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Scores January 2021 LM "Gunshots in the Hills (1 Viewer)

rcallaci

Staff member
Administrator
Scores January 2021 LM "Gunshots in the Hills"​

It's that time again, the release of the scores, but before we get to that we need to give applause to our dedicated and caring judges, Sue, Sam and Foxee please
cheer a little louder...

AuthorTitleSamSueFoxeeTotals
GofaA Full Pirate Story151010.511.83
bdcharlesFootnotes on the Hemford Event191316.516.16
MatchuGunshots in the Hills141111.512.16
undead_avSilver Stallion17.5121615.16
arrowinthebowofthelordRule 2 or the Fletcher Family Hallelujah Bluegrass Band 16121715
VeloHomecoming17.5202019.16
SigmadogNew Year16.5151615.83
FoxeeDead Spot19.5 judge------judge
the Carcoson Heraldthe Kabbutz18161516.33
SycamoreIndian Bones151512.514.16
CyberwarRazi Swagder17181416.33
TettsuoThe Prong Collar19191517.66

The 1st place winner of this Golden Event is none other than The Big Man Himself Velo for his story "Homecoming"
For 2nd Place we have The Mysterious Tettsuo with his story "The Prong Collar"
In third place we have a tie-- Cyberwar for his story "Razi-Swagder"and the Carcoson herald for his story "the Kabbutz"

Congratulations to all for some fine work... oh here are the reviews .

[spoiler2=Foxee's Scores]A Full Pirate Story
Gofa

SPaG: 2/5
T&V: 3/5
Evaluation: 2.5/5
Reaction: 3/5
Total: 10.5/20

Gofa, this reads like a story that might be a poem with a joke in it turned on its head...and pirates. Because the expectation is a story but the construction is more like poetry the SPaG is thrown off. Still, if I am willing throw out punctuation I still see homophones “browse” instead of “brows” (unless that's a pun but I don't think so) and the apostrophes missing from “Im” and “tellers” is something that's hard to let go due to dropped apostrophes changing the meaning of words.

I enjoyed the quirkiness and how this rollicked along even if it didn't quite always make sense to me. The part about the stammer and the little people having short attention spans was especially entertaining. I get the idea that this might actually be the sort of rambling tale that a pirate might tell, the kind that gets funnier the more drunk everyone gets.

So there were good points about your story and you were true to your own style and voice. The beginning and end tied up surprisingly neatly. If there was a quirkiness score you'd get 5/5 on that.


Footnotes on the Hemford Event
bdcharles

SPaG: 5/5
T&V: 3.5/5
Evaluation: 4/5
Reaction: 4/5
Total: 16.5/20

This is a very intriguing entry, with each read I'm putting the puzzle together a little more. I feel like there's a story behind how I came to have only this list of footnotes and perhaps the rest of the documents are missing but the story holds a clue that's vitally important. So GREAT job on engaging this reader!

I'm not confident that I've pieced the whole story together, though. My thoughts at this point are that there was a paranormal event which seems to be related to the sun (solstice?) having an effect on a local duel in the hills which in turn caused a chain of events (seen as the Event, perhaps) that affected weather patterns and time. Which is an enticing collection of suspected evidence.

While it niggles me to not be able to resolve that I really know what the story was, the pursuit of it was fun. This does take several reads to get to a coherent theory of the story and then, like one of those puzzles that people hand around on Facebook asking “Can you get it?” there isn't an answer key.

Overall, great experimental approach. I enjoyed it. I feel like I've got a pretty good picture of the event but that only after several readings.


Gunshots in the Hills
Matchu

SPaG: 2/5
T&V: 4/5
Evaluation: 3/5
Reaction: 2.5/5
Total: 11.5/20

SpaG errors noted:

Single quotes are used when indicating a quotation inside another quotation, like code tags. All of the dialogue in the story should be double quotation marks.

shotgun instead of shot gun. In this case there is a clarity issue. A shotgun is a type of gun. A shot gun is possibly a gun that has been shot/used.

Tense flipped from present to past often in the middle of a paragraph.

Review:

The MC's narration is very consistent throughout the story which is one of the strongest points of it for me. She sounds matter-of-fact and certain, as though she is the only functional adult on their place, and yet she might be as insane as her husband seems to be. This feels like a warped-mirror perspective, distorted in ways that she, in her certainty, doesn't realize may make her an unreliable narrator.

I found the part where she sees her husband as a boy to be somewhat confusing as well as adding to the overall macabre tone.

Not being a fan of the macabre for its own sake I wanted a little more out of this story. For instance when I have read works by Poe the macabre tone and setting is usually leading somewhere. You've hit the feeling of the character finding the macabre to be normal which is subtly horrifying, but it feels like a story never quite emerges and there is no realization, no punch that brings it home.

The main strength here was the voice. Maybe I'm just not quite getting the rest of it.


Silver Stallion
Anonymous

SPaG: 5/5
T&V: 4/5
Evaluation: 4/5
Reaction: 3/5
Total: 16/20

I'm a fan of this kind of narration, the voice of the character can they can just speak, uninterrupted, the whole way through and be easier to hear that way. It's also easy to believe the character, a fact that you turned to your advantage really well for the surprise toward the end. Writing an accent out is a risk, in this case it paid off mostly though I didn't settle into it as much as I wanted to. I'm not sure if some of the word choices could be changed to smooth that out but some spots feel mildly artificial.

