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NeoGAF Creative Writing Challenge #214 - "Internal Landscapes"

Alucard - Goodbye God Girl: The title (or the term "God Girl" in general) is quite beautiful. I have literally nothing to criticize except one very small point: By how the beginning was written I was a bit thrown off that there was such a long time stretch covered after she had left. I expected the story to either end there or for her to visit him again. A small "almost a year ago" or something in the beginning would have done wonders here.

Cyan - Therapy: The calmness of the situation reflects really well in the style. I'm awaiting the hook in the second and third session ;)

choodi - Unspoken thoughts of an angry man: This psychogram honestly didn't really touch me. I felt like the last three paragraphs are an unprompted 180; I would have expected some kind of trigger instead of him just doing his normal grumpy shtick. In itself, I liked the ending though.

Mike M - Seeing How the Other Side Lives: Cute. Is is a real story or just fiction?

Tangent - Recollections from the Bathtub: On a conceptual level I like the idea: Having the same day described from two vastly different perspectives. However, there was a lack of plot (both external and internal) which made it a not particular exciting read.

FlowersisBritish - Something Crawled into my Girlfriend's Ear: I hate it. I hate the way it made me scratch my ear in the beginning, I hate how it made me think about how much I would be convinced the fucking thing put eggs into my ear, I hate that this is one of the grossest violations of personal space I've ever read about. Great job, but fuck you!
<3

Ashes - a major malfunction: A mind to be immortalized as AI? Or an AI gaining consciousness? It's beautiful but i probably would need an hour or more to grasp it.

mu cephei - DEATH: It's too clunky for poesy but too obscure to follow effortlessly. That puts it in an unlucky place in the middle where I would have to pay very close attention and actively think about what's going on but the act of reading it alone isn't enjoyable enough to put in the effort.

Nezumi - Dreams Inc.: What's Erhardt's endgame here? I see no way this plan, whatever it is, wouldn't backfire greatly. Also, there are literally infinite possibilities and they're asking for a permit to build a city? Why not just take over the world?


Royal_Flush - The Room: The idea for some reason came immediately this time. At first I planned to have an array of three (or more) rooms where Jared gets gradually more insane and Austin more uncomfortable. However, both word restrictions and the fact that I probably couldn't carry the suspense over the longer stretches made me decide against it. In retrospect the descent into madness is a too quick in this draft, but you can't cover all bases at once, can you? I'm honestly surprised about the beginning, it came out way better than I expected. I also feel it's one of the better dialogue sequences I've written (which doesn't mean it can't feel forced; dialogue seems to be my biggest weakness)


1. Alucard - Goodbye God Girl.....................................................
2. FlowersisBritish - Something Crawled into my Girlfriend's Ear
3. Mike M - Seeing How the Other Side Lives.............................
 

Mike M

Nick N
Jun 9, 2005
12,923
5
0
Washington
  • Alucard: As long as you’re going for manuscript format, there’s only supposed to be 12 lines of text on the first page. I also think there’s an option in MS Word that automatically prevents orphaned and widowed lines of paragraphs like that. Format nitpicks aside, there is a distinct lack of immediacy until we get to the part about attending the Pentecostal church service. I’ll grant that it was a lot of backstory to try and get in under the word limit, but it read more like someone relating to me the details of a story rather than a story of its own.
  • Royal_Flush: There’s a creepy vibe to this that I liked once it got going. The start was a little bit of a tough going for me, as there was lots of dialogue with fairly sparse action and very little description of where they were or what they were doing that left me wondering where all this was supposed to be happening. Not sure I understood the kiss, either, it just kind of came and went and never seemed to be intended to be anything more than “here’s a weird thing that happened” in a scene where weird things were happening.
  • Cyan: Mind sharing where this was going to end up going if you had the chance to finish it?
  • choodi: Milos was kind of intensely unlikeable, as his internal thoughts seemed to be only variations on the same thing with the object of his ire swapped around. The stuff that makes an effort to humanize him doesn’t really come until the end, by which point it’s far too late and I don’t like the guy.
  • Mike M: I tried to just let something come to me and not force it, but nothing came to me and I forced it. This is actually a composite of a few conversations I had with Rory over the course of the previous week that I stitched together. Turned out OKish. Nothing I’d ever consider submitting, obviously, but it has a flow to it that I thought worked.
  • Tangent: Maybe I should have cleared my story with you before going forward with it, I feel like I kind of cut into your turf on this one this week. I will say that I had a hard time keeping track of Leena and Riya, and I’m not sure if that’s on me or if the names were getting mixed up. I.e. this part:
    As Sruti nursed and put Leena to sleep, Arjun bathed Leena. He asked, “So how was your day?”

