Register a SA Forums Account here!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
  • Locked thread
Aug 5, 2013

I believe I am now no longer in the presence of nice people.

Silver Nitride Is A Hell Of A Thing.
Words: 503.

The smoke rapidly filled the laboratory. Everyone was running away from the room, in various coughing fits. One man in particular fell face first onto the tile ground just as he cleared the doorway.

“Jackson! What on Earth has gotten into you?” a voice boomed from inside the lab. “It’s only day one of the experiment, and you’ve hosed everything up!”

“Sorry, professor,” the man on the ground replied. “I must have misread the labels or something.”

A man then stepped out of the smoke, coughing with a cut along his cheek. The cut was fresh, and trickling blood.

“Whatever it may be, it certainly will ban you from any lab experiments for the rest of the semester. And judging from that volatile reaction, this semester’s been cut short!”

Jackson had to look around at his fellow classmates. Some of them had a few cuts on their arms, legs, and faces. One even had a hand over their eye, clutching and rubbing it in pain.

“I’m sorry! I couldn’t tell it was ammonia! The label didn’t mention-“

“It’s called studying, Jackson! And you wouldn’t have multiple casualties if you knew not to mess around with the sample!”

“But it looked similar to the actual testing compound-“

“But nothing. Get out of my sight. And hope that these kids live to see their own graduation!”


Jackson slumped against the bench. He was certain that there needed to be labels in the lab. But no, no labels to designate what was a silver compound and what wasn’t. To make matters worse, his phone was constantly buzzing. Whether it was a news update or texts from his fellow classmates, he knew that this confusion screwed him out of a degree. But then, an email notification went off. Jackson quickly checked his phone to see who would email him at a time like this.

It was an automated message from the school. And inside, as Jackson found out, was the following message:

“Due to an unforeseen circumstance, we regret to inform you that you have been expelled and barred from applying next semester,” the message started. Jackson couldn’t finish the email. The guilt of possibly injuring several students permanently was enough. In a fit of rage, he lobbed his phone far away from him. The phone had landed right in front of a grounds worker’s moving lawnmower. As soon as the device disappeared under the machine, a series of clanks and thumps resonated throughout the area. Before Jackson knew, his phone was launched from the lawnmower and right at his head.


“… not long after the lab incident, a foreman witnessed what he considered a ‘freak phenomenon’,” the reporter said.

“I didn’t know he threw the phone in my direction,” the foreman spoke. “I tend to listen to music as I work the lawns, plus the phone looked like a rock to me.”

“Doctors report that the victim- one Jackson Palade- suffered instant death through an excess of immediate cranial trauma. Back to you in the studios.”


Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Weakness (676 words)

The man's face was obscured by a plastic bag, his breathing calm and steady. His wrists were bound with wire to his chair. He'd been given an hour to pray to God. An eternity.

Francisco rolled up his sleeves. The crowd watched.

He was long, Francisco; lean and athletic. He might've been a boxer. Where he stepped he made no sound.

"You should hate this man," his brother said to him. An echo. A reminder. He was handed a bat. Wooden. He took it. In ten minutes it would burn.

Fransico slung the bat over his shoulder like a man in the fields. Like his father. He approached the captive graciously, signalling his arrival with a tap to the man's thigh. A gentle tap. Just to let him know.

The man's breathing stopped. The whole world stopped. Fransciso waited for his breathing to resume. It did.

Francisco ran his hand across his face. He'd forgotten to shave. Unusual, for him. The girls said it gave him a certain rugged charm. "It suits you," his brother said. "You're finally one of us." He'd been one of them for a long time, but never before had it carried such weight.

He studied the man in the chair. Short, portly, but not unfit. His clothes suggested he was no one in particular. Francisco reached for the bag. It would not do to kill this man in such a way. Not even in the name of rightous vengeance. He would allow his victim to see his executioner.

The plastic bag tore and faded into nothing. The man beneath was middle-aged, balding. He had small, thin eyes which betrayed no fear. His face was lined. He was bruised from his capture. A gag prevented him from speaking out. Here now was no mere concept of evil, an enemy, a prisoner to be punished. Here was a human being.

Francisco locked eyes with the man. His memory churned. He could not recal this face, but he remembered this feeling. As a child his parents had taken him to the coast where he'd seen a dying turtle at the end of its life. It'd been a truly tremendous creature. As it lay there, breathing its last, it turned its head to look at him. He hadn't known the right words for it then. He knew them now, in this man. Acceptance.

Francisco tightened his grip on the bat. The man didn't flinch.

"Do it," his brother said.

Francisco stood still.

"Do it."

He raised the bat. The man didn't blink. His eyes followed Francisco's every step of the way.

"Do it."

There was a crack like lightning. The man and the chair toppled to the ground. Again Francisco swung, and again, and again. The man's blood pooled on the floor. The bat broke off and clattered to the side.

Francisco stood above the body of the broken man, his breathing harsh but quiet. The crowd applauded and cheered, but he didn't hear any of it. He turned to find his brother's face, but his brother wasn't there. Of course not. Of course. His brother now slept on an unfeeling slab, a wound in his side from the edge of a knife.

Francisco dropped the bat. Hands in his pockets, he walked into the back. The crowd closed in behind him. They'd clean up his mess. They'd dispose of the body.

The bathroom was empty, a dull green tileset repeating forever. Francisco leaned into the sink and turned on the tap. He washed his hands. Thoroughly. All the while staring at himself, his reflection, his long gaunt features and hollow eyes. He saw neither strength nor rage nor pride nor sorrow. He saw a child. He saw himself.

He locked the door.


Flashrule: (Pieces of murder fall slow as opal chips through glycerine.)

Jul 26, 2016

:siren:Submissions closed. :siren:

Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.


Jul 26, 2016

:siren:Thunderdome Week CCXXVIII Results: Unqualified :siren:

As a reasonably inexperienced judge, I felt I had to cool my jets occasionally and defer to the wisdom of my co-judges. Not so, turns out we’re on the same page. Word limits are hard and get DQs, and y'all wrote a bunch of mediocre stories this week.

The Thunderdome soufflé we ate had a great, sunken, soggy middle. Digging around at the edges though, we found a couple of spoonfuls of delight. THE WINNER is Erogenous Beef for the wonderful tale of Samuel Slopbucket. You had us at psychic murder-fungus.

Tasting nearly as good, but not quite because your prompt was about the consumption of putrid black flesh, Thranguy gets an Honorable Mention. Super bold move with your perspective, but excellent use of the prompt and flashrule.

Losing patience for the metaphor like I did with a bunch of these stories, we find ourselves with the not very good bits of the soufflé. Dishonorable Mention goes to widespread. There was a lot of middle-of-the-road this week, but with an anticlimactic ending this unfortunately didn’t manage to fade into the pack.

Which brings us to THE LOSER. GenJoe’s story of what not to do if a stranger dies on your doorstep didn’t satisfy. While widespread was picked off for momentarily separating from the herd, this charged in the other direction. The “Crazy man texts dead man’s mother and makes her think he’s still alive” cannon was primed and ready to deliver a payload of pathos or hijinx, but you got to it too late and there was soggy soufflé all over the wick.

More terrible mixed metaphors will arrive tomorrow with my crits.

Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.

Congrats Beef, for real I was starting to worry that we would have to award the 'winner' to the 'least bad' story, (your stories were all bad) but you basically had me from the name of your protagonist, and I thoroughly enjoyed every part of your story.



Mar 14, 2012

I started crit'ing the stories as they came. I have a response to about half of them. I did notice something come up in the first few stories. It was enough for me to write something up before the rest came in. Some of what did come in after didn't fall foul to this and managed to achieve funny ineptness, but a few stories made me so goddamn angry! GRRR! that I'm gonna post this anyway.

All the crits I'll post were written in the order of the stories, and what I'll post in the next few minutes were all written before reading the next story. Then I had to get a bus so I read the remaining ones while journeying: journeying with both my body and imagination.

General Observations On You Heartless Motherfuckers
Something I really didn’t anticipate from the other TD entries, not that I tried to anticipate anything was what other people would do with their story. I had enough difficulty coming up with my own, enough that when I did get it I went with it and was definitely going to work hard on it before I posted it. That’s all to say I was wrapped up in my own writing and didn’t think of the other pieces. If I had given it a few seconds thought I’m not too sure if I would have immediately associated “inept” and “in over your head” with lots of laughs. I suppose I should think that given it’s a comedy forum founded on generalised shitposting and this thread is founded on men in tights throwing chairs.

I do try and be funny in conversation, and in chats, and individual posts but I’m not too sure I’ve gone for it much in my fiction writing. This could be because comedy doesn’t seem noble and writerly, but I think it’s more to do with the risk I see in intentionally telling a prolonged funny story (future brawl setters take note.)

Comedy demands a lot from people. If someone tells me they felt really sad reading something I wrote I don’t feel cheated if they weren’t crying. If someone tells me my writing inspired thought in them then I don’t ask them if they shouted, “Eureka.” But if someone says they thought a story I told was funny then my expectation is that they had a physical response, and laughed out loud or at least smiled. That may very well be simplistic and asking too much of humour. Though the most serious of humour, the harshest of satire has caused me to at least smile, even if its more a wince.

More than that I feel a little offended that some writers immediately thought of ineptitude as a humourous thing. There’s plenty of times I have felt inept, and sure looking back on those times I often realise I can laugh at it now. Whatever the tense of a story it sets the reader in the present of the situation unless you go with some very specific tactics. In that sense when I think of being present to ineptitude I think of embarrassment on another’s behalf with me having to watch, or I think of my own despair. If I’m failing really badly at something I felt I could do I want the ground to swallow me. Instead time draws itself out to prolong my torment as I hope others don’t laugh.

Writing comedy for ineptitude is absolutely the right choice, in that it’s your choice. I just wonder if you’ve heard of empathy you cruel fuckwads. And that’s kind of my point. If I’m going to laugh at someone I also want to feel for them in some way, or get joy from their aresholey downfall. I don’t want a basic lol at someone loving up, it seems a bit simplistic.

Jagermonster posted:

Ride of the White Knight
780 words

I appreciate the effort Justin went to to write this up while he was in the hospital. It might have made it more immediate in first person present tense, as the past tense kept me removed from your difficult situation.

The language is far too simplistic to be evocative, and I'm not too sure if there can be style in something so elementary. In that sense I really connected with the writing as reflective of the strawman white knight. The problem with writing a strawman like this, especially when going the humourous route is that you need to make me think of the protagonist's complex and not the author's fantasies. This piece of writing has me questioning you rather than the characters or situation.

You seem to be aiming for farce and satire, and I can say that I have met one person like this in my life, unfortunately you didn't give Justin the emotional depth I knew from my real life encounter. It's very hard to see beyond him as a throwaway judgement of society, when I know there's more to people than what you've presented here.

I thought it was a good decision not to present the reason for the (ex) couple's argument. It showed he jumped at an opportunity without waiting to see how she would like the situation handled.

A lot of what happened was written out directly. You ignored allusion, and didn’t leave the reader to fill in gaps with their own imagination, and the entire encounter was told directly with straight up explanation. It’s horrible to say something so basic but you need to focus on showing not telling. A good way to do that is to go back through it and replace the sound effects with description: not description of the sound, but the description of the effect of what caused the sound, and how that made Justin feel or respond; his pain, worry, anger, something emotive and descriptive would work (unless you want to keep Justin really detached.)

