Reviews for Life is a box of chocolates (Anthology)
Jalux chapter 12 . 5/10/2015
The ending is a simple resolution but it made for a good finish because throughout the piece he is struggles to understand her but finally gets it and it's a nice simple plot that drives the reader through the chapter. I feel the relationship between the narrator and the baby is well-written, particularly scenes that stood out was when he covered her eyes assuming the mermaid was dead. Hm, anyways I think the writing was good enough but I never really found I liked the MC that much, I can't quite pinpoint but they felt very flat and a little dull. Might just be me though to be honest. Overall I think you have a solid piece here.
lookingwest chapter 12 . 5/10/2015
Ah, that's too bad you didn't make the deadline, especially because it had been extended! That's part of the "challenge" part of it though, I think, to work within a time constraint - it was nice of you to work within it since I think usually if the prompt-giver knows the prompt *technically* they could begin before the 1st, haha. But you managed to write something pretty creative and "whole" feeling during the time you had. This feels like a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end - including conflict and characters. So that's a strength here, and one I'm envious of!

Other / prompt - Your prompt was interesting this month. I thought you wanted us all to write stories about two maids eating a baby, or a baby eating two maids. I don't think I was the only one, since I think somebody took the prompt literally too, and wrote that, haha. The flexibility of the word "maid" was unique though, and I enjoyed that about this prompt. Some people took it as an actual maid in a house, I didn't even think of it that way and thought you meant like, maids - referring to unwed women or the short term "fair maiden" - so it's very interesting to me that you took none of those routes with your own piece, though you did manage to incorporate the "eating" thing and the baby. ANYWAY, so I liked how you handled your prompt, especially when it came to including the mermaid and the eating. The Baby part was also unique, I liked that prompt-wise you had the baby enter and then leave the piece, leaving the sea captain alone by the end. I was a little confused on the "two" maids thing - since I didn't see that incorporated, but overall, enjoyed your take!

By the way, if people tell you your writing is too dark, ignore them. I don't think you need to adhere to anything that you don't want to. Now, if you actually as a writer wanted to write something lighter, then go for it. But don't do it because some readers complain you're being too downer or something, haha. It's you're work. If you want to write dark stuff, do it.

Ending - I liked how you ended on the last line with understanding her perfectly, just in terms of how it, duh, contrasts to the fact he couldn't understand her until then. The piece ending on the lighthearted moment that I think you were aspiring for.

Character - I liked how the baby was able to speak to the mermaid and the sea creatures. That added to that idea that we lose our sense of wonder and "magic" as we grow up. There's an argument that that's why adults always want "answers" in YA fantasy and sci-fi. They don't like it when things are not explained or there is no backstory or things are left up to interpretation, because they want their magic to "make sense." Thematically, I thought the baby being able to speak to things the captain couldn't spoke to that idea.

Plot - I think the hardest thing that's put me off writing short stories is the fact that you have so little time to develop a plot, but I think you managed to do it here really well. I liked the Plea-giver twist in regards to a life for a life. Also the foreshadow earlier that there must be that exchange for the wishing to work. It was a smart twist and provided you with the climactic ending and resolution in a unique manner.
pumadelic chapter 2 . 5/9/2015
Opening: throws you right inside the situation and creates speculation - why is it an advantage to stare through people? The next section gives more of an idea.

Technique/writing style.

The call and response terse paragraphs create a nice tension between the basic experience and the darker reality beneath it eg He went to school (stood, sat, passed paper up and down the row; stared at print and chalk marks to the drone of various adult voices; moved words and numbers around on worksheets; regurgitated facts and play acted having an opinion)

I'm a bit bothered by the sexism of 'He got educated...She got socialised' but it's obviously satirical so maybe that's the point. On the whole it is very effective at producing a sense of depressive alienation.

Your choice of diction is always apt and that, with the strong sensory details, conveys the atmosphere of mechanical sexuality and hypocrisy you want very well -regulation olive green trousers covering those legs that had wrapped flexibly around like pale, sinewy, writhing snakes to choke the life out of already dead plastic'. It's almost too much but not quite.

Relationships; the near miss always catches attention. Can she break through his isolation? Looking at someone performing a simulated sex act with a mannequin but then recognising them afterwards suggests the ability to perceive. Which he doesn't want. The line 'he assigned her a small fraction of his attention to pretend not to be looking at her pretending not to look at him;solving algebraic equation filled most of his head' works particularly well to create a sense of almost connection. The fact that she bothers to go back to find him in the shop and his inability to completely ignore her racks this tension up - all those 'almosts' in the telegraphic phrases and the actual encounter 'almost couldn't look through her face with its mixed up fascination, desire and repugnance all openly displayed' whereas later she has 'unblinking staring dolls eyes'.

