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The Howl in the Dark · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
#1 · 10
· · >>Moosetasm
The atmosphere was tense and heavy in the room. The American and the North Korean delegate, sat opposite the large round meeting table, were glaring daggers at one another, under the thoughtful, vaguely resigned look of the Australian ambassador to the UN. He had not chosen to be there. The gruesome task of arbitrating the debate between those two sworn foes had been foisted on him by the Secretary General, based on an alleged innate talent at defusing crises.

The problem was, he had planned other things than attending this travesty of discussion. Maybe not as important for the future of the world, but more important for him. At least in the short term. But, seriously, how could he have turned that mission down?

“If you don’t shut down your subterranean nuclear facility within three months,” the American delegate bawled for the umpteenth time, which made the Australian ambassador start as he was shoved out of his reverie, “we shall crush your country and leave only radioactive slag behind.”

The North Korean delegate giggled. “Of course, and you’ll be responsible for the razing of San Fransisco, Los Angeles and every bit of the Silicon Valley.”

“Pfft.” The American dismissed the threat with a scornful gesture of his hand. “We can intercept and destroy your pathetic toys before they enter the American airspace.”

“Can you, really? You never tested your defense system, did you? And besides…” The North Korean broke off and giggled again.

“Besides what?” the other hissed.

“That’d be telling…”

The American turned to the Australian ambassador, who was trying – unsuccessfully – to stifle a yawn. “Your excellency, this constant brandishing of thinly veiled threats is unbearable. I respectfully request you order the North Korean delegate to cease this unseemly behavior immediately.”

“Gentlemen,” the ambassador replied, “I reckon that neither of you is stupid enough to jeopardize—“

“Not like a certain president,” the North Korean cut in.

“Whom do you call stupid?” the American delegate vociferated, banging his palms on the table and almost leaping forth out of his chair. “What about your crazy, moronic—”

“SIRS!” The Australian delegate shouted unexpectedly.

The American, taken aback, turned to him and cast him an infuriated look. “I will not—”

“You will not what? Look,” the Australian said, “if you continue behaving like hillbilly boys I swear I’m going to use this” – he picked up his phone from the table and showed it around – “to shoot a video of your childish bickering and I will post it on the most popular social networks. I’m curious to know what the people will think about your deportment—” At that very moment, the alarm of the smartphone went off.

Startled, the ambassador fumbled with the device, which almost fell from his hand. When he had regained control of his movements, he silenced it, then glanced at the screen. His face crumpled. “Gentlemen,” he said in an unexpected self-conscious tone, “you’ll have to excuse me momentarily.” He stood up and strode to the door, leaving the two delegates stumped and gobsmacked.

Once he had shut the door behind him and checked that he stood alone in the wide, nondescript corridor, he feverishly unlocked his smartphone. “Twelve GMT, twelve GMT…” he was muttering under his breath. He fired the browser, quickly typed writeoff.me and committed. “Quick, please,” he whispered, “let me know if I made finals.”
#2 · 4
· · >>Monokeras >>georg
If this story is true, (the part about the Australian embassador’s work ethic) then it does explain why a lot of our Far-East politics have been so squirrely as of late.
#3 · 4
#4 · 4
· · >>Trick_Question
Well lads, I don't much do original rounds, but I'll be writing in solidarity on a Sunset Shipping Contest entry at the same time that this is going on. Bonne chance!
#5 · 3
· · >>CoffeeMinion
At least wait to see if my prompt wins. ;V
#6 ·
*Me in the school bathroom at 8:00 am* Please vote for me please vote for me
#7 · 4
I know I've been AWOL from too many Writeoffs in a row, and minifics seem like a great excuse to dip my hoofclaws back in … but I'm away from the Internet all weekend because I have Labor Day backwoods camping plans. >..<

Good luck to all participants, and see you hopefully next time!
#8 · 1
Well, how bout dis den: on the honor system, PM me if your prompt wins, and I'll make every (semi-)reasonable effort to write a fic for it!
#9 ·
· · >>Monokeras

So, I submitted a prompt, but may or may not be able to make an entry. Because of the timing, I'm in the same boat as Horizon. (I might be able to snag some wifi along the way, that's depending on my luck). Is it out of line to send a prompt but not send in an entry? If it's bad, then please note me and I'll delete my prompt submission. If it means anything, I'll still vote! (or is that a bad thing too?)
#10 · 3
Ever since winning the silver medal for last Christmas Eve's original minific contest, I've been away from here for a long time. But given how I'm back in school and writing habitually again, I'm going to hop back into this contest once more.
#11 · 6
It’s perfectly seemly to submit a prompt even if you don’t participate. I do that all the time for pony rounds.
#12 · 3
· · >>Trick_Question
A pretty good pick of prompts this round. "Chainsaw Brain Surgeon" was my personal favorite.

I also see one of you smart-alecks decided that the prompt "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" constituted as 'original'. Though I must admit, a part of me wants to see that prompt win just so I can see what we cook up without referencing MLP at all.
#13 · 4
· · >>Trick_Question
Good News, Everyone!

Take a Chance, Reaching Out. Grow Up Big and Strong. It’s Never Been Harder to Fall. You Can Dance if You Want To; If It Bleeds, It Leads.

The Reason? Shades of Blue Innocence, Once Upon a Time. You Ever Wonder Why We’re Here? Proper Channels. What the Forests did not Envelop, the Earth Swallowed To the Last Drop

Chainsaw Brain Surgeon. Cheese, Cheese Everywhere! Cast Out Scary Sprites and Nice Monsters. The Howl in the Dark (Fake). More Human Than Human, That Face of All Men Feared.

