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Author Topic: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread  (Read 13521 times)

Offline xiagan

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So here is the possibility to get critiques for your stories entered in our Plot Twist writing contest - and to give critique as well.

If everybody wants and gives critique, this thread will be pure chaos soon, while 2-3 critiques for as many stories shouldn't be a problem. We'll see how it goes and adapt if necessary. :)

So what we're doing is this:
1. Everybody who wants critique for his story posts in here.*
2. Everybody who wants to do a critique for a specific story (whose writer has asked for critique) posts it in here.

IF this thread is overrun fast, I'm splitting it so that every story has it's own one to avoid confusion. :)

* I know that critique isn't always easy to handle, especially if you are not used to it. So if you feel more comfortable receiving it in private, people can send it via pm. They can post here that they sent a critique via pm so that others know about it.

At the moment I don't think it necessary that we create a system balancing given/received critiques. However, if it turns out to be unfair and some people are giving critiques without receiving some (or the other way round) we have to add one.

Basic rules for critiquing:

This is just a small guideline for those that haven't done critiques before, stolen from this forum's writing section.
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Critiquing Other’s Work
1. Please read what the poster is asking for before you post your critique.
2. Critique the writing, not the writer.  Never, “You are...” or “You should...” but rather, “The writing is...” or “The story should...”
3. We all have different levels of writing ability here, keep that in mind when critiquing.
4. Find what is right in each piece as well as what is wrong.
5. Remember that subject matter is personal. You don't have to like a story to give it a fair critique.
6. Remember what your biases are and critique around them.
7. Remember that real people wrote this stuff, and real people have real feelings. Things you may not say while critiquing: “That’s awful.” “That’s stupid.” “You couldn’t write your way out of a paper bag.”
"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)

Offline Raptori

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2015, 11:08:03 AM »
We'd love some critique, as always!  :)
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Offline D_Bates

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2015, 03:52:58 PM »
I wanted to write my positive piece like I did on the rogues, but never really found the time, so I'll post the tidbits as and when requested with a little bit of critical stuff for thought.

So, @Raptori and co. – I really enjoyed this story. Honestly, the opening was amazing. I found the whole race to be really thrilling. It gave me a real Avatar moment.
I think that where it fell short was more to do with the theme it was trying to be shoehorned into. After reading in the other thread that it was supposed to be underwater, I’m afraid I also fell into the crowd who never got that, though I do now see it on rereading. I think the problem here was threefold.

- Firstly, knowing there was meant to be a twist in each story, when you mentioned that they were dragons that sort of hit the moment and I wasn’t looking for another more subtle one. I think it would have been better to have either kept them in the air and used them being dragons as the real twist at the end, or else revealed right at the start what they were so there was no confusion later on.

- Secondly, I had the picture of a human hunters’ spaceship in my head from Henry Dale's piece coupled with Rukaio's alien from the earlier post, so with the Avatar hook I latched onto, I probably just assumed the giant spaceship was what you were going for. Obviously this is no fault of yours, just an unfortunate circumstance of what was around the story when I read it.

- Finally, you set up the opening scene so incredibly well that the vivid picture of high cliffs and mountain gorges wasn’t able to be overwritten by the final sentences mentioning it being underwater. I think there was also a bit of cheating going on here. For example, you mentioned repeatedly that they were flying, yet you can't really fly underwater. They're dragons, yes, but surely they'd be stroking their wings as giant fins/flippers to swim, not flapping them to stay airborn.
The description of the underwater landscape was also sort of twisted to be more like a mountain formation than it could really be. Things like how he could see "every tuft of grass", does grass grow under the sea, or is it weed? And do weeds come in tufts or are they clumps? Also, "every piece of rubble strewn across the tops of the cliffs” Rubble gives more of an image of a pile of stones near a collapsed wall, not a scattering of rocks that have been littered around the seabed on the current's whim.
But the killing blow came with the dramatic surface when he was belching flames to scorch the cliff walls. I don't think even a dragon could scorch stone submerged in sea water unless they were focusing flames on it for a good while. This sentence hammered down the image of a dry sky high mountain rift right when you wanted to be nailing the fact that it was underwater. Switching it up to mention something about the surrounding water bubbling/boiling would have likely fixed the confusion on my part and made me realise exactly what you were going for. But in doing that, you'd probably also want to remove him using the flames earlier on so that you can save it for that grand finale.

