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

The Killing Machine · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
#1 · 19
· · >>Scramblers and Shadows >>Bachiavellian >>Fahrenheit >>Bad Horse
Welcome to this new WriteOff round!

We first would like to remind you that this round is dubbed short story, original fiction. The former means that your story has to be no less than two thousand words, but no more than eight thousand or you will be chastised; the latter, that any world building is accepted, although it is highly recommended you avoid pony stories: while not forbidden per se, their submission can cause at best some reviewers to give them the cold shoulder, at worse a fit of grumpiness. If you intend to write a pony fiction, your best bet is to wait for the next round in three weeks.

We kindly remind you that the prompt “Ot” is not trendy any more: please do not reuse. Also do not enter well-known pseudonyms like “Cassius, Genesis of Rust” that could cause some unrest among the community, for obvious reasons.

Failing to capitalise your prompt will result in some sticklers frowning or browbeating you.

No crud spot on your text will be tolerated. Please wash your hands carefully using soap before setting about writing.

We also remind you that it is strictly forbidden to copy/paste or plagiarise any formerly published short shory/novel, on pain of being immediately spotted by Baal Bunny. No name will be cited, but Dubs you’ve been warned.

As per last round, decking up your fellow writer with a “you’re not a native speaker” is highly discouraged, should your assumption turn out to be false. The WriteOff organisers cannot be liable of any mishap happening to you should you disregard this rule.

Submissions are due Monday, 27th June, 12:05 GMT sharp. Missing that deadline means that you forfeit any right to claim your piece of cake*, and it will be stale when the next round begins.

Finally, don’t forget the usual motto: “Please refrain from saying anything that might compromise your anonymity. Doing so is grounds for disqualification. It's recommended you do dummy reviews of your own stories should it otherwise be easy to deduce which you wrote.

So now, good luck to all!

*Individual arrangements are possible. Please PM RogerDoger and have some cash at hand.
#2 ·
I'm glad that a WriteOff round finally landed on a weekend where I'm not prepping for anything important. Just me and this computer for a long time coming.

Can't wait to get back in the saddle.
#3 ·
Well I'm probably out this round, got another story deadline that I need to finish up before the end of the month. Might get something done if I can get ahead of myself but otherwise good luck everyone!
#4 · 6
To be honest, I've been getting tired of vague, abstract prompts. I'd like to see more concrete prompts get voted in for a change.
#5 · 1
'Bout time I tried to get back into the writing game. Been too long. Hell, glad there's an original fic story as well. Haven't been able to do much 'pone' stuff for a while. Magic's all gone, it seems.
#6 · 1
· · >>Monokeras
Hello, you lot.

That is a fantastic intro post.
#7 ·
Well guys, I am ready to compete with you once mo-

Notice writing times.

Um... Yeah. Sweet sixteen is when it starts for me, followed by a giant pathfinder session. Guess I'm not competing this time, unless I manage to sneak in some free time between family and friends. D:
#8 ·
>>Scramblers and Shadows
Thanks! 😚
#9 · 2
Hoping to hop in:

Again this time around. I mean, heck, I made $17 with the thing I wrote during the previous orginal short story session! :O

#10 · 4
We kindly remind you that the prompt “Ot” is not trendy any more

Looks like my 15 minutes of limelight are over.
#11 · 2
You know, I signed up a while ago, but I think I'm actually going to try and enter this one. I don't know if I could manage 2000 words in a weekend because I tend to agonise over every sentence, but hey, practice makes perfect.

I'll probably just end up playing ED, but that's besides the point.
#12 · 1
I have a few ideas floating around in my head that I would like to try to do something with, but chances are I won't be participating in this round. I'll probably be busy unpacking and doing other fun moving-related stuff during the writing period, and my phone will probably be my only internet connection. And since I start a new job on Monday, I won't have as much time for reading and reviewing either.
But who knows? I've submitted stories when I didn't plan to before.
#13 · 1
· · >>Not_A_Hat >>Fahrenheit
I haven't gotten in on the Original rounds since the hard pony-ban went into effect, but I might (theoretically, maybe) have time to participate this time around.

Still primarily digging my cartoon horses, though.
#14 ·
Never mind. Just my browser being dumb.
#15 · 4
· · >>Fahrenheit >>Baal Bunny
>>CoffeeMinion It's actually still a soft pony-ban. You can write them; the change in the definition was to let people know that the audience generally penalizes pony stories to some extent.

