In. Day drinking me is feeling writerly.
|# ¿ Mar 7, 2017 17:38|
|# ¿ Nov 29, 2022 23:47|
Do You Trust Me?
She threw aside the bleach soaked sponge. She hadn’t whistled in months, not while she cleaned but today she’d test Nick’s love. Even scrubbing his caked in poo poo off the bowl hadn’t put a dampener on her mood. Today was her day.
Peeling off the rubber glove she dropped it into the bucket and sauntered into the living room, really putting her hips into it.
“Do you miss him?” She asked. He didn’t even look.
“Who?” Nick said.
“What do you mean, ‘who?’ You do know what day it is?” She asked.
She knew exactly what day it was. She knew exactly what she’d been doing on this day every day for the past twelve years, the second Saturday in March: boyfriend test day. Her favourite day. Nick hadn’t figured it out yet, not like the last two who’d failed her. They were all arrogant, and cock sure: all pathetic.
He looked up from his console.
“Is it some romantic gesture day?” He asked. “You know I don’t buy into the corporate, coupley stuff.” He smirked. The same smile that drew her to him: cheeky and confident, absolute certainty things would work out for him.
“I know you don’t,” she said. “But it would be nice. Not some gesture, but if you’d actually help around the place.”
“I do help,” he said. He looked pleased with himself. “I got that steam cleaner for the carpet a while back.”
“You got drunk and wet yourself,” she said. “The steam cleaner was to get the stink out of the floor.” She didn’t mind that he’d wet himself. It was her fault, anyway, with the help of some very expensive muscle relaxants and his favourite gin.
“You bought me a bottle of gin,” he said. “You said it was to celebrate Rob’s memory. We both passed out, didn’t we?” He smiled. She thought of the pictures of him drugged on the floor. All those years he hadn’t figured it out.
“It is Rob’s anniversary, isn’t it?” He asked. It was: five years since she killed him, four since her and Nick got together.
“And I haven’t had a moment to think of him all day, not with all the cleaning,” she said.
“You clean because you’re meticulous. You can’t stand things out of place, and you clean because you want the apartment to be immaculate.” His left eye was drooping.
She didn’t want to slave for him, but she had to, it was part of the rules. She poured herself some orange juice, and then followed it up with two fingers of gin, just in case he suspected. The house had been scrubbed to spotlessness, as was typical for a Saturday. Anything else and Nick might suspect, and he was supposed to figure it out for himself. Their life together was poo poo but every year she had this day when she tested them. It had been the same with every boyfriend she had. Nick was friends with her dead ex, maybe Nick even missed him. He’d certainly said he did to other people, acting like he cared. There were even tears.
“Do you miss him?” She asked. “For real, not playing?” The controller fell from his hand. He laughed.
“I wouldn’t be downing half a bottle of gin if I didn’t miss him. If I wasn’t drinking your gin.”
He said, ‘your gin.’ Did he know? Had he finally got it? Her stomach flipped with giddiness.
He stood and moved towards her, his feet not quite landing where he was trying to place them.
“You’re drunk,” she said.
“I am drunk,” he said. “But just drunk. Even though you’ve mixed me one of your special drinks.” His words were long and slurred.
“I saw the photos. If that’s your kink, I can tell you mine.” He winked.
He raised his hand and pointed a finger at her. “I thought you were just good for cleaning, but a thing for death? Drugging me? I have to say—”
“You found the pictures?” She asked. He was happy, he must have thought he’d figured it out. He was quick to anger at her, usually, but now it was like he’d spent the day beating his friends at some crappy fighting game. He might have figured it out, but he’d still drunk the booze.
He dropped in front of the TV, an echo sounding in the small room as his butt slammed against the floorboards.
“Be careful!” She said.
“You don’t want careful,” he said. He picked up the controller and leaned over to press the power button on the console. “You want a fake corpse to play with.”
“You’ve read my diaries?” She asked.
He nodded, and smirked.
She took a deep breath. “I don’t want you scared. I can explain.” She would explain, if he asked.
“I didn’t know when you’d drug me,” he said. “But it makes sense it’d be Rob’s day.” He picked up his glass. It was his gaming glass, the one he had at the RPG sessions when he, 'bashed orcs,' with all those friends who barely even talked about Rob anymore; her second love; her second kill.
“What makes sense?” She asked. Had he found her little hiding hole underneath the mound of shoes in her wardrobe? Or had he discovered her medicine stash? It was all written out for him to find.
“Rob disappears, the man you were supposed to marry and you get some hosed up death kink going on in that tiny brain of yours.”
“That’s not what happened,” she said. She reached between the cushions as he took another sip from his glass.
“Looking for this?” He asked. He pulled out her knife. “I saw the photos you staged.” It was the knife she’d cut up her ex with, and yes, she’d photographed passed-out, drugged Nick with it for the past few years.
“Or are you looking for this?” He held up a little bottle, the antidote to one of her muscle relaxants.
“Ok,” she said. She put her head in her hands. “Yes, I do have a thing for death. I can explain it. Ever since I—”
“And you couldn’t imagine what I have a thing for,” he said. He couldn’t even let her finish her admission. His head bobbed.
“Sex? We could have fun,” she said. She smiled. They could have fun, if he wanted that. She knew about his kinks. She’d even read his travelogues for the lands he imagined in those RPGs he played, prosaic writing, but fun. She’d travel with him, if he wanted to go with her.
He nodded. “Sex, sure. But you can just make me some tacos right now.”
“Now? We’re finally being open and you just want to be fed?” Hunger was a result of the drug mixture. “You don’t know what I’ve been through, what’s been running through my mind for years.”
“Since Rob died?” He asked. Since she was a teenager.
“You’re hosed up,” he said. He laughed a coughing, guttural laugh, rolled over onto his stomach, and took up that same childlike position in front of the TV she’d always hated.
“This feels so good. You doing what I tell you from now on," he said. The euphoria had definitely kicked in. "Or you could leave me, of course?”
“You know I couldn’t do that,” she said. She had written that, it was one of her rules: write about how much she loves them, how much she idolises them. She never wrote about how she killed her past loves when they doubted her.
“I know you’re hosed up,” he said. “I know you need someone to fix you. To tell you how to live.”
“How we can both live. As a couple,” she said. “Equals.”
“You can look after me,” he said. The controller fell from one hand, and his chin dropped against the floor.
“I will look after you,” she said. “Do you want the antidote?”
“I’ve found your antidote.” He lifted his head but it took effort. He was laughing, a small gurgling laugh as the saliva collected in his throat. He went to throw the bottle at her but it only rolled from his fingers.
“That’s not my antidote,” she said.
“No?” He was giggling as he lay face down on the floor.
She leaned over and put her ear close to his mouth. “I researched the drugs and bought my own cure,” he said. “You couldn’t even buy the right countermeasure.” His voice was barely audible.
He couldn’t even lift his head.
“I couldn’t trust you to get it right…” he said. “What if I overdosed?”
“No. You couldn’t trust me.” She said. He snatched at air, his chest barely moving.
“My drugs are all mislabelled,” she said. “You didn’t know what you were taking.”
He was gone.
She grabbed the medical vial he’d bought, the wrong medication and rested it next to the suicide note she’d prepared. They always doubted her. Maybe the next would learn?
|# ¿ Mar 12, 2017 23:12|
Some crits for the duel/fight week.
One Last Job (630 words)
If there's blocking for actions, then there's also blocking for the actual story part of fiction. I didn't know where the story was, where it was coming from or where it was going: there's too much implied and not connected to the rest in this for me to buy into any of it.
There's far too much implied by serious sounding words that seem like they're significant for this to make sense in six hundred some words. There's far too many characters, all given real baddie sounding names and they seem like they don't deserve names. There's four people fighting one, or six? Four bullets plus two, or something? One of the many beats didn't connect up for me. A mysterious suitcase that saves someone? Or the kids? A train is departing that they have to be on? I didn't know if they were going to miss it because of something, but it seems you set it up so they'd win a fight and get on board at the last second making their getaway it just didn't make sense as I was reading, because all in all it's a very simple story. You've tacked parts on to try and add a depth to it, but they go unexplained and seem superfluous. The kid is the perfect example. She's pregnant and the suitcase is going to save it? Am I supposed to think it's retirement in Costa del Criminal money because of the story's title?
Ultimately this is a single event (the fight) that had no stakes for it but with other details mounded on top to try and give it significance. Given that it was posted four minutes before the cutoff I'm guessing it was a rush job just to have words in. It was really ill considered and there's very little piecing it together and seems to be box ticking an entry rather than constructing a somewhat coherent story for TD. Your ambition in telling a lot, or putting in your ideas didn't carry through with the lack of emphasis on any single part. It all seemed very lacking and an ideas, genre piece with no emphasis on the skill of either storytelling, action, or character motivation.
Really, it feels like you have some really strong ideas that you want to get across, and you know how to set them up and set the tone of the piece, which was easy to read in all this. It's evident you have the raw material for this story in there, you just didn't seem to give it the attention that would work for a strong piece of fiction.
Piss and Vinegar
This is a bold choice of story to tell, but ultimately it fails because it's based on a reveal rather than setting up tension at the beginning for what the reveal could be, my own investment didn't stack up for what seems like a blasé fight. It could work as a story about the senselessness of it but you're fighting against expectation with that. You're risking the beating that we don't know has a reason against the reveal of the racism. I will say it hit, at least the bluntness of the language choice, but really it doesn't work because I never felt like the violence had a justification, and I was waiting for a good justification. Pure racism might work, but the story wasn't steeped in enough gravitas, or indignation, or even innocence on the victim's part. It seemed like a shortcut at the end to add a writer's significance rather than a story that serves another purpose, such as speaking on blind hate, or a feeling of risk in daily life.
Like I said it's a bold choice to go with a purely bigoted justification for this, but it doesn't seem to serve anything. There's definitely a way it could work with you writing a hateful attack for no reason other than downright racism, but the writing doesn't stack up to it with so much of the story dedicated to a fight. I really feel like I need something more to it, and the decision at the end to move inside with the diner owner didn't justify the story. Investing some more in the protagonist might work, showing him as something other than simply a stand in for someone who's going to be abused.
I reread to see what you'd dedicated to the main character, and he's giddy with anticipation and wants to get lucky. Either give him more personality, have some foreshadowing or even set up a twist to sucker punc the reader with the racism reveal, and it could work but ultimately you're falling halfway between a somewhat abstract piece about the injustice of both violence and racism as told via the language, and a story about a guy we get to know, and can somewhat care for who get's suckered twice in one night for no reason other than bigotry and hate.
Riley's Last Ride
The hard boiled private dick angle seems strained to me. Maybe I've seen too many TV episodes where a regular show runs with it for a change of pace episode, but I can't help but think of them as gimmicky: more fun to write than read or watch. To me these stories come across as more writing exercise, or a niche Kindle market it's possible to make cash in by writing for a small but voracious reading audience. So my criticism could be more of a problem with the genre than it is with your story.
The main thing that put me off was the point of view and tense, but not that you failed it in technicalities rather how it related to the pacing of the story. With the asides you've included, the PI ruminating on his situation it made me slow down a lot in reading it. It seems far more considered in its tone than the POV and tense which was presenting it has an immediate situation. It comes across as a little too thoughtful to be someone caught up in something happening to them right now. There didn't seem like there was any urgency in the situation. I did wonder if he'd live or die, and I was looking forward to seeing if you'd throw him down a drain and how you'd write someone dying as that would be a coup de grace piece of writing/ending for me.. The present tense writing made me think there was a reason for it when it was combined with the ruminating, it cold give a sense of someone being caught in something, but then resigned to it but it didn't pay off or resolve that way: it's as though you were aping the hard boiled, nihilistic PI feel without ever establishing his disinterest in life. The fight was a let down, though with interesting actions by the participants because there didn't seem to be any immediecy to it. If he did die at the end (ohnoes! Has our hero died? Of course not, tune in next week) or even you ended on a cliffhanger and let it hanging I could see it tying into a detective serial vibe. The alternative would be to put the story in the past tense, and have him recounting his tale somewhere, a beach with a cocktail if you keep where you went, or to a judge, or at a political investigation maybe? Even a little segue into, "I said I'd get out of the business, but I just had to... Which is why I'm looking down the wrong end of barrel now."
It's well written, and the problems I'm talking about are for me what's holding it back from a really polished (to my reading tastes) state. It doesn't try anything innovative, which isn't something anyone could expect, but it does nail the prompt despite the problem I have with it. Ultimately I imagine you had a blast writing this, and it seems like you put a great deal of work and thought into it with the language choice, prose style and the detective's thoughts, but I can imagine having more fun writing it and playing with the tropes than I would have as a reader of it, unless it was my special fangirl genre.
I really didn't have any faith in this resolving its twist in a reasonable manner, but you pulled it off in the sense I want to know more about what's happening but ultimately it's more that I want to question you, rather than a buy in to the story..
You did a good job of setting up her win as inevitable, and having me doubt why she didn't act in the first place. However I wasn't engaged in the fight, which really came across as a rather stale fantasy fight. If I know the win is inevitable, don't have much investment in wanting a specific outcome, or at the least doubt my own feelings about the outcome then the fight seems superfluous to me. The story for me is with the sorceress and her situation, and not a battle with a beast. It's like you've clad a story you can have investment in on a part of story that's not carrying any weight. Part of the problem with that is the fight action wasn't good enough for me. Maybe if I saw her power, or if she toyed with the beast? The "does the beast understand" parts were instrumental in setting up the twist/reveal, but I had no reason to think the beast could understand. I had no knowledge of the fight, or the stakes. I had no reason to feel any empathy with any part of it. Really the story was me questioning you the author, can you pull off a plot point that satisfies everything you're setting up, so that doesn't allow me to get into any ideas of allegory and is she really the beast, or does testing people make her the monster, with the test subjects doomed to failure because she sets them up? The story wasn't me wondering about characters, or the situation, but me questioning the direct authorial hand in an idea. A good story shouldn't have me questioning the ability of the author to tie things up, but should pull me along with questions about what's happening while the author stays out of my thoughts. The question didn't arrive until the end, and I had already given up on your writing. It only made me question your idea generation.
A big problem with a lot of this was the flow of the prose. You were presenting a stoic, almost reclusive person but the language was attempting to be flowery, with lots of high falutin' fantasy power words and tropes in there. For me you either need to pare back the language to a lot simpler, and more matter of fact but you'd need to pull off something very hard in showing domination in the character with less room to write it (simplistic and decisive language) or you need to get me invested in the fight, or her own internal fight, neither of which happened.
Fake edit: Iron Maiden's Number of the Beast just came on as I was writing this.
|# ¿ Mar 13, 2017 16:25|
Crits for week #240.
A storm in a two-storey house
This got a hearty, prolonged laugh from me. I could easily see this appearing in some comedy magazine where people are left wondering why the gently caress am I ready about a bored boy in his bedroom? Because really, that's what I was wondering most of the time I read it. Things were happening, but there was no tension, it was all matter of fact. I really felt like I was going to get to the end and still be wondering what the point of it all was. Then Zeus gets to relive his youth, and I lolled. A really fun story, but what makes it really stand out is the pathos in it. The son really does care for his mother, even if he is quite likely setting her up for disaster with her thunder and lightning evening with Zeus. The fact that you got the laugh out of me, then followed it up by, "D'aaw, the teenager cares about his, Mom!" made this one of the top stories I've read/critted (which isn't that many, but still, kudos.) And you really pulled it home by putting the distance between mother and son in the writing and feel in the story, which is something that I haven’t seen accomplished often: tying the tone and pacing of the prose with a pay off in story.
My initial thoughts as I started reading this was about where the story was going? I was giving it time but as I read on I wasn't getting much out of it. It was perfunctory, and rather cold. The only hint at anything was the "curse" Chen brought down on them. And it seems like you sketched out a fair portion of the story just to bring that in. There was no feeling of tension, or even possibility for what seemed like quite a large part of it. I did question their decisions to rescue Chen, is he alive or not, but it seems like a small part of the story engaging me rather than the full 1,500 words. There was little for me to grasp onto, with the start all seeming routine especially with experienced people doing their thing, and the ending seemed like it was routine with you looking for the payoff from the, "Thank you" arm grab at the end. I spent a lot of time wondering about the technobabble, and if the story was going to service that type of nerdery. In the end it seems to be based on people making decisions and the consequences.
The problem with all of that is that there was relatively little emotion in it all. I can understand them being professional, and practiced in what they're doing but I need to feel like they're people during the story, not machines. To give a feeling of the story it came across like the old space missions when they had voice comms, and the astronauts jokes were coming through distorted and with their speech being cut off by them activating their comm link. In a way I guess you could say it was stilted, like experiencing something from afar, and even then through limited technology. I can understand how that would all tie into the feeling of space exploration, the distance and even the professionalism of the astronauts but it doesn't make me bite into a story.
The basic plot was there, I feel: something can go wrong and that being foreshadowed, a tough decision, and consequences for it but I don't think you told the story as you should have. You didn't get into the feeling of the situation, or make it feel like I was there although you came close when they were reeling him in. All in all it seemed like a debrief or after action report to an investigator rather than a story I could get involved in. Giving it a personal lens through which the story unfolds would bring it up quite a bit for me. I didn't feel like there was a consistent point of view for the story, I didn't feel like I was there with anyone. If you picked one person and brought us through their experience it would really benefit my reading of it, and give me someone to get attached to. Then you can start bringing in humanity to it like fear, doubt, and even professionalism and coolness in the face of danger.
I really don't know what to make of this. Finishing it, I paused, I'm sure a puzzled look came over my face, then I laughed. I paused again and tried to figure out why you would write this? Is it a commentary? It's a very serious subject, people adjusting after coming back from war, people freeing themselves from the trauma war inflicts, people with health issues shaping them and maybe looking for a way to just get rid of them even at a cost, but you deal with it using beep boop robots with reset buttons. Given my reaction I can only be left to wonder am I bigoted against robots? This is a horrible thing to happen to someone, to be that lost but looking at it through the lens of an artificial eye is making me bemused. Am I lacking in empathy? Is it I who is the robot?
No, I'm not the robot. The way you deal with the whole situation suggests a real frivolity to the story that clashes with the subject matter. You have a city that's futuristic, but analogous to our own day's cities: hard and uncaring, people released out without support, but you don't show any level of rumination on the city or state of affairs. You don't show any concern in your writing for the lack of justice, or the troubles. You just show a robot attacking someone, when the robot has had no preparation for non-war reality. You even go to pains to suggest it happens within six hours of their release, but there's no problem with the robot's release because there's systems in place. It's absurd but falls far short of absurdist writing because it relies on a very shallow and silly comparison if you hold it up to real world standards. It’s all quite insulting to the subject matter, and ridiculous in narrative.
You're telling a very serious story but with robots, which I guess is down to the prompt, but if it wasn't for the robots I'd actually find the casualness you deal with the whole thing belittling to anyone with health issues, PTSD, or coming back from a war. For this to work for me you need a better way to establish the world in the first instance, and then the commentary on our own world. Apart from establishing the callousness of the world, you'd need to bring the robot further away from beep-boop killer. The robot in this has no personality beyond that of a war machine, there's very little real feeling to them as a character. Ultimately it feels like you've depersonalised the character, and the setting, story, etc. rather than the tragedies being inflicted on them by society.
Ultimately it’s like an homage to eighties films like Rambo. I can absolutely see someone gooning it up to play off them, but this comes across as an entirely misjudged lampoon on something you have no right to be lampooning. Your characters are shallow, there’s no feeling of empathy or humanity in either the plot, or the way you write any of the setting or imagery. I was surprised there wasn’t a wacky war buddy twist to it. Leathal Weapon handled suicide with more delicacy than this handled PTSD.
This was nice. The story propelled itself along with decent pace, the premise was interesting, and you wrote the perfunctory nature of a call centre well. I did have to push down a few questions as the story progressed such as whether magic is known? The woman's acceptance of it all throws that in doubt a little. On the one hand she's desperate after what she's just seen, but is she desperate enough that she can buy into all of what's happening? And then accept it all? It's a story that's partly predicated on me suspending disbelief so to get that little callback to my sense of reality dragged me out of it a little. Maybe with more words you could do a small bit more worldbuilding to establish the rules and reality of the situation. One of the bigger problems with this (that's also a good thing) is that this felt like the introduction to a novel, or the first chapter before something big happens to the call centre woman. It feels like it's serving something bigger, which is in part the routine nature of the situation for one half of the participants. It's a world I want to see more of. It pulls off the casualness for the call centre magic world that's part of what I see as see as readable urban fantasy genre fiction. This goes up against the next part I have problems with, which seems like you're telling two different things with a lack of purpose in directing the reader through your story.
The bigger problem for me was the FBC aspect. If it was an entire novel it'd be a nice detail, where I'm expecting something to be unfurled over hundreds of pages, but for a short story it seems cheap that the "resolution" i.e. her talking about being a FBC and her nightmares is slightly, but not really obfuscated. You've built up an air of casualness to the whole lot, and it doesn't pay off with the sudden pseudo-shocking/horror twist about nightmares and trauma. It leaves me wondering what am I supposed to take from it? And having thought about it, and my reactions as I read the story really it feels like a good story is let down by a last line (or last two paragraphs) attempt to up the severity of it, and change the story to something more with the nightmares part.
Going a little further back into it it seems like you've obfuscated something from the reader with the TLA that you didn't do for the characters. Everyone but me knows what an FBC is. It's explained to the woman who called in about it. When she's questioning the payment it doesn't read very well, like you've made a mistake in writing it, when really I should have spent an extra second on what FBC could stand for. And the fact you don't spell it out, says to me you don't want the reader to know, or you're gambling a story element on some readers not knowing, and hiding all that with awkward language makes me feel like you know the story mightn't work as well with that information. I feel like I'm missing out on something, when you're allowing for me missing out on it and ensuring it's not revealed to me unless I knew it the first time. Putting things in that some readers will get, and others won't is something that's a really nice part of a longer novel, but for a short story it feels like you're hedging your bets where you can't decide on what you want to tell.
All in all it's a story that's left me wishing for tighter authorial intent. It's definitely a possibility that it's a case of ambition outpacing polish, because really it feels like you just need to nail down some loose ends that are pushing my reaction between two many different reads of the story and it's possibilities. It's a great thing the possibilities are there, it shows how solid the whole premise is, I'm just left wishing for that little extra from you in tightening up how you want to pull your reader through your ideas.
No Shirt? No Shoes? A Gun Will Do.
I didn't enjoy this, and found it quite hard to follow. There was a lot of action, and a lot of actions that didn't flow very neatly for me. I feel like I got the point quite quickly, they're robbing people, but only bad people. It seemed convoluted in how it happened. I had no investment in the people, or the situation when there was so little time given to anything but them trying to gently caress poo poo up, or push guns in people's face (did Troy end up with two guns in his face.) Part of my investment in something could absolutely be buying into the spirit of the writing and prose: it being evocative, or just giving off a vibe so I will say I got somewhat of the ferocity, and panic in this, but that didn't aid my understanding of what was happening, rather it hindered it.
Ultimately this seems like goon robbery fantasy and indulgence, which is absolutely fair game, I went with something similar this week. And my story had about as much dialogue happening, with a bit of the importance on picking up on the actions/blocking, so I know it's hard to keep clear on what the reader will know from reading the story versus what you feel is told. So all that's a long way of saying I feel your pain in trying to write a story like this. Goonspeed.
This one seemed like a real dopey kid ending up in a dopey adventure and acting moronic. I could easily imagine his jaw being slack and him saying, "woah!" a lot. I think part of the problem is that the stakes were never established. You start a little bit at the beginning with the war/revolution going on, and his confusion at what happened to him, but you never really establish his fear in the situation with any heavy or emotive language or depth to him. You describe his surroundings but it doesn't carry through as an "Oh poo poo, oh poo poo, oh poo poo," feeling but more an, "oh no! whatever will I do?" From then on he just muddles his way through any interaction with the djinn, without ever going through any horror or fear. If it were a TV show it'd be a lot of bad actors gurning at the camera.
