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Old October 6th, 2012 (07:28 PM).
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Astinus Astinus is online now
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: Connecticut, USA
Age: 28
Gender: Male
Posts: 8,087
The forums went down as I was writing this. This is all a sign that I should never work on one of these again.

Final Scoring

Sixth Place
The Shiny Umbreon in the Corner
Total Scoring: 30

The Judging
Spoiler:
icomeanon6
Spelling and Grammar: 3
Characterization, Plot, and Description: 3
Relevance to Prompt: 4
Total: 10

Astinus
Grammar/Spelling: 3
Characterization, Plot, Description: 2
Relevance to Prompt: 5
Total: 10

Dragonfree
Spelling and Grammar: 2/10
Characterization, Plot, and Description: 3/10
Relevance to Prompt: 5/10
Total: 10/30

Spoiler:
I think you misunderstood the idea behind this contest. It's a short story competition; anything that ends in "To be continued" doesn't really belong. This isn't a complete story, just a first chapter; without the rest of the story, it is inherently handicapped in comparison to other, complete entries.

Aside from that, though, I'm afraid your writing needs a lot of work. This entry is riddled with spelling and grammar errors (in particular, Elesa's name starts with Ele- like in "electricity", rather than sounding like "Elsie"), run-on sentences, and incorrect punctuation, and it completely lacks proper paragraphing. Every time a new character speaks, you should generally start a new paragraph, and the same applies whenever the subject changes; entire chunks of back-and-forth dialogue should never be condensed into one paragraph. Moreover, you go off on irrelevant tangents, skip back and forth a lot with little warning, and most everything is summarized, with no description or build-up to flesh it out: in the space of only just over a thousand jumbled words, you've covered material that in a published book would generally have been several chapters. Slow down and flesh out the important scenes instead of rushing through the plot; that's how stories build up excitement, tension and emotion.

You also don't seem to have really proofread your entry. There's a "Teping" in one spot, and a couple of your sentences are repetitive in a manner that you couldn't have missed if you'd read over your work properly: "I went through my normal routine, I went through my normal routine", "Just then I thought where is Tepig I thought to myself?" When you write, it's inevitable things like this will happen, which is exactly why rereading what you've written is absolutely vital.

And then it just doesn't really make a lot of sense, to be honest. Eric starts talking about a "famous secret" all of a sudden, but the Plasma grunt said nothing about a secret or that Eric was special; he just said they'd taken his mom and wanted him to tell them how to get Zekrom. I have no idea how he goes from there to assuming he must have some kind of mysterious secret, let alone a particularly famous one. The revelation that Elesa is his sister is bizarre: how on earth did it come to light that they were siblings? You treat it as if they would simply know it the moment they laid eyes on one another, without it requiring any further explanation. And when Eric starts panicking about the butcher knife and Tepig being gone and shouting "Noooo", I thought he meant the Plasma grunt had already killed her, or that the Plasma grunt was actively threatening her; if he just had her Pokéball on him, the knife isn't very relevant to Tepig's disappearance.

In general, at each stage in your story, it's a good idea to think about what your reader is going to be thinking at this point: do they have all the information you have? What conclusions might they draw from what you've said explicitly? Is there information you're assuming they know but that they don't actually have all the knowledge to be able to conclude?

It's clear this story is about some great big secrets, but because it's incomplete we don't even get to know what the secrets are about, and while they still influence the story, it doesn't feel very meaningful. Making use of secrets as a theme in a story generally has to involve letting the reader know what the secret is at some point; without that, we don't have anything to go on to decide how interesting or relevant the secret is.


