WRiTE CLUB 2016 - Bout #1


It's finally time to lace up those gloves and put up some dukes!

After months of preparation and anticipation, today we take the first step towards choosing the 2016  WRiTE CLUB Champion. Over the course of the next three weeks this blog will host 15 bouts (M-F) between writing samples that are identified only by the craftily selected pen names of the respective submitters. The writing can be from any genre, any age group, taken either from a larger piece of work or simply a stand alone flash fiction. The focus is on the writing...not the writer...or its categorization. The two writing samples for each bout will be randomly matched and step into the ring for a chance to find out what they're made of.

The winner of each contest is chosen by you...the reader.  Simply read each entry and leave your vote in the comment section below.  Anyone can vote, as long as you have a Google ID or belong to Google Friend Connect. Anonymous voting is not allowed. It is also customary to leave a brief critique of both pieces. You see, the comments are where the true value of this contest makes itself known. Not only do the contestants gain valuable insight about their work from those remarks, but everybody can benefit from how each piece is received and what works...and what doesn't. Please remember to remain respectful with your comments. If you see an opportunity for improvement, make it known in the most positive way possible.

How do you choose a winner? What criteria should be used? The method by which you determine who to vote for is entirely up to you.  Which one resonates with you the most? Which one makes you want to read more? Which one demonstrates a total command of the English language and how it can be used to elicit emotion or paint a mental picture you can't stop staring at. There is no hard and fast way rules for determining a winner -- and that's exactly what the publishing world is like. But today you get to decide.

The voting for each bout will remain open for one week, so even though a new bout will be posted every day, you don't miss out on anything if you miss a few days.  You can always catch up on several bouts at once if you so desire.  Once the voting period ends and the votes have been tabulated, the results will be posted HERE, on the WRiTE CLUB scorecard. After we make it through the 15 preliminary bouts, then the winners will have to continue on through cage matches, then play-offs, until there are only two left with a chance to win free admission to the 2017 DFW Writers Conference.

The voting for this bout - Bout #1 - remains open until noon on Sunday - March 13th.

You hear that? It's the bell...and its trying to tell us something.


Let me introduce to you the contestants for this bout.  In the near corner, representing the Paranormal Historical genre with 500 words, welcome to the ring Marie de France.




Prologue

Some say the woodcutter’s daughter met the wolf by chance, on the way to her grandmother’s house. Not so. The truth is that the woodcutter had long suspected that his mother-in-law was really a Bisclavret.

A werewolf.

To test the old woman, he sent his little girl, dressed in her red cape and carrying a basket of little seed-cakes, to visit her grandma. It was like baiting a trap with a rabbit. The father sharpened his axe and waited outside Grandmother’s window, hoping the demon would manifest itself.

It did. Flinging off its nightgown and cap (that is to say, every shred of humanity), the Bisclavret threw itself on the woodcutter’s daughter. The woodcutter leapt through the window, swinging his axe, which has been provided with a blade of silver. He clove the Bisclavret asunder, and to his astonishment the human part of the grandmother sprang free, cleansed of all sin and every evil intent.

The girl was too young to grasp what she was seeing. She thought her grandmother had been swallowed whole, and then hacked out of the wolf’s stomach. Her father was content to let the girl tell the story that way. The truth would have been too hard to swallow.

So—happy ending! Grandmother, wholesome and harmless now, could not even remember her nights spent roaming the forest, howling at the moon.

But in the instant before the axe fell, the Bisclavret’s fangs had pierced the little girl’s shoulder—not deeply, not enough to draw blood or require a bandage. The shoulder itched a little, that was all.

It can take almost a year before the contagion of the Bisclavret works its way completely through the victim’s veins.

Chapter 1. The Wolf Hunt

“Ach! Granny! That can’t be the ending!” Marthe cries.

“That’s as far as the story goes.”

“Then tell us another. It’s too early for bed.”

Marthe’s granny, sitting next to the fire with her back against the warm hearth wall, narrows her eyes at the children lined up on the bench before her. The five of them nestle together like peas in a pod, biggest to smallest, and Marthe’s in the middle.

“I’ll give you something better than a story,” Granny Cutter says. “The truth. If you can bear it.”

“Yes! Yes!” Marthe knows—they all know—that Mother and Father wouldn’t approve. But Mother and Father have journeyed to the harvest market.

“Well.” Granny looks doubtful. Half her face is lit fire red, and half is all shadow, so she looks as
if she’s winking. “Don’t blame me if it makes you shiver.”

Marthe wriggles with anticipation. She’s seven, and fearless. Besides, the house will keep her warm. A big fire is one thing a woodcutter’s family need never stint on.

So Granny tells them about the Bisclavret, who is sometimes man and sometimes wolf. When the fury is on him, the Bisclavret throws off his humanity and roams the forest on all fours, hunting and slaying and ravening and devouring.


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And in the far corner, representing the LitFic genre with 424 words, also welcome to the ring Zom.





Jenny checked her phone as she passed through the narrow lobby of Simon’s apartment building: 3:46 AM.

It hadn’t felt like a conscious decision to leave. Cocooned beneath the duvet, the idea had arisen as a dream-like possibility, as a right thing to do, a cutting of losses. Then her feet had been on the ground and she had discovered herself sifting the detritus of the bedroom floor for her clothes. She seemed to know what she was doing, was too dazed to argue with herself. She paused a moment to listen for the susurrus of breath coming from the other side of the bed. It continued uninterrupted.

