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Hiding in Plain Sight · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 500–900
Show rules for this event
#1 · 6
· · >>QuillScratch
- To Quill Scratch -

The dark catlike silhouette emerged out of the darkness outside the door, immediately followed by a young, nimble girlish shape covered in a red costume with black spots all over. They stopped at the threshold, examining the room before them. The floor was tiled like a giant chess board. The pure white walls glowed of a dim light that suffused the room. At the far end, a doorframe led to the place they were heading to.

The catlike form made a step forward, but the girl snatched his shoulder and pulled him back forcibly.

“Don’t do that, Cat Noir!” she said.

“Why? What’s there?” the cat-looking guy asked.

“It’s a trap! There’s no way to safely walk through this maze. If you tread the wrong tile, it will immediately trigger a drizzle of hydrofluoric acid!”

“Charming,” Cat Noir said. “What’s your plan?”

The girl seemed to hesitate. She examined the ceiling, looking for a bump she could twirl and secure her yoyo around. But there was none. She scratched her head.

“Heh,” Cat Noir said. “My dear Ladybug has run out of idea, it seems! That’s a first.”

The girl glared daggers at him. Suddenly she threw her yoyo up and shouted “Lucky charm!”

There was a flash of energy and a giant frying pan fell on to the ground, face down, with a big clash. “Hey!” the girl said. “Time to play turtles! Follow me!”

They both slipped under the pan. “Will that protect us?” Cat Noir asked. “If it doesn’t, we’re toast!”

“Come on,” the girl said, “frying pans have a protective, non-stick layer made up of polytetrafluoroethylene. It’s HF-proof! Let’s go!”

They hadn’t made a few inches ahead that a spray of liquid coming from the ceiling hit bang on the pan, whose metallic underside began to boil away. But they crawled on, on all fours, as fast as they could, leaving behind them a trail of acid that ate the tiles away.

When they reached the far wall, a thin, dark layer of plastic attached to a mangy handle was all that was left of the pan. Fortunately, they were out of danger. They both stood up and threw the pan remnant aside.

“Well done, milady!” Cat Noir said. “What now? Shall we step through the door and open the safe?”

”Not yet! Look here!” She showed small holes on the doorjambs. “There are invisible infrared rays that protects the room against intrusion. Break one, and the alarm will go off immediately!”

“So what shall we do?”

”Here!” She rummaged into her purse and palmed out two glassy buttons that she showed to Cat Noir. “These are fake IR emitters. I’ll hold one in front of the two lowermost receptors. They’ll be blinded, and then you can crawl your way inside undetected. Remember, when you have destroyed the safe, you have ten second to exit!” She pushed a minute switch on each button, took one in each hand and slammed them against the first two holes. “GO!” she shouted. “I won’t be able to hold for long.”

“Alright!” Cat Noir flopped onto the ground and stealthily crawled through the door. Once inside, he stood up, ran to the safe ahead of him and “Cataclysm!” he shouted. Then he touched the safe, which instantly crumbled to dust.

On the ground, covered in metallic dust, he saw a folder. Something had been written on it, but the writing had been savagely daubed over with black marker ink.

“Quick!” the girl called behind him. He grasped the folder, ran to the door and plunged down, gliding on the ground until he was outside. Just as his right foot was passing through the doorway, the floor suddenly cracked and fell down in a loud crash.

“Phew,” Cat Noir said. “That was close!”

The girl let the buttons drop on to the ground. She took the folder from Cat Noir’s hands and torn it. From inside, a dark butterfly escaped and whiffled away blithely.

“Time to de-evilize!” the girl said. She whirled her yoyo, and threw it towards the butterfly. It seized the flying insect and snapped shut.

“No more evil-doing for you, little butterfly!” she said, as the yoyo opened again and a white butterfly escaped. Then she grasped the handle of the former pan, punted it and “Miraculous Ladybug!” she shouted. Instantly, a flurry of red sparkles flew this way and that, and in her hands the folder mended instantly, revealing the name that had been gouged under the black stains.

And it read I Regret Nothing, original manuscripts.

P.S: I know I should have had Roger akumatized. Just had no time to write that part. Sorry.
#2 · 12
· · >>Monokeras >>CoffeeMinion >>Bachiavellian >>Southpaw >>RogerDodger
Experimenting with a word limit of 500–900 for this event.

I need a way to more decisively make changes or do experiments with the formats, rules, etc. I have previously taken discussions of this nature with a bent towards conservatism out of concern for people who missed the discussions or are simply happy with the way things are. However, I think this has lead to it being hard to get any changes made at all.

To that end, I'm going to periodically hold meetings in the #meta discord channel where things can not just be discussed but also decided on. This means decisions will mostly be made with consideration for people who show up. (However, this is still not necessarily a democratic process, since I've got the final say on everything.)

These meetings will be held on the Sunday following the conclusion of a scheduled event at 00:30 UTC. The first will be 24 Jun 00:30.
#3 · 1
What happened to you Roger?
00:30 GMT? Unlikely for Europeans.
#4 · 2
I'll have to try to make the meeting! I've asked about different limits before and it's cool to see openness to discussion.

It's also cool to see the limit bump for the current round. I don't tend to do Original rounds, but I'd definitely take advantage of it if I did.
#5 · 2
Exciting news! I tend to be the kind of person who sits in the corner and cries about change, but I do think this'll be helpful. Will join in if I remember to!
#6 ·
>>RogerDodger I like this idea. :)

For those who can't make the Discord meeting, maybe summarize everything, and make the decision by poll if needed?

I can make it (430pm Pacific), but this would give anyone who can't show at that time a chance to give some input, at least...
#7 · 3
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony >>Zaid Val'Roa >>RogerDodger
Can we still ask for an art round this time? I feel up to drawing some stories.
#8 · 7
For anyone curious, >>Monokeras is better than maybe 60% of the Miraculous fanfics I've been binge-reading* since I last showed my face here. God, the pony fandom spoiled me for quality.

Fingers crossed, I'm in for this round! It's been ages since I've competed, and even longer since I've written anything that wasn't absurdly pretentious/a bit rubbish, so it'll be good to throw myself back in the ring. Excited to see some old friendly faces, and meet all the people who have joined since I became obsessed with Miraculous and ditched you guys mysteriously vanished.

*I kid you not, there was a point where I was reading about 40k words every morning before I went to work. I'm down to a much more reasonable 15-20k now. That fandom is freaking addictive.
#9 · 3
I'm back for the first time in over 1 1/2 years.
Hopefully I can still write.
#10 · 2
· · >>RogerDodger
>>Anon Y Mous

I will second this.
#11 · 1
"Get On With It!!"
"It's Only a Model"

Hmm, two prompt submissions with a suspicious Monty Python ring. Who's behind this conspiracy!?
#12 · 3
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony >>RogerDodger
>>Anon Y Mous
An art round for a minific event would be interesting.
I second this motion.
#13 ·
· · >>Zaid Val'Roa
>>Zaid Val'Roa

Hey, I seconded it first! You have to third it!
#14 · 1
Okay, I cube it.
#15 · 5
· · >>FloydienSlip
Wow. It's been a while. I'll try to submit something this time around.
#16 · 7
I'll be in #mentors Saturday evening/night again, if anyone wants an outside eye on their story, or you can PM me from FiMFic, if you're not in the Discord server.
#17 · 5
This round for sure.
#18 · 2
I have a poetry festival, town fair, and game session to attend this weekend. My chances are slim. Let’s see what happens.
#19 · 3
Let's all count ourselves lucky that this wasn't a pony round.
#20 · 4
Huh. That came together really, really quick. This whole "turning off discord" thing really helps. Maybe I'll write another one?
#21 · 7
Long has it been since I last graced a Writeoff. Always a pleasure when I do, though.
#22 · 3
Writing only 900 words or less is harder than I thought.

Edit: I've already written 1500 words no one can stop me.
#23 · 6
· · >>Anon Y Mous
>>Anon Y Mous
>>Zaid Val'Roa
#24 ·
I've scrapped two ideas tonight. I'll have to unfortunately bow out this round. Best of luck to everyone else!
#25 · 2
Bless you Mr. Dodger.
#26 · 5
· · >>Miller Minus
im posh back
#27 · 4
Very excited to read everyone's stories as usual ! :D
#28 · 3
I did something! :D
#29 · 1
Great to see youre posh back
#30 · 4
· on Werewolf Hunting Sucks · >>BlueChameleonVI
Hey, my town has a meeting place called-- and you guessed it-- The Meeting Place.

I reaaaaally enjoyed this fic. I like the humor, the pacing, and especially the Halloween themed plot.

10/10 “I’m glad he didn’t shoot little Suzy” -ign
#31 ·
· on Chewing Tar
Ha. I didn't get what was happening until the last line.

