WRiTE CLUB 2015 - Bout #15


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 #15.  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 Contemporary Realistic Fiction genre and weighing in at 500 words, please welcome to the ring……..Missy Major




Sometimes the rushing hiss of a rainstorm can make the world feel like an empty shell. At least, it does today. The mug of coffee will never be able to reach the coldness I feel inside and out. Each patter of rain against the window raises a new goosebump on my flesh. A shiver starts at the back of my neck and spreads over my skin. I clasp the mug of steaming coffee a little tighter.

How long will it be this time?

The thing about Michael, that one bitter truth, is that he isn't mine. As much as I'd love to claim even the smallest part of him, it isn't a possibility. I know this. Really, I do. The most I hope is to be a fleeting thought at the periphery of his mind every so often. If I'm really indulging my fantasies, I imagine his tall frame striding into a thrift store. The sun will glint off a vase just so, or the delicate etching on an antique decanter will catch his eye and my name will whisper in his memory. Then, the moment will pass, but at least it happened.

Thunder rumbles low in the distance and I draw my robe tighter at the waist. Through the rain streaked window I watch the world dissolve into a gray haze. 

It's been ten days already. Ten days without Michael. There have been much longer stretches, of course. There have been some so long that I drew deep breaths and braced myself for the shards of reality to slash him from my life forever. Yet, some unexpected evening, the key would turn in the lock and he'd stroll in looking older but more radiant than ever. 

"Oh, Lil, you're up," he'd say, knowing full well I'm a night owl. "Do you happen to have a pot of coffee on?"

I’d mask my joy with a pretend frown. “What mischief have you been up to all this time? I was beginning to think I’d see you in the obits by now.”

His brown eyes would twinkle and we’d both laugh away the dusty collection of weeks of his absence until all that remained was cozy companionship once more.

I can’t help but smile as I think of it. It makes me wish this won’t be one of his prolonged absences, although I have nothing to do with it.

A timid throat clearing reminds me that I still have a purpose in life, separate from the whereabouts of Michael.

“Good morning, Tom!” I say, standing, as if I hadn’t already spent the morning daydreaming of Michael instead of planning the days meals for Tom. “Did you sleep well?”

“You know I get the best sleep of my life here. Finally getting to use that creative energy is exhausting!”
 
He smiles with crooked teeth, his bald head gleaming like a polished gazing ball. He’s a banker with a mind-altering thirst for poetry. I don’t expect he’ll ever publish anything but he tries.
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And in the other corner, representing the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre with 499 words let me introduce to you……….Aiden Brie




She had to be close. For the past year he’d grown stronger. He could feel her breath forcing the blood through his veins, feel her dragging him forward. He didn’t recognize himself anymore: dark, patchy skin; wrinkles etched into wrinkles; hair almost transparent, coarse, sparse.

This separation was intolerable. Infinite. He had to find her.

Now.

Of all the derelict planets on this derelict side of the galaxy, why’d she have to crash on Presser-7?

Here, they’d eat her alive.

The distant streaks of fire in the sky above the coastline had scorched his skin. He clambered up a steep overhang, legs aching, and squinted to search. Ahead of him, four kilometers through a scant forest, lay Yuca, a city of scattered shacks and merchant stalls and dirty children. Past that, settling into the tide, was the freshly burning remains of his ship.

She was as beautiful and broken as the day she had flung him off like a bucking horse, ignoring his desperate, shrieking protests, his death-grip on her hull, before she slammed into the sea. She had thrown him as far as she could, a millenium back. It had saved his life but crushed his heart. He’d watched cities rise and fall as he waited, alone, while her life sustained his for a thousand years.

He scrambled down the rocks and through the emaciated trees. In town he scanned the shops selling ocean glue candies and laser traps and Y-fuel cells and spiced stars and black market transbeamers. It was a copy of every other superstitious Cat-5 scavenger planet he’d ever sold to. He took a deep breath and it stung and he knew they were tearing her apart. Pain shot through his gut as he ran, groaning, toward the beach.

He crumpled onto the sand, gripping his head, and blood trickled from his ear. Scavengers had put out the fires and were climbing over her hull like ants, stripping her sails and rudder and deck for scraps. He screamed and pushed himself to his feet, staggering toward the men who didn’t know they were killing him. Killing her.

A scavenger saw him, cried Kalusa!, Wraith!, and they all shouted and rushed away from the old man dragging his bloody, ancient body toward them.

He collapsed against her. A rope dangled lazily over her side and he grabbed it and managed to heave himself up. He lay on her deck, breathed with her, slowly, the enchantment tingling in his fingertips. He pressed them into her, felt her grow warmer and warmer. He opened his eyes.