Now, out on the street, the silence and the chill night air were helping keep reality at bay. A childhood memory passed through her mind, of bitterly cold mornings back on the farm and air that could cut your face like a razor. The city air was made of much softer stuff; it cupped her face like a lover with cold hands.

Following the pavement, moving through pools of streetlight and tree shadow, she clung to this detachment, holding her mind as still as possible lest the slightest movement set it off like a clockwork toy. This languid sense of warmth and contentment, she knew, would not survive examination. She didn’t want to think about that now. At least the lingering alcohol in her bloodstream had yet to turn traitor, no symptoms of incipient hangover beyond the numbness in her head. If anything, it was helping her cause.

As she walked, she let the scenes replay in her mind, reawakening a tremor in her loins that was part imagination, part muscle memory.

A girl alone in the night. The neighbourhood was not a dangerous one as such; the walk from Simon’s apartment back to her own no more than a kilometre or so, a quarter-hour at most. A monochrome world broken only by the red eye of a traffic light. She looked about for the surveillance cameras, her friends in this deserted streetscape. None were visible, but they must be there. Fear would have been a safe emotion, but she couldn’t bring herself to feel it.

The afternoon sky had threatened rain. Here in the darkness of night it was hard to tell, but the ground was not noticeably wet. The rain, if it had fallen at all, must have been brief. Above her the sky was a starless glow.

She hurried on. A conscious sleepwalker, walking home alone through empty streets, one shadow among many.
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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.  Read both pieces, choose the one you feel is superior, then say so in the comments below and provide a mini-critique for each.

Now go tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well.  If you're going to Tweet about this, please use the hashtag #WRiTECLUB2016. Tell them about WRiTE CLUB, where it’s not about the last man/woman standing, but who knocks the audience out!







77 comments

  1. I vote for Zom.

    For Zom: You could tighten this a bit more, ridding yourself of some filter words and getting rid the cliches. But very well done!

    For Marie de France: While I love the whole twist, I found with only 500 words that the sudden change from the prologue to chapter 1 didn't let me slip into the story like I wanted.

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  2. My vote goes to Marie.

    I'm a sucker for alternate tellings of fairy tales and popular stories and this was a nice unique twist on Little Red Riding Hood. Reading this excerpt has definitely made me thirsty for more. Brava!

    To Zom, I'm afraid I had to struggle to finish this entry. There was a lot of word salad to sift through to get to the meat of the story which was basically just a woman who was nervous walking home at night after a date? Whether you're trying to use artistic language or attempting to write a smart piece of literature I agree with Blake, I think all the cliches actually hurt this piece. The scene could've been wrapped up inside of a single paragraph and move the reader to the rest of the story.

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  3. My vote is for Marie.

    I, too, have grown to love well-done retelling, which this one feels like it will go on to be. However, I would have probably put the prologue as part of chapter 1, and made a slightly different transition. You don't have to have a prologue, and in this case, it broke up the flow. Great dialogue!

    Zom, initially, I was drawn in by the mystery of why the girl was leaving. What was compelling her? But then I began to realize I wasn't going to find out any time soon, especially not before the end of the 500 word limit. Definitely tighten it up. I think 1 or 2 paragraphs could have gotten the message across and moved the reader onto the WHY.

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  4. My vote is for Marie, although I did find the prologue with the cut to the main story along with a change in tense more of a distraction than an asset.

    For Zom, in the spirit of full disclosure, lit fic is not a genre I particularly enjoy, but even considering that, I had no particular reason to care about this MC because the piece drifted along with no purpose and no real conflict. As mentioned by others, the prose overwhelms the story at times.

    Congrats to both writers!

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  6. Marie: Intriguing opening, but jarring shift to Grandma's storytelling. If you like werewolves and such (which I don't), this may be just your thing.

    However, Zom: great atmosphere, lots of chilling (!) details and just enough backstory to keep me reading. More, please!

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  7. My vote goes to Zom.

    For Marie, I felt like the transition from prologue to chapter 1 was too jarring. And there was one line in the prologue that just threw me off for some reason, the one where grandma threw off her clothes, and it said "every shred of humanity" in parenthesis. It seemed it wouldn't be something that a fairy tale would tell, or even if someone were telling it orally, probably wouldn't add in. That, and for me at least, it feels like I've already figured out the story. (Which I could be totally wrong.)


    For Zom, I thought this peice was beautiful. Being LitFic, I'm guessing it's meant to be more focused on characters than on plot, as was evidenced in this piece. We see her maybe not so proud of what happened and making a journey through a very dark and lonely world, with the only bit of color being a solitary traffic light. I loved the imagery this evoked, which I'm hoping was the point. And the detritus of the room, one of my favorite lines, brought to mind this messy room she had to sift through. This is not my style of book, but I think it was badass.

    And like someone said, we don't know the why, but I would like to! (And I think that's most important, especially in a 500 word piece.)

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  8. My vote is Marie.

    for marie
    The prologue to chapter 1 was jarring - but it is a different type of story telling. the dialogue and descriptions during chapter 1 was beautiful and intriguing.

    For Zom,i agree with previous comments that it was a bit of a 'word salad,' even for lit fic. There were some beautiful images and eargasms, but they got lots in the shuffle. I'd consider tightening.

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  9. This was a close one for me. My vote goes to Marie.

    Marie, I really liked the hook and the old fairy tale feel of your whole piece. I did not like the tense switch on the last sentence of the fairy tale, though, as it didn't match the tone of what came before.

