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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Writing Challenges » Finish my Intro (ENTRIES) (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Finish my Intro (ENTRIES)
skadder
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Post below, 'Pearls of Red'.


EDITED TO ADD: Could you number your entries, it will make them easier to identify and vote for, etc.

[This message has been edited by skadder (edited May 26, 2009).]


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tnwilz
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Withdrawn.

[This message has been edited by tnwilz (edited June 05, 2009).]


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skadder
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Entry Two

The orbital’s gardenarium was silent, but Jasal wasn’t fooled--beneath the surface it was a hive of activity. A silver bee-bot slick with yellow pollen, rose from a nearby wisteria bloom and hovered next to her; it's biometric sensors probing her identity.

“Seurix is here, isn’t he?” She turned to Tomasino. “Here to kill me.” Her heart fluttered as she uttered the actual words.

She wanted the denial, but Tomasino looked away, out the view-port. The Earth--the night-side --twinkled below as nuclear fires raged across its surface. “Perhaps his death invitation was a fraud, Jasal. Maybe someone’s just trying to fry your nerves.” He turned back, his hand touching her forearm and nodded at the bee-bot. “Besides, we've the best security in--"

He froze, his face whitened, and he topppled forward. Jasal stumbled


[This message has been edited by skadder (edited May 30, 2009).]


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Kaz
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Entry Three

The garden was silent, but Jasal wasn’t fooled. The pixies might have been clever at hiding, but nobody had a nose like his, and nobody had his hunting instincts. His grey, bushy tail mopped the ground as he inched forward. He knew the pixies could see him, but he was content with letting them think he was being silly, crawling around like that. That was why he was a wolf, and they were just pixies.

You ornery bitches better cough up those jewels soon, Jasal thought, ears twitching as though in response to the faint flutter of tiny wings, or else casino night goes bye bye.


[This message has been edited by Kaz (edited May 26, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by Kaz (edited May 27, 2009).]


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Owasm
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ENTRY FOUR

The garden was unusually silent, but Jasal wasn’t fooled. She sensed the pent-up excitement from the petunias and the hint of a giggle from the marigolds. The little pine couldn’t quite hide its little shiver of delight, when she walked past with her little cart. She approached the fountain in the center and sat, waving her hand through the cool water of the basin… waiting for the onslaught.

All of a sudden the cachophonous cry, Happy Birthday! It rang through her head as if the sounds could be heard with her human ears. Tears came unbidden to her eyes as she felt the waves of warm wishes from her garden friends.

A string of little red resin balls fell on her lap. She lifted the string up and gazed at the tiny orbs' pearl-like luster.

[This message has been edited by Owasm (edited May 26, 2009).]


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Tiergan
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Entry: #5

The garden was silent, but Jasal wasn't fooled. No. She had seen them enter, and death would not be far behind. It never was. The Jhar-khon left none alive. Never. But today, she vowed, would be the excpetion. Today they would fail. Her fingers sought the crimson pearls hanging low across her breast. May the gods forgive me. They wouldn’t though, but she could live with that. But the death of her brother’s son, her nephew, the king to be, that she couldn’t.

She rubbed the pearls of red together in a silent prayer. The gods wouldn’t forgive her, but maybe they would grant her victory. Wiping the sweat from the palms of her hands, she dove through the open gate and into the gathering shadows of the sacred garden. She rolled to her feet, dagger in hand.


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snapper
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Entry # 6

The rock garden was silent, but Jasal wasn't fooled. The round boulders were too patterned for his liking. “Rock Trolls.”
The sergeant looked back at Jasal. “Aren’t they a myth? I thought they were something the witches made up to keep us from searching for the pearls?”
Rocks came alive around the soldier’s leg. Piles of boulders rose up from the ground and yanked the screaming sergeant upside down. The Rock Troll swung the man over his head and smashed him into another boulder, splattering his head like a melon.
“Get the hammers!” Jasal shouted to the rest of the troops. He drew his sword, knowing full well that the steel had no chance of penetrating the monsters granite skin. He jumped to his left. The trolls punch missed him and pulverized a hog sized boulder.


[This message has been edited by snapper (edited May 28, 2009).]


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JustinArmstrong
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Entry #7

The garden was silent, but Jasal wasn't fooled. Noise meant nothing. If she were hunting a man, or even an animal, she would move on. But this place was too calm. Too peaceful. She could even feel the sun heating her neck and arms as she knelt down to the dirt. She took off her thick leather gloves and placed her hands on the soft dirt. She held them against the ground and closed her eyes. She could feel the warmth now, not from the sun, but from beneath her. She concentrated and whispered softly. When she opened her eyes, she could see it, burried beneath the earth. She was almost blinded by the initial sight of it. When you knew where it was, nothing in the physical world could block the sight of a spirit. As she knelt calmly, she labored in her soul, pulling the spirit to the surface.

[This message has been edited by JustinArmstrong (edited May 26, 2009).]


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shimiqua
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Entry #8

The garden was silent, but Jasal was no fool. He knew the eyes that watched him, frozen in stone. Elsbet sat in the shade, a statue carved with a master's talent. Jasal removed his motley hat, the bells twinkled as he did, and knelt before his queen, his wife.
"Fool" His master's shrill voice called him from the statue, no his Elsbet. She was not that far gone, not yet. A warm smell of cinnamon and sulfur enveloped around him as the power moved his legs, lifting him in the air. He felt his arms jut out to the side reflexively as he lost control of his balance and his equalibrium and he finished the flip, landing spritely on his feet to scattered applause. Bending down, he clutched his bright belled cap, and placed it back where his crown belonged.

[This message has been edited by shimiqua (edited June 04, 2009).]


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TaleSpinner
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Entry #9

The garden's silence didn't fool Jas. The Clockwork Mender would be along in -- she checked her watch -- five minutes. She jiggled the pike she had just plunged through the lawn; yep, it jammed the works below quite securely.
Metal soldiers of blue, red and gold that had clanked to kill her now stood quiet, swords and maces aloft but still. She sprinted past them to the lawn's edge and paused at the entrance to the maze. Studying its poisonous, waist-high hedges and treacherous paths she plotted a route to the ancient oak at the centre. According to legend, the Blood Pearls lay at its roots; with the skeletons of several dead adventurers.
Five minutes, a shade less now, to beat the maze, before its hedges resumed their clockwork, murderous dance.

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited May 27, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited May 27, 2009).]


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Devnal
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Entry 10

The silence of the Garden did not fool Jasal. Although he ran his callused thumb along the edge of his dagger with what some might mistake as indifferent coolness, his sharp eyes where forever trained on the shadowed treetops. The path he followed, curtained by the hapazardly growing vines and thorns of the End Time Garden, began to bend to the right.
"Jasal" A familiar voice spoke up from behind him. Jasal turned swiftly as he droped to one knee, letting the dagger fly from his fingertips. It soared true, impaling itself to the hilt in the chest of his only son, Ramak.
The whites of the young boy's bulging eyes offset the dark tone of his skin as he crumbled to his knees. His hands pawed hopelessly at the Dagger as a dark, growing blot of blood soaked


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Cheyne
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ENTRY ELEVEN

The garden was silent, but Justin wasn't fooled. There was always a calm before a storm or a great battle. He knew that they were there, hiding among the cabbages and beet greens, crouched, and ready to pounce. That he couldn't discern their red caps of rough cloth was no proof of their absence, he was certain they were there. He resumed his preparations.
Justin's hands didn't shake as he honed the edge of his scythe; he was not afraid. He felt beyond fear now. His losses were nothing when measured against what he still faced. 'That which doesn't kill me makes me stronger,' he thought. And he would need that strength now. He was facing a world of conflict, and these--these garden gnomes were just the beginning. He knew the real battle would begin only after their defeat.

