WRiTE CLUB 2014 – Bout #10











Another writer steps out of the ring and into the playoff rounds, and this time it's Petrichor, the winner of Bout #8. The voting for Bout #9 remains open until noon on Sunday, July 20th.

A rundown of all the past and current matches, with their respective winners, can be found right HERE.

For anyone who's dropping by for the first time, here's a summary of what's going on. Back on May 3rd we began taking submissions from WRiTER’s far and wide, spanning the globe, representing all ages and multiple styles of WRiTING.  We received 167 entries in all! Those 500 word samples went under careful consideration by 11 judges and that panel narrowed the list down to 32…which are the ones that are pairing off in the ring over the course of eight weeks. 

Note: The submissions can be an excerpt from a larger work...or a standalone piece of flash fiction. The only rules are that they be 500 words or less, and never previously published or posted on a blog. Although I'll never instruct someone how they should choose a winner, I would recommend considering this when doing so. It shouldn't be about how much information is contained in those 500 words, but the way a contestant goes about communicating the information that is.

These illustrious WRiTER’s are not only from all walks of life, but they also occupy various levels of the publication world. But none of that matters here, because inside this ring everybody stands as equals. You know why?  Because no one uses their real name…the only identification you’ll ever see is their pen name. This is not a popularity contest.  The focus here is on the writing, where it should be.

Today is the tenth of sixteen bouts, two bouts per week, with a new one posted every Monday and Thursday. The winners are decided by votes left in the comment section and anyone can vote. The voting for each fight will last for one full week, so you can vote for a Monday battle all the way until midnight on Sunday, and you can vote for a Thursday brawl up until midnight the following Wednesday.  And when you do vote, please let the contestants know what you liked and disliked.

Have you got your popcorn and favorite drink? Time for the fun to begin!


 
Here are this bout's two randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in this corner, representing the Adult Fiction genre and weighing in at 500 words, please welcome to the ring……..Crux.



Final Entry
Arpike Penitentiary
1976

I woke to the sound of iron against iron. Then iron against skull. Yells against screams. Warrior cheers. Inmates were finally free for brawl and how sprawling the sounds of freedom were. A few hours later the prison went silent.  

They left us here to rot. Arpike was the dark crevice of prison systems. Only the worst kind of men were sent here. Ultimately, we were all left behind when the prison shut down and the boats jutted off this godforsaken island.  The goddamn staff left without us. It took very little time to figure that out. 

It was only then the sound of the prison itself became lively. Not the bars banging, not the men screaming, but the underbelly groan of dark haunting things that finally came to life making their way to the surface for the very last time. Our deepest and darkest fears were now abundantly present and the jubilee of freedom was soon crushed by the reality of what was actually unleashed in the wake of our abandonment.    

I pen this entry because what inevitably follows will be legend. The aftermath of carnage will seem mysterious. Scientific questions will be raised as to what really happened and no clear explanation is likely to surface.

Should anyone find this, I beg you share it as proof of how we died - because the twisted remains and unexplainable circumstances of our condition will perplex the world. 

Groups of men have hung themselves, others drowned in toilets—many as a favor of mercy, some inexplicably torn apart at the hips, and yet others simply disappeared.

It will all seem supernatural, yet I assure you all of these incidents have an explanation.  

Prisons were originally built with iron bars because spirits cannot pass beyond iron. If a man dies in prison, his soul remains behind the iron. It is a dark truth that should be examined further. 

In 1946 Truman Horrorwitz was executed in the electric chair. It took 20 minutes of electrocution to finally kill him. Some say the men electrocuted after are forever under his rule. 

Daemon Reddit claimed himself to be the son of the Devil. Upon his gas chamber demise he took 10 minutes of breath before letting out a deep moan that shook the penitentiary. It killed all the observers in the death box by brain aneurism.     

