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Fantasy Faction Writers => Archived Contests => Monthly Writing Contest => [APR 2015] - Plot Twist! Werewolf, Vampire, Goat => Topic started by: xiagan on June 02, 2015, 09:00:35 AM

Title: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: xiagan on June 02, 2015, 09:00:35 AM
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.
Quote
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.”
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: Raptori on June 02, 2015, 11:08:03 AM
We'd love some critique, as always!  :)
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: D_Bates 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 (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=38840) 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.
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: Nora 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.

Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: ClintACK on June 02, 2015, 06:28:23 PM
@Raptori (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=38840) -- 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.
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: D_Bates 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 (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40237) , 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.
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: Henry Dale 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 (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40237)
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 (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=38840)
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
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: Raptori 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 (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40257), 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 (https://youtu.be/6ERPmoYsoMg?t=40s), 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 (http://www.nature.org/cs/groups/webcontent/@web/@hawaii/documents/media/maunalua-seagrass-490-x-250.jpg)?  :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 (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40237) 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 (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40381), 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!
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: Nora 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!
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: ClintACK on June 03, 2015, 03:27:25 PM
@ClintACK (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40381), 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".
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: Raptori on June 03, 2015, 04:03:25 PM
@ClintACK (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40381), 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. :)
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: D_Bates 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 (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=38840) 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.
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: D_Bates on June 03, 2015, 05:26:38 PM
@Nora (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40237) 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.
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: Raptori on June 03, 2015, 08:11:03 PM
@Raptori (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=38840) 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
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: xiagan on June 03, 2015, 08:20:36 PM
@Raptori (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=38840) 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. :)
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: Raptori on June 03, 2015, 08:34:41 PM
@Raptori (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=38840) 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. :)
Yeeeeah...  ;D

Yeah I agree, it's good that it's difficult. These last couple of themes have been pretty challenging I think, and it's great to try all sorts of different things. Taking part (reading the entries, voting, and discussing stuff included) has been a huge amount of fun and (we think at least) helped improve our writing a lot.  :)
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: Henry Dale on June 03, 2015, 08:39:09 PM
Gonna bump my wish for critique or it'll drown in the sea of discussion on themes  :P
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: ArcaneArtsVelho on June 03, 2015, 09:07:58 PM
I will try to write a few lines about your story tomorrow, Henry. Sleepy now

And if you want (or someone else wants) to critique my story, I welcome it. No need spend too much time on it (if you don't want to); a couple good/bad points or something like that will suffice.
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: Henry Dale on June 03, 2015, 09:13:19 PM
I will try to write a few lines about your story tomorrow, Henry. Sleepy now

And if you want (or someone else wants) to critique my story, I welcome it. No need spend too much time on it (if you don't want to); a couple good/bad points or something like that will suffice.

Thanks, will critique yours tomorrow as well. Got a long train ride then to do it. Night!
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: D_Bates on June 03, 2015, 09:30:22 PM
Apologies Henry, I missed that request! Will write something before the end of the evening for you.
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: Raptori on June 03, 2015, 09:53:01 PM
I also completely missed that! I still need to critique Nora's story from last time, then I'll try to get around to the ones for this month.  :)
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: D_Bates on June 04, 2015, 12:15:36 AM
@Henry (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=8080) Dale, though it will only say Henry I guess! Damn spaces... Underscore is where it's at these days!

This was short and sweet and told a great tale of soldiers making their last stand against a superior invading force. Despite its size, I think you got a lot of charcter in. The protagonist was very well done as a youth who'd joined the army looking for glory without any understanding of what he was getting into. The veteran captain was a good contrast to him, experienced, a little weary, and when it came down to the crunch he made the decision to send the innocent one of the group to safety. A good call and a nice moral.

Overall, your narrative was really concise, clear, well paced, and had a good voice. I had three little niggles in the text:
'Fabelhaft, sir.' He ventured, --though I see what you mean by saying ventured, the way this is positioned and its close relation to the words that were spoken makes it feel more an alternate tag for said. I'd suggest removing ventured and linking the sentence to the speech with a ," he said, hoping... instead.

The plan was easy enough but had proven to be effective before. --Something feels off with this sentence. I think what you were going for was something along the lines of, the plan wasn't a complicated one, but it was effective. Maybe switch out 'easy enough' with 'simple' could fix it, but atm it feels contradictory because something that's easier to do is likely going to be more effective unless it's only easier because you're not doing it properly.

It had grown louder and louder and was audible across the plains up to this point now. --This sentence felt somewhat excessive. He was hearing the hum right at the start, so it's already audible across the plains. All you really want to relay is that the hum is growing louder as the threat approaches, so tacking that point on to the part when he's getting worried about it and scrapping the part about it being audible across the plains would work better.

Storywise, I happen to like tales that make humans look bad. We live in a world where patriotism and loyalty to ones own 'kind' tends to blind people over right and wrong, and I think it's important to remind ourselves that no matter where we come from there are those that have committed horrific things in every culture over the centuries. It's not always as simple as us and them.
That said, it also works the other way. Not everything that is done in the name of a country is condoned by their fellow countrymen, or in this case, species. So earthlings attacking a planet to steal its resources does fall a tad into the land of hollywood cliche. I also think that if they were a serious invasion force they'd send more than just one super powered vessel. There's also a slight confusion coming from the alien camp: they seem to be aware that they're about to be attacked to the point where they have a tactic ready to ambush the aggressors, yet at the same time are oblivious to what it is that's coming for them.
At the end of the day that's being harsh for the sake of being harsh. None of that impeded my enjoyment of this as a short story--and I did enjoy it. Were it a scene in a novel I'd probably find it a bigger issue for the sake of suspension of disbelief.

