Improving our 300 Word Stories -- READ FIRST POST!

THX1138

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Mar 11, 2022
Messages
1,435
Location
Land Locked Ocean Dream
@JS Wiig I liked your story, but I agree with @Swank; It just needs to either be more immersive or have a stronger hook at the end.
As it is, it's emotional aspect is from the observers POV. Who is this observer? Thats where you could have taken it from.

Perhaps the MC is the human who is emptying the ED's bens of the photos and is becoming emotionally overwhelmed and numbed at seeing the photos of the victims, while the ED's mindlessly do their job in the sea of debris along shore?
 

THX1138

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Mar 11, 2022
Messages
1,435
Location
Land Locked Ocean Dream
@VRlass This is what I am thinking of as far as adding a little more emotion. This is just what I would do. And my grammar is not good either! :)
You wrote:
“I know Johny…“ She said, ”I was by your side all along… you just couldn’t see me…” She sounded tired, as if she barely fended off the sleep.

Maybe something like this?
“I know Johny…“ she sighed. ”I was by your side all along… you just couldn’t see me…” Fatigue filled her voice, as if exhausted from fended off sleep.

When you write your stories, do you write it first in your native language then translate into English? Or do you write them in English first? Just wondering. I could tell when my father was thinking in Hungarian while trying to write in English. :unsure:

You have been writing some very good stories! Keep going. :)
 

VRlass

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2022
Messages
142
Location
Bardo (srsly, that’s the name)
@VRlass This is what I am thinking of as far as adding a little more emotion. This is just what I would do. And my grammar is not good either! :)
You wrote:
“I know Johny…“ She said, ”I was by your side all along… you just couldn’t see me…” She sounded tired, as if she barely fended off the sleep.

Maybe something like this?
“I know Johny…“ she sighed. ”I was by your side all along… you just couldn’t see me…” Fatigue filled her voice, as if exhausted from fended off sleep.
Yeah, you are right. I should practice purpling up my voice a little bit.
When you write your stories, do you write it first in your native language then translate into English? Or do you write them in English first? Just wondering. I could tell when my father was thinking in Hungarian while trying to write in English. :unsure:
I normally only use english. Once I treid to write in english, than purple it up in Polish (i used to be very poetic in my native—but find it hard to do it in english. Probably because never read any poetry :D) and than translate it again to english. No story ever exhausted me this much (and I went through 20 beta-read/edit iterations with one—2 months of painfull work and still felt better afterwards). Translations are really exhausting creative engines :(
You have been writing some very good stories! Keep going. :)
Thanks :)
You allso told me to add some cultural reference, i tried something simmilar here Improving our 75 Word Stories -- READ FIRST POST, but the truth I is this challenges simulate slush. As you can see in here misunderstood cultural references are slush killers :D
 

Elckerlyc

"Philosophy will clip an angel's wings."
Joined
Aug 27, 2019
Messages
2,040
Location
The Netherlands
I normally only use english. Once I treid to write in english, than purple it up in Polish (i used to be very poetic in my native—but find it hard to do it in english. Probably because never read any poetry :D) and than translate it again to english. No story ever exhausted me this much (and I went through 20 beta-read/edit iterations with one—2 months of painfull work and still felt better afterwards). Translations are really exhausting creative engines :(
This is my experience also. It is better, creatively more satisfying (and probably quicker), to completely re-write the story in another language than trying to translate it. My own attempts invariable resulted in wooden, awkward stories. What works in one language won't work in most other languages. Nice turns of phrases fall flat on their faces.
If the end-result is meant to be in English, switch your brain into 'English-mode' and write in English.
 

VRlass

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2022
Messages
142
Location
Bardo (srsly, that’s the name)
You can find a thesaurus and emotion thesaurus online. I use these all the time when I write.
I discovered it just before my holiday. Its amazing!!
What works in one language won't work in most other languages. Nice turns of phrases fall flat on their faces.
Yeah.
Not to mention gender changes. In for example in polish ‘night’ is female hen I read Khalil Gibran s prophet and see ‘follow HIM’ I am getting a cognitive dissonance.
 

