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Congrats to @Rukaio_Alter and @Nora!

@Rukaio_Alter and @tebakutis's stories stood out the most for me, and I just couldn't bring myself to pick amongst the rest.

I definitely agree that we got a lot of different approaches to the theme, which was quite fun.

The Sanctimonious Saints
1275 words

Minor amounts of swearing.

Spoiler for Hiden:
The pamphlet – attributed to the Sanctimonious Saints - had been right. Sex was not at all what the bishops would have you believe.

I pushed open the door to my house, tired after the late night. A quiet voice greeted me.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Mother’s usual suspicious voice. She sat in a chair in the house’s main room, prayer book on her lap.
“Coming home after staying at Ria’s last night.” I kept walking.
“Oh?" Her tone stopped me. There was a note of confidence, like she had caught me at something she disapproved of. I had only heard that tone a few times in my life, but when I had, the conversation had never ended well for me. I turned to face her, and noticed a square clay jar striped with red resting on the small table next to her chair. That jar held the tea I used to keep myself infertile while exploring my body.
“Why were you searching my room?” I yelled.

“I have the right to know what’s going on in my daughter’s life.” I could never decide whether I preferred to believe she postulated that or the priests had fed it to her.
Mother spoke again. “I am disappointed.” Tears welled in her eyes. I didn’t care.
“In me? No. You’re disappointed you don’t have the pious daughter you always wanted.” I knew better than to goad her, but Mother would never forgive the tea in that clay jar.
“I am sending you to a nunnery.” Like that would make me pious.
As I opened my mouth, Mother’s forehead creased, as it did every time she knew I was about to disagree with her. “I am not going to a fucking nunnery.” I screamed. It felt good. I strode out the door, then looked back at Mother over my shoulder. “I’m already fucked, aren’t I?”
She glanced over at the jar. “It appears so.” Anguish fought with rage and despair. It seemed strange to hear my emotions in her voice.
Ten paces later, I heard a crash behind me, followed by a door slamming shut. Mother had thrown the jar. It had shattered, and a slight breeze scattered the leaves inside. I didn’t need them anymore, but maybe I could sell them, if I collected them. I hurried over, pulling a handkerchief out of my skirt pocket.
I picked up one of the shattered pieces, attempting to pour the leaves off it into my handkerchief. As I shook them off, I noticed a pattern etched on the inside. Runes.
There were more on the other pieces. I forgot about the leaves – they had mostly blown away already – and gathered the pieces, wrapping them in the handkerchief before hurrying away. I did not want another confrontation with Mother.
I would not go to a fucking nunnery and spend my days listening to unwed mothers pine after their loves and former prostitutes repent of their sins. Although, maybe I could get the nuns to exile me. That was my most promising option. I had heard that the Sanctimonious Saints would get people out, but I had been trying to contact them for months without any success.
I found a bench in the park, set my bag under my feet, and pulled out the clay shards. I laid the pieces next to me and started organizing them, using the runes as a guide. Who had written words on the inside of a small infertility jar? Why?
The last pieces revealed a large intricate design. It looked familiar, like one of the theocracy’s official seals, but not quite. Surely the priests weren’t trafficking in infertility teas; they always needed more people to build their altars.

Underneath the design, there was a short phrase. I murmured the words to myself as I read them. “You broke the jar; let’s see who you are.” I did not finish the last sentence. Another voice had joined mine. A woman stood behind the bench. She had short, spiky brown hair and wore a slim dress. Proper, yet flattering.
“Who are you?” she asked.
I did not respond as she walked around the bench and sat down next to me, picking up one of the shattered pieces.
“That’s mine,” I said. The woman looked down her nose at me. If she was trying to intimidate me, she failed.
Her mouth twitched. She examined the shard in her hand, peering at the design. “Why did you break the jar?” she asked, looking over at me.
“I didn’t.”
She nodded. Her gaze traveled from the shards to my face, then down my shirt to my bag underneath my feet. I tensed my muscles, squeezing the bag with my shins. “You are a rebel.”
Who was this woman? Did she come from a nunnery, recruiting wayward girls? I smiled at her. “And what are you going to do about it?”
She held my eyes with hers. “What are you going to do about it?”
“Nothing.” I stared at the woman, silently challenging her. I would never become a quiet, pious citizen.
“Is that true?” The woman placed the shard back on the bench, smoothed her skirt, then stood up, and walked away.
I watched her leave. One question dominated my thoughts: how had she known what the jar had said?
Then stars exploded across my vision and pain erupted in my skull.


