How was that for a contest, hey? Holy crap, we saw some stunts this time that we’re not often treated to, what with Taedis’s heartrending “Even an Ox” and Tiny Pissy Fairy’s “Ohio River Boat Story,” eavesdropping on James Joyce grabbing a beer with Richard Brautigan. Can you believe what these writers are capable of?
You’d better: you’ve been watching them pull off these miracles for the past ten contests, already. Over two-and-a-half years, nearly 90 writers have signed up to flex in their preferred topics or test their skills on unfamiliar terrain. This time, with GentleApril19, we received 30 stories, the second-best reception after CruelJan19 at 35.
We had a lot of beginners this time, too, which is always encouraging! It takes a lot of bravery to march into the arena, knowing who you’re going up against. If you don’t feel you did so well, the important thing is that you met the challenge of the topic (Gentle, lead character must be middle-aged) and you completed an entire story that didn’t exist a couple months ago. You do this enough times, and you start to build a little library of completed work. That’s something to be proud of!
And if you really feel bad, please read up on my earlier post, “So, You Didn’t Kick Ass” for advice on getting better and reaching out for assistance. We are a community, there are many people willing to help you advance. For instance, MonyaMonya, Njord, RobClassact, Taedis, and Wits Aimwell have stated they’re available for any new writers who’d like some advice or helpful critique of their work.
Here’s a link to the summarized results on the GentleApril19 website.
Which story took you inside its world, immersed you in its experience?
If you followed the chatter on Twitter surrounding #GentleApril19, you heard again and again how moved readers were by Taedis’s “Even an Ox,” so it’s no surprise he took first place here. In second came bobascher with “Everything Is What It Seems.” Tied for third were “Hobbies and Passions” by Aborigen and “Restoration” by Njord.
Which story’s character(s) would you most like to spend time with?
April, lost in existential crisis, and Josh, a tiny man on the run, were the readers’ first choice with “The Road Ahead” by JM Wilde, tied with giant and shy Bailey and her dapper little fixation, Mr. Emmett Dawe, in “Hobbies and Passions.” Tied for third were “First Day on the Job” by Goddess Kelly Smith, “Houses in Motion” by Olo, and PerspectiveShift’s “The Reunion”
Which story was the most original or made the most original use of the contest’s rules?
Whether they were blown away by his imagination or confused all to hell, readers selected Tiny Pissy Fairy’s poetic stream-of-consciousness meta-story, “Ohio River Boat Story,” by a wide goddamn margin with just under a third of all votes. In second came “Rest for the Weary” by Concordant Opposition and “Ghost Story” by Wits Aimwell. Sharing fourth place were “Even an Ox,” “Everything Is What It Seems,” “Job Interview” by Meyeel Sizechanger, and “Sticky Notes” by Scidram.
Which story was the most genre-transcending, one you’d recommend to people outside of size fantasy?
This is an important category, because some of us want to share this world with friends or let our families know what it is that’s commanding so much of our writing and drawing hours. (We won’t touch the browsing, oh, no.) We know these stories are incredible, but how well would they go over with those not in-the-know?
With fully one-third of all votes, readers asserted “Even an Ox” would be the one they would break the ice with. Touching, thoughtful, and so well composed, no one on the outside would expect it. Along those lines, readers also boosted for “Sticky Notes,” again, a very sensitive treatment of a couple coping with Alzheimer’s. It seems heavy subject matter was the order for this contest.
Tied for third are “Ghost Story,” “Hobbies and Passions,” and “Ohio River Boat Story.”
Which story did the best/most work within the word limit constraint?
Oh yes, over the last three years, so many people have complained about the 2,000 word limit. It’s difficult, yes, but it helps to reframe how to effectively tell a story, succinctly. It’s a useful skill to have, and now we see who can pack the most punch in such a small package.
“Even an Ox” claimed first in this category, followed by “Sticky Notes,” with Olo’s “Houses in Motion” and “The Road Ahead tied for third.
Which story would you like to read more of, wish had gone on longer?
People couldn’t get enough to SolomonG’s “For Better, For Worse,” wanting to know what happens to Jim’s gigantic wife on the island. Tied for second, readers wanted to see where Bailey and Emmett would go next in “Hobbies and Passions,” as well as Veronica, nestled in that lovely new house Marlon built for her, in “A Life Long Past, a Life Worth Sharing” by HthereBeGt.
Tied for fourth place were “Brewed Awakening” by brainwashedMZ; “Houses in Motion,” “In Her Mother’s Footsteps” by Joyce Julep; RobClassact’s “Lynnae’s Journey,” “The Reunion,” and “The Road Ahead.”
