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It Could Probably Get Worse · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
#1 · 12
· · >>Trick_Question
Oh, thank God. I was just thinking there's not nearly enough writeoff going on.
#2 · 5
· · >>Anon Y Mous >>Trick_Question
Coolio. Wanted to give one of these a try. Let's see how it goes. Need some inspiration, after all.
#3 · 4

I’m glad to see new people take a..... gander at the contest.

I’m so sorry that’ll be the last joke I promise
#4 · 3
>>Miller Minus
Can I please stop writing fiction now

I have to grade exams :raritydespair:

I'm currently writing something for the R-Rated competition and I didn't even want to enter that anymore but I can't stop my hooftappity halp
#5 · 4
· · >>Gander
I've been warned about your kind

#6 · 7
>>Trick_Question Feathered fiends with free time and fickle dispositions are best avoided.
#7 · 2
· · >>Bachiavellian
Why is one of the prompts Ot-ober? I assume the Ot’s intentional, given the hyphen. Am I missing something obvious/am I just dense?

Apologies if we’re not supposed to discuss the prompts yet or whatnot.
#8 · 6
· · >>Trick_Question >>Gander >>georg
Oh lord, it's a silly in-joke.

About four or five years ago, during prompt submissions I was trying to submit "It's a Magical World." As fate would have it, my right hand was misaligned one set of keys to the right, and what I typed instead was O + t + Enter, immediately submiting the prompt, "Ot".

At the time, I didn't know you could edit prompt submissions, so when everyone started asking about it, I just fessed up. Since then, it's become a dumb meme that pops up in the prompt submissions (and in a few cursed fic entries) every now and then.

Please don't run, I swear we're all mostly sane.
#9 · 1
· · >>Bachiavellian

(I didn't remember you fessed up to it)

EDIT: Wait, this one's more appropriate.
#10 · 3
· · >>Bachiavellian

Wild. Four/five years as well? That's impressive, both for the lifespan of the joke and the fact that y'all are still around. Any other long-running trends I ot to be aware of?
#11 · 3
· · >>Trick_Question
Look upon my young naivete and laugh:

And, I could have sworn you and I have talked about me being the cause of Ot. If not, then allow me to formally apologize--I know that you're sick to death of it. :P
#12 · 5
· · >>Gander
the fact that y'all are still around.

There's actually been a lot of user turnover since then. Out of the 50 or so authors who participated in the round when Ot was born, I see maybe five-ish of them still participating regularly. But everyone passes knowledge of this god-forsaken meme to the next generation before they go, it seems.

Any other long-running trends I ot to be aware of?

First of all, I fucking see what you did there. >:(

But really, I guess the only other thing to note is that every now and then we get a little dramatic about an entry or two. Personally, I try to stay outta drama these days, but if you ever see it go down (or, god forbid, it happens to one of your entries) just know that the folks here never mean to disparage the author, even though we might have strong opinions about the story.

I'll let other folks chime in if I'm forgetting any other bits of tribal knowledge that could be relevant.

Let us know if you've got any other questions! I'd be happy to help if I can!
#13 · 2
· · >>Bachiavellian
Let us know if you've got any other questions! I'd be happy to help if I can!
Wonderful! Thanks a million.
But really, I guess the only other thing to note is that every now and then we get a little dramatic about an entry or two.
Out of curiosity, what does this mean, exactly? Like, arguments over quality? Debates over content?
#14 · 3
· · >>Gander
Like, arguments over quality? Debates over content?

Bit of both, really. It's happened before when an entry tries to tackle a contriversial topic, or when folks disagree about certain interpretations/reviews. The fact that the author needs to maintain anonymity and can't directly explain things until after the results come out is sometimes a contributing factor.

Basically, a lot of the regulars here have gotten used to giving and receiving feedback to each other, and it can come across as blunt without meaning to. We've had discussions in the past about the kind of tone we want in our conversations and reviews, but everytime we get a bunch of newcomers (like we have been these past few events), it's worth bringing the topic up again.
#15 · 1
Keep in mind my memory over the past few years has been really bad for medical reasons.

And there's nothing to apologize for. You're not the ones who drilled it into the ground.
#16 · 1
>>Bachiavellian Well, it is Otoberfest time....
#17 · 2
I'm pretty sure:

I'll be too busy huddling in front of my TV and weeping about the final Pony episodes on Saturday to do any writing, but, well, one never knows, do one? :)

#18 · 3
· · >>Bachiavellian
>>Bachiavellian On the subject of reviews, how do folks here generally go about giving reviews for submissions here? I give feedback on writing pretty regularly, but that's more relegated to the folks I meet up with on-campus, in-person, which means I'm generally able to talk about intent and such, which gives it a more back-and-forth style.
#19 · 3
· · >>Gander
Oh boy, this is a topic we actually discuss a lot, so I really can't speak for everyone.

You're right that the most prominent part of the reviewing process is definitely the fact that the author can't respond until after the event is over. For authors, a lot of us take it as a chance to be able to see how our readers react to our story on its own merits. For reviewers, then, in my opinion it's key for the feedback to be very honest about our reactions to the story. Of course, they should also be written in a polite and friendly way, but we had a bit of an issue a while back where some reviewers seemed to be afraid to be honest about how they felt about stories. The result was that some stories got speckled with mild/generic praise, but ended up doing poorly in the results.

So to try to put it into a nutshell, I'd say that it's very important to provide feedback consistent with your reading experience, but at the same time it should be delivered pleasantly. Keep in mind that the author might be pulling their hair out at the fact that they can't respond to you, after all.

Feel free to browse previous threads in the Archive if you want to see specific examples of feedback, but you're more or less free to come up with your own style. We're happy with however long or short you want to leave your thoughts as, and in the past some reviewers had their own reviewing formats with rating systems and scores, although that style sees a little less use nowadays.

I do want to say, thanks for asking! It's great to get people who are so interested in the reviewing aspect of these events!
#20 · 4
For reviewers, then, in my opinion it's key for the feedback to be very honest about our reactions to the story. Of course, they should also be written in a polite and friendly way, but we had a bit of an issue a while back where some reviewers seemed to be afraid to be honest about how they felt about stories. The result was that some stories got speckled with mild/generic praise, but ended up doing poorly in the results.
Coolio. Thanks for the info. So be honest, but do so in a polite way. Seems straightforward enough.

We're happy with however long or short you want to leave your thoughts as, and in the past some reviewers had their own reviewing formats with rating systems and scores, although that style sees a little less use nowadays.
In that case, I'll probably just roll with generalized thoughts. Don't see much use for a rating system, and if it's not expected I think I can perform better without constraining myself with something like that.

I do want to say, thanks for asking! It's great to get people who are so interested in the reviewing aspect of these events!
Giving feedback is probably one of my favorite parts of writing. I'm never gonna be the best at it, but I sure can aim to get there. The more I force myself to read other works and understand what worked about them, both on a technical level and on an emotional level for me, the more it helps me realize what I'm looking to do as an author. Not looking at other works would be criminal, in my opinion, and I feel like I owe it to give others what little insight I can offer, in the hopes that they can dredge something useful out of ramblings.
#21 · 1
· · >>Bachiavellian
Okay, quick question. Do stories show up in the gallery after the deadline passes or as they're added? Cause if it's the latter, I was considering checking in later and trying to get some early reading done before tomorrow (when I have to go back into lab and slog my way through 10 GB of video). And while I haven't actually finished my piece yet, but I recognize I'd probably be that obnoxious fellow who posts self-congratulatory messages when they actually get their piece finished, and I think that's probably a bad call if stories are added to the gallery as they go, since that'd ID me pretty quickly, and I'd rather not, ya know, fail the anonymity test within 30 seconds.
#22 · 5
· · >>Gander
They'll all show up in the Gallery at once, when the submission period ends.

And on that note, you'll be able to see and edit your submission(s) at the bottom of the Fic Submission page, if you need to make changes after you send it in. Of course, the ability to edit will end when the writing period ends.

Good luck!

EDIT: Also, basically everyone has probably written an "I'm in this one!" comment at some point. You'd be in good company. :P
#23 · 7
I've been clinically dead since yesterday.

But that's okay, skeletons can still contribute.
#24 · 1
They'll all show up in the Gallery at once, when the submission period ends.
Alrighty. Unfortunate, but I'll squeeze in some time tomorrow afternoon to review or something after I've managed to take care of the videos, then.
#25 · 4
Urgh. Finally got something in. Had some rough life stuff come up in the middle of today, which I'm going to use as my excuse for any lack of quality in my piece. Best of luck to everyone else- hope they get something in as well.
#26 · 1
· · >>Anon Y Mous
I gotta know, are we allowed to write about events that took place in the series finale in this Writeoff? Or is there some kind of spoiler policy against that?
#27 · 3
· · >>π
Well, it is the original fiction contest right now so I would say hard no lol.

In the pony round I think you are, but you are required to put a warning at the beginning.
#28 · 3
>>Anon Y Mous
Oh it's an original fiction round. Whoops, missed that detail.

