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Moving Targets · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
#1 ·
· · >>Anon Y Mous >>GroaningGreyAgony
Huh. First time I have the opportunity to go first.

Sooo...if a prompt isn't semantically attached to anything, how would one draw it?
#2 · 1
As an artíst of many years, all I have to say is...

#3 ·
· · >>devas
I'd just produce an abstract piece and let the writers worry about it.
#4 ·
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
"This is the story of Polka, who lives in the land of Pollock, and her romantic triangle with Dot and Splatter. Will she survive between a yandere and a kuudere?"
#5 · 4
It's been done, and very well.


"Artistic freedom is not a license for chaos."
#6 ·
· on Hold Still and Let Me SMITE You
I really liked the cartoony, thick linework here, which helps give the piece a sense of heft and roughness. But I think I'm having some trouble with the postures of our two characters here; they seem a little stiff in the way their lower bodies are arranged. Not exactly sure why this is the case, but that's how it comes to me.

Thanks for arting!
#7 ·
· on Come Hither, Stay Thither
For some reason, the really simple but effective linework with the baby really clicked with me. Overall, the shapes are good, and I like how we get a sense of her legs' movement beneath her skirt/dress. I'm not sure if you intended it, but the clean lines of the scope reticle kind of contrast with the sketchiness of the woman and baby. It makes the piece seem very strongly two-layered, which I guess plays into your favor.

Thanks for submitting!
#8 ·
· on Step Right Up!
I like this one. It's simple, but really effective at evoking what it wants to. For some reason, looking closely at the rough lines and the the not-entirely-clean coloring gave this an even bigger sense of charm to me.Quack quack bitch, indeed.

Thank you for arting!
#9 · 1
· on Dead. End.
Somebody call King Arthur; we've got a quest for him.

I think it was a really cool idea to have the silhouette of the path merge with that of the trees. It helps give a sense of shadows and creepiness that is surprisingly nuanced for simple black-on-white shapes. The bunny's position is well-composed, as is the little blood trail leading up to it. Really well done, IMO.

Thanks for submitting!
#10 · 1
Finally hit my target. Good luck, everyone!
#11 · 2
I'll admit:

That clicking on the "Guessing" button and seeing the name "Cold in Gardez" among the author choices, I squealed like the proverbial kid on Christmas morning. :)

#12 · 1
All I gotta say is

#13 · 1
· on Between a Rock
I like the basic story here:

Quite a lot, author, but all the technical issues kept tripping me up. Some are simple like word repetition—"Emily rolled over" two paragraphs after the first divider and "She rolled over" in the next paragraph, or "up" appearing four times in the same paragraph a little further on: "Emily drew up her coat", "cleaning up the saliva", "would have to get up" and "Emily instinctively reached up." Being aware of the words you're using always makes the prose flow better. I'll mention the typos, too—"Wmily" and "He'll" when you mean Hell in that opening scene, for instance.

Then there are the several times you have one character's action tags inside another character's dialogue. For example:

“Of course, honey. I’m assuming you want me to talk about the war?” She nodded. “Well, once upon a time in the year nineteen sixty nine—"

Here, it's Caleb talking but Emily doing the nodding. Mixing tags and dialogue like this confuses readers like me, and when readers like me get confused, we tend to stop reading and move on to something else. Or the following paragraph:

“Not in here.” He shooed Emily off. She stuck her head back in the garage after she left, asking, “Dad, where does Silvercatch live?”

We start with Caleb's line, then get Caleb's action, then get Emily's action, then get Emily's line. That definitely needs to be divided up so only one character's speaking and acting per paragraph.

Even trickier are the POV shifts. I'll be riding along inside Emily's head, seeing the world through her eyes, and then at random times I'll suddenly find myself hopping out. The line, "With that, she was gone." for instance. If we're following along in Emily's POV, how can she be gone? She's how we're experiencing the story. To tell us that she's gone shatters the POV. Or here:

Emily ran out. Caleb barely had time to get situated before she barged back in, pencil in one hand, loose leaf paper in the other. “Alright. Go!”

He gave her a look and purposefully made himself extra comfortable. Checking his tools, setting them down, accidentally turning them on, then turning them off, and swiping powder off of his seat, he finally decided that it was alright to talk. She groaned, exasperated, and he was pleased.

We've jumped from Emily's POV over to Caleb's, and we wobble back and forth between the two of them for the rest of the scene. The same thing happens in the next scene between Emily and Silvercatch: we start out in his head looking at Emily, then jump over to her head looking at him two paragraphs later.

