Friday, November 25, 2016

Cracked Flash: Year 2, Week 18!

Welcome back to another round of Cracked Flash! Many thanks to those who participated last time around.

RULES

Judge This Week: Mars

Word Count: 300 max

How: Submit your stories as a comment to this post, along with your name, word count, and title (and Twitter handle or blog if you've got 'em!). One entry per person.

Deadline: Midnight tonight, PDT! 

Results announced: Next Thursday afternoon.

Remember: Your entry must begin with the prompt! The prompt can be mutilated, but not beyond recognition. (Pictures do not need to be incorporated into your stories, they're for inspiration (and sometimes our amusement)).

Prompt 

"I don't require you to flatter me."

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Year 2, Week 17: Results!


I loved this week’s prompt – it had me writing until late on my NaNoWriMo novel. As I read through the entries, I was amazed at the different takes on it.

 


First Runner Up


Angie with “Doomed Shipwreck”

I enjoyed this. Very vivid descriptions of this strange sea. I can even see it as a strange metaphor for bathing the dog. Great twist ending. Good job!
 
In terms of constructive criticism: dividing the story into shorter paragraphs will ease reading. Also, repeating “the ship” and “Pulga” so close together (ending a sentence with it and starting the next with the same) weakens the idea: either find another word that conveys the same meaning, or rewrite the sentences to make them shorter and more powerful.
 
E.g. “Swirls of copper and bronze, typical of this region, flowed steadily past the ship on her maiden voyage. Pulga, a wealthy sheik living three continents over on Croup, had commissioned our ship and crew to find out the whereabouts of the Ps├Żllos inhabitants of an island somewhere in this region.”
 
See that? The flow is better and all the words that didn’t contribute to moving the story forward had been cut. Also, the numeral was replaced with the word (the way we write in fiction for the most part) and the word “colors” was cut because we already know that “copper” and “bronze” are colours – don’t overload on adjectives. Mark Twain wrote: “When you catch an adjective – kill it.” And Stephen King believes that the road to hell is paved with adjectives. We don’t have to go that far – adjectives have their place in fiction, we just need to know when they are unnecessary and when they can give startling intensity to a noun.
 
Your story is very imaginative. Remember the basics when you read over your stories, making sure it flows, and your writing will soar.

 

 

Y2W17 Winner

 Benjamin Langley

 

with “Pioneers”


Ooh, a creepy, yet fascinating, take on the prompt. Did the experiment kill them, turn them into weird ghosts or some form of medium? I like the way you use the repetition of “three days” to show the awful state they’re in.
 
In terms of constructive criticism: I would’ve placed each confession in its own line for effect; the last line too. Don’t jump from past to present tense (there’s a lot of reasons for that – check out the Writer’s Digest or similar publication), though I understand that you wanted to go for a sense of immediacy – rather use the different types of past tense.
 
Using different punctuation marks will make some of your writing clearer: e.g. “… but on the third – as I said – shapes, no more than that: hazy and distant.” See how the dashes and colon changes the meaning slightly? The colon can even be replaced with ellipses for effect.
 
Remember to read through your writing to pick up on typos like “if” instead of “is” before the confessions start. Good job!

 

Pioneers
 
It took us three days before we started seeing shapes in the fog. Three days without sleep. Three days in the sole company of like-minded folk desperate enough to get involved in the kind of medical research that’s advertised on the dark web. Three days with nothing to eat but the meal-replacement bars laced with Dr Hoffmann’s experimental drug.

Pioneers. That’s what he called us every night before he sent us out into the graveyard. But he always remained on the other side of the door. Two dropped out immediately, refused to enter the graveyard. We lost five more over the next two nights, leaving only three of us: Tim with the lazy eye, a homeless woman called Mary, and me, who thought doing this would solve all my problems.

I thought this would be easy. On the first two nights, there was nothing but mind-crushing boredom, but on the third, as I said, shapes, no more than that, hazy and distant.

It’s day four.

“Pioneers,” Dr Hoffmann says. I’m not listening to the rest, because there’s another sound; it gets louder when he opens the door. Tim steps out first, cautiously, and I follow. I’m so exhausted it’s more of a shuffle than a step. I can hear Mary begging not to go, but then her voice if lost among others, a thousand people all talking at once: “I slept with my brother’s wife.” “I stole from the church.” “I slipped poison into my husband’s tea.”

