Register a SA Forums Account here!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
Jan 20, 2012


on the off chance there's anything to be in by sunday


Jan 20, 2012

prompt: Rene Magritte - The Annunciation



MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:44 on Jan 5, 2021

Jan 20, 2012

With a Jolt

Jeremy woke with a start. The room was pitch black and quiet like a held breath. Something was there with him, in the room.

Reaching out with one tentative hand, he inched his fingers further, further onto the night stand, reaching for the lamp to drive away the darkness. Finally his hand grasped something cold and hard... It was a cool, refreshing Jolt Soda, packed with that energy blast you need to get up and go in the dead of night! Jeremy cracked open the bottle with a satisfying hssss and took a deep, glorious chug of the invigorating drink. He felt the fog of sleep whisked away in mere moments!

Jeremy belched, then gurgled, then dropped the bottle of Jolt to the floor with a splash and a clatter. He gripped the handle of the knife protruding from his chest, stared into the grinning face of the serial killer, and thanked his lucky stars he had one last drink of delicious Jolt Soda before he died.

Drink Jolt Soda!

Jan 20, 2012


Jan 20, 2012

Of the Swamp


MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:44 on Jan 5, 2021

Jan 20, 2012

:frogsiren:REDEMPTION TIME:frogsiren:

Thunderdome Week #272: Lost in the funhouse



MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:45 on Jan 5, 2021

Jan 20, 2012

Since apparently our js this week cannot be both f and g, I wrote some crits for a recent week.

TD 407 (Guilty Pleasures/Blade week) Crits

Overall this week ranged from middling to pretty good, for me. Some of the stories felt a little perfunctory, a little bit like they were mashing things together to make a story rather than really synthesizing the different elements into a new whole. I’ve definitely read overall worse weeks, though!

The caveat I’ll give off the bat is that I have no idea who wrote what, and don’t know what your flash rules were (if any). I don’t have any idea who even entered this week! So just for fun (mine, not yours, probably) I’m going to try to guess what the guilty pleasure(s) included in your story might be!

A Paper Horse, a Ghost Queen and her Flamingos, and a Space Hippopotamus
(horses/breakfast cereal or Saturday morning cartoons/anarcho-syndicalism)

This felt like I was slightly high the whole time I was reading it. I don’t think it harmed the story overall, it gave it a sort of Lewis Carroll-esque fantastic quality. I will say initially it wasn’t clear to me that the horse was literally on the cereal box, I thought it was peeling a picture of itself off the box. Between that and the reference to “slithering” early on I initially thought the character was some sort of hippocampus or other mythical creature. I got wise eventually, but the initial confusion meant I had to sort of start over.

I’m not sure I really bought the story, as it tended to feel like just a sequence of stuff happening rather than having some sort of central motivation or thru-line connecting the events. I know that on paper, the horse’s motivation was to become a full horse, but in practice it felt kind of thin to me.

(escapist fantasy games/greek myth/hiking?)

This was incredibly evocative. I loved the weight and depth of the language, though if I’m honest, it lost me at times, and impeded my ability to follow what was happening in this story, to a degree. That said, I didn’t care. The imagery was so vivid and grand in scope that I was willing to just go along for the ride. Interestingly, the one moment that stood out to me as kind of clumsy was in the Volvo moment where you explicitly lay out that the character was stopping Dad from leaving after he’d offended Mom. I think that would have been clearly implicit without coming right out and saying it, and that moment of explicit definition of the events detracted from the dreamlike quality, for me. This was a story that, for me, demanded no exposition, enough was communicated through the imagery that even if I walked away feeling like I wasn’t 100% clear on the exact order and nature of the “real” events, they were so secondary to the internal or dream world you presented that I didn’t care at all. That’s rare, for me as a reader, so I call this story a roaring success. This is one I see myself coming back to in the future.

(terrible action movies/pangolins)

I’d call this kind of bad but pretty entertaining. I think it’s mechanically a bit weak, though it’s hard to tell if my issues with the writing were an intentional stylistic choice to mimic really bad movies or similar. I laughed at a couple of moments, though, so there’s that. Make sure you spell your own villain’s name right. I have no idea why Usain Bolt was included here, I’ll be generous and assume it has something to do with a flash rule, it was definitely a weird tangent.

Lessons in Empathy
(space opera/RTS games)

I think this story has a lot of missed opportunities. An empath has the potential to be a very interesting character, and I think you had stylistic options to represent the character’s empathic abilities that were better than what I saw here. I felt that you by and large just told us how other characters were feeling, rather than giving us some indication of how those emotions were filtered through the main character’s perception. They felt less like an empath and more like an omniscient narrator in practice, in a way that didn’t benefit the story.

In general, this story had a lot of mechanical problems. Lots of shifting in tense and perspective, some unclear blocking and scene-setting (I couldn’t tell who was fighting whom for quite a while), lots of straight expository description that could have been much more evocative if it was shown as present action. Writing big dramatic space battles is challenging, so I credit you for trying, but I think with some study of other authors who do that kind of narration well, this story could have been much better.

Pie Rats
(pirates/biscuits/Rats of NIMH)

I wanted a little more than I got from this story. The whole series of events felt a little perfunctory, a little disconnected, in the way that TD entries can be sometimes. I would have liked more of a thru-line to connect the various events, and I personally didn’t really see what it was about these characters that drove the story forward. There were some sections where the blocking and scene-setting were a little unclear, too. I eventually kind of constructed the scene mentally, but overall the story could have been clearer for me.

The View From Up There
(Military history/Garrett PI novels)

You use the word “big” a lot in this story. Three times in one paragraph early on. It almost never does you much good, compared to other options. Now, with that out of the way, the story! I generally enjoyed this, I’d categorize it as just fine. No real glaring issues, though I initially wasn’t clear on the “normal” level of fantasy in this world. I couldn’t tell if it was completely normal or unbelievable that the grandpa killed a dragon, and didn’t really get a grasp on the normality of magic until after the elf was dead. It didn’t drastically hurt my experience with the story, but it did pull me out of the story just a tiny bit, and with such a short story, a tiny bit can mean a lot.

(urban fantasy/dewey decimal system/divine proportions)

This was another story that felt a bit perfunctory, like it was checking some boxes. I thought there was some good descriptive language here and there, the library felt pretty clear, but the events came across as a little random. The characters were also just a little too flat for me to really get invested in them, and I felt like they were reacting to events rather than driving the story forward with any real agency. Overall a functional, but somewhat boring, story.

Just Passing Through
(brutalist architecture/jumping spiders/that episode of Futurama with the Boltzmann brains)

This was one of only a couple of stories from this week that really grabbed me. Admittedly this ticks a lot of boxes for me and is right up my alley, taste-wise. That said, I thought it had some of the strongest writing, hands-down. The story felt motivated and grounded in the characters in a way that made it very relatable and evocative. It also does something that, for me, is really key in a wide open week like this: it presents a clear “what if” (what if boltzmann brains existed?) and not only answers that in a compelling way, but manages to also expound on how the world of the story and the characters would be affected by the truth of that “what if”. It’s hard to bind all that up in the space of 2500 words or whatever. Well done. Minor thing, but as a sound engineer, carrying around a boom mic in one hand and what is effectively a metal detector in the other all day sounds exhausting.

A Request
(history/flightless birds/the Black Sun D&D campaign setting)

This story should have really grabbed me, but didn’t. I think it’s a combination of there being a lot of expository language here, and the names. If I’m reading a book, or a novella, or really anything significantly longer than a TD entry, I’m willing to coast along with a half dozen unfamiliar names with the faith that they’ll not just get explained, but come to mean something to me beyond just being exotic nomenclature. I think there was room here for the story you were telling with a more condensed, more effective worldbuilding, and personally that would have gotten me more engaged in the actual events. Also I had to look up what an aepyornis was, which felt a bit like you wanted me to Google it so I saw what it was, and that you could save having to describe it. I know that’s probably not the case, but it took me out of the story (literally!) in a way that didn’t help the reading experience. I think there’s a way you could have told us it’s a big flightless bird without having to just say it’s a big flightless bird, y’know? I feel like you even managed to do that later, which made the specific inclusion of “aepyornis” kind of puzzling to me. Fun word, though. This sounds like I’m heavily critical of the story but really, I think it was just a near-miss for me. Tighter plotting and more selective description/exposition would have got it there, for me.

