22. Emi vs. Empress Amegallu and Guile Guin
COMMENTS FOR EMI
The interaction between Emi and Amegallus was generally fun. Empress Amegallus' impatience and determination were displayed very well, which made it that much more entertaining to watch her deal with an especially clingy little kid. Although Amegallus and Emi were written well, Guile mostly faded into the background, which I found a bit odd. This entry also suffered a bit from the fact that not very much happened in it, though the cliffhanger did leave me interested in seeing what happens next.
Lithicbee: This entry is pretty light on story and characterization. The story that is there, that of Emi meeting Amegallus and Guile, is basically repeated until Amegallus restates the premise of the OCT and then Izanami (I presume) shows up. I would recommend adding some other elements to the entry to give it more life: some more action, deeper insight into the characters and who they are, more detailed description of the setting, and strong motivations/goals for the characters, to name a few.
RobinRone: You do a good job of keeping everyone in character, with the Empress' haughtiness, Guile's subservient sympathy, and Emi's childlike cheerfulness. However, this isn't really a story. It's just introductions, and as a result it doesn't really have a purpose, narrative, or focus. You also repeat yourself often - nearly every interaction happens twice. Emi introduces herself and is nearly left behind twice. She cries to get them to stay twice. She ignores Guile twice. She compliments (or thinks about complimenting) the Empress twice. You spend so much time doubling up on the same actions that you don't have time to have the characters come up against any meaningful challenges, or attempt to overcome those issues. Your entry cuts off abruptly, but an abrupt cut-off does not a cliff-hanger make. Cliff-hangers are challenging to create, and require careful management of tension. It cannot just be physical - we must also wonder how it will impact the character on an emotional/mental level, or how it will impact them achieving their goal. Emi, the Empress, and Guile have no goal. As a result, even a second death will not hinder them, because they are not pursuing anything. There is also no threat to their emotional or mental well-being, because they have not been confronted with any serious challenge. They are not questioning themselves or each other, and as a result are not at risk.
SaintKhan: A lot of this entry was devoted to rehashing things the reader already knows. While Emi and the Empress have not met, their meeting and initial introductions took up more than half of this entry. Once again, it was established that the ferryman is missing, which is something that was known since the auditions. Remember that, even if the information is being told to your characters for the first time, the reader already knows it, which makes reading it a chore. Ideally, any exposition will serve at least two purposes, telling the reader information they need to know, and either revealing something new about the character speaking, or moving the plot along. In this case, the exposition did not tell us anything new, did not help grow a character, and did not advance the plot. It was largely superfluous. Trust your reader. We know this information, we do not need to be told it again. Skip right past this scene and let us assume that the characters somehow were told when we weren't looking. When the characters know what the audience knows, you can focus on the important parts of your entry, the characters and their arcs.
This entry was largely conflict free. While we know that Emi's 'games' typically lead to no good, the Empress an Guile had no trouble blowing her off. Since Emi won't force the issue, the reader knows that it is likely nothing will happen. With no external force or antagonist to create conflict, this entry felt somewhat deflated. Challenge your characters. Give them a threat or obstacle to overcome. Show us how they solve problems. This will lead to drama.
This entry also ended rather abruptly. Remember that cliffhangers work when the reader does not know what will happen next. The best cliffhangers happen when the reader can't think of a single way the situation could resolve favorably for the protagonist. In this case, Emi, the Empress, and Guile are confronted with an unknown, the Goddess. But we as an audience are left with very few questions. Since the Goddess has said very little, we don't have any reason to suspect her motives or think that she means the group harm. There is some question as to which Goddess it is, but at no point do we think that any aspect of any of our three characters will be threatened or changed by this encounter. If you do want to create a compelling cliffhanger, once again, think about ways to challenge your characters. When it looks like they have no way out, then end the entry. That is a cliffhanger.
Topios: You keep Emi a child in this entry, keeping from making her a miniature adult by details such as her inability to read and her "adults are boring" thought, which I appreciate. Amegallus also kept a believably regal attitude and you managed to set up a potentially interesting situation with the introduction of Izanami. Sadly the entry stopped abruptly right as things were getting interesting. It felt terribly unfinished and I'd urge you to try to avoid such cliffhangers when nothing much has happened in the buildup. The numerous shifts in tone also made it a bit hard for me to keep track of what viewpoint we were following. Smoothing out the narrative and making sure the ending isn't such a teaser would improve the story, as I believe you have some good ideas.
COMMENTS FOR EMPRESS AMEGALLU AND GUILE
BagnaTheSupervillain: Emi was a perfect mix of adorable and creepy, and watching her interact with Guile was a lot of fun, and using Guile as a reader surrogate watching Emi go from adorable to creepy worked very well. Empress Amegallus' frustration with the situation and delays was also shown well, though the Fleet might have been overly tolerant of her behavior early in the entry. Even though I've seen fights with giant spiders in many entries already, I thought this giant-spider fight stood out fairly well by using the situation to comment on Emi's personality rather than just treating the spiders as a generic threat.
Lithicbee: I liked how you handled Emi and I liked that Guile ended up stuck on the tree. There is a danger in using a character like him in that he could potentially get the characters out of any situation, and you fall into this trap a little. For instance, he just happens to have Greek lessons in his storage, and those lessons happen to include detailed maps of the Greek underworld. That is a little too convenient. If you go forward, it will be up to you to make sure Guile does not ruin all dramatic tension by always having a solution to every problem. My one other concern with this entry is that although Amegallus is the "adult" of the group, her thoughts and dialogue seem as child-like as Guile and Emi. It would be helpful to differentiate her from the other characters, and one surefire way to do this would be to show that she has some more maturity and wisdom than the child or the child-like robot.
