Please post your first thirteen in this thread by November 11th, using the following format:
Title: Word count: Genre: First thirteen: Please do not post anything else in this thread. Iíll post instructions in this thread as and when necessary. For reference hereís the overall monthly cycle: By the 11th day of the month everyone is invited to post first 13s. The earlier the better, so that people have more time to choose which stories tickle their fancy for full crits. This week is not time for writing since the stories should be ready for market, but just recognizing that we can't all get to things immediately.
During the week after entries close, we - grade first 13s - request at least one manuscript (via an e-mail to the writer) of the story we'd like to read and grade (probably one whose first 13 we scored highly). The more, the better.
By the last day of the month we - grade at least one manuscript - grade more stories if we want to (e.g. those that have great first 13s in addition to our favourites).
The "end of the day" is the end of the day in your local time. There's no need to be more precise than that.
Title: Ripples Word count: 866 Genre: Flash, alternative history
Mark Antony galloped past the ranks of the crucified who lined the road from Capua to Rome. Red stained their wrists and ankles, and it streaked down the crude gibbets to which they were nailed. A stench of decay filled the air, and flies already swarmed with a relentless buzzing.
Five thousand slaves, dead at his word.
Antony forced himself to look at their faces. He had done what he must as a general of Rome, but as a man, each of their deaths weighed like lead in his stomach.
The sun dipped behind the hills as he stopped at a creek to water his horse. He would not reach the city this night. A pleasant breeze ruffled his tunic as he dismounted, and birds chirped from what few trees his men had not downed for gibbets.
[This message has been edited by JenniferHicks (edited November 05, 2009).]
Notes: This story includes a mildly sensual scene involving a teen. Also, it's meant to be a character-based internal/emotional tension story so there isn't a lot of action and external conflict, but thats intentional
Matt stood behind the old tool shed, shivering a little and looking up at the moon. It was full and bright and cast his pale shadow across the splintering side of the shed. Around its white disk a veil of stars, some milky and some silver-cold glimmered against the dark expanse of the sky. The sight still amazed him. When he was little and lived in the city with his parents, the street lights had been too bright to really see the stars and even the moon was paled by their glow. His stomach knotted when he thought of his parents. Gone now. Dead. And he hadnít seen them for months before it happened. Matt pulled his eyes away from the sky and slowly, timidly peered around the shed at the moonlit stone expanse behind him.
After Horror/SciFi set two hundred years in the future and too scary for Bent Tree. 1658 words.
There was still laundry to do. Mouths to feed. Radioactive bugs to squash with the bottom of the Husbandís shoe. Life goes on. For some people, anyway. Miley checked with her eyes that the lock on the front door was still red. She walked down the vinyl stairs with a laundry basket in one arm, and the Baby in the other. The lights didnít turn on, but she had been down here a hundred times before. The Baby whimpered in the darkness. She pressed a button, which lit the room with a small green light. She sure was a beautiful baby, not scratched at all. Miley wondered what her name was. She looked like a Carol to her, or maybe a Lilith. Miley slide the basket against the concrete floor and under the washbasin.
Title: Wallu the Fearless Word count: 353 Genre: Fantasy/Flash First thirteen: Three men were sitting at a bar, one with a beard, discussing the adventurer, Wallu, who had slain monsters with his mighty sword, the quickest sword in the world.
The bearded man slammed his half-empty beer mug down on the bar counter. "Wallu once cut apart three sea monsters all by himself. Now that der is the bravest of men I know."
"He wasn't brave," said the man in the middle.
The thin man on the far left slapped the counter. "Them is fightin' words."
Before replying, the man in the middle glanced around the bar. The bar tender was in the far corner washing glasses, probably not paying attention. The rest of the bar-stools and the wooden chairs in the dimly lit bar were empty.
Everybody send your story to me, I'll give it a crit.
Comments on first thirteens.
