View Full Version : The May 2008 Writing Contest!

2nd May 2008, 03:16 AM
*wanders in* So did you miss us? When you rushed to the forum on the first of May anticipating a new Writing Contest, only to find the topic conspicuously absent? No fear; we couldn't neglect the Fanfic Writing Contest! The reason for the slightly late announcement of this contest is that we have been doing some last-minute negotiations to make the contest more enjoyable for you. As a result, please take note that we are trialling a new word limit of 4000 words, effective from this contest.

If you're confused as to what I'm talking about, the Fanfic Writing Contest is a themed short story writing competition across the forum, held once every three months. The writing contest is not only a way to test out your writing skills, but also a great source of constructive criticism as all entries are given full reviews by two judges. Anyone may enter the contest -- the more the merrier!

All entires will be judged and given feedback by:

Saffire Persian

The theme for this contest is:

The Forbidden

Please post your entry in this topic by 23:59:59 EST, 31st May 2008. Due to popular demand, the word limit is now 4000 words. Have fun!

2nd May 2008, 03:54 PM
4000 words!? O.O *falls to my knees and kisses your feet* Holy Mother T.T You kind sweet holyness is blessed upon that which is me! *rubs the greatful tears from my eyes* ^_^ Thanks guys! This is gunna be fun! *waves my hands and goes off to write*

19th May 2008, 04:47 PM
I will take a stab at this. :D BTW: I tried formatting this properly, but TPM hates me. I think its still readable though.

Walking Home

The park outside Kazan Academy could have won an award for being the most mundane place in Royeken City. It had no playgrounds, no lakes or barbeque grills. It wasn't even big enough to play your typical playground games or have family picnics. The place only had an empty weedy parking lot and a little bridge that crossed a tiny stream with floating plastic. I couldn't even tell you the name of the place, because the one sign in front of the lot said: "Park," and that was it. However, for some reason it was this park where my friends and I came to hang out.
"I'm not going to eat that." Dai said.
"But it's good for you! Filled with... umm... all those proteins and vitamins that you're jabber'n about!" Hotaru waved a large, crumbling sugar cookie in front of Dai's face.
"That thing is pure sugar." Dai tried swatting the cookie away.
"It says on the package that there is ...." Hotaru reached down and grabbed the clear plastic wrapping as he inspected the label. "... point five percent calcium! That's a vitamin, right?"
"Eat your own damn cookie."
"Well, at least Akio appreciates a good cookie when he sees one. Right, Akio?" Hotaru looked to me and I nodded my head with a laugh.
It was late Wednesday afternoon and Dai, Hotaru, and I lounged about the graffiti-chalked bridge. We never had anything really important to do after Wednesday classes, so we'd come here to simply hang out. It was one of the few times during the week that all three of us could meet due to our busy schedules. The three of us were friends since middle school, although since then time caused us to grow apart. Dai was captain of the Kendo club, Hotaru went to the neighboring Furin Academy, and I was vice president of Kazan Academy's student council. Hotaru attended Furin because the school was closer to his home, but he never seemed thrilled about being apart from Dai or me.
"Don't you eat enough cookies at your tea club?" I asked. Hotaru managed to swallow the remainder with a shake of his head. A smile grew in his dusted green eyes as he licked the crumbs from around his lips.
"My dear, you can never eat enough cookies." Hotaru tucked a loose strand of blonde hair behind his ear. "If more people in the world would eat cookies, things would be much sweeter."
Dai snorted suddenly as he sat himself down upon the yellow-green grass. "God, how long have you been sitting on that?"
"Since English class."
"Well you try that one out on the druggies and we'll see how well that goes over," Dai said.
"I'm positive that it'd solve the rivalry problem." Hotaru smirked as he dug his nails into the cookie package and forced it open. He offered me a cookie and I took it and bit into it.
"Something tells me that the day Kazan and Furin get along would be when cookies are used as peace offerings." A few crumbs sprayed out of my mouth.
"Yeah, then my kendo team would turn into some gay hugging contest." Dai stretched his tanned body out on the grass, eyeing a waddling duck that strayed near us. I laughed.
Kazan Academy and Furin Academy were the two schools that every kid in Hawfield City went to for a "proper" education. It was rumored that they were founded by feuding brothers, and I suppose that would make sense, looking at how the student bodies from both schools fought constantly. It made my life at school quite busy sometimes, because it was the V.P. who had to deal with the little group spats.
The three of us remained splayed out on the grass for most of the afternoon. At one point all three of us had pondered chasing a duck across the stream, but then Dai pointed out that we'd look like idiots doing that sort of thing. The air became cooler as evening crept into the late afternoon.
"Hey, look who it is," Dai said. Across the bridge was a guy with shaggy, mud-colored hair. He wore the typical all-black Kazan uniform and his slinky relaxed posture gave him away immediately.
"Yuuto. He got into trouble last week," I said.
"What for?" Hotaru asked as he absently scratched the back of his head.
"Gambling I bet," Dai said.
"Yep. Managed to get five hundred dollars off the track team, again."
"You think those idiots would learn the first time." Dai yawned as he closed his eyes. Yuuto's figure disappeared down the road into the growing shadows of the street.
"What time is it?" Hotaru asked.
"Probably about five or six," I said.
"Dinner time then. My sister will have a fit if I'm late." Dai pushed his muscular body off the ground as he got up.
"See you guys next week?" I asked.
"Actually, I was thinking this weekend we should go to that new club that opened up!" Hotaru threw the clear empty package away, clapping his hands together to rid the sugary residue from his hands.
"A new club?" Dai shoved his hands into his black pants pocket.
"Yeah! I can't remember the name... but it opened up on Stevens Road last week. They've got a live band and I think they're still doing discounts."
"I'm there," I said.
"There's kendo practice all weekend-"
"Come on Dai-"
"-but I guess I can give the guys a day off." Dai rolled his eyes at Hotaru, a small hint of a grin curling on his face.

