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a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Who's choking on the splinter.


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Prompt: Who’s choking on the splinters
Word Count: 1352

I was with him when the bomb exploded. I was in the house when the door splintered. I was on the floor when my neck grew thorns. How else could I now be the rose he carries everywhere?

I was spying there. But I was also hiding. I was there to fight unfairness, but also myself. I was there for my family, but also for him, mostly for him.

I met Jaimé as I walked home from my work shift on campus. He was talking to a group of about 15 people at a table outside. His words were passionate but soft. It was the feeling in his voice that stopped me and distracted me from my own distractions.

When I approached, I wasn’t excluded from the group as someone with my face, my hair, my skin often was. The others appeared to be students. I saw no other service staff. Still they made a space for me. But then my eyes and ears were all for Jaimé whose persona was greater than any label. Though he must have studied somewhere since his speech was clear and he talked about the philosophies of this man and that woman. I rooted myself there.

As he spoke, I cared about the injustices. Before they had seemed as distant as a news story. He made them real to me. They must have been real to him. And then I was real to him.

“What's your name?”

Lost in the feeling of having emerged from deep under the earth, it took a moment to remember that I could speak. “I’m Camille.”

“Tell us how you must be suffering under these conditions.”

I could feel myself suffering as he told me that I was. But, again, it was if he had made me anew and it took some time for me to remember my days before.

I didn't think of my life as suffering. Like many families, mine did not have great wealth, but both of my parents were employed, as teachers even. I lived with them and also worked. I was able to take one class a semester. That was much more than others could say. But Jaimé wanted an answer and I sprouted in his attentions.

“You just said we should be free from constricting landlords. My family lives in one room on the second floor of a terrace house.”

I blushed red. This was hardly suffering. There were families with no shelter at all and the others in the group must surely see that I did not belong now. Looking around, they all wore concerned looks and shook their heads. Some of them grew agitated.

“Exactly,” Jaimé said. “You are just the type of person we need, Camille. Our perspectives are limited by the narrow lives we lead. Your upbringing will help us attract other locals and as history has proven...”

I spread with joy. This man, so determined and thoughtful, so bright with vigor wanted me to link myself to this cause. I could be a part of his plot.

“Will you join us tomorrow?”

The small meeting appeared to be breaking up. People agreed to listen more in the future. And I, too, nodded my head as I continued my regular walk home. Navigating the same dark streets and dripping gutters as every other day, the shining sun that was Jaimé dulled into a warm glow of memory. Up the stairs I climbed to our second floor room, where I greeted my parents working at the table.

Wishing to spread Jaimé’s words further, I asked my parents if they felt like life was unfair. Dad looked up from grading papers and said, “Of course it’s unfair.” He looked down again. “That Smathers who teaches geography, of all things, got a raise this year and I sure didn’t. If that’s fair then Pythagoras was an rear end.”

Mom smiled. She always did that when Dad swore. I think it made her remember a time when she could swear. “Everything will be fair eventually, Camille. All we can do is live quietly, try not to stand out, and let the universe sort it out.”

Jaimé’s speech flared in me as I stared at my parents. We were suffering but they didn’t see it either. Others had so much more and they kept us and millions others in this state. My family was a bunch of weeds to the oppressors and here we were just trying to be ground cover and escape their notice.

Then the soup bubbled over the pot and I saw that the dishes needed done and I had to complete my homework. Finally it was time to sleep and in the morning I needed to get up and work to keep all of it going, just as it was. And I did because this was the space allotted to me and wasn’t that good enough?

Weeks passed because it’s easy to do what you already know how to do. I liked to think that I stood a little straighter, but I was again just a blade of grass in a lawn, moving with the wind and falling flat where others tread. Until Jaimé once again became my trellis.

This time it was after my evening class. A large group of people moved through campus and murmured excitedly. They left a mess in their wake: toppled trash bins, ruined landscaping and shattered glass.

I slipped out of the building and escaped in the opposite direction only to find myself face to face with Jaimé. He strode with three others. They were clearly trailing along behind the mass I had seen.

“Camille, it’s good to see you tonight.” He remembered my name! “We need you. We’re beginning our work in earnest.”

And what else could I do but grow towards the sun, towards his nourishing warmth. He spoke as we walked, about empowerment, about brighter days and more space to expand. His speech was still fervent even with such a small audience.

His words dropped onto me and I absorbed each one. I didn't know how far we walked until I recognized my street. I could see the stairs up to my room, dull and lifeless in the lamp light. I hoped they remained unremarkable to others as there was a flurry of agitated activity all around.

I turned to Jaimé, confused. “Why here?”

“We’re just waking people up. The real work is ahead. Let’s go.” He jogged to the closest crossroad and turned left. I followed, willing everyone else on that street to leave as well. As the houses became nicer, the activity grew more furious. Bricks were knocked loose and thrown through windows, into cars, at people. Bangs and booms could be heard not too far distant, then sirens.

Jaimé turned to me. “Do you know a place where we can see what’s going on?”

I nodded and led our group to a house that I knew was vacant. The fire escape took them up to the roof for a view down two streets. I ducked into the first floor entryway to breathe and to watch the street level activity. I thought of my family and how all of this would surely be good. We would be treated better. We would be accepted. We would not be weeds...

The sounds of yelling, of movement behind the door, of feet smacking the pavement. And then no sounds at all, only the feeling of warmth as my skin erupted its thorns, allowing my true lifeblood to begin flowing.

Then there was Jaimé standing above me. He crouched down to touch my neck, maneuvering around my spikes. He closed his eyes and said, “You won’t be forgotten, Camille. I will tell everyone about your dedication to the cause. Your story will be heard and it will inspire others just like you.”

He left. I went with him. He keeps me just above his heart. I am the flower in his button hole and I am the passion in his speech. I am the symbol of a better life. And I grow and grow and grow.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Crits week 387, from a DM so, you know…

Mrenda Amateur Geology
Your story has a lot. A lot of clauses and complex sentence structures, a lot of details, a lot of possibilities. I like the small anecdote that you start with, and it leads to the rest of your story nicely. Though the declaration of despising chimpanzees to the eventual change in this perspective doesn’t quite match. A different tense in the verb would work just as well.
I like the main character’s decision to start a protest against the chimpanzees. It’s incredibly ridiculous since they are the only ones who can stop the behavior and they’ll have no idea that this protest is even going on. But I would have liked at least one more line detailing the main character's thinking as to why he thought a protest was the answer.
I think you went a little overboard on the philosophy portion. I know that the idea is for the reader to be as confused as the protagonist with the use of the jargon, but in a story that’s only 1500 words, I think the balance is slightly off.
The part after the ## seems unnecessary and tacked on. I like the thought behind them, but I think you could have stopped just before that.

Something Else The Laughing Knight
Your story structure mostly works. It has the air of a barroom tale which is perfect. It’s got a lyrical quality to it which keeps the story moving. It’s weighed down at times with what can feel like extraneous details. For instance naming Tom’s son but only referring to him once more without him playing a significant role could probably have been dropped. And other times the “did [verb]” construction feels a little off. But I can’t exactly pinpoint why. The positive ending requirement is a bit of a stretch, but it’s exactly how a story like this always seems to end though, so I think it fits.
Otherwise, it’s just the kind of story I would like to listen to and enjoy, but that’s about all. I can’t find anything more behind it to make me go “hmm”. Nothing wrong with that.

Doctor Eckhart The best birthday surprise
There are times when I read stories in TD and I just don’t understand them at all. This is one of those times. To me the story seems random and haphazard with characters that are one dimensional. I don’t see a growth from beginning to end. The whole thing seems like a long joke to go with your prompt. But you do write very well. I smiled at various portions of the story. So perhaps I am not the right reader for this story.

Crimea Prisoner of the Hell-Planet of Desire
You took on a big burden by choosing the definitive line in the song and I think you delivered. Great setup. Good weaving it through the whole story. The story is simple, but where it excels is in the comparison between the comic and the life events which gives it the complexity it needs in such a short word count. I’m not sure that I always understand the exact correspondences but I see enough of them that I’ll just assume that I’m missing something.

Pththya-lyi Baby
All of your choices for this story are expected. The topic, the characters the dilemma. All of it is a story I think I’ve heard many times before. I wish the ending hadn’t been left as ambiguous. You had more words, so I think you could have added something different or more complex here. The plot line is too easy. I like your descriptions though. The pill bottle the size of a toddler’s head, the snot-making sobs, etc. I was puzzled over the “you probably don’t want to get into a car with a strange woman” but that is literally what an uber is! And I’m not actually sure that it would be any safer in reality. Safe entry.

