WRiTE CLUB 2012 – Round 19



Sedney of Castonod, come on down because you're the winner of round 16. Your opponent, Lucky McGee, will have his/her piece returned to the pool for a chance at re-selection for a future bout. Everybody should 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.  

I wanted to invite everybody to stop by tomorrow as I'll be hosting Natalie Bahm in support of her book release targeted for a very special cause.  Natalie will be talking about working with an agent to get a book self-published, so you'll definitely want to be here for that!

Until then......



Here are this rounds randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in the far corner, weighing in at 491 words, please welcome to the ring……..Little Miss Proper.


London

August 1, 1941

“But I don’t want to carry a gas mask around with me all the time,” I said.

“It’s not a choice, Joyce, you have to. Everyone has to,” Mummy said. “Gina has to carry hers too. Only children under four who can’t carry them themselves won’t be walking around with them draped over their shoulders and their parents will be carrying them. If they are under two years old they need a Baby’s Helmet with them at all times. I would think they will just keep that in the pram.”

“Well, I don’t think it’s fair that The War is coming to England,” I said. “That Mister Hitler is a real rotter!”

“I think everyone in the world would agree with you on that, Love,” Mummy said. “You have to show Gina that it is all right and not fuss in front of her about carrying your mask. Imagine how grateful you will be to have it, if something horrible happens and you need it.”

“I know how to make it less scary for Gina,” I said. “We could make Dolly a little gas mask box.”

“That’s a wonderful idea!” Mummy said. “Perhaps you can work on that while I am getting the house ready in case the air raids start coming.”

I found a matchbox, sticky tape, and some string in the odds and ends drawer. I quickly made Dolly’s gas mask.

Gina came in the kitchen carrying Dolly.

“Look what I made for Dolly,” I said.

“Oh, that’s smashing!” Gina exclaimed. “Now Dolly will be safe too.”

Gina slipped the gas mask box over Dolly’s shoulder.

“What are you doing Mummy?” Gina asked.

“I’m doing some safety preparation,” Mummy said.

“Can I help?” Gina asked.

“I want to help too,” I said. “What can we do first?”

“Well, we need to move all the things out of the attic and then have several buckets of water at the top of the stairs,” Mummy said.

“I love going in the attic,” Gina said.

“I know it’s full of interesting things,” I replied.

“If you’ll start bringing the smaller things down, your dad and I can get the bigger items later,” Mummy said. “I’m going to cover the windows with heavy paper and tape.”

“Gosh, Mummy,” Gina said. “How are we going to see out the windows?”

“We won’t be able too,” Mummy replied. “The paper and tape will help protect us though, if they start bombing London.”

“I hope the Royal Air Force stops them before they get to London,” I said.

Mummy shook her head.

“Me too, Love, me too,” she said.

Gina and I climbed the narrow staircase up to the attic and began sorting.

“Oh look at this lovely toy tractor,” Gina said.

“We aren’t up here to play. Why don’t you carry that down stairs?” I suggested.

“I’ll put it in my room,” Gina said, “and I’ll put these books in my room too.”

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


And in the other corner, weighing in at 484 words, let me introduce to you ……..Seaweed.


I could see his jaws working, chewing the peg in his mouth.“Nerve aʼ him.”

He spat in the water.

The daylight was just spilling on the waves as we emerged into open waters. Intermingled and bobbing happily with the red and green of my grandfathers buoys were new yellow and white ones.

Everyone had seen Macy as he came into town to register the “Cammy May”. They had avoided answering, when heʼd asked where the best place to set traps was. Who in his right mind would tell him that? If it was good, it was already taken. Eventually someone told him of a spot: not the best spot, not even a good one. No one had even caught a lobster there in the past five years. Heʼd have to earn and learn his way into good fishing.

But now the newcomer to Springerʼs cove had invaded Grampʼs set traps.

He must have “learned” that setting his traps in the other location was futile. Had he sensed their amusement? Had he heard talk down at Hershelʼs while filling his bait barrel?

My grandfather pulled his traps, edging his boat around the yellow infestation. The haul was good, but not as good as most days. Our live-tank was three quarters of the normal haul, enough to pay bills, I was pretty sure, but not enough to have some aside for winter.

Finished the haul, Gramp steered homeward, moving fast, cutting through the caps. He was quiet, staring straight ahead, no familiar tune from his grim lips as we turned into the cove. The gutteral chugging of the slowing engine calmed my pounding heart. Pulling up alongside the pier, I spied the light from the kitchen window. My grandmother would be setting the table for evening meal.