    Leena twisted her lips, trying to remember.

    But I’m pretty sure it was actually Riya in the bath tub?
  • FlowersisBritish: I feel like every story of delusional parasitosis ends up with the victim cutting themselves open/mutilating themselves. The fact that there really was something was a bit of a twist, I guess, but I don’t think that revelation really added anything to it and felt more like a way to wrap things up without having to go into the aftermath of all her actions. For a while I was hoping it wouldn’t escalate beyond her paranoia over sleeping arrangements precisely because these stories all end the same way.
  • Ashes: Poems count too.
  • mu cephei: Pretty sure I liked this, but I had a hard time figuring out what exactly was going on.
  • Nezumi: This is kind of a Pandora’s Box if you stop and think about the implications of a technology of that. Both in the sense of the chaos it would unleash upon the world as well as having to come up with the rules that govern what is essentially a magic system. We seemed to spend a lot of time just explaining what the thing even was before we got to the guy’s pitch, let alone what appears to be his true plan.

Votes:
1. FlowersisBritish
2. Nezumi
3. Royal_Flush
 
Thanks for the feedback so far. Turned out helpful so far :)

"The Room" by Royal Flush - this went from jaunty to haunting to adrenaline-pumping all in the span of 2,100 words. Well done. I enjoyed much of your description of the environment, though I wasn't crazy about the lack of explanation of the phenomenon itself. Maybe I missed something? Is it Lenore calling from beyond the grave? (Was thinking the Raven by Poe with the raven as part of the painting) The ending was good as well, and I got sucked into the world you created here, especially how you made the escape at the end feel like a life or death decision that gets twisted back anyway. Two slight criticisms: too many exclamation marks, and parts of the dialogue felt forced, like the DJ thing. Not sure if others will agree there.
The beauty with supernatural things imo is that they sometimes just are, without deeper reason or purpose :) I could have come up with some explanation but I purposefully didn't. In fact, I didn't even think about it to not let my knowledge influence how I write about it.

Royal_Flush: There's a creepy vibe to this that I liked once it got going. The start was a little bit of a tough going for me, as there was lots of dialogue with fairly sparse action and very little description of where they were or what they were doing that left me wondering where all this was supposed to be happening. Not sure I understood the kiss, either, it just kind of came and went and never seemed to be intended to be anything more than ”here's a weird thing that happened" in a scene where weird things were happening.
There is no deeper meaning in that one. It's a showcase of Jared doing things he normally would never do. Them being kids in school associated with Hip Hop makes this more drastic as that tends to be a rather homophobic environment.
 

Tangent

Member
Mar 15, 2010
658
0
0
Tangent: Maybe I should have cleared my story with you before going forward with it, I feel like I kind of cut into your turf on this one this week. I will say that I had a hard time keeping track of Leena and Riya, and I'm not sure if that's on me or if the names were getting mixed up. I.e. this part:

But I'm pretty sure it was actually Riya in the bath tub?

Or maybe I should have cleared with you?! I'm looking forward to reading yours.

