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The Long Road Home · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
#1 · 3
Welcome to this new WriteOff round!
(More to come in a few minutes, pals)
#2 · 1
Here's hoping I get to participate in this round.
^ ^
#3 · 1

I finally remembered to check my email for the notification, haha.

Here's hoping I submit something!
#4 · 1
I wasn't expecting an original contest quite so soon. Bring it on!
#5 · 2
I oddly didn't get an email notification. I guess I'd better tell Roger...

EDIT: Stupid spam folder...
#6 · 1
Been a while since I did anything in the way of original fiction. Seems like a good opportunity to try it out again!
#7 · 1
Well I'm excited. I've definitely been this excited before, but just when I was thinking about soliciting prompts to get some writing practice what shows up in my inbox? A contest with stupendous timing.
#8 · 1
I'm excited. I missed the last Original round, and I'm really itching to write something fresh and new.
#9 · 3
Coming back to reclaim my title...

...If I can even find the time to write this weekend :V
#10 · 2
· · >>The_Letter_J
Pokemon GO?

Wasn't there a Pokemon GO story back in July?
#11 · 3
Snrk. Now we've got prompts that aren't even words. Whoever did that one, I salute you.

... well, I would if I knew the unicode :|
#12 · 6
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Let's do this thing. :EmojiThatWorksOnFimficButNotHere:
#13 · 4
#14 · 3

I'll sharpen my pen and go to bed early.
#15 ·
You're probably thinking of this story of mine from the End of an Era round. Pokémon GO was mostly there for a few jokes and to justify the rest of the story happening, but as far as I know no other stories have used it at all.
#16 · 1
Yet another chance to spill out my organized nonsense.
#17 ·
Alas, I will almost certainly not be able to participate in this one. My weekend is looking to be quite full. :<
#18 · 1
I'm just going to leave this here, because... well, it's fitting. To me, anyways! (And unrelated to whatever plans I may have.)
#19 · 4
· · >>Posh
True story: Just woke up from a dream in which I was writing an entry titled "Ursine Lisa Flees To Pakistan."

Mostly sharing that so that I'm not tempted. It even fits the prompt. <.<;

Edit: Gods, I hope someone does though, it would be hilarious. (Says the bad-idea dragon who was, like, the only person to enjoy all the bad meta jokes in the "Just Over The Horizon" round.)

Edit 2: I'm now regretting speaking up and depriving myself of my most fully formed idea. :raritydespair:
#20 · 3
Also, déjà vu.
#21 · 1
I'm out, folks:

I've finally decided how I want to revise "Fiddlers Three," my story from the last original fic round, and the Rainbow Dash/Fluttershy story I've been mulling over lately fits the prompt for the Flutterdash Group's current writing contest so well, I'm taking it as a sign. I'm figuring the pony story'll be 25,000 words or so and the contest's deadline is Oct. 3rd, so my writing schedule's pretty much filled for the next few weeks...

Have fun!

#22 · 3
· · >>georg

Gosh, I would totally write that. But whenever I sit down to write something serious that isn't about ponies, I clam up and default to just writing something about a talking bear.

If I did that this time, I'd just be cutting out the middleman. Heh.

True story, Bonnie was originally about Fluttershy's bear gaining the power of speech and falling in love with Diamond Tiara.
#23 · 1
I want to enter, although the story idea I have may be too long for this prompt or I might write it too short. Beware!
#24 · 2
>>Posh You've got the title for that too. Diamond Tiara's Hairy Scary Bear
#25 · 1
Welp. I have a trade show this Sunday, and possibly jury duty on Monday…
I shall try.
#26 · 1
Gods damn it, now I wake up from another dream which would make a great story but which doesn't fit the prompt.

My dreams are taunting me. 😞
#27 · 3
… and so much for going down to the coffee shop to settle in and write.



Dear universe: WHAT THE HELL.
#28 · 1
I'm not making any progress on anything fitting the prompt, but I do have a murder mystery and a ghost running around my head trying to fit together. If I get that written before finals I'll call it a win.

Freebie if anyone still needs a plot: Time travel.
#29 · 1
The good news is: I finally got an idea from a prompt for a story I find worth writing.

The bad news is: I'm only 1k words in, and at my current rate of 250 words an hour, I'll never finish in time. Better put in the turbo, I guess, yikes!
#30 · 1
At 1200 words so far, but I have to switch gears now to other tasks. If all goes well, I’ll have a story in on time tomorrow night.
#31 · 2
I have an idea, little over thirty hours, a playlist of ambience music, a whole bag of multiple types of nuts and raisins... Also, the kettle just finished boiling.

Lᴇᴛ's ᴅᴏ ᴛʜɪs
#32 · 1
· · >>Bachiavellian
So, after almost 2/3 of the writing time goes by, I get an idea that I like. It's not a particularly long one, but this one might cut it close...
#33 · 2
Scratch that about this one not being that long. I was originally planing for a 2,500 word long story, but my outline's gotten a hell of a lot bigger than I expected. Walp, tomorrow's going to be a busy day.
#34 · 1
· · >>ArgonMatrix

So, I'm just now free to write. I have a general idea for a story. And I have, at most, five hours or so of writing time. That comes out to 400 words / hour to reach even the minimum story length...

So, do I go for it... Or call it a lost cause and go play Kerbal Space Program? O.o
#35 · 1
No harm in trying!
#36 · 1
Argh, life just had to get in the way. My schedule only just freed up right now. I have a pretty fun idea for the prompt, but I dunno if I can get it done and edited in time. I'll give it a shot!
#37 · 1
Just really starting now. Got about 100 words in yesterday night, with what little time I had to spare, and have had other commitments all day today. I think my idea's pretty good, just hoping the execution will work out. Good luck to everyone else!
#38 · 1
YAY! I'm over 2,000 words!

Now if only I didn't have two more scenes to write before the story makes any sense, and I'd be done! Oh well. I've still got two hours to write! That should be plenty, right?

..... Right?!? O.o
#39 · 1
Kung Fu me, I got a good idea, but I had no time, and I don't believe I can do it justice. I only managed to spend three hours on it, and now I am tired, sleepy, and have to be to work in a few hours so I don't think I'll have time to edit it, short piece as it necessarily became to accommodate my awful powers of scheduling.

Oh well. I guess I can try, right? I mean, what does Yoda know anyway?
#40 · 4
Writes entire story on day one.

Edits a tiny bit on day two.

Internet is completely gone on day three, and the file is stored on google docs.


Well, I guess a small editing pass is better than nothing. *uploads with phone*
#41 · 2
Ooookay! I managed to finish.... Something.

Unfortunately, I'm exhausted, and have work tomorrow, so I have to head off to bed now.

I might have, at most, a half hour tomorrow morning to reread, review, edit, and polish this... thing. Then I'll have to run off to work.

So, my heartfelt apologies to the poor souls that will have to read and review this unedited mess. It is far from my best work, but given my time constraints... Well, I'll take pride in the fact that I got anything in. :>
#42 ·
I have entered! Beware the obtuseness!
#43 ·

If anything, I hope you guys think my entry is interesting to read :>
#44 · 1
So, my allergies were killing me and I took a Benadryl. Bad call. I'm as tired as a corpse right now. So now I'm wondering if I can power through my last scene now, or if I can wake up early enough tomorrow to get it done then.

Decisions, decisions...

EDIT: Done, and dying. See you guys in the morning.
#45 ·
Approaching the end; mostly polishing now. No jury duty tomorrow after all. I think I will make it!
#46 · 1
· · >>wYvern
I've been either writing, thinking about writing, researching stuff so I don't write utter crap, or procrastinating on writing for the past 16 hours. It's 6:46 a.m. here. Another round of coffee, hope the sunrise will help me keep breathing and typing. 3 more scenes to go, just glad I already wrote the ending. 7 hours will have to suffice. If I can do it, you can do it. Go!
#47 ·
· · >>Remedyfortheheart
I must have spent an equal amount of time writing as I did watching informative videos and being disappointed in government agencies.

Anyhoot, I managed to finish my submission. Hopefully next time I can start writing earlier.

