WRiTE CLUB 2015 - Bout #14


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 #14.  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 genre and weighing in at 498 words, please welcome to the ring……..A.M. Sterling




The altar went dark as the eclipse became total. The Princess Regent who had kept proudly silent throughout the humiliation gasped sharply as the High Subjugator’s obsidian shard flashed down. She bit back agonized screams as he cut her open, reached inside her still-living body, grasped, and yanked. A final gasp and Kaya was still. The priest held up her pulsing heart, but there were no cheers from the assembled army.

Darius swallowed his nausea as his former Princess’s blood poured down the sides of the altar. At least it had been a proud death.

Bannir placed his new trophy into a small chest and the northern wind grew sharply colder. Ballik was pleased. “This altar is sanctified. Bring the next sacrifice.” A pair of Ravagers dumped Kaya’s body unceremoniously forward as others brought forth a new offering to the Dark Lord of Winter.

This victim was slighter and hidden from Darius’s view by the altar, priests, and deepening darkness, though he could hear a curious animal squealing.

“What comes now to the holy altar?” Bannir ritually asked.

Ralor, as assisting priest, spoke with greater drama and volume. This sacrifice was the most important. “Her Highness, Tamora Arrigar, Empress of the Sindathi Empire.”

Darius froze. No.

“Does it come willingly?”

“It does not.”

“What makes it a suitable sacrifice to our lord?”

“It is Empress of the hated Empire, oppressor of our people. It is scion of the tyrannical Imperial dynasty and mother of future tyrants. It persecutes our faith. It is an enemy of Ballik.”

“It is acceptable. Bring it forth.”

No!

The men parted and little Tamora was brought to the bloody altar. Black hair framed an expression of abject fear. A gag was mostly suppressing her panicked screams and her courtly dress was blood-spattered. Ralor ripped it open, exposing her small, new breasts.

Darius looked around him at those soldiers who had survived the day’s battle. Some shifted uncomfortably or averted their eyes from the impending child sacrifice, but most were unmoved. This was not just some little girl. This was the Empress, the avatar of their most ancient enemy, and she must die.

He took a shuddering breath. I chose my side. There’s nothing I can do.

The priests lifted her onto the altar more gently than they had her mother. Tamora hardly resisted, but searched frantically for rescue.

She found him. Tamora’s eyes locked on Darius’s and widened in surprise and recognition. They begged him for help before she was chained down out of sight.

Bannir chanted and her gag was removed. “Darius! Darius!” She called out again and again, her young shrill voice full of terror. Ralor raised an eyebrow in Darius’s direction, but Bannir steadily continued the prayers of offering.

“Darius, please! Please stop this! Please help me!” Tamora’s final cry devolved into sobs.

Darius’s clenched and unclenched his fists, his teeth gritted. There’s nothing I can do.

Bannir raised the black knife.

“Darius!”

He shut his eyes and turned away.
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And in the other corner, representing the Contemporary genre with 498 words let me introduce to you……….MissWriteNow




Uglier than snot on a two-year-old. Yep, that’s Ms. Pearson all right.

“Kevin? Your essay?” she says, her left eye twitching, which is never a good sign.

“Well, you see…”

“Excuse me, Ms. Pearson?” Abby Parker interrupts from her front row seat. “Kevin must have forgotten his essay at home. I know he finished it, I helped him with his reference sheet.”

Whaaa?

Ms. Pearson’s face turns from stalker to well-if-Abby-says-so-it-must-be-true in two point three seconds. Because Abby Parker doesn’t tell big fat lies to help some jerk who snapped her bra so hard in fifth grade he thinks maybe his balls suffer permanent damage with the kick she gave. I’ve never so much as laid a finger on a girl’s bra since that day, unless the girl asked me to, which hasn’t happened yet. But I’m totally prepared for it.

I crumble against my chair, flopping Ms. Pearson’s latest forced literature on my desk. A lecture on how to Scout and Mock a Boobird, or something like that, rattles through my head then leaks out my left ear. It distracts me from coming up with one good reason why Abby saved my non-essay writing ass.

