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Home Game/Killing Floor - Week 31

It's another week and another Home Game thread, with a Killing Floor twist!

This is a place to post your entries to the latest topic "“The future outwits all our certitudes” if you are not a current contestant. Maybe you were eliminated or dropped. Perhaps you are only now finding Idol but just want to write.

This is the place to link your entry!

The Killing Floor twist means that we are encouraging constructive criticism for the entries - and anyone who either (1) posts two pieces of constructive criticism to this thread OR posts a Home Entry and one piece of constructive criticism will be eligible to send me an email (at clauderainsrm@gmail.com ) to give me their top 3 choices for immunity for the week.

Have fun!


( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 12th, 2014 06:12 pm (UTC)

Last week's entry. I'd like to make this better and I would love to hear your thoughts. I've already caught a couple things that slipped through (a typo, a missed word) and I want to know how others think I can improve it.

Dec. 12th, 2014 07:34 pm (UTC)
I really love your writing, your style, your story concepts, and your characters. You've got a quick, dry realism that works with your haunting and stripped down narratives. All movement and dialogue, allowing your reader to fill in the mental and emotional blanks. That's a great talent for the type of story you seem drawn to tell.

I like this piece because of your style, but I did struggle with it. And I'll tell you why "I" have three issues with it. This is "ME" and my personal preferences and may have more bearing on the type of story I enjoy rather than on your story as a stand-alone piece.

First is technical - the time switch in the middle. The conversation that precedes the beginning and the ending. It confused me on the first read through and I felt a bit lost as to when the ending occurred. I'm not sure the first section needs to be separated out from the last.

Second, are these folks Russian? Would a forty-year old man be that attached to and aware of the tiniest of the matryoshka? What is the weight of these dolls emotionally to this family and to him in particular? I want to be convinced that this man/son is as "precious" about the dolls as the mother is, so much so that he would ask his sister if the missing doll was at her home.

And this feeds into the main point for me. Sentimentality. I'm not of the "Chekhov's gun" school and I would have been thrilled to see the missing doll with more "reveals" about the mother and the importance of the dolls....and then no further mention at all of the doll.

That being said. :) If you love the doll and the idea of him having taken it or retrieved it, then I would suggest that it be found later when the coroner (or doctor) gives his effects to his family rather than having it fall out of his pocket. For realism's sake.

On a more editing point - here are two examples of sentence level edits I would recommend -

The pickup sped off and kicked up gravel that pelted David’s feed truck.

He shifted the truck into gear and it ambled down the road...

Both of these use verbs (kicked up and ambled) that are more "human" than "truck" and perhaps would be better as more mechanical visuals. But if you want to keep them, then the first example would be stronger without the "that". gravel, pelting

Dec. 12th, 2014 08:42 pm (UTC)
I hate "that" :)

Thank you for the comments!
Dec. 12th, 2014 09:04 pm (UTC)
;) And I loathe "like". Editing for "that" and "like" can really improve the rhythmic flow of a piece.

You're welcome!
Dec. 12th, 2014 09:09 pm (UTC)
I like the use of realistic language here. My only comment there might be to try reciting some of it aloud and seeing if some of it flows a bit better than others. I think some of it could be streamlined a bit (e.g., "up the mountain" or "'round the mountain" vs. "up around the mountain"). David' father especially seems like a man of few words. :-)

While I normally would agree with bleodswean on using anthropomorphizing verbiage, I think "kicked up gravel" is a fairly common metaphor for that spray of grit tires churn up, especially when one's in a hurry and slams on the gas. I do think I'd like a bit more about that conflict, though, rather than the implications.

It admittedly took me a couple of tries to read this, just because the middle section threw me off a bit. I'd read them as three separate incidents, rather than a bit of a flashback in the middle. I do think that middle section needs to set up a lot of information, and it provides good characterization for David and his family, you may just need to tweak it a bit (or rearrange). As it was, I had to go back to the first section and reread about locking the gate before I realized it was okay (ish) to leave the keys in the truck.

