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The Grass isn't Greener · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
#1 · 1
· · >>Zaid Val'Roa >>Delivery Service
(looks around) Awfully quiet here.
#2 · 1
We were waiting for someone to break the ice.
#3 ·
· · >>Pascoite
Ten entries in the last original story contest. Not that many people writing for these anymore, it seems.
#4 · 5
Anime and God willing, I will be involved in this round. The Summer of Rao won't be a complete waste of time, damnit!
#5 · 3
Can't wait can't wait let's do it
#6 · 3
Will try my best to join in
#7 · 4
· · >>Bachiavellian
The Familiar, Strange Exploding Offer, An Abrupt About-Face...

"You said you grabbed it A Day Before the Downfall!"

"I Try. Self-Defense: Freedom Isn't Free."

"I See The Flows and Eddies of Time; I Fall to Rise!"

"Assume the Stillness of a Tree. The Grass isn't Greener. You're Right to Worry--"

Rats and Cats, Only Mostly Dead, Burning Through the Sky...

"Well, That Escalated Quickly."
#8 · 3
>>Delivery Service
Not sure what you mean or which contest you're referring to. Going in backwards order through this year and last, the participation in original rounds has been:
11 (minific)
7 (short story)
15 (by 13 authors, minific)
7 (short story)
29 (by 20 authors, minific)
9 (short story)
35 (by 25 authors, minific)
18 (by 16 authors, short story)
23 (by 18 authors, minific)
15 (by 13 authors, short story)
13 (minific)
13 (short story)

The minific rounds have tailed off, but that's after a surge. They didn't start off any higher. And the short stories have been pretty consistent.
#9 · 7
· · >>Bachiavellian
Rats and Cats, Only Mostly Dead, Burning Through the Sky...

"Well, That Escalated Quickly."

This is comedy gold, and anyone who disagrees needs to fight me and my future children.
#10 · 1
Oops, forgot to tag the reply!
#11 · 4
Hype train's a'rolling! Good luck everyone.
#12 · 2
My Saturday and Sunday this week:

Are looking pretty packed, but I'm hoping I can spackle something together...

#13 · 2
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony >>Rao
Saw the title - Yes!
Realized it was Original Fiction - Darn!

(Puts Green Grass back into his pen) "Don't worry, we'll get you out some other time."
#14 · 5
Just write a frame story about an author writing about Green Grass, and anonymize it… somehow. Then you’ll have a twofer!
#15 · 2
I'll have some time tonight and tomorrow if people want someone to look over their story before they submit. #mentors or via PM.
#16 · 4
Oh my god I didn't even realize it was an OF round -_- A whole day of thinking needs to be repuzzled now. >_<
#17 · 1
I am in.
#18 · 3
· · >>Miller Minus
Submitted exactly at 12:04 GMT with ZERO editing.

Thanks Rogers for the five minute extension :p
#19 · 1
· · >>Monokeras
inb4 gold medal for monokeras
#20 · 1
>>Miller Minus
What? :)
#21 · 2
It's always nice:

When waking up the morning after submitting a story immediately brings to mind three things I should've done differently. At least I'll have something to say in my phony review! :)

#22 · 1
· on The Neighbors · >>Anon Y Mous
The Twilight Zone style opening and closing:

Are fun, but that whole thing's kind of a cliche at this point, and all I can see it doing is telling the reader in literally italicized letters, "Something weird is gonna happen in this story!" You actually do something a lot more interesting near the end of the story, author, when you pop us into the POV of the cigarette Polly's been smoking, and I instantly found myself wishing you'd done all the way through. Since her taking up cigarette smoking again is one of the signs that something's gone wrong, telling the whole series of events through the "eyes" of her cigarettes would really make the story stand out.

And yes, there's also lots and lots and lots of typos and peculiarities of grammar and language that need fixing. But mostly, I'd recommend trying to do something with the cigarette thing. :)

#23 ·
· on The Neighbors · >>Anon Y Mous
Bit of an odd one this. I like a lot of the prose in the opening; it's a little purple, but in a way that I'm a bit of a sucker for so it all works out nicely.

The ending is fun, but feels a bit rushed maybe? The demon being an actual thing and being summoned to the demon being destroyed happens in relatively few words, given it's sort of the point of the story.
#24 · 1
· on Reshaped · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Man, I fucking love this. Reads just like the best kind of stories I'd find in old sci-fi short story collections, the weird and slightly unnerving ones I'd still find myself thinking about years later. Good stuff.
#25 ·
· on A Good Glass of Gin · >>Meridian_Prime
I like the concept! It's a cool idea, but some of the execution feels a bit rushed. The transition from 'descriptive story about mysterious dude and is visitors' to 'monologue from Jesus Dad & Holy Ghost' in particular felt a bit abrupt. And it's a bit unclear how it ties to the prompt?

Still, you've got something interesting here!
#26 ·
· on Gardenia · >>No_Raisin >>Monokeras
You really went all in with the prompt for this one, huh?

I'm mixed on this one. I really like the last section, and the first works quite well for me too, but I'm not quite as sure about the middle. The whole mystery treasure hunt didn't do a whole lot for me. I also spotted a few grammar issues when I specifically wasn't looking for them:

Gardenia is located far away overseas, and no commercial flight is permitted to fly over it.

I think this sentence should have a quotation mark in front of it?

“Yes,” the passager reply.


He was a dark hair, somewhat handsome guy

This future is certainly a strange one, if hair has somehow become a species now. :p

But anyway, those issues aside, this wasn't bad. And like I said, really liked the ending section. Couldn't tell you exactly why, the writing was just very evocative for me.
#27 · 3
· on Kitsune · >>Miller Minus
I'm not entirely sure I understood exactly what was going on by the end, but that only added to my impression of an unholy masterpiece.

I want to give you a good review, but I'm not sure I can. It's intimidating.

But christ on a bike this is good. Every word feels carefully picked. By the end, every line lands like a precisely swung hammer. Guh. Loved this.
#28 ·
· on Bits and Bites · >>Baal Bunny
Feels very stream-of-consciousness in the right way. A bit meandering and strange, but in a way that mirrors how people actually live. The sci-fi world feels both very grounded and very futuristic which is impressive (given most writers try and make this happen with lots and lots of violence instead of an old couple being silly with each other), and I love how casually you introduce the new sapient species.

Really like this one.
#29 · 1
· on The Long Game
...I like this. I like the writing in this (I love the ending in particular). But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit confused.

On first reading, I thought this was a world where the south had won their independence, but not much had actually changed historically. I can see that isn't quite right on reading it further, but it feels like there's more to this than 'an old plantation worker thinks about the past'. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but if I am it's only because the prose feels like it's got something lurking under the surface.

Whether I'm right or not, this is still good writing.
#30 ·
· on The Long Game · >>Baal Bunny
There's certainly precedent for having a third person perspective who is more educated than the perspective character, but I urge you to tread lightly when you're covering a topic as charged as this. This story rubbed me the wrong way at times due to the contrast between how the two of these characters speak--Dutch, and the narrator. The narrator takes most of the control of the story, and when that happens, I begin to assume I'm listening to the Author. So when the narrator tells us about Dutch's life and what he's been through, interrupted by a Shit, or an Aw, hell from Dutch, before the narrator gets to follow another well-written plot thread...

I gotta be honest, Author. At best, Dutch started to feel like a picture in a textbook presented as an example to convey your idea. At worst, he started to feel like a zoo animal.

I'm not saying that was your intention, or that I felt this very strongly (it was pretty light, in truth), again, I just want to urge caution. And it's a bit of a catch-22, as well, because writing fully in his accent would involve even more landmines. But it's doable. Or, another option I see would be to have more characters, and make your narrator omniscient. Paint the whole picture, and let us know how everyone's stories play into the idea that you're going for, not just the one guy's.

Enough of that talk, though.

On the whole, not a whole lot happens in this story. Which, as a short story, is very difficult to pull off, because there isn't much to get invested in when I don't get to see it happen. But at the same time, I think this would be a perfectly fine chapter in a novel. I may not care too much about the characters yet, but I do know a lot about them, for what that's worth.

Well, I guess there's really only Dutch and his mother that we see a lot from, but still, I did understand their dynamic enough that I wanted to see more. The astral walkway and the soul of a white man were interesting concepts to see explored.

The theme of playing the long game, and putting a strong back into things while the politics gradually turns in the right direction, is handled immensely well here. And, in case it wasn't clear, I really, really liked the prose. It's educated without being pretentious, which is something that normally drives me insane, so it was refreshing.

