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Staring Into the Abyss · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
#1 · 11
· · >>Monokeras >>Trick_Question
writerrun, pastintenses and participulates, contrastants and inciparticipundits, all gatteround! From all semispheres, semaphores seem afore the way, and summerscribes from baskingsands and winterwrights from shiversnows conglamourate to vie vivant against uther aurothors.

Gerties and Lens, mark your toes and repare to toss your kayberds. If you loose your inspuration, write it off! A-scribe it to misastruss pasts, and peck up what you put down. Proseflows grow in verbrant rows. Plant your plots in comfy seights and surrange them to miximal efferfect.

In fine, hie thence and regale tales in the finest traducions of Anguish letterchore!

Here now the condutions:

Call whoe to Harsewords! With rigor, rig original. Hayfic is treyf-fic! Bepart from this, your subject is in prompt, you. Set say-all and steer by stars between Scylla of too-kay and Charybdis of hate-kay.

Cur-tail the loopfics thisaround, and Procrustrate your precious prose, lest wordcount halt you at the

Phoenish line. (whew!)
#2 ·
· · >>bloons3 >>Not_A_Hat >>Mudkipman98 >>JudgeDeadd
Does anyone know how we are supposed to vote on prompts? Because when I go into the Prompt Voting section I can't click on any of the prompts that, have been submitted so far.
#3 ·
There's prompt submission (can only see your prompt), then prompt voting (see all prompts). When prompt voting is closed, then we start writing.
#4 · 2
I'm impressed. That's the first time I've seen 'Procrustrate' used in a sentence, and I understand the context.
#5 · 3
The message has been cut out by a procrustean rule.
#6 ·
>>Nodqfan You should be able to vote tomorrow, after prompt submission closes.
#7 · 4
Writeoff weekend, writeoff weekend, writeoff weeeeek-eeeeeend!

My prompt is in. I'm spying a clear horizon this weekend, which is doubly exciting. Might be something to do with the fact that I decided to expose my kids to a cold last week so that they got it all out of their system in time for writeoff season.

What? They were gonna come down with something anyway. I'm just being efficient.

And selfish. Yeah, that.
#8 · 7
The eternal struggle of prompt submission: knowing there was a dozen times you though "wow, that would make a great Writeoff prompt" in the past month, and remembering none of them.

Going to be a busy weekend for me, and I'm still not sure I've ever written anything using multiple thousands of words, but we'll see what happens.
#9 ·
· · >>JudgeDeadd
Voting starts after all of the prompts have been submitted. To my knowledge, at least.
#10 · 2
· · >>Obscure
Perhaps I shan't write anything, and shall instead merely read and vote on random stories with catchy titles. Mwahaha.
#11 · 2
You say that as though it weren't a standard.
#12 · 5
· · >>Posh
I got my first job today. That means I'm going to have a lot of stress and nervousness to vent in this weekend's writeoff.
Here's hoping for the best, and same goes for everyone!
#13 · 3
>>Zaid Val'Roa Hope it's at a haberdasher. I'm still planning to eat your hat at some point.

I've a full slate as is this month, including the MLP writeoff that I'm assuming I'll have time to participate in, so I'm gonna skip this one too. I'd really like to compete in an original fiction writeoff someday, but the stars, they never align just right...
#14 · 4
I'm feeling sick and may be getting a cold. My mom is finally coming up to see the baby this weekend. Something else is probably wrong.

Bring it on, original short story round.
#15 · 2
Some of the entries are pretty juicy this time 'round. A fine weekend to write too.
#16 ·
· · >>Nodqfan
>>Nodqfan >>Mudkipman98
Prompts can be submitted until a specific time, and voting starts after that. If you click on "Voting" there should be a ticking timer at the top.
#17 ·
Got it thanks.
#18 · 1
Is there is just always a prompt for something someone can read to their kids? :rainbowlaugh:
#19 · 3
The Final Voyage, Back to Where it All Began, Almost. Let’s Just Say, Hypothetically, This is just the Beginning.

Sorry to Wake You Up. Just Five More Minutes; Sore Was I, Ere I Saw Eros. Speak of the Devil Bound to your Desk. Must It Come to This? If You Don’t Care for Your Rose, Then Your Rose Will Fade Away.

I Come to Sell the Stars. I Hate my Job. I Love my Job. Another Day, Another Dollar; I’ve Got Five Dollars Left. Riding On High!

Harrowing Revelation: The You Within A Dragon in the Desert. Literally Black Magic, When Scissors Cut Rock.

Gonna Never Have To Die. A Dead Person Can’t Write a Letter Where in the main character doesn’t know what they want. Gibbrish In the Cards, Alternative Facts, Something CoffeeMinion and/orAndrewRogue can read to his kid(s). Ten meter is on FIRE!

The Night Out, Staring Into the Abyss. Endless Worlds As Spring Sprung, And Then, Things Got Worse…

What Lurks in the Dark?

Uninvited Guests.
#20 · 4
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony >>horizon
I must admit, Something CoffeeMinion and/orAndrewRogue can read to his kid(s) tempted my endorsement until I noticed the lack of space after "and/or". Similarly, the number of prompts that fail as Title Case—as stipulated in the rules/guidelines in addition to being generally good form—drives me to despondency. If the submitters cannot trouble themselves to take their prompts seriously, then neither will I.
#21 · 2
· · >>MonarchDodora >>horizon
Most word processors have a command for it, and there are websites that will do it automatically. This is one: TitleCase.