Descriptionwise, I liked the fact that you were vague about the ship. I personally got a vivid image of some grand saucer with legs, sort of like something out of 'War of the Worlds.' I do think there was a slight issue with scaling when you said it was as big as a city. Were that the case I find it difficult to believe they couldn't see it in the forest before it arose. Surely it would have been levelling trees as it moved along. I'm not sure what alternate comparison you could make though, so maybe just take the easy route and use the neutral yet oh so dramatic phrase of, "That thing's huge!"

I would, however, have liked to have gotten a little more detail on the elstir. I guess that could have potentially ruined the twist, but like a few other stories, the twist here came off more as something that was thrown in for the theme of the month. Other than the elstir there's no subtle subtext to suggest that these people aren't humans. In fact, apart from the name and a striped hide the elstir are described as any horse I know. Were you to want to push for the alien planet I think you could put in some really creative sentences on how the tents and land features differ to our own.

Hope that was helpful, and I'm looking forward to reading your Fairytale entry!
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: Henry Dale on June 04, 2015, 07:41:40 AM
@D_Bates (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40257)
I am unsummonable >:-)
Serious tho :p  I'll change it

Thanks so much for the feedback. You're really good at giving it :)
I'll try to rewrite the story from the insights people give me here as a second writing exercise, cuz it's really helpful.
The Elstir description is part of my great weakness: assuming other people see the same thing :p

My fairytale is in a bit of a different style, I hope you like it regardless :)



@ArcaneArtsVelho (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40090)

I liked your story which was something between horror and thriller.
The initial sentences were a bit long so maybe chop those up, but after the first paragraph they get better and it gets a lot easier to read.
Your characterization is well done. We all get that the watchman is on edge cuz there's a killer on the loose and that makes him all the more vulnerable as a person.
Also the fact that he has a mace and not a sword is a bout of originality :p

The gift of seeing is a bit sudden though. He seems to have some magical premonition ability which is never touched upon later in the story. This makes it feel more like a plot device than something that's actually part of the world. Maybe when describing the city, you could've mentioned an academy of seers or something so we at least know this is a thing?

Were the goats and belfry references to certain unnamed forum members?  ;D
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: Lady Ty on June 04, 2015, 08:55:50 AM
@ClintACK (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40381), 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. :)
@Raptori (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=38840) I think you are absolutely right that the reader does create half the story, and many novelists are happy to receive multiple interpretations and to enjoy the fact that readers see so much in their work. @ClintACK (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40381) I think your interpretation was great as well especially as I am Greenpeace supporter. ;)

 I thought at first it was a dragon race on land. Near the end, when I realised it was underwater loved the thought of sea dragons and believed that was the twist, because that would be so unusual, and then found the dramatic rescue, the real twist, even more exciting.
You have nothing to fear about using sea grass or rubble. There are actually sea grass meadows and sadly as well as the terrible floating gyres of plastic, there is all sorts of rubble on sea beds from tsunami damage. Rubble is defined in the dictionary as applying to stone, but usage nowadays tends to cover material left or dispersed after any natural disaster.

http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/155952/
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: ArcaneArtsVelho on June 04, 2015, 11:29:17 AM
Henry Dale (I'm not using the @ so that the poor person whose nick is Henry doesn't get notifications about being mentioned.  ;D He hasn't been active since he registered in 2012, though.  ::) )

I'm afraid that I don't have too much to add after D_Bates' comments, but I'll try to find something to say.

I liked your story. I guess that's the most important thing to say.  ;D

I think it was nice that you had kept the story short, but at the same time I would have liked a little more description of the surroundings, the elstir, and the aliens (How humanlike were they? Because I got the feeling they were just like humans). Of course, as D_Bates already said, that could have been detrimental to the twist and the surprise ending.

To me, the (first) twist (the huge ship of incineration) wasn't in itself all that effective (probably just because I was expecting a twist), but the main twist or surprise ending with the fact that it was humans/earthlings who attacked these not-so-advanced aliens (or should I say natives) really made the story for me.

I really like your writing, and I think you had managed to put a lot of... well, character into your characters. And I was really glad that Basil survived, even if only to die another day in the hands of the ruthless earthlings.

But yeah, I'm afraid that's all I got.  :-\


As for the comments you made on my story:

Thank you very much.

Yes, some of the sentences were too long. I was, in a way, experimenting, trying to make the sentences somehow oppressive but still have them flow decently. Didn't really work, but I had been struggling so long with the word count (among other things) that I didn't have the energy to start reworking them.

Glad you liked the mace. I thought about going with a halberd, but as the watchman wasn't really going to go against crowds but only alert others if there was something bad going on, I figured a mace would do. Swords are too damn expensive!  ;D

The thing about the gift of seeing is very true. Seers and their powers are very much a part of the world (which is the world of my WIP novel), but of course in terms of this story they might feel a little (or a lot) detached. I should have incorporated some other reference to them, though there wasn't really room for it even if I had noticed that fault. *Shakes fist at word count limit.*

When it comes to the belfry and the goats, I admit I was a tad influenced by discussions on this forum.  ;D   But I think that they fit my story quite well.


Thanks again.
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: D_Bates on June 04, 2015, 04:48:08 PM
You're most welcome Henry.

I'll do a bit on yours a little later tonight ArcaneArtsVelho.