Thanks for writing. Good luck!
#31 ·
· on Kitsune
This story got awfully rocky as it went along. Each time my reading-carriage was jostled, if you'll forgive the metaphor, I found myself saying "Oh! is that what this story is about?" I mean, stories can be about many things, sure, but in short story land the degree of difficulty is ramped way up if you're going for layered. And when there's as much as there is going on in this story, I tend to see patches of arcs and ideas being shown, but none of them follow a trend, or even interact with their adjacent arcs or ideas.

So, what is this about? Skye learning to become a hunter? The importance of not creating waste? The slow realization (which was not so slow, for me) that Dad is abusing Mom? The fox family separated in two? The feud between these two families? Are we supposed to be deciding who's at fault for all this? These are yes or no questions, keep in mind--I didn't miss anything that happened, but I had trouble following along.

It was a bumpy ride, is all I'm saying.

This comes into play strongest at the ending. Author, if "let's go home and turn mommy dearest into a scarf" was your best idea for an ending, what was your second-best idea? Any ending can work depending on what's behind it, but for me, that didn't feel like the clincher to this story. I think that if you ask yourself what you really want to focus on, and maybe strip some other things down to the minimum, everything would flow a little better.

Other than that, prose is good! I thought Skye's voice was well established, and I was at the very least invested in what happened to her and her famjam.

Thanks for writing and best of luck in the shakedown!
#32 ·
· on Gardenia · >>Monokeras
The mystery at the beginning of the story isn't told in the most exciting way in this story, as the threads that Jim follows at first are only really interesting to him. I don't know how to improve it here, but just as an idea: The best mysteries are where we are as intrigued by it as the main character is. When he first receives the email without the header he says "interesting, there's no header", while I say "Wait, there's supposed to be a header"? So as he goes about his merry investigative work I just kind of take a back seat and wait for him to finish instead of getting the chance to follow along.

I liked how you set up Jim's character, the daydreamer. But while I saw the connection between his daydreaming and him being selected for Gardenia, I wish the connection the curators made had been more concrete. As far as we know, Jim doesn't talk about his hobbies that much. What if he were to talk about it to the right person?

For the story proper, I was very intrigued by the concept, and by the ending. As Meri said, it played the prompt very straight, but I wasn't necessarily expecting. I probably should have but oh well. The doctors have told my parents it's too late for me (:

But no, I liked it. The only thing I would say is that I wish we had more time to live in that world, discover its beauty, and then slowly but poignantly stray into the "actually this ain't so great" territory. We're told a lot about how great the world is, but we don't get to see it shine. One way you could work this in would be to have the curators give Jim a taste of the world, get him hooked, have him agonize over the decision, and then make the wrong one. I think the clincher would be just that bit stronger.

That's all from me. Ciao friend-o!
#33 ·
· on Reshaped · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Very nice:

The only thing that tripped me up--other than the story having twice as many commas as it needs--is my old bête noire, the POV shift. We start the story very firmly in Katie's head, but after she falls off the ladder in the flashback, we suddenly get a lot of things told to us by some voice external to her. I'd recommend keeping us in her head and showing us the experience through her senses. I'd also like more details about her life among the lizard folk--maybe the kid who gets interested in her pottery is the same one who chomped her finger, for instance, and what sort of conversations does she have with the other villagers?

This is a good first draft, in other words. Now deepen it, give us more of the characters and how they relate to each other. Because us readers are never satisfied!

#34 ·
· on Bits and Bites
I'll call this:

Another good first draft. But here, author, you've got the details in place, but you still need to go in and add the actual story. What do these various characters want? How does what they want bring them into conflict? How do the events we read about here allow them to resolve that conflict? You kind of hint at it here and there, but I usually need more than hints if I'm gonna figure out a story.

Also? I've only read three of the stories for this round, and already two of them have characters named Polly. Is this a trend?

#35 · 2
· on The Neighbors · >>Anon Y Mous
This is a strange story. Then again, I find all the stories this round to be strange in their own little ways. So, Strange Story #1 On My Reviewing List, basically.

My first read of this was a bit of a skim. Mostly to savor the sense of where it's progressing towards before I really dive into the meat and relish in its texture and accompanying flavors. Suffice to say, I was pretty much skipping ahead starting from the paragraphs following the first scene break. I had chalked it up to being impatient then and thought maybe my experience would improve with my subsequent reads.

Yeah, uh, sorry, it did not.

Before I get to the story, I just want to regurgitate my thoughts about the opener and closer a bit. They seem to frame the story somewhat, making it seem as if this entry belongs in a greater anthology of similarly supernatural stories, which is funny considering every other entry on this list. As it is right now, it's rather awkwardly slotted in. In fact, on some of my reads, it does come off to me as a last-minute sloppy edit done right before the deadline.

Personally, I actually quite liked the voicing of the narrator captured in the opener and I had been hoping the story would utilize that to its advantage, cheesy and cliche as it may be. It does have the potential effect of making the story more inaccessible for some, but for me, I believe it would add the little bit of heart and character that this story sorely needed. I think it's a missed opportunity to not push this particular concept further, honestly.

Okay, now for everything else.

The story is okay. If I look at it on its own as a plot summary posted on Wikipedia, it's definitely something I can enjoy, albeit not something I'll come back to. It may be cliche for some, sure, but hey, if it works, it works. If it manages to be compelling, then it did what it set out to do, haters notwithstanding.

Which is where this story starts to falter for me. The little details.

The problem for me really begins with Polly as a character and the underlying motivation pushing the story onward. Her curiosity is the driving motivation for this story, though there is no clear reason as to why she was curious in the first place other than the stated reason of 'it's part of her character'. And even if we take that into account, there's nothing really driving that curiosity specifically to home in towards this particular couple. If I were to be extremely forgiving, I can kinda fathom the reason behind why Polly would be so fixated on the Terrapons. What I can't fathom is why not anybody else? If her curiosity is potent enough that, to paraphrase, it could kill, what's stopping this curiosity from going all Freddy Krueger throughout the whole neighbourhood?

Besides her curiosity, Polly has some other potentially-interesting characteristics as well. I say potentially-interesting because I think they weren't really used to their full effect, which is really my next big issue: the lack of relevancy of Polly's other characteristics with regards to the story. There are honestly some threads to Polly as a character that did a bit to breathe some life into her. Her being a wife, her being a mother, the garden she was tending to, her tendency to smoke. I'm sure there are some others as well. I just don't know why they're being highlighted throughout the story as it progresses. They don't really contribute anything to my experience of the story other than hinder it.

Which leads me into my next and biggest problem with the story: the pacing, which alone arose from a multitude of issues. There's a lot of unnecessary fat in this story, especially in the paragraphs past the scene break up to the point where Polly fell down the hole, which is a really big part of the story. The scenes were meandering, which is funny considering a lot is actually happening in those particular moments. I think with the way it's written, it comes off like a stream-of-consciousness that we shouldn't really pay attention towards, which I don't think was what's being demanded of the readers at that point. Tonally as well, it's a bit nondescript if not dissonant, as the whole story leans a bit too heavy on the 'telling' side of the spectrum. There's no attempt on making it mysterious or dreadful or tragic or even comedic, it's only a flatline.

It's sad because all those paragraphs are not filler, I know it isn't, but with the way it was mishandled, it does definitely come off as filler on my first read to me.

Again, at its core, I don't hate this story, which is always a good thing, but I honestly can't say I like this entry as a whole. I do commend the effort that was placed. Just wished a little more effort is placed into taking the next step and making it really shine.

Thanks for writing, and good luck!
#36 · 1
· on A Good Glass of Gin · >>No_Raisin >>Meridian_Prime
Very nice:

I might suggest a few words sprinkled here and there about what cataclysm is engulfing the world and why God is choosing to let it happen--I mean, if he's looking for something that isn't perfect, all he's gotta do is look at the human race. :)

But if the idea is that these are the doctrinal "End Times" so God has to let them happen, well, when you say that the doctrine of the Trinity is bunk but the doctrine of the Apocalypse isn't, you're starting to pick and choose what parts of the biblical tradition are real for this story and what parts aren't. And then a reader like me starts needing at least a hand-waving explanation for the division between real and not. 'Cause what I get here is a God who can do anything but who can't stop the end of the world. That tells me that the end of the world is a choice he's making, but the story doesn't address that issue at all that I can see. So just address that somehow, and you'll really have something here.

#37 · 1
· on Kitsune · >>No_Raisin >>Miller Minus
Very nice:

But I have a spotty track record of being able to figure out jigsaw puzzle stories like this. And in this one, author, I don't find that I've got enough pieces to put it all together.

