islands

For those in the group that have the time and the inclination, this is the place to review the stories entered in the August 2016 CW competition.

You may review (or simply comment about) any or all the the stories.

Whether they be constructive or critical, just post your thoughts below.

40 thoughts on “August 2016 CW Competition-Reviews and critique.

  1. A strictly personal review of last months entries in the CW competition.

    Rediscovering sensations on Elba. Written by Expatangie.

    https://tcwgshortstories.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/august-entry-creative-writing-rediscovering-sensations-on-elba/

    In previous reviews of Angie’s entries I have touched upon the ‘feel-good factor’ that runs through them. Whilst not meant to be a criticism in itself, by highlighting the fact that all sugar and little (or no) spice can often lead to an uneventful or bland read, it was a suggestion that previous tales lacked that little extra spark that turned good stories into point scorers.

    But not this time with ‘Elba’.

    Here we had an undercurrent of mid-life crisis and a marriage at a turning point. Grown stale and soured, love was in danger of drifting into loathing and life had become a daily drudge. But Penny’s dissatisfaction both with herself and her life was accentuated neatly by the interplay between Alessandro and Silvia, the observance of which both revitalised and refocused Penny and led to the interlude at Paolina’s Rock and the dip in the pool with Paul.

    All this and a rounded ending, what more could be asked of the writer.

    It was a pleasure to award my five points, and an even greater pleasure to see Angie in a well- deserved third place overall.

    ****************

    Island. Written by Lostinwords.

    https://lostinwords2.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/august-2016-competition-story-1

    Well written, as Lost’s stories always are, I felt that this was more of a sombre moral tract than a tale … which for me robbed the story of the impact that it might otherwise have had.

    The message was writ plain, but when it became obvious where it was likely to lead, the sense of impending doom made this reader look for some way of escape long before the final sentence.

    Then again, perhaps vague unease brought on by guilt was just the response that Lost was looking for, but if it was then in my eyes it was a pyrrhic success.

    A down-beat mood was hardly likely to bring forth points in a competition so finely balanced.

    ****************

    The Lost Key. Written by Lostinwords.

    https://lostinwords2.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/august-2016-competition-story-2

    As one who has become enamoured of tales of a wayward lass and her adventures across the globe I should have been drawn to this story more. Unfortunately, Gwyneth was no Brenda James, and her path was too much predicated on disaster for her ever to engender much empathy with this reader.

    The writing was first class, wonderfully descriptive and reflective in equal measure, but like ‘Island’ this tale was doom-laden and difficult to warm to despite the quality of the writing … though in fairness, ‘Keys’ did fare much better in the voting and was only just out of the first three.

    Lost wears the cloak of whimsy like a catwalk model, but melancholy sits heavier on the shoulders. Perhaps Lost feels more at home in Cornwall without the summer ‘emmets’.🙂

    ****************

    Choices. Written by Araminta.

    https://detectivemouse.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/choices/

    August’s winning story and it’s easy to see why.

    Beautifully written and full of interest on many levels, the story flowed and held the attention from first to last word. Personally I would have added a measure of dialogue, but then I usually do because I find descriptive writing to be far too word-hungry.

    But that is where talent comes to the fore … possession of the skill to construct wonderfully descriptive narrative yet with an economy of words. Some writers have it in abundance and others simply don’t.

    Additionally, I do like a powerful ending that leaves the reader with as many questions as answers, if not about the story, then reflective questions of oneself … the ‘what if’ questions.

    In this case the answer for Charlotte was tinged with regret. Only for the fortunate is the answer positive and in the ‘there but for the grace of God’ thankfulness category. But either way, it is good to be reminded of the turning points in one’s life from time to time, plus in the context of this story it made for the perfect ending.

    Well done Araminta, the choice for October is all yours!

    ****************

    The Homecoming. Written by Atiller.

    https://atiller16.wordpress.com/2016/08/31/august-2016-cw-competition-entry-the-homecoming/

    Following Peter’s lead I will make an exception this month and succumbe to the ever-present temptation to comment on what passes for this competitor’s ‘work’.

