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NeoGAF Creative Writing Challenge #213 - "Utopia"

The Shadow

Member
Jun 7, 2004
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My 2 cents (if it matters).

Moving the deadline wouldn't affect me in the least, since I write when I have a bit of personal time on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and sometimes on the weekend. Generally, I try to get it out of the way during the week. If the due date was moved to Saturday (or whenever), I'd probably still be submitting at the same time I have been.

In principle, I'm against it, for the same reasons Cyan, choodi, and Freeza stated.
 

Alucard

Banned
Jun 9, 2004
39,737
2
0
Canada
Some feedback after going through everything. Oh man, everyone brought it hard for this challenge. I enjoyed every single story. Well done, gang!

"Definitions" by Royal Flush - pure plagiarism. :( I didn't expect this.

"All the Pretty Little Horses" by Tangent - I liked this. It was cute and sweet, though you broke Sejal's POV with the horses flying away at the end. A minor quibble. The descriptions in the beginning were also evocative. I felt you got a little lazier with the writing in the middle and could have done with an editing/beefing up pass.

"The World Ends with You" by Shadow - You bastard. Anything with young children or babies in danger will get me every time. I figured you were going for an ideal fever dream and as soon as you switched to the steering wheel, I just knew he had been in a crash. The first part...the rollercoasters...I'm assuming were links to the accident itself? And was the redhead Ashley's mom, and the other woman...I don't know. Either way, I enjoyed this. Thanks. You have a pretty light and enjoyable style.

"The Man from Nowhere" by Mike M - Dude. You blew my mind. This was excellent. You have a gift for dialogue. And description. And weaving a weird story together. The core of the story made sense, and I liked that Scott got a bit of weird happiness by the end of it. I hope he sleeps with parallel universe JoAnn. Well done.

"What My Pa Left Me"
by FlowersisBritish - Pretty damn good. I liked it. I liked it a lot. Some interesting action and scene switches. This was way more complete and comprehensive a story than the one about Robot Hamlet. Not sure what else to say except...I liked it. I liked it a lot.

"Still Life on White Table" by Cyan - I really liked the dialogue bit about the two types of rebels. Very engaging stuff. Actually, I liked the majority of the philosophizing. I didn't quite "get" how he was still going to live though, unless you just meant figuratively in someone's mind...but then you said that she'd see him in a year, so I don't think you meant it that way. It's 12:45am and maybe my brain is too tired to fully get what happened. Could you clarify the ending? Nice work, Cyan. I felt a bit of Ashes' stream of consciousness near the end. The only criticism I'll really give is that I still think your paragraphs are too long for modern fiction. Not sure if this is your intent.

Votes.

1. Mike M
2. FlowersisBritish
3. Cyan

Really though, I feel bad not being able to give at least a point to the other two stories, which I also really enjoyed.
 
"Definitions" by Royal Flush - pure plagiarism. :( I didn't expect this.

Whoa, slow down there lad. You didn’t like it, that's fine and expected. In fact something would be really wrong if I got a single point for this non-entry. Just like these last minute haikus never get points. However

1. All text that isn't my own is properly* credited to its original source. Nothing in the entry fulfills the definition of plagiarism. This accusation is offending and plain wrong.
Seriously, I'm actually really pissed about that. I'm currently doing my masters thesis and there actual plagiarism is like the worst sin you could commit. If I actually did plagiarism I don't think I would ever get a position in science.

2. I don't know if you actually read the entry (well, you can skip the first four paragraphs tbh, as they are just citations (!) of definitions found online), but there actually is something not even subtle in the subtext of the last definition (by Royal_Flush; I wonder who that person is) about a person who would have liked to submit something proper bur didn't have the motivation to. The first four paragraphs are needed for context.

3. Even if there were just citations it wouldn't be plagiarism but one could make the argument it's a collage which in itself is kind of an art form. Sounds pretentious? Oh, it absolutely is, but it's also a valid point imo.


*For the sake of reading flow the crediting is a bit sloppy and does not fulfill the most strict standards, I admit. But I made it absolutely clear it's not my own text which is the essence.
 

mu cephei

Member
Jan 22, 2010
928
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It's clear people like it how it is! I just want to say, I didn't think moving the deadline would "fix" things, because nothing is broken. Most people meet deadlines, a few people don't. I thought it would be nice to have the Saturday to write, but Cyan's point about not liking to stew over it over the weekend is a good one (I speak from very recent experience).
 

