WRiTE CLUB 2015 - Bout #13


WRiTE CLUB is a writing community sensation sponsored by the DFW Writers Conference that is loosely based on the popular movie Fight Club.  There are numerous versions of this concept floating around the internet, but nothing like we do it here.  This unique approach embodies simple, good-natured competition, with lots and lots of fun sprinkled on top. 

Today we continue with the second phase of the contest which involves ten more daily bouts (M-F) over the next two weeks between Anonymous 500 word writing samples, submitted under a pen name.   The writing can be any genre, any style (even poetry) with the word count being the only restriction. Today is Bout #13.  Read each sample carefully and then leave a vote in the comment section for the one that resonates with you the most.  Don’t forget to leave with a brief critique of both submissions as well.

Voting for each bout will remain open for one week. The winner of each will be posted HERE, at the WRiTE CLUB scoreboard.  Are you ready?

Here are todays randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in this corner, representing the Fantasy/Adventure genre and weighing in at 469 words, please welcome to the ring……..Bookworm





“Can’t we get going, Mom? I don’t wanna be late,” I said, adjusting my seat belt.

She peered through the windshield. “There’s a lot of traffic,” she said. “Try to calm down.”
           
Our minivan bumped through a ditch. “How much farther? Maybe I should get out and run?”
           
“Don’t be silly,” Mom said. “You don’t want to show up on your first day all hot and sweaty.”
           
“I don’t wanna be the last one there,” I said. “Everyone will stare at me.”

I pulled the visor mirror down and checked myself out. No breakfast on my face. No new zits today. My blonde hair was under control. My eyes were like chocolate. Would the kids call me an ‘oddball’ because my eyes didn’t match my hair?

I quit worrying. I had bigger things to think about.
           
We turned into the driveway at the Chuckle Factory with its high stone wall topped with barbed wire. Large orange alarm buttons stood out. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought it was a prison. I snatched the sheet of instructions from my backpack. “It says turn left at the big iron gates.” 

We followed the road uphill through the pine trees to the back of a white brick building. Chuckle Security Techs stood guard in their purple and gold uniforms. Their matching helmets reflected the morning sun. They each held a long pole with a net against their shoulders.

Clusters of kids ran into the factory ahead of me, chuckling. I had my seat belt off before the car stopped moving.
           
“Wait one minute, Norman,” Mom said, grabbing the sleeve of my blue jumpsuit. “Give me a kiss for luck and say good-bye to your brother, too.”
           
“Oh, gross, do I have to?”
           
“If you want to get out of this car, you do.”
           
As quick as I could, I gave Mom a peck on the cheek and then climbed between the seats to the back. Bill had his ear buds in and was staring at his phone.
           
“Bye, Stupid Head,” I said, putting my hand over his phone.
           
“Hey,” he said, looking up. “Do good, Squirt. If your team loses, everyone at school will hate you.”
           
I hated it when he called me, ‘Squirt,’ just because he was 13 and I was only 11. He was a bigger version of me and he thought he was hot stuff.

I hated it even more when he was right. Chuckletown Middle had won the junior internship trophy every summer for the last five years. Since I’d be going there in the fall, it was my turn to be on the team and show we were the best. If we lost, I wouldn’t have a single friend next year. Or maybe ever.
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And in the other corner, representing the Romance genre with 500 words let me introduce to you……….Sarasota Jenkins




With her hat pulled low and sunglasses on, Anna wore her game face. She’d tried to avoid the replay of her match, wedging herself against the far wall, close to the windows. But like a person who can't shake the Mona Lisa's eyes, every spot offered perfect vantage of some TV perched high along the lounge's perimeter. Sun glinted off emerald courts, players glowed in tennis whites. It was, frankly, unfortunate.

Anna sighed, shifted, watched a toddler eat spilled crackers from the floor. Crossed her arms, scrolled through Twitter. But always, that magnetic tug on her eyes. Had she needed to, she could’ve made out the score at the bottom of the screen. But she knew the score.

"Our plane hasn’t even taken off from wherever the hell it’s coming from.” Squeezing in beside her, Jennie huffed out a sigh.

Anna looked past her friend's scowling face to the rain-streaked windows overlooking the tarmac. She folded her arms and dropped her head back against the wall.

“I know, right? Just let us get the eff out of London.”

