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.
  • Post
  • Reply
beep-beep car is go
Apr 11, 2005

I can just eyeball this, right?

rohan posted:

your story is told in the form of a longform critique of another story which does not (yet) exist (the critter and crittee can both be fictional characters) (you can use quote tags in this piece, my apologies to the archivists)

Crits of “2009 Pontiac G6 (4cyl) Automatic transaxle - removal and installation”

616 words

I want to make this perfectly clear. I did not hate this. I want this clarity up front because what follows may sound like I hated it, but really, I didn’t.

Now, having said that, this part right here in the beginning:


Refer to Chapter 10 for instructions about removing the subframe. All transaxle models require the removal of the subframe to allow the transaxle to be removed from beneath the vehicle.

Are you referencing an earlier story? That doesn’t really work here. You can’t assume that the reader knows everything happening in your earlier work, especially without mentioning that this is part of a series. Even a little bit of setup would be better than just telling the reader to refer to an earlier chapter.

From there you just jump into a list of tasks. I know that some authors will use their medium to explain things to the reader through the mouth of the MC, but this is a bit too much. I don’t need to know exactly what they are doing, I want to get the vibe for it. I have an imagination, let me use it!


Attach an engine support fixture or an engine hoist to the engine and raise it sufficiently to just support the weight of the engine. The engine must remain supported while the transaxle is out of the vehicle. If you use an engine hoist, position the hoist with its legs inserted under the vehicle from the right (passenger’s) side. This will give you room to maneuver the transaxle out with a jack.

I think you’re trying for clarity at the cost of the story. I get that the main character is receiving instructions from divine intervention or something, but it’s too dry, you know? I would have liked more pizazz.

There should be more of the Hero’s Journey here. Maybe some setup and development in between the dry descriptions of what the MC is doing. I would have loved to see more about how they got there. What are the stakes?

I had to read the part where they were removing the bolts and guards from the transaxle three or four times to understand what was going on. I think you have some issues with the order of operations. This section would have benefited from more revisions. Maybe space it out, or be more clear in your descriptions, or even skip it entirely. If you’re going to go into that kind of detail, make it fun.

Once the transaxle is out, you jump right to installing a new one. It feels disjointed. There could be a whole part about how they were troubleshooting the issue, taking it apart looking for the source of the failure, anything really. Instead we just get them getting a new one and shotgunning it in. Sure, it’ll fix the issue, but where is the drama? Where is the excitement?

The ending is just plain weak, I’m disappointed.


Installation is the reverse of removal.

I’m sorry but what? Were you running out of words? You left so much on the table with that ending. There could have been so much more about the struggles with the installation, the joy at a successful job, or even the tragedy of doing all that work and then having to have it towed away to a mechanic to fix it. Instead we get a pithy line.

It’s funny. I read this not knowing what to expect, and I really think there’s a gem of a story in here, but it’s just too dry and technical for me.


Oct 6, 2021

Obliteratin' everything,
incineratin' and renegade 'em
I'm here to make anybody who
want it with the pen afraid
But don't nobody want it but
they're gonna get it anyway!

Aid Zdrih-oocab
410 words
Hellrule: reverse chronological

Blood drips slow over Niveh’s mouth upward into his nose. Then, he leaps upward from his face, landing right on his feet. He hops backwards along the gym floor.

“Pirch oot tnah-oo tnohd ooee, nam lufrack eeb,” shouts Niveh’s friend Lih-oo from across the gym. Niveh keeps hopping backwards, his gym shorts around his ankles.

“Tnitsnih sith puh cab stnap rawee lup!” shrieks Coach Nusnahj. Niveh gazes at her with a smirk. He keeps hopping backwards. He lifts his middle fingers. The rest of the gym is filled with a mix of shock, laughter, and shocked laughter. Ah ah ah!

Zayoo-eeneh oot gnih-ohg zuh-oo eesh tath tahn, Niveh thinks. Sith ritfaa nehga Uhrahm ees eem tel unnug tahn zeesh. He hops again and again.

