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In Name Only · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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The Sparrow
A sparrow with speckled wings rose from a dreamless sleep, claws clenching and unclenching from upon its perch. It glanced around for a moment, before unfurling its wings, catching the first slivers of light from the midwinter sun which lays hidden behind a sky of slate. It hopped further out on the rust-red branch, still glancing behind its shoulder periodically but with an air of routine surrounding it. Reaching the very edge, the sparrow surveyed the glade that lay before it.

Without a moment’s hesitation the sparrow sprung from the branch, diving to the earth with its speckled wings coiled around itself, air rushing past in hisses. Flaring its wings, the sparrow levelled a hair’s length above the ground, flashing past trees of grey and brown and black, of widths that ranged from tens of thousands its size to even smaller than itself. Chipped boulders of many colours and sizes rushed close by, yet despite its speed, the sparrow never once stumbled in its swift dance across the land.

It had taken this path for a while, and the morning flight was one it could take almost autonomously.

Sometime, when the sun just barely peeked over one of the trees that loomed across the jungle, the sparrow slowed to a stop on the ground. Curling its speckled wings along its body, it walked along a path that branched away from the glade. The path lead to clearing, rectangular in shape and walled in on three sides, and the sparrow walked towards the centre with casual steps, gracefully avoiding loose stones that littered the ground. And within that centre was a curious spire, shaped like a pyramid, and as the sparrow walked closer, it could see an image form from beyond the glass of its walls.

The sparrow gazed into the glass, and as the sun finally reached its peak, it saw itself, gray with speckles of flickering silver interspersed along its wings and back. Sparkling in the sunlight. A metallic sheen. It gazed into its eyes, and it saw only glass stare back.

It was only when the walls casted its shadows over the spire, did the sparrow fly back to its crevice, twirling through the urban jungle of rust in silence. The sparrow reached its branch with the last slivers of light falling from the sky, and without taking a breath it strutted its chest out,

And the sparrow sung.

It was a harmonious tune, and the notes were carried by a silent wind out into the open air, and it resonated and echoed out across barren valleys and decrepit mountain-tops; over plains with no grass and deserts with no sand; across oceans of baked salt and jungles of aging steel and cement.

And if one were to be fortunate enough to listen to the song that is played every evening, when the last ray of light lands upon the little rust-red branch, they would realise the song was one of forlornness.

For the sparrow knew that there would be none in the desolate land to hear its song.

And it then ended its song in static.
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#1 ·
· · >>WritingSpirit
This is an odd take on a post-apocalytical world. There are some technical issues, like that big blank in the middle of the story, and I wonder if a part of the story hasn’t be rubbed out here, as well as “sliver of light” used twice, for example, and generally the way you describe the world sounds slightly off.

The plot also is skimpy. The bird flies from its branch to that bizarre place (what is it, we never really get to know) then back and sings in the solitude. It’s pretty clear everyone else has been wiped out, but why it survived is not spelled out. Also the last sentence is confusing: is it an animal, is it robot? And if it’s a robot, why wait until the very last words to tell us so. It’s not that the reval recontextualises much of the story.

So, at the end, it’s… weird, but what the takeaway is, I’m still wondering.
#2 · 1
Your Story's Theme Song: Jessica Curry - The Seventh Whistler

Sorry, fellow writer, but as much as I appreciate the imagery that it invoked, I came away from this story disinterested, and that my subsequent rereads have only served to amplify that notion. Now, keep in mind that at the time of typing this out, it's just past 3AM, I'm having a raging headache after my insomnia acted up for the past two days, I'm feeling a post-Valentine's-Day spring flu coming along and I'm halfway through another bottle of beer, so I apologize if anything I'm saying right now comes off as blunt, to put it lightly.

>>Monokeras addressed some of the major concerns I've had with the story from the get-go, and that is with the general description of this world, particularly in the first four paragraphs. There's a great amount of detail being put into the sparrow's takeoff, consequent flight and landing, yet the terminology being used ('glancing behind its shoulder periodically', 'air rushing past in hisses', 'widths that ranged from tens of thousands its size') sounds extremely mechanical. It's as if it's something out from an instruction manual more than a story.

