Hey! It looks like you're new here. You might want to check out the introduction.

Joined on

Popular entries

Popular posts

#15561 · 9
· on Monsters · >>Trick_Question >>regidar >>Baal Bunny
Hi. It's that time again. I'm going to put out some things here that I know a lot of this community doesn't agree with. I have mostly "retired" from actively posting commentary after being harassed to the point where engaging here was not good for my mental health, but eh, I'm feeling okay right now, and we have a lot of new faces who might benefit from hearing this perspective. (And a few commentors getting harassed, as I was, for posting honest but negative reactions to this piece. Stop doing that, people. Seriously. Cut it out.)

There are some things you just can't write about and have your words well-received by a target audience.

This is, by my reckoning, the truest statement in this thread.

Concepting is part of the skill of writing. A very important part, actually, and one that tends to be neglected and glossed over. Not hard to see why. People don't want to appear biased, they're taught that bias is bad and we should respect all forms of writing, and so we start to preach and believe that all concepts are equal and should be treated with equal "respect" by never criticizing them and placing "the author's intent/vision" as a thing of paramount importance.

However, consider: no.

That's wrong. Not what that means.

All story ideas are not created equal. Far from it. Writing exists not in a vacuum, but in contexts, and when looking at a certain context with certain goals of expression, there are going to be concepts that are better or worse at achieving those goals than others. Coming up with effective concepts and making good choices in your subject matter and story elements is part of the difficulty, and the skill, of effective fiction writing. "The direction the narrative takes" is not a thing separate from a piece's merits and style. It is part of those merits and style, inseperable.

It is also not the duty of readers here to respect the author's viewpoint and choices of subject matter, no matter what those may be. Nor to refrain from criticism on that basis. Nor to "consider the author's intent" and try to take a positive view based on it. The author's intent is unknown, unknowable, and often largely irrelevant. The text stands on its own. Once a story is delivered to readers, they are the ones whose interpretations matter. Particularly in a competition like this, where the readers are also the judges, it is not the judges' responsibility to be charitable or to twist their responses and try to look at all submissions in the most favorable lights. It is the authors' responsibility to write stories that the reader-judges will think highly of, not the other way around.

Perhaps if the prompt for the round had been "Pedophilia" then I might agree that readers have some obligation to respect this piece's concept. But it isn't. The prompt is "Here at the End of all Things." This piece being about pedophilia is a conscious decision that the author made, like any other decision in their process of composition.

Not only is it legitimate to consider the subject in judgment of the piece, I believe it is irresponsible judging not to do so. If this piece were to be published "in the wild," in a magazine or FIMfiction or etc, we can be sure it would draw a great deal of visceral negative response. Should that not be represented in the feedback it receives here? Are those reactions somehow less "fair" or less valid than more generous ones? If we accept that as somehow true, and apply it as a rule to critiques and/or votes, what happens to this site looking forward?

Responsible, fair critique is not "critique that seeks to eliminate all trace of personal bias and treat everything exactly the same." That is impossible, and pretending that it is possible is disingenuous. Rather, responsible, fair critique is critique that seeks to recognize one's own bias, to be aware of it, disclose it when appropriate and work with it in forming your framework for analysis, as part of a larger framework of personal development.

I don't know why the author thought it was a good idea to write and submit this piece to a T for Teen rated Friendship is Magic fanfiction competition/workshop/hootenanny. I bear them no particular ill will for having done so, and I hope they will return. But I also hope they will think carefully in the future about what the likely responses to controversial subjects are going to be, and how they often far overshadow "technical merits" in the minds of readers. Don't do edgy stuff in Writeoff. Thanks for writing, though!


That all having been said, I do have one other point of curiosity. What in the heck is up with this place and pony pedophilia? This piece, The Best Days Lie Ahead, Blueblood's Greatest Love, A Gem Beneath (arguably)... those are just the ones I remember from the last six months. I liked some of these, and none of them individually raise an eyebrow for me beyond ill-considered edgyness. But what's weird here is that it keeps happening.

Lest you believe me some shocked prude throwing a fit, let me open up a little. I'm no stranger to love, baby the subject of "lolicon" and underage relationships. Geek and anime culture and sexuality is one of my wheelhouses. I've (poorly) translated, written academic papers and taught a college course on erotic visual novels, including some with very controversial content. My personal beliefs align closely with Neil Gaiman and the CBLDF's excellent manifesto on the topic. By general societal standards I would think this puts me pretty dang far on the liberal side of the issue.

