WRiTE CLUB 2015 - Special 4Way Cage Bout

If you showed up today expecting a quarter-final bout and are confused, then you should take some time and read my Sunday post HERE which will explain everything.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way...lets get going.  This special bout is between four writers...each in a separate corner...each with a new writing sample...and each given a special generic pen name for this one bout.  Your job is a little more complicated than a regular bout...vote for TWO samples that resonates with you the most.  It is not necessary to rank them in any order.

As always, we encourage mini-critiques of all pieces - but in a constructive way.

The voting for this special bout will remain open until Wednesday, July 8th at 6 PM CST.

Let's do this!

In the first corner I present to you Writer #1.


Pineapple-laced, baked to perfection ham assaults the deepest layers of nose. It careens through my head, triggering that annoying drooly effect. Like a dog about to get his Thanksgiving bone—that’s what I imagine I look like right now.

“Not yet,” William scolds, smacking my hungry fingers. “Coffee first.”

Brown liquid drizzles from the pot, into the most expensive looking mug I’ve ever laid eyes on. I swivel the tiny cup on the saucer, examining the fancy painted flowers and arc of the rim. This little thing could easily pay the light bill in my tiny apartment.

William lifts and blows at his steaming share of coffee. “Try without cream first. This is the best coffee in the world.”

I’ve visited my fair share of street corner coffee shops, always dumping enough sugar and cream to energize an entire army of preschoolers, but I’ll try it his way first. I sip at the hot energy. “Not bad.”

“Not bad?” William says, rolling his eyes. “This is the best in the world. You’ll never taste better coffee than this.”

Another drizzle runs down my throat. It’s smooth. It’s warm. But, coffee connoisseur, I am not. I’ll just take his word for it.

Turning to the sound of bare feet thumping expensive hardwood floors, I see Steph. She plops in a chair across from me. “Ham and coffee? Sounds good to me,” she says, reaching for a slice of the baked goodness.

I nudge the pot of coffee her direction. “Try the coffee,” I say, in my most refined voice, like I know what I’m talking about and this fancy house and uppity food has been part of my life since birth.

“It’s Kopi Luwak. The best in the world,” William informs Steph.

I’m still on the fence about that whole best in the world thing. But whatever. I’ll drink the coffee if it means I can tear into that ham when my cup goes empty.

Steph cocks an eyebrow at the pot. “Isn’t that the coffee that’s made with monkey poop?”

Hot liquid spews from my mouth, across the table, across the beautifully dressed ham. “Excuse me? Monkey poo?”

“Not really,” William says, taking another drink. “Monkeys eat the coffee beans then poo them out. It enhances the bean’s flavor.” He says this all matter-of-factly, like drinking animal feces shouldn’t bother me in the least.

“That’s just not natural, William. It’s weird,” Steph says, swiping at giggle induced tears streaming her face.

I reach for an ice-clanking glass of water. Gulp after gulp, I attempt to dilute the poo bacteria swimming in my belly. “Do your parents know about this?”

“Of course,” he says. “They pay good money for this coffee. A hundred and fifty a pound.”

Water shoots from my nose, drowning the perfectly folded napkin on my plate. A hundred dollars for monkey shit—beyond crazy. Ready to bolt from my temporary life of luxury, I point at the meat on the table. “Where’d that ham come from?”
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In the next corner I present to you Writer #2.


Submission removed at writers request.

 
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In the far corner I present to you Writer #3.





I stood with Cliff’s buddies and watched as the bonfire’s light made their faces look warmer. Their matching Marine haircuts made it hard to tell them apart on a moonless night, so I clung to Cliff’s side as much out of fear of grabbing the wrong guy as out of affection. Through my favorite sweater I felt Cliff’s fingers wander down my spine and hook in the waistband of my jeans.

I still hadn’t worked up the nerve to tell Cliff my plan to transfer colleges, but I had until Sunday night before I had to get back to campus. I had twenty-four hours to change our lives.

“What’s your major?” one guy asked and took a swig of his longneck.

“Chemistry,” I squeaked. Did I just become a soprano? I tried to clear my throat.

“Evans got himself a smart girl,” the guy laughed, and then they all laughed. I smiled to give the impression I was laughing, too.

