GWJ Writer's Throwdown: October 2012: Monsters With Jobs

Okies; November Writer's Throwdown is up.

There's something there for the Nanoers, and something there for the nonNanoers. We've created a really great group here, and my hope is that we can continue to encourage and bolster each other as we attempt to scale different mountains this month.

And now; I'm going for a giant cup of coffee; and reading the rest of the stories from the October throwdown.

As an aside; I cannot tell you guys how much the Throwdown means to me. Not only are you guys great writers who are getting better every month; but we've created this fantastic community of non-sniping, non-competitive, honest critiquing brotherhood of writers. (brotherhood in a non-gender sort of way, in that spas still get SO upset if I go wandering through the men's side...especially when I do the Empress Nympho "No, no, no, no, no, no, YES!" thing...)

This has been a great experience for me, and has motivated me to write and polish in a way that none of the other writer's groups I've belonged to has ever done. You all are just the grooviest geeky Algonquin table a girl could ever want. If I were a drinking woman, now would be the time to tell you "Awh, I love you guys! Comere for a hug!"

Mimble wrote:

It's taken me a while, but here's my contribution: The Finer Things.

Now to read all the other tales posted here!

EDIT: I had some tense issues with this one - I feel pretty sure I didn't catch all of them, either. Sorry!

I LOVED this story. Loved it so much. There is nothing I don't like about it. The characters were tangible, the setting was fantastic and fully realized, the boy meets girl trope was played wonderfully. I love this. I really do. If I had one critique, it would be that I think the dénouement feels rushed.

Re tenses: Honest to god, that's why I need an editor. I am completely incapable of managing my tenses. Apparently, I don't live in the same time spectrum as everyone else...in that I am both past, present and future...often in the same sentence. So, I feel your pain there.

Higgledy wrote:

Here is mine.
Beneath the surface

Edit to say: I didn't know there was a revised version; I'm reading the thread top to bottom, no these notes are from the first version. As Emily Latella would say. "Oh, well...nevermind."

Growing up around swamps, which are treacherous lands even when you "know" the territory, this one spooked me. Not from the crabs; because I'm ok with crabs eating me after I'm dead, but because of the drowning...it's my deepest fear; running out of air.

I like your narrative pace and details, but as a reader I was left with more questions than answers. What's up with the lock keeper? Is he the monster? Are the crabs the monster? Are the crabs controlled by the lock keeper and that's how he knows "they're red"? And why would anyone set out on a water adventure that close to sunset, in the rain, if they don't know the territory? (Although that question, to be fair, may come from living around swamps, where if you don't know where you're going, headed out at dusk is just a good way to get eaten by a python or an alligator.)

The lock keeper reminds me a lot of the guys who own airboats and johnboats in the swamp. If they saw some city kid untying one of their boats...they would let them...because they're firm believers in Darwin, those guys. I know for a fact that if my stepfather had walked out to find someone taking the johnboat, he'd wish the guy luck out there, knowing full well that we'd have to go find him later with the airboat. Or at least go retrieve the boat...(he'd shoot someone trying to steal the airboat...those are lifelines in the swamp).

My point being; the sense of urgency for WHY someone would do something that stupid is missing. There should be something more that pushes the character towards being that foolhardy. I'd also like to understand the character's fear better. Is he afraid of drowning or crabs? If crabs...why? What about these crabs makes them scary? (As a rule, crabs aren't aggressive, just pinchy.) Is it that he realizes he's about to become part of the food chain? Are the crabs killers? Are they under the control of the lock keeper?

That said; I like your descriptive narrative a lot. The story moves well, Alex's thoughts are well elucidated, and the slow dawning of panic is well done.

Duoae wrote:

Here's mine, then. It's a strange thing but mostly trying to put myself in the mind and world of something completely alien.

One of the more difficult writing exercises is said to be animating the brain of a sentient, but non-anthropomorphic, being. I think you did a good job doing just that. Writing from the perspective of the being also allows you to not get trapped in the questions of why the other creatures want the digestive goo. Leaving those sorts of details to be filled in by the reader is great way to keep a short story clean of minutiae that doesn't move the story forward.

I think there are a few spots where it could be tightened up, but overall you did a great job of creating an alien perspective.

Case of the Spun Gold

I noticed you only started calling "Hammand" halfway through the story and up until that point, which was shortly after the joke, he was Hamman.

I actually was really getting into the story just as it finished! Det. Dumpty was well-written and the spins on the various other characters of the tale were pretty novel. I was looking forward to meeting Mr. Stiltskin...

Oh, and happy birthday!

duckideva wrote:
Duoae wrote:

Here's mine, then. It's a strange thing but mostly trying to put myself in the mind and world of something completely alien.

One of the more difficult writing exercises is said to be animating the brain of a sentient, but non-anthropomorphic, being. I think you did a good job doing just that. Writing from the perspective of the being also allows you to not get trapped in the questions of why the other creatures want the digestive goo. Leaving those sorts of details to be filled in by the reader is great way to keep a short story clean of minutiae that doesn't move the story forward.

I think there are a few spots where it could be tightened up, but overall you did a great job of creating an alien perspective.

Thanks! Yeah, it was a basically a "fired from the hip" first draft with no editing so I'm pleased that it's not a complete failure!

Ok, I think that's everyone, yes? If I missed your story in the thread, please let me know!

McFinn wrote:

Spun Gold.

