WRiTE CLUB 2013 - Bout 14






It was another close vote, but Muleshoe comes out a winner from Bout #12.  Congrats!

Only enough time left to add three more to the list of play-off contenders, so let's get to it...shall we?



Our first contestant is here representing the YA Paranormal genre with a 500 word sample.  Say hello to...Alone.



“How much longer, Mom?” a small voice beside me asks.

“Soon, honey. Soon.” I say.

Cotton clouds hang near the sun, hitting the farmlands just right as we drive past. I look out from the backseat of the car, and imagine my husband just beyond them, waiting for my return. I long to be with him, but, I need to see my son one last time.

“He’s doing it again,” my sister complains from the passenger seat to her husband driving. She searches his face for a reaction. She just doesn’t understand, but she will one day.

“I know, I know,” he finally says keeping his eyes to the road. “This will take time. That’s what all the therapists say. These things take time.”

“Yeah, well, it’s…creepy.” She rubs her arms like it’ll stop the goosebumps from peaking.

I smile. She has no idea how creepy it really could be, but I miss her quirks already.

“Mom?”

“Yes?”

“How long do I have to stay with Aunt Quinn and Uncle Henry?”

He shows me his puppy eyes. I know them well having raised him nine years. He’s worried.

I rest my hand on his cheek, and rub my thumb up and down to soothe him, but it’s not working.

“I don’t know, honey. I guess until you can move out, right?” I laugh in my throat.

I moved out at eighteen. Married my high school sweetheart. Then came Chase. My sweet baby. I fell in love with him the moment I first held him and kissed his tender face. His father, what a proud dad he was.

Chase scrunches his eyebrows.

“Mom?”

“Yes, honey.” I lay my hand on his. I watch the clouds pass in the window behind him. A reminder my time is coming to an end and I’ll have to leave.

“Can’t I come with you?”

My heart hurts deep in my chest, as I restrain the swelling tears. He has to know its ok. He has to.

“No, I’m sorry,” I choke on the words, “you can’t, honey. But…”

“I want to!” He hits the seat with his balled fist. “I’ll miss you!”

“Chase!” Henry says. “Stop that!”

Chase quiets.

“Mom?”

“Honey, I’m sorry but-“

“You promised me you would never leave me, and-and now you are. You’re going.”

“But I have to.”

“Please! Let me go, too!” Chase inhales deeply and holds it. His face turns beet red, eyes tearing. He exhales, giving up, and begins to cry.

I bring his hands to my heart, then kiss them. “Soon, honey. I promise. We’ll be together soon, but I gotta go now.”

He holds my gaze, eyes red. “Mom…I love you.”

“Oh, honey…I love you more.” I stroke his hair with my hand, letting the tears fall, then kiss his head. “I love you more.”

“Henry?” Quinn whispers.

“Hmmm?” “How long do you think he’s gonna…you know…think he’s talking to his mom? I mean, it’s been a month since his parents passed in that car wreck.”
*****************************************************************************************


And in the other corner with 470 words of YA Paranormal Fantasy is our other contestant, Ruby Red.




The face in the mirror stares back at me. The face isn't mine.

My ragged breath mists the mirror, obscuring the image.  But it is still there, a Mona Lisa smile upon her oval face. The reflection lifts a hand and gently erases the condensation with her palm. My heart races, the blood rushing round my veins like a speeding freight train.

I open my mouth to scream. The reflection continues to stare with unblinking, charcoal eyes, a hint of smug satisfaction clearly visible. I feel the scream rather than hear it. It forms in my belly like boiling acid before spewing from my mouth in an angry blast that mists the mirror once more. All I can see are those charcoal eyes burning into my soul. I tear my eyes away, I know... I know if I don’t she will possess me.

“Whatever’s the matter, Violet?” My mother’s exasperated voice floats up from the kitchen, yanking me from the brink. “Have you hurt yourself?”

I feel weak and grab the cold porcelain sink in front of me. Slowly, so slowly, I lift my eyes to the mirror, letting out a strangled sigh as I see my own, pale reflection staring back.

“Violet?” Mum is coming up the stairs; I can hear the thump of her slippers on every step. I have to move or she’ll be beating down the door any second.

“S’Ok Mum, sorry,” I sway like a branch in the wind, gripping the sink with both hands to anchor me. I mustn't let her know. Life is hard enough. We have lost so much already without her thinking I'm losing my mind too. Even though I must be, it’s the only rational explanation for what’s been happening the last couple of weeks. But if I am going mad, my idea of what’s rational or not will be screwed.

