WRiTE CLUB 2012 – Round 24



Times getting short. Just a dozen rounds left to play before we head into the play-off rounds on our way to choosing a champion.  Today we welcome Wren Tyler as the winner of a round 21.  Stormy, will have his/her piece returned to the pool for a chance at re-selection for a future bout, or he/she has the opportunity to submit a new writing sample. Make sure you check my WRiTE CLUB 2012 results page for a breakdown of all the winners so far, along with links to all of the writing samples.  

Thank you for all of your suggestions about what to do with the unused writing samples.  I haven't made my mind up yet, but I'm leaning towards the separate Linky List option.  I'll let everyone know what I intend to do once we draw a little bit closer to the end.

Now that you're all rested from the weekend, how about some literary carnage.



Here are this rounds randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in the far corner, weighing in at 499 words, please welcome to the ring……..Sapphire River.


I can’t remember the day I actually found out. To tell you the truth there probably wasn’t one all enlightening day. No flashing light bulbs or claps of thunder. It was more a gradual, seeping knowledge, a growing realisation burning into my soul.

I suppose I’d always known, deep down, that I was different. While my friends took pleasure from the usual boyhood pursuits of football, and mind numbingly repetitive computer games, I preferred to escape the confines of the crowd and roam the woods behind the disused cement works. There I’d take delight in tracking small mammals and immersing myself in nature. It was here I honed my fledgling skills. Tuned my nostrils to the sweet smell of a rabbit and the bitter taint of a rat.

By the time I reached my teenage years I had all but lost my friends. Preferring my own solitude, almost fearing the proximity of another human being.

My mother worried, I know she did. “It’s not right, Derek.” I heard her complain to my father.

“Don’t worry, Jayne, he’ll grow out of it. It’s just a phase.” My father tried to calm her anxieties but I sensed her nagging fear that I wasn’t normal.

Not like the nice lad next door. Jack played rugby for the local team. He trained hard and it wasn’t unusual to see a pretty girl tottering on his arm.

“I just want you to be happy,” Mum would say, her eyes full of unshed tears.

Happy? Could anyone be happy with this affliction - this curse?

Not long after this encounter, Mum started to present me with an array of personal hygiene products. “They were two for one at the supermarket,” she’d say, handing me a couple of bottles of some obnoxiously sickly deodorant spray. Dad was detailed with the task of suggesting I might need to start shaving or perhaps I’d like to accompany him to the barbers on Saturday for a haircut.

It was true. I did seem to suffer with an abundance of hair. It had grown to almost shoulder length, thin and straggly. It didn’t bother me in the least but my parents thought it scruffy. From my earliest teens my chin sprouted a crop of dark bristles that seemed to grow at an alarming rate for one so young.

I left school at sixteen. I wasn’t cut out for the restrictions of our educational system. I still visited the old cement works. I would spend hours running, running with no purpose other than to feel the wind in my hair and the cool air on my bristly skin. To my mother’s continued chagrin I now sported a goatee beard.

“You’ll never get a job looking like that!” She’d yell.

I would just shout back, “Good,” and run for the hills.

At seventeen, I first stayed out all night. I hadn’t planned it, it just felt right. Alone in the cement pits at night, I felt free and more alive than ever. 

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



And in the other corner, weighing in at 493 words, let me introduce to you ……..Baxter Talltree.


Don’t!

I’m not sure if I said it, screamed it, or typed it. Possibly all three. I sat longer than I should have staring at three empty and hollow words, I love you. Each letter was a dagger ripping into my chest doing more damage than bullets ever could.

If you loved me, you wouldn’t do this!

My heart started pounding harder than using a sledgehammer for a small nail. It went through my chest, vibrated my hands. Find a phone, call her, my rational brain explained calmly. My eyes stung like acid was being poured into them. She’s going to do it, she’s actually going to do it this time. Please no. Please don’t. Wait, just wait for me.

Frantic, I found her picture in my phone, the one of her and Baxter, and jammed my finger into the little green send. Straight to voicemail. Fuck! Her phone is off, fuck, her phone is off! The coherent voice started screaming, and that’s when I knew, my best friend would kill herself.

Hyperventilating, I called her parents, my parents, and the cops. They told me to relax, they’d investigate. Nothing in their voices reassured me. Throwing on my five-finger running shoes, I tore off my shirt and sprinted the six mile run to her house.

Hours later, I was clutching a black stuffed dog that was missing an eye, and rocking back and forth when the house phone finally phone rang.