Swank

and debonair
Joined
Feb 25, 2022
Messages
1,832
I wish people looking for critiques would mention up front if they are writing in a second language, or have dyslexia, or wrote the story on a cell phone. There's little point in critiquing spelling, sentence structure or punctuation if the response is that those things doesn't matter.

Or worse, that the requested critique is perceived as rude because the critiquer didn't intue that the piece was written by someone with dyslexia, and is therefore bigoted against people with disabilities for pointing out the errors.
 

THX1138

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Mar 11, 2022
Messages
1,435
Location
Land Locked Ocean Dream
This is my experience also. It is better, creatively more satisfying (and probably quicker), to completely re-write the story in another language than trying to translate it. My own attempts invariable resulted in wooden, awkward stories. What works in one language won't work in most other languages. Nice turns of phrases fall flat on their faces.
If the end-result is meant to be in English, switch your brain into 'English-mode' and write in English.
My father had that problem all the time. Even when I did business trips to Germany, I had to try to understand all to turns of phrases. And I'm a non-German speaker!
 

Wayne Mack

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2020
Messages
1,749
Location
Chantilly, Virginia, US
@VRlass I think this story has great potential, but I felt that there needed to be a greater build up of tension before the release in the final lines. There was too much reliance on the name 'The Harrowing' to convey a time of reckoning, danger, and fear. It is always a challenge to allocate word count in short form fiction, but I would have liked to hear some recounting of the terrors of past or present Harrowings in order for the ending to give its full emotional release.
 

Christine Wheelwright

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 3, 2022
Messages
859
Location
Oh Canada!
I would be interested in hearing what folks have to say about my entry in the Jan/Feb challenge. It did alright (a few votes and mentions) but I'm always looking to improve. I'll get the ball rolling by acknowledging it lacks originality (post apocalyptic return to pre-industrial civilization).


The Flying Machines​


When I was young, my parents would punish me if they found I had been to the derelict city. Nevertheless, I would often go. Their cause was not helped by its proximity; just beyond the last row of trees that marked the edge of our farm. It was a constant temptation. Often I would sneak away for hours, playing in its deserted streets and exploring the crumbling buildings.

Looking back, I think my mother and father were more concerned for my safety than my spiritual well being. But one day, when I was just eight or nine, they took me to see the Sayer. He was a grey old man with a face like a skull and a voice so spent you had to lean in close to hear him, at which point his foul breath became overwhelming. He terrified children and dismayed their parents in equal measure.

“Machines destroy everything, boy! Just seeing those mechanisms rotting in the city streets will lead you to the Devil. Do you know what hell is, boy?”

He proceeded to describe it for me. But still I would go to the city.

One day, when I was older and my parents even less able to control me, I took a girl from the village to see the machines, hoping she would let me kiss her. In one structure we found a dozen; cubic in shape with round windows in the sides.

“People must have sat inside them,” she said. “But they have no wheels, so how did they move?”

“Perhaps they flew,” I replied. “I’ve heard machines could do that.”

I took the sign from outside the building and it hangs in my barn to this day. LAUNDERETTE it says, whatever that means.

I never did get that kiss.
 

JS Wiig

“Hello, muse?” “Please hold…” *elevator music*
Supporter
Joined
Dec 23, 2020
Messages
775
Location
SW WY
@Christine Wheelwright - The Flying Machines

Summary - overall I found the piece well written and charming with just enough continuous revelation to keep me reading. I felt the characterization fell a bit flat with little to nothing at stake. I really enjoyed the bit of twist concerning the washing machines.

Character - the character of the young man in a post apocalyptic setting was well written, however I felt he was pretty typical with nothing really outstanding for me to latch on to.

Plot - the plot was well written with a nice sprinkling of the setting, and reminiscence about a missed kiss.

Stakes - I didn’t really feel there was anything at stake for the main character. With the setting laid out as a post-apocalyptic culture ignorant of previous technology, it was pretty clear to me that the washing machines neither held the devil nor caused the destruction of civilization. Bummer on that missed kiss though.