RobinRone: Your characterization is strong, with just enough menace in Emi to make her a little bit scary, but enough innocence to make her oddly endearing. This also makes Guile's interaction with her particularly strong, as his robotic mind may process her actions in a very different way than a human might. However, much like your opponent, your story just stops abruptly, and a sudden stop does not create a cliff-hanger. It only makes the entry feel incomplete. Cliff hangers are created in large part because there is a clear obstacle to the character's goal and/or a threat to their physical, mental, or emotional well-being that could have long-term consequences. In other words, it introduces doubt to the status-quot established by "Character X pursues Goal Y". The Empress has goals: Find Charon, Rule Hades. However, Guile being stuck to the tree doesn't really pose a convincing threat to either of these goals. As readers, we are fairly certain that protagonists will continue on. What we don't know is what shape they will be in, and if the terms of their survival will impact their ability to reach their goals. You could have transformed this ending from an abrupt stop into a cliff-hanger with the addition of one line: "Guile, we will simply cut off your hand." Now the reader must wonder a variety of things: Will this make Guile less effective? Will he take it personally? CAN he take it personally? How about Emi? Will she be upset? Will she find it part of another game? Will she go after the Empress in the same way? That one line, all on its own, makes the end into a cliffhanger because it puts the characters at risk on multiple levels. I'm not saying "this is how it should have ended" -- all I'm trying to do is demonstrate an example of what IS a cliff-hanger, and what is not, and why. Another example would have Emi going after Amegallus, and Guile being unable to help. Or Amegallus choosing to abandon Guile. What is important is that there is a meaningful threat to the relationships and goals of each character.
SaintKhan: You did some solid character work in this entry. The Empress' haughtiness, Guile's empathy, and Emi's creepy glee all came out in this entry. Giving Amigallus a goal other than finding Charon is a good move as well. Having shown a firm grasp on character and plot, I think you should now work on trying to incorporate Theme. What is the message you are trying to tell with your story, both in each individual entry and in the OCT as a whole? Consider writing out a single sentence that can serve as a lesson that one of your characters can learn or fail to learn. For example: "Power is often not worth the price." or "The respect of your family matters more than the admiration of your subjects." Once you've chosen a theme, what plot elements and character moments reenforce that theme? When you take the theme of each round together, does in reenforce the theme you've chosen for the entire OCT? Working with themes can help tie your entries together, and make each individual story feel more complete.16
Topios: You had some good character interaction in this entry and I liked how you show Emi's unbalanced nature as she dispatches the spider and Guile's interactions with her helped show some independent personality which was nice. I felt like the story lacked forward momentum though, despite the action and plans that were hinted at. Speaking of plans, Amegallus wanting to usurp the leadership of Hades is interesting, but she doesn't care to talk to Minos before she leaves which seems a bit strange to me. Why not measure up some of the big players when she gets the chance? Make sure all the characters present have reasons for acting like they do or you will leave your readers wondering. Lastly I think things are going pretty smoothly for the empress and her troupe at the moment all things considered, throwing in some complications that aren't swiftly resolved would make things more interesting.
23. Nathaniel Dayton and Ekhart Ifnis vs. Taylor Booth and Dr. Andrea Danielle Weber
COMMENTS FOR NATHANIEL AND EKHART
BagnaTheSupervillain: This entry had a lot of interesting ideas, but most of those ideas seemed to be thrown in haphazardly rather than adequately developed, resulting in a jumbled, scattered entry with occasional flashes of excellence. Ekhart bonding with Anubis over their parent issues, Nate's powers glitching and causing people to come back as ghosts, Taylor mistakenly killing someone, and the many other plotlines are generally good ideas for a story, but this entry attempts to incorporate all of those plot points without really making an effort to connect them together in a reasonable way or develop them.
On the character side, I liked Ekhart quite a bit better here than I did in the audition, since she seemed a lot less one-note and her extreme reactions made more sense in Hades than they did when she was in familiar circumstances. I'd go far enough to say that the interactions between Ekhart and Anubis were my favorite part of the entry, even though that storyline didn't really go anywhere. Nate, Taylor, and Andrea were all fairly well-written. Nate's power glitching was used well to advance their stories and Nate's attempts to deal with the his failure added some meaning to his interactions with Taylor and Andrea, and also had the benefit of showing a character who's come across as overly perfect up to this point having to deal with failure. However, Senri was written to be much less interesting than the other major characters, and his presence in this entry doesn't seem to have any point aside from making sure that there are multiple Senris running around Hades. Since he isn't your character or your opponent's character and he didn't actually do anything in particular, I'm really not sure why he was in the entry aside from adding yet another unnecessary plotline.
Lithicbee: I found this entry to be over-long and over-ambitious, and the story suffered for it. That being said, there were many things I liked about it, but it required me to sift through a lot of just okay to find the great stuff. Regarding the interactive pieces of the story, I found the one on page 4 inventive and engaging, but I don't think it advanced the story per se. If I had known that clicking around would lead to a bunch of cameos and in-jokes and maybe some hints (those posters), I would have skipped it. The other "interactive" piece, on Page 27, I found less engaging. Repeatedly clicking to advance the frames did not appeal to me, and there was much story that the art failed to convey. Finally, my last complaint would be with the outlined text as part of a graphic that is first used on Page 6. It is hard on the eyes to read so much text in that format, and since it is a picture, I could not copy/paste and manipulate it to make it any easier to read. I did read it, and I really enjoyed the story it told, but the more times it was used after that, the more I skimmed through it. Speaking of skimming, I would say I read a good 80% of this entry, but the sheer size of it, combined with some parts that were needlessly repetitive, left me just wanting to get through to the end already. I think you had a big enough task ahead of you in dealing with 4 OCs, but that you also chose to add Senri as a main character, and then add several major supporting NPCs to the mix, and have the action take place on multiple worlds... this may have been overreaching. I fear that if you continue, the story will only grow as you give equal time to too many characters.
