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A Word of Warning · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
#1 · 12
· · >>Chryssi >>bloons3
Welcome to this new WriteOff™ (please remember WriteOff is a trademark of The RogerDoger company Ltd., established 2013 in Adelaide, Australia. Any trademark violation will be liable to prosecution). This round, taking place just before Halloween™ (Halloween is a trademark of The USA inc. established 1776 in Washington, DC) is sponsored by the Hokey spooky Zoey. Recourse to a ghost writer is tolerated for this event only.

Since last round stood out by the number of very short stories written (barely above 2,000 words), this time the organisation committee has decided to proffer you the chance of expressing your most inner thoughts in less than 750 words (but still more than 400). This round is therefore about Original Fiction Minific, meaning you can write about almost anything that pops up in your mind, from the CETA wet squib to species extinction. You can even slander Theresa May or Donald Trump if you like. No one will judge you, guaranteed.

Prompt submission starts right now, so do not miss this opportunity to have your say. As usual, avoid Ot or A glass full of…. Please refrain from citing real persons in the prompts, like, e.g. Dubs falls in a jar of pickles, how can he escape? or A sweltering summer in Gardez. Shakespearian prompts are allowed by special authorisation from the author, so yeah: Hoisted by their own petard will be accepted.

Prompt voting begins Friday 28th at 12 GMT, and the writing period starts the day after, same hour. Also please note two major events will take place this weekend:

1. EU countries switch back from DST to standard time, so for those in Europe writing period ends one hour sooner than it begins (though that still makes for a 24-hour period);

2. There will be a WriteOff get-together in London to be held from Sunday 12 GMT (also Britain local time) on. If you want to partake in this doozy event, it’s not too late: contact Quill Scratch for any further information.

Now, as usual, the organisation committee wants me to remind you that, during the review phase, you must abide by the most stringent anonymity, meaning that breaching this fundamental rule is ground for disqualification and eternal damnation. Additionally, if you still decide to flout it, we’ll send Oblomov to drum some communist propaganda into your brain, which is way worse for your soul sanity than an eternity in hell. You’ve been warned.

Now, the only thing left for me to say is GOOD LUCK!
#2 · 5
It will be a good excuse to turn off the tv, burn all the political ads that come in the mail, and not hit other websites while writing (checks prompt) non-pony stuff. We're all doomed anyway. SMOD2016
#3 · 4
Looking forward to stave off the existential dread that the last month of my semester will bring me with some writing.
^ ^
#4 · 1
Hoo boy!
#5 · 5
I appreciate exactly how many of the prompts are all about the spoops.
#6 · 5
As usual, avoid Ot or A glass full of….

To Ot Or Not To Ot

… Goddammit.
#7 · 1
That Writeoff feel when you have to trim 150 words off your submission for it to fit...
#8 · 2

The deadline for the Anne of Green Gables issue of NonBinary Review is Tuesday, so I'm spending this weekend finishing up my submission for that rather than any sort of submission here...

#9 · 1
I'll try to squeeze something in before the deadline, but I'm not feeling hugely inspired AND I've got like, two other stories I need to proofread this weekend.
#10 · 1
· · >>AndrewRogue
Blech. I had some good idea's for this prompt, but I just haven't had the time to write anything! I managed to cobble one story together at least.. But it's been a long day, and I'm exhausted. I just hope I wake up early enough to give this mess a good review and some polish... :/
#11 · 1
· · >>TheCyanRecluse
Do like I did last time and just ignore polish. What's the worst that could happen?
#12 · 1
I skipped the last one, but I got this one in!
#13 · 1
Aaaaaand done.

It's been awfully quiet here. Wonder how many entries we'll have.
#14 · 1
Well it's a story. It's not as funny as it should be, but I'm falling asleep and hopefully some of my effort shows through.
#15 · 1
I’ve got something. Going to bed now.
#16 · 1
Bam. Didn't think I'd muster the energy, but I forced it.
#17 · 1
750? Never fear! With three new entries, Jaxie's here!

Glad I decided to do this. Don't think my entries are gonna place, but that was fun.
#18 · 2
Well, usually it involves reading your entry the next morning, then curling up into a fetal ball and weeping at all of the massive typos, misspellings, broken grammar, and messed up HTML tags you left behind...

But maybe that's just me. ;>
#19 · 1
Entry submitted. As usually I'm not completely satisfied, but such is the nature of the Write-off.
#20 · 2
· · >>Cold in Gardez >>Monokeras
Man, I have to wonder if the Writeoff chat is sucking up all of the idle chat energy that I'm used to seeing in this thread. I guess it might be the holiday weekend, too.

... Or maybe attendance overall is just trending down. Last Writeoff original minific round, we had 47 entries from about 30 authors. The original minific round before that, we had 60 entries from about 45 authors. This round is 31 from 21.

Regardless, time to get the review train rolling. Allons-y!
#21 · 2
· on An Almost-Perfect Verse in a Long Forgotten Tomb
I really hate to start off my reading with an "I don't get it", but ... I don't get it. :( This seems to be very heavily (structurally and textually) implying that there's some sort of hidden clue or text that turns this from anticlimax into twist ending, but I can't tease anything coherent out of the text. There's something going on with the perspective shift, I think -- "you" are a character as early as paragraph two, but the second-person seems to be phased out over the narrative gradually rather than abruptly, and also doesn't seem ultimately relevant. And if there really is some outside force coming in, as the footsteps ambiguously imply, then I don't understand why they'd leave him alone and why the inscription is described ultimately as "unread". Unless there's something going on with him secretly being the pharoah or something, but then 1) missing context, 2) the odd unexplained "you", and 3) if he's expecting an attack, why would he be so genuinely absorbed with the text that he doesn't notice the footsteps? So this one currently feels like a miss, but I may have to re-evaluate it if I'm just missing things because it's 5 a.m.

Tier: Needs Work
#22 · 1
I tried to write something, but these "write a few hundred words on something non-pony-related based on a short random quip" are the least inspiring of all the formats for me... so I decided against submitting this one.

Best wishes for everypony else!
#23 ·

Glad to see you're in the review game this round, Horizon. Things always feel empty around here without your tiers :)
#24 · 3
· on Mind the gap!
This was something of an odd duck ... less story than PSA, which was reinforced rather unsubtly by that link at the end (and the bolded section headings). Still, that's a rather unique and relevant way of approaching the prompt, and if the goal was education, well, it was structured well to succeed at that goal.

I really have no comments on the story qua story, other than to urge a quick formatting and typo pass. It wasn't narratively thrilling, but fit its intended purpose pretty well. About the best and worst I can say about this is that it didn't really grab me, but that I appreciate that it set out to do something unusual and (I think) succeeded in that goal.

Also, I really don't think the title fits. "Mind the gap" is from, IIRC, a PSA campaign about British light rail, and the "gap" specifically refers to the distance between the platform and the train, so trying to force that into a different context sort of breaks the phrase.

Tier: Strong
#25 ·
Don’t forget the London meet-up currently taking place!

(Message written under the Channel tunnel!)
#26 · 2
· on Rock Mansion
The conflict here is interesting, and if you plan on continuing with this story, I would like to know more about the estate. I'd like to know what was so worth holding on to even after death, where someone is willing to badger their son and somewhat curse their grandson to be a spoiled brat, and is simultaneous wicked enough for this ghost's son to abandon it at some point. It would be interesting to see the rest of the aristocracy or people who populate that area. Did these two affluent people who've recently passed away live by themselves, snubbing everyone else around them, and Caden is a kid that wanted to socialize; or were they a part of their community, and Caden is an outcast in the community? I think that would be interesting. The warning that the grandson would come, whether Caden liked it or not, makes me want to know how she knows that, and how the grandson will come to be.

