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a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

In and flash


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Mint and Sugar
Word Count: 772
Prompt: a gigantic tail

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 23:09 on Oct 16, 2021

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Nothing of Note
Word Count: 953
Prompt: C♯

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 23:14 on Oct 16, 2021

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Crits Week 443 – Extra crits for lost the plot week

Since Staggy was the only judge this week I figured people might appreciate a few extra words about their stories. But feel free to disregard them because who am I even, not a judge.

Brotherly – The Pipe in the Lake

I read your story last week too and it’s very similar to this one in that it has all of the elements of a story. They’re almost textbook: beginning, middle, end; a character who wants something; world-building descriptions; the trials for the main character; and a resolution that addresses the initial setup. It’s all there and it just needs a little bit of refinement.

Working with such small word limits (though I can easily see this expanded into a longer work with the amount of detail you’ve got), thought needs to be put into how much detail in each part of the story is necessary to engage the reader and then more words can be spent on the parts of the story that deserve more exploration. In this story’s case, I think the first two sections could be done much more efficiently and give more words to the ending.

A lot of the information you deliver can be compacted into a single, more active scene where it begins with the rumor argument, Ellana’s thoughts about what life used to be with the water and then her asking her mother those questions.

More stuff like this: “Each afternoon, after fetching water, she’d climb to the top of the outer walls, ignoring annoyed militiamen and their funny metal hats, and find the place where the aqueduct reached the horizon” That give us a whole lot with just the perfect amount of specific detail.

Doing that leaves more space for answering the bigger and more interesting questions that readers will have. What exactly happened to the people who built the aqueducts? Why didn’t anyone investigate seeing as how the water would have disappeared for everyone along the line? What exactly was plugging the pipe and how did it get there? In fact, (and this is something I’m extremely guilty of) finding the plugged pipe is really the most interesting part and could be the start of its own story.

Sperglord Firecock - Onwards, Babel

That’s a bold first paragraph, let’s see if this story lives up to that tone. It keeps going…

That was hard to read. I am all for omniscient narration and somewhat overwrought telling of these types of tales, but I had a very, very hard time discerning what was going on or what the continuity was exactly. I didn’t understand the individuals’ relationship or how I was supposed to feel about all of them. The story was just too distant for me to have any meaningful reaction to it as a reader.

When I try writing a very specific voice, even if someone isn’t actually telling the story/talking, I still think about why someone would tell this story and why they would tell it in this way. And that helps me understand what they might focus on for their listener. That might help you reconceptualize this if you’re still interested in thinking about it.

Azza Bamboo - In Awe

The priest and sisters being passed by gym goers is a great image to start with.

“Bridget walked merrily in a floating way” – awkward, could easily be shortened to Bridget floated and get the same across.

Trust your reader: “Where she would ordinarily give her natural excuses, she instead pondered for a moment about the fact she was being invited to walk alone into an alleyway with a stranger. She looked at Bridget's weedy arms: Bridget was no threat.” You’ve already established that Jennifer was muscly, so the reader knows that if she does a quick glance at Bridget’s arms, that she has determined there’s no threat. No need to repeat.

The use of omniscient narration, (hopping from person to person to get their Point of View) is difficult on the reader. Just as we’re getting used to how Father Seamus is handling the situation, Marie pops in, then Bridget, then Jennifer. Every time it changes, there’s a small bit of confusion taking the reader out of the story.

You have a good story idea kernel here, a very specific problem needing a very specific solution and the people who care most about solving that problem. But the reader doesn’t get to sit with any of these characters for very long. We jump from action to action to dialogue to next development and we don’t get to see how anyone feels or thinks. Just a few notes on emotions here and there.

If you were to do this again, I’d choose one character who you think would be most interesting to follow throughout (I’d say Bridget) and have her observe the others and the situation. I enjoy the ending, the congregation turning into a spin class and Bridget finding a new way of looking at religion. Though the money thing confused me… is she earning money by cycling somehow? That was unclear.

I also was hoping for some accidental clerical error rapture where angels took all the churches from earth instead of the congregants. There just being some huge confusion in Heaven. A completely different story, but just thought I’d share this amusing thought.

Yoruichi - Most people were quick to embrace new cultural practices around the retention of the deceased after the en masse cessation of posthumous decomposition, but Luke was not emotionally well-equipped to be saddled with his father’s everlasting corpse.

As bizarre a premise as this is, the story is still very simple. Overall not a lot physically happens, all of the development is emotional and the ending works because of that. There any number of hilarious things that I can see happening with this particular character in this particular situation and the only one we get happens off screen and that was a great choice. Though I did have a small fear that Luke was going to get another idea and take the body to be eaten by wolves or something after the Bastard incident. Thank you for not doing that.

This story has all the right details in all the right places to show the reader what kind of world this is and what stage in the disappearance of the thing we are. I particularly like this one: “The flickering of light sabers lit up the faces of Luke’s macabre little family.”

toanoradian - BLUE AMERICA 2050, by Father Benjamin Brady

So this is a very specific vision for the future, one filled with all the ridiculous claims that far right conservative Christian mouthpieces make in order to scaremonger their followers into agitating for the “good” values.

Ignoring the subject matter and looking at this story on a craft level, it’s all world building. There’s no character development or conflict. It most closely resembles a vignette or slice of life, but not even the latter, because there’s still not much to interest the reader in the character.

Adding back in the content, if this story was ever going to work, it needed to actually have Father Benjamin Brady as a character. Because this is his vision of 2050, the reader needs to be able to see why he has this vision of America and what that makes him do as a person/character. Otherwise this is just a shock piece that immediately alienates the reader because there’s no larger meaning to it.

Idle Amalgam – Lab Rats

This is the beginning to a much longer story or a short story with so many details it runs out of words. This is all just setup of the world in which the character is operating and to the character herself. Though we don’t get much of the latter. We see Rebecca as surprised and overwhelmed by her research being funded and her excitement when she gets to the lab. But we don’t get to see how this humble yet eager person reacts to any setbacks or challenges or changes. The reader is introduced to two other characters who have been set up as good support characters that might provide help or even be sources of tension. So there’s potential in this world and the characters.

But they have nothing to do. So far, they just exist. If the initial problem set up in this story is that sharks disappearing has created a worldwide ecological and economic problem, then the ending to that story has to satisfyingly address that setup. It doesn’t have to fix it, but there needs to be meaningful work done to address it or address the characters’ reaction/relationship to it.

It might be an interesting exercise for you to keep writing this story until you think it has done that and then see if you could find a way to fit it in the word count or if this story really did need more space. It’s already got a Jurassic Park start to it. See where that goes.

Or, based on your title, I wonder who the lab rats are in this scenario. Is it the scientists? They seem to be the ones who are being gathered by mysterious investors and “suits” into a gauntlet and put through tests. Perhaps the sharks disappearing is just an excuse to have scientists working on another, more secret problem. If that’s where you were trying to go, the story definitely needed more than the few hints I may be making up in my own head. And it still would have needed more scenes to be considered a fully formed story as well.

flerp – Get It

This piece is a subtle, emotional one where characters explore their relationships with each other. There’s the father who doesn’t get it and the boyfriend who doesn’t get it either. But that might be because this is the first time “You” has tried to talk about dad in a way that’s not the standard “dad was a dick.” Though he really does sound like a dick making his kid pay rent. But how much does the MC “get” in the story as well. The MC clearly had affection for his head or else he wouldn’t have wanted to visit him at the hospital at all or kept his car. On what level do all of these characters “get” the car. What does the car symbolize being a sort of status symbol for the dad? And the image of that status symbol spinning its wheels in a ditch, forever, doing the same thing until it reaches the end of its fuel.

I’m sorry, this isn’t a good critique. It’s me working through why the emotional beats and images work for this story. It has a lot to unpack in the short word count, has characters who feel real. I could see adding a little more about Richard, though he’s already doing what his character needs to do here. It’s a story about a different type of loss than the cars which is the direction many stories took this week. That was merely the set dressing. It’s good.

Noah – A Hunger

Weird world that just drops us right in assuming we know how this works and as a reader I don’t feel at sea. I think it helps knowing ahead of time that there aren’t any birds. Since I don’t remember it being mentioned in the actual story, that could be confusing if this were presented without the prompt.