Alucard

Banned
Jun 9, 2004
39,737
2
0
Canada
It's clear people like it how it is! I just want to say, I didn't think moving the deadline would "fix" things, because nothing is broken. Most people meet deadlines, a few people don't. I thought it would be nice to have the Saturday to write, but Cyan's point about not liking to stew over it over the weekend is a good one (I speak from very recent experience).

You're probably right. And as long as I'm under no obligation to include overly-late entries in my own voting, I don't mind. I read the entire batch late last night and that's that. I may still read a late entry, and if it comes before I do my reading, I'll probably include it in the votes, but it comes after I've finished the most up-to-date batch, I likely won't include it in the voting process. Sorry. :-/
 

Nezumi

Member
Aug 8, 2011
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0
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39
Small town near Frankfurt in Germany
It's clear people like it how it is! I just want to say, I didn't think moving the deadline would "fix" things, because nothing is broken. Most people meet deadlines, a few people don't. I thought it would be nice to have the Saturday to write, but Cyan's point about not liking to stew over it over the weekend is a good one (I speak from very recent experience).

Yeah, this was exactly my line of thinking, but that doesn't make Cyan's argument wrong.

Writing just didn't work out for me this time around, but at least I have a cool outline I can hopefully use for the next challenge.
 

Cyan

Banned
Jun 10, 2004
34,830
0
0
Votes:
1. FlowersisBritish - "What My Pa Left Me"
2. Mike M - "The Man From Nowhere"
3. The Shadow - "My World Ends With You"
 

Cyan

Banned
Jun 10, 2004
34,830
0
0
"Still Life on White Table" by Cyan - I really liked the dialogue bit about the two types of rebels. Very engaging stuff. Actually, I liked the majority of the philosophizing. I didn't quite "get" how he was still going to live though, unless you just meant figuratively in someone's mind...but then you said that she'd see him in a year, so I don't think you meant it that way. It's 12:45am and maybe my brain is too tired to fully get what happened. Could you clarify the ending? Nice work, Cyan. I felt a bit of Ashes' stream of consciousness near the end. The only criticism I'll really give is that I still think your paragraphs are too long for modern fiction. Not sure if this is your intent.

Thanks, this is helpful. I've actually typically had the opposite problem, with too many too-short paragraphs, so it sounds like I still need to find that happy medium. :)

On the ending:
this is my bad, the intent was that the injury was survivable and he would be able to get help in time, but I cut a line that made this more clear.

Again, it's been a while since I joined, but when I last submitted late entries I did so with no expectation they would be read.
Ditto. When I submit something ineligible (either outside the deadline + grace period or over the word limit), I assume it is DQed from receiving votes, and that no one is obligated to read or comment. I'm certainly grateful when people do, but I don't expect it.
 

Alucard

Banned
Jun 9, 2004
39,737
2
0
Canada
On a random note, I'm having a hell of a time trying to write anything the past two days. Just writing short scene sketches and seeing if something strikes a chord. So annoying wanting to write a big story but feeling like you just don't have it in you to do it.

The start of my next story. I'm gonna go for "full stupid" on it regardless of the theme.

"The dragon belched with the fervour of a priest bellowing from a pulpit. It was a compliment for the bounty bestowed upon the winged denizens of Laterna by Dracus, the God of All, who never left his kind wanting. This evening’s meal had been particularly satisfying."
 