I mention the story of these men because their myth is revered in Arpike. Their story is a portrait of the inmates here. I cannot imagine a better time for them to return, to greet the patrons who now occupy their territory with bloodshed and super-abomination. 

I can feel the power station polling. I can hear men gasping. All I can smell is burning iron. At this moment I know my only reprise is this letter. By the time you read it, I will be a part of Arpike. Tear it down. Demolish it. Set us free. Our dues are paid.

Horace Grisham


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


And in the other corner, representing the Adult Fantasy genre with 495 words, let me introduce to you……….Huntress.



It started as it always did, the Call burning inside my stomach like radioactive magnets. Tugging, nagging, beckoning until my whole body buzzed with it. I threw my hair into a messy bun, tugged on my hoodie, and grabbed the essentials: my Glock 42, zip-ties, gloves and keys. By the time I started up my old Honda, I could feel a taut, invisible line connecting me with that which I sought.

I headed east out of the city, my inner GPS guiding my choice of highways. Skyscrapers were replaced with suburbs, which were replaced with intermittent slashes of farmland and woods. Time elapsed, too slow, as I tried not to white-knuckle the steering wheel. The bobble-head Yoda on my dashboard mocked me as I drummed the fingers of one hand on my thigh. My nails were already chewed down, the gunmetal paint chipped. Yeah, patience wasn’t so much my virtue. One hour passed, then two. Midafternoon slid away and the sky began a sluggish burn to night. As the temperature dropped, the heater in my car started to sound like it was having an asthma attack. The land became desolate, hilly, shadowed with thick forest. Almost there.

When I found the house, I passed it and circled up and down a few gravel roads before I spotted a good place to hide my car. My breath puffed miniature clouds into the air as I trekked back to the house. More of a cabin, really. Yellow shutters stood out against the wooden planks and plaid curtains hung in the windows. Smoke twisted lazily out of the chimney. God, it seemed like something right out of a creepy fairytale. And the Call definitely emanated from inside. That’s where I’d find the girl. I took a deep breath, ran my fingers over the hard comfort of my gun, and moved for the front door.

Which opened abruptly.

I dropped behind a bush, my heart moving into high gear with a kick like my motorcycle. The kidnapper walked to his truck, whistling as he went. The engine rumbled to life and he pulled down the driveway.

It looked as if I’d just gotten very lucky.

Seven minutes later the six-year-old girl that’d been splashed on the news all day lay safe in my car. Drugged and asleep, but out of harm’s way. However, one loose end remained: dealing with the perv who’d taken her. The hunter had become the hunted. Karma sure is a bitch, and I was happy to help dole out her cosmic justice.

I ran back through the woods and crouched down between a rusty water pump and an abandoned Volvo. The Call, faded only for a handful of minutes, flared up again as I refocused it, my own internal bloodhound. The snatcher became my target now. He wasn’t far.

Plum shades of twilight seeped up around the edges of the horizon and an icy wind gnawed at my cheeks like a hungry animal. I waited.


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


Enjoying the words of two talented writers is only part of the price of admission, now it’s up to you to decide who moves forward to the playoffs.  In the comments below leave your vote for the winner of Bout #10.  Which one tickled your fancy?  After you vote please tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well.  The voting for this round will remain open until noon Sunday.  Yes, it’s subjective, but so is the entire publishing world.  It’s as much about the readers as it is about the writers. 

Here in WRiTE CLUB, it’s not about the last man/woman standing -- it’s the audience that gets clobbered!

45 comments

  1. I'm handing it to Huntress. It feels like there is a larger story to follow.

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  2. Huntress, for sure. I feel there to be more to come from both stories, but that to come from Huntress is more compelling.

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  3. Crux for me. I like the horror aspect of the story.

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  4. Huntress felt more like reading a scene and seeing the real picture. Though I generally dislike opening with an unattributed "it," my vote still goes to Huntress.

