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It's a Long Way Down · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
#301 · 1
· on A Simple Death · >>Fenton
I very distinctly feel like I am missing the point on this story. Like, I feel like there is some overall message that is trying the whole weirdness of this story together that just flies right over my head. As is, I just really don't understand Mike's obsession with the execution, why society's call matters there but not on appeals, or why he doesn't kill himself.

Aside from that, the story has sort of an odd rhythm to the diction that's a little hard to describe. It sounds very bouncy, if that makes sense? This is sort of exemplified by the use of "exclaimed" which feels like a much stronger emotion than I feel should be being used in these circumstances.

So yeah, I guess the best way to describe my biggest issue is that I really have no idea how to start, here. I realized interpretive literature is a thing, obviously, but here I can't quite pick up a thread, if that makes sense.
#302 ·
· on Fear the Voices that Scream in the Night · >>Pearple_Prose
Ehn. Hm. Well, I agree with all the above comments, particularly >>Monokeras (edited, whoops, not sure how that link mishap occurred)

This is an odd one for me. I want to like it more than I do. It should be fun, it hits my personal tastes in terms of bouncy character action and modern fantasy, but somehow all I came out feeling was "That was okay."

I guess I can point to three issues. First of all, the narrator hides himself for way too long. The entire piece, but especially the early portions, coast on a large amount of "Ooh, but who is this handsome rogue, and what exactly is going on here? Read on to find out!" Similar to internet clickbait articles, I find this mildly annoying and wish the content was delivered up front so I could enjoy it on its merits. There's no need to hold it back like that.

The second issue is what Monokeras called out as "cheap philosophy." When the answers are finally delivered, they're nothing awe-inspiring. "Ah, but what if the supernatural was actually determined by human belief?" is a trope that has been done to death and back in modern fantasy. That doesn't necessarily make it something to avoid, but having it be the entirety of the grand revelation is underwhelming. We've all seen this a hundred times before, so what's the unique spin? That's where the emphasis needs to be to get some response out of readers.

And finally, the third issue is slightly more on a personal taste angle, but may be shared by enough of a general audience to be significant: the protagonist(s) are unquestionably, irredeemably evil, and I can't sympathize with that. I don't root for them. I don't want to see them succeed. I cheered when the fearless woman escaped the pit, but lost enthusiasm when it turned out to be for nothing. Not in a good, effective, "wow I got kicked in the gut, what a downer ending" way, but more of an "Oh. Aw. Well that's just banally ugly" way.

Evil protagonists, even monstrous ones, can be done, and can win, and make for an effective story, but not like this. The arrangement of elements needed to pull that off is quite different from a typical "good guys win" story, and this is structured like one where the good guys win. I'm being vague there because going into exactly how to do it is beyond the scope of what I have time and energy for here, and also because I'm not a specialist in those stories and would have to do some research to pin down exactly what TO do, but I can say this is not what to do.

.... But past all of that, the characterizations, prose, dialogue, interplays, scenes, evocative concepts, pretty much all the execution here is fantastic. Very entertaining, very fun to read. Great job! (Yeah, the ol' two pages of criticism and two sentences of praise, but really, I mean it!)

This is going near the top of my slate, though not the very top (my top slot so far remains an entry very similar to this one in some respects, which I mention because the close comparison itself may be of interest.) Thank you for writing, author - solid stuff here!
#303 ·
· on Fear the Voices that Scream in the Night · >>Ranmilia

My comment was referring to Bubbles, not this story.

For the record, author, I felt this story was really damn solid. Loved the narration to bits, and I kinda felt like the lack of setting the other users commented on was actually probably intentional.
#304 · 2
· on Magnolias · >>AndrewRogue
Me, a third of the way through this story: *various groaning noises* *hands doing sarcastic air tildes around the phrase ~Litfic As Fuck~* "Do I actually have to read this all the way through?"

Me, after reading this all the way through: "..." "..." "..." *deep sigh* ".................. Did I actually wind up genuinely liking this? Like, I-Hope-This-Medals liking this? I think I did."

I completely disagree with the assertion that anyone should ever stop looking for answers in art. I think the guy on the elevator is a complete creeper and the lady should've broke out the pepper spray when he wouldn't leave her alone. (Please, nobody act that way in real life. Do not ogle women. Do not insist they should converse with you because the two of you are trapped in an elevator. Especially if you are also sexually fantasizing about them in that moment.) I think the term "deconstruction" is put through some abuse in the piece (to be fair, it's a very common misuse, but a professional modern art critic should know better.)

Despite all of that, the piece did deliver a cohesive narrative with some excellent character interaction and meta-discussion on art. It's an incredible use of the prompt system, and I, personally, think that incorporating Fenton's comments in the story is a strength rather than a weakness.

In contrast to >>Aragon, I did not feel this piece was a negative or rude commentary on the art at all - I thought it presented the artwork quite positively! Flawed, perhaps, but certainly not without respect. Though, some of that stems from my reading of the characters as both being jerks, and the writing being self-aware of that to some degree. To me, the primary subject of the writing is the art, and the conversation around the art, extending to >>Fenton's comments on what turned out to be his own work. The characters in the elevator are just well-dressed mouthpieces for this conversation.

I'm probably going to be coming back to this one to continue the art debate, so I'll try and keep this initial review brief. The piece is without a doubt ~Litfic as Fuck~, the prose makes me want to print it out and throw it against a door in places, and the bookends could be improved or removed. But overall, it hits the good parts of litfic as well, and does so in a way that I found compelling and relevant even through my dislike for the specific stances taken. The author knows what they're doing, and accomplished a great deal of their fairly difficult goals! So, for me this is quite a high placement. Maybe even getting to first, I'll have to think about it. But to the author, thank you very much for writing.
#305 ·
· on Fear the Voices that Scream in the Night
Fixed, thanks. Dunno how that happened.
#306 ·
· on O'er the Edge · >>RB
Last one, here we go.

Huh. So there are two stories this round about a sea voyage off the edge of the world, starring the ship's captain and a guy who's a bit of an egghead and not normally a sailor, and the crew get cold feet and mutiny at the last minute despite having come all the way out there on the completely unhidden promise of going over the edge. Interesting.

I liked this one! The prose is fun, characters are cute even though most of them are cameos with joke names, and most importantly, it delivers a complete narrative arc. There's a protagonist with a problem, they work through difficulties to find a solution, there's rising action, a climax, falling action and a nice wrap up and resolution of the major themes in play. It told a story! That's the most important thing I look for in an entry.

>>AndrewRogue does have the right of things, though. It makes no sense for the crew to have gone that far and object at the last minute. But making this work out requires only a tiny change: make clear that the captain told everyone the voyage was to investigate the edge, promised them safety, and then pulled out orders to sail over the edge at the last minute. Boom, done.

The prose is a bit rough, but I was willing to roll with it more than I usually would be because of the strong genre tone. It's not the best, but didn't get in the way of the story. I can see some of the complaints others brought up, but such was not my experience. I got "comedic, vaguely dramatic, Treasure Island and Pirates of the Caribbean riff" as the tone from the beginning, felt clear on the captain being the protagonist, and felt Long John Silver played a fair role as a third character foiling the enthusiasm of the captain and navigator.