To bring it up a level I'd spend more time establishing the situation he finds himself. Maybe something about his memories of ending up in the hole/pyramid and anger at himself for getting into problems. Then I'd get into at first his fear, then his panic. This really seems like a piece where you're playing of the emotional state of the character, versus his need to stay calm and get out of trouble. The problem is he seems to bumble his way through with everything being handed to him: even the resolution the djinn accepts what he offers him and that's that. I never had the feeling that this was a credible scenario (given the incredible nature.) I think I need to see a rising and falling of tension: give him hope, an idea on a way out and then take that away from him. Let him fail, and let the situation and his rescue be his own making: he doesn't seem to have any control over his situation. Really it all just felt a little flat.
Together in the Same Boat
This reads like a Generation X disaffected youth story written by a creative writing program student, but with less emphasis on artistic prose and more emphasis on superpowers and cake. If you're going to go for this style of story, one where not much happens and it's dealing with ennui then you really need to nail the prose, which you didn't. There's a lot of confusing dialogue, confusing flow, and confusing blocking in their thoughts and what's happening. Stuff like them looking at their phone, but not at the screen (I presume the TV screen that was on) came across like you just typed out words directly as a flow from your mind rather than crafting a literary train of thought.
I can definitely get behind slice of life style writing, but it's a lot harder to do than simple plot, idea and narrative based writing. You need to be really evocative and get across an almost poetic like pace to the ups and downs of the characters (mostly downs.) The characters seemed like losers, but they weren't redeemable in any way which is fine if you can get across their humanity, or lack of it, and that's probably the most important thing to nail: the realness of the characters. I didn't get their care for each other very strongly (I did a little,) and I didn't get any spark between them. The bit at the end about the love for her made me feel like you should have been layering it in before hand, and showing some indication of an uplift in mood, or at least a downbeat in their anhodenia when they're together. If you really want to bring it up a level you need some imagery in there or something to latch onto that reflects the listlessness of the characters, that might have been what you tried with the birthday but it didn't have enough significance. But again if that fails and it's a hard thing to do you come across as the guy who brings a typewriter to Starbucks. What you went for is a difficult thing to pull off.
Also I think you used the image prompt you selected yourself, rather than the one you were given.
This started off really disjointed, both in language and the way you told the story. I wasn't sure what was going on. Is this a post-apocalyptic story? Is it set after an economic collapse? Are these people in some government program to provide work for people without any other chance? And then I was left wondering why the language is so meandering and attempting to be thoughtful for some people filling holes?
Ultimately it's a story that's a retelling of the kind of ridiculous pranks that people may very well play on each other, but that I've only ever heard from the stupidest person I was working with at the time and how he got it over someone else. And it was almost always fantasy on their part with everyone nodding and smiling and not believing them. I don't really see the point in telling this story. It's not original, and it's not well told. There's so many other places you could go with a blank page that retelling a prank seems like a lack of effort.
If you do want to tell this story then you need to shape it a lot better. You need to establish some idea of why the person could be fooled, and that means setting the tone for the reader. You failed at that in the beginning by having it so confusing and imprecise, when you could have told it in some way that it was creepy, or they were in an area known for problems. The fact that this is just over 700 words seems to show that it really is a nothing story. Nothing happens and at the end it's all "haha, what a jape!"
Henpecked (1228 words)
This is fun, and quite a nice story but it's another case of a story that I feel is pitched at the wrong audience. Because it is so nice I'm left wondering why you haven't included a moral to it, or instruction and pitched it as children's writing. Apart from the bit of (somewhat predictable) violence, you've made a sweet case of a girl going to magic school and getting up to hijinks. The pull at the end with the, "what about the egg?" Is something you could see right from the start, but I can imagine it really working for a young tween audience. You capture innocence really well, and making the magician master blustering but kind of nice at the end really helped with that.
I read this last night and wondered what it was trying to capture, but waking up this morning and looking at it again it's made me smile.
As Cool as Slate
I think you bought into the prompt image really well, and probably a bit too hard, so it all came across as nonsensical. The writing wasn't great, and I had to stop and think about what was being implied quite a few times, and stop and follow the train of thought you were giving. Ultimately you put a huge amount of exposition into it, with far too many info dumps. Apparently you went way over the wordcount, and even then you didn't tell much story, at least as part of an arc as you could have. The characters came across as quipy rather than emotive, which again works for the image prompt (and seems like an attempt to be Whedonesque) but it doesn't tell me much about what they've been through. They talk about their murders, but you don't get a sense of any injustice at their death from the characters, or at least from the supposed protagonist.
The whole thing really felt like you were explaining a premise that you'd deal with later rather than setting something out that the reader experiences. The flow of the writing was choppy, and like I said I had to reassess what was happening quite a few times. I think you have a story here, somewhere, not in the girl figuring out what's going on (or you telling us your idea,) but in finding her determination to beat the spirit that sent her there. If you could get the premise out faster and then show her finding her resolve, even throw in a magical thing about her become an avenging angel in her ghost life it might work better.
Edit: Ah gently caress. Fuckin daylight savings. I guess I'm out. So do I take this down or what?
This was well told apart from a few places I felt it drain a little in the pacing and transition from her thoughts and into the dialogue. It's a really simple story, with progression but for me I was thinking the whole way through was there more to it: another layer? You've signposted a few things, the blackout that she seems to come around from while still drinking but with decent enough faculties, the phone ringing out, and even what I picked up as the mysteriousness of the bar and the disinterested nature of the bartender. There's even a bit about how, “She gets clumsy when she’s had a few” but she doesn't know the place. You're putting in details that work really well, but they work to make me feel like there's more going on than the simple surface level, and that doesn't play out.
If you do just want to tell a simple story, then I think you need to bring it beyond her simply thinking about what's happened, and what she's going to do. It's valid internalisation of her situation, but without the other level to it I need to get into some emotive understanding and empathetic reaction to her situation rather than a series of actions, simple results, and inevitable consequences from the characters set around her.
You told the story quite well, but it feels like it's lacking a purpose beyond just writing words about situation.
Mrenda fucked around with this message at 18:14 on Mar 13, 2017
|# ¿ Mar 13, 2017 18:06|
Wait was one of those crits not supposed to be of GenJoe's story, or was he supposed to get two crits?
The second one labeled GenJoe is actually about Jay W. Frik's As Cool as Slate.
I was cutting and pasting into another document and must have duplicated the wrong thing.
|# ¿ Mar 13, 2017 18:15|
|# ¿ Mar 15, 2017 03:26|
Who Suffers Their Penance
She pulled the rental car into the pub’s gravel forecourt. The old petrol pumps were outside, and the large sign advertising the price showed they were still in use. She set the fuel canisters down next to the car and walked into the bar she’d spent so many hours in after Sunday mass.
The smell of smoke from the gorse burning had invaded the room, but it wouldn’t put anyone out. It was illegal to clear the land during summer, but the locals all ignored the law if it made for better farming. The young barman was talking to a teenage girl ripping up a beermat. He looked up as Aoife took a seat at the counter. She called out to him. “A coffee,” she said. “Please.” It was quickly made and set down in front of her.
“You’re American?” he asked. She’d been in the US for almost three decades but hadn’t thought about her accent until now.
She nodded as she spun the coffee cup around in it’s saucer.
“Going to visit the graveyard?”
“Hopefully, soon,” she said. “Could you fill the petrol cans?” She pointed out the window towards the pumps and smiled, despite the bar bringing back all her memories of this place. The barman grabbed some gloves and made his way outside.
She pulled out the letter as she sipped at her coffee. It had been signed by a lawyer in the US: notarised as an official declaration. He’d even researched enough to tell her the Irish police would accept the American origin. It spelled it all out, how she’d hit her brother, killed him, then her and godparents, her adoptive family buried him in a shallow grave. It had taken her years to find the strength to return here, to confront what had happened despite everything this place did to her. At first she made excuses but they were cheap and never held, then it was the memories of her godparents house that kept her frozen at night.
Her uncle made her hit her brother if he wronged her, but never him her. He always made her punch her brother until she meant it but she couldn’t be angry at her own sibling. She tried to hold back the years she had on him, but that’s why her uncle thought it fair, him standing before her aunt and shouting at her to make it count. The punishment was common with the Christian Brothers: the people who taught her uncle how to discipline children. Children were small people, full of sin and in need of strictness to ready them for a world they didn’t deserve.
As she read the confession she was to hand into the Gardaí she noticed an elderly man glancing at her every few seconds. She looked up from the letter and he smiled at her. She smiled back fully knowing a question was on the way.
“What would a tourist be doing with cans of petrol?” he asked.
“I’ve rented a house for a few months,” she said. She knew her voice held no excitement over a holiday. “I’ll need to run a generator until I get the electricity switched on.”
“Oh, what house?”
“I don’t think it has a name,” she said. “I just have directions to it.”
“You’d think they’d sort out the electricity before people arrived, don’t you? Those landlords are trying to scam everyone.”
“I’ve rented it from a friend,” she said. “She doesn’t live there, and it’s been empty for a while.”
“The only house lying empty is the O’Shea place, up the hill past the church? We all keep an eye on that one, the community do. The young ones go up there and get up to all sorts, what with what went on there.”
It was an inheritance she didn’t want, and a monument to memories she couldn’t forget. She’d see that it was erased, burned to the ground. She wouldn't sell it and let it be filled with others’ happy thoughts. “I don’t think that’s the place,” she said.
“It’s a tragedy what happened. That young lad who went missing.”
“I wouldn’t want to intrude on their grief.” She turned back to her coffee, but the man persisted.
“It happened a long time ago,” he said. “There’s no-one left from the family, except the girl, she’d be about as old as you now. She went to America as soon as she could and I wouldn’t blame her for it. She wasn’t cut out for the farm life, never mind what happened.”
“The US is a big country,” she said. “No-one need know your name if you don’t want them to.”
“Of course the whole town searched for him. Fr. Mulryan had everyone looking within hours. We must have walked every inch of the countryside here, but none of us could ever find him.” .
“That’s horrible,” she said. “I suppose there was always bad people.” She’d confessed to Fr. Mulryan within days, hoping a man of God could care more than her uncle. He gave her three decades of the rosary for a week, to ask Mother Mary for forgiveness
“Not in Ballyhire,” the man said. “Fr. Mulryan said he’d caught him playing by the river often enough. He was warned, but it’s only natural for a child to have fun with the water. The river was wild when he went missing.”
As she lifted the coffee from the saucer she could see her hands shake, and knew the man could hear the cup clatter against the saucer. His smile grabbed at her as she tried to focus on the cup. She wanted to close her eyes, instead she rested her arm against the bar to try and steady her hand.
“Things have changed these days,” he said. “Back then children ran free and accidents happened.”
Aoife put her coffee cup down as calmly as she could manage and put a twenty on the bar. “Thanks for the welcome,” she said. “I’d better get going.”
“Call back if you get lost,” he said. “We look after people here. I’m sure someone can show you your way.”
She forced a smile at him as she walked out to her car.
Aoife paused and looked back at the house, then up to the patch of trees where she knew he lay. The familiar greenery reminded her of her games, pretending the old fairy fort would steal her away if she stepped inside its rings. Maybe she even believed it at one point. She walked on.
The litter of trees around her were old then and hadn’t changed much since. She began to dig, her shovel searching the earth for the slab of roof tile that marked his grave. As she dug she thought about her life here, and the reality of the place. She couldn’t write what bothered her in her stories at school. She wouldn’t be able to pin down the difference in how adults acted in her child’s words. How they said one thing to friends and another behind closed doors. It was all smiles and encouragement to people you mocked and pitied at home, while they were doing the same for you. She remembered becoming like that, after it happened. Laughing with friends in school, and pitying them in private. She’d fought it, but she knew they saw her differently: the sad girl who couldn’t forget all that had happened to her, not even for a few hours when she was away from it all.
After hours of digging she heard a car’s engine, louder than from the road. She cursed and rested the shovel on the pile of sods she’d dug. She knew it would take time to find his body, but didn’t expect it to take this long. The memory of him in his grave was vivid, and she was sure this was the place but a long time had passed since then. She’d search again when she saw to the visitor.
She walked back up to her old home. Parked next to her rental was a hatchback, a young woman standing propped against its open door.
“Aoife?” the woman asked.
“Who are you?”
“Fr. Mulryan said to give him a visit if you wanted a break.”
“A visit about what?” Aoife asked.
“He just said there was no need to clean up.” The woman shrugged and got back in the car.
Driving to the old clergy house Aoife remembered how even the threat of Fr. Mulryan’s presence could strike her entire school silent. Dressed in black with the starched collar he was the only person in Ballyhire well maintained at all times. His hair was always clipped, his shoes shone and you couldn’t escape the smell of soap if he stood within ten feet of you. Back then she would have been terrified of him catching sight of her in muddy jeans, let alone the stink of petrol that had clung to her from the cans in the car. Now she didn’t care what he thought, he couldn’t punish her any more and she didn’t fear empty threats of damnation.
She knocked on the door jamb of the house and heard him shout to come in. His voice cracked when he called out but it still had the surety that convinced children of their place in heaven if they obeyed their parents, said their prayers, and confessed their sins.
“Aoife,” he said. “Welcome home.” He was resting in a chair and looked like he’d just woken from a rest. He was thin, his stubble irregular and he wore a checkered dressing gown over a thick sweater. She hadn’t expected him to be wearing the collar, but she had pictured more dignity than this.
“How did you know I was back?” she asked.
“People tell me things,” he said. “And who else would be at that house but young Aoife back from her adventures in America.”
“You know well I wasn’t seeking fame and fortune.”
“How have you been?! he asked. He nodded and smiled as he spoke, like he an old friend catching up after a holiday.
“You ask how I’ve been? After everything. After what I told you and what I’ve been through!”
“After all you’ve been through?” he said. “You started a new life in the US. You left us here, in the small town that so obviously didn’t suit.”
“I ran,” she shouted. “I ran from a bad home, but it was still my home. I ran from what I’d done!”
“I had hoped you would have forgiven yourself by now.”
“Forgive myself! How could I forgive myself?” she said. “How could you forgive yourself?”
“I tried to set you at ease, my child. You confessed, and you were repentant. You were in tears if I recall correctly. Your remorse was true and I offered you God’s mercy and love.”
“What can I do with mercy?” she said. Aoife paced back and forth and her arms rose with the tension straining her. “It’s taken me decades to do the right thing,” she said. “It’s played on me every day of my life. You could’ve told me to confess. To admit what I did. To acknowledge him and find him a place to rest!”
“And that’s what you intend to do now,” he said. “You think that will change things? That you’ll feel better after digging up the past?”
Aoife stopped her pacing and turned to face the priest. “I’m doing what a child was too afraid to do. I’m seeing that he has a proper grave, and I’m going to the police.”
“You can stop now,” he said. “We took his body away from that spot decades ago. A few days after your godparents told me what happened.”
“Where is he?”
“I don’t know. Somewhere,” he said. “I had a few men put him in a field. You were so troubled after he disappeared no one knew what’d you do or say. All your teachers were concerned for you, and didn’t know how to help you. The stories you wrote were terrifying, if a little strange. All about the flames of hell and fury. I still have them. You were very creative.”
Aoife’s fist clenched around the keys in her hand. She thought of the petrol in the car, and her plans to raze her godparents home, but it wasn’t a home that needed destroying. You couldn’t punish a building. She turned her back on the priest and walked out the front door of the clergy house.
“Aoife!” he called.
She opened the boot of the car without a second thought. The canisters were heavy when she’d picked them up at the pub but now she barely noticed them. She ripped at the lid of one but it wouldn’t come. She propped it against the car and took a deep breath before wrapping her fingers around the cap, twisting it off. As she walked back into the house she kept turned away from the priest.
She doused the carpet with petrol and made her way over to the window throwing the fuel high up onto the velvet curtains. The petrol splashed onto her clothing as she flung streams of the liquid over the old, but unworn furniture. She unscrewed the lid of the second can and caught the old priest’s gaze. He hadn’t moved. As she walked to the corner to soak the old television his eyes followed her path.
“You look just how I remember, Aoife.”
She turned to face him. Resting the petrol can against her hip her body began to shake. Her eyes were burning as she walked over to his chair and lifted the can, letting the petrol gush out and over the frail, old man.
“Bless me father. It’s been thirty two years since I last confessed this sin.” The confessional box was just as she remembered: the same cloying wood stained oak, the smell of polish that burned at your nose, and a pious man waiting to forgive you.
“You’ve confessed this before, my child?” He was younger than her: his voice deep but without the coarseness of age. Maybe he was different? Maybe he wouldn’t stand for the abuses of the past, or the liberties taken?
“I told Fr. Mulryan. He offered me absolution.”
“This has been bothering you for a long time,” the priest said.
“I murdered my brother when I was 12, and we buried him in a field. I killed him because I was angry at my godparents but couldn’t fight them.”
He sighed and she heard a rustle from his clothes. “This happened here, in Ballyhire?”
“I couldn’t find his body,” she said. The petrol she’d spread half an hour before was still straining her eyes, but she knew it wasn’t the cause of her tears. “I dug. For hours. I kept digging, and digging but I couldn’t find him. I can’t find him.” A dim light bled through the partition between her and the priest, and she heard the sticky press of plastic buttons.
“You were young. It’s obvious you cared deeply for your brother. But you can’t find forgiveness here, my child. Only you can forgive the young girl who made a mistake. Who was pushed too far.”
“I’ve punished the people around me,” she said. “The people who tried to care for me. I pushed them away.” She balled up her top in her fist. It was still damp and gritty from the fuel. “I tried to kill him. I poured petrol all over the house, poured it over him.”
“The police are there now,” the young priest said.
“He wasn’t even scared,” she said. “He smiled, like we were catching up.” She closed her eyes and more tears rolled down her face. “He said I looked the same.”
“He’s spoken with me about what he did,” the priest said. “He’s sought forgiveness for his mistakes.”
The dim light went out.
“You texted the police?” she asked.
“They’re almost here.”
“He knew. They all knew, the whole town knew, and they didn’t care, and they covered it up,” she said. Seconds passed. “I’ve carried this for my whole life. And I should suffer, I have. But so should they.”
She thought of his body, buried somewhere high in the hills, or deep in some farmer’s land, his grave unmarked and covered in growth. She wrapped her arms around herself but knew the shaking wasn’t from coldness. “Do you know where Joeseph is?” she asked “Where his body is?”
The priest began to recite an Our Father as Aoife heard the crack of footsteps on the tiled church floor. They stopped outside the confessional box with the priest saying a Hail Mary. As he finished the prayer there was a knock, a creak of hinges then a light brighter than his phone came through the grating of the partition.
“He’s ok.” The voice was calm.
“He’s a hardy old sod.” She could hear the lightness in the priest's tone.
“Fr. Mulryan wants to look the other way,” the Garda said. “But it’s your home too and it’ll take a few days until the petrol is cleared out.”
“Leave her be,” the priest said. “There’s no point digging up the past.”
|# ¿ Mar 19, 2017 19:54|
I would like to tune in to this.
|# ¿ Mar 21, 2017 13:15|
Thanks for the crits Hawklad and Fuschia tude. There's enough encouragement in both your comments for me to keep working on this. I've showed it to a few other people and their comments along with yours makes me think the framework is there. It's workable in a few places but there's definitely something missing. Looking back over it keeping your comments in my mind there are places where what you said matched up exactly with what I was thinking now I have some separation from the story. Thanks for the judgement.
But it kind of falls off somewhat in the middle dialog with Mulryan, and the final confession is something of a disappointment as well.
and in the end she gets nothing she came for. No discovery of her brother’s body, no confession to the police (as far as we know - I suppose that could still happen), no burning of her childhood home, no vengeance against the priest, nothing. So everything in the story sets up for the redemption and then it ends with nothing at all resolved for Aoife, nothing changed, no accountability, just keep the past in the past. That she gets no redemption is a problem for this story. I’m not looking for a happy ending here, that wouldn’t suit the piece. But something should change, something should get resolved, otherwise what was the point?
|# ¿ Mar 21, 2017 16:06|
You show appreciation for someone's work and effort by letting them know it's had an effect on you. And their critiques did have an effect. What I said wasn't an offhand thanks for politeness, or for the sake of decorum. It was an attempt to show appreciation by me making an effort, albeit a small one in pointing out that their critiques had informed what I now take from the story with their help.
I held back on pointing out the specific aspects of their response that I'm hoping to address, because I'm not rewriting a story for their benefit (not that they'd want a second version of it,) nor was my post an effort to rewrite what I submitted after the fact. I was trying to go some way to show I appreciated what they said.
I know sometimes I feel a simple "thanks" is hollow, a formality rather than a real understanding and acknowledgement of someone's work for your benefit. I also know that a lot of the time it takes a lot of effort to say that simple, "thanks." But this was me going beyond what I know is typical for Thunderdome because I integrated what they said into my own writing. You can poo poo on me for trying to show appreciation, and engagement with what they said about my story but that's all I was trying to do: show appreciation by saying how their response effected me.
|# ¿ Mar 21, 2017 16:25|
This is a good attitude for a college critique circle or w/e but that's not what this thread is for. Feel free to brawl me if you feel strongly about this
I feel strongly about writing, the improvement of writing, and thunderdome. I don't feel anything about a fight with you other than it seems kind of pointless. I'd love to critique your writing, or critiques from you. I'd like to be a better writer. I'd like to engage with people on their writing, and for them to engage with me. I'd like a connection through writing, and response. I don't feel trumped up brawls and $10 accounts are the way to go. I'm not trying to prove anything, just engage. And this isn't the place.
|# ¿ Mar 21, 2017 17:44|
Nourishment and Fuel
You open the door with the same hope you’ve felt every night for weeks but there’s no wave of steam or heat to greet you. Still you breathe in deeply searching for the smell of smoked paprika or frying onion. There’s nothing on the air. Maybe he’s preparing something fresh? Three weeks without a solid meal might mean all he can stomach is a salad. You turn into the living room and see his recipe books littering the coffee table. The scent of the lemon floor cleaner is there but no smell of food, and no sight of Pierre.
When he stood up to your brothers and told them he was going to look after your mother so you could complete your studies it was his passion that convinced them to back down. It was his love for you that drove him to take on that responsibility. “Put off your studies for a year,” your brothers said. “You need to care for Mom.” Pierre knew you couldn’t back off from your research. It would mean abandoning your PhD so he cared for your mother while keeping up his night shift at the restaurant. For the nine months until she passed he survived on five hours of sleep a night. His passion for cooking was the same passion he showed for you. It was that passion and his cooking talent that kept him employed in the town’s best kitchen despite the tired mistakes he made. He tried not to show the stress he was under. There was always a smile when you walked in the door. Now you can’t remember the last time he smiled.
“Pierre,” you call. “Are you sleeping?”
You walk into the kitchen and see him standing with his arm thrown over the open door of the fridge. “This is pointless,” he says.
“What’s wrong, love?” Seeing him at the fridge sets your chest in a flurry despite his downbeat comment. It’s well stocked because you were sure to keep it that way in case he felt the drive to cook again. Him looking at his recipes and taking account of ingredients could be the first step. It could also be him pushing too hard.
He holds up the stewing beef you bought. “It’s meat,” he says. “It’s always meat. That’s all they want me to cook.” He’s complained about the restaurant every few days but you know the restaurant isn’t the problem. After you moved here and he had his interview with the head chef he couldn’t hide his smile. The first few weeks on the brunch shift had him so enthusiastic he would cook one of his ideas for you every morning before he set off to work. Watching him walk into your bedroom with his newest creation laid out on a tray made the cold winter days feel warmer, like the rays of the sun were shining solely on you. Now you’re either pulling conversation from him or talking down his complaints about the job.
“You can cook for me,” you say. “Or cook for yourself, even if the restaurant isn’t working out right now.”