Fifth Place
droomph
Total Scoring: 45

The Judging
Spoiler:
icomeanon6
Spelling and Grammar: 7
Characterization, Plot, and Description: 6
Relevance to Prompt: 2
Total: 15

Astinus
Grammar/Spelling: 9
Characterization, Plot, Description: 6
Relevance to Prompt: 4
Total: 19

Dragonfree
Spelling and Grammar: 8/10
Characterization, Plot, and Description: 3/10
Relevance to Prompt: 0/10
Total: 11/30

Spoiler:
This is kind of a cute mythology, I suppose, but it's not much of a story. Some real-world myths have stories with plot and conflict and happenings and others don't, but creation myths tend to fall in the latter category, and this is no exception. While you tell us some of the deities have certain character traits, you don't show it in a way that would make them feel compelling as characters, and nothing really happens: it's just a monotonous recounting of who created what when. This kind of thing can be a fun supplement to a broader story about a culture that actually believes in this religion - but on its own, all it is is a meaningless family tree of way too many names of interchangeable gods and spirits that we have no reason to care about and no context in which to put them.

I also really didn't care for the ending, in which you assert that actual real-world religions are all really worshipping the gods you made up in your story and then (ironically enough) condemn blasphemers in the same breath. If I were religious, I'd probably be slightly offended by the suggestion that you have the one true religion but mine's okay too because it's really just a subset of yours with different names; in reality, as an atheist, I just feel like I'm being condescendingly preached at. Now, odds are you don't really believe in this mythology yourself and aren't really suggesting all religions are rooted in this true pantheon - but because you explicitly bring up specific real-world religions and this isn't written from a clearly-defined character's point of view, it ends up feeling like an essay rather than a work of fiction, which makes the opinions of the narrator feel like we're supposed to take them at face value. It might have been better if you'd avoided referencing specific religions and used general terms instead - "Many societies believe in different gods, but they are really only different names for the same beings" - but without any sense that the narrator is a character of some kind, it's still hard for the reader to really experience the narrator's opinions as independent of the author's. If you just framed it as, say, a parent explaining how the world was created to their child, in some specific manner that gives the reader a sense of who the parent and/or child are, it would be a lot easier to regard this as a story and not a bizarre author tract.

It's also somewhat confusing. Who are the "people of the twelve children" and "us thirteen"? Twelve and thirteen don't even add up to the total number of divine children, assuming the total of twenty-three given earlier in the story was correct (I didn't count). I first thought of the Abrahamic religions, what with the Israelites being the Twelve Tribes and all, but then you go on to say the "twelve" believed in Olympians, so I have no idea. This could be hinting at the narrator being a specific character, but it's far too vague to tell or to deduce anything about that character from it. I'm similarly puzzled by the earlier sentence, "To his dismay, he found that the Friends he created could not live forever; instead, they vanished, because Chaos was satisfied with his work; his powers came from the absence of what they produced." I've read it several times and I still can't make heads or tails of it: the Friends are mortals because Chaos is satisfied? The Friends are "producing" something? ?_? (On further reflection, I'm guessing what you're trying to say is that Chaos's powers came from boredom and loneliness, so they diminished once he had companions and was happy, and apparently that made them die due to no ontological inertia. But it took quite a bit of rereading and figuring to work that out; I can't picture anyone understanding this sentence on a first try.)

Your spelling and grammar are mostly okay, but the random capitalization of Worms and Fish and Squirrels is nonsensical and looks pretty silly. "Animals" being capitalized in this context I can just about see, if you regard them as being created as a special class of beings that is given a proper name, but squirrels are just a regular animal species; they're not some super-important class that should be capitalized. You also have a few general errors and awkwardly structured sentences; in particular, towards the end your sentences start to get very long and have way too many "and"s in them.

Finally, I can't see any relation to the theme here whatsoever - there are no secrets, unless you were to stretch the definition severely to cover "other people believe in religions but don't know that this is what really happened". Being that in the writing competition thread you commented that this was actually a dusted-off English assignment rather than being written specifically for the contest, that's perhaps not surprising, but it does put you at a severe disadvantage since I can't possibly give you any points for relevance to the prompt.