I wish all of you the best!
#48 ·
Me and you both. I need some look overs but it's just great that I can write just for fun again.
#49 ·
Welp, just finished. It's really late and I'm tired, and all I can hope is that my story doesn't reflect that. Once again, good luck.
#50 ·
Made it! Will check back tomorrow to see how many typos I missed.
#51 · 2
· · >>georg
Well, I had some rough patches at about 10 pm and at about 2 am, but huge-for-me doses of caffeine pushed me through those walls. Got another hour to go before submitting at 5 a.m. (and taking a catnap before work at 9), and I'm on track to get this final scene finished by then ...

Ideas I didn't use:

- "Long" being a Chinese dragon, interpreting the prompt as "The Dragon Road Home", and cribbing heavily from The Journey To The West and other Chinese mythological sources to weave a tale in which the heroes have to get a carp to the Dragon Gate and ride their new friend down the river.

- A thinly fictionalised tale about getting stuck in traffic after that fire I posted the picture of.

- Urban fantasy in which the hero(es) are travelling through the Realms of Faerie (cf. World of Darkness RPG stuff, Dresden Files, etc) and have to stabilize their path by invoking various mortal memes to unspool the road in familiar and navigable shapes, prominently including Robert Frost's "Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening" ("miles to go before I sleep...")
#52 ·
By the looks of things, there was even more of a time crunch than usual this round. I guess that puts us all on level ground, at least.

Good luck, you lot!
#53 · 3
Oof, only 22 stories. Looks like everyone else was struggling as much with the prompt as I was.

... waaaaaait ...

21 authors. Someone bein' all naughty. :trixieshiftright:
#54 ·
2 stories down. Whew. Looking to be a much stranger round this time. Hmmm....expect reviews soon.
#55 ·
· on I Hope You See Me in Hell
I Hope You See Me in Hell

This is a serviceable start, though I think it would do better without the slightly odd reminder of how rhetorical questions work. Upon entering the cavern, we get a fair bit of similarly pointless back-and-forth dialogue that just recounts what we know from the narration.

One day I'd like to see surprise indicated with something other than an open mouth. No-one I know in real life does that.

That aside, this is an interesting development, and a good choice for a scene break. I do wonder what the context is, though, that would make Ashley think this weird cave is hell in the first place – this can't be an ordinary caving trip.

Yes, Dustin, I know what a person looks like.

The demon is pretty cool, but at this stage I'm wondering whether or not this is meant to be a comedy. There are a few silly bits here aned there, but not enough to signify either way.

Well, okay. We get a standard flashback to a miserable childhood followed by the standard “dude shows up and explains everything” ending. (Time crunch, am I right?)

I find it hard to comment, because there's not really anything here. The opening hook is a good one, but without substance, the story, much like its protagonist, potters around aimlessly in search of an exit. Characterisation is close to nil, worldbuilding is close to nil (though there are a couple of glimmers in the direction of an odd sort of afterlife), and plot is absent.
#56 · 1
· on No Reply
No Reply

For the first scene, we get an excellent job at revealing both the background and main thrust of the story while appearing to talk about something else. I hope this continues.

And it does, but …

It never goes beyond that. “I'm obsessed and this life event happens. I'm obsessed and that life event happens. I'm obsessed and …” It gets tiring quicly Until, at the end, we get a sudden revelation, which clears a few things up, but on the whole feels a bit empty after the promise of the beginning. (Though this is a problem that haunts all mysteries, so I can't get too grumpy about it.)

So the technical skills on display here are impressive, but once again I find myself needing wanting something more substantial behind them.
#57 · 2
So I really liked this prompt.

More's the pity real life conspired against me this weekend. :/
#58 · 3
>>horizon As a native Kansan, I was a little surprised not to see the original classic 'follow the road home' story of the Wizard of Oz somewhere in there. There was a lot (and still is) of fanfic stemming from that series.
#59 ·
· on Proverbs 22:6
The story starts off a bit too telly, and I feel some of the infodumps and worldbuilding could have been better weaved into the narrative. Overall, though, it was an engaging read. For all his flaws, I can say I got to care about Jon.

However, I have to wonder what will be his fate. He's relapsed and is probably going to keep the habit for a while. How is he going to conceal that from his handlers in the long run? Just keep working his rounds and adding more Numbers to his stash?

I really wished there had been a clearer, stronger resolution. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed the story very much.
#60 · 3
· on The River Lady · >>Bachiavellian
My heart hurts.

I want to believe one of Beatrice's grandchildren grew up hearing stories about how much fun her grandma had in the rivers that surrounded her neighbourhood. Then, once they became an adult, went on to have a career in politics where they advocated for pro-enviromental laws until they managed to start a program to cleanse London's rivers.

It was a pity the Lady of the River couldn't love Adam the way he loved her, but I'm happy to know they could remain friends even after all that time.

Lovely story, it felt as if I was being told a fairy tale of modern times. Good job.
#61 · 1
· on Roll D120 To Get Home
DISCLAIMER! I play Dungeons and Dragons!

So this one was interesting. A futuristic medieval scene that doesn't seem to following the original medieval fantasy game. Which has influenced many games, books, and movies! Such examples are World of Warcraft, Harry Potter, and Magic The Gathering! Now that aside. Let's just say this world we read about does not follow this fantasy trend. It's well done but certain elements hint at the knowledge of the author not really knowing how to bond with his reader's interests. So it becomes stale and almost seems insulting to my point of view knowing the world I love to pretend myself in is turned about in such a way that it's actually confusing with as hardcore of a nerd as I am.

Imagination-Boy you really took out the stops on your own imagination on this one. Distant lands, air travel, Elves, and power bars. Makes it feel like an episode of a certain steampunk animation show where everyone rode motorcycles. Now I love the steampunk feeling of this while adding in a mix of the fantasy world we've come to know growing up as kids. It really did hit on tender spots in my heart seeing such references to the ever famous boardgame of Dungeons and Dragons while also keeping your own ideas original such as the overgrown owl, which wasn't a druid of some sorts, and the Shardforest, which felt like a Pherrexian land card from an old edition of Magic the Gathering. Now that being said, why were some of them so silly that it just didn't actually connect with me? Great little easter eggs here and there coupled with a journey story that would easily melt my heart if it were not for the wrong amount of sides for a die or made up monsters rules situations. Then again D&D was always a game with no limitations. So truthfully. It just didn't feel like I wanted in on this world or game for myself.

Events-The flow of the disasters coming from one after the other gave the story a nice kick. It made me feel for these Elves in their endeavors. The crash into the poisoning and then to the sudden storm. Must be plain bad luck but it just seems to still turn into a great read. Now the events were nice but I don't think the characters actually fit well with it. Elves usually are more in tune with nature than other races and most of them actually harvest from the very Earth as a natural part of their lives. So it's strange that these Elves had much difficulties living in the wild. This story does hint at the current economy of this world. From motion pictures, manufacturing of boardgames and video games along with production of energy bars. Which can show how this race has lost their touch with their more primal aspects. Either way I'm not buying it and it just feels weird.

Setting-The pairing of an unusual race getting lost in the woods while being a race who's natural habitat is that of an open world mixing in with some steampunk elements and a PG-13 movie that involves teen mischief and nerd comedy. There are a lot of tags to this story and it just really throws me off. I for one think there is too many elements mixed into this piece and found it distracting to think that one thing has to go into the other because of reasons. Maybe if I got to know the history of this place more I would be more immersed into it, but for now we don't have that luxury. So the chances of these things not fitting with one another is pretty high. It makes the story more intricate than it needed to be right from the start and affected the entire read for me.

Premise-Convention trip gone wrong with a young adult and two minors? Check. Add natural disasters in the wild and limited supplies? Check! Good elements to a a great story that can easily keep me entertained and makes me stick to the page. Now add steampunk elements along with a medieval world and add some Dungeons and dragons while also imitating the world of Dungeons and dragons in it? Um. Okay what just happened? I think somewhere along the lines you had difficulties choosing what you wanted in this story and mixed up a couples of things because you wanted to do one thing and ended up making something else. I loved the world the characters are in. How the world works. even as confusing as it was to read it was captivating enough to have me sit down and finish the read on this story. If the character weren't lost I would have loved to learn more about this world by itself.

