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Glass Masquerade · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
#1 · 3
And so it begins...
#2 · 1
Huh, this sure happened sooner than I thought... cool.
#3 ·
· · >>georg >>Miller Minus >>RogerDodger
I probably won't be participating because it's OF round, but I needed to send a bug note to Roger.

There's a minor bug on the front page. When it shows a limited selection of Writeoffs, the one at the bottom is from a year earlier than all the others.
#4 · 5
· · >>Miller Minus
>>Trick_Question A minor temporal folding issue due to the cosmic ley line the Earth is passing this week. No biggie, unless there's some sort of election, and then we can get minor rains of frogs, disembodied voices speaking in the tongues of old gods, and politicians. (yuck!)
#5 · 1
I think we see Cold Comfort on the bottom of the home page because it was commented on more recently than the later rounds (by Cold and me about a month ago).

If I'm not mistaken, how it works is: The homepage includes the most recently "discussed" contests, plus the current one, all sorted in order of contest date. A little strange, but I do believe it is deliberate.

Or what >>georg said.
#6 · 2
#7 · 4
That's intended. See https://github.com/RogerDodger/WriteOff/issues/33
#8 · 5
Oof, I certainly need more practice with original fiction...
...but ponies are so cozy...
#9 · 4
· · >>Trick_Question >>Trick_Question
I prefer the short story rounds to minifics, but sadly I’m out. The summer convention season that ate my time this year gets to sting me one last time — I’m off at an indie tabletop RPG gaming con this weekend, and if I do get any spare internet time, it’s going to Back When Tigers Used To Smoke editing.

Good luck and happy writing, all!
Post by Rocket Lawn Chair , deleted
#11 · 5
· · >>Hagdal Hohensalza
Glass Masquerade. The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie, It’s the Latest Thing… What?

Thy Flesh Consumed A Failed Experiment; Red Strawberry Snow Beanis. (Re)Union. Dead Men Do Tell Tales. All of These Voices Inside of my Head: Smoking Tigers Who Framed Roger Dodger? This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.

A Stitch in Time, Not ‘If’, But ‘When’. The End of the World Isn’t So Bad After All. It’s Raining Men, Oh The Humanity, It’s Raining Men! First World Problems. Help Us!

No Way Out? An Empire of Keys! Escape Artists Through the Mountains. Don’t Give Up!
#12 · 3
Let's hope for a good prompt lads.
#13 ·

Nice, as always. Especially the ray of hope at the end.
#14 · 4
Beanis, Help Us! It’s Raining Men, Oh The Humanity, It’s Raining Men – Dead Men! Do, Tell Tales – Not ‘If’, But ‘When.’ A Failed Experiment? Don’t Give Up.

The Smoking Tigers’ End of the World Isn’t So Bad After All. The Devil Who Framed Roger Dodger (?) Wears a Suit and Tie Through the Red Strawberry Snow Mountains. Thy Flesh Consumed All of These (Re)Union Voices Inside of my Head. First World Problems! It’s the Latest Thing . . . (This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.)

What? No Way Out? An Empire of Keys + A Stitch in Time = Glass Masquerade Escape Artists
Post by Anon Y Mous , deleted
#16 ·
· · >>Trick_Question
Halp horizon haaaaalp

Cannot add story to recent folder for some reason :raritydespair:
#17 · 5
Regular reminder: I'll be in #mentors on the Discord server and available by PM if anyone wants another pair of eyes on their story, anywhere from helping plan it to looking over a draft to answering quick advice questions. It takes a couple hours to go through stories of this length, so the more requests I get, the less in depth I can be. So get in early!
#18 · 4
Don't have the time to write anything this round, but should be around to write reviews!
#19 · 4
This looks like a pretty interesting prompt. I'm going to see if I can scrape something together by the deadline.
Post by Monokeras , deleted
#21 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
Thanks to Beelzebunny for fixing the thing. <3
#22 · 2

You're welcome!

I meant to put a note about it here, but I went to sleep instead--I've noticed sometimes that, when you're adding a story to a FimFiction group that doesn't have any stories in it, you have to do it from the little pull down menu on the story's cover page rather than from the actual group page.

#23 · 4
· · >>Hap
I'm going to concede here; I couldn't find the ideas or the time this weekend. Sad trombone.

The story I was going with was about a guy who didn't bring a costume to a costume party and needed to find a way to convince people that he actually was in costume. Groundbreaking stuff, I know. But I wanted to share the following line, which is about when I realized that it wasn't worth it:

He sits up and takes another swig. "You could say your costume is made of glass? So people just can't see it!"

"That's fucking stupid."

"I'm just spitballing, man. I'm not the asshole who double bluffed himself and is doing this shit last minute."

I'll at least be around for reviews. Good luck to everyone in the final stretch!
#24 · 1
>>Miller Minus
That's too bad, man.
#25 ·
As I figured, I had little time this weekend, and the concepts I got from this prompt did not lead to story ideas I wanted to write. Good luck to all, and I will look to contribute to the art round.
#26 · 4
Ok, I recant what I said before. Found the time to jot something down. I'm in. Will I be the only one?

Edit: No. I will compete with the other twenty stories written by BCIV :P
#27 · 1
· · >>Monokeras >>Baal Bunny
I have to wonder, with the number of people saying they had trouble with this prompt... who was voting for it?
#28 ·
I didn't. Promised.

What, no BCIV?
#29 · 5
· · >>Hap
Congratulations to everyone for making into the top 10.
#30 · 2
· · >>Pascoite


In all the years I've been wandering around here, I'm not sure a prompt I've voted for has ever been chosen. I'm not sure I've ever seen my preliminary ballot contain all the stories before, either. Will we still have two rounds of voting?

#31 · 1
>>Zaid Val'Roa
That's all I really wanted! I'm so proud of myself.
#32 ·
· on No I'm fine · >>Pascoite
If this is a joke entry, then no, I'm fine.

If not, here we go.

No I'm fine even after reading this story because I have read so many other things that just run along and carry on sometimes with no particular end in sight but that's okay because sometimes a story does not need to have a proper ending to have an ending you know what I am saying but I should also mention that even despite being a monologue that seems to be more of a man rambling about the troubles of his love life which I admit we are seeing it unnecessarily split apart into several phases that I do not really look far into nor do I have the time and energy to care for mostly because there did not seem to be any beat change in what he is saying whatsoever but also because there was nothing I could really sympathize about this dude save for his relationship problems because despite the fact that I too see those sorts of problems myself you know what I mean but it's just that I don't really see them all converging upon a single person particularly in such an erratic unrealistic and unfocused manner I do find that I too can veer off into unexpected territory when it comes to my train of thought like right now but I digress no instead going back to the story I can say that beyond all the whining and babbling he's doing there does not seem to be much else that the story seems to be going for apart from him talking about his issues which is in of itself fine but one should at least be really selective of the whole thing because if not it just seems long and meandering and really shows just how unfocused the writing here really is I just wish perhaps there was a point being made in the story here apart from being excessive and somewhat irritating to sit down and properly read through but hey we live in a free country well you guys at least my country is not exactly super free but hey it still is a great country you know what I mean anyways I do wish that maybe this has something more to say and I am open minded to think that it probably does but as of right now writing this review I cannot say that I can see it.

Also, runoff sentences and chunky paragraphing.
#33 · 2
· on The 100% Accurate Legend of the Once and Future Hero of Light
What I like best about this one is the constant subversion. It started off strong, with a fake hero half-exploiting, half-doing-good-with the legend built around her persona. (Fantastic opening line, too!). Inevitably, that gets Tiff in trouble with someone, so it's amusing to continue that theme with an equally fake villain. Nice touch!

What I particularly like about the general air of subversiveness in this fic is how it both exploits and fits into a traditional medieval epic quest structure, sort of playing along with it while also undermining it. Very consistent.

While I think the backstories for both of them are done well, the boy's/Magpie's/the Necromancer Queen's is easily the best of the two, with the outcast finding his/her mentor and fulfilling his unconventional dream. But in the early offing, Tiff being both benevolent (she notes how her reputation scares off a bunch of thugs) and opportunistic (getting free stuff, basically) was exactly the sort of moral grey that works best with such a deceptive set-up. I loved every second of it.

Lastly, the writing, one or two stylistic slips aside, is pretty comfortable to read; when you're playing around with concepts like this, it's important to ease the reader through it as casually and easily as possible.

That said, much as I like the ambition and concepts and even the writing to an extent, I still feel like the fic's a bit muddled. After following Tiff's story a good chunk of the way, suddenly we're tripped up and introduced to Magpie's. You know when you're eating a chocolate chip cookie and suddenly find you're eating trifle? Both are good, but the abrupt switch still makes you go "What is THIS!?" You don't enjoy it immediately. You're too busy wondering why your taste buds are giving odd signals all of a sudden.

Now, in a longer fic, is all right, right? Because once we've read enough of Character A's story to start feeling comfortable with them (or risk getting bored), Character B's story can then come in without much fuss. Or you could jump back and forth from one to the other from the start, so that we're all just waiting for the characters to collide and sparks to fly.

But what you're doing instead is sort of halfway between those two ideals, and it's jarring because it doesn't have either advantage. You've given us Tiff's set-up and her first real challenge by the time we're roughly a quarter of the way into 7000 odd words, so we're not nearly comfortable enough to be suddenly switching perspectives this soon. Nor has there been any indication that Character B had this story lined up, so after a while of his/her backstory, I'm getting impatient as to what this has to do with Tiff. It doesn't help that you start the Necromancer Queen's story with a boy, so without immediately guessing that this is the Necromancer Queen before a sex change, I spent a good chunk of it even more confused about what this was.

See, I kinda assumed from the get-go that Tiff was the most important character here, but the bulk of the fic weighs in favour of Magpie. I'd recommend, in that case, starting with Magpie's story, then when we're nearer the end of the fic (because Tiff's backstory isn't as long, as far as I can tell), then bring in Tiff. Or else rewrite this story so that Tiff's story gets more verbiage. Or write it with both backstories intertwined.

That last one might also fix the sudden romance at the end: I'll try and set aside my general reservations when it comes to romance as a genre, because personal tastes and all, but I think even a romance fan might be better rewarded by having some more chemistry between the two leads. Right now, their most significant interaction prior to that point is the Necromancer Queen telling her backstory. That's a fine first step towards an "emotionally intimate" relationship, given that they're telling secrets and all, but it doesn't feel like they have any real reason to commit to each other or to expose their more vulnerable sides just because they know why they each became a fake hero/villain. They literally just met! Going from that to a "happily ever after" kiss feels far too shallow for a romantic connection to seem credible.

That's probably why I felt the ending lacked punch too. I got the impression the plan was going to involve some staged battle where both of them "died" and then slipped out and lived happy lives in obscurity, which would've fit the general subverted-epic feel quite fine. The current solution doesn't feel like it would be convincing to the mob who are convinced this is basically female Sauron (at one point they think Tiff might be bewitched by the Necromancer, so a kiss is not going to shift that suspicion). Plus the whole romance thing feels too arbitrary. I'm fine with you shaking things up, but there comes a point where it stops serving some broader theme and starts feeling like you're using ideas any old how. The ending was that point for me.

A minor point as well: I praise the prose, but it does falter at times. You generally seem to be going for a more timeless, classic use of language, befitting a heroic quest story. Then we get odd lines which suggest a more modern spin, such as Tiff calling the Queen "hot". Then on occasion we get high-falutin' words like "verbalize". I think you should commit one way or the other. If it's subversive you want, add more modern words or style to it. If it's classic you want, edit out stuff like that, because it will trip readers up. If you want to mix the two, even, then do it more often.

Despite my complaints, I'm not too hung up about the general muddled feel. In the end, I liked the twists and turns you were going for, and got more enjoyment out of it than frustration. Slip-ups or not, you kept me guessing, and that's gotta be worth something, right? I'd say... high mid-tier, possibly strong entry.
#34 ·
>>Baal Bunny
I can't remember if that's ever happened before. We've had some small rounds, but they may have been before we had a formal ballot. Since I didn't enter, I have all but one story. I'm only missing the long one. By word count, I'd guess that other non-entrants would have all but two. If not, then I lucked out.
#35 · 1
· on A Woman Tearing Herself in Half · >>Pascoite >>Aragon
Let me make this clear from the get-go: I do not like this story. At all. But in the interests of useful feedback and constructive criticism, I'm going to set that aside because subjective experience like that won't mean a lot to you when it comes to future writing. At the very least, I'll try to be usefully constructive in my technical response here.

First of all, the general structure: I'm fine with subdividing it into chapters, and the mystery element works well. A little too well, perhaps: the red herrings and constant reiteration of certain points does make it harder to piece together if you're reading casually, though they do serve to give the story some realism and it helps to add to the mystique when there are multiple choices and ambiguities. Plus the unreliable narrator aspect makes it compelling on top of the seedy nature of the whole dark business, so tone fits style fits content well here. Although it feels a bit slow to get going after the first thousand words, it picks up again with the last two chapters, so pacing is largely well done.

Second of all, the characters. It took a while to realize that the descriptions in the first two chapters weren't some excessive hyperbole but an actual sign of some supernatural shenanigans going on. "Lady Sylvia" and how horrible she is feels like it dominates the story a little too much; yeah, she's the central figure in the backstory, but Madeleine and Jonathan Gard are the more interesting characters, if only because of their bizarre association with this creepy demon. Given that this is a demonic entity, it's good to get a religious figure commenting in the second chapter. The other characters were fine and serviceable to the story, fulfilling their roles. Obviously, this is about the demon et al, so they don't need to snatch the spotlight, though I will confess to a bit of confusion involving lipstick on the Father Harrison's wrists.

Plotwise, I think I got the gist by the end: Madeleine and Gard both loved or sought to love "Lady Sylvia", though it seems to me Madeleine had the bigger stake, given their intertwined backstory. "Sylvia" wants to be human, tries to conceive with Gard, fails, tries to commit suicide, and then I presume really has him killed for the same reason she later has Madeleine killed; as an alternative way to try to get that love through grief and loss. For Madeleine, there's also a sort of disgusted jealous protectiveness which motivates her to kill Gard and later threaten the investigator.

It's not my cup of tea, feeling a bit like OTT gothic melodrama, but I'll concede that what it sets out to do, it does with wild success. Helping greatly is the prose, which while also a bit OTT at times, especially its repeated emphasis on showing just how alien and unpleasant "Lady Sylvia" is, at least sets up the ideal visceral, creepy tone required for such a story. Kinda like if Lovecraftian horror had wrapped its tentacles around a classic English murder mystery.

I will, though, complain about the second-person interjections. They not only don't feel necessary to tell the story - pure first-person would have done the job elegantly - but set up an "I'm talking to you" framing device I felt was at odds with the decision to split it up into chapters like a traditional book. You don't split a conversation or interview into chapters, certainly not when the overall tale's this short. And there's a gamble in depicting a character as so foul while simultaneously acting like the reader is an involved party to all this unpleasantness. The effect is more to jar the reader out of the experience, especially if - in my case - they're having a hard enough time as it is getting into said experience. Perhaps a more detached third-person tone would help to make the horror stand out too.