If you're willing to write in 'hard mode', give it a go.
#16 ·
Given my current life situation, I will not be able to participate. But I'll still be practicing, and wishing you guys the best of luck.
#17 · 2
· · >>Baal Bunny >>CoffeeMinion
Monokeras for best Writeoff announcer.

>>CoffeeMinion >>Not_A_Hat
It's worth noting that there may eventually be Writeoff participants who come from outside the MLP community. Two of my best friends from high school have expressed interest in participating in the original fiction rounds, and only one of them has any familiarity with the show. Writing pony for this round would definitely be hard mode, as Not_A_Hat said.
#18 · 2
· · >>billymorph >>CoffeeMinion >>Spectral >>The_Letter_J

If you:

Let the pointer of your browser touch the word "Original" in the phrase "Original Short Story" up at the top of this page, a little box pops up that says, "Fiction not dependent on work under U.S. copyright". So while the rules don't mention anything about this, the whole idea that "the original round isn't for fanfic" does float mysteriously about the website like some sort of phantom specter. Or perhaps a spectral phantom. Either way.

#19 · 3
· · >>Baal Bunny >>KwirkyJ
>>Baal Bunny Technically under the definition you can do fanfiction based on works in the public domain. So my Pride and Predjudice - War of the Worlds slash fic is completely above board :D
#20 ·

Because my brain:

Is largely made of cheese, I can't recall the name of the story, but somebody somewhere not too long ago wrote a story about Victor Frankenstein interacting with the characters from Pride and Prejudice. Since those books came out within two years of each other and all....

Mike Again
#21 · 1
· · >>billymorph
And now your anonymity has been compromised! Travesty!
#22 · 1
· · >>The_Letter_J >>Orbiting_kettle
As >>Baal Bunny notes, the ban seems to be hard in the current rules, albeit neither limited nor specific just to Pony. In that sense, I should have clarified my original statement, and I apologize for any unnecessary sensationalism.

I might have to see how the prompt goes this time. Like I said, I probably do have a better than average chance of being able to write something... but the call of the horse is still strong for me.

As >>Fahrenheit notes, though, this may make the tent bigger, and that's probably not a bad thing.
#23 ·
>>KwirkyJ Dang! Ah well, onto the next brilliant idea.
#24 · 1
>>Baal Bunny
Or perhaps a spectral phantom

Before I knew spectral could also mean ghost-like, I used the alias Spectral Shade - "colourful shadow" (edgy, right?). Of course, it could also mean "Ghostly Ghost".
#25 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
Oh no. This prompt is almost perfect for one of the ideas I've been kicking around in my head. The only thing that might still save me from this writeoff is the fact that I still haven't been able to get that idea very far past the premise yet.

>>Baal Bunny
While the site does make it look like a hard ban, Roger has said several times that it isn't. Unless something has changed in the past week or two while I haven't been paying attention, Mono's initial post is entirely correct on this matter.
#26 ·


Less a hard ban than an ethereal one, not a carved in stone "thou shalt not" but rather a subtle miasma of disapproval, more a--

Hmmm. Better save all this for my story, I s'ppose... :)

#27 · 1
· · >>CoffeeMinion
Nice prompt, I have a good feeling this round.

At least one of my friends from elsewhere will partecipate this time and I'm molesting two more to bring them in.
#28 ·
Well this is a dreary prompt, though a remarkably good fit for a War of the Worlds fanfic. Get to it peeps!
#29 ·
Well, I'd say whether or not I'm going to enter this round, but I'm bad at predicting whether or not I'll actually finish an entry.

So, uh, I promise that I will either enter something this round, or I will not. :P

Reviews may or may not happen if I do, partly because I'll have less time this upcoming week, and partly because I'm not sure if people actually find my reviews helpful.
#30 · 1
So it's original fic this time. Pros: Encourages me to practice writing outside my comfort zone of pony fiction. Cons: I have to write outside my comfort zone.

I sort of have an idea that's kind of half-formed, but idk. Too early to say, I think.
#31 ·
Well, I'll be trying this one. But I'm not sure I'll be able to come up with anything worth writing about.

Still, it makes for a reasonable excuse to get out of lunch plans I didn't feel like doing!
#32 ·
Oh, I love this prompt. I might even have an idea for it, and everything.

>>Orbiting_kettle Your poor friends! :trollestia:
#33 ·
nothing I can do with this one. I'd imagine there will be a lot of sad or gory stories for this. Hm...I'm sitting this one out too.
#34 ·
· · >>CoffeeMinion
#35 · 3
· · >>Orbiting_kettle >>Trick_Question
In between the prompt and the #brexit chaos, I am really sorely tempted to vent my political spleen into fiction this round. I'm posting this to force myself to come up with a better idea by preemptively announcing my bad one.

