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[Silence] (Quarterly Challenge)

Discussion in 'Completed Fics' started by The Teller, Jul 18, 2015.

  1. The Teller

    The Teller King of Half-Truths

    So this little oneshot is for the "dialogueless" challenge issued from the Fan Fiction Quarterly: Edition 2 thread. But it's also a bid to give Bobandbill some competition for "funniest story of the year" at the end of 2015. On a related note: no one is allowed to write comedies for the rest of the year. New rule. Straight from Serebii Himself. Honest. If you want a summary of the fic, here's one right underneath your nose! "The narrator would like to tell you a story involving Flint and Volkner, but will he ever get around to it?!" Also, there's some slight shipping at the very end. Don't worry, it's so small, you won't even feel a thing. Honest. The story itself is rated E. Enjoy!

    [Silence]

    Despite the fact that the calendar reads April, it is quite the chilly day at the National Regional World-Renown Sinnoh Region Pokémon-Brand Pokémon League, or "the Elite Four" for short, located at the balmy Pokémon League, a village so lazily named, people are dumbstruck by how dumb it is, rendering them unable to concentrate long enough to bother to rename it. Whoever decided that "balmy" was the official adjective to describe the Elite Four was also fired. In the Pokémon world, "fired" can mean many things.

    Talk of the village is that the Elite Four's Elite Four member Flint is in a heated argument with nearby Sunyshore City's Gym Leader Volkner. Get it? Heated? Because Flint hasn't been seen with a fire type Pokémon in three years? Don't worry. The village people find it funny. Well, they would, if anybody really lived at the Elite Four besides the Elite Four, Champion and built-in Poké Center nurse, Nurse Joyce. The center is built-in, not Nurse Joyce. Nurse Joyce is, in fact, a very real human being, and most certainly not a lifelike robot. Or a Ditto. The built-in Poké Mart cashier, Marty, did not live at the Elite Four. He has to walk up and down the waterfall every day from the Victory Road's Poké Center, where he lives. But this isn't about Marty (the cheap SOB).

    No, this is about Flint and Volkner.

    As a side note, though it has been said that Flint only trained fire type Pokémon (in his heyday) because of his name, it is less commonly discussed of Volkner's name and Pokémon type specialty connection. That may have been too quick for Hoenn natives. That means that people don't talk about why a guy named Volkner decided to train electric type Pokémon. Now that everybody's caught up, there is always the underground rumor that "Volkner" may not be Volkner's real, original name. The most popular, suggested original name is Limbo (accounting for his using an Ambipom and Octillery, for the Hoenn readers), possibly hailing from Orre, "the land of strange names." (Legal birth records clearly prove that he is a Sinnoh native, and his parents have never even been to Orre.) These unfounded rumors are largely irrelevant to this story concerning Flint and Volkner, but the narrator thought you should know.

    But as the narrator was saying before going off on a tangent, much like your absentminded grandfather (from the Hoenn region), this is about Flint and Volkner. As it turns out, they are not fighting at all. Well, not like an actual fist fight. They fight with their Pokémon all the time. Wait, no. They have their Pokémon fight the other Trainer's Pokémon all the time. They do not fight the Pokémon themselves. They have all seen Chuck. Chuck is not all there anymore. In the head.

    Everybody stays away from Chuck.

    But anyways, it turns out that Flint and Volkner had a very good reason to not be talking to one another today. Indeed, the whole the Elite Four is silent today. Well, except for the Pokémon. They seem exempt from whatever silent spell has been cast on all the delicious humans. That is what your Pokémon thinks of you, by the way. Delicious. The narrator is just saying.

    On the first floor of the castle, Aaron is taking on a clueless challenger, shouting unnecessarily and excessively at his Lucario. Aaron is expertly issuing commands to his Dustox using only hand gestures, and the bug and poison bug is soundly defeating a Pokémon evolution decided should be munching on Dustoxes all day, every day. It should be of no surprise to Sinnoh natives that Aaron would be good at interpretive dance. Everybody already...assumes that he would be good at that. And you're a bad person for doing so, too. The challenger is growing increasingly frustrated with the battle, not only because of the mismatch that is growing exponentially ironic, but also because his opponent is some kid who is merely waving his arms around and beating him for it. Aaron moves his arms again in a series of gestures, this time somewhat resembling four different letters of the Unown, which is apparently the super secret command for Dustox to unleash a can of...Hyper Beam. Yes, that. There isn't any rule stating Elite Four members can't cram a bunch of TMs down their Pokémons' throats (not even if the Pokémon in question doesn't have a throat). Aaron also does some fancy footwork, but any Alakazam PI could tell you that that is just for show. It doesn't translate to any kind of command. It's a shame that Unovans don't have Alakazams. What is their equivalent saying?