Watch how you run things like "Pain coursed down Justin's spine into the pit of the stomach." I can't picture a connection between my spine and stomach, it just doesn't feel right. Similarly, "punctured like an inflated balloon" the balloon is inflated, not punctured. I can see what you're going for but the comparison of the simile is way too imprecise.

Overall I get the impression you tried to write this from the mind of Justin, and that necessitated simplistic language, and direct presentation of the situation. Unfortunately it just made for a simplistic, and plain bad story. It had me laughing but more at it than with it. If you’re going to get inside the characters head and write his perspective it needs to be established clearly you’re doing this. Instead I just thought it a poor story that left me halfway between thinking “Justin’s a moron,” and “The author is has a simplistic style and take on things.”

Hawklad posted:

Tribal Wisdom
793 words

I sort of enjoyed this but in spite how smart and self-aware of its cliches it is, and mainly because of the quality of your writing. It's perilously close to being too self ware. It is very much a comedy forum post that feels like you're aping other media, and stories and conventions too much for me to really buy into it. And it's a rather trite aping of them for a cheap joke, one worthy of Adam Sandler (or Mel Brooks at his tired, and out-dated worst.) Ultimately it was the sharpness of the writing and how well you tell it all that allowed me enjoy it.

The first half to two thirds was so much of a setup that I felt like there wouldn't ever be a point to the story. The writing is decent at giving you a lot of information and it gave it in the genre's cliched voice, which is good. The problem is the genre is bad in the first place no matter how well you do it. Also the amount of information needed for me to buy into it is too much. This means my reading time and the demands on me was too much. You had to shoehorn in a backstory for what was ultimately a pretty simplistic joke.

The joke is ok: he calls a rescue team in a post apocalyptic world who are happy to save him. I understand a bureaucracy valuing one of their own because they are one of their own and valuing themselves more than actually doing good for people. As well as a dumb guy getting saved after what I presume is his underestimation of the people he's trying to save. But I expect more from satire than the obvious: possibly because outright comedy is asking for a lot from a reader and so fails harder when it doesn't achieve it. If you want to go for obvious comedy then it needs to be inventively told, and while your writing was good the writing wasn't inventive comedically. All the humour were direct and in-your-face and just a bit too blunt for me.

If we're talking about the story then it's emotionally dead despite being well written. If you're going to go for humour you need some pathos. I didn't really care for the "tribes" situation, or the protagonist. In that way the turn to humour didn't pay off because I had no expectation. I was waiting to engage rather than having my engagement surprised. At no point did I worry for anyone, or feel for their plight so to see it's all a bit of a joke has no effect on me. If the whole thing was a vehicle for a twist and a laugh then its vehicle is a low budget sketch show with cheap props, no-thought cinematography and bad acting. It really did feel like you took a basic "screenplay" and added descriptive writing around it, however good that writing is.

As I said, the writing is good and you captured what you set out to do well, which I can only give kudos for. It's what you set out to capture that leaves me empty.

Chili posted:

Week 228 - Unqualified

Dangling - 725 Words

This is a critique of your story, but it's also generalised towards something I've noticed in other stories in Thunderdome. The author's the writing being representative of the protagonist (or a particular trope) to the exclusion of other aspects of storytelling.

The first story I wrote for thunderdome (one of two, so far) was definitely me experimenting. Experimentation I conducted out of arrogance in my storytelling chops. It was about a journalist going to interview a director (writer?) famous for his chaotic lifestyle and disregard for protocol. The writer turned up, and was dropped into a whirlwind of activity where they couldn't figure out what was going. If I recall correctly a dog was being buried and the interviewee was possibly plotting to murder a toddler, I can't really recall. Ultimately it got a DM and I still believe that Thunderdome is a pile of poo poo where no-one gets true art, let alone my art! Also it was hard to follow, hard on the reader and made little sense. The writing was supposed to confuse, with the people and situation difficult to track.* I felt if the writing could emulate my intent then it would work as a story. I think this is a mistake quite a few people are making, at least in my eyes.

I understand you're really trying to get inside the character in this story. I can see that the payoff is that he's analytic and lacking in real life experience. He reliant on book learning and incapable of reaching the best conclusion for a situation rather he gets to one objectively correct solution for a theoretical situation. You did very well in getting that across through the writing's analytic and dry tone, and the portrayal of his actions and thoughts. It's all done with skill. However that doesn't drag me through a story, or send me out the end thinking, "Wow, that was a great read!" Or a sad read, or thoughtful, I hated that rear end in a top hat of a mechanic, or... It feels more like I'm reading a writing exercise attempting a technical take on giving the prose a situational voice appropriate to a character. There's no ups or downs, no changes in the story to change me. No modification of tempo, or language. It's all a bit flat.

Going through this I wasn't taken by the situation. I had no reason to care for the inept griffin tamer. I don't have to care for him, but I do have to have a response in someway. Especially in a short story where everything is valuable and you can't spend time taking me on a writer's detour through flights of experimental fancy and indulgence. You wrote for the payoff of "He's analytic and unprepared." You wrote the "inept" prompt rather than taking the prompt and bringing me through a story based on the prompt. It's a good take on the prompt, but the story doesn't have value for me beyond "Yes, he is bad at what he does by being a book learnin' thick" with the writing representative of a "book learnin' thick."

There are a huge amount of things you can do, but the first is you need to involve the reader, and then call on the reader to have a response. A big problem with this story was again something others have problems with, you're trying to pay people off at the end with a twist or a joke. Stories shouldn't be about punchlines unless you're telling a joke (and even then a lot of humour has changed from that these days,) and it shouldn't be about a grand reveal unless you're writing a mystery. And even then what makes something a good mystery is that each part of the story involves the reader. It could have them worried for the protagonist, doubting another character's motivation, or trying to piece a new clue into the overall puzzle.

To go back to specifics about your story again there was a lot of explanation from the protagonist about his situation, and that goes back to giving him too much voice. Him explaining his situation may very well be how he's thinking, but I don't want someone else's thoughts laid out for me, I have my own thoughts and they range from headwreckingly dumb, to oppressively boring and frankly frightening when they're not incredibly dull. It gets even worse when I share my thoughts with others. I want you to take me on a journey. Your story was someone objectively explaining their situation to themselves, but I'm not interested in someone explaining why they're in a situation, or thinking about what they're going to do next. It doesn't matter how representative of the character's persona the writing is even if it captures it very well, and this is a big TD problem I've seen from the limited amount of stories I've read. I want to see why they're in the situation, what brought them to it, and what will happen once they make a decision about a course of action. If you take it to the next level I want to see some aspect of the human condition explored (or the alien, or dog, or desert prairie condition explored.) You jumped straight to exploring an aspect of humanity without giving me a story or the exciting language it could rest on.

So yes, you did very much capture your characters approach with the story, I just didn't engage with him, or the story very much. This isn't to say this is something you're doing worse than everyone else rather I've written quite a few reviews that should have said this or I've tried to say it. Seeing it another time with your story just caused me to identify my thought better.

*I've done something similar recently, and actually submitted it to journals but I think it has merit should it ever find a home because of the lengths I go to with it. It's about 1,000 words of pure stream of consciousness madness and if anyone ever does publish it I'll be called a genius (or locked up.)

Mar 14, 2012

Entenzahn posted:

But I smiled
794 words

This is a really nice story to tell, and I appreciate you tackled an emotional situation that had an ending that pays out with some hope. I think you could have approached it differently though, and it's entirely based on how you chose to tell the story rather than the writing of it.

The writing was fine, there were a few sentences I thought could be broken up. The narrating of his internal monologue had sentences long enough that I disconnected at times. In a tough situation I can't imagine that level of coherency of thought unless someone is drifting off from reality, being taken away from the immediate situation as they delve inside themselves. In that sense I can see how he's less likely to interrupt the boy, but I wished there was more of the child in the story.

Pretty much the entire story was someone thinking to themselves. They were telling themselves how the boy was unhappy, and how they wouldn't enjoy Christmas. It wasn't a surprise it was about death, so it shouldn't be an issue that I presumed it. Instead I'd have preferred to have seen the child's detachment and frailty. I'd like to have seen the boy being distant from Christmas which is really a holiday for children (young and old,) and how the uncle attempted to bring some festivity to him.

Instead you stayed inside someone's mind which is very hard to do. Most people I know have dealt with a significant death. It may not be a child's parents, but it could be a sudden death, or a traumatic death. To capture someone's thoughts in such a situation is a huge undertaking. Even after years trying to understand the associated thoughts few people can, let alone write these thoughts in a manner that others appreciate, and in this case write a man's thoughts on his responsibility and care for a child. I think you would have done much better describing the actions associated with such a mindset, implying the thoughts that go with it with the occasional dip into the uncles mind. Instead of outlining what the uncle was thinking give us the situation and let us imagine what he's going through. Have confidence in your writing, that you can give the reader a tough situation and the reader will fill in the details of the struggle.

Well done for taking on such a big topic. It's just I would have (or at least I hope I would have) tackled it differently. You deserve credit for approaching it.

Benny Profane posted:

The Entertainment
799 words

The best bit about this was that it was about wanking and his name was Johnson. Ha ha ha.

I understand he's a stuffy academic, and I understand most author's inclination to have esteemed professorial dildos speak with the wordiliture of suitably renowned hoity toitedness. But it comes across as trite, and a lazy shortcut. Even when you're playing it off against his "balls," comments. I guess that is what this entire piece is though, dick jokes and on that level it works.

As far as wanking stories go, it is one of the better ones I've read. I don't understand how they're glued to the VR thingies after finding the wank setting, but they leave them to go play cards? Is that a recuperation/stamina/chafing thing?

Again, this falls under a final joke based story, but I appreciated it more because things happen. They go to different rooms, they have actual conversations that tell you things rather than advancing you towards the punchline (which was a nice callback to the beginning.) This type of humour is a pleasant read, even though it's not inventive, or playing with any ideas.

In one sense it achieves by being well written and actually telling a story in an appropriate manner. For me I wonder about the point of it. It's not a story that asks questions, evokes, or asks me to think about something which is what I'd look for in good short fiction. Although for a 3am read after drinking far too much coffee and writing far too many words about other stories it's a nice bit of refreshment.

I would like to have seen a bit of tension in there. Even him fretting about the inspection a bit more, or worry about the cost of failure. It doesn't need to be a super serious worry, just enough for me to care (or laugh at him) if/when it all goes wrong.

Finally, good job on the dick allusions, it must have been fun putting them in there.

Baleful Osmium Sea posted:

wordcount: 797

Turning Lock

I think I have this figured out. She's crap at her job, or at least she's good but doesn't have the ability to do what she wants to do, so fucks up a lot. She keeps trying though, despite getting in poo poo. Then she does something (I'm not sure what,) and makes a video for her school application that her supervisor agrees to to because he's sick of her loving about with his machines?

I think that's what happened because the actual progression of the story is clunky. One thing leads to another semantically, but I have to work really hard to figure out how each story relevant sentence relates to the previous one. It could be because you've brought in sci-fi, and sci-fi I'm not familiar with that it's so unclear for what to me is a simple story with a simple sc- fi'ish idea: exo-skeletons/suits that can be programmed to move without people in them, but they sometimes do have people in them. Was she moving them with people in them, because there were legs being ripped off but no blood or screaming.

