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Old 2nd October 2011, 07:07 PM   #196 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Chris, while I must admit to being in the same camp as The Judge as far as not understanding it, I did think it was a brilliant poem and a qualifying story as well! It did make my shortlist, even with my general lack of understanding. I assumed the failing was mine, in light of the brilliance that I could see there.
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Old 17th October 2011, 05:12 PM   #197 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

I just discovered this thread. Maybe too late to ask... did anyone understand my entry at all? It was:

Quote:
THE SHOW MUST GO ON

Gasps and scattered applause as the acrobat limps offstage.

"Been drinking again."

She nods. But she won't fire it. She understands.

"And now, what you've all been waiting for, from the swamps of Thesselonia, the
ravenous kraal beast!"

The announcer's bellow answered by a trumpeting cry. Astonishment. Ripples from
a covered, car-sized lump. Thundering canvas.

"Tore it again."

"You can tell her."

Screams. Panic.

"Somehow, they never see this coming."
So here's what I meant. I asked myself: what if the special exhibit was really ("behind the scenes") the creature running the show? What kind of a show would the ravenous Kraal beast enjoy? Not the same one as the audience I think! I meant it as a sort of parody of Le Tigre Mondain (The Fashionable Tiger - story in French I read years ago, it's probably online somewhere - about a tiger on-stage dressed up).

Thus: the performers are drunk and miserable (like the acrobat) knowing what's coming, even though they'll be spared. And the two guys talking are watching from "behind the scenes" as the audience become the focus (once the beast gets going). I was trying to have a transition where the action shifted from the stage to the crowd, where our conversation remained "behind the scenes" throughout.

So okay, I probably tried to do too much (and again this month) - I'm still trying to learn how to judge seventy-five words; as you all know it's horribly difficult to convey something meaningful in that space.

Did anyone get any of that? Or was it just weird and incomprehensible? I'm guessing the latter.
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Old 17th October 2011, 05:22 PM   #198 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

All I can say for sure is that I did not catch the idea. First, my Fantasy understanding lacks a lot as I mostly read SF. I did not know what a Kraal Beast was. I imagined a Sand Worm from Dune. But the line that really left me scratching my head was: "She nods. But she won't fire it. She understands." Fire what? Understands what?

So I judged your entry an interesting idea that I could not quite get my head around. But the image of a beast luring the crowds into a performance to feed on them was a good one, and probably most important, one which I remember.
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Old 17th October 2011, 05:31 PM   #199 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

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All I can say for sure is that I did not catch the idea. First, my Fantasy understanding lacks a lot as I mostly read SF. I did not know what a Kraal Beast was. I imagined a Sand Worm from Dune. But the line that really left me scratching my head was: "She nods. But she won't fire it. She understands." Fire what? Understands what?
I just made up the kraal beast; I was thinking of the ravenous bugblatter beast of Traal from the Hitchhiker's Guide I guess (too many words, and too much baggage associated with that beast specifically though). I just wanted something hungry and potentially intelligent.

You're right about the "She won't fire it"; I regretted that line as soon as I'd submitted. It was originally "She won't fire him" but I threw in a neuter pronoun because I thought it would make it more sci-fi/fantasy (suggesting an asexual creature). Big mistake in retrospect, there's not enough space to make the writing that dense, it just becomes incomprehensible.

Quote:
So I judged your entry an interesting idea that I could not quite get my head around. But the image of a beast luring the crowds into a performance to feed on them was a good one, and probably most important, one which I remember.
Thanks for the feedback!
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Old 17th October 2011, 05:35 PM   #200 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

I read this one several times, wanting to understand it because I sensed an interesting idea behind it, but being left utterly baffled. The main problem was that I couldn't identify most of the speakers, nor to what they were referring. Who's been drinking? The acrobat? The beast? And, like Parson, fire what? Or who? What's been torn again? The canvas? Tell who what?

