WRiTE CLUB 2012 – Round 6


We enter the 3rd week of WRiTE CLUB by congratulating another winner. Our Round 3 victor is none other than D.Rose.  His/her opponent, Aurelia, will have his/her piece returned to the pool for a chance at re-selection for a future bout, and as always writers who have battled once are welcome to submit a different piece if they so wish.

Here’s an interesting question, how much does reading the other comments/votes influence your choice? Do you read what others have to say before you cast your own vote? When you go to the movies, do you read the reviews beforehand? How about when you buy a book? Do you ever wonder how much of our opinion is truly ours, and how much is simply the regurgitation of the popular view? Do you fear becoming a pariah by expressing an opinion contrary to the norm? Not a fan of the Hunger Games (I’m not – kids killing kids for sport – really?), or do you think that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo needed some serious editing (Yes!), but afraid to say so? Although the anonymity of the writers helps protect against favoritism, it still takes internal fortitude to stand your ground and make a choice that may not appear as popular if you’re reading other comments. All we ask at WRiTE CLUB is that you vote with your heart and mind, not someone else’s.  

Without further ado....


 
Here are this week's randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in the far corner, weighing in at 490 words, please welcome to the ring……..Anya Harker

Blah, blah, blahbity, blah.

I suppose our tour guide used actual words instead of gibberish, but I stopped paying attention about twenty minutes ago. Meanwhile, the rest of my classmates stood entranced, staring at their surroundings like they’d never seen anything so amazing in their lives —complete with the requisite oohs and aaahs. Honestly. It’s a castle. If you've seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all. They’re big, they’re gaudy, they’re like bad leftovers (no one wants to eat them and no one wants to throw them away), and they’re places I’ve wandered about since I was old enough walk around on my own without tripping and falling — and thus breaking — some priceless heirloom.

“Excellent tapestries, blah yadda yadda blaaaaah.”

Someone please stab me in the eye with a dull spoon. Anything would be more exciting than listening to this elderly man jabbering on about this seven armed candelabra.

“And now,” I muttered under my breath, “if you proceed through this corridor, you will see prime examples of the Neo European décor.”

Tina stepped on my foot before the tour guide could hear me mocking him.

I have the unfortunate luck of being the daughter of two of the leading experts in Neo European monarchs and palaces. Mom and dad can’t get enough of anything gold leafed, gaudy, and tapestry covered. I wish I could say this obsession started when my very American father married my very Britlandish mother — but my father met my mother while on assignment at New Cardiff Castle.

It was love at first sight. Gag me. Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m glad my parents fell in love and had me and all that jazz, but I wish they’d fallen in love over something normal.

If having weird fetishes regarding palaces from Versailles to Kensington wasn’t bad enough, my parents tried to shoehorn me into their bizarre life. In other words, I was one of the youngest kids ever allowed inside the secret passages inside New Windsor Castle because of a documentary my mom was working on. When I wasn’t in school, I was expected to traipse all over Neo Europe to find this rare painting or that unique ottoman with birds embroidered on it by the grand duchesses of Largania’s favorite niece. Instead of playing by beach or going to amusement parks, I stepped over bones deep within catacombs.

Which, by the way? Ew.

“Before we move on, please take a moment to explore the study,” the guide said, standing by the exit. “See if you can find the five griffins etched in the wood paneling.”

My classmates scatted like a group of roaches who had just been uncovered by moving a rock. I know it was my fault for wanting to go on a class trip to Britlandia knowing we were going to wander through castles and the like. I just wanted to spend a week in NeoEurope without my parents — especially for my birthday.

******************************************************************************

And in the other corner, weighing in with a brand new 475 word sample, let me introduce to you ……..Peanut Buttercup.

I step up behind him, so close I can count the pores on the back of his hairless head, smell the sweat from the damp patches under his arms.

The rumble of the incoming train becomes a roar. Most Underground trains do not slow down on approaching a station. They come in at line speed, which can be up to fifty miles an hour.

