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An Unfortunate Event · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
#1 · 1
I got something in.

I hope you did, too.

Good night, and good luck.
#2 · 1
Ugh... I thought this would finally be perfect. I had an idea for it and everything, one I really like. But I just can't do this super-short format. In my head, it's a 2 minute scene, yet I'm already at the word limit and not even to the second half of the "story." I don't want to "ruin" this now-good idea by trying to compress it unduly. So I don't think I'll be entering anything this round.
#3 · 2
I’m in too. It was good to finally be able to patch something together and file it!

Good luck to everyone. Looking forward to reading your stories!
#4 ·
· on Compression Test · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Lol. This one is fun to read. There are a couple of things I wouldn't've written the same way, but, eh, style.

It’s a bit of a stretch to connect the first part to the second. By that, I mean that you took great care to show us that the narrator freaks out quite easily, but then the rest of the story doesn’t even mention that trait, until maybe the final line. Maybe it would've been more economical, on the contrary, to create a narrator who would never lose his cool, except at that final moment. I don’t know for sure, but it seems to me you lose a great number of words at the start to get to the point. Maybe you wanted to flesh out your story a bit, or render the narrator more relatable to the reader?

Also, the articulation between that descriptive part and the real story is thin, and somewhat contrived. Had I been you, I wouldn't have written at such length about the narrator's bad temper, and got into more details about that universe thing which sounds a bit rushed owning to lack of space.

I must confess I’m a bit lost as to the story itself. Is that an explanation for our Big Bang? Because if it is, then references to Earth are anachronistic. If it’s not, then maybe it’s our next karma. Has the narrator become a thinking black hole?

But otherwise, this is fun to read, and the definitely informal tone adds to the "zaniness" of the story.
#5 ·
· on Getting Lucky
Hmmm, this one is weird, to say the least. First of all, it would need an editing pass to clean up the few grammatical mistakes scattered all over it (unless this is deliberate).

So what is it about? An old, or disabled, guy's stream of consciousness?

At the same time, this is written in such a way I was initially thinking of a robot, or some sort of AI.

Overall, it’s pretty stodgy to swallow. It’s hard to relate to the hypothetical narrator, because we know very little of them, and the way the paragraphs are written give (at least to me) a sense of remoteness, as if the guy's conscience was somehow detached from their body (→ wherefore that AI guess at start).

It’s not badly written, but it feels pretty generic, and the lack of real takeaway means that I felt a bit letdown at the end.
#6 · 1
· on A Deal You Can't Refuse
The story itself:

Is fun, but I'm having trouble with the the dialect. I can't figure out how it should sound: stereotypical Cockney kind of worked as did stereotypical Irish, Scots, U.S. Southern and U.S. New England, but none of them worked completely. There's things like "bunch of" in the last line, but "bit a'coin" two paragraphs above, or "gonna haft'a being a inspection" in one line and "gonna have to seeing for himself" two sentences later. Another sweep would get the inconsistencies ironed out, but I'd still recommend pulling back on it a little. With dialect, too much can make a piece harder to read, and this one's edging right up to that line.

#7 · 1
· on Falling Sky · >>Monokeras
I'm not quite sure:

What's happening here. I think the dome solidifies before anything hits it, so why is part of the city on fire? And if the dome does solidify before anything hits it, how does our narrator see things smashing across it? And what are these things? Part of the "dark seething tide that stretched past the horizon"? And what does that mean, anyway?

I just couldn't get this one to work for me...

#8 · 1
· on Awash · >>Baal Bunny
This is a tragical piece, and I like it, but it stumbles in several ways. First of all, that run-on, first sentence which forms the whole first part. Now don’t get me wrong: I don’t dislike long sentences – in fact, I love very much Lovecraft's prose, for example – but here, we are not dealing with a description of a bucolic landscape or some sort of fantastical scenery. This is hard, smashing reality, so to speak, and while I can assume you did this to show us how rushed the events were, it’s still difficult to read, all the more that it comprises two different parts. The first is the objective description of what happens to the whole submarine, and the second is focussed on the dying seaman.

