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Last Call · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
#101 ·
· on The Stars In Silent Witness
well written.

no idea what the ending's saying. there's no buildup that leads me to expect anything, so I can't tell if the twist is supposed to be relieving/horrifying/humorous/religious/whatever. It's just a twist and it happens. She's alone she's alone she's alone she's alone she's alone.... wait she's not!

it could mean anything. and I think there's exciting ways to leave part of a story up to the audience's interpretation, but not when it's 100% subjective. and I think the problem here is that the story goes to so much effort to show everything that's happening, with the stars and machines and little details. there's no time to think. in a horror story, there'll be a lot of holes in the information, because it tricks the audience into filling the gaps with their imagination, letting them scare themselves. but with this much detail, I'm placing my complete trust in the fic to lead me, to show me what happens next.... but then it doesn't. the result is disappointment.
#102 · 1
· on
I know how to play baseball, but I'm not a fan of conversations. I abstain.

well written.

I have no idea what it means.

I guess it's kinda weird that they're having a conversation in the middle of a Major League game, but I guess I can roll with that. I want to say that you don't need to know anything about baseball to read this fic, but I'm not 100% sure on that. Maybe it's just a clever way to work in the prompt without having a conversation in a bar, so I'll give it credit for at least being different. Though the mysterious backwards K title makes me wonder if it's meant to be more significant than that? The strikeout is an important metaphor for.... for....

The conversation about the wife is maybe a little too coy at first, but then it spells everything out halfway through. Not that I have a problem with it, but I don't really feel anything about it, not forming a connection with this narrator. He has some internal tension, but it feels very distant to me. It's not overcome with a narrative arc, but it doesn't make for much of a revelation at the end either. This is sort of a slice-of-life, but it's not a successful one to me. There's hints at the umpire's backstory, but he's not interesting enough to relate to.

Maybe it's because the baseball game going on is a little distracting. The "umpire as the enemy" thing stands out, but I can't figure out how it ties into the theme.
#103 ·
· on The Last Call With Dad
the "didn't happens" at first feel like regrets that the call wasn't as dramatic and important as it could've been. just some mundane chit-chat. But I get the feeling that this fic is subverting that, because the mundane talk feels so smooth and peaceful by comparison. It was the right kind of closure they both needed. So despite the possible regrets, maybe it was as ideal as it could've been.

It unfolds a little awkwardly. I feel like scenario #2 is a little bit too long. I like how tense and chaotic it feels, but maybe it's providing too much information. It pulls me out of the "didn't happen" framework just a little.
#104 ·
· on Metaphysical Therapy · >>Baal Bunny
I’m impressed by the amount of worldbuilding you’ve managed to include in this piece, Writer. I particularly liked Daisy’s aside regarding the streetlights and shouting kids - implying that much of the city (and, perhaps, the world) is not nearly so pleasant an environment, and that the Great Reconvergence (of the world of the fae and our world, no?) may not have been entirely seamless.

The story is inelegant in places - I think the descriptions of the card tricks ran a little long, for example - but overall, this is a delightful piece. I get a real sense of how Daisy and Horatio are the highlight of each other’s weeks. Despite the contrived circumstance of their meetings, they feel like they’re old friends, and I think that’s wonderful.

I agree with >>Miller Minus in that I wouldn’t mind having a bit more description for Daisy - my version having a sunny blonde bob, pupilless emerald eyes, and translucent green wings likely differs from yours (it may be a moot point, given that she’s a shapeshifter, but it would still be nice to know what she looked like on that particular evening). Though, I will disagree on one point - from the moment Daisy perched on the back of the lawn chair with a spray of fairy dust, I figured she was somewhere between 3-4 inches tall. Having her involve herself in a trick by sitting on a deck of cards was a nice touch, too.

Random thought - is the fact that she studied terrestrial zoology the reason she can turn herself and others into animals? Had she studied botany, would she turn into plants instead?

I wouldn’t mind spending a lot more time in this plane of existence, Writer. This is a neat concept, and I think you can get a lot more mileage out of it than a single minific, should you choose to do so.
#105 · 2
· on Metaphysical Therapy
Thanks, folks!

And congrats to our other medalists!