Changing of the Seasons; Summer Exhausted. It’s not Going to End Well. A Fond Farewell, An Unwanted Gift. Been There, Done That.

It’s Time to Pay the Price; The Last Note...
#14 · 2
If that prompt wins I interpret that as freedom to write anything MLP related.
#15 ·
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
You missed one...
#16 · 1
>>Moosetasm Face it. Anything that includes the phrases "North Korean" and "Diplomacy" is going to be pretty wacked.
#17 · 2
· · >>Trick_Question
Actually, I’ve reserved the right to not use a prompt that is repetitive or obviously unoriginal, and the one you mention fails on both counts. But if you like, you can mentally append it after the ellipsis.
#18 · 3
· · >>BlueChameleonVI
#19 · 4
Your usual reminder: I'll be in #mentors or available via PM for anyone who wants help with a story, anywhere from concept development to looking over a finished draft.
Post by Rocket Lawn Chair , deleted
#21 · 7
Wow, I love this prompt! Congrats all around for picking something totally metal AF. I might even have to try to wade into the action for this!
Post by Trick_Question , deleted
#23 · 2
I am very sad none of the prompts I liked won. Regardless, I'll probably get around to reading some of the entries this time. Yay!
#24 ·
· · >>Whitbane

Okie dokie.

"Do it or I'll shoot you."

How's that?
#25 · 2

Life or death, the best type of motivation!
#26 · 4
· · >>BlueChameleonVI
Oops I accidentally an entry.
#27 · 4
>>Miller Minus

Have you tried turning it on and off?
#28 · 6
Just finished my submissions. Here's hoping at least one of them gets a good reception.

And by "good", I mean nobody outright despises them.
#29 · 5
I love the prompt! There is no way I'm skipping this!

I'm burning midnight oil right now, since I just got back from a trip! Gotta get it finished!

Good luck to everyone! I can't wait to read the other entries!
#30 · 4
Got one in. Looking forward to seeing where everyone else ran with this prompt. ^^
#31 · 3
Y'know what guys? I love this prompt, and it's (indirectly) inspired me to write 1000+ words of ponyfic today (yesterday?), but I'm just not landing something specific to this contest.

So hey, best of luck to all who made it! And it's not for lack of trying on my part, nor is there a lack of something to show for it. ^^
#32 · 1
Eh. Let's see how well this tests.
#33 · 3
Well it's not great and not that long but at least it's Something !
Looking forward to everyone elses entries though !! :D
( maybe one of these times ill start something earlier and get it done with time for actual editing ! )
#34 · 3
Just submitted. Good luck to everyone.
#35 · 3
The legends foretold of this day, upon which the slumbering behemoth would awake once more. Wielding a pencil carved from the very branches of Yggdrasil, he once again hones his cursed and cursive craft upon vast plains acting as his parchment. Gentlemen, behold, words! Some roughly seven-hundred of them to be exact, carved into the bedrock twixt foothills. An omen of works to come, or but a moment's fancy before he returns to his sopor? Only time will tell...

Well, let's see if my attempt at being clever works out.
#36 · 3
Ok, got two in. As usual, they’ll fare abysmally, but at least it was a good writing exercise! :)
#37 · 3
I'm in! It's... words alright.
#38 · 4
Well, looks like I actually wrote something. That makes a change.
#39 · 2
I’m in like Finn.
#40 · 3

Yours sincerely,
#41 · 2
Well. I definitely feel like I accomplished something yesterday.

I did a lot of dishes, made a pie from scratch, and knocked out a big chunk of the weekend's grading.

Then, around 11pm, I started writing.

It'll be great, right?
#42 · 2
· on Journey to the Waru Wolf of Arukadiland · >>CantStopWontStop >>Samey90
There's irony here, but I'm lost as to what the message even is. Uncomfortable subjects are introduced, but not used for anything. All I'm getting out of this is that the narrator is a quixotic fool?

It feels like a joke told in the wrong order. It's not clear what her motivation is until the very last line. Yet early on it's already foreshadowed revealed that these myths are all fakes. I'm not really attached to her, so the irony of bringing up slavery feels distant as well. Logically I know she's not such a good person, but instead of shock or disgust or whatever, I feel nothing.
#43 ·
· on The Way She Howls · >>Monokeras
One of the risks of writing sex comedy is that the story will become nothing but an examination of the sexual acts themselves, instead of focusing on the characters doing the sexual acts. Fortunately, this tale doesn’t fall into that trap; Mindy and Alexander are both distinguishable characters, and seeing how their liaisons affect their relationship gives the story more heft. The comedy is still there and it is amusing, but it’s in aid of the central conflict (Mindy and Alexander’s sexual compatibility) without becoming the totality of the piece’s content. I also enjoyed the characters of Mindy and Alexander. They were definitely different, but there was a good chemistry between them that allowed me to believe they’d get married. As far as the comedy goes, the ending itself was the funniest part for me. Seeing Mindy’s frankness get turned on her gave the piece a decidedly karmic tone, and the fact Alexander ends knowing that she’ll still come back to him gives the story a playful edge. The argument was serious to a degree, but there’s an undertone of foreplay to it as well.

There were some things that didn’t quite mesh for me, however. For one, there were a few points where Mindy came off a tad unsympathetic. I get she’s supposed to be the more free-spirited of the two, but there came a point where her honesty felt way out of line with the caring side she supposedly had (i.e. calling Alexander ugly, then saying it shouldn’t be a surprise since he had a mirror). There’s “playful insults”, and then there’s just straight-up insults. And as Alexander said, the fact she didn’t mention this for at least over a year makes this decidedly more cruel; how would you like to marry somebody that thinks you’re ugly, and didn’t tell you so until long into your relationship?