All that being said, a lot of the ideas in here are great. Charon escaping to an alternate afterlife? Loki being the evil mastermind behind all those disappearances, including Minos? FLEET members turned outlaws? These are great ideas. They just would be better served if you edited your writing down so that the great ideas come one after another instead of being buried. I can only speak for myself, but I was willing to read through all of this once. I may not follow you if you continue down such a long and twisting path to the story's end.
RobinRone: This entry was a mix between things that were brilliant, bold, and innovative, and chunks that drug it all down to a slog. Often, within the same section. I've not seen a combination quite like this before, and I think if you can just trim out what's not working for you and focus on your strengths, you'd have something really strong. First though, I need to address what went right, and what went wrong. Here are four of the biggest issues that I saw:
1. Narrative Exclamation Points: Narrative portions that worked well were most of the more dramatic portions. Thoth's vision. Minos interaction with Persephone/Loki. The trips each character took to their own worlds during the glitch malfunction. You're good at thinking creatively, are willing to take risks, and often can capture the emotional core of a particular issue. However, there was way, way, WAY too much going on in this entry, and you were throwing out one world-changing event after another. This is ROUND ONE. Let these great big ideas breathe a little. Let other people get used to them and explore them with you. Just killing off Minos alone would change not only your plots, but EVERYONE'S plots immeasurably. This isn't a bad thing, but you're blowing all your good ideas at once instead of letting us settle into them. It becomes rapidly overwhelming and desensitizing. Think of it this way: Each major plot point or emotional height is an exclamation point. They are great for adding energy and excitement to a sentence! However whe!n you put! them a!! over the pl!ace the!y don!!!'t work nearly !so well!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Essentially, you're trying to tell four rounds worth of material right out of the gate. You're not doing these fantastic ideas any favors by flinging them out so quickly.
2. Quiet Character Interaction Sections: You're good at finding common ground between characters, such as between Ekhart and Anubis. This is great, because as they interact with one another, we learn new things about each of them and get to see how their similarities and differences play off one another. Unfortunately, just as with your big ideas, you're over-doing things in this regard too. Exchanges are very drawn out, and most of the content is reiterative or purposeless. Do not forget that when a character explains something, they are not just telling something to another character, but also to the reader. If the reader already knows these things, it becomes tedious. Example of good/bad for Page 10:
A. Anubis stops Ekhart from destroying the wall, explaining that it could cause a cave in: This is something I intuitively guessed. I didn't need it explained.
B. Anubis describes how the power will continue to build up if not released: I know this from the audition.
C. Anubis throws a rock at her: This is good because it tells me a lot about how Anubis approaches problems, and how Ekhart responds to surprise.
D. Anubis explains that he will keep throwing rocks at her, and why: This is a repeat of B and C. I got it the first time.
E. Anubis and Ekhart talk about whether her use of her powers is safe: Good. We learn that Ekhart is in a bit of denial about her powers and her control. This is a bit of a repeat of audition information, but the touch of shame Ekhart displays moves this element forward.
F. She details each and every time she hasn't used her powers effectively: This is a repeat of E. And then again. And then again.
G. FLEET folk arrive. They tell us (the reader) that Minos is missing and then paint the hallways rainbow: We already know Minos is missing. We watched it happen. And while the rainbows are goofy and fun, they don't really contribute much to...well...anything, in this context.
3. The mini-game flash section: I love how creative this is, and it made the world seem very real and expansive. It was great to discover these places in an interactive way, and I can see this being a very powerful narrative tool. Unfortunately, much of this innovation was wasted on making it into an exposition tool instead, once again providing the reader with lots and lots of information that is already known.
4. Too many characters: Not only do you have a pair in your own OC and your opponent's OCs, but you've also added Senri into the mix. Something that, quite frankly, isn't very fair to your opponent. You force them to either snip this character entirely, which ignores your established timeline, or spend time researching not one, but TWO sets of OCs. You are essentially giving them two opponents instead of just one, and muddling things in the OCT as a whole to boot. What if you were to be paired against Senri & Sonneillon in the future? Each with your own drastically different version of events. Are there just two of them? What implication does that have on the entire narrative of the world, and all the stories in it?
SaintKhan: With so much in this entry, it is only natural that some things worked for me while others did not. You created a great mystery with others disappearing near where Charon disappeared, and sightings of wolves and horses. This was reinforced by the creepy handwritten papers in the flash game section. This mystery deepened when Minos was devoured, and if the entry had ended there, I think it would have been stronger as a result. Revealing Loki as the villain immediately afterward really killed the momentum of this entry. It was like reading a scene about a fascinating locked-door murder were anyone could be the culprit. Then, when the detective arrives to examine the crime scene, before he steps inside, the butler stops him and confesses to the crime.
I'm not saying that you couldn't have revealed Loki as the villain, but if you had waited until next round to do it, I would have been way more excited to finish this round and start on your next entry when it came.
