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I may have somewhat... played with the rules of the 'theme' this time around.

Coming in at 1495 words, here's Meta-Problems

Spoiler for Hiden:

1. A Character is in a zone of comfort.

Ted was feeling fairly comfortable about his life right about now.

Now, for sure, a large part of this sense of comfort revolved around his current physical surroundings. After all, lounging peacefully on a very comfortable leather sofa while listening to relaxing music on a lazy Saturday afternoon all seemed pretty damn comfortable.

However, that wasn’t the main reason Ted was feeling comfortable right now.

See, Ted had received what some in the writing business might call ‘meta knowledge’. Specifically, he was fully aware that he was currently living out his existence in a short story and that said short story, via the rules of the writing contest in which it was entered, had to follow the Harmon Story Circle method of writing. Therefore, while the exact details of the story itself may currently be a mystery to him, he knew the general path that the tale would take and knew that irregardless of what happened to him, he would end up back here on his comfortable sofa.

Which was fine with Ted. After all, it was a very comfortable sofa. And he was sure that regardless of what happened or how he changed, it wouldn’t be too bad.

Still, he couldn’t help but feel a touch bored. He’d been here for a while now and was really in the mood to get the story started and over and done with. But he knew he had to wait first for the second stage of the Story Circle to start. Specifically-

2. But they want something

All of a sudden, Ted felt a tremendous urge to go and get some ice cream. He didn’t know where this urge came from, but it reverberated through every last atom of his existence, as if some nebulous hand of fate had suddenly decided to kick the plot into motion.

‘Finally.’ Ted thought to himself as he got to his feet. ‘It’s about time something started happening.’

Still, Ted couldn’t help but feel slightly underwhelmed that the inciting motivation of this whole story was going to be something absurdly simple as ice cream. After all, he was fairly certain he had a tub of the stuff in the freezer.

Then again, if he remembered his story circle correctly, the 3rd step in the story was for him to enter an unfamiliar situation. So maybe he’d accidentally fall into a magical portal on his way to the kitchen or something? Or aliens would attack? Or-

5. Get what they wanted.

Ted blinked. He looked down at his hand to see a freshly scooped cone of ice cream, still cold and dripping slightly from the heat.

…That didn’t seem right. No, that didn’t seem right at all. Wasn’t step 3 supposed to be the whole ‘unfamiliar situation’ thing? He wasn’t supposed to get what he wanted until step 5 at the earliest. What kind of a satisfying story would it be if the protagonist got what he wanted right off the bat?

Frowning, Ted slumped back onto his sofa and tried to recall what he’d read about the story circle. He thought he’d memorised the entire thing, hadn’t he? Yeah, first it was the zone of comfort, then wanting something, then entering an unfamiliar situation before-

4. Adapt to it.

All of a sudden, quite unexpectedly, Ted turned into a grasshopper.

It was really quite a shock to him. One second, he was sitting on a couch eating his suspiciously gained ice cream, the next moment, his limbs were stretching and shooting off in different directions, his torso had grown stretched and green and his head had taken on a distinctly insectoid look.

Ted screamed, although with his new body it sounded more like a warbling chirrup, and tried to jump away, only for his vastly more powerful limbs to propel him directly into the ceiling. He hit the roof with a painful thunk before landing back on the ground with an even more painful wallop.

Groaning/Squeaking on the ground, Ted tried to understand where this unexpected twist in the story had come from. After all, he’d already gotten what he’d wanted, so why was he suddenly suffering in such a bizarre way? If this was the fourth stage of the story, as the subtitle indicated, then what the hell kind of problem was this form even supposed to be adapting to? He did not need to be a giant grasshopper to appreciate ice cream. He wasn’t even entirely sure grasshoppers could eat ice cream.

As it was, he had two theories as to how this all came about. Either the subtitles were wrong, he hadn't gotten what he wanted and this was in fact the ‘unfamiliar situation’ he needed to find himself in for the story circle to work, or alternately that said story circle had somehow skipped stages 3 and 4 and gone straight to stage 6, where he paid a heavy price for what he had gained.

Ted was personally inclined to believe the latter theory. After all, he couldn’t imagine any price being heavier or worse than the one he was currently paying right no-

6. Pay a heavy price for it.

Suddenly, Ted’s head exploded.

There was no visible cause for this, nor an obvious narrative trigger to set it off. All Ted knew was that one minute he had a head, the next, giant chunks of insectoid brain matter were spraying across his living room.

This was concerning to Ted. Especially since he was fairly certain he should not currently be alive to experience this. After all, most creatures were generally not hardy enough to survive their heads exploding and he was quite confident that grasshoppers were not some magical exception to this rule.

Also, this particular incident rather confirmed his suspicions that something was clearly wrong with this whole ‘story circle’ concept. After all, they were supposedly in the 5th stage of the story by now and, while Ted had had many strange urges and ideas in the past, he couldn’t imagine any world in which his head exploding was ‘getting what he wanted’.

No, something was definitely off with this story and if he wasn’t mistaken, it was probably that-

3. They enter an unfamiliar situation.

In a snap, Ted suddenly found himself transported to a strange magical forest. All around him, he could see giant insects interacting with great sticky blobs of delicious ice cream, pushing and pulling the cold dessert around like bees harvesting honey. Spiders, flies, caterpillars, actual bees, all sorts of different insects feasting on the sweet vanilla-flavoured nectar.

However, the strangest thing was that none of the insects had a head.

Ted found his rather non-existent eyes drawn to a giant sign hovering above his head. Squinting, he could just about make out the words scribbled on top.


‘Okay.’ Ted thought to himself. ‘That answers some questions.'

It also raised about a dozen others.

Irregardless though, it did confirm his theory on what was currently happening here. Apparently, his author was being a smartass. After all, while the rules of the story contest stated that all 8 steps of the story circle had to be completed, it never said that they had to be completed in the correct order. So the author had clearly decided to be a jackass and put Ted through a gauntlet of all the worst stages depending on what was the most amusing at any given time.

Still, Ted knew that the author had written themselves into a hole here. After all, all the terrible steps had already been fulfilled at this point. All that was left was the nice ones. The ones where nothing really terrible could happen to him. And the rules meant that the author would have to go through them and relative soonish too.

7. Then return to their familiar situation

As if on cue, Ted suddenly found himself returned to both his normal human body and his comfortable couch in his apartment, tasty ice cream still in his hand.

