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Armack
Jan 27, 2006


:toxx: In.

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Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Soul, The Contents Emptied
[Redacted]

Armack fucked around with this message at 03:14 on Mar 7, 2017

Armack
Jan 27, 2006




Week 233: IT HAS BEEN TOO LONG

As I was using a little elbow grease to scrub last week's sticky soul residue off the throne, I got to thinking it's been a while since we had a dedicated poetry round. Your challenge this week: Write me a villanelle!

The villanelle has a specific form which wikipedia details just fine, but here's an example to help you along further:

Sylvia Plath posted:

Mad Girl's Love Song

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

Your villanelle's structure and rhyme scheme must accord with the traditional rules as laid out in wikipedia with two exceptions:

1) Notice Sylvia Plath didn't rhyme the final word of the each stanza's second line with each other. You don't have to either unless you want to, despite what wikipedia says.

2) Some poets get real cute by altering the refrains (the repeating parts) slightly throughout the poem and they can go gently caress themselves slowly, THAT DOUCHEBAGGERY WILL NOT BE PERMITTED HERE. Your two repeating lines must not change at all throughout the poem, not even in terms of punctuation, even though wikipedia says you can do it.


Other things to keep in mind:

- Apart from getting the structure right, the most important thing is to have a solid first stanza since the first and last of its lines are going to echo throughout the poem. Those lines better be good.

- It's great when the context that surrounds the repeated lines evolves over the course the poem, or the meaning of those lines changes even though the words themselves stay exactly the same.

- The subject of your villanelle can be whatever you want, but NO erotica or fanfic.

- Sign-up Deadline: 11:59:00 PM EST on Friday, 20 January 2017

- Submission Deadline:: 11:59:00 PM EST on Sunday, 22 January 2017

- Word Limit: 300 words

Judges:

Jitzu_the_Monk
sebmojo
???

Villains:

SkaAndScreenplays
Thranguy
jon joe
Jay W. Friks
BeefSupreme
flerp
sparksbloom
Metrofreak
katdicks
Julias :toxx:
Okua
Chernabog
Fuschia tude
steeltoedsneakers
The Cut of Your Jib
SurreptitiousMuffin
Djeser
Entenzahn
Tyrannosaurus
GenJoe
Kaishai
Hawklad
kurona_bright
curlingiron

Armack fucked around with this message at 06:25 on Jan 22, 2017

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Thranguy posted:

So, just to be clear, Sylvia Plath can go gently caress herself slowly for that semicolon in the first line?

Yes. :colbert:

For the purposes of this week's prompt the refrains need to be wholly unchanged throughout the poem.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Sign-ups closed. Good luck, goons.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Chernabog posted:

Is it ok if the the second line of every stanza shares the rhyme with 1 and 3? (AAA rhyming structure instead of ABA)
I already have it like that but I guess I could make it not rhyme if it comes to that.

Allowed, yes.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Submissions closed!

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Week 233 Results:

Read these in judgemode, fyi.

Congrats, goons, on a good week. We had cause to dole out more HMs than DMs. If your poem didn't HM but you thought it was good, it probably was. But there was a lot of good verse this week and it's possible some minor nitpicky thing took you out of the running, especially given quality of the competition.

The no-changing-anything-in-refrains rule proved too strict for some, especially when it came to punctuation. Nobody got DM'd or DQ'd solely on the basis of violating this rule, but I did take entrants' adherence to it into account when evaluating stories.

Thanks to sebmojo for co-judging.

Jeers to SkaAndScreenplays for being the lone failure.

Our single Dishonorable Mention goes to Jay W. Friks for a poem that is sloppy in structure and content.

The proud owner of a brand new losertar shall be Chernabog for a poem that swats at sentimentality with a stick built of clichés.

This brings us to our strongest entrants!

Honorable mentions go to: Thranguy for a lighthearted and cleverly structured piece; Hawklad for a poem that (while perhaps not so ambitious) deftly hits its mark; sparksbloom for a masterful villanelle, chock full of double-meanings that truly cause the nature of the refrains to change. Sparksbloom, you missed the win by a razor's edge.

Our winner this week is GenJoe for a poem that is every bit as emotionally resonant as it is pleasing to the ear. Congrats, GenJoe, on this, your first ascension to the throne!

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Week 233 – Crits

Part I: 1-11

1. Jay W. Friks - The Last Quiet Place

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Mostly. There is a case shift from “Kept” to “kept,” but I’m not overly bothered.

Structure:

-It’s clunky. Villanelle isn’t bound to any one particular meter (pattern of stressed/unstressed syllables), but it still needs to sound good. Your meter is irregular, which would be defensible if it were somehow in service to the poem. It’s not. Your arrangement of syllables is unmusical in a way that hinders the reader’s motivation to engage with it. In addition, the number of syllables per line seems fairly random within a 7-11 range. Unclear why you chose to structure your piece this way.

Content:

- “No way to sleep with no wine or no whore.” The drunken womanizer is a bit a cliché nowadays.

- “The guard’s cycloptic gaze is at close.” I’m not clear on whether the guard literally has one eye, like maybe the other is behind a patch, or if you’re merely alluding to Odysseus’s imprisonment by the cyclops.

- “Her payment is my filled in flesh and gore.” Can’t make sense of this, it potentially contains one or more proofreading errors.

-I’m hazy on what the poem means. It could be that it describes an alcoholic cut off from his drinks. But my interpretation is that the narrator is trapped in a noisy mental hospital, from which he escapes via suicide (apparently by hanging?). Either way it’s a dramatic premise, but one that you too do little with. Often, villanelle is used to convey madness or obsession, but the more successful ones make such states palpable. When reading your poem, I did get vague pictures of what it was about, yet it made me feel nothing. Would recommend crafting the language and content more emotionally resonant, more hard hitting; just be careful to avoid clichés while you’re at it.

Overall, the poem is clunky, sloppy, vague, and emotionally dull.

2. Djeser - The Weaver AE, The Forgotten Myth

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Mostly. There is a punctuation change in your first refrain but I decided not to raise a stink about it.

Structure:

-Basically good. But the passive voice, future tense makes your second refrain less potent than is ideal.

Content:

-Medieval unicorn tapestries are interesting, and you’ve got a few images that weave welcome details into the picture (e.g. the blood stained ground, the faded hound, the shade of the pomegranate tree).

-In stanza five your refrain takes on new meaning. Bonus points for that.

- I didn't notice it the first time I read it, but when "sad infinity" was pointed out to me, I couldn't unsee it as bad phrasing.

- The poem is nice overall. Your depiction of medieval unicorn hunt tapestries is accurate, colorful, and apt. I could picture well the sequence of tapestries and the apparent museum room space in which they are displayed. My one gripe is that it’s hard to believe how invested the narrator gets in the fate of a sewn unicorn image. Evidently, he’s so invested he feels compelled to look back at the first image in the sequence, where the creature has “fleeting rest.” Similarly, it’s not clear why he identifies so strongly with the unicorn in the first place. Surely visual art can move us, but it’s hard to imagine most people looking for instance at Goya’s painting of Saturn devouring his son and being so identified with the son that he/she would turn away. I wish I knew why the narrator feels so strongly. In any case, your poem’s subject is cool, you describe that subject well, and you gave the piece movement and resolution. Good work.


3. SurreptitiousMuffin - where we store our best gear

Does it adhere to the prompt?: In part. But the first line of each stanza is supposed to rhyme with the first line of each other stanza. The prompt’s exemption applied only to the second line of each stanza.

Structure:

-The rhyme scheme is incorrect. In addition, although villanelle isn’t bound to any one type of meter, yours rattled my ear a bit.