“Set his traps in mine,” was all he said as he sat down.

“What...who? Whoʼd do that? Not the new guy?” Grandmaʼs face grayed.“Ayuh. Macy.”

The silence during supper gave me ample opportunity to worry, but none to speak. At fourteen, my words were an annoyance in times like these.

Quiet continued until morning broke.

The phone woke me. My grandfatherʼs voice was low.“You sure?”

Pause.

“No, donʼt know.”

I tossed the covers back, slid into clothes and scrambled downstairs to the kitchen.
 
With breakfast remains still on the table, my grandfather was getting his gear ready, apparently leaving earlier than usual. I grabbed bacon and toast and followed him down to the pier. No words were exchanged as we untied the lines and shoved off.

Slicing silvery calm, we made our way out of the cove. Grampʼs face was emotionless as we neared his spot. I held my breath. The familiar red and green buoys bobbed and tugged, but there were no yellows to be seen.

“Been weeded,” was all he said, his blue eyes dancing like sunlight on waves.

Ghost traps and cemeteries make for good neighbors.
 
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Remember, here in WRiTE CLUB, it’s not about the last man/woman standing, it’s about who knocks the audience out!


50 comments

  1. My vote goes to Seaweed. I wasn't crazy about the line "Quiet continued until morning broke." but I know the author was trying to bring it in under 500 words and might normally have given us a smoother transition. I'm not sure exactly what that last line means ... but I'd really like to find out! And I loved the brief clips of dialogue!

    I like the historical setting of Little Miss Proper's piece, but the dialogue didn't feel real to me -- with characters telling each other things they already knew, just to teach the reader. The second piece has great examples of realistic dialogue, brief as it is: clipped sentences, blanks spots left where the characters know what fills the space and the reader must figure it out, etc. This is the people who know each other well talk to one another.

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  2. My vote goes to Seaweed this morning.

    Both pieces were well written. It was a difficult choice to make.

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  3. The setting of the first entry grabbed my attention more than the second. But I agree with Dianne, the dialogue needs to be smoothed out a bit in the first entry. I'm voting Seaweed because it felt more realistic.

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  4. Vote for Seaweed. Like Dianne, I found Little Miss Proper's piece a tad more telling than showing, which is always a factor for me. The dialogue felt more expository than engaging, although I love the WWII setting. I also felt the piece went nowhere, really; no sense of developing plot, even though the conflict of air raids seemed like a good one to exploit. In Seaweed's piece I found enough to hook me from the first, bits and pieces the reader must put together, more left unsaid than said, great conflict and characters drawn to human complexity even in such few words. Loved it.

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  5. To start off this second half, we have two entries that give us very interesting settings, I think.

    Little Miss Proper gives us a child's perspective of the impending London Blitz, but I'm afraid the timing is all wrong -- the bombings ran primarily from September, 1940 to May, 1941. By August of '41, the bulk of the raids were long over as Germany had turned most of its attention towards the invasion of Russia. There were sporadic bombings and of course the V2's throughout the remainder of the war, but not the large-scale raids that everyone thinks of when they think of the Blitz of London. So for me, the historical inaccuracy immediately makes this piece less effective than it could have been with just a minimum of amount research. I do like the sentiment and dynamics of Proper's story, and I think the use of dialogue can be a very compelling way to frame a scene. However, I found most of the dialogue to sound false -- there's a lot of 'telling' that seems to only be there to inform the reader, and the voice sometimes just doesn't sound like a little girl to me. Also, as a minor quibble, I take "Mummy shook her head" as a negative response -- "nodded her head" would have meant she was agreeing with her daughter.

    Seaweed offers a glimpse into the life of lobster fishers, and I find it interesting. I also think that while there is much less dialogue here, it works much better than in LMP's piece. It sounds more like real people talking. But I do think the "Ayuh. Macy" is actually Gramp's response, so I'm going to attribute it being on the same line as Grandma's "What...who?" as a formatting issue of the post. There are some things I think might be changed, and I'm not sure what "Ghost traps" are, but in whole, I think there is a very effective generation of story questions in this piece, and by the end I am really curious to know what happened to the traps and what the phone call was about. I would certainly keep on reading.

    So I vote for Seaweed in this round.

