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But First, We Need to Talk About Parallel Universes · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
#1 · 5
· · >>Corejo
You slam the door to your apartment, throw the keys on the cupboard and let out a loud sigh.

Yet another boring day coming to an end.

You switch the light of the hall on, then take off your trench coat, which is still dripping from the outside rain. Fuck that dreary weather. You undo your shoes, kick them under the coat stand, and stride to the bathroom in search of a towel.

Once your hair is dried, you feel less like a doused dog, but look more like a ruffled one, you walk back to the kitchen. You open the fridge and grab an icy can of beer. Popping the lid open, you tip the can over your mouth, swallow a large gulp of it, then proceed to the living room.

You flop into the frayed armchair, put the can on the armrest, snatch the remote and turn the TV on. The familiar voice of the BBC’s anchorman springs from the set. No, not tonight, please! You need something else, something that will knock your socks off, so you zap through the channels in search of a programme that can hold your attention for more than a couple of seconds.

You’re about to give up when the screen darkens. You hear a blaring whir. Helicopters? Your eyes battle to make out details in that black hole. Then you begin to see things. Outlines of buildings, subdued lights filtering out of the curtained windows. It’s dark, it rains. Maybe it’s live, maybe it’s close, you’ve no way to tell. The camera is shooting from above, enhancing the steepness of the high-rise buildings. The perspective is so dramatic and the images so wobbly you feel sick watching them.

A patch of dazzling light enters the field, making you blink and jerk. It sweeps all over the place, as if looking for something, looking for someone. It wanders aimlessly, brushing the façades, hopping from building to building, then obediently following the course of a large avenue, surprisingly deserted.

Deserted? No, you catch a glimpse of a shape there, a tiny black, glossy splotch moving on the grey backdrop of the pavement. The light spot slides past but suddenly stops and runs back, scanning the street in wide swaths until it locks on the shape again. The camera zooms in and yes, it is a man. You see him run, stop. He hesitates. Looks right and left, then up at the camera he can’t see, blinded as he is by the light, then down again.

“Here! Here he is!” You hear a male voice screaming over the unceasing whir. “Call alpha tango for squad cars! I want a SWAT team right away”

The man rushes forwards, out of the patch of light, which immediately starts tracking him. He jinks and sneaks under the cover of trees, now no more than a moving flick barely visible through the dense cover of leaves. The camera jerks as it tries to keep the runner in focus.

All of a sudden, the guy veers and dashes under an arch. The light spot cannot follow him anymore, blocked by the buildings. It stops and stays still, defeated. At that very moment, a flock of prowl cars, all lights on, skid to a halt in front of the arch. A swarm of cops jump out of them and run flat out in hot pursuit of the guy.

The perspective abruptly changes. You’re apparently now watching images taken by a camera embedded in one of the cop’s outfit. You can hear his fast breathing as he races along, together with the grunts and shouts uttered by his colleagues around. It’s hard to make out anything as the lens is jolted randomly left and right, up and down. All you can see are flashes of light from front windows, blurry signs that disappear almost as soon as they pop up and shifting shadows.

But then a loud and strident whistle pierces your ears. The pace slows down, the images focus. The mad run seems to be over. You see a gloomy, paved alley, lined with closed doors. A greenish, sickly ambient light bounces off the drenched pavement and gives the decor a surrealistic tinge. Right and left other cops stride along. One grabs his gun out of its holster and points it right ahead of him. Others follow suit.

As the camera holder moves on, you realise the alley is a dead-end. It is blocked by a huge, vertical brick wall impossible to climb. There, in one of the corners, a man hunches. A wide spot of light, possibly from a big torch, springs up, zeros in on him. He wears a black hoodie that hides his face.

“Sir,” the gravelly voice of a cop thunders, “you’re cornered. There’s no escape. Surrender and we’ll spare you. If you agree, don’t move, but put both your hands over your head. I’ll count to three. At three, if your hands are not visible and up, we’ll fire. One.”

The fugitive does not move.


Slowly, reluctantly, he lifts his arms.

“Stand up, slowly. Slowly. Okay. Stay quiet. Keep both your hands up. I want to see their palms.”

Two cops move in, still training their guns at him. One of them halts, puts his gun back in its holster, then takes his handcuffs. “Don’t move,” the same booming voice carries on.

The chase is over. The cop seizes each arm of the fugitive, pulls them in his back and cuffs his hands. The other cop then joins the first and starts frisking the guy roughly. After a few seconds, he turns to the camera. “He has nothing,” he says.

“Where’s the book? We need the fucking book!” the voice yells.

“Here!” a second voice cuts in. The camera spins around to face another cop. He holds a book in his hand, shows it to the camera. Water and mud have stained it, but it is still intact. The lens zooms in until the title, marred by dark splotches, occupies all the TV screen.

And it reads: A Write-Off Anthology, by Roger Dodger.
#2 · 5
"Book him," growled the officer. "Overdue by three weeks and damaged. You better hope we don't cancel your card for this."

(Twilight Sparkle - Library Enforcement Division, rated M)
#3 · 4
· · >>Hagdal Hohensalza >>GroaningGreyAgony
#4 ·

#5 · 3
Hrrreeiihggrrrhhrh. Pbbrrt.
#6 ·
I was waiting for the shoe to drop. You didn't disappoint. :P
#7 ·
And if such a thing were to make me feel alive
Then I have to become a kind person,
I want to reaffirm myself
I have to become a kind person
Before my heart grows numb from the cold
#8 · 5
Huh. TBD as a prompt speaks to me.
#9 · 4
· · >>Hagdal Hohensalza >>DuskPhoenix
And I'm in writing shape for this one, huzzah! I will beat all of you and secure 19th place!
#10 ·

I like your spirit.
#11 · 3
· · >>Fenton
I'm new to the writeoff and schedule. Right now are we in the voting period for the prompt or the writing stage?
#12 · 3
Welcome to the Writeoff. I hope you'll enjoy your stay. We are now voting for the prompt, the writing will start in less than 17 hours. Since it's a minific round, we'll only have 24 hours to write a story between 400 and 750 words. And one last thing, you'll find a link at the top that will lead you to the discord server. If you have any other questions, or you simply want to say hi, feel free to drop by.
#13 ·
Well that's fine since you didn't say 20th place. 20th place is mine
#14 ·
Hmmmmmm. I don't do original rounds, but there are a couple of prompts I might write for if they should win...
#15 ·
It actually won?!
Hype obtained
#16 · 1
Ah, my prompt got a bunch of votes! Not quite enough though.