Not a bad read. I slammed my forehead a couple of times from the references so I can't say I enjoyed it to the fullest extent. Maybe I missed something or I can't seem to grasp what the author is providing me in terms of a story. This is the problem for going a fantasy route. You take one world and you need to make it adaptable to another person's perspective. Especially if its highly influential like Dungeons & Dragons is. That is unless it's explained in said piece that certain things are different due to certain circumstances. We didn't get that so the sky the limit. Or in this case so is the line for logic. This piece tended to go one way and then another. Even it's own words argued with how long the three were gone. The whole trek took a day and a half while the initial intro gave the distance to 3 days time. Add in the incidents and you get even more time lost for traveling. I just didn't undertsand a lot in this story and that hurt my experience with it.
#62 ·
· on Traveling Time · >>georg
Is this thinly veiled Quantum Leap fanfiction?
#63 · 3
· on 10:48PM · >>Cassius
"It isn't fair that my own interpretation of fate makes people suffer, so I'll kill reality itself instead, thus dooming all of humanity to a fate worse than what their own destinies could be!"

While existential nihilism isn't my cup of tea, I still managed to get some enjoyment out of the story. I can't say I sympathise with Jo, though. I mean, if the universe wants my partner dead that badly, maybe just try to enjoy all the time you've had together and then move on with your life. If you're unable to let go to the degree Jo is, then use your time travelling powers to re-live all the time you've had together. Seriously, are you so self-centered that you don't think you can't ever love anyone ever again?

But yeah, other than Jo's questionable logic, I liked the story.
#64 · 1
· on Traveling Time · >>georg
Traveling Time

This is a cool idea if a tad derivative, introduced skilfully. A few hints of mystery come along with the major conceit, and I find myself hooked.

And a bit later, I like the contrasts here: From the aetherial, almost mythic intro, we get into a very earthy scene, which keeps the whole thing grounded … and a discussion about magic and hubris, which keeps it from getting too grounded.

Some nice, quite subtle revelations … and a nice, quite subtle ending, foreshadowed with metaphor.

Yes, I like this. My complaint, I suppose, is that it nudges up against a couple of interesting concepts (like hubris and paradox) without really going anywhere with them. It's not as deep, or involved as I hoped it would be. But it's well written, and works well with the prompt.
#65 · 1
· on The Performance
The Performance

Not a high-drama start, but interesting enough. I like the descriptions here – effective and evocative without being overwrought, and skilfully weaved into the action. I think we might be better off without the reversal in the beginning, though.

Well, that got interesting quickly. Again, though, an effective transition. I'm a little uncertain about this Rachael person suddenly appearing, though.

Okay, halfway through now, and while I'm I'm enjoying this as effectively creepy, I do worry that it's piggybacking all its emotional weight on the Marina Abramović thing . Okay, so yes, that was explicitly referenced, but that doesn't avoid the problem.

Well, I'm happy to say I was wrong. This complexified itself admirably, ramped up the tension as high as it could go and the end was suitably shocking. I'm impressed. Really, you've made me jealous, which I count as my main benchmark for success in these contests.


Well, it leaves a slightly sour aftertaste. I feel like the subtext about refugees and callousness and the state of modernity here is barely subtext; it's written in bolded capital letters and underlined three times.

What else? First I think you could remove the bit with Rachel and hand her line to the boys. Second, I think that ending might have more punch if you cut it off where Amira gets shot.

Other than that, this makes the top of my slate so far with ease.
#66 ·
· on Long Haul
I felt as though I watched an eighties feel-good movie. And not just because truckers.

This was a really, really nice character-driven piece, pun only partially intended. I loved the little quirks that gave us glimpses into Rudy and Scarlet's personalities, a lot was said with those little details. I don't have much to complain about, perhaps maybe that I wanted more.

Conversely, I'd like to read more of Rudy's Rig Runs, meeting new people and helping them in their lives.

Ride on, Rudy, you angel with chromed wings.
#67 · 1
So, after scraping at the 6k word mark, and still not having written one of the climaxes, I experienced what I can only describe as complete literary blackout: All I could write was the most trite, telly crap. With 4 hours to go and absolutely exhausted, I thought about pushing through, but in the end, I decided against finishing something in a way that would make me hate it.

This was a horrible experience to be honest. I guess it serves me right for not having written prose for almsot 2 months before this event. I'll need to schedule regular writing time to stay in shape. That revelation in itself may have been worth it, but it was an experience I never want to go through again.
#68 ·
· on Roll D120 To Get Home
Behind her the elflings had started another argument, this time about hybrid races.

Definitely not a creepy thing to talk about just after your sister revealed she's in a mix-raced relationship. Nope, not at all.

Anyway. I like fantasy settings, and this is an interesting one. The little glimpses of this universe you gave us painted a very colorful scene.

I guess my biggest issue is the lack of resolution. Okay, Stella admits she has a human boyfriend and that she used to be nerdy like her brother and his friend are. But in the end we don't even find out if they'll make it out of the forest alive! Will they make it home? How will Stella's parents react when they find out what happened? And how will they react once they find out about Stella's human boyfriend?

Echoing Remedy's thoughts, it does feel like the episode of a show, but only the first half of a two-parter.
#69 ·
· on Proverbs 22:6
Zzzzzzzzzzzz! Zzzzzzzzz! Zzzzz-Mh?! What! I wasn't sleeping!

Oh boy I'm actually rubbing my eyes after reading this one. I'm definitely not a fan of space. Be it movies or in writing. Not much to say for this. This story is intricate. Boy is it complex. What it did in effort to win my heart actually became probably it's biggest problem.

Entertainment-The value of most stories lay in the essence of how well it does to induce a person into thought. Books, poems, or simple phrases of wisdom have a purpose of getting a person to think about many things. Now this is where different genres come into play and different writing styles as well. The vanilla futuristic humanity space thing is one of the fewer tags that seem to not really get its own hype per say. Unlike other tags this one can suffer a lot from just what it's trying to be. A scientific means to medical science and a man abusing this technology to j"cope" with his current situations. Not gonna lie. The entertainment value for this story is all but squashed for me. What it does get me at for entertainment is in the amount of detail put into story in terms of medical use, narcotics, and astro science(or whatever Astronaut studies are.). I could care less for the psychological stuff since um....I really didn't come to understand why Jon needed to dip into the "water" just for a chemically induced acceptance of the things around him.

Detailing-Holy mother of codfish. TMI! TMI! Too much info. My brain is fried already on the astronaut terminology and even more so trying to understand Jon's life. Convict/scientist/junkie/astronaut? What is he?! Because a cannibal he is not. Well not so much entirely. Survivalist? Oh God, it's getting worse! The details is just too much. Several of the events this story could do without entirely. It would be fine and it wouldn't hurt um....Jon's agenda. It's like the more I got to know about him the more disgusted I was with the main character. Not to sound harsh but every little dirty secret Jon had. Was just forced upon me. And I feel dirty. It got so dark in many parts of the story that it just was depressing. I really see no reason for a person to get this so deeply darkened. aside from the gothic parts your detail in explaining circumstances and emotion was great but wow. I did not need to know that his father beats on him.

Introduction-I loved the premise of the intro where we meet a character come to understand him and slowly develop a relationship in coordination with his upcoming events. eventually we learn that there is a problem and that poor Jon has to deal with it. It was a great hook. At first I didn't understand space and the many bodies laying about until it was explained that Jon was more of a warden and caretaker. Which was interesting as medical science is trying to manufacture live organs. They've already completely artificial tissues and even a some vein work. So this isn't too far out of the picture. It was an honest start to a good story. A simple man with a purpose in his life. Not things went south as Jon isn't too happy with the events back at home. He becomes upset and ends up doing several inhumane things. Weed is one thing but theft, heavy narcotic usage, and murder?(Numbers is still considered a live being. Political or religious views applied or not applied. He was alive.) Why did this take such a bad turn?

Scientific Exploration-I'm sure many of your readers will agree that a lot of the material you provided for us is actual science. A lot of it actually is facts that astronauts and NASA scientists have to take into consideration. Event he medical aspects were amazing as this could literally be a future breaking point in medicine we as humanity have yet to even achieve! This is wonder work and you've done your research on it extensively. So I commend you for the efforts. Now some of these bigger words can throw off your readers. You're probably reaching out to a more mature audience, but it doesn't really have a hook to it when you call out such a phrase as "insert the epidermic needle for intravenous injection to cause prolonged administered euphoric discharge while in cryogenic slumber to justify the means for survival rectification all because of one little mishap." See how bland that got so quickly. You give use awe inspiring things to look up and study but also give us more of a reason to put down the story we're reading.

