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Interpretation: A World-Building One-Shot Contest

Negrek

Lost but Seeking
No worries. We chose not to put a word limit on entries, despite the fact that we knew people might run long with them. Yours is certainly not the longest entry we've seen since we started doing contests here.
 

Venia Silente

[](int x){return x;}
Yeah. And it's not like some of us had not the plans to write heavier or longer entries as well, I know I had to prune some things at least :p
it just... sometimes it does work out, as it might happen in your case; sometimes it just doesn't. All in all that you were able to actually push it says something.

And good luck with your writing, don't let "perfect hindsight" get to you! *hugs*
 

Starlight Aurate

Just a fallen star
Yeah. And it's not like some of us had not the plans to write heavier or longer entries as well, I know I had to prune some things at least :p
it just... sometimes it does work out, as it might happen in your case; sometimes it just doesn't. All in all that you were able to actually push it says something.

And good luck with your writing, don't let "perfect hindsight" get to you! *hugs*
*Hugs back* Thanks for that :) It really did make me feel better. I was just worrying since I was wondering if what I did was selfish since I hadn't thought about how much time and work the judges would ahve to do in reading and re-reading everything multiple times and offering their critique. I've also been kinda dreading the results since I realize the mistakes I made and have been worrying about how hard I'm going to get nailed for them XD I guess there's no use crying over it now, but to just leave it into their hands.

Negrek said:
No worries. We chose not to put a word limit on entries, despite the fact that we knew people might run long with them. Yours is certainly not the longest entry we've seen since we started doing contests here.
And thanks for that too :) I realized that mine wasn't as long as Chozo's for the HGSS contest, but that it did come pretty close.

And someone left me a comment saying that I was "a sweetheart." Since it was left anonymously, I feel that I have no choice but to say this: I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. But what I can tell you are that I have a very particular set of skills; skills that I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you leave me your name now, that will be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will thank you.

Good luck to everyone involved, and once again, I cannot express my gratitude at the work that has been put into this.
 

Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Just wondering, Dragonfree, how long is Florida vacation? And if you're on vacation will someone else be able to inform us when Psychic is done?
 

Dragonfree

Just me
Just wondering, Dragonfree, how long is Florida vacation? And if you're on vacation will someone else be able to inform us when Psychic is done?
I'll be there until February 8th. Apparently the place does have internet, though, so I should be able to post the results while I'm there.
 

Venia Silente

[](int x){return x;}
What are the news on publication of the results so far?
 

Psychic

Really and truly
Hey guys, sorry about yet another delay. I am mostly finished at this point, but I'm trying to round out my reviews to ensure I offer fair and constructive criticism that covers the strengths and weaknesses of each story. I'm tentative to give an exact date for when I'll be finished, but I'll have a lot more time after my midterm exam this week.

~Psychic
 
Hello, making the bump for March I suppose. Am hoping Psychic's midterms went well.
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
So I just got a call from a friend, he has an uncle who works at Nintendo and it seems they've been following this contest for the last 10-or-so months. This uncle mentioned that, given the relative interest brought on by releases like Origins, the company wants to secure the rights for an anime special based off of the winning entry.

HOWEVER, he gave me an urgent call earlier today, it seems the offer for the rights is on the verge of being withdrawn, with the end of negotiations expected to be tomorrow. There's currently some debating going on about whether or not the deadline should be extended or not, but with no real signs of anything, it's hard for his uncle to make an argument for a deadline extension, in particular since Studio IG wants a definitive answer as soon as possible to start working on designs.

Would there happen to be a date that could be offered up to my friend and from there to his uncle as to when to expect to be able to see the winning entry by?
 
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Psychic

Really and truly
I am pretty much done my semester as of tonight, so aside from presenting a proposal tomorrow for a summer Pokemon convention I've got a lot more time on my hands now. I'm thinking within the next week.
 

Venia Silente

[](int x){return x;}
So, uhm... I've looked out my window and it's autumn again, so I was wondering how long until results are given, again. We're at about one month away for this contest being already one year old and whatever novelty or interest my story could have had would be cold and gone by this point.

Honestly, I have to seriously question the decision by the staff to forbid any sort of publishing on the entries on our own for a period this long, even more considering it was known and acknowledged (sorry, that was another contest >_>) that the release of X/Y and the new generation would induce important further delay. On a more personal note, given I have a more or less dangerous work trip coming up soon, I would rather receive note on results and or releases before having to take the chance of not coming back (not horribly important, but not trivial either).

Can't really say I'm sorry for being insistent. The psychological fourth season barrier long broke, no matter much much patience and good disposition one has, it's not infinite and it eventually wears thin.
 
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Dragonfree

Just me
Nobody sat down and decided "Let's hold the contestants' fics hostage for a year." I entirely understand your impatience - I'm pretty impatient too at this point - but acting like there's some kind of willful assholishness involved is manifestly unhelpful; we asked you not to post your entry until the rankings were out in October, at which time we had absolutely no reason to think that would be an unreasonably long time.

I'd be asking Psychic about her status but she's not on right now. Believe me, nobody is more sorry this happened than us.
 

Dragonfree

Just me
Interpretation: A World-Building One-Shot Contest
The Results!

Drumroll, please! The results of the contest are finally here.

On behalf of all the judges I would like to extend our sincere apologies for the lengthy wait. We hope our reviews will prove helpful to you despite their inevitable datedness and that everyone will enjoy reading the entries and judging.

To briefly explain the scoring system we're using, each judge ranks the entries in order from first to thirteenth place. Each place gives a certain number of points, as follows:

1st place: 150 points
2nd place: 130 points
3rd place: 115 points
4th place: 100 points
5th place: 90 points
6th place: 80 points
7th place: 70 points
8th place: 60 points
9th place: 50 points
10th place: 40 points
11th place: 30 points
12th place: 20 points
13th place: 10 points

The points corresponding to each judge's placing for each entry are added together to make its final score, and the entries are then ranked by that final score.

I will be posting thirteen posts here, one for each story in the contest, in reverse order by final placement. Please do not post in the thread until all thirteen have been posted.

Thank you for participating!



13th place: Chrysalis of the Wish Maker by jireh the provider

Scoring
Dragonfree: 13th place (10 points)
Negrek: 13th place (10 points)
Phoenixsong: 13th place (10 points)
Psychic: 12th place (20 points)
Total: 50 points

Chrysalis of the Wish Maker

In the peak of Mt. Pyre –land of the dead with polished graveyard stones made out of Graveler rocks, misty fog blurring the sight of many sharp eyed humans, some cracked rocks that formed caves found near the entrance to the grave serving as home to the residing pokemon- two humans lament the loss of an innocent boy. One is an old woman wearing a red and white shirt covering the right half and left half side respectively. No other fancy designs. She’s also wearing a long orange skirt slowly gliding east with the wind. Her white hair his rather short and wrinkled. Thankful that Tornadus is not present today, she turns to the Veteran Trainer –in the 50s of age- dropping portions of his soul from his face to the gray stone of his son’s final cocoon. “One that closes the living, one that opens the afterlife.”

Dressed in a black tuxedo suit, black pants, dark leather shoes, and a plain white necktie, he slowly regains his composure from draining out the rustic liquids out of his purple eyes. This trainer has faced many trials, battled trainers of many kinds, marked his name to many gyms and elites of many regions. But nothing compares to that eventful night a week ago. A night that involves Team Plasma, his son named Alm, and the Wish Maker pokemon.
______________________________

“Jolteon! Thunderbolt!” with the yellow spikey eeveelution’s fur rising like spikes from a man-made trap, lines of electricity surged through dozens of Plasma Grunts charging him with their modernized spears –tips of the weapon designed after their very own historical emblem. Not only they have lightning rods that harmed them, it also damaged their black pirate like uniforms as well.

When it’s about to command its pokemon to use Signal Beam on the next group of plasma grunts, a loud scream –akin to a young girl in extreme pain hinting some anger- echoes all over the young man’s place. As every living thing looks at the top of Mt. Pyre, a fountain of metallic light beams scatter all over the sky. Thought it was an astonishing awe for the grunts, uneasiness weighs the parental father. It is then that that the beams fly forward on their own –like braviaries soaring high in the sky- finding the grunts.

Screams of agony rain over the veteran’s land as more plasma grunts get killed by the beams of light piercing through their chests. Running like a protective Latios alongside his trusted eeveelution, they raced through the nearby tree. He couldn’t help but stare at the carnage. Traces of blood fresh from the hundreds of Plasma Grunts are dead at the sound of light. If the deaths are not enough to scare both trainer and pokemon, add a tattooed red eye with three lines made out of blood in every dead body … their deaths are hardcore horrors.

When the beams of light spirited away, he immediately takes action running to the peak of Mt. Pyre. Arriving at the peak, what he and his companion saw dropped their morale down low.
“Who are you? Are you here to capture me? After my protector died by your minion’s hands?” this pokemon is certainly Jirachi – a legendary known to grant wishes, a three pointed star head with three wish tags, stubby feet, two golden leather like wings, two arms with a wide wrist- almost. From its tone alone, she’s got to be the origin of the crying sound. The Veteran’s pokemon gets too uneasy seeing its open third eye glow red with three diamond-like linings of red below its third eye. Its once short aqua tear line below its eyes extended to its cheeks as if its eyes are bleeding. Alongside its light blue halo above the legendary’s head, six -thin, hexagonal- wings levitate at her side. Twelve glowing red lines form at the edges of her pair of wings: enough to freeze the bravery of any living being –if you exclude Azelf herself- as if this Jirachi becomes a vessel for Giratina in terms of punishment similarities.

“I’m not one of them Jirachi. It’s me. Alm’s daddy. Why couldn’t you protect my child?! If you had much longer, I could have saved both-”gripped by a chocking strong Psychic, this is the only time in the old Trainer’s life to be restrained by a Psychic type pokemon. Every red part from the wish pokemon glows even brighter threatening its own health. Facing naïve anger is much scarier unlike an anger of purpose: an experience the veteran it cannot ever forget. The fear of anger is something that he finds too difficult to overcome in his early days.

“You dare being “mean” to me? After he saved me from being killed!? It’s your fault for not coming here sooner!” the veteran would not want to hurt the legendary even if his Jolteon whimper him to attack. Alas he could not, unless he never heard of Jirachi being with his son a few days ago. He couldn’t help but shed a few tears from seeing the corpse of his little brother below her, age of 12, with a gaping wound through its chest. Ordering his Jolteon to stay put, swallowing the inner regret regretting the regretting legendary pokemon merely defending itself.

For the little legendary, seeing an old man crying for his son is something she understands, which lets him off her hook. Its tiny fingers loosen when the invisible power fades out,
“I … I’m sorry. My son, protected you? A-are you … bleeding?” seeing the little legendary look at the young boy’s corpse shedding its own tears, being a mature person throughout his life, the Veteran trainer knew how much guilt Jirachi is feeling the moment. Among that guilt came from the veteran trainer himself. The little star had to hold the small bleeding cut just below its third eye.

“I am fine. It is the seventh night. I won’t be sleeping alone now,” looking at the Millennium comet, the starry pokemon touches the dead body of the young boy, “Mister Vet. I’m sorry. Your son won’t have to suffer anymore. Alm’s soul will live the rest of his life with me. Forever.”

As Jirachi closes her eyes, every odd “figures” that made her scary fade away with the wind as her third eye returned to normal and fired a blue laser towards the comet. As the beam returns to her eye –also covering her with golden light-, the ground vibrates for a bit, nearly tripping both the Veteran trainer and his Jolteon. A minute later, her “brightness” fades out to witness Jirachi slept at the boy’s dead body as she uses her Psychic powers to position the body to that of a baby inside a mother’s womb covering its own metal stature as it turns into glowing yellow particles quickly absorbed to the little pokemon.

Eye to eye the human and legendary look to each other’s souls, it will be the last time they meet face to face.
“Just like that? Can’t we say goodbye to Alm? Please Jirachi. I’m his father!” Pitying with his eeveelution, he wanted to at least give his last words. Alas, the legendary nods side wards, denying their tears of mercy.

“You’ll know someday. What Alm chose with his life.” slowly, the purple crystals form around the legendary sleeping peacefully. The Veteran felt the pang of envy seeing that peaceful smile, finding it confusing if it’s forgiveness or ignorant naiveté. Once it starts diving deep into the earth, the ground emits luminous pulses throughout the mountain. Telling that life continues, always moving on with life.

______________________________

“I’m sorry to hear your loss. You want me to tell you a story? Hopefully it can ease your mind for a bit.” Petting the veteran’s Jolteon, both the old woman and the Veteran trainer sit on the grass next to the gravestone. Ever since arriving at the peak of Mt. Pyre this morning, one of the elderly guardians of the two orbs (Orbs that calls out Kyogre and Groudon) have been kind company easing the veteran trainer’s internal wounds. After she empathized, sympathized, and listened to his tale, she looks back on the day when her grandchild was drowned on the ocean near Lilycove city. How could he refuse the offer? He and his eeveelution needed something, or someone, to give them relief. As he said “yes”, the elderly woman looks at the middle of the orbs.

“Before Mount Pyre became the graveyard we know today, seven thousand years ago, it was an elusive city in ancient times. This place was a honeymoon for humans and pokemon, a home for lovers let’s say. During that time in ancient Hoenn, as humanity progressed further to kingdoms, having a pokemon as a mate if you were a human, both will be killed by the early ancestors of Team Plasma. Dubbed as the “Lancers of Reshiram”, they were greatly feared by both humans and pokemon, particularly ones that are mates. The creed of the ancient Plasmas believed that the ideology of a pokemon falling in love and marrying a human is a dirty stain on the truth of “Relationships between humans and pokemon”. Thus many innocent and guilty souls of “human-pokemon couples” died at the Lancers’ hands and spears. For the couples of that time to live in peace, in the dead of night, they give prayers to the stars that they will find the haven that will separate them from the grips of the Lancerian Covenant: the creed of the Lancers of Reshiram. Their belief was that a glowing shooting star will guide the couple to a mountain where the relationship of both human and Pokemon will be tested. If one couple manages to pass the tests laid within the caves and woods, there they will meet the founder of Pyre City. A human emperor named Relanno, and his wife, Jirachi, wish maker and mistress of the earth.”

“Mistress of the earth? How could have Jirachi been dubbed as mistress of the earth? Shouldn’t that belong to Groudon?” it’s not a surprise for the elderly woman to see other veterans puzzled hearing Jirachi’s second nickname. “Groudon is the creator. You see, mistress Jirachi came from the stars.”

“Jirachi was a visitor to our world somewhere 100 years ago here in Mt. Pyre before she and Relanno met. A few years fly by with the two as their friendship developed until mistress Jirachi fell in love with Relanno. When both of them became lifelong mates, they quickly learned about the whereabouts of the Lancerian Covenant and their massive genocide to human-pokemon couples. That is something that both the wish maker and Relanno felt pity. Together along with Mt. Pyre’s residing pokemon, they slowly built a city inside Mt. Pyre: creative yet hidden from the eyes of many. When the city is finished, Jirachi created a star that serves a beacon to their home. But only honest couples will be able to see it in the dead of night. Ones the couple passes the test, they are welcomed as civilians of Pyre City. Sometimes there will be couples who wanted to match their respective mate, either a human turning to a pokemon, or vice versa. Away from the eyes of the ancient people of Hoenn for one hundred years, the city prospered a peaceful life for many human beings.”

“I bet that must be a tough time too. Still, I find it difficult to believe we had pokemon relationships reaching husband and wife standards in history.” Wiping of his face, he gets to see his Jolteon flattered from the old woman’s laughing smile.

“You’re forgetting about the popular tale of Victini and the king of Eindoak. That is a good example about human parent and pokemon child relationships. Relanno and Jirachi’s relationship don’t differ at all young man. Your generation is struggling on understanding the meaning of passionate love for your pokemon.” For the veteran, he can’t speak honestly that he agrees with the law.

“Honestly, don’t make me think about it.” With a face boiling 45 degrees Celsius, he wanted to continue on the story instead of having those alien thoughts ringing all over himself.

“Follow me young man. We will continue there.”



Arriving at the highest point, it takes a sensitive hearer to catch a chime –surrounded by the cries of shuppet- from the distant chimecho. Usually the orbs that control the creation trio steal the show in the eyes of many with its pillar quartz. Digging out the small thin layer topsoil with bare hands, the elder lady unearths on what looks like a stone tablet made out of shining gems. Though it looks jagged and pummeled, the trainer and its Jolteon lost their words.

“That Jirachi you and your child met. I’m sure you met her child. History repeats itself. I believe, your son was involved. This tablet … read and learn her mother’s intentions.” Though he wanted to ask about Jirachi’s child, he’d rather do it later and flipped the tablet to start reading the Unown letters.

A great bloody battle is quickly arriving between three factions. Lancers of Reshiram. Guardians of Groudon. Followers of Kyogre. No thanks to their war, my people were caught in between. It’s like the war that happened in Cameron Palace. Try as we can to not get involved in their battles, all three factions fight over our mountainous city. It is here that the three factions discovered our secret that they called a stain by Arceus. Try as we could, my people … everyone died at their hands. Relanno and I suffered so much for something we never did to them. It’s until that they tried to kill me. Being the founder of this place, I lost almost my entire hope of living this life as I wane to the three powers. However, Relanno, my husband, took my place. I begged him not to do this. I can’t stop him from protecting me. When I see their weapons stab him in the chest together, my soul died painfully. My innocence, forever gone. Anger, my hatred to those factions awakened the darker and revengeful side of me. Power that I can only use if I have matured with the person I wholeheartedly trust. I call out my message of doom, my desire to avenge my beloved. I want those guys dead. I lust to hear their screams of pain and agony. My source of power, the millennium comet, will be the bane of the people who killed my people and my lover. As I look around, I ended one thousand human lives. Only seven homes are standing. Seeing the monster I’ve become, I can’t forgive myself for what I’ve done. I turned to a monster that will be feared by everyone. I have nothing left. As I finished this carving, I wrapped myself with my human husband’s dead body. It is the only thing that is protecting me. I returned on being a wish maker once more as I turned Relanno to my chrysalis cocoon. I wanted to be free from my responsibilities. But fate hits me back. Forever stuck in the cycle as the giver of energy to this planet. At least now, Relanno’s soul will always be with me –as a strong spirit living in my chrysalis cocoon- forever. As I finish writing this before I return to destiny, whoever finds my child, don’t let her face the same fate. For my daughter’s chosen mate, love her with everything you got. Don’t hesitate to make her bear your generation.
“Thus, when explorers found this place, they can only confirm that Mt. Pyre is nothing more but a mountain of many dead humans and pokemon, after learning the history of Pyre City. Two thousand years after the discovery of the mountain, it becomes the Mt. Pyre of today. The location of the two orbs that I oath to protect.” With the cloudy sky covering the peak of the mountain, the Vet cuts out the inner chains within him.
______________________________

“Is this your little secret to me Alm? You dirty little kid. You let your first and last ‘girlfriend’ get you to obey her whim. Pregnate a pokemon. Now I know why you’re quiet about your friendship with that mystical pokemon. I only saw her twice. When she woke up. And her hibernation, along with your sacrifice Alm.” The veteran trainer looks back from the events that happened two weeks ago. Touching the legendary back then tells him that this legendary is too young to be entitled as a ‘legendary’. Along with his 12 year old son’s quiet personality, that Jirachi became the key for Alm to have the friend he needed for so long. A match made in heaven. It still stings for the father to realize that Alm will never become a trainer like him.

“Mister trainer. Care to tell me about your son?” For a father, he happily tells the grandma about his son’s early days as a poor victim of bullies. Others included his favorite Lava Cookie snacks, his gifted intellect, problematic discipline to older people, and his desire of travelling the world. Indecisiveness is the one flaw that even his Jolteon remember so well contrast to the veteran’s personality. Seems his son have most of his dead wife’s qualities. Only his travelling desire stayed at him.

“Mister Veteran. I don’t think you should really weep about your son now. He’s got Jirachi on his side now. History repeats itself. You should be proud that he finally has the one pokemon your sonny has. I think this Jirachi changed him for the better.”

Perhaps this granny is right. Maybe he does not mind having Alm marry his beloved Jirachi in another world.
______________________________

August 14, 2028

…This is Hoenn Forecast breaking news exclusive!​

After a month of investigation, the detectives come to a conclusion that whoever killed the entire Team Plasma army on Mt. Pyre, the answer would be unknown.
The only evidence left are the symbolic red eye markings founds on every dead body (evidence #467505).

For the death of Veteran Trainer Sumatra Wells’ son, Alm Wells, his body is never found. After a witness testimony from the veteran trainer, he believes that a wild pokemon already took his body away when he arrived at the peak of Mt. Pyre. Possibly eaten by the local predator pokemon.

Up next. Our pokemon of the week to discuss is none other than the elusive Jirachi. And this is Hoenn Forecast! Updating happenings like Castforms …


Reviews

Dragonfree

Your prose is really hard to read. There are several factors at work here: your sentence construction is weird grammatically; you shift between topics abruptly; you frequently use words incorrectly; you often say things in far more words than you actually need; your tone varies bizarrely from one clause to another even within a sentence; your tenses are all over the place; it's frequently hard to tell who is speaking during dialogue because you don't use dialogue tags and it isn't clearly indicated through the paragraphing; and often your use of metaphor or poetic language serves to obfuscate rather than illuminate what you're talking about. The end result is that just trying to make out the basic gist of the story here feels like squinting through a thick fog. This is far and away your biggest problem. Let's look at some examples, just to show what I mean:

In the peak of Mt. Pyre –land of the dead with polished graveyard stones made out of Graveler rocks, misty fog blurring the sight of many sharp eyed humans, some cracked rocks that formed caves found near the entrance to the grave serving as home to the residing pokemon- two humans lament the loss of an innocent boy.
It's a bad sign when your reader stumbles over the very first sentence of your story; it has barely started when you fling us into a strange insertion whose slightly-off grammatical structure makes it hard to tell what's going on in it. I couldn't properly parse it as a description of Mt. Pyre until I'd stopped and reread it a couple of times. The core of your opening sentence is "In the peak of Mt. Pyre, two humans lament the loss of an innocent boy", which is simple, easy to understand and stands perfectly well on its own - the description of Mt. Pyre would be better off getting its own sentence than inserted awkwardly into the middle of one that isn't even really about Mt. Pyre. You also wouldn't generally talk about being "in" a peak, and when you say the fog blurred the sight of "many sharp eyed humans", you make it sound like there are many people there, making it confusing when there are actually just two.

Thankful that Tornadus is not present today, she turns to the Veteran Trainer –in the 50s of age- dropping portions of his soul from his face to the gray stone of his son’s final cocoon.
I assume by "Thankful that Tornadus is not present today" you're just saying she's glad it's not storming, in a roundabout way (after all, why would Tornadus be literally present in Hoenn and why would that be something people spend their time worrying about?). But that's exactly the problem: this roundaboutness makes it unnecessarily take a moment to piece together what you're talking about, and it interrupts the flow of the story. Why have her think of Tornadus instead of just directly of the weather?

The "dropping portions of his soul from his face to the gray stone of his son's final cocoon" bit is perhaps your most illustrative example of a metaphor that just obfuscates what you're saying, though. Sure, I get that what you mean is that he's crying over the gravestone. But "dropping portions of his soul from his face" doesn't naturally evoke the image of tears; it's a puzzle whose answer is tears. Your readers should not have to solve puzzles to understand what you're talking about - again, they need to take a split second to piece it together, which disrupts their reading. If you just wrote, say, that his soul is streaming down his cheeks, it would make the reader think of tears immediately and the metaphor of tears as bits of his soul would come through straightforwardly - but nothing about "dropping portions of his soul from his face" naturally sounds like tears.

I don't really think you should be going out of your way to write fancy metaphors about his tears, though, even in a more immediately comprehensible form. This is a father grieving for his child; I think the sadness of the scene would be conveyed better by laying it bare than by trying to layer anything on top of it. On a similar basis, I don't think the cocoon bit works well here. A grave is a more powerful and emotional image than a cocoon. Making graves into cocoons works to make them seem less sad and significant - it's something you might do to convey a hope-filled sense that death is only a transformation. In a sad scene about a grieving father, that's almost definitely not what you want. Death should probably seem final and horrible here.

Overall, it feels like you use metaphorical language to sound more lofty and sophisticated, rather than because it helps get something across to the reader. Metaphor can be a highly effective tool in writing, but you need to keep in mind exactly what you want to accomplish with it and consider in each case whether it's the best way to accomplish that.

Dressed in a black tuxedo suit, black pants, dark leather shoes, and a plain white necktie, he slowly regains his composure from draining out the rustic liquids out of his purple eyes.
Aside from how "rustic" is definitely not the word you're looking for, your weird grammar strikes again: he regains his composure "from" drying his tears? That should be something like "after" or "by" (I can't tell which you mean). "Draining out" is also a strange way to describe drying tears, the "out" shouldn't be there because you've got "out of" later, and yet again, by referring to his tears as "liquids", "rustic" or otherwise, you're unnecessarily obfuscating your actual meaning without adding anything.

When it’s about to command its pokemon to use Signal Beam on the next group of plasma grunts, a loud scream –akin to a young girl in extreme pain hinting some anger- echoes all over the young man’s place.
Here you inexplicably seem to refer to the man (or maybe his son?) as an "it", not once but twice. Then you say a loud scream is "akin to a young girl in extreme pain hinting some anger" - hinting some anger? "Hinting" is implying something without stating it outright - a loud scream isn't "hinting" anger, much less only "some" anger. I think you're trying to say it's a scream of pain with a hint of anger to it as well, but what you actually say is that the scream is like a girl who is hinting at some anger, and when we imagine a girl "hinting" at anger we definitely don't picture her screaming. The image is confusing and awkward.