Yeah, I was smart enough to have a full scholarship waiting for me at a new college only fifteen minutes from his base. I would transfer and we’d date like a real couple. We would be together like other people in love without my mother’s snooty alma mater and the USMC getting between us. We would go for walks after class or just hang out in my dorm room without watching the clock because we could do it again the next day. We would finally be together.

“I think Shelby just needs to ditch that girls’ school and go to State,” said another guy.

This was it! The introduction that I’d been too nervous to say was said for me. I wasn’t even sure which one said it, but at that moment I could’ve hugged him.

“I think so, too” I tried to say, but my words were lost under Cliff’s voice.

“She needs to stay at her fancy girls’ college and get a real education.” Cliff punctuated his statement with a swig of beer.

Cliff’s voice sounded too harsh, like there would be no changing his mind. I noticed a look pass between two of his friends like there was something more going on here.

I didn’t hear much after that. Male voices swirled around me in a confusion of background noise. The flickering firelight made Cliff’s face ghoulish, but I couldn’t look away. I tried my best to breathe, but air didn’t help. Nothing was going to help. I had my answer-- Cliff didn’t want me.

“Shelby?” The Marine standing next to Cliff said my name and laughed. “You still with us?”

“Oh, yeah. Sorry.” I smiled at Cliff’s buddies and tried to act normal.

“Sure you’re OK?” He wouldn’t let it go.

“I’ll survive.” I whispered, but he heard me.

He glared at Cliff, but Cliff didn’t look at him.

“Ready to go?” Cliff asked.

I nodded but couldn’t look away from the bonfire, and just like it, I couldn’t stop myself from crumbling to ashes.
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In the last corner I present to you Writer #4.



The tepid water lapped at his ankles, his feet slowly sinking in the hardened mud. Minnows darted around his toes, silver flashes and childhood memories. A thick haze clouded the forest of condos that now covered the distant side of the lake.

He sloshed his way back to shore, watching her as she bent down and picked up a rock. She smiled as she stood, tiny crow’s feet around her eyes, the wind gently tossing a wisp of blond hair across her face. Ancient hemlocks behind her dancing slowly in the breeze, approving of his lover.

“Watch this,” she said and cocked her arm back, a flat black rock between her thumb and fingers. The rock skimmed in the air over the lake, then hit the water at a perfect angle, propelling it onward, still in graceful flight. It skipped eight times before slipping under without a splash, ripples diffusing outward, their commotion the only blemish on the still surface.

She handed him a stone. It too was smooth and black. The sun had warmed it and it felt good in his hand. “Your turn.”

He clutched it and double pumped. “Stand back,” he said then released. The throw looked perfect and the rock skipped along the water two times but then belly-flopped with a splash.

Alison responded by skipping another stone, this one traveling further. He didn’t bother counting.

“Ten,” she said.

“Blind luck,” he replied. “And anyway, it was only nine.”

“Still beats you.” She kissed him gently. Her victory dance.

A kingfisher flew by, from one side of the cove to the other, blue with white patches on its wing and breast before it disappeared behind the trees.

“We’ve been doing this for a year,” he said, fully expecting her smile to fade. It didn’t.

“Yes. We have.”

He swallowed and glanced out over the lake again. “Maybe we can give it another year.” He didn’t look at her as he said it.

“Maybe.”

A cloud, small and sleek, raced by the sun, casting brief shadows across the water.

“Here, darling,” she said, stone in hand, stringing darling out, “be a sweetie and throw this rock for me. And then hand me a wipe so I can clean my hand.”

It was a terrible imitation of his wife, but that’s how she thought of her and he never bothered to counter it. He grasped the rock and threw it, like he had in little league, playing right field, chasing down the balls that streamed past him. It went far, and stirred up a large splash that didn’t last long before the water regained it calmness, now still, a mirror image of sky and trees on the water’s edge, hiding forever the fact that a rock had just been deposited on the bottom of the lake.
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Leave your vote (and a mini-critique) for TWO of the above samples below and help determine who moves forward into the quarter-finals beginning later this week.

And always remember -- this is WRiTE CLUB...where the audience gets clobbered!


41 comments

  1. 3 is my favorite. 1 was also entertaining. I didn't feel connected enough with 4. I liked two, but not as much as 3 &1.