The body of this story stands up on its own, but it’s missing some connective tissue to work together as a whole piece. Like the conversation between Robin and Vulture seems like it’s taking up well-worn topics that I couldn’t quite pick up all the pieces of. The change from everyday life to swarm of locusts needed a little more prep too since “Kansas City” is the first we hear of anything outside of their orphanage setting.

I’m interested as hell to know more about what this setting is like and I’d like to know a lot more, but just a little more would’ve helped me follow the trajectory of this a little more. It might be that this piece in general just needed more words, because I keep wanting to say that I wanted more characterization, more relationship building, more back story. Not a ton of each, but when all of it needs something then there’s only so much else that can be cut to try to get it down to the assigned word count.

Caligula Kangaroo – Obscura

I think this story wants to be an emotional, interpersonal relationship piece, but it spends a little too much time on the disappearance of the cameras and not enough time on Anna and her Mom. And the kind of emphasis that “Then another idea crosses her mind; an awful idea she can’t stop thinking about.” gives to the story makes it seem that the story wanted to focus on finding a solution to the physical problem rather than the interpersonal/internal problem facing Anna.

If you would like to revisit this story, it might help to pull back and ask what the goal is for the story. Is it to explore a world without cameras? Is it for the MC to figure out how to keep going with her business? Is it to depict how the MC’s attempts at finding a way to make a living, live her own life while supporting another’s? Once this decision is made, then it might become clearer which details are needed to set the story while keeping the focus on the plot you most want to get across.

As of now I can’t quite tell what the ending was supposed to say. Anna accepted that cameras weren’t a thing anymore? Acceptance of the way the world is now? It didn’t bring the rest of the narrative to a satisfying conclusion for me.

If you were going for an emotional relationship piece, maybe read flerp’s story to see how they handled having a premise to develop the characters but keeping the plot focused on the people.

Antivehicular – Thursday Night at the All Saints Zineworks

I love the concept that this story takes with the prompt and how it frames our two characters’ lives and decisions. I want to learn more about each of them and their struggles and desires in life, which is great. This story is one of contrasts between Laura and Jamie, what they value, how they value it and the role in plays in their lives.

It’s very much just a small window into a world. And it’s where the TD formula falls short because so many wonderful ideas can emerge from these prompts but don’t get to be explored as fully as they deserve. There’s the argument that we should choose a different idea, one that can be executed in the word count and save these other ideas for another time. But thanks for sharing this one with us anyway.

Sebmojo – Birds without a Tree

I never would have thought that the disappearance of metaphor could evoke an emotion from me, especially since I’m not very good at them myself. But you bring it home in this sentence exactly what has been lost.
“We were people, together or apart, and nothing meant anything other than exactly what it was.”
And the fact that even as precise as our language can be with describing what is, that doesn’t actually encapsulate our existence.

So awesome job for that mini moment. Satisfying in 440 words.

Thranguy – Breaking the Wheel

A difficult task finding a character who would care if déjà vu stopped existing since most of us wouldn’t really miss it other than a stray “huh” if we noticed it not having happened in a while. But I don’t think I’m entirely clear on how all of the bits and pieces of the story fit together. What did time travelers have to do with the disappearance of the always known past/future? Is the Library just an illustration of what’s been lost? What was our protagonist doing before the disappearance? The story mentions a few things, but not that any of them were directly related to him.

I think the ending works, but for a different setup where we get to see his struggle with the change. If he had been living on the $1000 lottery wins, scraping by or he was a master of pleasing women because he always knew what they wanted and then he had to settle into relationship and job that provided no thrill whatsoever, that might have made for a more engaging contrast. I think also a comparison could be made with the Librarian who is clearly excited by this new development in his work.

Gorka – Indentured

(First, I love a good pun, thank you for that title. It’s absolutely perfect.)

I think I remember you mentioning that English isn’t your first language and I think in this story it really shows. The word choices are all just a little off, especially in the dialogue. The scene descriptions are all a little too straightforward and don’t provide a ton of extra or illuminating information.

“He spoke slowly and with rough diction, as Jack did just before. The other guy stayed quiet, as he often did.”
Rough diction is a very formal way of saying that his words were muffled or garbled or jumbled. And “the other guy” doesn’t help us get to know these characters or even Jack really. Unless the reader is supposed to think that Jack is dismissive of those he works with. They don’t get names or personalities. I don’t think that’s the case, but is something to realize. The way the author of a story describes things from the point of view of a character will generally tell the reader more about the character than the object or person being described.

The plot of the story is a good start. Jack leads a group of desperate, toothless raiders who steel teeth for their own gain but they’re out maneuvered by the fake teeth mafia who force Jack into serving their goals. Now we need to understand what Jack ultimately wants out of his life choices and what this new life will mean for those goals and how maybe a fast thinker like him can make this arrangement suit him.

I encourage you to read more to internalize the way dialogue and smooth prose sounds. It’s a process, even for native speakers. I have bad dialogue all the time.

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 20:34 on Feb 3, 2021

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Crits Week 444 for Simply Simon and Lily Catts

Simply Simon – Minotaur

The transitions in this are what let it down the most. The moments from routine daily duty to hmm, survivors to holy crap I’m the labyrinth are just too fast for me. But the time spent in each of these silos is not unpleasant. I can see the story wanting to linger on the emotional beats and consequences of each of these moments, but it never gets the chance. It’s powerful to hear the mother/child moment and hear his reaction to it. It’s fascinating to see his realization and what he’s going to do with that remembered information. But the word count necessitates that he come to conclusions and actions quickly. And that a lot of the information be delivered in a straightforward way.

I like the use of tea throughout as a sign of what’s going on (contentment, distraction, false sense of security). But I wanted more. I want to see the character wrestle with himself and his situation. Because if he’s not actually in a control room, where exactly is he? And what kind of autonomy does he have as a sentient maze? Because he indicates that he has access to the world outside himself (the viewers, looking to see what criminals are guilty of, etc.) I think this story would be just fine set completely within his self-maze. Just pointing out possibilities.

Lily Catts – That’s Why I Didn’t Give up on Music

This story is simple and straightforward and since it feels like there’s not much more to it other than what is on the page, all of it feels flat. I believe the character your horse is meant to represent is Amy rather than Andrea and unfortunately Amy does not get enough story time for her to appear as anything other than what Amy tells us she is: a rock ‘n roller who makes an impact and leaves a mess behind her. Everything we really know about both characters is told to us. We don’t get to experience how Andrea feels about music or how she feels about Amy or how Amy might have another side to her.

There is also a lot of dialogue in this. I don’t think it’s bad dialogue, but it doesn’t do much for the story. I really liked Amy’s line “There you go, blaming others again. Classic Andrea. I really dodged a bullet with you.” And by liked, I mean, it really hurt me too. Like that feels like the kind of dig someone would make when they really want to put someone else down and make themselves feel better. That might be a good place to start in terms of understanding each of these characters and what their relationship is/was to each other. And then the reader could see how they evolved from where they were into each other to how they got to their current state. Even though we wouldn’t get the whole thing on the page, little hints of it everywhere would do a lot to engage.

The kid enjoying the music can still be an important part, but perhaps just to frame the interaction between Amy and Andrea dealing with their disintegrated relationship.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

In, gimme all the things.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Wiped Out
Word Count: 654
Its 1999, you and your best friend are about to go try to mack on chicks at the skatepark

“Do you think the world is going to end?” Cory sat in the lot of the skatepark inspecting the wheels on his board.

“I think Mr. Fesenmyer said the sun would explode in like a trillion years, so yeah.” Dave leaned against his battered Civic and looked smug.

“Not like that. I mean like tomorrow.”

“Don’t tell me you believe in that Y2K garbage. I will smack you with this board.” Dave placed his skateboard against Cory’s cheek.

Cory noted the gritty texture on his unshaven face and then knocked it away. “I’m serious. It’s not just Y2K, it’s…everything. Have you been paying any attention since we graduated?”

“Why would I pay attention to anything except our sweet freedom?” Dave took a deep breath and exhaled with a loud “aahhh.”

“Because the world’s pretty hosed, dude. There’re bombings and earthquakes and mass immigrations and—”

“Yeah, elsewhere.”

“Columbine.” Cory stood, dropped his board and gave it a few test rolls all while his eyes stayed locked on Dave.

Dave sighed. “We’re not even in school anymore. And besides, none of that means the world is going to end when it turns midnight. Look, it’s another sunny day in Austin.”