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  5. You know, I hate to sound like a negative guy, but it's become pretty clear that my writing tastes don't quite match those of the WRiTE CLub selection committee this year. I mean, I can appreciate the writing in both these entries. It's very clean in both cases. But again -- as in Monday's bout -- I'm afraid I find these both less compelling than they could be, and again they strike me as just too much exposition and telling. It's not like I want "Big Action!" in every scene, but I think there needs to be more than just an author telling me what's happening. Especially in a writing contest where an entry has only 500 words to highlight an author's writing, I want the scenes to be compelling, and I want to feel pulled INTO the scenes like I'm experiencing them in real-time as I read them.

    Crux's entry has some very enchanting turns of phrase, and it's very clean in terms of grammar, sentence structure, etc. But it's a letter about something that happened in the past, all told in a voice that seems far too removed for what it is describing. It introduces some captivating and scary supernatural elements, but does so in a way that is distant and opens many more questions than it answers. It feels like this entry is intended as a prologue for the "real story" that will come later. I don't want a prologue -- I want the story, even if it's only 500 words of it. Here, nothing happens to the narrator other than hearing noises and telling about other prisoners and a lot of info-dumping on the supernatural history of iron and prison execution. It's hard to connect with Horace as a "character" because he's simply a conduit for the noises and the backstory. Who is he? Why is he in prison? What does HE feel about all this? SHOW me a scene that addresses these kinds of character-building questions and the piece would be so much more effective, I think.

    Huntress does at least give a scene of events, but it does so in a distant, removed way, and spends far too much time on the insignificant parts of the events. We get a hint about a "Call" which evidently triggers some sort of GPS that leads the MC directly to a cabin where a kidnapper is holding a child hostage that had been all over the news. That's an interesting premise! But that premise is executed by inserting the trivial details of the MC leaving her place, the long ride over (including finger-tapping and weather updates), and the description of the cabin. We get to see very little of the MC interacting with others or in action, unless one considers hiding behind a very convenient bush as "action." Even the emotionally-charged part of actually discovering and freeing the hostage is glossed over, and then the Glock-toting MC is after the "perv" that she earlier let walk right by her.

    Again -- sorry to be so negative. I just think that while both entries have positive things to like, they could both be improved to more effectively pull the reader into the stories. But let me try and offset my negativity by highlighting some of the positives:

    Crux: Interesting situation; creepy supernatural elements; clean writing; lyrical word-choices.
    Huntress: Fascinating premise; interesting MC; a scene where the reader gets to witness actual events occurring; clean writing.

    I like the writing of Crux's, but I think Huntress at least gives me a scene that -- with some tweaking -- could really be awesome (and I think Crux's could also be awesome if we SAW the events happening to Horace instead of just reading about them in a letter). But as they're written, I'll take Huntress in this round.

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    1. I'm with you, in a lot of your concerns. I'd also like to see something other than fantasy/horror/paranormal/YA...what happened to a good mystery, or suspense, without the other trappings?

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  6. Huntress has my vote this round. The fantasy aspect grabbed my attention and I wanted to read more about this "Calling".

    Crux piece is well written, but lacked the action I wanted to feel happening.

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  7. I agree with much of what Chris Fries wrote. Concept-wise, I think I prefer Crux, but Huntress sets up a better opening scene. However, both need refining. Crux could have been much more coherent. Huntress got bogged down in irrelevant details. And little actually happened in either piece, leaving me feeling perfectly free to walk away. Huntress came closer to a sense of urgency, so even though I like Crux's horrific concept better, my vote goes to Huntress for coming a little closer to drawing me in.

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  8. I echo most of Chris's post. I could write it all out in my own words but he's already said it so succinctly. I like the idea of Crux. I'm not sure the execution worked. The writing came a little further in Huntress so that's where my vote will go.

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  9. Both are very good. Crux was just, very slightly, better, so my vote is there.

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  10. I'm with Chris Fries here too. Both these scenes could be compelling if you actually got into them rather than being kept on the outside of them. Lovely writing in both, but neither really grabbed me.