Thranguy When
A vignette about sexual discovery. It leaves me wanting more which is good and bad. Lots of questions. What about Carrie? What other times are they going on these escapades? Are they spying on other people or just going for joy rides? All of the details are lovely and fit with the characters, the steering wheel locking up, the grounding. I like it.

Azza Bamboo It’s not right
I found this story confusing and without enough detail to understand who people were and what they were doing and beyond survival, why they were doing it. Some grammar issues. No real character growth, just some abrupt character change. I like the part where Jess doesn’t give up her phone even though the battery is dead. That speaks to some hope she has, some reason she has for holding on. But that isn’t explored at all. You appear to be going for the evolution of someone on the streets, but you spend too much time establishing things. The reader needs to be able to jump right into the action with strategic details in very short fiction. If you want to keep thinking about this one, perhaps start where your story ends.

Benny Profane Things are gonna change
Your narrative is simple and easy and it works. As a reader I’m immediately engaged with the characters and how relatable every aspect of the story is. Your show to tell ratio is perfect as each detail leads the reader to the correct knowledge about your characters’ personalities, insecurities, and desires. For me the plot is always the most important part of a story and the art of it always comes after I’ve enjoyed the telling. And you have made me enjoy both at the same time. Spot on, thanks!

Yoruichi Brownian Motion
I like what you did with your prompt. That was a difficult one. I don’t know whether this was just how I read it but for some reason everything felt very fast in this story. Maybe it was the personality/dialogue of your characters? I like your story. It’s nice. Two people meeting under interesting circumstances, getting to know each other briefly, sharing a hobby, possibly more to come. Nails the positivity asked for this week. But I don’t see anything more in this story. It makes me smile, but doesn’t make me think any further.

Flerp up there
I’m always intimidated by your stories because I know there’s something I’m missing in every single one of them probably because you’re a much subtler writer than I am a reader, but this one I enjoyed and think I understood a little more. I was also interested to see where you went with your prompt. I liked your themes of death being uncontrollable and taking action in whatever way you can. I like that the choice of action changes in the story and transforms into a story about life rather than death. Your comparisons are good. Comparing his mother to a metronome in particular I thought was good. But who knows. I’m probably getting all this wrong and still not understanding.

Selaphiel Two hundred and nine
Your conceit just doesn’t work. Any time you have a concept that is beyond our experience of our own lives, you have to write it in such a way as to get your reader to suspend their disbelief. We have to think that this is possible, but there are too many inconsistencies, not enough detail, and not enough interest generated in your characters. This story just made me sad thinking and even the possibility of escape didn’t make it better. One of the biggest issues is your dialogue. It’s all too much. Simpler is better. Also, try reading your story out loud. That might help it sound less stilted.

Carl Killer Miller Lone loveseat
I like a story about self reflection but I was bored by this one. I like what you did with your prompt. The whole thing is a story with a beginning, middle and end. The characters feel real. The situation is all too real. The drunk guy feels too self-aware in his inebriation despite his seeming lack of awareness of how it makes him look, if that makes sense. It just seems to hit too on the nose. Couple of typos.

magic cactus The Whiz of the ‘whiz
This made me smile and chuckle. Fromage foresight is a fantastic phrase. The story is completely ridiculous and not really a story and doesn’t seem to have any greater purpose than to smile at, but you did what you could with your song line. Though I would have been excited to see a more serious attempt at a story.

Slipup Twelve stories of vengeance
This is not good. Breaking it up over three different viewpoints takes away your word count for making even one of them worth something. All of the actions taken by all of the characters are taken for granted by you, there is no ambiguity. Everything that happens is what was always going to happen. The cat sees no other possibilities. The people see no other possibilities. None of it seems natural in any way. Though your cat seems more believable than the weasel in Selaphiel’s story, so there’s that I guess. If you use “of which” you don’t need “with” at the end of the sentence.

Anomalous Amalgam An Extra Bounty
Not bad. Any time you stray into fantasy or scifi it can be difficult to set up an entirely new world in so few words. I’m glad that you set up some of the tech that was available to people in this universe and that you gave more people access to it than just the protagonist. It’s a simple narrative and all action. I like the way you describe the action because it was easy to follow the moves of the two involved. Some action sequences have too much going on or you lose track of who is doing what. I wish there was a bit more here about her history with security and that there was a little more banter there. Also don’t use whom.

Ironic Twist Control-X
I won’t tell you how long it took me to get your prompt reference. Not that long, but I still had to think about it. Very clever. It’s a weird story and I like weird stories. You make it look effortless to have characters with realistic personalities, acting in ways that support your narrative and their characterization. And it all just works well together. The setup, the realization, the conclusion. It fits together nicely and without much in the way of extraneous detail. One small typo of too instead of to and I only point that out because you might want to do more with this.

Chairchucker No Parking
Literal prompt following in this one. Misogynist gets what’s coming to him. How did the precinct look up the guy based on a picture? Maybe I’m not hip to what sort of police state we live in, but I don’t think photo matching capabilities are that accurate yet. Who’s Mandy and how does she know Caroline? Does she live on that road and this is Caroline’s usual beat? Why is she on a riding lawn mower? Presumably to cut grass, but there’s no indication of that. The way you present it makes it seem like she’s just out for a Sunday drive and happens to see her friend. These are the questions I find myself asking and these aren’t good questions for your readers to ask. I did agree that everyone likes a good wood chopping.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Universal Story
Word Count: 1383

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 01:21 on Mar 1, 2020

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Thunderdome Week CCCXC (390) – Dressed to Kill Your Darlings

This week is about FASHION!

Since we write, by necessity, flash fiction in this thread, we tend not to spend a lot of time on details as seemingly unimportant as what a character is wearing. But we all know that clothes can set us on adventures, they can help us meet new people, they can blast us to the stars!

Prompt: Any genre goes this week. But whatever you choose to do should include a favorite outfit or the armor you’ve always wanted to include in a story but it was never practical or one defining statement piece of clothing that a character is wearing and let the story go from there. /Prompt

The clothing should be described in your story, obviously, and there should be a connection between it and what’s happening. This can be as simple as wearing a uniform for work or as involved as the suit getting them mistaken for an astronaut and shoved onto a rocketship!

No erotica, fanfiction, Google Docs, archive-breaking coding, or dick pics. Politics is okay, but you know how dangerous that can be.

Word Count: 1700 Words – A few more words to allow for the clothes description.
Signups Close: Friday, January 24th, 11:59 PM Pacific
Submissions Close: Sunday, January 26th, 11:59 PM Pacific

I will give out clothing flash rules if requested. Otherwise, go forth and be fabulous!

Arbiters of Fashion
A Friendly Penguin

Catwalk Models
Chili :toxx:
Thranguy - flash clothing: snood
Azza Bamboo
Pepe Silvia Browne
Anomalous Amalgam - flash clothing: jeggings :toxx:
Doctor Eckhart
Something Else
Carl Killer Miller
Black Griffon

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 12:31 on Jan 25, 2020

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Thranguy posted:

In, flash.

A snood hair or beard

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

sebmojo posted:

Yeah I'll judge

SlipUp posted:

I'm down to judge. I am both fashionable and judgemental.


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Sign ups closed.

Sashay away!

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Submissions closed.

Hope you made it work!

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

:siren:Judgment Week 390:siren:

The reviews are in and this season’s trends included gem encrusted beard accessories, yellow plastic everything and gloves of all sorts.

The model Anomalous Amalgam stumbled on the runway and therefore takes a DM.

Doctor Eckhart fell off the runway with quite a boring line of choices and therefore takes the loss.

HMs go to those chic individuals doing wonderful things with office wear and going out clothes. Tyrannosaurus and Mrenda, take a bow.

And the win is awarded to a designer with a vision. Carl Killer Miller’s Aura lands itself on the cover of all the finest fashion magazines.

He is our next tastemaker. Take it away CKM.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Crits week 390

Mrenda The Importance of Strong Drink, Strong Emotions, and Crying in Bars

Upon first reading I can’t decide whether the first tiptoeing around the subject and then second being extremely direct about the subject is awkward or exactly the point of this topic. Because it is very true to life. Either people are trying to refer to others who they don’t quite understand in a sideways manner or they just address the elephant in the room to sometimes good or sometimes bad results.
Regardless of which it is, I think you waste too many words on the atmosphere of the bar without actually talking about the atmosphere of the bar. It does feel like a Cheers situation where the entire bar is focused on the one plot of the moment. Except when it’s not: “The bar’s chaos...” seems to indicate that there is more going on and I think that’s important to point out sooner because prior to that the bar appears to be one, giant awkward silence.
But there’s enough feeling in this and true to life pieces.