“But what if it does? Don’t you want to feel something? What if this is our last chance to really live?”

“Then we’re wasting our time sitting out here.” Dave grabbed Cory’s arm. “Let’s go grind some rails… and some chicks.”


“What the gently caress!? You totally snaked me,” Cory said after his roll came to a stop at the bottom of the halfpipe.

“Out of the way. How can I do all of my rad tricks before the world ends if you’re mobbing it?” Dave laughed over his shoulder as he rolled away.

Cory chased after. The air pushed his shoulder-length hair back, tickling his ears and making him smile despite his wipe out.

“You still don’t get it,” Cory said, gripping Dave’s arm to stop him. “I’m trying to enjoy my last ride.”

“Are you? Looks more like you’re in slow-mo.” He glanced over Cory’s shoulder at the group of skater girls leaning against the rails. “I’ve got a lot of tricks to do too. I’ll catch you later.”

Dave glided over to the women. Cory turned his back and headed to the start of the line again.


“Dude, I need your help.”


“You have to come get me.”

Cory glanced at the clock on his computer: 10:46 pm. “Where are you?”

“The police station on Eighth Street.”

“What’d you do?”

“You know that Sid Vicious movie we watched?”

Cory almost dropped the phone. “You killed someone?”

“No, no. Dude, no. It’s just, you got to me. What if the world ends tomorrow? So I found some girls and a party and I guess I got carried away.”

“Well, I’m pretty busy. Someone put the new Rage album up on Napster and it’s pretty sweet. It’s probably too slow for you anyway.”

“Come on. Pleeeease?”

Cory grinned. “You got your board?”


“You sure about this? I probably shouldn’t get arrested again tonight.”

“You’re just making excuses cause you’re too drunk to stay upright.”

“Pssh, I could outskate you back in my jail cell.”

In just a few steps, they were over the fence and into the skatepark.

“I can’t even see the rails in this light.” Dave’s shadowy figure inched toward the edge of the bowl.

“Guess that means you’re going to have to feel things a little more,” Cory said as he dropped in and cruised along the curves. He returned to where Dave still stood and hopped off his board. “If you’re still scared, that should help.”

Dave turned to where Cory pointed to see red bursts of light in the sky.

“Must be midnight fireworks,” said Cory.

“Or the explosions…”

They listened for a moment, exchanged glances and dropped into the bowl as a soundwave passed overhead.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

In, Island of the God-Watchers

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Spy Walks into a Bar
Word Count: 1446

Agent Talik sat outside the Deputy Chief God Watcher’s office staring at the emblem on the door. It stared back at him with two eyes embedded in the GW surrounded by the words “The real all-knowing ones.”

Just when Talik thought he’d figured out which eye an agent watched him through, the door opened and Chief Pipek summoned him in. She shuffled through papers as Talik sat.

“Says here you’ve completed your field rotations satisfactorily.”

Talik opened his mouth to tell her just how satisfactorily. She cut him off.

“Acceptable marks in undercover operations, reporting protocols, and god-resistance.”

More than acceptable; he hadn’t made a single error.

“Apprentice to adjunct to agent in two years. Only assignments with the Antarctic Ice Gods though. Ha! That’s a sandbox compared to the Kangarat Murder Gods.”

Talik had planned to say all the right things when he sat down but she wasn’t appreciating his work. He didn’t want to go back to staring at icicle gods, praying for their glacial bodies to do anything interesting. He needed her to see his capability.

“Actually, ma’am—”

“Doesn’t matter.” She tossed the papers behind her. “We’ve lost three agents this month assigned to the Lion Horde Gods, leaving unacceptable gaps during wartime. Are you willing to move posts?”

“Yes, but—”

“Great. Prepare protocol 762-C and report for launch at 0800. Dismissed.”

Talik marched out in a huff. Doesn’t matter? He’d worked so hard to move up… but he was moving up… but not because of his achievements… but he would have new opportunities. The argument with himself went nowhere. He’d just have to prove himself again.


Talik reviewed his dossier until the launchers strapped him down, injected the serum and spoke the ritual words.

In the next moment Talik’s spirit transitioned out of his body and into the ethereal plane, traveling to the provided coordinates.

As soon as he stabilized and saw where he was, Talik knew he never wanted to go back to the Antarctic.

Gods, their furry coats shimmering, and spirits sat together at bars throwing back fizzy drinks. Cigar smoke lingered over game tables. Men, women and animals of every shape and size roamed around looking for companionship.

He didn’t have to be a penguin to fit in either. Instead, his mentally prepared image of a feather-skinned, sandy haired member of the lion horde would be enough. That and the bewildered expression of someone whose last memory was of dying on a battlefield before seeing this.

Talik wandered over to the bar. He ordered a shaggy mane and sat next to a lion god.

Dipping his head in a show of reverence, he said, “Where did the war go?”

The lion god sipped their own drink and said. “You,” they took another sip, “died.”

“What is this place?”

They drank some more. When they spoke, it was with sips between every word. “The afterlife for you. The officer’s club for us.” They flashed their sharp teeth and chuckled.

Talik turned to his drink while the lion carried on. With this conversational pace he might as well still be in Antarctica.

He scanned the room. A tiger god and lion god bickered at one of the tables. That was more Talik’s speed.

He wandered by and they hailed him. “We need a fourth.”

“What’s the game?”

“Doesn’t matter. Get over here,” the Lion god said.

That rankled Talik, but he kept his face a mask and joined them. Another spirit, a tiger woman, also waited at the table, looking as if she had just come from the war too.

The surface of the table was a window into the war. Talik memorized the positions of active engagements, officer barracks and supply caravans. He could also hear murmurs wafting up: end the war, kill that man, I want a glass of water. He made note of these as well.

The lion and tiger gods considered the tableau.

The tiger spoke first. “Spawn here to get that man a cup of water.” They pointed first to a corpse and then to a soldier hunkered down close to the lion side of the battlefield. The woman began to shiver. Talik pretended not to understand.

The lion responded by choosing a lion soldier corpse and saying, “This one will cause the landslide the officers want.” The lion looked at Talik. “Don’t let me down.”

Quicker than a launch, Talik was in a new body. The left arm lay mangled and he heard the sound of gunshots echoing. He tried to move out of the line of fire, but these legs had forgotten how to stand.

He took stock of what the body had and found a grenade. Perfect. He wiggle-crawled off the battlefield and relearned to walk and then run at the edge of the fighting.

He found a dead tiger soldier and swapped uniforms. This body didn’t have the stripes of the tiger race so he kept his head down and hoped.

Talik weaved between tiger trenches, cursing in several languages. Whenever shots flew in his direction he hopped into a ditch and pulled his helmet down lower. Just as he neared the hillside, there was another volley and he dropped into the nearest hole.

He found himself face to face with the troops stationed there. Hate filled their eyes. Talik tried to escape but one of them grabbed his foot and dragged him back. They all aimed their rifles.

Talik raised his arms and said in the tiger language, “Wait.”

They did, mouths open. That was all he needed. He pulled the pin on his grenade and they ran. All except for one who continued to stare down the barrel at him.

Talik considered the soldier and then tossed the grenade as hard as he could toward the hillside.

The grenade exploded. The soldier shot. Talik felt no pain but staggered back from the force of the bullet. His last sight was of rocks raining down around him and then his spirit was yanked out of the body and he once again sat at the table with gods.

“Not bad,” the lion god mumbled, nodding at Talik. They turned to the tiger. “Another round?”

Talik didn’t want another round. Gods taking control of his spirit unsettled him, but this was his job and the lion’s look of approval felt good. He had earned it.

The tiger woman didn’t return and Talik guessed what must have happened to the agents before him. It was a dangerous game but he told himself he would succeed, gathering war secrets and the prayers of these people. If he could just get the lion god to talk about their plans, Talik would have everything he needed to impress agency leaders.

He stayed. It got worse.

Each time he entered a new body, he felt less and less attached to his own. It took him longer to remember where he was each time he returned. Once he even forgot why he was doing this.

With each successive trip, the lion god became happier. They talked more about how it all fit into their plans for the lion horde and how Talik would be honored among them.

After winning his fourth round, Talik had killed six men, reunited two lovers who’d lost each other in battle and sung a man to sleep. The tiger god finally called it quits for the day and the lion god looked smug.