“I’m not hungry,” he says. He shuts the fridge door carefully and you appreciate that. His touch has always been gentle no matter what he’s going through. You walk up to him and put your hand on the small of his back. His hand clutches onto your forearm but he doesn’t move you away. Ever since he’s felt like this you’ve missed out on closeness to him. You close up to him a little more but his gaze is distant. He steps away from you.
“You have to eat,” you say. “Please. You’re losing weight.”
“I don’t feel like eating,” he says. “The food doesn’t excite me.”
“You need to do something. You can’t just fill your day with your shift and staying in the apartment. You’re obsessing over this. It won’t help.”
“What can I do?” he says. “I clean. I look through old recipes. I’ve been walking in the park, and the open space can’t relax me anymore. All I can think of is the idea it was a mistake moving here.”
“You know it wasn’t. Moving away from what you know will always take its toll.”
“We’ve been here eighteen months.”
“So it’s not new anymore. You don’t have to fight to make things work. You’re allowed enjoy the comfort of a routine.”
He shuts the fridge door but his eyes stay locked on the same point.
“Let’s go for a meal,” you say. “We’ll go somewhere new. It’ll be good to do something.”
“Sure. In a few days,” he says. “Somewhere new will be fun.” He squeezes your waist as he moves past you.
When you put on your sleek blue dress at the start of the night you were excited but now its delicacy makes you feel exposed. Asking Pierre to fasten the chain of your diamond necklace reminded you of the nights he’d take you to a restaurant but wouldn’t tell you which one. He might describe white tablecloths and different knives and forks and you knew you’d have to dress up, or he’d tell you about the stacks of napkins for all the sauce that would spill and you’d put on a comfortable t-shirt and jeans ready for the touch of his messy hands. Fretting about the whole experience would make him say idiotic things that you tutted over but really you loved his innocent worry. “This place isn’t that dressy,” he’d say, or he’d caution that a studded leather jacket would draw the wrong kind of attention but going on his clues you always knew what styles suited the restaurant better than him. Getting ready you’d try your best to entice him. You’d sway and smile and ask him to pull your hair out from beneath your top but his excitement was always focused on the meal. He communicates best through food, and he always wants you to enjoy his passions with him. Now you feel like you stick out in the restaurant you brought him to. It was supposed to be a relief. It’s an experience he always loves but he’s spent the evening eyes locked on his barely touched food.
“Are you going to finish your dessert?” you ask.
“No. You can have it.”
“You’re not going to fight me?” You move your fork over to steal the cake from his plate but he just picks it up and places it in front of you. Your lips tighten. Nothing he’s done has never made you cry but these past few weeks there were tears when you think of the mood he’s been trapped in.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “I’ve not been great to be around.”
“You haven’t been.” You lean in over the table. “What’s changed? What’s going on in there?” You hope you sound firm rather than angry.
“Drive,” he says. “I don’t feel the press of anything. I know I’m not doing well but no matter how I try push myself it’s not working. And I know it’s not fair, not on you. I’m trying.”
The waitress arrives next to you and you realise the dessert he passed to you has gone untouched. “If you’d like to take the cake away I can wrap it,” she says. She looks at you with big eyes and tilts her head. You finger your engagement ring.
“Yes, please,” Pierre says to the waitress. She picks up the dessert plates and Pierre stands. “I’ll go and pay.” He leaves you at the table as he walks to the cash register.
You take your coat from behind your chair and make your way outside the restaurant. The Spring air has some warmth but you still feel a chill. Sleep hasn’t been coming easily which you blame for your feeling the cold. He steps out of the restaurant and puts his arm around you pulling you in close. “Let’s walk,” you say. “I haven’t been sleeping. Maybe the fresh air will help me tonight.”
“You should sleep,” he says. “You work hard.”
“And so do you,” you say. “I know it’s difficult to show up every day when you’re not feeling it.”
“I pushed myself harder when I was looking after your mother.”
“She didn’t appreciate what you did for her, or me,” you say. “You had no time for yourself.”
“It was the right thing to do,” he says. “For you, but for her as well. She didn’t argue with me half as much when it was only the two of us together.” His face breaks into a rare, sly smile.
“You never told me that,” you say. You bounce on your feet imagining Pierre and your argumentative mother laughing over the same TV shows. “Still, it’s not typical for someone to do that for their girlfriend’s mother. My brothers refused to care for her, said it was up to me.” They were on the phone to you last week asking if you’d help them with money. It took every fibre of your strength not to hang up on them. Family is important and you don’t want to cut off contact but they only ever ask of you. The way Pierre gives to people is what attracted you to him. He thinks nothing of doing with less if it helps someone else.
“I’ve asked for some time off,” he says. “Next week I have Monday to Friday for me.”
“You know I can’t take time off on short notice,” you say. “But you can make that time your own.”
“I know. I want to spend it in the apartment. I’ll force myself to cook. Looking into that fridge last week I knew it wasn’t coming back, so maybe I have to push myself.” You want to argue. He’s falling into an obsession and trying to force joy into the thing that’s causing him difficulty.
“Get out of the apartment,” you say. “At least some of the time. Just spend a day walking around. I’ll fill your phone with our high school tunes and you can just walk and not have to do anything.”
“Not doing anything is the problem,” he says. “I’ve been doing nothing for weeks. I’ve been sitting in the apartment and going to work. I need to create.” Creating happiness for people is what he’s always done. For him cooking isn’t an art, it’s a tool to bring about joy. He’s not feeling any desire right now, but you still appreciate this walk through the night with him.
“Let’s keep walking,” you say. You rest your head on his shoulder and feel the warmth of his body against yours.
“This will pass,” he says. You feel his stubble catch onto a few strands of your hair.
“I know it will,” you say.
You open the front door, and for the third day of his break there’s no smell of food. The time off was to force himself to cook, but you knew it wouldn’t give him the drive. The apartment was tidy after his first day off and it shone after his second. Last night you wracked your brain for something that could give him a sense of purpose again. When your brothers called complaining about having to store your mother’s old belongings they reminded you of your days back home. Pierre was always happiest when he was helping and caring. He was tired by the time you finished your doctorate, but he was proud that he could look after your mother, and help you.
“Pierre!” you call.
“Why are you home?” He points at the bags you’re carrying. “What’s this?”
“They’re ingredients,” you say. You set a bag down on the coffee table. “And this is lunch.” You pull out a styrofoam container from the top of the bag.
“I’m not really hungry.”
“Well, you have to eat this.” You hope seeing what those elderly people are eating motivates him. If he can get involved with the charity centre doing what he loves and feeding people who need his kind of warmth it might give him purpose again.
“A nice lunch might be good another time but not when I’m too lazy to even cook for myself.”
“I doubt you’ll think it’s nice, but it might inspire.” You open back the styrofoam lid. He draws a quick breath when he sees the gelatinous gloop of food in the container.
“That’s not going to inspire anything,” he says.
“This is a list for you, but you can’t look at it until you taste that lunch.” You start to pull out boxes of food from the bag, setting each down carefully on the table. “This is what you can cook with,” you say. “With seventy-five cents per head to buy what you like and you have to come up with a meal better than this.” You dig a fork into the cooling, congealing mix.
“What even is it?” he asks.
“I don’t know what the food is, but it’s for the people who attend a charity day centre for the elderly.”
“They feed them this?” he asks. He’s digging around the food slurry with the fork you poked into it.
“They have student chefs. They have dedicated volunteers who try very hard with limited resources. They say it’s better than it looks, but they don’t have anyone with as much talent as you.”
He takes a bite of the meal. “They’re right. It’s not as bad as it looks,” he says. He grimaces as he sticks the fork back into the container. “But nothing could be. It’s just bland.”
You hand him the sheet of paper you had the centre write out. “Your list of herbs and spices.”
“This is all they have?” he asks.
You feel like a game show host as you wave your hands over the basic foods you’ve laid out on the table. “Like I said, after these staples and the spices you have seventy-five cents per head to make something great.” He rubs his temples and looks over the charity’s food again. Turning to the list of herbs and spices his eyes open wide and he shakes his head.
“They can eat better than this,” he says. He leans over the container and sniffs at it. “It’s not flavoured at all.”
You hand him a pencil and notepad as he rearranges the collection of basic ingredients you bought around himself on the table. “With your help I’m sure they’ll eat better,” you say. His eyes dart back and forth between the lunch, the list of herbs and the ingredients. You step back and open the door to leave as he absentmindedly picks the container of food up, digs in and takes a bite. His lips curl but he still shovels another forkful of food into his mouth. Taking time to gently close the door you smile over the man you love. His appetite is back.
|# ¿ Mar 26, 2017 20:48|
In, with this year's lovely entry, from the lovely young man from Ireland. Gotta go with some hometown allegiance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dp3apBsLjvk
|# ¿ Mar 31, 2017 15:49|
All I Want At My Age Is A Place To Sit
You sit down with your toast in the seat looking out over the river. Buttered and cut into quarters. The same brand of butter and bread you’ve bought for a decade. Through the window you see a policeman patrol past the bench by the river. They sit there and drink, the local alcoholics. They’re not noisy. You can’t hear them despite it being only a stone’s throw away but they are off putting. Later in the day once they’ve woken they’ll all join up there. Filthy men, drunk and wasting their afternoon with cheap cans and bawdy humour. The police must see fit to deal with the area now that you’ve written letters to the local councillors. The ambitious young politician with a sure future wrote you back to let you know how scenic he thinks the area, and how no-one should be allowed scare people off by drinking illegally in public.
Marianne and Theresa have cancelled on you. Well, not cancelled, they’ve decided to go to the beach for the day. They wanted a change from coffee and knitting. A day at the beach sounds like hell. Not that the beach is bad, rather being stuck with them for an hour each way on the bus is. They’re just replacing their coffee and yarn for sand, ice-creams and yarn. You don’t knit. Never saw the point and they don’t understand why you paint. Knitting is for grandchildren who need clothes and a little baby blue cardigan is always welcomed by busy, cash-strapped daughters but you have neither children nor grandchildren. Their knitting is about function and occupation. Your painting is about relating with your surroundings.
You look down at the bench by the river again and a policewoman is walking past. The local winos may have gotten the message. They shouldn’t be allowed monopolise that bench. Everyone is afraid to sit there lest they be bothered by a red nosed, staggerer with beer breath.
Your easel and paints are in the corner. You’ve thought of painting from that bench since the Spring bloomed, and every spring since you’ve retired from the bank. Now the police have taken some action you feel it’s time for you to play your part. You place a new canvas and your easel under your arm and put your paints in a tote bag. It feels like your body is rattling, but deciding to set out to that bench has you feeling more exhilarated than you’ve been in years. They can’t have it all to themselves. No one should own that river view.
Your painting is coming along. The pencil outline is all laid out and you’ve given the canvas a wash for the blue sky and the clear river water reflecting it. A man sits next to you and you see he’s set a bag filled with beer cans in front of him. Ignoring him you dab some of the blue into the silver paint for where the sunlight catches on the ripples of the water. There’s only one of him, and you’re entitled to this space as much as he is. You’re sure someone from the police will be along soon. An officer has passed three times since you sat here.
You hear the metallic grating of a can opening, and he quickly gulps at it. There’s plenty of other places they can drink. They do drink plenty of other places but once it passes noon it’s almost inevitable that a small group ends up here.
“That’s beautiful,” he says.
“Thank you,” you say. He’s already draining his first beer.
“No, really,” he says. “I did art for six years in school. What you’re doing takes talent.”
“I’ve been painting since I was twenty seven.” You remember the Spring day you walked into the art supply store. You had rented a caravan by the sea for a week. The postcards from that village were beautiful, and you knew you’d want some way to remember your trip there. Years of saving at your lowly bank job meant you were able to afford the holiday. Painting the view was a way to remember it in a manner personal to you. Just holding those cheap paints, which were all you could afford helped you hold onto the memory of those peaceful evenings in the warm sunset.
Painting stuck with you. You survived on watery soups. You couldn’t afford extravagant meals with the price of your art supplies. But but no-one could ask anything of you when you were painting. It was just you and the soft roar of waves receding from a shore you were recording, the fulsome scents of soft blooms in the park, or the hug of warm air on a sun-soaked riverbank.
“This spot deserves to be painted,” he says. “It’s why we drink here. Anyone from the shelter.”
“I’ve noticed,” you say. His skin is flaking, and raw.
“It’s a bit of normality, you know,” he says. “Something this nice right in the middle of the city. We’re all lucky to have it.”
“More people should take notice of it,” you say.
“You did,” he says. “I hope we don’t scare you off. I’d tell the lads someone was painting here, but they wouldn’t get the same buzz off it as me.”
“There’s an exhibition in the City Gallery,” you say. “Local painters through the last two hundred years.”
“I had one of my drawings in there, with a charity” he says. “It felt good, you know. To be valued like that. To show people what I saw. It wasn’t a great picture. Not as good as yours, but it was something.”
“Do you paint?” you ask.
“No. Just drawing, doodling. It’s easy to get a bit of paper and a pencil, and scratch something out.” He laughs. The way the sun is falling on his smile you realise he’s a lot younger than his weather blasted skin shows: mid-twenties at best. He finishes off his second beer and hefts another can in his hand before putting it back in the bag. “I’m off,” he says. “Enjoy the rest of your day. It’s good to see someone enjoying this spot, and painting it.” His warm eyes contrast his worn skin. Their blue glint is young and bright.
“What’s you’re name,” you ask. You offer your hand forward. “I’m Jessica.”
He takes your hand gently. “Darren,” he says.
“I have some spare paints and a few canvases,” you say. “I can drop them into the shelter, the one just across the bridge? If you want.”
“I might come here and paint the river,” he says. He laughs and his face opens up big and wide. “If I could find a bit of peace.”
“You should,” you say. “It’s a spot that deserves some love.”
“And you can drink the cans instead of me.” He chokes a little on his laugh and you can’t help but smile. You’ve never allowed yourself one before, but you have a bottle of wine chilling in the fridge. An afternoon glass of wine feels right, once you’ve finished your painting.
|# ¿ Apr 3, 2017 16:48|
In with schizophrenia.. And a to submit on time this week after shamefully missing the deadline last week.
|# ¿ Apr 5, 2017 14:55|
Edit: Taken down to rework.
Mrenda fucked around with this message at 18:42 on Apr 18, 2017
|# ¿ Apr 9, 2017 19:52|
INTERPROMPT: "Fast judging, my friend, is good judging."
Why I Run, I Must Run
Muscles ping and muscles twinge. Pinging muscles build up, and up and you feel it the next morning when you're lying in bed waiting on grapefruit and coffee. You only had one beer after the race. It was a mistake. It was a mistake to go to the bar, but that's where the photographer was. You wanted another photograph with another marathon medal.
She brings in your laptop with the breakfast. Not your work laptop, both of you know well not to mix personal life with the work. There's too much at stake. If the media could crawl through your browsing to show you up as debased, or pandering they'd have a field day. You don't trust the techies not to release it. If they found something juicy, any little insight into your personal life they'd hang you. Your life is from the bench. That's what the public should see.
It was only a couple of beers. That's all you had, a few post-run recovery Imperial IPAs. The dry hops opened your sinuses. The pungent body brought back the taste of high school and sneaking joints with women, really girls fending off your limp teenage body who were fully right to laugh at your advances. They were coy and coquettish when they turned you down. The shelter wasn't.
You argued. You had all achieved in the marathon. They're the people you advocate for. They're proof that funding, positivity and judicial kindness can help anyone escape their trauma, ill health, or plain bad luck. They still turned you away. "You've had a beer, Judge." When you brought out your grad school mock trial arguments they changed their tone. "Look, man, not tonight." They tried to close the door. "Not with beer on your breath. You know that."
You do know that. You know it's different for you and them. You took a taxi to a bar so you could have your photo taken with a medal not worth melting down. They went back to a joyful and respectful party at the shelter that helped them find some peace, despite all it's rules and restrictions on people who just want a cook out and a few beers. Maybe you can organise a photographer for them, with their marathon award, or a food truck with burritos and falafel. Some reward for their run.
Walking into the kitchen she's drinking coffee. Her flowers are blooming outside the window. You think of all the tours you've taken to the shelters. Dorm room beds for adults, and a few enclosed rooms with no doors for anyone really put out. You look through the files of the cases before you. Possession, theft and some referrals for psychiatric commitment. When you ran you felt free. Now you have to judge. You want everyone to have your freedom.
|# ¿ Apr 10, 2017 06:40|
Pitch: In a near future world with basic minimum income and high unemployment, heavily regulated means of allocating resources including private transport, and high wealth for a few individuals an isolated woman must decide if she goes to the effort of travelling the hundred or so miles to be with her father as he dies.
|# ¿ Apr 13, 2017 13:56|
Edit: Reworking this.
Mrenda fucked around with this message at 17:23 on May 5, 2017
|# ¿ Apr 16, 2017 17:19|
Crits for Appease SittingHere Week.
This was a dense read with the stylistic choices, but it still came across with a touch of lightness with the occasional normality bleeding through the protags madness. It came across as more an experiment in form and writing style than it did a story. For it to really work for me you'd need to step up the occasional signs of normality and let me see how the protag is placed within the world. Giving me some insight on her situation related to an external world view of them. That was the big let down for me. While you did achieve in getting across the delusion, it was a little too coherent and not evenly guided by the problems it would cause for the person. As a reader I didn't feel any emotional connection, or sympathy for the subject of the story. That comes across as an authorial choice because what you did write came across well, and well directed, but it was disappointing for me because the skill shown in doing so was obvious, but the empathetic relationship that would really elevate it wasn't there. You hinted at it in the end, but it wasn't strong enough to really show it. As an experiment in writing and style it was very worthwhile, and I enjoyed that, but as a telling piece of writing about a situation it fell short. I'd like to have some connection and insight on the protagonist, but it just wasn't there.
The surface level of this story was well told. I understood the progression of the plot, and the significance of their situation in the altered world. However the significance and poignancy of the characters situation wasn't telling enough for me to really ground their situation in a human level connection. The immediate story was enjoyable, but the emotional relationship wasn't strong enough. It didn't make me think anything of the situation where characters learn to understand the people they're afraid of, learn to understand their place in the world, learn about growing up, growing apart, yet still retaining a connection. The story was competently told, but the human insight in it was lacking. The simple narrative level of the story was enjoyable, and easily understood but the universality of human experience didn't come across. I'd like to have seen how their situation, learning and revelation could relate to a real world situation for me. The story needed to work as an analogue for ideas of human growth and development, but it didn't work at that layered level for me. If you could set the story progression more in the emotions of the characters, or have their encounter be more telling on a symbolic and semiotic level it would have much more impact.
You spent a lot of time establishing the dream world at the beginning of the story, but you didn't use that to take me anywhere. The first few paragraphs seemed like an effort in purple prose, but it wasn't establishing the significance of the world, or even any surreality I'm familiar with in dreams. Compounding this was the disconnect in their actions, where you were speaking with a significance using ideas that you hadn't established earlier in the text, or connected to the vitality or reality of the setting, and that came across as disjointed. I didn't enjoy the world, I didn't feel any connection in the characters, and I didn't feel any urgency in the task. The prose to me was very heavily influenced by the setting of the story, with story-centric stylistic choices seemingly important, but the story didn't have any purchase with me for it to work. Really, it was just a fight between some people and it was reliant on the dream world setting to carry it, but you didn't establish any reason for me to care about it. It all came across as rather "floaty" like any dream you don't fully have a grasp on, and that's fleeting in many ways but that also has a lot of significance in the moment. It read like you were too caught up in the feeling of dreams as you wrote it, and not connected enough with how that feeling in the writing translates to a reader that doesn't have the emotional buy in you have as a writer. Maybe it was too solemn, and somber, the impact that you were seemingly trying for didn't come across for me with what was really a plot and problem for the characters that didn't have any tension or weight, and was impacted by disjointed prose that might pass for the feeling of a disjointed dream.
This story was the easiest to read of what I've read so far. The writing was coherent, and the progression of what happened all made sense. I could picture the situation and setting quite easily. There was nothing challenging me in the way you told it, or what you were establishing with no complex ideas that drew me out of what you were saying with your writing. This is generally a really good thing, the flow of a story being well set and translated to a reader, but in this case it was because the story wasn't tackling any big idea, a strange setting, or a complex emotion. You could have tackled a complex emotion, the duality of the character's thoughts towards their roommate between when she was high, and when she was sober, but you just had her forget everything, and return to being a dickhead (or at least I feel you wanted her to be a dickhead.) There was plenty of room to show a struggle in the protagonist's character, and ground the story in a personal difficulty between conflicting ideas and motivations in one person, but you didn't press that at all. Using the mushrooms to show two sides of a person is great, but the changes between the two situations didn't make up for my lack of care for the person. She had no motivation or drive to achieve any change, or desire to better her situation. It just set two scenes against each other, leaving any take away up to the reader. The big problem for me is that I didn't feel any regret, disappointment, or sympathy for the character, or even anger at them for missing an opportunity for growth and keeping on being a dick. The story really seems like you had an idea for that, but didn't detach yourself enough from the draft you submitted to see any humanity in it, rather than a simple, but easily scanned story. This could be brought up a few levels by adding some pathos and allowing the reader to gain some empathy for someone in it. Even focusing more on the roommate, and elevating his part of the story might work. Show his anger, frustration or disappointment. Making me feel sympathy for him, maybe even telling the story from his point of view. It's a finely told story, but I didn't relate much, or even hate or be angered enough by the protagonist to get what I would have liked from it.
This was a nicely poignant story right until the end. The black mould on someone's head allowed a light touch where a real life illness might demand a more sombre approach, with a little more severity. It was also disgusting enough to be evocative, and you could lean into that because of the not-real illness, without risk of faux pas compared to something someone could really suffer from. I had fully bought into it, and was looking forward to a solid ending that would tie up the situation, or make some judgement on it. It's just the surreal step didn't work for me. You already had established the one alternate reality situation with the head fungus, and I can accept that, then you threw in another aspect about pulling flesh off, and him not seeming too bothered by it. It's an added unreality that was never grounded anywhere in the story, or hinted at other than I already know we're in an another reality. The situation we were in established something I accepted, quite readily and made me feel for the character, then the ending added something new and I didn't know what to make of it. It taints the rest of the story because it has me asking questions of something I had accepted, but it doesn't provide any answers other than, "this is a different world." It doesn't say anything to me even on a symbolic level. It's just layering a situation I don't understand on top of one I had to accept for no real pay off. This may very well connect for other readers, but for me it came out of nowhere. The story didn't need it over giving a straight ending with an emotional tie-in. If there was something in the surreality that did connect with me, it could work, but it seems like a gamble that's not necessary.
This had all the elements of a well told story, but really the focus was too much on giving me details that seemed superfluous, and at the cost of the core of what I saw in the whole piece. It's definitely something I do as well, and I felt it in the story that I wrote this week with having to give enough detail and examples of what was happening to the protagonist, and not being able to focus enough on the feel of the story, or the emotions and drive of the storytelling. Your prose was perfunctory rather than impactful, telling or evocative. For me there were details that didn't need to be there, like her being at odds with the billionaire space tourist man. You gave him more feeling than you did the spaghetti mushroom ball. And her fight seemed to be with him, rather than trepidation at the mystery or wonder of the comet-like thing. It would work better for me if she was at odds with the situation, rather than at odds with a fellow astronaut who served no real purpose. The story, although easy to follow and understand didn't seem to have its priorities in the right place. It was like the style of the story was one thing, and the telling of the story was set in another feeling. For me you really had to embody the tension, awe and even a sense of foreboding in the writing, which didn't come across. The idea is solid and I appreciated it, but the approach to telling it fell short.
