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Jan 20, 2012

Jay W. Friks posted:

Yellow Crits Part 4

Thanks for the crits!

(yes I lurk wanna fight about it)


Jan 20, 2012

calling it now, someone's entire entry will be a series of shitposts scattered about the forums

Jan 20, 2012

In, Back to the Old House

Jan 20, 2012

In, 6

Jan 20, 2012

Tending to a sick dog with newborns took up all my time this week. As penance for my failures, I'm gonna :toxx: doing crits for Planes week by 7/10.

Jan 20, 2012

Week 308: Codex Crits

(Disclaimer--in the interest of time, I didn't research any of the planes that were the prompts for these stories, so the crits are focused entirely on how I experienced your story by itself, so apologies if some of the crits are invalidated based on whatever wackiness you felt the prompt required of you or whatever.)

Yoruichi - Searching for the Bottom of the Sea

I admit I’m having trouble drawing conclusions about this one. I thought the technical aspects of the writing were fine, but I had no real connection to these characters, no clear sense of their relationship, and only broadly understood what Darren wanted (or didn’t want). The water imagery itself was fine, though it felt somewhat disconnected from the story being told. I also have no idea why Darren has the quirks he has. Why doesn’t he like talking? Why is it important that I know that about him? It’s an aspect that should tell me a lot about the character, but it was ambiguous enough that I didn’t glean much from the quirk.

Felime - Last Breath

Some really strong imagery at the top here, and I really enjoyed some of the lyrical language at the beginning, enough that I was reading it out loud just to savor it a bit. I feel like the strength of the language trailed off a bit as the story progressed, though it was never outright bad. There were a couple of grammatical and spelling mistakes that I’m sure you’re aware of at this point, I only mention them because they did pull me out of the text at inopportune times. Disclaimer here: I don’t enjoy descriptions of fights or combat in writing, I nearly always find it tedious. While this wasn’t outright tedious, it also didn’t captivate me at all, and I found myself skimming some of the moment-to-moment accounting of moves, charges, retreats, etc. I think the fight section in particular is one where the story would have benefitted from more of the lyrical and figurative language that was so strong at the top. We don’t need to get a sense of how the fight plays out in a literal sense, so long as you can convey the feeling and stakes, and with limited word count I think going abstract gets you more for less.

Apophenium - Sacrosanct

I liked the central conceit of this story, but I really wanted more specificity. It felt like you were going for a less formal, more brief style of writing, like it was being dictated to a log or written in a journal. In theory, I could see that approach offering a unique voice to the story, but in practice I think it keeps the reader at arm’s-length and deprives us of context. In general, I felt like there wasn’t enough here. The moments throughout where you used dashes to break up the text were the worst offenders, but there were a number of other moments where it felt as though you wanted us to infer something about the world, the character, the aliens, or all of the above through context, but I never felt like I had a strong enough sense of what was going on or what the stakes were to draw my own conclusions about the events or imagery.

IronicTwist - The Trap Card

While I wasn’t crazy about this one, I’m also not certain why it lost. As I said above, I didn’t really read up on the plains so I guess maybe there’s something I’m missing there. The language itself was fine, functional, and at times more vivid than any of the pieces to precede yours this week. As for the actual story being told, I didn’t really follow what was going on. I have no idea what Newt is or what their importance to the story is. I also don’t really know what the narrator is, but I think for the sake of this story that’s probably okay. I also get that we’re seeing things from the eyes of a character in MtG or something like it, but the actual repeating section felt contrived and didn’t give me a clear sense of what was happening or what realization the narrator actually came to. Overall I felt it was technically sound, but rambling and didn’t have a clear purpose, and I ended up feeling like I was missing a joke somewhere in there.

SurreptitiousMuffin - Canto III

Honestly I don’t have a lot of crit to offer on this one because it’s a bit beyond my ability as a writer to say what could have improved. Excellent language, and you managed something that gets missed a lot in TD: you tell us a lot about the narrator by focusing on how they feel and react to events and characters. I got a clear sense of this narrator without really explicitly being told much about them. Knowing how they felt about their father, how they first tried to adjust to his wrath, then later how they resented it, told me plenty to fit context around the story as a whole. My only quibble, I guess, is that I feel the “learned helplessness” section could have been tied into the story a little more elegantly. I get what the narrator is saying there, and how it relates to the rest of that paragraph, but it didn’t parse very smoothly the first time I read it. Also this is probably entirely preference, but I’d rather the last two sentences were tied into the paragraph before it. It’s a personal pet peeve for me, I tend to find it less impactful, not more, when writers separate out the “button” at the end of a story like this. YMMV though, obviously!

Antivehicular - Dust

This one has a lot of technobabble. I don’t mean that as a criticism unto itself--technobabble is pretty pervasive throughout sci-fi, and done right, it can convey a sense of complexity, of technology far advanced beyond what we encounter in everyday life without getting into the minutiae of the “science” part of the sci-fi. But I think for the technobabble to work, I needed to be much more invested, right from the start, in who this character was, what he was trying to achieve, what was at risk, etc. I feel like you buried the lede too far into the story. By that point you’d thrown a lot of jargon at me, and without some connection to the story right from the start, it’s easy to let your eyes unfocus and drift past all the terminology, since I wasn’t given the context to understand why it was important, why you were detailing all these things to me. I think the concept is a workable one, but I needed a much, much stronger sense of this character right off the bat, so that any of the sci-fi elements were viewed in the context of what they tell me about him or his situation. As is, they feel like filler that I wasn’t given a reason to care about.

Pham Nuwen - East & West etc etc

This was a fairly solid story overall. I’m from the area you’re talking about here, so I selfishly would have liked to hear more about the landscape and how it’s been affected by whatever catastrophe has happened (in my experience, most people don’t know how utterly featureless and barren most of ND is to begin with). As is, I think some of the setting fell prey to a common issue in flash fiction-- because you gave us a real location, you didn’t take the time to depict it for us. I got a couple of good details (fallen control towers, broken road, cinderblock buildings) but I would have liked more. I also wasn’t clear on the stakes here. Why was it important whether or not there were still nukes at the AFB, beyond them just being nukes? Also the relationship between Anil and Dave (and the other unnamed, functionally unimportant characters) could have been clarified and heightened. You tell us about the tensions between Washington and Pacifica, and establish that the Wind Runners are caught in the middle, but I don’t feel any of that tensions in the interactions. Even the end felt anticlimactic, and honestly was a letdown given I was sort of enjoying the rest of the story. I’m not sure what I’d do in its place, but it didn’t feel like it rose naturally out of everything leading up to it.

UraniumPhoenix - The Realm of Forgetting

I’m not gonna lie, I was low-level confused throughout all of this story. I could track what was happening, how one event led to the next, but I never felt like I could hook into who these people were or why I should care about what was happening to them. The best analogy I can think of is that it was like looking through a stranger’s photo album. I can recognize that there’s conflict and relationships here, but have no investment in them myself. It would have benefitted from a clearer picture of who Cassar was right from the start. I get some of the details (he’s a general of some sort, married politically, etc etc) but I don’t have a sense of who he is beyond a collection of fantasy tropes. Speaking of fantasy tropes, I’d always be hesitant to spend much time on strange placenames and offstage world-building in flash fiction. There’s just not enough time to make me care enough to remember what Estisso is or how it relates to the characters. I’d rather you’d have spent more time on one fundamental thing Cassar was forgetting (his love, maybe?) and tell me who he is through that.

Thranguy - Hide and Seek

I love this concept. I haven’t encountered anything like it, and I kinda want more. Overall this was a very solid story for me, I felt like I had a good sense of place and was engaged throughout the whole story. There were a couple of clunky phrasings and sentence constructions here and there, but it wasn’t enough to stop things dead in their tracks. I also would have liked a little better sense of who the narrator was. They came across a little distant and bland, which resulted in the ending not having quite the punch it could have, and even made the ending a little more predictable than I think it should have been. If I’d been more invested in the narrator, I think the ending might have felt inevitable, but in a way that was a little more horrifying in a way that would have been really interesting to read.

Lippincott - Skulls and Beetles

This one was interesting and cute. I liked the world you built here, and felt like I had a strong sense of it as the story progressed. I also felt like I got a feel for who Templeton was over the story, though he felt a little thin at the top so it was hard to really invest in the language initially. Honestly, I felt like the actual writing was a bit ponderous throughout, and occasionally a bit oddly constructed, in a way that slowed to a crawl what should have been a pretty breezy and engaging story. I do like the button at the end of the story, though. I think you’ve keyed into something here that sometimes gets overlooked in flash fiction: your conflict doesn’t need to be huge or intensely personal or monumental stakes, it just needs to be interesting enough to carry us through 1000+ words and feel satisfied at the end.