Also I may just need more coffee, but the last paragraph seemed a bit too vague to me. It took me a couple of tries to figure out who was shooting whom, or who fell at the same time as the doll. (The buck hadn't been called out by name in a while, so I was pretty sure the buck wasn't armed to fight back, but the pronouns made it a little confusing ... at least for me.)

At least, that's my opinion? I think the story reads well, it has interesting characters, and there's a palpable tension ... I think it's more organizing and tightening work than anything else that's ahead of you.
Dec. 13th, 2014 03:47 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Dec. 13th, 2014 12:25 am (UTC)
What the_lettersea said about the last paragraph rang true for me too. I read this entry several times over, and felt that it was a little too vague and confusing. I felt it was beautifully written and loved many of the details you included, including characterization. I just felt like I was missing something after reading it, like I wasn't sure I understood everything that happened or why. Upon reading these other comments, I believe I get it now and think it sounds like a lovely concept, but I think it needs fleshed out a bit more, to make it clearer.

Dec. 13th, 2014 03:49 am (UTC)
Thanks! I wanted it to be a little vague, or at least somewhat removed from the scene, but too vague makes it difficult to understand and that doesn't work. Appreciate your comments!
Dec. 14th, 2014 05:49 am (UTC)
A lot of what I'd say is covered anyway--specifically about the flashback sequence. I'd read it as three separate scenes, which really worked for me, because it created a sense of routine (i.e. David going hunting toward dark, as well as the Quick boys rustlin' up trouble). The flashback in the middle makes sense, though, given the emphasis on the nesting dolls.

The nesting dolls, by the way, are something I totally relate to. I get fixated enough on details (there is a dessert spoon missing from our set, and it's been six weeks since it disappeared, and I'm still pretty upset about it) that the loss of the smallest of the dolls would Freak. Me. Out. For a long, long time. And so David's unsuccessful return of it--you know, on account of being shot--really breaks my heart.

Anyway, in reference to the flashback, I think an "Earlier that day" or some such would make all the difference in the world.

My main point that needs clarity is that I didn't know whether David was shot on purpose or not. I've heard that this is an easy mistake to make, and the Quick boys seem like a bunch of hooligans, not murders, so that's my assumption. But I'm not 100 percent on it.

Dec. 13th, 2014 12:18 am (UTC)
The Cos of Bad Behavior

Home game entry. Best luck to the remaining 25/24!
Dec. 13th, 2014 12:33 am (UTC)
To me, this read almost like an article I'd read online - well-researched, informative, and well-written. So good job with those points.

However, it did became a little heavy with the facts, mentioning so many of his movies in a short paragraph, it almost became a distraction to me. It made it hard to focus sometimes.

I would have liked to see a more personal spin on it, something only you could have brought to the subject. Your thoughts, some bit of insight that gives a reason for writing the entry. I liked the ending line, and think that perhaps focusing a bit more on that throughout would have given the story a stronger sense of purpose or meaning.

But again, I liked that last line and the overall message, it just needed a little more of that, I think.
Dec. 13th, 2014 12:52 am (UTC)
I have to say, in the 31 weeks I participated in Idol (after all, there was a week [0]), this is the first actual concrit I have received on anything I have written, and it occurred after I was already out of the competition! So, thank you for that.

I did list a lot of things, you're right, but I left out a considerable amount as well! Bill Cosby has had a sprawling and massive career and I wanted to list off the highlights because they are so varied and so lengthy. He is a part of the American fabric. I think it's crucial, especially if you only know him from his most recent work, that the list is there.

As for the personal spin, I would say you are right about that, but I think I'm just still a bit too close for that this quickly. Really, trying to understand someone that you assumed you knew, assumed you liked and assumed was good is excruciating when it all comes out this way. An analogy I would use that would actually fit what we're talking about is being over the toilet after the first wave of nausea has ejected. There's a moment to breathe, assess, maybe flush and then the realization that there's more to come. That's kind of where I'm at mentally with all of this.