‘Hah.’ Ted thought to himself, enjoying his ice cream with satisfaction. ‘I told you so.’

6. Pay a heavy price for it.

Unfortunately, what Ted had not realised was that not only did the rules of the contest not forbid approaching the steps in a different order from normal, they also didn’t forbid the author from repeating certain steps.

He learned this last part when his head exploded again.

7. Then return to their familiar situation

Ted’s head regrew. He scowled at the heavens.

“You are the literal worst. You know that?”

Unfortunately, Ted was not able to hear the author’s response to that because-

8. Having changed.

-his entire body had suddenly transformed into a pineapple.

Because it turns out that attempting to cheat your way through a narrative while also taunting the author isn’t in fact a very wise move, is it reader?

Ain’t I a stinker?

Don't mind me. Just slipping something in last second. Also, space fantasy counts as fantasy, right?

At 1452 words, it's The True Power of the Force!

Spoiler for Hiden:
Khhrtt… Khuuuu… Khhhrrrtt… Khuuuu…

Luke Skywalker stumbled back in pain, holding the still smoking stump of what had once been his hand. He could still see the faint glow of his lightsaber as it plummeted down the exhaust shaft, severed fingers still clutching on in a desperate grip.

Barely able to comprehend the shock of losing his arm, Luke fell back and dropped to one knee. He scrambled away, down the walkway overhanging the enormous exhaust shaft and clutched tightly onto an antenna to keep his balance.

Khhrtt… Khuuuu… Khhhrrrtt… Khuuuu…

The chilling sound of Darth Vader’s breathing only seemed to intensify as the villain cornered Luke on the edge of the walkway. Vader’s lightsaber, fresh from having struck off Luke’s arm, glowed with a hellish red intensity as it came closer and closer.

“There is no escape, Luke.”

Luke glanced downwards, down at the exhaust shaft. The thing must’ve been several miles deep, if not more. The chances of him surviving such a fall were almost nonexistant. But between that and falling into Vader’s hands…

As if sensing Luke’s fear, Vader’s pose seemed to soften. No longer was it the deadly lightsaber pointed at Luke’s chest. Instead, a hand of peace was thrust out, almost hesitant as it stretch out towards the stricken boy.

“Luke, you do not yet realize your importance.” Vader said. “You have only begun to discover your power.” The hand stretched out further. “Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy.”

That brought a scowl to Luke’s face. “I’ll never join you.”

Vader’s head shook, almost sadly. “If you only knew the power of the Dark Side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father, did he?”

“He told me enough!” Luke snapped back. “He told me you killed him!”

“No, Luke.” Vader said sternly. “I am your father.”

Luke blinked.

“No. No.” He said flatly. “That's not true. That's impossible.”

“Search your feelings,” Vader said, almost thrusting the outstretched arm at him, “you know it to be true!”

“No, I mean literally,” Luke repeated bluntly. “That’s not true. That’s impossible.”

Darth Vader paused. “What makes you say that?”

“Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed…” Luke said, gesturing at the lumps on Vader’s chest with his still-smoking stump of an arm, “but you kind of lack the relevant sex organs to be my father.”

Darth Vader, the feared and terrible Dark Lady of the Sith looked down at where Luke was gesturing. Then she looked back at him. Her head tilted slightly.

“Would you believe me I said that the force is capable of incredible things?”

“No!” Luke said. “I wouldn’t! I mean, if you’d said that you were really my mother, then that would be one thing, but unless you recently had a sex change under that armour, it is literally impossible for you to be my father.”

“Unfortunately, you are wrong. For the force is capable of many impossible things.” Vader said, clearly a little put out at Luke's blunt dismissal of her big reveal. “Did you know that some frogs are capable of switching gender if they need to?”

“Are you telling me you’re part frog?” Luke said. His eyes widened. “Are you telling me I’m part frog?!”

“No no no.” Vader said. “What I’m saying is that life finds a way. Or, well, to be exact, the force does.”

Luke didn’t look impressed. “So you’re saying that the force made you switch gender?”

“Not exactly.” Vader said, scratching the back of her helmet. “I was always female. But, when I was a young padawan, I kind of became… enamoured with your mother somewhat. She returned my feelings, we had a lot of passionate nights together, I told her how much I hated sand, there was a weird side plot involving a Gungan, etc etc.”

“Okay…” Luke said, not entirely certain where this was going. Which was somewhat of a running theme in this conversation thus far.

“Anyway, there was kind of a law at the time forbidding Jedi from marriage and love,” Vader explained, “so we had to keep our relationship secret. But we didn’t think it would be that hard. After all, it wasn’t like we could get each other pregnant or anything.” She paused. “Then Padme actually did get pregnant somehow. Which kinda put a hole in our plans.”

Luke stared at her. “Are you sure she wasn’t just sleeping around?”

“Luke!” Vader said, sounding honest-to-god offended at the suggestion. “Don’t talk about your mother that way! She was a tremendous woman. And a Princess! A democratically elected princess, which admittedly never made much sense to me, but who am I to argue with tradition and-”

“Focus please.” Luke said, still not entirely convinced this conversation wasn’t a dying hallucination. “Also, you didn’t answer my question. Are you sure she didn’t just sleep with someone else?”

“Well, not at first.” Vader admitted. “I may have gotten a bit angry over it, destroyed some console rooms, maybe killed some sand people, usual grief stuff. But then the DNA test came back and confirmed that you were definitely my son. Somehow.”

“But…” Luke shook his head. “That doesn’t make any sense! How? Why? Why would the force do such a thing?”

Vader shrugged. “Hey, you’re preaching to the space choir here. I got no clue. Then again, weird force pregnancy stuff kinda runs in our family? Apparently I was born through outright virgin birth through the force.” She paused. “Although I’ve heard some species of frogs can also do that too. Huh. Maybe we are part frog after all…”

Maybe it was just the adrenaline in Luke’s head from the fight (and his freshly severed hand), but suddenly jumping off the walkway was beginning to look more and more like a tempting idea.

“Anyway, to cut a long story short,” Vader continued, “I had some freaky visions about your mom’s death, maaay have overreacted a little, gone crazy, started hanging out with some bad guys, overthrew an ancient order of Jedi, murdered the fuck out of some children, then maybe kinda got a bit too angry and choked your mom to death, before Obi Wan turned up, chopped all my limbs off and left me to die in a pool of lava. Like a dick.” There was a noise that almost resembled a scowl. “And that’s how we got here. Any questions?”