[This message has been edited by Cheyne (edited May 28, 2009).]


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Symphonyofnames
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ENTRY TWELVE

The garden was silent, but Jasal wasn't fooled. He and the other monks had seen someone enter a week ago in the tapestries, and now the time had come when that prognostication would grow to realization. He walked from the garden of Earth-That-Was, through Earth-That-Is and to the garden of Earth-That-Will-Be. These were the gardens where time was grown, harvested, and spun into the threads of fate, the gardens that allowed the monks to see the past, the present, and to a certain extent, the future. An intruder could mean disaster. An intruder smart enough to break into the garden of Earth-That-Will-Be was even worse: that meant he was smart, that he knew that anything the monks could see about his actions were murky at best. Jasal had been chosen to stop the intruder.


[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited May 29, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by Symphonyofnames (edited May 31, 2009).]


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skadder
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http://tiny.pl/3tcm

Comments on that thread--not on this one. I only posted this here to ensure everyone read about the change.


[This message has been edited by skadder (edited May 30, 2009).]


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philocinemas
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Entry #13

The garden was silent, but Jasal was not fooled; a menacing danger persisted beyond the thick vegetation. His keen senses were sharpened to the guardian’s vile scent, the vibrations of its heart, and the heat emanating from its body. The genetic enhancements the Siders had engineered into Jasal made him the perfect predator as well as the most challenging prey. Despite the blood-streaked slashes across his upper body and limbs, Jasal’s movement was smooth and effortless as he rapidly traversed the spiral path. When he reached the center, where lay the prize and one more victory closer to the freedom he coveted, he caught the first sight of his challenger.

The paragon towered before him, a devilish beast, its crimson armor aglow from the fire churning within its blood.

[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited May 30, 2009).]


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InarticulateBabbler
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Entry 14

The garden was silent, but Jasal wasn't fooled--the cacophony of the living was safety, and here there was none. Moonlight stabbed beams through the verdant canopy, capturing motes in slow motion and framing a tree that seemed too gnarled to be so young. Jasal wrinkled his nose as the stench of decay wafted into his nostrils. He fought the hitching in his stomach and felt a chill sweep, like a corpse's fingers, down his back. Sanguine droplets seeped up through the cracks of the octagonal flagstones on the garden path, shining like crimson tears that squeezed between a demon's eyelids. He felt a stirring in the earth--the restless movement of what lay beneath--and knew he would not have to wait much longer, for his dark lover approached.

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited May 31, 2009).]


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Sixbells
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Entry #15

The garden was silent, but Jasal wasn't fooled, she already knew what the captain would announce. The entire crew had gathered in the garden waiting for him to break the news. In his hands were the latest results from the science team on their last attempt to stop the virus. It would be nine months before they would reach earth. If the garden could not be cured, all the remaining crops would perish, leaving them with less than a month’s supply of food. A sense of dread griped her as she thought of the children onboard. The ship had to reach earth at all costs; the cargo was even more precious than their lives. She calculated that six or seven of the hundred fifty strong crew could make it back if the rest went without. But how could they make such a choice?

[This message has been edited by Sixbells (edited May 31, 2009).]


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MAP
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Entry #16

The garden was silent, but Jasal wasn’t fooled. She knew he was there like he was every night, but he wouldn’t come until she called. She stepped out onto the porch and whistled. He bounded from the bushes his silver coat glimmering in the light of her lantern. Jasal placed the plate of scraps on the ground, but the stray bypassed the food to greet her. Smiling, she crouched next to him and stroked his matted fur even though apprehension stirred in her. She was beginning to doubt that he actually was a dog. There was something unauthentic in how he wagged his tail and licked her face, almost practiced. Moreover, his apparent enthusiasm never touched his dark, cunning eyes.


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skadder
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*

[This message has been edited by skadder (edited June 04, 2009).]


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MrsBrown
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ENTRY #17

The garden was silent, but Jasal wasn't fooled. He knew Shayla hid nearby, perhaps among the scattered rosebushes or under the lilacs. It was no good finding her, for she would turn her back and refuse his apologies. Ever the stubborn child.

Jasal spotted a flame in the apple tree. He sank down on a cool marble bench and whistled. The phoenix soared across the sunlit lawn, settling on his shoulder in a flurry of feathers and smoke.

"Papa, leave be. I won't be tricked into forgetting what you said." Shayla stepped out from the bushes and waited while Jasal's gaze roamed over her fresh bruises.

It was worse than he thought.

[This message has been edited by MrsBrown (edited June 03, 2009).]


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skadder
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Okay...no more entries. Open for voting.

Votes for first, second and third; we are voting for the intros that created the strongest, smoothest desire to read on.

You are encouraged to crit, even if it is only the three you voted for, but it isn't required.

I was going to suggest that people try and crit a third (5-6) of the entries (but not the same ones as the voter before them did) that way all the stories will get a few crits without it being onerous. But it's just a suggestion, not an obligation.


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Kaz
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First: #14

My only complaint is this,

quote:
And felt a chill sweep, like a corpse's fingers, down his back
.

The parenthetic here disrupts the flow of what would be an almost perfect opening for me (nothing's really perfect, though, is it?) The description coupled with the narration just keeps me on my the edge of my seat - everything Jasal sees, smells, and feels, I see, smell, and feel also.

You could also cut "that" from "tears that squeezed".

Second: #9

"swords and maces aloft but still" I would cut "but still". Aloft doesn't really exclude it, and you already suggest they're frozen when you mention they're standing quiet.

"and treacherous paths she plotted" A comma between "paths" and "she"?

"with the skeletons of several dead adventurers." Why several? Why not "many a dead adventurer"? A couple people died trying, big deal. A whole bunch, a throng of people died trying? Now I'm interested in knowing what's so grand about these pearls.

I would also comment on your use of semi-colons but I'm not that big of an expert myself. Tread softly when using them, especially when you could easily substitute them with a period or a comma.

That aside, I feel I'm in for a very exciting race to the finish. I'm wondering what kind of nasty surprises await Jasal in the maze, and how - and if - she's going to get past them.

Third: #2

"A silver bee-bot slick with yellow pollen" a comma to separate "slick with yellow pollen" from the rest of the sentence?

"to her; it's biometric" Improper use of semicolon. A comma would perform admirably here.

"the actual words" With "actual" you imply she's been thinking about the question for a while, but I'm wondering whether that is really necessary information. She's nervous about what's coming, and that's enough for me.

"but Tomasino looked away, out the view-port" But Tomasino merely looked out the view-port? Tomasino was looking away, staring out the view-port?

"The Earth--the night-side" The dark side of the Earth. It flows smother.

I would have liked the scene presented better. Where is Tomasino, where is Jasal? Are they close together? Are their elbows touching? Are they ten feet away? I'd also want to know a little bit about Tomasino. He's just a name and a couple of lines of dialogue right now.

The dialogue, however, really helped. It was essentially what drew me in. I can't say I care much for the nuclear fires on planet Earth or the bee-bot - they both seem like insignificant details. I want to know more about this death invitation and this Seurix character. And where is here anyway? A ship? A space station? A dimensional window from another universe?

And that's about it.


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TaleSpinner
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First - story # 15

Interesting concept but too much of an infodump for my taste.

Second - story # 2

I like the idea of an "orbital's gardenarium", but without motivation for Seurix's desire to kill Jasal, I wasn’t entirely hooked.

Third - story # 7

I can feel the heat but "nothing in the physical world could block the sight of a spirit" confused me because I thought it meant that "she" was a spirit.

Also, stories 17, 3, 16, 8 and 14 appealed to me in terms of writing style.


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Owasm
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All of these are good, but we have to vote on the first three. I have a hard time critiquing from 17 entries.

First Place: #14 If anything the language was too verdant.