Also, it took a while for me to realize that no one in the story was surprised by this supernatural entity (disgusted, yes, but they seem ready to expect and explain it), so it took a while to realize the author in the first chapter wasn't just being OTT with their description. Maybe if they'd mentioned that supernatural things really exist early on, I'd have adjusted faster.

Overall, one or two hiccups aside here and there, the presentation and execution certainly seem professional enough and solid enough. I predict this one will do quite well. But given my own opinion on it, odds are I'm gonna abstain, so at least hopefully you'll get something useful out of this comment, if nothing else.
#36 ·
· on No I'm fine · >>No_Raisin >>WritingSpirit
The story kind of is making a point, but in all that, you didn't discuss that aspect of the story. You're really focused on him having romantic troubles, and that's not the central idea of the story at all, so I can't tell if you missed it. Which may be the author's fault and may not. My take is that this guy has a serious health problem he's hiding from everyone, including his wife, because it's something that can't be treated, has a poor outlook, or that he's refusing treatment for. He may be altering the doctor's reports, or he may be making them up altogether, but his wife isn't seeing the real data.

And the runoff [sic] sentences and chunky paragraphing... yeah, they're there. To me, it's overwhelmingly clear that it's a very deliberate choice. Whether that works or not is up to the reader, and I suspect this will be fairly polarizing, but citing it as a self-explanatory failing is kind of like complaining that a shipping story has shipping in it. If you just don't like shipping on principle, that's fine, but if you think the author's executing something wrong about it, he'd probably like to know what.

I don't mind this story at all, but it survives because of its brevity. I couldn't read a story in this style that was pushing the upper word count limit, just because it requires a lot of close attention, and you're making the reader take on all the work that punctuation and sentence structure normally do. So when you make something more difficult to read, there needs to be a payoff that outweighs it. I'm not sure that's the case here, because I don't think having this in a standard format would make it have any less of an impact. Maybe a little, but it's borderline for me. It's an interesting choice for format, and I do appreciate the bit of variety it lent. It's strong on word choice, characterization, and imagery. It's not likely to wow people, but if you were just trying to see if you could pull off a story using this gimmick, I'd call it a success. It leans more toward working despite its gimmick instead of because of it, but the gimmick is executed well enough that it does have that curiosity factor going for it, at least to me.
#37 · 1
· on Two on a Raft · >>WritingSpirit >>Rocket Lawn Chair
I have to think I'd get more out of this story if I'd seen "The Edge."

that hasn't been said at this point

This struck me oddly, and it's a subtle thing, but it makes it sound like he's relating this tale to someone. Which he is! Except it doesn't come across that way at first. This bit felt like a blip until it became obvious later on that this was the case. So for one, I'd recommend making that clear right from the start.

Then the question inevitably rises about who he's talking to. I'll fall back on the advice of The Professionals. There are writing professors who say anything in first person must have an explicitly defined audience, or at least a heavily implied one. For the most part, I don't necessarily agree with that, as lots of first-person stories can be taken as the character's internal musings to himself. There's a fine line, and it depends on how he phrases things and what he says. In some cases, it wouldn't fit an internal monologue.

However, this story directly addresses a "you." There's less of a gray area here, and yet lots of authors do this, and those stories can still be enjoyable. There may be a difference between what authorites say is supposed to be done and what your casual reader actually cares about, though I do find that the "supposed to" stuff often does have a pretty subtle effect. Readers might not notice it, but it does make the story resonate with them a bit more.

All that is to say I found it a little off-putting that the narrator is talking to a "you" I know nothing about. It seems odd that he'd tell this tale to some random person, so that's where this defined audience comes in. I'm wondering who I am to him and why he's telling me this.

The character voicing was really good, though I have to say he just comes across as the author himself, assuming my guess of who wrote it is correct, but it's pretty distinctive. I suspect a lot of my characters are just versions of me, too.

Anyway, my only plot issues are ones you might not have necessarily known about. This sounds like a pretty big yacht, but it depends on how big. Capsized boats sometimes don't sink, and this gets even more true the smaller they are. Of course, if there's a big hole punched in the hull, that changes matters, but you never characterized this as a collision or shipwreck, just capsizing. So there's a pretty good chance it would have remained afloat, and then your chances of rescue are a lot higher if you stay near it. And yachts of much size would have a motorboat on board, not just a life raft. Plus anyone who can afford a yacht that big doesn't operate it themselves. It takes skill to drive a large boat/ship, and Ken wouldn't have been the one driving, which makes me wonder where the staff is. And why nobody radioed out an SOS call. Or maybe the narrator was exaggerating about the three jacuzzis, and it's not that big a boat, and it did smash itself on a reef, and all that gets perfectly explained, except I can't tell that from what's actually in the story.

This obviously isn't going to kill the story for most readers, because they wouldn't know all that, but it does illustrate the value of research if you want something that'll pass by those who do know.

I'm wondering why the police are asking him this rather than the tanker crew. It implies to me a connection with the head trauma, like they suspect he killed Kenny (you bastard!).

So in the end this comes out being basically a combination of "Castaway" (for all you made a direct reference to it) and "The Sixth Sense." So there is a surprise ending, but depending on the truth of what I said in the previous paragraph, how much that reveal re-contextualizes the story can change quite a bit, and that's the criterion for a good twist. It definitely changes my perception of how he interacted with Ken, but it could also change my perception of who he is, especially with how flippant he is about the whole thing.

This is the first story I've read, so I don't know how it stacks up against the rest of my slate, but as a first impression, I'd call it a strong character piece, but that didn't have a lot of "wow" factor, and that had a pretty obvious surprise. The only thing that caught me off guard was how early on Ken died, which makes me wonder if the narrator's account of it remains colored through his warped perception even today.
#38 · 3
· on Nerd for a Day · >>PinoyPony
I'm seeing a lot of editing issues, but these stories are too long for me to point out much of that in detail.

Some stylistic stuff did catch me, though:
a sign that he was nervous to speak his mind

You should refrain from explaining things like this to the reader if you can. It's usually something that story can (and may already) communicate, so it ends up being condescending, like the reader needs to be provided a guided tour.

Lana knows who Lily is, so it's weird that the narration refers to her obliquely several times (one of them almost a verbatim repeat, no less) before calling her by name.

Once I know what function Leroy serves, it's strange for the kids to call him that.

For my money, this story takes a long time to get going. It's got a pretty good hook for a first line, but it takes a while before we find out what they'd be dressing up as nerds for or why Lana wants Leroy's attention.

One other thing I'd caution you about: you have similar names. Lana/Leroy/Lily and Kelsey/Keaton are just close enough in that they start with the same letters. It can make it hard for a reader to keep them straight, particularly when they're all introduced at once. If I met Lana first, and then it was 5 chapters later before Leroy showed up, it mitigates that some, since I already am well used to Lana before I have to worry about Leroy.

Lana winking at Lily suggests a much friendlier relationship between the two, so when the first interaction they have is Lily being aggressively confrontational, I'm getting mixed signals.

You've already named Keaton at which point you refer to him as "another boy," and in the part of the story where you're still likely to introduce new characters. It makes it sound like you forgot you'd used him already.

This "support the VDA" campaign is a bit confusing. It sounded at first like a fundraiser (though no mention of what expenses they have and why they need the money?), but then it started sounding more like a membership drive. Okay, then it's a charity drive. Why did I have to wait so long to find that out?

I don't get this conflict over Lana trying to get scholarships. Why would that be a bad thing?

This is a cute enough situation--I could see it being a school anime episode. I'm not sure what it's leading toward, though. Lana overcoming this little rift with Lily? Lana convincing the students that debate club is a cool thing? I don't know what else. The former is the only one that takes any struggle to resolve--everyone's immediately supportive of this event. Or that Lana overcame her shyness to make friends? We see the end state, but not her struggle, and it's talked about in such vague terms that it's hard to get very attached to her predicament. So I'd call this a cute scene, but it doesn't come to any conclusions. There's a lot more background that needs to come together. As it is, I'm left floundering among characters I don't know that well and relationships I don't have the context for.
#39 ·
· on No I'm fine
Thanks, I hate it.

(This is a whole lot better than the gimmick would suggest, and I will probably rate it fairly highly but this isn't a story I wanted to read and I think I feel worse for having experienced it)
#40 · 2
· on The Crystal Palace
I like:

The character and background details, but, well, I'm not seeing much in the actual foreground here. Introducing a "modern day" frame to Bjorn's story kind of pulls me away from him, but then I never get any sense of a story in the modern day material to take Bjorn's place.

I'd recommend bringing in the modern stuff right from the beginning. Maybe a modern day researcher at the university who sent the expedition to the ancient city of Dâar is writing about Bjorn because the university's latest expedition has discovered the Crystal Palace and the writer doesn't think going inside is a good idea. Go "full Lovecraft" with it, in other words. 'Cause you can't go wrong doing that! :)

#41 ·
· on No I'm fine · >>WritingSpirit
Alternate Title: The Man Who Talked Too Much

I'm left in a difficult position with this story, because on the one hand I think I understand the point to it, but at the same time I hesitate to make a conclusion about the author's intentions.

Let me explain.

This seems to me, rather clearly, about an unhinged man who cannot interact normally with other people, including his loved ones. Instead of seeking help (we never find out what exactly made him like this) he continues to act outwardly as though he doesn't have anything wrong with him, hence the title and recurring phrase.

I'm absolutely positive that No I'm Fine is about mental illness, and the social taboo surrounding it that persists to this day, resulting in many people feeling too ashamed to seek professional assistance. It's a commendable message, although being the immoral asshole that I am I'm not impressed with a story just because it has a "good" message for the kiddies.

And now it's time to acknowledge the big chunky elephant in the room, and why I'm not sure if this is meant to be taken at face value or as a satire of sorts.

I'm gonna put it bluntly, because I think it's important to say this (and also because this is all I have): the whole chunky paragraph tactic is horrid. No matter which way you look at it, this is a slog to read, and it would be even more monstrous if it was any longer than it is now. It's under 3,000 words, but feels like twice that number. Out of curiosity, I took the longest paragraph and copy-pasted it into Microsoft Word. Wanna know what number I got?

738. 738 words in a single paragraph, almost meeting the maximum word count for a minific round.

No, Sir (or Madame), I won't have it. I get what the point of it is, on its surface, but no. Stream-of-consciousness has been used for the past century by great writers and hacks alike as an easy method of conveying mental unrest to the reader. If you want to show that a character's train of thought is spiraling out of control, the easiest way is stream-of-consciousness. It makes sense, then, that a story narrated by a character who's long since gone off the rails would be told like this, but there's no perspective to which we can compare this madness.

In most stories involving stream-of-consciousness, there is a great deal of writing that doesn't fall into that category; even Joyce knew when to quit when he wasn't writing Finnegans Wake. Stream-of-consciousness often takes up only a fraction of any given story that utilizes it, for at least two good reasons, both of which No I'm Fine ignores.

1. Stream-of-consciousness, while intriguing at first, can easily turn into a chore to read, given the lack of punctuation and Jupiter-sized paragraphs, and as the bored housewife said to the horny stallion, "There's such a thing as putting too much in, dear."

2. A character who is mentally stable versus a character who isn't is practically a case of night and day, in terms of how these perspectives are written. You would have less of an idea of what an unstable perspective is like if you've only read a stable one, and presumably the same goes for vice versa.

We're stuck in the protagonist's head the whole time, and are only exposed to a singular state of mind which remains in a singular flow and cadence throughout the story. Apparently the protagonist is always like this, which might have been the author's intent, but I'm not sure, and anyway I hesitate to say it works for me as a story.

This could be taking the piss out of stream-of-consciousness writing when it goes too far, like Faulkner at his worst, but that doesn't change the conclusion that this is far from a fun read.

>>Pascoite I also don't know if this format was chosen out of laziness or creativity, because depending what kind of writer you are this sort of thing would either feel easy as breathing or very deliberate. I'm going to give the author the benefit of the doubt and say it was a creative choice, if not necessarily a successful one.
#42 · 1
· on #silicon
This is really quite good and compelling - the quickly established context left a mystery for the readers to also be working on as they progress through the story. Impressive usage of different voicing for different characters, too. I enjoyed it a lot.
#43 ·
· on #silicon · >>Not_A_Hat >>Pascoite >>RogerDodger
Alternate Title: 12 Angry Bots

Okay, I want to get my negatives out of the way first, because there's a lot about this story that I like, and I want to start this off on a negative note so as to make the sweet stuff that much sweeter.

So author, I don't know who you are, but do you really think IRC is still going to be a thing in 2038? It's a wonder the servers are running now, skeletal and indicative of late-90s web design as they are, and yet they're going to be used for fucking AI death matches in 20 years? You have to admit, it's kind of absurd.

I'm also not sure what the stakes are, exactly. As far as I can tell this contest is like a testing ground for different AIs that excel in emulating different human behaviors, presumably produced by different companies. Or maybe by the same company, who knows. It feels like a game, which gives the outcome less dramatic weight.

It should say something about the story's quality, though, that I was hooked regardless. Things start off slow, and the framing device still leaves me feeling iffy about it, but I ended up going with the flow of the conversation, and there are a few characters here that I'm sure to remember (at least until this round is over). This is especially impressive because none of the main characters are human, and there's a certain character (Shiva) who seemed all too obviously a bot to me, and it surprised me that they didn't get kicked out way sooner.

What the author does with said character is pretty clever though, because for most of the story you're led to believe that them being the most dangerous AI all along is going to be the big twist, which would've been too predictable. The story strikes a head-turning compromise by making Shiva an AI (because it's pretty obvious), but also making fern (a character who's basically the court jester for much of the story) the real mastermind.

It says something that I was low-key rocked by this conclusion, in spite of the lack of stakes. I still think the stakes thing should've been revised or made more clear, maybe given more dramatic weight, but #silicon manages to shine through in its execution, even with this handicap.

Speaking of which, I haven't really mentioned the format yet. There is practically no prose in #silicon, and, for those who remember a certain review I did in the past, I tend to be harsher on stories that sacrifice prose for dialogue. I still think that's a fair assessment, since most stories have both dialogue and prose, and if you giving up one for the other then you better make sure the aspect you're focusing on is the cat's meow.

So how does the dialogue in #silicon hold up? Personally, for the most part? Pretty damn well. I could nitpick about a few things, like the contestants chatting like they're using 2018 etiquette, even though online etiquette will mostly like change radically by 2038, and there's the occasional line where I wonder if this certain character would say this certain thing. But for a story that lives and dies on its dialogue, and could've easily died in a horrible fashion, I was hanging onto just about every word.

Fuck me, it's a story that I'm going to remember for quite some time. It's a story that I wish was longer, not because it was too short, but because I wanted to read more of it. I wanted to hear these contestants more, to get to know them better, even though they're all robots. They felt like more than that to me.

And that, my friend, takes a certain level of skill. Bravo.
#44 · 1
· on 'Twas Brillig · >>Not_A_Hat >>Baal Bunny
Hey, I thought I'd get through this whole thing without spotting a typo. Alas, two of them in close proximity:
so as not cause any undo uproar

You have a couple instances of close word repetition, but really, this is a lot better edited than most stories that show up in write-offs.