He patted Talik on the shoulder. “Let’s drink and retire. You must spend your death in my palace.”

Talik did his best to remember his protocols but allowed himself a measure of satisfaction. Soon he would be eating and drinking with a god with access to enough information to keep the agency busy for years.

In a thought, they arrived at the god’s palace. The lion led him through arched hallways and up spiraled staircases.

“This will be where you stay.” The god opened double doors into a spacious lounge where three other lion horde spirits sat.

Talik cocked his head and looked at the lion god. “Who are they?” He couldn’t keep the scorn out of his voice.

“My winning team.” The lion god placed a silvery band around Talik’s wrist and shoved him into the room. “Don’t go anywhere.” The god laughed and closed the door behind them.

Talik tried running the sequence to return his spirit to his body. Nothing happened.

“It’s no use,” one of the other spirits said.

“God watchers?”

They all nodded. Talik dropped onto a velvet sofa and put his head in his hands. He should have stuck to what he knew best: sitting still and listening to a slow god.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Crit for Simply Simon – Siegfried of the Schoolyard

-I like that the dragon calls him a potato. And I see why eventually, which fits.

-I can see why others said the transition was too quick. I don’t think it was too quick, but I do think if you’d worded it slightly differently it might have been a bit smoother. Even “reappear” might have done it. At least in my opinion.

-The voicing is inconsistent. I think the fantasy portion fits with that of a teenager thinking of himself as a hero, but then the explanation of the politics of the school yard sound as if they’re coming from an outside observer with a much more sophisticated vocabulary. But after the break it comes back to a younger descriptive POV with “cool boy stuff.”

-Ending is a little predictable and not just because the prompt called for an unhappy ending. I didn’t actually find it unhappy exactly because of course they were never going to end up together. It might have been different if I got the feeling that Siegfried was doing this for Zeynep for a more personal reason instead of his “honor” or perhaps if there was a personal reason that he had this need to defend women. It just needs one more detail connection to make the reader understand his motivation a little more deeply. Otherwise, I have this feeling, that he could fall for any such woman who might have him.

Overall it’s got a setting that’s well-established and full of possibility, though from more of a distant lens than that of the highly involved protagonist, and several characters who are just a few more words away from being well-rounded despite the small word count, and I think if this piece got a little more thought about what exactly it wants to say, it could be very powerful.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

AITA for throwing out all of my dragon’s gross stuff?
Word count: 756

My (18F) dragon (Ugh, he wouldn’t tell me his age. That’s another issue we’re having that I’ll save for later.) and I just moved in together a few months ago and it’s taking some getting used to.

Not every royal is suited to life with a dragon, despite it being a threat we all face. I know that my dragon thinks this is a forever situation, that I’m now part of his hoard which he’ll fight to protect so that he can gaze at my shining beauty (It never stops being romantic, does it?) and I’m okay with that.

But just because I’m part of his collection doesn’t mean that I have to sit around and give up who I am. I want this to be a formative time in my life when I can really focus on myself for once, you know? It’ll also make for perfect dinner conversation.

So I started exploring our caves but I kept tripping over all of his other treasures. It was such a mess! (Bachelors, right?) I decided to do him a favor and tidy up his vast riches.

I don’t want you to get the wrong impression of him based on the trash I’ll get to in a moment. My dragon’s no slouch. He’s got sizable collections of precious jewels, beautifully worked gold and robust armor. All very heavy and difficult to arrange just right. Have you ever tried making a wall of halberds look pleasing to the eye? It’s not easy.

He even has a pile of magical items. I’ve learned not to touch those after my very favorite pair of shoes transformed into tentacles!

This life is full of unexpected dangers and not every royal can do it. It takes a lot of personal strength and fortitude to get up every day and face these challenges. Sometimes I can’t do much more than dust. But here I am, still trying.

Recently, I found some not great stuff in our caves. First it was just bones. I thought they might have been leftover knights the dragon had eaten, though he’s usually well-mannered enough to leave those outside. But then I started finding bones inside fancy boxes too. Usually skulls, sometimes a hand and even pouches of teeth! (I’m sorry, I know that’s gross, but I need you to understand what I’m dealing with!) I’m not squeamish so the bones didn’t bother me but these boxes would be much better used to display some of the more choice pieces in my dragon’s collection. I tossed the bones in a corner to remove later.

But it went beyond bones! I found a bloody shroud that I immediately threw out. Then I uncovered a large piece of wood also with blood on it and full of splinters. I pricked myself at least five times hauling it outside. No wonder there’s blood all over everything.

I was just gathering up a pile of nails and cups and girdles when my dragon barreled into the cave and blew a fireball right at me. I’m not hurt, thank goodness but I was a little surprised. Here I am keeping his place in order, practically breaking my back for a home that I won’t even live in come next year, and this is how he reacts?

Apparently a bunch of monks and pilgrims are lined up outside and this upsets him. Something about if he eats them there will be a holy war on his doorstep. But he has no problem eating literal knights? Then he starts in on how I shouldn’t throw his things out. Yet he didn’t have any problems when I threw out his molted skin.

You can see that his logic doesn’t make any sense and I told him so. Then he became the biggest hypocrite in the world and he threw me out!

Before I could convince him to let me back in, the religious people erected a glass box and locked me inside with the disgusting shroud and the bloody two-by-four. They keep prostrating and mumbling things I can’t hear. They’re treating me like some sort of statue. It hurts my feelings for them to treat me like this. I’m a real person, not some sort of idol to be gawked at.

So tell me, fellow nobles, what do I do now? Was I wrong for throwing out old junk that’s only valuable to people with a vow of poverty? How do I get out of this box? And how do I get my dragon to take me back?

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

I will sit on the peer review committee (judge).

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Crits for week 450 – Science Blog

Chili – Burn

Thanks for submitting early. More brain power will be put toward this crit…probably. Gonzo! I love the Muppets! Yup, already off to a good start.

Good descriptions. The first one of Gonzo in the alley is clear: the epitome of cool to Daniel. The arts wing is also evocative with just the single sentence.

This is more of a feeling piece than one with any significant action. That’s fine, but I think I’d like a little more repeating imagery or connected theme. If there had been more call backs to the wish for heat and smoke, I think that might have pulled this together more.

But I also feel like I’m not quite understanding the ending. Gonzo has been doing his own fact finding because he has generalized fear of things. He admires Daniel for not having that same fear. He doesn’t want to be behind the scenes but he can’t bear to stick his neck out. So he rewards Daniel for his bravery, essentially giving Daniel what he wanted. But that’s it. I’m not sure where that leaves Daniel at the end. Readers find out who the pretty boy is at the end, what did Daniel learn from the whole situation? Not sure.


This is hard to read. Take a look at the other stories in the thread to see how they’re formatted for easier reading. The lack of extra spaces between paragraphs makes dialogue difficult to distinguish and action hard to follow. It’s also helpful to put some sort of marker when there’s a change in scene/POV character. Something like: ### or as Chili used in the story before yours *****
I’m finding it difficult to provide a cohesive critique because of my confusion. So I’m just going to write what questions/thoughts I have as I read in order to provide a reader’s point of view with this story.

First paragraph: What is Semtex? Is it significant that Lee is going on a backpacking trip? Why is he taking the glowing spinach with him? What is the scientific purpose of the glowing spinach at all for this guy’s research? What do semtex and glowing spinach have to do with each other?

Second paragraph: Exposition dump that I think is supposed to explain what happened to the spinach from the first paragraph but doesn’t quite. How did the spinach escape the lab? Did it start growing wild? What was it supposed to accomplish? Is scent tagging somehow comparable to whatever it was supposed to do? What is that unique but ultimately impractical idea? What is scent tagging? Why was it near military bases and chemical plants? Does it matter that they’re at an explosive testing range?

Third paragraph: I don’t even know. Something with special explosives? It has lots of particulars that I think these words are supposed to clarify. But instead of these words answering the questions I’m supposed to have, my question is why is any of this needing to be told at all? Who is Barry and why does he need explosives in pills that are detonated by light?

Fourth paragraph: I think this is a typo, but why is Barry hungry after a few houses? Hours? And then what in the what even happens?