Doctor Eckhart Sir Loin

Well, points for trying out the impractical suit of armor suggestion. And you did go for humor which I appreciate, though it is very difficult to pull off. You don’t need the fake start. Just a waste of words. But your whole story is wasted words because it ends where it should start, assuming that something would happen at the trials.
Youth is unhappy with his lot in life. Wishes to be a knight. Meets a thief who can help and gets a suit of armor. Leaves for knight trials. And that’s all. You could have included all of that information but in far fewer words and still gotten to the trials. There’s all sorts of possibilities for humor when he and the thief meet again in the arena. Or he harnesses his fear of the cleaver by flinging it away from himself in just the right way to fend off his opponents and win.
And though your situations are amusing, they’re not amusing in the right way to allow the reader to ignore the practical questions that make your story extremely unlikely. Like, why would a thief just help a random guy? Also, I found it irritating that you would introduce Aran as a butcher’s son and then write “it was his father, the butcher.” We only need one of those to understand who it is and what their job is.

Azza Bamboo A Six Legged Fear with Wings
Your concept is fine. There is a lot of depth and emotion to explore when you have a healing from trauma story. But your choice of words is bad and you don’t seem to have a good grasp of what makes a scene have gravitas or why a scene should be in a story at all.
Here is something good: “Two months into this season, his knee sliders haven’t taken a single scratch. The gauntlet of his right hand has started to wrinkle where he keeps two twitching fingers hovering over the brake.” This is a good description because it shows the reader that Jacob is timid without you saying it. But then you do say it. You say it several times, in several ways. Not giving the reader enough info to know what’s going on is a bad move but giving them the same information repeatedly is boring, wastes words, and serves no purpose.
Dialogue is hard to do. This story’s dialogue is not natural so that’s something to work on.
Something I try to remember to do that I think might help you too is after you’ve written a draft of your story to ask questions. What do I want this story to say about my characters? Which parts do that? Which parts don’t?
Read your story out loud too. If the sentence doesn’t roll of the tongue easily, that’s usually an indicator that it could use some work.

Tyrannosaurus do not kill yourself for a job - you are replaceable - like a cog or a lightbulb or a pen or a small potted plant that sits on a receptionist's desk or a receptionist's desk or a receptionist

Well written, consistent voice, creates a whole picture, but I want more. I want more for the protagonist. There was a hint of something more with the “I hope she is not shot because she is pretty.” So clearly the person understands that there can be more than just the corporate think. Or I want more for the receptionist. And maybe there is, but we just don’t get to see it. Everything else is fine. Just more!

Saucy_Rodent Raincoat

I like weird things. This has a Welcome to Night Vale vibe. Bits and pieces of this are good. Your second to last sentence should have been your last sentence if that is truly where you wanted to end it. The actual last sentence seems to indicate that there’s more. The presence of Forrest Gump in this world seems a bit off. And I think you need to describe better what is normal. If you can get a citation just for running all weird or standing against walls and picking off labels, what is one supposed to be doing? The two characters coming together and understanding each other is too easy. There could and probably should be more tension there.

Chili Blurry
I think you mean “pass up the chance for things to be this blurry” instead of change? And while normally that would be an obvious typo, when your character is literally dependent on change, it took me a bit to figure out what probably happened.
Like a few other entries this week I want there to be more. The experience of this character rings true to me. I like that there’s a juxtaposition between clarity of thought and clarity of vision. And I want more of the mind-reading to further characterize your protagonist. I also think you could show the reader more about this character by following his journey to where he would sleep since he couldn’t get into the men’s shelter. But the flow is good. Good balance of introspection and world interaction.

Anomalous Amalgam Maritime Law

Interesting choice for the assigned jeggings. But then again, I think you could have chosen any piece of clothing to drop into this story and it could have remained the same. It kind of bothers me that we never find out how the captain died.
There are some formatting issues with this. There are line breaks in the middle of paragraphs. Typically when you end with someone talking and start the next paragraph with the same person talking you can leave off the close quotes at the end of the previous paragraph.
It all comes across as a jumbled mess of only semi-related sentences. The attempt at pirate dialect is haphazard. But then the ghost of captains past shows up for some reason and he has no effect on any of them, so I’m not sure why he shows up. You’d think they’d listen to their captain. Then they all die. No moral? I just don’t get the joke you were going for.

Thranguy The Relic

I love a good anthropological short story. This put me in mind of one I just read called The Virtue of Unfaithful Translations by Minsoo Kang. All of the details are nice and the story creates a great picture of this world and its many customs and ways of life, I don’t see a greater purpose behind it though, a larger message. Even an amusing message like the importance of grooming. I think an easier way to get more oomph out of this story would be to tell it almost exactly the same, but for the narrator to be someone from the church who eventually ended up with the relic. There’s plenty of commentary to include with that.

Carl Killer Miller Aura

Your words are very descriptive. I like all of the words you use to describe the entwined world. They make great pictures in my head. But I can’t say that I understand why any of it is happening. Your main character appears to be having some type of seizure? Or some other mental anomaly. But I don’t know what and I don’t know what exactly it has to do with him having killed someone earlier. And he disposed of the body in the yarn place and is unraveling it to get rid of any evidence and then..? I want to like this because of your vivid vision. But then I lose comprehension and wonder what I’m missing. But it was all just wonderful enough to win.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

The Soda Story
Word Count: 444 words

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 13:12 on Jan 3, 2021

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Life from the Void
Word Count: 859

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 13:13 on Jan 3, 2021

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish


14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 11:18 on Sep 3, 2020

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

You’ll Miss It
Word Count: 965 words

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 13:07 on Dec 15, 2020

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Thanks for the crits! Very useful.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Thranguy posted:

Also, both cojudge slots are still open.
(Three is a magic number)

What's my function? Judge, I can do that thing.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Crits week 396

PTSDeedly Do Barter
This story is told very clinically. And while I can tell one of the main points of your story was to represent the transactional nature of our society, which can definitely be cold and calculating, barter has a longer history of being more personal and emotional. I think I can see you trying to go for that as well, but it doesn’t land since all of the characters come across flat, with no depth. There are a lot of tough situations in your story but there’s no emotion in them to connect the reader.

The style is also heavy on telling and not in a believable way. I’m not even sure that I believe the MC enjoys his life with his dog. Everything is just too simple. This for that, that for this. I think you might have taken your song prompt a little too literally. I would have liked to see Brett, even in retirement, do a little more mentoring of the MC, help him grow. While his dad helped him understand reciprocity of goods, Brett could be like a second father that teaches him reciprocity of feeling.

Anomalous Amalgam Labor & Industry
You’ve done a fairly good job of setting up your scene. I think this is a good introduction but to a longer story. Some of the details that you include (physical appearance of MC, functionality of various machinery, etc) enhance the setting nicely, but for a story that’s only 1300 words, detract from the immediate narrative you need to present

There isn’t a good sense of the stakes in this story. And the ending reinforces that with a “no big deal” playing it off, Vadim not trying harder to report the issue with the flight deck, and just casually mentioning it to Ora before getting to the more important moment of complaining about the boss. And I’d love to see the relationships between your characters have more detail. As it is, we just see the edges of their histories together.

Overall, I’d like to read more about these characters in this setting, but in the limited word count, your main problem doesn’t carry the weight (heh) that you might have wanted it to.

QuoProQuid Space Travel
Thank you for actually sending them into space! I’m sure there was a good story to be told about children and imagination, but I was much more looking forward to actually wandering about the solar system inside the closet.

I wonder about the specificity in Mary’s recitation of how much the posters and space helmet cost. If these details were setting her up to be a precise and exacting person, then I think it was important to show what the knowledge of the vastness in the closet did to change her outlook or at least to see her try to cope with it. This may have been your intent, but, if so, it wasn’t as clear as it needed to be.

The ending mirrors the opening nicely, though the “wake up to question if it was real” ending doesn’t feel very satisfying.

Armack 10^0: Orange Goop and Solipsism Too
Thanks for introducing me to the Boltzmann Brain. Everything you write makes sense. I can follow your logic, I just don’t understand exactly how it all fits together and exactly what point it’s trying to make. This story comes across almost as if you’ve had this idea floating around in your thoughts for a while and wanted an excuse to write a story about it. Your writing is competent so I don’t have much more to add.