Not bad. Great stuff decent read. Not really a kick to it or something memorable for me to go by. But this is still some top tier stuff. It's shocking that Jon had such a low tolerance. Which is why it's bothering me too. Knowing the extend of what a person will go through to really survive and adapt is something not easily projected well. What was really well done was the space station, or base, and how it operated. Probably if you focused more on the tech then I would actually come to appreciate what Jon may be going through. Maybe some more of his history as it's told in riddles rather than clear explanations to his actions.
#70 ·
· on Roll D120 To Get Home
Gonna start out my slate-plus-one by reading the RPG-titled one, because I am a huge dork.

… And before I say anything else, I'm just going to note that it's a little more obvious than usual that this is a first draft, and possibly written on a phone to boot. There are a lot of incorrect words in ways that suggest the cruel hand of AutoCorrect. Take heart: while that's going to draw a fair bit of notice from your readers, that's also a very simple problem to fix. And more generally, while there are some real problems here to iron out, I think a lot of them are easily amenable to editing. That you wrote so many words against the headwinds of not just time but technology — in a round where a lot of authors seemed to struggle with the prompt, no less — is really worth celebrating.

So I'm going to try glossing over the small stuff and talk about how this fares as a story. It struggled to engage me, I'm sorry to say, and the biggest reason is that this lacks cohesion. This is a story about an elf whose cell phone magicrystal runs out of battery magic power after a car wind-carriage crash when she's driving her younger brother to a tabletop gaming convention tabletop gaming convention, complete with six-packs of beer and literal Powerbars in their supplies, and then suddenly they hike from this Earth-with-the-names-changed urban fantasy world into the Shardwood, where the ruins of an ancient human civilization may or may not be located, and iron is scattered all around which disrupts the weather management and creates wildstorms. It was more than a little disorienting lurching from Smeerp Earth into a world with its own unique physics. I'd have loved to see more things like the Shardwood to give this its own identity — but right now, its inclusion just feels to me like it makes all of the earth-with-crazy-names parts stand out all the more. I mean, look at the contrast between these two paragraphs, both talking about things which openly coexist side by side in the world:

"Their tech is wicked," Aestas said with a hint of envy. The ale had had confused had made him slightly more talkative than usual. "It's all earthbound, but it's really sweet. I saw some motorbike photos. Dad forgot to put them in the safe one evening. The thing was really wow. Water-cell based engine, carbon based polymers... you could ride it in a forest with a normal permit. What I wouldn't give for one of those."

"I'm sure it's fun." Stella took her voice-crystal out of her pocket. The runes were dim.

Meanwhile, the whole thing is peppered with running gaming commentary by the kids, which really doesn't help for me since it contributes to a mixing of the meta-levels. You're invoking the trope of kids geeking out over a RPG — which (see e.g. the recent MLP episode) trope-ically involves losing themselves in a fantasy world full of things that don't exist in their reality — but their game is full of "level five human scouts" and flamethrowers, when humans and militaries and modern technology are literally things that exist and are visible from their house. Don't make your D&D-like fantasy RPGs out of documentaries — make it out of myths! And that would require that some things remain mythical in your world, rather than everything existing side-by-side.

So, yeah. While you're editing this, it could use a good de-cluttering. This is a concept I really wanted to like — an inversion of gaming nerds getting lost in a fantasy world, by having fantasy-world gaming nerds geek out over things we find mundane — and it had a few nice worldbuilding touches like the Shardwood and the (surprisingly well foreshadowed) aether deficiency. But in the hasty assembly, it doesn't feel like it's coming through yet.

Tier: Needs Work
#71 · 1
· on Should Not Have Said That
I am very very confused.

So many names being dropped, and some of them are just voices in this guy's head? It's a mess trying to sort out all these past events being referenced, and these character relationships, all while trying to get to know this main character. Something about an assassination plot? Who, what? To be honest, I gave up halfway through on trying to be immersed. Stopped caring, turned my brain off.

I will give it credit, though, for describing this guy's current predicament pretty well. He's having a miserable time stumbling around in the desert, stepping on rocks and thorns, fried by the sun, and that's likely why he's so scatterbrained and agitated and can't tell his personal story in a straightforward manner. His past makes no sense to me, but I'm more interested in whatever he'll do next. Wish the ending was more about that, and less about the punchline.
#72 ·
· on One Truck
I like the worldbuilding throughout the first 2/3 of the story. It starts gradually and progresses at a comfortably slow pace. Some of it didn’t feel particularly new to me (Wall-e came to mind several times) but it was interesting and engaging to soak in the details of the world piece by piece. I think the conflict throughout this part was a bit weak, kind of being propped up by the small stuff like running over that painting robot, because he seems to have a goal in mind but it seems like he’s going about his daily life for the first 2/3.

Intentionally being vague about things like “her” is a little frustrating to me but more of a pet peeve than anything else. I feel like it’s there to serve as motivation, but it feels too vague and general. I think it’s okay for her to like gardening and rain, but I would’ve liked some more detail there. Otherwise, it feels a bit generic, because many people like rain and gardening.

I feel like the ending is mismatched to the rest of the story. It didn’t build up to the ending as a whole: only with the “her” part, really, but that was a small part of the story. The rest of the story made me think it was just an ordinary day, but apparently he hasn’t been to the house in years. I don’t know why today, of all days, he went back to his old house. The only answer I could find was [He had somewhere to be.], which leads in to that final scene, and I can’t remember seeing anything else. It felt like a forced way to get the narrator to talk about his wife.

Nitpick while I’m thinking of it: another pet peeve is when writers (over)use [There was a pause.], and I’m only mentioning it because it was done several times in this story. You can show there’s a pause by doing other things: for example, by replacing that line with a line of brief or simple narration. Or, starting a new paragraph, doing one or two simple lines of narration, and then doing another paragraph break: i.e., using more words or white space to show a pause instead of telling the reader there was a pause.
#73 ·
· on The Psychopomp
The Psychopomp

This is a fair beginning, but by the end of the second scene I feel it's dragging a little. The voice isn't perfectly consistent – My jaw lowers, revealing sharpened teeth, but a calm, collected voice comes out of my feline throat. feels like a third-person description with first person stuff added at the end.

I'm not put off immediately, but the story so far hasn't done much to grab, in terms of drama, setting or idea.

Ah. Now it's getting interesting. (I can't help but wonder, though, why more people here haven't at least tried to turn back.)

And the ending … Structurally I can't fault it. It inverts the drama, it weaves the two threads of the story together into a nice, consistent them. But emotionally? Blech. Too sentimental. Emotionally, it did nothing for me.
#74 ·
· on Confines of the First Law
Confines of the First Law

Well, that's a decent beginning. Not dramatic, but interesting enough. (I'm seeing quite a lot of character interaction intros this round, come to think of it.) It hands out a fair bit of information about the girls and their situation naturally, and the voicing is fine.

Bit of a nitpick: You slip into past tense for a moment there.

Halfway through now. I'm impressed with the quality of the writing here. It's not showy, but it works. It communicates everything that it needs to communicate. I've before that slice-of-life stories rely on their characters. These characters work for me, in the trivial aspects of their life and their deeper concerns. Their depth emerges naturally from their interpersonal interactions, as it should.

I really like possible side effects bit. That's good prose, right there.

The ending verges on being twee and sentimental, but it's subtle enough that I can let it slide. You still might want to consider a different conclusion. Otherwise? We have people rendered with skill, insight and clarity. The theme works perfectly. Once again, I am jealous. This is sure to hold a place near the top of my slate.
#75 · 2
· on A Fairy and Her Hero · >>Oroboro
A Fairy and Her Hero

Starting off with what seems like a fantasy story, at least based on the title. Perhaps a reference to Link and Navi? Let’s see where this takes us.

Well, okay, this wasn’t a Legend of Zelda fanfiction. But it did dip into the depths of fantasy video games -- the narrative explicitly mentions offensive magic, plundering tombs, activating sacred temples… Not so different from a Zelda game after all, maybe.

There’s a lot of exposition-by-dialogue here, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a sign story written in a rush, though, or without enough space. On the plus side, by dumping a lot of information into the dialogue, the actual narrative is able to proceed quite speedily -- we get a fairly thorough story of good against evil here, in less than 4,000 words. On the other hand, it leads to dialogue like this:

“Yeah, something like that.” Solana took a deep breath, and a small smile tugged at her lips. “You just came into my window and started telling me all this grand destiny stuff. I threw a pillow at you, because I was trying to sleep. You followed me around the whole day while I was doing my farmwork, talking my ear off. That night, demons attacked. I found my father's old sword, and you guided me to slay one. At that point, I knew you weren’t just some fancy delusion. Does… any of this ring a bell?”

