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for The Good Death

6/30/2015 c1 17whispers of lowlit flames
Hi! Sorry this is so late and congrats for winning the WCC!

OPENING: Your first line is simple and two the point: it sets up the tone of the piece, its setting and the main characters all in one swoop, but it still leaves room for development. It's also nicely expanded on. One thing I often find about one sentence paragraphs starting a story off is that it feels a little disjointed when in the context of the other paragraphs, but it doesn't feel like that here. I wouldn't call it a grappling hook (that's more your summary :D) but it's a good solid opening.

CHARACTERS: There are some really interesting lines introducing them at the beginning. One of my favourites is "he is no one to the little girl and he is weary" - it says so much about both the old man and the little girl - though the downside is that his relationship to the other two never is explained. Somehow the three of them have come together - if I'm correct in assuming the little girl has no relation to the young lady either (since Jo was the daughter's name and you only mean the one). Though maybe they don't need to be; it's a bit tricky to say since you started with the three humans so it feels like they should be more solid, and yet would extra details add anything to the piece in the end? The fact that you only gave the two dogs and the three deaths names makes the theme more potent as well: it can be almost any three people of varying ages, and the same circumstances may arise.

I really liked the quarrel, per say, of the three deaths. It does make me wonder if there are others out there, and if these three were the only ones applicable in this circumstance. Curious thought. But their dialogue and mannerisms characterised them nicely. Murder-suicide the loudest and most volatile of the three. Good the patient one may be the victor after all. What weakens that is viewing the woman's decision from an outside perspective. What makes her choose like that in the end?

THEMES: Life and death are the most prominent, but you brought out companionship as a strong theme as well. Particularly through the two dogs, but also with the three humans together, and how the loss of one has caused the pack, as it were, to move. It's a short piece but you capture so much in it.

ENDING: I'll take the last two paragraphs as the ending here. There is a sense of moving on, with the young woman choosing to continue living and taking the young girl along as well. There is a sense of duty with the two dogs, of a quarrel that hasn't reached its conclusion with the three deaths. And there's a sense of circularity as well, with the short paragraph finish as well. And a sense that they may be met with the deaths again, in different circumstances, and Jo and Teddy will eventually lose this pack they've chosen, but the question of how is still left open to possibility.

Interesting read overall!
2/10/2015 c1 14Shampoo Suicide
I really like this take on the prompt because I feel it fully explores it, but isn't entirely obvious or straightforward. For example I thought at first the three humans might be the personifications of death, so it was cool to see that they weren't. The way the different deaths were portrayed was very cool, and I like that you created a different personality for each type. Very cool idea.

I like that the main characters in this seemed to be the dogs and the deaths, it was a very interesting and odd, in a good way, experience reading from that perspective. It can be hard to handle narratives from animal perspective in a natural way but I think you did a good job with it.

I also like the technique of shifting perspective throughout, the focus moving from the dogs to the deaths and back. I think Jo's came through the strongest and clearest, so I'd call this her story really. I appreciated all of the perspectives however, especially viewing the scene through the lens of the deaths.

The theme of this is pretty clear, so there's not much to expand on in reviewing it. If I had a critique I'd say it was a bit unclear how the three humans came together and what sort of society this is, but I'd say this was a more nebulous take purposefully, so that the theme could be more fully explored, so in that sense it's a job very well done! Best of luck in the WCC! :)
2/10/2015 c1 4lookingwest
Other / Prompt - Wow, how creative! I really love what you've done with the prompt and this concept of these different ways to die being personified! This prompt was actually challenging to me because I've written pieces with personified "Death" before and I was like, "How can I do this any different?" So I really admire what you've done here in the sense it isn't a story about a single death looking like someone. The concept is also cool because it allows you to wonder on all those different deaths and then, the world this takes place in as well. We get perhaps hits of the post-apocalyptic flavor, which I liked because it used such subtle world-building, I think.

Setting - If there was one thing maybe to add to it would've been this maybe in the sense of smell department. The narrative lens of this is interesting too because it seems to start in third person omniscient, goes to Teddy briefly, then sticks with Jo for the rest of the story. But our focus is dogs, and Jo is definitely our closest limited perspective we've got, so anyway, I was thinking maybe you could elaborate on the senses of smell that Jo might be sensing from the humans or even the forest. I suppose I don't often know a lot about narrating from non-human perspectives, but it might color up the Deaths if they had different scents too. Potential idea for expansion, but if you're going for more of just a fairy-tale-esque flavoring of narration then I think the absence of those in depth details are fine. You know me though, I'm all about sensory stuff, haha, perhaps too much!

