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Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


's been too long. In with The Screaming of Goats.

The Horned Ones speak to me. (Gosh it feels good to hit submit.)


Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


I don't know if I can handle two Bennies.

One of them is cruisin' for a bruisin' with fightin' words such as "I suppose" and "we'll see about that", and the other thinks he can steal my prompt with no repercussions.

Benny the Elder: Since you're clearly out to get my goat, it's time to bet the farm. But trust me, kid, you're not going to bleat me.

Thunderdome: Set us some stakes.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Naw, I was sayin' that sneaky snakey Benny has already created the majority of a brawl -- we have a shared topic (The Screaming of Goats), we have judges (Maugrim and crew; if we can't decide who they liked better based on their stock judge responses then we're clearly both losers). All we lack are some consequences to up the ante. Mandatory crits, behooved new avatars, epic poetry about the greatness of the winner -- that's what I'm casting to the wind.

I'm keeping a raised eyebrow on Benny the Younger, but I wasn't specifically looking to brawl a first-timer. That wouldn't be fair, what with the multiple brawl win under my belt.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


I'm still going to beat you on the goatly front, but since I can't communicate clearly then clearly this brawl is mine for the winning. :toxx:

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


The Screaming of Goats (942 words)

Jimbob glared at the lifeless doorway. Power must've given. He pried it open with his hands and lumbered inside. First the whiskey, then the canned food. The produce was probably rotten, but Jimbob plodded in that direction.

He almost stepped on a corpse.

"P-Please... water."

Still alive, then. "Ain't no more water here. Barely any whiskey."


The man's pallid skin was marred by festering sores, and his legs were gnarled and misshapen. No wonder he hadn't evacuated. Not that the treatment worked.


Jimbob spat his tobacco and dug out a can of peaches. He laid it sideways on the ground, drew his hatchet, and chopped it in half. Then he scooped up the oozing fragments and swallowed the peaches whole.

He wiped his mouth, pointed to the runoff on the floor, and chuckled. "Help yourself."


Jimbob shouldered his cabin door open. "Belle! You in there?"

Belle coughed and turned toward him.

"Got us some dinner from the market."

Her eyes lit up.

"You want to eat now or later?"

She came closer and began licking Jimbob's fingers, nibbling suggestively at the tips.

"Oh-ho-ho. You're right. Later."

He drew her lips to his and kissed her.


Clack. Clack.

Belle must have been combing through the garbage again, salvaging the scraps that were still edible. She had been looking a mite pale. But Jimbob felt fine this morning; he always did. It'd take more than a plague to keep Jimbob down.

Clack clack clack.

Was that... the door?

Jimbob pulled on his britches and went to the window. "We ain't got none!"

"What?" a muffled voice responded. "No, I don't need help. I'd just like to talk."

Jimbob groaned but opened the door. The man outside wore clean clothes and looked reasonably healthy. Must be the respirator.

"I'm Alexander Svartebok," the main said as he extended his hand, "from the CDC."

Jimbob scowled.

"We thought this area was completely abandoned until a drone spotted you wandering the city three nights ago."

"What's yer point?"

"You clearly have a natural immunity to the Shriveling. If you'd let us run some tests at our lab in Tallahassee, we might be able to develop a cure for this blight."

"Don't need me no cure; ain't got me no sickness. 'sides, your kind cooked this up in the first place."

"That's not--"

"That is. Now you get off my property 'fore I pry that fancy mask from your pretty face."

Alexander's eyebrows arched then furrowed, but he retreated without another word. Belle poked her head out from under the table.


Two days later, Belle was dead. Jimbob stared at her motionless body, then quietly turned away. He retrieved his shovel, went to the yard, and began digging.

Slowly, methodically, mechanically, Jimbob dug a grave for his departed lover. He fetched her carcass, laid her to rest, and stood in solemn silence for an hour.

When returned to his cabin, he leaned the shovel against a wall. Jimbob looked around the room, at the table and chairs and bundles of hay. He drew a slow breath.

"God DAMNIT!" he slammed his fist on the table, then shattered the plates with a sweep of his arm. He whipped around and stomped the trashcan flat. Fuming, he braced his hands against the wall and slammed his head into it.

His wail became a roar. Blood clouded his vision while rage colored it. The walls, the furniture, the stockpiles all transformed into colossal red demon. Jimbob jabbed at its knuckles; the demon cracked a smile. Jimbob bit into its palm; the demon throbbed with pleasure. Jimbob drew his head back and howled, flinging spit and fury to the corners of the globe. The demon cackled with delight.

At some point Jimbob collapsed.

He was awakened by knocking.

"I'm fetching my hatchet!" he bellowed. The response was unintelligible.

Jimbob burst out of his house, weapon in hand, and saw Alexander standing twenty feet away with his palms raised.

"I told you to leave!" Jimbob shouted.

"Hear me out," Alexander said. "We'll give you anything you want. Money, shelter, women. You'll be immortalized as a hero and hailed as a savior!"

"Don't want none of that. Have all I want except-- Except..."

With a deafening grunt Jimbob hurled his hatchet at Alexander and dropped into a sprint. But last night's exigencies still haunted him, and the other man quickly disappeared into the forest.

Jimbob returned to the ruin of his cabin and lay face-down atop the wreckage.


All that week Jimbob had unusual dreams. Harpies flew in unison, etching incomprehensible runes into the sky. The sun set across the ocean. As the sky faded to a swirling dark cocoa, the effervescent water glowed a radiant amber. Three naked pixies circled his head, each speaking to him in her own private language.

The first evoked thoughts of a wind, ancient and forgotten, dragging sand back and forth against an endless expanse of limestone.

The second sounded like the jingling of sleigh bells in a warm, precipitous cavern.

The third sound was that of shattering glass, followed by three staccato thumps.

Jimbob rubbed his bloodshot eyes and stumbled toward his window. Among the shards and debris was a stone with a crudely painted '5' followed by a 'V' with a line through the middle.

That was the last straw. Jimbob went to the closet, fetched his rifle, and loaded it. He crept up to the front door, took three measured breaths, and flung it open.

Standing in the clearing, tethered to a stake, was a glossy, healthy, golden brown goat.

She was the most beautiful thing Jimbob had ever seen.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


newtestleper posted:

17.5 hours left, fellas.

Math is clearly not one of my strong suits. This is gonna be awesome.

Also I only had time for this many drive-by crits:

chthonic bell posted:

Present tense, eh?
Your special emphasis on the mundane word "wrongness" doesn't read well. The first time I read it I felt like it was emphasized because you couldn't find a better word. I also tripped up at the "sharpest scalpel". If they need to pick the sharpest scalpel, it means some of the duller ones are unfit for cutting. Why would they keep dull scalpels around? I also don't buy that a partially decapitated goat that's been in a sack for a while wouldn't've bled out so much that some mere spasming would fling fluids.
I did like most of the dialogue, and the last couple of paragraphs of prose conveyed the intensity. The idea of casual, bantering, vaguely-british quasi-necromancers is a refreshing one. Normally the masters of the underworld are so darned serious. I also liked seeing their apprenticeship -- usually the necromancer is a well-established chap.

SadisTech posted:

Too many consecutive hyphens. Sea-spray ice-coated (the) Thane-hold. In fact, too many hyphenations in general. I can't quite get comfortable with the narrative tone you're trying to set. Also, proofread. At this point I'm actively uncomfortable with the prose. Gimmicks don't tend to work over extended periods.
Highlight: the concept of a madness that makes people autistic savants. And not much else.
Lowlight: the complete sentence: "Screaming, the creature."

Benny Profane posted:

So far, I'm impressed. I haven't read your story yet, but I also didn't read a preface, so you've got me on the right foot.
You say Maga had been dreaming when she heard words, which makes me think she was no longer dreaming at the time. "Was" has more immediacy. Also, I get that you want to have even Maga be surprised by the amount of time she's been down there, but "what felt like a very, very long time" is weak. If she had been down there so long that time had lost all meaning and everything had ceased to exist save hatred, that I would've dug.
I do like the Dying Earth trappings, but I'm always a sucker for such settings. I feel like you made a perfunctory nod to the age with its lack of trees but could've done better to make it feel natural -- the fact that the witches know there used to be trees there a thousand years ago is unrealistically convenient.
I could also tell that Maga wasn't going to do right by her dwindled-witches, but you didn't overstress that. You used the flash rule well enough, but sometimes people put such things at the end of the story in spoiler tags. In this case I was a bit spoiled on the ending since I knew about the flash rule a priori, and that's not fair to your twist.

hotsoupdinner posted:

First paragraph: it's cliched, but it's supposed to be, and I liked it. Unfortunately some pleasant black metal setting can't save you from the problem of the entirely predictable plot. There are a few nice supporting details, but no meat behind them. The conversations between the brothers feel a little stilted, and I don't know why the protagonist would be the only person to both not be overwhelmed with love for the ritual but also object to it. The class system was nice, though, and there were no fumbles. Just... nothing to engage the reader.

Megazver posted:

I'm just going to go on a hunch and get this out of the way before reading the second sentence, but: Proofread and think about your word choices. "die out from hunger" -> "starve", that sort of thing. Specific is better, shorter is more impactful. (For some reason I read "Corpsecunt" with the stress on the middle 'e'.) 7/4 is a perfectly acceptable time signature!
Most of it didn't work for me, but I wasn't put-off because there were a few pieces that did. Definitely the most Metal of the pieces so far, and I kind of hope in total. I did chuckle inwardly at the last laugh.

ZeBourgeoisie posted:

Nice throat line. I feel like the smell would assault Max before the casual visual pondering. Is Max not wearing shoes? Oh, ankles. Uh. I suppose there was a brief conflict and resolution with regard to accepting the job, but that didn't feel like a complete story, even if it read reasonably well.

WeLandedOnTheMoon! posted:

As opposed to that ogre? I don't know if I was supposed to, but I chuckled at the phrase "a handful of rear end". For inspecific reasons, I am genuinely interested in what will happen to Nils by the point at which he's recalling the market stall. Perhaps it's because, as we all know, it sucks to serve ogres. Not overfond of the word "demonesses", but I do find the image of succubi making aimless love appropriate. I don't dislike the choice of leaving the price to be paid to the devilman as the cliffhanger, but I'd say this piece's biggest weakness is that abrupt stop.

JcDent posted:

Magi! "let tiredness in" is clunky. Way too many random details in the second paragraph -- it doesn't so much build the world as numb my mind with Metal Adjective Proper Nouns. Ugh, I'm fighting so hard not to glaze over. I didn't read most of the prompts, but are you trying to sneak all the phrases into your tale? Well, I hope it amused you, but it was not a pleasure to read. Appreciable on a conceptual level, but I would've been just as amused (and not as brain-drained) if somebody had told me "this guy used all the prompts".

Schneider Heim posted:

I'm mostly with you and down with the spacefaring future, except the part where the needles still hurt and are needles. Jovian, nice. Interesting dream/hallucination. Well done in a small amount of words. I've empathy for the protagonist, was left guessing only briefly, and believe and am rooting for her vengance.

Benny the Snake posted:

Two "now"s too close together. The father seems mostly nice, then calls it a "damned" goat. Seems out of place at present. "fed into the bucket full of feed"? Ate from? Just a kid, eh? Molly's response to the second Neeeehh is cute. Your switch to the second person to describe the goat scream is jarring, and it's telling. A miniscule flock makes me think of tiny sheep; a diminished flock would be lesser in quantity. The rapture is abrupt, even if suggested, but it's not really obvious that the father was bad enough to warrant the villainizing he received. He's angry at a goat that almost killed his daughter and did kill his sheep -- I think that's kosher with the Old Testament, at least.

Nubile Hillock posted:

I like the telekittenic opening, but I stumbled a little on "Time creeped slowly here". Not sure why, but creeping doesn't feel like one of time's permitted activities. I'm a little confused, but that may be from having read too many stories. I do wonder where the guards or attendants of the freshly dead dude are. There's some decent imagery here and I like the exposition toward the end, but in my current state I can't tell if the piece is inherently confusing or if I'm just confused.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


newtestleper posted:

17.5 hours left, fellas.

Arg I'm so confused. 17.5 hours from when you posted that would be ~2.5 hours from now. Right now it's ~7AM NZDT. Yet:

newtestleper posted:

Deadline: 22 January 9:30pm NZST

The only way I can make sense of it is if you wrote PM when you meant AM, and NZST when you meant NZDT.

But my brain is frazzled and you're calling the shots, so I'm following your most recent decree to the 'T'. Two hours left to polish, polish, polish!

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Thunderbrawl CXXVII: Homage to Bleriot

Shades of Normal (1492 words)

It was another predictable day in Greyton. The adults were not hard, but medium at work, and all on track to meet their quotas. The overachievers showed up precisely five minutes early; the underachievers were exactly five minutes late. Lazy grey clouds kept the temperature a comfortable 75 degrees. All the children were at school, all the animals were in their yards, and all the mothers were with their babes. The population of Greyton was adequately content.

Suzie walked home from the fifth grade: down Straight Street, left on Linear Lane, and to her house on Rectangular Square. She placed her backpack in her closet, changed out of her uniform, and began her homework.

At 5:00 PM Suzie went downstairs for dinner. Her father had stopped working five minutes early; her mother arrived five minutes late. After a perfunctory dinner, they gathered in the den for familiar stories. At 10:00 PM, they went to bed.

Blue fades to green fades to peach fades to plum. A schizophrenic stone skips across a liquid rainbow, leaving explosions of concentric colors. A Parisian looks skyward as a boxy skeleton wrapped with rigid fabric strives to reach the eagle. Finely warped wood preens on its axle, confident of its place in history. The balloons deflate, knowing that never again will they achieve yesterday's renown.

Suzie awoke with a dizzy head. She remembered that something strange had happened, but couldn't recall the specifics. Her mother had left for work, but her father was still in the kitchen, sipping the last of his black coffee.

"Da~ad. I had a bad dream last night."

"It's all right, buttermint. What was it about?"

"Everything was all, umm... Well... The shades! The shades weren't black but they weren't white!"

"Now now, there are many shades in-between."

"No," Suzie stamped her feet. "They weren't shaped right! Not squares or cubes or triangles."

"Suzie, dear, there are more complicated shapes than cubes. Why, one of my current paintings, The Hexatriangle, is a fantastic construction composed of six adjoining triangles, each the same shade. I'll show you, but not right now. You don't want to be late for class."

Suzie puffed out her cheeks but her father returned to his newspaper. Frustrated, she finished her morning routine and traipsed off toward school. She tried to explain it to her classmates, but couldn't find the words. Eventually she grew tired of trying, and the comfortability of routine washed the memory from her consciousness. The rest of the week passed pleasantly and without remark. Then it happened again.

First I take a rainbow, you'll like those, and I add the shades of your world. Then I wrap it around a circle, the most perfect of shapes. I do this a second time, then a third, each with different colors. Then I lay them on top of each other and cut sections out of each one, so that you can see the relationship between realities. Listen to the lines and you will find the circles.

This time Suzie was excited. She showed up for class five minutes early, eliciting a surprised remark from her teacher. She was bubbly and eager. When she wasn't writing in her workbook, she deliberately left it at an angle neither parallel nor perpendicular to the edges of her desk. When she finished her whiteboard arithmetic, instead of boxing her answer, she drew lines of uneven lengths, connecting at irregular angles. The teacher gasped; her classmates giggled.

After dinner, instead of the usual stories, Suzie's father retreated to his studio while her mother escorted her to the den.

"Susan, sugar. How are you feeling?" her mother asked.

"I feel fine," Suzie said with some hesitation.

"That's good. Listen, your teacher called me today and told me something unusual. I talked to your father about it, and he said you'd been having strange dreams."

"Just the one," Suzie lied.

"Well tomorrow, instead of going to school, we're going to see a nice lady who'll love to hear about it."

Suzie bit her lip but didn't object. She knew better than to try to argue with her mother. The next morning they got on the maglev and went to the psychiatrist's office.

"Suzie, I'd like you to meet Mrs. Andreasen. Mrs. Andreasen here helps little girls when they're being bothered by things."