#29 · 3
As fate would have it, I was able to hop onto this round with a partially finished piece I created on a whim awhile back. Hastily prepared since the hour grows late for submission, but I won't pass up an opportunity when there is one.

Besides, I like the new schedule now. I prefer always trying to think on feet than winding down only to get anxious over and over again because another competition coming up.
#30 · 3
I have written something. It could probably be worse.
#31 · 3
· on Everything's Better (and Worse) with Dinosaurs · >>No_Raisin
My dearest hope is that this is referencing Land Before Time, because dang-it, I want someone else to have watched my childhood movies.

So, a few general comments about structure. This is all, inevitably, building up to a one-line payoff, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. This seems like it’s meant to be a comedy piece, but it doesn’t really feel like that to me. There’s this weird dichotomy, at least when I was reading it, between the generalized ‘there’s a dinosaur park and it’s awesome’ feeling and the final line at the end. I dunno. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t feel particularly significant in the long run.

Style-wise, I really enjoyed the prose.

I also like the characters- I like Jessie and John interacting- the story does a good job making Jessie clear, as a character, to me- I feel like I’ve got a good grasp of who she is, at least on a surface level. John less so, but at the end of the day he’s there to play the role of newbie and let Jessie talk about the park to him, which is fine, and in turn let’s us get more of Jessie as a character.

Ultimately, I thought this was pretty okay. Writing style was good, but I didn’t really feel like it particularly went anywhere, aside from the joke at the end.
#32 · 4
· on Please Mind the Gap · >>Bachiavellian
Disclaimer: I've never actually read Hemmingway's stuff, so the story's accuracy to the book is unknown to be me. For the sake of the review, I'm assuming everything is accurate and he's not intentionally misleading on it or anything like that. If that's not the case, someone please let me know so I can adjust my review accordingly.

The voice jolted me out of my trance, and I almost drop my book.
Everything else is present tense, and I had to reread the start of the story to figure out what tense it was going to be. I can't speak for other people, but for me, it did disorient me, and with the limited space these stories have, it's vaguely frustrating.

Ignoring the tense errors, however, I did like this one, a lot. If I were to describe it in a word, I'd describe it as lonely. The empty subway, the way both protagonists are really only passing through when they meet, and I love the detail of consistently mentioning the train doors and the speaker, over and over, and over. It's a phenomenal way of conveying the passage of time and the pauses in this conversation, which are never explicitly stated yet are so clear when I'm reading it.

Now for the big about Hemmingway. I like using the Old Man and the Sea as a way to connect the two protagonists. I'm still considering the relationship between the two conversationalists and the Old Man and the Sea. I'm sure there's something more insightful that someone who's read the book can offer, but even without it, I love the sense of melancholy that both characters have, which the book's tone also hammers in.

So, yeah. I'm not far into my slate, but I really enjoy this one. I think there's a lot to unpack and I might come back to this one again for a second look, after I've had more time to think on it, but for now, I'm really looking forward to seeing how this one does.
#33 · 6
· on Atop the Hill at Midnight · >>Monokeras
Angsty Jesus is my favorite Jesus.

Something I liked:

Very simple, but also very effective. Knowing who Barabbas is going in helps, but I think even without the context of his relationship with JC (Denton), you get the strong impression that he's a man suffering from survivor's guilt. The people chose (or rather were encouraged) to save him instead of Jesus, despite Barabbas certainly not being a saint, and I can imagine that weighing on any man's conscience. There's also the fact that Jesus is portrayed as very self-doubting in the final hours of life, which I always found more interesting than a Jesus who wholeheartedly believes in himself.

Something I didn't like:

There are a few things that threw me off, though. Being caught up on the Jesus Christ extended universe is generally a good idea when reading this sort of entry, but some details here ring as questionable to me. I'm pretty sure Jesus did the savior business for way less than ten years, for one. And when referring to being betrayed by two of his disciples, I'm assuming he's referring to Judas and Peter, but "betrayal" might be the wrong word to use in Peter's case. As much as I like the stripped-back prose, there's also the occasional odd turn of phrase that pulled me out of it.

Verdict: You'll notice a pattern where I like an entry because it's right up my alley, and this is the first of those.
#34 · 2
· on Everything's Better (and Worse) with Dinosaurs
I can't believe someone turned this into a minific.

Something I liked:

Very much a mentor/scrub dynamic, an easy pretext for exposition dumps, but I like the relationship between John and Jessie. For an entry that puts a lot of emphasis on a poo joke, I found the two characters to be fairly well-defined. Jessie seems like the kind of nerd who would withhold information, just to see newcomers' reactions to a certain thing happening in one's favorite TV show. John seems clueless enough, and the fact that he doesn't seem to treat dinosaurs as anything more than weird animals is kind of cute. I'd like to read more about these two and how they help manage the park.

Something I didn't like:

Structurally this is one of the wonkier entries, no question about it. If you read enough minifics, you'll notice that they tend to be one scene long, and on the occasion that there are two scenes there tends to be one long scene, followed by a short punchy scene. This entry basically has two halves, and I'm not sure they mesh well. If I squint I can see a thematic throughline, particularly with Jessie's lines, but it feels like there's a scene missing that would make the story feel more cohesive. It'd also be nice to see more of how the park works, like what being a visitor would be like.

Verdict: Despite getting punk'd by this entry, I was charmed by it. Yes, this one's also up my alley.
#35 · 3
· on Please Mind the Gap · >>Bachiavellian
There should be a special badge for the biggest mood, because this entry would get it.

Something I liked:

Yes, I too have read The Old Man and the Sea, which is an excellent novella about an old man whose very minor achievement feels like a triumph in the context of his miserable life. And that applies to this entry, but without even the temporary reprieve of catching the big fish, it's just very... lost. Very pessimistic, very grungy, like Cormac McCarthy if he had any empathy for his characters. Empathy is not a problem here, with the narrator and the women understanding each other's pain in this moment of time where nothing of actual importance happens. You know I'm all about that mood shit.

Something I didn't like:

Kind of hard to come up with criticisms for this that don't either cover some very minor technical faults or just pedantic nonsense that would only apply to me and no one else. I guess if I have anything substantially negative to say, it's that I want more from this entry. Is that even negative? Is it negative to say you want more of a story? I guess what I'm saying is that while this does tell the story of a moment in time and taste of said moment, the relationship between the narrator and the woman is very abstract and very mundane. You can do more with them, I know this much for a fact.

Verdict: Three for three with my readings so far, and this might be my favorite of an admirably strong bunch.
#36 · 7
· on The God Killer · >>Cassius
I like to imagine the narrator is Charlie Bukowski. Can't say it doesn't make sense.

Something I liked:

This entry is dumber than a bag of hammers, it meanders a lot, the narration could've been written by someone's drunken uncle, it's casually misogynistic, and the ending joke is lame as fuck. But enough about its virtues.

Something I didn't like:

How does one criticize perfection?

Verdict: Fucking stupid, and I like it.
#37 · 2
· on Anything That Can Go Wrong · >>Cassius
Murphy is trying to chill with her girlfriend, but she's dummy thicc, and the CLAP of her ass cheeks keeps causing bad luck.

Something I liked:

Shit, that's cute. That's really cute. I would even go so far as to say that making this an F/M pairing would make it not quite as cute. M/M is very much possible, though. It's one of those relationship stories where I feel like I know these people, and of course Murphy and Paz just bring out the flamboyant gay man buried deep inside of me. Wait, that didn't sound right...

Something I didn't like:

As adorable as this entry is, I feel like the last paragraph pushes it too far. It's so rainbow-filled that it becomes cliched, which is a shame to see coming from a story that is otherwise as inventive as this. Just tweak the ending a bit and you'll have my vote 100%, but like, you don't have to. It's just my opinion, darling.

Verdict: YASS, GURL!
#38 · 1
· on Crooked? Review
I’m swimming in money, baby.

-Reviewed by:

Jack Johnston
Best Selling Author
Napa Valley, California
#39 · 2
· on The God Killer · >>Cassius
I gotta say, this got me the second time around.

That Jesus part kills me. I’m not immune to it’s thralls.

For me, personally, I imagine The Godfather is speaking. 10/10 would kill god again.
#40 · 2
· on The God Killer · >>Cassius
I don’t know what to make of this. I can’t even properly review it. To properly review something, I have to understand it in some capacity.

I think I liked it?


Alright. Gonna try and review it nonetheless. Mulled over my thoughts some more.

This isn't a nuanced story or anything. But it doesn't try to be- it's some dude with three friends (or rough acquaintances, as the case may be) killing God and all the divine family. Straightforward enough. It's exactly what it tries to be and is perfect for every moment of that.