And what is "the young man's place"? The previous paragraph only told us about a Jolteon and some Plasma grunts, and now you bring up some place associated with some young man (who?) without any explanation.

Thought it was an astonishing awe for the grunts, uneasiness weighs the parental father.
Aside from the typo ("thought" when you mean "though"), you don't say something is "an astonishing awe for" somebody. Awe is an emotion - something can inspire awe, or the grunts can watch it in awe (even in astonished awe), but a thing can't be an awe. You can say uneasiness was "weighing on" him, but not just "weighing" - weighing without an accompanying preposition is assessing the weight of something. Then there's "parental father", which simply feels redundant and kind of ridiculous - you may be using "parental" to mean he's fatherly and not just a father, but "parental father" doesn't sound a lot less silly than the obviously awkward "fatherly father", and in any case if he's fatherly we should be able to see this in the story without you explicitly telling us he is in the narration.

Running like a protective Latios alongside his trusted eeveelution, they raced through the nearby tree.
What does "running like a protective Latios" mean? Similes are meant to compare aspects of the unfamiliar thing you're describing to aspects of something familiar or otherwise easy to picture, but I'm drawing a blank as to what aspect of Latios I should be picturing and transferring onto this situation - is there some distinct manner in which Latios runs protectively alongside others, as opposed to anyone else? (Can Latios even run to begin with?) And they went "through" a tree? You probably mean towards, or past.

And that's just some examples from the very first page. Unfortunately, the entire story is like this: almost every sentence is grammatically weird, misuses some words, or is otherwise confusing. I'd first and foremost recomend studying the grammar of sentence structure and relaxing with the metaphors; that alone would help you a great deal. But I also strongly suggest getting a beta reader who can tell you when your prose is difficult to understand and help you make it less so.

All this matters because it very genuinely made it hard to figure out pretty fundamental aspects of what was going on. When at one point you casually referred to Alm as "his little brother" instead of what I presume was meant to be "his son", I genuinely couldn't tell whether it was an oddly specific typo or if Alm had an older brother who was also there (perhaps the mysterious "young man" you referred to at one point). Even rereading the story several times didn't entirely clear it up - I'm pretty sure by now that there is no brother, but that's mostly because I figure said brother would be mentioned doing something in a more obvious way if he were there.

I also found it pretty weird how, after talking about romantic Pokémon/human relationships for a while including Jirachi and Relanno, the old woman starts comparing them to Victini and the King of Eindoak's parent/child-like relationship, saying they "don't differ at all". What? Parent/child relationships are pretty different from romantic relationships, for hopefully obvious reasons, and comparing a romantic relationship to a parent/child one is the fast track to creepyland (though to be honest, the fact apparently Alm got Jirachi pregnant at the age of twelve is already partway there). Again, I'm genuinely not sure if that's actually what you meant or if you were trying to say something else that came across weirdly.

The stone tablet just doesn't appear to make a lot of sense no matter how I look at it. Apparently these are Jirachi's words, but then two thirds through she says "As I finished this carving...", which implies she's already finished writing it, and then she just goes on to describe what happened seemingly after she carved the tablet. Seeing as she can't time travel, this doesn't pan out. In general the tablet doesn't consistently read like something a character wrote down - in large part she seems to be narrating what's going on, rather than describing what has already happened and her thoughts on it, which would be what text written by a character would normally look like. (At least, it seems to me she's narrating what's going on. Yet again, your prose makes it really hard to tell for sure.)

The actual story of a boy and a Jirachi falling in love and their persecution could be compelling, but I'm afraid I don't think you focused on the most interesting parts of that story - you only tell us vaguely about it after the fact, instead of actually showing us how their relationship develops or the feelings they have for each other. Why did you choose to focus on Alm's father and the random woman on Mt. Pyre? They seem wholly unrelated to the actual storyline - the woman does tell us about some relevant history, but you could just as easily have shown actual scenes with Jirachi's mother and Relanno, for instance. I think the story would be better focused around the star-crossed lovers themselves.

I'm also puzzled by your formatting. Why would you choose to underline all the non-dialogue in two scenes that are also set apart with italics? Underlines make text harder to read; they're for highlighting individual words or phrases, not entire paragraphs and much less scenes, and are basically never used in fiction writing. Distinguishing the flashback and news report from the main narrative is done fine by the italics, while distinguishing between dialogue and narration is done with quotation marks. There's no reason to want to give special formatting to dialogue simply because it is dialogue, and if you for some reason desperately needed to, it would be more logical to do it the other way around, with the dialogue underlined.

As for the interpretation, I can't help but feel you're not really building on canon here, but just making stuff up - to paraphrase Negrek's response to you in the contest thread, we're not looking for stories about Sandgem Town's werewolf legends unless there are canonically werewolf legends in Sandgem Town. I suppose the idea of Team Plasma having originated as an organization crusading against Pokémon/human relationships is based on their conviction that Pokémon and humans need to be separated, and that makes sense enough, but there is nothing in canon to my knowledge that might even vaguely hint that Jirachi was in a romantic relationship with a human, or that Mt. Pyre used to be a city of human/Pokémon couples, or that Jirachi can transform into a separate scary monstrous form. You aren't interpreting canon so much as simply adding a bunch your own material onto it. Unfortunately that isn't the kind of thing this contest was meant for.

So, in conclusion, you've got what looks like a pretty dramatic plot in there and it could probably make for a pretty interesting story, but I'm afraid the execution has a lot of problems and it's not quite right for this contest.


Negrek

This story is honestly difficult to puzzle out most of the time. It's full of typos, the syntax is a mess, the grammar is all over the place, punctuation problems abound, and your word choice is bizarre. The formatting only makes things worse; I'm not sure what possessed you to decide that some parts of this needed to be italicized and underlined, but it's practically unreadable.

I think you really need to work on getting the basic rules of writing down before anything else. If you're able to find someone to beta for you or otherwise coach you on the writing process, that'd be best. Other than that, working hard on your basic grammar and punctuation mechanics is a must. Above all, I think reading your work aloud, or perhaps better, finding someone else to read it to you, is going to be the most helpful. I'm pretty sure that by listening to how your writing actually sounds when read aloud you'll be able to catch most of the awkward non-sentences that pop up all over the story, like "Ordering his Jolteon to stay put, swallowing the inner regret regretting the regretting legendary pokemon merely defending itself." Generally speaking, if it sounds sensible when said out loud, it's at least not going to make an incomprehensible sentence on paper.

This story also shows signs of your working at making it seem literary and sophisticated. You use a lot of relatively fancy vocabulary, but quite often do so inappropriately, as in the case where you refer to tears as "rustic liquid." Liquid can't be rustic. Other times, you lean so heavily on the prose that it just becomes laughably melodramatic, as when the veteran crying is referred to as him "dropping portions of his soul from his face." That's so over the top that it doesn't come across as dramatic or profound, but rather as silly. Just say he was crying. Really.

You need to get some kind of legible prose style worked out before you start worrying about whether your vocabulary is too limited or start trying to cram metaphors in everywhere. For now, I think you want to focus on keeping things as simple and clear-cut as possible, and once you've got that down, start working towards using fancier techniques if you'd like.

As for the content itself--the whole human/pokémon marriage thing mentioned in the Sinnoh Myth series definitely invites expansion and interpretation. I think choosing to look at it in hindsight and from the perspective of the veteran is a weak choice, though, since you primarily end up recapping events that would have given you more opportunity to really dig into the message of your story had you actually made them the focus. I mean, I think what's really interesting in this story isn't the fact that this guy's son died, but rather the idea of something like an incredibly powerful chiliads-old alien that nevertheless manages to fall in love with a human. How would that even work? How is that kind of relationship viewed by other people (humans and pokémon both)? Obviously the Lancers of Reshiram don't like it, and maybe Team Plasma as well, but what about the people (if any) who do? There's the potential for a lot more analysis by focusing on the actual relationships alluded to in this story, rather than looking at them after their respective ends. As it is, you make nods towards some interesting issues rather than actually discussing them.

The human/pokémon relationship element actually feels almost tangential to the story: it's the reason the Lancers of Reshiram went after Jirachi in the past and (maybe?) why the veteran's son died, but you could easily have substituted different motivations for those events and ended up with essentially the same story. That indicates to me that you weren't really pushing your ideas as far as they could go and digging into the implications of the topic you'd chosen to explore. For this contest you want the interpretation to be central, so you want to make sure that the story can't work without it.

Ultimately I think that while the story elements of this entry aren't perfect, they're workable enough at their cores. What's really most important for you to do first, then, is make sure your story comes through good and clear--no way for me to appreciate your ideas if I'm baffled by your prose.


Phoenixsong

You've definitely gone into some interesting and complicated territory with this one. Forbidden love, lots of violence, a grieving father and an ancient city... there's a lot going on in just the first few paragraphs. Unfortunately for the complicated plot this story was full of distracting mistakes that, above all else, made it prohibitively hard to understand.

First and foremost, stop trying so hard with the description. You've got to work on getting your point across with simpler language before doing anything fancy. Otherwise you end up pouring on purple prose just for the sake of doing so, and your descriptions get so unwieldy that I either can't take them seriously or have no idea what you mean. For example, in the first paragraph you describe the man's crying as "dropping portions of his soul", which is painfully melodramatic (although poetic). In the next paragraph you call those same tears "rustic liquids", which makes no sense whatsoever. "Rustic" is not a word that describes tears, crying or sadness, and I can't imagine what you intended there. A page later you describe Jirachi shaking her head as "nodding side wards". First of all, you mean "nodding sideways", and second of all, you actually mean shaking her head. Slow down and stop fishing for twenty different ways to describe things that don't need so much detail.

Even when your writing isn't so wildly flowery you have a tendency to say some bizarre things. "An astonishing awe" is nonsensical—something can be "awesome", and a person can be "in awe", but there is no such thing as "an awe". "Parental father" is redundant, because of course a father is a parent. Again, slow down and don't overdo your description. I would give serious consideration to finding a beta to help you proofread.

I have no idea what's going on with all this formatting but I can guarantee you that none of these italics and underlines and borders are necessary. I can't even tell whether you were going for some kind of effect because it's so inconsistent. All these changes do is make your story harder to read.

I'm going to be blunt: I burst out laughing when I read Jirachi's inscription. It starts out sad and serious and then all of a sudden you have the line "I want those guys dead." It's such a flat statement and such a lapse in formality that it caught me off-guard, and yes, I laughed. Please, please be careful with your word choice and make sure that the tone you're using matches what you're trying to convey.

Credit where it's due, I did like the "Lancers of Reshiram" idea. Team Plasma does seem like they'd object to human-pokémon relationships, and pretty strongly at that, so having their forerunners antagonize the hidden city works pretty well. I'm not sure why you dragged "followers of Groudon and Kyogre" into this, though. What was the point of adding them to the conflict?

Also confusing was the plot itself, especially in the beginning. Part of this is likely due to the trouble I had interpreting your prose, but in general it seems like you were trying to cram a lot into a short story. How did a twelve-year-old boy fall in love with a jirachi? How did Team Plasma find out about it? Why was an entire army of Plasma grunts trying to attack a single boy and his lover? Short stories don't always need to answer all of the questions they raise, true, but these are such unusual circumstances that I can't help but feel I'm missing something, or that I should've been able to piece together a little more about the current situation but wasn't able to because I was too distracted by the way you wrote it.

Overall your story is riddled with glaring tone and clarity problems that get in the way of trying to figure out what's going on, and to top it all off I don't know what aspect of the Pokémon world you were trying to interpret here. If I had to guess I'd say it was the origins of Mt. Pyre, but nothing I could see had even a faint relation to what we know about Mt. Pyre in canon. It was just too out of left field to get high marks in that area. Simplifying the writing and perhaps toning down the story's beginning so there are fewer confusing elements dumped on the reader all at once might help illuminate what you were getting at, which otherwise might've been powerful and emotional.


Psychic

The story is very strange. The point of the contest is to expand on something from canon, and I’m not sure where in canon you pulled the idea of a safe haven for humans and Pokémon who love each other where a Jirachi and her human mate lived. It feels very random. One thing that bothered me is that at no point are the ethical issues of Pokémon-human relationships even mentioned – we’re just supposed to take it for granted that this is morally acceptable. Only the main character is shown to be uncomfortable with it, but for no discernible reason. This concept is problematic because aside from Jirachi, the only Pokémon we see in the fic is Jolteon, and while Jolteon’s character isn’t very fleshed-out, I got the impression that Pokémon in your universe are equivalent to animals in terms of behaviour and intelligence. I hope you understand that there are legitimate ethical reasons that humans cannot mate with or marry animals. Those same reasons apply to Pokémon. For that reason, your premise is pretty shaky. If you had shown that Pokémon other than Jirachi had intelligence on the same level as humans it might be more of a grey zone, but as it is, it really doesn’t work.

The language is clunky, repetitive, and sometimes just generally confusing due to the length of some of the sentences. Aim for shorter sentences with simpler structure. While I know English isn’t your first language, the number of mistakes is incredibly distracting, and you would really have benefitted from using a beta reader. The amount of underlining is also very distracting – it’s not commonly used in writing in English, as we tend to use italics and bold.

Unfortunately, between the distracting language, ethically problematic storyline, and lack of expanding on anything from canon, I felt disappointed by this fic.
 
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Dragonfree

Just me
12th place: The Story of the First Pokémon and Human Bond by Cassafrass1999

Scoring
Dragonfree: 10th place (40 points)
Negrek: 11th place (30 points)
Phoenixsong: 12th place (20 points)
Psychic: 13th place (10 points)
Total: 100 points

The Story of the First Pokemon and Human Bond:

Long ago in the ancient times of the Pokémon world, there was a small family of three. Now this family wasn't like your average family, for they feared Pokémon with their life. They thought Pokémon were evil creatures, and if you touched them that you would be instantly poisoned and die. The mother and father of the family had a young daughter named Violet, who always was a bit strange. She always seemed to be longing to go beyond the cave and small area her parents allowed her to go outside. Most curiously, however, she always used to love to watch the small Pokémon that went about their daily lives outside of the small hole that she peeped out of from the cave.

One day, her mother decided to do something very brave: she asked her daughter to fetch her some Petcha Berries from a nearby bush right outside their cave.

"Violet, would you please be a dearie and fetch me some Petcha Berries for dinner?" Her mom asked Violet that fateful day.

"Are you serious, mom?" She replied back, running over and hugging her mom. "Oh, thank you so much!"

"Your welcome, sweetie." She replied back, struck by surprise by what her daughter had just done. "You are ten now, so I believe you are now beginning to be old enough to leave the safety zones your father and I have set up for you."

Violet than left the cave, feeling very happy. She wanted to savor the first moment of officially leaving the safe cave she had always lived in.

Once she saw the Petcha Berry bush, she ran over and picked as many berries as she could so she could bring them back to her mom. But before she did this, something caught her eye in the nearby tall grass.

"What could that be?" She muttered to herself. She then ran over to get a good look at the mysterious thing lurking within the forest.

What she saw frightened her so much that she dropped all of the berries that had been in her hands. She than hurriedly knelt down to the ground and tried to gather them up before the creature came any closer. But that was when it bolted towards her.

Unknown to her, this was what would soon be known as a Rattata. The small Pokémon dashed towards her, and than curiously circled around her. Violet didn't dare move. The Rattata seemed to want her berries.

"Get away you, just please don't hurt me!" She yelped. She soon stopped crying out when she found out that the Pokémon wasn't paying any attention to her, but just to the berries in her hand. She than slowly picked up one of the berries from her lap, and raised it above her head. The Rattata's gaze followed her every movement. She than slowly brought her hand to the right side of her, and the Rattata again curiously moved its head in rhythm with the movement of her hand.

"Are you just hungry?" She asked the Pokémon. It quickly nodded its head, and Violet than gasped. "Do you understand me?"

The Rattata again nodded its head. Violet than looked at the berry, and than back at the Rattata. She than boldly held the held the berry out to the Pokémon, gesturing for it to take it.

"It's OK, I won't hurt you." She said to the little Pokémon. The Rattata started creeping towards Violet's outstretched hand, and carefully took the berry from her hand. Violet was careful to make sure the Pokémon didn't touch her hand as it did so. The Rattata greedily ate it down, and than looked back at Violet, as if it was pleading for more.

"Are you still hungry?" Violet cautiously said. "OK, here you go."

She than handed the Rattata another berry, which it again took from her hand and ate. Once it had finished this second berry, it started to creep towards Violet some more, until it was almost touching her. Violet held her breath as the Pokémon than climbed into her lap, where it cuddled with her, begging to be pet. Violet than boldly touched the Rattata very carefully, telling herself that she was most surely going to die any second from its poison. But when nothing happened besides the Pokémon looking at her with a happy smile on its face, she than began stroking it, more and more.

"You like this, don't you, erm..." Violet looked down at the Pokémon. "What should I call you?"

The Pokémon than squeaked out something that sounded like 'Rattata.' A wide grin than spread on Violet's face.

"You will be called Rattata from now on, how about that?" She said to the Pokémon. It just squeaked back in pleasure.

"You like that, don't you?" She than began playing with the Rattata, and fed it some more berries, but she quickly stopped this when she realized how late it was getting.

"Oh no, mother is going to kill me for coming home so late!" She said hastily. "But what to do about you..." She looked down at the Rattata, who was looking back at her with pleading eyes.

"I suppose you could come with me... won't mother and father be surprised when they see you!" She than picked up her new friend and brought it back to the cave with her, along with the rest of the Petcha Berries she had picked.

"What took you so long, Violet? You half scared me to death! I thought a wild Pokémon had-" She suddenly stopped when she saw what her daughter was holding.

"What are you doing Violet?!" Her mother shrieked with alarm. "Put that horrible creature down! Kill it, kill it!"

"Mother, stop..." Violet than said to her mother calmly. "Don't worry, she is friendly! I found her when I was picking the berries... or rather, she found me." She said smiling down at the little Pokémon.

"Violet! I order you to put that thing down!" Her mother said sternly, not willing her daughter to keep the wretched thing.

"But mother, just watch!" Violet than took out one of the berries from the pile.

As soon as she saw what her daughter was about to do, Violet's mother said: "No, don't feed that horrible creature our food! You are wasting it!"

Violet just ignored her mother's pleads, and than fed the Pokémon. The Rattata took the fruit and greedily gulped it down. Her mother just stared at the sight she was seeing. Was this Pokémon actually not trying to kill her daughter? Could she really trust it?

"See mother?" Violet smiled. "She is a very good Pokémon! She isn't poisonous at all! Can I please keep her? Pretty please? I will take care of her myself and everything!"

The mother thought for a moment. On one hand, she felt like telling her daughter to get rid of the Pokémon immediately. On the other hand, she felt that this would be a good experience for her daughter, and that the right thing for her daughter to do was to keep the Pokemon. She than took a deep breath and said: "As long as you clean up after her and take care of her yourself, you can keep her."

For the second time that day, her daughter ran over to her mother and hugged her. "Oh thank you mother, thank you so much! I promise that I will! I promise..." Tears of joy started streaming down her cheeks since she was so happy.

Her Rattata than ran over to Violet's mother, who had just sat down hugging her daughter on the cave floor, while the Rattata ran into her mother's arms and snuggled with her. Violet's mother was taken aback with surprise at this sudden action. She didn't know what to do. Violet saw her mother's surprise and said: "It's fine mother, just leave her be. She loves being pet, so she would really enjoy it if you did just that."

Her mother took her daughter's words and followed them. She smiled down at the Pokémon for the first time.

"I think she likes you." Violet giggled.

"You really think so?" Her mother said back.

"I am positive." Violet said back to her mother, hugging her once again.

"Just wait until your father hears about this once he comes home from his hunting trip." Her mother said nervously. "I don't know what he will say."

"Don't worry, it will be fine. Here he is now as a matter of fact." Violet said this while running over to her father to show him her new friend.

In the end, Violet's family became great friends with all of the Pokémon of their region, and became the first humans to actually bond with Pokémon. They met and had made many Pokémon friends, but Rattata would always be their favorite and a big part of the family in their hearts. This than led to the invention of the Poke ball, Pokémon battles, and all of the other great Pokémon themed activities we know of today.

THE END


Reviews

Dragonfree

Exploring how the unique cooperation of Pokémon and humans that we observe in canon might have come about is an interesting subject and well worth writing about, and I'm glad we had an entry tackle it. However, I'm afraid I just don't find this very believable.

It sounds, from the fact they live in a cave hunting and gathering berries, like this is supposed to be happening in prehistoric times, and that makes sense given when humans started to domesticate animals in the real world. But everything else about the story makes this sound like a fairly stereotypical modern-day family: the overprotective stay-at-home mom, the only child who idly spends her days watching animals, the nuclear family living alone, and just the entire way they generally talk and think (it's telling that this story ultimately plays out nearly identically to stories about modern-day kids bringing home stray animals). If these are meant to be hunter-gatherers, they should be living with a clan of at least their extended family - people simply moving out on their own when they grow up is a relatively recent thing in history, as I understand it. And while it's fun that you tried to tie the Pokémon training age of ten into this, they really just can't afford to be so overprotective of their kids. Her mother should have started bringing her with her to gather berries years ago, where she can help while still being under surveillance, and if they have a bush growing "right outside their cave", she definitely does not need to be ten to be able to make that trip on her own. Back then the idea that people should have a lengthy worriless childhood didn't exist - kids had to work as soon as they were able, and having them sit around doing nothing up to the age of ten would have been a waste of perfectly capable workforce in a world where they should need all the hands they can get.

Meanwhile, thinking all Pokémon are evil and poisonous just seems like a rather random thing to believe. Why do they think this? Superstitions don't arise from nothing at all; they generally come from our brains being overeager to see patterns and causation in random chance. It's unlikely this kind of belief would arise without them witnessing or at least hearing about somebody actually touching a Pokémon and then dying, and then they'd probably not just immediately extrapolate it to wholly unrelated-looking Pokémon either, but rather assume it's that particular species that's poisonous. Given this, it's difficult to imagine how they developed this conviction that not just some but all Pokémon are poisonous, especially since you imply this family is unusual for thinking this. Have they never met other people who don't think that and have touched Pokémon without any ill effects, which would immediately disprove their belief? Also, what game is the father hunting, if they believe Pokémon are poisonous? Are there animals too? How do they distinguish Pokémon, which they baselessly think are poisonous, from animals, which they're willing to eat, if that's the case?

And the characters just don't act like they really believe it, either. If the mother believes with all her heart that Pokémon are evil, why on earth would she think keeping a Rattata would be a "good experience" for her daughter, even if she's been persuaded it's not poisonous to the touch? This is one of the most striking instances of the characters seeming to be modern-day people - the idea that keeping pets can be a good experience for kids is common in today's society, but it simply shouldn't exist for these people who have always thought Pokémon are evil and dangerous. In general, it ought to be a lot more difficult to convince Violet's parents; their deeply-held belief that Pokémon are evil and dangerous should not shatter just because Violet says it's okay, any more than real-life parents would decide snakes are probably harmless after all if their ten-year-old brought one home in a box and insisted it's a nice snake. (Honestly, it should be somewhat harder to convince Violet; you seem to imply she's never really believed it deep down, and it's somewhat more natural for a kid, but if her parents had always taught it to her as truth, why wouldn't she believe it just as strongly as they do?)

Ultimately it just seems kind of contrived that the one family with an irrational aversion to Pokémon should be the first to adopt some - what was standing in every other person's way that outweighed their advantage of actually daring to go near Pokémon in the first place? At the end you make it sound like it was very easy for the family to go around befriending all the Pokémon of the region, so presumably this Rattata's friendliness isn't a particularly special case. Surely some humans who don't fear small Pokémon would have thought to respond positively to similar incidents before.

In the end, the belief that Pokémon are poisonous doesn't really seem to serve much of a purpose in this story. It just comes off as kind of over-the-top and makes the actual story of Violet befriending a Rattata less plausible, without adding much of value to it. If the plot revolved significantly around Violet challenging her parents' (and her own) beliefs about Pokémon, with a major conflict arising because of them, they would be vital to the story - but here, everyone just changes their minds before it gets to matter in any significant way that they initially thought Pokémon were evil. You could cut out the entire idea of Pokémon being poisonous and it wouldn't really change anything. Try thinking about what kind of story you wanted this to be - do you want it to just be about Violet befriending a Rattata, or about these people outgrowing their long-standing prejudice against Pokémon? If it's the former, you don't need them to think Pokémon are evil or poisonous; if it's the latter, you should let their beliefs pose more of a problem for Violet, and probably work to make them more plausible.

Either way, this story suffers for how little plot or tension there is to it currently. Right now, the conflict is too easily solved to be very meaningful - girl meets Rattata, her parents let her keep it, the end. If you went the route of taking out the part about them being evil and poisonous, you'd do well to introduce some other conflict into the picture: perhaps Rattata is in some kind of trouble or danger and Violet comes to her aid (establishing why they come to trust each other), or some wild Pokémon attacks the family and Violet and Rattata try to defend them (demonstrating how Pokémon started to battle for humans), for instance. Stories generally need struggles of some kind to be captivating.

Writing-wise, you have some problems with homophone confusion. In particular, you always seem to use "than" when you mean "then". The former is only used when comparing things, as in the sentence "John is taller than Edward", while the latter is what you want if you're trying to talk about a sequence of events, e.g. "The Rattata sniffed at her finger and then snuggled up to her." You also punctuate dialogue incorrectly - it's '"Hello," she said', not '"Hello." She said'. And the berry is called "Pecha", not "Petcha". For the most part your spelling and grammar are okay, though. You could also do with more vivid and evocative descriptions and emotion, but that's largely something that comes with practice.

