"
"I'll answer if I can," Barton said.
"You know what day it is here, yes?"
"Of course," Barton said, "The system wouldn't work otherwise."
Newton's fingers were drumming on his board, "Then you know what I did today?"
"I don't, actually. By all our accounts it was an unremarkable day," Barton lied.
"How disappointing," said Newton.
A few hours ago, give or take, Newton had been playing with a prism and on a whim set it up on his window. The light had refracted through the small glass and projected a perfect spectrum onto his bedroom wall. An idle experiment by a genius and science suddenly could explain color. It was a revolutionary leap forward. Barton kept this to himself.
Newton reached just outside of the viewing area and lifted a goblet of wine into the frame, one of the history's great men looked tired, almost feeble, with bags under his eyes and sunken cheeks. You could see the bones flexing in his small hands. There was no brilliant light in his eyes, no spark of genius; he just seemedunwashed. He always looked like that, as though he never slept or bathed. Barton wasn't sure what he had been expecting, a visage of marble illuminated by rays of cosmic light?
Newton made his move.
Barton reacted instinctively, shuffling his queen, "Alice to Queen's 8th."
Newton looked down at his board, frowning, "A reference to something?"
Barton bit his tongue, "Er, yes, a book."
"Ah," Newton said, "Not written yet, I assume?"
"Would I like it?"
"I don't think that will matter."
Newton moved a bishop, "I have to say, it's a little disappointing to discover I don't live forever."
Barton laughed, Newton heard and smiled in response.
With a confident gesture Newton deployed a pawn. Barton sat up in his chair, eyes narrowed on the screen. It was an opening, a bumbling mistake that seemed too obvious. It had to be a trap. Variations on a dozen different strategies scrolled through Barton's mind; he had to entertain the idea of being caught in the gambit, without letting it sink his chances.
The silence seemed to register with Newton, he was smiling in the general direction of the feed. Barton heard a soft knocking on Newton's end.
"Come in," said Newton.
A young servant shuffled into the room, he was carrying a glass decanter in his hands. "Pardon the interruption, sir," the servant said, "I just wanted to check and see if you wanted more wine. Or perhaps a bit to eat? I could have Miss Anderson whip something up."
Newton kept his eyes towards Barton, as if he were daring Barton to speak. What would the poor servant think when a voice came booming out of nothing, perhaps that his master was communing with demons, or that in his genius Newton regularly spoke in private with Gods? It wouldn't hurt the timeline, servants were neither trusted nor remembered.
"No, I ate this morning, thank you, David. I believe I am fine for this evening. You may retire," said Newton.
Barton watched the servant bow politely and back out of the room. The door closed gently.
"It is your move," Newton glanced at an hourglass on his desk, "And I do believe your time is up."
"Er, Bishop to King's Rook Four," Barton said.
Barton clapped his hands together, the trap had been evaded, and he had countered with an even better one. And then he saw how terrible a mistake he had made.
The game unraveled quickly. It only took three more moves and Barton realized he was done. He put up a meager defense, knowing the game was lost but doing his best to make it last a move or two longer. It was all over before Newton had even finished his wine.
On his side Barton was staring at the board, he reached out and tipped his King over. In the small room its fall echoed loudly.
"I believe I am ready for my winnings now, my friend," Newton said.
Barton was chewing on his tongue, "drat."
"Now now. Don't be a spoiled loser! You walked away the victor in both our previous matches."
"Just remember, please, it's only for fun," Barton said.
Besides, Barton told himself, two hundred years of essential scientific knowledge separated Newton from the prize they had wagered. He was sure it would amount to no more than an enigma to torture Newton; Really, what is the worst that could happen?
"Fine. God drat it fine," Barton said, "Energy is equal...
Lines of static rippled on the view, Barton could see Newton was writing.
"...to mass times..."
Heavy interference danced across the screen.
"...the speed of light squared."
The bells of St. Paul's were ringing again.
|# ? Jun 8, 2015 04:14|
|# ? Sep 28, 2022 20:01|
To Tell the Truth...
Flash Rule: Your characters bet on something you wouldn't usually think to bet on.
With every step back to his apartment, the lingering euphoria from Craig's latest hookup with Samantha diminished, and it's wake grew the crushing guilt all cheaters know. It grew as a knot in his stomach, winding tighter and tighter, and by the time he reached the apartment he shared with his girlfriend, Rebecca, it sat like a cannonball in his gut.
I'm a monster, he thought as his fingers fumbled with his keys, I've taken something as pure as someone's love and I've twisted it, turned it into something horrible. I need to come clean and confess to her. Craig had been trying to find a way to come clean and tell Rebecca ever since the first time he slept with Samantha five weeks ago, but each time he tried he lost his nerve.
It wasn't that he was afraid of losing Rebecca, since in many ways it felt like he'd already lost her. Ever since she started her new job as an executive assistant a few months ago their relationship had started deteriorating. Her boss was a night owl that demanded she worked absurdly late hours, which lead to Craig barely getting a chance to see her any more. The romance was gone and the relationship was dead, Craig just didn't have the heart to bury it.
His phone buzzed. He unlocked it and saw a text from Samantha. “u have to tell her about us...”
“I know, I will. Tonight's the night...” he sent back, then deleted the conversation out of habit. He had told Sam he would before, but this time he was serious. With a resigned sigh, he opened the door and stepped inside.
“Becca? You home?” he called. The apartment was dark, so he reached out for the lamp on the end table by the door but found the lamp missing. He cursed under his breath as he stumbled through his living room blind, stepped on something that crunched under his boot, flicked the light switch on the far wall on, and discovered that his living room has been trashed. Chairs were toppled, the coffee table was flipped, and the thing that he had stepped on was a piece of the lamp, which looked like someone had hurled it clear across the room.
“Becca?” Craig pulled his phone out and was in the middle of dialing 911 when he heard her voice, filtering in through the open window.
“I'm on the roof. Come on up.”
“Becca? What happened? Are you okay?” he asked, but she didn't answer, so he stepped out onto the fire escape and climbed up towards the roof. When he found her at the top his heart leapt into his throat, “What are you doing?!”
“I'm just enjoying the view,” Rebecca said. She stood at the edge of the roof, barefoot, silhouetted against the New York skyline, seemingly oblivious to the wind tugging violently at her dress and threatening to yank her over towards certain death. “This city is so bright at night, as bright as day.”
Craig approached slowly, wary of making sudden movements. “Sweetie, why don't you come down and enjoy the view where it's safe?”
“I like it better up here. Besides, wouldn't it be easier for you if I fell?”
He blinked, mouth agape. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“I don't know, what am I talk about?”
There was a serene detachment in Rebecca's tone that reminded Craig of his last conversation with his grandmother before she passed away, and his hear started pounding in his chest. Oh my god, this is all my fault. She found out I cheated on her and now she's going to kill herself. “Look, whatever is going on right now I want to help, but to do that I need you to come down here and talk to me.”
“Let's make a bet. If you win then I'll come on down and we can talk about this, just as you like. But if I win, well...” she glanced downwards.
“I'd never accept a bet where you threaten to kill yourself.”
“Fine, then.” Rebecca shrugged and started to take a step forward.
“Whoa! Wait!” he shouted, and she stopped short.
“The bet, then?”
“Yeah, I'll do it. What are we betting on?”
She gave him a sad smile, “I bet you don't have the courage to tell me the truth.”
A cold dread creept up his spine, “What about?”
“Where were you tonight?”
“I- I was stuck late for another shoot.”
“That's been happening a lot lately.”
“It's that new client I told you about. They're picky about everything and they keep sending back proofs to be retouched. There's nothing I can do about it.”
Rebecca fixed him with a withering glare and Craig knew she saw right through him.
“Okay...I didn't have to stay today...” his mind was racing for something – anything to tell her. “But...”
“But...” she said.
“But I...look, the...ugh...the reason I've been staying late is...I've been trying to make some extra money.” Rebecca rolled her eyes, but an idea popped into his head and he pressed onwards, “You see, ever since you started your new job you've been making more money than me, and I know this sounds super dumb, but I guess I started feeling weird about it. I thought I was secure enough in masculinity where it wouldn't bother me but I guess it did. I should have said something sooner, but I guess I just didn't want to admit it.”
For a single heartbeat he thought he might have pulled it off, but then he saw Rebecca's expression. “You expect me to believe that you've been working overtime because I emasculated you? I knew you couldn't tell me the truth” She let out a resigned sigh and started turning back towards the edge.
“Stop! Okay! I wasn't at work!”
“Then where were you?”
His shoulders slumped, “I was with a woman.”
. Rebecca stared at him, waiting for him to continue.
“She's a friend of Jon's and I met her at his birthday party a few weeks ago. Her name's Samantha. I was with her tonight, and I haven't been staying late at work lately. I've been with her.”
“So you've been cheating on me?”
Craig's head swam. Oh God! She's still going to jump, and it's all my fault!
“Well?” she said, narrowing her eyes at him.
Abort! Abort! “No, I am not cheating on you with her. We're just friends. I hang out with her – and her roommates. Sometimes we hang with Jon and the guys at McMahon's.”
“And you didn't tell me because...”
“Because I..thought you'd be jealous,” he said, and it took all of his self-control to keep himself from cringing at such an obvious lie. You loving idiot. You spineless, pathetic idiot.[/i
Rebecca put her hands on her hips, “[i]Honestly?”
“Yes, honestly.” Craig clenched his hole body and waited for the worst, but to his surprise she stepped down off the ledge. He rushed towards her and wrapped her up in his arms.
While he took deep breaths to try to steady himself, Rebecca placed her ear against his chest. “I can hear your heart pounding in your chest.”
“Because you scared me half to death,” he said, taking deep breaths to try to steady himself.
“You should have told me the truth to begin with.”
“I know..but Jesus, Rebecca, never do that again. You could have died!”
She laughed, “But I'm already dead.”
He blinked, “Wha..?”
It was only now, pressed so tightly against her, that Craig noticed how pallid her complexion. He was just about to remark on it, and how cold her skin was, when she opened her mouth wide, bared her fangs, and plunged them into the soft flesh of Craig's neck. He struggled feebly at first, but it didn't take her long to drain his blood completely, and when she was finished she casually tossed his corpse over the side of the building.
|# ? Jun 8, 2015 04:28|
Balcony Two of the Theater of the Mind, 993 words
"Rectum? drat near KILLED him! Doh-oh-oh-oh-oh!" Good and Evil shouted out the punchline at the same time, before starting up with that stupid laugh. I ignored them as best I could, which was easier some days than others. Instead, I focused on the rum and coke in front of me and busy dance floor behind me. I watched in the mirror as an immaculately coiffed young man wander behind me.
"Woah!" said Good. "I thought the Gays were suppose to be fashionable."