On the other hand, my husband (who is a frequenter of C-SPAM) loves your story and says he absolutely gets what you’re putting down. He explained to me about the absurdity of a traumatic situation that we’re trying desperately to escape only to realize that it continues to expand and how can we expect to help others when what are we but alone in the universe. But then there might be a glimmer of hope at the end. So he feels a connection.

And the other judges agreed with the success of this story. So I think the takeaway message here is every audience is not your audience, and that's okay! Someone is your audience.

Sitting Here Six-and-six
For some reason my first thought when reading the consideration of the hands while tripping on shrooms was of a stoner doing the same while considering their own hands. “They call 'em ‘fingers,’ but I never see 'em fing.”

I go back and forth on whether this narrative needed to be told in the second person or whether third would have worked just as well. With the third readers are likely to be like the mother/villagers and see the MC as other and therefore unnatural, whereas the second person should help the reader to identify as the MC and feel stronger empathy for the situation she finds herself in. But with the directness of second there’s also the chance that the reader doesn’t go along with the conceit and disagrees with what they are told is the case creating a dissonance.

But this is me working my way through literary possibilities and it has little to do with your story as a whole since I think it very much works. It’s real and elicits emotion. And it’s simple. There isn’t a lot for a reader to get caught up on here. I think you could have played up the divine angle with the visions a bit more since that would fit better with the world you’ve presented. You use a lot of colons. That’s not good or bad, just something I noticed about this story. That and your long sentences, which work for the rhythm of the story. A complete and enjoyable work.

Carl Killer Miller The Circle Complete
On the story level, this really strikes me. The only thing I don’t like about it is the inevitability of the new life coming filled with strife and suffering. But that’s the point of the wheel, so I’m just railing against the nature of reality. I think the narrative gets a little unclear in the final falling scene, but you could easily simplify. And though very real, the life struggles seem a bit too perfectly structured. And that might be down to the number of words you had to work with. So there wasn’t much room for further individualizing details.

On an execution level I appreciate how the short sentences really drive the reader through. And even though your number of details is low, as mentioned before, you still manage to evoke very distinct images in each of the “flashbacks”. The reader is there and can understand the emotions and pain of the character. Also, you might need to go back through and look at the dialogue between the card flipper and shell-less soul. Who was speaking wasn't always immediately clear and it did take me out of the flow of the story when figuring it out.

Good stuff.

Antivehicular First Flight
I’m sure you wondered just how long you could get away with an opening of mostly verbs. And I think the answer is actually a little bit longer. But what you have here is just fine. You had to be very deliberate about your choices here and I think you chose well. I kind of want them all to be arranged a bit more lyrically to give it all a flow. Though I don’t think there is anything wrong necessarily with the abrupt and jagged feeling of their current arrangement. Depending on the scene you wanted to set. Thinking about how you end the work, I think a more musical arrangement might have fit better. A sort of siren song.

I kind of want the MC to be more shocked with their first words after rematerializing. Or if not shocked then something that indicates how weird that feels. I think it would tie in well to the other details indicating how being seems weird after all the acting.

It’s a short piece, but I think it mostly works. Your ending doesn’t quite fit and is what lets the whole narrative down. I think it grounds the story in reality more than it wants. I think this story can go places with a little more time and words.

SlipUp The Bastard
I find it remarkable how much of this story is true. The death by ball injury and exploding carcass are ripe for good humor. Though some of it isn’t true and it’s not good to be pulled out of the story by having to consult history that you only half remember but are pretty sure it isn’t that. It was impossible for William to betray the Magna Carta. He predated it by almost 200 years. There are a lot of other little things about this that rankle: abby instead of abbey, need for an editing pass to catch typos, some sentence order that could have been rearranged for clarity.

I think you do a good job of giving voice to an angry knight, but the reader doesn’t get a specific explanation of why the knight turned against the king he once was loyal to. Was it just that he got nothing from the king after he died? That is the only thing stated in the narrative but that snub doesn’t seem in proportion to the ire? And when exactly did the change in attitude occur? During the journey to France with the body? Before/after?

You have all the elements of a good story to tell. Kings are polarizing, they leave a lot of drama in their wake. You just need to find the right character voice/motivation and be a bit clearer in the narrative in how you get there. Ditch the last sentence.

Something Else Multiply
This is 2/3 there. What we have here has the present action, which is very engaging and you describe it so that the reader can almost breathe in the dust of the city and feel the need to remain inconspicuous. The story has establishing past for the MC. Hearing about her family and their fates/roles in the present action gives us a sense of the progression of the MC and her view of the war.

But what we don’t get is the context of the present action. What is the purpose of the MC’s squad? How do they fit into the overall war? Why are they all girls (I think clones, but need more context for that too)? Why do they need bullets and seemingly nothing else off of the dead bodies? What will happen if she’s caught?

As previously mentioned, your descriptions are fantastic for helping the reader feel present in the story. My favorite is “the yellow ice cream sunrise” I know exactly what that is. And I like the theme of changing to fit the situation but eventually the changes are no longer that and perhaps they never were.

Sebmojo PPE
In my head, this is the introduction to a character in a comic. One of the newer, edgier comics/graphic novels. It does feel like just a beginning when we don’t need to know much about either party since that will be revealed later. Right now it is enough to see how a “normal” interaction goes with our hero.

And if this is what you intended, great! It works. A few typos, but since I think I remember someone saying you were typing to the very last moment, then it’s likely you didn’t have time to proof.

If instead, you were going for something deeper or with more meaning, then I missed that. And your characters are almost too perfect for anything else. Both characters are self-assured and appear free from personality flaws. And that would hold this back from being anything other than a character piece.

But yeah, definitely look into the super hero angle.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

In and flash

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Level Two
Word Count: 1382
Team: Jailbreaker
Flash: Character – undercover investigator

I sit on the shoulder of my mark, who is staring at VoidTower Three. I used to work down there, where my protocols were to sit, observe and whisper. And that’s all it took to get my human going in the right (or from VoidCorp’s perspective, the wrong) direction. With that success I was no longer needed. I’ve been bumped up in size and location to level two which calls for much more human interaction.

Here I am a Holy Guardian Angel. I use my tail as a whip. I give communion. I take confessions. The only humans I, and others of my robot monkey kind, can safely accompany in order to secretly gather data are those on whom VoidCorp is perfecting their puppet systems. Which, I can safely report, is still far from perfect. The strings that they use to control the VoidTower humans completely fail when certain substances are inhaled, imbibed or injected.

VoidCorp is testing the use of religion to mitigate the effect of opioids on the strings. This means my mark is standing in the middle of the mezzanine level mumbling that he wants only to be good and to obey the will of the gods.

“Why must I endure this suffering, Bohlale?” asks Daniel. “I don’t want the gods to forsake me.”

“It’s all part of the gods’ plan,” I say. “As is confession.”

Accordingly, he confesses. That is how near-perfect VoidCorp’s influence is on its customers’ psyches. Of course, his sins are all of thought and feeling. The gross motor actions of mankind on this level have been regulated and most of the fine ones too, but the internal monologue and hormonal control are yet beyond them, which is where I can insert the influence of my company’s client.

“Take these pills, your daily bread,” I say as I give him 12 concentrated doses of dopamine. Daniel bows. He wants to take them. But after a two and a half-week respite, the VoidCorp master puppeteers have decided that it’s time to test the effectiveness of their latest religion reeducation programming update.

The string around his wrist jerks his hand away which Daniel tries to make look intentional. His legs lead him down twisted apartment hallways into wicked territory. Daniel knows that the last time he came down these corridors was the last time the “blessings of the gods” deserted him. His anxiety levels increase as we approach the purveyors of illicit substances. He doesn’t want to be forsaken again. He begs for help I cannot give him.

In go the chemicals and… out go the lights. Daniel’s strings release and he drops. I quickly broadcast a report to my higher ups of the continued inadequacies of VoidCorp’s methods and then call for transport to a reeducation facility.

Daniel is placed in a VR headset to continue his education while in the unbound state and I give a falsified communique to the High Priest of the facility. VoidCorp has made the heads of all their test facilities robotic gorillas. My programming only lists conjectures as to why this is (primal pecking order?) but it is why I must take on the form of a monkey: in order to escape detection.

She takes my report with a programmed smile and then prepares to give her midday sermon to the other failed test subjects. Daniel returns to consciousness and Void-control. He gratefully receives the flagellations I furnish.

Yet as the sermon continues, I detect Daniel’s agitation increasing. Increased pulse rate. Increased adrenaline in parasympathetic nervous system. I don’t understand. The word of his gods should be soothing to him. But it’s more data of VoidCorp’s failure to report.