Don't know whether I'm going to write this time or not, still. (Life is troublesome…) Good luck to all authors regardless.
#17 · 12
· · >>Fenton >>Not_A_Hat >>CoffeeMinion >>Trick_Question
But First, We Need to Talk About Parallel Universes

You guys are the BEST! I can't believe this won.

For anyone unfamiliar with this meme, the line comes from very famous YouTube video in which the user pannenkoek2012 explains how he plays a level of Super Mario 64 while avoiding pressing the A button as much as possible.

The video, while long, is a masterpiece of human ingenuity and makes me feel that humanity is ready to venture into space. Please watch it:

Alternatively, here's the moment where he says the line.
#18 · 5
I'm gonna need to think about what to write for this one. Just give me about twelve hours...
#19 ·
Hooooooooo-boy. This is gonna be a very interesting round. :rainbowdetermined2:
#20 · 1
I was about to rant on the prompt, but thanks to your explanation, I can now see how I could play around the prompt and find some ideas.
#21 · 5

You should write this guy a message and let him know that people are writing a bunch of stories based on this.
#22 · 3
I can't believe I watched that whole thing, but the guy is just fascinating to listen to...
#23 · 5
Well, it's stupid. And silly. And campy. And probably still filled with typos. But, most importantly of all, it is submitted.

May god, and the poor, unfortunate readers, have mercy on my soul.
#24 · 1
Well, I finally finished my story. Not sure it entirely works, but maybe somebody will like it.
#25 · 1
AndrewRogue's entry into the Writeoff was a mistake.
-Hayao Miyazaki
#26 ·
And they are in. Have fun destroying them.

And good luck for those who are still writing.

PS: Unfortunately, I won't have much time to review. I'll try my best to tackle as many as I can today.
#27 ·
I was completely convinced I wasn't going to make it, and instead...wow. Guess a forced vacation and no time aren't enough to stop me from writing :-)

(Although gods, writing everything on a tablet wasn't easy)
#28 · 1
Wasn't planning to enter, but it gets rid of an idea that's been hanging around for a while.
#29 ·
Pro: The surprisingly good prompt jarred loose a story idea that's been floating half-formed in my brain.

Con: I didn't have time to go past a very rough description of the concept. Well, at least not without stopping working on my primary story I'm trying to make progress on.

Pro: I can file that concept away for later...
#30 · 2
Bam. I'm in this.

Also: I'm making the cut this time. No nazis, no prostate horrors, no incomplete stories. Just pure, textual awesome.
#31 · 2
I've had this account for a while, never managed to submit anything until now.

Hurray for me for actually writing something.
#32 · 1
Well, mine needed a completely rewrite, but I'm out of time. What I get for not doing anything until the last minute.

Still, I have been remiss in participating in these.
#33 · 1
I've had no time to write reviews or retrospectives, but somehow I always find time to write a story.
#34 · 5
· on Monokeras and Fenton's Whacky French Adventures · >>Cassius
Whoever wrote that ❤️❤️
Sadly not on my slate… 😫
#35 ·
· on Monokeras and Fenton's Whacky French Adventures · >>Cassius
You know what, I was with this 100% until the end. I mean, that opening line is how you get attention, and the various "frenchly" references were absurd but solid well-meaning nudges at our heroes. But to me the thing at the end crossed the line from "well-meaning nudge" to something less pleasant. It's a fine line, granted; but I'm reminded of the illustrious Mr. Trampoline's onetime story about a trippin' Andrea Libman talking to Pinkie Pie as a similar example of walking-and-sometimes-crossing said line. IMO it fails to reward the audience for the interest it's otherwise built in these characters.
#36 · 2
· on Monokeras and Fenton's Whacky French Adventures · >>Cassius
Thank you, whoever you are.

#37 · 3
· on Blind Dating in a World Gone Mad · >>Fenton >>devas >>Ranmilia >>AndrewRogue

Pedaled. :P To peddle is to sell.

So, I really like this overall! (Disclaimer: I am nowhere near an impartial source on that; because this is right in the sweet spot of the urban fantasy universe I created and wrote in for over a decade.) But entirely aside from my biases, I think you have some strong prose here -- a nice hook, good focus contrasting a very normal dating scene with the complications of the merge, and strong internal monologue (and dialogue) that makes me root for the characters.

The main issue here is that this doesn't feel self-contained. The ending really isn't, and I'm not sure what else you could add within the wordlimit that would make it feel like one. This would be a strong opening to a longer story, and you'd definitely have me along for that ride, but in a Writeoff context I do have to ding you for the fragmentation here.

Regardless, this will set an early high water mark I'll judge the rest of my stories against.

Tier: Strong
#38 · 1
· on Monokeras and Fenton's Whacky French Adventures
A triumph.
#39 · 8
For once, I actually had free time during the writing period, the house wasn't burning down, and I wasn't too sick or depressed to move. And the prompt was fantastic!

Naturally, I spent the day muddled in ideas I couldn't figure out where to go with, completely switched directions twice, and only came up with something in the last couple of hours. Submitted with 0m00s showing on the timer. We're in there, though.

Bonus unused idea: The author of a smash hit self-help book appears on a talk show to discuss their work. They explain that the book helps the readers open their mental pathways to travel to a parallel universe where they achieve whatever goal they were looking to do. It started with his own goal of becoming a bestselling author (and, possibly implied, controlling the world.) During the broadcast, people start to vanish into thin air: world leaders, celebrities, audience members, anyone who's read and believed the book. The author purports that they're traveling to other universes to achieve their dreams, but non-readers are shocked and skeptical, and then..........something. I never came up with a really satisfactory conflict and resolution, especially not anything achievable in 750 words.
#40 · 2
· on A Toothsome Armageddon · >>Monokeras >>Monokeras
that was pretty funny. I liked the style of warfare here. this is my kind of stupid humor.

how did the Russians know the European rockets came from America? (insert political joke about leaks)
#41 ·
· on The Day I Met my Double
Yeah, well, maybe?