Mike M

Nick N
Jun 9, 2005
12,923
5
0
Washington
  • Alucard: I was a bit surprised by the tone of this one. From the title and initial run up, I thought it was going to be an absurdist piece about how magic is so mundane and commonplace that its practitioners are relegated to the same socioeconomic status as housekeepers in the real world. That it was played straight had kind of an unintended knock-on effect of leaving me to wonder how people who possessed such obviously enormous and previously respected power would allow themselves to be relegated to menial labor. It wouldn’t take much to come up with a more believable de-militarization of magic, but then that probably makes it more difficult to set up this conversation between the characters.
  • Royal_Flush: The key to finding the time to do this stuff is to imperil your relationships with friends, family, and coworkers by ignoring them completely for a week at a time.
  • Tangent: Maybe I missed something, but I don’t think at any point Sejal actually gave the horse her response letter? She ran home and wrote it, then the next day she ran to the park and a response was waiting for her? The ending was a surprising downer; there was a whole list of things that she enjoyed about the park before we even got to the part about the merry-go-round, I was more than a little surprised that her gesture to Horsey and its friends came at such a high cost to her own happiness. I mean, didn’t Horsey even invite her to come visit them once they were free? There’s just a lot of emotional impact to unpack in that decision and its outcome.
  • The Shadow: The two parts of this didn’t really seem to come together all that well for me. Outside of the presence of James, there was nothing to tie the two experiences together when I would have expected some elements from one to impede in the other. The part on the boardwalk is some repeated encounters with an unnamed redhead who doesn’t have any bearing on what’s actually going on in the story, and a mysterious avatar of death or something in a blue dress who tells him to wake up. Maybe if the redhead was his wife in the waking world, if the woman in the blue dress was a dead relative, etc. It needed an anchor.
  • Mike M: This one actually occurred to me while we were working on the last challenge. Wasn’t intending to pull it from my pocket so soon, but “Utopia” literally meaning “No place” and the idea that Scott would be the most unique individual in the cosmos from the most boring place imaginable, and it all kind of clicked. I actually kind of worried that making his surname be “Singleton” would give away the game too early. It’s a story where I like the characters and premise enough that I think it could carry its own novel if I were so inclined.
  • FlowersisBritish: I had a reeeeeal difficult time buying that Frankie was too tired to figure out what Pa was going to do with the gasoline from the jump, let alone that it took multiple cans for him to ask, even if only rhetorically. I mean, come on, take out a loan and buy a clue. Pa’s animosity toward Abraham seemed kind of baseless in light of the fact we know that Abraham offered to buy him out for far more than the farm was worth, and even if he were successful in burning down part of Abraham’s crop, I fail to see what that would do to save their own farm. And maybe that’s the point, that Pa is just not bright enough to analyze any of this and is just lashing out from formless anger at his circumstances, but Frankie standing around without even attempting to intervene was a hard sell.
  • Cyan: Well, I think you definitely take the prize for best incorporation of the secondary objective for this round. The content of this one felt like it’s pretty well-trod ground, for me. There’s more than a bit of Tyler Durden in the antagonist’s spiel, and you’re also likely to find a good amount of overlap with home invasion horror/thriller movies like Funny Games, Knock Knock, the Strangers, You’re Next, etc. etc. Making her female acting alone is a bit more original, so that elevated things a bit.
Votes:
1. Tangent
2. Cyan
3. Alucard
 

Alucard

Banned
Jun 9, 2004
39,737
2
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Just waiting for Tangent and Shadow. Looks like this one will be between Mike and Flowers.

Mu, is your avatar from the new Berserk series? How is it? Can I watch it if I've never seen the original?
 

FlowersisBritish

fleurs n'est pas britannique
May 13, 2014
3,774
1
0
Maine
Some comments. Great round of stories. Everyone buy yourselves a drink, good job all around!

Shadow - My World Ends With You: First chuck in a little dull tbh. The writing, in general, is fine, but the situation is just a little too idyllic for my personal tastes, too much giggling and ‘oh what a good date.’ I get that’s the point, but I think you could have cut down the first bit. The reveal of it being a dream is neat and I think the James/jim conversation is a good way to gently preface into that reveal. “With a bolt, a sudden memory came to him. “‘Yeah. My friends and I used to watch this show. Uh, this captain of a starship was named James.’ The memory seemed odd and muddy, though a part of him knew it should be crystal clear. Even his name, James, seemed like a long-forgotten event from days long past.”

Tangent - All the Pretty Little Horses: That ending felt sudden. Sudden in a good way, sudden like Summer vacation ends tomorrow. And with the way it suddenly becomes so drab and without imagination was perfect. Before that, you really gave everything such a great sense of wonder that it really stung when the wonder did come to an end. “‘But what about my paradise? Or-- or all the kids’ paradise?’ She hedged her opinion on the collective.”

Mike - The Man from Nowhere: Kay, so I thought I brought my A game, but you brought your A+ game. From scene 1 you had me hooked. Really amazing stuff Mike, I think your descriptions of those weirdos were the best part because it straddled the line of really funny and never ventured into too much. Also props for “Nowhere” because that clever naming added a hell of a lot of depth to this. My one gripe is that Scott came to accept this kind of ludicrous scenario very quickly, but I’m guess that was for convenience to get to your stellar ending within the word count. “’Because things were “fine,” not “great,” Scott,’ JoAnn said, finally mustering the courage to meet his gaze. ‘Look, you… You’re a nice guy, Scott. I could do a lot worse than you. But you’re as Nowhere as they come, just another guy in Another truck, either working on another farm or another dead-end job. There ain’t no future for me in Nowhere. I don’t want to go to Tulsa only to end up back here to have babies and raise them to be stuck in Nowhere too.”

Royal Flush - Definitions: For the record, I got the joke.