Tea & Regrets
(hard-boiled detectives/yokai)

I like the ambition of this story, though I’d say it has the same issue I had with “A Request,” namely that there’s not a ton of room in a story this short to get a reader invested in all the names and mythology necessary to really carry the setting along. I’m lucky here, as I knew a lot of what you were referencing, but I think with a story like this, you need to figure out to what degree you need to “invite” the reader into the story. This felt like it teetered back and forth over that line. Sometimes it was fantastical and made me want to keep reading, sometimes it just felt opaque. In a similar vein, I think the hard-boiled detective schtick (and I do mean “schtick”, I personally think it’s very played-out) has a line. Occasionally the dialogue felt characterful and energized, other times the leggy broads and overly snappy rejoinders veered into self-parody. Overall I enjoyed it.

Jan 20, 2012

In, sound me

Jan 20, 2012

One More
799 words
flash: Ambience, Florida Frogs Gathering, A


MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:45 on Jan 5, 2021

Jan 20, 2012


Jan 20, 2012

:frogsiren:UNRELATED REDEMPTION TIME:frogsiren:

Thunderdome Week #290: Fiasco Week 2

An Easy Score


MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:46 on Jan 5, 2021

Jan 20, 2012

Tyrannosaurus posted:

Late. With an edit. Incredible.

dang I hosed up which week it was for and thought I could ninja edit it, but I was not agile enough.


Jan 20, 2012

1796 words
prompt: The Middle of the Night


MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:46 on Jan 5, 2021

Jan 20, 2012

In with Pulp Horror

Jan 20, 2012

Silver Screen Classics

banned words: Terror, town, monster, ghost, alien, being (again, only as a noun), forest, house, dark, man

wordcount: 1744


MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:47 on Jan 5, 2021

Jan 20, 2012

Antivehicular posted:

Interprompt: Things you can't say out loud
200 words

Shared Silence
145 words

As his wife Emily maneuvered the twins into the van, Jonas loaded the last suitcase into the back. Another twice-a-year trip to his best friend Brandon's family neared an end, and the kids were subdued as they felt the energy of the visit ebbing away. It had become a treasured ritual in their young lives, to make the trek two states away and visit their unofficial cousins, trading in games and music and ways of seeing the world.

Jonas walked around to the driver's side, waiting to partake in his own bittersweet ritual. As he opened the door, he looked to Brandon, standing on the front porch with his two girls and beautiful wife. Keys in hand, Jonas's eyes met Brandon's, and they shared that perpetual regret, the certainty that the two of them should have a house and beautiful children of their own, together.

Jan 20, 2012

in, give me a dingus

Jan 20, 2012

Black Lines
793 words
item: sharpie


MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:47 on Jan 5, 2021

Jan 20, 2012

Next two people to quote this post and tell me the title of one of their TD entries will get line crits from me.

The Good News:

If you miss this opportunity, I'll probably do it again soon once I know how long it takes me to process your turdwords in my editing windmill

The Bad News:

You have to get a crit from me, noted mediocre writer and inexperienced rear end in a top hat

Jan 20, 2012

Alright there are my two hapless victims willing writers, stay tuned to this channel for some steaming piles of critique

Jan 20, 2012

Interprompt: the circus is in town and you are a freelance clown
250 words

Jan 20, 2012

Linecrit Time!
Alright UP, line crits are in the quote, general thoughts to follow.

Uranium Phoenix posted:

The Conquest of Paradise
1723 of 1727 words

The last memories of Texzalicah linger with us, the last remnant of its people. The Conquerors took everything when they came across the great ocean in their ships, and now we hide atop the mountains in Azith, the last unconquered city. This feels like just flat-out exposition, but it's evocative. I would complain about it more but I like the reversal in the next paragraph.

I join those memories in my chamber, lazing on my cushions, even as the light rays cracking through the glass windows stand. This sentence reads very awkwardly to me, is this correct? I feel like as it reads, it's saying that the "light rays stand" which seems weird. Should it be "even as the light rays crack through the window"? Regardless, it's not clear. Drug-addled by patec-cactus root, I watch the spirits of my ancestors drift by, yearning for their wisdom, their stories—their lives. The glory of Texzalicah before it Before what? It's unclear what you're referencing here. was lost. I see glimpses of their bright-dyed garb, decorated by macaw feathers. Distantly, I hear their rascas, flutes and drums, playing songs from my childhood, but when I focus on them, their harmonies fade. In a way, this is the real first paragraph of your story proper, since the first one is kind of a fakeout. With that in mind, I think it does a good job of giving us a peek into our narrator, she's someone who longs after the past to the point of self-medicating to experience it.

I hardly notice the merfolk come in. With his bright-scaled flesh and coral armor, he seems at first like a spirit. I had to re-read this, though briefly. I think my mind wanted it to say "he seems at first to be another spirit" And he is wearing his legs, not his fish tail. It shouldn’t surprise me, given we’re on a mountain, "As you know, Bob, we're on a mountain." It's not terrible, but I suspect there's a less overt and more useful/descriptive way to establish what you're saying here-- it's a big loving deal that a fishdude lugged his way up a mountain. but when I realize what he is, I blink. Okay, I'm guilty of this too so I'll just own up to it: blinks are not evocative of shock and realization in the way we want them to be. It feels prosaic and small in a way that I think runs counter to what you're trying to convey in this paragraph. The last time I’d seen a merman, I was a girl, fleeing along the edge of the Crater Sea toward the heights. Towards Azith. Why have the merfolk sent someone to us?

“So this is what she has come to,” he says, shaking his head. Does he know me? Does he? This is kind of a strange aside as, at least by my reading, it isn't really relevant later in the story. If you're trying to establish that Necahua is a person of note, this paragraph doesn't quite pull it off. If you're not, I'm not sure what this paragraph is meant to do, and I'd chuck it.

Xochi, my old mentor and surrogate father, stands by the merman, but he doesn’t look disappointed. He looks scared. I get what you're conveying with this disappointed/scared moment but it feels a little pedestrian, similar to the blink above. They're both moments that don't feel like they stand up to the level of prose that's exhibited in the rest of the story. “Necahua,” he says. “Did you not hear the trumpets? They’re coming. We have to go.”

A spirit dances in front of me, a blur of color, and my eyes watch it pass. I like "and my eyes watch it pass". It conveys the sort of drugged-up disconnection that I'd expect given the second paragraph's scene-setting. I'd kind of like more of that sort of language and phrasing in this beginning section to really key me in to Necahua's mental state.

“Aolan, they’re coming,” Xochi repeats, this time to the merfolk.

“Who?” I ask, not because I don’t know, but because I don’t want to believe it. Azith is the hidden city. This feels like the merman-mountain moment earlier. I think it bears repeating that Azith is this hidden city in the mountains, because it makes the invasion feel more momentous and threatening, but I think there's probably a way to remind us of the fact while also giving us something more, be it description or some aspect of Necahua's character. I'd maybe zoom out momentarily, maybe Necahua imagines the invaders amassing around Azith's walls, tucked away among the peaks, or similar. How did they find us? And why would they bother chasing after this last remnant of a remnant? I'm not sold on "last remnant of a remnant". I'm not crazy about the phrasing in general, which feels clunky to me, but at the very least I think the word "last" is redundant here.

“The Conquerors,” Aolan says. “We don’t have time for this.” The merman bends down and picks me up, tossing me over his shoulder like a sack of maize.

“The root…” I mumble, reaching for the sack of patec-cactus. There’s so little left.

Xochi grabs the sack, but keeps it far from my reaching fingers. “This is for communing with our ancestors, for sacred rites! Not for… this.” Not for you to linger in the past, wishing you were there, he means. "linger in the past"/"wishing you were there" feels a bit redundant to me. If you want to emphasize Necahua's backwards-longing personality, I'd vary the color or feeling of the second phrase. "Wishing you were there" doesn't add much here.

“Spear…” I say as Aolan carries me out the door, and he hesitates.

