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Thread: "Guess-the-Author" Analysis and Critiques

  1. #1401
    Strategy GuidAAR Rensslaer's Avatar
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    Great to hear, Valdemar!

    Maybe you could offer critiques when we publish the scenes.

    Thanks!

    Renss
    Serenity - (V2 v1.3) - An isolationist Japan tries to stay out of everybody's way (Updated July '13)
    Kriegsgefahr (Impending War) - (HOI3/SF/HPP) - Germany attempts to remain at peace! (Updated Apr '13)
    Locarno - Italy vs. Germany (HOI3/SF/HPP) - What if Mussolini stood with France against Hitler?
    The Die is Cast (Roman Civil War) - Caesar will make a name for himself! (Updated June '12)
    Império Novo - An Axis Portugal AAR for HOI 3 (Updated May '13)
    Fire Warms the Northern Lands - A Prussian Victoria 1 AAR (Awarded the VictAARian Cross for Jan-Jun 2006)
    Castles In the Sky (Vicky 1) * Sforza!!! - A Milan AAR (EU III) (Updated May '13) * I Am Siam (V2 Minor) (tied for Silver VictAARian Cross for Best AAR completed in 2011) * A Long Time Ago... (HOI 1 Argentina)* Check Rensslaer's Inkwell! (list of online writings)

  2. #1402
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    Okay... Time's up! I have four entries, and I shall post them here in no particular order for reading and comments in a moment. Remember, the topic for this round is "A Deserter".

    The Rules:
    1) Everybody will have 2 weeks to read and leave comments. What did you think about the piece? What did it make you think about (which is different than the first)? How did it affect you? Were you surprised? Emotional? Did something in the story distract from your enjoyment? Something stick out to you or impress you? Etc...
    2) Please be polite, but feel free to be frank -- constructive criticism is okay, as is praise, of course. This is a more valuable writers' forum than almost any other out there, and real writers can learn/earn real skills here, but only if they get credible, heartfelt feedback.
    3) Feel free to offer a guess as to who the writer is. This was easier back when there were fewer writers, but if you wish you can try. It's okay to identify a favorite piece, but no ranking of the 4 entries is necessary (or probably desired).
    4) On May 15 (or so) I will post who wrote each piece (Surprise!) and list some of their AAR works so you can go check them out.
    5) Have fun! This can be as educational for the readers and commenters as for the writers, so go for it!

    ___________

    Author #1

    They kicked him before he could reach for the knife, and pulled him out. He struggled to walk down the hallway with them, tripped, and the guards paused to let him pull his trousers all the way up. Knowles cried something to him from the cell but he didn’t understand. They marched him out and a moment later he was dead.

    ---

    Private Fowlkes was captured on the sixteenth of June. Knowles was detained the next day, and the two of them were held in the prison barracks for around a week. He wasn’t sure. Friend Knowles had been reading a chapter a day from the good book, but it got lost, and neither of them had had an especially good sleep, or slept at any regular period, so the time had slipped away. He asked finally, and the guard told him. The guard also told him to engage in unholy activity when he asked for a cigarette. The guard told him this every time he asked for a cigarette. Fowlkes was unhappy with this state of affairs.

    ---

    They held meeting a few days after being captured, not knowing if it was Sunday, the two of them alone. Knowles, who was a long time Quaker and had been drafted, suggested the idea, and they sat in silence. Fowlkes finally said “They’re not going to believe me. They drafted you, why would they let me off for joining your bloody sect?” Knowles looked at him, unsuccessfully trying to hide a look of dismay, and continued to sit. “The truth is the truth, and if they shoot us, martyrs to Christ’s glory and they will know it.” Knowles sat back down. Fowlkes had not been sure whether to stand or sit when speaking the first time he had attended, while in hiding, not that it mattered now. He wasn’t a bloody fool, he had escaped to avoid being shot, not for this. Knowles thought he was sincerely convinced. The words they had uttered just now hung there, and Fowlkes shifted uncomfortably on his cot. He looked at his feet. He held out his hand and Knowles took it. He asked the guard for a cigarette and was told off. He looked at the guard, and swore under his breath. He turned to Knowles and pointed to the bucket they pissed in, and mimed tossing the liquid through the bars. Knowles said no, he’d rather not. Knowles was a coward.

    ---

    He told him this the next day. Or it possibly was later that day. Fowlkes was very angry Knowles had not used physical force to prevent the soldiers from breaking down the doors, smashing some pottery, and taking Fowlkes into custody. He also was very angry that the bomb which landed nearby had not killed Knowles instead of allowing him an extra day of freedom before being captured himself. Knowles reminded him that as Quakers, they ought not fight, and also the bit about the pottery wasn’t exactly accurate, and Christ had said to be accurate about the pots during the Sermon on the Mount. Of course he did, Knowles continued before Fowlkes responded to this, as Christ had specifically not made exceptions about truthfulness. The guard told them to shut up and to engage in unholy activity with each other if it would keep the noise down.
    ---

    They came for Fowlkes two days after he had found out the date, as he was sitting on the bucket. He had hoped it would happen at a more opportune time, but he leapt up and punched the first one and grabbed at his belt. The guard’s knife slipped onto the floor, and Fowlkes felt a boot in his stomach as he scrambled to seize the blade. He felt surprisingly less shame at lying on the floor in his semi-trousered condition than he would have guessed had he been told about how he would die, in advance. They dragged him away, and Knowles called to him, indistinctly, “I am sorry.” A few moments later, he was dead.