You should continue to improve your writing by thinking more about the conflicts of your story and making sure they make sense and aren't too easily resolved. If you do that, you're on a pretty good path.


Negrek

So what we have here is a story trying to answer the question, "How did the first bond form between a human and a pokémon?" I'm actually not quite sure whether that's in line with the requirements of the contest or not--it feels a little bit like "a myth or story you made up that isn't a part of canon." I think the premise is appropriate enough in spirit, but in the end, I didn't really buy how you handled it.

This story makes me think of a fairy tale; it's the kind of story I might imagine a parent making up to tell one of their children before bedtime. That's totally fine as a stylistic decision, but I don't think that's what you were actually going for. Taken at face value, the idea works well enough, but it doesn't really stand up to scrutiny.

My main gripe is that everything in this story feels too easy. For people who've been convinced all their life that pokémon are literally poison and will kill you if you even touch them, they sure get over that fear pretty fast. If Violet's parents are that convinced that wild pokémon are incredibly dangerous, I'd expect them to immediately jump to thoughts of trickery when presented with one: "Of course it seems cute--that's how they trick you into letting them get close! Look, it already got you to bring it to your family so it could kill us all!" and so on. On the whole I just don't see a lifetime of ingrained fear being gotten over after a couple minutes of cuddles. Violet's father is even worse than her mother in that regard: you don't even bother to set up any kind of uncertainty, as he conveniently shows up just when the narrative calls for him to, then accepts things right off the bat, and everybody lives happily ever after.

There's also the fact that I don't see how such an extreme view of wild pokémon could arise without at least some basis in fact. The fact that wild pokémon are dangerous is well-established in canon, after all. The primary reason given for trainers carrying pokémon is "protection." And here you have the rattata leaping out at Violet but not actually being aggressive towards her in its attempt to get her food. That isn't how a wild animal behaves in our world, and given canon I wouldn't expect wild pokémon to behave that way, either. If wild pokémon in general are as friendly as this rattata, how on earth did people decide that they were to be avoided at all costs? If wild pokémon generally are dangerous, then what on earth is wrong with this rattata?

You have a great opportunity to build some real conflict and tension here, but you gut it by making everything so easy for Violet. The pokémon she ends up bonding with literally runs right up to her and waits for her to do something! She doesn't need to do any work to befriend or tame it: it's literally eating from her hands moments after they first meet. By making the situation so effortless, you make your plotline seem terribly unrealistic, and also rob it of the potential to really engage people. Readers are rarely very interested in characters who succeed without having to put any effort in, and that's precisely what you've got in Violet. You're really not doing her justice, here. Think of how much cooler she'd be if she had to actually be brave to tame that rattata? If she was able to face danger, but overcome it? If she struggled, but ultimately was successful? It would be so much more meaningful than the setup you have now, where everything gets handed to Violet. She just never gets a chance to shine. (And neither do any of the other characters, for what it's worth.) Further, the way you've set things up makes bonding with pokémon look so simple that one wonders why Violet was the first person ever to manage it.

Aside from that, your prose could definitely use work. You have problems with basic spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and I think you want to be getting those worked out before you worry too much about any more abstract issues of style.

One fairly easy thing to fix is how you punctuate dialogue. There are plenty of guides on the internet that can help you with that, such as this one, but to take a couple of quick examples from your actual story, this:

"Violet, would you please be a dearie and fetch me some Petcha Berries for dinner?" Her mom asked Violet that fateful day.
becomes this:

"Violet, would you please be a dearie and fetch me some Petcha Berries for dinner?" her mom asked Violet that fateful day.
(It's also "Pecha Berries," not "Petcha Berries.")

And this:

"Your welcome, sweetie." She replied back, struck by surprise by what her daughter had just done.
becomes this:

"You're welcome, sweetie," she replied back, struck by surprise by what her daughter had just done.
"Your" should be "you're" here, because "your" is the possessive form of "you," while "you're" is a contraction of "you are." The full sentence should be "You are welcome...", so "you're" is the correct form to use in this case. And while we're here, "replied back" is redundant--you should just use "replied."

You also have serious issues with the distinction between "than" and "then." "Than" is used for comparisons: "this is bigger than that," "she's more studious than him," "they're even louder than I expected." On the other hand, "then" is a temporal word, used to indicate when or in what order things happen: "this happened, then that happened," "I went to the store, then to dinner," "if I win the lottery, then I'll buy a new car."

By and large, you appear to reach for "than" when you want "then." For example, in this paragraph:

The Rattata again nodded its head. Violet than looked at the berry, and than back at the Rattata. She than boldly held the held the berry out to the Pokémon, gesturing for it to take it.
...all the uses of "than" are incorrect. It should be:

The Rattata again nodded its head. Violet then looked at the berry, and then back at the Rattata. She then boldly held the held the berry out to the Pokémon, gesturing for it to take it.
Those are the only two systemic problems that stood out to me; other than that, you have a scattering of errors that might be a result of misunderstanding or might just be typos. More diligent proofreading is all you can do to combat the latter; as for the former, you can try and learn grammar on your own through books or online guides. You may be able to pick up some of it just by reading a lot and getting used to how things ought to look. One way or another, you're ultimately just going to have to practice.

I think you have a bit of work to do both in terms of your story's structure and in terms of your actual prose, then, but you did some things right as well. Violet definitely has a childlike innocence and eagerness about her, and while I think her mom came around to her point of view too quickly, you did do a nice job of showing how her outlook on the world is different from that of her parents. And all in all, this is a nice, heartwarming little story--while I think it wants a little expanding to make it hang together a bit better, its current incarnation shows plenty of heart.


Phoenixsong

A look at how humans and pokémon came to be so close is always an intriguing idea. They're such unusual creatures that you have to wonder what made the humans bold enough to try and tame them, and why powerful beings like these bother putting up with humans at all.

A lot of that intrigue is lost, however, when your story reads almost like a list all of the things that happened and what everyone is feeling. This is the classic "show, don't tell" problem: you're simply stating that people thought pokémon were evil and the rattata wanted her berries and then in the end they made friends with all the pokémon around. It's very plain and blunt, and part of the fun of reading is experiencing the events and emotions as they happen to the characters. How to know when to show and when to tell can be tricky to explain, but in a nutshell you need to spend more time describing what happened instead of just saying that it did happen. There are plenty of discussions in the Author's Cafe you could turn up with a bit of searching, and conveniently enough I also recently found this Tumblr post that should provide a helpful starting example; still other resources can be found all over the internet if you need more.

You set your story in Neolithic times, but unfortunately the family's behavior wasn't consistent with how humans generally functioned back then. In a short, cute story set in the Pokémon world you don't have to be unfailingly accurate, but more research into what we understand about "cave people" would definitely have helped. It's unlikely that a small family would have lived alone in those days, for one thing, especially a family this fearful of all those dangerous wild pokémon; living in the safety of a tribe would make much more sense. On a related note, they wouldn't use the word "pokémon". It comes from "pocket monsters", and "pocket" refers to being able to carry the monsters around in the pocket-sized poké balls that weren't invented until a few centuries before modern times. Even the movie Arceus and the Jewel of Life had the people of the past calling them "monsters" or "creatures" or whichever it was.

Take more care with your spelling and grammar, too. The berry's name is "pecha", not "petcha". "Then" has to do with time and sequencing while "than" is for comparison, so you want "She then handed the Rattata another berry". Violet's mother is saying that she is welcome for the opportunity to pick berries, not that Violet's opportunity is welcome, so "You're welcome" (you are welcome) and not "Your welcome" (the welcome belonging to you). Some proofreading and maybe a review of commonly confused words will help you here.

The story itself was very simplistic, just a variation on the usual "she followed me home, Mom, can we keep her?" sort of thing you see all the time. You don't have to change the core concept here, but there are other angles you could explore to make things that little bit more interesting. What if, for example, Violet's mother put up more of a fight when her daughter brought this horrible poisonous rat monster into the house, and Violet and Rattata had to sneak around her and eventually try to earn her trust? It's only slightly less cliché, but it would've been more engaging and given you more of a chance to show us Violet, Rattata and the mother's personalities. It would also have helped if Violet had tamed the rattata in a way that was more specific to handling a pokémon; aside from the fact that Rattata magically understood Violet's words in spite of having had no real contact with humans ever before, her behavior was exactly like a real wild animal that comes up to someone looking for food.

I liked the bits about the family thinking the pokémon were all poisonous to the touch; I'm not sure that's a realistic observation, but it's an amusing way to show how utterly terrified they were all the same. I also appreciated the nod to the usual legal training age being ten.

Your entry as a whole was cute, but it was just so simple and told so bluntly that there wasn't a lot to get excited about, nor were any particularly interesting theories presented. You mentioned not being satisfied with this story any longer; you do have a basic start and some nice things going for you here, and now that you're feeling confident you could do better I'd like to see how you might expand this into something that really answers some questions.


Psychic

Trying to cover the origins of human-Pokémon bonds is an interesting idea. It’s a more complex relationship to the one we have with animals in the real world, so I was interested in seeing how one might imagine this beginning. You start off with a nice, curious and brave protagonist, and I like that you have a Ratatta here, since you so rarely see them as these cute pets you just want to cuddle with in fan fiction.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel like you really did much with the concept. The story isn’t very remarkable – child sees cute animal, child adopts animal, everyone is happy. This story isn’t especially unique; it could very well take place in modern times instead and the story would hardly change. Even the fact that these humans think all Pokémon are toxic and will kill you just by touching them quickly becomes moot. The fic also doesn’t explain how Pokémon training and battling or anything else came about. Instead, you simply end the fic by glossing over how “This than led to the invention of the Poké ball, Pokémon battles, and all of the other great Pokémon themed activities we know of today.” Honestly, it feels like a cop-out because you don’t explain how one thing led to another.

Unfortunately, this fic left me with more questions than answers, as there were a lot of logical gaps. For instance, why would humans think touching a Pokémon would poison and instantly kill you? How has Violet never left the cave before? Why would a wild Pokémon who (we assume) has never been around a human before understand human language? Why wouldn’t Violet put the berry down on the ground so she wouldn’t have to take even the tiniest chance of coming into physical contact with a Pokémon? Just because touching the Pokémon doesn’t kill her right away, why would she assume this means Pokémon aren’t dangerous at all? Why would a wild creature crawl into a stranger’s lap if the majority of animal instincts would scream to do the exact opposite? Why would a mother think letting a child adopt a creature they know nothing about might be a “good experience”?

Some of these could be expanded upon to make more sense. For instance, there are legitimate reasons that Pokémon are dangerous – they breathe fire and control shadows and can create hurricanes. But to ignore these reasons and simply say Pokémon are dangerous because they can all insta-kill you by touching them kind of just sounds lazy. The fact that Violet has never been outside before seems irrelevant to the plot as well. It also doesn’t make sense – surely she’s been outside with one of her parents. If she really has never been outside before, then describe what it feels like living in a dark, damp, cool cave your whole life and finally emerging into a bright, warm world. This can be an opportunity to create some beautiful descriptions as Violet explores the world for the first time.

The grammar was mostly okay, however there are mistakes such as using “your” instead of “you’re” and misspelling “Pecha Berry.” I was also confused by the line
Now this family wasn't like your average family, for they feared Pokémon with their life.
I assume this is compared to today’s average family? Because it would stand to reason that if this is the first recorded human-Pokémon bond, other human families at the time would also be living in fear of Pokémon. Try to be a bit more specific.

All in all, I wish you’d done more with this concept. I feel like you really simplified ideas and relied on absolutes (“Pokémon are toxic and kill you immediately” becomes “Pokémon are completely harmless”) instead of trying to really develop and explore ideas and relationships between Pokémon and humans.
 

Dragonfree

Just me
11th place: Volt Tackle by Shymain

Scoring
Dragonfree: 12th place (20 points)
Negrek: 9th place (50 points)
Phoenixsong: 11th place (30 points)
Psychic: 11th place (30 points)
Total: 130 points

Out of the many moves that a Pokèmon can use, there are strong moves, weak moves, super effective moves, non effective moves. In the countless moves, each has a type, and out of the Electric moves, there is one haunting move- Volt Tackle.

Most experienced trainers know about it, have had their Pokèmon use it, unknowingly, not understanding what they are doing...

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

"Mom, look! It's hatching!" squealed a young girl, her jet-black hair swinging behind her as she ran downstairs, clutching an egg to her chest. "It's finally hatching!"

"Coming, honey!" shouted her mom.

The girl put the egg down on the table as it started cracking, shaking slowly.

"It's about to hatch! Hurry!" shouted the girl urgently, fidgeting excitedly. Her mother dashed into the room just as the egg broke open in a flash of blinding light.

"Chu?" squeaked the small, yellow rat, blinking its eyes confusedly.

"Eeeeee! It's a Pichu! It's so cute!" squealed the girl at the top of her lungs, causing the Pichu to cover its ears in pain.

"You should be a bit quieter, Lisa," said her mom gently, "it's still a young Pokèmon, and not used to loud noises."

"Alright, mom!" whispered Lisa softly. The Pichu looked from Lisa to her mom, frowning.

"Pi, chu, pipipichu!" said the Pichu to Lisa, its hands on its hips. Pichu stood up.

"You ought to catch it now, dear." said Lisa's mother.

"Oh, yeah, right! I just..." exclaimed Lisa, trailing off as she looked around urgently.

"I've got one here, dear." said her mom, pulling a Premier Ball out of her pocket and giving it to Lisa.

"Oh, thanks, mom!" stammered Lisa. "Alright, go, Pokèball!"

Lisa threw the Premier Ball as hard as she could at the Pichu. It hit it on the forehead- then bounced off, leaving a dent.

"Oops, sorry, Pichu!" said Lisa apologetically, grabbing the ball as it flew by in mid air.

"Pi, pipipichuuu! Pichuchupi" scolded Pichu, sparks flying from its cheeks.

Lisa tossed the Premier Ball again, but this time gently. It froze in front of Pichu, opened, and sucked Pichu inside. The ball dropped onto the table, and shook once- twice- thrice- and it clicked!

"Yay!" exclaimed Lisa gleefully. "I caught a Pichu!"

--------------------
About a month later...
--------------------

"Alright, Pi!" said Lisa. "Use... Tackle on that Purrloin!"

The Pichu, now called Pi, stopped facing off against a black-and-purple cat and shook its head.

"Why can't you, Pi? You always use that move!" queried Lisa.

"Pi, pipichupichuchupi, pichu!" replied Pi.

"Well, what moves can you use?" asked Lisa.

"Pi... chu, pipichu, chupi, pipi..." answered Pi, hesitating at the end.

"Those moves don't even do any damage, though." said Lisa, oblivious to Pi's nervous behavior. "Are you sure that's it?"

"Pi... pi... pich, pipichu..." said Pi hesitantly.

"Volt Tackle? I think I've heard about that..." said Lisa thoughtfully. "I don't remember what it does... it'll have to do, I guess!"

Pi sighed to itself, and, resignedly, charged forward at the Purrloin, it's body surrounded by some sort of golden glow. When Pi reached the Purrloin, it kept going, and ran into it, the golden aura exploding everywhere that it touched the Purrloin, knocking it back- and out.

The golden aura evened out, then disappeared. Slowly Pi walked towards Lisa, seeming significantly weaker. Lisa, however, overlooked this in her joy.

"Awesome, Pi! Why didn't you tell me about that move before?" exclaimed Lisa jubilantly.

Without waiting for a response, she withdrew Pi.

Over the next few hours, Lisa won five more battles this way, slowly realizing that Pichu was weakening- and just thinking he was tired.

"Hey, Pi, need to recover?" asked Lisa, a Murkrow dropping to the ground after a particularly vicious Volt Tackle.

"Pi! Pipipiiipichu!" replied Pichu in the affirmative.

"Okay! Let's get you to the Pokècenter!" said Lisa, smiling.

Lisa grabbed Pichu, put him on her shoulder, and ran off, Pichu hanging onto her for dear life.

--------------------
At the Pokècenter...
--------------------

"Hey, ma'am, can you heal my Pokèmon?" called Lisa to the woman behind the counter.

"Of course, young lady. How many?" replied the nurse.

"Just the one!" answered Lisa, holding Pi's Pokèball out.

The nurse took the ball from Lisa's outstretched hand, and took Pi out. She examined Pi, then turned to Lisa.

"What have you been doing to this poor Pichu? He's on horrible shape!" exclaimed the brunette nurse sternly.

"He's just been fighting, ma'am, that's all!" replied Lisa.

"What moves has he been using?" asked the nurse.

"Just two- Tackle and Volt Tackle."

The nurse's face paled for a moment, then returned to normal.

"Volt Tackle... young lady," she said, "that is a very risky move. Do you know what it does?"

"No, I don't." replied Lisa questioningly. "What... what does it do?"

The nurse hesitated, then said, "That move is dangerous. Don't use it."

"Not very helpful..." mumbled Lisa.

The nurse picked up Pi and gave him to Lisa.

"Thanks, ma'am!" shouted Lisa, running out of the Pokècenter.

She didn't listen. She had never listened to suggestions, but did what she thought was best. In this case, what she thought was best was using Volt Tackle. She travelled across Unova, fighting, defeating Gym Leaders, all the time assisted by Volt Tackle. So, eventually, she entered the Pokèmon League.

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

"Lisa! Lisa! Lisa!" chanted the crowd excitedly.

"Alright, Pi, let's finish this with a Volt Tackle!" shouted Lisa. The already-weakened Pi sighed, gathered a thin layer of electricity, and charged at the opposing Wartortle, knocking him out cold.

"And Lisa wins the battle, qualifying her for the quarterfinals!" said the announcer, struggling to be heard over the applause. "A well deserved win, as I'm sure you all agree!"

Lisa and Pi walked off the field to cheers, Lisa beaming and waving, and Pi walking dejectedly.

"Nice job, Pi!" congratulated Lisa.

Pi ignored her and trudged ahead.

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

Outside, Lisa healed Pi, then sat down. She sighed and looked around. There wasn't much there that was interesting, but there was one thing that caught her eye- a stand packed with items of all shapes and sizes.

"Hmm... I guess Pi could use an item!" thought Lisa aloud.

Lisa walked up to the stand casually, blowing on her mug of hot chocolate.

"Hello! You're Lisa, correct?" said a man that popped up inside the cart.

"Uh- yeah, I am." replied Lisa.

"I knew it! Now, do you know what you want?" said the man, quickly changing topic.

"No, I actually don't know. Do you have any suggestions?" asked Lisa.

"We'll, if you're looking for something useful competitive-wise, I'd recommend this." answered the man, holding up a red belt.

"What's that?" queried Lisa.

"It's a Focus Sash- it makes it harder for your Pokèmon to be knocked out! Very useful, if I do say so myself- which I do!" jabbered the man.

"Alright, then, how much?" replied Lisa.

"Just ten thousand Pokè!" revealed the man.

"Just?" shouted Lisa, "That's a ton!"

"So... you don't have that much?" queried the man.

"Of course I do, it's just an exorbitant price!" replied Lisa.

"But it's worth it, you know!" wheedled the man.

"Yeah, I guess you're right." said Lisa, sighing. "Here you go."

She handed over the money, and in return, the man shoved the Focus Sash into her hands.

"Goodbye, Lisa!" said the man as Lisa walked off.

The intercom blared to life.

"The first quarterfinal round starts in ten minutes! I repeat, the first quarterfinal starts in ten minutes! said a disembodied voice from the speaker.

"Damn, that's my round!" said Lisa, running towards the arena.

Not looking where she was going, Lisa ran straight into a woman, knocking her to the ground.

"I'm so sorry!" said Lisa. "I didn't... you!"

The nurse stood up.

"Ah, young lady, it's you! I need to tell you something!" said the nurse, getting to her feet.

"The first quarterfinal is in five minutes." blared the loudspeaker.

"Sorry, gotta go! Talk to you after this!" shouted Lisa.

As Lisa dashed off, she caught fragments of the nurse's sentence- "Volt... weak... life force..." was all that she caught.

In the tunnel, Lisa tossed Pi's ball, and it opened, leaving Pi standing there.

"Hey, Pi, hold this during the battle." said Lisa, holding out the Focus Sash.

Pi took it, looked at it, put it on, then struck a kung-fu pose.

Lisa laughed. "You're so funny, Pi!" she said.

They walked onto the field to deafening applause.

"Quarterfinal match one! Trainer Lisa versus Bugtrainer Cody!" shouted the announcer.

The two walked forward and faced off.

"Begin!"

"Pi, let's do this thing!" exclaimed Lisa, Pi walking forward.

"Geodude, let's go!" said Cody, sending out his Pokèmon with a flick of his wrist.

The two Pokèmon circled the center of the field, facing each other.

"Let's do this quickly, Geodude," said Cody, acting as if he was bored. "Magnitude!"

Geodude jumped up, then came down as hard as it could, sending a wave of dirt that knocked into Pi. Pi fell backwards, seemingly unconscious.

"And Pichu is out for the count already!" exclaimed the announcer. "Amazing, really, what he- what?"

Slowly, Pi pulled itself into a sitting position, then stood upright, it's legs shaking.

"Yes, Pi! That's it!" shouted Lisa. "Volt Tackle!"

Pi breathed deeply, then gathered an almost invisible aura around himself. He charged forward and ran into Geodude.

And his aura exploded, knocking him back to the edge of the field.

"Well, looks like Pichu is out this time!" bellowed the announcer. "Cody wins!"

"Lisa sighed. She pulled out Pi's Pokèball and made as if to return him- but the ball didn't retrieve him.

After trying a few more times, an agitated Lisa picked up Pi and walked off of the pitch.

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

"He's dead." said the nurse. "I was trying to tell you. You see, every time you use Volt Tackle, it weakens the user, even to the point of knocking the user out. Now, if you watch the move carefully, you will see that the golden aura comes from inside the user- that's its life force. The weaker the Pokèmon is, the weaker the aura is. When the aura is too weak, the attack will backfire, blowing up the whole aura, due to the power needed not being presen, which destroys the user's life force, and, therefore, kills the user."

Lisa sat and sobbed. The flowing tears were like crystal, as she sat, sniffing and rubbing her eyes.

"He-he-he was... Pi was my-my best friend. I had him since he-since he hatched. I can't believe that-that he's d-d-dea-dead." sobbed Lisa from the depths of her heart, drowning in total, all-consuming misery, hating herself, hating the move, hating herself even more.

"All you can do now is honor his memory by preventing this from happening to another trainer." said the nurse gently.

Lisa left, not just the building, but her friends, her family, her life. For years she searched her self, tried to make up for the death, stayed in solitude. For years, she travelled in denial, wishing that the event would never have happened.

Shan she came back to her senses, she decided that the best way to help was to become a nurse. She searched for work, and found a position- the Pokècenter in the town of Odale, in Hoenn.

--------------------
One day...
--------------------

Lisa watched as a young man walked into the Pokècenter and headed straight for her.

"Need to heal a Pokèmon?" she asked.

"Yeah." said the boy. "It's my Pichu. He's acting weird."

Lisa snapped to attention, suddenly not drowsy.

"What moves has it used?"

"Just two- Tackle and Volt Tackle."


Reviews

Dragonfree

This is awfully similar to Curse, one of the example fics mentioned in the contest thread - not plagiarism-similar or anything, but still similar enough to give me pause. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it's a coincidence, but if you did read Curse, you really should have tried harder to differentiate your work from it; it's hard to make your work stand out on the creativity front when it plays out so much like one of the examples you were provided with before you even started.

Anyway, I think your biggest problem is that the characters here seem to behave rather weirdly throughout. To start with, I'm guessing Pi was essentially "out of PP" for Tackle near the beginning when he first uses Volt Tackle, but in that case, why hasn't he alerted Lisa earlier, instead of only mentioning that he can't attack anymore when they're already in the next battle and she's ordered the move? Shouldn't he have said something at the end of the last battle? (Though running out of PP itself is a pretty unintuitive game mechanic that should really warrant some kind of explanation when taken literally. Ordinarily it would be interpreted as representing exhaustion, but how can a Pokémon be too exhausted to use Tackle but not too exhausted to use Volt Tackle, which surely uses all the same muscles Tackle does and more?)

You indicate repeatedly that Pi is reluctant to use Volt Tackle: he hesitates before mentioning it to her, he keeps sighing before he uses it, and he trudges dejectedly off the arena and ignores her after beating the Wartortle with it at the league. Why? If he knows about its effects, why would he ever agree to use it when he's low on health at all? Why in the world hasn't he told Lisa? If he doesn't know, what's that hesitation about, and why hasn't he voiced whatever concerns he does have? It feels like you're trying to set up for a different conclusion than the one you actually end up with. If it affected him negatively in some way he figures isn't that big a deal or worth bothering Lisa about but still isn't really happy with, this would all make perfect sense. But I can't imagine he just thinks the possibility of death is no big deal, particularly since he ends up even using it when he's only barely hanging on, when he should surely know it will kill him if he knows how the move works.

Meanwhile, it's just bizarre that Nurse Joy would choose not to properly explain immediately why Volt Tackle is a dangerous move. When a Pokémon's life is at stake, the last thing you're going to want to do is be really vague about the danger, especially when your job is to keep Pokémon healthy. Why on earth wouldn't she at least explain very firmly to Lisa that it can permanently damage the user, even if she for some reason thinks it's more important to protect trainers from the suggestion that Pokémon can die than to actually protect the Pokémon's life? This is not how Nurse Joy should operate, least of all when it's a matter of life and death.

