Improving our 300 Word Stories -- READ FIRST POST!

The Judge

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I can't recall anyone ever wanting to post revisions, but it's an "Improving" thread after all, and we improve by trying again, so I don't see why not. I wouldn't want to see the thread inundated with multiple attempts, though, so I think if we allowed revisions it would be a maximum of one per story.

Another way of going about it is to wait until you've hit 30 posts and then start a thread in Critiques with the revised version. The advantages of that are you could make multiple revisions one after the other if you so wished, you could expand the story past the 300 words if you wanted to tell it in more detail (subject to Critiques' upper limit of 1500 words, of course), and perhaps more importantly you're likely to get more feedback, since not everyone who reads Critiques comes into the Challenges or responds to this thread, and a new thread is often more alluring than an old one!
 

Lex E. Darion

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I would like some feedback on my 300 worder, please. It got one vote and several mentions (which was great) but I wonder what I could have done to improve it. Was it too obvious? Too simple? Any tips will be gratefully received.

The End


Dazed and groggy, Julia rose from the water. ‘I’m going to bloody kill Murphy,’ she thought, rubbing algae off her red jumper.

Her boots squelched in the lake as the muddy water poured in; her feet too cold to notice. A deep intake of breath burned her lungs. Grabbing her chest, she looked around. In the distance, facing away from her, stood a dark figure in a long coat. She tried to call out but no sound came. Her lungs ached as she hobbled towards him. Bracken and brambles clawed at her legs as she repeatedly stumbled. It seemed like an age before she reached the man.

Her throat closed as she tried to speak. She grabbed at his coat.

As though in slow motion he turned to face her and gave her a quizzical look.

“Arg. Argh.” The words stuck in her gullet. She pointed back to the lake and then pointed forwards.

He looked at her blankly.

Putting her hands in a ten-to-two position, she made a wheel motion.

He sighed and shook his head.


The dusk sky lit up with flashing blue lights. Wailing sirens echoed louder and louder. Dogs barked and snuffled through the undergrowth. Voices shouted and followed beams of torchlight. One of the dogs reached the lake and stopped. Everyone congregated at the spot.


Julia looked at the man and motioned to the crowd of uniforms. She turned to run to them. He grabbed her arm and shook his head.


A radio on a belt crackled nearby. “Murphy’s confessed. Says he put the body in the lake. The frogmen are on their way.”


She tried to gasp. She can’t be... She clawed at his grip on her arm, straining to escape. Death sighed. He shook his head and led her away.
 

The Judge

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It wasn't at all a bad story, Alex, but for me yes, it did feel a bit simple and obvious and perhaps even a bit hackneyed. It didn't help, to my mind, that you gave the game away far too early with the arrival of the police which immediately makes us think something serious has happened. As I mentioned to Joshua, if you're going for a surprise/twist ending, you have to keep back the revelations until the very end -- which you've tried to do by referring to Death by name only in the penultimate sentence, but that alone wasn't enough of a shock. If I'd been writing this and wanted her as the victim, I'd have held back the police sirens until the last lines, too.

For me, also, it didn't make a lot of sense in its own terms. Presumably Death has come to collect her, so why is he standing at such a distance from the lake, and looking the other way? Why does he look blankly at her when she comes up to him? Why does he wait for all the cops to arrive? Why prevent her going to them (it's not as if they're going to see her)? I imagine you've got answers for all these points, but it read to me as you deliberately trying to make it appear he's a stranger or even sinister, so as to throw the reader off the scent, without considering what he actually would do as Death. Even in short stories our characters must act as they should act in accordance with their nature/duty, and we shouldn't manipulate them for plot purposes.

What I do when I write twist endings is to consider both stories -- the one I want the readers to believe, and the twist-one -- and see where they overlap and where they diverge. I don't physically write them both separately, but I keep both in mind at all points, and I ensure that everything I write fits both. I don't know if you looked at the twist story I pointed Joshua towards, but if you read it there's an apparent chase-story with the Hounds as the killers, and then there's the real story, but everything I've written is equally applicable to both, and the only difference is one of understanding and -- in one specific case -- the way a word is said, and how the emphasis is given on the line. So here, if I couldn't come up with a way of making Death appear sinister without contravening his character, I'd have left his appearance to the end, too -- perhaps he's apologetic that's he's late, or he had to wait as she's not quite dead yet at the beginning of the story, but still slowly drowning.