    On the second floor of the castle, Bertha is coincidentally taking on a different challenger. She, too, is silent and her opponent, too, is being a loudmouth, much like someone from Hoenn claiming that a flying green dragon no one's ever seen before, that battled with a psychic alien space virus, is their lord and savior. But the narrator doesn't want to plant biased opinions in your head. The narrator is just saying. Bertha's way of communicating is with sly glances, unnoticeable to most people. Shifting her eyes to the third pillar, her Quagsire unleashes a logic-defying Muddy Water attack at the opponent's Lucario. Focusing, for a brief second, on the second pillar, and her Golem lets loose a castle-destroying Earthquake upon the opponent's poor Lucario. Yes, a second Lucario. The third in this story so far. There isn't any rule stating that a Trainer can't use more than one of the same Pokémon. The narrator thinks you have a weird form of OCD.

    On the fourth floor of the castle, Lucian is not battling anyone, so it is very easy for him to be quiet, unlike with Hoenn people, who always have to share their opinions about everything with everyone. Since it is still a work day, though, he is locked in the castle (not literally), so he passes his time thinking about battle strategies to hone his skills. For a day like today, reviewing special battle strategies in his head just seems like an obvious choice. Due to his weapon of choice being psychic type Pokémon, he has a tangible mental link to his Pokémon, so merely thinking basic images of attacks (such as "Fire!", "Lightning!", or "Zombies!") would be enough to substitute auditory commands. (The narrator isn't even going to translate that for Hoenn natives.) In his current fantasy, he is facing a sexy librarian who wields six Lucarios. He is using his Alakazam, who moonlights as a private investigator in his free time. Lucian imagines him imagining an erupting volcano, and his Alakazam using the Eruption move against all six Lucarios, knocking them all out. As even a Hoenn Trainer would know, Alakazam cannot learn Eruption, but that is why this is called a fantasy and not milquetoast training. Lucian would, of course, choose a more appropriate and reasonable image to think about during a real battle. A tornado for Hurricane, a wave for Surf, Flint for Fairy Wind. You are a bad person if you laughed at that; yes, even grinning momentarily.

    But it is the third floor of the castle where this thing is about Flint and Volkner. Volkner is indeed there and Flint is not facing any challengers at the moment. Volkner had closed the gym again spontaneously, so he is not expecting any challengers at his gym as well. The two of them are sparring with their Pokémon (see above for further clarification as to the type of fighting that is involved and what, exactly, is the human-to-Pokémon fighting combination). Neither of them say a word to each other. Only their Pokémon make noises.

    Flint is his usual self, energetic, always just about to make noise before stopping himself at the last second, mentally chastising himself and reminding himself of his goal, before continuing with the battle and almost making the same mistake again. It is a repetitive, though amusing, dance. A Fiery Dance, if you will. Though it would be of no surprise to know that a Hoenn native wouldn't know what that move is, it is, in fact, a very rare move known only to a very rare Pokémon, almost deistic, only known to reside in the faraway region of Unova. And for further clarification, it is Volkner who thinks the dance is amusing. But that's for a future date. Flint is stamping his feet, communicating to his Lopunny through what is most likely a completely made up version of Morse Code. Flint, thinking he is oh so clever, also attached different sounding bells to each shoe, making it so that his Pokémon (and everybody else in the room) could tell when he was stamping his left or right foot. He stomps his right foot three times in quick succession and his Lopunny leaps into the air, launching a High Jump Kick right at Volkner's Octillery. (The silly Hoenn Pokémon League officials thought that the move was spelled "Hi Jump Kick" for a very long time. They were only recently corrected.)

