15. Aisling Twilight vs. Ilyas Gram and Skullcat
COMMENTS FOR AISLING
BagnaTheSupervillain: This entry made effective use of Aisling's youth and inexperience, demonstrating how they both hinder her and cause other people to underestimate her. However, most of the characters, including Aisling herself, seemed to differ in significant ways from their canonical traits. Aisling didn't seem to have any interest in the way she died or the person responsible and Ilyas seemed to be a generic thug for Mr. Saturday without much reference to his personality or back story. Sudden scene changes and shifts in perspective also sometimes made it difficult to tell what was going on at times.
Lithicbee: While this entry had a lot of inventive qualities, it suffered from many grammatical issues, such as switching between past and present tense haphazardly and using your when you mean you're (you are). There is also a problem where your versions of Hades (who seems to be taking on Minos' role), Mr. Saturday, and Ilyas do not match the original characters very well. Also, with your addition of haflings and the separation of the Administration from Hades Proper, your version of the world seems to go too far afield from the basic premise of the OCT. All these changes/additions seem to be put in place to give Aisling a bigger role in the events of the OCT, but you didn't give me enough reasons to understand why this girl is so important. Be careful not to be so cryptic that your reader doesn't believe there is a good truth behind your mysteries.
RobinRone: I appreciate that you're willing to be creative with your interpretations of the setting and situation, but sometimes you went too far. Characters acted vastly out of character and even the setting was often difficult to recognize. It seemed that little attention had been given to researching the places or people. Characters appeared without explanation of who they were until halfway in, and the opponent's character barely played a part in the story at all. Most of this entry was dedicated to lengthy descriptions and haphazard events that didn't make logical sense when strung together. Two major things to consider for any good story: 1) Cause and Effect, 2) Motive. For Cause and Effect, every action that any character takes will cause a reaction in their surroundings and in other people. So the actions your characters make should connect together in a logical way. Example of how this went wrong: If Ilyas and Mr. Saturday are going to give Aisling Totu's cage to release the fairy as soon as Aisling wakes up, why would they put Totu in a cage in the first place? That is not a series of events that make sense. Either they intend to keep the fairy imprisoned, or she shouldn't be caged at all. 2) Motive. Everyone has things that they want and need. Their actions should take them closer to getting what they want. Closely examine ALL the characters you are working with and ask yourself "What do they want, given what I know about them?" Work with what you know about the character's history and personality. Don't invent a motivation that works for your plot - stay true to other characters, not just your own. For example, Hades as presented for the OCT is a listless, mysterious figure largely uninvolved with those around him, not a mastermind with something to hold over every servant.
SaintKhan: This entry lost me in a few places. Aisling commonly thinks about things that just happened, adding unnecessary length to some scenes. When she is talking to Mary, in the middle of the conversation, she pauses to think about how hurt she was by Mary's betrayal. However, she had just said how hurt she was by this betrayal. As a result, the reader is given the information twice, when once is enough. At another point, Asiling falls into a sinkhole, and then thinks about how she just fell into a sinkhole. Remember that even if your characters need to explain or think about an event, if the reader has just been shown the event, you don't need to describe it twice. In both the examples above, Aisling doesn't need to tell herself that she feels betrayed or that she fell. She knows it because it just happened to her. I know it because I just read it.
In the future, consider each point you want to make, and then challenge yourself to say that point as clearly as you can in just a single sentence. If you find yourself needing a second sentence to explain the first, then start over and write the first sentence from scratch. This will help you achieve economy of language, the ability to quickly and concisely tell each part of your story so that the reader can focus on the really important stuff, your characters, your themes, and your plot.
Topios: You write a confused young protagonist pretty well, Aisling seemed unsure of what to do without acting dumb. I also found her relationship with Totu sweet as she wanted to protect her but found her bothersome in the cave. That said the characters and setting largely felt unrecognizable to me. There is nothing wrong with changing details and adding your own touch and interpretation, but you have to make sure they still feel like they belong in the framework of the story. I would recommend looking at and perhaps writing fanfiction to practice keeping people and places in character while adding your own ideas. Looking at previous OCTs can also give you an idea how it can be done. Keep practicing, I think you'll quickly get better.
COMMENTS FOR ILYAS
BagnaTheSupervillain: This entry did a good job making Ilyas enjoyable to read without compromising his nasty qualities, and his interaction with Aisling made good use of both their backgrounds to advance their characters. The idea of one of Ilyas' victims coming to visit him in the afterlife is a good one, though Ilyas' apparent lack of introspection makes the whole thing seem a bit less meaningful. I had some occasional issues with the storytelling and actions of the characters. For example, I still don't understand how the first encounter with Ilyas and his past victim ended. When I first read it, I was convinced that Ilyas teleported away somehow. I'm not really sure why someone would yell "I'll find you" to someone standing right in front of him, and I'm not really sure how Ilyas and his victim wound up separating. It also seemed like Ilyas abruptly knew all the details of Aisling's death without actually learning them from anywhere.
Lithicbee: For throwing a serial killer and a 17-year-old girl together, this entry went better than I expected. I liked how Ilyas's skipping stone moment came in handy later in the entry. I liked that he gave Aisling his expert opinion on her possible murder (and this is one of the items that made this matchup go from potentially creepy to perfect). I also liked the "Don't forget to look behind you" connection that they had. One part I felt was weak was how Cerberus brought Aisling to Ilyas in the first place. I understand why you needed it to happen, but I don't feel that an adequate reason for this was given in the story itself. If it had been explained even a little, it might have helped me accept that Aisling stayed with Ilyas after she learned he is a murderer. Without it, I didn't understand why she didn't take off immediately.