Content:

- Often villanelle is used to portray obsession, so it’s fitting that you’ve used the form to depict recurring thoughts that accompany addiction. You did a good job showing, not telling. The images work. The piece does have some movement, as the addiction gets worse throughout. The resolution is perhaps a bit predictable though. Your second refrain, “She’s sayin’ ‘someday soon, gonna rule the whole world’'', changes somewhat (gets even more ironic) over the course of the poem. That’s a plus for you.


4. Thranguy - His Name is Hershel, By the Way.

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes!

Structure: Good, no complaints.

Content:

- It’s a nice touch how at the end you changed the meaning of the comma in your first refrain.

- The content is cute; the piece is light hearted and amusing. Its clever structure augments this amusement. However, the piece is a bit forgettable. It doesn’t stick with the reader for very long, but all things considered this a was pretty solid entry.


5. The Cut of Your Jib - A Fawkes in the Henhouse

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes!

Structure:

“As my betrothed cuffs roving eye sideways” scans differently enough from the other stanzas’ second lines that it interrupts the flow of your piece. Other than that, the poem’s structure is good.

Content:

- The title got a smirk out of me.

- You’ve got strong refrains, well done with that.

- Your language is appropriately poetic (e.g., The flicker of fuse spins gold in the haze; I sip from the font of blasphemous thought / A furtive communion no priest would praise).

- It’s good that you’ve decided to show and not tell.

- The context that surrounds the repetition of your refrains changes throughout the piece. That is a big plus.

- So, a gentleman’s gunpowder plot gets foiled via fiancée’s betrayal. Your premise is intriguing and you deftly executed it.


6. jon joe - Beyond the Veil

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes!

Structure:

- Your variable meter is a little rough on the ears.

- While “diem” (pronounced DEE-EMM) is a bit of a slant rhyme, I guess it’s not too bad.

Content:

- I’m fuzzy on your meaning. It seems that there’s a ruler, who’s somehow bad for some reason. There are also others, a “team” who are too easily fooled or captivated by the ruler. It’s not clear that the poem is saying very much else. The piece suffers from vagueness and a lack of punch.

-This entry is an example of a common mistake people make with structured poems. Often it feels as though the words you chose were not the best possible words to carry your meaning, but rather were shoehorned in to fit the rhyme scheme. The challenge of writing structured poetry is to satisfy the structure while also ornamenting it so well the reader wouldn’t have it any other way.


7. Chernabog - My sorrow

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes!

Structure:

- Because you punctuated most of the lines with periods, the poem has this jerky start-stop flow to it.

- The shifting number of syllables per line and the haphazard meter are a detriment to the piece.

Content:

- My interpretation is that someone the narrator loved has died and now he/she sees a rainbow and interprets it as a message.

- The piece relies too much on cliché in building sentimentality. “Final goodbye,” “passionate cry,” “tear slides and trickles down from my eye.”

- The content comes off as trite. There is not much movement, change, or resolution. Coupled with problems in the poem’s structure, the content aims for high impact but falls far short.

8. Okua - Peace at last

Does it adhere to the prompt?:

The added punctuation at the end is so minor I chose not to care about it. A much bigger problem is that the rhyme scheme is incorrect. The prompt’s exception to the standard villanelle rhyme scheme applied only to the second line of each stanza.

Structure: The meter works, the poem is pleasing to the ear, and that serves to make its content strike harder. But the rhyme scheme doesn’t fit the villanelle format, even as amended by the prompt.

Content:

- Your two refrains are strong. That is a plus for you.

- The context that surrounds your refrains evolves over the course of the poem. Good job with that.

- Well done with the content. You use vivid images and mythical tone to paint a worthy portrait of the aftermath of war. The poem progresses well, with Demeter’s intervention a welcome narrative beat.


9. steeltoedsneakers - Apgar 0

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes!

Structure: Decent enough.

Content:

- The refrains are pretty strong. I can see that you used “these ones” instead of the pithier “these” because you didn’t want to have too few syllables in that line. It’s the right call given those two options, but “these ones” doesn’t sound very sharp. Might have been better for you to rework the line into something altogether smoother. Still, it’s not bad.

- Nice, your poem has movement, progression. The context that surrounds your refrains evolves over the course of the poem.

- The subject fits the villanelle format well. The repetition of the refrain mirrors a parent’s worried ruminations about a child.


10. sparksbloom - sparks bloom

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes!

Structure: The structure is great.

Content:

-Nice wordplay. The double meanings of “sparked,” “match,” “smash,” “bleeding gash” were not lost on me. Your use of double meaning serves to evolve the significance of the refrains over the course of the poem. Great job.

- The poem hits all the right notes. The narrator’s resentment toward her ex his palpable; her agency in tossing out the letters (and even evoking a sense of burning them) feels satisfying.

- The villanelle format lends itself well to a subject like this. The repetition of the refrains underscores the narrator’s ruminations concerning her ex.


11. Entenzahn - dance of dead dreamers

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes!

Structure: Good overall. The slant rhymes are close enough, no complaints here about that. I know I explicitly allowed you not to rhyme the last words of each stanza’s second line, but it still struck me as weird that you decided to rhyme all of them but one.

Content:

- Your refrains are strong.

- It’s pleasant the way you play with light and sound in this poem.

- I’m not very clear on the meaning of the poem, but your verses are solid, you’ve got some crisp imagery and artful language. Overall well done.

Armack fucked around with this message at 08:51 on Jan 25, 2017

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


More Week 233 Crits

12. Favor Fortune – Kaishai

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.

Structure: It’s great, nothing to critique.

Content:

- Mmm I could go for some monkfish right about now.

- The language is elegant and the images work, I can picture the disguised lord and the monkfish particularly well.

- Your refrains are good. I notice the tenor of their use doesn’t change much throughout the poem. That’s perfectly okay, of course, but some other pieces this week got bonus points for the way their refrains evolved.

- The poem is clear; it has a concrete message. These are big plusses.

- It’s a worthy effort overall, there’s a lot to like here. But without a sharper hook or more emotional salience, the poem doesn’t stick long with the reader.

13. The Red Line Reed Warbler & her chick - Tyrannosaurus

Does it adhere to the prompt?: In part. But the first line of each stanza is supposed to rhyme with the first line of each other stanza. The prompt’s exemption applied only to the second line of each stanza.

Structure: Other than the rhyme scheme issue, my structural gripe is that the meter seems to scan with a bit of clunk.

Content:

-The content is superb. Had it more strictly hewed to the prompt and flowed a touch better, this poem may have won.

- The “worse somehow worse” line is a bit rough.

- The refrains are strong, their significance evolves nicely over the course of the poem.

- The concept is interesting. My interpretation is that the mom was unfaithful to her husband, having slept with a linguistic genius (the professor?). The affair produced a brilliant daughter, who evokes complicated emotions for the mom. The girl is special, but in the mom’s mind her gift forever is intertwined with the infidelity that produced it. The poem is novel and emotionally resonant.

14. Last Request -Fuschia tude


Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.

Structure: Just fine.

Content:

- It’s clear the poem is about death, but other than that it’s vague. You leave the reader wondering “What’s up with the six centuries worth of work?” and “What exactly is the selfish affair?” It seems that the death is somehow preventable, and that the narrator’s “heir” may hold the power to prevent it. But the reader has no good indication of what’s really happening or why.

- The language is a bit dull. It leaves the reader wanting a more novel phrasing or peppier verbiage.

- If (and this is a big if) your poem describes a leprosy that will wipe out the entire human race, then you’d deserve props for including an evolving meaning of “end of the race” over the course of your poem. Not sure if that was your intention, but without more clarity there is no way for this to really come across to the reader.

- The poem feels a bit forced. Like maybe you knew it was unclear but felt compelled to write it this way because of the rhyme scheme. The structure is fine, but the death theme visits ground tread so often it can be challenging to make a unique impression.

15. Bora - Julias

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.