Maybe I should have waited to write something about it, but I just had to get it out. And maybe I'll write more about it at a later time, when there is more distance... In a sense, that's kind of what Cosby's victims are doing now - as they were attacked in the 1980s and 90s and are finally standing together, ready to face their tormentor.

Thanks again for reading it and for your thoughts. I very much appreciate your comments.
Dec. 13th, 2014 01:15 am (UTC)
I think with a subject like this, it is very hard not to list out a bunch of facts. Bill Cosby is known for so many things. I think the trick is to remember that for many readers, they also know many of his accomplishments too, so listing out everything isn't necessary, just giving a highlight of the ones that are meaningful to you or to the entry is probably best. But I struggle with this all the time when writing articles. I have a bunch of facts that I think are important, that tell a story I want to tell and I write it all out only to discover what was supposed to be 1,000 words turned into 3,000 words. I have a difficult time with not wanting to include every interesting fact and tidbit when writing on a subject so huge.

But learning to walk that line is important, and it's something I'm working on as well. Perhaps if the entry was split up a bit, with more content other than his history at the top, it might read better. Many people are going to be reading not to get a personal history of Cosby's career, but to read a new take or to learn something from you that they couldn't have learned from somewhere else. So starting off with a little more of that to draw people in might be a good idea.

But I agree, it's hard when it's a topic that's close to you. And in this case, I think you did a great job of getting your thoughts out there in a way that you needed to do. It's always hard giving concrit when it's something personal because in all honesty, you're writing for you, and honestly, that's the best kind of writing there is.

All in all, I think it was well-written and did exactly what you were hoping to do, which in my eyes is always a good thing.
Dec. 18th, 2014 09:37 am (UTC)
It's not a bad article, I'm just unsure why it had to be written. It doesn't really add much to the conversation, it's more like an encyclopedia entry. I'd have to liked to see something more personal or thoughtful, as someone else said.
Dec. 14th, 2014 05:29 am (UTC)
So there's a magazine whose theme for the next submission period is "Drenched," and so I'd like to submit to them my entry for Week 27, an Open Topic I've titled Cast Away. The rub is this: it needs to be between 3,000 to 7,000 words. It's currently 1,473.

So my question is, is it possible to double its size without padding?

The story as is starts in the middle of the action, so there's plenty of room in the front for expansion. And, while I'm reasonably certain it's self-contained, I will have to bring up somehow (not sure yet) that her family has a bit of a magical bent, but do so without dipping too deeply into my mythology. Not sure how I'd do that.

Does anyone have any ideas?

Edited at 2014-12-14 05:30 am (UTC)
Dec. 14th, 2014 08:54 am (UTC)
I remember this piece! Definitely enjoyable.

I agree with your comment about the start - there's a lot you could explain about her family (Daddy in particular).

Do you think you could combine it with maybe two other of your pieces and link them somehow in a overarching theme?

(It might go well in one of the topics at Latchkey for later in the year- http://solarwyrm.com/2014/11/03/latchkey-updates/)
Dec. 15th, 2014 06:29 am (UTC)
I've spent some time thinking about Daddy, and I have some ideas about him. Thanks for putting that in my head.
Dec. 15th, 2014 05:47 am (UTC)
I think it's definitely possible to lengthen what you have. You've kept the entry pretty bare-bones in spots, there are areas where you could put more descriptions, maybe more inner thoughts from Rafaela. I'm not sure if you'd consider that "padding" or not, but if it relevant to the story - and to letting your readers know more about Rafaela - then I think it is wordage well spent.

A few critique points:
...fifteen-year-old Rafaela Torres shivered on a sandbar in the frigid air of the earliest hours of November, her flannel pajamas and salt-and-pepper pixie haircut soaked by the West Fork White River of Washington County, Arkansas.