The voices started to take on shape. People, long dead, confessing their sins, over and over. That’s when I realise where I am. Purgatory. I back away towards the sanctuary. I reach for the door, but my hand passes right through it. I want to call for help, but instead I confess.


 

 

Thank you all for your participation! Until Saturday…

 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Cracked Flash: Year 2, Week 17!


 Welcome back to another round of Cracked Flash. Enjoy the challenge. And when in doubt: just keep writing!

Beware the Rules that Lurk


Judge this week: Ronel

Word count: 300 words max

How: Submit your stories as a comment to this post, along with your name, word count, and title (and Twitter handle and blog if you’ve got ‘em!). One entry per person.

Deadline: Midnight tonight, PDT!

Results announced: Next Thursday afternoon.

Remember: Your entry must begin with the prompt! The prompt can be mutilated, but not beyond recognition. (Pictures do not need to be incorporated into your stories, they’re for inspiration (and sometimes our amusement)).

Prompt:
It took us three days before we started seeing shapes in the fog.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Y2W16: Results!

Sorry about the single winner today, y'all--been struggling with time lately. Hope you all come back for this Saturday anyways ;) 

Y2W16 WINNER:

Marj Crockett! 

with Gotcha!

This is a scenario most people can imagine or relate to pretty easily, and the officer's character felt very realistic to me. 

However, the piece felt like it lacked a strong arc, due to the impersonal way the POV character is written; there's a lot of the policeman says "Do X," and the characters do X with very little reaction. Because of this--because we don't see inside the character's head--the climax (which I'd say is passing the driver's license--where the plan has the most chances of falling apart under scrutiny) came off very flatly. There's nothing up close, gritty, and personal; no sweating, no holding of the breath (or focusing on the breath to keep it natural), no internal thoughts of, "Will he find out?" or anything of the like. 

What really intrigues me about this piece, though, is the idea of the Enhanceds; it leaves me with a lot of questions (most of which probably couldn't be answered within the word constraint). Are the Enhanceds really robots? What are the laws concerning them? Are they dangerous? What are the goals of these main characters? What little I know about this concept is very interesting, and I'd have loved to see more. Good job!

Gotcha! 
"You'd think I'd notice if my best friend were a robot." 
Jan smiled at the policeman who had pulled her over. He did not smile back at her. 
“Ma’am, you know the rules. Anyone who looks like they’re Enhanced needs checked out. And your passenger sure looks like one of them to me. Please step out of the car... Both of you.” 
Slowly, Jan undid her seatbelt. She knew that the slightest misstep could make the policeman angry and dangerous. I undid my seatbelt too. I didn’t want to jeopardise or compromise her in any way.  
“Place your hands on the car please. Both of you.” 
We did what he asked. Truth was, in the pouring rain, we all wanted to get this over and done with and be on our way.  
The policeman pushed my legs apart a bit further as I leaned on the car. 
“Papers?” he asked, frisking me from head to toe. 
I passed him my driver’s license. He glanced at it, then at me, then back at the photo. The flashlight illuminated my face, making me blink. His eyebrows rose. 
“Oh sorry Congressman. I didn’t see your face,” he stammered, “I’m just…” 
I stopped him from making himself more of a fool than he already had. 
“Officer, you’re just doing your duty. I am pleased that you are upholding the laws about Enhanceds so competently. I commend you on your diligence.” 
He coughed and handed the license back to me, obviously wishing he was elsewhere. 
“That’s all. Sorry to have bothered you. Have a good evening.” 
That was it. The police car left, red lights fading in the distance. 
Jan and I waited until he had gone, then slipped off our masks. 
“Well that worked!” she/it said.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Cracked Flash: Year 2, Week 16!

Welcome back to another round of Cracked Flash!

RULES

Judge This Week: Mars

Word Count: 300 max

How: Submit your stories as a comment to this post, along with your name, word count, and title (and Twitter handle or blog if you've got 'em!). One entry per person.

Deadline: Midnight tonight, PDT! 

Results announced: Next Thursday afternoon.

Remember: Your entry must begin with the prompt! The prompt can be mutilated, but not beyond recognition. (Pictures do not need to be incorporated into your stories, they're for inspiration (and sometimes our amusement)).