I don’t know what it means when
I enjoyed the meditative aspect of this. Just someone letting flow with their thoughts, and almost eulogising their friend. It had a strong voice. And even though I didn't particularly like the particular, it was distinct enough for me to have an idea about the speaker in my mind. His reading into the signs of the garden, the mystical and spiritual aspect of it was nice. My big problem with it is the purpose of it, which sets it apart from and in many ways above a lot of the stories I've already read this week. At least in immediate ambition and lofty goal. While the other stories were set in a narrative dealing with a situation (mostly) or telling me something, this left me riding on the effect of his rumination and shared feeling I took from it. It didn't make me ask questions about anything, it didn't make me feel like I should question anything about larger issues, or my own situation. It was a far bolder attempt at prognostication than any other story so far, but it didn't achieve that feeling in me that makes me stop and address what could come from it, either for the character or me as a reader. I think you need to add some doubt or conflict to the person speaking. There needs to be a question or desire embedded in his thought process for it to carry over to me. You achieved the voice of someone potentially posing those questions, and you achieved the mood necessary for those questions to be prompted in the prose, but there was nothing posed in the entire piece. I felt like I should have those questions, the feeling of the piece set me up for them, but nothing of the story prompted them. For me it just needs a little more direct emotion, or doubt, or forcefulness about a situation from the character.
This is a bold choice of story, but it didn't do anything for me. A mystery item speaking of how it's used, but there's no personification of emotion or desire in the prose. The writing is as unfeeling as an object. Maybe the object is obvious, but while I have a feeling of what it is it seems irrelevant. I have no need to know about it, or understand anything about its purpose or existence. I can imagine a story like this working as a commentary on humanity, seeing the world through a person's use of things, or wasting of resources. I didn't see any comment on anything here. This just feels like a writing exercise in giving a viewpoint to something non-real, but there's no view or voice to it. The decision not to give it an identity in saying what it actually is seems like your trying to add work for the reader to stand in for a story with purpose or a position on something. At first I felt like a meaning would develop as the story progressed, but when it didn't I didn't feel any attachment to anything you wrote. It's a risk of a story, and it could very well work for some readers, but it didn't for me.
I Forgot What's Real and What's Not as I Fall Farther and Farther into the Bullshit World I Made for Myself
I have no idea what is going on in this story. I read it very slowly, trying to piece together the relationship between the characters, the bits of the setting, the animals, and the occurrences. Paragraphs lope from one subject to another. It seems all to be sit in a world that's connected to its other parts but I can't decipher why they're connected, other than they reference each other. There doesn't seem to be a reasoning to why they're relevant to each other. I could read it again, but I'm not sure I want to sit down with a pen and paper mapping out each piece's relevance to another. It's only typing this up that I've looked at the title, and I guess that makes some sense of it. It's a bullshit world that's not real. It needs to be real for a reader though, even any unreality of it. I was two thirds of the way through the story and my idea of whose voice it was in was still jumping around. I didn't know who was telling the story. There seems to be tense changes. Some elements of the story are established and then fall away only to come up in asides later. Maybe it's experimental storytelling with simple prose that makes sense on an immediate level, but it just left me confused about what I should be looking for. I guess it's just a woman dealing with her lovely situation, and thinking of things going on around her. There's no thread to draw me through the whole progression of your writing though. There's no stable reality for me to latch onto and judge everything else by. Maybe this could work, but for me you'd really have to establish the voice of the storyteller with a much firmer hand. There is definitely writing that challenges a reader to summit its ambition, but this is more a cliff of incomprehensibility.
A Part of Her
There was a nice sensitivity to this, flitting at the little ideas of the protagonist's world. As I read on it built up its tone, in a way similar to the character's aging. The ocean scene the seeming climax and then a nice denouement with the phone call to the mother. I have some appreciation for grounding it entirely in the protagonists viewpoint, and the ending being a revelation that there was some effect of the early implanted symbiote, and it being out of the ordinary without the protag's realisation. The few hints at her otherness were soft, and I appreciated them thinking back on the story. It was well told, with a nice pace and a building sense of significance, but because it was so set in the character's view I didn't understand any urgency or struggle as I read it. The reconnection at the end with her mother didn't pay off as a need I felt had to be addressed, rather it coloured a retrospective view of the story. The whole story felt too light for me, and too delicate as though you didn't want to stake out any real issues. It came across as too suggestive after a full read through, rather than elements of it being declarative, and I feel it needs some firm declaration of an issue of significance. The prose was enjoyable and easily read. Everything worked in it, but it still felt lacking. It really feels like this needs more writing for it to work, with more areas where we can see some conflict, or problematic aspect to the protagonist's life. The change at the end didn't pay off enough for me because I didn't see any need for a change, and it seems the character didn't desire it, and she wasn't aware of anyone else's desire for it. It's a fine balancing act, because the soft touch really helped the story, it was just a little too soft for me and didn't establish enough of a stake in what was happening.
Maybe having a little more contrast would help. It worked really well in not overstating the immensity of any one thing personal to someone, and you erred on the side of understatement which is a lot more satisfying than blowing out the other side and making importance of something that isn't that important, or notable. This needs some fine tuning to have more of a striking effect, but it's very solid in what it's done. I just enjoyed it more writing a critique of it, than I did thinking back on it after I read it. There's too much work expected from me to read into it, when without giving the critique it wouldn't have attracted that attention from me.
The Cornerstone Bandits
Despite a fantastical premise, this is a perfectly mundane story. There was no real progression, tension, or resolution to it, other than me looking to see where you took the fantastic elements. When it starts off she's just dealing with a senile doctor, but you as an author strongly show there's something more to it. However you don't give any sense of realisation of horror to the character who's experiencing the story. I didn't vicariously experience anything she experienced, and I was detached the whole way through, just reading to see what happened. And what happened was she saw something monstrous and was scared. There was another story like that this week, Fleta McGurn's space asteroidal noodle story, and I have the same criticisms for your story as that, but more pronounced. You didn't set up any sense of foreboding or horror, there was no feeling of how untoward the situation was, and you didn't show any increasing fear as the situation become progressively more terrifying, or intimidating. I'd like to feel something as I read, but nothing in this story made me feel anything. You did set me up to wonder what I was going on, but even then you didn't really say anything interesting about it. It's just a MacGuffin Bad Thing. With one "normal" person involved if I could be drawn into some of their panic or worry, or feel their escalating terror it would do a lot, but this read like a police operation with supernatural fluff. Like I said, I did want to see what was happening when the emotion of the piece didn't pay off, but the idea behind it didn't pay off either. You did well in making me pose that question to the story, you just didn't answer it in a way I appreciated.
The Ideal Husband
If I really push myself I can see some depth here contrasting the humanity of a robot versus the humanity of someone who marries a robot whose purpose is to fulfill their desires. It's a real stretch though. The woman in this comes across as vapid and vacuous, which could be a good thing but there was no sense of awareness in her thoughts, or from the story as a commentary on her. The characterisation of the person was too empty, empty enough that she didn't seem real. There was no sense of doubt from her, which in a way is reinforced by her ordering another husbandbot, but there was also no sense of her delusion, or hubris in doing the same thing over and over. If I was given some justification for her motives, and maybe that's what you were going with with her mother's phone call I might have more of a connection. The story was well told, and it flowed well enough that I could follow its progression, which is the reason I'm looking for a greater depth from it. You've managed the surface level of the story very well, but you haven't given it any meaning beyond it. I think you either need to step up the sociopathy of the protagonist, or set her desire against a more telling backdrop, or give her an internal conflict. When she says she wants a baby, the husband says that she knows she can't have that with him/it. If you could establish a reason for her to make those mistakes, a reason for her to believe in the perfection it might allow for a greater fall for her. It could give more impact to her disappointment. There's no need for likable characters, or even characters that you can really relate to, but this story didn't give me any connection to them. It was a well told story, that didn't bring about any feelings for me, or make me question anything. Good words hiding an emptiness, and with the emptiness of the robohusband and protag I tried to search for a depth of meaning to it, but it didn't work for me.
Looking at this from the wall's point of view really seems like a contrivance, and adhering to a prompt with a technicality rather than creating something embodying the prompt. For me the story would be no different if it was told from the third person point of view, with no interaction and just description. You're just starting every paragraph with, "If the walls could forget..." The walls are entirely passive, and not able to do anything. This is the nature of walls, to a degree because you've given them personhood, but there's no action or ability for them to do anything because they're simple observers and that's a facet the storytelling at your control that I felt was a let down. It doesn't have the impact of a watching family member, seeing someone destruct and feeling unable to act, because we know the walls can't act, and there's no sense of despair or any feeling of impotence from the walls at not being able to act. Nor is there an anger at their nature of being entirely voyeuristic. You've given the walls a voice, but you haven't let that voice speak or act in anyway. You haven't let them recoil at their nature of being unable to act. You've made them half a person, but haven't given them enough insight or critical ability to self reflect. It seemed like a halfway house, where the man's actions are supposed to speak, but I'm seeing it from the walls' perspective and I don't have any understanding of the walls' turmoil. Some self analysis on the wall's thoughts, you writing them as more passive, distant and uncaring, maybe even flippant due to their nature, or boosting their awareness to give them stronger feelings could work. You weren't strong enough with personifying the walls, either as an entity somewhat alien to humanity, or personifying them with more humanity for it to really work for me. There was no clutching feeling for me with the story, especially with a subject so serious.
|# ¿ Apr 18, 2017 01:43|
I initially thought Dana was male (with my referrals to them as a dickhead in my crit. A shameful gendering of insult.) But I read SH's crit, and realised I know of far more Dana's who are female and the only male Dana I know is from the UFC. Although to be fair two of the non-real life female Dana's I know are from the Eurovision. It didn't change my perception of the story, and I still think they're butt who should face up to reality without taking reality bending drugs. But the strength of Eurovision performance names pushed me to change pronouns because I thought I was misgendering a protagonist based on faulty beliefs about gendered names wasn't a good thing.
|# ¿ Apr 18, 2017 03:26|
My Judge Crits
For me this was a week where ambition fought against proficiency. On the one hand there were a few stories that put themselves out there and attempted something even though they generally failed in reaching the heights they sought. The other side was stories that were proficient but told a tired tale.
The other judges talked me around to The Mummy’s Curse stories. In general they were written coherently, but did nothing to free themselves from the shackles of unimaginative plotting. The premise being repeated so often didn’t help any of them stand out.
There was a big gloop of mediocrity to a lot of the stories, and both HM’s took the accolade because an element(s) made them stand out more than the others while still not having the strength to summit a win. There was no story that brought about a strong reaction from me in feeling or thought while managing to be written without flaws. It was really a week where I felt like I had to compromise as a reader for every story.
Journey to Zion
The presiding thought as I went through this was about the deceptive joviality of the main character and how that would contrast against the inevitable doom and evil that was sure to show. For me it's natural to presume a dark underbelly as soon as religion is presenting with an attempt at lightness. I kept waiting for a turn in the style of prose, or a turn in actions or thoughts, and what did come didn't have enough weight for me. Ending with a slight revelation of his evil didn't chime because it's what I was reading into it the whole way along. Nothing in this was a surprise, nothing turned my thoughts on what happened or what was to come. There was no moment where the light tone of his actions and beliefs was put against the dark nature of what was happening. I think that's down to the power of what was revealed. I wasn't looking for a surprise. I was looking for a turn in the style of prose, the descriptive language used, the mentality of the people. In the end the callousness was lampshaded against one of his wives but it wasn't a strong enough telling. This is a simple story, and the depth in language and prose didn't do enough to carry it for me. You did really well in establishing the casualness of Frank at the beginning, and his lighthearted belief in his mission so that added to my disappointment by the end when his darkness wasn't given the same treatment, or wasn't managed with the same level of accomplishment in the writing. A large part of that was that there wasn't enough time given to a reader to fully absorb his evil, and to live it vicariously through your writing of it. You've already committed to and succeeded in writing his "happy" and "light" side. For me you needed to have the same success driving into his admitted darker side, which wasn't there with enough strength in the prose.
Sea Shanties - 1310 words
This didn't do very much for me until the very end, when I started cheering everyone dying. I think a lot of the problems was that everything seemed so matter of fact. The description was serving the purpose of exposition in a lot of places, but it was a pretty simple premise to buy into. And because it was somewhat expository it didn't carry enough weight in setting a feeling or a mood. I didn't have any feeling reading the story as it wasn't very evocative. There was no sense of midnight daring, risk, or struggle. With writing such a simple story you really need to nail the prose and make my imagination kick up as a response in kind to the storytelling. Another problem was there wasn't any conflict to buy into. If there was some more about the other characters, such as commentary on them from the main character I might have some feeling for them and need for them to survive. Even him pointing out how their youth, or lack of experience was endangering them all could up the tension when we don't see what's happening to them, or feel they're putting the whole operation at risk. You could show the whole group struggling together to not succumb to these sea monsters and have me buy into their shared fears. you may have been going for an element of hubris and tragedy, humanity meddling with things they know not, but there was nothing setting them up for the fall at the end, and no indication of them deserving it. For a story with a premise that's probably cropped up since people have been sailing (and of course the title is Sea Shanties) you didn't take it far enough or tell it with enough aplomb for it to really shine.
This falls into the same problems that Sea Shanties had, a simple story that needs to rely on prose but the prose not having the weight or feeling to carry it. Straight away you're signalling, at least to me, that there's something spooky with the ship they're about to rob and from that point on it's about execution in doing so. There were some attempts at getting across that feeling. The crew were sensing smells, something explicable at first but as it goes on it indicates things are untoward. You spent a lot of times on smell, but the gravity of the language, either in inspiring awe, foreboding, ill-ease or any vicarious feeling or sense wasn't there. You tried similar with the occasional visceral violence, but you didn't dwell on it long enough for it to impact. I felt like you were letting the action and abruptness of the action stand for what you wanted, but for a story with no twists or turns, or mystery and suspense you really need to focus on the evocative parts of your writing, which failed. The feeling of unease needs to be persistent through out the story, or really hit home once it's revealed, but this didn't get that across. It's definitely not an easy thing to write, especially if you're to keep the plot as simple as it is here, so it would take revision after revision to really nail it and it didn't feel like you managed that here. I do feel it stands above Sea Shanties, partly because there were less moments that threw me out of the story, and although it's a fairly typical tale it's not riding completely on something so typical as sea-monsters. Your more coherent plotting and writing, and the smidge of "newness" in it being sci-fi pulls it above that story.
Whereas other stories were lacking in imagery, this was too reliant on them. The interaction between the characters didn't come across as believable, the premise and risk of the heist wasn't established well enough, and the ultimate downfall didn't speak of any great human foil or flaw. The writing was serving the purpose of the rose imagery, but it didn't carry the rest of the story. If you had established some form of hubris, a bigger nod towards the importance of the city, or the sin of trespassing there then it could work to foreshadow the fall at the end. You needed something to make somewhat more tragic and strike at some idea of human purpose, both good and bad, hopeful and despairing. Another problem with this was how detached the whole story felt. Reading it was like viewing the event through cloud of unreality. There was no real tie to the story, nothing that hooked me into any of the people or the place. I didn't relate to them or feel for them, either with love or hate. If you had given more insight into the thoughts of one of the characters, or show their feelings or reactions to what was happening then it could really lift it up. Really, the whole story made me feel dissociated from what was happening as a reader. That dissociation can really work, and has worked in other stories before where something draws you at the resolution of the story, and all the imagery and detail suddenly stands out in relief and everything is contextualised, but this didn't achieve that. Their fall wasn't telling in any way, and their pride didn't stand against any idea of impropriety. Finally, it felt like the rose imagery was a little overblown and something you wanted to write because you were enjoying it rather than giving to a reader for purpose. By the end I wanted some weedkiller.
The Bulldog And The Barman
This was a bold statement. Writing a screenplay for a heist film with those films such a cultural cornerstone of cinema really made me want the writing to pay off, but ultimately it didn't. With reliance on dialogue and stage actions there was little room left for you as a writer to convince me of the weave of the story, and without the action being portrayed visually you didn't carry it well enough for me to get over the parts that dropped me out of the story. The dialogue felt somewhat contrived, but I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Heists are contrived, and if you had achieved admirable plotting and a significant story it could have worked as a pastiche, but there were too many details that let it down (she leaves her coat full of money lying around? She's actually carrying enough money in a single night for it to be a big win for them and a big loss for her?) There were all the beats in this that are necessary for this type of story; the misdirections, the attempts at charm, the back and forth between two people thinking about conning each other, etc. But the entire thing wasn't as convincing as it would be if you had written it as a normal short story, and I think a lot of the problems with it would have shown up in that writing. Then when those problems showed up you would have had your prose to address them and bring the reader along with the story. If I had read this as just a short story, maybe in a lit mag I'd be more dismissive of it, but for TD and with the prompt I have to applaud the effort, problems with the story and all.
The Memory Thief
This was a really interesting premise, but it felt more like a slightly fleshed out premise than it did a full story. All the writing was believable, and I was drawn through the story, but it didn't go far enough in letting me see some of the world. If there was some character struggle, probably from the woman dying then it might have made a more insightful piece. For a story about someone whose job is erasing memories it read a little like a guy sleepwalking through a boring office job. The part about the cost/charge coming later was a great hook, but I didn't see it go anywhere and that was a big let down. The story felt like it ended halfway through what was intended. I can't say too much about it because there isn't enough for me to really comment on. The best thing I can say is I'd like to read this again with a lot more work and consideration put into where you want to go with it, and what you want to say to the reader. You've made me interested in what you're saying, but you didn't say anything of interest. There's so much going on, a dying woman, a woman who hates her life and husband(?), a man who helps people with these issues (or is he really helping?) the cost of erasing something that's part of you, the cost of being a person who in some way destroys people's minds, etc. There's so much going on here that I'd like to see explored I was disappointed that it didn't happen.
The Blue Colby
This was a bit disjointed, and I often wondered why you were telling me things and what purpose telling me those things was serving. You put a lot of extraneous information about the spookiness of what was going around the main plot but it didn't really serve a greater purpose. There were no extra characters for me to buy into, there was no mystery or foreboding added to the main story that couldn't have been gotten out of a tighter main thread, there was nothing adding significance to event, all the extra parts seemed quite superfluous. This really seemed like you wanted to write a longer story and were adding parts in rather than really sharpening up the first level of the story. Apart from that the mix of people and the occult aspect of the story didn't really work for me. It wasn't strong enough in either aspect for either setting element to really play off the other. Rural gothic could work, but you need to nail both aspects of that before you combine the two. You also need the setting and detail to work more for you, and the details of the world and the characters actions need to speak more. For me the writing was let down by you not letting imagery, or detail of the world or their actions speak for the story. The characters were also really superficial, I didn't feel any sense of realness to them or their thoughts and it felt like you were telling me what I should think about them rather than letting their characteristics speak for them. This story can really be held up against Sickly Sweet. Where Sickly Sweet was super focused, and for me too focused for such a long story this wasn't focused enough. If the two stories could meet halfway in what is important to them, and in giving the reader breathing room in the world to take in extra details (something you did too much of, and Sickly Sweet didn't do enough of) it would make for a much more balanced story. You have a large world, with a lot going on and you need to pare it down to something more essential than what you have. If you step back and look at what you really need to say it, and have more deference for your style and prose saying it it would make this story work a lot better.
Even the Gods Get Lost Here
This was a really simple story, and didn't have much to say other than telling the story of a heist with good action. And it was good action, and it was well written. I followed along with interest, and just as I was getting a little annoyed at the length of the storytelling something happened to drag me back into the plot and action of the story. The writing was decent, and there were only a few occasions I had to double back to follow along, and by the end I had enjoyed a nice yarn. The problem I had was the lack of ambition in the story. There was nothing hugely significant in the story, there was nothing that spoke to me at a deeper level, there was no insight on any aspect of humanity, or even the world you had established. That's definitely an issue I have with this week in general, that nothing made me step back and assess any ideas I have, or feelings about myself or the world, but I'm mentioning it to you because your story was one of the few that was properly enjoyable on a surface level. This read a little like the story version of a summer blockbuster. If you enjoy action and 'splodes, and magicians magicking then you might get more out of it, but because it propelled me along nicely I was looking for something more. Your sense of timing in when something happened, and when to move the story along worked well but without any real depth or insight to the characters (the only time anything like that came up was the nightmare scene) and without any threaded metaphor throughout the story it felt like fast food writing. As someone who enjoys the occasional Burger King meal this isn't necessarily a bad thing, and with this week's writing it was enough for it stand above most of the other stories for me. The easiest way to add weight to this would be to focus more on character conflict, seed more of the doubt between them that you touched on. Working them off each other with suspicion could add that level of humanity necessary to elevate it. Ultimately it did need something to elevate it, especially as there was no deep secret exposed, no mass conspiracy, or no lurking shadowy world. It needs that bit more, but it's solid enough at the moment to work on the immediate level.
"And then they die..." I can understand wanting to tell a story about characters coming to a decision and the difficulty involved in that. I have no issue with alluding to a lot of action happening off camera, and things being talked about that happened elsewhere. The problem with these types of stories is that they're really hard to pull off (but when someone does I absolutely love them.) The problem with this was the characterisation wasn't strong enough. In the middle of it you wrote about how they were all in silence, and that was the big problem I had with this story. The characters were far too silent, and they didn't stand up as characters strongly enough. A large portion of it is just describing who's who, what they're like and a little of what made them that way. To make this work you needed to rely on their interaction filling in all those pieces. There was no real drive to what they were saying, and any argument or difference they held against each other felt like it could be spoken by anyone. Similarly, the decision wasn't that difficult in the end. They decided they'd kill him after someone said they must. If you're not achieving with the characterisation then the conflict at the centre of their debate needs to stand up a lot more strongly (really you need both the conflict and the characters.) It felt like you wanted the situation they had to decide on to stand for itself, the significance of it to amount for as much as possible. You need to write it though, and make me buy into it. This needs more telling dialogue, and better characterisation and it's certainly possible to achieve because you had the template for everything there. The character ideas were strong, the premise was strong, but it felt more like you wrote those ideas and spelled out those characters rather than letting them speak for themselves and give potency to their action. "And then they die..." Which was a really disappointing ending, and with the problems that went before that ending only amplified them.
This was really well told, and the prose really zipped along finely telling the story but there were problems throughout that pulled me out of it. First of all it felt really claustrophobic for a story with "way too fuckin many words." And it wasn't a good claustrophobia. It was an easy read but everything was so purposeful in driving a point that there was no room to relax with the story. This might have worked if there was tension in the story to go along with it, but I didn't feel tense reading it, I was just interested in seeing what the purpose of the Senator setup was. In the end the Senator setup was some strange Twilight Zone type thing, and it felt like an excuse for a story that could almost be believable. I say almost believable because there were moments throughout where the suspension of disbelief and my buy in to the story fell away from me, and I was left questioning what the characters were going through, and why they were being so thick. The ending of it seemed to be an attempt to include those elements by saying it was mysterious forces, but the story did nothing to make those mysterious forces a reality of the world. I think that can in some way be tied back into the drive of the story. If I was given room to ruminate on some of the weirdness, or it gave me pause rather causing me to reject what I was being told it could have allowed for the reveal at the end. The story straddled two things, simple spying and weird poo poo, and it wasn't believable singly in either of those, nor as a mix of both. The story was probably the best mix of ambition and decent writing for me, but it failed in its ambition. Other stories were less ambitious, but nailed what they were going for. The coherency in the writing and skill in pacing made it stand out, but there were a lot of flaws that held it back. For me it needs to be put in a drawer for a few days or weeks, and looked at with fresh eyes. There could be so much more, as is staked out throughout the story but it doesn't tie everything together satisfactorily. It read like a good writer's first draft focusing on a story, with writing that could carry it but with the story not in place firmly enough.