Spoiler:

Well I was entirely amused. I don't have much to add except that the beacon thing didn't really work for me. My only only idea was that gold from different areas/mines smelled differently to dwarves, and they went around until one smelled it strongly coming from the castle. You'd have to work fast though before the smell wore off ("nothing like that new ore smell") or it was melted down and mixed. Also you used Hamman/d in two different spots. You could almost use Hammond and save the joke for later (although I didn't see it at first and didn't know whey the prince was laughing).

Good luck with the computer. Sure you didn't commit just a little murder?

Agreed.

Spoiler:

The beacon thing...I need some ability to track the gold, but the beacon hits the wrong note because it just doesn't feel fairy-tale-y. I've also sort of written myself into a corner with this story; but I think I'm going to take another running jump at it from a different perspective. And no, not even a little one. I lurves him, and I'm sure some day I'll forgive him. Heh.

Duoae wrote:

Case of the Spun Gold
I noticed you only started calling "Hammand" halfway through the story and up until that point, which was shortly after the joke, he was Hamman.

I actually was really getting into the story just as it finished! Det. Dumpty was well-written and the spins on the various other characters of the tale were pretty novel. I was looking forward to meeting Mr. Stiltskin...

Oh, and happy birthday!

Yeah, I missed that. I had initially set up a different joke; but it was getting awfully close to Piers Anthony territory...and nobody wants that... (And thanks!)

duckideva wrote:

Ok, I think that's everyone, yes? If I missed your story in the thread, please let me know!

McFinn wrote:

Spun Gold.

Spoiler:

Well I was entirely amused. I don't have much to add except that the beacon thing didn't really work for me. My only only idea was that gold from different areas/mines smelled differently to dwarves, and they went around until one smelled it strongly coming from the castle. You'd have to work fast though before the smell wore off ("nothing like that new ore smell") or it was melted down and mixed. Also you used Hamman/d in two different spots. You could almost use Hammond and save the joke for later (although I didn't see it at first and didn't know whey the prince was laughing).

Good luck with the computer. Sure you didn't commit just a little murder?

Agreed.

Spoiler:

The beacon thing...I need some ability to track the gold, but the beacon hits the wrong note because it just doesn't feel fairy-tale-y. I've also sort of written myself into a corner with this story; but I think I'm going to take another running jump at it from a different perspective. And no, not even a little one. I lurves him, and I'm sure some day I'll forgive him. Heh.

Duoae wrote:

Case of the Spun Gold
I noticed you only started calling "Hammand" halfway through the story and up until that point, which was shortly after the joke, he was Hamman.

I actually was really getting into the story just as it finished! Det. Dumpty was well-written and the spins on the various other characters of the tale were pretty novel. I was looking forward to meeting Mr. Stiltskin...

Oh, and happy birthday!

Yeah, I missed that. I had initially set up a different joke; but it was getting awfully close to Piers Anthony territory...and nobody wants that... (And thanks!)

Spoiler:

Surely a wizard could have enchanted it?

The beacon is an enchantment, but I didn't explain it very well.

duckideva wrote:

The beacon is an enchantment, but I didn't explain it very well.

Spoiler:

Okay, then. What about a gold straw-eating goat?

duckideva wrote:
Higgledy wrote:

Here is mine.
Beneath the surface

Edit to say: I didn't know there was a revised version; I'm reading the thread top to bottom, no these notes are from the first version. As Emily Latella would say. "Oh, well...nevermind."

Growing up around swamps, which are treacherous lands even when you "know" the territory, this one spooked me. Not from the crabs; because I'm ok with crabs eating me after I'm dead, but because of the drowning...it's my deepest fear; running out of air.

I like your narrative pace and details, but as a reader I was left with more questions than answers. What's up with the lock keeper? Is he the monster? Are the crabs the monster? Are the crabs controlled by the lock keeper and that's how he knows "they're red"? And why would anyone set out on a water adventure that close to sunset, in the rain, if they don't know the territory? (Although that question, to be fair, may come from living around swamps, where if you don't know where you're going, headed out at dusk is just a good way to get eaten by a python or an alligator.)

The lock keeper reminds me a lot of the guys who own airboats and johnboats in the swamp. If they saw some city kid untying one of their boats...they would let them...because they're firm believers in Darwin, those guys. I know for a fact that if my stepfather had walked out to find someone taking the johnboat, he'd wish the guy luck out there, knowing full well that we'd have to go find him later with the airboat. Or at least go retrieve the boat...(he'd shoot someone trying to steal the airboat...those are lifelines in the swamp).

My point being; the sense of urgency for WHY someone would do something that stupid is missing. There should be something more that pushes the character towards being that foolhardy. I'd also like to understand the character's fear better. Is he afraid of drowning or crabs? If crabs...why? What about these crabs makes them scary? (As a rule, crabs aren't aggressive, just pinchy.) Is it that he realizes he's about to become part of the food chain? Are the crabs killers? Are they under the control of the lock keeper?

That said; I like your descriptive narrative a lot. The story moves well, Alex's thoughts are well elucidated, and the slow dawning of panic is well done.

Thanks for the notes. I now realise I should have gone back to that first version and said, "Hey wait, here is the revised version!' I think I did fix quite a few of the things you mention in the new version which is good :).

Spoiler:

The lock keeper was basically sending people off to die to 'feed' the fens. I was keeping it very understated in the first version. I made that more explicit in the second draft with a few short scenes from his point of view. I also realised, after posting the story, that crabs, as you say, probably couldn't kill someone. In the second version I mention a story that haunts him about an old couple found on the coast, their corpses being picked at by crabs. The crabs at the end become a symbol of a horrible death rather than a threat.