WritingForums.com - 6/1/2012 - December LM SCORES

  • 6/1/2012 - December LM SCORES

    Well folks, finally here we have the scores for the December LM.
    And I’ve discovered, putting the scores together, that there was an unfortunate miscommunication.
    The rule is, and has always been, that all stories must be put into the challenge thread. If you decide to put your entry into the workshop thread, then you need to provide a link in the challenge thread.

    This was not spelled out as clearly as I would ordinarily ensure that it was, and so there were three entries in the workshop thread that did not have links posted in the challenge thread.
    Moderan left in the middle of this challenge, so I came in midway through, and did not notice this’d happened until just now. Because of this, I’m not going to go back and ask the judges to judge the few entries that didn’t get put into the challenge thread.

    So unfortunately KyleColorado, Sunny, and ClosetWriter, I’m sorry to say that your entries will not be counted towards a prize (It’s okay. It’s only Monopoly money). However some of the judges picked up on the extra entries and reviewed them. So I will add those reviews for you at the bottom of this post.

    I’m very sorry for this miscommunication. It’s really a shame. And I hope this doesn’t deter any of you from entering again.
    This just shows that there is reason for all my rule-rambling in all the challenge threads .

    And now to the scores:

    Rustgold – 13, 15, 15, 16 – Average of 14.75
    KarlR – 17, 16, 18, 18 – Average of 17.25
    Dramatism – 11, 13, 14, 14 – Average of 13
    ChicagoHeart – 18, 15, 19, 17 - Average of 17.25
    AvA – 17, 18, 18, 14 - Average of 16.75
    Rusty Nail – 17, 20, 18, 15 - Average of 17.5

    So first place goes to Rusty Nail! Congratulations!
    Equal second place goes to both KarlR and ChicagoHeart.
    And in third place we have AvA.
    Congratulations to you all. Thank you so much, to everyone, for entering.

    And here are the judge’s comments:

    Baba Yaga’s Scores

    Title: December’s Leaf
    Author: RustGold

    I really liked this story, but I felt that the change in perspective from the girl’s companion first person to third person took a lot of the punch out of your plot. Personally, I would have gone with either a first person from the girl or third person the whole way through. We don’t have a lot of time to bond with your characters as it is, so I felt like I was cheated from getting to know either the man or the girl better.

    I also felt, on a second read, that your opening could have benefited from a little more time and some more specificity regarding the girl and her friend. Perhaps they have a private, cynical joke about one of the nurses or the food at the institution they are in, or about her treatment? I feel like that might make the loss of her friend more traumatic for her- and the reader- and also make his final gift that much more meaningful.

    Couple of minor nits:

    By the window, too weak to stand, sat a sweet young girl in her wheelchair.

    Her few strands of hair lay limply over her bald head, while her eyes stared intensely out, just as they had every day since my arrival. (tense)

    It was okay, for my time had come.

    Spelling and Grammar: 4/5
    Tone and Voice: 3/5
    Effect: 6/10
    Total: 13/20

    Title: December
    Author: KarlR

    You managed to breathe life into your character in a way that feels completely organic. I like that he seems oblivious to the irony that he’s in the business of selling homes when he feels so unsettled himself, and I like that he’s a bit of an unreliable narrator when it comes to his love life. It’s that subtlety that makes the emotion feel real.

    I also love ‘upside down Christmases’.

    My only comment is that the line about his brother watching the Sabres and the last line of the story seems at odds with one another. In one breath it feels like he’s missing home and in the next he seems to have forgotten all about it again. I feel like I need to know why he’s avoiding his home after a break up. Maybe I’m just speaking as a girl, but standard practice is to go cry on a family member’s shoulder. Why is there that distance between them then?

    I needed just that little something else to believe that while this guy has one foot in NZ and one in the US, there’s something keeping him from calling either of them ‘home’.

