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Grand Fiction Challenge 2021 Results (2 Viewers)

Harper J. Cole

Creative Area Specialist (Speculative Fiction)
Staff member
Chief Mentor
Ladies and gentlemen, the results for the 2021 contest are in!

StoryveloRalph
Rotten
ClarkNon ServiamOlly BuckleAverage
Off Script - Mish111414101412.6
The Mildest Glancing Blow - bdcharles16.51113181214.1
Torah - Tim101714141313.6
Out of Time - SueC-1415151414.5
Things Will Never Be The Same - jenthepen141918141816.6
The Valley of Decision or How Mars Came to Be - ArrowInTheBowOfTheLord18.51317171716.5
What Goes Around - Foxee10.51414161513.9
STORMBRINGER - B4B101616141614.4
Last March of King Charles - CyberWar14.51514151314.3
Sunsets over Red Skies - rcallaci141317141414.4
Sky Burial - epimetheus19.51317151716.3
Earnest - thepancreas112012171618DQ
Goodbye - Razzy151916161616.4

I'm grateful to thepancreas11, who informed me that they'd sent in an entry after incorrectly believing that they'd qualified. I'll be sure to check entries against the list of invitees in future years.

So, these are the winners...

1st place
Things Will Never Be The Same by jenthepen
$50

2nd place
The Valley of Decision or How Mars Came to Be by ArrowInTheBowOfTheLord
$20

3rd place
Goodbye by Razzy

People's Choice poll winner
Torah by Tim
$20

Many congratulations to all of you! (Especially Jen, who becomes the first two-time winner of the GFC)
:champagne: :champagne: :champagne:

Thanks to all 13 contestants. For those who didn't qualify this time around, remember that you can be eligible for our 2022 contest by competing in the monthly Literary Maneuvers challenges: the March contest is already open! You can also qualify by judging (you need to have judged at least once in 2021 and at least five times overall).


Finally, my deepest gratitude to our quintet of judges: velo, Ralph Rotten, Clark, Non Serviam and Olly Buckle, for their time and skill this year! You can find their comments below...

[spoiler2="velo"]
Off Script
SPaG:4
T&V:3
Eval: 2
Reac: 2
Overall: 11



I initially though 'hoover-car' was a typo so I'm glad you used it twice. A couple that I did catch were 'monotonously' and 'and countless restructure affected redundancies.' The latter needs a hyphen or other punctuation to make sense.

I did not connect with this. I felt that writing out multiple ads was distracting and unnecessary. The voice, while consistent, was not engaging. This felt like it was made up of multiple, unrelated sections.

The prompt felt tangential and awkwardly shoved in there just to have the words in the story; the rest of piece didn't seemed to have nothing to do with it.








The Mildest Glancing Blow
SPaG: 4.5
T&V: 4
Eval:4
Reac:4
Overall: 16.5



"what freaked on the astronauts" assume that should be 'out.' I feel like the first two sentences should have been one, with a semi-colon in between.

Some brilliant stuff in here. I really enjoyed the take on the prompt, a passing black hole pulls hard enough to yank the Earth out of orbit.

I struggled with the voice a bit and had to re-read a couple times to get comfortable with it and try to get into what you were seeing in your head. I think I got close but still, the voice feels a bit too light and glib for the subject matter. I don't feel like the initial question on no-win situations was ever fleshed out. Obviously, the whole world is in a no-win situation, but I wanted the question itself addressed again or answered and it never was. As it stands, I think the question could easily be removed to improve the beginning.

I enjoyed several turns of phrase and ideas in this: cosmic billiards, hours existing only in watches, and the first full paragraph.








Torah
SPaG: 4
T&V: 2
Eval:2
Reac:2
Overall: 10



"Har Sinai (Mount Sinai)" I really dislike parenthetical translation in a story, it immediately takes the reader out of the scene. I much prefer you pick a version and use it, explain in context if you feel the need. And the translations of the planets, just no. Moses would not have known those words so why are they even there? We would have figured it out, and should have been allowed to, from context because there was plenty of it for us to understand. The second sentence goes on for far too long.


No impact on score but my inner Einstein is cringing at this wording "The closer you get to a massive gravitational force the faster time slows."


The use of "Goldilocks" in a biblical setting is entirely out of place. I know what the Goldilocks Zone is, but a different phrasing should have been used given that Goldilocks would not be written about for several thousand years from the time of this setting.

This was a great idea, a fantastic one to be honest, but a not-so-great execution. You spoon-fed the reader things in ways that were jarring and completely unnecessary and there was far too much exposition from the tablet. Unfortunately, this doesn't work on a lot of levels.








Out of Time
SPaG: 0
T&V: 0
Eval: 0
Reac: 0
Overall: 0



This is a retelling of the Medieval morality play "The Summoning of the Everyman." After some discussion I chose not to critique or score the writing in any way because the plot and characters are only slightly changed from the original. The only real change I see is the removal of religion. Unfortunately, I cannot regard this as an original piece of fiction and therefore cannot consider it for this competition.

I did note that there was a reference to the original at the end showing that the author was not attempting to pass this as their own idea.