Also, were there submarines during WWI?

The second part is poignant, but the details you give do not quite tally with the first. You describe a complete smashing of the submarine, ripping to pieces all bodies and equipment inside. We emerge from this description thinking nothing is left but shreds of flesh. Yet, the woman finds whole pieces of body. I’m not 100% positive about this, but few were the dead submariners whose corpses were actually found. In any case, finding entire limbs or body parts after such an event seems implausible at best. I think you'd rather have the boy be part of the crew of a "standard" warship torpedoed some place offshore.

Also a light editing pass to clean up all the remaining typos would be nice (as in: "Her two boys lOve on" instead of "live on").

Finally, thanks for reminding us that war is heinous and appalling. It is quite commonplace, but some general truths need to be repeated ad libitum.
#9 · 1
· on Compression Test · >>GroaningGreyAgony
For the story being as short as it is and covering as many years as it does, I never felt rushed. The pace was lightning quick, to be sure, but every idea gets presented logically enough to hold itself together. And the sheer insanity of the concept definitely helps here.

Re-reading the first line after finishing the story sent me into fits. Well done!
#10 · 1
· on Getting Lucky
Your prose reminds me somewhat of Pynchon for its meandering, inevitable qualities. I'm just not sure what to get out of this. Two annoyed people meet, and their meeting results in their becoming happier? I'll revisit this once the round is over and see if time illuminates what my first passes could not.
#11 · 1
· on Omnes Vulnerant · >>Monokeras
WOAH what a twist. I'm so blown away, no pun intended. The buildup is perfectly inconspicuous, the ending deliciously absurd, those last words ultra tasteful. Well done!
#12 ·
· on Punctuated Equilibrium · >>Baal Bunny >>Baal Bunny
Well, well. I'd say it’s a bit hard to get into that one. The prose is a bit clunky at times, but that’s not really the reason why. It might be because the story in a way assumes too much. Insects, the way wasps lay eggs into their preys, air, etc. It’s supposed to be a discussion between to deities at the creation (or just before the creation) of the universe, but they already talk of the final product. I can’t be more precise, or word it better than saying that these two sound too earthy to be gods.

It lacks a bit a substance too. Especially why or how what they discuss didn't come to pass (the insects being the "dominant" life form on Earth). And we don’t really know why this creation takes place? What's the point? How important it is to them. The dialogue is a bit too superficial to my liking.

But otherwise having gods look like insects is not a bad idea. You could’ve gone further and imagine a dialogue between a Neo-egyptian pantheon… Maybe next time?
#13 ·
· on If Not Now, Then When?
Strong prose, nice story. Probable shoo-in of my slate, if not of this round.

Sorry for being terse, it’s late. Will come back tomorrow with more to say. Good job.
#14 · 1
· on If Not Now, Then When?
Nicely done:

But some of the details made me blink. I mean, if it's a "vast suburban mansion", why does she have to go to the refrigerator in the garage to get a beer? And why's she in an assisted living home at the end? I assume she divorced her husband, but did she get nothing in the settlement even though he was cheating on her? Wouldn't she be able to afford live-in help?

But still, yeah, very nice pretty much all the way around.

#15 ·
I wouldn’t go as far into nitpicking as Baal has gone. However, that scene in the garage struck me as really stretched too far. I find the idea of the guy cheating with one of the woman’s doctors somewhat ludicrous, and both of them fucking over a car’s bodywork takes the biscuit (go try it, lol). Why not one of neighbours, and in a nearby house/motel/hotel (all the more that the girl is disabled, so unable to move). The whole scene stands out as grotesque in an otherwise serious and realistic story.

The rest of the story is pretty nice. I’m not specially bugged by the seemingly lack of articulation between the parts. This is a minific, so one has to focus on the main scenes, discard the glue and let the reader fill in.
#16 ·
· on Punctuated Equilibrium
Pretty silly:

Fortunately, I enjoy silly. Still, I'll echo >>Monokeras and ask for more details. Are there other gods as well as these two? Is The Plan to have insects be the dominant life-form in the universe, and what Chalkos has done is change things so Earth gets taken over by humans? Just clear things up a bit.