Structure: I like it. You took full advantage of the lack of strict syllable-count rules in villanelle.

Content:

- Your language is sharp and most of your images are crisp.

- I notice the tone shift in the fourth stanza. Suddenly the pleasing images surrounding wanderlust and autumn gust become repulsive. This helps to evolve the context that surrounds the repetition of your refrains, and that’s good. But within the world of the poem itself, I’m not sure what prompts the tone shift or what’s significant about it. All the reader can tell is that a pleasant wandering becomes a disturbing one. The twist raises the questions “How?” and “Why?”. If the reader had a better sense of those questions, the poem’s significance might be more apparent.

16. Parting Words Between Old Friends - Metrofreak

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.

Structure: Good.

Content:

- My interpretation is that two former friends fought and wounded each other. There seems to be contradictory lines when it comes to the question of whether the wounds are mortal. “I shall not let you ring the bell [i.e., die]” doesn’t seem to cohere with “On mercy, you should not depend.”

- The poem suffers from a lack of clarity. It’s unclear why the men are fighting or how their friendship became poisoned with wrath.

- There is a kind of dullness to the poem, which is odd considering its topic is something that ought to be dramatic. The dullness seems to stem from the detached, matter-of-fact way in which the narrator is dictating the circumstances to his “closest friend” and thus to the audience.

17. Slippers and a Bathrobe -katdicks

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.

Structure: One gripe I have is that all that punctuation makes for a jarring start-stop kind of flow.

Content:

- My interpretation is that the narrator is guilty of the arson—revenge against the uncaring neighbors. Why else would you have written this? If the narrator didn’t do it, then nothing happens in this poem. Just there’s a fire and it’s like “oh okay” *shrugs*.

- If my interpretation is correct, the context that surrounds the refrains does evolve over the course of the poem (after line 11 hints at his/her guilt). So the poem has that going for it.

- Adverbs can be just as problematic in poetry as in prose.

- The significance of the fire isn’t clear enough to have a big impact.

18. Aurelia - Hawklad

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.

Structure: Good.

Content:

- The images are stark. I can picture the jellyfish, the bleached bones, the toxic sand spilling, the black rain.

- Your language is good, you’ve got strong verbs and adjectives that do the heavy lifting for you.

- It wasn’t a requirement for the meaning of the refrains to evolve over the course of the poem, but it was certainly nice when participants this week chose to make that happen. Yours don’t change all that much, but I did notice a shift in the meaning of “mankind’s fall” once we learn that there are still “desperate men” who have to endure this climate dystopia.

- Your poem is topical and hard hitting. It strikes an emotional cord and creates a strong atmosphere. Good job.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Thanks for the crit, sh.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Final Crits for Week 233

Please accept my deepest apologies for the lateness of these crits.

19. To What End We Know Not - curlingiron

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.

Structure: Good.

Content:
- It’s a bit heavy with cliché. Poets have worn out “dark,” “dead,” and “soul” centuries over. Consider also the sand-through-an-hourglass metaphor. Better to find novel ways to explore these perennial topics of thought.

- The meaning seems to be about existential dread and the absurdity of living. It’s fairly clear that you’re referencing this sort of angst, but it’s not clear to me what you’re actually saying about it, other than that it’s there.


20. A Note to Myself – kurona_bright

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.

Structure: Just fine.

Content:
- The refrains are a little weak. Not sharp or hard-hitting enough to make much impact.

- “Show, don’t tell” applies to poetry just as much as prose. Here you seem to be regurgitating the contents of an internal monologue where you resolve to work toward a better future. But that doesn’t affect much feeling in the reader. The poem is cerebral, but that head-centered focus is to its detriment. Had you used imagery to appeal to the senses and emotion, the poem would be both more interesting and more convincing.

21. Ash Tray - GenJoe

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.

Structure: Good.

Content:
- Your refrains are strong, the way you use them varies (personally I like the “as if you could explain away an” segue), and the context that informs their meaning evolves beautifully throughout the piece. Excellent job!

- The piece is economical in that it tightly packs emotional resonance into the small space that the villanelle form allows. The piece is poignant, rich in imagery, and mostly smooth in flow.

- I can see why you might have thought it was okay to contrast “smoldering in an ashtray” with “the truth, the calls and the shame.” Smoldering is hot, and the character wants to front like the romance is still hot. But let me be the umpteenth person to say that the metaphor fails because of the dirty, ashy associations people have with ashtrays. I recommend revising the fourth stanza, changing the title accordingly, and submitting for publication. As villanelles go, this one is pretty darn good.


22. Between You and Me - BeefSupreme

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Yes.

Structure: Just fine.

Content:
- Somehow it’s both vague and telly, which is an ironic mix and not in a good way. The poem lacks imagery and comes across as somewhat sterile. The interplay between first and second person (as well as the the title) demonstrates the poem to be a kind of conversation. Yet what’s being said is so general it’s hard to get context for what it all means. The piece could benefit from crisp images and from detailing more information; you’ve held too much back from the reader.

23. It’s a poem about death (because that’s every poem) - flerp

Does it adhere to the prompt?: Technically no. You changed the punctuation of your first refrain over the course of your piece. A minor point though.

Structure: Meter feels a bit stilted here and there but not too bad.

Content:
- You demonstrate good understanding of how make the most of imagery in your poem.

- Death, as your title indicates, is a well-worn topic for poetry, but your exploration of it is novel enough that the poem doesn’t feel cliché.

- Your alternating of fall images and sick/dead images by stanza is artful. It is a layer of complexity that serves the progression of your poem, makes the autumn/dying comparison more poignant through repeated juxtaposition

- “Air will taste humid, lingering sound of the blue jay’s call” I expect you already see why this line feels awkward to read. I get why you structured it this way, to fit the villanelle form, but surely you can revamp it to sound more natural.

- Good job, sad it DQ’d, but thanks for having submitted. The poem could use a tune-up but it has potential.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


In with Pedophilic Disorder.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


[redacted]

Armack fucked around with this message at 01:29 on Oct 31, 2017

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Avshalom posted:

my breasts

kinda

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Tweezer Reprise posted:

Gosh, getting a DM is VERY educational, isn't it?

Then consider me Stephen Hawking.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


In. I vote for sin. :toxx:

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Would it be sinful blatantly to stuff the ballot box in plain sight? :toxx:

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Plucking my two votes for sin from the ballot box, crossing off the word "sin" on both of them and writing "wizards" on one and "Al Gore" on another. So that's -2 sin, +1 wizards

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


You can create words of power, small phrases that bring about whatever you want to invoke. However, once you've infused a word with power, anyone who utters it invokes that power. The infusion can't be undone.

Wizardbro Subculture
(813 Words)

So I’m in there, wrists bandaged, staring at the baddest nurse you ever seen. I’m talking like 23, blond, Double-Ds, green eyes probly; who knows really I wasn’t peeping the eyes. And I’m thinking look, this primped up dime-piece legit showed up to work like she trying to smash, O.D. It’s lit, son. So I’ve already made it my mission to cop brain off her, minimum.

Now when the paramedics scooped me I’d only drew enough blood to fire off Animate Word, and it’s like duh, five walking, talking, angry, power-infused letters are NOT gonna help me bag this chick. So I go the old fashioned route. Throw some negs, lay groundwork, and she hard body feeling me but like a tease calls in some “mental health technician” to trip up my game. Ugly motherfucker, this goon. Look like a circle I swear to god. This nigga is equidistant.

Don’t ask which word I animated ‘cause I didn’t lose enough blood to lay down the stop-gap. If either of us say the word now, I’ll have to contend with a sentient B-I…matter fact, I ain’t even tryna spell it out for you.

