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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 18th October 2011, 08:22 PM   #211 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

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Originally Posted by chrispenycate View Post
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…
Nice way of putting it! I hadn't considered that aspect, I wish now I had worked it in somehow (and managed to show the beast was running the show!).

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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?
Ah see. The two people talking are the announcer and the stage manager, who are standing in the wings watching the show. The acrobat is drunk, and has just fallen from his wire/whatever. The manager isn't going to fire (sack) the acrobat because she understands why he's drinking: he knows what's about to happen. Then the ravenous kraal beast, the show owner - what hold it has on the other performers that they work with it is unclear - is presented, under a dust cover. The audience are shocked when they see it moving, but then even more shocked when it isn't restrained, or in any way caged. Instead, they're trapped in a room with it. It tears the canvas sheet struggling out from under it. The "she" at the end is the beast; neither of the two speakers wants to complain to her that she ripped the canvas cover that's part of her act again. I think that's a definitive description of what I failed to get across in seventy five words!

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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.
Thanks! I wasn't fishing for compliments but they're always welcome. I think it's pretty clear it was, shall we say, less able to be understood than I hoped! Still, you don't enter a no prize contest to win, you do it to learn. In a real way, everyone who competes wins (yea, wishy-washy liberal stuff, but it's still basically true).

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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!
Oh well!
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Old 18th October 2011, 09:03 PM   #212 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

The explanation was useful. Some of my problems now become clear. I assumed the "it" referred to the beast, and I assumed the "she" was also the "her" of "you can tell her". And another problem with that line: I interpreted it as "she won't mind you telling her", not "you be the one to tell her" (I think "You tell her", with the "you" in italics, would have been clearer and also got you an extra word).

As an exercise for my own amusement (slow night on TV), I tried in the below to make the story clearer (or as it would have been clearer to me, at least) while still keeping it to < 75 words (74 I think, so I've added three). Hope it's useful.



THE SHOW MUST GO ON


The acrobat limps offstage to hesitant applause.

"Ben's soused again," says Ralph.

Maureen nods. She won't sack him: she understands his drinking.

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

A trumpeting cry answers. There's astonishment. The car-sized lump’s cover ripples. Canvas tears asunder.

"Ripped again," sighs Ralph.

"You tell her this time."

Screams. Panic.

"Somehow, they never see this coming."
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Old 18th October 2011, 10:14 PM   #213 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

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As an exercise for my own amusement (slow night on TV), I tried in the below to make the story clearer (or as it would have been clearer to me, at least) while still keeping it to < 75 words (74 I think, so I've added three). Hope it's useful.
This is brilliant HareBrain. I wouldn't have written it that way, but I like your version better than mine. It's much clearer. Naming would have got me much further forward, you're right. (Though Maureen?! I think you were somewhat tongue in cheek with that one!).

Anyway, it's very useful, thanks!
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Old 30th October 2011, 12:08 PM   #214 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

I could kick myself!

I posted the wrong version of my story for October. I was reasonably happy with the version I posted:




Death Is Not An Option

Dear reader, consider if you will the contradictory nature of a coffin lining. Soft, comforting to the dead but uniquely constraining to the living.

Consider further the similarities between a coffin and a suspended animation pod. One sealed to contain a body in death for eternity the other in sleep for aeons.

This pod, relentless in its task, will sustain my life for centuries yet.

This pod, relentless yet malfunctioning – I am awake.



but thought that, whilst it reflected a nightmarish situation, I also wanted it to incorporate the possibility of an actual nightmare as well. So I decided to sleep on it. I had a couple of words to spare and the following morning came up with:



Death Is Not An Option

Dear reader, consider if you will the contradictory nature of a coffin lining. Soft, comforting to the dead, uniquely constraining to the living.

Consider further the similarities between a coffin and a suspended animation pod. One sealed to contain a body in death for eternity the other in sleep for aeons.

This pod, relentless in its task, will sustain my life for centuries yet.

This pod, relentless yet malfunctioning – I am awake. Or am I?




Then I went and posted the original!

Anyway, what do people think? Was I better off with the original horror or does the optional version work better by being closer to the theme?
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Old 30th October 2011, 12:31 PM   #215 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

I prefer the posted version, definitely. The second reminds me too much of the Fry & Laurie sketch "The Red Hat of Patferrick", the ending of which brilliantly spoofs the "or is it?" style ending.

Having said that, although I felt the posted version did fit within the theme enough for me to seriously consider voting for it, perhaps the main reason I went with Cul's in the end was that it fitted better -- ie nightmare as a type of dream rather than just a hideous situation.

If you had posted version two, it would have fitted better, but would have made it a worse story, in my opinion.
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Old 30th October 2011, 04:05 PM   #216 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

I agree -- I prefer the first, posted, version. I wasn't worried about restricting the theme only to dream-nightmares, so the lack of that aspect wasn't a problem.

