Scores - Literary Maneuvers Feb 2019

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    Scores - Literary Maneuvers Feb 2019

    The moment is here. Identities revealed.


    Score: 10/20
    This is 655 words so I guess your word counter is counting “…half-hop…” , “Ultra-pale…”, “…newly-fallen…”, “…snow-blowers…” and “God-gifted…” as one word each. I have to let you off as it’s an honest mistake and so easy to cut five words if you’d known.
    I enjoyed this although there’s a few things stopping it from being an easy read.
    I’m aware that with this type of piece one could write half as much without any problem. It doesn’t seem like much of a challenge to me as there’s very little story, giving you the opportunity to wax lyrical about the atmosphere, the character’s feminine side, imagination and even religion.
    Careful starting sentences with ‘And’ and ‘But’. You have two sentences starting with ‘And’ which has me stopping to think if you should.
    Early in you had me puzzling over ": those type of snows…" Should it be "This type of snowfall…"? If you're trying to avoid using 'snowfall' twice I suggest replacing the next with 'atmosphere'.
    Should be as in artist’s ‘palette’ rather than “…pallet…” (twice).
    As a reader, things like "…virgin precipitation…" really mean very little to me.
    Some sentences like the one beginning “He sat still for so long…” run away from you a bit and consequently trip you up.
    I found the end too cutie pie-ish (my little bunny, baby bunny, one less bunny, etc.) perhaps an attempt to garner sympathy at the end.
    Too repeat myself after the negatives, I did enjoy the read.

    A Matter of Substance
    Score: 8/20
    652 words. I imagine your counter is counting “…bloody hell…” and “…machine-gun…” as one word each.
    When you mention trench I automatically set the scene as WW1 which I've read a lot about.
    This confused me- "Shall we have some now?" they'd just been talking about sun, not food.
    For me, the 'humour' doesn't merit any laughs. There aren't any 'jokes'.
    I liked the idea of Tom wanting the snow to cover the gruesome scene.
    I found the dialogue a bit clunky and over the top. I found myself going over it puzzling over one or two things like why is Tom rolling Freddie’s fag. Also, when Tom says “I win! Hand over the chocolate.” I go back looking for a wager that I’ve missed but didn’t miss – there isn’t one. When I found that Tom’s from Yorkshire I’d already been reading his lines mentally without the accent. Then I think 'does he have a Yorkshire accent? He might not. I wasn’t keen on the words ‘loon’ and ‘damn it’. You have the movie problem of depicting dried blood as bright red when really it’s brown. I don’t understand how Tom’s gone ‘over’ and returned. Surely he'd be dead, injured in no-man's land or shooting Germans in a German trench. Tom and Freddie seem too jovial if there’s just been a bloodbath.
    Nice idea, though. I’d have preferred it if you’d delved more into the snow covering the scene.

    Score: 9/20
    626 words, not sure how you came to 646.
    Anyway, I feel that too much of this is unclear. Despite you feeding me info early on. For example “the elderly woman said to the nurse.” (She’s old, female, with a nurse.) You could just have this - “, said Betty.” The surrounding sentences still give me enough info.
    Very early in you mention “Yet, the Filipino nurse…” had me wondering about the ‘Yet’ and looking back for a non-existent link to merit the "Yet,". Then Penn’s name didn’t strike me as a Filipino name so I thought they were two different people. Then “Not today, Betty. Besides, you didn’t eat your lunch.” Does this mean Betty can sit by the window if she eats her lunch? “You haven’t eaten your lunch, yet.” is better but doesn’t explain the “Not today…”?
    Your punctuation and sentence structure could do with improving or simplifying. i.e. "Eat up, Betty, eat up." Should be "Eat up, Betty. Eat up."
    What are dementia patients doing in the pill closet?
    I thought Penn was addressing the orderly as Mrs Richardson, with the way Mrs R’s just plonked into the story - as in "Is your name Mrs R?" What has the death of Mrs Richardson to do with the overall story?
    I think this would have benefitted if the word limit was 600, then irrelevant info like Penn’s nationality would be cut. You’re not doing it because you’re comfortably getting under 650. Or keep to 650 and delve into Penn’s dislike of the grandchildren or visitors or whatever it is.