But a’ight they give me this checklist. Name: Brett. Age: 16. Race: Caucasian. Then the rest of it’s pretty much “what kinda crazy are you anyhow?” I write, “Bloodletting from the wrists is part of the spell ritual. HOP OFF MY NUTS. Because of you goons I only cast the first spell in the sequence and that’s the most retarded one.”

How am I supposed to practice the craft when I got a bunch of blorpy middle aged cuntbiscuits calling 911 over a harmless wrist cutting spell-prep?

Anyway I finish their checklist and THEY TAKE MY loving PHONE AWAY and then show me to my room. I swear as soon as they legalize it in this state I’m about to cast Low Key Murder on these clowns.

The next morning some whore wakes me up to check my vitals and ask about my mood. And it’s dumb early so I say, “My mood would be a lot better if you’d let me sleep, bitch—”

poo poo, watch out for them letters. No. NO. You gotta—here let me just *whack*. Now you the get the…yeah okay. Watch the C, it can roll around on ya. Oh poo poo, don’t let that T shank you. That motherfucker hurts like a bitch—gently caress, more of ‘em!



Phew, a’ight you good? Nah, you prolly won’t need stiches for that. So yeah so basically same thing happened when I said it there in the room, but this one squirrelly mother fucker got ganked even worse, so the staff gag me and put me on fifth floor lockdown.

Now it’s looking real bad for me, right? Like how’m I gonna cop dome off the babe nurse at a time like this? Well eventually she checks up on me with this social worker. The social worker, she pretty thick. Real slam pig, but she could get it I guess. Would conjugate her verbs, would not complete the sentence naw’mean?

Anyway we get talking and she pulling some straight Jedi poo poo. Like I’m getting O.D. choked up about my mom left, and this goon at Heely Park got fresh with me, and China cornered the wand market so how’m I gonna pull downtown bitches now that I’m a broke rear end. Hah! See that? You pluralize it and it’s all good.

The social worker leaves and the nurse asks if I need anything so I stall her. Start using that mind poo poo on her. Nah, not a spell. Actually kind of hard to draw good amounts of your own blood in a psych hospital, especially when you gettin the Hannibal Lecter treatment. Nah, I was just using regular mind poo poo, like asking about her family. And I poo poo you not, it turns out we’re second cousins. For realz son, I swear on my left nut.

And I wouldn’t mind smashing my cousin on the low if she a freak like that, I actually got a youtube video about I’m working on about the ethics of it, all I gotta do it make the jump cuts and post. But this one particular cousin, I’m not tyrna smash anymore. On some real poo poo, her side of the family is all dirtbags. Like you ever seen that movie The Mummy where the dude opens his mouth and all the bugs fly out of it? That’s how I imagine her pussy now that I know who she’s related to. So yeah no smash, spent five days in there, I could tell you more stories like they gave me a roommate, look like the poor man’s Bruce Lee, but that’s really all you need to know. A’ight it high noon yet? Give me the razor, I’m about to restart this ritual.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


big scary monsters posted:

Thanks for the crit! A couple of your points are things I wasn't entirely happy with either, but I couldn't articulate why. (I hope this much response is not breaking thread rules)

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Chili posted:

Brawl me bro.

I'm not even going to say who the bro is that should brawl me because it's REALLY OBVIOUS.

Sitting Here posted:

In for a brawl with un-chill-i up there

You've seen sebmojo vs SurreptitiousMuffin



and Benny the Snake vs Phobia



This summer, get pumped for Chili vs Sittinghere.



Brought to you by Thunderdome 2017teen. This time, it's for real.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Week 260 Crits - Part I of II

Overall this was a solid week. The good stories were especially good. The bad stories were bad but not as bad as an average week's DM pile. The middle stories tended not to have glaring problems other than too many uninspired "uhh thing happened, I guess" tales.

1. Jay W. Friks - Teetering Towers

- “I had no wife to follow me into senility.” Saying 'follow' makes it sound like this hypothetical wife would have become senile too, but I don’t think that’s what you intended to express.

- “Since I was a young man I’d found no pleasure that existed outside of my head and the ones that did never met my expectations.” Some problems here. You have a disagreement in number between the singular ‘pleasure’ and the plural ‘ones.’ Also the sentence doesn’t make good sense. It’s a stretch to try and square ‘no pleasure…existed’ with ‘the ones that did [exist] never met my expectations.’

- The tone shift is a bit too off-key when you transition from the seriousness of grappling with early Alzheimer’s to cracking the suicide joke, “It didn’t seem appropriate for my body to be dressed for going out when I would be hanging around instead.” If you were hoping to add some levity or evoke laughter in the reader, it didn’t quite work.

- The prose could use a good sweep for unnecessary words.

- There are things to like here too. I like the use of a ruined bookstore as a metaphor for an increasingly senile mind. Here we have a story about someone so fearful of losing his mind he attempts suicide, but rather than actually lose that mind, he becomes acquainted with it in the most direct terms.

- I’m not sure quite how the protag is going to get to join in with the otherworldly herons, so a bit of the ending is lost on me.

- The piece fails to strike the powerful emotional tone that it seems like it ought to go for. It’s a very left-brain, matter-of-fact treatment of tragedy.

2. Mrenda – A Sinking Home

- Minor typos, e.g. “It had been a six months…”

- It’s not clear to me what Jamie likes about Rob as a close friend and traveling companion. I get that there’s a sense of comfort and familiarity there, but why does she like him in the first place?

-In the Phuket beach scene, I kept wondering why Jamie was so singularly dependent on Rob’s friendship. Why is he seemingly the only person who can give her the companionship she needs? “She wished someone, anyone was there to laugh with her…” But there are a lot of someones out there to travel with, befriend, gradually get close to. Is there any reason for the readers to believe that Jamie wouldn’t have any other close friends, or wouldn’t easily be able to make them?

- Jamie has disappointingly few thoughts that don’t revolve around Rob. She seems preoccupied with him whether or not he is with her. I feel like this preoccupation keeps Jamie from coming across as a living, breathing character, since she only exists in relation to Rob’s presence or absence.

- What this story has going for it is a strong theme: change. Friendships change, our identities change, impermanence pervades everything, even the things we hold on to. The question is, what do we do with that impermanence, how do we flow with it? Your story succeeds on this turf.

- I notice that Jamie’s gender identity was both a symbolic and plot-driving force to advance the theme of change. I’ll say that stories detailing the kinds of conversations that transwomen experience have cropped up so often in lit mags over the past decade or two, it’s hard for them to seem original. Through it doesn’t exactly break new ground, I thought your treatment of this perspective served adequately to underscore your theme.

3. Chili – The Fourth Path

- There are some significant positives to the story. The structure is interesting, how it starts as a folk tale and then continues on in the second person about what the five children are supposed to glean from it. Your story reached for a mythical tone and succeeded on that ground. Wasn't keen on it during a first read through, but it grew on me when I took a second look. Some downsides though:

- “He had a gift, but he did not fit in.” It seems like the concept ‘gift’ isn't closely related to the concept ‘fitting in’ so it reads weirdly that the sentence links these concepts through contrasting them.

- “Though he would be allowed to try again in his 18th year, Doru carried the failure as shame.” Same issue as above. You’ve set up a contrast between ideas that strike the reader as not actually being all that conflicting. Irrespective of what his opportunities next year are, Doru’s reaction to his failure this year is what’s at issue. That is, merely having another chance next year doesn’t seem to make Doru’s shame about this year unreasonable, yet your sentence presents these ideas as if they aren’t quite so compatible.

- “Finally, his mother realized that the largest raft from her fleet was missing.” This took her months to realize? I get that fairy tales don’t strictly tend to make sense, but this line still puzzled me out of immersion in the story. Also, what fleet? Felt kinda random and out-of-the-blue. You had the space to set up the idea that this was a seafaring people, the name “Lakeen” notwithstanding. From the reader’s perspective, this fleet kinda pops into existence out of nowhere.

