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In Name Only · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
#1 · 6
· · >>Monokeras
💜💙💚💛🧡❤️Happy Valentine’s Day!❤️🧡💛💚💙💜

💝You guys are special
💘And beautiful

Take a heart, they’re free to give:
#2 · 3
>>Anon Y Mous
#3 · 2
Man, the holiday kinda snuck up on me.

The good news is, that's because I've been writing! Last round's Destroying Pedestria: yrotS evoL A (now called Devil May Care) is now at prereading and well over 14,000 words. Time Enough For Love broke the 22k mark last night. I'm super amped to get those collected into something publishable for the Bronycon bookstore.

Let's see if the prompt gives me an excuse to take an OF break on Saturday!
#4 · 2
If I can't do anything else at least I can submit prompts
#5 · 7
· · >>MLPmatthewl419 >>Bachiavellian
A Letter to Him:

Shattered Time Magic! In Association with Scientists, Innocence Lost Through the Heart. One Hundred Souls, Never Enough; Dead Men Do Tell Tales.

We Come in Peace, In Blindsight.

A Meeting With Destiny, Suitable for use Above Reason, Below Logic.

Soonest, Love...?

—Dancing on Air

Stuck in Denial. A Bird in the Kush, Hungry Like the Wolf.

Dead-End. Friends In Name Only.

Fix It Yourself.

—Significant Other
#6 · 2
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Daaaannggg, that's good man
#7 · 1
Will be in #mentors Saturday, if anyone wants to get a critique before the submission deadline.
#8 · 2
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
This is definitely my favorite so far.
#9 ·
Whoa, it won by one point!

Now, if I had any ideas about what to write for it, that would be nice. Self? Is this something you can potentially arrange for?
#10 · 1
· · >>Baal Bunny
I like how not even the person who submitted it voted for "A Bird in the Kush"...

And i'm seeing "We Come in Peace" and "In Name Only" as tied. How was the tie breaker chosen?

Now I need my brain to come up with something to use this prompt for.
#11 · 1

Roger's got:

Some sort of figurative dice-rolling program that makes the call when ties happen.

#12 · 1
Alright, we've got (at least) one submission in! Time to get back to my pony editing. ^..^

... I wonder, if there's only one author submitting, does that mean they're disqualified for breaking anonymity?

I'll try to give at least brief feedback this round. I don't like reviewing in minific rounds as much as short story rounds, since it's hard to dig in without typing a substantial fraction of the words the original author did, but it's been a while since I've reviewed properly.
#13 · 2
Well, I'm back. Wasn't sure if I'd make it here ever again, especially with graduate school gnawing on my back, but the opportunity knocked. Hope my story entertains some of you, and I can't wait to check out everything else you folks wrote.
#14 · 1
I am in, with something.
#15 ·
>>MLPmatthewl419, >>Bachiavellian

Thank you! I had a feeling while writing it that it would come out well.
#16 ·
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Dang it! Assuming what I've heard about submissions actually staying open until 5 minutes after the stated deadline is correct, I literally missed submission by a single second due to trying to rush out a last-second title. (If you're wondering, note that I took a break before typing this, since at this point it's not time-urgent). Given that this isn't the first time I've run into title trouble, I figure maybe I should ask: is having a title actually necessary, or can you submit a story without one? Obviously I'd rather not submit something untitled, but if it's between that and not getting it in on time at all....
#17 · 1
· on The Hangman · >>Miller Minus >>Monokeras

I could go on a more in-depth critique on this, but it would be a merely be a more long-winded exercise in explaining two basic points:

1. The "twist" or "reveal" or whatever you would like the coin the abrupt tone shift is far too obvious to the reader in the setup, and something fails to be shocking when it's expected.
2. It doesn't lean into being either a dark comedy or a horror to be squarely in either genre, and therefore doesn't really have any solid sense of tone, nor can the reader derive anything meaningful about the situation outside it simply being a series of events.
#18 ·
· · >>MSPiper
I'd recommend using a draft title early on. Just copy a few words from your opening sentence if you literally have nothing else. Then submit drafts of your story periodically as you revise it, so at the worst you'll have something in.
#19 ·
Thankfully, I've been able to do more-or-less that for the majority of my entries, so this is the first time I've missed the deadline on something I've actually completed. However, that does kind of assume you have a complete preliminary-draft story early enough to submit before the deadline and then revise – in this case I literally finished the last sentence and copied the sole draft over a few seconds before (theoretical grace period) time, then didn't quite manage to squeak in the first title idea I thought of and hit submit fast enough. I guess I could technically submit an incomplete story early and risk not finishing it, but... eugh, the perfectionist in me just shudders at the idea.
#20 · 1
· on Saint's Day
Alternate Title: Death to Valentine's Day, Long Live the New Flesh!

This is one of those entries where the premise given is more intriguing than the story the author tells with it. The premise being that, apparently, holidays are events where people voluntarily render themselves unconscious and do something in the spirit of the holiday they wouldn't have otherwise done.

Or something like that.

I'm not sure how this works or how it would've started. I guess the Church of the Holy Saints operates in mysterious ways. Still, it's an interesting crossbreed of Christianity and occultism.

Unfortunately, the characters we're stuck with are not the most captivating. The narrator is okay; he reminds me of a lot of myself, except even more vitriolic. I know what it's like to go through the aftermath of a tough breakup. Most people do. The narrator is kind of a non-person, though, because he really only functions as someone to argue with the real "protagonist" of the story, Gary.

And let me tell you something: Gary is quite the shit. He is a chronically envious incel plebeian who needs to do some stomach crunches, and who will tap out of Valentine's Day completely because he is that jealous and spiteful of other people's happiness. I'm not a fan of the holiday myself either, but I must say this is going a bit far.

I think this is why the ending doesn't hit me; it does the same thing most horror stories do, in that it presents a character too unlikable and alien for the audience to get behind. So I'm not particularly moved by Gary's fate at the end. I mean, I guess he turns out okay? He would have to turn back to normal at some point, as indicated by the deal he made with the Church, so it's not like he loses anything, really.

The biggest justification for this ending that I can think of is how Gary's situation might reflect the narrator's, in that the narrator is someone who is perhaps on the road to becoming someone like Gary, but who may or may not change his ways at the end, after seeing Gary in his statuesque state.

On the technical side of things, this entry is pretty solid. No glaring typos I could make out, and I'm curious as to how the author formatted the "letter" in that way.

I think this entry has a good starting point, but the author could do far more with it.
#21 ·
· on The Many Iterations of Deborah Wood · >>Cassius
Hmm. That’s somehwat funny, but there’s no real story here. You have a good premise, but you don’t really bear it besides that scene, and even then, once you’ve explained how they are jealous one of the other, that’s about all we get to see.

It’s more a skit than a story.
#22 · 2
· on Ingénue, c. 2003 · >>Posh >>horizon >>Cassius >>WritingSpirit
Alternate Title: The Fall of the Night Watch

Look, I'm not an art person; by that I mean I'm not into "art" art, which is to say the uncut cocaine shit. With that said, I like what the author was going for here, at least in theory.

I like that the painting stands for what Catherine is going through in her life, as opposed to what the painting itself means. The physical painting, the possession, means far more in the context of the story than what is actually shown within it. We read about Cahterine's reaction to seeing it and we can imagine the rest for ourselves.

I'm not sure why she's naked in the beginning. I have to wonder if the author is a nudist. Or maybe just French. I also have to wonder about the significance of the type of relationship Catherine has with Kristen, but then I guess there doesn't have to be a special reason to have lesbians in your story. I suppose their relationship would somewhat explain the ending, which comes off to me as almost a non-sequitur.

I say "almost" because I can kind of see how the emotional turmoil of the couple has built up to this. The reveal, however, feels sloppy, because of how last-minute it is. If you were skimming this (which I wouldn't recommend doing) you would probably be thrown off by the last few lines.

Finally, the author did something that in writing circles is punishable under penalty of death. Or at least a good spanking. They used the "rise like a phoenix from the ashes" metaphor twice. Once was bad enough, it's an overused metaphor, but twice? Come on now.

I find myself fond of this story, though, all things considered. I like the conceptual ambition of it, and the prose itself is pretty solid for the most part.

Might just be the lesbians, though.
#23 ·
· on Born Killers
I’m always a bit disappointed by the way most authors return to what I consider their comfort zone, i.e. fantasy or SciFi, when they don’t have much idea what to write on.

This one is disappointing from this point of view, and doubly so because it never goes beyond the talking heads stage. We don’t even know why vampires are introduced, and really we don’t really care for the characters either. They’re quite bland and generic, and the fantasy background is never justified. Seems the author just followed an easy path into a familiar universe, without even taking care to populate it beyond a few passing mentions.

Nothing really outstanding to my eyes. Just a dialogue, but no meat to back it, so at the end we don’t even know why we have read what we just read.
#24 · 1
· on Watching the Show · >>Baal Bunny >>WritingSpirit >>libertydude
Alternate Title: A League of His Own

Once again we have an entry that focuses on something I have nominal interest in (this time it's baseball) and does something interesting, even endearing, enough with it that I'm able to stay invested.

I will say, though, that unlike "Ingénue, c. 2003" the pill here is quite tougher to swallow. On a prose level, this entry's biggest strength is also the thing holding it back the most, at least for people who aren't into baseball. It's clear to me that the author has a certain love for the sport, and I can respect that because it shows beautifully in the writing. The closest thing I can think of to compare this to is the opening section of Don DeLillo's Underworld, which uses a baseball match in its prologue as like a stage for the play that is the various character conflicts.

In this case it's Max mourning over his death brother, although whether Jeremy is completely gone or appears as a ghost strikes me as on the ambiguous side. Personally I think it's more heartwarming if Jeremy really was there at the game as a ghost, alongside Max; it certainly adds a layer to the ending, which I think is written quite well, if perhaps a bit cheeky.

I mean, the "ghost of a smile" line popped out at me from the first reading, and re-reading this entry has only made it more apparent, but also more purposeful, assuming that's what the author was going for.

The biggest criticism I can think of for this story is that maybe too much attention is given to the nitty gritty details of the baseball game, bordering on fetishism, but then writers are generally infamous for inserting their fetishes (sexual or otherwise) into their work. It's understandable, if slightly counter-intuitive.

I quite like this entry, though. I can see it making the top 3 on my slate.
#25 · 1
· on The Hangman · >>Monokeras
Alternate Title: The Greta Van Fleet of WriteOff Entries

God, I don't like this.

Mind you, it's not because it's sloppy on a technical level (the text is pretty polished, so it at least has that going for it), nor is it because this is the kind of thing that a typically morbid teenager would write.

No, it's because it's the kind of thing a typically morbid teenager whose imagination is extremely limited would write. It's been a minute since I've reviewed a WriteOff entry this predictable. Mind you, there are a few entries this round that could use more spontaneity in their plot structures, but "The Hangman" is edgy to the point of tedium.

What is the point here? To shock readers? To creep them out? There are a couple entries this round that are genuinely creepy, and this isn't one of them.

It feels like a story that was simply conceived for no... raisin.

And thus I feel no reason to continue this review.
#26 ·
· on The Sparrow · >>WritingSpirit
This is an odd take on a post-apocalytical world. There are some technical issues, like that big blank in the middle of the story, and I wonder if a part of the story hasn’t be rubbed out here, as well as “sliver of light” used twice, for example, and generally the way you describe the world sounds slightly off.

The plot also is skimpy. The bird flies from its branch to that bizarre place (what is it, we never really get to know) then back and sings in the solitude. It’s pretty clear everyone else has been wiped out, but why it survived is not spelled out. Also the last sentence is confusing: is it an animal, is it robot? And if it’s a robot, why wait until the very last words to tell us so. It’s not that the reval recontextualises much of the story.

