2011 Halloween Writing Contest

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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Gadreille on Thu Oct 13, 2011 1:53 pm



Spoiler:
This is a real place. My friends and I wanted to make the below story into a movie. Due to the hazards explained in the story, we were never able to create this film. When you read this, please try and imagine watching it from the viewpoint of a handheld camera.



Let's Make a Movie

Highway 33 curved alongside a nearly empty river, the parts of the road icy as dusk quickly fell into night. The back tires of the Sierra threatened to lose traction as Jim took an upcoming turn too quickly. He whipped the wheel back and forth, forcing the back end of the truck back into line, while everyone else in the car laughed wildly. Jim smiled and looked to his girlfriend, Rebecca, who rolled her eyes and then looked nervously out the passenger window, over the side of the road and where the truck might have ended up if Jim wasn’t so damn good at driving. There was a fifteen foot drop into the gorge at this part of the drive. Earlier it had been abandoned orchards filled with dead trees. She should have been relieved that Jim was good at driving, but it only made him more likely to drive recklessly, scaring the hell out of her on a regular basis. Still, everyone else was laughing about it, so she let out a mirthless grunt in attempt to merge with the group.

Her friend Marlene had a video project due in her art class, and Rebecca had made the mistake of suggesting an old, broken down home she had come across about a year prior. Imaginative discussions turned into an actual storyboard, and suddenly she found herself on a two hour ride out to the middle of nowhere, in the dark, to film a mock “Ghost Hunters” episode for Marlene’s class. Rebecca wasn’t one to be out at night. She was tired, had class in the morning and work in the afternoon. Unfortunately it was the only evening they could get everyone together, and she wasn’t one to let a friend down.

There wasn’t much of a script, they were just supposed to explore the house, jump at scary sounds, and point warily while saying “What was that?” in a shaky voice. The rest was improvisation. Their friend Laura had wanted to do a full out zombie film, but Rebecca had told them the shape of the house and its grounds, and it was no place to run around. The roof was caving in, there were bee hives nested in the mother-in-law units, barbed wire, nails, and other sources of tetanus were flung across the grounds haphazardly, and beyond all that, they weren’t really sure if they were allowed to trespass on the grounds. The road leading to the house had no fence, but the last thing they needed was some backwoods hick with a shotgun telling them to get off his property. They scrapped Laura’s zombie skit for a quieter video. Besides, Marlene had said the video only needed to be fifteen minutes long.

Laura’s boyfriend Jason had gone along as well. He was a fairly large man, a couple years older than the rest of the group. Rebecca guessed that Laura brought him along mostly in case they ran into trouble along the lines of “backwoods hick”. Rebecca was secretly relieved that he had come along. Jim was wonderful, but brawn wasn’t one of his greater attributes.

Rebecca drummed her fingers on her lap, looking down the road nervously while trying to keep up with conversation. She was the only one who knew where this place was, and even though she had a map printed out with directions, she was worried that they would miss the turn. She didn’t remember it being so far down the 33; they’d passed the not-really-a-town Ventucopa almost an hour ago, and the only turn off she’d seen since then that wasn’t made of dirt was Apache Canyon Road. Rebecca frowned, wondering if she’d gotten the name of the street wrong. She turned on her flashlight and looked at the directions, for the fifteenth time that hour. The paper still read Lockwood Valley Road.

For another half hour they drove in silence, when finally Rebecca cried out “Turn there!” and the truck lurched to the left. Marlene and Laura laughed as everyone in the truck lurched to the right, squishing Jason against the window. Rebecca hit her head on the visor that she had never bothered to put back in its original place, and she slammed it back with a huff and rubbed her head. Jim apologized, but his smile was not an apologetic one.

“Jesus, Jim, if you weren’t driving so damn fast that wouldn’t have happened!” Rebecca glared at Jim, who didn't bother looking back at her.

“If you knew where you were going you could have told me when to turn sooner!” Jim retorted.

Rebecca crossed her arms. “I can’t see, it’s too dark! You need to slow down!”

Jim shook his head. “If I drove any slower, it would be even darker out.”

Marlene and Laura had been discussing how to start the film, their discussion dropping into a low whisper as Jim and Rebecca snapped at each other. The occupants of the truck fell into silence, each staring out into the darkness. They passed by one farm, then another, and it was impossible to tell if they were occupied or abandoned. Then there was nothing for another seven miles, until suddenly the road veered off to the left.

“Turn right up there,” Rebecca said, and Jim raised an eyebrow before slowing down and going off the road. The dirt path led them over a creek and into some trees, and suddenly the house was there. Old, rotten, yet somehow majestic as it must have been in its prime. They stared out the window for a while, admiring the grounds, deciding when to turn on the camera, and mostly not wanting to get out of the truck. There were patches of snow on the ground, and a crisp wind was shaking what was left of the leaves off of the trees.

Finally, Jim killed the engine. They all crawled out, buttoning up their coats, and grabbing any hats, gloves or scarves that they had brought but hadn’t worn in the car. Jason was the only one who seemed impervious to the cold. Marlene got the camera started and began walking up the road, looking for a place that might catch the house in the background while filming night vision. Rebecca grabbed her heavy flashlight and then shut and locked the truck before trudging up the road where Marlene had gone.

Rebecca noticed Laura wobbling in her wedged heels. “Why are you wearing those? We told you to dress comfortably.” She asked.

“I did! I don’t have any tennis shoes,” Laura lamented, grabbing onto Jason’s coat sleeve. “I should have bought some. I never wear them.”

“You probably shouldn’t go off the road,” Rebecca responded. “There’s barbed wire all over the place. Have you had a tetanus shot lately?”

“I had one when I was a kid.” Laura offered with a laugh. “I guess I better stay on the road.”

They caught up with Marlene and all continued up the road together. Rebecca looked up at the house that she had last seen a year ago. She had a strange affinity for old things, and this house was a prize to her. She only wished she could have seen it in daylight. With only one flashlight to illuminate it, it looked more hollow and ugly than she remembered. “It’s almost as if you can see it as it was, back in the day. Imagine a hardworking woman sweeping off that front patio, longing for her husband to come back from the war, but he never does. There is such a sadness here…someone worked hard to make this place home, and now it’s nothing.”

“That was great. Say that again while I film you,” Marlene said.

Rebecca blushed. “What did I say? I don’t even remember.”

“Do the ghost part. A lonely woman still waiting for her husband to come back from war…Oh, like that one movie! What was it?” Laura tugged Jason’s sleeve, but he just shrugged.

Rebecca grimaced. “That wasn’t what I meant. But –“

“What was that?” Jim interrupted.

“What?” Marlene said. “Don’t say your line yet, Jim. We’re not in the house yet.”

“No, shut up,” Jim’s voice dropped low. “Look,” he said, and Rebecca shined her flashlight toward the house.

She didn’t see anything. The group had gone silent, looking for whatever Jim had supposedly saw. She had just begun to think he was pulling a prank on her when there was a shadowy movement in the back part of the house. She gasped.

“Oh my god, someone is in there,” Laura said, and took a step back.

“It’s probably a squatter,” Rebecca said, her voice shaking. “I forgot, there were a couple of chairs set up in one of the rooms near a fireplace. They are probably homeless...we should go,” she added.

“Fucking squatters? Didn’t think to mention it, huh?” Jim said.

“I fucking forgot, okay Jim? Plus, the stuff was really old, it didn’t look like anyone had been there recently. I would have remembered if I found a pail of hot shit or something,” she snapped back.

Marlene had the camera up. “This is actually kind of awesome, if we can just bullshit for ten more minutes, this is better than a fake ghost hunter episode.”

“And do what, Marlene? Sit around the fire with a couple of hobos?” Laura’s whisper was shrill, and Rebecca was afraid they could hear her from where they were.

“Let’s just go,” Rebecca pleaded.

“I’m going to let them know that we’re not here to mess with them or anything, and offer them some water. We have some in the back, right?” Jim looked to Rebecca.

She nodded.

“Alright. Marlene, film whatever but after that we should go.”

“Okay,” Marlene said.

Jim started to walk toward the house. “Wait Jim,” Rebecca called. “Take the flashlight.”

“I got one,” he said, and pulled out his keys, which had a mini flashlight on them. It was surprisingly bright for its small size.

“Alright, I’m going back to the car,” Rebecca said.

“Me too,” Laura added, and tugged Jason.

Jason shrugged his shoulders a bit. “This sucks, but I really have to take a piss. I’m going to go down to the creek, no fucking way I’m going to piss near that house.”

“Okay...” Laura said, and reluctantly let go of his sleeve. Laura and Rebecca started walking back to the car, as quick as Laura’s heels would let them.

Laura had been talking nervously the entire walk back down the road. They had just made it to the car when Rebecca thought she heard Jim call out. She shushed Laura.

“What? What did you –“

“Shut up, Laura, I can’t –“

Marlene screamed.

“Holy shit, holy shit, what’s happening?” Laura screamed.

Rebecca grabbed Laura’s upper arms and urged her to calm down. “I don’t know. I’m going to find out. Stay here, okay? Be quiet!”

“Okay!” Laura whimpered, and Rebecca took off down the road. Someone was running toward her, and she stopped in her tracks. Adrenaline rushed through her as terror took hold, but at the last second she realized it was Marlene.