"I'm not being bothered," Suzie protested.

"I'm glad to hear it," the psychiatrist said. "Now why don't you tell me exactly what you remember, and we'll try to make things better, hmm?"

Dutifully, Suzie did her best to describe the images she'd seen in the first dream. It was very difficult for her to relate concepts that she didn't understand, but eventually she got her point across.

"That's very interesting, Suzie," Mrs. Andreasen said. "Your mother and I are going to step into the next room for a few minutes, but we'll have a treat for you when we come back."

Suzie fidgeted in her chair, trying to figure out why the psychiatrist's words didn't reassure her. A few minutes later the door slid open, and the two women walked back in.

"Here's a little candy from Mrs. Andreasen," Suzie's mother said. "She gave me a bunch, so you can have one every day."

Suzie popped it into her mouth and chewed on it. "It doesn't taste very good."

"You'll learn to like it," her mother replied.

The two of them returned home, since Suzie was excused from school for the day, but her mother then departed for work, muttering about overtime. Suzie still had the taste of sugar and chalk in her mouth. Without the day's assignments, she didn't know what to do, so she decided to look at that painting her father had mentioned.

She knocked on the door to his studio and waited to be admitted. When her father opened the door, he seemed surprised, but not displeased, at the interruption.

"What's up?" he asked.

"Can you show me that painting? The Hicksatriangle?"

"Sure." Her father smiled and dug through a pile of papers. "Here's a draft."

She looked at the print; six little triangles shaded and arranged to appear as a single shape. That's not right, a familiar voice whispered.

"That's not right," Suzie said. Her stomach wobbled and her head felt funny.

"What do you mean?" her father asked.

"The triangles-shape isn't centered. And the angles aren't even."

"Oh! I didn't think you'd notice. Yes, that old draft was a little clumsy, but I've fixed it up since then. You really have an eye for art."

Satisfied, Suzie went up to her room and began arranging her things. The bedsheets were ever so slightly off, and one of her shoes didn't quite line up with the other. How had she not noticed such imperfections before? She'd just have to be more deliberate.

When her mother arrived late that night, the entire house had been organized. All the furniture (except that blasted refigerator!) had been positioned equidistant from the walls, and was symmetrically opposed by something across the room. Suzie had laid all her father's prints across the floor of his studio, with active paintings positioned just so. Her father hadn't been able to withstand the determination of a ten-year-old, and had withdrawn to the tavern while Suzie's newfound energy played itself out.

Her mother stared with an open mouth.

"Did you do this?" she asked.

"Had to do it," Suzie said. "Things weren't organized."

"We'll have to tell Mrs. Andreasen about this tomorrow."

"'kay. I'm going to my room."

And with that, Suzie marched up to her room and shut the door, leaving her mother to admire her handiwork.

Suzie centered herself beneath her blankets, but could not remain asleep. After exactly four hours, without knowing why, she rose from bed.

Six steps to the doorway, turn right, five steps down the hall. On top of the toilet, open the medicine cabinet. That box there -- the chalky sugar. One, two, three, four. Don't gag. Wash it down with sink water. There, you've done it.

All of a sudden Suzie didn't feel so good. She ran down the hallway and pounded on her parents' door.

"Mom! Dad!" she cried. She continued pounding but the door quickly slid open.

"What's wrong, boxtart?" her dad asked.

"My tummy. My head. The new candy."

Her mom gasped. "Pablo, get the ipecac!"

Her father dashed off and quickly returned with a small vial. "Quick, Suzie, drink this."

She did, and for a moment she felt better. Then she felt worse.

After emptying her stomach, Suzie rolled on her back and slid to the side. She stared at the ceiling and the worried faces of her parents while the room spun circles around her.

"Suzie. Are you all right?" her father asked.

The blinding yellow of the ceiling lights intensified her headache.

"Suzie, answer us," her mother pleaded.

Circles. Colors. Suzie broke into an exhausted smile. "Yeah, yeah. I'm okay."

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


newtestleper posted:

I am working out what to do to rectify the situation.

You let Benny have the ~12 hours, and you let me have a beer. Then, or maybe in the morning, you judge.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


I genuinely appreciate that you're an effortful reader, and am a bit ashamed when, like many times, I feel I could've done better. No regrets on Winter Wine, though :colbert:

Feedback, hindsight, and the sudden deadline are an excellent regimen. The 'dome is good exercise, even if I've yet to leave its confines.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Maugrim posted:

The Harshness

Hah, that's delightful! The judges next time I write are really going to regret you calling out my writing as direct. Thanks!

Maugrim posted:

the twist seemed so obvious to me I was left wondering if it was a twist, while the other judges didn't even notice it

This is the kind of thing that fascinates me.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


I spend far to much time thinking on (and disagreeing with) the pseudonymous comments of others.

Who wants a free crit (limit three)? This week's story unless linked otherwise. To be posted during the next week or so, as I have time.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Critical Strike!

First, the thoughts as I have them.

ZeBourgeoisie posted:

Words: 906

He wanted the world, but had only a small shop in a dying town. Dust ravaged the landscape, throwing dried weeds about. Richard gazed out the window of his store, imagining himself escaping into the great yonder. This doesn't quite engender empathy in me. It feels just a tad lacking and a mite off.

Someone knocked at the shop door, yanking Richard from his daydream. Felt more like wandering thoughts than a daydream. He pulled the door open and found himself face to face with a beaming youth. The boy flashed a sideways smile at him before introducing himself to the shopkeep.

“Howdy! Name’s Dan.”

“What can I do for you, Dan?”

“Oh, I’m just needing Strange phrasing, doesn't sound rightly western. to stock up some supplies for my trip out west.”

“West huh? What you got planned out there?”

Dan leaned into Richard, his voice hushed. At first I thought you meant he leaned on him. Toward, perhaps?

“Been some rumors about a big ol’ vein of gold just a few towns over.”

Dan’s grin doubled in size as the words left his lips.

“But you didn’t hear it from me, partner.” I hear "pardner".


Dan hopped onto his horse, his sack a deadweight swinging over his shoulders. He judged that the rations would last him a few days, more than enough time to make it to the next town. With a kick of the heels, Dan and his steed sped down the road.

The sun crept under the hills, turning the sky into a brilliant display of orange and crimson. Dan dismounted his horse as the desert heat died down. The cool evening air kissed the young man’s cheeks as he stopped near a patch of prickly pears. After hopping from his horse and giving the area a quick survey, Dan began to pitch his tent. The prose isn't bad, per se, but it's not particularly doin' it for me either.

Dan grabbed a piece of flint and steel and struck sparks onto a pile of dried wood and weeds. The kindling caught quickly, giving way to a roaring fire. The air turned from cool to cold, but the flames bathed Dan and his horse in a glow of warmth. After fixing himself a hearty stew, Dan crawled into his tent for the night.

The remains of the fire smoldered as Dan slept. His belly sloshed with stew as his mind wandered to thoughts of gold, girls, and booze.

From somewhere in the distance, a hiss emerged and echoed over the desert. I don't feel hisses emerge, unless there's a steadily growing air leak.

The fantasies in Dan’s mind shattered as the sharp sound pierced both his tent and mind. Yeah, use a more abrupt word than emerged. Images flashed in his brain of rattlers, vipers and other venomous beasts. More direct wording would lend better immediacy. "He saw rattlers, vipers, and other venomous beasts." He tore through his blankets in search of a serpent, but found nothing.

With apprehension, Dan crawled to the front of the tent, ready to confront whatever lurked in the darkness. He poked his head from the tent, only to see a dead campfire and little else.


The sun peaked peeked? over the horizon as Dan leapt back onto his horse. The two continued down the road, through the great American desert. Young Dan felt as though he had the world in his palm. The incident from the previous night faded into the back of his mind as he looked forward to a future of riches.

Then, another hiss rang out over the valley.

Dan nearly fell from his horse at the sound.

As he and the horse regained their senses, the noise had once more faded back into the aether. Dan looked over his surroundings, a sense of eeriness overcoming him. Telling. "Dan scanned his surroundings, and pulled his duster tighter about him." The inviting blue sky felt hollow, almost as if all the beauty of the desert was a facade I can see why people complain about this. If it felt "almost as if all the beauty of the desert was a facade", then it didn't actually feel "as if all the beauty of the desert was a facade". So I don't know how it did feel., a disguise for some unknown horror tell-y. Not wanting to stay in one place any longer, Dan kicked his heels and continued down the road.

A shadow of a man leaned against a signpost up ahead. Dan slowed his horse as they approached the stranger. The man seemed to pay no mind to Dan’s arrival.

“Hey?” started Dan.

The man lifted his head. Wispy grey strands of hair poked out from underneath his hat. His dark, tanned skin suggested an Indian heritage. When his eyes met Dan’s, he spoke.

“Do you believe in ghosts?”

Dan didn’t respond. How could he respond? The stranger nodded his head at Dan’s silence and continued.

“If not, you better start.” Weak.

The stranger looked to the fork in the road past the signpost, and took the eastbound route. Dan took off down the westbound route without a second glance at the strange Indian.


It didn’t take much longer for Dan to reach the next town. Hopping off his horse, he walked through the settlement. The place had once been a coaltown, as testified by the fine layer of soot that seemed to dust every building.

After a few minutes of wandering, Dan spotted a store with a second story. In the window a sign advertised rooms for rent. Dan sighed at the thought of having a real bed to sleep in.

Dan stepped up to the storefront, the aged building possessing a sense of familiarity that didn’t settle right on Dan’s stomach. Telling. Shaking the feeling, Dan knocked on the door. As it opened, a familiar face stood before him: Richard.

“How?” asked Dan.

“How what?”

“How did you get here? I saw you in the last town over!”

A hiss rang through the building as the old man locked eyes with the youth. The noise seemed to rattle from the walls around them, echoing from every sundry and good in the shop.

Covering his ears, Dan screamed at the shopkeeper.

“What are you?”

“I’m just an old man who wanted the world.”

With that, Dan found himself alone in an empty coaltown.

So I didn't check what your prompt was, and that's probably a good thing. This piece doesn't stand well on its own. Overall, it was far too dry and encyclopedic. A lot of telling-style sentences, not all of which I pointed out. Because of the declarative nature (Dan did this, Dan went there, Dan felt blah) I didn't establish a connection with the protagonist, so I don't even know if his fear and surprise make sense because I'm not attached enough to try to figure it out, and I certainly wasn't engaged enough to feel those emotions myself. This felt like a series of events that just happened, and I'm not entirely sure of their significance or why I should care about them.

One goal of writing is to engender certain emotions in the reader. This is frequently accomplished by establishing some kind of empathy with the main character, then having the character act in a way that the reader would believably act were they in that situation. Honestly, the second part is probably easier than the first. If you want to indicate that Dan is getting creeped out, don't say he's getting creeped out -- have him do something you would do if you were creeped out. Assuming I had empathized with Dan as a character, I would've felt a little of his fear.

Establishing empathy is the harder part. The easiest way to go about this is to either have the protagonist demonstrate characteristics that the reader is fond of (think the noble ideals which we all should aspire to, or the precious innocence of youth), or to put the protagonist in a situation analogous to something the reader has experienced, with a believable conflict that, if happily resolved, can help them feel better in the world, knowing that there's at least one vicarious fictitious instance of this problem that turned out as it should. Your current story gives me a man who's traveling in search of gold and a shopkeep who, uh, keeps a shop. Greed is a human condition, but it's not extreme greed, and most readers don't like to think of themselves as greedy.

Finally, the world felt very empty. Not so much as it was supposed to (tumbleweeds in the desert), but more as a series of cardboard locations and scripted events that the protagonist was teleported to.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Sweet, PST. In.

Oubro appears as a human, emaciated and hairless, lacking any orifice save the mouth. Despite the absence eyes, ears, nose, or genitalia, Oubro is silent and precise in all things. Oubro feeds off knowledge that is lost to sentience.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Ex Libris (1423 words -- Oubro and Dulme)

In the fathomless depths of the ocean, a forgotten ancient breaks free of the manacles that bind it. Each impact of its colossal stride sends tremors leagues distant, and the waters above revolt.

Grayson gasps as the last tendrils of dream ebb from his consciousness. The rejuvenator ceases its rhythmic pulsations as Grayson gains his feet. He pops his arthritic knuckles as he ponders where to begin.

The myriad corridors of the Mythology Wing house millions of volumes; humanity's valiant final attempt at propagating its superstitions. Grayson knows each one of them as another would know their distant relatives. It has been hears since he last tended this annex, but he is eager for the reunion. He drifts along like a twig floating downstream, jostled by mischievous currents but always approaching the ocean. When he finishes the day's curation he removes the nearest book. He hopes it will be less disturbing than last night's material.

You can see her in the eddies of dust disturbed by the last breath of a child, and in the cold ash of an empty hearth in winter. When the libations are gone it is she who sits to hear prayers to the gods who left you. When you rest your head for the last time it is Dulme the Forgotten who tucks you in and sings you to sleep.

Grayson awakes with a wavering equilibrium. He suspects that his rejuvenator is malfunctioning, but knows his masters would repair it if that were the case. He returns Deities of the Fifteenth Age to its home.

"I didn't know there were still stories about me!"

Accosted by an estranged childhood friend, Grayson strives for recognition. A voice. Young, female, addressed to him. Spoken words.

"Pardon me?" Grayson croaks, grimacing at the unfamiliar contortions required to audibilize thoughts. He turns around and cranes his neck to face the speaker. A woman with pearly white skin and flowing coral locks sits atop a shelf, tracing circles with her legs as though treading water.

"I'm honored to be remembered," she says.

Grayson's brows wrinkle, for he does not in fact remember her. There hasn't been a patron in over a decade, and her strange mossy garments with their casually undulating tassels in no way resemble the traditional garb of House Mirovia.

"Profound apologies, but who are you?"

"Just a secret admirer who rarely gets to talk with her clients."

She winks and blows Grayson a kiss. An arctic breeze washes over his face and forces him to blink. When it subsides, the girl has vanished.

Grayson rubs his eyes as his sense of balance returns. He considers calling his masters but remembers that the communicator is nonoperational. The retirement shuttle is not to be used until after he has trained his replacement. Grayson rationalizes the experience as the continuation of a dream; he is easily influenced by fiction.

Days pass uneventfully as Grayson dusts, shelves, mends, and transcribes. Then he catches sight of her again; this time her hair is short and sandy.

"Don't you ever get lonely down here?" she asks.

Grayson ponders the question. "The fantasies and dreams of a thousand peoples are captured in the pages that surround me."

"But that's unilateral. Don't you wish you could interact with your wards? Ask them questions and share in the answers they hold valuable?"

"There is more of value in this one aisle than I could ever hope to grasp."

The woman pouts her lower lip, disappointed. With a roll of her hand comes a splash of light; she is gone when Grayson's eyes readjust.

The next day Grayson feels a throbbing of discontent. He has decided that a subtly malfunctioning rejuvenator is giving him hallucinations, but finds himself missing the companionship nonetheless.

In the evening, he spots her a hundred shackles down the aisle. She is wearing a tight white outfit and has no hair at all. Grayson shuffles closer. She is far too skinny. Grayson pauses in confusion as the emaciated visitor removes a hefty tome and slowly inserts it into its mouth. The book glides horizontally at uniform speed, though it was originally larger than the creature's head. Grayson's stewardly training overrides his good sense.

"Hey!" he shouts. The creature ignores him.

Grayson watches as it licks its fingertips and walks around the bend to an adjacent aisle. He hurries to where it had been, but there are no crossways for more than a cable in either direction. Grayson looks at the empty space on the shelf, a gaping wound in the corpus of order and knowledge, and finds he cannot remember what belongs there.

He rushes back to his station and pours over his catalogs, but finds no relevant entries. He spends the rest of the day obsessing over the missing document, but to no avail. Finally he collapses onto the rejuvenator and goes to sleep alone.

Grayson opens his eyes to a face smiling over him. The face has no eyes, ears, or nose. Its head rests on a neck too thin to support it, and neither hair nor blemish mars its unwholesome opalescence. A greedy tongue slathers saliva along sinister lips.