Story/ themeIt is a bleakly superficial world with absolutely no genuinecommunication, no genuine emotion and does embody the Medusa myth quite well..except your Medusa is an androgynous guy, a nice touch

Ending: Perhaps the insertion of stony eyes isn't strictly necessary although it's your prompt. I would have preferred a different word here to convey the same meaning.

The only problem with writing of this kind is that you do feel highly manipulated into the atmosphere. There is no perspective and no let up on the intensity of the bleakness. It may me want to go and read P G Wodehouse but then I'm ill today and need cheering up.

Accomplished.
lookingwest chapter 2 . 5/9/2015
Technique - This writing technique got a bit tiresome and hard to read for me by the end of the prompt. I liked it to hook me in and all was well and good, but then by the end it started feeling choppy and I started getting this urge to skim the bits that were in parentheses. It might work better for maybe a flash fiction piece or something that's more around 1k instead of 2k - though that's only my opinion.

Scene - I think my favorite "scene" or little vignette was actually the two towards the end regarding "education" and "socialization." I liked how those two things reflected one another in terms of contributing to characterizing your Him/Her characters, which is hard to do in such little space.

Ending - I also liked how you ended the piece with that idea of looking past someone. That for me, seemed to circle the ending back to the opening, echoing it in some way through that idea of "staring past someone" or not really seeing them. Nice moment.

Enjoyment - Overall, I enjoyed seeing the branch-out of some experimentation with telling a story in this piece. WCCs are always great places to try new things, and I think you exemplify that leap here. Even though towards the end the technique sort of dragged for me, I did like it on the whole and I enjoyed the way that it abstractly tells a story between two people and their interests in one another, util it falls apart. Thanks for the read!
whispers of lowlit flames chapter 6 . 4/29/2015
Congrats for winning this month's WCC and sorry for leaving this review so late!

OPENING: Interesting beginning. There seems to be two voices (or one somewhat convoluted one) which makes placing a character to the voice a little difficult, but the scene is one that makes me want to laugh. Certainly curious enough for me to want to see what's coming, but not quite enough for me to be immediately pulled in (largely because of how the voice changes - it's a minor thing but because it's the first sentence it can have quite a large impact).

NARRATION: It's less obvious later on, but there still seems to be a mix of formal and informal speech. For example, "she watched him intently" seems more formal than "since she had nothing better to do." They speak of different settings/times.

The reflection reads quite interestingly: the conclusion of chance - and the sudden actions that changed from ritual to game. I found it a little unexpected - but I can't quite make up my mind whether I mind that. It was certainly amusing to read.

The short transition between the win and the loss is quite interesting too. Interesting and unexpected despite the earlier hints.

DIALOGUE: the dialogue seems consistent with the time, and with a touch of uniqueness about this olden-style you've made as well.

CONCLUSION: The ending reminds me of the 12 O'Clock Bell Rings - the man changing into a beast anyhow. The way it ends leaves possibilities for a greater story as well - the whys and the whats and something beyond the few people and places we saw. I particularly like how you showed off love without once stating it...and how that test with the question came into play in a quite literal manner in the end.
LuckycoolHawk9 chapter 10 . 4/27/2015
WCC April Winner review! Horray!
Opening: I liked the way you started this piece with a question because it draws the reader completely into it, allowing us to ponder it. I also like how you establish that it is a question that is about two people ended up this way and I think it was excueted beautifully since it allows us an idea what type of story this is.
Ending: I liked the way you ended this because it shows the desperation of the narrator so well and how she wished her life wasn't all screwed up anymore. I also like how you make this very much about how she cares for him and is letting him go because it allows us to understand why she does it for him.
Characters: I love the narrator of this piece as a whole because she is someone who is easy to relate too with her truthful nature and her life. I also like the characterization of her boyfriend because it shows how he is portrayed beautifully through her dialogue.
Relationships: I love the relationship between these two characters because it feels so real and relatable. They are a rich and poor couple brought together by love who are trying to avoid dying. It also allows us to see them as people and understand they fell in love with each other with such intent details as a whole.
Enjoyment: I found this piece to be very enjoyable because it was easy tor relate to all the characters and their plights. I also find it enjoyable that we have someone who wishes to destroy a relationship because it makes an interesting and unique twist as a whole.
Scene: I love the scene where he agrees to move in with her because it shows the devotion of his character. I also like how he braves all things for her and still loves her as a whole. It allows us to see her as a person.
deadaccount2019 chapter 3 . 4/27/2015
[Opening] The first line gives the reader a lot of questions. Why is there a body? What kind of body (artificial, murder victim, natural death, donation to science, etc)? The point-five is also a nice lead-in to the next sentence in that the reader gets a slight sense of creepy perfectionism mixed in with what is otherwise a strong indication of cold, calculated science at work. Essentially the opening does a wonderful job of easing the reader into the scifi aspect of the story without dragging it out, as well as hooking them with intrigue with regards to what is happening.