I like this, I like how you show his power, and also his internal struggle with such brevity. A few nits. The line "Mark Antony galloped past the ranks..." bugged me a bit because humans don't gallop. I had this Monty Python image pass through my mind, and distract me from the strength at the end of the line. I like it though. I would keep reading.
The Falling Star I like the slow pace you set with the words. The voice is good and I like Matt so far. A few nits take them or leave them. I've noticed you have a lot of words that start with an S, especially the splintering side of the shed, and all the shivering, and the some silver-cold. You might want to replace one or two of them. Also I would choose just one of the adverbs on the slowly, timidly or better yet ditch them. I don't hold with the rule drop every adverb, I think adverbs can add to understanding, I just think in this circumstance they weaken the character. I'm left thinking he is shy or timid, and if that is what you're going for then great. If not, it does make him seem like a five year old.
Wallu the Fearless. Now I love flash, and I love fantasy, but I worry about the 353 word count. I don't know where you could publish something that short. The Good, I am left wondering who the man in the middle is, I assume it's Wallu. I would keep reading to find out if I'm right. The Helpful, Them's fighting words, seems a bit cheesy to me. This feels more like a western than a fantasy. All that is missing is a Player Piano. I would keep reading, I just don't know for how long.
[This message has been edited by shimiqua (edited November 11, 2009).]
The Falling Star: 6 The scene-setting is well-done, but the start strikes me as too slow. After reading the first 13, I donít have the slightest clue what this story might be about. Thereís no hint of action, of anyone doing anything. I would keep reading, but not too much farther unless something happened.
After: 7 Thereís a lot to like about this opening: radioactive bugs, the implication that people can see with something other than their eyes, the woman who has a baby whoís not her own. What distracted me: the capitalization of Baby and Husband (reminds me of Big Brother), stairs made out of vinyl, the choppy sentences in the first paragraph. But Iím intrigued enough to keep reading.
Wallu the Fearless: 4 Not sure about this one. The word count makes me nervous because I doubt Iím going to get a satisfying story in 353 words. Itís possible, but rare. The first sentence strikes me as the first line of a joke, which isnít a tone I usually go for. I also get the feeling that the story is going to be three men talking about a character we donít see (unless thereís a twist at the end and Wallu is the bartender). In any case, this one isnít catching my attention.
Everyone please send me your stories. I can't guarantee that I will get to all of them (because I'm participating in a second critique group this month, as well), but I will do my best.
[This message has been edited by JenniferHicks (edited November 12, 2009).]
Although you realize, the RFM isn't really for just-finished stories. Its for finished, critted worked upon and now you think they are almost ready stories. Its meant to give them a final going over.
Of course I'm not a big rules monger, but I just thought you should know
I think this mostly works. It's very flash-ish even though its over 1k words, and thats not really my area of expertise. Without knowing your intent for the piece, I would say either expand it just a little and give us more setting info (for instance I'm tantalized by how she some times calls people by roles, "Husband" etc and some times by proper names) or contrarywise remove some extraneous stuff (like the house that just isn't there anymore mention of which keeps cropping up with no real context at least for me.)
I think I got a very good sense of the characters in themselves and given the short length.
Basically he tries to take her "child" again and she reacts...badly. That came through fine although at times it felt like maybe there was supposed to be more.
Milieu-5 or maybe not relevent
If you wanted us to get a good feel of the world, I for one didn't. However I suspect that the characters surroundings and circumstances may be meant to be ambigious in which case its fine.
No problems here
Also very well done in my opinion.
Action: I'm not sure this is relevent
Good, took 1 off for some easy to fix typos.
See Millieu above. The overall story is entirely understandable.
Post apocolypse is nothing new, but I think what you do here is something I've not seen before in that context.
I enjoyed this story and I see it going far with just a little more polish.
Story overall: 6 This story mostly works for me. Itís intriguing and creepy and I enjoyed reading it. However, I was left dissatisfied by the lack of explanations for the use capitalization on the Husband and the Baby and the background of what happened to make the world the way it is.