I found myself lying on my side on a soft bed. My head throbbed. I groaned.
Then I heard noises: a shuffling and a rustling. I opened my eyes, but could not see much. A dim glow illuminated markings etched in a wall opposite me. They looked like words, but in no language I knew.
“It is time to choose.” I knew that voice. It was the woman who had asked about the jar. I sat up, too quickly. My vision faded, and I strained to bring it back. When it did, I took a deep breath as I looked at the woman. She wore the same clothes and impassive face as before.
“Who are you?” My voice creaked.
“It depends on what you choose.”
I refused to play her games. Not before I knew the rules. “What did you do to me?”
“I did nothing.” Her face shifted to display mild innocence.
I tried again. “What did you have done to me?”
“You don’t need to know the details. The outcome is what’s important.”
“And what is that?”
I opened my mouth to give in and ask her what I was supposed to choose, but before the words came out, her forehead creased. Like Mother’s when we fought. But I didn’t want to fight this woman until I knew exactly who and what I was fighting.
I put my hand to my head, rubbing my temples to try and dull the throbbing while I thought. The woman had no way to know what I was going to say, but she knew I would say it quickly, without thinking, and that disappointed her. Why?
I tried to remember our conversation from earlier. Had she talked about a choice? We talked about the broken jar, and she had accused me of being a rebel. And I’d said I wasn’t going to do anything about it. Was she recruiting for a nunnery?
Did it matter?
I brought my hands down from my head and looked the woman in the eye, despite my pounding heart and trembling fingers.
“I choose to reject the saints and their pious, restrictive, controlling theocracy.”
Three ponderous heartbeats later, the woman smiled and stuck out a hand.
“Welcome to the Sanctimonious Saints.”

Spoiler for Hiden:

I'm planning to submit, but it won't be until tomorrow night.

I just have to say that I absolutely loved this movie. There were so many things that I felt never get portrayed in big movies like this. I don't watch a ton of movies, so these things might exist in other movies, but these are some of the things that stood out to me:

  • All of those women fighting on Themyscira. First of all, they were women. Not just one woman among a bunch of men. Multiple women. And they were strong, athletic, powerful. The camera did not objectify them.

    • Powerful, athletic women were raising a young girl. How often do you see that?

    • Even if the film did not really portray life on the island, they did make a nod to the relationships that would have existed through a harrowing scream at the end of the beach fight.

      • Even though Diana was naive when she showed up in England, she was never portrayed as an imbecile. She maintained her dignity in an unfamiliar environment when they could easily have turned it into cheap comedy.

      • The film did a fantastic job making a distinction between the glorified fighting on Themyscira and the front. You don't often see that contrast within the same movie and I think it made some of the horrors of war more emotionally powerful.

        And a couple of smaller things.
        • Diana's running was scrappy. She didn't have to rip off a dress or kick off heels and, she charged like she was going to tackle someone. It wasn't dainty; it was powerful. How often do you see women move like that in film?

        • Diana's most powerful move was in a protective formation. I loved how that symbolism reinforced her character and what she was fighting for.

        Maybe these things exist in a lot of films and I've just missed them, but I was shocked by how many things they did in this film felt like things I had never seen before.

        (Also, I don't really know what's going on with the bullet points, but I'm posting anyway.)

I think this is the first month where my idea is bigger than 1500 words.

Although my brainstorming has made me excited for a novel idea I set aside a while ago until I developed the skills to actually write a story of that scope, which has been quite fun to re-visit.

The worldbuilding on this is getting out of control...how can you have a reasonable criminal operation if you don't know what laws they are breaking and why?

It's been a fantastic exercise for me, though I don't quite have a story yet. I do, however, have a situation I am excited about.