I think you've told a story that could work, but you're relying on strange/alien/advanced technology to make it interesting. The story needs to ride more on what is happening than military/industrial shouting and jargon, and exoskeletons to make it interesting. And that's even more the case when the sci-fi elements only serve to confuse what's happening.

The characters seem a bit two dimensional. I didn't see any depth to them, or motivation or emotion. It was a bit flat in that sense like people reading cue cards. I did enjoy the interaction between Linda and Jackie, they might not have been plumbing the depths of emotional relationships in their dialogue, but it was a relatively pleasant if simplistic example of people caring for each other.

Finally you switch between plain language and wordiness without consideration for where you're using the words among the other words. They're the right words sure, they mean what you intend them to mean, but they seemed out of place in their context.

Erogenous Beef posted:

A Change of Mind (800w)

The beginning of this was nicer than the end, and the middle nicer than the beginning. There was also a nice bit of hubris that saw them all fall for not giving the private his well deserved new mop.

I nearly turned off with sci-fi language. Seeing it straight away makes me turn off, thankfully you fell into easily understood terms after the beginning of the story. It was minimal use and just enough to run the story on, so it worked out for me.

The funnies carried it, which is what you were going for. But the end was a let down. I expected a horrific experience, with humour, but the wordcount didn't allow you to go into detail so I was hoping Mr. Mop's redemption would keep me happy. Him destroying his great glorious mop was a disappointment. If he became a legend, a lowly private mopping up those who wage war and get blood everywhere it would be nice. If hubris brings people low, then the lowliest should rise.

The feeling like part of his arm was a let down as well. Make him mecha-mop-man. Turn him into the great mop of vengeance. Do something for him, because in the end he didn't get his new mop and that's not fair. You teased me, and just like the crew are mad or dead, I'm disappointed.

Ultimately you did a lot for an overt attempt at funny story, but it didn't say much about anything. That means authors rarely win awards or get big literary kudos for funniness because it seems base and simplistic however hard it is, and however talented you need to be to achieve it. So I'll give you kudos. It did make me smile, and I believe there was one proper laugh out loud from me. It's a well written contained story, but as I've said humour is generally held to a high standard, and ending on a bum note (at least for me) hurts it.

Mar 14, 2012

flerp posted:

800 words

In some mythologies, the whole world is on the back of a turtle which is pretty cool

I really like this and so far, having critiqued everything in order I hope you win. And that's despite the problems with your story, and in some ways because you did what others have tried to do but managed to balance it with nice craft.

First off, there's not much story, which is bad. But you pull off this internal questioning and thought because you set Johnny in the physical place he's in well, and you place him in a mental state very well. There's a nice description of what's around him, the description of a rather tame apocalypse is evocative. The fact he's talking to something and thinking about how it won't respond, and you describe its actions means there's more to the story than just him. Both of the apocalypse's effect and the turtle set a lone character in the situation that is more than just his thinking.

Your writing also has tone to it. It's meandering, and in some ways has the resignation that I see in Johnny. It's all too late for him, he's made his choice and he accepts it: doubts and all. That's reflected in the lack of urgency in the word choice and pacing. I also felt the writing was a little stupefied, in some ways it represents his realisation that he's doomed. I did say that writing in the style of a character is mostly bad, but that's negated by the world having a feeling to it beyond the one character's thoughts and impressions. You've given the world some life in me, the reader, beyond what Johnny sees in it.

It does seem unedited, and there's quite a few mistakes. I praised that it meanders, but the repeated "ands" go a bit too heavy in that direction. There's other editing mistakes in there as well, which isn't good for what I think is a pretty great piece of writing. I don't know if this is a separate issue, the same part of the editing/lazy proofing problem, or I hope it's not a dialect thing because there were some turns of phrase that didn't read very well for me, "then drove his car down the side of Half Moon Bay, looking out over the cliffs and watching the waves lap over the sand." I can understand it, but it seems like rushed writing that you didn't correct rather than spelling mistakes, or repeating "ands." And that's the big problem with this, it's not tight enough in the writing despite being quite evocative.

I think it's the best attempt I've read so far, even if it did miss the prompt a little for me. I'm not too sure I'd call someone inept at surviving an apocalypse: you can have a zombie escape plan but really, when it happens you're gonna poo your pants. I'd really like to have seen you put more effort into. It's a good story but it seems rushed. Rushing it might have paid off in letting you be more free with it, but other people worked to tighten up what they wanted to write, your writing worked in spite of the lack of tightness but it would work better with a tightness.

Finally, I don’t know if you’re trying to tie the title into some grand commentary, but it doesn’t add to the story for me.

Sitting Here posted:

One-Sided Conversation
800 words

I really enjoyed this. It had me going by the end of the assault/murder/theft scene. Her unbridled desire to complete the cipher and what she'd do for it made me want to see what she'd get from it for risking(?) killing a man for a piece of it. I do think being really inept at not being a criminal is pushing the prompt. Or being really inept at handling mental illness. Or that not knowing you're a synaesthesic kleptomaniac is a sign of being really bad at life.

I started out wanting to know the point of the cipher, or if we were in a fantasy world where certain people have magical powers, but not knowing these things, or at least not knowing the surrounding setting of this is nice. It's really a piece of writing that doesn't set out to explore a world, or idea, instead it presents a feeling. Finishing it I was satisfied with simply having experienced it, even without it asking something from me. It was an experience, and one I enjoyed.

With that in mind I do think you can address your language choice. You used big, precise words and they didn't seem forced in to show off a vocabulary. When you said "germinate" I doubted, but to tie that straight into the cipher taking root I appreciated it. It's a simple trick of language that added depth, without it ever being relevant to the story. However I would use a change in your language style to address the flow of the piece. Your choice of words could address the change of mindset in the protagonist. At the beginning she's calm, or reasonably so. If the word choice could be more relaxed at that point, with a change towards a different style rather than just using the descriptive words best suited to the immediate situation it would be better. I think by changing the complexity of your language, subtly it could indicate a change of thought or feeling in the character. A writerly analogy would be how a writer emulates the style of a really good story they've read (I do this in pretty much every critique,) if someone is hanging around with people they want to impress they might use grandiose language if they're insecure, if they're around someone they've fallen for the might use romantic or poetic turns of phrase. I think it would really help add an extra dimension to this because at the moment the largess of the language is constant throughout and it detracts from the change in the character.

The choice of first person present tense really worked as well. It's something I'll definitely try to add to my own writing (and I have a story in mind.)

Overall, It was a really good, but for me it feels so far from and does so little to address the prompt I can't give it a top marks out of ten.


And that ends my stayed-up-all-night-writing-while-waiting-for-the-results-only-to-be-disqualified-for-a-small-bit-of-breaking-the-rules crit marathon. I'll probably do the rest after I get some sleep. (I really stayed up because I lost track of time and was pounding coffee at 1am so sleep wouldn't have happened anyway until about 5am, but the writing was enjoyable-ish.)

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe

Chairchucker posted:


Indeed. Well done judges!

And thank you mrenda, for your very thoughtful crit!

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart

:siren: Thunderdome Week CCXXIX: The War, on Christmas :siren:

On the off chance you've not been outside in the past 20ish days or so, it may have escaped your notice that we're currently sitting just on the wrong side of Solstice, so there's insipid poo poo hung up in department stores and the same twenty canned songs are on public PAs. Also the days are short and cold (or long and hot, if you're Antipodean), which is great because now you have an excuse to be a lump, sitting on the sofa drinking peanut-butter hot cocoa and making GBS threads bad words.

This week, you're going be that distant cousin who gives terrible gifts, like ugly socks or vegan cookies. Write us a story. The story is centered (somehow) around a holiday that occurs roughly at this time of year. (If you have to ask if your holiday is permissible, the answer is "no".) The holiday may be real or fictitious. Don't tell me, I don't care.

Your story also must be affected by a war. The war can be in the story's past, present or future, but it must be a major drat part of the story. Whether it roars full-throated defiance at the holiday spirit or lurks in the shadows like the Krampus, waiting to devour the young -- that's up to you. What's that? You want to try for a "metaphorical" war? Best of luck pal, but you'll be walking on thin ice.

Declare you're going home for the holidays by Friday, 23 Dec @ 23:59 UTC-8.
Deliver your terrible gifts by Sunday, 25 Dec @ 23:59 UTC-8

Extensions will not be given just because it's loving Christmas. If you know you're going to be busy with family, post early.

Wordcount: 1000 words base. There will be word bounties.

Battle-Scarred Christmas Spirits
Erogenous Beef is General E. Scrooge
Flesnolk is the Grinch
Kaishai is the Krampus

On The Naughty List
Chili (bounty 1: +100 words, bounty 2: +50 words)
Flerp (bounty 1: +100 words, bounty 2: +50 words)
Sebmojo :toxx: (bounty 1: +100 words, bounty 2: +50 words)
Thranguy (bounty 1: +100 words, bounty 2: +100 words)
BeefSupreme (bounty 1: + 100 words) (flashrule: A sausage is an important plot element.)
SkaAndScreenplays :toxx:
Boaz-Joachim (bounty 1: +100 words)
Ceighk :toxx: (flashrule: Involve a "hero" with a foul motive. "Hero" does not necessarily imply "protagonist"; bounty 1: +100 words, bounty 2: +100 words)
Baleful Osmium Sea
The Unholy Ghost
a new study bible!
Benny Profane
Mrenda (bounty 1: +100 words, bounty 2: +50 words)
Lead out in cuffs
ThirdEmperor :toxx: (flashrule: In your war, an emperor has died. This must have some impact on your characters.)

Erogenous Beef fucked around with this message at 01:54 on Dec 25, 2016

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart

:siren: First Word Bounty :siren:

You may increase your personal wordcount by 100 words if, prior to the close of sign-ups, you offer a full, detailed critique of any story from the previous two weeks of Thunderdome. This bounty may only be claimed once per person. Warranty valid only where permitted by law; void where prohibited.

Erogenous Beef fucked around with this message at 14:56 on Dec 19, 2016

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe

I am in, and I will be capitalizing on that bounty.

I will kill the Christmas spirit wit my story. Probably not purposefully.

Feb 25, 2014



Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

In, toxx

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!


Feb 25, 2014


as a thank you for all the crits, here's a crit for mrenda


The Jester's Sickness

Were people entitled to a job, to earn a living, have a roof over their head and have money to buy Jenny another baby loving shower present? this feels like an intro to bioshock except more dumb and less engaging. i dont particularly enjoy questions in writing (i actually hate them) and i hate them at the beginning of stories because they're just cheesy and stupid. i dont like this first sentence for a reason im trying to pinpoint -- i think that its lacking in grounding. its a little too generic that i dont think it sets up the story well enough for me to get engaged. Jenny had offered to hire her noooooooo vague pronouns. who is this her? for the eldest’s birthday, at half the rate on her website. “For a friend,” was the plea. Marie is this the "her" from the earlier sentence? was tempted to take it.

She adjusted her red does this mean anything? i just realized this meant she was a clown but idk my first thoughts are that its cold outside i didnt think it was a clown. nose. A degree in the performing arts, two off-Broadway performances (Five Stars in the New York Times), and now she was adjusting her giant clown honker in her clapped out Toyota. She could barely manage to get bookings and all this to buy a charm bracelet for Jenny rich-bitch Murray’s who? oh is that her last name? why last name now? new poo poo machine i dont know what that means. oh wait its a baby okay im dum.

ok so theres a clown who takes a job to buy a thing for jenny (who the clown doesnt even like). ok i think i got that much.