    So my votes are 3 & 1.

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  2. Saw your post on Sunday Don and felt compelled to read the entries.

    My vote is for #2 and #3 (3 was my favorite).

    Writer #1: slow start, beginning didn't grab me, but the ending was clever.

    Writer #2: very well written, sad excerpt. I was able to visualize the scene nicely.

    Writer #3: very intriguing story line, leaving me wanting more. Well done.

    Writer #4: very descriptive scene, but lacked intrigue to wow me.

    Good luck to all!

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  3. Writer #1 and Writer #3.

    Best of luck to everyone.

    Heather

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  4. #1 gets a whole-hearted vote. The descriptions were a little heavy, but I like this trio and want to spend more time with them.

    #2 felt a little disjointed, like you were trying to put too much into 500 words.

    I didn't feel particularly connected to #3's main character, but the writing was solid.

    With #4, pretty writing, but I'm not digging the story.

    So my votes go to Writers #1 and #3.

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  5. My vote goes to writers 1 and 4. Good luck everyone!

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  6. #1- This piece is slow to start and didn't grab my attention. When I was done reading, I didn't have any new questions.
    #2- I think this piece could have been stronger if it had all happened in one scene instead of jumping from the old man on the bicycle to the VA. If the whole scene had happened at the VA, it would have been better. That being said, I liked the premise.
    #3- Even though I didn't care for the clueless girlfriend, the writing was good.
    #4- I never understood what was going on. Was the wife dead? divorced? Was this a second wife? a mistress? imaginary? I reread it and still don't understand.
    My votes go to #2 and #3.

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  7. Writer #1 and #3 get my vote.

    #1 - Funny ending, but please look up the word drizzle. It's just not being used right here (and you used it twice) and it bugged me for some strange reason.
    #2 - Sorry, but nothing here grabbed me. It was a lot of chit chat that didn't mean much. I can't tell when the piece was set, which I think is part of the problem.
    #3 - Lots of angst, which is fine for YA or NA (I guess). I sure hope the MC gets her stuff together soon. She seems kind of wimpy to me and not someone I want to read more about.
    #4 - The first sentence didn't work for me and kind of doomed the piece in my eyes. If the mud is hardened, nothing is going to sink in it. Not even feet. Sorry, but I just wasn't interested in reading about two people I don't know throwing rocks in the lake. If this is the beginning of the piece, you need something surprising to hook the reader.

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  8. In #1, her reaction to the coffee was excellent, but before that I had a tough time getting into the characters.
    In #2, the description of the dad's disarray really drew me in, but again, I had a tough time getting to know the main characters.
    In #3, I felt like I was completely in the scene with the MC. I felt drawn in to her emotions and thoughts, as well as the setting of raucous guys around the bonfire.
    In #4, the description was excellent, but I didn't feel the tension in the piece until the last cliff-hanger lines.
    My vote goes to #3
    These are all great snippets of what looks like amazingly well-written stories - I'm just voting the best I can between the four of them.

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  9. My votes go to 1 and 3.

    Writer #1: Didn't hook me right away, but I enjoyed the characters and the humour in the scene. I was curious about your character's backstory and wanted to know more.

    Writer #2: The beginning of this piece jolted me a little and it jumped around a little. Personally, I think you could have started at the hospital and that would have cleared up some of the disjointed feelings for me. But this was still a very touching scene and I sympathized with your characters, so good job!

    Writer #3: You've got a pretty well-written and intriguing piece here. I find myself sympathizing with Shelby, however I do find that she's a little too reliant on others and that's a bit of a turn-off in a character for me because it tends to lead to less acting and more reacting, but still a good piece here.

    Writer #4: You have some lovely writing and good description, but I found that there wasn't enough tension or conflict to keep me interested.

    Thanks all for sharing!

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  10. As far as writing style goes:
    #1 is somewhat overwritten for my taste
    #2 has too much "telling" going on in it, feels disjointed
    #3 has a few awkward phrases and the voice doesn't really stand out to me
    #4 poetic but vague or confusing at times

    As far as the story goes:

    #1 If I had picked it up off a shelf, I wouldn't have kept reading after the first couple of paragraphs. But I'm glad I did because the ending made me laugh, so kudos to you!