There you go, the entire backstory in a single section of dialogue. Convenient! But also artificial. Leaning so heavily on dialogue also leads to awkward situations like this:

Solana sniffed, biting back tears. “It really is you then. Just a bit of memory loss. Not too bad then, right? We can find a way to get them back. Maybe your Goddess can do something.”

Followed, a mere four paragraphs later, by this:

Solana narrowed her eyes. “And those are the words of Ismerelda, the herald of destiny. Always move forward, keep slaying demons, keep unlocking ancient seals. Not the words of my friend. Who was there for me. Who wept when I wept when we failed to save that kid. Save the speeches. Unless you can be my Izzy again, it won’t help. Come on. We better get moving.” Solana cleaned off her blade, sheathed it, then strode off, not saying another word.

That’s a pretty quick reversal, Solana. Ismeralda went from being your friend to being just another random herald of destiny.

Anyway, on technical merits, this story does well. The writing is pristine and flows easily. Aside from the exposition-y dialogue there’s little to complain about on the crafting front. The story ends before we know who wins the final, ultimate battle, but that’s just fine -- all the important stuff is already done.

I do wish, author, you had focused more on the darkness growing in Solana’s heart. It gets mentioned at about the 2/3rds point in the story, but nothing ever comes of it. We’re told by a literal goddess that it will result in the destruction of the world, but that doesn’t seem to happen. This darkness was what made Solana a complex character, unique, someone who stands out against the ranks of endless fantasy heroes, but it never actually mattered. If you get a chance to expand this story, I’d like to see it play more of a central part.
#76 ·
· on Should Not Have Said That

Not entirely sure what to make of this one, overall.

You've got lots of stuff in here. A half-dozen characters entwined in some madcap escapades in what I can only assume is some sort of strange alternate reality. Unfortunately, it's not cohesive enough for me to really grasp what you're aiming at overall.

There's a sort of rolling reveal going on here, and the sheer oddness of what's being revealed is interesting in and of itself. However, the oddness works against you to some extent, because the way things are presented, I needed re-orient myself several times as new information changed what I thought I was seeing. Things like the MC lacking pants, Bobby being a girl (I know it can be a girl's name, but I wasn't expecting it) Marcus being something besides an imaginary friend, every time I needed to re-adjust what I thought I was seeing, it broke immersion a little.

Still, the oddness was worth something? I did like the sheer weirdness of what you've got here, even if I don't really think you're using it much at all. I mean, for all the crazy characters and situations you hint at, as far as I can tell, at it's core this story is about someone missing their... lawn. Which, alright, you can probably sell me on if you try hard enough. However, it mostly got two or three paragraphs in the middle, where it gets a simple enough treatment without a lot of conflict or drama. Meanwhile, the rest of the story goes into tangents and reveals on weirdness that doesn't really affect the main narrative very strongly.

More than that, I don't even feel like I got the whole picture. I mean, I have some idea who these characters are. Some. But not nearly enough to understand what they're doing or why, overall? That's a bit annoying to me. I don't think you need to answer every question the reader has, but connecting the weirdness of the setting to the emotional arc of the narrative would help a lot, I think, and that means giving us more of an idea of how he ended up missing his grass; not why he's limping by the road, but why he was even on that bus in the first place, maybe?
#77 · 1
· on The Farmer's Tale · >>ZaidValRoa
This story...

...was boring.

I mean, I kinda hate to say it, because that's about the harshest criticism to level at a story, IMHO. However, I can't really say anything else. In the end, I guess, this is half Aesop with 'ignorance is bliss' and half joke, because I think you're trying to be funny with that 'wise ass' comment. The thing is, I don't think I can say your character actually learned this during the story. He knew pretty much what he wanted from the get-go, and it just kinda fell into his lap after he meandered pointlessly through all the padding you've got here.

I think it's pretty ironic that your monk said “What the Sage helped people to realize is that we get so focused on the unimportant, that we rarely stop to think about the important ones." because 80% of this story was, for me, about 'unimportant problems'. You've got continual escalation-ish events through the story. The thing is, you're not really doing anything with that. Your MC (who's name I've already forgotten, given how bland he is) doesn't actually care about what's going on, except for being slightly annoyed about his radish patch, which might be the only emotion he actually displays in this story. You could escalate this seven times as far, and I still wouldn't care what's going on because it has absolutely no bearing on the story.

Well, here's a few more concrete points, because I should give something that's not just abstract in case my reaction comes from being outside your target audience, which is always a possibility.

Firstly, please please please put in a hook of some sort. This story struck me as 'bland' overall, and the opening, which sets the tone of any story, is a huge part of that. I have no idea why I should be interested in this farmer, and if you could supply me with one, that would be great; supplying me with one in the first sentence or paragraph would be even better, so I wouldn't skim until Taziz shows up and actually adds a bit of color to the story. For, like, one scene.

Secondly, in your poem: Empty yourself in the midst of the wood reads to me like nothing so much as 'take a shit in the forest'. Which may not be what you intended, so that might be worth revising.

Thirdly, although I felt that this story was mostly pointless overall, I'd point to the bit with the priest, the three sons, and the journey to the mountaintop as especially egregious examples of padding.

The bit with the priest felt entirely superfluous, since you don't do anything with the character except mock him. So if your audience doesn't enjoy mocking priests for its own sake, they'll likely find this pointless and/or annoying.

Same with the three sons; they don't do anything interesting or useful for the story, except highlight again that your MC really doesn't care about what's going on around him and has no real motivations in the story. The fourth son seems like he's being helpful, but there's no real reason you need to use him except for narrative device. Despite the way this story seems to try for fairy-tale-ish-ness, since the fourth son's only role is to inject one bit of authorial dictum into the story, you could literally do this any other way to compact your story without losing anything.

The bit on the way to the mountaintop is another example of pointless escalation to me, but even more pointless than the rest, because not only does the MC not even care, it's pretty obvious by now that the story is all but wrapped up, and we're just waiting for you to tell us how exactly that's going to go down.

I'd like to say that part of what's going on here is the way you've mostly told this story in narration. However, mostly-narrative stories can be done well, (Hills Like White Elephants springs to mind) so that's obviously not it. Still, I do think forcing a narrative voice like that can tend to subconsciously distance us from what we're writing about; if you're not intentional in adding in the bits (like character emotion) that make the story engaging and enjoyable, it may have slipped out without you really noticing?

Anyways, I hope this doesn't come across as overly harsh. Please remember that this is my impression/opinion, and not intended to be anything but that. I hope it's useful or entertaining, but you are, of course, free to disregard it.
#78 · 1
· on To Build a Home - A Never-Ending Task
To Build a Home - A Never-Ending Task

Right, first of all … *Rolls up a newspaper and whaps author over the head with it* Formatting! Not only is it in the style guide for WriteOffs, but it also makes text on the screen a hell of a lot easier to read.

That aside, this is a good intro. Occasionally you'll see warnings against dialogue only text, but this works perfectly. Why? First, because half the focus is on the story in the dialogue, which is pretty engaging. Second, because the dialogue immediately grounds us in a recognisable situation and trope.

A couple more scenes in and you're losing me again. First, there are plenty of technical errors. The rules for what counts as a quote attribution aren't quite as rigid as some editors on here will tell you, but constructions like the following definitely call for full stops:

"He was Sweetie," I let myself relax against him and took a sip myself, "the most cunning there ever was."

On top of that, “Sweetie” isn't a proper noun here and shouldn't be capitalised. But it should be preceded by a comma: “He was, sweetie.”

I'm not going to keep flagging technical stuff here. You should look that up on your own. It's not hard, and it will be time well spent.

Zooming out a bit, you've got issues with both dialogue and action. A huge chunk of your dialogue sounds unnatural, because you're using it to give exposition to the reader rather than have the characters talk to one another.

The action, meanwhile, is stuck on reply. A few affection gestures would be fine – that's one of the main ways you communicate information to the reader without exposition. But if you keep doing it, it's rather like repeating yourself. As things are now, I feel a bit like I'm reading the early parts of erotica over and over again.