My palms are clammy, my fingers twitch as adrenaline shoots through my arteries. I start to pant. Stanton must have felt me breathing down his neck. He turns, ruddy face etched in a frown, expressing his annoyance at the intrusion of personal space. Beads of perspiration dot his upper lip. The sweet, sharp odor of ethanol waft from his breath.

With my hood on, it takes him longer to recognize me.

His eyes widen just as the 1 MIN on the display board disappears.

The roar of the cave beast becomes a thunderous bellow, drowning out all other sounds, so loud it seems to be reverberating inside my skull.

Despite my heart thudding against my ribs, I force a smile. I plant both hands on Stanton’s barrel chest.

And push.

Stanton stumbles backward with a strangled cry. His foot teeters at the edge of the platform for a split second, pirouetting like an drunken, overweight ballerina.

Then he slips off.

Before he can fall onto the tracks, the train hits him with a hollow THUD. The impact throws him forward like a crash test dummy. His body rolls a few times along the track before disappearing beneath tonnes of metal, as the train rolls over him. Above the rumbling of the train, I hear the crunch of splintering bone, the wet ripping of soft tissue, the squelch of crushed organs. A high-pitched squeal splits the air, but I’m not sure if it came from the shriek of the train’s brakes, or from the shrill screams of terrified passengers.

Either way, I’m not sticking around long enough to find out.

I have my escape route all planned out. Taking advantage of the pandemonium around me, I slip away, fleeing into the twisting network of Underground passageways. The further I run, the more my tense edginess slides off me, giving way to an overwhelming sense of euphoria.

I’ve done it. I’ve actually done it.

As I jog, I start to laugh, my voice bouncing off the concrete and tiles, echoing down the winding tunnels, amplified by the empty silence around me. For the first time in my life, I feel the hot surge of power, like liquid fire coursing through my veins.

And it feels good.

I turn into yet another passage, but this one is unlit. I step into the darkness, melting into the shadows.

I am certain no one will find me here.

I am Minotaur, and this is my Labyrinth.

****************************************************************************

Nope, it doesn't get any easier!  Leave your vote for the winner of round 6, along with any sort of critique you would like to offer, in the comments below.  Please remind your friends to make a selection as well.  The voting will remain open until noon Sunday.  

Remember, here in WRiTE CLUB, it’s not about the last man/woman standing, it’s about who knocks the audience out!  Want to take part in the word battles, throw your pen name into the hat anytime during the first twelve rounds by submitting your own 500 word sample.  Check out the rules by clicking on the badge below…then come out swinging!


76 comments

  1. Ooh, it really, really doesn't get any easier!

    I love the writing style of Anya Harker - it's very easy to read and kept me engrossed.

    But I really liked the dark theme of Peanut Buttercup, and it was also very well written so Peanut Buttercup gets my vote. :D

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  2. Anya Harker has a great voice, but I have to go with Peanut Buttercup on this one. I felt the train rumbling down the tunnel as I read and want to know more about this story. Well done.

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  3. I enjoyed Anya Harker's entry, but my vote is for Peanut Buttercup on this one. Well done, both of you!

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  4. Peanut Buttercup! And no I didn't vote for her because of her name, though I was tempted.

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  5. I'm going with Peanut Buttercup on this one. I was wanting to read on

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  6. I'll vote for Anya. I enjoyed her voice a lot. :)

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  7. I enjoyed both of these stories, but I'm voting for Peanut Buttercup because the writing really pulled me in a left me wanting to know more. :)

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  8. My vote is for Peanut Buttercup. Anya had a great voice, but PB's story was stronger and I want to know more!!

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  9. Peanut Buttercup had such a great flow, the language drew you in, gets my vote

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  10. First, Don to answer your question: I never read any of the other reviews before writing my own, so others voting never influences me. And when I vote, I try to offer some feedback and give a reason why I chose one piece over another. I also try to give feedback that -- as a writer -- I would want to hear. I try to avoid simple "I liked this; I didn't like that," and explain WHY. Ultimately, it's really only one guy's opinion, but I at least hope to have it be something of value to the writers.