But I'm getting a little sketched out here, because never in my life, in all the venues I've been in and all the people I've known, never, ever, have I seen this subject come up this seriously, this often, with this sort of serious handwringing defensiveness. Not even with openly professed "lolicon fanatics," not even with Piers Anthony fans for god's sake. This doesn't happen anywhere else. Even Piers Anthony himself usually keeps a tighter lid on it than this. It really seems to be just this site, this community, especially the pony rounds, where I can count on some "let's take a serious sympathetic look at the subject of pedophilia - OH NO PEOPLE ARE SUPER HARSH ABOUT IT, what persecution, who could possibly have forseen this" popping up every couple of months.

So, open, honest question. Why is this? What is it with Pony Writeoff that makes this keep coming up as a subject, from multiple people over multiple rounds? Is there something going on here that I'm not aware of? And can we maybe consider making it stop?

Don't do edgy stuff in Writeoff.
#12499 · 8
For once, I actually had free time during the writing period, the house wasn't burning down, and I wasn't too sick or depressed to move. And the prompt was fantastic!

Naturally, I spent the day muddled in ideas I couldn't figure out where to go with, completely switched directions twice, and only came up with something in the last couple of hours. Submitted with 0m00s showing on the timer. We're in there, though.

Bonus unused idea: The author of a smash hit self-help book appears on a talk show to discuss their work. They explain that the book helps the readers open their mental pathways to travel to a parallel universe where they achieve whatever goal they were looking to do. It started with his own goal of becoming a bestselling author (and, possibly implied, controlling the world.) During the broadcast, people start to vanish into thin air: world leaders, celebrities, audience members, anyone who's read and believed the book. The author purports that they're traveling to other universes to achieve their dreams, but non-readers are shocked and skeptical, and then..........something. I never came up with a really satisfactory conflict and resolution, especially not anything achievable in 750 words.
#12027 · 7
· · >>The_Letter_J >>Fenton
Well... against the spirit it may be, but several entries have definitely been doing that - writing whatever idea the author liked, and then looking for an appropriate picture or shoehorning in a reference to one. It happens in non-art rounds, too, but the art prompts tend to make it a bit more obvious (and a few have outright said that's what they did in retrospective posts.)

I'm really not a fan of these art rounds. Or, rather, not the system of picking from the art entries to use as writing prompts. Haven't spoken up about it before, because the concept was being tested out, and I didn't want to cause any fuss with the people who do like them, but... Yeah, with two under the belt now, I feel pretty clearly that the art prompt system is worse for the writing portion than normal prompts.

Some people have expressed desires for less strict prompts, or none at all. Others prefer stricter, more specific prompts, and more emphasis on writing to the prompt so people can't use concepts they've already been brewing (I'm in this camp). But the current art system, I think, leads to sort of a "worst of both worlds" deal, where you get both the disadvantages of having a prompt (stories get bent/weakened to include a forced concept) and the disadvantages of free writing (fewer points of comparison between entries, increased potential for genre/subject bias, less fair/harder to stop submissions of preexisting material/ideas).

It's also maybe not the greatest system for folks who are interested in the art portion as a competition of its own, because the art submissions get spammed up with stick figures, screenshots, etc, that people submit just to have them available as writing prompts. Last round, especially, I saw quite a few comments along the lines of "Uh okay you only spent 30 seconds in MS Paint on this, why am I taking time to rank this alongside people who actually put effort into their submission?" (To which the answer is "the winning story was based on the stick figure piece", so it's hard to say people shouldn't submit such things...)

Meant to get to posting about this in the end of one of the other rounds, but there never seemed to be a suitably socially appropriate time. Just my two cents, anyhow.
#14406 · 7
· · >>Dubs_Rewatcher >>horizon >>CoffeeMinion >>Monokeras >>RogerDodger
Uh, wow. So borderline personal attacks, casting yourself as Socrates and a "Writeoff heavy hitter" and likening my position to malicious voting that "the community would report." That's not very classy, I'm sad to see it, and you're still wrong. You're drawing a false analogy between comparing different genres of fiction (comedy vs tragedy, fantasy vs realistic drama) and different forms of writing (poetry, prose). I do think that comedy and tragedy can be fairly compared; Bad Horse's position is quite fascinating and I'd love to have seen it and debated it at the time. But no, the ability to fairly compare pieces that differ in some respects does not imply an ability to fairly compare between any sort of difference.