Character: 7 I really connected with Miley and damn if I didnít root for her at the end, even though what she did was horrible. Good job. The only quibble I have is that she gives up the baby to Dax way too easily, especially since she knows whatís going to happen. If she feels maternal toward that child, sheís going to fight for her, and Dax is going to have to overpower Miley to win. And if sheís not going to fight (because she does seem to have problems feeling or expressing emotion), there needs to be a reason for it. Why has she shut down emotionally? And if she has shut down, why take in the baby in the first place?
Plot: 7 The plot is simple but effective.
Milieu: 5 This is the storyís biggest weakness. Youíve given just enough world building to be tantalizing but not enough to satisfy me. I donít have a good understanding of how Mileyís world operates or how it got to be that way, and I think adding that in would enhance the overall effect of the story. And why is the house not there anymore??
Disbelief: 7 No problems.
Dialogue: 6 Itís about halfway through the story before we get to any dialogue, which is fine. But by that time, I have a pretty firm picture in my mind of who Miley is, and it doesnít include a Southern accent and bad grammar. That took me out of the story and just never sounded quite right.
Writing style: 7 The style is fine, although I did run across some small punctuation mistakes and a spelling error.
Understandable: 8 No problems.
Unique: 8 I canít think of another story Iíve read quite like it.
Ending: 7 Going back to what I said above, if Miley is going to be unemotional about what just happened (i.e. go back to her laundry), that reaction has to be earned (because itís not normal), and I donít think it quite is earned here. Don't get me wrong, I think her lack of emotion is creepy and interesting, but the reader needs an explanation for it.
Story Overall:5 It is an interesting idea, and well executed in general, it just feels weird to me. I feel like there is too much back story, and it seems a little, "as you know bob." if that makes sense, especially where he wondered as he is watching the ripples, what the world would be like if he made a different choice.
Character Development:6 Antony feels like a pious murderer. Which is interesting. I don't like him enough though to excuse the thousand dead slaves. Caesar I like, and the priestess. I buy both of them, I just need something more than a pang in the stomach to like Antony better.
Plot:7 Antony kills a thousand people, finds Caesar, and then very quickly finds sanctuary.
Milieu:7 This is really strong, though the lower score is because I would like to see more of it.
Disbelief:3 This needs help. This paragraph> Caesar slept against Antonyís back as they rode beneath the vivid pinpricks of a thousand stars and alongside the endless stream of crucified slaves. They reached Rome at dawn. Antony dismounted to lead his exhausted horse and it's passenger through the waking city. < needs more. I don't think you should skim.
It felt to me, both times I read it, that he finds sanctuary too soon after finding him. I think I was distracted by the beauty in the sentence to get the information. I would like more here especially. What does it feel like to be bringing Caesar back to Rome? Is he scared others would notice him, know who it is? I just need more risk, more dread, more weight to partner with all the dead people. It's very serious stuff you're talking about, and there isn't a lot of in depth thoughts, besides the flashbacks and pangs in the stomachs. Maybe more description would help also, spend more time noticing what sets each crucified slave apart. you've kind of dehumanized them, calling them an endless river, instead of having each face taunt him. Each face mean something to him.
Dialogue:9. Really good. "You must eat the flies before they eat you." Brilliant.
Action- not really applicable, so... 9
Writing Style-7 You are a great writer, that is clear, but I just want more detail, and I want more of his thoughts.
Understandable-5. I don't know a lot about this time period, and there were moments that confused me.
Unique-8 It's a cool idea, and different than I have read.
Ending-4 It felt like an ending to me, so that is good, I just felt that the ending is a bit unjust. I don't like Antony enough, or feel he has atoned for all the people he killed for him to receive sanctuary. I kind of want to see him punished, maybe Caesar could wake and injure him, or Octavius could have him killed as he enters Rome. Something to set things right. I think if you have his march in front of the people he killed hurt him more deeply, I would buy the ending as is. It just doesn't feel fair.
