9. Koba vs. Ben
COMMENTS FOR KOBA
BagnaTheSupervillain: This entry did a very good job using Koba, who came across very well as being mischievous without being excessively random or irrational and intelligent but still relatively minor compared to the gods running around. Despite being largely setup, the story moved forward nicely, and the obvious infodumps were logically placed and spread out enough to avoid getting tiresome, though they still felt a bit intrusive at times. The biggest weak point of the entry to me was the writing of Ben, who spent the entirety of the comic being almost a nonentity who mostly existed to have things explained to him before suddenly behaving more decisively and getting more of the focus in the written portion. Ben's behavior in the written portion would have made much more sense if he had shown more of that personality during the comic. Although this entry was entertaining and well-made, giving your opponent's character more attention and a more balanced depiction would have made it that much better.
Lithicbee: While the story is not exactly catapulted along with this entry, I did like that you showcased a deeper side to Koba and gave me some of his backstory. Ben remained something of a blank slate and I was confused at his sudden outburst at Koba at the end of the entry. I felt like there might have been some explanation missing as to his thought process there; up until that point he had been going with the flow. I did not sense a build-up to his explosion and so it seemed to happen solely to get him out of the picture.
One thing I fear if you move on in the OCT is that each entry is going to follow the pattern of Koba (and competitor's OC) meeting with one NPC and getting the next clue. I hope you have plans to shake things up a little bit and put some obstacles in Koba's path.
RobinRone: I really enjoy how quick and observant Koba is. Koba is exceptionally intuitive, using his superior knowledge to either make quick-fire judgements of people (such as with Ben or Hecate) or to draw characters into mental traps where they reveal more than they might wish to (Persephone). He/she's shown as sharp and ambitious, but also not infallible -- the suggestion on how to interact with Mr. Saturday is immediately shot down by his mother, illustrating that Koba is not always right. His/her feelings on why he left Hades are also exceptionally interesting, and add new layers of depth to Koba's personality. Unfortunately, your opponent's OC wasn't nearly so well developed. For the majority of the story he is essentially a background character, and there is no compelling reason for Koba to bring him along. Ben's flip from trusting to ballistic is also a little too rapid. While you've laid the groundwork, plot-wise, for this confrontation, so little information on Ben's state of mind is available to the reader that it comes out of nowhere. If we'd been given signs of emotion -- agitation, suspicion, or even just distraught alarm -- whether in body language or tone prior to his explosion, it would have been a lot more convincing. Don't neglect your opponent's character, and remember that you have more at your disposal than dialog to characterize.
SaintKhan: Koba is a fun character, and its dialogue has a gleeful playfulness that makes it enjoyable to read. Koba's insider knowledge of Hades is a great way to cut through the searching that might make other entries boring, and its relationship with the gods already seems fully formed, like they have know each other for years. This is a refreshing perspective, and allows the dialogue to be character driven rather than just plot focused.
Koba's interactions with Ben were more problematic. It seemed to me that Koba didn't really convince Ben to work with it. When offered anything he desires, Ben refuses, but when Koba basically makes the same offer a moment later, he is suddenly onboard. What changed? Is it the realization that he can't return to his old life?
I also wasn't sure that I bought Ben exploding near the end. As written, it seems that the catalyst for this anger is his encounter with Koba's sibling pretending to be Bonnie. Why would this be the thing that tipped him over the edge? He already had doubts about Koba, but why would this encounter be the straw that broke the camel's back? Does Ben think that no one in Koba's family can be trusted after this ruse? If so, then why does he trust Hecate over Koba? As it stands, his anger would have made more sense if he had just expressed it to Koba without a sibling confusing things. Make sure a character's emotions are appropriate to the situation. Ben's behavior in this entry is pretty erratic, which makes it hard to follow him, or contrast him with Koba.
Topios: Koba continues to be delightful to follow with thon quick wit and you show the use of thon knowledge pretty well in the reaction to gods and creatures in the underworld without Koba becoming immune to making mistakes. You hint at what thon feels and the motives for thon actions. Ben's portrayal isn't so nuanced though, so his reactions seem odd. At first he refuses to help Koba, but then suddenly changes his mind – why is that? If Koba reminded him of his dissatisfaction with his old life then showing us by for example his expression changing will make it more convincing. I wasn't sure why he snapped at the moment he did either. Showing us more of your opponent's thought process and emotions will make their actions make sense and strengthen your storytelling.
COMMENTS FOR BEN
BagnaTheSupervillain: Koba's mischievous nature and Ben's practical attempts to adapt to his situation were contrasted nicely, and it was fun watching the two of them attempt to gain advantages over each other and interfere with each other's plans over the course of the entry. Making the spiders appear to be mindless killers initially and then revealing them to have intelligence and a definite structure of leadership was a good twist which expanded on the world of Hades in interesting ways, and also made good use of Koba's insider knowledge of the area, since most characters presumably wouldn't know to talk to the spiders in that way. However, the entry suffered from some muddled storytelling which mostly got worse as it went on, to the point where by the end I didn't really understand what Ben was trying to do or what the spider-daughter's motivation was, or what the reasons were for much of anything that was going on. This seemed to be caused largely by the spiders' fractured means of talking and Ben's altered perspective from the water, and although those elements were deliberate, they combined with the frequently choppy grammar and spelling, leaving me more confused than you probably intended. I would recommend getting a beta to run your stories by to make sure they make sense, since I generally enjoyed the parts of the entry I could understand.