    Score: 12/20
    Quite enjoyed this. A mostly smooth, easy read with just a few surprising problems. When I read your first sentence I smiled and thought “My God, this is gonna be awful.” It wasn’t. You see, you have four words beginning with ‘B’. It’s not quite “Peter picked a peck of pickled pepper” but you’re getting close. You touched on it again slightly with “…hooded head…”. It’s just something to watch out for.
    There were certain things that didn’t make sense to me but the twist in the ending lends me a forgiving hindsight.
    Some of the description like “…white austerity…deathly veil.” Don’t make sense to me. though with this and "…frozen desert.", "… white and grey world." and others, I felt you were running out of ways to describe the same thing. I know that as readers we need reminding but I think you're reminding me too much.
    “And there I saw it before me.” I try to avoid beginning sentences with ‘And’ or ‘But’ because I think they’re grammatically incorrect. But I will use them sometimes because they can give a sentence some punch.
    With twenty words to spare, I don't know if you considered linking the end more closely with the beginning. There's not much fear in the MC of frostbite, death, etc. Maybe you could have commented on this a little more and the weather less.
    On the first read I enjoyed it, which is what counts.

    Left Behind
    Score: 7/20
    I've a big problem with this and its relationship with the prompt. It's almost like you've written a story and tacked on the footprints in the snow at the end.
    2nd in the prompt vote was 'Dead on the Tracks'. (You could have the same story but the wife could have been flung from the vehicle and lay dead on car tracks in the mud.)
    Joint 3rd was "A clear conscience is the sign of a bad memory". (You could have the same story but he could be musing at the end when Mark Twain's quote comes to his mind.)
    One does wonder what the point of the prompt is, if this is okay. I thought everyone is restricted, challenged and guided by the prompt. Maybe I'm in a minority, we'll see.
    Anyway, nicely written with a few silly mistakes which I caught on a first read so I don't know why they're still in.
    "…look lurking…" , I now know she knows." As I said in the other submissions, I'm not keen on this kind of thing.
    "In our quick and heated rendezvous…" The previous sentence puts me with the MC and his wife so, of course, I'm still there! When you mention Mrs Crawford I have to look back and work things out.
    "…that I imagined things." I think should be "…that I was imagining things."
    "Nobody knew she said, and her smile, glances and touches that evening proved it." Apart from the atrocious punctuation, I'm looking back to work things out again. This should be "Nobody knew, she said. (or ",she assured me.") My wife's smile…proved it to me." Do you understand my confusion with the 'she' and 'her' here? If you use a pronoun to mention Mrs Crawford and another pronoun for the wife in the same sentence - how do I know the character's switched? I won't list any more of this type of thing because there's a lot of unclear stuff.
    Mostly nicely written but I do get the feeling that it would have benefitted from leaving it for a couple of days and then you poring over it.
    With just 600 words used there's enough scope for more clarity.

    Score: 15/20
    For me this is the easiest read out of all of the submissions so far. It doesn't look like you're trying too hard, just imparting info clearly and concisely. Oh, apart from 'cobalt' in the first sentence which I've made a note of to look up (I guess it means blue?). Should the word be omitted just because I don't know it? No, but it does make things sound airy-fairy. You've already said 'cloudless'.
    At the start I guessed Dave died and a few sentences in I guessed why. It's good to have a link from start to (nearly) the finish but that can make it predictable.
    Here's a few nits (it's my job) from a second and third read.
    "That fit bastard…" this whole sentence feels out of place. I'd have thought they're all fit. How can Dave be fit after a year 'wasting' away?
    "Our lives have been irrevocably changed." This jumped out as odd. I don't normally have a problem with 'irrevocably' but the way this is used has me noting it down next to 'cobalt'.
    I think the beers left by Dave need mentioning more clearly because the character's reaction at the end seemed odd. I'd forgot Dave had left the two beers and only remembered when I looked back for something to explain this behaviour.
    I'm struggling to find faults here which is good.
    This is how I try to write: short, efficient sentences and mostly clear communication from you to me. Well done.

    Something's Ishy (Fishy?)
    I think if any story deserves a zero it should be disqualified. You do not merit disqualification.
    Once again, I've a problem with the link to the prompt. It doesn't matter what the prompt is because you could link this 'story' to practically any prompt.
    In that first paragraph the final sentence is an absolute mess. I don't know what 'whip around' means or what 'wigged out' means and I don't know where Ishmael does or doesn't 'belong'. Also, I don't know what Ishmael's done to merit being 'socked'. I'm just reading back and thinking "What the hell is this?" when I should be smoothly reading a story. So early in and you've totally lost me.
    With perseverance and entrapment (I've no choice but to read on) I enjoyed a little of what follows but not much. There's a rebellious tone to this 'piece' at odds with you following the rules (650 words, good creativity, a desire to 'break out of the box' ). On the second paragraph, third sentence in when the MC is listing what 'chicks' he's 'boned' it reminded me of entertaining lists I've come across in other work and I liked it.
    In the second paragraph prior to the stark dialogue it's not clear who's saying " Who cares?" or "Keep out of if." (it)
    When you begin the stark dialogue, a character (I'm not sure which one) reacts to the word 'breakfast', mentioned in the previous paragraph. But the word 'breakfast' was not use in dialogue in the previous paragraph. If Ishmael's mind-reading talents were thinking of breakfast it just doesn't tie in with who's saying what in the dialogue.
    I think more effort in making this reader-friendly is required.