Grayson screams and falls out of his bed. The creature silently snaps an unlit chunk of the rejuvenator off as easily as if it were plucking cherries and inserts it into the bottomless chasm that is its mouth.

He runs as fast as his ailing legs will take him. When the monster is no longer in sight, Grayson stops to collect his breath and gather his wits. He can't understand what it seems to delight in devouring. In fact, he can't even name the things he has lost. They are forgotten.


Acting on sudden insight, Grayson hustles to where he camped a few nights prior. Along the way he spies gaps in the shelves; each one pains him like a broken rib. He rips Deities of the Fifteenth Age from its resting place, scattering its neighbors. As he sifts through its pages, a footnote catches his eye:

One text also references a faceless approximation of a man which imprisons everything forgotten in its insatiable maw.

The book is torn from his hand and violently thrown aside. The creature stands in front of him with its arms splayed backward as all the skin on its body ripples toward the wailing intrusion of its mouth. Though it makes no sound, Grayson goes deaf from its intensity.

Panicked, Grayson dashes past it and off toward his station. He cannot see the creature, but knows it must be near. He straps himself into the retirement shuttle but hesitates. Muttering the solitary invective of the Stewards, he unbuckles himself and returns to the station.

Frantically he keys an emergency override. Thousands of maintenance drones activate for the first time in generations, seeking out tomes which haven't been transcribed during his tenure. Grayson leans into the shuttle, enters new departure coordinates, and slams the deployment lever.

He straightens out to find himself face to face with the pallid horror. Sputum files from its gullet as fury palpably courses through its veins. Grayson's heart assaults his ribcage like the ocean batters a mountain into sand; the sound is overwhelming. The monster tries to derail the shuttle, but it remains on course.

Apoplectic, the beast turns back to Grayson and screams. A thousand eons of entropy suffuse that scream, but Grayson feels none of their force. Nor does he feel the pounding of his heart, the adrenaline in his body, nor the steady whirring of the service drones. Time has stopped for him.

From nowhere and everywhere arises a gentle humming. The tune is melancholy yet optimistic; that of a young girl who chooses to spend an eternity in unrewarded service. From up beneath the ground emerges Dulme, her long black hair floating in all directions.

"You are too late, Oubro," erupts the fanfare of a thousand trumpets. "This one has passed, and this one will be remembered."

Oubro shrieks in mute frustration but melts into the wall behind it, leaving the same shelf which has stood there for millennia. The drones resume their activities.

Dulme gently resumes her obeisance to gravity.

"That was a kind thing you did, trading your future for others' pasts. How would you like to learn curation of a different style? It's kind of against the rules, but I won't tell anyone if you won't."

Dulme offers her hand, which Grayson accepts, and smiles.

She strokes her chin thoughtfully, then giggles. "Neither will Oubro."

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Screaming Idiot posted:

Penance crits.

I could go for one of those, actually. I tried a thing, and I don't think it worked out how I thought it did, but I'm still recovering from The Fever so I'd appreciate (and take seriously) any critiques for next time I try.

Also what 'mojo said.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Schneider Heim rolls a Critical Strike!

To start things off, I listened to the song. Upbeat, cheerful, not terribly weird by TMBG standards, and maybe something to do with a reunion. I've got my preconceptions, so now let's do the stream-of-consciousness.

A decent start that's got me thinking already, but you've really pulled me in with the shopkeeper's first line. Now the situation is novel. A little world-building exposition with Mina's thoughts, but it's endearing.

The use of the word "twisting" pulls me out of the story and back to the song -- I realize this only takes place to someone who has just listened to the song before reading the story, but that's somewhat your target audience. I've now written more about a coincidentally distracting word choice than the rest of the tale.

The dialogue feels a little bit stilted / contrived, and the phrase "I can tell you're hurting" especially makes me wince. Then there's Telling afterward, which is jarringly descriptive given the context of the rest of the piece. The spoken and written words about the extra dinner feel forced. More so the what's-your-name from Mina. Ah, the embarrassed ghost sentence is good again.

", but I loved her?" is not a question. Even if his voice raises in retroactive reconsideration at the end, I still don't think it should be punctuated as such. I also don't buy Adrian's situation as drastic enough to warrant suicide unless he's got strong personality traits that he's not exhibiting presently.

I suppressed my responses at this point, since I'm still doing a line-by-line, but the whole thing felt forced and unnatural; like you had the beats, then each character had to jump from point to point so things logically made sense. But they didn't make sense emotionally -- I don't buy that most of those characters would've said/done the things they did because there isn't enough time/extremity for them to feel like they should do those things. I have spare macaroni. You like macaroni and happen to be nearby? Live with me!

Schneider Heim posted:

Remorseful Lives
994 words
Song: Twisting Decent song, but I don't think it bears repetition. Let's see how that applies to the story.

Mina ducked just in time to avoid a grubby foot from hitting her face. Thought she was going to get kicked. She looked up, regarding the rows of corpses suspended from the ceiling. Good opening one-two punch. Young and old, man and woman, their bodies were perfectly preserved at the exact moment of their deaths. Intriguing -- now I know I'm in SF/fantasy territory.

"Take your time," the shopkeeper said, a gaunt man in black. And now it's interesting SF/fantasy. Sadly, I think this was the point of highest engagement on my first read-through. The premise is excellent.

"Um, for my spell, does the body matter?" Mina asked. Does a good job of characterizing through actions (words) Mina as timid, and introduces/confirms the fantasy element.

"Anyone's toenails will do." On the second read I feel ever so slightly off by the implied series of events. Your first paragraph makes me think she's entering the shop for the first time -- she doesn't know to lower her head, and one doesn't tend to regard the familiar all that often. Then she asks the shopkeep, who I assume is physically proximate, about details responding to her spell. He answers confidently, which implies that he knows which spell it is. Which means she must've told him about it. How did she tell him about her spell before her hapless first-encounter with the inside of the shop? There are contrivable answers, but none of them fit smoothly with my current assumptions. This could be rectified by changing her line from "for my spell" to "for a [specific name which isn't as revealing as 'Reanimation'] Spell".

Sometimes magick Was there some specific reason you went with the 'k'? I'm not put off by it, but I also don't understand in general the distinction it has or the desired atmospheric effect. was easier than Mina thought. Most of the time it was really bizarre--what did the toenails of a recent suicide victim have to do with summoning your dead boyfriend's ghost? A fun detail. I like the juxtaposition between the dark subject matter (recent suicide victim corpses and dead boyfriends) and the lighthearted tone. Note that I mistakenly assumed that her boyfriend was also dead from suicide; others may also make that assumption, given the placement of the words. Up to you whether that's desirable.

She dodged the rows of feet and stopped in front of a young man. A little prettier than Dean, maybe thinner. Vaguely foreshadowing. Appropriately subtle, although not a strong enough detail to make the conclusion work for me, unless she's incredibly shallow and someone kinda friendly and a little prettier than her current boyfriend are all it takes for her. The corpse wore tiny gray briefs.

"I'll take this one." For the most part, I'm with you pretty well at this point. You've got something fun and interesting in store, and I'm not sure where it's going.


The corpse kept twisting This time I'm only thinking about how I thought about the song. in place after Mina had deactivated the stasis spell. It's not clear why a corpse would need to be put under stasis. They're generally pretty sedentary. She clipped its toenails and placed it inside the magick circle.

Why did he kill himself? Mina found herself wondering.

"Seriously?" a man's voice said. The first time I thought, and I still kind of do, that he read her mind here. But my assumptions about reanimation don't include automatic mind-reading powers over the reanimator, so I'm not sure if that was intended.

Mina ignored it. Dabble long enough into magick and these things start to happen, Dean had warned her. A nice detail that fits with her character so far -- she wasn't the primary practitioner.

"What are you doing with my toenails?"

"I'm going to talk to my boyfriend," Mina said, not turning around.

"Can't you just call him?"

"He's dead."


Silence. Mina thought of Dean, and his roguish grin that made her pursue the craft in the first place. The things she did for that grin. Right now their former relationship still seems charming and healthy.

"You should just let him go." Both times, I instinctively read that as "You should just let him go [so you can be with me]." I'm not sure why I assumed that the ghost dude is hitting on her (blame Patrick Swayze), but it both acts as a spoiler and impacts the likability of his character. "It's not healthy to cling to the past." or something like that if you want him to sound more concerned for her well-being.

Mina whirled at the voice. Again, I think it's 'cause he's hitting on her. The ghost of the hanged man was looking at her with a sympathetic face. He was still wearing his tacky briefs. "What's it to you? I just need your toenails, then I'll cremate your body with aetheric "arthritic" when I'm in a hurry. fire and that's it."

"I can tell you're hurting," the ghost said. That sentence reads poorly. Mina sensed the kindness in his voice This is Telling., like a nice grandmother who knitted you things and sent you sweet, embarrassing texts This detail would be nice in the context of a different story. Here its details feel excessive and out-of-place.. Definitely not like Dean. The character malignment comes out of nowhere. And my first thought: why is she trying to revive somebody she doesn't even like that much?

"How could you say that? You don't know me." Trite. Canned. Overused to the point of impersonal.

"This apartment is too big for one, Clever detail. yet you served dinner for two. Just plain weird. Is she expecting a guest tonight? So I guess you're still grieving," the ghost said. She's not expecting a guest. I get the impression that Dean has been dead a little while at least -- Mina's not that familiar with magic, and surely some time had to go into researching the spell, preparing the ingredients, and finding the corpse. Or if Dean's death were very recent, I'd expect some details about the event. So I really don't swallow Mina making dinners for dead Dean whom she's quickly prone to thinking negatively of.

Mina looked at the mac and cheese and Coke on the dining table. A few different impressions here. I'm okay with how it moves the story toward magical realism (we've got Cokes here). I am inclined to think she's a bad cook (mac and cheese is for amateurs -- macaroni and cheese would at least have some self-respect and not involve the microwave); this does not do my image of her character as endearing any favors (although I suppose it's an unfair bias, but I don't endorse those who are deliberately cooking for others being lazy). Or Dean has bad taste, but agh why is she still (bad-)cooking for him? She would clean that up before sleeping, like she did every day since Dean died. A weird and emotionally heavy detail that I don't buy. "What's your name? I'm Mina." Light-hearted and painfully unexpected casual conversation. Does not fit well.

"Adrian." Adrian extended a translucent hand, stared at it, then put it away. The faintest shade of red appeared on his gray cheeks. A good touch for Adrian's character, but you're already most of the way toward losing me on Mina. She behaves in a highly unexpected fashion given what I know of her setting and history. Most enjoyable fiction I've read involves the protagonist being in some significant situation and attempting to resolve it as I can pretend I would were I in their shoes. With Mina, I have trouble envisioning a situation in which a not-highly-troubled individual would behave as she does. And most of her dialogue does not indicate instability.

Mina turned her smile into a wince before the ghost could notice. So she feels guilty about what I'm amused by? Does not engender empathy. "Adrian, this might come off as rude, but why did you kill yourself?" Stilted.

Adrian sighed. "Student loan debt. Three years out of law school and I still couldn't find a job." Happens all the time. Most people survive it.

"Ouch. Must be tough." What is the emotional tone you're trying to set? The details in the second half of this story are too labile.

Adrian held up a hand. "And my girlfriend, well, she'd borrow my credit card and go on shopping sprees behind my back and well... you know the rest. She wasn't really nice to me, but I loved her?" He scratched his head. "Man, it sounds so dumb now." Too much Telling for me to empathize with his situation. I suppose in general I am a little harsh on people who deliberately maintain unfulfilling relationships. It does happen, but knock it off, people.

"I could relate." Mina's eyes hovered back to the circle. "I'm sorry, but I'm casting the spell now. You're free to go, Adrian." Abrupt. And a little weird that she can't unsummon his ghost since presumably she summoned it in the first place. Hey, how did his ghost appear? She just needed toenails from a corpse.

Adrian floated away with a hurt expression on his face. He didn't feel involved enough with his casual conversation for this dejection to resonate with me. I just listened to his sob story and threw him out. Go me, Mina thought. Wait, how am I supposed to feel about this? If I'm supposed to empathize with Adrian, then isn't this callousness of Mina's cruel? Dean used to say she had a way with messing with people's heads. I still assume that's a deliberate mischaracterization by Dean in order to keep Mina's self-esteem down. Although even that detail feels a little forced here.

Ten minutes later, Dean's ghost stood in the middle of the circle.

"Mina?" Dean was just like Mina had last seen him: wearing a blue hoodie with a ragged hole right where his heart should have been. Still thinking suicide.

"Hi Dean," Mina said. She withered under Dean's intense stare. Familiar feelings of desperation threatened to sweep her off her feet. People don't usually go out of their way to do uncomfortable things. Especially timid, confrontation-avoiding people, which is the strongest vibe I get from Mina. "Sorry I dropped the elixir."

Dean burst into laughter. "You summoned me just to apologize?" I read that as endearing. You went far enough out of your way to resurrect me to apologize about something that to the reader currently sounds minor? He stomped on the floor. This action was unexpected to the point of being confusing. His foot made no sound Nice detail., but it made Mina flinch all the same. First thought: huh? He never hit actually her, but sometimes she wished he did. Second thought: huh? I don't think people in emotionally abusive situations ever crave physical abuse. Even people in physically abuses don't crave the abuse (even if they seek it out) -- they justify it and cling to the abusor, but they don't think, "Hit me, baby!" Also it really feels like you're forcing Dean to have been abusive just to justify the hook-up with Adrian.

"I told you to run, didn't I?" I still read this like he cares about her well-being, although I could see you meaning it to imply that he was demanding and bossy.

"But you were having trouble fighting the clockwork knight," Mina said. "And I wanted to help." She got a long gash on her right arm for it, and Dean got impaled by a foot of enchanted steel. Why was she so close to something she shouldn't've been involve in? I imagine one does not simply walk into Mordor clockwork knights.

"If you'd been a good girl and escaped with the elixir, then I'd still be here, and we'd be living like kings now. Focus, Mina. You're not Academy-trained, so who's going to teach you now? When are you getting me another body?" A few disjoint statements and emotions. Fragmentary thoughts.

"Never," Mina said.

Dean stomped again. "Excuse me?" And who the heck stomps when they're angry? Just feels weird to me.

Mina's voice cracked. "When you died, I went over your things. I was looking for a spell to bring you back. Then I saw a notebook. It was full of women's names. You were only using me, weren't you?" Just like you're only using your characters. They don't feel like they naturally exist and have relatable motivations; they feel like they're jumping through hoops to support the desired structure of your story.

Dean grinned. "So? You've been a sweet girl, Mina. You still love me, right?" Again with the emotional ping-pong.

"Goodbye, Dean." Mina scraped the edge of the circle off with her slippers. Dean opened his mouth, but no sound came out. He raised his leg for another stomp before disappearing entirely. I do like the mechanics of the summoning ending.

Mina threw herself into the sofa. Then the dam burst. A decent line, but you've made too many emotional Mina mistakes for me to be on the same page with her at this point. For a moment her sobs filled a home that was too spacious for one. "filled her oversized home." would feel less awkward but maintain the foreshadowing. Although I've already got an idea as to where the story is going and it's a place I don't want it to go, so it's more of brace-for-impact foreshadowing for me.

"That was intense." Adrian knelt in front of her, resting a ghostly hand on her hair. Whoa! Is it a creeper or a predator that caresses the hair of a girl he just met? "But I'm glad you got rid of him once and for all." Sure you are, Mack.

"You stayed?" How does he even have the option to stay? His summoning doesn't make sense, but it can't be linked to the magic[k] circle, since she broke that and Dean dissolved.

"I had a feeling we're alike." Bad line; also stilted.

"Two months worth of mac and cheese. I never even eat the stuff," Mina said. Supposed to be funny but still bugs me because I don't believe that someone in her situation would still be cooking it.

"I like mac and cheese," Adrian said. Smooth, buddy. "I'm pretty much dead, though." Yeah, kinda. No big deal.

