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QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


ing in this week, because I'm a literal child who can't meet his commitments.

Gimme a flash rule

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QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Through the Fog and Filthy Air (1248 words)

Sasha froze as though someone had dumped ice water over her head.

“You’re breaking up with me? Here?” She said, her voice cracking as she gestured toward the black-stained sky. Thin, dirty strands of smoke wafted up from the oil wells, filling the air with fumes that made her head pound.

“Now?” She said, still struggling for control. The coldness in her hardened. She felt rough and jagged, ready to cut someone open.

Frank opened and shut his mouth. He looked around at Sasha and her followers.

“I shouldn’t have said anything,” He said. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It just came out.”

Sasha’s head throbbed. It’s the fumes, she thought, it’s just the fumes. But she wanted to scream. She wanted to rip and tear, to break her skull apart and let the liquids drain out.

Out of the haze, Pete emerged. Pete from Wall Street. He wrapped his arms around Danny, a hippy who had blown his brains out on LSD before Sasha was born. Danny fumbled with his hands. Strands of knotted yellow hair pressed against his face as he stared with wide-eyed wonder at the flames.

“We need to go,” Pete said, steadying himself against Danny. “Handle this later.”

Sasha rocked, ready to assert her authority before stopping. They needed out. Fast. She cast one last look at Frank and the fires around them before grabbing an oil can and shouting to the others. Like schoolchildren, they followed, giggling and dancing as the sky became streaked and ashen. Frank was silent alongside her. His eyes glued to the road.

**

MeeMaw’s Rest Stop and Diner had been going downhill for years, but Sasha’s arrival had been the last push it needed to send it over the precipice. The restaurant was a mess, a greasy spoon whose owners seemed perpetually on the verge of bankruptcy. Trash littered the parking lot. The torn remains of a sport’s coat were wrapped around its sign like a flag. Sasha and her gang had claimed this place and its patrons weeks ago when they had found it sheltering the Executive.

“Please,” he had begged. His suit was long-gone by then and he was dressed in a foreman’s dirty overalls. She remembered Frank’s heavy breathing and the gun trembling in his hands. She remembered the sounds of the other scattered exiles cowering in the kitchen. Pete and Danny with them, laughing.

Clearing away the brush. A small fire to save the forest.

The Executive was still in his booth. His face was glued to a plate of cold eggs and hash browns. His body swollen and festering in the heat. Maggots writhed under his stained clothes. Sasha had been proud of her group for the kill, but Frank hadn’t been willing to move the body.

Sasha threw the oil can onto one of the bar seats where it sloshed against the rim. As her gang settled in, there were similar clunks and splashes. Gallons upon gallons of precious oil. A small bit of pollution needed to get to the next goal.

They would stay here for one last night. The gas would get them at least as far as the next refinery. Or maybe a pipeline. Sasha had a map of targets. A list of sacred cows to be slaughtered.

But for now, they were here. And there were still things that needed to be done. Frank stood behind her, tense and uncertain. Sasha closed her eyes and tried to swallow the hard, knotted feeling in her throat.

“Pete, you’re in charge until I get back. Make sure everyone’s got their stuff together and that the van’s ready to go in the morning. I got stuff to do.”

Pete and Frank exchanged looks before nodding. She turned to Frank.

“Come on,” she said, leaving her supply bag on. The gun pressed against her back, “I need your help with something.”

**

The two walked in silence along the stretch of desert highway. With the oil wells still blazing off in the distance, the sunset looked murky and cast a strange sickroom glow over the road. They passed a battered station wagon.

Before the trees started dying, she and Frank had raced down this highway, burning miles of rubber, ignoring the speed limit and the groaning engine. Sasha had roared into the wind as music pounded through the speakers and McDonald’s wrappers fluttered. Frank had pointed at the oil fields, shouting, “What do you think that is over there?” Sasha had shrugged.

A year later, she would be setting fire to gas stations and blowing up power lines. She was Armageddon.

“So,” said Sasha, bringing herself back into the present, “You wanna tell me what’s up?”

Frank was silent. He kicked at a rock lying along the median and sent it flying down the roadway. The two watched as it bounced and tumbled out of sight.

“Sasha,” he said. He stopped for a moment, “I don’t know how to do this.”

Silence.

“When I met you, I thought we were going to help people. I thought we were, you know,” he scratched the back of his head, “making the world a better place.”

She felt the coldness welling up inside her again, spilling out. “Frank, we’re terrorists. Just because you put the word ‘eco‘ in front of it doesn’t make us the good guys, okay? The world’s a loving mess and we’re just cleaning up the debris for whatever’s left when the dust settles.”

Frank was quiet again. She wondered if he was thinking about the diner. About the man in the overalls. Where was he going when they had found him? Did it matter?

Clearing away the brush, she told herself again, nobody wanted to do it but it needed to be done. Everyone wants to make the world a better place but nobody wants to clean up the mess.

“I guess that’s just it then,” said Frank, “Things are just… different than when we first started. I’m not cut out for this and I’m not cut out for you.”

He looked at her. “I’m not gonna try and stop what you’re doing, but honestly this scares me.”

“Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean what I said,” Sasha said. The sun was setting fast now and the cold clung to her. “We’ll find something else for you to do. We can hang out, or whatever, like we used to. You don’t have to be the one always pulling the trigger.”

“I’m sorry. I just can’t,” he shook his head, “You’ve been dragging me along for a long time. I don't want or need to be here.”

They stopped walking and stared at the setting sun. Sasha tried to remember how she and Frank had met, but everything before her gang formed was a blur. They had had some classes together. Had hung out in the same circles. Chatted about nothing. He had been there at the beginning, but she barely remembered those days before the fires. She felt numb.

“Okay.” She said. Nothing more. She slid her supply bag off her back and handed it to Frank. “Keep heading down this road. We’ll head in the opposite direction tomorrow morning. I’ll figure out something to tell them.”

He nodded, slinging the bag over his shoulder but saying nothing. She stood there and watched as he walked off, disappearing into the night. When she could again feel the cold night breeze against her face, she turned and started back towards the diner.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


In with

"14) Bloody revenge in ancient Rome, with the emphasis on the bloody."

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Thus Always to Tyrants
1118 words

Titus Flavius Caesar Domitianus Augustus, Imperator, had built his palace atop the Palatine Hill so that he could watch all the subjects of his eternal city. The huddled masses flocked to his temples. Shouts and cries echoed from the Forum, where the Senate had hidden itself like a wounded serpent. Ash was upon the air and, in the distance, vineyards burned. Crosses dotted the hills. Villas had been seized. Prostitutes were in chains. Actors were slaughtered in the streets. The adulterers had been marched out of the city with what little they could carry. The masses looked up at Domitian’s great palace with horror, not knowing what new victim the day would bring.

Stephanus clutched at the cool knife hidden beneath his toga. Today, the Emperor would die. Today, he would restore the city’s glory and begin his reign as the mighty Caesar Stephanus Augustus.

“Time?” Asked the Emperor, retreating from the pavilion into his chambers. He poured himself wine and drank it with uncharacteristic enthusiasm.

Stephanus gazed up at the sun. “Almost noon, my Lord,” he said, emotionless. An astrologer had once warned Domitian that he would be killed at noon. For the last fifteen years, Stephanus had served as an imperial sundial. His years of experience wasted on telling the time.

“Your Lord and God,” said the Emperor, with an exaggerated wink and smile, “You know, Stephanus, I’ve killed men for lesser impieties.” Another drink. Stephanus’s throat tightened at the hypocrisy. “We gods only have so much patience for mortal affairs.”

The Emperor gave a tremendous laugh that shook his whole body. Wine poured from his cup and a great purple stain erupted on the fabric of the Emperor’s toga. Stephanus waited, with stone-faced fury, for the episode to pass.

“Oh gods in heaven,” said Domitian, wiping tears from his eyes with one unclenched hand. He made a half-hearted effort to clean the stain from his chest, gave up, and poured himself another cup. The Emperor leered at his servant. “Would you like to hear about the visitation that your Lord and God received last night? It’s quite the story. One that you play a starring role in.”

Stephanus remained silent but felt his fury drain. His eyes flitted towards the soldiers. The guards would stop him if he rushed at the Emperor now, denying him his honorable death. Fleeing through the pavilion would only save him for a few precious seconds. He might try to jump out the window, a disgrace and disappointment. He had spent so much time trying to sneak the knife into the palace that he had neglected to think about how he would use it.

“The mighty goddess Minerva, my guardian and protector, told me that someone was coming to usurp me. For my indiscretions,” said the Emperor as Stephanus’s heart leapt into his throat.

The Emperor watched his servant and chuckled. “Do you think I am blind, Stephanus?”

Stephanus jumped, pushing himself from the seated Domitian. Stephanus stumbled towards the window, his only chance, ready to fling himself from the palace. He had survived the Republic. He had survived eight previous emperors. If he were to die, unsuccessful, it would not be at this Emperor’s hands. He would deny Domitian that glory.

“Oh, come now, Stephanus,” shouted the Emperor from his place. He had not bothered moving and the stained toga still clung to his chest. “If I was going to kill you, I would have at least made sure there was an audience. I am not a wasteful God.”

Stephanus stopped, one foot on the sill. The salty Mediterranean air stung his flesh. Domitian turned to his guards and shooed them away. After a moment of hesitation, they obeyed and disappeared into the pavilion.

Domitian crossed the room toward Stephanus, still halfway out the window.

“This city is steeped in blood.” Domitian muttered, his smile now cracked and hollow. “No one who sits in it is safe. The Augustus was killed by his wife, Livia.” Stephanus grimaced. “Tiberius killed by Caligula. Claudius by Nero. Galba by Otho. My brother…”

Domitian did not seem to see Stephanus anymore. He instead stared out at his city. Transfixed. Awed by the painted marble facades and the many ornate columns. Men peered up at them from the Forum. Dark togas for mourning. Stephanus’s eyes bulged.

“As you see, I’ve made all the preparations,” Domitian said. “Death begets death. Blood begets blood. I can’t stop it but, luckily, you’ve come late enough in the year that a rebellion will be impossible. For now. Any pretender will have to wait for the Spring.”

Domitian blinked and turned away from the window. Silence spread through the palace like a cancer. The servants and slaves had vanished. The guards fled. Only the Senate, far down below, stirred. Domitian gave Stephanus a crazed hangman’s smile. The servant’s mind raced, struggling to make sense of what was happening.

Domitian’s eyes were like fire. His putrid breath hung in the air. “I wondered how many would need to die before you came for me. What was it that pushed you over the edge? Did you miss the whores?”

Stephanus shook with rage. He struggled with the knife beneath his toga.

Domitian pressed his whole body against Stephanus. He felt the wetness of the Emperor’s toga against his own. Domitian placed his hand upon Stephanus’s protruding knife.

“Do what you came here to do,” said the Emperor.

Stephanus tore the knife from its place, leaving a deep gash across his own forearm, and plunged it into the Emperor. Domitian laughed. Dark stains erupted over his vestments.

“Come on, you dog. Do it for the honor of Rome. Make a martyr of me.”

He tore at the Emperor again, driving his knife into his neck and groin. The Emperor’s laughs turned hoarse and ragged. Domitian tried to steady himself against the window but slipped, falling to the floor in a great writhing heap. The laughs echoed through the empty palace and spilled down to the city below.

Only when Domitian had stopped laughing did Stephanus stop. He looked at the Emperor’s mangled form and then to the window. He imagined himself as Emperor. He imagined the crowds. The temples built in his name. The treason trials. The countless dead, crushed beneath his boot. He imagined himself drunk with wine, plotting his own suicide.

The city loomed, unforgiving. Blood for blood.

“Sic semper tyrannis,” Stephanus said as he sheathed the knife into his chest.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


I'm interested in producing something that isn't awful.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Prompt: Poker Face by Lady Gaga

A Stop Along Briarwood Way
1400 words

Toby pressed his palm against his steering wheel and his truck let out a long, loud honk. Come on, Toby thought, as snow swept across the road. Move. A sedan had parked itself in the road, blocking the dark wooded street. In the glow of Toby’s headlights, he could just make out the outline of the sedan’s license plate, its number half-concealed by ice. Inside, someone stirred.