- I understand that the prompt involved writing a story about the picture, but I feel like it’s a weakness of the story that it only makes sense if the reader is actually looking at the picture. Seems like the best stories this week are ones that, while inspired by the picture, would still be good if read by someone who just encountered the prose alone. Though you say, “Rest your hand on the trees he has left behind…” it might still be hard for a reader who wasn’t looking at the picture to fully grasp what Doru’s miracle was.

4. Wizgot – How It Had Been

- I’m afraid the prose feels stilted at times.

- “No one could see the hulking structure even though it stood four stories tall for two reasons.” The way this sentence is structured makes it read like there were two reasons for the building to stand four stories tall, not two reasons why it stands unseen.

- “The second, and real reason…” I understand that you mentioned the first reason in order to highlight nature reclaiming this ruined mall. But then when you undermine the first reason by calling the second reason ‘the real reason,’ it makes your mention of the first reason feel superfluous to the reader.

- “They were everywhere now and they all served the same purpose, to squeeze out every ounce of money you had. In this day and age, you were only food for the beast.” Nice. This section describing the ad bombardment really made me feel it.

- I get that the story is really about nostalgia for human connection. The problem is your vehicle for getting there is lamentation for Walmart, Costco, and Sears, which comes off as shallow and detracts from the core of your message. The story mourns the ruination of this shopping mall and the interpersonal connection such a place brought, but you haven't really convinced us that malls per se are so critical for healthy socialization over and above other (more culturally significant) public spaces. In truth it's hard to see a mall as being much less superficial than the ad bombardment you describe. Your story aims for a kind of emotional depth, but fails on its own terms. Keep writing for us though, you've got potential and can do better imo.

5. MysticalHaberdasher – The Premiere

- While it doesn’t exactly break any new ground, this vignette really isn’t bad. That is, its flaws were not very irritating nor even very pronounced. But I’m afraid the story is a little too Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark? for me to really take a strong liking to it. Not much else to say; the piece is fairly straightforward. Time stuff happens in a theater, described in a matter-of-fact kind of way. But the significance and impact of that is muted. This was one of the mid-range "yeah, such and such happened *shrug*" stories this week.

6. RandomPauI – Just Glue and Sand and Glass

- First few paragraphs are boring. I really don’t care about Vicki’s wardrobe or her mundane plans. It's important to hook the reader earlier.

- The family emergency part made me want to keep reading to find out what the emergency was. But then the story doesn’t take us there.

- I’m afraid you don’t give the reader sufficient reason to care about Vicki or her memories. Likewise, the ending is lackluster. There just isn’t much to compel the reader to invest attention here, and there isn’t much set up to pay off at the end. This was not a story that really made a case for it's own impact or significance. Rather it was kind of "yeah this stuff happened."

- The use of the picture-prompt was rather cursory here, as best as I can tell.

7. Sittinghere – Seed

- Take an interesting idea, like a park ranger’s love of nature spilling over into a quest for Noah’s Ark, crank it up a notch with some cool mysticism, pepper it with poetic language like “Millennia were draped over him like a transparent shroud,” then toss in a fun twist at the end. What do you have? A pretty decent story. Fun to read. Probably wouldn't have HM'd in such a strong week had it not DQ'd, but in a more typical week, a positive mention for something like this would be a possibility.

8. Agent355 – The Beast

- I guess this guy was once a hot-shot mechanic?

- I interpret the beast as a metaphor for workaholism. But my confidence in that interpretation is shaky. Apart from the metaphor, I have no guesses about what specifically the beast refers to in the material world of the story itself. The story comes across as vague, though not unpleasant to read and ponder.

-Seems like the best stories this week are ones that, while inspired by the picture, would still be good if read by someone who just encountered the prose alone.Your story is vague to me even with me having seen the picture. Without it, I would have been completely lost.

- Remember that there is a point at which "show, don't tell" can go too far and make for reader confusion.

9. Fleta Mcgurn – Benevolent Onlooker

- First line hooks the reader well.

- The prose is nice and strong.

- The character’s voice is believable, the perspective feels authentic.

- Clever incorporation of the flashrule. Good.

- The story matches the prompt picture spot on.

- You’ve got some appropriately hard hitting lines, like “Someone’s drawn a dick on his face. ‘I guess it’s your turn,’ I tell him.”

- There are so many ways in which this story could have been rough, but you pulled it off. Your writing has power, sensitivity, and grace.

- The story is emotionally resonant and well constructed. Great job! You beat out several other awesome stories. You deserve to be proud of this.

10. Fumblemouse – Rouge

- The “whys” of this story are vague for my tastes. Show, don’t tell is good advice for writers, but this story is an example of going too far with it imo. I was looking for that paragraph or two that would ground the story directly and in its fuller context.

- This was another of the "so this happened" stories for me. If it's broader impact was in there, it wasn't communicated clearly enough to me.

11. Chairchucker – Salvaged

- A few minor proofreading errors.

- Blocking seems alright, dialogue seems alright, it held my interest

- Not much wrong with it, didn't strike much of a chord with the reader though. This was another decent "here, stuff happens" story. Kept me entertained, but ultimately won't be very memorable.

12. sebmojo - Between the stirrup and the ground

- Way to make the best of a difficult flashrule!

- The story is tight, the prose is illustrative but economical, I have a decent sense of the organ grinder and monkey’s personalities. I like how the palindromic structure of the piece reinforces that the two characters’ attitudes are inverses of each other. Very well done. It was fun to see you do so much with the restrictions you were given.

13. magnificent7 – 1970-1984

- Your protag has a distinct voice and that’s cool, but the dialect doesn’t always feel consistent. For example, I’d expect a person who speaks in this dialect to say “I don’t smell nothing” instead of “I don’t smell anything.”

- You manage to generate a reasonable amount of tension in a small space, so you've got that going for you.

- “Bad air” is a little non-descript. It raises the question of what exactly is bad about the air. Like how is it killing people? Just presenting us with generic deadly air feels like a cop-out from inventing some detail here.

- It’s a bit strange to introduce this new character “Jeff” at the very end of your story, without having referenced him earlier. I’m not too worried about Jeff going down to get Eric anyway. With the protag having already carried Eric part of the way back, he isn’t in too deep.

- How is it that Julie knows about the "bad air" but not Jeff? How is it that the protag was allowed to go down there without any protective equipment given that Julie knew that the air was bad? You might say she didn't know HOW bad, but it's air that can kill you? Again, it would help to know what about this air makes it deadly.

14. Solitair – Swap Meet Syndrome

- Haha, I have to say I love the name “Angus Podgorney.”

- It’s really hard for me to imagine anyone playacting in a theater riddled with mold. Unless they were wearing gas masks, which your story makes clear they weren’t, it would seem too unpleasant/unhealthy to hang around a place like that.

- Hmm, I like the observation that sometimes harmless ribbing between people who care about each other can spill over into actual (or perceived actual) invective, especially when there are other underlying problems between the people.

- What was the memory that Shaun lost but would be happier not to know, that his nose used to be less thick?

- Basically your story is a bunch of young people do amateur theater in a moldy, spore filled hell hole, swap body features and eventually memories, and then realize the true meaning of family. My gripe is that these elements of the story don’t hang together in a very cohesive or interesting way. Sorry to say the story also reads a touch cheesy to me.

15. SurreptitiousMuffin – I never got my feet wet

- This story is descriptive and emotionally resonant.

- I’d recommend removing the line “I found him in our house, apparently. I walked an hour back to town and told my teachers,” because readers can already guess from the metaphor of “Big frog, little tank -- going mad surrounded by all that water and all those walls, then just gave up living,” that the dad killed himself (or at least drank himself to death). Though you are subtle in this story, there is space for even more subtlety, especially because you give the reader the clues to figure it all out.