Jennie’s elbow knocked against the newspaper held next to her, the pages rattling in response. Catching sight of a grainy photo, Anna leaned in to get a better view. There she was, all right, off balance and angled precariously, arms splayed out, racquet nowhere near a ball. It was that look on her face, though. Most people might only see exertion, but Anna saw more, and frustration coursed through her all over again.

Jennie held up her hand with a frown and quick shake of her head. “Look away,” she implored dramatically.

“Like… in that direction?” Anna nodded at the long row of seats in front of them. There was no mistaking the shock of white hair sticking up a good four inches over the heads of the other passengers.

Jennie’s face registered recognition. “Ah, the nutty professor of tennis coaches.” She leaned her shoulder into the wall. “Has he seen you?”

“Oh, yes. He gave me his best you-fucked-up-not-working-with-me smile.”

“And what did you do?”

“Closed my eyes, clicked my heels, and prayed I’d wake up not here.”

And seethed. It wasn’t coincidence seeing him. After her early loss in Rome, Anna had answered when Carsten Academy flashed on her phone’s screen. The locker room had been mostly empty, her thoughts mostly dark, and she’d given in to nostalgia. Her aunt hadn’t wasted a second gushing over the news that Bob Sherman – Bob Sherman! – would coach her through Wimbledon. Anna had listened, peeling away sweaty clothes, dropping them onto the floor. Her training lacked consistency. She had no focus. He would help. Anna responded with silence and Betsy changed tacks. Anna was a Carsten. They were professionals. It was hard working with someone new, but the coach she’d always had was gone…

His sister didn’t want to use his name, and Anna didn’t want to hear it. She slid her thumb over the screen and pushed it away a little longer.
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Enjoying two talented writers at work 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.  Which one tickled your fancy?  After you vote please tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well.  Yes, it’s subjective, but so is the entire publishing world.  It’s as much about the readers as it is about the writers. 

This is WRiTE CLUB – the contest where the audience gets clobbered!

 

32 comments

  1. First-time entrantJune 10, 2015 at 6:57 AM

    As an entrant who hasn't been selected, I still do my best to contribute. In the first rounds I ask all of you to give feedback as to why you chose one over the other. It will help the writer. And in the second rounds, the same. Just voting with your choice is a cop-out. Give a reason. Make this a learning experience.

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    1. You are so right and I've been terribly guilty of this. I'll try and do better from now on.

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    2. Sometimes, its hard to choose a winner because of personal reading choice. If I don't like either entrant, it is better just to pic a winner of the bout instead of lavishing negativity on an author simply because it is not the readers genre. Not always a cop-out to say nothing at all.

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  2. I found both of these surprisingly uninteresting and first draft like . I know people think the dialog tag "he or she said" invisible, but I the first piece they were repetitive and often unnecessary. I vote for Sarasota Jenkins, with no enthusiasm.

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  4. The comment about driving through a ditch completely threw me off in the first piece, and made it hard to get back into it or take it very seriously. :/

    That being said, the language in Sarasota's drew me in further, so they gmv.

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  5. First time, good point. Too bad I just typed this out in a diff browser and it erased. Okay.

    Bookworm. There's too much dialogue, not enough setting. You can't have a character looking into a mirror to describe themselves--totally cliche, agents hate it, most people do. It says Adventure/Fantasy but this piece feels totally contemporary. You almost had me at Chuckle Factory but it doesn't go anywhere here.

    So I vote for Sarasota. Which needs some work, but has a ton more description.

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  6. Sarasota for a more immersive experience. The lack of setting and bare dialogue of Bookworm's snip left me a bit cold.

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  7. For some reason, I couldn't really get into either of these entries today. The first piece caught my interest more as I kept on reading, though the description of the character's appearance while he looked into a mirror tripped me up. This is something agents repeatedly warn not to do. In the second piece, there is a lot of sighing and slouching around and scowling, and it just didn't catch my interest and make me want to read on. I didn't find a conflict or an immediate hook that caught me.

    So for this reason, I vote for Bookworm today.

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  8. I'm a little torn. Both of these seem so raw and unedited.

    Sarasota was doing good until the second to last paragraph talking about Carlton, and then the last sentences there- he/she/ the brother. It was all very confusing. I reread that section multiple times to just see if it was me. Even after all that re-reading I still didn't get it clearly. Again, this type of story of someone biffing at the championship is well played out. What is different about your story? Where's the hook?