    Megan Pearson:

    By Anonymous, Post #2
    SPaG: 3.5
    T/V: 4.5
    Effect: 7.5
    Overall: 15.5

    SPaG: Wrong word choice: pallet s/b palette. No spaces needed here: snowfall, snowmen. Would choose a colon after I love b/c what follows is a list. Consider also these two examples: And the quiet; those… & …in the yard; in that lovely, God-gifted snow. Keep in mind that semicolons separate independent clauses; yet, neither of those clauses are independent. (These are.) Would suggest a comma after in the yard to link together the repetitive prepositional phrases (in the __) more smoothly. &Etc. Note: Excellent use of semicolon in Until he moved...

    T&V: Good control, well-paced, and consistent. The emotional tone was somber, melancholy and reflective. There’s a lot of depth here. Smoothing over inconsistencies in SPaG will strengthen what is already here.

    Repetitions of note: Quiet, x’s 2. Effectively emphasizes the kind of quiet. Little, x’s 8. Endearing but not distracting. Nice use of repeated prepositional phrases and paired/contrasting ideas & imagery. I thought these elements helped develop theme and added to the T&V.

    Effect/Review: Favorite sentence: So few things arrive in such pristine condition, but it never remains.

    Theme of forgiveness developed by appeal to meta-themes: God / Sin / Forgiveness x’s 2 / images of innocence & purity (virgin, baby) / unforgivable / judgment & death (hawk)

    Standout contrast: The concerns of life vs the stillness of the snow (e.g., death)

    I love animals and I love theology, so a story that brings them together is one I will find interesting. I really liked this entry. I’m also drawn to subtext, so when I read anthropomorphism I read the MC’s projection of him/herself onto the subject in view (little bunny). It may be a very real event the MC witnesses, yet I think it’s also an allegory for MC’s own fears in facing death. Will the MC be forgiven? Will anyone mourn the MC’s passing when his/her time comes? However, as a reader, I was confused that the MC did not struggle with death but instead just tearfully accepted it. I felt let down. (Was the MC giving up too easily?) Because of this, it also almost made it seem like the focus really was on the little bunny, not the MC as told by allegory—this, then, made me second-guess the piece’s intent. I think, if the ending had more tightly reflected the beginning, that would have helped sharpen the focus and given it more emotional punch.
    It’s a great piece dealing with a difficult subject. Yet, I also think you can push this piece farther; doing so will help your reader more easily grasp your intent.

    Nicely played off this month’s LM theme. Thank you for sharing it with us!

    “Be Careful What You Wish For”
    By Anonymous, Post #3
    SPaG: 3.5
    T/V: 3.5
    Effect: 6.5
    Overall: 13.5

    SPaG Explained: Awkward transition at Laters./Meanwhile. There were a couple of missing words that hindered a smooth reading, such as: for that purpose; but there were no toes (or change punctuation). Missing space: Anyway,now.

    Of special note, setting (air rifle) aside in parenthesis broke up the flow of thought so that it in effect read ‘here we are talking about this action (oh, by the way, it was done by a this!) and then we continue this action.’ Can you better incorporate the parenthetical material into the flow of events?

    There were some possibly dialectical word choices I either didn’t count against SPaG (…fed up of), or thought were really very well done: pugmarks, squelching, trod, and espied. From the tone of the piece, my guess is it is not the case here that the writer ran to a thesaurus but that these word choices instead reflect the writer’s very natural way of speaking. Well done. It added to the voice.

    T&V Explained: I really struggled getting into this piece. I think this was because I stumbled off the block with fed up of, which I came to realize later might reflect a dialectical phrase. But as I ran into Anyway,now and Laters./Meanwhile, I braced myself to keep on running into similar errors throughout the rest of the piece—except, they weren’t there. Once this cleared up, the voice of the writer began coming through.

    Effect/Review: Man, what a story! First the MC has to put up with a bully, then the bully gets eaten by a bear! I really liked the development of tension here, as well as how the theme of innocence emerges. This sense of innocence is portrayed in the dangerous game the bully plays with the MC, the MC’s wanting to prank the bobcat, and his continually sniffly nose. It is this sniffly nose that becomes the MC’s defining characteristic, not the rifle. At first, I thought the MC would use his rifle somehow, yet it is the bully that is confrontational, not the MC. This leads to an ironic ending where running away actually saves the MC!