My suggestion is always: pick a POV and stick with it. Doing an omniscient POV, one that lets you look into the heads of all the characters, is really pretty hard and usually means creating a narrative character, a character who's telling the story but isn't actually in it. Check out the way Dickens does it in A Christmas Carol or Dumas in The Three Musketeers if you want to see examples. Here, though, I'd recommend sticking with Emily's POV during the 3rd person parts of the story and adding more of the 1st person narration from Caleb's POV that you start the story with. Bring his 1st person stuff in between the scenes where Emily's going around and getting info so we can see the process Caleb went through in order to adopt her.

Which is the biggest question I have about the story. Would this be possible in real life? Would an unmarried soldier who's been in therapy be allowed to adopt an orphaned child like this back in the mid 1970s?

I should stop before this gets to be longer than the story itself. But with some research and cleaning up, this could be quite nice.

#14 ·
· on Shadows in the Dark
Very nice:

My only suggestion, author, will be another of my mini-rants about POV. I would've liked to have stayed in Hadjerian's head all the way to the end. That way you could show us the stuff that's in italics now instead of flat-out telling it to us. Let us be with Hadjerian as he transitions out of his human mindset to become one of the Pack. Make us see the universe as he comes to see it. Let us hear what he's thinking and observe what he's feeling, and you'll have one humdinger of an ending.

#15 ·
· on Coney · >>Baal Bunny >>Baal Bunny
Genre: Human

I’m having a hard time piecing what’s actually going on at the end, author. I get that uncle coney (great name by the way) is against his wife killing people one at a time, but I don’t quite understand the rest of what was happening with uncle manny. Is uncle manny trying to kill his granddaughter? Is coney actually manny? I have no clue. Probably a me problem to be honest.

I don’t really like the last two paragraphs, but I don’t see how it could end much differently.

Finally, the last thing to nag about is the human element. It felt too human, yknow? I didn’t really appreciate all of the extra details to her life as much as I thought I would in theory. It just felt like we were shoving in random words to make her feel more human than her actual actions.

All of these things I’ve nagged about doesn’t mean it’s a bad story by all means. I like the more upbeatness of the story and how fucking amazing uncle coney is. He is my favorite character 100%. Best character of the round. I could’ve listened to the two banter for hours, honestly, but I don’t have time for that.

All in all a pretty good story. Good luck! :3
#16 · 1
· on Step Right Up! · >>Anon Y Mous
My fic was going to be based on this. Sorry I didn't finish in time.

Or start it.

Thanks for entering!
#17 ·
· on Step Right Up!
>>Miller Minus
Gosh dang it miller
#18 · 1
· on The Bargain
The skeleton here:

Is lovely and sturdy, an emotional throughline that's absolutely, crushingly devastating. But for me, it needs a lot of fleshing out in the details. My biggest question, as always, is a practical one: what does our Unnamed Narrator do for a living? He's got to pay for that Chinese take-out somehow, after all, not to mention the rent for his apartment, the electricity for his TV, the water for his shower, and the new sheets he considers buying. Gotta keep body and soul together, as they say, and it could make for a very effective contrast to see him chafing at some mundane job between the fantastic journeys he's taking with the snake.

I'd like to get more of a feeling for the rules governing his interactions with the snake, too. Other than getting some of his soul sucked away, does his failure to catch the bird in the first scene add another hunt to his total? Otherwise, I don't see quite how this all works. If he fails a challenge, the snake sucks away some of his soul, but then his soul regrows. But when he succeeds, he collects a piece, and there seems to be a certain number of pieces he needs to collect. So any failure should add another challenge, shouldn't it? Also, there doesn't seem to be any way for the snake to win, and that reduces the stakes in my mind. If our narrator's got a limited number of tries to get a specific number of pieces and the snake gets to suck him dry if he doesn't reach that goal, it gives the story more of a ticking clock

Unless you want to emphasize that the snake's more than willing to keep this up for as long as our narrator is, thus making the only failure condition the narrator giving up. There's some of that implied, but I'd like it more specifically spelled out. That way, the snake can say that he's doing our narrator a favor, letting him try and try and try until he's collected the requisite number of pieces or until he's decided that he's done trying.

Having the rules spelled out, it seems to me, is even more important if this is all in our narrator's head--and I like very much that that's a viable option at the end of the story. It's like someone with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder needs to touch all the fence posts when walking down the street. In the human mind, the world works by rules--that's way we write fiction, after all--and not observing those rules can only lead to disaster. So whether this is actually happening or if he's fantasizing it all in an effort to absolve the guilt he feels, I'd say there are going to be very clearly demarcated failure and success conditions.