Toby pressed his horn again, cursing, before stumbling into the snow. He knocked on the other driver’s window.

“Hey lady,” he shouted over the howling wind, “You can’t just park in the middle of the road like that. You’re gonna kill someone.”

The driver blinked at him. She was a heavy-set woman wrapped in a puffy grey jacket that reminded Toby of the Michelin Man. Her hands gripped the steering wheel.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she said. And then, craning over Toby’s shoulder, “Henry, are you alright?”

The pair remained silent for a moment. Him, shivering in the snow, and her, listening over the wind and a crackling radio. He wanted to be back in his warm car. To be anywhere but here. If they didn’t get moving, their cars would get stuck. The Weather Service had called for two to three feet overnight.

The woman looked back at him. “Did you see my husband? He got out of the car just as you were coming up the road.” Her breath fogged the half-rolled window. “He thought that we might have hit something.”

Toby glanced around. Truth be told, he hadn’t been looking at the road much. His eyes had been focused on the forest, watching for deer. On nights like these, they liked to jump into oncoming traffic, jamming themselves through the windshield. Kicking drivers to death.

The woman bit her lip. “Could you look around for me? I think he wanted to check the bumper.”

Before he could curse again, Toby walked in front of the sedan. The front bumper looked brand-new, pristine even. The front plate wasn’t even dented. Frowning, Toby stared down the road. The forest cast heavy shadows over the gathering snow, looming over the dim beams of the headlights, but he saw no one.

Toby turned from the darkness and stumbled towards the passenger’s side door. A single set of footprints led towards the woods before stopping abruptly. As though someone had covered their tracks.

A chill went down his spine.

“Your husband thought he hit something?” he shouted, trying to sound normal. There were criminals who flagged down motorists claiming car trouble. At best, they might distract you while their partner rooted around your car for valuables. Worse, they might lead you into the snow and make sure no one found your body until the next spring. Back country roads hardly ever got plowed.

Toby glanced back at his truck. The car lights were still on and, barely audible over the wind, he could hear the faint dinging of his open car door. The trees creaked and swayed in the wind.

“Yeah!” Said the woman, “Do you see him? Is he there?”

Toby hesitated and heard the opening of a car door and shutting of a car door. The engine continued its hum as the woman waddled over to him. Her hands were shoved deep into her pockets. Holding something bulky.

Don’t let appearances fool you, the small voice inside him whispered. Find out what she’s holding.

Toby cleared his throat. The woman looked at him with wide, unflinching eyes. Her face half-concealed in shadow. “I, uh, didn’t see any sign of an accident. Could you maybe point to...”

She said nothing. He stole another quick look at his truck. “Lady-.”

“Jenna. My name is Jenna.” She looked up at him with a blank expression. “Could you look under the car? Maybe...”

Toby stared at the dark, icy space between the sedan and the road and then back at Jenna. Her hands remained planted. Clenched in her pockets. “Please. He could have slipped and gotten hurt.”

Dreamlike, Toby got to his knees. He let his hand rest on the front bumper, as snow soaked into his jeans. His head was so close to the tires. She could burst it like a melon. Look and run, he thought. She can’t get you if you’re quick. His heart raced. He stuck his head beneath the car.

Nothing was there.

He was suddenly aware that Jenna was no longer beside him. She was standing opposite the sedan, the back of her Michelin Man jacket illuminated by the sedan’s headlights. Toby sprang to his feet, ready to run. Jenna turned and gave him a relieved smile.

“Look, look!” She said, pointing into the darkness, her other fingers wrapped around a cell phone.

Toby squinted and walked towards her. There was a man in the woods slouching toward them. The light from the cars caught him and, for a second, Toby saw his face. Pale and expressionless. In the midst of the storm, Toby suddenly felt cold. Colder than he had ever felt before. His eyes darted towards the sedan. Henry was on the wrong side of the road.

“Henry. Oh God, Henry.” Jenna said, “I was so worried.” She made a half-step over the snow drift towards the man before Toby grabbed her. She stopped and looked at Toby, confused.

“What-? What the hell are you doing over there?” Toby asked. His hand gripped tight around Jenna’s arm. Henry looked wrong, as though someone had bent him in all the wrong places. How did get over there without leaving tracks?

Henry continued toward them. His face frozen and unreadable.

“Say something.” Toby said and he backed toward the cars, dragging Jenna with him. The snow came down in thick white torrents, almost blinding them. He breathed like a man struggling to stay above water. The faint ding of his open car door echoed across the road.

“Henry?” Jenna squeaked. Toby could not see her, but sensed her inch behind him. Henry’s coat was torn and a wide hole had been opened along one of the seams. Stray threads fluttered in the wind. Jenna took a step backwards.

Then, several things happened at once. Jenna shrieked as she stepped onto a patch of ice. Her arms and feet swung wildly as she attempted to regain balance. Then, flailing, she grabbed onto Toby’s jacket. As he toppled, something pulsed beneath Henry’s exposed stomach. Slithering.

Toby fell onto Jenna, their heads slamming together against the icy pavement. His teeth sang like a bell and there was something sticky on the back of his head. But it didn’t matter. Henry was wavering at the edge of the snow drift now. His jacket seethed and writhed as something boiled upward through his neck.

Run. The voice inside him was a shout. A deep throbbing that coursed through his body. Henry’s swollen jaw unhinged, revealing something dark and wriggling beneath. He scrambled, tugging at Jenna’s half-limp body. RunrunrunrunRUNRUNRUN.

But Jenna refused to move. She stared, hair tossed in wet clumps over her face, at the thing wearing her husband.

“Oh God.” She managed finally. “Oh Jesus, God.”

Toby ran as the thing oozed onto the road. Wetness dribbled from its vacant mouth and eyes. He could hear Jenna screaming. Then the thick, wet clumps of something dense impacting flesh. He ignored his truck, lights still on and parked useless behind the sedan. He tore open Jenna’s car door. Hot air and radio static greeted him. The keys jangled in the ignition.

His foot slammed against the gas pedal. The tires spun in place and then, mercifully, the car shot out along the road, leaving Jenna and her husband stranded in the snow. As he zoomed toward a curve, Toby looked in the rearview mirror.

Henry hung above the road, suspended by meaty appendages that had forced their way through his overstretched mouth. Jenna thrashed as she vanished beneath the mass of flesh, her mouth wide in mid-scream. Henry seemed to watch the sedan as it sped away. Then, as Toby made the turn, Henry jerked and scuttled into the woods.

Toby kept his foot on the gas until he reached the end of the forest. He watched the trees, searching for movement.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Bad Seafood posted:

Yeah, this is just not happening for me this week. I'm out.

Per tradition, since I can't say I'm fond of toxxing, I cannot re-enter TD until I've redeemed either this or my previous (still unclaimed) Bingo Night failure. That said, since this failure was due more to me wasting time playing video games in my spare time than anything else (go go Ethiopia), I'm gonna throw this out there as an extra layer of punishment for my procrastination and last minute panic: If I owe you a crit for any week in TD history where I was a judge and didn't deliver, I will provide late crits to the first ten people to quote this post and provide a link to their story from a week where I dropped the ball. Furthermore, if the judges call time and ten people haven't cashed in on their IOUs, however many slots remain will be opened up to any story by anyone from any previous week besides this week.

I'd be happy to get your crit on my story from Week 100.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


In

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


The Third Rule
1000 words

The first rule of the Resistance is not to get caught. The second rule is that, if you do get caught, to put a bullet in your brain before the government can squeeze you for information.

I know that I’ve broken the first rule when I stop receiving broadcasts from the device implanted near my eardrum. I realize that I’ve broken the second when I’m approached by two baby-faced agents in my own restaurant, poo poo-eating grins plastered all over their faces.

“Mr. Lopez, my name is Agent Laswell and this is my partner, Agent Simon.” Says the smaller one, bundled up in an oversized coat like a kid playing dress-up. “We’re from the Department for the Restoration of American Dignity and we’d like to have a few words with you.”

I lift my arms, half-welcoming, half shrugging. “Of course, gentlemen, of course. Nothing serious I hope?” I give a light push to the girls on either side of me. They stiffen at my touch. “Why don’t you girls go freshen up?”

They free themselves from the booth and stumble towards the bathroom, where I’m sure they’ll do a line of coke to make things bearable. I’m jealous.

“I see you got your admirers, Mr. Lopez,” sneers Simon. I give him my best smirk. The kind that one only perfects in mugshots and sleazy tabloids.

Yes, I’m an unpleasant man. But I’m the kind of unpleasant man that despots and tyrants like to keep around. My flamboyance is what keeps official misdeeds out of the headlines. Robert Lopez Divorces Third Wife. Robert Lopez Assaults Reporter. For last week’s terrorist bombing, see Page D5. I pretend to be a nasty sonuvabitch and the censors loosen their grip on the press. I’m the suckerfish to their shark. A parasite that keeps the papers clean.

And I’m so tired of this act.

Simon slides into the booth next to me, so close I can feel the tape recorder on his belt jamming into my flab. A recorder probably full of reports on my movements. Laswell slaps a manila envelope on the table and sits across from me. As I leaf through the folder, I realize that my protection only goes so far. There’s some indiscretions that can’t be ignored.

“Tsk, tsk, Mr. Lopez,” Laswell says, giving me his best Humphrey Bogart impression. “Seems you’ve had your hands full lately. Theft of sensitive government documents. Aiding and abetting terrorists. Degrading American dignity.”

I’d like to brain him, but I’m too startled by the sudden buzzing in my ear. The bug’s been turned on.

“What can I say? I like to spread my wealth around.” I laugh, listening to radio static. If the Resistance is gonna get me out of here, I need to stall. I need some distraction for these goose-stepping punks. “You know, the DAILY’s got some of their journalists here. I’d really hate to interrupt them. Don’t think they came here for a work lunch.”

I continue, channeling some long-dead mobster. “I’m sure your bosses would love the extra work of cleaning my arrest from the papers.”

For the first time, Laswell’s grin slides off his face. He’s supposed to take me in, but he knows how the game is played. Do what you want with the rats, but don’t leave a mess. I see his eyes dart back and forth, but before he can say anything the broadcast in my ear gives a single command.

“Take cover.”

One of my girls is walking back from the bathroom, a device in her hand and something wrapped around her waist. Laswell jumps up and starts towards her. I’m able to give her a single uncomprehending look and duck before she pulls the trigger.

***

There’s buzzing in my ear, but it’s not radio static. It’s a high-pitched ringing that reminds me of air raid sirens. I blink and realize I’m laid out on my back. The restaurant is filled with dust and smoke. I blink again. There’s arms. Legs. I scream, but it comes out as a distant wail. Like an old picture being developed. Simon is propped up against the wall and he’s pulling wood out of his face like a magician pulls a scarf out of his sleeve.

As sound returns, my ears are filled again with static.

“Thank you for your patience, Mr. Lopez.” The woman in my brain speaks with a secretarial voice. Cool and crisp. “Unfortunately, we have very little time. I need you to grab the recorder. Quickly.”

I’m still dazed, but I manage to stumble over to Simon. He stares, his mouth moving in unnatural shapes, as I try to unclasp the cracked recorder from his belt. Any chance of getting back into the government’s good graces vanished the moment the bomb went off. If I had any second thoughts, they’re gone now.

“I’ve got it!” I slur, recorder in my hand.

When I look up, there’s men with rifles pushing their way through the rubble-strewn entrance. A woman, some Governor’s mistress, waves her hands. “Help, help, over here!” They fire a round into her chest. And another into her head. These men are not friends. They’re here to make sure there’s no witnesses.

“Thank you, Robert. Now, would you kindly make your way through the back kitchen door? We have a car waiting for you.”

