Improving our 75 Word Stories -- READ FIRST POST

Cat's Cradle

Time, now, to read...
Supporter
Joined
Mar 3, 2014
Messages
2,740
Hello, @JS Wiig. I think your story had promise. It was intriguing and pretty well written. I take it the wizard has spoken a spell he wasn't capable of understanding/controlling, and now he is trapped outside of time, motionless, as the universe passes him by. If I'm right, that's a good story to tell in 75 words.
But I'd mention a few things... I'd have liked to be sure this is what has happened - I also would like to know more of what he spoke into the orb, and how it went wrong. Hard to get so much info into 75 words, but I think that might have been needed for the story to've come over better in the voting.
Then a technical thing with the writing, in reference to the first paragraph. I think there may be too many adjectives here; every noun - except 'wizard' - has at least one. This gives the reading of the paragraph, IMO, an almost sing-song feel. There are fewer adjectives after this scene-setting paragraph, and it all flows better because of that.
But a good effort, and keep entering. It's really hard to judge how many of your 75 words to put to world-building, plot, characterization, dialogue, etc. But if you were to take maybe 3 words out of that first paragraph, and another few here and there, there might have been room to clarify what was cast into the orb, so - what the wizard was trying to achieve (if you thought it worthwhile to do so, of course; what he was trying to do might just be a MacGuffin to show why the wizard finds himself where he is, now). But keep entering the Challenges, and you'll see more and more what succeeds, and what doesn't, in 75 words.

@The Scribbling Man, I really enjoyed your story, and think it was a definite improvement over your entry last month (which I also enjoyed). There was plenty of story for me, this time, and I am pretty sure I understand all that transpired. This was a poignant tale, and I really felt for the MC. I thought the writing was very good, and this was one of my top 3-4 entries for the Challenge. Good job.

ps - also, since the Challenge's genre was Fantasy (and since I looked up the meaning of 'theurgy' first time I read the story; great word), I am taking what the MC describes as being literally true - his love was pulled down into the arms of actual demons. If this is right, then this is Fantasy enough for me. :)
 
Last edited:

The Scribbling Man

Tenant of the Tower of Flints
Joined
Dec 26, 2020
Messages
191
Location
Coventry, UK
@The Scribbling Man - I think you were right, it didn't really hit the challenge of fantasy. I asked myself lots of questions, but found myself not really caring about the characters. I.e. What is Theurgy? What did he refuse? Are they both dead?

I think your scope was too big again, or maybe it wasn't, but it just didn't tug at my heart strings effectively.

Personally, I feel like I hit the genre, but I also think that's only made explicit by two words; one of which is "Theurgy". I thought it might be a risk in terms of people knowing the term, but I felt "magic" would have been too vague to get the scenario across.

@Cat's Cradle just caught your P.S.! Yes, I was concerned people might take it as figurative, but hoped the practice of Theurgy would solidify it as literal. I'm glad that came across for you :)
 

Lawrence Twiddy

Self-loathing Cowboy
Supporter
Joined
Feb 7, 2021
Messages
25
@therapist - I thought your story was a clever little anecdote, very much enjoyed the descriptive texture around the drowning of the wasp. Obviously missed the genre so did not feel it fair to consider for voting.

@JS Wiig - I just read your piece in this thread and cannot figure why I did not shortlist it. It's a great 75 word story, written really well, maybe too well that simpler stories were slightly more effective as a complete piece. Only way I can see I overlooked it is maybe because it was a gravely detailed and mysterious piece which left me with questions (which is a good thing) and a vote felt easier going to a complete packaged understanding. Which psychology probably says more about me and OCD than it does about your story. :giggle:

@The Scribbling Man - I enjoyed your piece also, again mysterious which I love. But just missed a shortlist as I think I may have misinterpreted parts and at the end had questions; was this a realm of purgatory? Could he have pulled Mallory into Heaven or existence? Are they living or dead, maybe souls?

All great stories though, love this place. Look forward to reading the next set of stories!
 

Wayne Mack

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2020
Messages
374
Location
Chantilly, Virginia, US
@JS Wiig, to me, it sounds like you may have too much story for 75 words. This is a challenge I often have, being able to cut the right things to get to length.

The first two sentences are very descriptive, but on my first several readings, I did not see how they fit into the story. This time, I am guessing the story is meant to be told as a flashback, but that did not come across to me initially.

The third and fourth sentences do a good job describing youthful arrogance, but it made the character less appealing to the me.

The fifth and sixth sentences describe the critical action, but I was left wondering what the motivation was. Without knowing what was intended, I did not have a reason to root for the main character before his fall.