The fact that some gimmicks do get voted down does not change the issues involved. The problem lies in the process, the results are merely an illustration. (Also I think you confused my comments on Start Recursion with comments on poetry.)

SOCRATES: It encourages you to alter community standards in other, more robust venues. Debate. Appeal to Roger. Call a vote for a rules change. Request a trial round with different rules from the usual.

I have done, and continue to do, exactly these things. If you read my posts on previous poems, and the discord logs of #fic and #meta (admittedly somewhat tedious since it's been a while now) you will find me attempting to advocate for poetry-specific rounds, or for people to vote for prompts that could feasibly lead to at least informal poetry-encouraged rounds. I was unsuccessful.

SOCRATES: How, then, do you think the community would react if a rogue author tactically placed high-quality stories at the bottom of their slate, in order to maximize their own chances of winning a medal?
PLATO: They'd report him.

Err, ahahaha, what? No, no they certainly wouldn't. They didn't. I am quite certain that this exact thing has absolutely happened in at least one round since I've been here, and nobody cared. I attempted to raise the subject, but was immediately discouraged and shamed both for suggesting that it might have occurred and for suggesting that it might be a problem in need of address. I was told that the community prefers that everyone vote according to their own standards, and no one has grounds to question anyone's ballot for any reason. That's the atmosphere I'm operating under here.

The community consensus at the moment seems to be to not even enforce the few rules that are explicit. So I've given that up as lost. I don't put any stock in the results. They are not currently useful. So I, too, act autonomously. If it would be largely preferred that I do not do so, then I will happily cease and depart... but the comments I have received in private about these subjects have not indicated that this is the case. Rather, I keep hearing people tell me "I agree with you but I don't want to get into a slapfight with Horizon and Dubs." Or with less polite invective and more leaving the site and "Jesus, [name of controversial piece omitted] medaled? What a joke. Ran, don't tell me this is your main writing group." Truthfully, I myself have little energy left on the subject, and barely mustered up through stress to post this; I will likely leave it here
#14395 · 6
· on Epithalamia · >>horizon >>RogerDodger
Well, we've been over this a few times in the past. The short answer is "you apply your standards, and I'll apply mine; my standards represent only my own views with a specific and narrow set of uses." Apologies to the author for this thread derail.

With regards to the rules:
This event's genre is Original. Submitted works to this event should fall under the following description:
Fiction not dependent on work under U.S. copyright.

My reading of this implies prose fiction, and excludes poetry, as poetry is not fiction as the term is commonly understood in literary pursuits. The Dewey Decimal System classifications provide a supporting example:
810 American literature in English
811 American poetry in English
812 American drama in English
813 American fiction in English
814 American essays in English
815 American speeches in English

I would not consider script-format drama or essays appropriate entries, either (and said so when the latter came up, not too long ago.)
The BISAC/BISG classification system also separates fiction and poetry at its topmost level of categorization. In every literary magazine or similar publication venue that I've checked the submission guidelines for, poetry uses a completely different set of guidelines and standards than prose pieces, if poetry is accepted at all. (And so do scripts and essays, where appropriate.) In every literary competition I'm familiar with, poetry and prose fiction are treated separately. I googled some just to make sure I'm not crazy here:
Phi Theta Kappa, separates into different formats
William Faulkner Competition, separates by format
Futurescapes, specifies prose only
Dorset Fiction Award, the only one I found on page 1 that doesn't explicitly disallow it, but read the second paragraph with regards to what they look for.

That last link is closest to my interpretations for this competition. I would say that there is clear consensus in the literary world that prose and poetry cannot be judged together in the same category of competition. Personally, all of my writing circles would simply hold it to be self-evident; this site is the only venue I've ever encountered where people consider it debatable.

But the letter of the rules, here, does not seem to be all that important. The rules also say that entries "must be based on the prompt to a reasonable and discernible degree," but when that's come up in the past, a number of people (including yourself, Dubs) have indicated that they completely disregard that rule and see no problem with doing so.