    The next day, Knowles attacked the guard who came in for the bucket, and the guard beat him quite severely. Knowles ultimately was not executed, but he limped for ever afterwards, and when the war ended he was able to go home. He did not tell anyone why he limped, and two years after the armistice a suicide’s funeral was held in the manner of Friends.
    Last edited by Rensslaer; 01-05-2011 at 07:53.
    Serenity - (V2 v1.3) - An isolationist Japan tries to stay out of everybody's way (Updated July '13)
    Kriegsgefahr (Impending War) - (HOI3/SF/HPP) - Germany attempts to remain at peace! (Updated Apr '13)
    Locarno - Italy vs. Germany (HOI3/SF/HPP) - What if Mussolini stood with France against Hitler?
    The Die is Cast (Roman Civil War) - Caesar will make a name for himself! (Updated June '12)
    Império Novo - An Axis Portugal AAR for HOI 3 (Updated May '13)
    Fire Warms the Northern Lands - A Prussian Victoria 1 AAR (Awarded the VictAARian Cross for Jan-Jun 2006)
    Castles In the Sky (Vicky 1) * Sforza!!! - A Milan AAR (EU III) (Updated May '13) * I Am Siam (V2 Minor) (tied for Silver VictAARian Cross for Best AAR completed in 2011) * A Long Time Ago... (HOI 1 Argentina)* Check Rensslaer's Inkwell! (list of online writings)

  3. #1403
    Strategy GuidAAR Rensslaer's Avatar
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    Author #2

    Oh god . . . they’re after me. They’re after me. The redheaded woman threw a glance behind her, fighting to control her terror.

    How much farther to the border? She wondered in sheer panic. Can’t be all that much farther. I’ve already crossed half the country. The Lakes are behind me. I’m closing on the front.

    Wasn’t the front the problem all along? Esther Williams wondered. She had ditched her car about a mile back. Now she was struggling on through the woodlands on foot. The front around here was very fluid – Imperial troops couldn’t lock the whole massive countryside down, so enemy forces slipped through in small groups seeking to aid partisans and wreak havoc.

    Please let me encounter an understanding soldier, Esther prayed, not the “shoot first and ask questions later” sort. The Empire was militantly Atheist. They hadn’t eradicated faith though. Nothing could, in the end.

    Something moved to her right. Esther dropped to the ground, holding her breath. She heard a faint laugh, as though at a joke. Then a voice spoke up.

    “When I find the bitch, I’m gonna stick my bayonet straight through her heart.”

    “You’re behind, Corporal.” Another voice came. “That’d be too quick for her likes. I’d take it nice and slow, if you know what I mean.”

    There was another round of laughter. Esther realized they were coming closer. If she’d darted away, she could have escaped. But now they had to clearly see the tree she hid behind. If she tried to move, she’d be spotted and shot instantly.

    Desperately, she pushed herself back into the tree, trying to let the men pass her and then creep away. She had to try – she had no other options.

    I didn’t think it would come to this, back in the day, she thought bitterly. It was supposed to be our downtrodden country exacting our payment on those who had wronged us. But the slaughter is just too much! And this new weapon that the Emperor wants to use – the power to level a city in a single blast! They have to be warned. They have to be told where to strike to remove the threat.

    But I don’t think any more that I’ll be the one to do it.

    “She has to be here somewhere – found her car back there on the road. Tank empty. No way she went into the river, so this is it. How much you want to bet she can hear us right now?”

    “I’m not burning my money like that. Hell, if I wanted to, I’d play poker with the Captain.” There was more laughter. “No, she can hear us. Hey! Miss Williams! You shouldn’t have tried to up and run off from the Capitol like that – you’ve only made your precious one angry. And the Emperor doesn’t mess around when he’s pissed.”

    “Yeah, you’ve been around too damn long for him to let you just up and run off.”

    Dear Lord, please let me get by them. Esther almost laughed out loud. She’d been an atheist before the War. It was almost ironic that she would rediscover her faith right at the moment when her life was about to end.

    A foot thudded down right at the edge of her vision. Esther swallowed.

    “Seems awfully rough ahead. Maybe she didn’t get this far?” The man next to her asked.

    Too much is at stake here. If I don’t get through, millions will die.

    “Check.” A voice floated back. The man next to Esther stepped around the tree.

    She held her breath, knowing it would be no good as he swept the point of his rifle towards her. Everything seemed to be in slow motion. His eyes fell on her and he let out a startled yelp, then heaved the gun over to point at her.

    She raised her hands, realizing she lacked the courage to fight back. Shame burned her face. She felt tears coming, seeing the maw of the gun staring at her.

    The man’s mouth started to move, a command to get up beginning to come out.

    Then his head exploded.

    Esther screamed as the bloody body collapsed on top of her. She shoved it off, gasping in disgust, as the world seemed to speed back up. A trio of shots sounded around her. The soldiers behind her began yelling and firing back. She distinctly heard the rumble of a submachinegun.

    Something grabbed her and heaved her into the deep woods. A tough-looking man dressed in camouflage fatigues shoved Esther to her knees in a small clearing. In his right hand he held a pistol, which he promptly pointed at her head.

    “What’s your business, miss?” He asked harshly. “Speak swiftly – I recognize you. I’m tempted to shoot you here and now.”

    “You know who I am then.” Esther said quickly. “Emperor Wilkinson told me many things. I have news and information that could turn the tide of the war.”

    “Indeed?” The officer asked. He paused for a moment. Esther could hear gunfire and screams behind him and knew her pursuers were heavily engaged. A grenade went off somewhere. “Alright. The Imperials will have more men coming fast now that they know we’re here. I don’t know if you’re trying to trick us, if you’re an imposter, or if you’re serious. I know I was told to expect you by a trusted source. So I’m taking you to Winnipeg. Whether you’re serious or not, we’ll find out what you know.”

    The Canadian partisan heaved Esther to her feet and cuffed her hands. A few more irregulars emerged from the woods, weapons ready. They kept glancing about, as if expecting an Imperial army to emerge from nowhere.

    Esther didn’t care. She would live. And what’s more, she had just potentially saved millions of lives from the American Empire’s secret weapons.

    Maybe the Canadians and British have a nuclear program of their own. If they don’t, the Weimar Republic is sure to. As soon as they know about Los Alamos, things will get better. Maybe enough for the War to end.