And @Raptori (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=38840), The venerable Lady Ty's link confirmed my suspicion that seagrasses are mostly coastal things in shallow waters (because I guess grass needs a good source of sunlight). I got the impression your dragons were a lot deeper out into sea, what with giant chasms and having to draw forth flames in order to see through the gloom on top of large fishing vessels (though I guess fishermen do trawl coastal regions too).

So if you were going to adopt these dragons (which are really cool) into a bigger thing, I'd still suggest dropping that. But then you wouldn't be hiding information for a twist in such a piece either, so a lot of those confusions that hit me (and I admit I was really tired at the time I read it) would probably not have come about due to a grander scope on the region.
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: JMack on June 04, 2015, 05:25:08 PM
You're most welcome Henry.

I'll do a bit on yours a little later tonight ArcaneArtsVelho.

And @Raptori (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=38840), The venerable Lady Ty's link confirmed my suspicion that seagrasses are mostly coastal things in shallow waters (because I guess grass needs a good source of sunlight). I got the impression your dragons were a lot deeper out into sea, what with giant chasms and having to draw forth flames in order to see through the gloom on top of large fishing vessels (though I guess fishermen do trawl coastal regions too).

So if you were going to adopt these dragons (which are really cool) into a bigger thing, I'd still suggest dropping that. But then you wouldn't be hiding information for a twist in such a piece either, so a lot of those confusions that hit me (and I admit I was really tired at the time I read it) would probably not have come about due to a grander scope on the region.

Or the dragons could be really small, and the shallows would be very, very deep for them.
But then the grasses would be more like wavy trees.
And the legs of the fly fisherman would be enormous alien walking pillars.
And...  :o
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: Raptori on June 04, 2015, 06:02:02 PM
You're most welcome Henry.

I'll do a bit on yours a little later tonight ArcaneArtsVelho.

And @Raptori (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=38840), The venerable Lady Ty's link confirmed my suspicion that seagrasses are mostly coastal things in shallow waters (because I guess grass needs a good source of sunlight). I got the impression your dragons were a lot deeper out into sea, what with giant chasms and having to draw forth flames in order to see through the gloom on top of large fishing vessels (though I guess fishermen do trawl coastal regions too).

So if you were going to adopt these dragons (which are really cool) into a bigger thing, I'd still suggest dropping that. But then you wouldn't be hiding information for a twist in such a piece either, so a lot of those confusions that hit me (and I admit I was really tired at the time I read it) would probably not have come about due to a grander scope on the region.
Yep, either that or establish that the dragons live in an incredibly clear place with very bright sunlight, which would allow the sea grass to grow at greater depths. It'd definitely need some more thought put into it for it to work out, but it could probably work either way!
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: D_Bates on June 05, 2015, 12:57:53 AM
So, @ArcaneArtsVelho (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40090),

What with being the last one, yours may have been at a disadvantage when I read through the stories initially--and I was tired and did read them all in two nights--but overall I thought this was a good story to finish up on. Despite the warning at the start, there was nothing in it I didn't particularly like, and I thought it was a rather imaginative piece that had a nice circle from start to finish, even if the opening did sort of give away where it was going. That's okay though. Contrary to popular, as great as twists are, stories can be no less enjoyable just because they have a clear road to where they're heading. Sometimes the lack of a dumb twist for the sake of a twist is a twist in and of itself... Did I really just write that?

Anyway! From reading your posts on other short story entries, I gather that you're often struggling against the 1500 word limit. In an effort to help you in that area, I think one of the things you should try and focus on is watching out for those adjectives/adverbs. Don't fret though, this is a common issue, and any writer who says that they don't have it or have evolved beyond it I would probably call a liar. It's natural when you're in the heat of creative brilliance and converting those images in your head into text to want to clarify every minute detail with that extra word to give it that little extra life. The skill comes when you go over the work afterwards and can see which ones you then need to cut out. As a few examples:
"An allayed smile" --I didn't know what allayed meant as I'm a bit of a simpleton when it comes to half the dictionary, but even knowing what it means now, the act of smiling when frightened shows us enough to know that he's calming down.
"Occasionally the fluttering flame in the lantern crackled" --the fact that the flame's fluttering doesn't add any mystique or mood to the scene for me. After all, fluttering tends to be what flames do.
"his right hand anxiously gripping the mace on his belt." --by this stage you've relayed enough of his emotional state that merely stating he gripped his mace shows us he's anxious without the need to say so.
"but the dusky far end of the corridor seemed too baleful to reach" --Again here, the setting is already clear so you don't need to tell us it's dusky.
"dwelling even in the gloomy corridor."--Getting a real sense of foreboding from this dusky, gloomy, corridor! It seems to be in a crepulscular state!
"and the petite lantern in the passageway did little to ward off the chill" --You already mentioned that the lantern was small, and on this occasion the reminer is actually detracting from the drama. The lantern would be more powerful were it big and unable to ward off the chill. That's not to suggest you should turn it into a big lantern! This late in the story there's no need to clarify its size, and honestly, the size of any lantern is so irrelevant in the grander scope of things that there's no real need to do it earlier either.

Modifiers aside, I thought you had a really nice setting in this piece. I had a clear image of the town, the creeping mists, the wall. In fact, I never noticed it on the initial read, but on the thorough one I just did for this feedback your description was so good that I could quite clearly see myself walking around it... which led to a minor blip in the plot...