Lithicbee: I found this entry difficult to read. There were a lot of misused words (Ex: deceased for diseased, shutter for shudder, etc.) and awkward phrasings that slowed me down a lot. I found myself reading and re-reading sentences multiple times to make sure I understood your meaning. Your writing would be greatly helped by having an editor or beta reader who could work with you to smooth out some of this awkwardness and point out incorrect use of words. I liked that you used Koba's indeterminate gender and shape-changing skills, but I felt like Ben let himself be led along for much of the entry and did not play much of a role.
RobinRone: I really liked how both Ben and Koba were characterized, and you created a very compelling reason for Koba to want Ben along. Koba is a known entity in Hades, and not necessarily liked. Ben is unknown, harmless looking, and as a result very well might be able to get into areas and learn things that others would never let slip to Koba. Unfortunately, right after you introduce this intriguing basis for a relationship -- whether uneasy ally, master/enchanted servant, or otherwise -- this story goes off the rails in a very odd way. I appreciated that you got creative with the setting and your interpretation of the spiders, but it made no sense that Koba would take Ben there. His use is in acting under the nose of the other gods in Hades, not in talking to monsters that would like nothing more than to eat him. Koba never seemed to really have a plan and I could never figure out what the goal was. Ben, meanwhile, got through this challenge less through cleverness or will, and more by having the most gullible, easy to convince spider-people of all time. Making challenges that are easy to overcome sucks the tension right out of a story. In the future, try to make characters rise to the occasion, and remember that sometimes it's okay that their first attempt to get out of a problem may not work out.
SaintKhan: I thought you did a really good job with Koba's character, who was mischievous and fun. The spiders were an interesting addition, though I had wished they had been developed more. Ben seemed to know more about spider culture than they did, so I am left wondering how their culture was changed, or if Ben is simply introducing totally new concepts to them. The Spider King seemed a buffoonish villain who could be easily fooled, and while Stripe was much better, some more dialogue with her could have gone a long way toward making the reader care about her plight.
Again, there seemed to be some persistent grammatical errors in this entry that took me out of the story. Vain instead of vein, wandering instead of wondering. Make sure you have someone proofread your entry before submitting it.
More importantly, this story didn't really seem to have a central theme or thread to it. Ben seemed to wander from place to place, with companions entering or leaving the picture, seemingly at random. Ben did not drive the action, and he didn't seem to have a particular goal in mind. Decide what you want to say with your story, and how Ben fits into that. Giving him a goal to achieve would go a long way toward making his tale exciting and dramatic.
Topios: You have a delightfully different take on the spider-creatures in the Black Poplar Grove, making them more than mere hungry beasts. Koba kept thon mischievous nature and the reason for picking up Ben as a companion was a nice touch. I'd just wish Ben had gotten to play a more active role, he got stripped of his personality and possible goals quite fast and after that we only saw mere hints of him wanting anything – that doesn't make for a very compelling character. Give him something to strive for even if it's merely a cup of tea. Also, I beg of you, get a beta. There was a distracting number of mistakes in your entry a bit of help could iron out pretty easily so we're not left wondering what you meant to say.
10. Parthenia vs. Kara
COMMENTS FOR PARTHENIA
BagnaTheSupervillain: Parthenia's manic attitude made the entry fairly entertaining, but it felt like there wasn't much to it beyond that. It felt a bit odd that nothing Parthenia did seemed to have any sort of consequences, and the story was largely unfocused, which made it difficult to get particularly interested in what was happening.
RobinRone: Parthenia's personality is coming out a little more in this entry, particularly the cavalier, face-all-comers attitude and an intense need to cause a fight no matter where she goes. I still don't get much of a sense that there's more to her than bluster, however, or that she will ever learn to recognize the flip side to that antagonistic approach. I would love to see Parthenia have a character arc that deals with her strengths/weaknesses. Where her actions have consequences outside of a fight. For example, she seems to have the need to pick a fight with everyone, whether they have treated her well or poorly. It would be exceptionally interesting to see an ally turn their back on her when she needed it most, or have her identified as a public enemy due to her behavior. How would Parthenia's self-perception be impacted by an event like that? Would she recognize her own part in her downfall? As for the other characters, Kara seemed weakly used, mostly staring off into space until the end where she shows up for no apparent. And the "villain" of the piece, if we can call him that, is a one-dimensional villain introduced purely so he can conveniently unite the two characters in a conflict and be killed off in a very confusing fight scene. Fundamentally, I think the weakness of the villain and the opponent's OC is the same - they aren't motivated by desire. What do they want? What's driving them? Look for the motive on both the protagonist and antagonist sides of your story to give them greater direction.