    #2 Although heartbreaking, the piece was disjointed and my mind kept wandering while I was reading it.

    #3 I was hooked to find out what was going on, although it wasn't a standout plot. But I felt her heartbreak in the end.

    #4 Beautiful writing but I'm pretty confused about what is going on.

    In the end, I vote for #3 and #4

    #3 because if I had picked it up off a shelf, I would have kept reading to find out what happened
    #4 because I'm intrigued to find out what happened and I like the writing style

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  11. #1 left me curious as to how this trio connected. MC seems so out of place, but the other two don't seem to notice. I would definitely keep reading.

    #2 just didn't grab me. I think that perhaps the author tried to put too much in the 500 words and the result was a bit disjointed.

    #3 is well written and I enjoyed it- even though I didn't care for the MC. However, there was just enough set-up to let me imagine how things might progress and Shelby develop into a likable character. It is solid.

    #4 confused me. I really wanted to like it. The writing was lyrical, but it didn't take me anywhere. So, so close, but just not there.

    Congrats to all four authors for making it this far. My votes go to #1 and #3.

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  12. I find it difficult to vote on sample writing pieces. Since they are not stand-alone stories I am required to jump into the mind of the author and visualize the direction their story might take with what little information is given in the sample. This makes the process, for me, highly subjective.

    If these were stand-alone 500 word flash fiction pieces I would have no problem voting based on a complete story.

    In story #1 I am introduced to three characters; not one with whom I form a connection. I'm not sure where this sample leads. Will it be a story about coffee, ham, or how three people interact with each other? There is no strong direction which would lead me to ask, "What happens next?"

    In story #2 I am introduced to a child yearning to be remembered by his father. Immediately my parental instincts kick in; I want to reach into the story and give him a tight hug. When I get to the end of this sample piece I do wonder, “Will his father ever remember him?” I could see myself reading more of this story.

    For #3, as with sample #2, I am pulled into Shelby’s plight. I lightly connect to some of her feelings, and her fears. Again, there’s not a strong connection, but I am curious if she will find her inner strength and move on. I’m not sure if this piece has the strength, based on the 500 words written, to pull me in deeper.

    Then, there’s #4. The 500 words that would have gripped me might have tightened themselves around why this woman, who clearly likes to win at rock skipping–which is not a strong enough pull to pique my curiosity–was doing a terrible imitation of the man’s wife. When I finished this sample I had not formed any bond with either character that would have spurred me to read more.

    Of the four writing samples presented here, I would select #2 as having piqued my desire to know more.

    Since I can vote for two stories I will cast my vote as follows: #2 and #3.

    I would like to add a “congratulations” to these four writers. It’s not easy putting your work out here for others to critique and vote on. So… job well done to all of you!

    Cheers, Jenny @ Pearson Report
    Write Brain Challenge

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  13. #3 gets my vote.

    Congratulations to the 4 writers who made it this far! :)

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  15. My votes go to #2 and #3...in that order.


    Piece 1 - Although there is a bit of humor here, which I did sorta enjoy, it is predictable humor. I saw the monkey poop line coming, I think Stevie Wonder did too. The spitting out of the coffee, stuff coming out of his nose...cliché. And I find the last line a bit hammy, pun intended, and seems meant to give zing to an otherwise bland piece.

    I was really turned off by a breakfast scene. If this were the start of a novel, this start would be a huge mistake.

    This piece lacks any characterization, making the piece flat. And having the MC as an out of place (poor vs. rich) person to others seems cliché.

    There is a word missing in the first sentence, 'my' before nose. I find the use of 'drizzle' awkward. I like that word used to describe rain or frosting. There are also a couple of misused commas.

    However, the mechanics of the writing are pretty sound, minus easy fixes, so I see the potential here...author just needs to work on characterization, originality, and adding depth that allows the reader to swim in a wonderful story, rather than skimming its surface.


    Piece 2 - A rich, poignant piece. It's perfectly written, and the characterization is wonderful. There's a reversal of roles between the children and the father that moved me. There's a promise of a deep story....nice!

    I have a favorite line....His round face kept popping over our shoulders like a bouncing moon....It's a slightly humorous line that paints a clear picture of the scene. Its placement in a heart-wrenching scene is wonderful. That poor boy is trying so hard to get his dad's attention...to be remembered by him.

