Over six million words. Thousands of stories. Countless battles.
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Thunderdome has reincarnated in various shapes since the paleolithic era, when a cantankerous chieftain and a frequently drunken sexual deviant contested ownership of a slain boar by seeing who could scream the loudest.
You find yourself within a glorious, embattled empire…
Thunderdome is more than just a weekly flash fiction contest. Thunderdome is a crucible. It is the winnowing fork that separates the wheat from the chaff.
There is no mercy for the weak. There is untold glory for the strong.
You step onto bloodied sands.
Each week, there is a prompt. The prompt includes a word count, some inspiration or instructions for your story, and the deadlines by which you must sign up and submit your story.
There is a winner and a loser. The winner is granted untold power, and chooses the prompt, word count, and deadlines for the following week.
The loser is drowned in infamy and receives an avatar to mark their shame.
Through compliance we achieve greatness.
The word count is a hard maximum.
The deadlines are absolute.
Those who fail (neglect to submit a story) should on their next entry. This is not a law, however it is strongly advised.
If you write fanfiction or erotica, you will be shoved face-first against the wall and your rear end will be devoured by shitweasels.
If you edit your post after submission, you will be shoved face-first against the wall and your rear end will be devoured by shitweasels (plus, your entry will be disqualified).
If you put your submission in quote tags, you will be shoved face-first against the wall and your rear end will be devoured by shitweasels. UPDATE: No really, quotes tags make stories more of a pain in the rear end for archiving. This means any and all quote tags within your story. Blame computers and science.
If you shitpost unfunny things in the thread, you will be shoved face-first against the wall and your rear end will be devoured by shitweasels.
If you respond to critiques from the judges or your fellow combatants, you will be shoved face-first against the wall and your rear end will be devoured by shitweasels.
If you start shitfights that you aren’t prepared to brawl over, you will be shoved face-first against the wall and your rear end will be devoured by shitweasels.
If you do anything that requires moderator actions, you will be shoved face-first against the wall and your rear end will be devoured by shitweasels.
If you win the week and go more than a day without responding in the thread, you will be shoved face-first against the wall and your rear end will be devoured by shitweasels (and you may lose the bloodthrone).
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The Founders posted:
Three shalt be the number of judges, and the number of judges shall be three.
New Judges, click this link
If you win, you should judge. If you can’t judge, let us know via the thread, PM, or IRC. When you judge, you should be prepared to offer some commentary for the stories in your week. You will select two co-judges, and those co-judges should also be prepared to offer some sort of critique for the week.
If you win the week and we don’t hear from you for more than a day (roughly 24 hours from the results post), you run the risk of forfeiting the prompt.
Submissions are generally on Sundays. If you haven’t judged by Wednesday, you run the risk of a coup. You will most certainly be shamed into oblivion, and be remembered as That Person Who Won and Then Couldn’t Stick Around to Do Their Goddamn Job.
On posting, by Djeser:
GOOD THUNDERDOME POSTS:
On brawling, by Sebmojo:
Fraternization with the enemy
Come chat with us in #Thunderdome on SynIRC.
If you’re new to IRC, an easy way to connect is to go to chat.mibbit.com, select SynIRC from the dropdown menu, enter your username into the nickname field, and type ‘#Thunderdome’ into the channel field.
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Lurkers are generally not welcome. If you are curious about Thunderdome but haven’t signed up yet, however, let us know! We are also happy to answer any questions about Thunderdome.
Remember to edit any stories you may want to submit to publications out of the thread. Once it closes at the end of the year and goes into the goldmine, there is no way to remove your posts from public view.
If you want to discuss a critique you received, take it to the Fiction farm or Fiction Advice.
Ock ock the blood the bloo blo free cache cab
Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 19:56 on Dec 27, 2017
|# ¿ Jan 3, 2017 03:21|
|# ¿ Dec 2, 2021 20:09|
Week 230 crits, you horrible monsters
Sprxblm Earthquake Season
This feels like an anti-story. Literally none of the prominent elements hang together in any cohesive way. Like, presumably Maurice asked Hunter for the drugs, but it’s not clear why he abruptly goes all Get Thee Behind Me Satan. It’s not clear why the secretary beats Hunter to apparent death. You’ve got this conversation about earthquakes and race wars, but it has nothing to do with any of the other events in the story. It’s a frustratingly disjointed series of events.
B. prof my washer is full of baby boomers
Fun story. You hooked me with the in-unit washer and dryer at a decent price and kept my interest with the absurd twist. You have a penchant for humorous situations and fun dialog and this story showcased that. The tattoo scheme was ridiculous, but it led to a charming ending so ultimately I was ok with it.
Flerp to punch a ghost
Hrrmm. idk what to think of this. I’m not really sure how the kid solved his problem. Just by bullying the ghost into the wall? I laughed at “i’m twelve, dude”. I think I sort of like the basic premise. A 12 year old wouldn’t really be equipped to help a ghost “move on”, so it’s kind of a nice change from the usual ghost cliches.
Ent this is one of my hardest tricks you know
Uuuh. So the big paragraph of magical fuckery was kind of a chore to read. I guess I’m just not all that interested in reading about a guy who solves his problems with magic that I don’t know the rules of or care about. This is kind of a boilerplate fantasy situation. It’s like, guy has a problem, but he does the magical thing and then the problem is ok. I get the plot, the dude needed to buy some time to do the magical thing he procrastinated on. It’s just not very satisfying.
ANSB universal donor
How does one “toe” themselves somewhere? There are a few other weird phrases in this story. I kind of dig the weirdness and the body horror, though. Unfortunately, the creepiness was all it had going for it. At this word count, you can’t really do a ton of characterization AND detail all of the blood and viscera, so at the end of the story I felt like I’d watched an interesting thing happen to total strangers. It would be cool if the weird hosed up “healing” thing was a metaphor for something or...something, but I didn’t really get that vibe.
BOS Google Earth
What is the fascination with mates mating in the pub, i swear. So many thunderdome words have been used to describe pub chit-chat. Literally the only thing the beginning of this story has going for it is the fact that simon is in his underwear, but the intrigue fades fast. Luckily, the story takes a turn for the interesting just before i lost my interest, ala Samwise saving frodo from dropping despairingly into mt. doom lava. Simon’s theory is interesting, though it’s all confined to one conversation inside a bar, which is not as great. I was a little disappointed that so many words were used on flavor dialog when you’ve got tiny digital people in internet zeppelins, or whatever! I wanted to investigate that some more! Also, you thought your story was so nice that you pasted it twice, I guess.
Ska fantastic meats and where to grind them
Typo in the first sentence, come ON. I don’t like to nit-pick typos, but having one in the first sentence is kind of like accidentally leaving a smear of poo on your CV when you go to hand it in to a prospective employer. Your commas are all over the place, my dude. You’ve got bad comma splices and missing commas. But then...either the story got better, so i didn’t notice the punctuation issues, or your punctuation got better. BUT THEN...the protag and friends become satan baby food, the end. I mean, I guess there is some implication that the people watching the stream called the cops, but it’s too late. I actually kind of liked your characters, or at least I liked the hint of a group dynamic. I’m not a fan of the ending though, not at all. When I think about your entries from the last few months, it occurs to me that you’re pretty good at character banter (like in that spaceship story from metal week) so focus on that more and ditch the cheap scares.
Chili you have no self worth take some of mine
I feel like the first line should be broken up into short, punchy sentence fragments, but maybe that’s just me. As it is now, it’s kinda wordy and I don’t like how it’s structured. Not sure how I feel about using asterisks for the BOOMs. I think the convention for onomatopoeia is to use italics, but that’s a minor point. I lol’d at ‘The Smiths’. I think it’s just a capitalization error, but I’m going to choose to believe that Morrissey et al are the landlords of this building. You should cut down on the rambly sentences, some of them are TOO LONG. The ending sequence….I have no words. I don’t know if I’m mad or amused. Some combination of the two, I reckon. Smdh.
Hawklad ahrd reset
How does a mote of bacon burst onto one’s lip? But okay you have this horrible she-beast of a girlfriend and her put-upon lover who wishes he could undo it all. It’s not great, but so far the stories this week seem to spend WAY too long getting to the conflict, so it’s nice to see one start there. Overall, this story has the same vibe as a cringey comedy like Curb Your Enthusiasm or Peep Show. I think in a visual medium, you could kind of pull off the accidental wife-killing and not have it be unspeakably dark, but as a written story, it feels a bit hideous. Maybe that’s intentional and I’m the hosed up one for reading this as a comedy. Not bad overall, though, even if the main character is an evil, impotent weenie.