By my count, you still had four words left. I think, if you'd used these four (and maybe a few others culled from elsewhere) to answer some of these questions, it would have paid off.
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Old 17th October 2011, 05:52 PM   #201 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

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Originally Posted by HareBrain View Post
I read this one several times, wanting to understand it because I sensed an interesting idea behind it, but being left utterly baffled. The main problem was that I couldn't identify most of the speakers, nor to what they were referring. Who's been drinking? The acrobat? The beast? And, like Parson, fire what? Or who? What's been torn again? The canvas? Tell who what?
Interesting. I thought the acrobat's clumsiness would tie the drinking to him, and the thundering of the canvas would tie it to the tearing. I have problems with this sometimes, which are made much worse by word counting, trying to get as much of a story as possible into a small space. I'm not sure you wouldn't have given me the benefit of the doubt if I'd placed my speakers somehow and identified them. It seems like that was a major issue anyway. It's useful for me to hear how it was seen anyway, thanks for sharing.

Quote:
By my count, you still had four words left. I think, if you'd used these four (and maybe a few others culled from elsewhere) to answer some of these questions, it would have paid off.
I think as much as anything I was scared of it reading badly though. I could have clumsily added more hints (probably would have done if I hadn't convinced myself it wasn't opaque) but I hate clumsiness. That probably means I'm going to be bad at this, given there isn't really enough space to do everything as neatly as you'd like. I stopped four words early partly because I was paranoid about counting it right (everytime I counted I got a different number) and partly because I couldn't find anything to add that wasn't ugly.

Anyway, thanks!
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Old 17th October 2011, 06:19 PM   #202 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

I got all of that from your story, so that's something. I can see where "fire it" might have been confusing, but I understood that it was the acrobat. And "tore it" was obvious enough (to me) for the canvas. And I even understood what was going on!

In fact, I even got the beast -- but I remembered it as the "Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Kraal", so I actually thought you were borrowing that critter directly from Adams!

Oh, and in case you ever again immediately regret something after posting it, you can go back and edit for a little while before it locks you out. There will be an "edit" button at the bottom if it's available.
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Old 17th October 2011, 06:31 PM   #203 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

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Originally Posted by Percival View Post
Interesting. I thought the acrobat's clumsiness would tie the drinking to him, and the thundering of the canvas would tie it to the tearing.
i did tie the drunkenness to the acrobat but i assumed he was the 'she' who nodded and couldn't figure out who the acrobat would be firing, the it made me think of a cannon (human cannon ball but the 'it' made it some INhuman cannon ball) and before i confused myself further i left the image and moved on.
the yelling and screaming i didn't see as panicked people being eaten i had put a ring master up as the 'she' that would need to be told the beast was loose back stage and the yelling screaming people were the circus performers.
kind of like "what a nightmare, the whole night went badly and everyone will want their money back"

has the voting started?? i was wanting to add mine here, but i thought we had to wait till after the vote to do so. If i missed the voting i will curse the cold that kept me off line the last few days that's for sure.
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Old 17th October 2011, 06:44 PM   #204 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

I actually did understand it, save for the fact the kraal beast was running the show -- I just thought they were feeding it this way.

I got that the "it" referred to the acrobat, though his/its asexuality didn't occur to me so much as its being a mistake for "his", and the "She understands" I took to mean that she (who I thought was the equivalent of the circus ringmaster/owner) knew of the sheer drudgery of acrobatting which resulted in his/its drinking, which she could therefore forgive. I also got that it was the beast which had torn the canvas again, and the "You can tell her" suggested a kind of laconic seen-it-all-before your-turn-to-give-the bad-news attitude of the other performers. However, since "her" seemed to refer back to the "She" above, ie the owner, and she had nodded in response to an earlier comment from the speaker, I was confused as to why she wasn't there and needed to be told.