I’m not built for running. I’m not even sure if I still have all my body parts attached. But I make a dash towards the kitchen. I’m ducking through pots and pans, bowling over my own cowering chefs before I make it into the alley. It’s empty.

Then someone unloads an entire magazine into me. The shots ripple through my chest and I crumple into a heap. As I lay against the door, blood seeping into my lungs, I hear a woman’s voice again. Someone reaches into my pocket, taking the recorder.

“I’m sorry, Robert, but you know the rules. Never leave loose ends.”

ENTOMOLOGY: Robert A. Lopez of Westport, NY, valiant veterinarian and friend of all creatures great and small, for his series of experiments in obtaining ear mites from cats, inserting them into his own ear, and carefully observing and analyzing the results. [Published as "Of Mites and Man," The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, vol. 203, no. 5, Sept. 1, 1993, pp. 606-7.]

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


INTERPROMPT: Write 300 words inspired by:

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Carl Killer Miller posted:

Do I need to be in the real competition for this

lol, real competition

No. Anyone can participate in an interprompt.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Titus82 posted:

Titus82 is... Judico Rex

Thranguy is... Judico Grande

And you could be... Judico Venti



If you still need a third judge, I'll willing to volunteer.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


WEEK 187 CRITIQUES - PART I

Baby by Rathlord
  • Summary: An unnamed protagonist becomes infatuated with a woman near his local bar. When he tries to approach her, he realizes she is a prostitute and his infatuation is broken.
  • Thoughts: For someone who hasn’t had their writing critiqued since high school, you do a fair job at writing. Your prose is serviceable, if monotonous and cliche. The alliterations, especially in the fourth paragraph, made me roll my eyes and reminds me of something out of sixth grade English class. There’s little variety in sentence structure and almost two-thirds of your sentences begin with the word “He.” Lots of clunky phrases that stink of beginner’s mistakes and several small grammatical errors. It’s not terrible, but it isn’t good either.

    As for the plot, your story is not memorable in a good or bad way. There is, at most, one actual character and an extremely simple central conflict. If your piece were any longer, it would be tedious. With only 636 words, though, it’s on the low end of satisfactory. There’s nothing particularly outlandish or ridiculous. Though you gave me a good sense of your main character’s infatuation, I was left wanting him to be more proactive and better defined. You spend so much of the piece describing the woman that I just wanted your main character to do something or for his background to be explained. Why is he so lonely? Why does he think that approaching this woman is a good idea? I should be able to answer both these questions. You can’t just write things like, “she also reminded him of the life he left behind” and not follow up on it later in the story. As the story stands, he’s just really, really goony and passive, neither of which are qualities I look for in a protagonist.
  • Things to Improve Upon: Please spend more time editing to avoid repetitive sentences and grammatical mistakes. Also, please try to read more books. Many of the problems with your stilted writing style could be easily resolved with more creativity.
  • Ranking: Fourth Quartile
  • Recommended Reading: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Pay attention to how Bulgakov writes his descriptions and establishes his scenes.

Don’t Give Up by sparksbloom
  • Summary: A man buys books to impress a local bookseller. His girlfriend teases him for this habit, and his choices, and promises to help pick the next book Missing the point of the purchases, the girlfriend steals the bookseller’s approval and taints the experience. The two, however, manage to rectify over a book.
  • Thoughts: Your story is instantly gettable without you overtly stating the conflict or resorting to exaggeration, which is one of the best compliments I can give you. You do a really nice job writing your characters. Callie and the narrator have their issues as a couple, but I can see how they might end up together. The bookkeeper is a plot device, but I appreciate your restraint. It would have been easy to fall for the same trap as your narrator, to make her into this idealized figure without the narrator actually knowing her. It would also have been easy to turn Callie into a vindictive or intentionally malicious person who drives her boyfriend to the bookstore. Instead, you are subtle. Callie and her boyfriend have flaws without seeming cartoonish. Were these two characters any weaker, this story would not have worked.

    If I had to give some criticism, I would focus it in two directions. First, your ending is a too cutesy for my tastes, especially with their hands meeting and the line “because this time she’s earned my smile.” It reads like something out of a bad romance novel and seems like a sudden swing in tone after Leah’s hissy fit. I’m not sure I buy Callie and her boyfriend rectifying their relationship, especially after the tension of the story’s first two-thirds. I also wish we had more of a picture of the bookseller. She’s satisfactory as portrayed currently, but I would have liked, at the very least, a rough sketch of her personality or some definition behind her. I get the sense that Leah would have a much less rosy picture of her if he got closer to her and I would have really enjoyed seeing that developed.
  • ]Things to Improve Upon: Make sure your ending jives with the stakes you set. If you have two characters with intimacy issues, then it’s going to take more than a suggestion that they read together to repair their relationship.
  • Ranking: First Quartile
  • Recommended Reading: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, particularly Chapters 1 and 2 for examples of flawed but likeable characters.

A Talk With the Dead Over a Glass of Cold Water by flerp
  • Summary: A woman is visited by a hallucination/ghost of her dad. The two talk and then he disappears…?
  • Thoughts: “Look, I don’t know why I’m here,” he said. Personally, I’m not sure why either. It’s hard to write stories that are just two people talking in a room together. It requires the reader to care about the characters or for the conflict between them to be somewhat interesting. Unfortunately, this story failed on both fronts. I don’t have any sense of the narrator’s personality, except that they might have a history of hallucinations and a tendency to underreact. The father character feels oddly cold and distant, which might have been intended but is no more exciting to read. As for the conflict, I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to get out of it. This piece reads less like a story and more like a vague concept for a scene. There’s no tension between the narrator and I’m not sure what function the visitation is intended to serve. The narrator doesn’t seem to change in any way. No new insight is gained. I guess the narrator gains closure, but I’m not sure why I should care about him and his dead dad. The pacing is like molasses.

    More positively, there’s some nice imagery scattered throughout here. I like your description of the doctor’s visit and the small vignettes of the father’s past life. If nothing else, you do set a somber tone that ties the piece together. I was reminded of my childhood spent sitting in funeral parlors, which is uhhh… at least a fitting mental image.
  • Things to Improve Upon: Characters. Dialogue. If you are going to write about people sitting down and talking, at least make sure they are interesting.
  • Ranking: Third Quartile
  • Recommended Reading: No Exit by Jean-Paul Satre. Pay attention to how the characters interact with one another and how they cope with their damnation. This is a screenplay, but I think the dialogue will give you some ideas.

For Want of Pulp by Killer-of-Lawyers
  • Summary: A witch tries to fill an adventurer-shaped hole in her heart by collecting stone statues. One of her minions tries to convince her that this is an unhealthy habit, for reasons, and she runs off to find love, for reasons. Her attempt is foiled by a wacky coincidence.
  • Thoughts: Well, this story certainly goes places. One minute we’re slogging along an evil queen that is turning people into statues. The next moment we shift into a discussion about the queen’s love life. Then we’re introduced to a party from Dungeons & Dragons. This story certainly makes a lot of jumps, and not all of them are good or necessary because they prevented you from developing your opening scenes. The story comes away feeling scattered, as though you wrote out a bunch of scenes and ideas separately and tried to jam them together at the end. I’m not sure Brigid running off mid-way through the story was necessary, as it forces you to find a contrived reason to reintroduce Devin. I also noticed some minor blocking issues and grammatical errors. I pushed this for this week's loss.

    As far as characters are concerned, I can see that you are going for comedy, but the piece falls short of being clever or witty. It’s got the same problem that almost all “funny” Thunderdome stories have wherein one character plays the exasperated straight man and the other is a ridiculously over-the-top child who misinterprets everything and refuses to listen to reason. Despite seemingly having the most “human” reactions to the setting, Devin really only exists to give your witch a foil to play off of. I don’t have a good sense of him as a character or understand why he’s sticking his neck. The witch's dialogue reads as though a laugh track should be inserted at the end of it, just to make sure the reader knows that she’s being funny and ~~wacky~~. She’s extremely two-dimensional and sit-com-esque. Much like Kimmy Gibbler on Full House, I more annoyed than amused by her antics.

    That said, I like the general concept of an evil witch trying to find love (in all the wrong places). This story miiiiiiight have worked if the witch and her lackey weren’t such stock characters.
  • ]Things to Improve Upon: Humor. Characterization. I detest characters who are wacky for the sake of being wacky.
  • Ranking: Fourth Quartile
  • Recommended Reading: Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett for examples of how to be funny without painting your characters in circus clown make-up.

All That Remained Were Ashes by Guiness13
  • Summary: Death comes to collect a dying child, but is challenged by his mother. Though her attempt to intervene is unsuccessful, Death reveals that the child is among the last people on earth and, after he reaps him, Death will be at an end.
  • Thoughts: Writing Death as a character is a challenge because you’re almost always writing about a lot of doom and gloom and the conclusion is almost always the same. No one ever defeats death. Destruction is inevitable. Memento mori. Though this story manages to avoid some of the worst cliches, I liked the detail about Death wearing a sweatshirt and not being a skeleton, it doesn’t avoid it all together. It’s still another story about Death having to fulfill his “duty” and the other characters being powerless to stop him. There’s no great sense of suspense or anticipation. I know how this story will end by the second paragraph.

    There’s not much of a conflict here either. The mother doesn’t seem to fight very hard to save her child. There’s no great game or challenge. She doesn’t even try to run. Her reactions also seem to be fairly stilted, making it difficult to relate to her in any interesting way. I really wish you would have run with the idea of Death having to choose between fulfilling his job now and being left without a purpose, or ignoring his duty short-term so that humanity might have a chance to thrive again (giving him more people to kill). It would have been an interesting dilemma.
  • ]Things to Improve Upon: Conflict. If you are going to have two characters with contradictory interests, make them fight for what they want. Don’t let one of them roll over the moment a roadblock appears.
  • Ranking: Third Quartile
  • Recommended Reading: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak for a somber, but interesting, portrait of Death.

In the Old Sow Water by newtestleper
  • Summary: A father and his son fish in a flooded artificial lake for part of a tree…?
  • Thoughts: This is the shortest piece this week, but probably one of the most confusing to read. I hate to write this, because it makes me feel dumb, but I had to read paragraphs eight through eleven multiple times to understand that was happening. You don’t do a good job of establishing the scene. I get that they are above a flooded town, but beyond a reference to the Dad planting trees and a mention that “the trees at the bottom didn’t rot,” I have trouble visualizing the surroundings. The piece is waaaaaaaaaaayyyy overwritten. Your descriptions obscure, rather than clarify the scene and I’m left with questions about how things happened as they did. You might have been able to resolve these issues if it were a longer piece but with only 481 words, there’s not much room for clarity. I pushed for this story to get a DM

    You do a good job setting a tone and even though I struggled to understand what was happening, I still got a vague sense of nostalgia that I think you were aiming for. The opening two paragraphs caught my attention and made me want to read onward. Unfortunately, there’s not much more to read. Your submission reads more like a vignette than a short story.
  • ]Things to Improve Upon: Descriptions. Blocking. Make sure your reader has a good understanding of what is happening before you go for big literary descriptions.
  • Ranking: Fourth Quartile
  • Recommended Reading: Big Two-Hearted River by Ernest Hemingway

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


In

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


I'm going to fail this week because I'm a moron who can't remember to save his draft before leaving the computer.

Per tradition, I will toxx the next time I sign up and post a redemption when I can.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


in for whatever because I'm illiterate and those are a lot of words.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Thranguy posted:

HK TPK
Relationships:
History: Survivors of the epic shootout
Romance: Obsessed crush and unknowing object
Strange: Savant with skills and the one who knows how to trigger them.
Need:
To get the truth...about why they didn't shoot you in the head.
Location:
Odditites: A crowded double-decker streetcar
Object:
Information: The mole's mobile phone with all his contacts
Tilt:
Tragedy: Death, right on time

Nasty, Brutish, and Short
1166 words

After the woman hit the floor, Lizzie imagined letting her die. She imagined exposing her father as a fraud. Letting his whole ministry collapse. She imagined the tight packs of paparazzi, with their enormous white vans, reporting on the errant televangelist who had murdered yet another woman on live television. Newscasters asking, with barely concealed glee, just how a disgraced preacher, wanted on murder charges, had fled the country and set up a cult in Hong Kong.

