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  • Locked thread
May 3, 2003

College Slice

Have a crit

Moxie - The Secret Edge

I like the upbeat tone. It's silly and the idea of the guy naming and having relationships with his knives isn't bad per se. Execution needs a lot of work. The paragraph with Sinbad and Julius was awkward and left me wondering that the hell was going on. What was Julius' joke? That he'd reflected the old woman's hair? Odd and jarring.

The dialogue between Jeff and Martha is seriously bad. Take out all the descriptors and just listen to the words:


"Hey Jeff," / "What's up?" / "Uh, you want anything to eat? I'm headed over to Prepared Foods for some takeout." / "No thanks! My lunch isn't til 3." / "It's past three." / "Oh...I guess I'll have whatever you're having." / "I'll get you something you like."
How are we advancing the plot here or saying anything the reader should care about? It's just filler. I guess you're trying to introduce the later love interest but man that was a boring conversation. All the blocking and description made it even more plodding. Maybe have them say something interesting?

So the blade somehow psychically tells him that Martha likes him? The rest gets very confusing. Here's an example of what I mean:


I could still see the brilliant afterimage of its secret. He had sliced my ocular nerve from three yards away! I hoped it was permanent. I jumped again as a tiny voice said my name from the artery.
What? Who is he, the knife? Why do you hope you're permanently blinded? Is this a metaphor? Why is Martha's voice described as "tiny?" and why does it come out of nowhere at the end of this paragraph? I hope it made more sense in your head than it does on paper.

Also agreed with earlier crit that he should get the knives at the end. Otherwise what's the point? The knife gave him the "secret" so he could meet his quota - there's no payoff otherwise.

Not the worst idea for a story, has some potential. But the trite dialogue, confusing internal monologue, and clunky prose detracts from the story. I'd suggest a rewrite from the point of view of the Atomic Knife. At least that character had some motivation and agency.


Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Djeser posted:

The word limit is the number of words you should not exceed. If you go over the word limit, the judge is free to disqualify you. A couple hundred words is pretty significant when you're dealing with flash fiction length stories.

(psst sittinghere might be good if the OP mentioned something like this since it's a question that comes up a lot)

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

I'm bored, here are my Raw Impression Crits from this week so far~~~

Week 220 Crits

The Secret Edge

Opening two sentences are not bad as far as openers go

Ok I like this character, but where’s any sort of conflict, a reason for this story to keep going

Boss is a cliché, so is Martha, when do the knives start talking to our hero and asking him if they can be his friends

Ok, so there’s the conflict (not selling enough units), and then the Atomic Blade is thrown haphazardly ontop of that, and then he asks Martha to marry him out of nowhere. I think this really could’ve used more time and more focus. I like the single-mindedness of the character and I wish it could’ve turned into a better, more single-minded story.

Protocol Gamma

“If you can beat our broken AI, you get 5% of the company” is like saying “If this Roulette ball lands on triple-zero, you win a billion dollars” it’d be impossible without cheating. I’m sure our Mild-Mannered Hero won’t find a way to break the game, though

so, all we know about this guy is filtered through this game you spent 4 paragraphs describing. I don’t have enough time to care whether he wins or not before he wins.

see, impossible. expected Mr. Zynga to drive to his house and shoot him in the face

now this story seems like it’s moved on from the entire Voidball conceit.

how does the narrator know what a Void Tablet is?

haha and that’s the Twilight Zone ending. Depicted well enough, but again, I have no real connection to the character, so I don’t really care. He even seems okay with it. Why shouldn’t I be?

A Completely Standard Furnace Repair Job

Tense shift in the very first line, that doesn’t bode well

Okay, we’re halfway into the story and the descriptions are solid enough, but all we’ve seen this guy do is go down stairs and get ready to eat lunch.

(signed by the ghost of David Bowie himself!) uh, what. This is where I would’ve stopped reading if I wasn’t a judge

You’re telling me how badass this Maintenace Man is and I’ve yet to see him do anything badass, he’d have better cardio if he was badass

ok, there we go, he stabs one monster. The End. when does he face a boss? This is more of a character sketch than a story, except I don’t get much of the character beyond “has a knife and is only kind of afraid to use it”.

Aisle L-8

I don’t know if I like the first-person POV—or maybe I just don’t think the voice is that effective

quick exorcisms, ho-hum

I like the uses of detail in this story, but when does it start

How does she not notice 12 people following her? this is very important to my immersion

“demoniac” isn’t the word you’re looking for, sir

they’re perfectly coiffed, but they have nowhere to shower/poo poo?

Okay, so this reads like you fell in love with a concept and cut it off before the part where any action took place. Like, you remove this story from the frame of Voidmart and it can’t stand on its own. She’s an awesome sorcerer that gets an offer to be More Awesome, ~the end~

Yeah, the Girls

“There was an art to it.” Oh, was there? gently caress you, stoner. I don’t believe you. Convince me.

What’s with these unnecessary paragraph breaks, why are these moments being highlighted

Do we ever get to know why he’s building a tower of mannequin parts, is he on a CYOA blind date

These are some stock dialogue exchanges, the dialogue sounds alright, but where is it leading to, exactly

so…this is a superfan’s dream? that’s the story you were telling this whole time? What happened to the tower of mannequin parts? What does this have to do with Voidmart at all? And why should I care about the narrator when all I really know about her is that she enjoys cardboard cutout arranging?

Not my favorite, could see this DMing, but we have a while left to go…

Chariots of the Wage Slave

That is a clunker of an opening line. “nearer to the bottom.” “almost to the bottom, but not quite, perhaps round 4th or 5th bottomest.”

Oh goodie how many times this week am I going to see “Voidmart was big, unseemingly big, like giant, folks.” Writing is polished enough so far, though.

OK, wouldn’t the short version really necessitate a long version? “just a bunch of zombies in a crate, nbd” also you’re spoiling any intrigue for the reader.

“paled in comparison to the threat of losing his job” you’re telling us so much and showing us so little

zombies, then a T-rex, are some ninjas going to show up next

Alright, you’re describing the employee manual more than the protag, and so far I’m more interested in the manual, at least it might kill somebody at some point

“As in, right just now.” what is this narrator voice. they sound irritatingly cocky.

Story over, and the protag hasn’t done much except not die. The setting is interesting and “quirky” enough, but I’d rather listen to the employee manual describe it than this guy, and that’s not good.

Ethical Cannibalism

well, then. let’s see if the story can live up to the opening line.

oh god this is going to be a screed in support of veganism isn’t it. Piers Anthony did it already, buddy, and astonishingly enough his version was a smidge cleverer

also, this isn’t how regular butchering works. Farmers don’t cut off chunks of the cow as it’s still alive, they just kill the cow and chop it up. You can’t live a stress-free life if there are chunks being carved out of you on the regular

“without missing something valuable” is a good line and I wish it was in a longer story, maybe from the boy’s perspective. I dunno man, you had something good here and you smashed it flat and cooked all the juice out of it. oh, he kills the boy at the end, that’s interesting, I guess. so what, though. I don’t care about the protag enough.

tbf, this is a better ending than the stories I’ve read that are twice the length, so congrats for that. but “After all, that didn’t mean the meat had to go to waste” is a much better ending line. >: (


Does Boss just point his thousand-dollar gun at people when they ask him for a Danish

I’m 200 words in and I’m already completely lost, why prayer livers, why fusilli

Okay, once I’ve settled into the conceit of the story I’m starting to like this, the writing’s distinct

so far the religious aspect of the story is really out of place, it feels like you were saddled with it against your will

there are a lot of little details in this story that I like and that aren’t just shoehorned in

ahahaha asseagles

ehh, the ending is a bit of a cop out. It’s funny, but it seems anticlimactic. I feel like I’d’ve liked it all better if there wasn’t this smothering religious voice, but that obviously wasn’t an option. Best story I’ve read so far, though. Even if it’s kind of two-and-a-half stories crammed into one.

It’s Easier Without Customers

this is the most unsubtle opening I’ve seen so far. It feels like vaudeville. Vaudemart

The main characters are basically interchangeable, and this story is a snore because I don’t know what’s at stake. They hoodwink Sam out of his job and then they get transferred to his old section. I don’t know why they’re so afraid of—oh. The title. Well, then it’s a corny joke executed perfectly. It’s still a boring story, though. It’s going for charm, but none of the characters are charming or interesting.

Retail Therapy

I read the opening dialogue and I picture this person and I want to die, which is good

like Mirakill, there are plenty of clever details here

is this that sub-neural programming that Pick-Up Artists do? She’s a loving retail PUA

“Brace for TRUTH and immediate rectification” made me smile, there should be a prize for the person who does the best CEO impression

ok, then, “a wave of something?” “reality field”? I feel like there’s a lot lost in translation here

nevermind, this is amazing, I love this interpretation of an audit

wait, what? Alexandra’s a witch? this story has serious Adderall problems

done. So, this story seems torn between a lot of different focal points, and at a certain point the narrator’s just rolling around on the floor swallowing their own tongue. This feels like something you had too much fun with and forgot to edit down for clarity. The audit section was genuinely enjoyable but then we got to the man on a horse and Alexandra being a witch and now I’m just tired and my head itches.

Aisle Null

“The proper term is Maintenance Engineer.” I’m going to get Vladimir Matyushenko to come your house and throw you through a wall

“what the gently caress” is my reaction to this story so far, as well. Voidmart isn’t just a license to go hogwild with the random Miss Peregrine nonsense. none of this makes any sense even within the world that the prompt’s established. also I just love that a transgender person is a de facto stand-in for weirdness, just love love love it, also love that they’re called a “woman-man”

lots of little errors and clunky grammar in this piece.

glad we need to know how Jim’s boner is doing at all times

dude, I don’t know where to begin. the plot beats seem to have no relationship to each other, the writing’s pretty bad on a sentence level, the characters are paper thin, and there’s no real plot arc to it whatsoever. I don’t care about this dude’s attraction to an alien from another dimension, and that’s the strongest force in the story. Read more. Write more. Repeat.

Tracey and the Vintage Vegetable

one of the less appealing ways to start your story is with a giant text block of exposition. you want to get your reader to put your story down and walk off, that’s a great way to do it. also a lot of unneeded passive voice as well.

Once we get to the garden department, the story starts to pick up, took way too long to get there, though. Why do we need to know what kind of latte she orders before we get to the real conflict

Um, that came out of nowhere. So the story is over and the protag has done nothing and has had no agency. There was a fantasy NPC that was vaguely interesting but then he got attacked by a Killer Tomato. It feels more like “here’s some weird poo poo, bye” than “here’s a story with a beginning/middle/end and a character with motivation and depth”. Start in the middle of the maze, make Kevin more of a person, and make the ending less of a trick, and this story would be improved.

The Finding of Happiness

Okay, we know he likes watching TV. Why does he like watching TV shows, specifically imported ones

I kind of like this conflict, let’s see what you can do with it

This seems like one of the stories that couldn’t survive outside of the prompt and outside of Knowing What Voidmart Is

Just concuss the analytical skill out of yourself, Brian. Also you’ve managed to do what many other stories haven’t, which is establish a clear conflict early on—even if you might be overdoing it a bit

I’m noticing that there’re a lot of dense blocks of text here, with a story this short that’s not really a point in your favor

So he just loses his map for no reason in particular and then almost dies, and then gets revived by his not-dead brother in-law. why should I be reading this story and why are you telling it. it sounds like you had an idea and then decided it was too hard so you threw a bunch of stuff at the wall. The conflict’s never resolved and the story never ends and the characters don’t change in any real way.

