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That Winter Feeling · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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The Job
The contents of this story are no longer available
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#1 ·
· · >>horizon
I had the absolute hardest time centering myself in this story. I kept rereading the beginning trying to figure things out, but the context hints threw me in all sorts of directions. Pickpockets, "merciless hagglers, the pleas of rag-wearing vagrants, and the shoves of over-privileged gentry," knives and revolvers to hold up an elaborate art auction - that all makes me think something Victorian. But mixed in you have electricity and modern conveniences. And then later there's monoculars and flash bombs and special contacts. And the candle fighting section and robes and all speaks to some kind of exotic or supernatural piece. I'm seriously lost in all this - even after reading the whole thing I only have the vaguest sense of your setting.

Don't be coy, particularly up front. Start with Jimmy reflecting on the job, make that clear that he's here for this sort of thing from the start, not buried in the middle of the story. Sometimes a little exposition is what a reader needs, particularly when you're basically doing exposition anyways, just scattered throughout. I do appreciate that you're much better in laying the groundwork for Jimmy wanting to leave, planting the seeds of Roy's callousness throughout. The end is by far the most effective element of the whole piece, and by that point I would totally be interested in where we're going from here. But then again, I don't really get any sense of what it is exactly that he's leaving either.

This could either be a reasonably sharp minific, extensively cutting and focusing on that kind of poignant end. Or it could be a nice start to something bigger, also with extensive cutting and rearranging some things so it's more comprehensible. In between the two, it unfortunately struggles.
#2 ·
· · >>horizon
Hold on.


This... is Stainless Steel Rat fanfiction, isn't it?
#3 · 1
I thought this was a strong and interesting start to a story. The world building was good, assuming my thought about a Stainless Steel Rat-esque world holds true. The candle thing was cool. Jimmy's character comes across strongly. The action was satisfying. The whole criminal-with-a-heart-of-gold thing going on here suspends my disbelief.

The setting description at the very beginning was kind of unclear, and unfortunately the story stops right at an interesting moment instead of truly wrapping things up. Plus, I still think this is Stainless Steel Rat fanfiction. But that's not a bad thing. The clarity and lack of real resolution bring this down a bit for me, but overall I was very happy with what was here.
#4 · 1
· · >>CoffeeMinion
As a Stainless Steel Rat fan (and author of The Iridescent Iron Rat in a previous Writeoff) I can pretty definitively confirm that this is not SSR fanfic. While the main character is named Jimmy [SSR = James DiGriz] and there's a few scraps of dialogue which call him a "rat":

1) The Rat is a committed pacifist and would not plan a job to kill.
2) The Rat typically works alone. When we first meet him he's well into his career; there's a later story which explores his origins but this is absolutely nothing like it (nor is there a "Roy" anywhere in the series to my recollection, much less as his mentor).
3) While the setting of SSR does have some psionic elements, the series is very solidly sci-fi, and the candle magic here doesn't fit even a little within it.

Just noting this to tell readers to judge it on its own merits rather than as a derivative.
#5 · 1
And while I'm here, a brief review.

Agreed with >>Ferd Threstle that the opening is rather disorienting. In fact, after reading through the whole story I really don't have a good sense as to the setting. There are a number of sci-fi elements, but a very distinctly magical feel to the candles (what with leaves and rat skulls and such). Jimmy is using a revolver, and watches TV, which implies a modern setting. But if this is urban fantasy, why is he name-checking holograms? Why does the beginning make a point of him living under the natural light of the sun and stars? I like that you're willing to stray beyond a generic "sci fi" or "urban fantasy" or "fantasy" setting here, and show us a setting that doesn't fit cleanly in any one category, but to do so, you *have* to do more to show us how those clashing elements reconcile.

And while I do like the candle dueling, I'm left with questions, mostly about the young woman. Her turnaround from defiance to actively participating in the duel is sudden, dramatic, and insufficiently explained. All I can get out of the story is that the guard apparently hit her; if that was all it took to get her engaged in the duel, how was she so defiant in the first place? And why is she so resistant to dueling? There don't seem to be any consequences for either winning or losing (or refusing to play, beyond getting punched); she's getting sold either way, it just changes the price. All the scenarios I can come up with either give her no reason to play or no reason to balk. If there's something going on like "losing candle duels eats a piece of your soul", it's entirely non-obvious in the story.

I think this is winding up for more engaging material beyond the current ending, but the story as-is feels incomplete/prologue-y, and I have to judge it based on only the material as presented.

I'd focus in editing on straightening out your material, bringing the setting and characterization out a little more strongly and consistently. This builds in some interesting hooks as it goes, and would be a solid foundation for something larger, but it would help to find a solid hook from the very beginning (it wasn't really until the candle mages appeared that this kicked into gear) and to communicate to us better the world in your head.

Tier: Almost There
#6 ·
Ah, I fear it's been a few too many years since I've actually read any SSR. I specifically remember that there was an origin story, but I figured any differences from canon were par for the course in fanfiction (aayyyy, right?!).

I'll acknowledge that the handful of surface similarities don't hold up well upon further scrutiny, but man, I tell you, it was like I could feel the author winking every time the word "rat" came up.
#7 · 2
Out of all the fics I've read for this round, this is one of the most creative. I like the idea of this bizarre underworld where people can bid on people who "candle duel" with their spirit animals (or whatever those are), and that this manipulation of magic runs deep within this society. I also liked how the ending has Jimmy realizing that Roy is no better than the slavers he helped the woman escape from, and deciding that he'll abandon him if he finds her. It's a big bit of development, and a full 180 from the glorification of Roy he'd been doing in the beginning of the story.

With that in mind, I have to agree with the others that the opening was a bit confusing. The lack of details made it somewhat hard to figure out what was going on. Also, the "monocular" was hard to figure out until about halfway through. Finally, the idea of candle-dueling, while interesting, doesn't seem to be as big of a deal as the characters make it to be. While I enjoyed it, I have to admit that the concept doesn't really make it clear what the consequences of such powers are. Can it affect something other than other avatars? Is it a sign of high-control magic? It's an interesting concept, but not enough is told about it to make it really clear why it's worth stealing.

A creative situation that just needs a bit more clarity.
#8 · 3
Whelp, that was a thing. Obviously this isn't a complete story. It's more of a key chapter for a novella I'm planning out (and for that reason I'll be unpublishing this version). This was all of the story that could manage in the time allotted. All the same, I should've put a couple more sentences in to make the nature of the world clearer. Sorry about that!

There's no relation to SSR here. Rat just happened to be Roy's monicker for his lowly apprentice. It rolls off the tongue faster than Maggot, my first choice.

As for the utility of the candles, there really wasn't supposed to be any beyond ceremony. The two women and their skills are being sold like circus jugglers, a form of exotic entertainment not typically seen in the 'modern' world.