Overall though, I think a lot of this was merely a byproduct of trying to fit a good story into the theme. I don't doubt that most of those issues probably wouldn't have been there were a twist not the topic of the month. And outside of those minor blips, this was a well written piece, fun, and with a rather interesting concept exploring how these underwater dragons are just having fun. Even though I pictured the entire event happening in the skies, I really enjoyed it nonetheless.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2015, 04:21:57 PM by D_Bates »
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Offline Nora

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2015, 04:36:09 PM »
Would also appreciate any review or comment or feed back on my Wolf story.

Meanwhile, Raptori, I agree only on the third point with David. I myself understood straight away the passage from under water and air, and found it smart, but my personal struggle was with what happens then.
Flames? From an underwater dragon? Ya know, what's the use under water? Also water in the sea stays very cold, so what's with that. It kind of made me twitch.
I do agree that the vocabulary is misleading in a way that could be revised by looking for more appropriate and ambiguous words. Like wise the men's ships took me time to really picture. A more readable description could be a bonus, if only because the twist part is passed, so clarity wouldn't hurt.

"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

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Offline ClintACK

Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2015, 06:28:23 PM »
@Raptori -- I enjoyed this story a lot, but now I'm worried that I may have misread it. 

I thought the twist was that the "dragons" are actually whales, and "dragon" is just how they think of themselves,  and the "flame" that lets him see clearly is his sonar.  There's so much I like about this twist that I hope it's what you meant.  But I just finished Moby Dick for the first time this year, so that may have influenced my perception here.  There's a big section there on how all the dragon myths are inspired by whales.  And the flying out of the water and then coming down to smash the ship read like a breaching whale to me.  Unleashing his sonar against the ship at the top of his arc and not getting the reaction he would have from fish underwater was great.

If I was reading it right, my problems with the twist fell into two categories: 1) I'm still not sure that's what the twist was (which means it wasn't solidly revealed).  and 2) A great twist is surprising but inevitable, and the twist wasn't telegraphed/clued/foreshadowed enough to make it an "oh, of course!" moment instead of a "wait, what?" moment. 

Reading back, there were lots of things that should have been clues.  There are just a few things that didn't read as whale.  "He clenched his jaw, aware that every turn brought the others closer to his tail." was brilliant -- he's a jaw and a tail.  But "His opponent kept pace... clawing back in the turns," made me see dragon claws against the sides of a narrow canyon.  And "Their wings clashed... clipping Aya's wing again to keep him off balance..." is enough to make me wonder again if I've misread the whole story -- although "clipping" the tiny little flippers of a whale would affect his balance and steering.

Lots of good things here.  The story was very readable and entertaining right through for me.  It caught my interest immediately.  The first paragraph of description used action to paint the picture rather than being static, which was great, and helped to keep the "adrenaline" from dissipating while we got our bearings.  And the creatures with silver and gold backs are a great clue that pays off when we realize they're fish.  The tension ramps up well through the whole story, well paced. 

The only problem was that the "twist" moment didn't land as solidly as it might have, in a month where the twist is the point.

Offline D_Bates

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2015, 09:02:49 PM »
The whale aspect is an interesting take ClintACK. I like it. Though I suspect these were intended to be actual dragons.

@Nora , I'll admit, when I was reading talk of a rape story on the discussion thread I had a few concerns. I tend to find a bit of a problem in all forms of media the amount of times abuse or serious events are so casually thrown around as cheap plot devices, or in an even worst case--especially with fantasy writing at times--used as a twisted form of entertainment.

That said, by the time I got around to reading the stories, I had forgotten what the plot was intended to be, so read it with fresh eyes.

In terms of the story, it came across as tasteful for the theme involved. I found the narrative quick, pacy, and erratic, giving a good sense of a frightened and confused girl ready to fight back against a father who appears to be a serial sex offender/murderer.

I thought the idea of the girl twisting real life into a nightmarish fairty tale in order to escape the horror she faced to be rather clever. I could really see young victims of such crimes seeing the world this way. You also used the scenery to great effect to show her state of mind and set the proper mood.

I did have a slight bit of confusion over the assault itself. It begins by her being knocked down on her front, face being pushed into the ground. Then she seems to get flipped over onto her back, but there was never any mention of her being turned over, yet I had the assumption that he'd already penetrated her by then.

I was also a bit lost over the father's voice in her ear. I didn't really get what that meant, and for a short time had me believing that it was the uncle committing the assault until the end when it was revealed that the father was the culprit. Even looking back now I can't work out why he was telling her that or what relevance the uncle has, unless the intent was that he was somehow subconsciously training her to stop him. The idea that someone who commits such heinous crimes still loves the person their violating is certainly an intriguing one, but one I think you'd be really hard pressed to sell to a wider audience, and could go horribly wrong if not done tactfully.