I also thought this line was weird:

"You remember we talked to the dentist about this. Humans aren’t supposed to have that many little teeth."

I actually reread the story to make sure I wasn’t missing some kind of clue that Mindy was a siren or some other mystical creature. Saying “humans” instead of “people” or some other bland signifier made it seem like Mindy was hinting she wasn’t human herself. That wasn’t the case, but the wording is still pretty odd.

All in all, this story was a decent sex comedy. It gave me a few chuckles, as well as a few interesting characters. For that, I’d say that it was mostly successful.
#44 · 1
· on Howls for Hire
The central concept of the story was by far the best aspect about it. A businessman selling werewolves to various other horror figures (including Hollywood) is decidedly amusing, and the different ways Wolfgang tries to branch out is a funny riff on how difficult it is for old businesses to adapt to the times (i.e. Sears or Blockbuster). I also enjoyed how the werewolves have to undergo professional training, like it was a tech position at Google or any other service industry. Apparently, being a vicious creature of the night just doesn’t cut it anymore.

That being said, while the concept is funny, it’s also pretty one-note. Werewolves have to get training, there’s a nerd who’s taking it too seriously, Wolfgang’s expanding into Wall Street…every joke is pretty much what you’d expect. It’s not poorly done per se, but it’s bland enough that it’s hard to be invested. I also thought that the jokes about how modern-day folks don’t find werewolves scary anymore fell flat. You’re seriously telling me that when a vicious animal appeared, the teenagers whipped out their iPhones instead of getting the hell out of there? Besides the fact that the “lol young people do nothing but play with their phones” joke is overdone as hell, the various monsters admit that they kill people all of the time and can get well-known businesses started that deal explicitly with harming people. One would think that such a world would breed a more cautious populace, so trying to put this modern commentary in a world that’d have to fundamentally work different from ours doesn’t work.

In conclusion, the story has a good concept in werewolves as a corporation, but a lot of it doesn’t quite work within the bounds of the world. There’s a potential for a good comedy here, but it needs a little more refining if it’s to work. A good effort nonetheless.
#45 · 1
· on Over the River and Through the Woods
So, we got a werewolf combined with one of the oldest tropes in zombie-related fiction (shooting someone who got bitten) and, umm... Little Red Riding Hood. That's quite an explosive combo, though I have yet to figure out if it's a dud or not.
#46 · 3
· on When Insides Turn to Outsides · >>Samey90 >>aconcernedparent
is this Cupcakes?

I think this might be way more grotesque than Writeoff rules allow.

I don't mind gore, but I still left this feeling confused. the Doctor's making some point about human nature...? I think the intro is too rushed; it's a funny hook but it feels way too random, and I don't have any context for this character. He's being eviscerated against his will because he feels sad? The ending was pretty creepy, with everyone volunteering to go through this themselves, but I'm still lost on what this represents. There's not even any reaction, one way or another, from the narrator while being tortured. Or even afterwards, when logically he should be dead, but he's still narrating. And I guess he's happy with what happened? Or at least he doesn't object to it. Maybe he doesn't care.

Honestly I suspect all this pretense of "meaning" is just to disguise that it's gore porn.
#47 ·
· on The IKEA Trap · >>Monokeras
And then the narrator was never heard from again. He had it coming, though.

Possibly the most interesting thing about this fic that out of all the "it came from the closet" stories out there, this one shows where such haunted closets come from. It was still quite a weird read, not only because the narration seemed as unhinged as the closet's door.
#48 · 1
· on Beware the Fogeyman · >>Hap
I really enjoyed the silly things Edmund’s ghost does in this story. It really feels like something a goofy old guy would do, and Aggie’s exasperation at his antics gave the comedy a bit more kick. I also like how the story examined how much it sucks to be a ghost. Your hands go through things, you can’t sleep anymore and you’re mostly just annoying instead of scary. It showed another side of ghosts that I hadn’t seen before, so that was appreciated.

The chief issue with the story is the tone shift toward the end. Throughout most of the piece, it’s a goofy tale about an elderly ghost that won’t go away. And yet by the end, it’s a tragic tale about how you can’t hold onto your loved ones forever. It honestly felt like the writer started the story with one idea, but then had another darker idea and worked that into the final part of the story. Maybe the shift could be done believably, but it wasn’t done well enough in this draft. I also thought the inclusion of Aggie being a witch didn’t quite work. There’s no real hint of it until the last third, so it seems like it was just a narrative excuse for Aggie to let Edmund go to the afterlife. I understand the need to explain why something is happening, but sometimes it’s better to leave things mysterious. I’d rather be focused on these two characters’ interactions than have a clear explanation for why their interaction is happening. If a story’s well-written enough, you often don’t need clear answers to make it compelling.

In the end, there’s a good idea here that just doesn’t mesh because of a wonky tone and too much explanation. I think if you take the parts that work and focus in on them instead of putting too many disparate elements together, there’s a decent story to be made from this.
#49 ·
· on Exuberant Exhortations · >>Icenrose
I have absolutely no idea what's going on in this story. I feel like there's a major reference I'm missing, and without that, I don't get the punchline. Is there even a joke? I don't honestly know.
#50 · 2
· on Exuberant Exhortations · >>Icenrose
Aww, with the amount of times Tricia called God in vain, I hoped in the end it'd turn out the Almighty himself came down to fuck her. I wonder if that would be better than Sarai almost having a ride to the sound of her roommate playing LoL which feels kinda sitcom-y (I guess cringe comedy is the proper term).
#51 · 1
· on Journey to the Waru Wolf of Arukadiland
I'm not sure why there has to be a particular message? I'm also not sure there's much irony?