“What the fuck is going on?” Rebecca shouted.

“The guy attacked Jim! I just…I took off running, where is Jason?” She cried out.

“He was taking a piss over there. What do you mean attacked? Where is he?”

“I don’t know, he walked toward the house and the guy just grabbed him and dragged him inside!”

“Oh my god, oh my god,” Rebecca said. “We need to call the police. Does your phone work?”

Marlene reached for her pocket and then cursed. “It’s in the truck!”

“Damn it, DAMN it! Come on.” Rebecca and Marlene ran to the truck, and Laura was nowhere to be seen.

“Laura? LAURA!” Rebecca called, and Laura’s blond head popped out from the truck bed. “Is Jason with you?” Laura shook her head.

“I couldn’t get in the truck,” Laura cried out. “It’s locked.”

FUCK! If Jim had taken my flashlight I’d have the fucking keys!”

“Wait, Laura, you have your phone?” Marlene asked.

Laura fumbled her iphone out of her back pocket. “Yea, I got it.”

“Well call the fucking police!” Rebecca shouted.

YOU THINK I didn’t THINK of that? GOD Rebecca. IT doesn’t WORK out here in the fucking middle of NOWHERE!”

“Okay, okay, calm down,” Marlene said. “The guy has Jim, Jim has the keys. Let’s go find Jason. That’s why you brought him anyway, right Laura?”

“Right,” Laura took a deep breath. “Right. Okay.”

The three girls rounded the truck and made toward the creek, where Jason had said he was going. Marlene led the way, looking through the night vision on the camera, while the other two followed using just what moonlight was there. Rebecca was too afraid to use the flashlight. Laura whispered “Jason…Jason!” Over and over again, but he didn’t respond.

“Jason, where the fuck are you! Don’t fuck with me, we really need you! Jason! Jason!” Laura’s voice rose from a whisper to a scream, and Rebecca threw her hand over her mouth.

“Laura, you are going to get us killed!” Rebecca gritted her teeth as she forced her voice into a low whisper.

Rebecca heard footsteps from behind them, back toward the house. The three girls spun around, but Rebecca couldn’t see anything. “What is it, what is IT?” Rebecca whispered to Marlene.

“It’s…oh, It’s Jim! JIM!” Marlene called, and he turned his head and ran toward them. Rebecca turned on her flashlight, and a pit grew in her stomach. Something wasn’t right, something wasn’t…

Jim lunged at Marlene, knocking her to the ground. He snarled and she cried out, cursing and trying to push him off her. He wasn’t big, but he was strong.

“Jim, what the fuck! Jim get OFF HER! Jim!” Rebecca screamed.

“Get him the fuck OFF ME!” Marlene shouted.

Rebecca bit her lip, and then took the flashlight and slammed it on the back of Jim’s head. His head whipped forward and then he moved toward Rebecca, and she slammed it across his face again. He spun sideways and fell to the ground.

Rebecca vaguely realized that Laura was screaming incoherently a few feet away, but she didn’t have time to worry about it. She didn’t know what to do. She just wanted to get away…

“The keys!” Rebecca shouted at Marlene, who was on the ground next to the writhing Jim. Rebecca saw the fear in Marlene’s eyes, but she dropped the camera and dug her hand into Jim’s pocket.

“Fucking…they aren’t there.” Jim was on his side, moaning, but was no longer trying to attack. Blood was all over his head and neck, his coat gone and shirt ripped.

“Oh…fuck…” Rebecca said to herself as she warily approached Jim and shoved him over with her foot. She dug into his other pocket, and just managed to grab the keys when his arm shot out and landed on her throat. She cried out as he yanked her throat toward his face and bit her. Rebecca screamed and beat at him with the flashlight, but he had torn a chunk out of her before she could get away. She slammed the flashlight down on his head again and again, forgetting about Jim or anything but just wanting to get away, away from the pain and the blood.

She fell back and tried to stand but she felt so dizzy. Marlene took her own scarf and shoved it against Rebecca’s bleeding neck. Marlene pocketed the keys and threw the bloody flashlight to Laura, still standing there, screaming. Marlene grabbed her camera in one hand, and Rebecca in the other, and then shouted "Let’s go, let’s go! Laura, help me!” Laura snapped out of it, wielding the flashlight like a weapon, and the two girls dragged Rebecca’s half unconscious body toward the truck.

“Just get in the back! Just get in the back!” Marlene said to Laura, and Laura climbed into the bed. The two struggled to lift Rebecca into the bed.

“What about Jason?” Laura asked.

“We can’t find him. We have to get Rebecca to a hospital. We have to –“

Marlene was grabbed from behind. Laura screamed and turned on the flashlight. It wasn’t Jim, or Jason, but the man who had attacked Jim. He was disgustingly skinny, with mud caked on his skin and hardly any clothes on his body. Marlene struggled against the man, and was sure that she was going to die when Jason came out from the creek bed and lunged at the pair, separating Marlene from the homeless man. She went tumbling, and by the time she got up, Jason had not only pinned the man to the ground, but grabbed his head and broke his neck. For a moment, everyone was silent.

“Where the fuck were you, Jason!” Marlene suddenly screamed at him.

“I heard Jim start fighting and I went to help him out but he was gone. I couldn’t find anybody…then some fucking WOMAN attacked me. I knocked her back and took off running.” Jason looked around. “Where’s Jim? What the fuck is going on?”

Laura choked back a sob. “He…he attacked us…” Rebecca choked and coughed, her own blood pouring out of her mouth. Then she went still. “Oh my god, we have to go!” Laura screamed.


“Where’s the keys?” Jason asked, and put his hand out. Marlene dug into her coat pocket for them.

“Shit. They fell out of my pocket. Laura, give me the flashlight!”

As Laura leaned over the truck to shine the flashlight down at the ground, Rebecca sat up with a jolt and attacked at Laura. Laura screamed, fumbled the flashlight and fell out of the truck as Rebecca attacked her with all of her weight.

Jason screamed and picked Rebecca off of Laura. Pieces of flesh ripped off Laura with her, and Jason threw Rebecca to the side and then knelt to help Laura. Rebecca rolled, and with a growl was on her feet and running toward Jason. Laura let out a gurgle, and Jason dodged Rebecca in time, only for her to lunge onto Laura again in a bloody frenzy.

“Shit! Shit shit shit!” Jason said over and over.

Marlene screamed, “What are you doing, Jason! JASON!” He was bent there, clasping his hand, and wouldn’t move. Rebecca continued tearing at Laura, who had long since stopped screaming. Marlene flipped open her camera to night vision and focused on Jason. There was blood all over his hand. Saliva fell from his mouth, and he looked as though he was about to vomit. He sat there, rocking, until eventually he just collapsed.

Marlene looked through the view of her camera for the keys on the ground, and finally spotted them under the truck. Quietly as she could, she reached down under the truck and dragged the keys out. She fumbled through them, trying to get the door open, but suddenly Jason was on his feet again, coming toward her way too fast. By instinct, she ran.

Marlene ran into the empty doorway of the house. She tripped on a reel of barbed wire and fell flat onto the rotting floorboards. Bloody gashes lined her legs, and she didn’t dare try and stand, rather crawling down the hallway and into a small room. It smelled disgusting, an old bathroom with a broken toilet filled with old feces. As she looked through her camera, she noticed bloody handprints on the walls, and stifled a scream. Was that a leg shoved behind the toilet? Marlene covered her mouth and swallowed the vomit that had risen into her throat. She heard footsteps, Jason was in the house. Marlene tried not to move.

He made sniffing noises as he inched closer to the doorway. Marlene’s heart pounded in her ears as she prayed for him to turn the other way. He walked past the bathroom doorway, and disappeared into the hallway beyond. Marlene waited until she could no longer hear him, and then inched out of the bathroom. She’d almost made it to the back door when there was a screech behind her. Marlene spun around to see a disgusting woman, more dirt and blood than flesh. She screeched again and stumbled toward Marlene. The woman's legs were torn and one looked broken. Marlene took off out the door that led behind the house. The woman was slow, but Marlene kept tripping over debris, her already shredded legs screaming in pain as they met random pieces of metal skewed across the back lawn. The woman chased her all the while. At one point, the gruesome thing had caught up with her, grabbing at her coat. Marlene spun around, slamming the camera into the woman’s face over and over again.

Just as the woman released her grip, Jason pounced on Marlene from the side. The camera flew from her hand and landed on the ground. The screen captured the gruesome moment when Jason tore Marlene’s innards from her as she screamed and screamed and screamed.
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Christoph on Fri Oct 14, 2011 1:32 pm

Thanks for the entries, everyone. The deadline is tonight, so if you're still working on an entry, hurry and get them posted.
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Lord Revan on Fri Oct 14, 2011 3:20 pm

Thank you all. I can't wait to see what else is written.

Like Christoph said tonight is the deadline.
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Wildsword on Fri Oct 14, 2011 3:31 pm

Ok, here's my story, "The Hat Man" hope you enjoy!


“The Hat Man”

Eyes drift open to the faint echo of shouts screams admits a constant rhythmic rumble. Something warm rests on young face bruised with fatigue. All is in a shroud of black the space, a void of looming shadows. The air is thin and stale with the stench of sewer exhaust and cigarettes. Vision filters in the shrouds slowly lift to blurry, decaying brick and the sterile glow of a street light. Fumbling, fingers fan to filter the flash of head lights as they drift past painting the walls of the alley in brief, stark illumination before deserting the space to the drab glow of the street lamp.

