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Author Topic: [Jul 2015] - Flash Fiction - Critique Thread  (Read 4718 times)

Offline Raptori

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[Jul 2015] - Flash Fiction - Critique Thread
« on: September 02, 2015, 12:36:53 PM »
So here is the possibility to get critiques for your stories entered in our flash fiction 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.”
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Offline Henry Dale

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Re: [Jul 2015] - Flash Fiction - Critique Thread
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2015, 12:52:59 PM »
I'd like some critique on my more experimental than usual piece about fantasy chess.  :)
Obviously giving critique back when you ask me  ;)

Offline Paul Birbilas

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Re: [Jul 2015] - Flash Fiction - Critique Thread
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2015, 03:38:55 PM »
Considering I got 1 vote I'd like a critique to see what I could improve. :-\

Offline Henry Dale

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Re: [Jul 2015] - Flash Fiction - Critique Thread
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2015, 03:54:38 PM »
Considering I got 1 vote I'd like a critique to see what I could improve. :-\

Hey Paul
I didn't vote for your entry but that's not because I disliked it as is. It was really good.
To me it just lacked in the department that makes me like stories as a whole: the "genre". This wasn't really fantastical or scifi, nor did it have that very unique twist or concept that makes me go wow.
Next time I should let my mom vote for me, she loves crime a lot so you'd have gotten her vote  ;)

So now you know why you didn't get my vote, let's take it apart.
I know it's hard in a flash fiction cuz you're very limited by the word count. Thing is, I didn't really get the feeling of the character's drowsiness, that feeling that blurs his entire environment. He's just casually talking to the other guy like yer I want to have a bar. Maybe scrambling some words, add that bit of stuttering. That's my opinion.  :) keep it up!

Offline xiagan

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Re: [Jul 2015] - Flash Fiction - Critique Thread
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2015, 03:54:38 PM »
Considering I got 1 vote I'd like a critique to see what I could improve. :-\
Competition was really hard this time. There wasn't a story I'd consider bad this month, there were just some better than others. :)
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Offline Raptori

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Re: [Jul 2015] - Flash Fiction - Critique Thread
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2015, 03:57:49 PM »
Considering I got 1 vote I'd like a critique to see what I could improve. :-\
I mentioned in the other thread that there was one that I thought stood out, plus six others that I wanted to vote for - in the end I couldn't decide which one of the six to cut, so only voted for my favourite. Yours was one of the six, so you should at least count that as another vote.  :P
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Offline Paul Birbilas

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Re: [Jul 2015] - Flash Fiction - Critique Thread
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2015, 04:07:56 PM »
Thanks for the kind words! I enjoyed participating and it's really not about the number of votes. I have a lot to learn about writing and the point you brought up about the drowsiness/stuttering is spot on Henry Dale. I didn't think of that at all. Things should be calmer after my sister's wedding on Saturday and I should be able to participate in this month's competition. Cheers

Offline Hedin

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Re: [Jul 2015] - Flash Fiction - Critique Thread
« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2015, 05:50:58 PM »
I'd like some critique on my more experimental than usual piece about fantasy chess.  :)
Obviously giving critique back when you ask me  ;)

I liked the concept, I think you were hurt by the word limit.  After one move the female player was already in Check and it was over after the second, I can't imagine any game setup that could be over that quickly.  I'm thinking that if you had more words you could have expanded the moves out a bit and showed the play more. The POV of the pieces were a nice touch, would have liked to see them formatted a bit different to stand out in contrast to the main action. 

I can't believe anyone actually voted for mine. 

Offline JMack

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Re: [Jul 2015] - Flash Fiction - Critique Thread
« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2015, 09:19:52 PM »
Considering I got 1 vote I'd like a critique to see what I could improve. :-\

I was your one vote (if we don't count the non-vote from Raptori)  ;D
And I just went back to re-read, and I'd vote it again.

That said, here are some thoughts:

> I think the pace and energy are really strong. The writing is crisp.
> It has conflict, though there's no resolution - which is a fault of story length.
> It's a hoot.
> It is fantastic in genre, since it's about a cyborg who's stolen a microchip.
> I wasn't bothered by the sense that our cyborg wasn't showing signs of losing consciousness or anything.

