Improving our 75 Word Stories -- READ FIRST POST

paranoid marvin

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I'm very grateful for the 2 votes and a number of shortlistings for my entry this month, but I would be interested to hear your comments on what you thought of my entry and where it could be improved.

My own thoughts are firstly that it wasn't particularly attractively presented. I don't normally write a block paragraph of text as my entry, and it doesn't look (to me at least) particularly pleasing on the eye.

After writing my (initially untitled) story, I felt that something was missing. It featured a gas lamp, but didn't feel like it properly embraced the genre. It also felt like context for the story was missing, and I couldn't figure out how to fix either issue without adding text (which wasn't possible) or replacing some, which I think would have left a hole in my story. Then I started thinking of Victorian characters and storylines (which for me epitomises 'gas lamp') and 'Mrs Hyde' just seemed to fit my story perfectly.

Here is my entry in its entirety:


Mrs Hyde

She entered his study, nursing a swollen cheek and bloodied lip. Many times she had sworn it would be the last; this time she meant it. Staggering home from his club, would he discern the acrid smell before lighting one of his hateful cheroots? Can a monster be destroyed by fire? That was a chance she would have to take. Turning up the gas lamp before extinguishing the flame, she prepared for his imminent return.
 

Elckerlyc

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I liked the story, but found it on the whole not engaging enough to shortlist.
Also...
I wondered whether Mrs Hyde was willing (and why) to stay at home, while waiting for Mr Hyde with his cheroots. Or whether it was likely Mr Hyde would light his cheroot before lighting the gas-lamp. But lighting the gas-lamp itself would already bring about the explosion. No cheroot required.
And, being a nitpicker, wouldn't Mrs Hyde actually be Mrs Jekyll? Or did Mrs Jekyll change along with Mr Jekyll. Which is food for thought...

Anyway, despite these 'flaws' (at least, as I see it) your story got 2 votes and several mentions. About average, I should think. Not bad at all.
 

emrosenagel

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For me, I think it felt more like prep for the actual risk taking. While it seems silly to think a normal woman could take on Mr. Hyde, I think it would've been more interesting to see them engaged in some type of fight. Perhaps him hunting her in room while she is hiding behind furniture, and then she comes up with explosion idea? Maybe she makes a molotov cocktail instead and chucks it at him? Your story certainly has a more realistic approach to dealing with a monster, but I enjoy a more direct approach to monster slaying.

But all in all, I liked the idea a lot and I think you were spot on with the genre.
 

paranoid marvin

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Thankyou for taking the time to provide thoughtful feedback. My original intention was to leave most of the story ambiguous and open to interpretation. After writing it was a revelation to me that the 'monster' of the tale that I created was indeed Mr Hyde, or someone very like him in manner.

Mrs.Hyde's fate was left for the reader to decide, but the stark realities of Victoeian England was that there was nowhere for women in distress to run to. And the cheap cigars she despises as a means of his destruction were meant as an ironic fate .
 

Yozh

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I really like this one, @paranoid marvin , though it was not my favorite for vote in the end. Especially the use of gaslamps and the feel of that era (at least to my modern mind). I think it was just the final phrase "she prepared for his imminent return" that struck me as off and left me puzzling whether/why she would wait inside the deathtrap she just laid.
 

Parson

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@paranoid marvin .... I voted for your story and I love it. But there was one thing that nagged at me. I wasn't sure why she'd stay after she set her trap, but I reconciled it by thinking that she was likely dead one way or the other. She could die slowly by staying with him, or she could die slowly by being convicted of murder and eventually hanged, or she die and go out screaming in a ball of fire. The whole idea of telling a story from the point of a "Mrs. Hyde" was brilliant in the extreme.
 

THX1138

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Here is my 2nd story that I wrote after posting. Could you please give some input on it everyone?
Thanks!

Trust of Shadows

“This spy of yours, is he good?”

“As you can see, he’s been here all along, sir,” a dark figure appeared from a corner shadow. “He controls most of them anyway,” he said waving a hand.

The figure formed into a bat and flew out towards Parliament.

“Is he worth the risk?”

“Is it worth the risk not to? Besides, he’s taking a chance with us, Prime Minister.”

“Perhaps, but let’s make sure.”

“Crossbows?”

“Absolutely.”
 

Christine Wheelwright

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Here is my 2nd story that I wrote after posting. Could you please give some input on it everyone?
Thanks!

Trust of Shadows

“This spy of yours, is he good?”

“As you can see, he’s been here all along, sir,” a dark figure appeared from a corner shadow. “He controls most of them anyway,” he said waving a hand.