- Solid entry, good exploration of the relationship between memory and spaces, good argument that both can be comparably remote. Your HM was well earned. The majority of weeks in TD a story this good would have won.

16. a new study bible! – Birdsong

- Nice use of perspective, the thoughts felt appropriately arboreal to me.

- The dark tone shift of the ending works well

- Good use of the prompt. This story is hard hitting and will be memorable. Way to earn your HM.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


flerp posted:

THE SECOND KIND OF ANNUAL MEGABRAWL

Yes.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Sorry to have taken a little while with these.

Week 260 crits part II of II

17. Hawklad – The Girl in the Reactor

- It’s a pretty vignette, both a light-pretty and a dark-pretty.

- Other stories this week did happen to squeeze a bit more conflict into the tight space the word limit allowed. That’s my only real gripe with your piece. There was some emotional weight there, and some resolution to a conflict that took place before the story even began, but more tension would have been needed if you wanted to make this piece hit harder.

18. BeefSupreme – The Forgotten Places

- The opening sentence piques my interest.

- I take it Joel has schizophrenia?

- My interpretation is that Joel became a hermit to escape his family. My best guess is that his desire to escape the family stemmed either from some kind of mental illness or the fact of his family being genuinely overbearing. The ghosts “fleeing” at the end reads to me as an abatement of whatever mental torment Joel had been experiencing, now that he’s finally got the social support he needs.

- I had to head-canon it a bit, but the story works for me. Readers can get something out of this piece, but it takes some digging.

19. Uranium Phoenix – Time Will Forget Your Name

- “The old woman was sitting on a bench, in his priestly attire…” Pronoun. Did you originally intend the ghost to be a man?

- The biggest problem here is that I feel like I've read this story 100 times. It’s a pretty formulac arc by now: Protag encounters ghost relative, who has a message for protag. The message is a warning or as in this case a “remember me.” Something complicates protag’s adherence to the message, until the protag works it out and pays it forward somehow. There must be an average of nearly one story of this type per week in thunderdome, and the great majority of them are forgettable. I suspect for many authors, meeting a ghost relative seems like an exciting premise, interesting enough to carry a story. But way too often it’s a crutch instead, an excuse to lean on the coolness of “what if you could meet your dead realtives” rather than doing the hard work of making readers care about conflicts and characters. Dead relative stories are tough to make satisfying to the reader. They’re a dime a dozen and they go stale quickly, TD has had a few good ones, but even with those I’m struggling to remember their names and weeks of submission.

- Hawklad almost fell into the same trap this week, but he juiced it up a bit through the whole nuclear reactor thing.

20. Kaishai – So Far Away

- Your implicit observation about people being led around by their depression resonated with me. It really became apparent with Orrin’s answer in the negative for the bus driver’s question, "You got somewhere else to be?" Seems like when we’re feeling sorry for ourselves, we tend to slip into a mindset which holds that one lovely place in life is as bad as any other.

- It wasn’t lost on me, the metaphor of the bus offroading as a symbol of Orrin’s heretofore derailed life trajectory. It did make me ponder what set Orrin off prior to the story’s beginning anyway. lovely parents and alcohol maybe? Normally, I would’ve hoped for some more hints about that, but in fairness the word limit didn’t afford you much room.

- It seems that with maturity, Orrin has not only learned the value of taking an active role in his life (taking the driver’s seat) but also the value of living not merely for himself (much like how a bus driver’s role is to help others get to where they need to go). Agency and altruism all in one strong symbolic beat. Well done.

- You’ve done the work of placing gems for the reader to find and admire here. That went noticed and appreciated.

- While reading this story, I got the subjective sense that it is somehow personal to you, maybe moreso than most. Not certain if I’m on the right track, but it still feels like that way to me.

- Excellent story. I feel like it would have won an average week in TD, but this time there was stiff competition at the top.

21. Crabrock – Human Sacrifice

- Great prose, natural sounding dialogue.

- The story is pretty good, satisfying. My minor gripe would be that maybe a bit too much of the word count proportion was spent on the kids’ bantering at the outset and not quite enough on giving the ending its full punch. We get a feel for the nature of the kids and their relationship pretty quickly, but the ending where “The Dragon’s darkness” inhabits Shihab so-to-speak feels cursory. Still, this was an entertaining story and a good job overall.

22. Thranguy – The Opposite of a Memorial

- Some typos, e.g. “at near”.

- You do a skillful job at painting a picture of this world in broad strokes. It’s clear right away how repressive the regime is based on the ear bead and the bravery it takes the woman to admit how she bypassed the surveillance. Congrats on not falling into the meticulous world building trap.

- Every time you write a story, please give your characters names, at least n - 1 of them if not the whole ensemble.

- There were a few post-climate-collapse stories this time around, and of them, this one felt like the most serious attempt to offer a glimpse into a world like that.

- I don’t really have a good sense for why the not-quite-an-enforcer woman is there in the first place. Is she just exploring?

- The twist was a welcome addition to the plot. In retrospect I should have seen it coming, but you pleasantly surprised me fair and square. That image you paint of the man as a child hiding in the trunk while everyone around him is getting executed, it’s riveting. Great job with this.

- The ending works. Though I never figured out exactly what the woman was doing there, I certainly have a clear resolution to that question as relates to the man. Good story, thanks for writing this.

23. Djeser - Rue de les Fleurs

- This story is a pile of mostly pretty words, but those words aren’t doing much to build a compelling story. It’s not bad at all, don’t get me wrong, but the reader comes away from this thinking it’s a missed opportunity to put in a bit more effort and spin a tale that does something cooler with its concept. Dude jumps into a ruined canal, limps through tunnels, meets a supernatural entity that evokes a hostility in him that he can’t fully understand, then dude ends up back at street level. The most interesting part, the meeting with the entity (deity?) doesn’t amount to much other than ushering in the relocation of the protag. Seems like there might have been meatier content to engage with given this premise.

24. big scary monsters – Warm Bodies

- Your use of imagery functions well, your setting is detailed.

- “As I crossed a snow bridge the ground fell away and I dropped, screaming, in a confusion of falling snow.” See, here we have the first real conflict in the story, in fact a foreshadowing of the climax, but its impact is muted. All of the prose before this is casual, more-or-less carefree, and there isn’t a pronounced enough transition in the syntax to make the reader scan the onset of the conflict differently from what came before. I was reading this part with the same cadence as I had read, “Well before dawn we scarfed down scalding coffee and squashed brioche…”

- This wasn’t bad, there was a hook here, though not the strongest of ones. The climax and ending were sufficiently interesting though, so congrats on that.

25. super sweet best pal - Lakeside Architecture

-So let me get this straight, the protag goes to an abandoned beachside staircase to take pics for a school paper, finds a box of weed, isn’t the type to take it and isn’t the type to report it to authorities so he just mentions it offhand to his roommate who goes out there and dies trying to get to it.

-Really? All this for weed of all things? Not a motherload of black tar heroin, not a vengeful biker gang’s meth stash, just weed. In a state that would eventually go on to legalize it. Was this needless risk taking really Joey’s preferred method to try and get mildly high? Why couldn’t he just buy marajuana off some local dealer? And was he really fiending that hard that he thought it would be worth it to try and climb down a dangerous cliff to get to weed that didn’t belong to him?

-The most dramatic part of the story, Joey dying, happens off-screen. It’s reported to the protag by the police, and then the story just ends on the ambiguity of whether Joey’s death was homicide or an accident. It seems like you were reaching for a tragic impact, but the matter-of-fact way you wrote the story written, and the level of detachment between the protagonist’s actions and Joey’s death makes the story come up short.

-You can get a lot more detail about what I think w/r/t this story (maybe more than you want) on the Week 260 recap episode, whenever that drops.