In the meantime, if there's anyone who is hiding in the back of their cave and hasn't kept up on current events, I recommend Scottish SF author Charlie Stross' take, which starts out with the words "Okay, so the idiots did it; they broke the UK," and given the news of the last 24 hours I'm not sure there's much more to say. 😞
#36 ·
I admit I had an idea long those lines too. And I suspect we are not the only ones.
#37 · 1
Yay for British racism barely pushing the vote over the top.

Now the Scots will secede for real.

EDIT: the yay was sarcastic
#38 ·
I'll see >>Trick_Question and raise you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nzxr09tIExs
#39 · 4
· · >>Trick_Question
what if there was a machine..... that ground up little adorable creatures..... to turn them into rainbows?
I think I've got an idea here!
#40 · 2
· · >>CoffeeMinion >>Baal Bunny
Welp, I cooked a pretty awesome portobello parmesan today, got some financial stuff sorted out with my ex-wife, posted this week's RCL interview, did some shopping, and fixed some off-hours problems at work.

What I didn't do was finish assembling a story outline. D: I've got a few great paragraphs of writing, just don't know where I'm trying to take it yet. Time to sleep on it ...
#41 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
I've got a loose outline, a more detailed outline, a list of characters...

Now I just need more butt-in-chair time than I've been able to secure thus far. D:
#42 ·
· · >>Trick_Question >>Monokeras >>Cassius
>>Monokeras “Cassius, Genesis of Rust”?
#43 ·
#44 ·
>>Bad Horse
You should pop in the chat sometime.
#45 · 1

I'm about:

Halfway done, but my characters and outline have changed three or four times since I started typing...

#46 ·
Argh, I might be out for this round after all. I've got the ideas but the writing time just isn't happening.

Good luck to those who persevere. :heart:
#47 ·
Got my story written. Will wait til Sunday evening to actually submit, give it time to stew and edit and all that nonsense.
#48 ·
· · >>Orbiting_kettle
My story may be too difficult to make digestible. I'm leaning toward skipping this round.
#49 · 1
· · >>horizon
I've finished my entry, will have to edit it for a while, but I'm in.

I kinda understand. I had to discard a couple of ideas and a good beginning for this reason. Nonetheless, I would like to read it even if you absolutely feel you have to skip this round.
#50 ·
Blarg. Does winning a gold medal last round give me just cause to skip this round? Cause my idea is just not coming out right...

I hate skipping rounds, but at current rate I don't think I'm going to manage to complete anything this time... :/
#51 ·
It's starting to feel like we're gonna have a prelim gallery totalling three stories.

Come on, guys.
#52 ·
I'm out this time, guys. Sorry. :raritydespair:

Good luck to all who enter!
#53 ·
This prompt seems to be a real killing machine. Many cries of defeat.

Yeah, I'm not writing anything either.
#54 ·
I've got like.. A thousand words. And an hour left to write. This prompt should be great for me.. But for some reason I'm having total writer's block.
#55 · 5
You know what the real killing machine is here? This weekend. I'm now staring at the corpse of three different stories, wondering if I'm going to be able to resuscitate one of them before the deadline.

D: D: D:

Edit: Posted before reading the above comments, feeling slightly better that at least I'm not the only one.
#56 · 3
[Can't make it; adds to chorus of distressed writer noises]

Good luck to everyone else!
#57 · 4
I finally limp across the finish line. I accredit all my words to the joy of Odell's Myrcenary Double IPA.

All my thoughts of good wording are now redirected at my fellow competitors. Gan ba te~!
#58 · 2
Wanted to share this, extracted from the deadest story's corpse, as I limp forward on another one:

It was high summer, and taxingly hot. The sort of weather where fifty percent of each movement was set aside for the bottomless coffers of the sun. Where ice cubes shattered out of their trays like a brilliant shower of diamonds into your palm, and then a moment later your wealth was dripping from your knuckles. Where immigrant dogs, tongue-lolling and ear-drooping, idled in the porch-shade of resentful men with four wheels on the tarmac and their air conditioners bleeding pence from the condenser.

Goddammit I loved that paragraph (DID YOU CATCH THAT SIDEWAYS #BREXIT JAB HA HA I AM SO CLEVER), but it's not happening.