“YES!” Luke exclaimed. “MANY!”

“Uuuugh.” Vader sighed, a noise that sounded particularly twisted coming from inside his helmet. “Look, Luke. Just search your feelings. You’ll know it to be true.”

Oh please. Like hell he would. Luke knew that if he dived deep down and considered his feelings, then the only thing he’d ‘know’ was that Vader was a lying sack of-


Wait, hold on a minute, what?

What exactly are you trying to tell me here, feelings?

No no no no, that’s can’t be right. Try again feelings, you’re really not making any sense here. You can’t seriously be saying that that pile of absolutely ridiculous bantha poo was really the truth? The truth about his origins and his birth and his father and everything else?

Luke glanced over at Vader, who was looking almost unreasonably smug at him.

“No.” Luke said bluntly. “I refuse to accept this. My feelings are unreliable. They can not be taken as actual evidence that what you said was correct.”

Vader’s smugness only seemed to increase. “Search your feelings. Let the force guide you to the correct answer.”

“Nope.” Luke refused outright. “Fuck the force. The force is creepy and apparently impregnates people without their permission. I am not paying any attention to what it thinks.”

“You’re being petulant.” Vader said.

“I am being sensible.” Luke insisted. “You’re the one who’s suggesting that the fundamental force binding the universe decided to very temporarily swap your gender for shits and giggles.”

“If it helps, I’m pretty sure I have a copy of the original DNA test lying around somewhere.” Vader suggested. “I think it also had your midichlorian count too. Those are the tiny microscopic organisms in your blood caused by the force. I’m surprised Obi-Wan didn’t go into that during your training. I can’t guarantee that they didn’t make your mother pregnant, but-”

“You know what.” Luke said. “On second thoughts, I don’t want to be a Jedi anymore. Bye.”

And with that, he threw himself from the walkway and into the exhaust shaft. Vader watched him fall with an expression halfway between bemusement and disappointment.

“Damn it.” She said. “Ah well, here’s hoping his sister takes the news better.”

[JUN 2018] Fire / Re: [Jun 2018] - Fire - Submission Thread
« on: June 30, 2018, 05:53:06 PM »
Finally got round to finishing an entry for one of these. Blame coursework/original stuff/general lack of interest in the chosen themes as to why I've missed so many of the last few.

Anyway, coming in at 1480 words, here's Low Combustion.

Spoiler for Hiden:
“Father, is it just me or does fire kinda suck as a superpower?”

Raoul Fuoco paused in his work. He carefully placed down the scroll he had been reading and turned to face his eldest son and heir. “I’m sorry, what?”

“Fire.” The 13yo Dante Fuoco repeated. “Doesn’t it kinda suck?”

Raoul took a moment to digest these words, both for their meaning and the person who was saying them. The Fuoco family had long been the most prestigious pyrokinetics in all the kingdoms, with a history that reached all the way back to the earliest days of the Precursors, even before those with Gifted abilities appeared across the land. They took pride in their unmatched mastery over the element of fire and let it shape many aspects of their culture.

Hence why it was a little worrying for the heir to the family to be following that current line of thinking.

“I’m surprised you’d think that.” Raoul said, scratching his bottom lip. “Why just 7 years ago, I remember you telling me how great your fire abilities were, how you were going to join the Flare Knights and defeat all manner of frightful foes."

Dante rolled his eyes. “Yes father, and I was also 6 at the time. Not really at an age to be making the wisest of decisions.”

Raoul smirked and gestured for his son to sit down opposite him. “Then why don’t you sit down and tell me more about your worries?”

“Well, it started when we visited the Dynasty Gathering a few months ago with all the other Great Families…” Dante began to explain.

Raoul managed to conceal the twitch in his brow. The Dynasty Gathering was, as the name might have suggested, a great gathering of the seven most prestigious Magic Families in the kingdom, among which the Fuocos were included. Ostensibly, it was an invitation for heirs and families to mingle, interact and befriend one another to help foster good ties and prevent bloodshed in the future.

In practice, it was about two weeks of feasting, partying and Raoul doing his utmost best to ignore all the disparaging whispers, backhanded insults and general political nastiness that such things inevitably brought about.

“Anyway, while I was there I met the heirs of the Acquea-” Water manipulators. “-Viente-” Air manipulators. “-and Tierra families-” Earth manipulators and massive assholes to boot. “-and I got to wondering…” Dante paused. “Aren’t their powers so much better than ours?”

Raoul let out a non-committal hum. “What makes you think so?”

“Well, their powers have so much useful variation.” Dante said. “The Acquea’s can purify drinking water and snatch fish from the oceans, the Tierra can build entire cities from dirt in a matter of minutes, the Viente can build tremendous airships and soar through the sky-"

“We can do that too.” Raoul pointed out. “Get enough firepower behind you and fwoosh!” He made a hand gesture to demonstrate. “…You do have to watch the landing a little bit though. As our esteemed ancestor Forruchio the Puddle found out, to his folly.”

“Right right.” Dante rolled his eyes. “But my point is, aren’t we in comparison kind of restricted to just… throwing fire at things?”

Raoul shrugged. "Maybe. But it works."

“Does it though?” Dante questioned. He began counting things off on his fingers. “Earth can smother fire. Water can extinguish fire. Wind-”

“-Makes fire stronger.” Raoul pointed out.

“Or smothers it in a vacuum.” Dante countered. “Considering fire is supposed to be the strongest element offensively, we have kind of a bad match-up against almost every other element out there.”

Raoul winced. “Well, battles aren’t quite that simple-”

“Plus, it causes so much trouble and death for our own people!” Dante continued, throwing his hands up in the air. “How many times has our capital city burned down by accident in the last 200 years? Six? Seven? It's called 'Ashtown' for a reason and it's not a happy one!”

“Technically, one of those city-burnings was from an enemy attack.” Raoul pointed out.

“My point still stands!” Dante said. “You can’t grow crops with fire, you can’t build houses with fire, you can’t wear fire! It’s useless!”

“Well technically, we did have an ancestor named Cloakflame, who-” Raoul managed to catch himself before he went on a tangent. “Look, son, I get why you might be frustrated. But I think you’re looking at things completely the wrong way. Fire magic is most famous for its use as a weapon, yes, and it may also be... kind of shite in regards to actually building and maintaining a community, true, but there are plenty of things it is great for.”

Dante folded his arms petulantly. “Like what?”