I really don’t care

“We’re gonna tear out his soul and swallow it up” could you show me this in the character’s actions and demeanor instead of forcing it into my eyes through a voiceover, please

I know nothing about this protag beyond the fact that he hates his job, which puts him right there with most of the characters this week

Alright, now we’re getting some character detail, why couldn’t there have been some in the beginning

This has gotten better as it’s moved along, I like the stuffed animal showing up on the conveyor belt and him stabbing his watch. The story could’ve started at the second section and been much more efficient, especially since I just read the non-ending and it absolutely seems like you ran out of words, WTF

My verdict is that when you stopped having the narrator articulate his thoughts painstakingly and just had him act, it made for more emotional resonance. Shame about the way the story trails off, though.


Godfather of the Night, huh, is he a miserable pile of secrets

I could do this investigator’s job, I can tell when someone has purple skin

Quintecents, clever

lol is this turning into a comedy of errors already

He’s a Skateboard Wizard, He Sure Rides a Mean Skateboard

“It’s a year or so back” ok this shift in time completely kills the momentum and takes me out of the story, I have to stop and take a second to figure out what’s going on

Probability Manipulation through customer loyalty? That’s legitimately a neat concept, wish it had taken center stage rather than being thrown in messily at the end of an alien story

“far too much mercy and compassion” lol. This was clever, and I kinda liked it. It seems sort of unbalanced with the middle being so devoted to this pinballing action scene, but it was written with enough clarity that it wasn’t a terrible distraction. I hope this ends up landing an HM

All Paths Lead To The End

I think I already know where this found-footage poo poo is going to go, let’s see if I’m right

Why “Day 6, cont.”, wouldn’t it all just be under “Day 6”

transmission interrupted? these aren’t written notes? Wouldn’t there be more of them if they were just radio messages?

now I’m questioning why this is the format you chose to write this story. The way your protag is describing everything he’s done in exacting detail feels forced. Why not just make it a regular narrative?
great, standard creepypasta executed somewhat well. If you had more words to make it more of a slow build, that would’ve solved some things, but the story itself is still paper-thin. I don’t feel any connection to your main character at all and I don’t know that much about him, and as a result, I barely care when he’s about to die. The atmosphere is okay, but that’s about it. It feels like a SyFy original.

The Doppol

starting out with a sentence fragment as your second line, huh

“I was a bold middle aged man who could no longer afford to sky dive due to the price of my prescribed pain killers.” ← character description of the loving century

The little details like the “Lemming Division” and the “face conquered by scar tissue” make this story stand out more than I expected it to, good job

haha there’s a What Is It raffle, this is great

some of the grammar and proofreading is a bit sloppy, there should be a period after Aramaic

it’s is only ever short for it is, drat it

“There was a reason I always wore a YOLO T-shirt.” oh my god this guy is the greatest

so it’s sort of like a demon that possesses people for the experience? kind of a letdown, especially since the guy doesn’t seem to be affected all that much by it. There’s enough buildup to have something shocking happen, but the story just fizzles out. It’s charming enough, although it feels unintentionally so at times.

Aisle C-U-L8R

There we go, that’s a nice opener

I like the voice, this seems like an independently good story so far

not quite buying how time passes in this story, doesn’t quite hit for me

this reminiscing is nice but it feels a bit too writerly, like you’ve set aside all forward motion for a moment

huh, reminds me of that scene in Citizen Kane, Orson Welles reflected dozens of times in the one mirror.

so this is a sort of purgatory. I like this approach to the Voidmart concept. It feels sort of obtuse and distant in parts, though, and I don’t know if the ending lands cleanly for me.

Cut Pills, Bargain Thrills

huh, warehouse rave, this is different, couple of glaring typos though

another conflict introduced early, very good

“She lifted a carefully-manicure fingers” ffs dude, take the time to sort this poo poo out, this is entry-level maintenance

Lance Strongwood. Dirk Steeldick. Rod Hardcock.

They’re going to find that coffee girl’s dead body shoved into a low shelf four episodes later, like The Wire. So far, the characters actually seem distinct, and the motivation is clear, gj

your ideas are alright but you keep tripping yourself up with avoidable errors like “threw a tantrums” and “vegetable isle”.

this all-knowing intercom is a nice device

come on, how do they not know this is a trap and they’re going into that pit

the girl coming to save them for “customer satisfaction” was a great payoff.

This was a fun and schlocky effort, and it was very economic with its action and details. I could believe this was Bad Seafood were it not for all the typos. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this a lot.


ok the answer bingo machine made me laugh.

“Fear always brought out the cliches of his scant imagination.” what is this voice? this is insufferable.

idk man, all of this could be interesting but it’s just marinated in this pompous voice that turns me right off. does he really need Emigration for Dummies to know how to leave the country? I thought he was a ne’er-do-well, wouldn’t he know how to blow a pop stand

aaaaaand it ends with Goon Love. fantastic. it feels like this story comes from nowhere and goes nowhere. There are some parts to it that work, but they’re few and buried between a lot of unappealing voice. The story does pick up once the store associate pops in, though.

Chasing the Dragon

I enjoy this so far, the departments are well-written and charming

omg is this leading to a Wu-Tang joke, IS HE LOOKING FOR THE WU-TANG SECRET

alright, this story seems more preoccupied with charm and worldbuilding than telling a complete story, as evidenced by the shorn-off ending. There’ve been worse written stories than this so far, but it still doesn’t really conclude or offer any sort of growth for the main character. After reading this, I feel like I know a little bit more about Voidmart, but you could lump this story in with six or seven others that just act as brochures and not compelling fiction.

Apr 30, 2006

Crit for Hawklad’s Russell Saves Voidmart:

This isn’t terrible, since there’s a coherent plot arc, but I’m not sure it’s a story worth telling. Mostly the cynical part in me is wondering why this character is so intent on protecting the soulless megastore that probably pays him a minimum wage. Here your character just does it because, hey, he’s a hero, so he might as well do the heroic thing and protect his megacorp against some other megacorp. That makes your character and the plot pretty bland, since there’s no real subtlety to any of this. Isn’t it kind of sad that he believes Voidmart is “my home, my life, my everything?” I wish there was more of that manic patheticness here, something to make your character distinctive, but instead we get this “bro telling a story to his buds” storytelling.

I get the feeling that you want to tell this story of corporate espionage, but the lack of specificity to your character’s motivations makes this particular version feel pretty generic. Enos doesn’t get much depth either, aside from his talent with folding the multi-dimensional boxes. I think just giving Nulgreens a different kind of corporate culture with some sort of specificity would do a lot to make this story more interesting, but as is, it feels like you’re just tacking this week’s prompt to the basic story beats of a corporate thriller. I do think your prose is fairly strong, although the piece needed another pass to catch a couple of typos, and like I said, I don’t think this narrative voice works for the story you’re trying to tell.

Apr 12, 2006

I wrote some crits for some of yalls terrible 219 entries but I think they got buried under submissions.

loving read or don’t I don’t give a poo poo:

some 220 crits
Comma splices. Comma splices everywhere. I know why you’re doing this poo poo, too. Just because you’d pause there when you’re saying the sentence outloud does not mean that you need to insert a comma. Cut it out. It’s loving annoying to read.

I get the feeling you’re a pretty natural story teller in real life. That’s good.

Uhhh… I don’t know what the point of this was. Nothing is important. You just stumble around an idea and the shoehorn in some wierd “I can’t lie anymore” poo poo.

First section is weird in a good way. A little hard to read but interesting enough that I forgive it. Octopussian is a nice touch.

“I was nervous.” Dont- don’t do that. Show me. Don’t tell me. And especially don’t follow it up by having the interviewer look nervously from the hiring packet to the face. Why would that dude also be nervous? Doesn’t make sense.

Whaaaaaaaat that’s where you ended? Did you run out of time? You should have used your full word count because I’m interested in where you were going.

Haha I dig it man

Edit your poo poo before your submit

Your biggest crime here is that you actually came up with an interesting setting and then wrote the most boring story you possibly could. 1)Oh no something is in the vent 2) Oh wow its people they live here 3) End

There was no conflict or character development. This was just a vignette about a strange incident but it was nowhere near weird enough to hold up on its own. The whole thing seemed far too casual. Give me some stakes. Some drama. Some… something. Anything. Your idea was good. Don’t let it die like this.

Tough prompt

Perfect recordings bit made me laugh.

I’m halfway through and I like the world you’ve created. I’m afraid you’re not going to go anywhere with this story, though.

drat I was right. Good news? You created a cool setting and I briskly read through your story and enjoyed myself. Bad news? Nothing happened here. You just pasted together a bunch of pretty words without having them mean anything. You need a conflict. You need a character that learns something or changes over the course of story. Read SaddestRhino’s entry. I don’t necessarily think its great story but it gives a nice arc. You need to work on making an arc.

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe

Hawklad and the box story

Not gonna try to suffer too much of the pedantic stuff, but you’re missing words. What happened Hawklad? You were my vote for the victory last week, please don’t think you’re king poo poo and coast. Proofread.

OK, this story is begging for a line crit because the language is kind of a hot mess, but I don’t have the steam for that, as your story takes it time.

Lose “really” and “actually”, I didn’t see much of the latter, but there’s no reason for “I can’t really wrap my head around” cut really and look how much better it gets. You also have sentences back to back using the word “just” and it reads like amateur hour. This can’t be my Hawklad, the author I went to the mat for last week. This is bumming my poo poo.

Anyway, I’m just gonna read the rest of your story and stop dumping on the small stuff.

Be right back!

OK, well I read the rest of this story in the same manner that I’m assuming you wrote it: in a hurry.

There’s a distinct lack of polish here. Lot of missing words, lot of needed commas, lot of mess.

The story is pretty by the numbers, nothing big or shocking. The employees love for Voidmart makes very little sense to me, he keeps talking about how great it is but we don’t know why he feels that way. Why is Voidmart his home?
Given the relatively simple story you told, I was a little unclear as to why you needed so many words to tell it. This story felt bloated.

Sparksbloom and the eyes story

This didn’t sound good. I don’t want to get to much into the specifics but suffice to say, if you read this story out loud, you’ll 100% catch what I’m talking about. A quick example The new eyes could make out details further than his biological ones ever could, and he could make out Uncle Chester’s lime station wagon about a quarter mile away from the storefront. If it were just that one thing, I wouldn’t whine. But there’s others, like this: He approached one of them, hoping to touch it, to understand its logic, when a furniture department employee strolled up from behind Evan.

Small stuff aside, I’m not seeing the point to this story beyond, guy gets sad, guy does a thing, guy sees something.
Did it work? Did it not work? It seems like the jury it out, and that’s an OK place for the story to end but we’re not given enough to form our own opinion.

I’m also struggling with the POV for this story. Why isn’t it just straight up told through Evan’s POV?

Just taking this line: If they didn’t work out, he could always just kill himself. and changing it to If they didn’t work out, I could always just kill myself. for me makes the whole thing entirely stronger. Your narrator being flippant and objective about the potential for suicide doesn’t resonate nearly as much as a person just coming out and saying it.

You kept this pretty tight, but the first bit before the break doesn’t seem to accomplish all that much. The story is about Evan, not his uncle. We don’t know Evan’s opinion of his uncle at all, why does he matter? Again, changing the POV may have also improved things here.

Overall, the story was fine. It just didn’t do too much. There was potential for things to sound pretty and nice but there’s a distinct lack of editing here that keeps the story down.

