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hawkedup

7/8/19 - M is for Monster - hawkedup - 2200 - LV

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Short story. Standalone.

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Overall, I wasn't really invested in this. Warning: this is going to be negative, not because of the content, but because the story just tugged on all the wrong strings for me and personally I can't separate that from the writing critique.

I was pulled in at the beginning. It sort of reminded me of Seanan McGuires' Wayward Children series, but once I realized it was commentary on a particular IP, I lost interest. I do actually agree with the intent of the piece, but would rather read a news article about this than a SFF story. Putting very specific social commentary in stories is always really hard.

One purely craft quibble: I don't recognize the twins. Are they supposed to be from the program as well, or are they your creations? In any case, I thought they were the most original part of the piece, simply because I didn't recognize them.

This was structurally good, but one where I was turned off by the content, unfortunately.


Notes while reading.
pg 1: I like the twist of the monster being the scared one.

pg 2: “I grew up with you, if you remember,"
--this is very Maid and Butler. Obviously they both know this.
--in fact, you show this the paragraph after with the flashback. You could just delete the line and be fine.

pg 3: "If monster wants something..."
--It's weird that they keep repeating his label. I mean, yes, it's meant to degrade, but it's almost too much even to read.

pg 3: "The monster remembers how colorful the Street had been."
--oh no. Is this going where I think it's going?

pg 4: “Say it!” they command. “Say, 'Cookies are a sometimes food!'”
--errr...this may just be me, but I'm losing all interest in the story now. I remember a lot of memes and such coming out when this switch came about, but now...it's just sort of tired?

pg 5: "It’s clenched between two of his three, sharp fingers. Tendrils of smoke rise against the fluorescent light."
--also flipping these particular puppets with an M just rubs me the wrong way. Chalk it up to happy childhood memories I want to keep.

pg 6: "I do not create for the sake of my audience but tolerate my audience only so I can create."
--and now we've gone meta. I was on board with the evils twins tormenting a poor fluffy monster, but tying it to this particular IP isn't working for me.

pg 6: "Because we let ourselves be controlled by—" "By popular opinion," 
--hmm...this is very quickly running over into the "preachy" area. Not that I don't agree with the sentiment, but unless this is for a specific prompt or collection, it's not something I would read.

pg 7: "The monster understands."
--I don't. Are they going to do something to her?

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Excellent. I'm quite into shorts at the moment (hang on, that sounds wrong...) Anyway, interested to see how this goes. I like the title, it draws me in and makes me want to read.

(page 1)

- The first line is... I'm not sure, a bit odd? I certainly captures my attention, but I think the second paragraph is very strong. The line about the fur being grimy, a very powerful image, and tells me immediate that the monster is a figure of sympathy.

- "manufactured" - interesting.

- "slot in the metal door opens" - In a short piece in particular, every word and action has to do as much work as possible, imo. Here there is a lost opportunity. The slot can clang open, snap open, flick open: something to make me feels it. This version is just too bland. (I see you do this the second time, much better.)

- "A rectangular explosion..." - This line is a really mixed metaphor, it's unclear, and therefore confusing. It's an explosion, but it's a lighthouse, but it's sterile. These are all different things, imo.

- "eyes are framed" - tense disagreement.

(page 2)

- "on well oiled-hinges" - hyphenated, I think. Also, it's weird that the hinges are well oiled, but the latch on the door scrapes.

- "Click, click, click." - This works nicely second time, to add tension very simply, by showing, because you set it up well the first time, imo.

- "JOSEPH" - This was a bit on the nose for me, given the story of Joseph and the obvious allusion with the monster's situation. Also, I noted the sister's dress with the purple flowers, alluding to bruises. My main quibble here though is the formatting. You really don't need bold, capitalised typo, IMO. That's really unsubtle.

- Do librarians have pencils any more?

- "importantly--” The Brother shrugs. “--it's" - syntax / punctuation, ya-ya, ya-ya, yah. I think it's a matter of keeping it as clean possible:

"More importantly," the brother shrugs, "it's for the good of others."

(page 3)

- At this point I'm wondering if the monster actually is not physically monstrous, and this this trait is something psychological or behavioural (if those aren't the same thing). Oh, but I'm forgetting the blue for, of course. It's not Sully from Monsters Inc., is it?