Things Will Never be the Same
SPaG: 3.5
T&V: 4.5
Eval: 3
Reac: 3
Overall: 14





A couple spelling and capitalisation issues and some awkward punctuation around some quotes. "Told me to chill" feels a bit modern, that usage didn't come about until the 70s and this reads like it's somewhere in the 50s. Same for the use of "slow motion video," though it's not completely anachronistic the usage feels out of place.

Voice was consistent throughout the piece.


A lot of tropes in here, so much so that I feel like I've read similar stories many times. I could have done with a little less exposition but overall a good attempt.








The Valley of Decision
or
How Mars Came to Be

SPaG: 4.5
T&V: 5
Eval: 4.5
Reac: 4.5
Overall: 18.5



Didn't catch any major SPaG errors and the voice was consistent and very appropriate for the story, often using an archaic-sounding cadence and word use that was spot-on for a mythological tale such as this without getting overburdened by vocabulary.


However, there were a couple nits I picked with a couple phrases. "It said something in a language Ecks did know, voice clear as lightning." From context "did not" makes more sense. The second half after the comma is missing an "its" or "with a" to make it flow better.

It didn't factor into scoring, but I could have done without the second title.

Overall this was very well done, excellent world and mythos building. I can imagine this tale being told around a fire to wide-eyed children by an elder acting out the scene of the hero Havtan Ecks who stood alone against the Consort of Diashna. It incorporates sci-fi with mythology extremely well.








What Goes Around
SPaG: 3
T&V: 2.5
Eval: 2.5
Reac: 2.5
Overall: 10.5



"She seasoned chicken breasts with agnosticism regarding salt and pepper.." I found this wording extremely awkward, bordering on inappropriate usage of 'agnosticism.' Also a double period at the end.
" Mothering had hollowed Ana out like a Russian doll with her children removed." I get the metaphor but 'mothering' and 'children' are actually contradictory in this context. Something like "smaller dolls" would have worked better.
"Now feeding this boy would reduce her." Incomplete sentence.

Overall, this piece was a jumble. I get what you were going for, but it never came together. The purplish prose in the first section was very off-putting. It didn't fit well especially once the scene changed. The voice was all over the place, even accounting for the change in scenes/context.




Part of the problem is that Ana is unlikable and petty in the very beginning. When the scene shifts you've already made empathy with her a challenge and that continued through the rest of the story.






Stormbringer
SPaG: 4
T&V: 2
Eval: 2
Reac: 2
Overall: 10

It was an interesting choice to only submit 585 words, less even than the regular LM limit. Even so, there are still a fair few similes and flowery descriptions. Though consistent, the voice was a bit much; in the end it felt like there was a lot of style over substance. This needed more depth.


In the first paragraph you describe the skies as burning, crimson, and cloudy but also as "cerulean glass." I think you're trying to describe the cloud front moving across the sky but that could have been made a little clearer. This is cleared up near the end.

The fifth paragraph has a tremendously long sentence with multiple commas and a semi-colon with another comma after that.

I think you tried a bit too hard with wording. In the same sentence you have "flakes of brimstone wafting to my chest" and "I hurtle through the burning desert at two-hundred miles per hour." How can something waft when you're going 200mph? I appreciate an artful phrasing as much as the next person, but not when the words don't fit the scene/context.








Last March of King Charles
SPaG: 4.5
T&V: 4
Eval: 4
Reac: 2
Overall: 14.5





"The drums beat a slow march, a thousand boots treading the snow to their beat." Beat used twice in the opening sentence to mean the same thing. Something like 'rythm' for the second one would have worked better.




Didn't note any other SPaG issues. Voice was consistent and appropriate for the context but there was a fair bit of unnecessary exposition in my view. Other that that it was well-written from a strictly technical view.


However, very little happens in this piece. It reads very dry and failed to engage my interest. There is nothing here to make an emotional connection with. There was a fair amount of unnecessary detail and explanation; at times it felt more like reading a textbook then a piece of fiction. Example- " ...private Piponen, a Karelian by birth..." His being a Karelin by birth is completely extraneous.






Sunsets of Red Skies
SPaG: 5
T&V: 2
Eval: 4
Reac: 3
Overall: 14



No SPaG issues noted.


I had some issues with the voice. "If I had a physical body I would have shat and peed myself" and "Any warrior worth his salt knows when to surrender against insurmountable odds" as examples. From context this appears to be a late-Medieval Japanese warlord, presumably Samurai, who at the beginning of the story commits seppuku to retain his honor after a military defeat. Surrender is cowardly under the code of Bushido, soiling oneself in fear would also be dishonourable. This phrasing does not jibe with what one would expect from a Samurai, some of it feels almost flippant. In addition to being warriors, they were artists and poets. I would expect more eloquence from the MC than "other intestinal slop" as an example.




Despite the voice, an interesting take on the prompt and technically good writing.








Sky Burial
SPaG:5
T&V:5
Eval: 4.5
Reac: 5
Overall: 19.5



No SPaG issues to be found, voice was consistent and appropriate, not too much of any one thing but not taking me out of the scene.


