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More than Meets the Eye · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
#1 · 9
·
Time was almost gone. The seconds ticked off the clock like the footsteps of doom.

"What's the range?" he called out to the nav com as his fingers danced over the keys.

"Two-thousand, eight-thousand," came the reply. "Can't pin it down any more. And no horseplay on this one, you're on your own."

Of course, he thought. But there was no time for bitterness. The keyboard rattled under his flying fingertips as the clock ticked on, shaving the seconds away, and his eyes roamed desperately over the white expanse of the viewport, which was filling up, but not fast enough...

There! That sparkle in the distance, a golden gleam! He had one clear shot. With the calm of one who has gambled everything he has, including his honor, even his life, he reached at the last possible second for the submit button, and clicked–

***

"What do you mean, I had five more minutes!?"
#2 · 1
· · >>Samey90
The prompt submission seems a little sparse
#3 · 1
·
I'll be in #mentors again, but it's a busy weekend, so not that much. The earlier you ask, the better.
#4 · 3
·
>>devas
Knowing our recent track record, we'll end up with "Ot"...
#5 · 2
·
“On Dangerous Ground, When the Citrus Came to Town. Goats. Goats Everywhere. Breadful Sugar and Ot. The Elephant in the Room! Bananas? What Bananas?”

“Taravana?”

“It’s Not As Bad As It Looks, I Swear!”

“Promises…”

“What is, love? Baby? Don’t hurt me--”

“That’s A Keeper. Hell is Other People, More than Meets the Eye.”

“A Winter Afternoon, A Fresh Start With a Twist. Why Are You Doing This?”

“The End is Never The End. Circular Frame of Reference. Discovery of a Lifetime, In Hope of Spring Resurgent!
Despite Your Disbelief, This Is Heaven. Take Me Home, Country Roads.”
#6 · 5
·
Hmmmm:

I've got the rewrites on my Discord vs. Daylight Saving Time fic that I want to do this weekend and a couple interviews I'd like to send out to potential inductees into the Royal Canterlot Library, but some of these prompts are just so fine, if one of them wins, I might have to throw all my plans to the wind and do this instead.

Hmmmm...

Mike
#7 · 2
·
I guess when it comes to this prompt, it has More than Meets the Eye.




Please don't hurt me. :twilightsmile:
#8 · 2
·
Transformers~~~


Man I hope I'm not the only one thinking this
#9 · 2
· · >>Baal Bunny
Hm. I can definitely work with this.

... And it would be good to enter a short-story round for the first time in ... ugh, eight months. Yeah, I'm in.
#10 · 2
· · >>vladspellbinder
>>horizon:

Me, too, despite everything. I've had an idea kicking around my head for weeks now that'll fit right in with this prompt, so, I mean, I have no choice but to take advantage of the opportunity and actually type it out, right? Isn't that how this whole thing works?

Also, whoever submitted "When the Citrus Came to Town," that is the single greatest prompt I've seen in the five hundred years I've been hanging around this place. I'll definitely be writing a story to go with it at some point in the near future.

Mike
#11 · 2
·
>>Baal Bunny
That prompt was mine. I don't tend to re-submit prompts so I've not problem coming forward on it. I thought of the normal "circus" variant but that's overdone and then because of the way my mind works the word "circus" matched to "citrus" when I thought of ways to re-use an old phrase.

I was planing on doing a story about main-land doctors looking into a new "wounder food" coming from "the island people" that was proving to be viable prevention/cure of a deadly illness they hadn't been able to treat before.

The reveal at the end was going to be that they were treating scurvy with lemons.

----

Sadly I'm going to have pass this round, some things have come up that is going to suck away all of my time in the next few weeks.
#12 · 3
·
... Oh boy, one of these already?
#13 · 2
· · >>AndrewRogue
I'm in! Hooray!

Let's all get in a big fight this round. Like old times.
#14 · 3
·
>>Miller Minus Fuck you, I'm not fighting anyone.
#15 · 6
·
I hauled this story through a power outage, so y'all better love it.
#16 · 3
·
I am in, after damn near pulling an all nighter. Now off to work in two hours!
#17 · 3
· · >>Cold in Gardez >>scifipony
Hooray, I've finished my editing pass! Time to submit!

*clicks*

...oh. The deadline was half an hour ago.

...

Well, I guess it's a good thing I submitted the unedited version when I finished it, then. :P
#18 · 2
· · >>scifipony
>>horizon

Always good to have a back-up plan.

I'm not in this round. Need a few weeks to finish up other projects. Can't wait to see what people have cooked up, though!
#19 · 3
·
>>Cold in Gardez
>>horizon
Yep. I submit my first draft, then every major revision up to the deadline. I actually had over an hour, this time, when I told myself, "That's it. Go to bed."
#20 ·
· on Into the Skies Again
Man, for some reason it feels intimidating to get the review chain rolling. Just in case everyone else feels that way too, let's bite the bullet — even though my thoughts on my reading aren't entirely sorted yet.

This was a good start to my reading! I'm pretty easy to please with sci-fi, but it caught and held my attention the whole way through, and there was very little that got my editor brain stirring. Great sign.

Honestly, the biggest critique I've got is that the ending was a letdown. Sometimes hanging a lampshade on your source just calls attention to the fact you're borrowing. This felt unique to me throughout, right up until the song made me realize I just hadn't been seeing your inspiration. Or, if that wasn't your intent … I'm honestly not certain what it adds. Getting people to compare your story to other works sharing the same themes rarely ends well; you get them to remember the compared thing instead of your own effort.

This packs quite a lot into its 4000 words. The plot keeps moving and kept me engaged. Though the characters felt a little thin in hindsight; I really wasn't absorbing a lot of their drama aside from Joren's character arc and the romance subplot. If you expand this in editing I would really drill into that, getting Nicky spectating into the others' lives the same way he does Joren and Leisha, giving every one of them some memorable moments that define them.

Speaking of, I did appreciate the romance on the whole, although the way it resolved felt wrong to me. Polyamory and intersex aren't weird in the same way. This seems to be making the implication that what Joren was missing when his lovers died was having sex organs of both genders to play with, and finding someone with both at once was enough to fill that gap, which is … not how people work. The fact of his previous relationship DOES imply that HE would be much more likely to be okay with Leisha's physical condition, but the story as currently written flips that around. If it was Leisha pushing him away because she didn't expect him to be okay with it, and Joren revealed his backstory to put HER at ease, that would have made sense.

I love the framing of the scent to draw readers up front into the story. Great hook.

I like how the Faye fixes the Mary Alsen's main girder. But honestly, the way I'm picturing it, I can't imagine it doing anything other than making the problem worse. The idea of a ship "belly flopping" (even after softening the LZ by blasting it with rockets for a while) just sounds like it's crashing into the thing it's trying to fix. You don't repair an automobile by crashing other cars in.

Nitpicks aside, this is definitely going to set a standard for the other stories to follow. Thank you!

Tier: Solid
#21 · 1
· on Unreported Clairvoyant Events · >>Baal Bunny >>AndrewRogue >>Cassius >>Rocket Lawn Chair
First impression: Very slice-of-lifey, but not in a bad way. The bridge scene is the sort of idyll that makes me not mind I'm reading about nothing in particular happening. (That's a solid compliment; sorry if it sounds weak.) Then I hit the second scene, and Eric's dementia feels rather belabored. Don't like it nearly as much. Hit the third scene, and start wondering what these all have in common. Finished the story without figuring it out. I think I'm starting to put it together after about two passes, but I also think I'm not quite there yet. This is probably playing its cards too close to its chest.

(One specific note on that: I didn't connect the body in the river to the Paul thing at first, because the line about Mica thinking it was Tracy made me think the dead body was a woman.)

Here's what I think I've puzzled together so far: None of the four sets of characters know each other at all. (Which was rather a red herring, especially because Molly's scene with the teens really feels like it wraps back around to the bridge.) The first three all are getting a glimpse into some alternate version of reality #4 where Molly gets different advice from the machine; which leads her to go to the back-alley abortion clinic; which leads to her hospitalization and the text message seen in #3 … and maybe also the police/emergency responders tearing down the highway?; which leads to … step 2, ???, step 3, profit Paul commits suicide. I REALLY can't follow the causality there. Did Molly also die despite no textual evidence, and he had nothing left to live for? Did losing his offspring to her unilateral decision drive him to the brink?

And that's the source of most of my frustration right now. Not only the ambiguity, but also the way that I had to do a lot of close reading to figure out what linked and what didn't. If some scenes call back to each other, they all should. I do really appreciate the way that #4 wraps back around to #1 with a sort of thematic link despite their near-complete dissociation — but that leaves the other two scenes feeling unmoored, or me feeling like I'm jumping at shadows to link them in ways you didn't intend.

I'm also oddly disappointed that you're telling four stories instead of five. One of the things I considered as I was trying to connect the scenes was that the things which didn't fit all were collectively telling a fifth story that you never explicitly addressed. Then that story folded directly into the characters of #4, and it made the story feel lopsided. This is basically Molly and Paul's story, but three of the four scenes give us one tiny piece of that puzzle each, and then you upend the box at the end and dump everything else out.

Author, you've got a workable core here, and the writing itself is polished to the level I expect out of the names in the guessing list. This isn't a bad story by any means — it just may end up lower on my slate because the quality of the competition this round is high. That said, this could definitely benefit from some structural editing, tinkering with the big picture to bring some balance to the issues above and to be a little less coy about the core situation. Thanks for writing!

Tier: Almost There
#22 · 3
· on Three-Card Shuffle · >>horizon
I enjoyed this story:

Until about halfway through, the third or fourth time it pulled the rug out from under me. I stopped caring about what was happening because I realized everything was only going to be revealed to be another lie within a handful of paragraphs. And when I realized that Regina had been lying to me, the reader, from the very first sentence--she knows Roulette isn't a detective, but she still calls him one in the narrative--I felt a little stab of betrayal.

A way to fix that problem would be to start the story one line earlier by having Roulette introduce himself as Detective Gil Grissom of the Las Vegas Police Department or something. You could also add more about con games at the beginning. Maybe have Roulette ask Regina what a "cold reading" is since it would give you a chance to explain it to people like me who don't know and it would let Regina wonder what kind of Las Vegas cop doesn't know what a cold reading is...