The way I see it, Mom's a kitsune who married Dad against the wishes of her family and came to America with him. I'm assuming the foxes are Mom's relatives come to further express their disapproval, but I can't figure out why it's all happening now. Did it take Mom's family all these years to track her down? And why are they attacking Skye in her dreams? Kitsunes are tricksters: wouldn't they try to lure her onto their side, try to turn her against her father, maybe even try to convince her to kill him? Like the others above, I'm not sure what happens at the end, and I found myself wondering where they get their bullets. Do they make their own? Do they have a truck somewhere that they use to drive to the nearest settlement once every month or two?

The writing's really good, but I need more puzzle pieces to get the full picture.

#38 · 2
· on Reshaped · >>GroaningGreyAgony
I'll be honest, after my first skim-through of this story, I was a little trepidatious to return to this. Not that I hated it Author, mind you, it's just that despite all this entry's ambitions, I had a fleeting thought that the story might not be able to carry it all the way through and that the cracks in between would start to compound and become visibly larger in subsequent reads.

Six reads later, I came away with it still noticing a few cracks here and there, yet everything holds together pretty solidly in the end.

As per usual, I'll start with the cracks first and then gush about it later.

Perhaps the biggest fissure I can see here is that I think the lizard people are a little bit one-note, serving really only to play off our protagonist if anything else. As much as I want to learn more about the lifestyle of the Arkies, I would rather like to see more of their interactions with each other on a more personal level, Hyathka in particular. It will do wonders for this story if we have more insight into what they mean to each other and to our protagonist especially.

I think the concept of Chaisahk as well doesn't seem well-defined. I'm not saying I want the DoctorMother or anyone to outright define it and see examples of it being used in a sentence or anything, as I realize it's probably intentional for it to be as vague as it is. I just think the story would fare better if we're given at least a subtle nudge as to what Chaisahk really is through the writing, especially in the acid trip towards the end.

I also concur that the comma usage is a bit overdone in some parts. They did muck the pacing a little bit. It's immediately noticeable if you read it out aloud, so maybe you could do with ironing some of them out.

So yeah, those are the little cracks I drew from the story. Nothing the sands of time and a few drops of sweat and maybe blood couldn't fix, I hope.

Now, the good stuff.

The premise being presented here is definitely the most interesting of the bunch. I was a bit doubtful of all the parallels being drawn to Earth initially but it began to gel with me the more I came back to read this, mostly because I started getting a clearer context of what this story was gunning for. The prose really helped with selling this world, the descriptions especially so. There's a lot of thought and care placed into sculpting the world and giving it life, which is astounding when I considered the span of time in which this story had to be crafted and written.

The tone is honestly something I'm vibing with a little too much. I don't know how to describe it, but it was somewhat otherworldly and beautiful at the same time. I had the same experience with this story as I had with many of my favorite psychedelic rock songs, which is technically high praise coming from me. However it came about, it's definitely the last push needed to convince me that this story's something of a special one, and that I needed to give it a few more reads to really understand what's happening here.

The narrative here's a rather passive one. There's not really a sense of urgency being cultivated here, which was one of the factors that had me worried would disrupt my experience with this story. After all, this was a world that was depicted and delivered with grace and care, a world that had managed to seize my interest on my first encounter with it, yet there was a chance that the accompanying story would not live up to the majesty of its premise. Suffice to say, I'm glad that even despite that being the case, it all comes together amazingly well in the end.

And it's really all thanks to Katie Kh-Teh and her representation in the greater context of the story.

It was definitely a smart move having our leading lady be accomplished in pottery. That alone already sold the story for me, as the consequent threads it pursued really hammered home her sense of feeling like an aberration in this errant world and her want to belong to anything really. Honestly, there's a lot of lines for me to draw with every mention of clay and pottery throughout the story, some of it unintended, yet all of them ties really neatly together in the end. I particularly liked the juxtaposition of her version of kintsugi and the sex scene with Hyathka that followed. It's rare that I find a sex scene to be poetic even when given a greater context, yet here's one rather fine example that manages to do so.

Also, any good implementation of kintsugi woven comfortably into the story is a win for me.

Ultimately, Kh-Teh's struggles to belong shines through really well. The fusion of pottery with her want of belonging is thematically cohesive, which pushes this story, however passive it may be, from 'alright' territory to 'really good' for me. I just want you to know that you have a really special entry in your hands here, Author, cracks notwithstanding, and I'll definitely be looking forward to where you're taking with this.

Thanks for writing, and good luck!
#39 ·
· on The Neighbors · >>Anon Y Mous
Alternate Title: The Smoking Woman

Two things I liked:

1. For the most part, the pacing is fairly tight. There's a constant sense of intrigue that I was getting, which made me made invested in the story than if, say, it wasn't so consistently written as foreboding. There is a great deal of mystery and suspense here, even though we're basically told from the outset that the neighbors are up to something shady.

2. Polly is one of the better-developed protagonists this round, and we get some insight into her habits and mindset. The fact that she started smoking again comes into play at the climax, which I like; it's a rare instance of a character's personality quirk actually having an effect on the plot. I also like how we almost never leave her perspective, so that we get wrapped up in the mystery just as she does.

Two things I didn't like:

1. Not a fan of the prose. Part of this is due to the number of typos, which could fill a dump truck with how many there are. But more importantly there's something about the syntax here that often rubs me the wrong way. There are a lot of turns of phrase which sound unnatural to the native English ear, at least in my opinion, and sometimes these phrasings go so far as to mess with the pacing. Revision of prose highly recommended.

2. The opening and ending sections seem like discount Twilight Zone, and I swear there's a entry every other round that uses a framing device reminiscent of that series. The framing is cliched at this point, and I didn't really get anything out of it. Thankfully there's not much work needed in order to correct this.

Verdict: A decent story with decent pacing, but desperately needs refinement in the prose department.
#40 ·
· on Reshaped · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Alternate Title: What an Isekai Would Really Be Like

Two things I liked:

1. Man, the world-building in this is dope. This is like something Philip José Farmer would've written fifty years ago, although he would've made it more overtly erotic. From what descriptions we're given of the Arkies I'm anxious to imagine what they look like, not to mention their culture isn't quite what I'm used to reading about in one of these human-meets-alien-culture stories. Yeah, there are a lot of those. But Reshaped builds an alien world that feels like it would actually be inhospitable to most (if not all) humans, and we come to understand why Kh-Teh feels the way she does.

2. I like how the plot is less about getting from point A to B and more about building up a series of tones and mindset changes which propel Kh-Teh into making her crucial decision in the climax. You could put a lot of these scenes in any order you want, and that might give the impression of an incoherent whole, but I think if you're going to do what is essentially a character study, capturing these moments well is more important than putting them in the "correct" order. The episodic structure also made me feel like I was reading something that's longer than it actually is, but in a good way.

Two things I didn't like:

1. Okay, grasping at straws here, but it's unfortunate that there are some typos here, including a sentence that's missing a period. It's clear that a lot of thought and time was put into refining the world of the story, and it's a shame that this hard work occasionally hits a speed bump with a glaring typo.

2. While I like the theme itself, I do wish it was sprinkled more throughout the story, as opposed to being back-loaded into the climax where we get a quick series of descriptions that shoves the story's message in our faces. You could argue that since Kh-Teh is having an epiphany this abruptness in messaging is justified, but I feel like you (the author) could integrate it more seamlessly into the scenes leading up to the climax.

Verdict: As a story it's pretty good; as a first draft it's pretty great.
#41 ·
· on The Long Game
I didn't get this one:

At all till I read >>Miller Minus's comment about "putting a strong back into things while the politics gradually turns in the right direction". I'm very much a "show, don't tell" sort of reader, author, and there's nothing here but telling. To me, it was like reading a textbook, a dry recitation of names and dates and events that left me with a lot of words but no understanding. So while it was nicely written, it was pretty much impenetrable to me

If you want to make a story accessible to a reader like me, break it down into scenes. Have characters talk to each other, and show me what's going on around them while they talk. If you want to keep any external POV like this, it's possible, but it's a lot harder to avoid the "telly text" syndrome when you've got a narrator literally telling the story. Anchoring the story in a single character's head makes it easier to show things through that character's senses while letting that character's thoughts and feelings draw me in and lead me through.

#42 · 3
· on A Good Glass of Gin · >>Meridian_Prime
Alternate Title: Third Impact

Two things I liked:

1. The concept, at least what I get out of it, is pretty damn interesting. We're told, or rather nudged in a certain direction, early on that this is a story with biblical implications, what with the inclusion of Enoch. The real meat of the concept comes around in the second half, though, where we're fully let in on the whole Gawd business, wherein we get something of a character study, and a promising one at that.

2. This is the first entry where the dialogue strikes me as particularly natural, and good thing too, because there's a lot of it. In fact this is the first entry that relies more on conversation than prose descriptions to tell the story, and I do think that for what it is it works out well enough. I especially like the semi-monologue that Gawd starts toward the climax.

