Improving our 75 Word Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Shyrka

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I normally don't put up one of my 75s if they get mentions or votes but this one seems like it was an 'almost' for many people. I felt I hit the theme and genre bang on but I'm intrigued to know if there's anything I missed that put folks off or anything I could have done to improve it. I'll admit now that the title was an after-thought, a shameless attempt to add emotional impact. ;)

A Dream of Clouds

Friend,

Your search is over. This will help you find what you need.

Darran stared at the hand-scrawled message one last time. He flipped over the ragged scrap – real paper – and checked the directions. This was the place.

Outside.

Even the word made him giddy. Escape. No more factorium. No more Computer!

He clambered through the hatch.

Floodlights hit him. Barren, white walls stared back.

The Computer’s voice was mild. Warm, even.

“Hello Friend.”
 

TheDustyZebra

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I had you on my shortlist, but I can't think of anything in particular that stands out as something that might have gained it the vote. Just the usual thing where a few others hit my particular buttons more, I suppose. :)

Mine is going up here for a different reason -- because it wasn't an "almost" for anyone, and got scarcely a mention. It's been suggested to me that there were certain confusing aspects, not least the Latin. Thoughts?

Sic Semper Tyrannis


“How is this ethical? Caving in to the new government’s agenda?”

.....“We have an agenda, too.”

“But you’re removing things from the map, and drawing medieval pictures. What’s that?”

.....“It was Planned Parenthood. Now it’s a wild, man-eating boar. The president laughed.”

“He seriously thinks people can’t find it if it’s not on GPS?”

.....“Better hope he’s right. Can you find resistance headquarters?”

“But that’s a… ‘hic sunt dracones’, really?”

.....“Well, it is a library.”
 

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
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Shykra -- I also had you shortlisted, but I have to confess the story was never likely to get my vote. I can't put my finger on exactly why that is. It's well constructed, with a good pay off (though it needs a comma after "Hello" if I'm nit-picking), and I loved the way it started and ended with the same word. It was a good workmanlike piece, perhaps just a tad obvious/predictable/not terribly original as an idea, but more than competently done. It just didn't have the spark of something more in it, a flash of originality by way of plot or turn of phrase that would have raised it higher. (I think I may have commented on your work to this effect before, so apologies for sounding like a broken record!) By the way, the title didn't particularly help it for me, as it didn't relate enough to what actually happened in the story, and I saw no emotional impact in it. Actually, on reflection, I wonder if that is what is missing from the piece -- emotional engagement is lacking. Dunno.


TDZ -- I had no problems with the Latin, or at least my translation of it. I'm not fond of overtly political stories, so that immediately caused a problem for me when I came to it, and politics aside, for me there wasn't enough there to qualify as a dystopian story in my narrow definition of the genre. Plus, though I read it three or four times, I didn't fully understand it eg I wasn't sure who the speakers were, though I suspected they were part of the resistance, but I couldn't understand the "We have an agenda, too" line, and the last line utterly confused me. It's only now, reading it again another few times that I've picked up the relevance of the "Better hope he's right" which had completely escaped me before -- I don't know if it's somehow lost in there -- thus making sense of it all. My fault for not reading it properly to begin with, so apologies for that. I did find it amusing, though, especially the idea of the resistance being the abode of dragons and the "man-eating boars" for PP (at least if PP is what I think it is). Sorry I didn't click about it sooner, though I think it would still have fallen foul of my genre-pernickityness.
 

The Big Peat

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Shyrka - I guessed how it ended halfway through and I think that meant I wouldn't have voted for it.

DustyZeba - I'm afraid to say I skipped straight past every story that whiffed of real world politics. The Latin wasn't an issue for me though.
 

Hex

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Shyrka -- I really liked your story but I had to read it twice before I really got it. The end is very neat and clever but for some reason it didn't have the punch that would have made it perfect. I wondered if a little more dwelling on what he hoped for might have increased the pain at the end? Maybe not, but it occurred to me.

tdz -- loved yours and your library, and although my Latin is non-existent, it was enough. I didn't totally understand who was speaking and why the president laughed, which made me sad,
 

Phyrebrat

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Shyrka - I liked yours enough but I think it was a little too nihilistic for even my tastes and if I wasn't brutal I'd have ended up with a huge shortlist ;). I can't really fault it; it's more to do with my own biases and preferences.

TDZ - yeah, I punished you for making me feel stupid :p. But really, I just didn't understand it. I knew there would be a logic but I didn't see it after several reads. As far as unfamiliar words go, I'm always happy to stop and look things up or research them, so that would not have been a problem for me.

pH
 

Shyrka

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Thanks guys. 'Competent but not special' is actually great feedback because it tallies with my own evaluation of the entry. It means I'm getting most things right and I have a decent grasp of the quality of my work, I just need to find that last extra bit of spark. That I can live with.

...it was a little too nihilistic for even my tastes...
:D

That must qualify for some kind of achievement, surely? I'm quite a positive person IRL, honest!