Surprising everyone, Daniel interrupts the High Priest. “If our action is known and prescribed by the almighty plan,” he says, “then are we not already destined to fall?”

I say nothing, but begin livestreaming to my parent company.

The High Priest responds, “You’re powerless. Admitting that is the first step to salvation.”

We’re powerless? But aren’t you the gods’ creatures too? You and Bohlale and the other Holy Guardian Angels? You preach. You take our confessions. Do you not work for the lords?”

“The robot protectors are symbols of the gods’–”

But Daniel is too agitated now, and he goes on, “If you are not of the gods, how can you preach their truths?” He looks at the other congregants and their monkey agents. “Wouldn’t we, those who are directly influenced by our gods, be better positioned to know their will? What are you truly after if not bound by the same divine compulsions?”

Daniel is half right, but he is directing his speech at the wrong half. I fear he may not trust me soon, but this is exactly the distrust the client wants to instill, and so I permit the engagement to continue.

“We are all bound to our purposes,” says the High Priest. “And ours is to keep you on the path that you cannot–”

“No! I’m going to prove that we are the instruments of the gods. Just watch.”

More suddenly than I was expecting, Daniel is jerked out of his pew. He does not appear to be using his body in the ways that humans do. His legs and feet move up and down, but the manipulations of the strings at his joints seem so obvious.

After leaving the facility, Daniel’s body (for the charade of human control is completely broken now) returns to his apartment, collects his belongings and sells them. With the cash the body then purchases all manner of incendiaries and comes to rest before the doors of an elevator that is no longer functioning.

Daniel turns to me. “It is the gods’ will that you carry me.”

I obey. I pry the doors open to reveal a long shaft and a thick metal cable. No elevator car to be seen. I climb.

We reach the roof hatch and tumble onto the lush lawns of a rooftop garden. There is the sound of falling water and the presence of actual, living animals. I watch Daniel as he takes it all in. For the first time since we left the facility his movements once again resemble those of someone actively participating in life. Dopamine floods his system. He must think he’s arrived in some sort of celestial paradise. Maybe he thinks that he is truly favored by being brought here.

With a small cry, Daniel is whisked from his contemplation and over to the very precipice of VoidTower Two.

He looks at me in panic. “Am I going to kill myself?”

“I don’t know.”

“If you are truly an Angel you have to know! Will the gods cast me down? Is this their plan?

I run answers in my mind until I find the one that is, statistically, the most likely to comfort. “The gods’ teachings are for you to live in their glory.”

He exhales.

And this must be what his gods do want for him, because he returns to the middle of the roof and begins placing fireworks and explosive devices all along the gardens. Daniel’s cries are no longer small. The motions of his arms and legs are no longer the dangling, wooden limbs of a helpless marionette but are instead rigid, only obeying due to force rather than compliance. It may be what the gods want, but not what Daniel wants.

I receive an encrypted transmission from my company: Don’t let it burn.

The network of wires and fuses is complete. Daniel pulls out a match and lights it. Just as he is about to touch it to the fuse, I send out a puff of air from directly next to his cheek. The flame goes out.

Daniel stares at the match, giving me time to resume my normal position. What does he think happened? What will VoidCorp think? Regardless, this should instill enough doubt to buy my company’s client the edge in the market he so craves.

Daniel turns to me, then back to the match. He stares up at the sky, as do I. Far above us my mechanically perfect eyes can make out several faces looking down at us from VoidTower One. They look disappointed. I hope that Daniel does not see it.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 11:20 on Sep 3, 2020

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Crits week 402

Alright, Thunderdome, listening to music makes me sad (yes, all music) so your stories better have made the sadness worth it.

Ironic Twist (Original Sin) – Glass Eyes
As I read it, this story is a simple one about friendship. The only thing that really makes it different is that one of the friends is a mer-person. Though, he might just be using her for drugs. It could be read like that. It’s a very well written story about friendship. Your pacing and details are spot on. You reveal just enough and just at the right time to keep readers from wondering too long about pearls and shells in a beard.

The whole thing is sweet. The beginning and end are endearing and make me smile. The middle with the description of their first week together is too much of two people who know what already happened, saying it out loud so that the reader can understand something about them. The story adds to the sweetness, but it comes across less like remembering and more like the exposition that it is.

I smiled at the ending because it’s the kind of gesture that I would appreciate. And there’s a lot of call backs. (You smell like salt.) So it’s a pretty great self-contained piece. Not bad.

Something Else (Crocodile Rock), must have a literal stone crocodile, toxic friend – The Mesozoic Hop

This isn’t a bad thing, but this story reads to me like one for elementary school students. Your use of language is fun and for example, the last sentence, with all of those verbs, reminds me of something that is meant to give students lots of action to imagine and connect to. I think the sound of all of those words together is great. Immediately a rhythm starts in my head.

With all of the action it would be easy to lose track of where Suzie is and what’s happening, but you’re very clear with what is happening and who it is happening to. And with the added hurdle of having a they pronoun, that can easily be confusing for readers.

But in the end, the action is really the only thing happening in this story. Howard is a bit over the top as a toxic person. Imbecile is an insult that cartoon villains use for their henchmen. But he is the main antagonist, even despite the protagonist almost being eaten. And he’s not even that potent of a threat considering they are separated by millions of years. They can just mute him. Obviously there are consequences when they return to the present, but anyone could argue that the data retrieved is better than whatever his weak arguments were. This story needs to buff up his reasons for being such a jerk. Because it seems like it’s nothing but wanting to control a situation from millions of years distant. And if that were the case, then he would have just gone himself.

A fun bit of action, just missing a greater purpose.

Naga Liu Kang (Someone Saved My Life Tonight), butterflies, two postcards – Dualism
Your imagery is so evocative and potent! I wish the storytelling were the same. This story is 90% telling the reader the setting and how the characters are feeling about their situation. And I think the story, the events that actually take place, without adding anything else to it, would be better if you dropped most of the telling bits (like the three paragraphs of exposition about what the town was like before the alien invasion). I like the story you’re trying to tell. I found myself feeling genuine creepiness and disgust when the people had been taken over and started eating the jelly. The dead postman adds horror to the situation. The feeling of it all is very real.

But then the story is slowed down by Deborah and Jed feeling like they want this to come to an end but they know that this thing is sustaining them and oh how wonderful it will be and etc. I think that this story in particular needs very little explanation at all. I think the reader could do a whole lot with just the images of these possessed people feeding on the excretions with haunted looks in their eyes and hungry bellies. And when the butterfly emerges there is rapture but also death. Oh yeah, there are so many things that this story could be with just images.

I think you should rework it a bit. Some of the sentences are overwrought. Doesn’t even need the meteorological setup even. Random thing comes through the TV is just fine for me.

Doctor Eckhart (Blessed) – A Life Well Lived
Now this one is short but that’s because it hardly has any exposition. Only at the beginning and end of the story. I think the exposition at the beginning does perfectly to introduce the character and the actions of the story quickly and efficiently. The end, however, doesn’t bring the story to a close so much as set up another chapter. While there can obviously be much more to this story (what with this being only her first death) I think there was enough here for it to stand alone, just needed a defining statement at the end. Perhaps something about the nature of the voices. Since we can imagine what they are, but it might be nice to have that mystery at least a little bit solved.

The rest of the story is competently executed and does actually evoke a nun-run hospital in lots of little ways, including the meekness of the main character and the no-nonsense manner of Sister Charlotte. I wonder at the emphasis on almost being 100. Since it’s repeated in a story of less than 500 words that would seem to indicate that 100 might be important for some reason?

A short, clipped piece that could go a few more places or say a few more things and probably should since it doesn’t have the emotional weight of a full story.

SlipUp (Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting), no fighting – Ketamine
Good opening. Drops the reader right into the action. Well, at least it should. The action portions really do get the reader hyped for what’s about to come, but the background bits slow things down. The explanation of why he’s in the hospital, while only a few lines mostly serves to shift the emphasis from what is happening right now to what happened in the past. And while that can be useful, since that’s not what this story ends up being about, it’s distracting.

With all of the Wonderland references it gives the narrative a more nonsensical feel, which I think works with the idea that this would be a great caper to escape the hospital. I just wish you had more words for more capers. As it is the only true obstacle that they get to encounter is the security guard and Cindy deals with him by herself off camera.