Two things I didn't like:

1. I can't tell if I'm just the one who's confused, or if the story itself is also confused. Despite having more than two scenes this feels very much like a story in two halves, and there's a clear separation between the halves that I think could be muddied. It almost feels like we begin in one story and then jump into an entirely different one. It all adds up in the end, sort of, but there has to be a way to make these scenes get along with each other better.

2. As with >>Baal Bunny I'm confused as to what the apocalypse scenario has to do with the plot, or even why it's happening. Mind you, I'm not a Bible expert (I've only read Job, Ecclesiastes, and Revelations in their entirety), but there's something missing in the backstory, or rather something about Gawd's motives that are left horribly unclear, and I feel that's the one part of the story that could really use expansion.

Verdict: An interesting premise with an equally interesting ending, but I'm left scratching my head about a lot of it.
#43 ·
· on Gardenia · >>Monokeras
Alternate Title: Maybe Skynet Ain't So Bad?

Two things I liked:

1. Jim isn't the most complex of protagonists, but his simplicity perfectly suits the theme of Gardenia. He's a simple man with simple aspirations who acts as sort of an everyman, because god forbid we get another sci-fi protagonist who's a goddamn scientist or super-smart businessman. Jim is like someone out of a Philip K. Dick novel, but not as neurotic; therefore he's the perfect match for my second point.

2. The ending, oh how I love it. Might be my favorite ending of the bunch. It's simple, and it plays the connection with the prompt in an unusually straightforward way, but I think it's kind of poignant. We often get a romanticized portrait of agricultural life, and not entirely without good reason, but it's refreshing to see such a concise and ponderous deconstruction of that rosy-eyed vision. The farm life is not for everyone.

Two things I didn't like:

1. The typos, oh man the typos. The ones that >>Meridian_Prime pointed out are just the tip of the iceberg, my friend. And, as some in the WriteOff Discord server have noted, the passage with the holstered gun borders on hilarity in how wrong it sounds. You don't push the trigger, ya silly goose!

2. Weirdly enough, considering this is one of the shorter entries, it could be shortened a fair bit. There's a good deal of fat in the set-up, like there is a lot of description but not much happening, and as such the pacing takes a hit. Things do pick up, though, just in time for that kicker of an ending. But yeah, you could trim 500 words off and the story would probably be all the better for it.

Verdict: I like Gardenia more than I probably should, but that's what happens when you have a good story that's rough around the edges.
#44 · 4
· on Reshaped · >>Miller Minus >>GroaningGreyAgony
So I'm sitting here in my office today, and for whatever reason, I've decided to write an entire post on sex in fiction. What a terrible life I've lived that has driven me to this decision.


There's something I wanted to point out about this story that in particular is a sticking point in the narrative and generally a sticking point in most writeoff stories in general. That being, the topic of sex and sexuality and how it's presented in a narrative. In a number of other entries along the long, long history of the writeoff, we often have had the discussion of how sexual content influences the reader's perception of the narrative as a whole and how the inclusion of sex often calls into question the author's intent.

Let's be frank, Author. Guiding the reader's investment in the seriousness and themes of the story over the hurdle of fucking a lizard person is a difficult feat. The concept on its face will seem ridiculous to most people at best, and pandering to fetishism at worst. The beneficiary of being involved in the write-off is that the majority of the audience already has a predisposition to fuck cartoon horses, so this detail may be overlooked by most of the crowd, but not me.

Not Cassius.

It's not exactly that I have an objection to the scene itself in the story; in fact, I would say that it is a pretty meaningful inclusion. However, I do have a bit of an objection to how it is written and the ramifications that it has on the perception of the story as a whole, as well as the scene's inclusion in the meta-narrative. The descriptions are evocative of a romance novella, but the tone and meaning of the scene are ultimately in opposition to that end. The rosy depictions of lizard-foreplay are in direct contrast to the protagonist's actual thoughts and feelings, as well as how the scene is supposed to be perceived as a whole. The sex scene, as I read it, is supposed to express our protagonist's feeling of isolation and futility of her attempts to adjust to the world around her. The scene immediately following this one, our protagonist decides she will commit suicide, after all.

But none of that is really felt in the description. Some of the character's internal monologue gives off this sensibility, but how the "action" is depicted itself doesn't belie the same sort of sentiment. If anything, it comes across as conspicuous scalie fetish bait. This is compounded by the not-so-subtle details at the beginning of Katie carving naked female scalie statutes and deciding they need bigger asses. Don't think I didn't catch that.

What I'm trying to get at is that the ultimate fetishization of the scalies, even if unintentional (which I have a VERY hard time believing), undermines the tone of the story itself, and detracts rather than adds to the overall end product. It's strange how, for lack of a better word, horny this story is, not because it's improper for our protagonist to be horny in this situation, but because of how the narrative chooses to describe this more as something that's supposed to be titillating as opposed the byproduct of desperation and loneliness or integrating a greater theme into the narrative. It comes across as "cheesecake", more than a meaningful narrative inclusion. It's a hard tonality to strike, and I'm not accusing you of intentionally writing this story explicitly for the purposes of brainwashing the writeoff with your shameful shameful scalie fetish (although I do consider this a possibility), but more criticizing the overall tone as being uneven and the presentation as being too exploitative for the narrative the story is trying to tell.

Other than that, pretty good entry.
#45 · 1
· on Kitsune · >>Miller Minus
Alternate Title: Good Hunting

Two things I liked:

1. Man, that opening paragraph. The prose for the whole story is punchy and technically solid, but that opening salvo manages to use more than one semi-colon in a single sentence and make it look elegant. Granted, that level of complexity is never really seen again, but Kitsune has easily my favorite opening of all the entries this round. Hooked me immediately, and of course the strength of the prose made good on that promise.

2. Of all the entries, this probably also had me thinking the most. About what it all means, about Skye's perspective, about her relationship with her dad, about whatever the hell that ending was. There's a lot to take in with this story, in that like what >>Baal Bunny said it's not a narrative that makes all the pieces of its puzzle clear to the reader. There are parts, especially the ending, where I'm left wondering about what the author hoped for me to take away from it, but in like a good way?

Two things I didn't like:

1. Unfortunately, despite a strong first leg and an intriguing ending (to put it one way), Kitsune is too long. Or rather I don't think the length is justified, given how little material we've actually got to work with. You'd think there would be a lot of backstory and world-building in a story that focuses on a mythological creature, but we actually get to know very little about Skye's situation. There is a conspicuous lack of context as to why Skye's family life is the way it is, or even what kind of world these characters live in. You could say the abstractness of it is due to the fable-like nature of the plot, but here's the thing...

2. While I do like the idea of a fantasy being entering an otherwise realistic setting, if handled well, Skye's perspective and home life are too gritty for me to become fully invested in the fantasy aspect. The 1st person narration feels ill-fating of a story of this type, since fantasy fables tend to be told in the 3rd person. There's also too much cursing (which sounds weird coming from me) for the setting and vibe we're going for here, and the language combined with the dad's attitude threaten to propel the story into edgelord territory.

Verdict: A nicely refined dark fantasy that unfortunately has one too many things holding me back from loving it. By no means bad, though.
#46 ·
· on Gardenia · >>Monokeras
As often happens:

I'm getting all hung up on details that don't make sense to me. I mean, if the artifical trees don't create oxygen, what does? If Gardenia is where all the food and oxygen come from for the entire world, how do they produce it all in such a limited place with just oxen to plow the fields? Is Jim incorrect in thinking that the entire world except for this place is covered with steel and concrete? Or does everyone eat Industrial Unipaste that's squeezed out of tubes in a variety of colors and flavors? Except that, if Gardenia isn't the world's bread basket, why does it exist at all? What economic sense does it make?

The story uses a lot of science-fiction imagery, author, but it's an allegorical fantasy through and through. So I'd suggest making it more science-fictiony. Give me some hand-waving at the beginning about how science has replaced the natural processes of the world with things that do the same jobs but aren't as pretty. And as long as I'm asking for presents, I'd also like to have that information conveyed in an actual scene instead of being told to me by a faceless narrator--maybe Jim's complaining to a co-worker in the cafeteria as they eat their Industrial Unipaste burritos. It would let you give us all the details about the world while also letting us get to know Jim as a character.

That still doesn't answer the question of why Gardenia exists, though...

#47 · 1
· on A Good Glass of Gin · >>Meridian_Prime
The first thought I had coming away from this story was that it was a missed opportunity to leave our all-seeing protagonist nameless. I mean, sure, he's God of all things, but considering the story's frame of reference, he came across as just another everyday person doing his everyday things, which I believe was thanks in part to his time as Mary's son. On that note, I guess I could call him Jesus but I find it's rather pedestrian.