- "The gray shackles clamp around his wrists" - Who's doing this, and the dragging? I feel like I've slipped out of POV.

- "unfortunate tastes" - Yes, I wonder if this is going where I thought it might be on the last page. This hints that it may well be.

- "Monsters are human, too, you know" - Some of this cod philosophy makes no sense.

- "too-bright hallway" - this needs a hyphen, I believe.

- "The pink brick walls that have never been washed" - What about them? This is not a complete sentence, and I had trouble with the line before about the stumble, grammar-wise.

- "how colorful the Street had been" - This is not the Blumhouse remake of Sesame Street, is it?

(page 4)

- "What happens here is not science" - They can still stain their clothes though, hence coats would be a sound idea.

- "as if they are the heroes" - Believing they are right doesn't make them heroes, imo. It's something else.

- "Cookies..." - Yep. Okay. For one thing, I don't understand the line. I've g**led it, so now I get it. Also, it seems like the line is slightly different; is that intentional?

- More importantly, why?

(page 5)

- "Frog Man" - Since when was this what Ker is? He's 'just' a frog, surely? Anyway, a frogman is someone in a wetsuit.

- "Creator… James" - I'm really not happy about this you know. I'm just saying.

- "when parents raise their own children again" - Huh :huh: ?

(page 6)

- "Show them that their desires are bad" - I'm kind of confused by the message. I'm not convinced that some of the arguments are consistent. Don't they want them to desire things that are bed for them and lead them into being controlled, like sugary foods and drinks, too much salt, etc?

(page 7)

- "looks at the monster for a long minute" - Ker is about two foot nothing, monster is up on a table. I don't believe that Ker can look at monster when M is on the table.

- "wallet-sized picture" - needs to be hyphenated.

(page 8)

- "The look in their eyes matches the one" - typo.

- I'm confused. I don't understand why they are suddenly sheepish, then adoring.

- "Cookies are s-sometimes food" - But this isn't the line, so he's not saying it again, he didn't say it right this first time.

OVERALL 

My biggest thing, above even my squirming discomfort is that I'm a bit confused about the message. I don't think it's totally clear. I think it's that the goal of the unspoken presence (what it that, politician? religion?) is to bring kids up not to question authority, not to question their boring, subjugated lives, am I close? One of the things I don't get is the bit about desires.

Let's say that the message was clear, I'm still not sure I'm comfortable with the tone of the story. That's a matter of personal choice, of course. The important thing is the clarity of the message.

Thanks for sharing... I think? :unsure: 

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On 09/07/2019 at 2:48 PM, Mandamon said:

when this switch came about

Yeah, see I don't even know about this.

On 09/07/2019 at 2:48 PM, Mandamon said:

"The monster understands."
--I don't. Are they going to do something to her?

Yeah, I didn't either.

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Much obliged. 2005! Jeez, I am out of that loop.

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On 7/9/2019 at 7:48 AM, Mandamon said:

I don't recognize the twins. Are they supposed to be from the program as well, or are they your creations?

They are my own creations. I actually have an idea for a bigger story in the same vein and this was kinda a test run. The twins originally come from that other story.
 

12 hours ago, Robinski said:

Also, it's weird that the hinges are well oiled, but the latch on the door scrapes.

Good catch, thank you!
 

12 hours ago, Robinski said:

Ker is about two foot nothing, monster is up on a table. I don't believe that Ker can look at monster when M is on the table.

Another good catch, thank you!
 

12 hours ago, Robinski said:

I'm a bit confused about the message. I don't think it's totally clear. I think it's that the goal of the unspoken presence (what it that, politician? religion?) is to bring kids up not to question authority, not to question their boring, subjugated lives, am I close?

Yes you are close. In earlier drafts I made the message very clear, but I muddied it in the last two drafts intentionally because I felt like it was detracting from the intention of the story, which was to make the reader as uncomfortable as possible. I thought having a clear message that the reader could latch to and either agree with or disagree with would provide too much comfort.

Thanks for reading and providing feedback!

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1 hour ago, hawkedup said:

but I muddied it in the last two drafts intentionally because I felt like it was detracting from the intention of the story, which was to make the reader as uncomfortable as possible

Mission accomplished! Yes, I can see how this would be very preachy if you had a very black-and-white reveal of the message. Not an easy path to tread. You've definitely done something interesting and challenging. It's important to try these things, even what they don't work, and the more challenging the mote likely they are to divide people, of course.