Fourth Place
-ty-
Final Score: 57

The Judging
Spoiler:
icomeanon6
Spelling and Grammar: 5
Characterization, Plot, and Description: 5
Relevance to Prompt: 7
Total: 17

Astinus
Grammar/Spelling: 7
Characterization, Plot, Description: 5
Relevance to Prompt: 8
Total: 20

Dragonfree
Spelling and Grammar: 7/10
Characterization, Plot, and Description: 5/10
Relevance to Prompt: 8/10
Total: 20/30

Spoiler:
Your writing is a bit confusing. Many sentences are weirdly structured, there are various grammatical mistakes and confused words ("threw" instead of "through", "wear" instead of "where", "adverts" instead of "averts", etc.), commas are frequently sprinkled where they don't belong, you shift back and forth between past and present tense several times, and then the metaphorical language you use just pushes it over the edge. The first paragraph, for instance, blends anatomical language into the descriptions of the bed - skin, ribs, bones, narrow-waisted, springs converging into my spine and - and while that could have worked fine and been pretty evocative and mood-building if the writing were generally clear and concise, it ended up all blending together and feeling like the narrator had been fused to the bed or something about as strange.

And the words you use to often be strange and puzzling as you go on. Why is his face "unfamiliar" when he sees it reflected in the glasses of the ? There shouldn't be any reason for them to have surgically altered his face or anything that should result in that; maybe you meant something like "so thin/haunted/tired it seemed almost unfamiliar" but that's where clarity comes in again: because your writing isn't entirely clear in general, I don't feel confident concluding anything about what you meant. Later, he claims he'd rather die than "live in a world where I question my existence"; why is he questioning his existence? How? Has he never heard of "I think, therefore I am"? Other times, the words you use convey inappropriate additional meanings (a "crusade" of nurses?) or invoke nonsensical similes (his eyebrows "rolled like boulders"?). I feel like basically every other sentence is strange in some way, and it makes it harder to really get into the story.

The scene with Aunt Lillian also feels kind of out of place. There's nothing wrong with flashbacks, per se, but seeing as this story has just the one flashback and Aunt Lillian is promptly forgotten about and irrelevant after it, it feels like you could just as well have conveyed the relevant information from the flashback without actually flashing back or doing the whole tangential buildup about Aunt Lillian's cancer and medication. As it is it gets in the way of the story by introducing a bunch of extraneous information, and moreover it makes the ending feel like it lacks closure because it's only a resolution to part of the plot elements that you actually introduced in the story. What about Virgil's family that you've given us a glimpse into? Haven't they been looking for him since he disappeared? Have they found out the truth, or will they ever? Did his mother know about his father's stint as an organ donor? If not, what did she think was going on during his long disappearance? We wouldn't care about these questions if you'd focused only on the personal hell that Virgil is experiencing - but by bringing his family into it, you've reminded us there are more people affected, and we can no longer pretend this is all about him.

As for the plot, I'm afraid I don't think it quite hangs together. Part of it, I admit, is that I can't quite make out the villain's relation to Virgil's family. When he talks about "the rage that your father had inherited from me", he sounds like he means literal inheritance, i.e. that he is Virgil's grandfather, and that would make sense with the stated requirement of blood-related organ donors. But he also describes himself as a "friend of your father", which is a profoundly odd way to refer to your son even if you view your son only as a sack of spare organs, and the complete lack of "holy ****, this is my grandfather" in Virgil's reaction makes it sound like that's not what you meant. On the other hand, why on earth would he be able to get organ transplants from any random guy just so long as any further organ donors are blood-related to the original one? The story doesn't seem to rhyme properly with either scenario.

Further, last time I checked, autoimmune diseases are treated with immunosuppressants, not organ transplants - which makes sense, because the definition of autoimmune disease is that it's about the immune system attacking the body itself, and the immune system will attack transplanted organs even in otherwise healthy people; that's the whole reason organ donors should preferably be blood-related to the recipient. Having numerous organ transplants would probably make your autoimmune disease worse, not better. (If this actually does make medical sense and you know more about it than me, I feel silly, but if not, it's bizarre.)