Instead, from this point onward in this particular review, I will now refer to our protagonist as Bombay Sapphire.

The premise of the story is honestly a strange one. We have Bombay Sapphire doing a bit of menial labor as he builds for himself a still to brew some gin, which he drinks at the end of the story as he sits back and watches the end of the world. It's a premise I can appreciate, especially since I'm just fresh off watching the recent adaptation of Good Omens, which is another retelling of the apocalypse albeit with a different ending. Where that one portrays the events of Revelations as more of a caricature, however, this story's a lot more subdued about it by viewing it through Bombay Sapphire's biblical rose-colored lenses.

The interactions between Bombay Sapphire and everyone is pretty nice. Seeing as the majority of the story is carried by the dynamics of Bombay Sapphire's relationship with everyone, all you needed to do was to make those relationships feel grounded, mellifluous, and worthwhile, to which I can attest: "Mission Accomplished". Yet despite that, however, it didn't really draw my interest further into the story any more than the premise already did.

I think there are definitely some points of the dialogue that I think could be expanded further, like when Bombay Sapphire answered Enoch's question about why he was building the still, or his response to Mary calling him a child. As it is right now, it's good, but I personally believe more can be done to really let every one of Bombay Sapphire's moments with them shine.

The issues about the use of Revelations in this story pointed out by my fellow reviewers is definitely what stopped me from getting into the story properly, in that Bombay Sapphire's motives as the story progresses seems to be inherently asinine. In the beginning, we were given a look at him building a still; by the end, we learn why he's building it with his bare hands. Honestly, looking at it separately from the story, it's rather competently structured, and I would definitely have more positive notes written down had it been the case.

Instead, the ending seems to directly contradict the singular motive we were given in the story. I spent a good hour prior to writing this review thinking over the thought process that led Bombay Sapphire to do what he did, in hopes that I could proselytize the others to have this story in their good graces, but I really can't. You have Bombay Sapphire, digging a hole and building a still from scratch, and when asked why, the closest answer we were given was “I just want to make something that isn’t perfect again.”. He then sits back and takes a few sips as he watches his greatest creation — one chock full of imperfections — gets destroyed.

It's nice as a satirical comic in a newspaper clipping. Not so much as an ending to a story.

There's really no way to reconcile these two circumstances, no matter how hard I try. The closest answer I could get was the derivative one: that Bombay Sapphire works in mysterious ways. Though I will say he has a good track record of doing so, it definitely does not excuse Bombay Sapphire's glaring lack of insight at what he's doing.

That's not how it works in our neighbourhood, Bombay Sapphire. You hear me, I know you can read the WriteOff comments from up there, you tempestuous backwards mongrel.

Honestly, I feel like this story's bending backwards just to make the ending fit, though in executing the process, it broke its spine and shatters entirely. Really, if it withheld mentioning the end of the world at any given point, this story could definitely be a strong contender with its portrayal of Bombay Sapphire as a down-to-earth father, son and hole-digging spirit. However, it overreached its bases and came out worse for wear. Perhaps more effort can be made into sharply defining the confluence of the gin with the pending apocalypse, though I'd much rather have them separately instead of them being served in a cocktail.

Thanks for writing, and good luck!
#48 ·
· on Bits and Bites · >>Baal Bunny
Alternate Title: The Ready Player One x Zootopia Crossover No One Asked For

Two things I liked:

1. Considering how dour the previous entries were, the lively sense of humor here is a breath of fresh air. Immediately we're plopped into a humorous scenario with a description of Polly's (there's another Polly?) tits, a description that in just about any other context would make me cringe, but which fits the goofy scenario being presented to us. The relationship between Polly and Reg is pretty joyous, and despite being very old (how old exactly is more iffy, but I'll get to that) they can't seem to get enough of each other. Even the reveal of the world around them can't even dent their love for each other.

2. The real world as presented in the story is fairly unique, even if it does run the risk of feeling like furry pandering. There are so many questions raised about how the world works, and I think this was a deliberate choice; it ties into the theme of Polly and Reg becoming content with living in a world that is unfamiliar to them. Maybe the real world isn't so bad or different compared to the virtual simulation? A lighthearted, even optimistic interpretation of the prompt that I can get behind.

Two things I didn't like:

1. Unfortunately, I do have a limit for gaps in the world-building, and there were times where I just wanted a simple answer to a simple question but didn't get it. If Polly and Reg are so old, then how come they act so young? There seems to be implications that they're even older than humans should naturally live to be, and I must've missed how this is justified in-story, but I don't think it ever is. The place that humans have in a world that is now dominated by furry kin goes practically unaddressed as well, and it makes the world of the story feel even smaller than it really is, because these gaps in world-building are so big.

2. As much as I enjoy the characters and the central theme, there isn't much of a story here. There is a distinct lack of conflict, or reflection, or even information that would propel a conventional plot forward, and I get the impression that the plot came in at a distant third behind the characters and theme. Honestly though, this is a nitpick coming from me, since I tend to be more forgiving of short stories with unconventional narratives. But you could certainly do something more with this, author.

Verdict: More of a proof of concept than a complete story, but I do enjoy it a fair bit. Keep up the good work, author, and don't throw this in the trash afterward.
#49 ·
· on The Long Game
Alternate Title: Song of the South 2: Electric Boogaloo

Two things I liked:

1. There are only two entries this round that come to my mind which have consistently chunky paragraphs, this and Gardenia. But what gives The Long Game the edge with its extra thicc paragraphs is that they're solid as a rock, technically speaking. It seems like the author wrote on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis, as opposed to scenes (this becomes a major problem but I'll get to that), and the result is a series of paragraphs which feel like stories within themselves, conveying a ton of information while also being pretty well-written. Very tell-y, but well-written.

2. I like the central theme here quite a bit; it remains consistent in spite of the ADHD nature of the narrative. The contrast between the rapid deterioration of the Southern families and the very gradual improvement of Dutch's life presents a world that is both changing and also not over a period of time. The fact that Dutch's situation changes makes his journey feel futile, but at the same time there's enough hope for a better life in the ending that it doesn't feel like a tragedy. I do highly recommend, however, that if you (the author) want to do this theme justice you'll need to give it a lot more room to breathe, and that brings me into...

Two things I didn't like:

1. Too short. Which is ironic considering the entry's title, but I do think The Long Game could seriously use the nutrition and exercise of Kitsune, maybe meet halfway with that entry. There are so many ideas (a lot of which have potential) that get introduced and then dropped so quickly that none of them gets the time to blossom that they need. You could say this is more of an "ideas" story, but that comes at the great expense of a fleshed-out narrative. It's a shame, because there's a lot of material to work with here.

2. Some of the protagonists this round feel underdeveloped, and unfortunately Dutch is one of them. Once again this is a case of potential that is unfortunately not fully tapped into; we're given a good dose of Dutch's backstory, and even a slice of his personality, but our understanding of his perspective is quite limited due to most of the story telling us about Dutch's life, as opposed to Dutch telling us himself. Mind you, telling the story from Dutch's perspective could easily result in something horrid and cringe-worthy if not handled with great care, so it must've seemed like the safer option to tell the story in the way we got. But the best WO entries (or at least my favorites) are the ones that take risks, even if they don't entirely work out, and the author should take note of that from now on.

Verdict: Like with Bits and Bites this feels more like the beginning of something big than a nicely packaged short story, but keep working on it!
#50 · 1
· on Virtue al Villainy · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Okay, this is obviously not as aesthetically pleasing as a certain other entry, but can we take the time to appreciate how much effort was put into this? Conceptually it's pretty damn creative and I love how much work was clearly put into it, replicating the opening scene with household items and all that.
#51 · 1
· on Yako · >>Anon Y Mous
Really digging the style here, what with the lack of outlines, but I can't help but feel like Big Daddy Fox has eyes for nipples. Or are his nipples just really big, if that's what they're supposed to be.

I have too many questions.
#52 ·
· on Behold! Hawlucha... err Hyathka! · >>Anon Y Mous
Literally copy/pasted image of Hawlucha. I don't know whether to laugh at the joke title or to scold the artist for not actually doing any artisting. Feels almost like cheating honestly.
#53 · 2
· on Sorry · >>Anon Y Mous
Truly the greatest romance of our time.

I bet you feel really proud of this, you chode.
#54 ·
· on The Neighbors · >>Anon Y Mous
Well little to add to what the others already said. I can’t blame you for the prose: I did worse. But it still makes your story a bit difficult to follow at times, it gave me pause, and that’s pretty bad when it happens too often.

