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Boss of the writing contest!
 Post subject: Spring-Summer 'renewal' writing contest comments
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 2:53 pm GMT 
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This is a thread for commenting on the writing contest entries. You can view them here.

Their names are:

The Emigrant
Life from Death
Monologue
New Beginnings
Serve and Protect
The Sea
A Letter to Father


Part of the reason for running this Writing contest is to encourage forum members to be creative, and to give them a chance to get some feedback on their creative efforts. It's great to get thoughtful, respectful comments on your work, and this thread is intended to be a place for people to give and receive them.

Please be respectful in your comments and make any criticism you give constructive.

Please don't discuss or debate who did which entry, or who owns the characters.

Please don't reveal which entry is yours, or comment in a way that makes it obvious.

Please don't talk about who you are voting for!

Make sure and mention what entry you are commenting on when you give feed back.

And enjoy!

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Egad!
 Post subject: Re: Spring-Summer 'renewal' writing contest comments
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 9:32 pm GMT 
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I'm going to do this as I go this time. More to come later!

Monologue

Ellipses often annoy me in prose, but I like them here. You use them well to create that stream-of-consciousness effect. The last line is perfect. This piece reads a lot like poetry, so the short length was a good call. There are still parts where less might be more, however, especially to make some of the language sound more natural. Here's an example:

Quote:
...At times, though, I feel my resolve slipping.

I always torment myself; I don't know why, but for some unexplainable reason I keep glancing out my window. That big, ugly portal giving me glimpses of the outside world-it always tempts me, mocking me. It knows I'm powerless against its charms-that's why it's there.

It sits there on display, flashing bait at me to give in and go outside: children, care-free and happy, plating with each other, laughing all the while...neighbors and old friends, walking to their destinations with smiles on their pleasant faces...or even just the stores and ships, showing the passerbys all the treats they house inside...
You could edit it down to this for flow:
Quote:
...At times, though, I feel my resolve slipping.

For some unexplainable reason I keep glancing out my window. That big, ugly portal giving me glimpses of the outside world--it tempts me, mocking me, flashing bait: children playing, laughing all the while...neighbors and old friends, walking to their destinations with smiles on their faces...or even just the stores and ships, showing the passerbys all the treats they house inside...


Of course, it's your call which turns of phrase you cut and which you keep; that's just an example.

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Treasury Department
 Post subject: Re: Spring-Summer 'renewal' writing contest comments
PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2012 11:56 pm GMT 
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While my ability to comment on the entries is presently impaired due to the fact that one of them belongs to me, I am taking some notes and will be happy to offer them up when I can do so.

In the meantime, huge thanks to everyone who reads and votes and comments!

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The Personification of Spring
 Post subject: Re: Spring-Summer 'renewal' writing contest comments
PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2012 12:29 am GMT 
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I was just planning on critiquing mine with the rest of them. (Which you may want to do.)

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Treasury Department
 Post subject: Re: Spring-Summer 'renewal' writing contest comments
PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2012 5:48 am GMT 
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I'm not sure I could convincingly critique my own work, especially without possibly ending up just playing up the positives and downplaying the negatives, which could bias anyone who's reading this thread before reading the entries (I'm making a point of not reading any comments that don't apply to my own story until I've read the original work).

I'd just as soon wait until the contest has closed.

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Egad!
 Post subject: Re: Spring-Summer 'renewal' writing contest comments
PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2012 1:03 pm GMT 
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I'm just going to critique them out of order. Hopefully the results will come out long before I finish.

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The Personification of Spring
 Post subject: Re: Spring-Summer 'renewal' writing contest comments
PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2012 8:02 pm GMT 
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Let's see how well I do at this...

The Emigrant

Interesting concept; my main complaint is how ambiguous and vague it seems-it sort of just takes place with no real backdrop, making the ending a little confusing. However, very well written, and the characters and very unique.