So, at the end, it’s… weird, but what the takeaway is, I’m still wondering.
#27 · 2
· on Son the Father · >>horizon >>Cassius >>Miller Minus
Alternate Title: X-Men Origins: Magneto

Boy, that Charlie sure loves to play around.

Horror minifics are really hard to get right, so I wasn't exactly looking forward to what I was getting into, once I realized what it was. It's the kind of story that fits snugly into the "evil child" sub-genre, which I'm not particularly thrilled about either. Hell, I haven't even seen "The Omen" yet, and that's supposed to be the king of "evil child" horror movies.

But I think what makes this work is in how little is actually shown. We only get to see what Charlie does with the spider, and from then on it's all implications and second-hand exposition. Surprisingly little is made of his telekinesis, which raises a few logical questions. How has this not made national news? Or at least made Charlie a top pick for a circus act. But then I guess those questions will always pop up with kid-gains-supernatural-powers stories.

The biggest problem I have here is with the prose, which strikes me as unpolished. Not because there are typos littered around, but because, for instance, there are a few too many sentences that start with "But" or "And" or the unholy "And so," which should be minimized with revision.

The mother/wife also seems underdeveloped, but then this is more about the father and the son.

I like how restrained this is as a horror story, though. By minific standards it's on the slow side, but it builds to a conclusion that hints at something truly terrible lurking just around the corner.

May or may not make the top 3 on my slate, but it's a contender.
#28 · 1
· on The Hangman · >>Monokeras
I want to start off by saying that this is more predictable than it should have been since the title of the prompt was basically “everything was not as it seems”.

The Lottery is a short story which my class just reviewed a couple of weeks ago, dealing with the slow and arduous reveal of what is actually happening in this cozy little town, and when you find out what has really happened, the reveal is at the very very end, lacking any real gore. I have to admit that my eyes completely skimmed the last few paragraphs to find out what the teacher says in the end. The gore isn’t necessary to the overall enjoyment of the story and doesn’t really hit home the density of the situation.

The Lottery was more of a character study and slice of life- they played it like it was just a normal game and a normal Sunday.

The pace of the story is really fast and leaves me wind blown in the end.

Also, “the hangman” is a title made to draw suspicion while “the lottery” has connotation to evoke joy in a harmless activity.

Keep making stories, though! I like the teacher’s reaction at the end and the quick but full description of the classroom and kids. ;)
#29 ·
· on My Beloved Husband · >>No_Raisin
I am not sure what the metaphor is, here. Is your message “all guys are just randy. At first, they make efforts to woo you, and then once they’re married, they stop and you become a mere sexual object to them”? If it is indeed what you want to get at, it’s a bit cliché. But is it? Is it something else? Is it just “love fades with time?” It’s difficult to decide.

I mean it seems obvious you want to deliver a message; this has not been written just for the sake of writing something, but what is it?
I’m perplexed.

The last line is, in its way, weird too. We know from start we’re in a dream. We know the guy has become ugly. Why confirming that one more time. It’s no twist. It’s just a pointless repetition.

There are also some tense usage I found weird, but that may be just me.
#30 ·
· on On the Classification of Giant Winged Lizards · >>Anon Y Mous >>Miller Minus
Ahem. This one is about calling a spade a spade, right?

Or is it?

Well, it’s a scene. To be honest, I found the girl pretty (s)callous here: a monster is destroying the town, and she just sits here, taking her time to make her assistant realise he was wrong, while the wyvern keeps rampagning around. Not really what you’d expect from a full-fledged, good natured hero.

Other than that, it’s difficult to care for both protagonists, as we get so few things about them. Make the girl actually fight the whatever it is she has to fight, and let her assistant discover he made an error. Here, what you do is pretty much all telling and no showing, which detracts a lot from the story.
#31 ·
· on Patrimony · >>axxuy >>Baal Bunny
A Shrek crossover? With Puss in Boots as the protagonist? 😛

It's a fun little world you've created here, and the ogre is a great character. But I'm lost on the backstory. Paragraphs two and three imply that our cat has dealt with this ogre before. But he's not actually a talking cat? And there's that You that this piece seems to be addressed to...

I'm sold on the description and dialogue, but the rest has me confused.
#32 · 1
· on By Any Other Name · >>Monokeras
Thomas not wanting to seem like a smarty-pants/teacher's pet seems to clash with him being so outspoken about the tulip being a rose. If he doesn't want to make a scene, would he really get into an "I'm right, you're wrong" argument with the guide?

The ending, with the guide telling Thomas she loves him the most, doesn't mean anything to me past her trying to apologize for snapping at him. If there's a deeper reveal going on there, I don't see it.
#33 · 3
· on Ingénue, c. 2003 · >>WritingSpirit
maybe they're just lesbians, and it begins and ends there.
#34 · 5
· · >>Miller Minus >>No_Raisin
I'd just like to note that, in the span of 15 minifics, we've collectively managed to include:

* Spousal rape
* Spousal violence
* Patricide
* Child abuse
* Necromancy
* Adultery
* Repeated nudity
* Magical summoning of a sex slave
* An on-screen Lord of the Flies child killing
* An on-screen graphic motorcycle crash
* An on-screen drowning
* A serial-killer protagonist
* A serial-killer side character
* Serial-killer vampires
* A dragon wyvern destroying a town
* Baseball
* Whale murder
* Two different backstory apocalypses

All I can conclude is that we're all terrible people.
#35 · 2
* Child abuse

#36 ·
· on Saint's Day
That observation out of the way, let's start reviews!

There's slang in the newspaper industry: "burying the lede." This is the term for when a story, which is supposed to be written in a top-down structure with the most compelling facts at the top, starts out with things that are less important and throws in an arresting fact later on.

That's not what's happening here: the big idea is right up front. I love the big idea. But having established the big idea, I almost feel like this is burying the plot. I do like the Gary/Eddie contrast you're aiming for, and I think it's almost at great, but it doesn't really focus on the thing that makes it most compelling:

"Helping is a gift. This is a screw-you. It's just… it's like police shooing homeless guys away from the mall because they're disturbing the shoppers."

The Gary/Eddie divide is that Eddie takes this as an insult and Gary takes it as a kindness. I think that's the tension to play up if you're contrasting them; right now, that feels a little more background-y.

(Are you trying to take sides, btw? Because Gary does seem correct based on the day each of them had. That's kinda cynical.)

It might also be interesting to contrast Eddie, not with Gary, but with the people celebrating the day. I have to admit it would be more satisfying to see him reject Gary's capitulation and go out and try to enjoy himself -- although given the down-and-out you're focusing on here, satisfying might not be the intent.

Thanks for writing!
#37 · 1
· · >>Cassius
* Baseball

Oh no, not baseball...
#38 ·
· on Male-Order Magic · >>Monokeras
The joke about Beelzebub perhaps needs a bit more context to make it clear what is going on in this situation. The whole rule about knowing names giving extra magical power strikes me as a bit strange just on its fact, and the detail itself seems to be completely extraneous to the story itself.

Basically, there's two jokes here:

1. The protagonist doesn't want to fuck a fat, ugly, and also likely crazy chick.
2. The fat, ugly chick summons him instead of Beelzebub

Now I'm not gonna moralize to you and say that rape can't be funny, but I think there's gotta be a little more substance to the joke than simply "I don't want to fuck a fatty." There's an attempt to characterize the protagonist as a pompous womanizer who pretentiously quotes Richard Lovelace so there can be some form of karmic retribution inherent in his predicament, but there's not really enough of it to make it feel that way. You're hitting the wordcount limit on this, and I think part of the issue is that simply too many words are given to establishing the premise, and not enough building on top of what is established.

Although I guess it's worth noting that this sort of premise, with the genders flipped, would not be comedic, and that does smack me a bit of a double-standard. Lonely, obese man summons a hapless (although pompous) woman from another dimension and forces himself on her? Most people wouldn't find that remotely funny. See My Beloved Husband for how this scenario plays out with the genders reversed.

As a result, the end product comes across as pretty one-note and simplistic. Not anything particularly wrong with that, but it does leave the reader wanting for more. I described this story to Monokeras as "a longwinded joke about a guy not wanting to fuck a fat woman", and I feel the story doesn't offer much more beyond that. Building from that premise and providing more of a back-and-forth between the characters outside simply what is established by the setup would give everything a lot more weigh and pace out the overall payoff better.

The thing about comedy stories is that it's risky to predicate the comedy entirely on one joke. It can be done, but it is often safer and more effective to set up one big joke that is peppered with smaller jokes so that even if one joke doesn't hit, you can immediately move on to the next one and hopefully get a laugh. But, the thing about having smaller jokes that may be even more important is that it can be used to simultaneously develop characters.

You'll have one character give a quip, which informs the reader about their character, another character respond in a humorous or otherwise funny manner, and have the initial character respond. A properly executed joke can give the reader new information about the perspective of each character relative to their situation and add color to an otherwise stock joke.

How this could potentially look in this story would be an exchange as follows:

Protagonist confidentially tries to charm the lady with a line that's worked a million times before on other admirers of his, and it's his tried and true method.

Lady responds with complete indifference and is completely dismissive of his charms, perhaps taking something he said metaphorically as literal.

Protagonist grimaces internally and admits "she's too good" or otherwise is both horrified and amazed at her uncanny ability to completely cancel out everything he throws at her.

The biggest missed opportunity here for me is that the characters in this story do not banter in the manner I've described. Mostly, they're used for giving exposition about the situation, which is not particularly interesting to read.

Also you used the phrase "As you know" in dialogue, which should generally be avoided, as it's a very clunky way to deliver exposition. It's a phrase that can take a reader right out of a piece because it's an obvious indicator that the following information is being given for the reader's benefit and is not naturally being discussed within the conversation itself.

But anyways I found this story #relatable because I also don't want to forced to fuck fat chicks.
#39 · 3
· on Ingénue, c. 2003 · >>Cassius >>No_Raisin >>Cassius >>WritingSpirit
Author, you might want to tinker with that first paragraph -- I had to do a bit of work to clarify from context that it's describing the painting. You might also want to rename one of the two characters: Kristen and Catherine are a little bit too easy to get confused.

A phoenix from ash.

“Throw it in the fire.”


(Although that's undercut a little by the fact they've got some sort of mass art burning going on. I think this would be stronger if their conflict was about that single painting. And "you loved this painting as much as I do" undercuts the core plot without further lampshading: the apparent reason Kristen wants to get rid of it is because of the memories of abuse it invokes.)

That said, I think this is going to be near the top of my voting. It's got an idea that fits well in the wordcount, brings the phoenix/fire theme out cleanly (I'm going to disagree hard with No_Raisin; there's a time and a place for callbacks, and that's to strengthen a theme you want to focus on, especially when it's drawing in the new context of the cigarette burns to get new meaning from the same phrase), and doesn't overstay its welcome. I offer the tinkering suggestions to strengthen it even further. Good job!

I'm not sure why she's naked in the beginning. I have to wonder if the author is a nudist.

Well, by that logic, we've got three serial killers, a rapist, an adulterer, and a baseball player in our group. :-p

Seriously though, can you rein in the speculation about authors? The point of the anonymity of the Writeoffs is to get us to engage with what the text says instead of the external factors which might color it.

Basically, there's a right way and a wrong way to question whether a particular details adds to the story. The right way is: "I question whether this detail adds to the story." Then we can talk about whether it does or not. The wrong way is to drag the author into it, because then we're not talking about the story. Down that road lies hurt feelings and misunderstandings.