So yea, not my cup of tea story for sure, but I thought it was a brave effort at a rather serious theme that, at least on the surface, appeared to be taken as seriously as it should be. So kudos to that.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2015, 09:30:54 PM by D_Bates »
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Offline Henry Dale

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2015, 11:34:11 AM »
A lot of scrambled reviews from my side because there have been very detailed ones already. Hope I can still contribute somewhat.

I also would like someone to bash my piece a bit :p

@Nora
Your story was dark and gritty. A style I rarely enjoy because a lot of stories do it wrong (or I just pick the wrong books, who knows). Anyway, I think you did a proper respectful job with the theme you chose.

You also keep your characters in that bare minimum setting. No names, anonymous, which contributes to a dark fairytalesque atmosphere. It also intensifies the story in this case.
I think the father subconsciously wants her to stop him because he teaches her how to hunt, is that right? I think maybe here the confusion started though. In the story, her father teaches her how to fight and then she has to fight because she's a good niece to her uncle? I'm not sure. I know it's because the uncle fought at the start of the story, but the two mix up.

@Raptori
Honestly, at first I had no idea what was going on. Then I figured the ships might be airships, or floating on aether or w/ever. If it weren't for these reviews I would still be thinking it was that :D
In hindsight, your story is pretty awesome. Sorry for not voting for you :p

Offline Raptori

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2015, 01:45:50 PM »
Thanks for all the feedback, everyone (including Henry Dale, can't tag because of the space in the username  >:( )! Sounds like in general we just didn't make it clear enough what the hell was going on. Glad that people enjoyed it anyway!  :)

@D_Bates, I think you're right that the root of the problem is that we were trying to force it to fit the theme, plus we left it so last minute that we didn't have the time to ask anyone else to read it or really spend time reading it through ourselves.

Re: the words we used, it's definitely a case of being stuck between either giving the twist away right at the start or being a bit too misleading. We had to choose between "swimming" and "flying" since we didn't have time to come up with more ambiguous wording, and we thought flying would be okay because it's a more accurate description of how we pictured them moving - kind of like this, though obviously they'd be heavier so it'd look more like normal flying. I guess most people aren't aware/wouldn't think of sea grass:P The rubble I'm not sure about since I'd have expected it to be almost as common underwater as above, I can see how that could be wrong though. I'll have to read it again at some point to see if there were any other misleading details.

I guess the bigger issue is the fire (as @Nora also highlighted). The flames are actually supposed to be inside him until the moment he flies up and attacks, they're not supposed to be flowing around him or anything like that. We were thinking of them as fiery internal magic that the dragons can use to enhance themselves physically, and also to spit fire when they're above the water and particularly angry. With the heat of the flames filling him, the water would've heated up extremely quickly, which would've caused the scorch marks - pretty sure scorch marks are a result of any kind of heat rather than just flames, but again I could be wrong there. Seems like that's the key point where we needed some clearer description at the very least.

@ClintACK, that's not how we'd thought of it, but I really wish it was. That'd have been a much better fit for the theme, and would have worked a hell of a lot better. Wish we'd have thought of that!
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Offline Nora

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2015, 02:31:44 PM »
Thanks Henry, David, for your reviews.

I'm especially impressed by yours David because... You took the whole story metaphorically. That's great, but completely not my intention! I take it as a compliment then. I did hide as best I could some layers of meaning but mostly by hiding the rape under the encounter with the wolf, as a predator. Never so far as to mean that the girl actually imagines anything.
To me I wrote a dark take on the little red riding hood, and nothing else. I got inspired by a short story where the wolf is a familiar of the grandma who is a witch. Upon discovering that, the little red riding hood calls on the neighbours to slaughter the granny and she leaves in her house happily ever after! I though "wow, dark. But wait, I could totally come up with way worse" and the idea sprang.

As for clearing up : she never goes back to being on her back, she's on her belly and strikes by stabbing behind her head (as the wolf is bitting her neck).
Yes she ears her father's voice because she sorts of remember his advices. He does say "be a good niece to your uncle" because the uncle fought while the two other women didn't seem to have fought back. Originally I wanted to elaborate that point, now I guess I could have entirely skipped it, I see how it's confusing on several levels.
As for the dad, he trains her to hunt, yes, mostly because I needed a plot twist, and an absenty dad is suspicious, but also I figured the dad doesn't really master himself. I guessed he was a rather good dad, took measures after killing his wife (let's say unknowingly). He turns into a werewolf and rampages. He's got to be conscious of it but would learn of the disappearances later and the like. I never saw the father as evil, but rather ambiguous. Really wanting to let everyone (me included) wonder how safe the girl is, now that she's home and facing him.