There were things past this point that I liked as well. The other two judges taking control once Minos was gone added a great level of conflict, but their minions added more clutter to an already crowded entry. Having Ekhart, or your opponents as these enforcers would have been more elegant, and created more drama between characters we actually care about.
I also liked the scene were Dr. Weber questions Ekhart's feelings about Nathaniel. This was a small, somewhat ambiguous reveal in a story that otherwise busies itself with grandiose, sweeping changes. It reveals that you have a gift for detail work with small character moments as well as big picture narrative.
More than any negative I can point to, what frustrates me most is how much padding surrounds each gem in this entry. Please, please, PLEASE make friends with a red pen and edit those things that aren't necessary. When Senri and Dr. Weber are foiled in their first attempt at getting into Hades, you set up not one, but two solutions. Senri can sense underground tunnels, and Anubis is convinced to use his authority to have Taylor and Nathaniel released. Neither of these solutions are utilized, since Taylor and Nathaniel escaped on their own. Your characters have wandered into Chekov's armory, but no one is firing a gun. Instead, it felt like you needed to give Senri, Dr. Weber, Ekhart, and Anubis something to do with their time while Taylor and Nathaniel dealt with their issues in Tartarus.
My advice is this: Pick one core concept for your entry. Is it that we can all resort to violence too soon? Taylor shooting Miss Margaret emphasizes this. Kai painting the entrance hall rainbow does not. Is it about how it's hard to trust new people? Taylor's aggression toward Nathaniel before and after the glitch illustrates this. Even Ekhart's growing friendship with Anubis after a rough start works here. The guard giving Dr. Weber and Senri advice on how to get into Tartarus does not. Ekhart playing nice with Dr. Weber, even after she has stolen Ekhart's papers also does not, especially since Ekhart has been so abusive to everyone else so far.
My point is, chose ONE theme, and then write to it. Cut anything that doesn't have anything to say about this theme.
The first flash animation really fleshed out the world in a way nothing else has so far. This was very ambitious, and you pulled it off nicely. However, many other times, your reach exceeded your grasp. This was just way too much. Pulling out a game changer like eliminating Minos is awesome, but before you let any other contestant play around with this concept, you went ahead and told us every possible consequence.
Remember to edit yourself. If you find that you do not have the will to cut out any extraneous parts of your story, then please find an editor to do it for you. Then listen to what they have to say and follow their advice. Get to your gems more quickly. Save some of them for later.
Topios: You definitely put up a very ambitious entry, both in the use of media and events. I really enjoyed the first interactive Flash minigame and thought it was a clever way to show information gathering without it getting boring for the reader who already know what's going on. Using various cameos was a cute touch too. You exploited the chance to split up some of the character pairs and give a bit of one-on-one interaction as well which was a good choice, and I liked the lasting effects of the confrontation with the misidentified Iris. That said your entry had some central issues that worked against it. You seem to have been too ambitious, dealing with several major events that would have worked much better if they were spaced out and quite frankly seem too big for this early in the tournament. You take no time to explore the setting before you basically change it 180 degrees, and while I admire the courage to do big things it's too much too soon. This grandeur also means there's no real focus in the story, so the various plotlines are not as connected as they could have been. By picking one major event and a theme, for example trust, and structuring your story around that I think you'll get a stronger result.
COMMENTS FOR TAYLOR AND DR. WEBER
BagnaTheSupervillain: The characters in this entry interacted fairly well. I enjoyed how the beginning showed results of Taylor and Ekhart's somewhat similar aggressive personalities clashing, and then the entry paired the four characters off with the more contrasting personalities. It seemed like an effective way to deal with a relatively large number of OCs and use them to develop each other's personalities. However, some of the behavior of the characters didn't really make much sense to me. Every other character in the story commented pretty frequently that Andrea following along with Ekhart and that sort of thing didn't make much sense, and I generally agreed with them. Even though it sounded like she was trying to prove herself, it wasn't really clear to me why she thought hanging out where nobody particular wanted her or thought she could do any good would be the best way to do that. It also didn't make much sense to me for Ekhart to get a privileged position after not really helping with anything, though it was fun to see Ekhart get some sort of advantage over Nate. I also didn't get much sense that the entry was leading anywhere in particular. Introducing more of a central conflict and building the characters' actions around that would probably make future stories seem more focused and make it easier to relate to the characters' actions.
Lithicbee: I found this entry to be more of a dance than a story, with characters weaving in and out of scenes and across each other's paths, but with no real obstacles to them doing whatever they wanted. It makes for a fun dance, perhaps, as we see how they interact, but it doesn't make for a good story. Yes, Ekhart is captured, but it turns out that (even though she really has no good information to offer) she is given free reign to investigate Charon's disappearance. Dr. Weber has a fight with Taylor, but she ends up in a position to provide counseling (after token resistance by Persephone), which is exactly what she wanted. To make the story more compelling, your characters shouldn't always get what they want, and when they do it should be hard-earned.