The larger problem of all those rug pulls might be helped if I was more grounded in things. Let me know as early as possible that we're in Las Vegas, for instance--another reason having Roulette introduce himself as a detective at the beginning would be helpful. And we only hear about the Heat's headquarters being bombed when the Red Queen mentions it in passing after knocking Roulette out. That would've been helpful to have known earlier in the story.

In short, I'd recommend making the story longer as well as making sure that we readers get the necessary information at the time we need it. It's a lovely world, some fun characters, and an interesting situation, but I found the way it doesn't give me a chance to get my footing after each reveal to be a little off-putting.

Mike
#23 ·
· on Temporal Entanglement · >>horizon
Quick thoughts. I might revisit this when I am more awake.

The narrative arc here is kind of unclear. There is a definite series of events, but they don't actually add up to a cohesive story. Consider our viewpoint character, for example. What is he actually doing here? What does he want? What purpose does he serve in the story? He is very much a passive observer (yes, he intervenes in Sakura's fight, but that is more a moment of circumstance) to the whole series of events.

The character who actually does things, have drive, has a conflict, etc is Sakura. Everything in the story happens because of her. So why isn't the story from her perspective?

Introducing the idea that history is immutable puts the story in a weird place, because it kinda demolishes the only tension you had in the story. Was Sakura going to change history? Was the weird guy (whose story we never actually get) going to do it? If the reality of the matter is that history is indeed immutable then the answer is no and you have no narrative tension unless you really want to lean on the idea that history can sorta self-correct around the actually involved people dying (ala the Bell Riots episode of DS9). In which case, unless your story is explicitly about how that works out, it becomes a bit of a pointless distinction.

Ultimately, what this feels like is the first half of the first episode of a new show. We've got the hook setup for the big commercial break, then we're going to come back and really have the plot kick in.
#24 ·
· on A Story of Water and Blood
Very nice:

The only suggestion I can make would be to strengthen the reasons why Teague can't go. Maybe open the story during one of the parties he's put together. Introduce us to him at a moment of triumph and have people remark on how much they're looking forward to the things he'll do with House Curran once he takes over. He can tell them that he doesn't really understand how to administer an estate and they can tell him he can hire people for that, but make us see that he has a future he's kind of looking for forward to. Then the letter arrives, and everything changes.

Mike
#25 · 1
· on A Christmas Carl · >>horizon >>Baal Bunny
So first of all, kudos for having the longest sentence I've ever seen in the Writeoff and possibly my entire life? I haven't been keeping track until now.

Even after his father drove the Renault off the Balboa Island ferry the week after Carl graduated from high school—the car was empty when the Harbor Patrol fished it out, and a summer-long search of Newport Bay by both amateurs and professionals never turned up a body—and even after his mother sold their former beach bungalow that fall—she gave Carl half the million dollars she got for the place and took off the next day with nothing but a suitcase full of two-inch-tall bottles of vodka in a ten-year-old red Toyota pickup truck for Taos, New Mexico—Carl kept the tradition alive.


Short-term-memory strain aside, this sentence also has a crazy amount of plot development in it. More words and more periods would go a long way.

Now I have to admit, the headfake at the midway point completely took me out of the story. And it's too bad because the first half really had me going there. The little details about this boy and his family fleshed them out so well – especially the father's skill at turning every inconvenience into a secret plot by the 1%'ers to keep him down. I liked these people a lot; they felt very authentic.

But then the shapeshifting. There are definitely ways to sneak in a genre-twist in a story, but there was nothing sneaky about it here. And the fact that the first half was written so well leaves me confused why the tone and genre took a 90° turn when going a hundred. I'm going to chalk it up to a talented author that just wanted to have a little fun. At the end of the day, there's nothing wrong with that.

Thanks for writing! Best of luck to you.
#26 ·
· on Temporal Entanglement
To add to AR's review, another thing that saps the tension out of the story is that there is very little to keep us guessing—while at the same time, it's written in such a way that it clearly wants us to be guessing.

But you named it Temporal Entanglement. If it walks like a time-traveller, talks like a time-traveller, and saves somebody's life like a time-traveller, well...

I mean, it makes sense that our protagonist isn't catching on at all, because he's not the one reading fiction, but that disconnect between what he knows and what I know kills the tension. Even before I read the first word of your story I'm thinking time travel, paradoxes, that sort of thing, and yet here's this guy constantly asking whaaat could be going ooonn?

There were also parts of the plot that felt contrived. One being his carrying the coffee during an intense chase, and the other, much larger one being when he decides that he wants to ask out this girl, despite that being so unlike him. You put a lamp shade on both of them, but unfortunately that didn't do it from me. When a character says it's so strange that they're moving exactly to where the plot needs them to be, that's an issue.

If you want my advice, ditch the coffee, and ditch all the lampshading regarding his asking Sakura out. Have him focus more on the fact that she saved his life (and that the thing she said about "not being the one to save him" was super, super weird). And while you're at it have a look-see to see if there are other contrivances like that.

But apart from all that, it's still a solid entry – I like stories about someone unremarkable doing remarkable things, and it was interesting to see that from the perspective of someone who hasn't done anything remarkable yet.

Thanks for writing and entering, family.
#27 ·
· on A Story of Water and Blood
This story is quite solid. I can't say I got very emotionally invested in it, unfortunately, but from a technical standpoint it's hard to find a lot of issues. It just never grabbed me or shocked me in any way. It was a pleasant ride, with some excellent world-building.

I can't help thinking that everything that comes after this story is going to be much more interesting than what I just read. For the most part the story acts as if what is going to happen is a foregone conclusion; but then the Queen suggests that somebody can take Uilliam's place, and the actual conclusion becomes a foregone conclusion. But Teague shoving a finger in his dad's face, taking the plunge into a strange and foreign world, and all of the dominoes that would fall from his actions? I want to read that, man.

I'm glad I read this, because I've seen a lot of minifics that have attempted to do epic fantasy, and my response has always been, Why is nobody doing this in the short story rounds?! And there you have it; the author has time to build the world, and to carry a conflict that's completely predicated on that world they just built.

Good writing and thanks for luck!

P.S., before I go, I was not into the name Uilliam. Teague is great. I have no idea how to pronounce Uilliam.
#28 · 1
· on Antoine's Armory · >>Rao >>Miller Minus
Hey, author. I don’t know if other people on this site will like this story as much as I did. (Mostly because I’m a sucker for action and horses.)

I’m just going to say my heart was racing the entire time I read this.

I was rooting for Dorothy, and was laughing when Antoine returned home to find her eating out of the plastic Tupperware.

Loved it! 10/10 machetes.
#29 · 1
· on Unreported Clairvoyant Events · >>Rocket Lawn Chair
I'll just echo >>horizon:

Pretty much from start to finish here. The writing's just plain lovely--so many sweet, crunchy verbs!--but I need another section or three containing more puzzle pieces that I can try fitting together.

Mike
#30 · 1
· on Temporal Entanglement · >>Baal Bunny
You get this feeling sometimes that you're being watched. You know... At the back of your mind...


First of all, author, the way your opening is phrased, it makes it sound like you're telling the story in second person. Or at least that the audience stand-in is a major character in your first-person narrative, rather than just being a rhetorical device. This is definitely worth walking back. Even something like "Do you get the feeling sometimes that you're being watched?" would be an improvement over the second-person declarative — but since "you" vanishes after the first paragraph, I'd edit far more aggressively.

Beyond that, I'm afraid that this doesn't quite feel to me like it gels yet. I'd like to second >>AndrewRogue's diagnosis, if not necessarily the cure; he makes a very good point about the lack of agency and the way that "immutable history" deflates the tension. But there's another problem I just realized that's been gnawing at me for a while: I think that the immutability thing makes the plot not work based on its own premise.

Namely, if the future people with time travel believe that history cannot be changed — then why would Hoodie Man have tried pushing the narrator into a train in the first place?

How would they have come up with that belief, anyhow, if time travellers are demonstrably able to interact with their environment? I mean, all it takes is one person trying to assassinate Hitler in order to make people realize that the past is mutable. And, on a smaller scale, the mere fact that the narrator can see Sakura should be making her worry about alteration.

Is there something else going on here — such as, people can demonstrably interact with the past, but some time travelers mysteriously never come back and everyone assumes it's because they tried to change things and broke the timestream? It's probably worth expanding on that idea so that we know what Sakura is actually worried about. (And why Hoodie isn't worried — is he a fanatic willing to sacrifice himself?)

That could also sharpen her motivations and guide her actions — it seems to me like she might have reacted on instinct to save her hero's life, and then start flipping out when she realized she's in danger from the alteration problem. Right now I'm not sure I buy her worries; she seems to be far too dense about the demonstrable fact that she has had an impact. (So if the whole "can't change the past" thing is based on some more abstract idea of "can't" — i.e. it's possible but forbidden — that really should be explained at greater length so they're confronting the problem as it actually exists.)

The other thing I'd do here, author, is keep writing past the current end. It doesn't really seem to complete so much as just stop. While that gives you plenty of potential to make it the first part of a longer work, I can only judge it based on its presentation here as a complete and self-contained story.

I know that the Writeoffs are a pretty formidable challenge — 72 hours to produce something from scratch? You can certainly be proud that you've submitted this. However, I hope you keep polishing it now that the deadline's off. Thanks for writing!

Tier: Keep Developing
#31 · 1
· on Unreported Clairvoyant Events · >>Cassius >>Rocket Lawn Chair
Very solid little vignettes that remind me I should actually work on developing prose that is not garbage tier. The metanarrative left me a little cold though primarily because I don't really have any investment in it. Initially I thought the nature of the visions was one of those "this is how things are going to turn out in the end" sort of things, happy days ending in tragedy, grim begetting grim, etc.

I dunno. Especially with Molly's proper story only appearing at the end, there just isn't a lot to grip onto there. Especially given most of the premonitions don't actually seem to have to do with, but rather Paul, which kinda further disconnects us from her section. Ultimately I guess I'm just not really sure what the metanarrative is attempting to do outside of exist. It is of course possible I am interpreting elements incorrectly, but I definitely ended up with a similar interpretation to >>horizon (though I don't think it is an alternate reality - I'm pretty sure Molly goes on to die here).

