WRiTE CLUB - Skirmish #5

I'm at it again, offering 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.

This week it's Tasha Yar's turn in the ring.  Here is her 498 word submission.



The unwanted solitude came to a resounding end when she barged into his coffee shop, wild-eyed and out of breath. Most people who walked into his store were either sleep-deprived or hung over, looking for that caffeine jolt to start their day. She looked like neither, more like a prisoner on the run. That’s if prisoner garb consisted of a low-cut black T-shirt and a flowery flippy skirt.

Frank wiped his hands on his apron. “Can I help you, miss?”

Two of the bluest eyes he'd ever seen looked his way. Ah, to be thirty years younger and fifty pounds lighter. Captured in her gaze, he felt a stirring in his head and his heart nearly stopped.

“Do you have a back way out of here?”

He could swear her lips didn't move, yet he heard a woman’s voice. “Did you say--?”

“Back way? Do you have one?” This time her lips clearly moved and she gestured for him to hurry up.

Okay, he must have imagined it. “Afraid not. Do you need help? Should I call the cops?”

“No!” The young woman gritted her teeth then sprinted around the counter, hunched low out of sight of the door. Her breasts nearly fell out of that tight little shirt and caused him to pause. Before he had a chance to protest, she hissed at him, “If you value your life, you didn't see me.”

Fifty-four and twice divorced, his life wasn't perfect, but he wasn't willing to end it quite so soon, either. She held no weapon on him, so he'd play her game. What else was there to do? It wasn't like the customers were knocking down his door to get inside.

Two men came into the shop and Frank’s jaw dropped. Was she afraid of these two jokers? They appeared to have stepped out of some period clothing store, wearing red and white plaid jackets he would have considered ugly in the decade they came from.

The taller of the two, which wasn't saying much as both were shorter than Frank’s 5’10” stature, had blond hair that would make a Marine proud. Mr. Buzz-Cut shoved his sunglasses to the top of his head and looked around the empty room.

“What can I get you gentlemen?”

Buzz’s partner, a man who clearly had an acne problem during his teen years, scowled at Frank. “We're looking for someone.”

“Aren't we all?” Frank waved his arm toward the empty room. “Don't trip over the customers in your search.”

"Very funny." Acne-man pulled a photo from the inside pocket of his blazer and slid it across the counter. "Have you seen her this morning?"

The picture resembled the woman crouched down at his feet. "Now, why should I tell you? Is she a fugitive? Because you two jokers don't look like cops."

In a flash, Buzz reached out and grabbed Frank's shirt at the neck, making small ripping sounds. Frank struggled to catch his breath. Who moved that fast?
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And in the other corner, checking in with 323 words, is Lynette Railey.


The setting sun bathes the deck in an unnatural light.  The men are restless.  They have been too long from land, too long from home and it weighs heavily upon their spirits.  This night will be a rough one with choppy seas and razor sharp tongues.  My hand is firm upon the railing and my body sways in rhythm to the waves.  Eyes peer into the fading light as if to see land just beyond the portal.  I will get no rest this night.
 
Voices waft up from below; a harsh word muttered here and there as the men settle down in cramp quarters which reek of sweat and dirt from many days at sea with only each other and the moonlight for company.   My body begs for rest but my mind races.  Crowded with the what-ifs and what-could-have-been of another life time.  Too late to change things.  The sea is my master and I follow wherever it leads me. 
 
I struggle to stay awake.   Many depend on me to lead them through the rocky maze which lies before us.  But I am confident.  I know this path well, having traveled it many times.  Truth be told,  I could steer this ship through these waters with my eyes closed.  Every rock and shell is as familiar to me as the stars in the northern sky.
 
The maze is done and once again we are on the open sea.  A solitary moon looms before me, the only other thing awake at this time of night.  Midnight hour. Witching hour.  A time when the portal opens between the here and now to stretch into the outer world.  My heart races as if mere wishing could make these sails quicken the journey.  At last we are homeward bound and another moon will not rise before we are once again in the arms of our loved ones.  All that stands between them and me is the moon.
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What do you think? Which one resonates with you the most? Why? Leave your vote (and a brief critique if you have time) in the comments below.

See you back here at the ring again next week!

 

14 comments

  1. The first one pulled me in. It was vivid and fun. The second one was just words, nothing happened.

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  2. After reading Tasha Yar's entry I thought right away I'd prefer that entry over the second. But then I read Lynette Railey, and I really liked it too. It has a different writing style but pulled me in just as much as the first.