Very nicely done. Shades of Victorian gothic, Frankenstein, ghost stories, but all wound together in a delightful way. The professional/scientific antagonism between the two was a nice touch. The only thing I didn't understand is why she laid down in position to be re-animated when she had asked to return to her rest. Did she know the experiment would fail? I really dislike too much exposition but weaving that in might have helped me over that bump.

I laughed at "Hell's blazes, not again" after that epitaph.


This was the right balance between description and advancing the plot. A fun read, thanks.








Earnest
SPaG: 5
T&V: 5
Eval: 5
Reac: 5
Overall: 20





"Pretend we’re at an RV show". That was a brilliant phrase, it was funny and told us so much about the character and the relationship in 6 words. I felt the characters fully take form in my mind as I read that.

I don't think I've ever given a 20 before, if I have it's been a long time, and I only do so when I find absolutely nothing off about the writing or the story. What strikes me about this piece is that you use very simple writing and yet I feel like I know so much about these characters. You used the dialogue and a few small bits of action quite cleverly to paint a picture of this couple, inserting their personalities subtly and to great effect. This is entirely "show" and zero "tell."

There is no backstory, nothing extraneous here, just a scene playing out between two people whom we get to know surprisingly well in 1k words. This was perfectly done.








Goodbye
SPaG: 5
T&V: 3
Eval: 4
Reac: 3
Overall: 15





No SPaG issues that I found. Voice was consistent but bland and difficult to engage with. No points taken off because the forum formatting can be a challenge but there were some paragraphing issues at the end.

I found the onomatopoeia quite distracting. "Alarms blared" or "phone rang" is more than sufficient to put the sound in our heads. Writing the sounds out took some of the drama out of this.

I should have been teary-eyed at the end, but I wasn't. For me the issue is that the scene is obviously constructed for that, so much so that the plot felt cliché and forced, but the underlying connection-building between the readers and the characters doesn't happen. It's like the old phrase, "respect is earned, not given freely." I won't care unless you give me something to care about and these characters were never more than 1-dimensional to me. Just because this is a dramatic scene wasn't enough to bring this couple off the page.


[/spoiler2]

[spoiler2="Ralph Rotten"]
"Title" Off Script
Author


Review: Although this was a fascinating story of a very potential future, the story nearly died in utero. The presence of errors in the beginning of the story (hovercar misspelled, and 68C is 158F) had the effect of making me view this work with a more critical eye. The concept was tantalizing, but it had a rocky start. The repeated erroneous use of the word ‘seating’ gave the impression that possibly English was the author’s second language (in which case; bravo.)
This author should continue to develop their style; they have solid potential.


Summarise your thoughts here


SPaG: 3/5
T&V: 4/5
Evaluation: 3/5
Reaction: 4/5
Total: 14/20
---------------------------------

"Title" The Mildest Glancing Blow
Author


Review: This story rambled a lot and was hard to follow. I felt as if it would have been better suited as a part of a much bigger story…but alone it did not stand on its own. I never felt vested in the narrator or any of the characters.


Summarise your thoughts here


SPaG: 5/5
T&V: 2/5
Evaluation: 2/5
Reaction: 2/5
Total: 11/20

----------------------------------------
"Title" Torah
Author


Review: This was a delightful little creationist story, marred only by some basic formatting issues. The opening paragraph had some run-ons going on there, but could easily be cleaned up so it reads properly. Also the material on the tablet itself was very fascinating, but had been formatted in such a way that I thought it was just narration. Personally, I would have put the tablet info into an indented & centered block as if it were the tablet itself, so to give the reader better perspective. Fix those, and this would be a great story for an anthology.


Summarise your thoughts here


SPaG: 3/5
T&V: 5/5
Evaluation: 5/5
Reaction: 4/5
Total: 17/20
----------------------------------------------------

"Title" Out of Time
Author


Review: This read like a classic Greek or Roman parable. Although the opening paragraph was clumsy, the story shaped up well. I would like to have seen a bit more introduction of the neighbor, but there is the contest’s word limit to contend with. It would have been interesting to read this story without any limit to the word count.


Summarise your thoughts here


SPaG: 5/5
T&V: 4/5
Evaluation: 3/5
Reaction: 2/5
Total: 14/20
-------------------------------------------------

"Title" The Valley of Decision
or
How Mars Came to Be
Author


Review: I liked how this story was written in an old-timey cadence, as if it were torn from the pages of an ancient text. I also liked how the hero Ecks came to be identified with Mars. However, the story was difficult to follow because the opening paragraph did not introduce the the two characters properly. Ideally, during an intro you want to talk about one person per paragraph. But in this opening frame, both Havtan and Console are introduced, and even contrasted, but the reader is left to rely on the attributions to tell one from another. If they had been more solid in my mind, the story would have flowed much better.


