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

I Did My Best · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
#1 · 5
· · >>Zaid Val'Roa >>MLPmatthewl419
I'm gonna take a picture of a google doc for the pic portion, and draw a story in pictoglyphs for the fic portion .-.
#2 ·
·
>>Shadowed_Song
Based.
#3 ·
·
>>Shadowed_Song
Man, you got the best ideas
#4 ·
· · >>CoffeeMinion
What the hay with the Monokeras prompts
#5 · 1
· · >>Light_Striker
>>Light_Striker
What are you gonna do, brother... when Monokerasmania runs wild on you?
#6 · 2
·
>>CoffeeMinion
Is that a hidden message that Monokeras fans like Rule63'ing me? Because it could be interesting to be a brother for a while. Do I get a different set of love interests? … does it mean I get to be a terrible self-insert on the other side of Twining shipping? :thonking:

“I like the vertical symmetry between falling into infinite sky and falling down the stairwell of infinity, but it's not enough to make the prompts good other than as in-jokes. Tier: Keep On Believing”
#7 ·
·
In to win it guys.
Hour and a half to go.
*revs engine*
#8 · 3
·
Hello what's this
#9 · 7
·
I Did My Best.
Perfect.

Now to create my very best drawing...
#10 ·
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Hmm, this prompt will be hard to art for... tbh, was really hoping "The Day the Sun Died" would go and win, that woulda been cool arts.
#11 · 3
·
>>MLPmatthewl419
Draw whatever you like. This prompt is so nebulous that anything will fit if you “do your best.”
#12 · 3
·
May try my hand at this again. No more favoritism pwease.

Spent years doing some soul searching and getting better at my writing. So here goes nothing I guess.
#13 · 4
·
WOO!

Just finished my arts. Gonna get it scanned and uploaded in the morning.
Not gonna lie, I kinda did it a little lazy. But I got it done and I like it.
#14 · 4
·
I am in.
#15 · 4
·
Ding-dang artists:

I was planning on spending this weekend finishing up my entry for Shrink Laureate's Season 9 Bingo Writing Contest. But then I looked at the gallery, and now...

Mike
#16 · 1
· on Up and Out · >>GroaningGreyAgony
This one's the best imho. Its very vague but expressive with the shapes which could give you so many different outcomes. Is the red thing the person's holding a new child? Is it fire? Is the person not even a person with the wings on their back? Is there a pink phoenix on the bottom? Is that fire or hair or a crown?


There's so much to be said about this picture which really boosts it up a notch and the clear but simple style really does it for me.
#17 · 1
· on Dance Like No One’s Watching
I can't get enough of this picture! The cartoony style plays well to the lighthearted, carefree subject matter. When style matches subject matter, magic happens. Well done!
#18 · 1
· on Up and Out · >>GroaningGreyAgony
This design looks straight out of a motivational office poster--in a good way!

The progression of color from left to right, and the movement of the subject from bottom left to top right, is very storylike. I'm a but lost as to what the blue shakes represent (I'm guessing the black shapes represent some sort of challenge or trial to be overcome), but that's not enough to distract from the overall niceness. Good work!
#19 · 1
· on We Made this in Class Today
The childhood joys of constructing macaroni jewelry are evocatively expressed, cartoon style. Not sure about the background; is is that the child’s hair, or are some other ‘toons having a cloud fight back there?

In Macbeth, act 1, scene 4, Duncan says, “There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face.” Well, my mind finds the face’s construction in the art. Kudos to you for using guide lines, Artist, but you should have erased them when you were done with them.

Points on style and cuteness, minus for lack of polish. I’m placing this in the mid-tier.
#20 ·
· on I Made Lunch Myself, Mommy
Pixel art makes for a refreshing change of pace. Thank you, Artist!

If there is a real game reference here, it lieth not in the sphere of my experience. The piece does speak to me in representing the fact that very, very few artists will ever make a living from their art, and that one sadly cannot just draw a bowl of beans and eat it.

The rendering on the utensils is good. I suppose you are trying to convey a tiled floor at top and part of a chair at the bottom; if so, the tiles don’t seem to line up between top and bottom. This is a minor complaint.

This piece will go in the mid-to-upper tier on my slate.
#21 ·
· on Look Up · >>Watchglass Mercury
Here’s an enigmatic image. As a poll worker, I appreciate the central message.

This appears to have been painted over a photo taken in night conditions. This gives the background a characteristic grainy appearance, and it appears that a filter has been used to give the photo a painted texture.

While unclear, the image abounds in evocative details. Is that a spectral face in the cloud overhead? Is that a human figure about to be struck by the car, or will that happen to the foreground figure if s/he fails to look up from the button? Is the thumb actually smiling?

Whatever your own secrets are behind this image, Artist, you have certainly given our authors material for thought. I’m counting this as an upper tier piece.
#22 ·
· on He’s on an Adventure!
The ghost of a prior attempt lurks in the background of this piece. Judged by the merits of its lines alone, we have a delightful little sketch of an insect adventurer, cloaked in a sub-shop coupon, bearing its weapon aloft and highlighted by the setting sun. While I have to subtract a bit on presentation grounds, the cleverness and character of the piece excuse its peccadilloes. This will go in my upper tier.
#23 ·
· on Caught
A cute image, undone by the attempt at a speed sketch. Artist, you have talent, as evinced by the character displayed in “Jom’s” face, but the hasty execution undoes what your talent had to offer. The quality of the other works in this round will push this piece towards the bottom of my slate, but thank you for contributing!
#24 ·
· on We Made this in Class Today
"Cute" is the word for it. It's a piece of pure joy, which is an emotion that becomes increasingly rare with age. To think that making a macaroni necklace as a 5-year-old was like the coolest thing ever.

Pretty distinct style, for the character's nose and eyebrows. I'm getting Steven Universe vibes here. I think my only big issue is the lack of a body. It's just a head and a pair of hands. Not even arms to connect the hands. There are also some lines that indicate there was an earlier failed attempt on the same sheet of paper, which muddies the presentation a bit.

It's abstract enough, though, that I think the writers can do a lot with it. As a writer myself, I tend to judge pic2fic art entries by how much story material you can get out of it, just to let you know.

On a side note, I'm pretty sure the artist who did this also did the other Cal Arts-esque piece.
#25 ·
· on ...and it worked out ok · >>MLPmatthewl419
I can see why nobody's reviewed this yet. I'm not sure what to make of it myself.

It's one of those RL image pieces, although having severe color blindness I can't tell if the artist messed with the color correction for the image. The uhh... what do you call it? It's a bunch of trophies and ribbons mashed together to make... something.

If I was given this piece and had to write a story based on it, I don't know what I'd do. :/
#26 · 1
· on Up and Out · >>GroaningGreyAgony
I love this piece so much.

Not even gonna bring up the color progression with the figures, because there are people here who're better qualified to talk about that, but the way in which the figures are drawn, like really elegant cave paintings, gives this a kind of primal feel that's also somehow optimistic? We're seeing the evolution of man (or the evolution of one man from fetus to adult), and we can tell almost immediately what's happening.

It's abstract, but it brings a lot of things to one's mind with so little material on paper, while also being a e s t h e t i c as hell. I can see why this is one of the favorites.
#27 ·
· on I did my best · >>n3k1dsk1llz
Okay, there a few things I like about this, and a few things I don't.

First, the lack of outlines is a ballsy move. Usually it's good to use outlines, but sometimes, especially in a more minimalist work, it's best on an aesthetic level to do without them. I also like how the bench is drawn to look three-dimensional in a convincing way; it doesn't look too bad. I also like the way the clouds are drawn, or rather, uhh... it's one of those pieces where the artist kinda poked the paper with the brush, instead of making strokes, to make the clouds.

Now, I' not such a fan of how the guy is drawn. He's on his knees, in the middle of the sidewalk(?), but the way he's positioned is kinda weird. Is it just me, or does he seem a little too big compared to the bench? Finally, the horizon looks odd. I'm not sure how to explain it, but I don't imagine it appearing this flat of a line.

There are some experiments with perspective that form something of a mixed bag, but I think there's a lot of story potential here.
#28 ·
· on Caught
I just have one question.

Why does the cat have huge gorilla arms?
#29 ·
· on He’s on an Adventure!
On the one hand, I like the execution of the piece itself, minus the sloppily erased lines, but I feel like it's too concrete to leave that much to the writer's imagination. Just looking at it once I can picture a dopey protagonist (who's also an ant) who might be ditzy but really wants to do good, or something like that.