Second Place: #7 I liked the image of pulling up the spirit.

Third Place: #15 I thought the hook was very effective

Honorable mention: #12 and #14


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InarticulateBabbler
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#1 - Entry #17: I would like him to have had some some thought over what he'd said--it seems like that's missing--and wonder what the phoenix feels like on his shoulder, and what its smoke smells like.

#2 - Entry #9: I liked the concept, the timebomb plot-tool and the clear-cut conflict. My problems were: (1)Are the hedges murderous? Or are the metal soldiers already defeated? (2)No smells, textures or tastes. I did like that sound was important.

#3 - Entry #11: I very much like the twist on garden gnomes (yard gnomes, I presume), but I would've liked a hint of why they were so deadly (or needed killing). Also, there were no senses used other than sight.

The Rest:

Entry #1: I can't picture what she was before she materialized into her warrior form. What's a Lohem warrior? (I kept thinking: Shouldn't it be Lohemian?) In the physcial (what) she was unmatched (by what)? What possessed snake? Can snakes leap? (I would imgine it sprang.) What's an "unnaturally sharp" sword? You missed the possesive apostrophe on "snake's head". When did the dry leaves appear? It's important because they make noise, which meant she would've made noise if she trod on them.

Entry #2: Not bad. There is a decent hook. The Conflict is clear. There is, like most of the others, a lack of senses other than sight, and a certain distance in the protagonist, though it's clear she's afraid. I think it would've been a stronger hook if "He froze, his face whitened, and he toppled forward." had been a one-sentence-paragraph. The next to words, for me, dulled the impact.

Entry #3: I like the twist of the inhuman perspective. One major problem arises from the fact though: "...nobody had a nose like his, and nobody had his hunting instincts." Where's the smells? What does the "instinct" avail him? What about his hearing? It seems, by the end, Jasal is the antagonist, which is okay, but I feel nothing for or against him.

Entry #4: I like the added sense of touch (in the water basin). When added to the sights and sounds, that's three out of four senses. Good. Bad: this is anticlimactic. Instead of strengthening a hook "Happy Birthday" squashed it. I see no promise of any conflict, but the talking plants might get me to read a line or two more.

Entry #5: This one would have placed, except for the last sentence of the first paragraph--"But the death of her brother’s son, her nephew, the king to be, that she couldn’t."--which brought me to a dead-halt trying to figure out what it was trying to tell me. (The "Never." should've been "Ever.", too.) Also, opportunities for the texture of the pearls, smells of the garden and any description of the Jhar-khon were lost.

Entry #6: Starts off with "as you know bob" dialogue, doesn't even hint at why only the one nearest the sergeant animated. "Splattering his head like a melon" is cliche. Until Jasal drew his sword, I thought the soldiers would be armed with guns--I guess it was a predisposition to calling someone "sergeant". Missed the possessive apostrophe on "The troll's punch" in the last sentence. "Rock Troll" is capitalized and "troll" isn't (lacks consistency). As for action and hook, it's there, just a little muddled.

Entry #7: Nice mention of feeling the warmth of the sun, and the soft dirt. No scents, though. The use of "it" in place of spirit--when she initially saw "it"--was disturbing. I can't picture "labored in her soul". How?

Entry #8: Who's Elsbet? Where is his wife? Nice mention of cinnamon and sulfur (evoking two distinctly opposite resonances)--but if you use "envelope" it's redundant to use "around him" next. What power moved his legs? Losing control of your equilibrium makes you lose balance--it also cause much more to happen--or possibly happen. Describing the magic making a flipping puppet of Jasal took up more than it should have and could be clearer. Where's the applause coming from?

Entry #10: Why would he run a finger down the edge of a dagger? Was it sharp? "Indifferent coolness" is a redundancy. Are his eyes weapons? If so, cool. I want to hear more. I think you meant "were" instead of "where" after "eyes". "Forever trained on the shadowed treetops"? How does a vine grow "haphazardly"? Are they animated to "bend to the right"? I'd have to have a damned-good reason for him not recognizing his son's voice. I notice mine in a gymnasium full of kids, let a lone in a silent garden--maybe a whisper could be confused. And, why not call him "Dad, Father, Pops"? this flaw brought me to a halt.

Entry #12: The author's first sentence is unclear. If not for that, the second sentence would be the hook. The rest is pretty smooth, but it lacks senses beyond sight.

Entry #13: What genetic enhancements? Is he human? What prize? Nice heat emenating.

Entry #14: It's mine. I like it. =^)

Entry #15: A sense of dread "griped" her? I think you mean "gripped". What cargo was so precious? No sensory perceptions, very distant from the character's feeling, and a bit muddy in the narrative.

Entry #16: Nothing showing any conflict or speculative element. (No real hook) No smells (dog breath, meat, fuel for the lantern, etc), no textures (of the dog's tongue or fur), no sounds (even when the dog bounds from the bushes) or any other sense than sight. Distant from the feelings of the protagonist, even a more direct suspicion of what the dog really is...

Kaz, to address your complaint with the "chill sweep, like a corpse's fingers, down his back" --it was deliberate. I wanted to avoid the "icy fingers" cliche and resonate with a horror feel.


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Sixbells
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This was very hard as there were so many strong entries. The only way to find my top 3 was to write a critique for all of them and then go back through to choose which one I felt was the best. There is only a hairs breath between most of the them.

OK here are my top 3

First Place - Entry #16

This created a real sense of tension especially when she starts to wonder if he really is a dog. This would be a great start to any horror story. I loved the way the scene was set with extremely visual writing; it sent quite a chill down my spine. There is a sense of dread about this story that really hooked me, this is my number 1.

Second Place Entry # 7

So full of hooks you’d think it was fishing boat!
Great hook at the start about being hunted by something that is not quite human and not quite animal. Some great descriptive writing that really moves the story forward and creates tension. I loved the way you put the reader off guard by the sprit coming from the ground. I hope you expand this story I would love to read more of this!!

Third Place Entry # 6

I love the rock trolls! The dialogue flows with the story and works well. A great kinetic opening, I you describe the trolls power when he destroys a rock really gave a sense of scale. The only thing that I didn’t like was the use of SGT, small issue really but I since I was given no knowledge of the period I instantly thought of a more modern time with the use of the word, until he draws his sword.


Entry # 2

It took me a few reads to get into this one but the image of a nuclear fire on earth really hooked me. I’m not sure if I like the expression hive “as in activity” and then moving on to the bee bot. On a first read I actually thought you were talking about a hive. But the dialogue about Seurix wanting to kill Jasal is a great hook.

Entry # 3

This is quite off-beat with Jasal being a wolf, I really liked the opening as it took me off guard. I would have liked to have a little more description about the world and I’m not sure about the dialogue at the end.


Entry # 4

This created a beautiful little world, wonderful description; I would love to explore this world in detail, really great writing and quite unconventional. My only gripe would be the last sentence which I found a little too obscure.


Entry # 5

This has some really strong hooks right from the outset and the tension is delivered within the first line. It manages to paint a world yet also delivered plenty of action within the space of just 13 lines, I would have definitely read on, some great hooks!

Entry #8

I liked the description of the warm smell of cinnamon and sulphur yet found it difficult to place myself in the world. I would have like to have been placed in it a little earlier into the story.

Entry #9

I liked the hook at the start, and the clockwork mender instantly grounded me into the world I was entering. I think the last line tailed off with too much info, rather than continuing the action. But this is a minor issue, after all it’s just 13 lines and I found it had more than enough hooks for me to want to read on.

Entry #10

I found difficultly in the start and the sentence “dagger with what some might mistake as indifferent coolness” What coolness? I couldn’t visualize this sentence. But I like the concept and found a good hook at the end

Entry #11

I like the concept of the gnomes! Quite a neat twist, With a strong hook at the end “He knew the real battle would begin only after their defeat.” This was another story that took be surprised with a nice angle.