And if you want to question whether the nudity in the first paragraph adds to the story, I (as a reader) would have to say that, to me, it does. We see Kristen's bare back in order to provide contrast with that same later view where we see the scars. It's a reasonable question whether the titillation of nudity distracts from where the story's trying to go, but it's handled tastefully enough that it feels strange to me to question it so aggressively.
#40 ·
· on Ingénue, c. 2003

Well, by that logic, we've got three serial killers, a rapist, an adulterer, and a baseball player in our group. :-p

You're saying this as if it's not true or something!
#41 ·

#42 ·
· on Ingénue, c. 2003
It's a reasonable question whether the titillation of nudity distracts from where the story's trying to go, but it's handled tastefully enough that it feels strange to me to question it so aggressively.

I wouldn't call my comment on it "aggressive" (it seemed tongue-in-cheek enough), but that does bring up something I want to make clear that I don't think I did in my review.

And that has to do with tonal consistency.

During my initial reading (well, both readings, but especially on my first go around) I kept being distracted by the recurring underlying eroticism of the thing, from the descriptions to the interactions between Catherine and Kristen. It felt off to me because I was supposed to be invested in this serious character piece and at times I felt as though I was reading the setup to a passage of lesbian erotic fiction. Granted, eroticism between a couple in a story is only natural if they're passionate enough, but part of me wanted to scratch my head at the tonal dissonance I was experiencing.

It was strange to me, but that's also a subjective point that I can't say I'm right or wrong about.

I also understand that the "phoenix from the ashes" phrase was supposed reverberate in a meaningful way; I had more of a problem with the phrase itself, which I don't dig, even if it's used one time.
#43 · 1
· on By Any Other Name · >>Monokeras
Alternate Title: The Real Fallout 76

Oh man. Oh man oh man oh man...

This piece is rough. I say that from a purely technical standpoint, because there are a lot of typos littered around here. Some inconsistencies with em-dashes, some commas lying outside lines of dialogue like orphans on a deserted island, some awkward spacing like towards the end.

There's also this:

“Me!” “Me!” “Me!” a dozen of voices answered together.

Having dialogue from multiple speakers appear in the same paragraph is a dangerous game, kids.

But with all that said, how does the story itself hold up?

For one, I like how this is a post-apocalypse story, or at least a story in the wake of a nuclear catastrophe, that doesn't focus on a bunch of people trying to survive in the wilderness. There seems to be civilization remaining here, or maybe civilization rebuilt itself after the catastrophe? We rarely get to see stories where this is the case, so on the creativity front I have to give the author props, even though they took an L on the proofreading front.

As for Thomas, our precocious protagonist, I find myself feeling mixed about him. He's supposedly a teacher's pet, as we're told outright, and he's the son of a scientist, but he throws a temper tantrum for seemingly no reason. Not behavior befitting a teacher's pet and professor's son, I would say.

Yet Thomas's dilemma, which is a very banal one, is quite relatable; he wants to educate his peers when he feels the adults are ill-equipped to do so, and he learns that even though he might be right, that doesn't make him in the right, if you know what I mean.

Also, the ending is pretty sweet, with just a touch of bitterness.

This might be the weakest entry that I like. I think with some revision it would've been far higher on my slate; as of now it's more mid-tier, which is fine.
#44 · 1
· on Ingénue, c. 2003 · >>WritingSpirit
I feel that the reason she's nude in the painting is to emphasize how beautiful and angelic she was, vs. how she is now: scarred, hurt, her feelings of beauty taken away by the man who hurt her. That's the reason Kristen wants to burn the painting, no? To be rid of the reminder of what she lost?
#45 ·
· on The Many Iterations of Deborah Wood · >>Cassius
Is the joke here meant to be that a Replicant is a different creature than either a clone or a homunculus, and that homeboy is planning on making a third Deborah? On first read, I just took "replicant" as a catch-all term for any duplicated person, so if that was the intent, it didn't land until a second reading.
#46 ·
· on The Many Iterations of Deborah Wood

Is the joke here meant to be that a Replicant is a different creature than either a clone or a homunculus, and that homeboy is planning on making a third Deborah?

Yes, that is the joke.
#47 · 1
· on Patrimony · >>Baal Bunny
That was a nicely executed twist. This one's near the top for me.

So the ogre can shape-shift, right? What I got out of it was that the "cat" is actually the ogre's kid, who can do the same thing, pretending to be a cat. The 'Dad' in the last sentence is referring to the ogre.
#48 · 1
· on Born Killers
"Slayer" is a bold name for a character. Fortunately, a vampire hunter is going to be able to pull it off more than most characters. Unfortunately, he never does any actual vampire hunting to earn the name.

The biggest problem, though, is that you've shown us the wrong scene. You've just shown the hunters talking; they mention a number of moments that would have been much more exciting.

Every vampire we've hunted down in our lives we've found because there was a dead body that made us suspicious.

This could be a story. Show the hunters hunting.

You can't say that her reaction when we first met wasn't suspicious. As soon as she saw me enter the room, she flinched and got even paler than she already was when I saw her through the window."

This would have been a good moment to show. Meeting a woman and piecing together that something isn't right, with a reveal that she's a vampire (or that they think she is) would work fine as a writeoff piece.

Or show us the trivia night with the woman who might or might not be a vampire.

Any of those would be more interesting than a couple of talking heads.
#49 · 1
· on Ingénue, c. 2003 · >>WritingSpirit
Odd word choices here and there to begin with. “like a revelation from God or something far beyond her consternation.” I’m not sure consternation actually means what you think it means (did you mean “comprehension”?); also “and eyes shimmering asynchronously with the embers…” asynchronously? That makes me think of a camera or some electronic device. Its presence here is quite jarring to me. Also I’m with Horizon when he says that Catherine and Christine (Kristen) are really too close one to the other.

Interesting use of "grey" where "gray" would be expected, since you use American spelling (realiZed, snuck…)

Conceptually, I suppose Kristen was the model, and maybe the painter was her abuser. That would explain why she insists so much at destroying the picture: as Dubs says, because it reminds her of her lost beauty, but also of the guy who defiled her.

Otherwise, I don’t have much to say. Barring what I pointed out, the prose is good. A nice bittersweet piece, although more a scene than a story. I agree with Raisin that the phoenix metaphor was a bit on the nose. I think readers are clever enough to figure that out on their own.

But clearly atop my slate right now.
#50 · 2
· on In the Melted Eye of the Beholder
I quite like this one:

Even though it's very passive and "telly" because I find myself thinking that that's entirely the point. Our nameless narrator reacted to her brother's cruelty as a child with passive acceptance, but something changed at some point, and she became the sort of actively aggressive person who speeds on motorcycles while wearing only a light jacket. But now after the accident, she's moving back to her original state of mind.

If that's what you're meaning to do here, author, bring it out more. Show us more of her after the first change so we can have more of the "compare/contrast" thing. Still, top of my slate so far.

#51 · 1
· on It's Not the Leaving that Grieves Me
This is a nice:

Recitation of events, but I'm not quite sure what the story is about. Maybe it's a fault in my own character, but saying that whaling is a tough and unforgiving way to make a living doesn't do much for me. I get a bit of sadness--"Ah, our nameless character has died"--but that's pretty much it. Maybe if the story addressed the title somehow and showed me what it is that actually grieves him since it's apparently not the leaving?

This a fine skeleton, a fine framework to build a deeper story around--and I swear, I didn't mean to make that pun, but now that I have, I'm not going to change it. At this point, though, I'm not quite sure what that story would be...

#52 · 1
· on The Sparrow
Your Story's Theme Song: Jessica Curry - The Seventh Whistler

Sorry, fellow writer, but as much as I appreciate the imagery that it invoked, I came away from this story disinterested, and that my subsequent rereads have only served to amplify that notion. Now, keep in mind that at the time of typing this out, it's just past 3AM, I'm having a raging headache after my insomnia acted up for the past two days, I'm feeling a post-Valentine's-Day spring flu coming along and I'm halfway through another bottle of beer, so I apologize if anything I'm saying right now comes off as blunt, to put it lightly.

>>Monokeras addressed some of the major concerns I've had with the story from the get-go, and that is with the general description of this world, particularly in the first four paragraphs. There's a great amount of detail being put into the sparrow's takeoff, consequent flight and landing, yet the terminology being used ('glancing behind its shoulder periodically', 'air rushing past in hisses', 'widths that ranged from tens of thousands its size') sounds extremely mechanical. It's as if it's something out from an instruction manual more than a story.

Now, one may suggest that it brings more emphasis on the imagery that the bird is a robot. Sure, I can see that, but I can only wonder for what purpose would us, as the reader, gain from it. Why is it important to the reader to know that the bird is mechanical? Why bring it up?

There's also a bit of repetition going on in the story. I can forgive repeating the titular animal, as it's basically the protagonist of this story. 'Sliver of light' didn't bother me as much either because both cases seemed to be given with different context, as mundane as the differences between them may be. Instead, what I found irritating was the constant reminder of the sparrow having wings, and that said wings were speckled. It was obnoxious on my first read. By my fifth, I found myself offended (though it may be because I've had too many beers. I like beer).

Looking at the first several paragraphs, this entry feels like an exercise in contrast. The organic vs. the mechanical. Nature vs. machine. It's a neat concept, to be sure. The only problem is that it feels like the execution of the concept is taking more priority than the execution of the story itself, if there is a story to be had at all.

Then the last few paragraphs come in, and the entry is recontextualized it into one of loneliness instead. On one hand, I'm glad that it's there. On the other, the execution leaves a terrible lot to be desired.

First off, if you want to hit home the feeling of loneliness, why not use an actual, living, organic, feather-based sparrow instead? Why bother changing it into a robot? It feels like it's trying to straddle a line between loneliness and artificial sentience, but in the end couldn't make heads or tails of either and just bungled the execution.

Second, why bother with a post-apocalyptic premise at all? Why not just pit the robot bird in a not-so-distant-futuresque time period where it flies aroud with other non-robot birds in hopes for a mate only to be denied at every opportunity? Won't that it hit home with both the contrast of nature vs. machine + the aspect of loneliness much better?

Third—and honestly, this is my biggest problem in the story—why mention the fact that these nonexistent 'they', should they hear the song despite not existing, would recognize it as a tune of forlornness? Why throw (what I believe is) the supposed theme of this story flat out in the open? After all the not-so-subtle nods and winks in the sentences prior, why bother putting it out there even?

In the end, I feel like this entry doesn't know what it wants to be, and when it tries to settle on an identity of sorts, it just stumbles and falls anyhow. I do like that we're seeing the world from the bird's perspective, but that's about all the positives I can garner from it.

Nevertheless, thanks for writing, and good luck!
#53 · 2
· on The Hangman · >>Pascoite >>Monokeras
Let's play "good news, bad news," author!

Bad news: this isn't working for me either, as currently written. Good news: there's a single, specific, fixable reason that this didn't work for me. Bad news: it'll probably require a complete overhaul to address. Good news: You're probably much closer to that working story than you think.

The specific thing that holds this back, I think:

Turning back to the class, “While I’m away why don’t you play… hangman?” she proposed.

He fought back, randomly punched and kicked everyone around him, but he was quickly overcome by pelting blows. He collapsed on the floor, a blubbering being of pain. They took him ruthlessly by the armpits and lugged him out of the classroom into the playground, where the gallows sat.

Dave was kneeling on the stool, his head lowered, his hair matted with blood streaming from his wounds. “I… I… don’t want to die… Please! Let me live,” he bleated between his sobs.

For a while they stood here, fascinated, their eyes fixed on the corpse. Then they turned away, one after another, and shuffled silently back to the classroom.

“He lost,” Betty confirmed.

“F—” Mrs. Bell put her hand over her mouth. “Darn,” she corrected. “How am I going to break that to his parents.”