Summarise your thoughts here


SPaG: 5/5
T&V: 3/5
Evaluation: 2/5
Reaction: 3/5
Total: 13/20
---------------------------------------------------

"Title" What Goes Around
Author


Review: This story had great potential as the base story was intriguing. Really this story
smacked of a budgeting issue: the words that should have been spent better illustrating the characters (Anna & Charles) were instead used in a long dialog session at the end of the story. I would have cut the dialog with the agent down to the bare bones and focused on bringing the characters to life (as well as tweaking the scene transitions.)
Summarise your thoughts here


SPaG: 5/5
T&V: 4/5
Evaluation: 3/5
Reaction: 2/5
Total: 14/20

-------------------------------------------------
Title: STORMBRINGER
Review: This story started out like gangbusters. The voice was clear, the world was easy to visualize, and we could all see what a fix the world was in. However it all started to fall apart when the words appeared in the smoke. This writer has a solid mechanical control over their writing (although they could do with less adjectives). It just felt like they ran out of time or inspiration at the end and rushed the close of the story. Clean it up and it would make a great tale for an anthology.

SPaG: 5/5
T&V: 5/5
Evaluation: 3/5
Reaction: 3/5
Total: 16/20
---------------------------------------------------
Title: Things Will Never Be The Same
Review: I would rate this story as pick of the litter. It flowed smoothly, the characters were well illustrated, there were no hangups in the telling of the story, and the voice was clear. Aside from a few typos, this was a publish-ready story. Creepy but well written.
SPaG: 5/5
T&V: 5
Evaluation: 5/5
Reaction: 4/5
Total: 19
-----------------------------------------------
Title: Last March of King Charles
Review: This was a well written piece that seemed more like a scene taken from a larger story than an independent short. The author did a good job of creating a polished world. It took me a few lines to get an idea WHEN this happened, but otherwise it flowed well.
SPaG: 5/5
T&V: 4/5
Evaluation: 3/5
Reaction: 3/5
Total: 15
----------------------
Title: Sunsets over Red Skies
Review: The author was able to tell quite a large story in only a thousand words; kudos on that. On the other side of the equation, the word I was badly over-used and gave the last few paragraphs a repetitive flavor. More showing and less telling. The story has promise tho.
SPaG: 4/5
T&V:3//5
Evaluation: 3/5
Reaction: 3/5
Total:13

----------------------
Title: Sky Burial
Review: Mary Shelley would have found this story quite fascinating, and it was even written in a style reminiscent of that long-ago era. This author has potential, but they really need to loosen up and be less formal. Also, less five dollar words.
SPaG:5/5
T&V:2/5
Evaluation:3/5
Reaction: 3/5
Total:13
----------------------
Title: Earnest
Review: Mechanically this was a solid story. But it really didn’t go anywhere at the end. I never got a clear idea of what they were going to see, or even the relationship between the two characters. With a 1000 word limit, an author has to be prudent how they spend their budget, and in this story it was primarily devoted to moving the characters around the bus (rather than developing the characters.) Always remember that you don’t have to illustrate every footfall or physical action. Only include those things that progress the story or illustrate the characters.
SPaG: 4/5
T&V:2/5
Evaluation: 3/5
Reaction: 3/5
Total:12
----------------------
Title: Goodbye
Review: This story did a pretty good job of using dialog to tell the real story here (the love story, not the shuttle crash story). It focused on the characters as any good character driven story should, and put the reader in the middle of a tearful farewell. Clean up the first two paragraphs and it would be worthy of a place in a published anthology.
SPaG: 5/5
T&V: 5/5
Evaluation: 4/5
Reaction: 5/5
Total:19
[/spoiler2]

[spoiler2="Clark"]
My apologies for the absence of commentary. If anyone wishes, I'd gladly do so for their story in a PM






GRAND FICTION CHALLENGE


28 FEBRUARY 2021


JUDGE clark cook
TITLESPAGTONE/VOICEEFFECTTOTAL
1. Off Script24814
2.The Mildest Glancing Blow33713
3.Torah43714
4.Out of Time44715
5.Things will Never Be The Same55818
6. The Valley of Decision44816
7. What Goes Around43714
8. Storm54716
9. Last March of King Charles43714
10. Sunsets Over Red Skies44917
11. Sky Burial54817
12. Earnest55717
13. Goodbye.54716
[/spoiler2]

[spoiler2="Non Serviam"]
NS's scores and commentary:


A Blaze in the Northern Sky


OFF SCRIPT
This dystopian piece was so replete with comma splices and other distracting stylistic gaucheries (e.g. "hoover-craft" for "hovercraft") that I struggled to focus on the plot. Apart from a brief mention in paragraph three, I felt as if the piece was quite disconnected from the prompt.

Spag 2
T&V 3
Effect 5
TOTAL 10


THE MILDEST GLANCING BLOW
I found this piece very clever, and as I reflected on it after reading, I kept recalling more clever little details. Writing a story in second person present tense is bloody hard, and I loved the thought-provoking asides. My favourite was the watch that's the only place where hours exist. Thanks for making the prompt so central to the plot. This is my pick for best piece.


Spag 5
T&V 5
Effect 8
TOTAL 18


THINGS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME
A marvellously dark and sinister piece, this. I felt that this submission was only tangentially related to the prompt, although I did note the brief mention in the first line.


