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Messages - ShadowKnight

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[APR 2019] Erotica / Re: [Apr 2019] - Erotica - Voting Thread
« on: May 13, 2019, 07:27:26 AM »
Voted.

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Thank you,@ShadowKnight. Its clearly another case of a) too much story to fit into the contest length and b) author out of control of his plot.  8)

My pleasure, @JMack.
That's the eternal challenge, isn't it? Building enough of a story to engage the reader but not cramming too much into it lest it feel dense or confusing. I struggle to strike the right balance in my own entries.

The positives in your comments are really helpful, though, since they tell me there’s a kernel of good stuff there to be mined in the future.

Glad I could help. I enjoyed the story despite what I said about the ending. There is definitely a lot of good stuff in there.
By the way, I thought your entry for December ("Negative Effects") had a powerful ending. And I'm not saying that just because it won. ;)

ShadowKnight, it's interesting you think Jmack's protagonist is a man, I thought it was a woman! Now I'm going to check if there's anything there that says either way ???

Edit: no hints there, so I'm not sure why I thought that. Too much "difference"? It does make more sense to be a man, I suppose, to gather a crew and all that...

You're right, there's no indication of the protagonist's sex until halfway through the story, when Karadal refers to him as "Mr. Bucket". I have to admit I assumed he was a man from the start. It was an unconscious choice, probably one guided by my personal biases as a reader and the preconceptions I have about ship captains.
Now that you've pointed that out I would have preferred a female protagonist for this story. :)

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I’d be quite interested in folks’ thoughts on my Ships story.

Here are my thoughts. Apologies for the late reply.

Overall I loved the setup but felt a little let down by the resolution. The start got me hooked but I found that the ending was abrupt and left too many unanswered questions.

Style

I found your prose easy to read, with no unnecessary flourish. It fit the protagonist's personality, which is important in a first-person narrative.
I particularly enjoyed the description of the battle. It was short, reflecting the fact that the crew didn't stand a chance, with just enough detail to let the reader imagine the brutality of it.

Characters

I was engaged by the two main characters.

I liked the idea of having a crippled protagonist and seeing his inventiveness as he adapted to every problem through his own creations (lifting platforms on the ship, sled runners, crossbow, kite, etc.). He felt competent despite his physical disability.
I'd have loved to learn more about his motivations for undertaking the journey. The first paragraphs imply that he's simply driven by greed. I'd have found it more interesting if he had other goals as well, such as curiosity about what lies in the far unknown or a need to prove that a "legless grotesque" could be an apt captain.

I found Karadal captivating, with his eerie calmness and authority, and the aura of mystery that surrounds him.

Plot

I loved the way you built up tension bit by bit (the storm, the cold, the compass going crazy, the mist, etc.). I knew that something was going to go wrong but I didn't know what and when.

I liked the interactions between the two main characters and how Captain Bucket didn't trust Karadal but knew he needed him to achieve his goal. I thought that relationship ended too abruptly with the short final confrontation where the former kills the latter.

The Aelfs remained too much of a mystery to me. Why did they attack? Did they felt threatened? Is it because of Karadal? Are they just evil?
In the same vein, the father/children relationship between Karadal and the other Aelfs was an interesting concept, but I'd have loved to see it explored more.

The ending left me with too many questions.
What was the place "of age and secrets" where Karadal went? What is the deal with the pyre and the babes? Is that how Aelfs reproduce? Does that mean that all the other Aelfs are Karadal's descendants?
What happened to the aelfgeld? Is it merely a legend designed to lure sailors into the far unknown? Is aelfgeld the skeletons of the Aelfs? If so, did Captain Bucket know that? He doesn't seem surprised when he finds Karadal's golden skeleton. Aelfgeld is what the story opens with and the whole reason for the journey so I would have expected a clearer resolution on that point.
How is Captain Bucket going to get back? I liked the kite idea but they were at least 6 weeks out and he's in the middle of a frozen sea.

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Hi everyone,

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

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

Spoiler for Hiden:
Into the Light

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eckhart knew he would never see her again.




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Trace,

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

Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

Love,
Mom & Dad

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


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

To our dear Tracy,

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

With love,
Your dear friends.

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what we're doing is this:
1. Everybody who wants critique for his story posts in here.*
2. Everybody who wants to do a critique for a specific story (whose writer has asked for critique) posts it in here.