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  6. Seaweed gets my vote for sure on this one. I am still wrestling with the riddle of the end. I keep trying to smoosh Ghost Busters and Robert Frost into some unified concept, unsuccessfully. Did someone put out decoys for the territory poacher? Fun piece. The only suggestion I have is the annoyance line. That sounds like a narrator speaking, rather than a 14-year-old who would say something about not talking in case s/he got his/her head snapped off.

    I am in agreement with Dianne above about Miss Proper's piece.

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  7. Both are good, but my vote goes to Seaweed. I agree with Guilie's and Chris's comment about the dialogue in the first one. It felt too telling.

    Good luck to both.

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  8. I felt the first one had a lot of bad dialogue. It didn't sound natural to me. For that reason, I'm voting #2.

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  9. My vote goes to Seaweed in this round. I felt more drawn into the story. I would read on as there were questions left that I'm still curious about. The dialogue, spoken and unspoken, between the characters was well done and natural.

    LMP's dialogue felt strained, and not really how you would talk to a child, especially if you're stressed out getting ready for an air raid. Though I question the timing of that as well...only because I write in this time period as well. Just push the date back about a year and you should be good.

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  10. Seaweed for me...very well done. I found myself worried that it would have to end too soon which means I definitely would continue reading. Good voice and pacing.

    Little Miss Proper's piece felt a little like a WWII info program that would might be shown to teach kids about gas masks and to keep them from worrying. For first person narrative there's very little here about what is going through the MC mind, too. That is the benefit of writing from this viewpoint but if you don't make use of it then the piece will sound false. I understand it is for younger readers but it still needs to have a stronger, unique voice to make me read further. Other's have pointed out issues they had with the dialogue as well, so I won't go on.

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    Replies
    1. You just took the words right out of my mouth. I could see the first entry as a panic-control pamphlet the government issues for children, complete with pictures they can color.

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    2. You, know -- there WAS a pamphlet that the UK department of Civil Defense put out in July 1939, that touches on many of the very things mentioned in the first piece:

      http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/what_to_do_if_war_breaks_out.htm

      There was also a series of short films made in 1939 ("If War Should Come"):

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xOVwJh6tjk

      This also expands on what I mentioned about the historical inaccuracy -- the UK had been expecting and preparing for war since Hitler and the Nazis came into power in the early 1930's if not sooner, and well before the invasion of Poland in September of 1939 (after which the UK formally declared war). The child protagonist in the first piece would have been exposed to gas masks, light-dampening shades, water in the attic, and all the other elements for years before the Blitz of London ever began. If she were young enough, she likely would have seen them her entire life. And BTW -- I found these after only a quick Google search, so it's not like extensive research is needed to ground a piece, but at least the basics need to be solid in order to make historical fiction effective.

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  11. Neither of these pieces really grabbed me, but the characters in Seaweed's piece seemed much more real. I don't get what happened in the end but overall I felt it was better written. So my vote goes to Seaweed.

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  12. I enjoyed both pieces and unlike others didn't notice the telling dialogue - maybe because I don't know enough about wwII history. I also got a distinctly British flavor to the the words and dialogue. What I didn't get was a sense of urgency or worry from the mom which I would think would be quite evident, at least from the readers perspective - after all, they could all be killed! But Seaweed's piece gets my vote simply for the all too real feel of it. Gramps could be living in my town; he sounds like many of the lobstermen around here. Oh, and ghost traps are traps that have been sunk and therefore have gone to their rest at the bottom of the sea. The lobsterman who set his traps in Gramp's spot is lucky that's all that happened to him and his traps.

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    1. We hope...We don't KNOW...AND we don't know for certain WHO set the dummy traps. Very sneaky...

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  13. Seaweed.

    I was disappointed by Little Miss Proper. I love things written in that period but the dialogue was stiff and didn't feel appropriate to the age of the characters.

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  14. Ahh, good round! I hate that I'm missing so much WRiTE CLUB this season! For this one, both pieces have great potential! Dianne & Chris pretty much summed up my response exactly to #1 (except the historical bit, which I'dve never known--LOL!) A great trick I use for dialogue is to read it out loud--you'll hear immediately if it sounds natural or not.

    Two talented writers with great starts here! My vote is for Seaweed. <3

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  15. I agree with those who pointed out that the first piece was telling in the dialogue: the characters says things that real people in that situation wouldn't say but the writer puts it in for our benefit. Therefore, I'm voting for Seaweed.

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  16. Seaweed, I felt it was better written than the first one, although I didn't fully understand what was going on.

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  17. My vote is for Little Miss Proper.