I love how these contests are pushing me out of my comfort zone and providing me with a lot of opportunities to experiment.

[APR 2017] Scavenger Hunt / Re: Scavenger hunt/Omen Critique Thread
« on: June 03, 2017, 02:02:00 AM »
I'd love critics, both for what didn't make it vote-worthy, but also from the won over people, as I'm clueless when it comes to romance and i need to know what I managed to do well!!

Let's see if I can figure out what I liked so much about your story.

Spoiler for Hiden:
I think the reason the romance worked well is because it was obvious to the reader that Jean liked Hatori and Hatori's cluelessness/insecurity was believable. I think Hatori worked well because you were able to show that he was really good at something (being an augure), knew that he was good at it (in a confident, self-assured, but not cocky way) and yet had this beaten down weariness. Also, he has this deep empathy and understanding of human beings, yet is unable to realize how Jean feels about him without a lot of help. He even has all the pieces there, but can't put them together.

"she calls him Ha-san with just enough irony to be perfectly adorable"
"He knows she'd leave him be if he asked"

I'm not really sure what else to say. I am not a huge fan of stereotypical romantic depictions, but I liked this one because it focused on the relationship; it was clear that they had been getting to know each other for months before this moment. There's maybe a bit of imbalance because we don't really see Hatori trying to do anything for Jean, but Jean is obviously doing things for him - bringing beers, asking him questions, respecting whether or not he wants to talk about his day. But maybe that is offset by her boldness to touch his forehead without receiving consent - that seems like a violation of Hatori's person and jarred me when I first read it.

At this point I think I'm just rambling, so I'll stop. If there's anything you want me to try to look into more, let me know.

I hope this is helpful!

[APR 2017] Scavenger Hunt / Re: Scavenger hunt/Omen Critique Thread
« on: June 03, 2017, 01:24:15 AM »
For @Jmack
Spoiler for Hiden:

Selected Quote:

"Like any day.
Like any other magical day."

The repetition worked really well and I loved how the insertion of the word "magical" brought a general appreciation of life to the poem. We fantasy readers probably use the word "magic" as much as anyone else and it doesn't always convey the sense of wonder that it perhaps should. It did here.

Something Awesome: As I said in the other thread, I thought it was really cool how you used the word omen and didn't necessarily attach a negative feeling to it.
Theme Appropriateness: High.

Conflict and Tension: Looking back at the poem, I think you were able to increase the pace of the poem well by increasing the number of things that happen in each stanza.

Characterization: You conveyed the recklessness of the man well, but I like how he remained nameless.

Something Confusing: I always expect poems to be confusing.  ;)  I guess one thing that I might have thought as I was reading without thinking too hard was that the man considered each of his near misses to be omens as well (which is clearly not what you wrote). Also, when I read about the meteor missing by a mile, at first I thought, "Well, that's pretty far away, which is not as dramatic as his other escapes," and then I thought, "But a comet's pretty big, so in the grand scheme of things, a mile isn't that far." It sort of threw me out of the poem for a moment though.

Hope that's helpful!

[APR 2017] Scavenger Hunt / Re: Scavenger hunt/Omen Critique Thread
« on: June 03, 2017, 01:06:01 AM »

I'd also like critiques. I'm not really sure where my writing is weakest, but lately I've been thinking about my actual writing. Sentence construction, vocabulary, and describing a scene without it being a list of actions. Making my words accomplish more than one thing, like advancing both plot and character with the same phrase.

If my writing isn't distracting or dull, I'm always concerned about plot, tension, and keeping things from being boring.

Also, if I'm totally off base and there's something else you think I should really be working on, please let me know.

So I'm no scholar, either, but here are my thoughts on this story.

Spoiler for Hiden:
The lunar orb waxes and wanes
Along with that called woman’s bane  - "Along with that" is a modern usage, but I like poems in stories.
Once a month you get a glimpse                     
Of the future in broad hints                           

Tara re-read the words carved into the wooden desk of the library. When would she start glimpsing the future? Shaking her head, she focused on the fragmented stone tablet in front of her.

