This is topic WotF trigger challenge entries in forum Writing Challenges at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 1

You Get What You Pay For

"'s a wizard." Runt said, licking the tips of his green fingers and prancing from one flapping foot to the other, a grimace wrinkling his skinny face.

Ronnie smacked him around the back of the head, cracking his forehead against the rock they were hiding behind. "Course 'e's a wizard. Idiot." Bloody goblins. "Ya can tell by da pointy 'at yer pillock. Now shuddup, 'e'll 'ear us."

"Sorry boss." Runt hissed, one hand clamped to the blood trickling cut on his forehead, eyes watering.
Ronnie thumped his ear this time. "Shuddap yer prat!" The troll growled, the sound coming out like rocks rolling down a deep, dark tunnel that no light has ever ventured into. He shoved the goblin away with a hobnailed boot. "Go and let Squeal loose."


I loved the descriptions and the world that was developed in this. It had humor, it had intrigue, and for three quarters of the story, it swept me along. However, I found the ending unsatisfying. It was set up for a grand finale, but then the troll kicked an own goal. Yeah, that was funny, but the quality of the story deserved better.


The biggest issue I had with this was that the humorous tone didn't match up well with the fairy grotesque action going on around it. The voice is strong. The concept is good, but it just didn't gel for me.


Congrats on coming up with a different way to use the trigger. Seconds as in poorer quality products was not one I’d thought of. This story definitely took a different, more violent turn than the first 13 had led me to believe. Yikes, blood and death everywhere. Not a big fan of gore, but it was pretty well executed (no pun intended), and I liked the story’s structure.
I saw several grammar and spelling glitches which can easily be cleaned up. Ronnie’s dialect bothered me, partly because it seemed forced, and partly because Ronnie didn’t use it consistently. Some of his lines were in normal speech, and other lines were der and yer.
Sometimes I really dislike when an author kills off a main character. In this case, I didn’t mind at all.


Well, this is certainly more violent than I expected. (Not an issue, just an observation.) Although the first 13 did properly foreshadow the coming events.
I liked much of this and I appreciated the way the trigger was used. This is the 2nd story I’ve read where “seconds” weren’t related to time and I think that’s great. I hadn’t conceived of using it any other way.
I thought Ronnie was a strong character. (no pun intended.) Possibly the best drawn character I’ve read thus far. His motivation is clear, his attitude and personality are defined, and he behaves consistently inside his character. Well done.

My critiques are that I wish I’d met or known more about Samson other than his persistent boil. Which, while hilarious, wasn’t the strongest character trait. It overwhelmed who he was, and reduced him to a somewhat slapstick character. However, he shows his heroics at the end. (off camera)
I have no suggestion on how to implement him earlier, in fact, I doubt it can be done, but maybe make his motivation more clear, or his past, future, something other than a coincidence that he’s there and has a boil. (and an itch.) Make him SOMEbody.

An idea, more than a critique is, I wish you’d opened the story with this:
“Big Ronnie, the terror of Slatey Craggs, wasn't an inquisitive troll as such, only in so far as he usually looked at his food before he shoved it in his mouth...”
That is one of the best character descriptions I’ve seen in a long time.
Somewhere on the boards, someone noted a statistic that someone else had noted wherein 90% (or a similar number) of stories start with a scene instead of action.
This felt like a stronger character story than plot driven story to me, and Ronnie was definitely the star.

Trigger: Moderate yet unique.


Thought the wizard was over come too easily. But it was an unigue 12 seconds--well done there.

Think “Most of them were charred and splintered from their frenzied attack on the town, but they were useless now.” could be done better, seems pretty useless when the were charred and splintered.

Shouldn’t “The reject golems, all twelve seconds, had collapsed in wood and metal heaps on the floor.” be the ground?

Other than that mostly well done.


I liked this one. Although I thought it could have used a bit of tightening in the prose (I’ll chalk it up to a first draft) I found the story original and delightful, despite its gruesome plot. If there was anything that could have used some cutting, it was Sam Diehard. He could have been taken out and the troll could have reached a different ending (I thought the golems were going to do him in from his last command).


Funny, with some unexpected twists! I did not expect the troll and goblins to kill the wizard, especially since he seemed to have some tricks hidden up his sleeve in the beginning. This story had a very matter-of-fact, extreme fantasy feel to it. The play on the 12 second rule was creative.
Sam Diehard as a character could have played a more significant role in the story. Yes, he was in on the action in the end, but his part felt unnecessary. It could have been told entirely from Ronnie’s POV and there would have been no loss to the story.

[ June 15, 2013, 09:00 PM: Message edited by: snapper ]
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 2

The Thirteenth Second

“Jasen refused to pay back the money.” Haster said, as he sat down next to Floria in her father’s garden. He took her hands in his, and said, with narrowed eyes, “I challenged him to a duel, like I said I would. The stupid fool. He’s given me as many seconds to fight before I do.”

“You’d let your friends possibly die for you?” Floria said. She knew Haster as a competent swordsman, but Jasen of Barrow Hill had a superlative reputation as the best in the kingdom.

Haster shrugged. “I’ve already talked to the men who will fight before me. Twelve seconds.” He squeezed Floria’s hands and looked deep into her eyes, anticipating a reaction.

The feared moment had come and Floria kept from gritting her teeth as she said, “Thirteen. I’ll fight for you, too.”


Floria seems to be the MC here. Jasen comes across as uncaring and callous, but we are being told that by the MC, not particularly shown it through the prose.
In the second part the reason for the duel seems to change from refusing to pay back money, to refusing to apologise for some failure. I'm getting confused now and would normally have stopped reading.
Not sure how Jasen's father came to be so high up in a sect that seems to think such a big thing of celibacy, maybe some explanation?
The outcome, Floria and Jasen, Haster getting his just desserts, was a little predictable, there were a few inconsistencies and typos, but overall a nice story.


This story carried me along for an enjoyable ride. My main concern is that it was predictable. Partly this was due to the (deliberately) weak antagonist, and the too controlled protagonist. I didn’t get any real sense of danger for the protagonist, even an under-emphasis of the danger of small nicks (which, if from a sword, are the equivalent to much more than paper cuts).


Enjoyable. I didn't see the ending coming until it was upon me, but I did find it a bit frustrating to be in Floria's head and not know what she was planning. Still, I liked the tale and it was well told.

I really like that you used seconds from dueling protocol in response to the trigger. Of course, seconds generally don’t actually fight, they’re there to make sure everything’s on the up and up, and to carry away their friend if need be. I don’t mind that you played around with the tradition, though.
The writing itself needs polish. Not so much that there are lots of errors, but many of the sentences just read awkwardly, like… She'd do the same with Haster, now her former love, once this cursed duel had ended, if not before. Too many little phrases strung together in one sentence, I think.
It was interesting that Floria turned against Haster. I thought from the first thirteen that they were meant to be together, and that Haster would deplore Floria’s putting herself in danger for him. It quickly became apparent that was not the case. Haster was a colossal jerk. I liked the twist at the end, when Floria herself bested him, and I liked the romantic ending.

Not bad over all but as short as it is, I think it’s a bit too long. The middle part with Willa bogs down some. Good use of premise.


An enjoyable tale. I rather liked that Fiona turned Haster’s dishonourable deed against him. This would have been one of my choices if it weren’t for the long story to get to the climax. The first half of the tale was about distasteful nobles, self-absorbed and lacking honor. Why anyone would fight on Haster’s behalf puzzles me.


I enjoyed the read. The twist at the end was very satisfying. Having Haster’s butt sliced was somehow even more perfect than killing him. Jasen getting with Floria at the end was a bit unexpected for me, because I’m still wondering what happened with Willa. Sure, Jasen says nothing’s going to happen between the two of them, but Willa’s feelings are unresolved before Jasen and Floria get together.
You successfully made me hate Haster. Man, he pissed me off. But Jasen was just too perfect, so he remained two dimensional for me. I could empathize with Floria, but mostly in the way of resigned determination. I didn’t fear for her or feel for her; I just sensed how she felt towards others and accepted it. I guess the emotional connection could have been deeper? But I did like the story. Good job.

[ June 15, 2013, 09:00 PM: Message edited by: snapper ]
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 3


You know that moment just before waking up and running off to whatever it is you had to do that day. Well it was that kind of morning for Julia. Everything seemed to burst apart right before her eyes and it was the scariest twelve seconds of her existence.