RobinRone: Your characterization seemed fairly faithful to the cast you had to work with, and there were some creative matching of personality traits to needs of the underworld. I particularly liked Andrea's interest in Hades, and I'm curious to see how Taylor's mission progresses now that she's found a method to kill a god. However, this entry felt like a jumble of Things Happening, but at no point did it really have anything to say. There was no message being conveyed, no purpose to the tale. Instead, it was composed mostly of Point A to Point B to Point C - and a lot of it was reiterative. (Note me if you'd like a blow-by-blow break-down of a chapter. I know from experience that repetitive writing can be hard to cure until it is pointed out specifically.) Having a unifying idea can give your stories focus and potency. Here's an exercise to try before you ever sit down to write your round: Come up with a single sentence about what you want your cast to learn in the entry. It can be useful to try the format of "Character X believes/feels ________, but when they ___________ they learn ___________." It's very simplistic, but it immediately helps create an arc and lends your entries clarity. It will give you a road map, in which other characters and events can act as signs and landmarks. For example, what if you had chosen this sentence for your entry: "Taylor believes that the best way to protect Andrea is to shield her from the truth, but when her lies put Andrea at risk, Taylor learns that she has to put her trust in her friends even if it might hurt them." How might your entry have changed? Do your opponent's OCs struggle with issues such as trust/truth/lies? (Nate is secretly sharing his form with another soul, Ekhart has trouble trusting others because she doesn't trust herself.) Or is there a way that you could involve them in events that would dramatically reveal that conflict? (Nate or Ekhart get recruited by Izanami or a god trying to counter her, and Andrea gets mixed up in the crossfire). Try to think of ways that you can push your characters to grow over the entire OCT, and the steps required for those changes. Then explore one step in each round.
SaintKhan: This entry started strongly, and the inevitable conflict between Taylor and Eckhart was handled very believably.
A fair amount of this entry was dedicated to rehashing ideas from the auditions. Ekhart's scene in front of Minos didn't really introduce anything new except establish that she would help the Fleet search for Charon. Revisiting what she knew about the disappearance itself, particularly since it is so little, only padded the scene out. Similarly, when Taylor is told what Hunger and Famine can do, she is learning it for the first time, but the reader already knows these things. Don not waste your time with unnecessary exposition. At it's best, exposition should pull double duty by explaining something and revealing something about a character, theme, or plot. In this case, it didn't even do one thing, since the reader already has this information. How much more tense would the scene that follows have been if we didn't know that Taylor would extricate Nathaniel before he got cut? With neither character aware of the knife's ability, which the reader does know, the sense of danger increases as an unknown threat endangers our heroes. It's alright to leave a character ignorant of facts the audience knows... or to have the character find out the hard way. It is less fun to just tell the character, especially if it means telling the reader again.
While this round did have some good plotting, I didn't really sense a theme. Next time, think about what your characters and your opponent's have in common. Come up with a single thread that runs through them both, and then explore that idea with all of these characters. This single unifying theory will strengthen your entry, and make it a more satisfying, complete, read.
Topios: There was some good solid interaction in your entry and I enjoyed seeing the interplay between the characters and gods as well as the FLEET. There are hints of issues there that could go several interesting places, and you managed to portray a good handful of characters well without things getting confusing. The ending was rather abrupt though, and left me with a feeling that the focus had shifted to Nate and Eckhart as the main characters. I could have used a finishing note with Taylor and/or Andrea to reestablish them and their conflict as the primary focus point. Another minor thing is to be weary of details. Mostly you've kept things in order, but when you say [Hel] was a place of judgment and punishment for evil-doers I twitch a bit, since it's technically anybody dying of sickness or old age that were said to be sent there. Her kingdom is generally called Helheim by the way. Did you by any chance use Britannica online? I see the same mistakes in their definition. Anyway, it was an enjoyable entry, but stressing the theme a bit more than you did could make it even better. And take care you don't lose your own characters in the excitement.
24. Cait and Raginmar vs. Doctor Harriet Huxley, Edmund Dauger
COMMENTS FOR CAIT AND RAGINMAR
BagnaTheSupervillain: This entry used both prose with pictures and comics very well. The characterization of Raginmar at the beginning seemed to lean a bit too much on having him just explain his personality to us. Cait's personality was expressed much more naturally, and she immediately came across as a lot of fun, which is fortunate since Cait left barely an impression on me during the audition. Ed and Huxley were written well enough during the time they got to appear, but the incompleteness of the entry prevented them from getting much time to interact with Cait and Raginmar or to do much of anything else. This entry had a strong tone due to the distinct prose style and well-used accompanying art, but suffered greatly from its incompleteness.
Lithicbee: There are some run-on and fragment sentences at the beginning of the entry that don't quite make sense, but I liked the mood you were evoking with lighting fires against the cold and dark of death. Overall, I liked your artwork and the story that was building with Cait, Huxley, and Dauger, but the incomplete nature of your entry meant that it ended too suddenly and the first page felt disconnected from and unrelated to the three pages that followed.
RobinRone: This was a strong opener that, sadly, didn't go anywhere. Your skills in characterization were strong. Cait's state of mind was quickly and clearly established, and you managed to get quite a bit of flavor for Ed and Huxley's dynamic in short order as well. It felt like you were going somewhere, but without seeing any follow-through, there's no way of knowing if that feeling could have developed and blossomed.
SaintKhan: This entry set a great tone right off the bat, and both the images and dialogue did a wonderful job of showing rather than telling. Charon's characterization was a little strange, but serviceable and I thought you nailed Huxely and Ed's relationship with just a few exchanges. However, I wished you had shown me more. I think if this entry had been complete, it would have been one of the strongest I've read this round.
Topios: You used all your media well, playing to their strengths and showing us the personality of the characters, especially by how Caith, Huxley and Ed interact. Raginmar seemed pretty disjointed from the plot and we never really saw him do anything, which is the real issue. I believe you would have had a strong story if it had been finished, but it's hard to judge where you were going from the parts that were there and you offered no summary. Another time I'll suggest sticking to illustrated text as this media seemed to work really well for you.