Kaishai - With Form, and Void

I honestly don’t have much to say about this one, in large part because I was so engaged I breezed through it without paying much attention to the minutiae. I thought it was great, the story was clear and well-presented, it had a satisfying arc, I related to Gerald in his strangeness but also in what made him human. I loved the last line, also very much liked “God is in the void too.” Well done.

cptn_dr - Just Like Clockwork

Some good descriptive language here. I had a vivid picture of what was going on, and it didn’t feel ponderous or overwrought, which is often an issue when people dive hard into fantasy in TD. I liked the concept in and of itself, but I think I would have appreciated more conflict. As is, the story just sort of retells a sequence of events, how she gets from casting the spell to the effect it has on the other wizard, but at no point did I feel like there was a chance she might not succeed or that she was being opposed somehow, which undercuts the stakes you set up in talking about the risks of her failure earlier in the story. My only other complaint is that there were a lot of dropped words, unnecessary words, and grammatical mistakes throughout this story, enough that it really hurt my engagement while reading it. This really needed a proofread in a way none of the other stories this week have had a problem with.

Fuschia tude - Living with Demons

I like the core concept of this story. I also like the ambiguity of what’s going on-- is Victor actually hearing voices, is this all something he imagined and is just a troubled kid? I’m glad you didn’t spell that out for me. I do have an issue with how the story sort of aimlessly drifts between third and first person. I can recognize it’s intended to give the story an ethereal, unmoored feeling, but all it really accomplishes is alienating and distancing me as a reader. The line breaks and huge time span don’t help with this either. Not to say that it’s impossible to do a huge span of time in flash fiction, but I feel like I’d need to see where Victor ended up to have context for why the earlier events were important. As is, the last section just feels like I missed out on a ton of exposition. Why is he now naming inanimate objects? What’s the importance of Tommy, and how is it different from anything else? What is this feather and why should I give a drat? Overall I felt like Victor was a little shapeless, as well. Not a bad idea for a story, but it felt a bit like there was too much crammed in and needed some tightening up.

Benny Profane - The Gift

This one was pretty well written. Good handle on the language, and I enjoyed the vivid, clear descriptive language used throughout. Mostly what I felt it was missing was stakes. Who are these people? Why is what’s happening in this machine world a problem? What’s the blue and why does it matter? Who is Malok? All of the answers are hinted at, danced around, but never really addressed or implied in a way that made me feel engaged in what was happening. Also I feel like I have a better sense of who Jala is as a character than I do of Malok just from their brief interactions and your description of her.

Chuf - Wretch

Overall pretty strong writing. Good handle on language, clear description and sequence of events, etc. I didn’t feel like I had any sense of who these characters were or why they were important, and somehow it felt like a lot less happened in the span of the story than should have. The story as a whole felt a bit like it’s the cold-open prologue to a fantasy story. In that context, I’d just go with it, knowing what’s going on and who these people are will either be explained or contextualized in a way that means I don’t need specifics. But as a standalone story, I felt like there wasn’t a whole lot here. It wasn’t a bad story, per se, but I feel like there could have been more of an arc, and more reason for me to be interested in these characters and their fight.

Sebmojo - Punishment Duty

I didn’t care for this one, sorry. The writing as a whole felt too jerky to me, and often committed to figurative language that didn’t really make sense or tried to reach too far to make a connection. I also didn’t have a clear sense of what was happening, or why I should be invested in it. I think there’s a kernel of something really interesting (to me), but it never really materialized. The ending, in particular, just didn’t do anything for me. This feels like it fell victim to the problem a lot of flash fiction has, where the ideas are all there but the connective tissue that makes it into a single, cohesive arc or plot or whatever you want to call it either got cut out or wasn’t there in the first place. There were a lot of word choices and phrasings throughout that felt weird and contrived to me as well. It also could have used another proofread.

Bad Seafood - Where the Desert Meets the Sea

Great story, well written. This felt like a complete thought, and was well constructed. I liked some of the imagery quite a bit (“the tears on the boy’s cheeks were indistinguishable from the sweat on his brow”). I don’t have a whole lot to offer in the way of critique on this one. If anything, I think Irving’s dialogue wasn’t quite as consistent or characterful as I would have liked, or at least I’d like even more vivid of a sense of how he spoke, but fundamentally there’s nothing wrong with the dialog as is. Well done.

Mercedes - Gone to Collections

Overall a pretty good story. It kind of fizzles at the end but I’ll chalk that up to this coming in after submissions were cut off. I liked a lot of the descriptive language, and felt some connection to these characters (that sounds lukewarm but it was a real issue for me this week). I also like the pacing of this piece, there was good alternation between dialog and description that made the story breathe in a way that helped it feel more real and engaging. I had a hard time determining if the narrator was the standard third-person faceless narrator, or if it was an actual character in the piece, since there were a couple of “editorialized” descriptions (the last line springs to mind…) that makes me feel like there was a character relating the events in the story and I somehow just missed it. This also could have used a proofread, there was at least one moment where you drifted from past tense to present tense and back again.

Jan 20, 2012

In, :toxx:, and flash me please.

Jan 20, 2012

1440 words
Flash rule: Ain't No Grave by Johnny Cash

James stalked down the street, one hand lazily shading his eyes from the burning sun, the other limply slapping the old revolver against his thigh. The gun smelled sweet, the tang of it drifting to his nose like burnt sugar. He almost wanted to give it a taste, just a little one. One quick taste would solve a lot of problems, wouldn’t it? But it wouldn’t solve his. Daddy told him how to solve this problem, though James hadn’t known the fix for what it was at the time.

He’d been walking his rounds for most of the day, asking his question to everyone that looked right, so it was no real surprise the street was clear. He knew, too, that the sheriff and his crew were off dealing with a mess of a roadblock, an old worn tree spanning old Highway 7 into town. James knew, as he was the one that chopped it down the day before. He’d needed them out of the way to find the answer to his question. With them gone, he was free to find the perfect fit, the right person to solve his biggest problem.

Even so, he thought, it’s no easy job I’m meant to do. He aimed to have it done and buried with the sun, so the night was left for mourning. The next day was August, after all, and a new month is a good time for healing. A sour job like his may need doing, but there was no gain in making it more bitter than it had to be.

The sun was overtaking him, beating him to a sweaty pulp. The stark judging eye above sapped him of his conviction, but the heavy weight of the gun in his hand pulled the scales into balance. Still, no point in scorching yourself on your last day, he thought, and wandered into the Iron Horse Saloon.

His eyes took a moment to reconcile the sudden dark, while his ears took in the rough quiet of the room. It was empty, save a threadbare country song mumbling out of the aged jukebox. He wandered behind the bar, going to the fridge and snatching out a sweaty bottle he’d put there after work the night before, knowing the day would bring thirsty business. He popped the cap off on the bar, his hand finding a stretch of scuff with practiced ease.

It had been his intent to return to his circuit, ticking off the names until he found the right one, but the oak and leather begged him to stay, entreated him as old friends to make this his last stand. He relented, dropping into the booth in the corner furthest from the. The cool wood was refreshing, and he leaned his head back into its sturdy embrace. He patted the leather seat like he was welcoming a long lost dog. He’d always envied customers when they took this booth. Twenty years standing behind the bar left him convinced none of the drunken fools would appreciate the simple comfort of a cool seat in a dark room.

The gun found its way to the table, its black eye trained on the door. His finger was never far from tickling it into a yelling match. The beer was nearly three-fourths gone when the door finally swung open. The thing it vomited forth was gruesome, hateful to his eyes, because in his heart he knew this was the name he’d been waiting for. This was where his job needed doing.

Davy braced a hand on the door frame and nodded with the severity of the grave when he saw James at the table, as if a long riddle had just been answered for him. He sat across from James, eyes trained on the gun with an expression both weary and wary. Had James been holding a bouquet of flowers, Davy would not have looked more uncertain.

“What you doing with Daddy’s gun, James?” Davy asked. He reached across the table, snatching up James’s bottle and slugging back the dregs with habitual ease.

James turned the gun over in his hand, pondering it like he only just noticed its weight in his palm. “Well, he always said a man should know how to shoot. I thought it was time I learned.” James returned the revolver to the table. He didn’t point it at Davy, though. They both knew it wouldn’t matter where he pointed it, if he had a mind to use it.

“That so?” James asked. “Well, he did say that often enough, I’ll lend you. Have you found shooting to your liking?”

“Nah,” James said, a little laugh clawing its way up his belly. “Haven’t found occasion to try yet, if I’m being honest. See, I knew this would be my only chance. Knew it was my job to make it count.”

“Make what count?” Davy asked. “Make your shot count? Seems like a silly reason to scare the poo poo out of half the town, if you’re just looking to blow off some steam and shoot up a bottle or two.” He cast his arm vaguely across the bar. It was a reasonable assumption to make, that James would want to put paid to a mess of glass that had taken up a fair share of his last years.

“To make my life count, I mean. I never did nothing. Never made anything of myself. I want to be remembered. Doctor says I got maybe a week left before my lungs are done. I already can’t breathe worth a poo poo. This just seemed the quickest way to something not unlike immortality.” He waggled the gun in the air.

Davy shook his head, leaning back into the booth with an audible creak, the old wood protesting this bullheadedness with him. “You shoot someone, doesn’t matter who they are, all you gonna get is a few days play in the local rag. Hell, maybe some paper in the city picks it up and spreads it around for a few days. But it’s not gonna reach beyond those fifty miles, I’ll wager. And once the locals have cut their teeth well and good on whatever bit of gruesomeness you choose to leave in your wake, they gonna spit you out. They gonna leave you in print and that’s where you’ll stay. You sure that’s enough, that it’s worth burning your reputation and hurting your family for a day or two of brittle fame?”