They who? were standing at the door.

“You’re late,” the mother said.

“We said three,” the father said.

“Four.” Marie knew it was four.

“We texted this morning, we told you this. Alton gets tired. We told you the time could change. You said you’d worked with children like mine before.” so, i think it's better if you're doing dialogue to keep the linebreaks consistent, aka double space between each line of dialogue.

A sick nine year old, and she’d hosed up the time. Marie could feel the heat beneath her cheap makeup. This was her fourth gig in eight months. Word of mouth hadn’t worked. She had to take the job. She knew she could fake it for an hour. But there were no phones allowed at the reading. It had a chance of going into production, even touring. It would pay her well while this clown gig would buy spoiled Jenny Murray a 13 carat gold bracelet for the newest vomit-monster she was only having for eventual child support. i think most of these details could be omitted, mostly because i think u established well enough that this is a lovely thing she has to do and that this is just hammering home, yes she hates this and yes this really really sucks. i mean, i guess the question is, if this character hates Jenny so much why is she doing this thing she so obviously hates for Jenny? it doesnt rly make sense and we dont really see the relationship between marie and jenny to justify this. are they sisters, friends, etc.? not sure.

“Alton is nine today?”
“He’s mature. It’s aged him.”
“How many children came?”
“Just one. He hasn’t spent much time in school to make friends.,Hhis father said if a tag is being used, the sentence in the dialogue ends in a comma and the tag is not capitalized. you did this correctly earlier so idk if u dont know this or not but better safe than sorry.. “Sally, his little cousin.”

He put his arm around the mother who turned away. Sandra wait who? god there are so many names in this story knew the dampness cloying beneath her layered makeup didn’t compare to what was welling in the father’s eyes.

“Go in, please. And be careful.”

Marie smiled. “It’s ok.”

The parents stepped aside. Passing the doorway a chlorine smell, sterility she associated with the elderly burned at her nose. She breathed deeply, clamped her jaw tight and turned towards the room that held the sick, young boy. Nodding her head side to side she passed a wave down her neck, through her torso and out to her limbs to loosen her body. She burst through the door, arched her neck with her head high and screamed like a demented penguin ehhhhh i dont like this simile, feels really tonally off and not in the right tonally off that youre trying to go for, just, too much, “TICKLE ATTACK!”

His skin was a deep, rich yellow, and one of the oxygen tanks had tubes hooked under his nose. His eyes drooped and his head nodded.

“Tickle Sally.” He pointed with a half raised arm and curled fist. Sally looked scared.

“Clown tickle!” Marie grabbed her stomach, collapsed to the ground writhing and struggling against herself. “No arm! NO TICKLES!” Marie thrashed. “You’re my own arm!” i dont really get what any of this means, like i cant picture this, she's tickling herself???

Sally screamed.

Parents came running. what??? why?

Marie scrambled to her feet and started doing star jumps ???? idk what star jumps r tbh. The parents were all over their child.

What the gently caress was she doing here?

“She was sick,” Sally said. i dont get this dialogue -- is the clown sick so shes getting alton sick but like... im not a immune system expert but i dont think u get sick from being near a sick person for like 5 seconds even if u have a poo poo immune system.

Marie slumped as one last star jump drained from her. The parents were crowding Alton as he halfheartedly tried to fight them off. He was wheezing.

“I’m sorry...” Marie said.

“What’s wrong, Alton?” The mother asked.

“Did you fit?” The father asked. what does this mean? did you fit? what????

“It was me. I think Sally thought--” Marie said. no please explain to me what she thought because i have literally no clue whats going on.

“He’s tired.” The father adjusted the oxygen tap on the tank.

Marie stepped back towards the door and something solid cracked beneath her foot. Alton shouted out and pushed at his mother.

“My Medea!”

“Oh my god, I didn’t mean to.” Marie fell to her knees and picked up the Lego figure she had just destroyed. A chariot with dragons, and a woman were snapped in half. The chariot a dedicated model with thin, delicate parts this is an incomplete sentence and doesnt work stylistically imho. “I’m sorry, Alton.” She said it without even looking at him. Why did she say she could do this? She was a poo poo clown, never-mind performing for a death’s-door child. this made me realize that all this Jenny stuff does not come into play anymore.

“I wanted to read to Sally, Mom! Not a crappy clown.” He was really fighting now. His mother ignored him and walked to her handbag draped over the couch under a framed Wicked poster.

“We’ll write you a cheque." There was no urgency as she searched through her purse.

There were more posters; The Crucible and A Streetcar, Hamlet in London hung next to the Phantom poster.

“It’s not your fault, we shouldn’t have expected you to--”

The bookshelves were lined with plays; Euripedes, Beckett, Pinter. The child struggled against his father to get to his destroyed Lego theatre set.

“But, soft!” Marie took off her red nose as she rose from the child’s broken toy. “What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun."

The young, sick boy’s eyes rested as he sat back into his chair. "Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon." man that some deus ex machina poo poo

Marie’s chest filled as she saw his breathing calm.

you know, the beginnin was really rough and the rest of this story is pretty rough but i liked the central idea of a lovely clown having to try and be a clown for a dying kid. i thought that could've been interesting, but you focused too much on Marie being like i hate loving everything when the really interesting thing (to me) is a dying kid who's really into plays. you have some nice details and actions that say a lot in a little -- the parents getting the clown for the kid gives a lot of info w/o u having to exposit. it's just, all the time you expend on the intro, on marie being like man i hate loving everything and gently caress jenny and gently caress all of this doesnt really come back to a meaningful conclusion.

i just, really, dont like the ending. its really rushed. all the details come in the last 10% -- the posters and the books are only noticed near the end and are nowhere else in the story. it makes me feel like the ending was shoehorned in, and trying to find some kind of resolution to this story. which is difficult, because like, it's a rough situation for everyone, but the way everything just kinda works out at the end leaves me dissatisfied. it's not that i hate endings that are happy or positive, but it's that it feels unearned. your character doesnt really do much to warrant this kind of ending -- she kind of is just a lovely clown that tickles herself and then notices some posters and then shes like ok ill just quote some shakespeare now. idk i just wished you hadnt focused on how lovely marie feels and focus more on the kid and developing the relationship between marie and the kid since that seemed a hell of lot more engaging then "man i loving hate jenny."

Mar 14, 2012

crabrock posted:

:siren: Hawklad vs. Mrenda Brawl

The Source
1,447 Words

The waters began turning foul two centuries ago. This river was one of the few to run clean again years after nature cursed the planet. The illnesses began appearing thirty years later: at least the cases the investigators cared to identify. They refused to acknowledge the disappearances Jen had found: disappearances she knew were caused by the infection before medicine was aware of the disease. Bodies washed up scarred and broken, destroyed and cursed, infected by the same process that turned the rivers.

Those old autopsies held the details; faces torn apart, broken fingernails and bloodied fingers; more than damage from river streams hurling bodies over rocks. The autopsy reports proved it. The scarring was the same. They'd ripped at themselves with feverish hallucinations before wading into water for relief from the heat that overtook them. All the cases could be traced to the fresh water. Once she’d found signs of infection in the latest cases' lungs she knew she could find the algae at this river.

“Pick it up!” If she managed to dig ticks from her face and keep walking they could move faster. She knew why they hesitated. The local’s warnings were dire: myths of journeying to the new water’s source heralding tragedy. Fearful legends of simple people.

“Hurry! You signed up for this. Your honour rides on this!” The locals still traded on notions of duty and honour. She knew both well. Duty to methods, and investigation. Honour in progression. A future in discovery.

This river’s source held the key to what turned the earth’s freshwater foul and what would make it good again. She could protect what was left of life’s presence on the planet. Professor O’Malley’s research signposted it all: she would prove both their legacies.

“Professor!” Carol called out.
“Are they still trying to stall?” Jen asked.
“They’ve been showing me rashes, and bites.”
“They should wash their clothing.”
“They’re afraid of the water,” Carol said. “They claim it causes the rash.”
Jen lifted up the sleeve of her shirt. “Show them this! Show them your arms, and your legs. We’re rash free because we wash our clothes. Tell them with a firm voice! If you can manage.” It caused the fever, not a rash, but this river was newly fresh. It had only two infections per million people. No-one cared to look until the infection rate was higher: by then the water was already cursed to sour again.
“It’s not about the locals.” Carol said. “The storm’s turned towards us.”
“How bad?”
“Oceanic. Nine hours from here and it’ll take three days to pass.”
“If there’s enough rain to rest on the topsoil we could be waiting two weeks for any bloom to return.”
“All three models are predicting it.” It was encouraging that Carol looked upset at the delay.
“We’ll move to the next clearing and take preliminary samples.”
“That clearing is six hours away. It’s not worth--”
“I’m sure you can explain to me why getting samples at that clearing is important.” Jen hadn’t planned on stopping there, but this would get Carol practised on the equipment one more time before it mattered.
“The clearing’s beneath the ridge,” Carol said.
“The samples beneath the step are a baseline for the river’s source.” Questioning her would push Carol to be the researcher Jen knew she could be. It’s what O’Malley did for her; test her, force her to consider.
“Why a baseline? Jen asked.
“The river's spring is in shadow and the closer the baseline to the springs the better--”
“And oceanic storms are problematic because?”
“The soil needs to--”
“Because the fate of billions rests on our work. Which means I need uncontaminated samples.” Did O’Malley have difficulty hiding his smile when he did this to her? And used she get her answers as wrong as Carol?
“We push on.”
“Yes, Professor.”
“And fetch me the repellent.”

Jen knew she was harsh, she had to be. There would be outrage at continuing to the clearing with the storm so close. Jen had the responsibility to lead and that meant it was her duty to encourage. Carol would lead one day but not if she was nursed. She had to prioritise. Carol had to want to fight for her work.


“Stop giving them the bloody bug spray,” Jen said. “They’ve built an immunity to the common jungle infections. We haven’t.“
“It doesn’t seem right. They’re being bitten all over.”
“They can put up with the bites. They wouldn’t have any repellent at home. We’re not civilising anyone, they’re being paid well and they sacrifice as part of this team.”
“Are you sure you should go alone?” Carol asked. Jen would have to force those concerns out of Carol if she was ever to lead.
“There’s an eight hour break in the storm. I can make it to the river in less than three.”
“What if the storm blows up before--”
“When you’re in my position you’ll realise time to think is rare.” Jen said. “And we’ve spent almost two days hunkered down. I need to move. It’s claustrophobic here.”


Jen inhaled deeply.

To have found it with such ease! She knew it was luck, but it was her planning, her driving them that ensured they had that luck. Now it was time to remember him and remember what he gave her: what she would give the world.

Jen took another drag. Three years since her last field trip and her last smoke, thirty years since her advisor sat down with her by a river in an unexplored forest just like this one and rolled her that big, celebratory joint. She laughed at how surprised she was; how straight laced she was then, how naive.

Placing the roach on the flattest ridge of the outcrop Jen struggled out of her wet shirt. She was older now than he was then, but she’d found her proof and felt so close to the young, excited postgrad she used to be.

He’d been strict. He made her angry like no-one else. But most of all he made her determined. It was his research that gave her this. If it wasn’t for his work on the cavern algae she would never have made the connection. If he hadn’t pushed her to her limits, driving her right to the point of quitting she would never have solved the whole loving planet’s freshwater problem!