    There were too many overt descriptions of what had gone before (this episode could easily have been titled ‘Déjà Vu Revisited’), and far too much water had flown beneath the bridge since the last episode to expect the reader to come quickly up to speed.

    The writer’s (sic) infatuation with Brenda is all very well, but there are limits to what can be achieved without having to re-visit the former episodes for a refresher. Perhaps this competition is not the best place to post any future episodes.

    But at least HWNMNBM’tioned has had the decency to get Brenda home safely, which was the least he could do after subjecting her to so much ignominy in the past.

    Now he should do something for poor old “Botters” et al … but don’t hold your breath, he doesn’t think much of muddling authority.”

    ****************

    Columba’s Mist. Written by Danthemann.

    https://tcwgshortstories.wordpress.com/2016/08/31/august-cw-competition-entry-columbas-mist/

    This somewhat chaotic tale was in and out of my top three like one of those automated figures on a Swiss clock. On the one hand I admired the sheer bravado of the piece, and on the other sometimes had difficulty understanding just what the heck was going on … but I did admire the task that the writer had set himself.

    Any story that included a ‘day trip with a minibus full of Australian backpackers to Loch Ness’ and also takes in a multi-floor sexual encounter with a Peurto Rican cleaner at the Residence Inn in Central Park New York before ending up on the island of Iona by way of Norway has to cover a lot of ground in less than 3000 words, so some level of chaos was always likely to be a by-product.

    One thing kept nagging though. Does the Island of Iona have internet access, and if so do you need a special laptop with a crank handle like those old phones they used in ‘Whisky Galore’ to contact whoever was manning the switchboard at the local exchange?

    In other words, my imagination wandered off at obtuse angles to dodge the ‘incoming’ crossfire generated by a meandering storyline, and this loss of concentration finally brought me to nul points.

    A good entry, but for me a near miss.

    ****************

    The Siege. Written by Peter Barnett.

    https://aasof.com/2016/08/31/the-siege/#more-19989%E2%80%9D

    One of the problems that I have with period TV productions is that the fashion nowadays seems to be to make no attempt to match the dialogue with the period. Phrasings (and even modern colloquial slang), is commonplace and irritates until eventually I reach for the ‘off’ switch.

    But how should the TV author phrase the dialogue so that it was contemporary with the action?

    There are no recordings to help us … and are we really sure that even the well documented plays of Shakespeare were performed originally exactly according to the scripts that we treasure today.

    The short answer is that we can’t be sure.

    So as we are unable to be objective, subjectivity takes over. And it was this personal subjectivity that spoiled this story for me as I found the dialogue to be a little too ‘stagey’ and stilted.

    The storyline and the settings were fine and rounded, and overall it was a good read. But I found it difficult to relax into the story … there was always that nagging little voice repeating ‘did they really speak like that?’, breaking my concentration and interfering with my enjoyment of the tale.

    But I expect that’s just me and my idiosyncrasies again. Perhaps if I was brave enough to tackle a historical story and confront the dialogue issue myself, I would have a little more understanding of the difficulties.

    ****************

    Visitors. Written by Archie_tp.

    http://tparchie.deviantart.com/art/Visitors-631689863

    I don’t think this is Sci-fi so I can’t hide behind that old prejudice … but sorry Archie, this time I think it must be the genre and my aversion to funny names. And harking back to my previous review of Peter’s tale, I didn’t feel comfortable with some of the switches in the style of phraseology either.

    This was also a passage (or in this case an introduction) from a longer story rather than a complete tale, which made it difficult to judge it fairly in comparison with the other entries.

    I’m beginning to think that you are just teasing us.

    You can, and have on occasions, given us some really good stuff in a contemporary setting … please find the time to give us a bit more.

    ****************

    The Girl in the Lake.
    Written by Colmore.

    https://tcwgshortstories.wordpress.com/2016/08/31/colmores-entry-for-august-the-girl-in-the-lake/

    In the early part of the story I was entirely convinced that the suspect mirror was eventually going to turn out to be a dodgy eastern European TV set, so what followed was something of an anti-climax.🙂

    Any ordinary couple would have been content to sit on the balcony sipping their meruſkovice and watching the world go by, but our intrepid twosome just could not resist stirring up a different kind of local spirit.