Julia was trapped in some sort of underground tunnel. There were pipes running along the ceiling in all types of directions. She was suited up combat entire from head to toe and not your ordinary gear but high-tech. Strapped around her slim waist was a belt with high tech weaponry on ever side. Her long red-blond hair shimmered in the dark of the tunnel. Her mission was to retrieve an assailant named Victor Grey. He had escaped the hands of the government for many months. Luckily for Julia she had succeeded to locate his last whereabouts by her informant Henry Macintosh. He tracked down the location with sophisticated satellite machinery.


There are so many grammar, tense and word use issues with this that, were I not obliged to read it, I really wouldn't have got past the first couple of paragraphs.
It's flat and jumbled, with the trigger kind of jammed in there with no particular thought.
If I didn't know better I'd think this piece was a spoof just to make sure we're all paying attention. Sorry, but it needs a lot of work.


This is all tell without any dialogue. I had a hard time staying engaged. I suggest putting dialogue in this story to make it more interesting.


This seemed more like a set of backstory and characterisation notes for a novel, rather than a full story of itself. I wasn’t quite sure what the opening had to do with the ending – they seemed to be different 12 seconds. I’d work on a plot structure for the story.


I had a difficult time getting grounded in this story. I was unclear if the beginning actually *was* a dream or not. The underlying concept is an interesting one, and certainly worth exploring. Unfortunately, the narrative ended at exactly the point when that exploration would have begun. As it stands, this is the start of a story, not a story as a whole.


So, the opening was a dream, but it then became her reality? Twelve seconds to save someone seems pretty difficult, and I wish we had gotten to see whether she succeeded or not. The whole thing about time assignments and the council sort of went over my head, but that could very well just be me being dense.

I feel like I’m experiencing this story from a distance. Consider adding some dialogue, some character interaction that isn’t related second-hand. I liked learning Julia’s backstory, how her father had been an undercover agent. Interesting that she dreamed about a similar existence.


Not bad either, well done with the premise. I’m not sure I like it that well but that is personal over all mostly well done. Nice use of the premise.


This one was confusing. It sounds a lot like a friend telling me about a dream they had, but one that they only half-remember and keep filling out with more details as they continue with the retelling. This started just as Julia’s dream, then became a real life race against time with training and an urban legend? That’s an entirely new premise. I feel like you need to join these two things together before this story can become cohesive, or just work with one of them.

[ June 15, 2013, 09:01 PM: Message edited by: snapper ]
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 4


Fyana glanced at the eleven grinning students who were lined up on the assembly room stage before snapping her attention back to the announcer. He had one more name. It wouldn’t be her. It shouldn’t be her. The Diorénado gave this honor to kids from the big houses on the upper rim, not trash from the edge of town. Fyana clenched her fists in her lap. Don’t call me. Please don’t call me.

The room quieted as the announcer cleared his throat. “And our last lucky apprentice is . . . Miss Fyana Brig.”

The crowd rustled as kids looked around to see who’d won the coveted last spot. Fyana’s breath caught in her throat. Maybe she could hide—almost no one knew her. But the Diorénado would find her. And they would kill her.


You try to weave the backstory in and, while it doesn't detract from the story, it feels contrived, as though explanations have been jammed in there every so often. Then, just as I'm starting to enjoy the story, everyone starts talking like Bratz, like totally like Bratz. It feels awkward reading such language in such a setting.
I don't understand why the antagonists hide the fact that they are evil. They want to rule the people through fear. Surely there is no fear if the people don't know what they are like. The the junkyarders seem to know. There seems to be something of a discrepancy here.
And on to the ending. It made the story feel like the first chapter, a prologue, even of a longer work. After all that fretting and angst, all those drugs, the evil brainwashing plan didn't even work, with no real explanation why.
Lastly, what is with all the bits of odd underlining?


The story didn’t resolve itself for me. It’s like this story is the first chapter. I felt it a bit rushed to get to the Guardian meeting. I suggest giving the time with the Diorenado’s the time it needs. We don’t know how they have so much power or why they stink of smoke and grease, for example.

This was a well-constructed opening chapter to a much larger story. It doesn’t quite work as a short story, because it seems to only have come upon the incident that changes Fyana’s world view. Up to this point, we are learning about the world, but Fyana is unchanged in her understanding of it. Now she will be forced to change, as she is being sent back into the lion’s den.

Really enjoyed this. Strong world-building, interesting protagonist. I wish there were a way for her to be a bit more proactive during her time with the Diorenado, but I'm not sure what that would be. I'm also not sure that this is a short story. It ends at a sort-of resolution, but it's a resolution that leads into something more. I think it's worth expanding on.


The premise here is good, a plausible YA fantasy story line. Some good characterization with Fyana, you showed me not just what happened to her, but what she thought about it.

Here are some questions I have: If the Diorenado (love the name, btw) selected Fyana, why is the announcer guy interrogating her about where she’s from? Surely her background would have been investigated before they chose her. Also, the apprenticeship seemed to be mostly getting the students stoned at every turn. Hard for me to understand how that would be such a coveted opportunity. If the goal was to brainwash the apprentices into becoming mindless thralls, the regimen didn’t really work, did it? Fyana never succumbed to it.

Some really good phrasing in this story. You've got some skill with words.


Loved this one! Most especially loved the use of colors and senses and
settings. What a world! You've got an interesting hierarchy, and some
great characters so far. I want to know more about all of them.

And therein lies the crux.

I read the others' crits and I have to agree with the most common theme
- that this feels like part of a larger work.

My critique starts with my largest issue. Passive protag. I understand
the difficulty in her being active when she's A. Selected against her
will. B. Forced to move against her will. C. Given drugs against her
will. However, at the point of climax, and the way she escapes the evil
clutches of the Diorenao is... she pukes. And we're not really given an
explanation of why. It just happens, and she's sent home where she meets
beings of myth and they ask her to be their champion and go back in.
(But how can she if she's been purged?)

So, there's some confusion, but there's also potential. TONS of
potential. This is a novel waiting to happen. Make it so.

p.s. Have you read The White Mountains trilogy by John Christopher? If
you do (or have) turn this into a novel, I suggest checking those books
out. They're pretty short, and I think they'd be beneficial as you
separate your two worlds.


I liked this story. My favorite part of this story is the buildup to getting into the Diorénado. Fyana’s character really showed through there, and I figured there was something between her and Matthew. The Diorénado’s mystery was also intriguing. Because of this alluring buildup, I was a little disappointed with the actual description of the Diorénado. I thought they would be some sort of intelligent overarching secret network, but they just partake in pleasure and rule on a whim? Where does their power come from?
The ending was a bit predictable and short. The Guardians just showed up in the forest, and this entire war between them and the Diorénado is introduced. That sounds like a beginning rather than an ending. Perhaps if Fyana infiltrated the Diorénado again at the end, that would be a better stopping point. Where I stand right now, Fyana is outside. She may or may not get back in. It’s an awkward position.

[ June 15, 2013, 09:02 PM: Message edited by: snapper ]
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 5

Unlimited Power*

A young boy asks me to get his cat off a high-rise balcony. I tell him I can’t because my pact with the devil forbids rescuing felines.

This isn’t a complete lie. In truth, I could, but by my latest count, I have only eighty-six minutes worth of twelve second bursts of super powers remaining. When they’re gone, the devil will claim my soul. I need to spend my time on real emergencies.

The devil came to me a few months back in the form of a haggard, old woman while I was championing the innocent as a defense lawyer in New York.

“How would you like save everyone?” She’d asked, contract in hand.

“Of course, but that’s impossible.”


I like this. It's really good. Intense, fast paced and witty. I hate first person present normally, but this is done really well.
It starts fast and punchy, with a few laughs thrown in, then settles down to a more sedate, thoughtful pace as the full impact of the MC's future dawns on him.


The premise is very compelling, luring people who want to do good works to lose their souls. I’d like to know what the devil does with the soul-power… that might make it a bit more terrifying… but as it is, I didn’t sympathize with the character and that reduced the impact of the story.


This had terrific pace, which had me falling over myself to see what came next. A couple of typos, but other than that, loved this one. Its tight plotting makes one of two standouts in my group. This is one of the best entertainers this challenge has created, in any year.