    Ugh...this piece tugs at my heartstrings.


    Piece 3 - A really good piece with good characterization. This piece was a close second to my first vote for #2.

    My favorite line....Their matching Marine haircuts made it hard to tell them apart on a moonless night, so I clung to Cliff’s side as much out of fear of grabbing the wrong guy as out of affection....Man, that paints the picture.

    There is an error, there is the missing possessive apostrophe for 'Evans' at the start of the 5th paragraph.

    Still, characterization is nicely done, so this was an easy 2nd vote for me. This too promises a deep story.


    Piece 4 - This is a piece with tremendous potential. It just needs some tightening. There are numerous errors: sentence fragment, commas, misuse of further vs. farther, and a bit of awkward phrasing. BUT, there is promise of a deep story here, which I like to see in pieces as small as those posted for this contest.

    My favorite line....A cloud, small and sleek, raced by the sun, casting brief shadows across the water....The placement is perfect, reflecting the shift that follows. Wonderful.

    Nothing cliché or predictable about this piece, and if it weren't for the writing issues, this would have been a close call with piece #3.

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    Replies
    1. Just for my own information, could you clarify your comment about Piece 3 that you say Evans needs a possessive apostrophe? I read it to mean that in the quotation Evans is the subject, got is the verb, and girl is the direct object. I am not trying to be nitpicky about your post, just grammatically curious.

      I have enjoyed your comments and am learning a lot about my own writing by reading the comments of other reviewers on other writers' work. This competition is a wonderful outlet for readers and writers alike.

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    3. Wow. I took another look at the piece, and honestly, I don't know what possessed me (pun intended) to make that comment because you are absolutely right.

      Thanks for pointing that out. I try to be thorough and accurate, so I am a little embarrassed.

      Sorry to the author of piece 3! You have a perfectly written piece in this bout, like piece 2, and I'm glad you got one of my votes.

      Delete
    4. Night Writer- No problem! If you had some grammar wisdom to impart, I was looking for you to lead the way. As I said earlier, I have enjoyed reading your comments and find your honesty and insight refreshing.
      Don't be embarrassed. I wasn't sure if I was reading it as it was written and thought I had missed something.

      Please, keep commenting!

      Delete
    5. Thanks! I will keep commenting. My eyes (traitorous in this instance) obviously read the sentence differently than how it's worded, so for the balance of the contest, I will be reading the posted pieces aloud because ears are more reliable...which is why I will read my MS aloud and/or use text-to-speech during the final editing stages. I recommend this for all writers. ; )

      I appreciate the diplomatic way you brought up my mistake. Very classy. Thank you.

      Delete
  16. #1 is good, but uses a great deal of adjectives. The story is fun and light but not necessarily addictive enough to make me long for more. Points for making me smile though. Writer 1 should be proud of the work, but keep refining the craft.

    #2 has a strong voice. It isn't something I'd usually read, but I recognise it as something that would do well in the genre. So it earns one of my votes.

    #3 felt profound. This has my vote, hands down.

    #4 was hard to fully grasp the overall desires of the characters. It feels like something that's almost there, but just not quite yet. I hope writer 4 keeps plucking away, because it looks like one day s/he would be great.

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  17. # 1 - Though I'm not a fan of reading minute details of eating and drinking, I appreciated the balance of description, dialog, and action, with a nice touch of humor. I didn't feel a bond with any of the characters, but they were amusing.
    #2 - Poignant situation, and some very pretty phrases. I agree with another comment that the scene could have been compressed into one setting. I wanted more about the narrator earlier on, though. It's hard to relate to a disembodied voice.
    #3 - A wholly unsympathetic MC to my mind in a cliche'd situation.
    #4 - Felt forced, and some of the peculiarly worded descriptions threw me. Feet don't sink into hardened mud. Sounds like the bird might change colors - blue with white patches...before it flew into the trees (what colors after?) And the first sentence of the last para was confusing. It, she, her, and another it - without clear antecedents, Pretty sure there's a POV shift in there too. Still, nice use of symbols, and I think these characters show the most promise for an interesting story. Just needs more polishing.
    My votes are for #1 and #2

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  18. I assessed these pieces mostly in terms of characterization and plotting, with the idea that what characters say and do should arise from who they are and the circumstances they are facing, not the author prodding them down a certain path that will lead to a place pre-decided by the author, even when the things they are made to say and do (or not do) don’t fit or are not realistic.

