Here we go again. Time to lace up those gloves and put up some dukes!
During the coming 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 #3 - remains open until noon on Tuesday - March 15th.
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 YA Science Fiction genre with 499 words, welcome to the ring Scaredy Cat.
That baby will be put to sleep—like a dog. It has the ugly. It’s actually my baby brother. But it’s hard to use my on someone you’ve never met and will only be in this world for a few hours. Mom will be devastated, but at least she won’t meet this baby she can’t keep.
I’m not a snooper, I swear. One afternoon I got home extra early after school and I accidentally overheard my parents talking.
“Please try not to see it at all this time,” Mom begged, “unless they’ve already told us it’s going to make it”. I knew right away they were expecting.
My mom actually gave birth this time. She’s been hidden away at home for months so that no one would have to see her ugly, or call her crazy for causing that stress to her body instead of having the baby grown in an artificial womb, like everyone does. Reclusion is what the atypical pregnant woman is supposed to do when they decide to take the body birth route.
The last and single time my parents were successful at creating a pretty baby was with me—their only other body birth. My parents had planned to go to the lab for their first child. But I was an accident. So, my pregnant mother just ended up giving birth. Since then, their tries for a second child have been at the lab. But, none of them passed nature’s ugly test. Mom concluded that, perhaps, if a baby develops inside its mother the old fashioned way like I did, it has a better chance of surviving. But now, this latest failure has disproved her theory and is moments from exiting the world. If not put to sleep it would die eventually. It usually takes days, and on a rare occasion, weeks. But all ugly babies die, and its deemed cruel to allow parents to become attached to a baby that only has a few days to live. So, they’re put down, quietly.
These thoughts swim around my brain all day. Finally, my last class arrives. It’s been four hours since Dad called to tell me the baby failed the test. It’s dead by now.
At night we pick Mom up from the hospital. The drive back is torturous. Not a single word is exhaled. After scanning and identifying us, the front door glides open and disappears into the wall. We file into our house like ants and into our favorite spaces—me to my room, Mom to hers, and Dad to the study. The house rests in a sad stillness, but just for today. Tomorrow, we go back to our regular lives as expected.
I lean over my bathroom sink and splash cold water on my face. Despite the long, golden brown hair and green eyes that yell for my attention in the mirror, all I see is the downcast sight, the concerned brow and...dead babies. It’s nature I repeatedly tell myself. I shudder.
And in the far corner, representing the YA Dark Fantasy genre with 450 words, also welcome to the ring The Night Songstress.
The fake cabinet collapses after a few quick kicks. As I adjust to the darkness, I see a little girl, maybe eight or nine, with her eyes and lips sewn shut, tucked in between makeshift walls. Some of her blond hair, drenched in sweat, is caught in between the strings.
She’s screaming so hard now that the threads are ripping her delicate, smooth face.
I wish I can call for help, but I can’t. Not when there’s a chance that the cops are after me. Prison is still worse than what I need to do to save her from this agony, so I run to the kitchen and rummage through the drawers until I find a small pair of scissors and a knife.
Returning to the room, I take a deep breath to quiet my nausea. “Hold still. I’m going to cut the threads.”
She stops moving. I pull her out from behind the cabinet. Her chest heaves as she sits motionless on the floor. That’s when I notice all of her tiny fingernails are ripped off. I try not to think too much about the pain she’s in as I set to work.
I have to fix this myself.
The lips are the easiest, so I start there. I slip the tip of the scissor under each looped thread and snip them one by one. The pinprick-sized holes bleed as the coarse thread pulls against her skin right before each cut.
Still unable to see, she turns her head to face me and finds my arm with her small, scabbed fingers.
“My eyes,” she says.
Her soft, angelic voice frightens me even more, but I keep mine steady.
“Lie down. I’ll take care of it.”
Placing one hand on her forehead to steady her, I wedge the scissor’s blade underneath the strands tying her upper lids to her cheeks and make one defiant cut. She waits until I release them from her other eye before she begins to pull the loosened strings out herself. I gag at the sight and turn away just in time to see a familiar black mist.
The same mist that seared my skin weeks ago. The same thing that changed what I am.
I throw myself over the girl. “Cover your eyes and mouth!”
The acidic mist sears my back as I hold my breath and duck my head.
The skin on my back sizzles. I can’t make out left from right, up from down, as I try to withstand the burn and ignore the strange laughter.
Still on the ground, protecting her, I open my eyes.
The smoke has dissipated.
But the laughter continues.
A horrible, sick laughter.
It’s coming from underneath me.
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. Please use the hashtag #WRiTECLUB2016 if you intend to Tweet about this. Tell everybody about WRiTE CLUB, where it’s not about the last man/woman standing, but who knocks the audience out!