Life from Death

This one has a nice concept too, and I think fits the theme to a t, personally. Not much criticism I can give, besides one thing: why would the detective go further into a forest by a body where he knows the killer is most likely hiding?

Monologue

This one...is interesting. On one hand, it's pretty short (especially conpaired to the rest of the stories), but the length keeps it from dragging on. Which brings up the other point: it seems almost like you took the theme a tad too literally...which means there wasn't much to work with. However, it is an enjoyable introspective, which can always be fun; just work on editing and detail.

New Beginnings

My main critique here is the random out of character-ness of Leah in the middle of the story. At the beginning and end she's kind and thinking about her family, while in the middle she randomly considers forsaking them for herself. Besides that, though, brilliant setting and wonderfully executed.

Serve and Protect

Right off the bat: I'm not sure using Dom at the end was wise (or even allowed for that matter), but setting that aside, it really is a wonderful story. Gritty, realistic...though in the same vein that does make it rather dreary by the end-though that WAS the point...Either way, the concept is fantastic.

The Sea

First off, I'm not a history major or a psychologist, so I have no idea how correct your story is in terms of war or how the character was affected by it. Anyways, the concept is very creative, and amazingly detailed. However, the details pile up to the point where the ending rather confused me more than it did make a point. It also took me a few reads to fully understand everything that was going on (like the people were his kids, etc), but all in all, not a bad read.

A Letter To Father

I'm almost afraid to critique it for fear it's based off real events. Whether or not it is, though, the piece is beautiful; very heartfelt and wonderfully crafted. My only complaint, really, would be that it doesn't quite seem to fit the theme. I suppose it may, given I'm looking at it from just the wrong angle, but either way, very lovely and touching.

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Last edited by MusicMan108 on Sun Jul 22, 2012 10:29 am GMT, edited 2 times in total.

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Treasury Department
 Post subject: Re: Spring-Summer 'renewal' writing contest comments
PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2012 8:09 pm GMT 
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I think I vary with you a bit on the particulars...which I'll discuss later, as noted above...but in the broad strokes we seem to be on the same page.

Thank you for providing feedback!!!

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spud.
 Post subject: Re: Spring-Summer 'renewal' writing contest comments
PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2012 11:11 pm GMT 
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Thanks for the feedback! (: I don't think I'll be able to give mine a fair "critique" as people have discussed earlier, so I think I'll save my comments for after the results come out.

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European! Old! Pretentious!
 Post subject: Re: Spring-Summer 'renewal' writing contest comments
PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2012 3:47 pm GMT 
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The Emigrant

One of the things I liked best about this entry was how much of a picture you managed to give of Shayna in a short few words, and the descriptive writing and characterisation of her was extremely well done. You give a great sense too of the forest atmosphere and there’s something very physical about the imagery you evoke there. I do think the story could benefit from being given more contextualising information from the start. I couldn’t quite peg the place names, and it wasn’t till the Russian speaker showed up that I was entirely certain what the context was. I think you tell the immigration story well with a minimal but very effective level of detail when it comes to the pogrom and its aftermath. This reduces the immigration story down to its barest elements and avoids dwelling too much on the loss, focusing more on the future, which works well for the theme. I understand there is limited space and it’s fine ending as it is, but it might have been interesting for the theme to have had the family start to deal with the realities of life in New York at the end. A renewal of their struggles as well as of their life, though that would of course have added a different tone to the ending.

Life From Death


This was a well written, well constructed take on a werewolf story. The walk in the forest and the werewolf attack were particularly well written, with great choices of words and evocative imagery. The explanation given by the person who finds him about ‘straying into his lands’ raises some intriguing questions about how Werewolf ‘society’ and its arrangement. The only criticism I have is that the use of the word ‘bunnies’ in the forest scene is a bit discordant- other animals equally harmless yet a little less cute could have been used. Additionally, I think the line ‘in the end all he knew was that he wanted something rich and meaty and bloody then' would be better without the ‘then’, which removes some of the dramatic force from the line. Anyhow, good work, this feels like the start of a promising novel in the Werewolf genre, in which the cop is torn between his werewolf nature and his job.