I want to motivate you to continue on with this. If you want to know my thoughts on this small story itself, here it is: it suffers from tell-don't-show, telling us a lot without giving us a scene to appreciate.The reactions honestly happen way too quickly, and the setting feels stale. I wanted to know how the setting changed since the last time he was there, what was taken, what was destroyed, what was locked up, and why, if at least one person knew they were dead, their will was still at this place (perhaps he knows something everyone else doesn't? /OoO\). Your portrayal of the mother is menacing enough, and the conflict you set up, while lacking in background I feel is necessary, is interesting.

Take my comments for whatever they are worth.
#27 · 1
· on Digital Therapy · >>GaPJaxie
This was a triumph; I'm making a note here, huge success...

Ahem, sorry.

Snarky companion cube comparisons aside, I feel like this story is lacking resolution. Not that we necessarily need more story, but at the beginning, the prompt is thrown in with that stern warning.

In the ending, when that recurs, I didn't feel like I was given enough context/meaning to decipher what exactly is being said. Is the MC now insane? Is the world, perhaps, insane? Is she cured? Is something else going on?

I just don't know. So when I say 'more resolution', I don't necessarily mean more words. What I want is more meaning, what ever that... means, I think.

Cute, but not as weighty as I think it should be.

Look at me still talking when there's reading to do...
#28 · 1
· on Perspective · >>GaPJaxie
Why is this place abandoned? If there is a great spirit that is enlightened, why don't more people know about that? I could understand the set-up if the wisdom of this spirit was a myth in this world, but there's no indication of that. It doesn't make sense that this place would be abandoned, not with how it's set up.

Please understand that my questions are not exactly criticisms; they are, rather, questions that make me want to know more about this world. I want to know more about either the splendor or decay of the temple. Your example of "wisdom" here is something I can get behind, and I like how it's delivered. I like Josh's questions, I like the spirit's personality and I especially like the dialogue.

I would like for you to expand this, because even though the dialogue's really good, the mindset of the characters bother me. What I mean is, Joshua goes off to find a spirit, I'm presuming in a world where belief in spirits (at least, non-Christian spirits, given he comes from a small town and I personally associate small towns to stronger ties to religion) is waning. Why did he do that? Did he expect to find anything? He doesn't seem surprised that he's found an actual spirit. He doesn't seem surprised either that she knows about him before he's revealed anything about himself, unless she is giving him simple universal facts (which I would actually support, but which would also bring up the question of how she's kept abreast of the world. I mean, she knows about Linux). By the way, the last sentence is pretty damn funny. :)

As for the story itself, I thought it was nicely contained within itself, with strong dialogue. I just want to know more about this secluded place, and secluded moment! :D
#29 · 1
· on Blustering
Haven't you heard, Author? God doesn't place dice with the universe.

Honestly, I'm having trouble finding a point to this. I'm not seeing a thread tying the three chunks together, and the jokes are... eh. Just not doing it for me. A few of the chemistry ones were clever-ish.

Besides, I really can't get behind God and Devil as comic figures very easily. I need to be laughing hard enough to cry streams of tears which can pressure-wash a small car if you're writing figures with that much narrative weight behind them as comic relief.

But, well, humor is very variable. Perhaps other people will find a compelling meaning here or be more in-line with the humor.
#30 · 3
· on Selections from Amaddisen’s Compendium of Cautions and Outcries · >>GroaningGreyAgony
I feel like you've passed up a wonderful chance for a feghoot here, author.

I mean, I dunno if I'd have liked this significantly more as a feghoot, but still. This doesn't really have much tying it together. I initially hoped that, since each entry is supposed to be researched and written by this explorer, that there would a story perceivable from reading through each of them.

If there is, I'm not seeing it. If someone else does, please let me know. Right now it reads like a series of ridiculous anecdotes. That's alright, but I wish there was a bit more to it.

On top of that, this story has a large dose of 'nonsense vocabulary'. This... kinda works, I think, for setting the tone/style. However, it also obscures meaning, leaving the reader with little to grasp on for picturing what's going on. That can be useful, sure, but in a contest that's as word-limited as this one, I can't help but think you're shooting yourself in the foot a little with the amount that you've used here.

Funny and light. A bit too light, I think.
#31 · 2
· on How to Play · >>JudgeDeadd
Card games are something I have very little knowledge of, to be honest, so I can't comment on how engaging the game's strategy itself is. It didn't bring me in, to be honest, but the conversation itself was interesting. I liked to mindset that the gamedev had, and I liked how mysterious the lady is. I wonder if there's a connection between the characters interaction and the cards they play, like playing the Wizard's Folly to make him feel powerful, only for her to give him a warning about his view on her and the game. The sword on attack and shield on defense also provides a potential contradictory commentary; he, being the polite one, is throwing out a sword, while she, who seems to be pressing him for conversation, is putting up a shield.

I don't know if that's the case, but in either case, I liked it.

If I were to whine complain about anything, I didn't like how little the lady engaged with him, or how little his mindset didn't work to figure her out. That comment runs the risk of making the story what I want it to be, rather than what it actually is. But for such a niche group, and a tight conversation that could be had here, it seemed very surface. The cards themselves were an interesting touch with possibilities, but what is there feels like there's more that could be had.

Reading over that, I sound kinda dumb. Let me get to the point, then: I think that the conversation could have a lot more focus to it, and it would make the card game a lot more tense.

I'm interested to see where this would be taken, should you choose to continue on with it.
#32 · 3
· on Homemade

This has a weirdly meta feel to me. Like, it's clearly about someone making fiction, and there's even 'winning a contest' involved.

However, while the idea is interesting and the writing is engaging, I wasn't really seeing how it tied into the real world. I dunno if I should say I wanted meta. However, for a while there I was sorta expecting it?

Moreover, while this is a clever idea, we're really just getting a straightforwards narrative. No real twists, no real drama. It's all very... calm and straightforwards.

I mean, sure, it's a minific, what can you do. But still, I'd like a little more story to the story.

Love the idea, but the execution isn't super exciting.
#33 · 5
· on The Coup

This one's pretty great. A hook, clever slipstreaming for the world-building, likable and crisp characters, and a deftly-handled anti-climax that neatly suborns all the 'robot apocalypse' tropes?

I don't think I can suggest any improvements here. This is excellent work all around.
#34 ·
· on How to Play · >>Not_Worthy2 >>Monokeras
he, being the polite one, is throwing out a sword

I'm pretty sure the narrator is a woman, judging from this fragment:
"Why did you enter gamedev?" She asked all of a sudden. "Isn't it a male dominated field?"
#35 ·
· on How to Play
Huh, I can't believe I completely missed that. Thank you for pointing that out.
#36 · 3
· on Open Invitation · >>Not_A_Hat >>AndrewRogue
I think I hear someone knocking now.

I don’t think I’ll let them in.

And bugger it all if I'm going to check who it is first.

No, I kid. Paranormal stories are something I'm attracted to, and this one does it nicely, I believe. The word of warning is nice, the writing is good, the progression is pretty good, and it overall interested me. It's about as basic as it can be, with the Civilization game being a smart addition to personality, but it does its job. The ending(in the quotes above) is honestly weak. If this were a horror story with more atmosphere, I think it could work, to highlight his paranoia. As it is, I don't think it works here.