This didn't go where I was expecting it to and it made me think. Well done. I am still a wee bit confused about the dead priests and how much of that was reality and how that all worked, but all in all, this was a well-crafted tale and I enjoyed it.


Rare is it that I am so engrossed in a story that I don’t have any thoughts of my own until the end. I was completely sucked in—except near the end when there needed to be a paragraph break between the devil saying “You will,” and Martin saying, “You can’t control my actions.” The pacing was spot on, the characterization was good. My only suggestion would be what I wrote about the opening: I didn’t like to third paragraph flashback. That’s a really nice first scene. I didn’t like being thrown out of it and then back in. Maybe Martin could tell the priests his story instead. I thoroughly enjoyed this read. Thank you.


This one is pretty terrific. Loved the voice throughout the piece, and the writing is clever and crisp. Is this about the cat? Cracked me up.

The story went in a direction I had not imagined, and while that was slightly disappointing for me personally, I don’t think it’s a bad thing for the story. I’m just something of a Pollyanna, always wanting good to prevail. I’d hoped that the MC would beat the devil, not bring more minions into his fold. Purely a personal reaction, and it doesn’t keep me from thinking this might be the best of the lot. Kudos.

[ June 09, 2013, 08:08 PM: Message edited by: snapper ]
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry #6

Civic Duty

Words may show a man’s wit, but actions (reveal) his meanings – Ben Franklin

Tina’s unusually great day ground to a crashing halt when she found her husband thumbing through the mail in the kitchen.

“Bills, hun?” she asked.

He lifted his eyes up at her and grimaced. She gave him a playful bottom-lip pout and squeezed his frowning face.

“Is the mean ole bill collector man getting my poor baby down?” she said as if he were the pouting toddler. “Is there anything Mommy can do to make your sad wittle face happy again?”

He smirked. “Don’t worry about the bills, sugar. I’ll handle them. You just take care of this.” He handed her a white government issued envelope. She opened the letter, and in one


To be honest I found this a tad boring. It seems like the lead up to a story, not the actual story itself. It's mostly info-dump and the courtroom selection process comes across as nothing more than padding, all leading to an obvious ended. It also needs proof reading. There's no character development, no goal, no real plot.


Rock ’em Sock ‘em! You can’t help but eventually like Tina. The end was inevitable, but I enjoyed the journey. As a story, the opening didn’t really draw me in. The premise was good and certainly met the trigger, all the way at the end. This needs some serious editing, but her comebacks were easily worth it.


I really loved the thoughtfulness of this. Both the idea and the implementation were well constructed. It could have started just outside the courthouse, as the husband character wasn’t really any part of the remaining story, and therefore didn’t add much. This heralds a return to thoughtful and deep worldbuilding over lighter entertainment.


A fun exploration of a concept I've certainly heard batted around a time or two. (Also, very clever with the character names . . . sneaky!) Well written and presented and, although I did see the end coming, it was a satisfying read.


I might vote for you for political office. The plot, however, was more predictable than your character. The first scene paints her as annoying, in my opinion, and not someone who would go above and beyond to do the right thing. She’s condescending and uninterested. When she’s watching the other people get interrogated, the reader doesn’t get much in terms of what Tina is thinking—in fact, there are several pages where Tina isn’t mentioned at all. Then she’s getting questioned and a whole new Tina emerges, but it’s hard to identify with her at that point, because she’s not who I thought she was. I didn’t see how this tied in with Twelve Seconds.


Cool idea, that regular folks have to serve in government and are sort of put on trial in order to find those with the correct set of values and resolve the job requires.
Wonderful dialog here. Love the tension created prior to Tina being grilled, and the tension during.
I really dug the two “advocates of competing philosophies” How, though they were partial, represented different sides, and I wish their questions reflected their positions a little more strongly. (To be fair, they may have, and the subtlety of their differences was lost on me. If so, I apologize.)
I didn’t feel Tina getting the job was a twist, but whether I was supposed to or not didn’t matter to me and didn’t affect my reading.
Lastly, I loved the term, “Draftocracy.” I looked that up on Google and it’s unheard of. (other than domain hijackers.) Yet, it makes perfect sense and fits beautifully into the story. Good stuff.

My critique is that I felt pulled out of the reading a little because of the use of WotF winners’ names, but the story was engaging enough that they proved only minor speed bumps.
There were quite a few typos. I forgive these easily, but when they pile up I mention it.
I was also moderately confused by the early mention of three days of civic duty. That was just the selection process, right? She’s got to serve a two year term in office...

I think word of the interviews would have been known prior to the folks entering. “...and she heard the horror stories of people who didn’t.” didn’t, for me, cover what was coming. I think the three days part above could be combined with what she’s heard about the interview process. That might better foreshadow what’s coming and then when we see her initially get beat up, we worry, but then she strikes back and it’s like, whoa, she verbally kicked their asses! (And we’d been worried since the beginning, because she was, that it would be horrific.)

There were twelve jurors/peers. I wonder if you could have made the trigger a stronger punch at the end. Something like, “does anyone second the appointment of Tina.” Twelve people raised their hands. “Motion passed by twelve seconds.” Or something more obvious like that. I think when it comes to the trigger, I don’t mind it being “told” to me.

Trigger: weak

[ June 09, 2013, 08:23 PM: Message edited by: snapper ]
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 7

The Chief Chef’s Frenzy Meal

Tommy Tummyknocker sat at his work bench. He breathed in, that garlic sauce would be good addition to his new breakfast. A glance at the hologram paper produced by his waistpad, showed him the day’s menu. Breakfast looked good: something different and nourishing yet solid and filling. The large Royal Family-minus the King and Queen-liked meals that tasted good and stuffed them. They could get picky and cranky if a meal wasn’t. That wasn’t good for his job.

They considered nourishment a third consideration but his orders from his proper bosses-the King’s brother and the Queen’s brother-were specific; all meals had to be good tasting and nourishing no matter what they wanted. Early on they had made sure he knew he had done wrong and the last chef had been fired.


I'm struggling with this right from the start. I'm not sure who want's what kind of meal. The writing is jumbled and confusing. There is bad punctuation and grammar to contend with too and none of it makes me want to read the story. The character of the chef has an amusing name but no character.
I would expect a chef and his assistant to know the names of the potatoes they had been delivered. Small potatoes could have been anything. Everything seems to be too generalised, like mentioning special sausages without saying what's special about them. It's like the author had an idea but didn't bother to research anything.
I'm given the expectation that Tommy is some kind of uber-chef, but he comes across as not knowing his job at all.
There is a certain amount of word misuse in there too and the trigger seems to have been banged in as an extra ingredient to a mix that didn't quite rise.


Nice use of the prompt and clearly seen as the trigger. I failed to see all of the hubbub as action. The chef solved all problems. Everything seemed thrown at him at random. The chefs would come to him with a problem and then they’d invariably say, ‘I know what to do’. Why didn’t they just do it?

The end wasn’t a culmination of the meal, but of other things the chef had done, so it seemed a bit anti-climactic. The prospect of an antagonist never materialized and would have added some spice to this.


This was a light, easy read, and I found myself smiling at the end. I felt a little off-kilter with the setting. At first it felt like an old castle, then there were Mercury stations, and some other tech-like things that threw me for a loop, and the story could use a clean-up, but overall this was a pleasant story that left me with a smile.


The name, Tommy Tummyknocker, made me think this was going to be a funny, maybe whimsical story—and it’s not. You did a good job with Tommy’s character, and I liked how you brought suspense and tension into the kitchen. Really, you have a lot of great storytelling elements in here—three obstacles standing in the way of the perfect meal; having Tommy think he’s failed and will be fired; good use of the senses. But there was also a lot of tell, and it didn’t really hold my attention. This is a hard subject to make fun to read, and I think you did pretty well with it—but not amazing-I-love-it good.


Absolutely brilliant use of the trigger!
Halfway through the story I crammed a granola bar in my face, but it didn’t nearly satiate my desire for the rich foods and smells I saw and felt coming off the page. For that, I thank you. Sort of.
I really liked Tommy and all his nervousness and frenzy. Truly a well-created and well crafted character.
I also liked the futuristic / Sci-Fi feel in a fantasy setting. I felt as saturated by that as I did the sensory food input. Some might think the story is all over the place, but for me, I loved the huge world created by a mix of fantasy and tech, and yet we still focused on the day to day, and very real problem/fear of the protag.

