WRiTE CLUB - Skirmish #1

As promised, I’m back to offer a chance in the ring for the writers who submitted an anonymous sample of their work to WRiTE CLUB 2012, but weren’t lucky enough to be chosen to compete.  There are no prizes to be won, or further advancement beyond this one bout, but as all of the other contestants have discovered before them -- there is still plenty to be gained…and learned. I will post one of these skirmishes each week until I run out of contestants. And I’m sorry, if you’re interested in jumping into the ring you’ll have to wait until WRiTE CLUB 2013.   

In the near corner…weighing in at 499 words…I give you…Figgy.

I sit next to a broken guitar on a street littered by crumpled flyers, candy wrappers, and cigarette butts, trying to figure out who I am. Am I the soulful poet and philosophical mind I would like to be, who keeps at heart the marvel of exploration? The rebellious type who does not fall into any world stereotypes; able to live a carefree lifestyle that does not require routine rites of passage such as careers and marriage? Perhaps one needs to follow in the footsteps laid out so carefully for our former generations. Which would make me more suited to fall into the human service industry; working for a low wage to help ensure humans are given what they need and should not have to struggle for.  Until the answer becomes clearer, I will sit here next to this broken guitar leaning against a rundown coffee shop. 

The guitar looks as if it had been thrown out the window above it. I don’t know why someone would throw out a guitar. Maybe it was a woman throwing away a boyfriend’s guitar because her heart ached with love for him, but she knew he only loved the beautiful wood and hypnotic melodies of that guitar. Maybe it was thrown by a parent who thought that the rock and roll fantasies of his son was what drove him to drugs and the contemplation of suicide. Maybe he wanted to be like Kurt Cobain or maybe he was just trying to take a stand against the ills of society. Perhaps it wasn’t as dramatic as all that. Maybe it was just a girl throwing away a silly childish dream, so that she could become a responsible woman. Maybe it was a sign to me. A sign I should throw it all away. Then again it could be just the opposite.  Maybe the real tragedy is that someone could just give up so abruptly.

The guitar was an object so fascinating, yet elusive to me.  The hypnotic plucking of its strings, drifting my mind into subconscious familiarity of a deeply rooted sense of home tinged with the pain of sorrowful disconnects. It is a feeling of everything I know and long to love being just out of reach.  The song of a powerful guitar solo always is bringing me back to a memory of a dark and musky room with a crack of light from the dusty little window centering on him like a spotlight. Those lyrics are meaningful only to the singer who in a cloud of smoke strung his soul out for a barren darkness.  Those glimpses of insecurity, longing, and misguided affection mixed together into a rugged harmony.  I was always the silent spectator. I watched as if watching a movie. I could feel the impact of each note, but I was never present to him. He strummed himself into his own world that I could not learn to penetrate, so instead I crept cautiously to a corner to observe.

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

And in the far corner, boasting 498 words, let me introduce to you…Mink Grass.


‘It’s not allowed. I’m not allowed,’ I said but didn’t really make an effort to get out of his arms.

‘I’m a liar and a thief. Breaking rules is part of who I am,’ he said and pulled me closer.

I could smell a sweet scent, closed my eyes and followed it through memories long forgotten.

It lingered on one of my childhood memories, hidden in the depths of my brain.

A memory of orange trees. Of home.

I opened my eyes and leaned in for the kiss.

He backed up just a little before our lips touched and whispered: ‘I thought you weren’t allowed’.

A tiny smile danced on his face. I wasn’t sure I wanted to slap him or force a kiss out of him.

‘How did you get in anyway?’ I asked and sounded more annoyed than I wanted to.

He was playing a cat and mouse-game and I didn’t like that he was playing the feline-part.

‘By lying,’ he said.

I took a small step away from him, and looked at his face to see if he was telling the truth.

All I could see however, was that he was too gorgeous to resist.

The kingdom’s most wanted thief. In my room. Looking like this.

Just my luck.

‘I don’t believe you. My guards are handpicked from the elite squad by my father,’ I said.

‘You shouldn’t believe me.’ he said, obviously enjoying his game. ‘Like I said, I’m a liar and a thief. But you also shouldn’t be so confident about the kings interests’.

He sounded sincere.

‘What do you mean.’ I tried not to sound eager, and failed terribly.

‘I mean that he should have gotten you a room in one of the towers instead of this one. The one that’s easily reached’.

The atmosphere had gotten heavier somehow and I wasn’t sure if I wanted it to.

‘What? You want him to lock me up in a tower? Why don’t you throw in a dragon while you’re at it’.

He laughed and the atmosphere lighted up again.