I know that obvious prompt is obvious, but this one doesn't seem to make any effort to stand out. We have the usual story with the double coming to gather forces against an evil and powerful force. There is nothing really bad, but nothing rally good either. There is no new perspective, no joke or twist to make the story fresh and new.

As for the narrator being a cook, it doesn't play a role at all in the story. In longer stories, adding 'useless' informations about a character isn't that big of a deal because it merges into the story as details. Since it's MiniFic, almost every word has to count.

So overall, it was from being unpleasant to read. Unfortunately, with nothing to stand out, this won't score very high for me. Thank you nonetheless for sharing.
#42 · 1
· on But first... · >>horizon >>Cassius >>LiseEclaire
This is an interesting story with a lot of fun ideas that left me wanting more. It did have some issues for me, though.

I feel the main problem in this work is the ratio of unexplained terminology and sci-fi concepts to the story's length. We aren't given enough information to determine what the universal embargo is, or Scarsnatchers, or a singularity box, etc. It felt a like there were a lot of very interesting but incomplete ideas invoked solely to tell a whimsical story. Unfortunately, the story seems to rest almost entirely on those ideas, because the framework of the story did not feel particularly novel or interesting to me (naughty kid gets caught, lies).

In particular, I was troubled by the fact that we never learn the protagonist's true motivations. We know she lied throughout her explanation, but we don't learn anything about what she was actually trying to do. Is she a Scarsnatcher? Is she trying to sneak into the dormitory for casual sex? Is she a pyromaniac who likes having weaponized singularities? I don't know enough to say for sure.

How could she forget the inquat incident if it happened earlier on that same day? I agree this is a lot of hijinks to perform in a single day, but why would a scholarship student intentionally cause so much chaos?

“The blonde in the corner of the hall.” The dean nodded. “Which you were instrumental in capturing...”

".' The dean nodded." made it sound to me like she was nodding in response to something the student said, which made it seem like the student and dean were talking in the same paragraph until I reread it twice. I think something like, ",' said the Dean, nodding." might work better.
#43 · 1
· on Memento · >>Foehn
the title, combined with some early dialogue being repeated, made me assume this was gonna be the same backwards-story gimmick from the movie Memento. it's not!

this has a clever idea, but it didn't hit me emotionally. I think the hints aren't subtle enough, it spells it out a little too cleanly. Also, I'm not too attached to this character, since he seems mostly indifferent and indecisive throughout the explanations. maybe if he had a strong emotional impulse one way or another, which he could reflect on later, the message here would carry some weight. I like the slow click-click for pacing here, but the moments in between are just a little too static.
#44 ·
· on Villainy
it was worth a chuckle, but the repetition got boring after the 2nd section, and I started skimming ahead. the ending didn't feel funny or surprising, just flat. it's too predictable, I wanted this story to go somewhere crazy and unexpected.
#45 ·
Gonna make some reviews while my hair dries. Short stuff, nothing fancy, may come back and deliver longer opinions later.
#46 · 2
· on Monokeras and Fenton's Whacky French Adventures · >>Cassius
This was lovely. Mono's kids were definitely the best characters.

That said, I'm not sure that the author completely got Mono's voicing down... and I'm serious about that. Study the chat logs a bit more, come to the next DubsCon. You'll learn. 😉

inb4 it turns out mono wrote this himself
#47 ·
· on King Laius
This is a compelling little piece. I wish the author had had the space to take it to a conclusion. Upper tier.
#48 ·
· on Selection · >>GroaningGreyAgony >>AndrewRogue >>Ranmilia
I may be wrong but I'm almost sure that this was written by a non native speaker (I know, a bit ironic, coming from me when Xepher regularly calls me out). There are several typos and grammar that make me say that. Also, the fact there isn't any single comma before the quotation marks tells me that the author is new here, and new to this kind of format. So welcome.

That being said, this didn't really prevent me from reading this smoothly. However, the story feels hollow. We have a beginning, but not a middle and definitely not an ending. What's at stakes isn't clear and even if the interactions start forming characters and personnalities, it ends before anything that has been hinted can make sense.
This beginning seems to lead towards something, at worst interesting, at best great, but like I said, nothing follows that beginning and, as it is, this beginning doesn't stand on his own.

However, I strongly encourage you to keep writing. I can sense that there is something really good hidden beneath. It's up to you to keep practising in order to be able to bring these hidden things to light.
#49 · 1
· on High School Dramady, Played Straight · >>AndrewRogue
I had to read this twice because I thought Erin was a girl the first time through. I'm not sure why you chose that spelling. I kept scanning the text to maybe confirm that Erin might be like transexual or something, but I couldn't find any evidence of that.

It's hard to keep track of the dialogue in this story because the actions and speech of separate characters are not discreet from one another. For example, a lot of the dialogue formatting is like this:

"Dialogue goes here." Erin did a thing. Sophie also did a thing.

"New dialogue here."

Ideally you'd want it to be more like:

"Dialogue goes here." Erin does a thing.

Sophie does also did a thing. "Dialogue here."

Additionally, the punctuation of your dialogue is only sometimes correct. I'm not sure if that is due to typography mistakes or an uncertainty of how things should be punctuated, but nonetheless it jarring.

I think the title is perhaps a microcosm of the issue I have with the story (by that I mean the plot) itself, which is to say that it is very much a stereotypical teen drama, but with much of the necessary things needed to have it function excised due to the word limit, leaving more like a summary of a teen drama than an actual one. The characters seem much too sterile and artificial, as their outside status and lack of success is an informed trait rather than a demonstrated one. We hear about their struggles but aren't witness to them. Perhaps it would have been more effective to showcase Erin striking out, in a humiliating way, then having Sophie relate to him, would seem more organic, but I think the primary issue is that sort of scene wouldn't fit well into this limited word medium.