Eetayk points at Niveh. “TISH EELO-H!” As she lowers her hands, it seems as though the whole gym turns away in disinterest, and start summoning soft balls from their classmates’ bodies into their hands.

Niveh takes three more hops back, then pulls up his shorts.

Niveh runs backwards around the gym. A plan disintegrates in his mind. An idea, an impulse of petty protest pops into nothing.

He looks around the gym, envious of all his friends playing dodgeball, hateful of Coach Nusnahj. As he passes Lih-oo, Lih-oo gives him a pitious look.

“Nam, tishlub nihcuff chuss zih sith,” says Lih-oo, leaping towards the point a ball is flying from.

Niveh runs backwards, four, five, six more laps as his peers play all around him.

“Dih-eereep uth vuh dneh eeth litnuh gninnuhr peek nack oo-ee,” says Coach Nusnahj, pointing straight at Niveh. “Niveh, oo-ee tahn, ohn.”

The dodgeball players hurry to edge of the gym and join Niveh in his backwards laps.

“Lobjod rohf zmeet oot ottnih tilps aim oo-ee. Eeduhbeerveh krih-oo doog!” shouts Coach Nusnahj, sucking on her whistle with a powerful screech. The whole class is now running with Niveh, and they do so for ten or so laps around the gym.

“Mij uth dnowruh spaal net eem vig. Puh mrah-oo stel,” says Coach Nusnahj. The students begin filing backwards out of the gym.

Niveh is thinking about that night with Nusnahj Uhrahm three days from now, when her mother, the coach, will back out of the room just as he's sucking whipped cream back into the can off her daughter’s stomach. Niveh looks away from Coach Nusnahj as he exits the gym.


Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Hell-rule : no word in your story can be more than five chars long

Where the eye-less men went next (Perec set the text)
494 words

Then the six brave blind men clumb on the back of the beast (can’t tell you its name), and it took them on a long trip. There were risks on the roads; but they took them, and found out so much it would fill books. They could not see the world, or grasp most of it, but they did hear and smell and even taste it. They grew old, wise, and weary.

Their final stop was a weird place, which you might have heard about, but I’ll let them tell you of it.

“I hear many men chant, and the peel of bells echo on tall peaks. I smell myrrh and wax burnt on the altar. I feel the pull of the holy, the touch of our God,” said the first blind man. “ We are here at his very door. ‘Tis a land to pray.”

“I smell pork and duck stew with beans, just as I like it,” said his dear mate. “I smell warm cakes, fat lamb on spits, ripe pears, sugar and lard, cider and beer, roses in vases, musk on skin, fresh paint. Those who live here truly live. I hear them all flirt, drink, chew, tell jokes and poems, so loud, each home full of noise, each heart full of joy, each voice full of love or lust or wit. My belly and my loins crave rough bliss. ‘Tis a land to enjoy.”

“I feel the chill of late fall in the air,” said one of the other guys. “I hear the soft clang of arms piled, the sound of many locks at dusk. Boys don’t play ball on the green, as they used to. Folks watch their words and their steps on the road. I smell sweat and fear, salty blood, army chow. ‘Tis a land of peril.”

“Can you hear that bird’s call? I never heard it so far, in all our life-long tour of the world,” said the most quiet of them. “I hear sages talk about old and new texts I never knew of. I hear weird lingo to learn. I hear light steps on windy paths that are on no map yet. I smell a smell I can’t even begin to put in words, and I don’t even know if I like it, but it does haunt me and I’d give the rest of my life to know where it comes from. ‘Tis a land to study.”

One found he had not a word to say.

“That sad girl’s song, over there? My aunt used to sing one just like it when I was a child. There is a large tree to our left : I can feel its soft shade on my hand. Let me off. I want to sit on the musty earth under it and never move again. My trek’s over,” said the last blind man. “‘Tis a land to rest.”

Got it? The beast had gone in a loop; they were home.

Sep 11, 2018

I never said I was a role model.

Flash: millinery

The Last Door that Death Made
874 words

My father told me once that I was priceless. I believed him. “So young, so talented,” the kind ladies would croon to me as I boxed up the green velvet and silk ribbon that I stitched my heart and soul into. My father loved me while my hats sold. My heart was full for several good years. Until the lean times.