But,

> The cyborg part is a bit unclear, and we have no sense for our 'borg's background or why he's with Slim
> Why does he believe Slim can repair him?
> The idea of trust would work better, maybe, if we knew there was a history to these two. Think buddy cop movie (Lethal Weapon?) and imagine the confident, edgy cop yelling "Do you trust me?" to his long time conservative, terrified partner.
> To gain word space for the story, I think you could have reduced the time spent on the bar ownership. It's cute, but out of context it seems odd. Why exactly does a chip-stealing cyborg want a bar?

So,

I loved the pace and the prose. It felt like I was right there in the chase, and it ran like a movie scene. Loved that. But I do think in retro that some stronger context was possible and could be done by trading out some other elements.

Please do enter again this month. I really want to see what you write next.
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Offline ClintACK

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Re: [Jul 2015] - Flash Fiction - Critique Thread
« Reply #9 on: September 02, 2015, 09:53:40 PM »
Competition was really hard this time. There wasn't a story I'd consider bad this month, there were just some better than others. :)

Quoted for Truth.

Critiques are hard.  I go into editorial mode where I'm looking for things to fix.  In case I forget to mention it, I enjoyed reading all of the entries.

I'd like some critique on my more experimental than usual piece about fantasy chess.  :)
Obviously giving critique back when you ask me  ;)

For me, this was a good start with some cool ideas that fell flat by the end, maybe because there wasn't enough room for the story in 500 words?  A game player named "Mancala", "spirit chess", playing chess with different sets of pieces... all cool and I instantly liked the PoV guy and was rooting for him.  I was interested to see how he'd manage with a traditional set against all those knights -- and what sorcerers did.  It seemed plausible that defending against bishops would be harder without pawns.

But then I found the action confusing.  I wasn't sure which team the knight and queen were on or what the lightning was until I got to the bishop.  And I'm not sure what to think of a wounded chess piece.  Or even what the chess pieces were -- what the stakes were for them. 

Paragraph four felt rushed -- "the battle had only just begun" to "time for a checkmate" in two or three sentences and one round of moves.

The ending PoV was interesting -- Mancala won (yay!) but instead of getting the win through his eyes we watch it from the tragic perspective of the girl's checkmated king.  It feels like there was a cool flip here, like we-the-reader cheering with the generals celebrating in the officer's club and then switching to the perspective of the losing soldiers down in the trenches.  But we didn't quite get the chance to cheer with Mancala before  flipped, and I didn't really understand the stakes for the king.

tl;dr: Lots of cool seeds, not enough room to grow.

Considering I got 1 vote I'd like a critique to see what I could improve. :-\

For some reason, this felt like the last scene of a story rather than a whole story. 

I'm not sure quite how to fix that -- maybe a few lines "Why did I take this job..." to fill in the backstory?  Or maybe it just needs a surprising twist at the end.  (I'm a sucker for a good surprising-but-inevitable twist.)

The PoV seems to jump around between Slim's and Nero's point of view in the first paragraph. 

Also see: Watt-Evans's Sixth Law of Fantasy (http://www.watt-evans.com/LawsofFantasy.html) -- the cyborg arm was just sort of there, and didn't end up mattering -- like a gun on the mantle that never gets fired. 

But what's not to love in a car chase and laughing in the face of death?  The tossed grenade was particularly cool.



And... trepidatiously curious to know what people thought of my story.     :-[

Offline Nora

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Re: [Jul 2015] - Flash Fiction - Critique Thread
« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2015, 04:17:44 AM »
Henry :

I feel like most of the critics so far cover you in most detail, but I'll say that my principal grief wasn't the rush game but the confusion of who is who. I really struggled to understand in the end, who won the game. I loved the idea of the chess pieces getting hurt, I visualised it like the full size Harry Potter chess game, but I would have appreciated more details of that, to make the empathy towards the pieces stronger.

Overall your story could well have made my short list if I had a clearer ending, because you had a more original story than others I voted for.

Paul :

Same, all I could say was said, but I need to second Clint on his point : I also felt a lot like this was a sample at the end of a story, and not a story sufficient in itself. It's because we have little background, and no resolution, in a story setting that rather needs one or the other.
Otherwise it was crisply written... I'd say your fault was with the management of the word limit, not with your story telling abilities.