This is a decent adventure into the unknown wilderness story told here in a very tight word limit, and some excellent voice work. The author has nailed the prissy yet independent noblewoman voice. The motivation is the journey, the chasing of supernatural and fantastical rumors. Not sure why that would need to be explained.

There is some interesting moral grey territory. Want to root for the character because she's being looked down on for her sex, but don't want to root for her because she doesn't mind slavery. But this aspect of the fic is a little underdeveloped. It's tied with some religious talk, seeking God's beauty, ignores the ugliness of sin that is slavery. But still, underdeveloped.

Some good writing here, and good use of the word limit, but the moralizing does feel unfocused.
#52 · 1
· on The Clockwork Man · >>GaPJaxie
I confess, I'm lost.

Is this story literal, or figurative? Is the man an actual clockwork automaton, or only metaphorically? Who was the other creature?

Was this all just the hallucination of a mentally ill man contemplating suicide, or a robot whose soul runs around at night?
#53 · 2
· on Mission Impossible · >>No_Raisin >>Icenrose
I feel like I've read this story dozens of times before. Usually with ponies.

I'm not trying to pick on this for being unoriginal or cliche, just that I always see these repeat the same mistakes.

The beginning establishes that there's some danger, and how the character is trying to survive, and that's decent enough. But when the "target" is ambiguous and not described, it immediately rings bells that this is trying to be a cute twist. In a "normal" story, the objective of the mission would probably already be clear. You need misdirection, and the story isn't going to fool me if I'm already focusing on the missing puzzle piece.

And the ending goes on way too long, where the characters just explain stuff they already know for the sake of the audience. It's not that hard to figure out after a few lines. And it's not much of a punchline because the audience understanding of the story hasn't really changed - Susan wants something while not being detected, but her life's not actually in danger now. She just has an overactive imagination, which is cute but not funny.
#54 · 2
· on Journey to the Waru Wolf of Arukadiland
Well, the action clearly takes place in 19th century. They may have a different view on slavery.
#55 · 1
· on Howls for Hire
Heh. I got a good chuckle out of this.

I'm not sure there's room in a minific for much more than one note of comedy. I wouldn't say this story is amazing but the clearly absurdist setting managed to cleanly avoid any concerns over realism for me.

I think the last section could have used a bit more humor. It was a nice element of closure to the story, but it didn't match the humorous tone of absurdism that the rest of the story had.

Overall, I found it enjoyable. It's also the only story I've read so far that made a lick of sense. As Mongris so wisely put it, "AWOOOOOOOOO!"
#56 · 1
· on Honed in the Dark · >>axxuy
There are quite a few unfortunate typos. In the first sentence "cannon" is written as "canon" and then mankind takes a fight to Mars rather than a flight. No wonder the Martians attacked. Also, formatting and style guide is your friend. Shame, really, because I kinda liked the plot.
#57 · 3
· on The Light in the Dark · >>PinoyPony
Soooo... she knew what was going on?

And she didn't share it with us?

I'm kind of lost. There was some sort of family legend that involved time travel, but also some kind of beast that is fed... metaphorically? Maybe it feeds on fear, or negative emotions, but you'd think that the guy would at least tell her how to not feed it. Maybe that would have helped the reader as well.

There was an awful lot in this story that was just left unsaid. How did she hurt her ankle? How did he heal it? Did she step in a bear trap or just twist her ankle on a rock?

I'm not sure how she... "mended" her future. She just saw a reflection of her older self and... replaced it with a happier version? I don't know.

It seems like there's a lot here, but it's just out of reach of the reader.
#58 · 3
· on The Call of the Wild · >>Monokeras
not Jack London fanfic, bottom of the slate!

Okay, I know this one's kind of predictable, what with the prompt and the title, but I thought it was effectively told with good pacing. There's some suspense early on so I feel sympathetic to the character, and I liked how the ending was mostly left to the imagination. It gives this story a mystical atmosphere that might be ruined by overexplaining the lore. I kinda liked it!

I think I might've liked this more if it never mentioned "wolf" at all in the last line. maybe allude to it, so it still stays a little mysterious. but maybe that's just me.
#59 · 1
· on Xavier's Secret · >>BlueChameleonVI
The writing's pretty rough here, a lot of errors and confusing flow, so it took a while to figure out what's really going on and who's actually human. I'm not entirely sure what its hinting about Pryce. But I do find the hints at worldbuilding to be pretty interesting, so I think this has some nice potential. I have to read between the lines to see it, but there's some cool ideas here waiting to sprout.

bonus points for not actually showing the werewolf on-screen, and having it just be one piece of a much bigger mystery. I was worried it'd try to pull off some "gotcha!" twist at the end, and was glad it didn't.
#60 ·
· on The Way She Howls
Mostly agree with >>libertydude. This is fun to read, and though it is explicit, it’s never vulgar or squalid, so that makes for a good read.

I'd say, however, that it is a bit unfocussed. We start with the girl being vocal during sex—and it could make a good premise if the couple was living in a flat rather than in a house (presumably)—but then it takes a turn into something completely different, as if, as the writer, you had chosen to be led by the characters rather than to lead them.

I was puzzled by the same sentence than Lib, I was expecting the girl to be some sort of wolf, but she turned out not to be.

Also, I found the end a bit unsatisfactory; although it builds up on everything already exposed, I was also expecting a twist that didn't come to pass.

All in all, it’s a fairly good comedy, but it lacks one or two tricks to make it really shine.
#61 · 4
· on When Insides Turn to Outsides · >>aconcernedparent
is this Cupcakes?