Good luck to everyone still thrashing forward! 7.5 hours left, most of which most of us will spend sleeping.
#59 · 3
Halfway in... given my writing speed, I project two or three more hours for finishing.

Good God I should be in bed. >.< I really ought to have done this yesterday. Stupid procrastinating.
#60 · 4
· · >>Icenrose
I cannot believe I am saying this, but I FINISHED A STORY AFTER ALL!!!

(Possibly related/relevant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KlSuGNt8e4 )

Coming soon to the bottom of voting slates everywhere! :-P
#61 · 5
· · >>CoffeeMinion
I left a trail of corpses, but I did manage to keep one alive long enough to submit. Seriously, this one was tough to write.
#62 · 3
Truly sir, you are... The Killing Machine. :trollestia:
#63 · 1
I wrote 5.6 kilowords for one story and 1.2 kilowords for the other, and I am now officially giving up on both. I honestly have no idea where I was going with either, and I kind of hate them right now.

I guess that's another Writeoff I'm going to be sitting out of. God, I really need to stop skipping out like this. :S
#64 · 4
Words are in. Not my best words, I think, but they exist.
#65 · 2
#66 · 6
· · >>CoffeeMinion
It's... a story, I guess? :/

Words happened. That's all I really know.

I'm in, somehow.

EDIT: Editing is not happening here.
#67 · 3
Done. Last pass of editing before committing, but it's done.
#68 · 2
>>Not_A_Hat Irony:
EDIT: Editing is not happening here.

#69 · 2
A depressing as it is, I'm out as well. Between procrastination and writers block, I'm a few hundred words (and one good idea) short. It's probably just as well... Most of my ideas would have worked as minifics, but can't seem to manage even 2000 words without massive padding. :/

Good luck to those of you who didn't wait until the last minute to start chipping away at your writers block!
#70 · 3
Heyla, everyone.

I have submitted a work for your consideration. I like this one a bit more than the last one I did. It is not great, perhaps, but I do legitimately believe it to be better. The prompt also yielded a second story idea that, while I have not done any work upon it yet, I wish to pursue at some point in the near future.

While I wish to say more, the sun is coming up over in my neck of the woods, and my brain is scrambled from pulling an all-nighter trying to get this thing done and looking good enough to present (it is, thankfully, my day off over here, so I can at least make up the sleep). So, to any of you lucky few still working to cross the finish line, I wish you the very best with every chamber of my heart, and to everyone else who has already submitted, I eagerly await the chance to taste the fruit of your labor.

Good night, and good luck.

P.S. Speaking of the last work that I did, I wish to take a moment to thank the users Ratlab, billymorph, Leo, Not_A_Hat, and The_Letter_J for both taking the time to read it, and taking the further time to comment upon it. It was an instructive experience, and I regret not having given thanks earlier. It is, perhaps, a little strange to say it here and now, but I would rather be odd at this present moment than continue to be rude for another moment longer.
#71 · 4
· · >>bloons3
Finally, finally got my piece in.

For everyone who's joining me, good luck!

For everyone who's not, tough break! I'm sure your story would've been cool, though.
#72 · 5
· · >>TitaniumDragon

edit: Thank goodness for that five-minute grace period D:

But I'm in! And totally unedited.
#73 · 4
I ended up not tossing my hat in the ring this time. I had a story written up but frankly, it is just garbage; the central idea is, I think, okay, but I'm just not happy with anything else about it, and I have to completely rewrite it to bring it up to any sort of standard I'd remotely want to show anyone else.

Ah, well. First round since I started that I ended up skipping. But I said after the last time that I threw in a crappy original fic that wasn't worth reading that I wouldn't do it again just for the sake of entering.

Good luck to everyone who actually got something done!
#74 · 5
· · >>CoffeeMinion
>>Scramblers and Shadows
Got my first write-off story in! Woot!
#75 · 2
· on The Unsung Ballad of Roger Wilco · >>Icenrose
A pretty funny meta-fic that kept itself grounded in reality. I liked it.

Normally I don't laugh at fanfics, on account of them being so heavy handed, but I chuckled at this.

It wasn't a "lel randummmm xD xD "trying to be funny, but it subverted the expectations of me the reader, and gave me a chuckle. The reference of the beans was a little inside chat joke too.
#76 ·
Congratulations, and welcome aboard!
#77 · 2
· on Audit · >>Orbiting_kettle

Thoughts: There was a long build-up to the "What do you offer..." line, during which I felt like the conversation was rambling and a bit unclear about who was saying what, and why it mattered. But that line? That's good stuff. It's electrifying when a line like that shows up and grabs you. I might suggest starting the story there, on the principle of "start late, end early." I also love how it pays off that line at the end, with the imagery of the waiter and the fire... though to be honest, I have no clue how what they did with the tablets made that happen to the waiter.

