WRiTE CLUB 2012 – Round 18


Half way home. Six weeks behind us, and six weeks ahead.

Congratulations to Joy Frost for winning the 15th round. Her opponent, Satellite Heart, will have his/her piece returned to the pool for a chance at re-selection for a future bout. Make sure you check my WRiTE CLUB 2012 results page for a breakdown of all the winners, along with links to all of the writing samples.  

We have seen 34 contestants up to this point and I can honestly say the talent level on display has been truly phenomenal! Can it keep possibly keep up that pace? Why don't we find out.


Here are this rounds randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in the far corner, weighing in at 497 words, please welcome to the ring…….. Digigal.




I stared at the wall of toothpaste. How can there be eleven different kinds of Crest? If I chose whitening over tartar control, would I forsake cavity protection in favor of vanity? What's the difference between "tartar control" and "cavity control"? If "complete" is truly complete, why does one "complete" come with additional breath freshener while another "complete" doesn't?

Fighting rising anxiety over my commitment to dental hygiene, I recognized the Muzak-ified tones over the grocery store's speakers as "Rebel Yell." If she did, in fact, cry, "More! More! More!" with a rebel yell, why hadn't Billy Idol included an actual rebel yell in the lyric?

My palms began to sweat. Overwhelmed by questions, my attention drifted above the toothpaste. Ice chests crowded the top of the display shelves. There was only one size, big enough to hold a week's worth of groceries for a family of four. Two color options, red or blue. The cooler would fit perfectly in the back seat of my truck. The unstained majority of the king cab's upholstery was blue but I really liked red. If I needed a cooler, I would pick the red one. The world of ice chests seemed so simple.

But what I needed was toothpaste. And the Muzak DJ in the secret corner of the grocery store to find another song. And a vacation. And a dog sitter. And a million dollars. But did I need minty fresh breath or cinnamon spice?

Maybe I should ask for an objective opinion. I looked up and down the aisle. Too late. A lady with an overflowing purse escaped around the vitamins. The decision rested with me. With a shaking hand I picked up my environmentally responsible canvas bag from its resting place at my feet. Its only contents at the moment, a six-pack of beer, light, but imported. Having the earth's ecological future on my shoulders often required a Saturday afternoon buzz. Had I planned by weight, beer would have been the final item in the bag. Given that there is only one beer from Amsterdam carried by this grocery chain, though, it would be the easiest decision of this shopping excursion. I went for the quick win.

Hefting the bag's canvas straps, steeling my resolve to settle on a single toothpaste, terrified for my dental future, I noticed a penny on the floor. Maybe I should keep tossing it until I got the unwieldy choices down to two. I could start by narrowing it down between gel or paste. Then move on to the tougher yet no less important calls until I reached the pentultimate enamel- and gum-saving decision.

I picked up the penny. An unvoiced, blood curdling, accompanying yell echoing in my head, I flipped the penny. Heads, blue gel toothpaste. Tails, red ice chest. Time slowed down as Lincoln switched places repeatedly with his own memorial, end over end, moving as if through Jello. I held my breath until the penny hit the floor.

Tails.

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And in the other corner, weighing in at 496 words, let me introduce to you ……..Chloe Hart.


The sweet smell of morning air rejuvenates my senses as I start along the trail to take some pictures. Spring flowers are sprouting a new life in all their glory. The ground is blanketed with leaves from the past year’s fall creating nature’s playground. Dew still sets atop the brush, shimmering in the sunlight.

A massive blueberry bush sets on the side of the trail, filled with berries. I stop to pick some off for a nice morning snack and to get a few shots. When I stoop down for a different angle, I hear a rustling from behind.

Probably a squirrel, I think, turning back to the berries.

The rustling gets louder…and closer. Whatever it is shakes the entire area a few yards away. Perhaps I am eating something else’s breakfast.

Maybe it’s just a deer, I try to convince myself. It’s definitely bigger than a squirrel. I stand up to get a better view, but the brush is thick and I can’t see too far.

Before I can react the branches start waving more violently, snapping and breaking. I need to get out of here!

