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Instant feedback- the Ceramic DM judge free feedback zone of death!

alsih2o

First Post
Well, not really death.

But still, this is where you can chat openly using biasing comments and all else.

The rules of civility amongst Ceramic DM and evenmoreso on ENWorlds still aplly. :)
 

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Macbeth

First Post
My thoughts on BSF's 3rd round story:

Awesome Opening! It really drew me in. I was intrigued by the world, and Rainmaker really did come across as being quite evil. Good stuff.

But then it faltered a little. The middle had some pacing issues, I think. Still very good, but it just seemed to slow down, then jump forward, then slow down again, and then jump forward.

I also know that you were thinking about stating out your protagonist. I think that shows through in your writing. It is both a strength and a weakness. It does codify the hero's abilities, making it clearer what he can do, as opposed to my story, which had fairly vague "rules." On the other hand, I just don't like the feel of writing to the rules, so to speak. It's really just my preference: when it becomes clear that your hero has a set of rules binding him, it becomes to easy to guess what he can and cannot due, in my opinion.

I think the time limit worked against you alot. Then end of the story was good, but it could have been great, It did seem like you just barely got it in on time. Suddenly the story just rushed by, what could have been a dramatic confrontation seemed too rushed.

But now I'm sounding too neagtive. I really liked your story, the protagonist was memorable, Rainmaker was a great villian, and the world it set up would make an awesome d20 Setting. My biggest advice , if I could give any (who am I to give advice) would be to not limit your writing by game rules. Obviously having stats helped some aspects of the story, but at the same time, the infiltration of the tower in particular just got a little too close to just relating d20 combat, which is fun to run, but not so fun to read.

Argh, I still sound too negative! I can't figure out how to make this sound any nicer, I really am just trying to tell you my thoughts on the story. It was a great story, and I don't mean to rip it apart, I just want to tell you what I think of it, and I like it alot. Please don't read my comments as critizing, I really did like the story alot, I just want to give you some feedback.
 


Zhaneel

First Post
I really do hope that this gets used. I prefered the winter competition where spoilers were used, 'cause I often have a gut response, but if I can't post it right away, I forget after the judging.

Zhaneel
 

BSF

Explorer
Thanks Clay! :) While I appreciate Macbeth's comments, I have been waiting to see if anybody had anything else to say before I reply.

The mechanical elements of writing aside (those are good though), I am interested in hearing how the story made people feel. Did it make anyone stop and think? There are elements to the story that I don't think are very transparent, but they exist. I am not sure how well I conveyed that.
 

Sialia

First Post
Yes, it is much easier to hold forth on these thing immediately after reading--the gut response of "ooh" or "wow" still fresh in my mind and the reasons why. Being able to post directly in thread lets me give a Maldur-type response. Waiting a while to think things over gives me time to be more Arwink-like. By the time I get there, I'm usually too restrained to really hold forth with the deep analysis for fear of hurting someone's feelings.

Except in this case.

Macbeth wrote a fine piece, and I really enjoyed reading it and thought, well BSF sure has his work cut out for him.

And then BSF posted, and any attempt at being disinterested flew out the window. It's a really good thing I'm not judging this round, because this is one of the few stories that have been posted where I absolutely could not make a judgment that wasn't 100% biased. I knew that was a risk when I started doing the illustrations, which is why I refused to judge--when my own work is involved, I'm not fair, and I'm not reasonable.

Only, this wasn't about the illustrations.

Consciously or not, BSF put together a story that showed me exactly the type of world I had envisioned for my winter Ceramic GM series, before the Fall of Men occurred, which predates my timeline by several thousand years.

I knew it like it was a place I had been before, even though I never went there when I was writing the winter stuff. I knew what the rules of that world were the way an archaeologist knows what Ancient Egypt was like. But I had never really been there. BSF breathed life into it so I could walk around in it and see how it felt to be there. It felt exactly right.

The rules of gametime were actually part of that experience. In the way that our world's technology controls that there are certain things a cell phone can and cannot do, the rules of game mechanics control that world. There is magic, but it's not completely free of constraints. They are familiar constraints to those of us that D20, and we can take them as given.

It may be that the only audience for this set of stories is ENWorld (and related forums). So be it. We're not writing for Asimov's here--we're writing for us. The piece had an acute awareness of its intended audience, which made it very personal. That may limit its universal human truth appeal, but I think it brings us much closer to an intimate and personal human truth. To me, that's more appealing.