So, for me, this turns out a fairly high placement, since it contains both style and substance. Not the best in the world, but it hits the baseline competencies I'm looking for in a piece, entertained all the way through, never left me in the dark, and had some good jokes that made me smile. Good stuff, thanks for writing!
#307 ·
· on No End
Lots of description in the beginning, but I hard a hard time of getting a picture of what was going on.

Some grammatical wonkiness that made figuring things out more difficult than necessary as well, but this could be fixed with editing.

Good descriptions, but some missed opportunities here, as well. For example, in place of "leaving the sensation of something hot traveling down my veins" you could be "feeling like someone was pouring molten wax down my veins"

The situation is definitely an intriguing one, once we start to get our bearings. Some sort of interdimensional explorer?

"Lucifer drive system" - now that's not exactly a name with good omens.

So we're going with the teleport creates copies situation? Interesting that you follow the copy.

The bookend works, considering the prompt, but we're still left in the dark of just why he's there in the first place.
#308 · 1
· on Long Way Downstream
Well, all your hard work paid off quite nicely!

I was totally right about it being yours, too. Can't imagine why I would imagine the search and rescue person might take a picture out in the middle of nowhere!
#309 · 3
· on The Longest Way
>>Fenton, >>Pearple_Prose, >>TitaniumDragon, >>enamis, >>Not_A_Hat, >>MLPmatthewl419, >>Dubs_Rewatcher

The Longest Way

We think of space as being up, but it’s all around us in all directions, including the way we point when we say “down.” Not only is it also down, it’s the furthest down we can perceive. And the Milky Way, being from our perspective a band of light that stretches around the sky without end, is also the ‘longest way’.

The simplest way that I thought of to convey that space is down (It’s where the enemy’s gate is, after all) was to make a drawing of a night landscape on Earth and invert it, so I did. The medium is scratchboard, and at first I was puzzled on how to render the Milky Way realistically, but then I hit on the idea of using a white eraser to add some gray tones. I worked in two real constellations (Cassiopeia and Canopus) and added an attempt at the Andromeda galaxy (It’s not a Star Destroyer, sorry!).

I added a streak of something entering the atmosphere for potential story purposes. I also included a reference to a noted American artist, which no one seems to have caught. Can anyone name that artist? :)

Thank you for the comments and praise!
#310 ·
· on Caelum Incognita
We're off to a good start, with all the usual strengths: Clear introduction to a place and an interesting situation. No lectures or infodumps – the clarity of the events suffices, and adds a few hints about the larger setting.

Tiny nitpick: “but I didn't see any crewmen as I made my way to the upper deck. As I approached the hatch, a new noise grew above the confused shouts of the crew, a howling roar, like we were being consumed by a tornado.” Having the narrator see no crewmen comes with a slight implication of everything being deserted. Then, suddenly, we're hit with the observation that crewmen above are shouting, and have been for some time. I'd either couple these together, or put the sound of crewmen shouting first (since it's in evidence first.)

There seems to be another lurch in the action when, at Davis' behest, the crew start working on a flying machine. The structure of the text here makes it feel like this suddenly happens while the captain is still giving orders. A sentence or two to clear this up would fix the problem.

I love the cosmology here – and Davis' speculations. On the other hand, it's not clear where these “spires of rock” are, or what mountains he's talking about. (This is fixed a couple of paragraphs later, but it should have been clear from the moment they're mentioned.)

Huh. Those harpy/gardua things really came out of nowhere.

And then Davis is off the ship in the space of a single paragraph. We're losing the feeling of place that I liked in the beginning, and the progression of events is starting to feel a little rushed.

At the end, this just sort of putters out. Two big things bug me. First, after all the wonders of antiquarian cosmology, it feels kind of a let-down to end up with village of magic birdfolk. Second, with retrospect, the whole structure has a meandering, uncertain feel. To start, we've got cosmology. Then a tribe of birdfolk related to superstitions that are never mentioned and never come up again come and save everyone else. Then a separate tribe of birdfolk (though how this is decided, I don't know). Then a lacklustre gesture at a sort of moral quandary. Nothing at the end really calls back to earlier parts in a significant way. The dimming sun, perhaps, and the wing model. But that's it.

As for characterisation, there's little to offer. Davis is a scientist, and continues being a scientist all the way through. It's a good start, but he never rises above being an archetype. The style is better. Some of the phrasing here did seem to come from the age of sail, and I liked hisoccasional comment that implied he didn't know as much about the world as he thought he did.

I'll second horizon on the matter of cosmology, but my problem is slightly different. What you set up at first is a sort of primum mobile/celestial sphere system. That would just make the lava a warmer version of the cosmic ocean. But then we have the birdfolk flying around the world – which directly contradicts this idea (if the lava is resting on the celestial sphere, there's no way around but to go through it).

You've got plenty of good elements here, but they don't quite cohere.
#311 ·
· on View from the Top
>>RogerDodger, >>TitaniumDragon, >>Fenton, >>bloons3, >>MLPmatthewl419, >>horizon, >>Dubs_Rewatcher, >>Crystalline, >>Monokeras

View from the Top

At the start of this round, >>axis_of_rotation asked if stick figures were okay to submit as art. I didn’t reply at the time, but kept it at the back of my mind.

While doodling ideas, I drew something very basic which was much like i trusted you dave, but with figures at top and bottom, looking at each other. I then got the idea of the Writeoff winner looking down at the rest of the list, and I knew it would make a good entry. (Props to >>Ranmilia, who had a similar idea.)

Apart from a quick planning doodle, this was all done as vector art in Illustrator. Replicating the icons and layout of the results screen was a pleasant task. I then made a base stick figure and arranged it in the various poses, working top to bottom, with relative composure at top and all the drama and flailing below, coming up with funny ideas and visual puns as I went (such as the participation ribbon being used for a noose, a toilet, and a cape).

As >>Fenton mentions, sixth place in my imaginary slate was “Metametical Memes” (*), so in a way it’s appropriate that this work also took sixth. Thanks to everyone who liked it!

(*) a reference to Douglas Hofstadter’s book, Metamagical Themas, which was a reference to Martin Gardner’s Mathematical Games column in Scientific American.)
#312 ·
· on Fear the Voices that Scream in the Night
I feel like I should stop pointing out good intros. They tend to be one of the strongest parts of the WriteOff. It's only later that things will fall apart.

So, for the record, this has a good intro. It gives us all that useful stuff like tone, characters, and situation.

Do things fall apart after that?

Well, a couple of scenes in, I have one big reservation. I don't like these people. Not in a moral outrage oh-no-evil-protagonists way. I just find them irritating. The first person voice here is just the default: Snarky, sassy, smartass. The best version of this voice has me not noticing it; the worst, like a needy child, won't let itself be ignored. For the moment, I think I can roll with it.

“God.” Anne stopped suddenly, and pointed at a random corner. “God.” Given the present topic, how can they not stop to comment on this?

There are a couple of things I like. There's the mystery of whatever they're doing. And there's the mystery of why Anne seems to have the power here.

I think part of why the voice isn't working for me is the poverty of the prose. “She’d been beaten up pretty hard—thanks to yours truly—and looked like a bloody mess …” There are all sorts of ways you could spice this up, small details, witty asides here. All we get though is “thanks to yours truly.”, to hammer the message home that the narrator is Bad Person who does Bad Things.

