Improving our 300 Word Stories -- READ FIRST POST!

Swank

and debonair
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Hey @Christine Wheelwright. I voted for your story and enjoyed it.

My knit pick is the language. "Nevertheless" or "Their cause was not helped" struck me as sophisticated uses of language by the narrating MC. But the world he describes and the language of the Sayer reflect something less refined. I see that the MC has grown up and is speaking as an adult, but the way he speaks now belies the society he grew up in, without really being explained. I would have written all of it in a more similar vernacular.

You could have also left off naming the launderette at all. More clues would have sufficed - like references to the "mission codes" such as Biz, Bold, Gain and Pur.

But a great story. Thanks for posting it.
 

Swank

and debonair
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Do me! Do me!

Recombinant


Water cascaded from tier to tier, like something a child would construct at the beach. The concrete shone in places, polished down by madras. June smelled only herself inside the filter suit.

“We have the exposed in quarantine. This laundry has three tributaries, so the source could be anywhere - or Patient Zero brought it with him.”

“Him?” June asked the WHO rep; a political appointee with an air of competence.

“Oh; yes. We know he’s Sung Kim, former SEAL. Probably Korean intelligence. They gave us that much. He’s disappeared.”

The last was unnecessary; June wouldn’t be there if anyone was easy to find. She took the dossier, the box of PPE and her assumptions to the airfield. The French surveillance jet connected her to the network before it had time to get airborne.

Eighteen hours later, June had nearly exhausted a Mossad database of corruptible immigration officials when she got confirmation on Virginia. The pilot steered five degrees south and checked in with ATC.

Kim hadn’t just been savvy. He had been invisible to every witness - who each claimed cheerfully that they don’t recall the man at all. Only electronic records showed his passing.

June working her usual skills. Arriving at a house in Portsmouth; the CDC isolation team on standby and a Japanese police revolver in her pocket - mask on. The door was open.

“Mr. Kim. You are carrying an infectious…” He moved so fast; they were struggling on the ground immediately. He tore at her mask, gasping into her exposed mouth.


__________________________________________________


She was someone else. June felt what maleness is. Spring in Seoul. Loss. Drowning. Anger. A whole life.

June realized why no one he met would help. Sung Kim was not going into quarantine. He had an empathy to infect on mankind.
 

Yozh

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@Swank, if I understand this right, the idea is that Kim is spreading empathy like an infection by physically forcing himself on people? If that’s not what you were trying to convey, then I misunderstood. If that is what I were trying to convey, I think it’s a hard sell for just a 300 word piece.

The work is hinting at a lot of really big questions—authorities imposing restrictions on the populace for what they believe is a greater good, and then one rogue actor (Kim) imposing his own will on certain individuals, possibly for what he believes is their own good. June is trying to enforce the law on Kim and instead he forces himself on her. This could work as a concept in a longer form where you can layer in more context and nuance. In this very short piece, though, I didn’t feel enough connection to Kim or sense of his motivation to see him as a hero or a villain—it’s not clear if he’s even doing this on purpose or if he’s a sort empathy-spreading zombie. Not sure how to feel about June either, seems like she’s the hero until the end, but also like we are not meant to sympathize with her.
 

Swank

and debonair
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Hi @Yozh. Yes, June is not much of a hero. She functions more like a noir detective - June and Kim are more like Deckard and Roy Batty. June is doing her job in highly competent manner, and Kim is both preserving his freedom and on a mission for betterment. June tacitly agrees to help that mission. I didn't see it as coercion.

Thank you for your comments.
 

Christine Wheelwright

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Oh Canada!
@Swank , I think there is quite a lot going on in this story, and I had to read it a couple of times before being sure I was following it correctly. There is a lot of detail in there, which is fine, but when someone is reading twenty 300-word stories back-to-back they need to be spoon fed; everything has to be really clear. I make the same mistake sometimes.
 

