WRiTE CLUB 2013 - Bout 3


Today we have the added pleasure of announcing our first WRiTER who has earned a ticket to advance into the playoffs.  It was a brillant battle between two very competent WRiTERs, but please join me in congratulating N.U. Endo as the winner of Round 1. Voting for the second bout remains open until Wednesday and that winner will be announced on Thursdays post.

If you're having trouble keeping up with what rounds are still active and taking votes, simply check out the WRiTE CLUB 2013 tab at the page.  Every round and its competitors are listed there, if there is no winner beside the bout that means voting is still open.  But remember...everybody who votes must register on the Linky List first.

Over the course of the next several weeks we will witness a clashing of writing styles, which always prompts some discussion about the fairness of having samples of different genre's in the same ring together.  Broader still, maybe WRiTE CLUB is inherently biased towards YA WRiTER's since it seemed like the majority of the blogosphere (at least this hemisphere of it) is populated by those working in the YA genre.  I do not accept either of those postulations, for many reasons, but the primary one being that I believe visitors to WRiTE CLUB...regardless of the genre they practice in...can recognize excellent writing!  And it doesn't matter if that writing is YA, MG, Sci-Fi, Horror, Mystery, Fantasy, etc...etc.  I'm confident that the WRiTER's that have chosen to submit their work (which I have the utmost admiration for) did so knowing that those 500 word snippets would stand on their own, without the benefit of plot or theme, and though there may be an element that suggests a specific genre (vampires are a dead giveaway), it is the way the scene is weaved that would be judged.




Here are Round 3’s randomly selected WRiTER's.



Standing in the far corner, weighing in at 493 words and representing the adult thriller genre, please welcome to the ring……..billypayne.



From the moment he heard the bell signaling the arrival of the elevator, his eyes locked on the doors.  He had waited for hours outside her building, and when he finally saw the light in her office darken, he knew it would be only minutes before she was stepping off the elevator to get to her car.  Almost instinctively, he re-adjusted the mask that covered his face and slipped on a pair of latex gloves, pulling them tight so they wouldn’t fall off during the madness.
           
Silently, the doors slid open and a second or two passed before the pretty blond stepped from the elevator.  Traces of light from the low wattage bulbs made her hair glisten, an iridescent halo marking the prey as she paused on the cement pad before venturing out into the darkness.
           
He had selected her because she fit the profile perfectly.  A powerful attorney, immersed in an extremely high-profile case, this one promised the front page the moment they discovered the body.  And then, there were the other advantages, the ones he had managed to discover through the hours spent outside her bedroom window, late at night, at the moment she felt the most comfortable and the most secure.  The long, golden hair pulled tightly back from her face during the day, but allowed to fall down past her shoulders at night; the voluptuous, firm body carefully hidden underneath the business suit, and the long, shapely legs that nothing could manage to hide.
           
His eyes stayed on her.  Riveted.  His breathing mirrored hers as he tried to limit the possibility of her sensing something was wrong and suddenly getting away.
           
A squeal of tires was heard on the ramp as a car climbed higher and higher into the structure.  He counted the seconds between the sounds, hoping to use the noise to cover his narrowing the gap between them.
           
She was moving again.  An almost casual gait as she crossed the lit drive and stepped into the shadows near her car.  Suddenly, she stopped.  She looked up and out into the darkness as if startled.  Whether she had heard him or was simply unnerved by the lateness of the hour, she immediately sensed the urgency of getting into her car.
           
He was up and running by the time he heard the pop of the electronic door locks.  Just as she grasped the handle of the door, her keys slipped through her fingers and crashed to the ground.  In the moment it took for her to stoop and retrieve them . . . he was on her.

“Enough killing for today, gentlemen?” a voice whispered from behind the two men perched in front of the computer screen, playing the game for the thousandth time.  He snapped on the lights in the room and brought them back to reality.  “We still have a great deal of work to accomplish . . . work that we will get immediate compensation for.” 


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

And in the other corner, from the women's fiction genre and weighing in at 499 words , let me introduce to you ……..Camille Atwood.


Peggy Bauer ignited the pink 4 candle, a remnant from her daughter’s last birthday. She glanced at her softly illuminated reflection in the black glass of the microwave oven and wished that the whole world was lit that way.