    Spelling and Grammar: 5/5
    Tone and Voice: 5/5
    Effect: 7/10
    Total: 17/20

    Title: December 17th: The Last Day of My Life
    Author: Dramatism

    Initially I thought you were going to do the whole ‘she decides to fight her fate and in so doing, seals it’ type of thing, you know: where she hears the voice, but at the last minute decides to ignore it, runs across the road to meet her husband for lunch and gets flattened by the number 6 bus.

    That’s not where you went.

    Which is a relief in one way, but still left me boggled. Did she just worry herself to death then? Was the voice in fact her own, split personality, killing her body with mind control? Was there a malicious demon the whole time who finally made her heart explode in her chest? Any of these options are valid, but its all too vague for me to decide/ suspect what’s happened. It feels like in the ‘beginning, middle, end’ sense, your story needs more middle.

    When she starts hearing the voice, she doesn’t believe it- and then she does. Why does she change her mind? Why doesn’t she tell someone or do something?

    We find out she has a husband for about 2 sentences and the interaction seems to tell us he knows she’s upset, but doesn’t seem to care, and then she dismisses him without a second thought. I would think that the husband would be a great way to answer the questions your reader may have about what’s happening to her and why she feels like she can’t tell anyone or do anything about it.

    Finally, I’m not sure what the source of your last paragraph is supposed to be? Maybe it would be better if it were an official obit posted by her husband?

    There are a couple of tense and grammar issues in your prose, for instance (but not solely):

    I know it sounds crazy that I should believe in something that I was told in a dream (not to mention what it was telling me), but I have had the same dream every day since then.

    When I didn’t see anything, I would hear an intense inhumane cackle, and it (cackle describes a laugh, not its source) would tell me that I would die on December 17th.

    I hadn’t had a visit from mister invade on my thoughts-a-lot (that’s the nicest way to put it) in quite some time, so I was beginning to have a sliver of hope that I really would live to see tomorrow. (This description seems very chipper for someone morbidly depressed and mortally threatened by a malicious, otherworldly voice)

    But, my thoughts made me think otherwise. (Redundant- what else do you think except thoughts?)

    Overall, it feels to me like you need to decide what the ONE final, lasting thought/ emotion/ question is that you want to leave your audience with, and then mold this story to that purpose.

    All that said, I do love me a creepily subtle horror story like the one I think you intended to create, and I think you should continue working on this until it becomes the piece you have in your mind.

    Spelling and Grammar: 3/5
    Tone and Voice: 3/5
    Effect: 5/10
    Total: 11/20

    Title: December Devereaux
    Author: ChicagoHeart

    This is the kind of story I just love. Clever, quick, concise. I really like your interpretation of the theme as well.

    What worked really well was how you told the whole story through very natural dialogue and just a few small actions between the two characters. There is only one line that didn’t really fit in with the rest of the style though for me:

    December’s spirit was indomitable.

    I think we get this from her highly euphemistic retelling of her life story, so it’s not necessary to say and it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing the straight-laced detective would be thinking at this point either. Otherwise, I think it’s just great.

    Spelling and Grammar: 5/5
    Tone and Voice: 5/5
    Effect: 8/10
    Total: 18/20

    Author: AvA
    Title: Santa?

    Wicked. The exchange with the kid was so bad/good, I had to read it again. My only comment is that some of Mike’s dialogue seems very high-brow and a little old fashioned given that they are looting someone’s house. For example:

    “You lumbering buffoon!”

    “You’d have the whole neighbourhood know we’re here.”

    Also, I really kind of wanted Nick to drop the flat screen at the end. I felt like his finest moment should have been followed by his worst.

    Spelling and Grammar: 5/5
    Tone and Voice: 4/5
    Effect: 8/10
    Total: 17/20

    Author: Rusty Nail
    Title: Her Last December

    You bad person, you must know I have a very soft spot for animals and this lovely little story almost brought a tear to my eye.