So there’s little reason not to take some time and get it right.
#22 ·

I read that as TitCase.

I don't know why.
#23 · 3
· · >>Posh >>georg
Given my daughter is one month old, the or basically turns it into free form prompt. I can read anything to my daughter right now. Not like she's gonna remember it.
#24 · 2
>>AndrewRogue I dunno, man. I have memories of my parents reading de Sade to me when I was but a lad.
#25 ·
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
>>AndrewRogue ...and sixteen years later, Andrew's daughter will turn to him and say, "Daddy, why do I keep having these strange dreams about being turned into cupcakes or rainbows?"

Yeah, *some* reading material is probably good to keep off-limits until they... can vote. Or hold elected office.
#26 · 1
· · >>Rao >>bloons3
Well, I was a voracious reader from an early age, and my parents weren’t well read enough to guide me. On the one hand, it gave me a broad base of experience and helped to make me a better writer today.

On the other hand… I got hold of Lord of the Flies at an early age, and, being a fat smart kid with glasses, I identified heavily with Piggy from the start. And then I found out what happens to that character, and I didn’t take it well.

So, some kind of guidance is likely to be beneficial.
#27 · 3
· · >>Fenton
Heyla, everyone.

For a variety of reasons, it has been a long while since I last actively participated in this group. I've been reading some of the entries, and also submitting prompts. Mostly lurking. I want to stop pressing my face against the glass and actually do something this time around, however shaky it might turn out to be. I hope, at the least, to not waste anyone's time. A public statement of intent is something I want to make, to help ensure that it happens.

I am going to write something for this round. If I can manage it, a couple of somethings.

May everyone who reads this have a weekend that is both restorative and fruitful.
#28 · 1
Speaking of unguided material, I got a hold of this gem when I was about 11. It's not Stephen King levels of horror and human malice, but it certainly wasn't fit for a junior high library. Or maybe it was elementary...

Either way. It's been like 20 years and it left a lasting impression.
#29 ·
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony >>PaulAsaran
>>KwirkyJ >>GroaningGreyAgony
To play devil's advocate, I'm pretty sure that there's no edit function for your submitted prompts, so if you typo something and notice it after hitting return you're SOL.
#30 · 4
IIRC, before prompts are locked down for voting you can delete them and resubmit.
#31 · 3
I predict lots of happy entries.

^ - ^
#32 · 2
· · >>Fenton
Yay, my prompt won.

Now I'll only need an idea for an entry.
#33 · 3

You're the one responsible? I hate you!!!1!1!
#34 · 3
Geh. I'll be honest, I'm not sure that this one is doing much for my creative energies. I'll see if my old friends Dr. Pepper and Twix (king-size) can chivvy something readable and presentable out of me though.
#35 · 1
Dammit, I wanted to write a Rashamon.
That is totally what that kind of story is called, I have decreed it.
#36 · 1
I'm already halfway done with Welcome to the Abyss! which makes fun of the popular genre of self-insert nihilist stories

but this time there'll be a romantic ending where you get to kiss Nietzsche wearing knee socks.
#37 ·
I remember reading The Hot Zone in 6th grade... I think my mind didn't know half the words used for blood, so my juvenile mind was sort of spared... except for the part where
His bowels tore open with a noise like a sheet ripping. Jacques was bleeding out. There were no more clotting factors in his body.

Yeah, crazy book.
#38 · 1
· · >>Hagdal Hohensalza
>>Hagdal Hohensalza
So welcome back and hope you'll have fun with the prompt.
#39 · 6
I was minding my own business, doing a little boredom-induced research when I suddenly got a fresh, interesting idea. Oh, but I don't want to start anything new in terms of pony. Maybe just for myself?

I go to take a shower, step out, wipe the steam off the mirror. As I'm looking at myself, the light comes on: "There's an OF Writeoff this weekend."

So I hurry to my computer and, wouldn't you know, the the prompt is perfect.

Now to see if I can get it written down in time.
#40 ·
· · >>RogerDodger

The new notification system has notified me of something that wasn't related to my account. I didn't post anything in the last competition, but was notified of a reply to (I presume) a different user. Image below.

#41 · 1
Anguish letterchore!

Hoof up just for that phrase.

And now I retire to the shadows, being not-so-inspired this round and also having long ago given up on the Discord chat.
#42 · 1
· · >>KwirkyJ
Off Topic Alert!!

Let me know if anybody else is going to Whinny City Pony Con at the end of the month and would like to do some sort of Writeoff meetup. It was a pleasure getting to hang with Kwirky and Oroboro for a bit at Ciderfest in October. Also, for some unfathomable reason the con is letting me speak about writing again, so feel free to bring fruit to throw at me once they announce the panel schedule. ❤️
#43 · 2
I wrote:

An eight-hundred word opening scene to a romantic comedy inspired by this prompt before going to bed last night, but alas, I'm 18,000 words into the expansion of Noblesse Oblige, my 4th place finisher from two rounds ago. So I'll be working on Blueblood's continuing adventures instead of entering this time around.

#44 · 2
· · >>georg
Well, Dr. Pepper and Prof. Twix did help me draft out a nice interpretation of the prompt... But then I ended up spending the best part of the day teaching my son to paint with oils. I'm kinda done with beating myself up over rushing things for excessively tight deadlines, so I think I'll meekly step into the ring now and retrieve my hat.