… is that it seesaws back and forth between a world where schoolyard hangings based on losing a game are commonplace and casual, and a world where that is shocking and unusual.

Those two worlds can't coexist in the same story.

A world where there are preconstructed gallows in the playground is not a world where the teacher has to figure out how to explain the situation to Dave's parents. A world where Mrs. Bell chose the game and the victim herself is not a world where she has to figure out how to explain the situation.

This applies to the kids' behavior, too. If Dave knows that the penalty for guessing wrong is death, that's going to be a REALLY big factor in whether he says an embarrassing word to solve the puzzle or not. (I should point out, I think that angle is great — but more on that in a bit.) If the kids are gleeful enough to string him up onto the gallows themselves, they're not going to "shuffle silently back to the classroom" like they just did something wrong. If this is a world where "Hangman" is common, have them react like it is!

So the core problem here is: figure out whether this is a casually murderous world or not, and then line the rest of the story up behind it. Figure out the motivations that drive everyone in the story. And I think that's why this has a lot of potential when you do — because you've already got the core of the plotline aligned with a pretty compelling take on that story.

To wit:
I'm seeing some pretty clear signs that Dave is being bullied here. I like the implication that they picked "copulation" specifically to harass him — his blushing, Betty's grinning, the class' decision to rush him en masse, Brice stopping him on time instead of failing him due to wrong guesses. And I think that's what could make this really work.

Picture this — hanging is a known and accepted possibility, but everyone expects Dave to guess right, because if this game is common, then the sort of person who isn't smart enough to win consistently would have died back in kindergarten.

At that point, the game just becomes a tactic in an ongoing bullying campaign — Betty picks the most humiliating word she can get him to say out loud, knowing that he'll have no choice but to say it, so that they can tease him for the next month about having sex on the brain. And Dave knows that that's what's going to happen. So instead, he chooses the schoolyard equivalent of suicide by cop, refusing to play along — maybe hoping that he can get them in trouble for their actions, maybe just giving up to avoid the torment.

I hope that's a useful idea. In the meantime, thank you for contributing! All of us — not just you — should remember that we're all here in good faith, to figure out what works and what doesn't, and there's no shame in having written a story which isn't quite coming together yet. The best way to figure out what works and what doesn't is by pushing on the boundaries to see what breaks.

Final thought:
“I… I…” Dave’s face was scarlet now.

“You already picked ‘I’,” Betty said, grinning. “Try something else.”

I don't know if you'd be able to keep these lines if you edited to match my suggestion above — there isn't as much room for Dave to hesitate if he's deliberately throwing the game. But I wanted to single them out anyway, because I think they're a great exchange.
#54 ·
· on Son the Father · >>Cassius >>No_Raisin
>>No_Raisin's spoiler text is pretty funny — because before even reading it that's exactly what I was thinking.

And this would, indeed, make fantastic backstory for a superhero villain. Unfortunately for my voting, I have to evaluate it as a standalone work of fiction, not the prelude to something greater. That's really the biggest fault here: it's effective prose, but doesn't feel to me like an effective minific. I mean, what's the point here? The main character is a serial killer? Uh, yeah, I got that from the text back with the pulling wings off of insects thing; why are we reading about it, though? What point is this making?

I think this does at least nod in that direction with the first scene's foreshadowing about the atomic bomb. But that foreshadowing explicitly sets up a theme that's then left dangling. I'm kind of getting subtext of the famous Oppenheimer quote, but if the story or the title ever meant to explicltly invoke that, I'm not seeing it. That's probably the core problem if you intended this as a standalone: your subtext is buried too deep for me. Compare and contrast with Ingènue, which builds all this lovely phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes metaphor and then actually tells us that, yes, that's what it's doing. That author made the explicit decision to play tour guide in the Writeoff museum instead of exhibit painter. In my case, at least, that felt like a much stronger choice.

But Charlie was still a good boy; he did and went as he pleased.

And so Daniel did nothing to stop him.

I can't follow this logic. Charlie doing his own thing instead of obeying his parents makes him a good boy? And Daniel chooses not to stop him because he's doing as he pleases?

Also, Daniel must be the densest dude in the lower 48 if he explicitly knows about Charlie's powers (and his frequent disappearances as he comes and goes as he pleases) but can't put two and two together with the newspaper article about the killings. To be honest, I could see that as a perfectly natural denial reaction, and I can also see how you're building up toward that, but I can't break my suspension of disbelief to accept it. It seems like the sort of thing where he'd have to stare at it with a sinking feeling in his gut and then explicitly tell himself "That can't be Charlie. He's a good boy." Framing it in the context of your opening scene's "They would fail to understand a lot of things" pushes that in the opposite direction.

Thanks for writing!
#55 ·
· on In the Melted Eye of the Beholder
Alternate Title: Rod Serling's Ghost

I have to admit, I liked this entry a lot more initially than I do now. That's not to say I dislike it now; I just find there to be more flaws in the writing than what my first reading revealed to me.

Let's go over a few lines and see what can be changed about them.

I’d memorized the smell of burning plastic, even years before the accident.

Nothing. This is still probably my favorite opening line this round. It's ironic and it also tells what kind of story we're getting into with just a few tactically placed words.

“Weirdo,” they said. “Loser.”

I would get rid of this little line. It's superfluous and it sounds unnatural.

And it was because of that that I came to appreciate my melted dolls. They didn’t choose to be this way, to be cursed with freakishness by some vengeful god. They weren’t ruined. A Barbie is still Barbie, even if she’s naked, missing her face, and most of her limbs.

I feel like this could be expanded. Actually, the connection the narrator makes between her own uniqueness (okay, she's just a tomboy, that's not too weird) and the uniqueness of her burned dolls could be better explained.

There's beauty in my uniqueness, even if I'm the only one who sees it.

Again, I feel like this last line could be removed. It's a blatant thesis statement almost to the point of sounding like a platitude, and is not as creative or telling of the narrator's character as a lot of previous lines.

I do like what this story is going for, though. In fact, if it were a short story and not a mini-fic I think the extra length would help greatly. We would get more insight into the narrator's day-to-day life and her relationship with her brother with more time spent. As is, it's more like a snapshot.

But one could argue that, as a mini-fic, it fulfills the snapshot role about perfectly, and I'm content with that.

Still in the upper third of my slate, but its position is shaky.
#56 ·
· on The Sparrow
Alternate Title: Bird-E

I want to like this entry. It has a premise and world that I like.

For one, I think the sparrow being a robot works perfectly fine within the context of what the story is going for. To think, the natural world is so ravaged that even a man-made machine like a robotic sparrow would have nothing to cling to, except to sing its songs like clockwork.

The prose is also, fittingly, quite poetic. It compliments the tone poem nature of the piece, and it carries a lot of the weight that would have otherwise fell on character and action.

You have to admit, though, that this story lacks character and action.

As much as I like the prose itself, my eyes were glazing over as I neared the end, because the prose doesn't really support anything. There isn't much meat on this story's bones, and that bothers me for a few reasons. The biggest is that this is one of the shortest entries this round, at just over 500 words, and I'm absolutely sure the author could've put those spare words to good use. Something, anything, should happen to the sparrow. We need more indicators of whether this sparrow is sentient or not, or maybe a better grasp of the kind of world it exists in, or maybe both.

I feel like the author is getting at something very concrete, but resorted to means too abstract to succeed in getting there. There's a time and place for abstract storytelling, like with allegories, but I don't get enough of an impression that "The Sparrow" is an allegory for anything. If it is, it needs more meat.

Allegorical meat, not actual meat.
#57 · 2
· on Ingénue, c. 2003 · >>Pascoite >>WritingSpirit
I'm going to split with >>horizon on this story, and subsequently, Son the Father, so apologies, Author(s), but you're going to have two people telling you pretty much completely opposite things.

The phrase that comes to mind when I think of this entry, and to a lesser extent, In the Melted Eye of the Beholder (which I have many of the same problems with that story as I do this one) is "emotionally overwrought." This piece suffers more than In the Melted Eye of the Beholder because of the in media res style that requires backtracking multiple times to establish the significance of the situation, and the emotional weight the actions have for the characters. But even more than that, I believe that the story itself can't sustain the emotional weight that it seeks to impart to the reader.

While I believe the nonlinear story-telling is undesirable for the purposes of reading comprehension, I don't think that the style choice is the story's main problem, nor is it inherently a wrong decision for the author to make. Indeed, I think with a little more sprinkling of information earlier in the story, it could actually be to the author's benefit to adapt this style. The biggest issue, however, comes from the lack of emotional context to support the heavy weight of the character interactions.

This is problem that is often inherent to the mini-fic format. In a longer form story, this would be the ending scene, a culmination of events resulting in a cathartic payoff where the protagonist sheds the last of her shackles of her previous life and finally enters into her new one. We've had the context of the journey, and we the readers can understand that our protagonist has gone through a lot to get to this moment. While the story is told in abstractions, we can understand the weight that the choice has to her.

By contrast, in this story, the real emotional weight of the decision is an informed trait told through dialogue that is presented after the decision is already made. This is a deal-breaker for me. The reader cannot understand the weight of Kristin's or Catherine's decisions or perspectives on the painting until it is already up in flames, and the reader can only be informed of its significance by the characters expositing that it's important. There is no weight to that.

Dialogue is mostly utilitarian. Functional. Lot of exposition. The points where the characters are given some room to emote are full of "stock phrases", of particular note the "if he ever comes by here..." line which I can't help but imagine being accompanied by a stereotypical wringing of the hands / balled fist shaking.

The prose is the crutch that holds this story together. Without some of the more lavish and lovingly crafted phrases, this piece would unfortunately probably crumble under its own weight. I think a more definitive focus on "fire" and "burning" imagery would be useful upon revision, and I appreciate the theme that the author tries to bring in with it. For the record, though, I'm with >>No_Raisin on the phoenix from the ash reincorporation.

I'm also going to split the difference between >>horizon and >>No_Raisin when it comes to the nudity. Yes, it is a meaningful detail in the story, and it needs to be in there, but I feel similar to Raisin's intuition that it is deliberately framed in an exploitative way. The author is trying to have his (cheese)cake and eat it too, and it is tonally distracting from the piece as a whole. The tone as a whole is sort of split between stereotypical romance and a more serious introspective navel gazing, which doesn't mesh together terribly, but also seems to be a poorly textured pastiche in some areas. I tend to assume that the author is more familiar with writing in the former style than the latter, and simply reverted back to form when trying to write certain segments.

I can't say that this evoked much from me.
#58 ·
· on My Beloved Husband
Alternate Title: I Think I'll Have Rape for Dinner

Okay, so...

The good news is that there is clearly a point to this thing; it's about a woman looking back on how her marriage has decayed over time. The bad news is that if there's a specific message to take away from this, I can't make it out.

The good news is that the dream setting is set up from the beginning, rather than made as a lazy twist. The bad news is that said framing device undermines the concrete effects the narrator may be experiencing, since they're not really happening to her.

The good news is that the descriptions of sex and violence are tonally consistent and necessary to making the plot work. The bad news is that said descriptions have gone too far. This is perhaps too graphic for a WriteOff entry, and arguably grounds for disqualification, what with the overt sexuality and the eye-gouging...

Sounds like fun.

The good news is that the subject matter is grounded enough (spousal rape is a thing), and treated tastefully enough that it doesn't feel exploitative to me. The bad news is that this is still a story explicitly about fucking spousal rape and I never want to read it again, thank you very much.

The good news is that with about three weeks of physical therapy, I expect this entry to make a full recovery. The bad news is that I can't put it too highly on my slate, maybe upper third, and the appeal of this entry is limited to say the least.

I sure looooooove rape!
#59 ·
· on Son the Father · >>No_Raisin

Going to quickly answer horizon's questions to the best of my ability.