    OK, on to the voting:

    Today's match is a competitive one. Both pieces are very good, although clearly very different.

    Anya Harker's piece has a fun and entertaining voice, and I can immediately connect and sympathize with the character. The writing flows pretty well (there are a few minor stumbles), and the piece held my attention. However, there really wasn't much happening -- a young girl (I'm assuming) going along with a castle tour she doesn't want to be part of broken up with a healthy dose of backstory. No real tension, no conflict, no drama, and no significant story questions raised.

    On the other hand, Peanut Buttercup gives us oodles of story questions, drama, conflict, and action. There is obviously high stakes events happening here! Although I generally dislike being thrust into the first-person POV of a killer, this piece grabs me and doesn't let go. We get excellent scene-setting, with sparse but highly effective snippets of sight, sound, and smell. The pacing is perfect, and the scene wraps up extremely well with the allusion to the Minotaur and his labyrinth. Plus, I have to give bonus points for choosing the pen name "Peanut Buttercup" for such a visceral, dark piece, LOL!

    So my vote goes to Peanut Buttercup.

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  11. Anya made me smile and I loved the voice but my vote goes to Peanut Buttercup simply because it gave me goosebumps. There was an immediacy that drew my breath away. :)

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  12. I don't usually read others comments before I give mine. However, it does seem as though many people do take others opinions before they cast theirs.

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  13. Hmmmmm... I liked Peanuts story better but I loved the voice in Anya's so Anya's get my vote.

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  14. Vote for Peanut Buttercup.
    One word made the difference for me: ASSASSIN!!
    Anya Harker has a good, strong voice. The protagonist is embodied well. But riveting content was lacking from this individual piece.
    Peanut Buttercup. I found myself hanging on each word and to be honest, I had a feeling protagonist would kill Stanton. I was not let down. The main joy of reading for me is to be put somewhere I can't go in real life. Clearly I'm not going to be an assassin any time soon.(I use the word assassin because it seems more accurate than murderer in this case but I could be wrong)
    Since duty requires that I critique, here goes:
    I love the description of the train. I envision it being unstoppable, thunderous, dangerous, etc. That said, I strongly doubt that the sounds of bones crushing, flesh ripping, organs, etc. would carry over the sound of the train... especially in so much clarity that they can be identified individually. Don't get me wrong, I am not queasy about gory descriptions, but this just seemed like gore for its own sake.

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  15. I actually do read others comments. Before and after I vote... and I come back continuously to read them again. Not to determine how to vote, but to see what people are into and what people like about each.
    I think I'm adequately stubborn and opinionated enough to not be swayed by the votes I read of others :)

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  16. I have to say both were very well written, but I'm going with Anya simply because I prefer light-hearted, to dark-scary. (It's all so subjective don't you know...."

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  17. Anya's piece shows potential. If this is for a larger work, I am imagining the dozen different storylines it could develop into. There is a definite voice here. It sounds MG and it's a little whiny and smug for my taste. There are a few rough spots where the voice feels forced: e.g. "Gag me..." I still circle back around to this: There are some good elements here which setup the possibility of a great storyline.

    Peanut Buttercup. Decent piece. Personal preference: not a fan of 1st person/present, but I stuck with it. Once again, the possibilities! One thing is kicking me in the face with this one. This line: "Above the rumbling of the train, I hear the crunch of splintering bone, the wet ripping of soft tissue, the squelch of crushed organs." The MC heard these things above the train? Hmmmm...

    I feel both pieces have potential as longe works. Peanut Buttercup earns my vote for this round. Mainly because there was actually a bit of action & surprise.

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  18. YA vs Fantasy (not a fan of either, really). Light vs dark (a fan of both, actually). Hard to choose, but I'm going with Anya Harker. Her first person POV seemed to flow better (for me, anyway).

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  19. Peanut Buttercup, definitely. The dark suspense of the narrative really tugged at my heart, as the first person present tense offered a little quirkiness. What happens next? I'd love to read further and find out.

