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Author Topic: [Dec 2018] - Unwanted Gifts - Critique Thread  (Read 1628 times)

Offline ShadowKnight

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[Dec 2018] - Unwanted Gifts - Critique Thread
« on: February 02, 2019, 08:19:23 AM »
Here is the possibility to get critiques for your stories entered in the writing contest - and to give critique as well.

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 its 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.
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.”

Offline ShadowKnight

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Re: [Dec 2018] - Unwanted Gifts - Critique Thread
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2019, 08:27:11 AM »
Hi everyone,

As I'm still new at writing, I'd appreciate getting your feedback on my story for this month.

Here it is so you don't need to search in the submission thread.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Into the Light

An eerie glow radiated from Etha’s palm, illuminating Eckhart’s face.

Eckhart had never seen anything of the like. He had heard the tales, of course. Anyone with a trace of common sense would have run, awoken the others, or gone to the housemaster. But he couldn’t. No, he
wouldn’t. He just sat there, on the floor of their dormitory, staring at Etha’s cautious green eyes.

A faint rustle broke the silence. Etha started and her light dimmed. It enveloped the two of them and their corner of the room, but the rest of the dormitory had now returned to its original darkness. The others were still sound asleep.

Eckhart leaned towards Etha. “You can trust me,” he whispered.

Gently, Etha laid her hand on his. Her skin was soft and warm. A powerful wave spread through Eckhart’s body, as if Etha’s light could reach the deepest recesses of his being. Thoughts of everything else fled far away; it was just the two of them in that moment — and it felt right.

The door squeaked open. Etha quenched her light but Eckhart knew it was too late. He turned just in time to witness Mr. Wickham’s traits deform in horror at the sight of them.

The next day Etha was taken someplace else; no one would tell Eckhart where.

Eckhart knew he would never see her again.

Trace reread the last sentence. He deleted it, pondered, his hands hovering above his keyboard, then rewrote it with the exact same words. He went through the whole story one more time, tweaking and re-tweaking until he realized his adjustments were doing more harm than good.

He still wasn’t happy with it when he was done.

Trace shivered. Why was it always freezing in here? He pushed himself away from his desk and headed to the kitchen to brew some tea. His flat really only consisted of one dimly-lit room, which was barely larger than a standard-size bedchamber. A single set of windows lined the wall, fully shuttered except for a small strip that was covered in a crust of snow.

Waiting for the water to boil, Trace went to grab a sweatshirt. He struggled to find one in the ambient obscurity. He touched the radiator on his way back — lukewarm at best. He really had to get that thing fixed.

The ceiling creaked under the steps of the tenants above. A faint echo of conversation and laughter — probably a party. Trace hoped they wouldn’t be too noisy, though he’d still prefer that to being woken up by the nighttime dalliances of his next-door neighbor.

Tea in hand, Trace returned to the glimmer of his computer screen. His desk, which also served as a dining table, was so full of clutter that he didn’t have where to place his cup. Trace closed the month’s issue of Magical Reflections, threw some empty pizza boxes in the trash, slung his Sophomore year application form on his bed — the deadline was still weeks away — and arranged the dozens of sheets teeming with story ideas in a perfect pile. He also found an invitation to a student Christmas party, which shortly ended up in the garbage, and two unopened packages that he remembered having received a couple of days before.

The first was from his parents. It contained a Christmas card and a leather bound photo album. Santa and co. smiled at him from the card’s cover. The interior read:

Dear Trace,

We are heartbroken that you won’t be coming home for the holidays. But we understand, exams are important.
Know that we miss you and hope to see you soon. Call us sometime.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

Mom & Dad

P.S. We hope you like our gift. It was your father’s idea. He’s really sorry he yelled at you the other day.

The album was packed with photos of a young Trace surrounded by family and friends. Leafing through it, Trace fought off a strong emotion that he couldn’t qualify. He discarded the album and moved on to the second package. That one was unsigned. In it he found some kind of notebook. The cover depicted a drawing of a unicorn standing on a rainbow against a pink star-studded sky. A handwritten message greeted him on the inside.