Spag 4
T&V 4
Effect 6
TOTAL 14


TORAH
The juxtaposition of science fiction and religious origin story is a fruitful source of plot ideas, and I enjoyed this piece: thanks for the read. I marked you down a point for saying "lightening" when you meant "lightning". Without that howler, this would have been a 15.


Spag 3
T&V 4
Effect 7
TOTAL 14


OUT OF TIME
An allegorical, allusional piece that's very current. Topical and pleasantly morbid. My only criticism is that the "Northern sky" aspect seemed a little forced in to me.


Spag 4
T&V 4
Effect 7
TOTAL 15


THE VALLEY OF DECISION
Whimsical, with a delectable frisson of myth. Well done for packing in so much world-building and character development into such a small word-count. This is my pick for second-best piece.


Spag 5
T&V 5
Effect 7
TOTAL 17


WHAT GOES AROUND
A story with a moral -- and quite a sophisticated one, which like the previous story, makes excellent use of a limited word count. As I was reading, I never knew where the story was going. This is my pick for third place.


Spag 5
T&V 5
Effect 6
TOTAL 16


STORMBRINGER
Although apocalyptic and dark in tone, by comparison with the others this piece seems strangely lightweight in world-building and character development, because you only used about half the allotted word-count. There was room for an entire extra scene, and maybe even two; and it's a shame because I do feel that if you'd used them, then this piece could have been very highly placed.


Spag 5
T&V 4
Effect 5
TOTAL 14


THE LAST MARCH OF KING CHARLES
I like speculative fiction, but it was a refreshing change to read something that wasn't, and I immediately saw the connection between "A Light in the Northern Sky" and King Charles XII of Sweden. I thought your content was excellent throughout and I've given you a massive 8 for that. Stylistically, the piece suffers from a fairly extreme case of said-bookism, incorrectly-formatted dialogue in several places, and a general failure to capitalize military ranks (it shouldn't be private Piponen but Private Piponen; not corporal Svante but Corporal Svante); without these issues, this piece could have been my top pick.


Spag 3
T&V 4
Effect 8
TOTAL 15


SUNSETS OVER RED SKIES
I enjoyed the ironic portrayal of the character who capitulates to the Wind Demon at the drop of a hat but still thinks of himself as a paragon of honour. The website TV Tropes has coined the word "gorn", as a portmanteau of "gore" and "porn", a description which exactly fits the first four sentences of this piece.


Spag 4
T&V 4
Effect 6
TOTAL 14


SKY BURIAL
I loved the speculative fiction in-jokes: the professor's surname, the Mary Shelley references, reversing the polarity, etc. Thanks for causing me to reach for my dictionary with the word "anastomosis", as well.


Spag 5
T&V 4
Effect 6
TOTAL 15


EARNEST
Wholesome, heartwarming, the ending maybe a little too saccharine for my taste, but a well-crafted, writerly piece nonetheless. Heavy use of dialogue always allows plenty of character-building within a restricted word count, and this was thoroughly exploited here. I'll go ahead and say this piece is the work of an experienced, accomplished writer.


Spag 5
T&V 5
Effect 6
TOTAL 16


GOODBYE
I found this piece impressionistic, like a painting made in real time. The simplicity of the situation, the inevitability of the ending, allowed you to focus completely on the characters and the relationship between them. As with the previous piece, the heavy use of dialogue gives character development. I think you could rework it into a pretty good script.


Spag 5
T&V 5
Effect 6
TOTAL 16
[/spoiler2]

[spoiler2="Olly Buckle"]

'Off Script'


SPAG 3
T&V 3
Eval. 4
React.4


Total 14 points




“Drive, work!” barked Stephen as he reclined in the front seat of his driverless hoover-craft car.


You are trying to make him sound brusque, so I would leave out ‘as he’, did you mean ‘hover-craft’? If not ‘Hoover’ is too close to a brand name associated with air fans.


The holo-screen dashboard went into a frenzy for a brief moment as the GPS map flashed a number of optimal destinations before settling on the fastest route.


Moments are always brief, it is a sort of repetition.
It flashed through the destinations before settling on the route? Surely it settled on a destination, then the route to that destination, that seems to be what the next sentence implies.


Stephen focused into the distance, recollecting his thoughts for the day ahead.


That strikes me as possibly a well known American phrase, my reaction is that he was looking into the distance focused on nothing, thinking, which makes ‘focused into the distance’ seem a bit daft, but I can see that may be an English way of looking at it. Recollecting doesn't seem quite right either, 'Going over'?


Stephen braised himself for the audacious private ads that lay ahead.


Braised / braced.


wheezed the shouty announcement with joyful holographic couples.


Make your mind up, wheezy or shouty? It usually makes a phrase weaker the more you qualify it, compare to ‘Shouted the announcement’. You then need a comma before ‘with’. Without it the couples were also shouting.


No sooner the words faded as the new advertisement appeared.


Now that is a truly American construction ! We Brits would say “No sooner had the words faded than …” Not censuring 'as', but I think it really needs 'had'.


From there Stephen went on a tunnel journey down the esophagus


Oesophagus / esophogus


“You have arrived at your destination,” interrupted the car computer as it self-parked the hoover-craft car. Stephen exited with a sigh of relief and entered his work building.