    Volkner is also his usual self, completely contained, calm, almost appearing apathetic or sluggish. As you can guess, he, too, has a way of silently commanding his Pokémon in battle, only his way is much more subtle. It is so subtle, in fact, that it might even come across as cheating. A Hoenn native would certainly say that it was cheating, anyway. His Pokémon are electric type. He is an electric type gym leader. So naturally, he had built magnets, one positive and one negative, into the tips of his shoes. They would only release a light, magnetic wave when pressed with a toe in just the right way. Only Pokémon sensitive to magnetic waves, such as electric Pokémon, would be able to pick up on this. The waves, when tapped in a peculiar way, would act like a kind of Morse Code. Flint has still not figured this cunning strategy out. It is driving him mad. Volkner taps his shoes, once right, once left, once right, and his Octillery curls up into a ball and used Defense Curl. The High Jump Kick still lands a direct hit, but the Octillery takes much less damage from the hit, and bounces around like a dodgeball before landing and unfurling.

    The future is now, or so the narrator has decided! It was Volkner who thought Flint's idiocy dance was amusing. Here was one of the region's most powerful trainers, acting like a court jester and not really meaning it. It must have been one of Flint's many charms. Volkner was perplexed as to why he even noticed such a thing, or why he found it so amusing.

    The door opens and in walks the grand Champion, Cynthia. Flint and Volkner stop their battle and look at her, not expecting her. Since rarely anybody ever got to the Champion, Cynthia always has a lot of free time on her hands. It helps support her mythology research hobby. Cynthia's research interests focus mainly on ancient Sinnoh myths involving Pokémon and human interaction. She has written many numerous academic articles on the "myth of the ancient dragons," which reportedly looked so bizarre to humans in their true form, that they didn't resemble dragons at all. One walked like an animal and was said to look like a metallic Suicune (which was long thought to be a myth as well until recent discoveries proved that it does indeed exist). She knew what a Suicune looks like because of Sinnoh's close relationship with Johto, emphasized most strongly with the Sinjoh Ruins, located far north of the Johto region. The other dragon walked like a human and was said to look very similar to a Combusken (Combusken's mythological status was never brought in to question). The ancient dragons Cynthia studies have no (known) relationship with the Ancient Dragons from Unovan myth.

    Cynthia looks at the two boys, bored. She opens her mouth and gets out a single word before Flint and Volkner shoot her a dirty look, shutting her up. Cynthia is very forgetful and honestly, has probably already spoke at some point during the day, if only to herself. She apologizes before realizing that she spoke again, audibly corrects herself, realizes again her folly, and manages to stay quiet this time. She thinks about how to say what she wants to say without saying anything. Finally, she decides to let her Garchomp out of her Poké Ball and waves the boys over with a "come get some" gesture. She is bored and wants in on the skirmish that Flint and Volkner are having. Both boys immediately get what she is implying.

    Flint stamps out an order and Volkner taps his electromagnetic shoes. Cynthia, of course, has long since figured out Volkner's trick. In fact, she has secretly translated both Flint's stamping and Volkner's tapping (she has great vision and notices the slight crinkling in Volkner's shoes when he taps them), so she knows exactly what they are "saying" without them saying anything. She merely relaxes and puts her complete trust and faith in Garchomp. In the blink of an eye, her Garchomp disappears and reappears behind Flint's Lopunny and slashes it in the back. Flint doesn't even see it coming, much less his Lopunny, who is now face-first on the floor, KOed ("knocked out," for the uninitiated from a certain tropical island). Volkner's Octillery fires off an Octazooka attack, but the inky blob hits only the wall as Garchomp heard it coming from yesterday in a sealed envelope, heavily scented with Octillery's slimy scent, sent by Hoenn's slowest and loudest Pelipper...none of that made sense. Don't think too hard about it. Let's just call it "artistic integrity" and move on.

    Garchomp has seen the attack coming and has swiftly moved out of the way, setting up a devastating Dragon Rush attack. With Octillery preoccupied, the dragon rushes in with its Dragon Rush attack, knocking out the Octillery immediately.