He ducks back through the door, Okay, just a heads-up, this (after "the door") is the first of a number of commas that I think you could lose outright. More on that later. and grabs it, holding it with the hand not wrapped around my legs. I do this a lot, get very specific in the blocking and physical action of the scene. It rarely adds much. I think you could get away with "holding it with his free hand" especially since the "tossing me over his shoulder like a sack of maize" is both plenty clear and flavorful without this specificity. The last possession of my family. My mother’s spear, and before that, her mother’s, and before that—

Htuali. Her blood still stains the stones of distant Texzalicah. I like this paragraph and wish there was a little more of this sort of thing throughout. Really the only think I know about Necahua (at this point in the story) is that she's obsessed, possibly too obsessed, with the past.

I hear the trumpets now. Short, panicked blasts, and with them, the shouting. We have spent our days tilling arid soil, farming the old tiered gardens, not fighting, not preparing. Now, all is lost again. I think the previous is another sentence that neither says much nor adds anything to this paragraph. I tilt my head to see. My people are gathering up the alpacas, sacks of food and a few possessions. Running. Again. Because my grandmother was right. They will not rest until no one even I'm not sure this needs "even." It sets a more conversational tone than without it. If I go off the deep end on hypothesizing, I could believe her grandmother did say it exactly like that, but given that Necahua clearly mythologizes the past, I also could believe her remembering this pronouncement as being much more momentous and prophetic in tone than it really was. remembers we were once here.

There is another figure, where? but she’s not running. She is standing, black regal hair blowing as if amidst a storm, arms pushed out as if warding back some great force. Her eyes meet mine. Ixtia. My twin sister. But you died, I think. I reach for her— I like everything here up to "My twin sister." After that it loses some magic, but I think you could sustain this vision to the end of the paragraph in a compelling way. This is really the second concrete aspect of Necahua's character that I learn (she has a dead twin sister and this is a BIG loving DEAL to her) and I wish it was a little more revealing of Necahua's personality and emotional state.

--and my head smacks against Aolan’s armor as he jostles me down the stone steps. Dazed, I hear another noise. Shouting, don't need this comma. It feels like you're trying to parallel the previous sentence but I don't think it works. in that cursed language, and the thunder-roar of pistols. The Conquerors are here. Now. I don't think you need the "now," it's just gilding the lily. I also don't think you need "here" italicized. Let the prose stand without ornamentation and I think the gravity will still be communicated.

I blink, trying to clear my head, my heart pounding. Suddenly, it becomes real. I don't think you need the previous sentence. It's a nothingburger of a sentence, and personally I think "Suddenly, (something happens)" is a bad construction pretty much anywhere it's used, because the comma is inherently a pause in the sentence, so it's actively working against the use of "Suddenly." Regardless, I don't think the sentence is doing enough work here to warrant it slowing down the prose. I hear the clatter of steel armor, and another pistol roar. Then a scream.

Aolan puts me down. “I need you to run with us,” he says, and draws his shark-bone blade. “My magic is weak here. I cannot carry you down the mountain. Can you hold your spear?”

I blink, and it’s not Aolan, standing there in his bright red and teal armor. It’s a woman, red, gold, and white this reads a little awkwardly, like the word "woman" is part of the list of colors. Also where are the feathers? What are they? Does she have feathers? Are they attached to something? feathers splayed out, wearing armor that glimmers silver, but not as the metal. This last phrase (but not as the metal) also reads awkwardly. You could go straight through, a la "armor that glimmers silver, full of starlight." It is full of starlight. She holds a spear in her hand of pure obsidian. Feathers trail from the crossguard, Are these the same feathers? Is this where they were hiding all along? burning like sunfire.

She hands me the spear, and I reach for it, in awe. I'll expound on commas at the end, but I just wanted to point out that this is one instance where I think they're effective.

As my fingers grasp it, the spirit vanishes. I am holding my own unadorned spear.

“Run!” Xochi says.

My legs feel unfamiliar, but I stumble after the towering merman and Xochi. There’s screaming behind me, and I hear the wet-cut of steel through flesh. A small avalanche of potatoes bounce past me. The people behind me are throwing down their goods. But they can’t. We need that food to survive. I'm not sold on the italics (is it your emphasis as the author, or Necahua's?) but overall I like this paragraph as a good shorthand for chaos.

I grip my spear and turn. Spirits still flicker in my peripherals, I don't like this word choice. It makes me think of wireless mice and drawing tablets, not peripheral vision. but I focus my gaze on the pursuers. They’re finishing butchering an old man, The previous is awkward. "[are] finishing butchering" is too clunky for this moment, I think. I think even if they're just butchering an old man, I'll know he's dead. Butchers aren't known for the recovery rate of their charges. steel cutlasses dripping red, steel cuirasses splattered with blood. Conquerors. Demons. I like what you're doing here but weirdly "red" and "blood" feel a little sterile and pedestrian for this moment, imho.

There are four of them, right here. Don't need the "right here" imo. We're watching this scene unfold from basically over Necahua's shoulder, so it feels anally specific in this instance. Three, I think you should definitely lose this comma. wielding blades, and a Priest of Chains, arms wrapped in thin silver links, holding a staff of iron. A cursed wielder of Forged magic. But I wear no metal, so his power over me is weak. This whole bit about the Forged magic and not wearing metal doesn't belong. I get that it might be relevant in the context of the prompt being "write the first chapter of a book" but it sticks out like a sore thumb. You do a good enough job establishing metal as a Conqueror thing, and "natural" materials (obsidian, feathers) as Azith things, I don't really need to know what Forged magic is or that metal is important to it, since it doesn't functionally come up again in the course of the story. But the phrasing here, along with the capital-f Forged, makes it seem like it will be of immense importance. Even if this was the first chapter of a longer work and I knew Forged magic would come up again, it would either need to be expanded on now or shortly after, or get cut and expanded on in a future chapter when I'm not trying to follow more interesting action.

The tail-end of the survivors I don't like this phrasing. I get what you're saying, but it's kind of a weird subject/verb disagreement (along with "flees" later) here. My brain wants it to be "The tail-end of the group of survivors" but that doesn't really feel less awkward. flees past me, and I stand in front of the soldiers, snarling. They hesitate, and then charge. Blah. It's fine as blocking, but boring. I'm on the fence with how the Conquerors are depicted in the story. I like the steel, gunpowder, conquistador sort of imagery you've constructed, but when we actually encounter them they feel like a faceless mass. Which is fine, but you sort of implicitly tell us earlier that they're an implacable, ruthless faceless mass that's intent on the complete obliteration of Necahua's people, so sentences like "They hesitate, and then charge" aren't pulling their weight in supporting that image.

Xochi’s training comes to me, unhindered by thought. I dodge, stabbing forward as I do. My obsidian tip finds a gap in one man’s armor, and he curses as he falls back, clutching the wound. I dodge back again, spirits whispering where the stone steps are, warding back the now-cautious swordsmen with feints and jabs.

The silver chains on the priest begin to smolder, and he sends shards of flame at me. I smash one with my spear, then fall back, hissing. I feel the burns on my thigh and ribs. Ghostly chains form between my wound and the priest, and I feel sluggish. I like this paragraph.

The man I wounded has finished reloading his pistol. I get why this is by itself but it almost preempts the drama of the shot by standing out so much.

I leap forward, my spear finding the neck of one swordsman, then draw it back, spin, and sweep the legs of the other, sending him crashing down the steps. I kick him in the face.

Then, I hear the thunder-crack, see the smoking pistol barrel, and fall to the ground. I clutch my stomach, blood bubbling past my fingers. The pain is sharp. Behind the four men I faced, I see more men in gleaming steel. At the edges of my vision, the spirits approach.

Dead, I realize. I am

Dimly, I hear footsteps behind me, hear a shout— I'm not sure you need this line, it kind of undercuts the moment. Unless you want to undercut her being shot, but if you do, I'm clear on why.

And my vision fades to black.