I didn't drive home from the park because my house was close to school and I didn't feel a need to drive a car everywhere, unlike most students my age. Part of the reason I liked walking so much was because I could take my time and the world seemed to move slower. When I reached thirty-ninth street, I could see my house but it still took me ten minutes to actually get there. The damn thing is an eyesore.
It sat atop a hill and loomed above the average-sized homes and even the few apartment complexes that dotted the rural part of the city. The yearly fresh coat of white paint could rival most metallic surfaces, reflecting light in such a way that it was blinding. The large windows, the gated yard, the timed water sprinklers--everything about my house screamed obnoxious.
"You're late." My father's beady black eyes flickered above the daily newspaper as he sat in the living room. I gently shut the front door, untied my shoes and placed them neatly on the edge of the white welcome mat. For the life of me, I don't know why we have a white welcome mat. You'd think that white mats wouldn't even exist for the stupidity of it.
"Sorry." I headed past my father and walked through the doorway into the pebble-tiled kitchen.
"How was school?" I could tell he had gone back to reading the newspaper.
"Same, same." Opening the refrigerator door, I attempted to find something to eat. The array of chilled foods ranged from yogurt, ripening fruit, and packaged deli meat to left over pizza and strawberry soda.
"Do you want to go out for dinner?" I could hear my father flipping the newspaper page clumsily.
"Nah, I'll eat here." I shut the door, unable to find anything to eat.
"Alright. I'm leaving at eight." He flipped another page, "Won't be back until Sunday."
"Have fun." I walked back through the entrance way, past my father and headed up the stairs towards my bedroom.
"Oh, Akio..." He began and I stopped for a moment, turning around to peer through the stairway at my father. "... that boy, Hotaru, called just before you came in."
"Really? What did he say?"
"Something about meeting at a park on Friday."
"Did he say a time?"
"Hmm..." My father set down the newspaper as he raised a finger to his chin. "... I honestly don't remember. Seven? I think it was seven."
"Alright." I turned and took a step up the stairs before I had to stop yet again.
"Akio, isn't Hotaru that blonde haired kid?"
"Yes, yes he is dad." I rubbed my temple for a moment.
"Are you still friends with him?"
"Yes, Dad."
"You know he's gay, right?"
"Dad... you don't know that." I bit my lip as I took a few deep breaths.
"Hmm, I suppose I don't. Still, I'd rethink my choice of friends if I were you."
"Good thing you're not, then." I turned and walked up the rest of the stairs. I couldn't wait for Friday.
The next morning a hundred dollar bill was left on the kitchen table with a note, "For the weekend" stuck onto it.

I hated Thursdays more than any other day of the week. It mocked the fact that it wasn't Friday yet and I already hung out with Dai and Hotaru, so there was nothing to look forward to later in the day. This Thursday was no exception, except that it passed slower than normal. Even during the last class of the day, I found the clock hands were glued in place.
"Can I sit here?"
I snapped my head upwards to see a penetrating stare of blue eyes.
"Oh... go ahead Yuuto," I said. I had busted Yuuto a thousand times and despite all that, I still was a little unsettled whenever he was around. I always expected for him to threaten me or at least give me a hard time for the discipline the student council has put him through. The guy was like a dog. He'd be punished and then the next day come back wagging his tail doing the same thing all over again. Of course, the discipline was usually a meeting with the entire student council in which the person in trouble would merely get a verbal warning or probation from school for a week. If someone did something horribly wrong, they'd be sent to a guidance teacher. The student council moved through disciplines quickly, because like most of the adults at the school, they were too busy planning other events than to worry about disciplining constant petty crimes.
"Did we have homework?" Yuuto rummaged around in his faded maroon backpack as he grabbed a few loose pieces of torn papers and slapped them upon the desk.
"Yeah, we had to write a poem."
"A poem?" Yuuto pursed his lips for a moment before shrugging. "Yah got a pen?"
I handed Yuuto a pen and quickly he went to work scratching away at his paper. There was still a few minutes before class, so I watched Yuuto for amusement. His large frame was hunched over his paper protectively and I found he reminded me a lot of Dai. Dai had the same defined forearms and large hands due to his long hours in Kendo. I wondered what he was doing now and if he had fallen asleep in his physics class again.
"Yah think this'll be good?" Yuuto grinned as he handed back the pen and showed me his paper. I couldn't tell what was written on the paper, so I smiled and nodded.
"Looks good to me."
"I know! I think its pretty fuck'n awesome." Yuuto reached into his backpack again and pulled out a Sprite bottle. The liquid inside, however, was a caramel brown and I watched as a little of it dribbled down his chin as he drank.
"Alcohol has a strong scent, you know," I said quietly, looking at the classroom door.
"Really?" Yuuto smirked as he screwed the cap back on and dropped it roughly into his bag as he wiped his chin with his rolled sleeve. "I better avoid the council then."
Professor Iglesia entered hastily through the door and apologized profusely for being late. No one in the room gave her a hard time, especially not the men. Professor Iglesia had a delicate figure and her luster-brown hair and prominent pink lips were always the focus of class. She wasted no time in collecting our homework, however, and her eyebrows rose when Yuuto handed her his poem.
"This one is especially for yah." Yuuto said.
"Oh boy, Yuuto," she remarked, shaking her head with a faint smile. As she moved past us, Yuuto leaned in to me and whispered.
"She and I have been dating."
"Wow, you're a lucky man." I forced a large grin as I focused on the blackboard. I had noticed a few months ago that she had a sizable diamond upon her ring finger.