RobinRone: I really enjoyed how Aisling and Ilyas had distinct voices and mannerisms. It was clear that they came from vastly different walks of life, and the low-grade menace of Ilyas was ever-present, even when he was being fairly nice. The commentary on not just death, but the past catching up and the responsibility one has to the past, was very interesting. The phrase "don't forget to look behind you" has a delightful number of possible meanings, and says a lot in just a few words. The weakest part of this story was probably the portion dedicated to putting Aisling and Ilyas in the same place for the sake of the round. You have such strong thematic undertones in the second and third act of your story, so it's a shame that they're barely present in the first. If Aisling's tendency to point fingers or see malice where there might be none had been present in her first appearance in your story, it would have tied everything together even better.
SaintKhan: I don't know how, but when the man Ilyas murdered confronts him, you got me to root for Ilyas over his victim. Even better, you found a great commonality between Ilyas and Aisling in the way they both died. Not only were the methods of their deaths similar, but so were their themes... that death happens when you are careless, or if someone is after you... or both. This was a great way to ground the entry. I was a little worried when Ilyas dropped his victim down the cliff as I thought it was a very poor climax to this entry, but then you surprised me with the real climax, a simple yet tense conversation that is both threatening and endearing. Neither Aisling or Ilyas made any friends this round, but they both learned something about each other, and maybe themselves. Ilyas continues to be a very strong character, striking a perfect balance between menace and vulnerability. I'm curious to see what he will do next.
Despite the action in this entry the strong points are the moments in between and the continued themes and foreshadowing. The advice of "Don't forget to look behind you" really gives your story a structure and makes the conversation between Aisling and Ilyas potent. That said I can't help wondering why Aisling stayed by his side, she had no compelling reason to do, which weakens the rest of the otherwise strong narrative. My advice to you is to keep an eye on the beginning and try to avoid a situation where the characters meet simply because the story demands it.
16. Thad vs. Ragnok
COMMENTS FOR THAD
BagnaTheSupervillain: The entry did a good job with Ragnok's generally noble nature and his concern for the young in particular, and the way it made him especially vulnerable to being manipulated by Thad. I got less sense of Thad's personality, though having his actual opinions bleed through a bit in his talk about gods worked fairly well and his plan was legitimately clever despite him having powers that make manipulation excessively easy. The biggest problem I had with this entry is that there simply wasn't much to it, and the brevity made it seem kind of insubstantial to me. I like the art style quite a bit and the comic storytelling works well for the illusion-filled stories, but it seems like it might be necessary to deviate from the comic style occasionally if you want to remain competitive with opponents who have more substantial entries.
Lithicbee: I really liked how Thad used Ragnok to capture Prometheus' liver, and that the illusion played on important elements from your opponent's audition. I also liked the expressive faces you drew on Ragnok on page 2, panels 2 and 3. After that, though, I found much of your art to be too sketchy for me to understand the action without the panel descriptions below each page. I don't know if this is your style or you were rushed for time, but look to each panel with a stranger's eyes: would someone else understand it if they didn't a) know what you know, and b) have the panel descriptions. I think the goal should be for the comic pages to stand on their own, without explanations below.
RobinRone: Thad's grisly task is definitely intriguing, and the way he uses illusions to manipulate Ragnok is very clever. Thad and Ragnok's conversation on the underworld was a great way to explore their unique perspectives. Thad's comment on being a better god than the ones the world has was an interesting, if brief, glimpse into his character. That said, very little of Thad's personality breaks the surface, and while you have a definite strength in plotting, your characters are your clearest weakness. I have no reason to be invested in Thad's journey, because I don't have any reason to care about him. Not enough of him is revealed - his character does not extend beyond the mask of pleasantness.
SaintKhan: This was an interesting tale that showcased Thad's manipulative streak and stayed true to Ragnok's character. While the story hit each plot beat, I felt that it could have been stronger with a theme. Beyond "Thad is a good at getting others to do his bidding", what could you say with this tale? Since Thad is on a quest for Hades, this could have been a mythological quest that speaks to how it is sometimes necessary to lie to achieve a goal. Alternately, from Ragnok's perspective, it could be a cautionary tale about trusting those who appear to be weaker than you. Your message doesn't need to be profound, but a unifying theory could go a long way toward making Thad's journey into something truly special.
Topios: The slow reveal of how Thad is tricking Ragnok and what he's really up to is a good idea and I can appreciate the way you used Ragnok's character here. Sadly I had trouble getting that clearly from your entry – the art was hard to make out at some points and even if it had been more polished I'm not sure I would have managed to figure it out from the subtle clues you give. As such the reveal at the last page came out of nowhere for me. Try to manage your time better if possible so you can get a more polished result. I believe you are capable.
17. Simon, Venom, and Radharc vs. Rels and Hideko 'Jun' Akland
COMMENTS FOR SIMON, VENOM, AND RADHARC
BagnaTheSupervillain: The interactions between the characters showed most of their personalities despite minimal story and dialogue. Jun's reluctance to talk to Simon made the interaction feel more believable than it would have been if she had been more immediately talkative. However, the extremely brief entry didn't really have any story beyond the characters exchanging the information on their character sheets, and your three characters finish the entry in exactly the same state as they started, making the entry feel rather redundant with the audtion.