Entry #12
This one reminds me of John Barker's weaveworld, although in a subliminal way as the story is quite different. Some great descriptive writing that paints a colourful world. A very intriguing idea which would have definitely made me read on, quite a mysterious narrative.

Entry #13

A nice start building tension almost immediately and you managed to build in a complete world and story. I liked the twist with the genetics; the last line was too abrupt and took me off balance. I really enjoyed reading this, fully of energy and very tight.


Entry #14

Some very creative and extremely beautiful writing. Yet I feel this piece suffers from an identity crises, tugging between poetry and narrative. As I read this I felt the narrative was sacrificed for description leaving if off balance with no forward motion. I didn’t feel any hooks and I failed to visualize many of the descriptions such as the corpse’s finger and Sanguine droplets, I think they distracted from the narrative and dissipate tension. I think simpler forms of description would have created more energy and flow.

Entry #15

This one is mine and I’m so critical of my own work that if I put my comments down I would be banned for being rude to members


Entry #17

I liked the setting of this story and the phoenix soaring across the lawn. I think it lacked a little bit in the way of hooks, although the last line has a strong hook. Another 13 lines I really enjoyed reading.

[This message has been edited by Sixbells (edited June 05, 2009).]


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snapper
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Entry Two

Sci-fi (I prefer sci-fi). I liked the reference to the nuclear fire night-side of Earth. Made the story a lot bigger than a girl worried about an assassin in a garden.

Entry Three

The pixies made it interesting. Finding out the MC is a wolf made me not know what to think. The second paragraph internal dialog confused me. I would keep reading but the next 13 better clear things up.

ENTRY FOUR

Hmmm. It was different from the rest because of the absence of a life-and-death moment. Not sure who is shouting ‘happy birthday’. Isn’t grabbing me like the others.

Entry: #5

Very Conan like. Who doesn’t like a good Conan opening? I’m in the scene. I am having no problem gathering what is happening at this point.

Entry #7

The tension of the piece started out grand then fizzled before the 13 ended. The main problem with this, IMO, too many pronouns. 13 she’s and 6 her’s. You reword it to eliminate most of those and you may have something.

Entry #8

Curious. I am intrigued. I think twinkled should be twinkling.
His master's shrill voice called him from the statue, no his Elsbet. She was not that far gone, not yet.
I am betting this is meant to be your hook. It didn’t work for me and, IMO, the 13 suffered because of it.

Entry #9

I liked it. A maze with deadly obstacles and things to avoid. Nice prose and I would be interested what happens next.

Entry 10

Nice effort but a couple of those sentences read odd to me. For example…
his sharp eyes where forever trained on the shadowed treetops.
…should have probably been its own sentence. Meshing it with the other one makes the statement out of place.
This reads more like the final act of a story than an opening one.

ENTRY ELEVEN

Interesting, in a Stephen King way. I felt as if the wording could have been trimmed. Did like it enough to be curious what happened next.

ENTRY TWELVE

Intriguing idea, a garden of time. The last line read cliché to me. The piece would have been better without it. Made the opening sound like a B movie trailer.

Entry #13

Another Sci-fi. A bit too sudden of an opening. Do not know enough to be concerned at this point. I would have suggested to string this out and add some background if this were an actual story I was reading. That advice does you no good here, I fear.

Entry 14

This one had the opposite effect the previous one had. Too much set up. I was wishing that something would happen instead of feeling like something might happen.

Entry #15

Another Sci-fi. The plot looks familiar. It would have worked if it wasn’t for that last line. Lose it and this would have done better.

Entry #16

Nice effort but I am already having trouble buying the premise. If you want to build on this I suggest you not have Jasal feed the creepy dog. It would work just fine if she kept seeing the dog-that-isn’t-a-dog hanging around the neighborhood.

ENTRY #17

Now this is how a last line can work. I wasn’t all that enthused about your opening until I read it. Made the piece instantly intriguing.

Here are my choices. The top four were easy for me. I almost had to flip a coin between first and second.

Entry #9

Given the choice to keep reading one story out of all of these I would have had to pick this one. I so badly want to know what is going on.

Entry #2

The setting is a major selling point with me. A very solid start.

Entry #5

Like the set up. Nice prose. A very solid opening.

Entry #17

Last line sold me.

A great job by everyone. All worthy of continuing. Nice work.


[This message has been edited by snapper (edited June 05, 2009).]


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Cheyne
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Here are my critiques: Some of them seem harsh but I liked almost all of the intros.


Entry No.1- Critique withdrawn!

Entry No.2- Good hook. I like the larger picture of a dying Earth;it shows a good reason for orbitals and fake bees without telling us. A couple of nits: pollen would be dusty not slick- gardenarium is it necessary to call it anything other than a garden? The made up word threw me out of the story momentarily. Perhaps a word or two on the positions the characters play--who are they? I would read further to find out but only a bit.

Entry No.3- Great first sentence! After that I have nothing but questions. Perhaps there is a relationship between wolves and pixies I am unaware of, but this intro does not draw me in. If Jasal is the hero, he should be less objectionable.

Entry No.4- I don't get it. There seems to be no conflict or hint of one beyond the false alarm. If the sentient foliage were more sinister I might be drawn to read farther, but the happy birthday blew that possibility. Are the pearls a gift from her woodland friends or bloody tears dropping from her eyes?


Entry No.5- The beginning showed much promise, more than just the first sentence, until But the death of her brother’s son, her nephew, the king to be, that she couldn’t.) An absolute story stopper. first off I had to go back and figure out what 'that' referred to. second I know that a person's brother's son is their nephew so it was redundant. Is Jasal an Amazon?(one breast)


Entry No.6- I like the concept and the tidy conflict setup, but find little to care for. The sergeant's death was too sudden and early to have impact. I don't have any idea of who Jasal is. The first line of dialogue was unattributed and floated. I wasn't sure he said it aloud until the Sgt. answered.


Entry No.7- Nice idea and hook, but until Jasal labours to pull the soul out of the soil, there is little here to pull me in. The sixth sentence (She could even feel the sun heating her neck and arms as she knelt down to the dirt.) made no useful addition to this intro and the word 'even' made me read it twice to find a reason for it. I would think that a spirit seeker might see the spirit better with closed eyes--just a thought.


Entry No.8- This one has promise but stumbles right out of the gate. Is he frozen in stone or are the eyes watching him? The beginning of the second paragraph was confusing. I had to read it over to understand that Elsbet was not the master with the voice. The writing suffers a bit from redundancy(enveloped around) (lost control of his balance and his equalibrium) I do like the idea of a king being forced to perform as a jester by some higher power. Sort of Star Trekian.


Entry No.9- This one works well except that I would have mentioned the soldiers surrounding her before mentioning the time limit. I do like the mention of her watch in the same breath as the clockwork mender. The conflict is well set up, and with a time limit, to boot.


Entry No.10-So many questions raised: I would have to read on. What is an Endtime Garden? Why was he watching the tree tops? Why did his son use Jasal's name and not 'father' or some such? And why didn't he recognize his son's voice? I would read on but would expect these to be answered soon.

Entry No.12- Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.(prognostication would grow to realization= prediction would come true). This is a great concept for a story, but it reads like a synopsis. The conflict is put out ther quickly and clearly established but this intro is one hundred percent telling. Show us the gardens, the character, and the intruder, then tell us why the've come together.

Entry No.13- With work this could be a good intro. We are told of Jasal's genetic enhancements, but not what they are. We are told of a menacing danger, that he is the perfect predator, and that he covets freedom(from the Siders I presume), but we are shown nothing beyond some streaky scars that don't affect his performance. There is a good hook here though.