I mean, what's the point here?

The story is a metaphor for sociopathy. >>No_Raisin correctly had an intuitive sense about the relative unimportance of Charlie's supernatural ability; the point is that Charlie has a "condition" that his parents feel they are fearful of, but helpless to do anything about and refuse to address. The point of the supernatural ability is merely to create a literal manifestation of these issues inherent to raising a child suffering from sociopathy that can be illustrated to the reader. The real issue is predicated on the father's constant willingness to ignore his son's conduct and refusal to rein him in. Hence the title, "Son the Father" as Charlie is essentially his own parent.

The main character is a serial killer?

Charlie is not the main character. He is the character around which the plot focuses, but the main character is actually his father.

Why are we reading about it, though? What point is this making?

The thing that you're supposed to draw from those scenes is the consequences of Charlie's father's constant willful ignorance and refusal to rein in his son. You're seeing how Charlie develops and moves from merely ripping the legs off of spiders, to mutilating small animals, to finally the implication that he's killing people. Every time Charlie's father has the opportunity to intervene, he chooses not to.

I think this does at least nod in that direction with the first scene's foreshadowing about the atomic bomb

This confused me a bit too. I understood it at first as a "born under a bad omen" sort of statement, but I actually think it's meant to be read a bit deeper than that, in that Charlie's birth signals the death of others. Might be a bit too deep of a read, though.

So, this story is at the top of my slate. There are some clunky turns of phrase and this could have used probably another drafting process to make sure every line hit, but the prose is by and large punchy, effective, and respects the reader's intelligence by not spelling out every detail or becoming overindulgent in its own artistry. Which means it will get sixth place, and I'll be the only person who actually likes it. Tough break, author.

What is left to implication may leave some of the finer details a bit fuzzy, and I think there is a need for clarification in regards to what is meant when Daniel describes Charlie as a good boy. I conflate this to mean that he doesn't act out in a manner that is public or do things to earn the reprimand of others, but the phrase itself is too vague to understand what Daniel means contextually. I could also easily understand it to be an expression of denial (Charlie wouldn't do that, he's a good boy), or sort of a voice of approval (he goes out and does things, he's a good boy), and this evidently confused >>horizon.

The big theme that ties everything together is willful ignorance, which is a bit muddled by the recurrent phrase of "failing to understand things" which can be parsed to mean something significantly different. Daniel doesn't suspect Charlie because he deliberately goes out of his way to avoid knowing things that would lead him to suspect Charlie. It's not for failure of understanding (although it is a useful implication that the Petersons are below average intelligence), like the first paragraph seems to imply, and I tend to think that the phrase was crafted before the author really had a solidified idea of how the proceeding scenes would be constructed.

This is where my suspension of disbelief remains intact while >>horizon's falters: because Daniel has gone through such lengths to avoid learning any of Charlie's actual activities (whether his powers can affect humans, what he does in his spare time, or really anything meaningful about Charlie), it's apparent that Daniel doesn't poke his nose in things or question anything related to Charlie, and unless it's right in front of his own eyes, he's not going to acknowledge it. The story in the paper is so obvious to us, the reader, but Daniel has only a few instances over the course of 17 years; he's gone through lengths to ignore anything that happened to crop up and rationalize to himself that Charlie is a good boy. So it's no surprise that a suspicious killing in a nearby neighborhood (i.e. not his neighborhood) doesn't turn his sights to Charlie.

But anyways, I liked this, which is a death sentence for any story. Sorry.
#60 · 2
· on On the Classification of Giant Winged Lizards · >>Monokeras
a monster is destroying the town, and she just sits here, taking her time to make her assistant realise he was wrong, while the wyvern keeps rampagning around. Not really what you’d expect from a full-fledged, good natured hero.

Uh, Mono, I think you might be missing the point. She is literally explaining why she can’t fight the wyvern in the last big paragraph. If she did then she wouldn’t be much of a hero anymore, at least not a live one.
#61 ·
· on On the Classification of Giant Winged Lizards · >>Anon Y Mous
>>Anon Y Mous
No, because she doesn’t state she can’t fight it. Alright, she says some weapons won’t work, but she says also some others will, albeit with a reduced efficiency. That’s enough for a hero, no?

I mean look at the last Star Wars when they make contact with that bar tender – she cares to explain things in the middle of a fight. Now that’s what a true hero should be like.
#62 ·
· on On the Classification of Giant Winged Lizards
I don't think that >>Monokeras has whiffed on the explanation of why Rhona can't fight the beast so much as he's whiffed on what the story is trying to be. Because his comment would be fair if the story were trying to be an action/adventure, but it's much moreso a comedy, which means the larger issue is that he didn't find it funny. And if I'm being honest, I understand why. insert joke that includes the word 'senioritis'.

Your last line is great. It did me a good chuckle. It was, to me, the only joke, though. I like the Brienne-to-Podrick dynamic these two have going on, but it has not been used for much comedy; they're mostly just establishing the scene.

Apart from this the story plays off of an argument the more fantasy-inclined have heard before (WYVERNS DON'T HAVE FORELEGS REEEE), which is fine, but then it becomes unfortunately a little one note. I feel this joke would be a lot better suited as a quick throwaway bit in a longer piece with bigger jokes.

But that's all from me. At the end of the day, this story is very competently written and didn't leave me confused at all. I'd say it's a solid start to something bigger, but as it is, it doesn't have much of a grab-factor.

Thanks for writing!

P. S. Your first line! I was about to complain that you gave the main girl a guy's name when I saw it change to Rhona later. Always check it before submitting!
#63 ·
· on Watching the Show · >>WritingSpirit >>Pascoite >>libertydude
Very nice:

Though as someone who isn't into baseball, I'll echo >>No_Raisin's comment that there's too much of it here. In fact, I'd recommend cutting the first three sentences entirely and starting the story with the last sentence of that first paragraph. That would give us the baseball and the dead brother right from the get-go. I'd also like some idea of how the brother died, but then I'm just nosey that way. Oh, and I didn't get an sense of Jeremy being there as a ghost. It all struck me as Max remembering stuff.

#64 ·
· on Patrimony · >>Baal Bunny
Alternate Title: Some-BODY Once Told Me—

This is a... comedy?

Let's start from the beginning.

The narrator is an ogre who shape-shifts into a cat to trick his father so that he can kill him and take the land for himself (or rather his human buddies, but I'll get to them), and that's the gist. The daddy ogre is like the baron of this land or something, and is plenty tyrannical, not to mention a shitty dad from what we can tell, so his ass gets yeeted the fuck out.

Eating your dad is kind of fucked up, though, I don't know if I'd go that far.

I think the main problem with this entry is that, if it's a comedy, I didn't laugh, and as a plain fantasy piece I have a few too many questions. My face was the thonking emoji for most of it, but then these last few paragraphs happen:

I cowered away from his admittedly terrifying lion before nonchalantly asking if he could do a mouse. He could, and then, well, then it was pounce, crunch, swallow, and the palace was mine. Well, yours, I mean. I've got no interest in being anything other than a cat for the rest of my life, thank you very much. That was my goal when I first wandered onto your family's farm, and nothing's changed my mind since then.

Still, it guess it was kind of an anti-climactic end to his reign of terror. But, I mean, believing in talking cats? Did he think he was living in some weird kids' story?

Well, Dad always was an idiot...

The framing here is really weird. From the first few paragraphs we get the impression that the narrator is talking to "you," a human, true, but why the narrator is telling "you" all this in this particular way seems unnatural. It's like a case of "As you know..." but even odder, and it makes the ending feel clunky.

I do like how we get a lot of insight into the narrator's personality and relationship with his father just by the observations he makes, though. As far as first-person narrators go, this one has a good deal of personality, not to mention a good deal of moral ambiguity.

Also, gores can shape-shift? I mean, it doesn't really matter. Just that the rules of this fantasy world are not so thoroughly established. Taken in a vacuum, or if there wasn't another comedy-ish fantasy entry to compare it to, I wouldn't have a problem with it, really.

Unfortunately, there is...
#65 ·
· on Son the Father · >>No_Raisin
This entry is tough to rank on a slate, because while I like the story itself that is on display, I really dislike the manner in which it was told.

This story is mad tell-y. The two italicized sentences are the biggest offenders here, but it's kind of happening everywhere. The relationship between the father and son is described in plain English and I don't get to see anything change between these two. There's an inciting incident (the spider) that should create change, but instead of seeing the change we just get the timeskip, and the narrator tells us that the son is now the father. Cool.

In my uncalled-for opinion, I think the change should have been shown right after the spider's demise. After all, how did that scene end? The father was getting annoyed at his son for not paying attention to the dinner call. What does he do now? How quickly does he go from impatience to, "You know what forget I said anything dinner's whenever haha up to you haha."

I think the reason this bugged me so much is that tell-y narration does more damage to stories that are meant to be more emotionally evocative. And horror is one of the most evocative genres out there. I feel cheated out of the fear, the dread, the sadness that I was supposed to feel.

It's interesting that you've made this story this way, while simultaneously making the excellent decision to leave Charlie's "business" undescribed. Because as >>No_Raisin points out that's a great way to get us to impale ourselves on our own imaginations. I wish there was more of that in the father-son relationship.

That's all I got! Thanks for writing and best of luck to you!
#66 ·
· on On the Classification of Giant Winged Lizards · >>Miller Minus >>Cassius
Alternate Title: Wyvern Search

Ladies and gentlemen, the second best comedy entry of this round.

Yeah, I prefer "Male-Order Magic," and I'm gonna have to explain that one. But for now, let's talk about this nifty little story, about hapless characters trying and failing to deal with a wyvern as it terrorizes the town.

First of all, I like this scenario. It reminds me of something out of Konosuba, where the party will presumably defeat the enemy just barely, in spite of their collective incompetence and stupidity. And as with that show, there is a joke here about the mechanics of high fantasy worlds.

I low-key lol'd the first time I read it, so I can say this worked somewhat as a comedy.

Unfortunately, this entry has only one joke, and it's not too funny a second time around.

Now, I consider that to be a very light criticism, for two reasons:

1. This is a minific, and the minific format doesn't allow for a lot of jokes to be made, unless you're not concerned about story and characters. You only have so much time, and common sense might say you best save your one good joke for last.

2. The "one big joke" method is highly subjective, as is all comedy, and personally I'm more of a rapid-fire absurdity kind of guy. I mean, I grew up loving Airplane! and The Naked Gun, so of course I'm biased towards the joke-a-second school of comedy. Course, that was back when that school of comedy even existed...

Anyway, this entry is nice in that it rewards the reader for being savvy about the high fantasy genre. Granted, that's assuming the reader is a massive nerd, but we all are, so it's okay. You can probably predict what the joke will be if you're savvy enough, but it's more about the character's reactions to the situation than the reveal itself, I think.

The author took a big L for changing a character's name midway through the story, though, so that's worth a spanking.

Upper third of my slate for sure. Not in my top 3, because I'd prefer to have only one comedy in my top 3, and that spot goes to another story.

Good luck, though!
#67 · 3
· on On the Classification of Giant Winged Lizards

Not in my top 3, because I'd prefer to have only one comedy in my top 3

#68 · 1
· on Male-Order Magic · >>Monokeras
Alternate Title: I Think I'll Have Rape for Dinner 2: Electric Boogaloo

Q: So, you seem to think pretty highly of this entry?

A: I mean, yeah, I like it quite a bit. Not sure I "think" about it much, because it's not the kind of story that's supposed to make you think, but it made me laugh.

Q: You're also aware that this is yet another story about rape?

A: Yeah, we've had a few of those.

Q: And you liked the others as well?

A: Well, I didn't dislike "Ingenue, c. 2003," and I liked "My Beloved Husband," but I didn't exactly enjoy it.