Anyway, overall it was well written, with some nice touches, and as smooth as your work always is, but for me the story itself needed to be a bit more gripping.
 

Lex E. Darion

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but it read to me as you deliberately trying to make it appear he's a stranger or even sinister, so as to throw the reader off the scent, without considering what he actually would do as Death.
Damn! Busted!! Ha ha! I wrote this without knowing where it was going and hadn't decided he was Death until the last minute so he was written as a sinister stranger to begin with. You're so right with your other comments too. I was aiming for the police looking for a missing person but I suppose people's minds go to worst case scenario.

Many thanks for taking the time to write such an in-depth critique - they help SO much! I have read your story that you pointed Joshua towards. Excellent. It worked really well. I also loved this month's story - your writing blows me away. When I'm a grown-up writer (in skill not chronology) I want to be just like you!

Anyway, overall it was well written, with some nice touches, and as smooth as your work always is,
Thank you for this. I'm not sure what 'smooth' means but I'll take it :D

I think, for me @Alex Darion , i wasn't pulled into the character enough. That's a real toughy in 300 words I know but for your kind of story I think character connection is utterly essential
Thanks Jo. I did wonder about this myself as I know there was not a real sense of her character. I was too focused on getting the twist (that wasn't).
 

The Judge

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Thank you for the compliment -- I'm flattered. It occurs to me, though, that you've probably not seen any of Teresa's 300 worders, since she's not taken part for the last couple of years.

I'd recommend that you search for her stories anyway, as they're well worth analysing to see how she achieves her effects, but I knew there had been at least one Challenge story of a dead girl emerging from a lake and it suddenly came to me that it (or one of them) was actually Teresa's entry in the very same Challenge as that twist one of mine. Have a read of hers and see how she deals with the tale. It's not a twist story, but it still has a shocking ending after a long build up of tension, with plenty of character connection on show of the kind I think Jo was talking about, plus lyrical writing to boot. It really should have won that quarter.

It's possible there was another body-in-the-lake story and also Death turning up at the end of a similar tale, as that also rings a loud bell. With luck someone else will have a better memory than I've got and will help out.

By the way, by smooth, I mean easy to read, flowing, with no lumpy bits that are awkward or indigestible. It's a good thing!
 

Shyrka

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@Joshua Jones - I think you set yourself a very tough challenge here - most of the time it's a battle for a writer to clearly express the things in their head without confusing the reader and yet here you deliberately had to do so. You did well - certainly the first time I read it, I got what you were trying to achieve, but with subsequent, more detailed readings (when I was trying to decide what to vote for), I simply got lost about who was who, what was going on, etc. I guess that was the point, to a degree, but I'm afraid it didn't help your cause. I couldn't tell you why exactly but, like The Judge, I too assumed that Richard was the woman's spouse, not the other son. There's also the lack of the speculative element and the loss of surprise. It's brave of you to attempt such a difficult and highly-personal topic, so much kudos for that, but in the end it didn't grab my interest as much as the other entries.

@Alex Darion - I can't really say much other than to echo what folks have already called out. I clocked the twist almost immediately - maybe because I've read too many stories featuring the Grim Reaper in some form or another - but once that was gone, the story had nothing left to do but play itself out. I didn't really get why she couldn't talk (possibly because her lungs are full of water?) so all the miming, etc. came across as rather laboured. Also, it was hard to empathise with the MC - because I knew what was going on, she came across as a bit dense, in the same way that hapless characters in horror films sometimes do. Sorry if this seems a bit harsh! The writing itself is good - clear, concise and suitably evocative.
 

Joshua Jones

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@Joshua Jones - I think you set yourself a very tough challenge here - most of the time it's a battle for a writer to clearly express the things in their head without confusing the reader and yet here you deliberately had to do so. You did well - certainly the first time I read it, I got what you were trying to achieve, but with subsequent, more detailed readings (when I was trying to decide what to vote for), I simply got lost about who was who, what was going on, etc. I guess that was the point, to a degree, but I'm afraid it didn't help your cause. I couldn't tell you why exactly but, like The Judge, I too assumed that Richard was the woman's spouse, not the other son. There's also the lack of the speculative element and the loss of surprise. It's brave of you to attempt such a difficult and highly-personal topic, so much kudos for that, but in the end it didn't grab my interest as much as the other entries.
Thank you for your critique. One clarifying question, though. Did you see where it was going from the start, or did it make sense as you went? I am trying to assess how much of the transparency of the story is based on people's direct experience with the condition (which is unavoidable if I am going to accurately depict Alzheimer's) and how much is due to me making it obvious (which reflects a need to improve my writing). Any feedback regarding this would be greatly appreciated!
 