Raoul walked over to the window with a twinkle in his eye. “Tell me, son. How useful do you think water manipulation is in the dead of winter, when everything is freezing?”

“Probably fairly useful if you wanted to freeze other people?” Dante said.

“But what if you were trying to keep yourself warm?” Raoul said. “Or other people you cared about? What use would being able to control frigid water have there? Or frozen earth? Or chilled winds that bite you to your bone? I think you can easily see why fire has its purpose there.”

“You could get the same effects with heavy furs.” Dante scowled. “And without the risk of burning down your house.”

“True.” Raoul admitted. “But what about the blacksmith down in his forge? Do you think he’d be able to get anything done without the heat of the fire to soften and melt the metal? Where would we get our swords, shields, stirrups, farming hoes and so on, without our flames? Isn't that something useful?”

“…I guess.” Judging from the tone of his voice, Dante still wasn’t convinced. “Fire only ever seems to destroy, hurt or kill though.”

Raoul’s face softened. “Maybe. But sometimes that’s necessary in this world. Sometimes you need to sear the wound to stop the blood. Sometimes you need to burn away the remains to build anew. Sometimes you need to cleanse rotten and decomposing things in flame to stop plague from spreading.” He opened his hands and a flicker of flame came to his hand. “Fire is dangerous and deadly, yes, but it’s necessary all the same and, in the hands of careful users, can be wielded to create remarkable things.”

He carefully lifted the flame into the air and made a gesture with his hand. Dante watched with awe as the flame burst into glimmering embers that scattered themselves around the room. Then, as the two watched, they slowly rained down softly to the ground like beautiful glowing stars.

“See?” Raoul grinned. “Your old man has a few tricks after all, huh?”

Dante smiled back at him. Then he went pale and quickly raised a finger. “Um, father? Your desk?”

Raoul turned to see that one of the embers had accidentally landed on a small stack of paperwork he’d been going through earlier and, quite naturally, had immediately caught fire. A fire that was quickly spreading across his entire desk.

“Shit!” He swore, removing his fireproof cloak in a single smooth motion and using it to smother the flames. “Shit shit shit!”

Fortunately, his efforts quickly bore fruit and the fire was extinguished. Didn’t stop the rather noticeable smoky smell now drifting through the room, nor erased the fact that the last few hours of paperwork had now been turned into flaky black ash.

“And that, Dante,” Raoul said, as if this had entirely been part of his plan, “is why, in spite of how amazing fire is, training and attentiveness are still very much needed when wielding it.” He looked at Dante with pleading in his eyes. “Please don’t tell your mother.”

Dante smirked. “About you nearly burning down your office again?”

“No no, I mean don’t tell her that I swore in front of you." Raoul sighed. "You have no idea how fussy she gets over that sort of thing.” He paused. “Although don’t tell her about this either. She will laugh at me.”

“Okay okay, I promise.” Dante’s smirk softened into something more genuine. “Thanks for listening to my problems though, father.”

“Ah, don’t worry about it.” Raoul said, taking a seat and trying to order the burnt remains of his paperwork. “It’s my job, after all. That and making sure you kids don’t accidentally immolate yourselves.”

As if on cue, the door suddenly burst open and a rather flustered-looking guard burst in. His eyes darted across the room before landing on Raoul.

“Um, sir!” He said, through exhausted breaths. “We have a slight situation in the nursery. Your newborn son has managed to, uh, ignite the curtains again.”

Raoul and Dante shared a glance.

“You know, on second thoughts, maybe you might have a point about fire being kind of troublesome.”

Sorry. Got all the next few weeks busy with Uni deadlines, so I don't really have the free time this month. Plus nothing is amazingly jumping out at me idea-wise for this topic.

I might get a last minute inspiration flash tomorrow, but don't necessarily count on it.

If anybody asks, this was posted yesterday.  :-X

Coming in at 1500 words, The Amazing (and entirely Unwanted) Voyages of the Boutella.

Spoiler for Hiden:
I had to admit. To most people it really would’ve been an incredible sight.

Imagine the Mother of all Forests, enormous, green and packed with nature’s bounty. Now imagine the Master of all Swamps, lakes of fetid green water, intertwined with muddy rivers. Now imagine said forest inside said swamp. Then perhaps you might have begun to understood the sight that awaited the crew of our little boat. Swarthes of a great green trees towering over the marshy waters below, with enormous roots entangled in the depths below. Even the small human settlements build into the trees were dwarfed by the sheer overwhelming scale of the nature that surrounded.

Yes, it was a magnificent sight that most people would forever treasure. A sight to inspire any true artist. An adventurer’s dream discovery. Something to remember for the rest of your natural born life.

However, for us, the view was somewhat diminished by one small problem.

“Where the fuck are we?”

We were rather badly lost.

I tried to keep my voice level as I turned to the diminuitive (and irritated) noblewoman sitting beside me. “You have my apologies, Lady Fernwood, but it is possible we have been blown off course somewhat.”

The young Lady Ariella Fernwood, Noble of Perchester and our passenger for this voyage, turned and gave me a quite incredulous look.

“Really, Captain?” She said sweetly. She was doing that remarkable thing where her voice sounded kindly, yet somehow came out as ‘fuck you, you worthless cur’. “Whatever would give you such an idea? I certainly had not noticed.”

I tried to hide my wince with minimal success. I wasn’t particularly fond of Lady Fernwood, but she may have had a point.

See, my ship, the Boutella, was not exactly built for exploration. Indeed, it was supposed to be a merchant ship, delivering goods, supplies and the occasional irritable passenger across the narrow seas. Unfortunately, we had run into a very minor little snag during our most recent voyage that made our journey a tiny bit complicated.

Specifically a goddamn hurricane.

To cut a long story short, we were blown hilariously badly off course and had somehow ended up in a swamp. And god knows our little passenger was not happy with it.

“You do realise I was supposed to be in Dafone nearly three days ago?” Lady Fernwood continued, clutching her parasol like a sword. “I should be having tea with the duke, not trapsing around nature’s unwiped asshole. I am distinctly not impressed.”

I couldn’t help my scoff. “You have my apologies, madam, that I was not able to magically control the weather to provide you with a smoother voyage.”

“Oh, I have no intention of blaming you for the storm, captain.” Fernwood counting, mimicking my sarcastic politeness. “Not packing any maps, on the other hand? That’s a different story.”

I gave an awkward cough. “…I don’t believe in maps.”