When at the end you have the same conversation start to happen with Lisa as the nurse, you may be suggesting a kind of cycle, where the first nurse similarly lost her Pichu to the move. That could kind of work, in the sense that you could maybe make it believable that she'd be unwilling to talk about it in detail if it relates to her personal trauma - but at the same time it makes it even odder that she wouldn't make a bigger effort to steer Lisa away from the move in some manner, especially since Lisa was pretty obviously dismissive of her advice. And it would be clearer and more satisfying, if that were the case, to have the nurse actually confess to having been personally affected by this at the end, rather than leaving it to be vaguely inferred.

Overall, you could stand to be a lot more subtle about Volt Tackle's sinister effects. As it is, Lisa just comes off as careless or stupid, because she ignores so many obvious hints that something is off. There's Pi's initial hesitation; there's the fact it leaves him "significantly weaker"; there's how the nurse says he's in "horrible shape" and tells them it's because of Volt Tackle and that it's dangerous; there's the way Pi seems to be cross with Lisa after she makes him use Volt Tackle at the League; there's the fact the same nurse stops her later, urgently wants to talk to her and shouts after her when she leaves. It starts to feel like Lisa must be incredibly oblivious to somehow ignore or fail to notice all this without even asking Pi what's going on or starting to wonder if anything is strange about Volt Tackle, and we stop being able to sympathize with her continuing use of it. It would be far more effective if there were only small hints that something was up, hints that Lisa could entirely reasonably overlook or shrug off but that still make it seem like it could have been avoided if only she'd been a bit more careful or inquisitive. Right now, it just feels like her Pichu dies mostly because she's an idiot, which makes it a lot harder to appreciate the tragedy here.

It especially doesn't help in that regard how baffling Lisa's choice to use Volt Tackle in that final battle at all is. Even if she doesn't know that Volt Tackle can kill the user, she should still have noticed at some point on her Pokémon journey (or Pi should have told her) that it's a recoil move and thus wouldn't be a good idea anyway when her Pokémon is very low on health. Moreover, and more importantly, how can she possibly have gotten through her entire Pokémon journey and made it to the quarterfinals of the Pokémon League with a Pichu as her primary Pokémon if she doesn't know that Ground-types are immune to Electric moves? I'd buy it if it were a Pokémon like Flygon, which is fairly rare and which most people wouldn't identify as a Ground-type upon seeing it for the first time, but this is a Geodude - there's no way she's never in her life heard of a Geodude or learned that it's a Ground-type Pokémon. (Why does Bugtrainer Cody have a Geodude, anyway? If he doesn't just train bugs, why is he being designated as a "bugtrainer", rather than just a "trainer" like Lisa?)

A story like this hinges upon making the reader care about Pi and Lisa as characters and then delivering the emotional punch of grief and horror when he dies. Thus, you'd do well to give more focus to fleshing their characters out and making them feel real - it's hard to empathize with characters who don't act like real people. Pi and Lisa's relationship should really be the centerpiece here. As it is you have a couple of cute nuggets of them interacting, but they're short and don't give a lot of insight. Part of it is also that your writing in general is very dialogue-focused, with only the barest minimum of narration necessary to tell us the gist of what's going on - there is very little emotion or body language, and as a result the characters feel flatter than they perhaps might otherwise. Even during conversations, don't just tell us the words your characters say - tell us they fidget if they're nervous, or how their facial expression changes, or how they pause or hesitate when they're uncertain, or whatever else might tell us something meaningful about them and what they're thinking (so long as it doesn't disrupt the flow of the conversation, that is). And while the story seems to be from Lisa's point of view, you don't show us a lot of her thoughts or perceptions of what's going on until the second-to-last scene of the story - more thoughts and personality in the narration would help considerably in developing her character and making her sympathetic and likeable.

While that could do with being fleshed out, the whole Focus Sash bit on the other hand seems really extraneous and sticks out like a sore thumb in your story. The only purpose the item serves is to make Pi very weak when he tries to use his final Volt Tackle, but you could just as well simply have had him naturally survive a hit with very little energy left, so elaborately getting him a Focus Sash and having him hang on because of that is just unnecessary and takes up a considerable amount of space that you could have used to develop the characters. The actual conversation between Lisa and the item salesman also contains a lot of padding and is generally unnecessary even if you want to include the Focus Sash - just Lisa telling Pichu before the battle that she bought a Focus Sash and that it's supposed to make it harder for him to be knocked out would give us all the same information the conversation with the item salesman did.

As for the interpretation, I can't help but wonder as I read this just what makes Volt Tackle so special. There are oodles of recoil moves, so why is it just Volt Tackle that apparently operates on life force? There's an arbitrariness to it that makes it feel less plausible - if it were a Ghost-type recoil move, or perhaps a recoil move with 'aura' in its name, it might make internal sense that it would do something like that, but it doesn't seem like an Electric-type move has any business having anything to do with auras, so the idea isn't entirely convincing without some kind of more compelling canonical evidence that this might be how Volt Tackle in particular works.

Finally, you have some grammatical fumbles: you punctuate dialogue inconsistently and have some scattered typos and misspellings. Also, é and è are two different letters - the franchise is called Pokémon, not Pokèmon. If you can't easily type the accent, Pokemon is acceptable too, but using the wrong accent is definitely not.

So unfortunately, I found it hard to empathize with or care about the characters here, and it didn't feel like you'd made the interpretation very convincing. You should work on fleshing out your writing with relevant detail, and remember never to choose what the characters in your story do on the basis of plot alone without making sure that it makes sense from their perspective to do it, too. It's cool to see you're going for an intense, emotional storyline where characters make tragic mistakes and are heavily affected by what happens to them - you just need to make sure they remain real and relateable as you do.


Negrek

Short and sweet, this one. Interesting choice of attacks to look at more closely--volt tackle certainly isn't something I'd normally associate with anything sinister. So, you have a nice, original angle on the move, but in the end I'm not really sure I buy it.

I'm not seeing how people wouldn't have realized how dangerous volt tackle was--if nothing else, a pikachu dying in the middle of a big tournament as a result of it should have caused word to spread pretty fast (making the last scene of the story seem implausible to me). The effects are obviously recognized by people with a good grasp of how pokémon attacks work... so why did nobody save that one incredibly unethical nurse warn Lisa about it?

Which, yeah, that nurse was seriously unhelpful. There's no reason for her to be withholding information like that, save that it allows you to draw the suspense out a little longer. It feels cheap and contrived. It's even more contrived when she shows up again later and then finally explained how the move can potentially be fatal.

You also don't do a great job of showing how volt tackle actually affects Pi. It just seems a bit tired and cranky after using the attack... not really any different than you'd expect after any difficult battle. On the one hand, I guess that helps explain why people don't realize how dangerous the attack actually is. On the other, it removes a lot of the creepiness; you don't really get the sense that the attack is actually doing anything to Pi. It's just that one day there's an unfortunate accident, and then Pi's dead. It's tragic, sure, but it's the same thing you could imagine happening in battle for any number of reasons; the fact that volt tackle, specifically, was the move that caused it, is more incidental than anything.

You don't give your characters much development, which hampers this piece quite a bit. To really feel sad about Pi's death, we need to feel some kind of connection to Pi at least, if not his trainer as well. But there's not a lot done to establish his character--the bit where it posed after seeing the focus sash was great, because it gave a little flash of personality to what was an otherwise unknown quantity. Likewise, Lisa is pretty generic--kind of ditzy, maybe, a bit oblivious, but there's not much to mark her out from any number of other trainers. There's little memorable about them, and as a result it's harder to feel bad when something bad happens to them.

Overall your prose is serviceable, although your syntax can get a bit clumsy at times. In particular I'd watch out for one of the common dialogue constructions you use, as in these sentences:

"Yay!" exclaimed Lisa gleefully.
"Volt Tackle? I think I've heard about that..." said Lisa thoughtfully.
That's the "'Blah blah,' verbed Subject adverbially." construction, and you use it a lot in this piece. It's a bit awkward, and stands out like a sore thumb when you keep doing it over and over again. Generally speaking, though, you do fine in terms of grammar and punctuation, and aside from leaning a bit heavily on the adverbs, your prose is pretty clear and concise. I think you'd do well to include more narration in addition to your dialogue, if only so that we can learn a bit more about your characters through their actions in addition to what they actually say, but overall keeping things simple helps this read along pretty easily, which I appreciate.

Like I said, this story is pretty simple, but it has all the essential elements it needs; your interpretation is an integral part of the story and seems relatively plausible, although I'm ultimately not convinced the dangers of volt tackle wouldn't be more widely known. My primary issue with it is that the whole deal with the nurse feels like you're manipulating the characters in order to make the story work rather than letting it unfold naturally. That definitely cheapened Pi's death, as did the fact that we didn't really get to know it or its trainer all that well. But it's a solid start.


Phoenixsong

Volt tackle isn't something that'd normally come to mind as the subject of a tragic fic like this, and I'm glad you tried something so unexpected with a pretty mundane move (albeit a rare one). There were a few bits of foreshadowing and other little pieces to pick up on throughout the story that I thought made for some nice touches as well, coupled with writing that was for the most part structurally solid. There were a few rogue commas here and there, maybe an "alright" that should be "all right", but things looked pretty sound overall.

This story had quite a bit of trouble with telling vs. showing, however. For much of the fic you flat-out stated what characters were feeling or doing. This really stung, for example, when you launched into that whole description of Lisa wanting to atone for Pi's death before showing us just that in the following scene. Lisa's encounter with the boy and his pichu had every opportunity to be poignant, but you've already told us that she would be looking out for others who didn't know about volt tackle and so it dampens the impact when we actually see it for ourselves.

Semi-relatedly, all of the "Pi pi pichu pi" talk is repetitive and is meaningless to the reader; you would be better off describing the way it tries to talk to Lisa (something like "Pi hesitated, sighed, and mumbled something under its breath", for example). That makes Pi's communication more relevant and again gives you more places to show what's going on.

The page 2 conversation confuses me. The gist is that Lisa is ordering a move that pichu cannot use, yes, but then she says that Pi "always uses that move"? How can it have used a move it doesn't know? If it's using another move that she has mistaken for tackle, why is it only just now correcting her? Why doesn't it just go with that other move anyway, especially since its only alternative is the dangerous volt tackle? What move does a pichu even know that could be mistaken for tackle? (Alternatively, does Pi know tackle—and it shouldn't as pichu cannot legally know that move—and there's some other reason it can't use it now? Why?) I know I'm overthinking what's supposed to be a silly conversation that shows us how naïve Lisa is, but it doesn't make sense and tripped me up. Just because a scene is meant to be cute doesn't mean it doesn't have to be coherent.

I stumbled a bit over the conversation with the item salesman, too. The way you wrote it gave the impression he was trying to change the subject away from something he didn't want to finish talking about. Was he going to say something about volt tackle? I couldn't tell for sure, but I don't think he was, so take more care with the way you word things. Really, you could probably just cut out most of that scene; weird topic changes and complaints about price don't add anything to your story. As mentioned earlier I did like the addition of the focus sash itself, and how it wasn't enough to save Pi from that final volt tackle. You just need to mention that Lisa bought it and move on.

Perhaps my biggest problem with this story, however, was the cast—their behavior was completely illogical. Lisa is supposed to be naïve, yes, so we expect at least a few silly decisions on her part, but there were times when even she was too dense to be believable (how do you get far enough as a trainer to enter major tournaments without knowing that you don't use electric-type moves against a ground-type?). Pi and the nurse really take the cake, though:

-If Pi knows that repeated use of volt tackle is bad for it, why doesn't it just stop? It'd be one thing if Pi was blindly devoted to Lisa and was sacrificing itself to make her happy, but much of the interaction we saw gave the impression that Pi just found Lisa annoying or that it was hurt by her constant disregard for its safety. If I were Pi I would've laid down some serious volt tackle ground rules long before now... or stopped obeying that order.

-Lisa is right when she says the nurse is unhelpful, and that is a huge problem. Why on earth would a person who heals pokémon for a living not tell Lisa why spamming volt tackle is bad? Why would she leave it for this oblivious little girl to discover on her own, by which point it's too late to save Pi? I guess it could be to "teach Lisa a lesson", but if she's willing to let a pokémon die to accomplish that then this nurse is a horrible person. I'm sure that was neither her intent nor your intent, but then it doesn't make sense for her to be cryptic about volt tackle's lethality.

-...for that matter, why hasn't the league banned the use of volt tackle? This isn't a Nuzlocke-style setting in which death is a normal part of battling, so any move that slowly kills its user should not be allowed, at least not in an official tournament.

In all cases your mistake was that these characters (and possibly the Pokémon League) threw their own common sense and motivation out the window just for the sake of your plot. Characters and settings need to be self-consistent, not just consistent up until Lisa needs to Learn Her Lesson and then they conveniently forget that they don't want to die/need to keep pokémon safe. It's fine if you want Lisa to discover the devastating truth behind volt tackle on her own, and certainly that's more interesting than the nurse just telling her and Lisa listening to reason, but you've got to find another way to do it. You dropped hints about Pi getting more and more tired after each use, for example–start there. Maybe don't have the first use of volt tackle take so much out of Pi that the nurse becomes alarmed. Have Pi's decline happen subtly enough that the nurse doesn't notice until it's too late.

The story also went by too quickly and was too blunt to show the bond that I'm presuming was supposed to have developed between Pi and Lisa (after all, if they weren't actually friendly to some degree then why would Pi joke around with karate poses?). Without showing us this bond it's hard to empathize with Lisa as opposed to just seeing Pi's death as unfortunate. Naïvety on its own doesn't make her sympathetic; it just makes me think she brought this on herself even though I know she didn't mean to. Make it clear that she's a sweet person in spite of her bizarre inability to notice that her pokémon is in distress and then I can feel sad because Lisa is sad. Then again, if Pi and Lisa really were bonded/best friends, it becomes even more difficult to believe she couldn't see that Pi was hurting itself and that Pi wouldn't have spoken up and asked its friend to stop killing it, so...

Overall this story just didn't have the impact you were looking for because all of the tragedy was set up by convenience rather than logic. You changed how volt tackle functions (canonically it's just impact damage and maybe a little excess electricity—bringing auras and life force into the equation is completely reimagining how it works, not explaining something we don't understand), you had Pi and the nurse and even Lisa behave in an unbelievable manner just so Lisa could learn her lesson the hard way, the simple and telly nature of the writing didn't give the narration much chance to build up any emotion... when all of that comes together you end up with a story that is too distracting to be sad. I'm just so annoyed with Pi and the nurse that there's no room left for worrying about how Lisa feels after Pi's death. Work on the way your characters express themselves, let them reveal their personalities to the reader a little more naturally and make sure their behavior is self-consistent, and then you've got something here.


Psychic

This was an interesting concept. While it has been done before (by one of the contest judges herself), it’s always neat exploring the idea of a move whose use presents a real danger to the user.

Unfortunately, aside from the concept I found that the story fell somewhat short. The main issue, I think, is that it just feels rushed. Every scene is short – so short that we don’t get descriptions of the setting, nor do we get to really know the different characters very well. A lot of the problem is that you tell instead of show, just summarizing events. Telling us “Lisa is stubborn” without actually showing many examples of her being stubborn is not very effective in story-telling. In fact, we don’t get much insight into Lisa’s personality in general aside from the fact that she’s too dense to notice when her Pokémon is suffering, and her main focus is on winning. All we really know about Pichu is that it’s willing to blindly follow Lisa’s orders. We don’t see a lot of emotional depth from either of them, whether it be the thrill as Lisa watches the egg she’s been caring for hatch, Pichu’s distress and exhaustion the first time it uses Volt Tackle, or the heart-pounding excitement of the tournament. As a result, readers won’t really be attached or interested in these characters. Minor characters like other trainers, the nurse and the salesman are also very flat, and barely even have a single defining characteristic. You also tend to skimp on description, even when it’s important and can really bring the story to life, such as during battles.

As a result of this, the big, important moment of the fic is really anticlimactic. Pichu’s death during the battle should rattle the reader. We need to see the moment when Pichu’s body slumps to the ground, when Lisa runs out and tries to shake it awake, the feeling of horror that slowly settles in her stomach, and the shock and self-hatred that come when the nurse tells her that Pichu truly is dead. As a result. there isn’t really any shock from the reader’s perspective because it was just so obvious what was going on, and it’s hard to feel any pity for Lisa. It’s hard to even feel bad because we’re not that emotionally invested in the story or characters.

I did like the very end – it seemed fitting for Lisa to become a nurse, and it was nice seeing that she would finally be able to stop someone from making the mistake she made (especially since that nurse was effectively useless). Again, it would have been nice if you had done more showing instead of telling of Lisa travelling and choosing to become a nurse, since the summary was underwhelming. Still, it was a good resolution to the story.

The grammar and spelling was mostly fine aside from “presen” missing the “t,” combining words like “bugtrainer” and “Pokècenter,” and using “è” instead of “é.” There was also some awkward phrasing. Be careful when you proofread, and consider reading your fic out loud to see if it sounds right.

Overall, you took a very simple premise, but it doesn’t feel like you did very much with it. What could have been an emotional story was just a tale of a neglectful trainer.
 

Dragonfree

Just me
10th place: Mingle by InsaneTyranitar

Scoring
Dragonfree: 11th place (30 points)
Negrek: 10th place (40 points)
Phoenixsong: 6th place (80 points)
Psychic: 10th place (40 points)
Total: 190 points

Mingle

In a small town in Unova, some humans were doing… Well, human things. Talking, laughing, comparing various whatsits they obtained with their little green slips of paper they love so much.

And I was busy watching them.

Of course, as a Latias, it’s easy to stay discreet when you can refract your down to be invisible. That’s the simple way of doing it. Today, however, I wanted to do something a bit more complicated.

I wanted to join them. And that requires a little more finesse.

I floated down to the ground in an alleyway, out of the sight of any prying human eyes. Once I was certain the coast was clear, I began focusing.

My body was wreathed in energy as I manipulated the way light strikes me, the very makeup of my body, until in a few seconds to all who looked upon me I was no longer a Latias.

I was very much human. Well, not really. But to them, I might as well be.

You see, the way we Latii “shapeshift” is more of a really advanced illusion. But we’ve got to work to keep it up.

I walked out of the alleyway and looked around, always cautious. Soon, however, I came across a fountain, where the Pokemon I was looking for rested.

The little Helioptile – a yellow lizard with frills on its face - originally hailed from the Kalos region, but was brought over with his Trainer to Unova. The humans called him Gus.

Gus is a simple Helioptile. He likes pets, food, rays of sunshine, food... Did I mention food? He was a bit shocked by my true nature at first, but now we’re good friends.

Gus stirred from his napping spot on the edge of the fountain, and looked at me wearily. He immediately snapped awake upon realizing who I was.

<Megan! How’re you doing? It’s so good to see you!> he said in the language of Pokemon.

<I’m fine, how are you?> I said back, also in the language of Pokemon.

You see, we Latii can’t quite speak human tongues, so we adapt other ways. But more on that later.

<Good, good!>, he said back. <I was just sunning myself to recharge my batteries! Literally, get it?>

I smirked. <You suck at jokes, you know that?>

<Aww, you’re no fun.>

He gave me Lillipup eyes.

<You at least have food, right?>

I chuckled and tossed him a Pecha Berry.

<YES!> He quickly stuffed it in his mouth, then turned back to me.

<I think Gracie is over this way, come on!>

He skittered off. I followed as fast as I could.

Soon, we reach a brown-haired, hazel-eyed girl in a green t-shirt talking to some of her friends, occasionally pausing to look at one of those “smartphone” things.

Grace is a typical teenager, but hardly a bad one. She’s always accepting of new friends, and after I started hanging out with her, I got integrated fairly quickly.

Eventually, she noticed me and Gus.

“Oh hey! There you are, Gus! You’re such a good boy!”

She petted him, causing him to growl contently. She then turned to me.

“And you brought Megan with you! Hi!”

Hoo boy. This is the tricky part.

“Hi Grace! Nice to see you!” I said.

Except I didn’t really say it.

We Latii are powerful psychics. So, when we need to talk to humans, we project to them psychically while mimicking their mouth movements. It’s really tricky and takes a lot of practice, and not all of us have figured out how to do it. I’ve heard tell of one Latias who could mimic one human’s appearance perfectly… But couldn’t speak a word.

“Hey, we were just about to go out and shop and all that. You wanna come with us?”

I shrugged. “Sure, why not.” Stereotypical human female activities are kind of a guilty pleasure of mine.

------
The gaggle of girls were looking at various clothes, chattering amongst themselves over which one to pick.

Grace turned to me. “You don’t want to pick anything out, Megan?”

I shook my head. “No, I’m just looking.”

She shrugged and turned away. I then leaned in and whispered to Gus.

<I don’t think any of these would fit a Latias, anyway.>

<I just hope they don’t put me in a dress again!> he replied, shuddering.

------

The girls soon moved on to a food court, where they soon gathered platters of food. They were sitting around, talking and comparing new outfits as they ate, when I walked up with a very large platter of food, causing them all to stare.

“You sure you can eat all that?” one girl said.

“How does she stay skinny?” one girl whispered to another.

I smiled reassuringly. “Relax, I have a big appetite.”

Latias have bigger bodies than humans. Gives me an advantage in the eating department, which they’re all envious of.

<Save the leftovers for me!> said Gus.

As I sit down to eat, I noticed a strange man out of the corner of my eye, but couldn’t get a good look at him. I decided it was probably nothing.

------

We then went to the movies, where I stood in front of an electronic ticket vendor.

Hoo boy, I thought. Touch screen.

Touch screens are hard to use when you still technically have claws.

I carefully pushed a few on-screen buttons with my claws, inserted the money Grace gave me, and received my ticket.

Phew. No incidents this time.

------

Finally, we sat together in the movie, Gus joining us in the seat next to me while eating the leftovers I saved for him earlier.

<Rrr…> I whispered to him. <This character is really annoying me… Such a jerk to everyone else!>

<Me too!> he whispered back. <I wanna zap him!>

<You think anyone will suspect me if I Dragon Pulse the screen?>

<I don’t think that’s a good idea…>

<I’m just joking, Gus.>

<Oh. OK, then!>

We returned to watching the movie.

------

Finally, the day was over. The various girls split up and went their separate ways, Grace last of all.
“That movie was great! I sure had a nice time! You sure you don’t want a ride home, Megan?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said, leaning down to pet Gus, who growled contently before being picked up by Grace.

“Well, come and hang out with us anytime!” she said.

“I’ll be sure to.”

She smiled, nodded, and walked off. Gus waves goodbye to me over her shoulder, and I wave back as I watch them go.

Then, a voice.

“Hey kid.”

I turned to see the unusual man from earlier standing nearby. He was dressed in a long, dark coat, a fedora with a wide brim and a red band, and a black-and-purple scarf. In addition, he had messy, medium-length blonde hair and red eyes.

“Um… Hi?” I said.

“Relax, kid, I’m not a drug dealer or anything. Though saying that probably makes you think I am anyway. I just want someone to talk to.”

“Um… OK, I’ll listen.”

He grinned. “Good. Anyway… How have you been doing?"

"Pretty well. Yourself?"

"Just hanging around town."

"Pretty much what I've been doing."

There was a pause. Then he asked...

"What do you think of Legendaries?"

"Um... I don't know. I don't know much about them. Why do you ask? It’s not a normal small-talk conversation..."

"I’m a curious man with a lot of weird opinions I like sharing. Besides, you seem like someone who would actually listen."

"Um... Alright?"

He grins. "Excellent. Anyway..."

“In my eyes, Legendaries can be sorted into three levels. Godlike, angel-like, and cryptid.”

I blinked. That’s… Pretty accurate.
“God tier’s Rayquaza, Dialga, Zekrom, etc,” he continued. “Angel tier is stuff like Latii and Shaymin. Cryptids are Mewtwo and Genesect.”

“Huh,” I said. “But they’re all important, right?”

“God and angel tier are at least, yes. People think Latii aren’t important when they really fill messenger roles and such.”

Well, at least someone shows some appreciation, I thought.

“But there’s one thing I think people get wrong about Legendaries. They assume that because they’re all high and mighty they don’t understand humans or normal Pokemon.”


He smirked.

“I think differently.”

“What… What do you mean?”

“My personal theory is that Legendaries are more humanlike than people think. Not in the ‘they’re all jerks’ way so many authors write about, but in that they have wants, needs, desires, curiosities.”

He looked up at the sky.

“And sometimes, I think Legendaries want to be like us.”

Wait… “How so?”

“They put on the guise of humans. Spend days or weeks or years among them. They do what they do, feel what they feel, live how they live. In short, they mingle.”

He looked at me knowingly.

“…But you know all this already, don’t you, young lady?”

I relaxed, and smiled. <You really had me going there for a second.>

He smiled back. <At least it keeps the humans fooled.>

We both laughed.

<So, you got any more of those National Pokegraphic magazines?> he asked.

<Not today, but I’ll get you some soon!>

<You still having problems with those damn touchscreens?>

<I’m getting used to them.>

<Alright then…>

He suddenly expanded, grew shadowy, and reformed as a massive dragon, with golden armor plates, six legs, and piercing red eyes.
<Nice talking to you.>

And in a burst of shadow he vanished.

I smiled to myself and walked out of the town.

Today has been a good day.