    She went with the partisans as they vanished into the trees under the darkening sky.
    Serenity - (V2 v1.3) - An isolationist Japan tries to stay out of everybody's way (Updated July '13)
    Kriegsgefahr (Impending War) - (HOI3/SF/HPP) - Germany attempts to remain at peace! (Updated Apr '13)
    Locarno - Italy vs. Germany (HOI3/SF/HPP) - What if Mussolini stood with France against Hitler?
    The Die is Cast (Roman Civil War) - Caesar will make a name for himself! (Updated June '12)
    Império Novo - An Axis Portugal AAR for HOI 3 (Updated May '13)
    Fire Warms the Northern Lands - A Prussian Victoria 1 AAR (Awarded the VictAARian Cross for Jan-Jun 2006)
    Castles In the Sky (Vicky 1) * Sforza!!! - A Milan AAR (EU III) (Updated May '13) * I Am Siam (V2 Minor) (tied for Silver VictAARian Cross for Best AAR completed in 2011) * A Long Time Ago... (HOI 1 Argentina)* Check Rensslaer's Inkwell! (list of online writings)

  4. #1404
    Strategy GuidAAR Rensslaer's Avatar
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    Author #3

    'Patrick' couldn't get the image out of his head. That chance sighting of the man, the traitor, the deserter, who had betrayed him and his comrades and who remained a threat to him as long as he stayed alive.

    Pure luck, they had been checking the timing of military patrols and looking up, he had seen him.

    Now he lay on the dirt floor trying to sleep, but obsessively checking that quickly glimpsed face against his memories. He was sure, it was the man who had been called 'Derek', not that would be his name now.

    But what to do?

    He shifted on the floor. One of the other sleepers grumbled and the sentry looked back into the room.

    "sleep, you need to be fresh tomorrow"

    Which, of course, was the other problem. His new comrades. Not only would they be unforgiving if he acted in his own interests, but misuse of ammunition was a capital offence.

    He rolled over again and this time the knife lay between his leg and the floor.

    With this reminder of an alternative solution, he relaxed and drifted into sleep.

    Two days later, four of them went back into town. A final check that none of the routines had changed. Moving in pairs they were ordered to check that the safe house was secure and that the narrow lane behind the barracks was unblocked.

    "Whats up with you"

    "Nothing"

    "Then calm down, you are too obvious ... you act as if you are looking for someone"

    'Patrick' felt rising panic, it was essential his new comrades must not suspect that he now had another interest in this small isolated garrison town. They were here to kill enemy soldiers and to create fear, this was, in the eyes of his paymasters, no time for personal vendettas.

    By 3am, the raid was over. 'Patrick' was bringing up the rear of his team and stumbled over a corpse. One of the others turned and hissed

    "pay attention or we'll all be killed"

    It was enough to shake him from running the last words of their briefing over and over in his mind – 'remember this raid has one purpose and one purpose only, the blow we strike is to be precise'. Worse, as ever the purpose was not explained, but he had felt those words were for him alone.

    Well it was over, they would move on before the inevitable retaliation or before a larger group was ordered to capture the town. 'Derek' would escape his vengence.

    As they filed into the safe house 'Patrick' turned to face the street. Quickly he secured the door and set the booby traps. And turned

    to face 'Derek' ... who looked at him and nodded, quickly saying "yes, its him".

    As he was seized and bundled to the ground he heard one of the group grumbling

    "all that effort just to capture a deserter"
    Serenity - (V2 v1.3) - An isolationist Japan tries to stay out of everybody's way (Updated July '13)
    Kriegsgefahr (Impending War) - (HOI3/SF/HPP) - Germany attempts to remain at peace! (Updated Apr '13)
    Locarno - Italy vs. Germany (HOI3/SF/HPP) - What if Mussolini stood with France against Hitler?
    The Die is Cast (Roman Civil War) - Caesar will make a name for himself! (Updated June '12)
    Império Novo - An Axis Portugal AAR for HOI 3 (Updated May '13)
    Fire Warms the Northern Lands - A Prussian Victoria 1 AAR (Awarded the VictAARian Cross for Jan-Jun 2006)
    Castles In the Sky (Vicky 1) * Sforza!!! - A Milan AAR (EU III) (Updated May '13) * I Am Siam (V2 Minor) (tied for Silver VictAARian Cross for Best AAR completed in 2011) * A Long Time Ago... (HOI 1 Argentina)* Check Rensslaer's Inkwell! (list of online writings)

  5. #1405
    Strategy GuidAAR Rensslaer's Avatar
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    Author #4

    It was a moody winter's morning. The single, fat pigeon that nestled in one of the many bare trees that lined the river bank gave the distinct impression that it was sulking. Rather than greeting the dawn with a beautiful round of song, it puffed itself up against the cold and glared angrily at the rock-solid ground that had proven impervious to its tiny beak, and demonstrated conclusively that the early bird doesn't always get the first worm. Out on the river, ice flows banged angrily against each other, producing a sharp, crisp sound which served perfectly as a fanfare for the low, writhing mist that snaked lazily off the Niagra river and began to spread itself insidiously over the surrounding plains.

    The few American soldiers in the nearby fort that had the misfortune to be on guard duty at this early hour and who stood shivering at their posts hated the fog. As well as making their woollen uniforms heavy with freezing condensation, the fog provided cover for all manner of enemies, both real and imagined. The mist distorted and twisted the perceptions of those who stared into it, and what mighty have been a passing group of bears, could just as easily be a war party of Indian braves, a group of British redcoats, or a marauding band of mercenaries. It was no wonder then, that the majority of the small garrison hated early morning guard duty.

    "I really hate early morning guard duty", muttered private Chauncey McDonald. He rubbed his hands together in an effort to ward off the cold before pointing out into the mist.

    "Do you see that there? Those shapes?"

