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One Shot · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
#201 · 2
· on Coup: Last Chance · >>Orbiting_kettle
Hahahaa! Called it two paragraphs in. But then, I love these kinds of games.

For the confused, which is probably everyone who hasn't played it, this is a game of The Resistance told in character and played completely straight, even down to having a beeping timer. The Captain and the Accountant ("Numbers") are the two traitors.

Great gimmick! Uh, not so great as an entry submitted to a writing competition, though. As indicated by the above comments, if you don't get the gimmick, there's nothing to see here. (And it lacks the out-of-character ending typical of game pieces, so you definitely won't get the gimmick unless you know the game or look in the comments.) If you do get it... well, there still isn't anything to it other than the novelty/humor of the gimmick.

Thanks for writing, author. You brought a smile to my face! (And a low vote to my ranking, but I figure the smile was more important to you.)
#202 ·
· on One Shot to Save the World
Savage. But spot on. Another entry in the "had a worldbuilding concept the author felt was cool; didn't tell a story" genre.

Not a lot to see here, unfortunately. It's pure backstory, and even then, it doesn't really explain why or how the events described happened. "For some odd reason" isn't very satisfying when background explanations are the order of the day.

Still, author, thanks for writing, and congratulations on completing an entry! This seems like you might be relatively new to writing? We hope to see you back - try telling us a story about something cool that happens in your world next time!
#203 ·
· on One Shot to Save the World
Well, I have fair grasp on who could’ve written that.

There’s little to say here. It reads like a mishmash between many concepts: magic, sapient animals, post apocalyptic world, technological damages, war, and so on. But it's like you've put all these ingredients in a shaker and wished hard for something good to come out of it, but the blend is almost tasteless.

The story is almost stark naked in its concept and very naive. It could be an aesop or a children’s story, but even to reach that it would need significant upgrade work. As such, it’s what it looks like: a thread of hardly cobbled together concepts.
#204 · 1
· on The Great Filter
Sssssoooooo yeah, the Earth entry is the actual story, it's about 100 words long, and then there are six other anecdotes. This seems like a very questionable fit to the format requirements, since one could easily write any smaller or larger number of original planets to fit an arbitrary desired length. It certainly does not fulfill the spirit of the requirements in my eyes, since the original planet sections have only tangential relevance at best. For that reason, I'm afraid I'm going to have to auto-bottom this in my voting. No offense or hard feelings towards the author, though!

As far as the actual content goes... well, the snips are mostly intriguing, but the clipped format prevents getting too much into them or treating them as fully fledged stories. And the Earth one, well, I straight up disagree with the conclusion. 1700+ sapient AIs (can they not reproduce or program more themselves?) made it past the Great Filter and into space! That's a success! Yeah, maybe the fleshbags went extinct, but so did the Neanderthals and we don't really mourn them.

Anyway, I wish this was more connected and less dry. There's room for an overarching narrative here that brings the snips together, or a more inviting format, like a conversation between some of the AIs on the subject, that might allow conflict and resolution and all that good stuff. I'm guessing the author knows this already, though; this has the marks of "experiment for the sake of doing it." Thanks for writing, anyhow.
#205 ·
· on Drip
Yeah, same as the rest here. The end says comedy, but the preceding proceedings didn't bring me there. Quite barebones, things go wrong because the universe hates Oliver I guess, Oliver tries to fix them, gets frustrated, and that's all, folks.

Make it pop! If it's supposed to be funny, make it really funny! If it's supposed to be serious, give us more tone and detail and a better conclusion!

As is, this lands around the mid-tier garden of meh somewhere. Thanks for writing, though!
#206 ·
· on A Journey in the Dark · >>Monokeras
Hm. Very gimmick reliant, and forces a reread. I can't really knock too many points for that in mini rounds though. I'm with Ratlab on distinctiveness, and TitaniumDragon on how the end could be improved.

This is certainly the best of the dialogue-only entries this round. Difficult for me to evaluate beyond that, because its humor misses my personal tastes. The jokes are funny, ish, but also put me off a bit on the whole. Like, yeah, the ending recontextualizes it and you go back and find all the jokes, but that also means all the jokes rely on "LOL THEY ARE ACTUALLY SPERM!" for their humor.

Mid-tier-ish for me, in the end, no really strong feelings either way. Thanks for writing!
#207 ·
· on Shot Through the Heart · >>MrExtra
Hmmm, if anything, I think the twist here is given away too early. Even if I wasn't already looking for it thanks to comments on other entries, "Cadet Flowers" is a pretty big tip of the hand. Then the white and red color callout in the next paragraph should be enough confirm it to any reader looking for twists. And, as our Overlord points out, everyone should be on MAXIMUM TWIST GUARD in Writeoff because they're so overwhelmingly common. (I actually want to start taking off mental points just for using that format and relying on a twist, but then it sinks like 50% of the field... I should come back after reading everything and count just how many there are, hm.)

Anyway! All that is to say that I agree with the others. The writing here seems strong enough that it shouldn't have to rely on the twist. Put it up front and spend more time on jokes and running with your concepts instead of trying to hide them. As is, it's cute, but spends so much time hiding that I feel like it doesn't get to go anywhere with the premise. Somewhere in the middle pack, probably a bit above average? Thanks for writing!
#208 ·
· on The Vendor at the Stall · >>PaulAsaran
Semipoetic children's lit form, huh.
Mr. Cormerick with his cane read the sign at the vendor's side, with its glittery glitter and silvery silver:

"Why, only what it means!" the vendor declared with a grin.

Right here, two awkward strikes, I'm already shaken out. When you step into the arena of form devices, that means your form needs to be on point. Every typo, every missing punctuation mark, every awkward rhyme or adjective that the audience might let slide, they're all getting amplified because you're telling the audience to read your precise words closely and try to savor every morsel. ... And then the rest of the piece mostly drops the form elements anyway, so, ech, what was the point of doing that in the start?

"It's intended as children's lit" isn't an excuse one can just pull out to cover for simplistic writing. I think I had some words on that a few goes back, not gonna repost it all here though because this is much less up that particular alley. Still applies though - writing actual children's lit is very difficult and a totally different judging arena.

Yeah, >>AndrewRogue already covered that and more, now that I'm moving on to the content. Ball dude's carney game is weak, he could stand to take some lessons from Mr. Gaunt's shop of Needful Things. What happens if little Zack scrunches up his face and says "But I was thinking of my dream, that's how I took the shot! In that moment the ball was my sergeant's stripes!" Or even just "No, I definitely wanted to join the army, I didn't care too much about the ball because I didn't believe you!" I wind up agreeing with Zack the least, and Ross the most.

Overall this was not a very effective piece for me. It seems to be option selecting between very lofty and very modest goals: an effective Aesop, children's lit, rhyme and form devices, no form devices, something about goals... I can admire lofty aspirations, but they have to be backed up, y'know? I'd be much more behind the piece if it stuck to its guns on form or devices, or went for a more thoughtful line on the messaging that could respond to "Uh, disagree?" As is, mid to low for me. But thanks for writing!
#209 ·
The prelims is almost finished and there is still a bunch of stories with a low review count.

One Shott has only two

Atlantis 2050, From Above and Coup: Last Chance have only three.

Go show them some love. Also, only 16 entrants out of 30 have, at least, done one review. Ditto, go show your love.

And finally, the poll is still open here.
#210 ·
· on One shot
I agree with the two previous comments. I'm not sure whether the author is fluent in English.

If you are not, welcome to the Writeoff! You might find it helpful to look at the other stories here and to read online to find out about English punctuation and grammar. Right now, this story is difficult to read because it doesn't use quotation marks, but I can still understand it.

A bigger problem is that it is actually three different parts, and they do not flow together very well. I don't understand the fighting in the first part very well, and I'm not sure how much time passes between the first and third parts. What happened to Bo? What is the central point of Ai's story, and how should I feel? I think the background ideas about the drug are interesting, but I am not very interested in the specific characters and scenes that the story talks about.

This story is probably not going to do very well in the voting, but that's okay, too, especially if you are new. Thank you for writing! I hope to see you improve!

(If the writer is fluent in English, I have no idea why you would choose to write in this style. Please use standard formatting and punctuation, it makes your story much easier to read!)
#211 · 1
· on Plug'n'Suicide · >>Kritten
Have you seen this bloody story on Writeoff.me though? Don’t you think it a bit odd that we hate these bloody stories going on and on about suicide in questionable taste, while we ourselves keep writing them every single round? How exactly do we know if they're intended as a joke? Well, we don't, and we can't. I guess we can only see the response they get from the people. It’s the people who eat this stuff up, remember? They’re the ones interested in a story like this. Anyways, I’ll be off now. Gotta get to work.

I still think it's fucked up, though, given the current circumstances our website is in.
#212 ·
· on Atlantis 2050 · >>Monokeras
Seconding all of this.

The prose here is clunky, and so is the story. I can see what the author wanted to do, but I'm not sure it really works - or that it was a great direction to try to go in the first place. There's just not much to it beyond the exposition, and focusing on the exposition leads to awkward questions like "how exactly are a handful of neutral nations able to research, fund and build a massive, successful Mars capable ship while also keeping it secret from warring superpowers?"