As Davy spoke, a dim ember sparked itself in the dark of James’s pupils. The ember grew bright, eating up the heat, as if it was burning down the last of James that had been left untouched by sickness. When Davy finished, James rose his head, slowly, deliberately casting that terrible light on his brother’s face.

“Remember the stories Daddy told us? Them ghost stories he loved so much?” James asked, staring at the gun as if it was a lodestone, drawing the memories from his youth. “His favorite ghosts were the restless ones. Called them ‘revenants’, those unquiet souls,” James said as he cocked the pistol, tightening his fingers like taut rope round the old wooden grip. “You know how you get a revenant? You remember what daddy said?”

Davy felt his brother’s eyes on his face, while his own stayed locked on the gun. “They gotta do something terrible, or have something terrible done to them or theirs. That happens, they walk the earth forever.”

“Forever,” James said, nodding. “I’ve never believed in heaven, but I think I can believe in forever easily enough. Living my tiny life, working this bar for all those years, felt like half forever.” The gun rose slowly from the table, as if James’s arm was possessed of a mind all its own, and a desire to finish the work set before it.

Davy’s throat was thick and his hands unsteady as he rose from his seat, ready for something, though he couldn’t read in his brother’s face just what that something might be. Two ways this could go, he thought, and neither was certain. “You don’t want to do this, Jamie. Forever’s an awful long time to be broken. What would you do, after everybody you know is gone to dust? What’s the worth of walking the earth forever if there’s no one left who knew you?”

The fire went out in James’s eyes. His face hardened, and his voice was cold as a winter grave. “Can’t say I intend to spend it alone.” The trigger clicked, the hammer fell, the gun roared.

The trigger clicked, the hammer fell, the gun roared once more.

Jan 20, 2012

In, :toxx:, and hit me with a SittingHere flash, I don't need any kiwi anus in my story tyvm


Jan 20, 2012

Sitting Here posted:

Yes it will as you reach out for where it's at, only to find when your where it's at, it isn't where it's at, at all


Jan 20, 2012

Keep in mind sebmojo lives in the buttcrack of the planet so it'll be a few hours before he crawls out of his burrow, wipes the dirt from his vestigial eyes, smells the text of your post, and barfs out whatever half-digested poo poo he calls a flash rule.

Jan 20, 2012

Getting some crits in before the banhammer falls!

Crits for Week 304


This was an interesting take on the “self-fulfilling prophecy” but ultimately fell pretty flat for me. Who is this Coi, besides being a seer? That’s about all I got about her. Also the relationship between the king and the prince was muddled and I think it could have been established both more clearly and more concisely with some restructuring. Those two things really kept me from following the through-line of the story with ease. Also, I feel like I needed more setup to know how to feel when Nergal was brought up. I mean, god of disaster doesn’t sound good, but I needed more context of how Nergal is viewed/feared/shunned in this world. Some basic grammar mistakes like run-on sentences, incomplete sentences, etc. as well.


Overall very good. The prose flowed nicely, the imagery was evocative, and I liked the completeness of the narrator’s journey. It feels silly to say this in regards to flash fiction, but honestly it felt a little too short to me. I feel you could really give us a sense of the importance of this ritual, who the people watching are, and what’s at stake for the narrator in another 400 words or whatever. I’d like to have seen more of a tension built up between the expectations the narrator thought were placed on them and their need for comfort/release. As is the story stands on its own merits pretty well.


I’m a little split on this one. In theory, I like the concept of the comet through the ages, the names evolving, etc. In practice it didn’t result in a story that really engaged me. It’s hard for me to suggest what would have improved on it as a reader. The length of the third section (which is most definitely the meat of the story and where the real conflict comes into play) makes the first two sections feel a bit arbitrary. They feel more like a preamble than part of the story proper. I think it may have worked better with the middle section cut out and more of a story presented in the first section. This does make it harder to identify that the names all stayed the same, but honestly in execution the name thing felt more like a gimmick than a significant contribution to what you were doing with the story. Sidenote: the phrase “of course” is a pet peeve of mine because it feels overly casual in a third-person narration, and it felt weird to me both times it appeared in this story. Saying that the copper hill “of course” had no copper left in it has a way of implying the reader should already know this information, which works if you’ve already established that sort of voice in the story, but in both instances here I think “of course” could have been cut entirely.

Ocean Music

Some really good imagery in here, and I liked the story being told. It was a little sudden, to me, that the god just got straight-up stuck in a lyre when I wasn’t given reason to even suspect such a thing, but I was engaged enough by that point that I just shrugged, thought “mythology is weird,” and rolled with it. Occasionally some sentence constructions felt like they tripped me up as much as they helped establish the imagery so I think there were various places where the descriptors could have been scaled back or cut entirely, but it wasn’t like a thesaurus assault or anything. One thing I personally hate, but is kind of common in TD, is when italics are used for emphasis, especially in stories where it only happens twice. I get it’s a way to immediately draw focus to a word, but here having “pulled” in italics kinda hit me over the head with the parallel I assume you were trying to draw, and it was a little strange when “pulled” was used in the same sentence with the second italicized instance. I’d encourage anybody to explore whether there’s a different word choice that’s more emphatic on its own without having to resort to formatting to get your point across, though I admit I can’t think of a better word off the top of my head.

Sacred Vessels

I don’t have much to contribute here in terms of critique. I think it’s a solid story, good imagery, interesting through and through. I especially enjoyed the storytelling format, I think it did a lot to convey the ancient-ness of both the setting and the story within the frame. I would read more like this, for sure. Well done.

Fox, Quick and Clever

Pretty good overall. I liked the mini world that the story lays out, and felt like I had a good sense of the main character. I also loved the imagery created around Fox. It made her feel simultaneously mundane and godlike in a way that felt very reminiscent of myth and/or folklore. I would have liked a little more of an idea what the main character walked away with at the end, beyond it being a stone (and knowledge). Not strictly a criticism, I’m just curious! Also I shuddered at “many eyes opened”. Blech. I said this in an earlier crit but I don’t like when TD entries use italics for emphasis on single words. I always feel like stories are better served with a different word choice or sentence construction that places the emphasis naturally, rather than relying on (sometimes borked) formatting. I felt the same here with an early sentence where words were italicized to create the parallel of it both being not important and really important to bring back something special.

Snow on the Shore

Hmm. This one is technically strong, the writing itself is fine, there's just... nothing happening? I have no sense of who these people are, what their story is, why the device is important. No real standout language for me either, but it was a quick read that flowed well, which isn't always the case with TD entries. I mostly wanted a lot more. I needed more sense of stakes, of why these people were journeying and what they wanted (besides "not to die in a storm"). I didn't hate this one, but I didn't feel much of anything else for it if I'm being honest.

The Legend of Fire

It seems like it's kind of a trend this week to have stories without a whole lot of plot. Not a grave sin in and of itself, but this story, like a lot of others, just didn't do much to grab me. I would have liked to know who the heck is talking, who these ambiguous "people" are, something more specific about the life god that sets them apart from any other faceless god, etc. As is it feels basically like a retelling of Prometheus with the serial numbers and all the interesting bits filed off. Nothing wrong with referencing mythology, especially in a week that lends itself to mythology, but I really wanted to see more done with the concept. Best part for me was that you used prairie dogs. When I was in grade school, there was a big to-do about prairie dogs because a big population of them were discovered to be carrying the bubonic plague.

A Hole in the Sky

Boy, this one feels like a missed opportunity. I liked a lot of what you have going on here: the hole in the sky, the dead city, the ghost not moving to the next life because the gods aren't paying attention... but the latter, especially, came so quickly at the end that it felt like a postscript. I think too much time was spent on unnecessary details when the focus should have been on the more compelling aspects you did come up with. Having not read the judges' crits, I'm not certain why this one DM'ed-- there were other stories this week that were definitely less technically sound and with weaker (or no) plot. Overall I didn't hate this one, but I wanted more of what you didn't give me and less about how people are born old and balls dropping. Doubly so given how far below the word count limit it is.

Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished

Like so many others this week, this story didn't have the most robust plot, but I'm... sort of okay with that? Strong characterization, a lot of interesting world aspects presented pretty economically, engaging language and pacing, etc. The ending was funny, though it felt a little unresolved to me. I think it may have felt unresolved in part because I didn't feel like there was a strong conflict or tension point set up early on. It sort of felt like the conflict was "shaman is a loner who can't read, then stops being a loner." Not fundamentally bad, but it definitely wasn't what drove the story for me. I was drawn along mostly on the strength of the little setting details you presented.