Now, one may suggest that it brings more emphasis on the imagery that the bird is a robot. Sure, I can see that, but I can only wonder for what purpose would us, as the reader, gain from it. Why is it important to the reader to know that the bird is mechanical? Why bring it up?

There's also a bit of repetition going on in the story. I can forgive repeating the titular animal, as it's basically the protagonist of this story. 'Sliver of light' didn't bother me as much either because both cases seemed to be given with different context, as mundane as the differences between them may be. Instead, what I found irritating was the constant reminder of the sparrow having wings, and that said wings were speckled. It was obnoxious on my first read. By my fifth, I found myself offended (though it may be because I've had too many beers. I like beer).

Looking at the first several paragraphs, this entry feels like an exercise in contrast. The organic vs. the mechanical. Nature vs. machine. It's a neat concept, to be sure. The only problem is that it feels like the execution of the concept is taking more priority than the execution of the story itself, if there is a story to be had at all.

Then the last few paragraphs come in, and the entry is recontextualized it into one of loneliness instead. On one hand, I'm glad that it's there. On the other, the execution leaves a terrible lot to be desired.

First off, if you want to hit home the feeling of loneliness, why not use an actual, living, organic, feather-based sparrow instead? Why bother changing it into a robot? It feels like it's trying to straddle a line between loneliness and artificial sentience, but in the end couldn't make heads or tails of either and just bungled the execution.

Second, why bother with a post-apocalyptic premise at all? Why not just pit the robot bird in a not-so-distant-futuresque time period where it flies aroud with other non-robot birds in hopes for a mate only to be denied at every opportunity? Won't that it hit home with both the contrast of nature vs. machine + the aspect of loneliness much better?

Third—and honestly, this is my biggest problem in the story—why mention the fact that these nonexistent 'they', should they hear the song despite not existing, would recognize it as a tune of forlornness? Why throw (what I believe is) the supposed theme of this story flat out in the open? After all the not-so-subtle nods and winks in the sentences prior, why bother putting it out there even?

In the end, I feel like this entry doesn't know what it wants to be, and when it tries to settle on an identity of sorts, it just stumbles and falls anyhow. I do like that we're seeing the world from the bird's perspective, but that's about all the positives I can garner from it.

Nevertheless, thanks for writing, and good luck!
#3 ·
Alternate Title: Bird-E

I want to like this entry. It has a premise and world that I like.

For one, I think the sparrow being a robot works perfectly fine within the context of what the story is going for. To think, the natural world is so ravaged that even a man-made machine like a robotic sparrow would have nothing to cling to, except to sing its songs like clockwork.

The prose is also, fittingly, quite poetic. It compliments the tone poem nature of the piece, and it carries a lot of the weight that would have otherwise fell on character and action.

You have to admit, though, that this story lacks character and action.

As much as I like the prose itself, my eyes were glazing over as I neared the end, because the prose doesn't really support anything. There isn't much meat on this story's bones, and that bothers me for a few reasons. The biggest is that this is one of the shortest entries this round, at just over 500 words, and I'm absolutely sure the author could've put those spare words to good use. Something, anything, should happen to the sparrow. We need more indicators of whether this sparrow is sentient or not, or maybe a better grasp of the kind of world it exists in, or maybe both.

I feel like the author is getting at something very concrete, but resorted to means too abstract to succeed in getting there. There's a time and place for abstract storytelling, like with allegories, but I don't get enough of an impression that "The Sparrow" is an allegory for anything. If it is, it needs more meat.

Allegorical meat, not actual meat.
#4 ·
The imagery here is nice enough, but there are enough editing stumbles and instances of word repetition that I wonder if you're hitting the time limit.

I don't understand the bird's purpose at all. If it's to be symbolic, fine, but it needs to make sense on a surface level as well. The first question is whether this is a real bird. The glass eyes could have been taken as metaphor, since it's seeing its reflection in glass, but the last line does pretty firmly put it as an artificial bird for me.

In either case, I still don't understand why it's doing what it does. If it's real, then birds sing for only a few reasons: attract a mate, mark out a territory, or to communicate with its flock, usually just to issue warnings about threats. Some birds are more social than that, like parrots, but sparrows, not especially. So I don't see why it'd care that nobody heard its song, and you're not giving me any context to come up with any.