COMMENTS FOR DR HUXLEY AND EDMUND
BagnaTheSupervillain: Although the characters in this entry were all well-written, the entry as a whole felt a bit like a stalling tactic, since nothing in particular happened and the characters seemed to move around and group together mostly arbitrarily. Huxley risking her life to save Ed's felt significant to me mostly because I was already somewhat familiar with the history between the characters. Based on their generally mild and cooperative interactions throughout the entry, I don't think it would have registered in the same way if this entry and the audition had been my only experience with the two, since they didn't really interest me in the entry itself. Cait and Raginmar were well-written, but they didn't seem to serve much purpose to the entry aside from throwing some initial ambiguity on who rescued Ed. Overall, this entry was competent but generally bland.
Lithicbee: I liked how you used the interaction between your OCs to fill in some of Edmund's backstory in an organic way; that was helpful for me since I did not read of his adventures in the previous OCT. I liked the hint at the importance of Sisca to Edmund; again, I have no idea who she is but now I want to know more. It also provided a nice reason to end up meeting Cait and Raginmar. You also handled them well, giving me some hints of mystery there. Overall, well done.
RobinRone: Strong characterization all around - everyone had a clear voice in both vocalizations and deed. Storytelling wise, I thought it felt a little bit like it wasn't going anywhere, but with Huxley's actions at the end you managed to rescue it a bit. More clarity in setting up this kind of character twist would have made this reveal more effective. As it was, it just came out of the blue, and while it was both interesting and in-character, it did not thematically make much sense. Creativity wise, the story was a little weak, following a very A to B to C series of events that didn't really bring out anything in the characters. Any type of setting could be used -- this same story could have been told without them ever leaving the caves at all. Try to use every piece of your story to convey your message - the Where in addition to the Who and the What.
SaintKhan: I'm liking Ed's new position as a seasoned adventure, but while I would expect that to shift the power balance to him, Huxley proves that she's still a force to be reckoned with. I get the sense that she is angling for a longer game, and therefore has Ed at a severe disadvantage, despite his familiarity with this world. This makes their relationship very interesting to watch. Ed may have the knowledge, but he's winging it. Huxley has a plan, and can therefore go on the offensive. This relationship grounds an already solid, if simple, romp through the woods. Maintain this focus on character, and I think your entries will continue to be very strong.
Topios: Your entry was solid but not particularly surprising, like a dish I've been served too many times to be excited about. You get all the basics right and portray everybody nicely, but I felt like you lacked tension between Huxley and Ed, so the twist ending was not as engaging as it could have been. While Caith and Raginmar had reason to be there I didn't feel like you quite used them to their full potential either. Try to set up one or more themes with the characters and explore them, this should lift the whole entry and bring out the character interactions you have such talent for.
25. Rebecca Malson vs. Nick Isaac Wallace
COMMENTS FOR REBECCA
BagnaTheSupervillain: Despite being short, this entry did a good job with the interaction between Rebecca and Nick, and it was a fun read throughout. However, even though the art on this entry is very impressive, it was short enough that it was hard to get much of an impression from otherwise. If you continue, I think it'd be nice to see longer, more substantial entries, even if that means abandoning the impressively pretty comics for more of an illustrated story style.
Lithicbee: I like your art style but the hand-written dialogue style is messy and hard to read at times. I also like the telling detail that when Charon hands Rebecca a mop, she accepts it without a qualm. Since she is such a blank slate to us, this tells me that she is easygoing to the point of being a doormat, which is why it is a little confusing later when she goes off on Bagman about the long line. The dialogue balloon that pierces Nick is also a nice touch, but I was disappointed that this failed pick-up line was the extent of Nick's role in the story and pretty much could have been filled by any character. The entry itself was rather light on story and I would hope that future entries will give us more insight into who Rebecca is and what she wants out of death.
RobinRone: Your strength lies in interactions between characters, which are fun and endearing. Both Rebecca's meeting with Nick and with Bagman have some great energy and, quite frankly, are pretty darn adorable. However, you're sabotaging your story by giving it a weak narrative structure. You have an introduction here, but nothing else. What drives them to an action? What struggles do they encounter to achieve a goal? What are the stakes? How do they achieve (or fail at) their objective? And, most importantly, how does Rebecca change? Answering these questions will give your stories excitement and purpose!
SaintKhan: You do a good of of setting the tone and matching your dialogue to your images. However, very little happened in this entry. A lot of this entry was used for things already established; the ferryman, the line, the fleet, a map of Hades. In fact, by the end of this entry, the ferryman hasn't even gone missing yet. I think you would have had more time if you had skipped right past all this stuff and just let Rebecca have an adventure with Nick. We know the setup. We aren't missing anything if you choose not to include it. In fact, we lose quite a bit by being told all of this again. It stalls the pace of your story and eats up valuable comic space. Focus on telling the story you want to tell, rather than the story you feel you need to establish and explain.
Topios: There was a rather dreamlike quality to your entry. Not much happened, but there were the seeds of something good. The cheesy pickup likes were especially entertaining for example and the slow pace worked well to create a moment of tension since we don't know how she'll take it. You've taken a step in the right direction, but I would like to see you use your opponent more. Some deeper interaction between Nick and Rebecca would have been a good chance to tell us more about who she is and what she wants.
COMMENTS FOR NICK
BagnaTheSupervillain: This entry did a good job contrasting Nick and Rebecca and bringing out their personalities through that contrast. The effect of Nick's bad experiences during PMOCT was brought in very well without getting at all confusing or continuity heavy, and the ending was a very effective place to leave off in Nick's personal development.