Also... the tablets... given the kind of guys these appear to be, were some of them stone, or were all of them iPads? IMO this matters a lot; it'd be a beautiful, rich detail to have some be stone. (The one at the end definitely needs to be an iPad, but the rest...)

I loved the heaviness of the tone of the central conversation here, and the concept about these guys making deals, and the descriptions--when they were used--were strong and evocative. However, I ultimately feel like this suffers from a lack of clarity about what the guys were talking about toward the end. There's a difference between effective world-building and just dropping cool-sounding hints about more going on in the background; and unfortunately I didn't feel like there was quite enough here to flesh-out those hints.

Also, I see how the title likely relates to the story, but I feel like there was missed potential for either humor or drama by not making that connection stronger.

Tier: Upper-end of "Needs Work"
#78 · 2
· on Historical Retrospective · >>Hagdal Hohensalza >>horizon
War. War never changes.

I've decided that the haiku gimmick is old, and I have a big block of free time, so I'll actually try writing reviews for once.

Interesting fictional nonfictional document. It reads like a historical essay, because it is one, I guess. There's none of the usual story stuff to consider, so all I can really say is that this entry seems to have accomplished its goal.

The only think I don't really think works is the interruption at the end. It's mildly amusing, but if the author was suddenly shot while typing it, there wouldn't be an emdash. You could probably end it on a more somber note, with the author knowing they'll probably be killed for publishing it, but choosing to anyway.
#79 · 3
· on The Unsung Ballad of Roger Wilco · >>Icenrose
So, I enjoyed this a lot.

It leans very heavily on the meta, but the meta was pretty hilarious. As a story it's not a whole lot; there's no real 'arc' here, and the only real draw plot-wise is a slow reveal, but the meta was silly and engaging.

I chuckled a bunch.

Oh, but "constant piercing electronic fleedling" is a little clunky.
#80 · 2
· on The Unsung Ballad of Roger Wilco · >>Icenrose
Genre: Random meta comedy with a heart

Thoughts: This makes me wonder what I'm missing out on by not getting into the Discord chat. ;_;

In all seriousness, this is a well-crafted tribute to the Writeoff community in general, and to our Fearless Leader in particular.

The downside is that it's kind of slow-paced, and it takes a bit long to present our hero's goal, and there isn't a lot of payoff directly connected to the reveal. However, the humor and warmth sprinkled throughout the story keeps it appealing.

In the end, I'm not sure if this is really a complete story, but it's charming and well-written and accomplishes the author's likely goal of evoking a smile. To go to the next level, I'd like to see this building toward something bigger than just the meta tribute; but I can't knock it at all.

Tier: Almost There
#81 · 4
· on Tequila Sunrise · >>CoffeeMinion
So a carnivore, an omnivore, and a herbivore all walk into a bar creepy experiment....

This could probably stand to be longer, as is often the case with writeoffs. It's an interesting premise, but as it is, doesn't go far enough and the conclusion of "this sucks but friendship maybe?" is a bit tepid.

The time frame strikes me as a bit odd too. The actions and conversations seem like ones that would take place way earlier than 63 days into imprisonment, though I suppose Jane has personal issues and that can always throw things off.

Writing seemed pretty solid. Good descriptions.
#82 ·
Family emergency came up and I never had time to write. Guess I'll ponify it and try next round.
#83 · 1
· on The Difference Engine
Bleh. I hope the rest of the stories don't taste like this.

First off, my pet peeve. "I wish I had!" "Little did I know!" That sort of thing? you do it at least twice here, and it bugs me to death. It doesn't feel like clever foreshadowing; it doesn't really draw me in as a reader, it just makes me less interested in reading on, because I feel like you're smirking at me and congratulating yourself on how clever you are, and I don't like it.

Your mileage may vary, of course, but I'm really not a fan of this trope. I'd say there's a reason it's been mostly abandoned.

The rest of the story was... competently constructed, for the most part. I feel like you tipped your hand rather too early; I basically knew what was going on by the second third, and I had a pretty good idea how it would all end from the "Dun dun dun!"-ing you'd been doing. The ending, when it came, was just about as distasteful as I imagined it to be.