Lithicbee: I found Simon's interaction with Jun to be very odd. He sees her as a little girl but insists on touching her (and then mocking her) even after she tells him to stay away. Then after showing that interest, he leaves her without even a goodbye. Perhaps if you had given them an interesting reason to run into each other, and had either a shared or contested goal between them, this entry would have felt more like a story. Instead, it only felt like a brief re-introduction to the characters. To flesh out your entry, I would recommend that at a minimum your characters have clear motivations/goals and something blocking them from achieving those goals. When you show how they work together or against each other to achieve their goals, therein lies a story.
RobinRone: This entry suffers from a lack of purpose and believability. Stories are more than events happening. They are ways for us to convey ideas. What idea is conveyed in this entry? What does it expose about the characters, their beliefs, their challenges, or their world? For the most part, this round consisted of a group of people meeting, half of them telling the other half to leave, and then continuing conversation anyway. Consider what you want to express beyond just events. Furthermore, consider what would be the most reasonable for your characters to do in a given situation. Put yourself in their shoes. If a complete stranger came up to you and started touching your face, and continued to do so after you repeatedly told him to stop, what would you do? Personally, I would kick them in the balls and RUN. Having a calm conversation is definitely NOT what would be on my mind in that situation. Consider what is a reasonable response for a character to a given situation. Never compromise that for the sake of the plot.
SaintKhan: Often in this entry, I found myself confused between Venom and Radharc. While their relationship with each other and Simon has been established, I often mix up which is which because they tend to speak with the same voice. While working with three characters, two of which are demons, and all of which have some sort of master/servant relationship, be sure to give each character a distinct voice. While they act differently in this entry, they tend to have the same casual tone of speaking, with modern turn of phrase. Beyond how they treat Simon, what makes them different? Distinguish them by giving them preferences to add to their personality. Is there something that Radharc likes that Venom does not, or vice-versa? Is there a specific reason, some quirk of personality or character flaw, that led one to be master over the other?
Juggling three characters can be very difficult. World building can be a good exercise to help your characters feel unique. How is demon hierarchy decided, and what is their culture like? Outside the presence of someone like Simon, do they bother to create master/servant relationships? Why do they make contracts to serve? What do they gain? Where do they live when not interacting with humans? How do demons typically view humans? As weak, foolish people to manipulate?
Finally, see how Radharc and Venom conform or rebel against these norms, and how their opinions differ from each other. Do they both view Simon with contempt or anger, or does one like him more than the other? Do they both like the servant system, or does one wish that demons lived differently? Do they share a contempt for humans?
You don't have to tell the reader the answers to all these questions, but just knowing them yourself will really add depth to your characters.
Topios: Your strength is definitely banter and dialog, which was enjoyable. Jun and Rels acted in a suitable manner and despite the somewhat unusual cast you keep it pretty clear who's who. Throwing in a mystery connected to Venom isn't a bad idea either. I would have liked the meeting between them to have had more impact though, as it was they just talked for a tiny bit and I didn't get a sense of the story moving forward. Ask yourself what the interaction tells us we didn't already knew and how it changes the characters. Jun and Simon talk about their books – could this create a bond between them or result in conflict? Radharc notices Rels and they assume he's a familiar – what do they think about this unexpected development? There's a lot of potential here but you don't really use it which is a shame. I believe you could have gotten a really good story out of it if you'd continued it.
COMMENTS FOR RELS AND JUN
BagnaTheSupervillain: Jun was very effectively portrayed as simultaneously dangerous and vulnerable, and she came across as driven and intelligent while still coming across as a young girl lacking experience in several important ways. However, Simon seemed to have very shallow motivations when he had any at all, and Venom was almost entirely predictable, while Radharc was largely absent. As a result, none of your opponent's characters came across as particularly distinguished, despite getting a significant portion of the story to themselves. The plot development at the end of Jun's father showing up with Hel shows an admirable commitment to keep the story moving forward and makes me intrigued to see future developments. If you can write your opponents' characters as convincingly as your own in future rounds while keeping your current good qualities, your entries will be very hard to beat.
Lithicbee: I like that you had a reason that Jun and Simon are in the story together (she needed his help) and that this reason plays out in the rest of the entry (she resents needing his help). I liked that you addressed how Venom's bond to Simon has been broken due to Simon's death, and I like that Jun offered him a job rather than the servitude Simon had on offer. It did not seem to be in character that Venom would agree to give his blood to Jun before knowing what exactly it would be used for, blood being a highly personal and (in fantasy logic at least) usually very powerful component. This could easily have been rectified if Venom knew beforehand what his blood would be used for: he wants his memories so badly, of course he'd give some blood for that (and that eagerness to give blood without thinking of the consequences could have been another story hook for you to make use of). Your exploration of the master/slave dynamic between Simon and Venom was compelling, and I was able to buy that Simon was clueless about Venom's unhappiness about his enslavement, but only just. If you were trying to paint Simon as self-deluded, you succeeded, and I think Simon messing up Jun's ritual as a means of keeping Venom on his side works to show this. So overall I think you handled your and your opponent's characters well and kept the story moving. I do have some complaints, though. 1) Giving Rels the benefits of Jun's ritual even though it was interrupted makes him a potentially story-breaking font of knowledge. I hope you have a plan to throw a wrench in that works, because there are quite a few rounds to go and he could end the story in an instant if he has access to all that knowledge. 2) Hel did not seem to be in character unless she is playing some long game in which she is puffing Simon up only to annihilate him later. And 3) in the fight between Simon and Venom, I did not buy at all that Simon could kick Venom away. While you didn't have much to go on in terms of a character bio (and it does say he is trained in hand-to-hand combat), I got the sense from your entry that Venom was much more powerful than Simon. When he kicked him away, it was a disconnect for me.