I drove my black sports car to school on Friday. It was odd parking it in the student parking lot-- I felt like a criminal. I didn't want to attract a lot of attention, but it felt as if my birthday present was as obnoxious as the house that I lived in. I was going to drive my car straight from school to the park, because I wouldn't have time to stop at home. This Friday's council meeting was going to last a little bit longer than normal, because we had another fight break out during a track event between Furin and Kazan. But at the meeting, no one wanted to be there, so we just decided that we'd put a small article on the fifth page of the school newspaper about being safe when leaving school.
I drove to the park at five o'clock, which I had found out was the real time the three of us were going to meet. I waited for a few minutes before finally both Dai and Hotaru showed up. They had walked, since I was the only one who had a car.
"I forgot how nice your car was!" Hotaru said cheerfully as he settled into the passenger seat and Dai slid in back. I looked into the rearview mirror to see Dai cross his arms and grunt in agreement.
"Ah, yeah... I was really lucky to find that great summer job." I turned the key and the car purred to life. "Got the directions to this place?" I looked at Hotaru, who nodded, and he started to direct me.
It was a twenty minute drive to downtown (where the club was located). Dai fell asleep halfway, but not before he commented about how he hated the people who built that wasteful large house on forty-fifth street.
"It's so stupid. No one needs a house like that," Dai said. I loudly agreed and almost ran a stop sign, but managed to jerk to a stop in time.
We drove by the club at first to make sure it was the right place. It was early so the line wasn't too long and we found a parking spot only a couple of blocks away. The club's name was Hotshots and the glow of the pink neon sign had the figure of a woman holding a putrid green martini. Dai raised a brow at this, but Hotaru promised it wasn't a strip club, so we waited in line for five minutes before we flashed our IDs and went in.
The club was a daze of flashing lights, wavering bodies, lingering smoke and alcohol. On the left half of the club were small circular tables and a long illuminated black bar. Several people were sitting in large groups around the tables while they drank, screamed and laughed. Most of them, however, were dashing to the bar, ordering a shot and then ducking back onto the dance floor on the other side of the club. A local band was crooning into the microphone upon a raised floor that was only slightly above the dancing. The dance floor itself was swarming with people. Girls grinded on guys, guys grinded on girls and even a few girls shimmied their bodies up and down each other. Yuuto was even there amongst the crowd--a drink in one hand, splashing about messily as he surrounded himself with a few girls.
Then there was Dai, Hotaru and myself standing in the entrance way like first year boys at our first high school dance.
"You never said this place was so big!" I leaned in and hissed into Hotaru's ear.
"I had no idea!" Hotaru shrugged as he scanned the club. "What do you want to do first?"
"Alcohol," Dai said. "Lots of alcohol."
We crammed ourselves into a back corner table and ordered the cheapest shots the club had to offer. The discounts were still available, so I offered to pay for the first round of drinks. I guess we ended up drinking a lot, because after a while we ended up on the dance floor. The club was an entirely new world to us, so it was only natural that we stayed close together. Girls found their way to us and they came and went. We became the dashers from the floor to the bar and back again. The night was the sweaty gritty release that I hadn't had for a long time.
My protective blanket of Hotaru and Dai was always near me. It felt safe to be next to them and I found my back pressing lightly into Dai's as the blast of the base vibrated through my ribcage. I guess it was the alcohol or maybe it was the exhilaration of knowing that I was free or alive. Maybe it was just a stupid mistake, I'm not quite sure. One moment I was dancing with some random cake-make-up girl and then the next thing I knew I had whirled around and my face was an inch from Dai's. His eyes were closed for a brief moment and I could feel his breath. I wanted to move in closer, to dance with him. I think for a moment our sides, our hands - something of ours touched and his eyes opened.
I used to believe it was the alcohol, but for a stupid reason I smiled at Dai. I was so high in the moment that I actually smiled. I remember Dai pushed me away and abruptly left the dance floor.
"Wait! Dai come back!" I yelled, squeezing through the crowd.
"Stay the fuck away," Dai said. He didn't stop walking and continued to head towards the door.
"Dai, please just wait up. I didn't mean to-"
"Just stay the fuck away!" Dai whirled around and faced me. His eyes glared at me and I felt my stomach heave for a moment.
"Dai, it was an accident. I didn't mean to... I mean, it wasn't anything-"
"What's going on?" Hotaru placed a gentle hand on my shoulder as he caught up with us.
"I'm leaving. Akio's a fucking fag, Hotaru. A fucking fag!" Dai reeked of alcohol and he continued to stare back at me.
"What are you talking about?" Hotaru slid his hand off my shoulder as he looked to Dai and me.
"It was an accident, Dai! I didn't mean to do that!"
"Do what?" Hotaru asked but neither of us responded. There was an awkward, angry silence as Dai opened his mouth to speak but all he could do was shake his head.
"I'm sorry," I said. Again, there was an awkward silence between the three of us. I knew there were blasting sounds of bass and singing from the band and laughter from people around us-- I just couldn't hear them.
"I'm outta here." Dai headed towards the door again. Hotaru looked at me for a moment, but I simply shook my head.
"How are you going to get home?" Hotaru called out to him, taking a step forward.
"I'll take a taxi or something!" Dai yelled.
"I'm sorry!" I watched as Dai slammed the door behind him. Hotaru seemed to hesitate for moment, as he stared at me.
"Uh, Akio, I-"
"Go," I said. "Go ahead." Hotaru nodded and rushed out the door after Dai, leaving me standing by the entrance. I think I stood there for a few minutes before I was asked to move by a worker at the club.
I wanted to go home so I walked out into the chilled night air. I knew I probably shouldn't drive but I didn't care so I wandered to my car. I think I was sobering up a little by then anyway. I didn't drive though, because a large hand grabbed me and ripped my keys away. I thought I was being robbed when I saw it was Yuuto, but instead he asked me where was my car. I mumbled a few words and soon we were driving.
I fell asleep in the car, because the next thing I knew I was waking up to the smell of thick smoke. Yuuto was leaning outside against the car and had a cigarette dangling from his lips. The window of the driver side door was open and the exhaled smoke crept into the car. I sat up, my head feeling like a cracked egg.
"You feel'n okay?" Yuuto asked.
"I'm fine... " I glanced out the window to see we were in the weedy lot of the same old mundane park. "Why are we here?"
Yuuto shrugged, "I don't know where you live."
The night sky was fading away and a duck was swimming in the dirty stream. I coughed slightly as I took a deep breath of air, the after smoke practically choking me.
"I think... I'll take a walk," I said as I slowly got out of the car.
Yuuto took a long drag of his cigarette and then plucked it from his lips and he formed his mouth into a circle and tried to make little shapes with the smoke. "Well," Yuuto continued to smoke his cigarette. "I guess I'll be see'n yah at school." He threw his cigarette to the ground and smashed the bud into the pavement with his dirt encrusted shoe. I watched Yuuto's back for a while as he walked away and he gave me a back-handed wave. Then I started to walk.

26th May 2008, 01:45 AM
Wow, can't actually remember the last time I wrote something for TPM (on my own). Btw, thankyou thankyou thankyou for extending the word limit to 4000. I couldn't have done this otherwise.

The Forbidden

Hiro’s hands were shaking were shaking as they stepped into its shadow. He knew they weren’t supposed to get this close to it but Ayren had been so insistent that he hadn’t been able to say no.
“Isn’t it beautiful?”
There was a blaze of wonder in her dark eyes that seemed to capture his own. He had to pull himself away to keep from being lost in them.
“It’s…” He didn’t know what to say; just looking at it gave him shivers.
Ayren took his hand and squeezed it. “You can be scared, Hiro. That’s how they want you to feel about it. That’s the reason they tell us we’re not supposed to go near it.”
“That’s because it’s dangerous.” He hissed at her.
She shook her head and released his hand from her grasp. “No one knows that.” She took a step forward and gazed into its heart.
Hiro remained where she had left him, shivering in fear at the sight that loomed before him. It had appeared, legend said, about a thousand years ago, on the night of the blood moon. No one knew why or how it came to be there but they all said the same thing: it was dangerous.
“Ayren…I think we should go…” The air around them had fallen into silence and it made him nervous. What if it was a sign that they were stepping too close?
She turned to him, her face devilish in the shadow. “I want to come back. When the next blood moon rises, I want to come back. Will you come with me Hiro?”
He tried to pull himself from her gaze but couldn’t. Those little eyes held so much hope and trust in them that he just couldn’t refuse them. He imagined that he would always feel that way. “Alright,” he said at last, a pang of regret tugging his chest as he spoke, “I’ll go with you.”
“Do you promise?”
“Yes,” he replied. “I promise.”