    Having your Pokémon attack on their own without issuing commands is against Pokémon League rules (any Pokémon League). Failure to comply to those rules in an official match immediately results in a forfeit from the rule-breaking Trainer. That being said, it is already notoriously very difficult to train a Pokémon up to that skill level. Statistically, most people who own Pokémon (that is to say, everyone) will never get to that level of competence. Despite all of the evidence showing how intelligent many species of Pokémon are, it is still a fact that most cannot perform the tier of high-level thinking that is required to know how to battle effectively, quickly, and adaptively. Only regional Champions' Pokémon are known to have been able to master this deceptively difficult process. Most certainly no one from Hoenn (besides maybe the current Champion) has been able to train their Pokémon up to this level. Cynthia, however, was not born in Hoenn.

    With both opponents' Pokémon gone and all life sucked out of the room, Cynthia has won what is technically considered a battle. This is why no one ever wants to battle Cynthia or her Garchomp. Both Flint and Volkner look less than pleased, especially Flint because he is still on the clock and a challenger could come in at any minute now and challenge him and he would be down one Pokémon and oh look...a challenger. What perfect timing. The challenger takes one sweeping look around the room and nearly soils themselves. They had thought that the rules had suddenly changed and that they would have to simultaneously battle and defeat an Elite Four member, the region's highest ranked Gym Leader, AND the Champion (before having to beat her again once they had cleared the Elite Four themselves? The challenger had not thought this through.). The challenger immediately shouts that they give up, that they want no more (clearly, Aaron and Bertha had given them some difficulty along the way to Flint's room).

    Flint, Volkner, and Cynthia all instinctively shush the challenger up. After all, today is the Day of Silence, something the Elite Four's Elite Four and Champion would participate in even if Flint and Volkner weren't the region's most powerful and prominent gay couple (certainly more so than Hoenn's Wallace and...and whoever Wallace is currently dating at the time. The narrator doesn't want to imply that Wallace is promiscuous, and it most certainly isn't supposed to come off that way.). The day is a very important, political, activist day promoting rights and a voice to those who have been shushed and buried. The league would not ignore that. And so they remain quiet on this one day of the year, so that the sound of their voice can ring the loudest among all the land.

    See? The narrator told you this story was about Flint and Volkner.
     
  2. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Hey! This is your promised mod review for attempting the Quarterly Challenge.

    This is an interesting and different kind of story, in that it largely hinges on the characterization of the omniscient third-person narrator - their tangents and commentary ultimately make up much of the meat of the story. It's certainly unusual, and some of the tangents and running gags were amusing, if not exactly laugh-out-loud funny (I wonder what the narrator has against Hoenn). I also enjoyed how you show the different ways that the characters go about commanding their Pokémon without words, the little quasi-mystery you get going about why they're doing so, and the unexpectedly rather moving revelation at the end that they're honoring the Day of Silence - it's a bit jarring to see such a silly story suddenly take such a turn for the serious, but I think being jarred a little can be a good thing when you want to call attention to an issue, and it is what the whole story has been about so it doesn't come out of nowhere.

    However, I'm not sure this quite fits the spirit of this Quarterly Challenge. The indirect references to characters speaking at various points might perhaps be considered within the rules, but ultimately this story isn't about characters doing rather than talking, as we were hoping for in this challenge: it's simply about a narrator talking. This is especially prominent at the beginning, where the narrator spends seven whole paragraphs just babbling on before any character is actually shown doing anything. Remember, in JX Valentine's original description of the prompt, she specified "no internal dialogue (thoughts), no external dialogue (characters speaking aloud), no narration that is technically still narration but we all know that it’s really a stand-in for a character talking". Considering that the narrator is essentially their own character, and the meat of the story is the narrator's rambling commentary on everything, I think it's pretty clear that most of the narration here is a stand-in for a character talking, or at best would count as internal dialogue.