The world grows brighter, all aflame with golden light. I am flying, wings of rainbow buoying me up, and I see it—the Suncity. "Suncity" reads weirdly to me. I initially thought it was a misspelling of "Sanctity" or something. Not a big deal, but Sun-city or Sun City would be less ambiguous, and my brain wouldn't try to pronounce it like "sanctity." It lies atop a gold disk, circled by bands of stars and sacred birds. Great step pyramids of stone tower above the houses. It is as Texzalicah in its glory was described to me, but vast beyond measure. It stretches across the great disk farther than I can see. Overall, I really like this paragraph. This story is at its strongest, I think, when you take the time to zoom out and give us a sense of place.

I approach the grand gates, and they open.

And the spirits pour forth.

I throw my hands up as they emerge, I'd kill the comma after "emerge," but keep the one one after "thousands." As it stands the sentence tries too hard to make "thousands" feel surprising (which it kind of won't, since you described the spirits as pouring forth earlier). If you delete the first one, then "by the millions" feels more momentous, and the sentence doesn't slow down the moment. by the thousands, by the millions, but I see them through my flesh, through my hands and closed eyes. Spirits of the dead, suddenly stretching across the horizon. From their bright clothing, I know them as my own people. They bear the wounds that killed them. A gaping hole the chest. A red line across the neck. Iron chains the conquerors had put on them in life. But most bear the mark of the pox. Those black-bubbled blisters. Nine in every ten have them.

I’d heard about it, as a child. The plagues that had preceded the Conquest. But seeing it… The subject disagreement between "it" and "plagues" here almost makes it seem like "it" refers to something else entirely.

A woman steps forth, the one I’d seen before, blazing bright in red and yellow feathers, white and silver dress like the stars, holding that obsidian spear. Her eyes speak. There is someone who was supposed to meet me here, in this afterlife.

“Where is my sister?” I ask.

The woman points behind me, and I turn. Even though it is nowhere near me, I see another place. Another afterlife.

There is a raging river, black waters full of wailing souls. The River of Death. Lore of the Conquerors, not ours. Its putrid waters move toward a lightless, burning gate, and there, Don't need the previous comma, it's not helping. the souls are shredded. But where…? I get what you're doing here but I don't think "But where...?" adds anything here. It feels like an artificial attempt to force us to see this moment through Necahua's eyes, but I think the following paragraph does that fine.
And then I see her. Amidst the raging waters is Ixtia. Great chains of burning iron bind her to the Gate of Oblivion, so she cannot join us. She is fighting, holding fast against the river. But slowly, inexorably, it drags her with it. Her resolute eyes meet mine again.

“Ixtia!” I call, the tears coming fast. Calling is not enough. I scream it. “IXTIA!”

The vision fades, and I turn to the woman in splendor.

“How do I help her?” I plead. “Now I am dead too, and my people…”

I fall to my knees. I feel my own soul, I think you could lose this comma, unless you want to convey that Necahua stops to ponder her soul before realizing it's getting dragged back. I personally think it unnecessarily slows down this moment. being dragged into the Suncity. I had thought I would see her again, but now I know. An eternity without her. Ten years without her has been its own hell.

Free our people, the woman says, words not a sound, but a feeling. Take back our land. Break the chains

“But I am here. It is too late for me.”

Too many, she says, and the wall of spirits around her chants it too. Too many! Too many dead! They wail, their sorrow stretching out as infinite as the city.

It is not your time. Remember….


My eyes flutter open.

I hear Xochi speaking. “How bad?”

“Bad,” Aolan says. The merman is wheezing through his gills.

I see his shark-bone sword dangling from his hand, so soaked with blood that it still leaves a trail. His own blue blood trickles down his armor.

I smell smoke. Groaning, I twist my head to look. In the distance, Azith is burning, a great column of black clawing at the sky.

And the world is black again. I am absolutely guilty of this in like 90% of my stories and will probably continue to do it because it feels so good to write but honestly the mic-drop single-sentence paragraph TD entry ending™ rarely actually works well. I think tacking it to the end of the previous paragraph would still be powerful while sticking out less.

Okay so there's the line crit. Generally I liked this story a lot, there were some really cool and evocative moments in it, and I enjoyed the ride. I do feel like you could give us more sense of who Necahua is. Functionally the two things I know about her is that she has a dead sister, and that she drugs herself to see the past glory of her people. I think the story would have worked better if those two aspects were tied together more clearly together, or if one was a symptom or reflection of the other. I'd also like to see more of that sort of backwards-longing personality expressed in the prose, in the way she views events, in the way she describes the world around her.

Almost without fail, the moments I liked best were when you took the time to open up descriptively and give me a sense of the grandeur and beauty of this world that was being threatened. Conversely, I think the story was weakest when you dove into moment-to-moment, highly-specific blocking or physical description (blinking, groaning, turning heads, etc). That sort of over-the-shoulder view of action is important, if not outright necessary for highly physical moments (i.e. the fight, where it worked well) but kind of falls flat elsewhere.

Finally, let's talk about commas. You use a lot of commas in this story to extend sentences or draw out description. Sometimes it works well, but I'd say the majority of the commas instead give the writing a stilted, herky-jerky quality that makes it hard to read. Commas function as a pause or breath, so including them in the active moments of the story tended to only slow down the action, and more often than not the opposite needed to happen. You also seem to lean on commas for a specific type of sentence construction. There's a lot of sentences that are [complete phrase, sometimes a fragment where something is happening] [comma] [gerund fragment where something else is happening simultaneously]. "I dodge, stabbing forward as I do." "I clutch my stomach, blood bubbling past my fingers."

There's nothing inherently wrong with this construction, but it's common enough that it feels like this repetitious inbreath-outbreath sort of cadence. I think if it was used sparingly and intentionally, it would lend a useful sense of action or disorientation, depending on when and how it's used. But with a lot of sentences built from these fragmentary actions, they instead start to feel like the sentences are saying "look over here, now over here" in a way that diminishes the focus and strength of the prose. Like I said, I don't think it's a construction you should (or could) eliminate entirely, but it does feel overused. Honestly it feels like the sort of wordcount-saving word-chopping trick that I find myself using a lot in TD.

Jan 20, 2012

also, In, Alien

Jan 20, 2012

Linecrit Time, Again!

Alright Saucy, my line crits are in bold in the quote, with general thoughts to follow.

Saucy_Rodent posted:

Mind Rebel

1769 words, Headstrong by Trapt

As Tyler furiously An adverb as the third word is a bold choice. I think it falls flat here because it doesn't actually tell me much. Is he furious? Is his lamp-grab particularly violent? Is he in a mad rush? There's too much possible nuance here for the word to be effective. Also I think the context reveals itself fine later on. grabs the lamp on the bedside table, Judy realizes that this can't be happening, because it's already happened.

Tyler will throw the lamp at her and her arms and chest will bleed and he'll be nice and sober-sounding when the cops arrive and as she sprawls sobbing on the carpet the cops will joke about how it isn't their job to solve lovers' quarrels.Nice, I now know roughly what the conceit of the piece is, and I like it.

This was years ago, but she's here now, and the more she concentrates on the moment, the more it feels like deja vu on deja vu. I'm not sold on the ending of the prior sentence. I get what you're saying but "deja vu" reads kind of clunkily on its own, imo. I can live with it, though. This isn't the first time she's re-experienced this, nor the second nor hundredth, but it may just I don't think you need this "just." be the first time she understands that you definitely don't need "that" here. it can't be real. So as the lamp hurtles towards her, she does what she felt somehow guilty about not doing the first time, and she ducks. This last sentence is kind of hard to parse. I think moving "somehow" to between "she" and "felt" is clearer (the way it is right now is fine, but harms the comprehension of the sentence, I think). I'd also lose "about" here, I think it unnecessarily extends the sentence, so losing it may also help the whole thing scan more clearly.

It feels like pushing through an invisible barrier. The air shatters around her as she breaks from the destined path. It is you need an "as" here though the world is glitching. The heavy metal posters on the wall flicker in and out of existence, and the lamp cannot decide whether it's still on the table, in Tyler's hand, or shattered on the dingy carpet. Judy runs toward the door, and I love this whole conceit to represent the time jumping. I think my instinct would be to throw in an em-dash at the end of the paragraph but it works well without. If it were up to me, I'd move "she's" up from the next paragraph to the end of this one to make it feel more abrupt, but that might kill some of the clarity.

she's driving away from the bar ten beers deep because she just heard that Tyler was cheating on her and she's gonna catch that rear end in a top hat in the act and laugh at the stupid look on his dumb face and no no no this isn't real Judy you're dreaming wake up wake up and I like the run-on nature of the "flashbacks"

something appears in the passenger's seat. It looks just like Judy. It wears a neon dress that matches its manufactured smile.

hi! says the other judy. i'm judy.