@Hedin :

Your story frustrated me because it made me curious, but in a wrong way. To me this is a compelling little snippet that encourages people to buy a book, find out what happens next. It's like you're presenting a concept, and a good one. It's a very interesting idea, voice, a bond after being struck by lightning (or was it lightning?), the implications....
But the whole thing offers zero resolution, very little insight on the character himself, and no story line proper. It's really just a really well written and interesting extract of a bigger story I'd love to read more about.
I know that sounds harsh but my interest for your story is sincere and my frustration to find myself unable to vote for it because it was more of an excerpt was real.  :-[
I think your ending really sharpens that, as you don't stop after he made the bond, nor after he made his choice about the bond, you stop before any form of beginning of resolution! 
It's the only critic I have to offer too.

@ClintACK :

I liked your story but it's a strange one... In the sense that it needed 10scd to puzzle out what you meant, at the end. And then my bulb lit all "ah! ok!" and I smirked. It is a smart idea, and it's perfectly framed in the word limit. It introduces the character pretty well and works autonomously.
I think what went amiss is simply that others had crazier, or more gruesome, or more funny concepts, so no fault of your own.
I really find very little to say against your story, it fit well and worked well, I just believe you had rough competition, and that's why by number of votes you're fifth. Middle game, I reckon, fits you just like it fits my own story. We just had it rough against all the others this month  ;D


I want to give a special mention to @donalddallan because I voted for your story. I think likewise it suffered from the big competition and the race to extravagant creativity, but I really liked the feel and eeriness of your setup. It reminded me of my own night illegally reading under a cover, and I love how your dip in the fantastic just took a sudden dark turn.

But the biggest bit of gruesome, after D_Bates' story, would be you @Carter and I really loved your feat of describing the memories mingling with sorrow and the deepness of alcoholism. It was dark but supperbly crafter and the eeriness was spot on! Very smart title too, you had my vote.
My only critique is that you could have probably made it better by cutting words down. It would have given a more clipped voice to the character, but also gotten rid of the little fat here and there that is truly unnecessary, but that's really nitpicking. Good job.


Also, whoever wants to give me a critic is welcome to do so!
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Offline Hedin

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Re: [Jul 2015] - Flash Fiction - Critique Thread
« Reply #11 on: September 03, 2015, 02:28:27 PM »

@Hedin :

Your story frustrated me because it made me curious, but in a wrong way. To me this is a compelling little snippet that encourages people to buy a book, find out what happens next. It's like you're presenting a concept, and a good one. It's a very interesting idea, voice, a bond after being struck by lightning (or was it lightning?), the implications....
But the whole thing offers zero resolution, very little insight on the character himself, and no story line proper. It's really just a really well written and interesting extract of a bigger story I'd love to read more about.
I know that sounds harsh but my interest for your story is sincere and my frustration to find myself unable to vote for it because it was more of an excerpt was real.  :-[
I think your ending really sharpens that, as you don't stop after he made the bond, nor after he made his choice about the bond, you stop before any form of beginning of resolution! 
It's the only critic I have to offer too.

The ending did give me fits.  In my first several drafts I had a much more firm ending where the character does make a decision.  As I started to edit the story down I started to wonder how well it worked as it seemed like it was going from "Hey have these powers that you never knew existed until a minute ago!" to "Ok!" way too quickly.  I then thought maybe I could make Nerida seem a little pushy like she had some sort of hidden agenda and that this bond wouldn't be all sunshine and rainbows but I couldn't ever get the pushiness to come out like I had hoped.  After I couldn't get the pushiness to really work I decided to keep it open ended but I wasn't convinced it was the right decision.

You are right in that this a little snippet of snippet of a larger story that's been in my head for awhile.  I basically have the idea of the setup and then a future info dump type sequence but have never figured out any sort of major conflict to work around other than what would happen if a "Chosen One" wasn't a typical teenager who learns of their abilities but instead an adult who has a spouse and kids and an actual 9-to-5 job that they need to support their family. 

Your story was one of the last I had to cut for my votes.  The only thing I can really point to would that I think it would have been good to see in the opening bit how sick she was and where she was at (home? hospice? nursing home?) as when I got to the part where you mentioned she had an IV I was like "Oh, so she is really sick right now". 