Sep 2, 2016


Crit for Aisle Null by Contagonist

Okay, so I did a line-by-line crit of this. I wrote it as a I read it for the first time, so if there's some confusion that is later cleared up, that's why. You can find specifics of what didn't work within the piece, but I'm going to mention some overarching issues here.

You have way too many characters that are totally unnecessary. Darla and Miles do nothing to further the plot. Dusty is pretty irrelevant as well. He could easily not exist at all, or just point to the disturbance and then vanish. I've worked retail and usually people do not stick around to watch you clean up the mess they're complaining about. What do Darla and Miles do? Do they work at Voidmart? Why is Miles drinking Pepsi? Why does Jim have such an intimate relationship with the mop? Why does Darla bring up dick-size, then after that every reference to sex is made by Jim? This story could easily have existed for me with just Jim, "female-male" (who really should have been named something) and the bug.

Speaking of female-male, purple, hairless, naked thing... what the hell is going on here? Nothing else in your story warrants this sort of weirdness (I mean, yeah, you have a big bug, but so what?). Also, if they are naked, why can't you tell the sex? What about their body has Jim popping boners left and right? I could dig this was a weird story about inter-species eroticism (although I know erotica is frowned upon in the realms of Thunderdome), but I didn't get any actual sex in the story. What the gently caress, man? How many times are you going to mention dicks and not give me a sex scene? I felt like I was reading this story just to get to the sex scene. What's the point of the fetish (and Darla's manhood questioning) if there isn't going to be sex, or at least attempted sex, or interrupted sex, or some sort of sex? gently caress, it would have been better if Jim just jacked off into his mop bucket at the end.

Dialogue is really bad in this. See line notes.

You didn't expand on the two interesting parts of the story (inter-species fetish) and the timestream stuff. I wanted to see more of one or both of these and way less filler dialogue and mop interaction.

One last thing, I couldn't believe in your characters, especially not the female-male one. They didn't even seem to know what they were. How was I supposed to figure it out? Plus, they totally changed personalities from being passive to aggressive towards the bug. One thing I will say struck me as surprising about your piece is that you chose to define the creature first with a feminine descriptor (female/she/her) before the male. I found that to be refreshing considering usually any sort of gender hierarchy promotes males "on top."

I would really like to see what you submit next week. I'm not sure if this is your first week, but it's the first time I've read something by you. If you submit again this week, I'll do another crit for you next Monday.

contagonist posted:

Week 220: Enter The Voidmart
Employee, Maintenance Engineer
1296 words

Aisle Null

“So, you’re a janitor?” Miles asks for clarification, pointing a finger, rest of the hand holding a pepsi bottle. Too many words. Why is it important he is pointing? Why is it important he is holding a Pepsi bottle (which should be capitalized btw). I really hope Pepsi is crucial to your story because I can't imagine why you'd want to plug them for free. Could read "So, you're a janitor?" Miles asked.

“The proper term,” starts Jim, placing a hand on his chest, pal pressing his fresh violet smock, “is Maintenance Engineer.” He’s holding the mop handle in his hand to the side, at an angle, as if it were a microphone stand. Again, get rid of all the added words. Could easily read "..." Jim corrects, pressing down his violet smock with pride, "...." Next line sounds awkward. Could be condensed to, He grasps the mop handle like a microphone stand.

“Yeah but you can get us smokes, right?” Darla asks, throwing an arm around Mile’s shoulder, leaning on him. “You said you could get us smokes.” Who the gently caress is Darla? You're four sentences in and have three characters. I don't even know anything about the first two yet. What does being a "Maintenance Engineer" have to do with getting "smokes?" Very confused, and not in a good way, at this point.

“Probably. Maybe. Yeah,” Jim says, pushing the mop on the floor, leaving a mirrored finish behind its path. “Not just smokes and booze but drat, you wouldn’t loving believe the shirt here,” he says, both hands on the stick, pushing. Mirrored? Really? This doesn't seem to serve the plot, nor does it really make a whole lot of sense. I think you mean poo poo, not "shirt" and where is "here?" The character's actions here are still jolted. I can see what he's doing, (pushing a mop) but it doesn't read well.

The smartphone on Jim’s hip beeps, saying “Temporal Cleanup – Aisle Null,” before clicking off. This sounds more like a pager. "Before clicking off" is unnecessary.

“That’s for me,” Jim says, dipping the mop into the bucket, then pushing said bucket forward. Darla and Miles follow. They banter and bitch about biology homework, between Darla asking Miles and Jim about the sizes of their dicks. No, no, no. There's no justification for the word "said." It's the bucket. There's not twelve of them and this one is special. Also, why am I reading so much about the mop? I hope this mop turns out to have awesome mystical magical powers.... What the gently caress did I just read? She better gently caress one of them by the end of this to warrant this random narration about her blatant curiosity about their dick sizes.

Above shelves taller than buildings, suspended from girders crisscrossing underneath a domed ceiling, hangs a sign: AISLE NULL: TACHYON PRODUCTS, BOSE-EINSTEIN CREAM, QUANTUM CONDENSED GOODS. Eh. This sentence is probably the best yet, but I'm still not sold on your descriptors. For instance, since buildings are all different shapes and sizes (for instance Voidmart must be huge) it's difficult for me to picture just how tall "taller than buildings" really is.

Standing in front of the aisle is a man with a beard, dressed in a linen shirt and denim pants, wide brimmed hat – all covered in dust. His eyes are open as wide as his mouth, and he slowly cranes his head around. What if you chopped up this section? Standing in front of the aisle is a man with a beard. He is dressed in a linen shirt, denim pants and a wide brimmed hat, all of which are covered in dust. It would make the read easier.

Jim, Miles, and Darla pretty much say at the same time, “cosplayer.” No. They do or they don't say it at the same time. Also, they don't need to say it. That's weird, and not in an interesting way. Why not just say, "They recognize him as a cosplayer." Also, what is he a cosplayer of? I didn't get the cosplay vibe. Maybe clarify what type of cosplayer. Like, famous scientist cosplayer or inventor cosplayer or something.

The man hears them, shifts his attention – eyes locking on the VOID MART smock Jim’s wearing. He points at the aisle behind him, saying “pardon me, but you seem to have a bit of a varmint problem in your establishment.” This is the first time you've mentioned VOIDMART.

Jim mouths, “motherfucker,” as he walks past the man, flipping out his mop and pushing forward the bucket into a slide. He turns the corner into the aisle and finds a giant, carapaced thing crawling over the shelves. It’s grabbing canisters, throwing them at some beautiful woman-man with purple skin, no hair, no clothes. Um. I know Voidmart is weird, but I don't think the weirdness justifies introducing too totally new creatures in a two sentence span. Also, if the woman-man is naked, wouldn't you be able to see it's junk and identify it as woman or man OR maybe it has both OR maybe it has neither. Seriously though, if it has no clothes on it and it's naked, that's the first place I'd look to determine what sex I'm looking at. I think either it should be sexed, or clothed.

She-he says to the bug, “stop doing that, this facility is a contingent on a capitalist economy. You are minutely damaging their primitive quality of life.” Okay, side note. This has happened several times already and I feel the need to address it. You need to capitalize the first letter in the first word of your dialogue. Also, I'm kind of confused about the she-he's argument. I don't think "minutely" is the right word choice. Also, if I read this right, the argument is the bug is destroying merchandise, which Voidmart then cannot sell?

Jim stares at her-him and gets the strangest boner as the bug throws another container, which shatters on the ground spilling a liquid that dramatically increases in volume into a small flood, smells like acetone and menthol. gently caress yeah, that's a strange boner. Should probably read though: As Jim stares at her-him, he gets the strangest boner. The bug... Also, I'm getting tired of the her-him/she-he thing. Can't they have a nickname or something? ... small flood. It smells like .... Use periods. Please. Pleaseeee.

Jim, Darla and Miles behind him, all say “what the gently caress,” one word each. Stop with this group speech. It's not a play. That only really works in plays. Also, where did Darla and Miles come from? This could read better as "What the..." (line break) "gently caress?!" Darla and Miles finished, rounding the corner to investigate the noise. Or something like that.

Jim grits his teeth and tightens his grip on the mop, trudges forward through the foaming slurry, splashes freezing before collapsing. He flips the mop, hard end up, and swings it at the giant bug. What's splashing? What's freezing? What's collapsing?

It chitters obscenities at him, throws a rubber bottle that bounces off of his head, sends him stumbling back. Hahaha. Still breaks the sentence: throws a rubber bottle. It bounces off his head.

The purple woman-man reaches a hand towards him, then looks back at the bug, saying “both of you cease your needless harm doing.” Buahaha I'm dying now.

Jim snaps back, “it’s throwing poo poo everywhere, just need to get it down,” he says, resuming the poking and jabbing with the mop stick. I don't think this is supposed to be funny, but I just this it's hilarious.

The dust-covered man, Miles, and Darla watch on. Dusty remarks, taking off his hat, “s’like an angel and a demon, and man struggling tween the two.” Since when did he start talking like this? Where did he come from? When did he show up?

Then Jim remembers something from the biology book. He grabs the mop bucket, dumping in more soap as the bug whistles and snickers and steals more unpronounceable things. This is okay, but boring. Also, nothing about Jim to me reads like college student. I really know nothing about him, but he does not seem to me to be capable of comprehending Biology based on how he speaks.

After mixing the solution, Jim turns to the woman-man, and asking, desperately trying not to stutter or ask her-him for sex, “can you help me chuck this at the bug?” OMG why?! This is the weirdest fetish thing I've ever encountered, and I'm certainly impartial to the weird fetish. I need to know why this sexless creature makes him want to hump so loving bad. Like seriously. I could buy it if I just knew why. Give me some interiority to chew on or something.

She-he shrugs, and they both grasp the bucket and chuck it at once, launching a gallon of soap-water on the creature. The mixture splashed on the bug, coating it. It’s chittering and whistling changes to gurgles and spits. It shudders, then falls off the shelves, hitting the foam-covered floor softly. This is certainly a wishy-washy non-sexed character. One minute they want them to desist the next they are apt to being an accomplice in oversized insect murder. And not only that... THEY ARE LAUGHING ABOUT IT. Oh, I'm laughing about it. Oh, cruel world.

“What did you do?” asks the woman-man as both she-he and Jim walk towards it. Yes, finally you have made all my dreams come true by making woman-man AND she-he appear in the same sentence.

“Soap water, clogs up the breathing hole things in its carapace,” he says. So your character knows the word carapace, but can only manage "breathing hole things" to describe the creature further?

“Mmm, that might kill it,” she-he says. Is it dead? Is it really? If it is... Then I think saying it "might" kill it doesn't really make sense... Since, you know, it's obviously dead. (Unquestionably)

“Well I could rinse it with water or something but this isn’t the aisle, wait,” he stops, as the woman-man walks to a shelf and looks around. She-he grabs a canister with a dial on its side, turns it, and unscrews the top before pouring it over the bug. A surge of water rushes out of the canister as if it were a fire hydrant, dousing the bug. The woman-man closes the canister and it just… stops. The dialogue transition here is awkward. He needs to acknowledge their last line (or dismiss it) in some way. What stops? The story could have stopped here. I could have stopped reading here, but I'll go on.

After, the woman-man grabs the bug, still struggling and gasping and rocking on its back. She-he lifts it’s whole bulk up over her-his head and shakes it vigorously, water flying off it. The bug’s breathing eases, but it continues to struggle, vainly, in her-his hold. Oh, so the bug isn't dead? That could have been clarified earlier. They're being very nonchalant about this considering the bug isn't dead. How did they go from being a pacifist to shaking the bug "vigorously" so quickly? I think the she-he creature is also bi-polar.