The figure formed into a bat and flew out towards Parliament.

“Is he worth the risk?”

“Is it worth the risk not to? Besides, he’s taking a chance with us, Prime Minister.”

“Perhaps, but let’s make sure.”

“Crossbows?”

“Absolutely.”
I have to admit I don't really understand exactly what is going on in this story. I think this is a big problem for all writers to some extent. The story/characters/world seem very clear in our minds and it is sometimes hard to know if we have conveyed it fully enough to the reader.
 

paranoid marvin

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I agree with Christine Wheelwright in that I don't understand what's happening in the story.

The spy seems to be a vampire, and as he controls most of 'them' (MPs?) does that mean they too are vampires? The crossbow seemed to have some significance, but I couldn't see what.

In the 75 word Challenge I think you risk confusion if you are too subtle with your references. It's one area in which a title that points the reader in the right direction can definitely be of benefit.
 

THX1138

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@paranoid marvin Thanks! there is too much going on for a 75 worder, very true.

I looked back at my entry from the 'Water' themed 75 worder, the one that Parson won, and my story there was simple; An action/event, an emotion and a twist. I came in 2nd on that one. (The Judges this time around is written like that) And I should take more time on the title too.
I'll give myself a week or two this time and play around more.
 
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therapist

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I agree with paranoid and Christine. I liked the set up of the spy unknowingly already being in the room, but I was too confused afterwards.
I looked back at my entry from the 'Water' themed 75 worder, the one that Parson won, and my story there was simple; An action/event, an emotion and a twist. I came in 2nd on that one.
I'd be careful trying to pare it down to a formula. I remember you writing a story I loved in the anonymous 100, the one that made it to tie breaker, about sky people. That one had no twist, but was just simple and interesting and effective.
 

THX1138

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@therapist Thanks! I'm not trying to make or look for a formula, but I do admit that my statement does look like I am.:rolleyes:
My 75 worder from the 'Water' was an everyday event minus one component, the dog. But everything else was the same.

And thanks for liking my 100 worder; 'Which is the Better Life'! I am surprised that Parson didn't pick up on it. It's an SF version of an Old Testament story with a possible conversation that could have taken place.

Now I'm thinking how I could re-due some of my past 75 worders that were lacking or too complex.:unsure:
 
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Lacedaemonian

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I am reluctantly asking for feedback on this as I am not sure what there is to gain from feedback on such a limited piece of writing. However, I am curious to know why it seemingly did not resonate with folk.

On the sixth day

It had started with a sniffle.

She stretched out on the honey slab over third stream. The leaves would be falling soon but the sun still roared fierce in the sky. She could not get warm and her eyes were leaking.

Sweet Briar had fetched a dockor but nothing could be done. The oogers had cursed her with the Red-squint! She limped into the wastelands, away from fennel-hill warrens, where slept her beautiful young kits.
 

Parson

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As to what there is to gain, I suppose that depends on what you're looking for. Now and again someone will have an "aha!" moment.

Your story completely baffled me. I had no idea of the context. It started with the title: On the Sixth Day, put me in mind of a creation story. An idea put quickly to rest by It had started with a sniffle. So, now what? She stretched out on the honey slab over third stream. I'm now thinking this must be a story starring a bee, which seems to be confirmed by The leaves would be falling soon but the sun still roared fierce in the sky. She could not get warm and her eyes were leaking. But this idea is tested sorely by the next line Sweet Briar had fetched a dockor (for the first time I now see that this word isn't doctor. Maybe that's the key? I Google but Google is unhelpful. So, typo?) but nothing can be done. Perhaps sentinent bees? The oogers had cursed her with the Red-squint! (Are oogers Ogers? Do they do magic?) But all of this idea of a bee falls down on the last line: She limped into the wastelands, away from fennel-hill warrens, where slept her beautiful young kits. Kits would seem to mean that we are not dealing with a bee, but what would sleep on a honey slab?

My best guess would be that this story depended on an extensive knowledge of a kind of Fantasy that I am not famliar with. If more people were as flummoxed as me we might have part of the reason why the story did not resonate.
 

THX1138

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Hello @Lacedaemonian !
There is a lot going on in your story for one thing, and I have done this myself plenty of times too.
When I read it, I can tell that the MC has lost her sight from a curse, but why was she cursed?

The second line comes across as if she is crying: her eyes were leaking. But after I read it a second time, I think you meant she was going blind. Maybe writing it more like: her eyes were darning hollow. OR her eyes were leaking hollow. This would give more of a feeling of blindness.