It's a meandering mess, but that's the charm of the piece. It's just some dude rattling off the whole sordid tale with every flourish he can muster. I do like this one a lot the more I think about it.
#41 · 6
· on Money Down · >>LoftyWithers

Something I liked:


Something I didn't like:

I was really confused by this entry when I first read it, and a second reading didn't help. There's a story here, but I struggle to take anything from it, because everything is written in such a context-lacking fashion. I'm not sure what Johnen and his girlfriend were up to, or why the police were looking for them. I guess Johnen is supposed to be a criminal, but I'm not sure what he even does specifically. I'm not sure why the cops shot his girlfriend at point-blank range, and we're never given an explanation for that either. The last scene doesn't really clear up anything. It was just a very messy read for me.

Verdict: Unfortunately this is the first entry on my slate that I just don't vibe with. Sorry. :/
#42 · 3
· on Freezer Burn · >>PinoyPony
I really like the idea of this one, how it spins what could be a life-and-death scenario out of mundane circumstances. You do a nice job of presenting a problem, and then having the main character work out an interesting and plausible solution, and for the most part your pacing feels good.

I think I'm having a little bit of trouble with the ultimate resolution, though. While I like that flash of anger at realizing that his coworker negligently endangered him, I'm not really sure what to take from the fact that the boss kind of laughs the whole thing off and berates Cole. It kind of makes the whole life=threatening business feel like an anti-climax. Personally, what I found interesting about the peril was that it arose out of a series of seemingly innocent missteps, but when the story goes out of its way to deconstruct the premise like this, it really does feel like you're popping your own balloon to a degree.

I guess the question I'm asking myself is, what is the ultimate goal of this story? The way it self-deflates its tension is almost like a comedy, but there aren't really any jokes here. And as a thriller piece (which I originally thought it was), it feels anticlimactic in the way it handles its resolution.

So my biggest suggestion would be to refine the ending, keeping in mind what you want your audience's payoff to be. If you want the reader to feel kind of silly and with a vague sense of pointlessness, then while this story succeeds in doing that, it doesn't do so entertainingly, at least to me. If you were hoping for your reader to have a different takeaway from this one, then it might take a little more tweaking before it's clear.

Thank you for writing!
#43 · 4
· on The Torturer
I like sci-fi and things with sci-fi-ish slants, so this one definitely wins a lot of brownie points from me. Character introductions are done really well here, with us getting a good idea of each character's archetype quickly and effortlessly.

But I'm a little worried about the general pacing of this one. It's really not until about 300 words in that we start getting an idea of what this story is about. With most stories, I wouldn't bat an eye at a 300 word wind-up, but in the context of a minific, that's almost half of your word count before your readers feels confident enough in the premise to start investing themselves. As a result, it's kind of hard to be immediately captivated by this one.

As for the ending, I'm also experiencing a little bit of vagueness about the ultimate payoff. There's the mini-twist that Ramires is actually totally cool with it, but overall I'm not certain how I'm supposed to feel about the whole deal. The twist itself is pretty small-scale, so I don't think you meant for the story to be carried by it. So instead, I'm left wondering what the audience's takeaway is supposed to be. The way things are right now, I'm just not sure what kinds of emotions or thoughts the story is meant to evoke from me.

So overall, I think that between the slower pacing and the murky payoff, I'm having trouble enjoying this one the way I think you intended. My suggestion would be to cut out some of the words from the front end of this story and to instead invest them in the back end, where some more context might be needed to sell the final takeaway.

Thank you for entering!
#44 · 2
· on Cat's in the Cradle · >>libertydude
Kind of medium mood. It's a mood, but it didn't force-pull my wig or anything.

Something I liked:

It's clear that the author has a lot of confidence in the reader to connect the dots for themselves, and I very much respect that. This is a mood piece that actually develops its point throughout, instead of laying everything bare from the get-go. The narrator is sad and wants to get a cat, but why they wanna do this is not made immediately clear. I like this; it gives one the illusion of suspense. I say illusion because nothing really happens in this entry, but we do get a nicely pace examination of a relationship that is clearly on the rocks, and with at least one party going through a very rough time.

Something I didn't like:

I have to wonder, though, why this story was told in this particular way. It's a monologue, or more like a one-sided conversation, but putting the reader in the silent party's shoes is kind of a risky move. Putting the reader in a position where they seem to have an effect on the plot (this is technically a 2nd person story), but then you don't give them anything to work with, which seems to defeat the purpose. You could probably revise this story so that the narrator is now a character who is talking to someone else who is not the reader, and it might be more effective that way.

Verdict: Far from bad in my opinion, but it's missing a certain ingredient to really make it big mood.
#45 · 2
· on Cat's in the Cradle · >>libertydude
I'm always intrigued whenever someone's bold enough to go for a very significant and limiting gimmick like this, so kudos for that! The "I want a cat" hook is also pretty darn good, and it alone carried my reading experience for the first 1/2 or so of this.

Now, I'll be honest and say that for me, this story kind of falls into the trap that a lot of these one-sided-monologue type things end up in, which is that they come across as really, um, blunt. When you're following this format, it's really difficult to approach subjects with any kind of subtlety, and it's pretty easy to come across as heavy-handed. It's a little tough for me, personally, to imagine somebody saying, for instance, the "shaky timbre" line to other person in spoken speech. It's a little bit too well-articulated, IMO.

I'm also a little concerned about the general pacing/structure here. We spend about half of our word count talking about cats, and in the very next paragraph we get hit full force by the sad reveal. There might not be enough build-up at this point to make this feel earned to me. The tension escalates really quickly, and a result it feels a little jarring.

So overall, while I do like that you went with something different for this, I'm not 100% sure the gimmick carries its own weight. There are tradeoffs to every decision we make in writing, and at the moment I tend to feel that you might not be using the advantages of this medium/style enough to offset the disadvantages. If I had to give advice, I think I'd say that you might want to focus on making the prose feel a little more raw. People generally aren't very articulate at all when they're upset, and this kind of format could give you a real opportunity to channel those feelings if you word the monologue in a more immediately emotional way, IMO.

Thank you for entering!
#46 · 1
· on Cat's in the Cradle · >>Miller Minus >>libertydude
Haha, I definitely know who has written this piece! :p

I don’t agree 100% with what my two (way more competent) peers said above. This is, to me, quite a moving piece, and I like how the monologue reinforces the feeling of solitude. I mean, maybe you can’t appreciate this story fully unless you have children yourself? When I try to imagine what would happen if one of mine died, I’m at a loss. I know I would be gutted. So, this might be a reasonable answer.

Fortunately, it doesn’t apply to me, since I already have a cat.
#47 · 2
· on The Toppling Tower · >>Bachiavellian
Ahem. Call me a dope, but I don’t get the end.

Add to that that I’m not a big fan of fantasy stories, especially in this format where you cannot really world build lest you squander all your words on the background rather than the action. On a piece of that size, it is difficult to really care about the characters, especially when they are embarked in a larger story this one is only an excerpt of.

Then, there is the unexpected discovered of the egg-like object in a place where it should never have been. :p I suppose your choice of words to describe the scene is purposefully making it still more ludicrous than it is. But, I mean, really? Did you really have to invent that kink to make your story more interesting? It seems to me quite gratuitous, to be honest. If there’s a dash of humour here, it’s lost on me.

So, overall, I’m not so impressed by this one. Sorry, author.
#48 · 1
· on Money Down · >>LoftyWithers
I pretty much agree with Raisin said above. This is very disjointed.

First of all, though, I'd like to pinpoint how messy your first paragraph is. Let me quote it here: “…Every other light overhead was out, casting the area in patches of light and darkness. The clouds overhead reflected city lights, casting everything into pale orange glow.” Now not only the first and second sentence look suspiciously identical (overhead × 2, casting × 2) but they are also contradictory. If everything is cast in pale orange glow, there cannot be patches of darkness.

I am with Raisin when he says we don’t get why the GF get shot. I know, and Cassius likes to remind me, that American cops are very trigger-happy, but here it doesn’t really make sense, all the less that we get only a very partial description of the situation. We also don’t get to know by what miracle the cops identify the two characters in the street despite the very poor lighting condition. Then, for whatever reason, we are whisked off the scene and carried both in space and time towards a church for a conclusion which is both a bit lecturing and somehow so remote from the first scene that we barely connect them.
#49 · 1
· on Steps
Hmmm… I’m of two minds here. There’s definitely a sense of suspense, a building tension, and while the world building is incomplete (we don’t really get what the Strix are, besides some crystalline nature, and how they came into being), it is sufficient for the reader to figure out what's going on. However the final scene is really confused, if only because we don’t really get where the character looks, what way she’s facing, so it makes difficult to us to really grasp what mistake she makes and probably costs her her life, as the end suggests.

Also, I don’t see the point of wasting lines to describe a building in which she finally doesn’t enter. This distracts from the plot, and with such a strapped allowance of words, you cannot permit yourself to wander away from the heart of the action. I feel if you had redacted this part and used the freed words to describe a bit more what happens at the end, the story would've been stronger.
#50 · 4
· on Creation, and What Followed · >>PinoyPony >>Gander
If there’s a bird in this, it must be Miller's.

