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#2236 · 6
· on One August Night · >>The_Letter_J >>horizon
Lots to like here. The opening lines were good and drew me in; the subject matter is hefty (makes it super tricky to deal with in a minific), and I really enjoyed it for the first third, before the father lost his temper. It got a bit rocky after that.

“I want a normal son! I want someone that people won’t point at me behind my back and whisper about,” he roared.
“Why can't you just accept me for who I am, what I like!”
“Why can’t you just be someone I can be proud of?!

Now I have to be careful here, because this could very well have come from direct personal experience. If that's the case it changes things. As witness to lots of conversations like this myself (so I have only my own experience to draw from), the dialogue is too on the nose here. Specifically, the father outright saying his true feelings: why can't you be normal, I'm embarrassed, etc. In my experience, these rarely if ever come out directly, instead masquerading behind arguments that lean on "what's best for you." Instead of "why can't you be normal" it's "lack of sunlight and a social life isn't healthy for you. You spend too much time on this."

I understand the father is drunk, and angry drunk parents are outside my experience. And to your credit, you're obviously spot on with comparisons to "what I did when I was your age."

You'll have to see what other readers say. For me, their conversation felt too unnatural and melodramatic once tempers skyrocketed. I know you didn't have much space to build the emotions, and space is really what this kind of story and its material need. When you don't have that comfort, a more subtle approach is best, I think. What you had going right up until the dad loses his temper is great. I really liked his attempts to bond by suggesting the festival, but of course, the son doesn't see it as such. This is very true to life.

Time travel? I guess I'm about to find out.

Hmm, I know you might really like this bit, but I suggest avoiding it. It sort of undoes any emotional heft, for me at least. Why bother feeling a sense of loss when the narrator is poised to undo it? Plus comes out of nowhere.

I know you probably wanted this to inject a sudden swelling of hope at a happy ending--for us to cheer the narrator on. So maybe it's just me.

Either, nice work. ^.^
#4249 · 6
*looks at prompt*

#2232 · 4
· on The Hillside Path · >>Baal Bunny >>Ratlab >>The_Letter_J
I really liked this. There is something charming and whimsical in the girls' friendship and watching them play hide and seek. Perhaps the story struck a nostalgic cord in me.

However, I feel that a few decisions sacrificed the impact of Leigh's death, by sort of letting the air out of the balloon too early. You want it to pop instead. Namely, this line:
Sometimes, when I’m taking a long shower, or when I’m in bed at night and can’t sleep, I try to piece together the memories of what happened next in my mind, like a fuzzy jigsaw puzzle.

In the paragraph immediately before this, I had the growing sense of dread that this happy chase scene was about to be ruined, probably rather violently (emotionally jarring, I mean). I felt real suspense. But this line unfortunately ruined that, by letting on that disaster was indeed about to occur.

I think you should get rid of it, and carry on straight into the fateful fall. This would allow us to experience it as the narrator does, far enhancing its power. On that same note, you should axe these lines too, I think:
Leigh had done this dozens of times. Maybe she was always lucky before. Maybe she was just unlucky now. Maybe a fly flew into her eye and she misjudged the distance to the cliff. Maybe she was just reckless. But regardless of why it happened, it happened

You could always place them at a later point, like when they're reminiscing over Leigh at the end.

You may disagree, and other readers will supply their own thoughts. But I think you should strive for a sudden, striking effect. Foresight causes me to emotionally distance myself for protection.

As I said though, I really enjoyed the characterizations of the girls, though this being a minific there wasn't to fit in. I particularly liked this line too: "She climbed around me like a monkey up the hillside path and I gave chase."
#2219 · 3
· on Driving the Last Spike · >>Ratlab >>The_Letter_J >>Monokeras
I like the tone here, and I think it's what the story succeeds with most. The mood is somber throughout, and that's not nearly as easy to pull off as people might think. It doesn't take much to overdo it. Particularly during the "party", you get a good sense the workers simply don't care about much of anything anymore. They seem too beaten.

However, I feel a lack of clarity keeps the story back. The narrator is experiencing depressing circumstances, but--and perhaps this is just me--I can't determine why. I have guesses, but none seems better than the other. Because of this, I can't take the emotional glum coming off the narrator's tone and attach it to anything concrete. Kinda like seeing somebody cry without knowing why they're crying. You can see their sorrow and in principle empathize, but you can't really connect--does that make sense?

but today it was different. No one felt in a hurry. No one had the guts to speak

welcoming for the last time the stroke of hot water

but they would soon end up on the dole, too.

Going by these clues (and the title), it's the narrator's last day as a coal miner, along with his co-workers, but not because the mine is shutting down. The 3rd line suggests the town runs its workers in shifts--how many times over I don't know.

Are they sad because they've lost work, or a camaraderie they've developed? They'll be hitting up the bar together later, and they all live in the same town. Speaking of which, the town is gated and guarded; this could mean lots of things.