RobinRone: Every character has a very distinct voice that makes them both clear and fun to read. You did an excellent job juggling the different personalities and meshing them together. The ominous notes with the Tome's possible agenda and Hel's plans with Jun's father offer tantalizing possibilities for the future. A disappointment I had was that I kept thinking you were setting up a larger theme for the story, but you didn't quite see any of them through. As I count, there were three that you introduced: (1) Control in the face of a larger world is an illusion, but one people cling to rather than face fear. (2) Power is less important than being remembered. (3) Everyone is stronger than they realise, and when put to the test, their inner power is revealed. While each of these is presented in words, none of them are dramatized consistently enough to completely bring any of them out, and by introducing so many it muddies the waters considerably. This is exacerbated by an emphasis on telling rather than showing, as there is a great deal of one character explaining something to the other. Always focus on how to demonstrate something rather than tell it -- this can be by action, by body language, or by what a character DOESN'T say, rather than what they do. Only resort to an explanation when you think it is absolutely necessary, or when you are laying out the theme that you intend to explore in your story.
SaintKhan: You cover a lot of ground in a fairly small space here, and that pacing keeps this entry exciting for most of its duration. Jun comes across strongly, and Hel and Jun's father make a great dramatic team that also makes me want to read what you have planned for the next round.
Robin mentioned that you have 3 or more themes present in this round. I agree, and I would advise you in the future to choose just one per entry.
A great way to choose a theme is to select a phrase, a lesson that Jun will be faced with in the entry. Using one of Robin's examples: "Control in the face of a larger world is an illusion, but one people cling to rather than face fear." Now, any time you write a scene, or plan your plot, ask yourself: "Does this reenforce the theme I am trying to explore?"
In this example, what does Jun fear? How does she convince herself that she has control? Similarly, what does Simon fear? What does he think that he can control? Finally, what does Hel, or Jun's father fear? How do they try to take control?
Now, who learns their lesson, and how? Does Jun relinquish control, realizing that both it and her fear are an illusion? Does Simon delude himself into thinking he can control his demons, even as they break free or plot to destroy him? Does Jun's father think he can get manipulate Hel into helping him shape Jun's destiny? Or is there some other way any of these lessons can be interpreted?
Lastly, and this is perhaps hardest, cut any scene which does not ask or answer one of these questions. Cut any character who does not ask or answer any of these questions.
Writing to a single theme can be very difficult, but it is also very rewarding. A successful theme will make your story seem more complete, and each character and each scene will be more memorable.
Topios: There was a strong theme of betrayal and double standards in your entry which really tied it neatly together. Everybody appeared to be well characterized and you used the new and existing relationship between them to drive the story forward while showing Jun's determination and worldview. That said I felt Radharc was missing a bit, especially in the confrontation between Simon and Venom – he's got a stake in all of this too and a distinct dislike of his master, yet he is completely absent for no apparent reason. If it wasn't for the brief scene he appears in I would have thought you'd forgotten him completely. While you vary the voices of each character the tone did get a bit flowery at times too, stilting the flow a bit. Watch out for these details and you've got a strong basis for further rounds.
18. Trojan vs. Raven "Runs-her-mouth"
FORFEIT vs FORFEIT
19. Sonneillon and Senri vs. Gabriel
COMMENTS FOR SONNEILLON AND SENRI
BagnaTheSupervillain: The entry displayed Gabriel's personality very well, making him interesting and morally ambiguous while still keeping him likable enough for me to feel invested in his fate. His cowardly nature and attempts to avoid danger made the constant dangerous situations he got into that much more entertaining. Gabriel's interactions with Senri and Nate felt fairly smooth and natural and the way they'd periodically run into each other and re-separate felt appropriate for people who are headed the same way but don't like each other very much. Even though I liked the way you wrote Gabriel, I found myself less interested in Senri and Nate. Senri has some fairly well-defined relationships with the other major characters (devotion to Nate, distrust of Gabriel, hatred of Sonnelion, etc.), but he doesn't seem to express these attitudes in a consistent way. For example, Senri often comes across as stoic to the point of stubborn foolishness when it comes to things like debilitating stomach pain, but he occasionally seems oddly and inappropriately dramatic and effusive expressing things like his joy over being reunited with Nate. Even though I had some sense of his likes and dislikes, I never really got a sense of who Senri was as a person or what sort of reactions would be considered typical for him.
The storytelling was occasionally difficult to follow, with sudden changes in perspective and seemingly important scenes being skipped past with little explanation. Smoother transitions between scenes would have made the entry feel a bit less disjointed. On a side note, I'd recommend getting more comfortable using the word "said." The constant avoidance of said got kind of annoying after a while, especially since the alternative words used to replace said frequently felt inappropriate or ridiculous.
Lithicbee: I liked this entry more in the beginning than toward the end, and I think the reason for that is twofold. 1) There was too much going on in the entry with too many characters, and 2) the point-of-view (POV) switches between characters became more jarring as time went on. Starting with the end of part 6/beginning of part 7, you start a trend where you jump ahead in time and then explain what happened previously. In that example, Gabriel is following Haiden's voice by himself at the end of part 6, and then he is walking with Senri. Then you state that the voice got farther away the more he searched for it. You continue this pattern of jumping forward/explaining back through the rest of the entry, and I found it extremely frustrating. None of the hooks are so powerful that I am willing to be confused each time until you work backward to explain what happened between scenes. I would rather you just told me what happened. Some character actions didn't make sense to me, like Soneillon attacking Marvalo but leaving Nate alone, or how everyone seemed okay with Soneillon following along with the group after he and Senri fought. Gabriel floated in and out of the group with little motivation either way, and I couldn't really tell why Senri or Nate would lift a finger to help him based on his actions.