Very strong in using narration and dialogue to move the story forward though maybe the catch-22 is that because of the structure I feel like I'm several degrees removed from the action. So what might have felt punchy feels more like a gloved tap.

“beckoned” needs the replacement of a more-correct word choice as beckoning would indicate that she was separate from the horse and wanted it to approach her. You need something like “she stirred up her silver stallion” or some other indicator that she gave a command (physical or verbal...sometimes on a horse all you need to do is lean forward and/or touch its sides with your heels to give it the idea) so maybe surf some horse-related vocabulary for how to put this.

Overall, enjoyed this one, loved the reveal of who is telling the story, satisfying ending. Good job integrating the prompt in a subtle way.


Rule 2 or The Fletcher Family Hallelujah Bluegrass Band
Anonymous

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

SpaG:
Small numerals 1-10 are usually written out depending on what style guide you're following. I think this piece would have benefited from following the rule, including the title. This doesn't seem to be a universal rule, though.

Review:
Who doesn't like a good post-apocalyptic struggle? Some interesting ideas with the fiery possibly-robotic dragon-critters. I like that the cast of characters are distinct, it's a pretty big cast for such a short piece but the interactions were kept brief and clear so that worked. This covered a lot of ground in a short time.

I might have thought that the Fletchers' view of the 'demons' was due to ignorance of what they were (even though they apparently travel around shooting the things so that is an indicator that they probably know what they are) but that wonderful line about Seth* not being able to plug in the amps because of all the demons set me straight.

The decision that the main character makes to flip from Rule 2 over to possibly slashing Rule 2 is forced to be awfully quick because of the word limit. I don't know that there is an easy fix for that at this length, perhaps a little longer story will allow for pacing that would make that feel more natural.

Overall, well done, really enjoyed. Thanks!

*Inspired by Seth Morrison of Skillet?


Homecoming
Velo

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

Wish I could remember if I've given a 20 ever before. I may have but this is the first time in recent memory and it's well-deserved. Possibly someone much better with SpaG could have found something but I didn't see anything that should knock a point off.

The Alaskan setting suited the themes of survival and of violence in isolation really well. This is probably why I thought of Jack London's stories though your style is definitely your own.

“You rode a plane out of here, Mikey rode a bullet.“
Excellent word usage and brevity.

The prompt is woven in without having to be explicitly stated.

This one has the magic we all strive for, the surprise, the certainty that I know exactly what you wanted to say and it resounded.


New Year
Sigmadog

SPaG: 5/5
T&V: 4/5
Evaluation: 4/5
Reaction: 3/5
Total: 16/20

Characterization for Old Man 2020 and for Mother Earth are good, get the job done, and aren't fancy. I like a lot of the lines throughout this, “I've seen the memes” and the light knock followed by a woman's scream among them.

Usually when I read that someone “dropped their eyes to the floor” that bothers me but curiously didn't this time probably because you had me all distracted with these crazy events.

The way this leads up to the punchline feels inflexible as riding a train down the track: the surprise at the end being singular, inevitable, and somewhat easy to guess. At the end of the day humor is subjective so I found the story leading up to the end to be a lot more entertaining than the ending itself.

You said to be brutal so I got this for you from Mary Poppins:
Bert : I always say there's nothing like a good joke.
Uncle Albert : [sobbing] No, and that was nothing like a good joke.

The story is unambiguous, drawing sharp clear images and bounding from beginning to end like a Labrador retriever. Delighted to have had a humor piece in the mix.


The Kibbutz
The Carcosan Herald

SPaG: 5/5
T&V: 3/5
Evaluation: 4/5
Reaction: 3/5
Total: 15/20

SPaG suggestion: When the headcount is interrupted after the word 'bombers' I know your idea is to give the idea that the list could go on but with an interruption, even just the “haha” I'd use an em-dash instead of the ellipses there, it's a more definite stop which would fit with the story.

The groups involved and the place are probably not an impossible lineup for WWIII, I liked that the Israeli involvement even while I questioned it a little. I don't know if the IDF trains other countries' forces or not, you kind of covered that what-if when mentioning it was secret.

I liked “Nork” for North Korean and looked it up out of curiosity to see if it was in use. Turns out that it is a slang term for breasts and, seriously, I did not see that coming.

I wasn't drawn in easily and found this to be a better story on the second read than the first. I found the narrator's voice to be consistently bland as though the studied casualness with which she was reporting wartime events robbed her of personality. I'm not saying this is necessarily wrong as I understand that war stories are often more akin to action movies where events are more important than knowing the characters.

However, this story talks about action without anything really happening. In this story I step into action just ended and the rest of it is telling, some with dialogue (which is at least some verbal action), what has been happening and what the characters are afraid will happen. I hear that the world has gone to hell, I hear that there's madness, but I'm blanketed away from it by a thick page of information. Writing in this tight of a word count you may want to choose a more singular moment, like your soldier's combat with the East German, and make that the story. There would be action and still time to do enough of the background to paint the picture of the war.