Also, why would you run away after this thing said "hello"? It's obviously trying to be friendly, you coward!*

*I don't actually think the narrator is a coward. Just that maybe that part could have been more menacing; the story in general could've been more menacing, if you were going for straight-up horror. As it is, though, it does its job.

Edit: How does one change the size of the font? What does one put in the quotation marks?
#37 · 3
· on The Wall
So, this story isn't really cliche. However, I think I dislike it for the same reason I tend to dislike cliche's.

It's all really... easy? It's pretty simple to tell what's going to happen most of the time. It's pretty simple to guess at what the author's likely drawing from. The ending is simple, and not even really that connected to what came before except in a 'ha ha poetic justice' way that, I think, draws much too much attention to the author's involvement here.

I dunno. This is, in some ways, perfectly serviceable. I just have a hard time finding any of it particularly interesting, because it feels like cheap shots and rehashes the whole way. Maybe that's just me, though.
#38 ·
· on Open Invitation
>>Not_Worthy2 For font size you use numbers in the quotation marks. It sometimes takes a bit of guess-and-check to get what you want; it seems that smaller ones don't always work for me like I'd like them to? But yeah. I dunno if it's actually 'font points' or 'pixels' or something though. But it's numbers, bigger ones for bigger font.
#39 · 2
· on A Star Shot Upon Midnight
I like the conversation topic here as the opening hook, not bad. Though the end result of it all is that... nothing happens? I kinda wish something would go wrong. Not literally, as in a backfiring wish (probably not the the point of this story!), but at least some kind of tension and conflict going on. There's hints of one under the surface, but it's so passive that it's hard to feel it.

The main thing that could be improved is characterization. I don't think I understand this couple very well, they're generic blank slates to me. Well, I kinda know a little more about Reed, but Isabella is still very vague. I need to know more about her in the story, so that her decision at the end will have any weight to it.
#40 · 1
· on The Great Filter
So, I kinda saw where this was going pretty quick, though the buildup was fairly entertaining.

It was fairly well done, and big red buttons are always worth a laugh.

I like it overall. It's not more than just one joke, but it really a fairly well told joke.
#41 · 2
· on There's An App For That
I mean, police scanners have been a thing for how long? :/ I'd be shocked if there weren't apps for them already.

Well, despite a touch of annoyance at the underlying concept (I can't think of a benefit from monitoring that you wouldn't also get by just, you know, not hanging around... and/or telling your compatriots how you're operating before you start things) this was moderately entertaining. The reveal worked fairly well, and the characters were entertaining.

I'm not sure how many characters you had, but if you had more than two, you had too many. Really, you've got two pieces; the one who's being a smart-aleck and the one who's getting schooled. It's fine that they're cardboard-cutouts here, I think, but because of that, you don't actually need to have any more than you absolutely need since you're not actually doing anything much with them character wise.

For a one-idea piece, this works alright.
#42 · 2
· on A Star Shot Upon Midnight
This is competent, and I feel like if there were more back-and-forth between the two of them, then this would be a pretty good story. It seems too one-sided, like the narrator's desires are being ignored. It doesn't start by her wishing for infinite money, it begins with him telling her that infinite money isn't good. He doesn't explain some conservation-of-mass sort of deal that would make it make sense; he just tells her that it wouldn't be a good idea because you wouldn't know where it is coming from. That's something that generally comes with wish stories, but I feel like even though everything is okay, it's too one-sided to make either character interesting.

I want to know more about these characters. If you continue on with this story, then please give us more struggle, let us see more into their mindset and how they play off one another.
#43 · 2
· on A Letter Of Caution On Halloween · >>georg
You madman... You absolute madman...
#44 ·
· on The Great Filter
A funny little piece. I was getting an idea of what was happening. So I guess that this is like those STD ads, except for the Universe itself?
#45 ·
· on How to Play · >>horizon
card games?! board game conventions?! now this is my area of expertise
hrmm.... doesn't seem all that accurate to my experience. they tend to be family-oriented these days.
but I'll assume it's true for the sake of the story.

Is the goth girl secretly Princess Luna? I wish, but I can't find any supporting evidence. just to give her a name, I'll call her "Moon."

It's an abstract game

I think the word you mean here is "aesthetic", a game kinda like Dixit, or that fairy tale game horizon showed me at Bronycon (actually it's a LOT like that one). from what little I can tell, it appears to have very loose and minimal rules, and is playable in about 3 minutes? if this match is any example, it seems to mostly depend on luck. Not sure why it's exclusively attracting min-max gamers to the table...

Anyway, here's what's really throwing me off. I have to assume that Narrator is the designer of this (unnamed) game. How else could Moon identify Narrator as a gamedev? I can't be sure if this game is already well-known or brand-new, because Narrator is simultaneously teaching the rules and being "challenged" by convention goers. Anyway, it seems very patronizing that after Moon answers she knows how to play, Narrator goes ahead and explains the rules to her.

So what if I'd get an easy win?

This is inconsistent if Narrator is playing a teaching game for a newbie. It doesn't matter who wins.
I suppose it's not impossible, if Narrator is meant to be one of those same min-max gamers she talked about. But it just doesn't match up with this image of a veteran game creator who's doing this for advertising or publicity.
Time and experience had made me jaded.

need some details for this important bit of characterization to work. jaded of what, exactly?

Instead she'd probably just thank me for the game, then move on, leaving me to the mercy of the usual crowd.

Then let her win. Play another round, it's an extremely short game. An average "short" boardgame lasts about 30 minutes. Is there a line of people waiting behind her?

Sorry if this seems endlessly nitpicky, focusing on the subject rather than the story construction, but this is just my view as someone who's very familiar with this stuff. (I met the creator of Arkham Horror once!)

I did like the "word of warning" moments, little suspenseful moments, but it didn't feel that powerful at the climax. I can kinda understand using the game as metaphor for the conversation going on (at least it's not Chess, whew) but the conversation is a bit quiet and dull. is "I think I like you." meant as the warning? There's not much I can read into it, so I guess it's just meant as romance, but I'm not really sure why Moon is flirting with her. is it just because of her job title?
#46 ·
· on A Simple Task · >>horizon
Hmm. Interesting peek into a strange world.

I enjoy weird fantasy, and this sorta qualifies. However, it's a little clunky in places and it doesn't really have much of a climax/resolution.

It's like a scene from a longer book. A book I might well enjoy reading, for sure, but there's not enough here for me to really get behind it.
#47 · 2
· on One Step at a Time · >>JudgeDeadd
Precognition is always a plentiful story device, and this story certainly touched on an interesting aspect of it (specifically, the knowledge of knowing how someone will die repeatedly). It was also intriguing how the story mixed it with an alien archaeology adventure. That’s certainly not a combo I’ve seen before, and it was fun seeing it in action here.

The primary issue with this story is that it really depends on us being invested in the characters. After all, the whole horror is the idea that they may be dying hundreds of times, so we need to really care about them to let the horror fully develop. However, neither the Guide nor Rachel really come across as three-dimensional; the Guide is just the silent and serious guy, while Rachel is…not as silent? There’s so little to go off of character-wise that the Rachel’s final musing doesn’t really impact us as much as it should.

