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Q3 2018 - Story Competition

Discussion in 'Q3 2018' started by Ched, Jul 9, 2018.

?

What's your pick for the Q3 prompt?

Poll closed Jul 16, 2018.
  1. The Elder Wand

    31 vote(s)
    21.1%
  2. Time Travel (not Harry's POV)

    15 vote(s)
    10.2%
  3. Vampires

    56 vote(s)
    38.1%
  4. Azkaban

    45 vote(s)
    30.6%
Not open for further replies.
  1. H_A_Greene

    H_A_Greene High Inquisitor –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

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    I am still writing mine(sorry Xiph0 ><) and if I stop hemming and hawing about it, I might be able to finish in roughly twelve hours.

    EDIT: Got it sent in with 10 seconds to midnight. 4K words in 14 hours. Nowhere near what I wanted for the direction, so maybe next time I'll try and do this with some actual time to spare, oi.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2018
    Oz
  2. darklordmike

    darklordmike Headmaster

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    Submitted mine a couple days ago too. Looks like there could be quite a few stories.
     
    Oz
  3. Dicra

    Dicra Groundskeeper

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    So ... I'm definitely never again submitting anything as early as I did this time. The amount of times I looked over it since then and thought "well, that's bullshit, I need to change it" is unreal, and I'm honestly very tempted to send Xiph0 the round about 150th version of the draft just to remove "that last detail".

    Which then, of course, turns out to be the second-to-last detail, because I just saw another story breaking catastrophe that desperately needs fixing.
     
    Oz
  4. Zombie

    Zombie Black Philip Moderator DLP Supporter

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  5. Joe

    Joe The Reminiscent Exile ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter ⭐⭐⭐

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    Oh heck. I wrote something for this and forgot. How long for submissions?
     
  6. enembee

    enembee The Nicromancer DLP Supporter

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    End of the day in PST, IIRC.
     
  7. Xiph0

    Xiph0 Yoda Admin

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    I'm posting them a little earlier than I normally do that way (Americans) have some weekend time left to get started reading. We had 7 entries this time, a lot from people who haven't been submitting for the previous ones, and I tip my hat to all of you. I generally only skim through but what I saw was pretty good.
     
  8. James

    James Auror

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    Noone else did it yet, but these are my top three stories from this round:

    1. #7 — My review for Entry #7
    2. #6 — My review
    3. #5 — My post
    Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to everyone that particpated — I had something new to read!
     
  9. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

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  10. Typhon

    Typhon Order Member

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    I figured I'd go ahead and post my rankings before I forgot to do so, but I wanted to do a slightly different thing than just link my original reviews - hopefully the people outside my top three won't feel cheated with the feedback they got, but I wanted to go an extra step and give a higher level of feedback for the stories that really worked for me. The way I'll do this is give my rankings, then give the longer reviews in spoilers so I don't drop a fuck-off wall of text that may or may not be fully coherent in the thread.

    Before I rank them, though, I want to take a second to say why I ranked them as I did. Clearly I feel that my top three are a cut above the rest, but of course they have their issues as well. The problem in ranking them is that they're really different breeds of flaws, imo, and so while the question is ideally "what problem least affects the telling of an objectively good story?", in practice it runs the risk of becoming "of which problem am I personally most forgiving as a reader?". I tried my hardest to answer the former and not the latter, but I'm not certain I entirely succeeded.

    Rankings:
    First place - Entry #4, One for the Road
    Second place - Entry #5, Upside Down
    Third place - Entry #6, Untitled


    I'll start with something not related to the story, because why not say a thing with as many words as possible? To the point, I'm going to talk a bit about a Joe-esque Harry or protagonist in this review - and not always in a positive way. This isn't my edgy way of standing out by dragging Joe, the dude is an excellent author (like he needs my affirmation). His work isn't always to my taste, but it's largely objectively good. I guess I just want to acknowledge that upfront as a sort of disclaimer regarding my opinions. Cool? Cool.

    To the story itself.

    In their reviews BTT and Otters both mentioned that it felt like this story was one that seemed at war with itself - thematically, in setting, and in story it was looking to tell.

    I'm not sure that I'd say any of those criticisms completely spot on, for me at least, but there's definitely a bit of a ring of truth to the last - the story seemed to gear itself on the one hand towards a sort of serious take on the Joe-esque protagonist after there were no more terrible foes to vanquish, and on the other to lean into the pulpy version of that same Joe-esque protagonist, kicking ass and cracking wise. Put differently, it's the epic story of a badass, jaded, self-loathing hero out to do it one more time contrasted with poignant (if slightly melodramatic) story of the hero who won against all odds long enough that he's become the villain. The piece seems to not be quite certain which it wants to tell, and everything else piggybacks off of that. Disconnect between the grimy secret world hidden away in London and epic ancient death magic? Tonal discrepancies between Harry scrapping in the shit with a tatted up vampire and the talk both at the ministry and in interludes about how they saved the word? It's not hard to see how these things map to one avenue the story could have gone or the other. Calling it incoherent is a bridge too far, I feel, but it's certainly two coherent narratives folded loosely into one story at places, and that's not a thing that works either. You need to do a thing.