    His companion, a middle aged man whose sharply intelligent eyes gazed out from behind wire-rimmed spectacles that looked oddly out of place on his creased, weather-beaten face put down the newspaper he was reading and smiled wryly.

    "There's nothing moving out there, Chan. It's just the fog messing with you."

    Chauncey snorted.

    "You'd pay to be more alert, Robert. Only last week that rider that stopped off here told of the massacre over at Desperation."

    He cast his eyes from left to right before leaning in conspiratorially.

    "They don't know exactly how many died, on account of the Injuns making off with body parts, but the soldiers what turned up there spoke of every Christian soul in the village - that's every man, woman and child in Desperation - put to death. 'parently winter's hit the Injuns hard, so they've come looking for meat, and they ain't fussy about what they're eating. If you take my meaning."

    Robert chuckled.

    "You mean they'd even take a stab at the shit old Jeb cooks up in the mess? Wow - that's one hard winter..."

    "No. I didn't mean that. What I meant was..."

    Robert held up a hand.

    "I know what you mean. I've heard the same stories myself. In fact, I've heard the same stories every winter for as long as I can remember. Indian raid.
    Oddly named village. Everyone wiped out. Cannibalism."

    He turned back to his newspaper.

    "It's a load of horseshit, Chan. Pay it no mind."

    "But the rider said..."

    "Chan - do you even know where Desperation is?"

    "Well, the rider said..."

    "Forget what the rider said. Have you ever been there?"

    "No."

    "And are the names of the local Indian tribes?"

    "Sorry?"

    "The local Indian tribes - what are their names?"

    Chauncey looked thoughtful.

    "Well, I don't know of any tribal names but I do know old Ben Whitecrow who sometimes stops off here to sell things. He seems like a nice old guy."

    "Does he seem even vaguely cannibally to you?"

    "Hell no!"

    "Well, it stands to reason that if he's not malnourished enough to give eating other folks a go, chances are the same is true for the rest of his tribe."

    The younger man sat down and seemed to think about this.

    "So?"

    Robert closed his newspaper and removed his glasses, carefully placing them in the top pocket of his long coat.

    "What I'm getting at is that this place makes you go slowly crazy, till you get to the point that you're raising the alarm and firing into the fog at a bunch of bears that your mind tells you is a mob of rampaging, flesh-hungry red-skins. "

    With a slow, deliberate movement he held up his newspaper and smiled.

    "However, I've found something that is going to ensure that I'm not going to go that way and you're not going to go that way either."

    Chauncey raised an eyebrow.

    "You've found a way to disperse the fog?"

    Robert shook his head.

    "Something better."

    He rustled the paper.

    "Can you read?"

    Chauncey screwed his eyes up and peered at the page, slowly mouthing words to himself. After a few seconds of this he turned back to Robert.

    "Not too good, no."

    Robert sighed.

    "Ok, how do you fancy deserting?"

    Chauncey flushed and shot to his feet.

    "Deserting? Deserting!? We can't desert! We'd be shot!"

    Robert frantically waved his arms in front of Chauncey's face.

    "Geez - will you shut up! You'll wake the whole bloody garrison!"

    "But you said we should desert and I don't want to be shot!"

    "You won't be shot."

    "But deserters are shot. That rider that came to the fort last week said that, back in Buffalo, that the brass lined up and gunned down a whole bunch of soldiers that had fled the front! That rider..."

    "...will result in you feeling the back of my hand if he's mentioned once more!" Robert growled. Chauncey flinched.

    "Sorry. I'm just saying..."

    "Stop. Just stop and listen to me. We won't get shot. Do you know why?"

    "Why?"

    "Because we're going to re-enlist."

    "We are?"

    "Oh yes. Somewhere balmy on the east coast probably."

    "But the east coast is miles and miles and miles away. If we walk that distance we'll be sure to be picked up and then...we'll...be...shot. What with being deserters and all. And if we’re going to desert why would we re-enlist? I’m so confused."

    Robert shook his head.

    "We won't be shot, because we're not going to be deserters when we're travelling.”

    “But what about those Indians waiting for us out there in the fog?”

    “There are no Indians out there. Listen. We're going to re-enlist from regiment to regiment, all the way along the border until we reach Easton. And we'll be rich."

    Chauncey, by now completely lost, just raised his arms and made a "Guh?" sound. Robert held up the paper again.

    "See this article here? It's about a new British offensive. It seems that they are wrapping up their tussle with the French in Europe and do you know what that means?"

    "Lots of free cheese for the Brits?"

    Robert scowled.

    "Try fifteen thousand heavily armed and battle seasoned redcoats coming this way."

    Chauncey held up a finger.

    "With this in mind, remind me why we'd want to re-enlist?"

    Robert rustled the paper and jabbed at another article that was printed in a larger type face.

    "Thankfully our government is wise to this, and has a cunning plan to stem the red tide."

    "Hurrah!"

    "How much were you paid when you enlisted?"

    Chauncey held out his fingers and started counting them off one by one. His tongue poked out of the corner of his mouth and he eventually looked up quizzically at Robert.

    "Er...sixteen dollars I think?"

    Robert nodded.

    "Indeed. Do you know what our government's solution to the onrushing flood of red coats? They're raising the enlistment bonus to encourage more young bucks to flock to the flag. To be exact, they’re raising it to one hundred and twenty four dollars."

    Robert beamed at Chauncey who looked back dumbly. Eventually the older man rolled up his newspaper and bashed the younger one on the head with it.

    "Ow!"

    "You deserved that. Do you not see where I'm going with this?"

    "No."

    Robert sighed dramatically.

    "If we leave here and enlist at the regiment just south of our current position we'll each be given one hundred and twenty four dollars. They have no idea who we are - as far as they are concerned we're just two patriots doing our duty. Then, after a few weeks there we head east and enlist with the first regiment we find. Then we do the same again. And again. And again."

    Chauncey frowned.

    "But what if we're caught?"