I also liked the local flavor and culture. Rooting a fantasy story in a particular locale with it's particular weather and cuisine and clothing and philosophy is a great way to avoid the McDonald'sification (run that through your spellcheck!) of fantasy cultures--you know--the white bread, ren-faire mock medieval european thing we all like as our standard comfort fantasy fare. There's unbelievable richness to human cultures, and even New Jersey is different from Ohio. A world that gives me even a glimpse of the kind of local context that makes a place live feels good to me. So I'm biased because BSF wrote in a world that I wanted to create in--a world that I would like to game in or write about. (Although not live in <shudder>)

Which is not to say that Macbeth did or didn't go there--only that after reading BSF's story, I got lost in my own thoughts about things for a while.

And then I started writing again.

So, I'm biased, because something in BSF's story made me want to get back to my world and start working there again.

And this little bird is always surprised and delighted and biased and unreasonable when she finds that she has more songs in her than she expected.

(As a final note, though--to both Macbeth and BSF--if whichever of you wins does not take care to have somebody else proofread and spellcheck your round 4 entry before you post it, you are going to get clobbered. Leave yourself time to do the proofing!! In the absence of glaring typos, I see no reason why either of you should not do well in the final. Good luck!!)
 
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BSF

Explorer
Sialia,
Thank you for sharing that. Though, it was not a conscious effort to tap into your delicious stories.

Macbeth,
Don't worry about sounding too negative. I know you, I have met you and we game together. I have a context to place body language in with what your words are saying. Besides, I happen to agree with some of your assessments. Mechanically, this story could be much, much stronger. And I fully expect the judges to note the mechanical weaknesses. They have to.

As Sialia rightfully points out, you and I both have spelling errors. I have editing errors that are almost inexcusable. Sadly, some of them were not errors that I noted until several readings into the story. Too close to the story to see them really.

And that is part of the strength and part of the weakness of this story. It is close to me. I hope I have written a story that is fun to read. It is a niche piece. For now, it needs to stay there. I need to figure out how to rewrite it to pull it out of that niche. If I do that, I am not sure I want it to remain a short story. Perhaps a novella, or even a novel would work better? I'm just not sure. But, I digress.

I chose to stat out the characters in my mind so I would understand the parameters of the world I was creating. I agree that doing so can create a rigid boundary that might confine the story. Nevertheless, it was something I wanted to do.
- Heck, first of all, I am a DM. Going through that little mental excercise creates NPC material for me. I can present two possible builds for Jake, depending on how scary I want him to be. But, that is a minor consideration.
- Secondly, this is Ceramic DM. The roots of alsih2o's little contest are in adventure story writing around the D20 system. I wanted to pay homage to the roots. (I always enjoyed Gary Gygax's Gord the Rogue books and those are very D&D-centric.)

- Thirdly, I wanted a rigid parameter around these characters. They do have limitations, very codified limitations. Something like Rainmaker Inc has found a way to break those limitations. They exert their weather control over most of the United States. By borrowing the limitations, I take a shortcut to developing the history. I can easily envision how Rainmaker grew and what it's influence is across the nation, and indeed the world. I know this because I borrowed the 2 mile radius limitation of Control Weather (when a wizard or sorceror casts it) and reversed it. I took those rules, warped them and then used that as an overlay for what the antagonist of the story would do. (Indeed, what almost any corporation would do if they had the chance to corner the market.) But really, this all builds up to one of the biggest reasons.

- Fourthly, borrowing the game mechanics that most of the readers are going to be passingly familiar with allows me to take certain ... shortcuts. I can refer to something in a game-centric parlance that allows me to save time and words. While I have never come close to running against the word limit, it does take time to type it all out. (Such as the time I am not working while writing this. ;)) 72 hours is awfully short if you work and sleep during that time. I also had gaming. I was desperately running out of time and I hadn't figured out the perspective of how I was going to tell the story. Without some of those shortcuts, I would have needed a couple more hours of writing time.

I know what the intended audience for this story is, so I chose to embrace the limitations of game mechanics for the benefits it would bring me, and because on some level it will appeal to the audience. I would be delighted to hear that somebody wanted to make a PC like Dancing Bull, or Little Bird. I would grin if somebody asked me for more history about Rainmaker. You get these things out of writing around the game mechanics.

But really, these were very minor considerations for the story.

Characterization was fun. Sialia, I am so very, very pleased that you enjoyed that. It was a very conscious decision to tap into a few regional things. An anglo looking guy who is named Julio, but goes by Jake and speaks with a mixture of English and Spanish. A Native American Hispanic that speaks english. These are people I could meet anywhere along the Rio Grande, from Taos, down to El Paso. I could meet them in places along the Gulf of Mexico. I wanted them to feel authentic. OK, I have never met a talking buffalo, but this is a world of magic, and spirits and it really isn't that hard for me to imagine meeting a talking buffalo. I hope the characterization is where you get glimpses of what is going on beneath the obvious story. Because, really, Jake and Cheryl are just window dressing for what the story was really about.

