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Flashfiction #31 Rating Thread

Discussion in 'Reader's Corner' started by afgpride, Apr 15, 2018.

  1. afgpride Retired Staff

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    Critiques for #31: Dream


    Entrants:
    shit
    Island
    Fedster
    BringerOfChaos

    -Reviews must be at least 50 words per entry and accompany a rating to qualify for reward points.
    -Entrants who do not give full reviews will be disqualified from reward points.
    -Non-entrants/lurkers who participate in the rating process will be awarded 1 point for their feedback (updated in the Prize Nook).


    Deadline is Tuesday.
     
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  2. Atlantic Storm Booze Intermission Administrator

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    shit vs. the newbies...
     
  3. shit shit is the ne plus ultra

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    @Island It's an interesting topic, but it doesn't go anywhere. The advice doesn't end up being sinister or insightful, despite being repeated a second time. Dire consequences are warned of if he speaks out about it, and unfortunately he decides not to which ironically makes the warning useless in the context of the story. This could really have used an outline, because there's so many interesting ways you could've taken this plot, yet you didn't. There may be some historical meaning behind the war (WWI?) that I didn't really pick up on, but you should've made it a little plainer if so.

    @Fedster I like the plot a good bit. It's a good twist, and it's a thought provoking topic as well. The structure is nice as well, and I was able to follow it fine enough despite some weird things happening. Your language is very messy in parts however, and you get in your own way a lot by not writing plainly enough and getting muddy in your descriptions. Some parts flat out make no sense, like "Eric’s corpse sat languidly, as inert and as lifeless as the late." I ended up having to push through some bad parts and look past them to see a good story here.

    @BringerOfChaos This is a bit simple, though I can respect the exercise of earnestly fleshing out a simple topic. Unfortunately the different parts don't segue very well to each other. The character going from just a kid who can't dream to a dropout flunky was a bit jarring and could've used a touch of set up during the childhood half. I like the idea behind the ending, but again it's jarring in how abrupt the ending was. I think any sort of description of the dream, even just saying it was beautiful or nothing like he'd ever experienced or whatever would've done a lot for the ending. As it is it feels like a let down after all the build up to it, which could've easily been cut down on to make words at the end. It's a competent piece though, and I give you props for nice language and ok visuals.

    Fed 5
    BoC 4.5
    Island 3
     
  4. Fedster The 2018 version of amputating your own leg

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    @shit
    You went for something unconventional instead of another short story, and I think your entry stands out because of it. It was a bit of a Debbie Downer at first (like every other entry, including mine. You probably set the tone for the whole contest), but I liked the hopeful message at the end.

    However, I can't get past the Mark Wahlberg analogy without squinting my eyes at it. While unique in its own right, it made me frown for a moment and say: “but why him, though?”. I think it may be because I do analogies differently, but it felt a bit out of place to me.

    Anyway, you get a 7/10

    @Island
    I'm more of a Victorian era guy, but this will do. I don't know if it's because I consume literature that touch on this topic a lot, but the date kind of allowed me to predict the ending. Maybe if you would have got rid of it and instead set the time through description (show, not tell, as you always tell me), the ending would've been more of a surprise.

    I liked the format (hell, I've used it recently for your contest), and the story was well-presented, though.

    Because of this, your score is a 6/10

    @BringerOfChaos
    I do have to commend you for putting your story together in the way you did. However, there were moments where the repetition hindered rhythm. You would definitely benefit in trusting your audience more and let them do some of the work; those kind of stories tend to be richer and more impactful.

    Your story was not cliché, but I can see that it suffered from butchering. It was cohesive, but it's clear that some things were lost in the editing part.

    Overall, I give you a 5/10
     
  5. Island In the Sun

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    @shit
    This reads more like an essay than short story, which isn't a bad thing, but I feel like I'm missing something important from this piece. Your narrator has an interesting voice; the down-to-earth dialogue makes this feel like something between you writing a persuasive essay and a world-weary old man having a conversation with me at the bus stop. I like that. It's a cool idea. My problem is that I don't think your narrator said anything novel; if the purpose was to persuade me of something or to explore an idea, I don't think you succeeded.

    As far as syntax goes, there are a bunch of words I would have omitted and sentences I would have restructured for brevity, but… I can't be bothered to show them all.

    I'll give you a couple thoughts.

    Noticeably, I think the first sentence "Your dream is a funny thing" would have read better if it was "Dreams are a funny thing. " Then I would have restructured the next few sentences like: "Your ambition dreams, I mean, not your sleep dreams, but even ambitions isn't right because people have all kinds of ambitions. You aspire to get through Monday without killing anyone. […]"

    What I'm getting at is that there are a bunch of words I feel are unnecessary and the bulk detracts from the point you're trying to make.

    @Fedster
    It was very Black Mirror down to parallels with scenes from the show. It's an interesting take on the theme. There were descriptions, especially in the beginning, that I didn't think added anything to the story. There were also a couple that didn't make sense in my head or convey something that made me go "Okay, I get what this character is sensing/feeling."