SaintKhan: Parthenia's personality really comes out in this entry, and it brings with it a certain reckless fun. I was less sold on Kara's personality, which didn't come across as strongly. While Kara is still searching for her character, I still felt that there was a greater depth to her that you did not explore. As a result, Parthenia seemed to drag her from place to place for no real reason. I also felt that the villain of the piece was rather weak. Who is he? Where did he come from and why does he want to hurt Parthenia? There seemed to be plenty of room for conflict in this entry before adding this character in. Did Parthenia die at the end? I found all of this very confusing. It seemed to me that a little more clarity in the middle of the entry would have saved a lot of confusion near the end. Always be certain that what you are trying to say is the same thing as what you are actually saying. In the future, have a friend read your entry before you submit it. Don't tell this friend anything about the story before they read it. Are they confused by anything? If so, ask them what can be done to make the entry more clear.
Topios: There's something fun about Parthenia's cocksure attitude and the way she throws herself at a problem without much thought. It shows a good deal of her personality. The contrast between Kara's attitude and doubt gets hinted at and the meeting between the two characters didn't seem forced. The style, although rough, did suit the tone of the entry too even if you feel it was unfinished. I would have liked a bit more exploration of the difference between Kara and Parthenia though. Both of them appear to be strong willed but from very different cultures and the clash between them could carry an entry by itself in my eyes. Use the chance to show something new about the characters.
COMMENTS FOR KARA
BagnaTheSupervillain: Kara and Parthenia were both well-written, and the use of memories to develop the two characters was quite effective. Aside from the mild tension of whether or not Parthenia would attack Kara, the events in the present generally weren't as interesting as the flashbacks and inner turmoil of the two characters. This makes the events set in the present seem mostly like segues between character revelations and flashbacks. Giving the events in the present more weight and significance would add a lot more balance to the entry and would make the revelations of the past feel that much more meaningful as a result.
RobinRone: I liked that you introduced an element that could tie both Kara and Parthenia together -- that there are memories in their past they'd lost which were key to how they were living their lives in the present. I also appreciated that you had Parthenia's antagonistic approach, but tempered it with her caution and growing suspicions of Kara. The use of the NPCs and the world were also neatly done and well incorporated. However, I found the entry a little repetitive, and am concerned that the flashbacks were, by far, more interesting than anything happening in the "current" storyline. Search for the key conflicts and find ways to enhance those, rather than relying on backstory to spice things up. You had a compelling theme introduced, but you didn't explore it dramatically between the characters. As a result, Parthenia and Kara weren't nearly as interesting to observe together as they were apart. Interactions between characters should give you more opportunities for tension, drama, humor, and discoveries, not less.
SaintKhan: Your characterization of the gods and their machinations continue to be quite good. Partenia's paranoia seemed well informed, but did little to make her sympathetic. With Kara still unaware of who she is, this left the entry without a strong protagonist I could root for. I still want to see Kara discover herself and grow and learn, but until she does, you might have to rely on your opponent's character to drive the remainder of the story.
Topios: The way you tie Kara and Parthenia's stories together by the use of their repressed memories hinting at how their lives ended up shaping them is a good move and using the blood rain in this manner was a nice touch. They both seemed well characterized as well and acted in a believable manner. The highlight for me though was the gods, especially Loki's interactions with izanami. There's a sense of intrigues and mystery there that steals the show. The beginning also felt a bit slow to me, with flashbacks tacked on. Try to integrate them more so the flow of the story is smoother. There were also some typos that slowed me down a bit. A beta ought to be a good help with these issues and underlining the strong points.
11. Hanna Jones vs. 48
COMMENTS FOR HANNA
BagnaTheSupervillain: The writing in the beginning of this entry felt improved over the audition, since I had a much stronger sense of what Hanna was doing and why and the pacing felt greatly improved.
Lithicbee: This was a fun way to begin the entry and you captured a teenager's boredom well. It would have been interesting to see where Hanna's story went from here.
RobinRone: This opener was a fun way to start Hanna and 48's interactions, and I was excited to see how things would continue. It was unfortunate that you couldn't complete your promising opening!
SaintKhan: It's unfortunate to hear that you will not be continuing with PHOCT. We understand that life can have unforeseen complications, and we understand that those must take priority. Thank you so much for giving us a great audition and first round! We hope you had fun with our world and the other competitors. Please feel free to continue being involved with the PHOCT community, even if you are not competing. I guarantee we will have another OCT in the future, and I hope circumstances allow you to try out again.
Topios: You were off to a good start that showed Hanna's attitude pretty nicely. It's a shame you couldn't get it finished as I think it could have developed in a fun way.
COMMENTS FOR 48
BagnaTheSupervillain: 48 continues to be extremely loveable, and getting to know more about how he thinks by showing his reasoning process and his reaction to getting hit with a bat was fun and informative. The way his obsession with learning new things combined with Hanna's willingness to ramble endlessly about baseball felt like a natural way for the two of them to interact. The hints at a larger storyline were vague enough that I didn't get much out of them, and the ending felt a little abrupt, but overall I thought the entry managed to cover all of the necessary bases despite being rather short.
Lithicbee: This entry had good humor, a great way for the two OCs to meet (classic!), and a nice mystery in the attack on Hades, but it suffered from an abrupt ending. (Since there was nothing at stake, I would not define it as a cliffhanger, or even cliffhanger-ey.) Hanna and 48 made it through the poplar grove easily, so there was no danger or menace and thus no question in the reader's mind about the characters' well-being. Neither Hanna nor 48 revealed much beyond their basic premise (girl with baseball bat and inquistive alien), and although they had a goal, they faced no real obstacles toward attaining it. This was a nice beginning, but make sure to treat each round as a story in and of itself, with a middle and end included.