That final musing is also kind of sketchy, too. What evidence is there that the Guides might be resetting time? Is that something that’s possible in the world? Did Rachel see it happen before? What scientific evidence is used to posit this theory? I know I sound really picky, but if a character’s going to make such a claim in a science-fiction story, there ought to be some kind of science behind their theory. Besides, if the Guides had control of that kind of power, you’d think they’d have better things to do than guide people around trap-infested architecture. The whole hypothesis just comes out of nowhere, and it feels like it was just put there to make the story have some sort of emotional ending. But because the characters are so flat, it doesn’t really work.

In the end, this is a good story idea that just isn’t fleshed out enough. Maybe if there was an extended word count the ideas could be developed more fully and the characters could be more concrete. As is though, it brings up too many things too fast, and doesn’t allow readers to really get to know the characters.
#48 ·
· on The Massacre at Unit P12
I kinda feel like I want to like this; you've got some things in here that are a bit meta, but also possibly things that most of us, as people who presumably like to read, would find interesting.

However, I couldn't really get into it, and I'm not sure why. I think i wanted something more to Rhett's problems than just 'because they're books'. I mean, there was a time when I felt odd about getting rid of books too. Then I realized that lots of them really aren't worth keeping, published or not.

Well, and there's also that; these are published books. Whoever wrote these presumably already got some of their satisfaction out of them. You mention how each story is a part of you, which is neat, but then... if it's copied 10,000 times, you might feel a little less attached to each fragment?

I dunno. Overall, this has some ideas I think I'd have enjoyed. But for whatever reason, it just failed to hook me.
#49 · 1
· on Selections from Amaddisen’s Compendium of Cautions and Outcries · >>GroaningGreyAgony
The best aspect of this piece was the creativity in the words and various situations the author creates. None of them felt repetitive, and there was a consistently goofy tone to all of them. It was kind of like if Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was somehow even more bonkers.

That being said, I really don’t feel like much of a story was told. We get a lot of creative situations, but not really any reason to be invested in them. After all, there’s no unifying situation or characters to any of these stories. The only character we can really get involved with (the author) is just telling us the story, and her death is just played for laughs. Encyclopedic style stories can work, but they have to do something a bit more to them than just imaginative locations and situations.

In the end, it’s certainly creative, but it’s not enough to make it worth the trip.
#50 ·
· on Murder She Collaborated · >>georg
Heh, alright, that's worth a chuckle. :P

You've got some spacing issues here, it seems. Did you convert from somewhere? A few things read kinda clunky... but overall it's serviceable. The transition before the writer starts typing feels a bit strange? Give it an editing pass or two maybe. For a one-note joke, I think it's fairly well done.
#51 ·
· on A Man Must Learn to Love · >>Oblomov >>Orbiting_kettle >>Haze >>GaPJaxie
But their eyes were turned to phones, absorbed by screens, blinded by glasses that projected a computerized reality.

Because technology is baaaaaaad. >.<

Alright, I'll level with you here. This story started off really strong in my estimation, and then totally fell apart on that last scene. Why? Because you've made religious-y things core to this story, but the philosophy on display at the end seemed a little... lacking in comparison. Kinda faux-philosophical at best, and not really in-line with the imagery you're using elsewhere. It's possible I'm missing something important here, but as I've currently read it, I just can't get behind it.

Including Solomon was great. But if you're going to use a name with as much narrative weight as 'Allah', I'd like that to play into the story somehow. Preferably in some way that addresses the narratives around the name! I think you'd be better off going with 'generic fantasy' as a setting than drawing from more specific ideas without addressing them.
#52 ·
· on How to Play · >>horizon
Okay, I’ve never played that many card games before, so I was going into this at the risk of being confused. But I have to give credit: the story was written well enough that I could get the general gist of the game. There was also an interesting back and forth between the two characters: You could tell the main character was a bit full of themselves, while the competitor was a girl who was good at hiding her true hand.

However, I have to admit that I left the story feeling rather unsatisfied. I knew what was going on, but I didn’t really know why it was going on. Is the main character supposed to be humbled by their defeat? Is the competitor supposed to be overcoming a shyness by revealing her feelings? Stories don’t have to spell out why they’re occurring, but it’s also frustrating as hell to read a story and not really ‘get’ what it’s about. Maybe that’s more my fault than the author’s, but I’m still rather unimpressed at the end of the day.

Also, maybe I’m just being a picky English major, but those spelling errors were driving me up the wall.
Dud she even know games?

to talk with someone nice fir a change

The rest of the story is written adequately enough, so the spelling mistakes really stood out for me.

At the end of the day, this isn’t really a bad story. I understand what’s happening and the characters are believable. It’s just kind of dull and pointless for me personally. I’ll be curious to see other reactions to it, just so I can gauge if there’s something I’m missing or if this really is as bland as I take it to be.

(Just for giggles, but I was listening to Motorhead's "The Game" while reading this story. Funnily enough, it kind of fit.)
#53 ·
· on The Path of Vengence
First on my slate of stories to read! Not quite sure how I feel about it. On the upsides, it's very tightly scripted, makes good use of the length, has solid dialogue, projects the situation well, has understandable characterization, and is generally rock-solid as far as execution goes On the downside though, not much really happens. The arguments presented aren't new or interesting, and the situation isn't strongly relateable.

Roughly I'd give it an 8/10, but I guess it would be fair to say this story will probably be the highest ranked story on my slate after those with concepts that actually grab me. It was a great writing exercise, but I wouldn't call it engaging.
#54 ·
· on A Letter Of Caution On Halloween · >>georg
Second on my slate! Got a smile out of me, but that's about all I can say. Cutting social commentary is cutting?
#55 ·
· on A Simple Task · >>horizon
Seconds later it freaked open

the woman said with a snide

You remember this, tight?

It looks like Autocorrect was especially cruel to you, author. Reading through the story after you submit it is always a good idea.

I can't say that the opening here is doing you any favors:

Simon lay in the hospital bed too afraid to move. It had been a bad night... no, it had been a terrifyingly dreadful night! Everything that could gave gone wrong had done so, and the worst was yet to come. This was supposed to be a simple burglary, a quick in and out, instead—

The power suddenly went out, filling the room with a series of electronic screams. Simon gritted his teeth. Of course this would happen! He really was hoping to be out of the hospital today, although knowing his luck that seemed unlikely. And all this for a single lousy feather!

The majority of this is tell-heavy exposition -- and worse, a lot of it is redundant with what you're already showing us. "Everything that could gave gone wrong had done so, and the worst was yet to come" in particular deflates a lot of the specific instances of bad luck that we see around him, since you're using those to build up to a revelation. Even more so with "knowing his luck that seemed unlikely", because it's not actually HIS luck that is causing these things to happen.

However, past the shaky start, this DOES do one big thing right -- the core of the story, the misfortune hound, is introduced well, showing us its effects before using dialogue and character action to ground it and establish its rules. I really like that idea, and what it efficiently establishes about the setting.

Agreed with >>Not_A_Hat that the ending here also isn't doing you any Writeoff favors. Readers here typically try to assess stories as standalone works rather than fragments of a larger work, and ending on a cliffhanger reinforces the feeling that this is a scene from something bigger. It would be a good hook for a continuation, so that may not be a thing you want to "fix", but these 577 words in isolation don't feel like they're pulling together terribly well for me. That said, if I encountered this in the wild I'd click through to the next chapter to see where it went, so rein in that exposition and keep at it.