Indian Bones
Anonymous

SPaG: 3/5
T&V: 3/5
Evaluation: 3/5
Reaction: 3.5/5
Total: 12.5/20

After the short silence and the realization that it's getting dark I can't tell who says the next line of dialogue and have to backtrack to figure it out.

There are unrealistic word choices for a sixth grader, even allowing for an extensive vocabulary. “So the cycle continues”, “manifest destiny”, “contradict” are examples. I could see “manifest destiny” as having been heard from older people's conversations but not this many words.

There are some misused words:

The people who came before you in your family tree are the “ancestors”. You are their “descendant”.

A sled poised at the top of a hill doesn't “loom dangerously” unless it suddenly grows freakishly large and probably stands on end. In fact, the sentence should be restructured to describe the hill as dangerous, not the sled.

People don't “stare off sincerely”. “Sincere” means things like “genuine” which doesn't really fit. Maybe “solemnly” was more the type of word that you're looking for or a more sixth-grade word that would fit your narrator like, “He looked really serious.”

There are some good lines and ideas in the story. Continuing the idea of Marcus having a good arm with him also having a good leg was great. I liked the switch in ideas when she's talking about his good arm and that he's descended from Navajo warriors away to, “I can't tell 'cause I hate sports.” it has an appealing innocence.

Unfortunately the message plonked into the story is quite heavy-handed and lost the serious-innocent-kids tone of the story about halfway through. Marcus doesn't come across as thoughtful and wrenched by the plight of his ancestors and the current alcoholic situation so much as he appears to be unreasonably disturbed and maybe slightly unstable as he flashes back and forth from sixth grade to being about 30 years old. The disagreement between the characters and his erratic behavior should probably freak a young girl out if she's out there in the dark with him but she grimly continues with the goosebumps, trying to kiss him, and assuming the prom is in the future. I couldn't figure out the whole thing with him not being able to kiss her, it didn't really compute.

The last line is nice, I could see keeping that though it still feels older than a sixth-grader.


Pazi – Snajper!
CyberWar

SPaG: 3/5
T&V: 3/5
Evaluation: 3.5/5
Reaction: 3.5/5
Total: 14/20

War-torn Sarajevo is a pretty intense setting so you've got some built-in tension from the existing conflict. I looked up some information and it appears that you're very accurate with what was happening in this place at this time. Full credit for that!

It bothers me a little when an abbreviation like “APC” is used with no explanation and I only vaguely know what it is from the context.

SpaG issues:

“...no small favour to ask from an elderly couple even in a city under siege.” Should be “even in a city that wasn't under siege.”

It is a little awkward having to pluralize “passerby”. It is “passersby” that is correct spelling instead of “passerbys”.

In “Milana lied still...” the word “lied” is incorrect. This should be “Milana lay still...” The discussion of this wording is kind of long so I'll let you research a more full explanation and suffice to say here, “lay” is the past tense version of “lie” as In “to lie down”. Present tense: “Lie down now, you are tired.” vs. the past tense: “He lay down on the ground when he was tired.”

Tone & Voice:

The overall tone is very passive (as opposed to active) in how sentences in this story are constructed.

There are also a lot of unnecessary words that are cluttering up your prose.
Both problems are robbing your story of energy and suspense.

The POV character head-hopped from Rada's to the driver of the UN vehicle which isn't right given that this appears to be in a limited perspective.

I believe one of the things you're saying in the story was that people adapted to the constant threat. Good plan especially with your ending. This story would benefit from a more in-depth line-by-line critique. For now, just a few examples:
"I suppose we should, baby girl," Rada lovingly ruffled her daughter's hair,
“lovingly is not necessary. Love is clear in context.
The blasts of several artillery shells a few blocks away startled the two women mildly, but they moved on.
“Shells” is already plural so you don't need the “several” to explain it.
In the next sentence you state point-blank why they're only startled instead of screaming and running so don't lessen “startled” to “mildly startled”. Just let the verb be the verb.

Moving on to the ending line, it is where this whole story ends up and someone just died, but the last line focuses on kind of awkwardly putting the prompt-words in and then kind of falls short of emotion by employing a sort of melodramatic tone. While we want to see the prompt included the exact wording doesn't have to be included. If you mention hills and you mention gunshots within the course of the story I get it and we're good.

So your ending line needs to drive the idea of the wail of grief going unheard. Not only is their city under this constant attack but when someone is lost it doesn't seem to mean anything in the craziness, right? So spend your words on smacking me in the face with that fact. I don't think that “on that day” serves the purpose, either, we already know it's the day. Focus on where you want my attention.

Altogether, though, excellent effort about a very difficult place and time.


The Prong Collar
Tettsuo

SPaG: 4/5
T&V: 3/5
Evaluation: 4/5
Reaction: 4/5
Total: 15/20

The story clearly shows the desperate flight of a slave and I liked that you closed a circle between Moses's mother's surrender and his own. There was also a good echo with the stories of the vast plains in story and then touched on again in that they were waiting like a vision of freedom that propelled him on. This was successful as far as reporting a gripping event.