Please be her, please be her. “Hello?” I asked breathless from flying down the stairs. Liz hadn’t been home when I’d arrived at her house, anxiety and shakiness only filling me more. I couldn’t find a note, anything that would lead me to her.

It had been hours since our conversation, each minute that passed was a century of uncertainty. Please, Elizabeth, this better be you. This isn’t funny.

“Claire,” my sister spoke in my ear. My name was shaky on her lips, and a cold chill enveloped my body. Somehow, though she was a million miles away, someone found out before I did and called her to break the news.

“She’s dead isn’t she?” I asked in a cracking voice.

“I’m so sorry.”

Without another word, I hung up and threw the phone against the wall, exploding it into four different pieces.

I’d learn later that night that Elizabeth’s body was found in the river. Though everyone I’d called told me she was going through a phase, I knew it wasn’t, and now my best friend was dead. Not just dead, a suicide, a high school statistic.

Maybe if I’d tried to call her right away, maybe if I’d stolen a car to get to her house rather than run there she’d still be alive. But I didn’t. I fucking ran there, and I wasn’t there in time.

You love me, huh? I asked the girl who was no longer here. If you loved me, you never would have done this.

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



Anyone can vote, you just have to make sure you’ve first signed up on the Linky List found at the link provided by clicking on the badge below.  Please tell your friends about WRiTE CLUB also.  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!




43 comments

  1. Baxter Talltree has my vote this morning. The first one was too much story telling.

    The second was more emotionally charged, all though it was a bit too much telling as well. Remember to proof read.

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  2. The first one's storyline was intriguing, but I never got a full sense of what was happening to him. Second one still needs a little more work, but it was more involving. Vote for Baxter.

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  3. This one was tough, but I'm going to vote for Sapphire River today because I was intrigued and wanted to know more.

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  4. Ooh, these are both really good, but I have to go with Baxter.

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  5. Today's bout gives us two teen dramas, but I have to confess that this is a tough choice for me because I'm afraid that neither one really grabs me as outstanding. Maybe its because I'm well-removed from my teen years...

    Sapphire River's piece has some interesting events happening -- a teen struggling with being different -- but it just never quite connects with me. For one thing, the opening line is a little too vague, and we never learn what it is the MC "found out" (I'm guessing he realizes he's a teen werewolf or something similar). I just think this piece suffers from being all inner exposition and back-story and telling, and yet it's a little a too coy in what exactly it's trying to tell. Plus, I think the entry could also definitely benefit from some line edits.

    Baxter Talltree's entry is very emotional. Or maybe I should I write that as Very! Emotional!!! The drama is definitely strong in that the MC is struggling with the suicide of a close friend. Having gone through suicides of loved ones in my own life, I am certainly not trying to minimize the impact that such events have, but I'm afraid that this entry just tries too hard to ram those emotions home for the reader. I think some restraint from the writer could actually have made this story have even have more impact. For example, the final two paragraphs are the strongest in the piece because they are written so straightforward -- the final paragraph in particular is understated and does a wonderful job of sticking with the reader, I think.

    I guess I have to go with Baxter since this entry has much more immediacy rather than all the exposition of Sapphire's, and it does finish well.

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  6. My vote goes to Baxter Talltree mainly because the action is happening now. The first one was all backstory.

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  7. Baxter gets this round.

    Sapphire's entry had an interesting premise, although I'd like to know what the character is "turning into." I have a handful of teenage transformation stories that I discarded because I couldn't figure out what they were going to turn into, and this one has the same feel. There's also too much telling. We want to see it happen rather than being told about it. All of this could have been tucked into a 500 word action scene.

    "I sensed her nagging fear that I wasn't normal" struck a chord. Maybe he's a writer?

    Baxter's entry is more immediate, and we have a good idea of what is happening, but the emotion pretty much lost its impact after the first few paragraphs. Let your readers breathe a little.

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    1. After reading through some of the other comments, it looks like I need to clarify something here. I don't refer to an "action" scene in the sense of some intense event where emotions are everywhere or blood is flying. It could all have been put into a discussion between the MC and his parents, or even just a hunting scene (where he actually smells the rabbit rather than talking about smelling it). If there had been more immediacy, I would have voted for Sapphire. I enjoyed the premise and the writing, but we're not (or at least I'm not) voting on preferences here.

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  8. My vote goes to Baxter- I could feel every moment.

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  9. I'm voting for Baxter today, I liked the concept of the first story but nothing really happened.

