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WRiTE CLUB 2013 - Bout 15

Yet another VERY close contest in round 13, but Slippery Slope pulled this one out at the last second.  Congrats!!

We enter the final week of preliminary bouts with four writers vying for two remaining positions on the road forward.  I want to take a moment to thank all of the voters who have left -- what I consider -- world class critiques.  Win or lose...every contestant comes away with input that will improve their writing, and that's worth everything in our world.

So...onto the second-to-last preliminary bout for this year.

Striding boldly into the ring is our first contestant, weighing in with 493 words of Literary Fiction, welcome Dinah Annella!

He taught English 271: Themes in Shakespeare. It was a small class, and he bantered with us, often using me as an example. “If Miss Dawson were to enter the scene and, with her beauty and wit, draw Iago’s focus to her, how would this play be different?”

After class that day, the girl next to me said she thought he had a crush on me.

“He’s kind of old,” I said. But I wondered.

I began to stay to talk with him after the other students left, while he packed up his books and notes. I had questions about papers; he wanted to know my plans after graduation. I liked talking about my future, about who I could be. Who he thought I could be.

“He’s married,” I told myself. “He has a little bald spot.”

The first time he asked me to walk with him to his office, we stood just inside the door for a few minutes. The second time we talked for twenty minutes behind his closed door.

“I don’t see you in a corporate environment,” he said. “What about publishing? I see you interacting with people, being creative. You have a spark and a spirit about you, Patty. It’s irresistible.” He held my gaze, then leaned back in his chair and with a small smile, raised one eyebrow.

“Well, thanks,” I said slowly. I smiled a little awkwardly. Irresistible?

“You don’t believe me.

I shifted in my seat and leaned back. I realized that I was mirroring his body language. I looked past him, saw the beginnings of buds on the big maple outside the window.

“We can talk about it some more,” he said. “If you’d like.” He sat up and leaned toward me. “Patty, you must realize that I’ve taken quite an interest in you.” He paused. His voice dropped. “‘... speak/Of one that lov’d not wisely, but too well ...’”

“Othello,” I murmured.

He reached both arms across his desk, palms up. His wedding band gleamed. “Some evening, maybe?”

I knew what this was. I waited only a moment. I leaned forward, touched my middle finger to his index finger, slid it gently toward the tip, and in that one-half inch, leapt the chasm. “Yes. Where?”

Two nights later, I walked up a flight of stairs and down the dim hallway to his office.

“I’ve been going mad waiting for you,” he whispered. With the lights out and the door locked, there were no witnesses. Outside our door, the cleaning crew moved silently, sweeping clear the dirt of the day, scrubbing and flushing the waste.

When I emerged from his office, I found the ladies room to be spotless and fresh and shocking in its fluorescent, buzzing glare. There were no balled-up paper towels on the floor, no hairs on the sink, no smears to distort the starkness of my face in the mirror.

I had told my boyfriend I was studying with a friend.

And in the other corner, representing the High Fantasy genre with 500 words, welcome DragonWriter!

Wenlyn froze. The dragon’s voice was unmistakably male. Strong, confident, and wise.  Not sure how to react, Wenlyn thought the first thing that came to his mind. How may I serve?

In answer, the mound reared up with a heart-stopping crack. Wenlyn toppled backward in alarm, landing on his hip and elbow. The mound twisted, raining down sharp bits of rock and dirt clods as it swung a tale-like appendage away from him.

But the Ancient Ones didn’t move! They were encased in stone! Yet, two purple eyes, each the size of a supply wagon, blinked at him from thirty feet away.

Are you afraid, Wenlyn? The voice thought at him.

Wenlyn swallowed, blinked, got shakily back up onto his knees and bowed his head. He clasped his hands in front of him to keep them from trembling.

No, he finally managed. Just startled. He looked up at the two eyes, encrusted about with generations of rock. Why have you moved?

That we may look upon you with our physical eyes, as we looked on you before, and so you may know that we have.

Looked on me before? Wenlyn thought. When?

It has been many years since we last saw you.

The only other time Wenlyn had ever been to the Valley of the Ancients was that day with Darnek. That must be what the Ancient was referring to. I didn’t know you saw me that first day. Darnek didn’t tell me that.

When we looked on you before, it was not in this place, and Darnek was not with you.

Wenlyn searched the ground, trying to remember another time the Ancient might be referring to. He couldn’t think of one. Then when?
Silence. The purple eyes blinked, and something stirred inside Wenlyn. Something strange, something familiar, something deeply unsettling.