Fumbling with the buttons on her khakis Jen slid off her pants and stepped into water. It was as oppressively hot and humid as that day with O’Malley: a nice synchronicity to life. The past rippling out and flowing just like water. Jen waded as far out as she dared.

What an honour! To be the senior researcher when Professor O’Malley found the freshwater algae contaminating the water. And now she’d identified samples of the opposite markers near a new freshwater river. She’d done it! Proof that nature balanced against itself, and she could process her samples to turn water clean again. She’d found the earth's self-created, natural solution. Jen splashed herself to cool.

He’d pushed her, and now she would prove her greatness. Eight failed expeditions and each time she promised herself a smoke and an hour in its river if her research came right. Eight expeditions where she’d been denied the memory of that naked afternoon beneath the water. All those rumours of what they did. Few believed they played like children high on his life’s work and her future: high on scientific discovery.

She’d take one hour in the water to remember him, then she’d tell Carol. She pushed Carol like he pushed her. Carol would prove her legacy like she did his.

Jen dived beneath the cool stream. The pound of stress she’d felt since the storm slowed their progress washed away with the fresh river water she had secured for the world.


Carol nodded. “It’s her.”
“Do you need some time?” The attendant asked.
“We weren’t close.” She was a complete bitch.
“Her family will be glad. Some never turn up.”
“She has no family. She was focused on glory.” Carol leaned in to look at her former professor’s face. Even in death she looked pissed off at her.
“The fever?” Carol asked.
“Self-inflicted wounds.” He pointed. “But not as bad as I’ve seen. She probably drowned before the fever reached its height.”
“The river was full, it must have washed her away before the worst of it.”
“That’s something. The hallucinations are horrific.” Carol guessed she had seen more infection cases than the mortuary attendant.
“Is there anything else you need? My students are waiting.” Carol checked her watch. “The world won’t save itself.”

Sep 14, 2007

Like most things, I am nothing

In, and also I'll give someone a line crit for my bounty if someone claims it by tomorrow

May 3, 2003

College Slice

:siren: Hawklad vs. Mrenda Brawl :siren:

I tried to bring my A-game since you compared my last story to an Adam Sandler movie.

Heads Will Roll
1492 words

Ever since Frank saw the movie Apocalypto he's been obsessed with Mayans. Which is fine — Lord knows he needs a hobby. But it never really mattered to me until this moment.

Right now every muscle in my body is screaming at me to stop climbing. These drat rock steps are steep and uneven. Ragged. The hot Mexican sun beats down on every exposed patch of skin. Christ, I put on a prescription lotion this morning and the label said to avoid direct sunlight. My skin is on fire, probably precancerous, and I'm sure the sweat is doing a serious number on my makeup. I look like a mess. And feel like one too. This whole endeavor is ridiculous. For God's sake, I'm in my sixties.

And we aren't even a third of the way up the temple. I regret ever renting that damned movie.


Our guide is on drugs. I saw him, right when we got out of the van, slip behind a tree and produce a puff of blue smoke that wafted into the jungle. A dope fiend. That's who is leading this expedition. And if Frank wasn't so god-damned excited about it I would have called it right there. But no, this is important to him and all those years of obsessing over the Mayans led us here. So I need to let him have his moment.

He pauses, one knobby boulder above me.

"Can you believe this Kate? I'm—we're climbing an unexplored temple. I mean, this is a chance of a lifetime." His face is red, puffy, sweat-streaked. It reminds me of Percy after last season's Pickleball banquet. A thrill passes through me, then shame. I clear my throat.

"Jesus, Frank. Are you going to make it?" I ask. "I can't have you dropping dead right here. Not while we still owe on the lake house." I'm joking, of course.

"I'm fine," he wheezes. "Look, we're almost there."

We aren't. The guide is, he's up at the top waving down at us, ridiculous dreadlocks and flowered shirt and stupid grin and what kind of name is River anyways? Not even a real Mexican. Probably from California or Vermont or somewhere. We certainly don't see dreadlocks back home in Cheboygan.

I put one foot in front of the other and try not to think about the heat and what I must look like. It's a small favor that Frank and I are the only ones that signed up for this excursion. Another strike against it, in retrospect. I wanted to do the city center shopping trip, but when Frank saw the tattered flier scotch-taped to the activity board he just had to do this one. Authentic Mayan Experience, it read. Hidden temple, he breathed, eyes wide like a boy on Christmas morning. I considered staying behind on the ship. I could sit by the pool and have that European waiter bring me cosmos and rum punches and when it got too hot I could slip into the air-conditioned cabin, strip down to underwear and nap the afternoon away under cool sheets until Frank returned. I considered it, I really did. I'd kill for those crisp white sheets right now.

Instead my shirt is stuck to my back like it's glued on and my underwear is all bound up and I swear the top isn't getting any closer. The bottle of water I brought from the ship is nearly empty and there's no way I'm drinking the water our guide offered, he probably filled it from a tap. So we lurch upward, Frank and I, as the sun blasts our backs and a vicious headache digs into the base of my skull.

The step are steeper now. I look up, and the temple summit is right there, and our guide — River — with his stupid drugged-out smile is snapping my picture with his phone. I twist an ankle and fall forward, hand scraping the rough stone. My pinkie finger bends painfully, but Frank doesn't notice because he's at the top now, with River, both of them gazing out at the jungle with their dumb childish grins. I should just turn around and climb back down, then they'll be sorry. And I almost do.

But I'm one step from the summit. Frank grabs my hand, pulls me up, and gives it a squeeze. I flinch as my injured pinkie flares painfully, and pull away.

Frank seems not to notice. He's talking to the guide. rear end in a top hat.

"How did you ever find this temple? It's not in any of guidebooks," he asks.

River flips a dirty tentacle of matted hair from his face. "I used to trek down here a lot," he says. "Met some locals who took me out here in 2012, when the world was supposed to end. Remember that?"

"Oh sure," Frank says. "Of course all the real Mayan scholars knew the end of the thirteenth b'ak'tun was more of a spiritual transition, not armageddon. As I'm sure you know. Are you familiar with the works of Schele and Friedel?"

"Um, right. Yeah it was pretty crazy that night, man. Intense." I wonder how many drugs he's on. His voice is thick and slurred. His hands shake.

Frank inspects a stone carving on the outside of the squat temple building at the summit. "Is this is a representation of Ix Ek' Naah, the Snake Queen?," he asks. "Look at the imagery. Fascinating."

River isn't paying any attention. "I dunno. You two should check this out though. Authentic Mayan Experience time." He motions for us to enter the temple.

Frank ducks inside. I sigh. At least it'll be out of the sun. Get this over with and then hustle back to the ship, we may even make it back in time for the Captain's cocktail hour. I give River a sour look as I follow Frank inside.

The small room is filthy. Empty beer cans are strewn about, graffiti smears the walls, and what looks like clumps of toilet paper are matted in the corner.

But what I see next nearly stops my heart.

A man emerges from the shadows. He's wearing an elaborate headdress made of jade with long feathers that shoot up and then trail down his back. His body is smeared with blue paint, and red battle lines are drawn on his tanned face. A large, curved blade hangs from a cloth belt at his waist.

He holds his arms up and chants something loud in Mexican. River giggles from behind me. That breaks the spell and I'm instantly furious. This is so ridiculous. I turn to Frank to tell him that we're leaving. His face is a mix of shock and disappointment, like a child who's just had his toy taken away. I almost feel sorry for him.

But then I'm shoved right between my shoulder blades and I pitch forward, right at the Mayan warrior, who catches me and spins me around. And now River has a knife in his hand, and he's cackling, waving it towards Frank.

"Authentic Mayan Experience," he shrieks, eyes wild, fueled by adrenaline and who knows what other drugs.

"Blood for the Blood God!" my captor shouts in my ear.

Frank puts his hands up and stumbles backwards, tripping over a low altar, and falls to the floor. His head connects with stone and I hear a thick sound, like a wet towel hitting the floor.

My captor has my arms pinned, but I'm not helpless. Six months of women's self defense classes at the rec center have prepared me. I snap my head back and make solid contact with the bridge of his nose. His hands release. I twist around and connect my knee hard to his groin. The Mayan warrior makes a wheezing sound and doubles over in pain. And I'm not thinking, just reacting as I grab the blade from his belt. I spin back towards River, but he's gone, fled, and it's just me and this fake warrior who's rising up now, and Frank, my sweet Frank, lying in an expanding red liquid pool, my sweet dead Frank, and now my vision is blood too, and I shove the blade into the chest of this bullshit warrior. I'm white hot rage, and this man isn't large at all, small like the other locals, so easy to drag out of the temple and into the blazing hot sun at the top of the steps.

His face is smeared with blood and blue paint. His brown eyes stare at me, pleading. I see River stumbling and tumbling away down the temple steps below.

My vision clears. "Blood for the Blood God," I whisper in his ear. The sun chooses that moment to move behind a cloud and the feathers in his headdress ruffle as a cool breeze sweeps the summit.

Cool like air conditioning. Cool like crisp, clean sheets.

The Snake Queen watches silently.

I bring the blade down.

Dec 11, 2013

by Pragmatica

:toxx: cause I'm prone to failure

Mar 14, 2012

Farchanter posted:

We've All Been There
Word count: 689

A lot of this goes back to my generalised commentary about ineptitude meaning more to me than farce. The problem I found with this was the level of ineptitude necessary to bring about the farce. This was a guy who'd been to some technical college, he'd been placed on a magnificent ship and he's so incapable he doesn't know which buttons to press? You set him up as a complete moron that can't even read numbers, so how did he graduate? I'm sure there's plenty of people in good positions who are incapable, but they've been promoted into, become outdated for the situation, or they've benefited from some form of nepotism.

The accessibility of the buttons was another problem. Why would the area he was in have access to a button that could shut down the whole ship? If that is available to anyone it's hidden behind failsafes, either human failsafes needing a certain rank to initiate the process or two people to verify the operation. It wasn't funny enough or outlandish enough for the stupidity of the character.

Some of the language didn't work for me, hovering like a "majestic eagle," made me think of something ready to swoop, at war readiness or preparing for assault, not a ship that has a moron handling things. The ship being "dead," made me think the worst had already happened, not that they had time to rescue the situation. A reference to emergency power along with the countdown clock would have helped.

The dude has definitely hosed up, and the fate of the ship rests on his ability to rescue the situation, and you wrote the idiot quite well. You captured his stupidity well, but the setting didn't seem right. If everyone knows he's incapable of even calling the right department on the communications system why are they entrusting the entire ship to him? He should really be sent to his room with no dinner, and given how well you've written his getting everything wrong I can easily imagine you writing him messing up cutlery usage.

It definitely did go wrong for him, but so wrong it stretched all thoughts of what's believable. A comedy of errors for me is predicated on things going wrong for someone trying to make things right, and then seeing how his thinking is flawed, but understandably flawed, rather than this where we're just looking at an idiot who's in a position rather unbelievably.

Thranguy posted:


797 words

The first time I read this I really didn't enjoy it. I thought it was far too plain, and the allusions you were making to torment of the angel and eventually the cook didn't carry weight enough to add any sense of doom, or punishment. The cook will make a mistake? So he will be punished? Yet, I didn't feel like there was any punishment coming because I wasn't engaged with what would be deserving of punishment. The language was dull and dry in an attempt to carry weight. The angel was passing through it all taking no notice of his confinement, having no reaction so I couldn't feel for any eventuality that could come to pass, inevitable or not.