The seventh and eighth sentences are vague on the actual result. I did not feel a sense of despair for the character at the end.

You were able to write some very descriptive prose and I think this tale would benefit from a rewrite in a longer format. For a 75 word limit, though, I would suggest trimming word count in sentences 1-4, and using your descriptive skills to expand on 5-8. I would have liked to feel some hope for the character and then feel something about his demise, but for whatever reason, I just did not.
 

Wayne Mack

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2020
Messages
374
Location
Chantilly, Virginia, US
@The Scribbling Man, I felt your story had a definite melancholy feel to it and vaguely hinted at some sort of battle between good and evil. I was unclear what exactly transpired.

The first sentence gave me an expectation that this was to a romance tale. The second sentence simply confused me and I still haven't parsed its meaning. The third sentence made me dislike the main character, which is a hard thing to over come in a story.

The fourth sentence appears to be the core of the story, but I read it as more allegory than really a fight between heaven and hell; between good and evil. After the third sentence, I had a difficult time seeing the main character on the side of good.

The mention of demons threw me in the final sentence. I read it (correctly, I assume) as literal demons and not figurative, but did not feel they had been foreshadowed in the least.

One of the issues that I have in writing is that I know the story and often fail to give the reader enough of that information. Try being more obvious in telling things to the reader. Also, in a short tale, I think it is better to keep the characters unambiguous. Within a 75 word limit, I suggest having the main character being good and not vengeful and trying, but failing, to save his lost love.
 

JS Wiig

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 23, 2020
Messages
161
Location
SW WY
@The Scribbling Man

The back and forth of the story doesn’t give me a clear picture of how I should feel about the characters. First he is hurt by her for leaving him, then wants to hurt her back by denying her, then feels guilty she is now with demons. How did she end up with the demons? Why did she leave him in the first place? Did the theurgy not work for one or both of them?

I guess it feels like too many questions and not enough answers.
 

paranoid marvin

Run VT Erroll!
Joined
Mar 9, 2007
Messages
2,875
Hi, JS Wiig. Some good points already made.

A couple of things I would suggest; it may have been replacing 'wizard' with 'apprentice'. Not only does it may make more sense that he has a 'master', but also why he may have made a foolish mistake. It may also draw a little sympathy from the reader rather than them think it was his own fault and he should have known better.

It may also have helped to make the world that he inhabited more inhospitable; 'desolate' rather than 'solemn' for the plain? And 'motionless' rather than 'low grey' clouds, suggesting that time stands still where he now is; which frees up 'grey' (rather than brown) for the lifeless expanse. Here there is no colour, no movement, nothing happening at all. I would also suggest in the final sentence 'awaited', 'abide' suggests acceptance.

I think it was the second paragraph that initially confused me when I first read it, mainly whether we are talking about something that was happening or already had. "....but heed? He had not" rather than did not, " he had cast the spell" and "words he'd long come to regret" rather than he and came.


Overall I would say that it was a good attempt , and you managed to get quite a lot of story into a few words. I really liked the 'pale' sun the 'dim' shadows and the 'lifeless' expanse. (Reminded be a bit of the land of the Langoliers actually!).Some really good descriptive text, and an interesting story as well.
 

paranoid marvin

Run VT Erroll!
Joined
Mar 9, 2007
Messages
2,875
Hi Scribbling Man. It felt like a longer story condensed into 75 words, and suffered by having to have too much taken out. There is some interesting stuff going on, but I felt that I had to make too many assumptions to make it work properly. Did the writer use theurgy to send her into the arms of the demons, and now worries that if he if he tries to bring her back he may get dragged down with her?

Personally I would have skipped the reference to 'the infinite' (which kind of confuses) and concentrated on the guilt of one who - in a fit of anger/jealousy - has used the dark arts to condemn his ex-lover; and who now is torn between guilt ,remorse and fear about bringing her back. The last paragraph is really powerful, really well done and is the basis for a great story.
 

The Scribbling Man

Tenant of the Tower of Flints
Joined
Dec 26, 2020
Messages
191
Location
Coventry, UK
Thanks all. I appreciate the feedback. There seems to be a recurring pattern with my stories that the majority feel I'm trying to do too much in too few words. I'll consider this for future.
 

paranoid marvin

Run VT Erroll!
Joined
Mar 9, 2007
Messages
2,875
Thanks all. I appreciate the feedback. There seems to be a recurring pattern with my stories that the majority feel I'm trying to do too much in too few words. I'll consider this for future.

For me the hardest challenge is finding interesting characters and storylines (which you have succeeded at). Condensing down into 75 words just takes practice.
 

mosaix

Shropshire, U.K.
Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2006
Messages
7,539
Location
Shropshire, U.K.
For me the hardest challenge is finding interesting characters and storylines (which you have succeeded at). Condensing down into 75 words just takes practice.