But as her father laid his hands upon the victim, his cool eyes locked with her’s. Go ahead, they said, but even if you let her die, I will never haunt you for the rest of your life.

She laid down beside her father and pressed her hands against his.

The woman was dead. And then she wasn’t. Her death rattle forced its way back down her throat as pooled blood retracted its way into the body. Hot bullets wormed their way out from the skin and fell with small, metallic clinks against the stage. The woman gave an enormous gasp and, bloating not yet gone, she rose to her feet.

“Hallelujah!” Lizzie’s father said in a voice that shook a million televisions. The APPLAUSE sign had lit up, but it wasn’t needed. The studio drowned in screams.

Lizzie grabbed the discarded submachine gun and handed it off to a stage assistant. Her father grabbed hold of the woman’s hand and led the modern Lazarus into the sparkling studio light.

“Hallelujah!” He bellowed as cameras swung around to focus on him and all thirty-two of his gleaming white teeth. A man in the front row, apparently possessed with the Holy Spirit, fell to the floor in convulsions. A group of old French tourists reached out to touch him. One of the risers collapsed beneath stamping feet.

“Hallelujah!” He screamed, straining to be heard over the pandemonium. He raised his arms skyward, knocking his arm against the dead-undead woman’s head. But it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. Even the Hong Kong skyline seemed to tremble and shake. “Remember, that the hour of the Fifth Monarchy is at hand! That I will return at the head of God’s Heavenly Host to take back America and bring about a new age of Enlightenment! Only the Righteous will be saved!”

Joel Osteen was an insect. The Pope was a mote in God’s eye. Lizzie turned and made my way backstage as wails enveloped the small studio.

“Just stay tuned!”

And then they cut for commercial.

***

“Hey there, princess.” Lizzie’s father had crept up from behind her and squeezed her shoulders. “You had me worried there for a sec.”

“Oh.” Lizzie said in a small voice. The television backstage was playing her father’s sermons on repeat. CNN International had brought on an expert in special effects who looked sweaty and red-faced. A small timer in the margin gave a countdown until the end of the sermon’s commercial break. Five minutes.

“Hey,” he said. He grabbed her chin and twisting Lizzie’s face toward his. “You can pout all you after this broadcast is finished but I need you focused. We don’t need another accident.”

She cast her eyes downward, trying to avoid his stare. Lizzie still remembered the old sermons on public broadcast. Her parents once owned a cramped garage sound stage that smelled like motor oil. Mother had owned a guitar and would sing about Jesus while Lizzie’s father performed “little miracles.” It hadn’t been hard for him to convince his wife to participate in his first attempt at televised resurrection, knowing what he did about their daughter’s special talents.

The only problem had been that Lizzie hadn’t wanted to bring Mother back.

“Just one more miracle, Lizzie, and we’re set.” He gave her a sharp pinch. “All I need from you is one more teensy-weensie, little revelation and we can do whatever the hell we want.”

She tried to turn away from him again. “I just want to be alone.”

He jerked her neck hard and leaned in close. “Alone?” He said. His breath was like consumption and malaria, “Hell, you can have the entire goddamned city when we’re done.”

***

Lizzie’s father walked out on stage one minute behind schedule. The crowd seemed larger. The doors to the stage were propped open to make room for masses of bodies. Too many people, Lizzie thought as sickness welled up in her. No escape.

“I have given you life and now,” Lizzie’s father said, pausing for dramatic effect, “I will give you death.”

The cheering died. He spun around to face the opposite camera. It was a dramatic but unnecessary gesture.

“For, just as God commanded Noah to build an ark to protect the righteous from the Great Flood, so too have I built an ark.” He pointed a single accusatory finger at the camera. “Only my ark is not one of wood and nails. My Ark is one of hearts and minds and only those who believe in me shall be saved!”

“You lie!” Someone shouted from the back.

Her father squinted into the darkness before giving a blessed, Renaissance-painting smile. “Oh, but I’m not. In a few moments, all those who have denied Christ will perish. All the world’s sinners and heretics shall be cast into the Lake of Fire.”

Lizzie felt herself moving dreamlike towards her father. After their first attempt at resurrection, he had clutched her mother’s bullet-shredded form and pleaded Lizzie to bring her back. But Lizzie had stared at him with a dull and empty face. Because we are all sinners. Because we are all sick and dirty.

“I will now pray with my daughter as we pass through the End Times.”

Lizzie’s father opened his mouth as though to say something more, but stopped short. A rumble coursed through the building before spreading across the city. Glass shattered. There was screaming again, not of joy but horror. Fingers were pointed towards the coast, where the sea had become streaked with blood. Crowded buses exploded on the street below.

“What are you doing?” Her father said. His smile wavered. “This isn’t what we discussed. This isn’t what was supposed to happen.”

“All I wanted was to be alone,” Lizzie screeched, feeling the pillars of the earth collapse beneath her. She was done. Done with it all. “All I ever wanted was for everyone to leave me alone!”

The APPLAUSE sign melted as the congregation transformed into pillars of salt. Fire split the floor asunder, exposing a mass of writhing limbs. The building’s security alarms rang out a litany to the Communion of Saints as a choir of trumpets and angels unleashed their fury. Her father sank into the floor, screaming. Lizzie’s father screamed and the whole world screamed with him.

And then there was silence. She stood for a moment in the wreckage of a studio before pushing her way towards the exit. This was now her city. Her world. For the first time, she was truly alone.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


In.

One’s an obsessive overachiever running for Class President and the other’s a middle-aged ghost with an axe to grind.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


QuoProQuid posted:

In.

One’s an obsessive overachiever running for Class President and the other’s a middle-aged ghost with an axe to grind.


Veins and Arteries
1203 words

Lindsey took a deep breath before turning to face the corpse. “Ew,” she said as she took a scalpel to the dead man’s eyelids. The empty cadaver lab seemed to echo the sound of every incision. The skin curled as she sliced, exposing sunken eyes and spiked contacts. “Ew, ew, ew.”

She was mid-way through unstitching the mouth when the body jerked and rattled. Its cold hands shot upward. Lindsey jumped and squealed, cleaving the cadaver’s bottom lip in two. The corpse’s eyes rolled, its permanently wide stare fixing upon her. A trickle of blood crept down its chin.

“Stay down,” she hissed as her heart thumped in her chest, “I’m not done yet.”

Lindsey tore apart the final stitches and the body rose from its slab. Its insides spilled out the cadaver’s open chest flap, drenching the table in tissue and organ. Lindsey gagged. The stench was overwhelming. The corpse brushed aside its discarded organs and glanced down at its own shriveled penis. “Did it have to be a man?” Said the ghost of Margaret Holbrooke in the deceased man’s raspy, hollow voice.

Lindsey leaned against one of the unused cadaver lab tables, trying not to think about the anatomy of what was happening. The long-stopped veins and arteries. The intestines draped like garland. Air being forced through the dead man’s vocal chords.

“I’m sorry.” She said, swallowing her sickness. “Holbrooke’s Biology Department doesn’t exactly have a variety of whole corpses.” She steadied herself. “Not yet, anyway. The Student Government President does have a seat on the Finance Committee, though.”

Lindsey gave an eager smile. The election was in four days. She had just four days to win over her classmates. Just four days to prove that she was the best candidate. Just four days before she would annihilate Claudia Blaine and her shallow, sorority-girl campaign. Lindsey cared about the issues. Claudia just wanted another trophy. Lindsey was willing to make sacrifices, to make backroom deals with malevolent undead forces. Claudia would just get her dumb friends to pass out cupcakes.

The corpse sighed, or at least uttered a sound resembling a sigh, before stepping down onto the laboratory’s cold linoleum floor. Loose tissue fell with soft splats against the darkened basement classroom. “I suppose we will have to make do,” Margaret Holbrooke said, pulling the man’s open chest closed like one might a jacket. “Let’s get on with it.”

Lindsey nodded and handed over her smart phone. Her quid pro quo. Margaret scrolled past half-a-dozen of Lindsey’s campaign posters before getting towards the evidence she had been promised: A blurry video taken through a crack in the Admissions Office door. Margaret’s husband with his button-down shirt and tie half-askew. His paunch moving rhythmically against the body of another woman, Margaret’s secretary. She watched their bodies splayed across the desk. Their fumbling, middle-aged bodies exposed. Moaning and creaking echoed across the dark laboratory.

He hadn’t even waited until her body was cold, and Margaret wanted him ruined.

The corpse’s bloodless face widened into a hungry leer. “Yes,” Margaret said, pressing her cold hands against the screen. “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

“It was really hard to get that, you know.” Lindsey said, beaming. “Police and Safety lock up the administration building after ten so I had to-.”

Margaret rested a cold hand on Lindsey’s arm. The hungriness had passed. Margaret reconfigured the corpse’s face into something dignified, an impressive feat with a split bottom lip and no eyelids.

“Thank you.” Margaret said and she pressed the phone back into Lindsey’s palm. “Would you post that on the You-thing? The You-website?”

“Youtube.” Margaret said, her smile deflating. They were back to business. “Anyways, did you see what Claudia’s campaign is planning? Who is working for her? What’s she giving out? Is she tearing down my posters? Does she have a thing with the Election Commissioner?”

Lindsey clenched her fists. “I need something to bring her down. I need something to get her disqualified. There’s something wrong with her campaign, just tell me what.”

The living cadaver frowned. “No, I’m afraid I didn’t see anything illegal.” She gave a shrug while still holding the man’s chest together. “From what I can tell from my usual haunts, Claudia is planning a fairly traditional campaign. No shady backroom deals. No schemes or otherwise. I don’t see any way you can get your friend Claudia disqualified.”

“But that doesn’t make any sense!” Lindsey moaned. “I know. I just know that she’s planning something. Claudia doesn’t leave anything to chance. She’s gotta be doing something wrong.”

Margaret shrugged. “I’m sorry, but I didn’t see-.” She froze. Her expression fixed at something outside the lab. Lindsey turned. Someone had turned the hallway light on. Someone was coming down the hallway. The doorknob turned.

The cadaver collapsed to the floor. Organ and flesh splattered across the linoleum. Lindsey took a single step before slipping on a discarded flap of skin. As she fell on top of the body, the door swung open. Claudia stepped forward with her smartphone in an outstretched hand.

Claudia’s look of triumph curdled on her face. She saw the ruined cadaver and Lindsey planted on top of it. She saw the ruined trail of organs scattered around the table. Claudia opened and shut her mouth, fish-like. Silence hung in the air.

“What. The Christ. Lindsey.” Claudia finally managed. “Literally, what in the hell?”

“Uh.” Said Lindsey. She had to say something. Anything. “Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

The two looked at each other and then at Claudia’s smartphone. Still recording.

“I was just supposed to catch you on video.” Claudia said. She looked pale. “I really just wanted to catch you on video being dumb and sneaking into the biology building after hours. Not…” She gestured at the mess and the dark stains on Lindsey’s clothes.

“Please,” said Lindsey. “Don’t tell the Election Commissioner.” The words tumbled out as she stifled tears. Lindsey had no idea what she was saying. “Claudia, I swear that I’m not doing anything wrong. Just don’t get me disqualified from the election.”

Claudia's eyes narrowed. “Election?” She said. “Lindsey, you defaced a loving corpse. I’m calling the police.”

A breeze like a heavy sigh swept through the room and Lindsey sensed movement at her feet. Claudia’s eyes bulged as the cadaver rose again to its feet. Claudia opened her mouth in a scream as the dead man stumbled towards her, tripping over its own intestines. She seemed stuck, frozen in the doorway, as the corpse reached forward and grabbed the smart phone from Claudia’s hand.

Margaret shuffled to face Lindsey and contorted the dead man's face into an exasperated look.