26. flerp – To be Less Than a Queen

- The story kind of jumps around in time in a way that makes it come across as muddled. Your frame of reference shifts from the Baron’s execution, to the Queen’s life before the execution and then afterward, then to the time of her proposal and then again after her eventual death. The story itself is a moving target. We get disjointed snapshots of various times in the couple’s life, especially the Queen, but never a fully developed picture of any of these periods.

- Hard to crit this because the story comes across as hastily written, and I feel like me pointing out its problems isn’t telling you anything that you don’t already know about the piece.

- Somehow the piece does retain a kind of fairytale charm, so it’s got that going for it.

27. sparksbloom – A Vernal Pool

- This is pretty good. The contrast between Kelsey’s picture and the present day ruined waterslide evokes a sense that people can never truly return to old times about which they are nostalgic. The post-apocalyptic setting serves to make that point starker. The ending serves to show that if we were somehow able to look at the present from the vantage point of bygone times/places in our lives, we would see positives about our current circumstances that we might otherwise have overlooked completely.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


[redacted]

Armack fucked around with this message at 01:31 on Oct 31, 2017

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


[redacted]

Armack fucked around with this message at 01:28 on Oct 31, 2017

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


I'm willing to co-judge if that would be agreeable to you, Obliterati.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


I'd like to encourage participants this week to submit as soon as their stories are written and proofread. Speaking just for myself, it will make my judging and critting faster if we don't get 30+ stories submitted last minute.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Week 271 Crits – Part 1

This week was mostly bad. Far from the worst I’ve judged though (Voidmart II, I’m looking in your direction), and there were a few gems.

1. Dealing with Certainty – Derp

- Stories this week were best when they spent time defining their prompt or explaining the science behind it. You would have done better I think simply getting right to it, showing us characters dealing with the implications of Heisenberg Uncertainty popping out of existence.

- The narrative-as-article style of your story puts too much distance between the reader and your protag. It’s like he’s self-consciously detached from his own story, and this detachment robs the piece of emotional weight.

- Days one through three detail theoretical changes on a macro-scale that Certainty is bringing about, but there is woefully little about how this impacts the protagonist’s own life. Even when something arises that should drastically impact him, like realizing conclusively that he has no agency, he presents it in rhetorical questions to the reader (don’t you feel this way too now?) and then alludes to its personal impact on him in cool, matter-of-fact statements. I realize that this detachment may itself be the product of Certainty, but that manner of narration is not in service to your story. This still reads like a science article about what Heisenberg Uncertainty is and how things would be different without it. Instead, it would have been stronger if the story zeroed in on the private life of the protag and how he is dealing with the changes on the micro-scale.

-It’s just too nonfiction-ish. When a story quotes the intellectual quips of Christopher Hitchens, that’s probably a sign that it’s losing its narrative and falling into cerebral info-dump territory.

-It’s cool that Certainty has brought people the zen (albeit also the turmoil) that accompanies realizing there is no free will and indeed no self. But again, you aren’t showing us that per se, you’re telling us that in the form of an article.

-I read this piece wondering how characters in this world were now interacting with each other differently. But we don’t get characters here, we get science journalism narrated in first person.

- Now that I think about it, even in a world where complete information is theoretically possible, that wouldn’t mean that every person possesses all of that information. In other words, people shouldn’t be able always to predict the sequence of their inevitable behaviors since some of those behaviors ought to be mediated by environmental conditions about which they do not happen to possess complete prior knowledge (even though that knowledge is obtainable in theory).


2. Fire City – Yoruichi

- I don’t think you’re using the word “cloying” correctly.

- “I am slammed bodily against the floor…” Slammed bodily? As opposed to what, slammed mentally?

- “man’s earliest and most essential invention.” I feel like man didn’t invent fire so much as he found it.

- Writing a story about technology choosing sides is a cool way to fulfill the prompt. Good job with that concept. The one problem though is that if I hadn’t seen the prompt, I wouldn’t have understood the meaning of the bombs, guns, and fire behaving independently. You have a cool concept that is evident in your prompt, but not exactly spelled out in your story.

- I would have liked more character focus here.


3. Untitled – Simbyotic

- Please title your stories.

- Please name your protag.

- Here we have a protag with goals and agency. Good job with that.

- Good treatment of the prompt. You explore changes in the world through the lived experience of your protag. Other stories this week infodumped encyclopedic volumes detailing their prompt and all the abstract theoretical implications of its absence. You clearly recognized that it’s best to use characters’ struggles as vehicles to explore things conceptual. Good job.

- There is an appropriate level of conflict. That’s a plus.

- While mostly alright, the prose gets wonky at times. There are some proofreading errors, a few awkward phrasings, and a few unnecessary words.

- It’s not clear to me how this superstition suddenly developed that bones of The Stretched conferred power/good luck.

- “No one’ll buy those bones if you don’t.” This doesn’t make much sense to me. Either the bones really confer good fortune or they don’t. If they confer good fortune, why wouldn’t these guys want to use them rather than sell them? If they don’t confer good fortune, but the men just want to sell them to people who think that they do, then why bother playing The Game? Eventually Ganzo arrives at this conclusion, but it’s pretty evident The Game is just a plot device to showcase a number distribution under the new system.


4. are you listening now – Tyrannosaurus

- This is really cool. I like that you cover *how* your scientific law changed. You also did well discussing the implications of the change in relation to the characters in your story (God, Earth, humans).

- It’s an interesting thought imagining the Earth as a jilted lover. It also strikes true imagining humans as wildfire, and God as a deadbeat dad. I like how you highlighted that even our love of Earth has often itself been limited to our sense of it being a gift given to us by God.

-For the short amount of text you used, you excelled at characterization, and even gave us enough of a sense of plot to make for a satisfying story. Good job.


5. Uriah – spectres of autism

- The prose is beautiful, good job.

- It’s not clear to me why Ely refuses the blade.

- It occurred to me early on that if Mother Drora didn’t sprout a locust, she too must already have been cursed somehow. The ending seems to support this interpretation.

- Interesting that Irshushin and Ely seem to have the same condition, given their vastly different stations in life. I suppose “head problems” might motivate someone to do something like reach for godliness by building a tower.

- Congrats on composing a better version of The Tower of Babel than that Yahweh fellow. You’ve got atmosphere, a couple interesting characters, a protag with a goal and agency, and a solid plot.

- You mention outright via dialogue that “Math has collapsed” but the relationship between Pythagorean theorem and dimensions opening doesn’t seem to be where you hewed to the prompt. I’d argue that you fulfilled the prompt in the sense that geometry having been altered is what allows the Tower of Babel to be as tall as it is, and maybe what allows the blade to appear at the peak.

- This story is oozing with style. Congrats.


6. Like Kings and Queens – Thranguy

- Good opening paragraph for setting the tone and hooking the reader.

- The story is engaging, holds the reader’s interest.

- It’s weird that the nature of the waste just hits the protag at the end out of nowhere. Seems like it should have been obvious that something designed to produce no waste would only produce the kind of waste it wasn’t designed to process at all. And for it to just dawn on him out of nowhere at the end just seems too plot-convenient.

- I notice we never get a definitive answer to the initial mystery. We just get a theorized answer to the secondary mystery of why the feud stopped but that answer is nukes-ex-machina.

- Great use of the prompt, I’ll give you that. Yeah, my impression is overall positive.


7. Mob Epistemology – sparksbloom

- Hmm, I can imagine a sociology conference going this way, even without the sudden change of any scientific law.

- Nat feels too much like a camera observing the breakdown of academia and society rather than like an active or otherwise fully fleshed out character. Then again, you had a tough prompt in the sense that it makes for obstacles when it comes to writing agentic characters.