I will say, the positioning of time is also a bit problematic? Like, given the apparent timeframe and location, I'm a little... weirded out by her dying to a back-alley abortion? I mean, not to say it isn't impossible, but it just seems like an odd choice given fairly modern + California.

I dunno. There's definitely good stuff here, but I think, taken as a whole, the story just doesn't manage to narratively or thematically hang.
#32 · 2
· on Unreported Clairvoyant Events · >>Rocket Lawn Chair
Author, you're playing a dangerous game, which is you're betting very heavily on the reader paying attention to the significance of the the title for the reader to understand the meat of the ENTIRE story. This is a bad gamble to take. I immediately understood the significance of the events by the setup in the first scene, because I realized that I didn't at first know what was going on, took a second to think about it, and recalled the title. The problem with this approach, is that even though I understood the story, is that you'll get readers like >>horizon who will instead naturally try to take a closer reading at the narrative to figure out what is going on, get frustrated because you've provided really no indication of what is going on in the story proper, and then get frustrated with the lack of answers within the story itself.

I'm going to spoil what is going on now, because it's a pretty clever idea.



Through a series of unrelated vignettes, the story of Paul and Molly is told via "Unreported Clairvoyant Events" wherein the perspective character has a brief vision of the future. All the characters are unified by a common thread being at a different stage of a romantic relationship. Mica and Tracy are young, idealistic lovers, Eric is a man who hates his wife Abbey (who may be dead and he is just experiencing hallucinations due to habit?), Francine is fleeing an abusive relationship with Troy, and Molly is pregnant with Paul, who is distant and unsupportive. Stories 1-3 indirectly provide hints as to what goes on with Molly, and Story 4 fills in the rest of the details and Molly's vision loops in back to Mica and Tracy.



I suspect this is intended to be a metaphor, but it's hard to dig out what exactly is intended here. The details are not concrete enough to draw a definite conclusion about the overall meaning I'm supposed to pull from these series of events. I tend to subscribe to the idea that each character sees something specific to them that it broadly relates to them in the context of the situation that they find themselves in, although how this is tied together is not exactly clear or apparent.

Illustrated, I think this means that Molly is looking back on her relationship with Paul, and as a result, sees the idyllic relationship of Mica and Tracey, Eric sees Paul's suicide in the news, which ties back into his shitty living situation, Francine sees a text from Paul's friend telling him to come home, when she is on the run. It's hard for me to say definitely how Mica seeing the body in the river relates, but I think it could be more broadly interpreted to be representative of his fear that the relationship will end, death of innocence, or some other shit, who knows.

I do think that the fact that every story is about a couple is a significant detail that the author meaningfully included, but it's too hard to figure out what to draw from that fact. There's too many possible answers. Are we talking about love just in a oblique sense? Is this sort of of effort to describe the life cycle of a relationship?

The nitpicks that >>horizon and >>AndrewRogue bring up were problems that I had in my initial reading as well. Namely, horizon's confusion of the identity of the dead body being Paul (male) because Mica thought it was Tracey, and also because the detail is BURIED in Eric's section, and Andrew's comment about the back-alley abortion. When things are happening is of particular confusion, because the scenes in question have a much different feel to them as to when they are occurring temporally, so much so that Francine's vision actually seems more like a vision into the pass than the future. I'm not sure if the author changed the time of the setting halfway through, but Mica and Tracey's (along with Molly's) stories seem very late 70s, early 80s in tone and execution, whereas the other vignettes are a bit more modern.

In particular to Andrew's commentary about a back-alley abortion, it really really doesn't work if we are at all to infer that this is a modern setting consistent across all timelines. If you look too deeply to try and figure out when everything occurs in this story, it really starts to fall apart, especially if you're interpreting the events of the story to be occurring at the same time of 2012, because the "Unreported Clairvoyant Events" are jumping like, maybe a week into the future, which is pretty underwhelming to say the least.

I'm going to side with >>AndrewRogue again in that the story is a neat way of indirect story-telling, but it's very difficult to put any meat on the bones of the story when it comes to garnering some significance to the story's events. I've hypothesized about what you might have meant, but there's not enough to go on to be certain what the reader is supposed to draw from the story proper other than the execution of the story-within-a-story meta gimmick.

The prose is good though. It's unfortunate that your best vignette is the first one, however, as it sets the expectations much higher for the rest of the story. I found myself a bit disappointed by the following vignettes just because you started on such a high point.

In another sense, I think it was a mistake from a dramatic standpoint to give away what the eventual result of Molly and Paul's "story" so early into the narrative proper. If you wanted the audience to be invested in the characters themselves, you would have to structure the flash forward in such a manner that it would give them a reason to care. Knowing that a character is doomed devalues audience investment because they know that character is going to die. Additionally, it would have benefited you to select parts of Molly and Paul's relationship that shows at least what made their relationship work if we are to care about their subsequent relationship drama. Indeed, this would have been thematically appropriate as well because it would give a tie in for Tracey and Mica's relationship, and give a better tie into my "Life Cycle of a Relationship" theory of how the vignettes relate to the Unreported Clairvoyant Events.

But anyways, this was my favorite entry so I guess I'll just die.
#33 · 3
· on Unreported Clairvoyant Events · >>Cassius
Oh, right before I forget again. In a story like this where you know people are going to be looking for connections, you should be really careful to strongly differentiate names. I had to do a doublecheck a time or two with Troy and Tracy, and Molly and Mica aren't particularly great either.
#34 · 3
· on Antoine's Armory · >>Miller Minus
Top of my slate so far:

I've really got no suggestions. One line near the end--"The house had been on fire"--struck me as a little inelegant because I have a mild allergy to using unadorned forms of the verb "to be" when there are so many other verbs in the language--maybe "Part of the house had burned" instead?--but this is just plain terrific from top to bottom.

Mike
#35 · 1
· on Unreported Clairvoyant Events
>>AndrewRogue

I'd like to echo this criticism and also advise that you avoid gender ambiguous names like "Mica" because it only creates more confusion as to who is who within the story.
#36 · 1
· on Antoine's Armory · >>Miller Minus
Well, I liked it. I read a lot of these as a kid. Good action thriller and well set up in the classic "if you write 'there's a rifle on the wall' in the story someone in the story better use it" way. Your foreshadowing went off like a string of fire crackers.

One thing I didn't quite get was the red button, tho. That and the abrupt ending (which is still satisfying) probably where Dorothy's narrative ran into the submit deadline. (I presume you wrote the ending first as a contingency so you could pull this off as well as you did.) In any case, I would have been happy to see a bit more.

Biggest plus: I shouldn't have been able to believe an untrained person could have done as well as she did, but you pulled it off.

Biggest strike: I don't quite see these guys as being as professional as they seemed to think they were. Beds and gypsum wallboard make poor shields. Maybe tweak Andy's thoughts on the way home to clarify? Or I might of missed something...

Take this all as what one reader got on a single read. Fun read.
#37 · 1
· on Three-Card Shuffle · >>Rao >>horizon
I like this story. Doing a mystery with supermen while treating them and tarot with rules that qualify this as SF is bold.And for the most part, you carried it off. You set the rules and you kept to them, so the tarot and the powers seemed part of the accepted physics, etc. I also admire the narrative style. To say it worked well, is an understatement. The foreshadowing, for the most part was spot-on, something in first paragraphs paying off precisely before the epilogue. Nice.

The gender of the main character isn't revealed until the end. I will agree it is meaningless in this story. Had you played with the elocution, you could have gotten away with never stating it. But when it showed up, BAM! I dropped out of the story and tried to figure out if I missed something. Maybe I did.

The story has the hallmarks of not having enough time fill in missing parts. This especially occurred for me with the relationship between the supers' groups and their employers. I felt that what I needed to know to fully understand the denouement was incomplete. I will admit, that didn't ruin my enjoyment of the story, just that I feel it could much much tighter.

That said, make it tighter and try to sell it. It has to be bullet-proof logically and following its own internal rules, but the idea and execution should win over readers after some more polishing.
#38 · 1
· on Antoine's Armory · >>Miller Minus
The beginning of this story sparkled with its intriguing setup of Dorothy mentally listing all of the weapons in the house, but letting us know that she's unsure what purpose they serve. It also gives us some good characterization, in how she presents herself as unappreciated and bored. I mostly had fun reading this story, and I found it especially satisfying that nearly each weapon setup had a payoff. It made me think of what Home Alone might look like if Kevin's family had hidden lethal weaponry around the house, which was kind of fun on its own.

I began to tune out a bit once the action kicked in, and that's probably more on me for not being much of an action junkie. What kind of dragged it down was how samey some of the scenes began to feel. Once you get a rhythm, we get very slight variations on Dorothy hiding in a new location, overhearing a conversation, grabbing a new weapon, then using it. I did end up needing to read back through the middle section to get a more distinct picture of what was going on, and it ended up being better the second time around. I also wish the button had a better payoff, especially since you give it special attention in the beginning.

There were a few lines that really stuck out to me:

"The fingers of her right hand had tiny little cuts, inside of which sparkled pieces of glass, as if they had sprouted from her bones.

Antoine had once joked that she was made of glass. Delicate Dorothy, the glass sculpture, always catching the light just right."


I just want to kiss them.

That's all I've got. Thanks for writing!
#39 · 2
· on Into the Skies Again
A big question to ask is "why are we with the viewpoint character?" This is especially important in first person narrations because you are so deep with them that the entire story ends up filtered through them. The problem here is I find myself asking "why are we with Nicky?"

He doesn't really change or learn anything. He isn't involved emotionally more than "Joren is my friend." He is very much an observer to everything going on and a very passive observer at that. The fact that you are confined to his view actually kind of hurts things since I legitimately forgot characters besides Leisha, Joren, and Nicky existed because their view is so filtered through him. Which I think is to the detriment of the story since the point, broadly speaking, seems to be about friends coming together to do this.

I dunno. I had trouble with this one. There is definitely some very good writing here (though I think you could stand to cut a fair amount - you just have a lot of what I would consider extraneous sentences or descriptive elements that go just a couple words too far, etc), but I ended up in kind of the opposite place of Horizon with my mind wandering as I read. There just... aren't really appreciable stakes (I get HOW these could be appreciable stakes but again, we are in the view of a character who I think is fine if this fails), there isn't really any dramatic tension (challenges are basically presented and resolved in the same space), etc.