Shyrka

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Thank you for your critique. One clarifying question, though. Did you see where it was going from the start, or did it make sense as you went? I am trying to assess how much of the transparency of the story is based on people's direct experience with the condition (which is unavoidable if I am going to accurately depict Alzheimer's) and how much is due to me making it obvious (which reflects a need to improve my writing). Any feedback regarding this would be greatly appreciated!
It's tricky to remember exactly. I suspect I figured it out quite early due to the title and the opening paragraph - "Silver Sunset" brought to mind the end of life and then the explicit mention of 'in his 30th year' made me suspicious and I pieced the rest together over the next paragraphs. Like The Judge, I'd argue that the "Dad!" line is also too early and deflates any remaining tension there might have been. For reference, I have little personal experience of dementia but I usually expect some form of sting or surprise in challenge entries so am naturally suspicious while reading them.
 

Luiglin

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A touch disappointed this month as I was pleased with the final piece - even my better half liked it. More annoying though was the fact that I'd pasted the wrong version. It was only different by three words, two out and one in. Only a small change but one that kept the rhythm. The two that should have been removed are in italics/underlined and the addition in bold/underlined. Other than that any other feedback please would be appreciated. Cheers.

A Woody Moral

The trees in the wood,
stood tall and proud.
For each was content to be part of a crowd.

Yet just beyond their eaves,
stood one all alone.
Just a mischance to where he had grown.

His nut it had bounced,
his nut it had rolled.
Ending its journey in a warm earthen fold.

He too grew straight,
he too grew proud.
But unfortunately not one of a crowd.

He asked a spirited squirrel,
who visited one day.
‘Do you know a way I can return, do pray?’

The squirrel thought hard,
the squirrel thought long.
The squirrel said, ‘You are where you belong.’

The tree disagreed,
he yearned to be home.
He wanted his roots to share the same loam.

He annoyed a magpie,
who chattered quite angrily.
‘Foolish tree, you live here, not there, actually.’

He bothered a wandering weasel,
he woke a hibernating hedgehog.
He even worried a migrating bullfrog.

Each responded,
in various ways.
‘Be content with yourself to the end of your days.’

‘Seek not to be one,
in a million crowd.
Don't live your life under this grey cloud.’

‘Look around,
we do stress.
See the bountiful freedom you possess.’

Tree though was blind,
he saw not the good.
He ached to be one in the million wood.

Years passed by,
decades came and went.
The tree he grew all withered and bent.

His sap was bitter,
his leaves pockmarked with strife.
His branches they were empty of life.

Then man came a calling,
his axe it shone bright.
He looked at the tree all mangled with self spite.

The axe bit deep,
the axe cut true.
The tree it did wail as the axe it did hew.

The trees in the wood,
stood tall and proud.
Then deep in sorrow, their branches, they bowed.
 

The Judge

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I thought the idea behind the fable was a neat one, though I have some concerns about the story itself, but to be honest to my mind you'd have been better off writing it as prose.

I'm a bit of a snob where poetry is concerned, and even verse which is semi-comic (which to my mind this is) can't be treated less than seriously so far as rhythm, structure and word placement are concerned. Unfortunately, to me as I read it, the rhythm was all over the place -- just as an example, the first lines of the two opening stanzas are wholly different in both syllable-count and stress: "The trees in the wood" is 5 beats with the emphasis naturally falling on the second and fifth, against "Yet just beyond their eaves" which has six syllables and frankly I've no idea where the stress is meant to be -- I'd have chosen "Yet" to be stressed but the lack of comma there refutes it, so I'm left dangling, wondering if it's "just" and "eaves" or even "be-yond". Then later with "Years passed by" you've only got 3 beats in a first line, and no reason for the abruptness within the story which would have made sense of it. I was constantly thrown by what I saw as a failure to achieve a consistent rhythm from stanza to stanza, which meant I could never relax into the story.