    Zom, I loved the sensory immersion of your piece, and there was some truly beautiful writing in there. However, I never got a sense of the character's motivations or what was driving the piece. The character's decision to leave was presented so nebulously that it failed to resonate with me as an actual decision. So even though I loved the language, at the end I wasn't clawing to find out more because I had no real idea what was going on. This may be just a lit fic thing and a matter of my personal taste in that area. However, my vote goes to Marie because by having a Woodcutter's family hearing the story of the Bisclavret (I completely love that word, by the way), the story ends on a terrifying sense of possibility, like anything could happen and something probably WILL.

    Well done, both of you!

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  10. My vote is for Zom.

    There was beautiful imagery in this piece of writing. It pulled me right into the scene. I do wish there was more of a sense of urgency regarding where the MC was going. That's the kind of information that would make a reader keep turning pages.


    For Marie - I like the idea of the retelling, but it didn't flow well for me. I did enjoy the dialogue in the first chapter.

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  11. I vote for Zom. Tighten and watch out for passive voice. I hope this isn't all!

    Marie, although I'm a sucker for werewolf stories, I stubbed my toe on the PoV shift, and I couldn't figure out where you were going.

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  12. My vote goes to Marie.

    Marie- I love retold fairy tales and this one rocks. I am not sure if the use of prologue in a 500 word entry was the best use of word count, but it works. The only truly weak point in the whole entry was the ending. I agree with others that the shift in voice pulls me out of the story. Otherwise, solid and I would love to read the whole work.

    Zom- This is beautiful writing. Even the use of cliches didn't pull me out because it was so well written. I cannot vote for this piece, however, because I didn't find enough in the writing to care about the main character. Does she have mental issues and wander off often? Does she even like the guy she left in bed? While the writing was total wordgasm, I just didn't really care about the character.

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  13. I vote for Marie de France
    Zom was very close for me and I did love the imagery but it was a tiny bit too wordy and the shreds of info as to why the character is acting the way she is were not sufficient for me to crave more.
    The last sentence for Marie de France was redundant and fairy tale twists do not normally capture me but overall very well written and that is what sealed the deal for Marie de France. I just hope the twist doesn't end up being too cliche or predictable.

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  14. My vote is for Marie

    Marie- I loved the prologue of this but I think there is a total disconnect between the prologue and Chapter One as others have said. The tense change is jarring and we don't know where anyone is, who they are, did the grandmother just read the story? Even starting with her closing the storybook would help a ton here.

    Zom- I honestly struggled to get through the writing in this piece. Although there was a ton of artistry, purple prose can actually distract from the forward momentum of a story.

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  15. I vote for Zom.
    The details put me in her character's world, with enough suspense to keep reading. Although I liked the twist of Marie's story, it lacked the world building and characterization. I'd say, ditch the prologue and go straight into the story.

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  16. For some reason my post didn't make it on here from my phone- so this will be short.

    I vote for Zom- strictly on the fact that at least it made me feel something: Loneliness.

    Marie- While I enjoy twists on classic tales- I actually love them- I didn't enjoy yours. It felt like a school child wrote this (sorry-harsh). The sentence structures and wordage didn't really amount to anything. Felt like large words were thrown in there in an attempt to seem more mature. I enjoyed one of the comments above that said it would have been more satisfactory to do the prologue section, then say the grandmother said "the end" or closed the book to bring it to a close. I don't understand why it was broken up in pro. and chapter.

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  17. Vote: Zom
    Mostly because this piece gave me a greater sense of connection with the story.

    Thoughts...Both were interesting pieces!

    Marie - An intriguing twist on a classic. It felt a little rushed (particularly the ending), and the two parts seemed as if they were in a totally different voice, which felt jarring.

    Zom - It's a compelling image that captured my attention, and I wanted to learn more. That said, I agree with some of the others above, the writing was a bit wordy and overly done.

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  18. Zom for me. The imagery was so beautiful it just immersed me in the story and made me want to keep walking with your character, even though I wasn't clear on motivation.

    Marie, great twist on an old classic, but the shift from prologue to main body jarred me out of the story and made it hard to appreciate the second part.

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  19. My vote is for Zom. Overall, I found this piece more immersive. I felt invited to settle into Jenny's POV, and that was the deciding factor for me.

    My favourite bits: Marie, the moment where the grandmother's face is half illuminated by the fire and it appears that she's winking. Such a strong image! I love the suggestion that Granny's got a secret.

    Zom: my favourite moment from your piece was Jenny trying to hold her mind steady, "lest the slightest movement set it off like a clockwork toy." Gorgeous and particular.

    Notes: For Marie, I would maybe blend the prologue with the chapter. Perhaps you could open with Granny reading from a book, make it explicit that this is a fairy story, and then move on to Granny offering to tell it like it really is. Less disorienting / jarring for your reader, and then you still get the contrast between "fiction" and "fact" in the world of your story. (p.s. I love fairy tales and werewolves!)

    Zom: I wish Jenny were less aimless? "I'm doing this thing, I don't know why" makes it difficult for me to engage with her as a character. My brain snagged on some of the details in your opening paragraphs, particularly the "detritus" on the bedroom floor...how much stuff is down there?