Seriously, this one is quite weird. I’m a bit at a loss to put my ducks in a row. The prose is at time a bit too stodgy for my liking, but really it seems… obscure and unfinished? For a tale tackling the subject of creation, I think it lacks… breadth? Grandeur? It is somehow detached, as you paint your phoenix. And yes, while you depict a creator bird that spends its time creating then "goes to the back seat" and enjoys watching without interfering, so your reader is shown into a chair and invited to read the story as a mere onlooker. I think the detachment comes from the fact that your story has no real final impact or lesson. We have no takeaway to walk away with, and so it leaves us with the unpleasant feeling that the meaning of the story has eluded us.
#51 · 1
· on Creation, and What Followed · >>Gander
As the first I've read, I can tell that this round is going to be good. That is usually my guiding compass.

I have a soft spot for these types of stories. It has the feel of a beginning, a legend that is told that sets the pace of the story.

But, springboarding from >>Monokeras, I do agree that these particular stories have a great weakness- it is airy, and the meaning can slip through the reader's hands easily. The mysteriousness gives it a little grace, but I'm left at the edge of my seat saying 'is that it, or is something going to happen?' I don't blame it though, 750 words doesn't give much room to spice it up.

But all in all, the prose is solid! Thanks for writing!
#52 · 2
· on The Torturer
Is it the torturer or the Torturer? I need answers, author.

Something I liked:

I really like what this entry's going for, at least in theory. It's a subversion of these kind of hi-tech stories where something goes wrong, and instead we get more of a character study that actually benefits from the technology. I don't think you could've told this story if it wasn't in a sci-fi setting. The idea that it's a simulation, and that Ramires is doing all this willingly, is central to the plot, and it's one of those classic sci-fi scenarios I can imagine reading in some anthology. The payoff, as banal as it is, felt earned, although there is one major issue I have with this...

Something I didn't like:

This entry has kind of a POV problem, and it undermines how much I could connect with the characters. On the one hand, I understand why we don't get planted in Ramires's shoes, considering the semi-twist hinges on not knowing how she's actually reacting to the simulation, but she's also a way more interesting character than Alec. The problem is that we don't really get to be in Alec's shoes either; it's the sort of omnipotent narration that prevents me from connecting with either character. This would not be such a problem if I wasn't supposed to get some serious emotional payoff from the experience.

Verdict: I feel very torn on this one. I like the premise, but I'm not really sold on it.
#53 ·
· on Crooked? Review
I’ve come back for a real review this time, folks!

So, I enjoyed this story and all of the bitterness the critic displayed. It was amusing, but not all out funny until we get to the box at the end. I don’t know about the rest of the readers, but I didn’t see that coming. Well done.

I don’t understand the title of the book nor the actual story, but that’s metaphorical water under the metaphorical bridge. I really liked this one and it’s definitely going in my upper half slate!
#54 · 3
· on Steps
I feel like what this entry really needs is Will Smith and a dog.

Something I liked:

It's difficult to separate how much I like this story as it is and how much I would like it more if it was a story I imagine in my head, but one thing I think really works is the lack of dialogue. This is one of those minifics where nobody talks, and given the situation Serena finds herself in it makes perfect sense that she would be a silent protagonist. I feel that her sense of loneliness is conveyed pretty well just from the fact that she has no one to talk to, not even herself. She lives in a reality where she's reduced to making fight-or-flight animal decisions, and that's something we rarely see in post-apocalypse stories.

Something I didn't like:

In an effort to be thrilling, however, I feel like this entry grossly undoes its potential as a story about loneliness. The narrative spends a good deal of time describing the Strix and their behavior, yet I was never invested enough in these creatures to differentiate them from zombies, or the vampires from "I Am Legend." For the purposes of the narrative, they may as well be generic monsters that hunt down Serena (fast-moving zombies would do the trick), but the story seems unsure of itself in this regard. It's disappointing to see a mood piece like this be degraded and converted into a big spoopy monster tale.

Verdict: I like the first half a fair bit, but I wish the second half committed more.
#55 ·
· on Crooked? Review
By critiquing this piece, it would be critique-ception. I don't know about this piece, since it not my cup of tea. Also, it seems like a twisted version of We Love You, Sally Carmichael! Or, I could be completely off about the purpose of the end.

However, this minific makes up for its specific tastes by having a definite voice of a harsh, yet humourous tone. The writing is solid!

he is whisked away to California where he proceeds to fill his life with depravity

I do recall a fic in the past that mentions California like this. Hmmm... I might be wrong, but any lead is better than no lead.
#56 · 3
· on The Torturer
I have a really hard time with this one, and I think it comes down to two key points.

1) Speed at which the story takes place. It feels too fast for me. I wish I could have more time spent getting to know Alec and Ramires before we get dumped into this big reveal about Ramires.

2) The amount of information we've been given. I understand that, since we've got 750 words or less to tell our stories, we've got to prioritize what we put in, but I cannot place this story into any kind of setting, be it temporal, locational, or even narratively. I was able to gather that these two are cops- little beyond that. I don't feel like I know anything about these two characters or their overall motives. We get something close to Ramires's motivation at the end: she wants to perfect this technology because of losing her husband to criminals, but even that doesn't feel naturally given.

At the end of the day, I just feel like this needed more. Couple hundred words more, giving me more about these characters and their general dynamic. I know In-Media-Res is something of a standard in the writing community, but this felt too far into the action.

That isn't to say there weren't some really interesting parts to this- I really like the concepts that take place in the story. The idea of interrogation using memory scans isn't one I've encountered in sci-fi before (it's probably been done before, but I've never seen it myself), and I think that there can be a lot done with this concept, especially if you've got more space to expand.
#57 · 2
· on Money Down
I hate to be mob-mentality, but my sentiments match Raisin's and Monokeras. The whole story is dizzy. For the most part, I understand things got ugly in the night before, and now Johnen is talking with a Pastor. After that, I can't make out anything in the blur. The descriptions of the characters are very sparse, only leaving the reader to imply what they look like. The only reason I bring this up is that the disjointing, as Monokeras said, can be lessened if you give the scene some more rooting, maybe a little description of the thoughts of Johnen as he is approaching his Girlfriend like "Father will not be happy with this" or something else. Again, I don't know your intentions.

Most questions you'll probably get is why the meeting with the Pastor? When Johnen's GF got shot, who said "I don't have a pulse."? How did they get spotted in the dark?

Most of my confusion can be pawned off on my crap comprehension skills. Forgive me if this has something deeper I didn't spot.

I feel like this review can come off as very snarky, if it is, I apologize. That was not my intentions.

All in all, thanks for writing!
#58 · 3
· on Atop the Hill at Midnight · >>Monokeras
I really like the concept here! It's definitely an inspired idea to have Barabbas feel guilty over Jesus' crucifixion, and likewise, inverting Jesus' traditional depiction during the crucifixion is also interesting to see. Overall, you manage to put in a lot of emotionality into a retelling of what could be western society's most well-known story, so kudos for that!

Now, in terms of criticism, I will have to mention that like No Raisin, I was also distracted by the changes you make to the canon of the crucifixion that don't seem to be related to any other story elements. Giving Jesus thirteen disciples instead of twelve (which could be a call to Matthias?) and having two betrayers instead of one (a reference to Peter's denials?) both seem to be odd changes to make without any apparent reason. I understand the possibility that they may be there just to signal to the reader that this is an alternate universe, but this fact is kind of already made apparent by the premise itself, so I'm really not sure if it's necessary.

On a smaller nitpicking note, I'll just quickly mention that according to the four canonical gospel texts, Jesus had many more believers and followers than just his twelve closest disciples, and his rapidly growing disruptive influence is said to have been the cause of the Jewish leaders asking the Roman government to execute him. So I'm assuming that in this alternate universe, there's a different reason behind his crucifixion, but I don't think that's immediately apparent here.

So overall, I think my suggestion would be to give us the juicy explanation behind these deviations from canon. When you're dealing with alterations to a work that many people have a lot of familiarity in, it becomes really important to justify or to satisfyingly explain the changes you decide to introduce. Similarly to how I'd like an MLP AU fic to be handled, I guess I wish the general set-up of this story and its links back to canon were a little clearer.

Thank you for submitting!
#59 · 2
· on The Toppling Tower · >>Cassius
This reads really smoothly, and it does a good job of immediately setting the stakes of the story and giving our characters something to strive for. The first few paragraphs are a little bit babble-y, with all the names of things that we don't know, but by the time our characters are being introduced, I think the story does a great job of picking up the slack and making the conflict feel immediate.

As for the payoff itself, well, you got a groan out of me. The joke is, well, pretty silly, and the whole ending doesn't even try to take itself seriously. I'm personally not really a fan of feghoot/shaggy-dog type deals, so while the punchline was suitably dumb, it just wasn't very personally satisfying to me. I'll let folks who like this sort of thing give their thoughts on how effective the delivery is.