    Bookworm- super cute kiddie type story, which I can appreciate, but in the description of the Chuckle factory I pictured a prison version of Chuck E. Cheese. So, as you described traffic-going through the ditch-seeing the factory- I was under the impression that it was just something he was looking at as they passed by. It didn't make much sense about going to school there.A simple line like "My school didn't look or act like any others would have prepared me. I know it's only 500 words but it was too rushed at the end where all the details were. If I had any advice it'd be skip the dialogue about being late-condense it down (just for this entry-not for a book). "I hate being late. My mom cut through a ditch just to get me here on time."

    I understand that both of these are from bigger stories, not just 500 word stories. So neither made me feel "it"- that completeness of a character.

    All that being said today though, I'm voting for Sarasota.

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  9. Neither piece really captured my attention, but at least the first one ended on a little bit of a hook while the second one just confused me as to what was happening. In fact, it took me a while to realize it was taking place in an airport lounge/gate area. I'm not a huge fan of description, but I need something to anchor me to the story. At least I knew where I was at in the first one. So because of those two reasons (hook & place), my vote goes to Bookworm.

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  10. I had a similarly hard time getting into these as they both felt very first-drafty.

    Bookworm's was way too heavy with dialogue and things like describing himself, confusion over the instructions, etc pulled me out of the story. Also, the names 'bill & norman' don't feel current, even though the chuckle factory does not feel contemporary. So, essentially, a lot of small things where I kept stopping and questioning instead of being pulled through into the story.

    Sarasota, I felt like you were trying too hard to cram backstory into this piece, some of the dialogue tags/beats/etc are overly wordy, and I had to read many of the sentences several time to make sense of them. Also, some of the metaphors/etc really didn't work for me, especially the Mona Lisa line in the first paragraph as you're switching abruptly from sports to art, and then back again, and nowhere in the rest of the piece did I feel your MC has an attachment/attraction to art, so it seemed out of character.

    That being said, I'm going to choose Sarasota's piece as it does feel more balanced and has a better handle on story/character and I did feel some emotional connection to the character, which I did not in Bookworm's piece.

    Hope that satisfies first-time entrant's request?

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  11. Neither piece really drew me in, but I do think they both have potential. I found Bookworm's premise of a quirky school to be interesting, but I think infusing more of the same quirkiness into the contemporary setting would have made the piece much more intriguing. Also, as others have mentioned above, I wasn't very fond of the fact that the MC looked in the mirror to describe himself. This little action also misled me into thinking the MC was a girl, and it threw me a little when I realized he was a boy.

    As for Sarasota's piece, I really got a sense of Anna's embarassment and unhappiness with herself, which made me feel sorry for her. However, as a big fan of description/world-building, I was confused about the piece's minimally described setting, which distracted me from the excerpt as a whole.

    That being said, I'm voting for Bookworm because I think it has more of a hook than Sarasota's.

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  12. Bookworm- Very interesting.
    Sarasota Jenkins- Nice work.

    I'm more drawn in by Bookworm, and more interested in what will happen next. I feel more connected to Norman. So that's who has my vote today.

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  13. I'm pretty confused by both of these. One says it's romance, but there's no romance (or even romantic notions) in it -- just an overly long description of a girl who flubbed it. In the other, the fact that the kid wanted blonde eyes threw me out of it completely and I couldn't get back in.

    Sorry, guys, I can't vote for either one today.

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  14. Bookworm. But I'm a sucker for dialogue.

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  15. Bookworm! I want to see the fantasy element...

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  16. I have to agree with everyone who said both these pieces were pretty raw. Both could use some polishing and tightening. Neither offered a clear idea of what might be at stake. Bookworm mentioned some sort of competition, but wasn't clear about what the competition involved, and frankly, I find it hard to believe that messing up will literally ruin one's chances of ever having a friend.

    Bookworm has some promise, but it's still confusing. Is the Chuckle Factory a clown school? Whatever it is, the line about kids running in "chuckling" was a little jarring for me. Who goes around chuckling for no apparent reason? Maybe cut some of the mundane "I'll be late" dialogue, as well as the mirror bit, and give the reader a little more about the world.

    Sarasota Jenkins, there were a lot of characters mentioned in this piece, and I wasn't sure how they all connected. Anna, Jennie, the frazzle-haired man, the aunt, Betsy, Bob Sherman, Carsten, his sister... By the end, I had no idea who was who or who was where. The last two paragraphs - the flashback to the aunt's phone call - were especially convoluted. Also, I assume this is part of a larger work, and it may work well in context, but beginning an excerpt in one setting and ending with a flashback leaves a reader wholly unsatisfied.