Breaking into a brisk jog, I turn around and catch a glance. A black bear is chasing me!

“GO AWAY!” I cry, raising up my arms.

“GRAWR!” he growls from deep inside his gut, rising up on his hind legs. His teeth sparkle in the sun.

I start to sprint with the camera thudding against my chest, matching the pounding in my heart. He catches me within a few steps, swatting me down on the ground with one swoop.

The strike from his claw sends blood streaming down my face, stinging my eye. My eyes close involuntarily, blinding me to what he will do next. The warmth of his breath flows across my face, gagging me with his stench.

I try to roll away, but I can sense his presence following me, grunting and snorting.

I feel him breathing on me again. His wet nose starts nudging me. I squeeze my eyes shut tighter and hold my breath to keep myself from screaming.

Tears mix with the blood streaming down my face. I’m forced to surrender to his wrath, with no way of fighting back. I’m blinded by the rip down my face from his claws.

Just when I think all hope is lost, I feel him licking my face. LICKING my FACE! Was it the blueberries he wanted?

After what feels like an eternity, the licking stops. I gasp for air, thankful to refill my lungs.

I lie there to catch my breath then slowly open my eyes, one at a time. There in front of me is my little dog staring at me intently. The sun has come up, and she is ready to go outside. The sheets on the bed are damp from sweat. I grab the leash and walk outside, relieved and thankful for another day. No more watching NatGeo before I go to bed!

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For you newcomers out there...if you wish to vote you first must sign up on the Linky List you’ll find at the end of the link provided on the badge below.  Please remind your friends to make a selection as well.  The voting will remain open until noon next Sunday.

Remember, here in WRiTE CLUB, it’s not about the last man/woman standing, it’s about who knocks the audience out!


49 comments

  1. I never thought I'd be mesmerised by a piece of writing about toothpaste, and yet, that is what happened! My vote goes to Digigal!

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  2. My vote goes to Digigal and the Toothpaste Dilemma. I'm thinking there's a little OCD going on here? :D

    The piece by Chloe Hart did not convince me, because I didn't feel the narrator's fear and terror.

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  3. This morning my vote goes to Digigal. It was surprising to me that the one decision captured my attention.

    The other piece felt too fast and rushed.

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  4. Can't help but go with Digigal. Got me with the opening contemplation.

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  5. Digigal's writing was smooth, there was an entertaining snarky humor at play in this piece, and I liked the lines about the environmentally-responsible canvas bag, the beer, and the insertion of the muzak Billy Idol references (although, if memory serves, there is a rebel yell in the song, just not during the chorus -- I think it comes before the instrumental bridge). But I also have to say it was a little hard to get into the whole dilemma over toothpaste choices -- it felt just a little too drawn-out and overblown for such a pedestrian situation ("palms begin to sweat," "overwhelmed by questions," "with a shaking hand," "terrified for my dental future").

    The piece by Chloe Hart had some compelling elements, and there was an emotional immediacy to the bear attack. But things such as the use of exclamation points, the bolding of 'black bear', and using all capitals in the dialog actually tend to do exactly the opposite of what is intended -- weaken the impact of the writing rather than emphasize it. Also, there were a few other stumbles such as "sets" instead of "sits", some weak adjectives ("nice"), and a few too many clichéd phrases ("in all their glory", " all hope is lost," "after what feels like an eternity"). But the "it was all just a dream" ending was what really lessened the impact of this entry for me.

    So I have to vote for Digigal.

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  6. I vote for Chloe Hart. It was the more entertaining of the two.

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  7. i liked both, tho disappointed by each ending, a dream and a coin flip, i loved the existentialism of the first and the naturalism of the second =)
    i vote for chloe, the "under the covers dog!" ha!

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  8. Digigal wins for me! Dug the snarky humor.

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  9. Both submissions were good, but Chloe's piece grabbed me more, so my vote goes to her.