Good luck to those of you still writing!
#45 · 1
· · >>Crafty >>Trick_Question >>horizon >>horizon
Possible that the post in question (>>Crafty) originally had you quoted and then was edited to someone else.

Notifications only push when a post is posted.
#46 · 5
Done! Now I only have to translate my Latin sestina back into English and copy it to the site.

Whoops, sorry. Channeling Horizon there for a min.

>>Ceffyl_Dwr Careful. That's how young boys meet seaponies. :)
#47 ·
Welp, looks like I won't be entering this particular writeoff. I'm only 2k words in and I won't be finishing anytime soon.

What a cryin' shame. I really wanted to enter this one since the prompt almost seemed made for me.
#48 · 1
It may happen that I will be there Friday, but that would be the only day, on account of schedule conflicts.
#49 · 5
Aaaand I'm in.

I gotta say, I'd forgotten what it's like to have a good, solid deadline to meet. More importantly, I forgot how productive I can be when said deadlines are looming. Now I'm thinking it was a mistake throwing out my old self-imposed deadlines for FIMFiction publications just on the basis of how much I can write under pressure.
#50 · 3
Ugh. I've got like, an hour and a half left to write, I'm 1,400 words in... And my story sucks. This is supposed to be touching. But instead all I've got is boring. Why must I always wait until the last minute? Arrrghh!

Oh well. I suppose it's better to enter something kinda boring than nothing at all...
#51 ·
That is what happened, I had notified the wrong person by mistake.
#52 · 3
I managed to submit a story! Hooray!

Now to catch a few hours of sleep before I have to leave for work in... 7 hours.

Yeah, totally worth it.
#53 · 2
I’ve got one in. Just fine tuning…

ETA: Thanks to Floydien for offering a pre-read.
#54 · 3
Submitted something. Finished just the last round of editing, now it's time to go to work.

I really shouldn't have delayed until the end.
#55 · 2
All you crazy Europeans already rushing a last-second story together before work! Man, here on Pacific Time I've still got three and a half hours to go before cramming my entry in at 4 a.m. and celebrating with a brief nap.

... And I was about to say "Clearly, the optimal solution is to move to the United States," but this is a really dumb year to make that suggestion. Which is a little uncomfortable to realize, because the actual optimal solution is probably for Roger to shift the start times, and I like doing my cram-writing in the middle of the night. <.<
#56 · 1
As much as I wish I could, I don't think I'm going to be able to finish my entry in time. It's unfortunate, because I liked the idea I thought up, but I've just had too much work over the weekend to fit in writing time. Good luck to everyone with their last minute adjustments!
#57 · 1
And I'm in! I'm sorry for those who will have to review it.

And best of luck for those who are still writing.
#58 · 4
Story is submit.

I am bed.
#59 · 1
Well... That was a thing I just submitted. Not necessarily a good thing, mind you, but definitely a thing. O.o

I've really got to stop writing at the last minute, and giving my stories as cursory edit and polishing in the morning before work.
#60 · 5
· · >>Hagdal Hohensalza
First submission! I've never done this before, but I really enjoyed writing for a prompt, and reading other people's interpretations of that prompt should be pretty interesting.

Hello everyone, by the way! I'm very happy there's something like this to get involved in, and you all seem like a great community. Glad to be here!

#61 · 1
· · >>All_Art_Is_Quite_Useless
By the thinnest skin of my teeth, I got something in. Only one story, but at least there is one.


I wish you a very warm welcome, and I hope you enjoy yourself here.

My apologies for not saying so earlier, but I appreciate your kind words.. I hope that you enjoy yourself, as well.

Now, off to work.

Have a grand Monday, everyone.
#62 · 1
>>Hagdal Hohensalza
Thank you very much! Well done for getting something in too, that was very close.

#63 ·
· on Endings
First off, mindful of the code.
Secondly, you must keep the punctuation to at the very least standard.
#64 ·
· on Concrete Masks · >>Orbiting_kettle
I quite like this. I like the way you characterised the nameless protagonist, and found the political side interesting, if a little obscure.

Only thing I would say is that it could have been longer. I felt there was more to the world which I would have been interested to see explained, as it was, I would have liked to have known the exact time period, and a bit more about IP's.

Dialogue was fast and punchy, internal monologue helped to capture the scene, and pacing was well done.

Would read further if it were expanded.


Ps. Mark Twain said that quote.
#65 · 1
· on Miskatonic Electronics
"And I was team fucking medic, Christ—“

I think it's a bit late to be asking for his help, mate...

This was quite fun, as mixing such wildly different branches of knowledge usually is, and I had quite a happy smile on my face as I read. Kinda wish we had spent more time on some of the... renovations made. I can't help but wonder how this affects the value of the apartment should they move.

Anyway, this was an enjoyable read and a great way to start the Writeoff.
#66 · 1
· on Miskatonic Electronics
This was really enjoyable! Got a good few smirks out of reading this, and I like how you managed to make the prompt so literal.

The concept is very imaginative, and it's pulled off very well, great closing line too, and it feels just the right length.

I don't think I could deal with Dave as a roommate though, I get pissed enough when someone messes with the thermostat.

#67 ·
· on Hell is other people · >>Fenton
This wasn't bad, a few syntax/grammar errors but apart from that, solid writing.