You also fell into the trap of repeatedly using unnatural sentence construction in order to achieve a semblance of rhythm and/or rhyme eg in "The tree it did wail as the axe it did hew". This, I'm afraid, is my poetical bugbear, and even in a semi-comic piece I find hard to forgive when used as often as you've done it here.

Overall, for me the entire verse felt cramped and contrived, instead of rolling neatly off the tongue as to me it should have done. (If you want to see what I mean, have a read of the masterly The Sycophantic Fox and The Gullible Raven though this is more obviously comic than yours.) I don't know why you chose to write it in verse form, but to my mind there was no justification within the story for it, and not enough mastery of the form to compensate.

As to the story itself, I'm not convinced sorrow would have caused the tree to be withered and bitter as you've shown it, which to me speaks of jealousy and miserliness, so to me the characterisation falls short. Writing in prose would perhaps have given you more space to have shown how his distress has warped him over the years. Personally, too, I'd have liked to have known more about external conditions. All the other creatures are telling him to stay put, but is he actually better off there than in the protection of the wood? How so? I'm also not convinced by the ending. Why has the axeman taken him out? It certainly can't be for building because no one would choose a mangled tree when far better trees are nearby. So in fact if he's grown small and twisted he's more likely to be left alone, other than for firewood, and even then I doubt he'd have been picked.

I also don't think the last stanza works. I can understand why you want to show the forest trees again in the last paragraph as you've opened the story with them, but it rubbed me up the wrong way to have them acting, as opposed to just being, when they've not been seen to act before. This is partly a structural issue -- I wouldn't be happy at a character appearing in the last paragraph of a story doing things when we've not met him properly before. But it's also a (rather odd, I admit) moral one. You're showing the forest trees mourning but they've done nothing throughout his life to help him bear his loneliness and outsider status. Instead they've stayed at their proud distance, apparently paying him no attention, and then when he's dead -- saving one of their lives, perhaps -- they have the hypocrisy to feel sorrow for him? Smug b*stards all need chopping down to size.;)

Sorry I can't be more enthusiastic.
 

Luiglin

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I thought the idea behind the fable was a neat one, though I have some concerns about the story itself, but to be honest to my mind you'd have been better off writing it as prose.

I'm a bit of a snob where poetry is concerned, and even verse which is semi-comic (which to my mind this is) can't be treated less than seriously so far as rhythm, structure and word placement are concerned. Unfortunately, to me as I read it, the rhythm was all over the place -- just as an example, the first lines of the two opening stanzas are wholly different in both syllable-count and stress: "The trees in the wood" is 5 beats with the emphasis naturally falling on the second and fifth, against "Yet just beyond their eaves" which has six syllables and frankly I've no idea where the stress is meant to be -- I'd have chosen "Yet" to be stressed but the lack of comma there refutes it, so I'm left dangling, wondering if it's "just" and "eaves" or even "be-yond". Then later with "Years passed by" you've only got 3 beats in a first line, and no reason for the abruptness within the story which would have made sense of it. I was constantly thrown by what I saw as a failure to achieve a consistent rhythm from stanza to stanza, which meant I could never relax into the story.

You also fell into the trap of repeatedly using unnatural sentence construction in order to achieve a semblance of rhythm and/or rhyme eg in "The tree it did wail as the axe it did hew". This, I'm afraid, is my poetical bugbear, and even in a semi-comic piece I find hard to forgive when used as often as you've done it here.

Overall, for me the entire verse felt cramped and contrived, instead of rolling neatly off the tongue as to me it should have done. (If you want to see what I mean, have a read of the masterly The Sycophantic Fox and The Gullible Raven though this is more obviously comic than yours.) I don't know why you chose to write it in verse form, but to my mind there was no justification within the story for it, and not enough mastery of the form to compensate.

As to the story itself, I'm not convinced sorrow would have caused the tree to be withered and bitter as you've shown it, which to me speaks of jealousy and miserliness, so to me the characterisation falls short. Writing in prose would perhaps have given you more space to have shown how his distress has warped him over the years. Personally, too, I'd have liked to have known more about external conditions. All the other creatures are telling him to stay put, but is he actually better off there than in the protection of the wood? How so? I'm also not convinced by the ending. Why has the axeman taken him out? It certainly can't be for building because no one would choose a mangled tree when far better trees are nearby. So in fact if he's grown small and twisted he's more likely to be left alone, other than for firewood, and even then I doubt he'd have been picked.