As the sun fell below the horizon, he pushed himself to continue as gunshots in the hills and torches grew brighter in the dark behind him.
Very awkward sentence partly caused, I think, by trying to shove the wording of the prompt into it. In my view this isn't necessary. The prompt “Gunshots in the hills” is satisfied if gunshots and hills are both present in the story. When I read, “...as gunshots in the hills and torches grew brighter...” this wording as written says that the gunshots as well as the torches grew brighter and/or the gunshots were in both the hills and the torches. I think you're trying to say that as the sun set the pursuit got closer to him so this just needs rewritten to better reflect that.

Overall this reads fairly smoothly though the voice is muted, distant. Perhaps thinking more about the five senses would help make this more immediate. Some examples:
When you're describing the prong collar there is nothing about how it feels around his neck, only how it's constructed and it makes stealth difficult.
When he's thinking about hunger that's much better, he feels the hunger pangs twisting his belly and they're almost enough to make him give up his freedom. That's very good and very true, hunger does drive people.
How did the river sound? Was it cold? Did the water taste muddy? This was great with the visual description but add just a little bit of other senses as well.

“I ain't goin' back.” was a good refrain for this and I see how you used it with breaking up paragraphs kind of like small scenes of their own. I don't like to disturb that but the repetition was difficult on the first read through. Somewhere around the fourth or fifth repetition I felt like I knew the rest of the story because of it and if I'd been reading casually I probably would have put it down. Unfortunately I don't have a better suggestion for that structure, just letting you know my reaction.

The ending capped the story off really well, I so appreciated that it closed that loop of realization about his mother. The smile was a little hard to believe, perhaps that's nitpicky but it seemed a little artificial. There are all kinds of ways that this realization could affect him: the cold water might suddenly feel warm instead, maybe in his mind he sees the vast fields opening up before him even while he's drowning, etc. Just some ideas.

There were some good ideas in this story, it just might need some adjustments in wording to help it to feel more powerful and personal.[/spoiler2]


[Spoiler2=Sam's Scores]Sam’s Scores

A FULL PIRATE STORY

SPaG: 4/5
Tone and Voice: 4/5
Evaluation: 3.5/5
Reaction: 3.5/5
15/20
Interesting that you decide to start your story with the pejorative “cold and stormy night”, though I feel this was more of a irony than a choice. The tone and voice supports this supposition, but only just, and there were moments of genuine humour that suggested your choice of words was more playful than predictable. I especially enjoyed the ending, even if it did break the fourth wall, and it was the perfect note to end on. Some niggly SPaG issues, for instance it should be “story teller’s job”, meant I had to knock you down a mark there, but otherwise a thoroughly enjoyable opening to this LM. Well done.

FOOTNOTES ON THE HEMFORD EVENT

SPaG: 5/5
Tone and Voice: 5/5
Evaluation: 4/5
Reaction: 5/5
19/20
Apologies if I seem distracted. I’m harkening back to all those footnotes I did throughout undergrad and post-grad degrees. I never imagined someone could make me feel nostalgic about that. The voice is exceedingly consistent and I love it. It has that erudite tone that is unmistakably academic, but yet it still manages to convey a compelling story through footnotes. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen that done. The pedant in me wanted to dock you half a SPaG mark for “no-one” (it pains me to write it) but I’m not that bitter. This is one of the most unique entries I’ve ever encountered and one I’m proud to have judged.

GUNSHOTS IN THE HILLS

SPaG: 4/5
Tone and Voice: 4/5
Evaluation: 3/5
Reaction: 3/5
14/20
I kept hoping something was going to happen in this entry. When you have a finite amount of words to use, you have to carefully choose what is important and what can be cut. Microfiction requires at the very least a sense of urgency, of immediacy, and while you did great work creating conflict between the two characters, it never led to any kind of payoff. The tone and voice is interesting, but sporadic, and in some places it’s obnoxious. A character calling someone an “asshole” for stammering is not a character I’m going to be endeared by. Overall, I felt this piece was rushed and it could have benefitted from another edit or two.

SILVER STALLION


SPaG: 4.5/5
Tone and Voice: 4.5/5
Evaluation: 4/5
Reaction: 4.5/5
17.5/20
As I was reading through this entry, approaching the midpoint of the story, I said aloud “she’s going to be Angelito’s daughter”. I thought I had figured out the twist ahead of time. Imagine my surprise when it turned out she was Fox Tail’s daughter and the person she was riding with was Angelito. I should have seen it coming but I didn’t – and that is the crux of how to make a good twist. There are a few niggling things that I’ll point out in greater detail if you want, but that would only serve to detract from an otherwise enjoyable piece. Well done.

RULE 2, OR THE FLETCHER FAMILY HALLELUJAH BLUEGRASS BAND

SPaG: 4/5
Tone and Voice: 4/5
Evaluation: 4/5
Reaction: 4/5
16/20
“Stick together and trust nobody”. That should be printed on a T-shirt. I’m not really a fan of pithy sayings, but this one stands on its own merits. And if you’re living in a post-apocalyptic world (boy, does that hit closer to home these days) trust is the very last thing you should give. I like rule 2 and I dislike the idea of scrapping it, but I guess you have to trust someone eventually.
The story, however, seems in places to be disjointed. It’s very difficult to create backstory when you only have 650 words to use, but I was yearning for a line or two to explain these scorchers, but you invested more time into the appearance of people that Siggy and Ben could learn to trust, and so the overarching plot of the scorchers was never truly fleshed out.