My critique is that I felt some of the prose was a bit clunky in spots. More so early on than later. And there were a lot of cliché visceral reactions, and because they are stock, I didn’t feel them as intended, I simply glanced over them with a basic understanding. Which makes OK reading, but dulls the overall reading experience.

Trigger: strong and creative


Story is set in a space-faring future but the plot could have just as easily been set in the Middle Ages. I thought the prose could have been trimmed; echo’s, rephrasing, tightening.
I found the tale fitting the trigger but the plot uninspiring. A doubting cook with self-esteem issues? Could have been pulled from one of the many reality cooking shows. Would have liked an ending that was more satisfying than acceptance by the Family.

[ June 13, 2013, 11:24 PM: Message edited by: snapper ]
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 8

A Simple Delegation

A moment after you die, you understand that there is a God and He does reward good behavior – just not in the way you think. There is no mansion of gold waiting for you on the other side, but there is a cozy room with a couch and soft cushions. This room comes equipped with many screens, like some sort of mini cinema.

God shows you in and explains your job in heaven: to delegate a certain amount of time to people on Earth. This amount is based on how well you lived your own life, and you can give it out as you like. When God leaves you to your task, a number appears on a screen above your door. This is the amount of time you are given.

When you see it, your ethereal face flushes red. You must have been a truly pompous idiot during your earthly life to have only been allotted 12 seconds.


Firstly, Second Person doesn't appeal to me at all. I keep expecting to get told to roll a dice and skip to page thirty seven to fight the ferocious dragon.
The fact that there are occasional tense problems just makes it worse, and harder for me to read.
The story itself doesn't really grab me, all the watching of the screens got boring. Something needs to happen, and it doesn't. The first screen, the second scree, the third screen etc, all took me back to my first thought and I half expected a 'go to page ???' at the end of each paragraph.


I wondered where this story would go when I read the opening. I think it explored a lot of thought, but then I thought of the term ‘paralysis by analysis’ and this is what this poor soul has. There is a lesson to be learned, but it can only be properly taken when the twelve seconds are dispensed, until then…

This story is intended to promote reflection and in that it succeeded. I was reminded of an old Albert Brooks movie with Meryl Streep, they were in a way station like this. I wonder if it wasn’t the inspiration. A good job, in my opinion.


Wow. I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected to based off the first 13. The second person worked for me, oddly enough. I liked the many permutations of how the seconds could be spent. The hesitation. The inability to commit. The realization that this could be its very own purgatory. Liked this a lot.


This is an interesting premise, and I strangely like second person narratives. The writing is good and tight. I like that you gave just enough information about each scene without overwhelming the reader. The ending was a little too quick. I think you could elaborate on what the lesson is. Perhaps a full scene with God in the end, instead of a quick two paragraphs. Overall, I liked it. Good job.


This is great. I’m a fan of a TV presentation in the afterlife. <wink> I thoroughly enjoyed reading the examples described in the early channels. You captured very well what it is to be human. These are our lives, good, bad, ugly, and sadly, sometimes about to end.

My critique is that I’m confused. First, I felt the initial job description wasn’t enough for me the reader to understand.
“to delegate a certain amount of time to people on Earth.”
I understood as the story went on, but I had to project back in order to make the connection. Perhaps a line or two of dialog between God and the MC would solve this. (And dialog is always a good way to break up blocks of text.)
Sadly, I didn’t understand the ending. Although I like that the MC is sort of trapped in his eternal dilemma, I don’t know what the lesson God was trying to teach was. God reappeared, right, but then again said nothing. (In dialog so that I could get it.) He simply disappeared.
And, if that was the point, wouldn’t all the other TV viewers get twelve seconds? Seems like the guy who got hours wouldn’t be learning the same lesson.
So, I suggest either switching the other TV viewers to 12 seconds, (when the MC gets there he could wonder why they had so little and hadn’t spent it.) might even set up a creepy vibe, a dozen or even hundreds of people staring at screens with 12 seconds remaining.
Or, explain the lesson. The MC can still spend his/her eternity deciding, but at least we’ll know what was supposed to have been learned. (Although without a final outcome, I don’t see a “change” in the protag.)

Trigger: strong


Nice use of the premise and a different story foramt. Not sure if I like it but still over not too badly done. Some of the paragraphs should be placed in other places I think. Like the “There is knowledge you instantaneously gain when you die,” one. To me it belongs earlier.


Interesting and fascinating concept. Remarkable that the protagonist would have such indecision. I think saving someone would top the list, and wonder why the angel would hesitate, but I am not in that position and believe others may second guess their choices.

I do not have an issue on how the story was told and don’t believe it needs much tweaking. This has an excellent shot at a sale as it is.

[ June 13, 2013, 11:25 PM: Message edited by: snapper ]
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 9

Chervil in Ether

“That’s the last time you get to light the fireworks, Chervil.”

Chervil’s sallow face took on an indignant expression as he cradled his freshly bandaged hand.

“Don’t know why you’d say something like that, Jeremy,” he replied. “I really don’t. The only reason I burned myself is because the fuse was obviously defective. Obviously.” He grabbed the pen offered by a bored looking nurse and signed himself out of the hospital with his good hand.

Chervil planned on sticking to the faulty fuse excuse, but he knew that he’d been careless. He’d ruined their attempt to summon Baldor, the legendary djinn, and his friend Jeremy was obviously pissed.

Night had taken up residence when they stepped through the


I like this. There seems to be a POV shift right at the end and the trigger seemd a bit contrivedm those twelve seconds really could have been anything. But it was well written and engaging enough that I would have voted for it had it been in my reading list.
Mick Jagger, really.


One wonders how Chervil could gather the competence in one place in order to call Baldor on his own. The first part set Chervil’s up very well. One didn’t mind. Chervil isn’t a very sympathetic character and that’s probably the achilles heel of this story. I really felt he sort of got what he deserved at the end, even if it was perfectly predictable.

I thought Mick Jagger as his first wish was entirely random and brought out a laugh when I read it. You also nicely tied him in at the end.

There's a lot about this I liked. I loved the total randomness of Mick Jagger. Chervil as a character came across very strongly. I liked Baldor and the intricacies of the summoning. Very nice use of the trigger. I did not, however, find the ending satisfying. I' m not sure if I'm supposed to think Chervil will be stuck in the ether with nubile genies for a seemed eternity, or if I'm supposed to think it's some sort of purgatory and Baldor was lying, or what exactly. If there were a way to make this a little more concrete I think it would work better for me.


The title is great, and the story arch is good, although somewhat predictable. In the beginning, I felt sorry for Chervil. His friend doesn’t really seem like a friend—it’s like one of those relationships where one person thinks they’re friends and the other doesn’t really like them, but is willing to use them. So I thought Jeremy was a jerk, and poor Chervil was just a sweet kid who got bullied so much he thought the bullies were his friends. But then Chervil turns out to be as stupid as Jeremy treats him. I was disappointed. It was kind of like watching the under-dog get kicked.


Dayum. Chervil got duped!
I liked the descriptions in this. I felt like I could see clearly much of what was happening. Like watching a movie.

My critique is that I wished for more coherency of the trigger, 12 seconds. That seemed a random number that flailed about the plot like an appendage. When the year 1955 was brought up again and again in Back to the Future, Doc muses that perhaps it’s a coincidence, or perhaps all of time and space hinges on that time. I wanted something similar here. A reason for the coincidence, or at least an acknowledgement of it. As creative as this story is, I bet you could tie those 12 second’s references together and strengthen the overall plot/theme.

Trigger: moderate


Nice set up, well done. Use more of the five human senses but not much else to say about it.


Had a nice start but the story became predictable. I think a better hashing of the plot is in order – something more than kidnapping Mick Jagger (tons of possibilities). I think the story could have used a reworked sentence or two as well. The protagonist was outsmarted a little too easily, IMO. So, restructure a sentence or two (doesn’t need much) and fuller plot is in order. Other than that, a solid story and contender.


This was an easy and fun read. The last djinn-related work I read was the Bartimaeus Trilogy, so this brought back fond memories. I like the clear style of your writing. The Jagger part made me chuckle.
I did have trouble accepting the fact that he would be so successful in summoning Baldor by himself. I just felt that he could have done that the first time; he didn’t even try to improve in between! I also would have liked to see some closure with Jeremy. I felt that there was something there with Jeremy – a past with a djinn, perhaps. Jeremy was unusually curious and especially disappointed when the summoning didn’t work.