    But my vote is going to Huntress because there is more of an actual scene happening there.

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  11. Neither piece is doing anything for me. The premise of the first is kind of interesting, and if the genre was Horror, I might keep reading, but Adult Fiction tells me nothing. In the second piece, the character DOES do some stupid stuff (why not get the perp, then save the kid?), and I would have loved more detail about saving the child--you could show so much character in a scene like that.

    So of the two, I'll vote for Huntress. At least something is happening in that piece.

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  12. I'm giving my vote to Huntress this time around. I liked the voice in it, and I'm curious about The Call.

    I also have to admit that I simply preferred the writing of that piece over Crux's. I found Crux's writing to be too... something. Flowery, maybe? It just didn't seem to fit the horror that the letter was alluding to.

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  13. I'm going with Crux. Although he had some bad word choice and typos at the beginning (at least it seemed that way) I get a distinct feel from his piece and I think it worked.

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  14. These are much better. A few too many "as" lines in the second, so I'm voting for Crux

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  15. These are both strong contenders! What a hard choice, but in the end I have to go with Huntress. The writing is smoother.

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  16. I think it just ate my comment! If so, pity, but I voted for Huntress.

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  17. I hate to say that neither piece really grabbed me, however, I did like the overall storyline behind Huntress's piece. So my vote goes to her.

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  18. Congrats to Crux and Huntress. They are both superheroes, but Huntress wins this match-up.

    Crux had wonderful description and an interesting reveal but didn't seem to progress beyond that. I thought, at first, that it was going to be a 1976 prison period-piece and that might have been interesting, although this was, too. However, while Crux might work as part of a larger piece, it just didn't provide enough of a payoff here. Some may consider this a major point and some, a minor one. but the genre description is too vague. It should have been classified as adult paranormal or similar.

    The Huntress does a great job of engaging my interest, building suspense, and providing a satisfying result while still leaving me wanting to read more. That said, the Call was confusing and unclear on specifics. Who called? The kidnapped girl? A police or other surveillance system? What is the mechanism for The Call? Does is burn like radioactive magnets literally or figuratively? I also question leaving a drugged little girl (just sprung from captivity) alone in a car in the woods when the kidnapper is out there. Yes, it is important to track him down, but the first priority should be getting the child to safety and medical attention. That said, the huntress is beautifully written. Those plum tones of twilight have seeped into my brain.

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  19. Crux tried to put too much in a short amount. It interrupts flow and feels more of a confession after the fact, like long after the fact, than it happening in the now. It also seems the narrator, a fellow prisoner, knows more than he should.

    I feel that if this wasn't a story within 500 words and just a scene from a story, it could have been much better. If this was written as a diary entry, it should read like one. Or perhaps as a goodbye letter, rather than just an overview of what happened.

    Huntress tried to fill the story with short sentences to indicate panic. It being first person, understandable, but this technique is used with a single scene, not a timeline of their travel. The tempo was like a fast loud beat on a drum during a slow piano movement. Just didn't match up. By the third paragraph, the tempo changed to be apporpriate.

    I find it difficult to believe the character could see the look on the mans face in a bush, in the dark, with him walking away from him and then being at a distance when he got into his truck. This would be the scene to have short action sentences.

    The ending became a bit cliché.

    Between the two, Huntress was the superior quality. But they both could have been much better. My vote is Huntress.

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  20. there were parts of both that I enjoyed. but I was drawn more to the writing of huntress. they kept me interested. crux fell short for me.

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  21. Crux
    Interesting concept. I could relate because I once wrote a story where the beginning starting as a journal entry that listed an abundance of horrific events. Although not a prison it was an island in the Pacific Ocean over run by the supernatural during WWII. I was intrigued but I must say it got a little rough with the execution history. I see where it wanted to go but it needed a little more polishing. Somewhat choppy although I liked the bit about the iron. Giving life to an inanimate object such as prison bars is pretty neat.