We've got two twists near the ending: The creation of the archangel, and its pointlessness. Neither work for me. For all the drama of the first, it's that old belief-makes-it-real trope, which has long since ossified into a cliché. And the second turnabout isn't a turnabout for the protagonists. They know the score. It's just the reader and the archangel who don't. So when it comes about, it undermines whatever dramatic potential could be wrung out of the first turn, and just feels like a cheap gotcha moment.

Or is this meant to be a dark comedy? Looked at from this angle, the ending has a reasonable structure – it's a farce. But there's nothing apart from the snark in the first half that says this is a comedy, and that's not enough.

Finally, at the level of gross structure, I think you're doing pretty well. We've got a mystery, a buildup, a reveal&reversal, and a final twist. And the whole thing is bookended with that coffee joke. While the individual elements are lacking, that works fine.
#313 ·
· on Doug innit
As usual, see>>horizon for the useful comment. While I smiled more than a few times, that was too random without much consistency.
Moreover, bringing the quicksave power destroys your fic in a way. Because he can respawn, Doug's adventure is meaningless. If he can't die, he can't fear for his safety when he's fighting the bad guy. I know that wasn't really suppose to be an adventure but you spent many words for the big fight scene, without having many meta jokes in it.

So yeah, I smiled and laughed a bit but in the Writeoff context, that's a no. Bonus point for bringing Heaven & Hell.

Also, be careful with punctuation and formatting (unless it was done on purpose).
#314 ·
· on Magnolias
This was a short, but pleasant ride. The elevator failure trope is of course quite threadbare and tired, but it works pretty well here. It’s not ambitious, but what it does, it does it well, and it doesn't drag. I found it refreshing, didn’t even mind the rambling about modern art. I was entertained by the interplay between the characters, and that was enough to make me happy. A cute little story with slight overtones of a Dino Buzzati’s short story called “The Elevator”, which is much more sombre in tone.

So, yeah, well done. Slate topper or runner-up.
#315 ·
· on Caelum Incognita
Am I a moron? I mean, is there an end? Or does the story just stop?

This smacks very much like a Poe/Lovecraft/Dunsany epic novel. I would say Poe, because Poe liked to intermix elements of science in his novels (in The Gold Bug, for example, we get cryptography, but there are other examples here and there). To be honest, it remind me very much of MS. Found in a Bottle.

But I’m sorry to say, it’s far too long for my tastes. I got bored. Starting about half of it I skimmed over it until the end. Too little happens, at least not enough to justify so many words. I like the idea, but the execution definitely drags too much for me. Redact it, cut it in half, and we shall shake hands.
#316 ·
· on Under the Forest Rise the Stairs
So I want to say that the defining problem for this story is that it lacks mood. The prose is solid enough and you create decent imagery, but there is no real sense of wonder or horror in the story. The kids, to me, sound calm the whole way through. The mage, to me, sounds calm the whole way through. You portray as routine something that should be extraordinary, a once in a lifetime sight unlike any other.

I think that's what's holding this back from being a really good short. There is really no emotional hook. You spend too much time and too many words on setting the scene. You spend so much time explaining things that could be glossed over, I think.

So yeah, focus more on the heart of the story. As a reader, how am I supposed to feel while reading this? Then jam that emotion into the story.
#317 ·
· on Magnolias
Hm. Put me in largely the same boat as >>Ranmilia. While I'm not overly fond of the conventions of this sort of style, this one reads well, doesn't outstay its welcome, and has a very pleasant rhythm to it. I'm less sure on the art discussion (primarily because I know approximately jack and shit about art), but c'est la vie.
#318 ·
· on An Ordinary Day
It's a solid piece you have here. While I feared I would be lost by the style, it happens that I've been caught by the story and the narrator emotions, following his thoughts with delight and compassion. In the end, the feelings weren't as high as I expected them to be, but there were still here, even if it was in a small amount.

I thank you very much for this story. Know that I'm actually considering putting your story in the top 3.
#319 ·
I would like to draw your attention to four stories, which only have three reviews so far.

A Distinct Lack of Regret
In Viscera
An Ordinary Day
On the Ontology of Glass Spiders

Go show them some love.
#320 ·
· on Under the Forest Rise the Stairs
It gets off to a strong start with immersive worldbuilding, with charms an integral part of life and ghosts not of particular concern. Descriptions generally worked although there are some parts that feel drawn out. Kudos for fitting to the prompt picture so well, though.

Grammar and mechanics are largely good, and I like how you were able to convey bits of character through their smaller actions, like handling the silver fly.

The dialog is a bit of a mix. On the one hand it's anachronistic - deliberately so, I assume, which adds to the feel of place. But on the other, as some others have pointed out, there are places (particularly later on) where it doesn't come across as particularly childlike.

Akistere is surprisingly longwinded and articulate, considering his situation. Although he does have a lot of information to impart, you might want to try having it be more back and forth.

The talk about him wanting flesh I initially parsed as someone having to cut off a limb.

Others have parsed the plot more thoroughly; I don't really have a strong opinion here. I felt that it worked, but it didn't blow me away. Still, it was enjoyable overall.
#321 · 1
· on A Distinct Lack of Regret · >>AndrewRogue
A hairpin turn in the mood in three paragraphs. I like it.

On the other hand, we get this: “ … came the reply from the handsome man standing on a nearby chapel’s roof”. First, it's something of a faux pas to introduce characters by a description. Second, “handsome” is a dreadful description. Too vague. On the other hand, Min-Jun's actual dialogue serves as a much better introduction.

“The air around him blazed red as the infernal fires of hell blazed in a ring around him for the barest moment before the cut healed itself, leaving behind ruined night vision and two piles of charred bones.” Overlong sentence, repetition of “blazed”, and again, vague. This is an important point, evidently, so it deserves some more details, clearer descriptions, and more than one sentence.

Okay – I've read this to the end now, and I'm hitting two major problems for the whole piece.

One: style and setting. Nearly everything here is a cliché. Snarky human PI (or freelancer) snarking at every mote of dust that crosses his path. Supernatural creatures, also snarky, working with him. (And all of them are pretty much empty of characterisation beyond the snark.) Secret government agency for the supernatural. Magic sword. Necromancers. Pop culture references. Etc. etc. That said, I like the inclusion of a kumiho (had to look that one up). But that's just a tiny bit of glitter against a grey background.

Two: Story structure. You set up a mystery at the beginning. Then cast tracts of the story are just characters pottering around at home and sniping at each other. Then suddenly there's an answer, and everything ends. I think part of the problem is that for the first two thirds, you seem to be trying to set up a novel, with the appropriate pacing. So we get an intro to a mystery and artefact, then a long introduction to the characters. Problem is, with novel pacing, that alone takes up most of the story. Then there's no time to do anything but cram a quick resolution onto the end of it. Then the hints at character backgrounds never go anywhere because there's no space for them.

That said, there is a glimmer of a good idea here. Ubagabi. Kill, kill, kill. That's your true story here, not the ramble about a yiffy necromancer. And you get some of the structure right here – it's there at the start. It dives in with a dark conclusion at the end. It gets the foreshadowing commentary about demon artefacts (albeit a little too late). Bu that's not enough. If you want to fix this, I'd suggest expanding its appearances quite a bit. It needs at least one important scene in the middle, and the demon artefact idea should be brought up earlier and have more of an impact.
#322 ·
· on In Viscera · >>Pearple_Prose

A lot of good stuff here, author, but as the other comments have said, it all doesn't quite coalesce. Or coagulate, I suppose one should say...