But, maybe that is best left for another post?
 

Macbeth

First Post
hmmm, I did spellcheck. Thought I got most of the errors. Damn. Never was very good at spelling/grammer, I always focused on the writing itself. Damn.
 

Sialia

First Post
I know, but it would be a good series of short stories if we collaborated on them and combined them--and they wouldn't conflict because the timelines are thousands of years apart.

You could be pretty much free to do whatever you wanted within your timeline, as long as you were more or less within the standard conventions of d20.

Say a few hundred years after your story completes, the world as you built it collapses, and lays fallow for a few thousand, and then we stick in mine.

Bits of evidence from things that happened in your world might show up in mine, or perhaps not.

It could be done, and it would be good.

Of course, the piece that I'm working on now violates that, because I wanted to write in yours right off, and started working in your timeline.

Um.

Although in a completely different geographic location. And it could be off by a couple dozen years--but probably not more than about 50 or 60 years.

The point is, there's enough going on politically and philosphically here that there's room for a lot in this world, and it's worth going on with. Having multiple authors with different styles poking at it wouldn't hurt it, because a high piece of the charm is the intense quality of local and personal material and issues, and the variety of them.
 
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BSF

Explorer
It sounds like fun! You are right, it really isn't a stretch to imagine the stories being related, even if they are seperated by a good span of time.

Now, you have me thinking again. Hmm, very interesting concepts going on. Because really, Rainmaker is a single event that is transpiring in this world. Admittedly, it has significance, but what other significant events are going on? Dancing Bull and Little Bird are, as I said, window dressing for the real conflict. They are contributing their small part, and Jake doesn't even understand the significance of what he is doing. Sure, he is kind of avenging his spiritual death at the hands of Rainmaker. He is certainly avenging Little Bird's death. At the end, he thinks he understands what has happened when he has the tiny revelation that Cheryl knew she would stride the Great Red Road ahead of her brother, and indeed, ahead of Jake. But, he doesn't really understand what happened. Which is why I couldn't write the story from his 1st person perspective. If I had done that, the reader would have felt his pain and spiritual vacuity, but the reader would not have had that external perspective to see more of the picture that I was trying to paint. The reader would not have the opportunity to really wonder who Papa and Auntie are. *shrug* Maybe the reader doesn't now. Maybe Papa and Auntie are just an old grandfather and a talking buffalo because I didn't provide any opportunity to question whether they are anything more, but I hope not.

Anyway, if you are inspired to write something, than I am happy. I'd love to see it, perhaps in Kil-Fired Ceramic DM when you are done?
 

BSF

Explorer
Enough about my story right now. What I want to hear is about Macbeth's risk in round two against Clay. For me, I have tried something a little beyond my comfort zone for all three rounds so far. So, I find it interesting that other people are feeling the need to stretch as well.

C'mon Macbeth, what was the risk and what was the inspiration to try it? I want to know.
 

Sialia

First Post
BardStephenFox said:
Anyway, if you are inspired to write something, than I am happy. I'd love to see it, perhaps in Kil-Fired Ceramic DM when you are done?
Go over there a post a good photo for me.
Folks have given me a few already, most of which have slipped in quite easily.

Not that I've had time to write. Probably another 2 weeks before I get any writing time. But I know what I would do with them.

Hope I don't lose the story before then--that sort of thing has happened before.

Feel free to tell us more about Papa and Auntie. I'm listening.

It's because your world is bigger than your characters that I think it fits well with mine. My characters were there moving in the space and time, but it was the world that held me hostage, now that I think about it.

Probably why I felt right at home in yours.
 

Eeralai

First Post
BardStephenFox said:
Enough about my story right now. What I want to hear is about Macbeth's risk in round two against Clay.

I'd like to post my thoughts on MacBeth's second story. Actually, I would like to compare his second and third story because any comparison to BSF's third story would probably be biased :)

I like the premise for MacBeth's third story a great deal, but I think his second story is better written. For me, it is probably because the second story is all about the development of a character. It is unrelated to the d20 world, and instead it concentrates on growing from a child to an adult in a very metaphorical way. I really had a since of the character's anguish and thought it all too real that people were trying to squash his imagination. It was well done and something I hope he expands upon.

The third story, as I said, had a great premise, but I was not as intrigued with the main character. I knew right away who the djinn was, and I felt like the main character should have had more of an inkling than he did. It would be neat to see this story with more character depth and posted in the Kiln Fired thread. I was impressed with the picture use in both stories and the fact that they were written in three days blows me away. And I must interject that the speed at which BSF wrote his last two stories was astounding to me. The second one particularly because he did not have as clear of an idea for it when he sat down to begin it as he did the other two.