I don't know if it's of interest, mosaix, but although it figured in my short-list, and was as well written as we've come to expect, the deliberate addressing of the reader and the use of "consider" like that counted against it when I came to choose. For me, the tone of those lines is too cool and detached, even ironic, for the nightmare situation in which he is being forced to exist. You obviously had an aim in mind in using it, but whatever it was I missed it, I'm afraid.
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Old 30th October 2011, 04:34 PM   #217 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

If you'd posted the second version, mosaix, I may very well have voted for it.









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Old 30th October 2011, 05:47 PM   #218 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

I, too, think the first one works better.
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Old 30th October 2011, 06:43 PM   #219 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

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Death Is Not An Option

Dear reader, consider if you will the contradictory nature of a coffin lining. Soft, comforting to the dead but uniquely constraining to the living.

Consider further the similarities between a coffin and a suspended animation pod. One sealed to contain a body in death for eternity the other in sleep for aeons.

This pod, relentless in its task, will sustain my life for centuries yet.

This pod, relentless yet malfunctioning – I am awake.

I far preferred this version. I love the way that it leads the reader to properly imagine the situation: stuck for a near-eternity in isolation, with only one's thoughts for company. That's pretty horrific stuff!

I actually thought the second version took from that aspect by getting too philosophical. The 'or am I?' tagline raises some nice Cartesian questions about the perception of reality, but it removes the reader (or, rather, it removed me) from imagining the sheer horror of the situation that the above quoted version makes canon; if I'm left to ponder whether it's possible to tell whether I'm awake or asleep in suspended animation, then I can't just have that 'Ouch...' moment of realising this potential horror of space travel.

Either way, it was an extremely enjoyable entry and you deserve a big pat on the back.
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Old 30th October 2011, 07:01 PM   #220 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

HareBrain, TJ, UM, Devil's Advocate and Ashcroft thanks for your considerations. Looks like I posted the correct version after all.

TJ, I was trying to bring about the 'feel' for the situation by understating it and letting the situation speak for itself. I feel that horror is often overdone.
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Old 30th October 2011, 07:07 PM   #221 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Oh, I agree on the risk of overdoing horror, and certainly the understatement is right for it -- the last lines are great. It literally was the direct talking that for me took it that bit too far. Like most things, though, it's a question of taste. Like the "Or am I?" ending!
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Old 30th October 2011, 07:16 PM   #222 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

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HareBrain, TJ, UM, Devil's Advocate and Ashcroft thanks for your considerations. Looks like I posted the correct version after all.
Hey, you're most welcome. Thanks for sharing your piece with us!

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It literally was the direct talking that for me took it that bit too far. Like most things, though, it's a question of taste. Like the "Or am I?" ending!
I fully agree. Breaking the fourth wall is no long novel, or even kitsch; it's become too commonplace in modern writing to have the characters or narrator directly comment to the reader, or involve the reader on a level that's beyond mere imagination.

I agree that this is a personal taste issue, but I personally feel that direct interactions with the reader are to be avoided because they remove the reader from the story. This is what I was trying to get at above: you've got this great, and horrific, concept that's very well written and really engages me, and then the twist comes which throws me back out of the imagined world. It just doesn't work for me.

But, hey, I'd have voted for your entry if it weren't for Culhwch!
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Old 30th October 2011, 07:19 PM   #223 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Thanks, TJ. As you say it's a question of taste, the practically impossible task is to appeal to everybody's.
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Old 31st October 2011, 09:55 PM   #224 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Well, if anyone would like to take a gander at my entry, here it is:

Quote:
Philosopher, Be Damned



It is futile. I know that, and yet I struggle. Flailing my arms in vain against several tons of water, I succeed only in amusing my captors; they smirk through the glass front of the cube, looking at me helplessly submerged. Not concerned in the least, knowing the Elixir I drank will keep me alive.

As blessed unconsciousness approaches, I finally relax. Sweet release.

I wanted immortality. Instead, every day I wake to find perdition.
I usually end up disliking my entries a day or two after I post. For reason, looking at them retrospectively makes me feel I could have and should have done better. Either with the story I posted, or perhaps even by going with another idea.

I must say, I was happy with my entry this time around. The concept of it, at least, though the execution... well, I don't really know. That's why I'm here.

Thoughts? Suggestions? What did you hate about it? Come on, now, be honest, I know some of you hated it. I won't take it personally. Or if I do, I'll make the effort not to let you know.
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Old 31st October 2011, 10:16 PM   #225 (permalink)
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Re: Improving our Challenge Stories -- READ FIRST POST

My main criticism would be that the voice sounds too calm and passive, no more concerned at his drowning than his tormentors are. I'm not in there with him. And do the first two sentences really add anything? Their cutting would have given you several more words to play with.

It's a neat idea, but it feels underdeveloped -- you have idea, but not character or (really) plot. And to really work for me, I would want it to tell more of a beginning-middle-end story than a description of a recurring situation.

Hope that helps to start with.
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