A lot of it comes from the places where the story seems to contradict itself--folks above have mentioned some, but the one that struck me was the way we're told that Viscera has a breathable atmosphere and a non-toxic interior, but then they need the suits to get around. And how does the monster's blood flow if its heart isn't beating? And how is it that in thirty years, no one's ever thought, "Hey, maybe we should find the monster's heart and keep an eye on it"?

Still, as first draft, this shows a lot of promise.

#323 ·
· on Bubbles · >>Monokeras
This is extra nitpicky, but wouldn't nitrogen be an issue as well? Or am I insane?

Anyhow, see >>Ranmilia here. I really don't have much to add beyond that. Honestly, this might have been better if this were a significantly shorter and much more emotionally evocative piece, focusing on the feeling of the depths and why that drives him to let go. Like I'm actually quite surprised we don't have a much tighter metaphor in place.
#324 ·
· on An Ordinary Day
This is absolutely, positively, not for me.

I found it to be a rather unenjoyable slog. Narrator is not particularly likeable or even sympathetic, and it really just holds the same tone for the whole of the story without doing anything. 4,242 words later and I feel like I'm more or less in the same spot I started, not really believing our narrator has made a change.
#325 ·
· on No End
A definite case of lacking context to make things really click. Primarily that I don't understand the nature of this loop. The teleportation purgatory thing makes a bit of sense, but I'm not sure why he's looping it.

That said, much like The Mist ending from the minis round a little bit ago, I have to caution about treading certain ideas unless you've got a super good take on them or are just using that idea as part of a grander story. In this case, the thing immediately coming to mind is a certain movie about magicians known as The Prestige, which covered sorta similar territory, but managed the horror of the situation a lot better. If you haven't seen it, check it out!

You disconnect action a bit in weird ways. For example, I was stuck trying to figure out whether the bone snapping at the beginning was literal or metaphorical for a very long time. Don't do that! Make it clear when something extraordinary happens that something extraordinary happened.

Also, I saw someone else mention it, but yeah, the violence actually got a little comical to me. The extremeness of it (and the number of broken bones, for real) just interact a bit weirdly. It isn't really visceral, so you're left as an observer, and, as an observer, it just makes me think about gibbing people in a game.

Anyhow, ultimately, I do think there is workable material here, but I think you need to tie it into a stronger, more cohesive story.
#326 · 1
· on The Pit
>>horizon is right about this being drawn black-on-white first, and then inverted. This also means that the radiance down in the pit was originally supposed to be shadows, until I realized the image looked much better white-on-black.

If you look closely you might realize that the guy's hands were drawn on a computer with the brush tool; the way I originally drew them on paper, his fingers were splayed apart, suggesting that there was a transparent pane on the pit (and potentially confusing the viewer about whether that's a pit or a giant fat caterpillar.)

The image originally contained a few more details (there was a question mark next to the guy's head, as well as a thought-bubble where he was imagining a devil down in the pit), but I got rid of them because they looked kinda lame and detracted from the atmosphere.
#327 ·
· on On the Ontology of Glass Spiders · >>Baal Bunny >>Baal Bunny
I liked the banter and characterization. We didn't see much of the other sister, but even with her you got some understanding of her.

The main thing that stretched my suspension of disbelief me was just how worldly the spider was, and how human-like her thought processes were. I understand the whole Internet thing, but still.

The premise was plausible enough but overall characters were the strong suit of the piece.
#328 · 1
· on Bubbles · >>AndrewRogue
>>Scramblers and Shadows

So this was a rough idea more or less inspired by the 1980’s French cult film Le Grand Bleu by Luc Besson (that I haven’t seen). It was written during a four days weekend on my iPhone in the few spare time I had (kids and stuff) for the first third. The other two-thirds were written Monday between 8 and 12:02 GMT at work while… doing work. I could nor edit nor proofread nor even have a look back on what I’d written when I got finished, so it was 100% raw. Like, you know, line breaks and such. Aragon, you’re right. The dialogue you emphasised as being especially bad was jotted down at 12 GMT probably. No wonder it was awful.

Some remarks:

Nitrogen is not a problem with apnoea. There’s no decompression stops because the diver doesn’t breathe underwater, so there's no supply of gas at a higher than atmospheric pressure. It's like being in a submarine. The problem is that the external pressure pushes on your lungs and the ribcage can be crushed if pressure rises too high.

So sorry for delivering (again and again) such a rough ride. I shouldn’t have submitted it, and I apologise. Many thanks to Scramblers, and Fenton, though ❤️.

See you maybe not next round but the one after.
#329 ·
· on A Simple Death
A Simple Death: Retrospective

Once again, I haven't been able to convey just the amount of confusion I wanted and instead, I convey too much confusion. I'm sorry for that.
The point of this story was to reverse the suicide trope, to act like a mirror. So I needed my character to be willing to die and to be happy about it. Why does he want to die? We don't really know and this is somehow the point. I wanted to write an absurd story so the character's motivation couldn't be fully explained in my mind. It seems that has bugged everyone. That's too bad and once again, I'm sorry.

Several people pointed out that, since Mike looks forward for his execution because he trusts society, he should also trusts society when it judges he's not guilty. That's a very good point, however, I think you've missed these lines:
“I know,” he(the lawyer) said with a grin. “I impress myself sometimes. I tell you, that wasn’t easy. I had to remind some people the favors they owed me. And you can thank your wife; she has harassed me for a long time before I gave in. She’s very stubborn.”

The lawyer didn't use the legal ways, he used blackmail and pressure to obtain another judgement for his client. Why did he do all this? Because of Mike's wife.
So the reason why Mike won't be executed is because individuals have taken actions. That's not because of the society, and that's why Mike can't agree with it.

Anyway, all this confusion, as you can guess, is mainly due to the time constraint. I started this 20h before the deadline. So fo course, that couldn't end in a mastepiece.
I thank you all for your inputs. I'll probably rework this (when, I have no idea) and post it on a blog on Fim.
#330 ·
· on Bubbles · >>Monokeras
Huh. So insane it was. TIL.
#331 ·
· on O'er the Edge · >>RB
I really like the writing in this story! It's very setting-appropriate and full of character. And the premise is neat, has a very comfy adventure feeling to it, but beyond that, I was quite disappointed with how this story ended.

Like, I get that it makes sense that he just dies/disappears and that's that? But I think I would have liked it more if there was at least the implication of there being something deeper to it beyond what the characters already believe or don't believe about it. Some hint of the fantastical nature of it being deeper than it appears at first glance. That might just be a personal gripe – but the ending just felt flat to me, is all, and the fact that the members of the crew changed their minds so quickly removed a lot of potential tension for it.

Honestly, the lack of tension or like, stakes in this story is actually kind of a problem. There's no real value given to going over the edge, besides that the Captain wants to and that they'll be remembered for it, and then the crew turn on him on a dime anyway. It all just feels a bit pointless, and the ending doesn't help that. I would have loved some more details about the world and the characters and the nature of the edge – stories, maybe, or some more details from the journal about it. As is, everything lacks weight, and the conflict at the climax makes sense but is short-lived and has nothing really supporting it beyond the obvious foreshadowing earlier.