Offline Nora

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Re: [Jul 2015] - Flash Fiction - Critique Thread
« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2015, 03:27:28 PM »

@Hedin :

Your story frustrated me because it made me curious, but in a wrong way. To me this is a compelling little snippet that encourages people to buy a book, find out what happens next. It's like you're presenting a concept, and a good one. It's a very interesting idea, voice, a bond after being struck by lightning (or was it lightning?), the implications....
But the whole thing offers zero resolution, very little insight on the character himself, and no story line proper. It's really just a really well written and interesting extract of a bigger story I'd love to read more about.
I know that sounds harsh but my interest for your story is sincere and my frustration to find myself unable to vote for it because it was more of an excerpt was real.  :-[
I think your ending really sharpens that, as you don't stop after he made the bond, nor after he made his choice about the bond, you stop before any form of beginning of resolution! 
It's the only critic I have to offer too.

The ending did give me fits.  In my first several drafts I had a much more firm ending where the character does make a decision.  As I started to edit the story down I started to wonder how well it worked as it seemed like it was going from "Hey have these powers that you never knew existed until a minute ago!" to "Ok!" way too quickly.  I then thought maybe I could make Nerida seem a little pushy like she had some sort of hidden agenda and that this bond wouldn't be all sunshine and rainbows but I couldn't ever get the pushiness to come out like I had hoped.  After I couldn't get the pushiness to really work I decided to keep it open ended but I wasn't convinced it was the right decision.

You are right in that this a little snippet of snippet of a larger story that's been in my head for awhile.  I basically have the idea of the setup and then a future info dump type sequence but have never figured out any sort of major conflict to work around other than what would happen if a "Chosen One" wasn't a typical teenager who learns of their abilities but instead an adult who has a spouse and kids and an actual 9-to-5 job that they need to support their family. 

Your story was one of the last I had to cut for my votes.  The only thing I can really point to would that I think it would have been good to see in the opening bit how sick she was and where she was at (home? hospice? nursing home?) as when I got to the part where you mentioned she had an IV I was like "Oh, so she is really sick right now".

If it can reassure you any, I did get the feeling that the little voice was offering something fishy. I mean, it's a rather natural reaction to wonder at such an offer anyway, but the way she phrases things kind of made me wonder, which is why it's all-so-frustrating.

I reckon your idea is really good and needs digging, because I can imagine plenty of strife for a MC with a 9-5 job and a family, if the newly acquired powers needed to be expressed (or else catastrophes ensue) one way or another. Plenty of situational humour to be found in that, and lots of metaphorical things to develop.

As for mine, indeed I had hoped that my introductory lines would make it sound pretty grim, with "Her illness was crippling her so much, there was no knowing how long she had left." but also "before her years in a lab, inhaling toxic fumes all the way up to a Nobel Prize." - to somewhat explain what put her so badly.
But I can well imagine it's hardly enough to set things up properly. But then again the story is precisely 500 words long, so like many others it did shorten options :p
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Offline Paul Birbilas

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Re: [Jul 2015] - Flash Fiction - Critique Thread
« Reply #13 on: September 07, 2015, 03:28:57 AM »

I was your one vote (if we don't count the non-vote from Raptori)  ;D
And I just went back to re-read, and I'd vote it again.

That said, here are some thoughts:

> I think the pace and energy are really strong. The writing is crisp.
> It has conflict, though there's no resolution - which is a fault of story length.
> It's a hoot.
> It is fantastic in genre, since it's about a cyborg who's stolen a microchip.
> I wasn't bothered by the sense that our cyborg wasn't showing signs of losing consciousness or anything.

But,

> The cyborg part is a bit unclear, and we have no sense for our 'borg's background or why he's with Slim
> Why does he believe Slim can repair him?
> The idea of trust would work better, maybe, if we knew there was a history to these two. Think buddy cop movie (Lethal Weapon?) and imagine the confident, edgy cop yelling "Do you trust me?" to his long time conservative, terrified partner.
> To gain word space for the story, I think you could have reduced the time spent on the bar ownership. It's cute, but out of context it seems odd. Why exactly does a chip-stealing cyborg want a bar?

So,

I loved the pace and the prose. It felt like I was right there in the chase, and it ran like a movie scene. Loved that. But I do think in retro that some stronger context was possible and could be done by trading out some other elements.

Please do enter again this month. I really want to see what you write next.