Beef supreme clockwork
So, i think this is a decent piece of writing overall. However, it’s pretty obvious that the old man is time, so there is no real mystery. It’s a catalogue of Martin’s resolute but futile attempts to stave off the effects of time. There were a few things I’d quibble with on a line crit level, but otherwise I feel like this piece did what it set out to do.
qpq roll for initiative
D’awwwwe. This is a really cute little father/son moment, with a little character depth to boot. These felt like real people rather than caricatures. I feel like some of the words dedicated to grocery-handling at the beginning were superfluous, but otherwise everything was charmingly real and sweet.
I had a really tough time visualizing a lot of this because the setting isn’t firmly established until part way through the story. I was picturing a bog or swamp, since will-o-wisps are associated with rotting swamp matter. I was kind of annoyed at the number of characters. Maurice/Marlow were especially annoying because they scan so similarly. I sort of understand WHY there are so many people, it’s because each death lets you do fun poetic descriptive things. The narrative spends so much time being poetic and dreamy that I was surprised when Marlowe explained the ‘rules’ of the wil o wisp at the end of the story. Once the narrative told me explicitly what was going on, I got frustrated. Like, either you needed to go balls to the wall with the abstract stuff and leave the reader to figure it out for themselves, or you needed to put the stuff about time travel earlier on. Your character has a distinct goal, but the reader doesn’t really know that until the end. You probly shouldn’t pile all your context onto the end of the story imo
Okay, I laughed. gj on correctly guessing that the judges are all five year olds at heart. But to your credit, I suppose most of us can relate to the urgency of needing to pass gas in an inappropriate situation, so it’s a good source of tension, i guess???? I wasn’t feeling the characters too much, though. Alice is a little too sweet and ever so polite, except for her gas problem, obviously. The receptionist would, in reality, probably lose her job if she behaved the way you described. Mr. Lieberman is every bloated CEO stereotype ever. It...kind of works, insofar as I guess it’s kind of funny to watch these caricatures get farted on. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, it is just a couple of caricatures getting farted on.
renee take w/ food
I actually like the parts of the story where the character is tripping. I was disappointed when it turned out to be a trip. I feel like the whole first part of the story is just...kinda useless bloat, the only function of which is to set up the pill switch. Should’ve just played it straight as fantastical horror. You could’ve condensed the protagonist’s self deprecating new year’s resolution flimflam and jumped straight to the good stuff.
Krunge bugging out
this story makes me feel like i have brain damage. im having a really hard time understanding where this tidal cascade of fleas came from, since the first paragraph describes them as being “unleashed into the home”. Was the narrator just walking around with them in his pocket? But then, he’s there to exterminate bugs, presumably, so why would he be bringing them into the house???? And then the cat. I get it, he mentally nicknames the cat “dickfuck” because it’s a little rear end in a top hat, and it all builds up to the “joke” where his boss thinks he’s calling him a dickfuck. But it’s still annoying to read over and over.
You’ve got some weeeeird things going on:
I ripped the offending canister from its lawsuit worthy facial storage, taking a quarter of the mask with it, and tossed it away with all the grace of a head injury.
This is soooo overly wordy. A lot of this story is overly wordy in a way that makes me think you were going for a clever/humorous tone, but it just doesn’t work a lot of the time. Like, a head injury doesn’t lack grace, someone with a head injury lacks grace. oh and it should be ‘lawsuit-worthy’, you are missing a hyphen.
I stepped forward, only to trip over Billy’s beer can, my elbow driving into Billy’s beer cans.
the repetition of “billy’s beer can(s)” is really awkward
To the kneeling Billy, I took the opening to remove my awkward gloves and stuff them in his always open maw.
yeah this is one step above incomprehensible.
|# ¿ Jan 3, 2017 04:20|
^^^^ click the '?' icon under flerp's posts to see how NOT to post in thunderdome
|# ¿ Jan 3, 2017 05:16|
Hello all. I'll be subbing for Twist for THUNDERTOME for the next few weeks. With that in mind, if anybody still wants to speak about BURNING CHROME, the previous book to discuss, do so, perhaps when it comes time to discuss the book I have chosen for digestion from now till JAN, 6th, 2017: BARDO99 by Cecile Pineda.
edit: this is not a terribly long book, so if you want to read it real quick and join in, that's totally doable
|# ¿ Jan 4, 2017 01:12|
in and lego me
|# ¿ Jan 7, 2017 03:44|
Dumb Baby Stuff
There’s a big backyard that’s really two back yards with no fence to divide them. All that demarcates the Mcpherson property from the Nowak property is an invisible line and a really tall, sturdy tree.
There’s a wooden castle in the tree. In the summer, when the foliage is thick, you can hardly see it from the ground. This is where Sarah Mcpherson and Brian Nowak have spent every day of every summer vacation since the 3rd grade, when the two families came together to build the treehouse.
It’s the last weeks of summer before they both go into sixth grade and things are pretty complicated. They’re sitting criss-cross on the floor, facing each other. Sarah picks at a splinter in the wooden floorboards. She almost, kind of, maybe thought she was like sorta crushing on Brian. But that was before. Now, she can barely look at him.
“D’you wanna play the king?” Brian offers. King-and-Warrior is a game they’ve played since before the construction of the tree-castle. Brian is usually the king because he does the best fancy voice. Sarah is better at swinging a stick around in a convincingly sword-like manner, so she play’s the king’s valiant and occasionally magical defender. Together, they’ve fended off giant wolves and blood-hungry crows and evil wizards.
Several weeks earlier, Sarah had stopped in the middle of play and said, “there’s such thing as queens too, you know.”
And Brian had said, not quite in his normal voice and not quite in his fancy voice, “Yeah, but in our world it’s a king. Plus, you’re the warrior. You get to do all the cool magic rescue stuff.”
“Maybe I want to be the one getting rescued sometimes,” Sarah had said.
But that’s not why Sarah and Brian are sitting awkwardly on the floor, not looking at each other.
“I don’t care about being the king,” Sarah says gloomily. “It doesn’t matter. It’s all made up, anyway.”
Both kids had recently received a refined dose of reality when, in an expedition outside of the castle to recover a mythical treasure, they discovered Brian’s mom bouncing on the lap of Sarah’s dad, both of them naked from the waist down, inside of the little RV camper the Mcphersons kept in their side yard.
Now, Sarah’s house is a war zone. When she’s not in the treehouse with Brian, she’s holed up in her room, trying not to hear her mom’s anguished bellowing or her dad’s defensive roars. There is little more than sour milk and condiments in the fridge, so Sarah has been living mostly off of dry cereal that she pilfers from the pantry between fights.
The idea of castles and swords and crushes on certain neighbor boys seems like immature baby stuff. There’s real stuff to think about, monsters that two kids can’t keep out of their castle forever.
“This is all your dad’s fault,” Brian blurts out. Sarah raises her head and looks at him sharply.
“No one made your mom sit on him like that,” she says. “My mom says your mom was just jealous.”
“Your dad looks like a fat bear!” Brian says, his voice a little too loud.
“Sarah. It’s time to come inside.” The voice belongs to Sarah’s dad, and is coming from below the treehouse.
Still glaring at Brian, Sarah lifts the trapdoor and clambers down the ladder. She’s mad at him, but still, she hopes her dad didn’t hear anything he’d said, especially the bear thing.
They step into the relative dim of the kitchen and the look on his face tells Sarah he did hear. He sits her down at the kitchen table, tosses some frozen chicken into the sink to defrost.
“I don’t want you playing in the treehouse for a while. Or with Brian.” he tells Sarah.
“Why? Brian didn’t do anything wrong.” It’s one thing to be mad at Brian, but to not be allowed to see him at all…
“No, neither you or Brian did anything wrong. But your own family has got to come first, and I don’t want him spouting off--I mean, his dad has some funny ideas about our family, Sarah, and you don’t need to hear any of that from Brian.”
She doesn’t think. She stands up from the table and bolts for the sliding glass door, out into the back yard. Her dad swears and shouts her name. She hears the sound of his heavy work boots scuffing across the linoleum.