In more general terms, your third section just re-iterates the dramatic point of your second scene. All it adds is some more exposition in the dialogue. (Also, what are the point of these line breaks? They come without any reason as far as I can see.)

Anyway, onwards.

Jerry goes from calm to shaking because he recounted something he already knew. If it was so shocking, why wasn't he on edge already?

Okay, having finished, I can't see much of a story here. What you seem to have is an interesting concept, and maybe hints of a beginning, then – it just ends. Part of that might be because you're trying to write a novel-sized tale in the space of a short story. Part might be because you started without knowing exactly where you were going. Both can be pretty fatal for you story.

Really, the best advice I can give you is brush up on your fundamentals. Everything from grammar to story structure.
#79 · 3
· on Across the Silent Sea · >>GroaningGreyAgony
...I'm not sure how I feel about this.

I apologize for not doing another poetic review, but I don't really have the energy for it right now. I will, however, scrape together what little I know about poetry (I'm no longer allowed to say I don't know anything :P ) and attempt to give you some feedback on this.

So, storywise; well, it's a story. It's enough of a framework to hang your verse on, although I'm not entirely sure it stands on its own very well. The feelings of the adventurer fairy seem fairly clear in the beginning/middle, but when she returns to the woods it ends kinda anticlimactically? Her song is rejected and she just wanders away and lives in a lake somewhere I dunno. You seemed pretty certain they couldn't refuse a love song! (Which works with spring very well, thematically.) What does it mean, then, when they do? Still, since I'm not supposed to judge poems like they're stories too hard, it seems to work alright. Um, I do think a repetitive element might help make things clearer structurally; some verse or catchphrase that shows up at each turning point in the story so the readers catch it more strongly. Or perhaps I'm just too big a fan of recursive elements.

Poetry-wise... I think most of my misgivings can be summed up with examples from the first two verses.

Throughout the poem, there are several places where you twist the structure of sentences and words to fit your rhymes or meter. Consider the two lines at the end of your first verse:

And to the seasons, faces bold
they showed, with steadfast branches.

"Faces bold / they showed," is, specifically, what annoys me. You're using commas to re-arrange the words so it fits the rhyme, but that kinda screws with the meaning. I realize this is something poets do; I mean, 'poetic license' is a thing, and there are even some pretty common shortenings of words and what that get used. But it still bugs me. It means I have to read it twice to understand what you're saying, if I'm not quick enough on the uptake.

I mean, I can't really recommend a better way to phrase this line, either, so.... do what you have to, I guess. But still. Some of them are midline, and really seem mostly pointless. These, at least, I think you'd lose little by removing.

Asleep she fell, until the light

Do you really gain anything from reversing the first half of that? Wouldn't it read just as well with 'She fell asleep", and lose nothing except the artificial 'poetic-ness' of the construction?

Anyways, I'll go even further out on my slender twig, and attempt to comment on meter. Several times throughout the poem, it seemed like your meter stumbled. Perhaps I'm mis-reading it? I don't really know how meter actually works, and I've never found someone who could explain it to my satisfaction. I have, at best, an instinctive ear for it, but that ear claimed you had some clunks in there. Still, if I'm reading it wrong and someone has an explanation on how to read it right, I'd be interested in hearing that.

So here's an example:

Those trees — how tall!
How straight and proud!
With magic and splendor endowed,

The majority of this poem seems, to me, to be (hastily googles poetry terms) iambic feet, with either two or four to a line. (Unless it's not, again, please tell me if I'm wrong,) 'Iambic' means the syllables go 'slack/stress'. Let me try scanning a few lines here, to show you what I mean. A monospace font option would be really useful, but hopefully things will line up on your screen well enough to get my ideas across.

u / u /
Those trees - | - how tall!

u / u /
How straight | and proud

So the idea is that '|' separates feet while 'u' marks slack syllables and '/' marks stressed syllables. If my scansion is correct here, these lines are iambic diameter; so, two feet to a line that go slack/stress. There's a strong possibility that the dash in the middle of your line should be a caesura, but the only thing I know about caesuras is that they exist and I'm bad at spelling them. Anyways, these lines seemed good to me. But let's consider the next one. Going by the pattern of the previous lines, it should scan like this:

u / u / u / u /
With ma | gic and | splendor | endowed,


The natural pattern for the word 'splendor', to me at least, isn't iambic but trochaic, with the first syllable being accented and the second being slack. I say 'SPLEN-dor', not 'splen-DOR'. Reading naturally, to me, the line would scan as:

u / u u / u u /
With ma | gic and | splendor | endowed,

And I don't know if this is really a problem or not, but I don't like the fact that I either need to break your meter pretty hard to make 'splendor' scan naturally, or I need to force a strange scansion on 'splendor' to maintain the meter of your poetry.

I mean, this poem is about halfway between free verse and structured verse. It definitely doesn't have a super solid structure, but it does have some structure to it? I don't know how much structure I should want a poem to have. If it was totally blank verse, I might not be so annoyed by the metrical glitches, but as it is... it's not quite enough structure for me to give them a pass. Almost is worse than none, to me.

So I hope this commentary is useful or entertaining. I know very little about poetry, so if I'm wrong, please disregard.
#80 · 3
· · >>ZaidValRoa >>Not_A_Hat
Is everyone just doing long reviews now?
#81 ·
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony >>horizon
That seems to be the case.
I won't complain, the more detailed feedback, the better. Though it makes me and my one-paragraph impressions feel inadequate.
#82 · 1
· on Oaths
This was pretty good.

High stakes, intricate, but straight-forwards enough to not confuse too much, and rendered with excellent tone. Overall I liked it a lot.

The loophole at the end... felt a little contrived or out of the blue, perhaps. And honestly, a self-sacrificing guy trading himself for some terminally ill or coma patient... I dunno. It's just this edge of believable, but it still rings a bit hollow to me. I'm not sure what would have worked better, but if it had been more foreshadowed somehow, it might have been more satisfying? I mean, it kinda was, but... it was fairly minimal, honestly.

I had two big concerns in the storytelling. The first is the line Jakob says: "That was her voice." At this point, there have been several 'hers' brought up; Yulia, Elena, and the Baba, and you're not really giving me enough to go on as to who he's talking about here. This line threw me, and hard. It wasn't clear who was meant until rather later, when he puts a name to the voice.

Secondly, the scene where Khulan was sacrificed. This scene screamed 'idiot ball' to me. I realize that people can make mistakes, but the Baba is held up as this paragon of wisdom, who can keep them safe from whatever is out there through her wits and spells. Then she makes this super basic mistake? I think she needs more of a reason to do what she did; either she's scared as well, or she doesn't understand things quite as well as she claims, but I'd like a bit more rationale for what happens.

Alternately, you could cut straight to the promise and shuffle everyone's motivations around a bit. That does loose the MC tormenting himself over an avoidable death, though, so I'm not sure how that would work.

Overall, though, this one was quite solid. Excellent work!
#83 ·
>>Remedyfortheheart ...I usually do longer reviews in the SS rounds, tho?
#84 ·
· on Lamiak · >>Scramblers and Shadows

Well, firstly, this could use a whip-round with a pre-reader. Some misspellings and what.

I wouldn't have minded a hook of some sort, either, or a proper description of the MC. We get a pretty good one of Railgrave, but Abednego just kinda gets skimmed over. Honestly, what grabbed me most in the beginning was the idea of 'lackluster light', since I'm pretty sure lackluster literally breaks down to 'wanting brightness'. :P

The power outage feels like an un-fired Chekov's gun to me; are you using that for something and I missed it? I kept wondering if Railgrave had done something with the cards, and when the lamia said the boat had left early, that was my first thought on why.

The Greenteeth disaster also seemed to get a bit more emphasis than use; it's covered with a lot of specificity quite early, and I thought it would end up being rather more important than it was. Honestly, even just cutting the name, making it less specific than 'the Greenteeth disaster' might help with that; if it's unnamed, readers would pay less attention.

Um, the lamia came across as rather a bitch to me. Alright, perhaps Abednego is no saint either, but her attitude seems to change so fast I got whiplash. A bit more rationalization of that would, I think, help? Though I'm not entirely sure what would be best. Still, she's kissing him and then abandoning him; she is, at the very least, pretty cold-hearted or manipulative, if all the emotion she's got for that is a bit of hemming and hawing.

I wondered if you chose 'Abednego' specifically, as it means something like 'servant of wisdom' IIRC, and he's basically doing whatever the lamia asks in return for answers.