Reviews

Dragonfree

The trouble with this story is that nothing really happens in it. It's just a Latias going around doing trivial everyday human things while explaining to us in the narration how she does it, then having a chat with Giratina. The only thing even vaguely hinting at a conflict is when Latias sees the mysterious man, but then two minutes later it turns out he's friendly, and then that he's just Giratina randomly feeling like explaining legendaries to another legendary, so it doesn't actually end up being one. And while your characterization of the Latias and her friendship with the Helioptile and his trainer is cute and likeable, this doesn't quite manage to evoke the familiar, cozy charm of good slice-of-life fiction either.

As the contest thread said, it's not enough to just present an interpretation of the world - you need to tell a good story about it, too, and a story about a legendary's efforts to blend in with humans really, really calls for conflict. Latias implies there have been incidents when she's tried to operate human technology with her claws - why aren't we hearing about those, instead of a time when there are no incidents? Don't you think a story where Latias does Dragon Pulse a movie screen in frustration, and has to deal with the fallout, would be more interesting than one where she merely jokes about it? Exploring what happens when things go wrong with Latias's human impersonation wouldn't only improve this as a story, but also make for a more interesting and in-depth interpretation of this legendaries-impersonating-humans ordeal: what are they risking and why? How do they deal with a crisis, and how do they feel about their failures? How do other legendaries regard their failures?

In part, the issue is also that your writing doesn't include a lot of emotion. The Giratina scene could have built some tension if we'd seen Latias's growing fear, dread and alarm as she notices this man who seems to be following her, confronts her suddenly when she's alone and seems to know way too much about legendaries - doesn't she ever worry that somebody will figure her out and try to capture her, like the fifth movie Latias she has clearly heard of? But instead, you mostly just write out the dialogue, with little indication that Latias is feeling nervous or afraid. It's hard to feel like there's much at stake when the main character never loses her cool.

You have some potentially interesting interpretations of legendaries (though again, I'd have liked to see you go a bit more in-depth about the issues they face and so on), but unfortunately you're telling instead of showing: it's all presented through characters explicitly explaining it, rather than being shown in the story proper or even just integrated more smoothly into the action. This is an awkward way to present something like this - the events and dialogue feel conspicuously geared around explaining things to the reader, and thus kind of fake. Rather than having a character simply tell us that there are three tiers of legendaries, for instance, a more engaging way to present that idea would be to write about different-tier legendaries interacting with each other, or discussing the tiers with one another for story-relevant reasons ("You're going to talk to Groudon? Are you crazy? He's god-tier! Why would he listen to you?").

Finally, you should watch your tenses - you slip into present tense several times, even outside of Latias's general observations. Otherwise your writing is mechanically fine, though.

I think you focused too much on your interpretation in writing this - the story feels rushed in comparison, with less regard for plot or narrative engagement than for simply thinking up some scenes that might give you an opportunity to explain the interpretation. Remember that this isn't just an interpretation contest, but also a short story contest, and as a short story this unfortunately just isn't very compelling. If you spent more time on the story element and weaving your worldbuilding more smoothly into it, I think your creativity would have more opportunity to shine.


Negrek

Hmm, tricky. I'm not sure exactly what this story is supposed to be about. Just your interpretation of how legendaries would behave in the pokémon world? The idea being that legendaries are similar to normal humans and pokémon, and perhaps even wish they could be one of them? That's what the little info-dump near the end of the story would seem to suggest, but for most of the story I wasn't clear on why exactly you were showing what you did, what point you were trying to make.

You present several scenes of Latias doing stuff with Gus and some humans, but they don't really come together into a coherent narrative. When you're writing, you have the opportunity to talk about anything and everything--you're limited only by space and the amount of time you have to get everything down. It follows that your most important decision is not what you do show, but what you don't--almost everything. What remains should be comprised of what's important to the message you're trying to get across, but even though this is a short 'fic, you've got scenes in here that seem like they're filler, and very little in the way of actual plot or character. It's like if a friend came up to you and said, "Hey, wanna hear a cool story? Yesterday I met some friends and we went to the mall and saw a movie and ate at the food court and it was fun!" Me, anyway, I'd hear that story and ask... "So?" That's not a complete story. It doesn't appear to have anything to do with anything. Why are you telling me this? I have similar trouble figuring out what's going on in your story.

I think this is in part because what you've written here is heavy on the exposition and light on analysis. Latias goes places, does things, and has conversations, but there's no real indication of what she actually thinks about what's going on. This is all coming from the first-person point of view, but Latias doesn't really feel like a character in her own right--more like a video camera through whose lens we're witnessing a scene. But characters aren't detached, objective observers! The events of your story are happening to them, and unless they have a serious mental illness, they have opinions about them! They have messy, conflicting thoughts and feelings, and if you're going to use the first-person perspective, you want to plop us down right in the middle of them. So Latias is sitting and watching this movie, and she thinks this character is a jerk--why? It makes her angry--how? What is she actually feeling, sitting there in front of the screen, whispering to Gus? She's angry, right? But you want to do more than simply say that she's angry. When you're going about your daily life, you probably don't do a lot of thinking to yourself, "Huh, I'm pretty angry about this," or "Wait, I'm pretty happy right now, aren't I?" Instead, you clench your fists and glare, maybe, or start yelling things you would ordinarily never say. So how is Latias experiencing her anger? Is she so mad that she's having trouble controlling her illusion and is getting worried that someone's going to notice? Or is she just gleefully rooting for the jerk character to get his comeuppance in the next scene? This is what gives a real sense of your character as a person, a being with a particular history, who has specific likes, dislikes, and experiences and who thinks about the world in their own unique way. This will also help to tie together your story a bit better, because it gives you an opportunity to point out what you think it's important to take from the scene. If you want to show us that Latias has a desire to be like humans, for example, you might have her thinking, "Wow, I wish I were a human so I could go to the movies all the time and nobody would stare at me!" Or, "Humans have such interesting lives. Just look at all the stories they can tell about them!" For a story about a legendary wanting to be human, Latias doesn't do a great deal of wanting in the actual text.

That's the primary problem: I don't actually get a lot of that "desire to be like humans" from Latias (assuming that's what you're actually going for with this story). She seems to be enjoying herself with her human friends, but while she's occasionally inconvenienced by her dragon characteristics (e.g. she can't use a touchscreen), there's not a lot of indication of what she's really getting out of this experience besides some simple entertainment. The idea of the legendaries wishing they could be more like humans is definitely interesting, but if that's what you were hoping to explore here, it doesn't come across very clearly. It would help if you could give a more specific sense of what Latias enjoys about pretending to be human--what does she get out of hanging out with these teenage humans that she doesn't when hanging around with other pokémon? Why is she drawn to them? What qualities do they have that she admires and that she and/or other pokémon don't have? You can bring this all in by getting inside Latias' head a bit more and really letting us know what's going through her mind.

Finally, you lean too heavily on infodumping to get your point across. Giratina shows up at the end, basically out of nowhere, and talks at Latias about what he thinks about legendaries (and what I'm here taking to be the points you wanted to get across). It's like a deus ex machina, except instead of a god showing up to make everything right in the story, a godlike pokémon shows up to save the story itself from being incoherent. It you'd ended before his "Hey, kid," I would have ended up with absolutely no idea what the story was supposed to be about. His appearance not only seems to be largely unrelated to the events that came before, but feels extremely contrived from a narrative standpoint, because how often do people, even people who feel like they really want to talk to someone else about something, go over to them and say, essentially, "Hey person, I want to talk to you. I'm going show you my opinions on [topic] now," and proceed to go off on whatever it is they're concerned with. Like if I came up to you on the street and said, "Hey, guess what? I like apples. You know the funny thing about apples...?" you'd probably be pretty weirded out. Giratina isn't behaving like a real character here; he's acting like a mouthpiece for the author, who really wants to tell us about something and solves the problem by having a character talk about it even though it doesn't make sense for them to do so. You want to find ways to work this information in more naturally, both so that it isn't such a slap in the face at the end of the story, and so that the rest of the 'fic hangs together better. You wouldn't really need Giratina to come in and tell us what's up if you'd had Latias clearly wanting to be more like humans earlier on--"Man, I really love human food--can't get any of this stuff out in the wild", general wonderment over the things humans have created or the way they behave, whatever. I think you do fine on the whole "just like other humans and pokémon" bit, for what it's worth: that comes across naturally by seeing Latias enjoying herself with the other characters, getting along with them just fine, and so on. You'll have to work a little harder to show her wanting to become more like humans, but if done right you'll never have to actually come out and say it explicitly.

On the other hand, your prose itself is fine: no real issues with spelling, grammar, what have you. Nice job there.

In the end, I think you present a lot of interesting ideas in this piece: Latias hanging out with a bunch of teenagers in a mall and trying to act like a normal teenage human, her relationship with a normal pokémon who (presumably) considers her to be on the level of some kind of angelic being, and so on. The problem is that you don't really follow through on them. For example, one of the most frustrating parts of this story for me was actually the scene with the ticket dispenser. Okay, so Latias has trouble with touchscreens, but this one she managed to operate without major incident. But how did she actually manage? You set up a great opportunity to show off a bit, give us a little cool tidbit that you thought up, but you just pass it right by. Similarly, I'd love to know what, exactly, Giratina and Latias think distinguishes legendaries in the "godlike" tier from the "angel-like" tier, and so on. You mention the little classification system, Latias agrees that it's a good one, and then we move on immediately--so you've basically shown off a cool idea that you could talk about, but instead of actually expanding on it, you move on immediately to something else. If you take a bit more time to think about the "why"s and "how"s of your story and how your characters feel about the situation they're in--and actually work the answers into your narrative!--I think you'd do better justice to your ideas.


Phoenixsong

This one was pretty cute. I have a thing for stories about legendaries masquerading as humans, especially when they have to work hard at blending in or at understanding how human things function. That said, aside from giving us the general idea that this latias enjoys several human/girly activities and a few brief explanations about how the illusion works, you just sort of gloss over the girls' outing and interject a few of Latias's thoughts before launching into that whole thing with the strange man and calling it a day. It feels a bit shallow at times like those, unfortunately. I think a lot of this shallowness comes from you outright telling us that operating a touchscreen with claws is difficult or that shopping is fun. It would've been more interesting to have us experience these things alongside Latias instead.

There were also several instances where Latias would say things like "This is a fact about Latii, but more on that later." It comes across as odd and a little frustrating when the narration is coquettish like that. There are better ways to have Latias walk us through this than teasing an explanation, waiting several paragraphs and finally infodumping about the topic after that. Again, try spending that time describing how Latias overcomes that challenge as she's overcoming it, and if necessary have her throw in a few clarifications as she goes.

For example, when Latias first speaks to Gus, just stop at saying that he greeted her in the language of pokémon. We can see you're using angle brackets instead of standard quotation marks so we know it's not a normal conversation, and it's a fair assumption that a latias and a helioptile aren't likely to chat in English. Either way, trust that your readers will understand that the conversation is in pokéspeak and drop the teaser until Grace shows up. Here you can try integrating what is currently a story-pausing infodump into your description instead. Maybe something like:

"Hi, Grace! Nice to see you!" I said, projecting my thoughts as clearly as I could and hoping my lips were in sync this time. I'd received enough funny looks to know I needed to be careful with that many sibilant sounds so close together.
That might be a little kludgy, but it doesn't stop the story outright to explain, it makes it clear that she's lip-syncing to telepathic speech and it even adds to the "mimicking humans is hard" angle by implying that people sometimes notice she has trouble with a lot of 'S' sounds close together (Grace, nice, see). I'm not sure what her trouble with sibilants might be or whether that's even a logical difficulty for her to have, but you get the idea and I'm sure you could come up with something suitable.

Alternatively, instead of sticking with traditional first-person narration you could swing in the other direction and make the tone really conversational. This might even be a better idea as it would fit in with Latias enjoying stereotypical teen girl chatting. She can still stop and explain if you need her to, but since it would be written as though she's talking to a friend the explanations wouldn't be so dry. Using the same passage as an example:

"Hi, Grace! Nice to see you!" I said, and I even got all those 'S' sounds matched up right for once. It's not as easy as it looks, you know, projecting your thoughts out loud and trying to make the right shapes with your mouth at the same time, but I've just about got it down. Certainly better than that Latias I heard about who can mimic a human's appearance perfectly but can't say a single word.
That one is similar to your original text but is more relaxed, even with a bit of pride thrown in, and is more fun to read in general. Try experimenting with the conversational tone and see if you can have Latias's voice really shine through in the story she's telling.

Cute as the rest of the story was, you lost me at the end there. I guess I don't understand why Giratina would just show up and go on about how people rank legendaries. Latias does acknowledge that these are strange questions, but I don't know what those "tiers" have to do with anything. It would seem less out of left field (if only somewhat, this is still a totally random thing to say to an apparent stranger even if we do find out he's joking around later) if he'd just said "Hey, what do you think of legendaries? They seem to be pretty powerful and important but I bet they can be a bit more 'human' than humans realize". The lines about being a drug dealer are also forced. It feels like you started to write "Hey kid", thought it sounded like something a drug dealer would say and threw in that exchange while you were amused by that realization. Then it loops back and says he might still be a drug dealer anyway, making that entire bit silly and circular. I would just cut that dealer bit out, honestly.

Your spelling and grammar are generally fine, but you could stand to watch your diction more carefully. Several paragraphs come across as either awkward or a little simplistic. My usual advice is to read aloud while proofreading, and you can also try reading the story backwards; either one will force you to focus on one word or on small groups of words at a time, and reading aloud will give you a better understanding of each sentence's flow.

In the end you've got a sweet little peek into how the eon pokémon's disguises work and why they might bother in the first place, but the story was a little too shallow and hasty to really capitalize on its cuteness. It doesn't necessarily need more scenes; you just need to make full use of the scenes you already have and expand them so we can really see Latias working to blend in and enjoying herself. Making Giratina's scene a little more cohesive would also help (although you get bonus points for giving me the mental image of it wearing a fedora and scarf).


Psychic

Yay legendaries! It’s always interesting learning people’s headcanons regarding legendaries and seeing how they function in the Pokémon world, both in the grand scheme of things as well as on an individual basis. You try to cover both here, and while it seemed interesting, unfortunately it seemed to only just brush the surface.

While you do have a neat idea here, the execution feels rushed. Part of it is just because it’s a short story with very quick little vignettes. While cute, they unfortunately didn’t feel wholly satisfying in giving a concrete picture of what a Latias must go through to mingle effectively in human society without notice., or even what draws her to that specific culture. You say that stereotypical girl activities are her guilty pleasures, and while you show her doing them, we never get to see why she enjoys them. We don’t come away knowing why she enjoys spending time with teenage girls versus say children or charitable organizations, which kind of defeats the point. In fact, she seems to enjoy spending time with Gus more than the other girls, considering she hardly speaks to anyone but the Helioptile. What she says and what she does are two very different things, and that’s a problem.

I think the other part of the reason is that you fall into the trap of telling instead of showing. For instance, when you describe Latias watching humans do human things and describe some of those things, give them some context, some flavour. If you’re going to talk about humans laughing, show us who these humans are and what they’re laughing at – it could be an elderly couple joking amongst themselves, a child pulling his mother’s hand as he giggles at the antics of a street performer and her Mime Jr. – create a scene for the reader to see and enjoy simultaneously. When the girls are clothing-shopping and doing all the other stuff, show Latias listening to what they say and chatting with them instead of just spending each scene cracking jokes with the Helioptile. While this works as a cute visual, it takes away from showing Latias interacting with the girls, which is the whole point of the story.

It’s interesting spending a day in Latias’ life as she enjoys human society, but keep in mind that she’s doing this to be with humans. That said, it also would have been nice to see a little conflict. The fact that passing as human comes so easily to Latias unfortunately makes the story a little dull. It would have been nice to see Latias make a slip up or a close call, since as it is there were no situations that require a great deal of effort as far as we can see. At one point, she makes a big deal about the one Latias who can’t speak like a human, but gets the appearance down perfectly, which implies that other Lati, the protagonist included, don’t do it as well. But we get no indication that she does anything less than flawlessly. The way it’s described, she does everything with ease, including not drawing attention to herself even when carrying a mountain of food. No questions are raised about how Latias has the money to buy food, or where Grace and the girls think she’s from. She even manages to borrow money from Grace without even being asked why she can’t pay for it herself like (we assume) she did lunch. Also, how on earth does a Latias sit in a movie theatre? Any of these could have been a neat moment where the girls get suspicious and Latias has to try to smooth things over while worrying she has permanently blown her cover and will never be able to hang out with the girls again.

Then there’s the encounter with the mysterious stranger. This also felt rushed, especially because it was clear that you were using the conversation as exposition for your theories about legendaries. It even briefly gets soapbox-y about how writers tend to depict them. It also feels a little inconsistent. The mysterious strangers makes small talk before getting to the meat of the conversation, but asking “how have you been?” implies that you already know the other person, which he is pointedly pretending not to at that point, so watch out for that. There’s also the fact that this guy’s actions should be setting off red flags for Latias – after all, who stops a random person to talk about legendaries unless they have some kind of ulterior motive or knowledge? He actually sounds more like a legendary poacher who wants to show off how smart he is before ensnaring his prey – and hey, that would have also been a really neat direction to take the story in!

Overall, I thought you had a neat idea, I just wish you had done more with it, like focused more on expanding on Latias’ interactions with other humans instead of Gus. It seems that the fic you set off to make and the fic you did make were very different, so that is something you might want to watch out for in the future. That said, I did find the little vignettes very cute, and the shortness did work well in that way.
 

Dragonfree

Just me
9th place: Nullify by diamondpearl876

Scoring
Dragonfree: 9th place (50 points)
Negrek: 6th place (80 points)
Phoenixsong: 10th place (40 points)
Psychic: 9th place (50 points)
Total: 220 points

NULLIFY

My life started on a Thursday. That isn’t to say I was born on a Thursday, but that I escaped from the lab on that day. I knew what day it was because Professor Rowan announced it, as he always did, as if we were humans and it was important to us. “It may not be important to you now, but it will be to your future trainers,” he said with a wink. His gruff voice offered no comfort, and only a younger mudkip, eager to please, smiled. The other mudkip and all the torchic and treecko wanted a trainer. They were simply tired of hearing about trainers, fearing that they would be sick of humans before they even got assigned to one. I didn’t want a trainer; I didn’t focus on his words, his attack training. I paid attention to survival techniques and similar life lessons. When he wasn’t talking about our future trainers, after all, he was emphasizing our natural habitats and how we should learn from our species’ pasts. He did it so often I thought that the ocean was where I belonged instead. If I had known what I would see and who I would meet when I left, I may or may not have reconsidered.

Reaching the ocean was a simpler task than my mind made it out to be. All I had to do was cause a commotion with my water gun attack, since Professor Rowan always tended to a torchic when it was hit by water. I hit not just one, but three, and suddenly he had his hands full. I used this time to squeeze through the fence surrounding the lab and went south. A forest was the only thing standing in my way now. Professor Rowan was, at least, good for teaching us about the Hoenn region and its various locations, so I knew where to go. I met a few pokémon on the way, but no water-types. I hardly ate anything, as I didn’t know how to fend for myself in a forest. I did drink water though I was unsure of its cleanliness—only because I was desperate after a few days. I couldn’t afford to be careless now.

I didn’t know what I was expecting to see when I reached the ocean. I thought of potential friends, rivals, and enemies. Maybe I’d have a family. I thought of swimming endlessly and exploring for treasure I could show off to others. I wanted to be serious about my new life, but my carefree, childish side was happily exposing itself.

But when I got my first glimpse of water, what I mostly saw was a mass of pink blobs, screeching and reaching together to find dry land. They were obviously trying to escape from something and I was utterly clueless. Approaching them, I wondered if I should have been afraid of these things, these pokémon with stubby legs, large eyes and wide open mouths. They seemed harmless enough, but I was still so inexperienced…

As I got closer, I saw another crowd on the other side, near the ocean. This crowd was a mass of purple shells with long tongues and beady eyes. One of the shells, however, was secluded, placed on a mound of dirt and grass, a serious look on its face.

“Thank you all for being here,” I heard it say loudly in an unwavering voice, “but I never loved a damn one of you.”

Now the mass of purple shells was whispering among itself, though I couldn’t hear anything due to the rather soft, mournful screaming of the pink blobs.

“I may not truly belong to this group of shellder, but I do know I hate these slowpoke. I hate the way they use us for their evolutionary forms. I hate the way they steal us away, never to be seen or heard of again. I’m here to put a stop to this, no matter what it takes.”

The crowd went silent, with some peering back and forth between the speaker and the pink blobs scurrying away. One decided to speak up: “What are you planning to do? Why are you doing this to us?”

“Why have I pretended all this time? Why, what else can I do when you all depend on me for everything? You all want this, you all want that. I’ve never done anything for myself. Now is the time,” the shellder replied.

I didn’t know enough about the shellder species, but I knew something was off when the speaker started to glow. On and off, on and off, the intensity increasing each time.

“Go back into the water. …See you all later,” the shellder said, hopping down from its grassy pedestal and over its so-called friends and family. It landed by the slowpoke easily, as the pink blobs weren’t moving at a decent pace. The remaining shellder obeyed, frantically sweeping each other back into the ocean and away from the imminent chaos they were detecting.

I didn’t know what the glowing meant and I didn’t know what the panic was about. Even then, I could sense that something bad was going to happen. Suddenly I was moving on my own, running toward the shellder, asking—begging—for it to wait, just wait a moment.

“Who are you?” the shellder demanded. “You should get out of here.”

“What are you going to do?” I was panting by the time I caught up to the scene.

“I’m going to self-destruct. Shellder normally can’t self-destruct, but I had a trainer before, and he taught me how to do it with a TM. Everyone knows what I’m going to do because I’ve… bragged about my power for years.”

“As a threat?” I automatically said. Honestly, I wasn’t looking to anger the shellder further, but he reminded me so much of myself that I could take a guess. The shellder reminded me of when I left the lab—the most recent scenario I could think of. I had been so determined to reach my goal that I was willing to hurt someone else, specifically the torchic. I was reckless, impulsive and prone to not thinking through situations well, and apparently, so was this shellder. The main difference between us was that the shellder cared about its actions and I didn’t—his voice clearly came off as faulty when he claimed he loved no one.

The shellder was still glowing, though not as often. “What’s your name?” it said hesitantly.

“I don’t have a name. I never had a trainer. Yours?”

“Seigi,” he said, not looking at me anymore.

“Well, Seigi, it’s pretty obvious that you’ve never been hit by electricity before.”

“What are you talking about?” he said, quieter now that the slowpoke seemed to have calmed down.

“All young water-type pokémon think about what it’s like to be hit by lightning or an electric-type attack, right? They don’t walk into lightning storms or into disadvantageous battles out of curiosity. They do it so that their self-destructive tendencies out of their system before they’re older.”

Seigi stared in disbelief, which may or may not have meant my words were getting through to him. Since he was lacking a full face, his expression was unreadable. It teetered between a look of realization and anger.

“Hmph. I’m not doing this because I don’t like myself. I’m doing this to save the others. They all expect me to do this. They’ll have to go to someone else from now on to fix their problems.”

“You guys can move to a different part of the ocean, away from them. Or you… you can ask everyone to partner up and protect each other if they go away from the pack. Or something. You don’t need to die to save them,” I said, trying to think of alternatives for him with little to no information. For some reason I felt like I should have been here much, much earlier, just so I could save Seigi. Perhaps it was because he was another version of myself, one that was amplified and more willing to get what he wanted. My heart, on the other hand, was so irresponsible that it couldn’t even show up on time for the sake of these slowpoke and shellder.

“No matter what you say, I know you don’t understand. Again, you should get out of the way before it hurts you, too,” Seigi said. Upon seeing him glow again, I stepped back and prepared myself to fight. I was a pokémon with no battling experience, but if words weren’t going to work, I had to try something else. Since I was lacking in power, I would have to deal with pushing him back, away from the slowpoke…

I heard the sound of Seigi’s shell cracking from front to back. I looked at him, his eyes bulging, his tongue swelling. Not only was it an awfully sad sight, but also one of regret. This was the last thing he wanted to do, I could tell. Still, once pokémon like us had a goal in sight, it was nearly impossible to turn it down. He could go, but the rest would have to stay.

My head went back as I accumulated a vast amount of water in my throat. I sprinted forward and released a steady, powerful stream of water at the same time, aiming for Seigi. My vision of Seigi’s tearful eyes was replaced by the rush of my attack. When the water gun collided with Seigi, I hoped it didn’t go straight through him. I heard a splash and a muffled cry; the force I had mustered in one go was, luckily, enough to push the shellder back. I ran to the nearest tree, hiding behind it and bracing myself for the oncoming impact.

But nothing happened. I assumed I had missed the whole thing and that it all occurred in a swift moment, as the slowpoke were deathly quiet. As I looked up, however, I could still see them toppling over each other, trying to best one another at getting away. I stepped away from the tree. I saw Seigi about five feet into the ocean, unmoving. Was he dead? No. He would have been torn into pieces if he were dead. Somehow the self-destruction had been halted. Fearlessly I walked up to him, nudged him gently as if I had known him for years. He felt damp and cold.

“Why did you do that?” he said weakly.

“To save the slowpoke, of course...”

“No,” he said instantly, but then he paused. “I didn’t stop the attack on purpose. It was like… you stopped it for me.”

“Are you kidding me? I can’t control you,” I retorted. “Anyway,” I added, “I’m not sorry about it.”

“I feel… I feel so much calmer now. I don’t know what happened. What did you do?”