Hope this helps you and your story. Good luck with it. ~Sheena
Before I start... I think you might want to start the story with the line... "He should get back inside. Heíd be in trouble..." with a Matt thrown in to name him. It seems closer to the action to me, and the rest of the information you give later more casually. Try it and see if you like it, if not, no worries.
Story overall: 7 I think it is cool. Well done.
Character: 8 for Matt, and a 7 for Emrys. Brother Taylor, 3. He seemed a bit too evil. If you could soften him a bit, maybe give him more of a clear motivation of why he is so harsh, it would help. When he dies, I don't feel anything for him, and I think if you added more likability to his character there would be a stronger sense of dread at the end. I am still on the fence on whether or not Emrys is a good guy, which I like a lot, especially since you made Emrys enemy a woman. I don't really trust him. Which I like.
Plot: 8 Really well done. Pacing as well was good, It felt like you spent just the right amount of time going through the plot. Very good.
Milieu: 5 The fantasy world stuff I buy, and find interesting, though kind of formulaic, the real world stuff I think could use more descriptions. More quirks.
Disbelief: 8 for the fantasy world stuff, and a 4 for the real world stuff. I have a hard time believing, and understanding how this orphanage/school works, and also how his parents died.
Dialogue: 6 it's fine. The strength of the story is not in the dialogue, but it doesn't pull me out either.
Action: 9 Great.
Writing style: 7 Good.
Understandable: 8 I understood what was happening.
Unique: 3 Lonely boy meets wizard who takes him away from his problems is kind of done a lot. But you've done a good job with it.
Ending: as is 5. If you strengthen the ambiguity at the end, then It will strengthen the story. If you make the reader feel something when Brother Taylor dies, that would also help.
Hope this helps. ~Sheena
[This message has been edited by shimiqua (edited November 23, 2009).]
Story overall: 6 Very close to being ready for submission, but could use some polishing.
Characters: 6 Youíve done a good job developing Matt; however, he doesnĎt change at all by the end and I think that he should. Also, Iím not clear how old he is. When it comes to Emrys, Iím not sure of his intentions. Is he genuine in his concern for Matt, or is he using him for some secret, nefarious purpose? At the end, itís clear Emrys is genuine, but the not knowing for most of the story where he stands was distracting for me. Brother Taylor and the other boys seemed fairly one dimensional, but I donĎt think they need to be as well-rounded for the purposes of a short story.
Plot: 7 Thereís nothing specifically wrong with the plot, but I guess I expected something more for the length of the story. Iím not talking straight action here, but depth. Matt is the only character whose motivations really come into play; therefore, it follows that the actions and decisions of the other characters are made for reasons the reader doesnít understand, and that lessens the story. Emrys especially is an enigma. Why does he want to help Matt? It canít be as simple as because Matt helped him. Maybe Matt reminds him of someone he loved or abandoned or betrayed. Maybe Emrys is trying to find redemption for some past action. Just brainstorming here.
Milieu: 7 I was never clear on when and where Mattís world was. Is it our world? Our time period? Somewhere in the U.S. or Europe? And if Iím unclear on Mattís world, Iím more so on Emrysí world. Where did he come from and how did he end up in a place that is obviously not his home world/dimension?
Disbelief: 8 No problems here.
Dialogue: 7 Emrys saying ďmy boyĒ just about every other sentence got old.
Action: 8 The action is solid.
Writing style: 7 The writing style is clear and readable, but puffy. I think this could probably drop about 300-400 words just in eliminating unnecessary words.
Understandable: 8 No problems.
Unique: 6 An orphan boy, miserable with his situation, discovers something magical that offers an escape Ö seems like thatís a plot Iíve seen before. But I like the spin of the ďfalling star.ď
Ending: 6 Matt, I think, should change in some way as a result of what happens to him -- come to a realization about life or the world or the people in it, or learn something about himself -- but he doesnít seem to. That lack of development leaves the conclusion a little emotionally unsatisfying for me, although I am glad that he achieved his goal of escape.