    I feel like maybe the "scenes [that] replay in her mind, reawakening a tremor in her loins that was part imagination, part muscle memory" are important somehow, and possibly the key to why Jenny is doing what she's doing, but because this sentence takes up relatively little real estate in the passage as a whole, it's easy to gloss over. It made me wonder what Jenny's deal is. What are these scenes she's replaying? What happened to her? But then I wondered if these are really the questions you are inviting us to ask.

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  20. Vote: Zom.

    Marie, I found your world building nuanced and peppered well into the story. I did find the voice a little young and maybe sparse at times -- if you haven't already, I would suggest considering your narrator as his or her own character in the story. Consider the narrator's language, who they are, why they know what they know and how that information would color the language and tell the story. Jaye Wells (www.jayewells.com, I believe) gave a great talk a few weeks ago at a writing event I went to, and one thing she suggested was creating lists of keywords that relate to each of your characters. You can do this with your narrator too, and when you look at your list of words it will give you a greater sense of the tone you're trying to articulate. I think this will add another layer of richness and depth to your prose that I think your subject matter is asking for. Your submission breaks off somewhere in the center and prologues are tricky -- they aren't necessary unless they are, and I know at least personally that if I don't have some kind of immediate gesture to why I'm reading it I wonder whether the information could either be included later or discarded as some of that backstory that's essential to you as an author but not to me as the reader. Ultimately, I would strongly suggest considering whether you need the prologue at all.

    Zom: I really liked the prose. The voice is clear and consistent and Zom really did a great job of setting tone within the first couple of sentences. I felt the sense of isolation, the loneliness. Jenny's nerves over being on the sidewalk in the middle of the night, drunk and alone, really hit me in a tender spot. I know that fear, too. I did find it a little overworked/verbose in a few places but nothing that couldn't be reeled in with careful editing.

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  21. My vote goes to Zom.

    Zom's writing was beautiful and poignant, creating a scene that matched Jenny's misty and somewhat detached yet purposeful mental state. The descriptions are vivid; word choice is good.

    Marie de France: Great idea; the twist on the fairy tale is perfet. Unfortunately, for me, the writing style detracted rather than added to the concept. I felt that this could have used more editing and refinement to create a smoother read. My favourite part was the description of the grandmother's face with the fire lighting half of it. I like the idea of this piece better, but think the writing itself needs work.

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  22. The Internet ate my comment. Let's try this again...

    Zom did a great job with setting and mood. I was firmly in the protagonist's head, fully immersed in the scene. While it could use some tightening/elimination of cliches, the writing felt smooth. On the downside, I'm not sure where this story is going (What are the stakes?), and that leaves me not sure if I want to follow Jenny for an entire novel.

    Marie's biggest issue, for me, was the prologue. Five hundred words isn't enough space to have two distinct scenes/stories, and the prologue didn't feel as polished as the rest of the piece, which had a good balance of dialogue and description. Like another commenter, I'm afraid the prologue pretty much told the whole story. Granny was a werewolf, and she passed it on to Red (Marthe). This piece would have been much stronger if the writer had started with Chapter 1 and injected tiny bits of the backstory. In a novel, I'd want to see those hints woven into the story so subtly that you might miss them if you didn't know what you were looking for - until it all hits the fan at the story's climax, at which point the reader looks back and feels like she should have seen it coming, if that makes sense.

    My vote goes to Marie because I like the concept and second half (Chapter 1) and am interested in reading more. I do hope she'll cut the prologue, though, and work the backstory in bit by bit for maximum impact.

    Congratulations to both writers. This was a really hard vote to cast! I'd be happy to see either move to the next round!

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  23. I vote for Zom.

    Marie: I agree with other comments that 500 words is too short to manage a prologue / chapter shift. The prologue felt "arm's length" - as if I were being kept out. Telly. The scene with the grandmother & children was much more intimate for me as reader. I felt a part of it.

    Zom: Even though the "why" details were lacking, I was fully engaged in Jenny's episode. Beautiful language wasn't off-putting for me at all; I felt it added to the ethereal sense. Reminded me of a b/w movie where the woman escapes through foggy streets. Moody. I'd keep reading.

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  24. Tough call. But I'm going with Zom for one reason: There wasn't a shift between scenes. I was able to stay focused and slip into the world and walk along side Jenny. With the werewolf story offering from Marie, I had to toggle between the prologue and chapter, feeling that my 'what next' questions were disjoined. I would have preferred a longer prologue OR chapter.

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  25. I vote for Zom. The writing was absolutely exquisite. Marie, I feel your entry would be stronger if you cut the prologue and started with chapter 1. The prologue felt a bit like "telling", and I wasn't really drawn into the story. Chapter 1 was much livelier, and grabbed my attention much more.

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  26. I like both pieces and I have thoughts!

    For Marie's Red Riding Hood Re-tell--if the prologue IS the story the grandmother is telling right away in Ch. 1 why split it? Why not make it all Ch1 and put the first bit in the scene?

    I love this first line, but I'd put it in dialogue OR give it point of view... IF dialogue I'd continue on to... "A werewolf" and then tag it with scene clues. For example: Granny wraps her shawl more tightly and her voice lowers... If given POV, Marthe's I think, then after werewolf, I'd have something like: Marthe shuddered in anticipation waiting for Granny to sit and tell her the story she'd promised.

    Either way--simply done! The only reason I'd keep it as a the prologue would be if this is written as lore--the lore we know will guide what is to come, but then I'd have Ch. 1 start in a different place.