I liked this one a lot, but I'm a sucker for expeditions and tombs and unspeakable horrors and bullheaded archaeologists digging too deep. This was one of the stronger ones for me. Only complaints are that things like Krl and the devil leaned on pretty established tropes, I would have liked more ominous detail laid out in a way that drew me along. As is, a lot of that was implied, which is fine, just as a matter of taste I'd have liked some of that lore presented to me. Also it's a personal pet peeve of mine when fantasy-ish stories throw around Capitalized Terms that clearly are A Thing in the world of the story, but I'm not given any background to follow up on it. I'm thinking specifically of the Unfurling you mention. I would have liked to know more, or for the orphaned Capital Word to go away entirely. As is it made me feel like I missed some detail that would have given me more context for what happened with Krl and its worshippers (I don't think I did miss anything, at least?). Overall, though, one of the stronger stories for me this week.

Power of Greyskull Raglatan

Sorry, couldn't pass up a dumb joke! Overall this story was fine for me, I liked the concept of the guardians, and the ending was fine. Fundamentally all the moving parts of the story were there, but for some reason I found this to be a bit of a meandering story. It felt unclear or muddy at times, possibly because of the order in which information was presented. Also, I feel like I didn't have a clear picture of anything but the mountain. Who are these people? Who are the raiders? What are the particulars of the setting? How advanced are these people? I couldn't be certain if they were extremely primitive or bronze-age advanced or what have you. Not functionally important to the story, but I think little details would have added a lot. I think the story could be restructured so the plot strings everything along a little more naturally, too.

Jan 20, 2012

Invisible Clergy posted:

The prompt is no longer a mystery, writers. I updated that post with the information.

Since I'm loving retarded, I misread the directions and wrote critiques for the other guys in this round. Should I post them now while we wait on the actual judges this round, wait until the people who judged are finished and then voice my stupid opinions, or keep them to myself entirely? I've got about 2500 words here, and thought it might be helpful for the other writers.

The judges handed down their ruling already so :justpost:

Jan 20, 2012

Solitair posted:

Sham Bam Bamina was TOO SCURRED so I'ma fight mockingquantum instead.

I will draw and quarter you with a blunt letter opener, then fill your body with wordbees, then freeze your skull in carbonite and use it to top my writerly skullthrone


Jan 20, 2012

Solitair posted:

you are the jonathan franzen of thunderdome

which is to say you are not a particularly good writer at all

I can't disagree with that statement but I WILL END YOU FOR SAYING IT

Jan 20, 2012

ThirdEmperor posted:

Alright. I want a clean brawl, no fanfiction, no erotica, nothing but bursting machismo, imposingly muscular prose and unrestrained chutzpah. You have no word limits, and one week exactly from the time of this post. To the winner, infinite glory. To the loser, mild humiliation.

And as for your prompt?

:siren: Magical Girls. :siren: Anime is blood, blood feeds the 'Dome!

Alright one week til I bodyslam Solitair off the top rope with my Moon Crystal Power

And here's the goddamn :toxx:, nothing like toxxing before my last toxx ban kicks in, bathe me in the blood of thunderdome losers

Jan 20, 2012

ThirdEmperor posted:

Editing your posts? In my brawl? You walk a dangerous line Quantum. You're a loose cannon!


also I me read bad

MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 18:31 on Jul 24, 2018

Jan 20, 2012

Some Week 305 crits for your feeble brainmeats:

Offerings for the Dead

Right off the bat you have some pretty obtuse sentence structures. The prose is a bit bumpy to read throughout, and there’s a few unnecessary words that trip things up too. In “The only time of day that Trey and Nana ever were in the same room together” the word “ever” is redundant, you’ve already established the fact that it’s the “only” time. Same thing later with “Eventually on one night, [...] Nana finally asked him…” Don’t need “on” as it’s implied and is a weird phrasing to boot, don’t need “finally” because the fact that you include this sentence makes it clear to the reader she hasn’t asked before, which is reinforced by the opening “eventually.” I’d even argue “eventually” is unnecessary since you go on to make it clear Nana’s been mulling over the question for days. In general the grammar and word choice in this is rough, redundant, and inelegant. It’s written like you don’t trust the reader to put together things that are pretty clearly implied. On the other hand, I don’t think you did nearly enough to set up the fact that they can see (or think they can see) spirits, nor was that tied into the point of the story very well. The story hewed close to the prompt but there was too little here for me to feel engaged or interested in these characters.

Messiah and the Devout

Overall pretty good story. I liked the conceit, and I think it was a good choice to focus on the difference between people who ostensibly share the same core belief system, as it highlights the nuances between the characters rather than broad stroke misunderstandings. I felt like the Mother-god people were maybe a little overly cultish, but I’ll chalk that up as an issue that would probably go away had it been a longer work. Here, though, their whole impregnation thing felt a bit heavy-handed. Also I was a bit meh on the ending. It seems strange to me that this random guy would wander off with her after almost no interaction. I needed more of him and who he was, why he was in conflict and how his conflict helped to drive the viewpoint character forward or change her somehow.

Eviction Notice

I can’t really fault this story on a technical level--it was functionally pretty solid and readable, if a little heavy on narrative summary over actually playing out scenes. But honestly it was kind of a miserable story to get through. It was depressing, which isn’t a criticism in and of itself, but it was depressing in large part through inaction. This was a story built around a complete avoidance of conflict, with no real point of focus to anchor the reader. There’s nothing particularly interesting about a character being in a lovely situation and just… refusing to try and get out of a lovely situation. I feel the story shouldn’t have ended with him leaving, it should have started with it. Whatever happens in this character’s life following him leaving the apartment will be 100x more interesting than stubborn inaction, regardless of what it is.


There are some bright moments in this one but I think it has a few issues that really muddy it. First off, this may be monumentally stupid advice, but I think the story would have been better served if it was just the center section, even if it means losing the initial introduction of Derek. Framing that section as a flashback within a larger story immediately creates a kind of intellectual distance, when really it should be engaging me emotionally throughout. Also I don’t feel the beginning and end added anything that couldn’t have been accomplished just as effectively in the main body of the story. Other than that, it was alright. Some of the dialog felt pretty stilted or contrived to me, though I don’t spend much time around teenagers anymore so what do I know. I would have liked the scenes to be a little more active, as is they tended to be recounted rather than letting me watch them play out in time, which is another shortcoming of the flashback approach, I think.

A Mistake

Hard to say much about this one, since it feels like it probably isn’t finished. Nothing really happened in a way that was interesting or engaging. Also the St. Cloud newspaper is the Times, so I can only assume this fictional Gazette is about 400% more interested in covering any news of real note.


This was another story where not much happens in a week mostly consisting of not much happening, but I was still on board with the story because the language and imagery was immediately engaging. I felt like this character was a little undefined, but not too bad. A good friend of mine grew up on AFBs and this story reminded me a lot of his childhood stories so I think you captured that unmoored feeling that a lot of military brats grow up with, well done. I’m glad I knew what the acronyms meant going into the story; PX is probably easy enough to figure out from context but I feel like the story might lose a little bit of context if you don’t know PCS ahead of time, maybe just calling it Permanent Change of Station would have worked fine? Or I’m bad at titles, that’s much more likely.

Jan 20, 2012

SoliQuantum/MockingTair Brawl Entry

2269 Words, Most of them Bad

Super Magic Galaxy Scouts GOOOOOOO!

The giant, fleshy top hat broke through the atmosphere with a shuddering pop, streaking with heat towards the expanse of concrete below. Police barricades held crowds of people in check, in a way fear no longer did. Sarah pointed at the monstrosity, calling out, “Here it comes! drat it, the scans were wrong. It’s a Tricky Topper. I’m charging my Starshine Aura now!” A glittering curtain of haze began to accumulate around her and took on a tint to match the seafoam green of her combat suit.

Three other women stepped back into the glowing aura with practiced coordination. Lane brandished her tangerine-colored bo staff. Daria splayed a suit’s worth of red-limned playing cards and brushed raven-black hair from her eyes. Maria, dressed in a pale silver, began barking out orders with bored precision. “Looks like it’s coming in hot, so be ready to take it out while it’s stunned. Scrap the formation drills we worked on, they won’t work on a Topper this big. Surround it and keep it guessing at which of us will hit it next. And if you get an opening for a Galaxy Power, take it, don’t wait for my mark. Chances are good we have more hats on the way.”

“Or if we’re really lucky,” Lane mumbled, “the Haberdasher’s on his way.”

“I wish,” Daria said with a wry smile. “I sure as hell could use the overtime.”

The four drew close, shoulder to shoulder, their sleek combat suits radiating magical blasts of color as they readied themselves for what was bound to be a brutal fight.

As the monstrous hat drew closer to the clearing, it sprouted four spindly, birdlike hand-claws in quick succession, each large enough to engulf a person. The hat landed on the four outspread hands in a way that was almost graceful. It shook for a moment before settling onto the ground with a series of pops and creaks. Four huge, catlike eyes split the matte black of the body of the hat, fixing their gazes on the women, now deep within an aura of crackling energy.

“MUST... DESTROY... GALAXY SCOUTS,” the hat announced, not speaking the words so much as transmitting them through the concrete below. The crowd behind the police cordon, made up of both long-time fans and newcomer tourists, reacted to this erratically. The old hands clapped and whooped, the unfamiliar gasped and flinched. One nervous-looking man even screamed.