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  20. Both should be in the finals. This is like putting Federer against Murray in the first round. Loved Buttercup's piece, but I thought Anya's was a teeny bit more polished. Both were awesome. Vote is for Anya...I think...no...yes, Anya.

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  21. Wow, I love the voice and the way the first story is written but I love the description in the second. Hard choice.

    This time, I'm going with #1.

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  22. I always try to avoid reading the comments in case they sway me! In this case, I'm really glad I did because this is a TOUGH choice. I loved both entries - both strong stories, both strong writers. By the smallest of margins, I'm going to go with #1 because the voice hooked me so strongly and it's also something I'd be more likely to read. But that being said, this was a really difficult choice and I could see both of these competitors making it to the final round. The talent is outstanding in this year's WRiTE Club!

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  23. This is a shame for Anya, because I would have voted for her piece over some of the others I've seen in previous rounds, but Peanut Buttercup's vivid imagery ("The roar of the cave beast!") just bowled me over. Peanut Buttercup it is!

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  24. A drunken, overweight ballerina -- now, there's an image.

    All right, Mr. Hammons, in answer to your question, popular opinion means bupkis to me. I read, and take to heart, reviews on non-fiction but when it comes to fiction, I crack open the book in the middle and see if the world springs out fully-formed in the first paragraph that nabs my eyes. If I find myself mired in robotic characterization and a spaghetti pile of tired, time-worn descriptions, that sucker goes back on the shelf.

    As for WRiTE Club, I vote when there is a writer who exhibits tighter skill -- regardless of whether the genre, style or content is something I would otherwise read. When there is, in just this one reader's opinion, not a clearly superior writer, I refrain from voting and wish all entrants the best of luck.

    So ... best of luck to all contestants!

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    1. All right, so I've come back because I could not stop thinking about what I had articulated in defense of refraining from the vote. That, and I also could not stop thinking about Peanut Buttercup's entry.

      I think it's very difficult for any person to wholly, objectively separate their tastes from an artistic evaluation. The Minotaur in the second piece is just downright frightening to me -- the insensate brutality of his character, particularly in the description of the sounds after pushing the passenger onto the tracks, leaves this reader haunted. The one thing I found to lightly press the envelope of credulity was the fact that no one would notice such a distinctive creature prior to its running off cackling into the night (or dank, dark underground, as it were.) I did, however, like the very last few words simply because the instant imagery is very effective. Actually, looking at it, again, I realize that, not knowing the genre, it could cut both ways. Either the narrator is actually a mythic creature, or they just think they are one, which adds yet another psychotic, disturbing dimension to the text. Again, I imagine this is the goal so, mission accomplished.

      The first entry has crystalline voice. The main problem is that the voice of the narrator is so unlikable. My guess is that the course the story will take provides an awakening of sorts, causing the main character to grow out of her knee-jerk repulsion to the (worthwhile) interests of her parents. This is, I believe, an expectation set up by the sample and I'd venture to say the writer has exhibited enough command of her character to make sure that pay-off is served.

      Because, between these two entries, neither one stands out to me (personally) as being the better piece of writing, I feel it unfair to vote for one over the other. But I did want to come back and at least say something helpful about the pieces submitted. And, if in ensuing rounds, I am unable to come up with a winner, I will still make an effort to write an honest reaction so that the author can do with one reader's response what they will.

      Once again, it takes a ton of guts and courage to throw your stuff up there anonymously to be evaluated by peers, so kudos to everyone doing it. And as always, best of luck to all contestants. :)

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  25. I don't read any of the other comments until I'm voted - don't want to be swayed.
    Loved the fact that both this week's snips were British. The first one was great, but I was hoping for more oomph in the ending...
    Voting for Peanut Buttercup!

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  26. I do scan the comments, but only after I've already made up my mind. I'm curious to see if others agree with my decision. My vote is for Anya Harker!