I would recommend making your POV changes a little clearer and not jumping ahead in time with each switch. Make sure you have a good reason to use whichever POV you use, and the goal should be for the reader to have a clear understanding of what is happening, unless for some special reason you need the reader to be unsure or confused about a certain element. If you keep the reader confused all the time, they are as likely to stop reading as they are to push on.
RobinRone: I spent much of this entry absolutely confused and baffled. I could not follow what was going on, mostly because the HOW and the WHY ers missing. Which in turn was frustrating, resulted in skimming, and ultimately I did not finish this entry. Ask yourself, at every juncture, HOW is this possible? WHY is it happening? (How could Marvalo hand them three papers to inspect, but somehow they don't have them when on the other side of the barrier? If Nate glitched to get to one side in the first place, why can't he just glitch back immediately? What is going on with Senri's navel? Why can't Nate know...something? Why is Senri afraid of the trees? If he is so afraid of them, why does he flee from Nate into them? How come Marvalo can mistake Sonneillon for Senri, but Nate doesn't? When they all encounter each other, why does Sonneillon just stand around while they discuss killing him or knocking him out? Why doesn't he follow them when they run? What was the purpose of being in the woods for six days? What was the purpose of the spider-girl? How could a creature that internally conflicted survive? Why does Nate decide that punching a guy in the kidney is the logical response to a man understandably running from a scary monster?) I'm just - I do not understand so much of the actions and behaviors of these characters, nor the context of what is happening. The major problem here is that you are not communicating effectively. The ideas are not coming across in a way I can understand. It seems like there is a lot of world-building elements that I am supposed to intuitively know, but as a reader, I cannot read the mind of a writer. Only the words on the page. Furthermore, many things seem to happen Because The Plot Said So, rather than for a compelling, logical, understandable motive on the part of a character. The character's motives, desires, and fears should drive the plot. The events should be a consequence of actions they take which, were you or I in the same situation might also make. Otherwise your ideas, which are very creative, will be lost in the confusion that results.
SaintKhan: This entry seemed to lack focus. There was a lot of action and pain and drama, but it seemed to exist largely for its own sake. Remember to ask yourself what the message of your story is. Both Sonnellion and Gabriel became terrible monsters, but for very different reasons. Is Gabriel completely guilt-free in Hades? If so, is Senri upset by Gabriel's lack of guilt when he is tortured by it? The ambush by the spider creature seemed to do very little to reenforce any theme in this entry, and you already had a great antagonist to threaten the group: Sonnellion. While Senri and Sonnellion have a brief scuffle, this entry would have seemed more complete if he had been the one to ambush them. What is driving Sonnellion? We know he hears a voice, but what is his overall goal? You don't even need to tell the reader what this goal is, but he should begin taking actions to achieve that goal. Without this direction, I was forced to assume that he means Senri harm in some way, but he doesn't seem to do anything to achieve this. In fact, Senri attacks him once they meet, and that is after 3 paragraphs of them standing around talking. This is undermined by Sonnellion's brutal attack on Marvolo. Is he dangerous or not? As it stands, Sonnellion seems listless and aimless, about as threatening as a stray dog. He is Senri's dark half... he should be threatening, majestic, and know Senri like the back of his hand. If hurting Senri is not his goal, make that clear, either through exposition or by making his actions clearly focused on something other than Senri.
You have a great light and dark side setup between Sonnellion and Senri, but neither character is being utilized to the fullest. Make me believe that they both want something, even if it is just to thwart the other. Right now, with no goal to achieve, and therefore nothing to threaten its achievement, there is very little drama. Your action will improve when there is something at stake to lose.
Topios: You have a very attentive eye for descriptions of the setting and an eventful story at the core of your entry. I also enjoyed the use of images in between the text. Sadly the entry felt very long which killed some of my enjoyment of it. The descriptions, while lovingly crafted, drags on and get rather purple to a point where I felt distracted by them. Be critical and cut out parts that don't contribute anything, be it sentences or entire segments. Marvolo forgetting to give them the papers (which seems unlikely as I'd gotten the impression they'd just packed them down) didn't add anything just to make an example. Don't let the story drown in details.
COMMENTS FOR GABRIEL
BagnaTheSupervillain: The interaction between Gabriel and Senri was fun, and I got a strong sense of who both of them were by watching them interact and get to know each other. Senri's relationship with Nate actually felt more significant to me with the two of them separated, and Senri and Gabriel clashed with each other a lot but had just enough common ground and worked effectively enough as a team that I could mostly see Thoth's reasoning for putting the two of them together. The trees also made for a surprisingly menacing threat, and the action was generally exciting. My biggest complaint about the entry is that it ends up more or less where it started, and I didn't get much sense that anything happened would have a significant effect on Gabriel's overall story. Even though it's good not to get too ambitious early on, it would have been nice to lay more groundwork for future conflicts and story.