I guess "war sucks" is in fact a pretty universal message, though, so that's a point up on the other aesops of the round. Thanks for writing!
#213 ·
· on White Savior Narrative
So this is... an ex-Nazi vampire armed with nanotech going back in time to save MLK? Interesting crack idea. Unfortunately it's obscured much more than it needs to be, so I spent most of the time confused and not really absorbed in what was going on. >>Monokeras
and >>AndrewRogue cover it nicely, and I'll add "the burnt brown of his otherwise-milk skin" as another point of confusion.

Even with trying to keep myself on MAXIMUM TWIST GUARD, the nanotech comes out of nowhere. I thought the device was going to be something vampire-related, a fang or wooden stake kind of deal. Is the guy even a vampire? If not, the reference to blood drinking really threw me.

And... even knowing the twist and rereading, it's not a terribly interesting story as presented. Seems to be of the school that rides or dies on the suspense of not knowing exactly what's going on.

Intriguing ideas, maybe the most potential of the round, but troubled execution. Somewhere in the middle pack for me... probably winding up a bit above average, we'll see. Thanks for writing!
#214 · 1
· on Off the Top · >>Monokeras >>AndrewRogue >>AndrewRogue
At last, #32, the end of the list for me. .... And it's ANOTHER meta gaming deal? Huh. Interesting that we have two. Well, my comments for this are pretty much the same as for that, but I don't want to just up and spoil which one that was so hrm.

This is a gimmick. It's funny once you get the gimmick, and not very fun if you don't. The skeleton otherwise is... skeletal, so once you get the gimmick and get your laughs from it, there's not too much else to see. The plot really is just "two guys play a card game and one of them wins." This is a bit better than the other game one, it has some references that resonate a bit more generally, but still on the weak side as an overall entry. Gets its smiles and takes its leave. Thanks for writing, though!
#215 ·
· on Redundancy
I can’t really bash this story. Lands mid-slate.

It’s very dark — I am completely at loggerheads with one of its cornerstones, namely the tenet that we are replaceable. This is completely false to facts, since we are all unique. Diversity counts, not similarity. It's from the uniqueness of a single individual that new species arise. It's unique people in space-time that produce ground-breaking theories. What if? What if Einstein died at a young age and another boy received the science book that made him a sucker for it? Etc. So yeah, there’s probably a whole slew of people whose lives won’t matter at present, but you know the butterfly effect, right? Who can tell what the consequences of the slightest event can be in the millennia to come?

Another thing here that put me off is the forced emotional content. It's very gushy and feels imposed. As if you were gunning for wresting tears from our eyes. This is a bit ham-fisted; a more sensible, delicate but touching approach to Alzheimer's was written a few rounds ago (and won, as far as I remember — that story about the girl in a station meeting his father who doesn't recognise her).

However, as I said, I can’t bash your fic: even if it doesn't give the right answers IMHO, it poses a bunch of interesting questions and challenges the reader.
#216 ·
· on Shot Through the Heart
Addendum: after finishing the field and counting them up, giving half credit for twists that weren't too central, I count... 16 shocking twists out of the 32 entries. Wow. I actually thought I was exaggerating and it would be fewer. Oh, and to make this post not completely unrelated to this story, it did indeed make comfortably above average when all was said and done.
#217 ·
· on Coup: Last Chance
Missing the context meant that the whole discussion made little sense to me. This is not an indictment of the writing, as the dialogue was unobtrusive (see the missed context for promoting it to being fun) and you managed to give a different voice to each character, which is an interesting achievement considering each had very few lines.

Nothing much to add to what the others said. I needed >>Ranmilia to understand the story better, so if you decide to expand on this, keep that in mind. And thank you for having submitted it.
#218 ·
· on The Picture
Originality--overrated. You had a simple story and you told it well. I felt the awkwardness, the bitterness, Steven's hesitation. It flowed nicely. Good work!

I also don't think the reason for the separation is important. In a longer, more complex story, yes, it would matter. Here, I don't think so. This is the story of a single moment, an awkward, sad, frustrating moment. I think most people can feel the emotion whether they the know specific reason or not because this scene depicts something we've all experienced on some level or another.
#219 · 1
· on From Above · >>Misternick
This piece had a strange contradiction, with the descriptions being vivid even while the phrasing was occasionally wordy and unwieldy. For example, there was some redundant 'his line of work's at the beginning.

The description for McCool had a good chunk of character, even if I can't help but wonder at the name.

I did pick up at the end that McCool orchestrated the little performance at the end, but I was confused over just what happened and why.

The description at the end reads a little ambiguous. 'it exploded' could be either the target or the bullet like it was some sort of elaborate paintball prank or something, though then the bit about the fellow being a professional seems pretty strange. It seems more likely that he wants someone to bump off the lady, but we never get foreshadowing or a motive.

Still, a decent enough piece, despite my confusion over some points.
#220 ·
· on One shot
Combustion engine? Unless this is some alternate setting where there are other types of engines, this seems redundant.

The core idea of the world is interesting, and based off of plausible real-world advances.

A point of confusion in the first section. The guard is mentioned as being an 'impossible shade of blue' and then the next section is about genetic engineering, so I assumed that the two were linked.

Others have mentioned the nonstandard dialog attributions, so I won't belabor that. Despite it, I did like how you used body language to express characterization.

While the core concept is consequential, just the little bit we see doesn't have much emotional impact on the reader, so it is not as gripping as it could have been.
#221 ·
· on One Shot to Save the World
If this is so fundamental to the world's history, I'm surprised that college would be the first time they'd hear of this.

From one sentence to the next, we went from mutual apocalypse to the two sides working together to rebuild. This might have been a stronger story to focus on.

"For some odd reason" does not feel like a strong enough reason for the sudden convergent evolution of two separate species. You might be better served by invoking some higher level power or natural force.
#222 ·
· on The Last Shot · >>MLPmatthewl419
Agreed with >>TitaniumDragon that this would have been better if we'd had more of a sense of place or context. As is, we're kind of unmoored in trying to interpret this.

While the all dialog format did work to get the information across, it lost some depth and tone that fully descriptions might've provided.

I did like the fellow's epiphany - it was fun seeing his mental state shift. From there you could've either played it straight, had reality kick in, or gone for a third option like you did.

The foreshadowing meant that this didn't come as a complete surprise, but agreed that the last guy needs to work on his one liners.
#223 ·
· on One Chance
An exercise is nice prose (thought a bit excessive for my taste, it is at least consistently framed and maintained) that doesn't really achieve anything else, unfortunately. More than anything this feels like it is supposed to be the start of something, because there's nothing else to be grabbed on. No real character, no substantive narrative arc, and not even really any emotions to cling to because we don't know much about the situation except whatever baggage we choose to bring to it (which might be intentional, but still).
#224 ·
· on Redundancy
Hrm. .mrH

This doesn't really work for me. The emotional throughline just doesn't resonate with me. I think the narrator's digressions kinda mess with the flow, and I really don't buy the whole "redundancy" angle.

That said, the technicals are solid. Sorry I don't have a lot more to offer here, but I think all the above posters have some real meat for you!
#225 ·
· on The Last Shot · >>MLPmatthewl419
That fact that I can't be sure this is one character until the end of the first scene is a real problem and one that really cripples the whole story. Basically, I'm not sure -why- this entire story is dialogue or what it actually gains from this format. Characterization is also a bit troubled by this as, despite having a lot of dialogue from him, we still don't learn that much about him?

And then... I dunno. I have nothing against some comic darkness and expectation defying, but in this case it isn't really... satisfying? Amusing? It mostly just feels meanspirited. This ends up being a story about a dope who gets shot in the back of the head and dies, which is not really an enjoyable/entertaining ending.
#226 · 1
· on Laborious · >>Not_A_Hat
This is a beautiful take on the encounter between those two mythological heroes. It indeed relies on a somewhat in-depth knowledge of mythology, but to me it's a pro rather than a con: literature has also to be a way to expand one's culture. Besides Prometheus's and Heracles's myths are well worth being known.

I have little to say on the very competent prose. I thought the dialogue was right, but maybe slightly misplaced. I would've chosen a different theme of conversation, had I had to write this piece. But I would be at a loss to tell what off the top of my head, and I honestly cannot blame the author for choosing his own path.

In any case, I wouldn't be surprised if that fic medals. Last OF mini, we had Sisyphus; this round we have Prometheus. Who doubts that mythology can still provide a fertile loam for elegant stories to grow on?
#227 ·
· on One shot
First off, formatting. This has already been covered heavily by other commenters, so I’ll be brief. I had a hard time keeping track of who was speaking, or even if the sentence was being spoken at all due to the lack or quotation marks, and the flashback exposition in the middle didn’t help things any.

Beyond that the story was really three stories - even the first and last scenes didn’t have any links between them other than the people and I got more than a little lost along the way. I don’t know what’s going on in the first part other than some kind of explosion(?). There was also a massive tonal shift between the parts that prevented it from feeling coherent.

Keep it up, practice makes perfect.
#228 · 1
· on From Above · >>Misternick
Overall, the main problem is this does not feel like it comes together as a truly cohesive narrative. While we learn things about the characters, I don't think we really learn anything that contributes to the story. Things happen but we're really not given an opportunity to understand why, as it were. The setup is solid, I suspect, but you need to actually let the reader in on more of the meat.

Moreover, as far as twists go, this one doesn't really achieve anything. A good twist recontextualizes and improves an already awesome story. When you keep information from the reader it should be to enhance the impact of the remainder of the story. This twist... is cute, but it really doesn't actually do anything.
#229 · 1
· on Laborious · >>Not_A_Hat
Nice all around. Good dialogue, good idea. I wish a little more were going on (you get the implication of the conflict, but you don't really feel it).