    Mike and Celia were from that special mould of inquisitive characters, without which most stories of mystery and terror would never see the light of day. The sort of characters that in the first reel of the picture insist on doing something that everyone in the theatre knows is foolhardy, but which has to happen if the rest of the story is to follow. And so it was here.

    But what was really missing for me was the twist in the tale … I would have preferred the story to have ended with Mike and Celia arriving home to find the cracked mirror hanging in their bedroom with water cascading down the stairs and flooding the ground floor.

    That would have taught them not to meddle in future.🙂

    A worthwhile read, but another near miss.

    ******************

    This Island Universe. Written by Charles Stuart.

    https://furryfeatures.wordpress.com/2016/08/31/this-island-universe/

    An interesting take on the story of the creation and a tale that explains why things on earth do not always go to plan … God is a first year student!

    In the future, when events go all pear-shaped, there will be no need to trot out that well-worn phrase ‘God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform’. Now we will know it is probably down to the fact that last night God attended the Fresher’s Ball and today he is a little fragile.

    A good interesting read and a pleasure to see Charles, not just among the points , but a creditable second in a very good month. Well done, I am sure that there is more to follow in the coming months.

    ******************

    The Island. Written by Seadams.

    https://seadamsblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/31/the-island/

    An innovative way to present a potted history of Inchmurrin, told in a way that brings the story to life and in a relatively few words colourfully clothe the bare bones of fact.

    A slight disappointment that mention was not made of the fact that the island provided the site of a world record in August 1984 when one Alan Pettigrew threw a one and a half pound haggis one hundred and eighty feet ten inches (a record that stood for over 20 years), but I suppose that until such time that a cairn is erected to mark the spot where the haggis landed, the feat will not be recorded in the official scrolls.🙂

    p.s. to Seadams. I’m informed that the Inchmurrin 21 year old Malt is nae half bad either, do you know of any free tastings?

    *******************

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lovely reviews Bleda — many thanks and yes, language in period pieces is always difficult. On reflection using words as they might have been used in a period setting is often a mistake and if done, should be very careful handling.

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    2. Thanks Bleda! I am trying to push myself to get my stories down when I first think of them, as when that doesn’t happen, I get all geed up with ‘I can fit this in, and then, this can happen, and wouldn’t it be great too…’ and the end result is a little too much like a squashed trifle.

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    3. Thank you for the reviews, Bleda. Your contributions are the highlights of the critique “season”. I agree that my stories were on the gloomy side – maybe my humours flow towards the black bile/melancholia!
      Wearing the cloak of whimsy like a catwalk model? Just you wait for this month’s entry. And yes; it’s good to get our County back!!

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  2. Here are my belated comments on the August stories:

    EXPATANGIE:
    You always know there’s going to be a happy ending to Angie’s stories. Once you know that, extra pressure is put on the writing itself – style, description, pace etc. The “getting there” comes to the forefront and Angie rarely, if ever, lets us down. It helps that I’m an Italophile and, here, I was immediately transported to the clear blue seas, cooling breezes, gelato, rustic wines and the easy going atmosphere of Italy (thinking especially of another island – Sicily).

    ARAMINTA:
    I do like a sad story and one of unrequited love goes straight to my heart. Surely we’ve all been there. This is an excellently told tale. The lazy summer days and all-inclusive family gathering combining to give Charlotte a sense of belonging which I sense she doesn’t feel in her own home. I thought Christopher was a bit of a cad. He must have known how she felt, or at least he should have done, and if he didn’t feel the same way he shouldn’t have kissed her or held her hand. I got the feeling he was a pretty self-assured guy and would have known exactly what he was doing. Let’s hope he turned into a conceited, self-opinionated misogynist!

    ATILLER:
    I gave this the points solely as a stand-alone story. I’d forgotten the details of the back-story and this made it a bit difficult to follow at times (who’s who, what and why). But as a jolly yarn it held my attention despite it being at the upper word limit. Maybe, Atiller, you should get a bumper Brenda annual out for Christmas.

