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Writing Challenges Chronicles Writing Challenges including the popular '75 word challenge' and the new '300 word challenge'.

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Old 7th September 2011, 08:59 AM   #151 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Hi all

I joined this site recently, partly because it was recommended to me as having a lively and active "writers" component - which clearly it does.

My first attempt at the 75 word format, for August's competition, is below. I spotted the competition a day or so before the deadline, wrote an entry in 15 minutes, edited it a touch then posted it just to give it a try. I don't have any specific question about it, but I'd be pleased to hear any critique or comment.

Thanks in advance ...

Creative Destruction

‘Do you remember,’ he looked intently at me, ‘playing when you were maybe three years old, and you changed the world for ever? Like, maybe, you squashed a bug?’

His fingers mimicked the crushing action.

Involuntarily, I nodded, although the ropes were tight and movement was hard.

‘Such a powerful feeling; it makes you want to do it again and again and again …’

I saw his smile as he repeated the phrase and then … nothing.
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Old 7th September 2011, 09:16 AM   #152 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

I thought this was brilliant -- there were a couple of phrases in it that really jumped out at me. The first paragraph really caught my attention and then: '...I nodded, although the ropes were tight and movement was hard.' -- which was a fantastic way to find out that this wasn't just a slightly alarming chat between friends.

For me, the last line wasn't as strong -- maybe it's that you'd already given the punchline, sort of, in the middle of the story when we find out he's tied up. That was the bit that made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and because that was so strong, it tails away a little (I thought).
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Old 7th September 2011, 11:08 AM   #153 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hex View Post
I thought this was brilliant -- there were a couple of phrases in it that really jumped out at me. The first paragraph really caught my attention and then: '...I nodded, although the ropes were tight and movement was hard.' -- which was a fantastic way to find out that this wasn't just a slightly alarming chat between friends.

For me, the last line wasn't as strong -- maybe it's that you'd already given the punchline, sort of, in the middle of the story when we find out he's tied up. That was the bit that made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and because that was so strong, it tails away a little (I thought).
Thanks Hex, that's helpful. The ending was the bit I had to redraft the most, partly to hit the 75 word limit, but also to make sure there was little room for ambiguity (ironic counter-point to my earlier posting re all 75 word stories having some ambiguity!)
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Old 7th September 2011, 01:41 PM   #154 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Sid, I agree with Hex on this. For me, the last line isn't right, for two reasons. Firstly, what Hex said. But secondly, if I'm reading the story correctly the ' ... nothing' implies oblivion, death. But it's written in first person, how can the narrator be dead? Sorry if this sounds picky but it was a problem for me. I think it would have worked better in third person or that the implication was pending death.


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I know some people feel that we're telling stories,
I think that's a requirement of the rules, Hex.
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Old 7th September 2011, 01:51 PM   #155 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

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I think that's a requirement of the rules, Hex.
True enough. I should have said something like: some people have wider definitions of 'story' than others do.

I'm not really bothered by a first person narrator dying -- not in the sense of it making logical sense, anyway. I think many stories would fall to pieces completely if you applied this level of logic to them (and not just in the 75 word challenge).
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Old 7th September 2011, 07:06 PM   #156 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Sid,

I thought your story was positively chilling. For me it was like a look inside a psychopath's head. I did think the entry lacked in the story department. It essentially ended in the middle. As soon as it is clear that the victim is tied up there is likely only one conclusion that fits the set up.
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Old 7th September 2011, 07:17 PM   #157 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

I think the line that Hex liked is the one that put me off.

First, the picture that springs to mind is one of him tied up in a chair, classic hostage pose, and the fact that nodding was difficult kind of knocks me out of that idea -- having to stop and figure out how he could be tied that could make it difficult to nod is just too much work for the payoff.

Second, if it's difficult to nod, that kind of takes the "involuntary" out of the action.

And then the point mosaix made, the guy is dead and telling the story. I think that could have worked if you had simply left off the "nothing" at the end. He saw it, and then...

All that aside, it is a powerful bit of imagery, and it does tell a story while leaving the ambiguity.
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Old 7th September 2011, 09:25 PM   #158 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

I gotta admit, Sid, that I didn't get your story at all. And reading the others comments, I'm even more confused!
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Old 10th September 2011, 10:23 AM   #159 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Thank you, all, for the constructive comments. I'm not sure of the protocol about reflecting back on such comments, but I will do so briefly.

1) The ending is not right. I knew that when I posted it; it was my first attempt and I was up against a deadline. I think Hex (and Parson) has identified why ... it is almost unnecessary, so not an "ending" at all.

2) I was aware of the possible logical flaw in the "first-person, past tense, deceased" structure, but stuck to it anyway - it's a pretty common structure. Here's my reasoning (for further critique if appropriate): first-person obtains empathy quickly, and 75 words has to be quick! Using third-person would risk the story being "person I know nothing about and do not care about does something nasty to another person I know nothing about and don't care about" - a reason I dislike most (bad) horror-genre.

