For a story I barely had time  to edit, I don’t think this went too far south. I only heard about the sixfold competition about 30 hours before the deadline, so I rushed to edit the Dark Flower. I don’t mean that as an excuse. Just as a fact.

Five people read my story, four responded. The higher the score, the better they ranked the story. Here’s what they said and my thoughts on their thoughts.

User3236, (4 of 6) said: “a very interesting concept – some beautiful moments of clear, original writing.”

  • I’m not sure how to take this. Mostly, there just isn’t much in those comments to analyze. Completely unhelpful.

User3072, (1 of 6) said: nothing. Absolutely nothing. No comments, just ranked it the worst story of the six they read. So, that’s always helpful.

Jodi Barnes, (3 of 6) said: “The story idea is interesting. I had several issues with it that prevented a higher rating. First, please do not use a watermark. Doing so makes the piece hard to read and it’s alienating to readers. Also, second person didn’t work for me. I kept thinking how much easier (and better, I think) the piece would have been in first or third person. In the italics, “I” was the protagonist? Although the writing was good in places, I got stopped by the POV and switching from second to first person. Please consider rewriting this piece.”

  • I can’t understand ranking my story lower because of a water mark. We were told to make sure the story had the title on every page. That’s how I chose to do show it. When considering the critique of the 2nd person, it’s a stylistic choice. When the story was first written, it was in the 3rd person. I think that 2nd Person works better. That said, I do understand the concern switching that narration between 1st and 2nd during the flashbacks. That still sits with me as the hardest part of the story and could definitely use work during the transitions. 2nd person is definitely a strange voice to try and use, but I think it fits the story best. I do not plan on transitioning the Black Flower back into wholly 1st or 3rd person.

Geoffrey Bickford (4 of 6) said: “This was a beautifully written piece. Simultaneously scary and wistful. I liked the unique idea of starting an apocalypse story well after the apocalypse has begun. It had a punch, noir style, with some very stunning lines. I especially liked “Some events…forged friendships, without the consent of those involved,” and “one in nine billions. Just a number. Just your entire life.” My suggestion would be to spend a little more time fleshing out the background of the plague, and explain how that relates to the second scene, near the lake bed. The imagery is stirring, but it take a few beats to connect everything together. It might be more enjoyable for the reader to have that explained in greater detail.”

  • Once again, the main criticism stems from the confusion with the flashbacks and the scene at the lake. For the plague, I’m not sure how much detail I need. The science behind it is really irrelevant, just as one should really avoid the technobabble behind most scifi. Since I spent a fair amount of time cutting stuff out, I can definitely see the need to put a few more scenes in to really tie everything together. That said, I could have used some suggestions as to where those weaknesses in the plot existed.

Brian Lance, (5 of 6) said: “Innovative structure and storyline. Reads well. I like the sporadic internal monologue. The speaker attributions are difficult to follow at times. With a more traditional story structure, point of view, and tense, it might have been easier to follow the dialogue. I was put-off by the second-person point of view at first, but I like the experimentation. Points for risk-taking. The end seems a little disconnected. A snap back to real life? I feel like you could just run without it and let us determine if the Hei Hua scenario is real or some larger metaphor for Paulani’s real-life experience.”

  • Another request for, essentially, a less innovative structure. Of course, one criticism I gave out consistently was flow and pacing issues, coupled with a bunch of needless jumping around, it’s possible that my structure needs simplification as well. Again, I’m definitely keeping the 2nd person, as I think it suites the story better, even if it takes the reader a moment to adjust, I think it’s worth it. If the reader doesn’t feel like adjusting, that’s on them. Not to be arrogant, but not every story needs to fit such a linear pattern. The note about the end is worth considering. I had meant it as a literal event, going back to when she first met Jim, but I don’t know. I did want some ambiguity. I’m not sure if that’s worth changing or leaving to the reader.

What does everyone else think? Agree, disagree? No one actually reading?

Either way, I’m putting the story on the shelf for a month or so, before going back and review it for revision. Definitely putting another submission in, though I do have a few other stories to consider.