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[2006: JUL-AUG] Feedback

Rocar Drawoh

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I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the challenge over the summer. The entries were certainly varied and each one was thoroughly enjoyable. In echoing Flt.Adm. Wolf’s sentiments elsewhere on this forum, I’d like to thank you all for having been so patient in waiting for the judges to decide on a winner and for us to get some feedback put together for you. Naturally, RL comes first and we were a little caught out in how quick we could perform for you on this occasion.

In the upcoming weeks we will look at how we administer the judging of the competition. I think our voting system works well, though we will consider how we would address tie-break situations (not that we’ve ever been faced with them). We will also endeavour to produce a list of “what the judges look for” as a very rough guideline both to participants and future judges. (yes I’ve promised that in the past but this time it will get done.) I’m also going to suggest looking at our judge rotation a little more so you get a greater variety of different people on the jury so to speak and don’t always face the same panel’s opinions. A deadline for the judges (and presumably a contingency plan for if RL prevents judges getting online) are all things that will also be looked at.

In turn, you should all remember that this is really just a bit of fun. A chance to each approach a writing theme from a different angle whilst also getting some feedback (off the judges and off other readers) along the way so that you can look at your own writing from someone else’s point of view, try new things and perhaps improve it slightly. Its not so important who wins and doesn’t win. As such, I think it would be really great if you could all go back to your own crews and really encourage some of your crewmates to enter. We had only 6 entries this month… lets try to double that or even triple that next time around.

As always, here is some feedback. Its not all compliments, its not all criticism. Remember, nobody is having a go. What follows are merely opinions along with some tips and suggestions. You are of course welcome to ignore those tips or suggestions if you choose but they are offered as ideas that you might like to try with your own writing.

Well done to all those who entered and I hope you will all give it a go once more in the next challenge…and bring along a friend to participate!

Captain Rocar

Plastic and Cloth by Cara Maria

I was more involved with the story and where it pertained to the

subject than watching for spelling and minor grammar errors. There

always are some..... Bear in mind that proof reading catches these


While I thought the story was well written and I knew right away that

you were in an auditorium, I was left wondering if this was a

commencement address. I could visualize a darkened theater; a lone

woman on stage.

Overall, were you trying for a mild form of rebuke against and then

some sort of approval of the way we all wear our `masks' for everyday

life? In that case, the point is taken. We all pretend to be someone

we're not every day depending on who we're with. [That's my way of

saying you stayed on subject.]

Threaded through the story there seems an allusion to a background

that I wasn't privy to and I felt left out. Why was the same speech

given some years or months ago?

In the end, I had the impression of a spoken essay rather than a

short story. If that was the intent, you certainly did a good job,

Cara. If not, "oops!"

Reviewed by Lt.Cmdr. Julia Harden

pretending to be in two places at once

so near yet so far... by Xoet

Written in script format and following the UFOP style made this story

very easy to read. It wasn't until the end that I fully understood

what was going on. The title suggests an act of pretending but the

story left me thinking `clone'. I'm trying to find something wrong

with it, but really, it's the subject that bothers me since I don't

feel the subject was pretending. As a science project, the story is

right on. As a pretending subject.... that still bothers me.

I tend to read a story the first time for enjoyment purposes. That's

why I thought the conversation between the Xoet's were well written

as one person talking to themselves. Referring to Xoet's other selves

as `It' was surprising and understandable. Good job on that.

Spelling and grammar had their usual errors but not enough for me to

mention [as I mention it]. I was able to `see' an isolation chamber,

equipment and white sterile walls even though I don't believe those

things were mentioned.

All in all, a story that left me thinking about science projects.

Reviewed by Lt.Cmdr. Julia Harden

Hidden Warrior by Ben Walker

This was an interesting piece; however, I have to admit I’m not sure I really understood the deeper significance on a first read. Because of this I thought it best to seek a second opinion and the reader told me the story was excellent and gave her goose bumps. The reader was Lt.Cmdr. Gwen Hilzarie who’s played my IC wife for three years and whose opinion I value greatly. Gwen added that she feels: “In the aftermath of the battle, each of these different reactions are really well done and would seem to be accurate portrayals of how such officers would react. It really explores the human reactions to war in a variety of way and succeeds in signifying the un-dying spirit of a humanity, which may be injured and beaten but will always endure.” In this light I have to agree the story is rather good. I particularly enjoyed the description of the Chief Medical Officer trying to scrub her hands clean of blood (reminded me of Lady Macbeth going mad!).

Indeed, I think the characters reactions to the battle were good and this offered an interesting insight to the job of the ship’s counsellor. However, I felt the story could have been more specific in certain areas such as: “Who is the figure and what the hidden warrior is?” Of course, I have a few ideas of my own but its complete guess work and could have been hinted at more specifically in the text. I don’t mean to say it should be spelt out exactly or fully explained but when leaving something open to interpretation it is helpful to give a few more clues. My other question was why just these officers (CTO, CMO, Counsellor)? I guess perhaps because many died during the battle, however, a few more of characters might have been nice. Overall, although it is there as an underlying presence, I still felt this story really could have made more of the theme of pretending.