[ June 15, 2013, 09:02 PM: Message edited by: snapper ]
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry # 10


Shannon’s hands shook as he faced the wall-screens on the bridge. His hands, his arms, his knees. Even his hips threatened to give way. Coming out of print storage in the middle of the voyage was bad enough. But being the only one that they reconstituted into a living body carried a sense of foreboding – it meant that he was the deciding vote.

What the dilemma was, he had no idea – not yet. But reformatting into flesh meant that his upload self hadn’t been able to decide. Even more, they were willing to give up all the experience of his upload self so they could start again, start presenting their arguments to him afresh.

“Before you begin,” he said, “please give me a bit of time.”
“Sorry,” said Kohl. “Teahlea should have thought of that.”


I'm not a lover of hard sci-fi but, while this wasn't in my list, I tried to read it. Some of the science came across as a cross between text book and info dump and the time jumps threw me put a few time. I had a hard tome working out what was going on at the best of times without trying to work out just where I was in the timeline.

Really, really well done. That's all I've got. I liked this a lot.


I’m not a hardcore syfy reader, but I do enjoy a good Star Trek episode from time to time—because in Star Trek, although they use the technical jargon and refer to stuff that is over my head, I can still put two and two together to figure out what’s going on. Sure, I don’t catch all the little cool things that a fan would know, but I can still enjoy the story. In this story, I had a really hard time putting two and two together. I’m still not sure I have the plot line straight. I think this was about people on earth who sent computer-duplicates of themselves into space illegally. Why they did that, I wasn’t sure, because it sounded like they were cut off from all contact with Earth, so they couldn’t be collecting data for scientists. I like your aliens, though and I think there’s potential here.


You lost me at ramscoop. This is not a failing of yours; your story was very well written and impressive in its terminology. I think, in fact, that it’s probably just the type of story they like over at WOTF – a space-based problem requiring thoughtful analysis by a sharp protagonist. Nail on the head.

Here are some observations from someone who is decidedly NOT a space girl. The tangible items conveniently dropping down from the ceiling or up from the floor (beds, meds, etc.) strained credulity. Intergalactic travel I can sign-off on, but the ability to just dial up some pain reliever which rises from the floor seems too reminiscent of the Jetsons. Also, the nonlinear delivery of the story kept me feeling like I had to reacclimate, and I never really got comfortable. Of course, that could be entirely due to the fact that I feel antsy in a spaceship, even a vicarious one. Finally, you did a very good job at characterization, a considerable accomplishment considering two of them were virtual.


Very intelligently, and well written. Perhaps too much for me. (I’m a simpleton.) However, I recognize skill when I see it.
The second half of the story rocked the first half’s world. Once it settled in and stopped jumping around, I became engrossed and excited about where it was headed. And Shannon’s conclusion/realization was freekin great!
I love the printing, too. 3-D printing is in its infancy now and I read recently that someone shot a 3-D gun! There’s a 3-D printing Dr. Who episode that explores a possible future for this tech as well. I think it’s a great addition to a sci-fi plot.

My critique is foremost that I felt the story was out of order. I relate the start to choppy surf that settled only after I realized I was in a boat on the water. Personally, I see no problem with moving this into a linear time frame. Start on earth, go into space, print, meet aliens. The characters were introduced properly in “12 decades earlier” but not so much I felt in the opening we have now. I did a lot of mental scrambling I wish I didn’t have to do.
I don’t care for all the 12 references. I feel they’re too coincidental and they don’t forward the plot, but instead yank me out of the story. They don’t make up for the lack of specific 12 second references.
Lastly, I would have liked a brief reference to all the time the three crew members spent uploaded. Had they not driven each other crazy over 120 years? [Smile]

Trigger: weak-moderate


Not too bad even though the opening took too long. The whole story feels long. I would prefer the idea of why they stole the ship earlier but that’s personal perference. Not too bad use of the premise but not the best.


Good science fiction. Nice set up. The writing is good, but the premise is thick. The ending eludes me but it might not for an analog crowd. This one is close to being ready.

But, you may want to tweak the ‘as you know, Bob’ explanation in the first scene. I suggest expanding the story to support your reveal. A very nice idea. One rewrite and I would shoot for the moon.


I enjoyed reading this story. The time jumps were a little confusing, but I could pretty much piece together what was going on. The theoretical concepts you included in this story were very interesting, and I’m glad that I could glean what they were (Dyson sphere/swarm, Bussard, etc) without having to search them on the internet. I especially liked the ending. I would have, however, preferred some more elaboration on that post-singularity being. The older Shannon could also have done with a longer introduction. Reading your story made me feel as if I explored a great expanse of the universe

[ June 15, 2013, 09:03 PM: Message edited by: snapper ]
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Entry #11

Crystalline Harmony

Clouds of microscopic crystals blanketed Cygnus 7 in ever-changing swirls of cobalt, carnelian, and chalcedony. Every speck pulsed with color and, though he couldn't hear them from inside his modified skimmer, Humboldt Crane knew they emanated sound waves, blending together in a fugue of precisely calibrated harmonics, able to synthesize and transmit thoughts, memories, and dreams--all the base components of the human soul.

Cygnus 7 crystals were interdicted by every governing body in the known galaxies. Priceless. Life-giving. Lethal.

To Humboldt, the danger was part of the game. A dash of old world sriracha to spice his black market procurement. To give him the feeling that he was truly alive.

Yes, there were other things he could harvest or scavenge, but here the profit and the challenge merged into an obsession.


That was a wonderful story. The characterisation was perfect and you had me willing them on all the way. The whole thing struck such a cord and, as the first thirteen promised, it was excellently written. This is my pick for the winner, unfortunately it's not on my list so I can't vote for it, else I would have.


There were shades of Ethereon’s “Letting Go of an Electric Blue Soda” in this story, with its use of sentient ships and children. Nice story, if a little predictable. The occasional misapplication of science gave it a technobabble feel – I would have preferred improved details in science. (For example, a magnetic shield wouldn’t help against abrasive particles.) I really liked some of the thought on limitations of humanity due to transfer to an artificial environment. Delivered on its promise of a strong start.


Good story. Interesting throughout. Great ending—except I’m slightly disturbed that Eloise will live the rest of her life in her dad’s body. I wonder why you waited so long to get to your hook. Maybe I’m a little hook-happy, but why not move the fact that his daughter is on ice and fighting for her life in the first paragraph? Then again, you won the opening challenge, so maybe that’s just me. I was confused when Humboldt thinks about his own father—took me awhile to figure out who was the burn victim who chose the solitary life. Still I’m not sure, because I know Humboldt is living a solitary life—does that mean he’s burnt as well? But then why would he put Eloise’s soul into a burn-scarred body? And what was he planning on using for the non-organic host? Overall, I liked this.


Really good. Voice, pacing, prose are all pretty tight. How can you not be captivated by a self-sacrificing hero?

I do wonder how the transfer was effected, since no mention was made of him being physically connected to Eloise or the crystals. How does a ship’s computer, despite its being imbued with sentience from Humboldt’s dead wife, get one person’s consciousness into another?

Also, I have to admit that I liked Humboldt considerably less when he said he’d never known of Eloise's desire to experience life on Earth. Even if he hadn’t been privy to her journal, even if she’d never told him, I feel like a parent should always be thinking about what their child needs. Surely the thought would have crossed his mind that her life with him was pretty limited. That quibble could be easily managed with a mention of him having tried to get her to go down for a visit, and her staunchly refusing. As it is, his assertion that “all she had to do was say” seems pretty selfish. That’s probably my Mom voice talking, though. Bottom line is that I think the story overall is great, really well written.


Absolutely brilliant and touching story, filled with danger, risk, and emotion. My favorite so far. I hope this is tweaked and subbed to WotF. I think it’s perfect for them and I think it has a good chance. (However, I’m not the judge, so don’t take me too seriously.)

The trigger--
In this case, the trigger is a simple statement of time, interchangeable to any other statement of time. It’s mentioned only once, and has no effect on the plot.

My critique is that I felt some of the information was slightly out of order. Although we eventually learn everything, so that we have a complete picture by the end, I felt the overall tension could have been raised had I known certain facts earlier than I did.