The love in my father’s eyes faded as my hats gathered dust on their stands and our cupboards emptied. His gaze hardened when he looked at me like he was searching for a solution to a puzzle I couldn’t read.

Then the stranger came. He made an offer my father wouldn’t refuse. I had a price after all.

“She was a distant cousin,” he stammered as my heart shattered. “Very distant. With her dying breath, she made me promise I’d take care of you. Back then, I did quite well. I could afford to be charitable.”

Not his daughter? Charity? “Please don’t do this.“

The stranger took my arm.

“I was never meant to be a father. And you’re too old to be living under my roof. This is best for both of us, Meala.”

Spoken as though it absolved him. The stranger ushered me out into the cold. Hunger killed the fight in me a long time ago, so I went quietly. I can’t recall anything that happened after my father shut the door and took the light with him.

But I remember the question that made time begin again.

“Do you wish to live?”

I nodded. “Yes.”

The stranger’s eyes illuminated like candles in the night.

“Good.” The word rumbled through me as the weight of existence settled in my bones.

The darkness peeled back, revealing a handsome face and gleaming yellow eyes. The limbo fell away and I became whole again in a place that was both new and familiar. A home I’d never left. Gone was the empty larder and cellar, threadbare quilts or rock-hard bread. Instead there was tea and cakes and downy blankets and stews and—-

The stranger. The one who owed me a thousand answers and yet would entertain no questions. After a few days of filling meals, I had no questions, and the stranger became as part of this house as the hearth.

One day, a wall became a door, and the door became the threshold to a shop all my own. I returned to my quiet place of lace and thread. I had warmth and purpose. I was alone in the light, but I didn’t care. The stranger appeared at night. He sat beside me while I worked, watching me with strange eyes.

“Do you hate him?” He asked one night.

The needle in my hand stilled. I set the felt down in my lap. I searched for the hard knot in my stomach that appeared whenever I thought of the man who loved me until it was no longer convenient for him.

“No,” I lied.

“Do you hate me?”


“You will, I think. Though I hope you won’t.”

I looked up at the man whose gaze always burned for me, whose face never retained the same shape. By lamplight, his edges softened. Another question simmered in my chest, forgotten by morning.

For a long while, I was content. The stranger and I spoke of everything and nothing until the sun rose. Then I was alone. I made my hats as years drifted by. Too many years. I never left the house or my workshop. Food appeared when needed. My clothing remained tidy and new. The face I saw when I stood before the mirror never changed, but the things inside me did. My peace frayed. My love for my craft hollowed and festered. I wept as I worked, and yet I couldn’t stop. I knew nothing else.

At night, I retreated to the study. I wept with my knees tucked to my chest and flinched when the stranger’s cold fingers grazed my chin.

“Do you hate me now?”

I seized his wrist. “I want to leave.” But my fingers slipped through him and clasped bone. “I’ve marked decades in these walls and yet nothing changes. No one comes to my shop. I don’t hear bells or birds outside. There’s nothing here but you.”

The stranger stroked my cheek. “I can make a door for you.”

“Where would it lead?” The sound of my own question surprised me.

“Only you will know when you walk through. It will be the last door you ever open.”

I swallowed. “And if I stay?”

“Then I will make you glad you did. But I can’t stop the years, Meala.”

Tears flooded my vision. The stranger brushed them away as they spilled down my cheeks. Through a fissure in my chest, a feeling raw and ugly erupted. I grabbed a handful of the stranger’s coat and dragged him down to me. I crushed my mouth to his, unpracticed and desperate as he buried his hands in my hair.

I broke away with a gasp, panting as the stranger held me close. Gleaming bone and endless shadow smiled just as he pressed his lips to mine. I pulled back and whispered against his chin.

“Make me a door.”