Tier: Flawed but Fun
#56 ·
· on The Guard
This one's a bit odd to me.

It's written as if this guard guy is the MC and if he's doing a favor for the girl.

However, if you consider what's going on, it kinda seems more like the girl does a favor for the guard? The guard doesn't really have a challenge to overcome. He sorta is the challenge. To that end, telling this from his POV is a bit odd, maybe?

I also feel the girl's attitude/character was fairly inconsistent. Sure, children are unpredictable. Maybe there's more going on here, too. I just felt that I never got much of a read on her, except that she's wearing a red backpack.

Or maybe I'm misreading it, I dunno.
#57 · 1
· on Rock Mansion
The cosmology of this story is troubling to me. While I like the fundamental concept and it is, in many respects, well executed, the fact that there is a literal ghost here seems to be given a pass. Likewise, the fundamental conflict of the story is suitably vague that I'm not really sure how to interpret it. Did he hate his parents because they were greedy? Because they were cold? Is he not worried about the, again, literal ghost trying to posses his child?

Would love to see more about this, but as is, it's not as solid as I might have hoped.
#58 · 2
· on Ramblin Johnny Shines
Formatting is your friend. I really struggled to parse a lot of this, much less pull a story out of it.
#59 ·
· on The Path of Vengence
I dunno. I feel like you did a good job of crafting an implied backstory, and the conflict you've got here could definitely be a compelling one. Unfortunately, I didn't find it very immersive because it never seemed like Tilly could seriously affect what was going down. He either needs better arguments, or he needs to actually do something instead of just trying platitudes.

I mean, I doubt you've intentionally written him as a strawman, but that's how he came across to me. Picking up the flaws in his 'arguments' wasn't very tricky. And that proverb at the end... I mean, if the guy knows what fighting means, then telling him 'there's a good chance you'll die' is basically not going to change anything.

On the whole, I think your structure and mechanics are pretty sound. One of the characters is pretty good. The other one, though... I just can't take him seriously with how he's written.
#60 ·
· on The Wall
I think I need to agree with Not_A_Hat's view of this story. It's not bad, it's not good, it just kind of... is. It makes social commentary, but not particularly insightful or original social commentary, and it does it in a way that's been done many times before. The execution is fine, but I feel like I've read this exact story before.
#61 · 1
· on A Star Shot Upon Midnight · >>horizon
...is this person literally twelve?

I mean, President? Come on! At least be supreme grand dictator so you don't have to be checked-and-balanced.

Your characters are interesting enough, and dialogue does a pretty good job of pulling me into the story. It really doesn't do a whole lot, unfortunately. This feels like a one-note story, except that it doesn't really reach much of a conclusion even for it's one idea. Unless the idea is that there's an unexpected side-effect to wishing for nothing? I mean, that's a wish too, right? Though if that's what was going on, I'd hope to see what that side-effect would be.

Decent overall, good start, weak finish.
#62 · 1
· on Cold Comfort
Well hello. This is something new.

I haven't finished my slate yet, but I can already tell this one will be a strong contender for the top spot. It's an interesting premise, the hook is very strong ("wearing nothing but her werewolf form's natural coat" certainly got my attention), and I like the realization. The ending is a bit weak and it could use more substance in the dialogue, but this certainly got a smile out of me, and I was reading eagerly for its entire duration. Well done.
#63 ·
· on Brother's Keeper · >>libertydude
This story hit a little close to home. Not enough to make it painful to read, but enough to make me deeply emphasize with Steve. I'm sure that biases me in the story's favor, but I enjoyed it just the same. A well realized little bit of slice of life with a realistic premise and good, simple dialogue.
#64 ·
· on Moonlight · >>georg
I have mixed feelings about this one, but in a mostly positive way. The character is well portrayed, the themeing is strong, and while it occasionally slips into purple prose I generally like the descriptions. Where it loses me is the central conflict. Why does he long for Rose when he's married to another woman? Does he dislike her? Was it him "settling"? Or is he just someone who thinks the grass is always greener on the other side?

In short, would love to see a longer version of this.
#65 ·
· on The Guard
I really want to like this story. I really do. I’m a sucker for afterlife stories, as I think the idea of what happens after death is one that can really be used for great artistic exploration.

However, the tale feels somewhat sloppy in terms of story. For starters, the reveal that the two of them are escaping Hell feels like a bit of a swerve. The opening makes it seem like this is just a broad sort of afterlife, not the binary of Heaven and Hell. And honestly, that would’ve been a real gut-punch. The idea that everybody that dies just goes to some bland afterlife instead of a paradise would’ve been heartbreaking. Morality would be irrelevant; life after death is simply that, and nothing more. Making it be an escape to Hell just feels like a bit of a cheat, especially when that opening hinted it at being an overall afterlife instead of the usual Heaven-Hell dichotomy.

The guard’s character change in the final third also feels a bit too rushed. I’m all for him becoming curious about what’s behind the door, but I feel like that’s something that should’ve brooded in him for a while instead of becoming a spur of the moment action. If he’s been guarding that door for an eternity, it seems unlikely he’d deviate from the routine that quickly.

Also, these lines bugged me.

"Are there monsters behind the door?"

"I don't know." I grumbled.

She sat on the floor and was silent for a while. There must be, though, if you're here, I thought.

Is the implication that she was murdered by someone? The story never really gives that implication outside of this line, so it feels very odd. How do we know she didn’t just die in an accident or something? Or is it supposed to be condemning God for sending a little girl to Hell? If so, it’s still not really clear, so it’s just as confusing.

In the end, I feel this story is a wasted opportunity. Instead of asking serious questions, it just goes for a feel-good “good girl goes to Heaven” storyline. I wouldn’t even have minded it being like it is now, if not for the fact that the story feels very misleading with its opening and the main character is inconsistent. There’s a good story in here somewhere, but it’ll need some narrative polishing to really bring it out.
#66 ·
· on The Guard
I'm just going to say this right up: This guard is not very good at his job.

While I respect the themes and traditional imagery present here, in a certain sense, the story really does boil down to that basic fact. The guy is guarding a door that he's never opened, from people he's never spoken to, for unclear masters who have ordered him to do this for reasons they never explain. Of course his motivation is going to be a bit lukewarm.

There are interesting ideas here, but I don't think this story really brings them together in a compelling way.
#67 ·
· on A Shadow of Thought

That was very well done. Interesting premise, invokes classic tropes but in a way that is ultimately original, strong use of conservation of detail, doesn't overstay its length, and the points of fine description is does have are highly evocative.

I'm going to be very curious to see who wrote this.
#68 ·
· on Homemade
A cute premise, well executed, but I'd hesitate to really call this a story. More like a world building exercise in 750 words.

Still, the premise is interesting, and the language is well done, so props where it's due.
#69 ·
· on A Simple Task
I have to admit that the concept of a “misfortune hound” is a very clever idea. It’s sort of like a werewolf, only it makes you suffer unfortunate circumstances rather than turning into a wolf. It was also having it be an urban fantasy, what with ambulances and guns being present in this world. An intriguing combination, to say the least.

With that in mind, I have to say that this story doesn’t really go anywhere. As the commenters above have said, it seems like a part of a larger story instead of a self-contained incident. That can sometimes work, but here, it gave the impression that this story isn’t really a story, just a brief excerpt of a more interesting bigger work. The sequel-bait ending didn’t really help, either.