With both hands clutching the crystal serving dish, she pushed the door to the dining room open with her foot. A collective “ooh” resonated from her two children upon spying the beloved dessert.

“I made your favorite,” Peggy boasted and set the gooey concoction in front of her husband.

“You made your own cake? How lame is that?” said her teenage son.

“Of course I did. Who else would bake me a cake?”

“Well, dad could have bought one,” Mark mumbled.

“Oh, those bakeries can’t make a cake like mine.”

Peggy brushed the idea away like a pesky gnat and turned towards Dave. His eyes fixated on the glowing candle.

”Make a wish mommy,” demanded Caitlin, now five.

“I already have everything I want.”

With one puff, she blew out the flame. Dave leaned back in his chair and their eyes met.

“Do you want to open presents or have cake first?” he yawned.

“How about presents,” beamed Peggy.

“I think you might find something with your name on it in the hall closet.”

Peggy sprinted out of the room with the expectation that behind that closet door was something terrific and expensive, something that could momentarily erase the nagging feeling that life had somehow escaped her between soccer practice and PTA meetings. With sweaty palms, she closed her eyes, inhaled deeply and gently pulled at the door.

Sandwiched between Dave’s golf clubs and an old purple snow-suit sat a shiny yellow vacuum cleaner wrapped in a red bow like a pageant sash. A wave of embarrassment rose up inside of her. Peggy spun around to see if Dave was watching her reaction. He wasn’t.

With brave face, she dejectedly reentered the dining room, lugging the pricey instrument behind her like it was an unruly child.

“Look. Daddy got me a vacuum for my birthday,” she deadpanned.

“It’s one of those ones that never lose suction. It’s top of the line, Peggy.”

“Yeah, it really sucks,” said Peggy, sinking into her chair.

Mark eyed his parents to see if they’d notice him leaving the room.

“Okay, all puns aside, it really does suck,” Dave’s voice rose. “It’s supposed to be the best there is, Peggy. I thought you said you wanted one.”

Peggy gulped the remainder of her chardonnay in silence then rose from her chair with a jolt.

“Excuse me for just a moment.”

She lumbered up the stairs, her pulse quickening with each step.

There had to be a robin egg blue box with a moderately expensive bauble nestled, possibly hidden somewhere inside their room. She checked every drawer, under the bed, under her pillow, in the bathroom, even in her giant orange purse that hung on the treadmill.

It was charged on Dave’s Amex. Where was it?


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

Now it’s up to you.  Which of these two samples resonated the most?  In the comments below leave your vote for the winner of round 3, along with any sort of critique you would like to offer.  Please remind your friends to make a selection as well.  The voting will remain open until noon Sunday.  

Remember, here in WRiTE CLUB, it’s not about the last man/woman standing, it’s about who knocks the audience out!


 

52 comments

  1. billypayne gets my vote in this round.

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  2. I enjoyed the first story here, I was really getting into the thrill of the chase, but then I'm afraid I didn't really understand the ending. I didn't see how it fit with the rest really.

    I could feel the frustration that Peggy was feeling towards her husband, and the paranoia building at the end as she realised what may be happening. I connected with this one more so Camille Atwood gets my vote for this round.

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  3. Another tough round to choose, so I have to look for nitpicky things!

    My vote goes to billypayne because it made me smile at the end when I realized it was a game (although, you have the voice playing the game, which I'm sure you didn't mean!).

    My problem with the second piece was her reaction to the vacuum. Me? I would have been deeply HURT, not embarrassed. If not for that one little issue, I might have voted the other way.

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  4. I was hoping this wouldn't happen - two pieces that I really enjoy on their own, going up against each other! But c'est la WRiTE Club, non? I love the twist with the first piece, but if I had to choose, I would go with the one that I want to read more of - and that is #2, Camille Atwood. My vote goes to her.

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  5. My vote goes to Camille Atwood. I connected with Peggy -- I felt her hopes, I felt her husband's hurtful indifference, and the mention of jewelry on her husband's AMEX bill that obviously wasn't coming to her was a sucker punch.

    The writing in the first selection was sound and appropriate for the genre. But the revelation that it was just a game and not the real MC or conflict at all deflated my interest somewhat.

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  6. Maybe I just have the Monday morning grumpies, but I have to confess that neither of these blew me away.