Heed the wisdom of the night
Lest you lose your second sight

I am visual and would have presented the poem after showing the setting, otherwise, you're asking the reader to rewind the audible tape (in my case) and replace it with a camera pan of a desk in a library (which was perfect and succinct description btw, so kudos there). I find ambiguity cumulative, but that may just be me. This was amplified because the next words made me wonder: are all the words on the desk? Or only the first part? Or only the second? After some time, I realized there are words in the desk and in the tablet. IMHO always frame the picture first, esp. when something normally ignored (words carved in a desk) are weightier than normal.

An ancient scholar had labeled this as one of Lenore’s earliest visions. Tara had doubts; it didn’t fit with the rest of Lenore’s foretellings.
The tablet bit is too far from the mention of the tablet imho.

Tara closed her eyes to think. This tablet appeared to be about losing a woman’s ability to glimpse the future, but Tara hoped it would help her tap her innate power. Unfortunately, the only idea she had for the “wisdom of the night” was dreaming. But she recorded her dreams every night and still hadn’t started her cycle. Besides, stacks of scrolls and tablets in the library contained women’s dreams, but none of them had particularly brilliant insights associated with them.

What else could it mean?

Two issues in these parts. First is POV. The eye-closing and the following sentences have us in a close-up, looking at her face, then at the tablet. Then we jump inside her head to get her thoughts, but are given her feelings (hope). We jump out to look at the scrolls, etc. The closing question is direct from the character. None of these by themselves is "wrong" or anything, but my opinion is that you pick a distance and stay with it. If you move it, let it be in reaction to something, and when possible, make it a flow in a single direction, like a camera: in from the library, to her face, into her head, and stay there.

A thump on the door startled Tara and she jumped, nearly hitting the fragile tablet. A curse rose in her mind, but didn’t quite make it out her mouth before the door opened.

"Hitting" as a verb for accidentally striking something with the body is a modern and/or casual usage. The curse sentence was great. I like when characters swallow their sentiments, as it shows a real, identifiable action.

Tara scrambled to stand and offer her chair to the elderly woman with a walking stick hobbling into the library.

Update elements in the setting before they do or say anything, or are impacted by others whenever possible. Consider the impact of reversing:
 A curse rose in her mind, but didn’t quite make it out her mouth before the door opened, and Grandmother hobbled in with her walking stick.

Tara scrambled to stand and offer her chair. “Grandmother,” she said, inclining her head.

So my advice is to think like film-makers - who only rarely pitch dialogue or action without showing us what's going on before it begins. And when they do, it's for a specific effect. Your dialogue was great - the old woman and the young sounded different. Tightening up POV will further strengthen it.
Hope this is helpful.

Thank you for the detailed commentary! I am not a super visual person when I read (whenever we'd be asked to look at the covers of books in English class after having read the whole thing I would realized that I had never actually thought about the images on the cover),  so that is really helpful advice to think of it like filmmaking.

I tend to stay away from first-person as I'm more used to third-person limited, but maybe I'll try it out for one of the next few months to practice immediacy and chronological presentation of information.

[APR 2017] Scavenger Hunt / Re: Scavenger hunt/Omen Critique Thread
« on: June 02, 2017, 04:01:10 AM »
I'd also like critiques. I'm not really sure where my writing is weakest, but lately I've been thinking about my actual writing. Sentence construction, vocabulary, and describing a scene without it being a list of actions. Making my words accomplish more than one thing, like advancing both plot and character with the same phrase.

If my writing isn't distracting or dull, I'm always concerned about plot, tension, and keeping things from being boring.

Also, if I'm totally off base and there's something else you think I should really be working on, please let me know.

@Jmack - Are you looking for critiques or were you just posting to satisfy curiosity?

Congratulations @Nora! I loved your story and it stood out to me by a significant margin. I voted halfway through the month, so at the moment I remember that I had a strong emotional response, but I'm not entirely sure why. Give me a little time and maybe I can get a critique done this weekend.