Thanks y'all for appreciating the story despite horror not being your genre. I have a rather unexplainable attraction for horror related stories I think, I can't explain it to myself. Or at least dark. I mean, I haven't written a single piece that was cheerful so far. Damn!
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline ClintACK

Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2015, 03:27:25 PM »
@ClintACK, that's not how we'd thought of it, but I really wish it was. That'd have been a much better fit for the theme, and would have worked a hell of a lot better. Wish we'd have thought of that!

  :-[    I'll just be over in the corner pretending that "person who loves stories that only exist in his own head" is a translation of "writer" and not "crazy person".

Offline Raptori

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2015, 04:03:25 PM »
@ClintACK, that's not how we'd thought of it, but I really wish it was. That'd have been a much better fit for the theme, and would have worked a hell of a lot better. Wish we'd have thought of that!

  :-[    I'll just be over in the corner pretending that "person who loves stories that only exist in his own head" is a translation of "writer" and not "crazy person".
I've always believed that the writer only creates half of the story, and the reader creates the rest. Each reader will interpret things differently, notice different details, skim over different sections, and picture everything in a completely unique way, so thinking of it as a two-way process makes a lot more sense to me. :)
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Offline D_Bates

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2015, 05:06:58 PM »
No need to go to the corner ClintACK! Your theory was awesome. And there's no shame in being influenced by other reads. It's no different to how I was influenced by the other short stories here. Unfortunately, no matter how good anyones writing is, there's nothing they can do about the mindset any reader is in while taking in their work. On my read, even though I can now quite clearly see they come out of water, I honest to God imagined them attacking a floating ship spraying darts all over the cliffsides with a giant net of dragons dangling beneath it... so yea!

@Raptori I feel your pain with writing to competition rules. To be honest, were it not for the April Fools motivation I'd have had hell with this theme too. Twists are something everyone praises in short stories, but god damn are they hard to pull off. If I had to actually invent a topic as well I'd have crumbled in despair.

I'll concede that I learnt something about seagrass today! Though from a quick google I think that stuff is more situated on shallow shore regions rather than the deep sea gorge I now picture in your story's setting. You're also right about the rubble, stones would crumble underwater too, but I think they'd scatter pretty quickly to the current rather than make nice piles of rubble. In truth though, I think the problem for me was that you did the scenery so damn well in the first half that you just had no hope of hitting me with the twist switch in a couple of sentences at the end. And that can only be a credit to your writing.

Regarding the flames, I actually thought the description of the fire building inside them was brilliant. But in both cases--when he was lighting the area to find his way and scorching the walls on his ascent--I imagined that he was actually spitting the fire out, which, when I retcon my image to being underwater, doesn't quite work even if I try and bend the rules because... magic!

While on the subject of underwater, I also think you're pushing the boundaries just a touch with the darts. For me, a poison dart draws forth the image of a needle coated in poison. I believe you were more going for the tranquilizer syringe, but in both cases I'd think that firing them into water would make them impotent, since the water resistance would either cleanse the poison or else prevent the injection when you're looking at any creature at depth--especially one with a dragon's hide.

This is being really picky on niggly details though, and no one author (or even two in your case) will ever pick all that up. That's the joy of collaboration to help make things as good as they can be. At the end of the day, from this and your Rogues entry I think you've got a really great narrative voice and style that's very readable.
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Offline D_Bates

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #12 on: June 03, 2015, 05:26:38 PM »
@Nora You're most welcome again. I do have a problem of looking into things deeper than there is. But at the same time I also believe that in writing, even if the writer themselves isn't fully aware of it, there is some sort of subconscious element working beneath the surface.

Knowing what you meant, I think the problem with the flipping round came with the fact that she was staring into his eyes. She could maybe glimpse them, but not really stare into them unless she's facing him. You could also clarify the knife swing as being over her shoulder and give that momentary pause where she realises she's hit something, but doesn't know it's the eye until she turns around to see.