I'm afraid I just don't know how much credit to give you for this story, author. I've seen the Disney version of "Alice in Wonderland," and I've watched "The Wizard of Oz," but I've never read either book or their sequels. I don't know how many of these characters are of your design or how many you're borrowing from those other authors. Glinda, the Cheshire Cat, and the Jabberwock are the only ones I recognize. The others are rendered delightfully here, but I don't know how much of that to attribute to you. Did you expand a barely mentioned one into the full personalities on display here? Are you mimicking those other authors' writing styles? I can't say for sure.

The point of public domain leads me to believe you are doing a lot of borrowing, but that doesn't absolve you of all creativity in the matter, of course. Short of plagiarizing, which someone would no doubt call you out on, it's still up to you to craft these sentences. I loved the playful feel, and a well-told children's-style tale will always sit well with me. If I have one criticism, it's that there was an odd incongruity between the rather grown-up commentary of what public domain is and how it affects them, and the childlike tone and simple moral. Yes, things can be made to appeal to both a child and adult audience--just take MLP as a prime example--but to so tightly sequester one from the other, like they're on different levels... well, I can't say it would never work, and now that I've said that, I'm a little intrigued by the prospect. Scooby-Doo as hippie drug culture or some such? I don't know. But it felt like the disconnect here was maybe using simplistic puppets to illustrate a complex issue in a talking-down way, like a medieval morality play or something. Yet the story's not making a moral judgment about public domain, so... eh.

For the little bit of airtime the Jabberwock gets, I find it strange that you selected him as the source of your title, and I've been trying to think whether there's any purpose to that, whether there's a message to derive from that choice. I got nuthin'.

Fun read, in any case, and I very much enjoyed this.
#45 ·
· on #silicon · >>Pascoite
data point: I figured out the twist pretty early. Not by any logic, but when they quote the rules that 0 humans is a possibility, that jumped out to me as the most likely twist. It seemed obvious to me this was building up to a surprise gotcha ending.

It was still enjoyable though! The above didn't matter because I was still gripped in the conversation and trying to follow the mindgames. I knew the ending, but I was still dying to see how it got there. The varied character voices are great, and I was impressed the author was able to juggle them all consistently.

On a conceptual level, I was just slightly unsatisfied. It's just a game, and I was hoping there'd be something deeper than some of the bots being better at playing the game than others. Though it could be argued <fern> is trying to win through social skills rather than logical evidence, the explanation at the end felt more like uh.... a Xanatos Gambit, haha. So despite how entertaining I said it was, I'm not sure if I felt all that invested in it beyond just detached curiosity who'll win the game. maybe this is due to figuring out the twist ahead of time, though. I dunno if this any use as criticism, just my reactions and what I expect out of this type of subject matter.
#46 ·
· on #silicon
>>No_Raisin Relevant XKCD

Anyways, review; This story starts with a clearly engaging joke (ccccc) and gives a concise explanation of what's going on. It didn't feel particularly compelling to me, mostly because I didn't really grasp the stakes; there are points, alright, but what's the, pardon, point of them? Besides the satisfaction of winning, I mean.

I was intrigued by the mystery, but I also agree with Haze; as soon as 'zero humans' was a possibility, I figured that was the most likely outcome. Still, I didn't stop hoping for another human, though I wasn't sure if it would be fern or Shiva; either of them were a good possibility.

Oh, the chalk thing legit confused me. When I was homeschooled as a child, we had lap-sized chalkboards we used for simple math and such. Maybe it's because we were in the tropics (and the chalkboards were home-made, not that smooth) but I actually feel like I've had the same experience as Shiva described; if your chalk is a little damp, and has been used until it's the size of a fingernail or so, it's just as likely to roll out of your fingertips from sticking to the chalkboard than to make a line. The friction against the board is greater than your fingertips. Admittedly, this isn't something that people who could just grab a new stick would have to worry about, but still. Didn't seem that conclusive to me, especially since humans are probably just as - if not more - likely to agree with something presented in a believable manner than a bot is. I once almost convinced someone my grandpa was blue-brown colorblind. (To be fair, her eyes were kinda hazel!)

I think I liked the beginning and ending the most. Getting into the flow of things was intriguing, and seeing Shiva get served was quite satisfying. The middle felt kinda weak, probably because it seemed like more of the same, without any big new twists or mysteries or failures. Maybe there being an actual human who got voted out would add a bit more mystery? It would have definitely made me doubt my 'they're all A.I.' suspicion a bit more. Maybe introduce another bot-detection technique? I 'unno.

Oh, one thing that bothered me a little was the 'as you know bob' announcer right before the showdown. It's not egregious, because it kinda does seem like something an announcer would say, but still.

Overall, I liked this. I didn't love it, but I definitely liked it. Fits the prompt to a t, too. Thanks for writing!
#47 ·
· on The 100% Accurate Legend of the Once and Future Hero of Light · >>Baal Bunny
I think your structure here is a bit flawed. You've essentially got two stories jammed end-to-end, and although it mostly works, it did feel somewhat stilted to me. By the time we're through Tiff's half, jumping back to Magpie's half feels a bit jarring. I'm not sure how well telling them consecutively would change what you're going for here, but synchronizing the crunch point for both stories would, I think, make this a lot stronger. Consider the latest Star Wars movie; as much as I might have problems with any specific plot (or how stupid Holdo's suicide gambit was in terms of lore or what have you) the fact that the writer climaxed and concluded three arcs in that single moment of Crowning Awesome was an incredible bit of structure. Maybe if you told the two tales simultaneously, but made it seem like Magpie really was dead until the 'You too?' moment, at which point the necromancy was revealed? I dunno.

Ah, however, if you do something like that, it might be worth re-evaluating Tiff's story a bit. While Magpie's story has a real sense of progression, Tiff's feels a lot weaker to me; it's mostly just found sword -> sent on quest. Magpie had dialogue, character growth, all that sort of stuff. I see you're running up against the word limit here, but if you end up re-writing this at some point, I'd suggest giving Tiff a bit more depth to her Hero's Journey, especially since she seems mostly feckless at the beginning, but is willing to go up against a necromancer later.

Maybe you could free a bit by cutting out the priest? His motives seem conflicted. At first, he seems to be blocking the hero from going up against the necromancer, and then he's trying to kill Magpie? I'm really not sure what you're getting at with him, but he kinda gives off a 'corrupt priest' vibe, except... I'm not sure what his corruption is supposed to be, or how he's trying to benefit from this situation. Well, all that aside, I'm not sure he even does anything useful for the story. Sure, Tiff saves Magpie from him, but you could achieve basically the same effect, I think, by just having Tiff not immediately kill Magpie, which she does a few moments later anyways.

I'll admit to being a little disappointed to discover that Magpie wasn't just pretending to be female as well, mostly because of the symmetry to having a girl portraying a male hero. Maybe, with a bit more space, you could go the extra mile and have Tiff mirror her a bit more in the gender-change thing? After all, she might still have that finger-bone.

As for the ending... I'm not sure that, if I was a peasant, I'd be convinced that Tiff wasn't bewitched. Considering the connotations of that word, kissing the necromancer seems like the exact wrong way to prove you're not under a spell. That being said, it didn't grate super hard or anything, it just felt a bit weak.

Now, I've leveled a lot of criticism here, but on the whole, I really enjoyed this. It was easy to read, with some fun subversion, and interesting characters. It'll probably do fairly well by me, even if it didn't knock my socks off. Thanks for writing!
#48 ·
· on Two on a Raft · >>Miller Minus >>Rocket Lawn Chair
So... this story didn't thrill me, but it did kinda horrify me.

Er, before that, though, a bit of critique; there were a few spots here where you were changing tense. Not sure if that was intentional, but bits like 'then the current grabs me and drags me' jarred me a few times.

Structurally, this feels like a twist-ending story, without much else. I'd normally say that's a problem, because undercutting all your buddy-talk by re-casting it as the ravings of a madman is doing yourself a disservice, but... alright, on to the horror bit.

First off, let me say that I'm not really certain this is what you intended, Author. I don't really like to read too much into stories; mostly because I'm lazy, but also because I think a strong story is, well, narratively powerful. If I have to guess or squint at the meaning, I consider it the author doing a poor job of conveying their meaning. This does mean I'm not in the audience for a fair slice of fiction, but still.

Anyways, it's really a matter of proximity. First off, the comment about dressing Ken's ass up as 'Madison' just seems like a crass joke. However, when the 'I'm going insane' moment comes back (as has been foreshadowed) right after a discussion about Madison, paired with how the MC is probably jealous and definitely 'starving for sex', and then the twist is dropped where Ken has been dead the whole time from head trauma, well... I'm not saying that 'he killed Ken, sunk the boat, and spent two weeks in a life-raft buggering the corpse because he's just that crazy' is my strongest read for this story, but it's a close second. And the sheer fridge-horror of it kinda leaves me with a dread fascination; I can't get it out of my head now.

So yeah. I'm pretty curious about what you intended here. Either this is a story with a horrifying subtext that's presented a bit weakly, or a story with otherwise good presentation that undercuts itself at the end and has a proximity problem. It could be either, and I think I'd rank them about the same. One of them says more about me than the other, though. Still, thanks for writing... even if I need some brain-bleach now.
#49 ·
· on No I'm fine
Alright, I'm in a better reviewing state of mind than I was before, so I'll be tackling this again with hopefully a lot more grace and respect for the story, as much as I still loathe it.

Regarding mental illness (which I'll get to its use in the story in a bit), I was pretty much aware of it from the get go that it's something the author was gunning for the moment I read the title. It's something I've seen and heard enough from other people, myself included, to be acutely certain before reading into this that yes, our narrator will have a mental illness. However, having finished reading it, I don't think the fact that whether or not he had mental illness played an integral role in this story (again, I'll get to it in a bit). So instead, I specifically focused on the relationship problem of the story because, our narrator, and in extension our author, chose to utilize a narrative based on the relationship he was having with his wife. It's evident from the first few words of each paragraph:

No I’m fine I’ll tell / I told her

The story is really more of a couple wanting to have a child, but the guy can't do so as much as he wants it because he has a genetic condition that involves his prostate. His wife definitely knows about it, but she's not broaching it for fear that he gets emotional over it. From what I could get, he mentions about making an appointment to visit the doctor, about failing to be in the right mood to have sex with his wife, about his wife bringing up his genealogy and then about his own father. His wife definitely wants to help him, but for some reason he's rejecting every single offer that's been brought up by her that could potentially advance the story forward.

Looking at it like this, it's a fairly strong narrative. There's a lot of room for some brilliant character moments, particularly from the wife. And from all the little tidbits I could extract throughout the protagonist's stream of consciousness, he seems to have some proper characterization as well. The problem I have really is that the author seems to have thrown every random offhand comment he could possibly think of to muddy the waters. Sure, one can chalk it up to his mental condition, which again, I'll get to in a bit, but I think with this story, there's a lot of moments of blocking that impedes any possible poignant plot progression the story could've had. You could say that it's the author's intent to write that, but that's when I start to question the usage of mental illness in this story.

I agree with >>No_Raisin wholeheartedly about the portrayal of mental illness, but that's considering if the crux of the narrative really is mental illness in the first place. If it's intended to be satirical, sure, but it's horrendously crafted satire. It's cheap and doesn't even attempt to make a statement other than perhaps flipping a bird on those with mental conditions, which is not really a stance anyone should be taking.

Personally, I think the usage of mental illness, from how I see it being implemented, was shoehorned in as a gimmick and a convenient explanation as to why the narrative ultimately doesn't go anywhere in the end. When I pick apart the narrative, I can tell that our narrator has a medical condition. I can tell it's causing some issues with him having a child with his wife. What I can't figure out, however is how his insecurities in that aspect of his life would draw him to make those decisions in the first place.

You can say 'mental illness' but with how rampant his irregular decision-making was throughout the story, it's coming off to me as not really an explanation and more of an excuse. I'm not even sure if it's supposed to be commenting on mental illness as a whole, as it comes across to me that it's not even attempting to make a statement about it and is just there for sake of the story. I'm coming away thinking that either a) the author's using it as a gimmick alongside the whole brick wall format, or b) the author never properly looked into how mental illness was written before.

If it's scenario B, I should mention that mental illness is more than just being in denial of something.

If it's scenario A, then I honestly have no idea why I wasted my time reading this.

As for the "runoff sentences and chunky paragraphing" issue I had, the point I'm making is that the effect it has to the overall story is the same as when I emulate the exact same style in my initial review, in that it's pointless, it's bizarre, there's no good reason for anyone to do such a thing as much as you'd like to believe otherwise and it doesn't serve anything to aid with the message other than to infuriate all those reading this.

TL;DR you had a strong narrative in your hands, yet whatever abundant potential that was there was all wasted away on mental illness being used as a shortcut and a creative decision that is just objectively horrendous, no matter how you look at it.

Full-on abstain.
#50 ·
· on 'Twas Brillig · >>Baal Bunny
On the title; I'd like to note that the structure of this story actually mirrors the Jabberwoky poem. In the poem, the son disregards the advice of his father and sets out to slay the Jabberwok, a mysterious evil; upon his unlikely return, his father welcomes him back with joy.

I haven't many of the Oz books, or if I have, it's been long enough I've forgotten most of them. However, I'm pretty certain that all the characters here (even the bit-pieces) are from the original works. I can't be bothered to wiki them, but I'm pretty certain. I can't comment on how closely the characters are portrayed for Baum's, but for Carrol's... the Cheshire Cat's smug nonsense feels spot-on, and the Jabberwok's design even seems to mirror that in Tenniel's illustration.

Honestly, I don't really have any criticism to level at this; I enjoyed it through and through. Sure, it's fan-fiction-y, but the 'public domain' thing added enough interest that I didn't care, and the characters were crisp enough I didn't feel lost.

Jack's comment about supper feels like it should be deeper than I'm reading it as; it's positioned almost like a stinger, but I'm not feeling enough weight to really understand what justifies that placement. Maybe that's me missing some connotation from Oz, but still.

Oh, and the line "And you're too much a cat to believe me if I tried." is absolutely beautiful.

This was great! Thanks for writing.
#51 ·
· on What Lies Behind Glass Masks · >>Pascoite
I like the creativity on display here, and despite the prompt being used quite literally (and even being stated in all its capitalized glory), I thought it was a neat connection to the prompt. It's obvious, but it's not simple is what I'm getting at. The author has taken the idea of a glass masquerade and given it an interesting purpose, with a nice fantasy twist to it. Neat-o.

But it took me awhile to get to that opinion, Author. I'm not going to lie, this story takes forever to get going, and if you ask me, I think your first scene could be cut and it wouldn't even read that different..The only important detail we get from it is that our protagonist's mask is an amalgamation of rejected pieces of glass. Which becomes interesting later on, but at the beginning it isn't important, and it's surrounded by a really, really intricate description of magic circles. I don't care about magic circles. I care about the nifty rituals themselves.

