Improving our 100 Word Stories

paranoid marvin

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Good points already made. There can be a fine line between what defines a story, and what is much closer to an extract from a larger piece. If it's the latter, it needs to be a story within a story, and at least have some kind of satisfactory ending.

As much as anything else, word count is key in these limited word Challenges, and we all need to be looking to try to avoid repetition or unnecessary wordage wherever possible. It also helps to draw your reader into the story within the first paragraph.


Mike had already searched the house twice before and now as the evening sun came into the room, he traced his steps for the third time.


Personally, I would have omitted this sentence altogether, and started your entry with


He knew it was here, hidden in plain view, and was determined to find it. How else did they know what he was doing and seeing?

The following sentence feels a little 'clunky' -

But was he looking in the correct way perhaps?


'What was he missing?'
or 'What had he overlooked?' or 'Maybe he was going about this the wrong way.' could be alternatives?


At this point he needs to try something drastically different or inventive to resolve the situation. Turning the lights off and using a flashlight, or using infrared googles, or something else. With the extra wordage, you also have the opportunity to have a bigger payoff for the reader other than him find what he was looking for. Perhaps the probe explodes killing him, perhaps it has a big eyeball protruding from it staring at him, perhaps it speaks to him. Perhaps he finds that the probe was actually his wife/girlfriend/mother keeping track of him. Lots of potentials for a memorable climax.


Alternatively it may have been worth going down the route of him searching and not finding it, putting it down to paranoia or whatever, and as he closes the door behind him the probe comes out of hiding - he had been right all along.

It was an inventive entry, and with a few tweaks had the potential to be a very strong contender.
 

JS Wiig

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@THX1138

Plot wise it worked for me, a clear beginning, middle and end. The conflict wasn’t clearly defined but was easily deduced that Mike thought someone was spying on him.

Character wise I didn’t get any sense of who Mike was or what he felt about the whole ordeal. Was it an ex-lover doing the spying and was more of a nuisance than anything? Or is he a secret agent in danger of revealing secrets that could have global consequences?

Prose wise I thought the writing was pretty plain and didn’t do much in the way of setting the mood or a tone to the story, or creating any tension.

Thanks for sharing your story and hope this helps!
 

paranoid marvin

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Any advice on this entry of mine would be appreciated, although I was very pleased with getting a vote and some shortlistings, especially considering the quantity and quality of the other entries.

Btw was it clear enough that it was set aboard the Nostromo?



Prelude to a Catastrophe



He prowled the spacecraft's corridors, a trail of death and mutilation in his wake. Nearing an open doorway he paused, his olfactory senses going into overdrive; manflesh - he would feast well tonight. Cautiously now this perfect killing machine crept forward, the culmination of millenia of evolution. Softly approaching the nearest seated human he crouched back onto his haunches and leapt...





...into the warrant officer's lap. "Hey Jonesy, where've you been? Down in the cargo hold mousing I'll bet. Yeah I know, I know, you're hungry. I'll get you some tuna."



Yes, he would indeed feast well tonight.
 

THX1138

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Good points already made. There can be a fine line between what defines a story, and what is much closer to an extract from a larger piece. If it's the latter, it needs to be a story within a story, and at least have some kind of satisfactory ending.

As much as anything else, word count is key in these limited word Challenges, and we all need to be looking to try to avoid repetition or unnecessary wordage wherever possible. It also helps to draw your reader into the story within the first paragraph.


Mike had already searched the house twice before and now as the evening sun came into the room, he traced his steps for the third time.


Personally, I would have omitted this sentence altogether, and started your entry with


He knew it was here, hidden in plain view, and was determined to find it. How else did they know what he was doing and seeing?

The following sentence feels a little 'clunky' -

But was he looking in the correct way perhaps?


'What was he missing?'
or 'What had he overlooked?' or 'Maybe he was going about this the wrong way.' could be alternatives?


At this point he needs to try something drastically different or inventive to resolve the situation. Turning the lights off and using a flashlight, or using infrared googles, or something else. With the extra wordage, you also have the opportunity to have a bigger payoff for the reader other than him find what he was looking for. Perhaps the probe explodes killing him, perhaps it has a big eyeball protruding from it staring at him, perhaps it speaks to him. Perhaps he finds that the probe was actually his wife/girlfriend/mother keeping track of him. Lots of potentials for a memorable climax.