Lithicbee: I like how Cipher can't believe how normal Rebecca is; normal is something of a rarity in this competition. You handle her well, providing a deeper portrayal of her than one might have expected from her humble beginnings. It is also nice that we get to learn more about Nick through her eyes and due to her actions, like when she checks on the unconscious man and this draws out Nick's memories of why not to trust strangers. I also like the little details like a swiped lighter or dropped feather that are obvious hooks. They are like tiny motivations for the reader to keep going and see how they are used, and you don't fail to reward them. And speaking of hooks, the ending was perfect. A close read would lead the reader to think that Nick is fleeing to protect Rebecca (although she won't understand), but the ending leaves you open to taking the story anywhere you want. I don't really have any complaints with this one.
RobinRone: Once this entry hits its stride, it really picks up and gets quite intense! You managed to incorporate Nick's past in a fantastic way, demonstrating how it has changed his perspective on adventure, and given him a far more harsh, pragmatic outlook. This is cemented by the close of this entry, which was set up very well at the mid-point of the entry and followed through effectively. However, the start of the story dragged a bit, dedicated in large part to things that the reader already knows. While the altercation with the old man did give Nick and Rebecca a reason to meet, it didn't really serve the excellent idea exploration you set up later in the story. What does a religious debate have to do with the ugly realities and lovely idealism of an adventure? If you've got a strong idea that you're revealing in your entry, don't under-cut it with exposition that doesn't propel that idea forward. Either find another way to achieve that plot-point that echos the larger idea, or cut it out entirely.
SaintKhan: You do wonderful job characterizing in this entry, and I liked the little moments where a character just stops to think about how they feel about someone else. This really helps the reader get into that character's head. I really liked how Nick weighed his choices at the end, and still picked the one that made him look the most cowardly. That bit really added depth, and I could empathize with his 'damned either way' outlook. I am however, a bit confused by a few things. Why did the spirits at the end fixate on Nick? And from a narrative standpoint, what did this have to do with the contrast between fantasy and real adventure, other than as an unpleasant impediment a fantasy probably wouldn't allow? Perhaps this will be addressed at some point, but for the time being, I am left wondering.
Topios: I quite liked the way you used Rebecca and her enthusiasm for adventure to illustrate the difference of opinion between them and show their personality. Her daydream fueled enthusiasm versus his reality enforced weariness sets a nice theme, and that, as well as your good use of details and foreshadowing, lead to a nice open ending. I look forward to seeing where you'll take this story. I feel it's a bit odd that Cipher would be baffled by Rebecca's apparent normalcy though. It seems highly unlikely to me that only abnormal people would take the chance to search for Charon, there's a whole lot of humans down there after all, not just the contestants. Other than that I have no real complaints.
26. Tobias Garamsythe vs. Sigtrygg
COMMENTS FOR TOBIAS
BagnaTheSupervillain: This entry was light on conflict or story but generally well-written, and Tobias' attitude, especially towards technology, was shown fairly well in his attempts to explain things and describe his world to Sigtrygg, while their eventual bonding over coping with sending people to their deaths was an effective way to give the two characters a more personal connection. Although it was nice to see the two face an obstacle that required some of Tobias' technical knowledge, the entry still felt a bit too trivial to me, especially since Tobias seems like he should be able to move through Hades a bit more quickly than most characters given his prior experiences. Given the limitations of the tournament, moving the story forward and developing Tobias' goals faster will probably be necessary.
Lithicbee: I liked how you had the two OCs meet: it was a nice touch to have the more technologically-advanced one saving the primitive from technology. I did find the amount of time spent focused on the train: checking the schedule, discussing where it goes, boarding it, fixing it, etc., to be a bit odd. Besides the mystery of whether or not the train will be fixed, there wasn't much compelling to me to read this entry, but it was otherwise well written. If you continue on in the OCT, I would hope to see some more drama and tension in your entries, with more at stake for the characters.
RobinRone: Your technical writing skills are fairly strong and the interaction between Tobias and Sigtrygg felt natural. The bond they formed, though brief, fell together well. However, you undercut your own writing by taking what should have been the most important part of your entry and making it a tagged-on ending. The crux of this story - the most human and dramatic part - is the guilt Tobias feels over the deaths of those that served under him. It's a strong, emotional angle that meshes very well with Sigtrygg's character. However, rather than being the core around which this entry rotated, it appeared out of nowhere at the end. There is no indication that Tobias feels any such emotion throughout the beginning or middle of the story. The events do nothing to dramatize this idea either. Rather, they are simply things to do that highlight material the audience already knows: Tobias is smart. Sigtrygg is strong. Instead, this time would have been better served if it had brought out your theme: "The important thing is that you honor [the] memory [of the dead] and move on, [rather than dwell on their deaths]." You have powerful ideas there: Loss, guilt, betrayal. What events could you have used to work through that idea? How could the actions of Tobias and Sigtrygg brought out these concepts? How has Tobias' behavior changed because of this recent loss? Is he gripped with guilt, desperate to save others to assuage it? Is he angry, lashing out at others because he detests his own inability to prevent the loss? And what about Sigtrygg? He was betrayed - and in a way, Tobias was a betrayer (if only in his own mind). Consider the parallels between your OC and the OC of the opponent, and use them, the setting, and the events to dramatize the central core of your story.
SaintKhan: Tobias is an interesting character to follow, and his scientific knowledge allows him to confidently approach problems. His saving Sigtrygg was a nice touch that illustrated both Tobias' character, and Sigtrygg's ignorance of modern technology.