You're right @paranoid marvin. Character and storyline are very difficult in 75 words. Most times I just try and make the storyline strong enough to stand on its own and abandon the character bit. There's more room in the 300.
 

Luiglin

by day Stuart Orford by night Dark Lord's scribe
Joined
Mar 22, 2012
Messages
2,086
Location
Mercia, UK
Hi all, I try and avoid putting my 75s in here to save space. However, I wrote something different to my normal rubbish for March and was quite pleased with the effort. Any thoughts on why it fell flat?

As normal, good, bad and ugly comments welcome :)

Cheers, Luiglin

One small step

Today would be the day. He'd perfected the techniques, learned the rotes.

The teachings ascribed a bold approach, no subtle manoeuvres. He met his target's hazel eyes, swallowed back the nervous demons which attempted to grab his tongue.

One small step.

“Louise, would you like to go to the dance?”

Her reply, a blushing sunrise of a yes.

Girls? His Dad had replied the night before. Here be dragons, Son.

Maybe in your day, Dad.
 

Hugh

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Mar 27, 2016
Messages
1,599
For me you were disadvantaged by
(1) significantly more entries than usual appealed to me
(2) Cat's Cradle had got there first: not that that makes any difference but I preferred his entry.

The main issue for me was that each time I read it, the last line fell flat. I'd think great each time I read through but then the last line would deflate me. I don't know really why, but I think it was the sudden shift from apprehension to cockiness.
 
Last edited:

Luiglin

by day Stuart Orford by night Dark Lord's scribe
Joined
Mar 22, 2012
Messages
2,086
Location
Mercia, UK
For me you were disadvantaged by
(1) significantly more entries than usual appealed to me
(2) Cat's Cradle had got there first: not that that makes any difference but I preferred his entry.

The main issue for me was that each time I read it, the last line fell flat. I'd think great each time I read through but then the last line would deflate me. I don't know really why, but I think it was the sudden shift from apprehension to cockiness.
Hmmm, interesting take. I never check other entries before writing, so was not aware of @Cat's Cradle until my read through for voting. As to the last line, it was intended to portray as relief that the boy had found girls not to be 'dragons' to be feared. It was intended as a step into the unknown, a virtual Here be dragons moment for any boy or girl asking someone out. I never dreamed it would come over as cocky but can see your point.
 

JS Wiig

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 23, 2020
Messages
161
Location
SW WY
@Luiglin I really enjoyed your tale, especially identifying with the nervousness around girls at a younger age. The only reason I didn’t vote for it was M. Robert Gibson’s entry gave me a slightly higher chuckle factor with the literary humor.

I will agree with @Hugh there does seem to be something a bit off with the last line—perhaps a slight sense of disrespect for Dad that felt out of character—though it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the piece.
 

Parson

This world is not my home
Supporter
Joined
Oct 11, 2006
Messages
9,774
Location
Iowa
@Luiglin .... I actually quite liked the piece and I certainly identified with the serious trepidation a young boy experiences when suggesting a date to a young woman. My problem was that the "here be dragons" seemed forced and unlikely for the father to say to his son. It felt like a really good story forced into a theme which didn't quite fit it.
 

paranoid marvin

Run VT Erroll!
Joined
Mar 9, 2007
Messages
2,875
I have to agree with a few of the other posters here (particularly Hugh). It was a similar take on the theme to CCs, but it didn't provoke the same emotional response as CC's did (Cat's Cradle got my vote).

My interpretation was that his dad had warned him that girl's can be trouble and to avoid them, but the son Maybe in your day, Dad disagreed and showed no fear. I think what may have worked better (and judging by your responses seemed to be your intention) was for the son to attempt to overcome his fear/nervousness of girls (or their rejection of him).

I think if you'd left the father out of the story and concentrated on emphasising the boy's fear of the unknown, it would have worked much better.
 

JS Wiig

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 23, 2020
Messages
161
Location
SW WY
I appreciate any and all feedback on my Mar 2021 entry, reproduced here, in its entirety, for your convenience:

Seeds of Doubt

“It’s not true, just a sorcerous dictator’s propoganda,” Marion said. “Dragons are not evil.”

“How do you know?” asked her young grandson.

“I remember. Come, I’ll show you.”

From a dusty shoebox hidden away long ago during the Mage revolution, she pulled a yellowed photograph. It showed a little girl snuggled up against a scaled beast’s tail.

“Cool grandma, I want a dragon friend too!”

She smiled, and knew hope was not lost.

Thanks!
 

Similar threads


Top