Please, Wenlyn struggled to form cohesive thoughts. I don’t understand.

Nor will you. Not for a long time to come. But we’ve seen you, now, as you’ve seen us. The sky will soon be red, and filled with dark wings. War and pestilence will be loosed upon the Six Realms, and our ancient siblings will awaken. The time is at hand, Son of the Mountain. Go to the village. Investigate your mystery. But know that nothing is as it seems, and everything runs deeper than you think. Deep as blood. Deep as time. Deep as fate.

The mound reared farther up. The purple eyes were forty feet above Wenlyn’s head, now. Farther down, on what might have been the dragon’s chest, something was turning the black rock red, like coal in a furnace.

The rock that was once a dragon threw its head back, opened it’s great jaws, sending boulders tumbling to the earth as it did, and spat white, liquid fire.

Wenlyn threw his arm over his face but liquid hell covered him, searing his skin, lancing through his chest and blinding him. Wenlyn tried to scream but his voice box had already melted away.
He was consumed.

Once again it’s up to you.  Which of these two sample resonated the most?  In the comments below leave your vote for the winner of round 15 (after making sure you've registered on the WRiTE CLUB linky list found HERE), along with any sort of critique you would like to offer. Please remind your friends to make a selection as well.  The voting will remain open until noon next Sunday.  

Remember, here in WRiTE CLUB, it’s not about the last man/woman standing, it’s about who knocks the audience out!



  1. Both entries are extremely well-written, but I am voting for DINAH ANNELLA.

    Dinah's piece masterfully uses understatement ("I know what this is") and imagery (the spotless bathroom after a session of adultery) and even has a character quoting Shakespeare as a pick-up line. The writing is tight, and the adage "easy reading is damn hard writing" comes to mind (I think E. Hemingway?)The only bit of writing I didn't like was "mirroring his body language" — "mirroring his movements (or mannerisms)" would have been a bit less pop psyche.

    Although DragonWriter's offering is very well-written, the two exclamation points 3rd paragraph in were annoying. Also, "The voice thought at him" is the kind of tag that is too keen to see that the reader "gets it." The word "silence" is unnecessary and though I'm sure the MC will be making a return, I didn't care for the fact that the Ancient One tells him to go to the village and then melts/"consumes" him.

    So, once again, nitpicking makes the decision because the writing on both accounts is just so dang good!

  2. Aww, I liked Dragon, too.
    But I've got to vote for Dinah on this. I really really want to know what happens next!!

  3. This is a tough bout to decide. I like both of these pieces and would keep reading each of them.

    Dinah Annella has very good characterization, a smooth story arc, solid mechanics, effective dialog, and an interesting voice tied to the MC. However, things get vague when it comes to understanding her motivation. It's clear she has awareness as to what she's doing, shows obvious hesitation, and gives plenty of self-talk about the reasons why the affair shouldn't happen. But it does anyway and I have no real reason why -- what does she get out of it? But perhaps that ambiguity is planned -- the curiosity about it is definitely one of the reasons I would read on.

    Dragon Writer also has an effective piece. The young boy with a connection to a dragon and portents of a great struggle ahead is standard fantasy material, but the writer does a very good job with it. The MC is interesting and the dragon is mythical and mysterious. There has been definite curiosity aroused in my as to what has happened to Wenlyn and what lies ahead for him and his dragon connection, so the story has done a good job at pulling me in. Some of the inner-thought dialog is a little clunky and there are some vague descriptions, but overall, I certainly enjoyed the piece.

    So like I said -- a tough choice today, so let me compliment both writers! I'd have chosen either in perhaps an earlier round, but against each other, I think I'll go with Dinah Annella. I like the understated way it handled a much more mundane situation, and I feel I'm a little more emotionally invested in Patty than Wenlyn.

    1. "But perhaps that ambiguity is planned"
      That's what I'm thinking as well.

  4. Dragon Writer's piece was very well done, and I would have voted for this selection over several others I've seen win in other rounds.

    However, it was up against an outstanding piece that could easily serve as either flash fiction, complete in itself, or the beginning of a novel.

    And as Chris says above, the character of Patty makes more of a connection to me than Wenlyn does.

    My vote is for Dinah today.

  5. I liked both pieces, so hard to choose. I think I'll have to vote for Dinah because I felt more characterization for the MC.

  6. Tough round. My vote goes to DragonWriter. They were both well written though and I just had to go with the one I wanted to read more of.