“We have subdued the vandal,” she-he says. “But there’s still the tachyon leak to deal with.” So that's the stuff all over the floor? (Also, I have not as of yet seen the Pepsi bottle come into play, or Miles really do much of anything)

Jim turns his head, puzzled. “The what?” he asks, reaching down into his smock pocket and pulling up the VOID MART Standard Issue Employee Smartphone. If Jim doesn't know what they're talking about I certainly don't. Earlier the Smartphone was on his hip.

“Hmm, to put it simply,” she-he starts, holding the bug as its trashing subdues, “something, somewhere, somewhen is dumping 4th dimensional particles into the timestream and causing an erratic temporal collapse. Parts and pieces of this stores futures and pasts are joined together in the now.” Someone, not somewhen, is what you meant, I think. I feel like your story is finally getting interesting, right here with all this timestream stuff, but the story is almost over... You still have a few lines left for redemption: don't disappoint me.

Jim’s nodding his head, following along and trying to hide his erection. He scrolls down the text on the Phone’s screen before finding the HOW-TO guides. “Ok, ok I found it,” he says. “I just need to find the leaking Tachyon containment cell and put it in… an Other Bag.” The boner is backkkkkkk. Oh, yes, indeed. Just throw it in "an Other Bag." That will solve all your problems in a jiffy.

Jim pats himself down, reaching elbow deep into one of the smock’s pockets and pulling out a opaque black, plastic bag, with bright yellow letters reading “OTHER.” "Pats himself down" imeadiately made me think he was about to start jacking off because of all the prior boner references.

He looks back at the screen, reads more. “But before I seal it up, I need to make sure everyone’s in their own time fragment,” Jim says. As he looks around, he notices that the bottles, canisters, and boxes lining the shelves have a subtle disuniformity – most are written in English, some with modern label designs, others with old-time slogans and held brown, green glass bottles. I don't really know what you're going for here describing the discrepancies of merchandise on the shelf. They don't seem that different. I could easily see items of this appearance sharing homes on shelves of regular stores.

Others still were in languages he didn’t recognize, half with elegant glyphs, others with crude but intricately arranged marks. Okay, this piques my interest a (wee) little bit.

“Pretty sure we find that out by the labels on the stuff,” he says. “I take it that that’s your time-section thing?” he says to the woman-man, pointing at the more elegant labels and sophisticated containers. She-he nods, walking towards it. They find out what dimension or whatever it's supposed to be in?

She-he says, still hoisting the bug, “Tell me when you’re about to bag the tachyon container, I’ll throw our distant descendent into its section.” She-he is cray-cray.

Jim trudges through the foam, now all decaying into a fine pale powder, to Dusty. Would be easier to read as Jim trudges towards Dusty through...

“Sir, if you could stand by those green and brown bottles of.. liniments and.. stuff,” he says, Dusty nodding. Again, with the vocab discrepancy. Liniments and stuff don't belong together.

Darla and Miles are just watching him do the thing. (Darla and Miles probably shouldn't be in this story)

Jim scans the aisle, up and down, before finding a cracked Tachyon container on the floor. He picks it up out of the powder, walks near the woman-man. Why did it take him so long to find it if it was only a scan away?

“Uh,” he starts, face reddening. “I gotta say, before I do this,” "before I do this..." He wants the nonexistent D/V!

The woman-man smiles, interrupts, “I understand your attraction, and were you.. mature, we could have enjoyed ourselves. Perhaps some day in your future.” I feel like she-he is implying he has a baby-dick here. Based on his intellect thus far I don't think he's going to be mentally/emotionally maturing any time in the near future.

“Uh, yeah,” he says, glancing away. “J-just toss the bug.” Ahh, Jim. Embrace the flaccidity of rejection.

Jim steps away from her-him, and she-he throws the bug into its section, and he drops the container into the Other Bag. Dusty, the Bug, and the woman-man vanish when he closes the bag. This seems very anti-climatic. A very (literal) bag and tag sort of deal.

Then, Jim refills his bucket and starts cleaning up. If you were going to end on such a mundane line you could at least ditch the "Then."

Sep 14, 2007

Like most things, I am nothing

I'm new here, but sure, here's a crit for you, thunderdome veteran Thranguy

I can dig hard-boiled noir detective fiction, so I'm into this idea. Especially in a place like Voidmart--some pretty interesting things to investigate, including aliens. The problem for me was that it ended up being dry, both in the story details and in the action. The aliens are pretty boring (though I guess they're pulling off a pretty typical noir fiction plot), and the Greek crew doesn't really have as menacing a presence in the story as you say. The Godfather of the Night has bland dialogue for a crime lord.

Ambrose Bloom seems like a bit of a sad sack. Don't really get the sense that he's a great investigator--in fact, I get the opposite sense. Don't know why his business was forced to cater to the local crime syndicate, but I'm guessing it has to do with incompetency. He fails to figure out the alien case, but Voidmart thinks he'll make a good in-house detective for some reason. I guess that's more Voidmart cost-cutting.

You've got the skeleton of something I'd be down to read, but I don't think you went hard enough for the noir style. If the dialogue were more heavily inflected with noir style, it would be stronger. Your action is wacky, but hard to follow at times and slowed down by your description of it; I think the paragraphs in that sequence could do with some restructuring for dramatic effect.

Thranguy posted:


Prompt:You've heard rumors that Voidmart is a front for some sort of alien takeover. We will neither confirm nor deny this accusation, and hopefully, neither will you, if you know what's good for you

1876 Words

The old man was right about one thing: the Voidmart® is lousy with aliens. “Men from Mars or Saturn or who knows where, moving in on our thing,” the Godfather of the Night had said. “You need to find out what they're up to, so we can put a stop to it before it gets out of hand.” That's what I do, these days. Find people for the Greek crew that runs everything crooked in Americatown. People who usually end up getting hurt, or worse. It wasn't always that way. There was a time when nice middle-aged ladies would come to Ambrose Bloom investigations looking to find a lost pedigree cat or learn who their husband was cheating on them with. Now, I'm stalking the aisles of the Voidmart®, trying to figure out what the aliens are up to. This paragraph is unclear--by the end, I can piece together what he's saying, but hard to do so

They're pretty easy to spot. You see someone with pink or light green or light purple skin wearing a starfleet uniform seems pretty obviously alien to me that has three or four strange lumps around the legs and torso didn't understand this who says “Use the fourth fluke, yes?” when someone compliments the getup, it's an alien. I've been coming in for more than a week, watching them. They don't ever eat or drink or sleep as far as I can tell, so watching them is a full-time occupation. I've been racking up the VoidPoints on my Quinte¢ents Card. If I make five more qualifying purchases I'll get a free Hibachi. If I drink three more Golden Bean Espressos I'll get an ulcer. i like this joke

What they do, apart from wander around the Voidmart® and smile at each other, is that every couple of days they'll go up to the front of the store and buy something. Usually it's four huge packs of diapers from Baby Supply. They'll take it out of the store, take the shopping cart as far as they can and then lug them another five blocks until they find an open dumpster, and they just toss their load right in. Then they walk to a bus stop and ride out to one of the bars or gyro joints where we're making book and place some bets. Numbers, local sports, national, whatever. And they always win. They're bleeding us dry. on first read through I had to go back and figure out what you were talking about, until I figured it out--there is a lot of exposition up to this point, and it's not especially clear, which is not great

Yesterday I watched that dumpster all night. It was right near a twenty-four hour Nulgreens, close enough that I could keep an eye through the glass while picking up canned iced coffee and stakeout snacks. It was a waste of time. Nobody went near the thing, nobody picked anything up but the garbage truck. somebody picked up the garbage truck??

So I'm starting from scratch, watching a lavender-skinned Jon Snow tell three different flirty Domegrassi seniors that “Windows is running”, looking confused me--had to reread this a few times to connect this verb back to our dear detective for some clue how they're thought at first this referred to the teens, not the aliens doing it. If someone does have the fix in, not just in our local games but major league sports as well, this problem could be bigger than just our local gang. you're trying to make the stakes bigger, but it's not clear enough to me to make me really feel them The third one bats her eyelashes at him like a pair of Venus flytraps and he flusters and bolts. I follow, at a brisk walk and accidentally slam right into a display of AutoNag Watches, the kind that monitor everything you're doing and make disapproving comments about it. Three of them fall into my coat pockets and start loudly telling me that shoplifting is a crime, which naturally draws the attention of a towering lunk of a goon from Loss Prevention. He starts lumbering my way as I try to empty the watches from my pocket. I'm getting ready to explain things to him when three Dalmatians speed right behind him and the poor sap holding their leash swings around the corner and knocks him right into my hand. My fist, since I have time to ball it up and avoid broken fingers. So he's got a bloody nose and a temperament to match, and I decide that it's time to get out of here, fast. I think this paragraph would benefit from separating out the start of the action sequence

So I turn and run, straight into Round Objects. Whoever's supposed to be managing this part of the floor must be on a break, because a group of kids are going wild tossing oranges, cantaloupes, and old globes with countries that don't exist anymore into the top of the dodge ball tower. Just as I'm about to run by they lob a sack of ball bearings over the top and it bursts, the tiny metal spheres falling between the dodge balls, old worlds, and damaged fruit and out onto the floor in front of me.

I try to keep balanced but fail, falling on my behind, but with enough forward momentum that when I reach the just-cleaned-and-polished area near the drain in the center of the store I keep sliding fast. I'm headed toward Nautical Supplies, which should be a clear path to the exit. I turn back and see the Loss Prevention goon still close behind, and with equally unfriendly-looking friends. I look forward again and gasp: somehow I've drifted way to the left, and am now headed straight into Cutlery. The polished section of floor is ending, and I try to get up before I slide to a complete stop. I lurch forward at the exact same time Voidmart® employee stops sharpening a knife to help someone find the saw blades. His arms juts out and meets my head, taking the left side of my hair off cleanly, leaving me millimeters away from being scalped. I keep running forward, into Sporting And Unsporting Goods.

I begin to think my luck has changed. I used to ride a mean skateboard, and that's not something you forget. I grab a display model from the Sporting side and a handful of caltrops from Unsporting and kick myself forward towards the door. Then something explodes inside my brain. this whole action sequence comes off a bit flat. I think you're sentence constructions are all a little too similar, so the pacing of the writing doesn't increase the tension at all. Your description of it is also a little bit dry

It's a year or so back, when I first started working for the Greek crew. The first bad debt where once I found him I had to keep my eyes on him until the muscle showed up. It wasn't a long wait. They pulled the guy out of the restaurant while his mistress wailed and batted at them. She quieted up with one dirty look and we all went back to the alley. I watched them go at him, bringing pain and damage with their fists and feet. It didn't seem right to set a guy up for something like that and then turn your back as it happened. It made me sick to my stomach. Later on, I figured out how to live with it, decided these guys were degenerates who deserved what they got. A man has to pay their debts, right? And if they don't, there have to be consequences. But I'm back before I worked out those rationalizations, and I'm nauseous and hating myself and wanting to scream. I don't. But three of the people next to me don't have my control and start crying out like the second victim in a slasher flick. unclear why he's having flashbacks--he didn't hit his head, and he just missed the lobotomy a couple grafs up--jarring change without reason

I'm half aware of the real world, mostly blinded with pain but I can hear the Loss Prevention guys coming behind. I kick forward hard and hope, then set my foot down right on top of a caltrop. I must have dropped them all when that vision hit me, and one landed right on the skateboard itself. The pain brings the world into focus, and I can see that I'm careening not toward the exit doors but toward Husbands And Husbandry. The skateboard hits a lump and I go flying, directly towards the manure heap at the center of that department. Then somebody grabs me by the shoulder and spares me from that fate at least. It's not Loss Prevention. It's someone smaller but just as strong-gripped. I'm taken to the basement for a discussion with the head of Strategic Assessments. oh, we're done with the action?