“You owe me,” the possessed corpse said as it broke the cell phone in half and jammed the pieces into its open mouth. Lindsey and Claudia both stared as the corpse pushed its hand into its throat, thrusting the metal deep within it. With strange lumps protruding from its neck, the cadaver collapsed to the floor.

The two girls stared. before Lindsey cracked a smile.

“It’s gonna be pretty hard to explain why your cell phone is inside one of the cadaver lab’s corpses, isn’t it Claudia? I sure do hope no one in the Election Commission finds out about this.”

Then Claudia fainted.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Alright, I'm in.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


My Brother's Keeper
1000 words

As my brother rises to his feet, I find the stench of his psychiatric hospital suddenly overpowering. Gone is the smell of disinfectant and death and deodorized air fresheners. In its place is urine and blood. The odor of something senselessly alive. Something that refuses to die.

He grabs me, smearing his oily hands across my face. As his lips curl backward, I see the gaps where yellowed teeth used to be. He is on top of me, all spittle and nails. I bring my hands up, but the nurses are already pulling him off. They curse as the living quarters descends into pandemonium.

“YOU DID THIS. YOU DID THIS,” he screams, writhing and smashing against the blue scrubs. He jams his elbow into a nurse’s eye and she lets loose a guttural howl. The other patients are pushed by another group of nurses out a side door, all weeping and screaming. “YOU’RE KILLING ME.”

I am forced to look away by a heavy hand on my shoulder. A doctor leads me towards the nurse’s station. I realize that I’m bleeding.

“Don’t worry, he says with a sympathetic but mechanical smile. “He doesn’t know what he’s saying. It’s the illness talking. We’ll take a look at his medications.”

*((*))*

Before the Haldol and Thorazine, my brother and I did pot in his van. We sat, windows sealed, giggling and coughing. Passing the joint to one another and admiring the white wisps as they curled and spiraled in the darkness.

“You know they’re stealing from me,” he said between inhales. On some days, he remembered to shower. On others, he smelled exotic, like curdled milk and old fast food wrappers. “They want my money, but I won’t let them have it. I won’t do it.”

I giggled as he leaned his head against the passenger’s side window. Sometimes, he would let me sit in the driver’s seat and watch as I tightened my hands on the steering wheel. The foam felt good, strong and elastic.

“Yeah, I dunno,” I said, feeling guilt creep and excitement creep into my face. It was wrong to indulge his fantasies. It was worse to bad-mouth our parents. After the diagnosis, after dropping out of college, they had bought him a small apartment a few blocks from our house. Every month they would pay the rent and buy him groceries. Every week, we would visit and, ignoring the heavy foreign smells, clean the apartment from top to bottom. Then, sneaking back after dark, he would whisper dark conspiracies into my ear.

Our father had seduced his high-school girlfriend.

Our mother had hired a private detective to follow him around.

His college roommate had drilled holes in his head.

But he never had any conspiracies involving me. He knew where we stood. He went crazy and got people to take care of him. I was only neurotic. I would have to get into the best schools. I would have to work. I would have to make sure that we stopped being the family that people talked about in hushed tones. They didn’t say it, but our parents had poured all their hopes into me. And that weight was immense.

He inhaled and looked over to me. “I should tell them, y’know. We should tell them that we won’t be their sick puppets anymore.”

I was struck suddenly with an idea. A self-destructive but liberating idea. I turned the car keys and squeezed the steering wheel. My brother looked at me, his yellow teeth shining against the darkness.

“Why don’t we tell them, then,” I said.

*((*))*

I decide not to come back until the bruise heals. When I do, I’m led to my brother’s room by a small woman. She’s no Nurse Ratched but she feels imposing. Malignant.

“Vegetative symptoms,” whispers the nurse. She creeks open his door. I see him slumped in a chair with his eyes glazed. “He’s been like this since we changed his dosage. After he…”

The silence between us could fill the Grand Canyon. I nod and she turns away. When her footsteps finally dissipate, he cracks a smile. He scoops two bright blue pills out from under his tongue and puts them on his knee. Saliva oozes over them. I sit across from him.

He leans toward me, cracking his disused joints. His tongue runs over the gaps in his teeth. “No one ever cared about you. Not even Mom and Dad. You were an accident. A mistake.”

I say nothing.

“The nurses talk about you after you leave. They know what you’ve done. They want to put you in here with me. They wanna box you up, box you up like a Christmas present.”

A hot sickness rises up in me. I want to grab his face in my hands and scream. I know he’s looking for a reaction, but I can’t stop myself. “You’re sick. You don’t know what you’re saying.”

“Is that so? Is that so?” He giggles. “If I’m sick, what does that make you?”


*((*))*

We never made it home. We never even made it two blocks. As I roared down the road, feeling powerful with the steering wheel tight beneath my fingers, something had skirted into the road. Something small and delicate, now smeared across the road with bright flowers blooming from her head. I felt my future obliterate.

“It wasn’t my fault,” I said, as my brother opened the car side door and rushed towards the small, ruined thing. He was on top of her, his eyes wide in surprise. “It wasn’t my fault.”

But did it have to be your fault?” Whispered a small, conspiratorial voice in my ear. After all, it was his car. Everyone know's he sick and broken. Iit’s not like he would care. He’s never going to have a future anyway. All you have to do is run home before the cops show up.

From the road, my brother looked at me, already knowing the decision I would make.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Heyo, I'm in.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Negative Space
948 words
Monday Flash Rule: Don't feel like writing about potatoes? Your man can now agonize over whatever his heart desires.
Flash Rule: Man agonizes over his paseo
Flash Rule: Story takes place between breaths


Tabby breathed in deep and looked at her reflection in the greasy, finger-marked mirror. Her face still stung from the hot towel that she had used to strip off the makeup, but her reflection filled with a giddy, jagged restlessness.

She looked plain, a “Plain Jane” as her father might say—as he did—about Tabby’s principal. Whenever he was forced into an office or classroom, he would squeeze Tabby’s shoulders in supposedly fatherly affection. Between his “yeahs” and “uh-huhs,” he would rub a greasy thumb against her flesh. When no one was looking, he would flash vulgar smiles. Tabby would respond with quiet coldness.

Tabby unrolled the fabric of her skirt and let it drape below her knee. She wanted to make herself look more serious. More respectable. Then, sneaking past her father’s room, she skirted through the backdoor and into the setting summer sun.

***

“Hey, I wasn’t sure you’d come,” said Mr. Rollins from his front stoop. Tabby wasn’t sure how long he’d been sitting there, but he there was sweat running down his steepled fingers and his back popped as he shifted towards her. His sunburned face reminded her, stupidly, of red potatoes. She extended her hand. He paused before grabbing it.

“Yeah,” she said as he gripped onto her and lifted himself up. “I had to ask my dad for permission first.”

“Ah, gotcha,” said Mr. Rollins with none of his usual confidence. Mr. Rollins was Tabby’s English teacher. He had a vibrant smile and was one of the only people that didn’t look at her with deep sadness or disgust. He never mentioned her absences or her father’s hungry leers. Instead, he and Tabby had formed a bond. A mutual respect that went beyond her ratty clothes. Her body.

And because of that bond, she had poured herself into his class. She had slit open her belly and exposed the dark, mean parts of herself. Tabby, ratty and sullen, needed someone to notice. Someone to care about what happened behind closed doors. And she had gotten her answer after her last assignment.

Really nice job, Tabitha.” Mr. Rollins had scrawled in the corner margin. “Let’s talk about this later, alone.

Tabby had crumpled the assignment into her bag and ignored the manic beating of her heart. She had gone through the dull motions of school. She sat through her classes. She pretended not to see the smug, pitiless glances of the other girls. She tried to ignore the graffiti in the bathroom, the leering boys in the hallways, and the giggling whispers that were always just loud enough to hear. Then she went home and endured her father’s wolfish hunger—as she always did—blank-faced and mute.

But when she was alone in her room, she had carefully uncrumpled the torn pages and reread the note. She had read and reread Mr. Rollins’s words until his scrawl had encoded itself on the inside of her eyelids. “Really nice job, Tabitha. Let’s talk about this later, alone.

Alone.

Tabby waited for Mr. Rollins to say something. A moment ticked by. The low drone of cable news echoed out of a neighbor’s window.

Finally, Tabby cleared her throat. “Did you, uh, want to talk about my paper out here? Or should we...”

Tabby thought about her father and what he would do if he found her gone. Panic gripped her, but Mr. Rollins seems distracted. He massaged the skin on his ring finger and turned. An older man without a shirt jogged by and waved to them. Mr. Rollins gave a reluctant wave back. “No, let’s take a walk.”


***

They walked in silence for a long while. The sun sank below the horizon and dark purple splotches erupted across the sky. They had long since passed the houses in Mr. Rollins’s neighborhood and had entered a new, unfamiliar territory. A terra incognita, filled with skeletal half-finished buildings. The dark husks loomed over them.

Tabby glanced over to Mr. Rollins. He was somehow even sweatier than he had been when they started. He looked conflicted, agitated. Her panic was a scream inside her head. An air raid siren blasting at full-volume. He was just trying to be nice. No one can help you. No one will ever help you. Just leave before your father finds you gone because there won’t be anything left afterward.

Just as she considered leaving, Mr. Rollins spoke. “Every story has negative space. Things that are implied or suggested but can’t be said out loud.”

Tabby stopped walking, a strange mix of fear and excitement frothed inside her. Mr. Rollins turned and looked at her before nodding his head towards the curb. They sat themselves down on it. The power lines hummed with potential energy.

“So… you got it?” Tabby said with a dry, almost frog-like voice. The evening air was intoxicating. A swarm of flies glittered under a nearby lamppost.

“Tabby,” he said, with commitment now in his voice. “You’ve always been a very persuasive writer. I could tell from the beginning that you had something to say.”

He laid his damp hand on Tabby’s thigh. He slid his hand upward, pushing his hand against Tabby’s skirt. She looked at it. A beat passed. And then another. And then the magic of the night shattered. There would be no grand revelations. No sobbed-out confessions or restitutions. She looked at his face and saw for the first time his own manic desperation and loneliness. She had never been anything real to him.

Really nice job.

She breathed out and let him rub his greasy thumb against her tan skin, because that’s all she would ever be.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Marshmallow Blue posted:

I have sinned. Lay it on me

------------------


Here's the late story-


King of Starch
1152
Anime: Gag Trope EDIT: so, i only saw your flash rule after the fact. i understand why you made some of your stylistic choices, but the piece is still unbearably cartoony.



Potatoes always were king in Jing Fong Garden, the outdoor marketplace just outside of Tokyo. While rice had always been a staple in Japan, Mao always thought differently. He saw that potatoes were the king of starches, and his love for the tubers couldn’t be understated. So every weekend he rode his bicycle to the bustling market to peddle his spuds.

However this weekend was different, when Mao arrived, another vendor had taken his spot. Mao leaped into the air, arms flailing he ran to the to the vendor who was setting up his rice stall so fast that his sandals flew off in the process. my mental image is of some bad animation in source filmmaker. that's not a good thing.

“Hey you! That’s my spot. You need to move. I sell potatoes here every week.” Mao said. The rice man chuckled dialogue doesnt tell us any new information about the scene. it's just a repetition of what we've already been told through narration. you're also missing a period at the end of the sentence. please edit before you post.

“No one buy your dirty potatoes. Maybe you go sell them to dumpster.” why is the rice man talking in a racist japanese accent when they are both, presumably, talking in japanese. The Rice man continued laughing and turned to one of the neighboring stalls.

“Hey you see this fool? He try selling his brown turds at market. No potato better than rice.” i feel uncomfortable with your dialogue. The rice man finished setting up his stall. this is a weird detail to throw in because your audience has been given no indication that he was setting up his stall.

Mao was fuming. don't use the past progressive tense when past will do fine. He turned around in anger show dont tell. and hoisted his sack of potatoes to find another stall comma goes here only to see a rat running away with one of his sandals. okay, so the central conflict is now atom and jerry-esque short. got it.