RobinRone: 48 is definitely an entertaining critter with his insatiable need for knowledge and lack of social understanding to know when enough is enough. The barely glimpsed fight(?) between Hades and the shadowy figure is definitely intriguing, and I really like that you slip it in instead of running it down. It gives not only you something to expand upon in the future, but also other contestants. Hanna seemed a little one-note (OMG BASEBALL!) but you fit her in well and her interactions with 48 were fun. The weakest part of this entry is its ending. It just sorta...stops. The funny thing about cliff hangers is that they're elusive entities. Many things will pose as a cliff-hanger, when in fact they aren't one at all. A cliff-hanger lives in the spaces of the unresolved story rhythm and structure. It isn't just an event that ends with a question mark. It's a piece of the STORY that is cut off before it can be fully realized. To demonstrate this, here is a very short story, broken into three parts parts:
(1) A poor man went to the market to buy a loaf of bread, but bandits stole his his money.
(2) So he stole a loaf instead. The baker ran him down through town and swore he'd have his head.
(3) Eventually he caught him, and now the man is dead.
This story is very simple, but it has all the basic parts it needs. It has a moral (Stealing is wrong). A first act with a catalyst (1) with a rising action (2) and a resolution (3). A cliff-hanger can be created, even in a story as simple as this, but it must be chosen with care. Otherwise, we short-change the tension. If we cut it after 1, it's just an unfortunate situation, but the stakes are not too bad. If we cut it after 2, things are a lot more dire. We know there will be consequences, and no matter what, they won't be good. Before the man was poor, but while he had been compromised, he had not compromised HIMSELF. After 2, we know that something has happened that he cannot turn back from. Even if he escapes, we know that he will have done a bad deed to others, just like what was done to him. That has far more weight, because the threat is long-term. In this story, you essentially cut things off after #1. There's something spooky in the woods, but other than a possible physical threat, there is no challenge to your character's lives. Since they're protagonists, we as a reader have a baseline expectation that they will probably escape, and we have no reason to believe that it will change them other than give them a short-term scare.
SaintKhan: The stark art style continues to work well, and you have a good eye for negative space. 48's curiosity and glee are fun to follow. Having him witness Hades' fight and disappearance without really understanding the ramifications is interesting, and could work well as a mystery later. However, this entry abruptly ends without us really learning anything new about either Hanna or 48. Remember that your character is on a journey, and journey's transform people. 48 has already gone through a radical perspective shift, coming to love earth. What does he think about Hades?
Topios: Compliments on the evolving art style, it's clear that you've put effort into it and I feel you've gotten better at expressing what's happening clearly without sacrificing style. The content was fun and 48's inquisitiveness and positive attitude feels suitably childlike to make it engaging. The glimpse of what Hades is up to was a nice touch as well. That said I would have liked Hanna to have been a bit more nuanced and I agree with the others when they say your entry ends too abruptly to be satisfying. I'm not entirely sure what the threat to them was. It would have worked better as a cliffhanger if we were aware of a risk to them. Work towards a narrative that can also function as self contained story and I believe your entries will be stronger.
12. Finley vs. Hope
COMMENTS FOR FINLEY
BagnaTheSupervillain: Finley's unique narrative perspective was used very well in this entry. His initial awe and later frustration with being able to see and his lack of experience dealing with others were both very well depicted and had a deep effect on the story itself. The recurring ideas of naïve trust and betrayal and the way Hope's previous experiences affected her interactions with Finley were done well, and made the character interaction feel nice and meaningful. However, this entry suffered from a general lack of story beyond Finley and Hope wandering around and running into various threats. The more interesting conflict of Hope stealing Finley's letter of passage seemed to be defused quite a bit by how easily Finley got a replacement. Even though that made their reconciliation at the end a bit more believable, it also had the effect of making the events of the story seem a lot more trivial, and giving Finley some difficulty because of the lost letter of passage probably would have made everything more interesting. Conflict that originates from character tends to be more interesting than random spider attacks, and downplaying the former in favor of the latter meant that the entry didn't display your strengths in character development as well as it could have.
Lithicbee: I can appreciate that being sighted is overwhelming for Finley, but his reactions get a bit repetitive. It does not help that Finley's meeting with Hope and learning about the situation in Hades is also repetitive. Finally, Charon's mysterious clue about unlit torches seemed cool until Finley realizes that there are unlit torches outside the Waiting Room. Then, it didn't make any sense: why didn't Charon say, "Hey, the waiting room is right over there."? I almost ended my reading at this point, because you didn't link your entry pages together. If you continue in the OCT, please do your readers a favor and make it easy to follow your story by linking your pages together. It would have been a shame if I had missed part two, because there is some good stuff in there. I liked that Finley's powers worked vs. the poplar grove and also that they might give a reason for Persephone to work with him. Overall, part two gave a nice growth arc to Finley, a little growth to Hope, and nice hook regarding Persephone. I did not find the scene with the spiders useful. Finley and Hope got out of it so easily, it might just as well have never happened. Which brings me to my recommendation: edit your piece down to remove repetitive or unnecessary elements. This will let the cooler pieces of your story to stand out and shine.