The door handle rattles, “Violet, what’s going on in there? Open this door immediately!”

“I've just dropped my bottle of foundation in the sink. Made myself jump,” I finally manage to squeak. “N-nothing to worry about.” Glancing down at the trail of creamy, honey coloured liquid that clings to the edge of the sink and pools around the plughole, I know it isn't exactly a lie.

“Well, make sure you clear it up. Every scrap mind. Clumsy girl!” Mum stomps back down the stairs, muttering to herself about messy teenagers.

I exhale deeply and turn on the hot tap. Sloshing the warm water around the sink with my hand, I wipe all traces of spilt foundation from sight. If only everything were that easy to erase, to forget.

Screwing the lid on the remaining contents, I shove it back in my make-up bag. I don’t feel like putting any on now. I'm too afraid to look in the mirror.
***************************************************************************************



Take your time and pick the sample that resonates with you the most.  As always, anyone can vote…just register on the Linky List HERE. Please remind your friends to make a selection as well. The voting will remain open until noon next Wednesday (Aug. 28th).


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


 

37 comments

  1. Ah, the battle of the paranormal. ;) Two interesting entries to represent the genre today!
    Alone's piece makes excellent use of flow to bring out the mystery/surprise of the story. Particularly, the pacing of the dialogue was very cleverly done. I am a little curious to see how the story holds up after this bit, now that the secret is "out there" for the reader; there were a few jarring punctuation issues (watch the commas), and nothing about the words themselves that really struck me as original. I'd love to see just a few unique analogies/descriptions/etc in order to really elevate this piece.
    Ruby Red's writing was a little more unique (the description of the pooled foundation stood out), but I was a little confused by the premise. When it started out, she seemed totally shocked by the idea that she was seeing someone else's face in her mirror, but then a couple paragraphs later we hear her conviction that "I know if I don't she will possess me." Then she mentions that this has been going on for the past few weeks...so I'm wondering why her first reaction is so melodramatic. (And while it makes for an interesting description, I'm also doubting that her scream would have the ability to fog the mirror, or that she would have the ability to analyze it the way she does.)
    So my vote is for Alone, for the premise, pacing and understatement.

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  2. This one is tough. I guessed the ending of the first one immediately, but it's the more powerful of the two. My vote is for Alone.

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  3. Both pieces need work in getting rid of the telling verbs, but of the two I enjoyed Alone's story better, so that one gets my vote.

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  4. Like Alex, I guessed the ending of Alone's piece early on, from the line "He's doing it again." I also thought the final giveaway line at the end was a bit, "As you know, Bob ..." I think the author could find a more natural-sounding line for Quinn to say to her husband, who obviously already knows how his sister and brother-in-law died and when, and still convey the same information.

    However, overall, it's still a stronger piece. Ruby Red's selection had too many hints of backstory that weren't explained. There were too many lines about gripping the sink and swaying and fogging the mirror (you really aren't close enough to the mirror to fog it when standing at a sink). A more straightforward approach to what's going on would work better. If this has happened before, then Violet knows why that face is there and what it wants. She should share it with us.

    My vote goes for Alone.

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  5. I guessed the ending to the first one straight away, and it kind of ruined it for me, so I'm going with Ruby Red today.

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  6. I'm going with Alone today - I thought they did a great job with their pacing.

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  7. Ruby red was a tad odd but I liked the emotions behind some of the lines. Well done.

    Vote alone

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  8. Two first-person YA Paranormal entries up against each other today.... But I guess paranormal is what's normal these days and both of these pieces are entertaining.

    Alone's entry is a take on the familiar "child who sees the dead" trope, but it's an interesting twist to have the PoV be the dead mother. I also like how understated the delivery and reveal is handled. The melodrama is minimized, the emotions feel real, and the read is very smooth -- I'm not bludgeoned with BIG DRAMA from an author trying too hard. The dialog flows well, and some nice snippets of characterization are shown in this short sample -- in only 500 words, I have a pretty clear grasp of four distinct characters. Overall, this is a pretty effective piece and I would read on.