Q: But you enjoyed this one.

A: Oh yeah, sure.

Q: You thought it was funny?

A: I just said it made me laugh, didn't I?

Q: You think rape is funny?

A: Oh my god...

Q: That's not an answer.

A: Okay. I think, as grounds for comedic payoff, rape is legitimate. Maybe not the right word. I think rape, as subject matter, can be used as a jumping-off point for good comedy. It's like anything else, assuming you're of the philosophy that everything is fair game when it comes to making a good joke.

Q: Sounds like something Louis CK would say.

A: Jesus...

Q: In the story, the protagonist is basically forced into sexual slavery by a sorceress. Does that sound like good ground for comedy?

A: Uhhh, yes? Let me clear some things up with that. The protagonist, the narrator, is an actor. Mainly in theater, but apparently he also works in TV. Now, I don't want to bring up anything too topical—

Q: Too late.

A: —but given the current climate in the entertainment business, both inside and outside Hollywood, though mostly inside if we're being honest, it's possible that your favorite actor could be a rapist or sexual harasser. Now, we're not explicitly told that with this guy, and I think it'd be even funnier if he was clearly of the #MeToo breed, but I can imagine.

Q: What makes rape funny?

A: What?

Q: Answer the question, Mr. Raisin.

A: First of all, that's a loaded question. You make it sound like rape in itself is funny, or that rape in a vacuum can be funny. That's not how it works. That's not how comedy works. For example, in the movie Airplane!

Q: Oh god, he's talking about Airplane! again.

A: —there is a recurring joke where a boy asks his father to be taken to the cockpit to see it, and the boy meets the pilot. The pilot makes increasingly outlandish remarks in the form of questions. "Have you ever seen a grown man naked? You like watching movies about gladiators?" The joke is that the pilot is a pedophile, and is hitting on the boy, but the joke is the simultaneously blunt and bizarre things he says that the boy seems to totally ignore.

Q: That's not involving the act itself, though; that's the topic of pedophilia, which is different.

A: True, but let's go with something more relevant to this specific entry, then. In the movie Top Secret!, the villain is sneaking around the countryside, disguised as a female cow, when he attracts the attention of a bull. You can guess as to what happens next.

Q: And that's funny?

A: Sure, because how absurd it is. A guy in a cow suit getting ass-raped by a bull. The fact that we see him later walking like he's got a stick shoved up his ass makes it even better. Not to mention, he's the villain, so it's also karmic.

Q: And the same can be applied to this entry?

A: Sort of. It's pretty goofy. I mean, a guy getting summoned by a chubby sorceress who's all too giddy to make him her sex slave? That's ripe for absurdity. Not to mention the guy being a pompous actor makes the situation juicier, although, as I said before, it would've been even better if he was also a sexual harasser. As is, he's just a player, which in itself is not a bad thing, but it's still karmic to see an egotistical lady's man feel the other end of the stick.

Q: The rape stick?

A: If you wanna put it that way. I think it's funny enough.

Q: If I must be honest, Mr. Raisin, it sounds like you're defending something that you personally had a hand in, and that you're giving this thing more praise than it rightfully deserves.

A: Look, it's not perfect or anything. There are a couple typos littered around, and I do wish the whole thing went up another level in goofiness. That last part is just me, though; I can see how for a lot of people this is too much. And I'm aware that talking about this entry the way I do makes me sound like the author, but that's a risk I'll have to take.

Q: One more thing... how do you feel about the joke about the protagonist's name? Bill C. Bob. That's a pretty far stretch, for the sorceress to guess right. Perhaps too much of a coincidence?

A: Oh, it's totally ridiculous. How the hell is anyone supposed to guess that? On top of the joke about Beelzebub and the protagonist having similar names. But to be honest? I thought the ridiculousness of it was funny; it even made me laugh upon a second reading, which normally doesn't happen when I read comedy mini-fics.

Q: You feel justified, then, in putting this higher on your slate than certain other entries that were written with more artistry and intelligence? Including the entries about rape that treat the subject with more dramatic weight and respect?

A: Absolutely.

Q: Sounds like something Louis CK would say.

#69 ·
· on Patrimony · >>Baal Bunny
This one really smacks of Baal Bunny to me.

It starts off very cute, and mostly maintains that. There's a fair amount of unnecessary language at the beginning, but you weren't up against the limit, so you had word count to spare.

This is a tough kind of story to provide useful feedback on, because there's not really anything wrong with it. It's just a comfortable read, nothing spectacular.

Okay, I'll dig for something. Our narrator was correct when he called it an anticlimactic ending. It's all set up to deliver this switcheroo, which it does, and I can't say I think it should be structured differently. But there are two things that kind of put me off.

One, so much happens so fast at the end that it's easy to become confused. I did sort out what had happened after thinking about it a moment, but then I don't get the mindset of the ending, which is the other issue. He's content to be a cat now? Why? I'm torn between thinking he's lying to the audience the same way he lied to his father, and he's suckering me in to get eaten as well, but then why rule over a farm when he's already got a kingdom? Or on the other hand, he felt his father was a tyrant that needed taking down, and yet he never expresses any negative opinions, aside from generic ones. Nothing related to why he deserves killing from the narrator's specific viewpoint, anyway.

Back to the structure, this one's shaped kind of like a feghoot, where there's this long build-up to a quick surprise ending. And when the ending's not that funny or outrageous, it can feel like the sacrificed pacing didn't pay off well enough.

I'm also torn about the narrator's personality. There's not a ton of it on display, and what we do get is unreliable (going back to how he spent most, if not all, of the story lying), so I don't know that I got a picture of what he was like at all.

Cute story, and in a vacuum, I'd probably place it middle-high, but as it's the first story on my slate, I can't yet say where it'll rank.
#70 · 1
· on Male-Order Magic · >>horizon
There is a fair amount that we have to presume here, based on hints at the world-building, and I don't know that you could have bought back enough word count to go into that all or whether it would be interesting to do so.

Mainly, I think you have enough wiggle room here with what would be the most obvious complaints about it. You hint this is a large woman, but not exactly how large, so I can't say this crosses the line to fat shaming, for instance. There are also unwanted attentions, and it's clear what this lady would like the result to be, but there's enough plausible deniability that she's not going to force the issue if he's completely unwilling. So as a best case, maybe we just have harassment here?

I've said this before, and one of the chief things short fiction should do is surprise in some way, and you did that here. I was no faster at picking up on the name trick than Bill was. In fact I was slower: I didn't see it until he explained it.

I see how you lampshaded how close to the name you actually had to get, but that still brings into question how close is close enough? Like would Marcia also cover the possibilities of Marla and Mary and Margaret? That bit felt hand-wavey.

I'm not sure how to take her name-guessing here. Did she say Beelzebub because she was actually trying to summon a demon of that name and got this guy instead? Or is she actually good at guessing names, and that's just the closest equivalent in her world? Or it was a complete shot in the dark?

Author, you got exactly what you wanted out of this story, though. It's not that ambitious, but then it's not meant to be. It's actually fairly similar to Patrimony, with less charm but more humor. I'd play very carefully with the character, though. He's obviously supposed to be pompous, and while that lends humor to his situation, it can also tend to say he deserves it, which may cross a line. It may help to make him a little more sympathetic on a personal level, and not just from his predicament.
#71 ·
· on Son the Father · >>Cassius >>Dubs_Rewatcher >>No_Raisin >>No_Raisin
I'm not sure why Cassius like that story so much.

This is pretty boring. You start from a fairly common premise, a boy with telekinetic powers, but you don't do much with it. You could have got inspired by this episode of Star Trek TOS.

Instead of exploring what possessing a superpower could do on the psyche of a boy, you tone it down, until you get a pretty tasteless result. First of all, you ruin about all suspense by explicitly telling us straight up the boy won't be normal and his parents are blockheads. We get that confirmed, and then… nothing happens. The boy is dull. His parents are dull. Their life is drab. Then it turns out the boy is a serial killer, but we’re not even certain, and we don’t even know why he gets like this.

It seems to me you were also pretty dejected when you wrote this, and you let that seep into your protagonists. This is not bad, but it’s pretty much a squandering of resources.
#72 ·
· on Son the Father · >>Dubs_Rewatcher >>No_Raisin >>Pascoite

You could have got inspired by this episode of Star Trek TOS.

#73 ·
· on Son the Father · >>No_Raisin

If anything, I was thinking more Chronicle.
#74 ·
· on My Beloved Husband · >>No_Raisin
If I'm correct about who wrote this, it seems like I repeatedly have this issue with his writing, and if not... well, I still have this issue with this story, albeit mildly. [EDIT: I said this before looking at the author list, and the person I thought wrote it didn't enter this round. Oh well.]

The story addresses me. Only once, but that throws the whole thing into feeling like it's doing the same. Details like that matter. Like if a story feels like it has an omniscient narrator, but one little sentence sure sounds like it originates from a character viewpoint, now the whole story feels like it's in that perspective.

So I'm left wondering who she's telling this to. A therapist? Confidant? Diary?

Look, I can tell what you want the story to mean. The problem is, it's rather easy to dismiss it all. People have weird dreams all the time. My wife will occasionally wake up having dreamt that I did something bad, and she'll spend the day vaguely angry at me even though she knows there's no rational reason to. While I'm confident in saying you do want this dream to reflect what actually happens in her waking life, it's not inevitable that it does. She doesn't even react to him when she wakes up. The lack of a reaction to the violent imagery does speak to one side of the issue, but her complete lack of emotion at the reality of it says another. That last sentence is the only piece we get to address it, and it's so deadpan that it fails to establish her true feelings one way or another. I do appreciate working by implication. It would be so easy to go overboard here and throw subtlety out the window, but if we could have just one little word to nudge this in the direction of not having all been dream logic, I think it'd hit home harder.

I'm on the fence about the story's point. I mean, there's the obvious one: that this is bad. But that's a given. It's left kind of too generic to have a point specifically applied to her, and as such it's left abstract. I care that this kind of thing happens, but I don't care more about it in her case. At least on that score, it's almost there. You're getting at the edges of it by bringing in details of it from their past. You only do that right at the beginning when talking about their honeymoon. Carry that throughout, and it'll resonate better.

Oddly enough, this has the same problems for me as "Patrimony" did: a nebulous ending and a disconnect in who the narrator's audience is.
#75 ·
· on Son the Father

#76 ·
· on On the Classification of Giant Winged Lizards
I’m sorry mono Im a loser bc I’ve never watched Star Wars so I have no fucking clue what that metaphor is getting at.

I do, however, understand the first part of your comment. Reduced efficiency doesn’t mean nulled. ;)
#77 ·
· on Watching the Show · >>libertydude
Your Story's Theme Song: Caracara - Oh Brother

So, this was pretty nice.

First off, I don't have an understanding on the whats, hows and whys of baseball, so the terminology definitely flew past my head much like how the ball flew 'over the second baseman’s head and his outstretched glove', to paraphrase, so I can definitely see where >>No_Raisin and, in turn, >>Baal Bunny have their concerns. On the notion of trimming it down, however, I'm honestly on the fence.

I actually think the terminology doesn't impede the prose in any way, at least not when I consider it in context. After all, we're looking at it all from the perspective of Max, a person who loves baseball, or at least had the love of baseball nurtured in him mostly thanks in part to Jeremy. Thus, the implementation of baseball lingo felt natural me, especially since it didn't clutter up most of this story as I've seen some past entries often do.

Now, on a more personal note, I pretty much glazed over all the bits and pieces when it comes to the game at hand, sorry about that. However, my overlooking of those sections in the prose had me paying more attention in the others, and what I got from it genuinely piqued my interest. The little hints of spectres and ghosts littered throughout were really neat and gave the story the emotional context and catharsis I wanted.

