Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting


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Post April 27, 2017, 08:36:25 PM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

Daniel Johnson wrote:If anyone has a topic of conversation about writing, their own story development and so on, post your comments while we are waiting for the remainder of the votes to come in.

Well, I can say mine evolved from a discussion of possible challenge topics with Daniel. I had a notion, not really formed enough to call it an idea, but Daniel decided not to use it, at least, not yet anyway.

He came up with fears instead, which was a much better idea. However, as a consequence of mine, I still had angels on the brain. So then, I tried to think of a way angels could be afraid. That's how mine came about.

How about yours?

(BTW, I had no idea what the challenge would be before it was announced.)
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Post April 30, 2017, 09:37:16 PM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

Wow, a lot of tie votes. No runoffs?

Anyway, congrats to the winners. My comments and choices follow.
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01. Hope Gillette: The Dragonshead Inn 1

I think what I liked best about this story was what _wasn't_ in it. More than any of the others here, it made me think, wondering about how the confrontation with the trolls played out--and if Orson just got played, for the second and last time.

I didn't feel as though this story was very strong in addressing the challenge topic of fear, though that's easy enough to gather as an undercurrent on the part of both main characters.

I thought Bernice came across as melodramatic; her excess drama stood out in contrast to the under-emphasized tension between the two MCs. Otherwise the characterization and dialog were quite good, as were the setting and plot.
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02. Jim Harrington: If At First

This one struck me as being more about psychosis than about fear, but it worked pretty well at what it did. I think it could have worked a little better if I'd known up front that the MC was a crazy slasher. Take-home for the author: most horror doesn't work for me because too often the writer concentrates on frightening the _character_ instead of the _reader._ Also, I'd have liked to get a better picture of the victim's motive for declining a second date. Action beats and more dialog might have helped this.

Excellent setting detail; characterization could have used more development. The plot surprise failed for me due to lack of hints that something was about to go wrong; this would have built tension.
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03. Ryan Harris: “Huntress”

Setup was good; setting detail also. As mentioned above, though, you worked on scaring the character but failed to scare the reader, so I wasn't much engaged. It would have helped if I'd been given more reason to care about the character; the stakes weren't high enough. He'll die in prison or get killed by the tiger, but as readers, we need to see that the character has a motivation that's larger than himself.
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04. Sergio Palumbo: If You Light Up the Darkness 2

Sergio, you made me look up 'Argand-type' lamps. Interesting to know that they were used in lighthouses. Still, you seem to have a habit of putting little historical asides into your stories, and they're informative and fascinating, but, as they don't necessarily work to drive the story, they tend to distract from it.

Having said that, I think this was the creepiest tale of the lot.
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05. Eddie Sullivan: Thanatophobia: Press Send

This had way too much dialog-as-infodump for my liking; I think it would have been better to have had much of the background information given as narration.

Also, I couldn't quite figure out what was supposed to happen to the main character _after_ he'd been transmitted out into the cosmos in the form of a light beam. My suspension of disbelief failed here: I can't imagine a way he could interact with anything; it seems unlikely to me that he could even think.

Dialog and setting detail were pretty good--and that needle-in-the-eyeball is mightily cringeworthy. For me, though, the plot and character arc didn't come together very well.
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06. N. J. Kailhofer: Angels

Nate, I'm surprised at you--and a bit disappointed. You've written something very like an example of what the Turkey City Lexicon (kindly) calls "Concealed Environment," a.k.a. "The Jar of Tang." See: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/turkey-city ... workshops/

You had me intrigued and fairly engaged with this self-described angel who was unable to communicate. You lost me at the third-from-last line, and the whole thing fell apart.

This could have probably worked had you approched it differently.
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07. Frank Martin: The Conversation

I had a problem with Rev. Tibbs in this, going to motivation. As a veteran of inner-city life, he should be well acquainted with violence and death, and I didn't find any reason for him to react as he did to the death of the boy in question. That made this event seem contrived, artificially elevated in importance. For such a man to lose his faith should require something more extraordinary in scope than an individual tragedy.

Then you missed a great chance to turn the story in an unexpected direction with:

>> "Ask me for anything...and I will do it," the voice spoke from within. <<

My first reaction when I read this was, "Uh-oh, possible temptation." That wouldn't have been a surprise in this story, but it would have been a good entry point for more tension and conflict.