Prompt 

"You'd think I'd notice if my best friend were a robot."

Year 2, Week 15: Results!

First Runner Up
Benjamin Langley's In Sickness and In Health

The hope and optimism the last paragraph gives was a breath of fresh air here. This piece leaves us with a few unanswered questions, though that's okay (if not frustrating, haha) because the comprehensive, self-contained plot is still there. Some things that would be cool to address: What ails Poppy? What is the Black Wood? (Could they build a lovely summer home there?) 

The very last part of the last line kept drawing me back to this piece ("[He] placed his crown at his father's feet"). I can respect the King's position on doing what's right for the kingdom, but a king should be bold in what he believes is right and good; Amin's peaceful refusal to obey and determination and hope for the future are aspects that anyone can admire. 

Y2W15 Winner

Sam Lauren

with Nothing

This reminds me of (I think it was) a Twilight Zone episode (where the dude writes people into existence and burns paper to get rid of 'em. I can't remember if he was a character or not, though). I'm not sure why stories like this resonate with me--maybe it's because we can go our entire lives believing we're one thing, and then we're violently proved to be another. Part of this also reminds me somewhat of my little sister (good job with the character dynamics!); when we were younger, I always felt like she was trying to steal everything I was good at! So, I can empathize rather deeply with the main character. I'm curious to know more about this witch that  made and gave this skull--it took me a few read-overs to understand what the second paragraph meant in relation to the rest of the story (since I couldn't figure out for the life of me why crushing this skull would do anything). I would have liked to see a little more after the last line (though I choose to interpret this as the main character fading out of existence and perceiving no more) for firm confirmation on what happened. The plot and conflict was intriguing and the character dynamics were real. Good job with this!
Nothing

“You will have nothing!” My sister flinched under my words. 

I held up the tiny skull the witch gave me. She'd stuffed it with ground herbs from dirty jars, the shed of a snake, and a burnt scrap with Claire’s name on it. 

All I had to do was crush it, the way Claire had crushed me. 

Her music struck more hearts than mine. Claire’s art took risks I would never dare, her hand was steady. These were my passions she took, because she could not think of any on her own. 

The latest thing was ballet. Claire would spend the next year dancing under a scholarship that should have been mine.

“You’ve taken everything from me,” I said. I shook the skull at her. “This will take everything you love.”

Claire cowered behind raised palms. “Please Eleanor, calm down.” 

“No. It’s my turn to talk.”

I dashed the skull against the ground. Bits of bone spiraled across the hardwood floor. A pale smoke bloomed from the top like a mushroom cloud, lingering when it should have dispersed. Claire began to cry. “No, no…” she murmured, and sank to her knees. 

My body tingled with the magic.

“Ellie--your skin--”

My arms were hazy. It was hard to focus on any one of my fingers, even when I tried to flex them. If I succeeded, I didn’t feel it. 

“What’s happening?” I asked, desperate. 

Claire wasn’t listening. She was trying to sweep stems and powders back into the base of the remaining skull. 

I could see her frantic motions through my fading limbs. “It’s not working.”

She sobbed. “I just wanted you to like me.”

Claire raised her delicate fists, and brought them down through the smoke with a force that would crush the skull completely.

Results Tonight

Friends, I hope this day sees you all well.

This week has been (and continues to be) pretty stressful, both on a personal and nation-wide level, and I couldn't find the time until yesterday evening to start writing the reviews. I sprained my ankle right before I was going to, and couldn't keep my eyes open long after that in order to work! 

Long story short: Apologies for the postponement, but I injured myself! The results will be coming up tonight.



Though we usually try not to bring the world's events into this space, I feel I need to make a note about the tensions rising in America. Things are getting violent between everybody. People are getting harassed and assaulted. People are terrified. I have a friend whose family is scared to leave their house, and another who needs to walk with her friends to school to keep them safe. Please read this post on how to help someone who's being harassed and share it with everyone you know. Please be kind to people, and encourage others to be kind. Please speak up or step in when you see violence, harassment, and hate; do whatever you can to keep yourself and those you know--and even those you don't know--safe. Please educate yourself on what's going on in this nation. We need good, educated people more than ever. 

Dare to be a force for good. 
Dare to stand alone. 
Dare to have a purpose firm. 
Dare to make it known.

Stay safe, everybody. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Cracked Flash: Year 2, Week 15!