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  27. Okay, first and foremost, I want the record to show that I NEVER read other posts before casting a vote on anything. I do not want the opinions of others to sway my decision. Essentially, I like to make up my own mind.

    Moving onto the contest. Submission number one was well written, and I liked the character's voice. However, the one thing that disappointed me was the plot did not go anywhere. The M.C. just complained about the tour. I kept waiting for a surprise, a ghost to jump out or something!!!! but much to my disappointment, nothing happened.

    Submission number two was not as well written as one, and the character's voice was not as strong, but I liked the plot better. It jumped straight into the action and kept me engaged. I had a lot of questions by the end: who is the man that was murdered, why was he murdered, since he recognized the murderer, what is their relationship? All this left me hungry for more. I would read on.

    Although both pieces were good, I preferred submission number 2, so mark that as my choice. Great job.

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  28. Sorry, I went back and read. Instead of submission number two, I should have said Peanut Buttercup.

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  29. This is a tough one for me, I loved the voice of Anya Harker; the character's personality really shone through, but the story didn't do much for me.

    On the other hand, the premise/ plot of Peanut Buttercup's was just completely engrossing and pulled me in, but the writing wasn't quite as strong.

    Ultimately, my vote goes to Anya Harker, because that's the one I liked best over all.

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  30. Yet again a tough choice. Just because it contained so much action and left me with unanswered questions I think I have to go with Peanut Buttercup. I think both of these pieces showed a lot of strength. Good luck to both.

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  31. LOL - the first one was so funny. I pick Anya Harker.

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  32. My vote is for Peanut Buttercup. I loved the voice in both of these pieces. Very strong, well developed. The determining factor came in with the lack of direction with the first piece. Left me not really curious about it the end result.

    Well done to both for entering though! Very difficult choice on voice!

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  33. My vote is for Peanut Buttercup. I really like the idea of a modern day minotaur. I'm really interested to see where you're going with this. I do have a couple of suggestions though. I am still not sure of your mc's gender or any physical attribute. That was a particular problem when s/he pushed the victim - a girl or much slimmer youth would have to make it a flying tackle. Next, the timing - Stanton seems to get it that he's threatened, but then stands there (his exact position needs to be clarified earlier) for an entire minute conveniently waiting to be murdered. Also, give Stanton his name the first time you refer to him rather than "his head" - otherwise I have to figure out the bald person is also Stanton. "Ethanol" - this is technically correct but made me wonder why emphasize it - if the victim had been imbibing any other kind of alcohol he'd already be sick or dead. Maybe something more descriptive like cheap wine?

    Anya - The setting is so wonderful (secret passages! castles! catacombs!) and your writing is good, but I don't want to explore the world dragging around a spoiled brat. It's understandable that she'd be into other things than her (as far as I can tell good) parents and take what she grew up with for granted, but the excess snark makes the mc too unpleasant to spend hundreds of pages with. Also, you've only got one first line - do you really want it to read blah blah blah?

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    1. Came back to reply to DL - I make my decision before reading any other comments. If I am late to the party, I do scan them before casting my vote since I try to leave some helpful suggestions. As below, I don't want to beat a dead horse. Actually, I have the opposite problem than you propose - if I see most folks going for one piece, I am tempted to vote for the other. I've resisted the impulse since this is a meritocracy (all by our own definitions of course).

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  34. I try not to read any comments before I vote, but I often scan back up after to see. :) This one was really tough for me. I liked the voice in both pieces. I liked the snarky tone in #1 - but felt it could be tightened up a bit. I liked the setting too. In #2 I like the dark mood - but I wanted to know a little more of why rather than just what/how.

    My vote will go to #1

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  35. Both entries were very well written. I'm voting for P. Buttercup because I wish I could turn the page. As far as voting, my mind is made up the second I've finished reading the second entry. I go with my gut feeling, the entry that leaves me wanting more, not with what others have voted before me.

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  36. Both are very interesting, but my vote goes to Peanut Buttercup!