    This doesn't really sound like the start of a review for someone's first place story.

    Here's the thing, though - by design or by happenstance, this confusion at the narrative level maps really well to the protagonist. Yeah, sure, it's the Wastelands Harry "I'm filled with this terrible weariness and self-loathing" thing all the way through the story, but there is a shift as we move along from the general mindset of the protagonist being nominally aware they were a twat who was probably more of a bad guy than good, but clearly actually believes in their own righteousness as seen here
    to realizing, genuinely, that they're a - maybe the - problem here
    The first quote maps really well to the pulpy thing, ancient magics and saving the whole goddamn world again in the biggest way possible - the second to the quieter story about how that dude in the first story isn't really a hero at all. The piece shows glimmers of the second throughout that cause the slight unevenness others have mentioned, but the path the story takes is starting with the first narrative and ending with the second - stylistically, the storytelling matches the protagonist's journey.

    I've sort of assumed that was intentional here and that I haven't followed a line of thought off a cliff, but it certainly was a hell of a coincidence if this wasn't intentional.

    Now, does that work perfectly? No. In something this length, you'd have been better off to tell one of the two stories and excise the excesses of the other. Something somewhat experimental and hinging on some level of meta-awareness like this - that is, writing two narratives into a story that speak to the two internal narratives of the protagonist - really needs a decent wordcount to make clear what's happening and to give the conclusion emotional heft, and it just doesn't have enough here. Along those same lines, the breeziness of the pulp tone and the weight of the emotional tone sporadically intrude on the wrong narrative, which leads to some feeling of confusion in the writing.

    There are a handful of other issues as well, in setup (How did the vampires take the stone? How did Harry get the vampire minister to come to his death bar?) and the incidental nature of the prompt usage (I like vampires roughly as much as you seem to and give no shits about digging into them, but it would have made the whole thing make more sense if you had included some clear motivation for the vampires so they weren't transparently mookish), but these are things that I feel a story this length, aiming to do what you seemed to be aiming to do, aren't strictly responsible for?

    I guess what I'm saying, if I'm saying anything at all, is that the story has it's share of flaws. I think it's probably the most well written of the lot and does some things quite well - a few of which I shouted out in my first review -, but the dueling narratives would have cost it the first place spot for me if Upside Down hadn't faltered near the end. It's an interesting idea, to do something this way, but simpler would have been better here.

    For all that, it's a strong entry. Kudos.
    This is the hardest of my top three to talk about, I think. Like, the primary reason I've delayed this is to think more about this story - my concern was that I was being unfair in ranking this second when I think for 3/4s of its length or more it is the best piece by a fair margin. If I'm honest, I still haven't shaken the concern, but I haven't changed my mind about its placement either. That leaves me, then, with mostly positive things to say and some issues with the ending that undercut the story.

    So let's get into it.

    The writing is stellar, of course. You've a gift for characterization, I feel, and your usage of language in the early stages especially is magnificent. I immediately get this Harry's deal, and nothing feels forced or strained or unlikely - you've woven this world where everything happens as a sort of organic unfolding of your characters and that's my shit. The first scene was genius - the second better.

    The third was less good because its nature as a sort of connective action scene between those excellent establishing scenes and the climax kept you from exercising your strength as a writer of really good characters - you needed to get to the payoff without meandering. Having said that, though, it was fine. Not every scene has to be amazing, and you obviously can't only write the thing you're the best at and tell a full, satisfying story.

    So, two great scenes, one good one. Let's talk vampires and climaxes.

    My first issue is one of simplicity in short stories. I wrinkled my nose but pushed on with One for the Road's unnecessary complication in the dueling narratives because I felt that was primarily an issue of aiming for an ambitious thing that didn't quite work. Maybe this is the same and I've just missed the grander purpose inherent in the choice, but it feels a little like the JRPG "this isn't even my final form!" thing when Helen turns out to not be a vampire but rather a ghoul... but without a real reason for it? Like, it doesn't really resolve an otherwise non-resolvable issue, it just serves to split half the attention from a beautifully crafted antagonist to a character with so little characterization that she gets like one line of description and no name. More to the point, it makes a perfectly set up, tidy conflict into something unnecessarily messy.

    Still on the vampire thing, I'd encourage playing to your strengths in the climax especially, and I feel adding the vampire master undercuts your ability to do that? If your gift was action scenes, I'd probably shrug and say whatever, but you're actively sabotaging yourself by moving away from a battle between two emotionally charged and lovingly crafted characters to a more impersonal fray with an unknown.

    But okay, I've overdone the vampire bit. The other issue with the ending for me (the lesser issue it must be said) is that in his final moments, Harry's character arc hits fast forward. I got the impression what you were aiming for was the full-circle thing - that is, Harry making the full arc for damaged and world weary back to the canon HP we're more familiar with - but I don't feel that 1.4 lasted quite long enough for the change to feel organic? I could see how we were headed there from the moment he found out Natalie was dead, but it needed a few more words for me.