    Billypayne's piece gives us an unnamed MC who is built up to be the familiar obsessed, stalking psycho-killer preying on his next victim. But it's all given a much-to-remote feeling and suffers from a too much telling and backstory about the selecting and hours spent outside her bedroom. Also, some of the phrasing is a bit awkward: What is an "almost casual" gait -- is that the opposite of an "almost purposeful" one? What is "as if startled?" -- Kinda startled but not really startled? The use of "suddenly" and "immediately" and "just as" and "in the moment it took" shows a writer trying too hard to add immediacy. The voice whispering from behind the two men makes for an interesting twist as tyo what's really happening, but it is too confusing as to who "a voice", "the two men", the 'he' who turns on the lights, the 'them' who are brought back to reality, and the original 'he' of the stalking are all related.

    Camile Atwood gives a much clearer picture of the events that occur in her piece, but I'm afraid I find the story of the neglected wife and mother a little too clichéd and over-written. The candles are "ignited"; her reflection is "illuminated"; her hands are "clutching" the dish; the oohs "resonated"; the cake is a "gooey concoction"; she "sprints" out of the room, "dejectedly reenters", and then "lumbers" upstairs after finding the "pricey instrument," looking for a "moderately expensive bauble." Her palms sweat when she opens the closet, her pulse quickens with each step as she goes upstairs, and within 500 words we have dialog tags of "boasted", "mumbled", "demanded", "yawned", "beamed", and "deadpanned". I think there is clear emotional content in the story, but it's being force-fed to the reader with a shovel, where it would be so much more effective in a much more understated and subtle manner.

    I really do hate to sound so negative -- I salute both writers for submitting pieces and for the talent it takes to create entries that made the cut for WRiTE Club. I just think both writers show they have the skills and that both entries could be so much better with a little tweaking.

    As for my vote, I'm going with billypayne. Although it is the more confusing of the two entries, I find the twist at the end to show a little more creativity, elevating it from the realm of pure cliché.

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  7. My vote goes to Camile Atwood. I liked the first piece, and I was really into the writing, but the ending was just too much of a change for me. I had high expectations and was let down, but with Camile, I had lower expectations and was surprised at how much I liked it.

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  8. I'm voting for Camille. I felt the same way Dianne did about billypayne, cheated at the end, while the end of Camille's made me curious about what might happen next.

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  9. Apparently my name, WriterlySam, was on the "naughty" list--but it's ALSO #10 on the "nice" list, aka, participation Linky List (go ahead, check, I'll wait)...ahem, awkward moment...does this mean I'm considered naughty and nice? Can I vote now?

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  10. Hm. For me it came down to the endings. I liked both the twists, but with the first one I'm left with no idea at all what the story is going to be about. Although I thought the writing in #1 was stronger, my vote goes to #2 because the last line made me want to read on. Tough decision.

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  11. The first one felt like a bait and switch. That it was just a game makes me want to stop reading. I felt tricked as a reader. The writing was stronger in the first one, but my vote goes for Camille.

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  12. I'm voting Billypayne, although I didn't like the ending. The writing pulled me in, though.

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  13. Tough vote this week. For nitpicky stuff i thought Bill Payne was a bit too passive and Camille Atwood had some headhopping that pulled me out of the narrative.

    I think i'm going with Bill Payne because with that excerpt, what we expected to happen, didn't, whereas with Camille's passage, what we expected to happen, did. But it was a really close call for me.

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  14. Billpayne - well written, very tense, and I really dug the twist at the tend.

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  15. I connected better with Camille's but I thought Billypayne had a little bit better writing so I'm voting for Billypayne.

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  16. I have to admit I didn't like the plots on either one of these. For the first, I agree with some of the earlier comments. I understand the shocker reasoning, but to have such an intense POV and then change it to a light-hearted game feels like a let-down. Perhaps if we read farther and got the POV of the gamers it would improve. The second was just too gloomy--almost Steinbeck-ish, and I'm the only English major alive that HATES Steinbeck. So, I'll have to go with the writing and, between the two, Billypayne's was a bit superior. He gets my vote.

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  17. My vote goes to Camille Atwood this round. I just feel more for the characters :)

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  18. This is the toughest bout yet for me. I actually liked the twist at the end of billypayne. I thought most of the description was great and I could picture the scene very easily. Admittedly, I had to read the second entry twice in order to like it. There's a little too much dialogue that kept me from connecting with Peggy at the start. But the ending really kept me wanting to know more.