    Huntress
    Seems a bit fast. I noticed that the Call was capitalized so I understood that it must be some sort of force or reckoning. I think a lot of words were wasted during the drive. The scene could have been painted without the use of the fingernails and the car heater. I have to believe that in 500 words you need to hook 'em and leave 'em hanging. Getting the call, driving through the country, narrowly escaping being spotted, rescuing the child and then tackling the villain is an awful lot to get done in 500 words.

    My vote....Crux

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  22. Not enough mix of action in the pieces. It just all felt like telling or exposition. Just not liking the passive starts to the last few entries. I'm not a fan of dark and had hard a hard time making a choice. A prison piece is definitely not for me. Based on personal taste, I vote for Huntress.

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  23. Crux has an interesting concept but the journal entry did not allow for enough reader involvement with the story as a standalone piece. I am highly intrigued by the idea that souls get stuck behind the iron bars!

    Huntress has a better blend of action and description for my taste even though I would not necessarily be drawn to the subject. It's cleaner and moves well. Huntress gets my vote this week!

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  24. Huntress...bigger story, more compelling character.

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  25. Crux gets my vote. It may not be an active scene like Huntress presented (which itself was quite well-written and compelling), the concept of Crux's piece really intrigued me. I guess I'm one of those weird people who also feels like reading a journal entry brings me quite close to the person who's writing it. That made it feel more immediate to me.

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  26. Both felt a little too detached, not enough of a connection to the action or the character. But the second one at least piqued my interest so my vote goes to Huntress.

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  27. Both pieces were very "telling" and not a lot of doing. I thought the concepts were neat, but very much kept me at arms length, filtering everything through the lens of the narrator.

    I vote Crux

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  28. Both have interesting plots and are well written. I'm going with Huntress for this round.

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  29. While I liked the premise of Crux, the use of so many 'ly' words threw me off. Ultimately, abundantly, inevitably, inexplicably provided too much descriptive telling and not enough showing. There was no emotion portrayed and I didn't feel the horror of the story being told.

    My vote this round goes to Huntress. While there wasn't a lot of emotion, I liked the concept of The Call. I felt the story was skimmed over and with a bit of work has the potential to pull the reader in.

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  30. I'm going to vote Huntress today. Congrats to you both for making it through this far.

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  31. I'm voting for Huntress.

    Like the authors in the previous round, both of these writers chose to take a somewhat distant approach and to summarize what could be a very powerful experience. To be honest, neither one features a subject matter I would usually be inclined to read about, but if they were written with a different perspective I might find them more memorable.

    On the surface the writing in both of these entries appears pretty clean, but on careful reading Crux's passage has several errors in sentence structure and a couple of words that appear to be misused. And although I dislike some of the very casual lines in Huntress's entry, the writing is stronger overall, which is one reason I chose it. Another reason is that in some respects Huntress's POV is quite personal and vivid -- what creates the impression of distance is largely the fact that the scene in which the child is actually rescued is skipped; the reason for this might be clear if one were able to read the rest of this story, but it's not evident here.

    I noticed that some readers disliked the details about the drive, but that's what I liked best of all about Huntress's excerpt -- things like the image of the bobble-headed Yoda on her dashboard and her chipped fingernail polish, and also the description of the house. These create a sense of reality as well as painting a picture, and that's what I love as a reader. So I would have preferred to see the story continue on that same level, staying close to 'real time' as the narrator goes into the house and finds the child, rather than skipping that scene.

    Also, I have to mention that contractions like 'that'd' take abbreviating a step too far and just look awkward and unnatural; it's not as if 'that had' could ever sound long and formal, especially since when you read it aloud it comes out the same as the contracted version anyway. And although I like many of Huntress's descriptions, a couple of the lines are a little clichéd, and the 'icy wind gnawed at her cheeks like a hungry animal' is too over the top -- it sounds melodramatic, which almost makes it comical and just pushes the reader away from the scene. But this passage shows potential, and I could see the 'Call' that drives her as an intriguing foundation for a character in a novel or even a series of novels.