As for the story. Argh. Sounds somewhat Lovecraftian to me. Not that it is wrong per se, but if you choose the same way as the master, you’ll have to be pretty good to be able to pull out anything truly original. You deliberately set the bar very high, and I’m not sure your story passed it.
#55 ·
· on The Long Game
I agree with Baal here. This left me quite at arm’s length, all the more than it speaks of a spatiotemporal period which I can’t really connect with. To really get down to the bottom of things, I’m still wondering why this story? What is it that you wanted to tell us? What is the takeaway, if any?
#56 ·
· on Virtue al Villainy · >>GroaningGreyAgony
I love the cotton for the smoke and a coffee cup to hold up the tarp. What are you setting it on? Not a critique, I just want to know.

Real cute and imaginative. I love a hodgepodge of materials to make up a wonderful picture. This one’s going at the top of my slate.
#57 ·
· on Sorry
Who writes their “a”’s like that.
#58 ·
· on The Neighbors · >>Anon Y Mous
I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess that this entry was a rush-job. Well, most writeoff entries are—especially this round, but there are quite a few grammar-speedbumps throughout the story, and the pacing towards the end is lightning-quick—so quick I'm not confident I could explain what happened—and those two issues point to rushing.

Yet there are full sentences and paragraphs that are just fine and are, in fact, quite good. And, I just... Man. Author, I wish this wasn't rushed, because under the technical issues and the pacing problems I see a really good story here, written by someone who knows what they're doing. Polly is a great, well-rounded character, and although the rest of the cast could use some work to make them more interesting and/or more involved in the plot, and the plot itself could use some tightening up to make us more interested, I like her. And in fact, I disagree with Spirit calling her motivations thin.

To go into a little more detail:

Polly fumed where she stood. She couldn’t believe the work they went through just for their own vanity. What’s next, they create an entire botanical garden in their backyard? Snatching up a pack of cigarettes from a spot behind the stove, she pondered the next five years of life.

There's so much great stuff happening in this paragraph. It's showy, you big showoff, and it's a perfect example of applying a character's fatal flaw to the third-person narration, which I see done wrong a lot. The fall back to the cigarettes is an excellent way to show her blood pressure is rising without telling us Her blood pressure started to rise. This passage is fast, and punchy, and I wish there was more like it.

Because there are other points where you're betraying me here:

“Just.. I mean look at them!” Polly avoided the question.

Yes, I can see she just avoided the question.

“...You’re ready, right?”

“Have been for a few weeks now, dear. The lawn is ready for the procession and the stone is cut and acceptable.”

That was odd.

Yeah, I know it's odd! You don't need to tell me that stuff. It's shown right there in the text.

Anyways. My point is that when I see brilliant stuff scattered with a bunch of mistakes, I don't really know what to think. But either way, there's some real talent on display here. And I don't know if the rushing is holding it back, or something else.

Either way, thanks for writing and good luck friend. :)
#59 ·
· on Bits and Bites · >>Baal Bunny
Atmospheric and fun worldbuilding. The intro was strong in that you made the familiar strange enough to emphasize the changes that had happened. The fakeout wasn't bad either.

I know it's the big city and all, but I did find it a little suspicious that there was a chili joint that close.

The characterization was solid; the banter moved the story along nicely, but otherwise didn't stand out to me for good or ill. Likewise the prose.

The biggest issue I had was how it hinted at potential conflict and built up tension, (exploring the unknown, the reactions to the chipcard and the 'people are always people' line), but then nothing came of it.

Overall it was an enjoyable story, but for me it hinted at more than it delivered.
#60 · 1
· on A Good Glass of Gin · >>Meridian_Prime
I think what this story is missing is an idea of what the stakes are. It's the apocalypse, sure, but what does that mean to Jesus et al? Where do they end up after all this is over? Do they die along with it? Do they get another shot at this whole humanity thing? Maybe with less nails in hands and feet?

Maybe I would know if I'd gone to Sunday school.

But in the context of your story, Author, I never got a sense for what is about to happen to our main character, or any of those around him. If I understood that, I might be more invested in his little exercise, which if I'm tracking your story correctly is the entire point.

I also found the dialogue to be stilted in places, and I'm not sure how much of that is an issue with the dialogue itself, or with the amount of character description that's gone into these interactions. Between most every line, I have to read about what each character is looking at, or what their eyebrow just did, or what a bead of sweat travelling down their neck is up to. All this stuff just slows you down, Author, and suffocates the dialogue.

That said, I like the rant near the end of the story. From a storytelling perspective it does come off a bit heavy-handed, but it's well-written enough, and that kind of deluge of motivation really gets me going. But that said, I wish it had been sprinkled in and around earlier in the story, because for the most part I didn't really get a sense that what our main character wanted was so in conflict with what his visitors were telling him.

Does that make sense?

I guess I just felt a disconnect between MC/JC and his visitors, because I couldn't really tell what he was doing wrong, except for the vague "we need you." For what? What happens now? What's love a glass of gin got to do with it?

Anyway, enough out of me. Thanks for writing and I'll see you next time :)
#61 ·
· on Bits and Bites · >>Baal Bunny
The casual tone of this story conflicts with the plot itself, in my eyes. It all just played out so easily. I'm not saying this world should have been dystopic, with cameras and searchlights and tasers coming out the moment Reg and Pol tried to leave their room, but if it was so easy to go out and have a meal, would they really have gone years and years without ever doing it? Eating out is nice.

I think, in general, the consequences of being cooped up inside for so long are kind of non-existent here. I dunno. People need exercise, they need fresh air; anybody who just stays inside for weeks at a time, let alone years, will experience major consequences to their physical health, not to mention their mental health. And yet these two just seem as healthy as people I might meet at work. If you were trying to lay down some commentary on being sedentary or living your whole life in a simulation, where was that in the story?

Speaking of work. what do either of these two do to make money? Perhaps I missed that. I'm not normally one to ask the author to fill in plotholes that don't really affect the story proper, but that was a pretty big hang-up for me. Perhaps I was looking for some sort of commentary on these sim-nuts not contributing anything to society or something...?

I'm not sure. Really, I can only agree with the above that the commentary isn't clear. I imagine it has something to do with the furry animals, but it's lost on me. Sorry about that.

Thanks for writing, and good luck!
#62 ·
· on Yako · >>Anon Y Mous
Skye's blue (da ba dee da ba daa)
#63 ·
· on Sorry · >>Anon Y Mous
This made me laugh good and hard, then go read the story.

Bravo, Artist—Mission Accomplished.
#64 ·
Okay I just completed my slate.
I’d like to apologise to have left so few comments this round. I had a pretty busy week and indeed wasn’t able to get to the reading part before yesterday’s afternoon, and finished today, just one hour before the deadline.

I’m not home with no computer, just a phone, and that makes it uneasy to write anything but short messages. I’ll try and comment on the stories I didn’t had a chance to comment yet in the next days. Sorry for the delay guys, and apologies for somehow letting you down.

I just hope you won’t place my story too high, because it really does not deserve it.
#65 ·
· on Gardenia · >>Monokeras
I just wanna say that Gardenia is the name of a local bread company where I live, so I had an interesting, if not skewed, impression of this story in my first few reads. Even so, there were some glaring issues with this story (alongside the minor grammatical hiccups) that I couldn't get over. Really, the concept as a whole is simple and neat. Stripping all the text away and looking at the core, it definitely works, so my issues with this entry are certainly not stemming from that. Everything else packaged alongside it, however, ultimately sealed the deal for me.

Jim as a character stands out in that he's really ordinary, to the point where he's almost nondescript. Personally, I'm not really a big fan of that, though it works in the context of the story. He's just some random office guy who had his name picked from Gardenia's Goblet of Fire. I will say though, I'm not entirely sold that Jim would be the kind of person to actually go off and discover what this is all about. As appealing as the situation may be to him, there is a dramatic character shift from 'cracking a code and viewing some coordinates in an office cubicle' to 'physically heading towards the coordinates not knowing what awaits him yet confident that he will be safe'. The single paragraph you've placed addressing that shift is not enough. There needs to be a more substantial motive driving that change beyond nostalgia and frankly, I'm not seeing it.

Gardenia as well seems to be the selling point of the story. It definitely was sold to Jim as this wonderful, glorious world teeming with nature and free from the rigidity of the industrialized complex that Utopia was. However, we're only given a few glimpses of it within the whole story through portrayals that are just plain generic. No good way to say it, the descriptions are redundant. Sure, in the context of the story, Gardenia may not be as different as Utopia, yet I don't think that's how it wants to seem prior to the reveal at the end. I'm not sold on Gardenia being the better of both worlds and I fail to see what Jim finds about it intriguing either.

