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#1308 · 5
· on Encounter at dusk · >>Monokeras
You had a few sentences that were clearly questions but didn't use question marks that stuck out to me. More complicatedly, I think your voicing is awkward... In a sense, when coming from the narrator, that's fine, and probably good at establishing the disconnect from future and past. But there are places where Joan feels very off: casual use of 'okay,' 'you're weird,' and most jarringly, 'You ain’t no sissy, so why are you so prissy?' Voicing is very very difficult, and this is a short timeframe to write in, but it's something you could sharpen if you plan on taking this story somewhere else.

I think though that this failed to resolve into a clear point. I got from very, very early on that the narrator was from the future, and when Joan showed up, the rest of the story fell into place. Unfortunately, that means everything else from that point onwards was marking time, without adding anything new. There's no real twist at the end; the business with the king's identity was clever but didn't change anything about my understanding of the story or the characters. Your work here is solidly done; it's just a concept that struggles to feel fresh or meaningful.
#1309 · 5
· on Don't You Cry For Me · >>Dubs_Rewatcher
This is really really nice. There's a few minor blips: "went you’re your," "I had seen pictures the gas tank around back"

But this has a very assured and compelling voice. I was a little uncertain as to where you were building to, what the ending would turn out to be. But I think I'm pretty satisfied with that. This is a story that seemed to know just what to do exactly when, layering texture and experience to fill out the characters and narrative. I really don't know how I would improve this; I hope you see about publication somewhere.
#1643 · 4
· on Extra · >>Lucky_Dreams
Thank you all for the thoughts. I agree with the majority of criticisms offered, and a lot of my thoughts came from playing around with the ideas and figuring out where I was going as I went, which is most obvious when it loses the narrative of the beginning and becomes expositional. Some of the problems were of course exacerbated by the short timeframe and 8000 word limit. I think I could probably shape this into a stronger work, though as Bradel says, there's not really any reason to, as I don't think I could do anything further with it. Believe it or not, I had never heard of Redshirts--the idea came more from an old short story I had read that was similarly metafictional but in a more general literary-fiction-ish book rather than a TV show. I think Star Trek is kind of uniquely suited for meta-exploration, as it possesses a strong and well-known structure, flexibility between an episodic and serial nature, and a universe with a lot of options (the only other decent setting is probably a really trashy soap opera).

In particular, thanks to horizon for picking up what I know was very much implicit. I follow a fair amount of TV analysis and criticism, and throughout the whole thing, I really loved the idea of the invisible viewers reacting to this show making crazy abrupt shifts in style and tone and plot. I don't know if Inkindri would be considered just the best character, or the very worst. A Mary Sue for sure, but I'd love to read the AVClub episode reviews as people go from watching to hatewatching to pure confusion.

I guess I'll also note that I changed Inkindri from male to female at the last minute, because it's mentioned in like two places total, and I thought it would be a little more interesting that way. But it bugged some people. I'm kind of disappointed that this is the case.
#7562 · 4
· · >>BlazzingInferno
A brief note:

Upon reflection, I realize that some of my reviews this time have been pretty harsh or negative, and as an author, I realize this kind of feedback is sometimes difficult to deal with. I want to pair my criticisms with the other half of the picture: Every story I read this round I felt confident was written by a serious, competent author. This hasn't always been the case - sometimes it's clear that the writer is someone just starting out, or in a learning phase, or writing for their own fun rather than for a broader audience.

That wasn't the case here. All the stories - and perhaps most of all the stories that I came down hard on - demonstrated real promise. Often my complaints come in direct relation to that promise. There's nothing quite as disappointing as a story that's on the verge of being really strong, but fails in one or two fundamental ways, or as an author who clearly has the skills but makes character or plot decisions that go against my own sensibilities. Story problems are the nature of a competition that requires works to be written in the span of a few days. I know for a fact that every story I have written here has also possessed notable confusions, omissions, and outright flaws, each of which that people rightly noted in their reviews.

At this point, and given my impressions of the authors and the community here, I find it most valuable to give direct, undiluted feedback. Sometimes this is more helpful than other times - in particular, I don't always 'get' the story in the manner it's meant to be received. Monokeras and Blazzing's stories, for instance, both function much better in a fuller context than as a standalone writeoff story. So, I wish to sincerely express the hope that my comments have not been discouraging, and further remark on the overall high level of quality of authors that we have here. Thank you all for your stories - I would gladly read further works from any of you.
#12620 · 4
· on Outsmarting Yourself · >>Trick_Question
Amusingly, I think this fic outsmarted itself.

I think you have the skeleton of a good story here, but the middle just gets very confusing very fast. I disagree with Monokeras in some ways... the problem is not that you have too much exposition, and I don't know that having a big fight scene is really the point. The thing is I still don't feel like I understand the basics of what's going on in one of these fights, and that's a problem. I think that's because it's hard to coherently describe the kind of fights you talk about, but sketching some more details would help. And the abrupt death of 1st protagonist is the worst part of it, coming out of nowhere it feels inexplicable rather than shocking.