    Voting for #2 and #3

    Writing was tight in both, characterization excellent. In both pieces, the plot grew out of who they were and what was important to them.

    Writer #2 - Clemmy's efforts to get what he wants are blatant and insistent, but that is fitting for a kid desperate for acknowledgement from someone who used to include him and care for him. And the dad's blunt response is equally realistic as he's overwhelmed by Clemmy's behavior. Not a very uplifting scene, but realistic.

    Writer #3 – Unlike Clemmy in #2, Shelby is suitably holding back on announcing what she wants to do and finding out what Cliff thinks about it. She’s waiting to determine the best moment to say what she meant to say. It’s significant that Cliff is the one person who is very connected to Shelby, who’s in one location, and to his comrades at the military base a good distance away. This makes the guys privy to things Shelby is not. I like the way she picks up on their body language, getting her answer from that and one simple line of Cliff talking over her. This is a very skilled an economical way of portraying this scene. It’s much more dramatic than a drawn-out argument between her and Cliff would have been.

    Writer #1: Interesting to have a refined guy with supposedly elegant taste drinking something as foul-sounding as coffee processed by monkey poo. Characters in this piece are mostly types, though, not very original, and there’s no hint of who they are in relation to each other. While there’s room for exaggeration in a comic piece, one spew through the mouth was enough. Adding liquid poring from the nose later was overdoing it. That William would just go on matter-of-factly expounding his posh views without recoiling from a double spew at his table is not realistic at all. Seems that having William not react, not even instinctively recoil as anyone would, to something so gross at his table is just conveniently saving space within the word limit for the pre-decided punch line. A strong point for this piece is the crisp, economical dialogue. Well done.

    Writer #4: A really strong point is the way the setting participates in the lives of these people, echoing and accenting what is going on. I really can't explain why, but I felt like I could not get close enough to these characters to get a palpable sense of who they were. They seem to be in a stagnant place in their relationship, which is not necessarily bad, but I was surprised and confused by it being the guy who remarks that they've been doing this for a year and wondering if he can go on this way for yet another year.

    He's the one with a spouse, the one who would have to make a decision of whether to "stay committed" (as bad a job as he's been doing at that) or end that marriage and go forward with this new relationship. The girlfriend's mocking of the wife sounds cruel and makes the boyfriend look foolish for having chosen such a wife at all. Sounds like being with either woman is a bad choice for him to make now, but he doesn't seem to view himself as needing to make one. So I don't get a sense of where the story is going. There’s some beautiful writing here, but I think it would help to have something more palpable at stake. Otherwise it’s more of a portrait of the status quo with no sense of impending change that would generate a developing narrative.

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  19. #3 is my favourite!
    My second vote goes to #1

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  20. Hi Don .. I go for #2 and #3 ... they said something to me ...

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  21. I vote for #1 because I liked the humor and #3 because I like the description.

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  22. My votes are for Writer #2 and Writer #3.

    Comments on all four, in numerical order:

    Writer #1. This is entertaining. William may be a bit too much of a "straight man" during the outbreaks of physical humor.

    There are a few technical points that mar the smoothness. "Uppity" is a word usually said scornfully of someone you consider lower than you getting out of their place, and I'm not sure how it applies to food in this situation, especially since the narrator is actually craving the ham at that point. Several additional word groups, e.g., "giggle-induced," need to be joined by hyphens.

    Writer #2. The man on the bicycle seems to be a dramatic character at first appearance, but turns out to be a foil, providing a platform for launching the boy's questions about his father. Presumably in a longer form than 500 words, this foundation could appear more naturally within the story.

    One amazing thing in this writing is how the children's ages and situation are conveyed by questions, answers, and interactions that don't spell them out explicitly. This saves words, and in a way makes the boy's longing more intense and the girl's helplessness more absolute.

    Writer #3. This is a rich and complete scene, framed by fire. Shelby utters just six words, yet there is a weariness as if she had talked herself out for hours.