RobinRone: You're doing a great job of showing how Finley is out of his element, and how sight was not the boon he expected it to be. That is a challenge, and it's a great start, but the problem is it is not challenge enough. There's a list called "Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling" and I'd like to highlight #16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against. Right now you've got a challenge (Finley is not good at processing all this new information) but there are no stakes. What happens if he fails at…well…anything he does in this entry? Nothing. His situation will remain unchanged. As a result, there are no stakes, and no reason to root for him. You must give him something to care about, something to lose, something that is at risk. Right now he doesn't want anything, he doesn't know anyone, and he doesn't even have the need for basic survival. He's already dead. As a storyteller, it is up to you to find something that, if he fails in a goal, the consequence will be worse than death.
SaintKhan: Finley has some strong characterization early in this entry. Finley finding a hole in the wall as a safe place where he can recover was a nice way to show how he copes with stress. His fear of crowds is also well-informed.
However, you did a lot of telling in this entry rather than showing. Each event is described as it happens with little prose to make it more than a simple series of events. Think about what these events mean, both to Finley, and to your opponent's character. Finley has never met a girl like Hope before. While you touched on this, I was hoping you would explore it in greater depth. What are things that Hope finds mundane, but Finley finds amazing?
I found Charon's characterization to be somewhat off-putting, as Finley seemed to form a friendship around an abusive and surprisingly verbose Charon.
Remember to think on theme. Where is Finley going as a character? Who is the person you want to see him grow into? He is on that journey of growth now. What do the places he visits and people he meets represent? Will he meet someone who reminds him of his mother? Or perhaps even his mother herself? Has he truly gotten over her death? What does regaining his sight represent? Is it a wonderful boon that he feels he hasn't earned, or a curse that merely complicates his life with too much extra information? Both? Neither? Think on what you want to say in your next round. Decide on a message, then tell us how Finley learned this lesson, failed to learn this lesson, or tried to teach it to someone else.
Topios: Exploring Finley's reaction to suddenly gaining sight is an interesting way to approach this round, and his reactions to a radically different environment than the one he grew up in as well. Hope as a manipulator took me a bit by surprise, but it isn't entirely unbelievable considering the way she's lived her life. Her characterization still felt a bit off to me though. She doesn't seem to try to avoid people and their bad luck which she'd presumably still do even if her ability no longer works. Be careful you don't change the traits of your character to suit the story you had in mind.
COMMENTS FOR HOPE
BagnaTheSupervillain: The entry brought in a relatively large number of characters and used them all effectively, both characterizing them well and making them important to the story. Bringing in Osteo and the yarn balls was a nice way to take advantage of the events of Project Minotaur, and they were well-enough explained in the story that it seemed like it would be effective with or without prior knowledge of the previous tournament. The implication that Osteo is now joining the growing list of people with ulterior motives for Hope's journey makes me look forward to seeing where the story goes from here. Despite being part of a fairly large number of characters in the entry, Hope and Finley are still given sufficient attention and are written well. Of the characters featured the only one I didn't find particularly well-represented was the Doctor, who was well established as entertainingly selfish and despicable in the audition, but who was mostly used as a fairly generic guiding voice here. This makes sense given his circumstances, but it might have been nice to get a few reminders of what a horrible person he tends to be. The only other potential negative I can think of is that not much happened in this entry, but there was a definite sense of things getting moved into position for future developments, and the entry was still consistently entertaining throughout.
Lithicbee: I liked a couple of things about this entry: 1) the hint that there is a mysterious/invisible fourth entity in the party, and 2) the hints of a bigger plot. However, these hints were not enough to get me past a lot of the rest of the story. The story started slowly with this Osteo character talking about many things that maybe are supposed to have great and cryptic import but sounded like so much babble to me. His fourth-wall breaking discussion of the narrative and background characters was a little too meta for me. Throughout the entry, I felt like this was a continuation of a previous story that I knew nothing about, so it mostly felt confusing and out of place in Hades for me. Yarn balls? Hacking vending machines? These are interesting ideas, but I didn't feel like they fit in this context. In the end, though, my biggest concern with the entry is that beyond the character introductions, some hints, and some cryptic conversations, no story happened. Perhaps Hope had a small goal, to get food, and overcame that obstacle, but Finley was only along for the ride, and the overall story was not much advanced by an adventure in earning money for food. If you continue in the OCT, make sure to have each entry do some serious work toward the OCT's end goal: solving the mystery of the ferryman.
RobinRone: Your technical writing skills are fair - descriptions and details give a good sense of place, dialog is fairly natural and characterizes well. However, this story suffered significantly from having nothing to do. The most pressing conflict was whether or not Hope could get food from a vending machine. What does that challenge reveal about Hope's character? How does that bring out the strengths and weaknesses of her personality? What does she learn about herself or about Finley beyond the abilities listed in the character sheet? Stories are not about events. They're about events that change people. How are your events forcing Hope to change?
SaintKhan: This entry had some good prose, which helped create a strong atmosphere. I loved the imagery of the spirits riding on the back of the world turtle. However, I felt that this great atmosphere was underutilized.