    Like I said, I like where you went with the theme, but I felt you could have been leaner in places and flex the prose muscle for others. With something like this, I want to feel a character's dread about waking up in a new place. I want to experience the apprehension about displeasing the room. Then I want him thrust back into the real world and finally delivered an explanation as to what the hell is going on.

    The ending is solid, again, Black Mirror-style.

    @BringerOfChaos
    It was an interesting coming-of-age story, but I don't feel like I got anything out of it. I don't think I learned anything or came out with a better perspective on a topic, which is what I was expecting while reading this. It was either that or the character would end up discovering a superpower and go onto fight crime. Either one would have worked, but in its current form, like I said, I'm not sure what the ending was trying to achieve. I think the biggest improvement you could make here is to figure out what you wanted your reader to take away from all this.

    There were also minor grammatical errors that bothered me way more than they should.

    shit - 5/10
    Fedster - 4.5/10
    Bringer - 4.5/10

    I realized after I posted it that it relied on too much contextual knowledge. The warnings and repetition were more or less the responses that treal people got in response to shellshock in the aftermath of WW1. In retrospect, yeah, I'm not sure what I wanted my reader to take away from the piece except maybe a perspective on mental illness that requires way too much contextual knowledge to be effective.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018
  6. BringerOfChaos ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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    @shit

    Was more of a monologue or a speech than an actual story, not saying that's a bad thing. I can actually sort of picture this entry as some retired old dude speaking to a bunch of high school kids, at an assembly weeks before their graduation, about following their dreams. Amusing thought aside, it was difficult to feel attached to the story with no tangible characters or setting to latch on to. The writing is good, everything seems solid in that department. Other than that, I will say I really like how you subverted the readers expectations. The way it was going, it was made to seem like having big aspirations was a silly and pointless thing to have, but at the very end, it is affirmed that those aspirations are there in the first place for a reason. All in all, I have nothing against your entry, I just wish it was more of a story.

    Slightly off topic, and this has no bearing on my review what so ever, but why Mark Wahlberg :lmao.

    5.5/10

    @Island

    I'm not a fan of journal entry storytelling. It is a very difficult medium to pull off in writings, especially when constrained to a certain word limit. Every word has to count, every word has to add something to the narrative. This is a subjective opinion, but I think journal entries work better when it is spaced our between time, instead of condensed within a few weeks. I.E Numerous sparse entries instead of fewer condensed entries.

    I was shell-shocked(GET IT!) by the ending, and didn't see it coming at all. Throughout the entire story, I was engaged because I was trying to figure what the fuck was going on with the man. It could just be because I'm either slow or stupid, which is indeed a possibility, but I definitely feel like you didn't drop enough hints. It feels like you were walking on egg shells not trying to give your ending away, that you overcompensated on keeping things vague and mysterious. For example, you could have definitely done some purple prose in the first paragraph when describing the dreams, something like metal behemoths that symbolize tanks.

    It is difficult to strike the balance of not giving things away but also leaving enough bread crumbs for readers to appreciate the twist. The best things about these kind of twists is rereading the story with the twist in mind to see all the things you missed, and unfortunately, my rereading experience wasn't really like that.

    5/10

    @Fedster

    You had a weak first half, and a strong second half. With the 500 word count limit, there was simply no way you could do the first half of the story any justice. The whole metaphorical in your head mindscape thing seemed a bit uninspired to me. You should have been less on the nose about it, like going with something a bit more interesting than a blank room and a description of a flood of memories occurring. Like, maybe the protagonist is in their childhood home, and then a earthquake or natural disaster is destroying it, as a metaphor for his identity being destroyed. This paragraph could be chaotic and hectic as everything he is as a person is erased. Or maybe the protagonist is in a place he doesn't recognize at all, and has a more melancholy tone as a different identity is literally copy and pasted over his. My point is, Eric Newmark being replaced with Edward Terrance doesn't illicit any emotion from me because I don't really know who Eric Newmark is.

    I imagine the point of your entry was to go for future technology advancement being spooky and mindfucking, but it's hard to be horrified when the human element of your story has been neglected.

    5/10



    Note: I found Island's and Fedster's stories to be much more interesting than shit's story, but, the reason he is rated higher is because I had no real complaints his entry.
     