I also don't think the last stanza works. I can understand why you want to show the forest trees again in the last paragraph as you've opened the story with them, but it rubbed me up the wrong way to have them acting, as opposed to just being, when they've not been seen to act before. This is partly a structural issue -- I wouldn't be happy at a character appearing in the last paragraph of a story doing things when we've not met him properly before. But it's also a (rather odd, I admit) moral one. You're showing the forest trees mourning but they've done nothing throughout his life to help him bear his loneliness and outsider status. Instead they've stayed at their proud distance, apparently paying him no attention, and then when he's dead -- saving one of their lives, perhaps -- they have the hypocrisy to feel sorrow for him? Smug b*stards all need chopping down to size.;)

Sorry I can't be more enthusiastic.
Lol that's put me in my place. Cheers for the comprehensive feedback @The Judge.

It was meant to be a nonsense rhyme, sort of like Dr Suess, therefore prose would never have worked.

I need to think more about this whole malarkey.
 
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The Judge

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Lol that's put me in my place.
Eek! There was no intention of putting you anywhere! I was trying to explain why it didn't work for me, but probably went overboard, as usual. :( Sorry about that. And you had mentions/shortlistings, so obviously the verse hit the spot for some people.

It was meant to be a nonsense rhyme, sort of like Dr Suess, therefore prose would never have worked.
Ah, right. I was thinking it was the story with its moral which was most important to you. If it's the verse itself, then I think you needed to have a much lighter and/or nonsensical story to fit the verse form. I have to confess I've never read any Dr Suess, since I was brought up on very different fare, so I've no idea how his versification reads. I have stumbled across The Gruffalo, though, and my impression of it is that it's very heavy in simple rhythm and obvious rhyme, and full of repetition since it's for young children, but also very natural feeling in word use and word order.

I do think it's far harder to write verse than it might seem looking on from the outside -- it's one of those things like comedy that looks easy when written by someone experienced. If you're planning to write more of it, I think it is worth your while studying some great comic/nonsense pieces. I have two books which I'd recommend, though finding them might be more difficult for you. The oldest is A Century of Humorous Verse (the century being 1850-1950) edited by Roger Lancelyn Green and first published in 1959 -- I picked my copy up at a second hand stall years ago and it's where I came across The Sychophantic Fox, and also Patrick Barrington, who is another comic poet well worth reading (I had a Hippopotamus and The Air Sentry are favourites of mine). The other is The Chatto Book of Nonsense Poetry edited by Hugh Houghton and published by Chatto and Windus in 1988, which contains more... um... nonsensical verse eg of The Walrus and the Carpenter type.

Good luck with the versifying if you're doing more of it!
 

Luiglin

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@The Judge no need to apologise. I meant that with a tongue firmly placed in cheek :)

I find writing verse difficult but often fun, although I've never written a serious piece, except for haikus.

I'll keep an eye out on eBay for those books.
 

Shyrka

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If it's any consolation, it made my (sadly not written up due to time shortages) shortlist. I liked it a lot but it lost out simply due to the strength of other entries.

Re-reading now, I think there's an odd rhyme or two that doesn't work as well as it might and a couple of minor rhythmic problems:

Yet just beyond their eaves,
stood one all alone.
Just a mischance to where he had grown.
This verse didn't quite flow right to my ear. Maybe "Yet beyond their eaves, stood one alone, just a mischance of where he had grown"?

The squirrel thought hard,
the squirrel thought long.
The squirrel said, ‘You are where you belong.’
Whilst not strictly wrong, the two 'long' endings here don't work as a rhyme to my ear.

‘Seek not to be one,
in a million crowd.
Don't live your life under this grey cloud.’

‘Look around,
we do stress.
See the bountiful freedom you possess.’
Whilst neither of these versus is a problem on their own, together their rhythm seems off somehow. I think there's one too many syllables in the last line of the first compared to the last line of the second? I'm no poetry expert, so I can't express this 'properly', but it's just a gut instinct I had upon reading it.

But as I mentioned above, I really liked this one. I feel as if I'm nit-picking really - it's a great little story.
 