What I can say, is that your prose is good and never gets in the way of the story, save for maybe the more info-dumpy bits in the first half. Your characters feel strong as well; they strike that balance between being D&D caricatures and being relatable very well, which helps the whole ridiculousness of the premise go down easier. I may not be the kind of person who likes this kind of payoff, but I can certainly appreciate the crafting elements behind it.

Thank you for writing!

The joke is that variations of the line "The treasure was inside of you the whole time!" are a kind of cliche in western children's storytelling. The line usually refers to friendship, or confidence, or some other internal characteristic that the hero acquires during their journey. In the case of this story, it's a literal treasure that was literally inside her.
#60 · 2
· on Anything That Can Go Wrong · >>Cassius
This one's cute and silly, and it does a good job of establishing it's cute and silly tone nice and quickly.

Now, while I get that Murphy is supposed to represent Murphy's Law, I'm a little more confused about what Paz is supposed to be. I'm assuming that she isn't just an ordinary girl, since she seems to see the future and all, so I feel like I'm missing something in regards to her identity. I'm guessing that something about her makes her uniquely compatible with Murphy, but I'm not seeing it right now.

As for the prose, there are a couple of places that felt a little odd to me. For instance, in the soup-spilling the use of the word "reside" is a little strange to me, and there's something about the koala bit that made me read the whole exchange two or three times before I felt like I understood it completely. Other than these occasional rough patches though, the language feels serviceable throughout.

Finally, in regards to the ending, I'm afraid I'm left shrugging my shoulders a little at the whole thing. It doesn't feel like there's much of a payoff or a takeaway here, outside of getting to see the cute lesbian interactions throughout the story. Maybe the fact that I'm missing out on Paz's identity is hurting my interpretation, but as of right now, I'm not seeing much of an arc or a reveal or any obvious reward for the reader's attention.

So overall, while this one definitely does earn some points in my book for its general sugar-sweet pleasantness, the fact that I feel like I'm missing out on some of the key takeaways (Paz, the ending, etc) makes it hard for me to feel completely satisfied. I'll be very interested in hearing the author's thoughts in a retro, if there is indeed something that I don't understand.

Thank you for submitting!
#61 · 2
· on Freezer Burn · >>PinoyPony

Something I liked:

The first scene of this entry sets up the tension really well. It's kind of fucked up how fast we're introduced to Cole and how quickly he finds himself in a really bad situation. I think what makes this work is that people have actually died this way, because of very simple mistakes. I think the best thrillers are ones where the events seem like they can happen to you; really fuels one's sense of paranoia. This entry effortlessly caused my heart to speed up a bit, and that's something.

Something I didn't like:

However, as effective as the first scene is, the rest of the story does everything it can to undermine what the first scene had achieved. If this was meant to be a serious story, then the massive de-escalation for the majority of its word count feels like a sizable misfire. Conversely, if this was meant to be more like a comedic situation, then it didn't get a laugh out of me. Not even a chuckle, or one of those nose exhalations. From a tonal standpoint, this entry feels very disjointed, like two halves fighting against each other, and it's a huge disappointment to witness such a lack of cohesion.

Verdict: Unfortunately, the scene I don't like overpowers the scene I like, so I can't recommend it.
#62 · 2
· on Freezer Burn · >>PinoyPony
Commenting as I go.
Cole rubbed his hands together and blew into it

It? Curious now if there's a hidden object to be revealed later.
he would work quickly to get in and get out as his hands started to feel the bite of Jack Frost

Checked if I was in the R-rated group so I'd know which way this is going.
Thirty minutes since the trouble began.

Wondering if "The Trouble" should be capitalized. Hope to find out soon!
throb underneath the thick leather

Checking again.
His breath lent a little grace as hot air circulated his glove for a second or two before it too turned and froze over.

This is just confusing. Through his glove? Over/around his glove? How is it circulating? Is the wind blowing it back? I guess it's gotta be blowing inside his glove on one side and coming out the other. There's a better way to say this.

And what turned and froze over? His breath? His glove? How is it lending grace? What kind of grace are we talking about? The grace of a dancer or the grace of God? Neither really makes sense to me yet.
sublimated almost instantly

Sublimation is the change from solid to gas. I assume you mean deposition, but that word just doesn't work well for a variety of reasons.
He brushed the frost away from one label, and read ‘32 ounce Ahi: Keep Frozen’.

Remove the comma here. You've got a dependent clause.
It was his parents that condoned that habit

This means the exact opposite of what you say next. I'm half wondering now if you're setting me up for some kind of comical subversion using the odd word choices.
The boss had problems keeping ladders in the freezer since ice formed on the steps and presented a hazard.

Nice detail.
restrained by a million cold rubber bands.

Not really sure what this means, but it sounds neat!
One shelf, after another, he pulled himself up

Ditch the first comma here.
He screamed, reaching for the third and final shelf, when he finally got up

The comma before "when" should be a period.
when he finally got up, He heard

Lowercase that "he." The "finally" is repetitive here; the previous line also uses this word.
“You rookies really need to pay attention to meetings.” Mike said.

The period after meetings should be a comma. Similarly in the next sentence (boss added)
his boss chuckled back.

Capitalize "his" and consider moving this sentence to the front of the paragraph.

Despite the numerous little problems, I was able to enjoy the story. I feel like this story is a parable with a message waiting to come to the surface with further editing. Maybe additional emphasis on the workplace safety and paying attention in meetings message? The message you end on has more emphasis than the rest, and ending on "he chuckled back" seems an odd choice. Even rearranging the paragraph to end on "don’t close the door" seems weak. For short pieces especially, ending on a clever, thoughtful, or impactful message can elevate an otherwise mediocre piece, but alas, this story doesn't stand out for me.
#63 ·
· on Everything's Better (and Worse) with Dinosaurs · >>Anon Y Mous >>No_Raisin
So yeah, I'd like to double down on what Raisin said. The first scene seem useless. Or rather, it feels like a lengthy and a bit rambling introduction just to inform the author that the plot is set in a dinosaur park. Granted, we get also that one of the guy is a greenhorn, but barring this, there's little else to fish out, and the transition with the second scene is a bit jarring (besides I am not sure an electric fence UNDER foliage would work. Especially the kind of short-pulse, high-voltage used to keep cows corralled).

As for the end… well, in a bluff way, I'd say "all this for just that?" Sure, big beasts make big poops, but did you really have to use around 750 words just to tell us that? :p Besides, you're not even that certain about it. Who tells you that the digestive tract of dinosaurs wasn't actually more efficient than those of modern animals? Eh?

In other words, I can't help but feeling that this is much a poo about nothing.
#64 · 3
· on Please Mind the Gap · >>Bachiavellian
The prose seemed weird to me at times – besides the tense errors already mentioned – wherefore I think the whole text would probably benefit from a pass of edition.

That being said, the major flaw I see here is that I don't really understand in what way the description of what happens in the book is going to change the girl's behaviour. Unless you suggest that she will stop smoking because she's realised that smoking was bad for her. I mean, I can guess a parallel between the beginning of the book, when the old sailor talks to the young guy, and what happens here. Or you mean that one must always dream bigger.

TBH, I'm a bit confused, and that story leaves me with more questions than answers, which is slightly disturbing. I'd say, once again borrowing from Raisin, that I'd like the story to give me more, because as it stands, I'm left somewhat dangling.
#65 ·
· on Atop the Hill at Midnight
Well, I will be less nit-picky that my two illustrious predecessors. The idea of having the Scriptures somehow reversed, i.e. Jesus being offered to be saved by a thud, is rather appealing to me. Now, of course, I'm no Christian, so I'm not really involved religiously with this piece, which maybe affords me more freedom in the reading than a believer. To be honest, I have little else to say. Maybe the end would've been stronger if instead of using the word 'man' you would've chosen 'thud' or 'brigand' or 'thief' or whatever, which would've put a further stress on the absurdity of the situation. But, except from that, I agree with Raisin that this is both simple and effective.
#66 ·
· on Everything's Better (and Worse) with Dinosaurs · >>Monokeras
The end is a line from the original Jurassic Park. ;3
#67 ·
· on Everything's Better (and Worse) with Dinosaurs
>>Anon Y Mous
Oh, thanks. I watched that movie when it was released, so it’s buried into the depths of my memory stack. :p
#68 · 1
· on Steps
I keep coming back to this one. With each re-read, this piece never loses its atmosphere... I LIKE IT!

This is honestly a hard one to judge. The frugal use of words is spot-on in the fact that the author wastes no time with world building whilst developing a conflict. This in turn leaves the reader satisfied enough that the story could go on as it is with this hook, or leave it as is. I didn't know such a well put together piece was possible with the 750 word limit (just in case anybody's wondering, I have only participated in a couple rounds).

But, as always, there is much needed commentary for improvement. Going in the same vein as Monokeras and Raisin, this fic is held back by the tug of war between the description of the zombie alien enemy species (named Strix) and the action (common with thriller genres). Obviously, both are disjointed and are in need of repair. Maybe dropping off the reader in the thick of things, right as she enters the pharmacy and gets attacked would be a good start. Then, you could describe the grotesqueness of the Strix (or, judging by crystalline bodies, you can say they are beautiful, but deadly). Again, these are just suggestions. The fic is in a good spot. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Last things I need clarified:
Strix bliid

No joke, I tried to look bliid up. Did you mean blood?
The village always needed more

Is this an unfinished sentence? I feel like it is, just the fact that the period is missing throws me off.