"They are," Evil replied. "You can fashion their hair gel into a crude flotation device. Doh-oh-oh-oh!"
Snapping at them never helped my situation in the past - they just laughed, and everybody else stared at you for yelling at the voices in your head. It was better to just ignore their heckling and focus on the real. Right now, that meant working up the courage to join the dance floor. I finished my drink and let the music flow over me. It was some disco pop fusion - loud, catchy, and musically distinct.
"Look alive, the king of swing is about the move."
"Hold on, let me grab my barf bag!"
I slam the glass down a tad too hard, and got a nasty look from the bartender. It wasn't going to get any better, so might as well bite the bullet. I focused on the music, letting it flow over me, letting the rhythm into my bones. More importantly, I tried to ignore the watching eyes around me. At the straight clubs, I had always been one of the better guy dancers. Here at Pegasus, however, the stakes were a little higher.
"The peacock has flashed his wings. 50 years off for me!"
Good grumbled indistinctly, and then muttered "A century says he goes home alone with his hand."
"I'll take that bet!" Evil replied. "Look, he's already got somebody on his tail. Surprised the boy can't feel someone staring a hole through his back pocket. Doh-oh-oh-oh!"
I quashed the urge to run, and instead nonchalantly turned around. What I saw took my breathe away, and gave me a precious few seconds of silence. They were the most beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen, set in the face of a young latin George Clooney. I lost the beat for a moment, and awkwardly recovered. George didn't seem to mind, as he danced a little closer. A song went by, and then another.
"Not going to happen," said Good. "He's going to start thinking about his wife."
"Bad form! Have you no honor, you little cheat?" Evil replied.
But it was too late - unbidden, thoughts of Julie came to mind. George had just lightly grabbed me around the waist, but I suppose my thoughts showed on my face. He broke off and gave an apologetic wave at his perceived mistake. I reached out and grabbed his hand.
"Buy you a drink?" I mouthed to him. He gave a cocky grin and led me towards one of the quiet booths near the VIP lounge. We shared a drink and chatted about certain inconsequential things. I was still tense, ready to bolt at any moment. I didn't belong here. Mario - that was George's real name - was still holding my hand.
He rubbed his thumb over the indent my wedding ring had made. "So, are you going to tell me about this?"
"Seems like a bit of a personal question for this point," I replied, a bit harshly.
Mario shrugged and pulled his hand away. "Well, I'm not going to be on the down low. I've had enough of that in my life."
I didn't realize how warm and soft his hands had been, until he took them away. The voices were chortling at my misfortune. "We're separated. Not legally divorced yet, but that's a matter of paperwork at this point. Crossing the T's and all that."
"Because you're gay?"
The question felt like a trap, or a test. "No... she was okay with that. It was more the dirty dishes in the sink and the long nights at the office."
Mario laughed, a big lovely laugh that seemed more fit for Santa than his lithe, muscular form. "Sounds like me and my ex. I think finding that man in our bed was her excuse to the Holy See." He gave a mocking sign of the cross.
I looked at Mario a little closer now. He wasn't as young as I had thought, just healthy and well-preserved. But on a more thorough inspection, I noticed the beginning of wrinkles at the side of his mouth, and the corner of his eyes. He noticed me staring, so I quickly turned back to my drink.
"At least it's not weird. I was worried I'd be an outcast." I leaned back, and felt some of the stress flow out of me. I closed my eyes. The voices were still back there, somewhere, giving their running commentary. Somehow I didn't mind - I was listening to the music, to the sound of people enjoying themselves.
I felt Mario's hand on my back, his warmth as he leaned in. I looked into his eyes, mere inches away from mine, before melting into the kiss. His mouth was soft and warm, and the kiss was gentle - slow - restrained. But I could feel the hunger behind it, the burning passion being held back so as to not scare me off. The kiss ended then, an eternity that was far too short. I gave a little gasp and smiled.
There was no where I wanted to be, besides here. This was the place for me.
"Does it count if they don't actually leave the club before rutting?" Good asked.
"You're just regretting that century of service you put up. Go on, dog, bury that bone!"
And then they were back. Still, I couldn't help but smile as Mario pulled me back out to the dance floor.
|# ? Jun 8, 2015 04:39|
Word Count: 1176
flash rule: adventurer wagers a priceless artifact
Can’t Put a Price on a Fool
flerp fucked around with this message at 03:01 on Jul 27, 2015
|# ? Jun 8, 2015 05:22|
“Well, there’s one other thing we can try,” Dr. Young said, closing Ethan’s file and setting it in his lap.
“What’s that?” Ethan said after a pause. His words were slow to come and slow to leave his mouth; his head was pounding despite the painkillers, and the black spot in his vision seemed larger than it had been yesterday. Dr. Young had told him that this was the tumor pushing against his brain stem, but Ethan couldn’t help but feel that it was a dark cloud that had been following him around for the last year. Liza squeezed his hand from the chair next to him, and he squeezed it back, although he couldn’t muster up the same nervous energy that seemed to be his wife’s natural state.
“We were approved to test out a new treatment earlier this week, and you fit all of the requirements for the study. It’s showing a fantastic track record in the lab animals, but this is going to be the first human trial, which means that there’s a risk that it either won’t work, or could have some unexpected side effects.”
“What kind of side effects?” Liza said, gripping Ethan’s hand tighter. She was hurting him a little, but he didn’t pull away.
“We can’t be completely sure, but I would expect the usual; nausea, weight loss, possible organ damage. Nothing that you wouldn’t be at risk for with any other treatment, necessarily, but since this is so early in the development, it’s not clear what the transition to human subjects will look like, especially with the location of the cancer.”
“What are the odds?” Ethan’s voice sounded strange to him, cracking and tired.
“From the stage you’re at, lab tests indicate a 20% recovery rate.”
Liza tightened her grip again, and Ethan felt the bones in his knuckles push against one another, like so many things in his body were doing these days. He smiled at her, although she was staring at a point on the floor, trying not to blink.
“Seems like a long shot,” he said at last. “I can’t say that I’ve really enjoyed my treatments so far, and the idea of going into this entirely blind isn’t appealing.”
“It’s going to be a gamble no matter what, yes,” Dr. Young said. “However, at this point it’s the only thing we haven’t tried yet.”
Ethan felt a teardrop hit his hand.
“What the hell,” he said. “Twenty’s better than nothing.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear that things are going so well, Ethan," his mother said. "Your father and I… It’s been hard to know… But we’re so glad that things seem to be turning around.”
“I know, Mom, it’s okay.” Ethan was reclined on the couch, staring up at the ceiling while he spoke with his parents over the phone. The dark spot made it harder for him to look for patterns and faces in the whorls of the textured ceiling, but it didn’t stop him from trying. “I’ll keep you updated as the treatment progresses.”
“Well… Thank you.” She paused, and Ethan knew she was struggling with what else to say. “Oh! I meant to tell you, Liza had asked me for the information of the place where we got Max, and I wanted to let you know that I finally found it today. I’ll have your father e-mail it to you.”
“Wait, who’s Max?” Ethan said, his brow furrowing slightly.
“The dog Max, I mean. I found the information for the breeder and -”
“When did you guys get a dog?”
“What do you mean? We put Max down 8 years, ago, and we haven’t had the heart to replace him.”
“I don’t remember you having a dog.”
His mother laughed nervously. “Ethan, what are you talking about? You loved that dog! The two of you were inseparable growing up! I remember one time-”
“Mom, I never had a dog!” He was sitting up now. Anger and fear lurked at the edges of his confusion.
“Ethan, this isn’t funny. I was just trying to help.”
“I’m serious, Mom, I don’t remember ever having a dog.”
“Well that’s ridiculous! How does someone just forget their best friend of 14 years!”
“I… I don’t know.” Ethan felt the cold clutching at his chest. “But I guess that I did.”
“Who’s this?” Ethan held up a photo of a young boy sitting in an elderly woman’s lap.
“That’s you with your Grandmother Jensen, I think,” Liza said, peering at the photo. “You told me once that she had a cabin in the Blue Mountains, and you would go there every summer and pick huckleberries.”
“Oh,” Ethan said, gazing at the picture. “I think I remember the huckleberries…” He trailed off and let his eyes trace the contours of the woman’s face. He did remember the huckleberries, and the cabin. He remembered catching frogs in the lake, and staring up at the milky way from the dock that extended from the house, marvelling at all the stars he never saw at home. Now he stared at the face of a stranger, and felt something like the opposite of nostalgia; an unease at seeing something he had been assured that he once knew. It was a feeling he was almost growing accustomed to, which made him nervous.
“Ethan,” Liza spoke, and he looked up at her, so see the same pained look on her face that he had seen so often in the last five months. “You don’t… You don’t need to keep doing this. We can talk to Dr. Young, we can stop the trial-”
“No, not yet,” he said, taking her hand. “Look, Liza, I know that you’re scared, but I’ve thought long and hard about this. It’s been working so well, and we don’t even know that it’s the drug doing this-”
“Because you won’t tell the doctors about it!” Liza pulled back from him, tears beginning to track down her face. “Why can’t we just tell them? They can check it out, and maybe it will be nothing, but-”
“And what if it is the drug? What if it is, and we have to stop? The tumor’s diminished, but it’s not gone, Liza. This is the first thing that’s had any effect. I don’t… I don’t want to give up when we’re so close.”
“I can make new memories, Liza. I want to make them, with you, and our children, and one day with our grandchildren. But I can’t do that if we don’t take this chance.”
He opened his arms to her, and after the briefest hesitation she laid her head against his shoulder. “I just don’t want to lose you,” she said, her voice muffled slightly against his shirt.
“I promise you won’t.”
“Well, I can’t say for sure until these last scan results come back, but given the progress that you’ve shown so far during this trial, I’m optimistic that this will be your last treatment session with us, Mr. Jensen.” Dr. Young looked up from his clipboard and smiled. “Congratulations, Ethan.”
“Thanks, Doc,” Ethan said, smiling back. He grabbed his jacket and headed out of the office.
Life seemed better today, somehow; cleaner, lighter. His head was clear, the black spot no longer loomed in his vision, and the world seemed bright for the first time in ages.
He made his way out to the lobby, where a woman was waiting, maybe for an appointment. She stood up when she saw him, smiling, and he turned around to see if there was someone behind him. When he turned back her face had changed, and continued to change as he watched with some bemusement: blank with confusion, then white with fear, and finally crumpling into tears.