Oh, and paraffin; I usually think of 'paraffin' as 'candle wax'. I'd probably call those lamps 'kerosine lamps', although... to be honest, I don't know if you need to draw so much attention to the fuel? It doesn't really seem to be a plot-point, and you might be better off simply saying 'lamps' or 'heaters' or something, so the readers aren't wondering what they need that much flammable stuff for.

On the positive side, this setting is interesting, and gave a pleasant Gormenghast (Railgrave especially) or New Crobuzon vibe. Perhaps it's not as static as the one, or vibrant as the other, though. I didn't really feel lost in it, which was good, and although it's odd it does seem self-consistent.

Overall, I do think the plot hangs together fairly well, even if the execution of the specifics is a bit hit-or-miss. Overall I enjoyed it, so... good work!
#85 · 2
· · >>horizon
I am a newb here, but I say, don’t denigrate your efforts. There isn’t a minimal word count for reviews, and short and pithy writing can communicate as effectively as long and methodical writing. Also, some of us have more life to deal with than others, and hence less time to devote here. Do what works best for you and don’t feel you have to apologize.

ETA: Just to be clear, I am saying nothing against those who take the time and effort to construct a detailed critique. Let us each work according to our lights, time constraints, and abilities.
#86 ·
· on I Hope You See Me in Hell
...and the point of that was...?

I dunno.

And that's kinda a problem, I think.

Well, I think part of what's going on is that you've got a mismatch in tone. Your story refuses to take anything - anything, - as far as I can tell, seriously. It's got some rather serious ideas in it, but it just kinda fluffs over them, refusing to commit, refusing to go anywhere.

Your descriptions are good even if the scenery is sorta bland, your MC is interesting enough, although the rest of the characters are kinda cardboard - although that doesn't really bother me - and your dialogue is moderately engaging.

Unfortunately, this story really doesn't do much with any of that. It's kinda-sorta comedy toned, but it's not actually very funny. It could move into sarcasm or satire, but it doesn't. It could dip into existential horror, but it doesn't. It just feels like it doesn't commit. So, although you've got all the components of a good story... I just have no idea what you're trying to do with it.

And perhaps that's on me, and I'm simply not in your target audience.

But if it's not, I think you might be better off aiming for something more extreme. If you tried for subtle and ended up being too subtle, that's often worse than aiming for overblown and hitting ridiculous.
#87 ·
· on Endeavor
Hey, this is pretty good!

More of a character sketch than anything, but still pretty solid.

I'm not entirely certain about the use of smallcaps; on the one hand, they do a pretty good job of conveying the mechanical-ness of Sara's voice without belaboring the point, but on the other hand, they do look a bit strange, and they kept drawing my eye.

I'm kinda surprised the medbay has exactly one too few cryopods, however. That seems a bit... convenient. :/

There are a few bits here that seem slightly overly-expository. "Let's explain A.I. to the audience now, Sarah!" and things like that. Still, it didn't cripple things too much.

It's perhaps not an exceedingly compelling story; the conclusions are all pretty much drawn and set. However, it managed the rolling reveal well enough, and used the characters well enough, that it kept me fairly well engaged.

Pretty decent!
#88 ·
· on The World I Once Called Home · >>NightLord
Not going to lie, I had to read this a couple of times to fully get it. Repeat readings should enhance the experience, not be a requirement to get the full enjoyment.

But hey, maybe I just didn't get it. I still feel the back and forth between real time events and flashbacks could have been better integrated. Had something happening in the story that triggered the flashback instead of seguing into dreams, the connections could have been streamlined without compromising much of the subtlety of the story.

Let me say that I liked the story that you told, it's a nice tale of loss and regret , I just didn't fully appreciate the way it was presented.
#89 · 1
· on No Shortcuts · >>GroaningGreyAgony

I liked this one a lot. It's very nearly pitch-perfect. The tone is unusual but spot-on, the fuzzy lens used conveys emotions without needing to belabor them, and there's a deeper undercurrent and theme through the story that - as someone who deals with depression - I really do appreciate.

That being said, I couldn't help but feel that your inner story is a bit too... archetypal? Cute? Neat? Clean? I think... if this wasn't a dream-within-a-dream, a story that uses the inner work to modify the outer work, I would rather dislike it. I'm... not really a fan of allegory, even if it is one I agree with. As it is, the offset makes it palatable by tying it into the communication between these two characters, so it's not the author pointing an allegory directly at the audience - or not so directly as it might be, that is.

Overall, I found this remarkably effective and well written. Perhaps it's not perfectly perfect.

But then, what is?

Perhaps that's kinda the point. Suffice to say, I don't think I can give you advice on how to improve it, and it did make my day a little better.

Thanks for writing.
#90 · 1
· · >>Not_A_Hat
>>ZaidValRoa >>GroaningGreyAgony
All other things being equal — as an author, I would rather have a long review than a short one, for the same reason that I would rather have five reviews than one.

But I would much rather have a short review than nothing at all. If you're intimidated by writing long reviews, a single paragraph of your reaction to the story is still a valuable and appreciated gift. In fact, there are some ways in which the shorter reviews are more useful than the longer ones, by staying focused on the overall impression rather than getting lost into the details.

And if you feel like you only have one paragraph's worth of useful feedback, I would much rather have one useful paragraph than four paragraphs of 75% padding.

In rounds like this one where the review thread has been pretty quiet, the other advantage of short reviews is that they spread the love around wider and faster. It was only within the last hour or two that we collectively got each story its first review (thanks, !Hat). I'll try to bump the numbers up myself, but it would be great to see more people flexing their feedback muscles. ^.^
#91 ·
>>horizon The pleasure is (unintentionally) mine. :)
#92 ·
· on The Farmer's Tale
There, he had immersed himself in politics, starting as a junior dogcatcher

I gave a hearty chuckle when I read this. Curiously, the pun at the end didn't make me laugh as much, though it did bring a smile to my face.

But yeah, I'll echo the above sentiments. While I enjoyed the story more than Mr. Elephant for Lunch before me, I still feel there was too much padding, making the story as a whole feel bloated. Too many details and plot points are brought up and then resolved before they amount to much. The scene with the sons, particularly. Couldn't any of the ideas debated have been discussed with Katrice instead? That would've been a nice character building moment.

So... while I enjoyed the whole slightly fairytail~ish approach, all the unnecessary fluff drag the story down for me.

The bit on the way to the mountaintop is another example of pointless escalation to me

#93 ·
· on A Fairy and Her Hero · >>Oroboro
Well, I've done slate + some formal reviews, so from here on out it's going to be impressions and thoughts with a bit less intention.

I like the themes here a lot; it's no coincidence that Legend of Zelda is probably my favorite video game series ever. And if this isn't inspired by that, I'll be surprised. It even starts with the hero waking up! So that's cool.

It does take a darker turn, which is also something I enjoy, although.... it's not exactly explored to the depth I might like. You've got more words you could have used, and I'd have very much liked to have seen some of those go into building Solana's character and inner struggle more strongly. There's a bit of a disconnect there, perhaps, because most of the inner struggle happens in the secondary character, not the MC, but... it's doable, it just takes a bit more polishing to bring out.

Either way, though, this really hit a lot of things I enjoy in stories, so I enjoyed it a lot!
#94 ·
· on Long Haul
This is well structured and sweet, with the good character work and a solid plot.

If I had one misgiving, I'd say that it's really very 'safe'; it doesn't push much past 'warm and fluffy feelings'. It's satisfying and enjoyable, but not compelling?

Still, it's excellent craftsmanship, and it's fun for what it is, even if it's not the deepest thing I've read this round. I really don't see much to ding it for, even if I don't see anything pushing into 'excellent' territory either.
#95 ·
· on The World I Once Called Home · >>NightLord
So, you've kinda sorta got two narratives here.

And they kinda sorta tie together?

The thing is, they don't really tie together very strongly. I mean, not strongly enough to convince me you actually need both of them. Most of what they seem to do is simply give an in-media-res kinda feel to stuff, without adding significantly more depth that I can see.

Sure, the rolling reveal is alright. But parts - like him shooting the guy, or being in the gang - don't really seem to do a whole lot, plot-wise. I dunno. Overall, this feels pretty choppy and disconnected, without giving much in return for that obfuscation.
#96 · 3
· · >>horizon
Before I review the next story on my slate, I want to talk a little bit about my writing process (for reasons I'll make clear in a bit) — how I get from "idea" to "story" — and to do that, I need to talk about wilderness navigation.