Thanks for writing!
#69 · 2
· on Crooked? Review
I'm always up for whenever a story goes for something different, and this one really does pull off something new. You do a great job of introducing the gimmick and setting the stage ASAP, with the entire format, tone, and premise of the piece all being made very clear by the end of the very first sentence. It's a good hook, and it got me immediately interested.

Now, I will have to say, though, that I'm a little bit confused about what the payoff of this piece is supposed to be. It seems to come across as a comedy, but I think the only real jokes here are the "seminal" line (a great one, BTW) and the ending punchline (which I actually missed until I read Anon's review). Other than these sparse gags, the rest of the story read kind of plainly to me, and on re-reads I kind of feel tempted to skim over some of the middle paragraph.

On a separate note, I'm not really sure what to make of the "unconventional unmagical elements" line. This seems to heavily imply that this piece takes place in a magical alt-universe, but unless I'm missing something, it's never addressed again. It ends up being a bit of distraction, since it made me look for and anticipate elements that never materialize.

So in the end, I'm coming away from this one largely confused. There's a comedic tone, but there are very few jokes. There's a reference to a magical universe, but no follow-up or payoff to that idea. As a result, I have difficulty feeling like the whole thing gels together as a cohesive experience very well. The way it is right now, it's a unoffensive and easy read, but it could be a lot stronger if it had a better sense of focus, IMO.

Thank you for entering!
#70 · 4
· on Creation, and What Followed · >>Gander
This just oozes style and flair, and it makes for one of the more unique pieces this round. I like some of the tricks you do with your prose, like starting off most of the paragraphs with short single-claused sentences. Overall, this really does revel in the fun of its actual words.

On that note, though, that it does come across a little bit like prose-porn to me. Now, I'm personally not very familiar with writing (or reading) this kind of ultra-high-level fantasy scene-setting type of thing, outside of CiG's Lost Cities, so I'm not entirely sure why this piece doesn't quite feel substantial to me. Put a gun to my head, and I might say something along the lines of the events being depicted lacking a feeling of immediate relevance. There's no indication whether this is supposed to be a version of the real world, or an entirely fantasy setting. I think if we had a better sense of the state of humanity in general here, we'd feel more invested when we're told that humanity is trifling with things beyond its reach.Since I don't know if this "traveler" is a deep sea diver or a planeswalking wizard, it's hard for me to really put into perspective what his actions mean.

So I think my suggestion would be to try to give us a broader scope of context of how we should be digesting this creation/destruction mythos. There are a lot of ideas here that are presented quickly and broadly, but without concrete details it feels difficult to get a sense of relevance. Overall, I'm feeling just a little too detached from the narration to feel invested in the sweeping narrative, so I think that providing the reader with more distinct context points might get this story up to that next level of engagement.

Thank you for submitting!
#71 · 1
· on The Toppling Tower
Most of my comments on this entry would be redundant given that >>Bachiavellian has already covered most of the major bases that inevitably arise out of this story. I got a very "Dungeons and Dragons" vibe to this entry, which is both to this entry's detriment and benefit. Detriment in that it comes across as rather generic, but also benefit because the characters are not really what the crux of the story is about anyways. More development would be contrary to the story's interests.

I am not a fan of feghoots. Everyone knows this by now. This story is a feghoot. What did you expect I would say?

The only thing that I can really say is that I found the pseudo-incestual vibe to be a really strange inclusion for this story. I mean, I suppose it's within good taste to write a story about a priceless artifact being used as a butt-plug, but does it really have to be put through an incestual lens by having that character by the protagonist's half-sister? The essence of the feghoot is that it is a joke on the reader, but the strange incest angle distracts from that goal while injecting fetishism where it's not needed.

I consider that to be a questionable inclusion and would prefer that the author either decide to write a feghoot or their incest story, not both simultaneously.
#72 · 2
· on Anything That Can Go Wrong
In terms of composition, this story is a little rough around the edges. The author doesn't seem to know how to properly punctuate dialogue, the paragraphing isn't discrete between characters (and sometimes breaks for seemingly no reason at all), the punctuation is often formatted wrong or missing, and the overall cadence of the story mostly follows this format:

Cassius does a thing. "Wow, this is dialogue."

"Indeed, that is dialogue," Cassius speeched.

Cassius does another, different thing. "This is even more dialogue."

"Wow, amazing!" Cassius speeched, but using a different verb.

Not exactly the most interesting thing to read. Not to say that the entry itself is boring, but the formatting and prose don't really elevate the material. What little narration exists in the context of the story seems to be leaning heavily on the fourth wall, and if that's the intention, to have the narration be sort of a pseudo-character, you'd probably want to bring that out more in full, and cut back on some of the dialogue. The last thing you'd want is for the reader to be uncertain as to whether you are intentionally breaking the fourth wall with your narration.

The bad news is that the fundamental composition of the story is really what is holding it back.That means from the ground up, the story should be cut, reworded, reorganized, and presented in a more dynamic, effective manner. The good news is that this is probably the easiest thing to fix. Really what it boils down to is effective organization, vocabulary choices, and choice of what to include and what to leave out.

Stylistically, the story has a pretty strong sense of identity, the tone is consistent, and the premise is at the very least interesting and novel. It's suitably cute, and even though I'd prefer to see the dialogue reined in a bit, it accomplishes that goal. This is arguably one of the hardest and more nebulous things to nail about story-telling, so kudos for that.

What I think >>Bachiavellian means when he says there's no payoff is that there's basically no conflict in this story. The characters basically end the story at the same place they began, and the challenges they face (aka the bad luck) are something that's already so mundane and routine to them that it doesn't prevent any meaningful obstacle for their interaction. What we are left with is two characters that already loved each other saying they love each other. Now that might get >>No_Raisin's rocks off, but for the educated, erudite, and more artsy among us like >>Bachiavellian, this will all come up feeling a bit insubstantial. Consequently, if you were to rewrite this story, I would suggest including some stakes. Or steaks.

Perhaps the stakes are that the steaks have been ruined at the restaurant due to a mistake by one of the chef's that causes one of the Misses to take off out of frustration with the bad luck thing before finally realizing she was being insensitive about the missed steaks and return to a proposal after a gut-wrenching heartfelt speech where she comes to terms with her stake in life.

But I digress. The point being is that cute for cuteness' sake can only get you so far. My recommendation would be to brush up the composition fundamentals. Really focus on how to construct your scenes to make sure that the reader is getting something interesting out of every line, and that the construction doesn't feel repetitive or disorganized. A good place to start would be to focus on how professional authors using paragraphing, how they tend to construct a paragraph around one idea, and how they transition those ideas to the next.
#73 ·
· on The God Killer · >>Cassius
This is crazy, but in the way I love. Totally zany and absurd. It makes me think of the Monthy-Python, or that sort of silly British humour that doesn’t take itself seriously. The only thing that held me back is how easy each opponent is defeated, like your team trounces what are supposed to be the most potent beings in the whole universe. I suppose it is part of the overall wacky plot, but I would've liked some resistance, or a least a few juicy last words from each of those.

But barring that, good job, almost top of my slate. Well done, author.
#74 ·
· on Anything That Can Go Wrong
This is one is both too mushy and wayyyyy too splastick for my liking. I apologise if it’s not the case, but I cannot shake off the feeling that this a thin-veiled pony fic involving Discord, the chaos god, and some other character, probably Fluttershy. If it’s not, it’s highly redolent of it.

I don’t have a lot to add after what master Cassius already couched down. I mean, yeah, it’s sweet, too sweet for me, but the sweetness and seemingly craziness (but not the same than The God Killer's one) don’t make for much at the end of the day. It’s fluffy, and insubstantial to me.
#75 ·
· on Crooked? Review
The 4,99 written at the end made me think you were French. In France, we would write 4,99 instead of 4.99. But really, if you are French, then kudos for the English! :p

Ok, so the guy has written a book about his own life, and the reviewer is his angry brother which had to remain in the boonies to tend the farm, right? Or rather, the book describes the inverted reality: the guy is illiterate, and his brother is the ghostwriter and auto-critics. Whatever? I can’t really unravel the tangle, here, but there’s definitely more than meets the eye. Most likely, the book is painting a travestied image of reality, especially of the author's brother, and he’s taking the opportunity to respond in kind.

While I like the prose here, and you do a great job of painting a witty but cheesed-off critic bashing a sloppy novel, ultimately, yes, I’m not sure what the payoff is, as Bachi already highlighted. There’s probably a joke as I outlined above, but since we don’t really get it, we’re left thinking this was written for its own sake, and that’s no real satisfactory conclusion.
#76 · 1
· on The Torturer
There is one thing here that definitely breaks my suspension of disbelief for me: it’s a simulation, but the main character is aware it is a simulation, so… what's the point of all this? Are they training for a mission like in the movie Matrix?