And...I am responsible for @Jmack's vote. I had a hard time picking a second entry, but I went with yours. To be perfectly honest, I can't think too hard about my votes or I'll never vote, but I liked how it pointed out the ridiculousness of so many of our superstitions and the person's joy at simply being alive. I also liked how you put a positive spin on omens, which is hard to do, given that the word has such a negative connotation.

[MAY 2017] Music / Re: [May 2017] - Music - Discussion Thread
« on: May 31, 2017, 02:36:01 AM »
I'm in! I can't say I was enthusiastic about the theme when I first saw it, but I'm pleased with the direction I took with it.

[MAY 2017] Music / Re: [May 2017] - Music - Submission Thread
« on: May 31, 2017, 02:28:02 AM »
Andrew's Anima

1430 words
Spoiler for Hiden:

When I wake up, well I know I’m gonna be, I’m gonna be the man who wakes up next to you…

What is this tune stuck in my head? Andrew asked himself as he returned to consciousness after a night of sleep. I don’t think I’ve heard it before.

He let his mind finish waking up. Once it did, his eyes flew open and he bolted upright. It was his ninth birthday! His eyes darted around the room, searching for his anima, trying to ignore the tune in his head.

But I would walk 500 miles…

There was nothing there. He searched under his bed and in his dresser, but couldn’t find his anima. No outfox or copycat, not even a lapdog. Maybe Andrew got what he wanted – a wily anima – and it was hiding from him. He sat on the bed to think, but that stupid tune kept distracting him.

A knock came at the door. “Andrew?” It was Mom.

She opened the door a crack and poked her head in. “Oh – happy birthday, sweetie!” Andrew saw Mom sweep the room with her eyes, and a frown crept into her face. “Have you met your anima?”

Andrew looked down at the bed and folded his arms in front of his chest. “I can’t find him.”

He heard Mom walk over, but he continued staring at the floor. She said, “I’m sure he’s around somewhere.”

“I checked under the bed and in the dresser and in the closet. Three times.” He would not cry about this. The song in his head changed.

Strangers, waiting, up and down the boulevard…

Mom put an arm around his shoulders. Andrew tried really hard not to cry. As his eyes began to sting, the door crashed open.

“Mama?” It was Suzy, Andrew’s little sister. She stood in the doorway, hugging her stuffed damselfly to her chest. “Mama! Andy!” Suzy ran in and flung herself onto the bed, hitting Andrew with the damselfly.

“Suzy!” he shouted, punching fists into the covers. “Mom, make her go away!”

“Suzy, be quiet.” Mom grabbed Suzy and pulled her onto her lap, but didn’t make her go away. Suzy started waving the damselfly around and making baby noises. So annoying.

Shadows searching in the night…

“So, Andrew’s up?” This time Dad stood at the door. “I’m surprised he didn’t run into our room at 5:30 with his anima.”

Andrew watched Mom look over to Dad, clearly trying to communicate that something was not right without Andrew seeing. Adults always thought they were being subtle in front of kids.

Dad scanned the room, just as Mom had. “Your anima hasn’t shown up yet?”

Andrew shook his head and focused on the floor again.

“Have you looked everywhere?”

Living just to find emotion…

Andrew threw his hands in the air and kicked his feet against the bed “Yes. I looked in my closet and in my dresser.”

“And under the bed?”

Hiding somewhere in the night…

“Yes.” Andrew shoved himself off the bed and stomped toward his door. “He’s not here.”

“Wait,” said Dad, putting a hand out to stop him. “Alfred says he’s here.” That stopped Andrew. Alfred was Dad’s anima: a housefly. He always knew when people were or were not in the house.

“He’s in my room?”

“Alfred thinks so.”

Andrew went back to the closet, pulling everything out. Clothes, toys, the occasional candy wrapper.

Don’t stop believing…

The song in his head grew louder. Andrew picked up a shirt and shook it out, hoping his anima was hiding inside. He grabbed another. A buzzing sounded in his ear. Probably Alfred. The song continued to increase in volume. It shook his head and rattled his brain.

Suzy stumbled into him.

“Suzy!” he screamed. “Go away!”

Of course, Suzy bawled. “Andrew,” scolded Mom. “Don’t shout at your sister.”