    I stumbled on: The woodcutter leapt through the window, swinging his axe, which has been provided with a blade of silver.
    Tighten the last bit? The woodcutter leapt through the window, swinging his axe, silver blade glinting in the streaming sun. (or whatever)

    Moving forward I'd also concentrate on voice in the point of the view of the mc because I don't have a good sense of this yet.

    For Zom... I don't think this is your first line. It's a good line, but I want something that better directs me into the bigger picture of the story. Assuming this is the beginning of the story. Which it may not be. So maybe nevermind!

    Hads in the next paragraph slow it down. General rule: You only need one "had" to clue your reader, then drop all the rest to get the more immediate past tense. They'll get it.

    Put a period after "farm." You don't need two similes for this moment and the second is so much better!

    I've left an apartment with Jenny, I'm out in the cold in the middle of the night with Jenny, but I have no idea who she is. Will you stay at an omni POV distance and follow many characters as LitFic often does or will Jenny be the only POV character? If it's just her... is detritus really Jenny's word? If it is, I expect to see that in her world coming up soon (in her apartment?). Personally, my mind would go to mess or clutter.

    To both: I hope you aren't feeling too battered! Thank for sharing your work and congrats on making the cut!

    But to move forward... My vote goes to Zom.

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  27. Marie, I was initially excited about your piece, but after a few paragraphs, it felt very stilted. The sentence length and paragraph length could use some extra variance, and with a genre like that you have a lot of room for "beautiful writing"--interesting vocabulary, some wordplay, etc.--that you didn't utilize very much.

    Zom, I wasn't really interested in the topic your piece, but the good pacing carried me along. You've got some great sentences, and they all flow well together.

    So the bare bones sentence writing tipped my vote. I vote for Zom.

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  28. Zom, easily. The werewolf piece was a huge turnoff, clearly an excerpt, and trying way too hard to sell its concept without actually telling a compelling, unique version of the story, except to introduce an unusual term to the proceedings. So, Zom.

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  29. While Marie's concept is a lot of fun and has great potential, I do have to agree with Faith; Marie's writing does come off as a bit stilted and could benefit from some interesting wordplay. I also agree with others in saying that the prologue was unnecessary and would have packed more of a punch if incorporated into the first chapter itself.

    While Zom has some lovely imagery, I unfortunately didn't feel as invested in their piece as I would have liked. I definitely understand the protagonist's unease of walking the streets alone, but I would have been more invested in the piece if I knew a little bit more about Jenny and Simon's relationship. However, the mood and atmosphere are wonderfully captured, and I commend the author for crafting an almost dreamlike narrative.

    My vote goes to Zom today, but I want to congratulate both writers on making it to the top 30! Participating in a contest like this isn't always easy, and you should both be very proud of yourselves.

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  30. I vote for Marie. I was torn between these two. I enjoyed the storytelling of Marie and the hint of surprise to come, but I thought the prologue confused the fluidity of the story. I loved the use of language in Zom. I loved the line where she said the city air cupped her face like a lover with cold hands. I guess I would have to go with Marie, because I did want to keep reading and with Zom, I didn't.

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  31. Vote: Marie

    Marie: I think you had enough of an idea to write a 500 piece with the first half of the story, so I felt the transition of this story, from one pov to another wasn't needed and a bit jarring. You had a great idea and I like some of the imagery as well but I think the prose needs a little work. I still feel there is a potential for more good stories/ideas in future rounds.

    Zom: I liked the imagery and feel of this piece. Some of the sentences were wonderful, while others uses words that seemed to pull me out of the piece. My biggest issue with this piece and why I voted for Marie is that, to me, there was no story here, the piece had no purpose.

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  32. I enjoyed both. But I want more of Marie de France. I think Zom would get better in 1000 words. But Marie de France already has my attention. Also, Marie de France reminded me of the Red Riding Hood from the Once Upon a Time show. (Maybe also a tiny bit of the movie Hoodwinked, but only a tiny bit.) So I could really get behind the twisted retell.

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    1. Yes, that's a vote for Marie de France, in case I wasn't clear.

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  33. I vote for Zom. I got a real sense of the character's isolation. You gave me a compelling snapshot of her mood. Good job! I'd read more.

    Marie, I didn't find this concept different enough from other alternate versions of Red Riding Hood that I've read before. The grandmother telling the story also didn't feel like a complete character to me. I would have also enjoyed some insight as to why she felt compelled to begin telling the truth to these children.

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  34. Zom. The story felt more complete. The other was cut off, as if before it began. Perhaps if it had only been the prologue expanded out, it would've worked better.

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  35. I vote for Zom. The story set the scene and mood, had a strong voice, and maintained it throughout. It also raised questions about the character so that I wanted to know more.

    Marie, I liked your story, too, and its twist on a traditional fable. It pulled me in right away. The prologue and the first chapter felt like the same story twice from two points of views. The prologue gave away the twist and decreased the tension.

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  36. Neither piece did anything for me to want to read on. Sorry.
    But of the two, I was able to understand Marie's story more, so she gets my vote.

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  37. What a great start to the competition! My vote is for Marie because I love fairy tales. I will say that I wished the prologue were the real story, and I wanted more of it. The shift to the other granny telling the story to the children really threw me out of it. But the writing in the first part was great, and what an excellent concept!

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  38. Marie: I got a sense of who Marthe was right away - she'd sneak an extra cookie off the tray when her parents weren't looking. I really wanted the prologue to be the story Granny was telling - but since it was called the prologue it confused me.