But on the world... here's the thing about conspiracies. You can fool all the people part of the time, or part of the people all the time, but all of the people all of the time? That's immeasurably hard. Everyone signed this? Everyone abides by it? Your distopia falls into the same things I accuse 1984 of; twisting reality through klein-bottles to serve the plot. I just can't suspend my disbelief enough to accept that things would actually work out the way you've imagined them, and that basically killed the story for me as soon as I realized what was going on, which was probably about halfway through. Even if I enjoyed your premise of 'people are racist enough to kill two billion, united enough to hide it, and powerful enough to keep that secret for forever', I'd have trouble engaging based solely on the sweeping scope and ridiculousness of those premises.

It was well-written on a mechanical level. You seem to know your stuff about EMP's, at least; some people seem to think of them as a temporary thing when they're definitely not.

I didn't realize Scout was a girl until she got a female pronoun. Not sure if I'm just unfamiliar with that name, or what? I think the 'friend/best friend' joke might have played into it; I suggest using 'girlfriend' earlier, but you'd probably have to kill that joke to do it.
#84 ·
· on The View Through the Window
So, uh... who's Maria?

And what was his eventual conclusion on which 'reality' he ended up in? First, second, or some mix of the two?

I mean, I think I understand what's going on here, to some extent. But I'm not entirely sure I found that ending satisfying or conclusive. Despite the mind-games, I'm going to assume that 'Maria' is a misspelling, going by the fact that 'up to meet' is repeated, which seems like a mistake.

I feel like the pacing of this story is very uneven and 'lumpy'. It starts slow, taking a good two scenes or so to really get a plot-hook of any sort going, (the disconnected snippet at the beginning is hardly useful for drawing me in, ramdom-seeming as it is at first) and then, after a bit of psychological messing around, it easily tosses out the mind games with a moment of concentration and gives us... something? I feel like it just kinda drops us, without really giving much in the way of wrap-up or denouement. The bit when I realized two realities were happening was intriguing, up until he just kinda shook it off, but the rest of the story mainly failed to grab me.

The bit about Susan's birthmark seemed an entirely unnecessary aside.

I'm not really sure what sort of suggestions I could make to improve this, honestly. Anything I suggest would change the story radically enough it wouldn't really be the same story anymore. Try and smooth out your pacing, maybe, and work on that ending a bit so it's a little clearer where you're trying to leave us?

Sorry this is kinda unhelpful...
#85 · 3
· on The View Through the Window
This could definitely use an editing pass. Noticed lots of little typos here and there, though it's stuff that can be cleaned up easily.

A bit disjointed and hard to follow, which I suppose was likely the point. Still, I feel like the roundabout nature it takes to build up to the reveal kind of undercuts the impact, and makes it difficult to care about the characters involved. Ending on a reveal is pretty common for a short story, but if you want to draw more emotional depth out of this story, you may be able to do so by moving the reveal to the midpoint and giving the characters a chance to really react and let it sink in.
#86 ·
Had I known my evening plans yesterday would have been cancelled, I would have made a bigger attempt write something. Oh well.

Also, yeesh, 22 stories =( Well, uh, congrats to everyone for making finals (I can't imagine there'd be two rounds for so few stories)
#87 · 3
· on The Unsung Ballad of Roger Wilco · >>Icenrose
"False Fedora" is a gem. I'm rather fond of my own name as well. Will come back to this later for further thoughts.
#88 · 1
· on My Friend, My Obsession
Well that was a story.

The premise of this, combined with the fact that the story takes itself completely seriously and offers no explanation or justification as such kind of strains my suspension of disbelief to the breaking point.

The meat of the story is in the character drama and personal narrative, which is pretty good, but is framed against a backdrop of absurdity. The character voicing doesn't feel quite like children, but that's in part because of the setting and in part because writing children that sound convincingly like children and is actually well written and interesting to read is freaking hard, so it gets a pass.

Some of the interactions also don't feel like they go anywhere, like the stuff with her father or the poke-pets thing.
#89 · 2
· on Fiddlers Three
I had a hard time to start off with - that second paragraph threw me hard. Coming back after reading the whole thing, it was fine, but the first time around, it stopped me in my tracks. And you never do answer that little 'how do you know what I'm thinking' line.

That said, the 'real fairytale' setting is interesting and works well here. The characters seemed distinct. Blue could've been more developed, but Bitsy and Muffet had some depth, which is two more than I usually manage.

The plot was decent. You did particularly well in making the merits of their competing options ambiguous. I wasn't sure which way things would end up going right up until the very end.