    DANTHEMANN:
    What hooked me straightaway was the Iona setting. I spent a long weekend there one February. More or less deserted and the shining white beaches made of tiny shell fragments, if I remember rightly. I thought the story a bit long-winded at times – correction: I thought Tommy was a bit long-winded at times and I must confess I skipped some of his monologue (as the others in the story did, too). I loved the denouement – nice one, Ralf! But would St. Columba have approved of subtly linking his name with uisge beatha?

    PETER BARNETT:
    This was a departure for PB, I thought, to venture into the realms of romance. The descriptive and action passages were well handled as the author usually does, but, unfortunately, I felt romance is not PB’s forte.

    ARCHIE:
    I always want to enjoy an Archie story and often I start out thinking, “This is the one” but as the story progresses I’m left bemused. Archie has his own idiosyncratic style, but I’m OK with that but because Archie’s submissions always seem to be extracts from longer pieces I’m often asking myself, “What’s going on?” and at the end am left hanging and wanting to know more. Very frustrating. That and the unpronounceable names!

    COLMORE:
    A ghost story, for which Colmore has a penchant. This one was rather predictable, I’m afraid. Haunted or enchanted mirrors are a common theme and would the locals really be so reticent about the island? Perhaps they would…superstitions are rife, especially in sea and water faring societies. Colmore admitted the story was done in a rush and, with more time, more could have been made of it.

    CHARLES STUART:
    I never believed the Bible’s version, anyway. This is much better; a sort of Harry Potter for Creationists. A very good and novel idea, Charles. I’ve come to expect something out of the ordinary (or out of this world) from you. However, one criticism – and it’s something common to a lot of your stories – you tend to “tell” and explain too much. A lighter touch; a hint or suggestion is often better. Finally, if G.O.D. knew as much about psychology and sociology as physics his universe would have been far, far better!

    SEADAMS:
    I always look forward to a Scotland based Seadams story. Although this is one of those, I felt the story lacked something. Perhaps it was drama, intrigue, mystery or the author’s keen observation on human life. That’s not to say it wasn’t any good, though! Seadams’ stories are usually of a very high standard – like Giselle’s – so when it’s “only” good, it’s noticeable.

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    1. Lost, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts about the stories. Very generous review of my story – many thanks for that. I’m not sure I agree with your views on Christopher, although I can see what lead you to believe he may have been toying with Charlotte’s affections. I imagined them both as being young, and not being sure enough of their own feelings to commit to each other.

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    2. Thanks Lost! I hope you enjoyed Iona, I’ve never actually been but would like too. I’ve been to Skye and Inis Mor in Ireland which I imagine are fairly similar.

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    3. Thanks for your kind review Lost. As stated elsewhere I do understand the difficulty in following the stories due to the intervals between them appearing.
      This is mostly my fault because I can’t resist carrying over the animosities or allegiances’ from one story to the next and this leads sometimes to going back over old ground.
      As for Xmas, I am torn between ‘Brenda’s Bumper Bundle’ and ‘Brenda’s Christmas Cracker’.🙂

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  3. A belated thank you for your kind words Peter.
    Yes I do understand the difficulty of keeping up with the details of the story as it takes me just as much time to refresh on the details as it does anyone else.
    In a perfect world I should have every detail to hand, but the story has grown like Topsy and there is a lot of re-reading involved.
    Perhaps in future I shall use the characters and wipe the past slate clean.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi all – moves are afoot – yes I’m moving which means off the net until early October. I’ve cobbled some thoughts on the August competition which, excluding my lame effort) comes to just over 19k words. I hope you find something useful.

    Rediscovering sensations on Elba by Expatangie
    1580 words
    A transformation beckoned – into mermaid & merman (in my mind’s eye). Goodness knows how they’d have got on – a proper fishy tale? That brief fancy passed – there was a transformation but I felt the need more alleviation of the stale sameness their relationship had fallen into; perhaps by dwelling further on the wonder and newness of holidays?