Ringing assaults my ears.

“Abby,” I yell as soon I hit the hall, chasing her not-so-natural blonde head. “Hey, Abby, wait up!”

She whips around so fast her hair smacks the hell out of my face, crashing little waves of apple shampoo across my nose. “Yes?”

“Why’d you lie for me?”

“I need a favor.”

“Like what?”

She bites her bottom lip. “An escort to the dance.”

I double over. My chest heaves and bucks and my knees are on the verge of collapsing from under me. Hell, I may pass out right here in the hallway if I don’t control myself. Can people lose consciousness from laughter? Na, probably not.

A whack upside my head silences me. “You’re a jerk, Kevin Haynes!”

“You’re serious? Like, me”—I shove my finger into my chest—“and you.” I point to her, not coming anywhere near touching her for fear I’ll collide with her bra and endure testicle removal upon her retaliation.

She looks down at her feet and when she lifts her face, I see something I’ve never seen there before. Like one of those mangy puppies that hangs on the street corner. Like maybe no one else wants to take her to the dance and I’m her last shot.

“Please?” she says, swatting her eyelashes together like in one of those old movies my grandma watches.

A few inaudible, reserved-for-up-shit-creek curses creep from my mouth. And then, “Fine. Whatever.”

She does this weird bounce thing. Her books tumble from her arms, crashing on the tile so hard everybody and their momma heard it. When she bends to scoop them up, the neckline of her shirt dips too low, exposing tan lines and a barely pink bra.

A stabbing memory lands on my crotch. “Hey, Abby, do they make formal dresses with turtlenecks?”
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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!

 

33 comments

  1. MissWriteNow. Easier to get into and I'm already amused.

    In the other one we're just watching girls die, and that's a little too much the bad parts of Game of Thrones for me.

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  2. Now THIS is a battle! Both well written, both enticing, one dark world, one the dark world of boys & girls.

    I think A.M. Sterling definitely has his story well written. It is dark, creepy, and violent. There's some emotional turmoil. Why should he save her? Because she's a child? How does he know her??

    MissWriteNow has a more comical sense of writing. This reminded me of an episode of Boy Meets World during the middle school years. Like Shawn had forgotten his homework. But there was too many references to that kids balls. That makes it tough for a choice for me.

    Im surprising myself by voting for Sterling. I usually don't go for violent, but I felt he was the better writer today. I think his story could stand up in the elimination round..

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  3. As Staci said above, this is a battle...

    A.M. Sterling is dark and more than a little disturbing. All the elements of a good story are present. You might tighten up the first couple paragraphs to make it a little clearer or maybe stretch them out to better develop setting and the relationship between the characters (Understandably, adding details is difficult do in a 500 word sample), but overall, the writing is stellar. As a matter of personal preference, it might be a little too dark for me to keep reading, but I'm definitely intrigued.

    MissWriteNow is also well-crafted, with several creative turns of phrase. "How to Scout and Mock a Boobird" especially made me smile. On the possible downside, four swear words in 500 words.... They fit, and I certainly don't feel like you're doing it for shock value, but I might cut down on the profanity. Personally, I have absolutely no issue with a word here or there, but since I'm trying to teach my kids (two of whom are at the lower end of your target audience) not to swear, I'd think twice about handing them a book with frequent, casual cursing. Other readers might feel quite differently on the matter, of course. The story has promise, and I think it's funny-cute how awkward things are between Abby and Kevin.

    In the end, my concerns with each of these (the darkness of Sterling and the profanity of MissWriteNow) are all a matter of personal taste, so take or leave them as you will.

    Sterling gets my vote, for feeling a little more polished.

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  4. My vote is for A.M. Sterling because the entry grabbed me and would not let go. That is a book I'd definitely keep reading.

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  5. MissWriteNow gets my vote, even though I could use some tightening up and a little less 'telling'.

    Sterling lost me at 'gasped sharply' with the overwriting, and I stopped reading entirely after the 5th name/capitalized title.