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  37. Anya Harker gets my vote. I liked the voice and it was well written. Peanut Buttercup was too predictable for me and there wasn't enough "I" under all the words. It felt like something that had been written in third person and translated to 1st.

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  38. I read the comments before posting my own because they're sitting there as I scroll down...It becomes a tad depressing when the majority seems to be going in the opposite direction than me.

    Take this one for example Nearly everyone to this point has voted for Peanut Buttercup. I found it frustratingly obtuse. There was no need to hide the main character's identity until the end.

    I vote for Anya Harker not because it's the better piece but because it's less frustrating.

    I still find it amazing that stories under 500 words can drag for so long, and that's been my experience with many of the entries so far.

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  39. I'm going with Peanut Buttercup for this one.

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  40. Holy mackerel, these choices keep getting harder and harder. I love the voice in the first entry, and it is decidedly well-written, but the second entry gets my vote. Peanut Buttercup tweaks all the senses, provides lots of vivid imagery and action, and does it all with excellent writing. Not sure if the sounds of that body being mangled stood a chance of being heard over the noise of the train, though.

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  41. I like to decide on who gets my vote (Peanut Buttercup, this round) and then I scan the comments before starting my own, in case what I have to say would be repetitive. (After about twenty comments, though, I skim (a victim of the internet) and try to make sure I have something useful to add.)

    As for spoilers: I loved being able to know who won the Gold Medals before I saw any highlight or watched any game. I love Shakespeare, which is absolutely and completely spoiled. You have to find a rare production of Coriolanus or Troillus and Cressida to have a chance of being surprised. So knowing the end is fine by me.

    Anya's piece had too many cliche's, and I felt the infodump on her history could have flowed into the narration better. The challenge of first person is providing the necessary context without breaking the fourth wall (unless that's the chosen voice), and this felt like a break.

    But there are nice phrases and timing in Anya's piece. I may like to read it, depending on the full story. (That is, if it's marketed towards me--the white married male in America who likes Science Fiction and Philosophy.)

    Peanut's piece had stronger emotions, and action. The First Person Present works for me. I would read more of this.

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  42. I'm going with Anya Harker, the story simply did a better job of keeping me engrossed from the first word to the very last.

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  43. This was tough because I think the writing skills exhibited were very closely matched. Unfortunately, I didn't find either character likable. Anya Harker's MC came across as whiny; Peanut Buttercup's MC was vicious without context. An unlikable character isn't necessarily a black eye in my book, but I need to find some hint that he/she will grow or is redeemable or humane. Because we're only seeing snippets of these works, it's hard to know if these characters will overcome their shortcomings. But because the minotaur's action is so heinous, the greater onus rests upon Buttercup to provide that sense of humanity in small ways in every scene. That I found lacking.

    My vote goes to Anya Harker.

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  44. I liked Anya Harker's voice, but there just wasn't enough happening in the snippet to keep me reading. A bit too much snakiness. With Peanut Buttercup's excerpt, I wanted more detail on why the minotaur was attacking the people, but when I read the last line, I was hooked. "I am Minotaur, and this is my Labyrinth." Now I want to know more:) My vote goes to Peanut Buttercup.

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    1. Opps that was meant to say 'too snarky'... way too early for me to be thinking straight:)

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    2. Don't you mean "drinking straight?" Sorry, couldn't help it.

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  45. dammit this ISN'T getting any easier! I really like the voice in the first piece and I'd love to read more to see where it's going but I also love the darkness in the second piece which intrigues me as much as those last lines: "I am Minotaur and this is my Labyrinth." I am also purposely not reading the other comments until after I've made my decision and after much thought and wrestling and debating I pick ... Anya. But only because of the castles.

    wow. This was really a tie imo.

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  46. My vote's for Anya. Even though not that much actually happened in the snippet, I thought the voice was strong and consistent, and I could easily imagine what might happen in the story - hmm, might it involve secret passageways?? Sure, she was a little whiny, but I had a sense (and I suppose I could be wrong, but still) that her irritation was part of the setup of a story in which she's forced to confront exactly the things she finds most boring and whine-worthy. I would keep reading.