Ultimately, every issue I had with this story seems to stem from it being rushed more than an issue with your competency, Author, The measured and diligently-written prose of this entry seems to indicate that. Nevertheless, Gardenia, the main feature and driving force that sparked this story, was criminally undersold. That, coupled with the story's failure to properly translate what Jim found so mesmerizing about it, just only made the story crumble underneath its ambitions. I can't say this story lived up to its full potential. There's definitely something there, though overall it just needs to be more focused on figuring out what it's trying to say instead of just slowly rolling the narrative out for our general consumption.

Thanks for writing, and good luck!
#66 ·
· on Reshaped · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Sorry this is late but someone accused me of writing this entry and I don't like to look a gift red herring in the mouth.

I had a lot of trouble getting into this entry. True, the prose is lovely and I never found myself looking for something else to do as I was reading, but, weirdly enough, the usual side-effects I feel from reading a beautifully written story—wonder, emotion, thoughtfulness—just aren't there right now. I'm not feelin' it.

I think it was just too fast, Author. I feel like I just read a 70,000 word novella scrunched down into 4,200 words. The complexity of Katie's tragic circumstances take so many stages in this story, but I don't really get to see them as much as I get to be told about what she's feeling on a certain day, before we move on to the next day, rinse and repeat. It's very high-level, and I have trouble getting emotionally invested with high-level storytelling.

For example: The storm, and the repercussions of it, play into the theme of the story brilliantly, and what was meant to be a hinge-point in your story happens over only two paragraphs. And when something's that short, I don't think too much about it. There's so much of that shortness here.

Also, count me down as someone who clattered horribly into the hurdle described in >>Cassius's piece, Lizard-Human Sexual Compatibility and Their Narrative Implications, a Dissertation. I found that scene really gross. And here's what was really frustrating about it: If we don't include the introduction or the finale, that sex scene was given the most attention of anything in the story. We gloss over her entire journey from a scared victim of Isekai, to learning a new language and how to survive, through becoming useful, through introducing this species to art, through the entire setup of her and Hyathka's relationship, and finally to a girl struggling to connect with those around her, yet it's that scene that gets the most words. I found that frustrating.

As a concept, and as something written very nice and very tightly, this story is fine. I wish I had seen it play out in a longer form, and I especially wish I had seen more of Katie interacting with Hyathka. Those little interactions between two characters flirting with a relationship, when written well, will go farther than the prettiest prose every single time.

And who knows? Maybe if I'd seen their relationship play out, I wouldn't have hated the sex scene. Who really knows.

Thanks for writing. Good luck. See you next time.
#67 · 1
Sorry I couldn't participate this round... but congrats to the winners, even in the small field. I really hope the writeoff doesn't die out just because MLP's on its final season.
#68 · 2
· on Gardenia
Greetings to GGA and Miller! Well done guys!

>>Miller Minus
>>Baal Bunny
Thanks to all for your comments, and thanks for your appreciation, though I still think this “story” didn’t deserved to medal. It was really rushed, written in four hours Monday morning at work, and finished 3 minutes after the official deadline.

More a sketch than a final product.

I’m truly sorry I left so many mistakes, typos and others grammatical horrors – this proves I have still a lot of progress to make to hike up my English to an acceptable level.

And that was an unmistakable giveaway, too.

As I said before, I’m currently in the boonies with nothing else than my phone, so I’ll keep it deliberately short, but I’ll add a few lines to each of you as soon as I return to civilisation tomorrow.

Thanks again for your appreciation, and congratulation to everyone!
#69 · 3
· on The Neighbors
>>Baal Bunny
>>Miller Minus

Thank you guys so much for the reviews! I’m a very slow writer so this took the whole three days. I almost abandoned it, like I do for most of my projects, but I’m glad I stuck through with it. Also, commas and spelling words right is not my strong suit. Bare with me. ;;;;)

I didn’t think that The Twilight Zone was a cliche until about an hour ago when I went back to read random stories and I fell upon Mono’s haunted jacket one. Hadn’t run into one in all the stories I’ve gone back to read all this time and then this. Huh.

I’m still working on show not tell, that’s really hard for me to grasp, but I’m glad I got some of it right!

Side note— no, I was not in cahoots with Baal. Apparently we were both feeling that “Polly” feeling that day.

The pacing was definitely the worst part. I wanted the first three days to be half the story and then the last half be the night she breaks in. I needed another couple days to fit that in and another day for one of the very generous editors to look over my story.

Thanks again! Over this past year I’ve seen all.... three? Four? Of my stories are slowly improving. Largely thanks to you guys. See you in two weeks, losers.
#70 · 1
· on Bits and Bites
>>Miller Minus

Thanks, folks, and congrats to our medalists!

Since I only had about 8 hours spread out over the three day writing period to work on this, I concentrated on just getting the "step-by-step stuff" done from beginning to end. There is a story here, but since I write by the accretion method, this is just the framework of it. It'll need another draft or three to layer in the character stuff and the world-building stuff and turn it into a proper cake or parfait or trifle.

#71 · 3
· on A Good Glass of Gin
Who's this moron?

Anyway, retrospective is a go! First off, I'm pretty surprised that this did as well as it did. As my own comment revealed, I was a bit unsure of my execution of it--what you got was actually a second draft I intended to go back to on Saturday night before a sudden and rather horrific hayfever attack that left be bedridden for most of the next 24 hours. But I'm still pretty happy with the concept, and I'm very happy with a respectable fourth place.

>>Baal Bunny
Both the next too reviewers had much the same issue that you did with the story, so it's something I clearly need to address. The funny thing is though that I didn't really think very much about the whole Apocalypse angle--more specifically, I wasn't worried about it clashing with his idea of liking being a little more normal. In retrospect, this was a bit dumb, and why I really should have badgered my random friend who I press-ganged into being pre-reader into actually reading the damn thing before the submission date. Sometimes you really just need someone else to point out "why is that there" for you to realise something obviously wrong with your story.

My vague thoughts on the matter were along the lines of how some people think about the big bang. Namely, that when the universe eventually goes into total heat death, things will eventually collapse inwards into another big bang and the whole universe will start again. I was sort of thinking of the apocalypse less as 'God destroys the world just because' and more 'the world already ended (hence why we see no human characters at any point in the story) and God is just cleaning up and starting again'. However, this was very much confined to my head rather than anywhere at all in the text. If/when I rework this, I'll definitely need to either add that subtext in as actual text (or even actual subtext rather than JK Rowling-esque author headcanon) or just ditch the apocalypse bit. I'm not sure it's needed.

I'm glad you like the concept! Most people seem to have approved, which makes me think I've got something worth chipping away at here. I'm even more glad you like the dialogue, since it is (as you mentioned) most of the story.

I go into a bit of detail above in my response to Baal about my flub a la Apocalypse--suffice to say, I have read less of the bible than you, and did not fully think through "hey let's just have the end of the fucking world in here lol". I did have some reasoning behind the decision, but I really don't think it holds up under scrutiny, and I will definitely be changing this part quite a bit. Maybe just make the story about Mr. Holy Trinity just generally slacking on godly duties, rather than specifically putting the Apocalypse behind schedule.

Your other point is... not wrong. I only really noticed when re-reading if after your comment, but there's definitely an abrupt shift once Mary comes along. Things like this are why pre-readers/long-suffering friends are essential. :/ I'll work on it--maybe expand it a little? But just having visitor after visitor feels a bit like I'm adding words for the sake of adding words. I dunno. I'll work on it.

You always write me amazing comments. Bombay Sapphire bless you. ^_^

Speaking of, your suggestion to actually name him is an interesting one, and actually has a lot of merit. To be honest, I was kind of considering it early in the writing process, but discarded it once I couldn't think of a name that felt fitting. The closest I came was just calling him 'Abe' as in Abraham, or 'Jay' as in Jay-Z Jehovah. But you've converted me back to the idea.

And man, the new Good Omens adaptation was great. Definitely part of where this idea came from (along with this Bon Iver song).

The interactions between Bombay Sapphire and everyone is pretty nice. Seeing as the majority of the story is carried by the dynamics of Bombay Sapphire's relationship with everyone, all you needed to do was to make those relationships feel grounded, mellifluous, and worthwhile, to which I can attest: "Mission Accomplished".

This was my big goal for this story, so I'm glad I got that right!

Yet despite that, however, it didn't really draw my interest further into the story any more than the premise already did. I think there are definitely some points of the dialogue that I think could be expanded further, like when Bombay Sapphire answered Enoch's question about why he was building the still, or his response to Mary calling him a child. As it is right now, it's good, but I personally believe more can be done to really let every one of Bombay Sapphire's moments with them shine.

That's completely fair. More than that even--you've given me some great pointer on 'where to go and try and flesh things out more'. You're right, both the 'child' moment and the actual first answer he gives to 'why are you up here doing this' could use more depth to them.