I agree with HareBrain that it might have been worthwhile making things a little clearer -- for instance "Fred's drunk again" isn't so very much clumsier for the same number of words, and then something like "She wouldn't sack Fred" saves one confusion. And you could have pulled "Gasps and" without any loss to the story (in fact it would have strengthened the idea of the lack of ability of the acrobat) giving you 2 more words to play with.

I was also confused by a couple of word choices. "Ripples" seemed to suggest something sinuous, at odds with the mass of the behemoth and its apparent ferocity, and "Thundering" for canvas doesn't convey ripping or tearing to me.



hopewrites -- this is a story from last month, so no need to panic! This month's Challenge is open until Sunday and voting doesn't close until next Thursday. You can put your story up here after that.
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Old 17th October 2011, 07:00 PM   #205 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDustyZebra View Post
I got all of that from your story, so that's something. I can see where "fire it" might have been confusing, but I understood that it was the acrobat. And "tore it" was obvious enough (to me) for the canvas. And I even understood what was going on!
Made my day that someone did! Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by hopewrites View Post
i did tie the drunkenness to the acrobat but i assumed he was the 'she' who nodded and couldn't figure out who the acrobat would be firing, the it made me think of a cannon (human cannon ball but the 'it' made it some INhuman cannon ball) and before i confused myself further i left the image and moved on.
the yelling and screaming i didn't see as panicked people being eaten i had put a ring master up as the 'she' that would need to be told the beast was loose back stage and the yelling screaming people were the circus performers.
kind of like "what a nightmare, the whole night went badly and everyone will want their money back"
Thanks for explaining how you saw it. It was definitely less successful than I hoped, but really useful to see all the ambiguities that I missed coming out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Judge View Post
I actually did understand it, save for the fact the kraal beast was running the show -- I just thought they were feeding it this way.
I can see that. I was trying to hang too much on "You can tell her": I thought that would convey the fact that it would be unwelcome to bring a petty complaint about torn props to a large, hungry boss, even after it finished with the audience. Trying to do too much with too little.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Judge View Post
I agree with HareBrain that it might have been worthwhile making things a little clearer -- for instance "Fred's drunk again" isn't so very much clumsier for the same number of words, and then something like "She wouldn't sack Fred" saves one confusion. And you could have pulled "Gasps and" without any loss to the story (in fact it would have strengthened the idea of the lack of ability of the acrobat) giving you 2 more words to play with.
Hm you're right. I guess I was trying to convey an accident - and the gasps and scattered applause were part of that - not that it was a bad acrobat, that it was a very drunk acrobat. It's definitely a useful learning exercise to look back on the things I could've done better. I think a big part of my problem was trying too hard to find something that could be a self-contained excerpt from something I'd written in longer form. I managed to convince myself that too many ambiguities and tiny hints could be carried over (presumably just by my willing the readership to see them).

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Judge View Post
I was also confused by a couple of word choices. "Ripples" seemed to suggest something sinuous, at odds with the mass of the behemoth and its apparent ferocity, and "Thundering" for canvas doesn't convey ripping or tearing to me.
This is really interesting. I pictured a sheet covered lump. If you hide your dog (cat whatever) under the sheets then call its name, the sheets ripple and make a terrible racket as the dog struggles free. That was the image I was trying for (no dogs were harmed in the production of this story!). The tearing was meant to be an addition (I was trying to not to say anything more than once) based on the strength of its struggling.

Thanks again. It's really helpful to have all these different views of how it was seen. I appreciate it!
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Old 17th October 2011, 10:37 PM   #206 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Hi all, I apologise for my recent lack of attendance.. However, please let me offer my thanks to each of you for your insights, they are very much appreciated Now, trying to reply to you each in turn: -

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hex View Post
Hi Little Missy,

/snip

I found your entry both intriguing and truly alarming, but I didn't totally understand it. I think I kind of understood it, but I didn't get the connection between the cutting a bit out and Daddy enough to be confident that I had understood.