“Well, I don’t believe in idiot captains either.” Fernwood rolled her eyes. “Doesn’t mean I can just leave you behind.” She gestured to one of the larger tree settlements. “I mean, do you have any clue where we are? Without a map, how are we supposed to get home?”

I rolled my eyes. The woman was so overdramatic. Had she never heard of asking for directions?

(Although I didn’t voice this sentiment out loud because I’m not an idiot.)

Indeed, it didn’t take us long to find a friendly fisherman willing to come aboard our ship and help us, even giving us a bit of background knowledge on the strange land we had drifted to. He explained that we were in the tree city of Volentia, where man and nature lived in a symbiotic relationship. The tree provided materials for the people to live with and, in return, the people looked after the tree and kept it thriving and healthy. It was all quite fascinating stuff.

As for directions to get home however…

“Not a clue.” The man said bluntly. “Don’t usually get much in the way of visitors.”

“Really?” I said, sighing in frustration. “Sure you must get some kind of port trade or something?”

“Not really.” The man shrugged. “We try to restrict the number of visitors we get.”

“Hm. That makes sense.” Fernwood said, jotting something down in a notebook. As a woman of science, she had been somewhat interested in the man’s explanation. “Because you have such an important symbiotic relationship with the trees, you have to take steps to avoid admitted too much of a foreign presence, in case said presence disrupts the natural balance and causes disaster.”

“Thass true.” The man admitted. “But mainly it’s just because of the giant ship-eating crocodiles.”

“…The what now?”

I won’t bore you with the details of how we escaped that land, nor how we fought off certain enormous lizards. Needless to say it involved great courage, bravery and several pairs of spoiled breeches. And Lady Fernwood got a new crocodile-tooth dagger as a trophy.

But anyway, after escaping the swamps, we drifted across the open seas searching for land, safe in the knowledge that we were unlikely to end up anywhere stranger than that marsh.

Well, at least not for a few days.

"Captain?" Lady Fernwood said calmly. "Not to call into question your sailing abilities, but how exactly did we end up underground?"

“A excellent question, milady.”

Lady Fernwood looked at me as if expecting elaboration. I, however, kept silent because I’d be damned if I knew how we’d gotten here. Seriously, you take a nap for maybe 5 minutes and next thing you know you’re approaching a vast underground city. This shit does not happen on normal voyages.

Regardless, since it worked so well before, we decided to take a page from our plan last time and ask a nearby inhabitant where the hell we were.

The results were mixed.

“Okay, I’ve got good news and bad news.” I told Lady Fernwood later that night. “The good news is we’re not actually underground.”

“Oh?” Lady Fernwood raised an eyebrow. “And the bad news?”

“We’ve been eaten by a giant whale.”

That got an appropriately frustrated reaction from her.

“See,” I continued, “it turns out that there’s this species called the Mountain Whale, with a habit for swallowing ships and sailors whole. But it never actually really swallows them and there’s a ton of useful nutrients and materials on its tongue and throat, so they decided to settle down and start a city here.”

“Fascinating.” Fernwood said through gritted teeth. “How do we get out?”

“It’s fairly simple actually.” I explained. “There’s a passage that’ll let us escape through its nostril completely unharmed."

Fernwood sighed. “Well, that sounds disgusting, but it doesn’t seem like it’ll be too difficul-“

“Also the nostril is infested with giant ship-eating bats.”

“…Of course.”

I won’t bore you with the details of how we escaped that particular deathtrap, but needless to say it involved a lot of panicking, screaming and significantly more swearing and violence than I would expect from a highborn Lady. Although I suppose she got a new batwing leather coat out of the whole encounter.

Anyway, we once more drifted along aimlessly through the ocean until we spotted land. And, unsurprisingly considering what we’d been through, a few certain members of the crew were a little hesitant about what we might find there.

“For the last time…” I said with significant patience. “It’s just a shipyard. A completely normal shipyard. There is nothing weird or dangerous about it all.”

Fernwood looked up from the little blanket fort she had constructed around herself. “Are you certain?”

“Completely.” I assured her.

“There’s not going to be any secret… cannibals turtles or something?”

“Those don’t exist.”

Fernwood looked unimpressed. “Neither did giant ship-eating bats, crocodiles and whales a few weeks ago.”

“…Point.” I conceded. “But I’ve already talked to people here. And I can assure you there’s nothing out of the ordinary here at all. They even have a comfortable inn to rest weary travellers. Does that sound like something a dangerous place would have?”

“I suppose not.” Fernwood said, grudgingly dislodging herself from her handmade fort. I noticed she still didn’t release her crocodile-tooth dagger though. “And I guess it would be nice to sleep in a proper bed again.”

“Now that’s the spirit.” I said with a beaming smile. “Trust me, you’ll be as good as new in the morning.”

Later that night…

I swallowed and turned away from Fernwood’s gaze. She continued to glare at me, blood dripping from her dagger.

“Alright…” I said slowly. “So maybe it wasn’t quite as safe as I let out.”

Fernwood didn’t say anything. She merely continued her glare.

“But, in my defence,” I continued, “how was I supposed to know the entire town were secretly werewolves?”

No answer. More glaring.

“…At least you got some wolf pelts out of the deal?”

The glare tightened.

“...I'll try and remember a map next time.”

I'm not saying we have to use sci-fi pictures, that was just a suggestion, but even among fantasy pictures, I feel like there should be more variety. I mean our options are basically...

1: An undergrowth treehouse city by a swamp/lake

2: An underground city by a lake

3: Basically just a normal-looking dock/shipyard. Presumably by an ocean and/or lake.

Surely we can have a bit more variety in our pictures than that? A desert, a city in the clouds, grassy plains, arctic, all sorts of things would fit. Heck, there was this thread a while back where we posted those sorts of pictures as a writing exercise. Plenty of varied options to pick from there.

Not saying we have to change mind, I could probably rustle up a story with these just fine, but I think it would make the contest a lot more interesting.

Hm. Certainly an interesting premise for a contest.

That said, I can't help but feel we could've maybe used a bit more variety in the pictures, perhaps? It very well might just be me and my own hang-ups, but they almost feel a bit... samey in terms of visual style and the ideas that they provoke, if that makes sense. A sci-fi setting, like Nora suggested, might've been a good way to shake things up.

Ah, that feeling when my own last minute vote loses me the contest....

Still, congrats anyway DeathShroud. Wouldn't have voted for you (and Bradley) if I didn't think it was a worthy winner.

