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WRiTE CLUB 2013 - Bout 16

Congratulations to Alone for claiming the 14th play-off slot!

This is it.  The final preliminary bout before we head into the championship rounds.  After this fight you will have seen all the contestants...taken the opportunity to size them up...and I bet some of you are already picking favorites.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves and short-change these final two combatants. 

Before we get started here's something you need to be aware of.  This final round will only remain open for voting until the end of the day on Monday,  September 2nd.  The voting period is a shorter this time so that we can get the next round of the competition underway, so don't dally with your voting.

I have but one thing left to say....

Stepping into the ring is our first contestant, weighing in with 494 words of Historical Romance, welcome Lauretta Stiles!

"Will you please stop, Dianna? That pacing is driving me mad."

"Well, your stalling tactics are driving me mad."

Displaying uncustomary patience, Papa said quietly, "I am not stalling. I am reconnoitering."

That stopped her. Facing him, she waved a hand in annoyance. "We're not on the battlefield, Papa. We're in your office. In the heart of London. And writing letters is hardly reconnoitering."

"I am soliciting assistance, daughter. What do you expect me to do? Charge into Broydon Castle and put a pistol to your birth uncle's head and threaten murder unless he reveals the nature of his association with this…McGuire? For all you know, the man was asking directions of him."

"He wasn't."

"How do you know? From what you and Elizabeth told me, you only saw them together for a few seconds, before you took off like a crazed hound, causing everyone within ten miles of the place to stop and stare. I can only pray that no one who knows me recognized you."

She narrowed her gaze at him. "Do I take that to mean you are more concerned with what your friends think of you than you are in the whereabouts and welfare of your grandson?"

He threw down his pen. It bounced off a half-full tumbler of whiskey, before rolling toward the edge of the desk. Dianna caught it, handed it back to him.

"Thank you," he said stiffly. Laying it carefully aside, he massaged his face with both hands, before looking at her. "And I am concerned with finding your son, Dianna. Which is why I am writing to people in a position to help; a task better performed in silence. Why don't you go to bed? I'll dispatch these at once, but do not expect a response before late morning at the earliest." Jacketless, his shirtsleeves rolled to his elbows, his tie loose and collar unbuttoned and his usually impeccably pomade-smoothed black hair clumped untidily, fatigue etched deeply in the pale skin around his bloodshot eyes and humorless mouth, he looked as tired as she felt.

She and Lizzy had spent two fruitless hours searching almost every square inch of the Newmarket grounds. With the sun setting and security personnel threatening to forcibly remove her and Lizzy, she had been forced to concede that her uncle, like McGuire and JJ, was gone. It was almost midnight before she and Lizzy staggered into the townhome. Papa's astonishment over their arrival was only outweighed by his outrage once he discovered their subterfuge. Dianna had been forced to shout to quiet him long enough to tell him he could dole whatever punishment he believed adequate, after he helped her locate her uncle, and glean from him, the truth.

Elizabeth, blessedly, had gone to bed without argument leaving Dianna to fuss and fume while Papa scribbled. She glanced at the clock on the fireplace mantel.

Three a.m. Papa was right.

Anyone in a position to help would be fast asleep.

And in the other corner, representing the Suspense-Spy Thriller genre with 493 words, welcome Sing Sing!

The sun dropped its load through the broken plate glass window and onto Burgundy’s eyelids.

‘Damn curtains! Ain’t worth shit!’ he grumbled as he rolled over to face the wall. Strips of peeling wallpaper and crumbs of flaking plaster tickled his nose as he breathed.

Still grumbling, and now coughing, he threw off the stained bedspread and hung his legs over the edge of the bed. He grabbed a bottle of whiskey—a rarity in times when the dole came in the form of pill-packs and alcoholic drinks almost required the donation of a kidney to pay for--from the nightstand. He unscrewed the top and swished a healthy swig around in his mouth. After swallowing, Burgundy chased the drink with three pills he sprung from a blister pack marked Breakfast.

