WRiTE CLUB - Skirmish #4

Here I am again 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.


In the near corner, weighing in at 498 words, is KateMarie.


The bottles clinked brightly when she sat down on the bed. The first two she drank as she continued reading, absent-mindedly fingering her bruised knee. Biking had made it worse, not better. She put down the book and leaned back on her headboard with the third beer, staring out the window at the darkening sky.

The little girl at the shelter had clung so tightly to her mother. Watching them had made something in her throat go tight. She was jealous of them, even though they were homeless.

Ava slid off the bed and jerked her curtain shut. She didn’t expect her father to remember it was her birthday, and she didn’t expect him to care. If he was home, she would want him to leave. She just wanted him to want to be home. No. Not him; just someone. She wanted someone, anyone, to want to be home.

She wanted her mom to have lived. She rubbed the ridges of the burn scar on her finger with her thumb. Pictures of her mom growing up had hung in her grandparents’ house; she took one when she left. Her mother held her so carefully- a red, pinched-looking baby in a polka-dot sweater. Cassandra and Ava, the back said.

She figured her mother was twenty-two at the time. Her dad never discussed her, so she didn’t know for sure. She had soft brown hair and the kindest eyes Ava had ever seen. Blue eyes. Ava had stared into them so much she could see them smiling at her even though the picture was in the drawer of the nightstand.

Her own eyes were not blue. They were brown, like her father’s, and she hated them. The beer washed down her throat bitterly, forcing her eyes to water and filling her head with yeasty vapors.

She finished the third beer. Other kids got birthday cakes. They got to make a wish list for gifts. Friends came. Parents said things like, “I love you, happy birthday.” She twisted the top off the fourth bottle.

She couldn’t remember most of the year she turned eight. She remembered her grandfather’s death- his white face and cold hand. She remembered her grandmother’s desolate eyes, and how she had grown more tired every day after his death. Then, on a Sunday, the rocking chair that always held her grandmother and a storybook for Ava sat, motionless, in the sunlight from the window.

She clearly remembered moving back to her father. Isolated instances over the next few months were sharp as glass, but she knew there were gaps. The rest of that year was blank. Looking back, she wasn’t surprised she had imaginary childhood friends.

Those friends hadn’t stayed long. When she turned nine, she told the dragonfly creatures they weren’t real, and she was very sorry, but they couldn’t visit her anymore. Sending them away hurt, but she thought not pretending was best.
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And in the far corner, boasting 499 words, is Qwerty.  

I followed the girl with the pink doe eyes and white hair home.

I probably didn't need to. I'd already memorized her earthy scent, but I hid behind the staircase and waited anyway. I didn't have to wait long. A total of eight seconds went by before she ran from the kitchen, right past me, and out the door.

The cloying scent of tears made my nostrils flare.

Without thinking twice about what I was doing, I rolled the gold coin in my mouth from one cheek to the other and followed at my own leisurely pace. I knew I'd hear from Ever later. But whatever. Sometimes he took his Guardian post a little too seriously.

Outside, I was glad I'd decided not to let her out of my sights. The air reeked of vomit and piss. I might have been able to pick up her scent again, but I would have wasted too much time doing it.

Disgusting humans. Did they have any clue how much they stank?

I bit down on my coin and swallowed the juices. The metal overwhelmed my taste buds. It was enough to let me think past the haze of stench. I walked to the end of the driveway. The girl had already made it halfway down the road, but I could see her just as well as if she stood two feet in front of me. She had one arm wrapped around her chest, her hand clenched against the broken shirt strap.

I licked my bottom lip. With no one around, I didn't need to hide what I was really doing, but habit had a way of taking over. Cotton and earth buzzed against my tongue; the girl's scent. I sniffed, both confirming and solidifying the scent into my senses.

I followed her, careful to stay far behind. I didn't want to dwell on what her scent meant, but I couldn't ignore it either. Humans smelled like cheap metal, potent and nauseating. Only certain types of four-legged animals carried a scent like hers.

And everyone in my clan had been warned to look out for that scent. My own father had spent the last thousand years praying he'd never smell it again.