Welp, after hours of painstaking work, I finally managed to finish up my entry for this month........ and almost immediately afterwards discovered that Alex's story has the exact same premise that mine does.


Great minds think alike. We must be onto a winner.
It's really surreal just how much they match though. Like from the premise, to the setting, to the set-up, to the resolution, to even really small shit like 'being sent by a parental figure' or the talk about heroes and the like. It's almost eerie.

(Also, I hope you realise that this inevitably means we're going to need a mini-option in the voting thread to decide who did it best.)

Welp, after hours of painstaking work, I finally managed to finish up my entry for this month........ and almost immediately afterwards discovered that Alex's story has the exact same premise that mine does.


I had way too many ideas for this, both comedic and serious. Eventually ended up going for this one because the story came to me better. I also ended up stealing a bunch of names from my novels-in-progress because coming up with new ones is hard.

Anyway, coming in at 1500 words, here's One Last Shot.

EDIT: And apparently Alex Hormann had the exact same idea I did. Huh. How about that.

Spoiler for Hiden:
The bar didn’t look like much.

It was an old twisted thing, made from dusty wood and rusty nails. The windows were boarded and only a few haphazard lights could be seen inside. It was the sort of place hobbled together by people who didn’t quite know what they were doing with materials that weren’t quite the right fit. A typical low-rent joint in a nothing little village up the arse-end of nowhere.

However, outwards appearances were not of much importance to Mortimer. What mattered was that the drinks were cheap and the company nonexistant. He didn’t want to be bothered.

He hadn’t wanted to be bothered for many years now.

The creak of the door caught his attention. He looked up to see a young boy with dark hair hesitantly enter. The boy began nervously looking around the tavern at each and every patron in turn before carefully making his way through the tables.

Mortimer could tell by the youth’s nervous demeanour that the boy clearly wasn’t used to entering this sort of low-down establishment. He could also tell by his fine clothes that he was from a fairly cultured upbringing and, judging by the less-than-fine condition they were in, that he was down on hard times. The sword on his belt had seen some action, but far from enough.

So. A well-off kid enters a seedy bar he’s clearly uncomfortable with. Obviously he’s looking for something. Or someone. And, unless Miss Moggin’s pork pies had suddenly surged in popularity, there was only person here worth looking for.

Mortimer tried to stifle his groan as the young boy edged closer to where he was sitting. He kicked a chair open.

“Stop pretending and sit down.” He said bluntly. “Might as well get this over with.”

The boy’s eyes widened. “Y-You’re really him?! You’re Arugard Mortimer?! The Dusk Knight?”

“Feh.” Mortimer spat onto the ground. “I haven’t been The Dusk Knight for a long time, brat. If you’re looking for that bastard, you’re fresh out of luck.”

The boy swallowed and shuffled closer. “My… My mother sent me. Her name was Rina Scurio. She said you’d recognise the name.”

A rainy night. A dark alley. An urchin girl, unbathed and undernourished, shakily held up a knife. Her face was gaunt, but Mortimer couldn’t help but notice the fierce glint in her dark eyes.

There was something worthwhile in those eyes, he thought. Something worth cultivating.

“Rina, huh?” Mortimer fondly snorted. “Trust one nosey brat to sire another nosey brat.” He took a swig from his cup. “How’s she doing, anyway?”

“Oh, great!” The boy perked up. “She’s the current Captain of the Crow Knights, one of the finest battalions in the country! Her unparalleled skills have made her an icon among-“

“Okay okay.” Mortimer waved the kid down. “I asked how she was doing, not her fucking resume.”

The boy coughed awkwardly. “Sorry sir.”

“Don’t call me sir.” Mortimer said on reflex.

“R-Right. Sorry, mister.”

Mortimer rolled his eyes. The brat was certain a lot more timid than Rina, that was for sure.

“Kid, I don’t have all night.” He took another swig from his mug. “Just tell me what Rina wants so I can refuse and go back to my booze in peace.”

The boy swallowed. “I need your help to rescue a princess.”

Mortimer blinked.

Mortimer blinked again.

Then he turned to face the kid with the most incredulous face he could achieve. “You’re fucking kidding, right?”

The boy shook his head firmly. “Nearly two weeks ago, Princess Amelie was kidnapped by Asteian Soldiers. Since she’s the Fourth Princess, the King says she’s not worth the cost of sending a rescue force for her.” Mortimer could hear the raw pain and frustration in the kid’s voice. “The Asteians are going to execute her in five days unless I can save her first.” He looked up with a pleading gaze. “I need your help.”

Aw hell. This brat and the princess were clearly closely acquainted. Very closely acquainted. No wonder the idiot had taken it upon himself to rescue her against his King’s orders. And now he was going to drag Mortimer into this mess?

Mortimer let out a shuddering sigh and ran his fingers through his hair. “Brat. Do you know why I quit the Royal Knights?”

The boy shook his head.

“I grew tired.” Mortimer rested his face in his hands. “I grew tired of the constant death and pain and failure. I grew tired of everything I couldn’t fix and everything I failed to save. I grew tired of being a fuck-up and a failure.”

“A failure?!” The boy’s eyes bugged out incredulously. “But you’re the Dusk Knight! You beat back Savage Jack during the Invasion of Crosswall! You slew the Black Bard! You single-handedly turned the tide in the Battle of Cherrygrove! You’re a hero! They wrote songs about you!”

“Yeah.” Mortimer snorted bitterly. “When I won. They never wrote songs about Sixspire. Or the Marsh Slaughter. Or, gods forbid, the Battle of Crimson Flood.”

“Jeanne! No!”

Blood and tears ran down the side of his face as he cradled her body. He could tell from a glance that the wound was fatal. She looked up at him, eyes almost pleading.

“Mort… I…”

“S-Sir Mortimer?” The boy’s voice snapped him back to reality. “Are you alright?”

Mortimer raised his hand to his cheek. It came away wet with tears.

“It’s nothing.” He said. He got to his feet, his chair scraping across the ground. “I’m leaving. Rescue your damn Princess on your own.”

“But Sir Mortimer-!” The boy tried to step into his path.

Mortimer grabbed the kid by his lapels and pushed him onto a crusty old wooden table with a loud thump.