“Hey get back here” Mao said as he began chasing the rat. Potatoes began spilling out of a hole in the sack and rolling around the market while Mao chased the rat. your use of past progressive is weird and makes you sound awkward and hesitant. mao did not begin chasing the rat, he "chased the rat." potatoes did not begin spilling out. they "spilled out." The rat dodged left and right of Mao’s attempts to capture the creature. this is a literal tom and jerry cartoon. if you are going to write an action scene, i want details that doesnt make this episode sound childish. It took a hard left and ran the other way. The chase had garnered many onlookers as Mao frantically tried to catch the rat and stop the potatoes from spilling out. passive voice. "Onlookers watched as Mao frantically chased the rat. He stumbled as more potatoes spilled from his bag.

He ran past the rice man who was laughing jesus christ, just use a normal verb tense. so hard he could barely breathe. cliche. try to read more to get a better sense of descriptors. Mao shook his fist towards the rice man as he sprinted by. see previous comment. this is less a story than a cartoon storyboard. While he wasn’t paying attention to the chase, Mao slipped on a loose potato and fell to the earth.

Mao stood up and the rice vendor was rolling on the ground laughing. okay, so the only characterization we have for this rice vendor is that he talks like a racist caricature and kind of a dick. im not really sure why he's so hostile to our protagonist or why he considers his misfortune so funny. the over-exaggerated nature of his actions are just annoying and cartoony.

The rice man could only imagine the grawlix im not looking up this word. popping out of Mao’s head and began emoting the speech bubbles of angry text. jesus christ.

“ #$%! $&%!! ” you are not writing a 1950s comic strip. if your character is going to swear, have them loving swear. The rice man why is the rice man swearing if mao is the one ranting and screaming. i thought that is where this sentence was going but now im confused. said repeatedly while opening and closing his hands above his head like fireworks. why. i dont understand whats happening. why is the rice man doing a crab imitation.

Mao picked up the potato by his bare feet, ????????????????????????????? wound up, and hurled it as hard as he could at the rice vendor. have you ever seen someone try to throw something with their feet? He missed by a wide margin and the potato clocked an elderly woman in face.

“Rude man!” the lady raised her cane and began running towards Mao. more awkward phrasing. more tense issues. more cartoon cliches. if the story ends with mao seeing a hot lady and his jaw dropping, im going to scream. He was truly as opposed to falsely embarrassed? adverbs are the devil and you should very rarely use them. embarrassed and everyone at the market was laughing at him. The elderly woman reached Mao and began hitting him in the butt oh my loving god. repeatedly.

“Yaaooooooo!” this is the worst episode of tom and jerry that ive ever read. Mao shouted as he hoisted his sack again and ran from the assault.

---------------------------

Mao sat on an ice pack in his tool shed that night, looking at a potato. He stared longingly at the lumpy brown oval.

“You are perfect comma” he whispered to the potato and gave it a light kiss. so, i have no idea why this guy is so obsessed with potatoes. i might be willing to tolerate some of these obnoxious cartoony bits if the characters were interesting or dynamic. instead, i have no idea what their motivations are or why they are acting as they do. they aren't even two-dimensional. Mao began running TENSE. his fingers along the rough skin of the potato. He gazed into the potato’s many eyes and he could feel the root vegetable speaking to him. like really? because idk at this point whether im going to witness a potato come to life or not. it would certainly fit the mood.

“If only they knew how tasty you are when boiled and mashed.” Then Mao had an idea. He ran out to the field and harvested every last potato. “Yes, I’ll show them all.” im surprised a literal lightbulb didnt pop up over his head.

---------------------------

Mao arrived extremely early to the market next weekend. He rented a Tuk-Tuk okay, so i know what this is, but i bet most of your readers would not. some description would be nice. to haul the massive amount of potatoes he brought. As the sun rose over the empty market, Mao was finished with his masterpiece.

A towering throne of potatoes was erected in the center of the street. passive voice. "He erected a towering throne of potatoes in the street." why he's doing this, though, i have no idea. Mao placed his hands on his hips and admired his work as a few vendors began arriving. so, like, is this market in the middle of nowhere? did no one see him erecting this huge throne of potatoes? He also brought with him a vat of mashed goop and a spoon. ??????

What no one else could see was the potatoes Mao had place on top of all the stall overhangs. With one pull of a cord, the street would be flooded with potatoes. please stop the cartoon cliches. i am begging you.

“Today, I am the king of starch.” He said to himself as he climbed the throne and sprawled across it. im not even going to question how this throne is staying together. The vat rested by his side. what vat? when did the vat come into the picture? He held a giant spoon to serve the masses. i dont A scepter fit only for a potato king. what Lastly, he wore a necklace with a single potato dangling from it. what is this

Mao was high enough in the air on the throne of potatoes to see the rice man coming in the distance. like, why would he come? what possible reason could the rice man have for coming to the square if he sees this huge mound of potatoes? if im the rice man, im staying the hell away from this psychopath who apparently has dominion over starches.

“Rice man!” Mao shouted down to the vendor. “Today you answer to the king of starch! You have one chance to bow down to me, or feel my wrath.”

The rice man was prepared with insults “How long did it take you to crap those out? You’re YOUR bum must be tired. I will not bow to any king of turds.”

“Then this means war!” Mao shouted, dipping his spoon into the vat. He jumped down from the potato throne with the spoon in his right hand, and the vat in the left.

“Today you face the the wrath of the potato!” Mao loaded up the spoon and flung it at the rice vendor.

“Ahhh!” He shouted jokinglyPERIOD. “Potato man is trying to hit me with his warm white goop!” The rice man started another laughing fit.

Mao ran to a cord on one of the stalls and pulled it. Potatoes rained from the tops of the stalls. Mao jumped into the air with his spoon held high and began flinging the mashed mixture at the rice vendor in a rapid fashion. He must have flung forty spoonfuls before landing on a bed of potatoes. so, did mao just basically destroy the entire village's livelihood?

*Splat* *Splork* *Splat* please read grendel by john gardner for a good example of how onomatopoeias work. i would expect this kind of styling from an internet forums post, not a story.

The rice vendor couldn’t dodge the onslaught as his legs were immobilized by several feet of potatoes littering the street.

Mao walked across the potatoes with ease.

“Now rice man, do you submit?” Mao asked, scooping up a giant spoonful from the vat.

“Neve---!” As the rice man shouted, Mao stuffed a heaping spoonful of the starch into his mouth. aaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

“How does that poo poo taste rice man?!” USE ONE PUNCTUATION MARK. Mao said laughing. Before the rice man could answer COMMA he stuffed more and more and more ANOTHER SPOONFUL into his mouth.

The rice vendor spat it out in resistance.

“Hah! Rice man not man enough to swallow?” Mao asked.

“I won’t MISSING A WORD HERE. this. It tastes like potato man’s poo poo” the you've had rice vendor uncapitalized the entire story. why capitalize it now. Rice vendor replied.

Mao began laughing hysterically. because he's a loving bugs bunny character. jesus christ.

“What’s so funny potato man? You got another one coming out of your bum?”

“No COMMA” Mao said. “The vat is full of rice paste, not potatoes! You just said you think rice tastes like poo poo!” world's shittiest twist for the world's lowest stakes.

The onlookers began laughing at the rice vendor’s faux pas. They giggled, whispered, and pointed, getting extreme enjoyment out of what had transpired. yeah, i think the villagers would be more worried about the literal cartoon character who turned their lives upside-down for a practical joke.

Mao bent down and placed the potato necklace around the rice vendor and walked away.

Things to work on:
- Wacky, cartoon antics are not a replacement for character motivation and an interesting plot. Your story is almost Tom and Jerry fan-fiction.
- Read Struck and White's Elements of Style. Your grammar is all over the place and you seem to have little idea how dialogue attribution works.
- Make your characters change or develop over time. Your story is about two men terrorizing each other for little gain.
- Put down the cartoons and read more books to get a sense of how prose and description work. Your bare-bones descriptions are almost always awkward and repetitive, which suggests that you have very little experience with actual books.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Thunderdome Week CCI: Old Russian Joke



That's right, kids. I'm taking over! The blood throne has been abolished. Long live the Thunderdome dictatorship of the proletariat!

One of my favourite historical periods is early 20th century Russia. In the lead up to the 1917 Revolutions, Russians produced a slew of art, fiction, and journalism. And much of it has a sense of manic desperation about it. I’ve collected some of my favourite pieces here: http://imgur.com/a/dAzDY/all

When you sign up this week, pick a picture from the above gallery and write a story about it. (Also put your picture in [TIMG][/TIMG] tags because some are kind of big.) I don’t expect (or necessarily want) historical fiction or a one-to-one translation of your picture, but your story should be in some way inspired by what you pick. Be as literal or as abstract with your pick as you want.

If you don't feel like scrolling through that album, you can also ask one of the judges to pick an image for you.

Oh, and one more thing. I’m tired of reading a bunch of sad stories about sad people. Regardless of what you pick, your story must have a happy ending. If I don’t see some positive, forward movement by the end, you will be sent to the gulag.

Judges
QuoProQuid, General-Secretary of the Supreme Thunderdome Soviet
Sparksbloom, Chairman of the Council of Judging Commissars
Kaishai, First Secretary of the Presidium of the Supreme Thunderdome Soviet

Final Sign-Up Deadline: 11:59:59 PM EST on Friday, 10 June 2016
Submission Deadline: 11:59:59 PM EST on Sunday, 12 June 2016

Word Count: 1200 words

Sign-Ups:
1. Fuubi
2. Chili
3. Carcer
4. Marshmallow Blue
5. ZeBourgeoisie
6. Chernabog
7. flerp
8. skwidmonster
9. Paladinus
10. Mr. Gentleman
11. Ibexaz
12. Bad Seafood
13. astrofig
14. Screaming Idiot
15. Benny Profane
16. Thranguy
17. a friendly penguin
18. magnificent7
19. Black Griffon
20. Entenzahn
21. Tyrannosaurus

QuoProQuid fucked around with this message at Jun 11, 2016 around 02:00

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Chili posted:

I feel like kind of a wuss for not picking up any flashrules for the 200th. Can I request that I get assigned a picture?

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


a friendly penguin posted:

Critiquing:


I am a bad writer and also a bad reader, so I thought it would be helpful for me if I tried to analyze a better writer. Hope you get something out of it too.

There is a lot of tension in your story which makes it compelling. The need for the action to take place in the span of a breath gives it an element of time crunch. But there’s also the opposing male figures. Immediately the reader can’t help but hope (along with Tabby) that her teacher will be a foil to the father. But at the same time, the brain strays to the other possibility and is dreading it.

It’s well paced. I can see that in the way you set up the previously mentioned question but without it feeling as if the reader has to wade through the entire story to find out the answer.

Similar to the point of your story, you use negative space to say a lot. I can’t say that I understand all of what you’re trying to say. Like the paragraph after she receives her paper back.

“She pretended not to see the smug, pitiless glances of the other girls. She tried to ignore the graffiti in the bathroom, the leering boys in the hallways, and the giggling whispers that were always just loud enough to hear.”

What exactly could they know? Or perhaps that they know is all in her head. She just perceives that all of their looks and sneers are directed at her. But it does get me thinking.

However, I think this story could use even more negative space. In the sparse style you’ve already created, you’ve almost got too much description of the father’s lusty actions. Even your descriptions of the English teacher could use some trimming.

Your story is relatable, compelling and plunges depths of the human mind and human behavior.

Thank you. This is very helpful.


flerp posted:

in and give me a pic tia

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Paladinus posted:

^^^ lol


Well, gently caress.

I'm in for this week then. Give me the image, господинъ QuoProQuid.




sparksbloom posted:

Here's the promised linecrit for QuidProQuid's week 199 story:

Also very helpful. I appreciate the line-by-line sparksbloom. You touched on a lot of issues that I agree with and I will make sure to keep your crit in mind going forward.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Mr Gentleman posted:

In and flip me a pic please

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Astrofig posted:

Never done this before but I wanna play. Hit me with an image!