Azza Bamboo - It's Less Effort This Way

There are a lot of inanimate objects being active in these sentences. Sometimes it works, but other times it does not. Examples of not working: Footsteps pounded, it’s array of locks… clicked shut, garlic huddled. Not exhaustive list, just put some thought into these before you do them as to whether it makes sense. So like, Cell phone lit is one that works, because that is something cell phones do. But garlic doesn’t huddle.

Mood is pretty good here as is the repetition of the smoke throughout. It gives it an atmosphere and I feel that something not good has happened. Giving a cigarette to people he bounces is a great humanizing detail.

In terms of action. I get what’s going on here, but I don’t get why. The characters aren’t developed enough. I don’t think it would take much more to fill in Michael as a character, but the vampire needs a lot of work. The vampire just is. Good call backs to previous times at the club. But I don’t get their relationship. This is almost there.

Simply Simon – Dam Burst

If she can hear her own blood flowing, she must have some very sharp ears. Appreciate the connected theme of water throughout.

This is not your first “stuck in virtual reality” story. I think the realization comes a bit too late in the story for there to be any meaningful development of character and resolution. The rivalry between the two is best illustrated by the number of laps they have done more so than any of the backstory

The whole thing moves fairly quickly. The entire time I feel like it should be moving at the speed of the vehicles so that when the story tries to slow down to do some backstory, it drags. So I can’t say whether that part is too long or if it just feels too long because we’re moving at the speed of racecars.

A lot of the story is moved forward through dialogue and it just feels like there’s too much of it.

And what exactly is the freedom of the rest of virtual reality? I’d like to see.

Mid-Priced carp – Rain

Formatting is also a concern here. There needs to be more paragraphs, split based on action/dialogue/description. At the very least, dialogue from different characters always needs to be in separate paragraphs.

Exposition heavy even in the dialogue. A lot of which doesn’t need included at all because it’s already been said or is implied by relationships and past events.

The main action of the story doesn’t start until 2/3 of the way through. Everything before is introductory material for the character and setting. If that much time is spent on character, the reader should be feeling very attached to characters, but the reader is told the bare facts of the relationships before we see them acted out. For instance, if this had just said that Anturak slipped Anara a mango before taking the rest of the food to the cook-fire, the reader would start to see how much he values his daughter and save lots of words for the ending too.

The story is simply told. The actions and characterizations and plot are generic. There isn’t much to make it special or a story only one person could tell. It seems almost a recounting of a day in the life rather than following any sort of narrative arc.

angel opportunity – Nervus Pascens

You edited your entry. I’m wondering if you did it to earn the DQ so that you couldn’t possibly win and therefore be forced to participate in TD next week as head judge. Well too bad for you!

I want the protagonist to be a little more upset at the doctor’s office. Like, it’s okay if the doctor is nonchalant about the situation because that might be normal in this weird future. But he’s essentially given the protag a very unfavorable prognosis and then it’s just, “guess I’ll go home, not eat salt and keep itching.”

Well that was uncomfortable at the end. Uh, congratulations for making my skin crawl with your story about skin crawling?

Competently written with a clear narrative, character development and ending. A bit on the nose with the Internet advice/reactions. But the ending was uncomfortable enough to get a reaction and that’s kinda what we aim for in the writing business. I think if the whole story had been tighter, this would have been perfect.

Thranguy – The Revolution Will Be Gamified

This story is so close. Dropping me into the setting is perfect. I am immersed, I understand the rules of the game (for the most part, there are a few terms that I might not have followed completely, but that might be my ignorance of certain lingo). And I am 100% on board with this concept as a possibility. Suspension of disbelief complete.

I’ve got the players and the boss they have to defeat and I’m definitely rooting for the players. But then they just kill the boss. Not really much of a challenge. There’s a small high as they reach the leaderboards. And then the story wanders away. The game changes for no reason that’s really explained and the characters also sort of wander away. Which can be very true to how people tire of games, but I don’t see any larger point being made. It sounds like that’s what the ending is going for but it’s not clear enough to really hit.

But dang if I didn’t like the world this story built.

Baneling Butts – Flashpoint

The whole crux of this story is the juxtaposition of Nyx and Hannah’s stories. A Plutonian wants to go home. An Earthling is doing research but actually sad about a fling not working out. They meet and they both wish it could have lasted longer. Neither story has enough room to really explore either of their situations in any meaningful way. Nyx’s problem is solved without much issue. Can’t really call Hannah’s situation a problem really since she seems equally interested in the neutrino discovery as the lack of contact from the lover. So it doesn’t quite work.

And Nyx doesn’t ever seem in any sort of danger. There’s just no stakes, no emotional connection and nothing meaty about this story to get attached to. It’s fine, but could use a little more depth.

flerp – Skin

Interesting. A completely different skin burning story than angel opportunity’s which is good because it would be easy to compare them otherwise. I find the imagery and progression easy to follow in this story. In my understanding what starts out as an issue with physical discomfort becomes more painfully obvious the difference between the way one feels inside versus how we look on the outside.

Fighting our familial expectations and genetic gifts in favor of the person we could be if we didn’t have their influence in our lives pressuring us whether with words, actions or lack of them both. Because we try to please them, we look to these figures for comfort and answers, but in the end we have to find our own answers whether they’re the ones others will approve of or not. Clear and well executed.

toanoradian – Could Make a Car, but I Don’t Want That

There are a lot of structural issues with this story with English phrasings, word order, and general comprehensibility. Lots of typos: Mary/merry, squid friend rice, etc.

This story tries to establish a scene and characters and meaning, but immediate undercuts all of it with other words. The description of the whole scene just comes across so strange and I don’t know if I can describe just exactly why it’s strange. It’s as if even Mary is viewing all of this from outside herself despite the fact that this is told in first person. The descriptions of actions and physical objects seems to indicate an unfamiliarity. As if Mary is experiencing it all for the first time and doesn’t know how humans describe things. Honestly Mary comes across as more of an alien than Nyx in Baneling Butts’s story.

Because all of this was so strange, I really didn’t understand what the larger point/narrative of the story was.

Noah – I, Enemy

Hmm, I’m not sure what to make of this one. There’s a lot about it that I think is almost-but-not-quite. You’ve got a fading academic who is throwing out opinions on topics he is not at all qualified to be speaking on and because of that he is the only one standing in the way of full human extermination. It’s a great start. Sets the stakes immediately.

But the rest is sort of meandering, trying to establish the credentials of this man, but it needed to be a lot more succinct and get back to the action of the AI threat. When it finally does, it loses the immediacy of the beginning. And the ending ends with inaction on both sides. Xajier doesn’t smash the AI to pieces and the AI doesn’t smash him to pieces, nor do we get to see the AI smash humanity. The reader is left with the possibility that Xajier might try to take the AI down. But how? Using his academic strengths? Is this another Deep Blue vs Gary Kasparov situation where they will match philosophies?

I don’t know. But I want to see it.

Rhymes With Clue – Aromatherapy

Great build up, character is super strong, smell “imagery” is fantastic. But these are the passages of a novel. These are the bits interspersed with action that make us care about this character and how she attempts to make it in this samsara.

But I think the descriptions are just so good, so engaging, so meaningful that’s why the ending feels like such a letdown. I’m not sure there was a way to end this that didn’t feel unsatisfying. But instead we see the character get what she wanted, to catch the bus as she gives up this side gig, but what is she leaving to go to? To the car she might live in? To her apartment to be depressed in? To become one of the non-buying customers to someone else in retail? To go smell the flowers? You have a good parallel image of the snow sticking to snow like money sticks to money, but I’m not sure that it serves any purpose here.

Enjoyed the buildup regardless of the ending. Thanks.

crabrock – Blood Makes the Man

I cackled as soon as I realized that he had become a PEZ dispenser and other people stared at me. Thanks for that.

Nice idea, well executed, but lacks depth. I want to know more about what happened, how exactly the whole world operates with this limitation. Without all of that context, I don’t think the riches the protagonist has acquired really hits as literally lifesaving. And there’s not much hint before the end about the transformation the protagonist might be hoping for. And therefore when he receives the new blood and we learn that it’s just another failure in a long line of them, it doesn’t mean as much.