“Just how many times did you go into the Nulgreens?” asks Gabe. He's short and has a face that my eyes refuse to focus on.

“Let's see,” I say. “Two- no, three times.”

“Ah,” he says. “That would do it. Explains everything, in fact.”

“Not to me it doesn't,” I say.

“The Voidmart® Quinte¢ents Card is more than a savings program. It's a loyalty card. It incentivizes loyalty, through probability manipulation,” says Gabe.

“So that's how they were doing it,” I say.

“The Erebesians? Yes. There's supposed to be a mental block to stop people from consciously noticing their lucky streaks after spending. It's all supposed to work on the subliminal level, but of course it was all designed for human psychology. And in your case, when you trigger the disloyalty jinx three times in a row the effects can get too powerful to ignore.”

“So what happens now?” I say. Gabe hasn't said anything about letting me go at all, and I'm starting to get nervous.

“Now?” he says. “Now I send you back to your boss with an offer.”

“One he can't refuse?”

“One he'd be a fool to refuse, at least. He can get things back to where they were, or even better. It's just a matter of loyalty.” says Gabe, leaning back in his chair. “If your organization's bookmakers start buying their supplies at the Voidmart®, their operations will go back to profitability. The Erebesians will keep winning, but they'll more than make up for it on the other side. The same goes for the rest of the organization. Next time you go to the mattresses, if they get them in Sweet Dreams and Dank Memes, things are going to go well for them.”

“I'm sensing a catch,” I say, glancing towards the Loss Prevention goons. They're lurking just behind the table, the one with a big bandage on his nose. He's heard about how it was just dumb bad luck, but he looks like he still has hard feelings left.

“Yes, very astute. Excellent. The catch is you, Mr. Bloom.” I don't say anything, just keep eye contact. “Your leader tried to use you against Voidmart®, and CEO Aqui has a very strict rule about that sort of thing. Tools used against Voidmart®, well, one of two things happen to them. Either they go away, or they end up belonging to Voidmart®.”

“That's not much of a choice,” I say.

“I thought you'd see it that way. You'll have to sell this to the Godfather of the Night, but that shouldn't be a problem. Just make it clear that your contract is a non-negotiable part of the deal.”

“What will I be doing?” I ask. The rumors about the Meat Department spring to my mind unprompted. “Collections?”

“What? No, Mafia-I can use that word, right?”

“Sure,” I said. “It's the Italians that get up in a knot over that.”

“Right. Mafia practices in that area show far too much mercy and compassion for you to be at all suitable for our Collections department. I was thinking Store Detective. We've got three- well, four, but the other three haven't managed to find the fourth one since she went missing. But there's more than enough work to go around.”
this sequence is too long and exposition-y. I don't mind most of the dialogue, but most of it seems unnecessary and isn't really adding character

I shake his hand and promise, both to him and myself, to be the most loyal employee the Voidmart® has ever seen.why?

Dec 11, 2013

by Pragmatica

1995 Words

I’d been waiting for the better part of an hour when Tariq crossed the threshold into the Golden Bean. I’d been on this Voidmart™ job for a little more than a year now. Even though my loyalties had changed it was still nice to see an old friend.

“Clive!” He bellowed. A warm smile barely visible behind his beard. “How does this place treat you my friend?”

“Better than your barber has,” I laughed as he pulled me into a warm hug, “I swear the only thing thicker than your accent these days is your facial hair.”

“And the only thing deeper than your cover is the amount of poo poo you are in.” His smile melted he pulled back from our embrace. “There hasn’t been word from you in months.”

“Sit down Tariq,” I said taking my own, “Coffee is on me.” We hadn’t so much as settled into the sofa before Riley set down two small cups on the table before us.

“Qahwa seasoned with cardamom, ginger, and saffron.” I struggled to decide whether her learning Pashto or finding saffron was more impressive as she poured two cups, “Kha sehat walary shaghly.”

“Who do you think you are ndzhelkei,” Tariq chuckled, “that you would butcher the tongue of my people just to serve me coffee?”

“I'm so sorry sir.” Riley stumbled over her words as Tariq took a sip in an attempt to hide his grin.

“Relax ndzhelkei I am only joking. The only thing more flawless than your Pashto is this qahwa.” Tariq smiled through another sip as he looked to me. “I now see why you were so quick to go native.”

“Yeah, I've got a good thing going here.” I inhaled deeply. “Besides, I’ve always had a habit of siding with underdogs.” The warm blend of coffee and spice instantly transporting me back to the caves of Panjshir province. Caves filled with the hearty laughter of the insurgents I was there to support. The fact that I considered the Soviet-Afghan War to be ‘simpler times’ probably spoke volumes to my personality

“The Mujahideen were not underdogs my friend.” Tariq was terse reply, “To business; I came here as a courtesy. Nulgreens has decided to scrap the spy games. They intend to take this place over and they intend to do so tonight.”

“Why tell me this?” I asked, thankful that Tariq owed me his life several times over.

“You can thank your cheerful little barista.” He stated dryly, “It pains me to imagine a future without another cup of such delicious qahwa.”

“So I’m on my own then?” I questioned, “You’ve never been much of a spectator.”

“I assure you old friend I want nothing to do with this fight.” Tariq placed a comforting hand on my shoulder. “I just want to see you come through this in as few pieces as possible.” He downed his drink and made for the door.

I had work to do…

The fortunate thing about working in a big box store is that there is no limit to the destruction you are capable of. Given a colorful imagination and carte-blanche appropriation of products for in-store-use even an otherwise hopeless person can be made into a formidable opponent.

With a skull full of bad ideas and a shopping list that would land me in several government databases I set to work preparing for the coming siege. Any operative with half a brain knows that rope can save your life in more ways than you can imagine, so I decided sporting goods should be my first stop.

I found the last bit we had being eyed pensively by some forgettable looking customer. Normally I was all about the Customer First ethos Voidmart™ made a fuss about. This was an issue of store security though, so without hesitating I snatched the last bundle of paracord from the shelf.

The stare that terrifying bastard gave me stopped me dead in my tracks. A blank expression that seemed to retell every horror story I had from my years of service with the Agency. For what felt like minutes I stared into the eyes of this customer; only faintly aware of the terrified scream spilling out of my chest.

“I’ll do without it.” I told the customer with the last bit of breath in my lungs, “You obviously need this more than I do.”

The rest of my shopping spree was fairly uneventful. Even with the unreasonable influx of customers I managed to build myself a happy little arsenal of homebrew mayhem. OSHA wouldn’t be happy about my appropriation of fire extinguishers or the precariously balanced stacks of air conditioners placed at every point of egress, but I didn’t plan on living to see the consequences.

It was five minutes past the hour when I saw the convoy roll into the parking lot. Six obsidian black cargo vans peeled from their formation in an attempt to cover all the exits. The first team filtered through the main entrance.

Of the five man breaching team only two managed to escape the tumbling pile of air conditioners that came down on their heads as they burst into the store. I greeted the first of them with a cheerful “Welcome to Voidmart” and a swift knee to the face. His body went slack with the impact but not before shielding me from the barbs comrade’s taser.

I could hear another team charging up from the rear. Outnumbered I bolted for the break room, three of the invaders hot on my tail. The closest catching my collar with a single finger as we crossed the threshold.

The stragglers drenched in a mix of vegetable oil and Voidmart™ Genetically Enhanced Fury-Peppers propelled by a dozen or so fire-extinguishers rigged to the door. Cries of agony at being maced with the hottest peppers our corporate geneticists could legally sell drowned out my own as I caught a stun-baton to the kneecap.

I couldn’t help but think that I was done for as my attacker raised his baton above his head. I was calmed by a faint breeze from somewhere behind me. Reality hit me just before my attacker’s baton. I grabbed his wrist and threw him over my shoulder.


He let out a Wilhelm scream as he was pulled into the tube leading deep into the catacombs below the store. The other two were too busy tripping over themselves in a genetically modified inferno of capsaicin. Only a handful left. I thought returning to the sales floor.

My emergence was met by two more Nulgreens goons with tasers drawn shouting commands to halt. Having previously experienced a couple million volts shooting through me I obliged.

“You got me, the Jig is up.” Disappointment clear in my voice I continued, “I’ll comply with anything you ask. For the love of God though please don’t tase me bros.”

“They won’t,” a thick Afghan accent chimed in somewhere behind me, “Turn to face me traitor.”

Again I complied, dismayed to see Tariq standing with a shotgun aimed just a few feet from my face.

“Seems like you’ve lost the high-ground spinay.”

“Why do you keep calling me ‘white-boy’ Tariq?” I’d dropped our previous cordial tone, “Wasn’t you who made declared me an honorary Pashtun all those years ago?”

“Things change old friend?” He shook the barrel of the shotgun as if to move me out of the way. “Now kiss the dirt and pray to Allah for a swift death.”

I covered my head with my hands as I went prone. No sooner had I buried my face in the linoleum before two loud blasts shook me to the core. I argued with the thought of whether a dead-man could flinch before mustering enough courage to look up.

“So I guess that’s that for not getting involved in this.” I sighed. Nulgreens’ goons lay on the ground, the unfortunate victims of bean-bag rounds to the stomach.

“You do not then understand how rare good qahwa is in this part of the world then.” Tariq joked as he pulled me to my feet. “Now assess me as to the situation.”

“Twenty-five hostiles. Five unconscious, two incapacitated.” One of my attackers groaned. Tariq knocked him out with the butt of his shotgun.

“Fine. Six incapacitated.” I laughed as I ran a checksum on my statement, “Oh and one more thwumped.”

Tariq raised an eyebrow at the addendum.

“I honestly don’t know what it does outside of the sound it makes.” I told him. My statement was puzzled as his expression.

“So should we need to make a stand...where would you suggest we do so?” Tariq asked.

“Lawn And Garden is a safe bet.” I replied, “Though ‘safe’ is relative. I avoid that department like the plague.”

“Clive Barton afraid of some harmless foliage?” My comrade joked.

“Harmless is not the word I would use buddy.” He saw my sincerity instantly, “If you buy a plant at Voidmart odds are it is deadly toxic.”

“I see…”

“Or insatiably carnivorous…”

“Lets not see for ourselves then.” He told me as if it had been his plan all along.

Most of Nulgreens’ invasion force was routed without much effort. It was only in the clearance aisle of hardlines that we met real resitance. Crounching behind dead-stock doomed to collect dust in this retail purgatory I found myself praying to the CEO and Allah to spare me a similar fate.

An explosion roared above us. All manner of useless and forgotten goods cascaded down upon us.

“It appears that our former colleagues no longer intend to play nice.” He chuckled. “Which is a shame, because I am all out of ammunition.” Tariq punctuated his statement by pumping his shotgun and pulling the trigger.

I nearly went deaf from the following blast.

“I apologize old friend,” He said through a laugh that belied premeditiation. “NOW I am out of ammunition!”

Are you a former spy pinned down by rocket fire in an aisle of useless product? Voidmart™ asked us from on high.

Tariq’s cackling grew louder, “Your PA is...”

Then check out our selection of overstock PVC and camping accessories for all your DIY rocket launcher needs.