    Zom - Great atmosphere. I was really feeling the "walk of shame" and got excited when she was about to let the scenes replay in her mind - I thought I was going to get to connect with her...except I didn't get to experience those scenes. So then the the walk started to get long.

    Vote: Marie, although it was tough. With 500 words do you vote on the writing (Zom) or the story (Marie)? I went with the action.

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  39. My vote goes to Marie. While I'm not the biggest fan of prologues, I felt it worked here. And Marie's piece began with a more inciting first incident than Zom's.


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  40. I vote Zom. I felt like it had more of an arc, making it a bit more of complete meal if a small one.
    Good luck to everyone!

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  41. This is tough. I like them both.
    Marie, I love the story, but is the prologue really a prologue, or is it Granny telling a story, in which case, maybe could have been set up differently, with Granny setting the frightening scene to come in the story? I do want to read more.
    Zom, I also love the story, but it felt like some of the big words were used to simply use big words, and that slowed down the story for me. It got better as the story progressed, so I would like to read more.
    With that being said, my vote is for Marie.
    Congratulations to you both! Making it in to the top 30 is an amazing accomplishment!

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  42. My vote is for Marie. Love the original, matter of fact approach to an old story, and I seem to be the only one who doesn't have a problem with the change of tense. A prologue is a setup, a preamble, if you will. After reading it, I generally pause to soak it in and put my brain where it needs to be. Then I can read the story with the mindset the author intended. Others might have been more tolerant had they suffered through a couple of blank pages and a font change before beginning chapter one, as is customary.

    Zom, your writing is beautiful, but there is too much of it. Almost as though you are attempting to showcase your writing skills, instead of telling a story. If the reader is thinking about the writer more than about the characters, you are missing the target.

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  43. Marie de France:
    It's a good telling. I can see where it's going. It feels almost like the whole story is in the prologue though.

    Zom:
    "it cupped her face like a lover with cold hands" - I love that line.
    This feels like it's building toward something, but I have absolutely no idea what.

    So one story I feel like I can predict the whole thing, and the other I have no idea because I can see countless possibilities. Things could happen, but nothing does or did. Based on that, I believe the first one hooked me more.

    My vote, therefore, is to Marie de France.

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  44. My vote is for Marie de France. I was a bit confused by the start of the chapter, but the prologue had a nice twist and held my interest to the end.
    Zom's was a bit too long with not a lot happening. I wasn't sure I wanted to read to the end and some of the vocab was a bit much.

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  45. I vote for Zom.

    Marie de France:
    The prologue was great! I love this retelling of a fairy tale and it was a compelling and complete story on it's own. The jump to Ch 1 threw me out of the story and I just couldn't get back in before the 500 words were up. My favorite bits: "The truth is that the woodcutter had long suspected that his mother-in-law was really a Bisclavret." and "She’s seven, and fearless."

    Zom:
    Although I am unclear as to exactly what's happening with Jenny's life right now, it's clear that she's got some things to work out. I am drawn into her world. The prose does get a little "thick" at time, but for the most part, it's just establishing a lush environment for Jenny's story to develop. My favorite bits: "she clung to this detachment, holding her mind as still as possible lest the slightest movement set it off like a clockwork toy." and "A monochrome world broken only by the red eye of a traffic light."

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  46. I cast my vote for Zom.

    I think you both did very well and congrats to both for getting selected.

    To Marie: Werewolf stories are not my cup of tea, but fairy-tales are. I really enjoyed the concept that you were striving for, and I think you are on the correct path with your direction. I felt that the level in which you have the writing might suggest a rough draft over a finished project. By that I simply mean you have the nuts and bolts, you have the heart in the story you are just lacking in the grit and the polish.
    500 words is tough, but I want in deeper than I felt you were offering. If you choose to move the prologue as suggested above I think it would help. Or, what i would have liked to seen would be the prologue expanded to a full chapter from the pov of the Woodcutter, even written from 1st possibly. What your missing is his reactions, his senses and his feelings. If you have children you can imagine what horror he was enduring at that moment. I want to see that, feel my heart ripped out at her possible loss. I think if you can spin it from that pov you would have the reader hooked. Why do we love this girl? She is now our child, and that preys on every parent's worst fear. Don’t give up, you have a good start, you just need to dig a touch deep imho.

    To Zom: I love your detail, I can see what is happening and it has a style that to me says classy or swanky. The areas where I stumbled here were in you bigger word choices. Some of your vocabulary I had never heard before causing me to leave the feel of the story and enter into “where is my dictionary land”. I love new words but there was nothing in the scene that pushed me to feel like they belonged there. Jenny does not strike me as a scholar who would know or think in such a way. Farm girls tend to use smaller, simpler words in my experience.
    Like others have pointed out above it does meander in its direction. I feel if you made even one small sentence to foreshadow her reasoning or the direction of the plot you would have a bigger hook. You reader wants to know what they are buying into.
    This one sentence is ultimately what got my vote: A conscious sleepwalker, walking home alone through empty streets, one shadow among many. However, as much as I like it, it does not feel complete to me, consider: A conscious sleepwalker, she hurried home through empty streets, alone. She was but one shadow among many.
    Changing the order and adding the ‘she’ ties the sentence back to Jenny. When your audience reads they will meter their breath to the sentence. Chopping it up and tying it to her feels more suspenseful. Having ‘alone’ at the end puts emphasis on the word and make for a hard stop before the glide into the last line.