    ‘He always knew the ones whose flame could grow a little brighter and who could regain their pride and dignity before the last flicker of light went out.’

    If anything I felt that, given everything we’ve read up to now, this line is a little heavy-handed. We’ve seen how Sarah brightened up on her last day and the happiness it brings her, and we already know that Sam is the cause of that happiness. And saying that she has to reclaim her pride and dignity means she must have lost them at some point, which feels a bit harsh. It feels to me more like she always had them and she just needed Sam to bring them out. Otherwise, a really touching little story.

    Spelling and Grammar: 5/5
    Tone and Voice: 4/5
    Effect: 8/10
    Total: 17/20


    Tiamat10’s Scores

    Rustgold - December's Leaf
    Certainly an interesting theme, and an interesting twist. It felt a little bit disjointed though, since you started out with a different POV than that of your protagonist. You lost a couple points for what I felt was an overuse of adverbs and a few punctuation issues. Overall though, an intriguing read.


    KarlR - December
    I liked the little spin you put on December, by setting the story in the southern hemisphere. Also, I liked the way your MC can't seem to move on. It's a very powerful theme, but I don't feel like it was quite delivered on. All we get are snatches of this, a glimpse of that. I would say this would do better as a longer piece, so you can really illustrate this guy's conflict.


    Dramatism - December 17th: The Last Day of My Life
    Very consistent voice throughout. Also, I didn't notice much of anything on the technical issues. However, I felt like you wasted a lot of exposition in this story. We know from the title exactly how it's going to end. If the story's title tells you its ending, why write the story--and moreover, why did it take 645 words to illustrate what the title already told us would happen? I'm not saying this is a bad idea. It could be made much creepier, but "Get ready for your death on December 17" is not ominous. In fact, it's kind of comical, and that's not what you were aiming for. Subtlety, hints, the unknown--that's what's scary.


    ChicagoHeart - December Devereaux
    Technically sound, and you have a real knack for dialogue, that's for sure. The problem I had with this story is that since it's all just talked about and December never actually knows anything beyond that some guy went missing, I'd say it promises more than it delivers. There's no conflict, surprise, or resolution. I think it needs to be taken further.


    AvA - Santa?
    This is rather amusing, not just because Nick is an adorably innocent thief, but also that he gives a cigarette to a little kid who thinks he's Santa. Hilarious. No technical issues to complain about. I enjoyed the story throughout. Nicely done.


    Rusty Nail - Her Last December
    Very nicely written, and with a slight twist at the end. I was interested in this from the first sentence and my interest never wavered. I love the idea that a specter of death is collared, prisoner to his duty. I've no idea if it's from a legend or your own idea, but it's rather poignant in itself. Beautiful story--one that's going to linger with me.


    Bazz Cargo’s Scores

    December's Leaf.
    4/5 Grammatically flawless writing.
    3/5 - Effective yet inconsistent vocabulary and phrasing.
    Effect. 8/1
    Total 15-20

    Actually your score should be higher, but the way it is done is rather restrictive. Nice imagery. Good stab at two povs, not sure if it worked 100%, but this is the place to experiment. I liked the unsentimental way you wrote this, almost documentary style. I think some of your sentences read a bit on the clunky side, but that is only an opinion.

    Ok is okay.

    “Wandered out; well better than dying in agony.” I would use single quotation marks.

    each falling leaf bringing her a step closer to the death she could feel in her bones. Spare and affecting.

    One of my favourites, thank you for a good read.

    * * *

    4/5 Grammatically flawless writing.
    5/5 - Perfectly fitting or unique style and technique.
    Effect | 9-10 points.
    Total 18-20

    You have shovelled a hell of a lot of information into a short space. A past relationship, prejudice, uncertainty, dis-satisfaction, geography, and little hints of this and that. Clearly written and easy to follow. A bit of emotional content. A rather static moment rather than a story.
    Sabres is the UK spelling of Sabers. The only out of character thing I can pick on, and boy is that being ultra-picky.
    I’ve never gotten used to the upside-down Christmases here. Nice imagery.
    I enjoyed reading this, thank you.