    "Who's going to catch us?"

    "Those Indians out there in the fog?"

    Robert growled.

    "There are no Indians out there."

    "I'm sure I saw some earlier."

    But Robert wasn't paying any attention. He had placed his tatty leather pack onto his back and had shouldered his musket.

    "I'm off Chauncey - you're welcome to come with me, but if you don't all I ask is that you tell the Captain that I went out to investigate a noise and I didn't come back. You could even blame the Indians in the fog if you want."

    He reached out and opened the small access gate, stepping across the threshold and into the foggy plains beyond.

    "You're not coming then?"

    Chauncey shook his head.

    "It's too dangerous."

    "I told you, we won't get caught."

    "I don't mean that - it's all the cross-country trekking I'm worried out. What with all those Indi..."

    Robert exploded.

    "THERE ARE NO BLOODY INDIANS OUT HERE!"

    As if in answer to this outburst a hail of arrows flew from the fog, each one digging deep into Robert's back and causing him to collapse to the ground, his blood turning the snow a deep crimson. Chauncey stared down at him - the brightly feathered arrows sticking out of Robert's back looking strangely decorative next to the dull wool of his coat. Chauncey shook his head.

    "Man - that was ironic."

    Before the Indians had a chance to fire again he slammed the door shut and went to raise the alarm. Chauncey had no idea how much one hundred and twenty four dollars was, but he was certain a deserter's life style was not for him.
    Serenity - (V2 v1.3) - An isolationist Japan tries to stay out of everybody's way (Updated July '13)
    Kriegsgefahr (Impending War) - (HOI3/SF/HPP) - Germany attempts to remain at peace! (Updated Apr '13)
    Locarno - Italy vs. Germany (HOI3/SF/HPP) - What if Mussolini stood with France against Hitler?
    The Die is Cast (Roman Civil War) - Caesar will make a name for himself! (Updated June '12)
    Império Novo - An Axis Portugal AAR for HOI 3 (Updated May '13)
    Fire Warms the Northern Lands - A Prussian Victoria 1 AAR (Awarded the VictAARian Cross for Jan-Jun 2006)
    Castles In the Sky (Vicky 1) * Sforza!!! - A Milan AAR (EU III) (Updated May '13) * I Am Siam (V2 Minor) (tied for Silver VictAARian Cross for Best AAR completed in 2011) * A Long Time Ago... (HOI 1 Argentina)* Check Rensslaer's Inkwell! (list of online writings)

  6. #1406
    The Wishmaster Lighthearter's Avatar
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    Victoria 2

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    Author #1's style is a little hard to follow - paragraphing quotations would be a big help there. But I believe I got the spirit of it. It was a nice touch to have the events at the beginning appear at the end. All in all, needs some polish - such as quotations - but on the whole, nice job, and shows some real promise!

    Author #2 obviously tried too hard. The style seems to be a character-driven story, but he didn't seem to do enough to develop said character and his conclusion was a Deus Ex Machina. Overall it wasn't very bad, and in fact has a lot of promise, but I wouldn't say it's Lord of the Rings But keep practicing and you might just make something incredible!

    Author #3 was a bit grating to follow. It took me a few double-checks to make sure I'd figured out what had really happened in the end there, and I was somewhat lost as to what exactly was going on throughout it, but again I think I know the gist. Overall it needs some better descriptive work and such, but other then that it's good!

    Author #4 - all I can say is bravo! I think that was spectacular. From Chauncey's uneducated paranoia to Robert's steady - and somewhat blinding - rationality, it flows smoothly. I found it an enjoyable read.

    -L
    Last edited by Lighthearter; 01-05-2011 at 09:30.

  7. #1407
    Boy, had a whole bunch of stuff written up and when I hit 'enter post', I had been timed out of my account. I hope no one minds if I do summaries of my reviews of the first two and come back for the others.

    1. This one works reasonably well with its length, but I would be interested to see more detail than is given on how the two interact with each other, perhaps in the realm of F's conversion, how much of it is sincere, and how much was, as suggested, a cover that K thought was sincere. Show us more of what they are thinking. If you have read The Stranger I think the scene where he was speaking with the priest in jail would be a good thing to crib from. Lighthearter has a good point about quotations and stuff, a few of them were unclear, and could be fixed by reformatting or rephrasing.

    2. I think the writing was good but that the premise needed more time devoted to it to avoid seeming slightly trite. Nothing wrong with evil atheists killing religious people and making atomic bombs as a premise for a story, or evil *insert ideology here* killing members of *opposing ideology* and making atomic bombs, but given the length of the story, I don't really think we have been enough information to think of these folks as believing they have nuanced belief systems. Villains always think they are right and justified, and a longer story would have avoided my feeling that they are just generic baddies. Show, don't tell, as I allude to with the first story. The actual types of baddies you say they are works well with the twist, just needs to be longer.

  8. #1408
    The Wishmaster Lighthearter's Avatar
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    I agree about both. The "militantly atheist" angle didn't jump out at me in #2 - but maybe that's me - I just felt it was a fairly classic "Empire vs Good Guys" story. Though I do see a subtle - probably too subtle, to be frank - hint that the American Empire is kinda like the Nazi Germany of that story. Her thoughts about a "downtrodden country rising up against those who have wronged us" and the reference to the Weimar Republic. Maybe that's just me and my alt-hist WW2 geekyness though Overall I do seem to like #2 a lot, but I feel it would do a lot better in a longer length. Feels compressed to me. Hell, you might make a whole AAR off the premise

    #1 - I don't think much more can be said. It's good, it's got great ideas and promise, but it has some grammatical things that could be made a lot clearer It took me quite a while to figure out what was going on - paragraphing quotations and such would, as I said, be a major improvement. That said, once I grasped what you were doing, it struck me as quite impressive.

    Since I gave my previous reviews at 2AM, I was going to rereview all of them after some sleep, but I'm afraid I don't have time to get the other two Got some things to handle, but I'll be back later.