Entry No.14- I like this one despite its flaws. I won't go so far as to call it purple prose, but it is florid. Two graphic similes in consecutive sentences is a bit much. But I was drawn into the danger.

Entry No.15-I like the premise and the conflict, but this is not very active. Your POV character knows, senses, calculates, and just is. There is not a single action in the the thirteen lines. Some passive passages such as 'If the garden could not be cured' should be rewritten as 'If they couldn't cure the garden' --you need to say someone is doing the curing. And one small nit- 150 people gathered in an enclosed space could not possibly be silent.


Entry No.16- This one felt like it was trying for a Dean Koontz kind of intro. I got what was happening and normally like to read horror but I don't feel compelled with this one. The question of the dog's authenticity isn't enough of a hook so far.


Entry No.17-I liked this one right away even though I missed the hook on the first read. (I read phoenix and pictured a parrot for some reason- then i wondered why it was smoking). But I did want to learn what he'd said, and where she got the bruises. I didn't like the floating modifier at the end of the first paragraph and the phrase 'leave be' sounded more foreign than child-like. I didn't like it-- a lot.

My votes for top three

#1-2
#2-9
#3-14

Honourable mention-17


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MAP
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This was tough, there were a lot of good entries.

First place: # 17
Nice voice, nice hook, but mostly, I actually care about the characters from just those few lines. Great job.

Second place: #7
I liked the idea of hunting a spirit, and the visuals were awesome.

Third place: #15
I don't normally read Science fiction, but I liked this concept alot. The moral dilemma was emotionally gripping.

The rest

#2 Beebots are pretty cool, but I need more about the Jasal and why Serix wants to kill her to be hooked. I think a there needs to be a smoother transition between Jasal being probed by the beebot and her saying "Serix is here."

#3 I need more about the relationship between Jasal and the pixies and the importance of the jewels to be hooked. Although nice twist in making Jasal a wolf.

#4 This is cute, but I have no sense of conflict, so I am not hooked.

#5 I got an immediate sense of Jasal's character, nicely done. Brother's son and nephew are redundant, but other than that I liked it.

#6 Totally loved the rocks being trolls. But I wanted more build up of tension before the fight actually began.

#8 I like the king to fool idea, but I was confused as to what was going on. Where is his master, and who is applauding?

#9 This was a close one; I really liked it. Conflict is clear and with a time limit to add more urgency. Nicely done.

#10 I had a problem with this one. Jasal was shown to be a highly trained fighter and calmly looking for the threat, and yet he throws his dagger at a familiar voice that calls his name? Maybe this will be explained later, but for now I am not hooked.

#11 Nice set up for the fight, but you lost me at garden gnomes. I just don't find them interesting enough to read on.

#12 Love the concept of time gardens and an intruder, but I wanted a little more sense of character.

#13 Nice set up. I am interested, but not completely hooked yet. I am not sure why.

#14 Great imagery, almost poetic, but there are moments when I think it obscures the passage. "Sanguine drops" is this blood?

[This message has been edited by MAP (edited June 06, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by MAP (edited June 06, 2009).]


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skadder
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Apologies, what's below doesn't qualify as crits. They are just notes I made as I read, to help me vote. I thought I'd post them anyway.

1. Removed--why?

2. Mine.

3. Not a fan of pixies, so any hook value is lessened. ‘Bushy tails mop the ground’ makes me think the tail is wet.

4. Interesting, but ultimately not my sort of thing--a weak hook for me. Too light--I like darker stuff.

5. The King-to-be...or the next -in-line. Mildly hooked.

6. I like this one. Prose is good

7. I like this one. Lot of detail, interesting premise.

8. Enveloped around him? Some redundancy there. Some editing required. Too many adverbs.

9. I like this one. Interesting premise. Good prose.

10. Not bad. I have some serious questions as to why what occurred happened

11. This one was funny--I liked it.

12. Felt a little telling. Reminded me of the Terry Pratchet story about the Monks of Time.

13. Nice. Hooky.

14. A little over-descibed for my taste, although I was carried along by it.

15. Too explanatory.

16. Okay, but not hooked.

17. Not bad, but elements confused me. Where did papa spring from?

Votes:
1. 6
2. 7
3. 9

Honorable mention goes to 11.


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tnwilz
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Can I edit this out and you all forget my childishness.

[This message has been edited by tnwilz (edited June 10, 2009).]


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InarticulateBabbler
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Tracy, I'm sorry my critique hurt your feelings; it wasn't my intent. I thought to help make it stronger. Nobody ever likes everything that is said about their work (including me), but I find there is always something valuable, in even a stinging critique.

Besides, wasn't it only a first draft? Mine was.

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited June 06, 2009).]


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Sixbells
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Hi Tnwilz,

I really liked your story; I wished you had kept it up.

I hope you don’t take the criticism to heart, I though it was a solid entry. I found the people who have the biggest issues with my stories I also have the biggest issues with theirs. In other words we have two totally different styles and approaches to writing and never the twain will meet.

But I’ve also picked up some gems of information from the critiques and it’s also focused me to stay true to my style of writing. Thanks to this site I know now better than ever that I’m never going to please everyone, some people will always think my writing sucks.

I suffer from dyslexia; at school they just thought I was slow almost at remedial level. All my life people have criticised my spelling and English, making out I was stupid. Sometimes I just can’t tell if words are right or wrong. I had a block yesterday with the word scene I just couldn’t spell it. ( I hope I spelt it right )

But I didn’t listen to those people who laughed at me, and now I had a first class honours degree in engineering, working in a major multination on advanced propulsion technology. I’m a stubborn guy and criticism makes me stronger. You just have to know when to ignore it and when to take hold of it.

This site has taught me a great lesson on how to take criticism of my work, believe me I didn’t like it at first. But I do believe it’s really making me a better writer. I really hope you reconsider and put your work back up online.


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skadder
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I've entered WotF twice but got zip. So your ahead of the game as far as I am concerned.
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TaleSpinner
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I don't get it. Nobody said your writing's terrible, Tracy, nor that crits would be consistent -- they never are, any more than are readers or editors, and that's why they're valuable. There have been no personal attacks in any of the crits, which I think have all been insightful and helpful.

I did not crit your story (and several others) because I happened not to like it (them). That doesn't make it (them) terrible, nor my reluctance to crit personal (I simply don't crit stuff I don't like because I believe my comments will lack sensitivity to the author's intentions) and yes, it's a matter of taste. How else can it be?

I'm disappointed you withdrew the story and have risked derailing the thread which, thus far, has been fun.

Thanks for initiating this, skadder. From the comments so far I think several of us, myself certainly, appear to have found a story where, previously, none existed.


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tnwilz
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Like I said, I'm sure the issue was with me. I didn't mean to derail the thread, but someone asked. I guess mine didn't make sense. It was based on a real story about a girl who had special genetic gifts she was not supposed to have. It didn't stand well in 13 lines I guess. Lohem is a real word BTW. It is ancient Hebrew. Sorry everyone, I only answered because someone asked.

[This message has been edited by tnwilz (edited June 06, 2009).]


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Cheyne
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I was under the impression that we post these fragments so others can criticize them. I found this site because my wife and my mom were too kind. I didn't learn anything from comments like, "wow, this is really good honey."
I don't enjoy having the deficiencies of my writing pointed out, but when they exist I hope someone will be honest enough to do so.
If someone doesn't like my style they may be more critical than i enjoy but at least i've been made aware of a point of view I wasn't writing to.

My reading of IB's crit doesn't seem personal; he was addressing the writing not the writer. This might seem cold, but if you can't take it--don't post.


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tnwilz
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I'm sure I'm just being sensitive. Dealing with some rough family news right now. I'm sorry.
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Cheyne
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Tnwlz
I hope that my comments were not too insensitive. I was addressing the whole of the Hatrack community and not you personally. Critiquing is a sticky business. You want to give an honest opinion and observation, but sometimes it hurts, I know, I've been slammed here before.