Like, don't get me wrong. There is some good writing here and the ideas are all solid. I just think the positioning of the story is off and that's a problem.

The Liesha/Joren thing is (time for everybody's favorite word) problematic. At a general level because if you manage to skim over the one sentence, you totally miss that thing. At the other level because there are just kinda generally a lot of problems with the way you went about that insofar as the wide range of human sexual experience goes. Basically, either of them being what they are does not really indicate they will be fine with the other. There's nothing with that being the case, but the fact that you kinda create a sort of parallelism with something that definitely is not parallel is no good, if that makes sense.
#40 ·
· on Into the Skies Again
One of the more annoying tropes in sci-fi and fantasy is strange naming conventions, and I'm glad we've largely avoided that here. Joren's a bit odd, but everyone else is pretty normal so his oddness helps him stick out rather than blend into a sea of nonsense nomenclature. Of course my bar for "strange names" has been significantly altered since working at a school again, so maybe that's to blame, too.

Anyway! I dig the descriptions of the planet. I imagine like a moist, half-birthed Earth-Venus hybrid and it totally makes the ardor of the mission all the more pressing. I also dig the belly-flop blacksmith method of ship repair, however ridiculous it may be. I get that the Faye is smaller than the Alsen because of which is strapped to the other during the take-off, but maybe some more idea of the size disparity would help the scene be a little more engaging as a mental image.

Now, for the elephant in the room regarding the romance: I agree with Horizon and Andrew that it's drawing a parallel when the situations aren't quite the same, but I just giving the reveals between the two more room to breathe and for them to emote and react for more than two lines would help weave the lines together better.

All told, a solid sci-fi story to kick things off, and the android-based rescue service adds just a splash of not-quite-dystopian flavor to the whole mix.
#41 · 1
· on Antoine's Armory · >>horizon >>Miller Minus
This was fine. It was fine. Fine, fine, fine. That's just kind of how I walked away from it feeling. I was not amazingly blown away, but the story unquestionable walked in, did what it set it to do, and left. It's a good thing. I'm a little less on action set-pieces like this for literature (I want my awesome action to be animated) so it kinda washed off me, but there is no question that it was solid.

The bits that stood out negatively were the staircase (that just seemed a little too "fantasy" for a "grounded" thing like you were doing - those words being used loosely obviously) and the unclear ending on what happened with the smoking man. Like, I assume it involved the second grenade, but I read that scene a couple times and have no idea what actually happens there.

Sorry I don't actually have a lot to say on this one. It accomplishes what it set out to do effectively. I guess it is worth noting that due to the story being rather brisk, Dorothy goes from somewhat simpering to very snarky in a very fast space. It is not wholly unreasonable, but you might want to tone down the earlier "Oh save me Antoine!" if you want to end at that snarkier spot.
#42 ·
· on A Christmas Carl
The word I'd use here, author:

Is "goofy," I guess. I like goofy stories, but I'd also like to know that it's a screwball fantasy from the beginning. Maybe Carl's mother's reaction to Carl's father's conspiracy theories can be that it's elves keeping them down, not the wealthy? A little something to prepare us more for the big turn the story takes. And I almost want Santa to bring Carl's father back into it at the end by saying that he chose Carl because his father, still roaming around the multiverse somewhere, recommended him. Because the more loose ends you can tie up in a story like this, the better.

Mike
#43 ·
· on Unreported Clairvoyant Events · >>Rocket Lawn Chair
I must first state that this piece is very competently written. Moody. In the extreme. Excruciatingly so. It evokes a sense of dark melancholy from the first paragraph to the last. It most certainly hits the theme of more than meets the eye.

Unfortunately, I am not a fan of what in my youth we referred to an "experimental" fiction. While narratively well done, I cannot discern a story or plot here, or how all the moving parts mesh—and I am not saying that's bad, merely that I am the wrong audience.

I have abstained from voting on this one as it would be unfair if I did.
#44 · 2
· on A Christmas Carl · >>horizon
So I don’t forget later: this story is actually definitively two paragraphs too long. The burrito line was a significantly better ending with the flow you had.
#45 ·
· on Into the Skies Again
I think I would've enjoyed this more:

If it wasn't such a pastiche of Robert A Heinlein. 'Cause I like the bones of the story, author, but Heinlein's writing has always made my skin crawl.

His characters, like those here, never advance much beyond what the late SF critic Baird Searles called "a snappy name and a job description," his attempts to incorporate alternate sexuality into his stories were as unconvincing as the attempt here, and the dialogue here reminds me of the wooden phrases that dropped heavily from the lips of Heinlein's characters: I mean, has anyone ever in real life called anyone "old fella" or "bosom chum" or said "However, there’s a deeper reason I haven’t been forthcoming"?

So sorry, but this one just pushes all the bad buttons in my brain...

Mike
#46 ·
· on A Christmas Carl · >>AndrewRogue >>Baal Bunny
You know, for all that various authors here keep pestering Roger for the ability to post images, the sort of use I would be tempted to put them to here is simply the Ron Burgundy "That escalated quickly" meme.

Count me among those thrown off the ride by the screaming left turn, author. To be clear, that step too far wasn't the Santa reveal; you were doing a good enough job of building up Carl's life in the front half that the story's slide into absurdity felt slightly disappointing by comparison, but I was willing to follow the old science-fiction adage of "spot the author one large break from reality and see what they do with it". Santa Claus being Doohan was that one, and then the whole war with the Ice Queen thing that came out of nowhere was a second. It didn't have the benefit of being foreshadowed from the beginning that the Doohan thing did, either. It just left me feeling unmoored.

Congratulations -- as >>Miller Minus notes -- on breaking the 100-word sentence barrier, though! (My own record is 188 plus nine footnotes, in the first section of This Is Not An Adventure Clyde Adventure. This should not be taken as a challenge -- although if you do, let's compare notes.) That sentence didn't particularly bug me, but if it's distracting some readers it still might be worth massaging.

... honestly, even the Ice Princess thing wouldn't have been a bridge too far, except that it crowded out all of the other things you could have been developing there. Vixen's introduction was set up to start settling the reader into the idea fairly gently; the Ice Princess could have been an excellent twist once we reoriented ourselves. It was just the pile-on effect of too many twists at once. Even if it's only a few sentences, let us ask a question or two along with Carl, and give us some signals that you're not done escalating -- make the Ice Princess a known problem that they warn him about just in time for her to show up.

Re the ending, I don't entirely agree with >>AndrewRogue. The burrito line is a punchier ending, but it feels like it's laying the footwork for a second chapter or a sequel. What you've got now feels like it has a little more closure, but not enough to feel satisfying -- it calls back to your earlier themes to tie a bow around the story, but it doesn't feel to me like it resolves any of the questions the second half of the story introduces. (It closes those arcs, kind of? But I reached it still feeling off balance, and the story ended before I ever recovered. I think that's why the ending feels insufficient.)

You know, I just had a thought: a simple way to frame the Ice Princess thing so that it's not swinging in so hard from left field is to simply have it be one of Carl's father's conspiracy theories. Maybe not even related to Santa Claus! Just something that's been at least name-dropped so that we have context for it when she shows up. I can picture the dialogue in my head now as Carl tries to argue with her about the Rosicrucians, or something, making her angrier and angrier as he renders her moment of triumph more and more embarrassingly anticlimactic.

Thanks for writing!

Tier: Keep Developing
#47 · 1
· on Antoine's Armory · >>Miller Minus
It feels to me like >>AndrewRogue and I often have different takes on the stories we read -- we seem to look for different experiences from our fiction, maybe? -- but here, I'm 100% on board with his comments. This is a story whose primary fault is that it dangled a lot of hooks which failed to set. Sorry, author, that your fish aren't biting.

Part of that, though -- and possibly worth discussing -- is why it didn't feel compelling. After all, "will the protagonist survive?" should be pretty low-hanging fruit.

I think, for me, part of why that didn't really gel was that there's a strong video-game effect at play here, if I can coin a phrase. Dorothy, the text tells us, is a normal suburban housewife. Dorothy, the text shows us, is sufficiently covered in Protagonist Armor to survive being outnumbered by a houseful of professional assassins. There are some lampshades hung that it's luck rather than skill -- her handling of the gun, for instance -- but then a few scenes later she Molotovs a killer in the face. And a few of the coincidences which keep her alive felt more like author fiat than luck to me: I mean, she survives because there's a button which turns off the stairs? I'm not really buying the chokepoints keeping them attacking her one at a time. I'm not sure why they aren't flinging Molotovs of their own upstairs and burning the house down, if they're simply there to kill Antoine and any witnesses. I'm not sure why the smoker grabs the grenade rolling out from under the bed, rather than sprinting out into the hallway and leaving Dorothy to die in her own blast. When I feel like the deck is stacked toward the protagonist, I'm not going to get caught up in wondering whether they can make it.

I'd like to see more of a defined character arc for Dorothy, too, but I think Andrew covered that.

Reagrdless, thanks for writing!

Tier: Almost There
#48 ·
· on Into the Skies Again
I hate:

Leaving entirely negative comments, so lemme give a positive suggestion here, author, for a way to pull Nicky more into the story and maybe make the romance work. Maybe the narration could make it clear in the first half of the story that Nicky's also in love with Joren. Then when he tells Leisha that she should tell Joren how she feels, she can point it right back at him. Then at the end when we find out what Joren wants, the threesome's all set.

Oh, and the song is by Stan Rogers, not Steven Rogers.
#49 ·
· on A Story of Water and Blood
The resolution is clear as day from the onset, but that did nothing to take away from enjoying the journey towards it. I think the most striking thing is how clear yet low-key the fantasy world building is. There are clues about the world everywhere, but nobody ever reads like their expositing for the sake of the reader, even when the conversation is explicitly the "what's your home like" sort. I think that level of prose control is rare and under appreciated in basically any medium, so congratulations on every front.