Sarah looked to the screamer, sighed, and looked to Maria. “Well, let’s get this over with before someone wets themselves,” she said, and swept her hand through the aura surrounding her in a delicate motion reminiscent of an elegant dance. Bursts of light flew from the aura, coalescing into needle-sharp spears as they neared the Tricky Topper. The other three Galaxy Scouts dashed into position to unleash their own onslaughts.

The crowd cheered and clapped, though two fans bedecked in Galaxy Shout memorabilia noted they looked a little sluggish this week.


Two hours later, Maria tied her hair up in a ponytail, noting in the locker room mirror that her roots were going grey. She closed her eyes and sighed deeply, gripping the faux-marble countertop in a futile attempt to stop her hands from shaking. Coming down from the magic rush was harder every year. She wondered again whether she could just stay in Scout Aspect indefinitely. None of them had ever tried. Corps Command wasn’t sure what the possible repercussions could be, and the strange, massive manta ray-like beings that bestowed the powers on Maria and her friends didn’t exactly respond to questions very clearly.

A locker banged closed behind her, and Sarah came around the corner to join Maria at the mirror. Sarah shot her a glance that had become almost ritual at this point. “I know,” Maria said.

“It’s getting harder every time. They’re only getting stronger, and we can’t stop aging, magic or no magic,” Sarah said, each word practiced and meted out carefully, as if she was afraid of scaring Maria away with a poorly placed emphasis.

“We have a duty. We swore to protect the earth,” Maria said, meeting Sarah’s eyes in the dingy mirror.

“Yeah, we swore alright, when we were seventeen years old. Until then my biggest concern was what safety schools I should apply to, what the hell was I supposed to say when a manta ray carried me into space and asked if I wanted to save the world?”

“You could have said no. They made that clear, none of us were backed into a corner.”

“I didn’t want to say no, not then. I didn’t know I was committing to a lifetime of fighting poo poo falling from the sky, Maria. Twenty years! Twenty goddamn years of this, with no relief!” Any amount of Sarah’s measured calm had evaporated. Maria dropped her eyes to her shaking hands. It didn’t feel like twenty years. It felt like a thousand, or none. It all depended on who they were at that moment.

Maria knew what Sarah was building up to, having seen this particular ultimatum creeping up in her rearview mirror for months now. If she didn’t cut her off now, Sarah’s head of steam would carry her right into a decision, no matter what any of the rest of the Scouts had to say about it. “So what, we should walk away from it?” Maria turned to face Sarah head on, standing too close, as if her height advantage still intimidated a woman who’d fought aliens for over half her life. “Think how it’ll hit all the other squads if we walk away. The original four call it quits when they get too tired? What a brilliant message to send to people laying down their lives in a fight--” She caught herself too late.

“A fight that won’t ever end? That’s my point. We all behave like nobody else on the planet has pieced together the fact that this fight will just keep going. We’ve fought the same space villain things so many times there are people at Corps whose sole job is coming up with statistical models on which ones we’re best equipped to fight in what weather conditions. If we walk away now, we set a precedence. Fight for the people you love, do it well, put in your time, and if you’re lucky, you get to go home to a normal life at the end of the day.”

“There is no normal life anymore!” Maria said. Sarah’s reaction made her realize that she was practically screaming. A small gasp filled the silence, and Maria spun around to see Lane and Daria, along with a squad of fresh-faced teens, no doubt returning from training drills judging by their flushed, and now terrified, faces.

“No, there isn’t,” Sarah agreed, after a silence tense with expectation. “But my kids need me alive. There are others that can save the world. My time is done.” With one last, piercing look at Maria, she turned and walked out the door.


The last month had not gone well. Maria had managed to hold the rest of the team together, but something was wrong. Sarah’s departure broke their tactics in half, given how much they relied on the protection of her powers. Lane had taken it on herself to scour the ranks of new Scouts, looking for someone who could, if not replace Sarah, at least fill the gap her powers had left in their roster. Nobody materialized though. They’d long known that the artificially developed powers of newer Scouts never worked quite the same as the original four.

Attacks happened almost every three days after Sarah’s departure, as if someone knew the original Scouts were weak. Maria held them together, until one day when Daria simply didn’t show. Lane had been hurt badly in that fight, and was in no shape to continue.

So Maria sat alone on a bare, wooden bench in the locker room, in a fugue of memory. She could see all the celebrations over the years, the near defeats, the secrets shared, the celebrations when Lane got married or Sarah’s first baby was born. Maria’s life had never been normal, not in any meaningful way, but Sarah was wrong. This was a life, and a good one. What she was doing was meaningful, it made a difference, it had to. Twenty years of fighting had to be worth something.

The alarm blared, jarring her from her reverie and launching her to her feet. A young scout burst into the locker room. His eyes rapidly scanned the room, and his face seemed to drop when he realized Maria was the only one present. “It’s the Hatter himself, ma’am,” he said, his voice shaking. Maria couldn’t tell if he was excited or terrified. Likely both. “Should I get the active unit to take care of it?”

Maria was sickened by the compassion in his voice, like he was talking to some broken invalid. “No. I’ve fought him plenty of times. I know his weaknesses. Tell the active unit to stand down.”


The fight was brutal. A half hour had passed with the two of them chipping slowly away at each other, and with each Moonbeam Strike that hit home, Maria hoped it would be the last one needed. But she saw the reality she’d been ignoring. Behind the magic, behind the team and the friendship that had sustained them and channeled whatever otherworldly force gave them their abilities, she was human. One human, against this freak of nature that was as inhuman as they came.

The Hatter began to lift the brim of his stovepipe hat, revealing the dark abyss. The black hole began to pull in everything around it, including Maria. She gripped the concrete as best she could, charging up a Moonbeam Strike with what little conviction she had left. It struck her as her fingers began to ache against the strain: this could be it. This was the real possibility of death in a way none of them had ever thought was possible. Or had they all looked their own mortality in the face, just not her? She was the only one dumb enough to think she was immortal, to buy into the seduction of the magic. Well, she thought, I guess I’ll be an object lesson for all those cadets watching.

The cadets. She wasn’t alone, not as long as there was a crowd of greenhorns and avid fans watching her being slowly pulled to her death. Maria discharged the gathering magic so it fluttered away into the air, lacking the cumulative force that would have turned it into a viable attack. She scanned the crowd for the green star insignia borne by cadets, found two twentysomething girls at the front of the cordon. Maria gave them a nod, and they came leaping over the barrier, pulling Magic to their suits with such rapidity it made her wonder if they were just waiting for her signal.

The moment they moved, all hell broke loose. Cadets appeared from everywhere, led by four full Scouts--the active duty unit, no doubt--charging the Mad Hatter, loaded with so much accumulating magic it made the air crackle around Maria. There was a loud pop as one of the police officers at the cordon drew her service pistol and began firing at the Mad Hatter, briefly disorienting the figure. Briefly, but long enough to let Maria scramble on all fours to the barrier, where a crowd of civilians jumped forward to pull her to her feet. She was shocked, puzzled at how ready this unexpected backup had been. The fight proceeded without her, as if her last-minute plea for help had been all part of the plan.

A hand dropped on to her shoulder. “Do you see? They don’t need us to fight for them. They just needed us to show them fighting was worth it, that if we kept fighting, we would keep living.” Sarah turned Maria around to face her. “This isn’t our fight anymore.”

Maria shook her head to clear her confusion. “So you’re saying I--we--should give up and walk away?”

“I never said we need to give up. What do you think I’ve been doing for the last month, hiding under a rock? We’ve been coordinating this attack. I told the cadets the time would come when they needed to step in and help you.”

“So you prepped them for my failure?”

“Knowing when you’re beat isn’t a failure. Walking away from these fights alive after twenty years should be seen as a success. We gave them hope as the front line of Earth’s defense once. Now we can show them that protection will continue, even with us gone.”

Maria gripped Sarah’s forearm, uncertain whether to draw the woman into an embrace or throw a hard left hook at her serene face. Eventually she did neither, only shaking her head. “You knew they’d beat me.”

“I knew they’d beat all four of us, eventually. I just couldn’t let them kill my friend in the process.”

“Well I guess I’d better get used to early retirement.”

Sarah drew her into a hug. Maria resisted for a few moments, before being overcome with exhaustion and deflating into the other woman’s arms. Sarah whispered in her ear, “I hate to break it to you, but you start teaching at the Academy on Monday. I’ll pick you up at 7.”

As Sarah walked off, a smirk on her face, Maria smiled, and almost started to follow her. Instead, she charged up one last Moonbeam and leaped back into the fray.

Jan 20, 2012

I'm in, requesting werebeast for myself, and an epically dumb werething for chili as punishment for his indecision.

Jan 20, 2012

Chili posted:

I want to write an in-depth crit for a recent Thunderdome story. First to request gets it.

I know I owe a few other closer looks at stories that I kinda weakly critted earlier. I'll get to those soon too.

I'd take a crit on my story from week 310 (Revolver) if you'd be so kind!