Moving right along, I don't know who anybody is. Suprise! Of course, that's what's supposed to be going on—barring a few exceptions aside, everyone is supposed to be concealed. But the problem is that I don't know any of these people in the first place, not even the protagonist and her Fox. So all the attention you're drawing to the fact that everyone is indistinguishable from themselves falls flat. Even if they weren't in masks, I wouldn't know who they are! This is where I would have liked at least some descriptions of people she recognized, or maybe the body of people on the whole, to give me some context, or specific people to look for.

Another idea would be a different opening that establishes a few characters—maybe made them look entirely amiable and virtuous, and then when I'm seeing this part of the story play out I'm thinking, "Oh wow, those nice people think some horrible shit. That's so relatable. And I wonder which is which?"

These things make me think that maybe you had more planned for this story, like it was an entire epic fantasy novel in your mind but you were forced to pick your favourite scene. But that doesn't often do the best in short stories. I have several questions, and they aren't the good, leave your reader with questions kind. They're questions about the concepts and world themselves, which is what I'm reading your story for.

Apart from that, I wanted to mention that the part where the Glassimals are slinging insults and physical abuse at our protagonist flies completely in the face of the whole "some people like to let go of virtues as well" idea. Are some people shouting "You're a nice person sometimes!" in amongst all the vitriol?

Also, I hate to do this to you, Author, but I have to talk about the mistakes. There's quite a few. Tense changes, typos, missing words, misused words (drug is not a past tense of drag)—there are a lot. Another editing pass would have done you good, because I spent more time tripping than I did taking the story in stride. But that's often a symptom of a rushed story, which suggests even further that not everything you wanted to be in here, is in here. And that's too bad, because I did want to see more.

But that's all I have to say. Neat ideas on display, but I'm left wondering too much, and it took far too long for them to arrive. But they're still there. And I enjoyed it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have this weird urge to play Hotline Miami.

Thanks for writing and good luck!

P.S. I hope you get art.
#52 · 1
· on The Crystal Palace
I'm not really sure what to make of this one. There are kinda three parts to this story; the beginning, where Björn is set up, the center, where Björn has his downfall, and the end, which... I have no idea what the end is doing.

Honestly, while I like each piece individually, I'm not sure they tie together in any way I find satisfying. The opening is intriguing, with how it builds up the character, and the bits and pieces of worldbuilding thrown in; the desert city, the scrolls written in blood, demons/djinns, scrying, etc; I liked all of that.

The middle piece is an interesting adventure, although the bit I'm most interested in is heavily obfuscated. I can't really enjoy it, because it only feels like the beginning and ending of the tale, with the middle bits (literally) cut out.

The ending... yeah, no idea. a 'real world' frame seems to cut away the fantasy world that came before, and the idea that the Crystal Palace somehow has intruded into our world is interesting, but such a weak inference that I probably just read too much into it.

Tonally, I think you have a bit of a clash here. Words like 'spake' are archaic, whereas words like 'rumbustiousness' are tinged with ridiculousness. The tone of Björn's journal has a similar thing going on, where he'll be brief and lax one minute, then descriptive and meticulous the next. Also, while the 'written in blood' thing adds a nice touch of mystery, he doesn't seem to be hard-pressed at the opening. Not to mention the scrolls from later on being more decayed doesn't seem to make sense to me, either; honestly, the scrolls he wrote first would be older, right?

Anyways, I liked the ideas on display here; a larger-than-life man invading a demon-guarded palace to steal treasure? Good stuff! I just feel like it doesn't ever really come together for me in a meaningful way.

Oh, and one typo that really thew me: forth -> fourth. One's a number, the other's an adverb. I read that line three or four times before I understood it.

On the other hand, the 'eye of the beholder' line was very nicely done. Pairing the old adage against the crystal palace and the coming tragedy felt extremely right.

I'm pretty mixed on this one. It's clever, but not cohesive; judged as a whole, I find it lacking, but each individual element works well. Either way, thanks for writing!
#53 ·
· on What Lies Behind Glass Masks
Talk about hitting the prompt between the glass-eyes!

Just because this was a pretty literal interpretation of the prompt doesn't make it any worse for me, and I liked the function these masks served in the ritual, and how the narrator could analyze them to hypothesize who was behind them. I kind of wish that concept of un-masking by examining the masks' characteristics was explored more, because that definitely could have created more story.

There's a much larger story implied by the world-building you've displayed. Plenty of intrigue created as a result of how the scene was set, and I think that's the greatest strength of this story. As it stands, I wasn't really drawn into these faceless characters and their struggles. You brought up a few details which interested me for a moment—such as the prince being among the masked masses, all the moons being dark tonight—but they aren't revisited, and don't affect our narrator, or the story's outcome.

The existence of such a ritual had some interesting implications, too. It's kind of like The Purge, except only for the rich, and they don't need to physically express their aggressions and perversions; they can just expunge it from themselves with a midnight ritual. Makes me wonder what happens to the proletariat in this world.

Overall, I think there's plenty of fascinating story implied by what you've written, but I didn't see much of it take form in the shape of a traditional narrative. And that's not necessarily bad, but it didn't grab me very strongly. Thanks for writing regardless!
#54 ·
· on The Crystal Palace
I don't know how I feel about this one. A peculiar entry among many peculiar entries.

I'm not sold on the framing of the story here, what with the plain and tell-y opening, the letters, and the textbook ending. Does it tell the story? Sure. Does it make it better than a simple first- or third- person account of Bjorn's adventure? I don't know. And that's kind of a problem. What gets added here? What limit of conventional storytelling did you overcome? I don't see one.

Side notes about the opening: the narrator comes off very detached here, and there is a lot less spunk to the writing style than what's on dispaly in the letters. It sets up the character of Bjorn perfectly well but not in a way that makes me care about him particularly.

Side note about the letters: why exactly are they fragmentary at the end? Were they smudged? Torn up? Covered in blood? A little explanation would have been nice--and it would have avoided the hand waving.

Side note about the ending: I still am not sure why this is here.

All in all, I can at least say that the story was easy to follow, including its connection to the prompt. I'm just curious of the intention behind it all, because it's unfortunately falling flat for me. I would be interested to read a retrospective if you're keen, Author.

But that's enough out of me. Thanks for writing and best of luck!
#55 · 1
Eh, wasn't able to make anything on time. Will be sure to check out some of these stories though.
#56 · 1
· on No I'm fine
Well, it looks like we have our controversial entry for the round.

I think I'll start by saying what I think this story is about, since there seems to be a lot of different opinions on that. To me, this is essentially a story about a depressed man committing suicide via prostate cancer. The constant repetition of "It will be over soon" and "I won't have to worry about it" sure reads like he's expecting to die.

And then you get to this line, buried in the middle of a paragraph:
[...]and the place he ran off the road trying to kiss Mom for the first time and I couldn’t think of anything in my life that I had ever been that genuinely excited about not a car or a house[...]

He's dying, and he doesn't really feel too strongly about being alive.

I'm not going to comment on the style, there are enough other people doing that.

The issue I have is that you spend a lot of time and words talking about something that is going to happen "soon" but never show it. He is in the exact same situation at the end as at the beginning. That especially irks me because the whole time you're building up tension by having him lie about and hide his illness. Why do that if you are never going to release it. You're like a paragraph short of having a plot; it seems clear enough that he can't hide the lit forever, so just have him get caught. A sentence or two of him keeling over at work is all you need. I feel like you've shown us two trains racing at each other, and then cut away right before the crash.

This would be a lot stronger with an ending.
#57 ·
· on #silicon · >>alarajrogers
First things first: starting with a list is not an encouraging move. People are just getting into the story; the last thing you want them to think is "Wait, I have to memorize this?" It'd be much better to space out names like that so that we get a proper introduction to each one as we go along, namely when we've got a distinctive character laid out for each one.

I have to admit I could see the tension and intrigue in the structure of the story, and that progresses very well to <fern>'s gambit at the end to trick <Shiva> into giving her the points. It definitely invites the reader to participate and guess, and some characters do emerge from the scenario (those two aforementioned ones in particular stand out as distinct personalities). The concept of using a Turing Test competition is outstanding, and I liked in particular the explanations early on when the participants reasoned that so-and-so could be an AI.

Still, I also have to admit I struggled at times to enjoy it. The chat format entails a lot of meandering in-between the revelations, and it's just not that fun to read other people's chat messages when there's no direct accusations or tricks in play. For the first half, before the likes of <Shiva> start to dominate the chat, it's an undifferentiated mass of seemingly interchangeable characters, so there was little to latch on to before the pool thinned and we could focus more on a smaller number of participants.

After a while it feels less like learning about how to detect bots and more like we're just watching "they're all AIs" unfold, which slightly undermines the whole "reader can participate too" thing. Plus, no one seriously calls out <Shiva>, the one who talks like an actual robot? Seriously? By the midway point, that guy would've been my Number One Suspect, but everyone just buys the "I naturally talk like this because sore spot" explanation. It got blatantly annoying after a while because it strains belief too much.

I'm trying to think of how I'd go about fixing these issues while preserving the chat format. For a start, I'd probably give each participant a distinct introduction, maybe a quirk or two early on so that we can distinguish them clearly in our mind's eye. Then throw them together for the contest. Imagine, for instance, the Main Six and Spike taking part; their personalities would shine through cleanly, making it far easier to keep track of who's who. You use names at the start of each sentence, but we don't care about names; we want to care about the characters behind them.

The other major issue I'd try to fix might be to have a more consistent theme going on in-between the revelations so that the chats don't feel too meandering. I get you're going for realism by having, say, random jobs and biographical details in the "Maybe we should introduce ourselves" section, but since we're in a kind of sci-fi setting, couldn't we capitalize on that by elaborating a bit more? One of them's a sci-fi writer; how about a section where they reveal they wrote a story about AI, and then you can use that to explore other aspects of the relationship between humans and AI? It's less realistic than random jobs, but having a consistent theme explored throughout, rather than feeling like we're reading ad libs, would go a long way to making the fic stronger and more memorable an experience in the reader's mind. It would at least be more interesting than bog-standard chat we'll forget once <Shiva> calls out the next target, at least. Every word counts.

Lastly, make <Shiva> a little less obvious. I don't know if that was the point, to show how out-of-depth the other participants were, but I for one would find it less distracting. It takes a reader out of the experience when they wonder why characters are not doing the obvious thing, so a little more justification would be welcome to alleviate that.

Overall, another high mid-tier or possibly strong entry, mostly bolstered by the strong concept.
#58 · 1
· on 'Twas Brillig · >>Hap >>Baal Bunny
I will say this: you've totally captured the whimsical aggravation of any encounter with a Wonderland denizen. I had no trouble believing this was the Cheshire Cat in all his trolling, nonsense-making glory.

That said, I think I can sum up the biggest problem with this fic in two premises:

1. It seems you can only get the full effect if you're familiar with the referenced Oz works in question, and

2. Virtually nobody's familiar with the Oz works in question beyond the obvious one.

Also, it's a bizarre coincidence when this is the second fic in the contest involving male-to-female transsexuals who are also royalty. That's an oddly specific trope to appear twice.

Anyway, getting back to the topic at hand...

The title's meaning doesn't become apparent until the actual Wonderland visit, which made me wonder why we were in this weird fantasy mish-mash instead with no connection to Wonderland, and then when the penny finally dropped that this was Oz, I was still wondering why there was that reference in the title. To go so long being confused by the title's relevance to the premise, especially when the title's such a recognizable reference, is jarring to the point of dissatisfaction. Unfortunately, it was the beginning of my problems with this fic.

There's a lot of stylistic weirdness with this one. For a kickoff, the prose feels way too formal at times and heavily laden with adjectives. Take these two sentences at the beginning, for example:

"His head cocked the other way so that his face swiveled toward the Glass Cat sitting on the finely woven grass-colored carpet covering the throne room's emerald floor."

"Maintaining any semblance of equanimity at the antics of her subjects sometimes took more strength than Ozma thought she had."

They come across as overwrought, and the fic is up to its gills with sentences like that. I'll admit that, in a perverse way, it fits into the alien goody-two-shoes nature of the fictional world, but at the cost of being much fun to read. For starters, some of those sentences could be trimmed down, otherwise it feels like you're leading your reader through a marathon (or beating them over the head with how poncy your vocab is). And not letting readers take the story at a more comfortable pace is really problematic when you're also throwing around weird concepts willy-nilly. We're faced with a glass cat, a sex-changed fussy queen, and a pumpkin-headed bumpkin; do we really need to know anything about the goddamn carpet?

More worryingly, the structure and the plot are kinda confused too. Ostensibly, the Glass Cat/Bungle (and it's a mark of how willy-nilly the fic is that it kept changing his names/descriptions back-and-forth, so it took far too long for me to figure out this was the same character) is the main protagonist, since he's the one who goes forth to the public domain, ends up fighting Jabberwocky, and comes back humbled. But... we get Jack Pumpkinhead and Ozma bantering right off the bat. Glass Cat/Bungle doesn't appear until the third paragraph of this banter, and doesn't even get involved until the seventh. It takes even longer before we realize he's the one who's going to be doing anything; so much focus is given to Ozma and Jack at first that I think any reader would be confused by the emergence of Bungle as the protag.

And overall, I'm left wondering: What was the point of all this? The Public Domain thing suggests a kind of meta commentary, and the chief suspect for me is that Bungle's attempt to break tradition, cry defiance, and skip universes only ends up fulfilling the narrative point of another universe. Basically, a "You Can't Fight Fate" moral. Having the target universe be Wonderland alleviates this somewhat, since that is a land of nonsense logic where skipping fictional universes is presumably another Tuesday.

But the Oz connection, man. I mean, why Oz? Just because it's got weird stuff in it, doesn't mean it's Wonderland's cousin. Wonderland's semi-satiric logic-chopping is quite different from a more traditional fantasy adventure-land. And anyway, isn't this kind of against the spirit of original fiction? The works are old, true, so that's presumably the copyright loophole (hence the whole Public Domain thing you tackle), but I still feel like this is a bit shaky.

I get the writer had plenty of enthusiasm mashing the two together, but all in all I just don't understand where that enthusiasm came from. The fic's confusing in both premise and execution, its prose isn't particularly elegant, and I simply didn't have as much fun reading it as the author presumably did writing it.

Sorry, man. Whether it's the obscurity thing or not, I just don't click with this one, so I'm gonna have to rank it low.
#59 ·
· on A Woman Tearing Herself in Half · >>Aragon
There is arsenic in the way she speaks

I don't expect you to know this, but it's also a way of saying she has garlic breath. :)

The voice you just heard is that of Madeleine.

For the same reason I dinged "Two on a Raft," I'll say that if you're going to include me as an acknowledged audience, I need to know what my role is, why I'm there, why this narrator wants me there, etc. Without that, it actually has the opposite effect, creating a distance between me and the story that you're attempting to reduce through the effect. So far, it's not working.

I explain what I am here to do

This one's more of a temporal disconnect. He says this, then he goes on to the actual explanation (the redundancy of which is another problem), but it takes him a few sentences to get there. So he tells me he's doing it, but he's not. Until later.