Monologue

A well written piece which tackles the all too empathisable problem of its being so easy to make excuses not to go out even when you know you should. You do a good job of capturing the uplifting nature of spring changes and how tempting they make it for the narrator to go out. The monologue is a good way of capturing the indecision and conflict on the part of the narrator. I think it could have done with a little more description at the very end of how much the narrator realises they appreciate being outside again, which would have emphasised the ‘renewal’ aspect more. A little more detail in general might have helped give it a bit more a feeling of context, and more description of the natural world in Spring would have been a nice addition. Effective work, though.

New Beginnings

You have a real knack for writing description, and I enjoyed the characterisation of the main character and her dialogue with the sailors. It fits the theme well to have an emigration theme, and the story has a lot of sense of hope to it. I have to agree with Musicman though that the way she switches to selfish feelings in the middle of the story and then back again at the end to thinking of her family needs a bit more explanation. It’s not so much that it couldn’t make sense for her to be tempted by the money- but it needs to be framed more explicitly as a bit of momentary weakness due to her being so unused to any kind of wealth and to being in a new environment far from home. I think also it might have made for more drama in the story and been more effective if the respect of the sailors had been a little harder for her to win. Anyhow, I found this story enjoyable and hopeful and well written on the whole.

Serve and Protect


I’m always a fan of stories about people standing up for what’s right and fighting corruption and bigoted abuse from within, and this was an effective noir-ish, downbeat take on the theme with the promise of renewal and better things at the end. I do feel though it would help the flow better to be a bit more clear about the previous police brutality case. I think the start of this story was a bit over-ambiguous as to what ‘side’ the main character was on, given that he thinks of the victims of the crime in homophobic derogative terms. Quite possibly the ambiguity was purposeful, and of course it can be good to introduce moral greys into a story rather than keeping things in black and white. You build the tension very well when Morgan encounters his abusive co-workers, and there is a rising sense of high stakes and a kind of dread for what will happen to him and the cop’s unfortunate victims. The intervention of the senior officer was particularly good at further deepening the sense of dread for what’s going to happen next, and there’s a real effective coldness in the officer’s language when you realise what he plans to do. In true noir style, this was a rather sad story, as his attempt to stand up for what was right resulted in him being beaten down. But of course, there’s the ‘renewal’ of the end. Using Dom Drago as a dramatic reveal is not strictly within the spirit of contest rules, though it certainly works well for the story. His dialogue was excellently written and in character, and helped to emphasise the worth of what Morgan had done in standing up for what was just.

A Letter to Father

I would have to agree with Musicman that critiquing this one is made more difficult by its seeming so very real! It is an extremely realistic, heartfelt seeming piece, effective in its tribute to a loving father who was everything he should have been and more. I would disagree it doesn’t fit the theme, as it does capture the endless generational ‘renewal’, the feeling of passing down through the generations wisdom and knowledge as to how to be a good person. It has just the right balance of big and small details, pictures of past good times and more mundane times, and more details of more pragmatic modern matters to seem extremely realistic. If this is not actually based on reality it’s a very effective imagining, and very poignant.

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Egad!
 Post subject: Re: Spring-Summer 'renewal' writing contest comments
PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2012 4:27 pm GMT 
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Okay, here are a few more. I meant to do more of these earlier, but I didn't have time to finish reading the stories until today.

Life from Death

I love how you set us up for a noir-ish detective story, so we're expecting some sort of ordinary psycho killer, and then WEREWOLVES. You play very sneakily with the reader's expectations. I'm not sure I believe Morrison would go into the woods alone, though, especially when he's an experienced detective. Perhaps he could feel some sort of unnatural pull or fascination? Also, you talk about the scariness of the woods, but not so much its effect on Morrison. I think you could heighten the tension by showing us more of his reaction. Is he scared? Trying not to be? Thinking of turning back?