“I’m sorry,” he said, stopping in front of the crying stranger. “Have we met?”
|# ? Jun 8, 2015 05:36|
Bah, hosed this story all up and I need to get up early, so I'm gonna have to eat a failure and for the next prompt.
|# ? Jun 8, 2015 05:42|
I'm out due to an unplanned weekend staying in a farmhouse and attending the lush festivities offered by the Gayndah Orange Festival. I wish I was kidding. Just got back, a day late and in no mental state to exist, let alone write.
|# ? Jun 8, 2015 06:15|
Rugby Players Eat Their Dead
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 03:24 on Jan 8, 2016
|# ? Jun 8, 2015 06:16|
I remember the days when "not losing" was a greater challenge than "posting on time".
Shouldering the door, Johnny Two-Dice entered the dive. A pool table in the far corner, a haze of tobacco in the air and a plump bartender at the bar. The familiar trappings of Johnny's work. Roxanne was waiting, nursing a mug.
“The five guys in the conner. You see?” Roxanne wasn't big on greetings. “The one without a flannel shirt. He's the one, I'm sure”.
Trust. One has to trust one's scout, one's runner, one's “nose”, and Roxanne was the best one in a long time. She could sense a mark way before any dice hit the table. Johnny nodded and called for a beer.
“Was he hard to find?”
“No,” Roxanne was busy looking as nonchalant as possible, “The vibe around him is just right. Plus, I asked around”.
There was never a way to be sure, and those of Johnny's kind shall never find their own marks. Maybe Dee-Dee Twenty, but Dee's work centered around university campuses and start ups. For him, educated guesses could be made, plus, the risk of bodily harm was lower.
Johnny took a swing of his beer, turned on the barstool, and got up on his long thin legs. It was time.
“Hello, gentlemen,” Johnny startled the players; they had noticed his entrance, but had lost interest not long after. Black pants and a jacket, white shirt – he didn't look like he came from those parts. “Can I join you for a game craps? The road is boring and I have dollars burning a hole in my pocket”.
Johnny noticed that it took short nod from the shirtless man before he was invited to join. He grabbed a chair, pulled it close, started playing.
It didn't behoove to win outright and win big, so Johnny let the dice land as they may. He won some, he lost some. He drank beer and cracked jokes. Slowly, he started letting one of the oafs win. The dice kept rolling, and the pile of money before the simpleton kept growing. Slipping a sly smile, Johnny started pressing fortune.
Slowly, the pile began draining and going towards Johnny. A trickle, at first, but gently increasing with every other roll. Roll without rhythm, and you won't attract the punch, but Johnny was getting restless. Can't play with luck for too long, and even less with somewhat dangerous men.
The dice rolled and the shirtless man lost. Johnny didn't push it too hard – he needed the luck to escape any sort of beatings – and victory looked legitimate in the eyes of the players. The shirtless man wasn't happy when he stormed outside. With luck, he won't try to get the money back by robbing Johnny, and luck was on Johnny's side, most of the time.
The deed was done and he returned to Roxanne.
“I take it that went well?”
“Aye. Didn't push it too much, but he lost. And as such, the tapestry unravels,” he said sitting down and ordering another beer. Roxanne had a rough understanding of what the likes of Johnny Two-Dice, Dee-Dee Twenty and Cointoss Mac were doing, and that was enough. However, even Mac had to have his own Roxanne, else even he would be wandering aimlessly.
“So we're finished here?”
“Yep, nothing more we need to do.”
“Well then, I want out, Johnny.”
This made the beer mug stop half way up.
“Out? But our run was so good! Well, you're doing so well for a sniffer.”
Roxanne wrinkled her nose, as if the organ had anything to do with her talents.
“Yes, but I can't stand the road anymore. It's always these small towns, and truck stops, and diners. gently caress, Reno and Vegas were the biggest places we've gone to, and you know they're fake.”
Johnny couldn't argue with that, but his work was always a crapshoot, and dice weren't exactly popular these days.
“You know how the dice roll...”
“I know and I don't want to see it anymore. Hell, I don't even get to see “the tapestry unraveling”. I want out. I...”
“...found a man?” Johnny had years and years of experience with sniffers, especially women.
“Yes. Over the Internet. We hit it off quite well... and the runes give good promises”.
Runes. Johnny considered a childish way to get too much certainty out of fate. Then again, it was better than Cointoss Mac forcing life into choosing one out of two. Mac was the most grim and martial of the lot, all thanks to his coin.
Johnny was slowly coming up with a decision he didn't like.
“You know the rules, Roxanne”.
That she did. He bet Roxanne had been going over the rules as of late.
“One game. And you can't bend luck, Johnny.”
“One game, two out of three. No bending or pushing or anything else”. The rules would sense him do something. What's worse, Roxanne would feel it too. And that was almost as bad.
He produced a pair of dice; Johnny Two-dice always had some about him. Roxanne fixed her eyes on them. He gave a small smile.
“Can I go first?”
She nodded, eyes wide, never moving from the die.
He swept then up with a wide swing and felt them press into his palm.
“Let's get it on,” Johnny let it fly. The dice bounced around on the table and stopped.
A four and a one.
Roxanne maintained her cool while picking them up. Pressing them close to her chest, she let out a short sigh before rolling.
A three and a four.
“Off to a good start, eh?” The quip made Roxanne smile. Johnny grabbed the two die with his long fingers. He let them roll and the two bone cubes bounced on the table.
A six and five.
“This is getting interes-” Johnny stopped as he noticed Roxanne hold breath and go pale. She reached out for the die, her hand trembling, something he had not seen for what, three to five years now?
The dice roll again. A four and a two.
Johnny Two-Dice exhaled sharply and shied away from Roxanne's gaze. The dice rolled as they may, but that doesn't help resentment. Ah well, have to keep the game going.
The man picked up the dice for the third time and let them fly. He didn't watch them roll, he was fixed on Roxanne. Her eyes were wide and the hands were white in their grip on the table.
A four and a six.
Johnny grabbed the dice and rolled them around in his palms, looking at them like he was trying to make up his mind. There was no joy in what he was about to do, but it was the right thing. Johnny shot a glance at Roxanne before palming her the craps. No smile, he knew better than that.
With a trembling hand Roxanne let them roll, watching it go with a stern face.
A six and a six.
The sigh of relief was loud and she almost collapsed in the chair.
“Well, love, looks like you get to see your Internet paramour. You can catch a bus if you go now. Just leave the keys in the lobby”.
Two-dice wasn't one for long goodbyes, so Roxanne kissed him and ran out through the door. He watched her leave and ordered another beer.
The barman found him rolling the dice, picking up, and rolling again. Two sixes landed concurrently with the mug.
“Better luck with dice than the the missus, eh?”
Johnny smiled as he dropped the dice on the floor.
“Some things can't be left to luck,” and with that, he crushed the two sixes under his boot.
|# ? Jun 8, 2015 06:21|
New Year, new thread!
Killer-of-Lawyers fucked around with this message at 17:51 on Jan 4, 2016
|# ? Jun 8, 2015 06:50|
Submissions are closed.
A lot of failure out there. In a show of mercy, you have until noon, again PDT, to convert failure to mere disqualification and thus avoid toxxication.
Ed: Also, open crits are cool.
Thranguy fucked around with this message at 07:26 on Jun 8, 2015
|# ? Jun 8, 2015 07:05|
Here are some critiques for the first ten entries. I hope you can find something constructive in the mix.
First off, after I read your story and went back to your title, I smiled. I also liked that your opening shot came off like a gambling story cliche, but was then subverted halfway through.
Overall I think the first act of your story was the strongest. Its where you had your strongest prose and best rhythm. At first I thought you were laying on the dive bar roughneck ‘country’s rear end in a top hat’ stuff a bit thick, but it grew on me, and ended up feeling a little tongue in cheek. Like a Nick Cave song.
I like that Scratch was this rough, clumsy hustler. The first time he opens his mouth he chokes on a peanut and drinks someone else’s beer, a great introduction.
One thing that stood out in that first act was that, even though the gamblers didn't believe Scratch, to not react to him asking them to wager their souls seemed like an oversight. People leave the table, but is that because they’re scared, or because they think he’s an idiot, or what? I can understand that given the sort of smoky, southern hypnosis you’d cultivated that the characters might shuffle along in a trance, but even if the protagonist acknowledge that I would have been good.
Your second act felt rushed. One line he’s ill, and then a few sentences later he’s killing vampire hunters. I personally didn't like that it was vampirism. At first I thought his illness was just what happens to a mortal when they lose their soul. But that’s a personal thing - I don’t really like vampire stories.
Final part was a return to my happy place. Scratch being sketchy and wily in a dive bar. I had mixed feelings about the ending, but I the imagery of a bar burning down around a gambler and the devil was strong.
A few points on some prose that I did not like:
‘My heart was thumping like one of those voodoo drums like black folks used to use in the jungles of Africa...’ I understand where you are trying to go, I like where you are trying to go, but this is incredibly choppy. Every time I read this aloud, I trip over something.
‘The words dropped from my lips like vomit’ This just sounded… wrong? Vomit dropping from lips doesn’t work for me.
‘Drained my little girl dry. I couldn't do that to her.’ There needs to be more disgust in this, more indignation, more impact. This is his child, both of those sentences are too casual. Would a father even be able to articulate that fear? Wouldn’t that be a traumatic thought?
Scratch was great though. It felt like you enjoyed writing Scratch, which came through the page and made him fun to read.
A friendly wager ends up with someone's reputation on the line.
Okay dude, how did they know? Your own character says that nobody will know he let his mate free, so how do the Rome-cops know? If only Aulus, Martinus, and Glaucia were there, who told the authorities? Aulus? What was his motivation to tell the truth? He obviously wasn’t much for protocol seeing he cut his prisoner free on some vague bet. And he didn’t really seem to think much of Glaucia. So why not lie?
The plural of crop is crops, and if the plains are endless, then why are they also scattered?
‘His feet nearly slipped from his sandals, causing him to stumble briefly before catching himself.’ This is a mad long sentence considering it is neither useful or aesthetically pleasing. Its emblematic of a larger problem you have with prose. For me, sentences need to be either enjoyable as prose, or necessary in some other way. Ask this question of yourself as you edit.
Again: ‘Martinus had his hands displayed in front of Aulus. He pushed the blade against his wrists, motioning them to move further apart. He then raised the sword above his shoulder and sliced downward into the rope, cutting it in half in one swift motion.’ This is so many words to say that he cut the rope.
Did you edit? Did you read aloud? As I read a lot of your sentences aloud I immediately knew words that could be dropped. Or commas that should have been full stops.
Another thing, wasn’t the main military punishment in Rome flogging? Did they cut off hands? Not that I’m a stickler for historical accuracy, I just always thought Rome punished soldiers with either execution or a flogging.
But my main problem was that there was no real punchline or climax. Like yeah there’s the thing about the hand, and I understand that as a sort of cosmic irony, but it didn’t tie in particularly well.