Anyway yeah oops I realized later that I mixed up the two girls' names a lot. I'm glad you figured out who was in the bathtub (yes, Riya). I also said "ice cream" instead of "icing" at one point. Last minute submission......

Edit: finished reading!

Votes:
1. Nezumi
2. Mike M
3. Alucard
hm. Flowers
 

FlowersisBritish

fleurs n'est pas britannique
May 13, 2014
3,774
1
0
Maine
1. Alucard
2. Tangent
3. Chodi

I promise to have responses up later. Just too tired to properly verbalize the last few right now.
 

Nezumi

Member
Aug 8, 2011
3,374
0
590
38
Small town near Frankfurt in Germany

Alucard

Banned
Jun 9, 2004
39,737
2
0
Canada
Whoa. Awesome. Thanks, guys, and thank you Mike M. for writing last minute.

Seriously, this is a pretty good feeling. :) Considering it my first writing journey victory. I'll put up a new thread ASAP.
 

FlowersisBritish

fleurs n'est pas britannique
May 13, 2014
3,774
1
0
Maine
Congrats Alucard! Apologies if some of this comments are a bit harsher than usual from me. I wanted to try and be a bit more constructive in my comments than i usually am. At the end of each critique is a few lines I particularly liked for one reason or another.

Alucard - Goodbye God Girl: I feel like there is a weird disconnect. Your main character is constantly talking about God in a very intimate way, but is also constantly going on about “apparently God is this” in reference to his Issac and what’s her face. It creates this weird inconsistency where I’m not sure if this godly sounding person is actually godly? Maybe it’s one of those different sub sect of christianity differences I just don’t get? Either way, good job, I really enjoyed the later half and ending. I feel like your descriptions in general were just sooooo much better this time around than normal, really helped me visualize the scenes. "I remember the loud guy in the front pew most of all. [...] he closed his eyes and raised his hands. He was lost in a place I didn’t want to know or visit.”

Royal Flush - The Room: Honestly, beginning dialogue didn’t feel natural to me at all. I think it’s because of all the exposition drops you tried to hide within it like OH hey can you believe our names are BLANK” and “Wow look at your clothes! Let me list them off” Obviously your’s is better than that, but spirit is the same. I think the heart of what cause trouble is you just put too much information in the dialogue that it becomes tough to know what's actually important. Which seems weird to me in retrospect because you do have more traditional descriptions later on. The story didn’t really pick up for me until they reached the titular room, but when we did I enjoyed the weirdness of it, and the following strange happenings. “The whole scene was not larger than 10 by 10 centimeters yet Austin could clearly recognize the purple tongue of the first deer and even single water droplets falling back into the pond or the small cloud of fog the second deer exhaled”

Cyan - Therapy: It's a very strong beginning. I would have definitely liked to have seen where this went. Pretty confident it would have at least placed in my top 3 if you found the time to finish it. To kind of a point out a difference about what I’m talking about between the dialogue of Royal Flush and Cyan. To me, they both try to do the same thing and that’s put the descriptive part of the secondary in their dialogue, and I think Cyan’s works better because it’s a lot more restrained and really just focused on just one subject, a physical description. It doesn’t overwhelm the reader. There’s less so therefore more, if that makes sense? “A quiet laugh. He wondered if she had practiced it. Just the right amount of softness.”

Chodi - Unspoken Thoughts of an Angry Man: Two great points to begin with one. 1: Great title. Like, I can not tell you how much I dig your title. 2: So for the challenge, i was in a toss up between careful descriptions and descriptions using your five senses, so you get bonus points right out the gate for including more sensual stuff. This was fun and I got a decent laugh out of the long rant about how terrible priests are followed by ‘in comes the priest.’ You really sold me on this old man being a bitter ass. Sadly, cause you sold me on him being a bitter ass, the sudden humanization you try to give him didn’t really work for me. Not saying it couldn’t work for me if it was a bit different, I just felt like his GF leaving him for an abuser was a bit extreme. The MC never actually did anything likeable or humanizing, we’re just supposed to go “Whelp, he wasn’t the one beating her so he’s cool I guess.” Either way, this was a fun read. Also, great end lines. “ What he saw didn’t please him, what he saw he hated. What was the value of his life? What had he left behind? What was his legacy?[...] Unspoken thoughts.”

