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Author Topic: [April 2016] - The Last Contest - Critique Thread  (Read 2786 times)

Offline Nora

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[April 2016] - The Last Contest - Critique Thread
« on: June 02, 2016, 02:29:37 AM »
Here is the possibility to get critiques for your stories entered in our writing contest - and to give critique as well.
We've been neglecting the critic thread quite a lot recently, but I think it has great benefits, so I'll push it forward this month.


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.”
"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 Nora

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Re: [April 2016] - The Last Contest - Critique Thread
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2016, 02:30:07 AM »
And double post, just to say high and bright that I'm keen for any review or critic of any shape.
"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 Henry Dale

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Re: [April 2016] - The Last Contest - Critique Thread
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2016, 08:32:06 PM »
@Nora
A pretty cool story in the vein of Ghost in the shell. The slum descriptions are pretty vivid but there are some places that seem rather superfluous.
More specifically where he/she visits the ocean. While it's great in terms of worldbuilding and such, it doesn't fulfill a function in the story. More like, ok, the ocean irl is better than a virtual copy. It doesn't really add to the story and isn't very impactful for the character. (besides maybe that there is a little human part to our protagonist)
Otherwise it was a pretty good short that might work as a longer story too when fleshed out more.

Offline Peat

Re: [April 2016] - The Last Contest - Critique Thread
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2016, 12:06:34 AM »
I'd like some critique :)

I'm not a good critter, but I'll do one for any as asks.

---

@Nora - First off, I like your writing style. It flows well, its got a good voice, paints nice images. I thought there were some clever ideas, particularly the man in the kid. I enjoyed reading it.

However!

I never really felt connected to what was going on, I never got an emotional "oomph" from it.

Re-reading it, I think that's because the story spends a lot more time describing the world - the slums, the market, the  bug-buns - and less the character's reactions to it. That a lot of the description is at the front, with us only getting a sense of why the character is there in the fourth paragraph, doesn't help either. I have to echo everything Henry said, except to say that the Ocean paragraph did give an insight into her character. But it is superfluous. Nice, but superfluous.

There's two moments where I feel the story could go for the emotional gut punch. Edenton's identity and killing the target. There's a little of it with the former ("I'd shiver, if my body could" is the best line in the story and possibly this entire month's work) but it comes after he's been introduced with a simple look at his ID and the impact is lost. Have her feel a little "Woah" straight up about it.

The kill - well, that's just all in a day's work, isn't it? There's nothing shocking or jarring to it. Which I suppose is good covert operative, but less good fiction in my opinion. Good dystopia? I keep going back and forth on that in my head.

I'd have dearly loved some context as to why she kills - does she ever bring them in alive - and indeed her whole job. It would have added to the character and it would have added to the world.


Which is a compliment as well as a criticism. I wanted to know more and still do. If you were to keep writing stories in this world, I'd totally read them.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2016, 12:19:43 AM by Peat »
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Offline Nora

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Re: [April 2016] - The Last Contest - Critique Thread
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2016, 09:15:42 AM »
Thanks both of you.

In defense of my style, while I understand why the dry point of view, with little emotion, can come across as lacking in emotion, it was mostly voluntary on my part. Initially the MC (a lady, called Agent Khan, for information's sake) had a couple other more introspective moments. She was meant to remark on how people don't look at her in the slums, how you're noticed but not analysed or stared at, and that it gives her a surprisingly pleasing feeling she had not anticipated.
Likewise the trip to the sea was meant to be a bit more sorrowful, the sea reminding her of a beast of sorts. It's her first time seeing it in person (hence why she compares it to holographic versions), and at the market she was meant to dwell on just how many people here are unchiped, and how she hadn't anticipated that either and it aggravates her and make her anxious.
But she was also meant to be more judgemental against Edenton and his question asking, making the final comment more snappish. A bit of a "you wouldn't be doing your crap job in a patched up runt flesh body if you didn't ask this many questions".

However she's a true military dog, not very human any more. it's what I wanted to come across most, so I took emotion away more. I wanted the job done fast on purpose. Khan is efficient. Vicious. If I had had the space, she would have thought to herself "today's payday" as she aims on her target.

Quote
The kill - well, that's just all in a day's work, isn't it? There's nothing shocking or jarring to it. Which I suppose is good covert operative, but less good fiction in my opinion. Good dystopia? I keep going back and forth on that in my head.

She's not meant to be that covert. The whole idea behind Edenton's eyes bulging as he sees her "seals" was that she's basically the right arm of the biggest fish in the pond here, and her signed orders give her power over anyone else. I made her employer a "CEO" to give that punk aspect of companies owning your life.
My idea was that she needs to be sneaky in finding her target because she may escape and hide easily, but she doesn't fear any retribution, nor care to be identified by anyone once the deed done. Her employer reigns through terror as well. There is nothing you can do when you witness such assassinations.

I think you're right though : it did not come across in the work at all, I made her sneaky-ish, but didn't manage to convey what I wanted in the execution.

