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More than Meets the Eye · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
A Christmas Carl
When Carl was growing up, his family had an annual tradition. Every December the fifteenth, he would clamber with his father and mother into their Bondo-spotted, powder-blue 1986 Renault station wagon, and the three of them would drive up and down Harbor Blvd. between Newport Blvd. and the San Diego Freeway looking for whatever empty lot Doohan's Christmas Trees had set up in that year.

Carl's father had a theory about why Doohan's was never in the same place twice. This theory involved Mr. Doohan being secretly wealthy, owning multiple vacant lots along the boulevard, and moving from one to another just to make life more difficult for junior assistant cost accountants like Carl's father.

Carl's father had a lot of theories, most of them revolving around wealthy people who spent their time trying to make life more difficult for regular working stiffs. Carl himself just had the one theory: that Mr. Doohan, being large, white-bearded, red-suited, and jolly, must be Santa Claus.

But eventually, no matter how many trips up and down the boulevard it took, the lot would be found and the tree would be bought. At home, the boxes of decorations would be dragged out from the closet under the stairway, and this glowing, sparkling, otherworldly assemblage would take shape on the little table at the end of the sofa—Carl's father and mother kept the star hanging from a loop of wire wound around a thumbtack stuck in the ceiling all year long, so the tree's only real requirement was that it be tall enough to brush the downward-pointing arm of the star.

That loop of wire, Carl noticed as he moved from elementary school into junior high and high school, got longer and longer while his father's complaints about Mr. Doohan's prices got more and more colorful. But Carl wasn't of a mind to raise a fuss. After all, getting the tree and decorating it wasn't the best part of the family tradition. Not by a long shot.

Because on the fifteenth of January, one month after the tree had entered their lives, Carl got to spread newspapers all over the living room floor while his mother used her horseshoe-and-shamrock-decorated Zippo lighter to build a fire in the fireplace and his father took a pair of hedge clippers to the once-again-bare tree. Carl's father would start at the top and snip the whole thing into pieces six to eight inches in length. He would hand each bough to Carl's mother, and when she had a good armload, she would carry the bundle over to where Carl knelt in front of the fireplace.

Carl would take the bundle, set it on the newspapers, and toss the branches, one at a time, into the flames.

It was simply the best thing ever: the fire blazing up to devour each and every dry needle; the smoke that couldn't find its way past the flue and out the chimney gathering in a cottony layer against the ceiling; the blasts of heat making sweat soak his forehead even while the January cold that filled the rest of their insulation-free, former beach bungalow on the Balboa Peninsula stroked its icy fingers along the back of his neck; the smell like a whole factory of pine-scented candles; the ash he had to scrape from his glasses and wash from his curly black hair an hour later when the last branch was gone.

To Carl, this was Christmas. 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.

His mother had left her Zippo lighter behind, after all, and the three-room, cracker box house he'd found off Harbor Blvd. in Santa Ana had a fireplace. So he was set.

The next year, the recession hit, and looking for work, Carl fell into a job refinishing fiberglass yacht exteriors at Blackie's Boatyard because Blackie—a short blonde man, strangely enough—was obsessed with the accident that had taken Carl's father. "It was no accident!" Blackie would say every two weeks when Carl went into the office to pick up his paycheck. "The sea covers 98% of the Earth, y'know. Everything that happens on land is just 2% of what really goes on!"

And while Carl was fairly sure that the actual amount of ocean on the planet was closer to 75%, as always, he wasn't of any mind to raise a fuss. Besides, he spent most of his paycheck on comic books, so he'd read much wilder stories than all Blackie's talk about creatures from inner space dwelling within hidden realms just outside mortal perception. He kind of liked listening to Blackie rant, in fact. It reminded him of his father's various crackpot theories.

Still, every December fifteenth after his parents had each gone off in their separate ways, he would tuck the Zippo lighter into his pocket and trundle his little green Mazda Protege south on Harbor Blvd., his eyes flicking back and forth for the red and white vinyl sign that marked Doohan's current location. He would buy an eighteen inch tall tree from the always large and jocular Mr. Doohan, slip it into place on the top shelf of his living room bookcase under the star he'd nailed to the wall there, and squeeze on about one-eighth of the decorations that filled most of his bedroom closet.