Some of the reading was difficult. I couldn't tell whether it was odd turns of phrase from our unusual PoV character, or the rushed typing of a minific's strict time limit.
#32 ·
· on The Altar
I have no idea what's going on. The statue, which had been in place for a long time, suddenly on this particular morning appeared differently to each person viewing it? I can't make heads nor tails of this story.
#33 ·
· on Bushwhacking
Whelp. That's a whole new definition for the word.
#34 ·
· on Asenath in the Attic · >>HiTime >>Cassius
This didn't make a lot of sense before I went and read The Thing on the Doorstep.
#35 · 1
· on Little Dahlia
Interesting. It didn't go where I thought it would.
#36 · 2
· on The Man With No Face
Well at least Lyra Willowby found an occupation suitable for his... talents.
#37 · 1
· on His Final Curtain
I have cured a friend of such an attitude.
#38 ·
· on Only for Him (The Cold Morning) · >>PaulAsaran
This is very well crafted. Wordsmithed, even. But I don't understand what it's saying. I don't get how much is metaphorical versus literal. I still haven't figured out who is being buried, or whether the funeral itself is literal.
#39 · 2
· on Bushwhacking
It started off so wonderfully Australian, but then there was a distinct lack of the c-word. I'm disappointed.

Joking aside, decent story, though it wasn't quite as witty as it could have been. And while I adore crass humor, this was on the weaker side.
#40 · 7
· on Werewolf Hunting Sucks · >>BlueChameleonVI
I may come back to review this in full later, but this was fun, and I like the punchy, stream-of-consciousness style. Excellent opening line. One big problem is though is that there's too much fucking swearing in this goddamn story, like so much fucking swearing that it losing a bit of its cunting emphasis. More fucking discernment about the placement of your goddamn swears so it makes the ass-kicking punchiness of your narrative stand out instead of sounding like a shitty obligatory "fuck" drop every five seconds would greatly benefit this piece, you bastard.

You watch your ass, mate.
#41 · 4
· on His Final Curtain
Has a bit of an "ends on a punchline" issue, which is a recurring thing with most short stories, but I enjoyed the flow of the prose. Well done!
#42 · 5
· on The Man With No Face
Interesting premise, but even in the span of less than 1k words, we dwell on his talent for too long. Since it's revealed more or less at the start, we're not really building up to anything more. I personally would have gone the opposite route: things going wrong, as opposed to him making the same kind of escape as so many times before

Prose is very good though, good pacing, decent humor that doesn't outstay its welcome. Good job!
#43 · 3
· on The Eternal Struggle
I don't...

think it's even possible to freeze zucchini and have it still be edible?
#44 · 1
· on Boyfriend Chameleon
That was a cute story, with a good lead-up to the reveal.
#45 ·
· on Cool Party Trick
That was interesting. Took me a bit to figure out what was going on, but I liked it.
#46 ·
· on Psychic Bullshit · >>BlueChameleonVI
Well, this one suffers from shortcomings. First, it’s a scene rather than a story, and we never get to know why the girl flees, and what she flees from. Then, that’s right, you threw a lot of psychic word-salad around, and I’m not sure it makes sense, nor does it helps the plot in any way. Also I cannot tell what the PoV is: the girl or 3rd p. omniscient. And the twist, assuming it is one, falls flat?

However, thanks for the word “soothsayer” that I didn’t know.
#47 · 2
· on Bushwhacking
Bannon is an old Gaulish word which means “woman”. it’s also the name of a French goat cheese.

So cheesy, yeah. This could’ve been stylishly fun all the way long, but the end was just… It was neither vulgar nor gross, it was just drab. Too bad. Thinking of it, was that supposed to me a feghoot?
#48 · 2
· on Werewolf Hunting Sucks · >>BlueChameleonVI
Kind of a supernatural noir detective vibe with some great snappy dialogue and prose. Loving his snarky attitude, and to frame beast-hunting in a Halloween setting really lets his snark shine in a lighthearted way. Though choppy stream of consciousness isn't often my cup of tea, you've executed it fairly convincingly. I do agree with Cassius regarding the profanity, and it seems to me as though it's almost used as a crutch to convey your character's frustrations sometimes.
#49 · 2
· on Right in Front of You · >>HiTime
Very nice:

The story and the main character's voice work quite well, though the writing's got a few hitches. In English, for instance, we say "Most people", not "Most of people", a phrase that occurs a couple times here, and the verbs get a little shaky between tenses and aspects, but that's all mechanical stuff and easily fixed. But the story and the character are solid--it makes me think of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Man of the Crowd" in some ways, and that's wunna my favorite weird little stories.

Also, the first three stories I've read in the contest have had the word "café" in them. I wonder if that'll be a trend?

#50 · 2
· on Werewolf Hunting Sucks · >>BlueChameleonVI
Let's load this one up with comments so that we all have something to aspire to.

Anyway, I like your interpretation of the prompt. A lot. But, er... How tall are these werewolves exactly? Are they really so easily mixed up with children?

A-ha, on second reading I now understand that everybody is dressed up. I hate to say it, but, as much as I like that line about Little Suzie, it kind of threw me off. Not sure she's exactly the right size? That could be just me, though.

And I'm going to third the notes above about the profanity, but I'd add that, in a broader way, I was kind of losing patience with the narrator. Partly because of the swearing, but kind of just his overall demeanor as well. I thought his snarkiness was a teensy bit too much. A character has to earn the reader's respect before he starts being so snarky, in my opinion, and he got a little grating at times. Overall it worked, just a few lines pushed his personality a little too far for my liking. And the profanity plays into that.

But this is a great entry overall. Yippee, gold star, hurray.
#51 · 1
· on Little Dahlia · >>HiTime >>BlueChameleonVI
Ahh, the words ‘frozen lamb leg’ give me such.... interesting memories.

This seems weird to follow everything to a T except the last part. Although, the more I think about this story the more I realize there was a word limit and you probably couldn’t have fit the last part where she feeds them the leg.

I do like the concept that she has done this before and the idea of her monologuing in her own head. The monologuing to me did seem kind of off at some points like when she goes ‘HAHHAHAHANO’. It seemed jarring from the rest of the fic which was very straightly played.
#52 · 2
· on Unheard and Unseen · >>HiTime
The "Nobody Can Hear or See Me" premise is a fun one to play around with, but this story didn't do a lot for me as a whole. Bree did not sound as frantic in her situation as she was trying to convey, which on its own could be an interesting facet to explore; she still hasn't processed the full impact of her situation. It also might be exciting to lead the story in a direction that makes it seem as though this is exactly the outcome she wanted. There was a hint of anxious milieu, and if that's the direction you want to go, I'd suggest pumping the gas on her anxiety so we readers can feel it, otherwise this mostly comes across as a mildly curious diary entry.
#53 · 2
· on Werewolf Hunting Sucks · >>BlueChameleonVI
That one was pretty fun. Loup Garou, yeah, thanks for that. The story is fun, seems more like a role playing game than a stream of consciousness, though. I agree the stockpiling of swearwords doesn’t play in its favor, though I’m less sensitive to them than most of you, because not being a native speaker (they don’t really connect to former experiences of prohibition or deliberate violation of it). The guy comes across as smug, but I suppose that’s a common trope in that sort of noir parody.

So yeah, at the end of the day, fucking fairly good shit. Kicked ass!
#54 · 1
· on The Man With No Face · >>HiTime
Cassius is persuaded that this guy is me. In some aspects, he’s right, though I’m no super-talented thief. But yeah, pretty much forgettable, that was my goal in life.

The character is pretty weird, in a good way. I mean, it bears a waft of Twilight Zone. However, there is no story here. It’s just a bio. The first half clearly is, the second half is a sort of "crypto-"bio, the bio is embedded in a dialogue but that’s still a bio. What did the guy steal? What/whom for? That’s questions the text doesn’t answer.

So, it’s hard for me to rank this high because, despite the good idea, there is no real arc or progression in the characters. It’s just a big chunk of exposition.
#55 · 5
· on Werewolf Hunting Sucks · >>BlueChameleonVI
Since we're all:

Commenting on this one, I'll say that the swearing didn't bother me, but my inability to figure out what actually happens kind of did. I mean, Lou Garou isn't the werewolf? But the werewolf has come to town because he's upset at Garou? So why is he upset? What did Garou do? Who is Lucy? What does the narrator talk to Garou about at the end?

Now, maybe I have these questions because I'm stupid. It's not the first time I've been left in the dark by a story everybody else seemed to understand. But keep in mind, author, that stupid people like me read your stories as well, and a few words of explanation at the end will leave us impressed by your narrator's cleverness at figuring out what we couldn't. Instead, I'm left blinking at the screen with no idea about what I just read. All it would take would be one or two sentences at the end--tell me what the narrator explained to Garou--and this story would be near the top of my ballot. But without those sentences, I find the story incomplete, and so it goes nearer the bottom.

#56 · 1
· on Psychic Bullshit · >>BlueChameleonVI
OK, I'm back for more reviewing! Here we gooooooooo!

Good Stuff: The beginning and the ending are great. I liked the tension and how it's slowly revealed what Billie's done and that she's on the run from one conspiracy but being recruited for another. Creepy stranger was fun too, messing with her, and I liked the twist at the end that there's more in the world than even Billie thinks. Plus I like her narrative voice and the hints of character.

Bad Stuff: The big infodump in the middle is too long. I clocked it that being a psychic is hard, but you devote five big paragraphs explaining the same thing when half of that would've gotten the point across. I think it's also very weakly connected together; I got the DIA and contacts stuff, but only by rereading it to look for them, and that's a bad sign. It needed to be emphasized more.