Love We Can't Jump Over
I had a real/love hate thing going on with this. The opening was superb, and the voice of the character so strong it nailed me to my seat. Then it segued into the second paragraph and I was pulled out of it. This continued throughout the story with parts of it that I loved, and parts of it that made me wonder if a second person had jumped into the writer's seat and continued typing up from where the first writer left off. What made this story was the warmth for the character that shone through. It was the only story in the whole week that made me feel something, and though the guy was a big derpy failure I couldn't help but find him idiotically charming. I smiled reading this, and I wanted to love it with all my heart, but some of the jumps between plot points, scenes and settings, and simple description of what was happening didn't flow well enough to keep me smiling the whole way through. This story needs another few passes from you, and the eyes of an editor because there are parts of it that made me think there was more going on in your mind that you didn't or couldn't get across to the reader. This story is charming as a motherfucker, and the best of what I've read in an evocative sense, but needs real work in clearing up the flow. If you can make more clear the progression of what's happening, why it's happening and how it's happening you have a winner of a story.
|# ¿ May 1, 2017 20:38|
I took a break from my own writing, because I got a little sick of writing, and decided to bring you my great glorious opinion (neither great nor glorious.) One thing I would like to say is that there are a few of these stories that I'm giving critique for purely because I feel like I should say something; that anything can have some change or improvement, although it might just be a change or improvement to suit my tastes. If some of these stories were on a website or lit journal I was looking through, they'd work as a pretty decent story that ticks the right boxes, makes me feel, and makes me think. Basically I'd be perfectly happy to read them as is, and would get something out of them. So bear in mind that the crit might not be demanding changes for a worthwhile story, but is merely a crit because it's the thing to do.
Those Statued Men with Acid Rain Habits
This comes across as a pretty simple story; a man twists and schemes and ultimately comes to a fall. It reads almost like a fable, but without any turns to hide what's to come or to set up the point at the end. There was a lot of text that seemed superfluous and didn't drive what was to come. Once I read about him burning the original manuscript the only thing I could expect to come was that all the documents would be destroyed. In that sense it achieves what it's setting out to do, but I'm not sure to what purpose. There's certainly not a universal truth embedded in this; arrogance doesn't always result in a tragedy. For me it's too simplistic, especially as carved out against the detached and almost stilted prose that I see as an attempt at adding the weight of dispassion and objectivity. There's not enough depth to this for me, especially as it's seeking to be a comment on humanity.
I’m not too sure how it could be brought up a level either. It’s scope is set pretty plainly, and it achieves in what it sets out to do but what that is doesn’t hit hard enough for me.
I enjoyed this to a degree. There were a few parts where the metaphorical talk didn’t pull as strong as it should, and where it didn’t come across as coherent enough within the storytelling. That could be something that you work on, just the fluidity of the language in the storytelling.
The big problem with this for me was how it was all backwards looking. Most of the story was the character looking back on their time in school, and past “glories.” That works well, up to a point. I needed something to set it in present terms though. A reason for the protagonist to be caught up in the past, an excuse for them to be venturing back to what they were, or so set in those days despite theoretically moving on. Part of it is the way you told the story; from the beginning of a short piece you’re talking about the past, and it doesn’t get set in the current situation, at least not with an explanatory reason for quite a while into only a thousand or so words. I kept thinking, “Stop telling me about what happened before, tell me what’s happening now!” If you’re going to talk about living in the past, or needing to recapture a youth I’d like to see a reason why. I’d like some momentum from a current situation that’s pushing the character there. Not just a handwave, “I didn’t feel good.” Reliving youth, or even escaping it is such a part of life that I think you could have added a lot of weight by giving causation for the character to do it.
I don’t think there was much commentary on going into the past, rather this was a telling of someone doing it. Commentary would have brought it up to the next level, but for the commentary to work I need a reason why they’re going back, or why they’re escaping, and finding that universal truth could be very difficult; maybe something about circular nature of life, and how we never escape. At least that’s what would occur to me with a quick think on it.
"You might as well try to dry a floor by throwing water on it, as try to end this war by fighting."
This was finely told, but I was left searching for reasons it wasn't clicking for me. The closest I came to feeling any real impact was looking back at the title, The Coward and pushing that back on my thoughts having read it. It's a good title. It centres it on the humanity of someone involved in the madness of the situation, and how anyone could be judged for what they do. That then brought me back to what my issue was; it didn't come across as visceral enough, not on a direct emotional level. For me you really need to lean into one strong emotion for the story and the character, at the least. It read quite detached, although the descriptions of the deaths were an attempt at going into the monstrosity that is war. I really felt like I needed to see it through a personal lens though. You're writing this from one person's viewpoint and despite the telling of the deaths and the debate with the gun there's never a level of immediacy to his story. This could be fine, if it showed him as detached by everything that's happened, and removing himself from the situation (which could tie into The Coward title.) Or you could push further with him struggling with it all. You were letting the reader's reaction fall on the descriptions of the death, and the scenario the protagonist found themselves in rather than forcing any feeling for the reader with your prose. I felt because of the situation, not because of the telling of the situation in the writing.
The Big Dipper
I didn't enjoy this until the end, which pulled something off, and I can't help but feel like the rest of it was serving the end rather than working on its own. It's a somewhat bitchy complaint, because the ending does work and I don't know how the rest would play out if you change the first two thirds of the story, so it's a case of questioning the parts that lead to a decent ending but did so in a roundabout way that was contrived. My main problem until the end was how circumspect it all was. You were alluding to a significant moment without having anything of significance happening along the way. For me there needed to be a direct addressing of emotion, thought, past along the way. There was a lot of external action happening, with the character never putting it in the setting of what it meant. The way you wrote this, and the methods you used are so exposed that it's hard to feel the story part of it, or any journey the character went on. If this were a murder mystery it would be like you're holding back key information from the reader along the way. I don't believe the protagonist would be so separated from her thoughts along the way that the end's significance seems contrived. There's hinting, and allusion all the way through, and the end ties it up, but the humanity, and the human engagement is lacking. Like I said, all this seems like a bitchy critique because the ending did raise it up quite a bit, but I didn't feel engaged throughout the story. The storytelling jumps about (and I don't mean just the two timelines) with events and happenings scattered as though you're hoping something hits. For me it needs more focus on the smaller significant elements and the thoughts and emotions associated with them. Ultimately I think this story will stick out in my memory, so it's quite good in that respect, but it hasn't reached a level I find absolutely compelling because the smaller details aren't compelling enough.
Edit: I'll take the failure
I read this, then went to quote it to write a crit and saw you saying you'd take the failure. I'm not sure why. I thought it funny as gently caress. I'll leave it at that though, seeing as you're somehow displeased with it.
This is great. It got off to a real speedy start that dragged me right in, the ending was strong and enough of a, "life goes on," that I could imagine someone leaving behind the war that's forever raging for other people. The only part that was a little bit of a let down was just after the beginning getting into the middle. I think there's room to up the scope of danger and immediacy of it. Some dwelling on a little of the horror might work, or the pain, any bit of emotion tied into it just to situate the elements of war in the surrounding narrative. I don't think you need to go into a specific battle, spelling it out, but something about the hardship of it all, and the loss. Overall this has a great structure to it, and a nice shell surrounding it, but a little bit more fleshing out of the meat of the story could really pull the reader another way, just enough to add that bit of mystery and contemporary feeling (at least situating it in human feelings) so the overall theme pulls harder at the end. As I said, the structure and shell is there, but adding a little struggle could really settle the reader into the war aspect with the commentary becoming more poignant.
I was working along with this as I read it. The conversation between the older people was touching in its familiarity, although the children didn't have much personality. I was trying to see the point of it, the idea behind something incorporeal guarding a place and why that would happen, and then you spelled it all out for me. The best stories for me will make me feel and think. They'll have something at their core that lets me connect to something deeper within me, or the world. Any story can do this, often not in a way a writer may intend but a good writer will let the story speak for their intent and maybe something will connect with the reader. You didn't do this. You outlined every reason for the story at the end, as though a justification for what you wrote. And for me what you wrote was a story that didn't have a deeper purpose. The writing was workable, although my end view might be a little dismissive of the writing because I didn't get anything from the totality of it. For me short stories, especially ones this short don't have as easy a time to engage the reader in a yarn and their weight comes from inspiring the reader. This didn't do any of that, although it could have if you left some work up to the reader. By fully explaining everything you left no work for me do, so lost any hope of having an impact. The simple narrative didn't enthral, and it signified little.
The Wall of Rejected Classes
I enjoyed this. Although I feel the constrictive aspect of the story is mirroring a little too closely the constricted nature of the protagonist. It's a more high level complaint because the story brought about a chuckle at the sweetness, but I would have liked a little more flow to the prose. Some meandering in thought and not having everything so pointed; something to hint at more depth. The introductory elements felt like they were setting something up, and they worked a little too hard for it and at too much length. Then you really pushed with every interaction in the meat of the story telling. It doesn't, to me, follow a traditional arc in storytelling, so it feels a little lopsided in structure. I would have liked some more to the resolution, something to ground it for me as a reader in a context. There's a hint at possibility but I felt you should have taken it that little further just to taper off the introduction/set up, then the body, and then? It just ends. I do like the balance between the inconsequential, trivial encounter and the message of freedom and balance necessary in life. I think you need to comment on it though, I'd like consequence in some form, although all this may be asking for more than is deserved from a piece. Ultimately it reads light, and stereotyped, and trades on that as stand-ins for any complexity which seems lacking. Really it's about my own preference in all this; the story seems too trivial and especially in the characters as not-fully-realised to really have an effect on me, although despite that it works. There's no understanding of any nuance. Overall I enjoyed it as something refreshing rather than contemplative, even if it did take a while to get there with the big setup.
I didn't get any sense of the person in this. It read like someone separated from everything happening to them, with no personality, desire or feeling attached to them. For me the character was important, but it read as though the storytelling was trying to lay everything out for the reader rather than someone in the situation living it. Everything felt too detached, as though everything happening in the story was happening to someone else, or someone unthinking or unfeeling. There was very little grounding in anything that could approach a realness. If this were film I would imagine it all being portrayed through security cameras, devoid and separate from any human viewpoint; observing rather than engaging. I think that's a real let down because the story seems to be trying for a gravitas and significance through this device when it doesn't really tell or say much. It's pretty well written, and very strong and consistent in the way its written so it seems like a deliberate choice in how you told it rather than a case of you simply failing to see another approach. In that sense all I can say is it didn't work for me, and I would like to have seen some humanity in it, rather than a somewhat horror feel of dissociation.
And I just noticed the title, which is apt, because it does read like viewing something under glass. I just don’t think that works or engages.
This had a nice purpose to it, but it's not as tight for me as I would have liked. There's a lot of description, going for mild horror in some places, like tripping in other places, but it overloads the descriptive elements while being short on the telling parts of the story. I'm a little at odds with the idea of the horror trip and the idea that someone, or us, can be creators. It doesn't vibe with me as much as it could; the terror at it. That's probably a personal thing. I think you leaned too much on the "phasing" to the world, and not enough on the meat of the rifts purpose or meaning. I can buy into the idea of people being creators, but I think you need to balance the terror/fear/anxiety over understanding that with some knowledge of what is to come when we realise we are creators. There's not enough realisation, or appreciation of what the woman is going through and the telling at the end is too abrupt and not laid out or signposted clearly enough. For me you need to have some foreshadowing and hints along the way of what is to come to really bring it up a level. If there was some evidence that the woman knew what was to come it would strengthen it because this story, to me, is about the purpose we all have. I think the woman would know some sense of purpose as she journeys through the rift, or have some preternatural sense of it. If you're trying to lay an evident truth before us, you need to let us know along the way that it is possible to see it any stage, even if it's only an inkling of it.
All that being said, it's a personal opinion on the theme of your story. Separate to that there were a few typos, and removed from the meaning of the story the "trip" seemed to go on for a little long without purpose despite being well described.
Illumination (1,500 words)
This was lacking in atmosphere, and for me purpose. The beginning was fun, once the "trick" became apparent. The joy between the brothers stood out, but once that went on there was no real depth of feeling or involvement with the prose. It felt like you were doling out a story with no regards for where the passion in it is. The girl is possibly a miracle, or just good at what she does for some reason but I don't see a purpose to her talents, or her involvement, or much of anything. Is it contrasting against his own work, talking in some way about where purpose and talent comes from? Is it about finding joy in things? It seems like the story is just an event and without any movement in feeling or push and pull on the reader it doesn't say much to me, especially when I can't find any reason to the story, or message. For me you could just make it a joyous thing, but that needs some reflection from the characters within, and maybe making it more pointed than another brother simply ignoring the supposed transgression. Overall this felt lacking in any attempt to do anything for the reader.
Eagle, and Shark
I don't know. Are you just drawing dick jokes on the world? Is that what it's all about; the phaullus? It's written with ease; one thing makes sense and it leads onto another; a determination to find cocks. A man is worried about a penis. Is that what we all should be worried about? Dicks? Your writing rescues you from other stories that are muddled up in trying, possibly to tell something, to say something. You've literally scrawled a dick on the side of the wall that is my arse. Because it is my arse, which I'd happily show to you. My arse, and your penis story. Which goes nowhere. A man searches out his dick. And does he find it? I don't know. I read back, and he can't even find a satisfactory dick. You're the dick that's lacking.
Graffiti Bros: Graffic Adventures with Julius Caesar
Eh, yeah. This is graffiti adventures with Julius Caesar alright. Certainly there was a Caesar involved. And an Artsy and Artso. There was lasers too. Which I could like, but didn't really. Then there was torture and Jesus. Jesus didn’t stand out as the saviour he is, was more forced into it. I guess that says something about Christianity, and God. A lot happened, sort of, with humming and hawing, and people accepting things. So I'll accept this all. And say yes, this is a story.
|# ¿ Jun 8, 2017 12:44|
Yep. I'm in this week.
I'll do a pair take on Parent/Child, or at least the idea of parent/child..
|# ¿ Jul 14, 2017 19:09|
Mrenda fucked around with this message at 07:06 on Jul 18, 2017
|# ¿ Jul 16, 2017 19:21|
And the Cure
The start is far too much backstory and establishment of the character and situation, if you’re going to go for this type of introduction, really focusing on the detail, and dedicating a lot of space to fluff around the character/situation then it really needs to hum as writing (what I tried with my story this week.) For me the descriptions weren’t tight enough to really grasp me, they were a little too winding, with not enough lyricism to them. Then after five paragraphs of that description we get onto why the person is attending the very capable, and quite verbose poisoner; he has been poisoned. My pulsed raised from the beginning’s lethargy when I read about something happening. I absolutely understand that there can be import and signalling in the description of something, which is why, pulse raised, I was looking forward to the resolution of this story. What would come of a situation where a poisoner may, or may not be able to cure the victim of his client. Then I discovered he dead. Nothing the poisoner could do. Nowt the poisoner could say beyond maybe he could cure people too.
For me you've focused far too much on the duality and forgotten to tell a story speaking to the two halves. There's nothing about this life/death, healer/hurter tale that stands up to a telling story with any insight on people. From the very start of the story you have long, verbose attempts at grandiosity that seem to be searching for reverence from the reader. This really hurt because I became tired of rolling sentences that didn't add or build to any justification. Your sentences can build for the story, reflect on the purpose of the story, or ideally both. Instead I felt that the majority of the story was superfluous, and indulgent without speaking for anything beyond the prompt, or self-satisfaction. I'd cut down your sentences, especially at the beginning and really get to what advances the plot, with that, in the end, lining up with the purpose of your narrative. Or, let the descriptions foreshadow, let them work for the end you’re going for. This was a fine story, but with much of the beginning and its wordiness detracting from a situation that could pump a deadened heart but ultimately undercut itself, especially with the ending that didn’t bounce off of much of what you’d established.
FIRE & ICE
I'm not entirely sure what to say about this. Mostly it achieved what I believe it sought to do. It was an action packed tale, that hummed along nicely as some blockbuster cheese. The codenames/names gave me a very Hackers vibe.* I could picture the headsets as sunglasses, it was easy to imagine DVD wearing a backpack, all it was short was neon-laced rollerblades, and faux-anarchist laptop decals. The few things that threw me out of the story were the acronyms, and some of the descriptions not fulling flowing with the run of the piece. I can understand wanting to have in-world terms for something, but it seemed overdone. Although that might very well be a good thing because this was really a maximum overdrive piece. Some of the technical descriptions had me scratching my head in places, but reading on I realised I could just pass by any element that didn't run with my flow and appreciate the story as a piece of bombastic fluff. The real issue with this for me was there was no depth to any of it, instead it just ran to its end without saying anything or dealing with anything. The, "Freedom in The City has always been an illusion..." line was groan worthy, but again this is a story that seems to be looking for those groans even if it doesn't have the awareness to be considered a pastiche. On a plot point I'm not sure I buy DVD going to this amazing hacker who can get him out of his situation, but her ending up caught. It just seems like a stomped in twist for the sake of pushing the resolution. Another element that didn't work was the mention of Google. I can see you asking the reader to think of Google now, and how Google could dominate this sci-fi dystopia, but it seemed like hastily added commentary in a story that was doing no such thing otherwise, and used terms not used now to set up the fantasy. In the end the story had problems when I sat down to think on them, but it's not a story that's asking for consideration. If I didn't write this crit, unlike other stories I wouldn't have given thought to what was happening and would have happily accepted it as brainless, but mostly well written excitement. For me, to raise it to another level, you need to step back and consider what commentary you're making with this. It's a driven story, wrapped up in its action with no reflection on what any of this means in a broader sense, even a broader sense within this setting. There needs to be somewhere in the story where things slow, the situation takes stock of itself, how it matters, and what the story and you as the author are saying. I need a broader view to place it in a reality. It worked on a limited level, and was quite good at that level, but I would want more.
*hack the planet
The Things Dora Fincher Doesn’t Wish For
There's not too much to say about this other than it's beautiful. The language, grammar, tense and point of view fail in a few places, especially at the beginning when the story is establishing what's happening, and that needs to be taken with regards to the effort that’s needed from the reader to adapt an unusual tense/pov combination. The list of wishes she doesn't wish for goes on a little too long for me, and this borders it between flash fiction and a short story. For its length I'd like to get some characterisation and personality to the woman in the space you could take from removing some of the wishes so she's more than just someone to hang the idea of the piece on. This is especially the case when everything about her is what she doesn't want, and her eventual coming up with the actual wish. The alternative is to tighten up the structure and flow of the things she doesn't wish for and cut it back to make it a shorter, but more solid and punchy piece of flash fiction dealing with a single strand. To me these aren't huge issues, but equally they're not minor issues that should be overlooked for a 100% finalised piece. Instead it's the weight of the message, and the power of the resolution that can let me see past them in the thunderdome setting. Everything got really quiet reading this. I haven't read a tonne of thunderdome stories but if you sharpened it up, then of the stories I've read it could be one of the best to have come out of here.
There Are No Zombies in This Story
My main problem with this is how drawn out it was, without giving any insight into the characters; their motivation, feelings, and in the end their fear. Everything is rolled out without any consideration for setting a tone of what happens, and it does it at great, plodding length rather than trying to find a telling way of getting information across. Even then, there's jumps in logic and storytelling where I'm not sure what exactly is happening, or why it's happening. Who are these "demons?" What's this dimensional something or the other? Early in the story you have a few lines of the woman demanding to know why they're in a graveyard, but she doesn't just say, "Hey, poobrain! Why are we in a graveyard?"" She goes on at length about fields with bodies under them, and stone whatevers. That's a big problem with this story; instead of just coming out and saying something, and saying it well, it looks sidelong at everything and refuses to address anything. It's also a story where nothing really happens for the protagonists, they have no agency, they have no inner thoughts, they show no control over the situation or themselves. Instead they're brought along for a ride, with bad things happening. Maybe that can work, especially if you nail the description and give rise to a mounting horror or terror, but the way the story was told it was like a bored fourteen year old recounting his day at school, and it's a day where nothing of significance happens but puerile teenager talk and a slap fetish.
We Are the First
I can get behind presenting a duality as also a finality, simply exploring the idea of being both first and last, and all that entails, but this story didn't show what any of that meant. I don't particularly like changing people's stories too much. I'd prefer to offer a few changes to constituent elements, more of this, less of that, highlight their thoughts, etc. than request something entirely different, but with this I'm not sure where the story is. If you're just presenting the a feeling of emptiness, or the loss of hope like I think you're trying with this then the writing really needs to be superb, with the prose, language choice, symbolism, flow, emotional tugs, etc. all working really hard to play on the reader, but this didn't manage it (again, I was focusing a lot on description and prose building towards an end in my story, so I’m not trying to be down on that premise.) For me it read like someone fictionalised a far-future wikipedia entry. It's a bit like those in-depth magazine articles where there's a thousand word intro setting out – with a lot of description – the emotion of a situation, and its challenge is to situate the reader in the struggle and significance of the interview, news, opinion, or story to come. There was no real story here. There was nothing to place the reader in the vastness of what was happening, it's importance, or the disappointment in not finding intelligent life. I absolutely do have respect for this type of story. It takes balls to have a quiet piece, with less action, drive, and plot than other stories in TD and look for the telling to bring the reader around to the worthiness of what's written, and to affect them. You didn't manage it with this story, and the only advice I could give is to keep trying. Work more on the little signs of significance in your word choice that alerts the reader to emotional and intellectual key-points that raise the reader's hope or heartbeat. Look to include elements that create a sense of foreboding for the ensuing failure, or whatever the key touchpoint of the writing is, especially something that can be considered significant, and turn the story when the reader is finished with it. With a story where the reader can't focus on any stand-in for themselves, nothing to attach to or relate to (as unrelatable as the entirety of human endeavour is) then it's going to be really hard to pull off. Kudos for trying though, it's something I'd like to see more of in td.
There were a fair few problems with this, but the two key aspects that stood out to me were about firming up the viewpoint of the narration so you could tell the story, and following from that how you set out information. There were definitely problems with the prose, but I think a lot of that came down to there being no logical flow of thought for the character (and thus reader) or progression in how the information was presented. There were jumps in the story's progress that you didn't bring me along with. I think the man died a little while ago, out in the snow, because he couldn't get back into the house. The character seems to know this, which is why she's going through what she's going through, but I didn't know that as the reader. For me to go along with what's happening this information needs to be presented to me, and then I need to be shown (even if I have to work for it) that the woman is re-experiencing what's happening. You really need to block out what information is being given to the reader, and figure out what thoughts they'll draw from that before you can move onto the next element of the story. Because you didn't have an even flow in presenting the reader with the plot, the prose came across as stilted and choppy because I was trying to understand what was happening. The knocking at the door is an example of this. Why was she afraid of their being someone at the door? You needed to set that up right at the start, that there's the snow storm, she's miles from the road, but even then I can imagine someone coming to see her. Why won't she get out of the chair to answer the door? Why does she ignore it? Answering a door is a basic thing, even if there is anxiety to it due to being in an isolated situation, so you need to convince me of why it's such a deal in this situation. On the basic premise I'm not too sure a woman reliving a death, or maybe even an actual ghost coming to see her is much of a story, and certainly not original. The prose might carry it through, if you it can be evocative enough, but because the bones of the story didn't work for me in bringing me along I couldn't get to that level of the story.
This was an interesting premise, but I just couldn't connect with it. First off it's missing the thing most desired by publishers and editors; voice. That's almost a good thing, because generally with TD stories they're not to a level where I'm considering authorial voice rather than more elemental aspects of the story. However, I think I'm looking for voice here because there's not much to the story apart from that. I didn't know what the tree signified, or why you chose a tree. I was looking for some deeper meaning for "why a tree?" To me it seemed like you just picked a thing, something that could be in the man's garden that he'd have to see every day and there was no real reason for this choice. There was nothing tree-like about her, and nothing human about the tree, it just didn't make sense to me. Maybe if I had gotten to know something about her, and him, something about their personalities, and desires, and maybe if I'd found a hint of a reason for all this happening, or why this magical symbol it could have helped. With this story I'm just nodding along, thinking, "Ok, she a tree. But why?" Is it a stand in for the memories of the lost wife? Some magic that planted his recollections in the garden? I'm looking for more purpose to all this, and it's not there. With the voice aspect if there was even an element of surrealness to his thoughts and being, or individuality in his situation as shown through the style of writing then maybe I'd but it more. If there was a personality to him I might spin out reasoning for what happened, or allow myself to go with the “randomness.” Really there didn't seem to be much consideration given to the significance of anything in this. I didn't know his motivation, her motivation, the symbolism of the tree meant nothing, nor him sweeping up the leaves or thinking of cutting her down, for me they were razor thin symbols for what he was going through with no real depth. It's possible you didn't want to address this too directly, leaving it to the reader, but for me there was absolutely nothing I could grasp onto. You need some signifiers for me to get under it all, and I found none there.