Judy looks away from the road to give her doppelganger a puzzled look. "No, I'm Judy."

yes you are, it says, as the car veers off the road. a few months ago, you attempted suicide, and thus, an experimental operation was performed to cure your depression. this was done by constructing me inside a computer, then giving me your memories and identity. i was then put in charge of the regions of this brain responsible for motor functions and sensory recognition, with certain safeguards to prevent unhappiness. the existing consciousness, you, could not be deleted outright--the technology's not quite there yet--so i had to stick you here in the memories that i, as a happy judy, don't choose to recall very often. This is great. I like the way Other-judy is rendered throughout the piece.

i assure you that everything's fine, and that our in my printed copy I marked this first "our" with "drat." life is going ok. my relationship with our parents and friends is better than ever. in order to make sure that our life continues to go so well, i must ask that you refrain from altering any more of our memories. i need you to let the events play out as they originally happened.

"You mean, continually live out the worst things that ever happened to me?" says Judy. "Absolutely not." I'm not a fan of this. It feels like writerly dialogue. I think you could recap what's going on without pulling a "Wait a minute Bob, so what you're saying is..." and give us a little more info on who Judy is in the process.

i understand your frustration. however, the existence of a happy judy relies on your continued cooperation. now, if you'll excuse me, the awesome sex i'm having with our this "our" I marked with "drat!" so good choice on that phrasing throughout, lol boyfriend requires my focused attention. goodbye.

Other-judy should "Other-judy" have an uppercase or lowercase J? It changes at least once. vanishes in a puff of smoky light, and now Judy's hanging from her seatbelt in the driver's seat of the flipped-over Saturn and

why is this guy screaming at Dad and why did he knock off Dad's kippah and now he's saying bad words at me and NO NO NO WAKE UP.

Judy doesn't know how long she's been out this time. The neo-Nazi is still screaming at her but it's longer than it was in real life; he's just screaming lazy anti-Semitic slurs on an infinite loop. This is a great image.

"Shut up," she says to give herself a moment to think, I was initially unsure who she was saying this to, it could be clearer. and guess what, he does. The end of this sentence is very suddenly more casual than the rest of the prose so far. I don't hate it, but it was initially jarring. It does sort of draw back the blinds on the kind of tone the story will eventually adopt, though. That's how This, I don't like at all. "That's how" feels way too casual, it draws attention to the narration as a character in a way that isn't really done again in the story. Judy figures out she doesn't just live in traumatic memories; she can control them, too.

She jumps around from memory to memory, testing the limits of her abilities. Slowly, she learns how to bring things into memories they don't belong in. She trains the people who terrorized her in life to fight for her in her mind. Sometimes Other-Judy here's the capital J. comes down for an inspection or to grab something it needs, so Real-Judy lets herself get hit with the lamp like a good girl. "like a good girl" is about where I bought into the more casual, comedic tack of the story. But Judy slowly plots her revenge against the robot that stole her life. At first, she cannot access happy memories, or even think of them, but eventually she learns to make a bridge to just one. The childhood traumas often have a T-shirt that reads "SUE" next to a T-Rex skeleton. The shirt only appears after she turns seven, which means she must have gotten it on her seventh birthday. And where is Sue the T-Rex? She's in I really want this to be "She's" and to tack "in" at the start of the next paragraph, sort of for the same reason as I said above. I think it would better reflect the startling time-jump, plus for whatever reason I hear this "She's in" fragment in the voice of the Price is Right announcer.

the Field Museum in Chicago, in the big room with all the dinosaurs. Well, Sue's in the main hall, but Judy's in the dinosaur room, feeling the first swells of joy in however long she's been here. A gaggle of children is running around the monsters' tombyard I think you need a comma here after "tombyard" for clarity, otherwise the adjectival phrase here feels weird. I'm not sold on "monsters' tombyard." I like the image it evokes but it feels kind of obtuse. wild-eyed and cake-drunk. One familiar little girl wears a dinosaur party hat.

The birthday girl turns toward Judy. you're not supposed to be here. this is a happy memory. please return to the bad memories.

"No," says Judy. "This isn't your memory, it's mine. You were never a little girl having a birthday party at a science museum, I was."

why are you so upset about living in traumatic memories? it's all you ever did when you were in charge anyhow, says Other-judy. She turns towards Judy's mother, who's herding stray seven-year olds back to the party. mother! this woman is being creepy to me!

Judy's mother rushes over. It took me a second to figure out what was going on in this and the following sentence, but once I keyed into it being a kid's distorted memories, I loved it. I think that disorientation is desirable, too. "Excuse me, that is something I will not stand for. Didn't anybody teach you that it's rude to pedophile This is the most distressing "verbing the noun" I've ever read. a girl on her own birthday? I'm going to need to ask you to leave!"

A museum security guard approaches. "Hi, I'm a nice security guard man, I keep kids safe and make sure nobody steals the dinosaur bones. Pedophiling is against the rules, dear god I hope so please come with me to jail, ma'am, ma'am is the fancy word for 'woman.'" Love it.

you heard them, says little Other-judy. you need to leave. The security guard grabs Judy by her wrists. 

"Let me go!" Judy shouts.

The upside-down Saturn bursts through a window and crash-lands next to the diplodocus. The door pops open, and out crawls Tyler, clutching his lamp.

"Excuse me, sir!" says the security guard. "Driving an upside-down car through the window of the Field Museum is very unsafe!"

The security guard eats a faceful of lamp and Judy runs free. She focuses on the painful memories she's been forced to live over and over again, and one by one, they manifest on the dinosaur-room floor. The kiddy partygoers scream and flee as the hall fills with abusive exes, creepy photographers, and expanding flames. You can probably blame this on my dumb brain, but since the first two elements in this list (exes and photographers) are people, I read "expanding flames" as something akin to "old flames" and was awfully confused. I don't know if choosing a different adjective than "expanding" would help my brain be less weird, but I think it's kind of a meh word choice regardless. The trauma-things wreak havoc on the hall, toppling dinosaurs onto tourists and attacking those who flee. The rest of Other-judy's imagined museum security rushes to the scene, but the nice men are quickly dispatched by Judy's army of horrors.

But Other-judy rallies its happy defense. The previous sentence is kind of a dud. It tells you what's happening, but not in a particularly compelling way. It's possible I'm overthinking it. Roller coasters come careening through the walls, wide-jawed firefighters axe their way through college almost-rapists, and Judy's favorite rabbi swings a big Torah scroll like a baseball bat at Tyler. 

The evil forces of goodness and joy, victorious, surround the defeated Judy. Other-judy, still disguised as Judy on her seventh birthday, emerges from the crowd.

you stress me out, and i was programmed not to feel stress, so congratulations, i guess. if i could kill you, i would have done so already, obviously, so here's what i'm gonna do. i'm gonna call the electromental health clinic, they can scramble you up a bit so that you can stay in the bad memories where you belong and buy me a bit of time before they figure out how to delete you from my brain permanently. hot cruise ship guy, please escort parasite-Judy to the memory of finding grandma's body, and make sure she stays there. LOL. Love it.

"Of course, bella," says the cute Italian that Judy made out with in eighth grade.

As Cruise Ship Hotty drags Judy away from the battlefield, she remembers one trauma that Other-judy has not yet destroyed. It's a trauma Judy never experienced, but one she was born with, a sort of despair and anguish that was pressed on her since she was a child until it became a constant dread. She concentrates on the fear, hoping she can conjure something that she didn't live through but was forced to remember anyways.

Hundreds of jackbooted, red-armbanded soldiers materialize in the dinosaur hall.

what? says Other-judy. is that… I'd either cut this paragraph entirely, or make it pull its weight a little more. As is it's just showing us that Other-judy reacted in some fashion, which doesn't really need to be stated explicitly. Either have her react in a way that ramps up to the ridiculousness that's about to happen, or kill it so we get there faster.