Jan 20, 2012

Thunderdome Week 313
Were-critter: Turtle

1189 words

It started when I showered the first night I was home. The trip had been glorious, a tropical escape from the mundanity of my office with its huge picture window looking out on a corn field. I’d loved every moment of it, even the scuba diving trip that left me with a nice little scar on my hand. The scuba guide thinks I cut it open on some coral.

But now that I’m home, something weird has happened. I’m writing it down, as per therapist’s instructions. I haven’t felt right since I’ve returned. I can’t put a finger on why, just a general sense of being off, an unmoored feeling that’s made it impossible to focus at work or home. I went to the doctor two days ago, but between his apathy and my vague complaints, he couldn’t find anything physically wrong with me. Thus he referred me to a therapist, thus this journal (which feels more like homework).

It was the shower that made me feel the most strange. I felt a cooling calm move through my body, a rush that drained away my stress and made me feel like I was flying. I was free, in a way I hadn’t felt in years, unbridled by the everyday worries of a mediocre life I’d fumbled into.

As soon as the water was gone, so was that freedom. I’m not sure how to get it back now. Maybe it was just the fresh feeling of getting home after a long flight and washing off the grime of travel, but even that couldn’t explain the depth of this feeling. I showered again the following days, but didn’t get that feeling back. I have an idea, though.


The plan worked until I got complaints from the downstairs neighbors. Turns out the kiddie pool sprung a leak sometime in the middle of the night. I’m lost as to what could have caused the leak, though. I used the pool for a few days without issue. It helped. Until it didn’t.

The first day was great, I laid in the water and the free feeling came rushing back. I just floated (or half-floated, I guess) and let my mind escape. I closed my eyes and explored the boundary between my skin and the water, imagined it wasn’t there. Or that it felt different. It felt like my skin should be different. I can’t explain.

There’s a hole now, though. In the kiddie pool. There wasn’t, when I went to sleep, but I checked when I got the call this morning and the neighbors are right, there’s a crack in the side and the floor was soaked. It’s dripped down into their apartment. I wonder if they’d let me into their apartment. They’re on the ground floor, there’s nowhere for the water to go except the boiler room in the basement. Maybe they’d trade, if I just let all the water go in their apartment. Then they can have my apartment, since all the water will be gone.


I fixed the problem. The hardware store had big plastic sheets, for painting or something. But they hold in water pretty well. I sealed them up with some tape the man at the store gave me. I think he gave it to me, at least. I should go apologize if I was supposed to pay for it. Or maybe I’ll call, it’s too dry out to go back to the store. I have no reason to go back to the store now.

The plastic goes everywhere. I turned on the shower about twenty minutes ago, I think.

Actually I just looked at the clock and I think I turned it on either five minutes ago or twelve hours ago. Probably twelve hours, this is not five-minute water. I wasn’t sure if I should tape over the bed or under it, so I got rid of the bed. I sleep better in water now anyway.


The water is wrong. It’s in the right places but it’s still wrong. The skin is wrong too. I tried to call the man who gave me the tape but when I picked up the phone the downstairsers were there, they said the drip was wrong and it was in their house. I asked if they would like to trade but they got angry. Maybe if the drip is scary it will make them leave and I can have their house too. That way I can plastic up their windows and doors and the water will be deep.

I think I know what makes the water wrong. It needs a taste. I tasted the right taste when I was in the kitchen but it was too little. I hung up on the downstairsers before, and I think I can find the taste if I call the right man.


The water is getting right. I had to walk up and down the stairs with big bags that the right man left. Walking feels wrong too, had to try two times to get it right. First time I laid down on the stairs, which felt right, but didn’t make me go to the apartment. The bags are making the water right. Soon I will be right too, and feel right.


The Roseau Herald


The floor collapse at the Hillcrest Apartments at 203 W ---st St, on Monday, June 1st, was due to a burst water main in a second floor apartment, according to the fire marshal. Water accumulated for multiple days following the broken pipe, causing the floor of a second floor apartment to give out under the weight. The floor of the apartment beneath gave out shortly after. The two residents of the first floor apartment are currently hospitalized due to injuries sustained in the accident. Both are expected to be released before the end of the week.

The fire marshal reported that they had received no sign of the resident of the second floor apartment where the water originated. According to the building manager, the resident in question had not responded to multiple calls about unusual noises and small leaks over the course of the two weeks prior to the collapse. The manager declined to comment on why they had not entered the apartment to check on the resident.

An anonymous source at the scene commented that the apartment where the water originated was “wallpapered in drop cloths, and must have been full to the brim with water.” The source went on to confirm that an unusual rumor concerning a sea turtle was accurate. “I saw the thing floating around in the boiler room right after the collapse. It was swimming around like nothing had happened. The thing was right at home down there. Not sure where the guy got a sea turtle but he was dead set on making it happy.”

Independent tests of the water at the scene have confirmed it was heavily salinated, but lacked any markers of actual ocean water. The fire marshal declined to comment on the potential source of the saltwater, and on any future developments in this incident.

Jan 20, 2012


Jan 20, 2012

Hey Terrible Lizard, you need co-judges? Cuz I'd be willing to forego the bingo jackpot to help you turn the TD tombola if you like.

Jan 20, 2012

For you feeble failures that are still playing with yourselves instead of writing some goddamn words, submit before this time tomorrow and I might be loving bothered to swallow down my disgust for your inadequacy long enough to poo poo out a critique for you, despite you not being among the competent folk who can string some words together and hit submit or, y'know, read a clock.

Don't take this as some benevolence on my part, though. I just want the practice critting, so I can increase my writerly power level and crush all of you under the hobnailed bootheels of my mediocre prose.

Jan 20, 2012

Bingo Week 314 Judgecrits

General thoughts: This wasn't a terrible week, as evidenced by the lack of DMs, but neither do I think it was a standout week. My usual MO is to write crits before looking at your prompt, because I don't really feel like "but the prompt said *faaaarrrrrt*" is ever an excuse for a clunky story. So if I bitch about something that was in your prompt, the best I can tell you is, find a different way to work in the prompt that doesn't draw attention to itself. The biggest culprit of that this week was probably "unexplained jargon", dear god, you do not need to hinge the entire conceit of your story on words that you never explain to me.

On to the crits!

Poison and Honey

Overall, this was a fairly solid entry. I thought the quality of writing was good, and the setting and plot was pretty clear and vivid throughout. The biggest shortcoming, for me, was that I felt like I was waiting a long while for the specific conflict of this story to kick in. So much time was spent to establish the world and prior events that it felt like the question of what Moira would do with the baby’s soul (which was the central point of interest, for me) came too far in the back half of the story to really make me invested. I would have liked that conflict to come much earlier, as most of what came before felt like exposition, and even though it was interesting exposition, it didn’t really drive the story forward for me.

Hei Aha

I appreciated the focus on an entirely emotional conflict in this story, it’s not something I’ve seen done often in TD. I felt like I had a good sense of what was at stake for Mac, and what he was struggling with. I would have liked to get a better sense of the other characters present in the story, as is they felt a little one-dimensional, and a little more interaction between them, and a sense of how they might view Luke’s death differently, could have given us more insight to Mac’s struggle with the past. The ending felt a little pat and prescriptive to me, like you (the author) are telling us how we should feel about Mac, rather than guiding us to that conclusion through the events of the story. Still, this was pretty well written and had some excellent moments.

Like Oil and Water

I enjoyed the conflict in this one, and thought you brought the world forward in a way that gave me a good sense of the setting without going deep into expository language, which was a shortcoming for a few other stories this week. The characters are pretty well developed through the dialogue, and I had a very clear sense of what was at stake. The only thing that didn’t really work for me is that the ending felt a little abrupt. I liked the idea of the ending, but I think I would have appreciated something even slightly less open-ended. I definitely don’t mind an ambiguous ending, especially in flash fiction, but this story felt a bit like it just… stopped. Hardly the greatest of crimes, given the rest of the story was solid, it just stood out to me.

John Doe

This story genuinely caught me by surprise, and that’s not something that happens often in TD, so bravo for that. Very clever use of the prompt, and I felt like there were no stray elements that didn’t contribute directly to what you were trying to do with this story. Maybe I’m dumb and missed something obvious, but if I read it right, there’s nothing that strictly tips your hand one way or the other on whether the deer was real or just something Rick imagined in a moment of depression, which I really appreciate. Great dialogue, good descriptive language, and I was engaged throughout.

The Wren and the Small Gilded Fly

I had some difficulty following this one at moments. Ultimately I understood what was going on, and had a decent enough sense of the dystopia and what was at stake, what the characters were running from and what they were seeking. But I think the prose was a bit unpolished and unclear for me at various moments. I sort of get the connection between the dystopian world the characters escape from and the storytelling, but I would have liked to gotten more sense of that importance throughout, it felt a little bit like the storytelling was thought of later in the story but not tied back into the beginning section. Overall I was interested enough in what was going on here but I’m not sure I walk away with a very clear picture of the world or the characters.