    The second piece, by contrast, didn't work for me nearly as well. It was a little like watching a trailer for an urban fantasy movie: even though it was vivid, I didn't feel drawn in. The present tense irritated me, and especially the whole "I am Minotaur" thing -- I suppose because I didn't feel the character/voice to be especially developed in the actual snippet, and if it's a story from the Minotaur's perspective, I'm going to want the Minotaur to be interesting. But maybe it's just my bias against books written in the present tense.

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  47. Peanut Buttercup. They are both good, I just like the style of the second piece better.

    Regarding your questions in the post, I don't read the other comments before reading the stories, and I vote before reading the comments. I don't feel comfortable actually critiquing anyone's work. Usually my vote is for the one I just like better. If there is an issue (poor grammar, run on sentences, difficulty following the story) all of that is addressed by people who came before me, and I don't feel like beating a dead horse.

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  48. Phew. I'm still trying to suck oxygen into my lungs after Peanut Buttercup's entry. That's the winner for me. Loved the description.

    DL - I had the very same thought about reading comments before I posted one of my votes last week. I was on the fence about which entry to pick and after reading the comments, it helped me make my decision. But later, I thought that was a bit unfair of me. I decided that future votes needed to be made before I could read a single comment.

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  49. Anya Harker is the clear winner for me. Although Peanut Buttercup excels with vocabulary and in building up the tension to the last edge-of-my-seat moment, Peanut makes lots of amateur grammar mistakes and typos. Those do not sit well with me. Anya Harker's writing is a bit more straightforward and less exciting to read; however, as a complete picture, it blows away its competition with clean lines and simplicity, adorned with perfect grammar.

    Also, excellent job on the thoughts and comments in the introduction. Do I read movie reviews before seeing a movie? No, because I do not care. I have no passion for popular movies just because everybody else likes them. I try to give everyone and everything heir fair merit without comparison.

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  50. Both pieces seem very professional and both make me want to keep reading. This is the toughest choice yet. Ack! (And no, I didn't read the comments, DL; there are simply too many!) But I'll go with my gut and vote for Anya.

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  52. First things first; your questions Don. No, I don't read the comments usually before voting - unless I'm so undecided I wonder if someone else could shed light. But I'm never swayed by how many people vote for one writer or the other. I only read the comments that leave useful feedback, and then only to help sway decision. I do the same with movie/book reviews. I only give notice to ones that include character or setting development, overall plot concept, technical/formatting comments. I also look for something redeeming the reviewer/critic might have to say about the book/movie/excerpt. My opinion is only swayed if the reviewer's is justified. Sometimes what the reviewer liked/disliked is opposite to my tastes.

    That said:

    Both the excerpts carried powerful emotions, and excellently drawn, vivid characters. The settings were well integrated without being info dumpy; I got a good sense of time and place. Both were well written for the emotions they portrayed.

    Anya has a lot of teen angst; she felt like a spoiled child about to have either an ephiphany about her priviledged life, or an adventure that only her associations with her parents expertise and education will resolved. Either plot concept is not to my taste in reading, no matter how well the author writes

    Butter Cup drew me in with her character's initial nervousness, then slowly built a sinister deed into the situation. What I want to know is why she feels justified in the murder; what led her to this horrific deed, and the declaration of herself as a Minotaur. I'm sure this is a metaphoric declaration, but even if not, I'm drawn to turn the page and discover this girl's story. I was already engaged in the character, and all the sensations, and the last line sealed the deal for me to read on.

    My vote goes to Butter Cup.

    .....dhole

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  53. Again I want to scream, "Don't make me choose." I'm going with Anya. I don't peek at comments until after I've picked my fave.