Trigger: weak


Best story in those I read. Not perfect, it could use some work, I think the revelation of the daughter should be sooner, prehaps in the opening. That someone is hurt is close to the opening but I would like to know it was the daughter and that the ship’s AI was his lover sooner. Some sentences are too long in the beginning and more senses would be good too but the biggest thing is the premise. At least for me it was almost hidden, a key part but I feel not quite. If it wasn’t for that it would be First Place.


This is a tale of a man who couldn’t let go. Yes, he has had plenty of tragedy, but would his wife and daughter would have wanted him to make those choices on their behalf? To be doomed to a cold and mechanical existence? I had a hard time feeling any sort of sympathy for him and wondered if his wife and daughter would have been horrified with their fate.

I did have a hard time grasping what was going on at first – needed to catch up with the story. I think this could use some expanding as well. Decent sci-fi but not as good as the sci-fi before it, IMO.


Well done. You really brought images to life. I had a strong feel for these characters. The dialogue had a great flow. I especially enjoyed the part where SADIE established that she couldn’t see the colors; at that moment, I could feel the Humboldt’s melancholic decision approaching. Beautiful.

[ June 15, 2013, 09:04 PM: Message edited by: snapper ]
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Round 1 openings comments

1 - You Get What You Pay For

Strong voice. Not fully clear on POV or setting, but there's room to grow into that.

No trigger, but a lot of fun. Good action in the trigger.

I had to read this a couple times to figure out who the goblin and troll were. At first I thought there were six characters mentioned in this opening and it made my head spin.

I loved the last line. Really want to know who (or what) Squeal is. This thirteen gives me the impression that the story to follow will be light-hearted, with slapstick moments and plenty of misadventure. The very first sentence bugged me, though. ‘s a wizard threw me out of the story because my brain fixated on the missing letter. Of course, I’m a little bit OCD about grammar, so it might not bother others. The other comment I would offer is that some of your descriptive sentences seem complicated, like you’re trying to pack too much in there. Intriguing, though. I look forward to reading the whole thing.

Intrigued but the opening is too sudden of a start – no time to get grounded. I liked the description of the troll’s growl but believe it needs rewording for a better flow in the prose

This looks like fun. The dialog worries me a little, in that it works me hard. But not enough to stop me reading.

Nice start, like the accent. It tells what is coming.

Wonder if Squeal is what they paid for.

2 - The Thirteenth Second

Intriguing concept. Is that how seconds work in duels? Somehow I thought they were more of a failsafe. That could very easily be my ignorance speaking, however.

The trigger is there, though it seems to have gone up one second. I wouldn't read on though, it's all a bit flat and, already, Haster, who I presume is the MC, comes across as not particularly nice. I don't care if he gets killed or not.

Moderately hooked. A little confused.

First, I have to say how jealous I am that you did the dueling seconds angle. I’d thought about it, but then I saw that you’d already snagged it. So, the trigger is immediately apparent, and you’ve managed to introduce both characters and conflict in the first thirteen. Sounds like an action-packed story is to come. I’m confused about Floria. She asks a question that seems judgmental, then she grits her teeth (which is usually done in anguish or exasperation), and then she says she’ll be his thirteenth fighter. Not the response I was expecting given the hints provided earlier.

Like the characters and the presentation of the premise. Interested.

I toyed with a similar idea, but decided against. Glad someone else here is on my wavelength

A bit slow but it also tells what is coming--could use more sense of setting but it’s not bad without it.

3 - Vital

I didn't really follow how the first sentence related to the rest. The image wasn't coming clear for me.

You know that moment...? Should have been a question and how does it relate to 'that kind of morning'? You really need to proof read this, it's full of typos, tense swaps, bad grammar and I definitely would not read on.

Trigger contrived. The opening puts her in peril, but there isn’t any action. The comment ‘it was the scariest twelve seconds of her existence’ is a tell, not a show.

The first paragraph doesn’t work for me at all, and the second is info dumpy.

So, is she asleep? Is everything in the tunnel a dream? I hope not, but that opening sentence made me wonder. Some good description here. I got a good sense of Julia’s appearance, although the bit about her shimmering red-blond hair sounded too romance novelly to me. The main thing I noticed about this opening is that it seems to be mostly description. The dreaded telling instead of showing. Get things going! Sounds like the predicament is full of potential.

Sounds a bit like a ‘Mission Impossible’ set up. The prose has some unneeded qualifiers – could be trimmed to improve the flow.

This throws in the trigger, but I’m not sure why it’s so scary, or, since it is scary, how she knows it is twelve seconds. I’d expect that there is meaning behind this that will be coming up. Having made some big statements in the opening paragraph, it turns a little too quickly to a passive voice and backgrounding, and didn’t follow up the implied danger of the first paragraph to satisfy my curiosity created by the hints of the opening paragraph.

I think the first sentence sounds a little like a cliche opening. The second paragraph sounds like she didn’t know she would wake up with all that gear, as in some type of mental video game. And “sophisticated satellite machinery” Machinery? To me it sounds like she is not used to speaking of that type of gear. Still not bad.

4 - Pivot

A classic sort of opening on many levels. I really like the specific details that make this stick out. The name Diorénado. The upper rim. I'm intrigued.

I don't understand. If this is a position normally reserved for the elite, why doesn't she want it? Never heard a crowd rustle either, but I'd read another page to see if it picks up a bit.

Serviceable opening. The menace of the Diorenado is muffled by their selecting of the apprentices. Why would Fyana not want to be selected? That is the question rather than the threat to be killed if she rejects.

A really nice opening. The trigger is in play, and we’re introduced to the MC just as she’s given life-changing news. I wonder, though, why no one there knows her? I assume that all the students chosen are roughly the same age. None of them have had classes with Fyana, or seen her around the town? Even if she lived on the edge, it seems like she would have had some interaction with her peers. I also wonder why the Diorenado would kill her if she refused her apprenticeship. The writing is spot-on, giving me just enough information about the world and Fyana while plunging me directly into the action of the story. I can’t wait to read on.

Didn’t like the first sentence and think it should be divided into two. Don’t know enough yet to have an opinion if the rest works as a hook yet,

Not quite hooked yet, but there are hints of promise. Perhaps the opening is too quick to get into her thoughts, without the context for her negative reaction. However, there is enough in it to keep me looking.


Good set up, shows the problem and something about the MC. Nice. I’m curious why she was picked and for what? And who or what the Diorénado are.

5 - Unlimited Power

Giggling by sentence two. Nice concept. Would happily read on.

I personally don't like first person present, it needs to be done really well and rarely is. This needs proof reading and reads more like a blurb in the second paragraph. The trigger is there right from the start, but I wouldn't read on.

I really like the premise in this opening, but there is just a bit too much tell here. The trigger is integral to the opening.

Moderately hooked, although I don’t like the immediate flash back. I love the first paragraph though. Is there a way to weave in the info without such an obvious flashback?

This is a really inventive way to implement the trigger, so well done there. I like the voice, and that the devil appeared to the main character as an old woman. The whole premise of someone getting super-powers delivered in short bursts is brilliant, and the eventual price paid is, well, obligatory. It’s a deal with the devil, right? I felt a little bit jarred when the story slipped from first-person present to past tense, but I know you were relating a past incident. Present tense is tricky. I want to see how this one turns out, too, to find out whether the protagonist manages to pull a Daniel Webster on Lucifer.

Oh I like this.

The premise is interesting regarding the 12 second trigger. Perhaps even enough to overcome the cliché “Devils wish fulfilment”, perhaps with a contract coming up. It would therefore keep me reading.

A different concept in this one. It reveals the problem gives us a look into the Hero.

6 - Civic Duty

I'm not sure if the order of how things are presented here works to best advantage. The juxtaposition of the second sentence into the baby talk following didn't really seem to follow.

That first sentence is a bit of a drag, but I like the characterisation. It hooks me enough to read on, but I'm not sure if that's just because the first thirteen cuts off short and leaves me wondering what the rest of that last paragraph is.

The quote got in the way of the hook. Because of that, this opening doesn’t quite have what it needs.

Don’t like the first paragraph because it’s too melodramatic. Perfect day ruined because of mail—unless it’s a death threat, and if so put that in the first paragraph.

Love the quote, but I wish you’d take the parenthetical addition out. Keep it true to what Ben actually said, and trust that readers will be able to suss it out. The writing and pacing in this are very good. Right now, though, I find myself disliking Tina pretty intensely. She’s coming across as very patronizing to her husband, and I almost hope that the envelope has really bad news.