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Future Perfect

804 words

Hellrule: Second Person Future Perfect

By now you will have cast down Emperor Vell and brought the freedom Counter-Mars has yearned for for so many long and lean years. I am in the matter utterly certain, writing these words while you lie in fevered sleep in a dank cell in Vell's mountain prison, and not by the mere logic of the situation. It is not just that if you read these words you must have prevailed, but that your victory has always been inevitable. Vell and his tyranny are unnatural, doomed to fail, and you fate's chosen instrument.

The prison, the first obstacle in front of you will not have been a very difficult one. Your fever will have broken after a single night, and with your mind and body strong, escape will not have taken long. Will you have found the picks and tools hidden beneath the false bottom of the cell's single bucket? But did your life on Earth train you in the use of such things? The lock fixture is old, the metal brittle in places. Perhaps you will have snapped it with a solid shove. Or lured the dull brute of a jailer to the bars and stolen the key, with guile or with violence. It barely matters. You will have freed yourself to haunt the palace like a vengeful ghost.

You will have found yourself without resources. Your old clothes, your uniform, they will be easy to find, just outside your cell, but they will not have been suitable for anything but recapture or worse. Will you have chosen the outfit of a guard to wear? Such clothing would let you go openly armed, but guards do not wander aimlessly, must explain their movements when asked by peers and officers. Will you instead have attempted to pass yourself off as one of Vell’s guests, a noble of his court? Or a servant, a clipboard-wielding scientist or broom-pushing janitor?

You will not have won the day alone. You will have had to gather allies. The Jannisary Batwings are never satisfied with their role in service to Vell; will you have convinced them that they would be better off joining your cause? Their leader Kevrith is loyal, not easily swayed. But perhaps you will have challenged him to a test of honor and prevailed, and you will either have spared his life and earned a lifelong friend, or taken his head as would have been your right and  control of the entire battalion. The Emperor's daughter and heir Xera, with her beauty, compassion, and raw ambition may have been persuaded to betray her father. Will you have won her heart or appealed to baser instincts to turn her to your side? And there are the Unders, the dwellers below, numerous but weak, invisible to Vell and his soldiers save when they're looking for some poor soul to torture for fun. The very least measure of kindness might have turned them into a swarming hive to be called on at need.

Then you will have needed a distraction, to call the enemy's attention elsewhere just before the strike. Explosions are most efficacious, and you may well have learned how volatile Vell's munitions dumps and Treadnaught factories can be. But perhaps you favor showmanship, and will have arranged something brighter, something perhaps not louder than bombs but more catchy, with a danceable beat. Perhaps it is whimsy speaking, but sometimes I image you will have overridden Vell's audio gear and that instead of his orders it will have played music, music that compels dancing and singing along.

Your enemy distracted, you will have struck. Will you have gone for the throat or made the mistake of mercy? I trust that even if you did, Vell's nature to betray will have surfaced immediately and you will have been well prepared for it. He will have been helpless but smiling, believing he had one final trump to play. He will have pressed his little button. He will have called on me, his Supreme Assassin, expecting my lethal strike to remove your head. And he will have been so disappointed. I only regret that I will never see his face in that moment.

Counter-Mars will be free, free as you let it be, and I have hope that you will have lived up to your home's ideals and not down to its practices. And my own Abydos will have been freed as well, no longer hostages to my ‘good’ behavior. And you will have had one last decision to make: to stay and help with the hard work of building a new, free world, or to return home to your old life and family, or perhaps even to repair your rocket-skiff and fly further outward to new adventures. And as to this I have no idea which path you will take.

Mar 19, 2008

Look, if you had one shot
or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
in one moment
Would you capture it...
or just let it slip?


Happy new year, Thunderdome!

Submissions are closed

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
:siren: Important Reminder :siren:

Do you plan on publishing a story? Consider editing any stories out of the thread if you want to publish them elsewhere. Some publishers might view SA as "prior publication", which can disqualify your story from publication. That said, if you know you aren't going to publish, please consider leaving your stories in the thread for future readthroughs! Believe it or not, people actually lurk these threads for fun.

For those wondering, stories on the archive aren't viewable without an account. It's also worth mentioning that to my knowledge there haven't been any instances where a publisher rejected a story because of its previous appearance in Thunderdome—though if this has happened to you please tell us about that experience!