HOMECOMING

SPaG: 4.5/5
Tone and Voice: 4.5/5
Evaluation: 4/5
Reaction: 4.5/5
17.5/20
It’s extremely difficult to take what is essentially a well-trodden storyline, i.e. an abusive parent, and make it work in 650 words or fewer. It requires a direct approach that often relies on dialogue that packs a punch – and this entry is indicative of that. The dialogue is perfect because it’s not littered with irrevelant detail. It moves the story forward at pace and imparts key information impeccably, as good dialogue should, but it never attempts to relay too much backstory. There’s no “remember when I killed your father”, but instead the dialogue drives the story forward to the inevitable denouement. Even then, Jimmy never explicitly says he killed their father. Fantastic work.

NEW YEAR

SPaG: 4/5
Tone and Voice: 4/5
Evaluation: 4.5/5
Reaction: 4/5
16.5/20
It’s quite a clever piece. Making 2020 a character seems obvious, but you’ve made it genuinely hilarious in places, dark in others, and I truly did enjoy reading it. But the ending didn’t work for me. I understand the meme of it, the idea that 2021 cannot be worse than 2020, but the focus seems to be on that rather than on the prompt of “gunshots in the hills”. At least, more so than any of the previous entries I’ve read. You touch on it briefly, but in a disjointed way, and therefore while I would love to add marks for the cleverness of the piece, I have to detract some for the tenuous link to the overall prompt.

DEAD SPOT
SPaG: 5/5
Tone and Voice: 5/5
Evaluation: 4.5/5
Reaction: 5/5
19.5/20
Since this is a judge’s entry, the scores above are purely cosmetic. As I was reading through this, I had the feeling that it was very Stepfordy, and I was delighted to get that payoff in the end. It’s beautifully written. Yes, the over-the-top, cheerfully jovial wife is perhaps verging on a cliché for this type of story, but I don’t care. What amazed me was that you did it without any attributable dialogue markers. That should be commended. Had you not been a judge, this would have been my winner. Excellent work.

THE KIBBUTZ

SPaG: 5/5
Tone and Voice: 4.5/5
Evaluation: 4/5
Reaction: 4.5/5
18/20
First off, this is an incredibly well-written entry. I rarely award full marks for SPaG. I think of it like magic. If one aspect of a trick crumbles, the entire illusion crumbles. The same can be said for SPaG. Onto the story: I admit, I had to look up Sayeret Maglan. That is an achievement in its own right. I am well-versed in all things military and intelligence, and while the name rang somewhat of a bell, it would be a copout to say I knew it.

I think many people reading this would have expected the point-of-view character to be a man. I didn’t. I guessed that one a couple of paragraphs before it was revealed. But I liked it enough to almost award full marks for Reaction. The only reason this entry wasn’t my overall winner, was that I felt the ending could have been stronger. Brilliant work.

INDIAN BONES

SPaG: 4/5
Tone and Voice: 3.5/5
Evaluation: 4/5
Reaction: 3.5/5
15/20
What I said on a previous entry counts double here: just because you insert a tenuous link to the prompt doesn’t mean you’ve actually adhered to same. This story is about two young people falling for each other. There’s next to nothing about gunshots in the hills, apart from one throwaway line. You have to tie the main aspect of the story into the prompt. That is the skill of these LM challenges. It’s not enough to just mention the prompt and completely ignore it throughout the rest of the entry.

PAZI – SNAPJER

SPaG: 4.5/5
Tone and Voice: 4.5/5
Evaluation: 4/5
Reaction: 4/5
17/20
The contrast of an ordinary person, with a child no less, trying to make their way through a warzone is poignant. It hints at the horror of war, that is doesn’t just apply to those on the battlefield, and while the ending was a skosh predictable, it still underscores the horror of trying to navigate a warzone in search of the daily sustenance many of us take for granted. As horrible as it sounds, I think the mother dying would have been the more powerful ending, even if it, too, was predictable, because it leaves us with the image of a child on its own, in the middle of a battlefield. Overall, I felt this was a great entry.

THE PRONG COLLAR

SPaG: 5/5
Tone and Voice: 4.5/5
Evaluation: 4.5/5
Reaction: 5/5
19/20
I love the irony of Moses Freeman (what a name) being what I imagine is a slave (kudos for leaving that to the reader to discern) and choosing death in the end. It’s a powerful story, written with a beautiful command and control, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This one was such a tough call for me. I read this entry so many times, along with Footnotes on the Hemford Event, searching for half a point to add to either, but in the end I couldn’t separate them.

Well done to everyone who entered. This was a fantastic prompt and there were some excellent pieces in there for the judges to sink their teeth into.[/spoiler2]



[Spoiler2=Sue's Scores]Sue’s Scores

1. "A full Pirate story or just some Pirated"
Author: Gofa
Review: Stylistically speaking, Gofa, this was a bit unknown to me. Due to this style, I did some research online and found something about the writing of author Cormac McCarthy, which said, “Often described as 'dreamlike', McCarthy's prose relies on vivid, direct, almost scriptural language stripped of all but the most necessary punctuation. If language is a lens (and it is), McCarthy's is both wide-angle and macro, both blurred and sharp.” (www.standoutbooks.com)

There apparently are several other famous authors who also subscribe to this style of writing. HOWER, having said all of that, for the purpose of this LM competition, which is pretty much based on a scoring system that adheres to the old standards, and does include tools to evaluate the use of proper grammar and punctuation, I will have to follow suit.