As far as grammar and spelling, the best thing to do is have somebody else look at it. But in the time frame you guys have to work with, that is sometimes impossible to do.
 

Sialia

First Post
Yes--Macbeth's second rounder blew me away. I looooved that story. The third rounder was good, too, but did not surprise me as much, or take me somewhere I have never travelled gladly beyond as well.The second rounder was the sort of story that would do well in a final round, if there's another like that in there. Only not like that, becasue part of what was great about it was that I had never encountered another one like that before.
 

Macbeth

First Post
Thanks for the feedback!

Well, as for what risk I felt I was taking: I was moving beyond a simple story, ment primarily to entertain, into a story that was ment to communticate a moral, or a theme, or something. I was trying to stay away from the humor of my previous entry(s) and create a surreal feel to the story. I wasn't sure that I could do it, but it worked out, and I think it is probably the best stuff I've ever written for a Ceramic DM competition. Bacially my risk was writing in a style besides what I normally write, going for a feel that I rarely read. I find it easier to imitate a style that I read often, so doing soething more surreal was hard.

And my third round story. All of your criticisms are dead on. I've never been good about writing mystery, especially when I already know the answer. If I make it up as I go along, I'm more likely to keep the secrete, but then it's impossible to see it coming. If I plan it out ahead of time I make it too obvious what the suprise is. If I had another way of linking the pictures together, or another way to tell the story without the weak mystery element, I would have done it. In retrospect, I caught on to the suprise ending as my hook too early in the writing process, I think I could have told the same story without the suprise, and it could have been better.

I was hoping that by hinting at the mysterious ever-present glasses I could make the reader think they knew who the djinn was, then redirect them when the glasses truned out to be just, well... glasses. I knew it might be too easy to tell who the djinn, but I was hoping I could play on the reader's expectations.

And just a little insight into my thought process with this story: the "thread" I found in the pictures was the distortion. I liked the idea that the swimming man was warping reality, not just swimming. In my first mental draft, there were no djinn, there was a government experiment that gave a subject the power to warp reality to his subconscious desires. It would be told from a first person point of view, from the perspective of an agent sent out to track down this subject, who escaped. But, after he cpatured the subject, it would turn out he was the subject, that he had used his powers to create somebody to catch. I liked the idea, but I had no idea why it would happen, and I didn't like the feel of it. I tossed the idea around for a bit, then I happened to think about djinn (I have been reading Neil Gamien's American Gods recently, and even though the djinn interlude was a while back, it was still fresh in my mind), and the story as it turned out developed.

I wish that I had been able to find a metaphoric topic as I did in the second round, but no such luck. I liked my second round story better, and I think this round will be close.
 

Macbeth

First Post
Sialia said:
Yes--Macbeth's second rounder blew me away. I looooved that story. The third rounder was good, too, but did not surprise me as much, or take me somewhere I have never travelled gladly beyond as well.The second rounder was the sort of story that would do well in a final round, if there's another like that in there. Only not like that, becasue part of what was great about it was that I had never encountered another one like that before.
If I do get a shot at the final round, I'm going to try to pusch myself again, to not accept any idea that I feel I've already written.

And if I don't get a chance at the finals, I'll just push myself in the next Ceramic DM.
 

Zhaneel

First Post
Having now read both stories (was avoiding due to work and so I could work on my own beast) I have to say I prefer BSF's.

Again, I have the same complaint about the Djinn. I'm trying to figure out how you could have made it harder to figure out. Perhaps have the threesome say that someone would join him for the hunt so that the reader did not IMMEDIATELY think Djinn? Also, I wonder how the side guys could look intimidating with their backs to the main character.

As for BSF, I think it was a wonderfully rich world and interesting idea. I don't see the connection Sialia's stories, but then I'm not in Sialia's head. I was a little confused at the end. There were 3 wizards, and Dancing Bull took out one and then I thought dealt with the second to see Little Bird's bro as the third. Takes him out, and then we're left with another wizard who just lets him read the scroll? Umm... confused.

Zhaneel
 


Macbeth

First Post
Zhaneel said:
Having now read both stories (was avoiding due to work and so I could work on my own beast) I have to say I prefer BSF's.
I think I may prefer BSF's also... if I had to predict the outcome of the match, I would bet on BSF.

Oh, and you can look fairly intimidating with your back turned. Big enough muscles and the possibility of those muscles being used to beat you to a pulp is always intimidating, regardless of facing. Kind of like d20 combat, when you think about it .... ;)
 
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orchid blossom

First Post
I'll echo Zhaneel. I'd love to hear what anyone has to say about my entry. It's been awhile, I know, but I'd love to hear it.

Hopefully soon I'll have time to offer some insights on the recent stories.
 

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