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On 7/9/2019 at 3:48 PM, Mandamon said:

I was pulled in at the beginning. It sort of reminded me of Seanan McGuires' Wayward Children series, but once I realized it was commentary on a particular IP, I lost interest. I do actually agree with the intent of the piece, but would rather read a news article about this than a SFF story. Putting very specific social commentary in stories is always really hard.

Same for me. I quite liked the beginning (although the lack of names was a bit off-putting), but as soon as Ker appeared... I lost all interest. Too heavy on the social commentary side for me.

Some things that I noticed up till then:

* M doesn't want to be called a monster, but in his head, up till then, he call himself monster

* The first time the boy speaks feels like a "As you know, Bob" recap of what happened previously

 

Other than that, I thought this was well executed. Prose-wise, I think it's solid. (as far as I can judge as a English non-native :))

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I didn't have any real LBLs or as I gos for this. The technical writing aspect was just fine and it read smoothly. The really only feedback I had was that it felt like two distinct narratives. The first six pages were one, and the back pages were another. It started as a sort of Wayward Children feel but then in page six turned into a very heavy handed discussion. 

I'm actually surprised it went the way it did. Those first six pages seemed more like a critique on autism correction culture (noting the history of your work) which I was very interested in. Then the transition to the last few pages made the piece seem just a rant against PC culture and modern sensibilities, which I thought cheapened the experience. It took away the interpretive experience, which I had been enjoying.

It made me uncomfortable only in those last few pages, because it became so heavy handed, and because there is a trend emerging in your work to tackle hard cultural elements with perhaps not as much nuance and understanding as would be generally expected. I suspect this is something that will improve with time, but the last few pages of this made me uncomfortable not due to the content, but because the message seemed to be too in-your-face and lacked a solid cultural critique. It was more 'this is what the author thinks' and less 'here are some issues to disassemble.'

I'd be very here for a short with the first six pages. It went smoothly and and I liked the more nuanced approach that could be left to interpretation. My only real suggestion would be to get a consistent theme for the story, so it doesn't read so much like two narratives pushed together. Maybe two separate shorts?

 

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Two apologies. First off, I apologize for turning this in so late. Second, I looked at some of the critiques before reading the actual piece, which colored my perception of it. Stupid move on my part.

I think in terms of the writing itself, this piece was pretty good. I think it flows well and has a tangible atmosphere of dread, and decent characterization. I am not familiar with the Wayward Children series everyone's been comparing it too, and honestly, I'm not all that familiar with the IP this story is about either. I know what it is, but it was never a huge part of my childhood. So I have to ask: if your intention is to make the reader uncomfortable, are you targeting people who consider the IP a crucial part of their upbringing? Or just anyone who happens to be aware of it? 

I have to agree with the others that I'm not a huge fan of the commentary. Not only does it become increasingly obvious as author tract as it goes on, I also do not like the idea essentially putting words in mouths of real people who have passed on within the last thirty years—especially someone who participated in the civil rights movement, which was predicated on the idea change at its base core. You frame it as if you are certain this is what J.H. would have wanted for his own creations, and since it's obvious that this story is mostly your own personal commentary, it doesn't read like creative historical fiction. 

I think you need to take another look at the commentary, and see if you can provide it to the reader without it being so obvious. I would also try to stray away from using the original I.P. character itself; write parodies, if need be. Use it as a template to create your own mythology, your own monster characters, and don't actually tell us right off the bat what your views are. Even then, it's still important to portray the other side, even if you don't agree with it.

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I am way way behind, so I'm sorry about the lateness. 

On a sentence level, I liked the writing. The sensory details and description worked form me. 

However, I'm not sure I "got" the piece even though some of the commentary was a little bit over the top. I felt like I was being lectured during the conversation between CM and K. 

I'm not quite sure what was at stake for CM when it came to resisting. What was he trying to hold onto? Who was this girl? Why was she significant? Would I know if I knew more about Sesame Street? Part of my problem might be that I watched very little of that show when I was a kid and I think this might be relying on the reader having a certain amount of knowledge about the show and characters. 

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