WRiTE CLUB 2016 - Bout #11



This is it...the last week of preliminary bouts and a chance for some of you to finally find out if your writing sample was picked out of the one-hundred seventy one submitted this year.  Needless to say, even those who are unable to claim victory in their match have nothing to hang their head about -- just getting into the ring was a feat in and of itself.

And kudo's to everyone who have helped drive interest in WRiTE CLUB these first two weeks.  Week 1 bouts averaged 67 votes/comments (a new record) and a total of 3400+ views.  WAY TO GO!! All of the winners have been posted on the WRiTE CLUB Scorecard and I'll continue to update it as we move through the contest. Unfortunately, voting has dropped off significantly during the second week, but there is still time to do something about that. Here's where I remind everyone that voting for every bout remains live for one week, so lets do everything we can to see that our 2nd week writers get the same amount of attention as the first.

For you newbies - here's a reminder of how this works. This is the 3rd and final week of daily 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.  At stake is a chance to win free admission to the 2017 DFW Writers Conference and some bragging rights.

The voting for this bout - Bout #11 - remains open until noon on Sunday - March 27th.

That'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 Adult Science Fiction genre with 500 words, welcome to the ring Helveticaw.




Lucy watched Fritz in the bathroom mirror, while she washed her hands with the unscented soap he'd provided. He sat on the bed, hands folded, perfectly still in his grey suit, neatly buttoned and arranged. He'd arrived, as usual, thirty minutes before the time they'd agreed upon.

When he was perfectly still, he could pass for human.

Lucy checked for blemishes. She had no new ones, but her upper lip still bore the red mark where her most recent cold sore had blossomed, scabbed over, and healed. Nothing she could do to hide that: there was no makeup any more. She pinched her cheeks to put some colour in them, and made sure that her eyebrows didn't need plucking. A few grey witch hairs stuck out against her auburn bob. There was a time when she would have removed them. No matter. The audience for her lecture on human romantic love (the text: Pride and Prejudice) would be far more concerned with her scent, than her appearance.

She risked another glance at Fritz. He gazed into the middle distance, apparently absorbed in the task of waiting, or maybe off in the collective mindspace of his people. She reached for the deodorant she'd kept hidden under a towel--a plain white plastic tube, the original label gone. There was only a hand-lettered sticker that said "Ladies." She removed the cap.

A grey blur passed behind her in the mirror, and Fritz stood beside her.

"You can't use that," he said, taking it from her and capping it. "The scent harms us."

As he spoke, Fritz's face drooped on the right side, as if he were having a stroke. A ripple ran under the skin, restoring his appearance. As she'd done many times before, Lucy tried to read the underlying structure beneath Fritz's human drag. Insect? Reptile? Tentacle monster?

Whatever was under there, it was sensitive to all kinds of things, especially artificial scents. She'd traded three oranges for that tube of deodorant. As much as she longed to wear it, to feel clean for longer than it took her to break a sweat, she'd never meant to keep it.

"What does it do to you?" she asked. Fritz's reactions to stimuli were complex and unpredictable.

"It's like an electric shock," he said. The corner of his mouth slid down. "I told you before, if you need something, I will bring it."

Her skin crawled. Standing this close to Fritz always made her want to run or fight, the need for violent movement rising up like a fierce song from deep within. Instead, what happened was a kind of paralysis. Her limbs grew stiff, her knees locked, and she struggled to speak. It wasn't just her: the freeze was a known visceral response to Fritz's people.  

The deodorant was strategic. She'd hoped that it would knock out his system, giving her a brief window to unfreeze, long enough to make a request.

"I do need something."

"Yes?" His cheek rippled.

"A dog."

___________________________________________________________________________________


And in the far corner, representing the YA Fantasy genre with 477 words, also welcome to the ring Omi Igbo.




I’m poor. That’s the first thing you should know about me.

Poor. Poor. Poor.

I also like the number three. It’s not an asshole like six, and it’s not as stupid as five, and don’t even get me started on anything greater than twenty. Three minds its own business and doesn’t kill people and helps keep me calm which is exactly what I need since I have to work for a hairy slug like Bonzo.

Bonzo. Bonzo. Bonzo.