Verdict: Mid Tier. It's a strong premise and well-executed at times, but the redundantly long infodump in the middle takes up all the room needed to flesh it out properly.
#57 · 1
· on Unheard and Unseen
Good Stuff: I do like the premise here of a girl turned into an invisible person and forgotten about, and you've clearly got a strong idea of what you want to convey. I'd love to read about how Bree deals with her predicament and discovers the rules for what she can and can't do with the world around her. This last message idea is a great means for exploring that, similar to an epistolary novel full of letters and documents.

Bad Stuff: I got that idea because it told me up front. It's a story that demands emotion, though, so you need to use the language like a teenage girl would, and not like someone writing details for a plot summary. Also, considering how scary the premise should be for her, the writing sometimes seems way too calm and matter-of-fact when moments before it was starting to sound panicky. I agree with >>Rocket Lawn Chair's suggestion of pumping up her anxiety more to get the emotion strong. A lot of technical writing issues need to be checked, too, like run-on sentences and spelling, because they took me out of the moment at times.

Verdict: Needs Work. It's a solid idea and I applaud what you're going for, but the actual writing doesn't hit that target. It needs to be given more thought and care as to how Bree would feel and so how she would actually write this message. With that emotion and word choice nailed down, you can make the message read more convincingly and engagingly for a reader.
#58 · 2
· on It's Always the Mirrors
Good Stuff: At times, this reminded me of Nausicaa (a Studio Ghibli film set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland) and that's a good tone to go for. The mystery, the artifact-hunting, this sense that characters don't fully trust each other and that there's more going on than meets the eye. For some reason, I like the name of the disease savior - the Lyramire - and how the scroll is implied to be something eldritch and otherworldly.

Bad Stuff: The mystery is too cryptic for me to fully enjoy that aspect. I felt lost at sea half the time, and after the fact, I still have no idea what's really going on. What we see is two people who know each other having a cryptic conversation about cool stuff that we the reader never actually see. I want to see the disease in action, I want to feel the urgency olf the hunt for the Lyramire (also how is the Lyramire supposed to cure them?), and I want to know what these terms mean that they're talking about, but it never really comes together and I finish feeling dissatisfied. Its like eavesdropping on two people who know what they're talking about but you don't. I can't connect to that.

Verdict: Needs Work. There's some fantastic ideas here and a sense of mystery and distrust. The problem is that this is all we get. We get no resolution to the mysteries, and the dialogue is hard to follow at times so comes across as a bit flat. Maybe if we'd seen the urgency of the situation or at least had some explanations for what's going on in full, I'd bump it up a higher tier, but as it is, I feel that this one needs fleshing out too.
#59 · 3
· on Ode to the Artistic Temperament
Good Stuff: I loved this one! The idea: fantastic. The poetry: a breath of fresh air. The execution: elegantly done. The twist of Medusa making sculpures and giving up her evil ways was very clever, and I liked how her development was traced over time compared with her two vengeful sisters. She goes from realism over her chances against humanity, to pragmatism, to genuine investment in the craft she takes up and it's "honesty", and it seemed surprising and delightful to me. I especially liked how she met other artists in the cafe and seems so human herself now, but still has to take precautions like feeding her hair and disguising herself. It's the attention to details like that makes this so real and vivid. The rhyming is excellent, and you have a great turn of phrase, classical in a modern setting..

Bad Stuff: Really nitpicking here, but I thought some of the word choices, like "kvetch" and "lewd", seemed out-of-place. (I really don't get the "lewd" one in context; it seems to imply a sexual element that's not there in context). I also wonder if the last verse could contain one more mention of the two sisters to make it complete; they just disappear after a while. Lastly, the spaces every three lines felt like they should be closed, particularly when there's run-on lines from one to another.

Verdict: Top Contender. I mean top contender. I love the lateral thinking, the clever play with the gorgon myth, and also the way it's developed naturally in the story to genuine appreciation of art and humanity. The pleasing language with modern and classical bits in it is mixed together cleverly.
#60 ·
· on The Man With No Face
Good Stuff: Willowby becoming a thief to hide his "inner emptiness" is a neat spin on the "invisible person" idea, and I liked the snobby smugness he shows towards Rufus. It's actually interesting to see how his life played out and how he turned to crime when it got worse. It adds an emotional element I wasn't expecting, when he's just resigned to it. The language flowed naturally, and I liked the little touches like his reminding the waiters he's still at his table, and Rufus using memory aides.

Bad Stuff: The power seems inconsistent at times. Sometimes, he seems to control it enough to get noticed briefly, sometimes he can't. Would Rufus really bring case files with him to talk to a possible criminal? And I won't go as far as >>Monokeras, though I like the bio format, but it does feel like it could go further than it does. The first half drags a bit too.

Verdict: Solid Entry. It doesn't do as much with its idea as it should, and you drop the ball here and there. But overall, I liked the characterization and the background given, and I think it achieves what it wants to. All while making itself mostly fun to read. That's a good sign!
#61 · 2
· on Werewolf Hunting Sucks · >>BlueChameleonVI
Good Stuff: It's amazing what you managed to do in less than 1,000 words! The snark, the dark comedy, the angry character and the slow reveal were well-paced and had a lot of attitude which made it interesting from start to finish. My favorite bit is the beginning, with the great idea of the werewolf hiding among the costumed people at Halloween, and the way the agent does the same thing in reverse is a really funny bit. What I also liked was the hint of drama creeping in near the end too, such as the counseling for the werewolf and the agent getting one over Garou.

Bad Stuff: Too much swearing, yeah yeah, you know by now. Also, I think I understood what happened (the werewolf and Lucy went meatie for twenty years, Garou shot Lucy, the werewolf tried to get revenge), but it's really weak and kind of needs to be stated at the end clearly, because I had to check to make sure. And why did he give the reporter advice not to run her mouth off? She didn't do anything specific to make him say that, so I have to ask.

Verdict: Top Contender. The ending needs work and you seriously need soap in your mouth, but otherwise I had a blast reading this one and came away wanting more, which is a major plus in my book!
#62 · 2
· on Bull-seye · >>MSPiper
Good Stuff: This one is very similar to It's Always the Mirrors for me, so a lot of my critique is the same: there's mystery, there's good character interplay, there's this sense of a bigger world and interesting stuff going on elsewhere. For some reason, I like Carl's interjections, such as his waiting for the confrontation in the first scene to finish before shouting. Made them feel like real people with real histories together. I also loved the sensationalist opening and the threat throughout.

Bad Stuff: Unfortunately, the problems are the same too: I never got a full appreciation of what was going on, other than the guard wanted his bow fixed. Why was there a ring in it? Why can't we see this major delegation ourselves? Apart from the crossbow aiming at his face, nothing else exciting happens, which was disappointing. I guess I missed one or two details, but it didn't stick the landing for me.

Verdict: Needs Work. The character interaction and worldbuilding show promise, but ultimately I just want to know what's going on, and I kind of want to see the exciting stuff that's implied rather than hear about it second-hand. I think there needs to be some more development in the actual narrative structure to make this work, otherwise it's interesting scenes left in a vacuum.
#63 · 3
· on A Scholarly Report on the Fairy Peasblossom
Good Stuff: You're trying to be clever here and there, and it works! The Shakespeare connection and particularly the Cottingley stuff is very interesting when you know the real-life context. You even got the girls' names and the Arthur Conan Doyle connection right. Kudos for that! I also like the colorful personality of "Peasblossom" and how it contrasts with the scholarly tone of the report, and the fairy lore in a psychiatric setting was cool. You get credit for the idea, especially how it's left ambiguous even to the narrator whether she really is a fairy or not.

Bad Stuff: You're trying to be clever here and there, but you should focus more on other stuff too. There's no real character arc, and the narrator isn't really there until the last paragraph, so it feels too impersonal despite the message at the end trying to imply something about his attitude. I also wonder if a village would really have two hospitals. Maybe they should've been in a nearby city instead, like Bradford or Leeds.

Verdict: Solid Entry. The dryness works against it, and it's more a clever sci-fi fantasy idea developed as a report than an actual engaging story. But within that cleverness, it works so well that I can forgive it. You've at least put some thought into an emotional aspect, even if it's weaker than the (admittedly cool) ideas.
#64 · 2
· on Only for Him (The Cold Morning) · >>PaulAsaran
Good Stuff: Lucifer as a tragic figure is rarer than it should be, so it was reassuring to see you take the idea and make good on it. The emotion felt legit, with his mourning for the loss, and I like the twist that banished Lucifer lost contact not because of God but because of holier-than-thou types discouraging their relationship. The imagery of the demon watching the procession (morning prayers or something?) on a cold morning is haunting and beautiful. It's short and sweet and unlike some entries it doesn't wear out its welcome. The language and voicing were engaging throughout, which is what you want when you're making us feel sorry for the Devil.

Bad Stuff: Who's "they"? Priests? Angels? I could never tell, which robs this of some of its emotional strength. Also, this does have some clever twists, but for the most part it's just Lucifer pining. I got the emotion, but I think I'd need examples of why he loves God so much to really sell it. Religious context or not, this is a story, and I think it needs to be able to stand strongly on its own to get the full impact.