Allucard - A Housemage Back Home: There are some interesting ideas, and I like the idea of mages using magic for menial housework, and you give it proper justification in your world setting. Honestly, I felt like the setting was a lot more interesting than the plot (I’m not even talking about the war, but the construction of a Guild trying to soften negative perceptions of mages), but it does still have more than a few potent moments. “Artemis rolled up his sleeves in response, more for show than out of any genuine necessity. … And while his craft only required the air around him, some theatrics never hurt the business.”

Cyan - Still life on White Table: What really elevated this for me was the philosophizing. I’m a sucker for dramatic speeches and I think you made this nameless woman’s spiel really really good. There was a lot of stuff I really dug here, the slow burn, the constant fear of looking in her face, and a lot of your use of color here. I’m going to be a bit against Alucard here and say you are at a good middle ground with this already. Any less and I think it would be too much. Then again, that might be my bias towards color stuff. “The red of the teapot had always struck Teller as friendly… His father had given it to him—no don't think about that, don't think about dad lying there on the bathroom floor, blood spreading in a puddle around him across the tiles, a deeper muted red, not friendly at all.”


Some Intense spoilered votes!
...............................Mike
....Cyan.............
Tangent..........
 

Tangent

Member
Mar 15, 2010
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Hey gang, I'm still at work -- and I'm hoping it's OK if I get my votes in just before deadline. I still have some reading to do. I can't wait, either. What a great way to end the day... these stories are so good!
 

Alucard

Banned
Jun 9, 2004
39,737
2
0
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Thanks for the feedback so far, guys. I really loved the basic idea behind housemage when I thought of it, and I think there's enough in the premise for a full-blown novel, but my writing and storytelling skills just aren't strong enough to pull something like that off yet. Ya'll are ahead of me in terms of writing skills development.
 

Tangent

Member
Mar 15, 2010
658
0
0
Thanks for waiting, folks!
And thanks for ALL the awesome and helpful feedback.

Votes:
1. Flowers
2. Mike M
3. Cyan

Maybe I missed something, but I don’t think at any point Sejal actually gave the horse her response letter?
Oh yeah... OOPS!!! Good point. And yeah, there was a dark ending I suppose, but I guess it felt fitting. Perhaps Sejal was still processing. And maybe later she'd return to Evergreen, or visit the horses at the beach.

Side note... which is sorta sad....but for some reason, I feel like sharing: I had an acquaintance from graduate school. We drifted a bit when we were states away. But she was a pretty incredible and funny person. I wrote my first draft on Monday using her name. And I discovered two days later that she had died the day before, on Sunday, to ovarian cancer. :( So sad. She was so young.
 

choodi

Banned
Aug 23, 2007
2,735
70
955
Side note... which is sorta sad....but for some reason, I feel like sharing: I had an acquaintance from graduate school. We drifted a bit when we were states away. But she was a pretty incredible and funny person. I wrote my first draft on Monday using her name. And I discovered two days later that she had died the day before, on Sunday, to ovarian cancer. :( So sad. She was so young.

Wow that's a really sad coincidence.

On another note, I just realised that your avatar is a broken egg. Would you believe that I always saw it as a toy rubber duck?

I blame mobileGaf's tiny avatars and bad eyesight.
 

FlowersisBritish

fleurs n'est pas britannique
May 13, 2014
3,774
1
0
Maine
Thanks for the feedback so far, guys. I really loved the basic idea behind housemage when I thought of it, and I think there's enough in the premise for a full-blown novel, but my writing and storytelling skills just aren't strong enough to pull something like that off yet. Ya'll are ahead of me in terms of writing skills development.

One of the nice things of sticking around these challenges for so long is you naturally get a lot better from the constant practice and reading. Keep writing, trying new things, challenging yourself and you'll eventually get to that skill level you're looking for.

Wow that's a really sad coincidence.

On another note, I just realised that your avatar is a broken egg. Would you believe that I always saw it as a toy rubber duck?

I blame mobileGaf's tiny avatars and bad eyesight.

Losing my shit at this sudden realization of Tangents avatar. Also my condolences Tangent finding out someone you used to know died is always tough :(
 

Ashes

Member
Dec 11, 2008
23,378
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1,105
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Side note... which is sorta sad....but for some reason, I feel like sharing: I had an acquaintance from graduate school. We drifted a bit when we were states away. But she was a pretty incredible and funny person. I wrote my first draft on Monday using her name. And I discovered two days later that she had died the day before, on Sunday, to ovarian cancer. :( So sad. She was so young.


My condolences.
 

Alucard

Banned
Jun 9, 2004
39,737
2
0
Canada
Congrats, Flowers, and great job in general everyone. I really enjoyed reading this batch of stories. Already looking forward to the next round.