A month later, he'd strip the tree, cut it to pieces with his father's clippers, start a fire with his mother's lighter, and watch the bits burn.

He would call his mother in New Mexico afterwards, but more often than not, he had to leave a message on her answering machine. She'd get back to him in a day or two, though, and they'd have a nice chat about the glazes she mixed for the various ceramic artists who lived in her neighborhood.

Things went on like this without any noticeable fuss for quite some time, Carl slipping happily into the background and sometimes managing to go a whole week without speaking more than six words to anyone: his record was eight words spoken over a nine day period in mid October one year about a decade after his parents' departures. He made a note of it on his Ninety-Nine Cent Store calendar.

The next December fifteenth, however, when he went out after dinner to start up his Protege, it just made a groaning noise. His mother had always been the one who kept the Renault working—the car had been about half Bondo by the time it went into the bay—but Carl had watched her work under the hood enough to know that the big black wires lying across the top of the Mazda's engine should've been attached to something. The phrase 'distributor cap' drifted through his memory, but in the glow of the street light out in front of his house, he didn't see anything that looked like any sort of a cap.

Blackie murmured darkly about unseen antagonists when Carl called the next day to tell him he'd be there a little late. A tow truck took Carl and his car three blocks over to Shane's Automotive, and the bus got him down Harbor Blvd. to the harbor before lunchtime. But it wasn't until the nineteenth that Carl could get to Shane's during business hours to pick the car up and not until the twentieth that he could get out onto the road looking for Doohan's.

It'd been an itchy five days. The star nailed to the wall had seemed to stare accusingly at him whether he was rolling a bean burrito for dinner or sitting in the living room rereading a few issues of My Little Pony Adventures. Getting out a string of tiny colored lights and draping it down from the star through the empty spot where the tree should've been eased the tensions a bit, but Carl only felt a real unknotting of his shoulders when he was driving under the San Diego Freeway to begin the annual hunt.

This year, the red and white vinyl sign was sticking out from behind the International House of Pancakes a block down the boulevard. Carl slapped on his turn signal, swung into the parking lot, and practically leaped from his car as soon as the engine powered down.

Lights illumined the rows of pines behind the chain link fence, but no lot workers stood at the entrance. That was fine with Carl; not wanting to raise a fuss, he just grabbed the nearest foot-and-a-half-tall tree, sprinted the several yards to the shed with the big All Sales Final sign on the outside, bounded up the three steps, and pushed the door open.

"Hey!" someone shouted from inside, and "Watch out!" Things moved, spinning and flapping and tumbling, about ten people crammed into the tiny space, Carl thought, the red-plaid, rotund shape of Mr. Doohan himself right in the middle. A cracking and snapping tore the air, more shouting voices and flailing arms, but Carl's attention stayed fastened on Mr. Doohan's wide eyes and wide mouth and the giant steel cabinet that was teetering away from the shed wall. For an instant, everything stood frozen, then the cabinet toppled right onto Mr. Doohan, smashing him to the floor with more cracking and snapping noises.

Silence filled the room after that along with a weird meaty, pepperminty smell. Then the person nearest the door, a tall, thin woman with a missing front tooth and stringy brownish hair, turned to Carl and said, "He's dead. You killed him."

"I didn't mean to!" Carl stammered out and probably would've gone on to explain that he'd just opened the door so he could pay for his tree, except...

Except the people in the room had started shimmering, their heads shifting. Their noses stretched into animal-like snouts, their ears getting pointy and moving to the tops of their heads. Their hair vanished into their scalps, their skin sprouting gray and brown fur while thick, blunted antlers arched up from their temples. "And when you kill Santa," the woman went on, her eyes big and brown and moist, "you have to take his place."

Carl blinked at the eight reindeer people in the room. "Isn't there a movie like that?" he asked after a moment.

"Probably." The reindeer woman shrugged. "If people realized how much in movies was true, they'd never leave their houses." She held out a hand, and Carl saw that it now had just two big, thick, brown-coated fingers and a thumb. "I'm Vixen, by the way. We'd better get you fitted for your coat; you've only got four days to get ready."