There no sense in going to the treehouse; it’s not really a castle. Her dad can get up the ladder just as well as her. But she scrambles up the rungs anyway, bursts through the trapdoor, expecting Brian to still be there. He’s not. With her dad only yards away, she climbs all the way into the treehouse and sits with her full weight on top on the trapdoor. There’s a push from beneath, almost enough to lift the door up a full inch. But her dad doesn’t have enough leverage.
Her heart is thumping in her chest like she’s just finished running the mile in P.E.. Her dad is swearing some more, detailing all the ways in which she’s going to be grounded for eternity, and then--
“Leave the queen alone!” The voice is Brian’s. Not fancy or kingly but harsh and brave, with a rasping hint of the man he’ll be in a few years.
She hears a grassy thump as her dad hops off the ladder. “Put the stick down, Brian. You’re no longer welcome on our side of the tree. And Sarah is going to in big trouble if she doesn’t come down right now.” He raises his voice for the last part.
Sarah does come down from the castle. She takes up her sword-stick, which is leaning in its customary spot against the trunk of the tree. Brian is standing with his feet spread wide apart, his stick held out in front of him in an imitation of Sarah’s warrior stance. She moves to stand beside him, mirroring the pose.
Her dad is practically frothing at the mouth, eyes bulging, cheeks red with rage. His fists clench and unclench at his sides. He looks like a stranger to Sarah in that moment.
“Come. Inside. Sarah.”
“You did this,” she finds herself yelling. “Me and Brian shouldn’t have to stop hanging out because of your dumb grownup problems.”
For a second, it looks like her dad is going to charge them both down, nevermind their fearsome, trembling swords. He breathes in and out, all but exhaling smoke. Then, with a hitching sigh, he says, “Whatever,” and walks around the side of the house.
Moments later, Sarah hears the sound of a car door and a revving engine. Then he’s gone.
The two kids kind of just stand there, swords still pointed at the spot where Sarah’s dad had been standing.
Then Brian looks at her and says, “To the castle, my queen?”
And Sarah says, “Yes, my king.” And they clamber back up the ladder, maybe for the last time, to hide inside the safe, stupid baby stuff for a little while longer.
|# ¿ Jan 9, 2017 04:57|
Prompt will be up in ~6 hours, until then feel free to poo poo up the thread with gifs for me to ignore
|# ¿ Jan 10, 2017 00:10|
|# ¿ Jan 10, 2017 00:11|
Week 232: I want to crit your blood
alright you writhing aggregate of making GBS threads dick nipples
you've summoned me from the deep slumber of mediocrity
i'm so sick of trying to come up with a prompt that "makes u think" and herds you felid children into something resembling coherence
BOLD TEXT write me your loving soul, write me the thing that makes you want to write, write me the essence of your being END OF BOLD TEXT
only the hardest dudes will enter this battle of truth and self
no flashrules i cannot help you
no wordcount because souls are nto quantifiable
Sign up dead line 11:59:59PM PST on Friday the 13th
Submission dead line sunday the 15th, 11:59:59
Ska for an HM or better
mojo , additional to get crits done by the signup deadline
anime was right
ska (again), regular
Flerp again, that both stories will be better than Ska's
Jay W. Friks
The Cut of Your Jib
Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 00:34 on Feb 8, 2017
|# ¿ Jan 10, 2017 05:35|
in and to submit by midnight PST tonight
this, this is the stuff
|# ¿ Jan 10, 2017 05:43|
Wake Up In The Morning Feelin' Like E. Tiddy
|# ¿ Jan 10, 2017 08:33|
loving look at these goddamn sexy signups holy cow
lol watch this week backfire and we lose half of thunderdome
|# ¿ Jan 10, 2017 18:31|
|# ¿ Jan 11, 2017 03:05|
i crave death
|# ¿ Jan 11, 2017 21:58|
btw some of you are questioning whether there it's possible to go "off-prompt" or whether or not i'll even know
the answer is, yes you can, and yes i'll know
don't waste my time with insincere garbage
|# ¿ Jan 12, 2017 22:52|
|# ¿ Jan 14, 2017 04:27|
|# ¿ Jan 14, 2017 14:17|
Whoops, I didn't enter. DQ my soul if you dare
|# ¿ Jan 15, 2017 20:26|
one hour remains
|# ¿ Jan 16, 2017 07:01|
everyone who signed up submitted, and then some. good job thunderdome.
|# ¿ Jan 16, 2017 09:56|
may take a while. So I encourage everyone to go into an insane crit frenzy. With these larger weeks, it's way better for all participants if more people write crits! So I'm opening the thread up to do that while we judge. Usually, this works out really well and there are more crits for everyone. I'm already impressed with you this week goons but you could make me SUPER DOUBLE IMPRESSED by critiquing each other's stories. I'm not asking anyone to read and critique the whole week (only crazy people would do that), but if you can write even one extra critique, I'm sure the recipient would appreciate it.
|# ¿ Jan 16, 2017 18:03|
Okay well I am not really into Reaper/76 slash as a rule because I don't really see them ever getting together. It's not like they're old war buddies who ended up on different sides of the same coin and hatefuck occasionally (that's Reaper/Mcree tyvm) -- Morrison and Reyes were in different units and haven't really interacted all that much in the official background.
crits or gtfo
|# ¿ Jan 16, 2017 23:21|
this is a judgepost prepare your souls
I called for blood and you, every one of you, opened up your veins and bled for me. You placed your very souls on the scales and the judges took their measure. Okay, actually some of you sharted out inexplicable '80s action sequences, but hey, maybe that's your soul, you do you.
There wasn't much of an overriding theme or trope to this week. There was some heartbreak, some philosophical musing, and poetic prose. There were light and fun stories and there were dark and thoughtful stories. None of them were flawless, but by and large, the judges didn't want to tear their eyeballs out and wail lamentations into the sky.
There're a lot of mentions to get to this week, good and bad. Let's start with the bad news. I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE STILL SPECIAL AND YOUR SOULS ARE ALL VERY IMPORTANT TO ME
We're going to start with a very special DQ/DM combo for the beloved, longtime friend of the Thunderdome recaps, Kurona_Bright! I guess I didn't explicitly ban fanfiction, but I also don't really care about Overwatch dudes making out, or whatever. I wish the characters had been their own people with more nuanced motivations. I would've liked to see more Kurona in this story and less Blizzard. Archivist, I dunno which form of mention takes precedence so follow your heart.
Our next DM goes to beefsupreme! Now, if this is secretly an ode to your protective feelings for your twin sister, I'm sorry. To the judges, this read like action schlock with a smattering of reeeeally intense sibling love. There was some thin, snide stuff about the Hollywood elite and the protag was very sassy and tough, but with a limitless word count and a wide-open prompt, I feel like you could've done something more meaningful.
I'm sorry to say Hawklad earns a DM for a story that started okay and descended rapidly into pointlessness at the end. There's almost something here, something about how we deal with death and how it's a fundamentally lonely situation, but...The ending just seemed so pointless and kid of implausible. I'll get more into why it bugged me in my crits.
Steeltoedsneakers I'm terribly sorry, but your Chekhov's banana was going to work or not work, and sadly it didn't work. It was a risk. But actually, the situation was almost working for me until you introduced other characters. For one thing, you sort of forgot to indicate the kids had showed up. For another, the nature of Craig's exact scheduling fuckup was unclear. Clarity!
Welcome to Thunderdome, Prester Jane! I feel a little bad about this DM because I *think* I understand what you were going for. Clearly, these kids aren't just playing pretend for fun, at least that was my interpretation. The ending had an implication of abuse, or at least neglect, though I could be way off-base with that. The problem was that the story seemed like a pretty average 'kids playing pretend' piece until the very very end, and then that ending wasn't quite clear enough to make me feel one way or another. I hope you keep contributing to Thunderdome!
Alright, that brings us to....our loser!
Goons, sometimes you step up to take an admirable risk and you fail. Them's just the breaks.
Sometimes you make promises that are too big to keep.
Sometimes you sign up for Thunderdome twice and commit to multiple layers of to show up some shitposting babby millennial named flerp. Sometimes you promise the judges that you've scanned for errors and typos, and then forget to delete pre-crits from your entry. Sometimes you submit really early and neglect to use the extra time to improve your story.
Thunderdome, I give to you what is (I believe) our first ever double loser! SkaAndScreenPlays, I know you can write a decent screenplay. I've read at least one. And I know you can write fun space action and military banter, because you've HMed for it before. But you got so swept up in the spirited bloodletting of this week that you forget to make sure you were giving me quality blood.