Stop Worrying

This had great characterization, I felt like I had a good sense of who these people were from very early on in the story, so well done there, that seems to be a struggle for a lot of TD stories. I also appreciate that you tell us what the twist will be right at the top of the story so it feels less like it comes out of left field and more like it’s an inevitable result of everything that comes before. I do wonder sometimes, with stories like these that are ultimately realistic but with one magical element, whether there’s a story in there if you take the magical element away. I’m not sure of the answer here, because a lot of the story’s impact seems hinged on the abruptness of the woman turning into a fish, but there is a small part of me that wishes there was more of a conflict between the mother and child, a little more push-and-pull beyond just trying to get mom to stop worrying. Ultimately though I thought the story is very effective as-is, it was just a thought that occured to me after she turned into the fish.

Last Paradise

This story suffered from an issue that a couple others had this week: it’s mostly setting. I appreciated the clarity with which you set out what the world had turned into, but I kind of feel like you didn’t do a whole lot with the setting once it was established. I didn’t really feel like I knew (or cared) who these characters were, why they got to Last Paradise, what they gained or lost, etc. Ultimately it’s sort of the story of boring people being boring, and while I can draw my own conclusions about that (humanity has become desensitized to natural disasters and climate change, etc) I don’t feel that you guided me to any particular empathic response to the events, and didn’t really give me any human element to draw me in and get me invested in the problems you presented here. There was a decent amount of discussion on which story should be loser this week, and yours got the dishonor mostly because while there were rougher stories in terms of actual quality of writing and prose, this one had so much less actually happening than the others in the running.

Every Childhood Home Is A Time Machine (But Some More Literally Than Others)

I was intrigued by this story in part because it’s so rare to see a time travel story that doesn’t end in some monkey’s paw-esque “be careful what you wish for” clusterfuck. I appreciate that you took a different tack and actually explored the possibility of someone messing around with time and having it… mostly work out for them. I do think it raises the question of if this technology exists and is freely available, why is nobody watching for people changing a timeline, or if it’s even possible if they could detect that, but I accept that may be outside the scope of this story. I do think the whole story is a bit too pat, like it all works out a little better than I expected. I have trouble buying that there’s no repercussions beyond things being different than the protag remembers. I think there’s some ground to explore regarding reality not lining up with her memories, or the possibility of things working out but not in a way she expected (and thus having to adjust to the consequences of her own actions in a different way than monkey paw madness). Overall this was a very well written story, and I rated it pretty highly in the pack. Oh, this is really minor as TD complaints go but I kind of hated the title.

Law of leaving

Generally speaking, this was a pretty solid entry. I feel like it didn’t quite distinguish itself for me, in part because I feel like you could replace “Atlantis” with any other fantasy place-name and not a whole lot would be lost, so I would have liked a little more information about the world and what specifically the MC wants to escape, besides just a general sense of ennui and banality. I like the conceit of having to leave with nothing in order to actually escape, and there at least I buy into this being a more traditional version of Atlantis. The prose was pretty solid throughout, and I liked the slightly heightened (at least compared to the rest of this week) language, as it contributed a sort of mythic feel to the story. I will say I was a bit confused where the cat came from right when it showed up, but you address it pretty quickly afterwards. Also I would have liked a little more interaction between the siblings, as is the reveal comes pretty late in the story. More interaction also might have addressed my issue with not quite understanding what was at stake for the MC and why they wanted to leave, by giving me a clearer picture of what made the sister want them to stay.


This one was very rough for me. I had a difficult time following what was happening for the course of the story. It was also kind of hard, at times, to tell whether something was a proofreading mistake or an intention obfuscation of what was going on. It was pretty obvious early on that one of your bingo squares was the “unexplained jargon” one, and I appreciate that you didn’t shy away from that part of the prompt, but I also feel you leaned too hard into it and the story suffered for it almost the entire time. At minimum, I needed a better sense of what the heck “syncretizing the multiverse” was. Even if I didn’t get any specifics about the event itself, I needed a much, much better sense of the context and importance surrounding it. I also feel like the story could have had one fewer character in the mix and still accomplished roughly the same thematic goal, but probably with a much tighter execution. I wasn’t really invested in this one, didn’t really understand the conflict at play here, had no idea what the stakes were for any of the characters. This was a loser candidate for me, but ultimately I took you off the chopping block because even though I didn’t enjoy the story, I appreciate that you tried something ambitious.

Family Recipe

I thought this was pretty well written throughout. I struggled a little to connect to the characters, as until fairly late in the story the MC was a bit of a cipher. Even in the last third I had a tough time getting invested in the MC, in part because I struggled to identify what the real conflict here was. I couldn’t really grasp what her relationship was with her abuela-- you gave me a lot of backstory on their interactions but it was a little unclear how she felt for her abuela at this deathbed confession, and as a result I wasn’t certain what to make of the pouch or how the MC felt about it. The whole ending section felt a little cerebral and bloodless, like the MC was more concerned with the ethical problem of what’s effectively a love potion rather than the fact that her grandmother just died. That’s not a problem in and of itself, but if that’s what you were going for I think some acknowledgement that the MC was troubled (or not troubled, as the case may be) about the revelation or her abuela’s death would have gone a long way to helping me make sense of the resolution here. The very end was also just a little ho-hum, I didn’t feel like I had any sense of what was going to come next in this character’s life or how the events she’d just experienced would affect her life and her relationship with Janine, beyond a vague implication that maybe she’d put the spores in dinner that night, but even then I don’t really know if that’s the possibility you want me to ponder. I know I kind of picked this one apart but I actually did like it, I just kind of lost the thread near the end and wanted a little more emotional depth, otherwise it was pretty solid.

Jan 20, 2012

Yoruichi, do you:

A) need a third judge

B) want me to be that third judge

C) dance with the devil in the pale moonlight

Jan 20, 2012

Yoruichi posted:

A) Nope - Antivehicular and Curlingiron have already joined the royal family
B) Yes - but we'll have to wait til next time one of us wins
C) It's on my list of things to do

Ahh I missed Antiv in the mix. That's a judging trifecta for the annals of history. Next time!

Jan 20, 2012

I can judge, though it means dealing with the time difference

By which I mean me having to debase myself by consorting with kiwis

Jan 20, 2012

Sitting Here posted:

I take offense to the pluralization of kiwis; I would never stoop so low as to be a kiwi.

Welcome aboard!

I've always assumed seb is a singularity-like cyberpunk amalgamation of New Zealander sheep bent on world domination.

Jan 20, 2012

Interprompt Entry

What Herbivores Want With A Pirate Ship Is Unclear
200 words

Captain Happytrail gripped his cutlass as the ship listed to the side, giving him a clear view of the green ocean below. “What be the disturbance, laddie?” he called to the helmsman.

The young man’s cheeks flushed red. “I don’t know, cap’n! Something struck us from below!”

“Below?” bellowed the captain. “There’s naught but open seas down there! Unless--” His nipples hardened in fear, though he told himself it was the chill of the altitude. He scanned the ocean, praying it couldn’t be true.

A belch of flame below the ship confirmed his fears. Five more gouts increased it.

“Cap’n, those aren’t--” The helmsman left his protest unfinished, instead throwing his weight into the wheel, bringing them about and readying for a fight.

“Aye, lad,” the captain said, while twisting the grip of his cutlass. He watched as the red blade sprung forth, engorged, buzzing with plasmic energy. “The Brachytrachelopans have found us at last. We end this here.” He dashed to the bow of the ship, leaping gracefully into the open air, pivoting midair to dive head-first, his feet and other anatomy buffeted by the cutting wind as he dove to meet the deadly and shortest-necked sauropods, proportionally speaking.


Jan 20, 2012

WEEK 318 JUDGECRITS courtesy of the TD equivalent of the Olympic judge from the country you've never heard of

Overall I'd concur with Seb's evaluation of this week: It wasn't pants-shittingly terrible, it wasn't pants-wettingly amazing, but it was pants-removingly fun. Even the bad ones made a concerted effort to entertain or provoke thought, and for that I thank you all. Without giving anyone too long a look into how the horrific sausage of TD is made, there was some robust discussion on both who deserved to win and who made us hate life for a brief thousand words. Behold my critbarfs, and wonder:


I liked the broad concept here, of someone jumping around to different dimensions or whatever to collect stuff. Execution left something to be desired. I felt a bit like you set up an interesting conflict but immediately resolved it. I would have loved to have seen a little push/pull between the rifter and the guy in the mask, some sort of obstacle they’d have to overcome to get the coin. As is, it feels a little foregone and unengaging. This story does have some heart to it, which endeared it to me, but didn’t do quite enough to distinguish itself.


Seb hit on the big points in the judgepost: some clever turns of phrase, but couched in a lot of crap. The base, technical writing was fine, but you plopped me right in the middle of a very unpleasant world with not much depth, guided by a main character who is… unpleasant with not much depth. There were some colors to this story but they were all brown and slightly nauseating (I kid, some of the moment-to-moment description was fun and clever). I think there’s a way to do this sort of story and do it well, but I admit I don’t know what it is so I can’t offer much guidance. Honestly I think the biggest issue for me was the ending. I take issue with any TD endings that can be fit into the scheme of “whoops, actually ____” and this was definitely a “whoops, actually everyone goes to hell” which is both too easy to do badly and has surprisingly been done too often. It would have benefitted from a little more foreshadowing throughout the story, but even then I’m not sure I would have liked it. You worked so hard to make this world seem terrible that it would probably still feel like the characters are going from hell to a slightly different hell.