There's a cut off line I find more interesting than the entire rest of the story, and as far as I can tell, there's no real substantiation on it, which are these two lines paired together:

"Don't you ever wonder if we'd been able to save..."

"...Delilah would be there and everything..."

I tried looking through the rest of the story multiple times to see if there was something I was missing about this Delilah character, and if something happened to her that made these two "shut-ins." The only explanation I can think of relates to the "jack and coke line" which I thought was supposed to be a joke offer. Nonetheless.

Needs more comedy to be a dramady.
#50 ·
· on King Laius
first question: did the gun come with ammo? or do cartridges count as additional items?

fascinating concept here. I like that it's explained quickly, up front. It kinda resembles PKD's story Paycheck, though the gun makes it less subtle. I'll let it slide, it's still interesting.

second question: why not a bigger gun? or a single-shot derringer? yet the wormhole is certain the beretta is perfect here...

ok, I'm being facetious with those questions, but it does make me think that as charming and vivid the story is, it's a little too vague. the open-ended... ending.... makes me impatient for more, rather than pondering big questions about destiny and changing fate. I think there's too little information (compared to the oracle's misleading fortune) to even know if this was a meaningful choice or not.

This is still really strong, but borrows too much from the quoted King Laius story for its conflict, so not much originality.

or maybe I would've preferred the Paycheck-style story, so it could just be me.
#51 ·
· on Villainy
As Haze has said, the problem here is you're repeating the same joke, just slightly different each time. An important bit of comedy is subversion of expectations. Imagine for instance I told you four different jokes of varying quality about a priest, a rabbi, and a minister walking into a bar. On their own, those jokes may be funny, but if I told you those jokes one after another rapid-fire style, you'd probably ask me to stop telling jokes and get out of your house before you call the police. By the second joke, you're already anticipating what the punch line will be in your head and you have a good idea of what type of humor I was going for because you heard the first joke, so whatever I happen to tell you will likely be in the ballpark of what you were already thinking.

The ending almost pieces this together, but it falls just a bit short on the delivery.
#52 · 1
· on Blind Dating in a World Gone Mad · >>Fenton >>AndrewRogue
This is sort of an amalgam of a lot of different modern fantasy stories which doesn't really give itself a clear identity from what is presented, but how can I blame the author for that? There's no way to fit that sort of thing into 750 words or less. The construction is generally pretty solid, and while there are some nice ideas floating around here, there's not a lot to really be gleaned from this, unfortunately.

This reads like an introduction, as if the author wrote took the first 750 words of the draft he was working on and submitted it. I mean the story even ends before the date is finished. We know a bit of factual information about our characters from the exposition, but we don't really know them as people yet. It's sort of like (ahem) a blind date. We know a bunch of surface information about what is going on with the person with sort of general inquiries (oh what's your job, what are your hobbies, how do you feel about x?) but we don't really know who they are.

To be honest, I wish this was saved for an original short story round, because I feel the writer has the talent to make something of this setup, and I'd be interested to see where it went. That being said, I can't really grade on a hypothetical product rather than the one that exists.
#53 ·
· on Pickup Trucks and Comic Books · >>Ranmilia
This is really good. In terms of construction, definitely the best I've read thus far, obviously written by someone experienced. Lot of small, understated descriptive details here in a competition where description is usually thrown out the window. The ending I think may be a base breaker for the competition at large, but I think it works, and for a second, it got me. I pulled back after a second, but reading the last few lines gave me a short pang in my heart, which is a lot to accomplish for a mini.

The dad comes across as just a little too self-deprecating, not in its severity, but just in the frequency that attention is called to it. He also comes across as paradoxically very self-aware yet supposedly quite dumb (a factor I think is also a bit overdone, like a well-done steak). I think also, there is a bit too much mentioning of Jessica in the story that it dampens the conclusion. I'd prefer it to be a bit more subtle, which in fairness, it already kind of is.

I had a teacher named Mrs. Gee. She gave me a copy of Guards, Guards! by Terry Pratchett. She was a sweetheart.
#54 ·
· on From Curiosity to Confusion, From Confusion to Horror
A pair of floating faces discuss tropes and cliches of alternate realities, and the big reveal is that they're both just characters in a story! And the author just had to mention ponies. This one doesn't go much of anywhere or do much of anything, so I'm calling it a lower tier effort. Sorry, Author.
#55 · 1
· on Roy's Diner, 3 A.M.
I laughed at the poor guy misfortune because I'm a terrible person. This one got me a good chuckle, but I wish 'she' did play more around the parallel universes. Something like

"That means that somewhere out there in the innumerable universes there's a version of me that's stupid enough to forgive you. There is also one where you'll dodge it. Let's find out which one it is." I dumped the glass of water out all over him and stood to leave. "Seems it's not this one.Good luck finding it."

Anyway, a solid comedy that I'll probably rank pretty high.
#56 · 1
· on This Story is a Metaphor for the Canterbury Tales
I like how the twist was executed here. But there's just way too much technobabble to wade through, it wasn't a fun experience.
#57 ·
· on This Story is a Metaphor for the Canterbury Tales
This might've been written in some sort of rush as several (mainly typographic) typos evidence.

Right. As Haze would say, it got a chuckle out of me, but nothing much more significant. The literal twist at the end is mildly funny, but it doesn't really redeem most of the fic, which comes across as a pile up of pseudo quantum mechanics jargon throw out in random order to give the story a veneer of science. There’s very little here apart from the verbiage and the ending, and we don’t really care because the characters are sorta cardboard cutouts: the dumb intern vs. the professor wonder.

So yeah, too wordy for my taste, I fear. Sorry, author.
#58 · 3
· on This Story is a Metaphor for the Canterbury Tales · >>horizon
This is a pair of characters expositing a description of a dimensional travel console. Its main virtue is that it fits the prompt, but by itself it's not much of a story, and as a scene there's not a lot to it under the technobabble. It is of course acceptable to submit parts of larger stories to minific rounds, but they should be able to mostly stand by themselves.
#59 ·
· on Memento · >>AndrewRogue >>Foehn
I'm not sure it clicked for me here. I can't really make head and tails of this. I’m left with more questions than answers, which is not a bad thing per se, but makes the reading a bit frustrating.