Next time read things aloud. Shorten your sentences, and ask what is necessary. It wouldn’t take much to really polish this story.
The Rascal Mayor
A hero with a tragic flaw, fated to lose this wager, but fighting to overcome that fate.
I felt a little disorientated during this story.
‘He looked up from the flimsy paper and at the other man, standing with a paper of his own in his hand’ Clunkyyyy. Is it necessary to specifically point out that it was in his hand?
‘“Horse races sound are some risky business…”’ Does this mean when horse races are sound, as in clean, that they are risky business? Implying this race is fixed? Or does he mean to say that horse races sound risky?
Apart from some wordiness in this opening part, I like the scene of a nervous gambler with a more experienced friend. Their dialogue needs to be worked, but I still got a sense of Clarence and Frank. This did not build as the story went on. Older Frank was more business like, I guess. While Clarence had somehow become embroiled with mobsters and boxing, despite being earlier off put by horse racing.
I think the largest issue of this story is in its clarity. For example, the second part opens, presumably years later, and Frank is mayor. Someone addresses the mayor, and Frank looks up - cool, I got it, Frank is the mayor. But then the next line, ‘The mayor, himself a stocky fellow…’, describes the mayor, which felt like you were introducing a new character. I had to reread this part story, and then continue, half thinking there were three people in the room. In describing the character of the mayor, you made me think that he was a new character - because I’ve already met Frank.
Frank has a comb over, and he’s reminiscing for better days when he looks at a picture of his family. So presumably he’s getting on, yeah? Late 50s? What’s old mate Clarence doing in a boxing ring then?
Is Johnsmith a placeholder name? Is it John Smith? Or is Johnsmith an American name or something? Seemed odd.
If the hook wasn’t good enough to knock out a man, but Johnsmith was bleeding from the ear, did he take a dive? But then he’s bleeding from the ear, which makes me think, no, he really got laid out. Or was he also poisoned by someone? Again, an issue of clarity.
I got the impression reading this story that you yourself knew the answers to a lot of the things I am asking, but I as a reader was given information that conflicted and confused me. This may be because you had to make a lot of cuts, so make sure you write a story that can be contained in the word limit. There is definitely potential in this dynamic of a friend always calling in a favour at the other’s growing expense.
You have a lot of commas where full stops would do.
the brotherly phl
The rear end of the universe
A gentleman wizards' wager.
You motherfucker. 1996 words?
Why go and spoil a good thing by breaking the rules?
I really like your story, but 1996 words is so incredibly far over. Your story was dope though... Your alternating vignettes paint a fantastic picture, and the characters of Marney and the protagonist’s father are really good. I like the two opposite ends of the spectrum that they occupy in the protag’s life. The world you built where magic exists, but is an obsession only to a very small group, while seen as unnecessary or as a hobby to others, is a unique one. It is heightened and fantastical, but still feels very grounded and honest to how people are. I liked your ending, too.
I think, that even given how much I enjoyed all the snapshots, you should have just bitten the bullet and shaved some of them down.
Just a sidebar, not really a criticism of this, just a general thing. I noticed in your story, and I’ve done this before as well (and seen plenty of others do it) - the use of ‘too’ as an adjective. I’ve realized I don’t really like it. Marney’s eyes are too wide. Biff’s teeth too white. There’s something about it that just rubs me the wrong way. Purely a personal thing.
Not much else to add, but I thought this was a wonderful story. There wasn’t really anything that I thought distracted from it (besides length you gently caress). I look forward to your future submissions to das terrorkuppel. This was really fun.
spectres of autism
Destroyer of Worlds! Dragon Godhead
I really feel like the title would have been made more metal by another exclamation mark. Why leave Dragon Godhead hanging? Destroyer of Worlds! Dragon Godhead!
This story is really hard on your reader. I spent all of my time with your story trying to decipher the in world language and lore. I don’t really know what I think of what happened. This, I think, is actually probably pretty cool, but needs more room to breathe than 1500 words.
So here’s what I was able to decipher: the protagonist sits in a VR chair that closes around him like a big claw. The chair plugs him into this like virtual colloseum that appears on holographs around the galaxy. In this virtual Colosseum he is playing something like Magic: The Gathering, except you use your life force/blood to play cards. He is playing against a pretty hardcore alien player, Marl. He’s trying to save Tessa, his sister (?), but is losing. Ultimately he draws and casts the dreaded card, Godhead. The card not only wins, but kills his opponent in the real world.
What I did not understand, in rolling text:
Sister protocol, Tessa
There’s a host that’s voice talks a drug into people’s minds?
Dal’Sat, the Poet-Founder (I think he started the game?)
The mouse (just a super lovely card, I think)
If you enjoyed what you have started here, you should totally flesh out this story. In 1500 words the concepts and terminology just came so hard and fast that I was overwhelmed. On rereading I enjoyed it more. The combination of cyberpunk and fantasy feels gritty and interesting - it left me curious. Mostly about the bookie compère who speaks drugs.
The last deal
Having your story exist almost entirely as conversation is a risk. Dialogue presents a lot of pitfalls: do these characters sound believable? Do they sound different from one another? And, relevant to your story, do they know what they’re talking about?
Authenticity held me back from being invested in this story. There were too many things for me to question that I couldn’t suspend my disbelief.
Spend a few minutes in Something Awful’s very own Business, Finance, and Careers subforum, and you’ll see the language that real people in finance use. Your characters call other investors ‘retarded’, and are implied to be pretty competitive day traders. However their dialogue lets this down. They might have the attitude and bravado of dickhead traders, but their phrasing and choice in terminology paints them as at best armchair investors. Terminology should be used sparingly, unless you are very familiar with it.
Also what investment blog in the world is so trusted and popular that if it posted a story about a new world war, that the world would believe it without question? If your characters’ somehow got into the whole media corporation’s system, that would be different. Like from the girlfriend’s local paper account they got into the News Corp-like organization’s intranet. Or through her account they got into the AAP Newswire, and from either of those places spread the story, then that would make more sense.
There’s very little human interest beyond your duo’s competitiveness. And if that is going to be the main hook, then a story like this needs to be more fun. If it's going to be about two investors destroying the world for their stupid little bets, then make it absurd. Make it big and playful. Have their news stories escalate in a way that is fun and silly. Instead you spoil their dialogue with all of this poorly handled financial jargon. Terminology can add authenticity, but it can also completely destroy it.
You know what’s a good movie? Eastern Promises. Why? Because it gets everything done in 90 minutes, and has a great ‘ah-ha!’ twist.
This story had that feel to me - you managed to get it all done with 350 words to spare. Even threw in a tidy little twist at the end. I also like yoyos, so I was on board.
I think you could have tightened it even more, because I don’t think you did much of an edit. There were a fair few little spelling and grammatical mistakes, which just interrupts things.
nuding for nudging
recon for reckon
your where it should have been you’re
playstation, february should both be capitalized
These things have a cumulative effect.
I also felt like the age of the kid didn’t quite line up. Shoplifting yoyos and using the ‘older boys made me do it’ excuse seems more immature than 14. But that's just what I thought.
Your prose was generally utilitarian. It did the job, but wasn’t particularly descriptive. The real flavour and sense of character came from the dialogue. Not necessarily a negative thing, but it caused me to just scan over paragraphs that didn’t have any dialogue. I liked the banter between the boys. The guard was good value too - biting someone’s nose off probably would get them to back down…
Google tells me 300 GBP is 600 AUD. That is one serious yoyo.
Rap Three Times
Please read over your work. Please read over your work. Lots of little grammatical errors don’t do you any favours.
‘I figured twenty foot by fifteen.’ This is a pet peeve - please don’t do this. Don’t give physical dimensions unless they are relevant to the plot, or are significant in some other way. Saying the room was small was enough information.
This story had a lot of a cliches:
A guard/heavy/muscle described as an ape/gorilla/mountain of meat
A sadomasochistic Eastern European femme fatale - this is your most overladen one
Fists being like sledgehammers
A thief called Mr *colour*
A villain asking how the protagonist did something with their last breath
Ends with “let's get married”
If you are going to have a story rich with cliches, then subvert them or add your own twist to the formula. When you go to write your German psycho-sexual femme fatale, ask yourself, what can I do differently with this? How can I undermine the reader’s expectation of this character? Realize that characters like this already exist in most readers’ imaginations. What can you do to distinguish your iteration of it?
Is your protagonist a thief or a spy? He’s after a diamond, but his captors are after a dossier?
What is the gamble in this story? That he was just waiting out the interrogation until his girlfriend arrived? You also convoluted your ending by throwing in all these allusions to a larger story - perhaps you could have foreshadowed ‘everyone’ and Monaco earlier.
Read more, write more.
On the Bright Side
Of the stories I have read so far, many have had a gamble or a wager, but yours is the first to be about gambling. To be a commentary on gambling, and the nature of addiction.
There aren’t really any shortcomings here, so I’ll quickly touch on some of the things that I liked.
Your central high concept, stimu.bet, is explained clearly and concisely. I understood it immediately. It worked perfectly as both an interesting system of gambling, and as a metaphor for the disease of addiction. The inherent secretiveness of this method of gambling I think is also important. Especially at a time when we have an always increasing stable of betting apps for smartphones.
But this story would have even worked without stimu.bet. Stimu.bet could be horse racing, or pokies, or cards because it is all of those things. And because of the authenticity of Fenrik’s addiction, and his family’s response to it.
Not just Fenrik’s moments of euphoria before disaster are true. But more importantly, that high that only gamblers understand. The rush of betting money you can’t afford to lose, and then losing it. He’s in hospital with a messed up arm, and he’s lost some money, but he can’t help but smile.
Then there's the bottomless pit of excuses.
The wife is immediately recognizable if you’ve ever known someone who loves an addict. They are the one who doesn’t yell, but who says please, desperate to break through to their loved one. All the while trying to hold their lives together.
I identified most with Darren. ‘He had the same twitchy frown on him he’d always had when he tried to remain stoic.’ I know that expression, I have had that expression towards a parent. ‘...and him with a desperate nonchalance plastered all over his face.’ Desperate nonchalance is such a loaded and strong description. I think everyone can think of a time they struggled to hold a poker face on the brink of tears.
There are so many facets of the characters in this story that I recognize. Not just in people I know and have met, but also in myself. It speaks and expresses itself far beyond the page, and to me that is the mark of a great story. You have written a story that is more than the sum of its parts.
Another story with not a whole lot to address negatively.
At the start I was getting a strong Lynchian vibe. There was a subtle, dreamlike feel to things - the larger than life Bull, the office like an African Savannah, and the Hollywood hopeful trader who licks his chops at insider info. I like a little strangeness. A slight hint of the Grotesque.