Mina's heart broke a little bit more. Her heart is a mystery to me. "Do you want to live again?" You are slightly cuter than Dean was and haven't been mean to me in the last five minutes.

"I think so. I mean, I'd take the chance if I could." Normally I'd think the answer would always be Yes, since one generally ends in death. But death in your setting doesn't seem that bad of a deal -- he was at least coherent enough when first summoned to yell "Seriously?", so it can't have been bad things on the other side. But the trivializing of death also kind of trivializes the impact of a plot that hinges around it.

Mina spoke a word, placing Adrian's body back in stasis. She went to Dean's spell drawer and pulled out his notes. "Then let's get to work, before your meal gets cold." So it's not even very hard to revive someone? I mean, it can be done by a novice before the Kraft cools. Won't that make overpopulation a huge issue? I'm not going to get into it, but I don't think your setting survives scrutiny unscathed.

When the dialogue didn't feel stilted, it felt like the characters were just drifting aimlessly. Oh, I'm dead. Sure, revive me. Yeah, no problem. Want to live with me? I've got the Blue Box Blues. I like your premise and maybe half your characterization of Mina, but there are too many emotional contradictions and either non-sequitur or non-event actions for me to much enjoy this piece.

I probably would like it after a (some) rewrite(s), so at least the foundations are solid.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


'grats regardless, Benny. History in the making.

Now that that's behind you, take a moment and think (think, as opposed to reply) about why you write. What's your motivation? Why are you trying to improve? After the social elements lose their luster, is there some smoldering ember to stoke?

Find that kernel of ambition and polish it. Not through habitual repetition, but with deliberate, mindful strides.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


I wasn't gonna, I really wasn't gonna, but the Queen's proclamations have been so seductively sweet, I can't resist. In.

And :toxx: because I hate myself: I'm gonna read all of the submissions, and I'm going to have something to say about them. By the end of April (oh god why did I write that part).

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Sequelae (1267 words)

"Your grandpa's creepy!" Tommy whined for the umpteenth time.

"Nuh-uh," countered Dominic. "He's just old fashioned."

"Yeah. OLD fashioned. Who does he think he is, Bluebeard the Pirate?"

"He can't see out of that eye!"

"I bet he's faking it. I bet you could steal that crusty old eyepatch from him and he wouldn't even notice. I dare you."

"No." Dominic's mouth remained open in disgust.

"I double-dog dare you."


Dante woke up feeling strangely refreshed. Usually when kids spent the night they'd wake him for breakfast. Maybe they were still playing video games. Dante sat upright, stretched, and swung his legs over the edge of the bed.

His foot landed on something unexpected.

Dante looked down. A mass of greys and colors lay at his feet. In three dimensions. Reflexively, Dante jerked his head upward and stared at the ceiling.

His eyepatch! Where was his eyepatch?

He groped blindly around his pillows until his fingers brushed across a leather strap. He held the eyepatch at his waistline and inspected it with his fingers. It was stiff but unbroken; it still had some life left in it.

Careful to keep his hands behind his head, Dante slid the eyepatch downward until a comfortable darkness enveloped his left eye. Only then did he lower his head.

Lying at his feet was Dominic, dressed in his helicopter pajamas, completely devoid of moisture. His dessicated eyelids were open and his wrinkled mouth hung agape. His friend Tommy was nowhere to be found.

Dante blacked out.


When he came to his senses, Dante's knuckles were bloodied and bruised. His clothing was torn and every inch of him ached, but his brain functioned again. Slowly, impersonally, he gathered up the corpse of Randall and went to the basement.

"Sezam, otkroysya." The words came out of his mouth without inflection, but the doorway in front of him opened. Musty yellow lights sputtered to life as he approached the granite altar.

He lay Dominic next to his parents and cast a spell of preservation. One day he would figure out how to reverse the casualties. One day Dante would gain the power over life, as well as death.

One day? Christ! What did he have left to wait for? There would be no more one-days until he made restitution. He was going to make things right, and not even Death could stop him.

Dante stormed back up to his room as fast as his arthritic hips would take him and pulled the steamer trunk from beneath his bed. He bit deeply into his thumb, pressed it against the lid, and spoke an incantation.

Dante shuddered as a year of vitality, one of the precious few he had remaining, was sucked from his bleeding digit. It doesn't matter now, whispered the rational part of his brain.

The lock clicked, and Dante pried the chest open. He sifted through tomes and trinkets until he came across the handle. Careful not to drop it, he raised it to his good eye: a perfectly reflective mirror.

His hand trembled with anxiety. Then Dante remembered the tee-ball game on Sunday, and the tendrils of fear turned into fire.

Switching hands, he held the mirror in front of his covered eye, so close that nothing except its unearthly orb would be reflected. He pulled the patch from off the eye and grunted as its powers took effect.

The eye rapidly withered under its own gaze, but decay fueled Dante's particular style of magic, and he viciously channeled every ounce of energy he received right back into the evil eye. The feedback from it doubled, tripled, and soon there was a lifetime's worth of tragedy oscillating millimeters from Dante's forehead.

He felt an incorporeal hand settle lazily on the cancer in his lungs while an icy finger dripped poison along his spine. A voice like coarse sand wormed its way into the back of his brain.

"So, D-D-Dante. I take it you are enjoying my little... gift?"

"Bring them back," Dante said through clenched teeth.

"That's no way to talk to a... friend. Where is the Dante I remember? You were so p-persuasive when last we met. So full of, ah, vitality."

"Bring them back!"

"Tsk, tsk!" The hand in Dante's lung gave a playful squeeze, causing millions of cells to metastasize.

One of Dante's teeth cracked.

Laughter hissed behind him.

Fuming, Dante twisted the eyepatch back into place. The contact broken, Dante felt the presence behind him dissipate into ethereal dust.

He's right, spoke the voice of reason. If Dante wanted to regain dominance over Death, he would need vastly more power than he had.

If he was going to be stuck with it, he might as well make use of it.


Inhaling deeply, Dante gazed out with his good eye from atop Bashnya Tower.

It was a beautiful day. People were dining in the streets, playing in the park, and going about their Saturday business without a care in the world. Without one loving burden.

Dante assembled the telescope and pointed it downstream of the throng of pedestrians. This had to work on the first try. Dante pulled his patch aside and leaned up against the eyepiece.

A young couple came into view. The boy stopped, released his girlfriend's hand, pushed her out of sight, and doubled over. His hair began to slough off, and Dante nudged the telescope onward. A businessman dropped his cellphone, coughed twice, then collapsed in a fit of epilepsy. Dante could feel their energies flowing into him.

He trained the telescope on the park, and the trees shriveled and cracked. Dante's bones hardened, his tendons tightened, and his heart pounded in his chest. Screams from below reached his ears, but they didn't register.

After two more passes Dante was brimming with energy; more than he ever imagined he could handle. He knocked the telescope aside in triumph and held the mirror to his eye. Almost immediately he felt the sinister presence behind him.

"Now, now. No need to thank me. They would have all p-p-paid me a visit eventually, hmm?"

"I am only going to say this once. Bring them back."

"Have not you, heh, learned? That's not how I operate. I--"

Wrong answer.

Dante whirled around like lightning and fixed his eyes on the ghastly figure behind him. Both eyes.

Death shrieked and tried to dissipate, but Dante threw everything he had at him. Dante channeled fifty years of his obsession into that gaze, and even Death could not resist him. With an anticlimactic fizzle, Death collapsed into a pile of dust.

Drained and lacking, Dante donned his eyepatch and went back inside the tower.

Everyone on the ground floor huddled behind shelter, afraid to exit yet unable to look away from the street. Dante walked past them and went outside.

All around him was death and despair. Save for the crows, the street was silent and motionless. Dante was eager to return to his basement when his ears picked up a groan.

Around the corner he saw a man hemorrhaging from a fatal head wound. Dante felt mildly disgusted as he waited for the man's agony to stop, yet he showed no signs of passing even as the flow of blood dried up. Next to him lay a broken telescope.

Something in Dante's heart wrenched. Then something in his mind clicked.

"No. Oh no," he muttered.

Dante held the writhing body down with one hand and lifted his eyepatch with the other. Soon it became still.

The influx of vitality had little of its usual potency, and none of its succor.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Why do I hate myself so? Let me count the ways. Here are the first 11, in no particular order.

First person present tense, eh? So far, it's working for you -- the first paragraph does a very good job of Showing your disgust. Your analogies work well, but they're becoming too regular for my tastes by the dog-poo one.

Dang. This was a legitimate good read. A few minor typos/errors, but I'm sure you could pick those out. It captures a mood nicely, doesn't try to be too much, and nails it. I empathize with the protagonist, and I feel like both characters actually exist.

I could praise this more (the use of the reagents was crisp and appropriate), but I'll say that the point that's most likely to stay with me was the insight about human condition: that people actively cling to the things that make them miserable. You showed this, and though I already agreed with it, I haven't thought about it in a little while. So now I, the reader, feel a little bit wiser. Carry on.

Bompacho posted:

Colours and Councils
You're getting too flowery with your descriptions. A, the opening scene is trite, so describing it in detail doesn't help, and B, Moonlight Sonata is a nighttime song (it's got Moonlight in its name!) but he's listening to it at sunset. It's not the worst prose ever and I'll be satisfied if things take a twist for the macabre, but a few paragraphs in and it's like I'm chewing a mouthful of that taffy I never really liked as a kid (but back then candy was candy). Also, you Showed the wizard sweating after his feat, you didn't need to Tell that it was difficult. Stronger Showing words would've reiterated it better.

(Heh, gay marriage. Smooth.) I find myself zoning out a bit at the scenic descriptions. They aren't bad, per se, (well maybe a little), but I don't have any reason to care about them. Fantasy for fantasy's sake doesn't enthrall me like it used to. Huh, famous historical characters are actually wizards. I don't care either way. Actually, wasn't Beethoven deaf? How is he talking? Did he only become a wizard after it was established that he was deaf? Now I'm distracted. Augh I really can't force myself to believe that Beethoven and Michelangelo would talk in common colloquialisms and not stuffy historical-folk speech. Those name-drops are actively taking away from your story.

I'm sensing too much passivity in the voice. I haven't counted, but "the flow of magic currents was strong" was the was/Telling that broke the camel's back. You're trying to craft a potentially tense situation but all the was-words take the energy right out of the piece. They collapsed on the ground and -then- tipped their hats? Wasn't much of a collapse, then (or like I prefer to think, they're saluting while prone).

Ehhh. So. I would've been immensely happy if I could write this well in high school. But now I just don't see the point in it. There's a minor conflict, although any urgency it may've had is removed by too many wizardly was-words, and there are a bunch of adjectives, but I'm no longer impressed by shiny things.

Next time focus a little more on why you're telling the story. Was the intent to impress purely on prose? To garner empathy for the protagonist's struggle? To make the reader think? Right now it feels like a piece without direction, so as a reader whose time is valuable I wonder why I am reading it.

RedTonic posted:

The Rules of Return
Why do I feel confused when reading your sentences? I'm trying to avoid technical critique, but you've got too many apostrophes, and one line has both "Hines'" and "boss's". Pick one style or the other. I'm only starting to be on the same page as you toward the end of the first section. So far, it's been a little too chaotic of a way to introduce a relatively straightforward situation. (I do like whatever non-ASCII character that separator is.)

When you said wheeled her chair back in the first part, I assumed it was a chair with wheels (like I'm sitting in now), not a wheelchair. I'm not sure if you meant for that to be a big reveal in the second part, but you do lose some opportunity for me to connect with her distaste for others looming by not making her handicap adequately clear. (I didn't read your prompt beforehand, that taints the mood, but I do seem to remember one wizard was wheelchair-bound.)

I don't quite care enough, but if I did, your linking to some product/site would be a huge negative mark. The pacing (or my ability to track things) smooths over as time goes on, and you've actually got components of an okay story here. Something about the prose really tripped me up, though. I think you could've done well with a few more pronouns, and certain nicknames instead of relationships did not enhance the readability of the piece.

I do think you wrapped up the plot nicely. Iron it out with a rewrite, and I might not even be frowning afterward.

J.A.B.C. posted:

A Distant Hand
Another first-person present-tense. Let's see where this goes. Well, it went to first person past tense rather quickly. Bad! Awkward indirect phrasing: "I judged it a newer model by [its coloration]" has less impact than "It had [the coloration] of a newer model". One is a character's perception, the other is a fact about the world. Unless you mean for the character to have misjudged, but I don't expect that that is where you're going. Greatcoat? Is that a thing?

You tell me her eyes widen, and I perceive that there's significance. Then you tell me exactly what the significance is (ghost or celebrity), and I'm slightly further away from the action of the moment. Sometimes that's okay, but I don't think it helps you here. The next line of dialogue would have covered the gap -- wide eyes, incredulous question, I can deduce her mental state. Instead there's nothing to be imagined, especially since I don't care about celebrity (and therefore ghosts?).

The wizard's tone changes a bit abruptly in the second section. He goes from grumpy and bothered to discrepantly polite and caring (tea?). Agh stick to one tense! Again, "I could feel something was amiss" is less impactful to me, the reader, than "Something was amiss". Not sure why so many people are already writing mundane wizard diaries. I snorted at your "hunger for knowledge" line. He's already established himself as uninterested in the outside world, and what he is interested in isn't knowledge. It's gossip.

Perversely, I like that he avoids dealing with the emotional situation by returning to his lab. That bit feels precisely on-character for him.

This picks up just a little in the second act. There's a smidgen of character growth (Shown selfish wizard does something selfless), and it didn't go down that the rathole of wizard-falls-for-random-girl (not that not doing something terrible is a virtue). There's some heart here, hidden behind the inconsistent tense. I'm also pleased (I suppose by lack of a negative) that you didn't vilify the wizard in order to dramaticize his change in heart. Keep it simple, keep it short, and I guess I'm not angry after reading it.

The first three paragraphs are great. I get a feel for the main character's personality (selfish but not evil; willing to cheat on the small stuff), the general description of magic is pleasing (with a nice transition back into the real world), and the smell of ozone is a nice touch that makes it feel real in its own world (and maybe he'll die of brain hemorrhaging). The actions have pep and the dialogue has character. A tad commonplace, but likable. Oh good (unsarcastically), ozone becomes important.

So, that was a fun ride. You've got a knack for appropriate word choices. I'm not too keen on gambler or east coastey lingo but the whole piece had personality. The ending was good for a smirk, and the nameless protagonist briefly exists as a character in my memory. I suspect you hit your mark pretty soundly; keep it up.

Tyrannosaurus posted:

Nothing More. Nothing Less.
Effective opener. Already I know that Ivar feels isolated but wants to fit in, and have some mental image of the world they're in. I totes empathize with your characters, and they feel very appropriate for children, both in their thought processes and speech patterns. Minor quibble, as I have no qualms with the major stuff at this point: "every day" means each day; "everyday" means commonplace. I like the concept of multiple levels of Heaven; I'm not too keen on my European mythology so I don't know if it fits into Norse mythos or just feels appropriate for the names you chose.

I appreciate the sentiment of Hrefna, but the be-all-like and fist-bumping feel incongruous with the expectation of settings; that particular juxtaposition between the culturally implied (funky names, low-tech wars and wizards = historical) and the stated (modern youngster lingo) is a detriment on my reading.

In the next scene, when Ivar mimics his dad's voice then responds to it, it's not immediately clear that he's responding to his imitation but is not in the presence of his dad. I stumbled on those first two lines for a bit before reading further and receiving clarification. I've got a creepy feeling in my gut of how things might go wrong about the time Ivar makes his proposition. If I'm right, then you've done a very good job of foreshadowing. If not, you've at least created thoughts in me about your work, which is an accomplishment.

Hmm, piece ended abruptly. I suppose you were going for the happy ending, since nothing contradicted it. It still feels unfinished, even though the ending is implied. Maybe it's because it's the expected ending as opposed to some twist, or maybe I didn't understand the twist because I was expecting a different one. But you had warm and likable characters, unobtrusive details, and you owned the slang enough that I was okay with it by the end, even though it ran afoul of my personal expectations. Entirely competent, although perhaps not memorable.