Also, those GOTDANG spelling errors! (even if they are kind of funny)

Seconds later it freaked open
You remember this, tight?

In the end, an interesting world muddled by lack of closure.
#70 ·
· on How to Play · >>horizon
While I liked most of this quite a bit, I can't help but find the ending a bit unsatisfying. When the narrator says 'she won', they're obviously not talking about the actual game. However, I'm also not sure what they are talking about. Is there another competition going on here that I missed? I thought the subtexts I found were interesting, perhaps I didn't notice one? If so, maybe it would be better off being more obvious... or maybe I'm just not in your audience.

Anyways, this was pretty good otherwise. These people who've actually been to board-game conventions seem to have more in-depth criticism, but I felt your command of character and dialogue were enough for me to enjoy myself most of the time.
#71 ·
· on Sorrow's Council
An evocative series of images, which can be taken as allegorical for many things, from drug abuse, to sorrow, to poisonous relationships with manipulative partners. Elegantly crafted. This round has had a lot of entries that impressed me, and this is certainly one of them.
#72 ·
· on The Pumpkin Clause
Formatting is your friend. As is pacing. Even after I pulled this apart to read it, I struggled to get a coherent narrative out of it.
#73 · 3
Attention Citizens!

Radio Writeoff plans to record, barring catastrophe, in about twenty hours.

That's about three in the afternoon central time, and eight in the evening in whatever wacky timezone Quill lives in.

So if you're interested in listening to us, tune in then in the Discord Chat.

If not, wait around for the recording that's cool too I guess.
#74 ·
· on The Great Filter
This concept isn't new, but it is clever, and this is a particularly funny realization of it. This probably won't make my top 3 fics of the writeoff, but I laughed. A decent joke in a good format.
#75 ·
· on Murder She Collaborated · >>georg
Worth a chuckle indeed. A fun concept, but the execution was in places lackluster. The formatting needs some work and I found myself confused at points (and not in the good way). I would love to see a cleaned-up version of this, but for now it's pretty middle of the pack.
#76 · 1
· on Open Invitation · >>AndrewRogue
On the one hand, I'm pretty sure the spirit -- or whatever it is -- is friendly. It doesn't seem to be doing anything obviously harmful, and the note in the glass was a greeting. There was probably no need for the guy to run.

On the other hand, I wouldn't stick around either!
#77 ·
· on The Massacre at Unit P12
If you plan on continuing with this, then I would suggest diving more into why fiction is worthless. Or what Rhett has at stake in this situation, because I couldn't figure that out. The contemplative aspect of this story, wondering why these things are happening, are intriguing. I also like how meticulous everything was. I just couldn't figure out why things were so important. The significance of the motto of the day was unclear (at least, I didn't figure it out). I think something this menacing needs a lot more, and I think you've set it up nicely. It didn't work here (at least in my opinion), but I think it would be great as a longer story.

Take it for what it's worth. I would like for you to continue this, and see where it goes.
#78 · 1
· on Blustering
I thought the three stories were clever in their own right, each giving three instances where recklessness is punished (to a degree). It may not be completely unified, but it offers up three smaller stories, and I can appreciate that.

If there is something more going on, though, then I missed it completely.
#79 ·
· on The Wall
I'm a person that likes slow-building (pardon the pun) stories, and this seems like one of those. I like the progression, and how it builds itself up to absurdity. I think the prose is well-written as well.

Where it falls flat for me, personally, is that it seems to rely on current knowledge of conceptions of immigrants. Not to make a social comment here, but the ending doesn't tie in with the rest of the story. Spoiler warning for the rest of the readers: the President doesn't begin to connive ways to enter Mars like the immigrants did on Earth. The empathy for the whole situation isn't there when the President can't reflect on what's going on; it's poetic justice, but it's lacking in that drive to bring the whole thing home. The measures that are taken on Mars to keep people out aren't explained well, so there's not much of a reflection between Mars and Earth. I think this could work out extraordinarily well as a poignant longer story, but it doesn't work at this length.

Overall, I'd call it competently written, but with not a lot of punch to it. I would like to see you continue on with it.
#80 ·
· on A Man Must Learn to Love · >>GaPJaxie

I absolutely agree with you. Really strong start, but I was disappointed in the conclusion.
#81 ·
· on Rock Mansion
Now, I'm not going to claim to know much about writing, but I'm pretty sure switching between past and present tense that much is something I can ding you for. If anything, it bothered me.

Otherwise, I echo the previous comments.
#82 ·
· on Homemade
As usual, got to agree with the previous comments.

Interesting premise, but not really a story, unless it is some meta connection.
#83 · 3
· on Sorrow's Council
Echoing Jaxie, this was marvelous.

I will only add that, as a personal preference, I would have used 'kiss' instead of 'bite' in the final line. That is all.
#84 · 1
· on I'm Taking Off My Belt
Seems this one has no review yet. I'll go first, then!

This appears to be an extended rumination on warnings, and one warning in particular. The conceit is pretty easily understood and I smiled when I read the line, “I’m taking off my belt.”

But then it kept going. And going. The rest of the story was just the narrator explaining how everyone fears the belt. There's no real story here, that I can discern.

The hook was daring, but I'm not sure everyone will appreciate the shock value of leading like that. It was lukewarm for me.

I don't usually use tiers to rate stories, but if I had to give one here, it would be 'misaimed.'
#85 · 2
· on One Step at a Time
The two interjections -- the italicized flashes of Rachel's death -- are evocative. but problematic. Who is experiencing them, Rachel or the Guide? The story is from Rachel's POV, but it seems only the Guide is privy to precognition.

This was a good story, one of the better ones on my slate so far. But I think if you had written it from the Guide's perspective it could have been better.
#86 · 2
· on How to Play · >>horizon
or that fairy tale game horizon showed me at Bronycon ...

I am summoned! **appears**

The referenced game would be Once Upon A Time, which technically has win conditions and technically is played competitively, but even the game manufacturer says "The object of the game, though, isn't just to win, but to have fun telling a story together."

Although this story's game has a similar sort of fairy-tale flavor, it does seem a bit more directly competitive. I'd actually call it closer to the classic wizard's battle (my favorite variant of which has always been Neil Gaiman's classic take in Sandman) than any particular card game I'm aware of, although the start-with-five,-draw-when-you-pass,-be-out-first model really is directly closest to Once Upon A Time. Speaking of:

A bit like Munchkin

Uhh ... no. This game is like Munchkin the same way that Monopoly is like Snakes and Ladders (because both of those have little game pieces that move around a preprinted board). Which is to say, the differences between the games overwhelm any similarities they might share.

So what about the story? Unfortunately, a lot of the same things bothered me that bothered Haze -- most especially the patronizingness at the beginning, because that (wo)mansplaining wrecked for me the idea that Moona might be interested in our narrator (I guess let's call her Sunny). Also agreed with Haze that I don't know why Sunny doesn't let Moona win, though I'll go farther and say that Sunny comes off as straight-up assholish: she is looking for an "easy win" despite the fact she's playing a game apparently of her own design against someone she's explaining the rules to, which is a huge amount of game-rigging. It's like a D&D table having a "killer GM" who views slaying the PCs as an accomplishment despite the fact that they are the arbiter of the rules and creator of the world: there's a point at which it just crosses the line into power-tripping.