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  6. Tough choice. I like dark. I like funny. But A.M. Sterling gets my vote because I felt more emotion and loved the hook. I would definitely read on.

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  7. A.M. Sterling's piece unfortunately didn't pull me in, despite its well depicted tension and emotion. I didn't feel squeamish from the violent subject manner, but I think the reason I wasn't hooked was because I didn't have any emotional connections to the characters and didn't know enough about them and their pasts to be afraid for them. But, this is coming from someone who prefers non-traditional fantasy over high fantasy, so take this with a grain of salt. :)

    MissWriteNow's piece pulled me in with the raw, authentic teen voice. I've read so many YA books with inauthentic teen voices, but this one is extremely accurate and would resonate well with teenagers. I also found the writing polished and engaging with a great amount of humour sprinkled throughout. I would definitely keep reading this one!

    For these reasons, MissWriteNow wins my vote today.

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  8. Voting for Ms. WriteNow, though both pieces need a lot of work.

    A.M. Sterling - There's a reason why the Greeks had graphic violence -- like Oedipus gauging his eyes out offstage and returning with the bloody aftermath on his cheeks. You lost me with the guy reaching into her sliced-open, living body and yanking out her heart. I realize there's more gore on tv and in movies these days. And shoot-em-up scenes have been around for ages. Lots of gratuitous gore with a camera looking out from inside an a body of a person being attacked, and so on (some CSI scenes). A compelling tale does not need that kind of close-up "exciting" gore, and it is simply too much to watch for some readers. It isn't the least bit believable that the woman in your first paragraph would succeed in biting back her agonized screams.

    Ms. Write Now, this was a clever way to Abby to manipulate this guy to go to the dance with her. So it's good plotwise, but the the writing could use a lot more originality. Granted, kids share certain popular expressions of the day, and some of that needs to be in there to be true to the times and age group, but something about the narrator's voice needs to be special to him so he stands apart from the run-of-the-mill depictions of teenagers these days.



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  9. My vote is for A.M. Sterling this round :) Great pacing and hook!

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  10. AM Sterling. I'm not connected to the characters, the bloody scene does not turn me off. But it is gratuitous, graphic for shock factor. Darius is intriguing because he appears the traitor, letting his regents die so horribly to save his own hide and I can see the beginnings of a huge character arc. Since the two girls have been so viciously murdered, the focus should not have been on their actual deaths, but the meaning it attributes to Darius. I liked the violence, but would have preferred a build up to the scene. Aside from that, it was well written, the author has talent for an economy of setting description, doesn't shy away from gore in an obviously brutal world, and already has the plot of redemption thoroughly planted in my mind. I am intrigued.

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  11. Love AM Sterling. Want more! That's my vote.
    Misswritenow was good, but feels like a story dozens of books and shows have done.

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  12. Sterling. That story has drama. I'm impressed so much of it was crammed into 500 words, and feel sure that more could be done with more space.

    Writing off the bloodiness as a modern trend is a mistake. There is more creativity there than in yet another coming of age story with an irreverent tone. Those were a million when I was a kid. I think I share Ms. Dorner's opinion, there.

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  13. Two very different styles. Both very good. My vote goes to MissWriteNow because I like the story.

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  14. (I think I caught why DL put these two together. Ha ha.)

    A.M. Sterling- Wow, a Fantasy entry that really nails the genre. Great job. I am curious how the gag suppressed her screams, yet allowed her to scream his name. Telepathy? I love the setup though, and I feel drawn in. I can imagine 90,000 more words where he goes on a guilt-fueled quest to avenge her, or takes over this group to see another little girl isn't sacrificed, or something like that. And I'm betting I'd love it.

    MissWriteNow - Very good. I'd say this sticks with all the rules and follows all the write-right ideas. And while there are some nice, original notes in this, the overall plot feels too familiar. I'm not sure how it could set itself apart from the many similar stories of jock-needs-nerd-girl-help-who-also-needs-a-date in only 500 words, or even in 70,000 words. That isn't to say that it doesn't still sell ("The Duff" made 34 million, though the reviews for that movie sound pretty much like what I'm saying about this story). There's nothing wrong with the piece itself. It's actually a very good bit of writing.