Hope this helps!
 

Elckerlyc

"Philosophy will clip an angel's wings."
Joined
Aug 27, 2019
Messages
2,040
Location
The Netherlands
I liked the story, but felt that it wasn't really going anywhere. The MC kept going to the old city, despite warnings about the Devil. That basically seems to be the tale. Taking a girl there turned out to be a dead end, as far as kisses were concerned. It left me hanging a bit.
 

paranoid marvin

Run VT Erroll!
Supporter
Joined
Mar 9, 2007
Messages
5,722
I thought your writing and descriptiveness were up to your usual high standard. But for me, this wasn't the voice of a person who had been a child post-apocalypse.

The kind of voice I would imagine would be something like the kids with the aeroplane in 'Mad Max 3'; broken English, and describing things, or getting names of things muddled when speaking.

Just as an example of what I (and I'm sure you could do better than this) but

'Ofttimes, pa would beat me when he found I'd been to the Dead Place. Buildings bigger'n any house; 'scrapers he called 'em, an' they sure did seem to scratch the sky. Din't stop me mind, 'cos it was only a small ways from our home-farm, and worth the tanning to go explorin' there.'

Having said that, the number of shortlistings plus the votes you got showed that quite a lot of readers enjoyed your story. Also I found your story was actually quite original. For me it's not the background, but what happens in that determines if it's original or not.
 

Christine Wheelwright

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 3, 2022
Messages
859
Location
Oh Canada!
'Ofttimes, pa would beat me when he found I'd been to the Dead Place. Buildings bigger'n any house; 'scrapers he called 'em, an' they sure did seem to scratch the sky. Din't stop me mind, 'cos it was only a small ways from our home-farm, and worth the tanning to go explorin' there.'

You are right. A kind of Tom Sawyer / Huckleberry Finn vibe would have done wonders for the story.
 

Yozh

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 3, 2022
Messages
203
Location
USA
@Christine Wheelwright, I like this story, but it just felt to me more like an introduction to a larger story than a complete tale in its own right. I could see a YA novel about the protagonist that includes to scene about bringing girl to the laundrette.
 

Parson

This world is not my home
Supporter
Joined
Oct 11, 2006
Messages
12,084
Location
Iowa
@Christine Wheelwright --- This was a story which had a lot going for it. As far as originality it was top notch, and it was easy to see how the picture inspired it. In no sense did I feel as though it was terribly flawed. However, for me there wasn't enough of a story. There seemed to be nothing at stake, except the pleasure that most every teen feels in going and doing what your elders do not approve of. The ending was cute, but I was left feeling a little bit of "So what?" In short, the story didn't grab me.
 

Wayne Mack

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2020
Messages
1,749
Location
Chantilly, Virginia, US
@Christine Wheelwright, I always like collapse of civilization stories and twist endings. Recently, I read a recommendation that story arcs should be closed in the reverse order that they are opened. My analysis feels a little bit forced when using this model, but I think it might highlight some areas that could be tweaked.

The opening makes me ask the question, why are the cities abandoned. The answer to this comes as to vague references to the character's spiritual well-being and that machines are the work of the devil. This seems to open a new question, why are the machines so evil. The answer is a slight twist in that the machines are benign. The affect of the twist, though, is diluted due to the romance arc that is introduced prior to the twist and concludes after the twist. The reader is left wondering about the kiss and not the the reality of the machines.

This line of reasoning leads me to suggest eliminating the romance arc and emphasizing the spirituality focus. Consider as an opening line something like, "My parents were concerned about my spiritual well-being." Next, use the freed up words to expand the Sayer's section and emphasize the fear of machines. I think this would better set up the reader for the final reveal.

I hope this helps. The challenge with very short fiction is that one needs to jettison a lot of really good ideas and focus on the key story arc. A lot of what is in the story would work very well in a longer piece, but I felt there was a little too much, which prevented fully addressing each of the ideas.
 

Similar threads


Top