Her sails were growing back.

The burned scars ripping through her hull were melting away.

The deck was stretching back underneath him where it had been stripped.

He jumped up and laughed and whooped and she trembled beneath him, whole and perfect, and he felt her laugh, too. She rose until the city was nothing.

Then her sails caught a westerly interstellar wind and, with a roar, she flew toward the stars.
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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!

 

25 comments

  1. Somewhat difficult. Missy Major's writing was a tad overdone and not the kind of story I would usually read, but generally competent. Aiden Brie crammed what amounts to a short story into 500 words, which I think was a mistake (sudden magical healing at the end before flying away without trouble was a rushed and unsatisfying conclusion), but it is also competently written and creative.

    After a few minutes deliberation, I'll have to go with my honest gut and say Aiden Brie.

    Is it just me, or has the quality of submissions gone up this week?

    - Aaron (at work again)

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  2. I'll be frank. Missy Major is a good writer, but I didn't care for this thread, at all. Nothing enticed me about it. Nothing breaks my patience more than a womananizer. I wouldn't keep reading.

    I'm voting for Aiden Brie. It may have been crammed in, but it was uber creative and nice little twist with "her" being his ship. I imagined he was dying on the boat, and that's why it all came back together to lift him back to the stars. Simply because the author made him sound like he was about to dye by his health descriptions. I might be wrong. Great job Aiden Brie, can't imagine what you could do with a few more words!

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  3. This is another tough one, primarily because I agree with Staci Smurf's assessment of Missy Major. The writing was superior to Aiden Brie's, but I didn't connect with the story. In the first place, rainstorms tend either to invigorate or soothe me. Very rarely to they make me feel like the world is an empty shell. I also felt a bit like maybe the author relied too heavily on rain to set the mood. And then... I'm not sure exactly is going on between these people. Is Michael married to someone else (in which case, I have zero time for him), or is he just selfishly oblivious to this woman? And Tom? What's the relationship here? I'm wondering if Lil runs some sort of retreat for artists/writers, which could make for an interesting story if she fell in love with a clueless artist, but this 500 word sample doesn't make any of that clear. On the bright side, with the possible exception of the concern that using rain to set the mood is a bit cliche', all of this is completely subjective and I'm sure other readers will love this piece for the very reasons that give me pause.

    Aiden Brie did feel rushed and could definitely use some polishing, as well as another 500 words to flesh out this world. That said, it feels like the author has a well-developed world (or worlds!) waiting for the reader. I loved the connection between the man and his ship, and was intrigued by the time-travel element. I did wonder, on a scientific level, how sails would work for intergalactic travel.

    Aiden gets my vote for fresh ideas, but as you go forward with this story, take some time to fully immerser the reader in your world and as with any good sci-fi story, make sure your science checks out, even if it's just an explanation that in THIS universe... this is how gravity works.

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  4. My vote goes to Missy Major. The writing was smoother. I couldn't get in to Aiden Brie's because the first paragraph was so confusing. The thoughts all seemed jumbled and disconnected.

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  5. Ms Major lost me with the unsympathetic MC and the overly romantic prose. Mid-way through I was hoping that Michael would turn out to be a cat; a hope dashed with "the key turning..." I didn't care for the introduction of Tom so late in the narrative.

    Aiden Brie, though it felt incomplete and hurried, gave me a character I could care about in empathy-worthy peril. My vote goes to Aiden.

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  6. I feel like I don't need to repeat what everyone else has already said.

    Aides gets my vote today :)

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  7. My vote is for Missy Major, but I will warn against seeming too melodramatic in the opening paragraph. The beginning sets the tone for the entire story and I found the description to be a bit heavy-handed. But I think in all in all that the writing is polished and I prefer the style and tone to the second piece.

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  8. I'm voting for Missy Major today. The prose was just gorgeous and I felt a lot of sympathy for the MC and her situation. I did enjoy Aiden Brie's piece, but I was very confused by the opening paragraph and thought the pacing was a bit rushed.

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  9. I couldn't stay tuned in with Missy Major's story. Aiden Brie kept me hook for much longer. Writing was good for both. Missy's was a little bit better. In the end, my vote goes to Aiden.

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  10. Neither piece grabbed me, but Aiden Brie's at least had some action going for it (sort of), so that one gets my vote.

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  11. Missy major. I liked both pieces, but both needed a stronger editing hand

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  12. Missy for me. Aiden's piece had good action, but it brought up questions and not of the 'let's turn the page' kind.