    * * *

    December 17th: The Last Day of My Life (645 words)
    4/5 Grammatically flawless writing.
    3/5 - Effective yet inconsistent vocabulary and phrasing.
    Effect. 7/10
    Total 14-20

    Yet again the score does not reflect how good this work is. It is strong, clever, imaginative and easy to read.
    “get ready for your death on December 17th.” I would use single quotation marks here.

    Good ending.
    Cracking read, thank you.

    * * *

    December Devereaux (650 Words)

    5/5 - Competent manipulation of sentence structure, creative use of punctuation and effective paragraph composition
    5/5 - Perfectly fitting or unique style and technique.
    Effect 9-10
    Total 19-20

    Took me in and dragged me along, now I want to know more.
    A stunning read. Ta.

    * * *

    3/5 - Predominantly correct. Minor errors.
    4/5 - Strong, interesting use of a particular tone.
    Effect. 9-10
    Total 18-20

    neighbourhood Uk spelling. Not a mistake, but you have to keep an eye on these things.
    Pyjamas USA / pajamas UK. Not sure which side of the pond you are fishing from.
    I really enjoyed this. Well imagined and cleverly written.
    Thank you for a great read.

    * * *

    Rusty Nail
    Her Last December(650 Words)
    4/5 - Grammatically flawless writing.
    4/5 - Strong, interesting use of a particular tone.
    Effect 10-10
    Total 18-20

    Despite it feeling slightly clumsy, you actually moved me to a tear.
    Clever twist. Thank you for a great read.


    JohnM’s Scores

    December’s Leaf by Rustgold
    I enjoyed the story. It is an interesting scene -- the two of them hanging around in the common room talking about death. Didn’t like how the dialogue got lofty so quickly – “I’m waiting for death.” “We all are.” Pulled me out of the story briefly. Just doesn’t sound credible so early on in the story. A better alternative, perhaps, would be: “I’m waiting for the last leaf to fall.” and then working the other necessary details in later.

    The idea I love is that she discovers the painted leaf – and the words – because the limbs shake. “To life” has so much resonance because it is life – the birds jumping around, causing a rustle – that enables her to see how her own life has not ended, as she previously thought it would. Makes me wonder if the nurse’s suggestion for a walk outside was a ploy to get her to see the painted leaf and to understand.

    Didn’t like the point of view switch. Jarred. The entire story could have been written in Third Omniscient, or just a distant Third.

    December by KarlR
    Good, consistent voice. You manage to tell a lot about the characters without it ever feeling like exposition. Really enjoyed the part where says he’s adopted part of the accent – how he says ‘seeks’ instead of ‘six’. Fun. Happens again later on when he says, “Bloody wasteful”. Scene is kind of boring – he’s just standing there waiting for them – but you do a lot with it.

    The overall idea of the story comes out, I think, at the end of the first paragraph. He’s never gotten used to these “upside down Christmases”. Fish out of water type story. My only criticism is I wish there was more in the story about his discomfort. Even physical discomfort. Maybe when he came down he got horribly sun burnt, being from Buffalo and all, where it snows, snows, snows. Maybe some hardcore jet lag. Something like that to reinforce the idea that everything is ‘topsy-turvy’ down here, not just the Christmases.

    Also, I know that Christmas decorations look weird – a tad surreal, maybe desperate is the proper word – in places where it never snows. Looks so opposite the way Christmas is typically portrayed. I would have liked to see some of that description here, possibly as a way to highlight the sensation of being out of place.

    Story seems firmly grounded in the real world, which I enjoyed. Very good overall.