About two-thirds through this entry, I began to check out. There was very little conflict in this entry, and the most pressing concern was how they would find their next meal. This can work if it is thematically appropriate, but I don't think that was the case here. Finley is a character that is used to starvation, and Hope is a bon vivant. Their views on food should be radically different, and highlighting this difference both in terms of physical reaction and in terms of character would have helped. What does it mean to be hungry? Can Finley endure, while Hope merely complains? Is he offended by her cavalier attitude toward something he thinks is very valuable?
This entry also brought in a lot of extraneous information from PMOCT. While it is nice to see you utilize the wider world, remember that not every opponent, or even every judge, was a part of that competition. This makes the Yarn Ball, Osteo, and other references very difficult for your opponent to use accurately. More importantly, it drowned this entry in exposition to explain each of these things. This more than anything killed the pacing of this story.
Keeping an eye on the past is fine, but I think this entry would have been better if it had been more focused on the story it was trying to tell rather than one that had already been told. Ground your story in the here and now… it's where Hope is. Hopefully finding her will help you find her drama as well.
Topios: Your round was quite compact, delivering the story swiftly while still giving a good sense of the characters and hinting at a larger story. That's definitely a good skill to have. I enjoyed the variety of characters you show and the unanswered questions you leave. The Osteo cameo was especially fun, but I'm a bit worried it might have left people not familiar with PMOCT a bit confused even if you did your best to fill in the necessary details. Other than that I will mostly warn you not to lose your and your opponent's character among the more outgoing and engaging supporting characters.
13. Snipros Rentarone Queltza vs. Sisca
COMMENTS FOR SNIPROS
BagnaTheSupervillain: There wasn't much to this entry other than the attack by minotaurs, which felt too arbitrary to be particularly interesting or exciting. Snipros did come across as being interested in finding Hyshel, but he didn't seem to have much personality beyond that. Sisca behaved in a way that was almost the exact opposite of her canonical character traits. Sisca becoming significantly less intelligent and more passive felt like an attempt to put Snipros in a more dominant position in the story, but giving Sisca a stronger presence would have both been more faithful to the character and would probably have benefited Snipros letting his character traits come across stronger by contrasting with hers.
Lithicbee: I liked your artwork but I did not feel that there was really a story here, just some jokes and an implied fight scene. To have a story, you need there to be a conflict (note, a fight does not necessarily equal conflict. In this case it was just a means to bring the OCs together). Rather than have Snipros randomly run into someone who just happens to know of him, it would have been nice if there had been a real reason for them to interact, a goal that they would work together or fight against each other on, some obstacles to that goal, and a positive or negative outcome. All you had was a meeting, which is only the very beginning of their story. You also didn't give them any depth. Snipros is madcap (which seems out of character for someone pining for his lost love) and Sisca is, literally, derpy. Even in the little space you allotted yourself, it would have been nice to see a little more insight into the characters. Finally, from a sequential art standpoint, your flow of panels is not always obvious, which makes your pages a bit confusing. Try not to cram everything together on the page; have a layout that leads the reader's eyes naturally from one scene to the next.
RobinRone: It's good to see Snipros holding firm to his mission, and we also get to see from his actions (helping a stranger, asking to negotiate) that he has a soft heart. Until he's provoked, at least! So your OC came through quite clearly. Sisca, on the other hand, seemed like an empty suit. Half the time, she didn't even seem aware of the obvious things going on around them, and her forceful personality was just a shadow of its usual self, with her differing to Snipros in everything. It felt like her character had been reduced to make Snipros seem larger. Always rise characters up to equal levels in your stories. It will make interactions between them more interesting and fun, and give you more about your own OCs to explore.
SaintKhan: This entry expands on your audition by giving each character more to do. This is a good step, as it leads to more opportunities for character interaction, and Snipros and Sisca seem to make a good team. In the future, also explore your character's emotions on a deeper level. While we know Snipros is still dedicated to retrieving Hyshel, what is Sisca feeling in this entry? Other that his determination, how is Snirpos dealing with all that is happening around him? Does he feel guilty about Hyshel's death, or his own suicide? Is he worried for her safety in such an obviously dangerous place? Is he just sad, and misses her? If your opponent is the kind of character that Snipros can talk to, have them both share their feelings about their past and current predicament. Find familiar threads in their stories, ways that they can relate to each other. Once you have found common ground, you can take these characters on much more interesting adventures.
Topios: You have some very lovely easily readable art that clearly show what's happening and I appreciate the way you very effectively make it clear what kind of person Snipros is. You've definitely taken a step in the right direction. Sisca was hard for me to recognize though, she didn't seem to act like herself, which is a shame. Try to focus on the interaction between the characters and show us how they feel about their situation; this will make your storytelling stronger and your own character even more engaging.
COMMENTS FOR SISCA
BagnaTheSupervillain: The beginning of the entry showed a lot of potential. Sisca has a commanding presence and her interaction with Minos used her history in PMOCT effectively, though so far Sisca hasn't really shown much personality or emotional range beyond "determined." It works so far, but could get a bit one-note if it continues. Snipros was also introduced very effectively, and his conversation with the demons did a good job analyzing his actions and setting him on the way to his own story arc. However, I wasn't able to get much out of the last page or very brief summary. Creating a more detailed summary would have gone a long way to making this entry stronger, as would a script for the last page to make it clearer which characters were talking.