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  32. Two similar pieces here.Each piece shows promise in the continued storyline, but in these 500 words there is a lot that is missing. Neither contain ANY dialog and very little action. Crux is a letter/journal entry. While Huntress is all inner dialog. Both are rife with telling vs. showing. I suppose it comes down to content in the voting.

    I like the intrigue and elements horror in Crux piece and will give it my vote, BUT I do think it will have a hard time standing up to a piece in the finals that shows more than tells.

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  33. Two compelling entries this week! In the end, I decided that if I had the two complete novels in front of me, I would read Crux's first. There is just something creepy and dark and oddly inviting about the story. A close one, but my vote is for Crux.

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  34. My vote is for Crux!

    I like the atmosphere

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  35. My vote is for Crux.

    For me Huntress' piece started out with a great premise, but then fizzled with the lack of confrontation and conflict. My instinct in stories like this is that the action won't play out on the screen and in terms of this writing sample as its own entity, it doesn't. Crux set a great tone and left me intrigued. I will say though that "Adult Fiction" isn't a genre, it's a category. As this is a fictitious prison, (yeah I Googled--guilty!) I'm left wondering what sort of story this is by the lack of specificity in the genre. It could be sci-fi or dystopian as well as contemporary.

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  36. I'm going to go with Huntress here.

    Crux had a premise for something that was finally shown but it all seemed oversell to me, including character names. I liked the idea of evil being caught behind iron bars. I think it's a good concept but the rest just doesn't catch me. And, yes, I like horror.

    Huntress I'm not exactly sure why I picked them over Crux. I'm highly visual when I read, seeing things as they happen and Huntress gave my reading 'eye' something to hook on to. I couldn't identify with the narrator though. It was all the pull of the "Call" or practically. When did all this start? Why?

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  37. I really enjoyed Crux's piece. It was chilling, and seemed to set up a very interesting story. The line "Prisons were originally built with iron bars because spirits cannot pass beyond iron," completely hooked me. Is this true, I wonder? Fascinating, if so. Creative idea, if not. I also found the language eloquent (Inmates were finally free for brawl and how sprawling the sounds of freedom were.) I want to find out what happened there that made Horace decide to leave the note.

    On the other hand, I found myself skimming Huntress. So much of it seemed a little too familiar: the messy bun, the hoodie, the ride in the Honda through the burbs. For a fantasy piece, it didn't seem fantastical to me at all. Then when she finds the cabin and goes after the kidnapper, it sort of morphed into a crime drama type story. I need more fantasy in my fantasy.

    I vote for Crux.

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  38. I agree with comments above that alongside the exposition, there is some lovely writing here. I think Crux's story would read better if it started with the second paragraph -- "They left us here to rot." That line hooked me. The entry reads like a prologue and I would like it better if it were shorter and a bit more mysterious. Much of the info can be included later in the meat of the story, IMO.

    Huntress's story contains some nice details about the character - chipped polish, bobble head - but I feel it starts in the wrong place. Driving is boring. Bring me into the scene where she needs to save that kid. The fact that this compelling action is left out entirely is troubling and I worry that the rest of the story will gloss over important scenes like this one. For me, the importance of the Call is not that it makes the MC drive across country, but rather compels her to risk her own safety for the sake of another. I'm not sure that point came across in this entry.

    Both stories have interesting and provocative concepts. This round, voice wins. I vote for Crux.

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  39. Huntress is more compelling for me.

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  40. I've waffled back and forth for days, and the deadline is upon me. I just re-read both pieces, and Huntress's is the one I immediately wanted to see more of. She gets my vote.

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  41. I think I missed the cut off for this, but I'd have gone with Huntress.

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