    December 17: The Last Day of My Life by Dramatism
    Not sure what relevance the beginning location has to do with the rest of the story. Especially since the end takes place in the park. I think the opening could be stronger if it also takes place in the park, her walking or watching others. Also, specifics would help liven up the story. “Watching the kids play” doesn’t really cut it. Anyone can imagine kids at play, but the heart of good writing is details. And so I find myself wondering what they are playing? Hopscotch? Tag? Are they running around and terrorizing the geese that like to hang around at the park? Not only does this kind of specificity enliven your writing, but it can also aid in characterization.

    The ending – a sort of television news story – seemed rather weak, sort of an easy way to wrap up the story. It was also probably born out of necessity -- working, as you were, under a limited word count. I think the story would have been better had you kept it all in one viewpoint – first person. There’s just not enough space to make the point of view switch justified.

    The most interesting aspect of the story, aside from the recurring dream/voice (which I didn’t find all that interesting, to be honest), is her relationship with David, her husband. She skips out of work because what’s the point? and I sympathize with that notion. She’s also keeping it a secret, not telling him. I would have liked to see more of the story center around these interactions. This is where the conflict is, where the tension and interest is, in my opinion.

    December Devereaux by ChicagoHeart
    Good overall. Reads like an excerpt. December Devereaux is an interesting character, and the dialogue throughout is very well done, natural-sounding. You definitely have an ear for the way people speak. Especially liked this line of dialogue: “My father was the lead and they hooked up on the show’s closing night. Isn’t that romantic?” Last line gives a little insight into who December is, what she thinks is romantic. Although, I kept wanting to add a small character description before she says, “Isn’t that romantic?” Something like this, for example:

    “My father was the lead and they hooked up on the show’s closing night.” The end of her cigarette flared again. Smoke trailed out from her open lips into a cloud between them. “Isn’t that romantic?”

    The description creates a slight pause. Remember the saying, pause for emphasis? Well I think it applies here.

    Would like to see more description of the setting. I don’t get a sense of where they are, beyond sitting at a table in a club somewhere. A line or two occasionally about the music, the smoky atmosphere, the girl on stage shaking her stuff, anything, would have helped flesh the story out.

    No other faults that I can find, other than what I said before – that it seems like an excerpt. Good, though.

    Santa? by Ava
    Some of Mike’s dialogue doesn’t ring true for me. When he says, “You lumbering buffoon!” I don’t believe it. Say that out loud a few times – it’s quite a mouthful, especially when “You idiot!” would suffice. Another example of the dialogue being slightly off the mark is when Mike says to get the “television” in the car. TV works better. Again, say dialogue out loud – let what you hear guide you. The scene is about them sneaking around, trying to be quick and discreet and get away. It makes sense, then, that the dialogue also be short and snappy.

    I suggest cutting this line of dialogue: “You’d have the whole neighbourhood know we’re here. Take the most valuable and leave the rest.” Again, too wordy for the scene that you are writing. I just didn't get the impression from the story that these two guys had the time to say long lines like this.

    Story could have benefited from another 200-ish words. Nick’s encounter with the boy in particular didn’t seem credible – currently the boy seems more plot-device than character. I did like Nick’s line about having “something better” than a spaceship. Good moment where dialogue gave an insight into Nick’s character. But overall the boy enters / leaves the scene with little fuss.

    Her Last December by Rusty Nail
    One of the things that caught my attention was how often the story dipped into the heads of its characters. There is no clear viewpoint character. Examples below. The words bolded are the indicators that the point of view has changed:

    “Peter was a little surprised she even knew his name.” Here we have access to Peter’s mind.

    “Her wheelchair was being pushed by a nursing intern, relieved to have a break from the unpleasant task of changing soiled bed sheets.” Here we are in the mind of a nursing intern.

    “Sam, even if he had the inclination, could not have gotten a word in edgewise.” In the head of Sam, the dog.

    “Sam knew this would happen. He always knew the ones …” Again with Sam.

    Changing viewpoints so often in such a small piece of writing is ambitious. Unfortunately I don’t think it works because it doesn’t allow any one character to be explored for a sufficient amount of time. We’re always bouncing from one head to another.