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  9. #1409
    I don't care that they are atheists, I just think that if you are going to give them some sort of ideology beyond being an evil empire, it works better to have a story long enough to describe in more detail what the ideology is. Otherwise I agree fully with you.

  10. #1410
    Strategy GuidAAR Rensslaer's Avatar
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    In retrospect, I should have started reviewing from the end, as J. Passepartout hasn't gotten to those yet. But as it is I started with one.

    Author #1

    I found it to be an interesting story, well done, though since it was so complicated it (I agree) needs some polish.

    If the names are historical, then you're excused, but if not you've committed the sin of having two major characters with very similar names. I had trouble telling them apart, and knowing which "owl" was whooo. I did like the start being a scene toward the end -- the repetition explained the question you set us up with about his trousers and everything. I was slightly bothered by something, though, and I'm not sure what. More finesse would have made the two scenes fit togther better, I think.

    The deaths were startlingly abrupt. Not that death isn't often startlingly abrupt, but I found something about this jarring too. If it was an intentional effect, then I think some work would make it turn out better. If it was just that you didn't want to go into graphic detail about the death, I think a little more oblique detail might have worked.

    As I understand the story, Knowles was a Quaker/Friend, and Fowlkes just kind of got thrown in with the "conscientious objectors" even though he was really a creep or a coward or maybe just someone who didn't feel sufficiently "invested" in the war to risk his life at it.

    You say Knowles was a coward -- was that Fowlkes' impression of him, or was he really? Because Knowles seems afraid of the piss-bucket at one point, but then later attacks the guard at one point. Did he gain extra courage, or is he more complicated than that?

    I liked the way you handled the last paragraph of the story -- it told ALOT from just a few well-chosen phrases. And it was poignant.

    Anyway... Good and interesting story, but definitely in need of some extra work for "prime time". Course that's the nature of Guess the Author challenges -- you're asked to write a story in a relatively short amount of time, so they are often in need of extra work beyond what is presented.

    Thanks!

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  11. #1411
    Patron Saint of Suenik Iain Wilson's Avatar
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    1. I found it rather hard to follow. One quick re-read later and I was able to make sense of it, but my feedback here would be that your readers should be able to follow the story from the get go. If they can't then they'll probably wander elsewhere!

    The fact that your story came full circle was pleasing - this isn't always the easiest thing to pull off, but you handled it naturally.

    I wasn't overly taken with the "engage in unholy activity" references. It came across as slightly forced and didn't sit well. Likewise, I didn't understand the pottery reference. From what I read, the two men were together when the soldiers came to for them - but why mention the pottery? Was it simply a vehicle to force in a Bible reference to help highlight the fact that Knowles was devout? If this was the case, having Knowles citing his belief that violence was wrong would have done the job in my opinion. It would let the reader know that this was a man of belief we were dealing with, and that he was willing to be incarcerated for it.

    The ending is good - Knowles is shown as ultimately human and not as a simple vessel for his faith.

    Overall, an interesting story but it needs a bit of TLC

    2. This story has a lot of promise, although I'll echo what the other commentators have said; namely that given the constraints imposed by the format of GtA this author hasn't had the time to fully develop his world (I'm saying "his" it could equally be "hers"!). This could serve well as a teaser chapter to a longer AAR, and in this case I'd probably read on to find out who the girl was, what the world was like and how it had got into the situation it seemed to be in.

    My one criticism would be this: that the soldiers chasing the heroine seem to be generic "evil baddies". It's almost like the Emperor has said "We have a Bothan Spy - dispatch a crack squad of sneering Holywood sadists to bring her back!" If they were simply normal soldiers following orders it could make the scene where they confront her more poignant (especially if she tried to explain WHY she was fleeing - after all they may have a conscience of their own!) and their eventual deaths would be chalked up to the "horrors of war" rather than becoming the sort of moment where the audience at the cinema cheers. When the heroes and baddies are so black and white the story ceases to have any sort of moral dimension. That being said, I did like the nod to Star Wars, but readers of my Oranjes AAR would know that

    3. One thing irked me about this, a minor thing, but important none the less. A number of times a sentence was started without a capital letter. Only a little thing I know, but it makes the writing come across as unprofessional if the basics aren't followed!

    In addition, I wasn't entirely sure what happened at the end - from my first reading I was under the impression that Patrick was captured as he was a deserter and the whole thing was one big setup, but if this was the case why was Derek referred to as a deserter at the beginning if Patrick himself had deserted and was working with the partisans? Surely if Patrick was a partisan he wouldn’t have any problem with Derek being a deserter? Or am I missing something?

    Saying that, the premise is good - I like double-agent stories - so with a wee bit of polish it could be really good!

    4. I liked it, but then again, humour's my thing. What I would say in criticism is that it starts off with a nice descriptive piece and then dives straight into relentless dialogue which might be a bit much for some people.
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  12. #1412
    Not a Sahib Milites's Avatar
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    At work ATM, so haven't read them all yet. Will return with more in-depth critique.

    Author 1 #

    I found it pretty interesting. The shortness and the fast pace really complimented each other. Also kudos on the ending.

    Author 4 #

    It reminded me instantly of Steinbeck's classic with the Mouse - which by all accounts is a thoroughly brilliant thing - so I don't think I have to point out that I was hooked rather quickly. I personally adored the dialogue, although I'd imagine it being rather hard (especially for yours truly) to keep up such a level in a prolonged AAR.

  13. #1413
    Strategy GuidAAR Rensslaer's Avatar
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    Author #4

    I LOVE the first paragraph! It's magnificently descriptive, without being "too much" as many such paragraphs are. It accomplishes what it's meant to -- to set the scene, mood, etc. It doesn't tell you what the horse had for breakfast that morning (sorry -- Michner joke).

    The second paragraph serves as well. Sets the historical time period roughly in late 18th century to early 19th.