#17 · 1
· on Awash
I'll agree:

With >>Monokeras about the opening bit. I personally find that short, punchy sentences with really evocative verbs work better when trying to convey a scene where all kinds of action is happening at once. Give the readers the individual moments and let them put them all together into the bigger picture instead of throwing all these words out at once.

Other than that, though, a really nice piece. I had to wonder why just this one body washes up when the submarine was likely full of sailors, but, well, every story's allowed one giant coincidence, right?

#18 · 1
· on Omnes Vulnerant · >>Monokeras
I'm having problems with:

The tone, I guess. The first description of the room and some of the word choice: "epiphany", "codswallop, "Quite a puzzle"--had me thinking this was Edwardian England or something similar. But then we get "I know the guy" and "Dude's off his rocker", phrases that definitely don't belong in that setting, and I'm slapped over sideways. Are these guys sporting mutton chops or mullets? It really lessened the impact of the whole thing, having the picture I was forming in my head get smashed to pieces halfway through, so I'd recommend making the tone consistent throughout.

#19 ·
· on Compression Test · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Very fun:

There's a couple little things like repeating "bulk" in the fourth-to-last paragraph, and I wouldn't've minded one more quick example of a time when our narrator flew off the handle--maybe a mention of an unplanned supernova every once in a while or something. But very nicely done.

#20 ·
· on Getting Lucky
I've never read Pynchon:

But I was getting a sort of a Kafka vibe throughout. Kafka, though, was a master of the telling detail, and that's what I need more of here. What's the wallpaper like in the first character's rooms? What does the air smell like in the stairway? What's the second character wearing when the door finally opens at the end?

A few concrete, sensory details would really make the thing pop.

#21 ·
· on A Deal You Can't Refuse
On the one hand, I like that you've made a very distinctive voicing for this character. On the other, it's so full of imitative spellings and intentionally bad grammar that at best it's kind of slow to read and at worst it's really annoying to read. Some of them don't quite make sense either, like using "a" before a word that starts with a vowel. That forces what's called a glottal stop, and such informal speech is usually expressly engineered to avoid that kind of thing.

I also feel like I'm missing out on a lot of the plot. I don't understand the particulars of why this property changing hands would be on the table, why the narrator would be authorized to make it happen, why the person being addressed never responds, or whether it was the business partner or the official who double crossed them. It's basically just "dumb henchman remains doggedly loyal, but switches sides once he doesn't get paid anymore." If there was a hint that he's not as dumb as he seems and he was behind it all, then it might make more of an interesting character study, but I don't see any indication of that. The how, at least, made for a nice story, but I would have liked more of the why.
#22 ·
· on Punctuated Equilibrium · >>Baal Bunny
A few things in the early going could be smoother. They're subtle issues, but fairly important ones.

First, the narrative voice is a bit muddled. In the second paragraph, we're told that something "seemed," which is not something an omniscient narrator would express, except in the case an omniscient narrator has been given a personality. You haven't had the space to establish one yet, though, so I'm left to conclude that one of the characters holds the POV. But then why would such a character have the need to explain who these characters are? I understand why you felt it necessary for the reader to know that information, but you probably ought to find a way where it makes sense for the narrator to do so, either by making it omniscient or giving the POV character a reason to be thinking that. As I get further in, it becomes more apparent you do mean Chalkos to be the POV character, and while it's possible to "zoom in" at the beginning by starting out omniscient and transition over, it's hard to do that effectively in a story this short.

Second, -ing phrases strictly mean that they make actions simultaneous, but Chalkos couldn't hold up whatever he'd found until after he'd dug through the pouch.

And third, it struck me as odd that you specifically mention compound eyes blinking. That certainly happens often enough in cartoons, but I don't know how cartoony you're trying to get here, and I don't know of any real animals that have eyelids over compound eyes.