Also, and this is just a mini-thing, there were a lot of exclaimation marks and I got a bit overwhelmed by the end.
Hi Hex, I was a little worried writing it that the underlying story might not be picked up. However, considering my other choice, this seemed the most understandable - that tells you how bad my second choice was! And yes, I realise I am a little 'free' with the exclamations and will try to tone them down in future entries

Quote:
Originally Posted by Parson View Post
Little Missy,

I'm sure some of veteran critiquers will be along but from a pure amateur here are a couple of things. Let me say that I think the idea is good, and there could well be something creepy and filled with horror.

But...

First, I couldn't make the connection between the "thing" and "Daddy coming home." I assume we are hearing a child, but when I get the line "play happy families..." I wonder if it might be the "thing" speaking.

Second, I was unsure what Daddy coming home had to do with not cutting the the "thing" out, especially if Daddy wasn't really loved. In fact that last line "play happy families..." made me wonder if the "thing" might have been something Daddy was responsible for.

For me the real trick in a 75 word story (coming from a rank amateur writer) is to let the reader see what's going on as the conclusion comes without exceeding our word limit.

I've liked your stuff before. I know at least once before you've been on my short list.

Parson
I whole-heartedly thank you Parson! The "thing" related more to an emotional element really, and the girl in my story was that of a teenager rather than a little girl. The whole 'happy families' being a somewhat sarky statement from a person too scared to do what they wanted in the face of their tormentor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Teresa Edgerton View Post
/snip
As for the story itself, I think that I understood part of it, but I'm a bit hazier on the other.

Daddy and "happy families" I think refers to the father coming into the room to molest the child.

If so, the "thing" may be symbolic of the memories and the trauma she wishes she could cut out of her thoughts, out of her life. Or maybe it's a death wish.

But then there is the knife, and I wonder if Daddy may be about to get what he deserves.

Of course I could be entirely wrong about all of this.
All correct there TE, apart from Daddy getting what he deserves - in my mind the girl (teenager) was too scared to self-harm/end her life if he could find her before she had finished!

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDustyZebra View Post
I also agree with the exclamation point excess.

My take on the story was that the child is being molested, and I concluded that she may be pregnant, thus cutting the "thing" out. But I wasn't sure about that.
No Pregnancy... just emotions! Too much held in the head for one person to handle. But you picked up on something which, may be in hindsight, I could have used. So I thank you for that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Judge View Post
/snip

Also, one of the tricks of a short story is to make the ending snappy. Here your ending goes on too long for my taste, drawing a moral, to boot. Fine in the middle of the story, but to me the ending should be more dramatic. For instance, if you'd referred to "he" or "the monster" throughout and ending with "Daddy's home..." that would have given more power to it.

And when it comes to word count -- make the title work. "Family" is too neutral to have much effect on its own, so if instead you had used the "Happy Families" of the story, that frees up two words for you and because of the edge to it (since we know this was a horror story from the genre) it starts to sway people from the get go (assuming they read the title first, of course!).

But although I'm picking out these issues, for a beginner I think you did fine! So definitely you should carry on and join in more Challenges -- as you get more experienced these things will come.
Thank you Judge. These are some very valid points and ones I am sure to take into consideration in the future.

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Originally Posted by Sid Hawkins View Post
I thought the content of the Family story one of the best in the month, strong enough to carry a couple of minor details like excessive exclamation marks(!)

The molestation was implied strongly enough for it to "work" for the reader. I did not pick up on pregnancy, if that was intended; I assumed the "thing" was a whole cluster of emotions and impacts on the child, and the "cut it out" a psychological response to that, perhaps leading to future self-harm which is what made the story fit well into the theme for the month.

I have now read and posted in two of the 75-word challenges. It seems to me that stories of that length are almost bound to have some ambiguity and that is part of their charm.

At risk of making a gross generalisation, stories which are closed and unambiguous in 75 words are probably not saying very much at all.
Hi Sid Hawkins, and thank you for your comment. You've practically hit the nail on the head with how the story appeared to me!