Which stories best addressed the theme of GentleApril19?
The multiple-choice feature proved popular, because “the best” of anything is too hard of a call to make. I don’t think anyone who’s been paying attention can be surprised that Taedis commanded 17 votes with “Even an Ox,” with Scidram in second (11 votes) with “Sticky Notes.” Third place was “The Road Ahead,” fourth was “Hobbies and Passions,” and Olo and PerspectiveShift tied in fifth with “Houses in Motion” and “The Reunion.”
Feedback was different for GentleApril19, in that this was the first time comments were not bound to categories. Readers were merely presented with a title and a text box to record their thoughts. Out of 27 reviewers, 24 people actually took the time to share their reactions, sometimes at quite a length! Our readers appreciate your feedback very much, I assure you.
I’m only going to include one review for each story (or more if they’re short), because there are 30 stories and listing it all here would be humongous. All the writers will receive an email in the near future, with the full list of comments on their stories. I have to ask your patience in this, writers.
The power of songs and empathy to fight a destructive force of nature.
The first paragraphs sure know how to make us understand the situation and how everything has changed for the protagonist: from watching the disaster on the news to running for her own life and protecting what’s precious for her. The story makes a good work at showing how Maria, the protagonist, comes to terms with herself and faces the giantess with her own voice.
And here comes the good thing: how a little song, how showing how much she loves what she cares so much, held in her hand, to stop the catastrophe. Maybe the final part feels a bit rushed, due to the word limit, especially as there’s a little drop of a much deeper lore, but it sure is an optimistic tale, of how your voice can reach those who seem unstoppable and make them feel joy again.
Also, kudos for the bilingual bonus.
All Things Considered…
The running inner-monologue of the main character made this a very fun read. I greatly enjoyed her reactions to everything that occurred. The age of the characters wasn’t as prevalent as it could have been, but I liked how she the character wasn’t too concerned with it. I would have liked a little more info about the shrunken agent, but understand that may have been lacking due to the word limit.
Being of Sound Mind
I have mixed feelings with the fact that the character admits to the reader that he’s always had size fantasies he’s never shared with his wife. That is true to life, a fact that was put to good use. My mixed feelings come from his going thorough an actual procedure that changes his life, and he still feels the need to keep his fantasies to himself? That threw me off a bit. Anyway, that is a character-driven criticism and it doesn’t have anything to do with the narration of the story itself. I also imagine a tragic story can be gentle, and the gentle genre doesn’t mean the reader is not left unsettled, which I was. I felt very little sympathy for a tiny man that refuses to discuss such a tremendous decision, and leaves his spouse of many years to wonder what happened to him. The story was well written, it had a nice pace, and it made excellent use of the rules.
What I like of this story is how it dares to use in media res for telling its story, even though the shrinking origins are vague, because it isn’t the focus after all. We’re already introduced to Niabi and Castielle, how they’re dealing with the former’s situation and Castielle becomes the only one she can trust. You can feel Niabi’s discomfort, fear and distrust, even if she’s got someone as supportive as Castielle… even if there’s that pinch of doubt.
It’s interesting seeing Niabi’s discomfort and distrust, and even though there’s some cuteness and gentleness in the story, you can’t help feeling sorry for the tiny woman, as we are asked to feel sympathetic for her. And it works in that way.
Cute, almost lyrical once the faerie popped in, it transitioned straight from a dark realistic setting to something out of a fairy tale. For a moment I was worried that it was all in her head, but in a way I’m glad I was proven wrong. Readbility could have been improved by either shorter paragraphs or by breaking up the bigger ones, but I enjoyed the narrative voice a lot even so.
Even an Ox
Excellent use of limited space. I really felt the love and chemistry between Ellen and her husband. It kept with the theme of Gentle April and you seamlessly wove in just enough back story to make me feel like I really knew the characters. I was completely sucked in and felt a connection to them. I wasn’t expecting to cry over such a short piece, but I actually teared up at the end. The dialog flowed really well… I really don’t have much to offer in the way of constructive criticism here. Nothing stands out to me that I would recommend changing. Nice job.
Everything Is What It Seems
Reader 1: This is some straight-up Philip K. Dick stuff, and as such is way the hell over my head, but as far as I can tell the internal logic is sound and the author should be commended.
Reader 2: Ladies and Gentlemen: Welcome to the MindFuck! There is so much going on here. I love this Inception-esque story. Hat’s off to whoever you are writer, you have written me a new favorite!