It rather seems that the girl was chosen as a guinea pig to help develop the simulation code, but the goal of that simulation code is itself unclear. TBH, it seemed to me that was indeed an attempt to bring into being a new form of psychological torture that would live no visible trace or bruises on the victim's body. And despite the ending having the guinea pig showing some sort of Stockholm's syndrome, this was enough to churn my stomach a bit. (But I agree this could also be some sort of immersive role-playing game.)
#77 · 2
· on Steps
Eerie. I like it.

I’ll jump on the bandwagon of saying that I’ve got two separate minds of this. I don’t think we need much about the strix. There’s enough atmosphere to this piece that we can infer their threat without details, and I’d argue this would better if you have even less about them. I’d actually argue what we do get detracts from them- this piece would work just as well if it were wolves, zombies, or anything in-between. The story’s strength is it’s cold, Emory atmosphere, and I think the monsters as-is distract us from that. Giving me more somehow makes me feel less invested. I spent more time focusing on the strix and trying to puzzle out what they were, when I wanted to focus on the piece- the strix serve the purpose of giving a threat to Serena. Anything beyond that, imo, makes them unnecessary.

But as I said before, this story’s atmosphere was superb. With so few words, I can see Serena and the climb she’s making. Not… clearly, necessarily, but it’s very evocative. I feel like I know the setting, even if I can’t properly visualize it, which is really impressive.
#78 · 1
· on The Toppling Tower
I suppose there are worse ways to get your rocks off, but at the same time...

Something I liked:

It took me a moment to get used to the kind of posh voicing of the narrator, but I think it adds to the comedy. There's a contrast between the old-fashioned seriousness of what the narrator's saying and the comedic situation that ultimately ensues. This is the kind of entry that lives and dies on whether it can land a single joke, and I'm learning more towards yes than no. Is the payoff really cringe? Yes, but that seems to be by design, and who am I to judge using a fantasy/adventure setup for the sake of a sex joke? Not the funniest entry this round, but it certainly tries.

Something I didn't like:

Spoilers for this part. I like the payoff, but I don't like some of the passages deemed necessary to get to that point. Specifically the lines about removing the "egg" from the narrator's half-sister's bum reads to me as too close to fetishism. I get the impression that the author wanted to write something kinky and funny at the same time, and while I can at least confirm the latter was intended, the former feels too murky for me. The fact that this woman is stripped from the waist down without warning, combined with the narrator's (lack of) reaction to seeing his half-sister in such a state, is indeed strange.

Verdict: Mixed bag. The joke at least worked with me to a degree, but it might be too sleazy for some.
#79 · 1
· on Cat's in the Cradle
I'm with >>Monokeras. I thought this was killer. Thanks for entering this, Author.
#80 ·
· on Crooked? Review

Something I liked:

I enjoyed this one quite a bit, but only on a second reading. It's the kind of story that gets better with each reading, having understood the implications of the twist and going back to make sense of everything. At first I thought it lacked a story in the first place, but in retrospect it very much has one, and an inventively told story at that. There's a lot to unpack here, which is usually a euphemism for something either being "deep" or "problematic," but in this case it's the fact that the author jams a lot of character building and backstory into very few words, which is certainly worth admiring.

Something I didn't like:

It's difficult to criticize this one, because upon first impression I was very ambivalent towards it. Writing a fictional review of something within a real story always strikes me as too metafictional in a way that's not immediately entertaining, on top of the fact that I swear every time I read a fictional review, the reviewer always sounds like the most pompous critic imaginable. That's the case here, but there's also the added confusion of the critic's perspective. I kind of agree with Mono in that the brother seems like a total unreliable narrator, but I can do without the more confusing details amidst the vitriol.

Verdict: I was invested, but I can't say I found it that funny.
#81 · 3
· on Please Mind the Gap · >>Bachiavellian
I'm a little mixed between Gander's and Monkeras reviews. Unfortunately, I haven't read The Old Man and the Sea. Sorry. I'm probably missing a major piece of the punchline... or whatever you were going for.

Pretty much Monokeras hit the nail on the head when he mentioned what was the takeaway from the story? What caused the girl to change? (if that was what you were going for).

Plus, here's just something I've noticed: there is a brief moment in the story where it wanders back to the setting (in particular, the part about her lighting the cigarette and getting distracted by the smoke detector on the wall). It seems a this distracts the fic long enough that there isn't enough room left for the takeaway.

I feel that if you gave a little more context about the moral/takeaway, then there would be less confusion. Just a suggestion. Don't take this to heart. I'm not exactly best at reviews.

Thanks for writing!
#82 · 2
· on Freezer Burn · >>PinoyPony
So... another tough one. I'll have to piggy-back off of what the others said.

I agree with Bachavellian and Raisin that the piece deflates itself. I like the beginning for what it's worth. Unfortunately, the ending undoes whatever good had been there. I don't know what you are going for.

Maybe it would help to edit the ending where Cole finds a way out, but through the skin of his teeth. It would allow the tension to thrive whilst giving the reader a takeaway. Again, It's a suggestion. I'm not exactly good at reviewing.

Thanks for writing!
#83 · 4
· on Creation, and What Followed · >>Gander

Something I liked:

Assuming we're tackling this as an exercise in prose porn and not as a narrative that can be enjoyed when isolated from the author's way with words, I like it. For the most part. The first 2/3 or so of this entry is pretty strong when it comes to painting me a picture of the really abstract characters we're being given. I especially like the Phoenix as this sort of indifferent spectator god. There's a basic mythology here that I dig, as I usually dig mythologies about indifferent and/or bastard gods, and this entry has a lot of potential in that department. It also goes without saying that the prose can make panties drop.

Something I didn't like:

But, seeing as how this is basically prose porn, it's not too different from regular porn, in that its impact on me is momentary and easily pushed to the side. While pleasant to read, I don't have much to take away from it as a story, or even as an examination of a certain theme. When dividing a story into plot and characters, I'm sad to say this entry doesn't have much of either. The creation myth we're given eventually gets yeeted in favor of the insignificant activities and aspirations of MAN, which I'm not too enthused about. I at least like to have characters to connect with in my stories.

Verdict: Pretty, but too airy and high-concept for my puny mammal brain.
#84 · 3
· on Crooked? Review
For the record, I like this entry. I think the concept is clever. That being said, I think there are a lot of ways to potentially improve it to give it a bit more character. The primary issue I have with this story is that the story itself is a little too one-note with the overall conceit. When you get to the end, and the fact that the reviewer in is fact the brother of the author that is featured in the book, there is a bit of a gratifying experience where all the information previously mentioned clicks together. The problem is getting there.

There is a limited number of ways and times that you the author can have your character express "I think this story is bad." Eventually, the information becomes redundant to the reader, and the reader will either skim over your story or feel that the story is not much more than its gimmick. Your strong word economy doesn't contrast well with the stylistic longwindedness. The overuse of adjectives in particular end up hurting the overall perception of the entry and give the impression that the same information being conveyed with pretty much every line, even if in some instances the actual substantive information is new or gives new insights into the reviewer. Consequently, I would have liked to have seen more variation in the tone and emotion of the reviewer.

A review is much like an argument. A good reviewer will argue his perspective, provide reasons, and come to an overall conclusion. This eschews that concept a bit too much to my liking. Accepting the fiction of that the review is an actual review of an actual story is critical to the suspension of disbelief in this story. The reviewer states what he thinks, but he very rarely expresses why he thinks it. Seeing why a character arrives to a particular conclusion can tell you a lot about the character in question. Unfortunately, what is presented is mostly the reviewer stating his opinion without providing sufficient justification or context to understand what the reviewer is talking about. An example I can immediately cite is the sentence referring to the ". . . bacchanalian revelry, and the narcissistic action, are gone into great detail . . ." If I am to accept the reality of this being a review meant to be read by other people, I would not understand what this passage meant in reference to the book. There's an oblique reference to a "life with depravity," but in the context of this non-existent book, I have no idea what this practically means. The hypothetical audience for this fictional review would not be very well informed as to the book's general contents or why it is bad based on this review.

There are obvious details that indicate that this author is not American. The choice of single quotations instead of double quotations, along with commas instead of periods for numbering (along with the absence of the dollar sign on the advert), and the use of "NY best-seller" instead of "New York Times" or "NYT" gives off a veneer of illegitimacy of a Brit or Monokeras-kin masquerading in a culture they're not quite familiar with.