    Things that may have helped. I think if the set up were a little tighter, with a smoother on ramp for the reader, then the entire piece would have had a more consistent flow to it and yielded a better effect. Also, the SPaG errors seemed like easy fixes the writer shows elsewhere he or she is more than capable of catching on his own. Because of this, I think the writer could have produced a more harmonious effect by having done a little more editing before turning this in.

    Again, a great, creative use of this month’s theme! Thanks for sharing it with us & I’m looking forward to reading your submission next month!

    “A Matter of Substance”
    By Anonymous, Post #4
    SPaG: 4.75
    T/V: 5.0
    Effect: 9.75
    Overall: 19.5

    SPaG and T&V Explained: The only thing here my eye got hung up on was hoping for a rabbit; it is empty, again. While there isn’t anything ‘wrong’ with it grammatically, might a hard stop here, …for a rabbit. It is empty again., create a stronger sense of disappointment? I marked this down just a tad because I had to read it twice & felt this possible solution might add more punch to the MC’s emotional response to his discovery. I.e., the grammar choice affected tone (just took off for the one & not both).

    Effect & Review: Bloody lovely! I felt like I was in the foxhole with the men. It’s WWI and the line is stalled; I think they’re cut off from the line. You broke all the right rules in all the right places; this piece has a lot of art to it. ‘Fraid I’m not being of much help here. It’s a bad situation; Tom is hoping for snow, we find out, to cover the nightmare of war. The chocolate and the joking provide a nice repetitive thread, and the thoughts of home let the men escape—even if for just a moment (i.e., provides thematic contrast). Their casual interplay makes them seem like fully developed characters from a longer work of fiction, not chess pieces simply created for the unfolding of a short plot. I don’t generally like war stories, but I was won over because this one was so character driven. Continuing on… The MC worries: did his tracks lead to their dugout? But then there is the snowflake. His hope is renewed! They may yet survive this. You never even had to say this outright because the character already did; we know why he’s excited over the snowflake.

    Maybe it’s just me, but that last bit (last sentence) and I didn’t click at first. However, upon re-reading, it became clear the bet was made off-stage. Tom is clever with the chocolate—it’s how he keeps their spirits up. Yet, would it have been more effective to have mentioned the bet beforehand?

    This story is also very closely built around this month’s challenge theme. Overall, a fun piece to read. Thank you for sharing it with us!

    “Snow Angel”
    By Anonymous, Post #5
    SPaG: 3.5
    T/V: 4.5
    Effect: 9.5
    Overall: 17.5

    SPaG Explained: The quadruple alliteration in the first sentence I found to be a bit overdone, detracting from the piece. Dependent clauses require commas: …limbs, and…flurry, I…. Also, in Now that the wind…, this a relative clause, one requiring a that. Redundant word choice: faded in some places.

    T&V Explained: I found the structure in this piece to be a very well crafted. This structure really added to the tone that comes across to the reader, which is one of hope and even denial that death is a possibility.

    There is a clear dividing line, too, where I was just hoping the MC would make it, but when I read this watershed sentence, I looked up at the sudden voice to see a hooded figure, I realized that against hope, he might not make it to base camp.

    Effect & Review: Favorite phrase: he said in voice as distant as the first memories of man

    We meet the MC as he battles the elements. His closest ally is too far removed to do much else than inspire him; his nearest adversary he refuses to recognize for what he is. There’s something about that refusal to give in that I like. He is suffering from hypothermia, his goal is unreachable, and he’s walked in a circle. The way you’ve incorporated these factors was very realistic, adding to the tone. The repeated image of being hooded (first the man, then death), and the veiled black rocks contrasted against the veiled cape, was very effective. Somehow you’ve turned death into a gentleman, which I found effective because it was so unnerving! We all want to die with respect and dignity. It was chilling that the comfort he found in freezing to death was also realistic. If I could offer advice on how to improve this piece, would creating a stronger voice have a better effect on the reader?

    Overall, great job! Thanks for sharing and providing us with an excellent story relying on this month’s theme!

    “Left Behind”
    By Anonymous, Post #7
    SPaG: 3.0
    T/V: 5.0
    Effect: 9.5
    Overall: 17.5

    SPaG Explained: Comma missing: nobody knew, she said
    Remove comma: I do remember is how
    Awkward: where it happened, is… Either delete the comma or follow it w/ a that, depending on the tone and pacing you wish to create.
    Spelling: s/b hovering. Down town s/b downtown.
    Word choice: absent s/b absence; flower s/b floral.
    Kudos - This is a really nice simile: like fireflies

    T&V Explained: The piece’s steady pacing created a foreboding tone I thought effectively helped build the tension to its dramatic ending. The laughter, the snarl, all of the images painted a tight setting that reflected the narrator’s mood very well.