Your scifi was too convoluted, and the stakes were never really as high as the narrative wanted them to be. I genuinely enjoyed the first installment of this story when it HMed a few weeks ago, but this iteration was overwritten and lacked the interpersonal tension that the original had. Your screenplay could've been the pilot to an NBC vampire drama that lasts all of one season. I know you can do quirky characters and I know you can do screenplays, but you did neither this week, on top of a so hubristic that it makes Icarus's flight to the sun look like a humble pilgrimage by comparison.
So enjoy, my friend. You earned it. If you can't succeed, at least fail spectacularly.
Guys, I really liked this week. This is a huge list of HMs. I had to cut myself off because I was going on an insane HMing spree. Some of these HMs reflect the opinions of my co-judges as well, so there's a little bit of everything.
First up! Boaz-Jachim! Your nested stories-about-stories could've been really loving dry and annoying but it was good and the judges all sighed with relief when you didn't gently caress it up.
Flerp, get your HM. But only one. We were kind of meh about your hometown ennui, but your story of slow loss and illness actually made us feel things.
Ironic Twist, you fucker. Six thousand Thunderdome words shouldn't be that readable. This was an early contender for the win, but the ending didn't quite nail it like we hoped. A beautiful, haunting read, though.
Killer-of-Lawyers, you wrote from a truly alien perspective, but still managed to make the protag and the 'alien' human. That last moment with the "I understand" honestly gave me little tingles. I also laughed at the math bit. Good job!
Curlingiron, I know you know what I like. But this was genuinely interesting and full of neat imagery. I wish the character had more of a concrete motive, even if that motive ended up being irrelevant or counterproductive to her journey. But something about this story reminds me of the experience of living life itself; we're dropped into the forest of this world, knowing only that we have to go forward until we can't anymore. Good stuff.
Sebmojo Yeah there was no doubt in my mind this was you. It's lonely and menacing while being quiet and mundane. I want to say more nice things about it but I'm really sick of writing this results post so...
Chairchucker! This might literally be your best story yet. It was real and sad. It didn't do anything huge or especially fancy, but I felt bad for this guy who was too inside of his own head to hold onto things that might've mattered to him.
Which brings me to....The winner!
There was one story that all the judges agreed on. We were actually surprised at how much we enjoyed it, because we've all seen similar stories go boringly. You managed to combine a mythical, folkloric feeling with serious and salient subject matter. Your three characters played off of each other wonderfully, and though the scale of the story was huge, the interactions between those characters felt real and tangible.
Jitzu_the_Monk! Your soul is worthy of the blood. Ascend to your throne now, that you may judge our souls as we have judged yours.
that I'll have crits from this week and Voidmart 2 up by whenever submissions close next Sunday
(USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST)
Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 04:38 on Jan 18, 2017
|# ¿ Jan 18, 2017 04:32|
|# ¿ Jan 18, 2017 05:15|
thank you for the crits
|# ¿ Jan 22, 2017 00:00|
who watches the watchmen
don't worry i'll be gone soon
|# ¿ Jan 24, 2017 18:25|
In. Let me see if I can manage not drowning this week.
|# ¿ Jan 25, 2017 08:21|
tyrannosaurus thank you for the avatar it is kicking and it is rad
Tyran, you are good people
|# ¿ Jan 26, 2017 03:11|
There is an awesome new Fiction advice thread up! Please, for the judge's sakes, go read Dr. K's excellent OP.
I would love to see more TDers talking shop and discussing critiques in that thread.
|# ¿ Jan 28, 2017 00:56|
is the submission deadline EST?
|# ¿ Jan 28, 2017 18:42|
wtf more than half failure rate, I am appalled and disappointed. The blood god is not pleased, do you guys really want an angry blood god on your hands
|# ¿ Jan 30, 2017 09:33|
but what about the failure god ever think about that
we don't practice your foul religion around here
|# ¿ Jan 30, 2017 17:03|
New Long Walk thread is up
For those who don't know, Long Walk is where we to write lots of words each month. It's cool, you should do it.
|# ¿ Feb 4, 2017 01:31|
Just in case people missed it, or are looking for more ways/places to post about writing:
Muffin's new daily prompt thread!
The new fiction advice thread!
February Long Walk!!
|# ¿ Feb 10, 2017 07:08|
|# ¿ Feb 13, 2017 09:34|
Mod challenge more like mod-challenged (bc mojo is dumb)
|# ¿ Feb 13, 2017 18:39|
Week 232: The measure of your souls (Crits pt. 1)
Hey, sorry these crits are late (and incomplete), it's because im demonstrably a garbage person, like if you lit me on fire I'd burn funny colors and issue really gross-smelling smoke. Anyway I'm going to ramble about your stories and it may or may not be helpful so woo here we go.
I'll post the rest...soon. Along with my extremely late voidmart crits.
Wake Up In The Morning Feelin' Like E. Tiddy
Your sins: I mean, the nature of your toxx meant you had to write this very quickly. Honestly, I would've preferred something more sincere but messy but this had it's good moments. Let's see, first off, the beginning is very different in tone than the rest of the story. I kind of expected a return to that narrative voice at the end of the story, like kind of a bookend. I wanted you to go full circle and explain how this girl was perhaps not so ordinary after all, or how her ordinariness gave her the ability to confront the extraordinary. Or something. IDK, you're the author, not me. It just felt like the beginning of a different story.
A lot of this story is like...I dunno, it's like watching TV with a guy who elbows me in the ribs any time he spots a clever reference. I mean, it's not like you wrote Ready Player One, but I'm worried that reading/blogging about it may have rubbed off on you a bit I know from experience that defeating monsters via pop culture doesn't always go over well, though you certainly did better than my lattecopters. In your case, it kind of makes sense because it's easy to imagine that whatever makes songs "catchy" to humans would induce insanity in aliens. I guess. I'm not a scientist, but it works in a soft, goofy scifi story.
The best part was definitely when Melissa was trapped and had to draw that weird S thing we all drew as kids. Even aliens can't resist the weird power of that stupid shape. It was a good and fun scene that both worked for the narrative and made me nostalgic.
By the end of the story, it's like, well of course Melissa heads off to more space adventures. Which is why I think, instead of resolving that in one line, it would've been nice if you'd returned to the storybook narrative voice from the very beginning. It would've fleshed out that final moment of decision a little better, rather than reducing it to one line, and given the beginning/end some parity.
Your sins: SKAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaa. Buddy. How are you? Good. Cool. Have a seat. So you did a space thing. That's great, really great. I enjoyed the first installment in this world of yours. The problem is, this iteration did very few of the things I liked about the original and a lot of new stuff that I didn't like. Like, in the first story about Thessalia and friends, there was a really obvious antagonist and I, as the reader, understood that antagonist's motivations. I liked how those motivations clashed with the motivations of our heroes.
In this case, you've got basically two sources of conflict. One is space itself, basically. They need to retrieve the Aegis, which means they need technology to do a thing. There is lots of, like, "Captain! technology can't do the thing!" "Do it anyway!" "okay the technology did the thing!" Admittedly, I am in fact watching Star Trek as I write this crit. I have a high threshold for plots that revolve around technology Doing The Thing. I love meaningless technobabble. But in this case, your technobabble is smeared across prose that is a bit overwrought to begin with. Here is what I mean by overwrought:
Pale greens and deep blues washed over the awed faces of her officers as the abstract numbers of registry numbers and their coordinates were given life as a hologram projected from the table.
This is just a random quote I grabbed after skimming for a few seconds. You've got colors, awed faces, and data, but the fact that all of this is coming from a holographic projector is the last piece of information given. It's important to feed information to the reader in the most logical order possible, usually. When I'm describing things, I try to start with the most concrete, essential part of the scene (in this case, the projector itself), then move on to the action/effect of that thing (the display/data). Finally, I give the color, sensation, and flavor (ie the colored light washing over the crew).
Say things in the plainest way possible first. Then build on that.
But back to plot-level things. So like, I was kind of excited when Admiral Ackerman showed up because I was really hoping for some sort of conflict between him and Maura. I expected her to be genuinely torn between loyalties, but Ackerman ended up being a kindly old space grandpa who just wanted to make sure Maura was doing what she believes is the right thing. I guess the whole reason that part exists is to set up the final scene, where Thessalia returns to the Leviathan and has to deduce whether the Drumheller is a threat or not. But of course it's not, and of course there's a relatively straightforward solution to the communications problem.