Is the women in the car the last human on Earth and the others are just whatever, programs?
In which case, I’m not sure what the door exactly symbolises: destruction or death?

Well, it’s not bad, it’s interesting, but just a teeny-tiny too obfuscated for my old neurones.
#60 ·
· on A Bureaucratic Welcome · >>AndrewRogue
Is that the bureau responsible for reincarnations? That would make sense, in a way, as well as a pun on “form”.
I’m left wondering.
And that leaves me a bit unsatisfied. There’s something lacking here.
#61 · 3
· on First Sight

almost perfect!

it's difficult to explain why this struck a chord with me. I've read all the entries, and this one picks up the pins that most other fics fumbled with, and manages to juggle them all. it doesn't even seem that ambitious compared to a lot of the grand metaphysical ideas this round, no technobabble (yay!), but this one's appreciation for a small mundane moment fits its scope perfectly. Because of that, it has plenty of room to fit in repeated variations across the universes, and all of them are interesting and full of little surprises. And then it finishes it all off with one more variation that's..... not an explanation, not a twist, but one more alternate universe that builds off all the others while tying them together.

and hey, it's just a romance story. after serving up all those courses of regret and disappointment, it ends with a dessert made of warmth and intrigue. I don't know how it works, but I can't see this story ending any other way.

First Sight? First Place.
#62 ·
· on Fears Are Like Dogs
I'm not catching how this fits the prompt. But the use of imagery here is amazing, and the structure fits together wonderfully.
#63 ·
· on Letters from the Unknown · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat did I just read?
There are some really minor mistakes, but my main gripe is that I really, really don’t get it.
The A is Awful? Aggressive? Astounding?
What has hAppend? I have no clue. Sorry Author, I’ll need you explaining me that.
#64 ·
· on Walking With A Goddess · >>eusocialdragon
I wasn't sure about this at first. I enjoyed it a lot, but it seemed like.... Norse Fanfic?
Re-reading it, I think I appreciate it a lot more now. It's a bit more subtle than I was expecting, and full of unspoken emotion. I recommend everyone to take their time with this one, let it sink in.

and bonus points for tying the prompt to themes of mythology rather than science fiction.
#65 ·
· on The Pauper and the Princess
“Remove the beam from thine own eyes,” indeed. Well done, Author.
#66 · 1
· on Blind Dating in a World Gone Mad · >>AndrewRogue

Merge their review and you'll have mine.
It was indeed a solid introduction. I quickly got engaged with the characters, maybe because Gavin is flawed but is aware of it and works to be better. I kinda like that.

Thank you for sharing. If you ever expand it, drop a link, I would be very interested in reading it.

@>>horizon:shameless promotion is shameless :)
#67 ·
· on First Sight
Cassius oriented me to that story (notw on my slate).

I won't be as emphatic or ecstatic as Haze. It’s a good story, I like the small instants carefully cherry-picked, and it’s glued in a way that is not without recalling Philip K. Dick’s famous Ubik.

It doesn’t shoot for the stars, but it certainly does well what it does, and bears the brand of an experienced writer. There is certainly talent here, slightly gimped by the format, but it clearly stands out.

Think this could be a good candidate for the podcast, if podcast be.
#68 ·
· on A Bureaucratic Welcome · >>AndrewRogue


Oh wait that entry is gone.

Okay well take my word for it this sort of story has been done before. This is slightly different, but borrows from the same general idea.
#69 ·
· on A Bureaucratic Welcome
I'd feel much more satisfied with the story if the first line had been:

“A Sapience permit?” Jack blurted. “What the hell is that?”

And then we got the bureaucratic noodling, along with some explanation of just what this crazy thing is and why it was instituted, and why they would require one for a being already known to be capable of filling out a form.

As it stands, a lot of this story feels like filler to me, and there's not much room for filler in minifics.
#70 · 1
· on Letters from the Unknown · >>Monokeras
Aha! Cleverly done, Author! I was going to say that the beginning felt a bit padded, at least for those familiar with the tropes of interdimensional travel, then I realized why it was there. I think some polishing would still help here.

Reread the first half of the story. What’s missing?
#71 ·
· on Multi Universe Drifting · >>horizon
Huh. Interesting way of interpreting the prompt; the analogy with racing does a good job of framing the plot. Seemed mechanically and grammatically sound, and while 800 words isn't much time to really develop a character, I could follow their motivations. The only real issue I had with the piece is the ending. Even with the analogy and thematic foreshadowing, the actual act seems to come out of left field.
#72 ·
· on Letters from the Unknown · >>Ranmilia
Oh I see now.

But that doesn’t really redeem the story to my eyes. Okay, I hail the lexical tour de force. But still, the plot doesn’t make sense. You can’t base your story (the contents) on a quirk of the form.

More precisely, why would the sound a cause such a turmoil? It’s like every time you’re exposed to a foreign language using non-English sounds, you freak out.
#73 · 1
· on Even Chewbacca Is Not Bulletproof · >>Fenton
This is mildly absurd. It could fit into a Monthy Python's skit, I suppose.
It's not really a story, just a scene. I do appreciate the point that whatever absurd the hypothesis, there’s always a part of us that doubts.
“The slightest doubt could kill you,” says Spock in a landmark Star Trek episode. To which McCoy answers (but maybe it’s the other way round): “We’ve not a ticker in our heads that we can click on and off at will”.

Sorry, I just realised I picked up the wrong show. You should have named this entry “Even Mr. Spock is not failsafe.”
#74 ·
· on Walking With A Goddess · >>Fenton >>Ranmilia >>eusocialdragon
I jokingly half-suspect the "parallel universe" tie-in with this one is that it feels like a parallel-universe version of a story from last round. ;-p Author, I think a lot of the feedback you're going to get here is going to be in reaction to that same 1st-slash-2nd-person narrative style, and for the same reasons, so (if you're not GroaningGreyAgony) go check out that original thread for some more insight.