I liked the opening quote, but this sets a tone that is a little different to the cutesy feel that followed. I am not fully hooked yet, but I’m not turned off by the voice either. Will have to see how it will go.

A different concept here too, shows us a little something about the hero. But with that title and “white government issued envelope” is this Jury duty? Twelve juries but how does that fit with 12 seconds? If it does or doesn’t I’m curious. And good setting.

7 – The Chief Chef's Frenzy Meal

I wonder if there is a way to say the same thing without quite so much repetition of the same words. Can this be streamlined? Fun name.

Sorry, but this just didn't grab me. It's very flat. There's nothing much happening but I can hazard a good guess at what the link to the trigger might be

This was too confusing. Fix good meals that were nourishing, yet the King and Queen didn’t want them? I didn’t understand where this story would go.

I’m hungry right now, but this still didn’t hook me. Too info dumpy, maybe. I like the garlic smell, and Tommy’s anxiety—maybe focus more on Tommy’s emotions in these first paragraphs.

I like Tommy’s name. It’s rather Seussian, and it gives me the impression that the story to come will be madcap and fun. So far, though, I feel like most of what’s here is backstory. Now, I know that there’s a certain amount of exposition necessary in any story. Good stories are not all show, despite opinions to the contrary. I think that this opening could benefit from some immersion into the moment, though. Let me see what the menu items are, or show Tommy preparing the dishes while he thinks about his difficult situation.

Not sure where this is going. Could there be 20 blackbirds in a pie?

A fantasy trope and a science fiction trope, this confuses the type of story I am to expect. Still, the POV character being a chef (or so it seems) does draw me in.

8 – Simple Delegation

Cool concept. I'll have to see how the second person works in the longer piece. Personal bias is coming into play here.

I like the idea but it reads more like a blurb and nothing is actually happening. It sets the premise but doesn't pull me in, which is what an opening should do.

I like this idea. It’s intriguing, but the second person in the last sentence weakened the opening.

Totally hooked. I’m curious to see how the 2nd person narrative goes. Great opening

So, the last two lines are wonderful, but the paragraph before it confuses me. Your job in heaven is to delegate time to people on earth? Does that mean to think about the people you knew? You can give it out as you like? So, you can think about whoever you want? But you only get to do this for the amount of time you’ve earned. And what happens after that? Perhaps that’s what the rest of the story is about, but I’m on the fence about this one. For me, second person point of view is a really hard sell.

Curious, but I am having difficulty understanding how allotted time would benefit the people on Earth.

I liked this opening. That last line made me smile. Would definitely read on.

Not bad, it explains what is going on. “like some sort of mini cinema” though could be stated better. It doesn’t flow well. How one delegates the time and if it is to one person or the whole human race is hopefully explained in the next 13 lines.

9 - Chervil in Ether

I really like the voice in this. The repetition of 'obviously' works really well. Curious to see more.

I would read on. You set a scene of magic, though the language sounds teenage American to me, which I found to be a bit of a pull, but with the mention of a nurse and hospital I'm struggling to see just what kind of a setting we're in.

If we voted on titles, this would be my pick. I wasn’t quite believing you can summon djinns with fireworks, but I’d read on.

Another immediate flash back. Why not start with the summoning? That’s more interesting than kids burning their fingers on fireworks.

Who names their kid Chervil? I’m already thinking that this guy is less than brilliant, and that’s not necessarily a good thing in a main character. We’re supposed to like them, right? I’m intrigued that they were trying to summon a djinn, though, and I’d read on to find out what happens.

Not bad. I’d like to see where this is headed.

I liked this for its dialog. Not quite sold on the premise.

Interesting title, good setting, good explaination of what is going on. But “Baldor”? Sounds close to Thor’s friend and that you are mixing your mythologies.

10 – Enclosed

Print storage. Interesting. I am cautiously intrigued.

Interesting idea, and I would read on, though I need to know what the MC has to decide pretty quickly as it's the only thing making me want to continue.

Fascinating premise. The ending took away from the opening as two people were introduced without any reference. A re-crafting would make this a super-strong effort.

Moderately hooked. I was hooked until the dialogue.

This has a lot of promise. I think the story opens in a good place, with Shannon being awakened in corporeal form to make some sort of monumental decision. I wish we knew what the dilemma was, but I’m sure that will be revealed quickly. You were able to give me a good impression of the setting without taking me out of the forward motion of the story. The writing overall is fine, but the second and third sentences don’t work for me. His hands, his arms, his knees is just a list, and hips threatening to give way sounds like they’re going to break into pieces. I definitely want to read further, though, to find out what the problem is.

Not enough information to decide if it hooks, yet

Not bad, gives the problem but at the same time there’s a lot to wonder about. That last could be a problem and a grabber. Good contempary set up with the print storage instead of being frozen.

11 – Crystalline Harmony

I like this and would read on even though I have no idea what is likely to happen. crystals that transmit human souls? It could be anything and that, and the quality of the writing, is the hook.

Another great premise that would lead me on. Unfortunately the challenge merging into an obsession isn’t exactly action-packed at this point.

Hooked. I’m intrigued by this idea. I wish there was more character in this, but I think the premise is enough to keep reading. Beware of alliteration.

I like the premise here, of a daring scavenger going after a dangerous and forbidden substance, even to the point of folly. The description of the crystals was eloquent, but perhaps a bit overwrought for my taste. You’ve established a strong narrative voice, and I already like Humboldt. I want to see what happens next.

Sounds like forbidden fruit. Looking forward to reading it.

Oh, I like this. Looking forward to reading it.

Wow, some setting. Again there’s a hint of what is to come. It uses some words I don’t know though. “sriracha”? And the only color I know from the three in the first sentence is cobalt but they add to the exetic local. I know “Interdicted” but it seems a bit overblown but it could still fit depending on the rest of it. Again it sounds like a cliche but even that could work well in a story like this.

[ June 07, 2013, 11:09 AM: Message edited by: snapper ]
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Update! Update!

palm to forehead My last voter sent his votes in days ago and I didn't see the attachment. So I finally compiled the results. Ready?

9 out of the 11 entries received a vote. 7 of them were someones first choice, very close. The final voter decided the outcome. Here are the top five choices with the points they received (using 3 for 1st, 2 for 2nd, and 1 for 3rd)

#11 Crystalline Harmony 15pnts - this one made it on 8 peoples list, clearly a well liked opening.

#5 Unlimited Power* - 14pnts - this one was the top choice of 3 judges.

#8 A Simple Delegation - 11 pnts

#9 Chervil in Ether - 10 pnts

#6 Pivot - 6pnts

Congratulations to the author of #11. I owe you one no strings attached critique. I just threw a handful of confetti into the air in your honor. yipee.

Other news...

Four people have already completed their judging assignments. AS soon as I get time (which isn't at this moment) I will start posting the comments under the openings of each entry.

I have also posted the last of the comments to the openings. Go take a look.

AS far as a deadline, I am hoping the judging will be all tied up by next weekend. I will see where we are from there. Something tells me will be all wrapped up by then.

The top three vote getters of round 2 will be sent to our single judge this year - Tina Smith. She is looking forward to them.

[ June 08, 2013, 09:24 AM: Message edited by: snapper ]
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
We have a winner! From our illustrious judge, Tina Smith.

Crystalline Harmony: This one had it all. Voice, style, a strong emotional core and characters I identified with (and as a parent those parts moved me). The ending line was perfect.

Enclosed: I loved the structure and form of this one, particularly the jumping around in time by 12s, which I thought was extremely clever. Also the twist ending was well played.

Unlimited Power: This one had some great voice, characters, and even some deeper emotional grit that was impressive. One of the things that made it stand out to me was the idea of being a superhero which is a theme in *my* Twelve Seconds. The opening line and the dialog were well done.

So my choice was Crystalline Harmony as the winner of the contest.

Congrats to Rabrich!

Now, to raise the curtain.

#1 - You Get What You Pay For by PDBlake

#2 - The Thirteenth Second by Owasm

#3 - Vital by Melaine Vera

#4 - Pivot by Estee Wood

#5 - Unlimited Power by Axeminister

#6 - Civic Duty by snapper

#7 - The Chief Chef’s Frenzy Meal by LDWriter

#8 - A Simple Delegation by Tesknota

#9 - Chervil in Ether by wirelesslibarian

#10 - Enclosed by Brendan

#11 - Crystalline Harmony by Rabrich
Posted by axeminister (Member # 8991) on :
Grats to Rebecca. Rockin and rollin.