Side note, did you forget which ship Thessalia was on?
“Get on with it then,” Thessalia barked. “Tell the Aegis that we’re willing to stand down if they’ll escort us to dry dock for prisoner processing.”
Shouldn't she be telling the Leviathan she's willing to stand down?
I've complimented you on your character banter before, but I feel like literally every spoken sentence in this story is dripping with devil-may-care unflappability and I needed a break from that. I think, if you want to keep returning to these characters and this universe, you need to show them in different scenarios that don't necessarily involve pulling off the impossible in the 11th hour.
Oh yeah, and delete the goddamn crits from your story before you post!!!
The Fires Of Discontent:
Your sins: Oh hi Ska, didn't see you there. Anyway. I can't speak much to the screenplay format itself, because that's not my bag. So I'm just going to critique the story itself. I understand that when you write a screenplay, you're essentially creating a blueprint for a visual medium of storytelling. Maybe this would've been better if I could see the costumes, characters, and setting. I'm not sure. As it is, it's a lot of expository dialog about a vampire revolution, plus one vaguely ominous exchange with a boilerplate vampire villain.
Since the focus of this piece is virtually entirely on dialog, I'm going to point out a couple problems:
May the winds of change fan them into a conflagration which engulfs the dead wood of tradition in a conflagration of progress.
this basically boils down to "may the conflagration engulf [stuff] in a conflagration." A bit awkwardly repetitious, no?
I understand that a place where our lot drop eaves like filthy habits but I do think it's prudent that we schedule a time to discuss your propositions in detail.
The first part of this sentence doesn't make any sense! It seems like it should be easy enough to parse, even with the apparent missing words, but the more I think about it, the less I'm sure I know exactly what she's saying. Is their present location a place where people eavesdrop? Some other place? Is she referring to the specific room they're in, or the whole town/city? It's like you get caught up in all these little linguistic pirouettes. you need to put clarity/meaning first.
I’m curious. What odds to you give our fledgling movement.
'to', c'mon man you gotta proof a little better than that
This guy is sooo evillllll, I'm amazed he isn't twirling an evil mustache. All of the character dialog in this piece is basically, "HELLO THIS IS WHO I AM, THESE ARE MY MOTIVATIONS", but Dahl may as well be screaming HI I'M THE ANTAGONIST I DO MEAN STUFF AND LIKE IT >: D
Speaking more broadly, most of the dialog in this feels pretty stilted and robotic and there are a lot of missing commas. Oddly enough, I think Araspasia and Charlotte could be interesting characters to read about (or watch). You'd need to work on the dialog and make the conflict a lot more subtle, but I don't entirely hate the concept. Vampire media will probably be around forever, and your two strong, revolutionary female leads could be interesting. But man, having read your longer, "real" screenplay, I was stunned at how mechanical the dialog is in this piece. I know you can do way better.
Your sins: Well first of all
we are dead and this is hell
lol is this a preemptive "YOU JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND MY STORY"? Here's the thing. Personally, I'm okay with vignettes, poetic prose, and art pieces so long as they're stylistically consistent. They're not my favorite thing to read, since I tend to favor character changes that happen over a long narrative, probably because artsy or challenging reading is over my head. But in general, if a piece is what it's trying to be, I'll respect it.
So anyway, I actually liked this well enough. It's an effective portrait of contained suffering and how it diminishes the sufferer's world until it seems that only the pain exists. And if only pain exists, what even is pain? What is the self if your whole sense of being subsumed by pain? And once that happens, there really is no barrier between the pain inside of the sufferer and the outside world, as you illustrated in the final paragraph. Which I think was my favorite part. Especially:
One day, I will do something very impolite -- find words for my pain.
In terms of imagery, my only quibble is when the narrator talks about covering his "stomach" with a towel to cover up his ribs. The word stomach invokes the mental image of the midriff, I guess. Which would still leave plenty of ribs exposed. I understand what the imagery is supposed to evoke, but it gave me pause while I imagined exactly where this hypothetical towel would have to be to cover up ribs. It's a dumb and small nitpick, but since this piece is basically all metaphor, each image needs to be solid and not distracting.
Anyway yeah, this was p good and like, I felt as though it was written in the spirit of the prompt.
Outside a View
Your sins: Formatting issues aside, I thought this piece was another one that was really written in the spirit of the prompt. Which is to say, it expresses some artistic anxiety. Beyond that, I guess I don't get it. Like, I understand what is happening int he prose. A nameless, coddled young artist produces a piece of art that is palatably cliche. She seems to be afraid that giving her name to the media will reduce the art, even as it increases her "brand" or w/e. But it seems that her piece tapped into something bigger than human? Somehow, in assembling all those eyes, she created a window for another sort of eye to look back at the viewer? I'm not sure. I like the idea that something so cliche created by someone so privileged and boring could inadvertently become unknowably profound. I'm not sure if that's what this piece is doing, but if so, cool.
But yeah, formatting. We'll work on that. I tried my best to ignore it while reading, because the prose was mostly readable (barring a few typos here and there) and there were some interesting turns of phrase, but the weird line breaks certainly didn't do anything to help my brain parse the events in the story.
Soul, The Contents Emptied
Your sins: Nothing sinful about this. The imagery was visceral and distinct, in spite of the abstractness of the characters and setting. The scope was really big, but the focus was tightly on the conflict between this spiteful god and AnkhNet, letting the reader fill in the scale of these events for themselves (like the idea of Net living through all those lives, which is a little horrifying if i think about it too much). I like the idea that this god is essentially deciding the rules of reality, but somehow can't anticipate that prolonged subjugation would induce a kind of learned helplessness. There is no point in Net trying to better or alleviate his situation because literal god literally has created a reality where he suffers and this is Good and Just.
I guess the ending feels a tiny bit lumpy. I'm not really sure why the timeline reset. I mean, I can guess that the black pyramid somehow caused it why relinquishing its position on this metacosmic pressure point or w/e, but in that case, it seems weird to have a scene break there. And the very very end, where Ankhnet goes on to create other beings, isn't as poignant as it could be, since there were evidently humans in the version of the universe presided over by the rear end in a top hat pyramid. And the very last sentence makes less sense the more I think about it. It reads
For others warrant the harmony of being whole.
But I feel like it should be the other way around. "The harmony of being whole warrants others."
But yeah, no major complaints. Good story, grats.
Your sins: This is a story about the senseless death of a child. Additionally, it's about how the world is an unfair place full of senseless misfortune. Anyone who's been through serious misfortune knows that nothing happens for a reason and no amount of love can stave off the inevitable. It's all true, and you wrote about it well enough, and the narrative acknowledges it. It's hard to critique a story that seems to be doing exactly what it intends to do. Unfortunately, it's hard to like a story when the intention is the senselessness/pointlessness of its contents.
On the writing level, this is pretty good. There was exactly one paragraph where I actually felt the emotional gravity of the situation:
Esrela cried and held her love, held her everything. She clutched at her daughter’s soul. She howled at the faces across the veil that were grabbing at her daughter, and pulled with all her might. She pulled against the celestial God, pulled against the endless armies of angels and spirits, pulled against the might of death, screaming defiance. It took all the legions of heaven to pull that soul away from her, and it was a slow, torturous ripping. Then at last, she stood empty handed, feeling less.
I would actually ditch the first line. Otherwise, this is the kind of passion and imagery that could make a story about a senseless thing feel meaningful. Buuut then you immediately subvert the feeling you created with the next paragraph:
Of course, that never happened. She merely felt like it did, but it might was well have happened. So it did happen, after all.
This is unnecessary, and undermines the effectiveness of the previous paragraph. I think, given the grim reality of the plot and the fact that there is intentionally not a whole lot of development in the characters, transitioning from sparse, realistic prose to a more poetic narrative voice would've given the piece a feeling of movement (if you hadn't undermined it).
Before the Lion, he laid Bare
Your sins: You continue to have consistent branding with your titles. Nice. Otherwise. Um. This is one of those stories that's too smart for me. I mostly just like it. Partially because it had the potential to be very boring, but it wasn't! I am a fan of stories within stories. I actually went and read some of the other critiques of this story (I'm thinking of Newt's in particular) and I will say, I'm uncultured swine and am not really familiar with the works of Borges but that wasn't a hindrance. I will take Newt's word for it that this story is kind of just a recreation of Borges' style, but I think it was cleverly suited for the prompt. I asked for your soul, you gave me a story about a reader who more or less loses his sense of soul/self after reading about a character who loses (or realizes the absence of) his soul.