I'm not sure if there's anything to read into the choice of names. Chalkos is Greek for copper, and Desper is similar to despair, I guess?

There was kind of a nice silly vibe going, and then the rapid tonal shift for a brick joke at the end... those are hard to pull off. I've done them myself, and they get very mixed reactions. I think it helps if it feels like the story has a sense of completeness before the joke gets sprung, but here, they don't come to any accord. He's just trying to placate her. I'm assuming that as a god, he'll live through this...
#23 ·
· on Omnes Vulnerant · >>Monokeras
I like the setup for this, but the ending didn't really bring it home. The idea with suicide stories is to get the reader really on board with the character's decision to resort to it. Not necessarily support that decision, but at least understand it. So he doesn't measure up to some of history's biggest names? Why is that such a big deal. He hasn't said that he felt like a failure otherwise, and he seems to have been perfectly satisfied with his life before he heard the ticking. I don't understand what made that change so much for him. Plus there are many big names in history who were pretty obscure in their time and didn't gain recognition until later. That's never occurred to him? I feel like he's missing out on some detail, too. Did those famous people only hear the ticking on the day before they did something great? I think he'd be more worried if it stopped. The fact that it's still going might mean it's still presaging greatness. And, finally, I can't fathom why he's called the narrator in to hear this explanation and witness his death. I don't know what their relationship is like or anything about the narrator, so I'm not going to be able to figure out why he chose that.
#24 · 1
· on If Not Now, Then When?
coalesced into a single beam of bright, a fixed spotlight falling, coalescing into

Take care not to reuse phrases so soon like this, or it feels like you're just not paying attention to what you're writing.

This is the second story I've seen with a double blank line between paragraphs, and I makes me wonder if this site suffers from the same idiosyncrasy as FiMFIction, where pasting something in from GDocs occasionally gives you one of these.

Some of the phrasings the narrator uses make it seem like he's breaking the 4th wall, but you haven't set him up as one who will, so it throws me for a bit of a loop whenever he does.

I'm afraid the meaning is lost on me. Before that a bit, I can't visualize where Gina is sitting. If she's near the stage, she'd likely be below it, but the dancer looked up at her. Thus she must be sitting pretty far away, but then how does the dancer notice her in the dark?

But back to the end. The repeated usage of the title is fine, but each time, it's a sort of transition to the next scene. The one about her husband cheating on her doesn't transition, though, and there's no indication of what happened as a result. Did they divorce? Is she in the nursing home because she no longer lives with him? I also don't know the significance of her foot moving. She could already move it, so it's not like she's emerging from paralysis or anything. I don't know what importance to assign to it.

Very lovely writing, but I feel like I'm missing the connecting dots and the message.
#25 · 1
· on Awash
That first sentence rambles on so long that it loses all focus. That's not the kind of first impression you want to make. It also can't decide which tense to use. And the very first thing tell me the submarine was obliterated, when in fact it wasn't, or the boy wouldn't have died the way he did. I'm just getting lots of mixed messages. Submarines are designed to tolerate some damage, being able to seal off any given area with watertight doors, so for everyone aboard to have died almost instantaneously, that would have to be one huge explosive. Seems like overkill.

Oh, it's over already? I'm left with a lot of questions. I really like the sentiment at the end, but her "another one gone" near the beginning could really use some link to why she decided she needed to adopt this boy as if her own. She's seen a good number of them by her own admission, so what was special about this particular one? What about him spoke to her so much that she decided to afford him an extra honor? It's also just left as a vague thing that carried a third son. What does that mean to her? The point of the story is to get me to feel what this woman feels, so spend some word count on how he (and her true sons) occupies her thoughts. What kinds of things does she imagine about him? What does she do to honor him? Basically, you're asking the reader to take a blunt "she cared about him" and become invested in it. It takes a little more than that.