So, we have a captain who has asked his first mate for a story to be told on a cold and stormy night, which begins with “there was a gunshot in the hills.” Because there is no mention of the vessel being near land or berthed, it is a surprise to read of the captain then being shot by more gunshots from the hills. (Good job there) The ending was also used to your advantage.

The first paragraph, even without punctuation is understandable, but after that – lost. There is no title to the piece, unless you consider the first line, which is not presented as an authentic title (All words with the first letter capitalized). I think it’s important to bear in mind that, while we (WF) always encourage creativity and uniqueness in stories that are submitted for the comp, I personally think it is equally important to adhere to at least some kind of standard writing practice in competitions, to show that you know how to form a sentence, have a good storyline, good spelling and grammar, etc. I use these standards to evaluate and critique what I am reading.
Oddly, I found the lack of punctuation more distracting than it was probably intended to be. Lack of punctuation notwithstanding, I do applaud your creativity and trying a different mode of storytelling. Thanks for your entry.
SPaG: 1/5
T&V: 3/5
Evaluation: 3/5
Reaction: 3/5
Total: 10/20

2. "Footnotes on the Hemford Event"
bdcharles
Review: Bd, this is an interesting and unique approach to creating a short story. You have left it up to your readers to determine the story line, what happened, who was responsible, etc. Just to sum up my impressions: It appears that two people, Ellis and Sandy, who had some sort of dispute going on between them, went into the hills, although that is really under speculation since no one saw them leave. (I was unable to determine what a “dawn moot” was, but since they were absent from it, I assume it was a place.) An unverified string of information seems to be the gist of all the footnotes, save the facts that it was the “apex of summer” and hearing the gunshots from the hills. Nothing else is confirmed, but it does show the potential confusion and misperception that can occur from just one event, where everyone has an opinion.
As far as formatting goes, I see a couple of your footnotes do not begin with a capital letter, and I cannot tell if that was intentional, or just an oversight. There are a lot of references to things we, as readers, can’t possibly verify and as a reviewer, can only wonder at their inclusion in the “story.” (19 Relatives of Sheriff Taglia dispute this notion (ongoing, 104th Ed.). Readers must make up their own notion of “notion.” Maybe that was your intention, to keep people guessing. Goof job there! LOL. Thanks for your entry, bd.
SPaG: 3/5
T&V: 3/5
Evaluation: 4/5
Reaction: 3/5
Total: 13/20

3. "Gunshots in the Hills"
Matchu
Review: You do seem to celebrate the less fortunate in our world, Matchu, with your stories, and this one is no exception. A husband and wife (are they really the only man and woman left?) are living their lives, as told to readers by the wife. She tells us about the interactions she is having with her spouse, and how well she knows him. When he takes the shot gun from the porch and heads into the hills, we suddenly experience a segue into a previous moment where a hammer and nails were the all-consuming issue between the two. After a lengthy, confusing bit on that time in their lives, we return to the present moment, where the husband can be heard shooting in the hills and then he comes home with either his ear or his foot shot off. Maybe both.

To be honest, Matchu, I don’t really know what this story is about. It would be my suggestion that you try to develop a more comprehensive way of telling the story. For example, even though it seems that you want to highlight the under-developed nature of some characters, you do not have to have a narrative that contains those same qualities. For example, instead of the voice of your uneducated character telling your readers what is happening, you could have described the area in your own voice, telling us more about who you are writing about and have the interactions between characters reveal who they are. Thanks for your entry, Matchu.
SPaG: 2/5
T&V: 3/5
Evaluation: 3/5
Reaction: 3/5
Total: 11/20

4. "Silver Stallion"
Anonymous 1
Review: This seems to be a month for alternate styles. Since my own writing is traditional, and I am by nature a rule follower, and the judging tools provided by WF include critique of grammar and punctuation, I felt the need to research the style of your story. Of course, it’s the lack of punctuation, at least through most of it, and here’s what I found from grammerly.com:

Do you always have to use quotation marks?
Quotation marks are used with direct quotes.

I might have gone along with just an alternate style if you hadn’t suddenly switched to using quote marks in the last bit of your story. I found the lack of quote marks distracting from the story and the repetition of he said, she said (mainly because there were no quotes) made the story slow. But kudos for trying something different.

The story itself isn’t bad. I rather like it. A moment in time on the road, deceitful but believable tale. I think this has potential and thank you for your submission.