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  10. I was really confused by the second story so I'm going to go with the first.

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  11. I haven't read the second entry but I just liked the first so much that I thought I'd type out my first emotional reaction fresh.

    One thing I notice is that readers seem to express disappointment when a passage isn't bleeding with action or is a bit subtle, but this is not how I feel. If a writer is taking the time to set something up and then the pay-off is there, to me that is far more interesting than a salvo of disorienting sentences with stakes so ludicrously high, it's hard to even begin to get invested.

    Sapphire River doesn't have a peculiar, stylized voice but it is there, nonetheless. I really like the narrator! I love the hand-wrenching mum, horrified as she watches her son evolve into Teen Wolf! For me, this writer has a command of the serious and the absurd working in beautiful concert and I would certainly keep reading.

    Okay, now I'll read the second one.

    Well, that was intense.

    Baxter Talltree's was well-paced, definitely on the 'action' side of storytelling but not too much so. It was good.

    My vote this morning, though, goes to Sapphire River.

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  12. I think the first one was better written. so Sapphire gets my vote.

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  13. I vote Sapphire
    Sapphire had good imagery despite some repetitive bits / wasted words. I don't mean exposition in general. I'm patient enough to be taught a bit about the world before hearing the story. (I am sick of vampires and werewolves, though, so thanks for having no transitions or triangles.)
    Baxter, I couldn't always follow it. The piece could do with some re-organization of paragraphs. You jump from a sprinting action scene to "hours later..."
    He answers the phone but it's two paragraphs before she speaks.
    These details serve to compromise pace. Besides that, I think the piece delivers just as much anguish as you were going for.

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  14. Although intense, Baxter's writing was not as well done as Sapphire's. Sapphire.

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  15. Baxter gets my vote for being more immediate.

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  16. Both were well done, but my vote is for Baxter.

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  17. My vote goes for Sapphire River. I particularly like the writing style here. The second entry is good, too, but I think it tried too hard to elicit emotion. The situation itself is emotion-packed, so I think a more understated style would actually highlight the emotions better than an attempt to force them out of the reader.

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  18. Another close one. #1 has an interesting premise and character, but it was a lot of telling/backstory for the intro. #2 has more immediacy, and although it needs some tightening up and polish, #2 gets my vote.

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  19. I liked both of these for different reasons. I really liked Sapphire's struggle with being different but at the end, I still didn't understand what the difference was.
    My vote goes for Baxter because I liked the intensity

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  20. Shit; these were great. Both had excellent tension build up, gripping characters, and SO MUCH story packed in so few words. Tight writing, sensory, intense.

    Baxter needs some editing still; and I didn't know this character was a girl until the phone rang and the sister called her Claire. All the other clues led me to believe this a guy (ripped off my shirt and ran).

    Sapphire is just a little cryptic; but I get it! This kid is a werewolf, all the clues are there, and I just know when I turn the next page, there will be confirmation. I loved the story, the slow build up of clues, and the possibility that I (as a reader) am understanding the author/narrator.

    My vote goes to Sapphire.

    .......dhole

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  21. Another tough choice. Both are involving and both have some minor flaws. I like Sapphire's writing but there's a lot of summarizing. Five hundred words is too short to try to cram in a lifetime of gradually changing into a werewolf (or whatever). This would have been best with one intense scene. And one of my pet peeves is not knowing the narrator's name. At first I thought it was Derek, but then realized that was the dad.

    Baxter's writing was emotionally intense, but I was a little confused by the narrator's name. Claire sounds female to me, yet the narrator tore off a shirt to run six miles to Elizabeth's house... (Was it just me that found this confusing?? Or did I miss something??) Little things like that can take me right out of the story.

    Weighing them against each other, though, I'll have to vote for Baxter Talltree.

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  22. I vote for Baxter. The first piece didn't resonate for me.

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  23. This is probably time I had to re-read both entries. But after some thoughtful consideration, I am going with Baxter Talltree.

    It is possible this is one of those times were Sapphire's River may have had a chance to grab me more with a longer sample.

    The sense of urgency for Baxter was certainly strong. The emotions were a lot more...present.

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  24. Just an extra note for Sapphire River. I actually told my husband and daughter about your entry over dinner because I liked it so much. My daughter loved the detail of the smells of the rabbit and the rat (though my memory failed me and I said you'd described the rat as tart -- oops.) Anyway, after describing your piece with a fair amount of detail, she asked me if she could log on and vote for you, too. :) So, one honorary vote for SR.