    Effect & Review: Ooo! I felt this was like reading film noir in print (you mention the genre in your piece), where things seem larger than life, where moments of clarity grow dark, even macabre upon reflection, and perhaps even a little disjointed. I found this to be very artistic and effective.

    The open/close of this piece I thought particularly worth noting because of the repeat not just of the thematic element of being alone, but also the repeat of the fields and the recurring inclusion of the highway where she perished. I wondered if the simile, like fireflies, could be said to describe the man symbolically? He has a dependency on his wife (she’s the one who drives), not something I would call love and, in light of the other woman, I think it is more so an obsession with that which he cannot have? Admittedly, the laughter of relief threw me and I had to read that over. (There is something awkward here I can’t put my finger on. Maybe there is a way to rewrite this to make it smoother?) But I came to the conclusion this laughter was necessary and reflected the genre well. Did she know? Didn’t she plan that spin out? And now, she’s coming for him…a nice and chilling tie-in to this month’s LM theme.

    I thought this piece used contrast very effectively (a film noir technique) to highlight points of sparkle (and life) against the gloom of loss (and death). And then it repeated these contrasting themes, building momentum. For me, that is what made this piece effective far beyond its minor aberrations.

    I have to confess; this is not a piece I would generally want to read (I am not your ideal reader). However, I think it’s worth pointing out that when a piece of writing elicits a strong reaction in a reader, and that in itself is often a sign of good writing. I don’t think a lot of work needs to be done to make this piece even stronger. It will be a nice addition to your repertoire. Again, chilling tie-in with this month's theme. Thank you for sharing it with us and I look forward to reading your future entries!

    By Anonymous, Post #8
    SPaG: 4.5
    T/V: 3.5
    Effect: 5.5
    Overall: 13.5

    SPaG Explained: Nothing jumped out to throttle me as I read it, so good job!
    Note tense usage: s/b prized
    Nice alliteration: cloudless cobalt sky

    T&V Explained: Nice choice of first person narration for this, except, I found myself responding the wrong way in places as if it were written with a comedic, and not a serious, slant. I think there is a huge amount of potential here to really grip the reader with a lot of emotional punch. Improving the piece’s tone will help deliver that sense of believability that I, at least, found missing.

    It may help to also look at the pacing when improving tone. For example, when the MC reflects, our lives have been irrevocably changed, it pulls the reader out of the action and causes the reader to reflect that the MC appears selfish, although I don’t think that’s what the writer meant to have come across.

    Effect & Review: I loved this sentence: The mountains have always been our sanctuary from the drain of our daily lives; these craggy peaks our playground.

    The MC and his two best buddies scale a mountain on a clear day; only, instead of bonding, one of them commits suicide. I think the two cans left by the cairn are intended to represent Dave’s affection for his friends, and the toast, of his friends’ affection for him. The best line I found here is Colin’s, when his lips press into a thin line as he considers the situation, and then he shouts. This was very realistic—I could see that happening. Has an open/close but felt it could be stronger for reasons below. Some of the MC’s commentary detracted from this reader’s experience.

    The suicide of a friend kept coming to mind. We were not buddies; he was my boss. It was shocking. Nobody saw it coming. We went through that first week without him in stunned silence. I cannot imagine how devastating it would have been had we been close friends—it would have been that much worse than it was. I counted him as a valued friend and mentor and I still miss him. He, too, had some pretty steep financial problems at home due to having been unemployed and much debt from his spouse’s medical bills, sort-of similar to the man in your story. So, for me, toasting a buddy who has just killed himself while on our outing just doesn’t ring true. It’s flippant. I realize the MC may indeed be a shallow character, but I also felt let down as a reader. Is there some way you can better preserve Dave’s dignity?

    Really good use of this month’s theme. I think there is good potential here—thank you for sharing it and I'm looking forward to reading your future stories.

    “Something Ishy”
    By Anonymous, Post #9
    SPaG: 1.0
    T/V: 3.0
    Effect: 3.0
    Overall: 7.0

    SPaG Explained: Run-on quotation after quotation, paragraph after paragraph, made for dense, undecipherable reading. Parenthesized words within quotes were difficult to follow. Lack of direction in who was speaking disorienting. I did not give this piece the honor of a second reading.

    T&V Explained: Highly flippant. Repeated perverse, juvenile humor. Not believable. And I don’t mean the story content, which I am not commenting on, but on the narration. If I feel anything about this MC, it is pity. I’m pretty sure that is not the reader response you were looking for.

    If this was meant as an experimental piece, then good job on the fast pacing.

    Effect/Review: Dude, I am not your reader. There is an open/close, but the open is cliché and the close grotesque. There is no rhythm or art to what has been written. Continuous dialogue gives little to no sense of setting or characterization. Content hinges on repeated use of base language & insensitivity to real people groups (there are at least three) and to characters in the story. This is highly offensive and without warrant. If this was supposed to be an experimental piece of flash fiction, please keep your audience in mind.