Meeple posted:

Hair of the Dog
Noir can be a dangerous thing, it's generally all over the place, but it hasn't been anywhere around these wizards and so far it's done pretty well. Especially since I forgot it would be about wizards, and now wizardry is being employed and I'm more interested. Also, the tropes you're going for are heavily cliched, but in this case that's a good thing. They feel appropriate, the story knows it's starting off campy, and honestly it's refreshing in the context of all the other stories I've been reading recently. Plus none of the tropes have been laid on too heavy.

You're doing a great job of straddling the cheese such that I'm smiling instead of groaning. Especially how her overcoat hid her curves but not her smile. Not sure if you write much of this stuff normally, which would probably be a bad thing, and I don't enjoy it in large doses, but right now it's a breath of fresh whiskey. I'm not sure the scene break between the protagonist digging through drawers in the office and Eddie catching him doing so is appropriate -- isn't that the same scene? A few minor technical errors ("slide" instead of "slid" most recently) are breaking the flow, which is particularly detrimental in an action piece.

The specific uses of magic feel spot-on -- those who have talents intuitively use them in sensible ways that aren't presented as clever by the characters although obviously some clev had to go into thinking them up.

The balls is an okay twist, and I like how it's presented, but it didn't catch me by surprise -- for whatever reason, whenever you first mentioned that Eddie had shaved his head, I immediately wondered about armpits/crotch.

Ah! The wig was a very nice touch, one I didn't see coming. All in all, the structure is a standard staple, but it's very well executed and well timed, in the context of this dome. A few proofreading errors take away from the whole, and as genre fiction I'm not likely to remember it nor rate it higher than anything profound (which hasn't shown up quite yet), but I did enjoy reading it and that's what we're really striving to get good at, so in that regard it's a success.

Maugrim posted:

Thinking Dogs for the Stupid
Canine narrator, eh? It's been a while. The use of body language does become more interesting; furry satellite dishes is a decent embellishment. By the end of the first scene I've warmed up to your ideas -- some kind of professional, intelligent friend-making dog in a world where multiple mammals have magic. I'm interested in learning more. That last paragraph before the first break is solid, through-and-through.

I'm enjoying the interactions between dog and boy for a number of reasons. For one, it's a novel inversion -- the dog is the smart one, in control but still a dog. For two, it's a bit harder to describe, but for some reason I'm rooting for their situation. The boy needs to get out into the world, the dog wants to help him; something's cute and touching beneath the interesting surface. Your specific details work pretty well, I like the concept that everybody's a wizard over something specific, and my interest is piqued when the air wizard is after the dog.

And cut. The ending makes me smile, though it's not terribly moving. The details are perfunctory, and anything that doesn't get in the way is a good thing. Where this really shines is the idea -- I like that everybody's a wizard, and that they're increasingly born stupid. I like that there are some thinking dogs, and that they train people. There are more good ideas in this one piece than there are in a half dozen other mediocre stories. Though I'm not sure how one would accomplish it, none of the words felt out of place, the best area I could think of for improvement would be the emotional impact of the ending -- the dog kind of liked the boy and kind of disliked the girl, so I suppose he was kind of happy to be reunited.

Erogenous Beef posted:

Lethal Ingestion
I remember reading your prompt, or I think I do based on its title, and it's coloring my interpretation in a positive way. I like how official and serious the silly sounding names are taken. I don't mind the punchy prose; though it's generally not my favorite, I have a hunch that it works out in the grand scheme of this story. The broadest interpretation of the plot up to the first break is somewhat commonplace: anti-whatever dude suddenly becomes a whatever-dude. But some traditions exist for a reason, and there's certainly enough here that I want to read on. I think it's helped by the particularly inspired magical twist, which you definitely improved upon by making it a condition instead of a unique talent.

Really goin' full-gore in the second half, hmm? I'm surprisingly neutral about it. Not really shocked, dismayed, or pleased. It's appropriate in a way, although I feel like you were trying to get more shock out of me than you did. I guess it's not that unexpected with your colloquialisms for vomit. The magically dissolved teeth is the first interesting detail in the second scene; I suppose wrapping pooshrimp in wax as a timebomb is all right as well.

The exposition toward the end fleshes in some details and gives a little more history to the world, but it wasn't history I was terribly interested in receiving, and it did feel a bit pedestrian / preachy. The ending is almost anticlimactic in its brevity. I suppose you hit all of the important notes, but this piece doesn't have enough soul, enough character, enough of unique interest to resonate with me. It was a decent read, but one that will be quickly forgotten.

A good start -- it's easy to empathize with dementia and the tricky situation of euthanasia. "unseeing from fear" is a bit awkward; "blind with fear" maybe? At first I thought you were trying to say "fearless". You've got a few other trip-ups for me ("Grandpa's rifle" -> "grandpas' rifles"?), but the paragraph about brass lasting longer than bone is keen and effective.

You've got a number of very solid lines. Most of your descriptions about being old Show me the sorry state they're in, and make me feel for them. I caught the general gist of the sentiment-carrying objects losing their value after magic was used, but the impression wasn't strong enough for the ending to feel significant to me. A pleasantly moody piece, overall, that manages to instill a good melancholy in a short number of words. Some rather choice Show-off descriptions in there.

Sodacan posted:

Minor Opportunity
Something about the first scene does not go well. First off, I don't like the alternate-spellings-for-no-reasons. Kyle is spelled with a 'y'. If you know someone who spells it otherwise in real life, they're wrong. My brain's a little frazzled going into this, but a guy knocks on a door, gets bowled over by some yelling dude, stands back up, gets yelled at again, sits upright (from standing?), and there are some adjectives that don't go down easy when Yargeant Sellers passes through a closed door.

THE ALLCAPS IS GRATING. I can understand why businessmen might not want to appear sweaty, but I imagine there might be some health repercussions by having all of one's sweat glands closed, so I'm not sure I entirely buy the setting you've established. Oh hey, Walpurgisnacht is coming up. I'm not sure why this piece continues to rub me the wrong way, possibly the bad start, but the descriptor "ornately-festooned baseball cap" really doesn't do it for me. (Undoes it for me?)

These details really don't work together. Kyle's atoms jerked, yet he was still semi-cognizant. No, molecules don't work that way. I'm willing to accept that magic can jumble up one's atoms, but I'm not willing to accept that if you tear up one's atoms that they're still able to form a thought or two. The next paragraph is painful. I get that you're trying to lend enormity to the direness of the situation, but the descriptions don't make sense, and when they do they conflict with reality.

Here's the thing about writing magic -- you can give someone powers and say what they can do different from the reader's reality, but everything else in that reality has to behave the same or it will be jarring at best. The interesting parts come from an exploration of the effects of the stated change -- if people have magic, they'll use it for business purposes, they'll want to avoid wars, some sort of steady-state truce will mostly form, a few people will rock it for selfish reasons. That all makes sense. Nowhere does that lead one to believe that somebody is capable of one final thought, then after they possibly don't exist anymore, they do something else. To take a further action requires a further thought; that's not what final means. (The last line about sleep is all right.)

Nothing about the protagonist caused me to empathize with him, a lot of the prose bothered me, and there wasn't much of interest overall. I don't recognize the name so this might be a first time; hopefully someone gets you a more detailed crit. But I'm particularly cranky from all these wiztales, so I'm focused on the negatives.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


I toss crits every which way! Responses be damned!

Doctor Idle posted:

Helka’s Inheritance
Wintry mix? Sounds like a premade salad bag. Why are you trying to be so detailed with the first paragraph? There's very little room to inspire awe in ~1000 word pieces, and I think most of us are so jaded and grumpy that all but the most poetic of prose will roll off our shoulders, whereas the absence of actions of significance will get noticed. How are those details significant? They don't establish much of a mood, and I'm assuming they won't come into play. The 'dome is a bit of a twisted place, so you've really got to think about why you're writing what you're writing; what is the purpose of each line? I suspect the justification for this first paragraph would fall more under "'cause it's what every story does".

You've got a few proofreading errors in here. My mind is wandering far and I think it's from reader-fatigue, nothing specific to your story, so I'm going to take an extended break and come back after a reset.

Maybe it's not entirely my internal state. I'm just very tempted to glaze over when reading this piece. There are too many attempts to impress me with prose that doesn't impress me. Not active attempts, but a sort of unthinking default to stories-should-be-descriptive. But you're describing unimportant external scenery. The first line that brings me back into focus is the one with the "wheedling fingers of doubt". Probably because it directly involves the protagonist, and isn't just flowers or mountains or windows or whatever. Why the sudden tense change? "Tongues Helka was unfamiliar with" could be sharpened up to "unfamiliar tongues" (we know it's from her point of view), and "An unbridled rage was felt" is a particularly poor combination of passive voice and an intense emotion. Don't mix the two!

This piece is primarily exposition. Even the actions feel like a lecture, then it ends with an actual lecture. It's dry, dull, and while I guess there are technically two characters, in my heart there are zero. Nothing made them stand out, nothing made me care for their plight, their plight was spoon-fed and at the end of the story, and I'd argue that they didn't really interact, although maybe there were two temporally colocated sentences between them. Next time, try to answer the question that the reader will always have, at least implicitly: Why should I care?

Killer-of-Lawyers posted:

Randolph the Green
Things are unremarkable, though not unpleasant, at first. Then you start letting on that Ryan needs strong yet selfish wishes for whatever he's up to, and I'm interested. Hmm, is Ryan a metaphor for the government? The switch to Jane is handled well: ironically I care already more about her plight and future than Ryan's, but the words are mostly well-written (except "brief moment of will"; that doesn't flow well), and you kept the significant specifics mysterious in a fashion that leaves me wanting for more and not off-put.

Oof. I'm missing some things. Who's Randalph the green? Is Jane a suicidal transvestite? Someone's confused and it's likely me -- everything was written competently enough that I'm sure you were deliberate and I'm just not connecting the dots (not even a whiff of 'em). I'm tempted to dig deeper and try to place things together, but I've got way too many other stories to read, and I've read too many already. That's one problem you'll find in the 'dome: the readers have no time for subtlety. You've at least made it obvious that there is something sneaky going on, and that's definitely the first hurdle. But I don't feel like I have any leads worth investigating on a theoretical second pass: there are three separate scenes, and the only relation in my mind is their physical proximity on (were I to print it, physical) paper.

CancerCakes posted:

Corruption and Power
Don't get fresh with your word counts. First off, and probably to be repeated, I'm not in the mood for games. Your style of presentation is going to be somewhat unfairly poorly-received because I don't have the energy to make sense of it, and since you're starting off strange I don't have a preexisting reason to want to. I do judge books by their cover; it's fantastic. This one would've gone into the never-going-to-attempt-to-read box, then donated for roughly twelve cents of store credit. Also "duck egg blue paint splattered" is far too long an adjective phrase. Took me a moment to figure out how to parse it, especially in context of the rest of this piece.

I've picked up on where you're going and the now-sensible presentation has smoothed out my reading experience, though I'm still not sure why these things are happening. And other than abstractly, I don't actually care that they're happening to RedneckMan.

The ending joke falls flat; you only a few paragraphs earlier did you explain why all these apparently-vengeful things are happening. That hasn't had time to set in or build significance before it's pivoted upon for the twist. There's a lot of setup for very little payoff. A big part of the problem is that the reader doesn't know the rules of the game until right near the end. For humor to work, you've got to take some expectation I have, even if I don't know I have it because it's been subtly inserted via context or previous passing sentences, then have an unexpected outcome. I had no expectations because I had little understanding, so the outcome isn't unexpected in the sense that I had no expectations.

Entenzahn posted:

Hunting Golgoth
Nice hook. I like Marrow as a name in general, and moreso that it applies to a bone-witch. As I thought, they're named after their talents. I like the rapier analogy, although I feel like the words that follow it are a little too agreeable for it to be fully appropriate. It's possible (probable) that my mind is fraying a bit at this point, but I didn't track precisely for all of the first scene. I know what's up, what the stakes are, and who's on whose sides (the last line of the first scene is a good one), but the flow of my reading felt choppy for reasons I can't adequately determine. The "like dirt in the air" line is delightfully descriptive.

My empathy with Marrow is strongest when she says "wait" impotently for the nth time. Here's the chance to win or lose me: I know she's got to grow as a character, and she's got to do it quick. I'm at least motivated to find out if she does. Ah, the route less expected. I approve of your ending. There's character growth of a different sort (doing the right thing and not associating with troublemakers), and there is some amount of poignancy to the ending where a pacifist knowingly clings to failed creations and wistful memories. I won't say you entirely succeeded in touching me, but the tact you took was a pleasant one, and I'm left with some lingering compassion for your protagonist. In retrospect, the action was well written in that I moved past it quickly, with some sense of urgency.

docbeard posted:

When Alice Miller Fought City Hall
Interesting situation you've crafted. I like the meld of the subjective experience with the magical reality; it certainly gives me, the reader, something to associate with. The challenge is very direct, and I am with the protagonist in hoping that nobody falls and breaks their back.

I know it was inspired by the prompt, but you've done a fine job of making an interesting magic out of mundane things. Somehow that concept is intriguing. The juxtaposition of magic and reality is a popular fantasy, and there's a certain charm in your magic which actually utilizes commonplace things yet ascribes them mystic significance in a fashion which I would agree with. Also I chortled at the summoning ritual -- that was a delightful implementation choice. The DMV/DVS rhetoric is also pleasing.

This is an interesting form of conflict resolution. Despite the maxim, I don't see it oft employed. I feel like the solution is just a little too pat for it to go down smoothly -- she happens to be able to alter some job application to be for some other job? That's not quite expected as a use of her power under my (potentially flawed) understanding. It's unfortunate that I still feel the conflict was resolved a little too easily, as I like everything that happens post-crux. Both the protagonist and, to a lesser extent, the antagonist are relatable, and again I like the weary acceptance of defeat. If you could just somehow make the pivotal actions feel more significant, more difficult, this would've been a thoroughly solid piece.

Thyrork posted:

The Hum of the Woods.
I like the way you've introduced the wooden armor. I should note that I try my best not to read the prompts before the stories; I want to get as much of my impression as I can based on the content of your writing (but not quite enough to try judgemode yet). Good description of her slight-craziness, too: she hates them. She loves them. Two facts that are seemingly contradictory, presented bluntly, with no watering-down. Oof, that misplaced apostrophe on "tree's" really broke my combat-immersion. I'm also not sure I buy that a conveniently placed bucket of dirt put out the fire so easily.

That was over quickly, which is a good thing. Little to stumble upon, and motivation to keep reading. I was mildly intrigued by the climax that the characters pointedly avoided addressing directly, and did enjoy the unusual form of blackmail. The repeated imagery of tree-humming was well-applied. But overall, I didn't feel strongly enough for the characters' plight to have a strong emotional reaction. They live in the woods and try to protect the woods and that's good and all, but it doesn't speak to me terribly directly so my empathy levels are low and my investment in their situation is cursory. Hard to say how to improve that, except that their situation isn't one I've ever found myself in, and doesn't obviously relate to one (I've got the ability to get a job).

cargohills posted:

A Day in the Forest
I'm kind of with you when you say Landon is the only human he knows, but how'd he get a name and know speech if everyone around him can't speak? I'm getting a fairy-tale vibe from the opening, so those kinds of things may be overlookable, depending on where this goes. Okay, I'm interested again by the end of the second scene. You've clearly set up a character to embody innocence, and now (presumably evil) forces are coming for him. Wait, why would evil forces communicate via a locket? How could they even be sure he'd find it, unless they were also wizards?

Uh, was the wizard-hunter also a child? Were all the other wizards phonies? This story does not hold up well to scrutiny, and the ending feels more abrupt than meaningful. How does he know he doesn't like hurting people when he's never seen a person before? Why would he react that way to that person instead of try to calm or trap them down so he could interact with another person? I've got to stop asking questions of the story, but I've got a few (rhetorical: do not answer them, just keep them in mind next time you're writing) questions for the author. What were you trying to accomplish with this piece? What was the mood you were trying to set? Why should I care about the characters?