P.S. - I read Uilliam as "Oo-illiam," though it does seem unnecessarily complicated of a name. I'm guessing there's some history with the name or the letters I don't know, though. Single-u instead of double-u because he's a bit one-track, maybe? Wakarimasen.
#50 ·
·
I scribbled something on a piece of paper. Instead of burning it, I submitted it here.
#51 ·
· on Antoine's Armory
This comment section is such a perfect downward trend of people liking this story less and less that I almost want to throw an unwarranted shitfit just to keep it going.

But for now, just pretend that this comment is between RLC and Andrew, because that's about where I fit in. I'd say that the beginning and ending of this story did a lot for me, but that the middle lost me something fierce. The issues for me were that, A) the baddies are given so little to describe them (the smoker, the woman, and the college student), that I can barely see them, and B) the only character who I can really picture and get a feel for is Rob, but even then it's the bare minimum. His description, and the rather boring motive of "wanting that bitch dead". It isn't often you get a compelling skirmish scene with a protagonist taking down several faceless henchmen. Even if they are there, there should at least be one guy who I know a lot more about, and the lack of intent behind Rob's character makes it fall flat a little, even if I liked the set pieces.

Because I still thought the action was good, but the prose was falling apart since Dorothy appeared to be battling skeletons + One Angry Man. Maybe have her sneak a peek at them when they arrive, before the action starts, for starters. You were right to avoid them all dropping each other's names one-by-one, but there needs to be more. Perhaps some unique voices that identify them immediately in the dialogue so that the tagging can be trimmed, assuming you can pull that off without sounding racist.

Ahem.

Thanks for writing, you!
#52 ·
· on Unreported Clairvoyant Events · >>Rao >>Rocket Lawn Chair
I do not have much to say about this one. The writing is particularly solid – never overbearing and never dwelling on anything too long – and the characters themselves were vibrant. I personally didn't have any trouble with their names, though I will admit that I came into this story knowing that it's one that demands attention, so I was watching very close to see if I could catch something everyone else didn't.

Unfortunately I am also pretty adrift. My interpretation lines up well with Cass's, for the record, but I'm still on the "Why is this story being told?" side of things. What's essentially been done, as I see it, is that a perfectly serviceable story in Molly and Paul's mid-shatter relationship is being obscured by the perspectives of these clairvoyants, who are focused on their own stories instead. But the visions don't really affect them, so what was the authorial motive here?

Well, I should take that back. All of our clairvoyants were not affected, with the exception of Francine, who as I see it was killed by hers. If this had happened to each of them, I might have seen a story about the ramifications that a breaking relationship can have on other people, but since it's just her I find it to be a little distracting. If it's not a clue to the overall mystery, I recommend taking it out. Unless it was meant to be a brief PSA on the dangers of distracted driving; in that case you should print that part out on a sheet of paper and burn it.

But this was still the most engaging story of the lot, for me. So have the top of my slate, you dirty beast.

(long live subtlety)
#53 · 1
· on Three-Card Shuffle · >>horizon
I think this is a classic example of trying to do too much in the space provided. Before I get into things… I heard in the Discord chat that this could be an homage to the Wild Cards series of novels, but I've never read those, so take that as a baseline for my review.

I was about halfway through this story when I realized I had totally lost the scent of what was going on. I skipped back a few pages and tried again, but the same thing happened. What this really comes down to is that the story didn't engage me. There's two possible reasons I have for this.

One has been mentioned above, that being that, despite the story's desire to tell absolutely everything that's going on, everybody's lying to each other, and all of them are lying to the reader (including the narrator!). So we really can't be expected to explain what happened. Perhaps some can do it, I'm not sure, but I unfortunately can't. I needed the protagonist to ground me in the story, but she was filling me with so much hot air I could only float…

The other issue is what made me think that too much was being done for the story provided. I'm fairly certain you knew that going into this story, author, because the method of storytelling you chose is the quickest and dirtiest there is—the characters mouthing off everything they know to each other. Even if they weren't all full of shit, it's so tell-y that I'm not allowed to connect anything myself, and I float.

Another thing, and this is a minor issue, but some of the characters' names here sound like tarot cards. Lady Luck, Roullette, etc., I wasn't even sure when they were talking about cards or about characters a lot of the time.

But I will say that, of all seven entries, this one had my favourite introductory scene and hook. I was a big fan of how you pulled me in what that strange line about "cheating at tarot cards", gave a quick overview of a scene, described the characters well, and then set up exactly what this story was going to be about. I like subtlety, but I like concrete beginnings more than subtle ones. So well done!

Thanks for writing =)
#54 · 1
· on Three-Card Shuffle · >>horizon
My first impression while I was reading this was that I liked your style of storytelling. The way you told this story was very brisk and clean, expertly leading us from one scene to the next. Your little trick of dangling a carrot in front of the reader at the end of each scene with the detective was a clever way to keep the momentum going—though I will say I started expecting them after the first few times, and they started losing their flavor. However, you organized and paced it effectively too hold together a lot of information that would have otherwise been a tedious chore to read through. This story never felt like it held my hand, but for the most part I was nodding along, thinking "Uh-huh, with you so far."

Near the end, where exposition such as Mary being dead and the tarot reader being the Red Queen emerges, I started doubting how well I'd been following along, which I think is a sign of a well-executed mystery. On the other hand, with the amount of lies going on between each of the characters throughout the story, it feels as if a smoke bomb was thrown over the entire stage, then the ending emerges to declare "This is what really happened!" and I'm kind of left at a loss. Also, I don't read many mysteries, so I'm not exactly an authority on what makes them good.

I think the ending could use some lengthening, because to me it feels like that momentum continues through the end where I would have liked it to slow down. As we have it, the train slammed on the brakes and we were still moving when it ran out of track. That's all a condition of the word constraint, of course.

I'm impressed by the scope of information this story tried to process and distill within 8k words. To a tarot newbie like me, you did a great job of explaining how the system worked, integrating it organically into the story without using a dry tutorial. The addition of supers was interesting, but I didn't see much point to it in the end. If you were looking for ways to tighten up the story you might start there.

Those are my thoughts! Hope a few of them were helpful to you.
#55 · 1
· on If They Liked It Once...
It may have worked last time. It'll probably work this time. And next time, too.
We're on to you, adorable stick-cat.
#56 ·
· on Temporal Entanglement
Once again:

I'll be largely agreeing with >>horizon about things here, author. Decide how time travel works in the story and get that information to us through Sakura, then find the ending and take us there.

Mike
#57 · 1
· on Home Alone
Art review time!

I’ve mentioned issues with proper scanning of pencil art for greater clarity in the past, and so won’t go into detail about it here.

There is plenty of talent on display here, Artist, but one problem is that I have to study the drawing to perceive it. I love the figure forms (though the horse’s boardlike legs bother me, and I wish we could see more of Dorothy’s expression). However, I think this piece suffers most from lack of contrast and clarity. While the figures have some outlining, the background elements are present but unclear. Is that a fence with trees and bushes, or a door with flames and smoke? Some more delineation and careful outlining will help to make things clear.

Overall, this has the makings of a good piece, and some polish would make it a very good one. Regardless, you’ll still be going in the upper tier in this round. :)
#58 ·
· on Better Not Look Back
The previously reviewed piece had a very murky background, this one has none at all. This can be a stylistic decision, so I won’t dock too many points for it.

The lady’s expression is gripping, and her appearance has an unsettling oddness to it. Future physiology or sloppy anatomy? Again, I’ll be charitable. The ghostly T-rex skull is striking as well, though it should likely give more of an appearance of being lit from above.

Overall, a solid piece that will earn a high place on my slate.
#59 · 1
· on Wicked Witch of the North
This piece, while doodled in a scribbly way, nonetheless shows signs of competence (e.g., the dimensionality of the reindeer’s antlers and the elegance of its cartoony expression) which indicate that a talented artist was Slumming.

This piece is amusing, even if you didn’t have time (or think the joke worth the effort) to do a fuller treatment. Other pieces will push this one further down my slate, but don’t take this as a reflection on your skill, Artist. Thanks for contributing!
#60 ·
· on If They Liked It Once...
Mrwowr? Miaiouu! Mmmrrrrp.
Roger, can we has a chutzpah award?
#61 ·
· on A Christmas Carl · >>Baal Bunny
In the Game of Poles, you either win or your minions melt and you have to go crash at some rando's house until you can rethink your plot to destroy Father Christmas.

I was expecting a more melancholy tale based on how the first chunk went, but then we 180'd, did a hop, and spun around all over again and you know I'm mostly okay with how I felt through the entire ordeal. The Ice Princess bit brought me into an almost Equestria Girls-type headspace (spontaneous magic villain vs vaguely equine heroes, plus 1), which was unexpected given the front half but not at all unpleasant. I was smiling and laughing along to the absurdity of it all all the while, though Doohan doing the Chessmaster routine caught me a little off guard.
#62 ·
· on A Story of Water and Blood
Nice world building and a notable narrative style that gives a sense of a slice of life in extraordinary circumstances. While a long piece would have given us a better sense of the society you describe as a whole, for the restricted time and word length you worked with, I feel like I got the essentials. I sense, like many good short story intros to a fantasy realm, that there is so much more to talk about. Like my own story in this round, this feels like chapter 1 of a very much longer story. And that points to what's missing. I don't have enough of an understanding or of the characters' misunderstanding of what the life underwater would be like and why to fear it. Yes, there would be the loss
family and cultural ties and loss a lost of a special talent that doesn't translate to underwater, but these losses aren't vicerial enough (for me). I just can't fear anyone's future because I can't understand what they'll become. T's interview first with the ambassador should have probed more into their life, what he gave up. Second, the queen may have been able to give that incisive bit of the new life. Additionally, I did not really get that the characters were members of a noble and societally obligated family until late enough that I had to stop and re-evaluate feelings my and conclusions when I realized this.

That's this reader's take on the words you wrote. Please take this and accept or discard anything I've stated.
#63 · 2
· on Antoine's Armory · >>Miller Minus
>>Anon Y Mous
Right there with you. 1950s (ish?) housewife meets Home Alone meets John Wick. There's no way I couldn't love this. The others covered the points of improvement very thoroughly (the killers being a somewhat incompetent* after the surprise wears off in particular), but I think the core concept here is hilarious and fun to read.