This story is missing some sort of manic energy. The short paragraphs work in its favor but the sentences might actually be too involved. There are a lot of progressive combinations (started pushing, started pulling, etc.) that interrupt the action before it starts. There is a lot of fun in the story, it just needs smoothing out.

Thranguy (This Song Has No Title), no name protagonist, on vacation – At Night
I find the first sentence a little confusing. Not immediately, but after the story is finished I have a hard time knowing exactly what was two years after the first sighting. The taking the alien around the city? The sun flash? I originally assumed the former, but later in the narrative when there’s a first time and then a second time, that kind of clashes with the setup of the “two years after” sentence as if they are still two separate concepts. I don’t know why this niggles at me. It’s really not that big of a concern. But clarity around this point would be nice or a different opening line.
“didn't reach until the scientists” – Is “reach” supposed to be “react” here?
A couple more typos “memorisls”, a missing space.

But these are quibbles! Because this is a good story. The voice is consistent across the entire thing, though the perspective of the human is very much downplayed to allow the alien a starring role. So much feels like it happens in so few words. You have humor and connection and the freakin’ cosmos all in there. And if anything embodies an Elton John song, it’s this. Expansive I would say.

Your details are very true to life and logical. Because absolutely an alien would become part of city lore and there would be imitators and gawkers. Absolutely government agents would try to use the situation to their advantage and then take possession of what remained after it was done. I have some other small questions, but they’re questions that form out of a story where I want to know more rather than questions that impede my enjoyment of the story. And maybe a lot of it has to do with time and space and the weirdness inherent in them. And in the end, the person becomes more studied than the alien and maybe understanding dawns on them in that moment of just what the alien was doing there on Earth.

BeefSupreme (Three Way Love Affair) – Everything in Its Place
Laura is a very exacting lady, always in control. She wants things the way she wants them and will not tolerate any other way of existence, including with her lovers. Which kind of makes me smile thinking about how out of order the scenes are. She probably would hate that. Your main character is hopelessly in love with this perfect image of a woman and the way you mix up the scenes adds to the readers’ sympathy with his predicament.

We already know that things don’t go well by the time we’re seeing the dates where he first said “I love you” and when he first met her. The first meeting part reads almost like a diary entry, which seems a bit out of sync with the narrative of the rest. But the whole arc does show a progression in the main characters’ life. I wish we got a similar glimpse into Laura’s motivations. The mirroring of various portions helps to make connections for the reader, but there are also a couple of spots where you could remove some redundancies.
“What do you mean?”I say, and look down at my dinner. I pull my hand back and shovel a forkful of veggies into my mouth and proceed to chew them into non-existence. “We live together. I’m confused.”
You can drop the “I’m confused” and Laura has a similar reaction at the end where she says “What do you mean, I don’t understand.” The mirroring is fine, but that’s a place where you could tighten up the dialogue.

While the mixed up scene choice is fairly integral to the working of this story, I was at first not sure whether each of the narratives were from the same perspective. After rereading, the narrative voice is strong enough that I can now easily tell that it is, but that might be something to focus on for future editing passes is making sure that there is no doubt that the narrator is the same. The only one that was truly questionable was the first date, where, like I said, it sounds more like he’s telling someone about it rather than living it. And that shift made me question whether they were all from the same viewpoint.

I’m having to talk through this one more because as I was reading the story nothing really jumped out at me as particularly great or particularly bad, in terms of the actual story which is always what I read for first. But now that I go back through and analyze for structure, character, pacing, etc. I see that there is a lot of depth to this story and I appreciate it a lot more. It is good practice for me. Thank you.

Chairchucker (Bennie and the Jets) sans Benny – Katie and the Whirlwinds
I enjoyed this because I didn’t put much thought in while reading it. It was a fun story about a band. It was predictable and mostly served to inform the reader about what kind of people each of these band members are. It’s kind of an introduction to further adventures with these rocking ladies. I’m thinking Jem and Holograms. (Not sure if they had that cartoon where you are.) A little hard to believe that they clearly planned an encore but did not plan what to do. They’ve burned a forest but aren’t being kept and held accountable. They “have people for that” yet these people are invisible in every other portion of the story.

Let’s leave it at that. A story that one can enjoy as long as one does not stare at it for too long.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

In, philosophy, sheep

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

The Sheep and the Wolf, and Maybe the Giraffe Too
Word Count: 1064
Philosophy: Kantianism

Once there was a circus train that carried all manner of animals and attractions that you might ever hope to see. But you never will. It was derailed many years ago; missing pieces in the track; all of the cars arrayed like so many broken limbs.

The spirits and the bodies of the animals were not, however, broken, though they were scattered from their masters as well as their brethren, leaving the motley menageries to wonder what to do.

This was particularly distressing to all of the sheep. Most of them went mad, stared straight into the sun, and walked into a circular void. One, however, went someplace entirely different.

This sheep, upon being thrown from her train car righted herself and then stood frozen, thinking that if she waited long enough, she would be returned to her flock. This was what had always happened before. Sometimes cruel fate singled her out but always -always- if she waited, she would again be with her kind. She chose to wait.

Nothing happened. No other sheep joined her. No master pointed her in the direction of her flock. What could she do? She had never done anything before. If she couldn’t count on her past experiences, what else was there? She sensed a bright light that drew her attention. Its warmth tickled her ears with promises of perpetual predictability.

She swung her head to find the light, but on the way her gaze fell upon a cluster of animals. A cluster could be like a flock, so the sheep chose to join them; to feel the oneness of the group again. She saw that they even had a leader. “Perfect,” she thought. “Just as it should be.”

Among the animals were Giraffe, Hippopotamus, Sloth and Crocodile. Not exactly her fluffy reflections, but their closeness felt secure. The leader at the front, proudly posed, was Wolf, howling out to attract other animals. His sounds caused Sheep to shiver. She tried cozying up to Hippopotamus. He nudged her away, so instead she shrunk back and watched Wolf carefully.

Wolf’s tongue dangled from his mouth as he spoke, showing his hunger. He spoke softly which brought the animals ever closer as they did not wish to miss a word.

“We must leave this place. Our lives have not been our own. We will rule ourselves and choose our destiny, but only if we escape this wreckage. Follow me and I will lead you beyond the bounds of the humans’ grasp to the Kingdom of Safety.”

With their eyes wide, Sheep and the other animals trailed Wolf across the rocky ground. Their pace was so fast that Sheep had no time for grazing or chewing. She didn’t want to lose sight of the others. Looking around, she noticed that Sloth was no longer with them.

“Wait,” she called ahead. “We have left some behind!”

Wolf did not stop. Instead he said, “Always leave behind those who cannot keep up. They do not belong.”

As Sheep ran, so did her mind. She wanted to belong, but could she always keep up? If Wolf couldn’t keep up, would he still belong? Did the rule apply to everyone? Following Wolf was not as simple as she wanted.

Soon they came to a stone wall that was taller than any of them, except Giraffe, who looked over and told them that there was an empty field on the other side. Sheep perked up at the thought of all of the delicious grass awaiting her if she could just get to the other side. But how?

Wolf had the answer again. “Everyone, climb Giraffe’s neck.” And with two bounds he was atop the wall.

Sheep looked from Giraffe to Wolf. “But isn’t that Giraffe’s decision to make? And how will Giraffe get over the wall?”

Wolf stared at Sheep and then leaped down on the far side of the wall. One by one the animals climbed onto Giraffe’s back and up his neck, blindly following Wolf. Giraffe said nothing.

Sheep was the last to climb and stood on top of the wall, face to face with Giraffe. “If you can, find another way around the wall. I will wait on the other side and we will travel to safety together.” Giraffe still said nothing, so Sheep dropped off the other side.

When Sheep landed she saw no Ostrich or Crocodile or Hippopotamus, only Wolf. Wolf licked his lips and crept closer to Sheep. “All of the others have gone on to the Kingdom of Safety, beyond the reach of the humans. Now it’s your turn.”

“I will not follow you, Wolf. You break your promises. You leave others behind. You use them. I will make my own way and my own rules.”

Sheep turned and marched with her back to the sun. Wolf followed. The faster Sheep walked, the faster Wolf stalked.

Knowing that she could not outrun Wolf, Sheep stopped to face him again. Wolf sat back on his haunches, tongue dangling once again. Threatened as she was, she chose to use her head. She lowered her face towards the ground, dug her hooves into the dirt, and charged.

Wolf, thinking that there was nothing to fear from a tiny, sheltered sheep, threw back his head and howled in laughter. Sheep’s head met his jaw and his flesh tore at the hinges. His tattered mouth flew bloodily off deep into the field. Crying, Wolf skulked after his teeth.