I hope that you continue to take part here and that your family news gets rosier.


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skadder
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Let's keep this thread for voting, if we can. Shall we move the discussion to the other thread?
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philocinemas
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First - # 7 – I enjoyed the pacing of these lines – the author created tension early on. I also found the last two sentences to be a nice surprise. The writing style and subject matter would make me want to continue.

Second - #12 – I chose this mainly for the subject matter – I thought that a monastery of monks that manage time was a really cool idea. The writing was solid and I especially liked the line “These were the gardens where time was grown, harvested, and spun into the threads of fate…”

Third - #6 – I liked the instant action – it had good crossover appeal between sci-fi and fantasy. The dialogue made this more real and it had a nice use of irony in the “Aren’t they a myth?” sergeant being the first to get it. I also liked the set-up of the insurmountable enemy.

Honorable mention (in order of appeal): #’s 5, 14, 9
There were a few others that I liked very much.

In consideration of tnwilz withdrawal, I will not comment on his writing other than to say that I did like it and that it seemed he had written it as a complete story, before it was specified that this was a first-13 challenge. His reaction and the subsequent comments made me think about how I made my choices. Ultimately, I chose openings that appealed to me – that I would continue reading. I realize my preferences might not be the same as others. I do not personally care for stories about pixies, gnomes, or technical jargon. Stories that seem to be focusing on these would not garnish my attention as much as others would.

This is not to say any of these were not good openings. I think this was one of the most solid challenges as far as the quality of writing. I found very few grammatical mistakes, which is often one the biggest distracters from these challenges. I know these are just “challenges”, but we should always strive to submit something that is grammatically correct as if we were sending it to an editor. I feel that the other problems with openings are what highlight challenges like these and the critique area of Hatrack. I know this comment may be surprising coming from me, but reading the critiques gives me insight into my own stylistic mistakes.

#13 – The pacing for this was all wrong and there were assumptions made that confused the reader. The first sentence was OK, but the second and third sentences should have been inverted to make more sense. The “Siders” are mentioned, but the reader is left hanging as to who they are. After this, the opening begins moving way too fast and the reader is left behind. Note to self: Need to slow down sometimes and develop the character to hook the reader.

These challenges can be “learning opportunities” when we view the criticism not as personal attacks, but as a means of understanding matters of appeal and ways to improve our own writing. I believe the frustrating part is when we strongly disagree with a critique and feel it does not have merit. That is where having the consensus of a group applies, which allows a writer to glean a common thread to the criticism. Otherwise, it’s just one person’s opinion.

When we begin thinking we have arrived, sometimes it’s because we’re holding the map upside down.

(Edited to correct an entry number)
(2nd edit to add a... correct gender - sorry tnwilz)

[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited June 07, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited June 07, 2009).]


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InarticulateBabbler
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philocinemas, tnwilz is a bloke.

Tracy, I apoloigize for the "Lohemian" comment. It just struck me at the time. I'm more sorry that because of it, you viewed my critique as attacking. I find that when I make a sarcastic comment, everything goes to he!!, but I never learn. I'm sorry you've had bad news on the homefront. Is it an overseas matter?

For all those not in the know, tnwilz and I have been kicking around Hatrack for quite some time. We've even exchanged critiques before--without problem. It's because I know and respect him that I apologize. He's good people.


[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited June 07, 2009).]


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tnwilz
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I appreciate your comments IB. It was my son who has been making some very foolish choices for the last year and breaking our hearts. This latest incident appears to have scared him some. We're hoping he'll come home now and plAy by the rules. They didn't mention any of this stuff in the parenthood brochure.
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InarticulateBabbler
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They never do.

Funny how kids seem to be made to break our hearts. (Maybe we just keep turning the weak side toward our loved ones.) Feel free to email me, if you need to babble.


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Tiergan
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quote:
They didn't mention any of this stuff in the parenthood brochure.

When you get that brochure be sure to post it. I know I could use it. brochure be sure, sorry those 2 words struck me as funny today.

Anyways, on with the crits.

Entry2:I don't read much sci-fi and this hit me hard with the sci-fi-ic words. But thats probably just me. And it was great to read an otherworldly, and unique take on the first line and all.

Entry3:Playful. Again a unique take on the first line. The internal dialogue threw me for a loop, I tend to want feel for the mc and I didnt.

Entry4:Interesting. Again, odd when I first read these I could have sworn they were all similar, but at this point, jsut the first line. Great. Strange, and playful, but not really hooked though.

Entry5:This was by far the best. Hands down, I mean really, this author's genius ability to state the obvious the nephew, is infact her brother's son. This alone speaks volumes for his sheer talent of writing down. Not too mention, MY ability to mention the red pearls twice in the first 13.

Entry6:Well the first line left me stumped. I don't know it seemed rather cliche, like I read it before. In fact it was strangley similar to the that great author of 5. All kidding aside, I loved the Rock Trolls, and the rock garden approach. My only true concern here was the fight coming up so quickly that I didnt care about the head being splatted. Slow it down a little, build the tension, and then a favorite.

Entry7:I am sorry, but I couldnt get past all the "shes". The spirit would have been a good hook other than that.

Entry8:A little confused. Not totally sure what is happening. Cinnamon and sulfure a strange combination.

Entry9:Intersting. Very clear cut as to what is happening and what the quest is for and about.

Entry10:I got stuck where a familiar voice spoke from behind him. If it were familiar, then he knew it, and so why was he caught off guard? With just a little rewording it could a truly tragic beginning.

Entry11:I like to be firly rooted in pov, so not a fan of he thought, tag. That line took me out, and the garden gnomes left me reeling. Wondered what you were refering to about the red caps. Then garden gnomes. I laughed. I would read on though. Still dont' know if this is going to turn comical, the garden gnomes give me hope that it would.

Entry12:At first the talk of 3 gardens threw me off. Then I liked the idea, but it did take all the explaining for me to get it. I tend to like my first scene a scene and not explanation. But a great concept.


Entry13:Fast paced. Having him with genetic enhancements made me feel like he was a robot or similar void of emotion. So I didnt feet for him. if we had some inner thoughts or something similar than would feel for him and hence care what happens. I didnt mind the fast oepning, just would like 1 line to draw me into the mc.

Entry14:Ouch. big words. At first read this read like every word had to be too perfect, too unique. Then I realized i just have a limited vocabulary. It read too thick for my taste, but the last line was brillant to me. I loved it.

Entry15:This one set up the story very quickly, and I feel I know the entire piece and where it is going. For some reason, it doesnt quite work for me. While I read the dread of the decision, I don't feel it.

Entry16:I have never read one of those were-animal books that have become the fad, with the warnings:adult content(anita Blake novels). But I fiugred they started with something like this. I couldnt tell if the dog was a human in disguise or a robot. I don't know, but the 13 left me wondering on the dog, and not thinking of the mc, so it didnt work for me.

Entry17:The best for last. I liked this piece from the get go. Great voice, and conflict. I feel for it instatnly. Well done.


1st choice: 17-said it all with notes. Felt it instantly.
2nd choice: 9-Action and cleary set up, with a defined quest..
3rd choice: 6-Rock trolls, need I say more from a rock garden-excellent.

Well done all. I think that all show great promise. Thanks for the competition, and just in case you didnt know but my best title vote goes to author 5: Pearls of Red, although I hear he stole if from Skadder.



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skadder
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One day left to vote in (24 hours or so).

If you fail to vote you lose your points and are effectively disqualified.


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Devnal
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sorry guys i've been unpoetic-ly sick the last couple of days, I'll try to get my votes in by the end of the day.
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Symphonyofnames
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First: #6. I like the action and the dialogue early on, helps to get the reader engaged. Visuals are very clear to me, without any clutter or lots of useless words.