    Hang in there both of you, it has to be hard to have so many tearing into your work. You did a great job, good luck to you both!

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  47. I think both writers have talent and specific voices. I also think both need tightening and attention to overuse of passive voice. Marie has an edge on clarity and story. Zom captures mood. That being said, I give my vote to zom.

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  48. I vote Zom. I want to read more. Good luck to you and your future!

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  49. This was a tough one to start the bouts! Marie lost me when she jumped from the prologue into the story. Like others above, I would have preferred the whole entry to be the prologue, rather than the abrupt jump in the middle. I didn't need to wonder where the story might be going as the prologue pretty much spelled it out.

    Zom spent a lot of time giving me great detail, but it moved really slowly.

    My vote goes to Marie because I would be more inclined to read on, rather than slog through lots of description to try and find the story with Zom



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  50. My vote goes to Marie.
    Marie - Like others, I found the prologue to story transition abrupt. However, your imagery creates a strong emotion that something even more sinister lurks around the corner. While I don’t read this type of fiction, I’m intrigued with your story!

    Zom – As a reader, I felt as if you were telling me what I should feel rather than allowing me to experience the setting. I was also confused with your descriptions. In one paragraph, Jenny feels a chill, which reminds her of a bitter cold, but not as cold. In the next paragraph, Jenny is warm and content.

    Congrats to both Zom & Marie for making the top 30!!

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  51. My vote is for Marie.
    I love retellings like this, and I am quite desperate to read more. I would purchase this in a heartbeat from the sample.
    Zom, your story is very well-written and there is great detail, but it moved too slowly for my tastes.

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  52. Hi Don - I vote for Marie ... both interesting stories ... creative energies too ..

    Cheers Hilary

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  53. I really loved the prologue in Marie's submission, but I felt as if it could have been left off there for the purposes of the submission. Adding the first part of chapter one brought the tension down a little for me...the prologue just left off on such a great note!

    The writing style in Zom's was really engaging for me. It felt as if words were very carefully chosen, and although lit fic isn't really my genre, I did really enjoy the writing.

    So all that being said, my vote is for Zom.

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  54. I vote for Marie!

    I love twists on old classics! This little tale will do well with more added to ease the transition from prologue to chapter one, but I'm hooked and I want more!

    Zom - the beginning felt awkward with filler words, but then the descriptions of the city walk helped me imagine I was there! Well done.

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  55. My vote is for Marie.

    I must be the only one who liked the prologue...oh well. The potential of the story worked for me and I would continue reading for sure.

    Zom - your imagery is great but the piece was just a little too wordy for my taste.

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  56. A very tough choice. The re-reading is great, but scattered. With some re-structuring this could be one cohesive story instead of chopped parts of well written pieces. I would get into a part just as it was flipping to a totally different scene. And the ending left me hanging a bit too much. I wanted a bit more closure for this unique twist on an old favorite.

    The morning after was beautifully constructed. Love the literary feel of a trashed ending of a night out. However the author did have a few words to go, and I feel those words along with a bit of tightening here and there would lend a bit more to the person's motivation for escape. Was it truly after a night out on the town or was this person escaping abuse? And where was the person going? Leaving the story with this person feeling at home and safe on the street with only the "big brother" security cameras, almost made me wonder if this person was actually a prostitute. I will say that this clip sounds like a fabulous teaser for a suspense novel.

    In the end I must vote for Marie as the re-reading of Little Red Riding Hood left far fewer questions and did end with a juicy cliff hanger.

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  57. I'm not going to be very useful here as neither of these genres/styles are my thing. I'm also unwilling to make any criticisms which might possibly not hold up within the context of the entire story.

    Marie's piece is much too simple a writing style for me but granted, I am not the target audience, while Zom's contains great description with similes that work for me (no cliches by my accounting). But those, along with the excellent clue-dropping, were all piling up too much too fast for me and making it a laborious read. It makes me wonder if a late edit was done, squishing some of the better material up into the 500-range in order to pack more of a punch for this exercise. If so, I feel it backfired.

    Like I said, I'm not the right market for these stories but here goes: While I suspect Zom is working on a superior piece, I must vote for Marie for the dubious reason that if cornered, I would prefer to finish reading the wolf tale because I expect it would feel less like work. But congratulations to both!

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  58. My vote is for Zom; I would like to read more. The "tremor in her loins" phrase seemed a little affected, but I enjoyed the way the writer established a quiet setting and mood.

    Marie's re-telling of "Little Red Riding Hood" was clever. I got stuck on the comparison of the nightgown and cap to humanity, but maybe that's because I don't read Paranormal Fiction at all - sorry.

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  60. My vote is for Marie de France. Tough call, though. Both of you are great writers. Congrats for making it to Round 1!

    Zom, I loved your imagery of the cutting cold and monochrome world. Beautiful writing. For me, there was not enough story or tension here to keep me intrigued. My suggestion would be to tighten up some areas to reduce word count and get to the juicy stuff a bit quicker.

    Marie, you could tighten up a bit too (for example, "he swung his silver-bladed axe"). Loved the action verbs. Loved the conflict and mood.

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  61. My vote is for Marie de France. Tough call, though. Both of you are great writers. Congrats for making it to Round 1!

    Zom, I loved your imagery of the cutting cold and monochrome world. Beautiful writing. For me, there was not enough story or tension here to keep me intrigued. My suggestion would be to tighten up some areas to reduce word count and get to the juicy stuff a bit quicker.