The issues about the use of Revelations in this story pointed out by my fellow reviewers is definitely what stopped me from getting into the story properly, in that Bombay Sapphire's motives as the story progresses seems to be inherently asinine.

Ouch. This, and the paragraphs following, pretty brutally deconstruct exactly how dumb I was being about the apocalypse issue. I answered in more depth above to Baal, but essentially I didn't think it through enough, and didn't make the rather shaky reasoning I had for God's actions clear in the text at all. The consensus seems to be this was a make or break issue that fell very much on the break side, and in retrospect I can only ruefully agree.This is clearly the biggest thing I need to fix here. And while I'm going to at least tinker with the idea of making the apocalypse angle work better, I think I am most likely going to stop serving the apocalypse and gin cocktail. Possibly start serving them in separate bars entirely.

That's not how it works in our neighbourhood, Bombay Sapphire. You hear me, I know you can read the WriteOff comments from up there, you tempestuous backwards mongrel.

You really do write the best comments. Even when you're tearing me (and Bombay Sapphire) a new one.

Last but never least: >>Miller Minus
...Yeah, I really fucked up the apocalypse angle. I don't really have answers for your first paragraph here, as I didn't have any when I was writing this. And no, I don't think Sunday school would have helped.

I also found the dialogue to be stilted in places, and I'm not sure how much of that is an issue with the dialogue itself, or with the amount of character description that's gone into these interactions. Between most every line, I have to read about what each character is looking at, or what their eyebrow just did, or what a bead of sweat travelling down their neck is up to. All this stuff just slows you down, Author, and suffocates the dialogue.

Hmm. I was really trying to bring the scene to life, give the reader a proper mental picture of this dude and his surroundings. I may have been over-zealous with the descriptives. Thanks for pointing it out, definitely something for me to chew on.

As for the rest of your review, I think you're right about a bit of a mixup in terms of Big G being in the wrong. I was going for the 'don't run away from your responsibilities even if they kind of suck' angle, but it's not like he was asking for much. In some ways this is actually a harder thing to fix that the big issue about the Apocalypse, because I'm not really sure how to fix it at the moment. I'll work on it.

Thanks to everyone for the reviews. I truly appreciate the time and effort that everyone puts into them, it's one of the best bits of the Writeoff as a whole. See you next time!
#72 ·
· on Yako · >>Anon Y Mous
The lemonnipples are somewhat distracting, but overall this is a compelling piece, abstracted with flat but powerful shapes. A top slater.
#73 ·
· on Sorry · >>Anon Y Mous
Clever work, building a raptor out of bird parts and Worth1000 shoops. A good comedic effort. Thanks, Artist!
#74 ·
· on Virtue al Villainy
Nice train set, and a creative assembled photo. You’ve got it coming together. Kudos, Artist.
#75 ·
· on Behold! Hawlucha... err Hyathka! · >>Anon Y Mous
I really liked this entry before I found out it was a joke. :(
#76 ·
· on Yako
Hey Artist,

I'm not a crazy good art critic and I may not be the most unbiased source but I think this is dope. I love how you chose a lineless, almost formless style for our cast here, and I think it complements the story excellently.

Thanks so much for drawing this.
#77 ·
· on Virtue al Villainy · >>GroaningGreyAgony
It's always so great:

To see actual art come out of the weird little things my flailing fingers manage to flick onto the site here. Thanks for this, GGA!

#78 · 1
· on Virtue al Villainy
>>No_Raisin, >>Anon Y Mous, >>Baal Bunny


Thanks for the gold!

I had trouble coming up with a scene I wanted to draw, but I had been digging through my attic recently and found my old train set. I made the connection with Baal’s story and decided on a diorama of the first scene. ( Overhead View. )

The ground is a black bath mat, which wound up looking grey because of the lighting, and sadly the values are rather close to that of the train track; this is something I’d change if I could redo things. In the back can be seen a book scanner, a thermos, a puzzle and a few bits of lab glass. What looked like a coffee cup in perspective was the cap from a butane bottle. The backdrop is a piece of blue iridescent cloth I got for another project. The figures were sketched and cut from paper, then propped in place with T-pins.

>>Baal Bunny
You’re very welcome! Thanks for making it possible.
#79 ·
· on Yako
Congrats on the silver, Nonny! This piece should have taken the gold this round.
#80 ·
· on Sorry
How was this the bottom-scoring art piece?! This was so funny!
#81 · 5
· on Kitsune
>>Baal Bunny


Thanks for your comments gentlemen, and thanks so much for the medal. Big ups to everyone this round; I know we weren't all crazy proud of what we submitted but everyone's a winner for doing so.

I originally had plans for writing this big long retrospective titled "Let's All Laugh At Past Miller" where I would describe my thought process and jovially detail how everything came crashing down by the time the writing period was over. Seriously, this story took a mind of its own, and it escaped me. When I wrote this line:

Like a dog owner running short of breath, my body let go of the leash, let my mind run away, and collapsed to the floor.

That was inspired by the story itself. No... Please... come back...

So your reviews (and those in the chat) fell on some issues I had seen coming, and plenty I didn't, so this is one of the most useful rounds I've ever been in. Thanks so much.

Also, I wanted to share one line from the retrospective that wasn't to be:

Awww, look at Past Miller go. Such confidence. Such focus. He thinks he's Cold in Gardez.

See you next time!
#82 · 2
· on Sorry

I this 100% should have taken third. My copy paste photo should be exempt from the results. Sorry for everyone that thought I actually drew that picture of Hawlucha.

And yes, I am very proud of this picture lmao. At first I was going to, even worsely, put this photoshop job together, but I got an idea and it was really fun putting these things together, so I clocked in wayyyy more hours than I should have working on this thing.
#83 ·
· on Behold! Hawlucha... err Hyathka!

Pls ban me thanks.
#84 · 2
· on Yako
>>Miller Minus

Sorry about lemon-nipples. I knew that it was hard to tell what it was. I imagined the father always wearing big, bulky coats, that’s why the grey is round and fluffy, and I imagined him to have droopy eyes, hence the lemons. I had hoped the axe in his neck would help, but I don’t think it did.

I’m most proud of the wife’s hair and the fox’s claws. Her hair was fun to do. I wanted to give her a fox tail, but that would have crowded the picture too much

Skye doesn’t have much form because I’m bad at drawing humans and I couldn’t find a reference for humans sitting like that.

I’m glad you guys liked the lack of outlines. It’s a new style which took a bit of getting used to. Silhouettes are hard to do completely, see Skye for example. I had to add blood to add form and shape to her. It worked out, but I do think of how I could have done it better.

Anyway, thanks for the reviews! See you guys in... a week?
#85 · 3
· on Reshaped
>>Meridian_Prime, >>Baal Bunny, >>WritingSpirit, >>No_Raisin, >>Cassius, >>Miller Minus


Thanks for the gold!

I was fortunate enough to get a good idea on the first day; if I get one at all, it usually comes to me on the afternoon/evening before the deadline. Even so, I lost Saturday to other commitments, so I had to summarize a lot. The terseness of most of Kh-Teh’s backstory can be partly attributed to this; I should have shown more of her interactions with the Arkies through rendered scenes.

I was hoping not to have to spell out what Chaisahk means, but sort of evoke it. It involves elements of sapience, resilience, and the drive to make it through somehow, anyhow.

>>Cassius >>Miller Minus

Well, it worked for Chuck Tingle.

I didn’t want to glorify or fetishize Kh-Teh’s interactions, but point out how awkward a solution they are to her troubles. She and the Arkies really are not sexually compatible, and nothing Kh-Teh does is going to improve that. She is certainly not slapping extra meat on the asses of the sculptures she makes to try to sexualize them further, though I applaud your creativity in coming up with that one. I’ll probably follow the suggestions to downplay this part or remove it.

Thanks to all for the great comments. See you next round!
#86 ·
· on Reshaped
tl;dr I feel like there's a missing third race that trades with the village and whose existence explains the existence of the word Chaisahk.

I think I got Chaisahk, but what struck me about it is that they have a word for a thing that they may never use, and are an agrarian society. If I were to travel back in time 1000 years and visit an English farming village, they'd have no equivalent for sophont or sapience.

One of the most striking things I've learned about language evolution was in a piece about color words. A thing I'd heard before, but this time it was expressed in a very clear and understandable way. It went something like "cultures don't create words for colors until they can reliably create them." Likewise, I wouldn't expect these lizard people to have a word for sophonts until they (this particular village) are regularly interacting with at least one other group of non-Arkie sophonts.

The bit about language came--probably on NPR--from an article similar to this article about blue, which states
In fact, the first society to have a word for the colour blue was the Egyptians, the only culture that could produce blue dyes. From then, it seems that awareness of the colour spread throughout the modern world.