In terms of the dark writing, there's nothing wrong with that. If anything I think writing should be exploring that side of us. I myself have very dark thoughts at times--I don't think there's anyone that doesn't. The difference between a decent person and a monster is whether or not we cave in to those thoughts and make them a horrifying reality.
What I would say now that I know your motivation--and this is purely from my perspective alone here--I'd cut the rape out of this. There's nothing that particular event really adds to the horror other than just pushing it to an extreme for the sake of being extreme. The violent assault is more than enough here and the idea of the dad being the monster is a good twist. And as I said, your carrative really set a dark and creepy scene. Though I felt it was slightly overdescriptive at times, overall I felt it was really good.
David Bates
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Offline Raptori

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #13 on: June 03, 2015, 08:11:03 PM »
@Raptori I feel your pain with writing to competition rules. To be honest, were it not for the April Fools motivation I'd have had hell with this theme too. Twists are something everyone praises in short stories, but god damn are they hard to pull off. If I had to actually invent a topic as well I'd have crumbled in despair.
Yup, I think we'd have had an easier time coming up with a twist if there was a theme to go with it - it was easy to come up with the twist for our Rogues story, for example. When you can do anything, the sheer potential can be a bit overwhelming. Always find it easier to use limitations creatively than start with a blank slate. Same problem this month too!  :P

I'll concede that I learnt something about seagrass today! Though from a quick google I think that stuff is more situated on shallow shore regions rather than the deep sea gorge I now picture in your story's setting. You're also right about the rubble, stones would crumble underwater too, but I think they'd scatter pretty quickly to the current rather than make nice piles of rubble. In truth though, I think the problem for me was that you did the scenery so damn well in the first half that you just had no hope of hitting me with the twist switch in a couple of sentences at the end. And that can only be a credit to your writing.
Yeah admittedly we were pushing it at least a little bit - that area was meant to be vaguely like a seagrass meadow at more of a coral reef kind of depth, but I'm not sure if any seagrass in real life would grow that deep. The gorges were supposed to rise up much closer to the surface, which would be why the hunters would've tried to catch the dragons there - they'd be either trapped in the narrow gaps or driven towards the surface. In hindsight you're probably right about the rubble.  ;)

I guess that of all the things that can be wrong with your writing that's a good problem to have!  ;D

Regarding the flames, I actually thought the description of the fire building inside them was brilliant. But in both cases--when he was lighting the area to find his way and scorching the walls on his ascent--I imagined that he was actually spitting the fire out, which, when I retcon my image to being underwater, doesn't quite work even if I try and bend the rules because... magic!
Yah I can see how it'd read that way, would've worked better with more space to describe it I guess. I think we might use those dragons somewhere else sometime...

While on the subject of underwater, I also think you're pushing the boundaries just a touch with the darts. For me, a poison dart draws forth the image of a needle coated in poison. I believe you were more going for the tranquilizer syringe, but in both cases I'd think that firing them into water would make them impotent, since the water resistance would either cleanse the poison or else prevent the injection when you're looking at any creature at depth--especially one with a dragon's hide.
Yep we did realise that when we were editing, but didn't want to go through the effort of working out an alternative and changing stuff at that point - after all we can always just say "because magic", right?  :P

This is being really picky on niggly details though, and no one author (or even two in your case) will ever pick all that up. That's the joy of collaboration to help make things as good as they can be. At the end of the day, from this and your Rogues entry I think you've got a really great narrative voice and style that's very readable.
When we're reading (and when we watch tv/film it's even worse) all the niggly details stand out for both of us, so we always want to improve on that, really appreciate it when people take the time to find them in our writing. We just have to resign ourselves to never quite making anything perfect, since that's pretty much impossible.  :P
I wish the world was flat like the old days, then I could travel just by folding a map.

Offline xiagan

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Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
« Reply #14 on: June 03, 2015, 08:20:36 PM »
@Raptori I feel your pain with writing to competition rules. To be honest, were it not for the April Fools motivation I'd have had hell with this theme too. Twists are something everyone praises in short stories, but god damn are they hard to pull off. If I had to actually invent a topic as well I'd have crumbled in despair.
Yup, I think we'd have had an easier time coming up with a twist if there was a theme to go with it - it was easy to come up with the twist for our Rogues story, for example. When you can do anything, the sheer potential can be a bit overwhelming. Always find it easier to use limitations creatively than start with a blank slate. Same problem this month too!  :P
Oh, but you had a theme. Werewolf, vampire, girl.  ;D

And I can absolutely understand that because I'm the same when writing stories. Nevertheless I think it's great to have a kind of open theme from time to time and to hone a different kind of skill. :)
"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)