    I say all of this shit to say that basically this is sort of a case of "live by the characters, die by the characters?" If you hadn't stumbled at the end by speeding up Harry's journey in the final moments and by splitting attention from an incredibly well done antagonist in Helen prior to the ghoul twist, I'd have ranked this first and would have essentially no complaints to levy. As it is, this is a good piece of work - one you should be proud of - but one that falls just short of being great for me.
    So this story is interesting - I want to say it has the most "potential" of any story in this competition. I don't think it comes as close to actualizing greatness as One for the Road or Upside Down do (although it is quite decent), but I think the platonic form of this piece is probably better than that of either of those stories.

    Let's get into it.

    I said this in my review in the entry thread, but Aberforth is a genius POV character choice. He's exactly what you're looking for in someone who could plausibly be a talented wizard - capable of engaging in a battle of wits and wands with a Riddle fresh from Hogwarts - without writing an conveniently shoehorned OC or using Albus, who in this time period would curbstomp Riddle. In theory Aberforth also keeps a story set in this time from being what canon turned into - ie. a battle between Riddle and Albus' catspaw. Aberforth has zero interest in letting Albus solve all his problems or be all-knowing; he is a proactive character, independent of Albus yet firmly heroic.

    I say all of that to elucidate the inherent promise in using Aberforth, because I feel that the potential of the story hinges in large part on this promise, and unfortunately I also feel the story ultimately betrays it. This is sort of a two part thing, both parts of which I mentioned in my other review.

    The first thing is part of the issue that came with writing a prologue from Riddle's perspective. Doing so robs the readers of the promise of having a POV character not informed by an omniscient Albus - not only do we get the level of information we might expect Albus to provide, but we go a step further to literally see Riddle as he makes his plan. This is a shame, because not having this would do so much to heighten the suspense since we'd have no clue what our POV character was walking into.

    The other letdown is the enchanted bean. Here's the deal - I'm actually incredibly keen on quirky, conceptual magic, and the bean is a cool example of that as I've read it.

    But.

    You can't use it to save the day (well, in a sense) like this. I mean, you obviously can, but you shouldn't. Aberforth is larger than life in the moment he beats fucking Voldemort in a duel, but as the piece reads ultimately he's just an over-matched wizard who needs to be saved by Albus. I'd be hard pressed to figure out how you could undermine his heroism more than that offhand.

    My gut reaction is to eliminate the bean altogether, despite thinking it's interesting, but another option might be to use earlier in the battle between them and either have it be a thing that Aberforth has to overcome as much as it helps him, or alternatively have Aberforth use it like a security blanket, Riddle break the enchantment, and then have Aberforth stand alone against Voldemort and win. In those cases, Aberforth ends a hero rather than a guy who tried hard and ultimately had to be saved by his better older brother. Let Albus fail - he literally never does except where family is concerned, but it would be hugely thematic here if the bean couldn't save Aberforth alone and he had to stand on his own feet.

    Beside these things, there's more weirdness in the prose than in my other two top stories. Most of it is stuff that doesn't really drag me out of the story, although I'll mention again the issue surrounding Aberforth getting bitten - that's a really wonky scene.

    I feel that this probably seems a bit of a rant about all of the things that went wrong here, and I guess it was, but I'll say again this could have easily been my favorite with some minor tweaks. Really nice work here.
     
  11. enembee

    enembee The Nicromancer DLP Supporter

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    Typhon, if I could give you two thumbs up for this post I would.
     
  12. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Chief Warlock DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

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    Yeah, that should go in the critical reviewing thread. That's some high quality reviewing.
     
  13. Zombie

    Zombie Black Philip Moderator DLP Supporter

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    Thanks for the excellent feedback @Typhon
     
  14. Otters

    Otters Seventh Year ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Still writing up the last two reviews, but

    1: #5
    2: #6
    3: #4
     
  15. BTT

    BTT Viol̀e͜n̛t͝ D̶e͡li͡g҉h̛t҉s̀ ~ Prestige ~

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  16. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    Awesome so far everyone - sorry I was out for a few days when this ended. Will be reviewing next week :D

    Very happy to see more entries this time!
     
  17. H_A_Greene

    H_A_Greene High Inquisitor –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

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  18. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Chief Warlock DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

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    I'm hoping to do number six tonight, then seven on Saturday the sixth as I have commitments Thursday and Friday. To rate on the sixth of October would be fine, may I clarify?
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018
  19. Zombie

    Zombie Black Philip Moderator DLP Supporter

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    I would say that'd be okay to say 12 PST would be a fair estimate. But it really just depends. I'd just get them in before the end of the 6th, and that'd be fair to everyone that's reviewing if they have a few left over.
     
  20. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    Yup - I'll have time to read tomorrow. :D
     
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