*It took a second read, but the Smoker's actions with the grenade make sense**. You can throw farther than you can jump, so grabbing it and chucking it is the best way to make distance. He turns back toward the door to throw, then realizes Rob is down stairs. No guarantee he won't take him out, so he pivots back to the window, not thinking about Violet down by the fallen ladder, runs over, and lobs it.

**Actually I re-re-read it and there are a few too many pivots to go along with my original interpretation of events, so maybe he just grabbed it an panicked after all.

Anyway, a little cleanup around things like that and there'll be something extra fun here. Good work, I say.
#64 ·
· on A Christmas Carl · >>Baal Bunny
Okay. I'm back. I stand by my opinion that >>horizon is wrong. The burrito line fundamentally conveys the same message that the final paragraph does: that Carl is a carpet that doesn't want to raise a fuss and is just going to roll with it.

Anyhow. The big issue here, in my opinion, is that very nearly 50% of this story is "wasted" space. It is interestingly written and evocative wasted space, but, by and large, the first 1553 words really don't serve a purpose besides faking you out for the actual story. And yes, I do realize there are technically things in there that matter, but there's really no reason for it to be 1553 words long.

The problem with a long fake is that you are really pleasing nobody. Anyone who was engaged in the first half is having the rug pulled out from under them and the people who are game for the second half... probably didn't want to read the first half and quit already. In general, these sort of swerves are better served by happening earlier. Like, take Zombie Land Saga (yes I'm using anime, fite me). Your main character goes from cute girl doing cute things to a head-on encounter with Truck-kun in 1 minute, 14 seconds. (See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfLkkUahRIE ). And realistically you've seen the show's title and maybe a description, so even that 1:14 isn't really a swerve.

But wait Andrew, you like Doki Doki Literature Club and doesn't that take forever to swerve? And you'd be right! If you weren't so wrong. DDLC swerves immediately with the content warning and associated marketing. It isn't really trying to hide what it is. The interest curve there stems from "how is this going to get to where it promised me at the beginning." And it still runs that too long anyway. And, functionally, the swerve STILL isn't as hard as what you do here, because the story is still, in a lot of ways, about the same thing it started as. Just the nature of the relationship to that thing has changed.

Anyhow, that really is the problem. You have two very different ideas bolted onto each other here. If you are interested in telling the second story, you really need to condense the front half of this. Especially since because the way you end up pacing the second half and jamming it all together into one brief ball of action and exposition it ends up as just a punchline with no real setup besides "Hey, so that thing you were reading... is not actually what you were reading!"

This sounds more critical then I really want it to, I think. I mean, fundamentally the idea can work. Plenty of stuff does it. But I just think in practice the way you've set it up here is going to just bounce off most people because you spend so long establishing another story entirely.

I do think the first half stuff is pretty solidly written. I think the second half, even as a joke, just comes too hard and too fast. It's just a relatively madcap sequence of events. They are amusing (though the lampshade hanging with The Santa Claus initially had me rolling my eyes really hard --- Actually, I guess that's another point. This story doesn't actually swerve once. It swerves twice. Which just kinda amplifies the problem in that there really isn't ever anything to grab onto and no real arc. It is just two extended gotchas in which Carl just kinda floats on through and ends up... basically where he started.

I'm really unsure how the fake Santa death worked on that note. Like, it seems like a shelf fell on him, but I'm not sure how that event keys to Carl opening the door, which really kinda impacts the punchline there. This should definitely be a joke you really lean into and it should be very clear how Carl is responsible (or otherwise very clear that Carl is in no way responsible).

I think that's all I've really got here. The writing quality is definitely solid but you can also count me in the people who bounced off it category.
#65 ·
· on Into the Skies Again
This story feels rushed, and when writing SF that's rarely a good thing. I feel you have the seed of a good story here, maybe even a seedling.

From my ScifiPony alias, you may be able to guess what I usually write. I have no issues with your space opera idea, and I think there is an endless place for good space operas. But when a story depends on science and engineering, all the science and engineering must at least seem plausible. That said, you can skip the rest of this paragraph because it is an SF writer's opinion and mostly a subjective rant. Plausiblity could be achieved with the proper handwaving and lampshading, but the details you did supply bugged me. As one example amongst many, as the repair progressed, I didn't buy the process of building, why shielding was needed where it was needed, or especially the fusing of the two vehicles. Airworthiness isn't that easy. Even if the ship were basically a missile, it's not that easy. Now add wings...! Moreover, I didn't buy that even these good friends would risk their lives to fuse the ships together since nothing convinced me as a lay scientist the fusion could work, so why did the characters believe it? This requires so much more than the Star Trek science you provided at that point in the story. I didn't buy the weight limit issue, either, in regards to the stasis helmet as most space vehicles are fixed in size and a few kilograms of load one way or another are lost in engine efficiency variations and fuel reserves against atmospheric exigencies. (I was okay with the Stasis helmet idea, though, and the gruesomeness it implies.). Really, most of the repair issues go away if they have androids doing the repairs. The bent frame fix could be achieved through reforging by android workers, or gasp, by having a spectacular fight over the tilting-at-windmills idea of salvaging the ship vs risk and just taking the bodies home and calling it a win. The song could even be sung to celebrate the good try they gave the project, and the burial of the lost spacers.

That bit where we don't call Jorsen "captain" is well explained, but it grates as the title is not always just a term of authority but respect. For me, this made the story feel hollow, especially when he is called Captain Jorsen later. The group are obviously professionals and the discussion makes them feel like idealistic amateurs. I'd just drop it all together in a subsequent draft.

Last, you had plenty of time to foreshadow the relationship issue so that when Liesha says "I am not really a traditional sort of person, myself, and in fact I am rather ashamed that I didn’t let you know earlier and save us both a great deal of misunderstanding," your readers should have had plenty of clues about Liesha's sexuality to give this impact and give the conversation real tension. Her dialog her also feels stilted in this sequence. The hiding underneath the console bit feels a bit juvenile and rude, but that may just be me.

The idea and basic plot of the story is sound; please understand this. The SF mechanics are the main issue. A secondary issue is the message; I'm not sure what you are trying to tell the reader, though if it's just telling a good adventure story, that's probably good enough for most.

Please take this as what a long time SF reader/writer got from reading the words you wrote. Take whatever makes sense to you and discard the rest.
#66 ·
· on A Story of Water and Blood
This was fine. It was fine. Fine, fine, fine. That's just kind of how I walked away from it feeling. I was not amazingly blown away,.. and this review is starting to sound rather familiar.

Ultimately I definitely find myself in a very similar spot as when I read Antoine's Armory here. This is fine. It trades being a bit more in my wheelhouse for struggling a bit more to be as clean. The double opening is a really weird choice and honestly kind of a bad one. Both the first scene and the second scene more or less serve the same purpose, so there's not really much reason to have both. There's even less reason to have one be a random italicized flashback that makes the timeline of the following scene more confusing.

The ending also doesn't end up working out too well for me either. You are more or less done with the conflict in the queen scene, so it'd probably be better to focus on making the last scene a quick denouement with the two brothers having a moment centered around Teague doing this for Uilliam rather than fake dangling the result that everyone knows is going to be the case.

Sorry I don't have a lot to say on this one either.
#67 ·
· on A Christmas Carl · >>Baal Bunny
The fist half of this story engaged me intensely. Then the steel cabinet fell over and the story lost all coherence.

I think I get where you were headed with the story, but I'd be willing to bet you'd be more satisfied if you had had a chance to revise the second part before the writing deadline came. With a folkloric name like Doohan, and other designations you used, I sense that you are trying to force the Santa Claus legend into folk stories of the Fae. I think it could have worked, but the passing on of the Santa torch even if not actually happening, and the what-felt-like an unrealistic fight with fire, which actually succeeded, just broke all verisimilitude. The ending scene intrigued, but like what had happened before, I could not understand it.

Still, I liked the story enough to see potential. I don't know if my ramblings from my understanding of the words you wrote will make sense to you. I hope they do. I think the story idea is good enough that you ought give it another try, probably starting from a blank sheet of paper, or at the very least when he looks for the Christmas tree lot late.
#68 ·
· on Three-Card Shuffle · >>horizon
A'ight author. I love you but this story annoyed me intensely. So let's just lead with quality of prose is fine, I think the idea is workable, and such.

First of all, we can add this to the list of stories this round that I really question our viewpoint character. Stories where the protagonist is ancillary to major events occurring in the world and those intrude on their life. But the story still needs to be -about- them. Fundamentally, this is a story about Mary to which the main character is merely narrating. Which typing that sentence, in and of itself, made me even more conscious about because I honestly could not recall the lead's name. I had to look at Baal's comment to remember it. And it turns out that is for a good reason, because it actually only shows up at the end!

Regina, at least as observed for the majority of the story, does not really do a lot. It is of course revealed at the end that she is more involved, but the problem with that is not only is it a fairly tail end reveal, but it is also one that raises a lot of questions that are kind of hand-waved. Why is she so interested in helping? Why does she inherently side with Mary? How does she have contact with the other super group (and enough pull to arrange what she did). There are implications, of course, but those implications do not necessarily imply the conclusions that need to be drawn.

Speaking of supers, while you use that word early, it is actually kind of unclear that you are talking about a superhero world. The bit about watching a video to learn vague psychokinesis kinda makes it unclear, especially since that actually puts me more in the mind of espers. The cape line attempts to supplement it, but it is just working against a lot of expectations since we're talking about a world where learning psychokinesis via youtube video is a thing. So I end up picturing somehting more My Hero Academia style which ends up not quite being right either. I get that you are trying to build organically, but I feel it just doesn't really end up actually providing enough detail.

This also ends up confusing because it really muddies the concept of what a "super" is, as does Regina's weasel wording about being a super. She has a demonstrable power. What does this mean in the context of the world since apparently it is enough that she can actively use it and pretend not to be a super.

Which, in fact, is sort of my broadest, largest problem with the story. The landscape feels like it is constantly shifting, with new information arriving that requires a reimagining rather frequently. A lot of details, I think, arrive a bit too late to be useful (both world and plot) leading to a very frustrating feelings of always being one-step behind the story, but less because the author is outwitting you and more because you just lack the requisite information to actually realize what's going on. Like, small example, the mask tan is supposed to be a hint about things, but that presupposes a TON of information. Starting with "Roulette - who we never actually learn anything about in this story - wears THAT kind of mask."