    Robert's intelligent eyes and wire-rimmed spectacles point to a useful stereotype which further makes use of the short-story format to allow the reader's imagination to fill in much.

    Nice banter to set the scene -- it lets us anticipate what's coming while also helping us get to know the characters better.

    Raising our expectations at Chauncey's ability to read (and to tell us what the newspaper says), only to find he can't read too well is really effective -- humor and characterization all at once. I saw the unedited version of the movie Mansfield Park once (Austen), and they used that technique (quips by the narrator) to add humor to the movie. Unfortunately, those spots got edited out. Grr...

    Somehow I'm seeing Robert as Michael Caine -- same mannerisms and schemes.

    The real irony is that Chauncey was the smartest of the two -- simple wisdom, not booklearning.

    I do think the ending was too abrupt, and Chauncey's reaction too pat -- out of character. Especially since he was presumably a friend to Robert.

    Plus, Chauncey wouldn't have thought it ironic -- he would have thought it natural, as that's what he was fearing!

    All in all, an excellent work, with need of attention mainly at the end.

    In terms of short-story concept, except for that sharp and sudden end, it's very well done -- compartmentalized and complete. Could be part of a larger work, but doesen't need to be.

    Nice work!
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  14. #1414
    Lt. General SirCliveWolfe's Avatar
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    Author #1: This was probably the most interesting style of the four for me, I liked the cyclical nature of the story, but as below I found it a bit too full of information that I did not need, perhaps as a chapter in a slightly longer story it would have fitted better...

    Shows great promise and If I had read this as a 'trailer' then I woul be wanting more

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Author #2: The story sounds interesting, but you've tried to put too much information within the short passage. It is hard to settle upon the scene as you describe the big things (US Military Athesist) but not the little (was it night, cold warm?) which means that I could not really 'see' the action, if you know what I mean

    This would make a really gripping introductory passage to a longer AAR, if you had taken out some of the information. For example instead of the casual reference to militantly atheisism (sp?) you could have used to dialogue of her persures to show this.

    I think that you could have the makings of a great AAR or even novel, if you take your ideas forward, but in this short format they seem a bit 'in your face' as opposed to natural. The end sums this up where you have told the story already, leaving little room to expand, as a short taster its ok though.

    Losts of promise, it would be nice to seen an AAR with these ideas

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Author #3: This story grated on reading for me too I'm afraid, it was an interesting tale but the scene wasn't really set, where were they? etc...

    ...but the thing that really put me off was the ' and ' around Patrick's name, I asume that it meant something like they were false names, but as it wasn't explained this lack of knowledge greated upon me.

    I think it shows promise though, and perhaps if I had read a page or two more before what you have written here I may have got the gist and enjoyed it more

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Author #4: Loved the humour, and it was a really liked the character balance (reminded me somewhat of Blackadder/Baldrick and I likeed the way that you used "Chan's" 'redneck' language to make me create the character in my head, along with the sterotype-esk description of RObert to do the same.

    There are a coupple of negatives for me, I like some ohters here didn't like Chan's reaction to Roberts death as his worse fears had seemed to be confirmed I think he would have acted a little more shocked/panicked... also like Baldrick I think Chan would think that irony was just like goldy and bronzey

    I also didn't like the repeat of "early morning guard duty" as it seemed a little forced, although it should have warned me about the humours nature of the piece.

    Having said that your was the one that captured my attention the most and kept it, the first two paragraphs set the tone really well. So much so that I am talking about the characters as if they are real

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


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  15. #1415
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    First of all, well done Rens for bringing this back to life. I'll have to keep an eye out for contributing in the future. Now the authors:


    1) I'm not entirely sure what to make of this. It's disjointed and somewhat disorientating but this is what makes it, for me, the most interesting of the four pieces. I liked it precisely because it both demands and deserves a second reading. It is, to be honest, a lot more intelligent than I first assumed. Some the grammar could be polished up without sacrificing any of the jarring style but overall there was a lot to like

    2) A more conventional effort, I have to admit that this one didn't do much for me at all. I can't fault the writing (even if I've never met someone who would actually think in coherent sentences like "our downtrodden country exacting our payment on those who had wronged us") but it was all very predictable. As soon as the pursuing soldiers started shouting about sticking people with bayonets – actually earlier, as soon as we were presented with a lone woman fleeing "Imperial" soldiers in the woods – you knew how it was going to end. I don't know if the idea was to play this up and then pull out the alt-history twist at the death but, perhaps because I'm not an American, this didn't have much impact

    3) I can't help but think that this is the opposite of the first piece. The writing is good and fits together well but overall it makes no sense to me. What started off as an interesting revenge drama lost its way slightly during the slightly saggy middle/raid section and then ended on a confusing note. My first thought was that Derek had turned the tables on his pursuer/target, but there was no mention that the latter was a member of the partisan/whatever unit or otherwise connected to it. Then we have the last line suggesting that it was all an elaborate ruse to flush out a deserter. Or was it? Just a hint more clarity (note: not necessarily the same as more information) is needed. I think there's a lot of potential in that tale

    4) This was good. Humour was spot on and a familiar setting was well presented. The opening paragraphs were perhaps slightly overwrought in terms of imagery and the comedy ending with a bit abrupt, but that's just me being picky. Probably the best thing I could say about this is that despite being comfortably the longest piece it was probably the easiest and most enjoyable to read
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  16. #1416
    Strategy GuidAAR Rensslaer's Avatar
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    Author #2

    A very interesting backstory, which you reveal in pieces. Esther Williams sounds American or British Commonwealth, and I settled on either USA or Australia based on the comment about crossing a wide country. The Capitol and Winnipeg comments clenched it -- good gradual revelation of setting.

    The addition of the car to the mix, followed by the "new weapon that can level a city" makes it more intriguing still. That pins the time period down unless it's completely alt-history.