    But if I were going to buy only one of these two, it'd be A.M. Sterling's, so that's my vote.

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    Replies
    1. "I am curious how the gag suppressed her screams, yet allowed her to scream his name."

      From the text: "Bannir chanted and her gag was removed." I almost missed it, too. Probably compressed as a consequence of the word limit.

      Delete
    2. Ah! Yeah, I missed that. Thanks.

      Delete
  15. A.M. Sterling gets my vote. :)

    I'd like to address Dorner's question about how the gag suppressed Tamora's screams yet allowed her to shout his name. It says that Tamora's gag was removed while the priest chanted. So, no telepathy involved. ;)

    This little detail does wonders at showing how much attention Sterling put into this piece. Sterling remembered to have her gag removed and not only remembered but probably did it with a purpose. I guess this because by the priest removing Tamora's gag, it allows her to better voice her fear and thus make her a more worthy sacrifice to this Dark Lord of Winter. I noticed that the previous victim managed to maintain her dignity and did not let loose a single scream. This resulted in no cheering from the army, where by the word choice of the author, there should have been. The women being sacrificed are apparently royal members of this army's hated enemy. They should be elated by the death of Kaya but her brave conduct seemed to stifle their response. Tamora on the other hand, although being they younger of the two, is the "Empress of the hated Empire, oppressor of our people." Her terror filled death should bring these men to a roaring fervor. Unfortunately we were not allowed to see the reaction of the army before the word count was reached. Leaves you wanting more, doesn't it? I know I have many more questions from this submission.

    One of which is who is this Dark Lord of Winter and why are he and the Sindathi Empire enemies. For that matter, what is the Sindathi Empire and why is it being ruled by a child Empress and not her mother who was murdered before her? Who is Darius and why does he intimately know not only members of a royal family but apparently high priests of this royal family's enemies? Based on what we have read, I would guess that he is a traitor but why exactly? A.M. Sterling I want to read more about this world.

    Speaking of which, this setting seems to be a unique creation. Certainly not set in our world or some alternate history. I love stories set in an environment completely different from our own. I enjoy getting to know the cultures, languages if the author has been creative enough to invent some and the histories of these worlds. I'd love to get into this work and find out just exactly what kind of universe requires the sacrifice of young Empresses to Dark Lords of Winter.

    Good work, A.M. Sterling and Good Luck!

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    Replies
    1. Oh, I got so caught up in my comments on Sterling's submission that I forgot to say anything about MissWriteNow's piece. I apologize for that, I did not mean to be rude. While MissWriteNow's story was full of descriptions that were intended to make the reader laugh, I'm afraid that it did not work for me. Maybe I'm just too old and no longer amused by the Young Adult genre. I agree with a few others that have noted it seems to be a bit of the 'same old' content that has filled the YA book shelves for years. That being said, if it has worked for years, it will probably remain working for a while longer. It's just not the subject matter that I prefer to read. Those days are long past. :)

      Congratulations MissWriteNow on being selected for this bout but my vote is still for A.M. Sterling.

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  16. MissWriteNow for me because of the snapping voice. Sterling's piece was too bloody for my tastes.

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  17. MissWriteNow for me. People say it's a 'been there done that' piece, but it's not easy to do a piece in a popular genre and still nail it. And Sterling did too for his/her genre. If I had to go with the which one I want to spend money on then mine goes to MissWriteNow.

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  18. While both could use some polishing, MissWriteNow gets my vote--fun, easy to get into, good pacing. Sterling's piece reads a bit choppy and lacks rhythm. Also, it was hard for me to get into it because there are so many people introduced in the first few paragraphs.

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  19. Voting for Sterling. I'm not a huge fan of either of them - Sterling's piece only grabbed me at the end and Miss's was a little overhanded with history. I also wanted a fact, not an assumption, about the deal. But Sterling's piece did capture in the last 100 words or so once the girl was asking for his help.

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  20. Great battle!
    MissWriteNow gets my vote! I enjoyed both works, but MissWriteNow suckered me in with that teen male voice! Great job writers!