This is perhaps best exemplified by the reviewer's own tone. The reviewer himself is allegedly from Littleton, Alabama, and had a rural upbringing on a farm, but none of the cadence, vocabulary, or tone of his speech convey this. The best I can perhaps give the author in this instance is where the review remarks that it "sells like the Bible" but aside from that, I picture the narrator to be more similar to Ignatius J. Reilly than a southern farmhand turned small-time reviewer. There was ample opportunity when the reviewer refers to things such as "life with depravity" and "bacchanalian revelry" for the author to name some specifics to provide further characterization or potential jokes (e.g. the reviewer's idea of what "depravity" is could be extremely conservative, such as the dreaded "cohabitation" or working on the Sabbath). Although the lines about "depravity" are somewhat suspect coming from this reviewer, considering the he chose to open his review with a discussion of semen. Shit would not likely fly in small town Alabama. But at the very least, working this angle would give the character more to say about the content of the book and reveal more of his character, rather than just have him say it's bad without providing much of a reason other than he's sour grapes about his brother.

Some of the sentence construction I also find to be awkward. Generally, this is due to two factors: the smoothness with which ideas transition and the overly-wordy style. Sentences such as:

By the end of it, I am sad to find that the words, despite wounding my humanity deeply, also failed to manage this task.

In the anticlimactic ending the boy, now a grown man, returns, like the prodigal son, and is welcomed to the farm which, by then, his brother has had to sell.

The actually quite controversial story has been lauded for its faux-subversion of tropes, features of unconventional unmagical elements in a real-world setting, and its uncanny ability to sell like the Bible.

The story itself doesn’t bother taking its message seriously, yet its humor falls horribly flat.

None of these quoted sentences are necessarily deadly in their own right, but after a while, it becomes a bit difficult to find one's footing in these constant parentheticals, sidebars, and use of separate clauses with contrasting ideas. It becomes a bit exhausting when every sentence offset with some sort of injected commentary, "but" clause, or overloaded with adverbs/adjectives. I don't believe you needed to lay it on so thick.

Anyways, it's 1:38AM, and I'm tired. This was good execution of a novel idea, I just think it needs to be tightened up a bit.
#85 · 1
Art’s in.
#86 ·
· on Submerged Aspirations
I call it Cacturo and the Blue Man Group.

Help! I must enter this womb before the Phoenix has a golden shower on me.

In all seriousness, the little guy at the bottom is my favorite part.
#87 · 2
· on Atop the Hill at Midnight · >>Monokeras
It's a shame one of the stories with the fewest comments is one that I'm least dispensed to review. I'm a godless man, you understand, so I'm not sure who Barrabas is or what their relationship with Jesus was. Or I didn't until I asked someone about it. But after-the-fact doesn't have the same effect, of course.

Still, I can say this is pretty swish, I liked the progression of it, and the ending hits home nicely. I was less taken by the inversion of Jesus's character (I at least know this guy!) then others were, however, because the impression I've always got from J-man is someone who knows way, way more than everyone else around him. The crucifixion, at least how I was taught it in school, wasn't something he was necessarily worried about. His response seemed to be "Hey chill guys I'll get over this in, like, 3 days, so don't worry, all part of the plan. And make sure Simon doesn't throw away my baloney sammich cuz I'ma be be hungry when I resurrect."

My point is he always seemed aware of his resurrection, so the lament at what's happened doesn't mesh with me. Again, though. Godless wretch.

That's all I got. Well done! It's very *well written*.
#88 · 4
· on Money Down · >>LoftyWithers
Hey, Author, sorry you've not got a lot of traction on this story. Just wanted to pop in and say this looks like an unfinished entry, or, rather, it looks like a story that ran into the max word count way sooner than expected, so the beats are a little confused. But thanks for entering it; I hope the experience was worthwhile.

Only thing to add to the above: the pastor is voiced very well, except for the part where he uses God's name in vain. Little out of character for a man of God.

Thank for entering, again!
#89 ·
· on Cat's in the Cradle · >>libertydude
For an actual review:

The perspective didn't bother me too much, but I can see where others are coming from. For me, this story read like a cathartis after a traumatic event, a kind of small prayer from the man to his wife. Can I consolidate that with an explanation of how the story is being told? No. But I only really like to do that with epistolaries, anyways.

You may be lucky, Author, that I had a conversation with a fellow writer a few weeks ago who asked me how rigid I was with perspective, and my answer at the time was super rigid. And, even more, I get bent out of shape about it when I read it other stuff.

But the emotion carried me through, here. I felt this one hard.

Also, I felt the sorry escalated well, too. The reveal comes in hot and heavy, but I had a feeling something was up because of A) our character holding back tears during an innocuous exchange, and B) this line:

Said his name was Lobo because that was exactly the wrong name for a cat and sometimes a thing needs to be incredibly wrong so everything else can be right. I smiled and pretended I understood.

Thanks again for submitting this story, Author. I'll carry a flag for it any day.
#90 ·
· on Chamber Check · >>Anon Y Mous
Magnífico! Está muy caliente.
#91 ·
· on Justified Nomophobia
¡Vamonos! El teléfono es diferente al fondo. Puedes hacerlo mejor que eso.
#92 ·
· on Chamber Check · >>Señor Alta Cruz
>>Señor Alta Cruz
No está caliente..... hace frío.
#93 · 1
· on The God Killer · >>Cassius
Okay, so this one's pretty dumb, but I'm certain that's exactly what you were going for. I really like the narrative style here, with the spoken-word feel and all. It lends the whole thing a layer of character that makes you imagine a hunched figure of ill-repute regaling this tale to you over a beer that's long since become warm.

Now, I tend to feel that judging comedies is not one of my strong suits, but I do have to say that I kind of had trouble getting into the flow of this one. Your set-up kind of puts you between a rock and a hard place in a way, because you're going for comedic ridiculousness, but there's really no place to which you can escalate the craziness after you've already killed god, you know? As a result, the story kind of plateaus for the 50% in the middle for me, and it was stuck in an odd place where there's neither a straight-man nor increasing absurdity to create comedic contrast.

So while this was definitely amusing, it didn't quite cross the line into outright funny for me. If you had the word count, I'd suggest finding a way to stretch out the actual god-killing bit a little longer to make the pace of escalation feel a little smoother. But like I said, I'm not exactly the best judge of comedy, so I'll let you take my feedback as a datapoint.

Thanks for entering!
#94 ·
· on Chamber Check
>>Anon Y Mous
Ay-ay-ay. Mi corazón esta roto. Llorar conmigo.
#95 ·
· on Steps
I really like the mood of this one, and the way you use short, punchy sentences to emphasize the feeling of loneliness. The tension feels like it has a lot of character to it, and overall does a great job of keeping me invested from start to finish.

Now I do want to note that from a pacing perspective, I think the step-counting set-up might have gone on just a little too long. By the second or third iteration, the reader's already gotten a good idea of how this framing device is working, and I think you can go ahead and do the whole "Now it's new territory" thing. By stretching it out to five separate flashbacks, you really risk the readers feeling like they're having other more interesting stories told at them rather than getting to see one unfold.

I also want to point out that I think the message/ending was a little on-the-nose. I mean, I'm personally someone who's fine with pretty tenuous links back to the prompt, so take my feedback with a grain of salt. It's just that the last paragraph calls to the prompt so strongly that it took me out of the story and had me thinking about the prompt, you know?

Overall, though, I think this is a pretty strong entry, and it's one of my favorites from this round. Thank you for writing!
#96 ·
· on Please Mind the Gap
Like Raisin said, this story really does have #big_mood. I like the dirty/grungy mood of this one, and how down-to-earth it feels.

Now, as for the message of this story, I have read The Old Man and the Sea, and I think it's worth noting some points that were made in the Discord chat. The way that the summary of the book gets cut off kind of gives the wrong impression that the book is about successful dreams, when it's really about dreams that fail. It's a bit of a dissonance that makes the two halves of the story harder to link to one another.

As for your prose, it works in that it's pretty inoffensive and stays invisible for the most part. But Gander does point out where you have a tense slip in the first full sentence, and there are a couple of other rough spots as well.

Overall, I do like the idea and the feeling of this one, but there are definitely ways you can improve on the execution.

Thank you for entering!
#97 ·
· on The God Killer · >>Cassius
Got me to chuckle a lot, and just zany and ridiculous enough to be entertaining without overstaying its welcome.
#98 ·
· on Everything's Better (and Worse) with Dinosaurs · >>No_Raisin
I really like the interaction between the two characters here, but I'm not sure I liked the payoff we get from the ending. The talk about dinosaurs from different time periods being able to co-exist is pretty neat, along with the explanation that it's more keeping people out of the less dangerous enclosures. I could see this being a neat intro to a longer story, but I'm not sure it works hear as a comedic minific.
#99 · 1
· on The Torturer
An interesting look into a potential future that I have to agree takes a bit to get started. I think there's some very morally grey areas being explored through this tool that's more for psychological than physical torture, especially given how enthusiastic about it that Ramirez sounds.
#100 ·
· on Creation, and What Followed · >>Gander
Very interesting sort of creation myth being told, though I'm not entirely sure on the message by the end. It seems to be about humanity exploring the unknown and, potentially, finding things that shouldn't be known through an unbridled curiosity. Whatever the message, I love the style and description, particularly in the beginning. It's just enough to give my mind a canvas to paint even deeper.