But okay, suppose the guy's deadly autoimmune disease really can only be treated with repeated organ transplants, and he has the resources at his disposal to be able to kidnap other people purely to have them donate organs to him. Why would he agree to just send the only donor home hoping he'll have a boy (I don't think sex matters when it comes to organ donations, by the way)? He doesn't necessarily have time to wait years for a kid of the right sex, especially when the parents are able to discreetly abort or even kill the child if it is male. And then he'd have to wait even more years for the kid to grow up. The sensible plan would have been to harvest sperm from the father, pick out one with a Y chromosome, and impregnate a woman at the facility with it, all as soon as the father was captured so that the child would be available as soon as possible. (And he should have backups, too.)

Virgil's plan to take him down with him isn't foolproof, either: plenty of organ transplants are done with dead donors, after all. It is perfectly possible to harvest his organs after his suicide - and to harvest his sperm for the abovementioned better plan, for that matter. It isn't as much of a victory as Virgil seems to think it is, which makes it kind of hollow.

You've got a fairly neat core idea here, I think, and you have moments of very nice, evocative descriptions, but the overall execution seems rushed (understandably, given you had such a short time to write your entries), and the result, I'm afraid, doesn't really make a lot of sense.


Third Place
bobandbill
Total Scoring: 75

The Judging
Spoiler:
icomeanon6
Spelling and Grammar: 9
Characterization, Plot, and Description: 8
Relevance to Prompt: 8
Total: 25

Astinus
Grammar/Spelling: 9
Characterization, Plot, Description: 9
Relevance to Prompt: 10
Total: 28

Dragonfree
Spelling and Grammar: 9/10
Characterization, Plot, and Description: 7/10
Relevance to Prompt: 6/10
Total: 22/30

Spoiler:
While John and Sam are reasonably well characterized, their bits seem rather extraneous to the story here. Their dialogue is purely for exposition at the beginning and then the comments they make in between snippets of the Gardevoir's memories are mostly pretty vacuous and unnecessary and take the reader out of the moment. It would make sense if it felt like a story about them, with seeing the Gardevoir's memories ultimately serving to change them somehow, but as it is it feels like a story about the Gardevoir with them as a framing device, and you're spending too much time on them for a framing device. Their comments also tend to overexplain; things like the memory of being born would actually be pretty neat to figure out as a reader, but when two men in the story are reading it and telling us "Maybe she remembers being born", we're not really given the chance to interpret it and realize what's going on on our own. Similarly, when she's meeting her mother in the middle of a battle, it doesn't help to cut to John and Sam informing us that this is quite an event; we can decide that for ourselves. Commenting on it only feels like you're telling us what to think of the story.

I do like how you write the Gardevoir; her empath powers are always in the background somewhere instead of getting forgotten about, and things like her puzzlement at why someone would train a bunch of Pokémon that are all weak to Psychic are fun and remind us we're reading about a Pokémon and not a human. It was nice to see glimpses of the build-up of her bond with Sally, and the parts near the end where she's going back to her mother and something presumably happens to Sally are intriguing.

However, it doesn't really go anywhere, and that makes the story feel kind of pointless and unsatisfying. The flashes of things happening at the end are so short and vague that it just feels like you cut off before we get to the climax of the story. This, too, would work better if the story were truly about John and Sam and we were to see this experience affect them as people - then the Gardevoir's story wouldn't really be the point. But with John and Sam as a framing device, we want to see enough of what happened to the Gardevoir to at least be able to form a coherent mental image of the rest. As it is we can't even guess at why the Gardevoir was trying to communicate this on her deathbed in the first place - who was she so desperately trying to reach with it, and why are these memories so important?

I'm also confused by how the Gardevoir can go off to be with her mother when her mother is owned by another trainer, and one who doesn't appear to treat her with any kind of understanding at that, given the mother's bleak view of trainers. Why did her mother's trainer let them meet, and how does the mother have the authority to keep her around longer than she should? Or did we just miss something crucial like the mother being released in between? There's no way to tell.