Hiro awoke and shifted to look at the woman curled up in his arms. Her long brown hair hid the little of her face that wasn’t buried into his chest and with a soft smile he tucked it back behind her ear. She shifted in her sleep, burying herself deeper into the crease between his body and the mattress. Hiro shuddered; her breath was ticklish.
“Hold still…” she grumbled.
“Did I wake you?” He traced the curve of her spine with his fingertips.
“No, but you’re stopping me from getting back to sleep.”
He kissed the top of her head. “My apologies.”
There was a moment of silence and then Ayren grunted and pushed herself away. “Fine, fine,” she muttered, more to herself than to Hiro. She rolled out from the covers and stood stretching. Hiro admired her naked body in silence as she began to dress. “It’s rude to stare,” she told him.
“I’m merely admiring your beauty,” his tone was playful but there was meaning to his words.
“You admired it plenty last night.”
“Ah but your glory has different shades in the sunlight. I intend to know it as well as I know the beauty of you in moonlight.”
Ayren pulled a tunic over her head. “I hate it when you talk like that.” She threw back her hair with an effortless swipe as if to emphasise her words. “I’ll make breakfast. Come down when you’re dressed.”
Hiro watched her leave then rolled on to his back with a sigh. “Looks like she forgot.” He breathed in, letting the morning air fill his senses. It smelt like a good day. “I’m glad.”
Breakfast was waiting for him by the time he got downstairs. He kissed Ayren on the forehead and settled himself into the seat opposite hers. A bowl of…something…sat in front of him. He poked at it with his spoon, watching the lumps on top of the grey mush shift as he did so.
“It’s not going to bite you,” she told him coldly. Her eyes were fixed on her own bowl as she ate.
Hiro sighed and took a mouthful of sludge. It was thick and tasteless and filled with lumps of he-didn’t-dare-to-guess-what. He swallowed it with a cringe and gulped down half the contents of his water cup to banish the taste. He knew cooking had never been one of Ayren’s strong points; he just never imagined she would be so unbelievably bad at it.
“Listen Ayren, about last night...” He thought that if he turned her attention to something else then she might overlook the fact that he wasn’t eating. And this was something he needed to find out. “Why did you…?”
“I like you Hiro,” her tone was blunt. Sentimentality wasn’t something Ayren had acquired as she’d grown. If anything, Hiro thought she’d become more distant over the last couple of years. Maybe her mother’s death had affected her more than she let on. “You like me too, right?”
“Of course.”
“So why shouldn’t we have done that?”
“I’m not saying we shouldn’t have, I mean it was great, really really great but…I mean…that is to say…” In his mind he was calling himself all kinds of stupid. Why couldn’t he just say it? Did you do it because you love me? That’s all he had to say to her and he couldn’t do it. He was such a coward. He’d been trying for years to tell how he felt about her and now he was trying to ask her to confess to him? He couldn’t describe how pathetic he felt.
“If you’re not going to eat it then do something with it.” Hiro look up and saw that Ayren was already on her feet. Her breakfast had been cleared away too. “I’m going to clean up and then we can go, okay?”
She beamed at him broadly. “To see the preparations.”
Hiro nodded slowly as reality gradually began to catch up with him. “Right…the blood moon festival…”
“Hiro, you’re so clueless sometimes.” She ruffled his hair playfully and headed out. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
Hiro watched her leave in dumb silence. “Did I miss something?”

The village was bustling. Wooden stalls lined the pathways, displaying an array of wears dedicated to the festival. There were blankets with different impressions of how the blood moon would appear sewn into them and grass trinkets of ruby coloured gems hung of cords of string. Even the baker had made an effort. His stall was covered bread rolls filled to bursting with strawberries and cherries. Unlike the young couple, most of the people who passed them wore sarongs of yellow, orange and red to commemorate the occasion. Some of them, they noted, also wore black sashes around their waists, signifying them as the festivals and planners and organisers.
“They’ve sure got a lot of people working on this,” Hiro commented as another organiser walked past them. He wasn’t surprised though, festivals in their village had often been cause for excitement and this one was by far the most special. It had been a thousand years since the last blood moon had risen, bringing with it the strange phenomenon that now sat on the outskirts of their border, and although they wouldn’t be celebrating that particular aspect of the day, Hiro knew that the night’s festivities would undoubtedly go down in their history.
He stopped went he felt Ayren tugging on his arm. “I saw something back there I want to get. Wait for me here okay?” She took off when he nodded.
“Hiro!” He almost fell under the weight of the boy who jumped on top of him but somehow he managed to stay on his feet.
“You almost got him that time,” said a round-faced boy with long brown hair.
Hiro straightened as his attacker jumped down and joined the boy who had spoken. “I wondered when you two would show up.” The two in question were Tairen and Nobin, Hiro’s only non-Ayren friends and notorious trouble-makers. They weren’t dangerous, just carefree. Hiro envied them for that. “How much chaos have you caused so far?”
“None,” Nobin replied with a pout that clearly showed his displeasure.
“We’ve been looking for you,” Tairen finished.
Tairen nodded and draped an arm around his friend. “We heard what you got up to last night.” He punched Hiro’s side playfully. “You dog! I can’t believe you bedded Ayren. And here I was thinking that you were too much of a coward to go after her.”
Hiro felt the blood rush to fill his cheeks but kept quiet. He didn’t want to admit to his friends that she had been the one to come on to him.
“Where is she anyway? I thought for sure she’d be here with you.” A mischievous glint crossed Tairen’s eyes. “Unless you were so bad at it that she’s embarrassed to be seen with you.” He dodged Hiro’s fist and bounced over to Nobin. “Oh I see; it’s a size issue.”
Hiro sighed as the others laughed. Their taunting didn’t bother him – he’d dealt with it throughout their years of schooling – but he wished they’d find another victim for their jokes. He was afraid Ayren might actually start listening to them, even though he knew that she was too smart for that. “Don’t tell me you sought me out just to tease me?”
They shared another laugh at his expense; this time over how advanced his vocabulary was compared to theirs. Then Tairen spoke. “Actually, we wanted to ask you if you wanted to hang with us for a bit during the festival.”
“We’re planning on going to The Gate,” piped in Nobin.
His mind screamed at the giant shadow that appeared in his thoughts, looming menacingly over the tiny Hiro that stood before it. “The Gate huh?” His heart was racing. There was sweat on the back of his neck and on his palms. A lump had formed in his throat that refused to budge no matter how many times he swallowed. He looked at his friends and fought to steady his voice. They couldn’t know he scared. “I don’t think Ayren would want to.”
“Want to what?”
He cursed silently as she reached his side.
“We’re going to The Gate tonight during the festival and we wondered if you and Hiro would like to go.”
“Of course we’ll go.” She took Hiro’s hand and fixed him with a look that reminded him of the one his old teacher used to use when she didn’t think their writings were neat enough. “You don’t know me very well do you?”
I know you too well. Hiro responded in his mind. That’s why I said no.
“Well we’ll see you tonight then. Come on Nobin.”
“Bye Ayren!”
She waved them off with the same smile she gave to the youngsters in her writing class, then turned to Hiro. “They’ll never change will they?” When he shook his head she added quietly, “They’re not the only ones.” When she caught Hiro’s gaze she smiled and pulled him forward. “Come on; let’s see what else we can find.”