Shaking hands with her, Carl barely managed to say, "But—" when something crashed behind him, the whole shed shaking.

The reindeer people sprang out the door, Carl getting jostled first to one side and then to the other as they streamed past. He stumbled off the stairway, grabbed the corner of the shed with the hand not holding his little Christmas tree, and blinked at the row of eight actual four-legged reindeer now standing between him and the sawdust-covered entrance to the tree lot. And standing on the sawdust in the entrance to the tree lot—

The shadowy figure in front was slender and curvy in a way that told Carl she was a woman. The three shadowy figures behind her were blocky and angular and as big as upended dumpsters; when they moved past the woman into the light that flooded the lot, they looked like Frankenstein monsters carved from ice, stumping forward with stiff knees and elbows before halting half a dozen paces from the reindeer.

More silence followed, then the woman stepped out from between the second and third ice monster, her arms folded. She had pure white hair, a cute, heart-shaped face as blue as a frozen character in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and a form-fitting mint-green one-piece suit like a speed skater or a ski jumper except that white fur circled the neck, wrists, waist, and ankles above her little green slippers. She also wore a mint-green Santa Claus hat and a sideways smirk. "I seem to have arrived at a fortuitous moment," she said in a sweet, cold voice that made Carl think of hot-fudge sundaes without the hot fudge. "Santa's dead."

One of the reindeer gestured back toward Carl with her antlers—and Carl discovered that he somehow knew she was Vixen. "Long live Santa," she said.

The woman's smirk slipped further to the side. "Unlikely," she said. Lowering her arms, she spread her dark blue fingers, and bright blue flames sprang up around them. "Advance, my snow golems!" she shouted. "Your Ice Princess commands you!"

Then everything seemed to happen at once. The reindeer sprang at the monsters lumbering forward, Vixen shouting, "Get down, Santa!" The blue woman—apparently an Ice Princess of some sort—thrust her hands out, and Carl dropped to his knees just as jagged silver bolts crackled through the cold December air to spatter the shed with hundreds of tiny frozen arrowheads. The snow golems were roaring and swinging gigantic fists at the reindeer, darting around so quickly, they splashed and swirled across Carl's vision.

"Look out!" Vixen shouted again, and Carl rolled to his right into the rows of three-foot tall trees, a second barrage of ice daggers thunking into the side of the shed.

"Surrender at once, usurper!" he heard the Princess yell as he scooted across the sawdust, several branches broken and dangling from his little tree. "Otherwise, I shall be less than inclined to be merciful or quick!"

"Give it up, Princess!" Vixen's voice rang above the tumult. "Creation's Covenants give a certain place to the daughter of the Snow Queen and Old Man Winter, and you know that that place isn't here! Return to your realm and abide by the rules that govern us all!"

"Never!" The tops of the Christmas trees to Carl's left exploded, shredded to mulch by another fusillade of ice. "I've heard you grumbling, Prancer, Vixen, Comet! You agree that we supernaturals have stood by for far too long and allowed these abominable mortals to dictate reality! Swear fealty to me, Coursers, and we will bring about a true renaissance, a resurgence of what this season was meant to be!"

Only more bellowing, both animal and monster, answered her, but Carl was staring at the cut branches that had cascaded down over him. Digging for the pocket of his jacket, his grasping fingers met something cold and metal and rectangular, and he wrenched out his mother's Zippo lighter. Flipping it open and flicking it, he thrust it into the remains of the tree he was holding, leaped to his feet, and hurled the sudden ball of fire toward the sounds of the fight.

Not waiting to see what effect it might have, he ducked down again, swept the lighter through every tree ahead of him, and scrambled back as a wall of orange, red, and yellow burst upward, the heat and light smacking him across the face like a fiery two-by-four.

Maybe not the best idea, now that he thought about it...

The flames swarmed from tree to tree in all directions, the roar overwhelming every other sound. Gritting his teeth, Carl jumped up, closed the lighter, jammed it into his pocket, and turned to run—only to smack face first into the chain link fence dividing this section of the lot from the next.