Images flash behind a blinding throb of pain, rippling through the mind. Like a choppy film unspooling, snap shots of motion and nightmarish visions hit like shocks. A broken shard of glass weeping red. Human skin hanging lifelessly in dark closet like a coat in front of a crowd of them all hanging with hollow eyes and empty mouths freshly flayed, shinning with a fresh slick of sweat and blood, dripping silently in the dark. His eyes grip shut, silently screaming to shut the vision out. But they linger like a whispering voice. It’s somehow familiar.

With unsteady hands he braces and pulls himself up against the rough decayed wall bathed in bleak light. His mind runs backwards attempting to catch wayward memory, dim against the throbbing pain. It dug deeper from multiple points as his brain was being invaded by invisible fingers. He blinked, hazel eyes fluttering rapidly against the haze of recent consciousness and the digging throb in his head. Vision blurred and spun casting the world in a filmy haze. His first step is hesitant and heavy, a second follows, and another, grinding an echo from under foot. A red stained hand reaches and shoves the white club door open smearing it as it swings. A churning sea of blurred figures writhes under sweeping lights and the pounding rhythmic rumble of beats. He takes in a deep breath and drifts in to the sea of writhing, pressing bodies, stumbling through tangling feet and swaying figures. The heat and sour of booze and sweat hit his lungs and nose like a shot. He tastes the hot, stale cocktail of the club. Moisture crowds the air making it hang thick and heavy, like a rain forest with trees of writhing flesh and primal calls and sensual whispers.

It’s all just noise, and silhouettes dancing like fools under vibrant lights surrounding him. Like being lost in a strange, carnal circus. The crowd of liquored shells loiter near the circular bar young men on the hunt and women on the prowl all trying to lull their prey with drink. The wiser hunters were sitting in the shows, hidden under the lights and din of rumbling base and conversation. The sat like silent silhouettes, menacing in their stillness. One shadow sits a head above the rest figure further obscured by the brim of a fedora. A voice echoes in audibly somewhere within, Come. It seemed to whisper, pulling him forward on invisible strings. He willed his feet not to move but they betrayed him and walked him forward near the hat shade’s table. As he grew near the shadow’s head slowly turns to him, the brim of the hat swallowing the light like an eclipse. The whispers grew louder, crawling their way up to the back of his mind. Come. They seemed to say. Come.

The hat shade’s features begin to emerge from dark as their distance closes, darkness yielding to sight. He wears a tailored jacket of a deep red, the color of blood. Beneath it was a black collared shirt that seemed to make him one with the darkness, as if he was made of night itself. The red brim of his hat keeps his face hidden behind tendrils of smoke from a cigarette. A wine glass of deep thick liquid rests in front of him.

“You can smoke in here?”

he asks in a voice edged with fatigue and sarcasm. Deep raspy clicks come from under the shadow of the hat’s brim.

“No one’s stopped me yet.”

Voice is graveled velvet. The hat man wraps pale fingers around the glass and takes a sip the liquid reluctantly draining from the glass and streaking its transparent skin red.

“That’s some thick wine.” Another crackle of humor from under the hat.

“Nectar of the god’s. Can’t live without it.”

“That’s sad man.”

“Says the guy drifting through a club alone beaten bloody.”

A gust of smoke and the hiss of exhale snake out from under the shadow of the hat. Followed by another clicking chuckle, like the rattling of bones.

“Who did it?”

“What?”

“Gave you the good lickin’ and put you on Queer Street?”

He tried to relive it, remember the events before he woke up but there was only the void and the flashing horrors.

“I don’t know….”

“Never got a look at em huh?”

The bloody young man shakes his head.

“Everything’s blank.”

“Everything?”

“It’s hazy.”

“Like someone’s got a blind fold over your mind.”

The hat man takes another sip of that thick red liquid. He swallows with a smack of satisfaction.

“Damn that’s good. Wish folks aged as well as wine. Older folks like me, we wanna live in our grey days we got to steal some of that youth you kids waste.”

“How’s that going for you?”

He could almost see the smile in the void under the hat, but he knew it was there.

“You tell me.”

In a flash of movement the hat man leans forward into the red haze of light. Weathered white bone and a long hollow, skinless face flashes in red light. Its hollow eyes and nose are poised in a silent roar as the weathered teeth and clattering jaw wrench open and a burst of powdered smoke spits from the ghoulish maw.

The grains rake his eyes and sting his face as they settle in to his skin. In a cry of surprise he stumbles back, feet tangling. His back hits the cold infectious floor driving the air from his lungs. He blinks the ghoulish face from his sight and looks up for the hat man but his shadow had left the crowd of predators, his table empty, aside from the glass with a swallow of the liquid waiting in the bottom. His eyes dart from writhing silhouette to sitting shadow, the hat absent among them. Gone as quick as a thought. He sits frozen in shock and fear unable to cope with the unworldly horror of the hat man’s face. His head throbbed and pulsed in pain as if something were trapped inside try to burst out.

With unsteady legs he stands using a nearby table for balance and leverage. He eyes the glass sitting, taunting him on the table. A deep curious doubt growing every second his gaze lingered on it. It can’t be wine, he thought. But if it’s not wine…then what is it? He feared the answer but he had to know. With a slow hesitant hand he reaches for the glass, fingers cautiously sliding over its smooth surface. The curves of the glass are slick and…warm. He eyes the viscous liquid suspiciously. It sits thick dark and languid before him passively foreboding. A bitter tension strikes his stomach as he raises the glass to his lips. He pauses briefly in thought. You go this far, might be no turning back. As soon as the thought comes a stronger voice urges, drink it. Taste and know … before he has a second thought his wrist flicks up and the thick substance slides into his mouth. The taste hits him abrasively and suddenly his mouth is full of a warm, bitter, metallic tar rushing down his throat. He spits the warm thick red back into the glass, globs and streams of it spewing thick from his mouth. His stomach lurches and a heavy lingering sour taste climbs to the back of his throat. It hits him so suddenly that his legs buckle in shock. With a swaying stride he stumbles hurriedly into the nearest restroom. The bright oppressive beams greet him as he throws the door open, fumbling to open a stall.

A sour rush lurches in his stomach climbing up his throat. His knees hit the floor as the vomit leaps from his mouth, scattering in the water of the toilet bowl. Two more heaves leaves him wheezing, clamoring for breath. His head falls to rest on the cold stark rim of porcelain. Cold aches and chills pulse and creep over his body. A cold sweat begins to bead and slick his neck and brow.

With an angry labored breath he pushes to his feet and stumbles over to the sink. His quaking hands fumble over the faucet as he turns the water on. The cold splash hits his hot clammy face like a wall of liquid ice, driving the feverish heat from his skin. He takes another deep breath to center himself, to get back in control. The bathroom is still and silent but his head makes it swim and distort, as if his eyes were behind a fogged window.
When his eyes drift back up to his reflection in the mirror, his face is not his own. Hollow eyes stare back from a skinless face of weathered bone under the shade of a wide rim crimson hat. A red suit covered his body and the lipless mouth seemed to smile back from the other side of the mirror. He buries his face in his hands and recoils in shock as skeletal fingers rise to his face in place of fleshed hands. His eyes manically dart down scanning his body. They bear his own clothes, his hands are flesh and muscle but on the other side of the mirror the hat man stares back at him, wearing a ghoulish grin. A voice cuts into his head like a knife. Collect! It commands. Master needs his coats, pretty coats to blend, to walk among them, yes coats need a nice fresh one, yes a fresh coat for the master. He pressed his head with desperate hands. Trying to drive the voices away but they only grow louder, spiking across his head like lightning. As they’re volume grows each pulse of pain gets sharper as if ghostly fingers were tightening around his brain like a vice. His vision begins to tunnel the blurring haze slowly being consumed by a ravenous dark. The strength left his legs and he caught himself on the cold polished surface of the counter, cold sweat beading of his brow and splashing it with wet dark drops.

A small spark of anger begins to burn in his belly, a desperate fire of panic and fury quickly building to a raging flame. The heat floods his body, drinking in a dangerous cocktail of adrenaline and delirium. His skin begins to boil, dripping sweat and flushing red. His hands clench into white knuckle fists, itching to explode. The chatter of the voices pounds in his head until it’s all he can hear. A desperate whimper escapes him. He pounds his fist on the counter to drive the voices away but the only grow louder. His teeth grind into each other as he tries to quiet his overwhelmed mind now a chaotic maelstrom of pain, thoughts tumbling into the eye of the storm.
He tries to breathe through it but his breath is short and shallow, chocked by the throbbing in his head. His anger pulls him under and his hand lashes out in a desperate, panicked strike flail. The sharp crunch and bite of glass into his flesh throws him further into fury the pain and warm blood fueling the fire.

The voices scream at him, a thousand souls all chanting in one echoing voice. Collect! New coat for the master, pretty fresh coat for master…. His fists hit the mirror like a hail of bullets, each impact fracturing out into small spider webbed circles of impact smearing red with blood. His body floods with heat and his head spins, full of bellowing voices and pain pulsing rhythmically with their chant. Darkness takes him and he sinks to the floor whimpering hands raw and riddled with tiny gleaming shards.