They sought out Tairen and Nobin whilst there was still light in the evening sky. Both boys stood before The Gate, taking it in turns to dare themselves closer to its open mouth. It was a game often played by males of their age; fools in their late teens and early twenties who still thought they were invincible and were always looking for a way to tempt death. They would come at night and challenge each other to see who would dare to get the closest. When it first started, some of the Elders had set up patrols to ward off any would-be players but they quickly learnt that this only encouraged more people to try it. They agreed it would be best for them to “grow out of such childish endeavours” in their own time. No one dared to get within a foot of the thing anyway.
Ayren and Hiro settled in the shade of a nearby tree whilst their friends finished up their game. Hiro grabbed the grass beneath him to keep his hands from shaking. It was a menacing thing, that gate. It stood roughly ten feet in height with a frame of gold carved with odd symbols that faintly resembled letters. Alone, it would have drawn untold interest but instead it was a catalyst of fear. This was the result of its mouth; a seemingly living sheet of darkness that filled every inch of the frame. At a distance it looked like a solid wall of deep purple but if you dared to get close enough you could see that ebbed and flowed like water. Its face was speckled with dots of colours but if you looked at it for more than a moment all you see could see was black. Hiro shuddered at his memories of it. Even though it wasn’t a daunting as he remembered, the sight of it still gave him the creeps.
“Why do they call it The Gate?” He turned to Ayren. She had her knees drawn up to her chest and her chin propped on top of them. She was gazing across the grass, her fearless gaze set upon it. “It looks more like a doorway.”
“It was the name given by those who found it.” He responded casually, his mind reeling off the information he’d been given in his youth. She didn’t seem to have heard him though.”
“Calling it a gate even though it looks like a door gives the impression that it’s supposed to keep something out.” Her hold on her knees tightened. “Or to keep us in.”
Hiro knew her well enough to know that he didn’t like where her thoughts were taking her. He looked to his friends to supply a distracting influence but they’d reached a tie in their game and were now waiting to see which of them would be able to hold their ground the longest. Not knowing what else he could do, Hiro reached over and pecked Ayren on the cheek.
“What was that for?” She frowned a little but there was no hint of annoyance in her voice.
“No reason,” he replied with a shrug. It occurred to him that despite their actions the previous night, Ayren was still as unaffectionate as always. It wasn’t something he blamed her for, mind. Hiro knew better than anyone how hard her life had been. She’d lost her father before birth to the same illness that had claimed his parents (he had been two at the time) as well as several other members of their village. Like a lucky few, Ayren’s mother had been able to fight off the fatal aspect of the illness but it meant that she spent the rest of her days frail and sickly. It was a wonder she was even able to bring Ayren into this world and some wondered why she had even tried. She never showed anything but disdain towards the child. It was suggested that she had been jealous that Ayren had been born healthy or that because the girl looked so much like her father, the mother couldn’t bear to look upon her. For whatever reason, Ayren was raised by the same woman who had been given care of Hiro after his parents’ passing.
Hiro remember the woman well. She had been a toad of a witch with a face powdered with make-up. She wore her hair in a tight braid wrapped around the back of her head and she would inspect it every morning and night for signs of greying. Cleanliness was demanded above all else. Dirtied clothes were paid for with supper-less bedtimes and tears warranted beatings. Ayren had rarely gone a day without suffering at least one of those punishments. Her wild ways drove the old crone mad with fury but nothing she did could set that girl onto “the right path”. That was just the person Ayren was: curious, dangerous and daring. It was something their carer had never been able to accept and the reason she made Ayren’s life such a misery. He still remembered how she’d looked when she was finally old enough to leave her tormenter’s care. It was the happiest he’d ever seen her.
At last Tairen and Nobin joined them. They brought over a few bottles of spiced ales that they’d stolen that morning and the four of them sat together drinking as the sun sunk slowly into the horizon. As they watched the orange glow above the tree line fade, Nobin whispered, “Do you think something will happen once the moonlight hits here?” Nobody answered. They were all thinking the same thing.
The daylight seemed to be fading slower than they remembered. They tried to ease their tension with drinking and the odd flow of conversation it brings but every now and then one of them would peer into the darkening sky and the eyes of the others would quickly follow.
A thick cloud covered the moon’s face as the last patch of light finally faded into the darkness. They watched in silence as it drifted overhead. In the distance they could hear the sounds of the festival; laughter and music weaved together in a bolt of noise that pierced the silent air. From several trees back came the rustling of bushes and a high-pitched giggle cut short for reasons unseen. A couple had snuck away for their own private celebration. No doubt they would not be the only ones to do so that evening.
The cloud passed as last and the group looked eagerly towards The Gate as the pale red light fell upon them. Hiro’s mask let the other believe that he shared the same feelings as his friends but secretly he was praying that nothing would come of this. If this night would just pass uneventfully then maybe Ayren would finally rid herself of her interest in the accursed thing. He would sleep more easily that way.
It seemed the Gods had heard him. Their group waited and waited for The Gate to do something but nothing came of it. It stood there in the glow doing nothing but to appear more menacing in Hiro’s eyes. The other boys groaned with disappointment and soon took off in search of more exciting things, leaving Hiro and Ayren alone. It wasn’t long before he started to fidget. She hadn’t once taken her eyes off of it. His prayers had failed. She was still as infatuated with the thing as ever.
She rose and walked until she was so close that she could have reached out and touched it if she wanted to. Hiro took a moment to collect his fears then ambled after her. He didn’t have the guts to get as close to it as she had, so he lingered behind her like a frightened puppy, his weight forever shifting from one foot to the next.
“I want to go through it,” she said, an eerie determination in her voice. “I want to see what’s on the other side.”
“Ayren, that’s crazy! No one’s ever gone through The Gate.”
“Maybe it’s time someone did.”
He shook his head, even though he knew she couldn’t see it. “Are you even listening to yourself?”
She took his hand and squeezed it, just like she had when they were little. “I want you to come with me.”
She had that same look in her eyes that had bewitched him ten years ago and suddenly he felt like a fool. This what she’d wanted all along, this was why she had made him promise to come back here with her, so she could drag him through into the unknown. “Ayren…”
“Please Hiro. You know there’s nothing for us here. We are all each other has. Do this with me.”
He muttered something she took to be a yes and before he knew it she was pulling him towards that throbbing veil. His mind fought with his body. Giving up and going along with her wishes was what he had always done but this…this was so much bigger than anything she had ever asked of him. This wasn’t like agreeing to run through mud puddles despite knowing he’d go hungry for it after. This was his life she was asking him to risk. And for what? A woman he loved more than anything but who had never been clear on her feelings for him. Was he really about to let her drag him into this without first getting the answers he had waited years to find out?
Digging his heels into the dirt, Hiro gathered enough strength to pull his hand from her grasp. She stopped no more than a hair’s breadth the fresh hold and turned back to him, her cocked slightly in surprise. He’d never done anything like this before.
“Hiro -”
“I love you, Ayren. I’ve always loved you and I probably always will but I can’t…” He bit his lip as he tried to summon back the strength that was quickly fading him. “I can’t go through with this unless you tell me how you feel about me.”
The silence between them was deafening. If either of them noticed the tentacles of purple light that had surrounded Ayren’s body as he’d spoke, none of them gave any sign of it. Instead they stared transfixed at one another, neither of them having the courage to break their gaze.
“Hiro, I…” The tentacles tightened around her, slowing reeling her into the abyss.
“Tell me that you love me and I’ll go with you.”
Ayren felt her throat tighten. Did she love him? She’d never thought about it before. Hiro was the only person who’d ever cared about her. With him, she felt as if her existence wasn’t someone’s curse or inconvenience but that it actually mattered; that it actually served some purpose. He made her feel real. But those feelings she had when they were together, even the ones that had made her go to him the night before and do those things she had…was that love? Or was she just feeding her need to feel something other than emptiness? She didn’t know. She needed time to figure it all out and time was the one thing she didn’t have right now.
“Just say it!” His face was red and there were tears streaming down his cheeks.
She fought to reach him but The Gate pulled her back. It wanted her and it was not about to let go. She clawed helplessly at the binds that held her only to find more rise up to restrain her. She screamed and cried and begged Hiro to help her but he didn’t budge. He refused to move until she said it, even if it meant parting like this. It was heartbreaking for them both.
Ayren fought until Hiro was nothing but a pale blur in the distance. Whatever strength possessed her then vanished and left her body to the mercy of her captor’s power. As the edges of her sight faded into darkness, a single thought crossed her mind: Why couldn’t I tell him that I loved him?
Then everything went black.