I gotta warn you though, you're dangerously close to discovering that you're actually just a character in my Thunderdome metafiction. Another layer in your own story.
The Cave Adventure.
Your sins: I'm of two very different minds on this story. It DMed for a reason (mechanics, pacing, punctuation, the "twist" at the end), but I'm sympathetic to what I think it's about. As I said in the judgment post, it seems to me these kids are being neglected, or at least disciplined too harshly, because they spilled some cereal. But, being kids, they kind of just adapt to it and accept it as normal. The fact that they have names for everything in the "cave" suggests that they're in there a lot, which is pretty sad.
Okay, so. You need to learn to punctuate dialogue. You wrote:
“I'm coming over” I responded.
It needs to read:
I'm coming over," I responded.
You will always put some kind of punctuation mark inside your quotation marks.
I don't like how the beginning of the story is in past-perfect tense. "It has been my brother's idea...", "I had not been in the mood...", and etc. You could've just started in regular past tense. Past-perfect tends to feel really lumpy and should be used sparingly IMO. It's best used for short (like a paragraph or less) flashbacks, or places where the narrative has to refer to something that happened prior to the "present" of the story.
While I did like the odd nature of the "cave", there was no real conflict or tension. It read like an exploration story for children, which isn't bad in and of itself, but my adult brain was wanting some kind of turn or change in the action, something new or odd to these children (ending aside). But of course, they know the cave well, and have names for all of its parts. So really, we're just taking a tour of these kids' imaginary environment. It's frustrating because I think you could've incorporated a little more info about these kids' IRL situation into their game of exploration.
Anyway, I'm not sure if you'll read this because you haven't been active in this thread since you posted, but I really like your other SA posts and i think you have a neat perspective, so I hope you do another round sometime.
Boring Words are Expendable
Your sins: I really liked this story. It's not so much that I relate to Sam personally as I've met some Sams in my time, I think. His internal monologue could've been tedious, but it wasn't. I think it's because you intersperse enough of Sam's thoughts/feelings about the external world. And the way that he mentally tinkers with phrases like "we need to talk" makes them kind of echo in my brain. I like that the reader is feeling the emotional gravity of the situation for Sam. He's not so much avoiding reality as he's just...completely up inside his own head. And when reality sucks, it's not like there's a whole lot of incentive to come out of his head. The "trying to figure out the name of the song" part of the plot added some movement and direction to it. It's a super small but relatable thing.
I liked the ending because it's pretty clear Sam isn't going to open up and say he got dumped. But it was only a matter of time before his friends found out, which is obvious to the reader, but not something Sam seems willing or able to address. I dunno, this is a really low key story but it does a lot of good stuff. I think it's my favorite story you've ever written and I'm really pleased you submitted it for this week.
Flush with Cash
Your sins: The first line is AMAZING. You, sir, are gifted at making an entrance. The first paragraph sets up an amusing problem and promises an entertaining read. One critique I have is that the writing sometimes seemed elaborate for elaborateness's sake. Like,
Mr. Whipple was a loan shark and the span of his patience was inversely proportional to the girth of his biceps.
This works because you're telling us two things about him in one line.
Mr. Whipple waved the razor menacingly, which is the only way a razor can be waved while adjacent to reproductive organs.
This one doesn't work because it's using a bunch of words to tell us what we already know. I ran into the same issue whenever the narrative talked about football and other expressions of masculinity and physical prowess.
By the end, I'd kinda lost sight of the main thrust of the story. You've got a rogue's gallery of quirky, grizzled characters, who are all kind of funny in concept, but they kind of just obscure the actual mission which...actually, I'm pretty confused by what Mr. Whipple wants. Like, i guess he could get some satisfaction out of killing Pepe an in ironic pun death, but that wouldn't help him get his money back. In fact, it's a lot of risk and labor to accomplish something with so little payoff. The climax is kind of funny on the surface, but I didn't feel like the buildup was adequate. I know anything involving bidets is going to be inherently funny, but this elaborate piss murder plot feels a little wacky for wacky's sake. Like, I think I'm supposed to feel like all these crazy plot threads are converging in this insane, brilliant, and disgusting grand finale, but the elaborate narrative doesn't convince me that it's plausible. I mean, don't get me wrong, it was amusing, but not amusing enough to distract me from my confusion and skepticism.
Now, my critique probably makes it seem like I enjoyed the story a lot less than I did. I had fun with this. I think one judge had it down for an HM. It was good on a first read, but now that I sit down to actually write a critique about it, I see some problems I didn't notice the first time around.
Your sins: So, I was okay with the dry, meticulous tone of the beginning of the story. But the prose needs to be as sharp and meticulous as Keith seems to think he is. In some places, there were some mechanical errors that hurt the tone:
The wordlessness had been tested over the years. He'd experimented with multiple combinations of tools, of expression, of posture over the years.
repetition of 'over the years' is awkward.
Keith had efficiently and brutally dealt to Sam’s front door, entered the small flat and tied Sam to a chair like a muscular whirlwind.
I don't like this sentence. "Dealt to Sam's front door" is weird.
Sam wasn’t quite sure he could piece together the choreography of the event if pressed, there was noise, there was force and there was now restraint.
Why are we in Sam's POV here, anyway? Most of this story is from Keith's perspective. Also, there should be a period or semicolon after "if pressed".
When Keith starts singing Dolly Parton as he's breaking kneecaps, it's evocative of like Reservoir Dogs or American Psycho. Only, you didn't push the rest of the story hard enough. None of it is absurd enough to give the scene that dark, giddy combination of humor and terror that you need to pull this kind of thing off. Keith needs traits stronger than "meticulous crime guy". If you're going to go inside Sam's head, you may as well give him more backstory, some desire that's more interesting than wanting to go back to drinking beer with his kneecaps intact. It would've been funnier if he had his own side story that is irrelevant to Keith but comes into play in IDK the climax. Or something.
All this stuff would've bothered me, but the ending was extra messy. As soon as Craig shows up (with no dialog attribution), the blocking goes all confusing. He couldn't have just called?? And why in the heck would you trust the guy who arranges your crime appointments with handling your mundane errands??? It's too dumb without any good reason. Oh, and speaking of the kids...they kind of just show up. One second, they're talking about Toby and the next he's in the room. Then, Keith makes the very confusing decision to kill his assistant, in front of a witness. Keith's only leverage over Sam is a threat. And at that point, I start wondering if Keith has got a little bit of the old Dunning-Kruger effect going on. He certainly isn't as smooth or competent as he wants the reader to believe he is, at any rate. Which would be fine, but I genuinely can't tell if that's the point of the story or not.
Your sins: I'm torn by this. I like a lot of the details. I'm a fan of suburban ennui as a concept, especially when it feels authentically personal. I think my critique is uuuuuuh. Okay. So like. The whole story kind of crescendos with the narrator's admission that he wants to be a blossom who can float away to somewhere meaningful. It's a nice image, but I don't have a clear understanding of how being a piece of plant matter would improve the narrator's existence. I understand it's a metaphor, but beyond some wistful notion about natural spaces being inherently more meaningful than suburban ones, the metaphor doesn't really connect to anything concrete.
And, actually, you shift away from the drifting flower metaphor at the end; your final image revolves around an actual almond, rather than an almond blossom or an almond tree. I think it diffuses the meaning a bit. A blossom on the wind is ephemeral, delicate, and will certainly fade away shortly after its flight. An actual almond evokes something different. It's a seed, which brings to mind new beginnings, birth, and growth. It's also edible, which implies something enriching or sustaining. I'm not really sure how the blossom/almond metaphors work together, or if they're even meant to. I'm also not sure how they relate to the narrator's feelings about Brentwood/Merced. I do think that, if you wanted, you could retool this and make your imagery/feelings stronger and more consistent.
Sorry, I'm Not Flying
Your sins: This was obviously the better entry of the two. It feels equally personal but more concrete. I like that you don't play coy about why grandpa is a bird; you get it right out in the open in the first line or two. Birds are fragile and strange, just like grandpas who get sick and are forever changed.