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  13. I'm going with Missy Major here. Now, I'm not a fan of all that prose, but the second piece felt too rushed for me to vote yes. They were both well written and I enjoyed them. Great job!

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  14. Back from holiday and voting backwards to Mondays post!

    I'm going with Aiden today as I felt it had more going on with the story.
    Missy's, although well written, felt like it had less going on and it didn't really grab me.

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  15. My vote is for Aiden Brie.

    Interesting that both pieces have a character in the aftermath of separation and in the agony of longing to reunite, though the worlds and times are not at all alike. There is an even bigger difference in how masterfully each author manages to convey the experience. Aiden Brie is rich with original images of what brought on the crises, how the man was dumped in what amounts to the armpit of the universe, separated from his ship that he loved, not just as a possession, but as a companion. Now his ship is now at the mercy of scavengers. The only value they see is the salvage and could not begin to appreciate the life of it all, as known to the man who longs to reunite with her. The entire emotional experience is firmly grounded in the unique, concrete details of the scene and the movements of the characters. I didn't find that the opening was confused. The writer knew exactly what s/he was doing when letting us start out thinking this this character was longing for for a woman deeply loved and missed. The feelings are the same.

    Missy Major, on the other hand, is simply stocked with cliche trappings of abandonment and longing. The weather is dreary, there's a feeling of unrelenting chilliness, there's the key finally turning in the door. There's joy (by claim, not depiction) at the sound of that key. It is hard to tell if Tom is a fill-in boyfriend for when Michael is not around, in which case, the woman isn't any more respectful of Tom than Michael is of her and lessens any sympathy I might feel for her.
    Or, as someone else suggested, is this a sort of writer's retreat with Tom being one of the guest writers. Maybe that's what Michael is too, and she wishes he picked up on her more personal feelings for him and wishes he felt the same way about her. If that's the case, she would be a much more appealing, complex, and interesting character than some woman who's thrilled with the slightest crumb of attention from some womanizer who knows he can just walk back into her life when he happens to get around to her again. Just walk in. No questions asked. The fact that he has his own key to return with (unlike a current guest writer who would hand his key in after a stay) makes me think he's the womanizing boyfriend with a lifelong license to treat her like crap.

    So part of my problem with the piece is the quality of the writing compared to the other piece. The other is a personal preference of the sort of thing I'd like to read or not.

    I actually don't read much science fiction, but I have enjoy the being in the hands of a masterful writer, and am so drawn into the world and life depicted in Aiden Brie that I'd love to get hold of that book or anything else that author may have written.

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  16. I liked the voice in Missy Major's, and it kept me reading. I couldn't follow Aiden Brie's so my vote goes to Missy Major.

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  17. Both interesting. I'm not entirely sure I know what's going on in either. Missy paints a clearer emotional picture, and Aiden a clearer world imagery. The being thrown through time is interesting. I almost felt connected to the character at some spots, but fell just a little short. Probably with more words, Aiden could win. But as it is, I'm voting Missy Major. I'm not sure who the three characters are, or how they are related, but I do understand the feelings.

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  18. Had a hard time with both. Missy M, although pretty prose seemed a bit overly done. Aiden B's, I was just lost.

    My vote goes to Missy Major.

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  19. Missy Major- I'm guessing Michael is a step-son. And Tom is a B&B guest. Or they both are B&B guests. Something along those lines. It's an interesting piece. The feelings are easy to understand, but the nature of the relationships is unclear.

    Aiden Brie- I'm guessing this is Stargate fanfiction. I like the imagery. Obviously the relationship is a Wraith to a Wraith ship.
    You have my vote, Aiden.

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  20. Aiden Brie - lots of action and very descriptive but a bit hurried...
    Missy Major - great prose and I like the voice.
    A tough one.
    Today, my vote goes to Missy Major.

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  21. First line of Missy was awesome; and it went downhill from there. Too much whiny introspection. I get no sense of the character aside from her deep depression. I wouldn't mind if it seemed like it was going somewhere though, but the random thoughts didn't pull me in.

    Aiden needs some work - too many "she" pronouns, tighten the writing to make it more visceral - but it was a cool flash fiction. If the opening is expanded on, make it more painful and emotive as he crawls out of whatever hole he's been burried in and include why he can come to her rescue now as opposed to a thousand years ago (and why the denizens are just now scavenging the ship), this could be an awesome 1200-1500 flash. Pacing is the key, the tone is already engaging. The ship needs a name.

    I vote for Aiden, and wish him/her luck with developing this flash story to its full potential. Excellent concept.

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