A good story overall. To improve it, I'd mostly advise giving the intro some TLC.
#90 · 1
· on Serial
You've got:

The basics here, author, but it's a big subject--I mean, Brian Stableford's written six novels and several novellas about his "emortal society," and at least one of them deals extensively with recreational suicide.

For our purposes here, I'd suggest expanding references to the setting: I mean, all the high-tech the story relies on in order to work, and in the crucial scene at the end, our unnamed narrator is using a thumbdrive. The actions our characters take here need to stand out in contrast to the rest of the world--they're the oddballs, after all--so I need a better sense of what the rest of the world is like. For the results of 72 hours' work, though, this is a really good start.

#91 ·
· on Morlock
I get the impression of some RTS or management sim like Dwarf Fortress, left alone to run for far, far to long.

An all dialogue story is an odd, choice, but the writeoff is made for such experiments. It works well enough for what it is, a window into a horrible society of pointless toil. With a little dash of sociopathic comedy, it wouldn't feel out of place on an episode of Futurama or Rick and Morty. As it is, it's just vaguely horrifying, but the impact is lessened somewhat by the lack of personality and replaceable nature of whatever creatures these are.
#92 · 2
· on Fiddlers Three
Nice way to begin with my slate. Vivid descriptions, interesting world-building and a moral dilemma that isn't as clear cut as one may tempted to make it, which is probably the strongest quality of this story.

I really don't have much to say. While the beginning may seem slightly confusing, context is given in a couple of sentences, which transforms it in a good opening. The story itself is complete even if it could be expanded indefinitely, and the characters are interesting and well distinguishable.

My only real critique would echo what Ratlab said, Blue is a bit underdeveloped, but that could be probably easily fixed by you (considering the quality you already delivered) in a future version.

Great job.
#93 ·
· on The Difference Engine
Characters were a strong suit of this piece; David, Scout and to a lesser extent, his grandfather all seemed well voiced and plausible. I also liked the little details sprinkled in about the world.

Conspiracies are tricky. The slow build was one of the better parts of the plot, though I was primed me to expect it. During the read, I appreciated the elegance of the cover story, but I can definitely see where Not_A_Hat is coming from in poking holes at it. Without more details (and even with), it still seems like there are an enormous number of ways for this to go wrong.

What about the rest of the world? I can't see the rest of the world taking nuclear warfare laying down. This might work better as part of a larger narrative, but it'd be a heavy lift. Also, the whole structure of this pact - I'm not really sure what's gained by having someone agree with something before they know it.

This is a big idea and well crafted, but it has trouble standing up to scrutiny.
#94 · 1
· on Rats
Interesting idea and a nice way to play with the concept of Justice and in how many ways it can go horribly wrong when using a simple and pedestrian system.

The characters felt archetypal, which is something I expect in this kind of stories, and while it was short on surprises it still worked thanks to a pretty solid execution. Dry narration with a couple of sparks here and there give the MC a compelling voice.

There were some minor typos, for example "gas petal". For the rest I didn't spot anything problematic, so all in all a good entry.
#95 · 1
· on My Friend, My Obsession
My Friend, My Obsession

Starting out, this offers a great example of a soft intro. It doesn't clamour for my attention. It just quietly does its job, laying out the characters and setting in an ordinary setting.

At the same time, I think it could be tightened up. The notion of Children's MMA thing could stand to be introduced in the first scene, for example. At the very least contrast Izzu's age with her participation a bit earlier.

I'm also not getting a very strong sense that Izzu's obsession with KM, beyond the fact that it's stated as such. A little more demonstration wouldn't hurt.

Wait – CMMA illegal? First, why wasn't this mentioned, or at least hinted at, before? (It's a strong background element. I don''t think it serves you well to be coy about it.) Second, what on earth are clips of of it doing on YouTube, then?

“ … [A]s the nasty plastic touched my cheeks.” strikes me as a jarring contruction. “Nasty” seems a poor word choice, and somehow more childish than Izzu's manner has been so far. Something like “clammy” or “slimy” might serve you better.

The fights are mildly interesting, but I found myself skimming some of them. You mgiht want to take out some of the detail here. (Also, it occurs to me that some of this might work better if moved to the beginning of the story, to better set up Izzu's participation in the games. That would also serve as a good centre to hang all the explanatory bits I wanted to see earlier.)

The twist … Okay, I called that as soon as KM appeared in the narration. It's the obvious move, and it's pretty heavily telegraphed.