While the concept was interesting, I don't share the views the author is attempting to portray, so it's difficult for me to find it especially engaging. But, that is in no way a criticism of the work, just my personal preference!

I liked the little twist at the end, made me smile.

#68 · 1
· on Fortune · >>Zaid Val'Roa >>PaulAsaran
Yes! What a ride! I loved it!

The story reminded me of a lot of other stories where an authority prevent people from going somewhere or doing something, pretending it would be dangerous and deadly. We have the same setup here but it is treated differently and that added to the story. Instead of going for a revolution or resistance, the small group decides to take the matter in their hand by just leaving. That is meaningful, that is powerful, that feels brilliant.

Moreover, the authority isn't the 'Evil Tyranny' which would immediately kill people who just ask question. They discuss it, they try to find a reasonable solution. The protagonists take smart decisions too, trying to not affect the people they left behind them.
And I loved that. I'm tired to see characters deciding "I'll do this extreme thing, no matter the cost" when you have simpler and wiser solutions anyone could have by just thinking for two seconds.

This also felt like the beginning of something bigger. Don't get me wrong, the story stands on his own but you could expand it with the story of the protagonists once they arrived on the land.

I could write more praises on how I've been enthralled by the story but I think it's time to talk about some minor flaws.

The beginning. The character waking up and describing his environment is cliché and I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, it is very useful to introduce to the reader where the story takes place, who are the protagonists and so on (it's not surprising if many use this cliché, I do it too). On the other hand, it took me some time to fully understand where we were. I think it took too much time to settle and it was around the fourth paragraph that I got everything.

To put in a nutshell, the story, the characters, the pace and the message were great but the beginning was a bit too slow.

It's the first story I've read but I think it will score pretty high (if not top).
#69 · 1
· on Sèje Khai and the Cursed Roll
I really hoped the title meant this would be about evil bread rolls.

I had such a hard time getting a hook out of this. The first paragraph suggested some kind of self-reflective slice of life about being left-handed. The second paragraph shatters that assumption by reframing that in the context of some kind of warrior or soldier. Not bad, I kinda like being thrown off guard like that. Then the third paragraph tells me this is in media res, already in the middle of a battle.

That's when it begins to lose me. The rest of the battle is written in this same detached and wordy style, and in almost a snarky tone. It's like the action is happening so far away that none of this is all that urgent or important. As if this is Monty Python and the Holy Grail, except I'm still waiting uncomfortably for a joke to happen. I felt extremely bored.

I felt so little tension and more confusion, because the story kept "correcting" itself. Or rather, it started by revealing almost nothing, and slowly reveals more, but only after actions have happened. Like the main character is quaking on the floor, THEN it's revealed she's female (therefore acting a certain specific way to fool the lich). Oh by the way, there's a wizard casting a spell on Séje, here's his biography. OK, a paladin and wizard are fighting a lich together, I gotcha. But wait, there's arrows! We forgot to mention we have an archer hanging around. Here's his biography.

I feel like I'm being conned and can't keep up. I don't understand the full picture of this scene, but things are happening before I can process them. I can't form any expectations for what might happen, because something new is constantly showing up. It's going very quickly, yet so slowly at the same time because of all the pauses to explain someone's backstory or how some metal armor was made.

Lyen was, due to a lack of a better term, wholly unremarkable in nearly all conceivable aspects save for his marksmanship.

So the only solitary fact I know about this guy is.... he's an archer. Much like all I know about Timaeus's personality is that he's a wizard. And the paladin is left-handed. I can't even cheer for these characters, they're nothing but hollow archetypes. I'd cheer for the villain, but he's so ordinary too.

So yes, I did read on to the end. I discovered the point to all this. It's detached because it's just a game. The characters are supposed to be undeveloped. The purple prose is intentional because it's meant to be a parody of over-the-top fantasy stories. With the nihilistic twist that the epic battle becomes an anticlimax thanks to a few dice rolls.

I see what the author's trying to do here. Clever. But does it really improve the story? If this weren't in the Writeoff, I would've stopped reading 1/3 through and never seen it. That's how bored I was. I'm not gonna last long enough to reach the punchline, especially if I have no idea that any punchline is coming.
#70 ·
· on The Vase in the Woods
I like stories in diary form. I think they're great to convey the feelings of a character and giving a glimpse of the world to the reader.

This story doesn't quite get there, in my opinion.

The beginning is great, and really hooked me in thinking we were going to see a kid slowly descend into insanity and despair as his family and the world around him broke apart.

We did get some of that, yeah, but early on it ramped up and went off the rails. I was on board, because I wanted to see where you would take it, but then the pace kept getting faster and faster and we didn't get to dwell on what was happening.

You got something good here, but don't rush to the ending. Take your time and the story will be better for it.
#71 · 1
· on When We Yearn
This is an interesting way to take things, and demonstrated the author's ability to write from a myriad of perspectives. Kudos to you for pulling this off.

I very much like that you personified the void, saving it for last was a great way to do things. Not usually my preferred genre, but I enjoyed this in spite of that, meaning that it's definitely praiseworthy.

Thanks for the (slightly saddening) read.

#72 ·
· on Chasing the Dragon · >>horizon
Woot! This is a good one. I like the fantasy multicultural society, and I love seeing the hazards of recovery from addiction portrayed from the perspective of a dragon, ordinarily among the most powerful creatures in fantasy literature. Thumbs way up, Author.