I definitely appreciate this, especially as relief to many of the goony stories. It had a nice idea behind it, but it didn't fully achieve on its aims. There was some language choice that threw me off, mainly word selections that didn't entirely work; "sloshed her way," 'slosh' to me is a slightly funny, onomatopoeic word rather than the serious tone this piece was going for, and "ascended the stairs by herself," rather than "climbed the stairs without him," which would be more fitting with the theme of the story; there's a few other word choices, especially at the beginning that didn't fit. As the story progressed there were a few jumps in what was happening where I couldn't fully follow along, e.g. the introduction of the telescope after describing the art piece. I definitely got a somewhat classy feel to this, almost like a perfume ad (but less silly than perfume ads) with climbing the steps of a museum, smart suits, stubbly, jawlined men, and beautiful gowns. The big problem for me was the control over the change between the two characters. It seems like the gallery/museum instigated the change that happened, and as such is a bigger character than you seem to write for. It's also a detached presence, and I wonder why it's doing this, or why it's happening for these characters. The man seems a bit dumbfounded in a, "what did I do now?" kind of way. He doesn't feel entirely deserving of his chance, and I know little about her. They didn't have any drive to change their situation, it was granted to them by the gallery, which felt rather undeserved, with the outside, impartial agent taking control (I can see parallels to your career here.) There was definitely a nice tone to this story with a lot of cultural touchpoints included to set that tone, so my feelings on it are mixed, but ultimately it's a case of me wanting to like this more than actually enjoying it fully, or really quite liking it but having a niggle to the enjoyment. There's a lack of clarity in the authorial intent, and logical progression of the characters' story, so it's a little disappointing that it didn't achieve completely because it had quite a bit going for it. I think this is a story that needs some beta readers to really get it up to full on publishing standard, which is something you should do.
This Town Ain’t Big Enough
I'm not too sure if this a story that you didn't take as far as you wanted due to time pressure not allowing you to work it up to a full majestic glory, or a hugely personal statement of wild abandon and forthright ambition. I had to read the first sentence three, maybe for times and I'm still not sure if I can get all of what it's saying into a single idea-thread in my mind. There's a mix of sci-fi, and at that an existential idea of science fiction, and characterisation of both the protagonist and town in this. Unfortunately neither the sci-fi device or the characters are wholly fleshed out or clear. Is it saying something about things staying the same; people coming and going through a situation, a town, a place, ideas forming and ideas being forgotten and the entropy of change where nothing really matters. I'm not too sure, there's definitely an attempt at writing a story with a big message here, but there's not enough to hang it on, either in its prose, characters, setting, or theme.
You're adding a sense of flux with descriptions and storytelling where things aren't clear. There's no single weave of the plot thread here. To me you're creating that sense of mystery, wonder and questioning with a lack solid, nailed down prose and progression of your idea, and the lack of clarity in what you're saying. This isn't a good thing. You can't pose the question by having the reader question what's happening, if you want to reader to question an idea, or ponder a thought it has to arise clearly from what you're saying in a direct manner, with firm decisions on what to include and exclude from your storytelling. For me a big part of this confusion was because there wasn't much to hold onto beyond the bones of the story. You need to flesh out more the people, place, idea and theme. The character seems bored and makes videos, but it doesn't tell me much of anything about her. If there was a desire for change, something new, or even a resignation that she can't find anything new it could help lead onto her going to another world, and what the signifies for all human ambition. It needs some sense of her thought, especially for me to put my thought (or response to her feelings) into the story. There's another version of her, which I know nothing about, a rift which I know nothing about, and a town that seemingly wants to be the everyman of small towns. You're relying on tropes and cliches, but you didn't use them well enough to fall back on their significance. For a story that definitely wants to say something you're almost avoiding saying it, instead waving your hands over it and saying "woo" like a magician trying to distract from something. The thing is it's all distraction and no trick.
For this to work I think you need to block out how you're building your story towards the idea you want to talk about. Instead of using loquacious sentences, twisting and turning, and attempting to indicate the largesse of a thought you should pare them down and see how they're working towards the resolution where the reader asks the questions. I'm questioning the telling of the story, with all its sideways complexity attempting to nod at the idea, forcing me to work at understanding, rather than you building me up to ponder what you want to ask in the first place. Really, I think it needs more meat on all of it, and on the idea you want to get across. It can't rely on abstruse storytelling creating a desire to understand, you need to bring me to it, with signs along the way that I'm going to have to do this.
I think it's a good thing you wrote this. It's ambitious, and for me all good writing comes from a challenge to deal with something and you really went for it. For me it didn't work, but I'm glad you did go for it. I’d like more ambition from writers, and more risk. If that means a polarised reaction from not pulling it off for everything I think it’s worth it, because the aim in the first place is laudable.
This really doesn't do much, or say much. There's a society, that isn't original, or well described, and a man who they have an issue with who gets annoyed and leaves while yelling at them. It's cliche to say show, not tell, but I always had a hard time with that because everything in writing is literally telling someone something. You're putting words down, how more telling can you get? For this I think you need to not come at everything straight on. You're outlining, rather directly, everything about this society. You're setting out in plain language, although with long meandering sentences, everything that you feel the reader should know about this place. If you could describe it, really going into small detail, writing about what makes up the every day of society it could help. Write about someone's harsh life in cramped housing next to the farmland, or some living under the oppression of, and maybe even a trial based on their military duty, military barracks, and military life spent protecting the borders of a subterranean society. You can let the reader work to build up their own idea of the world by showing telling detail. You don't need to be so forward in getting across everything. You can show smaller details that cast light on a bigger, more complex world. Also, you have long sentences that contain far too much. This doesn't hold my attention, and when the sentences aren't beautifully crafted with depth and nuance I'd much rather something a little punchier with a single well told idea. The same thing happened with the judge's situation, you explicitly stated everything he was going through rather than getting into his thoughts, feelings, him presiding over trials and the personal trials he experienced. Show some of his character, get into his head, and hopes and dreams. All in all you're just saying a man is angry at society, but I feel the society and his anger is entirely irrelevant because I have no relation to anything there, and you didn't give me a reason to establish any feelings on it.
|# ¿ Jul 18, 2017 12:35|
Edit: Cannae be waiting for timezone shenanigans. I'm impatient and want to get my drinking write on.
Gonna go with this.
Mrenda fucked around with this message at 13:24 on Jul 27, 2017
|# ¿ Jul 27, 2017 10:49|
A Sinking Home
They’d travelled most of the world together, seen the best and worst of each other, and spoken a lot of ugly truths, yet Jamie never would have guessed Rob’s first question would be, “Are you still OK sharing a tent?” She laughed – a laugh of exasperated relief – and it echoed off the mountains surrounding the lake as she explained the practicalities; it’s easier to split one tent between two rucksacks, and anyway, they knew everything there was to know about each other, or at least they did now.
After a few moments he asked another question, “What should I call you? Are you changing your name?”
“Some say you should, to dissociate yourself from your past, but ‘Jamie’ is gender neutral. I’m not changing it.”
“And what about you? You’re not changing you, are you? You still like, all this, I mean, you’ll still want to...” He waved his hands over their isolated surrounds as the words departed him. “I mean, you won’t change?”
Jamie smiled and touched him on the shoulder. “I’m still the same person.” He nodded, shocked, as though the sunken boathouse had suddenly materialised in his back garden.
“Come on,” Jamie said. “Let’s swim.”
A rivulet of sweat flowed between Rob’s eyebrows, scrunched together and almost touching in a fight with the chilli’s capsicum.
“It’s sheer bravado,” Jamie said. “You’re not enjoying this.” She laughed and refilled his glass from the pitcher.
Gasping, he asked, “Who turned you into Mr. Sensible?”
He almost choked as he chugged greedily on the beer. “Ms. Sensible,” Jamie said.
Jamie rubbed at her dry face. They had seventeen tripadvisor tabs open. She didn’t know if she loved their long research, or hated it, just that it caused a kind of excitable tiredness. “I don’t like the look of that place,” she said. “It’s not near anything of note.”
“That’s why it’s cheap, and it’ll be closer to reality then.” Jamie didn’t want to say but it was the real side of places she was afraid of now; the bits of a place not worried about making nice for tourists like her.
“They didn’t even clean for the photos,” she said.
“They’re being honest. You know what you’re getting.”
Jamie clicked onto the first tab she had open. “Look, I’ll cover the cost of here. It even has a pool on the roof.” She knew it was a mistake the second she’d mentioned the pool. She’d refused to swim, or wear anything like a swimming costume since they’d dipped in the Alpine lake eighteen months ago.
The three women had left, and Jamie could understand why. “They just wanted to lie on the loungers, Rob.” One eyelid drooped, while his other eye was wild and staring.
“You’re a woman. Couldn’t you convince them to get in the jacuzzi?”
“How? With you offering them tequila every thirty seconds? They just wanted to rest for a while.”
“If they saw you in here instead of huddled in the corner with your phone they might have joined us?”
“Maybe I want a rest too, Rob.”
“Maybe you should go alone,” he said.
The waterlogged sand pushed around Jamie’s toes as she walked the shore of the beach in Phuket. Biting into the chilli from her pàt tai the mounting heat in her mouth reminded her of Rob’s pepper-machismo. It had been a six months since she booked the trip to Thailand, and a year since she told Rob her plans. She always knew they’d have to settle into their futures, and couldn’t be perpetual travellers their whole lives, but she’d hoped he could manage one last important trip with her. She didn’t know if the tears she fought were from the chilli’s spice, or the isolation of a busy, friendless beach. She wished someone, anyone was there to laugh with her, hand her a beer to quench the burn, and hold her hand. She wished Rob was there. Still, she knew it would get better.
The glacial runoff is a refreshing sting on Jamie’s hike-sore foot. The mountainside is just as she remembers from when she and Rob were there, and just as she’d hoped it would be. She smiles and watches her reflection catching on the water rippling off her submerged leg. She took the same joy from the arduous climb as ever, and sleeping in farmer’s barns along the way. So, somewhere, maybe, Rob had his answer. “No. I won’t change.” But she knows that isn’t true, for either of them.
Throwing her shorts and top to the shore, she walks far enough into the lake to submerge herself beneath the ice-cool water. Lost, and found, she swims to the sinking home trying to remember if this is what she dreamed of so many years ago.
|# ¿ Jul 29, 2017 16:28|
Thanks for the crit, Jitzu.
I've done my own crits. All the stories are crit'ed in order they were posted, except for the DQs which are at the end.
Teetering Towers (#798)
There were a lot of thoughts running through my head as I read the first half of the story. Mainly the dispassionate tone of the character's ideas, I was debating whether he would be that cold and uncaring, and eventually had to put it down to someone resigned to what was to come. I could get along with the idea, that someone has given up, and is set in what they're to do so they have little time for any human aspects and are happy to reconsider parts of their life. There was one flash of personality for me, "It didn’t seem appropriate for my body to be dressed for going out when I would be hanging around instead." Which was great. Gallows humour at its best. Thinking back over what I read, with that line standing out, I think it's what the entirety of the story lacked; personality and perspective. I could understand their dispassionate attitude at the beginning, but as we segued into the other world, their stoniness seemed too contrived, and the story progressed as quite contrived. There was no perspective on their humanity, or on their situation. I'm not looking for someone beating their chest, and throwing themselves across their own grave, but some human insight would have been nice. It was the one humourous line that made all that stand out in relief for me.
Once the "death" happened, your blocking of the story's progression really fell away for me. It can be right to make the reader work for their understanding, but you seemed to have a swirl of disjointed ideas going on that had no connection to each other. "I stood perfectly still and concentrated on what was missing. What was my last meal? Who was President? Why did I try to hang myself? I knew these events and things existed but nothing else." Here's an example, "What was missing" isn't related to anything, missing from where? Missing from him? Was it something he was missing? Then it goes onto him establishing basic facts about the world, and knowing these events existed but nothing else. It's too disjointed in meaning. Maybe you're trying to capture the feeling of the alzheimers, of him being forever caught in a mismatched mind, but it's such a tenuous link with a lack of elegance in the storytelling, not letting the idea flow from your writing, that it reads as cut up prose, rather than cut up thoughts. You go onto establish it is his mind, but for me it's too late, you've missed the beat where you can say that because you've already tangled things up.
This is really close to being effective; there's enough story elements, imagery, and one or two deft touches that the lack of even, progressive flow to the telling of it deals a killer blow. For me this is something you may need fresh eyes for. If you can come back to it, without your own thoughts of what's happening getting in the way and fix it up for the final effort it might work better. For me that would involve adding a little more personality to the entirety of it, making it more emotional and with more passion, and clearing up the story beats you're putting out.
I'm not too sure it'll ever be a super-duper story. Without the emotional draw, or insight into the disease you're talking about it doesn't hold enough sway, but as a smaller piece dealing with a simple metaphor it works well, to a degree as it is, but not well enough to fully achieve it's aims yet. To make it fuller, beyond it's initial premise as a circular metaphor, I think you'll need a bit more effort, but for me there's just enough to your story basis, and a few of the snatches of writing for it to be a worthwhile endeavour. It needs more polish, and more impartial viewing to work on the aspects that detract, i.e. how you mete out the story beats, the clarity and depth of your prose, the emotional involvement of both the protagonist and the reader, and for the final hurdle what you're saying about the situation/disease as a critique, or message.
The Fourth Path
I bought into this at the beginning. I was a little put off by the tone of it, the stoic recounting of a tale, but I put that aside and went with it, and it began to work about a third of the way through. I could see that something significant was being set up. The problem I had, by the end, was the significance didn't pay off. I ended up searching for the meaning to it, although it's quite obvious what it is, it didn't hold the weight I was holding out for. I think a big part of that is the lack of emotion throughout. For someone telling the story of their brother's death it wasn't set in any real feeling, going too far towards a staid retelling of mysterious tribes, with all the detachment trying to point out their strange ways, stranger than our real world. The way the story was told didn't seem real enough for me. A lot of that has to do with perspective, there was no doubt as the story began, nothing to make me question the future (the ending of the story), it was all retold like someone recalling something happening millenia ago. It was just too cold for me. If you had grounded it in the perspective of one of the failures from the trials, showed their worry and their concern it might have worked better. The plot beats were all there, and it rang along nicely as it was told, but I didn't get involved in the story, especially when I saw, halfway through or so, that there was going to be no emotional pay off given to me by an in-world viewpoint I could experience the situation through vicariously. Otherwise it's quite strong, like I said, the progression and important elements are there, just not the emotional draw I think you were going for.
How It Had Been
I have a real love/hate thing going on with this. There's things that really annoy me with it, and things I really like, and often they're tied together in the same storytelling. You spend quite a while establishing the world, and you do it well, but all that time on worldbuilding is making the world's situation the point of the story rather than anything human. There's no question about people, or people being in control. There may be a question of how this was allowed happen, but that doesn't seem the focus. Your descriptions are almost cliched, but they work well enough to establish the setting well, and in that sense they're both nicely done and effective. I think my main problem with this is that it focuses on a depth that I don't think is really justified. There will definitely be people who think this is quite good, and I can absolutely understand why, you've done really well establishing a tone and descriptive theme, but for me it's not serving a purpose rather it is the purpose in itself. Your overall point seems to be people are vapid, consumerist, and caught in technology and instant gratification, and that's a big thing to tackle, but you don't engage with it. You just set it out, as something that is, while leaving out all the human concerns. I think overall my problem is the writing is well achieved, but it doesn't serve any purpose. For me this is a shell of a story that needs the human factor brought into it, but with 800 words you've limited yourself to building an atmosphere and nothing else. It's half a story. It's the half of a story some people will love, and I did enjoy the setting, but when I'm two long paragraphs in thinking, "This is nicely done, but for what point?" It's a let down for me. And it’s a let down that makes me quite angry because you’ve shown you can do so much more with your writing.
If wizgot's story is all descriptive theme and setting without a story, this is all story without description or feeling. Reading it, it didn't seem real. Nothing about it seemed set in a real world place, or with real people. It left me rather cold with nothing to situate myself in the setting of the story. The description isn't just about letting people know what's happening around the protagonist, it's also useful for the writer in using their language to set a tone for the piece, and an atmosphere. This was devoid of that. I think minimal description can work, I've done it myself, but in my attempts I've focused on interpersonal interaction leaving the emotion for the reader falling in what's said between people, overtly and subtextually (whether this works out or not.) With this it just seemed like you were laying down the bare plot, giving the reader no substance to hold onto. And, whether it's related to the bare bones nature of your storytelling, which it could very well be, the story, as in the entire plot, came across as trivial and silly because there was no effort given to situate it all in a reader-felt reality. If I was you I'd spend more time establishing the mood of the story, setting the tone of the piece for what's to come, little bits of foreshadowing in the language choice, and something running through it as a signpost or metaphor for what's to come. I'd also place some more emphasis on the protagonist's feelings, and thoughts. Give the reader some insight into their mind as a stand in and signpost for themselves. There really needs to be more description for what you're telling me, and more emotive language for me to latch onto as something I can place myself in the story with.
Just Glue and Sand and Glass
I didn't quite get this until you posted your flash rule after, the story, as told, had a jump that really threw me. You did quite well showing a damaged person, I could really get into that vibe, but the point the story turned on didn't match up for me. I can really get behind a simple story exploring an issue with a person, even when it's just highlighting the issue, but there has to be a telling moment somewhere that extends the smallness of just a simple story, to my, as a reader, broader understanding of an issue or problem. The fastidious nature of the woman, and her thoughts preoccupied with appearance and making things right for her day, along with the falling through of the plans really worked, but the somewhat mystical idea of memories in jars didn't work. When you broke into her memory of what had happened with the boyfriend I was thrown from the story, and it didn't sit well with what had already happened. These stories seem much harder to pull off than something simply describing a place, or working through a plot; stories that leave the reader's takeaway to chance rather than authorial intent. For this type of story to work you really need to key in on what the purpose and message is for your reader because you're not telling a hugely involved plot that raises pulses, or whips the reader along with explosions and fantastical happenings. For me, you needed to be clearer on the purpose of what you were saying, because I didn't see that purpose at all. I definitely bought into the troubled person narrative, so you've done the groundwork, but what should I understand from knowing that? What do I take from it? And unfortunately that isn't there. Instead it's just a mostly well told story of neuroticism, although with the reminsice/memory recall that really took a dive for my comprehension, but without any understanding of a bigger point being brought about for me.
It took me a while to grok this. The man was feeding "The Beast" with his life. I was wondering what exactly it was that he was feeding, and why. In the end it's so undefined that it could be any beast, giving anything back, and being fed with anything. This story is really a metaphor for pretty much any form of dedication and sacrifice, even though the main focus you're going for is life. For me it doesn't work because it's not specific. There's so much up in the air in this, it's so stretched to avoid any declaration of purpose or meaning that in doing so it loses all meaning. It reads like a soberly written stoner's thinking of profound. If you want to speak about something broad and universal you can't let the focus point that's driving the thought be broad as well. When you talk so broadly you end up saying nothing. A really good story will use something specific, and let the reader take away any of myriad possibilities and meanings from what you're saying. Instead you didn't say anything and seem to be hoping the reader will apply it to everything. When I said it took me a while to grok this it's because I was looking for the purpose of the story, the central motif. It turns out I didn't understand the point because there was none. I was searching for the specifics that would tell me more, while you were just telling me everything when I was searching for something to latch onto. Specificity is good. We can take specifics and let them apply to whatever is happening with us. With generalities they say nothing much at all.
This is a real weighty topic to tackle, and something hopefully few people have been through reading it. For me there was too much going on, and not enough depth of feeling to any of it. I wanted to explore her feelings, her anger, her frustration, but instead I got a distanced recounting of what happened. The story was being set out to fulfill a simple telling, but there was no real sense of a personal involvement from the characters in any point of it. There was no real consideration of their feelings, or of their own thoughts on what happened. It could work showing someone disconnected, and trying to rekindle their emotional being by returning somewhere, but it didn't show any struggle within the person. This was all to cold, and too clinical, and didn't deal with the subject with enough nuance or deft to be really evocative or thought provoking. I think the big problem was the amount of story you were trying to get across. There was too much focus on setting out what happened, and that didn't leave space for a deep focus on one or two key elements of the protagonist's story. Overall, for such a big subject the writing was lacking direction and depth in any one area, and two much of a general overview of a story, impersonal and hoping the actual story would stand on its own rather than looking at any detailed personal perspective, with true feeling behind it. You could even show the lack of ability to engage with her history, an angry disconnect, or a frustrated lack of grounding in her past, it having been taken from her. Instead you take a wide angle look at what happened, telling a story, but without getting into the personal impact that this story is really calling for. That could be considered ghoulish, but absent a story commenting on the wider situation, the societal failings, and all the problems surrounding the situation it doesn't work. Instead you flit off different aspects, never really honing in on a single punch that would really hit for the story.
This achieved something with the ending, the twist of her reliving all this, and it, maybe, amounting to something. I thought the prose overwrought, looking for significance and it was only with the ending that I saw why you were going for that. I can't get past it though. There was this grandiose story of a woman murdering, and killing herself, and the prose was really trying to push detail into the memory she was reliving, to make it detailed enough that her punishment, or curse meant something. It's fine for what it is, but I wonder about the point of it all. It works on the surface level in that you've told a story, but I didn't take anything from it. There was no commentary on an issue, there was no speaking towards entrapment, or passion, or anger. I have to say it was only morbid curiousity that got me through to the end. It was a painful read, but not painful where it made sense in the end that she's reliving a pain, but painful in that it didn't flow, there was little sense to what was happening, there were hints at significance, and in the end little purpose. This seems more like a writing exercise than something with a purpose. For me it's like a highly stylised advertisment, trying to sell something with limited space or time to establish a story or meaning, and reflecting your desire in the lushness and luxury of the imagery. And, like those ads, it comes across as vanity playing on the shallowest of desires and ideas. By the end I saw why you made the choices you did, why you went with you said, but I don't know why. I don't know what you're trying to achieve beyond a stylistic flash. It mostly worked in what it was doing, although there were a few places where there was a lack of clarity in the what and the why of what was happening (the initial murder seemed reasonless, and the woman entirely without reason, along with her reaching out to the servant, etc.) and it seems you were trading on cliché and trope there. It's a story entirely wrapped up in its own contrivances and ends up coming across as a hollywood studio facade, it might look good, but there's nothing of substance to it.
For me, it could work a little better if you establish earlier the metaphysical nature of it all, and without the confusion of the trapped in the mirror, punching from behind which wasn’t written clearly, and is like a bad take on a fairytale but without the depth, moral, or warning of a fairytale. There's something about being trapped in a defining moment there, but you taint that with the death, and make it about an "afterlife" rather than the continuous press and reliving of a memory. I think you need to strip it down a little, and remove some of the flourishes to it because it does a disservice in dressing it up to be something it isn't. It taints the story for me, but equally I could see someone really buying into the pretense that's established. For me though, it just annoyed. My take is entirely personal and subjective, and I can see someone really into it based on their own tastes.
Fake edit: I kept coming back to this after I wrote it, because I was trying to figure out why it stuck with me, but I still had a (somewhat strong and irrational) hatred for it. I think it’s the introduction paragraph that really sets me against it. Going back on it again, knowing the end, I realise this reads more like a description of a cinematic (perfume ad) story than it does a literary one. Right at the outset you’re describing something that might work visually, in film, but doesn’t work in writing. I butted up against that the whole way through the piece. It works visually, but not in writing, and that really annoyed me. And even if it was a cinematic piece, it would reveal itself as trite and cliched.