“Oddly specific,” he said surveying the merchandise around us, “but at least she is extremely helpful!”

Six feet of plastic tubing and a dozen propane tanks later we were ready to fight back.

“So you wanna play this Tariq?” I inquired.

“Jalalabad is coming to mind.” He responded, hefting a PVC tube onto his shoulder.

“Goddamn I’ve missed you.” I declared with a slap of his shoulder.

Jamming a steel kabab into the valve of the first tank I shouted “Clear” before slamming a pipe cap over the back end of of our DIY bazooka.


The first rocket missed by just enough to save us. The tank ignited an endcap of fireworks, illuminating the area in a shower of brilliant white sparks.


The second struck true, ravaging an endcap of Promethium brand lighter fluid and making hellfire of everything in the immediate area.


The third found purchase in bulk foods and restaurant supplies. Immediately tearing a hole in an industrial sized barrel of peanut oil and setting half of the store alight.

Any of the invaders not fleeing from embarrassment could be heard barking orders for their colleagues to do so. Voidmart™ had survived its first hostile takeover.

“Just like Jalalabad.” I said. Smug satisfaction carved into my features I looked to my old spy buddy. “I’m guessing you’re in the market for a new job then?”

“I am not a betting man.” Tariq responded, “But on that I would be willing to wager.”

“If you’re interested I could probably pull some strings and land you a gig here.”

“That depends spinay.” his face was deadpan. It was that poker face that made me glad Islam counted gambling as one of its greater sins.

“On what?”

“What would be my discount on that fantastic qahwa?”

Sep 14, 2007

Like most things, I am nothing

I wrote more crits, because I read a lot of these damned stories.

Dr. Kloctopussy

Rules-exist-for-a-reason Abby Upson certainly breaks the rules a lot, and doesn't seem to struggle with it. I don't mind it, but I do think she could have wrestled with these decisions a bit more, if you're going to describe her that way. I do appreciate the childlike earnestness she displays in parts, but I don't know if that fits for an investigator. Or maybe it does and double down on it?

I enjoy this bureaucratic hell version of Voidmart. The lack of concern for paperwork probably doesn't hold up in a longer story, but hey, this isn't a longer story

So, she doesn't find any Unspeakable Horrors? It really was just beetles? I could have used a better punch line, in that case, or otherwise something more interesting with Unspeakable Horrors in play here

The ending is cute, but doesn't really have anything to do with the initial tension or conflict. I could have used more of that stuff.

Crab Destroyer

This went right to the deepest end of Voidmart, that's for sure.


Mark considered this a last gift to his victims.
nice little foreshadowing there, didn't pick that up the first time


The gunshot could not be mistaken for any other sound, but the Human Meats department was empty. Human Meats was almost always empty, and due to a miscalculation by Voidmart Corporate Offices, it was much larger than it needed to be.
seems like you could have built some of this in before so you don't have to explain afterward why nobody heard the shot

Why does this guy kill the butchers? I think somebody else said this, and I agree. He obviously has no problem with cannibalism. How does killing the butcher justify it? Not clear.


I told you some stuff on IRC, but I'm just going to restate the very advice that you gave me on my first story, and then didn't remember in your own story. In short, get to the action. All this other stuff can be simplified, and you can trust your readers to figure some stuff out.


Down the rabbit hole she goes, but, unfortunately, Kevin is no Mad Hatter. I also can't figure out why a robust vegetable is so important to her that she'd go to these lengths.

If you're going wacky adventure quest in a 1300 word story, you've got to really commit to it. Too much time is spent on exposition and uninteresting action at the start of this thing. She could probably start in Voidmart, experiencing wacky crap, and the story would be punchier.

Kevin gets devoured right in front of her, spraying blood all over her, and her reaction is... "Thank God, some real help"? Seems like a pretty violent death to witness while simply looking for vegetables, but yeah, I guess it would be a relief not to have to talk to Kevin anymore

Dec 11, 2013

by Pragmatica

Will be critting as much as I can before 7:00 AM Central.
Will attempt to continue critting tomorrow evening.

May 3, 2003

College Slice

SkaAndScreenplays posted:


Was looking forward to this entry. Did not disappoint. A little proofreading needed, but legit laughed at a few spots and it kicked rear end.

Hugoon Chavez
Nov 4, 2011


I regret not entering this week, because the prompt is amazing! I actually have a similar setting for which I've wrote a few short stories and I love reading what people do with something similar.

Oct 30, 2003

Hugoon Chavez posted:

I regret not entering this week, because the prompt is amazing! I actually have a similar setting for which I've wrote a few short stories and I love reading what people do with something similar.

DM - repeated the word similar.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




CONFIDENTIALITY/DISCLAIMER NOTICE: This is PRIVATE communication. This message and
all attachments have been sent by VOIDMART CORPORATION and may contain confidential and
privileged information that may be protected by redacted. If you are not the intended
recipient of this message, please notify the sender immediately by replying to this message, and then
permanently delete it from your system. Any disclosure, copying, distribution or use of the information
contained in, or attached to, this message is strictly prohibited and may result in penalties up to and including
fines, imprisonment, and debridement of the frontal and temporal lobes.

TO: All personnel

FROM: :)

RE: Employee Performance Reviews

Greetings, Voidlings!

It goes without saying that it's a great day to be part of the Voidmart family. Let me begin this memo by saying: we are proud of each and every one of you. When we first issued Voidmart from the labyrinthine abyss of our mind, we never thought we would come to employ the most disappointing staff in the brief history of your planet. Yes, we see your bemused frown. We ask that you refrain from falling prostrate before your terminal until after reading the entirety of this communique.

You see, Voidmart doesn't believe in failure. Voidmart believes in Improvement Opportunities. Voidlings, we have a massive opportunity for Improvement here. In fact, in this week of surveillance and analysis, we discovered that Voidmart has nothing if not room to improve. Let us begin by looking at some macro-level Opportunities. Think of this as your All Points Bulletin for Improvement!

  • Editing. Have some pride! We noticed many Opportunities for good spelling and grammar. Unfortunately, not everyone chose to participate.

  • Faulty worldbuilding. We here at Voidmart have intimate knowledge of the workings of Voidmart. Employees need not explain Voidmart to its founders, and they certainly need not use hundreds of words to do so.

  • Formatting! Voidmart strives for brand uniformity. However, some of you did not feel the need, seemingly, to utilize the Quality Assurance Opportunity provided by the 'preview' button. We had to wade through horrid blocks of text, and will probably be finding excess words in our crevasses for eons.

  • Plot. We were pleased to see that most of you comprehended your assignments, however we were perplexed when we received a number of stories wherein those assignments were simply repeated back to us, only with more words.

But this merely scratches the surface of the numerous Opportunities engendered by this week. A full analyses of the many Improvement Opportunities will follow shortly after this communication. In the meantime, we would like to take this Opportunity(ha ha) to recognize several of our beloved staff.

Employee of the month: We are pleased to recognize Newtestleper as the recipient of this prestigious award. Although Newt's work was at times overly florid, there was an emotional core that moved even our dead, ancient heart, and a broadness of scope that we felt captured the spirit of the Voidmart brand.

EotM runners Up: Kaishai and The Saddest Rhino both receive commendations for their diligent adherence to quality and their exemplary adherence to the standards of the Voidmart brand.


I am now pleased to announce the names of those employees who have the biggest Improvement Opportunities :)

Improvement Opportunity of the Month runners up: Contagonist! we were confused by your confused boner and extraneous characters. Guiness13, we were saddened by a rather generic horror setup and resolution. Beige, we hemmed and hawed about your story a little, because there were descriptive elements that we, the gestalt judging entity, enjoyed. However, we found the point of view confusing, and didn't enjoy that you withheld revelations about your characters to the end (to little effect). Chairchucker! While we recognized the levity in your approach, some of our QA agents were not amused. ThirdEmperor, you subverted your protagonist's efforts with a tacked-on resolution that ended with a weak pickup attempt.

Improvement Opportunity of the Month: Okay, realtalk, Llamagucci. No dumb voice, no kayfabe, no gimmicks. When I took judgemode off and saw you'd written this, I was pretty bummed. Not just because you've had a rough go here in the dome, but because I genuinely think you're really improving. But this was 500ish words of...nothing. You'd think, in such a big week, I'd be happy to overlook 500 words of nothing. But it was so confoundingly abrupt that it stuck out. It begins with an intriguingly sensual scene between Connor/Andy and a distinctly inhuman entity. And then...nothing! I feel like that rear end in a top hat who keeps running up to kick your sandcastle, but I really, genuinely, in my heart know you can do better than this. I don't know if you were short on time, but had you extended this past its current ending, you probably would've joined the ranks of "flawed but interesting". Please keep sharing your words.

Newtestleper, the throne is yours!

<3, the CEO

Oct 30, 2003

Thunderdome CCXXI: The Escape of the Bad Words.

Flash Frontier is a little online journal, based partially in New Zealand and partially on a yacht off the east coast of Africa. It publishes bi-monthly issues consisting of 250 word stories written to a one word prompt. It has published stories by four thunderdome writers, and was the first place to publish at least two, including yours truly...

And we are going to drown them in the bad words.

This prompt is a Submission Rush. All stories will be posted in thread AND ALSO emailed to the editors at Flash Frontier for potential inclusion in their November issue. Here is a link to the submission guidelines. Basically you will be able to cut and paste your entry and email it to them, as they basically follow the same formatting rules as we do. I would love to see a healthy chunk of the next issue consist of 'domers, and I know that there's the talent here to do it. If we do twenty entries I would estimate that a minimum of five will get in. LET'S DO IT!

Here's the skinny.

Word limit: 250
Theme: BIRDS
Deadline: 11:59PM PST Sunday 30 October

A few notes.

DIsclaimer: Yes, I am on the staff of Flash Frontier. I do their website. I will not have anything to do with determining which stories are chosen for publication. TD judging will be entirely separate from the Flash Frontier editorial process.

Yes, the word count is very short. It is also a 100% hard limit. I will do a post about really really short stories tomorrow.

I realise that it can be daunting to submit work for publication, but it shouldn't be. Especially to this one. Let's face it, it has a loving goon on staff - it's hardly Tin House. I also genuinely believe that a TD perspective is something that would be very good for the journal. I will post a bit more about submitting your work, too.

Flash Frontier treats its prompts in much the way that the Thunderdome normally does. The prompt must be detectable, but it doesn't have to dominate the piece. If you think that it sort of mostly kinda maybe hits the prompt - it's probably fine. Oblique treatments are good.

I will also post a bit about Flash Frontier with some links to some of the stories in there that I like the best. This might give you an idea of the things they might publish.

Finally, this week I would like to see people cooperating. Any kind of down-nose-looking at pre-crits is hereby lifted for the week. Please come by IRC and hang out and share your story with other non-judge goons who might like to give you some constructive feedback.It is fun and helpful to work together!

Here is a picture to inspire you to write lovely flowing prose about beautiful soaring graceful birds.

Good luck!

SkaAndScreenplays :toxx: (one word penalty for lovely posting)
The Cut of Your Jib
sebmojo :toxx:
Fleta Mcgurn
Hammer Bro.
my cat is norris :toxx:
steeltoedsneakers :toxx:
Sitting Here
Dr. Kloctopussy
Crab Destroyer
anime was right
Jay W. Friks
Fleta Mcgurn
a friendly penguin
Some Strange Flea
The Saddest Rhino
a new study bible!
kurona_bright :toxx:
QuoProQuid :toxx:
Ironic Twist

Grizzled Patriarch

newtestleper fucked around with this message at 08:58 on Oct 29, 2016

Nov 15, 2012

What will you say when
your child asks:
why did you fail Thunderdome?