As I understand it, the guy is a watchman for the town, but his station is in a secluded corridor within the wall which has no windows and a rope dangling down from a bell tower. This is by far and wide the most amazing watchman's post I've ever imagined! Even when he goes up onto the ramparts he still can't see anything because the rooftops of the nearby buildings are blocking his line of sight. And the one place he can get a half decent view from hasn't got any access point, leaving him to have to scale the outer wall by protruding bricks!
Please please don't think me being cruel here--because it's so not the intention--but I'm laughing so hard right now it hurts. I have this image in my head of the whole town burning down while he's stood in his corridor holding his rope wondering whether he should ever pull it for fear of pissing all the townsfolk off! This is the most amazing thing ever. I so wish I had this job myself.

Right... calming down... calming down. <deep breaths>

Ah...!

So yea, there's probably a bit of work to do on the location. If it's any consolation, I never picked up on any of that in my initial read-through--in fact I think I pictured them in an alley by the wall rather than an indoor corridor, which may have been a result of that allayed word and makes the above interpretation even more awesome. That just goes to show how relevant setting is in the grand scope of things. At the end of the day it is just a backdrop, and when the story starts moving from one location to the next I sort of zone out into autopilot where I'm reading the words but not properly taking them in, because the pretty scenery isn't what I'm interested in if you've done the characters/plot well. And the plot here is interesting.

What I'd suggest would be to relocate the scene up in the bell tower. You can have the lanterns, you can inject the fear in from the stairwell--mist creeping up the steps. When his partner leaves you could maybe throw in a sentence of the darkened land outside the town, then have the shrieks turn his attention inwards to where he sees the eerie movements. Maybe even have the mist situated inside the town but not outside. Something's amiss! And then if you want to have that little extra drama you could still have him climb out and up onto the tower's roof to get that better view of a hidden courtyard or something where he suspects the sinister villain lurks. All that's up to you.
The point is that by grounding the story into one location you're freeing up hundreds of words that were used to describe mundane travelling and can instead focus them into the mist which is ultimately the source of the fear you're trying to create.

In terms of typos or sentences that tripped me up I have:
"It didn’t tell of marauding warriors approaching the gates, nor it rang because of a fight erupting between inebriated peasants."
I think you can remove the bit in bold. If you keep it, there's a word missing, but it's excess information as we know that it's ringing because you've told us in the previous sentence. Apart from that glitch, I thought this was a nicely crafted opener that gave enough intrigue to make me want to read on.

The man wearing the boots sliced through an eerie, waist-high mist roused by the cool of the night from the thundering waters of the River Thundring which parted the town bearing the same name.
This went on just slightly too long. Maybe split it into two sentences. Bring the mist and time of day out into their own bit and contrast the sound of the man's boots against the river's crashes to naturally drop in that setting exposition. Loved the word clop to describe the sound by the way!

"He heaved no sigh of relieve"
Relief.
but the storm of complaints in the event of a false alarm stayed his hand.
For the record, two typos in 1500 words is pretty damn good by yourself. It took me a good few years to get them down to that level, and even now I've still not managed to beat them entirely.

This jittery watch continued for many moments
Something about many moments doesn't quite gel with me. It feels somewhat melodramatic: "He put his hand to his chin and pondered over the short story not for a moment... but many moments." I'd consider switching it up to 'a good while'.

"Breas flinched awake from his slumber when the cat decided to leave him."
Ignoring the flinch, I wasn't sure how the cat leaving woke him up. Maybe have the cat's squeal be what abruptly wakes him, but not have the cat be there. That way his seeing it again holds more power. Heck, why not even have its death squeal be what wakes him up and build the tension as he goes to discover where it came from culminating in locating the body right before the murders about to happen to him.

Food for thought, anyway. Since it's almost 1am so I think I'll leave it at that. I hope you found this useful and my apologies if any part came off harsh. It certainly wasn't intended and I'm in a bit of a funny mood tonight. Also remember that my suggestions are just just that and not necessarily correct. Overall I found the writing was clear and I enjoyed the story. You've got a really vivid imagination, so keep at it because whatever you're doing is working!
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: Lady Ty on June 05, 2015, 03:36:09 AM

And @Raptori (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=38840), The venerable Lady Ty's link confirmed my suspicion that seagrasses are mostly coastal things in shallow waters (because I guess grass needs a good source of sunlight). I got the impression your dragons were a lot deeper out into sea, what with giant chasms and having to draw forth flames in order to see through the gloom on top of large fishing vessels (though I guess fishermen do trawl coastal regions too).

So if you were going to adopt these dragons (which are really cool) into a bigger thing, I'd still suggest dropping that. But then you wouldn't be hiding information for a twist in such a piece either, so a lot of those confusions that hit me (and I admit I was really tired at the time I read it) would probably not have come about due to a grander scope on the region.

David, I think being called 'venerable' made my day and I am glad my family won't read this because I would never be able to live it down. ;D ;D

Yes, in reality sea grass meadows need some degree of light for photo synthesis.  The reason I made comment on this minor detail was that primarily this is a fantasy story. Within this genre I believe that, with care, descriptive parameters may allow the expression of a real world concept, without adhering strictly to established detail.  If there are glorious water dragons, why should there not also be seagrass flourishing? Even better in actual ‘meadows’?

The landscape as described allowed me to picture the scene perfectly and did not jar in any way.  I was caught up completely in the dragon’s flight and race over his ‘land’.  I believe this is where you and I differ in our expectations and that makes for good discussion and hopefully provides variety of views for the writers.