An ant who fancies himself a knight. A neat concept, but now I have little desire to see it in written form.
#30 ·
· on Dance Like No One’s Watching
Like the previous piece done in this style, there are some line marks that could've been better erased, and like that piece I can't help but notice the Cal Arts-esque way the character's mouth and eyes are drawn. With that said, though, I think this entry is more neatly executed than the previous one, with bonus details thrown in. The music notes make it easier to tell that this... creature, is getting jiggy with it. Without those notes, the lack of background would be more noticeable.

The "BOP" on the shirt is a nice touch too. As a whole this piece captures being caught in a trance with your favorite tune, which is not exactly the same thing as hypnotic joy, but it's a specific expression that I think the artist got down pretty much perfectly.

Now, how might someone be inspired by this?
#31 ·
· on Look Up · >>Watchglass Mercury
Like GGA I think this is a painted-over RL image, but I say that as a point of praise. I'm reminded of American Pop (or the music video to "Heartless") where the choice of colors and outlines gives the realistic core image a massive sense of aesthetic. This wouldn't be nearly as eye-catching an image if it was just the original picture without the paint.

There's also some tonal ambiguity here, at least for me. The fact that this takes place at night, with foggy/grainy imagery surrounding the button, gives it a sense of gloom or foreboding. The button itself is painted with these bright colors that indicate happiness, but the surrounding imagery is really drab. Is this, when taken as a whole, meant to be a sincere point of satisfaction, or maybe sarcastic?

I think there's a lot you can do with this. So far it's in my top 3 pic entries, no doubt.
#32 ·
· on I Made Lunch Myself, Mommy
This piece of somewhat of a misfire for me, but not due to the artist's lack of trying.

On top of being pixel art, this entry is pretty ambitious in the perspective it chooses to convey the image. I don't think it was a good idea to draw the central image at this angle, since the pixels don't always line up properly, and overall it looks more jagged than it probably should. On a leveled plain, the image would be more recognizable and more visually pleasing.

This is abstract enough, though, that at least the writers can do a lot with it.
#33 · 1
·
Wow, I do not know how to do pic2fic rounds. Also my creative energy is all tied up elsewhere right now. I'm out for this one, but good luck to everyone else.
#34 ·
· on Whatever Makes You Feel Better
The Useless Umbrella is a venerable gag, so it’s fair to judge instances of it on their presentation.

The artwork is competent and supports the gag well. Kudos to the man for not completely losing his head, despite the style choice. I’m not sure that the center panel is necessary; it could have been joined with the upper, or all the panels joined into one huge one. This is a small point, though.

One thing that does bug me is the circle of light under the umbrella. Artist, I know you wanted to convey the fiery light on the landscape, but an umbrella blocks all light, not just meteor light, so the appearance of daylit sidewalk and shadow would have been much darkened instead. (As an aside, meteors may also give green light as they burn up; I happen to have seen one.)

I am ranking this piece in my mid tier.
#35 · 2
· on Whatever Makes You Feel Better · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Don't have much to GGA except, well...

Am I the only one who thinks the meteor looks like an egg? It's weird.
#36 ·
· on Whatever Makes You Feel Better · >>MrExtra
>>No_Raisin
You aren't alone. It resembles the Cosmic Quail's Egg of Doom.
#37 · 3
·
Well that was close. Very nearly didn't get anything done at all. Not my best work, but I'm glad I got something in.

Time for bed now, I think.
#38 · 5
·
There was
a FIC
here.
It's gone now.
#39 ·
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Whoa. Very short selection.
#40 · 1
·
>>Remedyfortheheart
Well, title drop.
#41 ·
· on Tense Times in Toon Town
That’s all folks!

I like the idea that Patsy and all the rest of them are all in on it. Eliant is a cute name and character but I wish he had more depth to him. We needed a character arc but I’m not sure we really had one because he didn’t say much after they wen to the coffee place.

His ponderous moment inside doesn’t come to fruition and I’m kind of sad for the little man.

Besides that I like the duo and their juxtaposition of personality to each other.

Keep writing ;P
#42 · 2
· on Necromance Like No One's Watching · >>Meridian_Prime
Quoth the raven “Everwhöre!”

I loved this story so much and it had me laughing the entire time. I’m a sucker for cliche adventure stories and this one did not disappoint.

“Elmere seethed. She attempted to struggle against her restraints, but she didn’t have any, so she just flailed her arms for half a second.”

I laughed so hard at that line. Just the imagery of her sitting in the middle of the room and then suddenly you see her flail for no damn reason then go back to normal is just... just amazing.
#43 · 2
· on The Gift & The Well · >>Meridian_Prime >>Meridian_Prime
I figured out what was going on in scene nine. Mostly by virtue of knowing what the available art was, but still.

There are still a few things I can't quite place (like what exactly is happening at the beginning of the penultimate scene) yet, but for the most part I think I worked out all your poetic kitchen descriptions.

My problem ends up being that, once I realized the gimmick, my interest kind of faded because the compelling force behind the narrative is that mystery. Ithilis gets just enough characterization to exist, but they aren't particularly compelling either? The stakes aren't really well established for them. The parallel narrative doesn't actually do a lot to illuminate their motivations (or really provide much in the way of stakes).

The parallel narratives also don't really build on each other tension or interest curve-wise either. The flashbacks are fairly flat and mostly informational, providing context for the current scenes. But them being set directly against the present scenes doesn't really add much IMO, and, by breaking up the journey, make it seem like a pretty minor thing instead of as harrowing as it seems like it should be.

Of course, the somewhat ironic problem is that pre-figuring out the gimmick, the Terminology and Words are so thick and fast that they really get in the way of actually trying to appreciate what's happening.

I dunno. This is cute conceptually, but I think as a story it comes up short because it is -too- focused on the gimmick. I'm a bit sleepy now though, so I'll take another look on rested eyes later.
#44 ·
· on Hungry, Hungry Hippo · >>Baal Bunny
I've read all of these at least twice, and I am only now coming back to comment on them, from top to bottom.

I say this partially so that you know that when I call this a top contender for me, that's not just my excitement at reading this first.

Metafiction is damn hard to pull off. All too often it comes off as trying that little bit too hard to be 'fun and quirky' and instead coming off as a little tired and nonsensical. But here, you wield it like a master. I didn't think you could have an emotional punch with metafic, yet here I am--very much corrected.

I was surprised by how unobtrusive I found the animal helper-esque characters (I suspect there was some deeper meaning to them beyond voicing the author's own self-criticism, but I didn't find it), as they act less as characters and more for vehicles of the plot. But given the way the story is written...

I dunno man, I'm no literary critic. This just works for me. Good job.
#45 · 1
· on Bartown, USA
There's not a lot happening here, but not a lot needs to happen. More than any other story in this round, this feels real and down-to-earth in a way that truly emulates real life--the ambiguity and aimlessness of it, how momentous changes are often made of a thousand mundane actions. Great stuff.
#46 ·
· on The Gift & The Well
I like this, I really do. The concept is cool, and the writing evocative. But >>AndrewRogue has a point--the narrative seems a little too focused around the gimmick of the ant in the kitchen.

I still liked it though.
#47 · 1
· on A Job for Heroes
I never thought I'd want to see more about Adventurer daycare but oh boy do I want to see more.

I loved this. Just a lot of fun, start to finish. Merryn was awesome, Eseld was adorable, and Jago our lovably snarky protaganist. What more could you want?
#48 ·
· on Tense Times in Toon Town
I really liked the little tale we had of Eliant the Antventurer learning about friendship, coffee and pinewood derbys. I did think the ending was a little sudden, and while I liked the Lucas gag I think I lost my emotional investment at that point.

Creatively though, you weaved in all those pictures pretty much seamlessly. Major kudos for that.
#49 · 2
· on Cages · >>Baal Bunny
...I'm not crying, you're crying.

This wouldn't feel out of place in a published compendium. Minor quibbles: I don't know why Gloria is italicised outside of the top line of each letter. It looks kinda odd? And we never get any context for who the heck Jonathan is.

But then that doesn't really matter--it's not really the point. And that last line did the same thing to my heart that Jonathan did to the letters.
#50 · 1
· on Necromance Like No One's Watching
Glorious. Utterly, utterly glorious.