    I really did like each of these for very different reasons. But if we're going on just the sample and its merits, I vote billypayne. While I'd read more of Camille Atwood, I thought the writing (not plot) was stronger in the first.

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  19. It's hard to judge two pieces that so very different. But it's a good point that it's about the writing and not the genre. So in this case I have to go with billypayne. While the last paragraph unexpectedly dropped the tension it also introduced a question that left you wondering what the nature of their work was. And the overall scene was quickly paced and creepy, kept me engaged for every word.

    While Camille delivered a realistic family dynamic I couldn't really figure out the mood of the piece. Lines like "the nagging feeling that life had somehow escaped her between soccer practice and PTA meetings" and her reaction to the gift make it seem like she's lost while others suggest that she's contented and I found myself feeling like I couldn’t get an accurate read of her.

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  20. This is the toughest choice thus far. I love me some sneaky stealthiness and videogames and gritty characters. But I have to vote Camille. This is a strange case where stronger writing didn’t earn my vote.

    BillyP:
    This is a twist on a very cliche thriller scene (complete with someone fumbling keys).
    Where's the protagonist? He can hear the elevator bell but he seems to be outside, running distance from her car.
    At a second read, the phrase "other advantages" creeped me out. But given the voice and scenario, that's a good thing.
    Regarding "A squeal of tires was heard..." - Too passive for this scene. “Tires squealed..." might maintain tension better.
    I'm actually grasping at straws to come up with complaints. The writing is tight and flows well. The angel on my left shoulder is relieved it was only a video game. And yet for some reason I'm let down by the ending.
    86 that rogue semicolon.

    Camille:
    The piece is about Peggy. Introspection from Mark (wondering if he could sneak away) takes from the story.
    Regarding spacing: There are two cases where dialogue should join the paragraph of accompanying action for smoother flow - the cake comment with brushing away the idea and 'I already have everything...' with blowing out candles. Almost immediately we feel for Peggy and think Dave is a douche (despite his name). This story ends the opposite of Billy’s – tension high. Just tell me that, given 100 more words, the chardonnay bottle would have come across Dave's head.

    David List - Regarding Silexare

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  21. Hmmm, surprise, surprise! Another difficult choice.

    In billypayne's piece, the writing delivered good tension and anticipation and then poof! it all went up in smoke with the ending. I love a good twist as much as the next reader, but this ending left me feeling cheated and annoyed. (Also, a female has blonde hair; a male has blond.)

    Camille's entry had a more satisfying ending. However, some of the writing and dialogue tags seemed to be trying too hard.

    My choice: billypayne. I may not care for the ending, but his writing style wins.

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  22. Camille Atwood this is a most excellent piece. My face flushed as I read the last line.

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  23. I'll have to go with billypayne with this one. I think the writing was a bit stronger. Even if there is a bit of tweaking that could be done, I still want to know more about the characters.

    I would have chosen Camille Atwood had it not taken until the very end to kind of get to the point. The whole time I was having trouble figuring out what it was supposed to be about.

    I enjoyed both! That was a tough choice.

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  24. Congrats to both for their entries. Atwood had a lot of potential, I just felt the wording made it feel less 'real'. I too felt the MC might have reacted differently. Didn't much care for the twist in Billypayne but like the writing better.
    Billypayne for me.

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  25. Ooh, both of these have amazing twists at the end!
    Voting for Camille!

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  26. I liked how both pieces had a surprising twist at the end.

    Billypayne's piece would have been stronger without the passive "A squeal of tires was heard on the ramp." I know some people hate passive at all cost, but I can appreciate it when it's in the right spot. Here though, it took me out of the immediate action. But the piece did give a great feeling of creepiness - how she had been watched over a period of time and precisely selected. Like some of the other commenters, I did feel kind of fooled at the end when I found out it was just a game.

    Camille's piece had some great lines that really told a lot about their relationships. Not only did Peggy make her own birthday cake, she made her husband's favorite, not her own. Her son wanting to escape. The little girl so innocently happy. I love the "yeah, it really sucks line." Maybe other readers saw the Amex twist coming at the end, but I didn't and for me that was the clincher that has Camille getting my vote.

    Great job, both of you!