But otherwise it’s a well put together piece that really sets the scene and has a comedic and emotional payoff at the end. It’s just the emotional setup that was missing.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Me when I signed up: This is going to be an easy week to get words, it's just doing what I do anyway.
Day 1: 4 miles; noticed a brick building that should really hold a gatekeeper, but there's no gate to keep.
Day 2: 2 miles; piles of fruit tree blossom petals make awesome confetti; boy likes to look at every worm on the walk, slows down the process.
Day 3: WTF covid vaccine, that's not cool, why do I feel so terrible? 1 mile and only because my dogs dragged me the entire way.
Day 4: 1 mile because my body still doesn't know what I did to it. It's cold, what happened to 60 degree days?
Day 5: 2.5 miles: Why don't people know to walk against traffic when they're in the road? I wonder what would happen if a city tried to do away with junk mail?
Day 6: 1 mile: Two dogs and a stroller, heaven help me if there's a squirrel.

Total: 11.5 miles = 1150 words

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 00:29 on Apr 19, 2021

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Word Count: 1049

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 23:16 on Oct 16, 2021

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

In. Give me a song that'll build my vocabulary. I'm talking expectorating Gaston levels of word usage here.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Word count: 2459

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 23:18 on Oct 16, 2021

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

In and what goes better with cake than ice cream?

Tyrannosaurus posted:

Ice Cream! +400 words
  • Your story must be told in reverse order (but still make sense).

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

The Weight of Happiness
Word count: 869
Cake +600: It’s someone’s birthday
Ice Cream +400: Your story must be told in reverse order (but still make sense).

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 23:20 on Oct 16, 2021

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Crits for week 470 – Thunder Dorkroom

flerp – The Hurt

This story goes for emotion and it gets it. I think its choice in analogies is good for the characters’ ages. The bandaid like a sword. And its transformation into a mole later is interesting when it’s now on the mother. I think both of the boys work for their ages. Sometimes then 7-year-old seems like he’s younger than that and the 13-year-old older, but I think these types of situations can change how kids act and I think this situation has changed them.

It’s a simple and straight forward piece. It could do a little more with the emotion, showing what it does for the protagonist or giving Samuel a little more to do than just bestowing the charge on the protagonist but I think it’s fine this way too.

Yoruichi – Because I Love You

Helluva first line. An interesting approach to talking about life after a life-altering accident. I think it’s full of emotion for the protagonist. Jess comes off a little snarky even through her love (“give you a hand” oof, I’m surprised that didn’t annoy the protagonist at her word choice.) and I think that’s important so that she’s not just a two-dimensional character who’s there to prove that love conquers all or whatever.

But beyond that I don’t have much to add. There’s a lot of description of the whole mechanics of the situation that I find uninteresting. Whether that’s because they are uninteresting and don’t add much or because I’m ace and really don’t care about any of that, I’ll let you decide since it’s your story and I am only one reader.

MockingQuantum – The Attic

Dialogue does a lot of heavy lifting. I like the sentiment this was going for, but the execution was clunky. I think this could be helped a lot by having a stronger protagonist voice and internal monologue. How does he feel when he looks around at all the stuff? Is it weighing him down just like his ailing father when all he wants to be is free to go to college? Is it a tug of war between the memories and the possible future ones he wants to make?

This is a good story kernel. Keep all the beats and even the transition at the end from memory to present. Drive home a bit more how one’s personal world can change through the actions of one person, how the same space can evoke two different feelings depending on the association and how death can mean two different things as well. Polish up the dialogue. And with all of that, this could be a very good story.

A few more words and a little more time spent with this story and I think you’ll be happy with it.

Hawklad – Effluence

Terrible first line. But that’s really the only thing that’s terrible. The problem here is that this story is too big. It’s a big story that I want to read in a world that has possibilities and stories within stories and futures and pasts that I want to explore. And this story is only the tip of the iceberg, the very, very tip, with more exposed than is told and even more unexposed beneath the surface.

I love how hopeful it is, how bleak it looks but how Elene is confident yet has her doubts. She has these seeds but also a brilliant and disabled father. This is the first chapter in a novel that shakes up Elene’s world very quickly. Because the father looms large he either needs to make an appearance or affect the actions that we see Elene doing. In the narrative we only learn the actions/decisions she’s taken in the past because of him. But the story stops before that happens. And there are many ways that can happen.

The worldbuilding is good but missing just a few more details for me to really understand how it all works together. Like I think I get it but I also worry that I don’t. But in the “end” it doesn’t matter because I didn’t really need to. I have a hard time really coming up with anything concrete here since I’m convinced this needs to be much longer and so I’m happy to talk with you more about it if you want to expand it, but as a short piece I don’t think I can provide any more concrete advice.

t a s t e – The Summit

This piece has good character building and scene setting. It would fit in very well as an intro. But this isn’t a novel. There’s no actual story here. It’s all build up and reveal and the reveal isn’t clever enough to carry the piece. I don’t know that any simple reveal is actually, but that’s philosophizing.

There isn’t actually a lot wrong with the writing. I think the style is consistent with the feeling it’s going for: kinda mobster-esque meeting and posturing, meeting of big ego types. Where I think it falls down is how it goes out of its way to keep the reveal a secret. There is a flow to how stories reveal information and so it becomes obvious at certain points when that information isn’t provided that the author is holding back specifically for some reason. And then the reader’s mind goes to why which usually takes them out of the story.

And the shirt standoff goes on a bit too long without any payoff. So I got bored and went unrewarded for continuing.

Idle Amalgam – Lived In

There’s no story, just a lead up to a scare which could be condensed into two paragraphs and then spend the rest of your words in how the two work together to escape the situation. Or explore the characters’ relationship. This story is 1500 words long but yet the bulk of it could be condensed. Paragraph 1: the couple approach a house that is clearly not as advertised. Paragraph 2: they explore the house. And then the rest of your words should develop the couple, their situation, how they interact with each other, with the monstrosity.

Less is generally more when it comes to descriptions. The house could be described in a few choice adjectives or in describing their experience of it using the senses. I’m going to offer the “read more” advice here, because the sentences, while mostly grammatically correct, are too full. Adverbs or extra information that doesn’t offer extra meaning. And really noticing how other authors slim down their sentences or pack it with purpose can help with that.

What the reader needs much more of is understanding the characters more. Kayla is generically pissed at the situation, but she’s also the type of person to carry a gun in her purse? Derek doesn’t justify his purchase of the house and is weirdly interested in the putrid place. Why are they at odds? Why isn’t Derek as pissed as Kayla? Does he think he can rehab the house? They are characters who are operating as the author needs them to with no further depth. Readers don’t need a lot of justification for action. Maybe Derek is the hard headed type who never asks for directions and so he’s going to live in this house come hell or a literal hellhole. But that characterization is missing.

This also needed a proofread.

Thranguy – Owls and Matchsticks

Feel like I’m missing something. This story needed to pick either fun caper or meaningful events are happening story and when the story starts with the possibility of wood innuendo, that sets the tone of a person who sees the world with some levity. Even if her partner does not. But after a certain point the story becomes a recitation of events.

As I’m reading it: some people steal an unguarded log from a lumber pile, as they’re driving it away they swerve to not hit an owl while they’re driving too fast but are none the worse for wear, they sell the wood in various forms but keep an owl sculpture and make matchsticks that don’t work.
It’s all told with such straightforward prose that I keep looking for some bigger connection or some point that I must be missing.

But with that “one meaning at a time” line, I’m starting to think that there isn’t anything more.

Chairchucker – I’m Hungry, But I Ain’t That Hungry Yet

This is a story: beginning, middle, end, which is more than several stories this week. It’s all hand-wavy though with no substance, no emotional attachment, no stakes that I’m interested in, no explanations. If it were funnier none of this would matter because it was clearly all done in service of the joke. But I can’t find the larger joke. If the beginning had mentioned that Diane had gone to the island for a month to escape men as well as the news, then maybe the last line would have landed.

Sebmojo – Flamingo dreams

This story has a “sitting at the edge of the earth and waiting to be devoured” vibe, also maybe the feeling of “hoping that one more good thing will happen before the end.” And I think that is very good. The atmosphere and metaphor fit. But then there’s a line about fire engines and that ruins the mood because it inserts the outside world onto the lives of these two people and makes me want to know about the outside world. Why is there a scheme to stop the rain? Who is in charge of it? Since there are people in this house, were there people in those other houses?

And now I don’t know what to make of the whole story, wondering if I’m missing something else. I like the comparison of houses trying to withstand the water as flamingos do on their long legs. And Jonathan longing for the safety of being with others.