Verdict: Solid Entry. It doesn't go as far as I think it should, weakening the emotion a bit. But what's there is really, really good and this has clearly had some thought put into it. You also need to clarify who "they" are, or else we get that nagging feeling that something important is missing, and that can only weaken the impact further.

OK, I'll come back to do the rest later.
#65 · 5
· on Too Many Clones, Not Enough Discipline · >>HiTime
This one didn't:

Quite track for me, author. Do the clones never age? Why can't Zero just pick two Kimuras at random if the rest refuse to name which of them were involved in the fracas? We should see him at least trying to be tough even if he then caves to their overwhelming cuteness. Also, calling the non-clone characters in the story Zero, Lambda, and Mu seemed odd. If they aren't clones, why do they have alphanumeric names? And if Lambda and Mu are known troublemakers, why are they serving at a diplomatic post? Though you could get more humor out of describing this fracas a little, or at least telling us how badly the soldiers involved were injured...

In other words, this is fun, but it needs to cover more of its bases.

#66 ·
· on Asenath in the Attic · >>Cassius
Firstly, sorry about this. I did write a review earlier, but the comment disappeared for some reason. I'll try again, but sorry if I seem to be cutting to the chase more than I should. Losing a good comment is discouraging!

Also, I haven't read The Thing on the Doorstep like >>Hap, so I'm going by this as a standalone fic.

Good Stuff: I liked how this started. Horror's not my cup of tea normally, but this had a splendid hook. I was excited and wondering how the poor girl was going to escape or deal with her capture now her Dad had stolen her body. This could have been a really great drama with a lot of angles and ways to explore what happens next and how she overcomes her predicament, or a story about why the Dad did this and what his motives and beliefs were that drove him to act this way. The possibilities are endless!

Bad Stuff: I'm not a fan of gore, and that first scene with her putting her hand through the stomach was where the fic went downhill for me. Then there was no real story: it was just a series of meaningless events one after the other that were grim and bleak, and that's not fun to read without something meaningful to tie it together, like a tragic narrative arc or something structured. But it's just death and death and then this speculative bit with necrophilia. I can't get behind that, I'm afraid.

Verdict: Needs Work. This might just be because it's not my cup of tea, but I'd rewrite everything after the hook so it's what I would call a story, answering the questions it sets up at the start (like how she'll cope or get out of this, or what the Dad's plans are in the long run). As it is, this feels structureless, so the gory and bleak content is just there, and I want justification for that so that it doesn't feel like pure sensationalism.

EDIT: I had a talk with Cassius on the Discord about this. Okay, so maybe it's got more of a message than I gave it credit for, so I'll acknowledge that. But I will say that, due to personal taste and my own impressions, I still have to stand by the rest of what I say here. I guess it comes down to how much I enjoyed reading it, and I honestly didn't enjoy it. Please consider this as a different perspective. I don't know how helpful it is to you as a writer, but I hope it's at least something you could consider informative?

EDIT 2: Changing my ranking to Possible Abstain.
#67 · 1
· on The Eternal Struggle
To you too I'm sorry. I wrote a review earlier, but it got lost for some reason. I may cut corners here, but I'll try my best.

Good Stuff: This had an interesting kind of suspense, where nothing much is happening but you get the sense all the same that it's building up to something. The two apathetic characters Tim and Becca going through a list of restaurants was like a timer, and I liked how Drea went around trying to do stuff in the meantime like hunting for food. This convinced me it was building up to something big, so well done for good style.

Bad Stuff: Either I don't get the payoff, or there wasn't one. I thought all the talk about food and starving to death was a cover for something else, and the temperature being insufferable too. Maybe I missed something, but I never saw anything beyond that really, so I was disappointed. If there was some bigger thing I was missing, I think that's a sign you could make it clearer by saying it straight-out at the end instead of being coy with it. Also, the characters never felt particularly deep. Maybe show different sides of them, like affectionate or small noble things; at the moment, they come across as just annoying, and that's not fun to read after a while.

Verdict: Needs Work. Fair enough, I might be missing something big, but after the build-up, I just don't see it. And that makes it hard for me to engage with this fic much when I couldn't say what it was all about. Also, the characterization limited my enjoyment and needed something to give it some flavor or complexity. As it is, I can't get into it.
#68 · 1
· on Forbidden Shores
Before I go, I'll give these three stories a review because it makes me sad they're being left out. So here you go!

Good Stuff: Apart from one or two technical problems (like "Gianfranco nodded for all answer"; I think you meant "for an answer") the prose is pleasant and flowing, and largely easy to follow. The scene-setting and character notes were well-conveyed, and it was at least interesting to wait and see what would happen. The little notes of mystery in the first half, and the grim matter-of-factness in the second half, work very well. The second half in particular I thought had the stronger material, simply because of the defeat in Gianfranco's worldview when faced with the reality of his job.

Bad Stuff: "Dead child" is an easy ploy for a tragic story, but without a larger message or a clear one (there's talk about desperate migrants in the second half, but the first half implies they're already there!?) it's just shock for shock's sake. Despite the connection of the child's fate, the two halves feel so different they almost took me out when the scene change happened. And what did happen? As far as I can tell, a child died because of rough waves, strange stuff happened like his parents just vanished, and these poor people had to retrieve the bodies of migrants, but the kid is there too? I'm sorry, it's too confusing for me. I never got a sense of what this was all about beyond the obvious "and then this happened" stuff.

Verdict: Needs Work. While it is mostly well-written and has some ideas, at the moment I think it needs to be tidied up so that it's more than just two scenes about a child drowning. I think if you write something like this again, you need to put more thought towards the reader's questions of why this is happening and what it means or is trying to tell us. Just killing a child and throwing some possible hints feels to me far too empty a reading experience for me to rank it highly.
#69 · 1
· on Song of Rain and Thunder · >>Miller Minus
Good Stuff: What it's doing, it's doing well. You really get to understand the mindset of the narrator as he's misanthropic and protective of "value", and has a strange, warped view of it that's kind of fascinating in a "that's so wrong" kind of way. The writing is solid, and the depiction of humanity as kind of mindless colonizers, while nothing new, tied together the themes and thoughts of the narrator really well. Chilling in a good way.

Bad Stuff: It's good at what it does, but I have to say it's not to my taste really. The warped, anti-human, callous mindset of adding value by making humans rarer is best watched at a distance; otherwise I can't sympathize with the narrator and tried to distance myself from him because it was distasteful, which hindered my enjoyment. More helpfully for you, I will say the beginning was too choppy. I couldn't tell in the first scene if they were in a ship or in the forest, and when they were in a cabin it threw me for a loop. Next, are these people really not noticing the thunder and sudden loss of connection with individuals? I'd figure someone would notice the coincidence soon enough. And I could be trying too hard, but I couldn't tell if the narrator was a very warped human or an alien with, well an alien perspective. Some physical clues might have helped.

Verdict: Mid Tier. I appreciate the craftsmanship and thought on display, and it does work well at what it does. But I personally don't like the flavor enough to want to see it from that perspective, and more relevantly, there are some oddities that bothered me with the events being depicted. A good try, and to be fair I admit a lot of this is just my subjective opinion!
#70 · 1
· on State of Mind, NY
Good Stuff: This pushes all my buttons, and I loved it! It's sweet without being disgusting, it's sassy and nasty but in a way that makes the sweet stuff that much sweeter, it's got a nice progression from resentment and impatience to something more humane and inspiring, even if only in little ways. Creative use of the prompt too! The character voicing is unbelievable. I feel like I know Morgan and his ma, and that they're New York toughs but still with humanity inside them that goes above their stereotypes and makes them work. I also like the regular realism, like his initial lie, the way he resents how obvious she is, and how they use The Hobbit as a way to poke at each other. Long story short, I loved this one! It's just... I keep coming back to "humane" and "humanistic" and "humanity". It's wonderful.

Bad Stuff: The phonetic accent felt too exaggerated at times, though that might just be me. The last few words of the piece don't strike the right note for me; this is at heart about the fact of humanity even in a nasty place like New York, so ending on gruff swearing felt like it suddenly veered too far away from sweetness and too far into just plain rude. It's anticlimactic to me. Maybe if it had blended it more with that sweetness, like a final summary of what the whole fic was about, it would have been stronger. But I'm really nitpicking here.

Verdict: Top Contender. It has its faults and off-notes, but the melody and the themes of the story and the surprisingly balanced tone between saccharine and bitter just does it for me. Even if it doesn't win, I feel like it deserves to get a medal and a round of applause. I love it that much!

Right. I will give all these fics reviews, but not right now. I'll come back.
#71 · 2
· on Boyfriend Chameleon
Another fun one:

But I'm not quite sure how our alien narrator works. How does he recognize the sounds he first hears as human voices, for instance? He doesn't seem to be telepathic, and yet he's also able to these humans immediately. Also, having our narrator named Quinn and his doctor/paramour named Quad makes things a little difficult--the two names look a lot alike, so it's easy for me at least to be confused as to which is which, especially over such a short story...