The door to the restroom quietly swings open letting in the raucous chorus of the club. One of the drunks swaggers in, a slick young buck dressed to the nines. His head swivels from the girl he was working on to the man kneeling on the floor, his back turned circled by blood and broken glass.

“Jesus Christ! Hey man, you all right?”

The kneeling man stirs in response. Head rolling slowly up. As he turns his bloody fingers slide around a large shard of glass. His face wears a ghoulish grin eyes vacant. Across in the mirror the hat man rises to his feet and stalks forward. He follows, taking staggering steps forward the glass held tight in his hand.

“Collect.” He spoke in a vacant whisper. “Fresh nice coat for master.”

The drunk screamed as the glass lashed at him flashing bright in stark light overhead. The cackle of the hat man echoing from the broken surface of the mirror.
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Christoph on Sat Oct 15, 2011 3:24 pm

Contest entry is now closed. Thank you to all who entered! Marcus and I will now begin reviewing the stories.
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Christoph on Sun Oct 30, 2011 8:09 pm

Thank you all, both the participants for putting forth the effort to enter and everyone else for reading these stories. We got a decent turnout with this contest. I enjoyed reading six very different Horror stories, taking a little glimpse into the wonderfully dark imaginations of these members. Marcus and I spent a lot of time deliberating and discussing, reading and reviewing, and have finally reached our decision! Thank you very much for reading all these stories and providing your help and insight, Marcus!

And now, for the results! Marcus and I discussed and agreed on the numbers, and I wrote the official commentary. If anyone has any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to shoot me a PM. I would be glad to discuss, chat, and offer any desired clarifications. Let us begin!


FATE FORETOLD:

*
Fate Foretold

Introduction: Yours was a tough entry to judge. As a long-time amateur radio drama voice actor and writer, I have a soft spot for things like this. My experience there helped a bit, but it still becomes a case of apples-and-oranges to an extent. Fortunately, the FoG Rubric can be applied to many formats.
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Storytelling: 6 -- You took a very traditional concept and played it more or less by the numbers for the most part. That's not necessarily a bad thing, especially since you stayed true to the archetype and made it feel reasonably authentic. I'm not sure that I liked the opening. It didn't set the horror mood for me as a reader, and even as I imagined it on screen instead I couldn't get a good feel for it. Openings are important, because the rest of the story follows the tone and mood set at the very beginning. (There's a reason that so much Noir starts on rainy nights, for example.) There just wasn't any tension or dread, subtle or otherwise.

The dog came out of nowhere. Don't get me wrong; it was a good device, but if you'd mentioned him at least in passing earlier, it wouldn't have felt like, "Oh yeah, I need a quick plot device." That said, the messes "seemingly made by the dog, except not" was a tad on the obvious side. Not TOO much, but a bit. You could stand to use a more subtle touch and approach the matter more gradually. There wasn't really a climax, so when the end came, I found myself asking "wait, that's it?" The last line was a nice way to tie it together; I just wished you had given the reader more twists and turns.

Setting: 5 -- The opening fell a bit flat here as well. You mentioned mood lighting and some generic chairs. If you wanted to aim for a supernatural-horror type TV show, you could have done a lot more. What sort of effects is the light causing in the room? Is there any music, like creepy organs or a much more subtle quiet dissonant chord? Bring it to life and draw the reader (or viewer) into the experience.

With a story about a haunted house, you would suspect Setting to be a very strong category. Unfortunately, I didn't get much from you on this front. Your unique format might have caused it, but you could have done much more to "set the stage" and describe the house in morbid detail. Tara especially seemed to have a nice way with words (more on that later). You could have easily used that to help you here.

Pacing: 6 -- Again, the first several paragraphs hurt you here a bit. You had your two characters go on a bit too long about stuff that I didn't care about very much (though, heh, maybe I'm just not that into real-estate). I would have suggested skippimg over a lot of that stuff, except for the "it was too easy" bit -- that actually helped create the first traces of unease. Things picked up eventually, and I found the story fairly engaging. Some little things cropped up here and there that hurt the overall pacing, such as the security footage part. You lessened what would have otherwise been a cool effect by giving it away ahead of time. You basically warned the reader that something strange or creepy was about to happen, thus spoiling the effect. And you kept doing this throughout the story. The unexpected is a great fear enhancer.

Communication: 5 -- Not to beat a dead horse, but your opening paragraphs fell a little flat here as well. My initial reaction as I read through was to instinctively classify the story as non-horror in the back of my mind, because of how casually the two characters started talking about their experience. Ian laughing really killed the horror mood. Usually dialogue would play a huge part in this category, but in your story, everything written was dialogue in a sense. Except, the characters rarely talked to each other during the entire process. There wasn't much interaction.

Action 4: -- There was a lot of talking and not much action. I realize that the entire story is a collaborative narration between four characters, but you could have done so much more. Show more and tell less, even though you're narrating through the characters' voices. Also, you could have done some cool stuff with the video footage part. For example, instead of just letting the characters tell us about what they saw on the video, why not have them actually play the video for the 'audience'? That would have been really cool. Another notable example was when Ty got attacked after moving in: you first warned the reader that he was about to get attacked, and then you described the whole thing with the written tone of somebody describing a trip to the grocery store. Make it more visceral, more exciting. It had great potential!

Persona: 5.5 -- You used a tight ensemble of characters and made the story about them. I respect that, and I even found myself caring about what happened to them a little bit (though the after-the-fact narration prevented me from worrying about their fate as much). That said, the characters rarely felt distinct. I got a glimpse of a unique voice from Tara, but that faded away as the story progressed. If you took away the name headers, I would have a hard time figuring out who was talking. Also, the parents' reaction to the spooky video footage didn't make sense to me. They essentially ignored it, only doing research and seeking help much later. Maybe I'm strange, but if I saw a video of mist making a mess of my house, I'd be doing at -least- some research right away.

Mechanics: 7.5 -- There weren't a lot of problems here, save for the random typo such as "I’d feel up jolt up". It lacked the preciseness and polish to score any higher. Your writing suffered from some odd repetitiveness and odd wordings here and there, but otherwise wasn't bad mechanically.

Clarity: 8 -- No big hang-ups here. The narrative style that you used hindered you a bit in the vividness department; I found myself forced to fill in more blanks than I would like to. I often had a hard time visualizing things. For an early example, you described Anne as having "a bit larger in figure than the man", but you never describe Ian's build, so I had no point of reference. Still, I'm just nitpicking now. Your writing was quite clear and comprehensible.

Style and Flair: 5 -- This was a tough category because of your odd format. You really didn't use much in the way of stylistic literary techniques in your story because it was just characters talking the entire time. As such, I don't have much to say here. I mean, better to not have much literary technique than a lot of bad technique (not that I think yours would have been bad, mind). Still, as I mentioned before, Tara started off seeming to possess an advanced 'way with words'. You could have used that to color your writing more vibrantly.

Judge's Choice (I'm just going to call this 'Miscellaneous' from now on): 6 -- As you were aware, your story wasn't scary. Stories in this contest don't need to be. However, you didn't set much of a horror mood, either. You could have really developed a strong ominous aesthetic theme and dark tone for the story, but it just felt too dry. I tossed you an extra point here because I really liked your core idea. It has a lot of potential, especially if you ever decided to turn it fully into a screenplay.


Final Score: 58! This isn't high school test scoring, so rest assured that this isn't too shabby!

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LENNY V:

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Lenny V

Introduction: First of all, welcome to FoG! I'm very happy that this contest attracted you to our wonderful site. I'll get right into the review!

Storytelling: 4 Like Fate Foretold, you started with a classic horror theme (a scary forest in your case), but you strayed from that and dove headfirst into a twist on a different theme with the child's visions. I really liked your core idea. While a child seeing visions of murder and drawing them isn't the most original thing on the planet, your idea had a ring of authenticity to it that I appreciated. Unfortunately, your storytelling fell short in its execution.

The whole whispered rumors of a curse on the village fell a bit flat because it lacked proper development. In the story, it goes right from a vanishing boy to "omg we're cursed!" Perhaps my biggest issue with the early stages of the plot was how you so quickly and casually revealed that the 'killer' (that word alone diminishes the sense of dark mystery that you could have invoked with this story) was someone important in the town, AND what said killer had done with the bodies. From that point on, the story really lost a lot of its spark for me. You rendered the whole thing rather mundane. The dry summary of the events following Colin's disappearance didn't help matters, either. On the whole, while you presented a really cool concept, you forced predictability onto your own story. Everything was too obvious; I knew from the moment you introduced Sara how the story would resolve. The satanic rituals mentioned at the end was a nice touch, but felt tacked on. You could have done so, so much more with it.

Setting: 7 I liked the setting you chose. I have always been a lover of the old-world dark forest roads. While you gave the reader a decent initial 'where', you hit a snag on the 'when'. I didn't even know when the story took place until you mentioned Jack the Ripper's killing spree. I was sad to see the transition from the ominous forest, and I wish you had done more with it as the story progressed. On the whole, this was still a strong area for you. You painted strong mental pictures for your setting, even though you often did so very inefficiently.