“Look, brat.” He snarled in the boy’s face. “I don’t care what your mother told you, but I’m not a hero. I’m not some knight in shining armour here to help you win the day and save the girl. I’m a fuck-up of an old man filled with regrets who just wants to drink and piss his life away in peace. I was born violent and bitter and I’ll die the same. Nothing I’ve ever done has ever truly changed anything. Nothing I’ve ever done brought me happiness or relief. Nothing I’ve ever done was even the slightest bit worthwhile. Nothing!” 

Mortimer released the kid, straightened his back and violently drained the rest of his ale.

“You came here looking for the Dusk Knight.” He said. “But I’m not that man any more. Maybe I never was.”

He slammed the mug onto the table and headed for the door. As he did, he could hear the boy shakily get to his feet.

“Y-You said n-nothing you did was ever worthwhile!” The kid called after him. “But what about me?!”

Mortimer paused.

“What about you?”

The boy was still clearly shaken by Mortimer’s outburst, but he stood his ground nonetheless. “My mother always told me that if you hadn’t taken her under your wing, helped her off the streets, taught her swordfighting and cooking and everything else, she’d have died cold and hungry in some alley somewhere.” His fists tightened. “If you hadn’t helped her, she’d be dead. And I’d have never been born. Don’t tell me that’s not nothing!”

Mortimer flinched. “Kid, that’s-“

“And I’m not the only one!” The boy continued. “How many lives have you saved with your actions? How many families would’ve been torn apart? How many children would’ve been left unborn or never knowing their mothers or fathers?” He shook slightly, but kept his footing. “For every person you failed to save, hundreds owe their lives or existences to what you did. Don’t tell me for a minute that it wasn’t worth it or didn’t change anything! Don’t tell me that the name my mother gave me, Mortimer Scurio, means nothing!”

The bar fell into silence. The only sound that could be heard was the ragged breathing of the young boy, young Mortimer, as he stared his namesake down. He had that same fierce glint in his eyes that the older Mortimer had seen in a young urchin many years before. Eyes that held such potential, such possibilities, enough to awaken nurturing instincts that Mortimer had assumed were long dead.

Heh. Rina just didn’t play fair.

Mortimer let out a weary sigh. “Cripes, brat. You really know how to make a speech.”

The kid’s eyes lit up. “You mean-“

“Perhaps.” Mortimer rolled his shoulders back. “Don’t really know how much use an old, out-of-shape fossil will be though.”

Mort Jr seemed almost ecstatic, buzzing around the room with energy. “Don’t worry! The two of us will be great together, I know it!”

Mortimer gave a fond snort. He knew he hadn’t changed that much. He knew the Dusk Knight wasn’t some great hero worth emulating. He knew he wasn’t a hero.

But, you know what? Fuck it. He might as well give it one last shot.

Writers' Corner / Re: "Murky middle" problem with outlining a story
« on: September 21, 2017, 01:25:43 PM »
I find that when you know the beginning and you have an idea of where you're going, that's the best time to start writing. I know it's not what works for everyone, but I find completely outlining my story before writing it to be incredibly boring. To me, writing a story where I know exactly what will happen is the same as reading a story where I know exactly what will happen.

I bet you have a few scenes you can't wait to get writing on? Write those. When they are done, you'll probably have some new ideas. Pick the ones you like best and write those. And so on. When you run out of scenes that you want to write, put together what you have using as few words as possible as glue.

Just my five cents.
No offense dude, but unless you're writing short stories or very episodic fiction, that's kinda terrible advice.

Don't get me wrong, I'm certain there are probably some very skilled people out there with an instinctual knowledge of structure and pace, who can write like that and do it well. Buuuut the majority of the time, if you try to write a long-form novel when you don't know where you're going, you're most likely to end up with a structureless, meandering mess. And trust me when I say this comes from very painful experience. Going wherever the hell you feel may sound like great fun, but it's not conductive to creating a solid narrative structure to your novel. And without a solid structure, your story is eventually going to crumble like a house built on sand. Which I'm pretty certain there's an entire biblical story warning against the dangers of.

Now, I'm not going to go to the opposite extreme and say that you have to have every single last detail planned out and you cannot ever deviate from said plan under any circumstances. Believe me, I've had characters and stories go off the given tracks into new and interesting places plenty of times before. But I think it is definitely necessary to at least have the beginning and ending planned out, along with a few checkpoints along the way. Even if you're not a big fan of plotting your stories out, a good writer needs to know where both they and their characters are going and when they need to get there by.

Now, as for the greater issue at hand (aka, how to write middles), I've always thought the middle section of a novel is a great opportunity to show off the side elements of your world/characters. Think about a section of your world or an aspect of one of your characters that you'd like to show off, come up with a little story idea to show off said world/character trait and then tie it back into the greater narrative. Great fun.

Here are some other ideas for potential story elements to fit in the middle of your novel.

-Team bonding!
-Get your villains involved and let them show off their skills/danger to the heroes before the climax.
-Split the party! (preferably after 'Team Bonding!')
-Team up two characters who wouldn't normally team-up (hero and side villain maybe?) and have them bounce off each other.
-Team arguments and fall-outs!
-Explore backstories!
-Have the party actually fail at something importantish + create doubt/tension about whether they can succeed in their ultimate quest.
-Show off a protagonist's major character flaw
-Introduce colourful side characters or sub-villains.
-Explore interesting and deeper elements of certain systems in your world (magic, tribes, kingdoms, lands, religions, etc)
-Give side characters their own mini personal quests that tie into their development.
-Whatever seems interesting, basically.

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: What are you currently reading?
« on: September 12, 2017, 11:57:06 PM »
After seeing the recent movie version of It (I've never read the book) I picked up the original book to see if I'd enjoy it as much as the movie. One of the things I've found interesting, having not read much Stephen King in the past, is how much I find myself skimming his work. Subjectivity is an odd thing.

When things are actually happening in It (so far), I'm glued to the book. There's an early scene with an adult Bev Marsh and her abusive husband that riveted me because I was worried for her. But King also tends to go on for pages and PAGES about random town history stuff that makes my eyes glaze over. We'll get a page of OMG what just happened, followed by four-eight pages talking about how the town sewage treament system works, and how in 1932 there was a parade or something, and how one random bar character likes his eggs. I realize many people eat this up (because it feel authentic) but it bores the hell out of me.