#72 · 2
· on The Altar
My review:

Plot and Pacing: The strongest selling point, which is both important and difficult to achieve in the flash format. So, many points on you for that one. I was very genuinely interested in the mystery, which progressed at just the right pace, neither underselling the intrigue, nor overstaying its welcome.

I admit, when I read the line about the cigarettes, and stopped to think and resolve the mystery, I thought, "Oh no, not the Mushroom Samba episode"... That device just always seemed so awkward and unfunny to me. But then when the story ended three sentences later, I realized that delicately leaving it to the reader's imagination avoided every negative consequence of the trope and kept it funny and still somewhat mysterious. Major props for that. At least, that is if my hypothesis that it is some sort of mass drug-induced hallucination is correct (the opaque "faint vapor" still remaining around the base during the incident, together with the hint that it was one or more cigarette-smoking teens behind the mystery, makes me think it's plausible. Literally the only explanation I can think of, that connects the dots).

Characters and Dialogue: Of course, there's almost nothing to discuss. Usually a story without character or dialogue can feel monotonous, but that was happily avoided. I might wonder, though, whether adding another line or two about the Doctor could be even greater (Is he a wino, too? Or is he our One Sane Man? Is he even interested in the statue? Seems not, since it seems to indicate a lot of time passed before he even visited it).

Style, Flow, and Grammar: Not a grammatical mistake was spotted. The style seemed standard but effective. The Slavic flourishes like "militsioner" were a nice touch. The "flow" seemed slightly criticizable at times (but this is a very subjective thing): E.g. "An old lady screamed for her son, crossing herself non-stop with one hand and dragging the wet linen across the dew-coated yard with the other. Once the pale young man emerged, she pointed a bony finger toward the square at the center of town, babbling about the statue that stood there." It took me a moment and a re-read to understand the situation, since what does the wet linen have to do with it? I would imagine that such a frightful site would cause one to momentarily stop doing laundry, but apparently not.

Final: All in all, this fic will rank quite highly on my vote.
#73 · 2
· on The Eternal Struggle
My review:

Characters and Dialogue: Probably the main selling point of the story. The exchanges, and some of the mock fast-food names, will certainly stand out in my memory. Though, it must be said that I never wound up caring for any of the characters, or their plight. Tim and Becca's routine went old hat pretty quickly, and I was disappointed when it didn't even change by the conclusion of the story; like a song just abruptly ending rather than offering even a modest fade-out. Still, for evoking that listless, endless, scorching-hot-summer-day feeling, it was at least fitting.

Style, Flow, and Grammar: Nothing grammatically incorrect or confusing, apart from possibly one sentence: "Against her will, she felt her attention dragged back to the half-hearted argument taking place on the couch against the far wall, next to the feeble wheezing of her decrepit air conditioner." The essentially unrelated description of the air conditioner really drags this line out, which was already suffering from the passive-like construction "she felt her attention dragged back" and the unusual (imo) inflection on "drag." If I had to rewrite it with similar words, I might say, "Against Drea's will, her attention returned to the half-hearted argument taking place on the couch against the far wall," and fit the broken air conditioner description somewhere else.

The rest of the narration was convincingly casual, and I enjoyed the thought put into choosing exactly which foodstuffs would make the most depressing refrigerator ever.

Plot and Pacing: Already sort of touched on in my first paragraph. It's just... nothing happens, and the nothingness is repetitive to boot. I guess I'm just too much of a Type A personality to enjoy it.

Final: All in all, this will probably land in the middle of my vote.
#74 · 2
· on Little Dahlia
My review:

Plot and Pacing: The first couple of sentences are very engaging. Specifically, I already seem to know the whole scenario after the first four. This is both a compliment to the strength of the opener (very important indeed), and a slight criticism of the rest of the story. Afterward, it all seemed to develop rather mildly and predictably: Good personality resists bad personality, bad personality wins anyway, plan to cover up murder is executed, cops come, plan to cover up murder is (presumably) successful. The best thing going for it, though, is that this sorta tepid development is at least presented in an interesting, page-flipping way. I just wish there were more brilliancies like at the start.

Style, Flow, and Grammar: No grammar mistakes, check. While narration doesn't really stand out, it's also very comfortable to read (so it's already much better than most, imo). Only part where I was slightly confused was the following: "Other Dahlia calmly walked outside under the pouring rain and swung the leg of lamb, smashing a window. She filled a bucket from the pump, walked back inside, and carefully dribbled a trail leading up to Ronnie’s corpse, then pushed the body off the chair." Changing "she filled" to "she then filled" would've helped wonders on my first immediate reading, and the whole act of dribbling water from the bucket seemed hard to imagine. If she had just been out in the rain, couldn't she just create wet footprints herself? Would sloppy, uneven puddles of water intermittently poured from a bucket even resemble wet footprints?

Characters and Dialogue: Good Dahlia and Bad Dahlia are interesting purely as a split personality trope, but it became clear that there really wasn't that much more to them. Other Dahlia is cunning and appropriately profane, but she's also a little bit of a cookie cutter edgelord (e.g. "pwecious baby bwother" paragraph). Good Dahlia doesn't seem to have much personality at all, and by the end, I couldn't even tell (and not in a good way) whether she really was just a little angel, or secretly cheered Other Dahlia on. Basically, everything other than that "tinged with fascination" line would have me summarily concluding the former, but that line really does set a contradicting precedent.

Final: I think I indicated a harsher impression than I really have of this neat little fic. It will be somewhere in the upper-middle of my ballot, I think.
#75 ·
· on Bushwhacking
Okie dokie, I've come back for more! Let's make a start.

Good Stuff: It at least has a couple of amusing weird bits, such as Bannon hitting the leprechaun and then immediately demanding a wish, and the leprechaun inexplicably using sign language. Structurally, the final punchline works and the prose is okay.

Bad Stuff: Sorry, this just isn't my kind of fic. It's one big joke, so it sacrifices emotion and ambition and engagement and intelligence, and it all depends on the reader's taste for humor. So it's lost a lot when it turns out to be not to my taste. Especially compared with the other entries, this felt too slight. For me, the humor is too obviously vulgar, and the characters too thin, for this to leave any good or lasting impressions.

Verdict: Possible Abstain/Needs Work. I can't honestly recommend any technical or helpful changes that don't boil down to "I don't like this kind of humor", but I can say this felt lacking as an entry. My best recommendation is that you try something more ambitious from the ground up. Sorry if this isn't as helpful as you'd like, and hopefully someone else can give you more specific advice in other comments.
#76 ·
· on Chewing Tar
Good Stuff: The worldbuilding here is very clever, showing how the gnomes work in a road-related setting and going off from their shoe-repairing line of work. I liked that attention to detail a lot, such as them enjoying foul cigs and being invisible to cameras. Pessimistic character voicing was good, and you convey the tone of this bitter reality very well. The description of the elves was funny in itself, and a good early warning that these weren't ordinary beings.

Bad Stuff: I know the point is to keep us guessing until the end, but the fact that I didn't know what Bob and George even were until the end made it hard to appreciate (not follow, but appreciate) except in hindsight. I thought they were just two drunks at first. That strikes me as a big problem when you're trying to visualize the scene at the time, and it kind of felt like you left it to the end because you couldn't think of a stronger twist ending. Some of the bitterness made me feel... ew, unclean after reading this, but that's my personal taste. More objectively, some of the writing is grammatically incorrect ("Ok, but where went it wrong?" and "I had hoped in a bit more peace", for example). One too many comma splices too; stuff like that took me out of the moment.

Verdict: Mid Tier. This is playful with its ideas in a dark kind of way, and I do appreciate it more in hindsight. Unfortunately, delaying the twist makes it harder to understand and appreciate that cleverness the first time around. The technical errors distracted me sometimes. And for all its cleverness, it's also not much fun to actually read unless you like the bitter flavor. I don't know how to fix that, but I definitely recommend tidying up the prose and helping us visualize the scene as early as possible, which I think means rethinking the twist and coming up with something else there.
#77 ·
· on The Altar
Good Stuff: This starts off establishing its mystery in just the right way, slowly describing the people's reactions and then slowly working towards the statue itself. That's very well done! There's also the seed of a good idea here too. I was reminded of those statues in real life which were said to weep and bleed, and I like it when a story takes mysteries from real life and offers an explanation for them. The prose is very straightforward, if a little too reliant on adjectives sometimes, but gave the matter-of-fact delivery very well.

Bad Stuff: What is going on? After the intrigue early on, I feel like the writing just kept hammering in the same point without really explaining anything. You kept telling us about people's reactions, and then a little later about the statue's appearance, but nowhere in there did I find an actual explanation for why. Readers like mystery up to a point, but when we get to the end, you should ditch that and be as clear and open as possible, otherwise we feel cheated. I also strongly disliked the repetitive huge paragraphs; that kind of formatting seems amateurish, and it's definitely not a welcome sight.