Pacing: 3 While you suffered from wordiness issues that bogged down the pacing on the micro level (more on that in other categories), your plot started off moving at a decent clip. The attack on Colin felt a bit too abrupt, however. You didn't build any suspense or create much shock or surprise; it was "Oh, it's Michael. No it's not Michael. Oh no I'm under attack. Dead." Pacing is so very important in scenes like this, and with such a rich horror setting as the classic Creepy Forest, you could have done so much more to chill the readers' spines or toy with their expectations before the attack.

I'm sorry to say that things went downhill from there. Your transition after the opening scene felt jarring, and then you fell into a very dry summary of the events that followed. THEN it turns out that the first two sections were just a prelude to the actual story. And then things slowed to a crawl, full of tangents and repetition. You never built up any strong suspense, tension, or dread. All Horror needs those things, "scary" or otherwise. You could have trimmed off a third of the story and tightened and polished the rest without losing anything important.

Communication: 5 I won't get so long-winded here. Your performance in this category was very average. Nothing stood out much, for good or ill. The dialogue and communication between the characters served the required purposes of moving the story along when needed, but nothing really drew me in.

Action: 6 Your opening was pretty strong in the character department. With the last sentence in the first paragraph, you used subtle actions to illustrate a classic contrast between the two boys. This bleeds over into Persona as well. Sara's drawings were pretty cool, something more interesting than her just saying what she sees. On the whole, you did all right in this category. I can't nitpick at too much. The main thing that held you back from a higher score was the lack of visceral intensity and gritty detail, especially in the attack on Colin, but in general as well.

Persona: 5 You started out strong with the two boys, but unfortunately you never made me care about Colin before he died. I realize that he was just a stock victim to get things started, but his death fell flat with me. From there, you presented a lot of potentially interesting characters. Key word: potentially. You used a fairly large cast for a short story, but gave each character only cursory development. The third-person omniscient and summarization narrative styles didn't help you. I would have loved to read some of the events from the distinct perspective of some of these characters, especially Sara and the killer (perhaps a brief scene of him doing something shady and evil without revealing his identity but giving some clues). So much unrealized potential!

Mechanics: 6 The first major thing I noticed with your story was the overabundance of commas. While a lot of these instances were -technically- grammatically correct, they definitely hurt the readability of your writing. You also overused weak verbs and passive language quite a bit. For more on that subject, check out the Writer's Corner link in my signature. I found a couple minor errors, including a sentence fragment that I don't think worked very well. "Running footfalls crunching leaves." -- I don't hate sentence fragments, but I didn't care for this one. I can't believe that I'm saying this, but perhaps a comma in the middle would have helped.

Clarity: 6 I largely expressed the issues with Clarity in my comments for other categories. Beyond that, I didn't have a hard time understanding your writing. It was mostly the big-picture stuff that got you.

Style and Flair: 6 You missed a lot of opportunities with this category. Your opening paragraph provides a strong example here as well. Your opening set the stage for an old-worldy Brothers Grimm style forest path. As a big fan of that style of setting, I was disappointed by the delivery. Previously mentioned wordiness and comma issues aside, you just didn't do much with that first passage. Using a bunch of adjectives is not a good substitute for real flair, such as figurative language. You had a few nice bits here and there. The part where you described the fog was neat. It did seem like you were trying to show off as that passage continued, though. Be wary of that. Your prose is a tool, a means to an end -- never the end itself. The passive voice and weak verb problems plagued the reading experience and definitely hurt your prose, but I won't hit you too hard for it here since it already cost you in Mechanics.

Miscellaneous: 5 I think your story suffered from an identity crisis. Throughout, it could never figure out what it wanted to be. Was it a grim tale of an eerie forest and an evil person lurking within, or was it a supernatural crime mystery? You did a decent job with the aesthetics of Horror, but less so with the suspense and inspiration of dread. Your story wasn't scary, which is fine. Your story didn't even make me feel particularly uneasy, either. That is not fine. I would feel less disappointed if you didn't have so many great but missed opportunities to send some chills down my spine. Still, you obviously have a vibrant imagination. Keep writing and working at it, and soon enough you will be able to put that imagination on the page and make it sing.


Final score: 53 Good effort! I look forward to seeing you around FoG in the future!

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RAGTER THE GREETER:

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Ragter the Greeter

Introduction: Thank you for entering! You took, let's be honest, a very trodden-upon theme of vampires and still created interesting situations. This story could have been chillingly excellent, had you invested more time. Unfortunately, you wrote it in a handful of hours; most of the issues I will raise below stem from a lack of invested time and polish. I may sound harsh in my review, but I want you to know that your story wasn't that bad given the amount of time you put in. If you had taken a couple weeks instead of a couple of hours refining this idea, it could have been great. With that said, let's get into it.

Storytelling: 4 One word describes your overall plot: Obvious. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against vampires or any other so-called "cliché" Horror genre creatures. Your storytelling lacked subtlety. A series of deaths where every victim had been drained of blood is anything but "mysterious", especially to a reader. And then you basically go right out and say "vampires". From that point on, I inadvertently read everything from that angle. That spoiled some of the mystique of the random voices/laughing that tormented Marcus early in the story. Also, Gabriel was obviously the vampire torturing Marcus. You could have taken a more subtle approach and tried to toss up some Red Herrings to obscure it and heighten the mystery.

On one hand, it's nice to see a little background and learn about what had gone on in Marcus's life leading up to the story proper. On the other hand, it just felt dry and, well, lazy. You told the reader a lot of things that you should have shown. I had a hard time getting into the story or caring about what happened.

Setting: 5 In the Setting department, your first paragraph gave a decent start (though you could have done so much more). After that, it felt like your characters walked around in a void. Marcus works in a reception area of some kind, but I knew nothing about it or what sort of business it was for. While you can certainly leave details to the readers' imaginations, you still need to give us something to work with. Paint a picture for us. You did a decent job with the darkness in your story, giving the reader a decent mental image of dark alleyways and the like.

You didn't give a good impression of the story's world, though. You talk about vampires very casually, but never establish if said creatures are commonplace. Maybe it's just tainted by Marcus's perspective, but I couldn't imagine even a hardcore occultist in the real world acting so casually toward such strong evidence of the supernatural (more on this in the Character categories).

Pacing: 3 You tried to hook the reader at the start, which is good. Unfortunately, you didn't give quite enough to pull it off, and then diverted into a few rather dry paragraphs immediately afterwards. You suffered from some jarring transitions as well. The first came when you went from describing Marcus's secretarial skills to the character's semi-ominous reminiscence about that site he messed around on. And then the backstory starts. I hate to say it, but I started getting really bored and began thinking of other things I would rather do instead of reading on.

Communication: 4 The first exchange between the female vampire and Marcus moved a bit too quickly and casually for my tastes. For the first time in the story, you start making sense of things, but then you rush through it before it gets good. The chat conversation was a decent break in the story, but I would have liked to see more distinction in the communicative style between Marcus and Gabriel. The second exchange between the female vampire and Marcus fell flat with me, unfortunately. You set up a very tense situation, where Marcus couldn't move, with the chill and darkness and all that good stuff, but the dialogue spoiled it a bit. It was just, and I hate to say this, cliché. I couldn't take it seriously. Basically every exchange between the two characters after that suffered from the same problem. It never felt real. And feeling real, regardless of how crazy or supernatural the circumstances, is a core pillar of Horror.

Action: 5 Every review seems to have That Category where they don't have much to say. That's Action for you. You put the right actions in the right places for the most part, but the fight didn't get my blood going at all. It needed more intensity. Other than that, nothing really stood out.

Persona: 4 The defining characteristic of Marcus? He's a male secretary. I jest, of course. He did come off a bit bland, though. He followed the occult, but his reactions to it never felt real. He was maybe crazy, maybe not [early on], but his reactions and feelings always felt hollow or forced. Gabriel's motivations fell flat with me as well. I think with a little effort and planning, you could have really developed her into a compelling and complex character, rather than some creepy creature "playing with her food".

Mechanics: 5 I have pounded the dead horse into sticky red past by now, but it cannot be helped. You stumbled on your opening sentences. You used a lot of words without actually saying very much (and not just in the beginning). Go back and analyze some of the stories and novels that have left you glued to your chair, frantically turning pages as the narrative swept you along. In most cases, the authors of those stories say as much as possible with fewer words. Efficiency. I would also expect to find strong, precise verbs. The reader never has the chance to get bored because they never read anything unnecessary. Your first sentence provides a great example for this issue, which persists throughout your story: "A man known as Marcus was staring out a window". For a potential alternative (certainly not the only one), you could try "Marcus stared out the window".

You also had a sprinkling of grammatical errors (particularly missed or incorrect punctuation), as well as a LOT of weak verbs (was, was, was, was). Overall, your Mechanics came off as rushed and sloppy, which makes sense because you wrote the entire thing in a few hours. If you had written the first draft a few days early and then reread and revised a couple times, you could have polished it greatly and earned yourself extra points in this category and probably others.

Clarity: 6 Despite numerous stylistic issues, I didn't have a hard time understanding your prose. When you said something, I could understand it. Where you fell short was the big-picture... stuff. I mentioned some of it in other categories, particularly setting. You didn't give a strong frame of reference for your story, so I had a difficult time making sense of what happened.