“I hit you. That’s it. I saved you from your suicide mission by hitting you with water, which you’re probably always in anyway. I don’t get it either, okay?” I told him. Nevertheless I thought about his statement. Only the two of us had been present and capable of altering the attack; the slowpoke were too slow moving to have done anything worthwhile. And all that had connected Seigi and I was my water gun. It was as if my attack had an otherworldly power that had practically diffused the lit bomb inside of the shellder’s tiny body. Later I would think about it harder and wonder if the self-destruction move really entailed placing miniature bombs inside the user’s organs and then having them explode at the user’s will. Seigi had said he learned this from his trainer, after all—it wasn’t too far-fetched to think something could have been planted inside him. I never asked for fear of upsetting him. Also, for the attack to be stopped, my water gun must have had the sharpness and the ability to cut through Seigi’s modified organs and slice through the main source, rendering the explosion as unusable and, unfortunately, damaging the shellder further. And Seigi, he felt calmer, as if the hatred and devastation he felt toward the slowpoke had seeped out of him in a flash. The TM his trainer used must have changed his personality—perhaps he was not so much like me, after all, but now there was no turning back.

“Did you mean what you said? That there are others ways around this?”

“Yes,” I said, though I wasn’t sure if I was being honest.

“I thought my special power was the only way to fix this. To do anything else… I just never thought about it. I felt like all their lives were in my hands, and therefore I, by myself, was insignificant. I never thought—”

“You never thought you might want to keep your life for yourself?” I finished, offered, and the only answer Seigi gave was a slow, painful nod of the head—his cracks hadn’t disappeared, and who knew how powerful my water gun had been. He flinched. At least he didn’t seem fatally wounded. “And yet you’re still hurting yourself,” I added.

Seigi decided to change the subject and said, “So why did you come here?”

“I came to live in the ocean. Is it always as lively as this?”

“No.” He laughed slightly. “You should… You should come and stay with us.”

“Should I? Why don’t I stay with the slowpoke instead?”

“Why would you?” Seigi said, and even I could read the confused look on his face.

“I can keep them from getting to the shellder. You can keep your friends from getting to the slowpoke. Or something like that…” I trailed off, only spouting out ideas again, though this one seemed doable.

“I guess,” he said softly. “We should be far away from each other. Is that okay with you?”

I thought about how I had been so far away from the ocean just days before. I thought about Professor Rowan, how he always babbled about how we were special, how in the future we’d be wanted by someone or something. I thought: this is what I had been missing.

“Well, distance isn’t so terrible once you grow used to it. It’ll be like playing a game of hide and seek every day, and I’ll be guaranteed to find you no matter where you are.”

“You talked before like you were older, and now you sound like a kid again,” Seigi pointed out.

“A kid has the future to look forward to,” I said, shaking my head. “What about you?”


Reviews

Dragonfree

This is a really weird story. I get the feeling you just didn't really know what you wanted it to be about or what you wanted to do with these characters - that may not actually be the case, but it comes off that way. A lot of the fic seems like a random barrage of disorganized ideas that don't really logically connect or follow from one another; it kind of reminds me of your one-shot Who Are You This Time?, about which I felt similarly. You never seem to have decided if this had an overarching theme or what it was, and I'm just left confused by the entirety of it.

By the time the story ends, you haven't attempted to resolve the conflict between the Shellder and the Slowpoke in any meaningful way. You haven't really developed the characters - their motivations are really strange and inconsistent throughout and I can't get any good grasp on their characterization. You haven't shown any meaningful parallel between Mudkip and Seigi - Mudkip insists that they're totally alike, but only by unconvincingly asserting he has some traits that are never really shown in the story proper, and near the end it turns out that oh, wait, actually they weren't anything alike after all because it was just the Selfdestruct TM that made Seigi this way. You haven't really built up a friendship between them, as evidenced by the fact that Mudkip throughout appears to mostly be concerned for the lives of the unnamed Slowpoke and only seems to care about Seigi to the extent that he reminds him of himself until quite suddenly at the very end. They haven't even really learned anything - Seigi has changed, but apparently only because his Selfdestruct has been deactivated, and when Mudkip seemingly expressed remorse about using the Torchic for his own gain, it both came off as random and unprompted and was immediately followed by him saying he doesn't care about his actions and never bringing this up again, so apparently he wasn't feeling much in the way of remorse after all. I'm just not sure exactly what I'm meant to be taking away from this aside from, "Here's how Selfdestruct and Damp work."

Mudkip's characterization is very much a show-vs-tell issue. What you show us at the beginning is Mudkip wanting to escape the lab, seemingly having been longing to live in the ocean and paying special attention to the professor's lessons on survival techniques for a while. He observes that Rowan will always tend to Torchic that get hit with Water attacks and thus comes up with the simple plan of hitting three of them so that Rowan will have his hands full and he can sneak out. Once he's out, he's too careful to even drink water that might not be clean until he's particularly desperate. And as he travels he thinks about the future and what he might do once he's in the ocean and who he might meet there. Okay, I'm with you so far: Mudkip appears to be meticulous, observant, determined and something of a dreamer who desires friendship and company. Then when he sees the fleeing Slowpoke and Seigi about to Selfdestruct, he panics and immediately runs up to beg him to stop. All right, so Mudkip feels compelled to help people who seem to be in distress or danger. Makes sense.

But then the next moment, Mudkip starts talking about how he's so reckless and impulsive and selfish and doesn't think ahead, which is basically the exact opposite of how his character has been portrayed in the story thus far. It's presumably not just the difference between his self-image and what he's actually like, since the traits he apparently thinks he has are a lot more negative than the ones he's actually been shown to have, and if he merely thinks of himself as having these traits it seems unlikely he'd empathize so strongly with this Shellder he's only seeing his pretend-traits in. Now I'm just confused; I think I'm supposed to take Mudkip's self-analysis at face value, but it completely contradicts what I otherwise know about him, and I'm thrown back to having no idea who Mudkip is really supposed to be. The actual story then continues to portray him completely differently from what he's told us he's like as he goes to great lengths to save all these Slowpoke and Shellder that he's only just met. Was Mudkip supposed to have learned not to be selfish? Because he never really seemed to be selfish in the first place - the thing about attacking the Torchic comes off as fairly harmless, a necessary minor evil in the service of his freedom. I didn't give it a second glance.

Seigi isn't much better - I can't even tell why he actually wanted to Selfdestruct. First he says it's because he hates the Slowpoke for exploiting the Shellder and wants to stop it no matter what. Then Mudkip seems pretty sure it's about some self-destructive/suicidal tendencies shared by all Water Pokémon that he just never got out of his system when he was younger, and at this Seigi looks at him in "anger and realization", which seems to imply he's realizing Mudkip is right. Then Seigi claims he's doing it because the Shellder all expect him to, except just earlier he was saying he wants to finally do something for himself for once after everyone's depended on him for so long, so even his surface excuse for why he's doing this seems to have randomly inverted itself without either him or Mudkip noticing. Then Mudkip disables the Selfdestruct TM, upon which he concludes that Seigi is calmer and that his apparently-genuine hatred for the Slowpoke has vanished, and Seigi is now saying he felt all of their lives were in his hands so he must do this - so it was because he hated the Slowpoke for exploiting the Shellder after all? Except at the same time he's saying he felt insignificant and like his life wasn't his own to keep, so I guess maybe he really was kind of suicidal? Except that was all the Selfdestruct TM's doing? I literally have no idea what you actually intended to be Seigi's motivation for exploding, and since his entire characterization revolves around the fact he's going to Selfdestruct, this means I can't tell much of substance about his character at all.

These are not the only weird moments with the characters, either. Mudkip says both that the difference between him and Seigi is that Seigi is more willing to do anything to get what he wants and that Selfdestructing is clearly the last thing he wants. Does he or does he not think Seigi actually wants to Selfdestruct? And he berates himself for not showing up on time for the Shellder and Slowpoke, which is nonsensical since he didn't know they were in danger before (and, like most of Mudkip's behaviour, wildly contradicts the assertion that he's selfish).

You have nuggets of ideas or themes in here that could be interesting if developed properly, like Mudkip's bit about how Water Pokémon all have self-destructive tendencies that make them want to be struck by lightning (although why is he confidently making claims about all Water Pokémon when literally the only Water Pokémon he's ever met are other Mudkip?), but it seems to turn out to not have anything to do with Seigi's particular case and is never mentioned again. The idea of the Shellder feeling used by the Slowpoke could similarly be interesting if developed properly, but the Slowpoke and the other Shellder are non-characters, and in the end it's not even addressed, instead just being treated as if Shellder and Slowpoke hating each other is an inevitable fact of life and all they can do is keep them apart. And the idea of TMs changing Pokémon's personalities is pretty unsettling and something worth exploring, but here is only awkwardly brought out to resolve Seigi's issues and then discarded.

So really, I think you need to nail down in your mind exactly who these characters are, why they do what they do, and what the story is actually about, and then rewrite this from the ground up in accordance with that. Is this supposed to be the story of a dissatisfied, selfish Mudkip who meets a suicidal Shellder, sees himself in him, and sets off on the road to becoming a better person by saving him, after being shocked by the realization that one day this could be him? Then spend more time at the beginning actually showing that Mudkip is selfish - show the Torchic he attacks in actual pain or distress and Mudkip not caring, for instance - instead of having Mudkip simply declare that he is later. You could probably ditch the irrelevant Shellder/Slowpoke conflict and instead figure out something more sensibly parallel to Mudkip's experiences or actions that he'd see in Seigi and identify with. Don't undermine the parallel by saying all the personality traits Mudkip identified with were actually just caused by the Selfdestruct TM. Is it supposed to be about a bitter outsider searching for a better life who wanders into a seemingly irreconcilable conflict between two Pokémon species, feels moved to stop it and finds himself in that role, becoming part of the community through helping to make peace? Then develop the Slowpoke and Shellder and the conflict between them better, show both sides' point of view, let Seigi be merely a particularly desperate activist who wants to destroy the Slowpoke for good, let Mudkip just be a compassionate person instead of insisting that he's selfish (or, if he used to be selfish, let there be something about this conflict that reasonably stirs up the compassion within him), and have the end actually resolve the conflict in some satisfying manner. Is it supposed to be something else entirely? Then emphasize whichever bits do help get the real point across and excise the others.

As for the interpretation, I can't quite buy it as an interpretation of the canonical Damp ability. Sure, the ability is what gives Mudkip's Water Gun the "sharpness" required to disable the explosives. But think of it this way: when you interpret a move or ability to work differently from how it does in canon, you essentially pretend that it really works how you're interpreting it but the games simplify it for the sake of the gameplay into how it works there. It mostly makes sense this way to interpret Selfdestruct as killing the user - there are good reasons the games wouldn't show Selfdestruct as fatal even if it "really" were. But Damp is specifically a wholly passive ability that disables Pokémon from using explosive moves/abilities while the bearer is active, while in your story the ability seems to enhance Mudkip's Water moves to disable the target's explosive moves permanently. If this were how Damp "really" worked, there's no reason the games couldn't, say, add "damp" as a pseudo-status that disables explosive moves and have Water moves (or even all moves) used by Pokémon with the ability inflict that pseudo-status, but that's just not how it works. In an explanation of Damp I want to see an explanation of why the bearer's mere presence prevents explosive moves, not something that changes its effects to something easier to work with and then explains that.

So all in all, this felt very aimless and unfocused and I don't feel the interpretation is really explaining the canonical Damp ability, so I'm afraid I can't give it a very high score. But you do have some intriguing ideas, and you were clearly going for some interesting character motives and development - they just get drowned because you don't seem to have nailed them down well enough before you began and then you're trying to do too much in too short a space. Mainly you need to slow down and construct the story with more thought given to communicating its central themes.

(Also, why is Professor Rowan in Hoenn, giving out Treecko, Torchic and Mudkip? Did you mean Professor Birch?)


Negrek

"How does the damp ability work?", yeah? (Plus a little bit of "How does selfdestruct/explosion work?") All well and good, but in the end, the "interpretation" element really didn't have a very prominent place in your story. Yes, damp prevents the shellder from blowing himself up, but there's just a brief appearance of the ability itself, then a chunky paragraph of infodump about how it works (along with selfdestruct). In the end, there's not a lot of exploration of the ability, and not even all that much of an explanation as such--you end up with the mudkip saying, "Well, I guess it must work like this, but I'm really just speculating here." The interpretation feels tacked on, and overall the piece gives the impression of a story that you wrote for other reasons and whichjust happened to meet the requirements of this contest, rather than one that really lives the "interpretation" idea.

It's also possible that you meant to show "damp" in a more metaphorical sense here: in addition to literally stopping Seigi from exploding, the mudkip serves as something as a balance for the shellder, dampening his extreme tendencies and so preventing him from blowing up in a more metaphorical sense. In that case, the interpretation is a bigger part of the story, and a rather clever idea. But if that's what you were going for, it was way too subtle; as it is, I doubt that's really what you intended and I'm only seeing it as a possibility because I've had to write way too many lit analysis papers in my life.

Anyway, what this story is really about is the relationship between the mudkip and the shellder. Unfortunately I'm not really buying it. The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand, the mudkip keeps insisting throughout the story that he's so much like this shellder, but his reasoning makes no sense to me. On the other, I don't see anything in the shellder's behavior to suggest that he feels any sort of deep connection to the mudkip up until the end when he's fretting over the fact that they'll have to live apart.

Well, one caveat: I'm not sure whether you intended to portray Mudkip as unbalanced or not--if so, then maybe you're trying to suggest that his ideas are kind of ridiculous in general, and the magnitude of this relationship is all in his head. In that case, again, I'd say you need to be more clear about things. And if you weren't intending for Mudkip to be all that odd, you shouldn't have him spouting off things that make no sense whatsoever:

My heart, on the other hand, was so irresponsible that it couldn’t even show up on time for the sake of these slowpoke and shellder.
That's just an absurd thing to think. There's also that weird bit where he's going on about how water-type pokémon all want to get hit by lightning because of some kind of deep-seated self-destructive drive. The shellder just kind of seemed to accept that when Mudkip said it, which makes it appear that that's actually a fact in your view of the pokémon world, but at least to me that seems like a pretty out there statement to be dropped in like it's common knowledge. Then there's the part where Mudkip decides he's not so similar to Seigi after all, but at that point it's too late to back out for some reason... just rather strange. If you were trying to indicate that we shouldn't trust Mudkip to have an accurate grasp of what's going on, these statements would be good indicators of that. However, if that's the case, I think you didn't do a good enough job of making that clear through other means.

In any case, I'll proceed from here taking his narration at face value. Practically upon setting eyes on the shellder, Mudkip is going on about how similar they are, but I really thought that was a stretch. This is what he says he has in common with Seigi:

I was reckless, impulsive and prone to not thinking through situations well, and apparently, so was this shellder.
He presents his escape from the lab as an example of these attributes, but it doesn't seem all that reckless or impulsive to me. The way I understand things to have gone down, he'd been planning this for a while: he wanted to go to the ocean instead of going with a trainer, so he focused on learning survival skills rather than battling technique, came up with a plan to distract Rowan, and then put it into motion and fled. Jumping into the conflict between the slowpoke and the shellder is reckless, yes, but it's the opposite of self-interested, which is another thing Mudkip seems to think the two of them share. He mentions that neither of them has a problem hurting others to get what they want, which is true to some extent, but giving some torchic a bruising isn't quite on the same level as "blowing up an entire tribe of slowpoke." In general, Mudkip's analysis of his actions and motivations doesn't square with how I see the events of the story, and so his constant insistence that he's the same as Seigi grated on me. I think you could do a better job of showing us the character attributes you want us to pick up on through the way characters act during the story instead of talking about them in the narration--if you intend for Mudkip's assessment of himself to come across as accurate.

And then from the shellder's side of things, I didn't detect that he has any particular interest in the mudkip whatsoever, like I said, right up until the very end. Most of his characterization comes through dialogue--there's not a great deal said about his expressions or body language (at least for part of the time it's stated that it's hard to read his expression because of his injuries). And he simply doesn't say anything indicating he has particular interest in Mudkip, or at least, not to me. After that, his being anxious at the thought of being away from Mudkip seems to me to come out of nowhere. If Seigi is really attracted to Mudkip, either platonically or romantically, I'd expect to see more signs of it earlier, either through how Seigi was acting (rather than what he was saying), or through dialogue that hinted at that attraction somehow.

So in the end, I can see these two being interested in each other by the end of the story, but talking like they can't bear to live apart or whatever seems to me to be going a bit far. Simply changing the tone of their conversation from "how can we bear to be apart" to more "I really hope I get to see you again soon" would do wonders to make me buy this story. It's not like people can't develop such a strong interest in each other in a short space of time, but you'd need to present their developing feelings for one another more convincingly for me to feel like it was possible for these two in particular.

I also had a few issues with the logic behind some elements of the story. They mostly have to do with the idea that Mudkip is a starter who ran away from Rowan's lab. First of all, Birch being Hoenn's professor, shouldn't it be Birch Mudkip was trying to escape, not Rowan? Next, you'd be too desperate to worry about how clean your water was way earlier than days after you'd started wandering in the woods--humans die after only about three days without water, and a water-type pokémon I would expect to need even more to survive. And if the mudkip has been traveling hard for days before reaching the ocean, barely eating or drinking at all, how is he in any shape whatsoever to care about, much less try to intervene in, what's going on between the shellder and slowpoke? Finally, if this is all taking place in Hoenn, how come all of the wild pokémon we actually encounter are native to Kanto?

Also, why are all the slowpoke running away from the shellder *before* he explains what he's trying to do? And if he gave them some kind of ultimatum before the other shellder showed up, I'd expect them to have managed to clear out by the time he actually goes to use his attack... slowpoke may be slow, but they aren't glacial. One way or another, it seems like you kind of forget about the slowpoke once they'd served their purpose in getting Mudkip's attention. They have a lot of time to react both during the time that the shellder is giving his speech and when he's arguing with Mudkip. Did none of them seriously realize, "Hey, there's tons of us and only one of him, a few confusion attacks here and we should be fine?" Alternatively, I can't see how, even moving at a slow pace, they wouldn't be able to spread out enough while fleeing that the shellder wouldn't actually be able to hit all that many of them with his attack. (And come on, none of the shellder is a decent enough person to at least make a cursory effort at getting Seigi to stop what he intends to do?)

As for your actual writing, it's a bit tell-y for me. The mudkip spends a lot of time analyzing his own actions rather than just acting, which seems disingenuous to me; certainly I don't think all that much about my own motivations for doing things, but the mudkip spends a fair amount of time analyzing his. Since this is past-tense, it could be that that stuff (like his speculation on how selfdestruct works) could be commentary added as he relates this tale to someone else or turns it over in his mind, but that's not how the story's framed, and even if that were the intention I'd still think you were a bit heavy on the introspection.

Also, you appear to be reaching for fancy words a fair amount, and as a result often end up using some that are subtly wrong. For example, you have the "hatred and devastation" Seigi feels towards the slowpoke... except that devastation isn't something you can feel towards someone, although it's an emotion you yourself can experience. Or there's Seigi's voice sounding "faulty," which is along the lines of "defective"--not really a word I'd use to describe someone's voice under any conditions I can think of (maybe you wanted "faltering?"). On the whole your word choice and phrasing often sounds a bit clumsy, like you're working to make your prose sound sophisticated.

In the end, this 'fic feels very constructed to me, like you worked hard to make events follow a plan you'd come up with in your mind, rather than letting them flow naturally from the interaction between your characters and their environment. You also look to be trying to build events up to be more dramatic or meaningful than they actually are, and the interpretation element felt pasted on more than anything. I think your scenario's got potential, and you could make a very nice 'fic out of the interaction between Seigi and Mudkip. As it is, though, it feels to me like you kind of rushed through things and didn't give your audience a whole lot of chance to get to know your characters or understand what they were feeling for each other. Ultimately this story is going to live or die by how well you portray Seigi and Mudkip's relationship, and at the moment I think it falls a little short.


Phoenixsong

I commend your unusual ability choice here. It's nice to see entries taking a crack at choices that are not easy to guess at answers for, although it does mean extra work is required to really make sense out of them.

Before we even get to the interpretation element, however, you throw readers off with a possible mistake: you keep calling the professor "Rowan" when I am almost 100% sure you mean "Birch". If you do actually mean Rowan, why is he handing out starters in Hoenn?

Speaking of strange things in Hoenn, why are there wild shellder and slowpoke? You could have chosen some other explody pokémon that actually live there—wailmer could learn self-destruct via move tutor in XD, and seedot live around Petalburg Woods—and given the new Seigi something else to be mad about. If you needed shellder and slowpoke specifically you would've been better off either having the mudkip be in Kanto/Johto (special gift starter rather than a standard one, perhaps) or just not specifying a region at all so we could assume it's someplace different.

The story itself has an interesting potential message, but much of the writing just distracts from your point. Mudkip rambled a lot, and all his deep insightful self-revelations hit him far too quickly. This is a short story, to be fair, but had you done away with some of the waffling you'd probably have room to slow the scene down and give Mudkip more time to come around naturally. Trying to suicide bomb a bunch of slowpoke is also a much bigger deal than running away from home, even if Mudkip did selfishly attack that torchic; it feels really conceited for Mudkip to find those two situations comparable, scant similarities or no.

Most of your writing is grammatically sound but you could stand to be more concise. For example, "the rather soft, mournful screaming of the pink blobs" is unwieldy, doesn't make a lot of sense and would probably be better as just "moaning" or something. You should also watch your consistency—the first time we hear of Seigi he's speaking loudly and in an unwavering voice, but then at the end of the next page Mudkip recalls those same exact words being in a voice that "clearly came off as faulty". Choose one.

The biggest issue, though, was that in your efforts to tell this story about Mudkip maturing and trying to save someone else from making his mistakes you didn't pay enough attention to what you were supposed to be interpreting. The story wasn't about damp or how it works. Damp was just a thing that happened during Mudkip's attempt to stop Seigi. You spent one paragraph having Mudkip say "I don't get it either" and then cobbling together some bizarre explanation about water putting out internal explosives but somehow not damaging Seigi or actually piercing him and then he magically calms down and... buh? It feels like a bunch of hasty, half-thought-out ideas that don't make any logical sense together, not a feasible theory. You wrote this for a themed contest, and while you don't want to go to the other extreme and rattle off bland exposition about how damp works you can't just ignore the theme for the sake of telling the rest of the story.

Some of your writing was quite enjoyable, mind. The opening paragraph was very nice; the "I knew what day it was because Professor Rowan/Birch announced it, as he always did, as if we were humans and it was important to us" line has a lot of character to it. Mudkip's closing line had some poignance to it as well. It was hurt by the fact that Mudkip's maturity changes were every bit as abrupt as Seigi noted, though.

This entry was all over the place, unfortunately, and none of the places it went were a real interpretation of damp. Yes, you did have Mudkip activate it, but it was just something he happened to do this one time to stop Seigi from blowing up. Damp is an unusual ability and is understandably tricky to write a story about, so I can sort of see why that strange explanation was hastily chucked in there, but in that case I think you'd have done better if you had chosen an ability that was easier to integrate into an interesting narrative.


Psychic

This fic definitely brings up some interesting subjects – the lives of starter Pokémon, how the ability Damp works, and how TMs (especially the TM for a move like Selfdestruct) works. The relationship between Slowpoke and Shellder is also really interesting and rarely explored, so I was looking forward to seeing how you played with that. I also liked your attempt at playing with the theme of Mudkip’s childish side and more adult side, and how they are somewhat at odds.

That said, the fic felt pretty rushed. There were a number of inconsistencies and plot-holes, and you tend to tell instead of show. You really rushed through Mudkip’s life with professor Birch and his travels to reach the ocean, which makes it feel far less exciting and rewarding once he actually gets there. You kind of gloss over his struggles, and we don’t get much insight into his emotions until he starts talking to the Shellder he meets on the beach. It would have just generally been awesome to see his reaction to finally seeing the ocean, but all the description focuses on the hoard of Slowpoke, which tells the reader that this is what he notices, rather than taking in the sight of the sun’s reflection glittering off the ocean, the smell of salt, the crash of the waves. There are also moments that would have been nice to see better – for instance, what does “a look of realization and anger” look like on a Pokémon who, in your own words, “lacks a real face”?

There are also many strange inconsistencies, such as Mudkip learning all these survival techniques from Rowan but not even knowing how to get food for himself once he’s on his own, or being picky about the water he drinks after going without for a few days. How could he hear the main Shellder’s words if the Slowpoke drown out what all the others are saying? Mudkip also says his heart was irresponsible for not showing up sooner, which doesn’t even make any sense. It’s not like he magically knew his presence would be needed at the beach. Also, Shellder clamp onto Slowpoke tails – Slowpoke do not force them to do this. If they want to stop this from happening, the Shellder should just stop biting the Slowpoke.

There’s also this assumption that Seigi’s self-destruction would kill all the Slowpoke. However, if a trainer taught a Pokémon this TM, one would assume it would be to use in battle. The aim of Pokémon battles is to knock the opponent out, not kill them, so there’s no way a TM that would kill both the user and opponent/s that would be manufactured and sold to the public. I’m also not sure what I think of the explanation of how the move works – it’s entirely conjecture from two Pokémon who know nothing about how TMs function, and it feels like a somewhat contrived explanation.

You seem to hint that Mudhkip underwent some kind of change between escaping the lab and arriving at the ocean, but give no indication as to how it happened or why. Unfortunately, we barely get a glimpse of Mudkip’s character early in the story, so when you try to show him changing you are merely telling the audience that Mudkip is different now than he was before without any real proof. For instance, we get this weird sudden moment of awareness when Mudkip compares his willingness to hurt the Torchic to what the Shellder is doing, which just seems to come out of nowhere since you had only summarized the former scene, telling instead of showing it and how he felt during it.