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  27. Billypayne had an interesting scene, but I think I got a feel for the character in Camille's much better. My vote is for Camille.

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  28. Good writing in both pieces. Some great small stuff in both which made big impacts. Stuff that irritated in both (sorry...)
    Camille - too reminiscent of a scene from one of my favorite movies, Love Actually.
    Billypayne - too much of a twist. But it did get my attention.
    Totally torn between who to vote for...but gotta go for Camille. Love Actually is one of my favorite movies ;-)
    Tina @ Life is Good

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  29. I'd say a tie but since I have to pick one...Camille. I'd have liked to have seen billy tighten his up with less second hand descriptions like why he tightened his glove and just stuck to the intensity. Both had great surprise endings!!

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  30. For me, this round has been the most difficult. I am going with Camille Atwood because, even though the piece flirts with cliche because of the vacuum for the wife and the expensive piece of jewelry for ...?, it was well written and I had instant sympathy for the MC, Peggy. I wanted to see how this would play out.

    But gee, oh, gee ... billypayne's was really compelling. I was just so on-the-edge-of-my-seat that I was a bit annoyed to find out it was only a video game. It was a twist that went in the wrong direction for me.

    Still, two wonderful efforts. This contest is HARD this year!

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  31. Once again this is difficult. I don't know how to vote because these are very different. I relate to both on different levels.

    Closing eyes. Tossing darts. Choosing #2

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  32. My vote is for #2. The whole scene made me laugh. Both were very good though :)

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  33. I echo the sentiments of those above. Billy Payne's piece had too much telling, the passive sentence really knocked me out of the scene, and the ending reveal was awkward... However, I found the second piece to be too cliche, and I agree with the overuse of creative dialogue tags and the surface emotions. My vote for Billy Payne.

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  34. Billy Payne: I can't add much to what the others have said. I get that this was a mind twister, a tease, and it would have worked well if the writing was tighter, the POV more intimate, and some confidence from the perp in his abilities.

    Camille: Some of the same POV issues, and the use of pronouns as dialogue tags threw me off. I get Peggy's sentiment; I think it would have been stronger with the candles as 4 0, instead of stating the 4 was from her daughters last birthday. I had to read it twice to figure out how many people were in the room, sorry.

    Neither had very strong writing, in my opinion. My vote goes to Camille because I can see a glimpse of story beyond the direct scene; whereas with Billy's excerpt it just ends with no connection of the video game players to the stalking violence.

    ......dhole

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    Replies
    1. Donna, thank you so much for the comments. My excerpt ends with no connection of the video game players to the stalking violence because it's the first 250. The next 250 shows you that they created the game.

      Delete
  35. Oooo, both of these are so good! Camille Atwood gets my vote.

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

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  36. This round really surprised me.

    I think I would have had to vote for billypayne in two hot seconds if it had ended before that last paragraph. The suspense is terrific! And normally I wouldn't mind the fact that it all bleeds out at the end, because the game still tells us plenty about the people playing it. It's just that we don't get to go any further here, and there's not a lot to make me wish that I could. It feels like this sample ended right in the middle of the relay-race handoff - done with one mystery, not yet on to the next - and kinda dropped the baton.

    Conversely, Camille's piece is the kind of thing I normally wouldn't look twice at. The picture of the vaguely-frustrated wifie is one I feel like I've seen a million times before, and the vacuum-cleaner-as-terrible-birthday/anniversary-gift punchline is one of the oldest in the book. But boy, I sure did get a lump in my throat for Peggy as she lurches for a happy ending that isn't there, and I was REALLY blindsided by that last line. It sounds like she's about to get a birthday surprise, all right, and I would rip through the next pages to see it happen.

    My vote is for Camille!

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  37. Though the ending wasn't much of a punch as expected with billypayne's, I enjoyed the read better. Writer’s Mark

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  38. Two plot twists to choose from this week. The writing in both these pieces has its strengths and weaknesses. At this point, I still can't decide which one to pick.

    I had all kinds of mixed feelings about the first sample. In general I thought the writing was strong. The tension was high and the scene grabbed me and held my interest. But violence against women makes me uncomfortable. Also, a man stalking a defenseless young woman is a cliche we've seen WAY too many times. And while I was glad in the end it wasn't a real woman in danger, the twist ending was disappointing. It was bad as an ending where the narrator wakes up from a dream. I was let down and I ceased to care.