If this thread is overrun fast, I'm splitting it so that every story has its own one to avoid confusion.

* I know that critique isn't always easy to handle, especially if you are not used to it. So if you feel more comfortable receiving it in private, people can send it via pm. They can post here that they sent a critique via pm so that others know about it.

At the moment I don't think it necessary that we create a system balancing given/received critiques. However, if it turns out to be unfair and some people are giving critiques without receiving some (or the other way round) we have to add one.

Basic rules for critiquing:

This is just a small guideline for those that haven't done critiques before, stolen from this forum's writing section.
   
       
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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[DEC 2018] Unwanted Gifts / Re: [Dec 2018] - Unwanted Gifts - Voting Thread
« on: February 01, 2019, 10:14:39 PM »
Well done @JMack! I really liked your story even though I ended up voting for @Carter and @Jake Baelish.

@Carter's submission was actually my favorite. Great premise, vivid details, and beautiful prose.

Pretty tough choice this month as I enjoyed all the pieces and they were all so different from one another.

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Voted. Just like @JMack I have a preference for three of the entries, and had a hard time narrowing it down to two.

Thank you to all who participated. Fascinating to see how diverse the stories are this month.

Thanks @xiagan for getting my story out there. It's a shame I couldn't submit it in time for the contest, but I still hope you guys will enjoy it.

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Thanks @J.R. Darewood. I feel better in the knowledge that I'm not the only one. :)

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The stupidest thing happened to me for this month's story.

I finished writing it a week before the deadline, but I wanted to wait until the end of the month to have one final read-through and do some last-minute revision.
In the meantime I left for the holidays. I was already far away when I realized that I couldn't access my story file as it was only stored locally on my home computer. :'(

I'll still submit it when I get back (on the 13th January) but it won't be eligible for the contest.

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[NOV 2018] Image Prompt: Ships / Re: [Nov 2018] - Ships - Voting Thread
« on: January 04, 2019, 09:59:54 PM »
Congrats to @Jenny HJ and @Carter!

My favourite story this month was @Carter's - compelling and mysterious all the way through.
My second vote went to @Jake Baelish, though I enjoyed the other stories too.


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And yay @Cell18 , a new person in the forum and the stories! Welcome :D

Welcome to the forum @Cell18!

I've just finished my story for this month. I'll probably wait a few more days before posting it though - an extra read can't hurt (well most of the time at least). Plus I have to trim it as it's currently a hundred words too long.  :-\

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[NOV 2018] Image Prompt: Ships / Re: [Nov 2018] - Ships - Voting Thread
« on: December 08, 2018, 09:43:42 PM »
Voted.

Some images seem to have been more inspiring than others. Still it's interesting to see how the same picture can give rise to a diversity of stories.

Thank you to everyone - it was a pleasure reading your pieces.

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[SEP 2018] Meetings / Re: [Sep 2018] - Meetings - Critique Thread
« on: November 05, 2018, 07:53:30 PM »
@ShadowKnight thank you very much for the critique. I felt very pressured by the word limit and probably came up with something that should be explained longer, especially since I put much thought into the construct and not in how to write it down. I do wanted to explain the characters and motivations much more, but it was rushed and I sadly had not much time the last weeks (and I hope some stress in my life will finally go away so I can focus more on my private life like reading and writing).

You're welcome. I hope it was helpful.
I felt the same for my story concerning character motivation; short stories are challenging in that regard.

I also want to thank @Eclipse for pointing out that it´s hard to write on a non native language, which is no excuse since my writings in my native language is way worse in grammar and punctuation.

I didn't know English wasn't your native language. As a non-native English speaker myself, I can confirm that it's no easy task to write in a foreign language. But I think practice is the best way to improve.

I want to thank You for your feedback and I am welcome to all constructive feedback in any form, no matter how negative it is. The main reason I joined this forum was writing, so I can develop this skill since I wrote no real text before. I know I will make many mistakes and that I have much to learn, but also that developing a skill requires much patience and practice. So I am glad for any feedback and wish for it at every text I post.

That's the spirit! I wholeheartedly agree. :)

I just thought about asking for a recomendation to learn punctuation and grammar better, but than I would probably get standard school stuff  ;D

I'd say that reading in English is the most effective way to improve one's grammar. You can also try having someone more experienced proofread your work and point out mistakes.