As soon as I saw the prompt here, my mind went to poker, a high stakes game with the fate of the world being decided by powerful alien beings and an old human card sharp who would cheat the aliens out of destroying the planet or something. But I've never been very good at poker, and that idea sounded like it'd probably take more than 750 words to tell. So I switched gears, made it smaller, decided on a magical creature entranced by an old man doing card tricks, and went from there.

It could definitely use some expansion--in order to touch on the prompt, I had to invent this idea of a Fae social worker making her last call of the week, but the 'how's and 'why's of Fae social workers had to get swept under the rug in order to focus on the scene itself. More physical description, too--put a rose bush along the side of the house, for instance, so Daisy can fly past it and notice how the blossoms have grown to be about the same size as her or something. But yeah, this could shape up into a nice little piece for some of the short story markets out there...

Thanks again!
#106 · 3
· on The Last Call With Dad
Congratulations to Baal Bunny and Miller Minus for their medals, and Monokeras for the mortarboard!

This is less author's notes than context: this story is about 80% nonfiction.

Some of you may have noticed that I've been a little silent this week. A week ago Saturday -- during the minific writing period -- I got a long, late-night rambling phone call from my mother that my dad was in a ... Christian Science version of a convalescence home, nursing home, I still don't know what they call it and I don't have good words to communicate the nuance of it ... having serious health issues (which due to the Christian Science they were doing their best to deny, but she let it slip that he hadn't peed recently and that immediately got me concerned about severe dehydration). I immediately dropped everything and arranged to head to San Francisco the next day to visit him -- which would later end up turning into medical intervention (with his grudging consent), and me sleeping more or less on a chair in his hospital room for a week straight. It has not been fun. He is, thankfully, discharged and recuperating now, with the immediate crisis behind him, and I'm finally back home as of yesterday.

At the time, though, what I was hearing over the phone sounded awfully scary, and I wrote this as catharsis. It was typed more or less at a single pass straight into the writeoff.me website text box, with some edits to smooth things out and change the regional details enough to not be personally identifiable.

The ER diagnosis was acute kidney failure due to urinary blockage (when your body can't expel toxins they just sit in your bladder and, if bad enough, kidneys, poisoning you from the inside). That turned around quickly once he got a catheter and IV. The urinary blockage was most likely caused by the prostate issues mentioned in the story, which were in fact new to me as of last weekend. If I hadn't lived within driving distance of my father, and he hadn't gone to the emergency room, this is more or less how my story would have turned out. But he's still around to talk to me. His last text message was "tired but good" and I'm seeing him again on my way to Babscon.

It's been kind of a wake-up call on a lot of levels though.

Tell your family and/or friends that you love them today. I was very lucky, both in getting that wake-up call and in having any sort of warning at all. (My ex-wife's father died suddenly of a heart attack and was gone in between the time her mom stepped out to run errands and when she got home.) And you all be well.
#107 · 2
· on Le Roi en Jaune
Congrats to Baal Bunny, Miller Minus, and horizon for their well-deserved medals!

>>Baal Bunny

I realized the moment I fell into the fissure at about 11:30 at night (deadline t-minus 5.5 hours) that this story was never going to fly as a mini-fic, and I had a choice between scrapping it and writing something else, or trying to hack it into some sort of passable form. After dithering for an hour, I chose the lazy option, and spent the next few hours cutting down a 1200+ word story to 750.

Needless to say, I’m not terribly surprised by how this piece performed. I appreciate the feedback it's received, and the fact that it's nearly unanimous in theme (no room to breath, root conflict is forced, relying on outside knowledge can make the story impenetrable) makes the story's failings abundantly clear. I love >>Baal Bunny's idea of leaning harder into the comedic opportunities here, which would have been a more novel twist on the Yellow King formula I did a very poor job of lampooning. As for why the title is in French, each of the original Chambers short stories is either set in Paris or makes multiple references to Paris, and I never got around to thinking of a better title than the placeholder of Le Roi en Jaune. A consequence of calling it quits at 3am, yet again. One day I’ll learn. ^^

Of all the stories I’ve written for the Writeoff, I think this is the one I’ve disappointed myself the most by its execution. This could have been really neat, and the subject material is close to my heart. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to save this idea for a short story competition, at the very least.

Still, this was a learning experience, as is every competition. See you guys next time around.