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  10. #1: Why are you wasting great writing on toothpaste? Seriously, you have skill, but I couldn't get past that.
    #2: You have a natural sense of the dramatic, but you need to be careful to avoid melodrama. Have you read the Emily books by L. M. Montgomery? I think you would appreciate the character's struggle to write beautifully without being over-the-top. One of the best pieces of writing advice I've found is in Emily Climbs: "Beware italics." I think the same applies to caps and bold. Your writing has already done the work for you, so the emphasis can be a little grating to the reader.
    I vote for Chloe. I'd trust her to tell me a story about a real person, with real drama and emotion, and I can get past the bits of purple prose. I really don't want to read about toothpaste.

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  11. I loved Chloe's piece, but I'm going to vote for Digigal because the writing was better, and it pulled me in really well considering the subject matter!

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  12. Digigal

    Both pieces have some excellent writing, but there was nothing in either piece to really draw me in. My "realism" alarms went off all over the place when the bear appeared, and as for the other--honestly. Toothpaste? 500 words on the subject of toothpaste? Give us a hint of something interesting coming. If this is the beginning of your book it has to "hook" the reader. If it's not, we're still not familiar with the story. There has to be something to draw your reader in.

    Picking up either of these books in the book store I would have laughed and not read any further.

    It's not because of the writing. The writing in the first piece is great, and if there'd been even a hint of something interesting happening I would have read on. The writing in the second is good, but there are signs that the writer is inexperienced. Read through for cliches, don't tell us what you've already shown us, and please don't start with a dream.

    Lauren

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  13. Voting Digigal today, I liked the ending and snarky humor.

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  14. I too have to vote for Digigal. Her piece captured my attention and made me smile.

    While the subject matter should have been exciting in the second piece, I found my attention wandering.

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  15. I vote for Digigal. I don't understand why there's fourty types of toothpaste. :)

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  16. Digigal's piece put her over the crest by a full analog litre.

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  17. Again, two entries that are independent stories, not excerpts. This makes me happy.
    I've been in the exact predicament as the protag from Digigal... I hate choosing toothpaste. And years and years of doing it have not made the choice easier. But if Billy Idol were playing over the speakers each time, the dilemma would be far more bearable.
    I love the surprise ending of the second story. I'm not going to beat a dead horse but the bold letters made me feel like it was a video game and 'Black Bear' could be changed out with 'Green Slime' or 'Ice Dragon' or some such random encounter. Present tense + first person is quite the turn off for me but I do prefer the action over the first.
    Bottom line:
    The first was written better. The second had a more gripping dilemma.
    I believe this contest is about writing prowess and therefore
    My vote goes to Digigal

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  18. Digigal has my vote, I enjoyed the second piece but it felt rushed and like it needed longer.

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  19. I'll vote for #1 since I loved the humor and the great writing, and only in comparison to the other story. If it had been up against another piece, maybe I would have chosen differently, since 500 words of someone deciding on toothpaste was kinda annoying.

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  20. Enjoyed the humour in first piece so going with Digigal today. Good luck to both writers.

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  21. I'm voting for Digigal, though the first paragraph was making my head swim with too many questions ...

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  22. Though I was initially somewhat bored by the content of Digigal's piece, the writing was stronger, and by the end I found myself wanting to read more about this strange, slightly neurotic person. So Digigal gets my vote today.

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  23. My vote is for Digigal for writing skill and neurotic humor. But, like others have said, the subject matter could be more interesting.

    Chloe, I first gnashed my teeth at the suicidal act of running from a bear and then came to the let down of: oh, never mind! It was just a dream! Between the two, it was hard for me to give your piece a fair shake. There's a good post at kidlit.com about the dream issue.

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  24. DL, are you suuuuure you won't disclose all the writers at the end of the contest? There have been a bunch of entries whose writers I think I'd love to follow regularly, but how will I find them? :) I've also written about the agony of having to choose between whitening and tartar control when I want it all! Too funny. For that I'd have to vote for Digigal regardless of any other entry. Sorry Chloe, you didn't stand a chance even before I read a word of your piece because my connection to the first one was just too strong.