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Originally Posted by TheEndIsNigh View Post
I missed the molestation. Mainly because I only read the first paragraph. To my shame, I jumped to a wrong conclusion about how it was going to go and dismissed it.

I assumed it was the ranting of a disturbed child who was about to do herself in. Horrific enough, but up to that point in the story, not enough to make me want to get to the punch line.

Having read Teresa's analysis I now see I was a bad lad - for which I apologise profusely - and that the story had much more to offer.

However, I don't think this new insight would have swayed my vote.

I think the the problem may have been the layout.

The


Allowed me to break concentration and gave me the opportunity to skip.

It's possible that without these massive pauses I would have read to the end.

In fact, it would probably have read more true to life, if the father returning caused panic and a rush to the end. I fancy that is the more likely outcome of the situation you set up.

Similar to the panic instilled when anyone finds themselves up to 'no good' and on the point of discovery.
TEiN, thank you for your response here. I must admit to having not given enough thought to the actual layout and see now how that may have played against me. Something else for me to consider in the future!



Thank you all for your in-put. It is truly appreciated and, hopefully, I can put some of your advice to good use in any future challenge I choose to participate in.

(P.S. I will try to curb my excessive use of exclamations!!!!! )
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Old 18th October 2011, 08:46 AM   #207 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Quote:
has the voting started?? i was wanting to add mine here, but i thought we had to wait till after the vote to do so. If i missed the voting i will curse the cold that kept me off line the last few days that's for sure.
Naw, the voting can't start until all the entries are in, and we haven't got the requisite 42 yet .
If you had read first post, as the instructions specify, you'd know the changeover happens at midnight GMT between the 23rd and 24th of the month – days yet for laggards to prepare and polish their entries.

Looks around and coughs.

Yes, I got most of the story, except that the beast was boss. I suppose it's logical, that; in the sort of show-biz co-operative described the hungriest would rise to the top…
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Old 18th October 2011, 01:15 PM   #208 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

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I just discovered this thread. Maybe too late to ask... did anyone understand my entry at all? It was:
I thought I had understood it when I first read it last month. In fact, I liked it. I frequently don't get the details of most entries, so my approach is that I simply try to get the gist of things and leave it at that. If I don't understand the details, it's usually my own stupidity so I don't get hung up on it.

And now that I read your story again, I still don't get it. The gist (i.e. that the audience is an unwilling participant in the horrific climax) is fine; it's the other parts that I'm confused about. Who are the two people talking? Is one of the speakers the monster, itself? And I still don't get the "She won't fire it." part. I know you said you had originally planned it to be, "She won't fire him." but that doesn't make it clearer for me (told you I was thick...). Who won't fire who, exactly? And is fire used in the colloquial sense, i.e. terminate someone from their job? Or does it mean she won't set the monster flaming? And who is the she, anyway?

In any case, I did like your story. I can't remember if I had shortlisted it last month or not; and if not, I can't remember why not. But I do remember I liked the idea when I read it.
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Old 18th October 2011, 05:31 PM   #209 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

After saying I understood it, now I have to backtrack and admit that I didn't realize the beast was running the show -- I somehow missed that in your explanation as well, and didn't pick up on that until later comments. I had all the rest, though, I'm pretty sure!
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Old 18th October 2011, 06:00 PM   #210 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

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Thanks for explaining how you saw it. It was definitely less successful than I hoped, but really useful to see all the ambiguities that I missed coming out.
happy to help
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hopewrites -- this is a story from last month, so no need to panic! This month's Challenge is open until Sunday and voting doesn't close until next Thursday. You can put your story up here after that.
thanks! i kinda lost track of days while i was sick and jumped straight to panic mode. If i had kept any sense i probably could have figured out this story wasn't in the running for this month, but between the fever and the tissue i just went with panic as the easiest road. I'll check myself in the future.
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