Noah posted:

Familiar Patterns
Three words in and I don't feel good about the spelling of Nicalus. That's an acceptable Showing of the application of wizardry. A few proofreading errors already.

I read through the whole thing slightly hazy, expecting either something interesting or egregious to jump out at me, but nothing did. You've painted a sketchy picture of an alcoholic clinging to a relationship and having a relapse, but with a wizard background, but none of the components really pass the threshold of interest. I don't super care for the wizard or his girlfriend, the mayor or the town; I'm not even sure why the raiders are there. The magic is ho-hum, the action is lacking, I've got little empathy, and I don't really have a clear picture of why anything is happening or why I should care. I'm not sure I can even count it as character growth(/regression), since it was pretty strongly implied from the get-go that he'd relapse. So in the end, something expected happens and all of the details are mundane.

Capntastic posted:

The No-Nothing Thief
I like the broad concept you're going for -- people turn rumors into truths for fun and profit -- but the prose feels a little bit off all along the way. You're really pontificating and Telling me all about the history, and faults of exposition aside your word choices are somehow too mechanical, repetitive, and dry. Blotting is a good word, once. Blotting is a distracting word twice. The line about the wizard's beard is all right, but then the next line seems to go right back to preachy, for lack of a better word.

You keep telling me things that happen without making me feel like they're actually happening. Then you tell me something that "might have" happened. Did she notice or didn't she? There's no reason for the narrator not to know; working it in to the mystery of rumors is not acceptable (or at least not accomplished). Your protagonist (presumably) dies and some rumors are left about her, but that only has the tiniest amount of poetic justice. A mote. What were her motivations? Greed to become a wizard by proving a wizard by seeking the rumors of wizards? A) That's award. B) I don't relate. C) That's basically greed? It's hard to empathize with a protagonist motivated by greed or other generally-classified-as-negative motivations.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Dammit, crabrock, I was gonna show up Loustache. Now I've gotta hit the drawing board, since these are the last of my reserves.

angel opportunity posted:

Wesley the Wizard
I like the childish setting and the endearingly alliterative names. You're Telling a little much about Wesley's feelings. I am wondering what eighth-graders and high-school aged kid(s) are doing together; there's a strong segregation between those crowds in my mind, but maybe it's regional. Or maybe Magnus got stubble real early. Great juxtaposition of confident steps / "excuse me". You're doing a pretty good job of capturing the awkwardness of youth.

Okay, so I really liked the small stuff, but the broad strokes felt a bit forced. I think with a longer word count or slightly less content it would've been more comfortable, but things are rushed along just a wee bit quickly and now I feel like I should be in a hurry, too. I know flash fiction is supposed to have a twist and all, but I feel like the requisite setup for the run-of-the-mill twist took too many words away from the good parts of this piece: the charm.

Noeland posted:

Three Dimensions, More or Less
Wording in the opening paragraph is a little awkward. I get what you're getting at, but the indirect route doesn't seem to help its resonance. A little encyclopedic feeling. "a great preventer of mishaps"? The awkward prose does not help me relate. Halfway through, and I feel like I've been cornered by that well-meaning but socially awkward coworker whom courtesy demands I nod and mm-hmm at until they decide to go away. You started with a somewhat interesting premise, but you're drilling it to death and nothing is happening. Far too much passive voice. So much passive voice!

Ugh. So this was a rambling account with essentially one character, and no present actions. There's a last minute attempt at making me, the reader, the second character in the story, but even if I weren't actively against whatever was coming next (due to the pointless repetition of what came before), that would've been a massively hard feat to accomplish. I feel like you had one idea repeated for the first 1200 words, then half of another for the remaining few. It was not satisfying.

So, I did decide to finish reading this one before I started talking about it, and that's generally a good thing. Your prose is decent, your details feel appropriate. Some stuff happens. But what's really missing are the motivations. Stock goons are out for vengeance and a witch dude is angry 'cause his lady thrall, whom he's killed multiple times before, had to be sold into slavery-assassination? There was enough action to keep me moving along, but you wanted the piece to be more cerebral, which dulled the action. Except that there wasn't enough for me to empathize with, so the motivations of the characters felt two-dimensional. Also I don't think anyone experienced any growth; things ended basically as they began. But not in a cosmic-cycle sort of way.

Something Else posted:

Seeds on the Wind
Interesting tact, talking directly too me. Awfully jovial for someone who relishes solitude. I withheld specific comments until after I'd finished the piece, as what it did have going for it was hampered by interruption.

So. You've got voice -- if there were multiple people conversing, I imagine I could pick out Greenleaf. But there's nothing to contrast it to. You've essential got one and two-quarters characters: Foster, me (although I had to suppress any of my actual thoughts and imagine responses in order to follow the trail of the narration), and Dean (who's just kind of tacked on).

This mostly feels like an experiment in presentation. It was interesting, mostly because I haven't been addressed directly by too many pieces. Probably because it's nigh-impossible to do well. As soon as my stated actions according to the narrator diverge from how I'd actually act (which is pretty much immediately, especially with the lack of lead-up), then the second character, what should've been me, is no longer me. So I'm left reading about some guy who's rambling, and not much else, to someone who doesn't exist (me yet not-me). The ending was appropriate, which is probably harder to pull off than usual given this format. But I wouldn't write to the reader again. Read what I said about Claven666's story right below; it slyly makes the same technique work out.

Claven666 posted:

Old Lady Carbuncle
Right off the bat, I like the title. Heh, so the joke at the end of the second paragraph finds its mark. So far your first-person-addressing-me structure is working fine, which is ironic since I just finished complaining about how that didn't work for a previous story. The difference here is, I-the-character in your writing is doing essentially what I-the-reader want to do -- your character is telling my character a story, and I am deliberately reading a story. So there's no dissonance, and combined with the voice (I'm fond of the good ol' boys), I do feel as though I've been engaged in a friendly conversation.

The mayor's line is a little rough, and you've had some capitalization issues, but I am engaged enough to wonder about the cryptic remark/foreshadowing of how the mayor went. The narrator I imagine wouldn't say "we was gonna" and "veritable" in the same sentence; he probably wouldn't say "veritable" at all. Not that fancy a word, but it broke my immersion. Good specific with "Jucunda Street"; it's real to the narrator, so it feels real to me. The charm of the narrator's idiosyncratic phrases are wearing off by the time the wizard speaks. You use "finally" twice in very short order.

This piece started off delightful, but I grew weary of it as time went on. I suspect it would've been a good read (not ambitious, but fun) if you pulled it in a bit. The climax is predictable, which is not a point against it in this overall piece, but the wandering pace of the narrative voice which I had already grown a bit tired of rob it of some element of urgency that I think would've helped.

AgentCooper posted:

Tulpas for the One Percent
Ick, more first person present tense. What is it about wizards that brings about this particular writing style? Its particular effects have not felt appropriate for the first three lines, although I'm somewhat biased against it since it may've been in the majority of the stories to this point.

Aren't lawyers supposed to comport themselves more professionally? The prose is all right; there's a voice, there's a tense that I still don't think was the best decision, and the dialogue between the protagonist and his manager feels comfortable and natural.

The topic you chose to explore is an interesting one -- I probably agree with your conclusions (I'm sure there's a market for imitation women in Japan), and don't mind the premise since you didn't take it too seriously (that 30 year old virgin thing also originates from Japan, doesn't it?). But if you wanted to really illustrate the disgusting nature of those in power/men/humanity, as opposed to pay lip service to it, you fell a little short. The tone of your piece (cheeky and flippant) don't mesh well with the content (depravity), and while that contrast does increase the effectiveness of the humor (making light of something dark), it's not funny enough for me not wonder how it would've gone if you'd explored the twisted nature of your tertiary characters. I do have a fondness for writing that tries to illuminate some aspect of the human condition, even disgust.

You've got a few distracting details in the first line -- I'm not sure if "on Amberlin Street" is in any way relevant to the story, but it doesn't make me feel like it's real to the world since it's being told by the narrator, not experienced by the character. Luke would never say "My apartment building on Amberlin Street" unless he were talking to a stranger; he'd say "My apartment building". And usually the reader is not acknowledged as a stranger; usually we get secret peeks inside the protagonists' lives. Also I feel your "numerous" and "just" on that line take away from the dramatic impact of the hook. "Lounge room" can be shortened to "lounge" on the next line; I don't ever hear them called "lounge rooms" around here at least.

I do like the detail about Stonehenge (with implied history). It suggests some actual backstory and emotional involvement on the part of the character that makes the story world feel more real. Not that I would suggest adding more such things to this piece; devices like that should be used sparingly. I also smirked slightly when Isaac left "via the door".

Heh, 'Peter'. I approve of the irreverence of his particular expletive. Right before I got to this point I was thinking about talking about how it's hard to empathize with the protagonist because I don't know what his goals are; his motivations, but now I can see that that was deliberate. So on to the summary.

This piece starts off a little shaky but picks up momentum toward the end and has one of the better endings I've read thus far. The character's actions are granted massive significance (he just broke Heaven/Earth), his reactions to the conflict are amusing and believable (Hell can't be worse than Angry Heaven), and the concept is fun and relatable via shared social mythology. The first half lacks conflict, and that's likely to turn a reader off (if they were just scanning tiny stories, looking for one to invest their time in), and I didn't dig too deep but I had the feeling that Isaac was goading Luke, but at the end it wasn't clear to me what Isaac's motivations were. I don't feel like digging deeper, so if that was the intent, maybe add another hint. There were a couple of rough spots of prose and typography, but I'm left with a smile.

SadisTech posted:

The Ruby Fountain of Ghel-Gamort
C'mon, man, you're not new here -- you should know that kind of preface is no good. Certainly own up to your word count (by posting your word count), but don't paint yourself as a failure before I even start reading the piece -- it's going to color my interpretation of it.

All right, so I swing a bit on the minimalist end of the spectrum, but fancy descriptive words don't impress me, not unless they're exceptionally extravagant. Your descriptive words are mediocre, but there are a lot of them, and so far you're not describing in detail anything I need much of a description of. Or conversely, if you were going the artistic route, you're not describing things in enough detail, but that's a treacherous path and your words aren't up for that yet. Your descriptive words just start to become interesting when applied to the four types of sacrifice, but that's because it's an interesting concept. I've heard of forests and mountains and stuff, I don't know the rules of sanguimancy. But then you go back to the multiple colors Arashi's skin glows, and I return to apathy. Describing the bloodfly bodies is okay again, because they're interesting and unfamiliar. I hope you see the pattern.

"Edges sharper than a gossip's whisper" is the first bit of prose that speaks to me poetically, though I had to read it twice because the first time I saw "whisper" as "whip", coming off talk of weapons and all.
The world-building history lesson is dry, and though the concepts are novel the presentation is starting to lose my interest, and I'm not an angry drunken mob. I don't feel like that situation would be able to occur in the context you've established.

"Snatched into fragments"? Also, I don't believe that a disincorporated mouth would be able to retain the semblance of a sneer.

It's actually not the worst story overall. The conflict is believable and the resolution is tidy, and the context is established for the climax to make sense. But there are a few things that don't make sense, a few things that are over-described, a few word choices I'm not that big on ("leant" and "Fount"), and that wimpering apology at the beginning that drag it down. Also, I'm willing to believe the boy would sacrifice himself, but not utterly convinced of it -- he seems studious, but I don't know about that devoted.

Hmm. Technically, no issues. Reads well enough, words are decent, actions make some amount of sense. I'm glad the boy could save his sister, but I'm not sure how I feel about the ending. He pays some fee, gets what he wanted out of it, and then maybe takes up an apprenticeship. It's not surprising, provocative, memorable; it the piece doesn't stand out.

Also I find it strange that a bunch of people know that this old guy's a wizard yet he hasn't had someone want or be able to become an apprentice in basically ever. Then some boy comes along who does want to be an apprentice, and the only real requirements are, "Did your parents say you could?". For this world to make sense, either the entry requirements for apprenticeship need to be high, or the wizard needs to have some good reason for only just now thinking about accepting apprentices. And even then it'd be flimsy.

Omi no Kami posted:

The Nightly Portents
"With one final pulse ... with a single pulse". Tsk. You're edging on overly-florid already. It's alleviated by the dialogue -- I enjoy the juxtaposition of wizened old magical beings acting like broskis. I've had a consistent smirk at your humor that turned into a legitimate chuckle at "dramaturgy". I didn't realize it was a legitimate word, but its semblance to "thaumaturgy" is delightful in this context.

This was a clever piece of parody, as soon as I realized it was being silly. More importantly, it's both different and memorable. I don't think I've oft seen explored the concepts of wizardry being used for mundane, every-day things; normally it's all awe-inspiring and stuff. The dating plot didn't quite feel forced, but I didn't gain much (from what was already good) by revisiting it at the end.

You switching between past and present tense intentionally? I've been lukewarm thus far -- the protagonist seems all right, but his quips don't quite amuse me, and I understand his motivations, but don't quite feel like Cassandra (choice name) is evil/crazy. I'm not yet sure what purpose the rebel rabble served, although I'm sure it'll come up. Despite that, the fountain of weeping eyes is an imaginative structure, and I smiled when the protagonist spotted his at the top. Guess she still cares about, or expects him.

You don't need to say he hacked them off "with [his] sword"; that's pretty well established. Another minor error -- you said Desmond had recovered his eye and put it in his pouch, then very shortly later state that his eyes refused to close. Given the subject matter, that's a distracting slip-up.

It's minorly interesting that the protagonist ends up achieving revolution incidentally, but I didn't care enough about them for it to resonate. There are a few things that don't quite make sense to me; she seems obscenely powerful, yet she went to some academy and he didn't terribly fear cheating on her. Are there just tons of stupid-wizardly graduates? The juxtaposition between singular importance and a commonplace relationship doesn't quite fit. All in all, okay, but everything felt a little off and I can't easily pinpoint why.

Ganja in Seattle, you say? I'm with you... like the stolen spool detail, as well. I've got a few minor comments, like it's a little stilted when the woman jumps straight to child support and there's a word error, but honestly I'm enjoying the subject matter enough not to be bothered by them. Which is interesting -- I don't smoke, and by all accounts this wizard is the deadest of beats. But there are two things that are delightful -- the inversion of selfish, petty wizards, and the delightful notion that he can cast actual-factual magic but only when he's blazed out of his brains.

There were actually a handful of minor errors, I'm assuming you were in a hurry, but a good concept, appropriate silly-words (somehow not put off by the goofiness of the spells he cast, and still chuckling at some), and a relatable portrait of a mega-stoner go a long way toward making those forgivable. I'll give you this: this is one of the pieces I'm going to remember, at least in concept.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Why won't they stop? When does it end? Augh I'm so tired of them! (Also, crits.)

Jagermonster posted:

Of a Feather
I'm about halfway in and the broad strokes are palatable (though bland!), but the little details keep tripping me up. Soldier thugs go to some poor old wizard's house, which at first I assume is isolated, and kick down his door for tithe even though he clearly has nothing. First, that's a terribly trite plot device. Second, it doesn't make sense. If you're trying to collect tithe, you do it from people you think have money. What does a king care about taking 1% of the income of someone who basically makes no money? I'm sure those (jack-?)booted thugs aren't free, so I'd expect them leaving with one rusty pink trinket is actually a net loss for the king's coffers. Ten minutes times five people plus travel <= ping think? Probably not. Why are the soldiers even satisfied with that little loot? Who gets to hold their singular spoil?

I assume you were going for done-to-death dialogue on purpose, but it's still been done-to-death. And I can't buy the soldiers goin' around bein' jerks of that scale just to be jerks. You're laying the evil-for-the-sake-of-evil on far too heavy for me to skim past it. I do like the constantly trying to be helpful but sometimes misguided birds; that's a cute touch. What's a bare muddy knoll doing so close to the king's square? He can't even have pavement across a hundred yard radius of his stronghold? I assume you were going for natural imagery but this detail doesn't pass the draw-it-out test. Birds can't hold that much poop in them; that's why the flop so often. You're very much Telling Trutlag's emotional state instead of Showing it. "This was not what he wanted, he told himself." Bad! "His jaw dropped in dismay." Less-bad.