1st June 2008, 07:29 AM
It's June now. :) Entries are closed. I was hoping to get mine in, but it's still in prgoress; oh well. Stay tuned for the results.

1st June 2008, 07:46 AM
It's June now. :) Entries are closed. I was hoping to get mine in, but it's still in prgoress; oh well. Stay tuned for the results.

LOL I"m still on well I planned the fic I just didn't get to actually write it. :(

9th July 2008, 10:10 PM
Perhaps I should try reviving this before everyone completely forgets about it.

Do we have results yet? I know I submitted my judging, but I haven't heard back from anyone since then.

21st July 2008, 04:27 PM
We're in the process of handling it. Thank you for your score submissions, mario. We appreciate your promptness.

25th July 2008, 08:47 AM
Sorry. No excuses. Thank you to all who participated in the May Writing Contest! I know it’s been a long wait, but finally, here are the results. It’s great to have a positive response to the increased word limit. Thanks to mario72486 and Saffire Persian for volunteering to judge (although I had to sub for Saffire due to unforeseen circumstances). Without further ado:

Walking Home
by Bulbasaur4

mario72486’s Judging

Plot (14/20 points): When I saw the subject for this month’s contest, my mind was originally thinking along the lines of things one shouldn’t be allowed to do or places they shouldn’t be allowed to go. I never imagined that the subject of sexuality would ever be brought up. The way I see it, everyone faces that subject at least once in their lives, and finding their true identity is never an easy task. The way Akio faces it certainly made this piece far more interesting than I had originally hoped. The plot is not only original (as original as I personally see it, since I’ve never really dived into this particular genre), but captivating in its own right.

However, I feel this story is incomplete the way it is currently. By that, I mean that the ending leaves everyone hanging, not knowing whether or not Akio will be able to work things out, let alone patch things up with Dai. If this was a standalone, I and other readers would feel both empty and cheated. If another section/chapter was added explaining what happened after the events of this piece - as well as coming to a far clearer resolution - perhaps then we can all breathe a sigh of contempt.

Plot Originality (7/10 points): As I mentioned before, I felt that the plot was original, although the twists were predictable. The reader can somehow see that something would happen between Akio and the character his father considered ‘playing for the other team.’ It was just a matter of when it would happen, which, again, was expected. As a result, there wasn’t much suspense involved

Writing Style (16/20 points): Dialogue and layout weren’t truly an issue in this case. One can get a general idea of the various places described, though perhaps a little more detail could have been added. One problem that I had with this piece would be its flow. It seemed to drag on until at least the dialogue between Akio and his father; then there was another section of dragging that didn’t end until the true climax of the work, the scene at the bar. Maybe that’s just me, but that’s what it felt like. Perhaps if the scenes with Yuuto were cut down - or if the major scene was put in a bit earlier - it would have worked out. But as it is right now, it feels a bit awkward.

Spelling and Grammar (8/10 points): I didn’t see much in terms of spelling mistakes, but there were several instances of going from one tense to another, as well as a run-on sentence or two.

Characters (12/15 points): I believe that the reader can easily relate to and sympathize with Akio, especially considering the growing pressures around him and in his own mind. As such, it feels like he’s the only character that is truly fleshed out and not one-dimensional. The other characters help to move the story along, but that’s about it. While they were certainly realistic enough to fit in anywhere, I didn’t truly find anything unique about them. Then again, this is supposed to be a short story, so I guess there really isn’t much time to develop every single character that is introduced.

Settings (14/15 points): This was, by far, one of the stronger areas of this piece. While it didn’t go into loads of detail, it described the various scenes just enough so the reader can have a good picture of the surroundings. The description of the park - the central characters’ hangout - and the club are prime examples of this. The only reason I didn’t give it a full score was because, while the settings were described well, there wasn’t much that made them truly unique from other similar places.

Overall Appreciation (8/10 points): In the end, this is certainly a difficult topic to tackle in any form of visual expression. While it didn’t go into much depth as I had hoped, it definitely covered plenty of bases in terms of storytelling. For that, I commend you. I’d definitely consider adding on to this piece if you happen to find the time and inspiration. I feel that anyone who reads this will want to know how things truly resolve.

Final Result: 79/100 points = 79%

mistysakura’s Judging

-Plot (13/20 points): There isn’t a plot in the conventional sense – there is no one clear goal, or conflict to reach that goal, or clear resolution. Instead, the plot is driven by the characters. There area lines of conflict running through the story, namely sexuality, class and rebellion, linking its events together. The unexpected gentleness from Yuuto provides some resolution to the story, suggesting a change in Akio’s mindset in accepting Yuuto’s help. However, although the characters around Akio (his father and his friends) build up the conflicts into a climax, Akio himself scarcely takes action. His lying about his financial status is an ongoing evasion and what he does to Dai happens on impulse. There is no effort by Akio, physically or mentally, to make sense of the events that are happening to him, or to make decisions about what he will do about the conflict. At the end, Akio’s walk seems to signify that he will attempt to clear his mind and reflect, a sign that he will choose what path to take. It all culminates in him realizing he has to take action, so the ending brings satisfaction to some extent, but because Akio hasn’t been developed enough as a character, the reader has no idea whether he’ll make up with Dai, whether he’ll reveal his affluence, what will blossom between him and Yuuto. Open endings are fine, but the reader must be given enough information to even begin to guess what’s next. In summary, the plot would have worked better if we could see Akio more involved in driving the plot.

Also, everything in a short story needs to be relevant, whether it advances the plot, develops a character or just sets the atmosphere. The readers keep being told about the rivalry between Furin and Kazan, but this conflict is never utilized in the fic. It diverts the attention from the real issue, Akio’s internal conflict. It would be better to incorporate it into the story to heighten the conflict, or not mention it at all. (There is also the possibility that it is relevant, but I’m being stupid because I don’t know the fandom.)

-Plot Originality (6/10 points): Because the plot is so open, without a clear direction or goal, it’s difficult to assess whether it’s original. It’s hard to predict what comes next, but that’s because the characters don’t have a ‘quest’ as such. I really did not see the conflict with Dai coming, but it was easy to guess that Yuuto would feature later in the story, and that the two of them would find something in common. Because the protagonist and the rebel always do find something in common. But I’ll give you points for handling the topic of taboos in different ways – both the obvious sexuality struggle and the more subtle white lies.

-Writing Style (17/20 points):The dialogue is spot on. Yuuto’s dialogue is unrefined without exaggeration, while Akio’s father comes across as appropriately stiff. Even mundane conversation topics like cookies are spiced up by the characters’ style. Akio’s voice has sparse description and is close to a speaking style, enhancing the casual tone of the fic. For example. Describing Yuuto as a ‘dog’ is simple and effective. Highlighting the action of the drinkers dashing to the bar for a shot, then going back to the dance floor, is a memorable snapshot of the situation.