Missing a comma after 'computer
That seems so stilted, why wouldn’t you say ‘Stephen got out with a sigh of relief and went into work’? Maybe you are trying too hard.


Inside was crowded with a mix of humans and droids scurrying about. Their grey shaped bodies moved monotonously. Among this motion heap it was hard to tell which shapes were mechanical and which organic. Except for one shape in the distance. It was a woman seating quietly on a bench, unaffected by the crowds in front of her. Stephen approached her and she winked. Her wink caught him by surprise. Afraid to appear indecent Stephen hurried into his office.


Are they scurrying or moving monotonously?
‘Except for one shape in the distance’ is part of the preceding sentence, it is only a fragment alone; comma not period.
Seating / sat, sitting, or seated, even in America I think.


“Stephen Sykes!” shouted the secretary. “Mister Gulliver wants to see you.”
Comma after 'secretary'


'Continued' does not seem right, continued what?


“At least a dozen offices were being automated with droids replacing human workers, various bits of equipment and asset movements and countless restructure affected redundancies” This is not working, an ‘and’ instead of a comma in the list, if they are countless the restructures need to be plural, and I think you mean effected not affected


The same woman seating quietly on a bench.


Seating again, I checked Google to see if it is acceptable US English, not shown.


“Override motor functions five seven eight nine,” said Stephen without realizing he said it out laud.


Laud / loud


“We need to start issuing patched company cars to our automaters,” thought Gulliver without saying it out laud.


Laud / loud again. I thought it might be a typo first time.


A nice story well told, the prompt does not feature greatly, but the use seems quite appropriate, a few small punctuation errors and spellings. Some places it was a little wordy in an unnecessary way, but nothing terrible, dialogue was generally good, and a good conclusion, entertaining, thank you.

The Mildest Glancing Blow


SPAG 5


T&V 3


EVAL. 3


React 1


total 12


More a collection of end of the world disaster scenes than a story. Inconsistencies, the 'sole survivor' goes on to meet another, babies are born, etc. A black hole is a different sort of cosmic event from a glancing blow. It fitted the prompt well, but that was not enough for me.

Torah

SPAG 4

T&V 2

EVAL, 3

REACT 4

A few minor spag elements, a missing letter, a colon that I felt should have been a semicolon, God not capitalised at one point.

The reference to the prompt was not good, and there were so many unbelievable elements; There is no evidence Sinai was a volcano, the idea that an alien would be writing in Hebrew script over three and a half billion years ago, there is no explanation of why Mars was depleted, other than they moved all the water to a still molten earth, stone does not become brittle with age, metres and kilometres are a seventeenth century invention, the inevitability of the evolution of mammals, which is dependent on the last great extinction, having a sapphire stone that size handy.
It is a story, so some of that is excusable, it is just a bit much all together. I liked the idea of the old man adapting things to his own vision, and it did seem a cohesive, proper story though.


Out of Time

SPAG 5

T&V 3

EVAL 3

REACT3

TOTAL 14

I liked the nod to early 'Everyman' stories. There was nothing preceding to make me expect his generosity to his neighbour. The opposite in fact, which jarred a little. The prompt seemed worked in as an afterthought with no explanation why dawn came up in the North that day, taking the prompt out of the story would, I felt, improve it considerably if you ever use it elsewhere.

Things will never be the same

SPAG 4

T&V 5

EVAL 4

REACT 5

Total 18

For SPAG there was one typo 'At first, it felt good that al I had created all this chaos', and some commas I would take issue with. The voice worked very well, the short sentences seemed right for the character. It was convincing and readable. Probably the way a boy like that would talk in reality would not be coherent and readable, but you made it seem real. Loved the final lines, it gave the moral without being pointedly moralistic about it. He was taking no responsibility for his actions, past or future.

Valley of Decision

SPAG 4

T&V 4

Eval 4

React 5

TOTAL 17

An excellent story that used the prompt seamlessly. SPAG . "Diashna, you coward, you crawling filth; you imposter, you liar, you whore" why a semicolon in a list with commas? And another list,
"Twice-mountain tall, fiery, with wings of chromium-plated steel and eyes spinning round them in orbit, and the rocks melted beneath their feet." with a double 'and'. Sometimes you use the 'Oxford' comma before the final 'and', sometimes not. Either is acceptable, but it should be consistent. Generally I loved your phrasing, but here may I suggest,

'Twice-mountain tall, fiery, with wings of chromium-plated steel, eyes spun round them in orbit, rocks melted beneath their feet.'
For me less is more.

For interest check out impostor / imposter. One is taken as 'correct;, but both deemed acceptable.

What Goes Around

SPAG 4


T&V 4


EVAL 4


REACT 3


TOTAL 15


I found this difficult to score, at the first reading I barely understood it, second much better, by the third I was quite liking it, and by the time I was finished with it I was thoroughly enjoying. I decided that I had to mark it down slightly though, there should be initial impact.
"In the kitchen she stashed groceries, except for tonight's ingredients, without enthusiasm."
This struck me as awkward, the subordinate clause would have worked better earlier in my opinion.
"In the kitchen, except for tonight's ingredients, she stashed groceries without enthusiasm."