    I also felt the narrator's rambling style made this a bit of a rough read in parts; it was hard to properly follow it sometimes, when I'd lose track of what the narrator was talking about as they went off on a weird tangent, and often I just wanted them to get to the point already. Unfortunately your tangents aren't consistently entertaining enough to quite make up for this; for instance, I don't think the Palkia Combusken joke (which doesn't make a lot of sense to me - the only resemblance I can see between Palkia and Combusken is that they're both bipedal and have long necks) is enough payoff for the otherwise not very interesting paragraph about Cynthia's hobbies. And some of them I just don't really get; I'm not sure if the problem there is on my end or yours, but this includes for example most of the first paragraph, which for me wasn't really the best first impression. (Is "balmy" actually a word that's used a lot to describe the Pokémon League in the games or something? Then that would make sense, but you still confusingly use it for the Pokémon League village only to then say it's the official word to describe the Elite Four. Then you say the person who decided "balmy" was the official word was "also" fired, like that statement is some sort of logical addition to the previous sentence, but I can't make out any connection between the two at all that makes that word make sense there. And I'm not sure what the joke actually is about "fired" having many meanings in the Pokémon world, as you haven't used or implied the word "fired" in any other sense before this; am I missing something?)

    Mechanics-wise, you're mostly doing fine, but you shift tenses a lot - watch out for that. Also, there were some misplaced modifiers. When you write a sentence like "Shifting her eyes to the third pillar, her Quagsire unleashes a logic-defying Muddy Water attack...", you're actually saying that her Quagsire shifted her eyes to the third pillar, because the Quagsire is the subject of the sentence, not Bertha herself.

    (Also, the wandering metaphor about Garchomp seeing Octillery's Octazooka coming is "artistic integrity"? Did you mean "artistic license" or something like that?)

    It's an amusing and unusual sort of story calling attention to a good cause, though, and although you cheated the challenge a bit, I think it's rather neat that you made the lack of dialogue into an actual plot point.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2015
  3. The Teller

    The Teller King of Half-Truths

    Thanks for the review and criticism!

    I'll never tell! ~__^

    Yeah, admittedly, once I was done with the story, I thought this might be the case, but I was already done with the story and wasn't quite sure, so I decided to post it anyway.

    Funny story: this was originally supposed to be just a plain ol' shipping fic at first, but it pretty much instantly degenerated into this bizarre comedy you see before you. After a couple paragraphs, I decided to make the entire thing a character piece on the narrator themselves, so I put a lot more effort into doing exactly what you're saying.

    I wrote this in the style of the way I talk in real life, especially when I'm telling a person about something that happened, so I purposely chose a sort of jumbled way of getting things out. But maybe that's not the best way of going about it...

    That was kinda the point. The implied audience would get impatient with the man/woman who just couldn't get to the point.

    The hidden joke is that both Pokemon are rather well known for looking like...a certain part of the male anatomy...

    The person who described the village as "balmy" didn't know what "balmy" meant, so he was fired. And since the world of Pokemon is filled with creatures that can and will spew fire in your face, being "fired" can take on many meanings. The "also" was meant to be used as an "an additional fact to this topic includes..." kind of way, almost like a casual aside ("oh, and this person was also let go for being an idiot"). If that's an incorrect way to use the word, then that's my bad. The "the Elite Four" joke was a reference to how a lot of the final places in the games are just called "The Pokemon League," and many players will just refer to the place (in conversations with other players) as "the Elite Four" or "where the Elite Four are," (ex. "You fly to the Elite Four and walk down to get to the Victory Road entrance."). I also thought it would be funny to befuddle the readers with phrases like "the Elite Four's Elite Four."

    Again, something intentional on my end. I wanted the tangents to take place in a different tense, when applicable, to differentiate them from the present tense main story. During the main story, there were bits where I felt it made more sense to use a past tense word, but I'm not a master of tense, so again, that would be my bad.

    Ohhhh....ok. That makes sense.

    I meant "let's call this mess 'art,' since 'art' can be defined as almost anything nowadays, to make this seem like something of value and to lazily cover up the fact that I don't know what I'm talking about," so...yes.

    So thanks again for the review. I really appreciate the feedback. Sorry about my compulsive need to explain my thought process, how I came to a given conclusion, or give fun tidbits about the creative process!
     
  4. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Well. I'd say that in writing, your primary goal is to engage your readers. If you're writing about a very irritating character, for example, and your readers are saying they can't enjoy the story because of how irritating that character is, it's not enough to just say, "Well, this guy would be irritating to read about!": it just raises the question of why you're writing about this character if his presence makes the story worse.