There are no hard or enforceable criteria on votes. "Enforcement at the fringes is done by voters," the rules say. So my vote is no more or less valid than anyone else's in that regard, no? In particular, I find the call to "abstain if you don't like it" unproductive and possibly disingenuous, since that is call to prevent my voice from being heard at all. But I do not have "no opinion." I have an opinion: that submissions that are not prose fiction are not appropriate for Writeoff. I want to actively discourage the submission of such pieces when they are not appropriate, and, recognizing that I have only one voice in that matter, I would still prefer them not to place anywhere over pieces that do follow the rules in the voting results. The abstain function is not an "opt out if you don't like it" button, and I frown on the suggestion it should be used that way.

With regards to fairness: therein lies exactly the reason why I believe and act as I do. I'm not doing this out of pedantry, you know, it's not like I enjoy bottom slating things. It is not fair to judge prose entries alongside poetry, or any other non-prose format! To do so, in my opinion, conveys disrespect to both/all relevant forms and authors. It is not fair to enter poetry in a prose competition. Different forms have extremely different writing processes and requirements.

To use the current round as an example, I think it's widely agreed that minific is a difficult format to practice in, and many if not most authors here struggle with telling a full story that fits into only 400-750 words. A glance at the gallery is telling: 19 out of 37 entries are 740+ words, a 20th is 739. Meanwhile, two entries are 400 words exactly, and three more are under 450, including this piece; all five of these are nonstandard entries that do not tell a "normal" prose story.

So how is it fair to the people struggling to get under 750, cutting sentences and paragraphs, having a hard time of that task but learning from it -- how is it fair to those people that someone submits poetry or a gimmick entry that completely sidesteps the requirements and does something not even in the same ballpark, and then people go "WHOA, MIND BLOWN, HOW CREATIVE"? How can you give feedback to the person whose prose places below this poem, how can you tell them "this is what you did wrong, this is how you can improve, here's how this piece that I ranked above yours did X and Y better"? It's not fair, and it's not fruitful. You can't learn how to write a better minific that way. The same goes in reverse: you can't learn how to write better poetry by comparing a poem to prose minifics. (And for other formats as well; I wasn't around for Start Recursion but going and reading it, I'd put it around an unimpressive midtier, that high only on strength of prose and general writing level.)

And, here may be the rub, learning how to write better is what I come to this site and use it for. I certainly have not praised the Writeoff as a place for experimentation, or used it for such, nor do I want to, nor do I think that's a good idea. I come here for the competition and workshop aspects, to compare pieces and by comparing them learn how to improve. I don't write and critique here to show off, or just for enjoyment (my own or anyone else's!) I'm here to learn what I can learn, and give back by teaching what I can teach as a peer. Please keep that in mind when reading any of my feedback: I am not giving any feedback on simple enjoyment, I am writing from the perspective of competitive and workshop style critique. I wonder if I should make a standard disclaimer at the start of every round, something like that?

Of course, not everyone does this, nor am I saying they should. Most people don't, and that's completely fine! Like I said, you and I have the same vote, and you're free to apply whatever standards you like. You may find it rude to say poetry is inappropriate; I find it somewhat rude when people say poetry and other gimmicks are appropriate, and keep encouraging their submissions. I find it somewhat insulting and definitely detrimental to the contest when people say "anything goes, nothing is inappropriate" and gimmicky or nonstandard entries get voted up and uncritically praised over pieces that did strain to follow the rules. That exact thing is the biggest reason why I can't take any "X placed well" talk remotely seriously; placement in Writeoff is ultimately for entertainment purposes only, as long as these attitudes continue. People could have voted the infamous Froggy to a medal position for the lulz, but that wouldn't make it any better as a piece of writing or say anything about the relative quality of other pieces in its round.

And so we shall continue, with all respect and much <3 to Dubs, the author of this piece, and everyone else in the Writeoff.

P.S. "bottom slate" isn't even strictly correct here, it's looking like there are at least four or five pieces that will eventually be going under this one for me. Original Mini unfortunately seems to attract the most gimmicks of any round by far, perhaps because it has the lowest barrier of entry.
#9691 · 5
· on Inevitability · >>AndrewRogue >>horizon >>AndrewRogue
How ironic that this was inevitably dead last on my random review list. I knew what I was going to say about it when I first read it a couple days back, but didn't post then because I was curious to see just how long it would go without anyone else saying it. Seems like the answer is pretty long! But it's finally time, errybody outta the pool.

This scene is a reskinned retelling of the climax (well, one of the possible climaxes) of a popular video game from the last couple of years. For those who are curious, it's the final battle in the "Genocide" or "Bad Time" ending path of Undertale, along with some material from scenes before and after the fight.