(I'm in the noble-yet-failed-experiment camp, for the reasons given there.)

That said ... the ending here left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. It's delivered as though the goddess' name was some kind of twist or revelation -- why else would you withhold her name until the end? -- and yet her identity is clear as crystal throughout the text. We learn we're in Niflheim as early as paragraph 4, and paragraph 5 that it's not her fate to be anywhere but here, so unless you're subverting your own title there's no other goddess she could be. I guess maybe it was supposed to be a twist that it was (female) Hela instead of (male) Hel? -- except that 1) that requires reasonable foreknowledge of Norse mythology to even make sense as a twist, 2) depending on where you get your Norse mythology it might not even be a twist at all, and 3) as noted above, all you're doing is making textually explicit the context that you've already been beating us over the head with. I would strongly suggest you consider scrapping the "twist ending" and identifying the goddess early, perhaps even right at the beginning; that frees you up to focus your ending more on the character/narrative development you're also doing.

I do appreciate that this doubles down on its core mythology, though either that focus or the manner of storytelling leaves me feeling like I missed some of the big emotional beats. The leprosy, for instance, sort of came out of nowhere, and I feel like "I" should have made a much bigger deal of that right from the beginning rather than it randomly coming up halfway through (and after attempting to touch her, no less). "Whoah hey your body parts are rotting off" isn't the sort of thing that you notice belatedly. I also don't know why "I" end up accepting her offer, because of the silent-protagonist nature of the story, so the fact that a great deal is made of the weight of that decision doesn't really carry through to me-the-reader. These are problems that a more traditional narrative would have an easier time resolving -- which isn't to say that that's the right choice for your story, but that you need to be very mindful of the additional challenges you're setting yourself.

This is ambitious, which I admire; experimental, which I'm always in favor of; and it's got some strong moments; but against the context of last round's story it loses some of the shine of its originality, and overall I don't feel like it comes together for me. Thank you for submitting, regardless!

Tier: Needs Work
#75 ·
· on Selection
I will string along with >>Fenton; I have nothing to add to what he said.
#76 ·
· on Fears Are Like Dogs
The only connection I see to parallel universes is that the fears are tied to hypotheticals. There is nothing explicitly uncanny or extranormal in this story that I can detect.

Even so, this is constructed with a good measure of literary artistry and poetic language, and was a pleasure to read. I will count it as an upper tier effort.
#77 · 1
· on Villainy
I'm going to have to echo the above; this got a chuckle out of me, author, but you repeated your joke a few too many times. By the time we got to the subversion in the 5th section, I'd already begun skimming, and had lost engagement.


Also, a minor complaint, and I understand that this is probably the product of the time limits of minific rounds, but the structure sort of falls apart in the final section:

“Curses! A Parallel Dimensional Transport Device seemed like the perfect way to defeat Ultra Man!” He monologued to himself. “Still, I am immensely relieved that I decided to build my Parallel Dimension Viewing Portal first.” He shuddered at some of the alternate outcomes he had observed.

“Well, I suppose it wasn’t a total loss.” He pondered, stroking his bare chin thoughtfully.

“For I now know that I would look truly awe-inspiring with a proper goatee and cape!” He grinned manically.

“Long hair and handlebar mustaches are right out through.”

Or, when condensed:

"Speech." He actioned. "Speech." He actioned.
"Speech." He actioned.
"Speech!" He actioned.

Repetitive sentence structures make passages feel monotonous, and reduce the impact of your ending here. Try and mix things up; you did in previous sections.

Nonetheless - a fun story, and one worth tweaking afterwards. Thanks for writing!
#78 ·
· on Optimism · >>Ferd Threstle >>Ranmilia
Poor Rachel. Lost her boyfriend and her mirror.

Nice work! It has good twist, which makes me wish we got to spend more time seeing Rachel wrestle with her dysphoria. I get this competition doesn't give you much room for that kind of thing. But if you wrote more, I'd read it.
#79 ·
· on R&D · >>Ferd Threstle >>Ratlab
“It’s passed all the diagnostics.”

“Not counting the two test kits that spontaneously combusted.”

He shrugged. “We’ve already reached out to the manufacturers to have them replaced.”

QA nightmare fuel right there.

"Isn’t that basically what quantum is? Calculating all the possible outcomes at once?"

Somewhere in London, Quill died inside a little.

I think that the biggest thing this story lacks, author, is some sort of narrative arc for it's persona. The story boils down to "Person A raises an objection, person B says not to worry about it, person A accepts that." There are hints of a greater narrative - is the chip meant to be pulling information from some sort of hell dimension? We've got hints of some sort of religious-militaristic power; but why would they need a marketing division? The problem is that these things are all window dressing, and the actual core of the story is one of mild acceptance of a superior's orders. And, given the way in which the persona throws away his concerns, we're given to think that those concerns aren't of a great order of magnitude anyway.

What I'm trying to say is that we need a reason to care; we need an emotional journey for the persona; we need some sort of tension, or drive. You've got an interesting framework, but you need something to drive it.

I'd be interested to see what you end up doing with it.
#80 · 1
· on Trictrics · >>Ranmilia >>Monokeras >>Monokeras
Once Upon a Time... Life

Did I really to say anything else than the title of the wonderful, amazing show? Yes, probably.

You pretty much lived up to the show, even if it's only with the twist that I got what was the setting. Speaking of the twist, I would say it was well handled. It actually made me reread the whole story in order to get every comparison with the human body, just like I've rewatched some episodes now that I know more about it.

As a nitpick, (ctrl+c, ctrl+v) 0543D43E's name is repeated too many times. I think you could have stick with 'he' more.

A solid story that made me smile with nostalgia. Thank you for that!
#81 ·
· on Fears Are Like Dogs
I really, really enjoyed this one. I liked how you sustained the metaphor throughout the piece, and used it to give the piece a solid structure. I liked how you maintained continuity between the fears, not only in a narrative sense, but in how the latter two contrasted each other, and yet the persona was made more human for it. I loved the imagery, and the pacing.