When the wraith had swept past her tent, she could have let it go. Of course she couldn't. Follow it, she thought. I've never seen a wraith before, she thought. It'll be fun, she thought.

a) Maybe it's just me, but the term "salt-n-pepper" makes me think of older people. I know her hair is black-and-white, but for me at least that isn't quite the same as salt-n-pepper. I'm not sure if the coloration is artificial or natural, but you might consider using different terminology.

b) If she's never seen a wraith before, and if - as you state a little further down - wraiths are invisible, how did she sense its presence and know to follow it? If it was some sort of feeling (the whole "like someone walking across your grave") describe it / her reaction to it.

"Roy," whispered the man in green, "they always said the bridge was haunted, but--"
The cooler slammed into his stomach.
"Joe!" cried the one in red whose name was Roy.

I know this is supposed to be humorous, but the Roy-Joe-Roy thing strikes me oddly. Maybe add a little detail beyond their names and that they are wearing green and red? Perhaps height (ie: "the taller man in the green jacket"), facial hair, etc?

"Why didn't you help me?" she whined. "I could have drowned! Or squished to death!" –I think this should read "or been squished..."

I’d also like some description of her father, both in a physical sense and also more action from him - all he really does is clap and wipe away a tear.

You've got a good start with this. Good luck with submitting it!
Dec. 15th, 2014 06:28 am (UTC)
I'm impressed that you've managed to point out everything I was hoping to do with the expansion--you've reinforced what I think are the weaknesses. I even plan to go into the "salt-and-pepper" thing a little more.

Thank you.
Dec. 15th, 2014 01:43 pm (UTC)
Glad I could be of assistance! If you want a beta reader before you submit, feel free to ask me. :)
Dec. 15th, 2014 04:41 am (UTC)
I composed a Cento poem for my Home Game entry this week. It's my favorite type of poem to put together - a patchwork of lines from other poets. You can find it here:

Dec. 15th, 2014 08:55 pm (UTC)
This is really lovely - but hard to critique! Any changes would make it not a "true" cento, right?

Dec. 15th, 2014 10:18 pm (UTC)
Any changes would make it not a "true" cento, right?

Right. It was more for the HG than for KF critique. Just wanted to share it. :)

Thanks for reading!
Dec. 15th, 2014 10:21 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you did - I enjoy your work.
Dec. 15th, 2014 09:11 pm (UTC)
Ah!!! This is so wonderfully done. You have a great ear for rhythm and composition.

I really love the theme you open with and would prefer to have all three stanzas stay slightly more true to that.

Your first four lines are inspired and truly perfect. The fifth and sixth line stalled me because I didn't feel that "sails" worked with the shift to the ocean bottom. You could start a second stanza with that visual. And keeping with that critique, I then got thrown out with the living room line. It felt too modern, and not ocean-y enough. I love the next line about the dolphins. Likewise, the mountain line felt misplaced.

So, personally, I would prefer the theme to run continuous. I love how much thoughtful emotion you've coaxed out of melding other poets' lines.
Dec. 15th, 2014 10:26 pm (UTC)
"Gallactica" should have one "l".

I can so relate to this piece - though possibly from the other direction. I've just gone back to work after 5 years at home with the twins, and I feel like I've regained a piece of myself that I was aching for.
Dec. 16th, 2014 10:07 am (UTC)
I bet that's a good feeling. Honestly, I don't miss working in an office. I've just got to find a better way of earning money from home and I'll be happy.
Dec. 17th, 2014 06:56 pm (UTC)
A super late entry that may be (and will be) partially blamed on back ouchies that kept me in bed more or less for three days straight and back there directly after work for another two, but those are excuses, for of course I could have written that both on Monday and yesterday.


But whatever, I am writing for me, because my current routine of at least three bouts of editing is really good for my writing.
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )


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