That was my first thought too. I'm pretty sure that's some metaphor for looking for goodness in humans. Or possibly that to become truly perfect one has to give up human nature? ("I take their teeth so they cannot bite. I take their lungs so they cannot scream"). I sense misanthropic overtones below all the guts here.
#62 · 1
· on Semi-Metallic Wolf
Reading this story is like looking at all the posters on the wall of a twelve year old boy's bedroom.

I mean that in the best possible way.

I don't feel like the story really went anywhere at the end. Our protagonist didn't get to make any choices until after the story is over. We don't know if the H.O.W.L. ever found a pack, or figured out what kind of prey it could predate to get that interaction it desired.

Plot twist: John Wick is the dog.
#63 · 1
· on Meat · >>Skywriter
Aha. That was pretty weird. The idea of growing meat out of, say, totipotent cells, is not new, and was explored as far back as 1943 by the French sci-fi writer René Barjavel in his Novel Ravage. This was quite visionary at the time. Nevertheless, the idea of selecting human muscle cells to be the “precursor” to the patty the story is about is—well I said it already—weird. I’m not sure how it would enhance the experience of eating a hamburger. Besides, I was always told that human flesh is tasteless and gristly, which doesn’t make a good candidate for a savory meal.

The end is a bit unexpected, and, above all, we don’t really see the relation with the first part. Sure, we can imagine that the guy has transformed and came somehow to avenge, but it’s a bit far-fetched, so we’re left a bit dangling without any clear explanation, because none of this was foreshadowed. To me, it seemed the end is a somewhat awkward way to link the idea of using artificial human meat in a hamburger to the prompt. Maybe if the guy had transformed after having bitten into the patty, that would’ve been better.
#64 ·
· on Meat
The little brown puck

Stop, you're making me hungry :S

So... what happened to the burger? It was on the cusp of being done to perfection, and... they watched the minutes tick by in silence? This is a delicate time. You can't just... have a conversation while a burger is cooking!

I'm confused at the ending. Did he eat the Ellen-burger and it turned him into a werewolf? Did he eat it at all? Or was he that way all along?
#65 · 4
Man, there are a lot of werewolf stories in this one. Probably should have seen that coming.
#66 · 2
· on Honed in the Dark
It feels too short. Yes, it's a minific round, but it just runs into the word limit and stops instead of trying to give us a conclusion. It doesn't work as a minific, I think--I want to read the novel this feels like it's from.

"Taking the fight to Mars" looks right to me. It's talking about going from fighting Martians on earth to fighting Martians on Mars.
#67 · 1
· on Meat · >>Skywriter
I like the combination of the two ideas here, it's a fresh take on a common trope. The most obvious problem is that the ending comes completely out of nowhere, too much of a surprise.
#68 · 2
· on Beware the Fogeyman
The chief issue with the story is the tone shift toward the end.


I loved the interaction between the husband and wife. It felt real. I liked the idea, I liked the execution, right up until the end. I feel like, instead of that last bit about "her private hell" there should have been a snarky wife joke.
#69 · 1
· on Young-Bloodied · >>No_Raisin
The prose was very sparse with this one. I had to read it through a couple times to figure out what was going on.
#70 · 1
· on Howls for Hire
Yeah—don’t take it bad, author, but I’m pretty impervious to this sort of humor. It’s too on the nose for me. Names, for example, sounded pretty lame to me.

The end is pretty much a tone mismatch, unless I’m not getting something obvious.

So the story left me pretty much unconcerned. Once again, I apologize. As the other comments vindicate, this is a purely personal feeling. It’s just that you pushed the wrong button, so don’t bang your head too much.
#71 · 1
· on Beware the Fogeyman
So I get you correctly, witch’s hubby dies. Witch feels alone, so conjures up his ghost. Then she can’t stand the wailing, so she casts him back into nothingness. Correct?

Superficially, it works. The dialogue is well paced and quite entertaining. But the story is a bit wobbly. You've chosen to spotlight the way both of them interact when he’s back, putting aside what she felt before—something you just hint at at the end. As a result, we don’t really understand why she elected to have him back, and especially why all this happens the second night after his "reappearance".

Also, what the others have said is justified. You chose to focus on the comedic aspect of the situation, sweeping the dramatic implication under the carpet, but then suddenly at the end you pull it back. That stacks over the unbalancing I mentioned before.

Nevertheless, there’s a lot to like here, the use of the word "grimoire", that English lacks, among them, but it needs yet another pass of refinement to burnish it completely.
#72 · 2
· on The Light in the Dark · >>PinoyPony
I'm in the same boat as Hap, and I'll be shocked if you end up with any comments that don't involve the reader wondering just what was going on. Hap even got further than I could—since the story doesn't explain much of anything to me, there's nothing to ground me in the scene. I need some sort of rule or some sort of backstory or at least having the narrator being as confused as I am, because as is, I can't get my feet wet in your story.

What it really boils down to is that this probably would have been easier to write in the short story round. A smaller idea would have been easier for you here.

Also, the dialogue tags are a bit of a mess here. The words immediately following the dialogue shouldn't be capitalized, except when someone's name is used, and some commas are missing from the ends of certain lines. Also, the "Impossible!" looks like it shouldn't follow a line break. Reina is saying that, yes? If this was simply a rush job then no biggie, but I just thought I'd point it out.

Thanks for writing!
#73 · 2
· on Exuberant Exhortations · >>Icenrose
I have two options: Sarai knew all along, or she didn't.

If she did, that is an astoundingly niche fetish, but I'm certain it exists.

If she didn't (I think it's this one), then she has selective hearing. If the other room is so audible, surely she's hearing frantic keyboard/mouse clacking, and not a casbah being rocked? There's more to sex than moans that end in tildes!
#74 · 2
· on Exuberant Exhortations · >>Cassius >>Icenrose
I can’t rank that one very high. First, it makes use of an old hat trope. I mean, almost everyone, I think, has written about misunderstanding groans for sexual activity while it was something entirely different.