There's so many great lines here, although I too am partial to >>Anon Y Mous's choice of flailing against non-existent restraints. I don't think I'm the person to pick this apart, I think I'd get too lost in going "look at this one! Isn't it great? Ooh, ooh, and this one too!". I'll leave that to others. I'm just going to say that this is great, and I love it.
#51 · 1
·
Overall sentiments:

Wow. Are the original rounds always this strong? Voting is going to be damn near impossible on this one.
#52 ·
· on Tense Times in Toon Town
Fun:

But, yeah, the Lucas joke is where things went off the rails for me, too, and the "iris to black" instead of actually showing us the ending got me a little scowly. I do love the call back in the last line, though. As for suggestions--'cause I'm full of 'em!--maybe the power of the Perspectiplex could allow Eliant to shift the angle of the Lucas letters to deflect the meteor and save the world? He's already had his own perspective changed, after all, and if wold be a way to tie the whole piece together.

Mike
#53 · 2
· on The Gift & The Well · >>Watchglass Mercury >>Meridian_Prime
I never got:

Any real image of what anything looked like. I kept thinking we were outside in a park around a drinking fountain or a spigot with a garden hose attached or something. But then the ending with the queen coming in made me wonder if we're dealing with a terrestrial situation at all--once again, never having taken biology in school leaves me confused as to how the insect world works. In the end, though, I couldn't form any pictures in my head of what's going on here. Everything was way too abstract for me to feel any attachment to the goings-on...

Mike
#54 ·
· on We Made this in Class Today
The background is a little hard to grasp, but I'm going to go with hair, because I think what is in the top right corner of the picture is a hairclip. A doomed hairclip, but hey, it's trying its best.

I see Raisin's Steven Universe impression and raise him a Splatoon.

Artist, I think the best part of this image is how you've conveyed the emotion. The bright eyes and big mouth are great. I do think the piece could have used more detail for the macaroni necklace. It is the closest object to us but it still kind of fades to the background.

Thanks for submitting!
#55 ·
· on ...and it worked out ok · >>MLPmatthewl419
I think, if you were really concerned about the identifying marks, it may have been better to try and touch up the image in your favourite Photoshop-esque program.

I unfortunately can't figure out what the awards are for, although it seems to be related to vehicular racing.
#56 · 1
· on Up and Out · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Striking, imaginative, meaningful. You beauty.
#57 ·
· on I did my best · >>n3k1dsk1llz
This one feels like a very good start to something. A rough draft, I guess. You had a good idea, and the skill and effort were definitely there, but there are much better tools out there that you won't find on MS Paint.

That being said, the intended emotion is still clear.

Thank you for submitting.
#58 · 1
· on Caught
I I
w
#59 ·
· on He’s on an Adventure!
I think this image could be improved with a little more consideration given to proportion. Miller Minus hot tip! Ants are small.

The coupon being used as a cape would be too large, and even putting that aside, it's hard to picture the angle of the "camera" given the skyline looks basically exactly how it looks to people our size (so... us).

But still, very imaginative, and I'm not surprised it sparked a couple of stories. Thanks for submitting!
#60 ·
· on Dance Like No One’s Watching
Artist, you have a bright future in cartoons.
#61 ·
· on Look Up · >>Watchglass Mercury
A very uniquely crafted piece, I gotta say. I'm a fan.

The message is clear. The perspective of the image is from a policeman's body camera. He has just finished performing his civic duty at the polls. He has voted to remove the current leader, who had the idea for the police body cameras in the first place and has just finished making them mandatory. The election is still ongoing, and the law is still in effect, so the policeman cannot yet remove the camera. But for now, he covers it with his I VOTED sticker, and goes to perform his favourite stress-relieving exercise, harassing minorities.

But the twist is that he is putting it on backwards. He will not notice it fall off, his atrocities will be on record, and justice will be served. Because stupid people are stupid, and they shouldn't be policemen.

Am I right? What do I win?

Thanks for submitting!
#62 ·
· on I Made Lunch Myself, Mommy
Top bins, artist. Nothing more to say than what GGA said. Sorry you didn't get any stories, but I have a sneaking feeling you will place well anyhow.

Thanks for submitting.
#63 ·
· on Whatever Makes You Feel Better
All I have to add is that the trajectory of the meteor(ite?) is a little off.

True, there may be reasons why the guy is just as doomed even if the thing misses him by a ten or twenty yards, but I don't think the extra step in our thought process adds anything to the picture. The subtext would have been more impactful if it was headed right for him.

Still. A neat picture. Thank you for submitting!
#64 · 2
· on Look Up · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Hello, hello! This is my first actual submission. I tried to do one for the previous OF round, but I messed up the deadline by a day. If you've seen me before, it's because I popped into the Discord chat (as Hg) briefly so I didn't completely lose my WIP to the aether. Or you're my husband.

Not sure I'll try another pic->fic round. I'm a much better editor than writer, so it stands to reason I'd be better at riffing off someone's imagery than creating my own.

>>GroaningGreyAgony
Also a poll worker here!

As you and >>No_Raisin surmised, this is partly a real photo run through processing. The background is real, a snapshot I took during some "the heck is that rocket-like cloud trail in the sky" moment a few months back.

The hand and sticker are original, though they're still modeled heavily after a photo.

Having made this on an iPad obliterated some of the subtleties I'd originally intended to include. The time of day is actually dusk, the thing in the sky should have been more clearly out of place (much as the rocket-trail was for me in real life), that paint-over texture on the background just browned out too much detail, too much favoring mood over substance. Oh well.

>>Miller Minus
That sounds plausible considering I'm in the Bay Area. Seems you got way more inspiration out of this than anyone who wrote a fic, since you're the only one to have started a story off it!

--

Thank you all for your feedback! Since I placed right about where I would have placed myself in the most generous turn of events, and the vote was unclear too, I'll call it a win for me.
#65 ·
· on ...and it worked out ok
So yeah, pretty much how I expected this to turn out. Mostly just trying out something new, since I've stuck with non-photo pieces so far.

>>No_Raisin
It's a bunch of trophies and ribbons mashed together

Yeah, pretty much.
I don't have anything else specific to reply to your comment about, but thanks a bunch for taking the time to write it!

>>Miller Minus
touch up the image in your favourite Photoshop-esque program

That's..... what I did. But the program couldn't seem to colour-match quite right, and it got a bit smudgy, and eventually, I gave up trying to make it better... hence the apologizing.
As for what the trophies are, they're old Cub Scout Pinewood Derby and Raingutter Regatta trophies.
#66 · 1
· on Up and Out · >>Anon Y Mous
>>Anon Y Mous, >>thebandbrony, >>No_Raisin, >>Miller Minus

Up and Out

Thanks for the gold and the wonderful comments. Congrats to Nonny and Axxuy!

When I doodle, I often draw abstract closed curves that fill space in a manner I find pleasing. Since the prompt was so unspecific, I decided to try to harness my doodles to a meaningful concept. My first sketch had a human figure reaching for the sky and sort of generating a burst of energy. I played with this and eventually hit on the chain of fetus becoming person, and thence reaching for, or transcending into, Something More. (Angel? Transhuman? You decide. Also, note the line of action in the middle that served as a spine for the layout.)

When I had enough doodle material, I scanned it into Illustrator, outlined the shapes with vectors, then combined the pieces, trying to alter the shapes as little as possible. (I had to fiddle with the Transangel’s head and arms quite a bit.)

I chose a color scheme that would keep the figures distinct from the surrounding shapes, using this website to check that it was still effective with various kinds of color-blindness. To my mind, the upper shapes are “sky / bird / uplifting” and lower shapes are “earth / fire / downtreading”, but I won’t insist.

See you all next round!
#67 ·
· on Look Up
>>Watchglass Mercury
That was a great first entry, and it earned you your hat and a Most Controversial. Nice work!
#68 · 1
· on Cages
Very nice:

My only quibbles are pretty much the same as >>Meridian_Prime's. I can't glean enough info from the text to figure out what Eli's crime was and how Jonathan fits into it. Give me that, and you're all set!

Mike
#69 · 2
· on The Gift & The Well · >>Meridian_Prime
I like the package fairly well. There are a couple of typos, but it reads clean and has some great, if impenetrable, descriptions.

The esoteric nature of those descriptions, on the other hand, did make it difficult to firmly visualize the world, as >>Baal Bunny said, and that left me grasping for meaning and how to set the scene.