The ending had me lost too. The way you have it to me, reads as if she is going into the wastelands to be with her sleeping young kits. As if to die there next to them? I don't think that is your intention here, more like to leave them behind maybe?
This is a posable place to put your title into the story maybe? And on the sixth day, she lost her sight.

Sweet Briar had fetched a dockor for her leaking eyes but nothing could be done. The curse took hold and on the sixth day she lost her sight. Like winter falling on her heart, she called out to her young kits for help.


I think you could make it work more if you rewrote the 3ed line to be the first. And in the end having her kits help her walk because she is now blind. Or something like that. More emotions maybe? Right now, you have a lot of descriptions with little feelings. And your title does not match the story.

Good going and don't give up! Try writing a few different versions of this story again and repost them here for another review if you want. :)
 

Elckerlyc

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This story had me confused too. After several re-readings I may get some grip on it. But you must realise, when you have 30+ stories to read before voting, you don't take the time to keep re-reading them until you get what the story is trying to tell you. It has to make sense or grab you from the start. There too much going on that wasn't clear from the start.
I get that the MC has been cursed, which made her going blind (or worse, as she is also limping?). She goes into the wastelands and leaves her kits behind, but it is unclear why. Is the MC afraid to infect the kits? Can she no longer care for her kits and limps off to die alone because of that?
As already mentioned above, the title isn't much help here.
And the final part of the last line seemed a bit off to me, compared to what went before. But that could be just me.
It isn't a bad story. But competition in the 75 word challenge is severe, and 'not bad' isn't likely to be a winner.
 

paranoid marvin

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I would agree with other comments that your entry was confusing as to what was going on.

Having too many unknown variables: the honey slab over third stream, eyes were leaking, dockor, oogers, Red-squint etc. in such a short number of words is going to make it difficult for the reader to comprehend, especially when your entry is one out of thirty or forty others.

The risk with subliminal or abstract stories is that the meaning can easily be lost, and your story overlooked. In a 75 word Challenge it can be very hard to pull off. It can be done, as AnnOinUltra has proven on several occasions, but the line between success and failure is a very thin one.

You mention 'a limited piece of writing'. Do you refer here to your writing/story being limited or the word count? It's true that it's challenging to write a coherent, entertaining story in 75 words, but countless entries in the Challenge prove that it's possible. But your story was anything but 'limited' and perhaps a bit too imaginative or expressive for this type of writing challenge.

Good luck with your future entries, and please do continue to join in.
 

Lacedaemonian

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Thanks to everybody for taking the time to reply. I resisted replying to folk straight away because I wanted to see if a few other people replied first and I didn't want to prejudice their feedback. The overarching agreement appears to be one of confusion which is clearly something I need to work on with future submissions. I usually write more poetry than prose and do love delving into the esoteric but I think that wasn't my intention with this piece of writing. I simply did not do a good enough job to signpost what was going on. It was arguably too ambitious a piece for 75 words - 100 words or 300 words would have been sufficient.
You mention 'a limited piece of writing'. Do you refer here to your writing/story being limited or the word count? It's true that it's challenging to write a coherent, entertaining story in 75 words, but countless entries in the Challenge prove that it's possible. But your story was anything but 'limited' and perhaps a bit too imaginative or expressive for this type of writing challenge.
I meant in terms of the word count. I agree it is definitely possible - there have been several fantastic submissions in both of the 75 word challenges I have participated in. Which is of course why I thought some feedback might be useful from the veterans of this process.
Your story completely baffled me. I had no idea of the context. It started with the title: On the Sixth Day,
The Sixth Day was reference to God's creation of humans - who are the oogers in this story.
I think you could make it work more if you rewrote the 3ed line to be the first. And in the end having her kits help her walk because she is now blind. Or something like that. More emotions maybe? Right now, you have a lot of descriptions with little feelings. And your title does not match the story.
Unfortunately, a lot of the feelings stuff ended up being edited out or diminished somewhat. That was the most frustrating part of writing this piece because it was by design meant to be a highly charge piece of prose.
I get that the MC has been cursed, which made her going blind (or worse, as she is also limping?). She goes into the wastelands and leaves her kits behind, but it is unclear why. Is the MC afraid to infect the kits? Can she no longer care for her kits and limps off to die alone because of that?
As already mentioned above, the title isn't much help here.
I see now how some of the decisions I made around imagery etc were misleading. Which would have been great had that been my intention but it wasn't. I had hoped that by the end of the piece the reader would have been able to guess at least what was what. That only reflects one me.
 

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