  7. My vote is for Dinah Annella's piece.

  8. Yup, hard to choose, but Dinah Annella's excerpt is my vote.

  9. I thought both pieces were well written today. As a teacher the content of #1 upset me - the abuse of authority and trust totally gives me the creeps and because of that I wouldn't read on - but that's a personal issue for me. In #2 I liked the ancient tone of the dragon and the mysterious clues. The repetition of Deep as worked for me too. My vote goes to #2

  10. This is a tough match. I found the writing in both of them to be very good. I think I'm going to have to go with Dinah though. Despite the creep factor of the story.

  11. The first one was just a bit unsettling for me, so I vote for DragonWriter.

  12. Dragon Writer gets my vote. Although I think both characters were consumed by the fires of hell, or soon will be. The first one seemed cold, although maybe it's the theme.

  13. I didn't like what happened in the first story (a teacher seducing a student raises the hackles on my neck). However, after reading them both again, I still believe it was the better written piece of the two. So, my vote goes to Dinah.

  14. There were parts of Dinah's that read hard either on the eyes or just in general. For some reason I just didn't connect with it. Maybe It was the writin style.

    Dragon's I liked the feel of it. I could see it in a movie and the details were enough to give me a great visual. For me, the ending was a downer. Would have loved a different one.

    Vote dragon.

  15. Wow, what a pair!

    There's plenty to like in both pieces. What I really like about the first one, though, is the - what should we call it? - *layering* of the narrative. When Dinah asks us to notice the buds on the maple tree, or the tidying of the bathroom that had been made filthy before, it's clear that there's a second layer of meaning underneath the first. And that lights up my brain-lobes like you wouldn't believe.

    The second piece is pretty straightforward by contrast. As a veteran fantasy reader, I feel like it also leaves me a little less to wonder about. In both cases, the tropes - student seduced by professor, clueless boy given a cryptic prophecy - are fairly familiar. But Patty's already given in and done the deed, so now we're left to wonder why she did it, and what the fallout's going to be. By contrast, I feel like I can predict Wenlyn's story pretty well: he's the Chosen One, dragons are waking up / war is coming to the land, and he's gonna have to level up, learn the truth (maybe gather himself some motley companions on the way), and save the world. That can still make a good story, and it's clear that the author has the skill to tell it! If I were going to read from the beginning, though, I'd be really looking to see what distinguishes this hero and this story from the many similar entries in this genre.

    Vote for Dinah!

  16. Both were well written, although I did have to read Dragonwriter's story a second time. My challenge was the fact that the author referred to people/beings without providing context/background to explain who they were and how they fit into the story. For example, who is Darnek and why was it important to include his name in this story? Also, the author should take note of the typo in the before last paragraph (opened its great jaws).

    I found Dina's piece flowed well; she did a good job of showing the student's inner struggle. To some extent, I could guess as to her motivation although that would likely become clearer as the story goes on. The only quibble I have would be the writer's use of quotation marks for inner dialogue.

    My vote goes to Dinah Annella.

    Suzanne @ Times Squared

  17. There was nothing wrong with the second piece, but it didn't grab me like the first. I felt everything Dinah wanted me to feel, and that is the definition of a writer's success. Dinah.

  18. I enjoyed both submissions. My issue with Dinah's is that there was lack of emotion. I would have liked to know the feelings of the girl; what motivated her to allow the seduction, how she felt about it. I like the scene of going into the washroom after but I still would have liked to know what the girl was feeling.

    In the Dragon, again I would have like to know the feelings of Wenlyn. This is an incredible scene and one that would send most of us screaming and looking for cover. And yet, Wenlyn appears mildly frightened. There must be more to his relationship with the dragon and it would have been nice if there was an indication Wenlyn vaguely recalls a prior meeting and/or a bond with the dragon. It was a great scene but a bit more description of the location would have been good. Perhaps the scene was rushed in order to get a lot into 500 words.

    Like I said, I enjoyed both but I'd be more inclined to want to read more of Dinah's piece. My vote goes for Dinah. Thank you

  19. My vote's for Dinah. I really want to know more about this story and why Patty makes the choice she does. She knows it's wrong, but she still goes with it. Why?

  20. Of course I want to vote High Fantasy. That's my bag! But DragonWriter, you're up against a monster today. I have to vote Dinah

    There's really no denying the effectiveness of Dinah's entry. It's a perfect example of invisible writing - meaning it's not distracting, wordy, forceful... It just relays its story in a smooth, if not neutral, voice.
    If I had any nitpicks at all, I'd like to know a bit more of how Miss Dawson's feeling. Maybe it's intentional, the scarce details toward the end, only barebones observations... I can't tell if she feels flawed within the spotless bathroom, or if she feels as perfect as the condition of the bathroom. I guess it's up to our own interpretation how she felt. If this is intentional, bravo all the more.