    I got a little confused, at first, about whose side she was on. You say, "Imperial troops couldn't lock the whole massive countryside down, so enemy forces slipped through in small groups seeking to aid partisans..." This is a "POV jar" -- I'd assumed she's running from Imperial soldiers (an alt-hist twist in USA or Australia), but if we're looking from her Point of View she shouldn't normally refer to the partisans as "enemy". You may have been trying to find a way to obscure the Canadian angle, or perhaps you were being clever and they're still "enemy" to her because of her association with the Emperor. Thinking back, maybe this is it, and it makes sense, but it's still jarring -- I'd work on that some.

    The sense of story momentum is good. You FEEL the pressure building -- the tension of being chased. That's actually hard to do, I think.

    The ending is very pat, but then again this is a short story, and it's hard to end any other way. The test, though, of a well-developed writer is to be able to end a short story with panache. Much harder to do on a 2-week schedule, though. I'm used to seeing this in GTA.

    All in all, a good story! Well crafted in many ways. Tells an interesting aspect of everything. I have no major criticisms, and I liked it. It didn't quite have the same zip as the 4th story, though. It's quite conventional. Not that that's a bad thing, necessarily, for an exercise such as GTA. But it's also predictable, as someone else said, because it's so conventional.

    Other non-conventional tidbits add to the piece though. Such as the downtrodden country of the USA contrasted with a non-Nazi Germany. It makes us wonder about the fuller alternate history, and beg for an expansion upon this story!

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  17. #1417
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    Author 1, sorry, but I found it completely impossible to engange with your story and have only read half of it, which I find very confusing. You seem to be skiping a lot out of a long story rather than writing a short one, and I think you've suffered from that. Author 3 started well, and then, no offence meant, turned into complete gabble. Author 2 was excellent, now, can I have the whole story? It sounds thrilling . Author 4 exactly the opposite of Author 2, it fit well together as a short story, was hilarious, but was clearly it's own story and wouldn't do well as a prolouge of a story, though I suppose you might get away with it in the middle, but fundamentally if I wanted to publish it I'd publish it as a short story on it's own.
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  18. #1418
    Strategy GuidAAR Rensslaer's Avatar
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    Author #3

    Hmm... I THINK I've figured out what was going on, but I'm not sure.

    There are two sides here -- Side A and Side B. The names are in quotes because they're false names. 'Derek' was a loyalist to Side A, and 'Patrick' was a loyalist to Side B. 'Derek' insinuated himself into a team on Side B's side, but then betrayed them ("deserted"... back), and so 'Patrick' then insinuated himself as a spy into Side A's team (it's why they're his "new" comrades) in order to try to find 'Derek'...

    But now that I think about it that doesn't make sense. Then 'Patrick' wouldn't have been a deserter -- he would have been a spy. Maybe 'Derek' and 'Patrick' were both on Side B and they deserted to Side A, but either they knew something about each other and couldn't trust each other to keep quiet, or 'Derek' knew that 'Patrick' would try to kill him so he wanted him dead and made up something to make it sound like he was a spy (which maybe he was, or maybe he wasn't right?).

    And after 'Derek' fingered 'Patrick' they had to arrange to put Patrick into a small team and go into town where Derek was staying so he could identify him -- that's the "all that effort" part. Yes? Then they're both deserters, both trying to kill each other, maybe for similar reasons, except it seemed like 'Derek' deserved being killed more.

    But still I don't know for sure. It's a complicated storyline! And I think whatever it is, it's VERY clever! But all that is obscured by the fact that it wasn't CLEAR enough to convey what was going on. Some stories are made interesting by your not knowing what was really going on (look at Inception, for instance). But this isn't one of them, and you weren't trying to do that I don't think.

    Aside from all that, it was a well-written story! Well told and written, all in all, despite the issue with the plot that confused everybody. Very promising, but it needs some work.

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  19. #1419
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    I'll be revealing the authors of the pieces on Sunday, so if you've been waiting to comment, or putting it off, NOW would be the time to comment!

    Also, it's perfectly all right for the authors to comment! Just don't obviously reveal who you are -- the authors are generally vague about their own pieces, or they offer things about the piece they are already not happy with.

    I'm already impressed with the number of critiques! This has been a slow thread in recent memory (past entries) and there are more comments here than usual I think, so keep it up!

    Rensslaer
    Serenity - (V2 v1.3) - An isolationist Japan tries to stay out of everybody's way (Updated July '13)
    Kriegsgefahr (Impending War) - (HOI3/SF/HPP) - Germany attempts to remain at peace! (Updated Apr '13)
    Locarno - Italy vs. Germany (HOI3/SF/HPP) - What if Mussolini stood with France against Hitler?
    The Die is Cast (Roman Civil War) - Caesar will make a name for himself! (Updated June '12)
    Império Novo - An Axis Portugal AAR for HOI 3 (Updated May '13)
    Fire Warms the Northern Lands - A Prussian Victoria 1 AAR (Awarded the VictAARian Cross for Jan-Jun 2006)
    Castles In the Sky (Vicky 1) * Sforza!!! - A Milan AAR (EU III) (Updated May '13) * I Am Siam (V2 Minor) (tied for Silver VictAARian Cross for Best AAR completed in 2011) * A Long Time Ago... (HOI 1 Argentina)* Check Rensslaer's Inkwell! (list of online writings)

  20. #1420
    Author 3: Slightly confusing to me. I ultimately took away a plot similar to what Rensselear describes, but it took me several readings to arrive at that point. I think it's an excellent premise if that is so, but (again, like I mentioned with the previous stories) it really needs to be longer or a lot clearer to effectively communicate the interest. I encourage you to expand this if you feel like taking the time, I would be interested in seeing more.

    Author #4: This was the best in terms of clarity. I only noticed one typo, where I assume that Niagra is supposed to be Niagara with three A's. It was amusing, the characters were presented well, and using primarily dialogue in a good way. Very good. I have little more to say that hasn't already.

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