Ok, if it was only that, it'd made the story dull, especially since we smell a rat from about the get-go.

But your punchline relies on a "private" reference. You can’t possibly end up a story like this one with a wink to a happy-few, since it will leave all the others excluded, and therefore incapable of understanding the only thing you chose to emphasize: the twist.

Sorry :/
#75 · 2
· on The Dark Hungers · >>Ion-Sturm
This is my only reaction.

I say that because, well, the things I would say are obvious to the author. They have to be.

Yeah, the non-sequitur has no build-up. Sure, the ending is a complete betrayal of the tone that the story was going for. And the only other critique I had for this story up until the ending was, What the hell is going on? I was all ready to talk about how writing something so intensely sci-fi in 750 words maximum is a fool's errand. I need me some exposition, man. But apparently I'm not supposed to take that part of the story seriously. Which the author knows! Curses! Foiled again!

Honestly? This reads like a pizza commercial. And that isn't something I think I've ever enjoyed :/
#76 · 2
· on Fool Moon · >>BlueChameleonVI >>Baal Bunny
I could be mistaken, but I think you've wandered into a bit of a Catch-22 here when it comes to the tone of the story. Either A) write the story with tension, or B) write it without any tension, which makes more sense, since Sheila knows what's going on. You seem to do a bit of both, with a definite slant towards B).

The problem with A) is that you're just lying to the reader. Since Sheila is our POV here, any amount of tension added is going to make us very disappointed with the ending. And the problem with B) is that... well. There's no tension. Nothing to really get invested in, except a woman getting out of bed, idly wondering where her husband is. So I'm not sure if this story could divert in a way that could really grab me.

Apart from that, I'm left wishing I knew more about the characters. Werewolves usually have some sort of interesting origin, no? These two seem to be werewolves for the sake of it. In fact, this story could easily be about a couple of furries canine enthusiasts with certain kinks. Only the transformation needs to be taken away, and nothing else has changed.

But that's all from me. Thanks for writing, Author-person!
#77 · 2
· on Writing Pains · >>libertydude
horizon's name isn't capitalized smh does nobody do research anymore
#78 · 1
· on A Triptych For Amduscias · >>No_Raisin >>WritingSpirit
Alright, the twist feels a little standard, but the story definitely delivers on what it sets out to do, so I salute you.

That said, I know next to nothing about Abigail, so when the plot twist happens, I'm not terribly shocked. These types of fake-outs usually need way, way more build-up, so that I can look back on it all and see how all the pieces were falling into place the whole time (you bastard). Here I only think, I suppose it makes sense that she's a rookie. But there's not much else for me. I heard once that the best plot twists is the one that is shocking, yet inevitable. For this one, well, I don't know enough to figure out what's "evitable" and what's not.

So yes, the impact falters because of how little time is spent on the characters (maybe spend less on the viscera?), but the story is competently done.

Thanks for writing! And good luck to you!
#79 · 1
· on An Estate · >>teacorgi
I liked this. It could be just that I'm gettin' just a little bit wary of these werewolf stories at this point, but I did see the twist coming when the husband was mentioned.

Overall, this is another entry that is competently written and does what it wants to do, and I can respect that. I suppose what would have helped me get more into would be a little bit more of a connection between the husband's death and his current state. At the moment, he has simply passed away. So how did he get to where he is now?

But that's all I have to say. Well done and good luck!
#80 · 1
· on Ember
I can't help but notice that this story is devoid of any emotional weight. I don't know this man, or the would-be survivors, or anything of what's happened that led to the plane crash, etc. So that would be your next step, I think. There's so many avenues to choose from, but there needs to be something making me care about this guy and his circumstances. Standard empathy that you feel for people in the real world doesn't usually carry you very far in fiction.

But regardless, it's well written and you've set the scene very well. Thanks for giving me something vivid to look at, and good luck in the shakedown!
#81 · 1
· on Writing Pains · >>libertydude
By the time his eyes opened, he found Horizon standing over him. A devilish grin stretched across the author’s face, his eyes glowing white with power.

“H-How-?” Rite-Toff said.

#82 · 1
· on Xavier's Secret · >>BlueChameleonVI
That was interesting, but it took me entirely too long to figure out the stilted language was an intended effect because they're somewhere in he's from the UK. Might have been good to have some giveaways immediately, because the initial setting of NYPD is very different from the language the main character is using.

But then you call his partner PC, which, I was under the impression meant Police Constable in the UK. Therefore this is set in the UK? Then why's he with the NYPD? And why does he talk like that?

I do like the world building, but there was a lot confusing about the setting and the language used by the characters. If you'd gotten that cleaned up a bit, this would make a pretty interesting teaser for a series.
#83 · 1
· on Humphrey's Pest Control Problem · >>billymorph
The lack of spaces between paragraphs made this difficult to read.
#84 · 1
· on Honed in the Dark · >>PinoyPony
The lack of spaces between paragraphs made this difficult to read.

It wasn't helped by phrases like "and sank so deep into the earth that" right before "almost overbalancing in the low gravity."

Yes, I see that "earth" isn't capitalized, and so is intended to mean "soil" or "dirt" rather than the planet Earth, which is a distinction that probably isn't usually that big a deal... except that this scene is set on Mars.

The very first sentences were very confusing. "Willis felt his stomach drop as the troop paused at the lip of the canon. The Martians had many flaws but vision wasn’t one of them." This leads me to believe that Willis is a Martian, and that he has above-average eyesight. And the next sentence tells me that the scene is taking place on Earth, and the one after that tells me that the cannon is under construction.