Verdict: Needs Work. Like a lot of entries I've read, this has a good idea in there, but the development of that idea isn't there and the following bits disappoint. As much as it's delightful to have a mystery on our hands, sooner or later you have to give a clear answer, or else it isn't satisfying to invest so much reading time on vagueness. We don't come away with anything, which in some ways is worse than you trying something and me disagreeing with it; at least I'd feel like you had a point to make that way. I'd also chop up those paragraphs as a kindness to your reader; nothing's more discouraging than seeing big blocks of same-looking text.
#78 · 3
· on Little Dahlia · >>BlueChameleonVI
Good Stuff: The prose and the voicing in this are both excellent. I liked the arguments between the two Dahlias, and the subtle way the trauma takes it toll on the "good" one (s that a reference to suicide at the end!? Whoa!). You have an amazing opening line. What I liked best was the little twist that these aren't really two different personalities, which would have been the obvious choice, but that Dahlia recognizes they're both the same person. That's a cool subversion. Finally, there are bits of detail here I like, such as Ronnie's being cheap with the oven and Washington being his school friend, that make it seem more convincing.

Bad Stuff: Like >>Anon Y Mous, I've read "Lamb to the Slaughter" by Roald Dahl, and this felt uncomfortably too close to it. You got the same leg of lamb idea, the same characters, and except for the ending, the same plot points, and it feels too derivative. You at least changed things around by making it more psychological horror than dark comedy, and the ending goes a different direction. But you don't do it enough, and it gets really distracting and uncomfortable really quickly. I won't say you're plagiarizing because it is at least clearly trying to be different, maybe as a reimagining, but I wouldn't blame someone for accusing you of laziness.

Verdict: Mid Tier. I really want to like this one more than I do, but the obvious source material - you even play around with the names to make it more obvious - subtracts more than it adds. If you'd changed things around more or concentrated on developing the characters more, I might feel better about it. It's still a well-written piece you've put some effort into, and I don't think you'd have to do much to make it a solid entry. I'd also expand on that last line; it was really exciting, and then the story ends. There's potential there.
#79 · 1
· on His Final Curtain
Good Stuff: This has a Pratchett-like feel to it, and that's a good thing! The polite dialogue between Hercule and Death was the highlight, and I was charmed by Hercule's characterization very quickly. Who can resist a gentleman thief who's also an actor? The absurdity is delightful, and there's also some cool worldbuilding notes too, like Daphne being a real nymph and Death describing what drinking in the afterlife is like. The writing is good. The pacing seems right up until the end. The tone is just a lot of fun, and I respect that.

Bad Stuff: The ending is where it fumbles for me. The way it's written, I was confused at first; was Hercule really dead, or had he always been dead? I figure the former, but the dialogue briefly makes it sound like something else. Also, Hercule's reaction to being dead is underwhelming. He needs to be a little more shocked at least, because if it's not at least believable, then there's no grounding for a punchline either, and I think you were trying to be funny there. The last line is a bit of a damp squib too. There's more to him than that, isn't there? You could have thought more about what we'd seen of his character up to that point and how he did it for Daphne or for the art or something.

Verdict: Solid Entry. Disappointing and confusing as the ending is, the rest of it is so strong and fun and charmingly off-kilter than I came away thinking more about its strengths than about its weaknesses. Just tidy up the ending and you'd have a top contender here, I think.
#80 · 1
· on Too Many Clones, Not Enough Discipline
Good Stuff: Absurd humor is what I love, and this has it. Hundreds of clones of a moe schoolgirl acting as a full society? A tough-as-nails army guy ending up like a principal? And that last bit with all the clones cheerfully waving diplomatic papers like homework left me ROTFL. I love this sort of Douglas-Adams humor (the clones bit reminded me of the radio series, which is IMO the best). It's even kind of clever how the clones' origin story is explained and makes a kind of bizarre sense, and of course Kimura is just toooooo cute! I don't know if I can be objective on this one...

Bad Stuff: In hindsight, I kind of agree with >>Baal Bunny, but I think his suggestions are stuff that would take a good story and make it great. It didn't really bother me in the moment. That said, Zero could have been funnier. He's too much of a straight man, but you're trying to make him crazy too and he needed more stuff like that "leg stump" bit to make it work. I also think the names for the non-clones could have been more creative, and the bit about the two Kimuras hiding among the clones could have been more developed as a sort of Star Trek thought experiment kind of narrative. This is sci-fi. Go nuts!

Verdict: Top Contender. It's not a strong top contender like Ode or Werewolf, and my ranking is mostly because I thought it was hilarious. But I do see Baal Bunny's point that this could have been greater than it was. Don't be discouraged, though. I think this is a solid effort as it is that just needs a little more work to make it funnier, and the absurdist comedy means I push it higher than a "Solid Entry" tier because of personal taste.
#81 · 1
· on Bull-seye · >>MSPiper
I've been silent up to now with the stories I've been reading, but this smells of mystery in a way that has my interest. Given the prompt, the (undoubtedly intentional) off nature of the story title, and the events within, I'm sure there's something going down here. My first assumption is that the guard did something 'untoward' with his crossbow last night. The fact that he had to pause to answer John's questions tells me he hadn't expected any to pierce through his strong man stance and was in need of an alibi, if a flimsy one.

And this thing with the ring. What does it mean, "disguising" the ring? Why would you need to disguise a signet? What is this guard really doing, and how much of it is John in on? Because he must be in on something. You don't disguise a signet's presence without damn good reason.

I don't think anything in this story is coincidence. I wouldn't be surprised if even the characters' names were carefully chosen. But it's still too vague to get a full grasp on, so as much as I love the sense of mystery that hit me with this one, I'm afraid it's seeming unsolvability is a bit of a detriment.

Of course, I could be looking too deep into the situation.
#82 · 3
· on Unheard and Unseen
This is a nice beginning:

But that's all it is, just the basic introductory Person in a Place with a Problem. To turn it into a story, author, continue from here. :)

#83 ·
· on Boyfriend Chameleon
Okay, here's the last collection of reviews. I hope they're constructive feedback; I was trying to write these with a mind for points for improvement.

Good Stuff: The opening line set me up for good comedy, and for the most part this doesn't disappoint, right up to the amusing punchline. What I liked most was how often it seemed to twist and turn. I was genuinely unsure for a good chunk o it how evil the alien was, so to see it perform this noble deed was strangely touching but also really funny. Minor as it was, the little character notes for Quad and Dai were amusing, and I thought it cruelly funny how the alien was a better boyfriend than the real boyfriend.

Bad Stuff: The middle seems to have too many contrivances. How did the alien nab the real Quinn without anyone noticing? The story skips over how the alien acclimatized to the world of the humans - a couple of sentences would have done, at least, so I'm not left wondering if I missed something - and the way the creature was discovered felt unnecessarily odd. It's funny, in a way, but why were they doing it in a lab and how on earth did no one notice him change? I can imagine answers, but the fic doesn't provide them, which leaves me unsure.

Verdict: Top Contender, though again not as strong as some of the other Top Contenders I've ranked and I could easily call it a Solid Entry instead. It's a good and surprisingly sweet joke well-executed, with some twists and turns to keep it interesting. It's a little too twisty in the middle, bordering on contrived, but the alien's antics and the general fun make it relatively easy to forgive.
#84 ·
· on Right in Front of You
Good Stuff: The misdirection in the opening was a good surprise, the creepiness of the character came out at a good pace to give me the chills, and similar to Song of Rain and Thunder, this explored a dark POV in a good "That's so wrong" kind of way. There's also the interesting talk on how easy it is to stalk, and I liked the speculation about psychopaths operating in society right under people's noses, including each other's. This is very subtle horror, competently executed.

Bad Stuff: The characterization feels incomplete. You convey very well that he's a psychopath, but I otherwise can't get much of a read on him, which makes this seem very by-the-numbers in some respects. I guess it would have risen higher in my estimation if it had given him some quirks that made him stand out. It's good for what it is. It's just not knock-it-out-of-the-park good, if you see what I'm trying to say. Also, some of the phrasing, like >>Baal Bunny points out, are awkward.

Verdict: Solid Entry. This one is also tending to Mid Tier for me, but it's mostly because, insights and competence aside, it also felt needlessly bland and unremarkable, like I've come across this idea before and there's little to shake things up this time. Still, well done for doing such a good job!
#85 · 1
· on Cool Party Trick
Good Stuff: I like the idea here of an imaginary friend (with a cool design!) wearing out its welcome in a big world, and how the poor thing is just too juvenile to understand adult problems. The resentment between the characters is well-conveyed, and the opening introduced some uncertainty that made the slow reveal of the problems stand out. Well done!

Bad Stuff: A minor annoyance is that this thing has technical writing problems which distracted once too often. There are comma splices, oddly phrased segments, and in one case early on a bit of dialogue buried in a paragraph when it should have had its own. And the imaginary friend being real aspect: I'm not sure if it's clever or if it would have been cleverer to have Sparky be completely imaginary. I also never fully got a sense of what Jordan's problem was. I guess he thinks they're being held back by Sparky, but nothing's explicitly said about why, so it just sort of hangs there without full context.

Verdict: Solid Entry. Tending to Mid Tier for me. In this case not because it has problems, but because I'm still not entirely sure how effective it is as a commentary on growing up, which it seems to me to be, and even then that feels like a bland and vague guess. I do like those parts I did understand, though, and with some more spit and polish and a little more clarity on what the main issue is, I'd gladly make it an unambiguous Solid Entry.