That is, unfortunately, how I spent most of the rest of the story, trying to tease out the importance of name choices, some hints from descriptions, the grandiose mysticism. I was able to do that because the driving impulse of the story never caught me. I cottoned on to the ant angle fairly early, but all that did was change my focus to "how does this fit that piece of art?". It then became a matching puzzle rather than providing a solution that let me get back to the story.

I had no reason to care about Ithilis's quest because I didn't know what they were doing; I couldn't get on to why or how when I was stuck with what and where.

The divine mystery from two angles has potential, balancing the active quest against the historical inspiration with alternating POVs. But something weighty is missing, something to anchor me, the reader, to the mystery through the character's eyes rather than my own.
#70 ·
· on Whatever Makes You Feel Better
>>GroaningGreyAgony
Fear the Space Chicken
#71 · 1
· on Up and Out
>>GroaningGreyAgony

Congrats to Nonny and Axxuy!


Is that my new nickname? 🤔 I like it.

Also, damn dude I’m impressed that you thought about the colorblind aspects of the piece. You really did deserve to win. Your art is always amazing. Til we meet again ... in about two weeks 😎
#72 · 1
· on Necromance Like No One's Watching
A generally fun and entertaining fantasy ride that really puts me in mind of early Discworld.

Of course, I'm a bit more of a fan of later Discworld. :o

Seriously though, it is fun and goofy, but it definitely is sitting pretty hard in that camp, which makes some of the more "serious" beats a bit tougher to deal with? Like, it is a bit of a harder tonal change to go from zany necromancer antics to my dad murdered my mom and and maybe she should be resurrected? Not that I am against heart in comedies (I am actually a big proponent), I just feel like it ends up coming a little out left field given the general zaniness preceding that?

I dunno. I might actually be offbase there. Zany can support heart. I think it is more that the heard just wasn't trying to really show before the end.

The framing device is a bit awkward. You definitely get some decent jokes and mileage out of it, but I think it ultimately kind of ends up being a distraction since it doesn't really factor into anything or have any real impact?

I am a little rusty on reading 3rd person omniscient, but I think this story struggles a bit with it early on, bouncing a bit too aggressively between viewpoints and voices. It smooths out a bit later on, but the intro of our two leads is especially jarring. Which reminds me that the plunger comment by the narrator at the beginning is a bit of a flub of joke since the inversion is obvious.

Ultimately, I think this ends up feeling a bit like the quintessential writeoff story. There's definitely some good stuff in here, the structure is pretty solid, but it does feel like it needs a bit more time to develop and have the pacing smoothed out.
#73 ·
· on Hungry, Hungry Hippo · >>Baal Bunny
So this is really well written.

I really doubt even a crow would fumble the name of Starbucks, though.

I am conflicted about the place this story ends. While there certainly is some value to the parallel anti-climaxes, at the same time, is rather dissastifying to a degree that I feel it does interfere a bit with the emotional payoff. And then, of course, you do have to somewhat odd meta-positioning of the fact that the story WAS actually submitted (insofar as you want to take the meta-ness to that level - which the fic does invite by being directly about the circumstances of the Writeoff) which works a bit against the emotional punch of the story.

I think like Bartown, this story is a bit hobbled by the fact that it buries its heart pretty deep and misleads you about the actual nature of its conflict until the moment it becomes relevant. This can make for a nice little gut punch at the right moment, but, at the same time, it interferes with actually building to that climax since you're saving its reveal for that moment, leaving the rest of the story feeling a bit... perfunctory? An enjoyable perfunctory as we journey through the process, but a little lean.

And of course, the other issue with this particular short, sharp punch is you are writing it to an audience of writers. While it makes the struggle relatable, it also makes the ultimate conclusion... frustrating? Which I think goes against the tone you are going for. Because while the struggle is indeed relatable, the ultimate thing about writing is that you just have to fucking do it and put it out there. And that sort of self-pitying ending really rubs the wrong way, especially without any real build up to it. Like, I am not necessarily left thinking "poor guy", I'm left thinking, "God, just fucking do it!" And that might be a bit unfair, but that's sort of the problem about writing about writing to writer's who are writing.

And again, none of this is to say you can't have a protag that fails. But it makes blindsiding(-ish) with the failure a bit more of an issue.

All that said, I'm still not fully sure I'm correct here. It's a relatable punch, like I said. And the writing on the way up is fun (though Harmon's last line about Miranda might be a bit much). There's some good stuff here. I do think it would gain a bit from being a bit meatier on the way through. But I'm of various minds about the ending.

Also, as a pantser, I feel misrepresented. There's not enough bashing of the head on the desk, screaming "WHAT THE FUCK COMES NEXT?" :p
#74 ·
· on Bartown, USA
So I whiffed on the reveal until it was actually revealed. Its fairly obvious in retrospect (the clues are all there), but it didn't click until it was actually stated.

Which raises an important question. Why wasn't it stated up front?

The reveal gives the story a decent amount of meaning in retrospect. The problem is that I had to read the story -without- that meaning first. We really don't have strong sense of why Mary is doing any of this. Like, they are arguably all generally positive life changes (moving to the city is debatable, but she frames it as positive, so we shall take it as such). But we really don't have any idea why. And there's really no stakes to it either, since nothing implies that these changes are anything but minor life improvements when you are reading without the reveal. She's not an alcoholic (maybe, the scene with the wine actually muddies that but the bar scene certainly implies that isn't the case), she seems financially okay and just interested in getting some more buffer cash, etc.

It's kind of the same problem that Hungry, Hungry Hippo was suffering from. The surprise reveal gives it some strength, but it doesn't really change that the rest of the text is a bit flaccid as a result. Basically, by the time I'm given any real motivation to care about the text (and don't get me wrong, its solidly written, I'm just more talking at a narrative level), it's over. The biggest conflict involves the wine bottle and, well, again, with the provided context up to that point, her warring with it is a little undermined by the fact it seems more like a mild active change rather than escaping alcoholism or anything. So we're stuck kind of wondering why it is being made such a big deal of.

There is good stuff in here. It is evocative and it has got heart. Its good! But I think you kneecap it a bit by hiding like, all the actual conflict and tension right at the very end.
#75 · 2
· on A Job for Heroes · >>Cassius
A lot of fun, yes:

But I found the beginning very confusing--I wasn't sure which of the two named characters was "he" and which was "she" for several paragraphs, for instance. Giving Merryn an action tag after that first line of dialogue would've helped a lot and maybe would've given you a chance to describe her a little. Is she tall? Chunky? Sporting blonde pigtails? Give me clues to start visualizing the characters as quickly as you can.

Also, the fight scene seemed long, long, long to me. It would probably work really well on screen or in a comic book or some other sort of visual medium, but my experience has always been that, when you've got nothing but words to work with, fights are hard to make interesting. The only advice I've got is: focus on a few pertinent details, keep things as short as possible, and change every "was" or "were" into a punchier verb.

Like I said, though, a lot of fun.

Mike
#76 · 1
· on Cages
I like it.

I have some trouble with a few details -- why indeed Gloria is script, why there's precise, flowing writing above the address on the envelope, what the "rest of the shreds" are -- but overall I think it came together quite nicely. My assumption is that Eli has been convicted of murdering Arthur, who was Gloria's new boyfriend after she and Eli stopped dating. Jonathan is the new one?

I don't remember Macbeth in enough detail to get critical with the text, but I think it's a bang on choice for someone in Eli's position and you really sold his cocksure attitude, the one that got him into prison in the first place. The curious movement was him to ... well, was it more Banquo, or was it more Lady Macbeth? On a psychological level he definitely seems to match up with Lady than Banquo, but he plays Banquo and gets to see the story from the outside, riding on the shoulders of one who made the right choice, and died for it.

So the real problem I'm having is that Gloria doesn't exist. We have an epistolary and a frame narrative and there's no real space for her to exist. There's nothing about Jonathan's place or being that suggests she lives there, or ever did, but the letter is clearly and carefully addressed there. She has no action, only memory or receipt, and no body. She's a construct - but then what does he get from addressing her? If she's a non-corporeal stand-in, why Jonathan's house?

I also don't understand prison well and feel that would fill in some blanks for me. I know time passes, weeks or months, but that final one - why all the letters at once? Did Eli kill himself?

I do quite like that Jonathan is eating an apple, though. It fits nicely with my picture of him.