Style and Flair: 4 Show more, tell less. Illustrate things with your language rather than just telling the reader about something with dry adjectives. Examples: "Glimpses of shadows, movements in alleyways, laughing, which was particularly chilling due to the small hint of darkness he felt in it." and "There was malice in the laughter, and it chilled him to the core." -- I listed them together because they suffer from the same problem and describe the same thing: the laughter. But yet, why did the laughter sound malicious? What about it gave it that very vague "hint of darkness"? You also tell the reader that X, Y, or Z are frightening without actually showing us why or making us feel it. These things are where some of those advanced literary techniques come into play. You were clearly trying to describe something intangible, which is precisely why we have figurative language.

Miscellaneous: 4 I won't lie to you; it did annoy me a bit that I probably spent more time reading the reviewing your entry than you spent writing it. Your core idea had some merit (this seems to be the common theme so far with this contest), but your entry lacked effort. Stories are never good the first time. It takes revision and polish. If you had invested just a couple more days tinkering and improving, you would have probably scored at least ten points higher.


Final Score: 44 You definitely possess some talent. Take more time in the future and you'll do great.

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TEN:

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Ten

Introduction: Thank you for entering. I enjoyed your story and felt that you portrayed strong emotions and presented an interesting, fairly fresh concept for the genre.

Storytelling: 7 ... My first real issue in this category started with this sentence: "And everyone said he was lucky to have found her, considering his history." I would have liked this a little more background with this. I don't mind some mystery, but his history is clearly something that other characters openly know. Perhaps it's a clarity issue as well, because I wasn't sure just what you meant. Also, a little hint would have been a nice way to set up your ending. That said, immediately afterwards you pull off an impressively strong and subtle transition, planting that first little seed of unease even as you write about how wonderful things were.

The main problem came in the second half. Colin's reaction to the whole mess just did not seem believable to me. That he just went along with life despite these horrific images and even the violence as things escalated didn't make much sense. (More on this in the Character categories.) Looking past these flaws, you spun a really good yarn with just the right number of twists. I especially liked the ending, even though I did somewhat see it coming (though not entirely).

Setting: 7.5 I like that you did more than merely paint the setting into the background. You actually -used- the setting in various ways, the most notable being the mirror playing an actual major role in the plot. You used multiple sense to describe the setting. You could have scored even higher if you had given a bit more and immersed the reader even more.

Pacing: 7 My only real gripe with your pacing falls in line with my major overall gripe with the story. It stalled out while Colin floundered over what to do and how to react to the crazy things happening to him. Other than that, I often had to stop myself to read things critically as you sucked me right into your story. Your literary timing was admirable and you didn't bog things down with unnecessary fluff.

Communication: 6.5 You really missed an opportunity to Show rather than Tell when Colin asked Izzy about the Face. That could have been a very strong scene for both characters. You didn't have a lot of dialogue, which was fine except for the aforementioned missed opportunities.

Action: 8.5 Your writing shined here. There isn't much to say. Everything from the subtle to the gruesome brought the characters and the story to life. The sex scenes were refreshingly not awkwardly bad, and I liked how you tainted them so chillingly with the demon's face. You did a great job, though it didn't quite blow me away quite enough to pull a nine or ten. My only advice would be to tighten things up even more and bring out the horrific details even more vividly.

Persona: 6 You certainly started out strong in this category using the description of Isadora to introduce the personalities and emotions of both her and Colin. As the story progressed Izzy's personality remained something of a mystery, which actually worked for you. I think Colin reacted a bit too casually to the appearances of the demonic face though, especially going so far as to give it a name. The sentence "He gave it a name" actually made me giggle a little bit and dispelled the compelling sense of unease that you had created up until then. Overall, his reactions to this really hurt you in this category (and others). It might have gone over better if you had better explained and fleshed out Colin's complex feelings and reasoning. You established their social isolation, but you could have done much more.

Other than that, you definitely made Colin feel like a real person, full of believable flaws and hypocrisy -- such as when he criticized others in his thoughts for being so wrapped up in themselves when he had already established that he and Izzy were pretty wrapped up in their own little world as well. I'm not sure whether or not you intended that effect, but I liked it. I think you made it a bit too heavy, though. I would have preferred a more subtle touch. In closing, Persona was probably both your strongest and most problematic area.

Mechanics: 8 You had a couple of sentence fragments that probably should have been made whole instead, but nothing too major. Your sentence structure in general was decent; I could nitpick a bit, but I'll let you PM me if you want more details. In general, you did well with the mechanics of your prose.

Clarity: 8 Your clarity was fine for the most part, but a couple parts did stick out. "But for a split second, her features opened and split apart revealing something hideous underneath" This felt a bit rushed. It was a very crucial point in the story, but I would have liked a better mental picture. Better describe what Colin saw without giving too much away. Tantalize me with little horrific details that bring up more questions than they answer.

Style and Flair: 7 You definitely had the strongest opening in the contest. You hooked me with your first sentences using compelling emotion and a poetic voice. Well done. Some of your 'fancy' phrases came off a bit odd, though. With a little extra tweaking, you could have easily polished those spots up. Your second sentence provides a quick example: "Beautiful like the stark and empty death of winter, but filled with the bubbling warmth of summer." I would have tinkered with this a little bit, starting by removing "death of" for a more subtle and rhythmically flowing sentence. You used a bunch of odd word choices throughout. Some accented the 'quirky' factor that you probably aimed for, but others I didn't care for, such as the "soundtrack" of clinks caused by her many dangling baubles. I can't criticize too much in this category without nitpicking; the overall quality of your prose just makes these somewhat minor issues stick out.

You could have done more in certain parts, especially when Izzy's scary face starts peaking through. It's such an important plot point that you shouldn't gloss it over. Get a bit more vivid. Does it appear with the blink of an eye like changing slides on a projector? Does it seem to writhe beneath her skin like something trying to claw free? Don't go halfway with it.

Miscellaneous: 9 You wrote an emotionally powerful story, ranging from the heartwarming to the eerie, to the dreadful and chilling, all the way to the disturbing and heartbreaking conclusion. This story did not make me feel good. In fact, I am still a little bit depressed and unnerved even as I write this review. And THAT is what Horror is all about. Well done!

Final Score: 74.5! Very nice, indeed!

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RYONA NOEL:

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Ryona Noel

Storytelling: 7 You started with a fairly basic plot concept. "Let's go explore a scary house with a video camera." I'm totally okay with 'classic' Horror themes like this, but I wish you had gone for a more authentic approach and actually write the entire story literally from the perspective of a recording camera like Blair Witch or Cloverfield. Would it have been much harder to pull off? Oh yeah, but you could have delivered a slam dunk with it. Another concern was the predictability, especially during the middle section of the story. When group split up, I immediately knew that something bad was going to happen.

You DID throw a nice curveball with Jim reappearing and attacking his friends like a man possessed. I would have liked just a tiny bit more build up and suspense leading up to it, though. I'm glad that you didn't have Laura's shoes come up again, as that would have been even more predictable. The two almost-crashes with the car definitely seemed unnecessary, though. It felt like decent foreshadowing at first, but then nothing came of it.

I would have liked more. The whole thing ended rather quickly and you never delved further into the house or developed the mystery. You need not give everything away, but some more clues would have been wonderful. This was an even bigger issue at first as I went through the "wtf even happened?" stage after I finished reading. Then I remembered the zombie movie idea from early in the story. Well played...

Setting: 6.5 On the whole, I found it easy to immerse myself in your setting. You gave a decent spattering of detail and painted a good picture. Your opening paragraph fell flat in the setting department, though. I liked what you tried to do, but I really wanted to see more. The dead orchard trees were a nice touch, but aside from that you missed a great opportunity to establish a strong Horror ambiance right from the start. You definitely could have also done more with the first description of the house (more on this in Style and Flair). Sometimes the setting seemed to disappear, but not too much. I liked how you actually had the characters affected by elements of the setting (such as all the sharp rusty metal and the vile scene within the house).

Pacing 6: The first paragraph did not hook me as well as I would have liked, and the trouble lies in its pacing. You mentioned the road, and then you mentioned the vehicle and the almost-crash in the same sentence, wrapping up the entire event with a chorus of laughter in the third sentence. You didn't give me a chance to experience that quick burst of panic. Sadly, your pacing crawled a bit after that. You dumped a lot of background information all at once. Don't get me wrong, I like that you provided that information to give the story purpose (that actually helped your Storytelling score), but you could have broken it up and presented the information in different ways. For example, you could have written up some nervous chatter amongst the characters in the car. Once things got going, your pacing was good. The main problem after that was that it just ended too quickly.

Communication: 5 ... ... In fact, you even went so far as to mention a conversation occurring in the early paragraphs. You could have actually played out important bits of in "on-screen". The little argument between Rebecca and Jim following the sharp turn felt both forced and predictable. After that, the characters' communication went about as expected. Overall, your work was average in this category.

Action: 7.5 You did the best in Action. You captured the gritty, visceral violence for which Horror is known pretty effectively. Jason without hesitation breaking the hobo attacker's neck was a bit much, though. It did not seem realistic at all, unless you were trying to portray Jason as a psychopath. I really couldn't tell. Which brings us to...

Persona: 4 You assembled the perfect cast of archetypes for this type of story. You had the strong man, the diplomatic man, the girlie-girl, the camera girl, and the generic "every girl". And yet, did I not already have those archetypes stored in my brain for reference, I would have finished the story with very little knowledge of your characters. Part of it was the shortness of your story, but a lot stemmed from you summarizing interactions between characters rather than playing them out for the reader to see. I just never felt like I got to know your characters at all.