If I were to try and write this idea, I would probably try to have the fight, and then use what's happening within the fight to explain how the fights work, having the exposition partitioned throughout rather than all coming before. But I just don't know that you can fit the complexity you're working with into a 750 word framework in a way that's elegant. In about double that word limit you'd be fine.
#1294 · 3
· on The Precession of the Equinoxes
I liked this a lot. I think the ending is what really sells it, and it all comes together as nicely narratively as the in-text scene itself.

Had the most trouble with the constant 'Goddamn's. They felt fairly out of place compared to the more angled insectoid geometry of the rest of your prose. I guess that connects to the one section about Mauli having seen God, but I didn't really feel like I understood the point of that, either. I think you either need a little more development there, or cut back. Not sure which.
#1296 · 3
· on The Plight of the Unicorn-American
This is cute, and is strong because it's so surprisingly thorough. That being said, I'm not sure that it'd work for any audience that's not this one. There's not an actual plot here, as much as there is a lot of clever thought experiments presented expositionally. As a story, this would have fared far better, for me at least, in a FiM writeoff. But perhaps you needed this prompt for the opportunity to write it.
#1655 · 3
· on Extra
>>Lucky_Dreams >>horizon
As a preface: I think the Writeoff is uniquely accepting and sympathetic place for nontraditional viewpoints, and appreciate the opportunity to have this conversation in an intelligent well-reasoned manner. Originally when considering the change, I actually wasn't sure if switching to a female protagonist would actually be a move to more normal, given the background in FiM writing that has female as much more common.

But, to the point: My initial, instinctive reaction to being told that the revelation of Inkindri's gender momentarily breaks a reader out of the story is "Sure. Good." I have faith in the reader to realign and get back into the story, and don't really view that break from narrative as particularly problematic.

That being said, I think horizon's point is very valid, as it comes to contextual conventions. As a dirty secret, I haven't actually watched that much Star Trek, though I'm quite familiar with its outlines and cultural impact. And I envisioned Inkindri as a nameless bridge crew member, rather than a literal redshirt who dies on away missions etc, and for some reason conceptualized that group as more gender-inclusive. (I wavered on making her 'death' scene come as a more clear punishment for her initial attempts to subvert the Focus, but that implies an additional higher power that I didn't want to drag into the story)

The thing is, everything about Inkindri prior to that point is the definition of "default." None of that is particularly who Inkindri is; you don't start seeing the actual Inkindri until she starts taking her own actions and becoming her own person. Her gender is sort of irrelevant. (As is her sexuality, which is in some ways not so much 'bisexual' as 'not very interested') Thus, it makes a lot of sense to have her be male, as the standard setting in things of this nature, but I couldn't help feeling like I really wanted to challenge that in some way. I like the idea of a different "default."

If I was working on this further, I can't help but feel my response to the issue would not be to more softly lead in, but to double down and actually approach the topic with purpose. I think there's some interesting points that could be dug up there: does Inkindri have that line about T'nori's uniform because there's attraction, or because she's operating in the standard environment that's firmly locked in male-gaze? When she's revealed as female, is this something she's even thought of, herself? As I mentioned, I basically made the change last-minute, and thus it comes across as really sort of arbitrary. And that's what I regret: that I didn't invest that decision with more meaning, even if it's certainly not a simple task to do so.
#1295 · 2
· on Of Suns and Moons
You've got some sentence problems that hinder the story... Most notably, there's a lot of sentence fragments and periods where there should be commas, and that makes the story feel very herky-jerky. Sometimes that's what you want in prose, but you also seem to be aiming for a very flowing, artistic style with the vocabulary, and so it kind of hits at cross purposes.

I also had a hard time following the ovearching plot. If the magic's in Sunset, couldn't she just leave and go back and take it with her? I guess she already kind of does that in the end. That brings up a bigger point though... I honestly don't know what a lot of this is. You're kind of at a disadvantage writing a pretty specific pony story for a general fiction competition.

All that being said, I think writing this much is a good achievement, and I encourage you to keep trying. Writing isn't something that a person's just naturally good at. It takes practice, and effort. So keep at it!
#1300 · 2
· on The Necromancer's Wife
I felt like this ended up doing slightly too much, and straining to accomplish everything it wanted to. As everyone has mentioned, the early part of the story and the central relationship is very strong and meaningful. I think for me, I thought the arc was building towards the first confrontation with the necromancer, and a more quiet recognition of moving on with life, and I respected that. But then it kept going...? Then it turned out that they had to fight Aleister Crowley and Peter was a grandmaster and there was a big flashy fight scene and wow, it was just such a very jarring twist. Like everyone powered up and got in their giant robots for the big battle.

I don't think that's necessarily bad, but I feel like your two halves of the story are working at cross-purposes. I think some work in the second half to sharpen and explain more would potentially lessen the disconnect I was feeling. But really, I do think you could safely scale back without losing much--Does it really have to be Aleister Crowley?

You've got the start of something really good here. You just need to massage some of the details, and perhaps expand in some of the sketchier action sequences.