And at the end, I'd like him to return to the quote. Does he feel that's gotten what he needed? Or is this a case of getting neither what he wants or what he needs? That second one is the implication I draw, but again, I'd like maybe one more paragraph to show me more clearly what he thinks.

Terrific stuff!
#19 · 1
· on Coney
I'll agree with >>Anon Y Mous:

About the ending. I'd recommend taking the message of that last paragraph and parceling it out to us in a final stretch of dialogue between Esther and Coney. Their relationship is the heart of the story, and I'd like to see it carry through from start to finish.

#20 ·
· on The Bargain
Genre: “That sucks bro”

I’m not one for purple prose, but I think this did it very well.

There’s not much to say. The imagination and creativity that went into this fic is spectacular and this take on grief is definitely one of my favorites. I’m sorry this review is so short. I’m kind of out of it.

Overall, very nice. <3
#21 ·
· on Shadows in the Dark
First one in the chute, and this round is starting out strong. Commendable job, author, on setting the stakes up early and getting us invested in them. This wasn't a story I felt like I had to drag myself through -- at all points the story was pulling me forward to the resolution.

On the more critical side, the opening scene was a bit heavy on the expository-dump aspect. I appreciate what you did to soften those edges, but even so the conversation seemed a bit forced. I did like the little touches you put in about sterilizing the planet and the intergalactic response, which added a feeling of depth to the piece. I could easily see the deeper world the story was set in.

The climax was a little... I'm not sure how to describe it, but 'expected' comes to mind. We get a hunter who wanders into a situation over his head, thinks everything is going well, but it's actually not. I'd have honestly been more surprised if he was actually successful at the hunt. Either the build-up was a bit off, or the hunter just didn't act as sophisticated as I expected, given that he was warned plenty of times that these rabbits had vanished with prey just as capable as him.

The final scene, with the POV switch, was a bit expository as well. I'm not sure what it added except for an explanation -- not a reveal that forced us to revisit our previous read of the story and come away from it with a new understanding, but rather more like "oh yeah they weren't rabbits, they were four-dimensional devouring horrors." I appreciate that it added a new dimension to the piece, and the final line especially seemed like an attempt to bring this personal story about one man's quest into a galactic scale, but... the piece isn't really about the rabbit-beings, is it? The story was about Hadjeran, until suddenly it wasn't.

I'm stretching to come up with those criticisms, though. Overall I was very impressed with this piece. Great work, author.
#22 ·
· on Between a Rock
Going to echo BB on some of the POV shifts. I've softened my tone on POV switching (I used to be against it in almost all circumstances), but even so you have switches within paragraphs, which make it seem as if Caleb has suddenly become the POV character.

A few things stood out to me that seemed odd, and I wasn't sure if there was some deeper meaning behind them. Most notable was the constant mention of plastic with the guns -- not many guns have plastic parts, and the 1911 certainly doesn't, except possibly the grip panel. But even then it would be a stretch to use the term plastic to describe any gun except (disparagingly) a Glock.

It had me waiting for some kind of twist or reveal toward the end, but it never came. Minor point, but there you go.
#23 ·
· on The Bargain
This whole thing just oozes with ideas and flair. IMO this is a really creative take on the selling your soul idea, and it ends up being genuinely emotional despite the rather simple reveal at the end.

I think personally, my biggest quibble with this one is that the trials that our main character undergoes don't seem all that related to one another. And they end up not feeling as significant or meaningful as they could have to me. There is an implication that since only very few people complete all the challenges, then surely there must be something particularly special about the main character. But the way that the trials are designed right now, they don't seem to be saying anything about our character's abilities or tenacity. The first tests his ability to, well, jump well. The second seems to reward kindness at first, but then it turns out to just be a cleverness thing. And the zippo lighter one didn't seem to test anything at all.

So when we get to the end, I'm kind of in an odd state where I'm not 100% convinced that he's earned the ending. I kind of want his success to say something about him. If I was given the sense that he will, say, die after failing too much, I would know that he succeeded because he is a rash and decisive person with nothing to lose. Or, if I was given a greater sense that he has already completed an unthinkably large number of previous trials, then I'd know that he succeeded because he is much more tenacious than the average person.

In the end, there doesn't seem to be an overall message about the main character. So he ends up feeling static to me, despite the fact that he accomplishes his goals. However, I will admit that I'm probably a little more sensitive to "stories must have a point" syndrome, so I'm willing to say that YMMV depending on your reader.