Oh, and for those of you who would like to learn more about Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, here’s a serendipitously timed Extra Credits video that gives you a brief overview, along with a few other early sci-fi works. The Forgotten Foundations Part 1 - The History of Sci Fi
#108 · 3
Thanks, everyone, and congrats to Baal for winning.
yours was my pick of the lot :)

I'll have a better retrospective when I recover from being appendectomy'd. I just hope I don't see a nurse with a bandana...
#109 · 3
· on 911
>>Zaid Val'Roa
>>Miller Minus
>>Baal Bunny
>>Anon Y Mous
Thanks for all the reviews. Thanks also a bunch to Ranmilla for helping me get this piece much more punchy.
I know this was going to be divisive and I wrote it as a feeler: it didn't disappoint me in this respect. For those who liked it, thanks. For those who found flaws, you were right. As long as the writing was fine and could pass for a native speaker’s writing, I’m fine.

So, to everyone, thanks again and see you in two rounds.
#110 ·
· on
Not much to say about my own piece. The prompt just got me in the mind of calling balls and strikes for the last time, but it's not a topic most people here would know much about. Not that you have to, really. The umpire's issues with his wife don't hinge one bit on any understanding of baseball, but understanding what he's giving up for it does take knowing what it takes for him to get into the position he has. in any case, I wrote this very quickly and didn't edit, so I 'm surprised it did as well as it did. It didn't finish much higher than I figured. After seeing the finalists list, I was guessing I'd get 5th, and hey, I did! But I thought georg's and possibly devas's would have finished higher. And I did exactly what I advise others not to and pick a title that's not easy to decipher. For those who don't know (which is about everyone), "K" is the notation used in baseball for a strikeout, and it's written backwards when it was a called strike, i.e., the batter didn't swing at a pitch he should have.

In any case, time to post the rest of my reviews.
#111 · 1
· on The Warmth · >>Miller Minus >>Miller Minus
I liked this, and I can definitely say that the writer has upper-tier talent, but this just didn't land with me. If I try to come up with a more concrete reason why, I think it's because Jane died just a little before him. Yes, it's completely plausible that multiple people might die in an avalanche, but from the standpoint of a story, it feels convenient to upping the level of tragedy, to the point it starts to lose its authenticity. I actually think it would have been far more effective if Jane had died some time ago. I don't think there's anything here that couldn't be worked around that.

The other problem for me is that this story is very vivid with its imagery, but there's not a lot of emotional engagement. This guy doesn't really feel much about what's happening to him and what he sees. He's the one most affected by it, too, so why would I be more emotional about it than he was.

I get that you're trying to convey a sense of numbness, but part of the story's point, to me anyway, is that as he slips away from the confines of his body, he becomes more alive, yet his tone doesn't change at all. It's left more as a philosopjical piece than an emotional one, and yet it doesn't really delve into the philosohpy at all. Just the sensations, which are left pretty vague.

But getting back to that numbness, this is something I say to authors a lot. If you try to show that something is dull or boring, so you write it with a dull and boring tone, I can see the aim in an academic sense, but that still makes the story dull and boring. Despite mirroring the character's mood, you doo still have to keep it interesting. This is entertainment, after all. So I wonder if in trying to create this detached, numb mood that you've made a detached, numb story. It's hard to make boredom and inaction interesting, but it can be done.

To the comment on "Sherpa" beeing too on the nose as a name, I took it more that she was "a sherpa," but that in his current state he didn't quite comprehend that anymore and took it as a name.

So while I'll credit you for having wonderfully evocative imagery, it just didn't engage me on an emotional or concrete level. You'll go pretty high on my ballot, though. I'm one who tries to reward "I can recognize this as good" over "I liked this."

I guessed authorship right based on only two factors: believing Miller Minus is a good enough author to have written this quality, and using the spelling "colour."
#112 ·
· on One for the Road
Midnight's pretty early for a bar to close. This whole conversation just strikes me as generic. Which, y'know, is probably realistic for a bar, but not entertaining. They're just saying common things about getting older and damn kids and such.

Okay, this description makes it sound like much more serious VR. I can't tell if he's exaggerating or if this is kind of an SAO setup.

I don't at all get what happened at the end. This lady is his order, yes, but is she just there to spend time with him at the table? Is she a prostitute? Is she going home with him? It seems odd to me that if everyone else ordered drinks, nobody reacted to his order. Is this sometheing he does so regularly that it doesn't surprise them anymore? It'd have to be rather expensive. Unless... I guess they all ordered women.