Small plaint: I’d suggest you choose a more creative name than Draconia, which seems a bit too obvious (unless you’re intending a reference I am not getting).
#73 · 2
· · >>horizon
Actually, so long as time hasn't been called on submissions you can go in and edit your entry to fix any discovered typos and whatnot. I know because I've done it numerous times in the past.


Yet somehow there are always a few left. -.-
#74 ·
· on Sisyphus · >>PaulAsaran >>Monokeras
Poor Drzbl...

The intro made me have a few doubts, there must be a better way to dish out that exposition because as it stands right now there are several paragraphs that could be woven more naturally in the rest of the story, but I understand you wanted the enmity between Reds and Blues to be established early on.

Another aspect I feel could be improved is the way Zolfran comes to the decision of doing some extreme landscaping. I can see how the scaling events slowly chipped away at his resolve until he decided to kill several birds with one stone, but I feel this could hve had much more impact had we gotten to read about how he was feeling, what he thought, how he felt his reaolution waver and how he may be failing thise who came before.

On that note, several parts--specially at the beginning--felt dry since they were just chunks of "This is happening, now this is happening. Then this". That's not bad per se, but it's one of the things that made the intro feel slightly less catchy.

Other than that, however, I loved the story. I liked the characters, they felt sufficiently real and was invested in them, and I liked the diplomatic resolution to the conflict.

Good job.
#75 ·
· on Fortune
I came back because I thought about other things that may be seen as flaws but I wanted to defend them nonetheless.

There are many plotholes in the story.
We don't know why they are on this boat, what have forced them to live like this.
It is not very explained how they could sustain their primary needs.
It is also not explained how they can repair the ship while it's still sailing (seems higly improbable with our technology).

So why these don't harm the story you may ask?
Because it is not the focus of the story. The story focus on characters and it has many things to tell about them. Plotholes become a problem when the story doesn't have much to say but here, it is not the case, because these plotholes aren't connected to the characters' actions and decisions. Moreover, it's easy enough to fill them with the small hints spread here and there, they aren't the core of the story.

That should be enough but I may come back once more if I find something else relevant to add.
#76 · 1
· on My Little Portal · >>Ritsuko >>Ritsuko
I feel as though I was invited to go skinny dipping in an existential pool, only for it to be drained as I started to get in.

I like what you have going here, at least what I could gather, but the theme of transhumanism/time travel or whatever other mechanic was involved with the portals never really goes anywhere. It's brought up but ee don't get what is the point.

Now, don't get me wrong, I really like your style but be it a lack of time, or just a creative block that prevented you from taking this story to its fullest, it did prevent me from liking this more than I did.
#77 · 1
· on Skyward
First off, since it is Military and Russia, you could have bother adding a few more words of description early on?
I find some issues with the punctuation, even if I guess it is less of a problem.
if the voice is identifying itself, the lack of tag kind of cancles itself out.
On the other hand, even if it can be acceptable to have Action in a Dialogue paragraph, but this does require a correct connection between the Dialogue and the Action taking place.
“Prepare the radar-homing missiles?”
Pause. “Negative. For now, we shall just look.”

This does however not work.
#78 ·
· on Endings · >>Zaid Val'Roa
I have mixed feeling about this one. And I don't really know how to rate it. Let's try nonetheless.

One thing to mention before starting, there are couple of typos and BBCode errors but that won't be held against it. We all make some and it didn't make the read difficult.

The story relates the last days of an old man who decide to end his life instead of letting his mind, and thus his being, slowly drifting into oblivion, because of Alzheimers. He has witnessed what it has done to his wife and didn't want to experience the same.
The story manages to convey what it needs to make it work. The writting, the pace, the dialog, everything is neat and well handled. Moreover, I love when a character makes a life-changing decision, sticks to it and explains why he has made this choice. I felt a bit sad at the end for the poor man.

However, it's a story I've read and seen multiple times elsewhere and this one doesn't add anything. It doesn't take another perspective, it doesn't explore new horizons.

So I really don't know what I should do with it. With what the story wanted to do, it did good but with nothing new to add to a topic already seen many times, that doesn't help it to shine.

And because I have a hard time to explain my mind, I'll leave it up to a grade, even if I usually think they are meaningless and lazy. It is a solid 7/10 for me.
#79 · 1
· on The Greatest Challenge of All · >>georg
Starting off my reading!

To be honest, I was kinda prepared to hate this just because it's about writer's block; I can think of few better ways to signal a lack of creative inspiration in a story. But for the most part it ended up winning me over. Nicely done!

Primarily, that's because the comedy landed. Not all the individual jokes did, but I can definitely appreciate the sharp sense of comic timing here, along with solid lines like "There were a few million reasons to panic". Every scene's got something to smile at, and it keeps the pacing fast and furious. Mostly that works to your advantage — the montage-like effect of some of Benton's insurance-scam ideas, and the fact that a joke falling flat doesn't leave a long wait before the next one lands — although I do find myself wishing that the overall flow was a little smoother; there are some time-skips that feel a little disorienting, and the ultimate solution (the babysitting thing) feels like it swings in out of nowhere. As long as I'm critiquing, while I was seeing signs of callback humor (a good sign) in elements like the elderly lady pulling out her checkbook, there were a few callbacks which didn't seem like they quite connected, and a few elements left dangling. I would have liked to see some setup for the skydiving thing, for instance, and for Benton ordering his physical. I don't think you need to ever explicitly say that he's out for insurance fraud (and credit to you for not doing so), but there should be something in the early conversation with Murray that at least plants the seed of the idea. In hindsight, actually, I think my complaint about flow largely boils down to that lack of seed-planting.