Spinning, he pressed his back to the fence, fire flooding through the trees in front of him—

Until mist washed across the whole scene. The temperature plummeted, Carl's gasping breath suddenly coming out in a fog, and the fire froze, solidifying into sharp-edged spires like crystallized amber. They held their places for a fraction of an instant, then the golden spikes dropped, crashing to the sawdust and shattering into glittering powder.

His fingers still interlaced with the chain link, Carl kept staring at the fiery sparkles among the black and charred tree trunks till a large, rotund figure appeared on his right. Snapping his head over, he gaped at a not-so-jolly Mr. Doohan standing there. "What the Hell, Carl?" His voice boomed like a bass drum. "What the actual Hell?"

More figures moved behind Mr. Doohan: eight figures, Carl noted, all of them human. They seemed to be working with mops and shovels and rakes and brooms and buckets at the entrance to the tree lot, the sawdust dark and sodden, completely soaked as if—

As if several giant ice monsters had melted there.

Looking from the workers back to the still scowling Mr. Doohan, Carl asked, "You...you're not dead?" and immediately wished he hadn't.

"I'm not, no," Mr. Doohan growled. "Though when I took your distributor cap and set this little escapade in motion to force Princess Hibernia's hand, I didn't think it'd kill my business!" He waved at the rows of burned tree. "This close to Christmas, that's my most popular size!"

"But—"

"No, Carl!" Laying a finger aside of his nose, Mr. Doohan snorted and spat into the sawdust. Instantly, a perfect foot-and-a-half tall Christmas tree sprouted from the spot; Mr. Doohan bent down, wrenched it free, and held it out to Carl. "Take this and go. You'll be getting a complimentary one this size for the rest of your life, but if I hear anything about this anywhere, you and I'll have words! Understood?"

"But—" So many questions were popping through Carl's brain that he couldn't keep the largest one from bursting right out of his mouth. "Why me?"

Mr. Doohan's expression softened. "I see you when you're sleeping, Carl. I know when you're awake. I know if you've been bad or good, but you?" He shook his head. "You're something else entirely, the way you're never good or bad, never right or wrong, never really sleeping and never quite awake. You're like...like—" Mr. Doohan tugged his long white beard. "You're like day-old cotton candy: wispy and sticky at the same time. I can't even imagine how something as insubstatial as you came out of people as earthy as your parents." Stepping forward, he pressed the little tree to Carl's chest. "Still, you'll come in handy. Now get out."

Completely unsure what else to do, Carl nodded, took the tree, and headed for the entrance. The tall, stringy-haired woman made a little clicking noise and pointed a forefinger at him as he walked past, and he gave her a nod.

Back home, he was wrapping the lights around the tree when a knock at the door startled him. Blinking—he couldn't recall the last time anyone had actually knocked at his door—Carl stepped over, pulled the door open, and did some more blinking at the Ice Princess glaring at him from the front stoop, a wrinkled overcoat covering her mint-green, form-fitting suit.

Without a word, she pushed past him, and a little squishing sound made Carl look down to see the three ice monsters, none of them any bigger now than his work shoes, stomping in behind her.

"Ummm," Carl began.

But she whirled in the middle of the living room, the tail of her overcoat flaring around her. "Well?" she shouted. "This is all your fault! The least you can do is put me up till I can figure out how to defeat Santa once and for all and take back what's rightfully mine!"

The ice monsters had moved over to the bottom shelf of the bookcase and were gathering around volume five of the complete Pogo Possum comics Carl had left lying open there, and Carl's first thought—would he need to put down newspapers or something to keep the monsters from getting the carpet all wet?—disturbed him more than a little. Was he just going to stand there and let mythological beings take over his house?

Already knowing the answer, he blew out a breath. "I was just about to make burritos. You want one?"

The princess had dropped into his big chair, her arms folded tight against her chest and her legs drawn up so the overcoat covered them. "No hot sauce on mine," she said, her gaze unfocused and pointing at the far corner of the room.

Carl nodded, stepped into the kitchen, and decided he wouldn't mention any of this to his mother when he called her next month. He didn't want to raise a fuss, after all.
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#1 · 1
· · >>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.
#2 ·
·
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
#3 · 2
· · >>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.
#4 ·
· · >>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
#5 ·
· · >>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.
#6 ·
· · >>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.
#7 ·
· · >>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.
#8 · 1
·
>>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