Overall, I still had a very nice reading experience with this piece. You kept me entertained throughout, which is my most important metric for gauging a story's effectiveness, even if I was left with some niggling concerns by the end.

Thanks for writing!
#24 ·
· on Coney · >>Baal Bunny
Okay, so Uncle Coney is absolutely splendid here. I would have never come up with the idea of a talking rabbit would trying to get out of being eaten by a talking wolf—it's absolutely brilliant, and this chemistry alone easily carries the first half of the piece until the story is ready to develop its conflict.

So, I'm afraid I might have to dogpile with the others in terms of not liking the ending as much as I liked the rest of the story, but for slightly different reasons. The reveal that Uncle Coney was in on Esther's identity the whole time kind of cheapens the dialogue in the beginning of the story, when it seemed like a genuinely frightened rabbit was trying to talk its way out of becoming dinner.

I'll also have to note that I have absolutely no idea how the rabbits are talking to Esther even after she transforms back into a human.

Outside of these two gripes with the ending though, I can't say that there was very much else that distracted me. This was a great-feeling character piece with excellent dialogue, and it was very fun to read.

Thanks for submitting!
#25 ·
· on Shadows in the Dark
This was a lot of fun, even if it wore its tropes on its sleeve. There's a pulpy, indulgent aspect to the sci-fi here that just feels really good no matter how quickly you spot the ending coming.

I think personally, my biggest complaint would be that the pacing felt a little uneven to me. We spend most of the first half of the story explaining the situation, then the actual plot progression occurs for a thousand or so words, and then it's right back to high-level information reveals and explanations. It's hard to get a sense that we watched things happen, since we're spending so much of our attention on things that have already happened or things that will happen in the future. So by the time I get to the end, part of me is asking, "Okay, and then what?", if you know what I mean.

So I think my suggestion would be to find a way to make that middle bit a little longer. You can do a lot with the idea of Hadjeran trying to find out what happened to his partner, and maybe then you can drip-feed the reader tantalizing clues about the nature of the rabbits. As it is right now, both Hadjeran and the premise of locating/rescuing Peri feel like plot devices that serve the information reveals, rather than true participants. I think if you could make the plot feel more like a complete arc, you'd really be taking care of any lingering weaknesses in the story's overall idea and construction.

Thanks for submitting!
#26 ·
· on Between a Rock
I really like the concept here, with the backstory slowly being revealed through different viewpoints. It makes the reveal feel satisfying, and it gives the bulk to the story that might otherwise be too straightforward/simple.

But I think that I ended up kind of having some fridge issues with this. First and foremost, it struck me as odd that a Vietnamese-American girl would never have conceived of the idea of being adopted, considering that her dad's last name is Kimberly. Secondly, it felt kind of convenient that all three interviewees were basically within arm's reach of each other. I think I would have liked it if we could have breaks between the interviews, instead of having Emily rush from one to the next within the span of what feels like just a couple of hours at most.

As for the reveal itself, I'll have to be honest and admit that it kind of felt a little standard to me. The two parts of it (in war people both sides can unexpectedly do awful things + the adoption reveal) don't really seem to be interacting with each other very much, but when you take each one on their own, they feel very expect-able from the premise of the story. I think what's going on here might be that the story struggles to find a way to make these reveals uniquely personal to Emily. You might need to work on making her perspective more integral to the reveal. Maybe have it so that she can't reconcile the idea of her father being a killer contrasting with memories of him being gentle. or have the adoption reveal be at odds with a lie that she's been told that she was adopted from Thailand or something. What I'm saying is, Emily needs to have more tangible stakes in this twist, IMO.

One last very minor quibble is that guns don't clack or make noise when they're just being moved or generally handled. The whole idea about guns having all these mechanical sounds when they're touched comes entirely from Hollywood audio tropes. A real gun will generally not make any significant sound, unless you're charging/racking it (a very deliberate action that can take a surprising amount of force) or firing it.

So overall, while I like the general construction and the idea behind this one, there are some execution-level hiccups in my reading experience. I really think that smoothing out the stakes of the reveal along with maybe addressing a couple of fridge-logic questions would really help make this piece pay off on its full potential.

Thanks for writing!
#27 ·
· on Coney
>>Anon Y Mous

Thanks for the comments, folks:

And congrats to the other medalists! For my part, I had no intention of entering this round, and I came over here to the site on Nov. 20th to see who had entered. That's when I discovered I was a day early, and since I had the day off, I went to look at the pictures and put the story together. There's definitely stuff here I can work with on revision, so thanks again!