It's cute, I'll grant you, but carries little impact. And for my taste, at least, it comes off as rather too schmaltzy.

Final thoughts: If that's then ending you want to stick to, I think you need to play up the dichotomy between on one hand, Izzu's normal life & her friendship with Lina – and on the other, her life as a CMMA fighter and her obsession with KM. You do the first hand pretty well, but the second seems lacking in both aspects.

(Also, I felt like the Definitely-Not-Tamagotchis got a lot of attention but didn't go anywhere. You might want to connect this to something, or trim it.)
#96 ·
· on Ego Sum Deus?
Ego Sum Deus

A Latin title. That doesn't bode well.

But then ... a strong intro that falls into a nice relationship with the title, gives a great sense of voice, and sets the scene effectively.

Hold on. He has coke on his work area? And he just sweeps it away without a second thought? Okay, so he's a bit mad, but that kinda rings false. (I say, with all my massive experience of hard drugs …)

As we progress, the voicing remains strong, but never seems to break out of what the mould set in the first scene: Irreverent dude with wacky metaphors and unconstrained swearing.

And I've just seen the precise moment it overstays its welcome:

“The people who were unfortunate enough to be standing in front of the door ended up looking like Swiss cheese mixed with strawberry sauce.”

It's worth digging int this in some depth. Up till now, I've got the impression our narrator is, basically, a loser. He knows what it's like to get coked up, and he knows what it's like to get arrested for that. It fits with his character that he's filled with snarky asides about such things. What I don't buy is that he's had any experience with seeing a bunch of (fairly) innocent people die a horribly violent death. I don't see why he should be irreverent about that, and so this line reads less as a junkie rambling away and more as a 14-year-old COD edgelord who's trying to impress his friends.

He should be horrified. Or numb. Or something that is not indifferent.

And then, a few paragraphs later he suddenly feels the need to be sick. Then he gets his magic powers. Then he becomes a god, and everything goes off the rails.

At the end of it, I'm left wondering – why? With hindsight, the pills had absolutely nothing to do with his gaining of powers. So why did this sequence of events transpire at all? Why did he suddenly remember he's a god? Why did he bang his head against a wall to forget (an event that's comical without actually being funny)?

I feel like the story's so caught up in shocking swerves and existential angst that it loses any sense of coherence by the end. It's kind of a shame, because the intro would make a great start for a different story. Though rather suspect you already knew that when you submitted it.
#97 · 2
· on Ship
In a story like this:

The character knows exactly what's going on, and I know nothing. So the whole exercise is about getting the character's knowledge to me in as natural a fashion as possible. And unfortunately, that largely didn't happen.

Right from the beginning, despite the description of the setting, I couldn't put together a picture of what I was supposed to be seeing. Is our unnamed narrator clinging to the top of a pole? Is he in something like a crow's nest? Or were there stairs behind him that he'd climbed up? And what about the ship itself? I know that sand surrounds it, but what does it look like from the narrator's vantage point?

I had the same problem throughout the whole story. The narrator was talking about wallslates and longspears, and I found myself wondering who replaced him on watch duty and where the village gets its water. So by the time we got to the end with warcastes and thoughtcastes and drizzies, I was pretty much lost in every way that I could be. Keep going with it, though: it sounds like an interesting world.

#98 · 1
· on Audit
I had to google some names for this story. How dare you make me learn about things that aren't already a part of the collective consciousness of western culture!

I liked this story. Interesting imagery, and some delightfully amoral and self serving machinations on display. Corporations are evil enough as it is without being specifically set up to cause the deaths of a bunch of people for the sole purpose of continuing immortality, only to then self destruct in a hailstorm of red tape and bureaucracy.
#99 · 1
· on The Unsung Ballad of Roger Wilco · >>Icenrose

I tend to love metafiction. The other kind of metafiction, where its fiction that's concerned with the concept of fiction. Not so much this kind, when it steps back into real life, or parodies thereof.

That being said, this was thoroughly enjoyable. It was well written and rather silly.
#100 · 3
· on Event Cascade
A huge amount of the wordcount of this story is filled with technical jargon of airplanes. I'm sure it's very authentic, but it doesn't make for interesting reading unless you're an extreme aviation enthusiast.

There's not much story left behind the technobabble either. Something goes wrong, the plane crashes, roll credits. The story could easily be expanded beyond he ending, to see the results, investigate what went wrong, see the impact on others like potential family, or anything.

Chris is characterized somewhat by the narration, but Patrick doesn't really have any chance to actually show personality, other than what Chris tells us about him.