I like all the imagery you're using, but it gets to be a bit much. When you use two or three metaphors for the same thing, and the metaphors aren't really complementary, it does create a jumbled feel, a sense that something is hard to describe, yet that also makes the imagery more distant for me, like it's simultaneously precise and vague. And there are times that's a good effect to go for. I just don't think it's a good effect to pound relentlessly, because it keeps me from connecting to the story as well. Maybe it's just because I'm not the kind of reader who really tries to dig into these and see how they feel, but if I did, that means I'm continually pausing in my reading, and that's not necessarily a good thing either.

The short version is that you might have too much of a good thing here, but that will vary by reader. If the majority of reviews are telling you that, you might have a problem. It's very literary and very well done, but a little restraint could help.

The only other issue that might cause is that you're using a first-person narrator. That means this narrator is the one choosing to describe things this way. And this is very fancy language for a regular Joe to be using. I don't know anything about him yet. I don't know if this narrative style matches his personality. It may be a poor fit for him. I think it'd improve things if you let this first scene delve more into his character so that I get a sense of what he's like and if this language is appropriate for him. The situation as well--he's investigating a crime, at least I assume so thus far, and in a way this works for that, and in a way it doesn't. The way it does is that it makes him look very observant, a good trait in an investigator. The way it doesn't is that he should be turning over the particulars of the case in his mind. In other words, his attention isn't going to be on crafting flowery language. The present tense exacerbates this. It puts me in the moment with him, precisely where his attention shouldn't be on purpling up the narration. In past tense, it would create more of a sense that he's telling this after the fact, once he's had time to reflect on it and ham it up.

by the time I leave this town, I will still consider him my only friend

This I don't get. It suggests a lot of background, both about the narrator and his time here, but then never even hints at what any of it is. It leaves me more mystified than making a connection. Maybe this is the narrator editorializing after the fact, but there's nothing in the story to this point to set up your framing device, so it makes it sound like a prediction.

You have this effect where you're in the middle of a conversation, then you summarize part of it. That obviously wasn't necessary to come in under word count, but perhaps it was to meet the deadline? I can't say it's a bad thing, necessarily. For me, it's pretty neutral, but it does strike me as an odd choice. I suppose it's a way of skipping the mundane parts of a conversation, except by the subject matter reportedly covered, it's not actually mundane.

I'm kind of doing a more stream-of-consciousness review here, where I record my impressions as I read, so things I wonder about may get explained later on, and I may or may not come back to edit the review accordingly.

Madeleine was described to sound much younger than Sylvia, yet by appearance, they look very different ages, or at least it seemed so to me. "Mister" is a fairly childlike way of addressing someone, after all. That's an interesting effect. When the narrator says Madeleine wore nothing, I realize he hadn't described her clothing, so I don't know if he only meant her lack of a breathing mask.

I can't imagine how Sylvia could have ordered the cathedral empty. Why would Harrison obey her?

I don't understand the meaning of the lipstick at all, but there are a couple of explanations nipping at me. Maybe he had some on and got it on his wrists while smoking? He is described as holding it in an effeminate way. I'm starting to think this is kind of an "Exorcist" situation going on, and perhaps Harrison and Sylvia are the same, or at least inhabit the same body. [Edit: and that ends up not being the case, so I never understood this.]

I suppose we’ll simply leave town.

What's keeping them there? Him, I could possibly see, but everyone?

Doctor Beatrice Harley moves out of spite, as if her blood were mercury.

You went a whole scene without being so purple, but we're back to it. At least it's a quick hit, but it's one that's indecipherable to me. I have no idea what mercury would have to do with spite. An allusion to "mercurial" might evoke a shifting whim, but that's not spite.

Doctor Harvey

Is this just a typo? Or is the name change supposed to mean something to me?

You can hear in the recording how I stop

It took an awful long time to establish who the audience is. You really ought to lay this out as early as possible. It does introduce new questions, especially about the purple language. Is he self-narrating all this on the recording? Or is he saying it "live" to someone listening to it with him? Or in a written supplement to the recording? In any of those cases, I still don't see the purpose in him being so purple. Except one, and we'll see if you go there.

All at one.

Seems like you meant "once" there.

made out sugar and diamonds

Missing word.

I doubt I’ll ever do

I wish I had not turned off my recorded

Yeah, these typos cropping up near the end lead me to believe you were running up against the deadline.

At the end now. Okay, the only thing left that I never understood was the lipstick. My best guess, and this is a real stretch, is that you were saying he was breaking his vows and didn't really care to hide it, but that would be kind of a throwaway thing. At first, I thought the narrator was mistaking blood for lipstick, particularly after he mentioned Harrison's "fangs." There's a cool mystery here, with a sympathetic eye toward two initially hateful characters. The plot arc is well done. My only objections are ones I've voiced before, but since they didn't get cleared up, I'll reiterate.

There's an explicit audience for the narrator, but it's never defined what, or the medium through which it's being delivered, which leaves your choice of how to tell the story feeling incomplete. It also leaves questions about how much sense it makes for the narrator to wax poetic about his experiences. This puts me in a mind of Lovecraft, where his narrators speak in very fancy language about terrible things, but they're always given a purpose in doing so, usually in that they're recording their experiences in the hopes that they can warn people or prevent further bad things from happening. I don't see that purpose here. I don't know why this narrator is telling this story in this way. My immediate assumption is that he's filling out a police report or some such, but it sure doesn't sound like one. Plus I never got to know the narrator. I couldn't tell you one thing about his personality.

The thing is, that's not even a hard problem to remedy. Is this a written record? For whose use? Or is he talking to someone? Who, then, and why? And why does it make sense to present it in chapters? All this is really the story's big flaw to me, but I don't know that it'll knock it down my ballot much, if any.

I differed from >>BlueChameleonVI in my interpretation of the ending, but I could see either one being valid. He thinks that Sylvia ordered Jonathan to be killed because of her failure to feel anything for him, and then when she actually did feel something about his death, she went for that experience again by killing Madeleine. My interpretation is that Sylvia ordered Jonathan's death because she failed to feel anything for him, but then she realized she did afterward, and it made her even more upset. Madeleine didn't realize this, but once she did come to the conclusion that Sylvia actually had fallen in love with Jonathan, and the related conclusion that she had now deprived Sylvia of that one source of true feeling she'd ever had, Madeleine couldn't take it anymore and killed herself. Though if both are true in part, perhaps Madeleine's death, even at her own hand, will give Sylvia the emotion she longs for.

Once you go from part 3 to part 4, Doctor Harley becomes Doctor Harvey, and I never figured out why. Just a mistake? Maybe her name is Harley Harvey, and the narrator backs off his sense of familiarity, going from the first name to the last? Nah, you said her name was Beatrice. Maiden name, then? In the warped perception of time, she got married or divorced or... yeah, gotta be a mistake.
#60 · 2
· on A Woman Tearing Herself in Half · >>Aragon
Also, I found a few of the names delightfully ironic. Victor, as in "winner," and Beatrice = "blessed," at least by association, though the true root means "traveller." Monte has to do with mountains, while he's a stooped, slight man. Madeleine derives from Magdalene. Sylvia derives from "forest," which wouldn't seem to apply, but it also occurred as Rhea Silvia, the mother of Romulus and Remus, who founded an empire, and she's kind of in control of the town, but at the opposite end: she's the last of her kind, or so Harrison says. Harrison branches a couple different ways, but all refer to some sort of ruler, one of them in a military sense, though this one differs in that it's his last name. Everyone's name is quite the opposite of what they are, though in a twisted way, Madeleine may actually fulfill the function of hers, if not on the good side.
#61 · 1
· on What Lies Behind Glass Masks
I'm sorry, author:

But I found it impossible to get past the third paragraph. Every single sentence has at least one mistake of usage or grammar, and trying to read it was like stabbing pins into my eyes. So other folks can maybe offer you content advice, but I can't get past the jagged surface to see what might be underneath.

#62 · 1
· on Nerd for a Day · >>PinoyPony
I got a strong sense that the author had clear visions in their head for what was happening and who the characters were, but I found myself totally lost along the way.

It's hard to point to any one thing. At first I felt like this was my own fault in not understanding anything and getting constantly tripped up, though like the way Leroy is mentioned early on is much more like another student than the Principal. But even at the end, I just really am not sure what the story was actually about.

There's a lot of characters but I couldn't say precisely which each was, what their motivation would be. It's a sequence of things happening, and despite my best efforts I can't see the threads connecting anything. This very well might just be the result of writing something in a 3-day span, because I think the author knows what's intended, but it struggles to come across to me.
#63 ·
· on Two on a Raft · >>WritingSpirit >>Rocket Lawn Chair
This story is basically fine, and accomplishes what it wants to. But the ending twist isn't particularly shocking or new.

My bigger problem is more of a personal complaint: I found the attitude and perspective of the main character to be really boring. It's a certain kind of bitter/sarcastic/macho that I feel like I've seen so, so often before. Kind of the factory default of a character who's too cool to care about stuff, even in a life/death situation. That makes sense with the ending contextualization that perhaps pushes the impression over into the realm of 'sociopath' but... It's a character I immediately disliked, and that distanced me from actually caring at all about the story. Perhaps it works better for other readers.
#64 ·
· on No I'm fine
I'm pretty sure there's some deep meaning in this story but it'd be great to find it, but at some point I realised that rather than reading I was finding random phrases in each paragraph trying to read the future from them, in a manner akin to that "grab the closest book, open it on page 52 and the third sentence describes your love life" game. Unfortunately for me, the phrase I got was "the doctor who had a dick that worked". I'm not sure what to make of that...
#65 · 2
· on What Lies Behind Glass Masks
Lots of editing errors here, the kind that trip me up while reading, but not the kind to obscure what you're saying, so I'm not having trouble understanding the story, at least.

There's a bit of an issue with sentence variety here. Once they get started, you do have a number of different ways for them to go, but the vast majority start the same way, with whatever the sentence's subject is. There are other ways to lead in, and it helps to have a little more of that so you don't create this sense of the same thing over and over again.

"Flake" is an odd word to use for something like obsidian for a few reasons: that's not really how obsidian is structured, it doesn't connote something sharp, and it doesn't connote something sturdy.

You also need to avoid being repetitive. Take this passage:
While who was behind what mask was, in theory, unknown there would only be one of each mask this evening. In theory, in practice it would be easy enough to know who was what by their manner of speech if the listener was astute enough.

You keep covering this same ground, and there's no apparent thematic reason to do so, in a way that the repetition appears deliberate and strengthens the story.

You have lots of statements like this, that aren't backed up:
The Hound was notorious for never letting up, for never letting go. For them to seek me out at all, let alone to be first was, well, it was unorthodox.

It does seem like he's being persistent about something, so I don't know why the narrator is saying otherwise. Not that there can't be a valid explanation, but I don't know what it is; the story doesn't say.

I do wonder why this narrator is uniformly called bad things once he becomes the center of attention, since he made the point that not all the things the attendees wanted to be rid of were bad. And that kind of undercuts the theme here, making him some sort of Christ figure.

Really, this seems more like a shallow dip into the edges of a story than the story itself, as how I'm going to take this depends on a lot of information I don't have. Some of it may be beyond the scope of what you could do here, but not all of it. I'm unclear on whether all these invasive thoughts go away at the conclusion of the ritual, or if the narrator has to take those on. Does he/she have to do this regularly? You mention that Fox is a rotating role, but that the current one has been there for a while. So is this the first time the protagonist has done this? It sounds like it. But will it be the only time? Is he a willing participant, or has he been coerced into it? Can anyone fill this role, or does he have special talents or properties that make him especially suitable?

I agree with >>Miller Minus that the anonymity hurts more than it helps. It's necessary during the ritual, but the narrator is clearly bringing in prior knowledge of who these people are, yet I'm not privy to that. The way Fox is surprised by what some of them say, which surprises the narrator at times, too, is lost on me, because I don't have an inkling of who any of them are or what they're like. That whole concept survives on contrast, but I'm missing the "before" of the "before and after" photos. So the juxtaposition doesn't mean anything, because it isn't even there, beyond the narrator essentially saying, "Hey, this guy is totally not like that, just trust me."

This feels like you've scratched the surface of a very interesting concept, but there's not enough of it present yet to be satisfying.
#66 ·
· on #silicon · >>Pascoite >>RogerDodger
I disagree with the statement about who's "obvious". While in science fiction, there's a specific speech pattern that's associated with robots, in real life, that pattern is commonly found in autistic people, and bots have a completely different speech pattern that's based on trying to sound as human as possible. A bot that was programmed to win the competition wouldn't sound like a stereotypical robot from 70's sci-fi; Shiva struck me as autistic. I didn't start to question until the second gotcha regarding what word someone said in the past... I believed it quite possible for an autistic person to memorize the first sentence the moderator said, planning to use it as a gotcha later, but to memorize two sentences starts to strain belief. So Shiva's explanation for "sounding robotic" seems perfectly plausible to me.

I think this was probably one of my favorite write-off original fics ever. I do agree that the business about the chalk is actually just as likely to be a human behavior as a bot's; humans often make up things that didn't happen for the sake of fitting in with a new friend or social acquaintance or even just to have something relevant to say, plus, it actually didn't seem that impossible (as someone who's used their fair share of the stuff, chalk can indeed catch on a chalkboard if it's small enough. So unless that's a really indirect hint as to Shiva's nature, it's not really accurate. But from my perspective, that was the only issue I had with the story.
#67 ·
· on The 100% Accurate Legend of the Once and Future Hero of Light
The longest story:

This time around, and I'll suggest that it needs to be longer. For the romance angle to work at the end, I needed to know the characters better, watch them grow and become the two who would "meet cute" and fall for each other. I'll agree with >>Not_A_Hat, too, about the structural rearrangement: let us follow the characters simultaneously as they move toward each other even if Magpie's story starts, say, a hundred years before Tiff's. I'll also agree that the kiss doesn't quite work for what Tiff needs here. Very fun, yes, but in need of expansion.

#68 · 2
· on Nerd for a Day · >>PinoyPony
This one kinda... threw me, Author. It probably won't surprise you, after the previous two comments, but I'm going to go after the characters here, because they're the area that needs the most work, I think. They aren't distinct (Lana and Kelsey feel particularly identical), they seem to react to situations in ways I don't expect them too, and their relationships aren't consistent.

The plot itself, well, it unfortunately comes off as rather bizarre, and the best way I can describe it is that there wasn't a whole lot of conflict, despite the fact that it's begging to exist. More rivalries between the debate club members, or rivalries with other clubs vying for a fraction of the same budget, or the principal having a vendetta against the debate club, or... hell, they could have at least spent more time debating what their fundraiser idea was before they decided to go with the idea that nobody seemed to like at first.

By the way, did the debate team not just lie about what VDA stands for in order to promote themselves? Why is nobody upset about that! Why is everybody for taking everything in stride? They're all very happy and... content. Lily seems to be the only person concerned with anything, but even her conflict gets swept under the rug at the end.

The world we're in, too, is quite strange. High school is getting to be a while ago for me now, but I don't think my student body would be too interested in a visual disability awareness program. Especially not one that involves donations. I've never seen anybody with glasses seem particularly marginalized by society or in need of assistance. And yet the principal thought it was worth a general assembly?