Swank

and debonair
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@Swank , I think there is quite a lot going on in this story, and I had to read it a couple of times before being sure I was following it correctly. There is a lot of detail in there, which is fine, but when someone is reading twenty 300-word stories back-to-back they need to be spoon fed; everything has to be really clear. I make the same mistake sometimes.
Most of the details are color, but they probably don't seem like it. Thanks for your comments.
 

emrosenagel

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May 4, 2021
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Hey y'all! While I got handful of votes (and I'm very grateful for them!) my story managed to dodge just about everyone's shortlists. After reading the other stories, I can certainly tell mine did not have the same level of creativity. Was it a bit too vanilla, not enough oomph? Or was it something else entirely? Thanks!



A Flame in the Dark

Hendrik whirled down the lamppost. "Empty," he confirmed, joining the others. After school, a few children decided to scour lamps and lanterns for a flame vættir. In their twilit, frostbitten city, sorcerers paid handsomely for those rare spirits that hid in warm places. So far, not a lick of luck. But just dreaming about what they might do with the coin kept morale high on that wintry night.

"With my share," Sigg said, balancing on a low wall. "I'm going to buy skolebrød every morning!"

Hendrik and Halle laughed, but Tor couldn't. "I'm going to get medicine for Ann," he added, and that made them all feel bad; poor Ann had been sick for weeks. They continued silently until they came to the next lantern hanging over a church door.

Halle wiped his flushed nose and moved on. "Better not. 'Sides, it's too high up." The others agreed, except for Tor, who had a weird, squiggly feeling about that lantern particularly.

"I'll check it," he decided, and then scrambled up a timber column and leaped onto the lintel where the lantern hung from a rimy pole.

The others watched, horrified but plainly impressed. "You're crazy," Halle cried. "You'll crack your skull!"

Tor shinnied along the pole. It was worth the risk for Ann. One swipe, another swipe. Whoa! Nearly lost balance. One more try and . . . he got it! But then he slipped and tumbled off, plummeting toward the stone street below. Everyone gasped, Sigg screamed! Lucky for Tor, he landed on a pillowy mound of snow.

The others rushed over. Tor popped open the lantern, and they squeezed their little pink faces together to see inside -- a glittering flame vættir shied away from them. How they whooped and hollered! Except for Tor. He only grinned, thinking of his Ann.
 

Yozh

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@emrosenagel, I liked reading this, it's a fun little world with vivid descriptions. But it felt more like an excerpted scene from a larger work than a story unto intself in the end. It left me wanting the next chapter about whether/how Tor manages to convert his find into money to buy the medicine, and then whether Ann recovers. So maybe there's a book in that?
 

Jo Zebedee

Aliens vs Belfast.
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Hey y'all! While I got handful of votes (and I'm very grateful for them!) my story managed to dodge just about everyone's shortlists. After reading the other stories, I can certainly tell mine did not have the same level of creativity. Was it a bit too vanilla, not enough oomph? Or was it something else entirely? Thanks!



A Flame in the Dark

Hendrik whirled down the lamppost. "Empty," he confirmed, joining the others. After school you can easily lose after school, a few children decided to scour lamps and lanterns for a flame vættir. In their twilit, frostbitten city, sorcerers paid handsomely for those rare spirits that hid in warm places. So far, not a lick of luck. But just dreaming about what they might do with the coin kept morale high on that wintry night.you could ditch the wintry night bit, you’ve told us it’s cold

"With my share," Sigg said, balancing on a low wall action instead of dialogue tags keep flash a little shorter. Here eg ‚with My share.‘ Sigg balanced on a low wall (being picky low could probably also go. "I'm going to buy skolebrød every morning!"

Hendrik and Halle laughed, but Tor couldn't and here you could use those words to break our heart. Why can’t he? . "I'm going to get medicine for Ann," he added, and ditch he added and - go action tag and that’s 3 more to hit us with later that made them all feel bad; poor Ann had been sick for weeks. They continued silently until they came to the next lantern hanging over a church door.

Halle wiped his flushed nose and moved on. "Better not. 'Sides, it's too high up." The others agreed, except for Tor, who had a weird, squiggly feeling about that lantern particularly. Without understanding his magic or how he feels this, it feels convenient.

"I'll check it," action tag? he decided, and then scrambled up a timber column and leaped onto the lintel where the lantern hung from a rimy pole.

The others watched, horrified but plainly impressed. "You're crazy," Halle cried. "You'll crack your skull!"