Mike M - Seeing how the other side lives: Oh wow, what an apt title. This was fun and made me smile a lot because it was so gosh darn sugary cute and all that jazz. I feel like using your kid is somewhat cheating though, because she sounds pretty great. Also I feel like you have literally done this exact same thing before last time you were stumped. Also Also Wonder Woman’s better than Batgirl. “Are you going to write a story about strawberry unicorns?” / “No, the theme is internal landscape.” / “What does that mean?” / “The fuck if I know.”

Tangent - Recollections from the Bathtub: Tangent, of all the regulars I honestly think you probably handle/write kids the best. I think there is an art in portraying a child’s age without saying it, and you nail that aspect everytime with no effort. But I’m trying to be a bit more detailed in these critiques so I’m trying to figure out why your kids are always so good. My gut reaction is the dialogue, you really show how quick and rambly kids can be when they’re excited. “Then we went into the car and when Mommy buckled us in, she counted so fast! She counted all the kisses she gave us! All over our faces! I can’t even count that fast. Can you? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9,10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, so many so many!”

Ashes - A Major Malfunction: Really great imagery through out. Maybe it’s because of how condensed this was, but the constantly shifting imagery kind of lessened them all for me because it thus lacked a bit of focus. “I can see myself drifting farther away from my armchair, rocking to and fro, on a stained deck, in my yesteryear.”

Mu Cephei - DEATH: Your descriptions were all really really really good, but it didn’t feel like there was much of a story to hang around them so their quality got lost in the confusion of figuring out what’s going on.The best I came up with is it’s a person in a cell imagining things happening? But that doesn’t quite make sense to me because there is a real hostility in the descriptions of alien things that lead me to believe they are really there? Again, I got kinda lost with this. “I am a little stone bowl floating in a metal box, and if they fill me before I am clean I will crack, as boiling water breaks frozen glass; I will not mix, as water poured onto a greasy cooking pan.”

Nezumi - Dreams Inc: So this is a bit of an aside, but my music went from very fairy like and whimsical to incredibly dark and slightly intense at the exact moment of your story. It goes to show music can really amplify moments. The dark turn of the possibilities of the machine and the things going on Dream Inc were actually a surprise to me and came at just the right moment to work. “There will be no regulations. Don't you see that that would go against the very nature of the thing? By giving people the opportunity to create whatever they want, I'm eliminating any reason for strife. The only competition will be one of creativity. The only thing standing between a person and their happiness; their own imagination.”
 

Mike M

Nick N
Jun 9, 2005
12,923
5
0
Washington
Mike M - Seeing how the other side lives: Oh wow, what an apt title. This was fun and made me smile a lot because it was so gosh darn sugary cute and all that jazz. I feel like using your kid is somewhat cheating though, because she sounds pretty great.

I'm kind of obligated to agree, on account that she is my loin spawn.

Single greatest exchange I ever had with her:

*Somewhere in the house, a cat knocks something down*

Rory: "Oh shit, what happened?"

Me: "That's a grown up word, honey. Don't say that."

Rory: "Oh fuck, what happened?"

Honestly surprised that she's not a total potty mouth, because I swear like a fucking sailor.

Also I feel like you have literally done this exact same thing before last time you were stumped.

I don't think so? The closest I can think of is the time where I submitted a story she narrated to me, but that wasn't me being stumped so much as it was my idea for the theme fro the get go.

Also Also Wonder Woman’s better than Batgirl.