Best Friends

This was definitely a mood-whiplash story for me. I was confused as to what mood you wanted to establish and kind of didn’t feel much of anything as a result. I liked some of the language and the way you represented that moment-after-the-phone-call panic attack speed. I did have trouble following the conversation in the paragraph where Minny and Jen first talk. It’s tough for me to say if splitting it up into separate lines for the sake of clarity would have diminished the rapid-fire effect you created here, though. As for the back half, with the dildos and the letters flying everywhere… I just couldn’t get behind it, it felt too zany and out of left field based on how you set up the beginning of the story. I’m not gonna lie, too, I had a little trouble parsing out that the “letters” were porn/erotica/whatever they were writing together. I was also really unclear on why the main character felt it was so critical the parents were convinced they were lesbians together instead of dirty smut writers or what have you. Overall a very messy story that I initially wanted to like.

Running Up That Hill

This one hit me in an unexpected way. I mentioned this in someone else’s crit, but I genuinely appreciate when people discard genre fare and outre plots in TD and grapple with something a little more realistic and true to life. And “grapple” really feels like the right word here. I felt a lot of pathos from this story, and was really invested in this character’s struggle in a way that stuck with me after reading. This is going to be one I’ll point to when I need an example of how TD conflicts don’t always need to be big and earth-shattering, and how sometimes the “smaller” the struggle, the more personal it becomes. I don’t have much to criticize on this one. Well done.

Twisted Goose

So I never thought I’d enjoy a story about a serial groper, but here we are. Overall a pretty strong story, though it fell to the middle of the pack for me. I think your descriptive language was very strong here, I had a vivid picture of the scenes and felt like I could see these characters well. I think the only complaint I have, and that’s not really the right word, is that it feels a bit like the real meat of the story happens at arms-length. This is a common issue with TD stories that are told in this fashion, namely where someone recounts someone else doing something. The story does fine given how intertwined the narrator is in the action, but Werner’s the real star of the show, in some ways. I’d suggest to you what I suggested to someone else this week: what would the story be if it had been told from Werner’s perspective? Would it have benefitted from being more directly in the action of the scenes? I’m not sure the answer to that second question is “yes” but I’d be curious to find out.

Little Departures

I really enjoyed this concept, and early on the way information gets paid out little by little is fun. I do think the idea doesn’t really go anywhere by the end though. The main character seems a little bland and reactive and there’s not really a conflict to be overcome here, beyond the guy being a zombie. As a result, the ending really didn’t land for me, and I’m left wishing the idea was developed just a little bit more, or that you’d said something with the idea at the end. Still, this was a fun one and was a pretty strong entry. Well done.


I’m a little split on this one, honestly. There’s not a lot going on here in story terms, and given the requirements of your flash rule, you didn’t exactly have very much room to develop a tension or a conflict that could go anywhere. It ends up being banter and very little else, but the banter is fun and brisk. I absolutely have to commend you, though, on finding a fantastic solution to the flash rule. This one caught me by surprise and made me laugh, and while I just complained about a lack of conflict, I do appreciate that you didn’t really try to stretch the conceit further than you did. Ultimately, it’s fine but not fantastic on its own merits as a story, but in the context of the flash rule it’s kind of great.


I loved this story. It made me uncomfortable, it was vivid, and I want more than you could possibly give me in the space of 1200 words. I loved the dreamlike altered consciousness bits you have peppered throughout here, and the way you represented the character’s paranoia was pitch-perfect for me. Too many times when I read a story with a similar conceit, the writer treats the character as crazy, acknowledges to the reader that they are crazy; here you’ve assured me they’re not, which leaves it up to me to decide whether I believe them and all the horrifying implications that entails. This one took me by surprise, which hasn’t happened in quite a few weeks. Excellently done.

Bad Math

I was a little undecided on this story. I appreciate what you were trying to do and the conflict you created was engaging. I did really enjoy the dreamlike quality, and the narrative bouncing around had the effect of leaving me feeling a little unmoored and uncertain of what precisely was going on, which I think was a positive. But I think it also meant the scenes ended up feeling a little disconnected, so the cause and effect in the story didn’t have a chance to ramp up the tension right to the ending. The end felt kind of undercut to me as a result. Still, I liked this one quite a bit. This was a near miss for an HM, mostly due to the HMs being especially strong this week.

Sunday Dinner

A very solid story, good language, really enjoyed this. The ending felt kind of deus-ex-machina-ish to me, but I don’t think it hampered my enjoyment, since whether or not Dad caught him wouldn’t have changed the conflict of the story as much as it just determines the resolution of the scene. This felt like a family, and I could really get into the tension you created not just between the dad and the son, but the mom and the son as well. I liked how much you dug into the son not wanting to end up like his mother, in the little space you had available to do it. Overall a very solid story.

The Blameless Prisoner

So initially I would have put this at the middle of the pack, because “argle bargle there’s no conflict and drat the flash rule grumble grumble.” But honestly in the brief few hours since I read it the first time it’s grown on me. I initially had to be talked into HMing this story but on a re-read I’m a lot more on board with the carefully detailed nothing happening you’ve created here. You did an excellent job establishing how nothing happening is essential, and that creates a sort of slow-burn tension all its own, if against nothing else than our human tendency to hate inaction. The one piece missing for me is why nothing happening is essential. I get that it’s a prison and keeping people in prison is good, but what would actually be at stake if this warden failed at her job? Even a little inkling of that would have added a lot to the story for me. Overall I’ve come around on this one and enjoy it a lot. I’m not sure the concept would work as well if it were even another 500 words, but that’s neither here nor there, I suppose.


Good job trying to find the drama in an everyday situation, oftentimes TD stories go to the far extremes of life and genre so it’s sometimes refreshing to see normal life represented. First off, this badly needed a proofread and an additional editing pass. Lots of unnecessary words, missing words, awkward phrasings. I think you leaned too much on adverbs to try and add detail and depth to the conflict. What I really wanted was more actual depth to the conflict, as it kind of just felt like the same micro-conflict rehashed over and over: patient wants a thing, doctor doesn’t want to give it to him. The ending kind of springs out of nowhere as a result, since I’m left wondering why the patient decided to do it then instead of four paragraphs ago when the conflict was in essentially the same place. I also wonder if you wouldn’t have been better off writing it from the perspective of the patient than the doctor. The doctor’s objective in the scene is to prevent anything from happening, which in the context of flash fiction, isn’t a terribly engaging goal, since you don’t have a lot of room to explore the nuance of inaction. I’d rather find out what the patient is going through, and what he’s willing to do to relieve his pain, what’s going through his mind, etc.

For the Love of God

I really, really liked this one. I was dragged by the nose through this whole thing, and I mean that as a compliment. The prose grabbed me and kept me engaged throughout, and I was curious about who these people were, what their relationship was, etc. The assassinations themselves were interesting enough, but in the end what I really enjoyed, and wanted more of, were these little glimpses of the relationship between Anton and the Wolf. I felt like I got only the surface level of what Anton wanted from her and how the interaction affected him, even a little more sense of what it meant for her to choose him would have made me even happier with this. I put this as an HM candidate but I think the other two just barely inched past.


This one fell flat for me. I intellectually got what the conflict was here, but wasn’t grabbed by it or the characters. It felt like you had a good basis for conflict and some tension that you could build, but nothing quite gelled for me. I’m also biased in that I hate stories that take much time talking about food. On that point, though, there were a couple of sentences that felt a bit like token “oh yeah I gotta remind the reader they make food here” passages. I really feel like an opportunity was missed here. So much can be conveyed by how people interact with food, the care they put (or don’t put) into preparing it, why they think a dish is successful or not; all these things could have told me a lot more about Lagi than I got in the rest of the narrative. As is, the food descriptions are good but they’re not pulling their weight for how much space they take up.

Suburban Skategirls

This story was a bit grey and squishy for me. I didn’t have enough idea of who the characters were, to the point that I had trouble keeping the whopping four characters straight. This is a nitpicky complaint, but the use of the word “trepidatious” was kind of silly, given that it’s a big departure from the level of language you use in the rest of the story. For me, too much of the story felt like a lead-up to the prompt, in a way that felt a little silly and contrived, but I know other judges thought it was cute and fun in a way that benefitted the story so take that with a grain of salt. I do feel like the story picked up once you got to the race, so perhaps the earlier half of the story would have benefitted from a little more definite action.
Lastly, there were lots of little grammatical issues and typos, as well as some questionable…

...typographical choices. I’ve seen professional authors try that same sort of thing and it always, without fail, feels like an author telling me how to feel about a moment when they should just be writing it well and let me draw my own conclusions. I used to do it a lot, too, so I get the temptation to try, but I never felt like I could pull it off in a way that it didn’t just draw attention to itself. Also be careful with temporizing in dialogue (“Um, ah, well, eh…” etc.) as it rarely achieves much compared to how we use them in actual speech.

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