Tor shinnied along the pole. It was worth the risk for Ann. One swipe, another swipe. Whoa! Nearly lost balance. One more try and . . . he got it! This is good But then he slipped and tumbled off, plummeting toward the stone street below. Everyone gasped, Sigg screamed! Lucky for Tor, he landed on a pillowy mound of snow.

The others rushed over. Tor popped open the lantern, and they squeezed their little pink faces together to see inside -- a glittering flame vættir shied away from them. How they whooped and hollered! Except for Tor. He only grinned, thinking of his Ann.
I think in flash fic every word counts and this could have been tighter, giving you room for some extra oomph. See above in bold. Apart from making space for the beats to break us, this was good.
 

emrosenagel

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@Yozh you know, when I was coming up with the idea my silly self really overestimated how many words 300 is. So I did actually whittle away at it so it would fit. Next time, I will not assume I have more words than I actually have. Thank you so much for the comments (and congrats again)!

@Jo Zebedee This was very helpful, thank you! I can see I should be using more action tags and cutting out some redundant descriptive words. As for when he "sensed" the spirit, I also thought it may come off as a little too convenient and struggled a bit with it. I suppose I could've given another kind of reason for checking that lantern. Pure determination, maybe?
 

paranoid marvin

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Hi emroseangel, some great comments already about your entry. I don't think it can be overestimated how important it can be to be able to write a story that is easy on the eye and pleasant to read; especially in a limited word challenge. So massive amounts of well done here.

I do think that whilst it is well written and whilst it does (in my opinion) qualify as a story (although I can understand why some would think that it doesn't), there is no 'x' factory to make the story being told stand out. There needs to be a reason for the tale to be related to the reader; conflict, suspense or danger for the protagonist. As part of a larger story what you have written would be fine, but on its own (in my opinion) it isn't.

As has been mentioned, there ways to tighten the story up. I would consider skipping the first paragraph relating to the empty lantern (which isn't of any real relevance) and have the story start with the second. Perhaps your story revolves around the boy retrieving the lantern, or about the vættir escaping and him pursuing it, or that he gets the vættir and is pursued by the other children wanting to steal it off him, or another gang suddenly appears on the scene and they have to fight or escape, or even that sick Ann is taken out of the story and after capturing the vættir he takes pity on it and decides to release it.

Hope some of this has been of some use, and 5 votes (more than 1 in 7 voted for you) is a very good result when you consider that there are many experienced, professional authors participating in the Challenge.
 

Parson

This world is not my home
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@emrosenagel --- It looked to me like your story did very well indeed. So any suggestions might be to the negative. Still, here's my critic, but likely the thoughts only apply to me.

I had two things niggle at me in your story. First, I felt like I was dropped into the middle of the story without a proper introduction. And Second, (related to the first) I wasn't sure what was going on until the very end. I completely enjoyed the sweet ending. (I'm a sucker for those!) So, I guess it boils down to this: This story needed a bit of world building to really be great for me.
 

Wayne Mack

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Sep 12, 2020
Messages
1,752
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Chantilly, Virginia, US
Hey y'all! While I got handful of votes (and I'm very grateful for them!) my story managed to dodge just about everyone's shortlists. After reading the other stories, I can certainly tell mine did not have the same level of creativity. Was it a bit too vanilla, not enough oomph? Or was it something else entirely? Thanks!



A Flame in the Dark

Hendrik whirled down the lamppost. "Empty," he confirmed, joining the others. After school, a few children decided to scour lamps and lanterns for a flame vættir. In their twilit, frostbitten city, sorcerers paid handsomely for those rare spirits that hid in warm places. So far, not a lick of luck. But just dreaming about what they might do with the coin kept morale high on that wintry night.

"With my share," Sigg said, balancing on a low wall. "I'm going to buy skolebrød every morning!"

Hendrik and Halle laughed, but Tor couldn't. "I'm going to get medicine for Ann," he added, and that made them all feel bad; poor Ann had been sick for weeks. They continued silently until they came to the next lantern hanging over a church door.

Halle wiped his flushed nose and moved on. "Better not. 'Sides, it's too high up." The others agreed, except for Tor, who had a weird, squiggly feeling about that lantern particularly.

"I'll check it," he decided, and then scrambled up a timber column and leaped onto the lintel where the lantern hung from a rimy pole.