  7. afgpride Retired Staff

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    @shit

    I enjoyed reading this, but it doesn't cut it as a flashfiction piece for me. It reads more like an essay than a narrative. Fictional storytelling inherently concerns a world outside of our current reality, even if it can closely resemble it or represent a hypothetical scenario in it. In this piece I didn't get an inkling of whether the narrator was a fictional character or yourself, if the world was our current world or one that closely resembled it, and I didn't get a particular narrative impact beyond a take on dreams writ large. If you did indeed make the narration the introspection of a slice of life character, it didn't quite show through in your piece. It could just as easily be you as a 'Fred', at least that's the impression when reading it. I sympathize with the injection of philosophy into narrative works and I think it's almost always a positive, depending on how it's used, but when the platform is fiction in particular it should be presented within an actual narrative. Perhaps a dialogue between two characters next to a fireplace on this subject, resulting in a spot of character development. Perhaps pure introspection of a character in a specific setting, prompting by a specific event or circumstance. You can say the exact same thing, get the exact same message across through narrative, and can even use it to your advantage, 'showing' the message more than 'saying' it at your leisure. Overall I liked it as a piece of writing, but it lacks the story element. I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt and assuming it was a story, but penalizing it for not making it clear enough that it is.

    3/10


    @Island

    Good form on not dressing up the prose with unnecessary verbiage; clean and direct usually shines through when it's read with fresh eyes. I like the journal-esque format of the piece, it justifies the brevity as well as the dreary register. It even (intentionally or not) justifies the super formal tone, since most indicators of slang, jargon and dialect traditionally dissipate when putting pen to paper. I liked the subtle world-building, such as gender roles and the minister declining to label the malaise as the devil's work (that was a nice touch, making note of the important role of the church but not caricaturing it). The only overt weakness that I can spot is that this was unambitious; it makes little to no mistakes, but it essentially boils down to war veteran #1290481 having PTSD from WW1. There are countless iterations of this story, so it helps to spice it up by either exploring a novel idea within this space, which I feel was lightly brushed against but not followed through with with the lack of support due to social attitudes in that era, or to create a compelling story that explores that same idea in novel ways.

    6/10


    @Fedster

    A lot of good stuff happening here and a lot of rough edges. I love the thought you put into the setting and plot, it's really difficult to create a viable thriller in the short space of 500 words and you definitely got me invested. But I had a lot of issues with prose, syntax, shifts in register and so on, the net sum of which made the piece suffer.
    isn't a crime to write, but it doesn't quite work in the way you wanted it to; it's an awkward mixing of clauses and objects that's better left written more frankly; ie; Eric stood in a bare white room.
    His entire body would imply his inner organs, no? Changing it to "his body, inner organs and even his soul" would probably chisel away at that.
    'An' instead of 'a', likely a typo.
    The first sentence here doesn't flow well unless it's in its own paragraph, a singular line that links the previous paragraph with the next. It also adds drama to the action.
    The way this reads is that a syringe communicates "commencing aftercare procedure. Protocol Four-Five-One finalized," by ejecting from a man's right temple. Obviously this isn't what you meant, but these are the subtle rhythm killers in improper syntax that can force someone to pause and re read in order to get what you meant. A period rather than a comma would've been an easy fix.

    Final nitpick:
    Which perspective is this story in? I'm guessing third person, but the register gets intimately close with the subjective framing of these characters. In ASOIAF for instance, the story is written in third person, but each chapter is written from the perspective of a given character. This deliberate bias gives insight into the world as the characters see it. But this only works if done properly; otherwise the narration is too-omniscient and gives away the internal thoughts, feelings and agendas of characters. Perhaps keeping it in Eric's perspective but dropping enough clues to let the reader deduce the plot elements would have been a better way to bring this narrative to bear.

    Overall, I thought this was the most compelling narrative of the theme, but he prose alternated between good and erroneous for me and it could've used a lot of revision. Looking forward to seeing what you write next.

    5/10


    @BringerOfChaos

    Similar to shit's entry I wasn't quite sure if this was a fictional story or self insertion. But this reads much more like a fictional tale so I'll treat it as such. I appreciated the honesty of your piece, how you didn't adorn it with unnecessary flash, and it made it come off wholesome. The theme of dreams really intersected the stages of the main character's coming of age, which was a nice way to go about the piece. I did feel the prose was lacking, it wasn't as sharp or elegant as it could've been written, but this is something that comes with experience. I needed more than you gave here but it was endearing nonetheless. Hopefully you keep writing and sharing your stories with us so I can see how you improve.

    4/10
     
  8. afgpride Retired Staff

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    shit - 5.125
    1. Island - 5.0
    2. Fedster - 4.875
    3. BringerOfChaos - 4.5

    _
    Since good guy Shitsu admitted his entry wasn't a fictional piece, it technically didn't qualify. He still gets feedback on his work and a point for joining in the crits process without having a qualified entry. Should be noted that everyone was fine with shit's entry qualifying, the only reason I'm still disqualifying it is because fiction is the only hard requirement of the contest along with keeping something under 500 words.

    Island - 6 pts
    Fedster - 4 pts
    BringerOfChaos - 2 pts
    -
    shit - 1 pt


    @Island chooses the next theme.
     
  9. Island In the Sun

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    I feel like Bakugo. I won on a technicality and not because my piece was better. :blobtrigger

    Anyway, thanks guys. Next theme is going to be...

    Islands. :blobevil
     
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