The grammar was mostly fine. I did notice that for the sentence
They do it so that their self-destructive tendencies out of their system before they’re older.
It should be “tendency’s” since you’re trying to say “their tendency is.”

Overall, you had an interesting idea here, but the execution wasn’t very strong, and a lot of the explanations just didn’t really make sense.
 

Dragonfree

Just me
8th place: Dragonspiral's Children by Spiteful Murkrow

Scoring
Dragonfree: 8th place (60 points)
Negrek: 12th place (20 points)
Phoenixsong: 9th place (50 points)
Psychic: 3rd place (115 points)
Total: 245 points

Dragonspiral’s Children
By Spiteful Murkrow​

-Oh... Hello. Normally, I’m not really much of a storyteller... But... Since you’re here... And you’re listening to me... I guess I can tell you a bit of one.-

____________________________________

-This story begins on a winter day... One that kids like to make a big fuss over. I remember the snow was a little heavy that year.
There was this big tree with lights and ornaments on it. The weather was kinda cloudy, but considering how it’s often overcast around Icirrus, I guess it was a bit of a small miracle that there was any sun at all. If you looked through the window that day, you might have been able to see windmills, and a place that we wound up spending a lot of time visiting.

Anyways, the family here has three children, with a mom and a dad. Not quite your standard video game family, and a bit bigger than most. There’s two boys-


A young boy, perhaps 5 or 6 was eagerly playing with a toy truck.

“Vroom! Vroom! No mountain’s a match for these tires!”

Which elicited a bit of a sarcastic look from an elder boy, somewhere in the cusp of transitioning into middle school, in the middle of rooting for a final gift under the tree.

“Uh huh... So... When should we expect that thing to get across Twist Mountain?”

A girl a few years younger than the elder son was then examining a music player.

“Well, your gift can’t be THAT good if it was just buried under the tree like-”
And had her remark cut off by an abrupt exclamation.

“Whoa! You got me a starter?!”

Along with an equally surprised response.

“What?! Moooom! He’s not OLD enough to have a Pokemon!”

-Yeah, he was the one who got to open up that ball. A run-of-the mill red-and-white, but hey, with that ribbon and polished surface, it would be kinda hard to not get excited-

A middle-aged man took in the scene with bemusement... And then offered up an explanation.

“Heh heh... You’re right, he’s not. But... It’s not strictly HIS gift. It’s something your mother and I got for all of you to practice with.”

The eldest protested at this development, while staring down eagerly at a red-and-white orb.

“Aw, come on, I can take care of it! What’s another year, anyways?”

The daughter for her part also eyed the orb with a curiously.

“... So what did you get us?”

And the youngest was practically bouncing up and down with excitement, and wild speculation.

“A Garchomp? Oh! Oh! Or maybe it’s a Tyranitar!”

-Uh... Yeah. It wasn’t something THAT out of the ordinary... At least not for people from this town.-

“Not exactly. I chose something a bit more... Closely related to home.” Explained the father.

-For context... You know how kids sometimes get a Lillipup or a Purrloin for Christmas or something? Well, in Icirrus, a lot of more traditional folks like to give mons from around that tower in the north in their stead-

The eldest casted a glance at a resting form by a couch. The entity possessing a lithe and bipedal mustelid frame with long wispy fur on its limbs and prominent whiskers.

“... Another weasel like your Mienshao?”

-Normally, a scrawny Mienfoo WOULD be what these kids would have gotten... But...-

“I put some thought into it... But I think that you’ll appreciate the gift more if you see what the mon is for yourself.”

The statement elicited a perplexed and somewhat concerned glance from the mother. Unsure of just WHAT could be in the red and white orb were it not a Mienfoo.

“... Hmm? What DID you get them, then?”

-Someone apparently decided to be different-

The most visibly excited among the three made an eager demand of the eldest.

“Come on! Come on! Open it already!”

“Alright! Alright!”

Who complied, tapping the center of the orb... And a red light shot out, and a winged, hunchbacked form materialized. The light faded to reveal a blue hide, prominent claws, and some drowsy-looking yellow eyes set into a crested red head.

“Gon...”

Their owner yawned and then curled up under the tree. And left behind a state of excitement in the air dense and palpable enough to cut with a knife.

-Going in order of youngest to oldest... This is more or less how the reactions played out:-

“AWESOME!”

“EEE~ A DRUDDIGON!”

“Thanks for the Christmas present, dad!”

Which prompted the Druddigon to open its eyes a bit more, a bit uncertain as to the nature of the children’s excitement.

“Well, I was going to put HER under the tree with a ribbon, but... I decided that things would be more exciting with a bit more surprise to it.”

The man’s explanation was quickly followed with a rather unenthused prodding from his spouse.

“... Dear... I thought you were going to get them something EASY to care for like a Deerling!”

The man attempted to assuage the spouse, who was clearly not expecting a large carnivorous lizard to be a training Pokemon for her children.

“Now, now. A Druddigon IS easy to care for...”

At this statement, even the Mienshao in the room seemed to find this claim to be a stretch.

“... Shao...?”

Which led the man to qualifying his earlier assertion.

“... For a Dragon Pokemon, of course.”

-What? They are!-

“They have sandpaper hides! Why did you not get them a Mienfoo?!”

The man continued on with his argument. This time in some more academic terms.

“... This one has a smoother hide than some others. And we HAVE a Mienshao... Hardly the sort of Pokemon fit for children who haven’t gotten licensed yet...

Besides, she’s still young, a bit inexperienced. and a great representative of that tower. Why, it’s practically synonymous with this town!”

The wife protested, though began to suspect her appeals wouldn’t be enough to sway her husband.

“I was under the impression that it was the WINDMILLS that were synonymous, dear...”

To which, the husband retorted in a bit of a teasing tone.

“Oh come now, if the kids went off on a route, would you trust them with a Deerling or a Druddigon?”

The wife pointed at the Druddigon with an exasperated expression.

“I’d trust them with NEITHER! Routes are closed to travelers without licenses!”

Which prompted the resting Cave Pokemon to poke her head out from under the tree and give it a bit of a quizzical tilt.

“Druddi... Gon?”

And the man to make an appeal to intimacy. Drawing his spouse close and reassuring her.

“Oh come on, it’ll be a learning experience...

For everyone.”


Reviews

Dragonfree

You don't seem to have built this around any major original interpretation of canon - this is more slice-of-life that has a few snippets of minor interpretation here and there, such as when you talk a bit about Druddigon and when you have a Japanese Salamence speak in syllables of its Japanese name. As slice-of-life goes, this is actually quite cute and I honestly found it more enjoyable than it sounds, but the complete lack of any unifying plot means there seems to be little reason for this to be anywhere close to forty pages long. This applies especially given the bits relating to interpretation at all were so few and far between. The first time I read this, I kept expecting things to start happening, but they never did; it felt like one huge really long anticlimax.

The style this is written in is... really odd. It feels like you're imagining a film of some kind, and you have pretty natural-sounding 'voiceover narration' and dialogue. But then the story narration describing what would be "on screen" but not actually said during the film is written in a strange, really formal style and largely consists of sentence fragments: "Which elicited a bit of a sarcastic look from an elder boy, somewhere in the cusp of transitioning into middle school, in the middle of rooting for a final gift under the tree", "Along with an equally surprised response", "Drawing his spouse close and reassuring her." Aside from the weird grammar, rather than including dialogue tags or focusing on descriptions of what happens besides the dialogue, the narration sounds like the narrator of a radio play or something of the like, talking in between the actors' lines about how they say them. It also has a tendency to be stilted and overly wordy, sometimes getting convoluted to the point of being difficult to understand ("Dangling from an arm of the shivering creature is a worn bone, its density and composition common with most of the others such creatures would wield by virtue that the bone is inconsistent with those that the creature’s elder brethren would have"). The lack of dialogue tags combined with how almost all the dialogue is given a paragraph of its own rather than being grouped with actions by the speaking character makes it sometimes hard to tell who is speaking when. And you use a lot of unnecessary ellipses, especially in the narration, where you seem to use them merely to signify a regular pause that could be denoted with a comma or a period, rather than for their proper purpose of indicating that a sentence trails off.

But... well, one way or another, I feel it works better than it ought to. The contrast between the formal narration and the completely informal, humourous and fairly naturally childish dialogue creates a feel and mood that's really kind of fun and likeable. The stiltedness and grammatical weirdness definitely needs fixing, but the oddness of the style isn't a problem in itself, really. The way you don't give any of the children names, for instance, is unusual, and the epithets you use for them instead are often really awkward, but I'm not sure I'd actually advise you to give them names rather than just try to smooth out how you refer to them. As it is, this story is full of charm and character, and I just can't help but rather like it - I feel like I'm watching some kind of cozy animated Christmas special. And while I kept anticipating plot the first time I read this and felt like it was pretty banal when it turned out to be forty pages of slice-of-life, on later rereadings when I knew what it was, it completely stopped bothering me and I just got absorbed in the cute adventures of the three siblings and their Druddigon for their own sake.

Honestly, my heart wants to place this higher - it very genuinely makes me smile, for all its flaws. But sadly my heart isn't judging, and ultimately the fact is the prose is often really distracting and this contest is about interpretation, which you just didn't do very much of here.


Negrek

After reaching the end of this, I can't say I get what you were trying to interpret, here. Something about the relationship between pokémon and humans? The narrative kind of wandered all over the map; at the end of it all, I'm not only unsure how this was supposed to fit into the contest theme, but what the overall point of it was.

You have a nice little collection of slice-of-life things, some of which are cute in and of themselves, but although they're obviously connected by the characters that appear in them, there's nothing much in the way of plot or conflict to lend them an actual narrative arc. There's nothing wrong with simple little character-interaction piece, but if a story's going to hold my attention for forty pages without a plot, it had better have some to-die-for prose or entrancing characters that'll make me want to keep reading.

Unfortunately, the prose definitely didn't deliver. You seem to be reaching for the most complicated way of saying anything, which makes for tortured syntax and rocky reading. The story is peppered with sentences like this:

A certain man was attempting to coach a Druddigon, on a night sometime during a time of the year where the precipitation comes down in large drops as opposed to hexagonal flakes.
You take literally eighteen words to say "not winter" (you aren't even being specific about which of the other three seasons it is!). Using more, fancier words does not make this sentence better--it really just looks like you're trying too hard. You're making things harder to understand, rather than easier. There's certainly a time for that in writing, but it's not appropriate here. At times, it gets bad enough that I can't even tell what you're talking about, like here:

Dangling from an arm of the shivering creature is a worn bone, its density and composition common with most of the others such creatures would wield by virtue that the bone is inconsistent with those that the creature’s elder brethren would have.
I really have no idea what's going on with everything beyond "by virtue." You're saying the bone is the same as the ones other cubone have because it's different than the ones marowak have? That's all I can get out of reading this, but that's just a weird thing to say.

This sentence also illustrates the fact that you have a problem with tense changes. Most of the story's written in the past tense, but at times you lapse into the present, as with the quote above, or here:

An intimidating tricephalic form with six wings sprouting from its back covered in black false feathers that then turns on the Axew, craning its main head down to its level.
That should be "craned," in order to put this fragment in the past tense rather than the present. And this is a fragment--another frequent problem in this piece. There are plenty of reasons why you might drop a sentence fragment into a story here and there, but they're just all over the place in this one; in particular, you're fond of the construction "[person] does something / [dialogue] / [Which/and] caused [fragment]." Just on the first page you have these two:

A young boy, perhaps 5 or 6 was eagerly playing with a toy truck.

"Vroom! Vroom! No mountain’s a match for these tires!"

Which elicited a bit of a sarcastic look from an elder boy...
A girl a few years younger than the elder son was then examining a music player.

"Well, your gift can’t be THAT good if it was just buried under the tree like-"

And had her remark cut off by an abrupt exclamation.
In both cases, the third "sentence" is actually a fragment. Beyond the fragment problem, you should also be very wary of repeating the same construction over and over again like this--maybe you should look hard at other ways of incorporating dialogue into your story.

The result of all those fragments is that your story reads choppy and disjointed, like things keep getting cut off abruptly before you've finished your thought. It also means more work for readers who have to guess at what missing subject or verb you're trying to imply--how the fragment connects to the sentences around it.

I'd also suggest that you put the ellipses down and back away slowly. They're a nice way to show someone's thoughts or speech trailing off, but they're rarely appropriate otherwise. They show up a ton in this story, and quite often in the narration itself, which gives it a sleepy, distracted quality. Consider this passage:

And reached out... Attempting to reassure the boy... Perhaps in a manner that had been done many times before in times of duress and grief in years before...
I'm not sure what effect you were going with by finishing all the sentences here with ellipses rather than periods, but for me, at least, it seems like things are kind of drifting, like they're taking place underwater or in slow motion.

Other than that, there's only one other persistent problem that I think is really worth mentioning--namely, how you refer to your characters. You're fond of overly-complicated epithets, like here:

The trainer least familiar with her surroundings called upwards.
"The trainer least familiar with her surroundings?" Just call her "the new girl" or something. To some extent this is just a manifestation of you making things really convoluted where they should be simple, but it's particularly bad when you're referring to characters, because it makes figuring out who you're talking about a chore. You also have a weird tendency to use indefinite articles to refer to characters you've already introduced, as in these two examples:

A young girl took in the scene with deep awe, following the craftsmanship of peoples long departed.
An upset female Druddigon roared in the face of the exasperated boy.
In both cases, you want "the" rather than "a" or "an"--"the young girl," "the upset druddigon"--because you've already introduced the characters. You're not talking about some unknown female druddigon: it's the same one as has been around for the entire story. Using "the" instead of "an" is a signal that we already know this character; the way you've written things now is confusing, because it's not always clear when you're actually introducing a new character and when you're talking about someone we've already met.

Other than that, you've got basic proofreading and punctuation problems as well. Overall, I think you're just going to have to work at your grammar a bit, ideally with the help of a beta or someone who can point out where you're going wrong. Most of these problems should resolve themselves with practice, and maybe a bit more reading, which may help you internalize some of these prose conventions.

Enough of that style stuff. Let's get to the meat of your story, the plot and characters.

As I said before, I don't see much of a plot here. It's clearly the druddigon's story, since she's the only one that appears in all the scenes. But come to the end, I'm not sure what you want us to get out of her story. Why this druddigon? What makes her story special or interesting?

For any story, you have to decide what not to show. You have an unlimited amount of page space and the words necessary to express absolutely any impression or sequence of events. Given that, what you choose to show is less important than what you choose to cut out. Everything that remains on the page should have some sort of significance to the larger narrative; otherwise you're just distracting from your larger point. There are several scenes that I don't see contributing anything to the narrative. The stuff with N in particular--I'm not sure how it was supposed to fit in with everything else. It didn't go anywhere, and it didn't have any effect that I could see on the rest of the story. Likewise the human children and their complete failure to defeat the gym leaders: entertaining, sure, but not really relevant to the overall narrative as far as I can tell. By cutting some of the unnecessary material, the really important part of your story may become more apparent--or at the least, you'll be forced to think about what really is important, and what you're trying to say.

Now, like I said, not all stories need to have a plot, as such, although that requirement tends to become more stringent as the length of the story increases. You have plenty of fanfics that are pretty much just "character A interacts with character B," and that's just fine, because people are already invested in the characters and will be perfectly entertained just watching them run into one another at a coffee shop or something. But you're starting from scratch here; you can't just present well-known characters to your audience, but also have to work on getting us invested in the people you've created. That's where I think this story has problems.

The characters in this story are solid enough. They have distinct personalities, although not terribly complex ones (it's hard to cram very nuanced characters into a story of this length unless you're only focusing on one or maybe two), and there's certainly nothing objectionable about the way you handle them. But on the other hand, they're very ordinary. Appropriate, if what you want to tell is a story about a bunch of ordinary people, but that then returns us to the ultimate question: okay, so why these people? Why this story, out of all the ones you could tell? I could imagine a similar series of events happening to any number of families in Unova.

Generally a story has to have something unusual about it: either an unusual premise/plotline, unusual and memorable characters, or have something in its construction that gives an unusual perspective on what would otherwise be ordinary events and people. Although the mechanics of your writing could use work, there's really nothing in particular bad about this story--it's just in the end that it doesn't really add up to anything.

Like I said, some of the bits of this were really quite cute; in particular I enjoyed most of the parts where Druddigon's having to stop or correct something stupid the human kids have done. You do a pretty good job of dialogue and keeping your characters distinct and have a good sense of comedic timing. However, this story really and truly did not need to be as long as it was, and I'm not entirely sure it was an appropriate entry for this contest.


Phoenixsong

Druddigon, eh? Not what you'd usually expect to see as a loyal companion in a growing-up story. I appreciate you going with something different here—it would have been too easy to pick a cuddlier or more traditionally loyal pokémon—and I liked the funny moments as she tried to adjust to living with a human family. Picturing a druddigon in this situation is pretty cute.

Watch the font and formatting changes, though. Right at the beginning the smaller, italicized text carries on into the paragraph of regular narration and doesn't return to normal until the middle of the word "overcast". I would advise against changing font sizes and so forth at all, honestly—the italics, and the leading dashes if you absolutely must keep them, are plenty to mark that off as distinct from the standard narration. Piling on extra formatting and strange conventions only makes things more confusing rather than clear. Trust that your readers will be able to tell the difference between the third-person and first-person portions with little or no extra help.

That brings me to my main issue with this fic: the snippets of first-person narration. Specifically:

-They're redundant. You have a scene in which Druddigon and the children are teased by someone with a dragonite, which you start off by saying that they're going to be teased. You're giving us the same information twice, and between the two I'd rather hear it from the story itself than from Druddigon's aside. Again: trust your readers. We'll figure out the point of the scene when we see it in action.

-They're distracting. Druddigon's "What? That's perfectly reasonable!"-style interjections were cute the first few times, but as the story wore on they became needless interruptions. Some of them are also so biased toward Druddigon's opinion that you run the risk of revealing too early that she's telling the story. Let Druddigon's actions and reactions convey how she feels.

-They slow the story down, especially given the above two points. This is most apparent at the end, where you stop nearly every other sentence so Druddigon can chime in. I see what you were going for, but I feel like this kind of scene structure is better suited for something that's being acted out and watched in real time (where it can happen quickly and with an actual voiceover) than something you have to read line by line. Interrupting the flow of the conversation drags the pace to a crawl, and at any rate Druddigon's reflections would probably have more impact if you left them all for the very end. I would give serious consideration to cutting any asides that are not strictly necessary throughout the entire story, or at the very least any that interrupt the action mid-scene. This should really improve the flow and the story will be better able to speak for itself.

-The story is really, really long, and cutting out as many extraneous interruptions as possible will shed several pages. (Similarly, so will cutting back on the "pokémon dialogue". We don't understand any of it anyway, so it just feels like repetitive chatter. Let your description convey what the pokémon are communicating, not their barely-intelligible name-shouting.)

Related to the above, you should also consider whether some of the scenes themselves are really necessary. In a slice-of-life one-shot you need to think about what each of those "slices" is telling us about the characters; "this one time they were teased" or "they each caught a pokémon" doesn't do much to develop the characters and instead just serves as a list of things that happened. I would've appreciated being able to tell the children's personalities apart more easily, for example, something that tweaking the current scenes could've accomplished. Including too many cute anecdotes for the sake of cute anecdotes gets in the way when you're writing a short story and need to get to the point.

I wasn't terribly fond of the writing style, either. You kept leading sections off with phrases like "A certain Druddigon" or "a certain girl", you went on about how things "seemed" and what was "sensed" and "perhaps" this and that, you describe things in a roundabout, waffly way like "answered by skeptical words of an inhuman tongue", you had a lot of sentence fragments... Maybe these were deliberate decisions, but all of that combined gives the impression that the narration can't quite remember what it's talking about. Writing with more conviction would be smoother and would also allow you to get to the point in fewer words.

You need to proofread more carefully in general. In addition to catching things like those weird mid-word formatting changes in the beginning, you need to make sure that you don't change tense in the middle of a sentence, that you can fix the sentence fragments and root out improperly-placed commas... these things and more happened frequently and consistently. Reading aloud in particular will help you catch some of the stilted and roundabout wording that crops up.

I should mention that I had a lot of trouble trying to figure out exactly what you were interpreting here. Something about human-pokémon bonds? Something to do with Dragonspiral Tower, given the title of the fic? Whatever it was it was awfully muddy, so while this would be good as a general story I'm afraid I can't rank you very highly in the worldbuilding department. If anything this might have made more sense as an entry for the previous "Perspectives" contest dealing with pokémon point-of-view.

This entry was cute, if shallow relative to its length. Sometimes your use of language and dialogue was effective at saying what it needed to and getting out of the way, for example when the girl is leaving the gym on page 18—that was one of my favorite little snapshots, actually. And I'm a sucker for a Calvin and Hobbes reference, even if it was a direct lift from the comic. The warm-fuzzies you intended end up drowning under the weight of the interruptions, the waffly writing and the sheer length of the thing, however, and this needs cleaning up and fine-tuning before it really gives readers the feelings and impact you're looking for.


Psychic

This is a sort of slice of life story we don’t often see in Pokémon fan fiction – it’s just about a family growing up with their pet Driddigon, which is a pretty cute idea on its own. It’s not often that fic writers focus stories on characters who aren’t trainers, and I like that you encompassed a good part of the kids’ lives, including when they became trainers, while not making that the focus of the story.

I see what sort of style you were aiming for here; you wanted the narration to be constantly responding to and finishing the characters’ sentences casually (which is reminiscent of the show Arrested Development). Unfortunately, this technique really does not transition very well from a visual medium (like TV) to a written one (like fiction). The grammar is all over the place, and unfortunately instead of adding to the fic by making it more fun and casual, I found it incredibly distracting. You start a lot of sentences with conjunctions, you misuse commas, sprinkle in unnecessary dashes and ellipses, and honestly, it made me unsure if you actually knew how to craft a proper, grammatically correct senesce. Sometimes it’s okay to break certain rules within writing, but you shouldn’t attempt to break a grammatical rule unless you know how to use it correctly, and I just didn’t come away feeling like you could.

There’s also a lot of telling, some of which becomes moot since you’ll show right after. For instance, a lot of the dialogue speaks for itself, but you like to preface a lot of it with an unnecessary explanation of exactly what the character is going to say beforehand. For example,
And an inquiry as to the nature of the training of a Pokémon rather uncommon amongst trainers of their age in their hometown.

“What’s the story with the Axew?”
You can leave the dialogue and remove the explanation, because the audience does not need the same thing explained twice. It gets repetitive and distracting.

That said, this was a fic full of cute little vignettes. The characters are charming, and watching them interact is fun. You know how to create a sense of endearment, and that is definitely something to hone. There are also moments where I genuinely found myself laughing at the dialogue or description, and that’s not easy to do, especially if you’re not going for an outright parody or something like that. It was just genuinely cute. You were going for a slice of life story, and you had some really lovely ideas – I just wish I could have focused more on them without being distracted by the style.

It is admirable that you went and tried something different, and I commend you for taking that risk. While I still think you did a nice job, the style just didn’t work for me, and I found it hindering. I wish there were more I could say about this fic, since a 40-page story really does deserve a more in-depth criticism. I still think your ideas were solid, and I really like the concept of this story – I would just recommend a different execution for the future. I would absolutely read this again if you changed this up (and maybe shortened it a tad).
 

Dragonfree

Just me
6th-7th place TIE: Experience by American--Pi

Scoring
Dragonfree: 6th place (80 points)
Negrek: 7th place (70 points)
Phoenixsong: 8th place (60 points)
Psychic: 7th place (70 points)
Total: 280 points

Experience
By American—Pi

I wake as the early morning sun shines into my neat, tidy den. The golden light bounces off my gently snoring den-mates and sends warmth into my body. I really should be happy – today is a very bright and sunny day. The grass is green, the flowers are blooming, and the Bird Pokémon are singing. It’s beautiful, really.

Unfortunately, today, it is my turn to faint… again… and again… and again.

That doesn’t bother me, though, because that has happened to me many times. I am a wild Audino. My species is a race of healers. None of us are combative or like arguments. It is our nature to help rather than harm, because hurting others in any way breaks our hearts. I suppose you can say that we are a very special species of Pokémon. Most of them will not hesitate to fight when a trainer instructs them to do so – they often see battling as something positive, which, given the amount of Pokémon I’ve interacted with, I understand greatly.

But most Audino feel that they will never be great warriors. They are content, peaceful beings who live to heal and make others happy. That is what my species is.

Today, my herd has chosen me to leave camp, gather food, and help out a few Pokémon trainers. It’s a great system – we take turns so that nobody gets too tired. Even though we are great healers, fainting too much within a short period of time is not good for anyone’s health.

I will forage slowly in the rustling grass, which contains our main source of food. And when a trainer comes, I will not flee – instead, I will do the trainer a service. The trainers I meet always want to raise their Pokémon to higher levels so that they can eventually compete in the Pokémon League. And who can blame them? It is really quite wonderful, to have such big hopes and dreams.

So that is why I never fight, only help.

I waddle through the dense bushes to the large patch of tall grass just outside camp. It’s always refreshing to leave camp and admire the open sky, the wide fields, and the occasional trainer walking down the dirt road. I wander for a while, gathering plants and enjoying the general beauty of the world. Then I hear a noise.

“Scrafty, it’s an Audino! Quick, use Hi Jump Kick!”