In conclusion, this was a well written story, grammar and spelling were good, the characters well portrayed and the basic premise for a story was both original and intriguing. However, I personally felt several areas could have been expanded on a little more. Featuring a few more officers might have been nice or showing how their “trauma” interlinks by having them speaks to one another. Generally the theme of pretending could have been brought out a little more and some of the stories strands would have done with being explored just a little more.

Reviewed by Captain Rocar

A Pretender's Trap by Toni

I enjoyed this piece a lot and it certainly succeeds in being both an exciting read combined with some entertaining moments. It was interesting to see the story divided into sections. Whilst these sections progressed in a chronological order, you may wish to consider jumping about a little more in future (flash backs etc) as a way to help build up the suspense and offer more control as to when you have to reveal critical information as you build up the intrigue. On the whole though this story’s progression works well and the reader is certainly very inclined to read on and find out what will happen to these two very different characters.

My main criticism of this story would be in terms of “Star Trek believability.” As a Star Trek story, this simply isn't how a Starfleet captain would act or indeed allowed to act for so long. This is, therefore, a slightly weak entry in terms of Star Trek fiction and might have worked better by basing the plot on another Trek race (maybe Klingon or Cardassian etc). The writer uses some good adjectives in her descriptions and this helps bring the characters to life. However, the narrative would perhaps benefit from more in-depth descriptions of character and their surroundings. Indeed, there were still a significant number of words left before hitting the upper word limit and these could have been used to describe character reactions between the dialogue and indeed the places in which these exchanges were taking place. This really shows up in that the average paragraph length is extremely short or indeed non-existent (one or two sentences strung together simply do not constitute a paragraph.) Paragraph construction is something you ought to give thought to as it really stood out in your entry this month and is one way your creative writing might be improved.

Paragraph construction aside, the notion of using more of your 3000 word limit is a point I’ve made in past feedback. Although I’m writing this here in Lt Turner’s feedback, what follows are tips that really are not specific to her work but do apply to a lot of entrants to the competition and I’d like you all to give some thought to. From various comments on the forums I feel that perhaps I may have been misunderstood in what I meant by that. Let’s be clear, I’m not saying entries into this competition need to be made longer just for the sake of being longer and reaching the upper word limit. A 500 word story that captures everything a 3000 word story does is full of merit. This is especially the case if a writer succeeds in doing it well because it is style they have mastered. However, this particular entry is more like a radio play than it is a short-story insomuch as it is almost entirely lines of direct speech. This means there are a lot of things missing from the story that could have been included. Thus, I’m not saying you have to meet 3000 word upper limit just for the sake of it. My point is that if you have 1000 words left to play with then your short-stories really could benefit from more descriptions to support the dialogue, set the scene and make them far stronger entries and vastly improved pieces of writing.

Take for example, the following except:

"Ensign! You never enter my bridge without announcing yourself," he barked, without a sign of welcome.

"Sorry, Captain Vaka, I have no excuses. I'll try to remember the next time," she smiled. Her voice was soft, and a little uncertain.

Agitated, he asked, "Try? Did you say . . . try?"

"Sorry, Sir, I will remember," she said, with complete sincerity.

He questioned her terminology again, "Remember? No, you will do it, or be put on report. Understand?"

This works fine, however, between “without a sign of welcome” and “ ‘Sorry, Captain Vaka’ ” the story could have benefited from a description of how Bree felt being snapped at the minute she walked on the bridge. Or, perhaps a description on how the atmosphere on the bridge changed/ how other people reacted? Likewise, between "Try? Did you say . . . try?" and "Sorry, Sir, I will remember," you could have included a paragraph describing Bree or Vaka’s inner thoughts or feelings. Or, as you chose to use a 3rd person omnipresent narrator then you did not need to limit yourself to Vaka and Bree and could have included a description of how someone watching the exchange might have felt about it. Was it funny for others to watch Bree getting picked on? Was it embarrassing for them? Were the bridge crew just relieved the heat was off them for a while? Beyond this, what is the bridge like to the characters? How would they describe its smell, its sounds or even its size? In-between the dialogue, paragraphs describing all of these kind of things would really transform your work into a truly amazing story and I know from the quality of your writing and the creativity of your ideas that you could really do this well and write some excellent short stories.

In essence, the difference is as follows:

Option 1.

Rocar was in a Forest, surrounded by trees.

“Ensign what kind of wood is this?” the Ktarian asked.

“Oak sir” the ensign said nervously.

Option 2:

Rocar was in a dark forest. His heart began to beat faster and faster with each nervous step his away team took towards the centre of the wood. Surrounded by trees, the Ktarian couldn’t help but feel nervous as large branches creaked in the wind and the leaves rustled in the wind. Planted centuries ago the towers of nature stood unwaveringly as the nearby wolves howled in the cold, crisp night air.