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[SEP 2018] Meetings / Re: [Sep 2018] - Meetings - Critique Thread
« on: November 04, 2018, 10:33:11 AM »
I want critique please, I know the meetings entry of me was rushed out but I still need to get critiqued to develop my skills.

Here are my thoughts on your story @Slaykomimi. This is the first time I'm doing a critique; I apologize in advance if some of my comments are presented in a way that goes against the guidelines.
I hope at least some of my feedback will be useful to you.

Grammar, spelling, punctuation

One of the things that bothered me the most is the disrespect of some grammar and punctuation rules.
Taken separately, most errors don't get in the way of understanding the meaning; but overall they gave me the impression that the writing was rushed (as you yourself confirmed) and they drew me out of the story.

Some examples below.
  • Switching between past and present tense:
    "Markus replied and started [...]" (§1) versus "They climb through the hatch and arrive [...]" (§2)
    Sometimes in the same sentence: "They end up in a small circle room made of Stone with a metal ladder inside, „please follow me up to the dome“ the man said."
  • Spelling:
    "allready" (§1) --> "already"
    "glas" (§2) --> "glass"
    "forniture" (§2) --> "furniture"
  • Sentence length:
    In some cases I found the sentences too long. I think that splitting them in multiple shorter sentences would make the text easier to read.
    Examples:
    "'Thank you for inviting me, I am allready excited' Markus replied and started by taking off his bag and lay it to the corner where the other bags were stored and started to follow the man through the narrow rooms stuffed with bookshelfs." (§1)
    "They climb through the hatch and arrive in a dome made mostly of glas, the night sky mostly illuminated the room, together with many different candles and fireflies, floating through the room."
  • Dialogue punctuation:
    For a single line with dialogue tag (attribution) following, a comma should follow the dialogue and come before the closing quotation mark.
    "'Thank you for inviting me, I am allready excited' Markus replied" (§1) --> "'Thank you for inviting me, I am allready excited,' Markus replied"
I make similar mistakes in first drafts. I find that proofreading my work (or asking someone else to proofread it) helps eradicate most of them.

Characters

The setting is described at length but I thought that there was too little about the characters. When Markus arrives and sees the others for the first time (the man who lets him in and then the other attendees), providing a physical description of the characters - even a brief one - would have helped me visualize each one of them and get a glimpse of who they are.

I liked how each participant had their own reason for being there, but I was disappointed the characters' motivations didn't play a more important role in the story.
Also, I would have found more effective for the motivation of at least some characters to be shown through their actions and reactions rather than having them state it right away.

Also, I didn't get enough conflict from the main character. Sure he's excited to be there, but what is at stake for him? Is he afraid of the others because he doesn't know what they are doing exactly at those meetings? Does he want to impress them so that he can join their ranks? Is he bothered that his experience is magic is no match to that of the others?

"The mages reach out for the little bowls in their middle" (§6)
The mages - who are they? Does that refer to all the other characters except for Markus? In any case it wasn't clear to me.

Plot

I liked how the first paragraph made me curious about the nature of the gathering. I also appreciated that the description of the setting hints at the identity of the attendees and the potential subject of the meeting.
This is reinforced in subsequent paragraphs, which reveal more information while preserving that sense of mystery.

Markus trying the pipe takes a large portion of the story. While I found it interesting and funny in its own right, I was disappointed that by the end I still didn't know what the gathering was really about.
In my opinion the pipe episode would make a fine introduction to the gathering, but using it as the sole focus of the story left me wanting more. I think it may have worked in a longer piece, but since this is a short story I would have focused on the meeting itself and tried to show conflict between the characters.

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[SEP 2018] Meetings / Re: [Sep 2018] - Meetings - Critique Thread
« on: November 04, 2018, 08:57:30 AM »
Thank you for creating this thread @xiagan.

@JMack, my deepest gratitude for your comments. You made me understand the importance of reader feedback.
Rereading the story in light of your critique, I realize how some things that seemed obvious to me while writing could easily be confusing for the reader. I agree with you that the story should have been simpler and more straightforward (fewer speakers, focus on the main plot, etc.), especially given the constraints of the exercise and my limited experience as a writer.
I'll try to apply all of that in my future works.  :)

I don't know if I'm supposed to react to your remarks point by point.  If you want me to, I'll gladly to so (in this thread or in private).

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