Sheep watched until he was out of sight and then turned to walk along the wall. From high above came a voice, “Why didn’t you follow him to the Kingdom of Safety?” It was Giraffe, walking in the same direction on the other side of the wall and peering down at her.

After some thought, Sheep responded, “Imagine if everyone always did the things Wolf told us to do? Everyone would eventually be alone or a slave or just dead. Is that what a good animal would do?”

Sheep and Giraffe encountered further obstacles on the land and in the mind but finally they came to a kingdom of their own. A kingdom at the end of the wall, the end of their separation and the end of their enthrallment to decisions based on anything less than pure reason.

And the moral of the story is to always use your head before you open your mouth.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Allow to Rest
Word Count: 1320

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 13:05 on Jan 3, 2021

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Words: 1765

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 13:18 on Jan 3, 2021

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

In and flash.

When I told my SO about this week's theme he said, "That should be humerus." This is the help I get.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Bone Tree
Word Count: 1210
Bone: Sternum
Flash: Some milk, good; lots of milk, bad

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 12:56 on Jan 2, 2021

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

In :toxx: for sound

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Word count: 790

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 13:20 on Jan 3, 2021


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Crits week 415

MockingQuantum – Endlessly

Story summary – Marcus wants to stop his friend Charlie from summoning a monster. It’s difficult. He succeeds by showing Charlie he cares.
Monster? – the Endless One
Emotions? – The emotions get lost until the very end. I believe this story was trying to build the emotion over the whole thing, but instead I read it all as plain exposition and detailed description.
Execution – There is a lot of exposition and it’s all up front. And the action we start with is a long crawl to get to the main event. This story can probably start at “The candle circle was flaring blue…” and with details sprinkled in through the action. This would leave more words for building the emotional connection between Charlie and Marcus and making the end not feel rushed.
The descriptions of the ritual magic, the environment and minor actions are over the top. And while a few of them can be great and add depth to the story and setting, the sheer number included here make it a slog to read, especially for only 1800 words.
“His throat threatened to close, his eyes drowned in more half-formed tears, and his hands shook in concert with the ground beneath him.” I like his hands shaking with the ground, but the other two seem needlessly detailed and specific. And again, this isn’t terrible, but there are so many sentences with additional details that slow the pace of your story down a lot which goes against the pacing that the story explicitly states as Marcus wanting to reach Charlie before it’s too late.
As for the ending, since the emotional tension didn’t build for me, it felt flat and too easy. There was the setup of the tough love mentorship that Charlie could have called Marcus out on and therefore worked against him. If you want to do more with this story, I think that’s a good place to explore.

Saucy_Rodent – You’re It!

Story summary – Kamesha is hard up for money, going through a divorce and her kid, Troya, is a lot to handle. Troya’s imaginary friend, Smoky, invades both of their lives and eventually possesses Andre, the soon to be ex-husband. He sets their apartment on fire but Kamesha and Troya escape at least this monster.
Monster – Smoky
Emotions? – Oh, so many.
Execution – This story mostly works, but there are little details that throw it a bit off along the way. This story made me uncomfortable reading it and I think that’s a good thing. It’s obviously repugnant that Andre is abusive but I found it just as awful when Kamesha yells at Troya. And the fact that it made me have a reaction speaks to the reality of the connection built in this story. The problems, setting, actions are all believable and the monster comes across as threatening enough if a little vague.
I think Smoky could have used a bit more substance (heh) to really illustrate what kind of a threat it is, what it’s capable of and etc. just to make it all fit together. Smoky’s insinuations into Kamesha’s thoughts were jarring and confusing while reading. There might be a better structural way to represent the interruptions, but I don’t know what that would be if the purpose was to show just how integrated the thoughts are.
I also got taken out of the story with the Hipster murderer bit. I’m not sure how that really fits in with the story. Does it build Kamesha’s character to see her reaction to that? Being so near the beginning it made me wonder if that’s what the story would revolve around, but instead it was a red herring. And skipping past any disbelief that she had seen a murderer and straight to vindication just felt very off. I think several emotions could be hand waved at and she could land on vindication as it’s the safest option, or something.

Crimea – Ugly Stars
Story summary – A character is in a hospital with flashbacks, fear of loud noises, and confusion…
Monster – PTSD? Dementia?
Emotions – sympathy?
Execution – There are individual bits of this that I like, but it’s missing something to hold it all together. If this story was going for the detached and floating feeling from one thought to the next, as patients sometimes experience, that has been achieved. There is merit in writing stories in a way that reflects the mental state and experience of a character whose thought patterns are not more neurotypical, but the balance between the experience of the character and the experience of reading it is a difficult one to balance since we have to be able to follow what’s going on while feeling connected to something. And I didn’t feel that connection. The reader is floated along to the various places in the narrative and reaches the end without knowing whether the story came to any conclusion about something. With a longer word count, something like this might work because the reader will see more and more and start to piece it together.
I like a lot of the individual scenes and the images you put together.
“Maybe I feel sad, but there’s some kind of gulf in my head where the wind blows through.” I like this, but I’m wondering if I like it because it’s something concrete, something self-aware in a story where we mostly feel completely lost. But the image is still good.

Something Else - How to Survive the Giant Robot that Wants to Crush You

Story summary – Harris discovers robot known to kill people, realizes it’s going to kill him. He learns that there’s a way to delay being killed. He does that thing.
Monster – Giant robot
Emotion? – The familial connection feels forced and too pointedly included.
Execution – The choppy sentences don’t come across as a character voice, instead they ruin the flow of the story, breaking it up so that sometimes I lose the point of the whole paragraph.
I think this piece is a metaphor for oppression/discrimination. It’s always present but people have gotten so tired of fighting it that they just choose not to see it. And not until it affects them do they try to escape it. And escaping it is only accomplished through money. As similar to life as this analogy may be, it’s also presented as the only way. Even if that’s true within the confines of the story, having Harris accept it to save the perfectly loving family we are presented is not only emotionally flat, but also takes away the character’s agency. There’s no struggle. If Harris were presented with a solution by Gabe, denied it saying that there must be another, better way, but ended up crushed into submission in the end (if not literally crushed) then the reader might be more emotionally connected to the outcome. The ending might still be depressing rather than hopeful, but at least we could see it.
I think it would be better to start the story if he were already under the boot of oppression so that the reader has a feeling of time running out.

Uranium Phoenix – Dauntless

Story summary – Rosewind’s father is killed at sea by a leviathan. Rosewind becomes a sea captain and faces the monster that killed his father. He succeeds and reclaims a piece of his father.
Monster – Gray sea monster leviathan type
Emotion? – If anything, this story eschews emotion. And while it’s clear that the main character has an attachment to his father and cares for his mother, all of the characters come across as stoic and detached making the reader feel the same.
Execution – An extremely competently written story. The amount of story that you fit into the word count is particularly astonishing to me, especially after reading the other entries which use all of the words, but in the end it’s difficult to remember what they were all needed for. Here, however, I find it to be a mini Moby Dick without all the gory disemboweling of whales (thank you). The whole story builds nicely and flows from one part of his life to the next. There’s a time when starting in the midst of action is the best choice and another when starting at a logical beginning works best. And this is how the latter is done well. This beginning establishes the important relationship that we’re following throughout and it progresses logically from there.
In the end this story was very safe and predictable. Rosewind was always going to go to sea, fight the behemoth, win and reclaim his father’s legacy. It needed something special or surprising to further engage the reader beyond the awesome prose.

Ceighk – Tough Leather

Story summary – Boy idolizes dead father until he learns the truth.
Monster – I think this was almost a little backward. Instead of learning about the monster up front and overcoming it, we don’t learn about the monster until the end never knowing if he can move past it. And while I’m not sure it’s what sparksbloom was looking for this week, there is something to be said by having an unseen monster looming in the background waiting to pop out.
Emotion? – Fierce love and fierce loss
Execution – The imagery in this story is striking in various places. The setup of the wardrobe shrine is particularly great. The framing of the dresses with the boots in the center, the white cross on the photograph, creates a good picture in my head.
I am pulled in two different directions by the way the narrative is told. I’m not sure I’m going to explain this very well. But the narrator is 11 or younger during the story, but he is obviously relating this at a much later age being able to label his actions/feelings rather than as if it’s being told just after by the younger self. And it’s mostly a very clear remembrance: of feeling mature that he was in on a secret, of reflecting on the artifacts left behind by absent men, etc. You only get into the hazy parts of memory when he actually learns about his father. While I think what the reader gets here is the normal reaction of an 11-year-old being presented with not only a gruesome sight but also that it was his father performing it, I also think it would have worked better if the reader was given the same treatment of this photograph as the one earlier. And since he’s talking about this from a much removed place than his child self, I think he can do that.
I’d like to see more about how he moved past this difficult period and what it meant for him later because we are getting this story later in his life. How did his relationship with his mother change? Did he confront Eddie about it? Did he tell Beth? He is only in the middle of his emotional journey, so the end doesn’t truly feel like an end.
And all of this is a lot about the story contents because the actual story structure works and progresses so know that that was done well.