Lithicbee: Before I even get into the entry itself, let me address the note under Page 1, in which you say the entry "will be quite long and not necessarily exciting." Wow. Way to sell your work. You just programmed me to negatively pre-judge your entry. Please have the confidence to let your entry stand on its own merits and don't insult the readers by not allowing them to assess the entry for themselves. Your continued trash-talking of your own work was a big turn-off to me throughout the entry. Be a little bit nicer to yourself, please. Okay, now to the entry itself. I liked the confrontation between Sisca and Minos; not many OCs can interact with him as an equal with a shared history, so this is promising. I liked the conversation between the demon and Snipros. It manages to point out some of the oddities in Snipros' actions while also presenting a path for him to grow as a character. On Page 4, I would rather have had the scripted page for this rather than the sketches, because with a script I at least could have known who was speaking. With bare sketches, I had no idea who was saying what and it only confused me.
In the end, my complaint wasn't that the story was "quite long," because it wasn't, or that it wasn't exciting, but that it didn't continue. Please, if you continue on the OCT, have something completed to turn in, even if it is a written script or scene-by-scene summary.
RobinRone: Although this entry is unfinished, it gets points from me for at least establishing both Snipros and Sisca effectively. Each of their scenes laid out the inner conflicts they were facing, and would have served as an excellent foundation for the remainder of the story. Unfortunately, I have no idea what the remainder of that story would be, and the notes you left are so thread-bare that they don't tell me anything at all. Don't forget that you can use multiple types of media to tell a story. Even if you'd just had a 1 page summary to finish this entry and let me know how the themes you set up in your comic resolved, this would have been so much stronger. Don't sabotage yourself! Use the options at your disposal and manage your time accordingly!
SaintKhan: Sisca's force of personality once again drives this story, and her interactions with Minos are well-informed. I also liked the depth you gave to Snipros, implying a degree of guilt in his part in Hyshel's death.
In the future, if you find yourself in a time crunch, a written summary might server you better. As presented on the last page, I had a very hard time telling who was talking, and I think the scene shifted to other characters at some point, but without a visual reference, I couldn't tell.
Topios: You seem to have been hit with a severe case of self doubt that effectively crippled what could have been a good entry. You had some really strong scenes between Minos and Sisca and Snipros and the demons that you have no reason to be ashamed of even in their rough state. Trust in your abilities and get things in a readable state, one way and another, and don't let the doubt get you. You're not as bad as you want to believe.
14. Almond vs. Oscar and Brett
COMMENTS FOR ALMOND
BagnaTheSupervillain: The central characters were fairly well written. I liked the contrast between how Oscar and Brett responded to Almond, which helped distinguish the two from each other and contrast Brett's caution and Oscar's enthusiasm. However, not much happened in this entry, and although the contrast between how Almond, Oscar, and Brett reacted to the spider attack gave us some insight into their characters, none of it felt particularly substantial, especially since we already had a good sense of Almond's bravery from the audition. Consequently, the whole entry felt a bit shallow. Some fairly easily fixable spelling and grammar mistakes (especially occasional switches to past tense) throughout the entry suggest that a beta might be useful, though the mistakes weren't too distracting.
Lithicbee: I liked that you found a connection between Oscar and Almond (he's half a soul, she's half a spirit: nice) and I think you captured Brett's possessiveness well. I did think that Oscar and Almond's team-up was way too convenient ("You look bored. Join me." "Okay.") Also, Part 3 of your entry drains it of any dramatic tension you might have built up, as Almond is mostly back where she was at the beginning of the round, and the pseudo-philosophical conversation with Thoth seemed like so much cryptic babble. Finally, the grammatical problems with the entry, including incorrect spelling, use of wrong words, omitted words, and past/present tense issues, were a distraction throughout. You could have benefitted from a beta reader who could have helped you find these problems.
RobinRone: You've already grown as a writer between your audition and your first round, for which I commend you. Almond is becoming more rounded and clear in personality. I appreciated that she is able to consider what Lyle wants and how she fits into that particular world view. I particularly liked her perspective on how most of the souls around her are civilians, and that her training gives her a moral responsibility to act. This seems like a thought that is Almond's own, in-line with Lyle's thinking, but from a more personal place. Your depiction of your opponent's characters was fairly true to their basic characteristics, but lacked much depth. They were mostly defined by one character trait. Brett is aggressively over-protective, and Oscar is passively friendly. Just as you are working towards giving Almond more depth, search for ways to round out your depiction of your opponent's characters. What do they believe in? What are their motives? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How does their personality fit, or clash, with your own OC? Most importantly, how can the events in your story bring out these aspects of your characters, and help them learn something new?
SaintKhan: Brett seemed a little one-note to me. While I understand his protectiveness, his constant glares and rudeness seemed overkill for Almond. If Brett considers Almond a physical threat, then he probably wouldn't allow Almond anywhere near Oscar. More likely, he considers Almond an emotional threat, and is even a little jealous of Oscar and Almond's friendship. If this is the case, how can you explore this concept beyond simply having Brett become passive-aggressive? If the destructive power of jealousy is the theme of your round, how can that be expressed?