It really is interesting to me, as a writer (and reader) how one person's vivid, "book feels real" details are another person's "Can we stop explaining how many parade floats they had in 1932 and get back to the creepy clown story?"
A lot of people have that issue with It, but I loved those interludes, then again I do like that sort of thing. I also tend to have a problem seeing a film, then reading the book, because I keep expecting things to happen. Interestingly it doesn't work in reverse. I only recently reread It (after having last read it many years ago) and positively bucketed through it, getting through all 1130+ pages in just under two weeks. I find the little town histories really interesting in that they make the place seem realer and give it some genuine depth.
Personally, I both like and dislike the way King expands on so much stuff in IT. On the one hand, it helps add a great sense of depth and history to the town and adds some extra dimensions to characters who could easily have just been throwaways. The way King goes off of tangents adds some real life to the proceedings and settings and makes Derry feel like a fully realised setting.

But, on the other hand, I really hated how much he told us about the actual titular creature of the book and the ridiculous mythology behind its origins. Robbed IT of a lot of its mystery and unknowable horror and overcomplicated what was otherwise a fun horror tale. Sometimes things are really better off left unexplained, you know? Especially in a horror story.

That's partly why I think I ultimately preferred the recent film version over the book. I did enjoy the book when I read it (although it's been a while) but the film knew how to keep its story appropriately slim and managed to seamlessly cut out the stupider aspects.

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Re: What are you currently reading?
« on: September 03, 2017, 04:14:23 PM »
I'd like to add that characters whose only purpose is to witness the men doing stuff around them is not a plot flaw. It's a bad character, and a writing flaw that distracts from the story, but that doesn't make the story or the plot flawed in itself. It was a writer's mistake, in the craft of writing, not in plotting.
Eh, I tend to use 'plot flaw' as a bit of a catch-all term. After all, characters/dialogue/pacing/whatever are all part of the plot, right? About the only thing I wouldn't use it for is actual quality of prose. But I suppose something like 'story flaw' would indeed be a more accurate term, yes.

I would say that by speed reading book two and skimming over whole chapters, you're actively looking for plot flaws, rather than reading something you enjoy. So of course you're going to notice things. Yes, I understand that plot flaws aren't merely breaks in logic (although that's most often how I experience them) but what annoys the reader. So if you're reading or skimming through a book hyperfocusing on the thing that annoys you, it's going to be a lot more glaring than the person that is reading it because they enjoy the story itself. I could argue that a badly written character is a plot flaw, especially with the definitions you are going by. But hashing that out makes all this more complex than necessary.
No offense, but you do know how silly this sounds, right? How are you supposed to skim through stuff to find flaws when flaws will, naturally, be embedded deep within the framework of the story and thus will obviously require attention to find? It rather contradicts itself, don't you think? It's not like flaws in a story are highlighted in neon.

Also, have you considered that if Nora begins skimming through stuff, that, rather than her just searching for slip-ups, it might just actually be the fault of the book for failing to hold her attention? If she was entertained and enjoying herself, she probably wouldn't be skimming, would she? Similarly, would she be 'hyperfocusing' on the things that annoy her if said things didn't clearly leap out at her? Isn't that also a fault of the book for making said flaw so noticeable and failing to engage her enough in other ways to make up for it?

Seriously, claiming other people are 'looking for flaws' just because they have issues with a book is just plain silly.

Also, I don't consider CinemaSins to be something to look at for ratings. I don't agree with everything they point out, but a lot of their points are valid. Made me look at Logan in a completely different way. I still like the movie a lot, but I own all of its plot flaws.
Nah dude. Trust me. They're garbage. Just check out the 'Everything Wrong with Everything Wrong with' videos to get how much CinemaSins bullshits this stuff. And yeah, I watched the Logan video. It's equally bullshit. I almost immediately came up with explanations or justifications for like 90% of the 'sins' there. And I don't even like Logan as much as most people.

But even if CinemaSins videos weren't misleadingly awful, they still wouldn't be good criticism. You can't get a reasoned and valuable critique in a 20 second soundbite. At best, you can get a nitpick or a plot hole.

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Re: What are you currently reading?
« on: September 03, 2017, 11:16:14 AM »
When you're reading or watching something and looking for plot flaws, you're going to find plenty. That doesn't invalidate them, but people tend to overlook them more easily when it's something they enjoy. Take CinemaSins for example. I've liked several movies they've reviewed, and didn't notice the flaws because I was enjoying it so much.
Not for nothing, but I think I can see where your misconceptions are coming from if you're citing CinemaSins as an example of 'looking for plot flaws'. 99% of the 'sins' in those videos are nitpicks at best and at worst are actively wrong or deliberately misleading. It's fine to enjoy the videos for 'entertainment value' I guess, but they really don't hold any kind of critical worth.

Anyway, speaking as someone who does a fair bit of critiquing in his spare time (including several film reviews for this site), I can assure you that, as has already been mentioned on here, very few people ever read a book/go into a movie/whatever searching for flaws and things to dislike. Usually you only really have two major reactions to the media while you're viewing/reading it. Either it's working for you or it's not. And if it's not, it's only natural to want to try and pin down exactly why. And I think that's the major difference between the plot flaws I think you're thinking of and the plot flaws Nora is bringing up.

See, a plot flaw is not merely a minor break in logic. Those happen all the time and are barely noticed by most of your target audience. No, a plot flaw is something that actively negatively affects your enjoyment of the story as you're experiencing it. A plane journey that would take 5 hours in real life only taking 3 hours in a story would arguably be a plot flaw, yes, but it's one so incredibly minor that very few people are likely to even notice it, let alone have it affect their enjoyment of the story. But compared to what Nora's complaining about, specifically major female characters having their POV scenes reduced to just witnessing important events for other people, that's something that's more noticeable and could actively get on your nerves while reading through a story. Hence why it's a much bigger deal. 

Of course, the line between that 'harmless break in logic' and 'actively makes the story worse' is very subjective and varies from work to work and person to person. For example, a lot of people complained about the quick travel times in the most recent season of Game of Thrones, but not because it was so important. No, they noticed and cared because the series had paid so much attention to accurate travel times in previous seasons. It was a big break from the series norm and thus became noticeable. On the flip side, there are plenty of works out there where the POV character is designed to be nothing more than an observer and it works just great. And, like I said, personal preferences come in as well. Someone who cares a lot about accurate journey time might find the plane example to be bad, while someone who doesn't care much about the female characters might not have the same problem Nora did. That's where subjectiveness in criticism comes from.

Anyway, tldr, criticism is not merely a list of minor plot holes. Also, I should never spend time on the internet while I'm trying to work or I'll get distracted and spend 10-20 minutes writing a miniature treatise on how criticism works.

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