And there we go! Every fic reviewed by me. Good luck everyone, and I look forward to seeing more comments on what other people think. Toodle-oo!
#86 · 1
· on State of Mind, NY
I found the phonetic writing really jarring. I mean, I understand it’s part of the ambiance you want to set, but it makes thing harder to understand. The prose gets in the way of the reader, which it shouldn’t be — and that’s especially true for non-natives. It didn’t take me much effort to guess what the real words were, but even that little effort is too much: it sets the focus on the words themselves, while words should bow and yield to their contents. Besides, I’m not sure it adds anything to this story to have the protagonists being black. Is that part and parcel with the drama?

Maybe it’s because the prose kept tick me off, maybe for some other reason, but I couldn’t connect with the story. At the end of the day, I’m still left way at arm’s length. There’s something missing here, somehow. The emotions on show don’t reach me. I find them… not artificial, but… superficial maybe? Or contrived? I can’t tell, but it doesn’t click.

So, I’m not sold on the prose, and the contents left me unconcerned. Sorry, author.
#87 ·
· on Asenath in the Attic
My review (am also going at this standalone):

Characters and Dialogue: The most memorable aspect of this story, to me, is the characters, and their personalities which are invoked either explicitly or implicitly by the narrator. For a horror-like and slightly mystic story such as this, just the right amount seems to be revealed. But, ultimately, I guess I just can't get that interested in characters whose only description is suffering and/or villainy.

Plot and Pacing: The plot makes sense, I suppose, that is to say, the sorcerer who wants to stay young forever, and thus sacrifices his daughter and seduces our main character. But either I'm really missing something, or the pacing is mainly a trudge through our main character's self-pity. Starting with "a famous author," there are four whole paragraphs of the main character lamenting his demise. That's too much real estate for a flash fic, in my opinion.

Flow, Style, and Grammar: Aside from the questionable (and leading!) phrase "she still youthful and sturdy," nothing really tripped me up in the narration, which is good. But other than that, I can only describe it as "serviceable," and overly fixated on psychological gore, as mentioned above. The line about Disney Princesses also made me roll my eyes, and detracted greatly from the "slightly mystic" aura I described.

Final: This fic will probably go on the lower end of my ballot.
#88 · 1
· on Boyfriend Chameleon
My review:

Characters and Dialogue: The main character was certainly the heavy-lifter in making this story stand out. He attracts our sympathy, our intrigue, and our laughter. Everyone else, on the other hand, seemed underdeveloped. Of course, it's a flash fic, that's to be expected, but I can't say anything about the humans other than their role in the story, and in particular, the chemistry between Quad and the main character is never examined.

Plot and Pacing: A highly original plot, true to the prompt, and simply presented. The biggest drawback, though, is that perhaps the most interesting and relevant aspect of the plot (the aforementioned chemistry) is barely touched upon, and is instead substituted with the main character's basic observations ("I sighed. I’d had my fun. I hefted the stunner, tampering with its safety settings. No point going half-baked") and vague introspections ("Still, it’d be a shame for Quad. She’d been an experience. Kindness. A reason to stay if I could. It wouldn’t be fair on her").

Style, Flow, and Grammar: The idea behind the story is strong and memorable, but the execution seems lacking. From the very opening sentence, I was hoping for something more colorful, invoking as it did a kind of outlandish Space Dandy vibe. Ultimately, though, I'm just guessing as to why I didn't enjoy it as much as I possibly could have. Perhaps try to re-read every sentence of the story, asking yourself if what you wrote and how you wrote it serves a maximally clear and efficient purpose.

Final: This story will be somewhere in the middle of my ballot.
#89 · 1
· on A Scholarly Report on the Fairy Peasblossom
My review:

Characters and Dialogue: This story is foremost, to me, a good example of indirectly painting a picture of a character (Peasblossom) through the biased lens of another (the scientific narrator). By the end, we're really cheering for Peasblossom to get some sort of closure, and for the narrator to be affected by it, and the ending provides this nicely.

Style, Form, and Grammar: No grammar mistakes, and the flow of sentences is very natural. Moreover, the vocabulary, sentence-structure, and overall flourish of the writing fits the narrator's old-timey British scientific background very well.

Plot and Pacing: There are some inconsistencies, or just vague points that I find diminished from my reading experience, however. In the second paragraph, we're told that she was discovered in 1917, and the scientist hypothesizes that she was a feral child, and that perhaps her family was lost to the war, causing a mental break. Naturally, feral children don't know their family; does he mean that she was a former feral child, got adopted, and then lost her parents just a year or two in the war?

It's also unclear to me if she really is a fairy or not. The fact that Elsie and Frances saw her in resplendent dress, but the medical staff did not, would make me say "yes." But then the line "Not even cameras or hidden observers could capture positive evidence for her abilities" made me think "no," since there's no indication that such a method could fail. And then her mysterious vanishing and concluding remarks made me think "yes" again.

Finally, all the remarks about Shakespeare and Arthur Conan Doyle and Queen Titania were interesting, but seemed irrelevent to the rest of the story. Unless something is flying over my literarily uneducated head.

Final: All in all, this well-written, charming little piece will wind up somewhere in the upper end of my ballot.
#90 · 1
· on Only for Him (The Cold Morning) · >>PaulAsaran
This is a nice story. I must own up to being somewhat biased, because I’ve always loved stories where the devil was depicted in a somewhat unfamiliar way. This story has many of these traits, although the space it is confined in doesn’t allow for much development, so the overall impression is of a good idea, but a shallow treatment.

So, basically, what you say is that the Devil is a lost child, whose father has abandoned him, and who therefore grew up to be a hellion, so to speak. At the same time, you ascribe the very sin which is canonically attached to the Devil, namely pride, to the apostles, so you reverse the charges. This is interesting. I’m not sure if lying in the background is the picture of a God incarnating perfect law and order, but also perfect boringness and stillness, against a Devil who is chaos and evil, but also creation and change.

At the end of the day, your Devil is a bit remote from Milton’s one. He doesn’t seem to be content to rule in hell, but rather craving after serving again in Heaven.
#91 · 2
· on State of Mind, NY
My review:

Style, Form, and Grammar: In my opinion, the use of the black vernacular was stellar. It added exactly the right amount of flavor, and didn't obfuscate the language in the slightest (and I say this as the whitest Wonderbread around who is very rarely satisfied with heavy accents in writing). As for the narration, though, I feel the explicit descriptions of Morgan's emotional turmoil were a little heavy-handed ("Morgan’s heart cracked like glass" / "not because his mother would hit him, but because she would miss" / "Morgan felt his heart plunge an inch" / "If only it could do something for the sharp sense of shame gripping his stomach"), and there was a weird fixation on how sopping-drenched his clothes were (it sounded as though he were constantly only seconds removed from a swimming pool).

Characters and Dialogue: Both the mother and the son are done excellently, overall. If I were to make a suggestion on Morgan, though, I would try to hint at larger things in his life that might be behind his pessimism. Then again, for an already-efficient flash fiction like this, such a change might just cause more harm than good.

The descriptions of "anger" and wanting to "wipe that smirk off his mother's face" also came off as a bit severe, since otherwise I got the impression he truly loved and respected his mother.

Plot and Pacing: This plot is entirely character-based, so I've already covered that. The pacing, however, was just perfect, in my opinion. Started with the book, went to the window and had a natural conversation, ended with the book. Unlike a lot of flash fiction, its goal of "tell the story of an aging disciplinary mother trying to tell her young'un to chin up" is neither too lofty nor too mundane, and it achieves it with just the right amount of subtlety.

Final: All in all, this gem will feature near the top of my ballot, and having gotten through half the fics so far, it's currently my top vote.
#92 ·
· on Right in Front of You
My review:

Characters and Dialogue: Once I realized the story was about a stalker, I had high hopes for it. There's a lot you can do with that kind of character, and I'm even a sucker for the trope. Unfortunately, he seems content to just muse about seemingly random topics, and we never learn much about his particular flavor of nutty. We also learn nothing about the girl (the stalker states, of course, that she's ultimately just a thing to watch for him, nothing more nothing less, but we as the reader should like to learn something about her), which was a big disappointment, having been introduced with a line like "I look at that girl and wonder who are the other four [psychopaths]." I can't tell if that line is meant to throw you off and make you think he's referring to the girl as a psychopath when in fact he's referring to himself (and if so, that just sort of confuses my interpretation until the very end for no good reason), or there's something I'm missing.

Plot and Pacing: Still, this story gets a decent amount of musing done for a mere 520 words. It's just that the musing is uninteresting to me, and having already heard that airplane-on-a-bomb joke a couple times before, it just came off as cheesy here. The line "I keep hearing about those morons who share their data on the internet and then suddenly realise that the money from their account is gone" also sounds like the sort of thing you'd hear that series-of-tubes guy say.

Style, Flow, and Grammar: Ditto what was said about "most of people" needing to be "most people."

Final: Overall, this fic will be somewhere on the lower end of my ballot.
#93 · 3
· on Asenath in the Attic · >>Hap >>Baal Bunny
After discussing this entry at length with several people, one of them being >>HiTime, I think I've spilled enough words on this entry to give it the full-review treatment.