Lithicbee: I liked that you took Nate out of the picture for the majority of your entry; it made the story easier to handle by allowing you to focus only on your and your opponents' OCs. I also liked how you handled Senri in general. The explanation of how he felt when Soneillon was in control was especially effective and helped me to understand Senri better. On the flip side, I feel that I didn't get to know Gabriel very much and what I did see of him didn't change at all in the entry: he seems a little one-note. In the section where Senri is in wolf form and blazing a trail out of the poplar grove, I lost track of Gabriel entirely. One line saying something like, "Senri looked back and saw Gabriel following him," would have helped me so I didn't have to assume that Gabriel was following. Finally, ending up in the hospital killed the tension of the story for me. While it allowed you to reunite Senri and Nate (and thus ditch Senri for the next round, presumably), it slowed the action down considerably. It would have been a lot more exciting and dramatic if they collapsed from their wounds and the entry ended, or they barely survive the poplar grove only to be confronted by a new enemy, and the entry ended. As it is now, Gabriel himself was not a very interesting character and there is no hook to compel the reader to find out what happens next: he is safe and well and has some hurt feelings but he has Jell-O so that's okay. If you move forward, I recommend you give Gabriel more character and show that there is a growth arc taking place, and don't rob your entry of the tension you have created.
RobinRone: I particularly loved how well you treated your opponent. You got inside Senri's head and brought out the fantastic pathos that lurked within, playing with the perspectives and emotions well. I also enjoyed the dynamics between Senri and Gabriel, and found the differences and similarities you highlighted very interesting. Your descriptions served you well, and you used body language, tone, and dialog to effectively characterize. To take your rounds to the next level, I would say you're ready to explore theme. Consider a single unifying idea or message that you'd like to convey - one that incorporates your opponent's issues as well as Gabriel's - and dramatize that concept through your round. You might find it useful to ask yourself a question, and then use the round to answer that topic. For example, possible questions that might have worked for this round: Is it better to achieve a goal with someone you don't trust, or fail, but be with a person you care for? What makes a monster, and what can drive a person there? Is it better to be open with others, or keep one's self closed off from the world? If you can start to tackle questions such as these in addition to events, your stories will start to SAY something beyond just plot.
SaintKhan: This entry has some very good action, and the climax was exciting and tense. Perhaps my favorite part of this entry was the encounter with Sonnellion, which immediately established his Senri's antagonism with very few lines of dialogue. Thoth was also a good catalyst for this entry, and is a good foil for Gabriel.
I had some difficulty picking out a theme, however. If there was a larger message in this entry, then too few of the scenes supported it for me to get a clear sense of what it was. Gabriel is clearly somewhat jealous of Nate's friendship with Senri, but was this significant beyond splitting them up for the next round? If you did choose a theme, I suggest you look for more ways to incorporate it into your story, both in the action and in the dialogue. If you did not choose a theme, I suggest you consider it in the future, as it is a great way to make you stories feel more complete. If you have any questions about how to incorporate theme into you entry, please note me, and I'll give you a few suggestions.
Topios: You do a good job of showing, not only the actions of the characters but also the setting and their emotional states. Switching between them and limiting most of the story to the interplay of Senri and Gabriel was a good choice as it really brings out your opponent. That said I felt rather confused about Gabriel's actions towards the end – why would a skilled manipulator like Gabriel actively push away Senri by admitting he doesn't like Nate? It seems counterproductive to do when he's described as somebody who'll do anything necessary to reach his goal, and he ought to be smart enough to part on good terms. Either give a good reason why he's doing this, or reconsider if it's necessary. Other than that there was some awkward phrasings scattered around. If you streamline your story a bit more it'll read more smoothly. If you sort these issues out you have a lot of possibilities to take this interesting places.
20. Amber vs. Maddy O'Conor
COMMENTS FOR AMBER
BagnaTheSupervillain: Maddy was written very effectively, coming across as creepy and manipulative in a way that was difficult to pin down, which seemed to be an ideal tone for the character. However, Amber came across as much more generic, since she didn't really express much personality beyond her apparent tendency to end up hanging out with manipulative types. Amber's lack of personality during the entry was probably partially due to it being so brief, but she also just didn't seem to do or say much of anything during the time she did have. Making longer, more substantial entries and focusing on your own character in addition to your opponent's character will help a lot in future rounds.
Lithicbee: My biggest issue with this entry is that it is not a complete story. You have Izanami give Amber a task, but I didn't find Amber's reason for accepting it to be very compelling. Then you have Amber meet Maddy, who is acting strangely, and then the entry ends. There was no real character development for Maddy and she didn't seem to have any relationion to the Maddy from your opponent's audition. Also, there was no conflict, no striving toward a goal by overcoming obstacles. Amber basically walks around and meets two people. Make sure that your next entry gives Amber a clear goal, obstacles, and stakes for what happens if she fails in her goal. That will go a long way toward creating a story that a reader will feel compelled to read.
We meet the two characters, but there is no conflict and no goals for them to try to reach. To make a more complete entry, they would need to be working toward something, have obstacles in their path, and overcome those obstacles or fail in the trying.
RobinRone: There are lots of nice, subtle touches here that make me interested in reading more. You've a great skill at making even the smallest thing seem sinister, usually in a casual turn of phrase or well-developed ambiance. The interaction with Izanami and Maddy's influence over the distraught man are two good examples of this. However, your story suffers from a lack of narrative structure, and as a result it feels incomplete. You have a strong opening, and a fair inciting incident, but there's no rising action, climax, or resolution. How is Amber changed by the end of this story? What lesson has she learned? You have a great beginning, but it needs follow-through!