Also, I really, really like the double segue here.

“You like it enough,” Jeremy said, flinging a peanut into his open mouth. “You’ll at least come to next year’s opening. Just for that first-game magic.”

Max glanced over towards the empty bleachers and a discarded box of popcorn lying further down the row.

“I guess you were right about that,” Max said.

All in all, this is definitely something that will land at the top half of my slate. Here's hoping it will do well with everyone else as well!

Thank you for writing this and good luck, fellow writer!
#78 · 1
· on Watching the Show · >>libertydude
It's a baseball story, so of course I like it.

I know people can get too into a subject they care about, and if >>Baal Bunny says there's too much here for his taste, I can't call him wrong, but to me, I don't think it goes over the line. You can't have a baseball story without baseball, and it's not like you have to be an expert in it to understand the important points of what's going on. If I look at the amount of baseball here and ask myself if reading a story with that much ballet in it would annoy me, no, I don't think it would.

I did pretty fairly whiff (heh) on a lot of this, though. I didn't take Jeremy's death as literal. I mean, it does explicitly say that up front, but it's wedged in the game situation to a degree that I took it figuratively. I thought Jeremy was the pitcher in trouble. (Why's he throwing down the middle to a guy known to be their bane anyway, and not in a way Max takes as a mistake?) So I was left confused as to why Max is happy that the batting team wins until I figured out Jeremy wasn't there. Clearing that one thing up would not have only fixed all that in my mind but also probably made it feel more natural the way you kept working in flashbacks without transitions.

Then where he's sitting didn't quite jive in the description either. Section 201 wouldn't be very high up. He calls it nosebleeds, and for a low enough level of baseball, that may well be the highest part of the bleachers, but he never indicates he means that anything more than sincerely. Yet that high up, a foul ball isn't nearly the same threat.

But knowing that Jeremy is dead kind of left me disconnected from the story's message a bit. It's still there: that Max's love for the game isn't going to die with Jeremy. But I don't get why this is a passion shared so much, why this is something bigger because they both love it than it would be individually.

Then even if I had picked up on it being a literal death early on, it ends up not mattering. Jeremy was leaving town anyway. The story's message would still be there. What does having him die add? We never get any circumstances about it. It's not clear death has any more impact on Max than simple absence would, so why ratchet it up like that for no additional payoff? It makes the story feel a little cheaper.
#79 · 1
· on In the Melted Eye of the Beholder · >>horizon
This one's kind of a tough nut to crack. It has a nice enough message, but there's a lot of other stuff there.

Once again, we have a narrator delivering the story to an audience. Why have assurances about her brother's mental health otherwise? Yet we never know who that audience is or why this lady wants to tell them.

The way she's a tomboy-yet-not-a-tomboy is also in a bit of a struggle. She's never seen engaging with the dolls until late in the story. Take the early line about David doing this while she rolled in the dirt outside. That distances her from them, makes it seem like they interest her less. If she knew that's when he'd strike, then why not stay inside to defend her property? She comes across as not really caring.

By the end, of course, she doesn't, but I have to think that was a transition she made at some point, but one we don't get to see.

Take what happens to her at the end, too. Loss of an arm is something that might get some gawkers, but short hair isn't anything unusual these days, and she never justifies the "lopsided breasts" thing. Was that also a result of her accident, or is it unrelated? It's an outlier that I don't know how to connect with the picture of the rest of her.

The ultimate message is good, though. The bit about her writing a lot kind of begs another question though: did she lose her dominant arm? Has she had to learn to write with the other? Maybe this is outdated psychology, but I heard once (from a source that should have been at least nominally scientific) that doing so can lead to stuttering. I wonder if that happened to her and even further served to alienate her.

I do wonder about the value of making David out to be a nice person. If he'd steadfastly remained an asshole, that's not going to change how she feels about herself, but there never ends up being a purpose to how he turned out. Tie that back in at the end. She has a high opinion of him now, so presumably he's in her corner, but let me see that. People can be individualistic for the wrong reasons and to bad purposes, but if she mentions that he's very supportive of her now, it defuses that as a possible direction and makes it matter that you mitigated the reader's impression of him at the beginning. In a story this short, you don't want writing that doesn't accomplish anything, so bring that beginning around to bear again.
#80 ·
· on It's Not the Leaving that Grieves Me
Your Story's Theme Song: Jóhann Jóhannsson - Here They Used To Build Ships

It was an awful place they were headed for, Greenland.


Jokes aside, I kinda see what this story is going for. I kinda like it too. Not entirely sure why, but the way this story's being told feels very folksy and quaint to me, like it's an English adaptation of a Victorian-age Scandivanian folktale or something. I admire that charm, even if it didn't really do much for the story as a whole. I think embellishing the prose a little can really give it that sheen, especially with the interactions between our protagonist and his Helen in the beginning.

Beyond that, when I really start sinking into it, this story seems to lack a sense of what it's trying to say. Maybe it's supposed to impart me on why whaling is bad? Maybe? I guess? I will say though, I admire the straightforwardness of this little tale and I wouldn't mind it not carrying any sense of urgency at all even. It's just that the prose overall is rather muddled, mostly because the story seems to lack focus in general, which in the end drags it down.

Really, the only question that has to be answered is this: for what greater purpose is the protagonist doing this whaling gig anyway? For his wife? For the adventure? Something else? A mixed bag? My instincts indicate the former, with how the ending is being written. Should the entry overall is structured around the answer to that question and the prose is gussied up a bit, we might have something absolutely special here.

I'd say this would land around the middle of slate. Thanks for writing, fellow writer, and best of luck!
#81 ·
· on Son the Father · >>No_Raisin
This is... this is weird.

I, too, am of a mind of "Charlie X" here, and I have to think the name is more than a coincidence. Except that the adults here aren't cowed by him; they don't even contemplate a confrontation.

The delivery method feels like a documentary or an article. More the former in tone, as the latter would aim to state a conclusion. That's probably the part that engages with me the least: his father never considers disciplining him. It feels more out of apathy than fear. We never see the mother's side of it, but then the title kind of leaves her out of it, too.

I just find the framing device or delivery method or whatever it is really strange. That hack >>Cassius mentions The Twilight Zone, and... yeah. That kind of voice-over thing suits how this feels to me. The whole "I'm going to introduce a topic and show you a narrative about it, then at the end, I'm going to close by telling you what you learned." To be honest, this feels very heavy-handed for the most part. Only a few of Daniel's actions seem like you trust the reader to figure anything out.

Then there's the unfortunate grizzly/grisly mix-up.

I just bounced off this one pretty hard, because I don't see anything here that isn't also in the many similar stories out there.
#82 ·
· on The Hangman · >>Monokeras
I am not 100% convinced that this is a serious entry, but in case it is, all I'll say is that I think >>Cassius's second point is your first step here. To his first point... I don't know, the reveal is kind of halfway through the story, which makes me think you aren't intending to write it as a twist, and I think it can still work just fine once point 2 is addressed, and we are feeling what you want us to be feeling.


She made a gesture, and James kicked the stool away

The story kind of ended here. The additional paragraphs don't really add anything.
#83 · 1
· on Saint's Day
I'm interested to know why you left the "service" part of this transaction a mystery. Because, to me, it's not clear exactly what Gary is providing. On X-mas a kid gets a gift, and on thanksgiving the homeless receive a feast, and on Valentine's... it's unclear. What conversion is taking place here?

I mean, the paragraph describing the different holidays seems a little muddled, because I'm not sure if the other holidays also take a day from you like Valentine's Day does. The other examples look like they could just be a toy/money drive, except that Eddie says he "wakes up the next morning" with a note on Christmas, so I'm thinking that all the holidays are day-stealing deals. But then he says later that Valentine's Day is stealing a day as if the other's don't, so... which is it? Add on to this the fact that Gary implies that all other holidays are sacrifices, whereas VD is a gift, but... an orphan got a gift on X-Mas! And isn't a gift just a type of sacrifice? Not sure what Gary's line signifies there.

So, yeah, I'm just confused. I'm all for getting the reader to make the connections, but when the argument presented in the story hinges on what the sacrificer gives to the world, and that info isn't concrete, then I can't have my own opinion on the whole event. It might be a day well-spent, but it might be stupid.

Sorry, author. I'm at arm's length. But thanks for submitting! Best of luck in the shakedown.
#84 ·
· on The Many Iterations of Deborah Wood · >>Cassius
I want to write a quick review before the day is done and this story is the perfect candidate because it's great.

For real. Great opening line, great quick-fire comedy, great character work, and a perfect, yet unexpected ending for what was presented.

I can think of suggestions, but I worry that they would just take away from the comedy, so I won't bring 'em up. My only comment is that you switched from calling H. Deborah 'Homounculus' to 'Homunculi' a couple times. Really incisive commentary, I know, but there you go.

I think this will end up top of my slate. There's a lot of serious entries this round so far but they've... kinda been missing the mark with me. Credit where it's due, this is fun and well-executed.

Thanks for submitting!
#85 ·
· on On the Classification of Giant Winged Lizards
That was a great punchline.
#86 ·
· on It's Not the Leaving that Grieves Me
Alternate Title: The Young Man and the Sea

I'll be honest with you, when I first read this, it completely flew over my head. Not that I didn't get it, but I must've been in a mood at the time where I was reading it in a haze. I remembered something about whaling and a woman named Helen, and the protagonist dying in the end, although the description of this is pretty foggy.

I think that has to do with the prose, and the fable-esque way in which this story was written. The prose could also be described as fluffy, or cloudy, something which obscures rather than clarifies. Jotted down like school notes, the plot is very simple, and quaint, which I think is its finest quality. I didn't get the impression that this entry is trying to be more than what it appears to be on its face; I don't think there's a "deep" meaning here, but I say that in a good way.

Sometimes the best things in life are simple, but they work.

There is, however, a caveat with all this: there is no real catch. I'm not just referring to the failure to catch the third whale; I'm referring to the lack of subversion, or spontaneity, in the events being told. Now, taken on its terms, this is not really a problem. Reading this entry again, I thought, "Hmm, that was fairly enjoyable and well-written," but another part of me wanted more out of it, and I think that's because there's no catch.

I supposed the closest thing to a catch would be that the protagonist (peculiar move to not name your protagonist but to name his love interest, by the way) is a whaler who is not written as malevolent. Mind you, I don't sympathize with the profession from an environmental standpoint, obviously, but I think in modern times it's too easy to paint whalers as immoral evildoers; just look at how a lot of people nowadays read Moby Dick.

With that said, this is not the most ambitious entry of the bunch, but it is finely tuned to an admirable degree; for a while I didn't know what to do with it, or what to make of it, but now with a much clearer view of things I can put this towards the top of my slate with no problems.
#87 ·
· on Watching the Show · >>libertydude
Matthews was at bat with one ball and two strikes, Whitehouse and Donovan were on-base, and Jeremy was still dead.

This is a fantastic hook, and I wish it came earlier in the paragraph.
#88 · 3
· on On the Classification of Giant Winged Lizards · >>horizon
I don't have much to say about this entry if I'm being honest. That's not a bad thing by any means, just that there's really not much advice I can give you.

In terms of scene construction, this is probably the most solid of the entries that could be labelled as "comedy" in this competition. Might be a bit too much word-space with main character Ronah yelling at her assistant in gobblygook, but I get that's sort of necessary for the flavor to come across. Although I do think Rohna's attitude can be a little off-putting, and I'm not sure if that joke would be better or worse if Rohan is actually the "guild kid" who shows up completely mis-geared for the encounter and is told off by a more experienced Goblin Dragon Slayer.