None of which are actually what you're saying.

The reference to tripods and the Boer war make me think this is set around the turn of the 20th century, and related to War of the Worlds. Which completely changes the tone of the entire story, but isn't revealed until the very end.

This story could have been really good, if not for a string of unfortunate word choices right at the beginning, some setting confusion, and abrupt lack of any ending. I'd definitely be interested in reading something like this cleaned up and polished a bit. You know, with an ending, too.
#85 · 1
· on Night Hunting · >>libertydude
Why not just drive the truck over to the wolf? You don't have to walk over there.
#86 · 1
· on The Dark Hungers · >>Ion-Sturm
I shouldn’t like this story as much as I do, Writer.

I should be confused by how the arcanotech babble doesn’t feel very consistent throughout the piece.

I should be annoyed at how Reg never actually shoots the varghoul at the start of their wrestling match. The hole just appears in its stomach, and it feels cheap to not even address it in the narrative when the recoil from a 30mm round is not something you just gloss over while in flight, I don’t care how good the suit is at remaining stable mid-air.

I should remember that I spent the entire middle of the story utterly convinced there would not be a satisfying ending, with so much space taken up by what amounts to a high production value fistfight.

But then I got to the end, and it’s like you’re playing a board game, and one of your friends pulls some crazy nonsense out of left field and destroys all of your hopes and dreams in one go, and you should feel frustrated, but all you can do is snap-to-finger-gun at them and go, “that was good,” as you quietly nod and accept your new place in the universe as someone who got “got”.

I’m not even mad. I should be, but I’m not.

Best of luck, Writer!
#87 · 1
· on The Light in the Dark · >>PinoyPony
In fact I couldn’t make neither heads nor tails of that story. It is… puzzling? Most of all it lacks context: what is clear for you, author, is not necessarily clear for us, readers, because we don’t share the same amount of information. Who is the girl? Why is her father here? What is his role? What’s the whole process about anyway?

Furthermore, one could argue this is more a scene from a story than a story itself. That, in a way, jibes with what I said before: we lack context. Neither protagonists are sufficiently well characterized, so it’s difficult to root for them.

It’s like seeing an obscure excerpt of a movie you’ve never seen. It will leave you mostly unmoved.

There is evidence throughout that this piece has been written by a rookie. My best advice would be: carry on! You’re in the good path!
#88 · 1
· on Night Hunting · >>libertydude
The passage about the father feels like a diversion. It doesn’t really add anything to the main plot. It’s almost as if you inserted it to gain space.

I wish you had devoted that space to give us some backgroud elements about the wolf and the hunter: if they’d met before, for how long he’d been hunting it, etc. As it stands, a guy expects a wolf which – miraculously by the way – materliazes at the right spot at the right time, and kills him. Even though we get a glimpse of the hunter’s inner feelings for a brief moment, that’s not enough to characterise the guy or make the piece a story.
#89 · 5
· on Clumsy · >>Oblomov >>Miller Minus >>Miller Minus
All the good stories I've read have no comments. Hardly fair, dang.

Author: I really liked this. It was honestly great. The main challenge of minifics like these is to tell something compelling in few words, and building an entire narrative within those limitations.

This story is the perfect example of that. It tells a lot with very little; the character interactions are gripping, the story is fleshed out and has a lot of weight to it, and the fact that the story is about what Matthew doesn't say, rather than about what he does say, is IMO a really clever way to tell the story.

Matt and how he reacts rings true, and the conversation with Ty is heartbreaking. Overall, I have nothing bad to say about this, and little criticism. No idea what I'd do to make it better; I can't see a way to do so.

Top of my ballot, with ease. Cheers, Author. This one's a killer.
#90 ·
· on Meat
Thought I'd stop by and give props to my favourite story on my prelims slate. It's subtle, but the prose here is perfectly unobtrusive, and the dialogue is the perfect balance of natural yet informative. And the idea is neat to boot. I do wish it could be expanded on (you even had room!), and I also felt the "Beauty of this..." line kinda of comes back outta nowhere at the end. That is to say, it doesn't seem to signify or introduce anything other than: Remember when she said this? Now he's saying it. You impressed?

But overall is quite good, comrade. Hope it makes finals!
#91 ·
· on The Clockwork Man · >>GaPJaxie
Most of the exposition of this story comes from the apparition, which is kind of an unnatural way to do it. And even then, I'm missing a lot of information about what I'm being told (see Hap's comment). The verbiage used here is teasing a story with a strong aftertaste, something impactful or empowering or gut-punching to say, but... the telling of that thing is unnatural, so I don't even get it. It's unfortunate, because there's a great idea here. I'm sure of it.

If I could make a suggestion, I think it would be to make us care about this man more before the scene with his apparition. Some personality, backstory, something that'll give me an idea that something is wrong with him (specifically at night or otherwise), and just to what extent he loves or doesn't love his family.

I hope that makes sense. And thanks for writing! It was definitely an intriguing entry.
#92 ·
· on Over the River and Through the Woods
For a story like this, I'm afraid I don't have a choice but to compare it to the original. And, uh... I don't think the story of Little Red Riding Hood was missing a shotgun in the picnic basket.

The beginning reminds me of some fics I've read in the past on this site, where the protagonist is acting too cool for school before they've done anything all that cool, which just ticks me off in a bad way. Couple that with the fact that they haven't been shown to have many weaknesses (apart from reloading slowly once the danger's over), and it's tough to get behind them.

On top of that, I can't really consolidate the opening badassery with the emotional weight at the end. It's not the biggest jump in the world, but it's a tough one for the word limit here, and it probably boils down to the protagonist not having won me over yet.