Above and beyond that, I've done a bit of tabletop game dev work myself (ask folks who went to Bronycon this year about "Purple Prose"), and so Sunny's approach to her game isn't just rude but also broke my suspension of disbelief in one crucial way: any sane game developer showing off their product at a convention is looking either for a sale (if it's finished) or playtest feedback (if it isn't), both of which are totally incompatible with the ego-boost of playing for easy victories.

(I suppose it's possible Sunny isn't this game's developer, but all of the context of the story seems to point that way.)

She took a card without looking. "A maiden in distress."

Nitpick: By the rules you established, since Moona drew, Sunny should have played. (Which, by the way, means that the tactical use of passing is VERY limited. You're giving up two plays' worth of momentum: letting your opponent drop a card while adding one of your own. The only reason I can think of to do it is to shift the board position while you preserve a finishing combo you don't expect the opponent to be able to break. Though, depending on the cardbase, that might be an integral part of the game mechanics here.)

"Isn't it a male dominated field?"

"Not anymore." It was, but I didn't want to tell her that.

I genuinely don't understand why Sunny feels a lie benefits her here.

The good news is that there are things I already like about this story. Moona comes across as cool and a bit mysterious, right in the sweet spot of where you want her; and the core mechanics of your game sound like they could work out in practice (with lots of care paid to the composition of the cardset). The conversation runs smoothly and the ending twist is pretty neat. The bad news is that nothing about Sunny is in that list for me, and your protagonist is gonna be pretty crucial to selling this one.

Tier: Needs Work

When the narrator says 'she won', they're obviously not talking about the actual game. However, I'm also not sure what they are talking about. Is there another competition going on here that I missed?

Pretty sure that Sunny is interpreting their conversation as yet another game -- which would be effective characterization (and another point in the asshole column) if it were consistent, but she specifically noted earlier "At least I had the potential to talk with someone nice for a change", so just comes across to me as yet-more-inconsistent-Sunny subtext.

(Just for giggles, but I was listening to Motorhead's "The Game" while reading this story. Funnily enough, it kind of fit.)

"Luna's Ruse" came up on my playlist while I was typing this up, which seems oddly apropos.
#87 ·
· on Ramblin Johnny Shines
'eighteen' - write out numbers unless... well, here's a link to the guidelines. http://theeditorsblog.net/2013/01/13/numbers-in-fiction/

That negative/pro bit didn't seem to fit the voice of the character.

Honestly, I think the idea here - warning the readers to not read on - sounds more clever than it really is. I'll admit I laughed at that 'this is your last chance', but consider; any combination of the reader taking you seriously/not taking you seriously, enjoying/not enjoying the story, means you've contradicted yourself somehow and probably broken a bit of their trust.

Besides that, however, if there had been a compelling narrative buried in Grandpa's ramblings, I'd have probably still excused it somewhat. As it is, it's not particularly bad... but it's not really worth the work needed to dig the story out, either.

If you've actually copied this from your grandpa, though, everything's forgiven. :P He seems like an interesting guy.
#88 · 2
· on A Shadow of Thought
This is, in my estimation, one of the purest examples of my personal definition of 'science fiction' I've seen in a while. Postulate a technological advance, and then attempt to extrapolate a story from it.

Although perhaps you came at this from the opposite direction. Erasing all pleasure to destroy addiction is a somewhat horrific but still believable idea with wonderful shades of gray, and it's presented very nicely here. The build-up/reveal is paced well, the attention to detail and conserving the reader's attention is excellent, and the prose is elegant. Nice work!

I do find myself wondering if the Editor's effect is permanent. I feel it's implied it is, because otherwise the ending loses a lot of its bite, but I'm not sure that was presented/rationalized hard enough for me to draw a specific conclusion from the text. Still, it in no way spoils the narrative for me. And hey, maybe I just missed it.
#89 · 1
· on Brother's Keeper · >>libertydude
Well that was visceral.

I feel like the start here was a bit bumpy, but once it started swinging, it certainly didn't pull its punches. Even as someone who's able to honestly say "I get along very well with just about everyone in my family" I understood the feelings on display here, and they touched me.

As for the opening, you may want to revise that description of his father a bit; except for the 'a certain warmness' line, it reads more like describing a stranger than describing a father to me. This guy's familiar with his dad; I think it should come through in that description. Like how the brother's described without being described? Oh, and write out numbers instead of using numerals.

Excellent scope and depth here. The execution isn't quite pitch-perfect, but that's a minor complaint on the whole.
#90 · 2
· on Brother's Keeper · >>libertydude
Hm... I got toward the end of this, waiting for the twist, the reveal, the sudden revelation that would explain why Steve hated his brother so much. The tension seemed to build and build, and then...

Well, nothing. Actually, that's not true -- there was pizza.

But speaking seriously, this story did a great job of building tension for me, then failing to deliver. I wonder if I was reading it wrong and looking for tension in all the wrong places. This might be my fault, rather than the story's.

Also, "As you know, Bob," exposition:

“Look, Steve, I know it wasn’t easy living with him. But you know he’s got a mental condition, and it’s the kind that just gets worse.”
#91 · 1
· on Moonlight
I feel like changing the tense of one of these parts might make the schism between them stronger.

This has some great elements, and I like parts of it a lot. However, I'm having a little trouble drawing conclusions as concretely as I'd like. There's definitely a narrative in here somewhere, and given the emotions on display it really seems like it's worth uncovering, but in the end... I'm not entirely certain I'm onboard with it. What's he feeling as he pours out that perfume? Is he regretting the past or the present? I can't actually decide, and I feel like a lot of the emotional weight of the ending hinges on signaling that clearly.

As it is, I like this story a lot. However, I think it could hit even harder.

Or perhaps I missed something important in the text.
#92 · 1
· on Mind the gap!
So... humanizing warnings by attaching a story them is a good idea, if what you're trying to do is create a more effective warning. There's a school around here that does a fake car-crash right before homecoming, complete with an ambulance and crying family, in an attempt to cut down on drunk driving. I'm sure it's saved lives.

However, attaching warnings to a story in the way you've done makes it somewhat less effective as a story, I think, because it's a bit too obvious what you're doing with your narrative. It's a bit too straightforwards, without enough subtext to really suck me in (unless you're doing a clever subversion somewhere that I missed.) To that end, I think this would have been more effective without the one-two-three and picture, but just as a story of someone getting in over their head and dying. And as such a story, I do think it works alright; it's a straight tragedy, but it's also tinged with enough reflection that this guy's hopelessness comes through fairly strongly.

On the whole, this has some really good elements. Unfortunately, the design choices make it a bit difficult for me to really invest in it. Perhaps if I was a diver, I'd find it more compelling.
#93 · 1
· on An Almost-Perfect Verse in a Long Forgotten Tomb · >>horizon
I feel like the opening here stumbles pretty hard. Firstly, opening with a verse seems kinda... super risky. Unless you're certain your audience is up for poetry, I think you'll find as many people are turned away by the first line being verse as are drawn in by it.

There's this weird psychological effect tied up with 'disfluency', where people tend to agree more easily with stuff that's easier to read, independent of how 'correct' it is, while they'll think more critically about things that are more difficult to read, independent, again, of how correct it is. (What makes something 'convincing' is unfortunately different from what makes it 'correct'.) To that end, I think there's an argument to be made for making the opening of stories smooth and immersive besides simply hooking iinterest. This is just a guess, but I think that putting your verse in the second or third paragraph would significantly increase the amount of people willing to engage with it deeply. Draw them in, then make them think? I mean, it's just a guess, but anyways, I'm digressing.