The story feels dim and nihilistic because of its end, but I don't feel convinced the ending is a conclusion. As a fan of journaling as therapy, I picked up on Eli's growing ability to express his emotions and reflect on his actions, so I do feel it must have been somewhat cathartic for him even if the final bit we see is what turns out to be a futile plea for connection.

But... what happens? I don't need all the answers, but I am grasping for something to go with after the story. I don't think I have enough from Eli's letters or Jonathan's actions to fill in any blanks or wrap up the emotional stakes.
#77 ·
· on Hungry, Hungry Hippo
I'll pretty much agree:

With >>Meridian_Prime and >>AndrewRogue as to the strengths and weaknesses here and suggest that more stuff should happen in the middle. Give the hippo story the full three act treatment--what we have right now is pretty much just the first act--and have the author and his assistants kicking each other around throughout the whole process. And put me down as wanting one story to end well while the other doesn't. Either the hippo enters the contest and the author doesn't, or vice versa.

Mike
#78 · 1
· on Necromance Like No One's Watching
Again, a lot of fun:

I like the literal omniscient narrator, but he does seem to check out during the last scene--which is odd 'cause, if he's telling us the truth at the beginning, that's the one where he gets mentioned and all. The story itself seems like that, too, sort of tumbling to a stop rather than coming to an ending. I guess I wanted one more scene to give a little closure to Elmere and Aldor's relationship now that she's the queen and he's still a necromancer. And I'm scowling at the non-use of the pic it's supposed to be inspired by. One zombie dancing hippo in Aldor's backyard, and you woulda been there!

Mike
#79 ·
· on Bartown, USA
I'm left feeling unsure:

About whether Mary's lying to herself and us throughout the whole story. In the first scene, for instance, she tells the bartender that she's "gonna get a job downtown." But at the end she thinks that she'll soon be in the city "making real money," and the line in the middle of the story where she says she "used to have a good job" just muddies the waters even further. What is her actual employment situation now, and what's it going to be when she gets to the city? Does she have a job lined up, or is she going to be looking for one? 'Cause the story seems to be saying both.

And this exchange with the neighbor: "How big’s your apartment?" "Six hundred square feet." "Oh dear. And how many people." "A hundred, just about." To me, that's her saying she's sharing a six hundred square foot apartment with a hundred other people. I know that can't be right, but that's what it says. It made me wonder if any of the stuff Mary tells Tam about everything being "all worked out" is true.

So by the time I got to the end, I found that I didn't have enough reliable information to know what emotions the author wanted to inspire in me. Is this the story of a young woman finally regaining some control over her downwardly spiraling life, or is this the story of her downward spiral getting worse? I honestly don't know, and I'd like to.

Mike
#80 ·
· on Tense Times in Toon Town
I feel a slight problem this round was the question of "what is the story being told here" and I think this one is a bit emblematic of it on the whole. Things happen in this story. Events proceed in a sequence. But overall, there is not an overarching narrative direction to the story. There is, at least in my opinion, no real narrative arc, nothing to be taken away from it in the end, etc.

The last scene makes a gesture towards it with this idea of working together, but we don't really -learn- about that over the course of the story, because Patsy honestly just kinda comes in, tells Eliant "yo, you wrong", and that's that. There's no real learning of the importance of togetherness or friendship. Hell, for all we know, he -could- have succeeded on his own.

So yeah. I think that's the big obstacle here. You have good places together, but you need to string them into an arc that sticks together well and builds on itself.

The other thing I'd note (and this one is hard because cartoons are visual and written stories are not), but I don't think you really manage to capture the zaniness of cartoons too well here. Most of the direct stuff is fairly level-headed and mundane. You do express some crazy stuff, but it is generally in the broader "what's happening around Toon Town" sequences. And I think that's -really- important to nail when you're going with something cartoon based. I said it in my other review, but I really do think Necromance captured a cartoony tone a bit better by putting more direct "physical" comedy in the actual sequences, as well as leaning on a more colorful bit of narration.

Still, all that said, this was a pleasant enough read!
#81 · 1
· on Cages
I'm having some trouble with this story. As others have said, there are a lot of missing pieces that make it a bit challenging to assemble the actual nature of the narrative because we see so few pieces. Ultimately I come down on the idea that Gloria used to live here, Jonathan does now. It creates a few oddities in and of itself, but based on the art it kinda makes the most fitting sense in the idea that Eli tries and it is all for naught because some rando gets his letter and just trashes it.

Which really kinda makes Jon a dick if true, but c'est la vie.

And, if true, creates kind of a nihilistic outlook on things that makes this story kinda hard for me to deal with because, well, maybe I just respond too well to emotional prompting, but it does create a sense of waste and pointlessness. Which is not a criticism of the story per se: it is effective at being that sort of grim. But it does kinda leave me feeling a bit eh.

The letters I had a little trouble with and I'm not sure if it is that the voice feels inauthentic or just that I'm not good at really imagining how this voice would exist (because being well-read and well-educated makes me blow at emulating and interpreting other voices that don't match at that sometime). I will say the typos end up being a bit distracting in context and I think you'd want a typesetting trick to make the letters look more lettery?

I dunno. Ultimately I guess the most accurate thing I can say here is I just really had trouble getting into this one and it never really clicked with me and I am having trouble really putting my finger on why that is. Sorry.
#82 ·
· on A Job for Heroes
A generally fun and entertaining fantasy ride that really puts me in mind of early Discworld.

Of course, I'm a bit more of a fan of later Discworld. :o

Whoah. Deja vu. Joke's aside, this and Necromance are kinda different stories despite both being goofy sword and sorcery jank. And both have their own strengths (though, ironically, I think the tone of the endings for both would have better swapped - Necromance gets a bit too much heart for the preceding story, Job gets not enough!)

It came up in chat, but the stakes raise in the climax kinda falls flat because there isn't actually a raising of stakes with no real danger to Merryn being presented. She takes the arm loss like a champ. And so it doesn't matter, ultimately. If you want to jar the reader, you need to -actually- make it look like it matters. As is, it might as well be a scratch. And that doesn't mean you can't have the clean ending - people can have some degree of blaseness about danger and means to patch it up well with the in the moment danger being real to the reader.

Otherwise, pacing is a bit rushy and imagery is pretty non-existant. You've got solid character voices down, but otherwise it is a lot of blank slates and white rooms. Which is a bit of a problem when a key part of your story is also the main being a random fantasy creature without easy mental parallels.
#83 · 1
· on Necromance Like No One's Watching
It is very late in the night, and I should be doing work. Nonetheless, I feel obligated to give a review of this story, considering its author a person who is DEFINITELY not Miller Minus has decided to call me out directly. But more on that later.

There are many things to like about this story and in almost equal measures, things to be disappointed about. I would describe this piece as uneven; achieving great highs but also rather disappointing lows. The highs stem from good comedic chops, clever and sometimes outright guffaw worthy one-liners, as well as the affectionate parody tone that carries (most) of the piece. The lows on the other hand are a direct result of the number one issue for pretty much all write-off pieces that aren't entered by filthy, filthy cheaters: a lack of polish. Lack of polish in construction, delivery, pacing, and just sometimes, just poor organization of the prose.

This first and perhaps most serious misstep on the path to glory for this entry is its opener. I often decide which story I will read based on the first line of each entry. I will be honest about my initial reaction to the first couple lines, as this was the first entry I actually viewed. I opened the entry, saw those lines, thought, "Oh Christ on a cracker, some "story-within-a-story" overly complicated meta entry, great." I promptly closed this entry and went to go read Bartown, USA instead. I ended up wading back to this entry eventually, but it was with much reluctance.

Obviously, this is not the first impression you are trying to go for. My suggestion is to make the tongue-in-cheek tone apparent from the very beginning and start off strong, because you're not trying to be mistaken for a pensive, godawful, pretentious (insert negative adjective here) meta entry. You're trying to be Monty-Python or Blazing Saddles. Go watch those films again.

Sometimes the humor hits, and sometimes it doesn't. The most prominent example I can think of a joke very obviously not landing is the set-up in the first scene about the plunger and the deadly weapon, combined with the very obvious payoff that the necromancer had the plunger. I'm not even going to spoiler that because that's how obvious it was. I've discussed in the chat jokes that are that predictable need a third unexpected element to land.