Judy shouts two words she never thought she'd use earnestly: "NAZIS, ATTACK!" I hate this, it's wonderful

Other-judy's legion of nice folk "legion of nice folk" didn't scan clearly for me the first time I read this. Capitalizing it like they're a superhero team would help comprehension, but might be a bit too much. I mean, it's not like anything ridiculous and extreme just happened. know it's over as soon as the gunfire begins. Most begin to scatter as the stormtroopers advance, some disappearing to return to their original memories. Judy's mother, the rabbi, and Cruise Ship Hotty vanish from the hall. Other-judy flickers, desperately seeking to return to the outside world, but the inner battle is too intense to allow for such a retreat. Judy grabs Other-judy by its shirt collar and hoists it into the air.

you're going to ruin your life again, spits Other-judy.

"Maybe," says Judy. "But it's my life to ruin. I could force you to live in the hell memories like you did to me, and I would like to, but you'd rebel; The previous phrase is kind of clunky. I'd lose "and I would like to," entirely. I think it's implied, and having it there needlessly extends the sentence. you have too much of me in you. So I'll be nice. I'll give you a happy memory."

can I have the bat mitzvah?

"Dream on. I'll give you the time my team won pub trivia. Not going any higher. Take it or leave it."

Other-judy considers for a moment, and then nods. Judy, finally free to visit all the memories her mind has, I don't dig that phrasing, it's too roundabout to feel natural. "free to visit all the memories of her mind" or "all her stolen memories" or hell even just "all her memories" would be fine. As is it is noticeably weaker than a lot of the writing around it. brings Other-judy to the pub herself.

Then  she focuses on getting outside her brain and everything vanishes away. I think this way too weak of a start to the last paragraph. It direly needs something other than "Then" to open it. This is the capper, not just another bus stop in the route. The whole sentence needs more drive, I think. "Focuses" is a dull verb to describe what's happening here given it wasn't that long ago that she was tossing mind-Saturns through museum windows. Judy finds herself in a long black hallway. She follows a speck of light far far away, The prior phrasing is kind of weird. On first read it suggests that the light is leading her to somewhere far far away, but not that she's getting any closer to the light. I think the issue is primarily with the word "follows." until gradually she can see it's actually two lights, no, two tiny windows to a bright place. She approaches them, and then, I hate this "and then" so much. It's a writerly crutch, and a speedbump at a critical moment, to boot. If it were me, I would rewrite this to "She approaches them and, for the first time in many months, looks out her own eyes." Eliminating the "and then" as its own appositive phrase changes the pacing of the sentence, and heightens the importance of this "first time" moment. Though even rewritten I'm not crazy about the word "them," I know what it's referring to but going with a pronoun instead of giving us another, slightly different description of the "windows" pulls the punch on the ending somewhat. for the first time in many months, she looks out her own eyes. I like this ending conceptually, but I think this whole last paragraph needs work to rise to the level of the rest of the piece. As is it does its job but it's not pulling its weight as much as it needs to.

This was overall a great story. I really liked the way that you used humor and general absurdity to lighten the blow of what's going on in the story, it would be way too easy to just dive into the dark implications of mind-trapping yourself to make your life better (while simultaneously making your life hell.) In terms of technique, the writing was largely pretty strong, engaging, and entertaining. I was with you pretty much the whole way through, and I feel like the level of detail you gave me was pretty spot on for what the story needed. The only other comment I'd make is that I think a lot of the dialogue could be stronger. Other-jane's dialogues were largely effective to very good, but Actual Jane's dialogue was mostly just there to move the story along. I'd like to get a little more of her character through her word and phrasing choices. I know that's kind of a tall order for a story with little in the way of actual back-and-forth dialogue, but it stuck out to me. I think it would have been less obvious if the memory-people hadn't been so colorful and funny.

Jan 20, 2012

:frogsiren:UNRELATED REDEMPTION TIME:frogsiren:

Week 308, Codex of the Infinite Planes

prompt: The Infernal Battlefields of Acheron

Memories of Battle
835 words


MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:48 on Jan 5, 2021

Jan 20, 2012

prompt: Alien

Jones the Cat, as played by Werner Herzog
762 words


MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:48 on Jan 5, 2021

Jan 20, 2012

:frogsiren: UNRELATED REDEMPTION TIME :frogsiren:

Week 311: It's a poor craftsman that blames his tools

1248 words


MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:48 on Jan 5, 2021

Jan 20, 2012

I will join Chopstick Dystopia as judge this week. I expect the highest caliber of taste, presentation, and originality.

Be warned, I will judge your entries with Jeffrey Steingarten-esque jadedness and disdain.

Jan 20, 2012


Jan 20, 2012

Week 419 Judgecritstravaganza
I suspect I fall firmly between my esteemed co-judges on my general feelings for this week. Very few stories stood out above a pack of mediocre entries, but similarly, I felt there were few stories that really filled me with Judicial rage. I think very few stories really featured food in a way that was compelling and evocative--there were a lot of words about food, but a lot of them were middling food blogger quality lists of flavors, textures, etc. Some stank enough that they felt like cursory googling at best, and that was pretty disappointing to see. The best stories this week managed to not only represent the foods themselves in a way that was interesting, they thought about what food represents in our lives, beyond just taste and fuel.

Anyway, enough rambling. To the crits!

Alien’s Sexy Mushroom

about : a couple finds a mushroom, and cooks it into a dish. They’re surprised to discover it’s a magical sex mushroom, and have multidimensional sex.

This was a more competently written story than the subject matter would suggest. Honestly I think it was a clumsy attempt to write a bad story, in that it was mostly fine with some overt and token attempts to be a stereotypically terrible TD erotica entry. I feel like it’s fishing for the loss, so… congratulations, I guess?

Also I hate mushrooms, they make me sick, and all I could think of was that terrible farty, slimy smell that mushrooms make when you cook them. I’m not sure why you made this about mushrooms, nobody got mushrooms as an ingredient. I assume your actual ingredient was Ukrainian salo, but I’m not sure it matters because I’m fairly certain that no matter what ingredient you got, you would have written a story about sex mushrooms.

Low, DM or loss or DQ candidate. Who knows.

The Secret of the Churnkeep

about : a buttermonger recounts the tale of how he discovered a sublime breast-milk butter, and the sinister means of producing it…

I enjoyed this quite a bit. I thought it was going to be a bit of a let-down as I neared the end, since once the business of the keys was revealed, I wasn’t sure that there was a satisfying payoff to come. I was pleasantly surprised!

You did an excellent job of representing the kind of storied background that I think draws people to unique or unusual foods. I thought the prose was a bit purple at times, but the style of the story made that less of a sin than it would have been in a more realistic entry. You do use quite a few unnecessary (or at least very optional) commas throughout this story, and I think it’s detrimental to the flow of the piece. All the commas naturally made me slow down as I was reading, but not in a way that seemed to benefit the telling of the tale. I could buy a sort of stuttering, false-start kind of feel for the buttermonger’s dialogue, but it was present a lot in non-dialogue prose as well.


Real Cinnamon

about : A baker is replaced by a mysterious Scandinavian something-or-other.

This was a well-written story, and I had a good sense of who Kasia was, what she wanted out of her situation and what the stakes were when she didn’t get what she wanted. My issue is that while I can gather that Greta and Tuva are some variety of supernatural beings, I’m not sure I have the whole picture here. I think functionally, I have enough of a sense of what’s going on in the story that I understood the plot, but I just feel as though the setup seemed to imply I’d get a clearer picture of what’s going on, and why these strange women want to have control of a bakery. Did they play some part in Joshua having to leave? What advantage do they gain by copying Kasia? I don’t think these are answers the story needs to provide, but they are questions it seems to suggest and leave hanging.

Naming your protag Kasia is a cute little nod to the ingredient.


Locals Only.

about : Three boys come back from Vietnam, try to sample the world’s best whiskey. They’re made to jump through hoops before they’re given piss (or whiskey with piss).