Careful with your repititions and mirrored actions. While they can have uses, I'm not sure the ones I caught (quirking of eyebrows and repeated mention of the dark behind stars for eyes) actually contributed a lot by either being mirrored or repeated.
#230 ·
· on Tidying up
This setting swerved way too hard, such that I am no longer quite sure what it actually is. When you're doing fantasy settings, especially in limited space, you need to hammer things down quickly. Continuously upsetting reader expectations forces them to reimagine the world multiple times, and frankly, that distracts and detracts from the experience.

That said, I do like the core idea here (though the conclusion is weird and doesn't quite gel, IMO). This would probably work a lot better if it laid all its cards on the table from the start: high fantasy hoarders. Roll from there!
#231 · 1
· on One Shot, One Heart
I'm on the verge of passing out, so my thoughts in brief are that, compared to the other cupid story, this has slightly worse technicals, but slightly better content. The core conflict is more engaging and the characters are better realized, for all that the actual quality of the prose is a bit of a step down (I can maybe point to some examples later if you ask).

That said, I think I every so slightly favor this one in direct comparison.
#232 ·
· on One Shot, One Heart
It's a good story, well put together with good characters, but the whole thing felt kind of... mellow. I never really felt much tension. The highs and the lows were all pretty much in the same ballpark and so it felt like I drifted through this piece. I wasn't worried for her safety, or that she'd be discovered, or that anything bad was likely to happen. She wandered though this story and the dirt never seemed to cling to her cloths.

The actual shot happened so quickly and painlessly that I had to wonder if she was really that bad or if the bow came with an 'aim assist' feature that rendered her skill moot. Shooting something the size of a heart with a bow is hard from twenty yards if you're 'not that good'. If she's staying hidden and shooting I assume that she's much further away. She got it in one. Either way, I call either hacks or far more credit than she's giving herself.

Still, the malaise wore on me a bit. If things carry on in the same way as before, where she's complaining about stuff but doesn't seem to be actually struggling with anything, I'm apt to get bored and read something else despite the quality of the writing.
#233 · 1
· on Laborious · >>Not_A_Hat >>TitaniumDragon
I'm of two minds when it comes to the concept of this story. On the one hand, it is certainly a clever way of getting around the constraints of mini fiction be utilizing pre-existing characters from mythology. On the other hand, that same cleverness comes back to bite it terms of the deference I am willing to give the piece, because it is essentially Greek Mythology fan fiction. As a result, I feel the need to grade this story on a bit of a curve because the author has many of the aspects of story pre-built. In my mind, the difference between the story like this and a completely original fiction is akin to assembling a birdhouse with prefabricated parts from Ikea versus buying your own wood, nails, and making the birdhouse from scratch. The birdhouse from Ikea may be more beautiful and practical than most birdhouses made from scratch, but it's not really as impressive as something of comparable quality made from scratch. I'm sure someone could conjure up a response involving Dante's Inferno, Paradise Lost, or hell even Greek Mythology itself to discredit this kind of sentiment, but I would argue that in a contest where comparative merits between works of art are important, this sort of criticism is valid. Some people might also say I'm picking favorites by choosing to be harsher with this story than Off the Top, but they're WRONG .

What to say of the story itself outside of that factor, however? I suppose I'm not fully convinced on the characterization of Heracles. It's minor quibble, but from the onset, his short-lived narrative voice seems a lot more sentimental and thoughtful, more like a poet, than I would imagine the Heracles of legend to be. Not that I am advocating for portraying him as some sort of backwards barbarian, but by how the first person perspective is delivered, he's a bit more eloquent and formal than I feel he should be, and it makes him more difficult to contrast with the guile of Prometheus. Canonically, Hercules was never the smartest person, could be clever, but he was never a hero like Odysseus that mainly relied on his brainpower and tricks to do the work—much like Prometheus.

Another minor irk is Prometheus' comment mentioning Pandora and Epimetheus, which Prometheus somehow spins as an argument for giving up (or maybe it's his intention to provide a bad argument, hard to tell), which neglects to mention that marrying Pandora was a terrible idea that literally ruined the world and I'm not really sure Epimetheus was happier because of that. Prometheus also warned him about that, but I digress. The phrase "god's gift to men" also seems strangely anachronistic and out of place.

From the technical side of things, this story is engaging and has some nice little moments between the two characters, but it's far from flawless. I think relies a bit too heavy on action tagging the dialogue to get across the inflection and the action tags repeat themselves after a while. Lot of shaking heads, raising eyebrows, and shrugging going on here.

Additionally, if there were any particular line that would give away the identity of this author, it is the attempt to use a certain artsy line for repetition purposes. I'm about half-way on board for "the dark beyond the stars" line. It's an ambitious device that you wouldn't see a fledgling author attempt. The idea and the image behind it I think is good, but the verbiage still is not quite there for me to not roll my eyes a little every time I read it. It's sort of hammy in its current state.


The ideas behind the discussion between the two characters are fairly interesting. I can't say that the conclusions they come to is anything groundbreaking, but it's sort of nice in the simplicity of its ethos. The dialogue itself I think could stand to be a little sharper in some points, comes across as a little stilted by virtue of being too wordy, but communicates the ideas well enough and the emotions of the characters. People have brought forth the issue of the untagged dialogue back and forth being hard to follow, which I think maybe one proper noun and a little bit more attention from the reader can fix. I don't find it to be a major issue, but I do find that the talking heads don't give a lot of the beats of the story room to brief or really dwell on the importance of the dialogue.

I can't really say how this would read to someone who didn't know anything about Greek Mythology, though. I suspect they would be pretty confused.

So what did I think of the Ikea Birdhouse? Above average marks, certainly. Looks like a birdhouse, functions like a birdhouse, probably some nice birds living in it. The guy who made the birdhouse knew what he was doing. At the end of the day though, the really nice homemade birdhouses in the competition are a little more charming, I suppose.
#234 ·
· on Atlantis 2050

So yeah Cassius, I'm the one who authored this egregiously bad piece. I wanted to write two stories for this round, and had no real idea for the second one, so I started cobbling some ideas about a SciFi setup and brought up that thing out.

That wasn't very clever of me. It was also part of an experiment, see my first story retro for explanation.

I'd like to thank 'Drew for being unduly lenient and, as usual, apologies for the meh experience. Fortunately, it's only 750 words and won't have distracted you too much, and you'll have forgotten about it as soon as you've finished reading it. :) I am also happy only four commented; at least the others did not lose their time over this turd.

(And yeah Cass, Postman was a fluke.)
#235 · 5
· on From That Day Forth, God's Hand Was Orange · >>Monokeras
#236 ·
· on From That Day Forth, God's Hand Was Orange
>>Cold in Gardez
Seconded. I'm really sad for you HBAO. This really deserved to final.

Now I am eagerly waiting for your retrospective!
#237 ·
· on The Great Filter
Another one that should've made the finals, IMO. However, I'll concede that others might reasonably disagree.
#238 · 2
· on A Man is Dead
>>Cold in Gardez

So this was my shot for this round (hahaha).
Not really inspired by the prompt, I ended up going for something simple. One emotion, one character, one conflict. I was satisfied how it ended as a structure but that was all.
I think I should have focus more on the duality between the court and the man. This way, maybe you wouldn't have been confused by the guilt thing. The main idea was the guilt the man was feeling, not judging from an outside POV if he was really guilty. So all technical aspects didn't seem important to me.

Anyway, there isn't much to say for this simple story. I didn't think long about it but I thank you nonetheless for taking time to point out what was weak. I will sure spend more time thinking about what everyone said than what I've spent thinking about the story itself.
#239 · 2
· on Plug'n'Suicide
>>Not_A_Hat >>Cassius >>Fenton >>Monokeras >>AndrewRogue
Thanks for the input.

Made me chuckle. Have a +1.
#240 ·
· on From That Day Forth, God's Hand Was Orange
With the lengths of these comments, I was really thinking this was getting finalist at the very least.

Better luck next time, though.
#241 · 1
· on The Last Shot
Thanks for all your feedback. I'm gonna be honest here, I wrote this mostly to get used to the Writeoff style. But, being the idiot I am, I decided to write it while doing other stuff. Which means I lost my train of thought ever three-or-so lines. Hence, the missing gun during the resolution.

I agree that it desperately needed some context, which I will have to consider next time I write. I also should have chosen a different format than I did, but it was the easiest to use with the breaks I was doing. And it really suffered for it.

Furthermore, I wasn't sure what tone I was going for while writing, which made it suffer. I also attempted to make the main character a female, without saying it was a female, and it didn't work at all.

So, yeah, once again... thank you all for your feedback.
#242 ·
· on Vaccine
I see someone is a fan of Pratchett, what with those caps for Death and all that. I was half-thinking this was a Good Omens fanfic at the start.

I'm pretty much with >>Cold in Gardez
#243 · 1
· on Laborious · >>Not_A_Hat
You did well here. Making use of Prometheus and Hercules was a good choice; it allowed you to fit in a lot of implied backstory in a very small space. We know who these people are and what they are doing and why they are there, in the situation they're in, which gives you a lot more space for the actual plot.