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Screaming Idiot posted:

In! Hit me with an image I can use to write a disappointing story.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


A line-by-line for Carcer. Hope this helps.

Carcer posted:

Thursday Group Prompt: A man agonizes over potatoes.

Sebmojo Flashrule: Three characters, two secrets, one crime

Bad Seafood KING OF ANIME Flashrule: Two of your characters are engaged in an protracted, ongoing philosophical discussion. They must still feel like people and not just mouthpieces for the views they espouse.

_____________________________________________________

Stay Warm.

Length: 1298

Andy flipped through the thick stack of papers in front of him, most having ACCOUNT IN ARREARS or AMOUNT DUE NOW printed on them in large, intimidatingly don't use adverbs if you can avoid them. they muddle the flow and show a lack of confidence in your ability to set a scene. red letters. Each bill that Andy scanned through seemed to if you're describing a viewpoint character's actions, things don't "seem to" happen. they do or they don't. "seem to" makes you seem uncertain about what you are writing. cause his broad shoulders to droop further and further until he was practically delete adverb. collapsed on the table.

He sat back in his seat and reached for his pint, looking up at the brown and white speckled ceiling through the cigarette and pipe smoke laden air of the King William Ale House. He’d hoped this familiar place would relax him and help him think, but so far nothing but a growing bar tab and deepening sense of desperation seemed to come of it.

“Andy! ‘Aven’t seen you in a while mate!” Said a familiar voice from the door, drawing Andy’s gaze toward a pair of men pulling off gloves and overcoats as they came in out of the cold. sentence here is a little too long and awkward for my taste. i would have personally divided it up, breaking the familiar voice from andy seeing the arrivals.

“Been a couple of weeks at least. What’s all this then, Andy?” Said the larger of the two, a portly but strongly built man. Both of the men ambled towards the booth where Andy sat.

“Oh, Jim, Dave, er,” Andy almost spluttered out, franticly grabbing the papers and hiding them under the table. “Its noth-, uh, nothing. Just some mail that piled up a bit.” the overreaction seems a little incongruent with the subdued attitude that you give andy in the opening. i can understand him wanting to hide his financial troubles, but i can't imagine anyone being this bad at hiding his troubles. his dialogue here almost seems to be inviting his friends to ask questions.

“Andy, you need anythin’?” Dave asked while pointing towards the bar. Andy, momentarily too stunned to speak, awkwardly motioned at his beer. why is he stunned? why wouldnt he see these two guys here? he's doing his taxes in public at a bar, what reason would there be for him to expect privacy?

“Two pints of bitter, love!” Dave called to the barmaid, might be local slang but i've never heard anyone call a female bartender a "barmaid" outside of a high fantasy novel. seems a little anachronistic. then cursing her under his breath for not hearing him i could have done without this detail. muddles the flow of the scene. would like to get to the point. and walking up to it. Jim seated himself sat with a thump and began to rub rubbed his hands together to excise the cold. you have a lot of dead space in your writing. people are always "starting to" or "trying to" do things. it indicates uncertainty or a lack of conviction. when you write in the future, i would advise you to reread and get rid of these bits. also, try to "show don't tell." if it's cold, i should be able to infer that from the scene. don't tell me why he's rubbing his hands together.

Andy’s mind began to race. again with the uncertainty. and this feels like a false conflict. andy seems desperate to hide something, but if he's that nervous why bring these bills to the bar anyway? Surely they had seen the bills or heard the gossip from the other farmers. It wasn’t his fault that 3 write out numbers less than ten. of his fields had flooded, or that that bloke from the GMO companies had turned out to be fraudster and sold him 4th fourth rate seed potato’s watch spelling and grammar. it's potatoes, not potato's. you've been hit over the head enough with the potato seed thing, so i won't rehash that. that not even a starving Irishman would buy. Would they laugh and jeer, or just quietly say “there there” and then pretend his life wasn’t unravelling in front of his eyes, or- punctuation mark.

okay, so my understanding of the story so far is this: andy is a farmer who spent all his cash on a get-rich-quick scheme and lost. he's in deep debt and is trying to drink his sorrows away. this story might be fine if andy was an interesting character or had interesting relationships but his only defining character trait is his depression and anxiety. whenever he talks, i get the sense that you're using him as a marionette to move the plot forward. i don't get a sense of him as a person.

and struggling to write characters is fine. we all struggle with it, myself especially. i would just urge you to find ways to supplement character drama if you aren't good at defining it. one possible way to go about this story would have been to focus on action. maybe write about andy trying to get his money back. i am kind of interested, against my better judgement, in whatever GMO conspiracy you had in the back of your head.


“You ok, Andy? You seem a bit distant.” Jim asked, his broad mouth creased into a concerned frown. as he searched for a lighter in his front pocket while already having A cigarette dangled from the corner of his mouth show don't tell. be aware of proper grammar and punctuation. avoid unnecessary or tangential details.

“Huh? Oh, just a lot on my mind, Jim.” Andy said, blinking a few time to try and get rid of the cobwebs behind his eyes. i don't know what this saying means. and i could really use some non-mechanical responses from andy. he seems to swing between overreaction and obfuscation.

“Ah, say no more. With harvest season round the corner we all got a lot on our plates. ‘Ere, Dave, where are those beers at?” i hate to tell you not to write phonetically, but please don't write phonetically unless you think you can pull it off. Jim replied knowingly avoid adbverbs. they add very little and obfuscate. before raising his voice at Dave was he yelling at dave? who was having a small problem trying struggling to carry two mugs of beer while pocketing his change, inevitably spilling a little on the already slightly damp floor. Beer spilled across the floor. aim for active voice whenever possible.

“You can go get yer own pint next time if yer that impatient.” see previous comment on writing accents. Dave said coarsely as he set the drinks down with a thump, spilling even more. Jim shot Dave a look, who rolled his eyes and got back up to fetch some napkins to clean up the mess on the table before settling down himself.

“Now that we’re all settled in,” Dave said, wiping some errant foam away from his mouth “Shall we continue where we left off last week?” improper punctuation for dialogue attribution.

“Oh, not this rot again.” Jim scoffed, waving his cigarette encumbered hand dismissively. Andy just stared into his own half-finished beer.

“A well rounded man is a learned man, or so my Beth says. Its important that a man has considered these phiso-, philolig-, piscatorial...”

“Philosophical.” Andy said flatly. yeah, this is a bit much for me. i've interacted with a lot of really pleasant but unacademic people and it's difficult to believe someone not knowing the word "philosophical." these are grown men and i just don't believe that they are that dense. andy is presented like a bored schoolteacher and it's a little grating.

“Thank ye Andy, philosophical issues.” Dave finished triumphantly, his inability to say the word already forgotten.

“Only thing rounded about you is your waist. All this life and death, good and evil, seems a bit heavy and grim for something to talk about at a pub with your mates…” Jim trailed off, his face showing his discomfort with the subject matter.

“Ah, but that’s it, life’s a grim thing. Yer strugglin’ from the day yer born till the day they lay yer in the ground. Nothin’ comes easy, even to successful men such as ourselves.” Dave said punctuating his point with a swing of his beer mug and making an even greater mess. Andy grunted in resentment at being called successful, though Dave mistook it for agreeance not a word. agreement. and smiled slightly through his thick beard.

“Ah, but a worthwhile struggle surely. I mean, you grow up, make friends, meet the women to be your wife, have children you love. All of that’s got to be worth hardships you’ll face.”

“Theres the rub, Jim. Talkin’ hippo- hypopo-“Jim struggled, looking more annoyed the more confused he got.

“Hypothetically.” Andy muttered

okay, so our central conflict is andy hiding his financial situation from these guys. instead of having any tension about whether they know or not, we get an extended back-and-forth between jim and dave about philosophy. the conversation gives me a better sense of their personalities, but i feel like we are getting off track. there's no urgency to the situation and it feels like the story is spinning its wheels.

worse yet, andy's one word responses don't give me a good sense of his character. it just doubles down on his depressed attitude. i'd like to get a better sense of this man, who you decided was interesting enough to be a viewpoint character.


“Hypothetically, those friends will never really know what yer’ problems are, or care even if they did.”

Andy’s despair seized on this point, growing like a fire blazing out of control. ugh. this prose is just a wee bit overwrought. andy goes from cold to hot in two seconds flat. i think there might be a katy perry song about him. Jim and Dave would never really be able to understand Andy’s problems, especially about those damned potatoes. One of them, probably Jim, would make a joke like “Well, yer just stick ‘em in the ground and wait, right?” then laugh and go back to talking about something insipid. again, you're spending a lot of time telling me the issue instead of showing it. instead of this paragraph, you could have had andy engage in an extended back-and-forth with his friends in a way that slowly revealed his feelings. have his lack of confidence in his friends expressed through their dialogue.

“Or a wife that takes everythin’ out of context and blames ye for all the worlds ills?” Jim continued, blind to the turmoil he was causing Andy.

Andy’s heart skipped a beat. His wife. He hadn’t told her about the problems, always sure he’d find a way out. What would she say? What would she do? Would she leave him and take the kids, or would she stay and just hate him forever? He wanted the earth to swallow him up. see my above comment. you have all this turmoil happening off-screen when your reader would benefit greatly from seeing it play out. have a flashback. a montage. some dialogue. i dont care. just listing andy's problems makes this a dull read.

“And kids always have it the hardest, never bien’ the cause of the problem but sufferin’ the most.” Jim finished shaking his head, his melancholy words beginning to get to even himself.

The kids. Oh god, the kids. It took all Andy had not to scream and curse how unfair everything was. and to add on the above point, characters who wallow in their sorrow are not usually interesting to read about. they have to DO something. they have to have agency. have andy fight back in this conversation, at the very least. it might not make him likeable, but it will make him more memorable than the emotional slug you are portraying him as.

“That’s laying it on a bit thick, Dave.” Jim replied dourly, face pressed into his mug and spirit momentarily depressed.

“A man has ta’ face this sort of thing, Jim. Ask most people at the end of it all and they’ll say it wasn’t worth the sufferin’.” Dave said while shrugging to emphasis his point, leaving the three in silence as they contemplated the discussion.

Andy stood up suddenly, mind set and eyes glazed over. emotions don't turn on a dime and neither should your characters. there's really no foreshadowing to whatever revelation andy is about to have. i, as your reader, am mystified as to what is about to happen. Jim nearly dropped his mug in surprise.

“Got somewhere to be andy?” Dave asked as Andy paid his tab at the counter before quickly turning to leave the pub. watch your grammar.

“Yeah, have to take care of something. Oh, borrow your lighter? I’ll have need of it." Andy answered as he gathered up his papers. oh god, please don't have andy self-immolate and/or kill his family. i have such good will for what you are trying to do. don't have him inexplicably commit murder suicide because you couldn't think of a satisfying ending.

“Sure Andy, stay warm out there, chilly tonight.” this dialogue doesn't seem to match the request.

“I intend to.”


***


“Bloody terrible thing.” The pub barkeep says to no one in particular, pushing aside his paper. he killed his family, didn't he.

“Mhhm.” The barmaid hums in response, too busy to pay him any actual attention. oh hell. please don't.

“Man sets locks himself and his family into their house, sets it alight with them all inside.” The barkeep continues. murder-suicide endings indicate that you wrote your way into a whole and couldn't think of a satisfying way to end your story. if you ever start writing and notice your story moving in this direction again, it means there is something seriously wrong with your plotting.

“How awful.” The barmaid replies, too busy trying to juggle the current flood of orders to care.

“You know, I think I saw him in here the other night, sat alone over there trying to drink his sorrows away. I could see something was wrong, but god almighty, what would a man have to be agonizing over to drive him that far.” He said mostly to himself as he shook his head in disgust before taking his paper back up and reading the sport section.
__________________________________________________________

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Thranguy posted:

In for the week; pick a picture for me.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Little over 24 hours remaining until the deadline. Be sure to sign-up before midnight Friday!