But I really, really want to hammer home the fact that this all comes back to the characters. If they were a little more clear in their intentions and relationships, the conflict would be so much easier to see, and the world might start making sense too—especially if you treat the remainder of the students as another character themselves (i.e., what is the general opinion of Lana, the Principal, etc.?)

I hope my comment has been helpful. There's quite a few errors in the prose, true, but I think your number one priority here is to tighten up the characters. They're everything to a story (most stories). If I don't know why they're doing what they're doing, then I can't stick one little finger in this world you've created.

Thank you for writing, Author. This is a big and scary round (the biggest and scariest of the four) and I know how much it takes to submit something for it. You've done good.

Good luck!
#69 · 2
· on No I'm fine
>sees title
>"Heh, missing a comma there, friend"

I read this story hours ago. I've since completed my work day, spoken to people and clients, gone home, run some errands, picked up dinner and ate it. And godamnit, I'm still thinking about this story. It's invaded me. It's challenged me. I love it.

And for the record, my reading lines up completely with Axuuy's. The poor man has realized where he is in life, how he doesn't like it and can't relate to anyone around him, and he has found a way out. A terrible one, but one all the same. I don't think this is making a commentary on mental health or social reclusion or anything like that; I think we're seeing these things because the man's situation and upbringing force him to be socially reclusive and have poor mental health (and think schizophrenically). It fits his character, not the author's message. At least in my opinion.

I mean sometimes I think in sentences like this. Does that make me a commentary on mental health? Don't answer that.

Like it or not, I thought this story was very self-aware about what it was doing. As people are pointing out, it would not have worked at all if it was very much longer (or even a little bit longer), because we can only take so much squinting. But credit where it's due, I don't think that's down to luck. I think the author made this story exactly as long as it needed to be. And hey, if different people would have liked a little bit longer or a little bit shorter, then I won the fucking lottery, because I thought it was just right. You Goldilocks'd it, Author.

But even putting aside the length, this type of story lives or dies on what's being said. Make too much of this mess any way boring, or God forbid repetitive, and every single reader is gonna wonder what the hell the extra effort is for. Truly, the sentences that tripped me up were the ones that sort of fold back on themselves and repeat. I won’t have to worry about it about any of it because it will be over and I won’t have to worry won’t have to worry about any of it. I might suggest tightening up those lines because they're the ones I'm reading a few times before advancing. Everything else, though, it's not boring or repetitive, in fact it's moving at a blistering pace, forcing me to take my own breathers instead of waiting for a full stop.

It's weird, but for the length you chose, it worked. And you managed to fit so much about this poor man's married life and efforts at concealing his illness and all the ways his past has shaped him—the memories that stick out to him—the people he's known and unable to connect with. I know so much about him now. About why he's doing what he's doing.

I think that's what I like most about this. It's so much story packed so close together and I get so much at once. The degree of difficulty of the style is there too, and I think edit: I think I've forgotten how I wanted to end this paragraph.

Now, I do want to say, I'm treating this story with the same litmus tests that I did The Crystal Palace. Namely, does this style add anything to the story, and would it be better if conventional storytelling was used? To the first part, yes. As I've discussed. To the second part... I honestly don't think so. Does that mean this story is surviving on the gimmick alone? Possibly, but I don't have the two scenarios to choose from, so who knows? All I know is that I've never read something like this before, and I thought it was interesting, and hope I never, ever read something similar again. Yes, you heard that right, Writeoffers. NOBODY EVER DO THIS AGAIN.

I really enjoyed this. Thank you very much for writing this, Author. I will throw you at the top of my slate and defend you as much as I can, but if we're being honest, I'm not sure this will do too well. And it's funny, normally when I see my opinion diverging from those of others, I usually wonder if we even read the same story. But here I easily see why everyone has reacted in their own ways. We all definitely read the same story, we just interpreted it differently. And that's art. And that's beauitful.

*throws confetti*

I think this story was worthwhile.
#70 ·
· on #silicon
From a lowly peasant's POV:

I really enjoyed this story. It had me hooked the entire time and little ol' me forgot that there could possibly be zero humans so I only realized what was happening when Marky got kicked.

On another note, y'all in the write-off word so perfectly that in one of these games you guys would win immediately because the robots would be so confused by your exquisite compositions of the letters of the English language.

Or maybe you'd almost win, like Shiva...
#71 ·
· on The 100% Accurate Legend of the Once and Future Hero of Light
Reading the three existing reviews, I'm a bit surprised to find discussion about topics in this story that are mostly unrelated to what caught my attention. Hopefully that means I can provide a little bit of fresh perspective.

First off, I should say that I regard this story in quite high esteem. It was the first story on my ballot, but if I had to guess about known unknowns, I should still think it's going to make top three for me. That said, the story still fell from "This could be a ballot topper" in the beginning (suffice to say, I think it was very well done) to merely "This is a quality story" as I continued on. I feel like this was primarily due to a decrease of care and polish as the 1k, 2k, 3k, ... marks were reached. Indeed, I even noticed a "hersef" creep into the prose later on, but more substantially than that, I felt like the personalities of Tiff and Magpie (and indeed the voice of the story itself) became sort of generic and hard to differentiate. As well, earlier on there was a clear contrast between the olden fable-speak and modern day-speak, and the latter was only occasionally injected for flavor, but by the time Magpie's story is finished, it was just the norm.

Speaking of post-Magpie's story, I got the impression that the author either realized he was about to hit the word limit, or otherwise ran out of time or effort, because there was a bit of unceremonious explanation-dumping at that point: “Wait, the same hole as…?” rather than including that in the story; “And that led to, uh, him?”; the six fingers and “Y-yeah, so, that’s why I’ve got plenty of magic now, but also why I’m a little bit evil."; “Just so you know, I kept putting off Asterion’s plans for raising an army of darkness, but I think he was beginning to get fed up. So you came at a good time.”

Speaking of Asterion, and also the priest, I find the reflexive homicide Magpie/Tiff committed on both of them was a bit out of character. Most the rest of the story and its characters reminds me of that blasted show with the cartoon horses, excepting those parts. Well, that, and Magpie taking a knife to the gut, but that was suspensefully enacted.

Like the others, I don't find that the romance really added anything to the story, nor was it sufficiently built up. It would still be more than heartfelt enough for them to merely bond as friends, and then later become lovers. Relatedly, although it was a little "cute" how the tomboy girl fell in love with the feminized boy by the end of the story, I'm not sure that it gained anything other than LGBT brownie points.

Another random minor nitpick (this review turned out a lot more disorganized than I was planning): The beginning of the story gave me the impression that this was set in a realistic medieval world, rather than a fantasy medieval world, what with all the fake prophecy-fulfillment Tiff was performing, the obviously corrupt priest, etc. It wasn't confirmed to be a world with actual magic, until the part with the skeleton.

Oh, one more thing: I know of only one Ulfric in anything, especially one that is a medieval lord, and that is Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak of Skyrim. Especially given your audience, it might give the impression of ripping off of that. I was also uncertain whether to properly consider the "cursed tower of Nyx" a reference to Past Sins.

Since I'm not good at concluding things, I'll just repeat what Not_A_Hat said, which summarizes my thoughts exactly: "Now, I've leveled a lot of criticism here, but on the whole, I really enjoyed this. It was easy to read, with some fun subversion, and interesting characters. It'll probably do fairly well by me, even if it didn't knock my socks off. Thanks for writing!"
#72 · 9
The scoreboard has been updated with a fresh, mobile-friendly design, with fancy new vector award icons courtesy of GGA.

(Go look at it it's very pretty.)
#73 · 1
· on The Crystal Palace
This story really suffers from too long a lead-in. There's very little of it that's vital information, and when you spend a full quarter of your word count giving me exposition to catch me up, something's gone wrong. A little would be fine. It does create a kind of folk tale feeling, but a little goes a long way, and you end up repeating a lot of the same information multiple times. And that's partly because you never do much with the frame. Some framing devices are best kept simple and out of the way, but your beginning doesn't match that kind of story; the ending suggests a scholarly study of these events, which might be a better fit. The intro is the part that stands out as not meshing with the rest.

Then we get to the documents. For my money, you could have just started the story there and worked in the preamble stuff little by little as it was needed. The other thing is that this journal-style format is a bit incongruous with the folk-tale beginning. It's weird to transition between the two. If the scrolls kept up the similar type of feel, at least it wouldn't have a linguistic disconnect, just the oddity that you don't see folk tales told through letter/journal styles. And maybe you'd win some points for originality in that case. Hard to say. It would subvert expectations, but not in a way that enhances the story, I think. Folk tales are passed down through oral tradition, and an epistolary treatment doesn't lend itself to that very well.

The formatting throws me off, too. It took me a few entries to realize each paragraph is a new one. I'd thought the first 3 or 4 of them were all one day until I started thinking about why so many of them start with "today." You should find a clearer way of demarcating that. It's also unnecessary to put all that in italics. When they take up the majority of your story, or even a significant chunk, that usually means you need to find a different way of setting them apart. Separate scenes would work, especially if they had the kind of labels I'd suggested saying which day they were. The fact that some days' entries run for multiple paragraphs only further confuses the issue.

I'm assuming that closing passage is made up? I didn't bother researching it to see.

This just felt kind of light to me. Based on the description of Bjorn and how the palace was made, it was pretty obvious how the rest of the story would go, and it did just that. There's a simple moral here, but not much conflict. Bjorn never comes to realize his flaw, he doesn't learn anything, and while there are dangers for him to traverse, we never really see him fighting any of it. So pretty much all of the action happens off camera, as well as the story's moral.

The last line struck me as odd, too, given that you'd earlier said it was written in blood. It calls into question exactly what he was doing when he wrote it. It sounds like something is imminent, that he'd better be prepared for, so why is he spending his attention on writing down an account of it? Given what he's gone through, he can't reasonably expect anyone to find his account, which does lend a cool mysterious air to how the scrolls found their way out.

I don't really have much to say here. It's serviceable as a folk tale style, but it's more the setup for one that skips from the background to the moral, it's heavy on the exposition, and the journal style was an odd decision.
#74 · 2
· on What Lies Behind Glass Masks
Well, at least we know what does the Fox say...

I have to agree with the others – the grammar is somewhat rough here and there are quite a lot of technical flaws. The imagery and the idea are interesting, but technical issues drag the story down.
#75 · 1
· on 'Twas Brillig · >>Baal Bunny
I don't see a lot of fic featuring Ozma, and she's so much more interesting a character when viewed through the lens of our modern understanding of gender identity than she was in L. Frank Baum's conception, that alone got my interest.

I don't remember the books well enough to recall if Bungle is a character there, but my suspicion is yes; she seems like the kind of character Baum would have created. The Wonderland bits were very on-point, though I feel like if it was so easy to slay the Jabberwock that a domestic cat made of glass could do it, it wasn't nearly as badass as we were led to believe.

That being said, while nostalgia and enjoying the characters left me with an overall favorable feeling about the story, other posters are accurate that this... really isn't a story. Bungle doesn't succeed in her mission and also doesn't come to any permanent conclusions; I didn't get the impression that she'd given up her ambition, only recognized that it's harder than it looks. And what's up with references to Glinda's manipulations... what is she up to? There's no real resolution to any of this. It feels more like a first chapter to a longer work, but it's a little too rushed to even work well as that.
#76 · 3
· on A Woman Tearing Herself in Half · >>Pascoite >>Aragon
I quite enjoyed:

All the nutty metaphors. 'Cause that's what hard-boiled detective novels're s'pposed to have, right? I also wasn't bothered by the narrator addressing his audience directly. I got the impression that he was playing the tape recording he made during the investigation and telling a listener the rest of the details as the tape goes along.

But I didn't get the significance of the lipstick, either, and given the story's ending and given that he's telling someone about the events after they've happened, why does he use the present tense at the beginning when describing Madeleine? Other than that, though--and straightening out the doctor's name and the spelling errors here and there--I'd say this is ready to submit to some short story market.

#77 · 1
· on #silicon
I really enjoyed this one.

Each of the characters had a distinct voice, and the format was interesting. I don't have much to say that hasn't been said already, but it was thoroughly enjoyable.
#78 ·
· on A Woman Tearing Herself in Half
>>Baal Bunny
See, even if he is describing it to someone listening to the tape with him, it's not really formatted like that. Is he actually speaking the narration to the person with him? Or was it a "note to self" thing that's also on the recording? If so, is he pausing the recording to fit all this discussion in, or does it miraculously line up? When's he saying the dialogue tags? Is he interjecting them for the listener's benefit? Did he say them on the recording? And what's the purpose of chapters in that context? What's the point of being so purple? It certainly could work as him sharing the recording with someone, but I'd still want to know who and why, and parts of the format aren't really consistent with that.
#79 · 3
Radio Writeoff

Will happen this Saturday, at 1:00pm mountain time, 8:00pm London time.

Here is a poll.
#80 ·
· on Two on a Raft · >>Rocket Lawn Chair
Pretty much share the same opinions with >>Pascoite on this one, particularly on the narrator addressing the reader directly. Expanding on the point about the protagonist narrating this story to us as if we have some sort of relationship with the character, I'm of the view that there's nothing that helps with establishing and defining just what our position is. Are we a close friend or some unfortunate public defender assigned to him in the aftermath of everything that happened?

I do, however, disagree with Pasco in that the voicing of the character was really good, but that's really because this story kinda scraped at a nitpick of mine. It's an okay for me, mostly because I didn't like the general 'hand-holding' that happens throughout the whole story. I felt like I was being lead on by the narrator instead of experiencing the story with him. It starts getting prominent midway through, with sentences like:

Of course we'd thought about killing ourselves

Having those first two words just felt unnecessary; the sentence works fine without it. With it, however, it sorta implies to me that suicide was a decision that was near the top of their priority list when it really isn't. I did wonder if it really is, though the following sentences after that made me doubtful of that notion.

We stop talking about girls for a little while, but the topic resurfaces intermittently

I felt like there was a possible moment of comedy that could've sprung from there that could come about from showing it instead of telling us. Like having the protagonist, after suggesting to drop the topic on girls, just starts talking about another girl he had eyes for in high school and how he would fuck the living daylights out of her if she was stranded here in place of Ken. Random stuff like that to ramp up the comedy aspect a little.

Like I mentioned before, I only lasted a week before going nuts.

Whole sentence could be thrown out, really. Perhaps if you wanna callback to it, maybe you don't have to add in 'like I mentioned before'. I'm still aware that the protagonist did only last a week before going insane up until that point.

There's other examples littered around the story, but all in all, I just didn't like that I was being guided through the story that easily. The premise is absurd in of itself and I find myself wanting to revel in all that absurdity, but I felt like I was being held back by the narrator from taking that grand leap. I think it can also extend to resolving >>Ferd Threstle's issue regarding the characterization of the character too to let the audience have the freedom to interpret the story and the narrator in any way they wish instead of being lead around like that.

The dialogue does have its shining moments, mostly thanks to Ken, to be honest. He definitely worked as a character that our protagonist plays very well off on. Just wished our protagonist had some semblance of what Ken has to offer that could reciprocate the humor.