The structure here is good, and the way you've decided to describe the situation is effective. Give it a little more to bring alive the emotions she's feeling so I can identify with her rather than being left to invent them on my own.
#26 · 1
· on Getting Lucky
First, the obvious. There are lots of editing mistakes, but I think I detect someone whose first language isn't English, so it sure takes courage to write in another language.

I'm not even sure what happened here. The story discusses the same things 2 or 3 times, and by the end, it was just someone being hassled to answer the door, then being pleasantly surprised at who it was. And even that piece was left generic, as I don't know what importance that person has to the narrator. I need to know something to make my own judgment about whether it ended up being worth it to the narrator. The last line says it is, but I don't get a sense of how happy that makes him and why. Maybe it's just saying that any kind of companionship is good and it doesn't matter who? I don't think that's what you were trying to say, but even then, I'd still need to see what it means to him just to have someone there.
#27 ·
· on Compression Test · >>GroaningGreyAgony
This is a rather amusing version of the oscillating universe theory. It's structured kind of like a feghoot, but honestly, it was only ever going to end with either a joke or a pithy observation. it's not punchy, which doesn't make it bad, but usually will make it less impressive than a story which is. I'm trying not to penalize it for that, because in my opinion it's not fair to. I don't really have any critiques. It was a fun read, and there's a continual escalation that keeps it interesting. To a degree, it's repetitive, but it's a short enough story to prevent that from getting annoying.
#28 ·
· on Falling Sky · >>Monokeras
There are some missing commas, and you could stand to be more judicious about what you use as sentence fragments. It's fine to have them, but modifier phrases that use a verb like "Sobbing into my bright yellow jumper as her arms threatened to squeeze the air from my lungs" make for awkward sentence fragments.

Nice atmospheric depiction of a destructive tragedy, which seems like a volcanic eruption covering the city's protective shield. A number of usage mistakes have me thinking this is another entry by someone whose first language isn't English. I don't know what message you want me to take from this, though. The city gets destroyed, and that's it. I don't have a reason to care about these characters over any other. It's also odd that it's told in first-person past tense, implying the narrator lives beyond the end of the story. How does he survive? What is life like for him afterward? There can be subtle consequences like this to the choices you've made about the story's tense and narrative voice. If you really want the story to stop there, it would probably work better as present tense or a third-person omniscient narrator.
#29 · 1
· on Omnes Vulnerant · >>Monokeras >>Monokeras
#30 ·
· on Falling Sky
This is a bit weird to understand, and I wonder what it means. I agree with >>Pascoite that there are stylistic issues. "It’s" instead of "its" is something so cringey to me. Also: "the breath in my lungs suddenly felt thin and I began coughing. She began speaking to me, reassuring me as forms began moving all around us."; despite the paragraph break between these two sentences, there are three almost consecutive *began*.

To echo what >>Baal Bunny said, I’m not sure what's going on here. The most likely hypothesis I can think of is that somehow the sun explodes. But then, if this is the case, nothing earthly could resist such a devastating event. Nor is there any reason why that would happen, except by conjuring up energies far beyond our skill to muster, even for the millions of years to come, assuming we survive that long.

All in all, it’s not badly written, but it’s difficult to relate with, and, most of all, it leaves us with the one important and unsolved mystery: how did the narrator manage to survive amidst that catastrophe?
#31 ·
· on A Deal You Can't Refuse
I agree with the others that the use and abuse of dialectal spelling makes the thing hard to read in some places, and overall I can’t really relate that form of dialect to anything I know. Cockney wouldn't sound like that, because Cockney has no 'h' ('ome', not 'home'). That -s appended to all verbal forms seems strange to me, I expected the other way round.

I wonder if the use of tree names for surnames is deliberate, and what it means.

Besides these mere remarks about the form, I can’t really figure out what the plot is. Guy is hired to smuggle gold on behalf on someone, but then turns his coat and decide to side with the former-to-be gull? Is that it?