[Setting] The first time I read this I think was before reading All of Him. This time around I recognized the setting and had a much easier time getting into it, but I do feel the setting is lacking in imagery. I wasn't sure if I should be imagining a newer, sterile environment or something more worn down and characteristic of the lower and outer city. Even lighting and temperature are scarce, leaving the setting out feeling a bit too ambiguous, even empty.

[Character] The impression the reader has of Base changes quite abit throughout the piece. You do a good job of transitioning to eac change, from the perfectionist sientist to a felon flying under the radar, and finally settling on a man who made mistakes he can't redeem himself from. hrough his tasks and interactions with Finn we get to see how he's perceived by others without ever changing perspective, which makes him feel very complete as a character.

[Theme] Prostitutes and athletes are one and the same at the end of the day: They sell their bodies as meatbags for the entertainment of others. They only differ in how society treats their demise: a fallen athlete is a hero while a prostitute is a pitiful statistic that might double for fear mongering. In the case of the story, Claudia made an informed decision with low odds of risk, and from the tidbits we get of her she was okay with this decision. There's no acknowledgement of the fact that Base (whom I'm assuming is her lover) attempted to control her job/career decisions. Had Claudia chosen to be a surrogate mother, or join the army in wartime, or become an athlete, he would automatically be labelled a possessive, misogynistic bastard, but because her choice involved sex and money, it's completely acceptable for him (or anyone else) to have an opinion about what she does with her body. This is a painful truth of our society in the past, present, and foreseeable future, and one which makes the story all the more relevant.
Jalux chapter 10 . 4/24/2015
Everything you write is so dark, surely one of these ends up with the characters happy. That being said I definitely liked the writing here. The doors used as a literal metaphor never quite got old and had a real vivid imagery to them. It's almost like their relationship is a forked path and she keeps taking one particular path until he lies through his teeth and gets her to finally move off onto the other path. The repetition is fine in my opinion, it may get on some people's nerves but for the most part it's acceptable. The opening is fairly good in my opinion, the first line in particular is a cliched yet interesting piece of dialogue that kind of forces us to read on to find out how they get to that point and what the future holds for them. Also the door line itself is rather ambiguous but it only makes the opening more appealing.

The plot serves as a nice backdrop the characters themselves. Really I feel terrible the narrator's partner, they do so much for the narrator. They stick up for them, get failed for a class because of them, offer their place to them and in the end the narrator more or less spits in their face. Granted it was to help them but yeah you have to give props to the narrator for cutting them loose. They realized they were an anchor and dragging their partner down and did what was necessary to free them. The ending itself reflects this and is bittersweet, the relationship ends in tatters but there's hope too because of that final line that one or both of them might get their lives together even if they can't be with each other. It's a good ending that ties up the story while leaving up possibilities for a sequel or enough so that readers can ponder themselves.
Dr. Self Destruct chapter 11 . 4/22/2015
Opening: I really like how it takes a couple paragraphs to figure out the narrator is in fact a dog and not a human. There's a literary term for it, where you describe objects and setting from the perspective of a creature that isn't human or from someone who would just observe these things in a different way (Johnathan Swift does it a lot in Gulliver's Travels) but it's been so long since I learned it I can't remember what it's called. But anyways, you do that really well here. I especially like the "I'm a bitch" part. At first I was like, "well at least she's honest" but then I realized she's an ACTUAL female dog and I got a nice chuckle out of that.