The others watched, horrified but plainly impressed. "You're crazy," Halle cried. "You'll crack your skull!"

Tor shinnied along the pole. It was worth the risk for Ann. One swipe, another swipe. Whoa! Nearly lost balance. One more try and . . . he got it! But then he slipped and tumbled off, plummeting toward the stone street below. Everyone gasped, Sigg screamed! Lucky for Tor, he landed on a pillowy mound of snow.

The others rushed over. Tor popped open the lantern, and they squeezed their little pink faces together to see inside -- a glittering flame vættir shied away from them. How they whooped and hollered! Except for Tor. He only grinned, thinking of his Ann.
I liked this story and it had a good bit of interesting world building in only 300 words. For analysis, I looked at it using one of Brandon Sanderson's story patterns: Promise, Progress, Pay Off.

The initial promise in paragraph 1 is that the group will (or will fail to) find a flame vaettir. The last sentence of paragraph 3 and paragraphs 4-6 showed progress with the pay off also occurring in paragraph 6 as the group captured the spirit.

This, however, left paragraph 7 hanging. It's matching promise showed up in paragraph 3 where the reader is already focused on progress towards the initial promise. This creates two overlapping arcs and it is usually recommended to close arcs in the reverse order of them being opened. If the promise about Ann's medicine in paragraph 3 were moved up to the start, it would balance paragraph 7, and the intermediate arc about searching for the spirits would show progress towards that promise. I think that might have improved both the tension of the story as well as giving the reader the feeling of a conclusion. I hope this is helpful.
 

emrosenagel

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Sebastian, FL
@paranoid marvin @Parson Thank you for the comments! I see the general consensus is that it comes off as more of a scene in a larger story that needed more context to really click. I've always had trouble with short stories, so it makes sense I would make this mistake. These challenges provide such good practice for me :giggle:

@Wayne Mack So, when you make a "promise" later on in a story (like with the medicine) you get that pay off before the first one? I did not know this, but I will keep it mind next month (and for every other story I write. Seems important). It was very helpful, thank you!
 

AltLifeAStory

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Hello lovely people, looking for some feedback on this past 3 month story. Looking forward to your comments.

 

Jo Zebedee

Aliens vs Belfast.
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Hello lovely people, looking for some feedback on this past 3 month story. Looking forward to your comments.

Haven’t looked at the entries this month so coming to this blind. For a 300 this feels leisurely. A lot of description that feels more than it needs to be which immediately makes me worries the story is ‘light’ on content. Some of that description left me unsure what I was picturing - what does the cheese cup look like? So I was both imagining too much and not enough at the same time, and struggled to engage.

Your dialogue punctuation is also slightly off

But I did like the confidence of handing a slowish story
 

Swank

and debonair
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Anyone care to take a whack:

Succor of Time

I’m standing before a diorama, barely the span of an adult’s hand. The subject matter childish, nostalgic; comforting and homey. The technique - astounding. It looks like a the work of an adolescent, but the artist an adult. A blind, deaf, mute adult who has never communicated with another person, never read a book, touched a sculpture or played with a toy. And yet, anthropomorphic rodents pose in perfect forced perspective by miniaturized furnishings that the artist could not possibly comprehend.

“Amène moi à l'aéroport,” to the taxi driver out front of the gallery. I had left immediately after spotting the piece and the author’s name. An unfamiliar name, and I searched for that name and a destination as we wound through the city.



Fame had earned the artist a better facility to sit in silent darkness. No one witnessed my arrival, least of all the lone young man in the room.

“I called them Teddy and Heddy. A Teddy mouse? Stupid.” The little stuffed animals of my childhood seventy years ago, somehow transported into a miniature of the awful row house we lived in - taking the roles of father and son. I assume he can't hear me.

Those stuffed mice were the only comfort of my childhood. My father destroyed them during one of his rages. I left before I could shave, and heard rumors of his death years later. It is impossible that this deeply disabled man before me is my father, yet I can’t help reaching out to him.

As I grip his throat with both hands, he looks back at me through sightless eyes. And in that moment I am looking in a mirror at an enraged old man having a massive coronary. My old body falls to the floor as I get up to leave.
 

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