Dec 11, 2013

by Pragmatica

With a flash rule should you see fit because late sub last week. Winner says no...
With a :toxx: cause I used the :toxx: kicker to my word count in said late sub If you wanna bounce ideas off one another pre-crit style via hangouts when I'm not actively in RMC...

SkaAndScreenplays fucked around with this message at 10:48 on Oct 26, 2016

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007


on a wINg and a prayer

Oct 30, 2003

No flash rules this week. The word count is hard enough. If you're really struggling for inspiration a random TD story, choose your favourite word from it, and use that as a jumping off point.

Oct 30, 2003

Also don't quote the whole loving prompt post you goober. -1 to your wordcount.

Feb 25, 2014



Oct 30, 2003

Looking for some fellow judges, too. Might be a good week to blood someone new...

Mar 21, 2010

I already started working on something for this. Only a few sentences deep, but I've had more time with it than the rest. Kosher or not?

Oct 30, 2003

No problemo

Aug 8, 2013


That word count scares me.


Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

In toxx

Dec 11, 2013

by Pragmatica

Between low-ceiling prompt and a DQ with IMO the best thing I've written yet I'm going to crit (not line crit) every goddamned entry this week.

The opening feels a bit disjointed and doesn't really jive with the rest of the narrative. You're telling me things that should become apparent through the narrative.


"Jeff!" My supervisor's voice startled me a bit as I was in the midst of admiring a particularly shiny item. "Get out of the Throwing Aisle. You're assigned to the wedding registry today." By far our biggest seller: sets of 8-67 stainless steel blades accompanied by blocks of wood to store them, blades hidden. Unfortunately, this was a situation where popularity didn't equate to prestige. Mr. Smith really had it out for me despite my alertness; I found myself assigned to selling knife sets nearly every day.

This feels erroneous. Again make it clear that this is the case outside. Show us how much work you've got ahead of us.


"Who the... Don't name the merchandise and get to your station!" I smiled and nodded as I walked six aisles further away from Katanas.
I could stand to see some separation from your supervisor's chastisement and your aquiescense. So far I like the playful approach your character carries into his work.


"Howdy, Magnus," I whispered. "What's up, Sinbad?" Naturally, Sinbad said nothing; blades can’t talk. I loved the weapons, but they weren't people. Just unique and beautiful pieces of merchandise. I dodged into the Gladius and Dirk Aisle as a customer's handicapable cart rolled by at top speed. Julius sparkled as he reflected the light from her silver hair. "Good one Julius," I giggled. He was good for one of those a shift. No time for him now though.
I'm glad the talking to knives thing isn't just a one-off gimmick, and at this point I was really hoping it carried through and advanced the plot some way.
*the weapons seems redundant. "Them" or some other moniker could probably just as effective.
**rolled feels like WAAAY too passive of a verb to come before "top speed"
***handicapable cart just reads clumsily.
****dodged is an awkward verb. 'ducked' 'stealthed' or something similar would convey intent better.
On the whole this paragraph is just a little verbose while being far too blase in tone to justify its girth.


"Excuse me, can you point me to the saw blades?" Wonderful things, to be sure, but for whatever reason they are secreted in the Tools quadrant. Sorry, sir.
This and the stuff that follows reads a bit sloppy. Your character seems like the kind of person who is willing to openly state all the bizarre things that come to their head. Bring that into the dialogue and things will be a lot stronger.
*Also your tense feels like it jumps around inappropriately. I'm not an authority on this though. I recently found out there are thirteen tenses in the english language so the most I'm willing to state is that it seems like it's changing where it shouldn't. IE: "Blades do not chop in my opinion" reads as a very 'current' thought.
**I think a part of the problem is there isn't enough separation between your intrusive narrator and your actual first person action.


Not a single edge on the poor girl, unfortunately..
One more or one less period here. Conservatively one less. That comes from someone who abuses ellipses like hard drugs.
*The "Not a single edge on the poor girl." was the first sincere laugh I've had at this point.
**Your dialogue works to a point because Jeff is a single minded simpleton. It does get a bit tiresome.
***Don't fall into another one of my mistakes: Don't be afraid of dialogue attribution.


"This is the new Carvington Elite Collection Atomic Edition." Instead of a plain wood block with a crowd of desperately jutting handles, he presented a humming black cube with only three beckoning new friends. "It has three carbon nanoblades kept suspended in a magnetic field." He pulled out the largest of the set. It was so dark, except for the edge. When it caught the flourescents, it drew a thin crescent of light across my retina. I felt like it was telling me a secret. "You must never touch it!" My jaw dropped. When Mr. Smith resheathed the atomic edge, I finally was able to turn my gaping expression towards him. "Do you have any idea how dangerous this is?"
Again one of the high points in the story suffers from a passive description. I want you to make me as awestruck by these blades as Jeff is. I've actually started writing in first person in TD for specifically this point. Onomatopoeia is a cheap and easy way to bring the readers senses into the story. IMO the line of demarcation between First person narrative that is 'meh' and first person narrative that is 'great' falls squarely on how well the prose conveys physical sensation or emotion.


I paced around cutlery, neck hurting from keeping my gaze pointed directly at the atomic set. I could still see the brilliant afterimage of its secret. He had sliced my ocular nerve from three yards away! I hoped it was permanent. I jumped again as a tiny voice said my name from the artery.
Using anatomy as an allegory for the store is a smart move but it could have definitely been executed with more finesse.


It was Martha. She presented me a sandwich of thinly sliced meats, which I accepted graciously. That would be for later. Who could think of food at a time like this?

"Thanks Marth. When do you get off?"

"Ah, I was off at three. I'm just going head over to Sleep... are you okay?"

The secret of the atomic edge finally became clear. I knew Martha liked me as a man likes a blade; I could never put my finger on why until now, not that I would put a finger on that atomic edge. The afterimage gave Martha an edge of her own, and I fear my gaze may have lingered a bit hungrily. She was beautiful too!
This block of text is cumbersome. Try breaking your dialogue up with action and see how that jives.
Other than that the end feels rushed.
Jeff just proposes to Martha out of thin air?
The ending is just super super rushed.
"YOU WANT TO MARRY A HUMAN WOMAN" <- I could have stood to see this joke played up more. Comedy happens in threes. Either more allusions to Jeff's lack of sexual interests earlier in the story could have served well or you could have expaned on the department manager's disbelief a little more.
"You want to marry martha"/Yes <reaction>/"A woman"/<intrusive narrator/more reaction>"Uh huh"/An ACTUAL HUMAN WOMAN/Yuppp/ ->Congratulations!


"Congratulations, Jeff," Mr. Smith said later. "You've reached your quota."

"And I get the knives!"

"Not a chance in hell."

I honestly like the last three lines of your story, but the time that passes takes away from the impact.
//Final Thoughts\\
Yeah this is a goofy flash fiction thread but it's a great place to try things and see what you're doing wrong. The community is great and if you just want to use it as an excuse to read fun stories and make rad internet friends that's cool by me but I'm not a veteran. I don't get the impression that you were just dicking around but you had a neat concept but just sort of phoned it in when it came to the actual words conveying that concept.
Biggest Gripe: You submitted 48 hours early. Don't treat the dome as a place to throw a first draft at the wall and see what sticks. Launch the very loving best you can manage into the crucible every week and forge that poo poo in the fires of harsh criticism and bold risks. Seeing and fixing obvious mistakes is nowhere near as satisfying as taking feedback to heart and pushing out better and better words every week. I say this as someone who up until VERY recently went into these prompts way too casually. The only way to really improve is to push yourself. I say this as someone who up until VERY recently went into these prompts way too casually. I'd like to think I've done pretty well these past few subs. It's not impossible to seriously write a silly story.

Chili - PROTOCOL GAMMA<- Irrelevant link to crit music...
I don't have much bad to say about this story. I'm a big fan of your man vs. machine struggle. The setup feels a bit too long for my tastes, but I love that Voidmart™ opts for the nuclear option when it comes to gaming.


I couldn’t believe it. I checked my stream but found that it had mysteriously disconnected. I went to take a screencap of my victory score, but as I did, the phone’s screen went black, and then, two words popped up in block-white font USER DELETED.
I feel like there could have been a line break before the "USER DELETED"
How to do so is up in the air. I think an ellipse best suits the sense of incredulity and existential agony losing such an achievement to the void would bring me personally.


I couldn’t believe it. I checked my stream but found that it had mysteriously disconnected. I went to take a screencap of my victory score, but as I did, the phone’s screen went black, and then, two words popped up in block-white font...


I couldn’t believe it. I checked my stream but found that it had mysteriously disconnected. I went to take a screencap of my victory score, but as I did, the phone’s screen went black, and then, two words popped up in block-white font USER DELETED.
*That said I'm objectively loving awful when it comes to punctuation. Something deep inside me wants to say a colon would be more correct. Defer to the wisdom of good writers on this. [spoiler]I really need to loving reread how punctuation works.[/quote]
ON SECOND NOTE: Querying Good writers - which is more-better in this situation?


Professional Voidball players hated going to Voidmart. It was big, crazy, and ultimately a distraction from the prize of victory. But sometimes, the phones needed support, and Voidmart remained resolute in exclusively providing support for their Capti editions in-store. And so, after a 20-minute walk inside the store, I stepped up to my Voidphone Wizard. Today, I would be privileged to be looked after by a gentleman named Yori.
You hate going to Voidmart™ and that is what the focus should be. I don't even so much give a poo poo that you dread going to Voidmart™ so much as why you find the place so loathsome.
*NOT WORTH QUOTING: Italicise The Back to emphasize that it is a proper noun as opposed to a typo? Again, defer to actual good writers on that one before taking my advice. Mayhaps single quotes? The idea of 'The Back' needs to be stressed as not just a place but an abstract concept. Maybe not important in dialouge so much as with the following mentions that take place within the narrative.
I got yelled at for this poo poo and it subtracted points from what was undoubtedly the strongest thing I've not only subbed but also written. Don't do that!
:mediocre:Even though my phone was defunct, it was painful handing it to him.:mediocre:


I took the binoculars and Yori crossed over the threshold. I watched him walk for about 5 minutes or so; his headlamp bobbed with each step. Suddenly, I saw his light drop. I brought the binoculars up to my eyes and watched as Yori fiddled with a small contraption on the floor. He was placing my Capti in a mount of some kind.
Good imagery here, though I want more emotion. Your beloved phone is entering the void, give the readers some of that suspense your PoV is feeling.


I felt a smooth, pulsing vibration through the soles of my shoes. I looked down, but Yori grabbed my hair and pulled my head back upward.
More good imagery even though I felt a is passive without clear reason for being so. "Things happened to me, I had no outward reaction to these stimuli." is what I'm getting here. I wanna feel those vibrations work their way up into your chest, I want my breathing to hasten with yours. There's a disappointing lack of emotion despite your character being separated from their most prized possession that leaves a lot of otherwise great imagery falling flat.


And I watched as my phone grew.
This is a good application of passive verbage in my reading. This is literally a thing that is happening. It is a thing that your character isn't otherwise expecting to happen or prepared to react to.


It was so far away, but I could now see it. My Capti had already increased tenfold, but it didn’t stop there. It expanded and grew further and further until it resembled a skyscraper.[/u]
I like the imagery but I wish you would have gone with a more powerful comparison. 'Skyscraper' doesn't fit the Proto-Cyberpunk tech-worship
you've conveyed so far. An allusion could have been really powerful here.
A really neat concept got washed away by passive verbage and a lack of reaction from your PoV character. Flat prose dulled what was otherwise really interesting visual descriptions.