I hope @Raptori (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=38840) and @Saurus (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40290) pursue this particular theme further as it was an intriguing tale. The sea has many mysteries still  providing limitless opportunity for imagination. Recently salt lakes have been discovered at the bottom of oceans and mini eco systems subsisting on methane with new and strange life forms. One glorious day my lifelong wish may be realised and they announce “Here be Dragons” . ;D
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: Raptori on June 05, 2015, 07:34:26 AM

And @Raptori (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=38840), The venerable Lady Ty's link confirmed my suspicion that seagrasses are mostly coastal things in shallow waters (because I guess grass needs a good source of sunlight). I got the impression your dragons were a lot deeper out into sea, what with giant chasms and having to draw forth flames in order to see through the gloom on top of large fishing vessels (though I guess fishermen do trawl coastal regions too).

So if you were going to adopt these dragons (which are really cool) into a bigger thing, I'd still suggest dropping that. But then you wouldn't be hiding information for a twist in such a piece either, so a lot of those confusions that hit me (and I admit I was really tired at the time I read it) would probably not have come about due to a grander scope on the region.

David, I think being called 'venerable' made my day and I am glad my family won't read this because I would never be able to live it down. ;D ;D

Yes, in reality sea grass meadows need some degree of light for photo synthesis.  The reason I made comment on this minor detail was that primarily this is a fantasy story. Within this genre I believe that, with care, descriptive parameters may allow the expression of a real world concept, without adhering strictly to established detail.  If there are glorious water dragons, why should there not also be seagrass flourishing? Even better in actual ‘meadows’?

The landscape as described allowed me to picture the scene perfectly and did not jar in any way.  I was caught up completely in the dragon’s flight and race over his ‘land’.  I believe this is where you and I differ in our expectations and that makes for good discussion and hopefully provides variety of views for the writers.

I hope @Raptori (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=38840) and @Saurus (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40290) pursue this particular theme further as it was an intriguing tale. The sea has many mysteries still  providing limitless opportunity for imagination. Recently salt lakes have been discovered at the bottom of oceans and mini eco systems subsisting on methane with new and strange life forms. One glorious day my lifelong wish may be realised and they announce “Here be Dragons” . ;D
Yeah we'll have to see - the dragons definitely don't fit in the world our current WIP is set in, but I at least like it enough to think it could be worth exploring. It could easily have some really nice parallels to whaling and that kind of thing, which is a good start. Maybe for the next F-F anthology, since its theme is guns & dragons...  :)
 
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: ArcaneArtsVelho on June 05, 2015, 10:10:56 AM
Thank you very much, @D_Bates (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40257)!

I will try to clear up or explain some things (and maybe write a few words about your story as well) when I have a little more time.

But for now, I just say thank you!
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: D_Bates on June 06, 2015, 12:16:00 PM
You're most welcome AAV. And @Lady_Ty (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=31869), you're right to say that the grass is a minor detail. I was critiquing it more as a writer looking at structure based on it being aimed as a twist story.

The best twists tend to be those where the story has a double meaning. The reader's led down the garden path and then hit with a detail at the end which, if they reread the story from the start with the new information, changes it into a completely new tale. That's what this story was certainly going for, it's what ClintACK's awesome whale alternative was about (by the way, you can come out of the corner now @ClintACK (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40381). Come on... That's it. Don't be shy).
As an example of a story with an excellent twist, there was one a month or so back called "Sorry, Kid." I think it was by some up and coming superstars called @Raptori (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=38840) and @Saurus (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40290)? That was such a brilliant twist that had it been in this competition I think it could have very well won.

As this story stands though, if you go back to the start with the new information, while there's an abundance of good water references across the board, things like the grass and the flying breaks the illusion which was what I was trying to point out. You could fix the flying by calling it gliding, or you could take a step outside the box and directly describe the movements of the wings as stroking to propel them forward. For the grass, had it been changed to clumps of weed, does that really destroy the illusion of the above sea flight? The sentence is vague enough that without knowing it was underwater I would still picture the cliffs. Heck, I may even picture the grass, since tufts of long wild grass are more akin to weeds than the cultivated beds that make up our lawns.

But getting away from the short story for a moment, even if this were a scene in a larger novel I'd still criticise the grass, because as a writer myself I know it would have been a slip. It wouldn't have come about because the author was trying to build a 'different' world, but because they had a cool idea of an underwater setting but never never fully imagined it, essentially writing an upper world setting and just filling it with water. Unless the grass is a fundamental part of the plot, if they then hide behind the fact that it's a fantasy world and anything goes they're just being lazy. And while most readers won't care, it doesn't change the fact that the author's short-changing them, and this is why so many frown on the Fantasy genre as a whole as poor man's writing.

Like you, I'm also a nature lover, and one of the reasons I chose to write fantasy was because I wanted to go and explore the heights of mountains, the thick of the forests, the depths of the sea. I think some of the most fantastical things are right outside these concrete penitentiaries of civilisation that we hide away in.
If I were to write a deep ocean scene I could say the cliffs of the gorge were sprinkled with tufts of grass and rubble, or I could describe the jagged stone walls pricked with holes like a petrified sponge. Bubbles blew out in places and tickled the clinging tassels of waxy weeds. The light pouring from Ayatton's hot chest illuminated a cloud of otherworldly colours as a school of fish washed down into the depths. He scanned the dark cliffs for the entrance to the cave which held the air prisoner; they almost appeared to be throbbing to the beat of the ocean's current. His target was confirmed when a mighty ray exited the wall like a floating leaf with a piece of string tied to its stalk. Ayatton swept his wings back and glided on towards his target.
Obviously I took a few liberties here and you would expect another author to also go into more description than is allowed in a short story, but the point is that nothing I wrote was me intentionally making things up. I tried to keep it as real as I understand it from things I've seen on TV, but just because I'm hooking the land into our world does it make it any less fantastical?
Were I to want to use the seagrass, I could describe the disturbance in the vast stretch of crystal ocean coast where the dragons were frolicking in the meadow of swaying seagrasses, each playfully snapping at the other's limbs, churning up the sun-kissed white sands to turn the clear water foggy. I pulled all that out of the picture from the link you sent earlier, because it's a beautiful picture worthy of a beautiful scene.