Also the thread is now open for any last sentiments for the year 2023. New stuff will go in a new thread, which is being coordinated presently.

Mar 19, 2008

Look, if you had one shot
or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
in one moment
Would you capture it...
or just let it slip?


Let’s see the thread out with one last set of :siren: results :siren:

Thanks all for writing stories! Crits first, then the crowning of the final winner for 2023…

The Cut of Your Jib - I didn't pick up nothin till I got these humbuckers:
This felt overly derivative to me. I feel like I read a dozen pieces with repeated claims of “this is not poetry” during undergrad CW, and while I have some nostalgia for those days, there’s not enough here for me to overlook the fact that in a week of risk-taking, this rambling self-awareness honestly feels kind of safe.

beep-beep car is go - Crits of “2009 Pontiac G6 (4cyl) Automatic transaxle - removal and installation”:
I feel you could have taken this piece further; there was scope for some story-in-a-story shenanigans that didn’t come to pass. The idea of responding to an instruction manual as a creative piece has legs, but I think it was played overly straight; I’m wondering now about who the critic is in this piece, and why they’re critiquing this manual. I think answering that question would help add another dimension to this story.

That said, it’s well-written — as a critique of a vehicle instruction manual I’m not sure I could have asked for better, and I’m glad you took on the hellrule.

Albatrossy_Rodent - Aid Zdrih-oocab:
One of the reasons I gave out your hellrule is because it’s one I’ve seen deployed more than once in the dome already, to good and to less-good effect, so I was keen to see another interpretation of it.

I think the reverse chronology makes this story, which honestly would have been pretty dull and one-note if told forward. The ending, as written, lands because it’s obvious through the story—even without decoding the reversed dialogue—that the coach and “Niveh” have bad blood between them, so the reveal (and subsequent “Cuff”) work as a solid punchline.

I read this a few times; first without bothering to decode the dialogue, and then backwards with an attempt to decode the dialogue, and I think on balance I prefer the first, nonsensical variation with its backward speech and its build-up to the reveal. As above, taking the effort to work through the dialogue doesn’t really improve the story that much.

Kuiperdolin - Where the eye-less men went next (Perec set the text):
h/t for the Oulipo call-out in the title; had I offered more hellrules, someone would have gotten rhopalism :getin:

Yep, I enjoyed this. The hellrule enforced a certain tone that works well for this story, and I appreciate the cheeky nod to not being able to name the elephant.

Do the characters take risks? You mention risks, but make no attempt to expand on them, which feels a bit disappointing. I’d be more forgiving about this aspect of the prompt if I’d just been left to interpret their riding the beast as a risk, but being told “they took risks” without further elaboration feels like a cop-out.

Still, overall a solid piece.

Beezus - The Last Door that Death Made:
I feel like there’s more to this story that I’m not getting. This might be because you wrote it with covid, or it might be because I’m deeply sceptical of the negative covid test I took this morning.

The whole story has a vague, ethereal fever-dream quality I’m not usually drawn to, but I enjoyed in this instance. Am I reading too much into the earlier line “my father shut the door, and took the light with him”? In a story this short, I’m expecting good amounts of double-meaning, and reading this as the father’s own death adds some extra depth to the piece.

Thranguy - Future Perfect:
Probably the most straight-forward narrative of the week, and a complete and satisfying story. The entire piece is about one character taking many risks, so it hits the prompt effectively, and I think the hellrule is deployed to good effect — the tone and framing makes the piece.

If I’d offer any criticism, it’s that I wonder if the ending would have been more powerful if you’d hidden the first-person narrator until that moment. The conceit of this being a missive left to be read after the subject’s success doesn’t feel necessary, to me.



HMs for Kuiperdolin and Beezus

And the winner, taking us into another year of bad words, is Thranguy. Ascend the blood throne!


Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
The 2024 thread is live!

The new prompt and any entries and/or submissions will go there. Feel free to use this thread to discuss 2023, or Thunderdome in general.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • Post
  • Reply