    The dream concept has been overdone and some people find it a turnoff, regardless of how well done it was. In your case, because of the licking connection, I think it was very well done. "LICKING my FACE! Was it the blueberries he wanted?" - this had me laughing, I loved the emphasis you added too. Nice job.

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  25. I never thought I'd be choosing a piece that talked about toothpaste, but the humor was great and the writing was superb. The second piece disappointed me, because even though the bear chase was exciting and the face licking unexpected, having it all turn out to be a dream was a letdown.

    So my vote is for Digigal.

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  26. I vote Digigal. I totally felt the mental meltdown of an anxiety attack that Digigal portrayed in her piece. Anxiety works exactly like that...totally throwing you over simple daily decisions. Great writing!

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  27. Sorry Chloe, but I've felt Digigal's pain. Digigal for sure. I think I've left with a red ice chest before when faced with too many choices in the toothpaste aisle.

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  28. Loved both of these; excellent writing. But I have to go with Digigal for the win. The characterization was awesome. And it was active without needing movement. I could practically feel his eyes bulging and flicking all over the store.

    But Cloe; your descriptions and voice was great. The twist at the end really made me smile.

    ..........dhole

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  29. Digigal gets my vote. Even though it was about something as mundane as toothpaste, I loved the writing. Chloe's piece should have been exciting but wasn't.

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  30. Digigal! Toothpaste...who would have thought it could be so captivating?

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  31. I loved the toothpaste story but I really wanted more of an earth shattering final line. So I'm going to vote for Chloe.

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  32. Digigal gets my vote. Neither piece really did a back flip for me, but Digigal's was really well written. Chloe has an interesting idea and writes well, but there was a little too much of a list, first I went here, then I did that, next we saw it...

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  33. Digigal, yo! I'd hang out with her. :)

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  34. Digigal gets my vote today. I especially liked this line: "Having the earth's ecological future on my shoulders often required a Saturday afternoon buzz." Too funny :)

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  35. I'm going to vote for Chloe, even though spring flowers and blueberries would never be found together. Maybe that's the tip-off that it's a dream, but it's too subtle a tip-off for an otherwise graphic, real-feeling dream. And, as mentioned by a previous critiquer, there were some cliches and the use of boldface and capitals is not necessary. But, emotionally, I found myself relieved at the end of the piece that it was only the dog. It was a cute bit of writing.

    Digigal's offering was clever, but I didn't get why the contest went from gel vs. paste to toothpaste vs. cooler as the penny fell. I was impressed by the writing, but annoyed by the premise of the piece and the conclusion.

    Enjoying the written word, for me, is more than appreciating the technical prowess of the writer, I need to be able to "get it."

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  36. Digigal, all the way. Great writing, great exploitation of the mundane to convey a complex character. Plus, snarky humor is my thang :) Great job!

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    Replies
    1. MONICA!!!! *shrieks like a valley girl wannabe* How awesome to find you here!

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  37. My vote goes to Digigal. I liked the humor and depth; the writer was completely committed to the madness. Unfortunately, Chloe lost me with the dream cliche. Sorry.

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  38. In spite of the use of the word "sets" instead of "sits" in the first paragraph, I really like Chloe's first paragraph. Terrific imagery. There are other strong points in the piece, too, but I'm not a fan of the whole "it was only a dream" ploy in writing. (Or TV shows!)

    Digigal's entry reminded me of an essay I'd read (and enjoy) in the local newspaper. A skillful writer can make an account about the mundane both humorous and entertaining. Digigal does just that, and that's who gets my vote this round.

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  39. My vote is for Digigal as I'm almost always swayed by originality - plus the writing is brilliant! Though at the end, "Tails, red ice chest" threw me off. I thought he/she was deciding between gel & paste, but perhaps it was just another sign of the insanity.

    Chloe's piece was fun, and I looove the image of a black bear licking the character's face. But as others have noted, it would be made stronger by culling cliches and not relying on bold or all cap lettering to evoke emotion.

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  40. My vote is for Digigal. The writing reflected a greater skill and had more depth than the second piece.

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