I’m a girl if you haven’t figured it out yet. My name’s Zahara. I’ve been living on The Last Mile ever since my mothers died in a fire Unspeakable years ago when I was only Unspeakable. Unspeakable comes before nine and after seven and it’s the worst number of them all. 

They call it The Last Mile because that’s how the ships are grouped, by miles, and ours is at the very back. All the orphans are sent here because it’s the cheapest place to live. Every morning we wake up to the aroma of crap floating in the water. And by “crap” I don’t mean just anything. I’m talking about poop, feces, excrement. There are thirty miles of ships ahead of us carrying thousands of people and their waste has to go somewhere. It was probably some First Miler’s idea. I can picture him now, sitting at the front of the Fleet in a three piece suit with a cigar in his mouth and a walleye on his plate. “Let’s dump it all next to the orphans,” he says with a yawn. “They don’t have noses, do they?”

I’d love to introduce his kneecaps to my frying pan.

Frying pan. Frying pan. Frying pan.

I’ll use my frying pan today, as I do every day, working for Bonzo. And it’s my frying pan, not his or anyone else’s. I saved up five stupid months for it. Bonzo contaminates everything he touches and I prefer to cook my catfish with my own germ-free equipment, thanks.

Let me tell you about Bonzo. He owns a restaurant at the back of the Fleet called The Last Chance Diner, but all the orphans know it as the Cholera Kitchen. If you eat at the Kitchen once, your odds of getting sick are only about fifty-fifty, but if you come every day for a week straight, you’re practically guaranteed to be losing buckets of water from both ends, if you know what I mean. 

Buckets. Buckets. Buckets.
I just woke up, and it’s already a terrible day. I share a room with Percy. She’s the same age as me, and she’s my best friend, but I don’t want to marry her. It’s not like that. Percy left on time and got to work on time, and she never has Bonzo breathing down her neck because she always does what she’s supposed to do.
 ___________________________________________________________________________________


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.

Enjoy the rest of your week, but not before you tell all of your friends to stop by and make a selection as well.  Tweet about it, and if you do please use the hashtag #WRiTECLUB2016. Tell everyone about WRiTE CLUB, where it’s not about the last man/woman standing, but who knocks the audience out!



43 comments

  1. Both are interesting. The second held my attention a bit more, so it gets my vote.

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  2. My vote goes to Helveticaw.
    Helveticaw – Your concept of artificial scents as the Achilles heel to the other beings is intriguing. Your description of Fritz perfectly balanced– enough to make him unique but not overdone as some sort of alien form. The request for a dog was the clincher for me. What an odd request in this situation and I want to read more! Well done!

    Omi Igbo – Your use of repetition and the paragraph about the number three set the tone for the story. I liked Zahara and worried about her as she revealed herself. I thought you had a very strong opening but the last paragraph of your work lost me. I felt as if the momentum of your character faded. I’m sure it’s because you could only give 500 words. Your “buckets” line would have been a better place to end this sample.

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  3. "Show, don't tell" makes the difference today.

    Omi Igbo had a stronger voice, and I loved the set up of the world, as well as the number thing, but I felt like this was so much telling. I enjoyed the piece, but the paragraph about the best friend pushed it over the line of "too much telling."

    Helviticaw's voice didn't catch me, but the story intrigued me. Details of the world were woven into the action, and enough questions were raised to make the reader wonder about the exact nature of Lucy's relationship with Fritz and how she ended up where she is.

    My vote goes to Helviticaw, but Omi might easily have won on another day or if there'd been more show, less tell.

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  4. Helviticaw gets my vote today. I'm overall more intrigued by the story.

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  5. Today's entries are great! Helveticaw was absolutely fascinating. I was so curious about everything that was happening and the description of Fritz's face was visceral and effectively alien.

    Omi Igbo had a fantastic opening. So much voice in there, and a great world. It is a perfect metaphor of our current class system--all the boats in a line and the poorest getting surrounded by the sewer. New Orleans had a similar sewer problem because the area is shaped like a sink and it's hard to get the sewage to drain out. And of course the poorest always ended up wherever the smells collected. As for character- I liked the character in Omi's piece more than Helveticaw's MC. The thing with numbers and the setup were great in this, but there was quite a bit of telling without action, and the last paragraph lost momentum a bit. I think in a longer sample this would have been fine, and I really liked both pieces, but since I have to pick...

    Helveticaw gets my vote!