Hawklad - Russel Saves Voidmart


My name is Russell Rabin, and I single-handedly saved Voidmart. I've never gotten any credit, but believe me. It happened.
You aren't the first person to do this and I don't like it any better the second time. This is just a thing that sort of peeves me. These "Happy Gilmore" introductions almost never introduce important information or set things in motion. They're nearly always just a redundant introduction to the events about to unfold.


So it starts with this new kid working in the Box Department named Enos. Or maybe he's been here the whole time? It's hard to tell. I know that sounds strange—or maybe not because this is Voidmart we're talking about.
I'm a fan of the casual "bar-after-work" fish tale tone you're taking. As with the first entry I hope it's consistent throughout. There's a lot of room to make damned good use of the tools an intrusive narrator provides taking this route because it is all intrusive narrator. I like this as an example of the two approaches first-person stories generally take. Whereas there's the matter-of-fact "This happened to me!" that shoot-the-poo poo style is almost an always refreshing "You ain't gonna believe the poo poo that happened to me!"
Your interjections are smart and clean and your formatting is on point. Your tone is impeccable and I don't ever find myself off-put by sudden changes in voice or apparent perspective.


Funny thing is that a couple of the bosses are always down here talking to this kid. They've got a real hard on for him. Up and down the stairs all day long, these bosses go straight to his desk and give him packages like he's a loving UPS. What he does with them I don't know. But I'll bet you my next paycheck it has something to do with those weird boxes he makes.
^^^This was a really really smart way to not only reinforce that break-room PoV but also hint at the weirdness of Voidmart without beating us over the head with it. It's just far enough outside the realm of normal to set the imagination going. You're leveraging the inherent weirdness of Voidmart against the readers expectations in a way that really gets the speculative ticks in my head going. I dig it.
It doesn't finish as strong as the first half but that isn't by any means an insult. Really liked pretty much everything about this story. You tie into other stories and the established metaplot really well. All in all I dig it.
The transition into 'traditional' dialogue pulled me out of the story pretty hard honestly:
Compared to the riffing you do up until that point it just doesn't fit.
THIS IS ONLY YOUR THIRD SUBMISSION?!?!?! You've either obviously been writing (and writing seriously) for quite some time based on this entry. Either that your you're just naturally talented. Either way a solid loving entry.
You used a lot of commas. Honestly though, it just sort of helped set the pace for the story.
All in all I really liked this one. Can't say much more good or bad about it.



God bless his soul and all, but I swear my son has something to hide. Every day I see him, he looks or feels cloudy. Everyone’s saying he’s on drugs, and I’m inclined to believe that.But Every time I ask him, he just says that he isn’t. It’s worrying at this point. He’s my son, and he could be close to death for all any of us know. We considered searching his room high and low for any paraphernalia, but my wife suggested that we encourage him away from drugs via hobbies. While I love my wife and all, sometimes her methods are questionable. However, I am inclined to agree that maybe our son needs a hobby besides work. This place they call VoidMart seems to be a good start, even if I’ve no recollection of entering this place in my life.
I like the voice. I feel like it's my mom talking but the punctuation is all over the place.


Sipping on some coffee, I ponder over what my son could be into. At his age, there’s quite a lot he can try. My phone was buzzing from the back-and-forth texts I keep sending my wife. All the texts were of hobbies our son could try. Eventually, we both settled on collecting. After all, if he spent money on one thing, he can’t get his fix most likely. However, there are many things to base collections on. It’s not going to be easy, but I figured I’d find something that’d catch his eye. Downing the coffee, my adventure started. For the sake of my son, I hope there’s something in this strange place to catch his eye.
You're bouncing between simple and progressive tenses and the narrative suffers for it. It doesn't feel natural as I read.


As I explored, I realized that VoidMart was a very strange place.
At the risk of sounding like the jaded dome veterans: No loving poo poo


Lots of things lined shelves, including things I almost know are illegal.

Sorry again for being curmudgeonly, but this line is so weak it just got bullied out of its lunch money.


It was then I happened upon a sinister section, one that held an assortment of ancient artifacts. Any thought I had of helping my son soon dissipated, with feelings of uneasiness setting in. Sure enough, I see a handle. It was placed between two ancient books, which I considered odd. Then again, this whole section was odd. But if it was an interesting sight, maybe it’ll be interesting for my son. Pulling the handle ever so gently, I saw the wicked blade attached. The craftsmanship was ornate, with bits of filigree lining both handle and blade. But as I stared, I felt my heart race. My mind wanted to yell as I stared. This dagger wasn’t normal, I assumed. It took a fair amount of willpower to remove the blade from the section, but I considered it a feat to even find it.
The things with the tense are happening again. This sucks because you have a legitimately interesting concept.
Show me the things that make it not normal. You're writing in first person so as far as my brain is concerned I am your PoV character.
I assumed is a super super super stiff suffix to have attached to this line.


The craftsmanship was ornate, with bits of filigree lining both handle and blade.
I'm not sure what's going on but your phrasing is all thumbs in some places. The blade/knife is ornate moreso than the craftsmanship. The blade was ornately crafted. rolls off the brain-tongue a bit more smoothly.


But as I stared, I felt my heart race. My mind wanted to yell as I stared. This dagger wasn’t normal, I assumed. It took a fair amount of willpower to remove the blade from the section, but I considered it a feat to even find it.
This is much better. It could still use a bit of tooling but MUCH MUCH better.


Later that evening, my wife and I perused my recent purchase. She agreed that this knife was unnerving for some reason, but neither of us knew why. Thankfully, our son had just arrived from his job. We could just hand this thing off and be done with it. The front door opened, pleasantries were exchanged, and we sat our son down at the table.
"Later that evening" is a bit cliche as far as segues are concerned but this is overall forgivable.
*"Perused" is DEFINITELY 100% NOT THE RIGHT WORD TO USE. Purused carries the connotation of multiple objects and no clear direction. Don't be afraid of small words.
**I want to see your wife's disagreement either in dialogue or in a summary of her thoughts. She agreed has no power behind it. And again I'm left to half-assedly wonder what's so unnerving about this knife.
The dialogue afterwards doesn't communicate in a way that feels natural.


“Now son, your mom and I love you very much.” I said. “But we feel that maybe you need something to think about besides work.”

“Yes. That’s why we got you this.” My wife chimed in, handing him the dagger as carefully as she could. Her hands were trembling.

“Ooh. This blade looks fancy.” My son spoke.
The dad's line is flat and doesn't sell the relationship to me as a reader. The mom doesn't have a distinct voice from the father and it doesn't feel like that decision was intentional.
*Nitpicking but possibly helpful edit: My son spoke, "Ooh. This blade looks fancy.'


But as he swung the knife, I could hear a faint female voice.

“Tell her about me…” the voice whispered. “You can’t hide our time forever…”

It was enough to send a shiver down my spine. I hadn’t thought of that woman in a few weeks, and it was as if her spirit was in our son’s gift. With a glance over to my wife, I noticed her face was mortified for reasons unbeknownst to me at that time.
Your story gets legitimately interesting here. I wish soooo badly there were some foreshadowing as to the nature of this knife's supernatural properties. A snide question at the checkout counter, an evil revilation as it was wrapped by the bagger, a disjointed set of mumbles that your PoV character isn't sure are real as it bounces around in the back seat on the drive home.


“You heard her too… didn’t you?” I whispered.

“No. Did you hear him, though?” She replied.

“I didn’t. Mine was a woman’s voice.”

“Weird. But…” She fidgeted in her seat a bit. ”Listen… I need to tell you something.”

“I know. You cheated on me. I did the same thing.”

“Was it some weeks ago?”

“Yes. With a co-worker of mine, I’m afraid to admit.”

“I slept with the local lifeguard round that time, too.”

“Okay then.”

The next few minutes slogged on for ages, it seemed. Dead silence, save for our son adjusting his room to place that cursed dagger. Guilt was washing over my body, with my heart wanting to drop like a stone.

“I think we need to see the therapist again.” The wife whispered.
The exchange between the wife and your PoV is just so devoid of any depth or emotion that any little bit of empathy I had with them is lost to the void.
THAT IDEA OF 'A KNIFE THAT CUTS THROUGH LIES' is so goddamned fresh and interesting. Unfortunately you flipped the script and used the withdrawn behavior of your PoV's son as the motivation and main instigator of your conflict instead of this GODDAMNED AMAZING HOMEWRECKING KNIFE THAT-HOLY poo poo-KILLS MARRIAGES AND CAREERS.
Your storytelling was on the whole your biggest failing. Even the son's withdrawn behavior doesn't get resolved as an issue and that's what sets the events of the story in motion.
There's SO MUCH POTENTIAL for compelling narrative here it's brutal to think about. This could have gone tragedy, horror, supernatural thriller, road to redemption - any of a billion genres - based solely on how awesome of a concept that knife is as a plot hook.
:siren:SERIOUSLY KEEP AT IT::siren:
Fresh ideas are rare. With how stoked I am on your idea it would only take [i]passable
writing to make me all about this story.

SkaAndScreenplays fucked around with this message at 11:44 on Oct 26, 2016

Aug 2, 2003

I'm in. I feel like I was lucky to escape a DM last week and I only have myself to blame. Prepare yourselves to witness my true talent!

...Birds? gently caress

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.

I'm in China, so maybe my calendar is wonky, but isn't Monday the 31st, not Sunday?

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

SkaAndScreenplays posted:

I feel like there could have been a line break before the "USER DELETED"
How to do so is up in the air. I think an ellipse best suits the sense of incredulity and existential agony losing such an achievement to the void would bring me personally.


*That said I'm objectively loving awful when it comes to punctuation. Something deep inside me wants to say a colon would be more correct. Defer to the wisdom of good writers on this. I really need to loving reread how punctuation works.
ON SECOND NOTE: Querying Good writers - which is more-better in this situation?

Listen to your heart. A colon would be the most technically correct punctuation in this instance. The relevant instruction from this punctuation guide is Use a colon after an independent clause when it is followed by a list, a quotation, appositive, or other idea directly related to the independent clause. "USER DELETED" specifies which words popped up, working like the grocery-list example on that page.

The ellipsis can be used to suggest hesitation, a dawning realization, or a trailed-off thought (I feel like this page does a good job of covering its usage), but there are problems with applying it here. One, "popped up" tells me the words appear quickly. An ellipsis would imply the opposite. Two, many readers hate overuse of ellipses. The site's comparison to the exclamation point is apt. It's an attention-getting mark, and its use is best restricted to when nothing else will do.

Aug 2, 2002

this is my favorite short primer on punctuation and how to use it

edit: apparently i linked to the picture book for children, but i'm leaving it, as it is still appropriate for this audience.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


In and practically done. Just gotta copy and paste "The bird bird bird, b-bird's the word." 34 more times, then come up with a title.

Also we're still in PDT through October and the 31st's a Monday. But I assume Flash Frontier deadline is also TD deadline.

You are a Good Person doing Good Things. Try not to burn yourself out.

my cat is norris
Mar 11, 2010





Jan 18, 2015


Yeah, why not?


Oct 30, 2003

Clarification: Deadline is 11:59PM Sunday 30 October.

Jul 26, 2016

In :toxx:

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




In cause I was gonna do this anyway! Good prompt

Sep 2, 2016


In. Thanks for the crits.

llamaguccii fucked around with this message at 18:18 on Oct 27, 2016


Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!


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