I say reskin because it does change some surface elements, like the specific setting, characters and some dialogue, and shuffles just enough around that I wouldn't consider it plagiarism .. barely. The essential concept of the scene, along with the tone, emotional beats, storyboard and general character concepts - in other words, the good parts - are all straight from the game. Many specific details from the game also remain, some shuffled or slightly changed, but still very recognizable and in sufficient quantity to allow me no reasonable doubt that this could be a case of convergent evolution.

To cover a few of them:
- Remorseless timelooping attacker confronts highly skilled defender, dies many times but eventually overwhelms/will overwhelm defender by persistence and learning defender's responses
- Setting backdrop is distinctly religious, though not specifying any particular deity or faith
- Prefight description focusing on attacker's eyes and the "look" therein, repeated on every loop
- Defender decisively wins first loop with a preemptive, unexpected and very powerful blast of white-colored magical energy
- After the magical fire is dodged, defender unleashes fast and overwhelming melee attacks from multiple angles
- Attacker wields a plain dagger and attacks with single dramatic slashes
- Defender evades dagger slashes via teleportation, which also surprises the attacker on its first use
- Defender grows discouraged upon realizing what's going on, engaging in midfight banter and acknowledging that attacker will inevitably win
- Attacker outlasts defender's teleportation and lands a single dramatic slash that draws an emphasized line of red blood
- Attacker's victory will result in the total destruction and unmaking of the world
- Special descriptive emphasis on attacker smiling in the conclusion

Specific dialogue lines and concepts:
"What are you?"
"Honestly, I've lost count"
"Whatever it was you were looking for, I hope you found it."
"I've seen everything this world has to offer. So, now I want to know what happens when I kill God and unmake it."
"Nothing. Everything will cease to be"
"She was dead. It was only a matter of tries. And once she finally fell, that would be the end. There would be nothing left."
All the above are very close to lines from the game. They're rearranged in time and speaker (the attacker in the game is silent, and some are from material in other scenes rather than just this battle) but not in meaning.

Also of note is that the story here does not add anything of substance to the content and concepts in the game. The only notable new material is the Tower of God, and the implication that there is a God to reach and kill inside it, but sadly the story doesn't really go anywhere with this idea. Other than the stakes of failure (which are the same as in the game, God or no God) it doesn't matter what B-lady is guarding. We don't see her actual failure in this version, but it's implied, so... (note to author: would've been stronger without the last loop, actually. It's enough to keep it implied after slashing her cheek!)

Anyway, that all's just something to be aware of. Zero points for originality. Moving on!

I'm not a fan of the repeated blocks of text. As everyone else has mentioned, either the reader skips over them (in which case they're lazy padding that fudges the word count while adding nothing to the story) or reads them in detail every single time looking for possible differences (only to find that there are none and they've wasted their time doing so!) There are better ways to do this. Truncate them, or do include meaningful differences, or use openings that are different for the reader but not for the guardian.

... Yeah, I can't move on very much beyond that. Rest of the technical side's okay by me. More than okay, really, it's easy to read and easy to follow what's going on, and that's no small feat when writing fast and furious fantasy battles. Having the battle itself outlined for you doesn't help much there, so full marks to the author on that count. All the other content issues people are mentioning, like the lack of motive or identity for the attacker... well, those do come back to having taken these concepts in isolation from a more complete work.

What else can I say. Don't feel too ashamed by this, author. I think the creative process is all about recombination anyway, if you trace it back far enough everyone's ripping off something, and every other round here is My Little Pony fanfiction anyway so what's the problem with a bit of fanfic for something else? (Unless you were really just trying to sneak the concept past for a good rank without ever acknowledging your source, that's rather poor form, but I don't think that's what happened.)

A reskin like this is not necessarily a deal breaker for me, not as long as you do something with it or add something of your own. The deal breaker here is that this doesn't do anything new. It needs to go beyond a reskin to fantasy and a half-formed concept. I think that's probably where you wanted to add things, the Tower aspect makes me think of a certain Stephen King series, there's obvious potential there. But it didn't quite get there (out of time, maybe?) so for those reasons I can't rank it very highly. Thank you for participating, though. Please do not have a bad time!