“Kathleen was looking at him without any particular expression, but he thought the expression she didn’t have was a smile, which he liked.” This line gets across what you need it to, but it is jarringly awkward.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

First line: I say I am at sea, because I am standing upon the ocean, and look out across the barren, vast throng of the sea.

Moving On
Word count: 1162

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 23:21 on Oct 16, 2021

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

In with The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu

When I read this, I didn't have the vocabulary or experience to understand why I liked it, but compared to the other stories in the collection I read it has always stuck with me. I was super excited when the author published a book this year.

Now that I have words for it, what I would say that this piece does well and I enjoy is that it's told in a pseudo-simplistic fable-style that's enriched by the author's word choice and it has just that hint of hope at the end, despite the dire circumstances throughout.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

All Alone Together
Word count: 1458
Inspiration: The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 23:22 on Oct 16, 2021

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

The Worlds We Imagine
Word count: 945

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 13:15 on Dec 9, 2021

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

flerp posted:

screw the rules, i have thunderdome

another (hopefully)

Yeah, me too. How does one crit without rules? Let's find out.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Crits for week 484 – Screw the rules, I have Thunderdome

This week I wanted to be surprised, confused, left to find my own way around the worlds your stories could create without the means of rules. The stories should make me wonder about the need for the strictures we have on writing as an art. Any other criteria I tried to use involved imposing too many rules on the work before I had even seen it.

For the most part, there were two types of entries this week: 1) the ones that went head first into defying all known rules of writing a story and 2) those that were much more conventional and only broke the rule that was assigned. There were some others on the spectrum but to me it seemed that those that were in the middle had a harder time intriguing me as an experiment or as a regular story experience.

Each of these stories is still a success, because HEY, NO RULES! And I sure didn’t write anything this week.

Sitting Here - Nothing Matters

Oh good, I was hoping for multi-media this week. I guffawed. Your delivery of “What’s the matter? gave the joke away. A good way to not take too much time away from your NaNo project. Still took some thought and effort. I appreciated the discarding of the man and woman at the beginning to establish that they are gone and not just gone but destroyed. Short, simple, effective.

Azza Bamboo – Karl’s Day Out

This is almost too conventional a story for this week but there are parts of it that I really like in a conventional sort of way. The descriptions of the factory workers’ drudgery, their muscles and where their minds wander, rang true to me in a very visceral way. I wish you would have gone bigger with Marx and Thunberg. The ridiculousness at the beginning is a nice start, but by the time they get to the factory, they’re all talk. I want more action from these action heroes. I also love the comparison of words piling up just like the shirts.

Way to go bold by subbing a story without signing up, but other than that, this story doesn’t break any rules worth mentioning.

Hawklad – Physics 102 Final Exam (key)

Upon opening this I said, “Oh my god, hahahaha.” Good first reaction. This is beautiful. I wish I knew whether the math is actually correct. But everything else is engrossing. There are two nice stories in here somehow managing to be told and easily followed despite the extremely unconventional format. This is a good tutorial in how to include character development in small but illustrative pieces. And even though it’s normally done with an adjective or a well-placed object, here it’s in the small comments the teacher chooses to write down.

You didn’t put your last answer in a box. No extra credit for you!

ChickenofTomorrow - The Something Awful Forums > Private Messages > Re: :pervert:

Gross but effective. It follows very few rules of traditional structure while also painting a picture of this person. A fairly literal interpretation of the rule it needed to break. But it also broke plenty of other rules about storytelling to good effect. It made me feel a sense of creepiness (over a year of messages, ew). And though I understand the format was necessary, at a certain point, I did scroll to the end and read backwards. So there might need to be a little more of interest in the middle having more info in being revealed in reverse rather than having the reader feel the need to start at the end just to get a sense of what's happening.

derp – the mountain

I can see this story being written in a normal week of TD. Good comparisons between the mountain and the man and the man and the beetle. The portions with the mountain’s embodiment and voice really do make the chest thump with its sound. All of the sound effects worked for me. The dripping rain in the PNW, rapid and unending.

I do wish the part with the beetle observation were a little less straightforward. But I guess as a man observing an insect, it would be more conventional than the narrative of a mountain. Good stuff.

Post judge chat: Muffin was super in love with this story because of your use of kenning. I feel the need to tell you this because Muffin will never write crits but you still deserve to know.

Chairchucker – ATAB

Well, that surely did not make sense to the characters in the story but I think it makes sense enough to the reader. A joke drawn out. I could see you writing this story during another week. I would have liked to see it go off the rails a little more or lead to something a more substantial that could then be turned on its head.

Flesnolk - This Profile Does Not Exist

This story (which doesn’t exist) certainly does all of the things I anticipated for this week. Confused, yes, left to wander, yes, surprised, maybe surprised isn’t the word I’d used, but intrigued and with a sense that there is meaning here if only I read it again or in a different way. It reads like it should make sense, like logic based on logic.

It’s as if all of the stories about serial killers were fed into an AI aggregator which spit out a conglomeration of them, then it was fed into Google translate and then translated back to English and then used predictive text to fill in any missing places. And it makes me want to find the core of what this story could be about or saying (though that’s not a requirement for this week).

But if somehow this story could have a purpose behind it, some clever meaning that all of this seeming confusion and time wobbliness and impossibilities could point to, then it would be something very special.

The man called M – Molly Jo

Simple, not effective. If there had been a reason for the backwards half of the story, then I’d say it was worth it. Otherwise, I don’t quite understand what the point is. Of course having a point in a story is a rule that no one needed to follow this week. As it is, this story doesn’t encourage me to look for any point or wonder about my own preconceptions about stories. If there had been differences in the backwards portion, that might have elicited some interest. Is the point that Molly Jo is average and not even watching her life run in reverse makes her interesting?

Also, I think there’s a difference between average and unnoticeable. Average is unnoticeable in the macrocosm but on a personal level, average still involves interactions. Someone who is unnoticeable on the individual level is an outlier. Nitpicking. The story is fine.

After judge chat, it was pointed out that the backwards text was symbolizing going back in time and even when starting over, nothing has changed for Molly Jo, which I do think that interpretation does a lot to improve this story. I just missed that. And that’s always a possibility since all readers are different.

Beezus – I: THE MOON

What? I am definitely confused. Ooooh, it’s part of a series. Intrigued as to the process here. But even after reading the three parts, though I see some connections, it doesn’t necessarily come to a greater meaning for me. And even the individual meanings still elude me. Not just the meanings either, the understanding of the whole world is just beyond my grasp.

Individually, I think this story is the most understandable while still being strange and having a lot happen. I like what I see, I’m just still unclear on exactly the relationship between the Adjacent and the moons and the people. It’s all cosmic and cerebral which I think is a good tone to have, it just doesn’t coalesce for me so I’m left wanting more.

Carl Killer Miller - Pick Your Path: An End-Of-Life Experience

Yay, I thought someone would do a choose-your-own-adventure. Oh what the hell? This made me feel things. I could see the endings coming but argh. I knew I shouldn’t have eaten the chicken teriyaki!

This is definitely conventional. Other than it being told in a CYOA style, that’s still a fairly accepted format for storytelling. I like the framing device, that’s it’s more of a training tool to psychologically prepare for life in the medical field.

I think on a regular week this would be a strong contender for the win or an HM, but this week, it doesn’t stick out as much. I enjoyed it, even when I read straight through after the Teriyaki chicken disaster.


Is this a chapter out of a book? It feels like it was plucked right out of a work in progress and that makes me feel as if I’m missing a lot of context. That would fit the “have a beginning” rule to break. It’s just irritating to me because there are a lot of characters referred to very quickly and none of them have a ton of detail to them making them indistinguishable and their importance to the main characters difficult to parse. I can’t even discern what the relationship between Verger and Devon is let alone, those two plus the alchemist, Chloe and Katya and then Martin.

I like the blood magic. I’m intrigued by Devon as a character. I want to know more about the relationships that this sets up. I appreciate that he needs to replenish his fluids. I’m just mystified throughout the whole thing. Need more!

Curlingiron – II: THE PROGRAM

This is so tantalizingly close to being followable. I just want to know what it did! The setup has me hooked but this story withholds any sort of satisfaction in learning more about the computer program, about the world, about Astrid. And I feel like this one is the key to bridging the moon and the infinite and yet I am missing something.