Then you got the HM, so I decided to reread it to see what I had missed and I tried to take more from it. Overall my issue is what seems like a problem that faces a lot inauspicious, unestablished authors: someone presuming less intent from the author because no-one has held you up as worthy of literary criticism. I definitely feel it with my own writing, that people don't take the time with my writing or my intent because no-one has said it's worth that time. There are definitely published authors who struggle with writing a basic story, so to look at someone's work with thoughts of allusions to the nature of man, and humanity's relationship with nature and free will is just not typical, at least not for me. It needs to be signposted that the author has that intent, or I'll look at it as a crappy story about eating an angel, and not a bigger commentary.

All that being said, if I look at the idea of the throne being empty as a commentary on the death of god, of a vacuum of morality it does show me how an angel could be captured in the first place. What I didn't appreciate was the angel biding his time, waiting for the cook to make a mistake. There's no sense of the passage of time as he waits, just descriptions of what has happened. I think you'd need to show the angel's peace with the situation more overtly, rather than what I read which was resignation at the situation. I was expecting a fight from him, in whatever form. That fight is presented in his knowledge that the cook will make a mistake, and he's just waiting for that retribution, but I needed that information earlier in the story. It seems like the angel's foreknowledge is the point rather than a godless universe and what that entails (i.e. what you allude to, and how I would interpret a world where angels are felled and eaten)

If I had that earlier I think I might be more inclined to worry about the arrogance of the cook, and Zargas's arrogance in looking for power. If the throne is empty it means someone has done the unthinkable and killed God. That shouldn't happen, and even Zargas doesn't seem to believe it because then his fight is pointless. There is no god, there is no power to take, he already has anything that can be achieved. The world is now without purpose, or there is freedom for someone to establish purpose.

I feel like it's very loose on the prompt as well. I don't see ineptitude in not knowing how to carve an angel, or in eventually being cursed for it. That's part of humanity, and in many ways what the whole of the bible is about, man's ability to choose and fall or turn from something, or to rise to it. If the cook is inept we don't see this choice, apart from the money aspect which seems a little petty for something I've decided to read as treating life's purpose.

If this is about the nature of humanity then what I can take from it is that we're doomed, we will make a mistake, we will spend an eternity suffered. What is the God we've killed? Why is the throne empty? You don't provide any answer to that, or even a suggestion of an area to look at for an answer. It could be read as nihilism, but it goes back to the angel's passivity versus the cooks industry. Humans are industrious (as were the fallen angels.) I don't buy the idea that work has now failed people, or effort, or struggle. I think it's that struggle that defines who we are, but also is the point. This whole piece seems to be calling for a predestination that erodes our choice, suggesting an inevitability (the angel only seeing what's inevitable.) It might suggest a hopelessness, but because it wasn't thematically consistent in that suggestion I don't buy it. And that goes back to the point you reveal the "point."

If you did try and address such a huge topic that I'm looking for now, then fair fucks to you. Far more people should try that. It's arrogant, and it might be unnecessary for a lot of readers but I enjoy the idea of putting it all on the line rather than just telling a story. Kudos to you. I'll try and read more stories with the idea that they are attempting a grander commentary.

Sep 20, 2015


widespread posted:

Silver Nitride Is A Hell Of A Thing.
Words: 503.

The smoke rapidly filled the laboratory. Not a bad opening line. If you want to improve it, use sharper imagery and tie it to a character. Everyone was running away from the room, in various coughing fits. Uh oh. This is the halfway-amusing tone people take when they aren't committing to a joke but are still trying to be sort of funny. One man in particular fell face first onto the tile ground just as he cleared the doorway. Why do I care about this man in particular?

“Jackson! Is this the man in particular? I mean, I assume it is, but Jackson could be who the man in particular is shouting at. I don't know the name of the man in particular. What on Earth has gotten into you?” a voice Oh no, a man in particular is bad enough, now we've got a voice. boomed from inside the lab. “It’s only day one of the experiment, and you’ve hosed everything up!” What is this saying to me that I don't already know? That the man in particular (who is even more likely Jackson now) hosed up? What if you said that the smoke was coming from Jackson's bench and then Jackson fell on the ground as he cleared the doorway? Then I wouldn't need someone expositing at me that Jackson/a man in particular hosed up.

“Sorry, professor,” Is the voice a professor? Could you have told me that without being vague? Answers: Yes. the man on the ground replied. “I must have misread the labels or something.”

A man then stepped out of the smoke, coughing with a cut along his cheek. Was he using the cut to cough? If not, there should be a comma after coughing. The cut was fresh, and trickling blood. I guess this is new information but it's not very interesting information.

“Whatever it may be, Wait, what's 'it'? If 'it' is 'what caused the explosion' then it's not present tense (may be), it's past (might have been). it certainly will ban you from any lab experiments for the rest of the semester. And judging from that volatile reaction, this semester’s been cut short!” Pussy scientists can't handle an explosion geez.

Jackson had to look around at his fellow classmates. Did he have to? What forced his hand? Some of them had a few cuts on their arms, legs, and faces. Mild Target-brand salsa has more zip to it than this prose. One even had a hand over their eye, clutching and rubbing it in pain. I appreciate the adherence to gender neutrality but it's not necessary here. You could have decided what gender the other student was.

“I’m sorry! I couldn’t tell it was ammonia! The label didn’t mention-“ Hey, the wikipedia article mentions it forms in ammonia! Except why would there be unlabeled chemicals and ammonia is a pretty basic thing so blarp flarp blurgh.

“It’s called studying, Jackson! And you wouldn’t have multiple casualties Does he have multiple casualties? I think you mean he wouldn't have caused multiple casualties if you knew not to mess around with the sample!” What even is this science experiment?

“But it looked similar to the actual testing compound-“ Please let this dialogue end sometime soon.

“But nothing. Get out of my sight. And hope that these kids live to see their own graduation!” Why is a professor referring to other students when talking to a student as "these kids", it's weird that he'd refer to them in the diminutive when talking to one of them.


Jackson slumped against the bench. He was certain that there needed to be labels in the lab. But no, no labels to designate what was a silver compound and what wasn’t. Why wouldn't there be these? Especially around students? To make matters worse, his phone was constantly buzzing. Whether it was a news update or texts from his fellow classmates, he knew that this confusion screwed him out of a degree. If I keep pointing out bits of weird phrasing I'll be here all night, but "confusion"? What's confusing? He caused an explosion. But then, an email notification went off. You already told me his phone was buzzing with notifications. Please stop reiterating. Jackson quickly checked his phone to see who would email him at a time like this.

It was an automated message from the school. And inside, as Jackson found out, I already assumed this from what you said; you don't need to spell it out. was the following message:

“Due to an unforeseen circumstance, we regret to inform you that you have been expelled and barred from applying next semester,” the message started. Jackson couldn’t finish the email. The guilt of possibly injuring several students permanently Literally all you said was that they had cuts. was enough. In a fit of rage, he lobbed his phone far away from him. The phone had landed right in front of a grounds worker’s moving lawnmower. As soon as the device disappeared under the machine, a series of clanks and thumps resonated throughout the area. Before Jackson knew, his phone was launched from the lawnmower and right at his head.


“… not long after the lab incident, a foreman witnessed what he considered a ‘freak phenomenon’,” the reporter said.

“I didn’t know he threw the phone in my direction,” the foreman spoke. “I tend to listen to music as I work the lawns, plus the phone looked like a rock to me.” Oh my god it was two sentences. They're right next to each other. Did he not know he threw the phone, or did he think it was a rock? Why does listening to music make you bad at seeing things?

“Doctors report that the victim- one Jackson Palade- suffered instant death through an excess of immediate cranial trauma. Back to you in the studios.” This story is mean. A bunch of bad stuff happens to a man in particular, and then he dies. And it doesn't mean anything; he's just this universe's pincushion. Nothing in this made much sense at all, and even ignoring that, "chemistry student causes explosion, throws phone in fit of guilt, phone karmically zips back and kills him in the head" is a bad plot. If you had cranked the humor up, maybe it would have been better, but there's nothing funny in here, it's just poorly explained lab experiments and potentially-deadly minor cuts.

Sep 20, 2015


Also, I'm in.

Jul 26, 2016

Crits ahoy. Most of these will be judge burps, but I’ll expend effort where I think it’s worth it. Mrenda gets a few more lines than most because a) it was first and b) out of respect for the relentless crits of everyone else’s stuff.

Mrenda - The Jester's Sickness
This story came in super early, and probably could have used a little bit more cooking time. It’s not a terrible story, but it was the first of many that sat squarely in the middle of the pack - some extra editing time, some breathing space, and you could have kicked it up a notch.

To pick up a few standouts - I thought Medea was a nice subtle touch, but then you rolled in with Romeo and Juliet at the end, which felt super unsubtle. Like, gimme some Godot, some Antigone, something a little less obvious? Make it more of a knowing wink between Marie and Alton, reflective of the other works you mention.

Your self-tickle para took a few reads to work out what was happening. I thought she’d attacked Sally, and suddenly realised that Sally was also sick on the first read. I think you inserted an alternate name for your character by accident at one point - or at least it reads that way. I felt the demented penguin shenanigans belied a massive lack of self-awareness. Marie knew she was a rubbish clown, but it was like she’d put up a barrier in her head that stopped her figuring out why? Same with the starjumps.

I think I can see where you were pointing with the charm bracelet, but it’s a terrible present for a child. I guess it’s the social pressures of maintaining relationships with rich friends whilst being poor, but you’re relying on reader to paste over the cracks with keeping up appearances tropes. Also, felt like you cut some lines about a reading Marie was meant to be at? Single ref doesn’t stand on its own, so better to shave that complexity out altogether if you don’t have room to expand on it.

Jagermonster - Ride of the White Knight
This slid pretty close to the bottom of the middle pack for me. A couple of things kept it out of DM range - the para about him acting out the palm strike helped bring Justin into view pretty clearly. The whole thing was a bit LOL NICE GUYS, but you managed to sketch out a solid character in the space you had. If you’ve got a trope like this, try and flip it a bit harder, not just explain how lovely white knights/nice guys(™) are. I think most of us already know.

Hawklad - Tribal Wisdom
So this went from “ooh, this feels a bit racist” to “oh, I guess it’s just the protag being a bit racist” to “I’m pretty sure this is a trope that’s being played very straight”. Chief criticism, medical intervention team to rescue the muppet isn’t going to be able to fix this dude’s pipes - unless he’s planning on taking that team hostage, and that team’s rescue team, and so on until the engineering staff he needs are the only people available to go on rescue missions.

You worked your flashrule in, and your ‘the City’ idea made more sense knowing it. I read through without flashrules on though, and it just read as a bunch of useless setting that didn’t really need to be there. Middle.

Chili - Dangling
I started nitpicking within the first para. If 19 tamers failed before you, you are the 20th tamer. You’re not the 20th to fail yet, but maybe that’s a detail that you need to use words to explain.

I liked what you did here though. I feel educated in griffin husbandry, which reflects your protag’s bookish approach well. It took too drat long to make me care though, you missed your opening punch so it took a while to get exciting again. Middle. Basically if you didn’t get an HM or DM or a Win or Lose, you’re in the middle. I’m going to stop saying middle now.