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  6. Helviticaw - I was immediately drawn into this world. The rippling in Fritz's disguise reminded us he was 'different' in a wonderfully subtle way. I also wanted to know what happened next.

    Omi Igbo - Your story raised all kinds of questions (in a good way). Why are they on ships? What happened to the rest of their world? Where are their parents? Who is Bonzo? I also liked the voice, particularly the observations about numbers, and the punch of your repeated words (buckets, buckets, buckets). However, after the second time, it's effectiveness was diluted for me.

    A tough choice, but my voice goes to Helveticaw.

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  7. Another tough tough choice. Both stories, both worlds, and both main characters grabbed me--and I don't read a lot of either genre, so that's saying a lot.

    To echo another comment above, Omi's more telly. So Helviticaw wins my vote for being more immediate, for letting me experience the MC's experiences and deductions as they happen.

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  9. Helveticaw
    I like the writing but I don't believe the situation. She can't send a report but she was able to get her hands on deodorant. I imagine they're on earth since the alien is disguised in human skin, probably to blend in. If they're not on earth then she can't get the deodorant. With this then there really should be more of a problem for these aliens. Scent is everywhere on this planet unless you're in a vacuum. Her scent alone would just a likely be knocking him unconscious. Not to mention scents we don't notice but other creatures do. Just seems like you need to think this through more.


    Omi Igbo
    Your story may be funny but it sounds like you were doing a Nanowrimo sprint and decided to turn it in as an entry. The voice is consistent but it doesn't seem to be going anywhere but another side thought from some word in the previous section.

    That said I have to go with Helveticaw

    -deleted and reposted because I couldn't edit-

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  10. Helviticaw gets my vote. The story was intriguing and made me curious to know more about the characters, especially Fritz and his origins. It should be an interesting story, once completed.





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  11. Omi's story is too much "voice" for me - I think there's a good chance that it's an excerpt from a larger work that would be really enjoyable, as the language and stream-of-consciousness kind of fades out a little into more normal writing, but since this is only an excerpt of the most streamy of consciousness, I have to go with the other story.

    Helveticaw is well-written and solid. It gets me the information I need to know in a nice readable way without bogging down in description or glossing over it with telling. There may be issues with the logic of the story, but I can't be sure without knowing what the rest of the story is!

    Vote: Helveticaw

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  12. My vote goes to Omi. Both stories were very good so it was a difficult choice. I picked Omi because I want to know more about Zahara and her plan to escape the Last Mile. I feel like that's where her story is leading us.

    Escape. Escape. Escape.

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  13. Helveticaw for me. Not my genre, but it held my interest.
    The second piece had a strong voice, but I can't imagine reading an entire short story, let alone a novel, in that obnoxious, nasty tone. I think I'd be more drawn into Zahara's story if it was told in third person and I only had to get snippets of her all-encompassing angst. No one likes a complainer, even if they have good reason.

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  14. Helveticaw for me today.

    Omi - I'll echo others' comments that this felt very "telly." I'll get into a character's stream-of-consciousness if you entice me to go, but being dropped there was off-putting.

    H - Hat tip for the name "Fritz."

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  15. Helveticaw gets my vote. As others have said, show don't tell wins for me.
    Omi has a great story but I wasn't drawn in with the telling, telling, telling.
    I want to know more about the world that Helveticaw is building. Why are humans so controlled by these beings? How did we end up that way? Why a dog? That was jarring enough that now I need more. Nice work.

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  16. I vote for Helveticaw. Both pieces exhibit excellent writing skills. Hard decision, but I opted for the one that drew my interest the most.

    Omi - You've raised some intriguing questions here, and it was really difficult to send my vote the other way. The numbers part is clever. I had to reread to get that Unspeakable was eight, but once I got it, I liked it. The three word repetition gives your character a crazy feel. It worked here, but I wonder how far you'll be carrying it through the entire work, and whether it will get annoying after time. Overall, a great piece of writing. Thanks for sharing.

    Helveticaw - Excellent work. Nice action verbs, solid descriptions, and a creepy overtone that fit well. I'd like to read more of this, so you have my vote. Thanks for a great read.

    Congrats to you both!

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  17. Both pieces are interesting, and I want to know more about them, but...