SPaG: 2/5
T&V: 3/5
Evaluation: 3/5
Reaction: 4/5
Total: 12/20

5. "Rule 2 or The Fletcher Family Hallelujah Bluegrass Band"
Anonymous 2
Review: I think it’s always a risk to tell a story in the vernacular, because it can so easily become bogged down in terminology and slang that it may be hard to keep up, slows the story down a bit. And because this is so vernacular-driven, we readers are not really given the opportunity to understand who or what the “Scorchers” are or why the two boys are targeted. The opportunity to explain simply doesn’t arise. At any rate, it’s not a bad moment-in-time story. The boys are rescued by a band of country people (literally) who take them with them to where they are going. There seems more to the story than the conclusion provides, but readers will get the idea that the boys are impressed with the “kindness of strangers” and are not quite ready to hit the road again, with or without guns. The prompt plays a very minor role in the story, but it does provide an incentive for the boys to be on the move. Thanks for your entry.
SPaG: 3/5
T&V: 3/5
Evaluation: 3/5
Reaction: 3/5
Total: 12/20

6."Homecoming"
Velo
Review: This is really quite good, Velo. There’s so much here and the story moves along perfectly, without getting too hung up on the issues along the way. Good example of how men communicate, playing down the bad times until it becomes necessary to reveal information and the emotions. I have always enjoyed writing men; somehow the elements they bring to a tale seem more trustworthy and genuine than women, who don’t handle being stoic all that well, or at least not always honestly. I found no flaws or SPaGs to speak of. I liked the environment you created, too. It was very clear, picturesque without over doing it. Good job and thank you for your entry.
SPaG: 5/5
T&V: 5/5
Evaluation: 5/5
Reaction: 5/5
Total: 20/20

7. "The Prong Collar"
Tettsuo
Review: A good job, although a heart-breaking story, Tettsuo. I could see what Moses was seeing and felt his anxiety. I think this is always a challenge, to bring historical issues to life and have them be so compelling. There was redemption at the end, with Moses realizing why his mother’s made the choices she did, to protect him, and you gave us all of that in 650 words. There was just one minor grammar flaw, but I was impressed with the story. Thank you for your entry.
SPaG: 4/5
T&V: 5/5
Evaluation: 5/5
Reaction: 5/5
Total: 19/20

8. "New Year"
Sigmadog
Review: This was a pretty creepy story! Everyone knows 2020 was a bad year and we are all glad to see it go. HOWEVER, there are no guarantees in life and while we optimistic human beings want to see something better because we think we’ve had enough, we have no real idea of what’s coming in this new year. The ending of your story has a very ominous feel to it, but one I think we might need to heed. I hope no States vaporize or sink or otherwise disappear and maybe, just maybe, it won’t be as bad as it could be. This was very creative, though. I had trouble rationalizing 2239 with 10:39, but then my smart side took over and I could see it. The prompt? I see that you included – “the gunshot echoed in the hills,” but it didn’t really play a big part in the story. But it was there. Thanks for your entry, Sigmadog.
SPaG: 4/5
T&V: 3/5
Evaluation: 4/5
Reaction: 4/5
Total: 15/20

9. "The Kubutz"
The Carcosan Herald
Review: This was a well-written piece of work, but the military jargon was a bit off-putting. I think just about everyone has an inkling of what war scenarios consist of, so – to me anyway – all of the machinery info is just filler. I don’t know if this is part of something bigger, but it would probably do well if it was, following the female soldier along and seeing how the experiences she has changes her. She seems pretty hardcore. The storyline just seems to fade away at the end without any personal reflection, other than feeling sorry for a German she has killed. You did include the prompt and no SPaGs to comment on. Not a bad job on the surface, though, and thanks for your entry.
SPaG: 5/5
T&V: 4/5
Evaluation: 4/5
Reaction: 3/5
Total: 16/20

10. "Indian Bones"
Anonymous 3
Review: Well, this was a little bit confusing, I think. I get the idea of a school-aged boy and girl sledding down a hill and the girl is crushing on the boy at the bottom. I went along with it, and then suddenly the conversation turns more adult and terms like “manifest destiny” come into play and the whole mood of the story goes south. Comments about morphine also seemed a little out of character with the beginning – and I feel this is one of the challenges of writing about children. It is always difficult, I think, to keep in mind what any given age vocabulary and topic-interests are. The fact that the boy would actually break into tears over what he knew of his heritage just seems a little over the top for 650 words. To me, it should take a lot longer to get there, but if that was the effect you wanted, including it did show another side of this character.
I think it was well-written and flowed to a point. No real issues with spelling or grammar, and the prompt was included as kind of an aside, but still there. Thank you for your entry.
SPaG: 5/5
T&V: 3/5
Evaluation: 4/5
Reaction: 3/5
Total: 15/20

11. "Pazi-Snajper!"
CyberWar
Review: This was a well-written story. You gave your readers a view of life in a war-torn area, and the fears of people living there. The mother and daughter unit, doing their best to get food for their family, and the perils they face along the way. I think that the interactions and conversation between mother and daughter might be more reserved in such a high-anxiety situation. With the vigilance that might be required to just get to the market, it seems a little unlikely that they would be chatting between themselves. Sad, sad story – a tad predictable, but having an impact nonetheless. I couldn’t see any issues with spelling or grammar, and the prompt was included. Thank you for your entry.
SPaG: 5/5
T&V: 4/5
Evaluation: 5/5
Reaction: 4/5
Total: 18/20