Plot: So I'm guessing the narrator, Sahara, is an inhuman being who's able to be transferred from body to body. And I'm guessing Al isn't exactly human either since he's been alive for...a long time, I'm guessing? I'm not really sure because the time-lapse between the normal narration and italics isn't made clear. It's an interesting plot to be sure, especially because I wasn't expecting it. I feel like we're missing something, though. And I have a feeling it has to do with the word limit - I feel like you could probably fully flesh this out in about 4k words, but doing it under 2k just leaves the ending feeling like there's something missing. Like, probably a middle conflict that leads to a conclusion. This feels more like just general back-story and information on the characters than an actual story with beginning, conflict, climax, and conclusion. Which is fine if that's what you intended. It'll probably appeal to a wider audience and leave more of a lasting effect on people if there was more structure to the plot, though.

Voice: To get a little more specific about what I mentioned in plot, I feel like the voice has a lot to do with my confusion or that feeling of being unsatisfied by the end. Obviously the voice and tone between the two different time periods is drastically different, and I feel like it's worth going more into why that is. Does Al resort to other women instead of Sahara because, being in the body of a dog for so long, she's changed from the "entity" she once was? That, I think, could be the possible skeleton for a plot. You'd have to fill the middle in more, like show the transformation from past Sahara to present Sahara. Which will also give you a chance to flesh out the time lapse between these two periods as well, and what exactly their situation is. What is she? Why does she have to be put into this body? Those kinds of questions.

Structure: I really like how this story is structured. You open with a normal scene and voice, so that when you jump into the italics it's both jarring and attention-grabbing. You suddenly hit the reader with all sorts of questions, and I feel like it creates this really interesting emotional effect by the time you get to the "end" and back to the present. We see Sahara in the present, all happy and dog-like, then we get to what she used to be. How coherent and in love she was, and how much she hates a physical body. By the time we get back to dog-Sahara, we see all that she's lost from being stuck in this dog-form. Which is...really sad, honestly. I was surprised by how quickly my emotions went from "haha" to "wow...she's totally different." It's like a hidden sensation of loss I didn't notice until the very end - mostly because I don't think Sahara even remembers to miss who she once was. Makes me think of a lot of different types of mental illnesses, like dementia. You get to a point where you don't even remember the person you used to be and you don't even know to miss it.
Jalux chapter 9 . 4/21/2015
That opening was nicely done, it's tense in some ways because he might get caught but also ridiculous because he's changing in the middle of nowhere. The line about the girl going to school is well delivered and sets the tone for the rest of the story. I like how you characterize him with the classes, the Moral Education class shows he's clever and the Maths class shows he's good with numbers. It's a nice way to info dump because it doesn't feel like you're simply telling us. They get close fairly quickly but it is realistic in my mind since they seem to share common interests and goals.
m. b. whitlock chapter 11 . 4/17/2015
RG EF #6,926

Really like the voice/pov you develop in this story:
“You smell okay, so I guess it's alright for you to touch me. Right, next step.”
That’s just so doggy great (okay, I saw the prompt, assuming it’s dog) ;)

I like how weird things get at this point:
“She's a nice one, right, Al? You've been with her, or near her anyway. You can't hide the smell. I don't mind, really. You should bring her home. But you've never done that with any of the others, so I guess I won't be seeing her around here.”
Is the pov a dog?…

This is so disturbing:
“She makes the sharp sound first, but it quickly turns into the happy sound when she realises it's me. I nuzzle at her, at the soft flesh where her head joins her body. She makes more happy sounds.”
Happy sounds?!

Very cool .;)

This whole universe shift section is great but I wouldn;t use such a prosaic term as ‘iota’:
“ This shape that he wears could never hope to express even an *iota* of his glory.”
Say atom or particle or something… Might be just me though…

This is great:
“"Until next time," I whisper with the last of my being.

.

.

.

Al looks tired, like we've been playing catch all afternoon. “

It’s like edit/time jump “200,000 years later…” ;)

“Me, me! Sahara! I'm the best bitch ever!”
Well damn, maybe goes just a tad far here but wtf, go for it. :)

vb,

mbw
Jalux chapter 8 . 4/17/2015
This seems to be one of the few pieces which ends on a happier note which is nice to see (I mean the narrator seems to be happy at least). I'm all for the angst and tragedy that comes in stories but personally I did feel some of your writing was far too depressing. So the ending was nice for me in that respect, because it shows you as a writer starting to branch out. Well I do suppose you could view it as depressing since he's going to be rushed away by the medics but I guess he found happiness in the end...

Speaking of tragedy that was definitely something I felt was prevalent throughout this piece as the narrator talks about his love who has moved away. You did a good job of connecting us to the narrator and just how he is coping with the loss of this person.