First Day on the Job
You go, Tom! When it looks up, it is up! He really scores with this job. I love the light, upbeat flair of this story. The MILF seems like a lot of fun too. You did a good job painting the scene. Its not weighted down with a lot of prose or imagery, which this story would have been hurt by. Good work.
For Better, For Worse
An interesting story that left me wanting more… I found the lack of interaction an interesting and probably more realistic approach to someone suddenly growing like that. I can get a feeling for the sacrifice she’s making isolating herself from humanity and the love of her life. Favorite line/moment: “The deer not running cause it knew Cindy wasn’t going to hurt it.”
A very clever and original take on tinies. Tiny people could easily knock things over, make strange noises and go unseen. The idea of your average person mistaking them for ghosts is highly plausible. Despite POV changes being difficult to pull off in flash fiction, it actually did wonders for your story. It’s a great example of deliberately bending conventional writing rules or advice to suit the your story. That takes some real skill to pull off.
Reader 1: Very nice to see some M/m representation in the contest. I loved the relationship between Brian and Marco.
Reader 2: The calm tiny and the terrified giant makes for a great role reversal. Where terror might have caused chaos, love prevailed and saved the day.
Reader 3: Great, real emotions that come through clearly; a lovely depiction of love in the middle of strange events.
Hobbies and Passions
A shopkeeper and miniaturist with a crush on a tiny? Sounds interesting, to say the least, and it’s how the story smoothly develops, showing you the expected yet warm surprise, what sells it and keeps you more and more interested in how this would end.
I was afraid because of the age gap. Fortunately, the story doesn’t go in a sexual way, it focuses on how they both recognize each other, and how their online friendship turns into something more tangible. It is nice seeing how both try to give their best impression —specially Bailey, as she’s the most nervous of the duo—and how natural every bit of conversation sounds like.
Houses in Motion
Reader 1: A great example of using every bit of the wording effectively. Excellent pacing, and connecting all the pieces for the reveal at the end! It was beautiful learning not only that Natalie knew and kept things to herself, but that she cared enough for Bolt to offer him to move with her!
Reader 2: Bolt and Natalie are my new OTP. One hormonally charged reverie carries the weight of a years-long relationship neither of them knew they really had, and it’s made potent without coming across as lurid or intentionally voyeuristic. Deft work! There’s life in the world of Borrowers yet.
In Her Mother’s Footsteps
Great job of setting the tension between the two characters from the start and building on it during the story. I personally wasn’t expecting that to be Isabella’s reaction, but I guess if she already thinks of her father as weak and useless, it wouldn’t necessarily surprise her that he’d sink to THAT level…
Excellent introduction to another world, establishing very strong and colorful characters. The transformation of the Madam from a cruel, domineering woman, apparently, to a sympathetic woman with a deep background was a very nice touch. The physical challenge, sprinting for the prize, that was very clever and entertaining. It really underscored that there was a reason for every action and every exchange between these two. This would be a fascinating world to explore, especially to see these new skills put to the test.
Reader 1: I can’t possibly express how happy I am to find out that’s how jukeboxes work. Also, bravo for somehow making that the secondary story. Brilliant work. One of my top three.
Reader 2: Cute story, I enjoy how the main character seems pretty chill about living in a jukebox. A bit disturbing how he seems to accept that he’s just another ‘piece in the machine’, lol.
Reader 3: Good character discussions. I wonder about the economic model that can support a fully staffed Jukeotron, but that’s neither here nor there.
A Life Long Past, a Life Worth Sharing
“It was a mountain coming to life.” Long relationships often have episodes where partners lose and then rediscover each other. They aren’t always neat or tidy or simple. The world you’ve created is certain to have many such (re-)encounters, and I would love to see more. Excellent dialogue, these were real people. Marlon’s tender grasp lingers.
A Little Tenderness
Reader 1: This was very warm, and it’s exactly what I want out of a size relationship. The size snuggles were deftly woven into the dialogue, so much so that I was more interested in the couple than wondering why “the kid” hadn’t been subjected to some size justice.
Reader 2: I liked how the story reflected real-world femdom relationships, including the fact that sometimes dommes need someone to lean on, too
Reader 1: Interesting take on the whole soul searching thing after one has lost their reason to go on. Great premise, backed with decent writing.
Reader 2: I really liked the giantess-as-celebrity angle. Fans, suitors, cultists, Lynnae deserves them all.
Reader 3: I’m not sure how to describe this other than that it felt like a very sincere satire (which sounds oxymoronic, but here we are). Loved the concept.
Ohio River Boat Story
Reader 1: This story put into words some of the thoughts I’ve never been able to articulate about this fantasy, mostly about the melancholy behind the impossibility of it all. Felt a lot of myself in this one.