Right off the bat, I'm going to discuss something that >>Hap alluded to: that this a story based off of H.P. Lovecraft's The Thing on the Doorstep. I actually think this story reads better not knowing the reference, although knowing the background of the story fills in a bit of the details that tie the entire story together. A long time ago, I once criticized Not_A_Hat for writing an original entry based off of Greek Myth as violating the spirit of the competition by basing his story on a pre-existing work, and I'll lobby the same criticism at this story. In fact, I think the issue is even more profound here, where basically the entire plot, characters, and genre from The Thing on the Doorstep are lifted wholesale, just spun in a different manner. Obviously some people will disagree with me, but I do think a lot more effort is required from an entrant making something from the ground up as opposed to someone who is directly co-opting ideas from another, and that is a factor I consider when evaluating a piece. In my opinion, it's the equivalent of taking a shortcut in the creative process.

With that housekeeping affair out of the way, what did I think of this story? To start, your opening line is excellent, and the prose flows together well, although I would call it the exact opposite of Lovecraft's. Lovecraft's sentence composition is all about long-winded, winding passages filled with elaborate and flowery prose, often choosing deliberately antiquated verbiage (the closest this story comes to that is using the word "septuagenarian", a truly terrible multi-syllabic car crash of a word that rightfully is never used), and Lovecraft would sooner let his reader die of old age trying to finish his long-ass sentences before even considering placing a period. The sentence composition in this story, by contrast, is short, punchy, and focuses on an economy of words.This sort of style plays to my personal preference of construction, and allows for some truly lovely sharp contrasts between lines that establish a very deadpan, sardonic mode of presentation.

Take for instance:

After a while, Asenath dies of starvation.

Downstairs, Asenath’s father eats ice cream and plays with his new breasts. Later someone shoots Asenath’s father six times in the head with a pistol. It happens on a doorstep.

These sentences are unimpressive on their own, but when operating in conjunction, it gives the narrator a wry and bitter sense of humor about the entire situation. Each line sharply contrasts one another in content and tone: We start with Asenath starving, cut to Asenath's father dicking around with his boobs (in that of itself, an odd and humorous detail) and eating (content and tone contrast), immediately skip to him being shoot in the face six times (content and tone contrast), and then a mundane element of where the shooting occurs (more contrast). The deadpan delivery of many of these short, punchy sentences containing odd or humorous elements tied together gives the entire work an underlying tone of dark humor, which I think has largely been ignored by readers focusing on the "horror" aspect of this story.

Take for instance, another set of lines:

“If I could be anywhere, I would be in love. Even better, someone would be in love with me. It wouldn’t matter if I was old. It wouldn’t even matter if I was locked in this attic, so long as someone loved me. But if I could be anywhere I’d also prefer to not be old or locked in this attic.”

Now, bear in mind this is written in blood, Asenath apparently feels the need to add a cute addendum to her statement about wanting to be in love: "I'd prefer not to be old or lock in this attic."

At this point, I could assume one of two things:

1. The author doesn't know what he's doing. The writer apparently doesn't understand why a character wouldn't write such a message after jamming their hand in their stomach and ripping out their entrails, especially not such a dainty and long-ass message about wanting to be in love, and prefering not to be trapped.

2, This effect is intentional and is meant to contrast the situation with an undertone of bitter, dark humor by phrasing it in such a passive, almost wistful way. There's several lines that lead me to this conclusion, aside from the one's I've mentioned. The overall tone of the narrator seems to be almost bitterly sarcastic—I assume, perhaps wrongly, that the narrator of this story is actually Edward speaking reflexively about his own situation.

I tend to give author's a good amount of trust, and sometimes that blows up in my face and makes me look like an idiot. But I think there's enough evidence and conspicuous lines within the story to give a high amount of credence to my read. Even Edward's response to Asenath's death message is a mostly sarcastic reply to a long-dead corpse saying, "Love won't solve your problems. In fact, it caused mine."

If you don't find that funny, well, you're probably pretty well-adjusted and probably a nice person.

The central conceit of the story is also (to me) very interesting. Essentially, the narrator is an embittered man trapped in an attic with a rotting corpse—alternatively, a simply deeply cynical witness to these events—passive-aggressively chastising H.P. Lovecraft for omitting Asenath from story of The Thing on the Doorstep (presumably because being trapped in an attic doesn't make for an interesting novel), which in the narrator's "rewrite" critiques as being unrealistic. The story itself has a bit of a meta quality to it, and from my read, serves as a critique of traditional story-telling forms, particularly the "Love Conquers All" trope, as Edward rather blatantly indicates that love is not like in a Disney fairy-tale, and will not, in fact, save you from being trapped in an attic.

Oddly enough, despite how cynically sarcastic and bitter this story is, the last passage ends on a rather sweet, almost romantic note, which is again, a very odd observation about a story depicting a man trapped in a room with a rotting corpse. But it's true: Edward basically says that love isn't a fairy tale, and it won't magically fix their problems, but relents and says, "If you're still lonely, you can love me." It reminds me of Swiss Army Man, a story about the friendship between Harry Potter and a waterlogged corpse. It's strangely affirming, and the lines took me aback the first time I read them.

One detail I found hard to wrap my head around was the body switch with Edward, mainly because of the use of gendered pronouns. I assume Edward is supposed to be in Asenath's body, but the phrasing is currently unclear. Additionally, the use of first person narrator combined with third person story telling, along with the close narrative distance the narrative has to Edward in particular, makes it hard to tell if the narrator himself is a character or if the narrator is simply Edward. It could go either way, but I am inclined to believe that the narrator is not some outward observer that happens to know all this information, and is actually Edward speaking about himself.

Despite this being against what I consider the be the spirit of the competition, I would say that I enjoyed this story quite a bit. In terms of composition, I think it is heads and shoulders above all but the best of entries this round, and I would not be surprised to learn that this story was written by a talented regular who wanted to remain Anonymous.

I do feel this story hasn't received enough appreciation this round, and if I were fielding a slate, this likely would be towards the top.
#94 ·
· on Right in Front of You
Well, okay, the concept this one is based on is like an old hat. It’s been done a lot of times, and this story doesn’t really add anything new to this overused trope. Sure, it has its moments, with tinges of humour and such, but it doesn’t leave a noticeable aftertaste. TBH, I think it is too much on the nose. It would have benefitted from being a little more mysterious, like, let the reader think the narrator is sane up to the very latest sentence, which casts a doubt over all we have been assuming so far. Late recontextualization would help, even a little lampshading. But here, it’s way too obvious and it kills the fun.
#95 ·
· on Boyfriend Chameleon
I’m not sure to get the twist here. Is there something I missed?

So what's the gist of that: monster exchanges place with guy, fucks his GF, and then goes back to where he lived before because he’s had enough? That’s underwhelming.

I was expecting some sort of unexpected switcheroo, and there’s none. What a letdown.

Also is this story about Monochromatic?
#96 ·
· on Asenath in the Attic
Is that the post-modern version of Anne Frank’s Diary?
#97 ·
· on Bull-seye · >>HiTime >>MSPiper
Well, the opening line is like a promise you never keep. We think a lot of cool things are going to happen, but then, no. Finally, all of this is about a broken crossbow, we get some namedropping about “a royal signet ring” but we never get to know what it is or why it is so significant, there’s an allusion to a mission, but then again, it stops short.

More or less, we’re left with two fairly run-of-the-mill characters who populate a piece which never really sets to explore the pathways it outlines.
#98 ·
· · >>Monokeras

Are you having a bad day or something? Your reviews are coming across as too rude and dismissive in places. People put time and effort into these stories, remember, and to them you look a bit disrespectful.

It's fine to state what you thought didn't work in a fic, but I think the way you've written these is not going to help get your point across to the authors. It'll put them on the defensive and it won't make you look good compared with the other reviewers.
#99 ·
· · >>Cassius

Well I’ve been reviewing like this for ages. That’s just my style, a bit curt and to-the-point, agreed. Two years ago or more, I can’t remember, we had a discussion on reviews. I can assure you that the WriteOff has become a lot more subdued than it was at that time. Maybe I carry over some of those old habits? Or that’s something I caught grading papers? ;)

Here, have a load of this. Example, expert of Cassius’s comment on one of my former stories:

This story reads similar to a foreign 80s horror B-movie , with a classic sort of horror set-up that borrows heavily from well-known horror set-ups of a creepy object or place that has mysterious powers, like Stephen King's Pet Semetary or The Monkey's Paw that is consistently eroded by inexperience of the author in portraying this type of story and the limitations of his own linguistic abilities (once again similar to a foreign B-move) . This is a prime example of the type of story where the author has an approximate idea of the beats and rhythm of how the story should be plotted to progress, but no clear idea on how those beats should be executed. Hence the characterization, dialogue, and general "feel" of the story often veer in conflicting and often confusing directions.
#100 ·
· on Asenath in the Attic
To be fair, I read it once, googled for the names which led me to the Lovecraft story, which I then read (okay... I do speed reading when I'm not reading for pleasure, but I did read it through) and came back to this story.