- I think this story would have succeeded better if it’s pacing were quicker and if it utilized more efficient structure and prose. I feel like this 2000 word story could have been a tighter and more lively 1200 word story.


8. The Heart is an Ancient Organ – flerp

- Good opening line.

- There is an unreal, dreamlike quality to this story that serves it well. The protag doesn’t wonder what’s happened to everyone, he apparently concludes (and he happens to be right) that the whole world’s worth of hearts stopped except his. Other than with respect to his wife, he’s unbothered by this. He just accepts that this is his opportunity to look over the quiet city.

- I’ve got an issue with my interpretation of the underlying meaning of the piece. So we’re shown that the protag has a weak heart, both literally in that he uses a pacemaker and metaphorically in that he has a low tolerance for stress. This weak heart is evident also his in attachment to his nostalgia. Yet, it’s the protag’s agency in the face of stress that gets him killed, his goal unfulfilled. So what is the message here, don’t pursue goals, they’re too hard? What should he have done instead of climbing those stairs?

- This piece got me feeling emotions, I’ll give you that. It conveys nostalgia and sentimentality well.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Week 271 crits - Part II of II

9. Untitled - Sham bam bamina!

- This is pretty incoherent.

- I think you structured this in order to give the reader an experience as confusing as what might happen to working memory if Miller’s Law broke down. But your prompt should never be an excuse to write an incoherent story. Also, your story should stand on its own and make sense even if the reader hadn’t seen your prompt.

- You’ve got disembodied political allusions and disjointed scenes and images. Next time please give us one or more protagonists who want something and structure your plot around that in a more conventional way.

10. Deus ex Atomicus - Kaiju15

- So a guy does science, unwittingly unmakes the material realm, and then gets scolded for it by an angel in the form of a paunchy middle age corporate manager. That is basically your entire story. Your premise was doomed from the start.

“This is the third time I’ve had to reset you so that we could have this conversation.” So does this mean Daniel has erased existence three times before? In that case, why do the angels allow it to keep happening and why it is a big deal anyway if it can just be reset after such-and-such amount of time? Or is it instead that the angel keeps having to restart the “virtualization” of him? If so, why, and what is the reader’s motivation to invest attention in that?

- The ending is flawed. Sure, it’ll take a long time for Daniel to clean up the mess he unwittingly made. But what are millennia to an immortal consciousness, and why does the angel get so salty about something fixable?

11. Lucy – Hawklad

- Your depiction of an Alzheimer’s-beleaguered mind is well done.

- I’m a bit disappointed in your approach to the prompt. Yes, you had to make Alzheimer’s switch off somehow, but it is dissatisfying to read someone beat it just by force of will. It’s hard to imagine that the protag would have any more will or stronger will than any other Alzheimer’s patient, and it’s unclear the extent to which determination ought to impact a degenerative condition like Alzheimer’s to begin with. I’m afraid I don’t really buy it.

12. On Olympus Mons – Maigius

- Kind of tacky to open a story with dialogue that’s pretty much “Whelp, I can’t believe we’re doing [premise of the story].”

- The story is almost entirely stilted dialogue. Does anyone really talk like this?

- Your tone is inappropriately casual during the parts of the story that are supposed to be tense.

- So they randomly find aliens and are just pretty much like “Whelp, looks like they found a workaround for [the prompt]. What a discovery, huh?”

- This one is a stinker. It is an Olympus Mons Pubis.

13. Closed Equation – ThirdEmperor

- Your anthropomorphizing of these inanimate space machines is effective. They really do feel like characters, which helps to capture the reader’s interest.

- You appropriately convey the vastness of space, indicating that it usually takes long periods of time for anything to come into contact with anything

- I was looking for more conflict, more tension. Because the story is mostly characterization and setting, it feels more like a sketch than a narrative. Still, it’s a pretty amusing sketch.

14. The Seaweed Effect – sebmojo

-Strong dedication to the prompt.

-Strong voice and good characterization of the narrator. One can really see how he apprehends everything in terms of math.

- There is a nice irony to this piece. One might expect that when someone broadens their understanding of the universe, that increased understanding would empower them. But here we see the opposite. The narrator’s understanding has become so complete, it constrains him. The narrator realizes the maths that underlie the universe, but loses his agency in the process, and has no choice but to acquiesce to forces beyond his control.

15. Whatever Floats Your Boat – curlingiron

- It’s so dialogue heavy it feels more like a play than a story. Normally that would be a bad thing, but you’ve really pulled it off here. The dialogue feels natural, the characters feel real, the pacing keeps the story interesting.

- I feel like comedies are easy to write but difficult to write well. But you did a great job with it. The humor here lands spot on.

- You satisfied the prompt and kept it fun. Well done. This story was a contender for the win.

16. The Object of the Exercise – Fumblemouse

- I realize the verbosity is supposed to give the piece voice and humor, but it’s a bit overdone. You’ve succeeded at bringing to life a narrator who speaks in purple prose, and that does characterize him distinctly, but it doesn’t make the purpleness any less irksome for the reader.

- Pacing issues. Half the story is exposition, the remainder of plot really only unfolds in the second half.

- The twist falls flat.

17. She Worships the Wrong Saint – BabyRyoga

- Grrr, the kids these days like things I don’t like. MILLENIALSSSS!!1 *shakes fist*

- You’ve got several sentences that are run-on and purple.

- Non said bookisms: “he asked, quizingly.” Just say “said” and definitely don’t throw an adverb in there.

- Aaand then you have a non-ending which ignores the interpersonal tension between Ashley and her grandfather, and which makes the rest of the story an irrelevant “oh, this happened” tale.

18. As Sure as the Sun – Have Blue

- Don’t preface your story posts.

- Your story is built largely from clichés, including your title.

- Relative to the rest of the story, you spent too much time on narrative.

- “I’d ask her stupid questions and always she’d just laugh and say the same thing.” What a boring date she is.

- We’re supposed to care about this lady dying but it’s hard to care when we don’t even know her well. We know more about where the protag met her than about this woman herself, other than that she’s repetitive and seemingly tedious.

- The story is vignettish and doesn’t have enough conflict to make the reader want to invest in it. Stuff just happens, scenes occur. A woman dies who the protag is emotionally attached to, but not the reader.

19. The Looseness – Sitting Here

- “Loose Bruce,” Linnie said, and that made them both laugh, even though it was stupid.” I mean, the rhyme is kinda awkward and corny but to call it “stupid” seems a little aggressive here.

- “No thinking about what it is or how it happened. No talking about it.” I lol’d. Not that I wanted too much of an info dump, but this line of dialogue seems really author-convenient. Linnie might as well say “Hush, the writer doesn’t want to spend time on the backstory.”

- “If they’re dead, we can take their toilet paper.” It’s nice that Linnie is practical.

- Nice imagery w/r/t the sausage man.

- Oh god, this kid. I notice he doesn’t really care about his parents being amalgamated tentacles now, and that reads to me as being a realistic response. Like, it seems as though irl kids often live in the moment like that and don’t think about the full emotional implications of things. But the problem here is with expectations. The reader expects the kid to be devastated about his parents because that’s how a story child typically acts. So the story reads like this kid doesn’t fit in it. He’s just this strangely indifferent and odd looking prop that gives Linnie the idea to incorporate Bruce.

-Ending’s okay I guess. This isn’t your best work, but it’s not bad either.

Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Hey, thanks for the crit, beefsupreme!

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Armack
Jan 27, 2006


Things I like about TD:

- Prompts
- Crits
- Seeing awful writers become marginally less awful over time
- The occasional hangouts

Things I don't like about TD:

- Seems like maybe what's considered "good" in TD doesn't map neatly on to what's considered "good" in lit mags. Maybe we could have more submission rush prompts or prompts that involve reading published flash fic before writing an original story.

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