Second: #4. Really interesting scenario. There's a subtle ambiguity to it (at least how I read it) where I'm not quite sure whether this is actually happening or the main character is just a bit off-center.

Third: #15. I like that this intro brings up the extended conflict, gives a basic gist of what the characters are probably going to be dealing with.


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MrsBrown
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Tough, tough choices!
1st pick: #6
2nd pick: #2
3rd pick: #14
Honorable mention: too many to list. Good work, everyone!

- CRIT #6: Solid. Smooth, strong, good hook, not much for me to pick at
Nits: Prefer that Rock Troll not be capitalized. Prefer “Rock trolls” to have a dialogue tag.
I think the sergeant’s 2nd question should be a statement, instead of a question. Lots of boulders: Could you perhaps smash the sergeant against the ground or pulverize a bench? Missing possessive apostrophes twice: monster’s and troll’s.

- CRIT #2: I like the twists and turns, almost a mini-story packed into these few lines. It all fits together so nicely. I loved “She wanted the denial, but Tomasino looked away…” and “nuclear fires” as part of the scenery (but eventually part of the story?).

Nits: “hive of activity” is cliché, especially for bees.
Seems off: “A bee slick with pollen, rose and hovered; it's sensors probing her”
Maybe: “A bee, slick with pollen, rose and hovered. It's sensors probed her…”
OR: “A bee slick with pollen rose and hovered, it's sensors probing her…”

Sound repetition: “fluttered” and “uttered” (though I liked the idea here).
“He turned back, his hand touching her forearm, and nodded”

- CRIT #14: The last sentence has a wonderful sense of foreboding. This entry has originality, despite the “dark lover”. I like the immersion in the setting—its not just scenery.

Nits:
I liked “Moonlight … capturing motes in slow motion and framing a tree”, but then “that seemed too gnarled to be so young” pulled me out. How would he know the tree’s age? I expected the story to be more about that tree, the way the scene is staged.
Overdone, a bit too flowery (in a spooky way) for my taste: “like a corpse's fingers” and “Sanguine” and “shining like crimson tears that squeezed between a demon's eyelids”, although that last phrase is good.
It may be that what really bugs me in that sentence is the pattern repetition: “up through the cracks… of the octagonal flagstones… on the garden path”

- CRIT #1: Critique withdrawn. This idea is definitely worth developing.

- CRIT #3: I like the attitude. Casino night for pixies is funny. It reminds me of “Sweet Silver Blues” by Glen Cook.

Nits: “pixies might have been” -> pixies were
“nobody had a nose like his, and nobody had his hunting instincts” – wordy, don’t need “nobody” twice. It doesn’t make sense why he would inch and crawl, knowing that they can see him--the purpose for stalking is to sneak up on unaware prey.

- CRIT #4: The wording is evocative, with good characterization and setting. (Too sweet for my taste; if you change the flowers to children, I’d like it even better.) An interesting attempt, but…
“waiting for the onslaught” was jarring after such a happy scene, and then I felt let down when all that attacked her were warm wishes. I felt tricked, even though you dropped plenty of hints from the plant life. If you drop the trickery, the only hook is the speculative element. It needs some note of tension.
Nits: “cacophonous” is the correct spelling (ala MS Word). And “little” is overused.

- CRIT #5: It has appealing elements that could become a quite interesting story: Her resolve to stop killers who never fail, and her acceptance that the gods won’t forgive her. The last two sentences are the strongest. But I stumble over the wordiness, repetition, and jerky breaks; it could be smoothed out.

Nits:
“No. She had seen them enter, and death would not be far behind. It never was. The Jhar-khon left none alive. Never.” - > Could be: She had seen the Jhar-khon enter, and death would not be far behind; they never left anyone alive.
“But today, she vowed, would be the excpetion.” -> But she vowed today would be the exception.
“They wouldn’t though, but” -- don’t need “though”
nephew OR prince (the rest can wait)
“But the death of her ..nephew.., that she couldn’t.” This sounds awkward. (couldn’t what?) It’s not completely clear whether she is avenging or preventing his death. How about: Jasal had to avenge/prevent her nephew’s death. OR Jasal had to protect the prince.
Don’t need “of red”

- CRIT #7: Strong idea, almost there. But the start’s wording was too slow (not talking about slow action, the action is good). I’d suggest cutting “Noise meant nothing” and “calm. Too” and “even”.

Don’t really need “to the dirt” and “took off her thick leather gloves and” –only because:
Three references to the dirt/ground: could combine the three sentences somehow.
Maybe cut “ . She held them against the ground”
Result: “…as she knelt down. She placed her hands on the soft dirt and closed her eyes.”

Not sure about “As she knelt calmly” – it seems too opposite her laboring. But is does hint that her body is calm while her spirit wrestles.
Too many sentences start with She.
“You” pulls me out of her POV momentarily—the narrator is talking now.

- CRIT #8: I like the pitiable king-as-jester. The juxtaposition of forced silliness with his concern for his wife could work well for you. There’s a story in there But…

The references to Elsbet seem disjointed. “He knew the eyes that watched him, frozen in stone.” So Jasal is frozen? “Elsbet sat in the shade…” sounds like a living person, who sat down… “a statue”… ahh, Elsbet is a statue, and so he/she must have frozen eyes, watching Jasal. Then “queen”.. ah, a she.
“the statue, no his Elsbet” didn’t work well. Can’t lay my finger on it. Maybe that idea needs to be in a separate sentence from the voice sounding from her.
“his Elsbet” is the only indication that he loves his wife. How does he know how far gone she is? “the power” – what power?

Technical points:
“Jasal removed…, the bells twinkled…, and knelt….” Could be: “Jasal removed…, bells twinkling, and knelt….”
Suggest a comma after “flip”
“He bent down and held his bright belled cap, and placed it…” Suggest:
He bent down, flourished his bright belled cap, and placed it…
OR
He bent down and placed his bright belled cap …”

- CRIT #9: For some reason I was confused on the first reading; now I don’t know why. It is clear and compelling. Personally it’s a bit too “mechanical” for my taste (the subject matter, that is.)

Nits: Don’t need “to the lawn's edge”. Don’t need paths and route (suggest cutting “and treacherous paths” with a comma before “she plotted”). Prefer a comma after “roots”
Suggest: “She now had a shade less than five minutes to beat the maze …”

- CRIT #10: The following segments appealed to me: “he ran his callused thumb along the edge of his dagger with … indifferent coolness” and “Jasal turned swiftly as he [dropped] to one knee, letting the dagger fly from his fingertips. It soared true, impaling itself to the hilt”

This entry is too disturbing for my taste. I imagined the father’s anguish over accidentally killing his son. But then I remembered, he recognized the voice! For all I know at this point, he’s an evil man and this was a purely selfish act; or perhaps his son was really a monster in disguise; or perhaps he had to attack his son to save him? I’d rather have a hint. Show this, and you would have a better hook.

Nits: That’s a long 2nd sentence; I don’t think its two thoughts fit together.
I’m not sure where to look; why does he keep looking at the treetops? I thought perhaps his path was up in the forest’s highest branches. But then he’s on a path, implying the ground.
Don’t need “he followed “. Don’t need “haphazardly growing”--perhaps hanging instead? I was halted at bending to the right–the path or plantlife? (Of course it’s the path, but I’d prefer: the path bent, curtained by…)
The last paragraph has too much detailed description, where a briefer sketch might be more effective: young boy … crumbled to his knees…. hands pawed … at the Dagger …
Capitalization of Garden and Dagger, and the delayed use of the garden’s name, seem wrong.