    I am not even sure if there’s a story here. Instead, I feel like I’m reading a personal fantasy and not something written with a reader in mind. The story—if it can be called that—is about gaining grotesque self-gratification, whether gained financially, physically, or spiritually. The unnamed and arrogant MC finds a way to gain superhero-like powers. I’ll give you that the title fits and that you have effectively incorporated the LM challenge. Good job.

    However, I feel as if the opportunity to post anonymously has been taken advantage of by a writer who has a lot of talent—but who doesn’t take his writing seriously. I think the best advice I can give you is that if you begin taking this seriously, then your readers will, too.


    SpAG: 3.5
    Tav: 4
    Effect: 4
    Total: 11.5

    SpAG- first sentence should have been a full colon as a list followed it.

    "So few things arrive in such pristine condition, but it never remains." This a very awkward sentence that reads like it moves from discussing many things to one. Needs a re-phrase of either the part before or the part after the comma.

    There were a fair few sentences that I found awkwardly constructed. Comma usage put me off on several of them. Most of the things I noticed were related to flow more so than strict SpAG.

    TaV: Very consistent but bordering on melodramatic use of phrasing.

    Effect: Overall a nice set piece and an excellent take on the prompt. I easily envisioned the scene but once I knew it was a baby rabbit I also knew precisely how the story would end. I did laugh because my wife hates it when the dogs disturb the pristine, new snow that we so rarely get here.

    However, this was not a terribly effective piece for me. The wistful meanderings of thought and description were lovely, but they didn't move the story along. A lovely exercise in descriptive writing, but as a story it needed more.

    Be Careful What You Wish For
    SpAG: 2
    Tav: 2
    Effect: 3
    Total: 7

    SpAG: Some very awkward grammar throughout this submission, such as "He lost the prints, then found them, then lost and found them again." I get that this is trying to show a frustrating repetitive cycle but the wording is too awkwardly constructed, really took me away from the story. As did "laters" which was a massive distraction for me.

    TaV: The voice did not work for me at all. It seemed like the story was trying to depict a rural type of location but that was lost entirely lost at "laters." Honestly, that one word, used at it was, took me so far out of the story with its incongruity I could not get back.

    Effect: So many wording, cadence, voice, and story choice/factual issues for me in this piece. I often had to go back over sentences to sort out what they were trying to say. "Some bushes and then another wood getting close," for example, was simply too vague for me to feel like I understood the action.

    Without any context I have to wonder why boys would be allowed out in bear country with just air rifles. Even boys of this age (assuming from the story they are at all familiar with the woods and tracking) should be able to tell a bobcat track from a grizzly's, the latter is several times the size of the former and entirely differently shaped.

    "Fingering" tracks is something you see in the movies but isn't done in real life. You might move a leaf or something obscuring animal sign but if you touch the sign you change it and you lose information. This might make sense with the confusion of the tracks if the MC wasn't really familiar with the woods but without context the reader makes assumptions and no context was given. I think the whole tracking sequence could/should have been massively reduced and more context building done.

    A Matter of Substance
    SpAG: 4.5
    Tav: 5
    Effect: 8
    Total: 17.5

    SpAG: A couple small awkward commas, in my opinion, but nothing worth calling out.

    TaV: Consistent and appropriate for the scene.

    Effect: This story is really just a conversation but there is a tonne in here yet it's all handled very subtly and well: soldiers in a trench in WWI missing hearth and home, rationing the last bits of food, the horrors of war, and much more. Really, really well done.

    ‘Gravy with that?’
    Tom looks at his friend, shocked. ‘Of course, we’re from Yorkshire.’

    Love that bit.

    The changing meaning (from the reader's perspective) of wishing for snow was very effective and completely reframes the entire conversation and scene. Skillfully done.

    I tend to be a minimalist and I enjoy stories like this that seem to be giving you very little but have a lot of depth and substance behind them. Enjoyed this quite a bit.

    Snow Angel
    SpAG: 4
    Tav: 4
    Effect: 5
    Total: 13

    SpAG: I had to read a couple times to get what you it seems you were doing. Some awkward phrasings that in re-reading I can see might be trying to portray he mental scattering that happens with hypothermia.

    TaV: Overall consistent. There were some challenging phrases for me such as footprints getting "stronger" that made me stop and furrow my brows.

    Effect: This is good in that I think there is a fairly accurate description of what happens in the woods when you become hypothermic, the loss of senses and coherent thought and eventually sleepiness. A sense of being too warm and stripping off of clothes often happens as well, which would have had a nicely dramatic effect. There is also the often-tragic mistake of following a set of tracks of indeterminate origin...if you don't know where they are coming from or going to it's a crap shoot.