They're not really doing anything better than the damn VR kids. I mean, he's not off in some pretend world, but it's not any more real. Maybe you're just highlighting his hypocrisy? If so, it doesn't make a clear point of it.

It's more like "oh hey, that was unexpected" than there actually being a meaning to it. I'm not sure what message I'm supposed to take away from this, but the sentence-level writing was good.

I guessed devas just based on the rough idea that he was capable of the quality I saw here.
#113 · 1
· on 911
I don't actually have much to say about this. There's a nice charcter interaction going on, and we learn just enough about Brian to start caring what happens to him. But then the story takes a left turn. I have to bring in the title to understand what the ending means, but this is a very common twist. You build up this character just to chuck an "oh, he died" at me. And having an imminent proposal just before his death is pretty cliched. To me, this is where the story actually begins. You're giving me the background to where the interesting things start to happen. I had a discussion once with Blueshift about whether a story is actually required to have a climax, and we decided a good writer could go without one. You do have one here, but it comes after the story, and this doesn't even make for the kind of open ending that works especially well, because we know exactly what happens.

We don't really learn anything about the character, we don't see him (or any other character) grow in any way. I can't off the top of my head remember which one, but there's a professional flash fiction writer who talks about twists, and he hates seeing them in short fiction. I can't say I agree, but there's a difference between a twist that changes my understanding of a story and one that the story just exists in service to. And that's what this feels like to me: a twist with a story written around it instead of a story that happens to have a twist. Plus that this feels like the lead-up to the real story.

I couldn't gauge who wrote this, so I just went with one of the authors unknown to me. I'm actually impressed monokeras got the editing as good as he did here.
#114 ·
· on The Stars In Silent Witness
Every time I start to wonder what's going on, the story explains it. Well, on the detail level, I should say, jargon and such. I'm not getting lost. But I don't know the first thing about this epic space battle going on. Not that I need to--the story isn't about that. But a little context helps, particularly toward answering things like: Is this kind of thing unusual? What are her prospects for being found? If it's the enemy who finds her, would death be a preferable fate? She doesn't seem to have any concern for her crewmates, since she's rather circumspect about her situation instead of lamenting injured or possibly dead friends.

So her antenna is broken, but antennas are pretty simple things. Unless you imagine some really high-tech subspace thing, I guess. But she's floating in a bunch of wreckage. She can't try to grab a random oblong piece of metal and jam it in the antenna port?

Maybe I'm just from a different engineering discpline, but when I see "delta-v," that means a change in velocity, or an acceleration. So her suit is altering the delta-v... it wants to speed her up or slow her down, but only incrementally? To what end?

The last line is so ambiguous as to be meaningless. This could be a piece of space junk (conveniently not hitting her at incredible speed), a rescue vessel, a spirit of death. The point is, you haven't shown her getting emotional about anything, so there's no reason for me to, either. She's resigned to her fate, seemingly uncaring. Yeah, I can imagine those different meanings for the ending, but I really don't know that she prefers one over the others. Academically, she'd favor being rescued, of course, subject to my earlier comment about the enemy finding her (which is personally the interpretation I have). But I really can't treat this as a triumph or a tragedy or anything. It's just there.

Had you actually gotten me invested in her fate, this might sit pretty high, but as it is, it's an upper mid-tier for me.

I guessed authorship right based on the rubrik of guessing Zaid and georg for the best-written ones that I didn't have any other clues for.
#115 · 2
· on Metaphysical Therapy · >>Baal Bunny
I like the idea that a practitioner of real magic is so entertained by sleight of hand. I can't really say much about this. It was just sweet and fun. There's not much conflict to it, and it's just another routine meeting for both of them. I do feel in the dark about the background to it: the whole Great Reconvergence, and why Daisy is doing this job. It feels more like she's required to, for some reason, but I can't fathom what that is. I wonder if it was even worth mentioning that. Just let the reader assume things have always been this way, and what do you lose? Implying there was some big change makes the reader want to know why and what it was like before. It's almost too subtle in saying what Daisy is. It might be more effective if you treated it the same as horror or comedy, where you have to keep turning up the dial. At first, she sounds human, but after a little while, we get that she has wings and uses magic. Keep escalating things. Make her viewpoint see this human world as the alien thing it is to her.