Luiglin

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@Shyrka cheers and don't apologise for nit-picking. I wouldn't have posted if I didn't want the that.

It's weird. I suppose it's a bit like 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' maybe.

Apart from the stupid copy /paste on my part to my ear I thought it flowed. I even ran it through a voice mod and got my better half to read it out.

To those in the UK of a certain age obviously I'm more along the lines of Rick, the Peoples Poet, from the Young Ones ;)
 

AnyaKimlin

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A touch disappointed this month as I was pleased with the final piece - even my better half liked it. More annoying though was the fact that I'd pasted the wrong version. It was only different by three words, two out and one in. Only a small change but one that kept the rhythm. The two that should have been removed are in italics/underlined and the addition in bold/underlined. Other than that any other feedback please would be appreciated. Cheers.

A Woody Moral

The trees in the wood,
stood tall and proud.
For each was content to be part of a crowd.

Yet just beyond their eaves,
stood one all alone.
Just a mischance to where he had grown.

His nut it had bounced,
his nut it had rolled.
Ending its journey in a warm earthen fold.

He too grew straight,
he too grew proud.
But unfortunately not one of a crowd.

He asked a spirited squirrel,
who visited one day.
‘Do you know a way I can return, do pray?’

The squirrel thought hard,
the squirrel thought long.
The squirrel said, ‘You are where you belong.’

The tree disagreed,
he yearned to be home.
He wanted his roots to share the same loam.

He annoyed a magpie,
who chattered quite angrily.
‘Foolish tree, you live here, not there, actually.’

He bothered a wandering weasel,
he woke a hibernating hedgehog.
He even worried a migrating bullfrog.

Each responded,
in various ways.
‘Be content with yourself to the end of your days.’

‘Seek not to be one,
in a million crowd.
Don't live your life under this grey cloud.’

‘Look around,
we do stress.
See the bountiful freedom you possess.’

Tree though was blind,
he saw not the good.
He ached to be one in the million wood.

Years passed by,
decades came and went.
The tree he grew all withered and bent.

His sap was bitter,
his leaves pockmarked with strife.
His branches they were empty of life.

Then man came a calling,
his axe it shone bright.
He looked at the tree all mangled with self spite.

The axe bit deep,
the axe cut true.
The tree it did wail as the axe it did hew.

The trees in the wood,
stood tall and proud.
Then deep in sorrow, their branches, they bowed.

I'm a novice to poetry but I think this may have worked better in either a form so like a Revolting Rhyme or Pantoum (sp?) or Sestina or even using Sonnets/Haikus to give the verses a definite rhythm or if you take the rhyme out it doesn't need the same level of rhythm and flow. Without a form it would just need a rhythm.

Personally, I think it would have worked better stopping after "he ached to be one in a million wood"

Check the lines and take out or tweak the cliches like "stood tall and proud" "The axe bit deep, the axe cut true"
 

Phyrebrat

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Hi,

Much of what I would have said has already been expertly posted by others, but I wanted to make a few obs.

When I started reading your story, it was with a little lack of investment because I struggle enjoying poem entries, but I wanted to say that the more I read, the more I enjoyed it, and there were little fluorishes which I thought rather smart.

He annoyed a magpie,
who chattered quite angrily.
‘Foolish tree, you live here, not there, actually.’
This has a really pleasing resolve to the stanza, and:

Tree though was blind,
he saw not the good.
He ached to be one in the million wood.
in connection with the first quote would work really well in a children's picture book. Those two particularly evoked memories of my father reading Enid Blyton stories to me as a young child.

The trees in the wood,
stood tall and proud.
Then deep in sorrow, their branches, they bowed.
This is a really nice moralist ending. I love fables and moral tales, and as I said above, I can imagine this in a child's compendium. Consider how this might have been received if the genre was set as Children's Fiction or something, or if your story did not sit amongst ones of the holocaust, lynching, sublimation and satire.

The one thing that is my total turn off in poetry, however, is when sentences are reordered in a somewhat archaic style or Yoda-speak to make the meter work, or force the rhyme. So:

his axe it shone bright.
The tree it did wail as the axe it did hew
Really hit my pet peeve nerve using 'it' in such a way.