SPAG wise, there is a typo of a double stop after salt and pepper. Your use of the dash is incorrect.
She heard him laugh – heard him! – and he spoke.
She heard him laugh; heard him! And he spoke.
Semicolon for the repetition, exclamation mark means a new sentence.
And here,
I, ANA BAKER, the undersigned, do agree to –
It should be an ellipsis to signify missing words ( ... )
Minor things that I might have marked four and a half if I could, but I gave you the benefit on the evaluation.


Your use of the prompt was appropriate, but I did feel there would be an awful lot of flashes in the Northern sky if MSI is doing its job thoroughly :)

Stormbringer

SPAG 4

T&V 4

EVAL 4

REACT 4

Total 16

'like a howling hot-red streak.' What is it with you guys? there is nothing wrong with commas 'like a hot, red streak. That is your first 'Like', then you have 'like the curve of a master's pen', and, 'like an all-consuming star'. I know which one I would Keep, the one important to the story. You do it again, and forget your comma!
" screeching through the canyons like a laser-bullet wind tearing at my face—what is that? "
' screeching through the canyons like a laser bullet, wind tearing at my face. What is that?
That works for me, maybe even ... like a laser, bullet wind tearing ...

One things for sure, you nailed the prompt :)

Last March of King Charles


SPAG 2

T&V 3

EVAL 3

REACT 5

"As the banner unfurled fully in a stronger gust of wind every now and then, it revealed the yellow Nordic cross adorning it to the last rays of the setting sun."
An awkward construction , and that comma does not work for me. My advice is make two sentences if it is too long. For example,
The banner unfurled fully in a stronger gust of wind every now and then. This revealed the yellow Nordic cross adorning it to the last rays of the setting sun .

"flying proudly over the ranks of azure-clad warriors beneath whose kingdom it symbolized."
Needs a comma after 'beneath'

"But those days were long gone"
I know starting sentences with words like 'but' and 'and' is not so frowned on nowadays, but it is quite unnecessary, as is the ''Now' starting the next sentence. Generally things are stronger if they are not qualified, look,
Those days were long gone. All that was left to the men who bore it was sorrow, grief, and bittersweet memories of better times.

This whole section is filled with ornate language, more suited to a description of a triumph or banquet, I would be going for 'bleak' and saving words that could be used elsewhere. To give a little more background to the Northern War for example. Compare,

"As the first stars lit in the darkening winter sky, church bells began to ring in the distance. Messengers travelling ahead of the regiment had already made known its pending arrival and purpose. Teary-eyed peasants stood by the roadside with their hats removed as the soldiers marched past. Even more than a few of the battle-hardened soldiers had tears rolling down their cheeks criscrossed with old battle scars."

With,

Stars lit in the winter sky as church bells rang in the distance. Messengers had announced the regiment's pending arrival and purpose. Teary-eyed peasants stood by the road, bareheaded, as the soldiers marched past. More than a few veterans had tears rolling down cheeks crossed with scars.

That is a big saving. You don't need to say the sky is darkening if the stars are coming out. The messengers will be travelling ahead if they are announcing the pending arrival, and the scars of soldiers will likely be battle scars if they are relevant. Most people do not realise that Sweden was an Empire, controlling the Baltic and denying Russia access to the sea. Give yourself a bit of room to tell more of what had been lost.

"with no badges of rank besides an officer's saber,"
'other than', it can not be beside the nonexistent.

"hide the huge jagged hole in his temple, left by the shot that had brought his life"
You don't do well with commas 'huge, jagged, hole in his temple', and it brought him death, or bought his life. There is nothing 'mere' or stray' about a grape shot that kills the King, it was catastrophic and deadly accurate if anything.

"The night sky above was ablaze with red northern lights that bent and twisted, sometimes resembling fiery riders racing across the heavens."
Here is where you should have let yourself go in my opinion,
The night sky arching above their heads was ablaze with red northern lights. They bent and twisted, resembling fiery steeds racing across the heavens, bearing brave warriors in headlong ...
You get the picture, you are really good at that sort of writing, but it needs to be in the appropriate place.

I know I have gone on a bit. I appreciate you written a flowing, continuous story, and used the prompt really well, I have expanded on my judgments in hope you find it all of some use.

Sunsets Over Red Skies


SPAG 3

T&V 4

EVAL 4

REACT 3

Total 14

"Honor is all I had left"
Tense issue, 'was all'

"short knife deep"
If it is short it won't go deep, try 'hilt deep' maybe.

"It was just a matter of seconds before my life blinked out into oblivion."
I know it is only a story, but when people were drawn and quartered they would be alive long enough to watch the executioner gather their entrails and burn them in a fire in front of them, a gory detail for you.
I always comment when people start a sentence with 'and' or 'but', usually it is redundant and they could just leave it out, here it is not the case, but that means it really should be a comma before it.