I do feel that Aldor gets progressively less "flaming" as the story goes along. I enjoyed the initial characterization of Aldor being a fruity necromancer, and it humorous, but that seems to get dropped by the wayside as the story progresses. Additionally, if you're doing a subtle reference, DO IT ONLY ONCE. The Coco reference is a good example of a reference paired with an actual joke, but the double FMA reference where the joke is the reference is just pandering.

Structurally, some of the presentation is just off. There are paragraphs where the perspective shifts mid-paragraph, which is a big no-no. Sometimes it's a bit difficult to even figure out what the joke was. The pacing and organization of the prose seems to deteriorate as the story progresses. For example, pretty much every paragraph of the last scene is two lines or less. Also as is standard for this author, who I may remind the audience, is NOT MILLER MINUS, he abuses italics much like addict abuses crack.

So, now it is later. Later has happened. We must therefore, talk about the scene. What scene could I be referring to?

Borta was, at the time of our heroes’ arrival, guarding the interior janitor’s room. Gerbert, meanwhile, has the hots for Borta. This is irrelevant, but I want to try out a writing tool my friend showed me. He called it ‘dramatic ironing’ I believe, which is where I give you information to which the characters aren’t privy. This friend, unlike me, a soul without a body, is a body without a soul. A soulless husk, if you will. And I’m planning on proving to him that his favorite writing tool sucks.


For reference, I did actually get out of my seat while reading this and paced around my apartment, amusedly muttering "that son of bitch." BUT YOU DONE FUCKED UP.

YOU SEE YOU LITTLE BITCH, YOU COMPLETELY FORGOT ABOUT THE PAYOFF TO THIS JOKE.

And that's terrible.

So the problem with this scene is twofold:

1. It's really hard to tell what happened between Borta and Gerbert based on the narrative description alone. This is because it's hard to tell what the joke is. Is Gerbert a Medusa? Has he always looked this way or is just how has hair has been done? Should I be laughing because Gerbert is failing to impress Borta so badly that he makes Borta faint?
2. You completely cut off this scene by immediately and unexpectedly switching back to the perspective character with not even a soft break.
3. You fuck up by intentionally sandbagging the overall joke in this scene with the explanation of dramatic irony, but fail to follow up on it, and ironically make the the ghost's description about there being a guard with a crush on another guard the only memorable detail about that scene and the characters in it.
4. You fuck up dramatic irony. I don't know how you did this after receiving such a thorough and amazing explanation, but here you are. The fact that Borta hates the fuck out of Gerbert is dramatic irony, but it has nothing to do with the overall scene, story or joke. Gerbert knows that Gerbert likes Borta, and the unexpected effect of his terrible looks is not. For this alone, you should be summarily executed.

If this is how you treat amateurs, then I pity your children.


A lot of this reads like a metaphor of being a writeoff entrant, but nonetheless.

I don't think a lot of the other readers caught what the ghost man was getting at the beginning about the ending. But I did. Basically the reveal is:

At the end, Aldor is espousing a life lesson about how you shouldn't revive the dead, and how he did do the right thing by putting the first man he revived back to sleep. Unbeknownst to him, (DRAMATIC IRONY ALERT), the narrator is actually the ghost of the man he brought back, and he's implied to be a bit pissed about it, which negates the lesson Aldor is trying to impart and is why he talks about potentially haunting Aldor midway through the story.

Anyways, this was a good, if rushed and very imperfect, entry that got me to laugh. And that's why we're all here, right? To laugh. Mostly at No_Raisin. Sometimes at Monokeras. Good job.
#84 · 1
· on A Job for Heroes
So it's 3:46AM, I'm starting this review, and it'll probably be at least 4:30AM by the time I finish, so I'll likely be very incoherent by the end of this, but bear with me.

I could simply repost my "preemptive" review I gave AndrewRogue in the Discord, and it would pretty much perfectly apply to this story, but I'll go for a different approach this time around. I'll try and spew out some pretentious platitude or something that will make my opinion seem more important or wise than it actually is.

"What's gained in polish is lost in personality."

This is a good sister story to Necromance because they basically suffer from the exact opposite problems, aside from a similarity in that their opening needs a bit of a rework (I'll get to that in a second). Whereas Necromance radiated personality and humor, but was rushed, unpolished, and inconsistent, this story is an accomplishment in technical consistency and competence, but somewhat sterile, long-winded, and understated.

But first, the opening. Much like >>Baal Bunny, I was confused as to a lot of the finer details of the characters, what was going on in the scene, and what sort of creature Jago was. Part of this is in the unnecessary in media res style, of which I am not a fan. Part of this is opening on dialogue, which I am also generally not a fan (although I do make exceptions). But what it really boils down to is that the reader is not given enough information to ascertain what the hell is going on in the scene itself, and with fantasy gobblegook getting all in my eyes, it makes discerning what is being implied all the more Herculean a task. Like, I enjoy subtlety and all, but at the start of the story in a completely unfamiliar fantasy setting, it is a good idea to give me some grounding so I can catch my bearings, and I don't have to reread the opening three times to figure out what exactly is going on.

I spent a long time trying to figure out what Jago was. AndrewRogue told me he was a fox dragon, which I believe because he wrote this story but outside of the general description of a "beast" and some physical descriptions, it's not really directly stated until way, way later into the story. But on a re-read, I did manage to snag the fact that Merryn's comment that she "didn't speak dragon-fox" in the first scene was actually meant to inform me that Jago was a dragon fox. I should boop you on the nose with a newspaper like a real fox for that ploy.

So back to the comparison with Necromance. Whereas Necromancer hyper-accelerated the pacing towards the conclusion, this story really slowed down. As >>Baal Bunny points out, the action set pieces really, really dampen the progression of the story itself. I also agree with his assessment that the sort of description you're trying to pull probably isn't well-suited for the medium and likely has to be highly truncated in order to function.

Despite the fact there are a number of limbs being lost, I equate the tone of this piece to be cute and inoffensive. Something you'd give to your child to read. This is not so much to disparage the piece as a whole, but merely to state that it doesn't claim to have a deeper or emotional gravitas beyond what is presented onscreen itself. With that in mind, I think that the story could afford to be a degree more bombastic and for lack of a better word "fantastical", which I mean in the sense that the story itself could stand to step away from being so thoroughly grounded.

I don't mean this in the sense that it should be a comedy, but more to the effect that it could perhaps diverge a bit from the more clinical version of reality that it presents and be more fantastical. I understand that this is a story written by an adult with a child about an adult coping with the difficulties of occupation childrearing, and this begets some grounding that is reflective of reality, but it does not need to be framed so squarely in the mundanities of real life. If the story is meant to be cute and for all audiences, embrace the fantastical elements of the setting. If the story is supposed to be a more grounded story about an adult dealing with adult problems, inject some more mature themes and pathos. Being turned into a dragon fox presents a lot of difficulties for a handsome Grandmaster. When you lose an arm, you lose an arm, and it fucking hurts and there's blood everywhere. Currently you're lodged in the middle point between the two.


All in all, a pretty solid piece. As I've always said, you pretty much have the chops to get you where you need to go. Where you really need to improve is to make yourself stand out in terms of the personality of your writing. Right now, you're sort of relying on the cleanliness of your draft and presentation to make yourself stand out from the other entries, which is a good move. It's like being dressed in a suit and tie at a jeanshirt convention. Certainly gets attention and everyone knows you're the sharpest dresser there, but it leaves one wanting more.

Okay it's 4:30AM, I'm cutting this review and metaphor off. Have a good one.
#85 ·
· on Hungry, Hungry Hippo
This story is difficult to stab review. It's very well written, though, so I can start there. All your characters are well realized and make great companions for the reader, the idea is unique, and at no point was I confused as to what was going on. And there's a lot to be said about pulling that off in three days.

Well, okay. There was one point where I was confused. It's just an editing thing, I think, but Harmon appears to ask Steven if he'd like to submit this story right after he has replied 'N' to saving the document, thus deleting it forever. Is he meant to be hovering a talon over the key, asking one more time, and then pressing it?

Speaking of which, it seems weird to me that he deleted it. The character is shown as somebody who clearly likes writing a lot, so it just seems weird that he wouldn't want to go back and read anything. It would kind of be like Helga finishing her dance, pulling out her iPod, and deleting the song forever. It's more emotionally impactful, sure, but to me it doesn't hold water.