However, the writing could have worked better by focusing the description on the important things. For example, Professor Iglesia, being a passing character, probably does not warrant the attention given to her, and the list of food in the fridge isn’t particularly revealing of Akio’s lifestyle or anything else. On the other hand, because the club is an entirely new experience for the trio, a bit more time could be spent describing their actions, and little things such as how they reacted to random cake-makeup girls coming up and dancing with them.

-Spelling and Grammar (8/10 points):
I assume the sign should say “Park” without a period.
“At one point all three of us had pondered chasing a duck across the stream” – assuming this thought occurs at the same time as they’re lying there relaxing, “had” isn’t necessary. “Had” implies that the pondering takes place at some previous point.
Thirty-Ninth Street is a name and should be capitalized.
“The damn thing is an eyesore” should be past tense to be consistent with the rest of the description. Some authors use present tense when describing fixtures such as buildings, because they’re always there. In that case, the whole description of the house would have to be in present tense.
The capitalization of ‘Dad’ should be consistent.
“Then there was Dai, Hotaru and myself” – should be “there were”.
“Instead he asked me where was my car” – should be “where my car was”, unless you want to directly quote what Yuuto says, in which case you’d put “Where is your car?” in quotation marks.
The spelling seems perfect.

-Characters (11/15 points): This fic gives us a good introduction to the characters. We get a sketch of what each is like – Akio’s denial, his father’s bigotry, Yuuto’s hard shell with a soft core, Hotaru’s gentleness, Dai’s cynicism. For 4000 words, they’re not bad sketches. The characters are all very distinct, and I can relate to Akio’s confusion and all his other emotions. He touches me.

However, because there are so many characters, each is only sketched and not coloured in. Each has one defining characteristic – they are not multifaceted characters. Even after 4000 words, I have no idea what Akio is going to do next, because I know nothing of his personality besides his denial. This is not to say the characters must be predictable. People aren’t predictable. But by the end, the reader should feel like they can see inside Akio’s head. As previously mentioned, Akio still feels like a stranger to me because he doesn’t actually do much in the fic; he just has things happen to him. Yuuto actually gets a bit of development, as he goes from the stereotypical druggie to helping Akio, but by doing so he becomes another stereotype: the badass who’s really a softie. I don’t know why Yuuto takes care of Akio; I don’t know the reasoning behind any of his actions. This would be fine if Yuuto were a minor character, but in this fic everyone’s relationships with Akio are focused on equally. (Okay, maybe except Professor Iglesia’s.) At the moment, there’s just not enough to build a relationship upon. Perhaps if the fic focused on Akio’s confusion in one or two areas, his relationships with one or two selected characters, the main characters could be developed more fully.

-Settings (13/15 points): This is easily the strongest feature of the fic. A god choice of details ensures that we get a vivid image of every place without endless description. For example, with Akio’s house, the yearly fresh coat of white paint and the white welcome mat are telling details of the family’s showy affluence. The park where the trio hangs out, with its floating plastic, reflects the lazy, nothing-to-do nature of the trio’s lives. However, the statement that ‘The damn thing is an eyesore’ ruins the description of the house for me, because from the rest of the paragraph I already understand how Akio thinks the house is so obnoxious. It feels like Akio is trying to force his opinion of the house’s ugliness into my head, especially since a whole sentence is dedicated to it. If Akio referred to the house as an ‘eyesore’ in passing, it wouldn’t sound so overemphasized.

-Overall Appreciation (7/10 points): It’s good. There’s a strong sense of conflict that kept me reading, and Akio’s character is intriguing. The setting is also done very well. However, the piece lacked a bit of focus. If the fic were more focused on Akio’s inner conflict and developed him more as a character, letting the readers see what he’ll try to do to resolve his conflict, it would work a lot better.

It’s great to see you branching out from fantasy into different genres and different writing styles. Keep at it!

Final Result: 75/100 = 75%.

The Forbidden
by Samchu

mario72486’s Judging

Plot (15/20 points): The plot itself was engaging to a point, but I didn’t truly dive into it until the very end. Perhaps it’s because it wasn’t sustaining to someone like me, or perhaps I haven’t involved myself in enough styles of writing to truly appreciate this. This is certainly a great attempt when it comes to bringing in readers of different tastes together to enjoy a different piece of literature. The elements themselves, including the major relationship and the foreboding - not to mention forbidden - gate, were captivating enough to make people wonder what was going to happen next.

Plot Originality (7/10 points): In terms of the ‘forbidden’ gate, the only real twist was what the consequences were for being near it during the night in question. Somehow you knew that something bad was going to happen, but at least it was somewhat of a surprise. Then again, that surprise suddenly turned stale, since we’ve seen this sort of scenario - involving creatures coming out from another dimension - on more than one occasion.

What did shine was the relationship between Hiro and Aryen. One might suppose that a committed relationship between the two was, in itself, forbidden. And what happened between the two the night before (alright, gentlemen, get your heads out of the gutter) is definitely forbidden if you’re going by certain religious beliefs. Whether this was a divine intervention separating the two for good, or a case of Fate dealing a bad hand, is left for the reader to decide. Methinks it’s best that way.

Writing Style (15/20 points): When it comes to reviewing works like this, one has to really dig deep and read carefully. The descriptions and dialogue were good enough, and the story did flow well, but it had a slower and steadier pace than many would have liked. Despite a few issues with grammar at certain points, this was easy to read; however, because of the pacing, most readers would probably skim through this.

Spelling and Grammar (7/10 points): A few spelling and grammar errors here and there. Not much else to report here.

Characters (12/15 points): The two main characters, while not as developed as I thought they’d be, played their respective roles perfectly. On one hand, you have Hiro, who’s always looking out for Aryen’s best interests and tries everything in his power to win her over. On the other hand there’s Aryen, whose conflicting emotions and decisions lead her to a fate no one wants to imagine. One can really connect and sympathize with them, which is a big plus. The other two characters were there to move the plot along, but I feel that they should have been had a slightly bigger role, especially when it comes to the ending scene

When the issues of love and commitment come into play, both characters feel the pains. Aryen’s indecision when it came to revealing her feelings for Hiro brings up many a question, and I’m sure many have had to go through similar forms of agony. Is the person you’re with truly the one? Do you truly love him/her enough to spend the rest of your life with them? Truthfully, I don’t think Aryen would have been able to answer ‘yes’ to either of those questions.

I must say I am disappointed in the way Hiro left Aryen to her fate. There are those out there who, if they were in his shoes, wouldn’t hesitate to try and save her, or make the ultimate choice and go into the void with her. If one is that devoted to someone, regardless of how the significant other feels about them, asking them whether he/she loves you before making the decision is simply out of the question.

Settings (10/15 points): The set pieces were described well enough, but I’m not sure if the reader would get a good sense of where and when this story takes place. There is no specification whatsoever, which can easily let the average reader down. Perhaps if the festival was better described, including how often and why it is celebrated, it’d give everyone a clearer idea of the setting. As it is right now, many would be left without a clue.