Entenzahn - But I smiled
Well this was emotionally manipulative, wasn’t it? A number of good lines, particularly the opener. Don’t know whether you meant fir or fern in para 3, but you didn’t manage either.

To be honest, I was pretty happy that you tried this with the prompt. The character had all the imposter syndrome of being thrown in the deep end, and was aware that they were doing a lovely job - but I guess it felt a little too obvious when you hit us with BUT SUDDENLY I WASN’T RUBBISH AT THIS ANYMORE in the voice of a kindergarten teacher at storytime.

Benny Profane - The Entertainment
Relatively unique take on Huxley’s Brave New World. Would like to see these ideas unpacked further.

Things just kind of happen around Wembley, apart stalling his need to act and delivering one instruction to the men in the break room. Also, the threat didn’t seem to fit the setting you’d put me in - was he just poo poo at threats? Or did he have the power to inflict gruesome deaths? I don’t know. I should know by reading your story though.

Baleful Osmium Sea - Turning Lock
This was sitting up the top end of the pack for me - it just didn’t quite have enough to pop it up to the HM winner’s level. I fell into reading this as GrimDarkFuture pretty fast, so I enjoyed the way you tied it off.

I’m going to bed now. More crits coming tomorrow evening.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk


sing out if you want a longer one

The jesters sickness
This has competent words but strains for a seriousness it doesn’t really earn - middle

Ride of the white knight
Tolerable if terribly predictable nice guy reversal, but marred by poor camerawork in the fight and some clumsy confusion - I had to read it twice to realise what had happened when the girl started hitting kyle. Inhabit your characters and give them interesting details to focus on. Low middle

Tribal wisdom
Aha look at that fellow who thought africans were dumb and got proved wrong lol certainly showed him this is a nice setting with a fairly average joke on it that isn’t as charming as it wants to be, my esteemed cojudge churchacker could have pulled this off but unfortunately you couldn’t (as it turned out) words ok tho i guesssss low middle

Ohhhh all that set up and clever griffin taming shenanigans but i don’t carrrre also i don’t think tensile means what you think it does and your protagonist is an idiot but not the entertaining kind low

But i smiled
“ like he was some kind of puppet that nobody had played with in years. “ is a p good opening line which you need when you do rookie nonsense like misspelling fir. Also this is second miserable child on festive occasion, don’t think i’m not keeping count. And awwww it turns into a happy crying sniffly sort of story end but i’m not crying and do you know why that is it’s because it’s cheap and cheaty and you haven’t actually earned any emotion so i don’t feel any it’s like MY STORY I JUMPED OFF OF A CLIFF AND THEN I FELL DOWN AND THEN I HIT THE GROUND OUCH it’s all so predictable that there’s nothing to make me glad i read it. I guess this can sit round about the soggy middle with mrenda’s

The entertainment
800 words, i feel moved to say at this point, is not a lot of words. You have to hit the story hard and fast and make it happen people he said clapping his hands like a broadway impresario. This is like halfway through and it’s still piffle paffling around with people alluding coyly to the story that may (or may not idk) be out there. That said it sort of brings it home in a vaguely amusing way at the end and wembley’s ultimatum is mildly funny. Middle.

Turning lock
Tolerable mildly wacky sci fi set up but a clever enough resolution and acceptable character and detail work, yeah this breaks the ‘insanely mediocre’ streak the week has been locked into so far high middle

A change of mind
Slightly absurd premise, but you sell the poo poo out of it with the hella sweet words words PSYCHIC MURDER FUNGUS do you see ladies and gentlement of the dome that’s really all it takes to get me on side with your finger dribblings - PSYCHIC. MURDER. FUNGUS. That said you could have easily pooped in the panini with bad words or cackhanded deployment of the psionic murder mushroom, but you don’t. It’s clever, skirts cliches while freshening them up a bit and has a great flickflack dismount for the ending. Winner so far, hilariously, given how goddam slight it is, not even close.

In some mythologies, the whole world is on the back of a turtle which is pretty cool
This is a sweet slice of chairchuckery prose that makes me feel a couple of emotions but fyi the strongest one is regret that it didn’t use it’s good words and gently surreal setting to actually do or say something, anything at all. If it had it coulda been a contender but as it is it gives a defeated sort of sigh and settles down into the mediocre mush with its buddies high middle

One sided conversation
This has beautiful language, great details and i really want to love it but it doesn’t use its good words to do anything. Also the protag isn’t actually inept afiact he’s just a big old weirdo. Phantasmagorical middle

We’ve all been there
Lol this is basically benny the snake goes into space isn’t it unfortunately it also borrows the world class mediocrity of that gentleman’s prose words and lays them out for my dispirited eyes to gaze upon plus this is just so silly and implausible (destroy a giant wangship by pressing a button?) it doesnt’ give the hapless idiocy of the protag anything to play against. I do like a couple of the lines, the mouths hanging open one and the icycool comic book characters one dreary scifi middle

This is good and strong and gross stuff, and i like it quite a lot, but i think it cheats out at the end a bit high middle

Mean things
At first i thought this is a pointless slab of words but actually it’s a decently subtle remix of the goony nice guy bus story - you may pass, unhindered friend. Inappropriately noble middle

Night on the front
spoiler, i don't really read or consider teh prompt when i judge so the last line about how your protag was so inept he even failed at getting killed landed a little flat, which is a pity as it's a clever enough twist.. Ditto with 'cooked in drained crank case oil' which I vaguely hoped to be used in a more metaphorical sort of way BUT DON'T GET ME WRONG it was fine the way you did it and this is a fine sort of story, definitely middle but a strong robust sort of middle like a bland but worthy spruce or w/e

man there's a sort of crazy outsider artist frenzy to this like it's being gabbled to you by the poorly shaven fellow at the late night laundromat and you're really considering skipping the spin cycle so you can just clear out of there or maybe even ditching the clothes altogether hell man clothes are just an artificial construct after all but while it's clumsy as a slightly brain damaged puppy there's actually some decent bones of story in here, stuff happens, and your protag really is itching to let us know what happened. low, obv, but in a weirdly charming way

silver nitride is a hell of a thing
on reflection maybe we shoudl have made this the loser, as while it's just about as much of a mucky pup in prose terms, it doesn't really have much to say storywise and while it also involves a phone whoa what are the odds it does even dumber things with it. low, bad, skunky

This has thoroughly well-tooled words, and sketches its odd murderscene with fluidity and power, but feels closed off like its protagonist which robs it of impact. If you like i'll delve into this more. puzzling middle.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

sebmojo posted:

This has thoroughly well-tooled words, and sketches its odd murderscene with fluidity and power, but feels closed off like its protagonist which robs it of impact. If you like i'll delve into this more. puzzling middle.

And thank you.

Mar 14, 2012

Thanks, all three of you for the crits. Getting a few of them in, each approaching the crit in different ways has definitely helped me. So this is a self-report/critique of how I wrote the story and what these crits have helped show me I need to work on.

Sebmojo has really hit home with what he said in one line. I do feel confidence in my language: it's not a weak spot for me, or at least it's not the area I would focus my improvement efforts on first. I don't have a record breaking vocabulary but I faith in my ability to work the language I do have, especially given time to edit and take out any naff phrasing on each passes. That highlights the other problem, of, "strains for a seriousness it doesn’t really earn." That to me is about combining the words I have with hitting appropriate story points and intention at the right time. I've worked on pacing language, and lyricism but that won't make up for managing the ups and downs, and getting a reader reaction from the progression of the story.

The other element of Sebmojo's crit, the seriousness of the story is in a big way my own reaction to ineptitude. In my crits I've spoken about comedy being undervalued by the literary world, but also being seen as a bigger failure when it falls flat and that in part may have sent me in the opposite direction with my story. By trying for that element of humour but having it in the face of something serious like illness I need to have an insight into what is more universal for that situation. In that way STS's comment about the character's performance as a clown and her barriers to improving her clowning, relates to how I did intend for her to be a decent actor but I didn't think about why she couldn't clown, or didn't put effort into it. If I had done that then maybe I could have written a more convincing bit of bad clowning, rather than simply running with plain inept clowning that had no logic.

With that in mind what I think I've taken most from all the crits is to spend more time on blocking the story. I don't know if I'll go so far as outlining every plot point, rather once I have a general idea of the story I could then work out the emotional (or intellectual) response I want from each part of the story as it progresses. My writing up to The Jester's Sickness has been about the actual writing of a story idea as best I can, rather than a focus on the story. I was getting words down for an idea rather than working on the idea to the point where I wasn't reliant on just the words. I won't go into my brawl story as it's not judged yet but I did approach it more in line with what I've outlined just now, and I can see from the response I can and should take that approach further.

Separately, something I can see from Flerp's critique is how I try and understand the reader, and this is a valuable element of how I turn that idea of a story into the story I write with language. You can't really write for every reader and sacrifice your intent, but you also can't force your reader to work for every part of your story, piecing together a lot of smaller elements to make sense of the overall story (I also read about this with a le Guin review of a Margaret Atwood book just a few hours ago.) For me that means that I really need to work on layering in my stories, with smaller elements that enhance an interested reader, rather than punishing them with confusion as a "bad reader" (and thus really punishing me and my story) if they don't feel that level of engagement is justified by the main thrust of the writing.

So thank you all for the super helpful crits. The brawl started it and now these crits have all added to my thinking on how I can change my approach to writing (or at least any writing beyond shitposts.)

May 7, 2005


Mrenda posted:

Thanks, all three of you for the crits. Getting a few of them in, each approaching the crit in different ways has definitely helped me. So this is a self-report/critique of how I wrote the story and what these crits have helped show me I need to work on.




no don't do this

it was fine when you were commenting on a crit of another writer's story, thereby giving that writer more nuanced feedback

but don't do this poo poo for your own stories, not here

p.s. thank yous all for the helpful helpful crits

anime was right
Jun 27, 2008

death is certain
keep yr cool

crits good

Nov 15, 2012

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

im trying so hard not to dogpile you mrenda but seriously read the op fucks sake im literally screaming at my screen irl and all my coworkers are looking at me funny i will get fired and thats YOUR FAULT

Official I had an important epiphany about writing thread

Feb 25, 2014


thank u 4 crits :D

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Entenzahn posted:

im literally screaming at my screen irl and all my coworkers are looking at me funny

so, normal day at the entenoffice

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk


May 27, 2013

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


IN with a :toxx: but having a hard time narrowing down my ideas, don't suppose someone could chuck me a flashrule?


Baleful Osmium Sea
Oct 31, 2016


Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




You are all the worst

sh v mojo brawl #27345

The Beckoning

Archive link!

Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 16:07 on Jan 9, 2017

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk


sebmojo fucked around with this message at 22:05 on Jan 2, 2017

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

So i quite liked this story by Flesnolk but it couldn't overcome its basic middleness to get an HM. Here's some more detailed thoughts.

Night on the Front
Sergeant Laurence Knight had joined the Army looking to die. good opener A worthy death for an unworthy life. this is only good if you pay it off by explaining or even implying what was so bad about his life he was literally suicidal, which i don't believe you do Instead he had a medal and a section of Tommies hoping to share his fortune. this is too obscure, because you've flipped your focus from Knight's desires to the (unnamed, undescribed,) Tommies Early April 1918 found them i said in irc that you had too many characters and you pointed out, reasonably that you had three - this para was why I was confused. the squad adds nothign so have them killed offscreen or otherwise not in here because 800 words doesn't leave a lot of room clustered around a pair of fires in what used to be a French forest. Fourteen men were scarcely illuminated against the night around them; war had stripped the Earth of almost anything worthwhile as kindling. The rest, they’d collected themselves and prayed the Kaiser’s finest didn’t notice.