This had a very strong start, but I think the whole story is a little lopsided. I think it would have stood better if we got to the three tests much earlier in the story, and if you fleshed out that whole portion of the story quite a bit. As is, the piss-whiskey feels a bit sudden, and the arson feels very much like an afterthought. I think you could probably do without the whole arson bit entirely, if you fleshed out the hassle the guys have to go through to get the whiskey. That’s the more compelling part of the story anyway.

There were some really high points in the writing here, though. I liked some of the choices you made in the prose, like the bar being called one of “God’s blind spots.” It felt like the prose fit into the story, rather than just recounting or commenting on the events. This did make the description of the whiskey stand out, though——especially when it’s revealed that they’re drinking urine or whatever. It reads like the tasting notes off of a box of scotch, and not in a good way. Overall I think it was a very strong entry that was let down somewhat by its ending.

Mid/Low mid.

Do as the Witches Do

about : A nervous kid helps his witch friend steal a lamb for a witchy sacrifice, then bows out of a witchy orgy to smoke a witchy blunt

I liked this story quite a bit. It’s not the tightest story in the history of TD, but it has a playful sense that doesn’t overshadow the story being told, so good job on striking a nice tonal balance. I thought it was a pretty satisfying story, and felt like it reached a good completion. I think some of the dialogue felt a bit contrived, but not enough to make me like the story less. I was also a little unclear on how normal witchcraft was supposed to be. It clearly didn’t bother the protag, and by all accounts it literally exists, but a couple of the moments where it’s discussed stray into “as you know, Bob” territory.
My biggest complaint was that the inclusion of food felt weirdly perfunctory, despite the lamb playing a major role in the story. There’s so much inherent ritual surrounding food and its preparation and consumption, and I think there was a vein to mine there that would have made food more central to the story being told.

Is this Saucy_Rodent? The word “shotgunny” makes me think it’s Saucy.



about : a couple laments over the closing of their mediterranean restaurant, until it suddenly doesn’t close, maybe?

I wasn’t a huge fan of this story. To use a dumb food metaphor, it has all the bones of a good story but not nearly enough meat. I had no idea who these characters were——they’re effectively ciphers. I know they own a restaurant, they like hummus, and they’re kinda mad at each other. I know they don’t want to lose the restaurant. All of those aspects I could infer from the story without any real heavy lifting in the writing, so I needed more from the world around them than I got. Details about the condition of the restaurant, about the state of the kitchen, about the decor, about what else is on the menu, etc all would have given me more a sense of who these people were.
Also you were far from the only entrant this week to be guilty of this, but the descriptions of food and taste read like a food blog. I would have loved something a little more subjective or personal about how the food tastes. Give me their emotional reaction to the food, not just what flavors they’re tasting. That would have helped me understand who these people are, too.

Low, DM/loss candidate.

A Matter of Meat

about : Two guys (and something named Quiz) tote a dragon corpse to a village and butcher it.

This wasn’t a bad story. I don’t think there was a ton at stake here, so it felt like there was a general lack of drive or conflict, but I feel like I got some nice, effective beats that gave me a good picture of who our two main characters were. I’m not sure why Quiz was included, other than to give us necessary story information like some sort of exposition elemental, but I’m just barely bothered enough to mention it.
Overall the writing didn’t blow me out of the water, but there were worse entries this week. It wasn’t very beer-centric, but the beer did matter to the plot, so I guess that’s kind of a wash. The best part of this story, for me, were the little interplays between Joven and Talon. It’s kind of a standard “reckless clever guy & and his cool-headed partner” relationship, but you used that kind of archetypal pair to your advantage here.


Kimberly’s End of Summer Fig and Port Trifle

about : I have no loving idea.

Don’t let that synopsis fool you, I loved this. I feel like I watched a ritual happen here, something religious that I don’t understand but can still grasp its importance. The prose carried me along pretty steadily from start to finish. I actually think it lost me a bit once I hit the recipe. The “standard” prose was compelling and confusing in a way that grabbed me, the recipe itself felt a little more absurd and tongue-in-cheek in a way that felt slightly at odds with what came before.
You also dealt with your ingredient in a way that was distinct from most. A lot of stories just treated it as a food or dissected the taste of the ingredient. Here it felt like it was dealt with the way humans actually treat food when we don’t look at it out of context, not just as a collection of tastes, but as something symbolic or ritualistic. In that case, the combination of the story you told and the recipe kind of reflects how we’re prone to removing those associations from food and viewing it in a clinical light. This piece made me ponder that idea more than just about any other story this week.

High, HM candidate

An Oral History of Bryce Allen Gifford's Last Meal

about : A death row inmate eats his mom’s stir fry for the first, and last, time.

This was very strong. I’m impressed with how much you conveyed about Bryce as a character without really giving him more than maybe one line, and the other characters were complex in a way that is hard to pull off in the space of a TD entry. This hit me right in the gut, in more ways than one. I wanted to see more stories like this, where the reader is pushed to think of what place food has in our world beyond just fuel or flavor. Here, the food was representative of so much more than itself. The stir fry is doing a lot of heavy lifting in this story.
I’m always a bit iffy on unusual story formats for TD, I feel like more often than not a non-traditional format draws as much attention to itself as it does to the story. I think it took me just a little longer to get into this story than a more “standard” entry, but I don’t think it detracted from my enjoyment of the story. I also think you used the format really well, it seems like it gave you a lot more space, and an effective shorthand, to develop the ideas you wanted to showcase without wasting words on descriptive language, speech tags, etc. that wouldn’t add anything anyway.

High, HM/Win candidate

Salt and Acid, Sugar and Rind

about : A pair of roommates reveal their feelings for each other after a great deal of brining.

I like the word “organoid.” It’s one of those words where there’s a “correct” word, but it just doesn’t do the job as well. I like the imagery in this story a whole lot. You managed to convey a sense of flavor without just saying “it tasted like x/y/z” which is a bullet few stories dodged this week. I also appreciate the food’s role in this story——as someone who came from a family who coped with difficulty by cooking way too much loving food, this story felt emotionally deep in a way that was compelling. This is the kind of poo poo people do when they can’t figure out what to do, and it was interesting to see it represented well in a food-centric week.
I don’t have any real negative notes here, I think. I felt like the story was a bit pat and tidy at the end, and wrapped up cleanly to the point of feeling just a touch artificial, but I liked the “orange peel on the tongue so you can’t talk while I bear my soul” portion enough that it felt like the emotional center/crux of the story anyway.

High (or mid-high due to inexplicable witches)

Three Alarm Chili

about : A man tries to create the perfect chili. He creates a terrifying chili storm in the process.

This is a fun idea as a potential origin story for Agni-as-fire-god. I liked the story in general, I thought it had a solid arc to it, though Agni felt a touch one-dimensional at times. I’m not sure how much that matters, given the story’s fable-ish style. This didn’t knock it out of the park for me on sheer strength of prose, but the food is firmly the star of the show here in terms of plot, and in that sense it was pretty well executed.
There were a number of typos throughout the story. The most glaring was probably your protag’s name; it was about a 50/50 split between Agni and Angi. Also I’m not sure if “furled his brow” was intentional or an eggcorn but it’s a hell of a thing to envision.


Jan 20, 2012

Sitting Here posted:

Contributor: Tyrannosaurus
Genre: Mystery
Protagonist attribute: Lycanthrope
Protagonist obstructor: In love
What the protagonist wants: Freedom
Story setting: On Earth, sometime in history or pre-history
Setting details: The Great Depression
World problem: Big Banks
Your protagonist... Feels guilty about what they want
Your protagonist's attribute... Seems to help, but backfires
Your protagonist's obstructor... Takes the character completely by surprise
At the end of the story... The world problem is no longer relevant to anyone

2353 words


MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:49 on Jan 5, 2021

Jan 20, 2012

In, because I am a special boy.

Jan 20, 2012


Blackout Conditions
1169 words


MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:49 on Jan 5, 2021

Jan 20, 2012

So in, and so flash.

Jan 20, 2012

Out in the Cold


MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:50 on Jan 5, 2021

Jan 20, 2012

thx u 4 crits, xoxo

Jan 20, 2012

I will be co-judging your seeds this week.