    Despite some authenticity in that regard, the overall effect didn't resonate all that much with me. The appearance of what is clearly supposed to be Death seemed almost superfluous.

    "he said in voice as distant as the first memories of man and yet it was as if he spoke straight to my mind." This felt remarkably discerning for someone who has lost enough body heat to have it impact their cognition. I'd rather have not had the flowery description and had the conversation feel more mundane to the MC.

    Footprints in the Snow
    SpAG: 3.5
    Tav: 3.5
    Effect: 6
    Total: 13

    SpAG: No major call outs here, some periods that likely should have been commas and vice versa. Some phrasings that took me out of the story.

    TaV: Consistent, though a touch bland in places.

    Effect: This concept might have been better in a longer format. Betty's need to see out the window provides the beginning and ending theme, well done on creating that framework, but the middle seemed entirely disjointed from that so that Betty becomes an afterthought. The final bit where she looks out the window didn't feel connected to much of the rest of the story. There were a lot of potential side/sub plots (death, compassion, experience vs inexperience and the student/mentor relationship) in this that added up to a piece that never fully coalesced because there was a tremendous amount of 'stuff.'

    "Yet, the Filipino nurse scribbled rapidly in her notepad. Penn replied without looking up."
    The description of the nurse's ethnicity was notable in that it provided nothing to the context or story. Then the next sentence introduces her name but in a way that seems at first like she's another person.

    I did like that the nurse seemed uncaring toward Betty at first but her motivations are made clear later turning her from seemingly unsympathetic to sympathetic.

    Left Behind
    SpAG: 2
    TaV: 2
    Effect: 5
    Total: 9

    SpAG: Some big ones, missing words and sentence fragments. The first and second paragraphs jump in time and place references a lot. Rather jumbly and confusing from the reader's pov.

    "Nobody knew she said, and her smile, glances and touches that evening proved it." Nobody knew she said what? Needs quotes or a comma or something to set 'nobody knew/knows' apart from the rest of the sentence.

    "in their absent." Absence.

    "and I more relieved than afraid." I am.

    TaV: Very expositional. I felt like I was being read a police report. A lot of unnecessary effort and words were used in setting up sequence or timing.

    Effect: Mostly because of the phrasing and over-explaining this piece didn't have a lot of punch. I also have to call out the rather clichéd plot line, saw it coming from a couple klicks away.

    Probably the whole paragraph and mention of the funeral could be cut. Ending was a bit melodramatic. The shift from the POV character recounting something he seems to regret into a supernatural story did not work; it was too quick and felt unconnected to the rest of the story.

    SpAG: 3
    TaV: 2.5
    Effect: 5
    Total: 10.5

    SpAG: Some awkward, missing, or unnecessary commas. Lots of extra words to describe or tell things that were not integral to the story.

    "I can hear Colin’s raspy breaths behind me as he exerts himself" Extra words here. His exertion is clearly shown by his raspy breathing in the final push to the summit. This would have been a great sentence without the explanation.

    "fat tracked" needs a hyphen.

    "My voice is quiet and unsure." Your voice can sound unsure, but it can't be unsure.

    TaV: Shifts back and forth between wistful reminiscing, to melancholy, to immediately in the moment. Not very consistent.

    Effect: "High on this beautiful mountain, our lives have been irrevocably changed." This totally took me out of the story. Before and after this sentence the story is in the moment of discovery but this stops, looks out to a much wider context, but then comes right back to the moment in the next sentence.

    There is a jumble of voices, tones, and perspectives in this. I did like the overall idea, it was a good take on the prompt, and I'd love to see this rewritten with a lot more SHOW and a lot less TELL with a more consistent voice.

    Something's Ishy
    SpAG: 1
    TaV: 1
    Effect: 1
    Total: 3

    SpAG: The two jumbled "paragraphs" of quotes were effectively unreadable. I could not decipher them.

    TaV: Voice was consistent but extremely off-putting.

    Effect. Things like "penises side by side" and "my penis flopped in the wind, but at least I’d remembered my hat" felt utterly gratuitous, like they were fishing for a very cheap laugh or going for pure shock value.

    Though the first line was disconcerting I was hopeful through the first paragraph because I thought there might be a small tie-in or reference to Moby Dick and Ishmael's role as narrator. "‘Ishmael’ might not even be his real name" seemed to relate to the first line of the famous book. However, this was unfortunately not the case.

    I found very little in this that was in any way literary or substantive. There was a flippant and obnoxious feel to the entire piece that completely turned me off as a reader.