"The Demon Lord grabbed my spirit-body and lifted me up to its eye level."
Nothing actually wrong here, but words are precious, look,
The Demon Lord grabbed my spirit-body and lifted me to eye level."
If it lifted you it must be 'up', and it wouldn't be anyone else's eye level. A couple of words here and there like that add up to the chance to create something extra.

" I was looking up at this giant demon I only read about in fairytales and saw in nightmares as a child."
I think the three sentences starting 'I was ...' is probably a deliberate device, but this one is weak and does not work as well, I want something like '... a giant demon of fairy tales and children's nightmares' . Definitely not 'this', it's too like 'So there's this demon, right.', and fairy tale is two words. Hmm.

“You’ll be one of my champions,"
"You’ll command my legions"
The Demon who says 'Kneel unto me' and demands 'Absolute fealty' should say 'You will' in full, not in an abbreviated form.

"where I was a servant to one of its grand minions."
Grand and minion do not sit well together, I think you have the wrong word, try 'one of its grandees'

" to give amends those who died"
'To make amends to those who died"

"most trusted, vicious, and most loyal general."
You don't need the second 'most', the first qualifies all the items in the list.

I had to look for the prompt, 'Oh yes, the skies were ablaze as they were extinguished'

Sky Burial

SPAG 5

T&V 4

EVAL 4

React 4

Total 17

Nicely written, it felt a little derivative in places. I felt the prompt could have been presented more prominently, at first I thought it was what she saw from the graveside, but then wondered if it was at the end with the lightning flash. I found myself looking for a definitive 'Blaze in the Northern sky', but overall, excellent.

Earnest

SPAG 5

T&V 5

Eval 4

React 4

Well written, the characters rang true, there were some nice touches; the view down the drop, the deferential young couple, the and, and, and, rather than commas, in the list of things people were doing before setting out. I felt the red rays of a sun touching the horizon only just fitted the prompt, but it was definitely North and I guess just above the horizon is in the sky and the sun always a blaze. The dialogue was excellent right up to the last two lines, I felt they fell slightly below the previous high standard, still good though, well done.

Goodbye

SPAG 5

T&V 4

EVAL 4

REACT 3

She’d bought a specialty rack of lamb from the butchers and as the meat roasted, the kitchen air filled with a mouth-
watering smell.

The comma in this sentence worried me, I take it that it is 'as it roasted then the smell' and the comma is for the missing word. I would have liked another comma making ',as the meat roasted,' a subordinate phrase, but I am not confident enough of my punctuation to reflect this in marking.

It is a tear jerker of a story, but that was all in the plot, I found the characters rather flat and uninteresting. Having said that it well constructed and consistent, I just wanted her to heave the rack of lamb at the kitchen wall or some such not quite so predictable reaction.

[/spoiler2]
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
Congrats to the winners! Jenthepen, Arrow, Razzy, and Tim, well deserved wins. \\:D/

I enjoyed all the entries and was happy that others were doing the job of judging. Thank you, judges, for the generous volunteering of your time. It's no joke getting through that many entries with the 1,000 word count.

Harper, your excellence in hosting/coordinating is much appreciated.

ETA: thepancreas11, you're a class act.
 
Last edited:

Tim

Friends of WF
Congratulations to the winners! Jenthepen, Arrow, and Razzy. All great stories.

A big thank you to Harper for being such a gracious host. As for the Judges... I'm glad I was not one of you. I imagine it would have been quite a difficult assignment. So, well done!

And, according to my back-of-the-envelope calculations, the story Earnest by thepancreas11 would have tied for first place and won the People's Choice Award. Take a bow, Sir. I appreciate your honesty and sportsmanship. Well done!
 

Mish

Senior Member
Congrats to the winners and a big thank you to the judges!

A special big thank you from me goes out to Olly Buckle who went an extra mile with a very thoughtful and valuable feedback! You did not have to, but you did to help a writer out. That's the level of critique others should aspire to. Your feedback will help me to improve my writing skills. (which is the main reason we are all here for)

And in response to Ralph Rotten yes 68C is 158F, that was intentional. That's the kind of future I see us heading for.
 

jenthepen

Staff member
Mentor
Thank you for the congratulations everyone but, to be honest, all the scores were so close that the podium could have gone to anyone. The scores that all the writers received just shows the high level of creativity and writing ability that abounds around this place.

My congratulations to my fellow winners and commiserations to thepancreas11 for getting in too late to have his super story included. Everyone who submitted a story this year deserves to be proud of their contribution.

Many thanks to all the judges for such honest and insightful critiques and thanks, tinged with admiration and awe, to Harper for organising and running this competition with such calm efficiency.
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
Special thanks goes to Harper for running a smooth competition. You make it look easy and it's not- my thanks. My thanks also tp the judges, a time consuming endeavor

Yes, absolutely seconded - I forgot to thank Harper and the judges - thank you all for your hard work:)
 

clark

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
Reading these wonderful tales was enjoyable, a tribute to the skill of the contributing members. JUDGING them--assigning fragile number-values in three tidy categories--was NOT enjoyable at all! Hard to do, since every story was eminently worth reading. Congratulations to Jen for edging past a very competitive field.
 
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