I agree with Andrew's diagnosis about the ending. I mentioned in the fic channel that you were cheating a little in the relatability front, writing about submitting to the writeoff for an audience of people who submit to the writeoff. But then I do think more care could have been taken to how we would react, especially considering that this story made it into the competition. I can't say I found the ending very satisfying, because in my opinion, you can accomplish a lot in life with the most magic of words: Fuck it.

But still, you wanted the unsatisfying ending, and you nailed it. So I can't fault you for it too much. In my opinion, though (which isn't the same as being my advice in this case), I think the story would have been a lot more satisfying having those two magic words show up in this story (preferably in both Steven's and Helga's journey). Again, that's not advice, just my preference. I would have preferred a story about overcoming your fears and/or finding a way to withstand the slings and arrows, that's all. C'mon, Steven. Say the words and they'll set you free.

In conclusion… top of slate. Thanks for submitting!
#86 ·
· on Bartown, USA
Yay, general fiction. This is my jam.

No offense to the other readers, but the line about "nine months" jumped out at me pretty hard, so the conflict wasn't a mystery, and there wasn't a reveal. Sure, that's just one experience, and for what it's worth, being more up front about the conflict probably wouldn't hinder my experience.

…I think.

Man, I don't know. I like subtlety. I like making connections for myself. So I take that back, I think the line about "not having any poison for the next nine months" is the right amount of showing and telling. I prefer hearing the little click in my mind as I'm reading it, and would have enjoyed it less if she said "I promised no more poison until the baby is born."

THAT would have blindsided me, and it's not that I think that being subtle is some general storytelling rule, but because this story is, at its core, very understated, and very much restricted to Mary's thought process, that it makes sense.

I just finished reading a story about a woman who is struggling to adjust to adulthood due to a childhood that was both generally traumatizing, and included a specific traumatic event. The protagonist spent most of the time in that story not telling us about all the trauma she went through, instead trickling out that information for us gradually, and even skirting around it at times. Sure, some of it was locked away in her psyche, so she couldn't tell us, but every so often she would say something out loud that was shocking, a small clue as to what she went through, and she never dwelled. Because why would she dwell?

And I think the same can be applied here. The story mentions the conflict and then moves on, because Mary wants to avoid thinking about it. She wouldn't be avoiding trauma so much as avoiding a reminder of shame and regret, but still, she wouldn't be thinking "boy it sure did suck that I got knocked up, and that I have to swear off the alc for a while." She would more likely rub her stomach and go, "Ugh, no alcohol, fuck." Which is why I think it works in this story. Her perspective gives us the right amount of info, I think.

Again, though, that's Just one opinion. Have fun figuring out which one of us to listen to, Author! SUCKER!

To go into some negatives, though, the yard sale scene was strange, and most of all the conversation with Tam. Looking back on it, it didn't seem to add any pertinent info to the story. It might fit if we were to actually follow Mary to her new home, and see if anything Tam said was accurate. But for the length it is, I don't think it should have been there.

Also, a hundred people to six hundred square feet? Pardon? Is that the area of the building itself? How many storeys?

The conversation with the kid was kind of strange, too, but mostly for the "Hell" gag. Well, mostly Mary's overdramatic reaction to letting the word slip. Kind of betrayed the understated tone of the story, and in the end, it wasn't such a big deal. Also, "luck" isn't exactly a concept only adults know about.

Yeah, the yard sale scene was kind of a misfire. The real conflict of trying to make changes to your life because you have no other choice is the point of the story, so you either need it to be more prevalent in the yard sale scene, or have another subplot that is just as interesting take the wheel for a bit.

But still, I liked this one a lot. So it's up there on my slate. Thank you for writing, Author. Good luck in the voting!
#87 · 1
· on The Gift & The Well · >>Meridian_Prime
I didn't understand what had happened until I got to the comments. Oops. I need to brush up on my ant science, I guess.

I think Watchglass puts it best when he says the descriptions are great, but impenetrable. Because they're that way by design. The story can't describe anything clearly to us because it would prematurely reveal to us what's going on, yet the story is written with the descriptions of the environment as the main event, so everything's beautiful, but we're not allowed to see it.

And that's the main issue here. I don't have much to add that hasn't already been said, but I just want to point out that this is really priority number one. Author, I think if you wanted to tackle this story again, there's a lot to be said for having the "twist" established up front. It's tough to pull off a story about ants, but I think getting it out of the way makes for a prettier story.

But thank you for submitting! You've done a good thing. Best of luck in the voting!
#88 · 1
· on A Job for Heroes · >>Baal Bunny
When I finished this story and got to Baal's comment (and now Cass's), I breathed a sigh of relief, because thank God I'm not the only one.

Author, that intro took me four or five tries. It's a very unfamiliar setting and group of characters we're about to meet, and I felt adrift for too long. We don't know who said the first line, there's missing commas and a lot of jargon in the next paragraph, we don't know who Merryn is or who she's teasing, who says the next line… Another editing pass would have done a whole lot of good. Across the whole story, actually, there were a lot of sentences that read clunky to me, that I think you would have spotted with another read. Deadlines.

And I also agree with Baal that more info about what these characters looks like would have helped out a lot. Baal is so smart. We should all listen to him.

But! I am gonna disagree with him about the fight scene. I thought it was awesome, and the length didn't bother me at all. The language could have been tighter, sure, but only a little. It's tough to balance quick action with interesting choreography, and I think you pretty much nailed it.

Other than that, all I can say is that the actual storyline kept throwing me off. The information about how a child could gain access to this level nine area didn't seem to be there. I get that her parents had kept her around when they helped design it, (which, coupled with everything else Eseld has brought to school, makes me wonder if there's a CPS in this world) but are there really no security measures in place that would keep her out… outright? Something about level nine clearance, maybe? Speaking of which, the information about her being present for said renovations could have come earlier too.

Also, holy shit Merryn, you just lost your arm! Is this a thing in this universe? That losing your arm is not a big deal? Is there a special field in this room where pain is reduced? I'm all for snark in dire situations, but pain is different. We discussed this a lot in the writeoff chat, but in case you're not on ther (har har har), establishing the stakes of this impromptu amputation can really elevate this, because at the moment the stakes clash with the real world stakes. And maybe in this universe things or different, but I needed that info up front.

But still, all in all it was fun to read. So thank you for submitting, Author, and best of luck in the shakedown.
#89 ·
· on Tense Times in Toon Town
I abstained on this one. The zany characters, the cavalcade of pop culture references, the breakneck pace, it's all outside of my preferences. Sorry, Author.

Thank you for submitting, though!
#90 · 2
· on A Job for Heroes
I read this just because Cassius noted a possible name drop, and I was curious to see it. As it turns out, it's kind of a non sequitur, in that whoever Pasco is, he never gets mentioned before or after, so I have no idea what that was even about. I can't recall you doing that with other characters, so I'd encourage you to either flesh that out a bit, like you did with Margh, or just cut it.

I'm going to keep this short, because I'm at work and don't have much time.

Agree with a lot of what's said above, but of course it's going to affect different readers in different ways. I wasn't as put off by the beginning. Yes, it did take me a while to figure out what was actually going on and what Jago had turned into (and indeed, that he in fact had turned into anything, instead of this being his normal form), but I was able to compartmentalize my confusion for a couple reasons.

One, the in medias res opening does often drop the reader into a situation that doesn't immediately make sense, and that will get straightened out later. For my part, I don't mind an in medias res opening (provided, of course, that there is an art to getting it right), and I don't mind dialogue openings. So without Cassius saying why he doesn't like either of those things, I don't know that at this point you can do any more than assign that to personal preference. (I will add that dialogue is traditionally seen as one of the four main ways of starting a story.)

And two, the fantasy setting prepares me to have to soldier on through things that don't initially make sense. As an additional factor, the choice of limited narrator also puts me in the head of someone who is confused himself about what's happening (though not about the mechanics of the world at large).

The fight scene. I agree with both Baal and Miller. I'm with Miller in that I don't think it was done badly. I could visualize the actions taken, and it kept up a good pace. I think it was effective. But I'm with Baal in that it hurt the story's pacing, but for a different reason in my opinion. And that reason is that it took up such a big chunk of the story's word count to relate something that ultimately didn't matter that much, at least to the story's theme.

Then the ending. There's a soft resolution, that the girl is safe and her parents contrite, and maybe that's enough? Except that there's not something to really tie it up well. The last line just kind of fizzles out instead of having a lot of punch, and I might guess you were running up against the deadline.