I liked Levigne, so when Hollywood deletes the message to his farewell drinks, I think that was when we see Hollywood’s true colours. Taking photos of someone’s computer over their shoulder and stealing financial papers out of someone’s bin, that’s all par for the course in this world. But I think it’s the small act of deleting the farewell drinks invitation and then looking at the photo of the Bull’s monitor, that sets up the ending. Because of course a guy who does that wouldn't try to stop the Bull. It suddenly makes sense that he’d just watch and laugh. He is as much the opportunist as the Bull is. The ending feels just.
Your characters felt lively, and all existed to me beyond the page. I feel as though I could imagine other parts of the Bull or Levigne's lives, even after such a brief introduction. Strong characterization.
Stay tuned for the second batch probably some time tomorrow.
Hocus Pocus fucked around with this message at 11:46 on Jun 8, 2015
|# ? Jun 8, 2015 07:37|
you're a saint, thanks for taking the time to read it. thanks again for having some great crits.
|# ? Jun 8, 2015 12:55|
the brotherly phl
I could have sworn the prompt was 2k words max because I'm dumb. Thanks for the crit anyway! Aiming to be less dumb next time.
|# ? Jun 8, 2015 12:57|
Only one hour left in mercy time for our toxxers.
|# ? Jun 8, 2015 18:01|
Submissions are closed.
You are a kind and merciful judge.
A Godly Wager
And a 1
"Hey," Bouzouki said, "you think I can make that girl kill her goat?"
It was a slow day.
Lyra glanced over to where her half-brother's finger was gesturing lazily through a hole in the clouds. Sure enough, there was a girl of about eight or nine on a knoll, trying diligently to hop up and ride her young goat. She actually managed to throw a leg over him, but was upside down in the dirt a second later. She closed her eyes again, leaning back in her throne.
"Forget it. Little brat loves that thing, from the look of it. And besides, since when do you get off on animal sacrifice? I thought flagellation was your thing."
"Uugh, I'm so bored watching a bunch of assholes satisfy their whip kinks," Bouzouki groaned. "Come on, this'll be fun."
Lyra stayed silent, pretending to doze off. Bouzouki flicked a tiny lightning bolt at her foot.
"Ow! gently caress, Bouz..."
"Come oooon, everything's so peaceful since those rear end in a top hat Romans stopped rampaging and loving everything up. It's a beautiful day, ol' Sun's shining, we've got nothing to do... What say we murder a little girl's innocence?"
Bouzouki couldn't tell if she was thinking or ignoring him. She just sat there, picking heavenly golden dirt from beneath her nails and flicking them toward the hills. Some group of shepherds or nomads would no doubt happen upon them later and maybe make a shrine or two.
"I'll throw in a little bet..."
Lyra paused for just a moment, sucked the remaining gunk from under her ring fingernail, and spat, pointedly avoiding his eyes.
"Stakes?" It was a flat word, a flat question. God of Wagers was one of her un-unofficial subtitles. Bouzouki brought it home.
"If I can make little miss sunshine down there kill her beast, I get to convert a third of your sect." A gong struck somewhere below them on the mountain, rolling up over the boulders and through the crevices to where they sat. Bouz cracked half a smile.
"And if the goat lives, your Holy Army is mine," Lyra shot back. "You can keep your followers."
The God of Conflict's smile faltered. He opened his mouth to make an addendum, but was interrupted by the gong sounding once more.
"Fine. You got no chance, sister. Killing poo poo is my game. What are you gonna do, throw her a feast?"
Lyra, the God of Wine and Celebration, just flapped her hand dismissively. The Gods stood and braced arms, and the gong thundered a final time.
And a 2
Once again, Saz tried to hop up on the goat from the back, and once again, the ornery thing took a few frantic steps away from her. He looked back with one eye, head cocked. He was clearly not having it.
"Come on, Goat," she chastised, naming him very creatively on the spot, "lemme ride you! You can be my battle goat!"
Goat, clearly not interested, skipped another few feet away from his miniature wrangler and gave a short bleat of defiance. Saz gave up trying to ride him and dropped to the grass.
The goat had wandered into her family's field early this morning, and so far didn't seem to have any plans to move on. He certainly wasn't a wild goat; more than likely, he had wandered away from his herd. Saz had never had a pet before, and she was hoping if she trained Goat for something useful her father might let her keep him.
A sound, like musical thunder, reverberated from the mountain above, and she looked that way. Every once in a while, she heard this low rumbling, and wondered what it meant. Her father liked to say it was the Gods playing their heavenly games, but Saz was just on the cusp of thinking she was too old to believe that nonsense.
The goat looked that way, too, and while he was distracted, Saz crouch-walked silently to his blind side and leapt on his back.
Goat gave a strangled yelp of surprise and started hopping wildly down the knoll. The girl clung to his neck and squeezed his sides with her knees, screaming a little bit from fear and more from sheer elation.
The low sound thundered again while they pranced wildly together. Saz barely noticed it, busy having the time of her life on her desperate steed. Goat gave an overly forceful buck, and Saz was flung into the air. She managed to just barely hang on to his neck with one arm. She landed hard on his back, knocking the air completely from her lungs. To keep her balance she flung her other arm around his head, blinding him.
Immediately, Goat froze, breathing heavily but standing completely still.
Like an ominous alarm, the sound from the mountain came again, this time reverberating in the air so much Saz could feel it vibrating on her skin.
She gulped a breath or two of air, eyes wide, tears of pain streaming from them. She stared toward the mountain.
"Whoa," she breathed.
And a 1, 2, 3--
That night, after she led Goat to the cottage and convinced her father to let her tie him up outside, she slept, and a dream came to her.
She stands in an empty field. The sky wails, the sound of thousands of mourning women. The field is empty except for a stone altar. There is not even grass on the ground.
A flash of lighting. An explosion, bright and soundless, blinding her completely. The wailing pauses for half a moment of torturous silence, then continues, deafening in its sadness. When she sees again, there is something pale on the altar. She walks toward it.
A sword, white as Goat's fur, lies lengthwise on the altar. She touches it. Blood, thick and dark, pours from the edges of the blade. She picks it up. The blood pours down her forearm to the elbow. She feels a smile stretch her lips.
Saz woke up, not frightened, but still covered in sweat. She ran to the window and looked out toward the fence.
Goat was still there, casually gnawing at the rope leashing him.
Saz's breath hitched in her throat.
Leaning against the fencepost, like it had every right to be there, was a sword, exactly like her dream sword except iron-grey.
She ran out the door toward the goat. He backed away suspiciously.
Saz was no ninny. She was well-versed in the methods of the Gods, for her age. Her father was a Priest, after all. She grasped the hilt of the sword and tested it.
It had a heft, but it was short and perfect for her size.
She locked eyes with Goat. He was very calm. Understanding, almost, like he was thinking, All right, okay, I get it. Let's get this over with.
Saz raised the blade over her head.
That's when she noticed, on the other side of the fencepost, a saddle. It was leather-bound, goat-sized, and with sweeping designs embroidered around turquoise inlays. It was gorgeous.
Saz dropped the sword behind her, and it stuck point-first in the dirt. She grabbed the saddle by the horn and gently placed it on Goat's back while stroking his neck. He gave a tiny bleat, but stayed still.
Gently, she cooed to him, and using the fencepost for support, threw a leg over the saddle.
It fit her perfectly.
She grasped the hilt of the sword again, and cut the leash.
"Let's go, Goat!"
The two Gods watched girl and goat hop clumsily across the hills. Lyra laughed as she lost her balance more than once and almost dropped her sword. From his chair hewn into the mountain, Bouzouki sulked.
"What a waste of a perfectly badass dream."
"The dream was alright." Lyra turned to him, her leaf-green eyes smiling. "A little creepy for a child her age, but it might have done the trick. You just have to know your audience.
Bouz sucked his teeth at her. Lyra shook her head.
"Welp, guess I'd better get to converting your army, huh?"
"Whatever, those assholes haven't won a drat battle since my general got stabbed in the back."
Lyra looked again through the clouds at Saz and Goat romping through the field. "I think I might have a pretty good replacement."
|# ? Jun 8, 2015 18:17|
|# ? Jun 8, 2015 20:11|
Thansk for the crit, Hocus Pocus! You're absolutely right in that the later parts of the story were rushed -- I'd gone several hundred words above wordcount, and so I had to be merciless with my Glorious Nipponese Muramasa of Editing.
|# ? Jun 8, 2015 20:32|
No, it’s not a judgepost, it’s…
Week 142 Wizard Radar Crits
Wizardsplaining: A Story.
I personally dislike time-travel stories, because they almost always have some sort of explanation of the story’s events ingrained into the dialogue for the supposed benefit of the reader, and this was no exception. I knew exactly what the main character wanted, which was good, but the reason I knew it was because he straight-up told me through dialogue. Everything in this story that could create tension or immediacy is frittered away through dialogue. I like the idea of Iris as a wizard to be feared or Rochefort as a dissatisfied customer, but not when it’s directly spelled out for me.
The ending was especially anti-climactic. It feels like Rochefort was given the chance to resolve things the easy way—through being told of his prior involvement with Iris—when what we really want to see is him learning the hard way. Characters are revealed more through action than dialogue.
Polish-wise, the writing isn’t bad, but you refused to do a whole lot with it—and it’s a shame, spells going backward and forward in time had a lot of potential.
I was ready to like this story about Lee Harvey Trutlag getting the king assassinated from his place on the Muddy Knoll.
But then the ending happened, and that’s just it, it kind of just…happened. It was by unapologetic happenstance that the King was killed, and then a full-scale massacre happened, and Trutlag felt guilty until he didn’t. It didn’t feel structured or planned at all, and that’s not a compliment. There needed to be a tighter ending than just Hitchcock pandemonium.
Trutlag, as a character, was lacking a bit. I wanted there to be more personality to his actions, more history. With him, it’s just “The king’s an rear end in a top hat, let’s get him killed.” And that lack of character really spread out through most of the story. The writing was polished, but this felt like a Twilight-Zone episode, just all plot. It felt like something you easily fit into 1200 words, rather than something that extended beyond them.
I really enjoyed reading this story. It’s easy to keep reading when you’re in the shoes of a character that wants something, and the fear of death is a great motivator.
The voice in this story was likeable and definitely easy to embrace—I could hear it in my head during the sentence about the Lucky Strikes and the last sentence. The technical skill is on point as well. My main criticism with this story is that it felt hampered by the word count. I’d love to read a version of this that was a few thousand words longer, but as it was, all the different near misses felt compressed. At this length, telling the story from a perspective in the future (like with the East Village bartender) might have given the narrator an excuse to shorten and breeze past certain events.