Also, what >>Haze said – the concept of going "o'er the edge" really should have been established pretty quickly, like in the first paragraph maybe, and then expanded from there. That's the crux of the story, after all, and it would have given the opener a bit more of a kick to it.
#332 ·
· on In Viscera · >>Pearple_Prose
Having finished this story, I'm not sure whether I love it, or just really, really want to love it. Thank you, at least, for giving me something to get chirpy about. After all my previous reviews, I was starting to worry this would be one of my being-a-sourpuss rounds.

I'm a great fan of Mieville, VanderMeer and Cronenberg, so this setting is like crack to me. The atmosphere hits a perfect chord of gloomy quotidian and grotesque surreal.

The prose is fantastic. “Haemoglobe” is a great pun. And also: “ … grin slide off his face like flesh from bone.” That's some great metaphoring right there. There's not enough said in writer school about tying metaphor into theme, but you've hit the nail on the head with this one.

And there's this subtle (maybe) foreshadowing that this thing isn't quite dead. So, of course it's restartable. And why, for something so alien, is it habitable at all? Why is edible of all things? Well …

So, yes, I loved at that. But other reservations have started to pop up. Small things at first – against this background, zombies and a biological caste system seem quite banal. The zombie fight, especially, comes with an awkward shift of mood. It feels too actiony.

But the big thing is the story itself. It feels almost like it's been emptied – gutted, you might say. This is only evident near the end. Ego and Skye have a great dynamic. Complicated, uncertain, slightly grotesque. And yet Ego's end feels like a nothing. This depth is never quite capitalised on, and that scene makes it shallow, tames it somehow. Same thing for Sky's relations with her parents.

So goes for the final twist. We get all this setup, and then it's a bunch of zombies prodding a big heart. It fits – it's been foreshadowed. All the mysteries come together. But it also feels anticlimactic. Again: Tamed, somehow. The final scene is effectively creepy, with Viscera's influence tightening around Skye's neck, but not quite enough to save it.

Honestly, though? I don't know how to fix this. The setting is so large is deserves more than 5k, or possibly even 8k, words.
#333 ·
· on Bubbles
#334 ·
· on No End
"I'd guess this is a fairly new writer"
I've really lost my touch. I'm probably one of the oldest writers still active in the writeoff. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother
#335 ·
· on A Distinct Lack of Regret
Boy if there was ever a story that needed a second pass, this is it. Lot, lot, lot of clear typos. Just things like missed punctuation and the like, as well as some bizarrely repeated words and sentence structures.

That said, this story is fast food, but in the good way. Sometimes I want McDonald's or something. Sometimes I just want a simple adventure story. It is pretty breezy, reads well (when not typo'd), arcs decently (though the end is a huge anticlimax in a not particularly satisfying way and could use more something... pizzazz?). For like the millionth time this round, it puts me a bit in mind of like Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser style stuff: short stories that all stand independently but also could have arcs and development between them.

I do think there is something to be said for episodic stories. Not every story needs to be some great, epic character drama or the like. I think the recent push away from episodic stuff and into all arc driven stuff (primarily from on demand entertainment) is, in some ways, a shame. Episodic stuff is fun. And yes, yes, episodic stuff can have deep, great moments too. But they don't have to. Like, Fight Fighters and Soos and the Real Girl are fantastic Gravity Falls episodes just because they are fun, and this is kinda the same thing. Just fun characters and a fun situation.
#336 ·
· on On the Ontology of Glass Spiders · >>Baal Bunny >>Baal Bunny
Definitely twincest.

This is ultra nitpicky, but using fiberglass kinda rubbed me the wrong way, since I think of fiberglass as the reinforced plastic. Addmitedly, sometimes the reinforcement is referred to as "fiberglass," but it was really nagging at me. I think you'd be better off just sticking to using glass, glass fiber, glass thread, or even some sci-fi element.

Also hivemind spider is weird and I'm not sure how much it adds, given the spider doesn't... really act like much of a hivemind?

Anyhow, cute, amusing, got me on the arc it was gonna carry out and then... ended without actually doing that. This also really does seem like the author ran out of time and was forced to just end with "and then we'll have awesome adventures" instead of addressing the obvious arc of their respective sister problems. Which is a real shame, because that was a super good setup for that.
#337 · 3
· · >>horizon
The radio Writeoff is now edited (by Groaning Grey Agony). For those who didn't have the opportunity to listen to us (or if you just want to listen to it once again and make fun of us), here is your chance.


Hope you'll enjoy it. See you next time!
#338 · 1
· on On the Ontology of Glass Spiders · >>Baal Bunny >>Baal Bunny
This is cute, but rather empty. It ties together the familiar and surreal in a nice way, the banter is fun, the idea is nice, though not really deep. But that's it.

In a way, it feels like the intro to a children's book. That's not a diss, mind –there are many good books for children. I mean that that characters are simple but vivid; and the idea is simple enough, and we're more interested in it for shenanigans than following down the rabbit hole of unheimlich and conceptual complexity.

But the fact that it feels like an intro remains. Casey gets one scene, and she's gone, and that's it. Moira has one talk with the spider. There's a hint about the standard farcical plans and how we're all going to learn something about ourselves in the process. Then –

The curtains drop.

There's skill here, but it's being applied to a novella, not a short story.
#339 · 2
· on Harmony · >>CoffeeMinion
Ooh, xenofiction! Again!

And this time it's the longest, most complex story of the round. And it uses that size well. I've complained before about stories feeling incomplete. This doesn't. It gives us a proper intro, a set of character and plot issues, and resolves them together.

On the other hand, perhaps the problem is inverted. We leap so quickly into the story that the beginning itself feels a little threadbare. We're dunked head first into this strange world without warning, and the plot starts to run away with us before we can get our bearings. There are a few handholds here and there, but they don't seem quite enough.

For creativity, I'm not sure whether I'm satisfied or not. The world is fun. Aliens with collective minds, tentacles and pincers, an inaccessible ground, giant trees with glowing beetles living in them. And yet all of this comes with a slightly saccharine “we're not so different” plot. It reads well enough, yes, but I wouldn't have objected to something a bit meatier, a bit more centred around what makes these guys genuinely alien.
#340 ·
· on O'er the Edge
Two big problems I see here, though they're entangled. A problem in motivation leads to a problem in story structure.

So let's start with motivation. Your problem is that there isn't any, really. The Captain wants to sail over the edge of the world just because. The crew want to go with him just because. The narrator joins up just because.

Now this breaks the structure, because in a story like this, motivation is key. It's fundamentally about people's choices – They choose to set sail together, the Captain chooses to go over, the crew don't. But because their motivations are so flimsy, all these choices seem arbitrary.

The first half is okay, story-wise. Atticus gets recruited – yeah, that makes sense. But once we're on the water, things go astray. We just potter from shore to shore, then up to the edge. Nothing of any significance happens. Here is where you should be laying the groundwork for the climax. Here's where you could, for example, talk about the Captain's obsession. His friendship with Silver. What drove the crew to come with him – what gave them confidence in him in the first place, and how he's losing it.

Now, I'm not saying you can't have an obsession. You don't need to fill out “He's obsessed because … ” Maybe the he's simply obsessed and that's it. But that comes with a sort of temperament, a certain personality. It comes with a certain set of relations with other people. And it also raises the question of why the crew were along for the ride in the first place. If you fill out those, you can – hopefully – earn your climax.
#341 ·
· on Under the Forest Rise the Stairs
Possibly a nitpick, but it's awkward to begin a story with the name of someone other than your viewpoint character.