A story is a journey through the wilderness: a route that takes you from your starting point to your endpoint. An idea is a place. A great idea is like a mountaintop — a spot with inspiring views that can serve as a navigational aid and a high point of your journey — but an idea is not a story because it's not the same type of thing as a story.

This might sound obvious — for example, even though "Ursine Lisa Flees To Pakistan" is a perfectly serviceable idea, it's 1,995 words short of being a Writeoff submission — but it's a principle a lot of people seem to forget once the actual writing starts, especially when the time constraints of the Writeoffs kick in. Here is a thing I see authors often do: start their trip by pointing to the nearest cool-looking idea, charge directly toward it (occasionally getting lost in the woods until they're able to stumble into a clearing and get their bearings again), flinging themselves straight through swamps and deadfalls and brambles, and then reach the top and enjoy the view for a bit before pointing toward the next cool idea and charging off in another straight line, mentally crossing their fingers and hoping there's not a 50-foot cliff in the way.

As any wilderness navigator will tell you, this is the worst possible way to climb a mountain.

This is not to say that you need to plot your story to death. The opposite end of the spectrum is the person who spends more time planning the trip than they actually do on the journey — taking a compass and ruler to a topographic map to optimize the climb, and pre-programming GPS waypoints at 500-foot intervals — and the big problem with that is that the routes which look good on the map aren't necessarily the easy ones with the great views. No map has sufficient resolution to show you all the deadfalls and brambles and the little 10-foot gaps that are just big enough to make the route impassable; the only way to find those is to get out there and run into them. And if your climb requires strict adherence to your preplanned route, then being forced to skirt around what initially seemed like a minor obstacle can lead to some hard decisions about whether to completely throw out your map and re-plot your route, or to plow through the blackberries and accept some bloodletting and clothes-shredding as the price of sticking to the plan.

But there has to be some planning. The lowlands between you and the mountain are where most of your journey takes place, and that's where the obstacles are which are hardest to see from ground level. (The swamps and lakes and river fords, if you will.) You can make your trip spectacularly more pleasant with even a little bit of forethought.

To plot a story from an idea, then, the first thing you want to do is figure out your approach. Take that high point and start mapping out its contours. Survey it from a couple of different angles and feel out some interesting vistas and further landmarks. ("Ursine Lina Flees To Pakistan": Alright, we've got a bear named Lisa. Technologically uplifted animals, or magical werebears? Who's she running from? Why go to Pakistan?) Don't stop there: this is where you're starting to move from places to routes, so you need to look for gaps and connections, figuring out where the steep and the thorny parts are. ("Hmm, 'Lisa' is very much not a Pakistani name … that means that it's going to be weird if I make it her home." / "For that matter, bears aren't native to deserts. Matching the prompt by having her trip to Pakistan be a homecoming feels like I'd be kind of writing myself into a corner. Well, what if she's the American daughter of a Pakistani scientist? That's sketchy but workable. Maybe if I try a totally different approach? … Hey, what if Lisa isn't the one on the road home? What if someone's chasing her, and it's that guy who's heading home?")

I'm doing the ULFTP example totally off the cuff, by the way. You don't need to spend hours on idea-gnawing (though I generally do, and I credit my Writeoff success in no small part to that). The important thing is to stop focusing on your ideas, and look at the implications of your ideas. A story is about character and conflict and theme and tone and a whole bunch of things that idea is almost irrelevant to, and it's in thinking about implications of implications of implications that your trip to the mountaintop ends up with you eating lunch at this awesome little spring just off the ridgeline with a gorgeous view both up and down. ("Pakistan as a place of safety … man, that's just screaming some cool AU steampunk Caliphate Earth, or maybe post-apocalyptic, with the superpowers bombed into glass and third-world countries rebuilding from the ashes. Ooh, hey! If it's post-apocalyptic, then nuclear winter might alter climate enough that Pakistan has become temperate or even wintry. Dude. What if Lisa's a polar bear?")

And then once you find that cool little landmark and realize that it's nicer than the peak, having mentally mapped out the area gives you a much better idea of the characters and challenges that get you there. ("I've been assuming Lisa's fleeing a person, but what if she's fleeing from up north … Siberia? … because it's gotten too cold? So her challenge is survival against the elements. And then her traveling companion, the one who's going home … if it's too cold for even a polar bear, he must be in constant danger of death. He's gotta be relying on Lisa just to stay alive. Does he resent that? So there's this potential dynamic of they don't like each other, but they need each other. But then what does Lisa need from him? And how is he using that as leverage, and how does she react?" etc.) It all builds on the implications of the things you pin down — worldbuilding, basically, but not so much worldbuilding as recursively figuring out the terrain of all of the elements you add. For settings, how did they get that way? For characters, how did they get where they are, and what do they want, and what will they sacrifice to get it?

The other big benefit is that thinking about it in terms of those contours makes your ideas adaptable — you're not just putting down a line on the map, you're building up a mental picture of the terrain, so you can recalculate on the fly if you suddenly realize as you're halfway through writing your story that actually this other idea is so much more cool than the one you had planned. If you know what your character's going to do, then things get weird if you toss in a cool idea that makes that action nonsensical. But if you know what they want, then you know how they change when the situation changes, so you can throw as many twists in the path as you need to keep stakes high and conflict boiling.

And that's story.
#97 · 2
· on The River Lady · >>Bachiavellian
I'm pretty happy this didn't fall into heavy-handed moralizing. (Pollution is baaaaaaad!)

This line stuck out to me as a bit obvious:

“Tamesa!” cried the young man, calling her by name.

I mean, sure, people say 'subtlety is dangerous in the Writeoff', but... it's not like there's anyone else in the area he could be talking to. :P

The happy ending was nice, if a bit... deus ex, maybe. Unearned. I mean, I'm not really complaining, but... it just kinda happened.
#98 ·
· on Confines of the First Law
Do you moonlight as a screenwriter for Lifetime Movies?

This was a great character piece, a nice compelling glimpse into the lives of three college girls that manages to make them feel like real people despite not showing much. It's really the small idiosyncrasies that paint a vivid portrait of each of them.

As far as complaints go, I guess I would have liked a bit more time to get to know each character on their own at the very beginning instead of geting introduced to the three of them simultaneously, though we get a nice set of interactions in exchange.

The ending does feel a bit subdued, but maybe it's appropriate for the tone of the story. Definitely one of the better entries I've read so far.
#99 · 1
· on 10:48PM · >>Cassius
Well, that's a hell of a hook.

And the rest of the story is equally as engaging. This one really does a great job of grabbing a hold of the reader and not letting go. The gradual reveal is great, and it works very well with the mounting tension. Overall, this story is excellently paced.

As for complaints, the mid-story perspective shift was a little jarring for me, but I'm not sure how to tell the story without it, so I'm not gonna dock any points for that.

What's a little harder to gloss over is how the resolution plays out. I'm having trouble sympathizing with Jo at all towards the end. From her "This is not just about you anymore, Matt" line, it gets really hard to buy what she's saying. I mean, until that point I generally sympathized with what Jo was feeling and her motivations, even if I didn't agree with them. But the leap from "I'll do anything to save my boyfriend." to "This unjust universe and everyone in it deserves to die!" is pretty massive, and we only get a handful of paragraphs to bridge those two character points. I also happen to agree with Zaid that it paints her in an incredibly immature light.

As a whole, the story wins a boatload of points for keeping me invested, engaged, and interested throughout, but I do feel like the fridge logic issues at the end hurt the story quite a bit.
#100 · 1
· on Long Haul
You do a great job of making the prose as inconspicuous as it is effective. The piece reads easily and effortlessly, while deftly avoiding telly-ness. Pacing feels natural and well-rounded as well.

My biggest issue about this story is that there's very little actual content, here. I mean, it sets itself up as a character piece, but we don't really learn much about either Rudy or Scarlett. Rudy's a good guy who does good things, but we don't learn why. Scarlett is a scared girl who craves independence, but we don't know why. You give us some very basic character archetypes without actually putting on very much meat on the bones.

And in the end, the events of the story just kinda happen. There's no real conflict, which makes the resolution feel a bit empty. In the end, there just wasn't that much emotional impact for me.