Structurally, it also seems weird that your last three scenes cut completely away from our protagonist/viewpoint character Benton, and wrap the story entirely without his POV. Don't get me wrong, I think the ending works, it just feels a little off to abandon him like that. (And especially with the sibling — who only showed up midway through the story. If the conversation was with, say, Murray or one of the ex-wives, it would at least give you a bookend feeling with a callback to the beginning.)

Tier: Strong
#80 ·
· on Sisyphus · >>Monokeras
Funny thing; the moment I read about red and blue planets and their current state, I correctly guessed where this was going. I can only assume there were survivors thanks to certain... shall we call them myths?

All in all, I enjoyed this. While not written to be 'fun,' I can't help but think creating this otherwordly culture was enjoyable. I certainly enjoyed reading about it. It may not have been the most emotional story I've read – I concur with >>Zaid Val'Roa on the "this happened, then this happened" complaint – but in terms of concept I fully approve.

That said, I don't like Zolfran's decision, or at least the way he reached it. It seems to me like it would take a lot more than the things that have happened here to lead to that kind of conclusion. When you consider the consequences of his actions and the legacy of these people, I find it ludicrous that engineering and Zoroas would so quickly agree to them. I think that hurts this story more than anything else.

Still, not a bad story on the whole.
#81 · 1
· on Inevitability · >>Orbiting_kettle >>AndrewRogue
I enjoyed this, but felt that a lot more could have been said in regard to the plot. The idea was clever, but who is this man? We eventually learn his motivation, as simple as it is, but how is he able to keep on doing what he does? What makes him special? Why is he so determined to achieve his goal? How does being repeatedly killed not drive him insane? And why does God need a guard?

If he's been sitting in the tower since time immemorial, and doesn't need to leave, why does he make it accessible? He doesn't receive visitors, so why not completely destroy or block off the entrance, and prevent the risk of attack? That and the need of a guard stationed outside. Also, why is God so vulnerable? If he has the capacity to create all life, surely he can destroy also? I don't know if your version of God makes references to something that I'm unfamiliar with, but I'd assume that if we operated on Old Testament lore, we would have to assume that God (and his archangels), are capable of some pretty heavy destruction. The idea of a mortal, who will take thousands of attempts to kill Beylke, who is only an agent of God, killing the creator himself is a very tall order. In my mind, if Beylke were a tiger, God would be an apache helicopter made of adimantium. How many tries will it take to kill him? And unlike Beylke, can't God just erase his attacker?

The amount of questions the story raised in my head, whether some might have answers I'm missing because I'm silly or not, stopped me from being able to enjoy this as much as I wish I could have. As I've said, the ideas in the story are interesting, also, the action and dialogue both play out very nicely. The repetition mechanic the author used is well executed also, although I misread the third version at first and thought he had died of six stab wounds again, silly me.

This is an enjoyable fic, all in all, purely for the quality of the writing and storytelling, the narration, descriptions, dialogues, and many of the story elements are strong, the writer is definitely great at projecting a scene. If details had been added which served to answer some of my questions, and put my mind at rest over what I'm overthinking and what just sounds plain impossible, I would definitely read a longer version of this, consider me intrigued.

Thank you for giving me something enjoyable to read, it was good food for thought, and helped me to try and get my head into another universe for a while. Very much liked the author's writing style.

#82 ·
· on Drier Than Gin · >>All_Art_Is_Quite_Useless
The strongest point of this story is definitely the characters. I loved them, their personnality, their interactions. It was really well paced.
First lines of Mr. Beaumont reminded me of Jonathan Jonah Jameson and I laughed at his conversation with Annie.

For the rest, I don't know. Because the story seems to mainly rely on the characters, there's nothing much else to get, or at least, I didn't get it. We don't know Teddy's choice. It feels a bit incomplete? Not exactly incomplete, nor unfinished. I don't really know how to say it.

But still, it was solid writting, so it will go high.
#83 · 1
· on Tarda Furor
According to Google Translate, "Tarda Furor" is Latin for "slow to anger" — and it is also Spanish for "it takes a while," which unfortunately is kind of how I feel about this story. :\

I think you've got the core of something interesting here, author. This takes a chance on narrative structure which for the most part pays off; the repetition does its job in building a sense of weight. I'm less enthralled with the way that it suddenly shifts eight segments from the end, especially given the speed of its transformation to its final form. This is also pleasantly readable for a dramatic monologue, with a lot of details and characterization that don't seem out of place in the speech … but that too really starts to fragment near the end, and to me it felt like it crossed the line of overwrought once it started with the lengthy barrage of questions.

Mostly, though, this needs trimming. It only weighs in at 3400 words right now, so it might sound odd to suggest cutting it further, but at its current length it feels padded. The deliberate repetition of "You were there" is one thing, but this piece just keeps hammering over and over on its core emotional note of the knight's struggle with his failure. Past a certain point, continuing to explore those doubts adds nothing new, and even feels like it detracts from the weight of what you've established, because hearing it over and over just started numbing me to the idea.

A few nitpicks on specific prose choices that really threw me:

But mere wood can not hold out against such heaving foes. When it started to buckle, they faltered. You did not. You held strong, I watched with awe as you stood there, like the mighty oak against the monsoon.