SaintKhan: Your prose is quite good, and you do a great job creating a vivid scene with few words. However, this entry was quite short, to the point where I thought it might be incomplete. There were essentially only two scenes, one where Amber agrees to help Izanami, and the other where she begins to travel with Maddy. Remember that, although you want to tell a whole story throughout the OCT, each entry should also be a complete story on its own. Think of each round as an episode of television, and the tournament as a season. You want each episode to feel complete, but also add to the whole arc of the season. One simple way to do this is to ask yourself, "What did Amber learn in this round?" Take all of these lessons together into a bigger, life-changing experience to create your story for the tournament as a whole. One way to make a reader want to read your next entry is to leave them with a cliffhanger. Another is the promise that each entry will deliver a fully complete and satisfying narrative, all on its own.
Topios: I like how you used few characters and picked central scenes to drive the story. Izanami's task felt suitably simple yet foreboding to suit her manipulative personality while it was different from the way Maddy manipulates, creating a good contrast. The ending felt rather sudden to me though. The story had just built up momentum when it ended, and we got no resolutions to any of the plotlines started, which is a bit unsatisfying. I thing trying to treat each round as a standalone story will help you.
21. Carlin O' Brian vs. Finnagan Jones
COMMENTS FOR CARLIN
BagnaTheSupervillain: I was almost constantly taken out of this entry by how utterly implausible I found it for a pair of literal gods to be acting as Carlin's incompetent sidekicks. Carlin is depicted as both significantly wiser and more intelligent than Thoth and physically superior to Anubis, and there isn't much reason for the two of them to be spending time with her except that they really, really think she's awesome and fun to hang out with. Finnagan waking up the snake hinted at a somewhat interesting adversarial relationship, but Finnagan was quickly absorbed into the party and prevented from having any interesting role in the story from that point on, which I found to be disappointing. The misuse of Finnagan, Anubis, and Thoth would have been more forgivable if Carlin herself had been more interesting, but I didn't get much sense of who she was outside of her competence and her attraction to Anubis. Despite her literal physical pain over Adrian's situation, I never got much sense that she was all that invested in finding him, since she didn't seem particularly driven for the majority of the entry.
Lithicbee: I found the events in this entry to be a little too perfect, always going Carlin's way. Her cousin happens to be a FLEET member who supplies her for the journey? Okay, not too big a deal, until in the next scene one of those supplies proves crucial (the as-long-as-it-needs-to-be rope). Also, Carlin's detailed observations while being attacked by the wyvern and her reasoning afterward only work if she is basically omniscient. For instance, I don't see the logic in this train of thought: the Black Poplar Grove is a forest, dragons live in forests, the grove must have changed a dragon into a wyvern, I could tell it was a wyvern because it slithered instead of walking... and so on. It just feels like Carlin knows everything, and that is not always an engaging read. Add that to the length of the entry, and I stopped reading at that point because the writing so far had not engaged me enough to want to tackle the rest of the piece. You might want to show Carlin figuring things out, rather than having her explain it all to another character. If the reader can see the thought process as she puts the pieces together, she might feel more relatable and less of an I-know-everything character who is full of exposition.
RobinRone: You're very creative and I admire your willingness to think outside the box, but sometimes you take it a little too far. So much of this entry is dedicated to making the entire world revolve around Carlin, even if character personalities and the structure of the world itself has to change in order to do that. It isn't fair to your opponent, the exercise or, most importantly, to Carlin herself. By making Carlin essentially good at everything, you render her a flat character. She's smart enough to befuddle Thoth, strong enough to show up monsters and gods, charming enough to thaw the heart of an incredibly jaded god in an instant, and so highly skilled at secrecy that despite being a part of a world-saving group, nobody knows that her organization exists. There are no weaknesses to this character, which means she will never have the opportunity to be challenged or tested, which means she never will get to grow or attain depth. Giving her all these skills may seem like a short-cut to creating a super cool character, but it's the kind that cheats you as a writer out of the journey.
SaintKhan: If you are going to set Anubis and Carlin up as a couple, go for it, but please please PLEASE make them equals. Anubis is a young god, and an arrogant one at that. He would probably view mortals as more of a commodity or fleeting diversions at best. A truly exceptional individual like Carlin might get a word of respect, but Anubis seems to revere Carlin in this entry, which seems wildly out of character. Ask yourself this: What does Carlin find attractive about Anubis other than his physique? Do they share an interest? Find this interest. Focus on it. Make it the basis of their relationship. In your entry, Anubis is clearly outmatched by Carlin both mentally and physically. Why would she be attracted to someone who she can clearly outclass? Isn't Carlin clearly out of his league? If Carlin does respect his intellect, does he hold views or knowledge that challenge hers?
Finally, what can they disagree on, or fight about? Is Anubis' pride hurt when Carlin shows him up? Does his disagree with her assessment of Finnagan as largely harmless?
If you do decide to make Carlin and Anubis an item, commit to it. Relationships are complicated, messy affairs, and the require that both parties become intimately familiar with each other. This intimacy requires vulnerability, and Carlin seems invulnerable right now. Break down those walls. Show your reader how deep their relationship could actually be.
Topios: You've certainly taken a different route in your story, and I appreciate the imagination you've put into it. Carlin getting supplies is a good detail that shows she's used to thinking practically and the wyvern was unexpected which made it fun to watch what happened. Your interpretation of a good deal of the characters seems to contradict their canonical traits though. Why would Anubis be so trusting of Cara when he's described as being "not very good at getting close to people" for example, and why would he and Thoth accompany Carlin to begin with? Carlin also seems to be a bit too talented. She's repeatedly the one to save the day, delegating literal gods to the role of sidekicks. If they had not been present I think her actions would appear better as she'd have to handle things on her own. Lastly I felt Finnagan didn't really contribute much to the story. If he'd taken the supportive role Thoth and Anubis had the story would be much better balanced. Be careful of falling in love with an idea so you end up focusing on something that doesn't quite work with the setting and characters you're given.