The girl's pace picked up and a warm, intoxicating scent filled the air. My mouth moistened and I clenched my fists as my muscles tensed. The smell made my head swim and before I knew it I'd halved the distance between the girl and me. I forced my legs to freeze and I prayed for a cool wind. Anything to clean the air of her fear.

The girl looked over her shoulder and wide, terrified eyes roamed the tree line where I stood. Sweet, warm fear oozed around me, enveloping me. I closed my eyes and held my breath. But it was too late. Her fear was on my tongue, her terror clinging to my nostrils.

My tongue flicked out against my will and I moaned.

And then I lunged.
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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. :)







18 comments

  1. Yeah, I like the second one better too. It sounds like a story with some interesting elements - is the narrator a werewolf or something else? I'm intrigued. The first one didn't really have a story, it was just looking back. I do want to know more about the character, but maybe some action in the moment, some altercation with her father maybe, combined with backstory, would have been nice.

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  2. Neither had dialogue, which might've helped, but definitely prefer Qwerty's. Interesting idea and it had a stronger voice.

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  3. I'm not sure - they both have their good points. I do like the more gripping feeling in KateMarie's, but I also like the world building in Qwerty's. They both did well.

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  4. I liked both but by the time I was finished with KateMarie's entry I was ready for some kind of action, something to happen. The second entry, Qwerty drew me in more but by the end, I think I must have read the word "scent" almost ten times. Overall, I liked them both. (:

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  5. Qwerty had a stronger voice and more of a story.

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  6. Qwerty, I did not like the order of the words in your first sentence, but I did like your story.

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  7. The first, by KateMarie, used the sensory details to anchor memory, while Qwerty's used them to create a world.

    Qwerty's has the stronger voice of the two, the immediacy of on-the-body treatment, and original, intriguing world building.It is marred only a little by overuse of the word "Scent."

    KateMaries' details were a little cliched -- photographs etc. But I liked the line: She finished the third beer. Now the author has to decide whether that would be the tone: slightly harsh, but real. Also, a slightly more on-the-body, here and now details would help.

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  8. I liked both pieces, but Qwerty held more of my attention.

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  9. I found the 1st one a bit too 'tell-y', but it still had an interesting idea. I liked the isolate images/sharp as glass imagery :)

    I found the 2nd one a little to focused on the scent for me - a bit repetitive, but I liked the story line so far :)

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  10. KateMarie: You can write. I was able to picture the scene in my head without any problem. But I had no empathy for the character. Sitting on the bed, feeling sorry for herself, is not the way to get me to like her. Having her out there trying to make things better for herself and then maybe blow up in her face, would. You want me to feel sorry for her, make me care.

    Qwerty: Yes, you use "scent" too many times. Pink eyes and white hair? Must be fantasy, right? I enjoyed the action in the piece and it pulled me along (even enough for me to want to read on), but I had no idea what kinds of creatures these characters are (or what kind of world). That is something that should probably be revealed early on in the story.

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  11. Nice entries! I'll go with the Qwerty for the suspense and intrigue level :)

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  12. Qwerty takes it for me! Both were very nicely written, though. I just love my paranormal :)

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  13. I agree with Jemi. I'd say it's a tie.

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  14. Some powerful writing in both of these entries. As Alex said, dialogue would definitely help make them stronger. If I had to vote, I'd go with Qwerty. It's the more compelling to me. There's action and plenty of sensory details (maybe too many? You could tone it down a bit and still compel me to read on).

    KateMarie's piece is mostly telling and there's way too much going on there. For a 500-word entry, I'd suggest you pick one element, maybe the mother's death or the grandmother's death, or the intriguing fact that her father didn't care enough to be home for her birthday, and concentrate on that. Or, as Stacy suggested, put some action into it. Why not show her biking? I'm intrigued by the bruised knee. Or take us into the shelter. I don't know why she was there and you don't mention it again.

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  15. Qwerty would have won my vote in this round.

    I was confused in the first piece. The main character kept jumping around with memories here and there. I couldn't get a good grip on her age or the surroundings around her. She mentioned homeless people...is she looking out the window at them? This piece would benefit with more descriptions.

    The second piece drew my attention and I wanted to know what this creature was.

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