Uh, maybe not the best analogy, given that you've just finished describing how wood failed …

I watched them drag your body to the grand cathedral. They cried, like children who had just lost their mothers, their howling echoed off the stone walls of the city. The streets ran red. I remember watching as they all fled, trying to escape.

What just happened here? I'm confused. Apparently "you"s friends retrieved his body and held a funeral procession … and then suddenly massacre? But "you" isn't dead? Why are they mourning then, and why are they dragging the body of a not-dead person?

Anyway, this has promise. Tighten it up (certainly to ~3000; probably even to 2.5k) and give it a little more polish.

Tier: Almost There
#84 ·
But I have no posts in that entire contest, do I? I skipped that one.

Maybe there was an early post telling ponies I had to skip that happened to be randomly >>'d, then. Weird.
#85 ·
· on The Vase in the Woods · >>Zaid Val'Roa
I'm sorry if this feels harsh, author, but having a typo in the very first sentence is a bit off-putting, and having multiple in the first paragraph is discouraging. I understand that on a deadline there will be mistakes, but having them in the very first lines doesn't make the best impression with the reader. Even if you don't have time to proofread everything, you should make sure your opening paragraph is error-free at least.

Unfortunately, I couldn't really get into this story. I appreciated what it was trying to do, but the execution didn't end up eliciting much emotion. I agree with Zaid that you rushed your execution towards the end. There was a little bit of time for horror to build, but not much. The narrative voice also didn't change over time as the narrator experienced more hardships, which would have added much more depth. I think adding in more events to show how the world is falling apart would help you a lot, and you should definitely emphasize her despair more before you drop the bomb that she's planning suicide. Given the context that she's been doing this for ten thousand years, it makes sense, but with a time gap that huge the audience has no sense of how she's changed emotionally over that time. You should probably throw in diary entries at somewhat exponential dates that illustrate her descent into hopelessness more. For now, it seems a bit out of the blue, and with something as serious as suicide you should take more care with your execution.

Overall, I think this is a great idea. The cycle presented by the story is very creative. The presentation is what needs a bit of work to really shine.
#86 ·
· · >>PaulAsaran >>GroaningGreyAgony
You can edit submissions before the deadline, absolutely. What I was questioning is whether prompts were editable.

… we should probably just ask >>RogerDodger about that one.
#87 ·
Ooooh. This is what I get for skimming.
#88 ·
I have not directly edited prompts, but I have deleted and resubmitted them without trouble before the submission deadline.
#89 ·
· on Hell is other people · >>Fenton
a few odly chosen words, or plain missmatches for the purpose.
#90 ·
· on Miskatonic Electronics
I don't know whether to be highly amused or ask this guy where I can get that info.

All in all, an entertaining little romp into dark arts ridiculousness. I might have preferred something with more purpose behind it, but I'm not one to ignore a perfectly good bit of dark comedy.
#91 · 1
· on There's a Hole in My Chest · >>Chris
I very much liked this and I can very easily summarise why. It's funny, well paced, the joke doesn't get old, and I feel that there's a lesson in it all. The characters feel very representative of real life, if a little exaggerated, but this story makes it work.

Hope this one does well!

#92 · 1
· on There's a Hole in My Chest · >>Chris
Ah, the lunacy of normalcy in the face of the unexplainable.

There could have been a brief scene where the man with the hole in his chest attempts to disbelieve the normalcy and touches upon the horrifying reality of the situation only to put it out of his mind for a moment.

Or for a brief time noticing just how many people are walking around with random tentacles and crab claws attached to them.

But the possibility of a perfectly sane human escaping the limits of the normal might have hurt the story.

Oh, a doctor would have probably mentioned about the hole slicing through the spinal cord before commenting on the structural integrity of the sternum.
#93 ·
· on There's a Hole in My Chest · >>Chris
My first thought was that it'll now be easy for him to sneak food into the movie theatre. I don't know what to make of that.

Anyway, this was an interesting read. I'm not a fan of comedies that rely on the characters' blatant disregard of factual evidence to keep the story going--and boy, did this story had that in spades--but since the focus remained on the man's plight, I was engaged all the way through.

Plus, I think that the moral of making the best of your situation, no matter how bizarre, is something everyone should take to heart.

If I were to take it a step further, I would have liked to see MC trying to think of practical applications to his new circumstances, much like my aforementioned theatre food-sneaking.

How about installing a surveillance camera and spy on unsuspecting people? Or representing your love for materialism by using the space to store your wallet? Or hey, just keep your valuables there, what mugger would think of looking there?

You can tell I'm having fun thinking of all the possibilities, and I think any story capable of doing that should be commended.
Post by Zaid Val'Roa , deleted
#95 ·
· on Hell is other people · >>Fenton
I, too, rue how society hasn't reached the point where social interactions aren't confined to the strictly necessary and even then, just amongst those who seek it.

I've found that hiding behind a mask of faux-interest with traces of eager proactiveness works just fine.

But I digress. This was an engaging character analysis about a situation that is oddly specific and yet remains relatable in its absurdity.
#96 · 2
· on The Northernlit Forge · >>Chris >>Ranmilia
The last story I read took a risk with its form which I think paid off. Here's the opposite: in some ways the narrative structure here is pushing boundaries, but I felt like that experiment just ended up confusing me and tangling up my reading. Good for you for taking chances — the Writeoffs are the place to do it. But while I have to admire your daring, the truth is that risks are, well, risky.