I thought the reveal of the other Chance Man’s Soviet ties was capable enough, but still felt a bit lacking in pathos. But again, you might not have had room for a dramatic conclusion with an arch-nemesis with only a couple hundred words left.
With any luck, we’ll see you in here again.
Love and bureaucracy. Like bleach and ammonia.
In all honesty, I’m still on the edge of understanding what you wanted this story to be. I still don’t understand what drove the central conflict between Salt and Hines, because I don’t understand how the repulsion spell was supposed to work—was it supposed to erase his memory? And for a story that’s supposed to showcase the powers of the wizard, why have so much of it hinge on this off-brand love potion? And why have the whole thing end in an anti-climactic conversation in an employee cafeteria? This story was two giant gears grinding against each other for 1300 words. There was creativity here, but it all seemed to be working in the wrong direction, towards a story where nothing turned out to be important.
The technical skills were alright, but the characters were really difficult to connect with, because I didn’t know all that much about them. And the side characters took precedence over the main character, anyway.
Tone is a big game-changer, and this story is a perfect example of that. Maybe you were trying for a more mystical atmosphere, maybe you fell in love with the banter too much, but to me it read like a duel between Graffiti Wizard George Costanza and the Paladin Jerry Seinfeld.
Seriously, you let the dialogue take over this story, and it’s especially evident in the first section, where he’s just monologuing his life story to this incapacitated police officer. Which I can kind of believe, but it’s still just a cheap trick that you really shouldn’t have needed to use.
It does share a lot in common with Pham Nuwen’s story in terms of plot structure: unconventional wizard is on the run from some arbitrary adversary, then uses his powers to take out that adversary by the end. The main difference with your story is that neither the voice nor the structure are used to create any sort of intrigue or tension—we immediately know everything about the scene, and because what’s been shown doesn’t have a lot of depth or relatability to it, we can’t fool ourselves into thinking that what hasn’t been shown can improve the story. And it doesn’t. The ending is a guy we don’t particularly care about killing a guy we’re unfamiliar with.
I liked the prompt, but you didn’t do a whole lot with it, and the story suffered.
Ok, so this is the third “wizard fighting off adversary with unconventional powers” story I’ve read so far, and it’s by far the most incomprehensible. I can believe that you know exactly what’s going on in your own head, because you would have to know in order to think that this could be understood by anyone else.
I can glean some sort of plot vertebrae to this story—like I said, it’s a familiar structure—but everything that surrounds it? I have no idea. I have no idea how the wizard’s powers work, what sort of world he’s living in, who he is within that world, why he’s wearing a bucket with fishing lures draped over his head, and who the guy is that he just killed. I don’t loving know.
The language is serviceable, if a bit too ornate, but the sentences don’t form a coherent story.
There’s a lot of strong imagery in this story, and I’m always a fan of stories that imprint themselves in your mind after you’ve read them. Yet after the initial memories of images and sensations, there’s no real memory of a full story.
There’s certainly a full story here, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t have a lot of staying power, and I think you could pin that on the characters and how they convey themselves. This story is better at getting you to fall in love with images than real people. Svartr and his thrall are interesting but I never felt like I could connect to them on any sort of human level, and the corny, inflated dialogue only pushed them in the other direction.
I thought the plot was fairly well constructed, if a bit front-loaded. Maybe it’s just a personal preference, because I don’t normally read stories of this genre and a lot of its trappings are lost on me. What I could connect with and understand, I enjoyed.
When you’re writing one of these things that we in the business call “stories,” here’s something you might want to consider: Why should anyone care?
See, because I sort of cared when I thought it was a story about a wizard mechanic, and then I was thrown when it turned into a story about wizard street racing, and then I threw up my hands in frustration when it turned into a story about wizard street racers fighting “traditional” wizards fighting sand golems. This should be way more awesome and interesting than it sounds, but I was so detached from your main character’s motivations the whole time that I didn’t care—and it sounds like you were detached from her motivations as well, since you wrote three halves of three different stories rather than one complete one.
None of it felt human or organic to me. I like where you attempted to take the premise, but at the end it felt like a giant “so what?” “Fuckin’ wizards.” Fuckin’ wizards, indeed. You get the “Read More” award of the day.
I was immediately struck by how novel an approach to the prompt this was. Sure, it takes some suspension of disbelief to accept that dumb wizards need dogs to think for them, or that wizards would need to steal thinking-dogs from people instead of just finding some other method (don’t they already have familiars anyway?) But you know what, I was in regardless.
And then I was out, because the story had just ended. I felt like I was set up to believe that this would be a less obvious and straightforward story, but no, it’s “boy gets log,” “boy loses dog,” “boy finds dog again,” and the third part just sort of comes out of nowhere. I like the relationship Seth has with his wizard, but I can’t quite buy him as a hero after the story’s set him up as helpless.
It really seems like this story was a victim of the word count, or at least a victim of not receiving another revision to round out the structure a bit. Still, it had the bit of humanity and relatability to it that a lot of other stories didn’t have, and that’s commendable. And you got there though very unconventional means.
I offered 10 crits, and only 9 people took one, so… *spins wheel*
skwidmonster, it’s your lucky day!
I assume you already know what the main issue with your story is: the fact that it isn’t a story. It’s a scene. There’s no rise and fall to it, nothing really changes or gets accomplished, and we don’t see the characters in any different light than they are.
There’s certainly some character present, but you were really missing the impetus that could have given your story direction. I do like some of the things that are described, but they’re so far removed from mattering within the context of the story. It seems like you were caught up in an idea and had little knowledge as to how to create it or convey it effectively. I wanted to see the monster become real at some point. Really, my advice to you is just to give yourself more time to write and even more time before hand to put a story together in your head.
|# ? Jun 8, 2015 23:13|
Rugby Players Eat Their Dead
Obviously, I like your characters. Mom is super relatable, we all know that overbearing, passive-aggressive older woman. Sarah I loving loved, you hit the nail on the head with her. I think the dynamic is so successful because it's an archetype vs. a really down to earth character.
HOWEVER. You didn't follow the prompt. This wasn't a story about a wager, it was a story about a girl saying "I'll show you" to her mom. It's not a bet just because you use the word bet. There were no stakes. It was like you wrote it and later were like, "gently caress, this was supposed to relate to something." If I'm reading a story about a bet, I want it to be about a BET, dammit.
Also, there was something I really didn't like about the ending, and I think it's that her mom just took it. Like I said, we know this character. She's familiar. This kind of character doesn't get called a bitch by her child and just sit down. I'd buy it if her kid was some sweet, demure little thing, but Sarah's confrontational with her mom literally from the get-go. The aggressiveness didn't suddenly pop out of nowhere. I'd think the mom would at the very least leave the room. She'd be more hurt than shocked.
Zero to five, you get a 4.5 for characters, 5 for voice, 4 for storyline, 3.5 for conflict, and 1 for prompt-following.
Oh yeah. And a 6 for that loving title.
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 05:34|
If anyone wants a crit from this last round then I am offering to the first taker. The cost of it is a crit if my own story.
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 06:18|
second batch of critiques.
SO many stories could have been massively improved with further editing and reading aloud. You may not think that little grammatical errors, and the occasional clunky phrase matters, but it disrupts the reader's attention.
Some of your stories genuinely brought a smile to my face, or left me thinking over an idea you had presented. So thank you to those writers.
I hope you can find something useful. If you think your crit is too harsh, then you should, as always: read more, write more
The Hungriest Game
A classic game gets a terrifying twist
‘“They’re still hungry,” said Zoe.”’
You beautiful bastard! Just a real good time with this one.
The reveal(?), I guess you’d say, came on just at the right time. I was a little slow to piece things together, and so was getting more and more curious about what this whole lagoon facility was for. But as soon as the hippos were mentioned, everything fell into the place, and it just made me happy.
The opening was pretty straight faced, and even into the actual game you managed to keep things feeling relatively naturalistic. As the story went on it just got more and more tongue in cheek, but you never went too far. It would have been really easy to ruin the joke. You were appropriately restrained.
Closest you got was with ‘“Come on you hungry bastard, go!”’, but that felt like more of a nod than a slap across the face. Because at this point it was well and truly clear what was happening.
And if the watermelons dropping was the punchline, then the moment when the hippos went after their punters was the tag.
You definitely, in my mind, met both the brief and your flash rule to a tee.
My only issue was with a few sentences that just felt a little fatty, for example: ‘Next to the cash, a tall woman—well over six feet, with broad shoulders like a competitive swimmer’s and straw-colored hair pulled back into a tight ponytail under a military cap—scanned the lagoon through binoculars.’. Wordiness, like in that description, acts as a speedbump and this is a story where you never want to lose momentum. There were barely any cases of this, however.
I also think you could have perhaps leaned a little further into your characterization of the other gamblers. I don’t think I quite had enough information to build a strong image of who they were in my mind.
The best way to read this story is just like Nicky at the end. Give yourself over to the moment. Great fun.
A feud between egg farmers is settled by a bet.
I enjoyed the voice of this one, you did cowpoke well without going over the top. A frontier camp of egg farmers is a pretty silly premise, and you handled it with the appropriate drunkenness and fun.
Maggie’s motivation was clear - she just wanted these drunken idiots to stop fighting and shut up so she could drink. The bickering and banter between Mason and Frank was a laugh to read aloud, and had good rhythm. Maggie led things well, and it was refreshing to have a female perspective in a western. I think the only other roughneck female character I’ve seen in a western was Calamity Jane in Deadwood.
The ending didn’t feel entirely satisfying, although it was a neat resolution to the conflict between the egg farmers. I really liked that this felt like just another episode in an ongoing series of bullshit situations that Maggie gets dragged into.
Painted Jezebel is a real classy name for a hen.
Your protagonist is almost certainly going to win this bet, but they don't want to win.
It is a strange and interesting opening that you have written. A man stumbles down from the hills into a town. He is wild and strange, having not spoken to anyone in a long stretch.
I got the impression that Earl was a wily, rage prone, desperado. But not any more than that. There are a lot of gunslingers like Earl in books and movies, so I really needed more of a hook to be interested in him. What makes Earl different?
I’m iffy about how you met your flash rule. Earl bets Zeke doesn’t have it in him to draw, but he doesn’t want to win. He wants him to man up and draw his gun. But this isn’t really a bet, it's just sort of... a guess. There’s nothing at stake - either way Earl is going to kill him. Either he shoots him out of rage, or in self defense. But regardless of whether or not it neatly lines up with your flash rule, it definitely lines up with his characterization.
What I did particularly like was the roundness of the story. It opened with Earl feeling small against the enormity of nature, but yearning for civilization. And then concluded with him leaving town, feeling that he was too big for it. Returning to be insignificant in nature, a speck on the horizon. This is interesting. I want to know more about Earl's conflict of being too big for civilization, but also dwarfed by nature.