As for me - one of these years...

Still, nothing but thanks for Snapper for working tirelessly to put this contest on for us each year.

Posted by LDWriter2 (Member # 9148) on :
Hey, I agreed with Tina. At least on "Crystalline Harmony".

I thought it could use a bit of work but she's right the last line was perfect and the rest was well done. Congrats Rebecca,

Now hurry up and get it published so I can share the link on my blog. [Smile]

But as usual I wonder what ranking everyone else got.

I think we can figure out who got fourth and fifth. But it sounded like the others might be tied for either seventh and eighth place so maybe we don't need to be told after all. [Wink]

Since I knew where mine was headed, I've already revised it and hopefully made it a bit stronger even though it's still my writing.
Posted by pdblake (Member # 9218) on :
Well done Rebecca. That was my favourite too, though I couldn't vote for it as it wasn't on my reading list.

Thanks to Frank for putting up with us all again:)
Posted by rabirch (Member # 9832) on :
Thanks so much! I loved reading all the stories, and, Snapper, you are awesome for running this every year. It's a huge shot in the arm of motivation and encouragement for everyone.

I look forward to hearing what happens with everyone's stories and I hope they quickly make their way out into the world. So much good stuff all around!
Posted by Brendan (Member # 6044) on :
Well done, Rebecca. Great story. Your's too, Dustin.

Thanks Frank for running this. That's five years in a row now?
Posted by Melanie Vera (Member # 10072) on :
Way to go Rebecca. Congrats! Also great job everyone. I think that I will not do this again until I am well established like the rest of you fine people. It seems I have a lot to work on and that is okay.
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Well established? That's a stretch. The success this group has had runs from marginal to none.

I will say everyone that has participated has been at it for awhile and has gotten better - and I believe most would credit contests like this one contributing with their improvement.

The real value of these exercises (aside for an excuse to tweak Nick T's sensibilities) is the critiques we receive. They're anonymous and will grant you a glimpse to see how your writing is progressing. They're also excellent vessels to test out new ideas and try tactics out on a captured audience.

I suggest you don't shy away from the next one, Melanie. Jump in and take a chance. What do you have to lose?
Posted by Brendan (Member # 6044) on :
I don't think that three WOTF finallists is marginal - especially as each of them have at least one professional sale as well. Given the skewed nature of the field, statistically, that is well established for hobbyists. But it is a target that some of us non- published but well-ensconced, if not established, can aim for.

But I do agree that these challenges have really helped my writing, like Tesknota, even forcing me to finish something. So don't be shy, keep coming back.

In fact, I'm thinking of running a challenge that involves a little collaboration between authors, given a recent topic on the boards. Would anyone be interested?
Posted by tesknota (Member # 10041) on :
Good job Rebecca, and everyone else! And thanks Frank!

Brendan, I take it that you were inspired by the co-authoring thread? What you have in mind could be interesting. I'm always up for new things.
Posted by snapper (Member # 7299) on :
Well, I guess it does depend on your definition of what 'well established' means. MIne.

A writer whose primary source of income is made from writing

ie: Orson Scott Card, Mike Resnick, Dave Farland

Successful I would define as writers who routinely make sales to professional publications and have been recognized with major award honors (or nominations) like the Hugo, Nebula, or Campbell awards. Examples of writers who were once regular posters on hatrack...

Mary Kowall
Eric James Stone
Brad Torgenson

But I would agree that all the writers in these competitions are good ones. Of the people that I'm aware, in this singular competition, who have submitted to the Writer's of the Future, all have earned at least one Honorable Mention (the top ten percent of the quarter) - no small feat.

In my honest (and singular) opinion, the writer (in this contest) with the most potential I don't think has made a sale yet.

You won't get me to tell you who I think that is.
Posted by pdblake (Member # 9218) on :
Just got my first HM the other day:) And it didn't involve trolls:)

I agree, these challenges are a great way of learning.
Posted by axeminister (Member # 8991) on :
I'll play that game, Frank.
I think the writer with the most potential didn't enter this year. And I don't think she has any sales yet either, despite my quarterly nudges to submit.

But seriously, Melanie, this is a place of practice. This is class. This is to learn and get better.

There's no end gamers here. (nyuck nyuck)

We're all just looking to get better, and the occasional contest is all in good fun. (With a snazzy prize.)


p.s. grats on the HM, troll master.
Posted by wirelesslibrarian (Member # 9513) on :
Congratulations, Rebecca! I hope to see your name on the finalists' list again with this one.

I truly enjoyed reading every story (including yours, Melanie). Thank you, Snapper, for running the challenge once again. So much fun.
Posted by Owasm (Member # 8501) on :
Congratulations, Rebecca. Good work, everyone and thanks to Snapper for putting this on.
Posted by rabirch (Member # 9832) on :
Congratulations on your first HM PDBlake!

And I have to second (third? fourth?) what everyone else has said. These contests are fabulous places to learn and grow as a writer. I wish I had discovered them sooner. The impetus of a deadline, the number of critiques, the fact that we're all in the same boat of growing and learning, and we're all vested in helping each other accomplish those same things . . . it's a fabulous thing.
Posted by Melanie Vera (Member # 10072) on :
Thank you all on the boost of confidence. I will enter more contests. Like all have said it is a way to learn and grow. The only way to achieve our goals is try, try again.
Posted by axeminister (Member # 8991) on :
This may seem like a random request, but I wonder if one of the folks that read my story, #5, would be willing to look at an under 5k word WotF entry for me in the next two to three days. It's for Q3 which deadlines in 7 days.

Specifically, the person who wrote this: This had terrific pace, which had me falling over myself to see what came next. A couple of typos, but other than that, loved this one. Its tight plotting makes one of two standouts in my group.

I ask for a few reasons. 1. Because I appreciate your note about pacing. I'm concerned about the pacing of my current story and would love the outside opinion and 2. because I couldn't find any typos in my story and you did and that's super important to me - to know what/where they are so I can squash them and not make them any more.

I haven't asked Frank to reveal who you are, so if you don't have time for the read or whyever else, no problem.

If so, please send an e-mail when you get a chance. Or if not and you want to let me know you can't, that's fine too.

Thanks again!

Axe / Dustin
Posted by Utahute72 (Member # 9057) on :
We may have to ban Rabirch from participating(Just kidding), I don't think I've read a bad story from her. Congrats.
Posted by rabirch (Member # 9832) on :
Hi, all.

I just wanted to drop by and share that my contest story, "Crystalline Harmony" has just been published by Perihelion Science Fiction. It's now titled "Life Out of Harmony," and all the great comments from the readers here helped so much with the revisions. Thanks so much!

If you're interested, you can find the story here: Life Out of Harmony
Posted by wirelesslibrarian (Member # 9513) on :
Congratulations, Rebecca!
Posted by rabirch (Member # 9832) on :
Thanks, Wirelesslibrarian!
Posted by tesknota (Member # 10041) on :
Wow, I remember this! Congrats! =)
Posted by axeminister (Member # 8991) on :
I sold mine as well recently to ASIM.
Mine was Unlimited Power *
Sadly the planned pub date is 7/2015, so I figured I'd mention it now, instead of then. [Smile]

Missed this challenge this year, but we didn't really know anyone at the workshop to get a signed book for us.

But this year we do, so watch this space next year.

Posted by wirelesslibrarian (Member # 9513) on :
Congratulations, Dustin! I'm glad your story found a good home.
Posted by Brendan (Member # 6044) on :
congrats rachel, dustin.

Axeminister said: Missed this challenge...

I don't think snapper has put it on (yet?). Always look forward to this one - its become a tradition here. In fact, if we do ever get ourselves into gear with a Hatrack POD brew, stories from this challenge, as well as the WOTF critique circle, should be high on the list.
Posted by axeminister (Member # 8991) on :
Frank has been swamped this spring. Plus, we didn't know anyone well enough to ask, although Frank probably could have introduced himself, but see swamped. (If I'm wrong, he can correct me, but that's my impression.)

But we both know Auston Habbershaw, so I'm fairly certain he'd grab a copy for us. And we know 3 of the current finalists, so our odds are pretty good!

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