Overall Appreciation (7/10 points): An interesting story with a average concept. It started off well, but it essentially fell flat on its face at the very end. I’m sure this wasn’t the author’s intention, but that’s what it felt like when I finished reading it. It probably would have been better off if Aryen was able to give a definitive answer to Hiro. Then again, that wouldn’t leave behind so many concepts to ponder. For that, I have a good sense of appreciation for this piece.

Final Result: 73/100 points = 73%

mistysakura’s judging

-Plot (11/20 points): The plot is fairly straightforward – on the surface, the conflict is whether Hiro will go through the gate, but it also symbolizes Hiro’s needs in his relationship with Ayren. The ‘forbidden’ in having sex is juxtaposed with the ‘forbidden’ of the gate. This adds a bit of depth to the story, and gives it more interest than the usual ‘do you dare to do the forbidden’ plot.

The relationship part of the plot is done well, showing Hiro’s dependency and Ayren’s dominance in the relationship. However, for me the key scene lacks impact. This is mostly because the menace of the gate is not built up enough. Physically, the gate is described well, but before Ayren enters the gate, the reader has no idea of the risks involved in entering. For all we know, the gate could just be some pretty illusion that no one has dared to enter because it looks weird. We aren’t convinced the gate is a danger. Given that the key conflict here is how much Hiro and Ayren are willing to stake on their relationship, if the reader doesn’t know what’s at stake by entering the gate, the reader can’t understand the emotional turmoil Hiro and Ayren are going through. This makes them less emotionally attached to the story and its characters. Perhaps some legends could be included about how people entered and never returned. Or how the gate is the physical manifestation of the wrath of the blood moon. Anything that builds up the mystery and danger surrounding the gate, so that Ayren entering the gate is actually climatic.

In a short story, every word, every action contributes to something, be it the plot, character development or just the atmosphere. Anything that doesn’t drive the short story towards its climax detracts from the focus of the story. Take a look at everything in the fic and ask yourself: is this necessary? To me, Tairen and Nobu aren’t necessary. Ayren is already so dead set on going to the Gate that she doesn’t need further encouragement from Tairen and Nobu, which is the only thing they do in the plot. Tairen and Nobu don’t contribute much to building up Hiro and Ayren’s characters either, because their major scene just involves a lot of talking about the Gate. Instead of introducing these extraneous characters, this time could be used to explore Hiro and Ayren’s relationship further. OR maybe to show why Ayren wants so much to go through the Gate, besides curiosity and a sense that there is “nothing for us here”. The reader realizes how miserable Ayren’s life was, but it could be further emphasized how the Gate is seen by her as an escape. This would make the plot make more sense.

-Plot Originality (6/10 points): The Gate itself is not that original; neither is the challenge to go through it. However, I expected Hiro to follow Ayren to the ends of the earth. His refusal to go with her unless she said she loved him surprised me.

-Writing Style (15/20 points): The interaction between Hiro and Ayren at the start is excellent. Every little gesture and manner of speech shows their intimacy. In general, the dialogue is kept lively by the characters’ little actions. The festival is also described well with a myriad of colours, although the description is generic and could be spiced up by describing striking things that are unique to this festival, as you did with the blood moon blankets. The physical description of the gate is very clear. However, the tone for the scene where they get to the gate could be a lot more suspenseful and mysterious. At the moment, the Gate is standing in the middle of nowhere, and the setting is quite pretty, really, with the sunset. Perhaps you could describe stray wolves howling, or the wind grazing their cheeks, to increase the tension in the scene. Like how you had the bushes rustling and the high-pitched giggle cut short. It would make the climax less sudden, and make Hiro’s fear more realistic.

Ayren’s childhood experiences are described well enough for the reader to empathise with her, but it really slows down the action and takes away from the suspense to have a long childhood spiel as they’re waiting for the menace of the gate. Perhaps Ayren’s background could be interwoven into her actions; for example, you could say that a certain gesture reminded Hiro of Ayren’s contempt when she was sent to bed without supper as a child for dirtying her clothes. Or something like that.

Overall, you do a great job with character descriptions (see below).

P.S. I just realized why I was so confused about The Gate. It never actually says that it’s the gateway to Hiro and Ayren’s world as they know it. I assume it’s the gate on the city walls or something. Because the location of the Gate isn’t specified, I kept visualizing this random door in the middle of a field, or a door to a building. A precise location for the Gate, and what its adjoining walls are, would help.

-Spelling and Grammar (9/10 points):
‘“I’m merely admiring your beauty,” his tone was playful but there was meaning to his words.’ If a quote ends with a comma, the rest of the sentence has to be the action of saying the quote. So you can have ‘“Blah,” he said while eating a bagel’. However, in this case “his tone was playful…” isn’t the action of speaking “I’m merely admiring your beauty”; it’s just a description of his tone. So there should be a period and the start of a new sentence after “beauty”.
“Fresh hold” should be “threshold”.

-Characters (13/15 points): I hope Hiro’s supposed to be despicable, because you’ve done a good job of portraying him as despicable. Refusing to follow Ayren or save her from the unknown, when for all he knows the Gate could kill her, just because she won’t say “I love you”, screams neediness and selfishness. It’s such a stupid thing for which to give up a relationship. Anyway. The way you’ve described the characters, I feel as if I can see inside their heads. It’s fantastic. Hiro and Ayren’s characters show in the way they speak, the way they act. Hiro’s thoughts are consistent and in depth, so from the outset we understand how he needs to know Ayren loves him, and Ayren’s aloofness makes sense of her refusing to say she loves Hiro at the very end. They’re also well-rounded characters – we see Hiro’s shyness as well as his devotion, and we even learn tidbits like Ayren’s bad cooking.

As said before, Tairen and Nobin are unnecessary characters. I also find Ayren and Hiro’s guardian a bit of a clichéd wicked stepmother, but that couldn’t be helped given that she’s a minor character and developing her further would magnify her importance disproportionately. The one thing that bugs me most, as I alluded to before, is that I really thought Hiro’s love for Ayren would win out over his need to prove that Ayren loves him in return. I had such a strong impression of Hiro’s devotion. I never thought it would be conditional, despite his neediness. This reduced Hiro’s believability for me.

-Settings (11/15 points):The blood moon festival is an interesting setting. As said before, the Gate and the festival are described well, although an exact location of the Gate, and what type of gate it is, would help. The individual settings work well, but I have trouble picturing how this city/town/village fits together, because I don’t know where this Gate is, and I can’t picture the Gate’s surroundings either. So it would be great to have some overall impression of Hiro and Ayren’s world.

-Overall Appreciation (7/10 points): This fic really shines because of its characters. I was captivated by their story and interested in finding out what would happen between Hiro and Ayren. However, the buildup to the climax, and the climax itself, could be a lot stronger, especially if it was made clear what was at stake if Hiro or Ayren went through the gate.

Keep writing, dude. With good characters, nothing is beyond your reach.

Final Result: 72/100 = 72%.

Walking Home by Bulbasaur4: 79+75 = 154 points
The Forbidden by Samchu: 73+72 = 145 points

Congratulations to Bulbasaur4 for winning the May Fanfiction Writing Contest. A banner will be coming along shortly. Thanks again to all who participated, and I hope to see you next time!