Secondly, the 'you' in that second paragraph comes in before we've gotten any other ideas on the viewpoint of this story, and reading horizon's review, I see I'm not the only person who wondered if this was supposed to be second-person somehow. I eventually decided it was metaphorical or a figure of speech, but it threw me for a moment.

The middle of the story did a good job of pulling me in and building suspense. This reads like it's intended to have hints of horror in it. Exploring an ancient tomb? With an actual torch, no less? A battered book of mysteries? A strange and possibly malevolent translator, who the others might not be the best of friends with? These are all great elements in one way or another.

However, the ending just seems to kinda... drop it all and fade away. Is there a point I'm missing? It seems like it ends with everyone just wandering away, and Peter following, and the whole build-up and what is basically abandoned.

I even tossed around the idea that 'being forgotten' is a worse fate than any curse the ancient could have thought up. However, since the verse was proposed by Peter, I'm not sure that even works.

I dunno. I want to like this, but it's just not holding up under scrutiny.
#94 · 2
· on Cold Comfort

There's a bit of strangeness in here for me about what the spell actually answers to or what triggers it. At the opening it seems to speak pretty much whenever, but when they get into the discussion it sorta just shuts up to let them talk... and then seemingly reacts to Maya's thoughts? I dunno. Maybe there's a consistent trigger I missed.

I feel like the University ought to have some leniency, given the fact that this is a life-or-death situation. Sure, some punishment for not following whatever guidelines are in place to keep people out of situations like this is probably warranted, but if this really was their only way out of the situation, then maybe they can get a little clemency for taking it.

Well... and speaking of it being the only way out of their situation, was it? They seemed to simply jump on the first option presented, without even trying to find a better one. Maybe there wasn't a better one, or maybe they really did have to act right this instant, but neither of those things came through strongly enough for me, given the weight of the consequences.

But still, don't take my problems here as indicative of me disliking this story. It does a lot of things right, including introducing us to a fantasy world very smoothly, and bringing both the characters to light elegantly and crisply. Iron out the details and it'll be both fascinating and compelling; the foundations are definitely there, I just couldn't engage with it as strongly as I'd have liked to because of nitpicks.
#95 · 3
· on Ramblin Johnny Shines
I'm going to pretend, for the purpose of this review, that this is a reliable narrator and his transcription is real.

(Note: I doubt that's true. I'm just assuming it is for this review.)

Composition is the art of arranging smaller pieces into a larger whole. Importantly, whether a composition is valid or realistic is a separate question from whether it is artistically pleasing or of literary value.

We can assume that this is a faithful transcription of the author's grandfather's recollection of the Vietnam war (...in the 30s?), which makes it an example of non-fiction. Ignoring that this is the fiction round, we can say that as a piece of biographical non-fiction, it is faithful to life.

When someone argues that this ramble does not have the qualities of a story, they are correct in a sense. The counterargument to that is that life doesn't always proceed as a story. Sometimes life really does ramble. So which is correct?

Well, I'm a fiction writer, obviously, so I'm going to say that even an autobiography, if it is aiming for literary merit, should contain the elements of a story. If one's life, transcribed, does not have narrative flow, then it's a life -- but not a story (or, at least, not a good one).

That's fine. Life doesn't have to be organized with the artificial structure of a story, especially as we understand them in the early 21st century. But stories must be organized with the structure of a story as we recognize them in the early 21st century.

So, um, long-winded answer: this doesn't work for me. Sorry, author. Sorry to your grandpa, too (assuming he's real).
#96 · 1
· on Sorrow's Council
Trigger warning: arachnophobia! :P

More seriously... Allegory without parable? I can get behind that.

The style here strikes me as ornate, which... fits the motif surprisingly well. Something about spiders and elegance works well together.

I'm not certain if leaving the interpretation up to the reader bothers me or not. On the one hand, there are multiple 'correct' interpretations, but they're all really very valid... and it's not like they're pointlessly subtle or preachy. This being a straightforwards tragedy would bother me, except that the allegorical layer adds enough depth it resonates personally in a way that I appreciate. Self-destructive behaviors are definitely something I've spent time struggling with.

This is deft work, and has surprising weight given the word-limit.
#97 · 1
· on One Step at a Time
The ideas on display here are very good ones, I think. The tone of the ending matches the tone of the world, and some of the elements - de-humanizing the Guide by not giving him a name - are well-picked. There's definitely stuff to like here.

However, I can't help but think that the conclusion would be a little more powerful if it was a little more subtle. It works alright as-is, because the conclusion being reached is a fairly awful one; but if, instead of simply stating the conclusion right out, you carefully led Rachel to it and had us follow alongside her, the moment of insight when she realizes what's going on might be more powerful?

Honestly, though, I feel a bit unfair suggesting something like that, because I'm not certain I can give concrete suggestions on how to go about it. Suffice to say, I think this story is tipping it's hand a bit too fast and a bit too far. Hopefully that's helpful to you.

Oh, and I agree with Mr. Gardez's point about the viewpoint character and the flashbacks.
#98 · 1
· on A Letter Of Caution On Halloween · >>georg
...I'm honestly torn here.

This was a pretty great joke, if one-note. And while I applaud you acknowledging your inspiration, I can't help but feel that cribbing that hard is a bit disingenuous? Perhaps that's unfair, because if you hadn't mentioned it I wouldn't have guessed at all, but... I dunno.

So, I laughed... but I think I'm going to have to abstain, because I'm not sure I can rank this one fairly. Am I not giving you enough credit? Probably. But I don't think I can decide exactly how much I should be giving you. Sorry.

It's not you, it's me. :P
#99 · 1
· on Rock Mansion
While I feel like the core idea here is one I can get behind (and Philip Larkin says it pretty well, too) the details in this story are kinda... loose.

I mean, what's the point of the piano? Is it important that it's gold? If not, why the attention?

Things like that. There's lots of little details in here that don't really seem to tie into... anything very well. It's a good start, but it needs a good coat of polish, besides the mechanical problems like tense and what.

Oh, but my first thought on seeing the title was: "People tend to prefer paper mansions for the cost-effectiveness, but a rock mansion is still much better than a scissors mansion." :P
#100 · 3
· on Perspective · >>GaPJaxie
So... I like the subversions in the beginning. The introduction of the spirit is nicely done, and sets the tone very well for what she says later. The dialogue works fairly well, and although the setting is minimalist, it does its job nicely.

However, I happen to disagree with the idea that 'wisdom' doesn't bring happiness. And in fact, I think the spirit is mis-representing what wisdom is here and disproving her own supposed point.

These are the definitions I use: knowledge is facts, and wisdom is applying those facts in the best way. Consider: what she's giving him isn't applications of facts he already knows, but rather facts he didn't know, without suggesting applications. And her wrap-up at the end is actually wise advice; how to deal with (apply) the facts of life in a way that works well with the world he lives in. That's application, not knowledge.

So, unless you're trying for a clever subversion that I missed, I feel like you've literally reversed the meanings of the words you're using. Which I found more than a little confusing in the question-and-answer when the 'seeker for wisdom' wasn't asking for advice, and the 'wise spirit' wasn't giving him any. If that wasn't your intent, the fix here is pretty straightforwards; just make him a seeker for knowledge, and her a spirit of knowing.

Oh, and that last line... who's speaking it? If it's the spirit, why isn't it with her line just above? If it's the hiker, how did he reach that conclusion?