.. also seriously no one else spotted this yet? Y'all gotta stop reading books and watching pone and play some mind rotting children's electronic entertainment, yo!
#12893 · 5
Every Alicorn loses its child, and then yearns for a surrogate. This Cord granted the Crystal Empire audience with Flurry Heart, but resulted in a scolding when Cadance found her again.
#9695 · 4
Somehow I'm still awake.

Hill is Other People - "So, ah." Hank fidgeted, not looking the elevator's other inhabitant in the eyes. "Y'ever use any cool propane accessories?"


Miskatonic Electronica

There's a Mole in My Chest - My wife's sure it's nothing, but the doctor wanted to do a biopsy anyway, just in case.

Tardy Furor - You weren't there. You were ten minutes late.

The Greatest Challenge of Ali
- This summer, Rock Pitt will float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

Agent of a Foreign Tower - To Beylke, he was the perfect picture of a syncretist.

For Tuna - To Beylke, he was the perfect picture of a fisherman.

Sissyphus - To Beylke, he was the perfect picture of a sub.

Edit: wow, beaten on three! Guess they were pretty obvious (and I composed too slowly)
#9134 · 3
· on Quackers Goes to the Fair · >>Crafty >>RogerDodger
I'm afraid this entry left me quite cold. It blatantly ignores the prompt, and eschews complexity in both prose and narrative in the pursuit of its gimmick. Now, don't get me wrong, I love me a good gimmick, but a bit of emoji art isn't enough of one to sell me on this. Nothing is done with the art aspect, it's just there at the ends of lines. No hidden jokes or messages or subversions, no attempts to add to the story through multiple emojis, they're just there.

Similarly, "it's children's lit, it's simple on purpose!" is not a great excuse for entering See Spot Run in a writing competition. Good children's lit is very difficult to write, because it needs to follow strict rules in form and content depending on its targeted reading level and culture. Evaluated in that light, this is far too long. Its vocabulary is closer to prereading (The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Goodnight Moon) than early reading (Dr. Seuss), so the target word count should really be less than 400, pushing the low side of the minific limit rather than the high. It should also center around a single character and idea, or two characters at most, whereas this follows three characters and two settings and doesn't move between them very well. The main moral lesson, sharing the doll with the unicorn, is barely mentioned rather than being a focal point.

Celestia... well, Celestia in general doesn't really have anything to do with Quackers or the main narrative, she's really only here to indulge the art gimmick. But as long as we're here, I'll also note that she is surely more than capable of quacking and/or pooping on the grass if she desired to do so.

And, finally, what I've been dancing around and trying to find a tactful way to say is that the concept here is essentially the same as the DQ'd "Just a Test": an attempt to circumvent the restrictions of the minific format by writing a completely different form that just happens to technically meet the explicit requirements. Judging it against other entries here wouldn't be fair to either side. Combining that and the lack of prompt use, I'd disqualify this if it was up to me, and I'm afraid it'll be bottoming my slate.

I would like to applaud the author's ambition, though, and make clear that I intend no offense or slight to them with all this! It's clear they had good intentions and put quite a bit of effort into writing this! Thank for make! Sorry for to be dreamcrushing!
#9140 · 3
· on Quackers Goes to the Fair · >>Crafty >>Xepher
I do see that, and that is why I felt I had to advocate for scoring Quackers low, rather than abstaining or keeping my thoughts on it to myself (which I was very tempted to do.) This isn't really "at the fringes," even its fans seem in agreement that there's nothing of the prompt here.

The issue here is not with following rules for the sake of rules, but consideration to all the other writers who put themselves through extra effort trying to follow them. Many other entrants discarded good ideas they wanted to write but didn't fit the prompt, and wrote more difficult and less polished concepts instead in order to fit it. That's not hypothetical, it's very clear that this happened just from reading the comments thread or talking to folks in Discord.

The same thing applies with people stressing themselves to write a complete traditional prose fiction piece in 400-750 words. It's a very challenging format! And, yeah, because it's challenging, I know it's really tempting to try and find a way to subvert it by doing something nonstandard... but going too far off the rails is not cool to the people sweating to stay on them, y'know?

I'd feel pretty darn bad if I tossed out a bunch of good ideas because they didn't fit the prompt, and busted my brain writing a prose mini, only to have it lose to someone who ignored the restrictions everyone else thought they were under. (Not that I, personally, am in any danger of this happening. My own entry is not very good.. though in part because I spent a couple hours thinking about the prompt to start off.)

Still, as you say, people are free to vote however they want. Just tossing my view on it out there for thought.