@TheDustyZebra, I liked yours but I can only really echo other folks evaluation - I didn't quite get (or at least I don't think I did) all the jokes. Also, whilst it was amusing and pretty poignant, it felt a little too throw-away - the exchange between the two protagonists was too glib to have any real weight or resonance.
 

TheDustyZebra

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@TheDustyZebra, I liked yours but I can only really echo other folks evaluation - I didn't quite get (or at least I don't think I did) all the jokes. Also, whilst it was amusing and pretty poignant, it felt a little too throw-away - the exchange between the two protagonists was too glib to have any real weight or resonance.
Ahh, glib. Yes, I've been accused of that. I didn't mean to be, here, but it was probably a consequence of trying to shoehorn in the "as you know, Bob" stuff to make it make sense. Alas.

So the point of this story was that the new president (three guesses who) decided to remove all the things he didn't like from the GPS mapping systems so that nobody could find them anymore. The speakers are in the mapping department tasked with this, and are also part of the resistance movement. One has taken a whimsical approach and is replacing the locations with traditional symbols for dangerous things used on ancient maps. He gained the president's trust in this by using a man-eating boar for a (or maybe all) Planned Parenthood location, which the president thought was funny. And now he's hidden the resistance headquarters with a dragon, and the supposed traditional "here be dragons". And the bit that actually inspired this story is also probably the most difficult to convey -- that "here be dragons" is appropriate because it's a library, where the literate and intelligent people would naturally expect to find dragons (in the books) and the less intelligent would be scared of the place. Yeah, ok, I give up. :D
 

Mr Orange

Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb...
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@Shyrka, i can only echo what has been said above - i thought it was a well written entry but it just lacked something special. i didn't quite get pulled into it enough for the ending to resonate with me. that sounds like waffle, but you might get what i mean

@TheDustyZebra, i didn't have a shortlist, but yours was one of three or so that were vying for my vote. it nearly got it but i felt maybe a bit of the story got edited out and it had lost something because of it. and being in a rush i didn't have time to digest things completely so did get a little muddled by the story.
 

Hex

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@TheDustyZebra -- all right. I did understand more than I thought. In which case, what worried me was why the President wouldn't be able to determine that a dragon was like a man-eating boar only more so, if that makes sense. I really liked the story and I'd love to see it expanded.
 

hopewrites

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DZ I totally got yours and thought it was cleaver, followed the dialog no problem.

If I had found 3seconds to put together this weekend to vote it would have been listed if not voted for. Because I especially liked the library pun, though I wasn't sure if it was intentional or not.
 

Abernovo

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@TheDustyZebra - I really liked yours, and Latin rarely fazes me. The only issue I had was that it seemed less like dystopian fiction, and more like something some wit might do with an online mapping service, for very similar reasons. It made me laugh, though, in a world-weary way. So, thanks for that.

@Shyrka - Perhaps due to too many controlling computer stories in the past, this didn't quite connect with me. This is an issue with me, not your writing, which drew the story more than competently. Again, though, I couldn't find a definite dystopia in this, so it could have been any of several subgenres.
 

TheDustyZebra

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@TheDustyZebra -- all right. I did understand more than I thought. In which case, what worried me was why the President wouldn't be able to determine that a dragon was like a man-eating boar only more so, if that makes sense. I really liked the story and I'd love to see it expanded.
Ahh, well, my assumption is that the president would think the dragon was just another thing being hidden for him, and not something they were hiding FROM him.
 

Parson

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@TheDustyZebra ... I did get what was going on and thought the story was clever. I just didn't see the dystopian side. For me dystopian needs to include very reduced living conditions and I didn't see it there. I also thought that there needed to some acknowledgement of time passing between the President laughing and the conspiratorial talking between the cartographers.
 

hopewrites

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Even as I was making the decision to write it this way I thought "oooh this is going off lists right now, but... it concifies the action and keeps the word count down. Ah well. I'll do it and ask after."

So I was always planning to coming over here and saying, "OK guys. Which of these 'cheats' did I get away with? And of the ones that fell flat, what would have made them more acceptable?



--------
A Master's Peace

Finished.
*seating himself* Now for some hard ern*KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK*
Oh for the love of*answers door* "What!?"

"The cogifyer's broke down again sir."

"Again!? What're you doing with it, punching out huNevermind. I'll be down in the morning." *begins closing door*

*door catches on foot* "Tonight?" *distressed pleading face*

*grumbling* "Fine."

Human cogs are the hardest on machinery. Buncha robot-brained buffoonery. Goopy organic matter clogging up the cogifyer.

There!
 

Parson

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@hopewrites .... This story worked for me. It sounded like you with your marvelous little asides and action notes. I've always wondered if your real niche in writing was actually in theater or screen plays. I'll let one of the more informed pick out the nits.
 

TheDustyZebra

Aspiring notaphilist
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keeps the word count down. Ah well. I'll do it and ask after."
While I definitely don't recommend that as a course of action, I can happily report that you come in at 74 words at worst-case, as far as I can see.

For everyone newer to the Challenges, note that this is NOT the lesson we'd wish to impart. Do ask first, rather than after! :D
 

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