New Beginnings

This was a sweet story, and it fit the theme well. I think instead of skimming over her time with the sailors, however, you could include much more dialogue to give us a sense of who Leah is and what the crew is like--especially if, as Graid suggested, she's trying to win them over. My main problems with this story are historical (sorry). First of all, where is Leah from? As an immigrant, her culture, language, and background would have a huge impact on her interactions with others--particularly the sailors, who I'm guessing are mostly white Americans. Secondly, I just couldn't believe the conclusion of the story. Passage overseas for a whole family could earn a shipping company a small fortune. The ending could still work, but you might want to tone down their generosity (no stack of bills, for instance) and show how Leah earns their adoration instead of summarizing it.

The Sea

Very poetic, and I love how the concept is tied into history. Since we never know the name of the protagonist or his wife, I would exclude the names of his children. Other than that, I think you could tighten this up and make it easier to read. While the description is very well-written, you have a tendency to communicate the same idea multiple times in different words. I got bogged down on occasion by adverbs, too (though frankly I'm a fine one to talk). Lastly, you might want to work on more variation in sentence length. Lots of commas slow a reader down.

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European! Old! Pretentious!
 Post subject: Re: Spring-Summer 'renewal' writing contest comments
PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2012 4:43 pm GMT 
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Thanks very much for the feedback Fotecp! I actually wrote 'The Sea' about one of my rp characters- the reason I did not mention his name or that of his wife, who is not my character, was basically to avoid making that obvious, especially seeing as I wrote about him before for the contest. But that does result in something of an imbalance in how I describe them. His wife gets minimal characterisation for the simple reason she's not my character.

Additionally, writing about one of my rp characters was why I ended up trying to cram so much into the latter part of the story. I wrote the first part about him going into the sea as an emotional moment in his life as he tries to come to terms with his part in the First World War. Then realised, given he's from Normandy, that it would be missing an interesting opportunity if I didn't tie that in with his thoughts on the Normandy landings and the 'renewal' of struggle represented by World War Two. I basically took the opportunity to rather indulgently summarise emotionally significant moments across my character's life.

I have to agree with you I like my adverbs too much and also that I have a tendency to repeat myself in my writing. The story could probably do with some paring down. Same problem I have with my Phd at the moment. *sigh*

Also I do actually agree with you regarding the historical accuracy issues in 'New Beginnings'. If historical realism was intended, then yes, the generosity of the sailors definitely does need to be toned down. I also think historical accuracy wise that it is not that likely that it would be considered proper for a young woman to socialise like that with the Captain and other sailors.

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Egad!
 Post subject: Re: Spring-Summer 'renewal' writing contest comments
PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2012 4:50 pm GMT 
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O'course! That makes more sense.

On the bright side, I think fiction writing skills are invaluable in academic writing--from my limited experience with the latter, anyways.

Thanks for your feedback too, Graid. I wrote that passage as the beginning of a novel I probably won't get to for years. Shayna never finds her immediate family, but she does make it to New York. The book ends very soon after her arrival.

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European! Old! Pretentious!
 Post subject: Re: Spring-Summer 'renewal' writing contest comments
PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2012 5:41 pm GMT 
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Note to self- make sure logged into correct account before posting.

Hah well, academic writing is rather torturous as a process for me vs writing fiction, though I suppose trying to write novels can be just as difficult. And without any motivational deadlines for the most part.

I'm sort of curious now as to how it is that that is the start of the novel and yet the book ends very soon after her arrival. The majority of the book is her struggle to get to the ship to New York?