The prose, too, is awkward in places: “But before them was a sight that gladdened Turven at first glance, then chilled his heart as he looked at it.” It's already evident that he's looking at it. And later: “As the column of vertebrae collapsed beneath them, he strained his arms and climbed through.” The column collapsing seems important enough to warrant more than a subordinate clause.

For your first half, you're doing pretty well in building the tension, though the prose could stand to be a bit more atmospheric. Then halfway through, it mutates into something else. That's fine, as a midway twist – the spooky noises are actually coming from something quite benign (except maybe this friendly voice isn't quite so friendly).

And it's effectively creepy idea. But it's let down in multiple ways.

First, the lack of atmosphere really starts to bite around this part. They're inside a magically-mutated skull. But as atmosphere goes, the conversation could've been conducted in my living room.

Then, the bulk of this section is a long chat about the conditions of a magic system that's barely explained and clearly taken from the cutting room floor.

Finally, though we do start to build some tension near the end, the story seems to lose its nerve halfway through. We escape with a copout which dissolves all the tension built up so far. It comes from nowhere, goes nowhere, and leaves us with an anticlimax.

There's no real characterisation here, either. It seems to me that you could get rid of Shaviel entirely without really affecting the story.
#342 ·
· on The Dark North · >>horizon
The problem with puzzle box stories hinges on the reader's ability to solve them. And, honestly? I can't solve this. I suspect the last part, between Unnr and Dagmar, holds a great deal of significance. Bit as to that significance, I'm entirely in the dark. And it's not pleasant.

Still, I liked the names here. Clever references in names, Gene Wolfe style, are always appealing. But the difference between that and the above is that the story needn't hinge on you getting the names. Solving the puzzle is an added bonus, rather than an essential requirement for understanding the story.

The other part of the plot, one that troubled Mono, is the shift into fantasy. I think that criticism is unfounded – in the beginning there's a clever ambiguity. Is there theurgy going on, or are we just getting an unreliable narrator? This is subtly and post and effectively answered, but isn't quite enough for me.

I'll echo the others' praise about atmosphere and style, with a similar reservation. What's fascinating to read isn't always fun. I places I found the story rather boring.

I'm of two minds. On the one hand, reading this felt a bit like talking to one of those people who can't let a single exchange pass without showing off their erudition. That's no pleasant. On the other hand, I do kind of admire the ambition. I'll have to think about where to place this.
#343 · 4
Since it wasn't posted with the podcast, here's what's covered in this round's Radio Writeoff:

0:00 Introductions and discussion of art round in general
2:50 [Art] High Expectations
5:20 Dubs Rewatcher almost gets hit by a car
6:00 [Art] Shattered on Impact
12:00 The Dark North
25:30 A Distinct Lack of Regret
32:00 Caelum Incognita
41:50 Harmony
52:40 Fear The Voices That Scream In The Night
#344 · 3
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
I just popped in to mention the floating red dot above the other red dot.

I don't think it's a bug, or should even be changed, but:

#345 · 4
(Posted here because I can’t save it for a future art round.)
#346 ·
· on In Viscera · >>Pearple_Prose

So, I don't think this comes together as quite one solid unit. There's too much pulling in too many different directions. Especially in a short, you really need to focus in on what you actually want the story to do. Is this an investigation of the disappearances? A moody, creepy piece? An exploration of a bizarre setting?

It tries to be all these things at once, and I think it is worse for it. Hone in on what story you really want to tell, then focus on telling that while letting the other stuff drift into the background and flavor. Honestly, that's what a lot of my advice here consists of: condense. Like, really, the first three scenes would be improved if hey were more or less merged into one. The first two are both scene setting with minimal add otherwise.

While the idea is neat, I really don't get a good feeling for the setting or what life is like or how much of Viscera is colonized or the like. Which isn't always a bad thing, but when you focus a lot of attention on detailing the setting, it stands out. Moreover, the core conflict at the end actually is a bit weird to me: if the cause of death was a nuke to the brain, is restarting the heart really gonna do that much?

All that said, honestly, there really is a super cool story in here. I just think you need to decide what the fat is and then cut it.
#347 ·
· on Harmony · >>Scramblers and Shadows
So I read this the other day, and while I liked it in large part, I was struggling to figure out what to say about it. The setting is so alien, and yet the characters have a surprising amount of relatability. Then >>Scramblers and Shadows came along and said some things that I can pretty much just get behind. So thank you for that!

I didn't know about Xenofiction before this, so thank you for that as well.

Also, I kept having intrusive thoughts about Pantera's song "Use My Third Arm" while reading this. ^^
#348 ·
· on Fear the Voices that Scream in the Night · >>CoffeeMinion >>Aragon
Solid, punchy character piece that ultimately falls real flat to me because, at the end, I'm not really rooting for the characters and their particular brand of snark isn't even particularly endearing to hate.

Intro is a little disjointed in the first couple paragraphs and doesn't do a super good job of actually getting us in or introduced. The idea is there, but it doesn't really hook effectively, I feel.

Teminology is a little confusing because Archangels, at a glance and in most common terminology that I would think of, you don't really call the archangels mooks. Further, end has that problem where I can see the punchline coming a mile away, so I'm just sort of waiting for it to happen and vaguely annoy me.

That said, a good chunk of my complaint just comes from not liking this particular narrative conceit (that is bad people doing bad things and getting away with it for funsies), but this is definitely a category that people do like, so obviously take that with a grain of salt.
#349 ·
· on Harmony · >>Scramblers and Shadows
Okay, let's lead with the biggest issue, which is that this story is really hard to get a grasp on because it is completely alien. Like, completely. I have a very hard time picturing what is going on, because there is little familiar here. Near as I can make out, this takes place in the sky with floating trees or the like, and out aliens are balls with arms, eyespots, and multiple pincers on the arms. Further, for all that this ends up being about a big clan dispute, we actually know very little about the alien culture.

The core conceit (the multi-identity stuff) seems to be fairly underused, really. The arms occasionally argue with each other, and that's it for most of the story. Which... is a bit confusing, because I'm not actually sure who -I- is in this story. Is it Rustmoss and the 7 arms? Is Rustmoss one of the arms? Is Rustmoss the amalgamation of the 7 arms? Etc. We get a more exciting use of it near the end, but that's about it. For something that I expected to be the heart of the story, it really doesn't do much.

The actual conflict... I also kind of struggle with. Our clans are enemies, but I will let this go for now. Oh no, but now we must fight. Nevermind. Oh my clan is here and you are dead. RIP you. The pathos is actually pretty mellow, which is sort of further enhanced by how mellow and in harmony the missing bits are with their really unlucky demise. (Also, why can Rustmoss be recognized on sight by the warriors?)

In a lot of ways, this is pretty similar to Under the Forest Rise the Stairs in that I feel there are some neat ideas and neat things presented here, but the story itself really lacks a mood to sell them to me, if that makes sense. I come out of this story not really feeling anything. There were cool (if under explored) ideas and some potential brain fodder in imagining some of the scenes, but I never really invest in the adventure because... I'm not really given a good idea of what it is. A harrowing journey where unlikely companions bond and form a tragically doomed friendship? Or a fairly easy but long trip where they bond? Or something fairly doable but tense because of the secrets they conceal from each other?
#350 · 3
The Super Late, Pretty Terrible, Unofficial Mashup Mark II - Because No One Else Would Do It

Fear the Voices Under the Forest: A kid with some magic mushrooms and his little sister run into a pair of demons when they accidentally fall down a hole in the forest. They are beaten and tossed down a much deeper hole.