    I'll tell you what irked me personally. This is a lot of world building. What could shine here is original prose describing setting (not much setting going on) or describing the beast (the descriptions themselves are nothing too new), or the action, which is really a mound awakening and burning a guy alive. The prose during the action wasn't all too gripping either. And that might be because it was trying a little too hard. "Liquid hell" is a touch melodramatic.
    Unfortunately for me, the dialogue is somewhat wasted. I don't know what they're talking about.
    I don't want to offer suggestions, however, because maybe if I read up until this point in the story I'd be gripped by the scene, caring about the ancients, caring about Wenlyn.
    But as of this excerpt alone, it's just too distant.

  21. Dinah Annella, 100%. This was probably one of my top two favorite entries out of all the ones I read.

  22. My vote is for Dinah Annella. I loved how it started out fairly gentle and then built the tensions as it flowed. I was trying my hardest not to read the last line before time, and was glad I managed it. Well done.

  23. My vote goes to DINAH ANNELLA.

    Dinah's piece has some disturbing content, but it is so well written, I have to cast my vote here. I liked the fact that I don't see or feel the Patty's emotions. It's almost as though she's reporting 'just the facts' and yet, I feel so much.

    Dragon Writer has a solid piece, but I wasn't drawn in. There isn't really much emotion and I didn't particularly feel anything.

  24. I have to vote for Dinah Annella, though I don't care much for the subject matter. The writing is smooth and clear. She had me all the way. That's masterful writing. Minor point: you need to close the quotes on "You don't believe me.

    Dragon Writer's piece is also well done, but the thought dialogue is a bit awkward and I found the end a bit too melodramatic.

  25. Dinah: flat out, I am impressed! This is intriguing, has good flow, detailed characterization, excellent voice, a beginning focus for a literary plot, and is well polished. An excellent flash fiction for its genre, but I could see myself settling in with this concept for a weekend read (I'm a slow reader).

    Dragon; well done on the opening. Great character introduction on both Wenlyn and the Ancient One, intriguing world building. This is not as polished (tight) as I think it could be, and I was totally thrown out of the story with "tale-like appendage." It is harsh of me to be so judgmental on such a minor misuse of a word, but it was not my final deciding factor. The writing was pitted against a high quality excerpt. The fantasy concept is solid enough to keep me reading on however. You have strong writing skills in description and characterization, and I suspect I would enjoy the world you are creating. Well done overall.

    My vote is for Dinah.


  26. Dinah Annella

    Though the concept disturbs me, the writing was much more engaging.

  27. DrrrrrrrrragonWriter! (only nit pick is all the "liquid"s at the end there about the fire and the "tale-like", was it a tale or an appendage?)

    Both were excellent! Easily followed, sucked me in quickly. Liked them both a lot. But personal taste won out for DragonWriter on my vote.

  28. Slippery Slope, #1. I had a hard time getting into the head of the MC on the Dragon one. Not to say it wasn't good, but Slippery Slope felt more personable? *shrugs* It's hard to compare these two--they're so different!

  29. DragonWriter.. man you were put in a tough spot! I really liked the character, and the possibility of the implied layers of your piece. I'd love to see where it goes next.

    However I have to vote for Dinah on this one. I agree with the previous poster that it was a rare gem where you didn't notice the author's voice at all, which is just so pleasant.

    Well done, both of you!

  30. Normally a dragon would win it for me, but Dinah Annella's piece just really drew me in and she gets my vote this week

  31. High fantasy or sexual fantasy? Tough choice. Both of these pieces were very good.

    I really was drawn into Dinah's piece by the voice. I liked how it built, slowly raising the tension and stringing along our expectations. Her use of understatement in this piece is amazing. And I loved the scene with her in the clean bathroom, as a contrast to their sordid act.

    DragonWriter's piece seems like a standard high fantasy story. Although, I was surprised by the ending where Wenlyn is suddenly destroyed by the dragon that seemed to be helping him and I wanted to know what happened next. But I wasn't as drawn in by the writing as I could have been. A mound of what? Stone? Dirt? The descriptions aren't clear to me.

    I love high fantasy and REALLY want to vote for DragonWriter. But I just loved the voice and the understated emotion of Dinah's piece. I vote for Diana Annella.

  32. Dragonwriter for me today but both well written pieces.

  33. I'm going with Dinah with its smooth flow




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