But anyways, outside that change to Rhnoa's character, I don't have much to say. It's a story that whose punchline I explicitly expected right from the title, and while the last line is a nice quip, it still sort of feels a little too on the rails and dependent on that one joke hitting. As with >>No_Raisin, I'm inclined to adopt the perspective that a big joke is best supplemented with smatterings of smaller jokes within it or elements that can ratchet up the absurdity. One thing that may have been a good idea was to give Ewan some firepower to banter back with Rnhoa that plays up those MMORPG/anime/fantasy tropes you clearly like so much.

Gag I just came up with when Ewan asks about armor:

"What's the difference?" Ewan asks. "They're just the same chain-mail bikini!"

"The other one is blue!" Rhano yelled.

I think what stops this story from being a dud to me is just the enthusiasm the writer brings to the subject. The author clearly is a fan of this sort of stuff, and isn't trying to inflate the story as something more significant than it is. It's an honest piece, which means I respect it.
#89 ·
· on In the Melted Eye of the Beholder · >>Pascoite >>horizon
This is a fair entry.

There’s quite matter to rant about the physics, though. I suppose your oven temperature is 500 °F, because at 500 °C all you would get out of your oven would be specks of dust. I’m not aware of any household oven that can reach that high, so I suppose you’re talking Fahrenheit here. But even at 500 °F, which is 260 °C, the plastic used to make the dolls would burn and carbonise, giving you just a plain black dollop and certainly emitting obnoxious acrid odours all the way through its decomposition. What you describe instead sounds pretty unrealistic to me.

I mean, this could be nitpicking, but you seem to devote quite a substantial part of your story describing what happens to the dolls. If you do, then better check your physics.

So, what is the message here? That’s beauty is to be found inside, beyond the (absence of) flesh? Or beauty is in the eye of the beholder? Surely, there’s some truth in that, even though this message is pretty old. I think the story would’ve been better if you had extended to scope to “what is identity” itself by, say, bringing forth a character with but all his limbs, and why not also internal organs, grafted from different sources. What is the identity of such patched up individual? What are you when your heart, your kidneys, your liver, your limbs all come from different, deceased people? Are you still you, or are you something else?

So, overall, as I said, a fair entry, but I wish you'd been more ambitious in your endeavour.
#90 · 2
· on In the Melted Eye of the Beholder · >>Monokeras
That's a little bit of an odd thing to go on about. I mean, most of these are American authors. Of course it's Fahrenheit. And think about how David would go about melting them. He's not following a recipe where there's a prescribed time to put it in the oven and get the internal temperature uniform. He puts it at 500 because that's how hot it'll go, then he watches through the window until it's as melted as he wants it, then he shuts the oven off and gets the doll out. It never got to 500.
#91 ·
· on Saint's Day
I think the idea is a nice once, being able to skip a holiday—Valentine or Christmas or w/e—just because you don’t adhere to the philosophy that underpins it. Well, the comparison with Christmas is not fair, because at Christmas you get one, or two, day(s) off, that you can enjoy regardless of what you think of it, whereas for Valentine's you get nothing but being bullied if you can’t celebrate it properly.

That being said, the story really does not venture much beyond that argument ("I'd like to skip that day if I was given the possibility to"). There’s no twist, nor further idea/concept thrown in. You could’ve had, say, a girl knocking or phoning at 8 AM to ask if Gary was available for an evening date, and Eddie trying to vamp some excuse for him to not be. Or whatever other twist. Instead, you turn it into a stone statue, which is fair, but not really something we didn't expected. It maybe a salt statue, but it doesn’t add much salt to the story.

And without any substantial to add into the mix, we’re pretty left with talking heads debating why Valentine's is obnoxious to single people, pros, cons, which, frankly, which is, in all truth, a tired argument.

Once again, not bad, but could’ve benefitted from a better ending with a dash of fantasy.
#92 ·
· on In the Melted Eye of the Beholder
I acknowledge your know-how at melting dolls in oven, Pasco! Any experience you'd like to relate to us? :)
#93 ·
· on The Sparrow
The imagery here is nice enough, but there are enough editing stumbles and instances of word repetition that I wonder if you're hitting the time limit.

I don't understand the bird's purpose at all. If it's to be symbolic, fine, but it needs to make sense on a surface level as well. The first question is whether this is a real bird. The glass eyes could have been taken as metaphor, since it's seeing its reflection in glass, but the last line does pretty firmly put it as an artificial bird for me.

In either case, I still don't understand why it's doing what it does. If it's real, then birds sing for only a few reasons: attract a mate, mark out a territory, or to communicate with its flock, usually just to issue warnings about threats. Some birds are more social than that, like parrots, but sparrows, not especially. So I don't see why it'd care that nobody heard its song, and you're not giving me any context to come up with any.

Actually, take that a step further. It might care that there's no mate to be found, but the jungle is still pretty intact. This doesn't paint a picture of a world where sparrows have probably gone extinct, so I don't have a basis for thinking that it's lamenting being the last of its kind. Beyond some sort of instinctive response like that, it's a bit much to presume the sparrow has any complex motives.

Then take the case this bird is artificial. As an automaton, it again shouldn't care if anyone hears it. It has a function to perform, it's doing that function, end of story, until its systems fail. If it's an AI that potentially could have an emotional attachment to its song being heard, it sure isn't presented as such. Everything to that point has been described very factually, so to ascribe an emotion at the last second sticks out as the part that doesn't belong. It also thinks about things very simply, as an animal would, so it doesn't seem capable of those more complex thoughts.

As an exercise in writing evocative nature imagery, this is fine enough, but it doesn't feel like there's an actual story here.
#94 ·
· on It's Not the Leaving that Grieves Me · >>horizon
I think this entry will play better with the crowd who doesn't think a minific needs to tell a complete story arc. Which, to be fair, is an attitude that enough professional short fiction writers agree with.

This is just full of imagery, but the characters are left feeling pretty wooden. You mention the captain being mean, for instance, but that's the limit of his appearance in the story, so why bring him up at all? Then there's the common problem seen in romance stories, where you assure the reader two characters are very much in love without ever demonstrating it. There is a little back story to them, but it's kind of one-sided, and it's pretty generic. In the end, I don't know what it all meant, but going back to that "does a minific have to have an arc" thing, you do end on a pretty striking image, so it does stick with me.

As has been said, you're giving me a Moby Dick vibe with this, though it differs enough that you're not wholly lifting the plot from it.

I just didn't have enough emotional attachment to the characters to care. The man's devotion, his constant assignation of purpose to everything he does in the service of their relationship, does speak well on his side, if lacking some specifics, but I really get nothing from her side. What kinds of things has she done to display her devotion to him? That's the piece I need to make this feel actually tragic.

While that last image is striking, it's not surprising, so I don't come away with this being as memorable as it could. Within the first few lines of the story, I could already predict what was going to happen. I do agree it has an almost fable quality to it. This is just a suggestion, since it depends on what you want the story to be, and it's definitely not a good idea for a reviewer to judge a story based on perceived shortcomings against how the reviewer would have written it. But I think this needs more of a pinpoint focus. Add in more of the demonstration from Helen's side, so that she's obviously as smitten as the protagonist, but put her in absolutely everything he does. The way he climbs the rigging as they leave port so he can feel that connection to her as long as possible: that's good stuff. Beat that drum over and over again, that she's in his every thought, his every purpose. Have that constantly intrude on everything he's doing. He's knotting a line--no, tying her bonnet on for her. Retiring to his hammock for the night--no, swinging in a hammock with her on a sun-dappled day. That kind of thing. Let its fervency rise the same as the action does as it culminates in him drowning.

Then, at the end, draw some kind of conclusion if you want the piece to have a complete arc. I, for one, prefer a story to.
#95 ·
· on Born Killers
Huh? What actually happened?

The dialogue's on the expository side enough that it's off-putting, then all hell breaks loose. Linguistically speaking, that is, not in an action sense.

These two are given a fairly outlandish back story without doing anything to fill it in more than vaguely, then we're introduced to an off-camera character that one of these men cares about a lot (and so I'm presumably supposed to as well) without defining her in more than a bare-bones way... and what does the comment about this place being green soon enough even mean? It had me anticipating some kind of terraforming or removal of a blight, but I never saw anything in-story to make sense of that. Then it all turns out they're just meeting up to do pub quizzes, and what role do vampires and hunters even play in this world, and what did it mean that any of this happened? Why do vampires even matter to the plot? If they were bounty hunters, say, and she was someone they thought was acting shifty, how would it change the story materially?

Once again, I'll bring up the possibility that a minific doesn't require a story arc, just some striking image or surprise, and I suppose you could have had one when describing the first time they met this girl, but it gets only a perfunctory description, and it happens in retrospect only. The coolest stuff here is what gets name-dropped but left undeveloped, not what was actually written. I just don't see any purpose behind this. It's pleasant enough for what it is, I guess.
#96 ·
· on It's Not the Leaving that Grieves Me · >>Cassius
Well, this is Moby Dick like, of course, but don’t expect it to reach the same heights.

Frankly, I despise whales hunter. Really, I hate them. So don’t expect me to relate to your protagonist in anyway. Kill defenceless animals to make money? That’s base.

Besides my reflex disliking of your hero, I share most of what Pasco said, so I won’t repeat it. There’s little except a too intense love story between the guy and his wife, the way you depict it is very much stereotyped.

Even the end is, somehow—sappy.

Finally, Oceano Nox.
#97 ·
· on The Many Iterations of Deborah Wood · >>horizon >>Cassius
Okay, this was really fun. it's funny, and I can feel for the two ladies as to how they're supposed to relate to each other. I do have some doubts about how the mechanics of this are supposed to work, though.

Clone Deborah came first. She wouldn't have to, necessarily, but she did. Maybe your idea of how forming a homunculus works is different from mine, but I'd have to think you do it at the moment of death. If you do it before that, then you're pretty explicitly killing her. If you do it after, then you're retrieving her soul from wherever it's gone, and that seems extreme, difficult, and either wonderful or awful for her, depending on where her soul had ended up. But this means he cloned Deborah before she died, and that's just creepy. Maybe she'd been in a vegetative state at that point? Enquiring minds want to know!

It's obvious why those two wouldn't want any more copies of her, but as put-upon as our protagonist is, I don't understand why he'd want any more of them.

Now. This guy comes across as incredibly despicable and self-serving, so I'm left to wonder why these Deborahs show such devotion to him. I don't understand it from their viewpoint. Unless they were designed to be that way, in which case this just became much more creepy.

I can't tell whether the switch from "homunculus" to "homunculi" is supposed to mean anything. Just a typo? She somehow split in two? Or the replicant already exists and has now copied that one? (Is the clone version going to be pissed the replicant didn't choose her to copy?) The way it's used would have them operating in perfect unison, which wouldn't seem to accomplish anything for the guy. A nice little "aha!" moment for the reader to realize, but not something that makes sense in the story. (And you somewhat obscure that, if it's the case, by continuing to use singular "her" as a pronoun.)

On the surface, this is a fun and funny story, but one that on a bit of examination starts to become disturbing and even lose a sense of internal logic. Suspension of disbelief is easier to grant in the name of comedy, however. There's not a strong arc to this one, but it's there, just weakened by the sense that the protagonist isn't working toward what would seem to be his best interests, so I don't understand him.
#98 · 1
· on It's Not the Leaving that Grieves Me · >>Pascoite >>No_Raisin

Kill defenceless animals to make money?

Were the whales armed, Monokeras would be more accepting of this entry.
#99 ·
· on It's Not the Leaving that Grieves Me · >>No_Raisin
Good thing beef cows have katanas.
#100 ·
· on It's Not the Leaving that Grieves Me · >>Monokeras
The 2nd Amendment: The right to arm whales.