Jan 20, 2012

Week 423 Fastjudge Crits!
(the management makes no claims to goodjudge crits at this time)

Innocent Pride

This story had some clarity issues. In particular I lost track of what was going on with the flowers and Violet’s dad at the end. Is the old man also Violet’s father, far in the future? Because that seems to be what you’re implying here, but it’s pretty unclear what is going on when he “reunites” the flowers. I like that element (magically linked pairs of flowers) but in execution it just doesn’t work here, it’s too muddled to get a clear picture of what’s going on.
I think there are also major issues with the dialogue. The story is peppered with exclamation points and emphasis italics that both accomplish the opposite of what they’re intended to do, drawing focus from the dialogue and making drat sure the reader understands that someone is mad or worried!. Here, both elements come off as amateurish, and I think in almost every instance, the dialogue could have been re-written to convey the strength of emotion needed. One or two exclamation points wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but nine of them in very little dialogue is overkill.
Fundamentally though, these characters are pretty weak, and there’s no stakes. The only character that seems to want anything is the old man, and his desire and motivations are pretty incidental, not really driving the story in any meaningful way. It feels like the story was written first and foremost to serve the conceit of these linked flowers (which isn’t a mortal sin, TD stories work fine like that), but it’s done at the expense of us having any idea who these characters are or any reason to care about them. Without that grounding, the ending (if it made logical sense) doesn’t have any impact.

Love and Bullshit

I always appreciate a more straightforward, realistic take on TD stories. This entry did that well, representing a real human relationship with no magical or supernatural elements. I felt like I got a good sense of the characters here, up to a point. The back half drags a little bit as it rehashes a lot of what you’ve already said about the relationship between Charlotte and her daughter. I think the story needed something else, another bit of self-discovery, or something more to give us a sense of the mother/daughter relationship going on here. The fact that this irreparable rift has formed between these two women purely because there was a marriage Charlotte didn’t approve of is an entirely believable conflict, but without more context, Charlotte comes across as pretty petty. There’s also a lot of sighing, a lot of shrugging and slumping and drinking, all of which hurt these characters’ credibility and relatability. You’re working against yourself in a lot of ways here, all of which are eminently fixable.
There are also some pretty glaring proofreading issues here, too. If you’re gonna write a story about calla lilies, make sure you spell “lily” right throughout. Also purple calla lilies actually do exist, though they’re not what I would think of first when you refer to them. Also are the characters named Charlotte and Arthur, or Edith and Albert, or are there two other characters here I wasn’t aware of? You refer to your main character as Edith at least twice.
The biggest issue here, which is not unique to this story this week, is there’s no sense of any of your characters pursuing any kind of desire. The story is mostly Charlotte reacting and reflecting on her relationship with her daughter. We get a glimmer that she might desire connection or reconciliation with her daughter, but that possibility is pretty quickly sidelined. I think there’s a more compelling story here if she more actively wanted to find a way to re-establish a relationship, but on her own terms, or something similar.


I like all the trappings of this story, but I didn’t really enjoy the execution. I enjoy the implication here, of interstellar seeds that function as a sort of assimilation device, or whatever is going on. But the characters here aren’t really driving the story. I think you do some good character work initially, in establishing these characters’ personalities, and their relationships, but I don’t feel like any of them actually have much agency here. They’re here to make us see how terrible this seed thing is, but otherwise function sort of as set dressing.
The descriptive language and setting were pretty well established, though I’d say the story teetered on too much jargon for flash fic. I think that I would have been more with you on this story if there had only been two characters, and I had a better sense of what drove Astrid, or had some sense of how losing someone to the seed affected her individually, other than just “horrified.”
Fundamentally I think this is like an 8000-word idea that you tried to pack into 1000 words, and it just doesn’t have enough room to really grab us and keep us engaged in the story being told (such as it is). Might be worth expanding, though!

Memoria Hortus

This is a tough one to crit. I know your hellrule pointed you towards your story having multiple “acts” of some sort but I think explicitly making the story a script really hurt it. I love the core ideas going on here, I even intellectually like the story being told, but I think the format is fighting you. If you’re committed to the script idea, I think even more than a normal TD entry, you need to focus on economy of words. A lot can be conveyed in implication and suggestion, we don’t need nearly as extensive of blocking and description as we got in order to get the gist of what’s going on. If anything, less explicit stage directions leaves us to speculate, in a way that probably helps drive home the effect of the story.
I think this also needs to be re-written to feature more dialogue, which in turn means one of your characters probably shouldn’t be in a coma or whatever for most of the story. The format would play into your favor in that case, we as readers are likely to be much more willing and able to track a dialogue-heavy story if we’ve already accepted the conceit of the script format.
I’m honestly kind of disappointed by this story, I fundamentally really like the story you told, at least on a hypothetical level, it was just hamstrung by the (very tough) execution, and the formatting.


I enjoyed this story a lot. This had some incredible little touches that made David and Jaclyn very vivid characters in very little space, like the Beatles card. It was a breath of fresh air this week to have a story driven entirely by the characters within it, and their relationship. I don’t have a great deal of specific crits to offer, unfortunately. The prose was strong and natural, I was grabbed right from the beginning, and I was with you right to the end. I liked the moonlight moment a lot, there was something very poetic about it without it feeling contrived. The only real negative I have is that the end moment felt a little pat, like the story tied up in a very neat bow, and I almost expected (or wanted, at least) a bit of mess in the end to make it feel a bit more true to life, just some sort of bittersweetness to perfectly balance the story. I know David’s death probably qualifies as bittersweet, but it felt a touch too clean. Otherwise, this was a strong story that would have stood out even in a much more competitive week.

A Cycle of Nine, A Circle of Thirteen

I’ll be honest, I don’t really feel equipped to crit this. I had a good laugh at the moxie required to put forward something like this. I enjoyed it, though, and I thought it was an interesting choice of medium to convey the story you told. I had some trouble staying focused on what I was reading as the poem went on, though I admit that may be a problem with my attention span and/or experience reading poetry, rather than a specific problem with this entry. This didn’t stand up high enough to warrant a mention, but the strength of the narrative and the uniqueness of the form did make it stand out in a positive way nonetheless.

Zero Stars

This was a real gut-punch of a story. I enjoyed it, as much as anyone can say they “enjoyed” a story like this. It’s largely well crafted, the prose flowed well in a way that coaxed me in well enough and long enough to deliver the blow effectively. I do think it’s teetering on the edge of overly cruel and dark for my personal taste, though.
I think there are a couple of weak spots here, too. We’re given this picture of a highly manipulative and controlling mother, yet the main character pretty easily steals her credit card and breaks into the fridge. That didn’t offend me, it’s not out of the realm of possibility, but it did feel a touch inconsistent.
The other hang-up I had was that we were presented with a character who felt so rejected by an unloving mother that he sought out love from any animal he could find, but when he was presented with effectively the same option (to love an unwanted thing), he not only rejects the option but goes a step further into cruelty than his mom did by murdering the baby in cold blood.
I know that extreme step might just be the point of the story, and for flash fic, it does what it’s intended to. I think for me personally, it felt a bit too much like contrived cruelty, though not enough to make me dislike the story.


I had a very tough time reading this. I can tell you were reaching for a heightened sort of prose, with elevated word choices and elaborate sentence construction, but in practice this just read as extremely ponderous. Also, for a story full of fairies it was weirdly joyless. The stylistic choices worked against the story you were telling——I think there’s a way to cut a lot of the verbosity and still convey the feeling you were going for, but I think the story needs a fundamental overhaul. It just lost me, and it lost me very early on.
I think the other hurdle you’ve created for yourself is that it’s effectively a character (who we don’t really know anything about for far too long) talking about other characters (who aren’t developed enough, or quickly enough), and it distances us unnecessarily from the story.
This needs a lot more immediacy, it needs characters that are more vivid, that are presented more directly. I think the best analogue to what you’re looking to do here would actually be the snappier moments in Jane Austen. Her writing does an excellent job of presenting heightened (and very catty) characters in a way that makes them feel both elevated and human. It might be worth breaking down some of her scenes and dialogue to see how that sort of style is done well.

Jan 20, 2012

yeah okay, in and flash me please


Jan 20, 2012

Fish Tales

1747 words


MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 05:50 on Jan 5, 2021

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5