    Island by Lostinwords.
    1435 words
    Wanting this to have a clearer frame of reference, I toyed around with various ideas: years, geographic area, genetic marker of the inhabitants, a protagonist / narrator. How about a geologist who sets up home with a local girl – but still with a wife on the main land. Their consummation and progeny can be metaphor to the volcano and the island’s fecundity – when he abandons his native idyll to go back to ‘normal civilisation’ well I’m sure there are avenues to explore…

    The Lost Key by Lostinwords.
    1316 words
    This provoked more idle fancy. Why not do as a weather report with little thought asides from the narrator (or whoever he’s with – in case he’s stranded).

    Choices by Araminta.
    1280 words
    Poignant. A what if is a short step from the rue de la rue. What do you want in life? There’s no easy answer to that. You could sensibly explore the conflict between that and the pure Platonic relationship. It’s fiction set at the cusp of adulthood and maturity – maturity is understanding and taking responsibility for your actions… although some would have it that it’s about embracing promiscuity and exploring the opportunities for moral decay… it doesn’t need to dip deep into the well of depravity but there’s room for a little regret at unsated yearning (lust) even if not spelled out in laviscious detail.

    The Homecoming by Atiller.
    2985 words
    The vicissitudes of fortune are almost entirely one sided which I assume is wrapping up the various sub-plots. Yet I sense the overarching story doesn’t want to be wrapped up (against the will of the author). Considered in the round (together with the earlier pieces) the introductory, catch-up bits drop out; my impulse would be: trim the backstory and see how it works stand-alone.

    Columba’s Mist by Danthemann.
    3099 words
    Well described but anchored too much by functioning as a continuation piece. Would the backstory fit better when he retires for the night… then an interruption of sound to jerk him out of it. The testosterone powered dialog came in large lumps (coming from someone guilty of it but…) it would have been more digestible broken down into smaller bits: chit-chat peppered with brag.

    The Siege. Written by Peter Barnett.
    2632 words
    Pacey. Was slightly confused about the run for help which, however, was a good place to have terror / a moment of intense clarity or other intensifier

    The Girl in the Lake by Colmore.
    2745 words
    It could be more direct. Current events give this resonance. In the context of forcible conversions to Islam, more comment was due on the location of the Christian buildings… would the villagers have come out given their earlier reluctance? Heroism after fear is a common trope but realistically what would have happened? (Yes I know I’m asking hard questions but you are in the points )

    This Island Universe by Charles Stuart.
    1310 words
    The process of universe creation is great as a setting and lends itself well to ‘a distant perspective’ but something needs to happen. How about high spirited student pranks? More dialog + mischief / conflict? Would a narrower focus work better?

    The Island by Seadams.
    878 words
    Pleasant and informative but the narrator lacks a goal – is he just an observer? The change of voice confused me initially but I plumped for Methuselah status. More could have been made of this – his relationship with the land / forces of nature / whatever powers his longevity… and of course others like him… tied to other places.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your observations, Archie, some interesting ideas there. Especially so on “The Lost Key” – for instance; what the weathergirl (or man) is really thinking as the forecast is read or some sexual/sexist innuendo from the cameraman – warm fronts, rising (and falling), occlusion, exposed areas, mountains and valleys, wet and dry parts etc.
      With regard to “Island”, this was conceived as a biography of the island. Human activity is incidental to its story and to make humans the centre would have totally destroyed the whole idea. There’s enough anthropocentrism as it is!

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    2. Thank you for your review Archie.
      Yes, this episode was a kind of watershed and if I use the characters again it will be in stories that nod to the past without necessarily depending upon the history of the inter-relationship between them.
      They have now become stereotyped in their roles, perhaps the future will involve some role reversal … no hard and fast plans yet, but plenty of ideas.
      Did you know that Bottomley keeps pigeons?🙂

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  5. It was a really nice story Angie, I would just like to have read a stronger input on the effect the holiday had on Ben and his part in renewed family relationships. Having read the story again today, I’m drawn to the same conclusion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have a good point and I agree with you I wanted to get across that Penny was ready to improve her life by putting more passion into it, in all areas, whether or not she was able to forgive her husband and that maybe due to her lack of attention her son was in danger. i should have insisted more that the holiday on the island was what gave her strength to get back on track and help her son and sort out her relationship with her husband and that Napoleon’s role in the history of the island also gave the islanders passion and interest in life.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi everyone here are my thoughts on the August stories, really enjoyed reading them all and as always impressed by our diverse interpretations.