The rats were out and about this morning, the rats being the scum who lived in the outer sections or ‘the Jungle’ of Tower City. He could hear the shouting and fighting, the sirens of the cops who sometimes ventured this far into the gated ranks of hookers, drug dealers, gangsters—basically, whoever upper society didn’t think good enough to lick the crud off their boots. This is where Burgundy had grown up. He knew its ins and outs like he knew the stress lines creasing his brow and the corners of his lips. This hellhole was home.

The motel room he’d holed up in over the last few weeks was dark and dingy. Blobs of brown stains marked the ceiling as well as the carpet. Ratty, faded blue curtains hung at the window. The bedspread wasn’t any better. The toilet almost always clogged when flushed and he hadn’t even bothered to look in the bathtub, let alone climb in for a shower. The smell emanating from the drain put him off. Still, the place was the best he could afford with the slim savings he had managed to stash away for a rainy day. It was cash only from here on out as swipe cards were out of the question.

Big Boy rested on the nightstand beside the bed. Burgundy picked it up, pointed it at the window and looked through the scope at the dilapidated building across the street. He didn’t have any friends. In Lower Tower City people had pimps and baby-mamas but no one had friends. But that’s how Burgundy liked it. People were shifty, unreliable. They lied. He narrowed his eyes. They backstabbed. He got up, walked over to where his lightpad waited for him on the dinette table, and set his gun on it. He loved the thud it made against the wood top. Big Boy, on the other hand, always did what it was supposed to: blow the shit out of anyone Burgundy pointed it at. As long as Big Boy was cleaned and oiled, it was always ready to roar. Who needed anything more than that?

Burgunday flicked the switch on his lightpad. No new messages.


Now it's time to go to work.  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.  Remember, the voting will remain open only until the end of the day on September 2nd.  

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


  1. Sing Sing has my vote. I want to know more!

    I was into the first one but it drifted off.

  2. My vote is for Sing Sing. I think Lauretta Stiles's writing was stronger, but I was more attracted to Sing Sing's subject matter. But I think Sing Sing's piece could have been tightened a lot. There were a lot of extraneous words and descriptions.

  3. My vote goes to Lauretta Stiles. Though, there were a few things that kind of jarred me from the "historical" aspect of it by seeming too modern (for example: "no one who knows me recognized you" should probably have been, "no one of our acquaintance recognized you" and "why don't you go to bed?" should probably have been, "why don't you retire for the evening?"). Sing Sing's was well written, it just didn't capture my interest.

  4. Lauretta Stiles for me. It's fairly straightforward, but there was good tension and pacing, and it sounded original.
    Sing Sing's just struck me as very cliche in style. It's one of the most difficult genres to get just right.

  5. My vote is for Sing Sing today. I enjoyed the first piece, too, but the dialogue seemed a little stilted at times and needs some tuning up. Great job to both writers!

  6. Going for Sing Sing. I had a problem getting into the first piece. The characters didn't resonate, whereas, I knew exactly what Burgundy was capable of by the line two.

  7. As we end the preliminaries, let me thank all the writers for submitting their work -- it's not easy to have your creation carved apart on a public forum. I know I've been nit-picky at times, but there had to be some basis for choosing one or the other in what were often very close bouts. And I'd like to again say that so much of this is personal choice. What one person loves, someone else will turn up their nose at. For instance, one piece I really enjoyed, which was of my top 4 choices in the prejudging, never made the cut for the prelims (and I still salute you, Amelia Harvey -- whoever you are). But in the end, win or lose, I hope every writer takes something positive away from this experience. And no act of Write Club thanks would be complete without another hearty "Thank you! You guys rock" to Mr. and Mrs. DL for all their hard work in putting this together!!!

    Today, I'm going with Lauretta Stiles. Sing Sing is writing in a genre that would normally be much more my cup of tea than historical romance, but since this is a writing contest, I have to go with what I felt was the stronger writing, and for me, that is usually the writing that is original, but also draws less attention to itself and lets the story come through.