COMMENTS FOR FINNAGAN
BagnaTheSupervillain: The interaction between Carlin and Finnagan and the way they steadily got to know each other better worked very well for me, and the connection formed between them made Carlin being forced to fight Finnagan at the end seem much more meaningful. However, that fight went on for a while and didn't really go anywhere, which caused the meaningfulness of the conflict to get drowned out a bit in tedium. The changes in Finnagan's attitude from reckless to sympathetic to vengeful felt fairly natural, and I finished the entry much more interested in Finnagan than I was when I started. Carlin was also used very well, and her determination and general competence and badassery contrasted well with her more vulnerable moments. However, I didn't get much out of the presence of Anubis and Thoth, nor did I get a sense that they had any reason to be tagging along with a couple of mortals. It all felt like a fairly contrived way to get Anubis in a position where he would be at risk from Finnagan, with Anubis behaving mostly out of character for the convenience of the story.
Lithicbee: I liked that, even though Finnagan has these reality-altering, god-like abilities, he mostly uses them to act like he lives in a cartoon. I also enjoyed the interaction between Finnagan and Carlin in part 2, when she is crying. This scene was a nice way to give some backstory on and insight into both characters. In part 3, you made it believable that Carlin could stop the god-like (and crazed) Finnagan, and you ended with a nice cliffhanger. In part 1, I did feel that Finnagan's speech that begins with "The way the crime went down..." was heavy on telling rather than showing. It would have been more effective for the characters to see the chaos of the waiting room, rather than having Finnagan say what would happen. Overall, though, you did a good job bringing the god-like Finnagan down to earth and making him a character who I am interested in following.
RobinRone: The strongest part of this entry was in the middle, when Finnagan and Carlin have a quiet moment to talk. It was the point where both of them seemed the most real. The start and end of the entry were weaker. Finnagan's antics are more grating than entertaining -- he reminds me of a cartoon caricature rather than a fleshed out character, which makes it hard to reconcile his behavior from one tone to the next. It does make sense in the context of him being made into less than he was. He wasn't made human - he was actually made less than human. The fight scene at the end dragged a bit as well. Once it had been clearly established what was happening and why, it mostly became a pattern of swing and block, swing and block. While the goading from the mysterious voice was fairly well done and emotionally potent, the poisoned sausages to get him into the mess in the first place stretched my suspension of belief a bit. I know that he has this fatal flaw weakness for sausages...but he's a trickster. Shouldn't he know when he's getting punked?
SaintKhan: This story had real heart, particularly in the scene where Finnagan recounts the star myth and comforts Carlin. I'm sensing a larger plot developing which could be interesting to follow in future rounds.
However, I sometimes found Finnagan's antics distracting. His constant shifting into various pop culture references could be compared unfavorably to Genie from Disney's Aladdin. These shifts distracted the reader from the point of any scene in which they appeared, and caused the tone of this entry to vary wildly. I understand that these shifts are attempts to annoy and get a reaction from the other characters, but they succeeded in annoying me. I think the entry became much stronger when he stopped clowning and we got to see who he really was. Don't dilute these great character moments with crude references. A real trickster doesn't play the fool... he makes his victim make a fool of themselves.
I also felt that the final confrontation dragged on a little too long. I understood the crux of the conflict, but once it becomes clear where everyone stands, move on. Drawing out the fighting just served to have Carlin and Finnagan repeat the same information more than once, without introducing any new information, and the fight became tedious as a result. It's a fight, which is messy and dirty, and most importantly, fluid. The story surrounding it should be fluid as well. For example , break down the fight as follows:
1) Establish that Finnagan sees Anubis as Raven.
2) Have Carlin figure out that he's been enchanted.
3) Carlin discovers that she cannot talk Finnagan down.
4) Finnagan reiterates that Anubis is Raven
5) Carlin tries to talk him down, but fails.
6) Finnagan concludes that Carlin must be in on the charade.
7) Carlin finally talks Finnagan down.
Notice that steps 3-6 are all variations of the same thing? A character tries, then fails to communicate something to the other. If you find yourself repeating a step in a fight, rewrite the fight from the step where in begins to repeat, in this case step 4, or even step 3. Having Carlin fail to talk Finnagan down is dramatic, but it causes Finnagan to go back to step 1, where he believes Anubis is Raven. Much like the story of this fight, the fight itself had to devolve into a series of parries and blocks to drag out what we already know. In a well constructed fight scene, each blow changes the nature of the game, and no blow comes more than once. Similarly. when handling conflict, you should only retread an old idea in the interests of showing how a character has regressed, or failed to learn. In short, in a fight scene, always change what is happening, both physically, and in terms of plot. This keeps the scene fresh and exciting. Hopefully this helps with any altercations you may write in the future.
Topios: I quite enjoyed getting to know Finnagan a bit better and seeing him get into some serious trouble. You used the characters well and crafted a good, solid story where small details like Thoth's recognition of him gets used again later in the confrontation. Nice use of the details from Carlin too. I did find some details a bit hard to believe though. Even if he does have a weakness for sausages you'd think a trickster like Finnagan would be a bit more cautious. Thoth also seemed a bit too expressive considering the description that says "it's unusual for him to show any emotion at all." I also wonder why he accompanies them as it doesn't appear to be within his interests to keep tagging along. Lastly there were a few places where you split words I'm pretty sure shouldn't be and other minor mistakes that gives your entry a slightly unpolished finish. Get that sorted out and you have a really enjoying entry.