To our dear Tracy,

May this notebook give birth to many a tale of unlikely heroes, damsels in distress and make-believe worlds. Children everywhere will thank you for helping them sleep at night.

With love,
Your dear friends.

P.S. Be wary of the trolls in the dungeon, they might kidnap your imaginary girlfriend.

Trace felt his chest tighten. How had they found out? He had been careful with his story notes in class, but some had obviously wound up in the wrong hands. Resisting the urge to tear the notebook apart, Trace switched on his desk lamp, grabbed his fountain pen, and began writing.

As he arrived Eckhart was welcomed by Mr. Wickham. The housemaster’s hair had turned gray and his body scrawny since Eckhart had fled the school, but there was no doubt it was him.

Eckhart announced he had come for a tour of the establishment as he was considering it for his son. He followed Mr. Wickham around for a while, waiting patiently. Until they reached the dormitories.

Unlike the man, the place hadn’t changed much since Eckhart’s time. It was deserted, the pupils still being in class. Eckhart approached his old bed. He laid a trembling hand on the sheets, trying to hide the palpitation in his chest. He glanced at the near corner of the room, then turned to face Mr. Wickham.

Before he knew it Eckhart was at the old man’s throat.

Mr. Wickham was too weak to offer proper resistance. Eckhart grabbed the man’s head in both hands and fired a blazing burst from his palms. The last thing Mr. Wickham would experience in his miserable existence was the light.

On his way out from the dormitory, Eckhart found himself face to face with a young girl. In her terrified eyes, he saw that he had become a monster.

A heavy drop landed on the page, distorting the ink on the last word. Trace only then realized he was crying. He wiped the tears away with his sleeve and vigorously scratched the word, then the entire paragraph. He kept scratching even as his pen failed and his arm hurt, and only stopped once he had ripped the page away. He hurled the notebook across the room. It crashed against the entrance door and fell to the ground with a thud.

Trace took a deep breath, then another. He closed his eyes as his body untightened. He had deserved it, the humiliation, for being arrogant enough to think that he could write. Tears still trickled down his cheeks.

Muffled cheers filtered from the street, followed by a succession of distant whistles and bangs. Trace flinched when his desk began to vibrate. He checked his phone: Home calling. He silenced it.

Now that his chest no longer felt like it was about to implode, Trace retrieved his pen, flipped the torn-out page, and started exploring alternative outcomes to his story.

A knock interrupted his musing a while later. Trace frowned; his only visitors were food delivery people or house-to-house salesmen. He got up and sneaked to the entrance door. Peeping through the keyhole, Trace made out a young woman wearing a lime cone hat. He recalled seeing her in the staircase a few times. She’d probably got the wrong flat. If Trace was careful not to make any noise, she’d think that no one was there and leave.

Tiptoeing away from the door, Trace slipped on the unicorn notebook. He clutched the dresser at the last moment, avoiding the fall. However, the thump of his hand on the wood had been too loud to go unnoticed.

Reluctantly, Trace unlocked the door. He squinted at the light coming from the stairwell landing.

“Hi, I’m Thea from the seventh floor,” the young woman said warmly. If she was surprised by Trace’s tousled hair, his casual clothing, or his general resemblance to a hermit emerging from his dark cave, she had the kindness not to show it. “Me and some friends are having a little party at my place.” she continued. “Some other friends were caught in a sandstorm and won’t be coming. So now we have extra food. We’re going from floor to floor to see if someone wants to join us.”

“I... er...” Trace cleared his throat, desperately searching for a valid pretext to decline the invitation. His brain just couldn’t provide one. Or maybe it didn’t want to. “Why not,” he heard himself say. “Just... give me a minute to get ready.”

“Great!” Thea said. “Seventh floor, first door on the right.”
Thea sauntered to the staircase, then stopped and turned around. “Oh, and happy New Year!” she added with a bright smile.