If any of you are able to take a second look at your own work, and see ways in which to improve a concept so that it can be more successfully developed, the effort will be worthwhile.
Those of you who vote are allowed to assign a range of “0” to “3” points, per entry. Since challengers may not vote for their own stories, a bonus of 2 points is given to a participant's highest-ranked work, if that participant also takes the time to vote on the other entries. (Note: This week we only had one individual assign numeric votes, and he did not have an entry. We also had a number of non-numeric endorsements. So... this week, rather than assigning any sort of participation bonuses, those endorsements are simply noted as "+" modifiers.)
Official judges receive a 30 point allocation, to assign as they see fit. The only restriction is that at most, only half of those points may be given to any single entry, and there is no requirement for a judge to use the entire 30 point allocation.
M is about to put on the “Editor Hat.” It's sort of like the “Sorting Hat” they use at Hogwarts (“You write what?!! You don't say...”), but a little less sarcastic.
What's My Line?
- “I write action horror, science fiction and whatever else will pay the bills. Currently, I'm querying my manuscript CHEMO about an agent of a paramilitary cult that eliminates 'cancers of the body of mankind' and focusing on anthology submissions.” — J.M. Perkins
M: First of all, welcome aboard! You obviously put some thought into meeting the requirements of this challenge, and despite going in a number of different directions in the first sentence, you managed to get a chuckle, convey the broad essence of your novel, and give me a feel for your current professional focus. Well done, on all counts.
- “I don't always write fiction. But when I do, I prefer to write vampire stories. Stay thirsty, my friends.” — Triton
M: Your first two sentences work well, but the third one probably needs a larger group to function as an effective tagline. You'd need at least three people in the audience, to ensure at least one of them would laugh... which kind of defeats the purpose of a one-on-one pitch. Sadly, I wasn't the one who would laugh at this; it sounds like a forced joke, and like most forced humor, isn't really funny.
- “I'm a professional waiter. I live to wait. And I wait to live.” — Arisia
M: This is another example of forced humor, but your setup is much more effective! Unfortunately, even though I found it funny, there wasn't any personal investment in following up on your "line." When I hear that you wait to live, I don't want to know more... I just feel sorry for you. (Good thing I know you just made this one up.)
xdpaul: 1 / miko: ++
- “I write technical documents. My current specialty is finishing User Acceptance Test scripts started by someone else who is unable to finish because he gets sick, his father gets sick, his father dies, or his cornea becomes torn.” — Arisia
M: Self deprecation, in moderate doses, can be effective. Believe it or not, this depiction sparked my interest! Not to the point of actually wanting to read User Acceptance Test scripts, mind you... but it sparked my interest, nonetheless.
- “I'm a fortieth-century mind-writer. Your mind is not safe from my scribbling or hidden by the twenty centuries between.” — Arisia
M: As the premise for a story, this is good. As the depiction of what you do, it would (unfortunately!) come across as pretentious. As a practical matter, I'd love to see you try it.
- “I write about my life and the world around me, my World. With a whole heap of lies thrown in for good measure.” — Watkinson
M: Your "whole heap of lies" sound nice, but when someone claims to write about life, and the world, I'm afraid my own inclination is to assume the writing is dull. I'd suggest a little less universalism, and a slightly tighter focus.
xdpaul: 1 / miko: +
- “I'm a darn good copyrighter and radio producer who writes insightful and snarky sci-fi/fantasy to keep myself... well... "sane" is too strong a word. But something like it.” — Vidad
M: Oh... my. I'll just assume autocorrect is to blame, okay? Yes, I laughed, but for all the wrong reasons. If I'd heard this pitch rather than seeing it, I would certainly have given you more points.
- “I'm a speculative fictionist with more rejections than a fat redneck drunk at a modeling show; yet secretly they all want me.” — Vidad
M: This is self-deprecating humor that goes one better than the predecessor, and makes me want to read your stuff! Okay, to be fair, I already know some of your stuff. But even if I didn't, this would lure me in, and is highly memorable. The fact that you also managed to imply a bare-bones depiction of your literary proclivities, despite the humorous approach, was a great benefit.
xdpaul: 1.356 / Ben-El: +
- “I write fantasy framed in settings with weird metaphysics under the hood, and science fiction where the hood got blown off and the people are scrabbling in the ashes left behind.” — Ryan J
M: I am unfairly familiar with a larger selection of your works-in-progress than some of our other Friday Challengers, so I understand how appropriate this particular depiction of your oeuvre is. Even without that familiarity though, I would like the tone and color of your description. Nice!
xdpaul: 2 / Arisia: +
- “I started by telling stories to my kids, whose imaginations are very much alive. Now I write speculative fiction for adults whose imaginations never died. Or could be ghoulishly reanimated.” — Ryan J
M: While this is nice, and has a bit of humor, it doesn't grab me... and it took me a while to figure out why. In reading it, I kept stumbling over the word "ghoulishly"; it doesn't seem to fit, for some reason. (If you had written "... or could be reanimated using the proper equipment, a bit of patience, and perhaps a pickling agent or two," I probably would have laughed out loud.)
Although this wasn't our highest scoring challenge, it was good to see a bit more participation this week. Of note, we had a strong entry from a new member, as well as a victory from an old member who has been quiet for many months, and who will hopefully now elect to participate on a more frequent basis:
3rd Place: 6 points — “I write action horror, science fiction and whatever else will pay the bills. Currently, I'm querying my manuscript CHEMO about an agent of a paramilitary cult that eliminates 'cancers of the body of mankind' and focusing on anthology submissions.” — J.M. Perkins
2nd Place: 7+ points — “I write fantasy framed in settings with weird metaphysics under the hood, and science fiction where the hood got blown off and the people are scrabbling in the ashes left behind.” — Ryan J
1st Place: 7.356+ points — “I'm a speculative fictionist with more rejections than a fat redneck drunk at a modeling show; yet secretly they all want me.” — Vidad
Congratulations, Vidad! As winner, you are hereby invited to propose next week's challenge, scheduled to be announced the morning of Friday, 9 September 2011.
So what was the lesson of this challenge?
Although there aren't any hard and fast rules about the "right" or "wrong" way to present your personal line, a few consistent thoughts stood out when making this week's selection. Humor works, but make sure that if you attempt it, the other person laughs. Humor isn't a requirement, though! As you prepare and/or revise your personal introduction statements, remember your target audience (singular) and the purpose of delivery (to be both memorable and interesting), and pick your words carefully... because if you succeed at the "memorable" part, you'll only have one shot at getting them right.