    So the totals are:

    Author/title Fatclub Megan Pearson velo Total
    SueC "Forgiveness" 10 15.5 11.5 12.333
    Fatclub "Be Careful What You Wish For" - 13.5 7 10.25
    Arachne "A Matter of Substance" 8 19.5 17.5 15
    Epimetheus "Snow Angel" 12 17.5 13 14.166
    Megan Pearson "Footprints in the Snow" 9 - 13 11
    Kebe "Left Behind" 7 17.5 9 11.166
    Roac "Ascending" 15 13.5 10.5 13
    Ibb "Something's Ishy" 3 7 3 4.333

    Which means that


    takes it with

    "A Matter Of Substance"

    followed by
    "Snow Angel"



    Closing out the three, we have

    Brought to us by


    Well done to you all and thank you for getting into the spirit of this comp. Thanks also to the judges. To those of you who didn't get the scores you wanted, don't despair. Personally I thought the lower scoring one was one of my favourites, with a cracking voice, totally irreverent, wild and crazy, yet smart and creative and very original. Every reader is different, every reaction is different, so keep on at it with your ideas and stories. Thanks once again!

    PS: you may note that one judge's score is missing. Sadly these were not submitted so I had to go with what I had. Still, 3 out of 4 is not bad.
    PPS: all stories came in < 650 when I counted so no DQs
    Last edited by bdcharles; March 4th, 2019 at 02:18 PM.

    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge

    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"


    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous


    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!

  2. #2
    Congrats Arachne. Seems i'm becoming a second place specialist. Tried something different for the beginning, didn't quite work. Thanks to the judges, plenty of good advice to try to incorporate into the next entry, and thanks to the organisers.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2018
    Congratulations Arachne! Also, a big thank you to the judges for their work and invaluable feedback.

  4. #4
    Well done everyone and thanks judges for the lovely, and very helpful, comments. Thanks also for your hard work, and, as always, thanks to the wonderful bd for being... wonderful.

    epimethius, I thought your story was great. It had a horrible, but casual and eerie feel to it, which I hope you were going for. I thought you would win with it.

    Sue, I thought your description of the baby rabbit as a nugget was genius, and it has really stayed with me. It shows how every single word used can make a difference. It was a very serene story, too, managing to actually encompass the feeling of snow.


  5. #5
    Supervisor velo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Probably on a boat in Puget Sound
    Blog Entries
    A note on word count, MS Word is the default word count "authority." Word does count hyphenated words as one so if you use a different programme you may get a different count.
    My blog- Hidden Content thoughts on trauma and healing through psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy

    "When a child is abused, he or she will often internalise that abuse as deserved. It is a cruel reality that a child needs the parent so much, is evolutionarily programmed to trust them so implicitly, that when a parent is abusive the child will take the blame rather than completely upend their world and blame the person they depend on for survival." -velo

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by velo View Post
    A note on word count, MS Word is the default word count "authority." Word does count hyphenated words as one so if you use a different programme you may get a different count.
    First of all congrats to Arachne. Not sure why I was so off kilter with the other judges, but well done. I knew mine was so-so but at least I wasn't last (close though). btw, nothing wrong with being last.

    Velo, I wordcount myself with my eyes and mind because my MS Word is too often incorrect. It'll get individual sentences right but not the whole. My version of MS Word doesn't count two hyphenated words as one but I know some versions do, hence my comments.
    Anyway, I wasn't aware of this "authority" rule but I'll know for next time.

  7. #7
    Congratulations to the awesome Arachne, epimetheus and Roac! You guys rock! I'm so impressed with the work here, and thanks to the judges, as always, for taking the time to give us what we need to succeed - next time! LOL.
    When the night has come
    And the land is dark
    And the moon is the only light we'll see
    No, I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
    Just as long as you stand by me.

  8. #8
    Congrats Arachne! Very well done!

    And thanks to the judges for volunteering their time and for the fantastic comments!

  9. #9
    Supervisor velo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Probably on a boat in Puget Sound
    Blog Entries

    I can't seem to find it now but I definitely recall reading in the guide that word count was determined by MS Word. Wondering if this has been changed? My apologies if so
    My blog- Hidden Content thoughts on trauma and healing through psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy

    "When a child is abused, he or she will often internalise that abuse as deserved. It is a cruel reality that a child needs the parent so much, is evolutionarily programmed to trust them so implicitly, that when a parent is abusive the child will take the blame rather than completely upend their world and blame the person they depend on for survival." -velo

  10. #10
    Congrats to everyone--it's a win to write a story to the prompt and wordcount and deadline, and then to submit it. I enjoyed reading them all. Well done to Arachne, whose story I particularly liked.

    ETA--meant to add I'm very impressed with the care and depth of comment given by the judges. Awesome work.

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