“Ensign what kind of wood is this?” the Ktarian asked –more to calm his nerves than out of genuine curiosity.

To the Ktarian’s left a shy and skinny eighteen year-old tried to stop his hands from shaking as he checked his tricorder. The readout was difficult to read due to the tree-tops blocking out the midday sun. Fresh out of Starfleet Academy, Ensign Kapalar finally found the answer he was looking for.

“Oak sir” the ensign said nervously. He was worried he may have got the answer wrong.

Despite this, the story was nonetheless a thoroughly enjoyable read. The twist at the end was certainly unexpected and well executed. I think it captures this month’s theme of “the pretender” very well indeed and was certainly a stronger contender for winner.

Reviewed by Captain Rocar

Life as we know it by Lt.Jg Pedro Alonzo Sanchez Ramirez

I thought this was an excellent piece, well written in a way that makes you want to keep reading. It is almost like a stream of thought that is added to greatly by the rhetorical questions that the narrator asks and then answers himself.

I would say that, since this is not a sim, there was no need to start and end each paragraph with a double colon (::) . Nonetheless, the structure of this piece worked well and with pace. Moreover, this story was precisely what I had hoped for when I heard the theme was “the pretender.” What I particularly liked in this entry was the way it linked “pretending” back to our places as Sim-writers who are pretending to be a Starfleet officers in the UFoP. Thus, the story’s approach to star trek and life as a Starfleet officer is accurate and insightful but really made all the more poignant with the twist at the end that the narrator is just an average guy sat at his computer screen and pretending to be a character in starfleet. In essence, this story captures what we each do: for a moment each day we’re on a starship as a Starfleet officer, through our sim writing, however, we are simply pretending and indeed our: “responsibilities... Bills to pay, family to take care of... Car problems... Neighbors that keep making huge amounts of noises...” are still there in real life. This was, I felt a clever and exciting twist that not only captures the themes essence of “the pretender” but also captures the essence of our web based community and what we do each day through our sims.

It was nice how this fact was kept as a twist until the end, and once the revelation has been made it is worth giving the story a second read as it gives a completely different set of meanings to some of the phrases at the start of the story.

For example:

But then again, with the push of a button, everything could be changed... No reason to panic, right? Even if the outcome was not the perfect one, all of that could be changed according to what the final result was supposed to be... But then again, where was the fun in that? The ability to change every single detail was too easy of a concept to really be amusing. The fun was in the repercussions of every action, every word...

On a first read I presumed this was a Starfleet officer at an engineering or operations console, at work. However, following the stories ending it is clear that this also captures the Sim-writer sat at his computer keyboard who, prior to posting, has the ability to change his sim and thus his character’s actions and the result of the plot.

I felt that all of this was done so well that it is in fact difficult to find areas which could be worked upon for improvement. The narrative and the writing style (including grammar and spelling) was very good and the writer achieves a great deal in a short amount of words. Perhaps look at making the theme of the piece clearer to those not in the know. By this I mean that this piece works very well because I know what the theme of the writing challenge was, however, to a lay person who does not know the challenge’s theme this entry might not be so clear. A good writing challenge piece should make perfect sense to anyone who reads it regardless and perhaps keep that in mind when writing your entries. However, overall I thought this was an excellent piece and came very close to winning this month’s competition so keep up the good writing and I look forward to reading future works!

Reviewed by Captain Rocar

Before & After the Play by David Cody

Every judge on the competition liked this piece and it is certainly understandable why. It is well written with good grammar and spelling (I though I’d caught you out but when I checked was fascinated to learn that in the US sceptical is spelt with a K). A lot of thought went into this story, not only in terms of content but also in structure. Given that the protagonist was an actor I thought it was very neat (and apt) to structure the story in three sections titled as acts.

I think the reader certainly sympathises with the Actor’s situation as his Starfleet father does not approve of his career choice and this emotion is well brought out throughout the story. Overall I enjoyed this piece a lot and it is very worthy of being this month’s winner. Indeed, if I was to make criticisms then only two small things come to mind. The first is that it perhaps seems almost more suited to a theme of acting (or “the actor”) than it does pretending (or the pretender). This is re-enforced by the definition of “Act” at the start of the entry rather than a definition of “pretend.” This was certainly an interesting way to begin a story, however, I would have liked to see the definition referenced (making it clear which dictionary you used) and I was a little confused as to why definition 1 was “obsolete”? Was this what was written in the dictionary? Of course those who act are pretending and so it still works well and certainly makes this an original approach to the theme. My second criticism is simply… I have a personal hate of seeing saluting in a Starfleet setting! Otherwise, very well done Lt.Cody.

Reviewed by Captain Rocar

Edited by Rocar Drawoh
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