Mythological characters can carry a lot of weight, and Prometheus has always been one of the most sympathetic of the Greek gods, seeing as he is on our side. Hercules is a man who often acted without thinking, but who also did mighty deeds and who sometimes did shit to piss people off.

I liked the overall arc of this - the discussion about making decisions and living one's life, set against such an epic background, works well. It accomplishes what it sets out to do, and we see some character development out of Hercules, as he makes his decision about what he wants to do and what he is willing to live with.
#244 ·
· on Theodicy
The idea is compelling, if not new. See, e.g., The Pin by Robert Bloch, which tackles the same idea, but on the side of death.

That being said, I love this concept, especially the idea that the creator’s own timeline comes to a halt as he writes the story of the world.

I love the execution somewhat less. Like >>Cold in Gardez I found some descriptions rather lengthy and unwieldy. Examples: It was all encompassing, the rest of the world blown away by it. or Between me and the head, there was only smooth stone, each grain of dust, each pebble and each little imperfection blown away eons before. (Note twice blown away). Also there are a slew of those sentences such as: I walked to where the man had been sitting, the wooden stick still there. where you connect two clauses, sometimes unrelated, by a comma. You should vary your style, because it strikes me as a bit boring at length.

But nevertheless, and despite its flaws, it's a nice metaphor about writers seen as demiurges, and how each literary genre overcomes its predecessor.
#245 · 1
· on Off the Top · >>AndrewRogue
I’m with >>Misternick and >>Ranmilia here. As >>Cassius correctly suspected, this left me totally unconcerned.

Now we both had a short but interesting bantering about this fic and Laborious. Both are clearly “insiders’” fics that take for granted that the reader is familiar with a background. Cassius thinks Laborious is highbrow and this one is much more funny and relatable to.

While I can easily see where Cassius comes from, I can’t agree. Laborious builds on a part of our cultural heritage that we should all be familiar with, at least everyone interested in literature, and if they doesn't, it is quite easy to find out the info that underpins the story (which does not mean you can grasp its meaning as easily, but at least you can muster the necessary elements to).

This story, on the other hand, appeals only to a tiny demographics which is familiar with MtG. Acquiring the knowledge to be able to enjoy this story would mean learn how to play, and prolly play a bunch of games, too. The WriteOff references are fun, but here also, you're pandering to a minute audience, and one could even accuse you of flouting the rules in the sense that this fic is meaningless outside that very narrow context. It’s like a pony fic, except it doesn't feature pony, but writers. l

For all these reasons, I can't rate that fic very high in my slate. Sorry author. (That being said, this story is my current bet for the most controversial award).
#246 ·
· on Elevator
I can hardly do anything else than piling on. I imagined the women would take that young pup down one peg or two, but that never actually happened. I was expecting an ending like “Okay guy, you know what? Press the ground floor button and fuck off.” but instead we got milk-and-water lines that lead nowhere. So it just doesn’t end, or rather, it fizzles out.

Otherwise, thanks for this insight of the awesome world of American law firms.
#247 ·
· on Drip · >>georg
Ah, the “snowball” effect.

Echoing about everyone else’s opinion here. The escalation is a bit hokey (the PVC pipe exploding in the wall? Really?) and predictable. Thus, there’s no real comic payoff except maybe the final line which tries to redeem the whole bunch.

Okay, I'm not a king of DoY but I still can fix a number of things, iPhones included, so I have a hard time relating to klutzes. But I agree some people had better call a professional rather than venture in countries they're hardly prepared for.

On the other hand, kudos for making finals, and kudos also to have kept this entry short enough to prevent it from slipping into boringness.
#248 ·
· on Perception and Consonance
While I agree this could've been more solid and I'd love an expanded ending, I really appreciate the ending that you did manage to get. The unnamed main character's​ explanation ending with a single shot and Emmie drinking a double that day actually stood out to me as more meaningful than I first thought. I don't think I've ever seen emotionally dissonant perspectives indicated with coffee before, so props for making that work. :twilightsmile:

My biggest criticism here would be the hook. The two opening lines are both incredibly long and filled with multiple commas. I think it'd be good to trim those down a bit.
#249 ·
· on Second Shot Pending
I think there's many fascinating angles that this story could cover. The idea of human cloning itself, Death's job as a literal assassin, the logistics of a cruel war kept alive by cloned leadership, the emotions of realizing that you're only a clone when you thought you were an important man... However, this story seems to try and juggle all of it in tiny doses instead of focusing on one point, and that brings it down a bit. I still think this is a good story, the opening line is my favorite so far, but I agree with everyone else that it could use more focus.
#250 ·
· on The Picture
Personally I think that the woman somehow died in an accident, and the man is about to do the same. It puts an extra twist of the heartstrings on her message. The story being open-ending suffers in that I'll never know for sure, but benefits in that I can apply my own interpretation to it. I think the ending to this hinges on a matter of taste when it comes to deciding whether it works or not.

Overall though, I likes this. A short moment with strong emotion and realistic characters.
#251 ·
· on It's Going To Be Fine · >>shinygiratinaz
>>Cold in Gardez Yeah, second question. How does an automatic pistol magazine with one round in it *float*

(Yes, it's a magazine, not a clip. And I'm a pedant.)
#252 · 1
· on Fridge
Well, so much for being weird, heh. Maybe next time, I'll work out better.
#253 · 2
· on The Picture
Decent emotive piece that I think is just short of really crushing it. A little bit of weird phrasing here and there and, since we're in the seat of the main here, I think dodging the actual reason for them being separate is a bit of a cheat? I mean, there is something to be said for allowing the reader to draw conclusions, but I feel you lost a bit of something insofar as understanding this man goes.

This is getting a bit nitpicky, but I feel the note is a little too long? This sort of thing varies tons (with one of my favorite sorts of these notes being hella long), but here... I dunno. It just doesn't quite feel snappy enough. That is very much IMO, though.
#254 ·
· on Second Shot Pending
Hm. This just didn't click right for me and I'm really hard pressed to state why. I think there isn't really a clean narrative arc, nor do we really get a great feel for Ridgemont. Basically, there just wasn't really a hook that really engaged me. The setup was neat (though I did have a small problem: in a setting with resurrection, assassination -is- a bit of a weird thing when we don't know the rules), but yeah, it just didn't really feel like it went anywhere with with it.

I think the block italics are fine, but should have been set off on both ends with a soft scene break.
#255 ·
· on It's Going To Be Fine · >>shinygiratinaz
Center align is bad. :p

Anyhow. Mist ending has a bit of a problem in that it's the sort of ending whose value really came from being fairly unusual if I remember right. Now that we can all basically look at it and go "Mist ending," the effect is somewhat diluted. (For reference, this ending is technically somewhat different from the Mist, it's just shaped the same). Basically it is a shock ending (which this is, as that's where the story ends) loses impact because the trope smasher already exists in public consciousness.

There's also a little bit of trouble really picturing the peril they are in as I can't quite work out what the disaster is here and how they are trapped.

That said, this is a neat little disaster story and does an excellent job of being a fully self contained narrative and does good work giving us some real human emotion alongside action.
#256 · 1
· on The Picture
I liked this one a lot. I wish I had a slightly better idea of what happened to his wife; most of the story suggests a simple divorce/breakup/separation, but the drinking-and-driving might be implying something a lot darker... I'm just not quite certain it is. Still, great work overall.
#257 ·
· on The Panopticon
This is really solid work. We discussed it somewhat on the podcast, and I changed my original interpretation from something like 'corporations are evil' to something more like 'power corrupts all too easily' during discussion with Quill. I do think that's a less anvilicious point, but I also think the outlandishness of the setting undercuts it somewhat... it's like, if this setting is specifically constructed to corrupt people, then... yeah, no real surprises there? Maybe I'm still missing the point, but it's visceral either way.

This doesn't feel like it's taking any big risks, but it's very well done; even if it's playing by the rules, it's still firing on all cylinders. And sometimes that's all you need.
#258 ·
· on Hacked Beyond the Arc · >>TrumpetofDoom
Huh, an all-narrative story? Interesting.

You do a pretty good job of keeping things engaging, and all-narrative is a great way to pack a lot into a small space. I liked this, and I liked that it wasn't simply a 'happy ever after' once the shot was made. I wish there was a bit more theme to this, maybe, but even as just a character-centered piece, it's quite strong. The lack of character quirks didn't bother me as much as some others here, although I do agree that a bit more distinction in voice/personality would strengthen this.

Still, good work overall!
#259 ·
· on The Vendor at the Stall · >>PaulAsaran
I feel like your tone is clashing with your ending here. The... childishness of the setup feels at odds with the matter-of-fact ending, to me. Either the promise-of-wonder needs to be toned down a bit, or the ending needs to be rationalized a bit more, maybe? Comparing this to the comic CiG posted, I think Waterson's works because he's contrasting childishness to maturity; this feels like it's simply aiming for one while substituting the other as some sort of 'twist' or joke, and I don't think it comes across as well.

That being said, the conceit does feel strong; perhaps with a bit more smoothing, it would feel less bait-and-switch to me.
#260 ·
· on Drip · >>georg
Man, that opening paragraph threw me pretty hard, specifically this line:
Oliver was already most of the way down that road and approaching the interchange to commitment by midnight.

It just didn't work for me at all.