It's an okay story. Can't say anything much else about it, to be honest, mostly because I'm not entirely sure what the story's gunning for. Still, props to you, author, for writing this!
#81 ·
· on The Crystal Palace
I guess my comment will be just a reiteration of what others already said, but the ending kinda ruined the mood for me.
#82 · 1
· on #silicon · >>RogerDodger
I do wonder about the rules. If someone gets kicked, do only the people who voted "right" get rewarded? Basically, the way it was worded when ccccccc got kicked, it said all remaining users got a reward. But I assume they would have only if they had voted to kick him. If any had voted not to, would they still get the reward? Or if a human gets kicked, does someone who voted against kicking him avoid the penalty? It could be a little clearer, because if the entire group gets the same result regardless of how they voted, then the winner is simply the last remaining human. What happens when only humans are left? You could keep playing the game, but what about when there are two left? There can be no majority, so nobody could be kicked out. I guess I'd just like a better picture of how this is played.

Some of it comes out in gameplay, of course. Everyone got points for xcomwell's kick, even though not everyone voted to do so. So what's the point of keeping score? Every human left in the game has an identical score, so the winner is the last one. Score is irrelevant.

Maybe this is something I can't know, because there may be no restrictions on where the bots come from, but I'd like to know what their motivations are in voting. It'd be too simple to say the bots all know who the other bots are. Several bots must have voted to kick ccccccc, of course, so I wonder if they're seeking to play by the rules and vote against anyone they truly suspect of being a bot, or if they strategize in voting only against the obvious ones, then try to undermine other people through voting. At the point xcomwell gets kicked, someone's lying about opposing it, and if it was a bot, they could have many reasons for doing so. It'd probably be too cumbersome to go through all this, particularly if the users could be expected to know already, but I'm surprised Shiva doesn't bring it up even a little.

Ah, now we're getting the rules for when there are 2 left. And... wait, humans can't kick anymore? So if you're human, what strategy do you have except acting like a bot to get the other to kick you and lose points? This brings up an interesting point. The roles have reversed. It's advantageous to humans to seem like bots and vice versa. I didn't see a description of what happens if they both agree to end the round and any of them are bots. Do they lose points then, and who/whatever was kicked in the previous round now wins?

Well, I guess I can see how score might matter, but it involves a part of the rules I didn't understand. If a human gets kicked, they're still out of the game, right? But they get the points for that round? Hm, it's still a little hard to come up with a scenario where that matters.

I was a little surprised so many contestants went with a strategy of allowing one of the more obvious bots to hang on that long.

For the record, I vote >>No_Raisin is a bot.

Now that I'm through "live" commenting, how is it as a story? I mostly agree with >>Haze in that it definitely has its interest value, but as a narrative, there's not a lot here. It's just a logic puzzle, and one that's very superficial about what goes into the decisions made, so while it's entertaining to watch it unfold, there's not an arc. It's kind of like watching a documentary. And like everyone's said, the lack of stakes means there's not much impetus in wanting to see it resolved.

It also suffered from a distinct lack of "X could tend to mean he's a bot, but not necessarily." Like the chalk thing everyone's pointing out. All the participants jump on that as a conclusion. Nobody says, "Hey, it could happen that way." Which could have been an intentional indication that they all think the same, of course, but somehow I doubt that. Similar to how >>alarajrogers points out it's plausible for a real human to remember the "what was the Xth word that Y said" query. Everything comes down to strategy, though, and there is this directive to "act as human as possible," so even if I'm someone who can remember the entire chat word for word, I may still suppress my ability to answer correctly because it makes me look like a bot.

One last bit of strategy: Shiva figures fern must be human because she doesn't immediately call him out as AI as soon as they're the only two left. But that doesn't make sense to me from Shiva's perspective, to reveal himself as machine, by his own admission, and then not immediately name fern as human. He's taken a huge risk, as his last piece of confirmation comes after he's exposed himself. He's fairly certain before that, but far more so afterward. Yet it doesn't make sense from fern's side either. By not immediately calling Shiva out at that point, she's risking that he'll call her an AI. She must be certain he's concluded she's human, but he doesn't say so until a little later, and she never says why she's so sure. It seems more like a gamble than the 0% chance she cites. At least by the time she says that, she does know, and I can see how she knows, but she's decided it's 0% before that, and I don't see how.

Maybe I'm just not putting enough thought into it.

I guess it all comes down to this: I believe these are valid criteria for thinking someone was a bot. I think the story barely paid attention to the fact they're far from conclusive, though, and only spoke to vague "I could be lying" threads instead of reasoning that real humans plausibly behave these ways. So it feels like less an exploration of the topic and more like watching it all march to the preordained conclusion in a mechanical way.

Interesting entry, fun even, but as a story, it's kind of thin and doesn't make a point, which is usually something I only say about minifics.
Post by Miller Minus , deleted
#84 · 1
· on #silicon
I like to imagine that there are a bunch of commentators in a studio somewhere who have to build up a "turing-test-off" match just like any other live sports (or esports) match, and that once they were finished, the entirety of the text above spat out in <2 seconds, and it just cut back to them in the studio.

"Well, thanks for tuning in, folks!"

I'll start by re-iterating the positives I agree with from above: You characters are terribly unique, and their interplay was fascinating to watch. My only complaint was when Shiva and Fern, and Light and Marky split off into two parallel conversations. I don't know about anyone else, but that was harder than No I'm Fine to read. For real.

Meanwhile, your concept. It's fantastic. Hell, even though I just read the rules from a flatly-written message from a moderator, I was still immediately on board. What great idea. I love it.

But now I have to reiterate some criticisms. The stakes here are kind of non-existent. It doesn't matter what you fix about the process, even if it answers all of everyone's questions above, it's still a little tough to care. All you have going for you is that awesome concept. I think some actual prose before (and maybe after) all this talking heads to actually contextualize anything that's happening would take you a long way. Hell, you could introduce one of the bots as a bot right away (maybe Shiva?), give us a protagonist to follow, and subsequently watch faceplant. That's one idea of a thousand—my point is, who should I care about and why?

And for one slightly easier fix to the stakes problem, maybe explain the points a little better? Points are an easy way to introduce stakes, but we need to know what they're for! I was very confused why this round was labelled as "preliminaries" because that implies that some contestants are going to be advancing. What's the cutoff here? (and on that note, does that mean some of these contestants will be making another appearance? Will they need to change their names?)

Another concern I had was that I felt like a total bystander throughout most of this. A lot of the deductions felt arbitrary at times, as others have pointed out. Humans are terribly unpredictable people, and since everyone is trying to be human, well, yeah. It's really hard to draw any conclusion at all, except through the favourite food trick, or the "what did the moderator say" trick.


<Shiva> At random… Lizzie, what is the fifth word that the Moderator said when we entered the chatroom?

<Lizzie> “carbon”

<Lizzie> “carbon-” if you’re being picky.

<fern> lol. bot down

<Marky> Bot down? Didn’t she pass?

Why did nobody realize this honey trap caught two flies!? Unless I'm to assume that Shiva and fern made a mental note to take Marky out later? But that doesn't seem like Shiva's style.

But to finish this thought: the only time I felt like I was following along with the deductions was when Lizzie made her last correction. I noticed that at the same points of the bots, so it worked for me. But for everything else, I didn't feel like I had a chance to play the game myself.

Also, I was speaking about this with No Raisin in the Discord, but I personally disagree with the notion that your usage of current internet lingo is a fault. Maybe in a novel-length story you can invent a system that makes our speech looks dated, to add to the immersion as we read, but for a short story I think it's better to let us have what we know—otherwise we'd either be lost at what's being said or you'd have to dump some knowledge on us at the start, and this is getting a little unimmersive as it is. So thanks for not doing that! Though it might have been nice to have \at least one other reminder that our society is very dated in this story (like the XCOM gag, which I thought was very clever).

But that's all I have to say. This story feels like a small piece of a larger science-fiction thriller, a piece that adds a hell of a lot to that story, but without the foundation before it, it falters in places.

Thanks for writing, and congrats on the BRONZE medal!
#85 ·
· on Two on a Raft · >>Rocket Lawn Chair
This story reads like a lesson in why you should never use a plot twist to excuse a story that doesn't make sense.

Because as I'm reading this story, I'm having several reservations about what's going on between these two—the biggest one being, Where the hell is their urgency? Look, I've read The Martian, I know that it can be fun to read/write grim humour in a grim situation, and it's not that weird for people to act that way. But not entirely. A little bit of panic, fright, anything between these two that implies they realize how fucked they are and that they don't want to die would have made a lot more sense.

But so he was mad the whole time. A-ha. You got me. And although the story makes more sense now, that doesn't mean I enjoyed reading it any more. That's still a problem, to me.

Like, look at Harry Potter's favourite potions teacher, Snape. Even though he's merely pretending to be an asshole throughout most of the books, he's still a well-made antagonist. His plot twist re-contextualizes the story in a different way, but the original way has to be engaging too.

But enough harping on that, let's talk about the voicing. I thought it was good, personally. Not great or anything, but definitely serviceable, and it was supported well by the conversations between Ken and our protagonist. But still, I couldn't help but feel that the voice faltered every time the protagonist used a very "technical" word. Words like "addendum" and "require" and "pre-existing condition" and whatnot. Whatever you choose for your voice, make sure you stick with it.

Also, I have to echo what >>Not_A_Hat said about the tense changing, and maybe go after you a little more for it. You story starts with a description of what will happen, told in past tense, but then the story jumps backwards to the yacht, and moments later the tense jumps forward to present! Yikes! Also this paragraph...

Every so often the bottom of our raft fills up with warm bilge water that smells like salt and dead fish, and our wrinkly asses have been marinating in it for hours. We found one of those collapsible cups in the emergency bag, so we use that to bail us out.

...is kind of all over the place. If you meant for all this to be explained away by the twist, then, as I mentioned, it doesn't work. But if you didn't, then it's something to watch out for in the future.

But that's all from me. Thanks for writing this piece, and best of luck in the shakedown!
#86 · 2
· on No I'm fine
I find myself:

Agreeing with pretty much all of the goods and bads discussed above, but since I always approach these Writeoffs as opportunities to get comments on the first draft of a story so I can make it better before I either post it on Fimfiction or start submitting it to the various short story markets, my suggestion here is entirely practical. How about letting the other characters' dialogue be all nicely punctuated in separate paragraphs from the narrator's stream of consciousness? It'd still give us the idea of his brain running at a million miles per hour but would also give us islands of respite to breathe on before plunging back in.

Just a thought...

#87 · 1
· on 'Twas Brillig

I find myself agreeing with the consensus. You've got most of the pieces here, author, but I'm not quite finding the thread that binds them all together into a pretty, shiny necklace. Whose story is this, for one thing: Ozma's or Bungle's? Or if the focus is on the conflict between what Ozma wants and what Bungle wants, how do the events here help them resolve that conflict since everybody seems to be living happily ever after at the end?

#88 ·
· on The 100% Accurate Legend of the Once and Future Hero of Light · >>vladspellbinder
You've got a strong hook, and I immediately like Tiff, but some of her background feels incomplete. She makes it sound like she's run off before, but she's not mentioning any other skills than being an acrobat, so does she just wander around until she finds another job as one? She also says these caravans aren't very plentiful, so that would imply she has a hard time catching on with a new one. What does she do in between? She must spend more than half her time doing so.

...And apparently Tiff is a prior incarnation of Ray Stantz, but who answered the question differently.

Now you're glossing over a lot. You're near the upper word limit, so I see why, but it's hard to attach much importance to these events of her visiting several towns early on when we get the most rudimentary summary of what happened in them. It wouldn't even take a lot of word count to do so. I mean, even with what you have left, you could have. But if I'm encountering word-saving already, I assume it's something that'll persist, so either this is simply a story that won't fit in 8000 words, or you need to be more judicious about what things make for good trade-offs.

The opening scene is actually a pretty effective way of delivering exposition, because it doesn't feel like exposition. It's catching me up to the present, but it's not really told as an after-the-fact summary, so it's pretty effective. I'm trying to think of how that is, and it seems to me it's because of the way you're going ahead and developing Tiff's character through this passage. She's changing already. That said, a lot of this scene is extraneous. As part of a longer story, I'd say keep it. It's fun, it develops her character, it effectively gives background, it starts with a strong hook, and it didn't bore me. All good things for an opening scene. But since you're fighting word count here, there's a lot of this that isn't critical to know. Say you just had a single paragraph to the effect of:
It all started when Tiff stumbled over a rusty old sword. In a lake, no less, after having run away from yet another performing troupe because yet another brainless oaf had decided that yet another slight boyish acrobat could provide just the companionship she needed.

You could push bits and pieces of her discovering what the sword was and the tasks she'd accomplish since then into a couple paragraphs as she's entering Westholme. Not an ideal setup, but one that I think would effectively buy you back some word count you need. Once unconstrained by word count, yes, give me the full scene here, even more of it, but part of the difficulty level here is not just making it work, but optimizing it for 8000 words, right?

So when she arrives on this quest, we only get the barest reason for her being in a place she'd normally avoid, and what details we know about her quest don't really justify that. it may be she's just such a good person at heart that she'd help out no matter what, but I feel like I'm looking for more of a motivation for her to go outside her comfort zone.

Something feels a little thin about her backstory, too. People are making up great feats that she's performed, but the only ones she's actually undertaken have been pretty trivial. Nobody's asked her to do something difficult or dangerous? They think she can, so why would it never come up? And has she actually done some of these? How did they feel? Was she surprised she could? Or did she fail at any? Skip out? Did it harm her reputation locally? It seems not, and that's an incredibly convenient stroke of luck, the kind of conceit I might buy in a fairy tale, but this doesn't come close to the tone of one, so I would have expected a little more stark realism. The title kind of tends toward absolving Tiff herself of the discrepancy, except this is very much told from her perspective. It could be another author being so bold as to presume what her perspective was like, I suppose, but I have no evidence of that.

So Ulfric narrows his eyes, then nothing happens in between to change that, then Ulfric narrows his eyes... Yeah, these can be the kinds of things an author has trouble spotting in his own work, unless he can put it down for a couple weeks and lose familiarity with it before editing.

And now we do get the explanation of the girl. Not one her parents could have provided, of course, but her parents must have said something. And in yet another bit of convenience, this priest not only is the one responsible for the girl's disappearance, he immediately knows which peasant girl from some outlying town she means when she hasn't provided him any more information than that.

There's a little bit of incongruity in how the mob joins up with the soldiers escorting her. She doesn't describe their demeanor, only to say they're genuinely afraid, but if so, why are they going toward the source of the danger? Not that there can't be a reason, but show it to me.

So, the skeleton going by... I guess I'd like a little more description of what the inside of the tower looks like? I was envisioning the classic spiral staircase around the outside wall with a huge empty space in the middle, so at first I thought it had fallen past her, but I guess it just walked by her down the stairs?

And now Tiff is lusting after the queen. Okay, this comes out of nowhere. Tiff's never mentioned anything of the sort, in all the people she's encountered, so she'd come across as someone young enough to have no romantic interest. So when there's suddenly a full-on one, it's pretty jarring.

Given what just happened to the skeleton and this black knight's ungainliness, I wonder why Tiff isn't trying to shove him down the stairs.