    Omi - as many have said, this sample is heavy on the tell and light on the show. Zahara's thought processes and voice are a bit of a challenge for me, and I'm not certain I would want to read an entire novel of listening to her head. Even with those things, the story concept itself drew me in and I was curious to know more.

    Helveticaw - creepy, intriguing, and overall very tight. Such a short sample is bound to leave the reader with questions, and oh, do I have them! But they're the kind of questions that keep you reading to learn more. The artificial scent thing is interesting, but potentially problematic since so much of our world is filled with things that have synthetic scents (not just perfumes, and soaps, and makeup, but cleaning products, medicines, even some fuels... the list goes on...and what counts as a "scent" and what counts as "artificial"?) I'll give the benefit of the doubt and assume that is explained in more depth in the rest of the story.

    Vote: Helveticaw

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  18. Excellent pieces - so hard to choose! If I HAVE to (aarrgghh! I've called too many ties thus far), I'll go with the creepy, compelling voice of Omi. I have a novel in a strong first person, too, so this resonates. Although Helveticaw is the one I'd keep reading (personal genre preference)...so maybe a tie is best?!

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  19. Omi is certainly creative. But I'll go with Helveticaw.

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  20. Helveticaw is my favorite and gets my vote! I felt like the piece of fresh, something I've never read before and I'd be interested in reading on.

    Omi had tons of voice and I liked the fascination with numbers and the repeating words. If I could pick both, I would, but alas, that's the way of Write Club.

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  21. I'm voting Helveticaw, but this was close. I enjoyed both pieces. For me, it came down to not enough information to understand what's going on in Omi's piece (including the age of the protagonist. Teen? Child?). But wow... both authors should be pleased with themselves:)

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  22. Helveticaw gets my vote. Interesting concept - I would like to see how it plays out, and the writing is good. Omi - I like the MC's interest in numbers, but the Unspeakable number was confusing to me at first. I had to read it a couple of times. Maybe just me... I think if you'd turned in a piece of this with a bit of dialogue it would have worked better for this contest. Good voice though.

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  23. I love the voice in Omi, but there was a little too much telling for my taste.

    My vote goes to Helveticaw. I enjoyed the world-building and found the banned deodorant and makeup intriguing.

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  24. Helveticaw- That's quite intriguing. I wonder what she wants with the dog, and in what state it might be when the creature brings it to her. Or if it's actually a canine. Very interesting.

    Omi Igbo - At first, I hated the repetitive bit. But it quickly grew on me when I saw how vital numbers are to the story line. An interesting tale that looks like a cross between Snow Piercer and The Hunger Games.

    I enjoyed both, and would probably read both as full length novels. Omi Igbo is getting my vote by a slim margin.

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  25. When I began reading, I thought I would surely vote for the YA since that's usually what I read. But Helveticaw hooked me with its fantastic sensery details and world building, keeping me wanting to read on.

    I was turned off pretty quickly by Omi Igbo. The language was just a little to course for my liking, though I did like that crap was actually poop. I wondered why the other numbers were so awful, and why one was even unspeakable... but I didn't connect enough with the MC to want to read on and find out the answer. In fact, I almost felt that I would never find out the answer even if I did have the rest of the story to read.

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  26. LOVELOVELOVE both of these stories.

    Helveticaw gets my vote because Omi Igbo's story snippet would have been strengthened by ending with the third Bucket. I am desperate to know more about both. What is Fritz? What's the freeze? Why do people respond like that? Why does she need a dog? Is Fritz going to become a dog? And then Three! I love the fascination with numbers, and how Unspeakable is a number, and how words keep repeating...

    This was a hard week. Loved them both. Want to buy both. Please, please, please keep working on these, authors. I <3 <3 <3 them.

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  27. Hi Don - I'd go with Helveticaw ... I too would like to read more of the story and understand more about Fritz and his life or non-human life ... and then what would a dog do ... if deodorant nearly sends Fritz off the planet ...

    Cheers to them both and to you for taking on the WriteClub challenge ... Hilary

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  28. My vote is for Helvetica, mostly because I did not connect with Omi's piece at all. The repetition grated on my nerves right from the start and I didn't enjoy being in the MC's head.

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  29. I'll go for Helvetica only because I didn't connect with the second piece and didn't honestly make it through.

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  30. I keep thinking voting will get easier. The entries keep making it difficult.