- CRIT #11: I liked “hiding among the cabbages and beet greens” and “he honed the edge of his scythe” and “He was facing a world of conflict”. Nice flow from the mundane to trouble.

I kept waiting for who “they” are—“garden gnomes” made me think of those ridiculous statues that people put in their yards. Too much incongruity; I can’t buy it. Better to say “gnomes” right up front—that I’ll buy.

Nits: “calm before a storm” is cliché… “a storm or a great battle” makes me want to say Pick one. Or lose the sentence; its better without it.
“crouched, and ready to pounce”--Prefer: “crouched and ready to pounce” OR “crouched, ready to pounce”
“That he couldn't discern their red caps of rough cloth was no proof of their absence, he was certain they were there.” I like the idea here, but the wording is awkward and repetitive.
Don’t need “He resumed his preparations.”
“hands didn't shake” could be more active: honed with steady hands. Don’t think it needs both “he was not afraid” and “He felt beyond fear now”. The 2nd phrase is stronger.
Unknowns: They… his losses… what he still faced…the real battle… what already?! I’m hanging in the wind here, wondering what it could all mean.


- CRIT # 12: This reminded me of the tapestry weaver in OSC’s Alvin Maker series. I like the garden names and the phrase “time was grown, harvested, and spun into the threads of fate”--very nice. “An intruder could mean disaster” is your hook--an interesting idea.

How does one “enter” in the tapestries? “Appear” is slightly better, but it’s still unclear at this point what is happening. It makes sense when I get to “time was grown, harvested, and spun”—but it’s too late by then.

Nits: “These were the gardens where…” and “the gardens that allowed” is unnecessary repetition. “Garden(s)” is used six times, and I don’t know what they look like.
“prognostication would grow to realization”—huh? I can puzzle it out, but its annoying.
“Intruder” is used 3 times—suggest “Jasal had been chosen to stop him.”


- CRIT #13: I like how sensitive and tough Jasal is. I like the sense of danger. Tighten it up and it’ll be a great start.

There are too many references to unknowns. Siders, the prize, his freedom (from what?). Suggest focusing on either the prize or his freedom, and clarify it, so I can root for him even more.

Nits: It is not absolutely clear that the danger, the guardian, the challenger, and the paragon are all the same thing, although I inferred it.
“a menacing danger persisted”? Suggest telling us up front that “the paragon, a menacing beast, prowled…”
Suggest “Jasal’s genetic enhancements made him…” and replace “as well as” with “and”.
I picture him as a beast; is he a man? “arms” instead of “limbs” would clarify it.
“spiral path” and “center (of what?)” are not grounded in the setting; they are floating and indistinct. Suggest showing what the path spirals around and where it goes, and skip the “center”.
“coveted” seems a little weak. Is he desperate, or perhaps supremely confidant?


- CRIT #15: Their dilemma is a good hook. I like “The ship had to reach earth at all costs; the cargo was even more precious than their lives.” It does not need to be explained further (yet), and deepens the urgency. And that’s a great last question. But there are problems in the first lines; it gets stronger from the “latest results” onward.

“garden” speaks of being on the ground, “the captain” made me think of soldiers, and “crew” shifted my thinking to a mercenary group—there’s no mention of space until sentence four. “garden” is mentioned three times: could change “had gathered in the garden waiting” to “waited”. “wasn’t fooled” and “she already knew” doesn’t seem to mesh with “the garden was silent”.

Nits: Don’t need “latest” in sentence three. Shouldn’t Earth be capitalized? “would be nine months before they would reach” – suggest “before they reached”. Maybe could cut “A sense of”. “the hundred fifty strong crew” seems off—perhaps the hundred and fifty crewmembers?

- CRIT #16: The strongest lines are your hook: “There was something unauthentic in how he wagged his tail and licked her face, almost practiced.” And “his apparent enthusiasm never touched his dark, cunning eyes.” Her “apprehension” and observations are a nice contrast to the earlier happy scene. (Although “cunning” may be too strong—didn’t she notice before now?) It needs a bit of clean-up to smooth out the earlier lines.

The opening was confusing. It would help to say up front what sort of animal “he” is. And this is wordy: “She knew he was there like he was every night, but he wouldn’t come until she called.” I was slightly thrown by “the stray” because I was thinking he might be a pet (having glossed over sentence two). How about: The stray retriever was out there every night, but he never came until she called.
Nits: Need a comma: “bushes, his silver”. “matted fur” didn’t match my expectation after “silver coat glimmering”. *Might* need a comma: “fur, even”

Whew!

[This message has been edited by MrsBrown (edited June 08, 2009).]


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JustinArmstrong
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---------Crits---------

Entry #2:
I couldn't seem to get into this one, I don't know why. The idea of a "death invitation" while a nuclear war is raging on earth seemed too contrived. I like the idea, but I think the required opening lessens its impact.

Entry #3:
I didn't fully understand "or else casino night goes bye bye." Is it Casino Night, like a place? Or is it just a night at the casinos? The pixies didn't hook me and fighting for a night at a casino pushes me away rather than pulls me in. (But I could be reading that all wrong)

Entry #4:
Cute. I was almost lost after the first paragraph, but "waiting for the onslaught" was enough to keep me intrigued. The birthday surprise was both surprising and dissapointing. And so I liked and disliked this....mixed feelings.

Entry #5:
I think I would have preferred if you condensed what you wrote, taking out some of the repetitive "god's forgiving". I liked the ending, and am interested on what was in the garden.

Entry #6:
I'll admit this one made me a bit frustrated. It seems as if they realize the rock trolls are there, yet they become what seems to be caught off guard by them. The more I read it, the more I like it. I also now realize that Jasal recognizes them, and the sergeant is caught off guard...(I might be a bit slow in the head)

Entry #7:
Terrible. To be honest, I can't stand reading trash like this. The excessive "she's", the unneeded description, and the last line..."laboring in her soul"...What does that even mean? Sounds like you just came up with it off the top of your head, without giving it a second thought. I'm surprised you got any votes.

Entry #8:
Confusing. I'm not sure what to say for a crit...I like the idea, (or ideas as it appears to me) of the story. I would read a couple more paragraphs before giving up on it.

Entry #9:
Why are the hedges only waist-high? Isn't it a bit of a cheat to be able to SEE the whole maze? Besides that, I liked it.

Entry #10:
I really like this one. I love the opening pace and the MC. I'm also extremely interested in whether he meant to kill his son or not. Plus, if he did, WHY? Very nice hook and great writing.

Entry #11:
The "Calm before the storm" phrase has always bothered me for some reason, not sure why. I think I just hear it too often. It improved until the garden gnomes part. I would only enjoy that if this was satire, then it would be great. But this seems to be pretty serious.

Entry #12:
The premise is gold. My only problem was with the repitition of smart, "An intruder smart enough"...."That meant he was smart". Otherwise, great stuff.

Entry #13:
I stumbled over "where lay the prize and one more victory closer to the freedom he coveted". I like everything before and after that fragment.

Entry #14:
The end brought this one back for me. I liked it, mostly because I'm intrigued as to what his dark lover might be. I liked the mood set up as well.

Entry #15:
I'll admit I like the dilema put before the MC (especially if she wasn't chosen as one of those to survive). I'm interested in which side she will be on (to live or to die), and how she deals with it. I'm not highly interested on why they need to be on earth so bad, but as a secondary hook, it falls into place nicely.

Entry 16:
Not enough of a hook for me. The dog would be something I would love added into a story, but it isn't enough to pull me in by itself.

Entry #17:
I can't tell if he caused the bruises or something else did. My gut makes me think it was him, but then it bothers me that she says "what you said." and not "what you did."


After participating and voting for the First 13 competition before, this one is a hard one. 3 votes for 17 entries...

1st Place - #10
2nd Place - #12
3rd Place - #15

I would give out HMs, but there would be too many


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