The narrator himself was an interesting character, he believes himself to be strong yet seems to be really struggling to handle his emotions and is even projecting his loved one onto other girls so to speak. Either that or the woman he talks about doesn't exist at all? I mean I can't imagine all those people looking so similar to this woman.

I think you nailed the voice of the narrator pretty well, he just comes off as being not quite right and unreliable even. Like some of the stuff he says doesn't make sense and causes the reader to doubt. Honestly the piece would have been nowhere near as strong without this excellent voice.
Virtuella chapter 10 . 4/16/2015
WCC Review:

This is absolutely excellent. Very clever to invert the usual idea of someone opening a door into their heart/life into the concept of opening a door for the other person to LEAVE. It throws up all sorts of questions as to why the narrator sees themselves as dead end, even an unvoluntary trap. The financial problems don't account for that.

It seems very sad that the narrator cannot seem to accept the other person's obvious affection. Howevermuch the other person appears a little naive and even romantically deluded, they clearly do care for the narrator and are willing to acceppt serious disadvantages for the narrator's sake. Yet the narrator keeps trying to push them out the door. This may be because the narrator fears the ill effect on the other person, but it can also mean that the narrator feels ultimately unlovable.

And thus we come to the final, brutal scene: The narrator telling the other person, You mean nothing at all to me. This is really clever, because you introduce is as a lie, and yet we do not know what exactly the truth is. Is it the exact opposite: You mean everything in the world to me? Or merely something like, I care about you a little? In any case, we get the strong impression that the narrator is first and foremost trying to hurt themselves, and only hurts the other person as a kind of collateral damage.

The prose is so neat and crisp and and lucid and to the point, it was an utter delight to read. I liked how the individual short sentences structured the narrative. Very many excellent sentences here, I particularly liked the recreational smoker and the chivalrous champion similes.
lookingwest chapter 11 . 4/16/2015
Congrats on winning April's WCC!

POV - I liked the narration of this piece with the POV of the dog. I think you did a convincing job with that kind of voice. I'm never good at that kind of thing, so it was cool to see it working here and I understand how it was very directly inspired by the prompt - clear with that and no guess work there! The voice is kinda interesting though considering that Sahara doesn't sound anything like that voice when she's in a human vessel? Like - why the change? Is she really a dog or a human trapped as a dog? I don't really need to know the answer but the contrast between the two narrations was a little too sharp. I just kept picturing her as having this same dog POV when she was human and they were having sex, haha.

Pacing - The pacing plodded along at a decent pace because of the easiness of the voice of the dog Sahara. Now, when she turns human, the italics part kind of drug for me and then afterwards, which I'll explain in regards to ending...

Ending - I kind of felt like the story was over after the "Until next time" last line - but then it kept going. I think I got that the guy was hanging out with the woman they used to put Sahara into a human body - I don't know if we need that last bit just to establish that or what else it hints at... There might have been another way. Not sure what but yeah!

Plot - I have to admit I don't know if I fully understood this piece though, it got a little confusing in the italics. I think it's about a person who Al turned into a dog because he needed to keep her safe or something? But then he falls in love with some other woman? Except if that's true, I don't understand the last bit with "we become one" and they merge into one being...oh wait, is that a sex thing? I'm also not sure if that italic stuff is happening in the past or the future or not. I actually thought it was happening in the present after they caught this woman in the section before it - but maybe they didn't catch her? Or - they catch her, they use her body so Sahara can have sex with Al and then they put her back in her dog body? Why the italics though if it's happening the present? Don't understand that decision - it throws me off, I think. Anyway, though I didn't really understand what was going on in this piece maybe (sorry, not sure if I was right, haha) I did enjoy other aspects of it and that didn't hinder those separate characteristics!

Thanks for the read and again, congrats!
Timbo Slice chapter 11 . 4/15/2015
This was an oddly creative and entertaining story! I thought you did a great job conveying the nuances of a dog through her POV, Sahara as a character is just bursting with energy and playfulness but their is also her loyalty to Al which really paints a realistic portrayal of a dog. Plus I love how she thinks of herself as the best bitch ever, cute play of words there.

Where the story really shined was the shape shifting passage, which throws the whole story on its head but still enhances the relationship between Al and Sahara and it also works as a nice juxtaposition between the mostly lighthearted beginning and end of the story. In fact the italicized passage really makes the reader question what they had just read in the beginning, which really gives the seemingly normal relationship between a man and his...bitch (lol) a more sinister feel.
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