I want a sequel to this. You definitely managed to suck me in and get me interested in Gardevoir's story, but then when the fic doesn't really deliver on that front, it feels incomplete. Maybe you do intend on a sequel - John's determination to figure out what happened at the end sounds like a sequel hook - in which case I'd love to read it, but I don't think this really stands well on its own.

There are several missing and extraneous commas here and there, but they're minor, and otherwise the grammar is mostly fine, although there are some typos. I'm not sure I'd quite say this is a story about secrets, though, at least with the information that we have: there's no indication that the Gardevoir's story was a secret, just that she was quiet and therefore hadn't happened to talk about it until she was dying and wanted to get it off her chest. I guess that could also make more sense if we knew more, though, and it is about something previously mysterious being revealed to the characters, which kind of fits the bill.


Second Place
Mizan de la Plume Kuro
Final Scoring: 82

The Judging
Spoiler:
icomeanon6
Spelling and Grammar: 9
Characterization, Plot, and Description: 8
Relevance to Prompt: 9
Total: 26

Astinus
Grammar/Spelling: 8
Characterization, Plot, Description: 9
Relevance to Prompt: 10
Total: 27

Dragonfree
Spelling and Grammar: 9/10
Characterization, Plot, and Description: 10/10
Relevance to Prompt: 10/10
Total: 29/30

Spoiler:
This was a fascinating entry, both in plot and character terms. The narrator is immediately fixated on Celeste and we can sense that something is up with her, providing a great hook into the story along with the destruction of the forest, and as it goes on we get a greater sense of the narrator's feelings for her and the conflicted guilt around them. His observations about her behaviour lend the story quite a bit extra, I think - the fact he wonders about things like whether she really likes coffee at all subtly illustrates how much this is eating at his mind and his general preoccupation with her.

I also love how you write his not-really-attempts to make her remember. He makes off-hand comments about morality, but doesn't linger there; he soothes his innate moral sense with the thought that he said something, but for all the guilt in the world, he can't stay on the point and really try to bring her back. Even when he does manage to take her to the shrine, he can't go through with pushing her all the way, despite how much he hates himself for it. It's a beautiful inner conflict in a deeply flawed character whose actions are incredibly destructive - for him, for her, for the forest, for Celebi's original plans - and yet he continues anyway because his base fear of losing her is too strong. I can't help but wonder somewhat how he fell in love with her, when she is so cold and shows him no emotion at all, let alone kindness - but I don't really care because the buildup and creeping sense of nagging guilt as the story goes on makes it feel real from the narrator's point of view. I just loved reading this all around and the character portrayal and tension made it exquisitely compelling.

I'm a little confused regarding Celebi's plan - why did she pick the narrator to be her guardian? Does she know something the narrator doesn't? Is this perhaps really what she planned all along? - but I'm not sure the story would necessarily be better served by making things clearer. It's the narrator's story, and the fact he doesn't know lends credibility to his doubts and trepidation - he knows this probably isn't what Celebi intended, but the fact he doesn't know for certain gives him something of an excuse for not having done anything that he can use to justify his inaction to himself. Various aspects of what I can gather of the plan sound like they don't make much sense, but because we know so little it feels like something I just don't understand well enough rather than plot holes, which may actually be a good thing. By letting us know very little of what Celebi was planning, it doesn't distract us from the story you're actually telling, and the full extent of the plan doesn't have to be relevant to that story anyway. It's just enough to let us feel a sense of the wider story going on, and that's plenty.

There are a couple of wording/grammar/punctuation fumbles. Occasionally there are commas where there probably shouldn't be or they're missing where they should be, and every time you write a dash you seem to have a space before it but not after it, which is nonsensical - either you have spaces both before and after or no spaces at all. At one point you repeat "make up for lost time" in such close proximity that it feels repetitive, and there's one glaring instance where you use "site" where you mean "sight". But these are very minor hurdles; otherwise your grammar is fine, and your writing is very readable.

Also a great entry for this prompt; the secret he is keeping from her and why is the center of the story and drives the plot.