Alternatively it may have been worth going down the route of him searching and not finding it, putting it down to paranoia or whatever, and as he closes the door behind him the probe comes out of hiding - he had been right all along.

It was an inventive entry, and with a few tweaks had the potential to be a very strong contender.
I see what you are saying. When I come up with a story, play around with it until I get the requirements that would make it a good story in the full sense of A story. And in doing so I will come up with other scenarios that could make it even better.
:unsure:, write, :unsure::unsure:, write, :unsure::coffee:, write and if all goes well, :D!

Thanks again very much!
 

THX1138

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@THX1138

Plot wise it worked for me, a clear beginning, middle and end. The conflict wasn’t clearly defined but was easily deduced that Mike thought someone was spying on him.

Character wise I didn’t get any sense of who Mike was or what he felt about the whole ordeal. Was it an ex-lover doing the spying and was more of a nuisance than anything? Or is he a secret agent in danger of revealing secrets that could have global consequences?

Prose wise I thought the writing was pretty plain and didn’t do much in the way of setting the mood or a tone to the story, or creating any tension.

Thanks for sharing your story and hope this helps!
It helps very much. I'm noticing that my stories tend to be more of an idea and not a story and your input is showing what the others have said about it. Your view about the Prose is giving me some additional info for me to ponder also.

Thanks again!
 

Wayne Mack

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@paranoid marvin, I like your story and I gave it one of my votes. I felt that the set up was good; it had me expecting some horrible space monster. The second paragraph reveal gave me that moment of confusion before I rethought what I thought I had thought. It did exactly what a good plot twist should do.

Minor criticism is that I did not see a reason to have the final sentence in italics. Usually, that indicated internal thought, but then it should have been in first person. However, first person without a thought tag would have been confusing, so third person was probably the correct choice, just not in italics. Arguably, the final line could've been omitted, but including it was not an issue.

No, I did not realize that the setting was Nostromo, I just looked up the reference. It may have been the inspiration behind the story, but it wasn't needed for understanding it.

All in all, it was a nice, fun piece.
 

THX1138

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Thanks again for everyone's advice to my previous post regarding my story The Right Angle.

So, I rewrote the story in two different versions and just want to see if I'm going in the right direction in regard to your advice and story theme, Perspective.
Your view and advice again please. (Last time :)) I'm using your advice for all my entries from the May/June contest.

I feel better about the 1st one; it could use some fine tuning maybe?
But I have some reservation about the 2nd. Not sure if I got the theme in the story or the title right.

Thanks again!

The Right Angle 1

While working on his laptop, a live recording of himself took over the screen.

“Great! Not again. Where are you this time?” He called out looking around the room.

He knew the routine, and with the laptop in hand, he stood up while looking at the screen and facing away from the hidden device so that it was seeing only his back. He maneuvered while walking backwards until his back filled the screen. Turning, he touched the camera of the faintly visible object, deactivating it.

He let out a frustrated sigh, “Why did I buy this Autonomous Chameleon Spymaster Drone?”


The Right Angle 2

Mike was slowly moving through the living room while studying the space.

“I know you’re here. You can’t hide forever!” He spoke softly. Then an idea came to mind.

Moving along a wall with polarized sunglasses on, while looking around the room, the penciled outline of the probe came into view.

“Bookcase. Tag, you’re it!”

“Good dad! Again please?” Came a voice from the visible probe.

“No champ, you have spinal surgery tomorrow. Get some sleep. When you recover, we’ll play for real.”

“Ok, fiiine. Goodnight pops.” The probe floated away.

“Goodnight kid.” Mike teared up, there was no guaranty.
 

Christine Wheelwright

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@paranoid marvin

I thought it was a well written and interesting story. If I’m being honest the only reason I didn’t vote for it was because I already had a cat twist ending story in the queue and the other one came first.
Agreed. I think stories where the narrator turns out to be a cat are fairly common. That's probably what put me off this one.
 

Christine Wheelwright

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Alternatively it may have been worth going down the route of him searching and not finding it, putting it down to paranoia or whatever, and as he closes the door behind him the probe comes out of hiding - he had been right all along.