While I'm glad you took a turn for the macabre, it's still bizarre macabre and none of the actions really make sense. Other than the umbrella-boy, I have a hard time believing that what you wrote is how any of the characters would act in any of those situations. The whole thing's a charicature, except the people weren't intended as parodies. The concept of your progression (subverted town erupts into violent chaos) is fine, but its execution is poor (everything's Leave it to Beaver peachy then modern cowboy comedy saloon brawl bad except legitimately violent).

Careful; I almost read your prompt as part of the story, and that would've put you over the word count (I assume; I'm deliberately skipping the prompts on this one since I don't care how well they were followed). Having said that, your character's first bit of monologue is rather confusing. Oh, I guess maybe it's dialogue. Nope, monologue. Why does the officer have a gun trained on what seemed to be a spraypainter? I guess some of us are kind of living in those times but we'd still like to protend that firearms are only drawn when the situation is already life-or-death.

Why is the protagonist forcing out all of this exposition? Who is he even supposed to be talking to? He can't be talking to me; he doesn't know I exist. Even if he did, he ought to be able to tell, from my facial expressions and body language, that I don't want to hear it. Where'd this second boy-man come from?

I'm seriously not tracking well. Some of it may be story fatigue, but this is only my second one of the morning, so I think some of it is your disjoint presentation of ideas, unheralded appearance of characters, massive amounts of exposition, and in general lack of anything for me to ground myself to (or want to attach to). The banter fails to be witty; maybe it would work if I liked either of the characters, but I don't. They're jerks and I can't relate with them (not a wizard nor a spraypainter nor a habitual monologuer), and the quips are predictable.

The first interesting interaction comes from the paladin's partial belief that the grafiti was a compulsion or a hobby -- that I can wrap my head around, and that makes sense for him to think given what he's observed. Most of the things spewing out of the protagonist don't make sense given whatever the context even is. rear end pain can be terrific, but it's rarely terrifying.

There are tiny redeeming qualities at the end, but they don't make it worth the ride. The action writing was certainly better than the other writing, though I still have quibbles with it. The twist is acceptable -- it makes sense without being surprising nor telegraphed. I'd only just recently learned your wizard could change memories by the policeman comment -- I thought the opening scene was some kind of time dialation. And referencing T-shirts and tattoos again brings closure. But there was too much to not like in this piece; I didn't care for any of the characters.

Cache Cab posted:

Cities Fall Yet Rivers Still Flow
Minor stumble -- I thought Rivers, the plural of river, hung upside-down. I'm not going to comment on the proofreading errors, but it looks like you were in a hurry. One has to be a bit careful when phoneticising unusual dialects. It's okay to add some flavor, but slather it on too heavy and it becomes hard to read, even if it is hard to understand. Writers generally take some liberties with painful to read things, even if they're realistic. If a character is locked in a cell for a hundred days, you won't hear about him waking up a hundred times, eating gruel a hundred times, or going to bed a hundred times. For the sake of keeping us around, we readers get to hear just the highlights. Th' slang be'hap how're 'magin' they're talkin', but it quickly becomes uncomfortable to read. Striking a balance can be tricky; I've seen some authors explicitly state (without breaking the fourth wall) that they're toning down their representations of the typography though the characters in question still speak that way.

Now I feel like the backwater speech habits of the antagonists are bleeding into the prose. You use "real" as an adverb more than once, and say Rivers is going to get "ate". Perhaps Rivers is also unsophisticated, but I didn't get that impression (perhaps because one generally assumes contrast between protagonist and antagonist, especially when the antagonists are exaggerated). And how are they coughing up, repeatedly, thousands of bugs yet not freaking out?

What purpose is served by having the narrative voice be uncultured as well? Standard narrators are third person omniscient non-entities, which means that their voice is authoritative and unobtrusive. You've got mannerisms in the voice of your prose, which implies that it's attached to some character, except that it doesn't appear to be attached to any of the existing characters. There's a lot of exposition at the end and although there is a little tension leading up to the climax, you glaze over a lot of things you could've left unmentioned but instead I feel like there were other significant challenges that are just being waved away.

Here's what worked about the story, which wasn't much: I liked the aspect of miscommunication. Wiz and gently caress being appropriate things for the protagonist to say, and understandable how they'd be misinterpreted, and then tension and conflict is created for entirely believable reasons (people miscommunicate all the time, so it's easy to relate to). But your attempts at evoking disgust feel juvenile -- thrown in there just to be disgusting.

Disgust can be a powerful emotion to explore. Why are we culturally or biologically averse to some situation? Are we being bigoted, or do these reactions serve a purpose? Should we swallow our disgust for admirable reasons, or is our contempt well-founded? There's also no contrast to give the disgust potency -- everything's gross and nobody minds.

Okay hook, but a little rough on the execution. You'd get more power from "I ducked, but a couple grazed my cheek and drew blood." "Shining through the open space" also removes immediacy by adding words that don't help too much; I by default assume that the character was inside (since the door busted open), there wasn't sunlight inside (he was inside), and if their bronze armor is gleaming in the sunlight then that light must be coming from outside. Though I'm surprised at how well I identify with and empathize with your protagonist in just a few short lines -- nobody likes being intruded upon.

It's been said before and by people with a better grasp of grammar, but generally avoid -ing verbs and end 'em with -ed. "I began, but then I saw crossbows and was moving, ducking behind my desk" -> "... and moved, ducking behind my desk" (-> "and ducked behind my desk"). I like that the protagonist is in trouble and therefore the only recourse is to shoot his way out; that's probably the kind of thinking that got him in trouble in the first place. I don't like your magical naming conventions, though.

Most of your action is handled decently. There's a sense of urgency, believability in the protagonist's responses, and not too many was -ing pairs ("were converging" is appropriate, since it was an ongoing action at the time of writing that wouldn't complete until some future point). Your line explaining why he's out of shape meandered a little too much.

The ending's a bit of a letdown. Protagonist escapes immediate danger but not much has been resolved, and he doesn't grow as a character. Also, was he the only person who had discovered clones? According to my interpretation of the rules of the world, it shouldn't be that surprising that clones would attempt to clone themselves. Or be so well organized as to escape notice for so long and orchestrate clone-cloning and then all turn on their master at once.

Broenheim posted:

A Brat’s Request
A first paragraph typo takes away from an otherwise decently-established mood. Why does a fire elemental (I like that she's playful) care that the rabbit is missing an ear? Wouldn't her flaming claws require or ensure that it's dead? I'm enjoying the commonplace relationship drama wrapped in the importance of saving some village. It's refreshing. "Brightened blue" doesn't read well to me.

Gettin' a bit heavy with the typographical errors. The fastest horses make the best glue, eh? The chain-of-favors plot quickly grows wearisome. I've done that too much in video games, and I didn't like it then, either. Your attempts at silliness wear thin.

Just like how I hate most everything that gets categorized as a "Western" RPG these days because that means a bunch of pointless plots instead of one potentially significant one, your piece loses its way with a bunch of tiny interactions that I don't care about as much at the cost of not being able to develop the one I do care about.

Cpt. Mahatma Gandhi posted:

The Square Root of 13
Heh. You do a good job at utilizing shared assumptions to imply past events. There used to be some floor 13, I know wizards are likely involved, and now I've got an idea of what has happened. The peon mistaking something specific (numeral signs) for something more commonplace (sadly but amusingly hashtags) is a nice touch. Breaks down again into hysterics is a bit much for me to swallow -- he was talking fine up until that point, even casually enough to dismiss a correction with a whatever. His tone/voice don't match that of someone in and out of hysterics. Also this may be the first piece where the first person present tense isn't distracting.

Though it's exposition, I rather enjoyed the bit explaining the passcode. I didn't know the majority of those details, and it makes perfect sense in the context of the story for the narrator to be thinking about them. Perhaps even as his mnemonic for remembering them. You've got some spelling / typo errors, though. The bad math is an amusing touch as well.

I'm not at all mathematically bothered by the concept of the square root of thirteen. One can approximate it to arbitrary precision with a Taylor series, and now that I double-check that, a ton of other ways as well. Now what really gets me pissed off is Euler's Identity. e to the quantity i times pi, plus one equals zero? What the crap is this, magic? Crazy nonrepeating number raised to the power of the most irrational number we know, TIMES A NUMBER THAT DOESN"T EVEN EXIST, plus the multiplicative identity, and you get the additive identity? NOT IN MY HOUSE. I'm going to take a breather. (But find something better to upset your wizard.)

At first I thought the flying numbers were hokey, but then the protagonist explained why the 5s were the worst, and because it was real to him it then worked for me. The wrap-up is nice, as well. You said early on exactly what should happen, but I forgot about it (still angry at Euler to be honest), so when it happened it was both a surprise but not unexpected. The banter was all right; actually a lot of the little details were good, but there were some rough spots and the overall piece wasn't the most evocative, memorable, or thought-provoking. A decent stab with some rough edges.

Benny Profane posted:

Mo Wizards Mo Problems
I dig the title. Zoned out more than once trying to read past the Wizardly Descriptive Titles of Little Relevance. Also there's too much exposition in the opening to grab my attention. You've set some wistful tone, but I would've been in a better mood if you'd just started your story with "Tonight is the night..". That's the first line that gets my attention. Too many adjectives in the next paragraph.

The song names are amusing, and the first few times you Told a character's emotional state with auras, it was clever. But now it just grates. There's some conflict in this story, but no resolution. Things escalate, then things stop. I wasn't terribly connected with the characters, what did they do that I should empathize with other than be humans who had a fiery break-up? The humor was briefly okay, but would've been better as a single-panel comic showing a wizard DJ picking through his set list. Drawing it out over however long it took me to read it did your piece no favors.

Killfast37 posted:

Perceive and Deceive
I'm with you until "Her copper eyes ablaze searing into my soul." I don't care for that line. I am curious what she's on the lam from. It's a little uncomfortable how desperate the protagonist is for lady-touch. I like the tension established by the paralysis magic then diffused on something trivial: discussing the tip. A few minor typographical errors. Ah, a heist.

All right, she's tryin' to double cross him, but why's he still so affected? Most of the big details were blase, but the specifics of the trance inductions were of interest, as were the descriptions of the morphing coin and the way, which was pleasantly not entirely clear, that the protagonist used quarters for magic. But there was very little that stood out (plot, characters, prose, creativity), and the ending was more of an implied continuation than a satisfying conclusion.

Benny the Snake posted:

La Voz Silenciada
A shower of donations is a bit unexpected for a busker. A man approaching the front of a crowd is generally going to come from behind those who must part for him, so visual characteristics rarely come into play. "Said exhaustedly" is no better than "sighed". Which is only okay in moderation. Some technical errors ("Dodger's" is probably not what you meant). Why would the cop call for backup against a familiar and seemingly nonviolent busker? The reactions of the crowd, ensorceled or not, are exaggerated to the point of uncomfortability. Don't say "to further charm the crowd" when you didn't need to say he was charming them in the first place; you were doing a bit of Showing, forced as it felt.

I must admit I glazed over the lyrics a bit. They didn't seem important, and oh am I tired of reading these. The stylistic punctuation doesn't help -- it communicates a feel, but it impedes easy reading, and right now easy is the only kind of reading I can handle. Heh, John. I did that, too. The way you've worded it, Pablo should be saying "I'm sorry Pablo", but I assume you meant Juan.

A little bit of repetition is good for a sense of coming full circle, but your too much of it was bland to reread. There are a handful of logistics that I don't think make sense but I don't want to untangle -- the officer always calls for backup, so shouldn't they be immune to the spell? Did they just show up there this time? I feel slightly for Pablo at the end, but not Juan -- he wanted to do something he was warned against and then the thing he was warned against happened and also he felt flat. All of the characters were fairly two-dimensional; Pablo grows a little in a slightly sad way that was the impact of your ending, but that was it as far as change.

Djeser posted:

Sif the Strong
I'd read it better as "All she wanted was to not be noticed." As in, right then she has an active want for that particular situation, although she may also have that more general want. A decent burst of action, but I'm having trouble visualizing the layout such that Sif wouldn't've seen someone else's fleeing example to follow. It does serve as a good way of establishing your conflict, or at least creating tension, now that she's isolated and advanced-upon. The accidental magic is both well executed and well described -- I feel like it was an accident, and I feel like Sif was surprised by it too. Great way of revealing the limits of the magic. Minor tense error that's particularly painful at the crux of an action sequence I'm actually enjoying.

Nice beard detail. Tender, touching. I'm impressed that in this piece, all of the characters felt like they had motivations, and behaved in a reasonable fashion. Even a crowd of enemy warriors, and it's hard to make a crowd real without relegating some of its members to cardboard. This piece does many things right and few things wrong and I'd do myself a favor (that sadly I'm not going to do right now) to study it better. You engender empathy, compassion, tension, a little bit of wonder, and a thrilling discovery all in few words.

dmboogie posted:

The Fast and the Bearded
Interesting that you're openly acknowledging the wizardry. Why would the boss expect her to perform any other way if he knows she magics it? Also some typos already. Acceptable description of magical mechanisms. I'm a little concerned that she refers to him as proper-noun Boss and that he's not just in charge of the mechanics. Okay, good, racing. "previous quiet dull roar" too many adjectives. "the one driving" feels a little awkward and distant.

This could benefit from a line crit, as many of the phrases feel just a little bit off to me. But there's some heart in this piece, and I like that. A little bit of fun between wizards. The briefly repeated sentiments at the end are enjoyable.

This piece is rough around the edges, but I liked it. You've got a pleasing relationship between Merle and Boss, and in general the sense of camaraderie comes across. The prose could use some work, but your heart's in the right place, and a lot of the smaller stuff comes with practice.


Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Reading these stories has been more physically draining than scrubbing the paint off of walls with a sponge. It was a pretty bitchin' sponge, but still.

Jay O posted:

Which appointed hour? Nine? Ten? How does being vague contribute to your story other than making it less detailed? Other than that, your first paragraph Shows a relationship nicely. The exposition in dialogue is acceptable, although I can still feel it, but it does make sense given the context of the world.

A bit of a misread on my part, but when the man stumbled then said "his father's recovery from TB", I thought for a second that the memories of the altered past were just hitting him. I think there were enough words after the first part of his sentence, which didn't strike me as important, that I partially forgot about it. I still get the impression that that's what's going to happen, especially since he's allowed to explain the details now. I'm also okay with that as a framing device, because I don't see it too often, but it would wear thin mighty quick were it common.

The use of temporal paradox as a plot point is solid -- we all intuitive believe things behave that way, so it makes perfect sense that it'd be a restriction on her powers. Intriguing concept that the wizard has to travel to unfamiliar realities to revisit her clients -- makes sense but I hadn't thought about it before, so now I feel enriched. But I don't entirely buy that her clients would so easily swallow "her reality" without protesting, as from their point of view they categorically cannot perceive any of the effects of her actions

Blackmail, huh? While I buy that that that works, I'm still not convinced that the dude would believe that her version of events actually happened. You had a few interesting ideas which I would've liked to seen explored more: she can change the past, but not paradoxically, then is shunted into the new future. It worked for Quantum Leap. But though you didn't waste words, per se, the words you used to convey these concepts left little room for anything else to happen. There's not great reason to empathize with the dude, and there's no real plight or growth on the part of the lady. I liked it, but very little transpired.

Auraboks posted:

Open and honest discourse
The sarcasm in the first line falls flat. I do like how you Show the working of your magic, how it's not quite precise but it is in the moment. Then the next two lines, while they help establish tone and character, aren't enjoyable to read. I know it's narrated by the protagonist and that he's a bit smug / insecure / not as well educated as I'd expect him to be, but it's tricky reading all the words from the perspective of someone whose perspective I'm not amused by.

I like the conflict you've established; I assume this is intentional but I'm cheering for the secondary character more than the protagonist as she's the one being wronged. The format is established quickly, which causes the "I doubt she'll be back" line to flop -- I wholeheartedly expect her to be back in the next scene. Which reiterates the friction of having a dumb guy provide the narrative.