The narrator's hesitation to enter their house is certainly interesting. Have they been away for very long? The last two lines I know are particularly important, but I don't know why. Why is being back home so bad? We're left with no indication (that I picked up, mind you).

I think some extra details would go a long way towards adding clarity and hooks to hang our emotions on. It seems like you're going for a subtle approach, but don't be afraid to loosen the belt a bit. After all, emotional impact and meaning isn't delivered through subtlety, but clear revelation. The revelation may arise from subtle details, but it isn't their subtlety which gives them impact, it's understanding what those details mean. If you can't do that, how do you know what to feel?

Anyhoo, some more information on what's going on and why the narrator feels the way they do about home would be very helpful. ^.^
#2309 · 3
· on When Time Doesn't Help · >>The_Letter_J
SON OF A--I can't believe you pulled that over on me! You cad!

...nicely done. ^.^
#2690 · 2
· on A Brown Coffer · >>Orbiting_kettle
A little late here, but congrats LiseEclaire, Flutterpriest and horizon! ...Dorks.

>>MonarchDodora >>billymorph >>PinoyPony >>The_Letter_J >>horizon >>TheCyanRecluse >>Trick_Question >>Orbiting_kettle >>Leo >>TitaniumDragon
Thanks for all the thoughtful reviews guys! Don't have much time here so I'll try to be quick.

I also want to preface this by saying I don't wish to offend anyone. Retrospectives are about revealing the birthplace of a story, so that's only what I wish to do. Also, you're free to read whatever interpretation you want. Here is what I intended.

For me, "A Brown Coffer" is, well, a tragedy. Admittedly, there is no "wound". It was born out of thinking about time, which always makes me think of infinity, which leads me to God, and how well I know or don't know him, and how others know and conceive of him. Namely, I believe many people have an... inaccurate imagining of (the Christian) God, both "believers" and "non-believers". The idea sprung from an old (for me) metaphor: putting God in a box.

The story is specified to Christians, but invites anyone to consider how they think about God. I wanted to comment on what I think is the tragedy of many Christian lives: their understanding of God. Which is, in my totally not offensive opinion, often restrictive, highly depersonalizing, unemotional, and generally not much better than a cardboard box. Their relationship to him isn't that much different either (I say that as the worst of friends). I include in this a wider range of people than you might think.

As many of you correctly pointed out, the box does not do much to prove it is God, and narratively speaking this is a problem. But...it's also the point. For me, the core conflict is between the narrator's sense (and desire) that God ought to be more, and his lack of courage and ignorance of how to get that. He tries, but fails because he never approaches him as anything other than a box. The result is increasing hopelessness and depression. He wants to have a relationship with God, but has no idea how. He thinks he does, though.

This is, generally, what I wanted to convey. The execution has lots and lots of problems, however. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

I wish I had more time to respond to specific comments, but suffice it to say, I appreciated and enjoyed every word :D
#11631 · 2
· · >>MLPmatthewl419 >>GroaningGreyAgony
Cool another art round.
Stick figures count as art right?
#2145 · 1
I submitted! It's crap Yay!
#2267 · 1
· on Bandaged Time · >>The_Letter_J
I second >>The_Letter_J. I hadn't even thought of time travel until I read your review, J, but thinking about it now I definitely believe that's it. As for mentioning unbandaged people, I think those are ones the medic hadn't helped, probably because they were going to live anyway. The narrator says he's the fifth one helped by the medic, who when he's finished says there are two more to save, making seven in total. But we know there are dozens wounded.

My biggest critique of this story is possibly unfair: it uses a real atrocity as its framework, and this drew comparisons to the story's emotional accuracy. I guess I should be honest: I don't think it came close. I do not feel it did justice to the trauma of that attack, and that's what irks me.

Now this is unfair because had the story taken place on the titanic, I would be much more forgiving. I am used to tales of that disaster. So it's likely because the Paris attacks occured in my lifetime, and so recently, that I dislike any story touching on it which doesn't strive to respect and truly capture the horror of that night. Not that you meant any disrespect of course. I ought to be careful using that word anyway, because I had no friends or family involved, so perhaps i shouldnt assume indignation concerning an event I wasn't a part of.

Anyway, I like the creative twist on 'time heals wounds' here. ^.^
#2276 · 1
· on A Decent Joke
I agree with my fellow readers on this. All fun with puns aside (I've never been one to groan at them, why pass up a chance to smile?), there are tonal misalignments here, and some logic gaps. For instance, Rhett relenting on getting a doctor makes sense, until we learn she's dying (unless that's a joke too? Or she's not really dying but they're pretending she is).

Anyway clean up shouldn't be too difficult, and I did enjoy the dog's names. Terrible to some, clever to others, that's how puns always go.