Hm. At least this queen does have one advantage over Tiff: she does have real use of magic, and that's pretty significant. Tiff has nothing that suits her for her role.

Heh, is Vidalia a Baba Yaga?

Similar to Tiff's early scene, I feel kind of cheated about Magpie's background, like him devising clever solutions without us getting to know what any of them are. He even mentions one of the more difficult items specifically, but not how he got it.

The gender change is kind of sudden, and I'm hoping part of the point is that Magpie didn't notice it. He never reacted to the witch calling him by a female pronoun when they first met, and then we go through a time skip, and now he's calling himself by a female pronoun with no commentary on how he slipped into doing so. As to what it even means for him to change identity like that, I can speculate, but I'll wait for the story to tell me...

Curious that this knight is in love with someone he's never met. Provided, that is, that he isn't centuries old himself.

There's something I want to revisit at the end, but I'll mention one small part of it now. When Tiff holds Magpie's hand to see the sixth finger, the sensation of it is related from Magpie's perspective. The whole story up until Magpie's flashback had used Tiff's viewpoint. Since we had gone to Magpie's reminiscence after that, it's not unreasonable to shift, but it still feels a little odd. I'll see if you stay with her.

When Magpie at first declines Tiff's offer to sneak out, I don't understand what her endgame is. She doesn't have a plan at that point, so... is she expecting Tiff to kill her? Or at least have Tiff claim she did?

If Magpie's going to claim she's a little evil, I'll want some evidence to back that up. It's just kind of tossed out there, then left out in the cold.

Wait, let me backtrack. I also don't get why Magpie has continued to hang out with Asterion. She couldn't abandon him and shed her persona? Why'd she even get set up in the tower in the first place? Did Asterion carry her there before reviving her? That isn't clear. Though if he's capable of...

Okay, I need to backtrack again. When Magpie first found the grave, she wasn't strong enough to do the digging herself. Isn't she now, especially using magic? She could lose Asterion, but if he figures out what's up, he's just going to go find the real body and reanimate it, so Magpie would have to move it. If she can't do so herself, then it just cycles back to the same problem of having a confidant who might blab. Now she's also given Tiff a huge secret, so... why does she already trust Tiff with such dangerous knowledge? Either way, they're better off moving the body, since Asterion probably wasn't the only one who caught wind of its location.

And I'll state the obvious. Though Tiff seems an unlikely hero, she did what was needed, so fate made a good choice in having her find the sword.

Ah, getting back to an earlier point, at the conclusion of Magpie's flashback, you did that scene in her perspective, while the scene leading into it (and all of them to that point) had been in Tiff's. Then in the following scene, you go back to Tiff. I understand the necessity of using Magpie's for the flashback, but not for doing so in the scene after. We don't even learn anything vital from being there. Certainly nothing that couldn't be conveyed through Tiff's observing Magpie's reactions. The only thing that'd have to change is Tiff being oblivious to how the hand-holding affected Magpie. She might not understand what she sees, but she'd still have to see it.

And of course we have an immediate declaration of love. They've known each other for maybe an hour, and they're in love. Not just for the crowd's benefit, either. Deciding they like each other and want to hang out, possibly leading to a relationship later, maybe, but love already? Hell, were I one of the crowd below, this would even more convince me Magpie had bewitched Tiff.

And now we have the only big perspective break I've seen in the story. When Magpie's illusions fail, you're still in Tiff's perspective, but you're explicitly telling me things she can't see. That doesn't work. If she only halfway registered them, that's one thing, but it isn't what you're saying. Magpie's clothes changed, but did anything else? Was her appearance accurate all along except for that? Because the only basis for Tiff's interest in her so far has been a physical attraction, and that may have changed now.

Couple of little spots of close word repetition, but you can clean those up later.

Maybe I'm just dense, but I don't quite understand the ending. But here's my attempt. Tiff and Magpie lived happily ever after. Even so, I can't tell whether the grave is hers or the real queen's, so I'm not sure whether to take this as a time skip to after they're dead or not. It does seem weird that she's in an anonymous grave, because they had such a high-profile get-together that I have to think people would know who they were. I could see Magpie wanting that finger to be cut off and buried somewhere unmarked once she died. Plus Tiff would have been owed a great reward for her successful quest, though I could see her refusing it and going to live somewhere simple and quiet. The similarities at the end make me think this boy is going to be the next one to find the sword? Maybe the grave is figurative, and this boy and girl are Tiff and Magpie taking on new identities? That one's a stretch, but maybe. I'm just left with this last scene feeling overly vague, but then you ran out of space. And the previous scene had a really pat ending.

Anyway, this is a pleasant enough story of gender identity, but it suffered from not having enough space. There's too much I didn't understand. Was Magpie someone who felt feminine all along, and becoming a witch let her true self come out? Or just the process of becoming a witch turned her female, because only females can be witches? The comments about her maturing body felt unresolved, too, making me wonder if she's still physically male. That opens up the possibility that Vidalia had been rather cruel to her, unless she's okay with all of it. It all ends up being kind of glib, too, without much exploration of what it all means for her. And if the point is that none of it should matter, I can get that, but that doesn't mean it was an easy conclusion for her to arrive at.

The gender identity question is more gradual and apparent from Magpie's side, but not Tiff's, even though she was set up to be. She was described as boyish right off the bat, but aside from the obvious that women don't go gallivanting around as knights in this world, there's nothing else she does that could be considered non-feminine, so it feels like a missed opportunity. Not that she has to have her own gender identity issues. If she felt like she was masculine and it caused her anguish, It might feel like the story was far too much on point, in addition to that also being improbably convenient, and the whole treatment ends up being a little heavy-handed as it is. But it's worth at least a shallow exploration of this other side.

It was an interesting and fun read, though the shipping ended up being cliched and rushed.

One last thing, and this is only my opinion. There's nothing to say I'm right, but I have a suggestion on the story's structure. You start with Tiff's viewpoint, go up until she meets Magpie, give Magpie's backstory, finish out a short scene in Magpie's perspective for some reason, then go back to Tiff, until this ending scene in this boy's perspective, which I've already said I'm confused about who he is. But if you did this, I think it'd open up some more possibilities, and make it more reasonable to have that one present-day scene in Magpie's viewpoint, perhaps even intersperse a few more: Alternate their backstories. Star with Tiff finding the sword, then go over to Magpie as a young boy deciding he didn't fit in at home. Show me some of Tiff's early exploits after finding the sword, these little anecdotes I urged you to include before. Go back and forth between them. This accomplishes several things. First, if you do it well, it will be clear to the reader that these are two different characters, not some muddled kind of skipping around to flashbacks of the same character at different times. Second, the juxtaposition of their experiences as a boy and girl kind of heightens the story's theme. And third, it sets you up for having a perspective that can alternate, once we're in the present day and they meet each other. And only after that do we get to their actual meeting, with Magpie's reveal that she's a fake. Until then, her backstory could still plausibly be that of the real Necromancer Queen. Well, Vidalia does kind of spill the beans, but she doesn't have to. If Magpie is sent on this quest without getting all the information first, it'd be possible she becomes the Queen through taking on a passed-down mantle, the same as Tiff and her sword. It wouldn't be hard to rework that to make it blend in that way. You did the reveal of how she was accidentally reanimated not as a flashback, but during their conversation, so keep that the same, and the false identity still gets uncovered at the same time. And then the reader also realizes Magpie's backstory came before Tiff's, unless you do go back and tell of Tiff's early life, too. Again, just a suggestion, but I think it might be a better way to organize the story.
#89 · 6
· on 'Twas Brillig · >>Baal Bunny
Also, it's a bizarre coincidence when this is the second fic in the contest involving male-to-female transsexuals who are also royalty. That's an oddly specific trope to appear twice.

*cough* Bowsette *cough*
#90 ·
· on The 100% Accurate Legend of the Once and Future Hero of Light
Oh, and given Magpie's promise to Vidalia, it might be nice to know if she ever managed to go back and visit, or if she plans to now. Depending on how long Magpie was dead, Vidalia might not be around anymore, of course.
#91 · 4
· on The 100% Accurate Legend of the Once and Future Hero of Light
So I really should get around to making full reviews of all of these stories but I just wanted to pass along my reading of the end of this one to >>Pascoite.

The boy is the person that Tiff stole the fishing rod from early in the story to try and catch herself some food and he is the real Hero of Light of prophesy. He Missed The Call because he was being all cuddly and cute with a girl. Had he not skipped out on fishing that day to go and help this other girl with something he would have been the one to find the sword instead of Tiff.

The bones are the real Necromancer Queen that Magpie got her extra finger from. "Happy" to be burred and forgotten and just left alone.
#92 ·
· on #silicon
it took me this long to catch that the joke about XCOM refers to the current series, and not the games from the 90s. since this is set 20 years in the future, that's about an equal distance in time. and with readers arguing over the feasibility of using IRC here, I totally glossed over that one detail because it sounded like that conversation could happen today, with someone on IRC saying they weren't old enough to play those old DOS games.

that was weird. (just because I forgot the reboot existed)
#93 · 3
My art is in.
#94 · 1
Well, sadly, I was not able to find time to get art in. Regardless, I look forward to seeing what others come up with!
#95 · 1
· on Nerd for a Day · >>PinoyPony
It's a little difficult to leave comments, sometimes -- especially when you look up and most of the things that were running through your mind while reading have already been said.

Because, yeh, I'm a little bit sorry here, Author, but I agree with the comments above. The characters need some fleshing out, you need to ground everything so we understand what is going on beforehand. Streamline the conflict and establish it properly, give every character a proper voice, what is up with them calling the principal by name, etc etc. Y'all have heard this before.

That said, a bit of a hopeful note: I have no idea if you're a newbie with a hell of an ambition or an experienced author who had to rush the story a bit, Author, but I can definitely see a lot of potential in here. Not necessarily in the story, but in the way you tackle scenes, or structure, or storytelling in general.

Which is a really good thing, is what I mean here -- sure, this story isn't the best this round, that's sadly a reality. But, this is also a story where you can clearly see the authorial intent, muddled as it is due to the execution.There are flaws but the flaws are mostly about polishing, about maybe having more time to flesh it out or a little more practice when it comes to the most practical side of writing.

But, the conflict? That's interesting. Lana is a go-getter, this creates a little bit of friction among her friends, even though she's not doing anything particularly harmful to anybody. Lily is the gossip girl and her relationship with Lana is weird. Kelsey is just sorta there but wants Lana to chill... there's a dynamic to explore there.

The way the story is structured, too -- Author, you clearly understand how hooks work, and the art of not revealing information unless it makes sense diegetically to create some organic mystery for the reader. At least conceptually; execution-wise the way in which we don't really know what the characters are talking about until so late in the story is not exactly smooth, but the idea is solid. Plant an abstract concept, explore relationships and characters, and slowly reveal what exactly the characters are dealing with once the reader is invested in them. That's a solid idea, and I can see it working very well, but it needs polish in here.

That's not the only example! There are bits and pieces all around that feel as if the author is aware why they should go there but doesn't exactly know how to make them fit. The sneak peek into Lana's daily life could be an exploration of her character and her surroundings, and also a clear way to establish that she's the main character -- it's just that as it stays it doesn't do enough to justify its inclusion in the story. The idea of the debate club being the place where the characters belong and shit like that is indeed very animesque (as Pascoite put it) but there's potential if you emphasize the idea of there being a sense of belonging, of teamwork and so on.

Like, the building blocks are all there, and if you rewrite this to make it clearer, give the characters more of a voice, and give the conflict a much stronger spotlight, this could be a very nice slice of life/coming to age story. The moral is interesting, because it says something that not many stories say -- mainly, ambition is good, and aiming for the best is great, but relax and stop to smell the roses now and then or else you'll alienate others around you; life is about balance. Shit like that.

So yeah. As it stays, the story is flawed, but don't be discouraged, Author. You clearly have a knack for this, you just need to polish a little more and know your priorities.
#96 · 2
· on As I Lag Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death · >>Zaid Val'Roa
Artist, everything about this positively drips with cool. The title is great, the landscape of servers is menacing...

Yeah. 👍🏻
#97 · 2
· on Please, sit. · >>Anon Y Mous

#98 ·
· on The 100% Accurate Legend of the Once and Future Hero of Light
I had trouble getting into this story for two reasons. The first is that it's very high level, and I couldn't help but feel that I would have had more fun reading a version of this story that had many characters and scenes trimmed, with the ones that remained fleshed out a lot more. The second one is the bigger issue here though.

Now, I love the hilarity of Tiff's circumstances, and the subversions throughout the story were lots of fun, but there's something really, really important missing from all but one of your characters, and that's an emotional investment in what's going on.

You probably know who I'm talking about. Magpie, truly the only person in the bulk of this story who reacts emotionally to something. Her struggle with her identity and the desire to have her struggle be taken seriously are very well executed. I don't have a lot of experience in the subject, and yet you made me care about her. Nice! As has been pointed out, she's the strongest part of the story.

But let's talk about Tiff. Her story, while fun, doesn't seem to leave her too bothered. I can assume from the start that she's just an opportunist making use of a pretty sweet gig, but when things get dangerous, she just keeps going. Why? This is the perfect opportunity to have her freak out that she will die (or be found out). Or, maybe she walks in truly certain she can help because the last few weeks have gone to her head, but then she gets a rude awakening when she realizes how in over her head she truly is. Or something.

But she just goes. She fights for her life, and it's not going well, ho hum. How is her heart during all of this? Throughout the whole fight scene I'm picturing a blank stare on her face.

And what about Vidalia? She switches from telling Magpie to screw off to taking her under her wing with no indication that something changed. What does Vidalia get out of this arrangement?

I get worried when I see characters like this, because it seems like they only exist to love and support the protagonist. They only seem to make decisions to help Magpie, whether it's consciously, or by the author simply pushing them in that direction. And I mean, I know it's the author's job to guide your characters where they need to go, but it has to make sense in the story, otherwise I start remembering that someone is behind the curtain.

Oh, and given the talent on display, I know what I'm about to say is something you're aware of, but just in case someone reading this comments misunderstands me... I'm not asking to be told when characters are happy, angry, sad; and I'm not asking to be told their backstories and motivations up front. That sucks. But I was looking for more gestures, more bodily reactions, and more making character defining decisions. Show vs tell and all that. This story just seems to lack both show and tell in a few areas.

Now I'm gonna defend you a little bit on the structure, because I personally didn't find a problem. I mean, I don't have anything insightful to say about why I think it was fine, but I thought I'd at least let you know it didn't hurt my experience.

And I might as well agree with everyone on the resolution. It felt like a happy ending constructed for Magpie that everyone has sacrificed themselves to provide.

By the way I really liked the ending bit. I thought it wrapped up those two loose ends very nicely, and even gave a bit of emotion to a character! Even if it was a corpse, it was nice, and a good note to end on.

But that's all from me. Thanks for writing, Author! I'll be interested to see where this lands!
#99 · 1
· on I am · >>Zaid Val'Roa
It kinda looks as if Picasso (before his cubism phase) wanted to paint Munch's The Scream.
#100 · 1
· on Fake it 'til You Make it · >>Anon Y Mous
More or less like this.