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  54. Peanut Buttercup gets my vote! Good job to both writers. :)

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  55. First, my thoughts:
    Anya, your writing is clear and unique and I love the setting. I think I could even love your mc, but you need to work really hard to make us feel for her right from the onset. I think we all wish we could be touring around castles and visiting historical sites...so presenting us with a character so different is original, but dangerous. I like that she has a LOT of room to grow, and I sense that the story will be about that growth, but I need a reason to cheer her on instead of writing her off as too different.
    For example: if she had endured something really terrible as a result of her parents' obsession, and let us know about it right off the bat... Say, there was this one time she accidentally got locked in a dungeon. After spending a day and a half trying to trap rats with a snare made from her shoelaces, her parents finally came back from their trip to the Tuileries to rescue her. The worst part was they remembered after only one day, but they just couldn't miss that exhibit of enameled side tables...After all, they knew she was resourceful and she'd be ok...
    See what I mean? Also, we DO want to see her being resourceful, taking action, and not just griping. I think if you could make me love your mc, I would absolutely love this story.
    Peanut Buttercup, any name which makes me think of the Princess Bride is a good thing. :) Again, your story showed great skill in writing, but whereas Anya's character didn't hook me, your story didn't. Since I think it's a little easier to change perception of character than an entire plot, my vote goes to:
    Anya.

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  56. Gotta go with Peanut Buttercup on this round. *shiver*

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  57. I did not like Peanut Buttercup's piece, but it was very well written. So despite the fact that my stomach turned when I read it, this is where my vote goes.

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  58. Damn! These were both really good. I love the snark in the first one but I LOVE the description of the second.
    My vote ... Peanut Buttercup.

    Good luck!
    Heather

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  59. Both writing styles are really good, and in the first one I like the attitude of the character. IT's very real, very teen-aged, and very vivid. However, Peanut Buttercup gives us all that too (except that it expresses a totally different mood and character) and the story is much more compelling. The way the end leaves off practically has us salivating for more. My vote goes to Peanut Buttercup. :D

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  60. Whoa! I've been lost in the ozone for a few days, not surprised are you? I come back to this, and what a contest?

    My vote is for Peanut Buttercup. Both pieces are really, Really, REALLY well written. I did like the snarky voice in the first one, but the dark side, completely sucked me in and won out.

    Normally being 'a day late and a dollar short', I generally don't read the other comments. I generally don't read anything but the contest posts. Today I did stop at a few of the 'comments', basically those of people I know(which is why I have figured out you asked this questions). But, knowing me, you certainly don't think I'm influenced by the other comments now, do you?

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  61. I really liked both pieces and thought the writing was pretty evenly matched in terms of craft. Both introduced compelling characters that I wanted to know more about. I was able to identify more with Anya's character, but Peanut Butter's piece had more of a story to it. So I think I have to vote for Peanut Butter.

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  62. My vote goes to Anya Harker.

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  63. I feel bad not voting for Anya's because hers was great, but Peanut Buttercup made my heart beat fast, and the descriptions were very vivid, so my vote goes to Peanut Buttercup.

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  64. Whoa. Man. OK, so like that second one both freaked me out and sucked me right in. I read it so fast-!!! And it's awful, and it gets my vote. Peanut Buttercup FTW.

    But I will say Anya's was supercute and snarky, and I would totally read that book in a heartbeat. One thing--watch those tenses. Anya kept switching from present to past tense for no apparent reason. But it's a good piece and an interesting setup.

    still, this is Fight, *cough* Write Club.

    Oh! And as for your Q, DL, I don't read any comments before commenting. But once I hit "publish," I scroll through and see what everybody else said. :o) Great contest this time! <3

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  65. Hey D.L., reading through the weekly entries has become my favorite thing to do w/ Saturday morning coffee - so thanks for keeping the voting open for a full week. :) I always make my decision before reading the other comments, but sometimes I scroll through them before leaving mine just to help crystallize my reasoning.

    This time I came straight down here though as my reasoning is already pretty clear. I'm voting for Peanut Buttercup. I thought both pieces were very well written, but Peanut's moved forward whereas the other felt like it stayed on the same point for too long - though I thought the voice was authentically teenage-angsty and I did enjoy it.

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