There is a certain smugness to the story (mostly as filtered through Regina obviously), and that is made insufferable by that feeling of being underinformed. And don't get me wrong here. Tonally you're right on for the type of story you are telling (noir/heist style elements where the lead is the smartest character in the room) but it ends up being surprisingly irritating when I as a reader am constantly having to rebuild my understanding because of newly introduced information.

And even then, we still end up missing a bit of stuff. For example, is tarot real in this world? It definitely seems to be, but I don't actually know. Is that her actual power?

Speaking of tarot, that opening line. It is a great hook, but by the end I'm really confused by it because you seem to go back and forth a lot on whether you can cheat at tarot. I mean, you state there at the opening line. Then you have her undermine that stacking the deck matters. But then you have her get super mad about stacking the deck (Which, to sidebar, I have problems with both those scenes in that the shuffling the major arcana to the bottom thing still really doesn't make any actual sense to me - do only supers get major arcana or something) and we end up... never really addressing the opening line. Near as I can tell she didn't cheat at Tarot. All the predictions were, as far as I can recall, accurate. So what even was that bit?

I'm rambling, so I'm going to round out with the the physical structure. The way this story reads is frustrating, because it basically amounts to "relevant scene from the past" "interruption to detective to explain a thing or have him be stupid" "relevant scene from the past" over and over and over. And the scenes are short enough that they really, really, really feel like interruptions. By the end I really wanted to slap him and just say "shut up and let her tell the goddamn story."

I dunno. I think you get the gist of it. If you really want I can ramble more at you about my issues but I honestly assume you just want to punch me in the mouth. So, like I said above, the actual quality of the writing is fairly on point, the idea is perfectly servicable, etc. But this rendition really, really rubbed me the wrong way.
#69 ·
· on Temporal Entanglement
I think the most unbelievable thing about this story is that there's any possible future timeline on any human inhabited planet that does not contain a Starbucks.

Less cheeky: There's a lot of wiggle room in time travel stories, depending on the sort of rules you're playing with (predestination, variable/multiverse, river rock, etc.) and based on Sakura's chatter time ought to be immutable. I know it's been covered, but her belief in historical seems very solid, so her worrying about mucking up the past comes off as strange. Which, speaking of oddities, if the discontinuity she came through is gone after Hoodie went through it, why isn't she kind of freaked out about being stuck in the past? Are there others? Can she just hop home through another somewhere, like a less long-winded episode of Sliders?

I have questions, here, and I think that's a good thing if nothing else. I want to know.
#70 ·
· on Three-Card Shuffle · >>horizon
Mostly want to just echo the good everyone else has dropped here. Structurally, framing it as a retelling and sprinkling in the detective asides keeps up the mystery aspect going pretty well without every feeling like there's too much exposition dump despite there being a whole lot of chatting going on.

The bit with the bombing does feel like it comes out of nowhere (bombs being significantly different from flashbangs and smoke grenade sorts of things described during the failed 'robbery'), but with a little cleanup I think there's a really cool short story here.
>>scifipony
The gender of the main character isn't revealed until the end

To be fair, the High Priestess card referred to the Tarot reader. Though you're right, except for the Red Queen not-bait-and-switch it doesn't matter much.
#71 ·
· on Unreported Clairvoyant Events · >>Rocket Lawn Chair
Cass drew a great connection between the stories with the common theme of romance, but I'm not sure I buy it as the over arching point. It just doesn't feel quite right. The writing itself is too grossly competent* for there not to be a proper moment where everything fits together and the gears in my brain make that nearly audible click of recognition. Sometimes I'm a bit thick and I don't get it, but I also kind of can't believe that nobody else would have sussed out the undercurrent yet, either.
>>Miller Minus
For what it's worth, I think Francine was heading to a fatal accident with or without that text message. Doing 95 in LA traffic is asking for a surprise visit from the Reaper.

*it's very good <3
#72 · 4
· · >>Baal Bunny
Disclaimer: I haven't read any of these stories in their entirety, so I may be off point in what AndrewRogue was actually saying. And I'm making this comment after the results were posted, in a thread with very few entries, so very few people will see it, and... yeah, probably not a great use of my time.

But I saw Andrew make a particular point several times recently, and it's one I mostly disagree with, so I thought it was worth some discussion.

And that point was that if the story is supposed to be about a certain character, then that should be your perspective character. It's entirely possible to tell a story about one character through another's observations of him.

For starters, consider an omniscient narrator. On the one hand, that's a case where there is no perspective, so you can't assign it to the main character, and it's obviously possible to do a story that way. But then sometimes omniscient narrators aren't dispassionate. Terry Pratchett is a great example of that. His narrators aren't defined characters, but they have their own personalities and express their own opinions. That gets rather close to having a perspective character who tells a story about another character.

But even if you have a limited narration told from the viewpoint of someone other than the main character, you can tell an engaging story. You're restricted in what ways you can relate what the main character's emotional state and character arc are, but it's still quite possible. I can think of several "classic" novels that do this to varying degrees, and that's certainly up to debate, but the fact there even is a debate about who the main characters of those novels are should say there's some wiggle room.

I will agree that it's not as easy to do it this way. For one thing, like I said, you have fewer options for how to show the main character's growth and change. You don't get their internal parts of it, but it's still possible for another character to interpret it through their observations. For another, you're making the reader see the story through this other character's eyes, so you need to make that experience interesting. If this perspective characters is flat and boring, then the story will be as well. So that has two important consequences: to a degree, the reader needs to be made to care about the perspective character as well, and even though another character experiences the central change of the story, the perspective one needs to be affected by it in some way as well, meaning they also undergo an arc, though one that's not as profound as the main character's.

That said, there's another aspect of this that maybe Andrew was hinting at the edges of, and I have criticized authors for this in the past. Sometimes a story lacks focus, where it seems like one aspect of it is the deepest and most interesting, but the story spends most of its time telling another less-interesting part. Then I'll often ask the author what he actually wanted the story to be about. So that can happen in the above example as well. Say the perspective character is the one the author's more focused on showing some sort of growth for, but it's kind of a lackluster arc, and one of the background characters actually has a much more engaging arc. That's when I'll ask the author who they actually wanted the story to be about. If the background character has the more interesting arc, then they likely deserve to be the main character. While that means it's easier to tell the story from the other character's viewpoint, it doesn't follow that it's necessary to. Because it's more difficult, it's the kind of thing an author probably shouldn't attempt until he's got his feet under him, but I don't agree with a blanket statement that it's the wrong way to write.

However, when a story spends time in multiple perspectives, and the one clearly intended to be the main character is the only one undergoing any significant growth, then I would tend to side much more with Andrew. The author was willing to use the main character's perspective, and the other viewpoints aren't adding anything, so there's nothing productive in using the other ones. A tighter story would just keep to the main character's viewpoint.
#73 · 1
· on A Christmas Carl
>>Miller Minus
>>horizon
>>Rao
>>AndrewRogue
>>scifipony

Thanks for the comments, folks:

And congrats to our medalists!

The "double swerve" problem here should be pretty easy to fix, I think, especially since the markets I'll be sending the story to after running it through the revision process will be science fiction/fantasy oriented to begin with. So they'll be expecting any story submitted to them to have some sort of SF element. I just need to bring up the Santa/Snow Queen conflict at the top of the story--Carl could mention his theory about Mr. Doohan to his father, and his father could go off about the Fae Elite who have opposed Santa from the beginning or something like that.

The biggest problem for me is one I didn't bring up in my own comment 'cause I didn't even think of it till Haze put up a non-Writeoff-related blog post over on Fimfiction yesterday that crystallized what I'd been finding lacking in the story since hammering it together: Carl doesn't want anything. Even just making it more definite that he wants to be unnoticed and unremarkable might help his character, seems to me...

At least I've got some time to get it cleaned up. Editors aren't interested in seeing Christmas stories till August.

Thanks again!
Mike
#74 ·
·
>>Pascoite

And of course:

Dr. Watson tells us the Sherlock Holmes stories...

Mike
#75 · 1
· on Three-Card Shuffle
Oh! Uh ... thought I had another 24 hours for commentary. Didn't look too closely at the timeline, because yesterday I literally spent a 20-hour day on Search & Rescue (got up at 6 am for training, finished a full training day, got home, and promptly got a callout for a missing Alzheimer's patient that I didn't get home from until 2:45 am). So I guess I get to respond to comments instead of writing a fake review.

First, congratulations to Miller and Andrew for their medals!

Second, how the heck did I not get universally guessed for this? An overcomplicated mess about Tarot? I mean, that's like Cold in Gardez writing a war story. ;-p

I am grateful for the general commentary here. By way of general explanation: As noted in the thread, the deadline kind of cold-cocked me. I only realized several crucial facts halfway through writing -- most notably, the fact that Lady Luck's team got accused by the casinos of bombing the Red Queen's team's headquarters, and that was the big reason for the bad blood between them -- and never got to go back and update the front half of the story for adequate foreshadowing. Detective-style mysteries are very, VERY hard to do on a Writeoff timescale, because you walk a heck of a tightrope between making the reveal too obvious and making the reader give up. The whole "smug" thing is a separate problem; it's a common pitfall of the genre, but there are certainly ways to mitigate it, which I will try to work in if I throw this on the edit queue.

>>Rao >>scifipony
Perhaps it was easy to miss, but the gender of the main character is explictly revealed three paragraphs in:
"Sorry to hear it, ma'am," [the detective] said,


Regina's name, on the other hand, was another one of those last-minute additions that I didn't get to fix on the front end. And yes, I would have loved to red-herring her as the Red Queen from much earlier on, so that Red's appearance was a surprise reveal instead of a left-field problem.

>>AndrewRogue
I'm not really happy with the way I managed the Roulette interludes either, but I added them when I realized I needed the framing story to set up the climax, and running short on time leads to bad decisions. :|

Running short on wordcount certainly didn't help, either. There needed to be about 1k more words to keep the pacing on track before everything collided at the end. As it is, I feel like it's a minor miracle that I was able to pull things together well enough for third place.