Other than that, this was pretty ridiculous... which worked, I think, given the over-the-top nature of the ending. It got a snicker out of me.
#261 · 1
· on Shot Through the Heart · >>MrExtra

Second cupid story, somewhat different, somewhat similar. KwirkyJ read this one to me in the chat the other day, which was neat. That line with all the numbers in it does not read well to me in text; usually, anything three digits or longer should be done in numerals. I wish I had a better idea of why Flowers was so worked up about this; surely he knows what he's doing, right? Why the sudden misgivings? Has he been press-ganged? Is this black-market cupidry? His characterization seems odd, looking back after the twist.
#262 ·
· on Laborious
I think the conversation feels tangled because Prometheus is doing tricksy dialogue things, and the two characters don't have very distinct voices. I'm not sure if first-person was a good choice for this; as Ranmilla says, making the names explicit might have been a better choice, given the obscure background references. You have a few more words you could have used to clarify things here, but as-is, this works fairly well. Although I read quite a bit of Greek mythology when I was younger, so I dunno how representative I am.
#263 ·
· on It's Going To Be Fine · >>shinygiratinaz
That center align looks like a mistake to me. If it's not, I have no idea what it's being used for.

This feels overwrought to me, sort of desperately melodramatic? That's much better than being boring, but the over-the-top-ness of the emotional grabs here have something of an offputting effect on me.

Also, I've heard that drowning is really quite peaceful, once you get over the panic bit. Maybe not as nice as freezing to death, but still.

I wish there was a clue as to what actually caused this collapse. My best guess is that there was some sort of bomb... possibly a terrorist attack, which could also explain the policeman and the gun? But if it's spelled out, I missed it, which left this somewhat shorn of context.
#264 · 1
· on One Shot to Save the World
This does some interesting stuff with the italics/non-italics, blending dialogue and narration? That's a neat experiment, and it mostly worked, I think. Some of the teacher's characterization is a bit... caricatured? Simply turning a student into a tree, although it's good for a laugh, seems a little over-the-top.

Using the amount of narration you've done is a great way to pack a lot of content into a small story, but it also tends to have a distancing effect from the narrative; it's harder to make people really care about your conflict if you tell it all in such an abstract form.

Overall, this does several interesting things. I just don't think it's doing any one thing well enough to really stand out.
#265 ·
· on Hacked Beyond the Arc · >>TrumpetofDoom
I think this would have been better as a 450 word story.

So, I don't know basketball. Some of what's said up there is Greek to me. But what I do get is clutching it out, and this story captures that well... once it gets to it.

Which, I think, is the problem here. The story starts off with the really high emotion, but then forces us back through the remainder of the game before we resume clutching it on the free throw. I feel like you should have either not given us the insight into the future free throw, or you should have just stuck right there in the heart of the moment and executed just on that.

All that said, still a fun little story.
#266 ·
· on A Journey in the Dark · >>Monokeras
The punchline here didn't really work for me, largely because I feel that, while several of the jokes are funnier in retrospect, several are also just... bizzare. Basically I find the front half of the story is played too straight to really buy the eventual punchline.

Dialogue beats are nice and there is some fun banter, but yeah, I also agree that the voices are relatively indistinct, which is a shame in a pure dialogue piece.
#267 ·
· on Off the Top · >>AndrewRogue
I wanted to think of something clever and insightful to say here because I love me some gaming based writing, but I got nothing.

Basically, take >>Ranmilia's review, stick it here, and pretend I wrote it.
#268 · 3
· on Elevator
I have to agree with the others. This needs more to it than an ending that pushes Josh nowhere. Giving Miranda an opinion and then pushing her in towards that opinion would be better.

Given that she said "Optimism can be nice, sometimes." it seems that she likes him. Make that obvious. Have her give him some tangential advice out of the blue like: "Did you know that Larry likes to pick out his ties? Not many people notice." Then, instead of Josh being 'led to a conference room', he is met by a man when he gets off the elevator who says "Right on time. You must be Josh, I'm Larry. Follow me."

I'm also not really fond of the "I'm the boss" reveal because, like >>Ranmilia, I saw this coming from the moment he said Interview. So instead of the twist I think it better to have her walk into her office labeled Miranda Kaufmann and let the reader be like "Ah-Ha!" rather than beat them over the head with it. Maybe sit her down at the desk and have her check the 'Intern applying today' email. Wrap it all up together.

I get that this is probably the completed scene in your head, otherwise you wouldn't be sitting at 640 words, but try to leave us with impact, you have the room. I believe that stories should always be as a wave: with rises and falls in tension, drama, and pacing. If those waves are too small then the reader has a hard time noticing them.
#269 ·
· on Vaccine
I liked the read, kept me engaged and had me laughing. Not as interesting the second go round, but whatever.

Honestly my biggest gripe was the vocabulary used by the characters: they sounded like a bunch of collage dudes, rather than harbingers of the end. Death speech especially struck me as too run-of-the-mill, with the full caps dialogue I expected something more ominous. Especially with the "Lovecraft was a hack" line the context seemed to be saying it was almost mumbled, but the text suggests it was pounded into the skulls of those around him telepathically- at the volume of a nuke.
#270 ·
· on The Great Filter · >>TitaniumDragon
Figured I'd sneak in here for a bit of silent pleasure reading — and just wanted to note that if you liked this story (or are intrigued by the idea of The Great Filter at all), you really should take an hour out and play Epitaph.
#271 · 3
· on The Picture
You've set yourself up for one hell of sucker punch here. The guy's got a ghost riding shotgun in his back pocket, a bombshell who's absence is apparently ever present. She's your story's Big Bang. Her being gone sets all the rest in motion. And you gave her voice! You gave the dead an undead message, just one, to be delivered to your audience. And then we get

Steven, when things are difficult, look at this photograph to remember this day, the day you made me the happiest girl alive. If you are sad, or hurt, or depressed, remember that I will always be here for you.

I love you, now and forever.


This is your once chance to give 'Hannah' character, personality. Whoever she is, she scrambled this dude's eggs so bad he can't even make a beer run without tripping over her corpse. But all we get are bunch of girlfriend cliches. 'the happiest girl alive' and 'i will always be here for you.' If you're gonna give a ghost anything, give her a flame thrower. Turn the nozzle and light up this guy's pissy attitude and awkward small talk.
#272 · 1
· on Theodicy
I felt it shoving me back, I felt the sand clawing at my skin and the sound rattling my bones.

A minor little thing. Write what he felt, not that he felt it. It shoved me back. The sand clawed at my skin.

A thought experiment. What if you cut everything before this line:

I put my hand on the grip of my rapier and unsheathed it, then I said, "I come from the city of Tala, which is no more for the Red Plague wiped it out. I am here to demand justice, and I shall have it."

Honestly, I was sort of bored with this one before here. Dude stumbles around in a sand storm. Climbs a rock. Weather is mean. By no means a necessarily boring concept, but in terms of writing hard not to make monotonous. You can only describe sand in so many ways. But then I got to this line, and then there's conflict! Drama!

Instead of pursuing that drama, you went for a mythic, cyclical, world creation bent, which is very cool, but doesn't ever really get fleshed out. You could take this a lot of different directions, but if you want it to be a story, you're gonna have to go where the theater is. And the only real theatrics in this story come in that one line.
#273 ·
· on Perception and Consonance
I worked on a student lit journal once upon a time, and about two-thirds of the stories read like this one. The basic format was always, Misfit talks to psychologist. Psychologist psychoanalyzes misfit. Lessons about humanity are learned. Psychology is a favorite go-to subject for people writing on a budget. I get it. Psychology is a fascinating subject and we want to write stories about it. The easiest route is to write about psychologists talking psychology. But I'm just letting you know. There's a lot of psychology stories out there. It's a hard genre to stand out in.

You did dodge a lot of cliches though. It doesn't take place in a therapist's office. You get big points for that. Also, the psychologist is wrong. A lot of times these people are treated like holy prophets speaking the voice of God. Even better, there's almost a story here. The biggest problem with these kinds of stories is that there's really no story in them. At best, you can get a lot of character, and you've done a pretty good job with Emmie. But you're not really doing anything with her besides sitting in a coffee shop and talking pop pyschology.

I'll point you in the same direction that I point everyone else. Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Characters sitting around talking about their neuroses can make a good story. I don't know how, but Carver did it.
#274 ·
· on Perception and Consonance
So. This is well written, but I'm having trouble really enjoying it as I were. It certainly isn't bad or unlikable, it just doesn't really... hook me, I guess? Having thought about it, I suspect what the issue is is that it really lacks a solid hook out the gate. It isn't that the conversation is uninteresting, but it's that I really don't get a good sense of why I should care about it. I really lack a feel for the narrator and his relationship with Emmie.

This really feels like it begins right as its ending. And while I do think I get what you're going for with where it ends (provided that was an active choice), it really does just feel like you ran out of space and stopped, since it really isn't much of a resolution to any of the arcs. It is more the presentation of another issue that might be related, but is somewhat seperate.

That said, this really is solidly written which carries a lot of weight here.

Oh, and I forgot, I wanted to nitpick a line:

With a double shot espresso clutched in her hands, and her eyes fixed firmly on the distant horizon, she would have made a decent picture, immaculately dressed as she was, but the fact that we had been sitting in silence for nearly fifteen minutes somewhat tarnished the image.