A Distinct Lack of Glass Spiders: Some weebs go out on a generic urban fantasy adventure instead of staying home and listening to some nerd talk about her science projects. No glass spiders are found and it's pretty much filler.
#351 ·
· on Fear the Voices that Scream in the Night · >>Aragon
Actually I'll pile on one thing here as well: I would've thought archangels would be the actual super divine ones that could take a gunshot and keep ticking. People as ascended angel-y things is still a cool concept, though.
#352 · 1
· on Fear the Voices that Scream in the Night

Archangels are the second weakest angels, according to classical angelology.. You're thinking of seraphims. Cherubs, even. Archangels are second worst right after normal piss-ass angels and guardian angels (which I assume are like normal angels, but with a cool sword).
#353 · 3
· on In Viscera
So yeah, this story was mine. The red light in the inspirational prompt picture combined with an idea seed I'd had for a few weeks and manifested into this strange, meat-punk(?) setting that you see before you. It took me until like 14 hours before the deadline to figure out the best way to write it, wrote the whole thing in 7 hours, then went to sleep.

It was a lot of fun. I think this story might actually be the best thing I've ever written, but apparently it wasn't up people's alley based on the results.

Re: Skye's origins, I intended for it to be read as "she was so young when she came to Viscera that she doesn't remember what the Outside is like" thereby implying that she might as well have been born there. I guess I could have just said she was born in the meat and it would have had the same effect and been less confusing.

Re: her age, I mention in the text that it's been about three decades. So she's around 30.

This comment I really don't like. I was never attempting to make the whole monster thing "make sense". It's not meant to be a hard sci-fi story. It's more like a fantasy setting that's slightly sci-fi-ish, if anything. And I don't see how the backstory "subtracts from the absurdity"? It's literally a giant monster dying onto a continent. Yes, it's absurd, because that's essentially the point. But even then, yeah, I can get your point. Maybe if the Outside wasn't mentioned at all, I could embrace how weird it is further, and that was one angle I considered taking with it when planning it.

It's the second half of this comment that I don't get at all. You're asking me to "explain less" so I can preserve the feeling of an absurd "B-movie" setting, as you described it, but then the things you actually want me to explain are just kind of... not really that important? Or at least explaining them would just detract from what I was trying to do, in my mind.

Are the zombies trying to restart Viscera's heart and bringing her back to life?

Yes, quite obviously.

Is there some sort of sporelike infection going on, spreading to the protagonist through the tear in her suit?

I purposefully didn't explain that. Up to you.

How did her parents get involved with whatever's going on?

See above.

What exactly is the extent of human civilization in Viscera, where are the boundaries and maps, what's known and unknown?

Why do you want to know? If it was important I would have put it in there, but I'm not going to explain it in a story when I don't need to.

Has no one else ever made the obvious connection between patients raving about heartbeat-like sounds and maybe something happening with Viscera's heart?

Maybe? Maybe they went down to explore and ended up in the same situation. Maybe Skye's mother mentioning of it in the story is the only instance of it. Maybe most people just do what Skye's dad did and disappear without a word. In any case this seems kinda nitpicky. Draw your own conclusions.

What are the rest of the eggheads doing, does Ego have no oversight or what?

Draw your own conclusions. If what the other Brainers were doing specifically is important beyond what I mentioned/implied, I would have mentioned it.

Why does Skye restart the heart???

I can answer this, too. But I'm not fucking going to. Figure it out based on the story.

In general, though, I do think that I messed up by not providing more information behind the characters and their relationship that makes what they're doing feel impactful. So I'll accept the general gist of what you were getting at as valid, but the actual specific things you want me to explain are just... ???


Sorry you couldn't figure it out.

>>Baal Bunny

They need the suits because the deeper parts of the body necessitate them. If you aren't going down into the thick of it, you don't need them. I figured that was implied.

And how does the monster's blood flow if its heart isn't beating?

Good question.

And how is it that in thirty years, no one's ever thought, "Hey, maybe we should find the monster's heart and keep an eye on it"?

Maybe they did.

>>Scramblers and Shadows

Thank you! I do agree that this story definitely could have been more. I'm definitely considering turning this into a novel, or something, just because I felt like I didn't do the setting justice in this piece. And as above, I do agree that I could have given more background and weight to the characters and their relationships.


You definitely have a point re: the pulling in different directions. There's one or two big changes I think I'd make to this story as-is, and then if I had more time to write a longer story, there's definitely a couple things I would have included to provide that sense of the setting that you might have missed out on. The zombies were functional, but yeah, I know a better way I could have handled them for when I ever return to writing a story in this setting again.
#354 · 2
>>Scramblers and Shadows

Thanks, folks:

And congrats to our top three! As everyone noted--and as >>Baal Bunny stated--I missed the first half of the writing period 'cause I forgot there was a Writeoff going on. But looking through the gallery, I saw the cracked window, realized it was actually a glass spider web, threw in some light-hearted existential angst to touch on the prompt, and got two thirds of the thing done before the deadline. Rest assured, however, that the third act is coming along nicely, and I expect to begin gathering rejection notices from my usual round of SF magazines once I finish in a week or so.

Then I've gotta finish the expansion of my Blueblood story--also a 4th place finisher, now that I look at it--from the Has That Always Been There? event six months ago, and Jake the Army Guy's got an "Obscure Shipping" contest with a deadline of June 30th that's calling to me...

Always so much to do!

#355 · 2
· on O'er the Edge
Not enough story in this story.
The sad truth is, a lot of the things that people brought up were things that were supposed to be in the story. But... I don't want to give the excuse of not having much time, so I won't. My fault, folks. Thank you for your comments, regardless.

The idea was that most of the crew went into the adventure because of their faith in and respect for the captain. Silver, despite his immense loyalty, is the only one to question the plan. In the scene where the narrator stumbles back to the boat from the tavern, Silver has just come up from meeting with some of the crew, the crew that later mutinies with him.

Missed that! Probably should have been, "But if he was cheating I couldn't say how."

characters are cute even though most of them are cameos with joke names

Erm... If they are, it was fully unintentional. The only one I see really was Silver, and that was coincidental; I just figured anyone named 'Silimus' would want a nickname. Most of the silliness for the names came from liking the name 'Hadderflash' a bit too much and just running with it.

I'm glad you enjoyed the style, at least; I rather like writing in it.
#356 · 2
· on A Distinct Lack of Regret
Some episodic adventure fiction inspired by various creepypastas, modern urban fantasy, my unending desire to write about nerd shit, and art prompts pushing me to take it far.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to do anything other than the initial draft, which is really evident in the quantity of basic typos, as well as some of the bizarre phrasing and repeated words/structures evident throughout the story.

So, yeah.

>>Fenton Well, strictly speaking, emulating anime wasn't a stated goal, but is an influence, so I can't complain too much. That said, while there is some merit to what you say, I also disagree that a short story necessarily requires that a character learn or understand something. In way, I actually feel that has been a thing that has been holding me back in the field of episodic adventure fiction. You just can't really force characters to learn something all the time.