But as is, you've got me really liking both characters and the way each one's magic is perceived by the other.

Well done, and you're going up top for now.

This did remain at the top of my ballot, and just from the subject matter and narrative tone, there was never any doubt in my mind that Augie had to be the author.
#116 ·
· on The Last Call With Dad
Interesting way to begin the story. I'm curious what kind of prostate mass would be life-threatening to operate on, when age is the only mitigating factor mentioned. I assume this is something that's metastacized elsewhere in the body, but it's worth saying so. I'm also curious how religious the son is. I mean, I can see from the dad's perspective that he sees the illness as a kind of failing he doesn't want to admit to his son. That's different (and quite possibly in addition to) the standard one of not wanting to cause stress.

Okay, now I'm getting confused as to how extensive the "didn't happen" sections are. I assumed they applied to a couple paragraphs, but literally nothing before the "here's how it happened" actually occurred? Because I can see him doing different take on what he actually says to his father. But in the second one, his father is incapacitated beyond the ability to speak, and yet that's not actually the case, I think? I'm not sure why he's imagining that very bleak, extended episode. I'm not even sure how much I learn from it. His inner conflict, yes, but what's more germane is how he actually feels, not how he might have felt.

I'd like to know more about him, though. He's struggling with losing his father, but everyone would. Other than that, the only peek I get into his personality is his struggle with religion.

This kind of strikes me as one of those stories that turns out to be a dream. When it's revealed, I yell at the screen, "Wait, so I wasted my time reading something that didn't matter?" It's hard to pull that off, but at least we're told ahead of time this didn't happen (my confusion notwithstanding).

What does prove effective here is the juxaposition of the normal with the tragic. His last call was so mundane, and then that was it. And that's often the way these things go. Nice realism, I like the sentiment, but it was a tad confusing to me, and there's something unbalanced-feeling about spending so much word count on what didn't happen, particularly when one of them is so much longer than the other or the real stuff.

Still, this'll sit high on my ballot.

As I alluded to earlier, I'd already guessed horizon on another story, so based on the writing quality here, I tried picking Zaid. Oh well.
#117 ·
· · >>Miller Minus >>Baal Bunny
>>Miller Minus
And apparently there isn't a best new entrant award anymore. I don't see one on the results page or the overall scoreboard. And so goes my motivation to try an OF short story round.
#118 ·
· · >>Pascoite
Seems Monokeras won it? What's the little hat mean?
#119 ·
· · >>Pascoite

Actually, the little mortar board hat appears on the results page beside Monokeras's name. I don't know why, but there it is.

#120 ·
>>Miller Minus
>>Baal Bunny
Oh, okay. I thought that was the one for having the fewest people figure out what you wrote. But hovering the mouse over it reveals the truth.

But how is it that Miller didn't get it? He fits all the criteria.
#121 · 3
· on Answering Machine
>>Zaid Val'Roa
>>Miller Minus

Honestly, I am just really excited that I didn't come dead last.
Thank you all so much for your feedback and critiques. Just being able to go back after reading all of your input really gave me a lot of clarity, and I feel like I learned a lot.
Additionally, I definitely did not have enough time to proofread this as carefully as I wanted to, and I totally agree that the ending was unnecessary and a little cringey.
Post by Miller Minus deleted
#123 ·
· on The Warmth · >>Pascoite
P.S. >>Pascoite, you're correct, her name was not actually Sherpa. But to your first comment, about having Jane die some time ago, I don't think that interpretation is unavailable to you. In fact, I think it's more plausible than the avalanche story. After all, how would he have ended up with the bandana?
#124 ·
· on The Warmth
>>Miller Minus
I did say that the story could support an explanation where Jane had died some time ago, but to me, that's even more supremely coincidental, they she'd also died mountaineering in a completely separate incident. And coincidence is usually not your friend in writing. Though I'll make the same argument back: just because he has her bandanna doesn't mean she had to have died some time ago. She might not have had it on during the avalanche, he could have found her body, it could have fallen off her, etc.
#125 · 1
· on Metaphysical Therapy
>>Miller Minus

In case anyone:

Wants to check out what I ended up doing with this story, it's one of the stories up now on the Aurora Wolf website.