So, yeah, no arguments with the callout. (I will totally die on the hill of A Christmas Carl's last two sentences, though, if you want to have the obligatory silly Writeoff argument over minutiae, or something)

>>Baal Bunny
The suggestion about Roulette's introduction is wonderful - thank you!

That's about it, I think. Thanks again, everyone.
(cc: >>Rocket Lawn Chair >>Miller Minus)
#76 ·
· on A Story of Water and Blood
Sorry for not getting to a review during the round here -- this (and my own fake review) were on my plate yesterday except for the whole SAR thing. :(

Congrats on the medal! In terms of my own reaction ... my main takeaway was that I really didn't feel any tension to the story. The instant that Uilliam not wanting to become ambassador because of his work was mentioned, I thought "well, the rest of the story is going to be about Teague discovering a reason to go in his place," and of course that's exactly what happened. The fact that Teague was so obviously unhappy with his own situation as heir kept any sense of tension deflated: there's an obviously optimal solution here, which makes everyone except Dad happier, and of course they're going to stumble into it after a bunch of angst which tries to obscure how optimal it is.

You might want to consider making a much bigger deal of Teague's sense of duty, to the point where it's not actually his idea to go. That way there's actually a sacrifice involved in his choice, and you're making a statement and closing a powerful character arc with his decision to break his dad's heart for the sake of his brother. Or have the queen impose a condition on her approval, rather than all but pushing him into it. Or have talking to the queen become the story's central struggle, with her approval the payoff, and the challenge is navigating the rigid social structure which you're paying lip service to as the putative problem. The point is, I think the reason this feels flat right now is that there's nothing at stake.

The rest lines up here, I think. Good job with it.
#77 · 2
· on Wicked Witch of the North
Pic mini-reviews!

<img src="captain-america-i-understood-that-reference.jpg">

Points for making me legitimately laugh. I do wish that Vixen had been wearing some headwear to truly round out the Llamas With Hats reference. While crude in terms of artistic merit, I'm glad the effort was put into making this a thing.
#78 · 2
· on Better Not Look Back
Pic mini-reviews!

It's damning with faint praise to say that this one is topping my slate basically by default, so let me find something affirmatively good to say. First, I think that the amount of work here is easy to underestimate. The black-on-white figure on the white-on-black background involves a little photomanipulation to unite the two parts cleanly, and the work there is unobtrusive in a good way. The composition is also well thought out, and the way the background gradient draws attention to the two main elements is exemplary in its subtlety. And while it's sketchy, the roughness of the lines in its own way contributes -- the attention to detail is reserved (as it should be) for the most major elements, giving the eye reason to linger.

In other words, the composition here is top-notch. As such, I think this would be fighting for a high place in my ballot even in a round with significantly more art entries. Good job, artist!
#79 · 1
· on Home Alone
Pic mini-reviews!

This has excellent use use of story elements, and strays from the story itself to good effect (at least, I don't remember Dorothy actually patting Cisco at any point). What I said about "Better Not Look Back"s sketchiness -- reserving the attention to detail for the most important parts of the composition -- applies here as well, although I would have loved to see more detail put into the background to show us the house on fire, which feels like it should be a striking part of the overall effect. Also, not sure what Dorothy's actually eating here. So, good detail in the details you provided, but this is a piece that's going to want even more of it.

Framing-wise, the cabinet on the right is good in the sense that it offers the picture some sorely needed background anchoring, although I'm not as much a fan of the way it unbalances the piece, putting some dead space on the right. I wonder if maybe you could have played with the way the background showed the flames -- putting a more pastoral scene on the left that gradually descended into chaos with the burning house on the right?

Thanks for the art, at any rate!
#80 ·
· on If They Liked It Once...
Thanks for entering a piece, artist!

I guess I missed the original stick-figure cat that this in-joke is based on, so I'm not getting a whole lot out of this -- except for the metacommentary it's making about stick-figure cats earning art medals, which tbh says a lot more about the Writeoffs than it does about this piece.

In terms of actual merit, vis-a-vis my judging and voting, the clearly shoehorned-in fic reference (background tree!) and low-effort art are gonna overwhelm the metatextual factors that make the piece worthy of discussion. However, since we've got only three artists in the Guessing page, I'm going to go out on a limb with the prediction that this was some artist's only entry, and preemptively say: Enjoy your medal.
#81 · 2
· on Unreported Clairvoyant Events
>>horizon
>>Baal Bunny
>>AndrewRogue
>>scifipony
>>Miller Minus
>>Rao
>>Cassius

Ho boy, all of you deserve a well-reasoned and satisfying explanation for this, especially when you all put a lot of time and thoughtful consideration into what I was trying to say with this story.

First off, I do want to express how grateful I am that you all took time to read through and share your thoughts. It's super-helpful to know how your minds work as readers, what kind of details you search for, what makes you care or not care for what is going on. It was interesting for me to see what each of you took away from it (even if that was mostly confusion).

Secondly, it wasn't my intent to confuse people; that comes about as a by-product of my coarse technique. It's obvious to me that branching into OF from ponyfics is like taking the training wheels off my bicycle. It's still very wobbly and I crash a lot.

I've had the bones of this story in my head for a few years, ever since I moved from L.A. after only living there a bit more than a year. The big city was weird to me. Really weird. Almost overwhelming, especially coming from the small town I was raised in. Things moved too fast. The city devoured the present too quickly, and it seemed to me like people had to put their feet in the future just to stay ahead of it. I collected snippets of my thoughts and feelings in my journal while I was living there, and you can see some of those snippets in the story. In light of your comments, I realize that my chosen story was a poor vehicle to convey that idea because it wasn't exactly the focus. I tried to tell the brief and tragic drama of Paul and Molly through the lens I saw the city through; small fragments of their lives viewed by unrelated people who didn't know or care what to do with the information, so it became swallowed up. You guys caught onto that drama, then asked the obvious question: "What's the point?" to which I have to shrug and say: "It sounded cooler in my head." This technique of tying a story together through several clairvoyant visions would have better suited a different theme, or would have been better if I made the theme more obvious.

Bottom line: I need to work on focusing my stories, to make it clear the point I'm trying to make, or make a tight, engaging plot that doesn't throw you guys out of the loop. I definitely had more fun writing in this OF round than the last one I tried, especially when I got to let loose with some snazzy prose. I'm glad some of you enjoyed that with me as well.

Thank you all for your patience and insights. Congratulations to our medalists for their great work as well. Y'all rock!
#82 · 3
· on Antoine's Armory
>>Anon Y Mous
>>Baal Bunny
>>scifipony
>>Rocket Lawn Chair
>>AndrewRogue
>>horizon
>>Rao

So I wrote cocaine!

This isn't really a retrospective so much as me saying thank you to everyone for reading and relaying your thoughts. Big, big shoutout to horizon and Andrew for their medals, and to everyone who participated! This round was quality, for real.

Thriller is a genre I'd never tried before, but had always wanted to. I originally had this idea for the Glass Masquerade prompt, but was in such a slump that I had three (four?) false starts before throwing it all in the bin. When my prompt won this round I figured it was a sign from the heavens that I should try to write it again.

And it was fun! Really, it felt good to write something without any meaning or commentary—just a fun, action-packed romp with a compelling protagonist. Honestly, it was a palette cleanser.

Which is to say... it was an interesting experiment, but at the end of the day I don't think thrillers are for me. There were many times during the writing process that I felt I was hamstringing my own writing style just to make the story flow faster, and there were certain angles I really ought to have expanded on but just didn't want to (i.e., Antoine's actual job and Rob's plan and maybe some background behind the the building's architect). I laid the framework for it but all I really wanted to focus on was the struggle, so that's what I did. Plus, there were several set pieces where I felt I had taken it too far—the only one that remained being the killswitch for the stairs. I just... couldn't part with it. You know? It was too stupid to take out.

I pushed through all my reservations because I knew I could make a satisfying product from it all (if not a product for everyone!), and I'm really glad it worked out. Good times.

In summary.

I also have to give a shoutout to my friend (she knows who she is) for reading a rough draft of the introduction and politely informing me that she hated Dorothy with a passion. Honestly, she saved it. Without the last-minute changes to her motivations, I might have ended up in last place.

Thanks again, and see you next week!
#83 ·
· on Better Not Look Back
I like how the girl looks, except perhaps for her eyes. It doesn't look like you had a particular vision (huehuehue) for how they would look (huehuehue), and so they seem a little bit "filled in at random" instead.

I also wish that the T-rex and his info-stand had a little colour to them that was different from the background, so that they could look more like solid objects.

But still, the figures themselves and the eerie B/W feel are done very well, so well done, artist!
#84 · 1
· on Wicked Witch of the North
Yeah honestly this got me laughing too. It's hilarious that you think FilmCow won't sue. Top tier comedy.
#85 · 1
· on Home Alone
Welp, can't give this a fair review without appearing biased. *Ahem*

It's my favourite, la-la-la, I love it so much, psst if you're having trouble scanning it check out how it looks through a simple B/W filter, there's not a thing wrong with it, yippee-wahoo gold star.

Thanks for entering :)
#86 · 1
· on If They Liked It Once...
So if there's only three artists...

Goddamnit.
#87 · 1
· on Home Alone
Little late and light on the commentary for art because I'm a philistine, but: I like this a lot. I think it encapsulates the "lots going on in a relatively small area" feeling the story gave me. Also: contains horse, so I can't not love it at least a little bit.
#88 ·
· on Better Not Look Back
There's a surprising amount of detail shoved into that T-Rex skeleton, despite having a very 'sketchy' overall appearance. It works really well with the black background thing going on, I don't know what that paper/process is called exactly. Sakura being done up in black-on-white makes for a nice contrast that sort of echoes how she stood out from a crowd in the story, too.
#89 · 1
· on Wicked Witch of the North
I lol'd in the car after seeing this and people were confused, so points for that. I always appreciate a callback to things I liked before the term "meme" really ascended into abject meaninglessness.

Though Carl isn't carrying a tree in the picture so I have to yell "muh continuity!" I kid. Good work, good joke.
#90 ·
· on If They Liked It Once...
The ears look properly fluffy, but I'm not sure it's quite enough to land gold this time around. Nice attempt at making lightning strike twice, though.