While I get the sentiment, you really need to provide more visual info on why the 15 minutes has tarnished the image, since you're going with a visual metaphor here.
#275 ·
· on Elevator
This is one of those stories that I feel like I want to classify as a vignette rather than a story. There really isn't much of a plot arc here and it is very much an encounter between two people. Very little is gained from first person here, and I almost wonder if this wouldn't be better in 3rd cinematic or something.

That said, technicals are also super solid here.
#276 ·
· on The Panopticon
Something about the dialogue beats here just don't quite read right to me, but I can't put my finger on it, so this may just be a case of insanity.

Technically super solid (seriously, I realize I'm saying that on all three at the end here, but they really are). Ending... I both like and don't, if that makes sense? There's something to be said for the presentation of the story making it a punch being good, but there's also something inherently a little silly about him apparently immediately going cruel within seconds.

Ultimately, I feel conflicted.
#277 · 1
· on The Bargain
>>Cold in Gardez

Thanks to the people who made comments on my entry. Whether you liked it, hated it, or thought it a general waste of your time, I'm happy for any feedback.

From what I get from the comments, it seems I know how to put two or more words together, and that I seem to do pretty well with dialogue. I'll also mention that this time I avoided the ofttimes 'trap' of a twist ending (I ran into that problem the last time I participated in these contests), so I can learn from my mistakes.

As for the criticism, when I look over my entry now after reading them I realize that I did make a lot of mistakes on it:

For one thing, the characters are barely defined at all. Darrah has little to distinguish her from any other femme fatale types; I ran right into the trap of using a stereotype to do my character description for me, as opposed to describing a character that could be placed into a stereotypical category. And poor Simon has pretty much no description or characterization at all; he's essentially a talking stage prop.

Another thing I noticed was that my characters weren't interacting with the background, nor was it interacting with them. It was just a flat, colorless set piece that could have been anything at all for all the effect it had on the story.

The worst part, and this is one of the things that makes my entry fall flat, is that the characters aren't doing anything. They're not trying to achieve a concrete objective, whether that's something physical or verbal/mental. Take away the one element of Darrah making some sort of offer (which I haven't shown she can keep) and they might as well be sitting on a park bench, talking about the weather and putting the audience to sleep.

Lastly, instead of making a short story (possibly) connected to a larger world, I lost focus and made that world intrude too much into the narrative. I should have made Darrah and Simon do something small (say, him trying to brew a difficult potion while she tried to 'help' him) and then have the whole murder plot thing be a 'by the way...' stinger in the last sentence, if I bothered to mention it at all.

This entry sounded a lot better at the time I was writing it. I thought I was being so clever...

I just hope I didn't offend anyone with it; this contest is for stories, not scenes, and I'd hate to have unintentionally slapped the other writers in in this round the face.

Well, hopefully I can be more on target next time.

Anyway, thanks again for reading and commenting. It's given me a lot to think about and I really appreciate it. :)
#278 ·
· on A Journey in the Dark
>>Cold in Gardez

Thanks all for commenting. More thanks to the majority of you who liked this little skit. Really, I wasn’t expecting it to final. So ❤️.

Most of all, I’m especially chuffed no one found the dialogue weird or off. It’s very important to me to be able to pull off “real sounding” dialogues in a language I don’t get to speak very frequently. So ❤️❤️.

I agree it was easy to get confused over who spoke to whom. My idea was to use, like Horizon had done before, tags to alternate between left and right justification. But it turned out to be an ordeal: on an iPhone – I was in vacation when I wrote this piece and had not carried my computer over with me – copy/paste ergonomics is horrible, so I gave up after five lines and reverted to flat formatting, knowing some of you would get confused. I apologise for this.

TD, well noted. It's true I could’ve written the second scene “normally” to make it a better foil to the first one.

As a final note, this and the more shoddy Atlantis 2050 were both part of an experiment: writing a dialogue-only piece, and a no-dialogue one in the same round.

Pretty pleased with the result. See you next round! ❤️💜💚
#279 ·
· on Laborious · >>Not_A_Hat
Congratulations on the win. I only read a couple of stories this round but I thought this was very strong.
#280 · 2
· on Laborious · >>TitaniumDragon
Thanks for the votes, guys! And congratulations to Cold in Gardez with The Panopticon, and AndrewRogue with Off the Top!

I was of two minds on whether I'd enter this round, but that first line showed up in my head and would not leave. So I stayed up late and hammered this out, after a little encouragement from AndrewRogue in chat. In the end, I'm glad I did -- and hopefully he doesn't regret it too much. Well, he did try to seal my soul in a card... :P

Thanks! Sorry about the dialogue. I had more words I could have used to make this clearer, but I figured it was good enough; I guess not. Also, thanks for discussing this on the podcast so I didn't have to. :P I, uh, had to discuss my story last ofic mini, and it was terrifying.

Thanks! He doesn't; I originally intended to use that more, but I lost it in writing. I thought it worked well enough as a signal to who the character was (because I think he's known more for the apples than the Nemean Lion,) but maybe putting it in the beginning there makes it feel too Chekov-y.

Thanks! I didn't intend to write philosophy, but I guess it kinda turned out that way? This does feel somewhat 'stoic'. I tried to ground their discussion in their characters and give it meaning in-world, so hopefully it wasn't annoyingly reader-facing.

Thanks! I'll be honest here; I didn't try too hard to make this similar/different from any one myth. I just started from the idea that they'd met, and tried to write an interesting character interaction that wasn't complete nonsense. I knew there was a 'Herakles frees Prometheus' somewhere in the myths, but I don't think I've actually read it. I'm glad it worked for you!

You make good points about required backstory. I debated using names explicitly, and actually decided against it, although now I can't remember specifically why. Heracles/Herakles/Hercules was part of it, and I think it they didn't feel natural until a ways in, and then seemed annoyingly revelatory? Perhaps if I hadn't been so married to my opening lines, I could have done better… Mmm.

Also, thanks for your comment on the Radio Writeoff survey. I wanted to let you know I'd gotten it, but I wasn't sure how to contact you besides posting here. :P Radio Writeoff may be a bit up-in-the-air over the coming summer, but I'll keep you in mind!

Thanks! I like mythology a lot, but this is the first time I've actually tried using it much in writing. It was pretty fun.

Thanks! Yeah, I tend to favor action tags over dialogue; I would probably have been better with more dialogue tags and less action tags here, because several people felt the dialogue was difficult to follow.

Thanks! I'm honestly surprised I didn't see more of this sort of reaction. I realized after submitting that I was essentially doing fanfiction in an ofic round, but the more broadly-known nature of mythology seems to have made it acceptable enough for most people.

This comment set me thinking about the nature of tropes. I've used very stylized characters in my work before, including characters with little-to-no delineation; but what exactly is the dividing line between 'mythological' and 'archetypal'? I could have probably used the forty-something words I had left and made this a functionally-equivalent non-fanfiction, but I'm not sure I would have liked it as much. It's an interesting division to consider... perhaps fine-tuning my own world would have made things feel a bit more cohesive? Apparently, trading off breadth of audience for depth of backstory worked alright here, but I really should have considered the stakes before gambling.

I'm not sure I'm happy with the eyes bit either, but I wasn't sure what to replace it with that still would signal Herakles internal conflict early in the story.

The anachronism was somewhat intended; I wanted this to play their down-to-earth tone against the grandiosity of their backgrounds. But perhaps I went a bit overboard… Prometheus' 'I dunno' line also feels a touch too casual to me.

Thanks! I'm glad it worked for you. I do like my grandiosity, and playing with gods as characters is a good way to get at that. I originally wanted to bring in something to do with the idea that Herakles eventually does end up becoming part of the Pantheon, but it didn't really seem to fit in here.

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)
#281 · 3
· on Shot Through the Heart
Thanks everyone for your comments, I really appreciate it! Now for that thing I've been waiting to do for the past week...

>>TitaniumDragon My original Idea for the cadet's inner conflict was that he went through a bad breakup or something and was bitter about some people being given 'true love' on a silver platter when he had to work so hard and suffer for it. I would have liked to put it in there, but I didn't want to show my hand too early.

As opposed to sitting violently on a park bench?

That sounds like a wonderful prompt. It sounds like a silly world where people's emotions depend on their body posture: neutral standing, depressively lounging, joyfully crouching, violently sitting. All this leads to a social obsession with remaining vertical at all times, and really sore feet.

>>Cold in Gardez I think the reason I didn't run with the concept from the get-go is because I wanted to play it straight, and I thought that the concept would end up being a little too ridiculous to do that with if I started with "Hey! Cupid's got a rifle and he's passing out love~!"

>>AndrewRogue I am curious what you mean by that. I don't know, because otherwise I probably wouldn't have done it, so if you might be able to explain it to me I would appreciate.

Yes, playing it straight would have allowed me to tell the deeper story but I wasn't sure how to do that.

>>Ranmilia Heh. Really? Flowers gave it away? I'll admit that the name is almost pony-esq in the way it works, but I didn't think THAT would give away the identity of my shooters. Flowers was something of an obscure reference to Captain Flowers from RVB. I didn't want to give him a name like Johnson, normal names wouldn't work for my trainee as he doled out love-based fates, and Flowers just fit so well I kept it.

>>Not_A_Hat That song was the ENTIRE reason for the title. Was sitting there thinking "Finished, now what to call it..?" and the drum beat starts in my head. *DUM* *DUM* Shot through the heart, and you're too late. Baby you give love, a bad name.