    Ruby Red also gives some things to like in their entry. The character is interesting and curiosity is aroused as to how and why she's being possessed by the face that isn't her. But where Alone relied on understatement, here we're given "blood rushing round my veins like a speeding freight train" and "charcoal eyes burning into my soul." These can be compelling lines, but they're also like heavy spice -- a little goes a long way and too much can be overpowering. But the premise is interesting and the character sympathetic, so the overall piece does make me want to read on.

    So while I would continue to read both of these entries, today I have to give the vote to Alone -- it just managed to do more with less, I think.

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    Replies
    1. This exactly!

      Both authors have a lot going for them, and the contrast is super interesting to me. Alone starts with the ordinary world, investing the reader in the characters' emotions first, and leaving the supernatural reveal for the end. With Ruby Red, it's just the opposite: we get the spooky magical part right up front, and the human part afterward.

      In both cases, the characters are acting mainly as you would expect them to: just about any person in Violet's position would be frightened of the face in the mirror, and any good mom would do her best to soothe her child. And in both cases, I'm confident the story's going to get around to explaining the magical bits further on.

      So I think what sells me on Alone is just what Chris said: it's a well-crafted piece that's compelling even before the big twist at the end, and I feel like I'll still be interested even after we find out what happened or what supernatural forces are at work. I think that'd be a good tack for Ruby Red to take - namely, to make Violet compelling and interesting all on her ordinary own, before she ever gets poltergeisted. That part's going to be great, regardless!

      Vote for Alone.

      However,

      Delete
  9. My vote is for Alone, excellent, and I didn't see the end coming!

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  10. Again, I enjoyed both. I felt a bit more emotion in Ruby Red. My vote is for Ruby Red.

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  11. Both of these are great! All of the submissions have been so good. I don't know which to vote for :( I'm going to go with Alone...but this this was really hard!

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

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  12. I'm with Ruby Red for this one. But it was a tough decision. I just felt more emotion in that one.

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  13. I was going to give a more brutal assessment of these pieces until I read the other comments. My impression is that we are reading material by two very competent writers who have not submitted their best stuff. I cast my lot for Alone.

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  14. I vote for Alone. But I wasn't thrilled by either piece today. Please don't take the following personally. Use these reviews to fuel your progress, or ignore them entirely.
    Alone:
    I have a weakness for the forgotten child. So I can't, with total objectivity, tell you how well you captured the sadness. It worked on me.
    For this story to work, a lot of blocking had to be done to establish locations (mom and son in backseat of a moving car, sister and her husband in front) and a lot of introductions. In five hundred words, that's a lot of ground to cover. And I don't believe it could have worked with less characters. All four served their purpose.
    You did a so-so job of accomplishing this.
    The husband was overkill. Should have left him out. Nostalgisize over something else. Plus, it didn't really make sense. As ghosts were they anchored to a particular spot? She longs to be with him? Did they not just die together? Do they not have eternity to spend together? Does he not miss his son??
    There are a couple other unnecessary additions to an otherwise good short story. Mom's sister "just doesn't understand, but she will one day." Why will she? Is mom planning to haunt her? Or is this what will happen to the sister too?
    "I know them well having raised him nine years." All this sentence does is make me think she's not really his mom. Otherwise, why would she feel the need to say this?
    The last sentence is atrocious. Would she really have said that in earshot of the kid? And do you think we really needed it spelled out at that point? Open end it. Make us only 80% sure. Only mention "the wreck" or "the incident" or "the accident" or even "the car accident."

    Ruby red,
    I have no idea what's going on in this piece. Is Mona Lisa trying to possess her? Questions are brought up. None answered.
    The only detail I'll point out is this. The narrative voice is pretty laid back. It even uses "screwed" as slang. But each line of dialogue is as clammy as a corpse.
    "Whatever's the matter?" "Have you hurt yourself?" "I've just dropped my bottle of foundation in the sink."
    It claims to be fantasy, but is set in modern time... This can work magnificently - If the medieval dialogue gets a modern twist and the mundane, everyday world that fantasy fans are bored with gets a magical twist. But you've gone in the opposite direction! Dry dialogue in a boring bathroom.
    I hate to complain about it without offering something. Spark up that dialogue. Clarify what's going on.

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    Replies
    1. Please know I only take the time to write all this to spur growth! Don't be discouraged by it!

      Delete
  15. Nooooo!!! I do NOT want these two to be pitted against each other so early. Loved them both in the prelims and now it's so hard to choose, because I want to read more of both. *tears hair* This is not an easy decision, but I'm picking Ruby Red. Great job to both writers.