Apart from poetry being so insanely difficult, and verse being often overlooked as 'lite', have you considered writing a prose poem instead? Rhyme and assonance in prose, along with rhythm, are incredibly strong and evocative tools when writing a sad story. I think you could have the emotional tugs as rhyming couplets scattered throughout the prose instead of making the whole thing rhyme. To my mind that would give added punch to those emotional hooks. The only thing to be careful of is rhyme and alliteration are like nutmeg...

Anyway, well done, there were some lovely elements to it and it was orignal (i.e not from the comfort zone of the Dark Lord); you'll only get us commenting on the 'failings' in this crit thread so don't take it to heart.

pH
 

Luiglin

by day Stuart Orford by night Dark Lord's scribe
Joined
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Messages
1,779
Location
Mercia, UK
Hi,

Much of what I would have said has already been expertly posted by others, but I wanted to make a few obs.

When I started reading your story, it was with a little lack of investment because I struggle enjoying poem entries, but I wanted to say that the more I read, the more I enjoyed it, and there were little fluorishes which I thought rather smart.



This has a really pleasing resolve to the stanza, and:



in connection with the first quote would work really well in a children's picture book. Those two particularly evoked memories of my father reading Enid Blyton stories to me as a young child.



This is a really nice moralist ending. I love fables and moral tales, and as I said above, I can imagine this in a child's compendium. Consider how this might have been received if the genre was set as Children's Fiction or something, or if your story did not sit amongst ones of the holocaust, lynching, sublimation and satire.

The one thing that is my total turn off in poetry, however, is when sentences are reordered in a somewhat archaic style or Yoda-speak to make the meter work, or force the rhyme. So:





Really hit my pet peeve nerve using 'it' in such a way.

Apart from poetry being so insanely difficult, and verse being often overlooked as 'lite', have you considered writing a prose poem instead? Rhyme and assonance in prose, along with rhythm, are incredibly strong and evocative tools when writing a sad story. I think you could have the emotional tugs as rhyming couplets scattered throughout the prose instead of making the whole thing rhyme. To my mind that would give added punch to those emotional hooks. The only thing to be careful of is rhyme and alliteration are like nutmeg...

Anyway, well done, there were some lovely elements to it and it was orignal (i.e not from the comfort zone of the Dark Lord); you'll only get us commenting on the 'failings' in this crit thread so don't take it to heart.

pH
Cheers @Phyrebrat.

The Yoda speak was an attempt at a Dr Suess style of word usage, albeit more clumsily done. I used to love how he used words in an odd order when I read them as a kid.
 

AlexH

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2017
Messages
913
Location
Staffordshire, UK
Hello. I'd love any thoughts on this, my July entry, whether it's the writing style, the story itself, or anything. I'm not sure if the telescope bit seems out of place, as otherwise it doesn't seem like a modern world. I love seeing how I can improve my writing, so be as hard as you like! :)


Into the Forest

No one in the town is allowed in the forest. Not within two hundred metres of it. The penalty? Death.

I love being outside, but the slightest sun exposure burns my skin. So I'm going in.

From the kitchens, where I work, I watch the sunset catch that nearest row of pine trees, the thick trunks glowing an almost-red. Light never reaches past that first row; behind are dim suggestions of trunks against something blacker. So dark. So inviting.

Once, I tried to point the telescope that way. Now I'm banned from the observatory.

So I started poisoning every gardener's porridge. I'm keeping them ill for a few full moons. I'm not a murderer. Not yet. They trim grass nearest the town, but don't go close to the trees.

Now, between the forest and I, lies a two hundred metre strip of grass, thigh-high. Tall enough for me crawl and hide.

#

I jump the small wrought-iron fence before first-light, run, and dive. Why didn't I poison the wardens? I wait, and it's quiet. The only sound, the whispering trees saying "Kia -- come near, come here." I try to crawl, but my elbows and knees have sunk into boggy soil. I push weight onto my forearms. They sink.

I look through the grass to the trees, that first row burning red from the sunrise.

I pant and panic. My heart thumps fast.

I pull myself through wet peat. Strain. Vision flickers. I'm close enough to see -- to see that second row of trees, and why the forest -- so quickly so black -- disappears.

It's just a painted wall.

I'm disappearing too, sinking quicker as I get closer. I should scream for help, but I don't.

The penalty for being here is death, so I don't.
 

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