    What I liked about Tasha's entry was the pacing, the premise, the tension and how well the scene was set up, definitely the kind of story I'd want to keep reading. But the second entry, Lynette's, surprised me with emotion and despite the lack of action or dialogue, I would have liked to continue reading it as well.

    Great job to both writers.

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  3. Tasha Yar. I wanted to keep reading!

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  4. I liked Tasha Yar's piece - the story really drew me in.

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  5. I've got to go with the first one. I got character and plot and intrigue very quickly but without feeling like an information dump. The second one just didn't connect with me - the description is lovely, but I'm not sure who is talking and why.

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  6. I'd have to go with Tasha Yar here. The POV of the Lynettes's didn't quite work as well for me as others I've read in the same POV. The writing felt lyrical and in some ways it was better writing than Tasha's piece. But, the lack of dialogue, characterization, and conflict made the piece for me harder to connect to

    Tasha's piece has a good flow of information about the characters and setting throughout the action. The thing I would look at working on most is the choice of punctuation and sentence flow. To get the lines to flow properly is critical and a misused comma or period can stop a reader cold and there were many times I found myself rereading section to make sure I got it right.

    I normally hate to revise a passage of someone else's work, but I feel doing this to the first paragraph will be the best way to illustrate the difference punctuation and sentence choice can make.

    Here is the passage as written:

    The unwanted solitude came to a resounding end when she barged into his coffee shop, wild-eyed and out of breath. Most people who walked into his store were either sleep-deprived or hung over, looking for that caffeine jolt to start their day. She looked like neither, more like a prisoner on the run. That’s if prisoner garb consisted of a low-cut black T-shirt and a flowery flippy skirt.

    The other option could be this:

    The unwanted solitude came to a resounding end the moment she barged into his coffee shop. Most customers who came in for their daily jolt of caffeine were were either sleep-deprived or hung over. She was neither. Wild-eyed and out of breath, she looked more like a prisoner on the run, albeit a prisoner clad in a low-cut black T-shirt and a flowery, flippy skirt.

    Again I apologize for this kind of critique, but I hope it shows the change in flow a passage can have from playing with sentence structure and punctuation.

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  7. The first one was more involving. The exchange of dialogue moved the story forward.

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  8. I'll go with #2.
    Tasha, I really liked the uniqueness of your characters, but the sentences read very awkwardly to me and I kept getting confused.
    Lynette, I do think this selection--since we only have 500 words to judge--could have been improved with some variation. I'd have loved to see a little action or dialogue, as the interior musings became rather monotone. But I trust that it's part of a piece with more going on, and it had a good sense of rhythm and flow.

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  9. I'll go with Tarsha Yar. The second one seemed to be circling itself and not going anywhere.

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  10. I'd probably go with Tasha Yar. I'm intrigued by what the girl did and who those men in the red plaid jackets are. I'm most intrigued by the lips not moving the first time she spoke. There are a few places I would cut unnecessary description (Frank's 5' 10" stature, for example) and I actually really like Mark Hough's suggested rewrite of your first paragraph, above.

    Lynette's piece didn't draw me in, though there's a lovely classic feel to the writing (reminiscent of Moby Dick, maybe?). There's a lot of summarizing. I don't know enough about the narrator. And there really isn't any conflict, since it's so easy for him (her?) to navigate the ship through the maze.

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  11. Tasha Yar, I have no idea whether or not there were any errors in your story. I was too busy enjoying it.

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  12. Ack, I've been missing for a while and promise to make a better attempt to read these bouts!

    Tasha's piece had action that drew me in and left me wanting to know more. Who were these guys? What do they want with the woman? I could visualize the people and the setting.

    Lynette's piece was very descriptive. Obviously the MC is struggling with something (or someone). But it was so vague. Too much of a tease to draw me in and make me want more. If there was a little more detail about the who or what he was thinking about, that might help. Or even a tiny bit of dialogue between him and one of the crew to give us a sense of personality. As it reads, these are faceless strangers that I've been given too little information about to feel vested in what happens to them. Also the inconsistency bothered me. Their peering into the darkness hoping to see land implied they were off-course and lost. But then he says he knows every rock, implying he knew exactly where he was.

    I know it is hard with such a short snippet to include all this!

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  13. Tasha's piece pulled me in from the beginning and kept my interest very well. I'd be reading further with that piece.

    The second piece left me wanting more info. It's very descriptive, but didn't capture my interest as well.

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