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A pretty cool story in the vein of Ghost in the shell

Thanks Henry, that's what I aimed for, and listened to that soundtrack the whole time I wrote it!
Do you want a critic of your own submission? You don't say so but I wouldn't mind doing so.


@Peat, for your own story, I can tell you that the writing was great because of how little I understood what was going on, but I finished the story and felt compelled to do so. The pov you used worked very well, and it was easy to get into the skin of the character, but little of the action made sense on first read to me, so I was too puzzled to give you a vote.
The story flows really well as action unfolds. I did not understand what the thought-sending involved, or what the watch was watching for, things like "ll Watchmen know the stories and I’m not protected by my uniform now." - what stories? It's references that go over my head.
I also feel like there were a lot of names, for many characters whose role was simply passing, and in such a short story, I would most likely not bother using all of that.
Then again you might not want to take my advice on that too much to heart since I chronically write stories with not a single name used.
I also didn't understand the ending well : you speak much of a vial that will erase his memory, yet in the end he's asked to work more for that first employer, and he seems to remember. It was unclear what had gone down for him, what was forgotten, and since the pov made it like notes or telling, it was jarring to have more text seemingly after he's meant to have forgotten everything written above.

More to the point I think that while you resent me for the lack of emotion, I think your story is too centred on the drama of your MC.
The city drinks its sorrow at night? From what? What makes your world a dystopia? It didn't strike me as any worse than ours. Nothing seemed to be doomed or growing worse. It was more like a grim dark fantasy setting with a sad adventure set in it, but not a dystopian setting.
"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 Henry Dale

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Re: [April 2016] - The Last Contest - Critique Thread
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2016, 11:31:38 AM »
@Nora
Feel free to critique me though no need to give me the Cloud Eaters treatment. I haven't researched the psyche of a human at all so it's likely to be full of holes.   :)

Offline JMack

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Re: [April 2016] - The Last Contest - Critique Thread
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2016, 11:53:42 AM »
Sooo....

Haven't asked for a critique in a while.
Would appreciate any thoughts on "Border Crossing." Though whether the story fit the theme closely enough for folks is sort of beside the point for me.
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)

Offline Peat

Re: [April 2016] - The Last Contest - Critique Thread
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2016, 01:13:23 PM »
Thanks Nora.

And resent is far too strong a word! ;)

I'm going to hold back on replying until I get a few more crits (well, hopefully I do).


I did get Khan being cold and detached; it came through. I'd say I'm suggesting more context to her actions to build pathos, than giving more emotion to her.

But that's just me. I'm big on the pay-off of individual suffering. Generalised misery doesn't hit me in the same place.

I actually did think what you descrined was conveyed with her modus operandi; just I'd use covert operative to describe that. Maybe a bad description on my part.

More time spent on Edenton would have been cool.

Apologies if this is too nitpicky :)
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Offline Nora

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Re: [April 2016] - The Last Contest - Critique Thread
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2016, 03:52:22 PM »
No, covert operative definitely is a great description, I just wish that more impunity could have come through. Don't worry, I'm not fussed about any of your terms, and please don't be with mine, if anything I'm known as a brutally honest reviewer.

The only thing I can do when you say more time on X or Y though, is to shrug my shoulders. It's always a problem with such a word limit. Sadly few of my monthly stories were ever self contained enough. I'm flattered both of you seem to consider the story worth expanding upon though.
I like emotional punches, and I've tried to develop those, but I prefer a "eww" string being pulled over an "aww" one if I can :p

Henry the Unmentionable, I just liked your story, it was moody, but simply not post apocalyptic. You shoehorn 200 words on Apathy being a sort of humanity wiping condition and you had my vote.
Or well, a few weaknesses were there still, sentences like "My stream of tears joins the shower’s tears" ( ???  ::)  :-X)
I liked the mail finishing in the bin with his dignity, or the Sartre reference (even though I hate Sartre for the collaborationist hypocrite he was), and I like the sour ending, it has a hint of dark humour. I think there was more potential on the slipping on his own vomit thing.
I see a character a bit like a Wolverine/Logan grump in a depressive fit, who would be baffled and furious to fall in such a way, even if the final sentiment had to be acceptance. Regardless of the feeling conveyed, it was a great window left for character building, it felt under-exploited.
Otherwise it was dark but good – I'm hardly subjective, you know I love dark stuff by now hey?
"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 Peat

Re: [April 2016] - The Last Contest - Critique Thread
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2016, 08:44:52 PM »
Grand then :)

@Jmack - Well, it does fit the theme. So there  :P

The thing I liked most about it was the storytelling. I think there was the exact right amount of story to tell, paced well, strong internal theme and a nice sucker punch at the end.

The beginning is the weakest bit. I don't mind that style, but the counsel of perfection is less more exposition and telling through the action. I also think there's a few too many run on sentences and commas. I also reckon there could have been a little more world building squeezed in, although given its our world, its not needed. Again, counsel of perfection for me.
This is the blog of Peat - http://peatlong.blogspot.co.uk/