Reader 2: I’ve read a number of size stories that read as adult fairy tales, but this is the first I’ve come across that could be beat poetry about writing size smut. It is lyrical and brilliant and is going to require more re-readings to pick up all the literary/biblical references.
Reader 1: Fun little story, I could have used more. However, its fun seeing what Wasp in Iron Man’s armor would look like with her girlfriend!
Reader 2: I liked this quite a bit. It’s reminiscent of silver age Marvel with a modern sensibility. Optimistic and fun with promises of more to come. I’d like to read more. And the boob window joke was cute.
Reader 3: Excellent Description of the feeling of growing. Nice handling of the voice issue. Short is okay, but it felt unfinished.
Reader 4: Growth as used by the government. I’d kind of like to see more of this idea.
Rest for the Weary
This story had just about everything I love in a fluffy vore scenario. The digestion made it tiptoe the line between gentle and cruel, but given that the digestion was painless, the knight seems to enjoy the process and there was lots of intimacy, it could still be considered gentle in my opinion. The descriptions were vivid and the protagonist’s gender and many other details were left vague, which made for an immersive reading experience. The knight’s old age was still conveyed through the walking stick, being battle weary and exhausted after so many years and through the use of dialog with Karya.
An absolutely amazing tour de force of a story. Beautifully written featuring some of the best prose of the contest. I loved the concept of a giantess rebuilding a tiny town she destroyed in her youth. Some of the other stories in this round of the contest checked the box when it came to having a 45+ year old character, but this story really leaned into having an older, more experienced protagonist.
Favorite line: “Cut me, she thought, and I would have almost as many rings inside.”
The characters were so well-defined and the interactions between them so natural that I felt like I was hanging out with them. Given the word limit, I would have liked to get to her and her size-altering powers just a little earlier, but that’s more a criticism of the contest than the writing. I enjoyed their reunion, I sensed both his desire and shyness to ask her to do it again for him, and as a middle-aged man myself, I can relate to his underlying reasons to just want to be small and relax a bit. I wanted to spend more time with these characters in this situation. One of the three I voted for that best addressed the theme.
The Road Ahead
Reader 1: A beautiful story with excellent dialog, characterization, and scenario. Another entrant that drew me in and made me want to read more. A satisfying vignette. I’m a little jealous of April for giving it up for the open road.
Reader 2: Well done. Both of these characters are real and believable. Josh’s accident was explained quickly and satisfactorily, without impeding the story. These two have room to breathe, and they both have choices to make. I’m more than a little envious.
Reader 1: I cannot improve this story. It is perfect. Well paced, arc perfect, not rushed at all. Dialogue wonderful and real. The mundanity of total caring love in all its domestic glory. Age is very much dealt with, pathologized here, but not flashily. Everything is shown, little is told.
Reader 2: I must say upon finishing this one I am speechless. As I read, I wasn’t really sure where we were going with it, but damn if that isn’t a gut punch. A beautiful story that brought tears to my eyes: I never thought i would say that in a Size Riot contest.
The Sweetest Sound
Reader 1: ‘Twas Beauty saved the Beast. A sweet little story of love conquering all.
Reader 2: I don’t typically get into fantasy but this was a delightful read. Creative premise and told well.
Reader 3: Very well written fairy tale that is a wonderful example of the genre; nothing crazy tried, just well-executed and comforting.
Interdimensional giantesses rampaging and stomping out society usually don’t do it for me, so I was pleased when you got that exposition out of the way quickly and focused on the protagonist trying to live in this new post-apocalyptic world. I liked that the giantess he does meet was believable in the way she coerced him into becoming her little pet/toy. So while the beginning wasn’t up my alley, you went somewhere with it that I could appreciate.
The Watcher on the Wall
Reader 1: Melancholy meditation on the things out of reach, and age. Gently moving, even with the savage fucking… not easy to do. This story actually improved upon reading it again, which is a good sign.
Reader 2: There is some deep underlying themes here that I love: David clearly has a giantess fetish, but doesn’t know how to tell his loved ones, even though he would like to. I think we can all relate to this plight.
Who’s the Smallest Now?
Reader 1: I love this cute story – quite a shift in power there:) I wish the tiny was a bit larger, cause even a half-ling would smash a centimeter tall human easily. I really enjoyed this piece. Now, stand back as I remove this arrow from my knee.
Reader 2: D&D meets t&a. Nothing wrong with something simply sexy, especially when it is so very, VERY sexy; is there anything better than extreme role reversal? The massive, aged, and powerful becoming the willing plaything of the small, young, and relatively fragile? Maybe not–I’d love to see more of these two.