Actually, take that a step further. It might care that there's no mate to be found, but the jungle is still pretty intact. This doesn't paint a picture of a world where sparrows have probably gone extinct, so I don't have a basis for thinking that it's lamenting being the last of its kind. Beyond some sort of instinctive response like that, it's a bit much to presume the sparrow has any complex motives.

Then take the case this bird is artificial. As an automaton, it again shouldn't care if anyone hears it. It has a function to perform, it's doing that function, end of story, until its systems fail. If it's an AI that potentially could have an emotional attachment to its song being heard, it sure isn't presented as such. Everything to that point has been described very factually, so to ascribe an emotion at the last second sticks out as the part that doesn't belong. It also thinks about things very simply, as an animal would, so it doesn't seem capable of those more complex thoughts.

As an exercise in writing evocative nature imagery, this is fine enough, but it doesn't feel like there's an actual story here.
#5 · 1
… I may have to abstain from voting here. I just can't read it without mentally comparing it to my own The Red Forest, which is a little unfair, because they're not always attempting the same thing.

Trying to look at this on its own merits — I'm with earlier commenters on this struggling due to its vagueness about whether the sparrow is sentient or not, and the ways that changes its motivations. Part of that, I think, is its daily routine. The backstory apocalypse is introduced at the end, as a twist, but I'm not sure it works for me as a twist — that requires offering us a recontextualization of what we've already read, and based on the current text, that recontextualization just sort of makes the sparrow's other routines pointless.

This might be a way in which The Red Forest is a useful compare-and-contrast: that story's shifting viewpoint takes us past landmarks and locations which tell the underlying story. Here, we see some silent forest (which implies nothing else is alive, which is something you already explicitly confirm at the end); some sort of pyramid monument (which tells me … basically nothing, sorry); and a barren, desolate wasteland (which is apocalyptic, but non-specific). This feels like a missed chance to show us more of the landscape, in more detail, and use that to paint a picture of the land which was, and exactly what happened to leave the sparrow alone.

For what it's trying to sell — the haunting image of the lonely robotic sparrow — it does a good enough job. I just don't think that that image alone is ambitious enough to carry the story.

Thanks for writing, regardless!
#6 · 1
My review of Male Order Magic included calling myself a dope, which means I get one free pass to call everyone else dopes. That's right. That's just how it works.


You're all dopes.

The bird is implied to be robotic several times throughout the story. Okay, maybe it could have been a little clearer, but come on. Dreamless sleeps. It's routine is 'almost autonomous' (okay yeah the 'almost' shouldn't have been there). Grey with speckles of silver. Metallic sheen. Glass eyes.

Also, the "slivers" of light comes up twice because it's the "first" and "last" slivers of light. Here (and a few other times) it's implied that this bird just spent an entire day looking at itself in a sheet of glass. It didn't even eat.

That aside, everyone has still made excellent points that this story lacks meat. I'm not going to cover the trodden ground. But since I do think this entry is meant to be an exercise in prose, I want to talk about that, because I love prose like this.

The word 'like' is an important modifier there because without it the sentence doesn't make sense because while I appreciate what you're going for, there were a few places that tripped me up. To list a few:

>…of widths that ranged from tens of thousands its size to even smaller than itself. The word "times" should be in here somewhere.

>The past tense of "lead" is "led". The past tense of "cast" is "cast".

>Sprang and sang, not sprung and sung (in your case). Also not sure why you italicized these words.

>If you do a Ctrl+F on this text for the word "and", and select "highlight all", your story lights up like a Christmas tree. Don't get me wrong, it's a common, handy word—but if anything, you don't need to be starting so many sentences with it.

>Not only could you take out 'and' from your final sentence, but you could even lose 'then'. There's a few words like this (just, only, etc.) that can sometimes be taken out to make things faster and punchier.

>I think there are some comma mistakes too, but fuck man, commas are hard. I'll leave that to the experts.

That's all I've got. I want to give props to you for attempting a more "quality of form" style of writing in the writeoff because I think it gets discouraged too often. So thanks for writing, and best of luck!
#7 ·
Fine mood piece. Probably one of the more complete of that type since it actually focuses on an idea. Nice prose. Scene break is probably unnecessary and breaks up the flow too much.

Prompt relevance... Robo sparrow? Yup.