Yes, I was wondering about alternative plot lines too. Perhaps - in his apparent paranoia - he irrationally decides that a certain statue (maybe a reclining Buddha?) is housing the bug. He tosses it out of the window. But ironically the statue was obscuring the view of the very real bug hidden behind it.
 

THX1138

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Yes, I was wondering about alternative plot lines too. Perhaps - in his apparent paranoia - he irrationally decides that a certain statue (maybe a reclining Buddha?) is housing the bug. He tosses it out of the window. But ironically the statue was obscuring the view of the very real bug hidden behind it.
Now I'm starting to think of a paranoia version of the story too...
 

paranoid marvin

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Agreed. I think stories where the narrator turns out to be a cat are fairly common. That's probably what put me off this one.

Thanks for the feedback. My intention was to make the cat's POV similar to the creature from the movie Alien. I don't think I've tried to write before from an animal's perspective. Yes you are correct, there are a number of times that the use of cat as narrator has been used.
 

paranoid marvin

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@paranoid marvin

I thought it was a well written and interesting story. If I’m being honest the only reason I didn’t vote for it was because I already had a cat twist ending story in the queue and the other one came first.

Thankyou for your comments. I assume you're referring to 'What They're Really Thinking'? Yes, that was a very well written entry.
 

paranoid marvin

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@paranoid marvin, I like your story and I gave it one of my votes. I felt that the set up was good; it had me expecting some horrible space monster. The second paragraph reveal gave me that moment of confusion before I rethought what I thought I had thought. It did exactly what a good plot twist should do.

Minor criticism is that I did not see a reason to have the final sentence in italics. Usually, that indicated internal thought, but then it should have been in first person. However, first person without a thought tag would have been confusing, so third person was probably the correct choice, just not in italics. Arguably, the final line could've been omitted, but including it was not an issue.

No, I did not realize that the setting was Nostromo, I just looked up the reference. It may have been the inspiration behind the story, but it wasn't needed for understanding it.

All in all, it was a nice, fun piece.

Thanks for the feedback, and of course for the vote. I wasn't really sure whether or not to use the last line, as I could/should have left it to the reader to come to the right conclusion.

The reference to Jones the cat and Ripley the warrant officer was more of an Easter egg than something critical to the story, but I did intend to leave the reader with the impression that this was an evil alien entity than a pussy cat.

Thanks again.
 

JS Wiig

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@THX1138 I thought those two revisions did a better job of characterization. I definitely was able to make more of a personal connection to the story. Good work!
 

JS Wiig

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This one garnered nary a sidelong glance, so any insight would be much appreciated. Thanks!

How to Befriend the Lunar Settlement’s Grumpy Mad Scientist

“That crank is just a crazy old man!”

“How do you know? Ever talked to him?”

“Well, no. But he transcombobulated Selene’s cat into a pigeon!”

“Did not. Rupert said that and he’s full of it. I’m going to talk to him.”

“You’re crazy! He’ll transcombobulate you into a pigeon!”

#

There was a knock on the door, probably that obnoxious habitat kid Rupert again. He deserved to be transcombobulated into a pigeon.

But it wasn’t the brat kid. “What do you want?”

“Hello mister. I’m Tommy. Want a cookie?”

Mmm, the retired professor loved cookies. “Sure,” he said.
 

THX1138

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@JS Wiig I don't list my shot lists but this one made mine because I understood it and saw the hummer in it.
But my question is, why did the cat get transcombobulated into a pigeon?
How is Rupert and why does he deserve the same?
I know that the 2nd person in the conversation is Tommy, but who is the 1st person in the conversation? It's not Rupert, we know that.

The second half of the story made sense to me; the old man was being teased and appreciated Tommy's kindness.
 

Wayne Mack

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@JS Wiig, this story had a positive message, which I enjoyed, though the title seemed to do a lot of the heavy lifting for the story set up -- it gave the environment and the characterization of the old man. My challenge was that I did not see the motivation for Tommy's actions. I did not know why he wanted to visit the old man, who seems to be guilty of the rumored transgressions, nor why he would offer cookies. Without motivation, Tommy's act of kindness just sort of happened.
 

paranoid marvin

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I have to be honest that I read it a complete of times and I didn't understand it. I've read it again now a couple of times and still don't. It's well written and I love the word 'transcombobulated'.
 

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