At anyrate, I digress! The bigger issue with Raptori's story was that some didn't quite get that it was underwater.
On looking at it again, I think the real problem was that there wasn't quite enough direct references to the water once the twist was revealed.
Looking at the ending again, the only line that makes mention of it was the fountain of water following him up as he breached the surface. If you happened to not take that in for whatever reason (which is easy to do when you consider the exciting action going on at the time) there's nothing else that really tells you they're in/on water. All the rest is ambiguous text that only works if you've come to that realisation. Even when you're talking of ships and boats, unfortunately, due to the wonders of modern sci-fi television and video games like final fantasy there exists enough flying vessels that are labelled ships and boats--and in fact many are shaped and move like them too--that when you're already immersed in an elevated mountain land the mention of them doesn't break the illusion.
You could drum this home with a few added extras for clarity:
- He breached the surface [of the sea] with a roar
- the surface/[roof/ceiling] of his [ocean] world spread out beneath him in all directions
On a grander scale, you could well scrap the whole battle and just focus the story on the race. The race is exciting--more so for me than the fisherman battle--and after you've taken us around the underwater course, possibly even starting with them wading through that meadow of grass, you can punch the twist home by finishing up with them breaching the surface of the water at the finish line.
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: ArcaneArtsVelho on June 06, 2015, 03:39:24 PM
Okay, about your critique of my story, @D_Bates (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40257).

All of your suggestions made sense and none of it came off as too harsh. Still, I wanted to write this response to let you know what was going through my mind when I was reading your critique as well as when I was wrting my story.

So...

Adverbs/adjectives: Yes, this is an issue in my writing. Your examples do a very good job at showing how I try to, in a way, force the atmosphere to the reader even though it's already been set. I have to work on spotting the words that aren't really necessary and/or end up detracting the effect of the sentences or the whole story.

The watchman: The watchman at the gate is basically a doorman; he opens the gate if a farmer has stayed out late, and he gets his boss if any strangers want to enter after dark. And of course he can go on top of the wall occasionally to make sure that nothing sinister is happening outside. There are other watchmen that patrol the town centre. So the doorman basically only needs to be able to hear if someone is knocking on the gate. Silly job, not very well thought through, and not explained in the story. What was I thinking?  :D

The corridor: In retrospect, yes, the corridor should have been an alley and there could have been some sort of peephole through the wall (or something) to make it a better place for the watchman's post. When I wrote the story I thought that the confines of the corridor would add to the dread and that the goats' bleating would somehow echo in the corridor, making it less clear to the watchman what was making the sound. But overall an alley would have been better. Again, silly me.

The belfry and the cat: Although you make a very good point about setting the story to a single location, to me the belfry needs to be this separate, unreachable (for the killer), and safe location where the watchman can calm down enough to fall asleep. And as for the cat, I thought that having the watchman wake up with the cat for the first time would be nicely reflected by the end when he actually woke up (with the cat). (<- Not exactly sure how much of that sentence made sense.) In any case, I think that if you had a cat in your lap, you might wake up when it leaves. No? At least if you're not in deep sleep at that moment.

The typos and sentences: Thanks for pointing these out. I'm glad that there weren't too many mistakes or "oddities". I'm not at all confident when it comes to writing in English (or any other language now that I think of it). I am a little surprised that I had messed up the "relieve/relief" part, since I usually check  idioms and things like that meticulously. Well, I guess I just need to pay a little more attention to these things in future.

That's it I guess. Thank you again! I really appreciate that you took the time to go through my humble story and give such excellent suggestions. I would almost say that you cast pearls before swine.  ;)   But, I do try to learn from your wise words.



About your story:
As I have no delusions of being able to give you as detailed and useful a critique as you gave me, I'm just going to say a few things that popped into my head when I was reading your story. :-[

I liked your story a lot. If I wasn't laughing at the end after the first read-through, then I was at least grinning like an idiot.  ;D   And as I'm reading it again, it still makes me smile.

There was plenty of foreshadowing for the twist, and it was really inconspicuous until I reached the end. It's kind of funny that "bead eyes" or "felt tongue" didn't trip any alarms in my head  :o ; only the "soft face" of the vampire made me stop and wonder for a moment, but then I just continued with a shrug, thinking you meant his skin was soft or something like that.

Quote from: D_Bates
Whenever his course hairs tickled the insides of her thighs...
Should that be "coarse"? Or is there perhaps some meaning to the word "course" that I do not know (which is entirely possible). "A course" seems to be a row of loops (or something) in knitting, so is that it? Anyway, that wasn't really a big issue.

After my first read-through I thought that the story could have been a little longer, with more witty "sub stories" revolving around the 'real versus toy' idea. But now that I think of it, the story would have probably lost some of its punch if it had been much longer.

But yeah, I liked your story, I think it had one of the best twists of all the stories in the contest, and you had even managed to incorporate the original theme of the contest into it. So, great job!  ;D

Now I must go and brush up on my critiquing and writing skills.   ;)
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: D_Bates on June 06, 2015, 06:16:10 PM
Good call on the coarse hair, AAV! You see, you just can't get them all. What a difference a fresh pair of eyes can make. And don't beat yourself up on yours. They really are so easy to do despite being the first thing everyone whines about--normally with a sentence that has a mistake in itself! At the end of the day you wrote 1500 words and there was, what? Four issues with spelling/grammar that I picked out, and only one of those was a typo. That's less than a 0.004% error rate. There are professional accountants who would kill to work on books with an error rate that low! And in terms of fixing them, once spotted it takes less than two seconds to do so.