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  25. Shew! These are both so good and well-written! Tough bout today, DL. Hmm... well, I really liked the imagery of #1--going down to the cement pits digging around in the woods, the sharp smell of the rat. And LOL! The hair and the funk! Is this Teen Wolf? :D

    As for #2--wow. I was just all caught up in the emotions of this piece. The frantic worry, the running, tearing off the shirt, the black stuffed dog missing an eye, the response to the suicide. All good stuff.

    Man! This is so close, but argh. I guess I'm going to vote for #2, Baxter Talltree. GREAT WORK, both writers! Best to you~

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  26. My vote is for Baxter Talltree. I feel like this is a self-contained piece so I have a different opinion than I would have if it were the beginning of something longer. If it is novel or shortstory-length, I'd like a chance to get to know the mc before getting thrown on the emotional roller coaster. However, assuming I am correct this is the whole thing, I'd say the piece sure packs a punch. Other people have mentioned the confusing bits so I won't repeat. Some parts came on a little too strong - ie the "hyperventilating" - the mc wouldn't be able to talk were that the case.

    Sapphire River - I'm afraid the withholding thing would make me snap the book closed within the first few paragraphs. Much better to leave out the first paragraph and just drop a few hints so the reader's interest is piqued when something slightly off-kilter happens. The rest of your piece is all backstory so it was hard for me to engage. I suggest you find a scene where something is happening and immerse the reader. Maybe flesh out the supermarket scene then segue into the staying out all night scene - *showing* it all to us.

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  27. Both had my curiosity pinging, but I'm going to give Baxter Talltree my vote this time - a little more adrenaline flowing there for me.

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  28. Both pieces had issues with telling and too much exposition, but I was intrigued by the first one and what the boy would turn into. So I vote for Sapphire River.

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  29. My vote is for Sapphire River this round based purely on writing skill and style. Baxter's piece had a ton of potential, but the emotion wasn't conveyed in the most believable way. Sapphire's piece was a bit "telly", but overall, it flowed well and was marginally better than the second piece.

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  30. Tough one. I found both pieces oddly matched in the obvious manipulation of the reader: in the first one the author makes a point of not telling us what s/he finds out, and in the second one we're thrown into a scene packed with tension but we don't know what the stakes are until paragraph #4--our narrator got a suicide note from his/her best friend. In both pieces I had trouble connecting with the narrator/MC because I had no sense of them as living and breathing people. In the first, as has already been mentioned, the distance comes from head-on backstory; we're left wondering where the protag is at now, how long in the past all this happened, etc. There's no clear emotion from the narrator--how does s/he feel about this? A few tidbits, nothing really that connected me to him/her. In the second, the distance stems from *too much* emotion. The drama is so high and the emotions are so keen, that it's hard to connect with them. Little is left to the reader's imagination. I'm a fan of the saying, "Don't give readers information; give them experiences," and in this case I feel like I was given (told) the information without it leading to an actual experience (if only vicarious).

    Alas, we must choose. On the basis of less telling and less backstory, I vote for Baxter.

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  31. Baxter's was gut wrenching. So sad...
    I'm going to vote for Sapphire. I want to know what happens next!

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  32. Baxter gets my vote. I felt more like I was in the moment with the narrator.

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  33. I would like to know more about Sapphire River's piece. So, they get my vote.

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  34. Maybe I'm becoming jaded or something, but once again I'm not completely 'knocked out' by either piece.

    Baxter seems to be trying too hard and falling a little short.

    I do like the fact that Sapphire River, held onto me, by not giving away the farm, too soon.

    My vote goes to Sapphire River.

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  35. Baxter Talltree has my vote. While the writing was quite good in both, the second one was more of a story.

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  36. Baxter. Wow. Just, wow.

    Yeah. Gets my vote.

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  37. I'm voting for Baxter today. I was almost hooked by Sapphire's piece, which was equally interesting to me, but I had a few too many questions as I read that took me out of the story.

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  38. My vote goes to Sapphire. I found both pieces gripping, but Sapphire's writing was smoother. Baxter did an excellent job with the pacing of information outlay (um, does that phrase make sense to anyone but me?) and I love the opening, but a couple of the analogies early on, like pounding a small nail w/ a sledgehammer, were slightly awkward and pulled me out of the moment.

    P.S. Sorry I missed last week's voting - too much to do, too little time. I'm tempted to go back & read the pieces, but since I'm too late to vote, I think I'll wait and let the winner's be fresh for me during the next phase. ;)

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