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Treasury Department
 Post subject: Re: Spring-Summer 'renewal' writing contest comments
PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2012 8:30 pm GMT 
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Most of the comments I've put together regarding others' pieces are on my work computer, and consequently will likely be posted tomorrow. Thank you very much to everyone who has commented or will comment on "Serve and Protect". When I started it I frankly wasn't sure it was all that good, and there's an available draft copy of it that has a somewhat different premise and results in me writing myself into a brick wall plotwise. That really sucked. My second issue was that the first draft of "Serve and Protect" was about 400 words over the "limit", and I felt it was better to trim things down than to try making a case for staying over the word count. This did cause what I consider a significant lack of detail in terms of what the characters look like, but my "alpha readers" (not readers of the comic) didn't seem fazed by that, so I figured I'd make do.

As far as invoking a canon character...I'm not sure that I ever had a version of the story that didn't involve one, though the original plotline involved Mordecai and Viktor in cameo roles that probably could have been anonymized without causing significant problems. To some degree I borrowed their physical attributes for Kenrick and Llywelyn. I don't honestly recall when I decided to bring Drago into things, though I think it's obvious that at this point replacing him with pretty much anyone else would do fair damage to the story. Certainly the last line wouldn't work as well. :) Anyway, Contest Boss did note that I was skirting the boundaries of the contest rules but also agreed to permit the story into the contest, for which I'm quite grateful, as I've never participated in a writing contest before. I suppose the most expeditious way to de-canonize the story would be to chop off Act 3 altogether, but that would be akin to turning off the light at the end of the tunnel. :) Replacing Dom with an anonymous agent and restructuring Act 3 entirely would likely be possible, but I don't know if it would be as strong as it is now. Originally I gave away Dom's identity much earlier in Act 3, but that just wasn't as much fun!

MusicMan - Thanks! I'd like to think I let in a few rays of sunshine at the end of the story, though one's interpretation of the ending could be heavily influenced by how they read Dom Drago as a person. We know so little about him thus far that I think there's room for at least two perspectives.

Graid - Thank you as well! I seem to have acquired somewhat of a knack for writing Noir (I've got a non-Lackadaisy piece out there that plunges wholeheartedly into that kind of atmosphere)...not sure how that developed, but I don't mind having that skill. :) The word limit is partially responsible for the ambiguity regarding Morgan's prior incident, but there's also the fact that it may eventually be its own story. In fact, Morgan's incident is inspired by a story I'd started writing for the previous contest, though Dom would have played the part of Morgan (yep, I like writing me some fan-fic) in that tale. It was essential to me that Morgan -not- be a total White Hat....it seemed to me that it would not only be inconsistent with the setting of the story, but it would weaken him as a character. I didn't want him to be all "gays deserve equal rights", simply to be against the excesses that the antagonists were happily willing to pursue (I tried to hint that this wasn't the first time they'd done this sort of thing as well, though I don't know how well that came across). If Kenrick and Llywelyn had simply been giving the gays a hard time, basic harassment and such, Morgan likely wouldn't have gotten involved. As a homosexual myself, it seemed like a better exercise for me to write someone who wouldn't be gay-positive, or even an ally, but still possessed at least the basic integrity that a police officer is supposed to have. I feel a bit like I'm receiving praise I don't necessarily deserve when I hear that I wrote Drago well, as we still know so little about him, but thanks anyway. :)

I'm in a bit of a pickle now, as I have a friend who very much wants to know more about Morgan, but if I write sequels then I run the risk of screwing with canon (or going off into alternate-timeline land), whereas prequel-wise, other than the story I never quite fleshed out, I'm not sure there's a lot to tell. As I think Morgan's attitudes are pretty typical for a person in his time and place, I don't see much point to a "how he got this way" story in that regard. I'd have to give it a lot of thought.

Anyway, if anyone actually wants to read more of my stuff (including the draft copies of "Serve and Protect"), you're welcome to PM me and I'll point you in the right directions, though this is definitely the most complete piece I've got available currently.

I hope the comments I'll post regarding others' work will be at least vaguely helpful. :)

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