This was a great read, author.

However, I'm going to echo Haze and GGA here in that I'm struggling to see a connection with the prompt. This is a fantastic story, and will score highly on my slate - but it doesn't feel particularly crafted for this round.
#82 ·
· on Trictrics · >>Monokeras >>Monokeras
0543D43E – guessing that’s a robot name? Some technobabble like conapt, but I like the idea of critters that attack buildings like emerald pine borers attack trees.

Ending left me scratching my head for a while, until I hypothesized that the first bit was an anthropomorphic immune system.. Not too hard to follow, aside from the twist at the end; generally got the job done.
#83 ·
· on Even Chewbacca Is Not Bulletproof · >>Fenton
This is a straightforward and relatively easy to follow comedy, with a few flaws in its execution.

I don't follow the argument about stars and elements and infinity, and if there's anypony in this competition who understands this topic, it's me. :derpytongue2: If the lawyer's argument is intended to be serious or sensible even by a small margin, I think the logic needs to make some kind of sense. If it's supposed to be silly, I think it needs to be sillier in order to make that clear.

Things like, "judge was trying his best to not bluntly insult the lawyer," and "too happy to let the little man handle it" are a bit on the telly side. It's better if you can lead the reader to come to those conclusions on their own by describing what the judge looks like and does.

I think you could use some work on your English. There's some awkwardness in some of your grammar and word choices. Using a proofreader would help a lot.

Although it isn't key to the story, the lawyer's plan didn't make much sense to me unless he'd spoken to the traveller, and his actions seemed to indicate he didn't. It also isn't clear how the traveller could traverse multiple universes accurately but miss the time by two hours, though that's less of a concern. In general, it feels to me like the framework could use a little more support.

I'm guessing the title is a reference to South Park, but I'm not sure most readers will make that leap. It might be too obscure for a wide audience.
#84 ·
· on You’d Better Skip This One.
A non-story that actually manages to say many things and still tells something.

I understand what you were aiming for and it was pretty risky, but I must say you handled it quite well. The bookends, the pace, the prose, everything felt right to me.

I'm not so sure how high I will rank it, because I still prefers stories with defined characters and so on, but I have no choice but to recognize how greatly this story fulfilled its premise, and therefore, reward it.

Thank you for your work.
#85 · 1
· on High School Dramady, Played Straight
This is a well-written slice-of-life dramedy, but the foundation felt a little forced and shaky to me.

The first thing that sticks out to me is that the characters don't seem very likeable. They were depressing and mean to each other on topics that would normally hurt a lot of feelings, particularly for kids at this age. I could see well-adjusted older adults doing this if they'd known each other all their lives, but even then that's a stretch.

I felt like the Delilah thing came out of left field. We never find out more about who she was as a person, so this struck me as a cheap attempt to add drama without anything interesting behind it. This is especially true given that the fact both characters feel guilty is unusual, but the audience never gets offered any clues to what happened so we don't get to see things clearly from the protagonists' perspective.

I'm not sure the connection between Delilah and the rest of the conversation is that strong since there isn't an established relationship between her and the male protagonist. It feels like an odd leap given that the main conversation isn't about mistakes, it's about rejection. Being rejected isn't a mistake.

One last thing: Sophie barks, and as a wolf bitch I am triggered by the 'bitch' stereotype. :ajbemused:
#86 ·
Damn you Chinchillax! I was one vote away from making Roger's naming system irreconcilably confusing. So close to getting some Bad Horse credit...

#87 · 2
· on R&D · >>Foehn >>Ratlab
I think you're missing the implication at the end that Ed (Person A) is planning on pouring the canteen into the machinery, ruining the project. I don't feel like I totally understand the details with the canteen - possibly that Father Brown is paying Ed to sabotage it too?

That gives this slightly more of an arc, but it still feels like it's missing impact. A lot of setup, not a lot of payoff.
#88 ·
· on R&D
>>Ferd Threstle
Yep, totally missed that. Also totally missed that Father Brown and the manager were separate people.Whoops. I redact my statement about a lack of an arc, then. Cheers for pointing that one out.

Apologies, author.

That raises it a couple of spots on my slate, though

A lot of setup, not a lot of payoff.

is still an adequate summary of the story's problems.
#89 ·
· on The Burden She Bore · >>Dubs_Rewatcher >>Dubs_Rewatcher
Sweet sugary sacharine aftertaste. It feels both nice and too much.
The story is cute in a way, but there are several small things that got me out of it.

To eight-year-old me,

That line is useless. We already understand with the first paragraph that the narrator is a child, mainly because of the completely unrelated things mentionned (the names of every star in the sky, the schedule of every public bus in San Francisco, the ability to cook dinner with one arm while editing textbooks with the other). Trust your writing and your reader, because this line felt like 'you're too stupid to understand the context so here, I'll hammer it'. And I'm pretty sure that's not what you wanted.

“That’s not a tiny change,” I said.

I felt this line shouldn't be said by the narrator but by the mother, proving to her daughter that small things lead to bigger things. Having this said by the narrator, it felt like the child scolding her mother for forgetting how important he/she is.

Mama read Harry Potter aloud

Why Harry Potter? If it's to inform your reader the timeframe, we don't really need this information. Since you've already mentionned pretty bug physics topics, we know that we aren't in the past, but rather in the present.
And it could be any book, the fact that it's Harry Potter doesn't play a role at all in the story. Mentionning that title, even if you wanted it to be just a small detail, really drag the attention to it. And seeing not being used is a bit disappointing.

And once more, I feel like I'm saying I didn't enjoy the story. I did, it was a pleasant read, nonetheless. It's just that the litte details I mentionned will prevent the story to be ranked at the top, but it's still a solid mid-tier in my book.