Salvaged (797 Words)
You've taken a hacksaw to one of the problems I have with a lot of authors, especially in the creative non-fiction world. They put so much significance into things deserving nothing of the sort. Everything they see is weighted with meaning. Everything they touch is a reminder of all their hopes and dreams. So this story, from a theoretical standpoint, is refreshing. There is absolutely nothing of significance to it. I think I was about 750 words in and still waiting for the purpose, and meaning of the story to make itself known. There was none. Then I saw the prompt, terrifyingly human. And, for you, the terrifying nature of humanity is sheer and pure banality. The problem I have with that is I'm quite a big fan of telling banality, the absurdity of the normal, the madness in everyday, the burdensome hum of boring. You chose not to tackle any of this, and what came out was a 10 year old's telling of a story, and this happened, and this, without any care for making something of it. I think you know this. There's something to be lauded in making significant the everyday, and it's a really hard thing to achieve, but you didn't even try. It's not that I'm angry. I'm just disappointed.
Between the stirrup and the ground
When I read your flash rules I didn't envy you writing your story. Unfortunately these particular flash rules, and your story is holding true to my own fear that with an arbitrary restriction, and no particular desire or passion to write to them, the story that comes would be pointless. I'm not too sure what the purpose of this story was, other than fulfilling the prompt and flash rules. The monkey thinks, the man proverbs, they're both as awful as each other, and as their tale. If the prose was particularly beautiful then maybe I could get something from it, but it came across as strained and straining for lushness that was in no way there. I didn't need to know the piss stream was thin as spaghetti, it's not evocative, and it's not a comparison that adds any detail other than highlight a scatological authorial bent. I guess you can take pride in fulfilling the prompt and flash rules, but they seem more like the chains wrapped around the story, chains that I hope hold strong if this story is tossed into the water from the flat planks of tree that stretch into an ocean of piss-poor pointlessness.
This was difficult to read. The whole thing was really stilted in the telling of what's happening. It's great that you set it in the voice of the character, and used his perspective, but there was so little flow to any of it that I read it in a stop-start, bits and pieces way. It was all through his perspective, and him telling the story, but there was no momentum to anything he said. Apart from that the emotions he was going through didn't ring true. There was no rising sense of his panic, or fear. The whole effect was like me seeing the whole event unfold third or fourth hand, there was no directness or immediacy to any of it. For what is a really limited story, someone dies, bad air, nothing more, nothing less it was such a distant story that it's hard to gain any feeling from it. Everything felt really forced. I reread a few parts to see if something had escaped me, or to pinpoint what had thrown me from the story but in the end it was just like reading a story written by a dimwit, with no flare for anything dramatic. For you, as the author, I think that was where the misstep came, you were so caught in writing the story in a strong voice, and in the strong perspective of the protagonist that you skipped over what makes for good storytelling. It's rare to read a story so embedded in a voice in TD, and what you tried is definitely a good thing. Strong voice from the writing is something that every one of the really great stories I've read have. It's just that your attempt didn't work out. I'd keep at it, it'll set you above a lot of other authors, it'll just take more work at it.
Swap Meet Syndrome
I enjoyed this. A nice sweet story, well told, and despite it's sweetness there's an underlying condemnation of society and something hellish about it. My big problem for me was that it seems like something bigger than the eight hundred words allow. You've some nice flourishes in the storytelling, with a little insight on personality and personhood, but you've not given the story room to breathe. Instead it comes out as a mix of delicate touches among a simple recounting of a story that needs more space, more detail, more emotion, and more room for it to really work. The recounting of what happened, with the storyteller giving the narrative might be the only way it could work in the word count, but it does let itself down in the space you have. It's too impersonal when it doesn't have the space needed to expand out into its fullness, and really get into the personalities, and interpersonal relationships that are all eventually shared. This is less looking at you as failing in the storytelling, and more a desire for this to be worked up into something bigger and more elaborate, because the message there was really enjoyable and something I'd like more of.
Much like Fleta's story this one feels to me like one that shirks its responsibility to the "event" that takes place. It's the sidelong look at the reality of what's happened. It's better told than Fleta's but in it's better telling it's more obvious that it wasn't willing to engage with the real meat of what happened. There's the death, which is the key to what's happening, and we get a reminisce about the protagonists life, and their inability to go in the house. It doesn't deal with what to me is the substance of the story, and for that it seems a rather cheap attempt to trade on something with emotional weight. There's no accounting of the protagonist's current situation long removed from when the recalled event happens (and Fleta does better there, even if not pulling it off,) it's just a reminisce of the events surrounding a bigger event. It was finely told, but I didn't see the relevance of what you were saying, especially when there's a huge moment of significance not dealt with and skipped over. If you went into the current pain of having that moment, or many past moments erased from someone's life, of having their past taken from them it might mean something. Instead you just tell a tangential story about the momentous moment. There's no substance here, no willingness to tackle the suicide, no willing to tackle the problems caused by it. It's trading on the thing untold, but this is a story that goes untold all the time. The key here is in telling the untold story, and you didn't want to engage with it. It’s a big thing to tackle something like that, but for me the choice is between an entirely different story and the significant event in this one and all its substance, not an askew glance at the surrounding detail, which doesn’t carry enough for me.
I really don't know what to make of this, or take from it. It seems like such a literally reading of your prompt image with not much added to it. There's a tree, and it dances because there's music, and there's a piano embedded in it, and a bird who visits. I searched for meaning throughout, the nearest I could get was the passage of time, but nothing really happened of note for time passing to be significant. The story was disjointed, and I didn't know fully what you were going for until I looked at the image. Then I was left understanding what you were saying, but not why you were saying it. I can't really offer much in the way of a critique, or anything because I have no idea what the goal was with this. You just described what we saw in the picture, and one or two happenings around it. I don't know what the point was; there was no conflict, no message, nothing allegorical, nothing talking about a deeper humanity, or nature of the world. And even then it's not abstract or absurd enough to be a simple imagining of a tree's world, purposeful only to itself.
The Girl in the Reactor
I'm really not sure what the purpose is here other than, "magic shenanigans." It's finely told, although not the most flowing of prose, or descriptive. There were a few word choices that threw me out, "the discomfort blooms into a wrenching pain" blooming and wrenching seem like flowery, but strangely dead word choices that aren't saying anything but are picked to be more wordy. I'm not quite sure what the purpose of his pain is as he opens the door. In fact I'm not quite sure of the purpose of all of this. It's a story whose meaning is obscured by the fantastical, so I guess it might click for someone, but it didn't for me. If I was to guess it's about the death of all around them, possibly a sacrifice to radiation therapy for the wife, and the girl being in a reactor, but it's not strongly telling of anything, or any real situation that I can imagine. Maybe the wife died for the girl, somehow, and the village shutting down the reactor is them bringing the man out of his depression, telling him to move on. There's not enough there for me to see it clearly, even with thought given to it. There's definitely a risk in this type of story, with the meaning wrapped up in a central image and a long metaphor and that risk didn't pay off with me. It didn't seem like you were going for horror, rather sadness, but I didn't know what to be sad about. It was too far beyond my realm of understanding, with nothing building me up to the situation, setting it in a foundation of comprehension, for me to take anything from it. It seems like a story with a lot of emotional weight, but I understand nothing about where that weight is coming from. I think your link needs to be more firmly established, because without it it's just an exercise in telling a strange tale.
The Forgotten Places -- 800 words
To fully appreciate my reaction you have to be aware I've drunk quite a few cheaply produced, macro beers, and smoked even more cigarettes, so the groan forced out of me when I read the last sentence was a mixture of terrible booze and menthol tainted smoke breath. When you segued halfway through to his life on the platform, I was wondering if this was going to be the story, the story of why he left to such a hellhole, but equally I wondered, and hoped it wouldn't be a metaphor for his troubled nature. Unfortunately it was, and the ghosts that left were like farts on the wind, a little odious whiff that interrupts a pleasant stroll through the wasted industrial estate of Thunderdome. For me, this isn't a story, it's the end to something else. It's a story that hasn't been told, but with none of the skill of suggesting something that's gone before, that we haven't been told, and that can stand in for all that's important in our world. Someone reconciles, and is better, but we don't know why he felt alienated, what he was running from, or what drives him. There was even a little post-apocalyptic world building thrown in there, but I don't know what for. For me this is half imagined clip from a bad B-movie put into words. There's no emotion there, at least nothing deeper than the erosion I've caused by all the groaning I've done since reading it.
Time Will Forget Your Name
There's been a few stories that have been a basic telling of a premise, but without a conflict, progression, and in some cases a purpose. This story takes in the whole of someone's life, and she spends it listening to ghost stories (in a literal sense) but I'm not sure what to take from it. From a fantasy sense there's nothing original or super out-there to it. The woman listens to stories, doesn't do anything with them, her life isn't affected, it just happens. From a reader's philosophical view the message isn't strong, "A lot has happened that's been forgotten?" "You will be forgotten, unless?" Sure, ok. It doesn't speak on any level to the tragedy of this. It doesn't comment on whether it's worth remembering all the minor figures of our history, or if forgetting them is a sadness we all know during our lives that will become of us as well. There was no emotion anywhere in this story, instead it just doled out little pieces of the story. I've said this before, but it's worth saying that quiet stories are absolutely worthwhile, and they won't have as much weight behind them as the big stories, looking for impact. This didn't work for me. There was nothing for me to bite into, no truly original situation, and no true telling of a situation, whether something original, or something profound. I'd like more of it though, from everyone. I think it's something lacking with people often erring towards bombastic as a default rather than plainly spoken truths. Unfortunately with this there was no idea or ideal I could buy into, or no real emotion. I think if you could show the stories she's being told having an effect, or influencing her life, or even her own fear of becoming one of these forgotten people (as was hinted at with her granddaughter) it might work better. Really I'm looking for something to situate me in the turmoil of the premise you're giving me, something about it that's significant, whether that's by it upsetting the situation, the problems it causes, or the emotional weight of it.
So Far Away
This comes across as too insubstantial and a little confused in its effect for me. It comes across as a simple metaphor, but for me the bus is too much of the intended, authorially written draw rather than the personality of the protagonist. There's a lot of time given to describing the bus, and the terrain it cross and passes through, and that's where the confused intention comes into it. I want to get more inside the character's mind, his struggles, what he's running from and why he's running, rather than the magical conceit that's taking him to and from places. You've written the medium of the message, the bus, with too much detail when really I want to get into the internal and personal, and that as the reflection of why someone would run, and then return. I don't think you need to completely abandon the idea of the bus, just tone it down. It achieves its purpose relatively quickly, and doesn't need so much time dwelling on it. Even if you had the exterior terrain, the world he travels through imbued with more relevance to the protagonist, more directly telling of what he's travelling through then it could be more effective. Instead there was too much time spent on detail that didn't read as purposeful, and was just dickying up a story for decoration rather than the message. The character came across as flat, with no thoughts, and no personality. For me to see this as a metaphor for escape, or abandonment then it needs to focus more on the internal properties of that for a human character, and not the mode that grants that escape, unless that is relevant. In this the bus was a tool, but it's not the tool I was interested in but the reasons for utilising it. The focus was a little off in this story, too concentrated on the prompt image, and as such I couldn't find the substance of the trial the man was going through, and from there the trials we all go through.
All I can say about this is that it's a perfectly perfunctory story. It lays out it's story, there's a little weirdness with the dragon talking off and settling its darkness in him, there's the most ordinary level of terror. It's a simple tale, and not much more. The one thing it could have going for it is a mounting fear, exploring the terror of the protagonist, but you spent a huge amount of time dealing with the kids cajoling him into exploring the dragon. It was as interesting and held as much depth as kids having a typically childish back and forth. For me the key to this story would have been it being evocative, letting the reader feel along with the main character, but for most of it I felt like I was just being handed out small bits of plot progression with no concern for how they'd impact me as a reader. Maybe there needs to be more spooky bits, maybe there needs to be more prose embedded in terms of fear, maybe there needs to be more of a flight or fight response from the character, with an element of struggle, or defiance. For a story that didn't say much, and was quite simplistic there was little passion to it, and little to play on the reader's imagination. There was no tension to this, no desire for anything either from the characters or in the writing. All in all, like I said, a perfunctory telling of something that happened.
The Opposite of a Memorial
If this is the opposite of a memorial then the story seems like the opposite of a frame. You have the meeting, but the point of it is never outlined, the reason for it never given, the result of it not truly revealed but only given some form at the end. In most stories the meeting would frame a conflict that has a purpose, the purpose of the story, but in this the meeting is the frame where everything happens outside it. When there's an interaction happening, and in this case a clandestine meeting, with risk then that to me is the device of the story, but most of this story is about setting out your version of the world around it. The end, where she's going to carry the viruses is almost circular logic, giving the meeting a reason but without any in-story reason for the meeting having occurred. This whole story revolves around premises that are never established within the story, have no purpose within the story, and are serving your description of a larger world. It's not a story, for me, it's a way for you to describe a post-apocalyptic world that has no justification within the narrative you're putting across, if there even is a narrative in the first place. It might as well be a bore at the bar telling you, without you asking for it, all about the world that was. You've set up shells for a story, without ever giving the story. Everything in this is like a cardboard cut-out so you can fake a picture showing off an idea and image of a worldwide scenario, but without doing anything with that world. This is a story of fakery, but it's not about fakery, or deception, it's entirely serving to an image the author has without giving the reader a reason to understand it. You've done some worldbuilding, and shoehorned an interaction in to serve that world's description. For me this needs to be about something happening in that world, or even better an event in that world telling me something about my reality, instead you set something up to do nothing with it but recount small details of a situation that have no extrinsic relevance to anything.
Rue de les Fleurs
Maybe this story isn't for me? Something happened, a hallucination, or a dream. And if it was a dream it was as pointless as a dream, possibly having meaning to the dreamer, but almost inevitably unfathomable to the person being told about it unless there's some flair in the telling of the story. As I read I felt that the prose was always on the edge of capturing the feeling the protagonist was going through. The jump, right at the start highlighted it most. There was no sense of urgency to it, of the struggle of making the jump, the feeling of almost there, not quite close enough, it was too caught up on describing without getting so far as capturing the feeling it described in it's flow. The repeated reference to flowers was another descriptive touch that seemed like you were imparting meaning to, but like someone recounting a dream it didn't have the significance to me as it does to the person who "owns" the dream. You repeated the name of the flower over and over. At first I wondered if you'd just ran out of words, and when I finished the story I wondered if there's some significance to it that deserves its repetition. In the end the entire meaning of this escaped me, and surely there is a meaning because the story is told with all seriousness in its writing, despite its seeming triviality. I just can't access what you did when writing it. If it's just supposed to be a retelling of significant dreaming or forced imagining then I'd focus a lot more on capturing the fantastical in the prose, and some of the logic of the weird in it. It came across as a really straight story, but without any core meaning at its centre demanding the straight telling. If it was more confused, and lyrically, poetically confused maybe I could find some justification to spend time with it, but as it is there's nothing to draw me in and puzzle over it. So, maybe this isn't a story for me?
The one thing I think this managed really well was the arduous, one foot after the next nature of exploration and mountaineering. There was a quiet, reserved nature to the prose that emphasised the isolation well, so goongrats on that. I think the big thing this lacked was perspective, and it almost pulled off the caught-in-nothing feeling, caught in a pointless pursuit, caught up on self-determination, but the ending let it down. The little magical trip between drowning in ice and waking up on it didn't pull off anything for me. I was just left wondering. The red mark on her arm was obviously a sign post for mysterious goings on, but I didn't understand that point of it. I didn't know where you were taking me with it, and it needed to be a lot more significant for me to get something out of it. Alternatively, a small tale of the simple dangers of exploration could have worked a lot better, showing how friends can be made, but ultimately you're on your own. For me the man-vs-nature, and man-vs-themselves was what brought me through the story, and the jump at the end didn't work. Not that it came out of nowhere, once they were going to die I knew something like that would come, and of course the unknown tower was magical enough, but it didn't achieve anything in its ending. If you had kept it to just a "human" story, it could have landed a heavier punch. The piece is mysterious enough, with prose that established the mood, that really you should be riding off that, and not looking to bring in anything extra, even if it's accounting for a plot that's leading you there with some wrong steps. For me this needs more focus, and more signs of authorial intent and awareness.
This was far too stilted in how the information was given out, and then by the end it all hinged on someone doing something completely unrelated to the protagonist's wishes, actions, and desires. On the prose front, there was a lot of "this, then that." You were using a very simple way of stating exactly what was happening, with no effort given to building a narrative, progressing and building on what went before. This showed in the end, because you were pretty much just describing a place someone would fall, there was no agency to the characters, they were merely devices for you to say, "something bad happened." If I was you I'd focus more on embedding your protagonist in the story. You need to have them effect what's happening, with their decisions making a difference, or having significance if they don't feel like they have much of a choice. You need to step back, and see how you're going to build the action for what's happening in the story, with everything leading up to bigger, and more important choices for the characters. In the end the character didn't really do anything, everything was outside of his control. When you didn't evoke any particular mood with your writing, it simple placing information for us devoid of feeling, challenges, or problems, then the story isn't going to work on any level.
There's been a few stories like this, where I feel there's too much effort building up to a situation/finale, without ever dealing with anything in an immediate sense. They're tough to handle, because as you read there's not much pressing you to become fully involved in what's happening, and fully appreciate the scenario, so it's left for the ending to pull out something huge, reflecting on the entire piece and all that's gone before, and in that reflection really have something to say. With these types of stories I'm even more looking for a commentary on something, because there was no rush of feeling through the story, no feeling of exhilaration or even pure entertainment to keep you turning the page (or scrolling down.) For me this might have worked better if it was more immediate, if we saw more of the baron's personality or the woman's struggles through a personal frame instead of getting a distanced recounting. I'm not too sure how flashbacks work, not having tried much of them, but this really needed something immediate to happen. The throwing of the chair out the window might be that, but to me it seems more like a reaction to something I should have experienced as the reader rather than going through it instead of suddenly getting this outpouring out of seemingly nowhere. As part of the immediacy in a story there can be drama, or just simple personality, and this didn't have either. It felt like the forest and castle were bigger personalities than the characters. That's fine if they're the focus, but they seemed like tools feeding into the personal struggles, and mirroring their needs and wants so I was looking for something from the characters. For me, this all felt a little too removed from what the core of the story was.
THIS IS A DQ'd STORY, I'M ONLY WRITING IT OR FUN, I'M NOT EVEN GOING TO TELL YOU WHAT PIC INSPIRED IT EVEN THO IT'S REALLY OBVIOUS
I appreciated the economy of this story, especially the beginning, more descriptive parts. You managed a big image with minimal, economic description which was very well done. Ultimately I think it's that minimalism that let down the second part of it. When he meets Noah, it doesn't seem like as big a moment as it should be. It's just another event, when after searching for fifteen years it should be momentous. It reads like a story that should switch gears halfway through, but doesn't. And because it doesn't switch up to deal with the significance of the event, it reads like a climax that's more of a let down than a big event. Maybe you were going for this, or could go for this with a little thought, but the ending for me didn't bring about any reconsideration of the protagonist's world, or, as would be better, my world. The tone this starts off with is excellent, and does a lot, but it needs that gear change to really batter home with impact the resolution. Maybe if you could deal more with the protagonists end-of-journey insight, or emotional response it would work. Or maybe just him acknowledging some of the largesse of the situation, what's being given to him, what he's found, and what it should mean to him (or go the other way, as I said, and show how it's just another step forward for him in a long journey.) It was a finely told story, but it didn't have the grandeur I felt it deserved at the end.
A Vernal Pool
This read really jumpy, with details scattered about that didn't run together, or with each other. It was like you had an idea (many of them), wanted to get it in, but didn't have the time or space to give it a full justification, and so it all came across as a bit stop-start. The photograph thing is probably the prime example of this, it feels like it should mean more in the story, but instead it jumps in and out with no real regard for the narrative. My overwhelming feeling is that you didn't give this the thought necessary to map out a proper progression from beginning to end. The result of the story was simple, someone finds worth left in the world, but the thread being drawn through the story doesn't really bring you to that conclusion, or help you find it. For me it's like you stumbled your way towards the end with no building process to justify it. If you concentrated more on a few key images, really working on the beauty in them, or the lyricism in describing them you might have made the "actually, it's all beautiful" bit at the end seem more justified. Instead there was imagery, description and ideas seemingly scattered about with no thought for their place. It's a really simple story, a person journeys and finds purpose because of it, but there was no lifting of that purpose as the story was laid it, it just came at the end, rather abruptly. For something like this you need to focus a lot more on a few smaller parts, and have a steady progression throughout, with a lot less scattershot approach.
|# ¿ Aug 2, 2017 16:22|
I had to read this story, especially at the beginning, taking pains to understand what you're saying. The writing seemed pained. It was laid out so matter of factly, as though every effort was put into getting across every beat of the story, establishing every detail that would be significant, that it was devoid of any aspect of style or emotion. It came across as overwrought in significance, with no level of simplicity or confidence in the words coming across to the reader. To me it seems like you struggled with the writing, not that you are someone struggling but more that you were considering every element of what you were saying and tied yourself in knots guessing and second guessing what you were saying.
When I say it was laid out matter of factly I'm not saying there was no emotive words in there. There was but it was like you had chosen a word from a thesaurus and placed it in the middle of a sentence, already complete, to put a tone on the message. Everyone has a voice to their writing, whether they know it or not, and no matter how accomplished or not it is. It's like you've skipped over saying what you want, and how you want to say it in an attempt to write "properly." If I was you I'd try and speed write a first draft without giving thought for technique, style or deeper meaning, or the audience's affect on reading it. Then go back and see where it can be dickied up, and made more you.
As it came towards the end of the story there was a disconnect for me in what was happening. It read like you had a convoluted idea of what was happening but didn't manage to get it across, in simplicity, to me. There were dramatic pauses and jumps, but the start of the story didn't establish the right presence or mood for those to work.
All in all this comes across as the writing of someone second guessing themselves. Effort, thought and consideration can go some way to getting you to a good, well appreciated story, but really the only thing is to just keep writing more and more. The story was filled with authorial doubt and worry.
The new guy
I don't really know what to make of this. I read it, and it had something happened, but I don't understand the point of it all. At first you show someone having trouble fitting into a new life, but it doesn't seem about that. There's nothing telling about his state of mind, nothing revealing in what he's going through about alienation or isolation and it's so explicit it doesn't create any empathy. Then there's a knife fight, and he acts out his anger to the smallest degree. It seems like you just slammed together King in Yellow with an event happening, trying to get us to draw the two together. The problem with all this is that it seems completely insignificant. There's nothing driving the story, and without that drive there needs to be deeper meaning, or even beauty, but there's nothing to be taken from it. It's like a snippet of someone's mundane life, with a serious event thrown in that doesn't show any struggle in the person, or any meaning for me as a reader. On top of that the prose reads as pretty basic and un-evocative. If you want me to see the beauty, madness, severity, desperation, or whatever in a simple event then the prose needs to indicate that. This didn't. I guess this didn't have any depth to it for me, and without that depth I don't see the point. If you could figure out some way to indicate conflict or desire, even in foreshadowing language it could cause me to step back and think. You didn't cause me to do that, so it seems purposeless.
Just A Book
This is a strange mix of storytelling that falls, for me at least, purely because of your choice of first person narrator. The fact that nothing happens is a problem as well, basically someone borrows a book and the other person is mad, but still nothing happens. However, with the first person narration though I was left with little doubt about the narrator's intent. She didn't voice a desire for anything, not in her own mind which was the mind I was in. She never said she'd do anything, there was no threat, so I didn't feel any threat. If you had put this in third person so I didn't have access to her intent it might have established some doubt about the fate of the person borrowing the book. Instead, while in the narrator's mind I had no inkling she was insane or any feeling she wished harm on anyone. Then you trotted it out at the end. Also, this is pretty much a "looking in the mirror" story. Someone is looking in the mirror, and seeing something. The bits with the book were just to establish the book sends you mad.
"Don't read that book, it'll make you mad."