Mechanics: 7 Your writing flowed decently enough for the most part, but you did tend to write in circles and repeat yourself a little bit. Also, I've been saying this a ton so far in these reviews, but watch the overuse of weak verbs (was, were, is, are, be, had, etc); try to find stronger and more precise verbs whenever possible. I would be happy to provide bountiful examples if you request them. On the plus side, your writing was definitely grammatically clean, which is always good.

Clarity: 8 You first sentence suffered from a minor clarity issue: "the parts of the road icy". Which parts of the road? It wasn't a huge deal, but it definitely stuck out. Other than that, you did fine with your clarity.

Style and Flair: 5 I was hoping for more from the first description of the House. You didn't make the house feel different. Just old. I'm not asking for the intro from Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" here, but I certainly would not hesitate to point to that classic story for a little inspiration. For the most part, you seemed more focused on the action than on using fancy turns of phrase. This isn't a bad thing. Unfortunately, your missed opportunities definitely hurt you in this category.

Miscellaneous: 7 Your story wasn't great, but I still liked it. I think if you had executed it a little differently and expanded the plot, you could have created something excellent. As it is, you'll just have to settle for 'good'. Razz


Final Score: 63

--

WILDSWORD:

*
Wildsword

Introduction: First of all, welcome to FoG. I hope you're having a great time here so far, and I hope you stick around. Moving on... oh, present tense. Present tense and I have some rocky history. Ever since it stole my girlfriend in high school, we haven't been on good terms. Still, I looked past it to review your story objectively.

Storytelling: 4 Maybe I can't blame you for this, since I'm a long-time Vampire the Masquerade player; the instant you introduced the hat-hearing figure in the shadows of the night club mysteriously beckoning the main character, I immediately thought "vampire". Granted, even after finishing the story, I'm still not entirely sure what was going on, but the blood-in-a-wine-glass certainly leaned it in that direction. Maybe they were just alien skin thieves. I really have no idea. And that sentence really sums up my issues with your story and will provide a common theme throughout this review. In terms of the Storytelling category in particular, I never got a clear picture of the plot. I never got 'the point', you could say. Where did these characters come from? Why were they hanging around? Where did they go from here? You gave only the slightest little glimpses -- enough to confuse, but not enough to generate interest in the story. Everything felt a bit random, to be honest.

Setting: 7 This was your strongest category. Despite the general lack of clarity or purpose, you definitely brought the setting to life and interacted with it nicely. Your oft-purple prose caused a lot of other problems with your story, but you definitely immersed me in the night club scene.

Pacing: 6 On the macro scale, your pacing was pretty good. I didn't feel like I was reading about a lot of unimportant stuff. Your pedantic wordiness hurt you, though. Aside from that, while not much actually happened in the story, what DID happen unfolded at a desirable pace.

Communication: 5 I like how your characters interacted for the most part -- it was probably one of the few spots in your story that actually made sense when I read it, heh. I don't have much else to say about it. I do wish you had given the conversation between the main character and the vampire-zombie-ghoul-thing more context, but again, that's the biggest flaw with your story.

Action: 6 You didn't have anything flashy going on here, but you etched out a good score by describing the little things that the characters did in strong detail.

Persona: 5 For a short, character-oriented story, I never got a good feel for your characters. You gave good flashes of emotion throughout from our unfortunate main character, but that's about it. I never got to know them, and never cared about them during the story. The blood-drinking hat man did amuse me a little, so that was good.

Mechanics: 6[ /i] Your very first sentence was a mechanical nightmare. I cannot tell if you had intended it to be two different sentences but botched the tenses, plurality, and punctuation, or if you just added a few extra words and forgot to delete them. I spotted a good number of other errors as well that a good proofread should have ironed out. To your credit, you did avoid overusing weak verbs and passive voice.

[i]Clarity: 3
It felt like you were trying to show off. You saturated your story with fancy prose and odd turns of phrase and ended up just rendering many passages very garbled and confusing. Especially early on, I found myself wondering if it was just a bad acid trip. Sometimes you just need to describe things plainly.

Style and Flair: 4 I like that you made a concerted effort to spice up your prose. Unfortunately, you were just trying way too hard. When using fancy literary techniques, quality is far more important than quantity. You attempt at fancy writing just bogged the story down and made reading it a chore.

Miscellaneous: 6 Surprisingly, having finished the story, I would not suggest switching out of present tense. It worked well for the story and style you chose. I tossed you an extra point here because I could tell that you put forth a lot of effort, and that you at least know what you should be trying to do as a writer. Yes, you ran into some stumbling blocks with this story as you 'over-tried', but it's still a good sign. It means you're heading in the right direction. With more time and effort practicing, reading, and studying the literary craft, you could turn into a very good writer. Don't give up!

Final score: 52

--
--

Final Results!:

And the winner is...
.
.
.
Ten's "From the Mirror", with an impressive score of 74.5! Your story has earned immortal placement in the Hall of Fame. We'll get you that contest winner badge soon; our official staff badge-maker has been busy lately. Congratulations!

Great job to Ryona Noel for her second place score of 63 and to everyone else who entered. I hope to see you all and more for our next contest, whenever that happens. Happy Halloween!
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Bird of Hermes on Sun Oct 30, 2011 10:15 pm

Congratulations to everyone who participated!
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Lord Revan on Sun Oct 30, 2011 10:33 pm

Congratulations Ten! Your story was very fun to read, and different, which was enjoyable. Also congrats to Ryona for 2nd place.

I enjoyed reading all your stories, hopefully you all had fun writing them.
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Blade Barrier on Sun Oct 30, 2011 10:46 pm

To be quite blunt, I didn't find any of the stories invoked the kind of emotion or dread that a horror contest warrants. That's not to say I didn't find them entertaining though.


I'd say how I'd have scored everyone, But that's not up for discussion, so I'll just say that Ten probably does deserve the win over the other entries, just not by as large a margin as presented. (in my opinion)

Congratulations everyone, especially our winner.

Now I'll go ruthlessly bug Fate to continue her RP now that this is all over. >: C
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Guest on Sun Oct 30, 2011 11:10 pm

...thank you for selecting my story. It was a lot of fun to participate and read other people's entries and I honestly was very surprised that I won. Thank you!

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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Guest on Sun Oct 30, 2011 11:53 pm

Congrats, Ten, on getting first place!





rant:
Spoiler:

I just have to say that, after seeing this rubric in use, I will probably never write a contest entry if this is what it will be graded by. I do not agree with the scoring, nor the criticisms offered, though I understand that is my personal opinion. I already stated my opinion on this in terms of role-plays, and I was willing to give it a chance for the contest entries. From what I've seen, I simply do not like it.

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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Gadreille on Sun Oct 30, 2011 11:58 pm

Congratulations Ten Smile Your story was very deserving of first place.

I'm rather surprised I got second. I thought a couple of other stories were far more deserving.

Opinions on rubric:
Spoiler:
That said, I've seen far more constructive criticism than what has been displayed in this contest. While some of the general ratings were spot on, there was a plethora of personal opinion splattered throughout the entire rubric that I don't believe was the original intent of this rubric. Some things stated were just plain rude, which I think should be avoided in "official" contests. I don't believe I will be participating in any more contests if they are going to continue to run in this rather negative fashion.
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Tartra on Mon Oct 31, 2011 12:05 am

Congratulations, Ten!

And BladeBarrier, nice work with the backhand. Always great to see support buried a paragraph under you ripping the idea apart. But - hey, not to be blunt.
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Gadreille on Mon Oct 31, 2011 12:10 am

Tartra wrote:Congratulations, Ten!

And BladeBarrier, nice work with the backhand. Always great to see support buried a paragraph under you ripping the idea apart. But - hey, not to be blunt.

Thumbs Up

I quite agree. I don't understand why a little bit of kindness is so much more difficult to come by than a little bit of...well, that.
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Christoph on Mon Oct 31, 2011 12:14 am

Tartra wrote:And BladeBarrier, nice work with the backhand. Always great to see support buried a paragraph under you ripping the idea apart. But - hey, not to be blunt.

Nah, see... from him that's both a glowing review and a mark of affection. Dance
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Ragter the junior greeter on Mon Oct 31, 2011 12:29 am

Mmh...I can agree with my scoring, for the most part.

Two notes though; "Gabriel" was intentionally trying to be the cliche vampire, mostly because she felt she'd have more fun that way.

Another note is the action section...I feel that kind of section is really not needed in a contest like this. Especially when action isn't the main focus of the contest.

...Actually, I guess there are three notes. Mechanics. I was told the same thing in the last contest I was in, and I've been told it before. No one has ever told me where I mess up though, or how. It's frustrating; how am I supposed to improve on Mechanics when I don't know what I did wrong?

EDIT:

Oh dear, how did I forget to congratulate our winner? During the entire writing of this post, I kept thinking 'Don't forget to congratulate Ten!' and then what do I do? Forget!