‘Well, I see we were getting distracted. Now, what about that kiss.’

 He didn’t wait for me to answer and pulled me close. I could feel the pressure of his chest on my breasts, his lips were wet and I could taste the sweetness of oranges.

He opened my mouth with his and gently stroked my tongue. He was guiding me slowly towards the bed and I wasn’t sure I wanted to stop him.

There was an urgent knock on the door. ‘My lady?’

My thief broke the spell and let me go.

‘Bye for now, princess’, he said, and gave a gorgeous smile while he climbed out the window.

So he lied about the guards.

That was a relief.

I looked around my chamber. When my eyes reached the glass case, my heart started racing.

The kiss wasn’t all he stole.

My crown was gone and in its place was a half-eaten orange.
**********************************************************************

Now it’s time for you to tell us the one that resonates with you the most in the comments, along with a brief critique if you have time.

Thank you for taking the time to help these writers out.  See you again next week. :)


24 comments

  1. I preferred the first one, although it was a bit wordy. The imagery in the beginning caught my attention right away.

    I liked the last sentence of the second one. That was a nice twist.

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  2. Neither one resonated with me.

    My eyes glazed over the first piece and I tried re-reading it, but gave up. Couldn't figure out what it was all leading to.

    I enjoyed the banter of the second (but not the one line paragraphs). Unfortunately, I had no idea where the scene took place (besides a bed) or the time (historical?), so I couldn't picture anything going on. A little description at the beginning would have been helpful.

    If this were for an actual bout, my vote would have gone to Mink Grass.

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  3. I like the idea of the first one, but it was too wordy to keep my attention naturally.

    I like the conversation of the second, but there were several places where the words repeated too closely to each other without an apparent reason, but I can see where they are going.

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  4. First one needed something, but I did like the guitar aspect. (Of course!)

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  5. I had a hard time getting through both of them... In the first one, MC comes off slightly arrogant so it was hard for me to care about what he's saying. And, the format of the second one is pretty distracting, though I'm not sure why! I did like the twist at the end of it!

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  6. I like both, but for some reason I think I like the first one. IDK maybe the mention of working in the human service industry working for low wages so that humans have all that they need! That screams my current job! I can put myself in the place of the discarded guitar, because of the lack of appreciation you get working in the service industry. This has been a very busy week. Everyone wanted their homes cleaned for Christmas. Today is my only day off this week and I feel about as battered and beat up as that discarded guitar, and I still have to tackle my own housework that I have ignored this week.

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  7. Both are very different entries. The first is rich in imagery and at times a bit too wordy for me. And the second had the opposite problem, it could have used a bit more description but I did enjoy the twist at the end.

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  8. The first one didn't really hold my attention. It took too long in ramblings for it to get to the point, in my opinion. Although, I agree with Elise - the second one could have used more description, but I also liked the ending.

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  9. I'd vote for the second one.

    The first entry is all pontification and exposition. The only event is some unknown narrator sitting on a curb. No dialogue, no development of compelling drama or tension, and no real characterization other than the narrator's internal ruminations about being uncertain who they are, and having been a distant observer of some unknown and unnamed guitar player's solos. The whole middle paragraph is all idle speculation of what the guitar "might" have been, totally unconnected to what's actually happening in the scene -- this is much too distracting for a new reader who has no idea of who the character is (male? female? age? or anything else that helps a reader identify with them), what they're doing, where the scene is, or why the reader should even care. So much like that detached narrator, the reader can't connect with any of the ornate prose, and ends up being a distant observer. The writing is literate and technically proficient, and the descriptions and details could be compelling when used a little more sparingly, but here it's much too much for a short snippet where the reader has no clue of what's going on. I think I could actually like the underlying story (being a guitar player and all), but unfortunately this excerpt gives me no real hint what that story is, and -- more importantly -- no real connection to the character of the story.

    The second piece also has some issues. Where that piece was three dense paragraphs of internal thought, the second piece is too thin -- one line per paragraph is a little too airy. It's great that we have a clear tension between two characters, and the dialog has an amusing twinkle-in-the-eye banter to it. But it's still a little too vague as to where we are, and I found little reason as to WHY the narrator would allow some strange liar/thief to embrace and lock lips with her -- why wouldn't she yell for those guards if someone came into her room? Does she already know him and have a reason to welcome his advances? Or is she just some randy slut who gets aroused by random intruders? Still overall, this piece did a much better job of pulling me into a story and making me interested in reading more.

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    Replies
    1. LOL, Chris! Yes, to represent feminists everywhere, I must say that if she doesn't know this thief, we've got a bit of an issue. I was assuming she did know him. Real women do not want to sleep with strangers that have broken into their bedrooms.