I was a little disappointed that Sigtrygg's contribution to this story was merely to turn a wrench. While his physical prowess and lack of modern knowledge are certainly parts of his character, Sigtrygg has a unique perspective that could have added far more to this story than simply swapping stories with Tobias. While Tobias knows more about modern technology, Sigtrygg knows more about gods and mythology, having lived it. While he does tell Tobias to leave his guilt behind, I felt that he had very little impact on this story, and leaves on the train when I thought that they had agreed to work together. I'm glad that you found a common link between Sigtrygg and Tobias in that they both have dealt with responsibility over the lives and deaths of others. Next time, instead having the characters just talk about it, use the story to dramatize that point too. What did the train breaking down have to do with survivor's guilt? The problem facing the characters should mirror the internal dilemma they are dealing with. Running into one of the people Tobias or Sigtrygg got killed is one way to do this. You have a good grasp of character. I think you can create a more complete story by getting the plot to reflect this character too.
You chose to go a different route, literally, with your entry and I think this was a good choice that allowed you to explore the different worldviews of the two characters. The use of their shared responsibility of other people's death on the other hand gives them a shared point of reference. Sadly I don't feel you used either to its full potential. Your technique is sound but the lack of conflict in this round made it feel trivial. You had several different options to expand on the two themes: Sigtrygg could have had more of a reaction to the meeting with technology – Tobias could be misleading him after all, he has no real reason to trust a complete stranger. Tobias could have learnt the lesson of accepting responsibility and moving on in a more hands-on manner by Sigtrygg meeting one of the men he sacrificed… that's just a few of the options, I'm sure you can think of better ones. Just make sure something changes by the end of your entry so it'll have an impact.
COMMENTS FOR SIGTRYGG
BagnaTheSupervillain: Sigtrygg's attempts to get his bearings in a setting that he's completely unprepared for worked well to drive the story forward, and the entry ended with a good setup for the story. Although Sigtrygg was well-written, the fact that Tobias doesn't show up until nearly the end of the story and doesn't get much chance to say or do anything is a bit disappointing. Despite the brevity of Tobias' appearance, the entry still left me with a sense that Tobias has some sort of plan and ulterior motive for wanting to help Sigtrygg, which gives him the potential to be interesting in future entries. However, doing a better job including your opponents' characters in the entry itself instead of hinting at the future is a necessity for a good entry.
Lithicbee: There were a number of grammatical and spelling errors throughout the entry that distracted from the tale and which could have been helped by a beta read/edit. This included spelling your opponent's OC's last name wrong, which is a minor but important detail. I also felt that not much seemed to happen in this entry other than introductions, so there was not much compelling to me read on. Your opponent's OC, Tobias, did not have much story time and did not stand out as a character. If you continue on in the OCT, I highly recommend a beta reader/editor look over your entry before you submit it, and I hope your story will have some more drama and/or tension it, to give me a reason to want to read more.
RobinRone: I find Sigtrygg's portion of this story very compelling. After the moral struggles of his life, being faced with an eternity where all his striving was for nothing is understandably grim. His despair, desperation, relief, elation, and eventual determination are all heart-felt and believable. I wish I could say the same for the portrayal of your opponent's character, who seemed more like an after-thought than an integrated portion of the story. I can tell that you have big plans for the future, and you've done a great job of setting up questions in that regard, but you've short-shifted your opponent for the sake of a longer payoff. You need to learn to play for both the long and the short game here. It is true that early rounds are like a first act in a larger story, but there also like single episodes on a TV series - a poor pilot can sink a show. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of a character and see how you can tie them into those of your own OC. What challenges might they have in common? What motives might they share? What might they strongly disagree on? Sigtrygg has a very serious set of problems to face -- his afterlife is in jeopardy, his gods not as he thought -- but he's not the only one with problems. Tobias is stripped of all resources, all support, essentially at the mercy of a regime that, in his world, he quite literally gave his life to destroy. I imagine that would give him just as much to be desperate about as Sigtrygg. You've explored what your own character would do in the face of such desperation...Whatever themes you present for Sigtrygg, try to imagine what you could do to bring out a similar idea in your opponents.
SaintKhan: Sigtrygg's fish out of water routine was quite enjoyable to watch. His interaction with Hel was particularly strong, and I liked her characterization immensely. Perhaps best was that Hel and Loki chose not not to explain anything of the current situation in order to comfort Sigtrygg. This was both very in character for the both of them, and saved the entry from unnecessary exposition of things the reader already knows.
However, I felt that Tobias was tacked on only at the very end, and his presence really adds very little to the story. It seems that you have a longer plan in the works, but remember that doing justice to your opponent's character is a large part of this competition. Think of what your opponent's character can do to enhance the story you are telling. Tobias clearly has a better grasp of Hades, though this is not exactly the Hades he's come to know. Sigtrygg still isn't completely sure where he is, or how to find what he needs. Having Tobias act as a guide, only to come across something different from his Hades would be an excellent way to illustrate this disparity between them. As it stands, Tobias merely seems manipulative, which is a little out of character for him. This was a well-written entry, but remember to use all the elements you are working with to your advantage.
Topios: You give a really deep and nuanced look at Sigtrygg's feelings and reaction to his situation which was believable and interesting even though the conflict was almost entirely internal. His meeting with Hel was especially well handled. Sadly you don't bring the same attention to your opponent's character in this round, he only appears briefly and while you hinted at his professional curiosity with his reaction to the runestones he only stated his knowledge of the realm which I'd much rather have seen by for example acting as a guide like Khan suggested. You have the skills, but you have to make sure they are used to show both sides of the match.
27. Paul Jaime vs. Thuuk
FORFEIT vs FORFEIT