I'm actually listening to some Holmes short stories right now (specifically those in The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) and... yeah. Some stories end with bigger revelations for Holmes and the like, some don't and you're just there for the ride. (You see a lot of that in Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser too. There are definitely some arced stories where our intrepid heroes learn things and experience big life changes, but there are plenty where they just do shit). That said, especially with the conclusion as is, I can see it lacking the punch to really be satisfying a more adventure focused bit.


>>Baal Bunny See the above to Fenton, really. That said, I could add a little more vested life interest in their work and probably be the better for it.

>>Ranmilia I can just chat with you later.

>>Scramblers and Shadows Hm. Lemme see if I can better formulate my response and get back to you. I agree with parts of your comment and disagree, but am not sure how to best express the disagreement at this hour.
#357 · 2
· on Harmony
What up, my writeoff droogs. And congratulations to horizon and Aragon!

So, a lot of you found this pretty opaque. I don't blame you, and I guess some explanations are in order:

The environment for this one is, in fact, not Jupiter, but a planet resembling Venus. That's why Rustmoss can fall to the ground. Just below the sulphuric haze layer, the pressure is about 10atm, and the temperature about 200 degrees. The ecology here is based on sulphuric acid -- which is why the characters drink vitriol and can be burnt by water.

As for the aliens themselves: Picture something between a starfish and an octopus.

Why do I say swim rather than fly? This was a tricky choice. I didn't want to use fly, because that implies a dynamic lift -- you need to actively kick air downwards to fly. I didn't want to imply that. And since these creature are neutrally buoyand, and kick air backwards to move, "swim" seemed a more fitting verb.

And yeah, Drasil is a reference to Yggdrasil. But, honestly? It wasn't a clever reference or anything like that. I just needed a name, and I didn't want to cram in nonsense syllables.

Near as I can make out, this takes place in the sky with floating trees or the like, and out aliens are balls with arms, eyespots, and multiple pincers on the arms.

Balls? I don't recall mentioning balls. Everything else, though, is pretty accurate.

It reads like they're in caves, but they aren't on the ground so... floating islands, or what? What are these "worldtree" things, does this sort of drift happen often?

The trees float, and they are hollow.

Also, I'm guess for the capitalisation that GLaD is a reference to Portal, but I've never played it, so I can't really say much about that.

Not sure I have any specific comments for you guys -- but thank you for the support!
#358 · 2
· on The Dark North · >>Monokeras
The Dark North

Last week was way too hectic, and it's a bit late for a retrospective now, but I feel like I should at least say a few words.

>>Pearple_Prose >>AndrewRogue >>Monokeras >>Fenton >>Ranmilia >>Scramblers and Shadows

This story was primarily the product of a really strong mental image and a little bit too much ambition. I was driving a few weeks back and some storm clouds were sweeping through the area, and I saw them out on the horizon where the Sierra Nevada normally is, except dramatically taller. This year's heavy snows are still sticking to the mountains, so it was hard to tell at a glance whether the mountains were real or clouds, and the idea of physical cloud-mountains started doing laps in my brain.

When it came time to actually write them, the theme of the round seemed to suggest some kind of travelogue (I was definitely not the only one doing that, though I was one of the ones playing it straightest) and I rolled with that. I flipped through my copy of Luis Borges' Book of Imaginary Beings (I swear, that thing has given me such inspiration), and the structure of the entries put me in mind of the sort of insane hearsay and core credulity that came back from classical explorers and got put into the first books that tried to be encyclopedias of the natural world (such as Pliny's Natural History, and before that, Herodotus' Histories). I wanted to invoke that specifically, but on a short writing timescale I could fake classical Greek a heck of a lot better than ancient Roman (or, for that matter, classical Eastern or medieval Western) explorers.

Some of the little tidbits, like the hearths and the clasping of the knees and the deity epithets, are lifted from the college class I took decades ago on the Iliad and Odyssey, and I did a few hours of web research as I went along, so there is some basic authenticity to it. But I also ran from there straight into fantasy-land with the magical-realist landscape and miracles (…not to mention the mixed-gender expedition), so the bullshit factor is pretty high. Also, the tone of the text specifically is very much stolen from Victorian adventure-romance. ("You got your steampunk in my Odyssey!" "No, you got your Odyssey in my steampunk!")

I could have done a much better job, I think, if I hadn't lost a day and a half to various obligations and a lack-of-sleep crash on Sunday that got me freaking out about my ability to finish at all. I actually had a subplot I had to discard in its entirety — digging deeper into Unnr and Dagmar's relationship — and another that was only vaguely hinted in the current text — what's going on with Seher. [1] The pitching-off-the-mountain thing was kind of the weakest of the three main lines, but it was the one that fit the art prompt, so it got hastily assembled and I submitted with my fingers crossed that I could bluff my way through on style alone.

I spent far too much time trying to massage the narrative in such a way that I could balance the German words (falconstein, waldorf, sturmbergs, etc) with ancient Greek's lack of certain letters (c, b, f [they did have a ph though], etc), AND some semblance of readability for the average reader who didn't care about those details. Then I facepalmed so hard when >>Monokeras posted and reminded me that I had completely overlooked early Greek's lack of W. I tried, Mono, I did. :P And yes, the German is anachronistic, I probably should have used Old English or something, but there was no way I was going to both write a story and get two classical languages right on the schedule we had.

[the complaint about] names in an unfamiliar language and a LOT of them

That's actually specifically why I added the personal epithets. The soldiers are all kinda interchangeable, so the fact that you have wise Maera, swift Kaenas, etc., tells you their role in the story at a glance. (I did a little more with the epithets later, such as bold Dagmar "earning" that title "and others besides", and some more through implication, such as the fact that the narrator doesn't give one to any of the barbarians.) Unfortunately based on the reception I guess it didn't work like I'd hoped. :(

I was badly confused in the lodge scene because I didn't realize [the narrator] was female until it was explicitly spelled out

That's one end of a spectrum of errors in first-person epistolaries, the other of which is the girl who writes in her diary "By the way, diary, I'm a female". I erred on the side of the former. As such, there was a fair amount of information about the narrator Penthesilea that I wasn't ever able to gracefully work in (…such as her name ;__;) and that was just a speedwriting problem, one I knew but couldn't effectively address.

Anyway, blood and thunder and adventure and some big flaws that it kinda managed to weather. Thank you all for reading, and for appreciating it to the extent you did. Original fiction Writeoffs: Hard, it turns out!

… Also, I would like to note that, as of this round, I'm the first author with one of each writing medal it's possible to achieve! :yay: And I also just looked over at the Original Fiction scoreboard and realized I've got ten consecutive OF medals — cripes. I don't think that record is going to be challenged any time soon.

Basically, it's time for me to get to publishing more of this stuff.
#359 ·
· on On the Ontology of Glass Spiders
>>Scramblers and Shadows


If you've got the time and the inclination to give me comments on the whole story, I've finished it now and pasted it into a Google Doc.

#360 ·
· on The Dark North
Original fiction Writeoffs: Hard, it turns out!

You tell me! :P
#361 · 1
· on On the Ontology of Glass Spiders
It occurs to me:

That I never posted a link to the completed version of this story. And now I have. :)