This story is good in so many respects because it makes me want to know what’s going on in just the first few paragraphs, but instead of things becoming clearer, they only become more maddeningly far away as it segues into the infinite.

Aaaah, can you three sit down with me and tell me what’s going on? Because I think this rule breaking is the biggest puzzle of the week and if it remains a mystery forever I’ll never stop thinking about it.

Antivehicular – Whatever Gets You through the Night

I wish I had more to say about this. The story definitely has feeling, there’s no denying that. I can see this story fitting into a regular week and even winning. The psychological pieces are very strong. There is trauma and loss and self-identification themes here to be appreciated. Personally I wanted the balance of this story to be more in favor of that exploration rather than the amount of time spent on the bodily satisfaction.

Don’t get me wrong, that part is important to the piece as a whole. The whole life as a physical warrior type dedicated to pain and the bringing of pain juxtaposed to the ability to bring pleasure and bodily good feelings. It’s very well done and executed. I’m just more interested in the life of this person outside of the cell and why it has brought on all of this.

A great piece of writing, could break more rules.
Post judge chat: I now know this is FF14 fanfic and now a few things fall into place and you broke more rules. So this moves it up in my estimation.

Albatrossy_Rodent – Choose Your Own Backstory

Another CYOA, but this one reads as if it was more fun to write than it was to read. A lot of it sounds as if two friends were having fun throwing the most random stuff back and forth. Does the ‘you’ change from the beginning to the end? Because the way it reads is that the ‘you’ starts (ends) off as the son but then ends (begins) up as the father. But I guess, whatever, no rules!

Captain Indigo - This title takes place outside of the story itself and the frozen instant it encapsulates and the title is ‘Then as the car bomb goes off a moment later, the tab of Meezonsen that I had scored off of Kelly (one of the porters in pediatrics) kicked in and the dorsolateral prefrontal right cortex of my brain turned to fizzy mush and dribbled to the base of my skull and my perception of time was torn apart, scorching my sensory neurons and freezing a snapshot of that single point, allowing me to explore an instant of time for hours before the Meez wears off.’

“gently caress! Yes! Insect!” This piece makes me wonder why the protagonist doesn’t go off looking for more insects/natural life to view rather than creating these rather dangerous situations for himself and others since he seems to have more interest in the wildlife anyway. Though he starts to ideate on bigger explosions and more harmful situations which I guess is a logical conclusion for thrill seeking behavior.

I’m also not sure that the argument that the poor and lonely would crave this experience. When they seek out drugs, it’s usually for dulling pain/the painful world. Whereas this would increase the intensity of the awfulness of their world. Of course, the character having these thoughts is on drugs, so their thoughts aren’t exactly the clearest.

I think it’s a pretty accurate depiction of a drug taking experience, breaks the given rule, but could also be a story written in a normal week. I’d like to have seen even more vivid language used to analyze the character’s surroundings even further. Just so hyperfocused as to debate the exact shade of green they’re seeing.

Fuschia tude – Across

I like the use of verbs and adjectives to get a surprising amount of information across. I kinda wish there had been a set number of steps given at the beginning so that I could count down with the tight rope walker as they’re making their way across. I think that would have amped up the tension (haha). As it is, I get that sense a little bit, but the progression is just so steady that I don’t have a lot of doubt that they’ll make it.

I’m also not sure how it would be possible without the use of tangible objects, but I would have liked to know more about their backstory and why they were doing it in the first place. Why the death at the end?

Overall, very effective and fits in this week beautifully.

CourtFundedPoster - “Replacable Parts”, all known surviving fragments [Sequence Debated]

This breaks a lot of rules, including comprehensibility because I have literally no clue what this is attempting to do, what events are happening, what is trying to piece these pieces together, why they are important. Way to go for it! I applaud that. As a reader, I just have nothing to grasp onto.

I would love to know more about this. What I’ve got here is intriguing, but I don’t have enough pieces to put the puzzle together adequately enough to see more than the barest of pictures.


Please tell me these stories are related. Muffin didn’t think so and now I’m questioning myself. But they have to be right? All the titles are similar in style and there are moons and knives and goddesses and TRUST THE INFINITE!… Way to break some rules!

This is the second most effective of the three in terms of internal consistency but I’m still left thinking that there is a much greater context that I’m missing out on. And all of you are extremely effective in getting me to want to know what’s going on. Part IV when?

To your story specifically, I’d like to have more context about Jan and his mission and motivations. On the surface he is retrieving the Goddess, but why him specifically. What is his history with Xenon? Why are the acolytes so useless (“loud enough for once” was a good line for establishing a relationship here)? And I wanted a little more action. I know Jan wasn’t allowed to achieve anything, but there was sitting in the ship, ship being flown for him, and then dialogue with Xenon. Not much meat.

I like to finally learn that something is going on with the third moon, but still, why? Well written, tantalizing details. Seriously, the three of you must do an expose after this.

Crabrock – why are you like this?

Beautiful. Succinct, well executed, amusing, breaks a lot of rules, including your own that a black hole should be without awareness. Much easier to read in the archive on my laptop, but the experience was not diminished as I squinted into the blackness on my phone. Is it the rule that the story that breaks the most rules, wins?

This was a satisfying piece and that makes it a winner in my book.


Simple, effective, not much going on. Many rules broken. Still a fairly linear progression of events despite the multiple timelines. All possible. The more I stare at it the more it makes me want to analyze the differences between my days and how they could go differently with the mere blowing of the wind. It’s almost like a CYOA, except the whole adventure is right there to choose.

And probably the less obvious route for the story since I think with the rule it needed to break, a lot of people would have gone for a time travel narrative. Of course, this could be a time travel narrative…hmm.

Steeltoedsneakers – Eight bar loop

A drunken rant. We all know that guy. This guy’s less of a square and more of a circle. This and the meez story need to hook up and go do some drugs in the parking lot. I like the images this story conjures, but it’s just an idea on repeat. I almost wish this story did repeat the whole thing, maybe a couple times, and then we could see the variations. Because even fugues have variation. Ravel’s Bolero marches forward with minute changes. And I would like to see this taken to a logical extreme. For now, it’s cute and a simple answer to the prompt.

J.A.B.C. - A literary retrospective of the Lusty Argonian Maid

This story totally has a POV since the author of this paper clearly has negative opinions about this lusty book. But then again, the author did choose to put enough thought into it to write a paper on it, so maybe they are also obsessed just as the rest of this world is. Spends a lot of time on minute details of the world which I guess is in keeping with the conceit of the paper.

Though perhaps the story without a POV is the story that your POV character is describing in the literary paper! Hmm, there might be more layers here than I had originally anticipated.

As I was reading this, I wanted it to be over, but as I reached the end, I’m thinking it needed to be longer, like a lot longer, like an entire dissertation on this imaginary literary work just to really explore all the ripe ridiculousness that this type of thing can offer as well as break a few more rules. At this length it was a lot of world-buildy type details that bog down the main point, if there was a main point. But I’ll blame the activated charcoal.

Tyrannosaurus - My personal advice on how to run the first session of a post-apocalyptic tabletop roleplaying campaign for new players who have little to no experience in gaming for a Gamemaster with very little time to plan or who just wants a little help getting things going

I hope this helped you finish another project you were working on. Because it’s always nice to kill two birds with one stone. As someone who has never participated in any RPGs this is an extremely helpful piece. It breaks a lot of storytelling rules and is still interesting to read. But at the end of the day, it is what it is and not more than that.

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 23:43 on Nov 16, 2021

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Personal Contact
Word count: 1210

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 13:12 on Dec 9, 2021

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

In, chance and fate.

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Chili and Princess Chernobyl! I have been informed that you don't put enough Old Bay on your berger cookies. We must brawl!

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 01:10 on Dec 23, 2021

a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

Chili posted:

Quoth the chili:

Bring it the gently caress on

Chernobyl Princess posted:

Vile slander! Caluminy and lies! I sweat old bay and am, personally, a blue crab! I snap my claws menacingly and accept your challenge!


Will an impartial judge, from outside the land, please set upon us a worthy challenge?

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 00:01 on Dec 23, 2021


a friendly penguin
Feb 1, 2007

trolling for fish

The Hollow Mountain
Word count: 747
Flash: Fortune’s Wheel turned by dead king in mountain

a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 15:24 on Dec 31, 2021

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