    Also, I think the end comes too swiftly. I suppose it is believable that the character could go from being animated one moment to feeling tired the next, and then dying, but here it feels rushed. I think the story suffers from trying to do too much within a short space. As a result, no idea, theme, etc. seems to be given the depth it deserves. My suggestion – for next time – is to limit the scope. Access to one character’s mind, one scene, and explore both fully.

    And for the stories that didn’t make their way into the challenge thread...

    Bazz Cargo said:

    Eve of the New Years (650 words)
    5/5 - Competent manipulation of sentence structure, creative use of punctuation and effective paragraph composition.
    4/5 - Strong, interesting use of a particular tone.
    Effect | 9-10 points.
    Total 18-20
    Excellent guide through a doomed relationship, written with a professional polish.
    I look forward to reading more of your stuff.

    A Lonely December (644 words)
    3/5 - Predominantly correct. Minor errors.
    4/5 - Strong, interesting use of a particular tone.
    Effect. 8-10
    Total 15-20
    Beautiful. The score in no way reflects my enjoyment of your story.
    Cancelled canceled (Anglo-American spelling disparity).
    Burry bury (Typo).
    Love a happy ending. One of my favourites.
    Thank you for a lovely read.

    And JohnM said...

    Another December by ClosetWriter
    Even though the LMs, I suspect, are intended for fiction, nonfiction can still benefit from the tools of the storyteller. Imagery, for example. Good nonfiction has imagery, and lots more in common with fiction. So I really enjoyed the part about the dog taking off (and threatening to take the catheter bag as well), and how you described the tube as a garden hose. Very good – specific, vivid.

    A spelling error – conceited instead of conceded. Overall, well written.

    Eve of the New Years
    by KyleColorado
    “She smiled and took a sip, feeling it burn all the way down.” Such a wonderful double entendre! A very satisfying end to the story.

    Superb story overall. Clean, easy read. You accomplish quite a lot in the space of 650 words – fleshing out both characters, offering a little history of their relationship, and in general presenting a very believable world.

    “ … and Katelyn would stare out her the peephole, past the cotton webbing and plastic spiders she had hung with such delight, to watch them sneak past her apartment …” It is little details like this that make the story a pleasure to read.

    Great writing.

    A Lonely December by Sunny
    The change or the ‘big event’ of the story comes when she sees the familiar red Chevy coming up the drive. I think it comes a little too late in the story, and I say that mostly because there is a lack of detail. For example, there is no description of the children as they approached her in the doorway. Nothing about their appearance, whether they were made extra beautiful for this special day, or whether they had gifts in their hands. The last line seemed like a summary, a “here’s the theme of the story in case you didn’t get it” line. I suggest cutting this kind of stuff out. It has the effect of leaving the reader feeling like he has nothing to ponder for himself, because the author has made sure everything has been pondered for him. Let the concreteness, specificity, vividness of your writing tell the story, and allow the reader to form his own thoughts.

    On to the mechanics of the story -- I noticed several times where the detail of the story is filtered through the narrator. Here is an example: "The only sounds I heard were the echoing ticks from the second-hand on the cuckoo-clock hanging in the family room." The part in bold is what I mean here. The sentence could be revised this way: “The only sound was the echoing tick of the clock, etc.”

    Try to limit the number of “I heard …”, “I saw…”, “I smelled…”. Especially in first person viewpoint. Instead, run at the image. Get straight to the point and resist the urge to filter through the narrator. Doing so will also help reduce the amount of “I” in the writing.


    “I missed the sounds of my children’s laughter, and their feet pounding on the hardwood floors as they ran down the hall playing tag.”

    “I missed the sound of dishes clanging in the kitchen as me and my mother prepared a feast for our small family.”
    This article was originally published in forum thread: 6/1/2012 - December LM SCORES started by Like a Fox View original post
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