    At the end it is clear the story is just beginning: Shelby has not just two prestigious institutions to deal with, but Cliff's pronouncement may turn out to be more than a rejection, and Cliff's buddy's solicitude may be more than a concern of the moment.

    Writer #4. The interactions in the story leave a sense of unease, and the writing carries this effectively into the natural setting, whose idyllic facade is subverted from the start by haze and condos. Those hemlocks "approving" this unnamed man's lover are his own way of denying what the stone-skipping contest shows: that this remarkable woman is not "his" at all.

    I was not sure why she was given a name halfway through - it isn't needed, and no one else has one. The closing negotiation for a one-year extension of whatever is going on needs some irony, but has sarcasm instead.

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  23. These were all very good scenes, by themselves or as flash. I see hints of larger story and character plots in each one, and I am intrigued by the "hook."

    I am voting for #1, as the story works very well as a flash; a complete scene that can easily end here. The sensory and emotional perceptions and situation are believeable, I can see myself feeling this way at trying something new, possibly at a friends opening of a new business. I am not sure I would be engaged with the characters in a longer work, but I do feel as if I know and understand these young people.

    I am also voting for #2. I like the language, the voice, and especially the subject matter. I sense I'll need a box of tissue to read on. I am engaged with the characters and concept.

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  24. Everyone has already shared the feedback I was going to post, so I'll just give my votes for #1 and #3.

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  25. I vote for #1 because it was fast paced and funny and for #3 because it mentioned the U.S. Marines!

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  26. My votes: #2 and #4

    #1 - As a flash piece, this is good, very funny. But since it relies on well-established, predictable stereotypes (classy versus crude, in this case), as stand-up comedy does, I'd lose interest in a longer work with these characters. I like characters that grow with experience. Types stay the same.

    #2 - Interesting characters. I want to know if Clemmy will find his way back into his dad's heart. I think the scene with the bike guy would be stronger if that guy had said something directly to one of the kids instead of just whizzing by talking to himself.

    #3 - Very good for many of the reasons already mentioned. I feel let down by Shelby's visions of living closer to Cliff.
    Would like to see her yearn for something less like what a generic couple does and more special to her individual heart. This entry also relies on typical notions of class. Here it's the snooty expensive private college where, of course, you'll get a quality education vs. a State college, where the common masses go and get a so-so education.

    #4 - A bit short on plot, as others have noted, but there really is a well-crafted interplay between characters and setting, as well as some artful style in writing. I wish the girlfriend were not so snide. Worth a vote anyway.

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  27. Vote: Entry 2 and Entry 3

    Entry 1: The story has humor, but the coffee gushing from the mouth was enough wildly gross stuff for 500 words without trying to top it with a nose spew.

    Entry 2: I’m engaged enough to read on and find out what becomes of Lizzy, Clemmy, and their dad.

    Entry 3: Good plot. This one effectively depicts an awful way for Shelby to discover she’s not as precious to her boyfriend as she thought she was. She ultimately gets the picture, and her pain is magnified as she sees that everybody around her does too.

    Entry 4: Here we have a substantial snapshot of where these characters stand with each other at this point in their relationship, but the story could use some hint of things heading someplace, for better or worse.

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  28. Blogger must hate me today! This is my third attempt to vote!

    Voting #3 and #1

    #1-Interesting character relationships. Funny.
    #2-Nicely written, but far too emotional for my tastes.
    #3-I really liked this one. Good character development.
    #4-This piece is too poetic for me. Try balancing those flowing lines with some shorter grounded lines.

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  29. Second attempt. #2 and #3. In both the characters made me see them, feel their emotions, and care about the characters. The way the family tried to connect in #2 was realistic and age appropriate. In #3, I could visualize this young couple from different backgrounds and different lives. Really make me want to know more.

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  31. Voting for #2 and #4.

    1 - Funny, but somewhat predictable.

    2 - Bravely takes on the deep subject of loss and the sad and enduring aftermath of war. Although, unlike the mom, the dad is still alive, he's pretty much lost to his kids as well. The writing captures a lot in the given space.

    3 - Very good, but I'm more drawn to the setting of the last piece.

    4 - I can picture every move the characters make in the setting, and this draws me in.

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  32. This one is hard. I like Writer 4 and Writer 1.

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