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  10. The second one would have received my vote. The first one lost my attention, as it dragged on a bit, although the imagery of sitting next to was interesting.

    I enjoyed the ending of the second one, the intrigue of the theft of the crown and her desire for the kissing, however more details could make this piece stronger, like a better description of the room.

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  11. I agree with most of the votes here. #2 gets my vote but needs a touch more exposition.

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  12. I would have to vote for Mink Grass as well.

    Figgy's entry as it has already been said, is really far to expository. I feel a lot of writers are tempted to write this style of "deep thinking" entry for competition. But it is like crafting an entree only out of expensive condiments. Plot must always be the chief ingredient in any writing entry and I thought it was missing.

    Unfortunately, being in first person also made me ambivalent toward the main character because of the duration of the idle speculating about who the guitar could have belonged to. I believe all the best stories require a level of intrigue, but merely putting forth idle possibilities that seem to have no bearing on any underlying story, tells me that this contemplating curb sitter is not trying to lure me in the way a storyteller should. It is almost as if the main character is telling us, "Don't mind me--I'm just lost in my thoughts..." and unfortunately this is exactly what we do.

    The best advice I can give this writer is first come up with a story or plot that is story-worthy and remember a mass of quality lines does not equal quality writing. There are so many other ingredients to a well written entry than just good lines.

    Mink Grass's entry, as has been said already, does suffer from thinness but I also would look at the way thoughts are presented. They sometimes felt too direct and lacked some of the beauty in presentation that makes a reader feel the author's confidence as a writer. Keep in mind making every character and location unique in detail as well as the MC's thoughts and voice which often sounded too modern for the time period and atmosphere.

    Both writers have ability which can be worked with though, so keep writing.

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  13. Figgy, I really enjoyed the first two paragraphs. I thought you conveyed very well what you were trying to say. The last paragraph was too disjointed to enjoy. I understood what you were saying, but the way you arranged the words was distracting and confusing. I understand that. Sometimes it is necessary to write a paragraph several times in order for the meaning to imprint on the reader. You are a good writer. Good luck.

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  14. Figgy resonated with me the most. The second one wasn't fleshed out as much as I would have liked.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

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  15. Going with Figgy on this one. Beautiful writing! It rambles a bit, so I'm not sure where it's going. If this is the start of a book, try to ground it a bit more so the reader knows where they're heading a bit sooner. I couldn't tell if the character had just found the guitar or had been there playing a while - were they just tumbling down an introspective rabbit hole to a personal journey, or in the middle of that journey??

    Mink Grass was intriguing as well. There are a few punctuation issues which should be addressed. Also, layer in more detail and flesh this out some more. Good start!

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  16. I vote for Figgy, although it could be shortened.

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  17. I would vote for Mink Grass.

    Figgy, your piece had some lovely imagery, but I had a really tough time connecting with it. I couldn't get a sense of who the narrator was, what they might be feeling, or where this story was going. I felt as detached from the story as the narrator did observing the guitar player and it made the piece difficult to finish for me.

    Mink Grass, you've got an interesting hook, but maybe just a bit more backstory/exposition/setting would have helped. The really short one line paragraphs helped create the sharp banter between the two characters, but after a while it was tiring to read this way.

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  18. #2. I thought it moved faster and held my attention better.

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  19. Oooh! I love that votes don't really count this time around.

    I enjoyed the introspection of Figgy's piece. At first I thought the guitar belonged to the narrator, but then realized he just happened to sit next to it. I loved how he fixated on that guitar and tried to make sense of how it could have gotten there and wondering if it was a sign. I wish I had a sense of what was going on with the narrator, and where he would head, emotionally.

    I loved the surprise ending of Mink Grass's piece. I didn't see that coming. I got a good sense of the personality of the thief, too. I wish there had been a little more description to help pull the reader into the scene.

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  20. Mink Grass got me in this one.

    I read because I love to see characters doing something interesting. Introspection has its place, but not when you have 500 words to make an impression. As a reader, we are static and observing events, and someone watching a reader isn't going to get much entertainment. Now if the reader is "observing" another observer (like Figgy's character), we have a snooze-fest, similar to people watching Big Brother House contestants watching TV. Mink Grass kept us in the present, things were happening, decisions were made, regrets resulted, and the reader felt like they were present to "witness" the exciting bits.

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  21. I would definitely have to go with Mink Grass, even though I would have preferred just a tad more detail. As others have said, there's too much detail in Figgy's. Somewhere, there's a happy medium for both of you!

    Happy New Year, everyone!

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