The numbers were an attempt to drop more hints but obfuscate what was going on and not let it be too obvious, thus the spelling out rather than putting 2.14 on the page. Originally my plan was for the newspaper at the end to land at the date Feb 14, but that felt WAY too ham handed to me. This was my attempt to hide the plot while allowing for people to have the ah-ha and see the flags that I dropped if they went back and read it a second time.

Thank you again for all the comments, I really didn't expect to place this high in the rankings and it was a wonderful surprise!
#282 · 1
· on From Above
Have you ever written something and submitted it and as soon as you submitted it said to yourself, "Well, I messed that up. I should have done (fill in the blank with all of the things you should have could have done)." This story in a nutshell. I think the real lesson with this and the last eh few times I've done this is that I need to allow myself more time or pick better times to sit down and do these things.
#283 ·
Well, congrats to all those who won. And better luck next time to those who didn't.
#284 · 3
· on It's Going To Be Fine · >>TitaniumDragon
>>Cold in Gardez

Me, as this round began: I really hope people like this idea, it took me a while to think up and it's not the best executed but hopefully the idea will carry enough to... wait, what the heck is a "mist ending?"

So after executing a vigorous googling maneuver I discovered that the idea that I had thought up had not only already been done, but it had already been done by Steven King. Oy. :facehoof: Somehow I've actually gotten to this point in my life without having heard of The Mist, and legitimately wrote this thinking it was a semi-original twist on the idea of mercy-shooting. I suppose it's true what they say about nothing being original. :applejackunsure:

In the end, though, I was pleasantly surprised that this made it to finals. I hadn't really expected it to get far, mostly because I as an author wasn't satisfied with it. This story felt both lacking and wanting to me, and even after multiple editing passes I wasn't at all sure what needed to be added or taken away for it to work. After a lot of deliberation, I submitted this story anyways with the hope that people more experienced than I would review it and help me to learn what this story needed for it to actually work. And that's exactly what happened! So I'd like to thank everybody who commented talking about things I should change or things that they liked or anything at all, you've helped me out a lot. :twilightsmile:

I've always felt that my strength was in comedy, mostly dealing with more absurd situations, but I can't just coast in that safe zone forever. ...Well, I suppose I can, but I don't want to. I joined this website so that I could challenge myself and grow as an author, and while it's painful to submit something I'm not happy with, I'm not yet good enough to know the best strategies for writing different genres. But maybe one day I can be as good as horizon in Gardez and explosions Voice Hopefully next time I'll be able to submit a story that is more deserving of a finalist spot.
#285 · 1
Congrats to !Hat, CiG, and Rogue for their medals, and to everyone for making it through another original fiction round!

… No mashups? D:

Gonna skip the next round again and return for the short stories. Might throw in a quickie if I feel super inspired, but I'd feel bad about entering without reviewing, and that's the time I'm trying to reclaim.
#286 ·
I will try to write a retrospective later, as in tomorrow.

Still, I'm strangely happy that I now lead in having the most "Most Controversial" stories in the OF rounds :D
#287 · 2
· on The Vendor at the Stall
>>TrumpetofDoom >>Fenton >>AndrewRogue >>Monokeras >>Cold in Gardez >>Ranmilia >>Not_A_Hat

Huh. 7th. Considering the reviews I was getting, I didn't anticipate being any where near that high. I'm pleased, but also nonplussed.

The Vendor at the Stall was one of those sudden urges. No pre-planning, no big goal, just a little idea that I threw together in about five minutes before tossing it to the sharks to see how it would do. I remember being abruptly inspired upon remembering the story The Stiff and the StiIe by Stepan Chapman and wanted this to be of a similar whimsical nature, and many of you caught that in the opening bits. Alas, the original version – which had a lot more of the playfulness – proved too long for the contest and I ended up cutting out most of it to make it fit. I wasn't happy with it, but I just didn't have the time I needed to polish it as the idea came to me late.

I didn't expect much out of this one. Maybe I should go back and polish it off. My thanks to everyone for their opinions and giving me something to think about for later.
#288 · 1
Neutral post first!

Congrats to everyone. Not just our lovely medalists, not just our finalists, but everyone who entered. Seriously just completing something, anything, is always an accomplishment worth giving a little cheer. Writing is tough, Writeoff structure is tougher, so seriously: grats to everyone (including the two jerks who beat me >:|).
#289 · 2
· on The Great Filter · >>horizon
Stupid bolides keep killing my civilizations right after they invent rocketry D<

I finally had a civilization develop spaceflight and nuclear weapons... and then a gamma ray burst got them. Curses. D:

I'm glad you pointed that game out, though.

I don't know if I have a lot to say about this story; it was really a concept piece focused on the idea of the Great Filter. The fact that all of the star names were Earth ones was a hint that the people writing the logs were from Earth, and then at the end we find out that Earth, too, basically "failed" as well, though it at least did have some survivors (and there was meant to be a bit of irony there, as the AIs didn't recognize themselves as having passed the Great Filter). I feel like there's a better way of presenting this (some folks noted it was dry) - I'm not sure if having the individual planets be longer (ALA Lost Cities) would work better or not for getting people invested in them, or if there's some other better way of presenting the information (maybe more atlas-like?).
#290 ·
· on Laborious
Incidentally, I didn't comment on this before:

The rules for the original fiction round specify that the story be a piece not based on materials which are under copyright in the US. As such, I wasn't bothered at all by the use of Greek mythology. If someone writes something based on Greek mythology, or Native American stuff (we've had a previous round where someone used Raven and Coyote), or Cthulu, or the Bible, or Sherlock Holmes, or whatever, it is fair game under the rules. Making use of powerful cultural tropes is a useful shorthand in a story like this, but while it saves you on some things, it also requires you to write with a different set of restrictions. So I see it as a trade-off.

I thought this story did it effectively.

Of course, I wrote historical fiction back in the first original fiction minific round, as well as a political parody at another point, so maybe I'm a bit biased. :P
#291 · 1
· on It's Going To Be Fine
So after executing a vigorous googling maneuver I discovered that the idea that I had thought up had not only already been done, but it had already been done by Steven King. Oy. :facehoof:

Credit where credit is due: The Mist (the original story) did NOT feature this ending. This ending is actually from the movie adaptation. Steven King later said that he preferred the movie's ending to his own, but it is actually from Frank Darabont.

I'm not actually sure if it was an original twist even then, but it is pretty infamous.

Anyway, I kind of figured it wasn't an intentional invocation of that idea, but was just sort of a congruent thing that happened to be similar.
#292 ·
· on Hacked Beyond the Arc
Hey! Finals for the first time!

My last two writeoff entries, at least, have featured literal takes on the prompt that came at it from an angle nobody else did.

In case anyone was curious: California Baptist University is a real school that is scheduled to move up to NCAA Division I in the next couple of years, and will be ineligible for postseason competition for four years after that as part of the reclassification process. I chose them by looking down a list of DI or future-DI schools and thinking, "Which of these names would be simply embarrassing to lose to, but not fuck up the flow of the text like Southeast Missouri State would?"

I could have sworn I'd indicated that the narrator's team had had serious national title hopes that were now in very real jeopardy, but I don't see it anywhere. Not naming his school was a semi-deliberate choice, but I definitely pictured them as one of the perennial contender schools (Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, etc.). "Coach D" was intended to recall "Coach K", the active coach who holds the record for most career wins, but that's something that would easily slip past a lot of readers; fortunately, I didn't intend that as a reference that was necessary to understand if you wanted to follow what was going on.

The last line is kind of tacked on, I'll admit. Not only that, it doesn't quite capture the intended meaning (which was less "most important shot of his career, period" and more "most important shot in the moment he took it" - maybe there were others that did more to change the course of his season or career, but those could only be identified in hindsight, whereas he knows going into this one that if he misses, the season's over and he's going home disappointed).

Baseball would actually have been a terrible choice, being the only one of the major sports in North America that doesn't have a game clock. You can't have a last-second play if there's no last second. Soccer has a game clock, but the ends of halves are a little fuzzy (at least, when the clock counts up, as it does in international play and just about every major professional league), and I don't know nearly enough about hockey to write about it. American football might have worked, but basketball is a more international sport and the in-game scope is a lot narrower - the playing surface is a lot smaller, and there's only 10 guys out there instead of 22.

Yeah, the last-second play to win is horribly cliché, but stories do need some sort of drama. For a story that's just about a moment, I think playing just to stay alive works at least as well.

>>TitaniumDragon >>HoofBitingActionOverload >>MrExtra >>Ranmilia >>Not_A_Hat >>AndrewRogue
Thank you for your time and comments.
#293 · 4
· on Off the Top
Right, I need to do one of these retrospective things that no one reads.

Uh... I certainly didn't expect to win a medal with this. Not because I was unhappy with it or thought it was bad or anything, but more because I just thought the appeal of this story was going to be pretty limited because it pretty much requires you both be familiar with CCGs AND enjoy YGO. I didn't think the story would totally flop after Galactic Conquest had a shocking number of people identify Twilight Imperium, but still.

Honestly, there is less to say here than you'd expect this time around. I like tabletop stuff. I started playing MtG back in FALLEN EMPIRES. I've played tons of other CCGs since. I enjoy the YGO anime immensely because I feel it is everything a show about card games should be: stupid and over the top. I have, in fact, been watching YGO GX while taking care of my daughter which is why writing something about card games has been on my brain. Honestly, I think the show's biggest flaw is it doesn't really hammer home some of the more entertaining possibilities for card games (for example, losing to terrible topdecks - as presented here).