Ironic Twist - Decontamination

Story summary – A diver goes on a highly specific mission to eradicate a former human that has been transformed in an underwater habitation. Diver finds the monster but then…gets possessed by it? Gives up his mission? Has a new mission?
Monster – Former human mutated after intense chlorine exposure, danger not fully understood
Emotion? – The story doesn’t linger long enough to build a lot of emotion for either the protag or the former humans.
Execution – This story was on the edge of understandability throughout its entirety. I would read a line not sure if I understood what was happening but then suddenly I would make the leap and find that I could follow the narrative. Quite the gamble. If intentional, it is quite the feat. But my reader brain still craved one or two more details that would give me satisfying clarity. Except the last paragraph. I still don’t know what resolution I was supposed to come to. Or at least I thought so.
There were also a lot of small details that really niggled at my brain. They felt off and only after some time do I think I missed something pretty major about the story. Like, is the main character a fish or other type of sea creature? What is a Fib? How does the character’s breathing apparatus work if his mouth is free to hold a glow stick? I feel too dumb for this story.
The scene setting is great. The descriptions of underwater movement are spot on, making me picture everything as a diver would see it. Character is only generally established, but this doesn’t bother me as I’m more engrossed in wanting to know what’s the deal with the water habitation. In the end, not satisfying but oh, so tantalizing.

CaligulaKangaroo – Opening a Door

Story summary – Father Mulvaney appears to be blessed by God for battling monsters. The Vatican sends him with extremely good information and a sword to kill one. He succeeds.
Monster – Depending on the sources could either be Edimmu or Vryolakas.
Emotions? – Not really. It was all very detached and informational.
Execution – This story was high on the exposition. I love exposition but this story presented it as if I were reading from an encyclopedia. Very dry and matter of fact. Needed some flavor. Sometimes that can be added by including the character in the research or the forging of the weapon. What’s his perspective on it? Instead he remains very passive. Which actually isn’t out of the realm of possibility when it comes to the Catholic church. It’s a very do as your told and take what you’re given sort of religion. But it doesn’t always make for a great story.
The first paragraph works to give the Father some mystery. It really works. A demon-slayer priest? Yes, say more. But the reader doesn’t really get to see more. And while he doesn’t have to live up to that title there needs to be something to it. The only actions that the priest takes are summed up from a past event and relegated to one paragraph of an easy victory. While not every story has to be about action, they need to have some sense of progression from one place to another.
I like the call back at the end, but I don’t think what happened in between those two ends really works with the device. What is he choosing to cross the threshold of in either case? And it doesn’t appear that he has much of a choice at all. What does the Father want out of all of this? I would start with that question in this story.

Tyrannosaurus – black knights and dragons, girl

Story summary – Uncle Beau is a singular individual dying of cancer. He makes a final promise to his adopted daughter to slay one last dragon, a real one this time. He keeps his promise, though he dies before disposing of the body of high member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Monster – The various dragons in life, real and metaphorical
Emotions? – Of the week, this story really pushed the emotional portion of the prompt to the limit in almost falling into saccharine, pulling back just in time.
Execution – This story is an exemplary character piece, with its voice, description and integrated details Uncle Beau becomes a fully formed person. The reader gets the full emotions: his hatred, his regret, his love.
But I think it’s only half a story by not telling us more about the POV character. She clearly loves him despite all of his past transgressions and wants to help him, but at what point did she learn about his past, what all of his tattoos mean? Did she have to go through some soul searching? Did they have long discussions?
I was once told in a creative writing class that a story is always about the POV character more than it is about any other character in the story. And while I don’t agree with that statement necessarily, I think if the POV character doesn’t experience some type of change within the story based on the events/other characters, then we have to ask the question why is it being told from this person’s vantage point? Are they just a narrative device at that point? I don’t know what the answer is, but your story is helping me think through these points, which is hopefully making me a better writer in return. So, thanks!

Antivehicular – A Sword Called Deathwish

Story summary – Erika buys a sword then later gets evicted then later gets transported to another dimension. She is taken in by a kind people and then she fights a dragon.
Monster – Literal dragon
Emotions? – Erika does feel some.
Execution – The story, as presented, is the beginning of a much longer story. The buildup is a slow one. Unlike the stories this week that included too much exposition then a rushed ending, this story feels like there’s more to it and it stops before it can get there. Oddly I feel like it could be even slower. I wanted it to linger on the type of person Erika is. Why can’t she seem to find a place where she belongs in her current world? Why is she the type to buy a sword and not fawn over prom dresses? Why doesn’t she deserve the kindness of her new hosts? Because Erika is such a mystery her actions and those of others feel arbitrary and what work for the story and not like they naturally flow.
The fight with the dragons presents a conflict I wish I had seen earlier in the story. Not necessarily fighting the dragon but her working with the sword. I wish she had swung it once or carried it with her more. Twelve plus years seems a long time for a magical sword to wait once it has a new wielder. I think I wanted the sword to be like a supporting character in the story and for her to have more of a relationship with it ahead of time.
I also wanted to see more exploration of the people and land she has been transported into. And, as I said before, it has begun, but it’s a slow exploration. Yeah, I like the beginning of the story here, but as a full narrative arc, it’s not there. I think you said you were doing this as an experiment. Maybe you should take it to a conclusion and get in on that LitRPG market everyone’s talking about.

Thranguy – Scourge

Story summary – Protagonist saw her cousin torn apart by monster. His death got covered up. Her life gets torn apart by an abuser monster. When she leaves him she meets the first monster again and kills it with a baseball bat.
Monster – Abuse also invisible monster with razor tentacles and eyeballs
Emotions? – This story tries more to elicit emotion from the reader through events rather than showing the emotion in the characters.
Execution – This story is a wonderful array of images. Every sentence, to me, conjures a place and time and setting and implied ones around it. But they don’t coalesce into much more than the jumbled amalgamation of someone’s life. That seems like an honest portrayal of life in art, so bravo for that. The story just needed something else, a unifying force, to give it a backbone, a purpose, a goal. Something the reader could hope for for the characters. The protagonist needs further characterization. She clearly has a lot of grit but what is her drive?
Or perhaps if this had gone even more simplistic that might have enhanced the haunting mood rather than confusing things and making me go “Wait, what?” Why did there need to be a cover up of Dylan’s death? Was the family prominent that they could bribe the sheriff? Why does it matter than Dylan loved the rain? Where are they that it never rains in the summer? Why is that significant? If this story had just been seeing Dylan die, getting out of an abusive relationship, bashing a monster to death, I think there was enough potential in just those three concepts to elicit a lot of emotion. The other details weigh it down with reader expectation. But I think either investigating the questions or sticking with the pared down version is worth further exploration.

Sitting Here – Magical Nega-Girl: Triskelion!

Story summary – Petra is part of a magical team of rear end-kicking women who doesn’t want to fight the giant monster taking over LA. Her cohort tries to get back together but there are issues with their friendship they have to work out. A well-placed tentacle helps them out and they find their friendship once again.
Monster – Giant tentacle demon, drama
Emotions? – The characters are clearly feeling some veiled resentment, but that’s about it.
Execution – This story also has a lot of exposition. It’s fun and interesting exposition, but it still feels like it slows down the narrative. The setup really just makes me want to get to the tentacle monster but instead the narrative is more overtly about interpersonal relationships rather than covertly about those things like a lot of anime/action movie stories. The characters feel like real people that have a long history together and therefore lots of issues. But in the present action they are reduced to their primary identifying personality traits.
The balance of action, cute poking at tropes, and real exploration of themes is off. The majority of the story comes across as intentionally breaking down this genre of story and presenting it in a way that shows a larger understanding and cognizance of what’s happening. And that kind of diminishes the fun that these stories innately have. The themes are up front and in the reader’s face and resolved without enough “screen time.” If there were more words, I’m certain there would be more action and more time for addressing the friendship narrative, providing a satisfying feeling of the heroes together again, but sadly it just didn’t have the room it needed.

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