Character - I liked Jo and her heroics of standing between her pack and the Deaths, and the dynamic between Good Death and Teddy. There aren't a whole lot of descriptions here that solidify what all these different characters look like, yeah, but I sense you're almost doing that as an "Everyman" technique where you merely place-hold with "woman, old man, little girl" and then we substitute as readers anyone we would see in those roles - almost like it could happen to people we love or anybody, really. It is Death, after all. If that was deliberate with characterization, it was a nice technique. Anyway, but we do get a description briefly of Good Death, which I liked - being jovial and kind of like the uh, Santa of Deaths, haha. That's what I pictured! It seemed to fit well.

Ending - Yaaay! I'm really glad to see a happy ending. I love that you give us this. You do a lot in 2,000 words and you manage to bring this all together into an ending, too. I just can't get the hold of writing these kind of short stories, so I always like seeing you strut your stuff in this department. The "leads her pack away from the myriad Deaths" was a great line towards the end, and I love the Good Death's smile. It's fascinating that the dogs can see these Deaths too. It goes along with that idea that dogs are more in tune with things sometimes than humans are, it's so cute to see Jo thinking of the humans as her pack and aw - this story just makes me want to hug Bradley. Although he'd probably be more of a Teddy type, pffft. (Which, btw, great personalities in these different dogs too, I didn't mention that, I thought it was realistic!)

Best of luck in the WCC, Lyra! I'm glad that you were able to whip something up this week! :D Worth the wait!
2/10/2015 c1 31YasuRan
I was actually expecting the old man and young woman at the fire to be the human representations of Death, but you surprised me. I also liked the presence of the dogs; I remember reading somewhere that animals were more susceptible to detecting supernatural presences. Both Teddy and Jo have well-defined personalities, which is nice to see in a non-human perspective. As befitting a good short story, the main plot thread is a strong one, made up of several intertwining pieces as indicated by the scraps we get of the characters' back-stories, e.g. Teddy's acceptance of The Good Death and the fact that the dogs are named after the young woman's husband and daughter, a reminder of her past. Good work, overall.

And of course, best of luck in the competition!
2/9/2015 c1 4m. b. whitlock
RG Depth #4,621

Opening:

Honestly I find the opening to be very flat. You keep things so generic, “Three humans and two dogs sit around a fire” that it almost sounds like the beginning of a tepid joke. I hope this doesn’t come off as being harsh or anything but I really feel in order to hook a reader you need to give them a reason to keep reading. When you stick to nameless humans you don’t really give your readers anything to grab onto. Who are these people? Do they have histories? Why are they alone in the woods or wherever they are? Even just giving your characters names gives us something to relate to. By keeping these people nameless you give us blanks, faceless figures. So it’s hard to care about them, which makes it hard to care a whole lot about the story. Just my personal opinion though!

Character:

I’m confused by this:
“He doesn't know to miss the tastes and sounds of human children,”
Are you trying to say the dog misses or does not miss the children (which children anyway?)

Overall I don’t understand these two dogs. I think it’s interesting that you give them names, but not the people btw. The dogs seem to kind of be half-humans sometimes and just regular beasts at others. I think a bit more consistency with the characterization of the dogs might help some. :)

Lines like this don’t make sense to me:
“Some Deaths are so unusual they fade from memory within months, forgotten by the human civilization that birthed them.”
Do you mean the Deaths fade from the dogs’ memories? I don’t get the narrative voice here. In fact the narrative voice seems really detached through the whole piece. This confuses me because I think occasionally the voice is supposed to present the point of view of the dogs. But again, I’m not sure.

Here’s an example of a particularly confusing part IMO:
“The Good Death is jolly and fat, jovial despite the hour. Teddy would sit at his side if it weren't for the little girl still wrapped around his neck.”
How can a dog think of death as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. And it’s big stretch to imagine a dog imagining a personification of death as a fat jolly man (sounds like a man anyway).

Writing/Techniques/Style:

“None of them knows what obsolescence means for metaphorical beings.”
Should be ‘None of them *know*’ The indefinite pronoun ‘none’ really means ‘not a one’ so the verb should be singular not plural. :)

“The other Deaths mill about behind him.”
I would really like to see these other deaths. Give us some quick visuals. The dialogue fragments that follow would have so much more impact if we could associate each one with something approaching a character, you know?

“"I told you you should have just stayed in the city! At least it'd be quiet there!””
Why not give us a little portrait? Is this ‘death’ a former landlady who always yelled at her tenants or a dancer or a nebbish accountant?

Who says this?:
“"Damn it, he's gone and done it again. I should've known he'd be one of the last-“”

“Mercy Kill comes forward, and Murder-Suicide jostles past her.”
I would like to see visual descriptions for these deaths.

Ending:

The ending I have to say seems pretty nebulous and undefined and a bit weak. I guess that the woman and the girl left the dead old man and the fire but I don’t understand why the ‘Good Death’ thinks this means they will live long enough to come under his charge. I would have liked more of a tie-in to a theme that had been played with, but since the only theme I could really pick up in this story is simply ’Death’ there’s not a whole lot to play with there.

mbw

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