Basically, I've long wanted to do something that better mingles the... mundanity of card games with the extreme silliness of YGO. For example, they are actually sitting a table, a detail I couldn't quite get in the way I wanted, which is just a silly image. Seriously, imagine your local card shop and a goddamn Nazgul looking thing is sitting there flopping cards. Besides, I've been wanting to experiment with games as the subject of stories more because... well, I love games.

So here we are. Game design is a weird combo of Magic and Legend of the Five Rings (which has been on my brain because the LCG was finally getting concrete a week or so after the Writeoff started), with the aesthetics of an anime game (high tribal themes, etc).

This story is LOADED with referential bullshit, because I was feeling cheeky. So let's get to that.

Donal was a quick pull from Irish as the card game's background is being based on druidic traditions (hence the rezzing of Caorthannach, an Irish devil... for values of hence). Reynard is following the proud YGO tradition of having a name that is stupidly tied to your deck type. Vixens for his deck was originally picked because I wanted to see how aggressively I could earmark a story as containing elements from other things I've written, and demi-human gals are a pretty common thing for me.

Speaking of earmarking a story as mine, I had originally intended to actually make each card an subtle (airquotes maybe) reference to one of my Writeoff stories, (for example, Vixen Paladin for Fox, Flame & Frozen Blade, Unfortunate Accident for Ars Vivendi, Late Night Music for Music After Midnight, etc), but I decided that might be pushing the bounds of rules acceptability, so I decided to just be cute and reference OTHER Writeoff stories. The full list (Hat ALMOST got them all):

The Path - Novel Idea - Rising From the Ashes
Agent of a Foreign Power - Cold in Gardez - Staring Into the Abyss
Fortune - PaulAsaran - Staring Into the Abyss
Crepuscular - Xephyr - The Twilight Zone
Greatness - Cassius - The Endless Struggle
Noblesse Oblige - Baal Bunny - Has That Always Been There?
Hiemsurb - Anonymous - That Winter Feeling
Sorrow's Council - Not_A_Hat - A Word of Warning

Apologies to all of you. Hopefully I offended no one and amused at least a couple of you. Originally I had been planning to use one story from every round I'd been in, but I again started to wonder if that was being too cheeky, then I lost the list of names I wanted to use, and everything was just terrible, so I just used those.

And... that's it. I had to actually do some aggressive word chopping to reach the requirements because, shockingly, having to narrate game effects eats space. Kind of a unique card game issue.

It's pure comedy. If you're worried about Reynard's ultimate fate, he does not have to spend the rest of eternity trapped as Fortune, Vixen Heroine. He and the others turn against Donal, giving the main protagonist an extra turn (which is totally unfair and cheating in every form) to pull out the win, freeing their souls and stopping Conny's resurrection.

He learns nothing and continues to play with a deck comprised entirely of underdressed fox-girls.

I can sort of see the complaint re: drama vs comedy, primarily because I wanted to take the opposite approach to mocking YGO and the like by sandbagging the silliness, rather than play up the silliness. That's why I ran Reynard as such a straight man.

Good job on sorting most of my little referential amusements! :p

Cassius pretty accurately states my expected results on this story.

I am sad to say that the explaining cards was not, in fact, a jab at the genre but more me exploring how you actually do this sort of thing. I still, honestly, have no idea how you really approach writing a non-action game (especially a non-real one). And yeah, the parody here is hugely affectionate.

EDIT: Fight me, bro.


I sort of expected more of this sort of review. >>

</3 (But I really can't disagree with anything said here)

I would have been SHOCKED had you not bottom or near-bottom slated this. I think I'm predisposed to write stories that don't work for you, and consider it a bit exceptional when I do.

Fake reviews are hard.
#294 · 3
· on Drip
Before I get started, guess what Georg was doing at home during this writeoff? If you guessed plumbing a toilet, you win. (I won’t tell you what you won. You wouldn’t want it anyway)

Brief summary: Good Friday at Georg’s house. Georg is playing World of Warcraft instead of being creative or reverent. God takes offense. Georgwife comes running into the computer room, drags Georg out of a raid, toilet is overflowing. Toilet float has sprung a leak and become a sinker instead of a float. Toilet overflow is *above* level of flush lever, which is pouring water all over the floor. Flush. Turn off shutoff valve. Mop. Grumble. Go back to WOW. Attend Good Friday services. God is not placated. Return from services to find toilet shutoff valve… isn’t. Bathroom flooded. Basement sheetrock dripping. Large puddle around basement stuff. Shut off water to whole house. Mop. Buckets under basement leak. Damp stuff dragged out to garage.

Then there was evening, and then there was morning. Next day. Holy Saturday. Georg goes to hardware store to purchase offerings to the plumbing temple. Finding it difficult to maintain the Easter frame of mind where we give thanks to God for sending his son Jesus to die for our sins. Wishing he had been a plumber instead of a carpenter. Purchase new float widget. Purchase new toilet shutoff valve. Install new float widget. Perfect. Attempt to install new shutoff valve. Wrong size. Return to the plumbing temple. Exchange. Return to toilet. Old copper sleeve will not slide off PVC pipe. Brief curse for cheap (censored) who built house. Install new shutoff valve with old sleeve. Turn on water. Sprinkler in bathroom. Turn off water. Old copper sleeve over PVC needs cut off. Get hacksaw. Fix. Saw off overflow tube while at it, just in case so it won’t overflow out the flush lever again. Install new cutoff valve. Attach everything. Test. Praise God. Put paper towel under valve. Wait an hour. No drips. Praise God again.

And then I wrote the story. Does it make more sense now? (And no, I was not tempted to get a gallon of gasoline. Much.)

Short was the whole point of this. I even used the shortest title I could think of.

>>Cold in Gardez

Yeah, the name decision was made about half-way through, because when you write the words, “I’m sorry” the next word just naturally flows out to be “Dave.” (at least for antiques like me)

Monokeras >>Monokeras

My goal was to bring it in at 400 words exactly, because I’ve got a bad tendency to write 1000 words and try to chop, thus winding up with word salad. Sort of the Toastmaster’s version of their 3B advice for new speakers. “Be brief. Be concise. Be seated.” And the pipe *almost* broke inside the wall, but ever since I did that (by accident) trying to fix an external faucet (hint: if you have to use the *big* wrench, you're doing something very wrong), I've been much better about caution and PVC.

Not_A_Hat >>Not_A_Hat

The ending actually came to me while writing that line, and while it may have worked better for the Twilight Zone prompt, the rest of the story flows out of it. Or drips, I suppose. Note how I started with flowery verbose descriptions, and as Oliver goes crazier, the sentences get shorter and choppier while his perception of the world slowly warps. It’s a lot like that when you’re trying to fix a toilet, too. Voice of experience, and all that. By the way, at this point I’ve replaced or repaired every single sink, toilet, and faucet in our house, and still kept (most of) my sanity intact. Then again, a SAN rating is only marginally useful anyway in the real world, particularly with plumbing.
#295 · 2
· on The Great Filter
There are a lot of disasters you can't do a damn thing about except to have the RNG favor you. You just have to keep playing until the numbers break in your favor. However, there are ways to tilt the odds. I've found that at the beginning of a civilization, you want to rush both Agriculture and Fishing, because there are a LOT of early deaths that come from overreliance on a single food source. Next priority is to rush Toolmaking + Fire > Metalworking > Plumbing, because sanitation/disease is another major early killer (especially once Construction and/or Sailing increase their population/exposure). More often than not, if you do that you can reach at least the Middle Ages.

(Note: I think Plumbing actually has one additional prerequisite — I believe Construction, though you probably want to get that last. Plumbing's still a massively key early tech to rush. Similarly, Germ Theory is massively helpful for midgame; that requires taxonomy and a bunch of other stuff — I think most directly requiring calculus.)

There are a couple of late-game dangers that come from specific techs: atomic warfare from Nuclear Power, biological terrorism from genetic engineering, grey goo from nanotechnology, and paperclipping from Artificial Intelligence are the big ones. Try to delay those techs if you're feeding them knowledge; rush spaceflight and quantum computers so you can get them off-world colonies, and you should be basically okay from there. If they research those themselves, you've just gotta deal with them maybe wiping themselves out. :V I *think* that knowledge techs (Writing, Printing Press, Internet, etc) increase the rate at which they research their own crap — which is useful if true, because you're on a ticking timer for volcanos/gamma-ray bursts/wayward asteroids/etc — but without checking the source code I can't be sure.

It's definitely possible to win. With persistence it takes probably an hour on average, but a lot depends on your luck.
#296 ·
· on Laborious · >>Not_A_Hat
I like the story, felt I should read that since I'm abusing its comment section, but alas I didn't see a way to PM you directly so here we are now.

Just wanted to say that it is indeed not a hat, but rather an elephant that has been eaten by a snake.
#297 ·
· on Laborious
Indeed it is. I like in-jokes and childlike optimism in fiction. :)

Yeah, the writeoff site doesn't have PM's. Some of us are in the Discord channel, which can be reached by the 'chat' link at the top of the page, if you like. Some of us are on FimFiction.net (although I'm not there super often.) Dunno if either of those are easier than just leaving a comment on a story, though.

And I'm glad you liked the story. too. Thanks!