First Place
JX Valentine
Final Scoring: 88

The Judging
Spoiler:
icomeanon6
Spelling and Grammar: 10
Characterization, Plot, and Description: 10
Relevance to Prompt: 10
Total: 30

Astinus
Grammar/Spelling: 10
Characterization, Plot, Description: 10
Relevance to Prompt: 10
Total: 30

Dragonfree
Spelling and Grammar: 10/10
Characterization, Plot, and Description: 9/10
Relevance to Prompt: 9/10
Total: 28/30

Spoiler:
This was a very enjoyable and intriguing story - you hooked me in right away with the anonymous Rocket agent describing the state of Leaf, and the plot is an interesting and well-realized interpretation of Leaf's absence in HG/SS, Red's muteness, the Cinnabar eruption, and the gameverse story around Mewtwo. The characterization, especially, is lovely: the Rocket agent's narration is wonderfully casual and human, and he's strangely likeable and easy to empathize with despite his status as a Rocket agent who kills people, while Leaf's cocky self-confidence contrasts nicely with her breakdown after she's been made to attack her own brother. And Red's timid, nervous disposition leads naturally into his post-traumatic muteness.

(I'm also assuming the errors regarding Pompeii were intentional as part of the Rocket agent's characterization, and that's a fun touch. Flawless recollection and factual knowledge in fictional characters is so common as to make this kind of thing an interesting rarity.)

I have some nitpicks, though (when don't I?). First, the scripted portions don't always feel quite like transcripts of testimony, which clashes with the presentation of the story as a collection of actual written documents; it feels somewhat off for a scribe to specify a Xatu's chirp as being "sharp", for example. And in the psychic memories especially, the descriptions often simply feel like narration in a regular story more than a transcript, e.g. "GREEN's breath shakes out of excitement; she peers around the boulder at the blue glow and forgets for that moment that the chamber is nearly ice-cold." While since it's her memory it kind of makes sense for it to be from her point of view to a degree despite being a transcript, saying that she forgets the chamber is cold for a moment doesn't make any sense - if she's forgotten it, then it's not appearing in the memory, so the person transcribing it shouldn't be aware that it's actually cold at all. Her breath shaking "out of excitement" also feels like kind of an extraneous detail unlikely to make it into the transcript, even if the scribe can in fact feel that that's why her breath is shaking.

Don't get me wrong - it's evocative and interesting and I actually like it as narration, but it doesn't fit in when you're formatting and presenting everything as actual in-world written documents. Subjective descriptions just feel odd in that context.

Also, the journal entries regarding Mewtwo don't seem to do much for the story here - at most they're serving as interesting scene separators. I assumed you were going to have something regarding Mew or something to connect them to the story, but I'm not really seeing anything, other than the obvious "both involve Mewtwo" part. Perhaps the "We have failed to curb its vicious tendencies" entry is somewhat directly relevant, since possession by Mewtwo appears to have made Leaf suddenly violent, but that entry isn't actually before or after that particular scene, so it's still rather tenuous. And I can't possibly see how an entry like "A new Pokémon was discovered deep in the jungle" relates to anything in this story at all. Granted, I may be missing something - the final, redacted entry that wasn't actually in the games presumably relates to something in the story, but I don't think I've picked up enough from the story to be able to guess properly at what it is or why it's meaningful.

Anyway, this was highly interesting and a pleasure to read. Regarding the relevance score, I don't think you quite utilized the prompt to its fullest extent - while it deals with supposedly secret documents, the fact it's nonetheless just showing us the documents directly doesn't make them feel very secret, and none of the characters are having secrets kept from them. The cover-up is definitely about secrecy, but again somewhat loses the secret vibe because we as Pokémon fans already know about the existence of Mewtwo, which is the biggest thing being covered up. It's still obviously relevant, but I feel like a story with full marks for relevance to prompt here would make more use of the concept of secrets itself, where one party in the story is deliberately withholding information from another party in the story, so a nine it is.


So congratulations to Mizan and Jax for winning the second and first place, and thank you to all participants. Your emblems are in the mail.
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