Just to clarify a few points from your responses, I wasn't saying that they should be in an alley, just that I mistakenly thought that he was. That would make even less sense in terms of his job description.
As for him being the doorman, though I knew he was near the gate, I thought the corridor was slightly up the wall.

I still think you'd be better to scrap the doorman attribute and just have him as a lookout. Him being the doorman doesn't really add anything since the gate never opens or gets mentioned again.
Also, as the doorman it's unlikely he'd be in charge of the bell. When you think of bells: bells are high up in towers so that when they're rung the sound can be heard across a large area unimpeded by buildings. For your standard church bell/town bells, the reason they're placed in inaccessable towers with ropes on the ground is to prevent vandalism and for convenience. They're rung at specific times, and the person doing it doesn't really want to have to climb the tower every time to do so.
But in terms of an alarm bell, which is the impression I get this one is, somebodies going to be assigned in its location to smash it the moment something's wrong. If somebody sees a fire or an approaching band of these marauding barbarians then every second counts. They're not going to want to have to run across the wall and down to the gatehouse to ring the alarm--especially as the gatehouse is going to be the first place lost if a force manages to sneak up and breach the defences. So in that respect I don't think there's an issue with you putting him up in the bell tower.

Regarding your other concerns, first of all it's great that your using the setting as a means of reflecting the character's state of mind or to enhance the events. However, I don't think the confines of a corridor would be any more terrifying than being stuck up in a tower where's there's only one way in and out.
As for the watchman calming down enough to fall asleep, again, I don't think you have to worry. While I can totally see him being cautious as he walks the street with concern niggling in the back of his mind, being a guard I don't think he would have that much fear of becoming a victim himself, especially while at his station. You did mention that the previous victims were farmers and maids, and there's a reason most career murderers target prostitutes and people walking/living alone in secluded areas--and it's not because they're looking for a challenge. I think the soothing presence of the cat and the mystical circumstances going on is more than enough for you to put him to sleep without the need for there to be a safe place to do so.
Finally, the cat was more a suggestion than a critique, and I could totally believe the cat moving would wake him up if he was just dozing. Perhaps I've played too much Silent Hill in my time, but I'm used to the guy suddenly waking up alone to a strange noise; he notices the bloody pawprints on the ground; follows them down the stairs and out into the misty streets'; a shadowy bundle of meat sits in the middle of the road, flies dancing above it; he kneels down to inspect it closer... Ugh, it's a skinned cat! Stunned, he's left wondering wtf is going on when--
BAM, knife appears from behind across his throat.
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: ArcaneArtsVelho on June 07, 2015, 09:54:42 AM
Just to clarify a few points from your responses, I wasn't saying that they should be in an alley, just that I mistakenly thought that he was. That would make even less sense in terms of his job description.
Oh, I know that you mistakenly thought that he was on an alley, and I didn't mean to say that you thought it would have been better but that I thought it would have been better.  :)   And as for why I thought it would be better for him to be on an alley, well, then he would at least be able to see and hear (more clearly) what was going on around him. But if he was just a doorman, then, I suppose, he should really be at the gate and not in a corridor or an alley however many meters away.

I think you are right about scrapping the doorman idea. I do think the watchman should be a lookout in a watchtower on the wall with the bell right next to him. But... for the story to work he would have to abandon his post and go somewhere where the killer doesn't find him because the killer IS in the town and he kills a watchman and skins a cat at the other gate. So the only reason the killer doesn't kill his intended second victim, our main character, is because he can't find him (and the cat). Of course the watchman could always go on top of the watchtower, i suppose, or maybe even all the way down into the town (to find the goats that make the strange noise). Still the fact remains that, for this story, he needs move to an alternate location where he avoids the killer (and falls asleep to dream of his own death or perhaps to have a premonition of the other watchman's death).

As for the watchman calming down enough to fall asleep, again, I don't think you have to worry. While I can totally see him being cautious as he walks the street with concern niggling in the back of his mind, being a guard I don't think he would have that much fear of becoming a victim himself, especially while at his station. You did mention that the previous victims were farmers and maids, and there's a reason most career murderers target prostitutes and people walking/living alone in secluded areas--and it's not because they're looking for a challenge.
But this killer is a monster who kills whoever he fancies!  :o   Maybe I should have stated in the story that the killer had killed soldiers and the like before...  :-\   But then again, that would probably make the main character be too on edge to fall asleep (assuming he is a real person with real fears). I don't know.

Perhaps I've played too much Silent Hill in my time, but I'm used to the guy suddenly waking up alone to a strange noise; he notices the bloody pawprints on the ground; follows them down the stairs and out into the misty streets'; a shadowy bundle of meat sits in the middle of the road, flies dancing above it; he kneels down to inspect it closer... Ugh, it's a skinned cat! Stunned, he's left wondering wtf is going on when--
BAM, knife appears from behind across his throat.
I haven't really played enough games from the Silent Hill series to have them influence me, but I see how something like that could work in the story.  :)

I have played a lot of other games, and they do influence me, maybe more than anything else (which is a little bit unsettling). First person shooters are closest to my heart, but I don't think I have ever tried to show that affection through my writing. Maybe I should write a first person versus third person shooter themed story for this month's multiple POV contest? How would that work, I wonder? That might not make sense to people who haven't played games like ARMA in which you can use both POVs and the third person POV is unfair and "cheaty" in certain situations.  :-\
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: D_Bates on June 07, 2015, 10:53:37 PM
Ah, okay. I didn't realise that the reason he survived was that the killer couldn't find him at his post. I thought that they were being killed in their dreams and the animal was a means of which he put them to sleep to do so. Our protagonist just woke up early due to the alarm that went off in the other tower.

