Fall Short Story Feedback

I submitted a short story and have now got feeback on why I did not win:-

  • I’m always impressed when writers create a whole new world. Nice work. This story was interesting, but did not connect to the contest thing of fall/autumn, etc. However, you’re clearly talented. Keep writing.
  • This is an imaginative alternative universe, one peopled with characters I can relate to. Although there is love (and betrayal) in this story, I didn’t see the connection with the other part of the contest’s theme, fall–but I hope this writer continues to hone their craft.
  • This is a fantastic premise: a couple go on holiday to one of Jupiter’s moons, flying out on a budget spacecraft. She’s called away briefly on a work emergency, but a solar flare damages the craft and they have to fight for survival on an abandoned moon. What a ride!
  • A few problems prevented this story from moving further along in the contest. The climax of this story is Skena and Max’s liftoff and escape from Amalthea. That scene happens quickly and easily, though, so we don’t get to experience the full tension and excitement of their death-defying escape. In just three paragraphs, all the conflict in the story is resolved and wiped away:

Max was becoming unconscious but managed to say, “Look, sit in the pilot seat, and I’ll try to show you how to fly the shuttle. Bu-but, if the thruster stops working at any point, w-we will continue moving on that trajectory for ever more. Then run out of oxygen and die.”

The shuttle lifted off the moon, and Skena got them back to Europa. The shuttle lost the last thruster, and it splashed deep into the water. Max was now unconscious, but they were close to a ship with people who saw the crash.

The people on the ship rescued both of them and took Max to a hospital. They had spent a long time together helping each other to survive.

  • If it were that easy for Skena to fly the broken ship away even when Max was unconscious, why didn’t they try this earlier? And the perfectly-timed ship full of rescuers feels rather d eus ex machina —a convenient fix that saves us writers from having to wrestle through the real problems our characters are facing. Take your time in this scene to describe the moments where it looks like things will go wrong. In addition, the story reports more than it shows , so it feels like we’re hearing about things that happen rather than experiencing them ourselves. Because of that, I didn’t connect strongly with the characters or feel their love for each other. For example: S kena and Culbert talk about what happened, and Skena finds out Culbert had slept with Deidra. Skena said, “Oh, I’ve fallen out of love with you and in love with Max.” That’s a pretty understated and composed response to Culbert’s unfaithfulness. What did Skena do when she heard? Did she gasp? Or cry? Or do we now see that she never cared about him, because she’s callously glad he was unfaithful to her? Little details like that will help us see what’s happening and get invested in the characters and experience of the story. As my fellow judges mentioned, this didn’t connect to the season of Fall. However, you clearly have a fantastic imagination, and as you write more stories and practice your craft, you’ll gather a following of readers who love the amazing worlds you create. Thank you for sharing this one with us, and keep writing!