      Colmore, The girl in the lake
      I enjoyed this story which was appropriate with the time of year, holiday in Croatia for Celia and Mike.It was very atmospheric, and I thought you really got across the gloom and darkness of the island compared to the sunny light heartedness of the hotel.

      Island by Lostinwords
      A lovely thought provoking story about nature and equilibrium and upsetting the balance of nature and how easily the and quickly it can happen. As always beautifully written with a fluid eloquent style.

      the Lost Key by Lostinworlds.
      Gwyneth the tropical storm who turns into a full blown hurricane. Very powerful descriptions with great atmosphere. Gwyneth seeks revenge and destroys the island because she wants to do even more harm.

      Choices by Araminta.
      Beautiful descriptive writing of Sark and happy family life on the island, with hints at its’ history. Christopher and Charlotte’s lost opportunity which I’m sure we can all relate to, the what if syndrome, a well deserved winner.

      The Homecoming by Atllier
      Brenda coming home from Singapore at last, it was a joy to meet her again and be carried along with the fun and witty writing, rich and warm and a pleasure to read.

      Colomba’s mist by Dantheman
      This was like a trip to Iona, very descriptive and good to hear more about Alex and Kate. I liked the conversation between the guests, sort of like a story within a story.

      The Siege by Peter Barnet
      An action packed and engaging story about William and Georgina defending their island home against the French using crossbows. Full of tension and suspense.

      Visitors by Archie.
      Very imaginative and original writing, a very good read.

      The Island Universe by Charles Stuart
      An unusual and well written story on what is needed to create a perfect universe

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The Island by Seadams
        This story brought back very happy memories of Loch Lomond. I’m not really sure I understood it after reading Peter’s review. i thought it was a sort of history through the ages which ended with a happy nudist camp. It was very clever anyway and an enjoyable read.

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      2. Thank you for your kind review Angie.
        I have also grown fond of Brenda, but as I have already hinted to Peter below it is becoming ever more difficult even for me to keep track of her adventures.
        Future sightings will be more self contained.

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      1. I understand that Charles but in the context of the story? Unless GOD was to become the god of gods? An interesting concept that could turn your story into a novel Charles.

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    1. Thank you for your reviews, Peter. Like you, I found the topic difficult and wanted to do something “different”. The inspiration for “Island” came from (re-)reading a book about St. Kilda. Its ultimate depopulation came about, partly, from exposure to 19th and 20th century culture and a cash economy. The military still use the island but they are very protective of the island’s ecology. The idea of the chemical/biological warfare testing came from a vague memory I had about another Hebridean island rendered uninhabitable by anthrax tests. (Wiki tells me the island is Gruinard and in 1990 was declared de-contaminated after 48 years).

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    2. Thank you for your review, Peter, which I very much enjoyed reading.

      Yes, the links were unnecessary, I forgot to remove them when I added the introduction.

      Interesting re the lack of dialogue. I tend to avoid it wherever possible in my stories because I find it difficult to write. I also find too much dialogue in a short story makes it difficult to read. I’m really not sure why, and it may be just me.

      How much of my story is autobiographical? I’m sure that because I based it on my real experiences of spending a summer on Sark, it is not an unreasonable question which is probably better not answered fully, but in many ways I do not resemble Charlotte at all, but we do have a few things in common.

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    3. A belated thank you for your kind words Peter.
      Yes I do understand the difficulty of keeping up with the details of the story as it takes me just as much time to refresh on the details as it does anyone else.
      In a perfect world I should have every detail to hand, but the story has grown like Topsy and there is a lot of re-reading involved.
      Perhaps in future I shall use the characters and wipe the past slate clean.

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