    Marie, you could tighten up a bit too (for example, "he swung his silver-bladed axe"). Loved the action verbs. Loved the conflict and mood.

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  62. I'm voting for Marie, because, though I hate prologues, I felt her story had more possibilities. I'd work on the beginning with the repeat of the prologue, but that's an easy fix.
    As for ZOM I had no idea where the story was/is gong. The writing is good, but the story telling. Maybe you've started at the wrong point, too soon. Telling of the MC by having her leave the situation like that? Maybe, Makes me want to take a second look at one of my own writings.

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  63. Marie, nice twist on a classic, but I think the most exciting/scary/goose-bumpy part was the bite, which, in my opinion should have been the last sentence of your piece. It would have "haunted" me more. I agree with previous posters that the break was too jarring. It could have easily been reworked to flow together a bit better.


    Zom, lit fic is not my genre at all, but I am pretty sure even that needs some kind of plot line. Without that, you lost me pretty quickly. I was looking for action in each new "scene", but was disappointed each time. In the real world, I would have quit reading at the 150-200 word mark. Maybe you should think of the action first and then weave the beautiful imagery around that. It would have been much more powerful.

    My vote goes to Marie.

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  64. I'm voting Zom - I love the prose and feel of it.

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  65. My vote's for Zom.

    I love the imagery in this piece, and there is specific characterization of Jenny here that felt absent in Marie's piece. I did see a story, here, too, more than the imagery and character. The walk of shame is many things, and I could see Jenny's journey as she took each step of it. To me, it was setting the scene for a longer piece, and I would definitely keep reading.

    I appreciated the new take on an old classic in Marie's piece. But I felt like it was trying to convey too much too fast. The scenes felt clipped and rushed. I think it may have been more effective if we had just focused on the prologue, rather try and give equal time to two scenes.

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  66. I'm going with Zom. Lovely imagery that put me right in the scene with Jenny, nice use of language - without any context, this little snippet felt a bit like a watercolor painting. Lovely.

    Marie's writing is quite good as well but the problem with retellings is that it's very difficult to make them feel fresh. This particular one seemed like it was trying to get the whole story into the 500 words; it felt more like a stripped-down prologue than the real story.

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  67. Two strong entries kick off this fantastic contest! I enjoyed the language of Marie De France, though the unnecessary structure threw me a little. Zom's piece drew me in with the close POV, and for that reason, I cast my vote for Zom.

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  68. I vote for Marie.
    They were both great. I do love retellings, so that helps. I'm fine with the prologue too, except that the last line, where it says she tells them about the Bisclavret; I thought she just was in the prologue-story. Marie grabbed me both with the voice of the haunted retelling, and with the girl Marthe.

    For Zom, the language was lovely, but it felt a bit like it was trying too hard. I would prefer to see more of the story coming through.

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  69. My vote is for Marie, the suspense left me wanting more!

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  70. My vote is for Marie, the suspense left me wanting more!

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  71. I vote for Marie because I'd rather keep reading hers.

    Marie
    I got good images here, though you tended to summarize things to your detriment. For instance, the prologue would have been better if it was an actual scene with dialogue and tension. I think “that is to say, every shred of humanity” is unnecessary. I don’t understand “which has been provided with a blade of silver.” I get it because of the werewolf, but it doesn’t make sense the way it’s written. “Clove asunder” is overused. I know it’d be hard to write this full scene in under 500 words, but I’d consider writing it in a similar way as you wrote the beginning of chapter 1. I think you have some nice sentences and images toward the end. I’m not a fan of the last paragraph because you return to summarizing, and the writing loses its power.

    Zom
    I think you strung together nice sentences here, but to me it comes across as if you’re trying too hard at times. I thought the “city air” line was solid. I think you’re a good writer, though I wanted more scene and action. It kind of comes across as talking a lot without much happening which makes me (the reader) think of an author talking a lot to his/herself without caring much about the reader. I feel like a jerk saying that, and I’m not trying to be, but it’s honestly what I felt while reading it. Didn’t seem like anything happened.

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  72. My votes for Marie. I'm a fan of fairytale retellings. Though, it was a bit jarring going from the prologue to chapter one. It took me away from the story. If there's a way to transition the two sections more smoothly, it would definitely flow better.

    Zom,
    You write beautiful prose, and painted vivid imagery, but I just didn't feel a connection with the MC. I felt like nothing really happened, except for a woman leaving a potential one night stand, and wasn't sure where the story was going. I kept waiting for something ominous to happen. I think maybe if you tighten things, and maybe add a little more action or faster pacing, it would have drawn me in to the story.

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  73. My vote goes for Zom.

    Marie- as a writer of fairy tale retellings, I know how hard it is to cut the prologue. It's sometimes easiest to place the reader right there so they know what they're reading and how it's different. But I thought you could incorporate it right into the grandmother's storytelling. So for me, it felt like it started in the wrong place.

    Zom- I don't know much about the litfic genre, but I enjoyed the imagery. I thought you could cut a few unnecessary words and tighten up the prose a bit, but still well written.

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  74. Zom gets my vote. I have to agree with the previous comments, increasing someone's vocabulary is a great goal to strive for, but in 500 words the overall effect is lost by the vast amount of unfamiliar words. I love the imagery though; especially the description of the traffic light. Great job!

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  75. I was immediately drawn into the Fairy tale, and glad it might continue on. I vote for Marie.

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