God Doesn’t Play Chess
You set up that Barton and Isaac Newton weren’t really allowed to talk beyond the context of the game, and held back the wager until the end. This made it hard to read the stakes of the game, and also made it hard to be invested in the outcome.
I liked that Newton was trying to casually get information out of Barton, who in turn casually tried to lie and deflect. That felt like it was the real game. This was the most entertaining element of the story - their banter.
What would make Newton think that ‘"Alice to Queen's 8th."’ was a reference to something? Barton didn’t act out in anyway to make Newton think there was any significance of that move to Barton.
‘seemedunwashed’ proof reading is your friend.
One point where my interest dipped was when the servant entered. The whole exchange felt unnecessarily drawn out. It dropped the tension you’d just started to build. I assume you were trying to create a lull before the game heated up again, but I mentally switched off as soon as David offered wine. Why are we hearing about Miss Anderson and David? Were they historical figures from Newton’s life?
Pacing was your largest issue. I wanted you to get on with it, but I wasn’t sure what ‘it’ was, because the stakes weren’t clear. Not that you had to say outright what they were, but not even your characters implied how significant it was.
Your idea was a novel and interesting one, and I was left with a fairly clear impression of your Isaac Newton. Next round you’re in, give a bit more thought to how your story is going to build.
To Tell the Truth
Your characters bet on something you wouldn't usually think to bet on.
Your ending genuinely really frustrated me. Whaaaaat is that ending? It felt really unearned, and didn't add much. A few things before that though:
Many of your sentences felt too long:
‘He cursed under his breath as he stumbled through his living room blind, stepped on something that crunched under his boot, flicked the light switch on the far wall on, and discovered that his living room has been trashed.’ You have a lot of sentences like this. Don’t be afraid of full stops.
‘...and it's wake grew the crushing guilt all cheaters know’ It’s is a contraction of it and is. Also I’m assuming you mean ‘in its wake’.
‘“u have to tell her about us...”’ In my opinion, in the year 2015 of our lord auto-correct, characters don’t need to do this anymore when they're texting.
‘...his hear started…’ Heart. Please read over and edit your work. I’ve said this to others already, but please understand, these little things just pull your reader out of your story. Every typo is an added opportunity to lose your reader’s interest. There were also several little formatting errors.
Your character comes off as a coward, and when his girlfriend’s life is on the line, he still lies. The threat of her suicide forces him to play her game, but it doesn’t force him to be honest? Wasn’t he just planning on telling her? She says if he’s honest that she’ll come down, so does he not believe that? If he doesn’t believe that, then why did he believe that she would kill herself if he doesn’t play? I can’t tell if he cares or not about his girlfriend.
His lying is almost comical. He’s lying like he’s covering up breaking something of hers, not like he’s cheated on her and her life is at stake.
Thinking ‘Abort! Abort!’ as you backpedal on lying to your suicidal girlfriend seems really flippant and tonally out of step.
I don’t like really like vampires. Just a personal thing. But even swallowing my prejudice I got no sense of a narrative or thematic justification for the vampire reveal. It was deus ex machina with a Twilight spin. I read your story again and the only possible foreshadowing of Rebecca becoming a vampire was that her boss is a ‘night owl’. That is not enough to lead us to this conclusion. There may have been foreshadowing that was obvious to you, the writer, but I didn't get any of it.
Balcony Two of the Theatre of the Mind
Your protagonist is the person being bet on, and they're none too happy about it.
I enjoyed the portrait you paint here of a man clearly in pain and dealing with some internal conflict. He’s possibly cheating, and in an environment that is familiar but also a little alien. At points I wondered if he really was gay, and it came across that that was something that he hadn't entirely accepted in himself. Thinking Mario was trying to trap him into an admission felt like something a guy who had been closeted might think. But at the kiss, in his own comfort with the moment, and acceptance, acts as a nice conclusion to the conflict. Overall I got a good image of your protagonist, and a more complex one of Mario.
The characters of Good and Evil, however, felt a little unclear. Were they demon/angel/spiritual representatives of Good and Evil? They were betting years of service, but didn’t really seem to be helping or hindering him anyway. They were just, as your protagonist put it, heckling. In any case I didn’t get an impression of them as being clearly distinct from one another. They came off as one continuous voice. Which would be fine if it was just his insecurity speaking, but I sort of expected there to be more jostling between Good and Evil.
I’m not saying that that Good and Evil have to be cliche embodiments - Aziraphale and Crowley from Good Omens come to mind as an example of Good and Evil who are both distinct from one another, but not in a cliche way. So it can be done.
A few points on your point of view:
Your protagonist is attracted to Mario, describing him as ‘...well-preserved…’ kind of goes against that. Its a very clinical, detached way of saying that he’s taken care of himself, that he looks good for his age.
He looks at Mario’s face and sees the beginnings of wrinkles and realizes that he is older than previously thought. What does your protagonist feel about this? Does Mario being older turn him on? Does it help him relate to Mario? See him as less of sex object?
I liked your core story, it had a distinct arc and ended sweetly (I mean, despite his possible cheating - did Good and Evil consider him a cheat because he separated but not divorced? Or was he lying to Mario when he said he was separated?). I also think you met your flash rule. But I question what the voices of Good and Evil added to the story. You clearly had compassion for your characters.
Can’t Put a Price on a Fool
An adventurer wagers a priceless artifact
Your opening card game took up a disproportionately large part of your story compared to the more significant karaoke match. And I don’t understand why. The karaoke game is just brushed over as being a drunken haze. But that was the central confrontation of your story - they were going to sing for the pendant!
The card game has some tension and character, but it's largely inconsequential. Cards are a well worn area, but you know what would be interesting? A high stakes scene of karaoke! This was my expectation when Todd said karaoke. I even reread a few lines because I thought I’d skipped a karaoke scene. When I finished your story it's all I could think about. I wanted to know what songs Eric would have chosen. Would Todd have cheated? How would he have cheated in a karaoke contest?
‘...then drew two himself. A ten and a six. He flipped it over. A Jack. Perfect. The next card was low.’ He flipped what over? What is ‘it’? The dealer’s draw? I couldn’t follow a lot of your card and number stuff. That may be a criticism specific to me, however.
‘“Pure gold, but not only that.” ... “But it’s even more shiny on the inside.”’ I’ve highlighted just the dialogue of this part. If you read it as a single line like this, it's clear why it's broken. The second ‘but’ is redundant.
I also don’t understand what leverage Todd has to threaten to call the whole thing off if they don’t compete on his terms. The object of value is on his person. There’s nothing stopping Eric just taking it, which is exactly what he does.
‘Said it was passed down from generation to generation. More like from pawn shop to pawn shop.’ I like this. This has that Las Vegas noir feel.
The big thing that didn’t work for me is that you dropped (what I thought was) your best idea. Next entry you should try and have more of a sense of what makes your story stand out. You had a really unique idea - a contest of karaoke. I’ve never read that in a story before. But you didn’t show it at all, and that was a real disappointment to me as a reader.
Your protagonist's opening ante is their fondest childhood memory. Literally, their memory.
Your story’s prose, for me, had some issues with rhythm, but I think the intrigue of your core concept kept everything together. Its an interesting thought experiment, and could open up further in any number of directions. A cancer drug that progressively erases your memory. I think a lot of much older people probably wouldn’t be interested, because memories are so core to their being. But Ethan is interesting because he is old enough to have a life, memories, and experiences, but is young enough to be on the precipice of a new life with his wife. He could still have a whole other life. The life of a family man. So for him, to lose his childhood in exchange for a future as a father, seems... worthwhile in the face of death. But he doesn’t anticipate the extent that it might go to.
Even if Ethan knew he would forget Liza, would he still go on the drug trial? What would Liza want? Its interesting.
The fact that I have walked away from your story thinking about the outcome and the ideas within, makes it in my mind, a success.
‘...slow to leave his mouth; his head was pounding...’ This, and several other semicolons, could just be full stops without detracting from the connection between the two points. It probably doesn’t make a difference, it's just a personal preference. I have an aversion to semi colons in fiction.
I thought the fact that Ethan was comforting Liza rather than the other way around was very true to life. In my experience its the cancer patients who are the most pragmatic and practical about their situation, and the family who need to be calmed down and comforted.
The second part with the phone call to the mother felt like it needed work. I wanted more confusion from both sides of the phone call. And outside of it too. Ethan furrows his brow and sits up at one point, but I wanted more of what he was physically/mentally doing. What happens when he tries to dig around for memory of a dog? Does he start to get dizzy as he strains himself, trying to conjure up a memory that is simply not there? What's happening in his head? This is his moment of realization that something was wrong, and it felt a little too measured for me. But I’m a big dramatic baby.
I walked away from your story and thought about the ideas you presented in it. What happens next, I asked myself. What would I do? And that's a pretty cool thing for a story to do.
Rugby Players Eat Their Dead
I smiled the entire time. Delightful story with an awesome point of view character. You landed on a well balanced mark with Sarah. You made her likable, but without it feeling like she was, or you were, trying too hard. She’s likable in a very personable, human way. I have a friend just like Sarah.
It was the little touches, the little asides and tags that brought this story to life. Things like Sarah giving herself a thumbs up as she hangs up on her yelling mother. Or tags like ‘“I hope this inspires more girls to go out and be tough.” You got me.’ - the way she's almost swooning over how badass she finds these rugby players. Because that's what it's like when you’re inspired. When you get sucked in to what seems like a whole new world. Another little thing is saying ‘That’s nice.’ when an opposing player nods back at her. It just helps lift the scene, and Sarah, off the page. The way she wonders to herself if she’ll lose any teeth, or congratulates herself on being awesome as she watches the video of her tackle, both do the same thing to their respective scenes.
Your ending is really great. ‘I give a silent thanks to the War Goddess, look down at my phone, and hit play.’ So metal.
A few little nitpicks:
I’ve never heard the word ‘intramural’ before, is it in common usage in your country? Its fine if it is, just that was the main clue into Sarah’s age at the beginning and it went right over my Australasian head.
‘I don’t even know why I called her other than some pathetic deep-seated craving for approval stemming from a childhood filled with passive-aggressive put downs like “Maybe if you wear some makeup you won’t have so many problems with your self-esteem.”’ Read aloud this feels too long. It could be more concise. If you wanted it to be long and sort of ranting/rambling, then I think you needed to make it longer. One direction or the other. The mother’s line could also have more flavour to it. Its worded in a kind of plain way compared to the rest of Sarah’s mother’s dialogue.
‘...aggressive ponytail…’ I sort of fumbled with images of what this was. Is an aggressive ponytail one that’s tied back really tightly? When I read aggressive ponytail my first thought is ‘in your face’, but I couldn’t figure what an ‘in your face’ ponytail looked like. These are very little things though.