“Forget this stupid hill,” what hill? said Corporal Harston who? after an hour’s hushed arguments, see you just said they were resigned and praying to survive, now you say they've been arguing glowering over strips of bacon in his pan. Fading orange light danced across long symmetrical features practically carved from Dover’s chalk, this is a decent description, but it seems out of place and he jerked his head west. “We should run for our own lines before Fritz remembers we’re stuck up here.” so this is the conflict, and you should have started with it, nothing wrong with the words in your first para but if you're all about three soldiers arguing over a campfire then lead with that

Laurence forced down cold bully beef why did you mention the bacon? is the point that the corporal is eating better than the sarge? while the other man at the fire, Corporal Gattrell, stared into the darkness. But built like a stone wall and strong enough to heft around the Lewis gun at his side as if it were a slingshot, Gattrell tended to think of himself as the sergeant even while his superior sat next to him. show don't tell While Laurence chewed, Gattrell contemplated. these are fairly bland actions - really you should have each sentence in teh first para end with your readers thirsting to read the next one

“We move before dawn, we could make it,” the corporal mused. It was Gattrell who newsmen always mistook for Laurence. why would newsmen be constantly talking to a sergeant? i mean fine if there's a reason, but without one it's just a distraction Each time, Gattrell would sheepishly correct them and they’d recoil in horror when they saw Laurence’s ratlike, lopsided form. The sound of his voice what is it about his voice? made Laurence want to stab him in the throat but he held back. this is v melodramatic and unmotivated, all he's done is look into the middle distance which is on the low end for justifications for murderous rage. also telling me what people didn't do is generally a bad idea, though as with all rules of thumb you can break it if you have to Not worth the firing squad. but i thought he wanted to die

“Of course,” he said instead. His voice was the screech of a screen door caught in a hurricane, bad metaphor, i have no idea what that sounds like but he could still make himself heard. “Let the lads get a last bit of food and sleep in, then we’ll move. Harston, gather up some of the men and find us a bit more fuel so we can keep warm for the night.”

Silence. In what light remained he saw them stare. He might as well have suggested the King was a giant chicken. He repeated himself. Nothing. Well then. Laurence rose, turned and stormed off the crest of the hill. Behind him, one corporal asked the other why he was even sergeant.

“Ask Haig!”

It echoed through the night, more to show them he heard than to make a point. It hadn’t exactly been his call; a mad unarmed charge across no man’s land had been too mad for German tastes so what should have ended with a bullet in his heart instead had a whole line of trench deciding they had urgent business elsewhere. so... he led the squad into a suicidal charge because he wanted to die? why didn't you show us that action it sounds really interesting. but you bury it down here and shroud it in obfuscated language

So did anything that would pass for fuel. The silhouette of a slain Mark V stood among stumps and stripped bark. Trees were trees to him i guess this is a ref to the usual tolkienian LARCHES AND SPRUCE LITTERED THE NORTHWESTERN APPROACH WITH A SMATTERING OF NORFOLK PINE ON THE UPTHRUST TOR which is fine and even a nice character bit, but it just sort of lands and dies here. and these had been blasted and chopped to uselessness.

He reached the foot of the hill when the smell reached him, pungent and metallic. It hit like a punch to the nose but he followed it until it took him to the dead tank. An anti-tank rifle had ripped into its metal hide. The smell lingered, too strong to be old, and so Laurence stepped into the beast’s innards where his suspicions were confirmed.

The floor was black and slick with petrol, and in the engine compartment, the sump had been shot loose.


Gattrell stood waiting when Laurence returned and looked shocked the sergeant had actually found something.

“Where’d you get that?” Laurence nodded to the tank before he realised Gattrell, his back to the fire, maybe couldn’t see the gesture.

“That dead tank. Bit of petrol couldn’t hurt.” As he stepped up to the fire, Gattrell tensed and barred the way.

“Tank petrol? Are you mad?” Laurence tried to step around him, only to be blocked at every turn. “You can’t use that!”

“I don’t remember needing your permission.” Laurence shoved past but the corporal grabbed at him. The sump flew from his hands, petrol leaking from one opening. Too close to the fire.

The flames roared back to life, tall and bright, and Harston screamed when his trouser leg caught fire. A bullet from the night silenced him forever. Gattrell tossed Laurence aside and replied with a long defiant burst from his Lewis gun while below, the section raised the alarm and returned fire. Muzzle flashes nearly turned night to day.

In the dirt by the fire, the smell of smoke and petrol bit at Laurence’s throat. Oppressive heat tore at his skin, but he made the mad scramble to his rifle and did the only thing he could do. He turned on his belly, took aim, and held his ground.

Sergeant Laurence Knight had joined the Army looking to die. He would be the only survivor of his section. see this last bit of action is very strong and why i felt generally warmly towards your story - but pare away the inessentials and give more space to the interesting character stuff and you have a solid story here.

Looking at it more closely there are a lot of flaws and an HM was probably off the cards but the basic idea/situation is very strong. i've suggested that doing a couple of prequels with these characters would be a good way to dig deeper.

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 02:41 on Dec 21, 2016


Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe

Crit of Beef Supreme' Mean Things

“Jake! What are you doing?” Joanna gripped Jake’s arm with both hands, tugging him back toward the school behind them. Not a great hook. Doesn't tell us anything specific and doesn't give us anything to get excited about. Also, consider not starting two of your prominent character's names with the same letter. It's not helpful for clarity.

Jake looked to his left at Joanna, who was staring at him open-mouthed and wide eyed. There's way more going on in this sentence than you need. So much blocking, and it's laregly unecessary. Why not, 'Jake looked at Joanna, she was incredulous' “What I have to,” he said, before returning his eyes to his parking spot, about 30 feet away, in front of which stood Marcus Dorman and a couple of his followers. Why does he get a full name?

“What you have to?” Joanna released his arm and circled in front of him. “What you have to? Jesus, this isn’t a movie, Jake. The fate of the world doesn’t hang in the balance. Marcus is going to beat the crap out of you.”

“I have to, Joanna. You weren’t there. You didn’t hear what he said.” He pushed past Joanna and walked a few steps toward Marcus. That makes four "have to's", that's definitely more than you need and it's making the reading tiresome

“And what exactly did he say?”

“He said…” Jake hesitated. The truth was, he couldn’t remember what Marcus had said. In fact, he’d forgotten it almost as soon as he’d heard it. He had been walking to History class, and had passed C hall, where Marcus and his crew—the school’s resident drug dealers, in the sense that they occasionally sold some drugs but mostly did them—loitered during the day.

Ok so we're going through the rest of this in flashback. Not sure if that's the best way for you to handle this story. 800 words ain't much and shifting perspective like this can be challenging. The intro into this flashback wasn't all that compelling and I'm wondering if something as simple as "Marcus had it coming, let me tell you why." May have worked better. Also, since we're going to through Jake's memory, maybe this whole story would have worked better from his POV? Not sure, but did you consider it?

Jake had been thinking about Joanna at the time, and how they got along so well, and how cute he thought she was and how funny and how he should ask her out. At that moment, Marcus had said something generally repugnant, and his cronies had laughed, and Jake had stopped. He normally never would have stopped, but Joanna was on his mind, and things like that shouldn’t be said, he thought. Yeah see this paragraph is a chore to read, but it would have been cuter and more fun if Jake were saying most of it instead of a narrator

“Don’t say things like that,” Jake had said. Marcus and his friends all turned to Jake, bemused smiles on their faces. Jake’s own head recoiled in surprise. He did not know where those words had come from.

After a moment, Marcus chuckled. “Stop me, then.”

“Okay.” He looked down at his hands, now fists, raised in front of his torso. When that had happened, he did not know.

“Okay?” Marcus stared at Jake, his head cocked to the side and his face scrunched up with legitimate confusion. “After school. Your car.”

That had been this morning, during brunch. It was now after school. We cut away for this? I mean, it all makes sense but this is pretty normal run-of-the-mill school stuff, what about it is interesting? What about it is different or worthy of attention?

“He said what, Jake?” Joanna waved her hands at Marcus. “What could he have said that made you want to end your own life?”

“He said mean things, Joanna. Things about you and other girls.”

“Right. ‘Mean things’. Thank you for volunteering to get your face smashed in to protect the world from punks saying ‘mean things’.” Joanna crossed her arms in front of her and rolled her eyes. “You’re a real hero, Lancelot.” Again this is all playing out exactly how one would normally expect a situation like this to play out. She's being rational and telling him not to be stupid. Why is this good or interesting?

Jake took a few more strides forward. He’d never been in a fight. Hell, he’d never even seen a real fight, except for baseball fights. Which probably aren’t real. Who is saying that last bit? I think Jake but again, it's weird that it's not coming directly from him.

“You should listen to your girl, man.” If Jake had been paying closer attention, he might have noticed the note of concern in Marcus’ voice, the look of concern on his face. Marcus’ friends had noticed, and they laughed. That was what Jake noticed. I don't see how, much of that helps you.

“Shut up. Or I’ll make you shut up.” Normally Jake applied a complex logical filter to everything he said; his brain seemed to have rerouted things for the time being. Now you're just excusing bad dialogue. It's nice that you acknowledge that it's bad, but that doesn't make it more fun or engaging to read

“Seriously, man, you’ve been watching too many Steven Segal movies.” The note of concern was gone, replaced by nonchalance. If the concern was that fleeting than you really didn't need to waste time on twice He was not much bigger than Jake, though he was obviously stronger. You could see it in his forearms. Where Jake’s were thin and narrow, Marcus’ were wiry and defined. If it's obvious then you don't need to tell us how or why.

Jake saw himself in the reflection in his car window, just behind Marcus. His hands were raised in poor imitation of a boxing stance, in the way that a stick figure is a poor imitation of a person. His face was fixed in a comical scowl. Behind him, he could see Joanna punching numbers into her phone. He saw himself move toward Marcus. I kinda like this image, you did well here

“We’re doing this?” Marcus asked, and raised one of his fists. “You’re sure?”

Jake responded with a punch, wild and hard, hard as Jake he could throw. It was aimed squarely at Marcus’ jaw, which Jake knew was supposed to be a weak point.

His punch missed. Marcus’ did not.

It landed just above Jake's jaw. It had only been a jab, but it had stunned Jake. He staggered back two steps and froze. Marcus hit him again, this time in the stomach, this time with his full weight. Jake doubled over, then slowly sank to the ground.

Marcus squatted next to him. “Never thought I’d have a problem with you.” He stood and started walking away. “Find somebody else to fulfill your action hero fantasies.”

So I just don't know what you were going for here. This story has no twist on it to make it compelling or interesting. It kinda works but I'm not finding much of a reason to care. Something as simple as 'a kid tries to take on the bully but gets his rear end kicked' needs another layer to it. Maybe the bully's father could have showed up and kicked Jake's rear end, maybe the bully was a teacher and Jake attacked him instead? I don't know, those aren't great examples but I think on their face they at least give you something that's at least slightly more attention grabbing. My advice for you on this story is to take bigger shots. Ask yourself what about your story is familiar and then pour some secret sauce on it.

  • Locked thread