I want to talk about tenses, because while I am pretty sure you did it right, this part feels so awkward to me:
His chihuahua’s curled up in a ball on the couch, and he stares at the dog. Whenever he tried to flap over to her to pet her, she barked at him and ran away. He doesn’t try to get near the dog anymore. He just stays in his chair.
I think it feels weird because the first line tells us what's happening in the 'present' of the story: bird grandpa is looking at his dog. So it feels like the next line should take place in the present, too. But you're referring to an event that happened before this moment where grandpa is looking at the dog. I think it would've been clearer if you'd started the past tense sentence with 'When grandpa first came home, he tried to flap over and pet her..." or something like that. Technically it's the correct use of past tense in a present tense story, but it's so easy for the past tense bits to read like a mistake rather than an intentional reference back to an earlier time.
I think I'm projecting BTW, b/c I'm writing a novel in the present tense and it feels super awkward any time the narrative switches to the past tense. Anyway. Yeah this was pretty good, any critiques I have about it are things that are more obvious in your other story, which is easily the weaker of the two.
Your sins: This was close to an HM for me because I thought this story had a sensitivity to it that not everyone can pull off. And that is vital when you're writing on the topic of identity. Your characters also immediately came off as good people, since they're volunteering their time for a difficult task. I liked when the "prank" calls started coming in because, on a second read, it's rather obvious what's happening, but on my first read-through I didn't put it together until Corinne's second call with "Brandon". Which IMO is a good thing. When I look closely at your wording, the revelation that Brandon is a remnant of Corinne's time as a male-bodied person (and, more importantly, a remnant of her doubt and fear) is actually pretty clear.
Something about the ending weakened the story for me. I'm not sure if it was how Leon was so persistent in helping (it ended up being a good thing, of course, but subverted the strong focus on boundaries in the beginning) even when Corinne shook him off. Maybe it was the implication that, without Leon, Corinne will answer that call from her dead name as soon as she's alone. Maybe it would've been better if she'd responded in some way to the slight transphobia/misgendering that she encounters on her way to the bus stop? I dunno. The very last para feels flimsy in a way I'm struggling to describe.
Anyway, I really liked this piece and good on your for writing it.
Your sins: Okay so I have an urge to nitpick your first paragraph so I'm going to do that. I've found that stuff that annoys me in the first paragraph tends to repeat itself throughout the piece.
Matthew sat in his booth at the diner, holding his ribcage closed,
Your first line would be pretty okay without the extra words (the ones I crossed out). It's weird that the stuff leaking out of his wound is "too dark to be blood", yet you describe his shirt as bloodsoaked in the next sentence. So that makes for confusing imagery. I don't like the phrasing of "between his fingers leaked thick fluid..." because it sounds pretty passive/weak. "Thick, dark fluid leaked through his fingers" (or something) would be stronger. I get what you're going for with the "imperial red sun" bit, but because your imagery is kind of inconsistent already, it just adds to the confusing. Especially because this is a metaphorical wound. You've got to be careful, doing metaphors within metaphors. Everything has to be crystal clear.
Okay, now onto the actual story content.
In theory, I kind of like this. But the metaphor becomes kind of repetitive after a while. Like, he's metaphorically bleeding at an increasing volume because his wife is obviously cheating on him. It would've been more effective if the metaphor had twisted or changed somehow. And because the metaphor felt repetitive, I hoped that Jessica herself would do something to shake up the obvious trajectory of the plot. Structurally, I think you had the right instinct; escalating and escalating your protagonist's pain until his only option is the unthinkable.
I have one slight problem with the ending, which is like...okay, so. Slowly and endlessly bleeding out because your heart is breaking is one thing. It fits. It's a metaphor for a real thing that happens in relationships. But taking his own heart out and discarding it...there is no comparable thing in reality. No one gets to just toss that kind of heartbreak away. Maybe you could've had him start to scoop out his heart in little chunks, or something. But I don't buy that he's going to carry on as a happy, heartless transient. I mean, the transient part is plausible, but not ditching his pain.
Anyway, not bad.
Not Quite Friends
Your sins: I really wanted to HM this, but we had so many already and the other judges weren't as hot on it as I was. I will try to suss out why that is in this crit so here we go!!
Okay, so my first thought is that Lark and Zhao feel like characters I would like to get to know over a longer period of time. The narrative doesn't really articulate why Lark is so hell-bent on being Zhao's friend. She's just watching him from a fence (side note, I think the beginning could flesh out the setting a bit more) and decides she's going to stubbornly stick by his side.
Actually, on the topic of the setting...I'm wondering if this is set in the world of the novels you've been working on? Or at least inspired by them? It's got the odor of world building about it. I started wondering about that when you mentioned "knight's village" (which I think should be capitalized?? but whatever). There's not a whooole lot of context for like, the social order these people live within, except what I can glean from the presence of knights and the nature of Zhao's discipline. But TBH that's not the issue here. I think the overall story is fine, even good.
I'm going to pick apart one of your paragraphs b/c I think the tarnish is all in the little details:
Lark walked towards the edge of the yard and unlocked the gate from the inside. She wasn’t sure whose yard it was, honestly. Just that the other kids had seen Zhao over here, struggling to hold up two buckets of water. She made her way closer to the center of knight’s village where she came towards a small house. It almost looked like a silo, it was round and made of brick the color of a calm gray sky. Small little vines had started creeping up the sides of it, but came just short of the simple wooden windows. Lark moved up to it, adjusted her shirt and fussed up her hair before she knocked on the door.
There's no real reason to specify that she unlocked the gate 'from inside', the fact that she's vaguely trespassing isn't really important considering she goes straight up to Telmorris's house to ask WTF. It's just extra words.
In the 4th sentence, Lark is making her way closer to the center of the village at the same time as she is coming toward a small house. It would read a lot smoother if you said "She made her way to the center of knight's village where she noticed a small house" or something like that.
The next sentence is a weird comma splice. Would read better if you just said "It was round, like a silo, and made of brick the color of a calm gray sky" or something like that.
"Small little vines" come on dude, if you're gonna use two adjectives in one breath they should at least do two different things.
Basically, you just need to tighten up your words. Extra words and awkward comma splices will make a good story seem rougher. My overall feelings toward this piece are positive, but the whole thing is riddled with these little errors that can possibly take the reader out of it. TBH I think you should read your stuff out loud to yourself more, because I think it would be a lot more obvious to the ear than the eye.
The Answers You Find and the Questions You Don't
Your sins: Well your major sin is being Entenzahn. I shouldn't really need to say anything else but I will try for the benefit of all the non-entenzahns who read this thread.
So, first impressions: I appreciate the punchy intro, but it's a lot of bodily descriptions and quippy narrative and not much context. I get that it's supposed to be in medias res, so your protag can't exactly stop to ruminate on what put him in this situation. But this goes on for quite a while, and there isn't much to glean. All the reader knows is some veguely wily dude has angered some crime guys and is in over his head. Oh, and he's looking for 'Hot-Dawg'. That's all we really know for a few hundred words. All of the quips and elaborate, darkly humorous descriptions of pain and violence start to feel a little tedious. I think I got to
It takes a moment to settle in because my body hurts so much I could swear time-defying phantom imprints of their kicks and punches are reverberating all the way from back in the past and are still knocking the living daylights out of me.
and was like, yeah I'm done with these wacky metaphors for how badly his rear end is being beat. I don't even care about the reveal that he jacked the crimedude's phone because I don't know what he wants to do with it. The only reason this story moves at all is because the reader is going to know all these tropes. We can kind of--kind of--surmise what this character is up to because we've all seen action movies and crime thrillers and dark crime comedies.
Oh, and if your character was brutalized even half as hard as the narrative would lead me to believe, he would've spent the rest of the story in the hospital. You don't spend that many words lovingly crafting all this hyperbolic violence and then tell me your character is capable of raiding a crimeguy's hideout. Oh, and then we finally find out the rationale behind his whole mission. He doesn't want to go to the cops about his friend's disappearance because he's afraid she'll get in trouble for drugs. Her life is probably in danger but, ya know, don't wanna get her in trouble. That could have longstanding ramifications, don't you know.
And to be honest I don’t know why I’m doing any of this. Maybe I just saw something that made sense, and nobody else saw it, and now maybe I feel like I can do this, and it’s the first time I ever felt like that. Maybe this is what I’m supposed to be: clever, but also kinda stupid. Or maybe I just feel sorry for Lena. Maybe I’ve read too many detective novels. Maybe I’m not doing anything. Maybe she hosed off to Paris and maybe nothing matters. Maybe everyone I know will remember me as the boy who died in the Heroin House. But I’ve got nothing else to do with my life. It might as well be this. At least this feels real.