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  21. Voting for sterling. I think there's a lot going on in that piece that implies a lot of conflict both personal and external. I sort of want to know how each character reached where they are up to this point.

    MissWriteNow is more of a preference thing. I don't enjoy reading about such subjects. Social stakes bore me a little, especially that of the YA kind as they are usually quite typical or cliche.

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  22. I applaud both authors for having the guts to enter a contest and for opening themselves to receiving the opinions of strangers.

    A.M. Sterling's piece was a little dry for me. I didn't connect to any of the characters whatsoever, and a bit of the dialogue seems to border on exposition in an almost info-dumping manner for the sake of setting the story up so early on. I agree with another commenter who said it was unrealistic for the first sacrifice victim to stifle screams...obviously not gagged since she had the choice to stifle her screams. I have to disagree with another person who thought the author was clever to 'remember' to have the gag removed so the girl could scream out. That is not being clever...that's called being consistent. The gag doesn't even seem necessary in the first place if it's to be removed before death anyway. The first sacrifice clearly didn't have one when she was killed. It seems the gag is only mentioned in the second sacrifice just so the author could show cleverness that he/she thought to have it removed in time. To have such a contrived situation to set up Tamora's ability to speak, I would have liked to have seen something more substantial coming out of the second victims mouth than pleads for help, like a declaration of a misunderstanding that has led to war (?) or a declaration of possible corruption that led to the sacrifices. And I would have liked to have seen more originality in the method of sacrifice. In this sample, we have a method used by a real culture in our history and the eclipse made me instantly think of the movie, Apocalypto, even though the eclipse caused a different reaction in the film.

    I think it might have been helpful to set things up a little better with an opening that begins a little earlier in the story, like maybe the last interaction between Darius and Tamora. If that is too far back, then maybe a start that takes readers to before the sacrifices are beginning, like the preparation of, so we have a sense of somebody, anybody, before just plopping the reader in an action-opening.

    Watch the use of repetitive adverbs. Sharply was used twice very close together and I don't think the first one was even needed since gasps don't need any sort of descriptive.

    And please change 'his teeth gritted' to 'he gritted his teeth'.

    Criticism aside, none of it was enough that I would have stopped reading had there been more to read.

    MissWriteNow's sample was a better read for me. I felt connected to the characters and their situations, and I liked the use of description. I've placed a piece of the MissWriteNow's piece here.... >> I see something I’ve never seen there before. Like one of those mangy puppies that hangs on the street corner. << There seems to be something missing here to bring these two together.

    I also would have continued reading this piece had there been more material.

    Winner for me here is MissWriteNow. Though I would likely enjoy a story like A.M. Sterling's more, this is a writing contest and the writing, characters, and setting beat out the non-original feel, starting-the-story-in-the-wrong-place feel, and the super unrealistic feel of the first sacrifice in the Sterling piece.

    I'd like to wish both authors luck as they continue his/her writing endeavors.

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  23. MissWriteNow.
    The piece pulled me in. Great voice. And I chuckled from beginning to end.

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  24. MissWriteNow gets my vote. Sounds like a good beginning to a funny coming of age story.

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  25. A.M. Sterling gets my vote. What a great, dark story. Or section of a story, that is. I'd like to read more.

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  26. I vote for MissWriteNow. The voice and pacing were excellent. I genuinely enjoyed the piece.

    In A.M. Sterling's piece, I thought the writing could be tightened up a bit. Also, not having the benefit of the story before this scene occurred, I didn't feel particularly invested in the death's or the MC's dilemma.

    Congrats to both of you though!

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  27. Miss Write Now gets my vote. I agree the voice and pacing were excellent and these were kids I'd want to spend a few hundred pages with.

    AM Sterling, my main constructive commentary is that there are a whole lot of characters and titles thrown during a very short amount of time, and some of the names are unusual enough to give pause, which is not always a good thing when you're trying to keep track of everyone. There are also a whole bunch of adverbs/adjectives that you really don't need because the story is already gripping.

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