He already regretted it; he hated it when Suzy cried. “Sorry,” he muttered. “I have a stupid song stuck in my head and it’s driving me crazy.” He went back to the shirt he’d been checking. Alfred still buzzed in his ear.

“Andrew? Did you say you had a song stuck in your head?” Dad came over and put a hand on Andrew’s shoulder.

“Yes. It’s super annoying.” Alfred buzzed louder. Dad squeezed Andrew’s shoulder.

“I might know what your anima is.”

Andrew twisted to look up at Dad. “You do?”

“Your anima might be an earworm.”

“An earworm?” Andrew had never heard of one. “What kind of anima is that?”

“I don’t know; Alfred just mentioned it. He said he doesn’t know much about them, except that they exist. They’re rare, and shy.” The song in Andrew’s head changed again.

Sing us a song, you’re the piano man…

“Maybe if we leave you alone, he’ll come out.” Dad waved toward Mom and Suzy. “Let’s go.” Alfred gave one last buzz in Andrew’s ear, and then they all left. Dad closed the door.

Andrew sat on the floor, clothes piled around him. How could he make his anima come out? He had never heard of anyone having to find their anima before; they were always there when you woke up on your ninth birthday. The only thing that had been around since he woke up were those annoying tunes.

Andrew’s eyes opened wide.

Sing us a song tonight…

“I’m not a singer.”

A small pop sounded in his ear and something warm and slimy slid down his cheek. It plopped onto the ground. Andrew cringed. “Ewww.” A red and green worm like a sour gummy candy lay on the ground. It stretched upward, and opened a small mouth.
Well, we’re all in the mood for a melody…

The juxtaposition of the beautiful voice and the scrawny body stunned Andrew. He gaped as he leaned away from the creature.

…and you’ve got us feeling alright…

The earworm closed its mouth and started inching toward Andrew. He backed away. The earworm noticed. It drew its head up and looked directly at Andrew for a long moment. Then it got down and started moving again. Andrew continued scooting away. It might have a beautiful voice, but it was still slimy.

The earworm sat up again and looked at Andrew. Then it hung its head. He never knew a worm could look so disappointed.

“Do you have a name?”

My name is Jonas.

“Do you ever not sing?”

No chance, no way, I won’t say it, no, no

Andrew smiled, just a little bit.

The earworm went back to the ground and started moving toward Andrew. This time he didn’t back away. The worm crept closer, until it nearly touched Andrew’s knee. The worm – Jonas - reached up as if it were going to climb up Andrew’s knee, but it paused, and lifted its head toward Andrew. It looked like nothing so much as a lapdog yearning for someone to pet it. Andrew grimaced only slightly as he reached a finger out to Jonas. He climbed up, shrinking slightly to fit.

“Is that how you got into my head?”

Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride, ain’t nothing gonna slow me down, oh no, I got to keep on moving...

Andrew laughed out loud this time. He lifted the little worm up to his face and smiled. It hopped twice.

The door slammed open. Andrew felt slime slap his face and heard another small pop. The earworm was gone.

“Andy!” Suzy ran in. “Play with me!”

Andrew stood up. He wanted to be alone with Jonas. “Go away Suzy.” He started pushing her toward the door.

“Andy! I wanna play.” Andrew knew that tone of voice. Suzy would either get what she wanted, or she would cry. He did not want to bring his parents back. He’d already yelled at Suzy twice today.

Too ra loo ra loo ra, hush, now don’t you cry…

It was going to take a while to get used to having songs in his head all the time. Maybe Andrew could ask Jonas to be quiet sometimes.

Jonas continued singing. Suzy started to rub her eyes. She yawned. She sat down and held her damselfly close. Then she put it under her head, like a pillow. Within two minutes, she had fallen asleep.

The song – lullabye - ended, and Andrew heard a pop. The little worm crawled around his face and reached out just far enough that Andrew could see him. Then Jonas smiled.

Andrew glanced from the earworm down to Suzy, and then back to Jonas. A smile spread across his face.

No wonder very little was known about earworms.

Congratulations! I like the idea of the anthology - I'll have to look into it more.

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