Hmm, that's a difficult one to solve. Not quite sure how you could pull that one off. The problem is that if you show the murder, even though it's clear that it's happening through a dream. the natural assumption most will make is that the protagonist was actually at risk. The only way to clarify that would be to state that they caught the murderer loitering around the watchman's post. But I think that would feel a tad anticlimactic.

It also then raises the question of what part are the animals playing in the murders? It feels almost too coincidental if he's randomly picking his victims and each happens to not only have the same breed of animal loitering in the vicinity, but one that also has the exact same skin/pelt.
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: ArcaneArtsVelho on June 08, 2015, 08:30:53 AM
It's quite interesting to see how differently you have imagined the story/plot compared to how I did as I was writing it.  ;D   But yeah, it's difficult to show clearly that the killer couldn't find the watchman. Then again, does it even have to be that clear? I mean, most of the readers won't be going through the story with a fine-tooth comb. Well, maybe it would be best if most of the readers imagined the story more or less the way the writer meant it to be? In any case, I think the story is going to be quite different than it is now when/if I manage to rewrite it someday.

The animals are just a trademark of the killer. As for the murders, they aren't totally random, and in fact I was always thinking that the killer first chooses his (or her?) victims (i.e. two people who are very likely to be alone in a certain place during a certain period of time), then he seeks out two animals of the same kind with similar/same appearances, and then he brings the animals wherever the victims are (or makes sure some other way that they are in the vicinity of the victims).
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: Raptori on June 08, 2015, 10:21:44 AM
It's quite interesting to see how differently you have imagined the story/plot compared to how I did as I was writing it.  ;D   But yeah, it's difficult to show clearly that the killer couldn't find the watchman. Then again, does it even have to be that clear? I mean, most of the readers won't be going through the story with a fine-tooth comb. Well, maybe it would be best if most of the readers imagined the story more or less the way the writer meant it to be? In any case, I think the story is going to be quite different than it is now when/if I manage to rewrite it someday.

The animals are just a trademark of the killer. As for the murders, they aren't totally random, and in fact I was always thinking that the killer first chooses his (or her?) victims (i.e. two people who are very likely to be alone in a certain place during a certain period of time), then he seeks out two animals of the same kind with similar/same appearances, and then he brings the animals wherever the victims are (or makes sure some other way that they are in the vicinity of the victims).
Still no time to do a proper critique, just wanted to add that I totally got that the killer couldn't find him.  ;)
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: D_Bates on June 09, 2015, 10:44:37 AM
It's quite interesting to see how differently you have imagined the story/plot compared to how I did as I was writing it.  ;D   But yeah, it's difficult to show clearly that the killer couldn't find the watchman. Then again, does it even have to be that clear? I mean, most of the readers won't be going through the story with a fine-tooth comb.

Yea, this is why I think these critiques are useful. The only way you have a hope of improving is if you can understand what people are seeing from your work on that very first read--which is likely the only one you'll get. Then it becomes a judgement call on your part on whether there's an actual issue there or if the reader was just having an off night--which definitely happens by the way. On my second read through of yours I read town wall near the beginning as town hall. That's totally on me, but it's a credit to your writing that despite that blip the setting was strong enough that I still imagined the corridor and the wall correctly.

Personally, I hate the word critique. It has such a negative stigma attached to it. I see it more as feedback/evaluation, and I hope that all I've written across the board here is coming back as positive as well as negative, since I've definitely tried to balance them out. It helps to know what's working as much as what isn't hitting the mark.
When I go into the deeper analysis I base it on the principle that everything is written for a reason, so I try to understand the meaning behind every word. Obviously that's not always the case, and the feedback is intended more to try and challenge you to think over the work in ways you may not have done so--I don't pretend for a second that anythign I suggest is necessarily correct. But yea, one of the real difficulties I find when writing is that it's very hard to look at my work and see it the way a reader would, because even though I've begun to train myself to erase the story from my mind, there's always that lingering knowledge of what I'm trying to do and where I am at all times.

In the case of the animals here, I guess I found that aspect of the story so different and interesting that I focused onto it. When the cat appears and lulls him into a sleep, and then the dream scene is describing his own area and ends with the cat seemingly luring him to the killer, but seconds before he's about to get murdered he abruptly awakes... I just assumed that he'd barely escaped his own death and the cat was a fundamental part of how the killer ambushed his victims.
Title: Re: [Apr 2015] - Werewolf, Vampire, Girl - Plot Twist! - Critique Thread
Post by: ArcaneArtsVelho on June 09, 2015, 07:48:48 PM
Critique, feedback, or evaluation, whatever we decide to call it, you do it very well. And don't worry, I consider all your comments to be positive, even the negative ones, if that makes sense. You have been very helpful.

And I hope you didn't feel that my "fine-tooth comb" comment was criticism on your deep analysis, as it was not. More than anything it was my defeatism in the face of difficulty.  ;)

To be honest, at times I have felt that you might be wasting your time trying to analyse my simple story. But I would like to think that I have learned a thing or two from all this, and perhaps even you have got something out of it, so maybe it hasn't been a complete waste of your time.  :)   Thanks again.