While I agree the overall feeling is one of humour, most of it comes from the use of that strange English. It’s like serving pasta with a super tasty sauce. The dish can taste good, but, in the core, it’s just pasta soaked in a sauce that could go with many other dishes. I’m not sure the metaphor works. Sigh.
#32 ·
· on Omnes Vulnerant
>>Miller Minus
#33 ·
· on Omnes Vulnerant
>>Miller Minus
>>Baal Bunny

Congrats to the winners! Well done guys!

Thanks to anyone for commenting!

To Baal Bunny: trying to find a consistent voice is something I occasionally still stumble on. Matter of fact, the problem is that I fall prey to a lingering temptation, namely to use in my stories idioms or words I’m not yet 100% familiar with in order to have them sink into my brains. But that often breaks the tone, because those idioms/words are rarely relevant with what my usual style is—somewhat archaic. In this case, however, I must also own up to not knowing exactly when to locate the story in time. I thought about middle 20th century England, then a more modern setup, and finally this vacillation led to the incoherencies you mentioned. Very well spotted indeed!

To Pasco: fair enough. I think this story is cramped within the 750 word frame. While there is hardly more to say, it still lacks a sort of introduction, or explanation, that would set its background and enlighten the readers of its whereabouts. What I tried to convey is that the guy is pretty satisfied with his life until he hears that ticking. While he may dismiss the ticking as hallucinatory the first and second time, especially since, as a doctor, he certainly is a rationalist, the fact that the phenomenon repeats each week at a precise time, and that other people hear it too, finally convinces him it is real. Then he seeks the meaning of it, and finds the book of that famous historian, leading him to believe that something unusual will happen to him. But nothing happens, and he concludes he’s a failure, or that God somehow mocks him. Hence is final decision.

But, once again, I agree the story is somehow rushed because I tried to pack as much as I could, and it feels cooped. Still I’m flattered you found the setup good.

See you at the next session; meanwhile, I wish you a very nice Christmas and all the best for the upcoming season's days.
#34 ·
· on Ultima Necat · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Delightfully grim. I'm getting a Watchmen-esque vibe from this piece. The hand-scrawled look and the choice of pencil as your medium was an excellent call--really drives home the underpinning of madness from the story.
#35 ·
· on Punctuated Equilibrium

Thanks for the comments, folks:

And congrats to our medalists! I was aiming for very silly and cartoony with this one, but I guess there wasn't enough of that. Keeping more strictly to Chalkos's POV would've helped, I think now, giving the reader the chance to discover what sort of creatures the characters are as the story goes along. I also agree that having them reach agreement--dump all this "star stuff" on the developing Earth so they won't have to worry about evolution undoing their plans for insectoid domination of the rest of the universe--would work better before the beheading and egg-laying thing.

So revisions ahoy it is for me!

#36 ·
· on Compression Test
>>Monokeras, >>thebandbrony, >>Baal Bunny, >>Pascoite

Compression Test

Thanks for the silver and the great comments!

Years ago, I had a tagline I used on IRC - "I had it all, then it exploded at the speed of light." Taking the prompt to be referring to the Birth of the Universe, I expanded the idea, adding a contractive protagonist and an expansive antagonist. It's cramped and rushed, as many mini rounds are, and we'll see how it goes in the second draft.

Thanks again!
#37 ·
· on Less Deadly
Less Deadly

Colored pencil on black paper. I was glad that the vagaries of ant facial anatomy allowed me to imply a cute smile on his face.
#38 ·
· on Ultima Necat

Ultima Necat

Omnes Vulnerant was the first story to grab me with a strong visual image; I first saw a sort of space where a grandfather clock had been, outlined in dust. I then became doubtful that a full-cased clock was meant, and was finding it hard to arrive at a workable clock outline. I settled on rendering a clock but leaving the face blank.
I did a search for 'antique swiss clock,' picked one I found pleasing to the eye, and rendered it in pencil, using CDs and teacups and bottlecaps to form the center circles and freehanding everything else.
When I got to the clockface, the bloodstains-as-hands suggested itself and there I added the piece's only splash of color.
Thanks for the great comment!