When your character is hashing out their motivations like this, there's a good chance those motivations aren't very clear or cogent. Sometimes it's basically you, the writer, flailing around to figure out wtf you're doing. maybe that wasn't the case, but it reads like it! I did kind of laugh at the mental image of him shambling into this flophouse like a zombie, though.
There are moments toward the end where the manic voice of this story works better for me:
My heart skips a beat. This sounds cliché, but it really does. It just loving checks out for a second, does a double-take on the situation and finds that this is still reality, so it goes back to beating. A bit louder than I’d like. So’s the door. It squeaks, just a little, or maybe that’s just me imagining things because right now a thousand thoughts race through my head and all of them are “I’m about do loving die.” But there are no footsteps, and nobody is shooting at me. I go inside.
The protagonist's tough-guy monologue at the end doesn't really do it for me. He's spent the whole story flying by the seat of his pants and basically making poo poo work because the plot needed him to, so he didn't exactly earn his Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson moment. I was fine with the happy-ish ending, since this story was always going to have one. But the little rear end-pat from the police officer at the very end made me roll my eyes pretty hard.
|# ¿ Feb 15, 2017 22:51|
don't you issue really gross-smelling smoke already?
|# ¿ Feb 15, 2017 23:08|
WEEK 232 CRITS PART 2/3
Twist gets his own critpost because hoollyyyyyy gently caress. Anyway, the other crits should happen more quickly now
Your sins: Making me crit this monstrosity, uuughhh, god.
But so, it was actually pretty okay. For the judges it fell mainly into the category of "weird and intriguing but not 100% satisfying, maybe like 85% satisfying which is still p good imo".
So, first I want to talk about the italicized parts, which are I guess the guidelines/rules for playing a spirit. I think they start out too poetic. You should start with the practical advice, and then go into the flowery stuff about speaking with arms and legs and whatnot. It might be better to open with the bit that talks about what clothes to wear, for example. By including the standard operating procedures for fake ghosts, you kind of gave yourself an easy way to dump in some exposition that would've been awkward otherwise, and I appreciate that. But the actual narrative is also very flowery and flowy, like the ephemeral memory of a tendril of a lost lover's hair. It would feel more balanced if the italicized bits contrasted with the rest of the prose (in the beginning, at least).
I like the scene in the bar, when they're discussing the legend of Alouette. It's the first time I feel any warmth and texture in your protagonist. Although in general, there is a hollowness to a lot of the conversations in this story. Some of the banter feels more like a meet cute from a romance novel or something. There's a lot of words spent on teasing and misunderstanding but it feels kind of forced because I don't get a sense of the characters' relationships outside of each scene. I'm mainly thinking of Ray as I type this. She was easy to peg as the saboteur early on because everything between her and the narrator feels so forced. And then, just in case it wasn't obvious enough, you do the whole "keep your enemies close" exchange and ugh.
Speaking of Ray, I didn't find her fate very satisfying. She basically gets violently punished for being the thinly veiled antagonist. It's not even clear why she'd want to sabotage Tammera, tbh. Like, they're all just people doing their jobs. The competitiveness between the girls comes across a bit like cattiness for cattiness's sake. I can't figure out what anyone, especially Ray, has to gain by being bitchy and malicious.
There are a couple moments that felt dramatic but I didn't think the story "earned" them. The ones that stick out most are in the same section, when Tammera is realizing that Ray betrayed her (and then wound up in the ICU).
I cry without making any sound, because I’ve gotten so drat good at my job, me and the twenty parallel versions of me reflected in the mirrored walls of the elevator, all bent over and crying silently, we’re all just so drat good at our job.
Honestly, this little freakout doesn't feel non sequitur, exactly, but I feel like...it's trying to drag me along emotional currents that the story didn't fully develop. This is the reaction of someone who is at the end of their rope. I get that Tammera is in a lovely situation, but at no point in the story do I get a tangible sense her job is taking its toll on her. In fact, the narration feels pretty aloof. I don't get an especially strong sense of what's in her head. Like, the so drat good at our job bit is what sticks out the most. Okay, so, she's a professional ghost, which means her job entails being silent. I would think that someone who was this much at their wit's end with the ghost shtick, someone who is really feeling the strain of their work persona, would show that more in their interpersonal relationships. But the story doesn't really give me that. There's not even a whole lot of internal monologue to work with. So this feels like a super abrupt escalation of emotions.
Another line that didn't jive well was this one:
“I’ll be right back, I promise,” I say, because my promises mean nothing.
IDK, I just think if you're going to say something like "because my promises mean nothing" you should uuuuuh show your character breaking some promises? or at least struggling to keep promise. So this bit sticks out as kind of melodramatic.
Now for the ending. The very first paragraph kind of soured me on Tammera a bit. Like, here's this woman who's obviously crazy or homeless or something, and Tammera's like "notice me sempai, I'm sad about my ghost job". It's fine if you mean for her to seem self centered and preoccupied with her own melodrama, but it doesn't really read that way. So it's awkward.
Theeeennn you back load the story with a bunch of childhood trauma, and while it certainly explains some things, it feels like you created this character whose personality you have to retroactively justify with a sad story.
More stuff the story didn't quite earn:
Hands, countless hands poking through my blurry vision, slicing through the air, grasping at snowflakes, rubbing themselves together to stay warm. Hands turning my pale heart over and over like a digital watch. Hands reaching for me, grasping my hand in theirs, then tearing it off at the wrist, jagged scraps of skin left behind. Tearing off my arms, my legs, clawing out chunks of my torso as they work their way up my neck to my head. I feel fistfuls of hair get yanked out, ears ripped off like ripe vine fruit, eyes clawed out through bright sockets and tongue clawed out through a smiling mouth because I suddenly know, right then, that no one will ever get my heart, because I plucked it out from my chest myself, and I laid it in a gold box and hid it away where no one would ever find it, and even I don’t need it anymore. I know what a human heart looks like. It’s not special.
I can feel you desperately trying to create some kind of parity or connection between Tammera and her Alouette alter ego. The heart thing feels especially forced, since we've only seen Tammera be a fairly decent human being.
Nila gets completely dropped, leaving me confused as to what her role in the story was. Like, the interactions were good (except where they drank like 3 glasses of wine in the span of what seemed like 5 minutes), but when I try to pin down her role in the narrative, I come up with nothing.
The final scene is, IMO, a total misfire. It just doesn't resonate at all. First of all, you already used up the whole "guy wakes up and interrupts the fake haunting" routine. Like, I was already suspending disbelief that people wouldn't simply stay up late to try and see the ghosts for themselves. And then two people do that exact thing, more or less, so I'm like, oh, I guess it does happen after all.
I have no connection to the old man, there is nothing super profound about the final image that the story leaves us with. It's is part of an overall disjointedness in this piece IMO. You're juggling Tammera's relationship with her job, Tammera's relationship with the other girls, Tammera's relationship with Nila, Tammera's relationship with the hotel as a set/environment, and Tammera's relationship with her past. These plot elements all kind of bump against each other, but don't weave together. Some of the subtler moments, like the old woman with the soap, don't read as especially significant, even though I can tell the character is feeling profound things.
So, by now you're probably like WTF why did this HM. Well, I like the concept of the hotel and the services it provides, even if I think they need to be developed better. I like the ambition; this has the shape of something compelling and haunting. you just need to connect the different bits of plot better. There needs to be a stronger through line--something Tammera/her Alouette persona wants, maybe? I didn't get a strong sense of her desires. She basically just wants to not be hosed with, but she goes out of her way to engage Nila for unclear reasons.
The prose is gorgeous in some places and overwrought in others. I maintain that the italicized "how to be a fake ghost" bits need to be a little more sober and plainly worded. That would balance out the more ornate narrative prose.
In spite of all the above, this wasn't a chore to read at all, which is always a risk with longer short stories. I hope you continue to develop this piece, because it's worth it IMO.
|# ¿ Feb 22, 2017 01:14|
|# ¿ Dec 2, 2021 20:09|
hey what the hell even is a surreptitious muffin anyway
muffin you curdled twat get in here
|# ¿ Feb 24, 2017 07:29|