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  16. Maybe my head's not in the right place for reading today, but I found both of these a bit hard to follow at first. Eventually I figured out Alone and was struck by the ending, so my vote goes to Alone. I didn't feel like I connected with Ruby Red quite as much.

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  17. Both are good, but I have to go with Alone. In one scene, the writer pulled off a whole story. Most impressive.

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  18. Alone.

    I agree that the last sentence needs to go, though. The slow reveal up to that point had already clued me in. Don't ruin it with an "as you know, Bob" ending.

    I'm still voting for you, though, because the rest was amazing.

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  19. Hm. Tough. Again :)

    I liked the style of #1 - although I think a few of the obvious comments could be reworked to smooth it out a bit. I would worry about #1 selling as a YA if the main character is an adult - even if she is a ghost :)

    In #2 I liked the premise, but felt the writing was a bit overdone at times, but I'm more a fan of sparse writing.

    Okay - vote goes to #2

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  20. My vote is for Ruby Red. The ending fell a little flat compared to the strong beginning, but the descriptions throughout were vivid and lovely. Alone, on the other hand, had a very nice ending, but I didn’t feel a lot of originality in the description and dialogue in this piece, which kept me from being completely pulled into the emotion it was going for.

    Apparently I’m feeling all editty today and have a few small nitpicks/suggestions:

    Alone:

    I’m not sure what “hitting the farmlands just right” means

    “my sister complains from the passenger seat to her husband driving” – this wording is awkward. I’d rework it to maybe something like: “my sister complains from the passenger seat. Her husband is driving, and she searches his face for a reaction.”

    'I stroke his hair with my hand" – you could lose “with my hand.” That will be assumed.

    Ruby Red (extra-teensy nitpicks for you):

    "I tear my eyes away, I know" – punctuation should be a period or a semi-colon, not a comma.

    I’d lose the “deeply’” after the exhale.

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  21. I vote for ALONE. My biggest complaint is the last two bits of dialogue did not FEEL like they were witnessed from the MC's POV and it seemed kind of heavy-handed. I don't read paranormal much, so I didn't see the reveal coming. The writing was terrific up until that point.

    Ruby Red's offering was very good, as well. It seemed a bit overwrought (hysterical scream) followed by underwrought (the mom is exasperated - wouldn't a mum hearing a "boiling acid" kind of scream be alarmed?) I do like the description of the foundation spilled in the sink, though.

    Another tough round.

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  22. Choosing between these two is the hardest pick I've had to do so far. Neither is stellar, but both have good points.

    In #1, I had to re-read the first part three times to figure out where everyone was, since the first bit of dialog made me assume it was between driver and child passenger. Technically, "them" in the third paragraph refers back to "farmlands," the last plural noun--not clouds. With some editing this could be great. I loved the ending.

    In #2, the YA style comes through with the teen-against-the-world trope obvious but interesting. There weren't any big technical flaws. I felt the emotions were overly melodramatic, and starting the scene with the mirror reflection was a bit of a turn off.

    I vote for Alone.

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  23. My vote goes to ALONE.

    I liked the pace, setting and characterizations in this piece. My only nitpick was the last sentence. Alone did a fine job to letting me know what was going on. I did not need to be hit over the head in the end.

    Ruby Red is taking the long way around to create the setting and leaving a little too much characterization on the floor for my taste. I don't have enough sense of what is going on and too much fluff using up the few words .

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  24. I hate to say this, because everything else I've read up to now has been excellent, but I'm not wild about either of these.

    I knew exactly what was coming in Alone's piece from the very beginning, so there was no gasp at the end from me. Ruby Red's was a bit more intriguing, if overwritten, so I guess I'm voting for Ruby Red.

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  25. Oooh, both so mysterious. Hope I'm not to late to vote - gotta vote for Alone! That last revelation is delightfully creepy!

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  26. Have to go with personal preference alone, because both were well done IMO. Alone had me confused for a while, but I really can only assume that's because it's such a short bit, it's hard to clarify all the players from the get go, so that's not really a fault of Alone. And I have to admit, I didn't see it coming. ;) So good job there. You got me.

    But...

    Ruby Red gets my vote. I liked the style better, I connected w the MC right away. Nice job to both!

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  27. I have to vote for Alone. I did guess what was going on pretty quickly, but the rest of the story has good potential.

    Red's was too blunt. I felt like it needed some work on the flow.. Something to soften what was going on a bit.

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