    My vote goes to Bookworm.

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  17. I'm on my lunch break and don't have much time. I agree with Lisa above and most every

    Bookworm was cute and breezy, but didn't give us much insight. If you get to the rounds where you can enter another piece, pick something that pulls us in emotionally.

    Sarasot J - yes, this reads like a first draft. I didn't realize she was in an airport. I wasn't sure which girl recognized the white hair. I actually thought there were many people in the row with white hair - had to reread. Then at the end, you mention something about HIS sister. Wasn't sure who you mean. Please work on this scene, it crams to much in one place.

    My vote is Bookworm.

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  18. I have nothing to contribute that hasn't already been said. I vote for Sarasota Jenkins for realism and somewhat superior writing. I don't sweat the lack of explanation; I'm a smart boy and can pick things up as I go.

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  19. Enjoyed both. Bookworm slightly more. That's my vote.

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  20. Congrats on your submissions!

    I'm choosing: Bookworm.

    Heather

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  22. Hard choice but gotta go with Sarasota Jenkins this round.

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  23. Bookworm: has an interesting plot potential.

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  24. Bookworm for me.
    Cute. I enjoyed the dialogue and there was a little bit of a hook at the end.

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  25. I thought Bookworm's was interesting. As the beginning of something longer, I would definitely keep reading to find out what this school is and what the competition is.

    At first I liked the piece by Sarasota jones. I liked the Mona Lisa's eyes line, but it fell apart for me after that. I couldn't get a feel for where it was or who was speaking.

    My vote goes to bookworm.

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  26. Okay, like most the comments before mine, I found it hard to get into either of these.

    My vote is going to Bookworm, only because I felt the pacing was better.

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  27. Voting for Bookworm.

    The setting is clear all along and the progression of the scene steady. I think the use of the mirror in this scene is a creative exception to the general caveat about not having a first-person narrator look in the mirror as a way of providing a description of the MC. This is a kid at an age where looks count a lot, especially when trying to break into a new group. The penalty for not looking cool is merciless taunting that can go on for years once it catches on. I can't imaging this kid NOT checking the mirror as he approaches the school for the first time. I think the mirror warning applies only when it is a dull excuse to let the reader know how the character looks.

    Regarding Sarasota Jenkins:
    I was confused about where the character was several times. First it sounded like a lounge/bar in some sort of hotel. Then I realized it was an airport lounge. Simply calling it an airport lounge (not just lounge) would be an easy fix. Then is seems that the character is inside an airplane looking down at the tarmac, but there was no transition, so that was a bit jarring. I really loved the description of Anna catching sight of herself in a newspaper photo on the court, catching the dismay on her own face and the effect seeing that photo has on her now. That would be a good benchmark for improving the prose and pacing in the rest of the piece.

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  28. I almost voted for Sarasota but after reading the comments I realized I completely misunderstood what the heck was going on in that story. lol. Maybe I'm a terrible reader, but most people are not professional editors in the real world either. And confusion can quickly turn into disinterest.

    So I went back and decided to re-read all of this and I still can't find any intrigue in either entries. BUT, I think Bookworm has potential so my vote goes to Bookworm. The one thing that bothered me the most about the writing was when the main character looked at herself in the mirror. I disagree with previous comments on that one. For some reason, that act - or the description of that act, threw me out of the story. I kept wanting to rewrite that sentence in a way that would flow more smoothly and naturally, but just couldn't find a place in this submission for it. My suggestion to the author would be to let her looks and who she is reveal itself through the novel at interesting moments and not all at once.

    I do feel a little harsh here, so I have to reconcile this a little. I'm certain my entry was very amateur as well so I hope I get picked and get torn apart by the commentators. :)

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  29. I can't offer much other than to echo the other comments that both pieces had a few rough spots as far as what was happening and where. Bookworm, Fantasy and Adventure are different genres and as I read your piece, I wasn't sure if Chuckletown was some sort of superhero camp or just a quirky name. You could also trim some of the dialogue to beef up the actual story hook.

    Sarasota, I had to read yours a couple of times to figure out where the MC actually was and what she was doing. Having said that, I felt your 500 words overall drew me into your character and conflict a little better, so Sarasota gets my vote (and not because Sarasota is my home town!)

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