    Lauretta's piece has a reasonably smooth voice, effective characterization between Dianne and Papa, and does pretty well at pulling me into the situation. There is a little too much backstory as too many "off-screen" characters are introduced in too short of a time (Dianne's "birth uncle", McGuire, Elizabeth aka "Lizzy" I assume, and Dianne's son aka JJ, I believe), but overall, I can keep up with the plot and am focused on the content of the story.

    Sing Sing has what could be a compelling situation, but I'm afraid it loses me in cliché and overwriting. From the morning sun which "dropped its load" to a weapon nicknamed Big Boy which can "blow the shit out of anyone burgundy pointed it at," the piece feels like it's trying too hard to create an edgy, futuristic-tough-guy-noire attitude. Admittedly, it is a tone that is very hard to get right, but this one just misses the mark for me. It's as awkward as watching Miley Cyrus twerking away to try and be hip and edgy. I think there might be some creative aspects and a solid story here, but I really don't know much of it beyond some guy named Burgundy (and I can't help but picture Will Farrell) wakes up in a seedy hotel. My suggestion is to focus more on telling the story and let the writing take a back seat, and I bet this will develop into something really good.

    So Lauretta for me today.

    1. Your Miley comparison just made me spit Dr. P on the monitor... Thanks for that.

  8. The second one was a lot of telling, but the first one threw me with the beginning part placed near the end. Sing Sing gets my vote.


  9. Sing Sing's story appears to be more focused on character development than action. As Chris mentioned, we don't know much beyond the fact that a guy named Burgundy wakes up in a seedy hotel and is some sort of assassin for hire. Also, some attempts at creative description just seem odd, e.g. the sun dropped its load. Nevertheless, I liked his/her succinct and straightforward writing style.

    Lauretta's story is more intriguing and her characters more true-to-life. I think she did a great job of capturing Papa's aloofness and seeming lack of empathy through his actions and choice of words. At one point, he even goes so far as to refer to his grandson as "your son". This being said, I would have expected Dianna to be a little bit more emotional about the disappearance of JJ.

    On a more "technical" note, I think the author should limit her use of "-ly" adverbs -- carefully, stiffly, impeccably, untidily, deeply. They are unnecessary.

    Lauretta Stiles for me.

  10. Lauretta's I feel didn't quite capture historical writing and I was thrown off on who was speaking and how many we're there till the end.

    Sing's read monotone, but had good pacing. A few parts were hard on the eyes.

    Vote sing sing

  11. Although both are well written, I thought Sing Sing had far too much description, and Lauretta Stiles's historical phrases were inconsistent. (Also, Lauretta, that sentence that begins "Jacketless..." is way too long!)

    But I must choose one of them, so (for a lot of the same reasons as Chris Fries) I'm going with Lauretta today.

  12. Sing Sing gets my vote. It's overwritten in places, but I liked it more than Lauretta's which was full of really info-dumpy dialogue that didn't feel natural.

  13. Sing Sing gets my vote this round. :-)

  14. Sing Sing's world was more interesting, but Lauretta's piece had much better writing. Lauretta Stiles gets my vote.

  15. Both were interesting, intriguing pieces. But I felt Sing Sing was a bit overwritten. Not a lot happened. Other than a lot of description of an unpleasant character waking up in an unpleasant setting, there was really no conflict.

    Lauretta Stiles' story drew me immediately. Though I had a little trouble figuring out who the characters were at first, I thought the writing was much more believable and compelling and drew me into the story. I knew right away what the characters wanted and what might be standing in their way.

    My vote goes to Lauretta Stiles.

  16. I don't love either entry today. And I've chewed back lots of nitpicks in order to look at the bigger picture for both.

    Lauretta Stiles,
    I had a hard time even making it to the halfway point of this excerpt.
    They say don't start your story off with dialogue. "Talking heads in a white room" or some such - it leaves us lost. They also say don't introduce to many names / characters too soon. Like Dianna, Papa, birth uncle, McGuire and Elizabeth within one hundred words.
    Those two combined were rough.
    The sentence where Papa is finally described (about seven Papa details total) should be half as many words, and should be written first. Before anything else. That sentence could set the entire scene. Exhaustion and frustration. Instead, it's a guessing game.
    Also, I've never read a book where the use of word underlining was part of the regular prose.