3) I liked the "ropes" line as an efficient way of bringing the tension into the story. I figured the precise methodology of tying the ropes not material, but it is always good to receive critique which suggests other readers interpret such decisions differently (thanks TheDustyZebra). My intention re an involuntary action which was difficult to do was to imply that the motivation of the killer was one which was, at some level, within even the non-psychopath ... maybe that was trying to achieve too much in 75 words!

4) Thank you Parson, that effect was what I was trying to achieve. I guess that if, in 75 words, I achieved my objective for one reader whilst completely baffling another (Mouse) I've probably covered all the bases!!

Thanks again for taking the time to reply.
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Old 29th September 2011, 01:38 PM   #160 (permalink)
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Re: Discussion September 2011 Writing Challenge

I hope this is where we can get feedback on our entries, if not..delete or move please.

Terraforming of a different kind


"I see the final conversation rate is 95% on this planet".

"Yes, it is. We did have a period where things were looking a bit...hazy"

“And the next populated planet is where?

“Alpha Centauri, Sir”

"Well plot a course for Alpha Centauri; we've done all we can on this planet 'Earth'”.

"Aye Sir, Course has been accepted"

The alien commander leaned back, removed his mitre from his head and smiled,

“Engage”


Which could I have done better, was it a meh moment that you got when you read it?

This was my first attempt at creative writing, so any type of feedback is always welcome.
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Old 29th September 2011, 02:18 PM   #161 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Um... I didn't understand it (sadly common for me). I thought it was well-written and interesting (although 'conversation' or 'conversion'). Is the clue in the commander wearing a mitre...?
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Old 29th September 2011, 02:54 PM   #162 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Well, for a first attempt at any writing, let alone a 75 word short -- which as everyone here will tell you is very difficult! -- this wasn't at all bad!! What follows may seem a bit critical, but it's all meant to point you in the right direction, so I hope it helps.

I have to say I was a bit confused as to what was happening -- not helped by "conversation" in the first line. As chrispenycate has noted on the Discussion thread, this presumably is "conversion" -- but I didn't realise that on first reading, and didn't bother to try and puzzle it out either then or afterwards. Although it seems obvious with the word "mitre" I just assumed he was wearing something odd on his head because he was an alien. Silly spelling mistakes happen to us all, and it's a pity it happened with one which is so important, because I'm sure I wasn't the only one to be flummoxed,** but you do need to be careful.

Anyway, as a story, it's a bit lacking in drama. The idea of an interplanetary missionary ship isn't a bad one, but for those who realised what "conversation" should have meant you've given the game away in the first line, so there's nothing more here. One of my techniques is to mislead the reader, making them think they're reading one kind of story whereas it's the opposite -- but the reader only discovers this at the end. So, for instance, if you'd rephrased the dialogue you could have made it sound as if the two of them had destroyed humanity, and only for the very last line to reveal they are (presumably) messiahs of some kind. And last lines are very important -- yours does very little, I'm afraid.

Another issue which lost you points for me was the point of view or POV -- you'll find this discussed a lot in Aspiring Writers, but very basically, who is telling the story? Here it's one of the two speakers or someone watching them, but it's definitely from their perspective -- that being the case the word "alien" sticks out like a damaged pollical digit. They are not aliens to themselves -- so he is just "The commander". It makes it difficult to get over the fact he isn't human, of course, so you then need to think of a way of showing alien-ness, eg he waves his tentacles, or removes his human disguise or whatever.

Finally, your punctuation does need a bit of work, I'm afraid -- there's a thread called The Toolbox which will be of help. Punctuation always matters, so it's important to get it right anyway, but in a Challenge a missed apostrophe can mean the difference between an Honourable Mention and a vote!

But, as I say, for a very first attempt, not bad at all. Keep practising and entering the Challenges!




** I see Hex has beaten me to the post and confessed to it, too!
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Old 29th September 2011, 05:16 PM   #163 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

I've never considered myself a writer but our challenges have drawn me in. I'm more that happy when someone gives me an honorable mention never mind a vote. Now I think I need help to improve. This I've wanted to do something with the last two months but I can't get an ending.
Quote:
Ring a ring o roses.
Why are those children in my bedroom?
A pocket full of posies.
My bed soaked with sweat, the lights fade but still I see them.
Atishoo, Atishoo
I can feel myself slipping away. The smallest child turns with a malice smile.
You fall down.
Any help would be much appreciated. Also I need help with grammar ETC.
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Old 29th September 2011, 05:31 PM   #164 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Actually, nixie, I think that ending's fine. The doctor's couple of lines made it clear it's a pandemic, which was even more chilling, but standing alone without that it's a good story. You've plenty of words left, so you could bring out more pain, perhaps with another couple of lines (you could split the "Atishoo"s into two separate lines, one word on each), but it's not vital.

The only grammar point I can see is it should be malicious (adjective) not malice (noun). I'd possibly have made it "these children" which is more in the present, but perhaps not, and if you were pressing up against word count the "can feel myself" could drop the "can" but other than that it's good to go.
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Old 29th September 2011, 05:40 PM   #165 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Thanks TJ, I originally went with malicious then changed it to malice
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