Anyway, congrats on the win Ten!
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Christoph on Mon Oct 31, 2011 12:42 am

Great questions and comments, Ragter. I did figure that you had intended to portray "Gabriel" as the cliche vampire; it probably would have worked fairly well if you had 'lampshaded' it a bit more. As for Action, it's definitely a part of any story. It encompasses a wide range of elements and should never be taken to mean only "action" like in an "action movie". As for your third concern, I would be more than happy to chat with you over PM (or AIM would be even better, or perhaps in a private FoG IRC chat mathingy) to help you out and go over some of the more specific things (it would have been highly impractical to include all of those specifics in the reviews).
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Ragter the junior greeter on Mon Oct 31, 2011 12:51 am

You have some good points there; action does not always just include action. Also, yeah, I have always had a bit of an enemy when it comes to lampshading.

Anyway, I dunno how to use a private IRC. I barely even know how to use a regular IRC. By that, I mean I don't know how to use one at all. I don't have AIM either, unfortunately.

And yes, it would have been impractical to include specifics like that in the review.
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Fate Flyer on Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:22 am

Congratulations to Ten! Very Happy

I really wish I could say more, but unfortunately I have not even had time at all to sit down and read all these yet, and I've really been wanting to. Perhaps on lunch break at work I'll try and get some reading in! :]

I appreciate all your honest feedback and hard work judging. It really means a lot to me and I'm sure to others that you guys critiqued. So, thank you for that and for taking the time to read through, in detail, every story!

As far as judging goes, it's always been a matter of opinion. In the past, it fell on the opinions of all the staff, but regardless, it's always been how we felt about each entry. There's no getting around that.

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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Gadreille on Mon Oct 31, 2011 11:55 am

Fate Foretold wrote:
As far as judging goes, it's always been a matter of opinion. In the past, it fell on the opinions of all the staff, but regardless, it's always been how we felt about each entry. There's no getting around that.

That's true. To me it seemed the rubric was brought in to try and avoid that, but perhaps I was mistaken. Either way, criticisms I've had in the past seemed much more encouraging than the one I received this time. But perhaps it's just me!
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Sólrökr on Mon Oct 31, 2011 3:33 pm

From what I read in the reviews, it seemed a pretty decent effort. Perhaps there was a rude comment here or there, but it was meant with the best of intentions, I'm sure, and probably not cherry-coated because it didn't feel rude when considering the context. Perhaps it's my always-looking-for-a-silver-lining speaking, but that's my first impression.

The rubric seemed to work well, and minimized the vaguity of reading story after story. Reading multiple stories does compromise one's comparative ability, lets be honest. It would not be my personal avenue of critique, as I prefer line-by-line, but it was sufficient and organized, which is a big positive.

Congrats to everyone; runners up, winner and everyone that entered.
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Christoph on Mon Oct 31, 2011 3:43 pm

Nothing can remove the element of opinion entirely, not even the Rubric. What the Rubric does, however, is minimize opinion's impact by providing strong guidelines based on comprehensive criteria. Now, this can seem a bit odd at first to some because many people will read a story and think something along the lines of, "I like this one the most because of X," and often look past some of its perhaps weaker areas. Or the other way around. Note that I'm not saying anyone in particular does exactly this, nor am I in anyway saying that it's necessarily always bad to reason in that way. The Rubric forces a reviewer/judge to read and analyze a story in detail, taking ALL of its facets into consideration according to more detailed guidelines. Using it also teaches a reader to appreciate all the subtle details of a story even more.

Do opinions still play a role? Yes. Will people still disagree sometimes? Of course. You can't eliminate that. The rubric can, however, help to minimize it and encourage fair and objective analysis.

Finally, if your review did not feel very encouraging, you should probably blame me for that instead of the rubric. >_> My methods of commentary lean more toward the straight-forward and informative. As a result, encouragement tends to come in as an afterthought. Ryona, I do apologize if my review rubbed you the wrong way. Rest assured that I -did- like your story. And if you ever need a morale boost, you can book me for custom motivational speeches. Cool

And thank you for the kind words, Fate. It is a lot of work, but I love doing it. ^^
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Gadreille on Mon Oct 31, 2011 3:59 pm

I was more worried about other reviews than my own. For example, I thought Fate's story outdid mine by a mile. Also, it just seems more enticing to read "here's where you could do better" than "here's where you suck", even though it is, essentially, the same thing.
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Christoph on Mon Oct 31, 2011 4:26 pm

Don't sell yourself short. I liked Fate's, but your story definitely deserved its rank. Also, I don't think I ever used the word 'suck' in my reviews. Razz Sólrökr summed it up nicely. I tried to give plenty of constructive criticism and helpful suggestions without bogging down the proceedings too much by sugar coating. I like to think that I gave each entrant some honest encouragement where appropriate. Each story had good ideas and a lot of potential, and I certainly enjoyed reading these stories. I certainly intended no rudeness.
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Ragter the junior greeter on Mon Oct 31, 2011 5:16 pm

Christoph wrote:Each story had good ideas and a lot of potential, and I certainly enjoyed reading these stories. I certainly intended no rudeness.

Christoph wrote:and I certainly enjoyed reading these stories. I certainly intended no rudeness.

Christoph wrote:I certainly intended no rudeness.

But...but you said you were annoyed that it took you longer to review it than it took me to write it. D:

(BTW I'm joking)
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Blade Barrier on Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:01 pm

Christoph wrote:
Tartra wrote:And BladeBarrier, nice work with the backhand. Always great to see support buried a paragraph under you ripping the idea apart. But - hey, not to be blunt.

Nah, see... from him that's both a glowing review and a mark of affection. :dance:

See? Christoph gets it. Actually, I'm still not sure what I said to get a reaction out of anyone. There's always that person who will get upset if you don't fart rainbows and sneeze butterflies all the time.








Anyway, because I'm not one to beat around the bush and the topic has changed over to the rubric, I guess I'll just post my comment regarding the rubric here.

The rubric itself is not flawed, and works fine. The problem is that, like any judge panel, it is severely limited in scope due to the fact that the reviews are only being written by 2-3 people instead of a whole site full. yes, the last contest was sort of a bust, and nobody really wrote anything that really specified why they voted for what (save a small number that I was a part of *wink*) But what's going to have me strongly considering not participating in future contests is not the rubric, but that my work has to pass the same people over and over again. Christoph is good at what he does, however, what he's good at is giving his own opinion with utmost clarity. What we need is five or ten Christophs with different palates for writing and different pet peeves. That's the only way it'll work for me.

However, I think it's worth considering adjusting the rules of the contests. You can write some pretty cool stories in under 3K words. I've even seen good ones written in under 1K. I think most of the site is just intimidated at the idea of reading six stories that are 4-6K words a piece. hell, 26K-36K words is like, a third of a normal length novel. That's not exactly comfort reading.


EDIT: in regards to the rubric's multi-category rating capabilities, it felt like a lot of problems with the stories blended into other parts of your review, causing you to "beat a dead horse" quite often.


Last edited by Blade Barrier on Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:06 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Wildsword on Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:04 pm

Thanks very much to Christoph and Marcus for all the hard reviewing and reading work!

Congrats to Ten and Ryona! I admittedly have not read your pieces but I will make an extra effort to but congrats all the same!

t
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Sólrökr on Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:07 pm

*farts a rainbow.
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Wildsword on Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:20 pm

*sneezes a butterfly*
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Re: 2011 Halloween Writing Contest

Post by Guest on Mon Oct 31, 2011 8:21 pm

Well, alright, if we're going to use this space as a general feedback on the rubric and how it was used for this contest, then I'll put in my two cents as well. I have trouble understanding the criticisms in regards to the reviews and the rubric. 1. when you write something and submit it to a contest to be judged and reviewed by a panel of judges, then you should expect to get opinion. I do not understand asking for a review that does not include an opinion from the reader. "Tell me what you think of this without telling me what YOU think of THIS." ???? I also do not think there is anything wrong with writing specifically for a certain audience. That is generally what you do when you write something to be read by other people. You don't write erotica with the intent to be read in gradeschool. You don't write something like a business tech and analysis manual if you want people who like adventure stories to enjoy it. Granted, I didn't write for the judges for this contest, but if you're a bit put off by the reaction to your story, maybe take it into consideration next time?

2. Judges are those who are willing to judge. Period. I did not elect Christoph or Marcus, but I sure as hell am not gonna put in the effort or time to sit and read a bunch of entries and then write reviews for each one. If you do not like the current judges, then I suggest you put your name on the sign up sheet. You cannot elect someone who doesn't want to put in the effort to do it. And asking the whole site to sit through and write reviews for each entry is not something that will go over well. If there isn't interest, then it's not going to happen and then we're stuck with a bunch of votes that don't mean anything. Like the Caligo contest.

3. I was shocked that I won as well and while reading my review, I was certain that other people did better than me. I feel like I'm really going to benefit from the review I received. It wasn't all positive, but I didn't expect it to be. I did not enter the contest to be patted on the back. Could some of it have been said nicer? No. Don't coddle me. I'm an adult and I know where my weaknesses are and I expect to be told where someone else sees them. I write to be read, afterall.

Blade Barrier, you're a class act, man. Honestly, you don't see any problem with telling everyone who entered that they did not reach your standard of horror writing? I doubt anybody here wrote a fantasy story with butterflies and kittens in them, so whatever was submitted was done so with the intent to fit the theme to the best of each participants ability. Let's not argue about it. You don't have to kiss ass, but there was nothing in your statements that was intended to benefit anyone but yourself and your own sense of superiority.


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