Sorry about that Author, but it's just my 2 cents. Best of luck in the contest!
#93 · 1
· on When Insides Turn to Outsides · >>aconcernedparent
I'm with the last line of Haze's comment. It hasn't tracked for me. Since you haven't really nailed your meaning, it's looking like gore porn to me. Edit: to clarify this comment, in light of recent developments, my point is that the meaning went over my head, so the gore is all I see, and I thought Haze's terminology 'gore porn' was appropriate so I parroted it. I wasn't saying you intended for this to happen, just that that's the trap such a gory story will fall into if it's not careful. Everyone's enthusiasm to getting butchered is especially strange.

I mean, I definitely liked how it was written. The voicing was neat, and the story progresses at a pace I can really get behind. I certainly appreciate the experiment, is what I'm trying to say. But a little more info for the protagonist could have gone a long way, I think.

But I'm glad I read it! Thanks for writing, Author.
#94 · 5
· on Clumsy · >>Miller Minus
Only the second story I read, but I can already see this near the top. >>Aragon really put it perfectly.

Also, there's no wolves.
#95 ·
· on Alpha Version
There's a barrier to entry here for me, which is the intelligence level of the wolf. The implication here that a wild animal can have a machine hooked up to it, and like magic its brain waves are translated into proficient english just doesn't track with me.

That might be unfair to say. But I do think it would make the story more interesting to have this wild animal feel more, well, wild. To have his dialogue (and the narration if you want) be a major step down from the furry lady with the anthropomorphic demeanor.

But whatever, I'm a big boy, I can put that aside. And when I do there's a larger world implied here that I can appreciate, and the question of "the price of civiliazation" has some nice implications to it that aren't plainly spelled out for me (thank god). I just wish there was more savagery in our hero here to really draw that comparison out.

Alright, that's enough outta me. Thanks for writing!
#96 ·
· on Seven Dry Places
I like the idea you've gone with here, Author. Not totally sure how connected it is with the prompt, but it's neat and different and it has no wolves, thank you, thank you, th—

But I can tell there is a biblical reference being made here (through my google powers) that has gone completely over my head. And without it the entire 7 dry places ritual seems arbitrary to my ignorant self. And yeah, that's going to hurt you a bit on my slate, but at the same time, I like the characters and the way they interact, so it'll be in the upper half for sure.

I also wish the reason these two can make this connection were more well established, as opposed to this human having undergone "psychic training." Something more special that connects her to our narrator or simply gives her more of an emotional weight to his predicament perhaps? Ah, I feel like I'm ranting.

No, this is intriguing enough to hold its own. I just wish I had more to chew on. Thank you for writing and best of luck!
#97 · 1
· on Zany Zacharias and Zoological Zoe · >>BlueChameleonVI
I'm trying my best to understand how the creepazoid, the post-secondary education scandal, and the relationship between these two characters relate to each other. All I'm seeing is three conversations happening at once that don't seem to relate to each other at all. And it's frustrating having to jump between them so much.

And yeah, I mean, people do use IM/email this way. It's not weird for people to carry on three conversations at once when they're forced to take turns talking. And the execution of the email medium works really well, but it's just come at a cost of the story itself. It's very realistic, but it totally distracts from the story, rather than supporting it.

Retroactive addition: You've also set yourself up here by making your title draw so much attention to these two characters. Zany Zach and Zoological Zoe, huh-whoa! What weird names! But you really have to follow-up on that title with some vibrant characters, or at least relate them to their respective adjectives. And who has ever been vibrant over email?

Sorry, Author. It looks like I've whiffed on this entry. But best of luck all the same.
#98 · 2
· on Clumsy · >>Cassius >>Miller Minus >>Miller Minus
While I agree 120% with what my capable colleagues already said (Oblomov not included, as he’s still underage) about the prose and the execution, my only reservation comes from the fact that this piece left an aftertaste of déjà vu in my mouth. It’s not the first time I read something about child abuse, and it seems to me that each one of those fics has always taken the same route, which is (subtly) alluding rather than confronting the crude, hard-hitting (so to speak) reality.

It’s not that I am jaded or otherwise don’t appreciate this wary approach, but… I wouldn’t cry wolf like the others! :P Also, I can’t shake off the feeling that tackling domestic abuse is somehow fast-tracking for finals, because it will tug at the heartstrings of most people over here.

To be honest, though, I would’ve liked reading the boy discussing his father’s behavior with his pal squarely, with the added conundrum that the father’s a cop, which makes the obvious solution of “eloping” to the sheriff office a bad idea. You spend a few words to give us that detail, and never really exploit it.

So yeah, this is definitely drifting to the top of my slate, but is not as stellar to me as the others imply.
#99 · 1
· on Xavier's Secret · >>BlueChameleonVI
This is probably meant as a sort of "noir" style attempt, with relevant lingo. I agree with the others that the combination of NYPD-linked character and UK spelling is somewhat strange. I wasn't really distracted by the style: its suits the story quite well enough. I don’t think the flow is faulty. Language is scarce and disjointed, sure, but I think it is relatively efficient.

I's day the weakest spot here is the ending. Or rather the lack thereof. The story just stops, it doesn’t reach a suitable conclusion and leaves to much unresolved: what about the father, what about the daughter, what about the monster? I'd concur with the others: there’s a lot of good ideas here, you have to get a bigger hothouse to make them grow and bloom.
#100 · 3
· on When Insides Turn to Outsides · >>aconcernedparent
Potentially interesting and ballsy work that unfortunately drops to last on my slate due to the grotesque content at a level I feel is outside the rules for this round. Yes, I know it may be metaphorical, but IMO the point still stands and I had to judge accordingly.