I look in the mirror. I see I am already mad.
Is pretty much your story, with a lot of not very fun writing around it. I think if you established tension around the other persons fate you might have had something, but ultimately the story didn't say or do much.
Shared between us
I almost enjoyed this. I did enjoy it, but not fully. There were parts of the writing that were too transparent, and the whole plot came obvious right at the start given the theme. I think the thing that most effected my enjoyment was the change in tone and style mirroring the events of the story. You started off perfunctory, explaining what was happening and doing quite well in getting across Liam's personality. As the story progressed imagery and simile/metaphor-like stylistic flourishes were added. This really telegraphed all of your intent, and made me far more aware of what was happening than the story needed. It's like you hadn't considered the writing's effect, instead leaning fully into what was happening. If you could have had the same writing touches you had at the end right from the beginning the conceit wouldn't be so obvious. Even then those flourishes weren't written in any stylistically or thematically interesting way. It came across as cliche and staid. The reason I'm saying all this is because the story was proficient, but its style and premise was quite lacking. Reading through I was looking for the prose to really add to the mood, but it didn't. Instead it detracted to see you embrace fully such a simplistic approach to a story about weirdness. Your idea is sound, even if telegraphed and mundane, but the style and writing was a little eye-rolling being both stodgy and basic in thought and approach. It's a story with proficiency in telling the beats of a rather simple happening, but without any greatness, depth, deftness, or love for what's there. This seemed phoned in.
I quite enjoyed some of the description on this, and the dialogue between the two critics, but otherwise there was a lot holding me back from really feeling it. I think your advantage was knowing we know The King In Yellow is to be a part of your story, which immediately set everything in store. I knew what was to happen and just got to sit back and enjoy some of the pretty decent description. Apart from that everything rolled out with little tension. My big problem is in what you chose to tell. You had two scenes that established what was happening, and one final scene with the madness. Instead of two establishing scenes you needed something to build up the tension, foreshadowing what was to come, showing some discomfort but problems that the characters dismissed. I think this needed to be structured differently and if you had you would have pulled off a much more effective piece of storytelling. Another aspect would be giving a bit more interiority. You need to show some of the thoughts of the characters, and if you had your tension building act it would have been vital. It's a fine piece, telling a story I expected but unlike Okua I believed in your prose which was less stymied and more telling in its style (apart from what seemed like a few errors in your prose.) In the future I would focus more on what parts of the story play on the reader, rather than jumping straight to getting across the story. Think about what the reader is learning, and how the feel as they read.
His Name was Natale (1439 words)
I really enjoyed this, right up until the last email. For some reason it just didn't resonate with me. I'm not too sure how much more words you could play with, but it was the ramping paranoia and sense of something wrong, all's not quite right that pulled me in. I think you needed more space to add to that, and play with the reader. The description of the worker's death was a bit long for me, and I can't imagine someone describing something so horrific in detail, especially in an email so I feel like you could have more words to play with emails, possibly becoming even more frantic and thus brief and disjointed. If I was you I'd work this up to something a little longer, showing more of a descent into whatever the man is going through, and see where it takes you. It's a solid idea, especially for one I saw beginning on IRC. It needs a bit more work, especially in establishing the stakes and problems happening, but for what you did it had an effect on me.
Sleep Song Somniloquy
I really liked this right up to the ending. It's quite possible a really creepy opening carried it a lot of the way, but that's a good thing. It set in store something strange to come, and then the rest of the story hinted at it without revealing it. In the end you had the main character seemingly figure it out from nowhere, and I don't believe he could have figured it out what happened while he was asleep, so it kind of flopped at that point for me. A good story, that didn't stick it's landing. There was also a few points where I was unclear on who was talking, or what order things were happening in but that's seems mostly a formatting error (or lack of clarity) and it was easy to get past it. I think what most stuck out in this story, especially in comparison to others is that you kept the same style and tone throughout. It made it a little more unsettling, while also keeping up the appearance and possibility that all that happened could easily be explained. From what I know of The King in Yellow, and the whole tome of stories that go with it, it's the appearance of normality that works, until people die from it. People refusing to see the madness and despair that hides behind what we want to be true. This got that across very well. I think if you had a better way of hitting an explanation of what happened to the uncle, because it did need some connection to the rest made explicit to work, then I wouldn't have an issue with the story. It was an enjoyable read. Well done.
Crowning the New King
This is the most forum-post-like short story I've read in TD. At the beginning I was wondering what the frame was. Is this an article on a newspaper, on a wiki somewhere, and with the personal sentiment and declaration at the end I came to the conclusion it was a blog post or forum post. I like the metaphor that I found, especially during the final third about search for meaning and reason, that worked. I didn't like the lack of personality, especially when the author addressed himself as the author by the end. It didn't have enough idiosyncratic feeling, language or touches for me to really believe in the person behind it. I could see, at a stretch, that the person is aiming for erudite in what they're saying, but it had no personality to it; no flaws, hang ups, desire, manicness, anything that I could latch onto. You could get all meta on it and say that this person is attempting to achieve that type of writing, but it would be looking for too much. For what had a solid core to it, at least by the resolution, it didn't cause enough of an empathetic reaction for me to believe in this screed being representative of a person's actions. Even then I don't know who it's written for, and that blurs my view between you, Solitair as the author, and the fictional author who's supposed to write this. There was too often where I was doubting the real world author of this, and your intent, versus the intent of the fictional author. All in all I think it needs more personality, and more grounding in the world I expect the author to be writing for.
Something definitely happened in this story, but at no point did I care. It's possible because details were added in that didn't seem to have any significance beyond servicing the plot, but mostly it just seemed so devoid of emotion or mood. It read like you were writing without a care for building tension, with no thought on style, and with no understanding of the turmoil someone might go through. For all that mattered in this story it might as well have been someone explaining how they pour cereal in a bowl. Emblematic of all that were the extremely short paragraphs, like you were struggling to think past the basic turn of what was happening. If you had built up a thought beyond it's basic occurrence you might have had an effect on me. Instead everything was meted out as a basic framework to the story with no consideration of writing. A plot is important, but writing is what makes the plot work. This was just the bare shell of a plot, and not a very interesting one put onto the barest skeleton of prose to get that plot across.
A Crack Begins to Form
Reading through this I wasn't liking it. It wasn't that it was a terrible story, more that I felt it wasn't my kind of story. With The King in Yellow being the prompt I figured it was going somewhere spooky. That made sense to me because the story certainly wasn't about characters. There was no real insight on the people's personality, dreams, ambitions, desires, or anything. There was no depth to the people. It started with a little piece establishing the scenario, then we were straight into a fight. This all said to me this a story about action, serving plot and probably about mysterious goings on. Then it comes to the end and its about people finding friendship through reading, and mental escape. You didn't do anything to set that resolution in store. It was like you wrote one type of fiction in the style of a completely different one; one almost at odds with the style you were going for. Because it had two separate ideas about the purpose of a story, the action story on one hand, and the character and idea exploration on another, and these weren't on point throughout it did nothing for me. I could accept an action-y story as decent for what it was, or a story featuring occultists, or strange goings on, but when it turned out to be about freedom it came from nowhere. It wasn't a "twist" in the story. It was a twist in your intent that wasn't pulled off because the groundwork wasn't laid and the buy-in wasn't established.
Beyond the Black Curtain
I kept hoping this would have an effect on me, but ultimately it was just too bland an occurrence for it to matter to me. You spent the first almost-third establishing a backstory for what was to come, justifying it. With that I was turned off almost straight away. It was protracted, it had no drive to it. You don't need a hook straight away, I'm happy to go with something waiting for the pay off, or enjoying the prose and thinking on what's happened, but this was just an excuse to justify what was to come. When what was to happen did happen I had no reason to care. I wasn't bought into the characters or situation. It was a simple, adequately written account of an event. The thing with these events, especially horror, is that I need to feel the horror. There was nothing there to cause me to feel it. There was no ramp up in the character's worry or fear, and when I didn't care about the scenario you'd set (due to long winded, emotionless backstory) it left with me no appreciation. I also think that simple accounts of a single "happening" or event, like this is, needs to offer more than just describing what happened; intellectually, emotionally, whatever. There needs to be a deeper reason for me to care, or something for me to take from what's happened. You didn't establish the horror, and there was no idea, thought, or reason to dwell on when I did read it. This read like you were attempting to make the literary equivalent of a popcorn film but without the production values to get me to live in the experience.
"and was now but a whisper" I think that summed up the story for me. It was a simple story, but the prose was overwrought with descriptive touches and flares, and prose stylised so far it became unnatural. I can see how there's beauty in easing into death, but this was grasping for that beauty so hard and was so obvious in it that it didn't work. This might be a personal preference, other people might like it, but it's not for me. For me you need to pare it down, and allow less but stronger sentences carry your intent. When you're writing the third description of the weather in a row it's too much, and you're pushing too hard. When the weather features so often, at the beginning of every happening you're really hammering it in, and effectiveness is lost. If you allowed yourself to give those touches to more thoughts from the woman and man, and to more than just the description of surroundings it might have worked better. In the end this seems to be attempting a style that I'm not sure was ever actually a style, rather a stereotype of style.
marvel at the forest
This was accomplished writing and disgusting in every way possible. The start was decent, but I didn't hate the people, which might have helped with the rest of the story. Then there was a drug trip, or possibly not. Possibly spooky evil. Possibly fantasy. Mostly an ending with moralising that didn't work for me, and made me dislike the story. I went with the evils happening to the woman, trying not to be reactionary to see if there could be any merit to it, which there wasn't. You could argue that because it's had an effect it's a good story. It could stick with me, so maybe it's effective. Ultimately it provided no insight. People hurt themselves because they're hurt seems to be a message to this, and I'm not sure it's a necessary one. The whole story seems unnecessary drug/torture porn. That raises it above a lot of TD stories in that it elicits a reaction beyond the functional aspects of storytelling, but getting past the functional aspect of storytelling isn't to be lauded on its own when the result is a purely aesthetic accomplishment in something bad. Good job on getting that far. I'd still question anyone who sees this work of literary edgelording as worthy. It’s like a story by the guy who links to execution videos.
All Shook Up 1089 words.
I'm not too sure what to make of this. It's the opposite of an origin story and still the origin story for Elvis' Alien Adventures. The puns were funny. The toilet was a nice nod. The aliens make sense. The King in Yellow was the best. It's perfect for what it is, even if it was made up almost entirely of dialogue. It hummed along nicely, with me not doubting the telling or the story at any point. It was entertaining fun, ultimately pointless, lacking in any nuance or depth, and hinting at bigger stories. The bigger story seemed more interesting than a quick jaunt through whatever it was I read. It was like half a bite of a McDonald's chicken nugget from my child's Happy Meal. Not what I'd ever want for culinary delight, and if I did want it I'd like something more than half a nugget, but fries and a drink as well. I'm still glad someone offered me that half bite though. It shows me they care.
Passion Hides in Painted Smiles
By the end of this I was feeling a little anticipation of what the outcome would be, but you made it very hard for me to get to that point. The prose read more strained than the marriage you worked very hard to show. Sentences seemed to go on for weeks, with no rhythm or song to them. There were points when I was reading I questioned my desire to ever read again. If the writing was meant to be a reflection of the droning life the character lived you succeeded, but it was successful drone and not at all enjoyable to read. The allusions were pained. The descriptions were the opposite of pithy and apt. That you managed to have any effect on me by the end was enough of a shock. There was no energy in the writing here at all. If you were to write for effect you'd really need to look more at the beat of the actual words and descriptions you're using and the implementation of how those words run together in your sentences, and further in your paragraphs. It might be a fine story, there's enough plot there for it to be sinister, but the writing didn't work in any way to achieve that.
|# ¿ Oct 3, 2017 01:23|
In, but not for diabetes.
|# ¿ Oct 31, 2017 15:53|
Overall, I don't think it's awful. I've definitely written worse. In a weaker week you might have ended up middling away elsewhere. There are problems, but it's not a heinous piece of writing, just that it has problems and misplaced ideas throughout. Overall you're over-complicating, and struggling to dole out what you need in a compelling way. There's problems about a bear attack representing everything the woman goes through, problems in the writing with how you phrase the action as occurring in her mind rather than just happening, and problems with unnecessary complexity. But it's not outright awful.
I don't think this is outright awful, there's a nice core running through it even if there's a misstep in how you say it. You've jammed together two ideas, someone overcoming an their problems and a bear attack, and you have the bear attack and the success in getting away from it showing the person's development. Really, this feels insubstantial. I think a big problem is in how you set it out at the beginning. There's so much going on, so much detail you need to force in to get at the situation at hand that the story has no time to rest with the person and develop.
A Good Dog
You start out straight away with the dog, so I think, "Ok, it's about a dog." Then you add a bear, "Ok, a bear attack because of a dog." And even then it's a dog that the person doesn't like or at least has some animosity towards. That's a whole story right there. Action based, sure, but a story about a bear attack, let me prepare my heart for pumping. Then in the second paragraph you have "Pangs of guilt," and introduce Ivy, and it seems like the story is tumbling away. This could work if you had a lot more space/time/words to deal with the situation, allowing you a more subtle way to establish everything but now you're just piling up information without giving me time to deal with it. You're pulling me around and forcing me to come to grips with what you're saying. It's not in a good way, it's not making me ask questions of myself, or a real world situation, it's asking me to simply comprehend what you're saying.
You keep adding to that feeling as the story goes on, with details seemingly coming out of nowhere, "I realized I was completely alone in the forest..." Ok, how are you going on an everyday dog walk and being completely alone, surely this will be near a populated area? It's like you're adding severity to the story for the sake of up'ing the drama. Then, "just give up..." give up about what? Ok, there's yet more going on, a reason this person might want to lay down in their life. Then we have Ivy's cancer. Then a bear fight. Dogs tumbling away.
Already you have so much information played out, not really dealing with anything that you're overloading the story. I don't need all this, or if I do need it I need it played out in a more human way. It seems like everything is externalised in this. There's no point where the protagonist gets to act or come to a realisation (despite you saying, quite literally, "I realise...") It's totally valid to let the world reflect a person's situation, scenario, story, whatever, but you're letting everything outside of them, all the action, all the plot points, all the events play out on the character. There's no space to get grounded in the internal dilemma of the person, and that's even before you get into whether the situation is plausible, as written, or whether the acceptance of their problems is a little deus ex machina with no justification given to it in the story.
She runs from the bear and does the "right" thing. Why? Because she was attacked? It doesn't show any growth from her, it's a near-death situation giving perspective but there's nothing more to it than that. There's no humanity to it. It could just as easily be someone walking down a road thinking, "Those kids are being a butt to their friend, I don't want to be a butt. The end." There's so much more to thought processes and doubt about things than an event prompting all this, and you don't get into that. You have the bear attack represent everything, when really it's a nothing event, only adding confusion and in your mind justifying the growth, which to me it doesn't.
A Good Dog
I think you're stuck between the idea of making things clear in an everyday voice, that makes logical sense where everything is rationally justified and the way it happens in good stories. All your, "My brain did this," and "I thought this," is showing you're not latched onto getting into the perspective of the person in the story. This isn't a really bad story, there's definitely enough there for it to work, but the way you tell it doesn't have the rhythm of an accomplished storyteller letting the reader get the important information that makes sense in a literary way. You're not completely on top of knowing when to let story and storytelling tell its own way. Your instead focusing on the logical way someone might work through a situation, not the writerly way. It's tough to deal with, but for you I'd focus on cutting out all the hedging you do about your writing, and instead let the story and the progression of the story stand on its own, trusting in the reader to get your writing, inside your character's action and motivation.
|# ¿ Oct 31, 2017 17:16|
Two things immediately struck me about this, the purpose of the trial and its lack of tests, and the lack of setting for where it's happening.
The lack of tests in a trial is more content focused. I didn't get any sense that woman was waiting for a purpose nor did I get a sense she had given up or given into something that clawed at her. I figured there'd be a reason given at the end of why she was going through this, and while there is one, about being used, it didn't show that all she'd been through before had changed her in any way. Reading through there was no struggle from her, no interiority, no doubt, no question, no passion. I would have liked to see that, to see what she was going through. A lot of this was about humanity, and what's done to people and what those people suffer, and I didn't see a huge amount of that in there. She simply sat and refused. That's a decent premise but it wasn't teased out, instead it just showed her going through all the situations and not responding. The part about the beard being a sign of refusing to give up knowledge might have worked better if we could see how it tied in some way to the struggle she was going through, unfortunately they were too disconnected. It came across as dehumanised and dispassionate. For all the knowledge she had, there was no real time she felt at risk or had to deal with what she was giving up. She came across as certain throughout, not really sacrificing anything, even if there was some horror inflicted on it. Basically I think it needs more personality. If someone is being tested, and there absolutely was a test even if only to her resolve or certainty of what would come, or even in what she was foregoing, there needs to be more evidence of that test having some significance. What had she staked on all this, what was she risking? At the moment it just reads like someone going through something without any telling of why or to what purpose. More humanity, more doubt, more struggle, more human hesitancy about the "why" of her mission would all work.
The lack of setting was another problem. You didn't give me much to understand what was happening around the person. There were no details of the tent, no details of where she was in the wider world, no detail about what she was being pressured with apart from simply stating the spotlight was turned on. There was a lot of talk about people's faces, monstrous in many ways, possibly some aspect of their personality but I needed more than just the people, I would have wanted the setting to be more alive because at the moment it's all too focused on person and not the world the person is in. Another benefit of this is that you give the story room to breathe, while giving me space to appreciate the rather dense and surreal elements to the rest of it. It was very much told out without seeming investment in the emotion of it all, and I think it needs that outside detail to more fully situate the humanity. It's a dense piece of writing, with the surreality of it, and it needs some break from that and I think you could give that by externalising some of the aspects around her.
I think this story needs a bit more space for it all to operate in, something beyond the immediate situation, in both the person's mind and struggle she's going through, and the broader world. I liked it for what it was, which was very different, and it seems like its steeped in importance coming from you, I'd just be looking for that to come across more in the person's own mind and test, and the broader setting of the the world, and the premise.
|# ¿ Oct 31, 2017 19:19|
|# ¿ Nov 29, 2022 23:47|
The dust layered on the windowsills of Bobby’s Food Palace was baked in with years of sunshine but still smeared from rainwater running streaks and rivulets of grime, never enough to wash the ledges clear. The grot was typical of an old and tired city. A city packed with cars and buses belching fumes, packed more with people discarding dusty pockets of litter and shedding bits of themselves without ever realising. Most of all it was typical of Ray, son of the famed Bobby, to rely on the same old customers not caring about outward appearances, keeping up what little of his café he could manage.
Pushing back the door to the familiar sound of the bell ringing out Jean saw young Stevie sat behind a pile of books. When he wasn’t taking orders he was studying. Jean knew he wanted to get away from all this and she did too.
“I’ve got our ticket,” Jean said waving the small, yellow lottery docket loosely in the air.
“Jean!” the boy cried. She could see a few stray blonde hairs breaking out on his lip.
“You’re going to be shaving soon,” she said.
“Some boys in my class already do.”
“Maybe I’ll take you to the Turkish barbers, they’re famous for wet shaves. And burning ear hair.” She tugged at her earlobes and stuck her tongue out. The child half laughed but she could see the doubt play out on his face. “Put this hat on for me,” she said pulling from her bag a red cap with a big M printed on it.
“What’s the M for?”
“I thought Mario’s greatest fan would know about his hat.” Stevie shoved it on his head and pulled at his t-shirt with his thumbs as though he was wearing Mario’s famous blue dungarees. “Will we go to Italy if we win?” she asked.
The child nodded but turned straight back to his books. Jean saw Ray walk out from the kitchen with the stern face she wished he’d take off when he was around his son. He carried the biscuit tin that held the receipts and invoices that pained him at night, keeping him staring awake. Jean only knew about that after the rare nights they’d spend together. Her waking, finding him in the living room next to the lamp, and leafing through page after page of final notice.
“Where’d you get that hat?” he asked Stevie.
“Jean,” the boy said without turning from his copybook.
“I wish you wouldn’t spend money on him like that.”
“It’s just a hat,” she said.
“I still wish you wouldn’t. It’s wasteful.”
Jean grabbed at one of the cloths resting just over the ledge where the orders were balanced and began to wipe down the counter. The cloth was moist and warm, and the aged yellow counters shone with the dampness of Ray’s washing but still she wiped away.
“Why are you doing that?” Ray asked.
“It’s her ritual,” Stevie said. “You should know that by now. She does it every week.” Stevie wandered behind the ice-cream display case and picked up the remote, turning the sound up on the TV, then down, then back up again.
“No TV!” Ray said. “Not until you’re finished your homework.”
“It’s the ritual!” Stevie said.
Ray grabbed the cloth from Jean’s hand and threw it into the sink. “Every week you do this,” he said.
Both Jean and Stevie cried out at the same time, “It’s the ritual!”
“I’m surrounded by Satanists,” Ray said but if anyone’s eyes reflected the anger of a devil it was his.
Jean moved in next to Stevie, the two of them now behind the ice-cream display looking up at the TV and both held their hands on their heads. They turned in a circle, feet held tight together, and each of them slowly lowered one hand to grab onto their turning partner’s elbow.
“Where will we go if we win?” Jean asked.
“Italy!” Stevie said.
“Who lives in Italy?”
“The Pope!” Stevie shouted.
“The Pope lives in The Vatican,” Ray said to his son, massaging his temple as though his child not knowing where the Pope lived had brought on a disapproving, Jesus cast migraine. “Can I talk with you, please, Jean?”
Walking outside with Ray she could just hear Stevie say in defiance, “Well, how about Mario then? Mario if not the goddamn Pope in Italy!”
Ray held onto Jean’s hand as they stood outside the front door, knowing it was unlikely any customer would have to push past them. The street the café was on no longer had any big offices, most of the buildings had been converted into cheap warehouses and car parks, and the people in the apartments were more likely to order a delivery, something Ray couldn’t afford to provide.
“Computer game hats? Turkish barbers? Times are tough, Jean. I need him to learn how to keep things in check, without big, wild hopes. And here’s you buying lottery tickets and going through rituals.”
“Have you taught him to shave yet?”
“What? What does that have to do with anything?” Ray said but Jean could see the fright build up behind Ray’s eyes as they widened and glanced inside at his son.
“The ritual is just fun. It’s what, €2.50? That’s enough for a little silly entertainment, once a week. Something he won’t want to do forever.”
“Things are tight. You know that. You know that’s why I keep you and me separate,” Ray said as he rubbed Jean’s hand, in his grip, with his thumb. “Things could go wrong any day now.”
“There needs to be some respite from that. He deserves an escape,” Jean said hearing the bell ring out as she turned from Ray, making her way back inside to Stevie looking up from beneath the TV.
Standing next to him, waiting for the lottery’s show to come on Jean grabbed onto Stevie’s elbow, and him hers, they overlapped their feet and began to nod while bouncing up and down on their toes.
As the credits on the show before the lottery began Jean, despite all logic, hoped ritual or not this really would be their time to win. Even a small amount, whether it was enough for a weekend away or just a nice meal out.
Ray set three ice-creams down in front of them.
“What’s this, Dad?” Stevie asked.
“It’s Italian, spumoni, if we’re going to Italy with our winnings. But you can’t eat it until the numbers come up. And not at all if we win.” Stevie hadn’t been offered ice-cream, at least not without paying for it for years from his father and his face showed all the signs of confusion. “My part of the ritual,” his Dad said. Stevie placed his spoon back into the bowl and made a motion as though zipping his mouth. Jean could make out his fingers brush against the light blonde hairs that said he would soon be all too old for playing.
Jean, Stevie and Ray waited and watched the draw. Their ice-cream had begun to melt. Yet again their numbers didn’t come up.
Ice-cream: Spumoni, a molded Italian ice cream made with layers of different colors and flavors, usually containing candied fruits and nuts. (from wikipedia.)
|# ¿ Nov 4, 2017 16:04|