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  18. My vote goes for Seaweed.
    The writing style was confident and the dialogue was convincing. I think a couple of sentences could have been re-ordered and come out better (the sentences that started with "Intermingled and bobbing..." and "They had avoided answering...") but that might just be me. I agree with whomever mentioned that "At fourteen, my words were an annoyance in times like these." is a little too aware for that character. Maybe rephrase it. Besides that, my only quirk is that for a punch line that is intended to deliver forcefully, the last line is a little vague. Does cemeteries mean the guy got killed?
    For LMP, I won't go on about what others have mentioned (telling vs. showing) but it is indeed written the way a govt. issued pamphlet intended for children might read... starting with the mum's info dump in her first dialogue and going from their.
    I disagree that it had a British feel. Besides the literal references to locations or objects in the UK, "mummy", "rotter", and "smashing" were the only Britishisms and it gave it a downright forced and unnatural feel. I'm not questioning the aunthenticity of the author, regardless of his or her heritage, just this piece.

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  19. Quite refreshing to see something for MG in this contest. The obvious problems with the piece have been addressed so I won't hammer it.

    I really liked Seaweed's entry, although I don't have enough knowledge to know exactly what happened. Ghost traps and cemetaries makes it sound like the enemy got killed. By ghosts? By ghost traps? Feels like I'm trying to put together a puzzle with some major pieces missing. When you write about something that most of your readers might not understand (although you're limited by space here) you need to put in some additional detail and weave the information into the story.

    Seaweed wins this round.

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  20. Seaweed for me had the greater draw

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  22. This one was tough, but I'm going to vote for Seaweed, too. The MC's voice was just a little more "true" and consistent throughout the piece.

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  23. Sorry. I felt I needed to amend my first comment because I didn't want anyone to get the wrong impression. I'm going with Seaweed.

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  24. Miss Proper was a fresh change of pace from everything we've been reading -- which was engaging -- but my vote goes with Seaweed. Impeccable set-up.

    Two very clean pieces, today.

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  25. I have to vote for Seaweed, too. Tough to decide though.

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  26. Although #2 had some sections I felt were a bit confusing it gets my vote. #1 was a little stiff and 'telly' for me.

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  27. Vote for Seaweed, liked the atmosphere, too much dialogue for miss proper

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  28. I think Seaweed's piece had some missing words that weren't just stylistic choices, but that wasn't as bad as the As-You-Know-Bob dialog of the Little Miss Proper's. It didn't sound like a Mom explaining difficult things to children.

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  29. I'm going for Seaweed today. Good luck to both entries.

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  30. My vote goes to Seaweed. The story pulled me right in.

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  31. The first entry's setting is ripe with potential for presenting a youngster's perspective on WWII in such a way that today's youth could gain a better understanding of those times. I applaud the intentions, but don't think the execution lives up to that potential. There are some historical discrepancies in it, which could easily be corrected, but I think the piece would be more engaging if the date were moved back in time, so we can see the reaction of this family at the outset of gas mask usage, when reactions were raw and visceral.

    I don't know much about lobster fishing, but the attitudes and dialogue presented in entry number two seems authentic to me. So, Seaweed gets my vote this time.

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  32. Another for Seaweed. In response to the comments that the narrative at times sounds too mature for a 14 year old, I read this as if the narrator is telling the story as an adult looking back. I too scratched my head at the ghost traps & cemeteries - in a good way. I appreciate a bit of mystery and the opportunity to let my imagination play with the possibilities.

    I think everything w/ Little Miss Proper's piece has been covered by others. That first big quote by Mummy was oddly informative so it does make me wonder if perhaps the writer was intentionally going for an info-movie feel.

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  33. My vote is for Seaweed. While I enjoyed the local color of the two very different pieces, the second felt much more realistic and the writing pulled me in. The dialogue in Seaweed's piece was very real and flowed well, while Little Miss Proper lost my vote with the following expository dialogue:

    "...Only children under four who can’t carry them themselves won’t be walking around with them draped over their shoulders and their parents will be carrying them. If they are under two years old they need a Baby’s Helmet with them at all times. I would think they will just keep that in the pram."

    Even in London in the forties, I have difficulty believing that a mother would lay it out like that to her young children. Plus, it's more skillful to allow the description of the story show the readers that the gas masks are necessary over having a main character just explain it up front. I would have enjoyed this piece more had the story unfolded naturally, as it did in Seaweed's piece.

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  34. I love stories set during WWII. But I'm afraid Little Miss Proper's scene didn't seem to go anywhere.
    I'll vote for Seaweed!

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