I will fucking end you.
 

choodi

Banned
Aug 23, 2007
2,735
70
955
Chodi - Unspoken Thoughts of an Angry Man: Two great points to begin with one. 1: Great title. Like, I can not tell you how much I dig your title. 2: So for the challenge, i was in a toss up between careful descriptions and descriptions using your five senses, so you get bonus points right out the gate for including more sensual stuff. This was fun and I got a decent laugh out of the long rant about how terrible priests are followed by ‘in comes the priest.’ You really sold me on this old man being a bitter ass. Sadly, cause you sold me on him being a bitter ass, the sudden humanization you try to give him didn’t really work for me. Not saying it couldn’t work for me if it was a bit different, I just felt like his GF leaving him for an abuser was a bit extreme. The MC never actually did anything likeable or humanizing, we’re just supposed to go “Whelp, he wasn’t the one beating her so he’s cool I guess.” Either way, this was a fun read. Also, great end lines. “ What he saw didn’t please him, what he saw he hated. What was the value of his life? What had he left behind? What was his legacy?[...] Unspoken thoughts.”

Thanks so much for the feedback.

As soon as I saw the theme I just really wanted to write something about the inner thoughts of someone who is not a good person, who irrationally (or sometimes rationally, but with unreasonable passion) dislikes people or places or things. I think we all know those types who are just balls of smouldering rage.

I think all the media about Trump (in Australian politics we currently have a vocal far right too) and the kind of people who vote for him made me want to explore the inner thoughts of those people. Maybe even open a window into how some of us could possibly be Milos if circumstances were different.

It wasn't a conscious decision to try to humanise him at the end, I think it was more about trying to illustrate that even though he is an ass, maybe there is some sort of underlying reason that he is the way he is.

Unfortunately, due to time restraints and parenthood, the whole thing was a little undercooked. Milos is definitely someone I would like to explore more as a character though.
 

Alucard

Banned
Jun 9, 2004
39,737
2
0
Canada
Flowers, thanks for the feedback and the comments on description. Trying to work on it. So much easier to just write "the character did this. The character thought this." LOL. But that's not interesting.
 

Tangent

Member
Mar 15, 2010
658
0
0
"Recollections from a Bathtub" by Tangent - I'm a sucker for toddlers and parents in stories, which is also why i enjoyed reading Mike's. i think you captured some of the magic of children's dialogue. I especially enjoyed the dimes line. I wonder if you got that from personal experience? I could totally see a kid saying that. Is the mother a terrible person at the end by staring off into her phone, or were you going for something else entirely there? Anyway, this was fine for me, but I didn't feel that a lot "happened." Looking forward to reading more of your entries in the future.

I thought I responded to this but didn't. Thanks for the feedback! I didn't get the dimes line out of personal experience, or even the story as a whole. I do have a toddler, but only one, and younger than the kid portrayed in this story. However, I did see a YouTube video sent to me on Mother's Day that very specifically inspired this story. Haha no no I didn't mean to portray the mom as a terrible person for staring off at her phone. Heck, maybe it was her first time all day to stare at her phone!

Single greatest exchange I ever had with her:

*Somewhere in the house, a cat knocks something down*

Rory: "Oh shit, what happened?"

Me: "That's a grown up word, honey. Don't say that."

Rory: "Oh fuck, what happened?"
Awesome. :)

Tangent - Recollections from the Bathtub: Tangent, of all the regulars I honestly think you probably handle/write kids the best. I think there is an art in portraying a child’s age without saying it, and you nail that aspect everytime with no effort. But I’m trying to be a bit more detailed in these critiques so I’m trying to figure out why your kids are always so good. My gut reaction is the dialogue, you really show how quick and rambly kids can be when they’re excited. “Then we went into the car and when Mommy buckled us in, she counted so fast! She counted all the kisses she gave us! All over our faces! I can’t even count that fast. Can you? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9,10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, so many so many!”

Wow, Flowers, you are diligent about providing feedback! This was really awesome to read. Thank you!