And, thank you to Kaishai for agreeing to be the third judge for this week.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


About four hours until the sign-up deadline!

Black Griffon posted:

Thank you all for crits and such.

I'm just home from Rome (the reason my last story was so hastily submitted), and I'm drunk on taxfree red wine and Cointreau.

Someone give me an image and a flash rule, I'm in.



Flash Rule: "Cowardice is the most terrible of vices."

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Sign-ups have long since closed.

Please write some good stories, everyone.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


One hour until the deadline!

Get those stories in.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Thunderdome CCI Results


an illustration of how i felt reading your stories this week

Hi there, everyone. Thank you for participating in Week 201, Old Russian Joke. Before we get onto the judging, I would like to leave you with a brief public service announcement.

When you write in the future, please know that the rules of grammar do, in fact, apply. As difficult as it may be to imagine, Strunk and White weren't lying when they wrote things like:

quote:

5. Do not join independent clauses by a comma.

or

quote:

11. Use the active voice.

The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive:

I shall always remember my first visit to Boston.

This is much better than

My first visit to Boston will always be remembered by me.

or

quote:

13. Make sure the reader knows who is speaking.

Dialogue is a total loss unless you indicate who the speaker is. In long dialogue passages containing no attributives, the reader may become lost and be compelled to go back and reread in order to puzzle the thing out. Obscurity is an imposition on the reader, to say nothing of its damage to the work.

In dialogue, make sure that your attributives do not awkwardly interrupt a spoken sentence. Place them where the break would come naturally in speech — that is, where the speaker would pause for emphasis, or take a breath. The best test for locating an attributive is to speak the sentence aloud.

If you have trouble with grammar during your first draft, that's fine. If, however, you decide not to proofread and post a story riddled with errors and missing words, the judges will hate your guts. Forever. Please do not make me hate you.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s announce the results. This week’s Dishonourable Mentions go to Chili and Fuubi. These were both profoundly bad stories that would have lost in any other week. Chili, your story stars an extremely boring protagonist who inexplicably commits murder-suicide in a ridiculous fashion. Fuubi, your story reads like sixth-grader doing a Powerpoint presentation on The Silmarillion. Both of you are getting sent to Siberia.

Luckily, I can appreciate effort. You both tried to produce something, which is more than can be said of the Loser, magnificent7. Mag, you very clearly did not care about this week. Your submission is barely a story, much less appropriate for the prompt. Congratulations on earning the literary equivalent of an ice-pick in the skull.

I wish I could say that there were some very good stories to balance out these very bad submissions, but unfortunately this week was not strong for anyone. Each submission was deeply flawed. Nonetheless, my co-judges and I thought it appropriate to award an Honourable Mention to Thranguy. Despite the parentheticals and the ending, your protagonist had the strongest voice of any character this week. I would very much like to see you edit and expand your submission into something longer. This week’s winner is Benny Profane. Though very little happens in your story, you have some lovely prose and manage to set a really nice tone.

Alright, Benny Profane, you have command of the Thunderdome Revolution.

QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


Week 201 Critiques, Part I

The Other Side of the Wall
  • Author: Marshmallow Blue
  • Plot: The leader of a firing squad gets shot by his intended victim for being too awkward with a gun. Later, he gets released from prison and everything is cool again?
  • Thoughts: Opening two paragraphs give me a clear, if unsubtle, sense of what is happening but the prose is awkward and stilted. A lot of your imagery is discordant or doesn’t make sense.

    I can imagine you imagining this as a movie in your head. The ruggedly handsome lead leans against a bloody wall with a pile of bodies next to him (because that’s what ruggedly handsome leads do in gritty movies), reminiscing on the carnage around him. Unfortunately, this is not a movie and you can’t rely on cinematography to tell the story for you. The killings imagined by Alex would be better told as action sequences. It would be more interesting to see Alex kill these people than to listen to him dispassionately list their deaths. My mind strays to the book Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, which manages to capture the numb “it’s me or them; I have no choice” mentality that perpetuates mass killings.

    The attitude of your characters to violence is a bit off. The dialogue (“Break is over, there is a rebellion to crush.”) is too flippant to give the violence meaning, but Alex’s internal monologue is too serious to suggest depersonalization. Mass death tends to drive people into severe depression (because they are unable to justify what they are doing) or it becomes a kind of game (because they are able to justify what they are doing too well. See: Rwanda, Bosnia.) Writing suggests a lack of familiarity with mass atrocities, but I don’t begrudge you for trying something difficult.

    Okay, so the purge victim manages to steal Alex’s gun. Seems to me that either Alex is extremely incompetent or the purge-victim is a superhero. Being shot in the gut is not something you just bounce back from. Rest of the story is pretty bland and predictable, but the worst is Alex’s lack of agency. He makes no choices or decisions and spends the entire story being ordered around by other people. He’s a passive observer in his own life who makes no decisions whatsoever.

    The ending seems tacked on to fulfill the requirements of the prompt. The line, “Alex walked from prison,” has me confused. Did Alex get sent to jail for his participation in the crackdown? Was the rebellion put down or was it successful? I don’t have enough details to really care about it either way (the people could be revolting over cookies for all I know) but it leaves a sour taste in my mouth.I’m not sure I really want Alex, a man who has participated in war crimes, to live happily ever after. Your story leaves me feeling hollowed-out but that’s probably because I spent a lot of time thinking about the Holocaust.

  • Story Elements to Improve Upon: Show don’t tell. If you are going for grim-dark, I would rather see all these crazy atrocities than have someone tell me about them. Also, give your characters agency. Have them make a choice that affects the ending of the story. Otherwise, I have no reason to care what they do.
  • Recommended Reading: Girl at War by Sara Novic talks about acts of extreme violence and their impact on people.
  • Rating: 3.5/10 (I wanted to DM this story. Thank kaishai and sparks that it didnt)

Grim callings
    Author: Chernabog
    Plot: A man ventures out into the woods to save someone, with a little help from Death.
    Thoughts: Opening paragraph is mildly interesting, if a bit awkward. Aim for shorter, more readable sentences. Also remember that a comma is not a semicolon and cannot bind two independent thoughts together. Unfortunately, I don’t have any sense of what your central conflict is going to be yet. A bad sign.

    The second paragraph leaves me a little confused as to what is happening. Is the narrator remembering a past brush with Death or are they witnessing what is happening in the present? Third paragraph could be chopped down to just the first sentence. You dwell on the narrator’s thoughts on Death too long instead of showing me that respect in action.

    Moving forward, you lean on your picture too much,. An outside reader would have absolutely no sense of the scene’s blocking. “A gunshot broke the silence of the night,” comes out of nowhere because you don’t explain whom is shooting whom. Who is dying? What’s going on? Again, the only hint I have is your picture. Don’t assume that the reader can read your mind. I should have a firm understanding of the scene using only the text.

    Okay, now we are getting somewhere. I have to reread several times to understand what is happening (seriously work on descriptions/scene-setters) but at least we have a plot. It’s buried almost halfway in, but it’s a conflict. You should have cut out the entire first half of the story and started with the ***. Death doesn’t have much of a personality, but the little colour you give her is nice. I think the concept of Death giving someone her vorpal blade is interesting. Death actively rooting for people to defy her is also rather cool. Wish you had developed the character more instead of inserting a completely tangential scene with the mayor. It adds nothing to the piece and muddles the flow.

    The action sequence is really confusing. I am particularly flummoxed by: “I turned to see her raising up and fired the musket instinctively, getting her at the side of the neck.” Did… did the bear try to shoot the protagonist with a rifle? I have no idea where people are in this cave. I don’t even know who is being attacked. It’s an absolute slog to get through. I’m a little mad by the next scene, where the rifle inexplicably displays qualities that it has not before. Why didn’t it emit “a blue mist-like substance” when the protagonist used it?
    Skills to Improve Upon: There are fundamental issues with your sentence structure that leaves me confused about what is happening. It’s an issue that can only be resolved with more reading. I would also try to improve your blocking. Try to envision your scene before you begin writing and be sure to give your reader enough information to see that same mental image.
  • Recommended Reading: Not really sure about this one. Maybe the Elements of Style?
  • Rating: 2/10 (hi, i also would have dmed this story. please thank the other co-judges that it didnt come to that.)

Never Again, You Scum!
  • Author: Chili
  • Plot: A man seeks vengeance against his father’s killer.
  • Thoughts: Your opening sentence has my attention. Your second paragraph, not so much. Phrasing is a little clunky and awkward and your vocabulary seems a bit odd. There’s at least one place where you made a typo or forgot a word (seriously, proofread). I had to reread to understand what was happening. The unattributed dialogue doesn’t really help clarity at all. Had I written the story, I would have killed my darlings and started with, “Luca loved his father’s stories...” as it gives me a good sense of the father’s personality from the start.

    Moving onward, you forecast the father’s death too much for it to have much of an impact. I’m also a little confused about the kid’s dynamic in all this. Do the men know who he is and what is relationship with his father is? Are they just ignoring him? What’s the story there? Yuri should have been introduced at the beginning of the story. Otherwise, I have no idea why I should care about this particular goon.

    Oh, so the kid is watching all this from a balcony or something? Rereading, I can see where that might have been suggested but it should have been made more clear.

    There’s a short interlude here that could have been cut without losing anything. Frankly, you haven’t given me any reason to care about his godmother or the owner of the Lucky Oyster. I would encourage you, in the future, to cut out any character whose importance could be summarized in a single sentence. I would also encourage you to not introduce characters in Act III of the story.

    Okay, jesus christ, there’s more loving characters who have no dialogue and only tangential story importance. Why are you wasting so much time on these people of passing importance? Why not consolidate? You only have 1,200 words. Why didn’t you spend more time explaining why he’s committing these acts? Or, better yet, show what’s happening instead of making it all happen off-screen. There’s no reason why your protagonist couldn’t have been the one to tie Yuri to a mast.

    Last few paragraphs are rushed. I was hoping for some confrontation or vindication, some Count of Monte Cristo-style reveal. Instead, Luca’s interaction with Yuri takes up like two lines of dialogue. The actual revenge scheme is absolutely ridiculous, almost to the point of parody. Also, how does Luca’s henchman friend feel about this whole murder-suicide thing? I have no idea how this is meant to be a happy ending.
  • Story Elements to Improve Upon: Cut out tangential details. You do not have enough time to dwell on a bunch of characters and events that don’t drive the story forward. Stay focused on the end game and don’t get distracted on the way there.
  • Recommended Reading: It’s required high-school reading, but I never feel bad recommending The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. It’s one of my favourite novels and a wonderful story about revenge.
  • Rating: 2/10

February
  • Author: a friendly penguin
  • Plot: I think some humans are plotting against a monster?
  • Thoughts: I can appreciate unconventional storytelling, but, lol, I had to read your story four times to understand what you were going for. Having understood that, I do like your piece. It has some really awful clarity issues but once you understand that this is a monologue/warning/story being told to a child, your intention becomes much clearer. Tone is nice. There is a sense of menace that pervades your sentences. Again, though, I’m not sure how to interpret certain segments. Is the monster magical? Does it reside within people? I think it is snatching up and eating children but I’m not sure.

    Okay, phew. A section break. Hopefully you can wrap matters up and clarify.

    Ehhh, I think you wrote yourself into a hole in the first part and realized there was no way to resolve the central conflict using the perspective used. The sudden shift to the monster comes off as really jarring. Nonetheless, there’s some lovely prose here and I have a slightly clearer sense of what is happening through the next few paragraphs. Unfortunately, I quickly lose that clarity by “The day grows late.” I think the monster is being hunted at the end, though, so I guess it’s technically a happy ending?
  • Story Elements to Improve Upon: Uhhh… clarity. I have no idea how to interpret large segments of this story.
  • Recommended Reading: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner might be helpful if you really want to pursue unconventional story structure. (my mother is a fish.)
  • Rating: 4/10

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QuoProQuid
Jan 12, 2012


In with Lucky Charms

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