Your risk was to overcomplicate the narrative timeline. From the start of the story, we've got:
1) A lonely old man Zarund looking at a book
2) Him remembering telling stories from that book to his son and daughter, setting off the quotes with italics
3) Scene break
4) Zarund speaking to his teenage son, using the same memory-italics as 2, and then framing a new storytelling structure to recurse into while introducing his grandchildren
5) Scene break
6) Zarund interrupting the previous scene, and then telling a story to himself NOT in memory-italics; and outside the narrated story, mentioning grandchildren with no hints of memory-italics, implying that this is when the story-present is set
(Note that we learn later that that's not the case.)
7) More italicized quotes that don't appear to be memory-italics this time

At this point we're three scenes in, and neither the scene breaks nor the story formatting are giving me coherent information. We're diving in and out of stories, the narrative is ignoring the scene breaks, the breaks seem to mark time skips except when a major time skip happens without a break, the italicized quotes have two different implications … and then we also start timeskipping around with his Cephris memories, and it gets worse. About halfway through I pretty much gave up on trying to figure out which of the Zarunds we see was "present" Zarund (probably around the time I read the contextual clue which ruled out the grandchildren-scene as being set in the present).

Once I stopped trying to make sense of it and let the story wash over me, it got a lot easier to appreciate. That early exposition didn't help, but the family interaction was strong, and I like the core legend and how you call back to that rhyme at the end, even if it feels like the actual resolution is left hanging . The late revelation of the narrator's backstory felt like it landed despite my giving up on making sense of things, the mythology is cool and gets me engaged in the universe, and you've got some solid character arcs and pacing. I want to read more of this, and I feel a lot more positive about it in hindsight than I do while I was reading.

Really, this would be vying for top contention if it weren't for two things: how tangled the narrative layers are, and how much of a slow, disorienting start this has with the lonely old man dribbling out morsels of exposition. It's kind of riding that AT/S border for me, but right now, it feels like it needs some significant restructuring (or at least simplifying and flattening, not dodging into stories within flashbacks within memories) to fire on all cylinders.

Tier: Almost There
#97 · 1
· on Agent of a Foreign Power
Quick pre-review note, while I'm getting started reading this:

16:42, April 23, 2054. Interesting. It’s not August yet. I shouldn’t be alive for another three months.

Author, how much would you have to edit to make this your opening? Because that last sentence is a fantastic opening-paragraph line, and right now it's buried under four paragraphs of exposition that seem to me like they could be worked in later.
#98 · 1
· on Chasing the Dragon · >>Ritsuko >>QuillScratch >>horizon
I love the way addiction is portrayed here. Giving a real-world problem a fantasy veneer is a good way to separate it enough from reality to help readers let go of preconceptions and see the emotions as the author would have them be seen, rather than through the lense of our society's collective understanding of what this-or-that "should" look/feel like. It's a charming story which doesn't try to get too dark and depressing despite its subject matter, and I think that's in its favor; you could've easily played up the war angle, shown less draconic flailing and more draconic despair, etc., but instead the story stays basically character-centric and optimistic at its core. I like it.

One struggle I had early on was with the inconsistent body nomenclature; it took me a while to figure out that this was just a dragon, and not either a human dreaming of being a dragon, or a dragon in a human's body. Going back and forth with hands vs. claws was the culprit; I'd recommend standardizing to unambiguously non-human language. Beyond that though, good stuff.
#99 ·
· on The Vase in the Woods · >>shinygiratinaz
I think the typos may have been intentional, what with this being a diary written by a twelve year old. But yeah, I can see that being off-putting.
#100 · 1
· on Agent of a Foreign Power · >>All_Art_Is_Quite_Useless >>Ranmilia >>TitaniumDragon
Very nice. This tells a solid tale, makes good use of its core premise, and in general was an enjoyable and easy-to-follow story. I've found an early piece against which the rest of my reading will be judged. Especially nice is the way that ghosting is unpacked, its various implications both explained and invested with meaning by the way we see them affect the protagonist.

As for what can be fixed here ... the very first thing I would edit here would be to smooth out the Shangri-la encounters, probably involving adding significant context via wordcount. While the swan and kelpie are both vividly written, I just don't understand the point of the encounter. It comes across as a trap, but Tyler's final reaction definitely doesn't paint it as one. I don't understand whether the swankelpiewoman was trying to actually harm him or not, or whether she intended to but changed her mind. I don't understand why he didn't die after drowning, given the server rules. I'm not even sure I understand why he went out there in the first place, knowing how dangerous the place was; this really is crying out for some introspection about knowing the risks but needing to engage anyhow — or else some exposition about how Shangri-la was more dangerous than he remembered. Similarly, Tyler's ex shows up with absolutely no foreshadowing, which robs his decision of the vast majority of its punch — the rest of which is largely drained away by the fact that he recognizes it as a trap. While those scenes were engaging during my readthrough, they seem totally hollow in hindsight; thinking back on them further, I'm not even certain that they gave me any understanding of the ways in which Shangri-la is dangerous.

But up until that final arc, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and even with the stumbles in Shangri-la, this closes strong. (Not a fan of the abruptness of that last paragraph, but the scene around it is solid.) Thank you.

Tier: Top Contender