    To be honest, I think Helveticaw technically has the better entry today. The pacing is good. The premise is intriguing. "When he was perfectly still, he could pass for human." is a GREAT line. (I think it should have been the first line in this excerpt, personally. It's the hook.) And the request for the dog leaves me with so many questions. I definitely want to read this book and I want to vote for this entry.

    BUT

    I am just so in love with all the numbers stuff in the passage by Omi Igbo. The ritual repetition of certain phrases. The banishing of the unspeakable number that is so closely related to tragedy in the MC's life. "Three minds its own business and doesn’t kill people and helps keep me calm ... " The voice of this character is so strong. I am going to trust that an author who can hear the voice of such a unique character will be able to edit their work to swap telling for showing.

    I vote for Omi Igbo.

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  31. Vote: Helvet.

    I thought the idea behind Helvet's piece was interesting. I thought the ending was a little lack lustre but it did have me asking myself why in the world she wanted a dog and I'd read on.

    Omi's piece had great voice but the story didn't really have a direction and I had no idea what it was actually about and while I love the idea surrounding the numbers I thought the repetitions of Individual words became cumbersome fairly fast, though I enjoyed it more when it was weaved into the story.

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  32. Omi Igbo, definitely. Very intriguing.

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  33. Helveticaw (sp?) for me! This was the piece I'd want to read more of.

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  34. Helveticaw for my vote: well-written and while I initially questioned the grooming bit, the contrast with Fritz was great. The weird in the piece hooked me.

    Omi Igbo did intrigue me with the "threes", but I just didn't get a sense of where the piece was going.

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  35. Helveticaw gets my vote today. I want to know what kind of a creature Fritz is, and how Lucy will end up relating to him/it as the story goes on.

    I loved the dark undertones in Igbo's piece, but I'm not too into books where the MC addresses the reader directly.

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  36. Oh my. Both stories are fascinating and I want to read more! It sucks to have to choose but I must go with Helveticaw whose prose I found no flaw in. So smooth and full of intrigue!

    Unfortunately I got totally hung up on Omi Igbo's sentence about the "Unspeakable." I read it - I think six times without getting it. But I do love the narrator's voice which is a little alarming and off-kilter and creates lovely tension! Much praise to both authors!

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  37. There was something about Omi Igbo's story that entranced me. However, I did grow tired of the repetition of things three times. It happened too many times for such a short piece. Spaced out in a bigger piece, it probably wouldn't have bothered me. Also, I couldn't get past the fact that, in the end, I don't really understand what the numbers meant. Finally, this sentence didn't make sense. "I’m a girl if you haven’t figured it out yet." Why would the reader have figured it out by those preceding four paragraphs? It just seemed like a forced way to tell us who the character is. The world building is great and I think it could become something I could enjoy more with slight modifications.

    With Helveticaw, I felt that Fritz's introduction was done quite nicely-not too much info thrown at me at once but gradually spaced out. The only part that took me out of the story was the dog request at the very end because it was too abrupt without any previous context since I don't know yet what world were on or if there's mammals involved yet and what not. Not a huge deal though and I do realize the 500 word limit makes things tricky.

    My vote is for Helveticaw.

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    Replies
    1. Sorry for the dupe below. First time I wasn't signed it and showed as 'Unknown'. Didn't want the vote to be thrown out.

      Delete
  38. There was something about Omi Igbo's story that entranced me. However, I did grow tired of the repetition of things three times. It happened too many times for such a short piece. Spaced out in a bigger piece, it probably wouldn't have bothered me. Also, I couldn't get past the fact that, in the end, I don't really understand what the numbers meant. Finally, this sentence didn't make sense. "I’m a girl if you haven’t figured it out yet." Why would the reader have figured it out by those preceding four paragraphs? It just seemed like a forced way to tell us who the character is. The world building is great and I think it could become something I could enjoy more with slight modifications.

    With Helveticaw, I felt that Fritz's introduction was done quite nicely-not too much info thrown at me at once but gradually spaced out. The only part that took me out of the story was the dog request at the very end because it was too abrupt without any previous context since I don't know yet what world were on or if there's mammals involved yet and what not. Not a huge deal though and I do realize the 500 word limit makes things tricky.

    My vote is for Helveticaw.

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  39. Helveticaw gets my vote; what an intriguing premise!

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