Last thing I'll mention is the editing, which is going to get some leeway anyway, for such a time-limited event, and that also possibly points to not having much time to edit. Some of it was pretty obvious things, like extraneous words, but there were some more subtle things that you maybe can't blame on the time. Like there were persistent problems with participles being dangling modifiers or syncing up actions that don't make sense to be.

Still, this was a fun story, and reading it in isolation, I would expect something of this caliber to rank pretty high. It must have been a very strong round for this to finish in the middle. Though that did earn you a medal!
#91 · 1
· on Necromance Like No One's Watching
Delightful madness. Thank you for writing this.
#92 · 1
· on Hungry, Hungry Hippo
Thanks, folks!

And congrats to our other medalists. I'm still conflicted about the ending on this one--I wanted to do this whole "fantasy vs. reality/happy ending vs. unhappy ending" thing, and I fell in love with the image of the story ending with the computer shutting off. But I think I'd rather have the animal folks browbeat Steven into submitting the story since that's what my brain has to do to me every single stupid time I finish a story...

Anyway, it still needs more stuff in the middle, too, so on to the 2nd draft!

Mike
#93 · 1
· on A Job for Heroes
>>Miller Minus

Not so much smart:

I'd argue, as rusty and crusty with experience that can resemble smartness in a dim light... :)

Mike
#94 · 2
· on The Gift & The Well
Super late on this retrospective (IRL stuff kept getting in the way), but here goes!

It seems people didn't think too highly of this entry, which is fair enough; it's certainly not my best work. I think I may have become a little too invested with the 'gimmick' of the story, as it were, and rather lost out on some of the much needed content. But this was the definition of a last minute entry, and if nothing else has let my prove to myself that I can, in fact, finish an original piece of fiction. That's worth its weight in gold to me, regardless of how good or otherwise the final product ended up being.


Anyway, let's start with >>AndrewRogue:

I figured out what was going on in scene nine. Mostly by virtue of knowing what the available art was, but still.

There are still a few things I can't quite place (like what exactly is happening at the beginning of the penultimate scene) yet, but for the most part I think I worked out all your poetic kitchen descriptions.


I don't think most people need it, but confirmation if you did--this was indeed supposed to be about an ant on his epic quest to the kitchen sink.

My problem ends up being that, once I realized the gimmick, my interest kind of faded because the compelling force behind the narrative is that mystery. Ithilis gets just enough characterization to exist, but they aren't particularly compelling either? The stakes aren't really well established for them. The parallel narrative doesn't actually do a lot to illuminate their motivations (or really provide much in the way of stakes).


This is a very accurate and fair criticism. I don't really have much to respond with other than 'I'll try and do better next time'. I don't think I'm going to rework this particular piece.

The parallel narratives also don't really build on each other tension or interest curve-wise either. The flashbacks are fairly flat and mostly informational, providing context for the current scenes. But them being set directly against the present scenes doesn't really add much IMO, and, by breaking up the journey, make it seem like a pretty minor thing instead of as harrowing as it seems like it should be.


This is actually very helpful. I've noticed that I have a tendency to drift towards these parallel narratives, so it's good to know that they weren't effective here. I can see what you mean about them breaking up the journey too. Thanks.

Of course, the somewhat ironic problem is that pre-figuring out the gimmick, the Terminology and Words are so thick and fast that they really get in the way of actually trying to appreciate what's happening.


Also good to know! I think this is in part, as I said up at the top, down to me getting too hung up on the gimmick. I think I was trying too hard to make the gimmick shrouded in mystery, and I just ended up writing very confusing prose instead.

I dunno. This is cute conceptually, but I think as a story it comes up short because it is -too- focused on the gimmick. I'm a bit sleepy now though, so I'll take another look on rested eyes later.


100% agreed. I really need to stop writing these entries at 5AM the day of in a mad rush--maybe that will help me write an actual focused narrative.




Next up, >>Baal Bunny:

I never got:

Any real image of what anything looked like. I kept thinking we were outside in a park around a drinking fountain or a spigot with a garden hose attached or something. But then the ending with the queen coming in made me wonder if we're dealing with a terrestrial situation at all--once again, never having taken biology in school leaves me confused as to how the insect world works. In the end, though, I couldn't form any pictures in my head of what's going on here. Everything was way too abstract for me to feel any attachment to the goings-on...

Mike


I mentioned this in my response to AndrewRogue's comment, but it bears repeating--I got way too hung up on the gimmick in this. So much so that it really impacted the quality of the actual writing, as I was too focused on making sure the whole 'an ant travelling through a kitchen' thing was hidden enough people wouldn't spot it, but obvious enough that people would go 'oohhhh' (I pretty clearly failed to accomplish either). I didn't think about how people without much insect knowledge would read this either. Thanks for the comment, sorry the story didn't deliver much.




Let's see if third time is the charm for me and have a look at >>Watchglass Mercury's comment:

I like the package fairly well. There are a couple of typos, but it reads clean and has some great, if impenetrable, descriptions.


Yay! Given this story is almost entirely made up of impenetrable descriptions, I'm pleased some of them landed.

The esoteric nature of those descriptions, on the other hand, did make it difficult to firmly visualize the world, as >>Baal Bunny said, and that left me grasping for meaning and how to set the scene.


I'll say it again--I got way too caught up in my gimmick for the story. Definitely negatively impacted the actual quality of the storytelling.

That is, unfortunately, how I spent most of the rest of the story, trying to tease out the importance of name choices, some hints from descriptions, the grandiose mysticism. I was able to do that because the driving impulse of the story never caught me. I cottoned on to the ant angle fairly early, but all that did was change my focus to "how does this fit that piece of art?". It then became a matching puzzle rather than providing a solution that let me get back to the story.

I had no reason to care about Ithilis's quest because I didn't know what they were doing; I couldn't get on to why or how when I was stuck with what and where.


This is very useful feedback. I'll be keeping this in mind, and trying to avoid these pitfalls, for the next pic-to-fic round.

The divine mystery from two angles has potential, balancing the active quest against the historical inspiration with alternating POVs. But something weighty is missing, something to anchor me, the reader, to the mystery through the character's eyes rather than my own.


I think my real problem (the 'something weighty' as it were) is character. It's always been a failing of my original writing--I can build an interesting world, and I don't think my prose is mechanically too shabby, but I kinda suck at characters. :/ Definitely something to work on.

I think I might also have been too ambitious? Epic adventure in what, 3000 words? Not the best plan. Anyway, thank you for the feedback!





Last but never least, we have >>Miller Minus:

I didn't understand what had happened until I got to the comments. Oops. I need to brush up on my ant science, I guess.


For shame! :y Best get cracking with that revision; the exam will be on Tuesday. :p

I think Watchglass puts it best when he says the descriptions are great, but impenetrable. Because they're that way by design. The story can't describe anything clearly to us because it would prematurely reveal to us what's going on, yet the story is written with the descriptions of the environment as the main event, so everything's beautiful, but we're not allowed to see it.


Yeah, you really hit the nail on the head there. Reading through it again, there's so much I held back on, or didn't adequately explore or describe, because I was trying to hide the reveal.

And that's the main issue here. I don't have much to add that hasn't already been said, but I just want to point out that this is really priority number one. Author, I think if you wanted to tackle this story again, there's a lot to be said for having the "twist" established up front. It's tough to pull off a story about ants, but I think getting it out of the way makes for a prettier story.


That's definitely good advice, and almost certainly how I'd go about rewriting this. But I think I'm just going to leave this as it is for posterity's sake. Maybe I can come back in a few years and go 'wow I really sucked back then huh?'. One can dream.

But thank you for submitting! You've done a good thing. Best of luck in the voting!


I appreciate this sentiment a lot, and it's why I'm not too upset about my placing in this. In the end, I'm here to try and improve as a writer--better to try and fail, than not put forward anything at all.


Thank you all for commenting, and see you in the next round!
#95 ·
· on I did my best
>>Miller Minus
Hahahaha I totally used paint for the color. It was a complete rush job at the end because kids eat up a lot of time.
#96 ·
· on I did my best
>>No_Raisin
Two months late, but thank you for the critique. I'm glad some of what I attempted was even noticed :)

As for the guy/bench wierdness, that's just my lack of skill with perspective. The bench is easy because I could just use a ruler, but perspective on organic shapes is not something I really have the ability to do.