I think the story would also have been more interesting if the Reverend actually had gotten shot; it would have opened possibilities for complicating his character arc. To me, this would have been more satisfying than the miracle. Later, he could look at the bullet wounds as 'marks of faith.'
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08. Jason McGraw: Into the Dragons Lair

I can't quite pin it down, but your MC isn't communicating much fear to me. Maybe he's too calm about it, too detached about noticing setting details and thinking about them. His character arc seems flat.

Sorry I haven't more to add.
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09. Robin B. Lipinski: Rusted Fear 3

Crazy violence, and it seemed too hard to defeat, but I think you did a bang-up job with the psychology. Martin's last thought had the most impact.
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Post May 01, 2017, 08:13:55 PM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

Lester Curtis wrote:Nate, I'm surprised at you--and a bit disappointed. You've written something very like an example of what the Turkey City Lexicon (kindly) calls "Concealed Environment," a.k.a. "The Jar of Tang." See: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/turkey-city ... workshops/

You had me intrigued and fairly engaged with this self-described angel who was unable to communicate. You lost me at the third-from-last line, and the whole thing fell apart.

This could have probably worked had you approached it differently.

I read the definition. I think what they're saying there in that one is a load of useless, bloody tripe. I've written stories where an alligator is in love with a flower, where stones are friends, where zombies are in love, where a giant is a serial killer, where nuns are grim reapers, where alien octopi have sex with women to steal their eggs, etc., etc. There are no limits on where a story can be set or who can be the protagonists. Saying that a story is just a "conceit" and not a story? That's pretentious of them, as if some plots are not "worthy." As long as any story attempts to tell some tale that reaches out to readers at any human level, it's a story, or at least an attempt at one. I'd be totally happy reading a story about a couple of microbes in a jar of tang, so long as they had a "human" problem to deal with, and tried to connect with me on some level.

Plus, the sudden reveal that changes the whole world you've been reading is a hallmark of flash. It's normal and natural to the genre.

Now, I'm not finding fault with you, Lester. My story didn't reach you, and sometimes that happens. I knew it would either work brilliantly or fall flat on its face, but it wasn't a conceit. Perhaps I just didn't write it well enough. The "Jar of Tang" definition, though, is a wrong thing that should not exist at a site like that, in my opinion.


Did you ever read "The Happy Prince" by Oscar Wilde? It's about a statue of a prince that stands high above a city filled with suffering and poverty. The "prince" wants to help, but can't, because he's a statue. He can't move. Finally, he persuades a migrating bird, a swallow as I recall, to distribute the gold leaf covering his body and the jewels from his sword and eyes to the poor, easing their suffering. The bird stays and helps until it is too cold and freezes to death, which causes the statue's heart to break. In the end, both the statue's broken heart and the dead bird get tossed into the same scrap heap, but then are both carried up to heaven by angels as the most precious items from the whole city.

It is one of the most beautiful, most touching, stories I've ever read, but it's about a statue helping people with a swallow, which when you only look at it from a distance, sounds ridiculous. Obviously, statues can't do that, don't have hearts, and neither one of the characters should have been able to talk. Perhaps we should all widen our definitions of what is plausible...

or maybe practice writing like Oscar Wilde. That would be ok, too.
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Post May 02, 2017, 03:54:01 PM

Re: Flash Challenge (April 2017): Voting

kailhofer wrote:snip

Now, I'm not finding fault with you, Lester. My story didn't reach you, and sometimes that happens. I knew it would either work brilliantly or fall flat on its face, but it wasn't a conceit. Perhaps I just didn't write it well enough. The "Jar of Tang" definition, though, is a wrong thing that should not exist at a site like that, in my opinion.
My apologies, Nate; I may have been a little heavy-footed there, but that reference was just the first thing that came to me when I finished reading your story.

The point I wanted to make was that this piece was, to me, uncharacteristic of the quality I've become accustomed to seeing in your work. The impact it had on me was, "Surprise! It's a statue!" I'm sure that wasn't what you intended; that's just the way it hit me. Your intent didn't coincide with my perception. And, so far, my reaction is an exception. I failed to pick up on the hints, for sure; they were there, but I couldn't make sense of them.

I don't share your view on the legitimacy of the "Jar of Tang" as part of the Turkey City Lexicon; after all, as stated in the second introduction, "This lexicon is not a guide to scholarship ... It’s rough, rollicking, rule-of-thumb stuff suitable for shouting aloud while pounding the table."
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