One technique is to create a clone. Show another character suffering from the same problem, and show how they deal with it. Was Almond ever jealous when Lyle showed favor to another promising soldier? Is the monster they fight in Hades driven by jealousy as well? Does Brett learn to let go of his jealousy, following Almond's example, or does he refuse to learn and become just like monster, driving Almond away?
Of course, all of this is applicable to your main character, Almond, as well. What does she fear? What is her goal, beyond just returning to life? Most importantly, what will she learn?
This is all complex stuff, but if you can write theme into your story, each character will seem much more complex and real, and you will find that they offer you far more options when using them in your entries.
Topios: I quite liked the random meetings between Almond and Oscar that gives brief glimpses into his life after death and how he and Brett are handling things. They all seem well characterized and it cuts out unnecessary bits while focusing on central scenes. I also appreciate that you've listened and attempted to create a better sense of the setting. I would have liked to see a bit more of Brett though, it seemed like he didn't really get a chance to show much personality, and the meeting with them felt like it didn't have much impact on Almond. Did we learn anything about her we didn't know before? Try to use your opponents to explore your own character. Lastly there were some issues with typos and mistaken choice of words in your entry. The best advice I can give is to get a beta to help you spot the mistakes so you can correct them and get the flow of your story smoothed out a bit.
COMMENTS FOR OSCAR AND BRETT
BagnaTheSupervillain: The emphasis on the search for Oscar's soul and the risk to damage to souls from doing things like healing Almond gave a good sense of urgency to the overarching story and gave a sense that Oscar and Brett had a definite motivation, while Almond's sense of duty and her fear of failing it similarly made her actions feel meaningful, despite the entry's uneventfulness. However, it was a bit disappointing that Oscar and Brett interacted with Almond mostly in an indirect way, which frequently made them feel like they were in separate stories, despite their close physical proximity. Giving your characters and your opponents' characters more interaction would help tie the entry and its themes and character developments together better.
Lithicbee: This entry is remarkably similar to your opponents and suffers from the same drain of dramatic tension in Part 3, where Oscar and Brett end up mostly back where they were at the beginning of the round. You also use the present progressive a lot where it does not seem necessary (See: http://grammar.about.com/od/pq/g/presprogtense.htm). For instance, you say "is asking" and "is replying" instead of "asks" and "replies." It implies that the timing of the conversation is important: something else is happening at that exact same moment (For example: "While he is asking me for directions, I am asking him the time of day. Neither of us really hears the other one.") But you use it repeatedly and it gets distracting. I would recommend you use simple present tense (which the majority of your entry is in) for all actions unless you are trying to stress that an action is taking place while another action is also taking place.
RobinRone: The strongest part of this entry is that Brett has a goal, and he is taking steps to achieve it. It drives the events of the plot in a fairly natural way, although the obstacle they encounter is more a "random monster fight" than one that directly impedes their quest. The reveal of Oscar's new healing ability, and the risks associated with it, are also a new and interesting element that could have great applications in the future. However, while Oscar's ability list is growing, his character is not. My complaint with the audition was that Oscar was hard to find, and even though he has more screen time here, I still am having trouble locating a character. He does not seem to have any real opinions, desires, or personality. This may be a by-product of being half a soul, but at this point it is severely handicapping your work. If you must keep in line with a character that lacks a heart (and thus, a lack of passion) then this should at least have consequences to those around him, if not to him. Doesn't Brett notice that all is not well? How good an actor is this ib-less Oscar, that he can fool even his loved ones? Where are the cracks in the facade, and will they cause tension between them? If you're going to have a character that is half a soul, you need to commit to it in ways that go beyond WHAT they can do - and impact WHO they are.
SaintKhan: I felt that there was some regression between your audition and this round. One of the things I admired about the audition is how you skipped past much of the mechanical scenes, like Oscar's death, to focus on the scenes with the most emotional weight, such as Brett preparing Oscar's body for the afterlife. This entry does the opposite, by showing a lot of expository scenes while lacking a strong emotional core. While I understand that not every entry can be as emotional as your audition, I know you can write good drama, and there just wasn't much of it showcased here. The first scene of your audition told us a lot about Oscar and Brett's relationship without anyone saying a word about it. Brett's care for Oscar is clear. By contrast, the fight with the monster was considerably less tense than even this simple scene of Oscar heading out the door, because in the first scene, there is emotional danger, and in the monster fight, there was only physical danger. The reveal that Oscar's new healing powers will permanently damage him comes close to restoring this emotional weight, but it seemed tacked on to the end, when it could have been the focus of the story. I might have considered starting this entry at the tail end of the fight, revealing this healing power, and making it the central conceit of the story.
Your strength lies in delivering powerful emotion. Trust your reader. I can follow you if you skip past some obvious things, like travel between two locations. Skip the exposition, get to the emotion.
Topios: I get a lovely sense of slight detachedness from the way things are described in your entry that really works well with the characters. The events are neat and logical, letting us know both what the characters learn and how they think while keeping them all well characterized. And the details of the Hades bureaucracy in action keeps being oddly amusing. Despite the fitting tone I did occasionally find your writing a bit too dreamy, to a point where I didn't understand what you were trying to convey. I'm also worried that the distanced tone will turn into a hindrance later on. Be careful it doesn't get too much and you ought to manage well.