"Dead Spot" (Judges Entry)
Foxee
Review: This is very, very cool. I don’t think I’ve read another like it since Stephen King’s Delores Claiborne, which was an “uninterrupted monologue” too. What a clever idea. I wasn’t sure where the story line was going, but it did turn out pretty creepy. The transition was executed perfectly, the voice going from condescending to a little mean, and then full blown scary. See what you can do with 650 words? One thing I would caution you about is your punctuation and flow. I think conversations, as a rule, can be a little tricky and I’ve talked before about not writing like we talk. When we talk, we often speak in incomplete sentences, incomplete thoughts, so I think that’s why writing an uninterrupted monologue is so tricky! We change topics on a whim, depending on how the conversation from the other side is going. But it really looks good on my review; maybe just a little fine-tuning is all that’s needed. Good job, Foxee! [/spoiler2]
 
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Congratulations velo, Tettsuo, Cyberwar, and The Carcoson Herald! I also really liked bdcharles' story this month: weirdness + academic/scientific style I already love, and I love that it's a story of gaps. Really creative idea. undead_av's was good, too, I liked the voice and Angelito's chracter.

Foxee, no, it isn't a reference to the Skillet guy -- I just wanted them all to have Biblical names (Seth was Adam's third son). The Fletchers are more inspired by The All Saved Freak Band (but more spiritually healthy) and this weird phenomenon of homeschool bluegrass bands I found out about a couple years ago.

ETA: And thank you to all the judges! You are all awesome!!!
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
Okay, so I had written an extensive post thanking everyone for the participation, for originating some super creative work and putting it out there, and for making the LM fantastic this time around.

Then I remembered ONE line I wanted to add and pulled up WF on my phone and went to edit the post and managed to delete it without even touching the delete button. Either my phone is not nearly as smart as it thinks it is, it's too smart, or I'm not nearly smart enough to have one of these. In any case...

THANK YOU to everyone involved. Writers, you're awesome, creativity off the charts. Fellow judges, thank you for taking the time to send me scores and remarks, I appreciate your time! And Bob thank you for coordinating!

And, finally, the thing I wanted to add...

Arrow, thanks for satisfying my curiosity about Seth. I thought that entry sounded like one of yours!
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
Congrats velo and the runners up - awesome job guys. And thanks as ever to judges and host. :)

As for my, um, "experimental piece", I'll take a 19/20 from Sam over a top 3 placement any day of the week! Next step - read that copy of House Of Leaves I've just bought.
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
Congratulations velo, Tettsuo, Cyberwar, and The Carcoson Herald! I also really liked bdcharles' story this month: weirdness + academic/scientific style I already love, and I love that it's a story of gaps. Really creative idea. undead_av's was good, too, I liked the voice and Angelito's chracter.

Foxee, no, it isn't a reference to the Skillet guy -- I just wanted them all to have Biblical names (Seth was Adam's third son). The Fletchers are more inspired by The All Saved Freak Band (but more spiritually healthy) and this weird phenomenon of homeschool bluegrass bands I found out about a couple years ago.

ETA: And thank you to all the judges! You are all awesome!!!

Thanks for your comment:) I'm going through a bit of an experimental phase at the moment, and though I'm confident it will pass, it doesn't help that "S" / Ship of Theseus by V.M.Straka (or is it J J Abrams and possibly Doug Dorst) costs over twenty sheets. I like your summary "story of gaps" though. Oh yes, that works for me.:)
 

Sam

General
Patron
Great LM this month.

Lots of intriguing entries and terrific writing. Congratulations to the winners and everyone involved.

BD: I'm always looking for something different, and yours ticked all the boxes for me. You took a risk, but the piece stood out for it, in my opinion.
 

SueC

Staff member
Senior Mentor
Everyone did an awesome job! And a big high-five to rcallaci in his first stint as host, and getting it posted much sooner than expected. This was really a good month for all - and congrats to Velo, Tettsuo and the twin win, CyberWar and The Carcoson Herald. You all rock!
 

Terra

Senior Member
This was a great prompt with great stories this month, and such a variety too! Congrats to all! I had zero inspiration, so it was cool to read where it took others imaginations. Looking forward to the next challenge.
 

sigmadog

Staff member
Media Manager
I'm extremely disappointed in the judging. You guys weren't nearly has hard on me as you should have been, creating the impression you almost liked it. That's bad, because it only encourages me.

You've been warned.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
I'm extremely disappointed in the judging. You guys weren't nearly has hard on me as you should have been, creating the impression you almost liked it. That's bad, because it only encourages me.

You've been warned.
Dude, I gave you a Mary Poppins Smackdown. I mean, what else can I do?

166601.jpg
 

Sam

General
Patron
I'm extremely disappointed in the judging. You guys weren't nearly has hard on me as you should have been, creating the impression you almost liked it. That's bad, because it only encourages me.

You've been warned.

“You guys weren’t nearly has hard on me”.

This should have been ‘as’, Sigma.

I’m even judging you now, dude! You won’t like it when I get super pedantic.

You have been warned.
 

The Carcosan Herald

Senior Member
Nice, many thanks for the bronze medal (to be jointly shared with Cyb) - not too shabby for a tale which basically describes a match of Wargame: Red Dragon I partook in. Congrats to Velo and Tett for getting podium too. All good stories, and a toast to many more!

(Five days late to the punch, but hey-ho.)
 
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