    Sing Sing,
    This reads like a screenplay, not a story. I feel no emotion from (Ron?) Burgundy. He's pissed at the sun. Then he chases whiskey with pills (which just seems bass-ackwards). Then he aims a gun out the window and considers how he doesn't have any friends, which makes him happy. Then he sees no new messages and says "Damn"... ?!?
    I think, more than anything else, Burgundy needs some conflict, and NOW! We've entered this scene far too early. Bring us in when the baby-mama pimps are about to kick down the door.
    Also, they say don't open a book with a character waking up. It's a very exhausted cliche.

    I vote Sing Sing

  17. I'm not sure how I missed the current post. Ahem... Voting on the right stories now.

    I loved the imagery of the first sentence in Sing Song, but #1 was also intriguing and, for me, it had a better flow. I vote #1.

  18. My vote goes to SING SING.

    My apologies to two fine writers, but today I'm quite drained and a little to edgy (read sarcastic) to leave intelligent comments.

  19. I wish these two were not pitted against each other; they are both well polished, excellent character and world building, intriguing story lines. Both are equally well written.

    I've voting for Sing Sing purely for genre preference. I'm completely drawn into this character, and the ongoing plot questions.


  20. Oh, this one is pretty difficult. I'm going with LAURETTA STILES.

    Even though I felt plunked down in the middle of a story, I was not only intrigued by what happens next, but I wanted to know what transpired before. The writing was the teensiest bit stilted as Lauretta tried to nail the dialogue, but it wasn't enough to mar the flow and a tidge of editing would do the trick -- banishing adverbs, watching clauses -- that kind of stuff.

    Sing Sing's offering in this bout was very good, but it seemed to want to "tell tell" a bit too much. Example: "The rats were out and about this morning, the rats being the scum who lived in the outer sections or ‘the Jungle’ of Tower City." Also, one of the top 20 cliches crept in: "dark and dingy." It did seem, however, that Sing Sing was just getting into his or her groove with the last couple of sentences. I do think, though, that "Big Boy" is a more suitable name for a hamburger than a gun; also I'm not exactly sure what kind of gun it is. It would be cool if it was some kind of high-tech blunderbuss (now there's an oxymoron for you!)

    This contest is just too hard this year.

  21. Lauretta Stiles was fairly well written buy didn't place me in the 'historical' element. It didn't grab me to read more.

    Sing Sing gave a good description of the scene but after all that focus on the scene, I would have expected more about who Burgandy is and why he's there.

    My vote goes for Sing Sing.

  22. My vote goes to Sing Sing.

    Neither piece really did it for me, but that could be because my brain is fried while attenting Dragon*Con. So much so, I almost forgot to come here and vote! Thank goodness I remembered at the last minute. Wish I could give some coherent critique, but I just don't have it in me right now! Sorry.

  23. Ack! I've meant to get over here and vote more but gosh darn it I cant keep up. Anyway, I vote #2.

  24. Hi Don .. Sing Sing for me ... cheers Hilary

  25. This was a difficult decision. Both writers are doing well, considering they're adhering to the tropes of their genres. #1 needs a bit of editing to insert some physical description of the father, add historical atmosphere in the setting, and eliminate repeated words/ideas(like forcibly/force). #2 is a bit overwritten (esp the first line) and over-described, and there's a contrast between interesting new ideas (like breakfast pills and the "lightpad") and the standard cliches of the nasty motel, noir-style mc and the gun named "Big Boy." With a thriller, it would be better to start with action than description and world-building.

    I vote for Lauretta Stiles.

  26. I'll have to vote for Lauretta today. If Sing Sing's piece was a little more unique and subtle in the voice, it would have got my vote.

  27. Aww, I missed the voting for this one. So many great entries!




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