The girl's dialogue is effective; the guy's is flat. Things were handled pretty logically from everyone's point of view but the protagonist's. He's pretty clearly letting himself get trapped and responding in ways that seem at best foolish every step of the way. I have a hard time believing he'd have such power yet still be so poor at applying it intelligently. That being said, I enjoyed this story in a quick-read sort of way; the conflict was clear, the resolution was sensible, and one of the characters made sense.

Wait, everyone on the island celebrates a 19th birthday or everyone goes to that island to celebrate their 19th birthday? Jarring tense change. The wail's belly? Was that intentional? I guess so. "As the year has passed, I [took/have taken?] on a peculiar sense."

It's a shame there were so many minor stumbling blocks that broke my flow, because you have some really good bits of prose and a generally solid story. But there was enough in there that, upon first encounter, I had to stop and think about, and this was a piece that needed to wash over me uninterrupted. I also find it a little strange that she died/disappeared just as (because?) he was overwhelmed by a bad memory. That thread feels a bit unresolved in my mind.

For half a second, until I recalled we were likely talking about wizards, I didn't know if you meant magical wards or beings-cared-for-by-the-library wards. I'm already rooting for the protagonist because assaulting a library is a heinous crime, and that's a nice showing of the use of magic -- in a few quick, action-oriented sentences I understand the rules of the game. Oh, he absorbs the text? Interesting, and I'm sure that'll become important. I misread "outstanding fine" as "outstanding fire", for some reason assuming the intruder would be charred. It's still a sad sentence, but it lost its first impression due to a slight conflict in my expectations (which were probably unfounded) and a similarity in letters. Maybe "a late fee"?

The Dewey Decimal numbers are a nice insertion, and understanding the rules, I enjoy the significance of the Hunting aisle. (I'm going to trust that those numbers are accurate, but if you wanted to trick me, that'd be the place for it.) Delightfully suspenseful lead up to and presentation of the creature. For a minute there I thought you were implying that the child had somehow accidentally summoned the creature. Fantastic job of connecting the books to the spell to the reader. I got a minor thrill when I realized he was trying to biblically smite the creature. Ooh, proper shivers at the ending.

Evocative, touching, tight prose, well-concluded. You treat your words brick and they treat you stone. Really the biggest thing hampering this peice was when a few bits conflicted with my preconceived notions, some of which I would not have held were it outside of the context of all these other entries. This one could stand on its own two legs elsewhere.

Jonked posted:

Are his mentor and his master the same person? Opening paragraph is all right, but I'm really getting tired of the convention where someone finally scores a hit only to find their opponent had withheld a better hit. The soldier's lines feel stilted; shoehorned in just to move the plot along. Don't need "icy" and "cold" right next to each other. "Strange teal drink" feels weird to read, and in general the alchemy is too convenient and lazy. Oh, there's an emergency. Let me put a little rum in that coke and... voila! Magic!

All of the dialogue is grating on me. It doesn't feel like there are people behind those phrases. "It could drive me mad." I got no emotion out of. Is the king worth me going mad? Oh, he is? Let's continue, then. That's not how people react to trepidation! You want those plants to feel scary, they need to be both alive and malicious. Don't water it down with "seemed almost" alive. None of your specifics are specific enough "cloth-like film", "some thick liquid". Vague descriptions don't make me feel like the objects described actually exist (even in dreamworld, even to the mind of the fictional protagonist). "Died again"? Everything's too indecisive to have impact. "A giganitc and grotesque version of his mother's body" -> "His mother's naked body, gigantic and grotesque". More punch.

Has his sanity been pushed to the breaking point? It doesn't seem that bad, even if he didn't have all that training. The one nice detail I've come across is how a nightmare is even more hideous in the clarity of the real world. I like that thought. The stealing from dreams is all right but not impressive. I have some ideas as to what you meant by the ending, but not enough interest in the content to try to decide what you were actually saying. There are a few okay concepts, but the execution ranges from bland to awkward.

In the first three lines some things happen, and I'm not against them, but I don't connect with them, either. It's a little too dry, a little too this-then-this-then-this. I know who your protagonist is and I guess a minor problem that she has, but nothing about her motivations nor her character nor her plight. Too many maybes in the narration. I don't know what she's trying to do or why she's trying to do it, just that it might maybe work. That's not compelling.

I sat in on an AA meeting once, and my experience reaffirmed the expectation I already had, but I thought they beginned (wow, I actually typed that. I'm so worn out) by going in a circle and having everyone introduce themselves every time, even if it's been the same group of people for the last decade. So the situation you're utilizing ("Oh, she's new.") doesn't seem possible according to my expectations of reality. (I also suspect they'd skip anyone unwilling to participate.) That thieving wizard is the one thing keeping me mildly interested.

How did she manage to get all angry (an emotion) without him just snatching it away, ready jar or not? Also boo exposition. Too many details don't make sense. Not so much that they're confusing, but that I have existing beliefs that certain things would not happen or certain people would not respond in that fashion, and your story is not able to override these feelings or convince me otherwise, so it's dissatisfying in a way that's hard to see beyond.

I'm good and grinnin' at the end of the first sentence. The prose is losing its charm just after "Tong". Hah, Not Tom Hiddleston. In my good graces again. Haha, all right, there was enough here that I enjoyed it. Also that's probably the most Twitter-format I've seen in my entire life.

You know what you're doin', and I miss the prose of the days back before you turned your powers to evil, but the concepts and their execution are good enough for a cheap laugh and the overall tone of the piece screams not to analyze it too closely (which I didn't). I liked the dialogue because it was bad 'cause you were makin' fun of those people it's totally cool to make fun of. But I'm also guessing your heart wasn't in it. And now that the smirks have vanished, I'm not left with much.

Grizzled Patriarch posted:

Jesus Walks Into a Motel
I can see the tenderness you're trying to hint at, but I don't really feel it myself in the opening paragraph. For whatever reason, it doesn't connect. I don't really feel the fear leading up to the hesitation, so I don't experience the relief. I'm just told about some event that could've been cute. "Like fishermen casting their nets in the shallows" would better apply to all of us. The paragraph about fliers is nice, I think? There is imagery that ought to be powerful, but again it doesn't stick. I'm not sure if the fault lies with me or you on that one. Their lives of their own are interesting, but about a half a sentence too wordy.

I feel like there ought to be some power to your ending and better impact to your prose. But maybe I wasn't in the mood for it. They seemed like good words, but they didn't feel good, just neutral. And there were a bunch of them, seeing as how you painted a mood as much as a story. Traces of loneliness crept in at certain points, but either I wasn't up for feeling it or the whole is less than the sum of the parts. I s'pose I should take a break before the next one.

hotsoupdinner posted:

The Wizard's Song
The first two paragraphs aren't bad, but I'm also not pleased by them. There's exposition, and it doesn't interest me. Still too much Telling. The line (surrounding sentences) with "Ten fingers have we" catches my interest, but still in a distant sort of way. Ack, it's so cut and dry and all the Telling removes me from any sense of urgency, action, interest, or emotion. Some stuff happens and the words could've been all right but I'm reading them from an encyclopedia, not a story. You're speaking at me, not to me.

You don't need to say "featureless" when you're saying "it was the only feature in the land"; ends up being repetitive. I'm having trouble sensing the conflict here... the wizard got thirsty? Glad that's resolved. Why is he suddenly afraid of the insects now? "I had received my answer. I will learn what it is. I did not receive my answer." Don't do that. It's not a startling sense of contrast when the read is already dry and declarative. "The song was deafening. I tried to muffle it. It threatened to deafen me." So it wasn't deafening the first time?

Your description of oppressive silence is adequate -- not hearing heartbeat or breath is a good detail. The ending works logically, but nothing worked emotionally. Why should I care about the protagonist and his quest? There was hardly a conflict because there were hardly characters or forces or personalities in opposition -- he does some stuff and some stuff happens and I guess a god who spoke once willed it and it didn't work out all that well. Bummer.

Garfield + Pink Floyd = Garfloyd? Other than the weird names, the opening is decent. I know that the characters are nervous about whatever's about to happen, though I don't know what's about to happen or why I should care about them or any other hooks to draw me in. Luckily you cover those things rather quickly, Showing me that there's some sort of urgency around getting a possibly illicit gift that Amy really needs. Oh, Wilbart is peddling the wares? Interesting.

Not sure if that was an intended double-cross or just brute carelessness. But the conflict has upped its ante. I don't buy that a second would be enough time for a crossbow bolt to diver to an opal, nor that they'd entirely fit within the surface area of the opal, nor that their impact wouldn't cause serious harm. If it's magical enough to stop the force, it shouldn't need to hit the opal. If it needs to hit the opal, then it's just redirection, which should still hurt. ('least that's how I experience it.) "Got the horse going with a slap" is a little weak. "Slapped the horse into motion"?

Feels endearing and childlike that the girl snaps fully awake on mention of a surprise. The ending's kind of cute, but there's not enough of Amy for my feelings for her to contribute to it and Wilbart kinda stole, double dealt, or otherwise sketchily acquired something I imagine he could've gotten more fairly. This story was reasonably tight, but how Wilbart got into that situation in the first place doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

CrazySalamander posted:

Run, Wizard, Run
You've heard it before and you'll hear it again: don't preface your stories. We all hate everything we write basically all the time and there are really good reasons for each of our problems, but if you want to write something ever to be read by someone unknown, you don't get the luxuries of feedback. This is practice for that.

This isn't the worst start I've ever seen (which you were trying to make it out to be; that's another reason we don't like prefaces: it poisons the well). There's some action, rough but urgent, though it's lacking in context (who when where). I can't really get into the action since I don't have enough context. A guy I don't know is running from a thing he doesn't know, and his attempts at escape don't have much meaning because I don't know the rules of engagement (the world, anyone's powers, is this a dream?). There's nothing to anchor myself on.

I don't really like it when characters talk aloud to nobody. I can tell they're talking for the benefit of the reader, which they wouldn't do if there weren't a reader. In general, try to establish one or two characters which the reader can connect with -- give them some shared human experience to empathize over. Most of us haven't had to run for our lives for whatever reason. Start with the hobbits in Hobbiton -- they're happy easy-going honest people (all virtues we associate positively with), then something comes along and threatens them and we want them to come out unscathed. I know flash fiction practically demands throwing one into the middle of a story, but if the story isn't about people we care about then even well-written actions will be wasted on the reader.

You establish a peaceful rustic setting and I'm with you. Then I start to connect with the protagonist when you mention her secret favorites, which she's trying hard not to have; that's super humanizing. The lines from the twins and the line after are also endearing, because who hasn't fondly but silently patronized youth? I sense some foreshadowing with your "Like for Like". There's a weird way one can mis-parse the next two sentences to think for a moment that Tissai died; I think because I treated the period like a comma. I feel like some of the details around those two died went on a little long, but I understand their point. Your descriptions of what go into her spells do rub me the right way. You've got me fully engaged again when she makes her promise.

The detail about picking an arbitrary, indeterminate twin is chilling. Good details on the tragedy and revulsion. Not having wove, I didn't realize what the shuttle was until just now. My oh my, that's a lot of corpse-material. Ooh. There is quite a lot of character growth in this little piece, and I buy all of it. Her descent into witchery with the bone loom seems a little too easy. Not easy, because there's pain with the first child or two, but not as driven by necessity when suddenly there are a dozen, and now she's practicing carpentry.

I can understand the motivations of all of the characters, empathize with the protagonist, and feel remorse when the last threads of her good nature are purged from her by the exigencies of reality.

Gnap! posted:

I don't buy it that most wizards would murder to get their name dropped (by whom?) annually. Two lines in the prose is off and I'm at odds with the statements: your claim about most wizards is contrary to my preexisting beliefs, and distinguishing your guy for behaving in a normal fashion is not very distinguished. The attempts at I guess humor aren't working. I am not amused by the term "hairbeard". The only reason I'm smiling right now is this duel of garish wizards for unknown reasons and who have silly names reminds me of Abracadaniel. That guy's awesome.

The action is presented poorly. A guy charges an attack, it does not hit. Lame. Later you explain that the other dude is deflecting every [whatever] thrown at him. Only slightly better. What you really want is to show this happening: "A lightning bolt shot forth from Mercurius' outstretched arm, but Xelzellus deflected it effortlessly." Active verbs; actions being taken by characters. Not passive some-inspecific-stuff-happened. Huh, allergies? Where are they fighting and why and how is the protagonist involved? None of this is clear. Your descriptions around the centipedes are all right, but how did he not notice them sooner? They're not generally microscopic.

Ugh. So the flow picked up a little, and I mean a little, partially because I was in a hurry to be done reading this one. The idea that he's been making little dormant critters at this place for so long that he's forgotten about them and now they're accidentally activating en-masse is an okay one. But the execution is confused as hell. I don't initially know why he's there, there's no sense of position (people just seem to teleport into and out of the foreground), wizards be all fightin' for reasons unknown, and then some bad stuff happens with a frequently passive voice. Why should I even care what happens to any of them, including the protagonist? Do they have any redeeming or relatable qualities?

Chairchucker posted:

That Was a Pretty Wizard, Wasn’t It?
Your sarcasm, humor, and alliteration are lost on me. I'm so tired of reading at this point (so I'm glad this will be short), but I sense the attempts at humor were halfhearted to begin with. Half a reluctant smirk with your pretty fly whitewood log.

It was short, I'm guessing you phoned it in, it wasn't the worst thing in the world but it also didn't have much of a reason to exist. I'm sure you knew all this.

skwidmonster posted:

When He Sleeps
A minor run-on sentence from the character I assume is the more mature of the two (whoever they are). Don't crick and creak in the same sentence. The kid sounds like a kid, but his run on ran a little too on for my disposition at present (which is weary). Ick, a longer sentence. Be careful to balance what's realistic with what's palatable to the reader. I much prefer this kid when he gets prickly about Mr. Bungle than when he rambles.

Why the sudden descriptive details about the wail? They feel out of place. There's very little conflict and an unsatisfying resolution to this story: you can see where it's going, then it goes there, and the journey wasn't very far. Nobody grew as a character, I wasn't enriched by enlightening ideas, I had little empathy, and they're just going to do it again tomorrow. I don't tell you about that day I did something kinda similar to most other days 'cause none of it is notable and you have no reason to care about me. Same with your characters and stories.

Don't preface your story. If you absolutely have to, preface it with "This is going to be the most awesomely satisfying and rewarding thing you'll ever read." to at least put us in a good mood. And actually that's not an egregious opener. I can tell why the protagonist is avoided, maybe feel a bit of his desperation, and know a bit about the state those boys will be in. "Slow" and "slowly" in the same sentence, there. Don't have replies by other people in the same paragraph, if indeed that is what's going on.

How do those ingredients presently take their toll when the years of research have already been paid? Can't he just continue to reap the rewards of that research, toll-free?

Not terribly-written, but a bit bland. You're describing things that are of some interest (molecular biology but magic), but you're Telling me about them instead of Showing things happen. Also it's less satisfying for the reader when people end up in basically the same position that they started in, unless you're trying to make a statement about the cyclical nature of something. In this case, the situation of the boys changes slightly, but the protagonist, the one we're supposed to empathize with, is basically where he started.

kurona_bright posted:

The Tapping Anticlimax
I've got some empathy with the narrator already, because I know what it's like to be bothered by harmless distractions that everybody else seems to ignore. Nice interjections of tap. I'm having PTSD here.

I can see why the coworker is laughing and why the protagonist is not. But I don't see why, if he's been there so frequently, she doesn't just ask him. Such things are not verboten in most offices I've been in. Ah, at least she's about to now. Better late than never. How did it take a few months to get a guy's name out of Dave? She can't be paralyzed with shyness -- she's a presenter. This aspect is really distracting me from an otherwise smooth read.

I like that the climax was more of an anticlimax -- nothing suspicious, just the protagonist freaking out. Decently written, although I suspect I personally empathize a bit more than usual 'cause I can't filter out sounds for the life of me. Wearin' industrial grade earmuffs right now.

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