Welcome back to another round of Cracked Flash!

RULES

Judge This Week: Mars

Word Count: 300 max

How: Submit your stories as a comment to this post, along with your name, word count, and title (and Twitter handle or blog if you've got 'em!). One entry per person.

Deadline: 1 AM 11/6/2016 PDT (We were an hour late posting)

Results announced: Next Thursday afternoon.

Remember: Your entry must begin with the prompt! The prompt can be mutilated, but not beyond recognition. (Pictures do not need to be incorporated into your stories, they're for inspiration (and sometimes our amusement)).

Prompt 

"You will have nothing!"

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Year 2, Week 14: Results!

Apologies for the late post! Experiments are like cats. They like knocking your careful plans off tables.

Honorable Mention 

Carin Marais with The Sky at Noon
 
I liked the way you cast a very old, traditional story of the Sun and Moon's romance here. My favorite part was the description of the Stars--I loved the idea of the Moon who did not--or could not--listen to their song. I also liked that you reversed the traditional genders for this kind of story--it puts an interesting spin on the bright Sun and shy/dimmer Moon.  In the second half of the piece I would have liked more tension. While the resolution is impressive for such a short story, the tension falls away with the ease of the tower's collapse. I liked the final image of the Sun and Moon together in the sky, and how that ties in to the title. Great story!

First Runner Up

Sian Brighal with Lunacy

Great imagery here! I love how you don't outright state the main character's plight at the beginning, but it is obvious what has happened to her. I love the way you describe her slow return to sensation--where even pain is welcomed because it is more than the nothing she's endured. I liked the way she's aware that each attempt she makes is small, but she's determined to go on--frantically determined. I was a little confused by the last sentence--while beautiful and poetic, I'm not sure what it's hinting at. Perhaps ending with more of a bang would be beneficial. Well done!

Y2W13 Winner: 

Bill Engleson!

with Moon Watch

I'll admit I'm not usually one for romantic stories or scenes. Nevertheless, this was a beautiful piece. I loved how you wove the prompt in with a larger tale of Catherine's amnesia--yet without any infodumps. Great transition from the subject of the moon to memories. I like the quiet contemplation of the characters, the hope and disappointment. This was a well-executed interaction, very polished and adds tension to an otherwise very calm piece. I LOVE the last line. It perfectly shows how much Catherine still has to regain, and Ethan's unconscious assumptions & hope. Deliciously poignant ending. Excellent job!

Moon Watch
She watched the moon from the cracks in the wall. Full! Distant! A mellow-appearing cloud, cumulus, seemed to caress the edge of the rich, yellow globe.

A flutter of wind flitted in the crack. A speck of wind-dust lodged in her eye.

“Damn,” she muttered.

“What?” Ethan asked.

“Nothing. Something is in my eye.”

“I’ll take a look.”

“That’s not necessary. It’ll tear out.”

“Maybe. Let me look, anyways.”

“Okay,” she relented, pleased that he had insisted.

Ethan touched her cheek in the muted light, asked, “Which eye?” and she said,” The left eye.”

He took a piece of tissue from his pocket, moistened it lightly and gently swabbed her left eye.

“Well?” he then asked.

She blinked, said, “Yes, I think so. Thank you.”

He then kissed her and stepped back into the dark reaches of the old Inn.

They were silent for a time. She again looked through the cracks, skyward, towards the moon.

“Look out the window,” he suggested. “It’s a much fuller view.”

“I know,” she said. “But this way, I see streaks, no, slivers of the moon, of the sky. I know it is all there but this way, well, it’s like the way memory often is, you know, when we recall splinters of our life, moments that flash to mind.”

Ethan stepped again into the pale glow of moonlight slicing through the collapsing way-station. “Are you having flashes of memory?” he asked, hoping that some shard of her past was inching up from the depths.

“No,” she sighed. “I know you thought it would help…bringing me to this place.”

“Woods Raven Inn. You grew up here. Until the crash.”

“And then?”

“Yes, he said, “Years of recovery.”

“And still, no memory?”

“It’ll come, Catherine. It’s just taking longer than expected…”

“Catherine?” she whispered.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Results TBA

Due to time constraints, Si's been unable to get to the reviews as of yet. They will be up tomorrow! Sorry, and stay tuned!