    Which is not to say you shouldn't write about characters who are irritating or narrators who go on irrelevant tangents - only that when you do so, you need to carefully balance getting across the deliberate irritatingness or rambliness of the character on the one hand and keeping the story enjoyable to read on the other hand. When, say, Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy goes off on tangents, the tangents are some of the most hilarious and memorable parts of the book - they may be irrelevant, but they're deeply enjoyable in themselves, so nobody minds.

    And you already seem to be thinking in that direction, given the narrator's tangents are generally humourous asides culminating in some sort of joke, not just random rambling. I was simply saying that personally, I didn't find all the jokes funny enough to justify the tangent, so that ultimately I would probably have enjoyed the story more without those tangents (or with them changed to involve a more satisfying joke).

    I am just one reader, of course; it's quite possible there are others for whom all of this was comedy gold, and I don't expect you to change anything just to please me personally. Just saying what I thought.

    Right. That makes more sense. I'm sort of impressed I managed not to make that connection.

    I get what you're going for with that one, then, but unfortunately I still don't think it's terribly funny, and definitely not funny enough to make that entire paragraph worth it. But again, that's just how I feel about it.

    Well, yeah, but why did they describe it that way (or rather, how did it become "the official adjective" to describe the Elite Four) in the first place? Is the joke just that you describe it with a random bizarrely inappropriate word and then admit it was bizarrely inappropriate?

    I got the part about referring to a place as the Elite Four, but you say that the Pokémon League is also known as "the Elite Four", and then that it (the Pokémon League, also known as the Elite Four) is located in the Pokémon League village, and then go on to describe the latter (the village called the Pokémon League, in which the actual Pokémon League building a.k.a. the Elite Four is located) as balmy, then talk about how balmy is the official adjective to describe the Elite Four (that is, the actual Pokémon League, which is only located in the Pokémon League village, not synonymous with it).

    I guess that's the joke and the point was to use "Pokémon League" and "Elite Four" completely interchangeably to refer to both the village and the league building itself? But it didn't feel distinctly intentional enough to come across that way when I was first reading this, at least to me, so ultimately it was just confusing.

    As for "fired", I did think of Fire Pokémon but got too hung up on the fact you talked about "many meanings", I guess, when if I were making that joke, I'd go with something like "In the Pokémon world, being fired has a slightly different meaning" or "In the Pokémon world, being fired involves fewer pink slips and more Flamethrowers" or "In the Flamethrower sense", without expressly indicating it can have the other meaning too, which kind of sounds like that also has something to do with it? I'm not quite sure why it strikes me as so strange to word it that way that I ruled it out, exactly; maybe it's the weird "also" in the previous sentence that my brain kept trying to connect to something.

    I don't know. We may just have a fundamental sense-of-humour incompatibility going here.

    Hmm. Well, you don't do that very consistently; actually as far as I can tell most of your tangents are in present tense except when actually talking about things that happened in the past, and in the main story you have sentences like "But anyways, it turns out that Flint and Volkner had a very good reason to not be talking to one another today" and "Volkner had closed the gym again spontaneously" and "his Octillery curls up into a ball and used Defense Curl" (these same sentences all also contain present tense verbs) and the fully past-tense paragraph after "But the future is now...".

    Even if it were consistent, though, I think that's a pretty weird way to go about this. Present-tense narrator tangents in a past-tense story make sense, because the narrator is describing what happened but may then have tangential commentary about something that's still true at the time they're telling the story (Cynthia's hobbies presumably haven't changed, for instance, so a narrator telling a story in past tense could have a present-tense aside about her hobby). But telling a story consistently in present tense only to go off on tangents in the past doesn't really sound like how people talk (unless the tangent is actually talking about something taking place in the past, of course). Like, if you're telling a story about things that are happening at the Pokémon League right now, why would you say the Pokémart's cashier didn't live there, unless he actually does now?

    Just the word "art" would work fine there, then, but artistic integrity really doesn't. Artistic integrity is about not compromising your art for money/fame/etc. It would only make sense if you were talking about how, say, the editors wanted to cut this part out, but the narrator refused to bow to their commercializing, soulless whims! The narrator could tell an entire story about his impeccable artistic integrity, but he will resist, because this story is about Flint and Volkner.

    In any case, you're welcome for the review! Just wanted to explain my reactions a bit better.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015

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