PS: Bonus point for not writing a story of people travelling parallel universes.
#90 ·
· on Every World We Visit Is Dead · >>Cassius
“We have met us, and he is the frenemy.”
An amusing scene with bookends. I find the drama to be a little overplayed in the first half. But I do want to see more of why Dr. Jacobs is being so nasty to his other self. Do they have a history, somehow? Or perhaps they both just hate themselves so much that it’s natural for them to hate other instances of themselves? This might be fruitful to explore, given more room to work.
#91 ·
· on The Everett Device
Ah, the Strong Mandatory Anthropic Principle. A nice way to puncture the usual fantasies of parallel worlds. You won’t ever be able to go find your dead loved ones in another reality, as they all died there too at the same time.
This story feels a bit dry to me at present, but could be fleshed out with a bit of human interest of the kind I just mentioned, or left as a one-punch science joke. Thanks for writing, Author!
#92 ·
· on Optimism · >>Ranmilia
Effective opening. Was really enjoying it until the 300 word mark. Even enjoyed the idea of the ending. But as it is, it feels rushed. Rachel throws the shoe, goes to the bathroom, five sentences of introspection, and poof. Dell's gone.

You're clocking in at ~450 words, author; you had another 300 to play with, and I think that the story suffers for the lack of them. A slightly longer conversation between Rachel and and the demon, perhaps. Or an argument between Dell and Rachel afterwards. Or Dell's thoughts about Rachel, prior to those five sentences. Her internal reactions to Rachel's reactions. Something to set up the character conflict, to justify it.

This is a good story - but it could be a great one.
#93 · 1
· on A Matter of Time · >>Fenton
You’ve got my interest, author, but I’m not sure I have your meaning. I’m going to sleep on this story and come back to it. One way or the other, thanks for writing!
#94 · 1
· on A Matter of Time · >>Dubs_Rewatcher >>Fenton
It was only a matter of will; just a few more meters and he would be at the top.

Tightening his grip on the rock, the man shifted his weight on his left leg, and pushed as hard as he could. He managed to get another grip a few centimeters above the latter, and look at what was left to climb. He just had to repeat what he just did a few more times. No problem.

Whilst the opening does a good job of establishing a setting, it could be stronger; describe how the man feels to be doing what he's doing, rather than what he's doing. The old "show, don't tell."

After a long moment of fierce struggle, he finally saw the top of the mountain. The vision granted him the energy to get his whole body on the plateau, and, rolling on his back, he enjoyed the pure white light basking and warming his face.

This section did that much more effectively.

Possibly due to the constrains of the word limit, the whole intro feels a little jumpy; he needs to repeat something "a few more times", but the following sentence "he sees the top of the mountain." The sentence after, he's close enough to "get his whole body on the plateau." The jumps make it a little hard to follow, though that might just be me.

As for the rest of the story, I'm confused. The man climbs to the top of the mountain, is greeted by a woman (a goddess of sorts?), goes through the door he had come to find, experiences new doubts, dies (having failed? having been unable to cope with them?), and is greeted by the woman again. I feel like this is intended to be a metaphorical piece, some allegory - but as it stands I don't have enough clues to inform me of anything, and I'm left without context as to the events. Why did he die? Was he shown the future, or did he go there? Why did the visions give him physical pain? Why did he meet the woman again? Is she meant to symbolise death, or acceptance, or some variant thereof? I'm also confused as to why the man, who'd "already made up his mind" and climbed a mountain to get here, isn't even vaguely aware of what's behind the door.

I'd be interested in learning the story behind the story, as it were.
#95 ·
· on Someone is Wrong in the Multiverse
This got a laugh. Solid escalating absurdity played straight. I gather you had a lot of fun writing this one, author; thanks for the ride.
#96 · 1
· on Folks You Know · >>libertydude
Another good laugh. Decently paced, good use of the word-space, unexpected use of the prompt, solid enough conclusion. Thanks for the read, author.

“Hello, all. My name’s Dan…” the Dan to Dan’s right began again.

#97 ·
· on Folks You Know · >>libertydude
I laughed as well. Thumbs up, Author.
#98 ·
· on Roy's Diner, 3 A.M.
Not badly done, even if the punchline is somewhat predictable.
But yeah, the babbling about parallel universe and the conclusion definitely mix quite seamlessly. Good idea, good execution.
Not smashing, but fairly solid.
#99 ·
· on R&D · >>Fenton >>Ratlab
That story seems pointlessly opaque to me. We clearly have a religious dimension, with the engineer being discussed alluding to some sort of demon (red eyes, black skin?). Then we have a hogwash of quantum jargon that doesn't mean anything. It's curious how many people recourse to the quantum mechanics gimmick when they want to discuss something intricate enough to be unpredictable. Quantum mechanics (at least the non relativist form) is simple, and gives crystal clear answers. That those answers turn out to be probabilities of realisation doesn't mean the quantum world escapes our grasp.

So what I get is that this some sort of demoniac machine (wherefore the red glow) and the guy at the end wants to cool it with holy water. That could've been a fun scenario, but it's too obfuscated to really pay off, as the previous comments demonstrate. Be clearer, and you'll get a much punchier story – comedies like this need to be straightforward, not obscure, because if the reader has to scratch his head at the end wondering for the meaning of what he read, the effect is lost.

Also, the fact that you forgot to write a word at the end doesn't ease the comprehension.
#100 · 1
· on Outsmarting Yourself · >>Dubs_Rewatcher >>Trick_Question

The concept is interesting enough, but the execution is lacking. I mean, the narrative choice you made simply anhilated all the tension that you can feel in a battle. This could've been an epic battle, and you turned it into an almost boring rambling. It is too impersonal, too unconcerned, too distanced, too telly to effectively grab the reader. Everything is explained, there's zilch for the reader to imagine. As a result, we're left at arm's length with the core concept, and the whole story, though being well written and all, has absolutely zero emotional impact.

And because of that, the reveal at the end doesn't even matter much. I'm not really interested in the characters, so yeah, this is a clever twist. I know it, but I don't feel it. It remains a pure intellectual construction, because that's what the whole story comes across as.

I would suggest recasting that from the ground up, make it a battle scene (the battle against the gal's double) and then proceed to the conclusion. As it is written, it just read like a police blotter report.