Before I can even turn around, a feel a sharp, heavy impact on my back, and I fall over. I’m all right, though, because my species are good at taking hits. I scramble up, admiring how quick and clever the Scrafty and his trainer was, considering how they just snuck up on me like that. Maybe we can be friends so that I can bring joy to their lives to the best of my ability. I keep this in mind as I form a Heal Pulse between my paws and fire it at the Pokémon. Alas, turns out that the Scrafty was in full health and, therefore, my healing move did nothing. I’m disappointed, but the next thing I know, another Hi Jump Kick completely knocks me out.

Oh well. It’s all right… maybe we can be friends next time. As the world goes black, I think of how I just helped train another Pokémon – just another good deed done.

When I come to, I am lying in my den, feeling completely refreshed and rejuvenated. It is still morning, so thankfully I hadn’t been out for too long. But of course, my den-mates must have healed me. The thought makes me happy inside – we are just such nice beings. I nod a thank you to my nearest den-mate, and, reminding myself not to be too arrogant, I walk out of camp again. After all, the day is still young. There are plenty of other Pokémon and trainers to help.

I don’t have to walk for very long when I encounter a trainer and his Serperior. This Pokémon is lightning fast as well – he hits me with an excellent Leaf Blade. Suddenly, I have a whim and I decide to use Take Down this time. I really don’t know why. However, I must admit that I enjoy a little bit of variety in my life.

I get myself into a running stance and charge into the Serperior, sending him flying into the air. Both the trainer and the Pokémon look surprised, and I immediately feel very uncomfortable. Firstly, I feel the physical impact of the attack, but much worse is the guilt I’m experiencing. I can’t believe that I just hurt someone! The shocked expressions on their faces almost make me slap myself, but I realize the detriment of self-harm. I compromise by using Entrainment as a friendly gesture for the rest of the battle. By the time I faint, the trainer and the Pokémon have much happier looks on their faces, and that fact somewhat alleviates my guilt.

***

By the time sunset rolls around, my good mood feels a little tainted. I’d gone out to help more Pokémon, but after walking for a while I felt far too tired and turned back. Now I’m extremely exhausted, and I can barely drag myself towards camp. Also, I’ve had to face an unusually large amount of brutal Fighting-type moves, from Wake-Up Slaps to Drain Punches.

Still, today also had quite a few bright spots. I helped a slower, slightly weaker Emboar win battle experience by only using After You – by letting him always attack first, I made sure that I could not hurt her in any way. Better yet, after a Scraggy beat me, I later saw her trainer walking with her newly-evolved Scrafty.

I have to admit, though, that it was really quite tedious. The whole cycle of helping, fainting, and recovering definitely got trite later on. It doesn’t help that I’ve been through this routine many times. Not to mention the incessant attacks and occasionally unpleasant trainers I’ve encountered. I shake my head, telling myself to get some rest.

I’ve almost reached camp when I hear voices. Despite my weariness, I’m too curious to turn away. I waddle through the bushes and spot the source of the voices. A female trainer, accompanied by a Samurott that I once helped, is making conversation with a younger male trainer.

“Wow!” the male exclaims. “How did you get your Pokémon to become so powerful?”

“Audino grinding, of course,” the female replies.

I don’t know why, but those words send chills down my spine. I’m not exactly sure what “grinding” means, but it sounds dangerous.

“Ooh, tell me more,” the male trainer exclaims excitedly.

“All right,” the teenage girl says. She pulls out a small electronic device – I think it’s called a “Pokedeck”, or something – pushes several buttons on it, and shows it to the boy.

“You recognize this Pokémon?” the girl asks.

“Yes, it’s an Audino,” the boy says, “but I don’t see them that much.”

“They’re more common than you think.” The female points to a tall grass patch across from me. “You know how that grass rustles mysteriously sometimes? Well, Audino pop up in those spots quite a lot, and all you have to do is knock them out with your Pokémon to give them lots of battle experience.”

“Really? That would be nice. But if they’re kind of rare, which they are, wouldn’t they be kind of powerful?”

The girl laughs. “A lot of rare Pokémon don’t stand much of a chance in battles,” she says. “Well, I’ll admit, Audino can be kind of defensively tough. But honestly, most of the time they won’t even attack. They’ll just use Status Moves that mostly do nothing. And – get this – some of them even use Heal Pulse to heal your Pokémon!!”

“Whoa!” the boy exclaims. “Considering what you said, Audino kind of stink at battling, but they really help you a lot. Sweet.”

“Yep. Like I said, they give your Pokémon a ton of experience when you defeat them. Trust me, I know. You won’t believe how quickly I evolved my Dewott this way.”

“Awesome,” the boy says, laughing. “Glad to know that those stupidly cute pink bunny things are actually useful for something. Honestly, I never cared about them until now.”

“Seriously, though, they’re great for training. You knock a few of them out, and bam! Your Pokémon learn a lot of new moves. A lot of trainers use Audino this way. Here, I can show you. Follow me.”

The boy nods enthusiastically, and the two trainers wander into the closest patch of thick grass. I watch them leave, and for a long time I just stand there, completely shocked.

It takes a while for it to sink in, but then I realize: I’ve been used. All this time, I’ve been helping trainers’ Pokémon to my own detriment – but I never realized how those trainers cared so little for my species.

All this time, I’ve been hurting myself for nothing.

Something intense builds inside me. I think it’s called rage, and it’s a rather unfamiliar feeling. But I let it consume me anyways…

“Whoa, look! An Audino!”

It’s a trainer. I whip around, and this time, I know for sure what I’m going to do. I face the trainer’s Ferrothorn and, without a second thought, charge at him with a solid Take Down. The impact really hurts, and it throws me backwards. That’s when I realize that I was so angry that I charged right into the Ferrothorn’s spikes.

“Spike, Power Whip!” the trainer exclaims.

Feeling very much alive, I dodge the Ferrothorn’s spiked vine, and it hits the ground with a thud. That felt good – when was the last time I actually dodged an attack? I really want to use Take Down again, to inflict some more damage, but I stop myself. I do a silly little dance, in the form of the move Entrainment, but this time it’s not out of pity. I change Spike’s ability to match mine, so that now I can attack without hurting myself so much. I repeatedly Take Down the Ferrothorn, even though he fights back, even though his armor prevents me from inflicting much damage. But nothing matters to me anymore, because I want to take my anger out on something

“Ultra Ball, go!”

I stop short. That’s odd – why hadn’t the trainer ordered Spike to attack again?

I don’t have any time to ponder this, however, because the moment I feel the impact of the capsule, I see nothing but red light and feel nothing but a gentle squeezing sensation. But that doesn’t last – just a second later, I’m standing where I stood before the Ultra Ball hit me, and the round capsule is exploding in a flurry of yellow sparks next to me.

I’m about to attack, but then I stop. An Ultra Ball? I’ve heard about them, and I think that when a trainer throws one at you, it means that he or she wants to catch you.

Catch me? Not order his Pokémon to knock me out? I stand there, confused, and eye the trainer warily.

Then the weirdest thing happens: the trainer kneels down, reaches into his bag, and pulls out a Sitrus Berry.

“Here,” he says kindly, holding out the yellow fruit towards me. “Don’t be afraid. It’s all right; I promise I won’t hurt you anymore.”

I’m not sure what his intentions are, but the Sitrus Berry is very tempting. So I slowly walk closer to him, and, as I do so, my sensitive feelers find out that he is being kind and sincere. Feeling more comfortable, I walk more quickly, take the berry from the trainer’s hand, and nibble it slowly.

“There,” he says, stroking me gently. “Feeling better?”

I nod, looking gratefully at his kind face. I’m feeling healthy and satisfied, but also a little confused. Why is he being so nice to me, rather than being like other trainers and treating me as a mere tool?

“You know, you’re a very special Audino,” he says. “Most Audino just end up hurting themselves in battles, but your awesome Take Down attack proves that you’ve got plenty of spunk and energy.”

He pulls out a different kind of capsule – it’s black, gold, red, and white, rather than black and yellow like the Ultra Ball. “I know it’s kind of late in my journey,” he says, “but I think you’re really cool. What do you think about joining my team?”

I can tell he’s being honest, but I back off anyways. I glance nervously at the trainer’s Ferrothorn, who is sitting calmly slightly behind him. I’m really not sure – it would be nice to finally be friends with a trainer, but does he really see me as more than just experience points? And would someone who likes a fierce-looking Pokémon like Ferrothorn treat a soft, gentle Pokémon like me with love and care?

“Don’t worry about Spike,” the trainer says, following my gaze. “He may look tough, but he’s actually really nice.” He gives a small laugh. “Yes, I’m a guy, and it’s true that I’m quite competitive. Yes, I like to use tough-looking, powerful Pokémon like Ferrothorn. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t also like cute or pretty Pokémon. As my father always said, ‘Real men wear pink’. Besides, I honestly don’t like the whole concept of Audino grinding.”

This makes me feel very warm inside, and I smile at him. I know that he really means it.

“Oh yes,” the trainer says, smiling back. “I mean, I understand why some trainers would want to do that, but personally I can’t bear the thought of hurting such kind-hearted, peaceful, and friendly Pokémon who are just trying to help in any way they can.” He stands up. “If you join my team, I promise I’ll treat you like a great friend. I’ll respect you whether you want to fight or heal, and you’ll never have to beat yourself up ever again.”

I can feel the positive energy in the air, and it makes me feel satisfied, comfortable, and very calm. I make up my mind – I reach forward and gently press the center button of the Luxury Ball.

As I feel a warm glow surround me, I close my eyes and smile, thinking happily about how I’ve finally met a trainer who sees me as more than just experience points. I’ve finally made a true human friend.

The End


Reviews

Dragonfree

Well, the interpretation of Audino deliberately trying to help trainers out by letting their Pokémon beat them up makes a lot of sense, even if it's not exactly a groundbreaking concept, and I enjoy the idea that they're naïvely trying to help but don't realize a lot of trainers view them as a simple harvestable resource because of it. And your writing is generally fine (though your tenses are sometimes shaky). But the plot here is rather typical - the story of a wild Pokémon who is unhappy for one reason or another, mistrusts trainers but is then caught by a nice trainer and lives happily ever after is one of the most common tropes in this fandom - and I can't help but feel the narrator's emotional journey is a bit shallow and unconvincing.

(I tried to write this review referring to the narrator with singular they, but it kept being ambiguous whether I was referring to the narrator specifically or to Audino in general. So in the interest of promoting gender-neutrality, have some Spivak pronouns.)

If e'd always been kind of bitter about the Audino's lot in life, hearing trainers talk casually about Audino grinding could fuel that existing furnace by adding that the tedium and pain e's putting emself through isn't even appreciated. Alternatively, if e'd always just wholeheartedly loved what e was doing and believed in the cause of helping trainers, it makes sense that seeing trainers talk about Audino that way would be a huge shock and really hurt eir feelings. This character seems to have elements of both - e clearly finds the helping tedious, but e also genuinely loves knowing e's helped someone - yet eir emotional reaction is mostly focused around realizing e's been doing it "for nothing". The problem isn't that e's doing it "for nothing" - that would imply e did it originally so e could get some kind of reward, but helping trainers was explicitly portrayed as being its own reward for em. Regardless of what trainers think of Audino, e's successfully helping just fine, and e never expected the trainers to give em anything else in return. E should be angry/hurt because the trainers regard them so dismissively for their kindness, not because somehow this makes it all "for nothing".

It also feels off how the narrator reacts to being caught. Thoughts like "I’m really not sure – it would be nice to finally be friends with a trainer, but does he really see me as more than just experience points?" sound really odd when you step back and remember that Audino has only hated trainers for all of literally five minutes. "Finally?" Is it really that unthinkable that the two trainers you just overheard are not representative of all trainers? It would make sense if e spent more time being angry first, observing more trainers and seeing them repeatedly going into the rustling grass to beat up Audino after Audino - then the idea that trainers are all just using them would have time to really solidify in eir mind before the counterexample comes along. Alternatively, if you focused on eir disgruntledness with the Audino life beforehand such that the realization trainers are using them just becomes the catalyst for an already brewing distaste for the whole helping trainers thing, it would make sense for em to be suspicious of the new trainer without that waiting time, but then e'd probably be more hostile towards him, and less enthusiastic about making friends with a trainer, than you show em being here.

And you treat it like a default inevitability that Audino would want to be friends with trainers in the "caught" sense in the first place, yet you haven't shown this in any way before the end. Audino never expresses a desire or even a curiosity about being caught, but then when a trainer catches em, e sounds like this is what e's wanted all along, not even sparing a thought for what eir den-mates will think when e doesn't come home.

So overall I have to say I think this would be better with more depth and dimension to the characterization. What does this Audino actually want out of life, and how do the events of the story really affect em? Maybe this Audino, while sensitive and gentle and liking to help people, doesn't really enjoy always standing there and getting beaten up, and e secretly wishes a trainer would catch em and let em help by winning battles instead (e might even have developed a somewhat romanticized image of trainers, which would then be what makes it hurt so much when it's shattered by those two who think Audino are worthless). Maybe e just loves helping and it's never occurred to em to do anything else, but after discovering so many trainers think Audino are nothing but experience fodder, it leaves a bad taste in eir mouth and e feels completely lost, making the offer of starting over with a new and different life appealing despite its suddenness. There are dozens of ways to play this, but right now there just doesn't seem to be much thought to the character.

There are also several lines I find weird, awkward or otherwise off. The narrator's "We are just such nice beings", for instance, doesn't seem like something a real person would think; it makes me think of the kind of exaggerated character whose selfishness and arrogance is underlined by having them constantly proclaim themselves to be oh-so-wonderful. A non-Audino might think that about Audino, sure, but it's a strange thought to have about your own species. Similarly, "Glad to know that those stupidly cute pink bunny things are actually useful for something" is pretty over-the-top - why would he insert description of them as stupidly cute or pink into this sentence if he's not deliberately trying to insult Audino? It would sound more natural in a sentence where he's talking about why he's never paid attention to Audino, instead, or just removed altogether.

Otherwise you did a pretty good job with this and the interpretation is certainly plausible, but my difficulty really empathizing with the narrator or caring about the plot dragged this down a lot for me.


Negrek

So, you're looking at how audino grinding works from the perspective of the audino. It's an interesting premise, and the explanation you come up with seems plausible enough--Audino being healers, wanting to help other pokémon grow strong, etc. certainly jives with all that we know about them from canon. Overall I'm not floored by the way you've chosen to swing this one, but it's perfectly solid and in keeping with the contest theme.

Mechanically, you're doing pretty well. You have the odd typo--the emboar that changes genders, for example--and the odd problem with the present tense, like "It is still morning, so thankfully I hadn’t been out for too long," where "hadn't" should be "haven't," but overall it's fairly clean. I think the style of this piece is a little lacking, though. You've chosen to go with first person to get into the head of your audino protagonist, which is a good choice. However, you don't work the first person to the best of your advantage here.

Overall the narration is very talky. The narrator is basically stating a series of facts: "This happened, and then this happened, and then I felt this," and so on. You have a tendency to info-dump rather than set up a situation where you can convey what you want to through what goes on rather than what the narrator states to us. For example, the narrator simply tells us what he or she is feeling: they're shocked, or they're being consumed by rage. But there's no indication of how those emotions actually feel for the pokémon experiencing them. How do they respond to getting angry, for example--do they clench their little fists and snarl, or are they more coldly appalled, or something else? When the audino is feeling tired out after a long day of work, I'd prefer to see more of how that actually affects them: do they ache all over from getting attacked so much? Are they so fatigued they're dragging their feet on the way back to their den, or are they hurrying there as fast as they can so they get a chance to lie down for a while? The narration says the audino is tired and exasperated, but it doesn’t read as though they're tired and exasperated.

This is a primary contributor to the fact that the narrator really lacks any kind of voice or personality. They sound like someone giving a science report, and there's not much sense of them being a real person, with their own quirks and idiosyncratic way of looking at things. With the first person, it's all about letting the reader ride around in someone else's head, letting them get all messily intertwined with the narrator's emotions and worldview, and the way you've written things here it feels a bit sterile and detached, not like the audino is a real person at all. Giving a more sensory-rich account of what the audino's going through ought to help with this, since how people react to what life throws their way and what they notice or choose to focus on in the world around them make up a lot of their personalities. It's difficult to pull off, of course, but if you practice being more exact about your descriptions. Rather than leaving it at "I'm happy" or "I'm angry," try asking yourself how it actually feels to be happy, or angry, or whatever, and then writing that into your story.

Stylistic concerns aside, your story feels a bit synthetic: like the events in it happen because you need them to happen for you to make your point, rather than arising out of the motivation of your characters and the circumstances of their world. This is particularly evident in your dialog, which feels very stilted. The conversation between the two trainers, for example, feels like two people saying what is necessary to get your narrator angry, rather than carrying out a genuine conversation.

As a result, I often felt the narrator's reactions don't make a whole lot of sense. The central premise is that the audino hears a couple of trainers discussing audino grinding, realizes that (at least some) trainers don't respect his/her species and their efforts to be helpful, and then gets angry and starts actually fighting instead of just trying to be helpful. This doesn't really work for me for a couple of reasons. First, I'm not really buying that this audino has never heard about the concept of audino grinding, whether from actual trainers or simply through word-of-mouth from other audino, if it's really such a popular practice in the pokémon world. Second, the audino him/herself even states that they've encountered rude or unpleasant trainers before--they've had encounters with people who obviously don't respect them, and yet they were still willing to let trainers beat them up in the name of helping out. While the trainers' conversation suggests that this attitude is more prevalent than the audino knew, I'm otherwise not sure how this really changes things. And, finally, the fact that the trainers don't respect the audino doesn't actually change the fact that they're being helpful. If the audino are motivated by a desire to help, then it seems a bit counter to their nature to stop battling trainers, since that would mean intentionally withholding aid--they're already willing to do so despite the fact that it causes them actual bodily harm, after all. It's not that I can't see the audino being upset after hearing the trainers' conversation, getting angry, and so on; it's just that the way the story is written it seems like an overreaction to what they've learned. You certainly could have set things up so that overhearing that sort of thing would have been enough to put the audino over the edge and make them lash out at the next trainer they ran across, but as it stands it doesn't feel justified to me for that little piece of information to have so completely altered the audino's viewpoint.

Further, even if I accept the premise that, for one reason or another, this particular incident makes the audino really angry and causes them to strike back at the trainers who've been beating up their species for selfish reasons, the resolution seems odd. The audino claims that its species only desires to help other people, after all, and that they can't bear to do harm. In the heat of anger I can see them forgetting that and going on the offensive, but once they've cooled off a bit, aren't they going to be miserable with a trainer? They're going to get called on to beat other pokémon up all the time, whether they want to or not, which is presumably going to make them feel awful, unless just realizing that trainers disrespect audino is enough to make them go completely go against their species' nature in the long term. The ending is portrayed as happy, but in this light it doesn't really seem that way to me. Further, the trainer is portrayed positively because he says he doesn't like audino grinding and would never do something so horrible, etc. etc. However, the only reason he likes this particular audino is because they aren't like other audino at all--if the audino had just sat around and used heal pulse like usual, he presumably wouldn't have given them the time of day. If he respects audino so much, why's he only interested in one that acts completely different from the rest of their species? Not to mention that that it doesn't actually resolve the story's conflict: this particular audino happens to end up with a trainer who, we're informed, will treat them well, but that doesn't change the fact that trainers in general aren't going to treat audino any better, so while this particular audino's life may improve, all the rest of its species are in exactly the same position they were before--though evidently none of the rest of them realize what's going on, so ignorance is bliss, I guess? On the whole the ending doesn't satisfactorily resolve the audino's actual problem, either on a personal level or for the species as a whole.

So all in all this story feels a little scattered--like you had a premise and didn't really know how to change it into an actual story. As I said, the ending feels tacked on; it doesn't hang together with the rest of the 'fic particularly well. The story doesn't really have much of a narrative arc, such that, upon coming to the end, the only thing I can really say is, "Well... okay, then." You present what could be some interesting tension between the audino's desire to help and be useful, and the trainers' seeing them just as big hunks of EXP, but you never really follow through with it. Perhaps it would have been better to focus on this particular audino's negative experiences with humans, which would make the personal kind of resolution they experience more satisfying, rather than keeping the issue large and abstract, since there's no way you're going to satisfactorily resolve the oppression of an entire species in the space of a one-shot.


Phoenixsong

I never thought about audino grinding as something that would need interpreting—to me it's just another sort of wild encounter rather than something actively built up as part of the world—so that made this entry a pretty interesting one. I like the idea that wild audino intentionally spam their healing/harmless attacks because they are genuinely interested in helping other pokémon and trainers. It fits so well with the species' concept, and it makes me wonder whether the developers intended the same sort of thing when they made audino so common in the shaking grass.

Unfortunately for your concept, the story itself doesn't stand up to that unusual but sweet idea. It's too neat, too simple, too abrupt, and everything is stated too flatly for the changes in Audino's mood and in its understanding to really sink in. It gets ready to start the day, it battles, it overhears some kids who are a little over-the-top with their rudeness ("stupidly cute pink bunny things"... you're trying too hard to give him something obviously mean to say), it gets mad, it fights one trainer, that trainer gives it a berry and says a few nice things and then everything is okay? That goes by too quickly even considering this is a one-shot.

Having the audino just state everything it's feeling and everything that happens to it is also pretty dull. You mention that Audino's feelers tell it the trainer is being sincere; how much more interesting would it have been if you'd actually described the sensations that Audino interpreted as kindness and sincerity? After how well you fit the species into the role of willing punching bag, missing the chance to do something with those feelers is a shame.

The scope of the audino's knowledge is also confusing. It doesn't know what a pokédex is or what ultra balls are for but it knows what levels and experience points are? It's possible to include the concept of levels in a fanfic, but even that usually rings strange without explaining how you apply a video game construct to the "real world". The experience points are probably pushing it too far.

Several errors popped up throughout the story: you use "anyways" instead of "anyway", for example, and the emboar at the bottom of page 2 is both male and female in the same sentence. When the scrafty's high jump kick takes Audino by surprise, you write "a feel a sharp, heavy impact" instead of "I feel...". More careful proofreading should catch slip-ups like those. Also, take care with what you decide to include: don't add scenes and dialogue that aren't relevant, especially in a story that moves so quickly. The whole bit about the trainer being a guy who likes tough things but is totally cool with cuteness because "real men wear pink"... it doesn't contribute anything to the story. It reads like you happened to think it might be odd for a boy to be excited about an audino while you were writing and added that paragraph as a result, not because it actually contributed anything.

You did well with Audino and Spike's battle, short though it was. It's even mostly excusable for a battle to do more telling than showing, because keeping things direct makes the exchange feel fast-paced and hectic. It could still have done with some fleshing out, some more interest beyond Audino doing two things before the abrupt switch to the trainer wanting to make friends.

You have a really interesting idea here, but it comes across as rushed and overly simplistic. Taking the time to trim out unnecessary parts like the weird tough-guy-who-likes-pink spiel would give you more room to slow the story down and let us experience Audino's day and its feelings at a more reasonable pace.


Psychic

I thought Audino grinding was an interesting subject. It was an interesting mechanic introduced in the fifth generation, and it’s something I’m sure most gamers will be familiar with but don’t think much about.

I like that you tried to create a society in which Audino devote their lives to helping others. The idea of them working in day-long shifts, for instance, is interesting, but there’s an inconsistency in that, as stated, “fainting too much within a short period of time is not good for anyone’s health.” Spending an entire day doing just that seems like a bad idea. There are other questions and small inconsistencies as well, like how does rustling grass contain their food source, or how do wild Pokémon know about the Pokémon League but not Pokéballs or a Pokédex, or how do knocked-out Audino get back to their den?

The description was minimal, which isn’t to say that it’s necessarily a bad thing – it mostly worked with the style. That said, there are places where I felt some extra description would have been beneficial. For instance, it would have made the Pokémon battles feel less bland. It would have been nice to get a bit more detail about other characters, even if it was providing a single detail about their expressions, such as excited or determined, or if they were grinning or sweating. Since Audino have feelers to sense the emotions of others, it would have been even easier to give an idea of how other characters think or feel, but the only time Audino notices another being’s emotions is when it’s finally captured, so you missed an opportunity there. We also don’t get much insight into Audino’s feelings, like when Audino learns about Audino grinding, why Audino decides to attack the Ferrothorn, or the elation of doing well in a battle.

The dialogue also felt a bit too unnatural. Some of the conversation between the experienced trainer and the new one is okay, but it stretches on for too long and their words become so scripted and exposition-y, such as “Considering what you said, Audino kind of stink at battling, but they really help you a lot. Sweet.” The human who catches Audino also just sounds way too much like a pure soapbox. He talks about how he’s a competitive guy, but quickly says he can like cute Pokémon and there’s nothing wrong with wearing pink, even though a wild Audino would have no idea what he’s talking about. Speaking of which, the fact that he’s against Audino grinding, even though it sounds like that was just what he was doing until Audino decided to use a proper Take Down, also seems insincere/inconsistent.

Lastly, try to work a bit on your pacing. It pretty much went thusly: Audino’s day begins; we see Audino get beat up by a bunch of trainers; Audino learns about Audino grinding; and immediately afterwards Audino runs into a trainer who doesn’t believe in Audino grinding and gets captured. There is very little time for what Audno learned before to sink in; instead, this trainer’s actions seem to be meant to automatically negate the horrible things Audino just learned. It almost feels like a cop-out, as if one trainer’s actions make the widespread use of Audino grinding okay.

All that said, your grammar looked good and you had a solid idea of showing the other side of Audino grinding, especially in showing how humans are essentially taking advantage of an entire species who are content to be punching bags. I think this definitely has the potential to be an interesting story, and I’d be curious to see how you might write about other Audino in this situation. This was a solid attempt that would do well with some refining.
 
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