    I liked the writing in the second sample, but this scenario felt cliched too. I didn't get a feel for who the husband was and why he was so inattentive. An opportunity to reveal more about the relationship between the characters was missed when their eyes met. Also, there were a few POV shifts that took me out of the story. In the end, this plot twist worked much better because it caught my interest and made me want to know what would happen next.

    Based on the fact that it makes me want to read on, I vote for Camille.

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  39. Having read both pieces a couple of times I don't feel I can add anything useful to what has already been said, so I will just add my vote for Billypayne. For me the overall writing felt stronger. Good luck to both writers, it seems like a close round.

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  40. I'm really struggling with this one. While there are strong points to both pieces of writing, there are also issues with both. I absolutely detest (nothing against the first writer) violence against women. It's one of the things that turned me away from Patterson's Alex Cross series (after reading Kiss the Girls (even though I like Alex Cross). The second piece is predictable and a bit cliche for me, though I think it has potential. I would like to have seen something fresh and new from each genre presented in this round. That said, I vote for Camille b/c the whole excerpt worked better form me.

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  41. This is a tough one. I think though, Billypayne gets my vote. I didn't like the ending of the excerpt, but overall, the writing was better, so it's getting my vote.

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  42. I hate to say something doesn't work and not say why, but I'm really not sure in this case. billypayne's piece should have invoked a sense of concern or anxiety but it just didn't connect. I did feel a connection with the character, Peggy, but the wife receiving the practical gift after seeing the Tiffany charge on her husband's credit card has been done to death. There was also a slip in POV when the son wondered if he could slip away. Still, I'm going to vote for Camille Atwood.

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  43. I LOVE the thriller genre, but for me, the end of the first piece was an anti-climax....
    So I'm voting for Camille Atwood!

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  44. Unfortunately, billypayne's piece never pulled me in. I think the writing is confident, which I appreciated, but I have a pet peeve about beginning a piece with action without allowing me to connect with the character. The twist at the end was confusing (I think it's just a wording/tense issue?) but furthermore left me disappointed, because I really wanted to see some character-building.
    Camille's piece was all about character, and the writing is clear and confident, with excellent flow. Again, though, I felt a little disappointed, because I felt that the author was capable of much more originality. The story is extremely predictable--and yet I still cared about the MC. For that reason, I'm going with Camille.

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  45. My vote is for BILLY PAYNE

    While I was a tad disappointed in the ending (yeah, I know that's creepy to admit) I thought the writing very tight and the suspense was great. There were afew tiny discrepancies, but that could easily be fixed.

    Normally I'm a big fan of dialogue to move things along quickly, but Camille's piece seemed to be a little too much mundane talk for my liking. Often I was confused about who was speaking. Good twist, but I would have preferred this story unfold in a different way than the family telling me so much as opposed to showing me some of the action and emotion.

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  46. I totally agree with you that excellent writing will shine through no matter what the genre. I've voted many times in the course of WRiTE Club for a piece that's well outside a genre I'd normally read. I've already played the "personal preference" card more than once and I'm sure I will much more with such strong writing pieces, but that doesn't mean my personal preference in genres - just that something in the piece I choose tickled a fancy moreso than the other. So do you want to know who tickled my fancy this week? ...billypayne! I was pulled in the entire way and the ending was a fun, unexpected twist. Well executed the whole way through.

    Camille's piece was also very well done, though I stumbled on a couple minor points - at the beginning it took a reread to realize it was the mom's birthday, and then later, it felt odd to suddenly slip into the son's POV. Still, I very much felt this woman's anxiety. Nice job!

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  47. Billypayne wins for me.

    I thought the writing was tight for the most part. Most people have mentioned the same issues I noted, mainly the passive voice and the ending. While there's a part of me that liked the new direction, I was really thrown off by it, to the point that I read the passage again to make sure I hadn't missed any clues.

    Camille, I really liked the emotion you injected into your piece. The character and story plot were strong, the twist at the end was great, even though it was a bit predictable. Technically, it felt a bit overwritten and Peggy's reaction to the present felt a bit off, knowing what she knows, pulled me out of the story. I think you have some great emotion here, but not everything added up for me.

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  48. I liked both pieces, but I'm going to go with Camille Atwood this round.

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