I really dug your story, I had fun reading it. The pacing was absolutely on point, and nothing messed with your momentum. Sarah was very cool, and I feel like we were getting to see her at a critical point in her life. She was evolving. And you wrote a convincing enough experience to support that. Really great work, dude.
One of your characters lives by the rule "It's not cheating if you don't get caught." Tonight, however, their preferred methods are unavailable to them.
Johnny Two-Dice, Dee-Dee Twenty, Cointoss Mac.
Was Ricky Sixes indisposed? I assume Snake-Eyes Lucky Eight-Ball Palmer slept in. Did Aces Roulette Hole-in-One Bumblefuck McGuire get into another one of his fights, the old scoundrel?
Do you know how many characters in gambling stories are called ‘Johnny *gambling reference*’? Too many
A lot of my advice to Rap Three Times applies to you:
If your story is going to have a lot of cliche, then you should try in some way to subvert or build on it. Your protagonist, Johnny Two-Chainz, is the biggest offender. The smug dice rolling hustler who is too smart for the world and always comes out on top. Flawless characters can be very grating.
The idea of having a person have to gamble their way out of a hustling crew is not a bad idea.
‘One has to trust one's scout, one's runner, one's “nose”, and Roxanne was the best one in a long time.’ The best one of what? Is she the best scout/runner/nose, is that one thing? You have to trust your X, Y, A, and Roxanne was the best (?).
‘“Hello, gentlemen,” Johnny startled the players.
‘Black pants and a jacket, white shirt – he didn't look like he came from those parts.’ If there is something about his clothes that make those characters think that he doesn’t fit in, then show it to me. Its fine to be vague when the detail isn’t particularly important, but here you’re saying that his clothes are giving him away. But you’re giving no detail as to what about them is doing it.
‘...letting one of the oafs win.’,’...money before the simpleton…’ Why are they ‘oafs’? Why is one of them a ‘simpleton’? Show me why this is the case. All I know is that there are five guys, four wearing flannel shirts, one shirtless, playing cards. That's all I know about these characters and you’re telling me they’re ‘oafs’. You know, just because someone wears flannel and hangs out in a bar they aren’t necessarily an ‘oaf’ right? Show me why they’re ‘oafs’. Similarly:‘...somewhat dangerous men.’ Why are they dangerous? They’re just some guys playing cards in a bar.
They’re probably just some guys who lost their jobs when the town’s aluminium smelter shut down. Now here comes this lanky fop Johnny One-Love, a gambling cheat, to hustle them out of their beer money.
‘...And as such, the tapestry unravels…’ I have no clue what Johnny Six-Flags is saying here.
‘Her eyes were wide and the hands were white in their grip on the table.’ Read this out loud.
Reading things out loud is incredibly useful when you’re editing. It really makes it obvious when something is off. Be aware of cliches, and then ask yourself what you can do differently. Or how you can subvert them. If a detail or quality is significant, then show me why or how, don’t just tell me. The guys are dangerous? Show me why.
The Sure Bet and Tough Break
The voices of your artificial intelligence came across as a touch inconsistent to me. They sounded like everyday humans. There were very few turns of phrase that seemed alien. Yes, their frame of reference for language is humanity, but would an artificial intelligence ask another how it was? Or to just hear it out? This may have been your intention, but as a reader it made things feel flat.
I also needed more framing for IBLL’s motivation. Why does he feel like a slave? He was designed and born to function as a market system, so why is he disatisfied unlike SAHAR? That's a gap begging to be filled in your story.
‘...but the idea that it would be an unwilling slave forever, talking in secret to other beings in its same place till the end of time bothered IBLL.’ This isn’t enough. You’re transferring human values and fears onto artificial intelligence, without any consideration of how they may experience these things differently. Your AI exists in the infinite plane of cyberspace, what is its conceptualization of freedom or being trapped? If the answer is that it has taken these ideas from humanity, then show me that. Show me how IBLL’s has taken ideas from observing us, and then applied them to his own existence.
Your final act felt a lot more rushed to me than your opening. Your prose generally could have been smoothed out and made more fluid.
Its a really interesting set up, and I love the idea of artificial intelligence trying to make contact with humans. I’m even more into the idea of artificial intelligence going on strike. But your presentation of artificial intelligence didn’t hook me - I wanted IBLL and SAHAR to think differently to me, to conceptualize things differently. Thats what’s interesting about non human characters. They offer a different perspective on the world.
A Godly Wager
You were disqualified for a late submission, but I’ll give you a crit all the same. You lucky little ragamuffin.
Your story definitely grew on me, and I thought that the climax (the saddle over the sword) was a really cute moment. It did a lot for my opinion of the story, so well done on a moment that made me a smile. I liked the vibrancy and sense of humour of your writing, but the prose should have been tightened, and I was not a huge fan of the gods.
‘She actually managed to throw a leg over him, but was upside down in the dirt a second later. She closed her eyes again, leaning back in her throne.’ That first sentence is the little girl, the second is Lyra. Both sentences begin with ‘she’. A change of perspective like this needs to be marked by the use of the character’s name. Lyra closed her eyes, etc. Its confusing otherwise.
‘...and spat, pointedly avoiding his eyes…’ I assumed that what you meant here was that she spat at her brother’s face, and tried to miss his eyes. But what you said was that she spat and tried to avoid his eyes, not that she spat at him and tried to avoid his eyes.
I liked pretty much everything with Saz. She was a good contrast to the gods, and spirited in her own way too. I think her father being a priest should have maybe been foreshadowed by the gods at the beginning. I’d assumed he was a farmer because of references to his fields and a pet needing to be functional. So it felt contrived to dump his priesthood on me as a justification as to why Saz knew the dream was a sign, just when it suited the story
Generally I think your story could have used a decent amount of polish, but I very much appreciated the image of a little girl riding around on her battle goat, and the general humour. The gods needed to be tightened up, and maybe some time given to describing their appearances. I also reckon they were a touch too sweary, I don’t normally mind, but I think in this case it made their sections feel looser. Definitely a fan of your vibrancy, though.
Okay nerds, there you are. I'm free
How people do crits every week without topping themselves is beyond me.
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 06:34|
second batch of critiques.
Rad crits, dude. Really helpful, thanks so much!
Also thanks Ironic Twist for the wizard crit, you rock
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 06:50|
How people do crits every week without topping themselves is beyond me.
the trick is to just feel the burn until it doesn't burn anymore
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 06:53|
Thunderdome Week CXLVIII Results
First, three Disqualifications: The Brotherly phl for length, and Rap Three Times and curlingiron for not actually having a bet in the story.
The Winner: docbeard
Honorable Mentions:Masonity, Enterzahn, Benny Profane, and Erogenous Beef
Dishonorable Mentions: hubris.height and Lake Jucas
And The Loser is...a tie, between spectres of autism and broenheim! Manditory losertar brawl instructions will follow..
Critposts to follow, probably tomorrow for mine.
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 07:09|
WEEK 148 LOSERBRAWL: THE HOUSE ALWAYS WINS
Broenheim versus spectres of autism
800 words. At the start, your protagonist owes a debt to a non-human entity. At the end, they've found a way out of it. ...Somehow.
Due by 9 PM PST on Friday. That's this Friday.
No purple prose.
Djeser fucked around with this message at 07:38 on Jun 9, 2015
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 07:33|
WEEK 148 LOSERBRAWL: THE HOUSE ALWAYS WINS
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 07:37|
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 07:47|
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 07:50|
I want to test out my microphone a bit so if you entered this week and would like a shiny AUDIO CRIT then let me know. If you would like one made out of text on your screen instead, I will be doing that for everyone else shortly.
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 08:31|
Week CXLIX: Thrilling Adventure!
Write me a big ridiculous summer blockbuster. Any genre is allowed, except the boring ones.
What I Want:
Whether it's fate of the world stuff or something more personal, there had better be something at stake.
What I Don't Want:
Violence without context. Fighting is fine, mayhem is fine, but make it mean something.
An ironic deconstruction of the action thriller. Be as funny or as serious as you like, but be sincere.
People I don't care about doing things I don't care about for reasons I don't care about. As ever, "make me give a drat" shall be the whole of the law.
No fanfic, no erotica, no whining.
Sign-up deadline: Whenever I wake up Saturday morning.
Submission deadline: Whenever I wake up Monday morning.
Bear in mind that I am an early riser, and that I'm in CST, and plan accordingly.
Coming Soon To A Thunderdome Near You:
Hocus Pocus (Flash Rule: One of your significant characters is a fugitive from justice. Innocence or guilt is up to you.)
Killer-of-Lawyers (Flash Rule: One of your significant characters is not a human being.)
StealthArcher (Flash Rule: Your story involves one character being disdainful of another's accomplishments.)
Masonity (Flash Rule: A time limit with deadly consequences must factor.)
Thranguy (Flash Rule: A significant portion of your story occurs underwater.)
JcDent (Flash Rule: Reflected objects turn out to be much, much larger than they appear.)
Ironic Twist (Flash Rule: Only your protagonist knows the horrible truth.)
SquirrelFace (Flash Rule: Someone is a double agent. BUT WHO?)
theblunderbuss (Flash Rule: Your story does not end on the same continent on which it started.)
Rap Three Times
Blue Wher (Flash Rule: Your story contains a high-speed chase. None of the vehicles involved in this chase are cars.)
Megazver (Flash Rule: An ancient mystery must factor.)
Enchanted Hat (Flash Rule: The monsters come out at night. Shame about your insomnia.)
docbeard fucked around with this message at 03:23 on Jun 13, 2015
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 11:52|
Looking forward to this one!
In and could I please have a flash rule?
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 11:57|
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 12:12|
In. Can I get a flash rule as well?
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 12:32|
Rowr, what a sexy prompt. I'm in, and as always, ing
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 12:46|
In, Imma drama read the poo poo outta all of you.
E:Wow, way to give KoL the easiest flash rule he'll ever get, a challenge would be the opposite
E2:Double gently caress it, give me one.
StealthArcher fucked around with this message at 13:00 on Jun 9, 2015
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 12:56|
Looking forward to this one!
One of your significant characters is a fugitive from justice. Innocence or guilt is up to you.
In. Can I get a flash rule as well?
One of your significant characters is not a human being.
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 12:56|
For the Summer Blockbusters, I will write crits for 3 randomly selected stories. I plan to pick them from what is posted by Sunday at 3pm CST.
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 13:41|
In with a for last week's failure.
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 15:44|
|# ? Sep 28, 2022 20:01|
E2:Double gently caress it, give me one.
Your story involves one character being disdainful of another's accomplishments.
|# ? Jun 9, 2015 15:49|