Hey Jmack, I'm glad you enjoyed my flash story and thank you kindly for the vote! I really appreciate the positive and constructive feedback from everyone on here, including yours.   

The pacing and energy were actually my main focus on this story! I wanted to test if I could write an action scene which is something that had intimidated me a little. I'm still not quite sure how'd id write a Sword/Gun fight or H2H combat but that's for another monthly contest.

I struggled a tad with the brevity of the story and the context/history between the characters. I believe that could be explained partially because I was attempting to create a back-story for some secondary characters for the novel i want to begin writing. Next time I'll try and look at it from the readers perspective who are unfamiliar with the characters trajectory/history.

For some reason, this felt like the last scene of a story rather than a whole story. 

I'm not sure quite how to fix that -- maybe a few lines "Why did I take this job..." to fill in the backstory?  Or maybe it just needs a surprising twist at the end.  (I'm a sucker for a good surprising-but-inevitable twist.)

The PoV seems to jump around between Slim's and Nero's point of view in the first paragraph. 

Also see: Watt-Evans's Sixth Law of Fantasy (http://www.watt-evans.com/LawsofFantasy.html) -- the cyborg arm was just sort of there, and didn't end up mattering -- like a gun on the mantle that never gets fired. 

But what's not to love in a car chase and laughing in the face of death?  The tossed grenade was particularly cool.

And... trepidatiously curious to know what people thought of my story.     :-[

Hey ClintACK, thanks for the feedback! I voted for your story btw!

I mentioned in the discussion thread that my partner said she felt like it wasn't a complete story and I had thought about writing something else but time got the better of me. It's been a hectic summer! Also, who doesn't love a good twist at the end of a story?!

The POV comment a good spot. I wasn't paying attention to it when i wrote the story and had to fix it up right before posting the story on here.

I really like your comment about the Nero's arm and watt's six laws. I hadn't really thought of it as a central piece of the story. To me it was just a part of Nero's (mechanical/enhanced) body that might end up being explained in the past/future but wasn't pertinent during this high speed chase. The comment does make me reflect on how i could have used it during the scene. Perhaps instead of tossing a grenade he could detach his arm, enter a code and have it blow up like Predator does in the original (Spoiler? Who hasn't seen Predator?).

I'm going to re-read your story and give you proper feedback another day this week. Still recovering from my sister's wedding last night!

Paul :

Same, all I could say was said, but I need to second Clint on his point : I also felt a lot like this was a sample at the end of a story, and not a story sufficient in itself. It's because we have little background, and no resolution, in a story setting that rather needs one or the other.
Otherwise it was crisply written... I'd say your fault was with the management of the word limit, not with your story telling abilities.

Also, whoever wants to give me a critic is welcome to do so!

Hello Nora! Love the avatar  ;D

I explained a bit earlier in my post that I took a few too many liberties and could have tightened up the context. Appreciate the feedback and I'll try not to do that again. My idea for this month isn't related to the novel I'd like to eventually write and it'll be interesting to see if i can avoid the same mistake.

I'll give your story a re-read and comments this week too!
 
 
 

Offline Paul Birbilas

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Re: [Jul 2015] - Flash Fiction - Critique Thread
« Reply #14 on: September 10, 2015, 09:05:57 PM »
@Henry Dale

I enjoyed the shift in perspective between the player and the pieces in the story. I was only expecting one point of view and it was a nice surprise and way of breaking up the paragraphs while moving the story forward. I also enjoyed that it wasn't bogged down in too details about the pieces and you used that as action scenes. I felt the pace was strong and you conveyed the ominous repercussions of losing in the last paragraph. I was slightly confused why/what the reason was for the player using a traditional set. Did it allow him to sacrifices pawns for territory? Overall enjoyable story!

@ClintACK

I voted for your story. The first line from Emma made me laugh out loud which is always a good start. Your bruises have bruises was also a great line. I think that's what pretty much sold it for me. Clever, funny dialogue that isn't too long and drawn out. Also enjoyed that you described the monsters, almost felt like reading National Geographic. The action scenes got the idea across with few words which isn't easy to pull off. I still enjoyed it on the 3rd reading while i made this critique. Hopefully your Space Opera story will be just as entertaining!

« Last Edit: September 18, 2015, 03:48:12 PM by Paul Birbilas »